“A reviewer’s responsibility is to the publication’s readers. I write for readers not for the author or publisher.”
”In the arts, the critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising.” —Pauline Kael
Completed my review of Life Is Perfect by Amy Small-McKinney. I expect Fjords Review will publish this sometime soon.
Reading another book now for Fjords.
Reviewed Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s latest novel, Submerged. What a nail-biting story. Read that pretty quick! Her work is always a pleasure, almost like eating a box of chocolates with nuts, my favorite.
January 27, 2013
Latest review published at Fjords Review, a literary arts journal.
John Wall Barger
Kingsville, Ontario, Canada-
78 pages, $18.00 CDN
Reviewed by Christina Francine
Barger shares a man’s journey of growth by way of a tiny bird. Hummingbird is his struggle, his adjustment. At times, the man seems the hummingbird and at others the hummingbird is a metaphor for Nature. The journey takes the man from Canada to distant places like Delhi, Rome, and the Gulf of Mexico, to those closer like California and New York City, then back home to Canada.
Barger doesn’t explain openly what has caused the man’s need to adjust, yet leaves hints throughout the book. His opening poem, “A Start” demonstrates strife and the beginning of a journey because of loss.
The book is then separated into three sections. In section one, a hint appears suggesting a canine at Christmas-time. Barger struggles and in “After Three Days,” mentions his “black dog running the Commons in Mexico City with the Hummingbird.” In the book’s final poem, “Away,” the man speaks of coming home and of his dog passing away.
Another loss is of a woman named Emily and with a divorce from Dominique that requires adjustment and growth. The man’s emotion is strong because Barger writes “I shoved you hard/for clasping hands over ears, /for not talking to me./You stomped off . . .” This is the last poem before “Away” and the second to last of the collection.
“Hummingbird,” the poem, is a pinnacle moment in Mexico where atmosphere, situation, and visuals come alive. Barger transports readers with the idea of a hummingbird that crosses his path. The poem personifies a hummingbird traveling through a wretched city in Mexico. A hummingbird is natural, flees through and hovers momentarily through human situations, communications, filth, brutality, noise, labels, but most of all weakness. Nature is not weak. Nature is not complicated. Barger too winds through the city taking notice and hears a message from inside himself, or maybe from Nature itself to “go home, go home. You should be with your girl in Nova Scotia/snow,” it cries. Like the hummingbird that travels south to Mexico and later lives north, Barger instinctively hears the call. “Hummingbird” hovers as the last poem in the first of three book sections before simplicity and immediacy are replaced with complication.
John Wall Barger’s poems have appeared in many literary journals and anthologies. His first book, Pain-proof Men (Palimpest Press), was published in 2009. When asked, he says, “Ginsberg and Kerouoc and Bukowski were models, but I kept drifting toward the mythic and surreal. Later Blake blew my mind. The poets I admire don’t judge. They watch and report. Perhaps poets today are useful because they (usually) do not look at the world through the ubiquitous commercial lens.”
The designer for Hummingbird’s book-cover is Dawn Kresan, founder of Palimpsest Press, who received her B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Windsor.
Step by agonizing step Hummingbird goes in search for reason, ultimately labeled as growth. Barger unfolds this journey using the hummingbird; seemingly fragile, yet also aggressive, swift, graceful, dexterous, and territorial. Hummingbird is a poignant collection, wrestles for answers and provides gripping reflections on humanity, and dark stretches of survival. Hummingbird is powerful and chillingly familiar.
August 31, 2012
Latest reviews have been for the literary art and book journal, Fjords Review www.fjordsreview.com
Subscriptions and single copies can be purchased at Fjords Review website.
–Congratulations to Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso, authors of Walking for Peace, An Inner Journey.
I reviewed this book in March and the result?
OTTAWA AUTHORS WIN INTERNATIONAL ACCOLADES
Ottawa, Ontario – Aug 23, 2012 – At an awards ceremony and dinner at the elegant U-Club of Santa Barbara, California, WALKING FOR PEACE, AN INNER JOURNEY by Ottawa authors Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso was named Winner in the Action/Adventure category of the 2012 Dan Poynter Global Ebook Awards. They were also Finalists in the New Age category and received Honourable Mention in the Religion/Faith category.
Walking for Peace, An Inner Journey
Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso, 2012
Review by Christina Francine
The less traveled path teaches more than the worn one, as Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso learn. After Mony’s marriage and life crumbled, she found a deep need for peace, and after not finding it through traditional avenues, she decided to take a non-traditional approach. She’d walk to Jerusalem for peace. Alberto decided he should go too. He couldn’t over-look obvious signs. He viewed the walk as a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey. Neither Mony nor Alberto were prepared. Finding peace meant great lessons, not only through exposure to others’ views and blockages, but to their own as well. Exposure to various situations and people, to various areas of generosity or lack of, and from allowing the universe to have its way with them and take care of them, or not, brings even more lessons. Lessons of peace and love require a letting go of egos, of protection. Mony especially realizes only then can she recognize truths, only then can she touch and be touched spiritually, only then can she find peace and be the answer–love. To quote a line from a famous song, “Love is the answer,” and to quote a popular saying, “Live and let live.”
Walking for Peace, An Inner Journey contains examples of awakenings, understandings, lessons, and insight to the human condition. Readers share the “Ah-ha!” moments of Mony in this journaling of sorts and find themselves wanting to share these revelations with others. This book can set readers free from their own blockages, from their need for control themselves and others. Relief and good will, peace and love, and generosity and freedom radiate from this account. To name and share them all seems right and yet the better way is to just read the book.
In the end Mony and Alberto surprise themselves with yet one more truth about love, peace, and freedom. Mony eventually knew Alberto’s accompanying her on her journey changed the whole experience for the better. His way of seeing their purpose may have been the same, but his way of going about it was different. At first, Mony wasn’t sure Albertos coming was the right decision. He frustrated her so with his ideas and lack of control. He made her feel guilty and at times like a bum. She always paid her way. Alberto helped Mony lose this controlling part of herself and to see it in others. At the end, she worries about losing an ultimate freedom–the loss of her dreams because with love we often throw away our dreams for another’s. How does one go about giving and receiving love without sacrificing their total selves? Can one love and find peace without controlling themselves or another, or does the only way to travel and experience the narrow path have to be a lonely one?
Readers cannot help but not help but ask themselves questions. The book’s dedication provides more insight to its flavor and message. “To those who do the work of peace–both inner and outer–despite the odds against them. You are not alone.”
Readers cannot help but ask themselves how they view not only themselves, but others also. They’ll reflect how they view those taking the road less traveled and themselves why they’ve taken or not taken the less worn road.
Sometimes books come along that speak to us, do more than entertain, Walking for Peace, An Inner Journey is one of them. Most of us have times when people don’t understand our choices, try to force their beliefs upon us, try to hold us back from our path, believe our joy disrespectful, and insist on cold, formal rituals, or the so called “safe” road. We try to hear our quiet voice but are afraid because we don’t trust it. Mony and Alberto take the road less traveled and at the end find themselves better people. Highly recommended. Poignant. Memorable. Life-changing. Beautiful.
My review of this book appeared in Print and Online
****What Fears Become, An Anthology from The Horror Zine****
* Published at:
-www.midwestbookreview.com and at
Edited by Jeani Rector
Imajin Books, Aug. 2011
Ebook $4.99, Paperback $16.99 U.S.
Cover Design by Sapphire Designs
Review by Christina Francine
What do reader’s fears become when they’re examined? Top-notch tales, poems, and images will horrify and delight readers in this anthology called What Fears Become. Each feature rips through reality plunging readers into frightful situations deep enough to provoke a bag full of nightmares. It is unlikely readers will set aside a single whisper-read word. Like stepping onto a monstrous scene, their wide eyes can’t look away. Thirty-one finely honed eager narratives, eighteen delicious poems, and eighteen visions touch all who dare venture inside.
The foreword is by Simon Clark, and he has nothing but positive comments about What Fears Become. He titles this foreword, “A Small Matter of Life and Death.”
Besides penning horror fiction, authors are teachers, radio personalities, newspaper reporters, editors, gardeners, musicians, poets, reality TV contestants, aides at mental hospitals, technical writers, volunteers, graphic designers, inventory clerks, writers of chapter units for history textbooks, receivers of prestigious awards, founders of martial art systems and have had films produced from novels.
The collection opens with “Bast,” by Christina A. Larsen, which is about a man who visits his dying grandmother. Do cats really take breaths away? Marty finds out in this eerie yarn. Descriptive.
“Next Time You’ll Know Me,” by Ramsey Campbell, is told in first-person by a paranoid person who threatens others because he believes they are the reason for all his bad luck. He focuses especially on someone who stole his stories and killed his mother. An unusual story.
Another narrative sure to raise hackles is “Ouija” by Cheryl Kaye Tardif. Liza doesn’t like the Ouija board she’s had for years and decides to be rid of it once and for all, but her friend, Sharon, is overcome by curiosity. She disregards Liza’s warnings and asks the board a question. Suddenly, evil things begin to happen and the women decide to destroy it. By itself, the board reveals who will die and then they do. One night the women’s names are spelled out. Now, they’re determined to rid themselves of this evil once and for all. Wickedly scary, suspenseful reading. Tardif doesn’t disappoint.
Scott Nicholson contributes a narrative readers cannot set aside. Their thoughts are held afterward too. His character, Kelly, becomes pregnant by Chet, the kind of man no woman should ever be with. Kelly decides that even though she’s the last of her family, she’ll soon have someone to love, to carry her family’s name, and to inherit her family’s humble farm house. Another infant hovers near Kelly. From the family cemetery Kelly realizes the ghost baby grows at the same rate as the one in her belly does. The white shape hangs around the old Stamey Cemetery, not far from the old Cherokee ceremonial mound. When Chet comes back to Kelly, he cruelly decides she and her baby shouldn’t live, yet the ghost baby decides they should.
Poetry in this collection is respectfully good. Not only are the author’s imaginations powerful, but it is evident they’ve studied poetry form.
When examining “A Guide for Ethical Zombie Murder,” by Emon Anthousis, readers find six stanzas written in blank verse, and written as a “how-to” accept becoming a zombie. He explains the whys for each step, and the necessary cautions during this change. Authousis ends his rhyme advise on a humorous note.
“Bugs,” by Dennis Bogwell, features ten stanzas. The rhyme scheme begins with abab, goes into cdcd in the second stanza, and then into fgfg for the remaining eight. Each line is short, carrying punch, not only creating a sense of squittering like a bug, but by bringing urgency to the exasperation the character feels about dealing with bugs. Readers will squirm themselves with this poem.
Peter Steele, carries a recommendation for those who consider resisting their morbid circumstances with a rhyme called “City of the Dead.” The first three stanzas help readers realize their state and how much is changing. The last turns to sharing sentiments of empathy and reveals how the poem’s author knows. This is because he was once there himself. Steele knows pain and advises readers a final resolve. Though sixteen lines and the rhyme scheme doesn’t fit neatly into the English or Italian sonnet, The City of the Dead” is in fixed form. Each line in the four stanzas tries to stick to ten syllables. Each stanza contains two couplets and goes: aabb, ccbb, eebb, ffbb. No one can argue that Steele studied poetry, or that he has a sense of humor.
Besides writing poetry, poets write biographies, songs, screenplays, comic strips, novels, short stories, and non-fiction. They come from all over the world, won prestigious prizes, and have multi-published. Besides the writing profession, other vocations of poets include Navy engineers, chemists, musicians, and financial systems annalists.
Artwork in “What Fears Become” is in black, white, and shades of gray. Each conjures up feelings of loneliness, deep thought, boldness and a dark slice of freedom. Each dares a peak into crevices and borders, into eyes and into open body parts, and of their situation of thought. Artists include graphic designers, poets, writers, sculptures, tailors, and work in pencil, crayon, pen and ink, watercolors, digital, and oil paints.
Jeani Rector is the editor for “What Fears Become.” She is also the founder and editor of The Horror Zine. Multiple publications have featured her stories. A novel called Around a Dark Corner was released by Graveyard Press in 2009 by Rector.
Dean H. Wild is the assistant editor of The Horror Zine. He has written love stories, and been a freelance copywriter.
What Fears Become examines the horrors of human-kind, dares to lift the lid, dares to step into the headlights and to follow dark whispers. Why examine nightmares? Because they remind us that monsters and horror lurk just under the surface, and by examining them we gain strength. Determination to keep them at bay is renewed when we realize horror resides only inches away. What do readers fears become if not examined – reality.