Written by John Sibley Williams
Review by Jarad Johnson
Poetry and I have a love hate relationship; when we get along, it’s fantastic, but when we disagree, we really don’t like each other. For example, Poe and I are great friends, but Bukowski and I are not on speaking terms. It’s hit and miss, is what I’m trying to say. Poetry is distinctly different than reading a novel. A book may leave you with ideas and messages to think about, but poetry to me always seems to keep its secrets close. It’s up to the reader to interpret whatever message we may or may not glean, and the interpretation sometimes takes much longer. Poetry is an introspective process, and I often find that the messages interpreted from it are specific to the reader. But perhaps I’m just a lazy reader. I do like a story that buttons itself up. But this little collection of poems is definitely a hit for me. It’s also, I might add, published by Backwaters Press. I appreciate the name, and the contents within. There are so many poems, and I would like to go through them one by one, unfortunately I can’t, but I have chosen four poems that really struck a chord with me. Instead of just a cursory glance, and a recommendation, I would like to really get into a few of these.
Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I Turned a Boring Yard into a Glorious Garden and How You Can, Too
Written by Cassandra Danz
Review and ruminations by Julie Carpenter
I am not a fan of winter. Granted, now that I’m older and my internal thermostat is broken, I’m far more likely to be able to deal with cold weather, if taking off and putting on layers of clothes every thirty seconds and opening and closing windows can be considered “dealing with it”. It’s no longer the temperatures that get me. At this point my main objection to winter is that I feel lonely while all the plants are sleeping. I miss the leaves, the flowers, the buzz of nectar drunk bees. All I get in winter is cold gray sky and blank expressions from naked trees. There’s certainly no use talking to them while they’re napping – and trust me, I’ve tried. (But why not have a long conversation with an evergreen you might ask, say, a pine or a cedar? The cedars are serious and somewhat taciturn, and just between you and me, the average Georgia pine has very little depth so to speak. It’s why they topple over on houses during storms. Don’t get me wrong, they’re very sweet…but no sparkling conversation there. Anyway, evergreens never want to discuss my favorite topic: spring.) After Christmas, I wish I could go dormant with the oaks, fall asleep among the roots, covered with a blanket of withered leaves and wake with the buds in the spring. But alas…that is not to be. So, I do the next best thing. I read and dream about gardens.
Written by Sarah Allen
Review by Jarad Johnson
Sometimes, I buy books for the title. That’s probably not the right way to do it, and I’m sorry…(not really, but some of you were clutching your pearls, and I wanted to give you a little comfort. This parenthetical observation probably counterbalanced that; in which case I am kind of sorry). However, in rare instances, I find that the title is so compelling, reading the dust jacket is not necessary for purchase. I will admit that buying a book based on the title is risky; sometimes if I had read the blurbs or synopsis, I would have been prevented from giving my monies to an author who poured all the originality into the title instead of the contents within. But sometimes, it’s worth the chance. It’s a reading adventure! And that is exactly how this little book by Sarah Allen grabbed my attention.
Happy Holidays from Sacred Chickens!
Julie - I’m going to start with the most embarrassing stuff and work my way up. I rewatch Love Actually and Christmas Vacation every year. There. I said it. Does that make me feel like a person of intellect…no. But both movies make me laugh and even cry a little. I feel slightly better about indulging in my favorite TV Christmas specials. There’s the Father Brown Christmas episode, The Star of Jacob, and, of course, the Black Adder Christmas Carol. As for books, I LOVE cozy mysteries at Christmas. There are plenty that take place at Christmas. Martha Grimes, Jerusalem Inn, is a favorite and now I’m old enough to forget the endings so I can read it again. Mysteries have atmosphere going for them and the fact that no matter what kind of bad things happen, they’re all wrapped up by the end. I’m also going to read The Christmas Stories of George MacDonald. If there’s anyone who always understood that Christmas is an invitation to a wider universe of love, and not a cudgel to force others to partake of your particular version of religion, it’s him.
We all have that one book that we like that just never seems to get the love it deserves. Sure, it might not be the best book ever, but is it so bad that it should be regulated to the bottom shelf of the world's worst thrift store, ignored for all time? Here's five books that in my opinion should be getting much more praise than they currently do. And, yes, I've read all of these!
The Last Rock Star Book: Or: Liz Phair, a Rant
by Camden Joy
A down on his luck writer is commissioned to write a quickie bio of musician Liz Phair but can't get his life together enough to even get her song lyrics correct, much less finish the book. Haunted by the memories of his sister who ran away from home when he was young, his ex-girlfriend who just might be the illegitimate daughter of dead sixties rock star Brian Jones, and a photograph of a mysterious woman, Joy writes in a spit it out spiel like a man setting fire to his life. At turns hilarious, sad, morbid, and
too true and familiar, this rambling journey of a rant on a life gone haywire is compelling and, for me as an outsider musician, hits extremely close to home.
Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality
by Paul Barber
Vampires and the undead have been a constant in many culture's myths and legends for thousands of years. Across the world, the stories are eerily similar. Yet how is this so? Paul Barber wondered about this and has written an excellent book here that starts out with true accountings of actual claimed vampire encounters throughout history, then moves onto the scientific rational of how a decomposing corpse could have been believed to have become a vampire. Now we ain't talking about Dracula or Twilight here, which Barber makes clear; he makes a distinction between "fictional" vampires and those of folklore. He's after the facts, and only the facts.
This book is not for the squeamish as Barber gets extremely detailed with what happens to a human body after it's buried, and believe me, it ain't pretty. Thankfully Barber presents it with a slyness that makes it palatable, entertaining, and informative. I love books like this.
I managed to sneak away from winter here in Atlanta and take a trip down to Port St. Lucie Florida where I found a little bit of summer and some great conversation at Poetic Justice Books and Arts. I had a great time talking about Whistlestop and meeting some great people. The whole place is like a reader's dream cave. There are comfy chairs, walls full of books and art, and conversations with people who know and love reading poetry, fiction, and everything else. (By the way, if you haven't read Things Get Weird in Whistlestop yet...why not? Mr. Wilkerson is waiting in the alley by Joe's Diner to meet you. Maybe I can get him to go with me on the next adventure. )
Not only did I have a great conversation about the book, I managed to do a little shopping too. I have a whole stack of new reading material to tide me over to the new year. There will be reviews of some of the titles in the Poetic Justice Press lineup forthcoming! In the meantime, you can check what they have for yourself here.
As an added surprise, I met Dominic Albanese, who might fit in very well in Whistlestop. Jeff Weddle did a great interview with him for Sacred Chickens...if you haven't read it yet click here.
Until I Turn To Dust
Album by Captain Chucke
Review by Roy Peak
The genre of folk punk is still evolving and can be many things, some of which often contradict one another. Sometimes the artist's personal choice in their state of sobriety or instrument tuning can be questionable, sometimes not. Some of these bands are strictly acoustic while others employ a range of instruments including electric guitars, synths, and drum machines. The one thing they all have in common is passionate songs about the changing times we all find ourselves in. Songs about politics, climate change, being in debt, and how hopeless the future seems are all typical of modern folk punk material.
Knock Knock, Grandma's Dead
Written by Ma Bones
Review Roy Peak
This book comes from a long lineage of dark and disturbing poetry mixed with equally dark, yet fun artwork. From Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, to the work of Gahan Wilson, and Charles Addams, to pretty much anything by Edward Gorey (especially The Gashlycrumb Tinies) this book is in good company.
Written by Madeline MIller
Review by Jarad Johnson
Ok, right off the bat, we have to establish something: I like reading about witches. In fact, if there are any themes in my literary tastes, this is one. I had a fascination with witches as a child (my theory is that I liked them because I was raised by powerful women) and that interest has merged with my academic career. It’s an interesting crossroads of books, horticulture and witchcraft (I never said I was going to do this the conventional way). Any book about witches is one that I’m probably going to read. I’ve reviewed several for the blog and read many more than that. We recently published a paper that I wrote about witches and the plants that they use (here’s my shameless plug for that because it’s actually very good). So, we have that out of the way. Point being that I’ve read a lot of books about the same topic, and they can become somewhat formulaic. After you can start to feel like you’re reading the same book- cauldrons, magic, broomsticks, burnings- all that can kind of blur together after a while.
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Review by Roy Peak
Coyote Songs is that rare beast of a book. Powerful and moving, scary and horrific in the truest and most honest sense of the words. This "barrio noir" by Gabino Iglesias transcends the horror genre and makes all too real the pain of death, revenge, escape, self-recognition, and triumph. Iglesias gives voice to women and children, the marginalized and the lost, killers and ghosts alike in these linked tales from the Mexican-American border during the dark time of the Trump administration.