Book Review Archives

  • Tell the World You’re a Wildflower

    by Jennifer Horne
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $29.95, Hardcover; $29.95, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Mary Katherine Calderini

    Tell the World You’re a Wildflower by Jennifer Horne offers a delightful medley of women from all over the South. Horne has produced a book of stories as varied and unique as a real woman. Her stories range through ages and locations, but all of Horne’s women possess a genuine truth to them that will transport readers into the innermost workings of the characters’ thoughts and lives. Read the complete review

  • The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee

    By Marja Mills
    The Penguin Press, 2014
    $27.95 Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Nancy Grisham Anderson

    In a June [2014] issue of The New York Times Book Review, two writers for the Bookends section respond to the question “When we read fiction, how relevant is the author’s biography?” This question has been asked about Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, since the author withdrew from public view within a few years of the release of her novel in July of 1960. Several biographies in recent years, a number of them for young readers, have been published without the approval or involvement of the author herself.

    Now The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills, identified as “a memoir,” is an effort to fill some of the voids left by the earlier biographies. Read the complete review

  • The Uniform House

    By Jim Murphy
    NegativeCapability Press, 2014
    $15.95, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    University of Montevallo English professor Jim Murphy’s third collection of poetry takes its title from the first poem in the book, “The Uniform House of Dixie,” which sounds like a Walker Evans photograph and presents images congruent with Evans’ work. Read the complete review

  • Prosperity

    By B. J. Leggett
    Livingston Press, 2014
    $32, Hardcover; $18.95 Paper; $7.95 Kindle

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Mollie Smith Waters

    B. J. Leggett has written extensively about academic subjects such as authors A. E. Housman, Philip Larkin, and Wallace Stevens. His latest novel, Prosperity, is only his second fictional book. In Prosperity, Leggett introduces readers to a world of crime and a corrupt police force. Read the complete review

  • The Sky Between Us

    By Irene Latham
    Blue Rooster Press, 2014
    $14.95, Paper
    Poetry

    Reviewed by Foster Dickson

    Irene Latham’s slim new poetry collection, The Sky Between Us, caught my attention with its title. Latham, an award-winning poet and young-adult novelist, throws the browsing reader a poetic curveball: the sky is above us, not between us. She is inviting us to open it and read. Read the complete review

  • Thelonious Rising

    By Judith Richards
    River’s Edge Media, 2014
    $19, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Bebe Barefoot Lloyd

    When the masses latch on to a culture, what makes it unique can quickly become cliché, and nowhere is this more apparent than in New Orleans. Scratch the surface of the garish, exploitative caricatures that are Bourbon Street and Jackson Square, and you will find an intricately woven intersection of musical, culinary, religious, and mystical traditions, their history lying just beneath the touristy surface. If you stop, seek, and listen, they will breathe life into two-dimensional misrepresentations, taking you through sides streets and neighborhoods, then into churches and juke joints, and, finally, into the hearts and souls that make up the city’s true essence. In Judith Richards’ novel, Thelonious Rising, this beautifully aged and tattered tapestry is symbolized by an unlikely protagonist, nine-year-old Thelonious Monk DeCay. Read the complete review

  • A Time to Reap: A Novel

    By William Cobb
    SixFinger Publishing, 2014
    $18.99, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    William Cobb is one of the Old Masters of Alabama literature and his eight volumes of fiction have won a mantlepiecefull of prizes, including the Harper Lee Award. It would be understandable if this veteran writer continued to mine the material he is best known for—examinations of racial tensions in the South (especially his home place, Demopolis), coming of age stories, satire of cultural morés, often gothic or even surrealistic in style. His characters have often been struggling blue-collar families or Black Belt aristocrats gone to seed. But, in fact, with A Time To Reap Cobb has chosen to strike out in, what are for him, some bold new directions. Read the complete review

  • The Tilted World

    By Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
    William Morrow, 2014
    $25.99, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    In Oxford, Mississippi, Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly both write and teach writing at Ole Miss. Tom, a novelist, is best known for Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Hell at the Breech, and other works of fiction containing considerable violence and cruelty. Beth Ann is a lyric poet, mother of their three children, but almost as well known for Great with Child, her tender letters to a friend who was expecting. They decided to write The Tilted World together. All marital projects are perilous, from raising children to choosing wallpaper, but writing a novel? Read the complete review

  • 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (Commemorative Edition)

    By Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh, with a new Afterword by Dilsy Windham Hilley and Ben Windham
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $29.95, Hardcover

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    In 1964 The Strode Publishers of Huntsville, Alabama, released Treasured Alabama Recipes by Kathryn Tucker Windham. A great success, the book’s recipes were accompanied by stories that caught the public imagination. Strode was eager to have another book by Windham, stories this time, no recipes needed. She chose to write up ghost stories from around Alabama. 13 Alabama Ghosts was a hit, too, Read the complete review

  • Birmingham: Then and Now

    By Todd Keith
    Trafalgar Square Publishing, 2014
    Price: $19.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Todd Keith, the author of Insider’s Guide to Birmingham, has collected dozens of photographs, the earliest of which seem to be about 1905, and, restricting himself to the old city limits and early suburbs, matched them up with contemporary shots of the same church, office building, street, park, athletic field, or monument. The photos, combined with brief commentaries, make for a pleasing visual trip through Birmingham’s architectural past. Read the complete review

  • The Island Called Paradise: Cuba in History, Literature, and the Arts

    By Philip D. Beidler
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $34.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Over a long career, Phil Beidler has written analyses of early American and Alabama literature, sweeping commentaries of the literature of World War II and Vietnam, a number of powerful personal essays based on his experiences as a lieutenant in Vietnam and, most lately, in American Wars, American Peace (2007), savage, outraged appraisals of American political leadership and foreign policy. To all this he brings considerable skill as a cultural critic, usually of the U.S. But here the subject is Cuba. Read the complete review

  • Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How The Swampers Changed American Music

    By Carla Jean Whitley
    The History Press, 2014
    $19.99, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Through fresh interviews with musicians and considerable research online and in newspaper files, Carla Jean Whitley has generated this compact history. Admittedly most appealing to aficionados, this book will teach any reader a good deal about a section of Alabama often overlooked. Read the complete review

  • Alabama Scoundrels: Outlaws, Pirates, Bandits & Bushwhackers

    By Kelly Kazek & Wil Elrick
    The History Press, 2014
    $19.99; Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Alabama Scoundrels is a short book, 122 pages, of brief sketches of twenty-two Alabama miscreants. Most of the scoundrels of the title are criminals, usually killers of some type and usually nineteenth century, although a few go back further, to before statehood in 1819, when Alabama was part of the Mississippi Territory. READ MORE…

  • On a Darkling Plain: Stories of the Great Depression

    By Betty Jean Tucker
    Livingston Press, 2014
    $17.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    These are stories of desperate poverty. The characters are not just making do with last year’s coat, they are constantly hungry, even starving. Sometimes, people who have only a little are willing to share—a romantic mythology we like to impose on hard times. Usually, a Darwinian ferocity takes over and the weak fall. Often, the characters’ hunger and despair leave deep psychological scars. READ MORE…

  • Gruesome: A Novel Drawn from True Crime

    By Donald Brown
    Borgo Publishing, 2014
    $10.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Well known to Alabamians as a nonfiction writer, Donald Brown has been executive editor of both the Florence Times-Daily and the Tuscaloosa News, and he has written histories of Tuscaloosa’s First United Methodist Church, The Tuscaloosa Rotary Club, and of his alma mater, Birmingham-Southern College. As he explains in an afterword, Brown, as a reporter for the Birmingham News, covered this crime in southwest Alabama. He had not covered the first trial, in which the conviction was reversed on a technicality, but was assigned to cover trials two and three of the same killing. READ MORE…

  • Halley

    By Faye Gibbons
    NewSouth Books, 2014
    $21.95, Hardcover

    Young Adult Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Faye Gibbons is an old pro at children’s and Young Adult writing. An Auburn graduate and author of more than a dozen books, she won the Georgia Author of the Year award in 1983 for Some Glad Morning and the Alabama Author Award, given by the Alabama Library Association, for Night in the Barn in 1998. Although she lives in Alabama now, Gibbons was raised in the hills of northwest Georgia and sets most of her fiction there. Her characters are generally rural and poor, struggling to get by but holding together, only by virtue of family, sharing, love, church, neighbors. READ MORE…

  • Next: D-Bow’s High School Hoops

    By Kevin Waltman
    Cinco Puntos Press, 2013
    $16.95, Hardcover; $11.95, Paper

    Young Adult Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Sports fans know that what football is to Alabama culture, basketball is to Indiana culture: passion, obsession, madness, religion. The young adult novelist Kevin Waltman grew up in Indiana, played high school basketball and attended Depauw University. Waltman, now an Alabamian, took the MFA in creative writing at the University of Alabama, and stayed on to teach in the English Department. In Next, Waltman’s third novel, he has created a more accurate picture of Hoosier basketball and done so with considerable elegance and authority and without stereotypes. READ MORE…

  • No Hill Too High for a Stepper: Memories of Montevallo, Alabama

    By Mike Mahan
    with Norman McMillan
    NewSouth Books in Cooperation with The Cahaba Trace Commission, 2014
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Danny Gamble

    Complete disclosure: A Montevallo resident, this reviewer is acquainted with both Dr. Mike Mahan and Dr. Norman McMillan.

    Not every Southern boy has a spring-fed swimming hole at the end of his street, a woman’s liberal arts college—known as the Angel Farm—at the other end, and Frog Holler—once a place for illegal horse races, boxing matches, Battle Royals (last black man standing won the pot while the white men stood by & bet), and cock fights, but much later “a perfect playground”—in the middle. Local boy Mike Mahan had all of this and more, and he writes extensively about it in this new memoir No Hill Too High for a Stepper: Memories of Montevallo, Alabama. Read the complete review

  • Waffle House Rules

    By Joe Formichella
    River’s Edge Media, 2014
    $16, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Joe Formichella has had considerable success with a book on a black baseball league in Pritchard, Alabama, Here’s to You, Jackie Robinson, and a first novel, The Wreck of the Twilight Limited, nearly a true-life novel about the catastrophic 1993 Amtrak train wreck on a bridge over Bayou Canot north of Mobile. His true crime book Murder Creek and the story of a basketball coach, Staying Ahead of the Posse, were less successful, but now, after some time, Formichella is back with a much more structurally complex novel. Waffle House Rules is ambitious and is, surely, Formichella’s best work to date. Read the complete review

  • Booty Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery

    By Carolyn Haines
    Minotaur Books, 2014
    $24.99, Hardcover
    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Harper Lee Award recipient Carolyn Haynes has now published fourteen Sarah Booth Delaney “Bones” mysteries over the past fifteen years. What started as a series set at Dahlia House, in Sunflower County, Zinnia, in the Mississippi Delta, has done some travelling.

    At home, Sarah Booth is aided by her gang: Madame Tomeeka, the psychic; Cece, the transsexual journalist; Millie, who picks up gossip in her café; and always her fiery detective partner, Tinkie. Some of these characters have even helped Sarah Booth solve crime in Costa Rica.

    At first, Jitty, the antebellum slave ghost of Dahlia House, did not travel but, in Booty Bones, Jitty and Tinkie are with Sarah Booth, and even the hound Sweetie Pie and cat Pluto lend active assistance. The others help by phone. Read the complete review

  • Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist: A Memoir

    By Tim Parrish
    University Press of Mississippi: Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography, 2014
    $28, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    A river of books has come out of the civil rights moment: large-scale general histories like Taylor Branch’s three volume America in the King Years and more focused studies such as Diane McWhorter’s investigation of the Movement in Birmingham, Carry Me Home. Likewise there are memoirs by famous activists such as John Lewis and by many minor figures who have contributed their small pieces to the historical picture.

    Up until now we have had almost no reports from the other side of these ’60s and ’70s battlefields. What were the violent racists, brutal policemen and troopers, Klansmen, thinking? Why did they behave as they did? What beliefs, emotions, one might one say misguided principles, caused them to act in vicious, cruel, and finally futile and stupid ways? There is now a trickle of memoirs from those individuals, “recovering” racists, the most articulate of whom attempt to explain why they acted as they did. Read the complete review

  • Lion Plays Rough: A Leo Maxwell Mystery

    By Lachlan Smith
    The Mysterious Press: An Imprint of Grove Press-Atlantic, 2014
    $24, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Just last year, Lachlan Smith, a Birmingham attorney practicing civil rights and employment law, published his debut thriller, Bear Is Broken. Smith was well prepared to write that novel, having studied writing at Stanford and Cornell and then getting a law degree from UC Berkeley in 2009.

    In the opening scene of Bear Is Broken, Leo Maxwell is having lunch with his older brother Teddy Maxwell, famous San Francisco defense attorney, when a hired gun enters the restaurant and shoots Teddy in the head. When Lion Plays Rough opens, Teddy, having survived the shooting, has had some rehab, fallen in love with a brain-damaged girl, and is learning to walk and talk. He will almost certainly never practice law again, but might be able to live independently. Read the complete review

  • Send the Alabamians: World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division

    By Nimrod T. Frazer; Introduction by Edwin C. Bridges.
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $34.95, Hardcover; $34.95, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The awe-inspiring sculpture of a World War I soldier carrying a wounded comrade was the perfect choice for the cover of this book. As the text on the jacket points out: "The book borrows its title from a speech by American General Edward H. Plummer, who commanded the young men during the inauspicious early days of their service.... Impressed with their ferocity and esprit de corps but exasperated by their rambunctiousness, Plummer reportedly exclaimed: "In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in time of peace, for Lord's sake, send them to somebody else!" The time was 1918; the event was The Battle of Croix Rouge. Read the complete review

  • Stanislavski in Ireland & Breaking Boundaries

    Stanislavski in Ireland: Focus at Fifty
    By Brian McAvera and Steven Dedalus Burch, eds.
    Carysfort Press, 2013
    $27, Paper

    Breaking Boundaries: An Anthology of Original Plays from the Focus Theatre
    Steven Dedalus Burch, ed.
    Carysfort Press, 2013
    $27, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Nicholas Helms

    Founded in 1963 by the Irish American actor Deirdre O’Connell, the Focus Theatre of Dublin brought Stanislavskian method acting to Ireland and challenged the country’s parochial preconceptions about theatre. Two recent works chronicle the life of Focus Theatre: Stanislavski in Ireland: Focus at Fifty, a collection of essays that serve as biography of the Focus Theatre and of its talented and eccentric founder, Deirdre O’Connell, edited by Brian McAvera and University of Alabama theatre professor Steven Dedalus Burch; and Breaking Boundaries: An Anthology of Original Plays from the Focus Theatre, a collection of Focus Theatre’s work, edited by Steven Dedalus Burch. Together, these volumes put a microscope to the theatre of Dublin in the 20th and early 21st centuries, charting the type of regional theatre work that, despite its far-reaching influence, so often goes unrecorded. Together they sketch a lively narrative of a theatre that produced high quality work for fifty years while scraping by economically and struggling against the established theatres of Dublin. O’Connell’s Focus Theatre revolutionized Irish theatrical practice, and these two volumes chronicle the far-reaching—and often unremarked—effects that a small theatre on the fringe of the mainstream can have. Read the complete review

  • The Newspaper Boy

    By Chervis Isom
    The Working Writer Discovery Group, 2013
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Jim Buford

    In the first chapter of The Newspaper Boy, Chervis Isom, age about 26, makes a visit to an office on the fourteenth floor of the Empire Building in Birmingham. Possibly he remembered learning as a child that it was one of four tall buildings erected between 1902 and 1912 anchoring the intersection of 20th Street and 1st Avenue North. Though not so tall by later standards, these buildings were skyscrapers of the time and the intersection became known as the “Heaviest Corner on Earth.” The buildings represented Birmingham’s sudden emergence as center of industry and commerce and portended a bright future for the city. And, except for the years when the whole country experienced the Great Depression, that’s about the way things turned out. In 1943, which was the year of Isom’s first memoir essay, the wartime demand for steel had returned the city to prosperity, which continued through the postwar building boom. And even as late as the mid 1950s, Birmingham competed with Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans as one of the premier cities of the south. Read the complete review

  • The White Lie

    By Philip Shirley
    Mindbridge Press, 2014
    $15.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed By Mary Beth Mobley-Bussell

    When we first meet advertising executive Peter Brantley he is not having a good day. Depressed over the drug related death of his brother, unable to focus at work, and on the verge of losing his wife, Peter suddenly finds being violently carjacked at gunpoint by a ponytailed fugitive with a gym bag full of cocaine among his growing list of troubles. Read the complete review

  • Rich Man's Son: Poems

    by Ron Self
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013
    $15.95, Paper

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This compact paperback printing of seventy-five lyric poems has an attractive cover with a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted circa 1511-1512. The collection offers three titled sections: Part 1: As Nature Made Him; Part 2: Family Business; and Part 3: Make It Dance. Read the complete review

  • Come Landfall

    By Roy Hoffman
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $29.95, Hardcover; $29.95, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Linda Busby Parker

    Fiction isn’t spawned totally from the imagination—it’s generally hatched from an inkling of truth that is combined with inspiration and a flight of fancy. Such can be said of Roy Hoffman’s latest novel, Come Landfall. For Hoffman, the inkling of truth was the loss of his uncle, Major Roy Robinton, U.S. Marine Corps, World War II. Major Robinton was captured and held on Japanese “Hellship” and disappeared with no record of his final days. The story of this lost uncle—Hoffman’s namesake—has become part of Hoffman family history, and via Come Landfall, Hoffman allows readers to share part of this history. Read the complete review

  • What He Would Call Them

    By Harry Moore
    Finishing Line Press , 2013
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Norman McMillan

    As I read the seventeen poems in Harry Moore’s chapbook, What He Would Call Them, I thought almost immediately of Auden’s oft-quoted pronouncement: “Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.” With a clear understanding of the importance of family relationships across generations, Moore celebrates his forebears in most of the poems in this collection. But things do not stop there. He brings his readers forcibly back to the present, connecting his current life with previous lives, his own and those of his parents and grandparents. Read the complete review

  • Pickett’s Charge: A Novel

    By Charles McNair
    Livingston Press, 2013
    $30, Hardcover; $18.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This interesting, adventure-filled novel utilizes two time frames a century apart. In 1964, the 114-year–old protagonist, Threadgill Pickett, a Civil War veteran languishing in a Mobile retirement home, is obsessed with the belief that something really bad happened to him on his boyhood journey to join the Confederate Army. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Poetry

    These poetry titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Young Adult

    These young adult titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Fiction

    These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Nonfiction

    These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • Legend of the Tallassee Carbine: A Civil War Mystery

    By Larry Williamson
    The Ardent Writer Press, 2013
    $19.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Carroll Dale Short

    If the springtime of 1864 was not the darkest moment for the Confederacy in the waning days of the U.S. Civil War, it was definitely high in contention. The South's iconic general Stonewall Jackson had died of war injuries, and Union forces were setting their sights on Richmond, Virginia, for its significance as a stronghold of armories and gun manufacturing. Read the complete review

  • A Powerful Blessing: The Life of Charles Colcock Jones Carpenter, Sr. 1899-1969, Sixth Episcopal Bishop of Alabama, 1938-1968

    By Douglas M. Carpenter
    TransAmerica Printing, 2012
    $24.99, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    In A Powerful Blessing, an absorbing, affectionate, and scholarly biographical narrative about his father, the Reverend Douglas Carpenter notes that his sources were "letters, diaries, notes, and clippings saved at the time of the events, scrapbooks, conversations with people on site, and [his] own memory, which extends back to the summer of 1936, when [his] family moved to Birmingham from Savannah." Read the complete review

  • College Mascot Series

    Big Al's Game Day
    Aubie's Game Day Rules
    Big Al Teaches the Alphabet
    Counting With Big Al

    By Sherri Graves Smith
    Mascot Books, 2012
    $14.95, Hardcover

    Children’s

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    Sherri Graves Smith, a native of Tuscumbia, loves football, reading, and her home state of Alabama. Having grown up in a family of readers and sports fans, when cancer forced her into early retirement she decided to pursue her lifelong desire to encourage reading in children the same way that her parents encouraged her to read. The resulting books—a series devoted to Game Days at various colleges around the country—teach the invaluable lessons of good manners, good sportsmanship, and the importance of healthy rivalry. Read the complete review

  • Jacob's Robe

    By Bob Whetstone
    Lulu Enterprises, 2013
    $40.93, Hardcover; $12, Paper
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    Bob Whetstone, familiar to many readers for his career at Birmingham-Southern College and his work with the Alabama Humanities Foundation and arts organizations, has written five historical novels prior to Jacob's Robe. Set partially in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, Jacob's Robe uses local history, folklore, and storytelling to lure readers into the love-story—turned-mystery of Jim Dean and Rachel Palmer. Read the complete review

  • Kuponya: Healing in the Heart of Africa

    By Henrietta MacGuire;
    Photography by Katie Faulk
    Mockingbird Publishing, 2012
    $12, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This impeccably produced book from Ashley Gordon’s relatively new Fairhope, Alabama, press is a triumphant journal/account about Montgomery author and editor Henrietta MacGuire’s stint as a volunteer worker in an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, in the summer of 2010. The text is enhanced by a plethora of wonderful color photographs, taken by fellow traveler and volunteer Katie Faulk of Memphis. Read the complete review

  • The Fountain of St. James Court; Or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman

    By Sena Jeter Naslund
    William Morrow, 2013
    $26.99, Hardcover; $14.39, Paper; $12.74, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Elaine Hughes

    Sena Jeter Naslund first received international acclaim in 1999 for her novel Ahab’s Wife; Or, The Star-Gazer, which some critics called the feminist version of Melville’s Moby-Dick. She was lauded for her extensive research and her mastery of eloquent language in creating this piece of historical fiction. Again, in Abundance (2006), her penetrating portrayal of the period of the French Revolution and of the enigmatic Marie Antoinette earned her praise and a following of loyal fans. Readers will have much to celebrate with her ninth novel, The Fountain of St. James Court; Or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman, in which she portrays two strong women, driven by their passion for their art and haunted by their failures as wives and mothers. Read the complete review

  • Weaving the Unraveling

    By Heidi A. Eckert
    Sand Island Publishing, 2013
    $12.99 Paper; $6.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Dee Jordan

    Heidi Eckert has penned a riveting novel with all of the elements of good storytelling: romance, a haunting past, a doubtful future, and an unforeseen present. The author uses a unique technique by referring to her protagonist as only “she,” “her,” and “hers” rather than naming her. This nomenclature normally would have been a difficult task, but Eckert writes in such beautiful language, that the reader is able to follow the protagonist. She is both invisible and visible in Eckert’s poignant words. Read the complete review

  • Countenance

    By Joy Ross Davis
    Ecanus Publishing, 2013
    $13.99, Paper; $6.50, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Kathleen M. Rodgers

    For two days I've been living with the charming setting and cast of characters in Joy Ross Davis' debut novel, Countenance. Although the Playhouse Inn exists only in the pages of this well-written novel, the author's lyrical style and storytelling ability had me roaming through the rooms (like an invisible guest) in this beautiful old bed and breakfast located in the hills of Tennessee. Read the complete review

  • Cries In the Wind: God’s Answer

    By Vanessa A. Jackson Austin
    WestBow Press, 2012
    $11.99, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Danny Gamble

    Cancer runs in Vanessa Austin’s family. Her mother and brother—to whom Austin dedicates her book—both died from various types of the disease. Her sister survived breast cancer. On June 1, 2009, Austin heard from her biopsy—malignant. Cries In the Wind chronicles her battle with breast cancer, a battle she eventually won with medical attention, family support, and—above all—her Judeo-Christian faith.
    Read the complete review

  • Crossing on the Paris

    By Dana Gynther
    Gallery Books, 2012
    $15, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Judith Nunn

    Walking with the crowd to board the maiden passage of the Paris, Constance Stone is startled by a photographer's flash which makes the two women nearest her, a petite redhead and an older woman to the side, pause as well. Unknown to each other and separated by years and station, the three primary characters of Dana Gynther's first novel begin their five-day journey of choices and change. Read the complete review

  • Darkroom: a memoir in black & white

    By Lila Quintero Weaver
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $24.95, Paper; $24.95 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens

    After going through the Alabama public school system, I was sure that I had a pretty good grasp on Alabama’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement—that it was a terrible dark spot on our history that involved the cruel treatment of African Americans—but Lila Quintero Weaver’s debut graphic memoir has made me question how much I actually know about the subject. Darkroom: a memoir in black & white tells the story of Weaver’s family, who immigrated from Buenos Aires. Several aspects of the family’s history are explored, such as the father’s complicated and storied ethnicity and the speaker’s own feelings of displacement in American public schools, but it was the speaker’s fresh perspective on the Civil Rights Movement that pulled me in. Read the complete review

  • Eden Rise

    By Robert J. Norrell
    NewSouth Books, 2012
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Ruth Autrey Gynther

    The story of Eden Rise revolves around Tom, the 19-year-old son, returning from his freshman year at Duke University where he became fast friends with Jackie, a black Duke basketball player. Alma, an attractive though obnoxious student activist, has persuaded Jackie to join her teaching at a Freedom School in Alabama, and Tom offers them a ride. Read the complete review

  • I Left My Heart in Shanghi, Alabama: Essays on Home and Place

    By Carroll Dale Short
    NewSouth Books Classics, 2012
    $15.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bebe Barefoot

    Dale Short introduced the 1988 edition of I Left My Heart in Shanghi, Alabama, with humble wonder, marveling at his good fortune and comparing his childhood home to the Garden of Eden. He opens the twenty-fifth anniversary edition with wistful mourning: “I put off going home as long as I could, because home is gone.” Read the complete review

  • My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

    My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

    By Christian Wiman
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013
    $24, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Sue Scalf

    I have just finished reading Christian Wiman’s autobiographical quest and was shaken by it to say the least. It was difficult to read for several reasons. The author—an intellectual, poet, and Christian existentialist—although I am not sure of this since Christian existentialists are so hard to pin down—is dying of terminal cancer. He is young and at the very top of his literary powers as editor of Poetry magazine, and he has just fallen in love, married and had twin daughters while he undergoes the crisis of his life. Read the complete review

  • Nothing Fancy About Kathryn & Charlie

    By Kerry Madden;
    Illustrated by Lucy Madden-Lunsford
    Mockingbird Publishing, 2013
    $12.59, Paper

    Children’s

    Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens

    When Kerry and Lucy Madden-Lunsford say there’s nothing fancy about Kathryn (Tucker Windham) and Charlie (Lucas), they are only half-telling the truth. On one hand, the authors spin a wonderful tale about two friends, bonded together by their love of simple things like tomato sandwiches and turning combs into homemade musical instruments, which indeed establishes the two as people who do not feel the need to surround themselves with fancy things. Kathryn and Charlie come across as individuals who are as eccentric as they are down-to-earth, so I can definitely see how there is nothing fancy about the pair. Read the complete review

  • Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa

    By B.J. Hollars
    The University of Alabama Press, 2013
    $29.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous stand in the schoolhouse door took place nearly fifty years ago on June 11, 1963, at Foster Auditorium. B. J. Hollars, who took the MFA in writing at the University of Alabama and taught there for three years, is perfectly familiar with the work of E. Culpepper “Cully” Clark, whose The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at the University of Alabama was published in 1995. He acknowledges Clark’s work and covers this central event expeditiously. Read the complete review

  • Shiloh, 1862

    By Winston Groom
    National Geographic, 2012
    $30, Hardcover; $14.99, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The author of Vicksburg, 1863 proves himself once again to be an expressive literary chronicler of the American Civil War. His subject this time is the Battle of Shiloh (or Shiloh Creek, as it’s also known), which took place near Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee, in early April 1862, the beginning of the second year of the four-year conflict that has also been called The War Between the States. Each of the seventeen chapters has a descriptive title on the Contents Page. Beginning with April Is the Cruelest Month, these include: From Failure to Fortune; He looked Like an Old Viking King; All the Furies of Hell Broke Loose; My God, My God, It Is Too Late!; and An Exalted Distinction. Read the complete review

  • Sounding

    By Barry Marks
    NegativeCapability Press, 2012
    $15.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    On page 22 of Barry Marks’s Sounding, there is a poem titled “Father’s Day.” Below this title lies a blank page, a sweep of terminal white that drifts beyond the margins and into secret velocities of imagining. A silent withdrawal from the space of language and argumentation, it is but one of the many complex, heartbreaking, and luminous moments in this book. Written in the shadow of a father’s grief, this book is not only a Kaddish and encomium for his precious daughter, who died just after her seventeenth birthday, but also a gift of transfiguration and hope. Sounding is a study in the topology of loss and the exigent forces that make art possible when the world seems to collapse around us. Read the complete review

  • Southern Bound: A Gulf Coast Journalist on Books, Writers, and Literary Pilgrimages of the Heart

    By John Sledge
    University of South Carolina Press, 2013
    $24.95, Paper; $24.95, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Jim Fraiser

    Mobile author John Sledge harbors great passion for his Southland, and he shares those sentiments with the same vibrant prose he imbued in his hundreds of Mobile Press Register book reviews and four tomes covering Mobile’s architecture and history. In Southern Bound, Sledge offers past reviews of books ranging from novels that inspired the movies Shane and True Grit, to Winston Groom’s Civil War history, Vicksburg, 1863, and classics such as Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon and Plato’s Dialogues. He also presents exquisite mediations on diverse subjects such as the connection between Oxford, Mississippi, and her many famed authors from Faulkner to Grisham; Greenville’s literary history involving the Percys, Footes, and Carters; and the relationship between Savannah and John Berendt’s novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Read the complete review

  • Swimming with Serpents

    By Sharman Burson Ramsey
    Mercer University Press, 2012
    $26, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Mollie Smith Waters

    An author writing historical fiction faces the challenge of balancing the realities of a period with the story he or she introduces into that world. Attempting to create that balance in Swimming with Serpents, Sharman Ramsey delves into the midst of Alabama’s 1813-1814 Creek Indian Wars through the adventures of her primary characters, Cade Kincaid and Lysistrata “Lyssa” Rendel. Read the complete review

  • The Joker: A Memoir

    By Andrew Hudgins
    Simon & Schuster, 2013
    $25, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Norman McMillan

    I have known of chess players who can remember every move they made in championship games over many years. When it comes to jokes, I’d say Andrew Hudgins is in that league. He seems to remember every joke he ever heard. He knows elephant jokes, Helen Keller jokes, dead baby jokes, knock-knock jokes, cruelty jokes, racial jokes, poop jokes, sex jokes, fart jokes, Little Moron jokes, Pollack jokes, parrot jokes, and, of course, Alabama jokes and Auburn jokes. And this is just a partial list. Read the complete review

  • The Kings and Queens of Roam

    By Daniel Wallace
    Touchstone Books, 2013

    $24, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Here in his fifth novel Daniel Wallace has returned to many of the concerns and techniques of Big Fish, his first and most widely admired novel. As readers and viewers of the Tim Burton movie production of Big Fish well know, Wallace’s fiction is never tied too tightly to reality. Here again, in Roam, we are in the land of the tall tale, the fable, fantasy, and fairy tale—and not the tooth fairy kind where there is no down side, just the delivery of a silver coin in the night, but the Brothers Grimm variety, laced with darkness, anxiety, bad behavior, guilt, envy, and pain. Read the complete review

  • The Life and Death of Poetry

    By Kelly Cherry
    LSU Press, 2013
    $19.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    The Life and Death of Poetry, Kelly Cherry's ninth full-length collection of poetry, is the 2013 winner of the L.E. Phillabaum Prize for Poetry. Like Cherry's memoir, Writing the World, and her essay collection, Girl in a Library, the book takes writing, language, and communication as central themes. Divided into three sections—Learning the Language, Welsh Table Talk (A Sequence), and What the Poet Wishes to Say—the poems move from silence and the sounds of animals to a father, his daughter, and non-related, yet intertwined friends, attempting to find— not always successfully—the words to bridge the distances between them, until finally reaching the joy of language, and the pleasures of the ordinary word. Dedicated "For my students, then and now," The Life and Death of Poetry is in the tradition of Ars Poetica and John Keats' negative capability. Read the complete review

  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

    By Therese Anne Fowler
    St. Martin’s Press, 2013
    $25.99, Hardcover; $12.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Katherine Henderson

    "It was all so wonderful, at first," says Zelda Fitzgerald about Hollywood, but the same could just as easily be said about her tumultuous relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Anyone who knows much at all about the pair already knows that, but what may be missing are the details. Details, albeit highly fictionalized, abound in Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. In the novel, Fowler brings the famous pair to life, along with a cast of supporting characters that is a veritable who's who of early twentieth century literature and popular culture. But Fowler doesn’t just bring them to life; she stirs controversy, too: What sort of relationship do Scott and Hemingway have, anyway? Just how culpable is Scott for driving Zelda over the edge? And how much credit does Scott deserve for the work published under his own name? As Zelda tells her story—because she’s the narrator and this is her story, not Scott’s or one with Scott’s name where hers should be—the answers are revealed. Read the complete review

  • The Darkling

    By R.B. Chesterton (aka Carolyn Haines)
    Pegasus Crime, 2013
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Frye Gaillard

    Throughout her remarkably successful career, Carolyn Haines has long been a master of the page-turning mystery. Her latest novel, The Darkling, which is, incredibly, one of more than sixty she has written, is no exception. This supernatural, white-knuckling whodunit, written under the pseudonym of R.B. Chesterton, is set in the fishing village of Coden, Alabama, where the wealthy members of the Henderson family have moved into an estate called Belle Fleur. As recent arrivals from California, the Hendersons are seeking the peace and quiet promised by the languid beauty of the coast. What they find instead are heartache and terror, intensified and made more mysterious by the haunting unfamiliarity of the place. Read the complete review

  • The Books That Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir

    By Frye Gaillard
    NewSouth Books, 2013
    $27.95, Hardcover; $9.99 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Frye Gaillard, author of some twenty volumes and winner of both the Lillian Smith Award and the Clarence Cason Award, is solidly in this latter tradition, writing here with insight and feeling about the books that mattered.

    The book offers “eleven essays featuring thirty-odd books.” He understands the list is “deeply personal and purely my own.” Such lists always are. Considering that Gaillard’s work has usually been concerned with questions of civil rights—integration, mandatory school busing—with occasional side trips into the world of country music and NASCAR and that his lifelong heroes are Senator Robert F. Kennedy and President Jimmy Carter, most of his choices are not too surprising. Read the complete review

  • Autumn’s Only Blood

    By Willie James King
    Tebot Bach, 2013
    $16, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Tony Crunk

    Willie James King’s fourth collection of poetry admirably continues the hallmarks of his previous work. He doesn’t just integrate the public and the personal, the political and the contemplative, but explores the myriad ways in which these dichotomies reflect and inform each other. Read the complete review

  • Peck and Pock: A Graphic Poem

    By Kathleen Driskell
    Illustrated by AJ Reinhart
    Fleur-de-Lis Explorations, 2012
    $8, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens

    Thanks to the recent superhero movie craze, comics are big again. There are entire conferences devoted to comics scholarship, and comics (or, alternatively, “graphic novels”) have become a popular subject for English courses. What Kathleen Driskell brings to the table is a spin on the image-driven genre we are already familiar with. Simply put, it ain’t your grandma’s comic book. Interestingly enough, Driskell’s Peck and Pock: A Graphic Poem comes in the form of an elongated, slim booklet reminiscent of a comic book. The cover art—droplets of rain highlighted against a windowpane—is powered by hues of white, gray, and black. This dark theme continues into the rest of the book’s paratext. Stark black dominates the title and credit pages and acts as the background for the area between and behind panels, otherwise known as the gutter. This sets an excellent mood for Driskell’s dark and hypnotic poetry. Driskell’s writing shines its brightest when it is fixated on the smallest details, like rotten apples being swept along in a current and young faces pressed against windows. While reading, I had the constant sense of being taken aback by these small, strange pieces of beauty. Read the complete review

  • Ars Minotaurica

    By Carey Scott Wilkerson
    New Plains Press, 2012
    $16.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Aaron Sanders

    Such a collection as Ars Minotaurica flies so close to the sun that its poetic parts don’t melt as much as dissolve. The poet, Carey Scott Wilkerson, then recycles what’s left over into more poems, and the reader gets the sense that the poet would be content repeating this process ad infinitum. Read the complete review

  • Brother Sid: A Novel of Sidney Lanier

    By May Lamar
    The Donnell Group, 2012
    $22.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The author states on the flyleaf of this spirited first novel, “Brother Sid is a work of fiction primarily based on letters to and from Macon [Georgia]-born artist Sidney Lanier.” The protagonist is the 19th century poet whose real life fame is legendary in Montgomery, Alabama, where a prominent high school memorializes his name. The jacket cover art combines a photograph of the subject with his flute, musical notation, and other colorful symbols of his life, such as a tiger lily (which, capitalized, is the title of his novel), and a Confederate flag. Except for the Prologue and Afterword, the chapters are numbered and interestingly (and rather contemporarily) arranged to convey the life story in juxtaposed order. This dynamically luminous narrative is well-executed in the tradition of inspired fiction about real people who contributed outstandingly to a place and time. Read the complete review

  • Cotton

    By Derrick Harriell, 2010
    Aquarius Press-Willow Books, 2010
    http://willowbookspoetry.homestead.com/
    $13.45, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    In his perceptive introduction to Derrick Harriell’s Cotton, Frank X Walker prepares us for the staging of a narrative that speaks to and through the experience of Black America: “Cotton whispers what it means to transcend our collective ignorance, to be raised right and to never forget our roots.” This is an ambitious program, to be sure, but Harriell’s aesthetic commitments are precisely those that permit him to move between epic vision and close observation. That Harriell traces always an elegant arc between these two is the prevailing strength of these fine poems. Read the complete review

  • Doc: The Story of a Birmingham Jazz Man

    By Frank “Doc” Adams and Burgin Mathews
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $34.95, Hardcover & eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    Birmingham’s Frank “Doc” Adams has led an extraordinary musical life. As a teen, he played saxophone with Sun Ra’s early orchestra and later worked with Duke Ellington’s band. In Doc: The Story of a Birmingham Jazz Man, the 85-year-old Adams shares an intimately in-depth narrative of his life-long love affair playing and teaching music. Loaded with barely restrained enthusiasm, his voice leaps off the page with wonder and exhilaration as he tells of pursuing and finding his dream. As a storyteller, he’s every bit as entertaining as the magnificent notes he coaxes from his sax and clarinet. Read the complete review

  • Earplugs

    By Bram Riddlebarger
    Livingston Press, 2012
    $28, Hardcover; $16.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens, 2012

    If you are looking for a novel that is absolutely appropriate for the times, Bram Riddlebarger’s Earplugs may be exactly what you want. Set in a small Appalachian town, the story follows its main character—who is never named—as he interacts with his quickly modernizing community and deals with the loss of both his best friend and his girlfriend. Then again, “interacts” may be the wrong word for it, as the protagonist responds to the changes by locating and then constantly wearing a set of earplugs. In an age of ever-increasing connectivity, this action makes a loud statement that is as salient in the real world as it is in the novel. Read the complete review

  • Ferns of Alabama

    By John W. Short and Daniel D. Spaulding
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $39.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Phillip Oliver

    It has been almost fifty years since a book about ferns in Alabama was published. Blanche Dean’s Ferns of Alabama and Fern Allies first appeared in 1964 and was revised in 1969. A new book on the subject is certainly welcome and authors John W. Short and Daniel P. Spaulding have written an admirable study that corrects past technical inaccuracies and provides detailed distribution coverage of ferns growing in the state. Read the complete review

  • Imaginary Logic

    By Rodney Jones
    Houghton Mifflin, 2011
    $22, Hardcover

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    Rodney Jones’ 2006 collection Salvation Blues: 100 Poems, 1985-2005 is more than the now-standard late-mid-career new-and-collected; it’s a book you can browse through, read start to finish, dip into, or perhaps even open a page at random and point at a line blindfolded and still hit pay dirt, essence of Rodney Jones.

    His new book, Imaginary Logic, is Jones’ ninth book of poetry. In it one finds again his signature combination of the vernacular particular and the highfalutin’ abstract, a mix that often surprises, as though your plumber were to begin quoting St. Augustine while buried under your kitchen sink. Read the complete review

  • In Love With Defeat: The Making of a Southern Liberal

    By H. Brandt Ayers
    NewSouth Books, 2013
    $29.95, Hardcover; $9.99 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    H. Brandt Ayers, longtime editor and publisher at The Anniston Star, has written a memoir with a unique perspective on his beloved Southland. Writing with historical perception, political awareness, and abiding sensitivity, he has given a history of the South’s painful road from Civil War to the latest New South, a land of culture and prosperity, one in being with the nation yet still maintaining some semblance of the gentle, polite past. His narrative brings us through the hard scrabble years of the Great Depression, the tumult of the civil rights era, and the Republican takeover. Read the complete review

  • John McKinley and the Antebellum Supreme Court: Circuit Riding in the Old Southwest

    By Stephen P. Brown
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $39.95, Hardcover & eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    Though many Alabamans may be familiar with John Archibald Campbell and Hugo Black’s appointments to the Supreme Court, Alabama had a third, lesser known appointee, John McKinley.

    McKinley’s acumen, paired with his legal expertise and social connections, allowed him to achieve immense success is a very short time. He was elected to the state legislature three times, serving as both a representative and a senator, before becoming a Supreme Court Justice in 1837. His first four years as a justice were spent “circuit riding,” presiding over the recently created Ninth Circuit, which covered the newly created south western frontier of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Read the complete review

  • Leaving Tuscaloosa

    By Walter Bennett
    Fuze Publishing, 2012
    $16.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    A novel called Leaving Tuscaloosa is simply irresistible to a resident, past or present, of Tuscaloosa. Bennett, who grew up in Tuscaloosa and has had a long career as a lawyer, law professor, and judge, now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and has studied fiction writing with Lee Smith, among others.

    He begins the novel, his first, with a map of Tuscaloosa so the reader can follow the action, from University Boulevard (which he calls Main Street) to 15th Street, to Hackberry to Queen City. Some action takes place in what he calls the Red Elephant restaurant on 10th Ave.—not yet Bryant Blvd.—which was The Corner. Kids neck in the cemetery down the street. The railroad tracks play a large part, and the black section of town, called Cherrytown, south across the tracks, is the center of the action. Read the complete review

  • My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop

    By Ronald Rice and Booksellers Across America, ed.
    Introduction by Richard Russo
    Illustrations by Leif Parsons
    Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2012
    $23.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    There is a wave of justified anxiety moving among the bookstore owners and patrons of America; the number of independent bookstores has been declining steadily since the 1990s.

    There has been a slight up-tick lately, from 1,400 members of the Booksellers Association in 2009 to 1,900 in 2011, but the opening of a new independent is news. The December 2012 issue of The Atlantic Monthly carries an article by the novelist Ann Patchett about her new store, Parnassus Books, in Nashville. The Athens of the South had no bookstore at all. Borders had closed and Davis-Kidd was not profitable enough. Still, writers and many readers love independent bookstores. This volume gives eighty-four writers a chance to praise their personal favorite. Read the complete review

  • The Refrain

    By Anne Whitehouse
    Dos Madres Press, 2012
    $16, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Mary Kaiser
    Describing an aging woman, Anne Whitehouse writes, “to go on living / she would have to give up / who she was until this season.” This eloquent statement of loss and adaptation could be an epigraph to Anne Whitehouse’s latest collection, The Refrain, poems that locate moments of transformation when the old life mutates irrevocably into a new form, moments of terror and confusion followed by clarity and the possibility of a new beginning. A house struck by lightning, a bed-bug infestation, the onset of dementia, a bird trapped in a house, a child trapped inside her parents’ squabbles—all of these moments effect a mysterious change, a new and clearer vision. Like novelists Virginia Woolf and Laurie Colwin, Whitehouse scans quotidian detail for her metaphors, and like them, she always selects the resonant image that, without commentary, gives meaning to the whole. Read the complete review

  • Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812

    Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812
    By Kathyrn E. Holland Braund, ed.
    A Pebble Hill Book by the University of Alabama Press, 2012
    34.95, Paper; $29.95 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    The Battle of Horseshoe Bend, also known as the Battle of Tohopeka, was a turning point in Creek (Muskogee), Alabama, and American History. Set within the larger context of a newly established America, continuing clashes between the settlers and the tribes for land, and the War of 1812, the Battle at Tohopeka made Andrew Jackson a national hero with both military and political clout. Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812 offers multiple viewpoints on the history, archaeology, and preservation of Horseshoe Bend. Read the complete review

  • Bonefire of the Vanities

    By Carolyn Haines
    Minotaur Books, 2012
    $24.99, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Bonefire of the Vanities is Carolyn Haines’ twelfth mystery in her Bones series. Sarah Booth Delaney, living in Dahlia House in Zinnia, Sunflower County, Mississippi, began her detective agency in Them Bones.

    Haines assembled, right from the start, the ensemble cast that has served her well. Sarah Booth has been assisted in her investigations by her friend Tinkie, the transgendered society columnist Cece Dee Falcon, her psychic friend Madame Tomeeka, and the local sheriff— but especially by the resident ghost at Dahlia House, Jitty, who had been the slave/companion to Sarah Booth’s great-great grandmother. Jitty appears when she feels like it, often in costume, and urges Sarah Booth to find a man and procreate. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Fiction

    These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Nonfiction

    These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Young Adult

    These young adult titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • The Edible Zoo

    By David C. Kopaska-Merkel; Illustrated by Valerie Bodell
    Sam’s Dot Publishing, 2012
    $8, Paper

    Children

    Reviewed by Jonathan Rutan

    Making a valiant effort to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Seuss, The Edible Zoo by David C. Kopaska-Merkel is a family friendly romp through the fantastic. In his book, Merkel uses a unique—yet hilarious—approach when he decides to discuss some of the many different animals that live in our world. His interest in them, however, is not one in which he wants to talk about how they might look, but rather how they might taste as he illuminates the many different aspects of devouring a horse—or a crocodile—before moving on to imagine how delicious an aardvark—or a woodchuck—might be. Read the complete review

  • The Secret Life of David Goens

    By Ron Meszaros
    Southern Oaks Publishing, 2012
    $15.99, Paper; $5.99 eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Jule Moon

    Set in Fairhope, Alabama, this fascinating novel, The Secret Life of David Goens, fulfills the definition of the root word: new, unusual, strange. This is the first novel of intriguing woven patterns of characters and events by an instinctive, meticulous, extensively knowledgeable writer. Read the complete review

  • The Silent Season of a Hero: The Sports Writing of Gay Talese

    By Michael Rosenwald, ed.
    Walker & Company, 2010
    $16, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Readers today may think of Gay Talese as the immersion journalist who hung out with the Bonnano Mafia family and published Honor Thy Father or the writer who explored America’s sexual mores and reported back in Thy Neighbor’s Wife or the historian of the New York Times in The Kingdom and the Power.

    It is easy to forget that Talese started out as a sports reporter and has been writing about football, boxing, basketball, golf, even soccer throughout his long career. Read the complete review

  • Crazy Brave: A Memoir

    By Joy Harjo
    W.W. Norton and Company, 2012
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    When most Alabama readers think of Alabama writers, Native American—or American Indian as Joy Harjo calls herself—aren't the first writers who come to mind, yet Joy Harjo attributes what she considers to be three of the most important traits of her artistry—the need for perpetuating family storytelling, the quest for justice, and the return to and fusing of tribal music with poetry in her more recent works—to her Alabama heritage. In much of her poetry, and, more recently, her memoir, Crazy Brave, Harjo has written about her family's Alabama memories, the juncture of past and present, weaving them throughout a narrative that connects her life and work to the family lore that has been passed down for over seven generations. Read the complete review

  • Don't Feed the Boy

    By Irene Latham; Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
    Roaring Brook Press, 2012
    $15.99, Hardcover

    Children’s Literature

    Reviewed by Peter Huggins

    Who wouldn't want to live at the zoo? Eleven-year-old Whit, apparently, the central character in Irene Latham's new middle grade novel, Don't Feed the Boy. Whit is dissatisfied with life at the Meadowbrook Zoo in Alabama, dissatisfied with his busy parents who always seem to put their jobs at the zoo— vet and head elephant keeper—ahead of him, dissatisfied with having no friends since he is homeschooled by the capable and calm Ms. Connie. All of this changes when Whit meets a girl (of course!), Stella, aka the Bird Girl because she draws birds at the zoo and uses the zoo as a refuge from a difficult situation at home. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Fiction

    These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Nonfiction

    These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • Pale Blue Light

    By Skip Tucker
    NewSouth Books, 2012
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    A former reporter, editor, and assistant publisher of Jasper’s Daily Mountain Eagle, Skip Tucker has been press secretary for a governor of Alabama and media director for an Alabama Supreme Court chief justice campaign. Described in the jacket text as a “rare espionage thriller set in the Civil War,” this novel—presumably his first published fiction—combines contemporary plot mechanics with historic characters and setting. Read the complete review

  • Smoke Jumper, Moon Pilot: The Remarkable Life of Apollo 14 Astronaut Stuart Roosa

    By Willie G. Moseley
    Acclaim Press, 2011
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    Currently a senior writer for Vintage Guitar Magazine and editor/columnist/photographer for The Tallassee Tribune, Willie G. Moseley has written an entertaining and informative biography on the life of astronaut Stu Roosa in Smoke Jumper, Moon Pilot, Moseley’s eighth book. Stuart Roosa was a colorful, adventurous character whose life experiences ranged from a summer as a smoke jumper, parachuting into isolated areas to fight fires for the U.S. Forest Service, to orbiting the Moon in 1971. In between those jobs he was a fighter pilot for the Air Force. Read the complete review

  • Want

    By Stephanie Lawton
    Ink Spell Publishing, 2012
    $14.99, Paper; $4.99, eBook

    Young Adult

    Reviewed by Eleanor Inge Baker

    Young Adult Readers and Readers Young at Heart:

    If you’re looking for a steamy and emotionally taut read, give Mobile writer, Stephanie Lawton’s debut Young Adult (YA) novel, Want, a try. You will not find vampires or futuristic sci-fi villains between these pages, but a string of nail biting conflicts all the same. Set in Mobile and centered around a family steeped in the dark and secretive traditions of Mardi Gras, the reader learns that things are not always as they seem. Read the complete review

  • What It Means To Climb a Tree

    By Carey Link
    Finishing Line Press , 2011
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Melissa Dickson

    There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. —Minnie Aumonier

    One need not be quiet to hear the heart or the music of Carey Link’s tree-climbing verses. In her debut collection, What It Means To Climb a Tree, Link has composed an ambitious sequence of lyrical poems celebrating and interrogating the arboreal heights. The chapbook, published by Finishing Line Press, also features stylistically naïve but charming illustrations and cover art by Emily Lynn and Patricia Hart Eldridge, respectively. Read the complete review

  • Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond

    By Lilly Ledbetter with Lanier Scott Isom
    Crown Archetype, 2012
    $25, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to change the workplace; she just wanted to help contribute to her family’s finances, help provide more for her children, and achieve financial stability.

    Like many Alabamians of her generation, she was born in a small town (Possum Trot, Alabama) and lived in a house without electricity and running water, amenities that are now taken for granted. She married her husband Charles at seventeen, they had two children within three years of one another, and, like many couples, then and now, found that trying to live on one paycheck was not enough. Going against her husband, Lilly went out and found a job at H&R Block where she eventually worked her way up to managing the office. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Fiction

    These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Nonfiction

    These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Poetry

    These poetry titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Young Adult

    These young adult titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Fiction

    These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Nonfiction

    These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Poetry

    These poetry titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Children’s Literature

    These children’s literature titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • Desert Rose: The Life and Legacy of Coretta Scott King

    By Edythe Scott Bagley with Joe Hilley
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $34.95, Hardcover; $27.95, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The late author of this beautifully written, well- organized biography was the older sister of the subject. As noted in the Preface, the project began several decades ago, at Coretta Scott King’s request. On Thursday morning, April 4, 1968, Edythe Scott Bagley put an initial draft in the mail to a publisher. Later that day, her brother-in-law and the husband of Coretta, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot and killed. Publication of the manuscript was delayed, and eventually canceled. Many years later, in 2004, Coretta asked Edythe to take up the project again. Read the complete review

  • Creatures of the Night: In Search of Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves and Demons

    By Gregory L. Reece
    I.B. Tauris, 2012
    $17, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by B.J. Hollars

    Gregory Reece knows what it means to be afraid. He, like so many of us, has experienced firsthand the heart-pounding terror that so often accompanies scary stories read by flashlight. Though unlike the hoards of horror-obsessed, monster-magazine-reading pre-teens we likely envision, Reece’s own interest in the supernatural—quite thankfully—far transcended his youth. In a society set on stifling the imagination, Reece seems somehow to have eluded capture, and this—coupled with his keen scholar’s eye—makes him the ideal writer for this highly engaging subject. Read the complete review

  • Facing South: Portraits of Southern Artists

    Photography by Jerry Siegel; text by Julian Cox & Dennis Harper
    The University of Alabama Press / Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, 2012
    $29.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This handsomely produced, table-size book is a collection of photographic portraiture by Selma photographer Jerry Siegel. The subjects are a hundred of the South’s most celebrated artists. Each portrait is accompanied by a brief paragraph of biography. Essays by curators Julian Cox, of the de Young Museum in San Francisco and formerly at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and Dennis Harper of the Jule Collins Smith Museum also provide interesting, thought-provoking preludes to the photographic content. Read the complete review

  • Monsters: A Collection of Literary Sightings

    By B.J. Hollars, ed.
    Pressgang, 2012
    $14, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Gregory L. Reece

    Monsters come in all shapes in sizes. Some are frightening, eliciting blood curdling screams and pounding hearts from even the most stalwart among us. Some are sad, tearfully, fearfully sad. They make us weep for their deformities, their brokenness, their inability to walk among us without causing a scene, their never-ending quest to find true love in a world to which they do not belong. B.J. Hollars’ collection of short stories offers both these sorts of monsters, the frightening and the sad, as well as some fine examples of some of their monstrous cousins, like the funny and the mystifying. Read the complete review

  • Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones

    By Paul Devlin, ed.
    Afterword by Phil Schaap
    University of Minnesota Press, 2011
    $18.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Jim Buford

    Jo Jones, who came to be known as “Papa Jo,” was one of the most important and influential drummers of all time. After growing up in Alabama, Jones worked as a drummer and tap-dancer with carnival shows and later with bands, including Walter Page's Blue Devils in Oklahoma City and Lloyd Hunter's band in Nebraska. His big break came in 1936 when he joined Count Basie's band in Kansas City where he developed his innovative style using brushes on drums and shifting the role of timekeeping from the bass drum to the hi-hat symbol. In Rifftide Papa Jo tells us a lot more, although he never got around to writing his autobiography. Rather, he said to his friend, writer Albert Murray, “This is my last hoo-rah. I will not give this wealth of information to nobody else because they don’t know how to handle it.” Read the complete review

  • Table 5

    By Melissa Dickson, Johnny Summerfield, Sue Brannan Walker, and Carey Scott Wilkerson
    The Halawaukee School for the Exegetical Arts, 2012
    $10, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Aaron Sanders

    Let’s just say it: Gore Vidal was not being complimentary when he wrote this about Carson McCullers: “Of all the Southern writers, she is the most apt to endure.” Nor is USA Today celebrating the breadth and depth of Southern writing in its review of New Stories from the South: “For those sons and daughters of the South who yearn for fiction that eschews the moonlight-and-magnolias claptrap.” Talk about backhanded compliments. Talk about condescension. Go on: talk about it. Thankfully, folks down here have heard it all before, and they’re not listening. Exhibit A: the new book, Table 5. Read the complete review

  • The Rise and Decline of the Redneck Riviera: An Insider’s History of the Florida-Alabama Coast

    By Harvey H. Jackson III
    University of Georgia Press, 2012
    $28.95, Hardcover; $28.95, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Jacksonville University Eminent Scholar in History Hardy Jackson brings to this job all the right tools. The author of several scholarly volumes, Jackson has also shown in Alabama : A Personal History of My State that he can personalize history, narrate history, in a highly readable fashion and commit sociology in the best possible way, from personal experience and keen observation. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Fiction

    These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • Almost Home: New and Selected Poems

    By Sue Scalf
    Blue Rooster Press, 2012
    $16.95, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Kathleen Thompson

    The poems in each section of Almost Home welter (to borrow one of the poet’s verbs) with a longing and searching for home, either physical or metaphorical. The irony of the title is set up in the sweeping dedication to the people of not just one, but two home states: Kentucky and Alabama.Read the complete review

  • Ireland, Poor Ireland: A Dangerous Man and the Woman He Adored

    By David T. Morgan
    CreateSpace, 2012
    $10.95, Paper; $2.99, eBook
    Fiction
    Reviewed by John W. Crum

    David T. Morgan’s latest novel, Ireland, Poor Ireland: A Dangerous Man and the Woman He Adored, is a tale of deep love set against the turbulent struggle of Ireland to gain self-rule. It spans the years from 1846 to success in 1922. All the twists and turns are here, from the significant American connection to the tenant farmers’ struggles against Captain Boycott, which added a new word to the English language, to the ill-fated Easter uprising in 1916. The Irish Question, as it was called, became one of the factors forcing the British Parliament to modernize its procedures in 1911 when the House of Lords was stripped of its powers. Earlier, the House of Commons passed a Home Rule Bill for Ireland, only to see it fail in the House of Lords, 419-41. Read the complete review

  • N18 (Complete)

    By Hank Lazer
    Singing Horse Press, 2012
    $15, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    Let me be unambiguous: Hank Lazer’s new collection of hand-written poems, N18 (Complete) is a singularly dazzling work of purest art, both textually charming and intellectually rigorous. To read these lovely, swirling, torquing, intorsional, gyroscopically involuted poem/commentaries and lyrico-philosophical objects is to experience nothing less than “The New” of Ezra Pound’s historic directive. And it is an astonishing achievement indeed. Read the complete review

  • The Return of Edgar Cayce

    By C. Terry Cline Jr.
    MacAdam-Cage, 2012
    $17, Hardcover
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Unless the reader is a sitting duck for a suspend-the-belief book, the most interesting part of the narrative is in the Foreword. Terry Cline Jr. explains that he has spent a “fifty year odyssey in search of Edgar Cayce, the so-called sleeping prophet…. Lying on his couch in a hypnotic trance, Mr. Cayce extracted information during life readings that covered a person’s karma from past incarnations.” Among the famous people who supposedly consulted Cayce back then were Woodrow Wilson, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Thomas Edison. Read the complete review

  • Hank Hung the Moon and Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts

    by Rheta Grimsley Johnson
    NewSouth Books, 2012
    $24.95, Hardcover; $9.99, eBook
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    When I saw the title of longtime syndicated newspaper columnist and author Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s latest book, Hank Hung the Moon and Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts, I wondered why anyone would want to write about Williams Sr. The singer has been thoroughly-documented; I couldn’t imagine another biography.

    Johnson, of course, has been warming hearts for years with her hilarious, heartfelt, and melancholy observations of everyday people who add color to the world. In Hank Hung the Moon, she does reveal a few new tidbits about “Ol’ Hank,” as she lovingly refers to him, but more importantly, she invites the reader to look at the different styles of music that defined the ups and downs in her life, though she admits that Hank will always be her favorite. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Fiction

    These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Nonfiction

    These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • One Sunday Morning

    By Anne Whitehouse
    Finishing Line Press , 2011
    $14, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Mary Kaiser

    In her latest chapbook, Anne Whitehouse’s clear-eyed poetic vision uncovers mysteries beneath the calm surfaces of modern life. “This is my life,” she affirms in “Rites of Spring,” “finding one thing in another.” Unclouded by assumptions, Whitehouse’s lyrical voice moves from one carefully observed, imagistic stanza to another, introducing concise narratives that accumulate metaphorical power by juxtaposition, like a chain of haiku. Read the complete review

  • The Tears and Laughter of a Southern Voice Calling

    By Amanda Walker
    Walker World Press, 2011
    $19.99, Paper
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    After reading this collection of essays by an acclaimed columnist with the newspaper Wilcox Progressive Era in Camden, Alabama, I concur with the back cover observation: “She weaves and dances along the heartstrings through us all. She can be quite opinionated and delightfully humorous.” At thirty-nine, Amanda Walker is too young to be called an old soul, but philosophically, that’s her bent, if not her beat. Read the complete review

  • A River So Long

    By Vallie Lynn Watson
    Luminis Books, 2012
    $17.95, Paper
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Foster Dickson

    Referring to Vallie Lynn Watson’s new book, A River So Long, as a “novel” puts the term in its truest context: a work very new and modern in style and content. Relatively slim in total and narrated in imagistic vignette-like chapters, the novel allows the reader to glimpse into the life of Veronica, a barely married traveling businesswoman whose emotional baggage and illicit affairs are scattered all over the continental United States, with pieces of her life languishing in Phoenix, New Orleans, New York, Boston, Wilmington, and Memphis, and in the Birmingham of her past. Read the complete review

  • Salvage the Bones: A Novel

    By Jesmyn Ward
    Bloomsbury, 2011
    $24, Hardcover
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Salvage the Bones was released in September 2011, declared a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction in October, and awarded the prize in November, before hardly anyone had reviewed it or read it. The five judges of the NBA chose it from a field of 315 novels submitted. And they were probably right. This is a smart, powerful novel and makes, I think, a permanent impression on the reader. Read the complete review

  • Trouble on the Tombigbee

    By Ted M. Dunagan
    Junebug Books , 2011
    $21.95, Hardcover; $9.99, eBook
    Young Adult
    Reviewed by Tony Crunk

    Trouble on the Tombigbee is the third of Ted Dunagan’s Young Adult novels to chronicle the adventures and deepening relationship between two adolescent boys, Ted and Poudlum, one black and one white, in the southwest Alabama of the late 1940s. As with the two previous novels, A Yellow Watermelon and Secret of the Satilfa, the adventures are frequently harrowing, the boys infinitely resourceful, and the suspense finely honed, all resulting in a satisfying, page-turning read.
    Read the complete review

  • Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality

    By Wendy Reed and Jennifer Horne, eds.
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $29.95, Hardcover; $23.95, eBook
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Bebe Barefoot

    If titles received awards, Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality might take top prize. The book itself forms a literary and philosophical circle composed of smaller circles, capturing in form and content the complexity of Southern women’s Christ-haunted wrestles with trust in the unknowable. Jennifer Horne’s and Wendy Reed’s skilled editing crafts intricate links to form an enclosed sacred space that steps cautiously around itself. The beginning meets not an end but instead a promise of renewal. Read the complete review

  • The Rebel Wife

    By Taylor M. Polites
    Simon & Schuster, 2012
    $25, Hardcover
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This debut novel is a very readable blend of historically detailed narrative and a finely honed, contemporary style of writing. It’s told in first-person/present tense by the main character, Augusta (“Gus”) Branson, who was born into Southern aristocracy before the Civil War did away with the family fortune. Her husband, Eli, who dies horrifically of a blood disease plague in the opening chapter, had been a helpful advocate to newly freed slaves, including those who remained in the household and are like family to Gus. The cast of characters includes both races. Read the complete review

  • Truman Capote and the Legacy of In Cold Blood

    By Ralph F. Voss
    The University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $34.95, Hardcover; $14.99, eBook
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Marianne Moates Weber

    Just when you think nothing new could possibly be added to the volumes of literary criticism written about In Cold Blood, a book emerges that is as compelling as Capote’s original crime novel. The author, retired University of Alabama English professor Ralph Voss, brings a unique perspective to his subject: Truman Capote and the legacy of in cold blood. Read the complete review

  • Children of the Changing South

    By Foster Dickson, ed.
    McFarland, 2011
    $35, Paperback
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    This is not a boring high-school textbook. Nevertheless, you might think it is. Children of the Changing South: Accounts of Growing Up During and After Integration has that lengthy dissertation-like title and the sort of cover photograph that says, “You’re in for a long day of schooling.” The photograph shows a loosely-spaced group of teen-aged girls and an older black man with an umbrella lolling down a street in Selma.

    After that, is a preface and then a 21,000-word academic introduction by the book’s editor, Foster Dickson. (Unless one is a scholar, it might all seem daunting and dry.) But after the introduction—Wow! Suddenly, you’re climbing out of a sand pit near Pascagoula, Mississippi. It’s the late fifties, and you feel the desert-like sun burning your neck. After crawling out of that pit, there’s nowhere to go but up. Read the complete review

  • Cold Stone, White Lily

    By Anne Markham Bailey
    The Friends of Julian, Norwich, UK, 2011
    £7, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Russ Kesler

    In Cold Stone, White Lily Anne Markham Bailey gives us poems in the voice of a character she has imagined, a fourteenth-century English anchoress named Anne Wyngfield, who lived in an East Anglican village. The poems are careful to include allusions to specific historical events such as the growing influence of the English vernacular on society and the subsequent controversy over Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into English, allowing the speaker to be both observer and participant in the times. Read the complete review

  • Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr.: Vietnam War Hero

    By Anne Chancey Dalton
    Seacoast Publishing, 2012
    $7.95, Paper
    Children’s
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This 104-page book is part of the Alabama Roots series, a joint venture of Seacoast Publishing, Inc., and Will Publishing, Inc., both of Birmingham. The purpose is to provide historically accurate and interesting biographies of famous people from Alabama for students in middle grades. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Nonfiction

    These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • Silver

    By Jason McCall
    Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2012
    $15, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    If you happened to see the 2011 fantasy/adventure film Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, then you would probably be astonished at how easily you could notice and understand the vaguest allusions to Norse mythology in Jason McCall’s poetry collection, Silver. Read the complete review

  • The Majesty of Mobile

    By Jim Fraiser; Photography by Pat Caldwell
    Pelican Publishing Company, 2012
    $24, Hardcover
    Nonfiction—Photo Collection
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    As coffee table books go, this one is really stand-out impressive. The relatively compact size is good for hand-held perusal and reading, and gorgeous photography on the front and back of the jacket bids you to venture inside the covers. John Sledge notes in his eloquent foreword that such a book “has long been overdue…. Locals and visitors have always known about Mobile’s rich architectural legacy, of course…but until now there hasn’t been a suitably attractive and accessible volume communicating that to take home, display, and thumb through with such pleasure.” Read the complete review

  • The Old Stoic Faces the Mirror: A Life in Poems

    By Fred Bassett
    Salt Marsh Cottage Books, 2010
    $12, Paper; $5.99 eBook
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    Fred Bassett’s third book of poems is subtitled “a life in poems,” and this book reads very much like a memoir, satisfyingly so.

    A native of Roanoke, Alabama, who now makes his home in South Carolina, Bassett has structured his book chronologically in three sections: The Boy, The Man, and The Old Man. True to the meandering ways of memory, however, the poems in all three sections often move around in time as the speaker remembers old neighbors, long-ago tragedies, and childhood questions. Read the complete review

  • Airman’s Odyssey: An Air Force Special Operator’s Incredible Journey

    By Lt. Col. James D. Lawrence, USAF (ret.)
    Deeds Publishing, 2011
    $24.95, Paper
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The author of this well-written and impressively organized autobiography spent twenty-seven years in the service of his country. Jim Lawrence, who grew up in Opp, Alabama, recalls that during his pilot training in 1970-71 “[t]here was great intensity and a lot of pressure to learn and apply a new skill each and every day.” After completing service in Air Training Command in 1974, he underwent training in Arkansas before “heading to Okinawa.” Among the twelve titled chapters are: “Iranian Hostage Rescue Attempt (Eagle Claw)”; “Honduras on the Fly”; “Air Commando History Revisited”; and, what would most certainly appeal to older-timers, “Our Greatest Generation—My Boyhood Heroes.” Read the complete review

  • Bone Fragments

    By Gabriel Gadfly
    1889 Labs, 2011
    $7.99, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    In this parlous time, no serious artist can avoid the question of the relationship between aesthetic commitments and the complexities of an increasingly-political daily discourse. My own solution, for instance, has been to deny politics, particularly war, any real place in my work. However, I fully understand the impulse, and I am always pleased to find someone who wields this sensibility, and its attendant forces, with invention and insight. Gabriel Gadfly’s collection Bone Fragments exemplifies precisely that fragile mechanism in which horror and humanity are held in the transformative flux of poetic vision. Read the complete review

  • Come In and Cover Me

    By Gin Phillips
    Riverhead Books, 2012
    $26.95, Hardcover
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Gin Phillips, who has roots in Montgomery and lives in Birmingham, received a Barnes and Noble award for her first novel, The Well and the Mine. Her new book of fiction, which also has a lilting, five-word title, is filled with mesmerizing imagery and lovely prose. There is not much evidence of narrative tension or mystery; the artistry is the hook. Read the complete review

  • Jesusville

    By Philip Cioffari
    Livingston Press, 2011
    $18.95, Paper
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Jeremy Dunn

    With a host of colorful characters forming its backbone, Philip Cioffari’s Jesusville explores those difficult and dark corners of the human experience: loneliness, self-doubt, and lust. All the book’s characters, similarly locked in desperate searches for some form of redemption, find themselves in a lonely patch of desert darkened by the shadow of the ruins of the Holy Land, a failed Christian theme park, its facades now eerily defaced. This desolate desert setting takes on a character of its own, and it is in this bleak, ghostly place that the characters of Jesusville must confront inner demons and very real external threats. Read the complete review

  • The Kingdom of Nod

    By Teddy Porter
    Lyons Hart Press, 2011
    $12.50, Paper
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Dee Jordan

    Teddy Porter tells an intriguing story about Calvin Huckabee’s becoming a man. Huck, at age seventeen, is still a virgin. He is torn between what he was taught by his dad, a pastor, and what his body screams in hormonal overdrive. Unlike many coming of age stories about boys in which they have no conscience, the protagonist in this one is different. His friend Ringo is a lady’s man who uses girls for sex. This bothers Huck. Read the complete review

  • Alabama Musicians: Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie

    By C.S. Fuqua
    The History Press, 2011
    $19.99, Paper
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Danny Gamble

    Arriving in time for 2011’s Year of Alabama Music celebration, C.S. Fuqua’s Alabama Musicians: Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie is an encyclopedic journey through the cotton fields, church houses, and roadhouses of Alabama. All of the biggies are here—Hank Williams, Emmylou Harris, Erskine Hawkins, three-fifths of the Temptations, Sam Phillips—with extensive biographies detailing their lives and work. Other, lesser-known artists are also included—Azure Ray (Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink), Coot Grant, Ray Reach, Ray “Dr. Hook” Sawyer. The book also includes biographies of two-thirds of Alabama’s American Idol winners/runner-up. More on that later. Read the complete review

  • Black and White: The Confrontation of Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor

    By Larry Dane Brimner
    Blue Slip Media, 2011
    $16.95, Hardcover

    Young Adult

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Black and White is a capsule history, in plain but not simplistic language, of the events in Anniston and Birmingham–the rallies and boycotts, the arrests, the Klan violence at the Greyhound station, the marches, Shuttlesworth’s attempts to integrate Phillips High School. During one attempt, with policemen watching, Shuttlesworth was beaten unconscious on the street and his wife was stabbed in the hip. Brimner has written this as a battle between two great foes: the fiery preacher who led the protests, Fred Shuttlesworth, and his absolutely stubborn antagonist, Eugene “Bull” Connor. Brimner has cast them not as equals—a number of times Commissioner of Public Safety Connor is characterized as hateful and evil—but rather as classically epic foes, each one necessary to the other in a battle of the darkness and the light. Read the complete review

  • For the Love of Alabama: Journalism by Ron Casey and Bailey Thomson

    By Sam Hodges, ed.
    The University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $18.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    I have never written a review that was so highly personal and painful. Ron Casey and Bailey Thomson were friends and colleagues at The Birmingham News and The Tuscaloosa News, respectively. They were bright, dedicated men who died far too soon—Casey at fifty-four and Thomson at forty-eight. There is pain in that loss per se and also pain in what has not changed since their untimely deaths. Many of the problems they explored so eloquently still linger in our state. Read the complete review

  • Four for a Quarter: Fictions

    By Michael Martone
    The University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $16.50, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    An innocent browser in a bookstore who picks up Michael Martone’s latest might well be a little confused. This volume declares itself to be fiction, and yet many of the individual pieces seem to be simple descriptions of a restaurant or a kind of railroad car or bits of memoir from Martone’s own life, especially his childhood. Furthermore, all the pieces come in sets of four. In fact on the cover there are four strips of photos, four to a strip, of Martone himself in a coin-operated photography booth. Thus the title, Four for a Quarter. Read the complete review

  • Rocket City Rock & Soul: Huntsville Musicians Remember the 1960s

    By Jane DeNeefe
    The History Press, 2011
    $19.99, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    No one should be surprised that the most progressive city in Alabama in the 1960s had a rock and roll scene that shook Huntsville with vibrations rivaling the ground-shaking test-firings of the Saturn V rocket engines built at the town’s Marshall Space Flight Center. While NASA rocketeers aimed for the Moon, rock and soul bands aimed for stardom. After years of interviewing local musicians, longtime Huntsville resident and musicologist Jane DeNeefe has thoroughly documented the city’s musical vista in Rocket City Rock & Soul, while also sharing a history of the town’s societal and economic evolution. (DeNeefe also coauthored Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom.) Read the complete review

  • She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life

    By Kathryn Tucker Windham
    NewSouth Books, 2011
    $20, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    She contains a variety of reminiscences of the recent and distant past, but it mainly concerns the changes involved in aging. Kathryn Tucker Windham was, enviably, ninety when this became a problem. That was when the alter ego “She” came into the picture and took over her life. Windham writes, “I can’t recall when I became aware that an old woman was nudging her way into my life.” The arrival of this old woman caused problems. “She disrupts my plans, demands my attention, shames me into completing abandoned projects, requires nutritious meals…hides things from me, makes my handwriting less legible….” And so it goes. Read the complete review

  • The Happy Table of Eugene Walter: Southern Spirits in Food and Drink

    By Donald Goodman & Thomas Head, eds.
    The University of North Carolina Press, 2011
    $30, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    At the time of his death in 1998, Mobile author and Renaissance man Eugene Walter had filing cabinets full of recipes he had collected and a number of different writing projects under way. In addition to several volumes of fiction, poetry, and translations, Walter had already published American Cooking: Southern Style (1971), a very successful cookbook for the Time-Life Foods of the World series, Delectable Dishes from Termite Hall: Rare and Unusual Recipes (1989) and Hints and Pinches: A Concise Compendium of Herbs, Spices, and Aromatics with Illustrative Recipes and Asides on Relishes, Chutneys, and Other Such Concerns. One could say he was a well-seasoned cookbook writer.

    Now, Donald Goodman, Walter’s heir and literary executor, has, with the help of Thomas Head, a D.C.-based food writer, completed and edited a volume of recipes under way at the time of Walter’s death, every one of which includes some kind of alcoholic spirits. The first section is, appropriately enough, forty recipes for drinks. The title is “The Cocktail, Or, I Feel Better Already.” Included are punches, juleps, and eggnog sipped and eaten with a spoon, all southern style. No recipes for Manhattans or appletinis. Read the complete review

  • I & We

    By Joseph P. Wood
    CW Books, 2010
    $18, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Alan May

    The poems in I & We are confessional (in the poem “I Was a Finalist,” the speaker claims he was contending “for wife ignorer of the year”); grotesque (one poem begins “If I were a lesion[…]”); and often political (see the poem titled “Supreme Court Makes Pact to Lose Virginity by the End of December 2002”). Most of these poems find firm footing in the mundane and the base (see “Middle Class Syphilis” and “The Punch”—which is literally about a punch); however, the everyday is sometimes given an almost mythic or heroic rendering. The best example of this can be found in the poem “Total: A Biography.” The speaker in this poem gives the reader the opportunity to experience his Uncle Hymie’s sciatica. Read the complete review

  • Lotus Buffet: Poems

    By Rupert Fike
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2010
    $15.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    A “lotus buffet” evokes the image of a long table filled with various dishes from India. Just as easily, however, the phrase conjures up a scene in which someone is hit repeatedly with a large aquatic plant. Either image would work for this collection, which is both full and hilarious. Read the complete review

  • My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver

    By Mark D. Hersey
    University of Georgia Press, 2011
    $24.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Mark D. Hersey’s focus on George Washington Carver’s career at Tuskegee is not the story we are familiar with. An eccentric fellow, with no intellectual peer at Tuskegee, Carver was not a popular faculty member. He wore a flower in his lapel each day, ate edible weeds from the countryside if he didn’t like the cafeteria food, and sometimes made his own clothes. As one might guess, he and the principal, Booker T. Washington, had a difficult relationship. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Fiction

    These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • New Releases—Nonfiction

    These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • No Remorse: The Rise and Fall of John Wallace

    By Dot Moore
    NewSouth Books, 2011
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The first question that comes to mind is: Why did the author decide to take on this project? The 1948 murder trial and execution via electric chair of prominent businessman John Wallace in Coweta County, Georgia, for killing a man with whom he'd been involved in the moonshining business, had already been the topic of Margaret Ann Barnes's 1976 prize-winning, still in print best-seller, Murder in Coweta County, which Johnny Cash made into a 1983 TV movie. Read the complete review

  • South Wind Rising

    By Frederick W. Bassett
    All Things that Matter Press, 2010
    $16.99, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Jim Buford

    Fred Bassett’s debut novel is the story of young Barsh Roberts, who navigates the rites of passage through adolescence in a small Alabama community during the late 1940s. Bassett writes in the tradition of Ferroll Sams, whose semi-autobiographical Porter Osburne Jr. comes of age in rural Georgia in an earlier time. To me, Barsh is especially evocative of Porter in The Whisper of the River, an enduring classic of Southern literature. Read the complete review

  • The Cross Garden

    by Marlin Barton
    Frederic C. Beil, Publisher, 2011
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Kirk Curnutt

    Marlin “Bart” Barton’s fourth book in ten years returns us to the west Alabama environs that are his “little postage stamp of native soil,” to borrow Faulkner’s well-known phrase. The Cross Garden is a testament to the beautiful solemnities of place where roots both nourish and restrict growth. In precise prose and lyrical cadences, Barton limns the riverbanks and ironwork bridges, the camphouse lean-tos and cinder-block dives, the turkey-tail-clogged woodland trails and the ornate small-town architecture with such vivid density that Greene County comes alive as a landscape of both unbearable stasis and uncomfortable intensity. Read the complete review

  • Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers

    By William Todd Schultz
    Oxford University Press, Inc., 2011
    $17.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Marianne Moates Weber

    What I found particularly interesting about Tiny Terror is that the author defines Truman Capote’s personality perfectly: he was a tiny terror (short but ferocious) with lifelong attachment issues that afflicted everything he wrote. He was a brilliant, precocious youth that his relatives did not know how to manage, and he quickly learned that as an only child abandoned by his mother, he could have his way by manipulation, tantrums, or simply by being adorable. But why stop there? His adult life was marked by these same traits. He partied, drank heavily, took drugs, and wrote about all of it in his quest for fame, mental peace, and acceptance. Read the complete review

  • Year of the Pig

    By Mark J. Hainds
    The University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $16.95, Paper; $13.56, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    Even academics relish the thrill of the kill. Auburn University forestry researcher Mark J. Hainds, whose published work includes “Distribution of Native Legumes in Frequently Burned Longleaf Pine-Wiregrass Ecosystems” in the American Journal of Botany, is an authority on vegetative habitats, in particular, the longleaf pine. He’s also quite familiar with feral pigs and the damage they inflict on agricultural fields and other ecosystems, which is thoroughly documented in his book Year of the Pig. Read the complete review

  • Carolina Planters on the Alabama Frontier: The Spencer-Robeson-McKenzie Family Papers

    By Edward Pattillo
    NewSouth Books, 2011
    $50, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Well-known throughout the South as an art, antiquities, and estate appraiser, Edward “Eddie” Pattillo has compiled and written this impressive history of several pioneer families who made the trek from the Carolinas into early Alabama. Subtitled The Spencer-Robeson-McKenzie Family Papers, the handsomely produced book, which has been published via a grant from the Blount Foundation, contains photographs and well-organized documentation. At the heart of it is a really interesting, at times almost cinematically described narrative. Read the complete review

  • Kearny's March: The Epic Creation of the American West, 1846-1847

    By Winston Groom
    Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Kearny's March is a masterful blend of scholarly research, colorful description, and a confident, enthusiastic style of narrative writing that adds freshness and immediacy to a true-adventure saga from an era that decisively formed our country. In 1846, after Congress had voted to annex Texas and Mexico had declared war on the United States, President James K. Polk, whose mentor was Andrew Jackson, sent General Stephen Watts Kearny from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, to California with an army of 2,000 cavalrymen to occupy Mexican territory. The expedition included a caravan of wagons bearing settlers and families, frontiersmen, and explorers. When it ended a year later, the country had doubled in size and expanded from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Fiction

    These books were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • The Nine Inheritors: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and Their Ancient Torah Scroll

    By Clare Datnow
    Media Mint Publishing, 2011
    $16.50, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Perle Champion

    Clare Datnow’s novel, The Nine Inheritors, reads very much like a biography of ten generations as told by a keen-eyed on-the-scene observer. I enjoyed her omniscient point-of-view because I could journey with the characters as they each moved through their part of history. Read the complete review

  • As If

    By Russ Kesler
    Wind Publications, 2011
    $15, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    Russ Kesler’s second book is filled with poems of quiet, steady observation. This alone is pleasing. The poems move beyond attentiveness, however, and into meditation. The “as if” phrase of the title poem appears in three other poems as well, establishing a mode of approach that joins nature with tropes of nature, reality with what’s imagined, the mind with the world. Read the complete review

  • New Releases—Nonfiction

    These books were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence, and the Last Lynching in America

    By B.J. Hollars
    The University of Alabama Press
    $24.95, Hardcover; $19.96, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Ravi Howard

    Today, I cannot walk past an oak or a camphor tree without wondering what sordid history might be tied to those branches.

    B.J. Hollars shares this revelation in Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence, and the Last Lynching in America, an insightful analysis of how the residual effects of a violent racial history contributed to a 1981 lynching in Alabama. Read the complete review

  • Tuskaloosa Tales: Stories of Tuscaloosa and Its People

    By Guild of Professional Writers for Children;
    Illustrations by Sue Blackshear
    Look Again Press, LLC, 2011
    $23.95, Hardcover; $16.95, Paper

    Children

    Reviewed by Linda A. McQueen

    Tuskaloosa Tales Stories of Tuscaloosa and Its People is an interesting collection of short stories for children that examines the diverse heritage of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There are true stories as well as fictional stories of people, places, and events of the past. These stories from the past have developed to form Tuscaloosa’s future. Read the complete review

  • Bear In Mind

    By Anne Whitehouse
    Finishing Line Press, 2010
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by P.T. Paul

    Down the left side of the front cover of Anne Whitehouse’s book Bear In Mind is a black, orange, and yellow strip of artwork titled “Transit of Venus: Ingress.” Down the right side of the back cover is the reverse image “Transit of Venus: Egress.” At first glance, one might wonder what, exactly, is the significance of this particular choice of artwork. And one might wonder exactly what one is supposed to “bear in mind.” However, within the pages of this book, one might find more questions than answers, as well as poetry that will make one momentarily forget their original questions. Read the complete review

  • Behind the Walled Garden of Apartheid: Growing Up White in Segregated South Africa

    By Claire Klein Datnow
    Media Mint Publishing, 2011
    $14.25, Paper; $8.25, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    To say that growing up in South Africa in the 1950s and 1960s was like growing up in the segregated American South would be preposterous. Yet, there were parallels in the two cultures based on unapologetic white domination of subjugated black people. Perhaps the most striking thing about Claire Klein Datnow’s memoir is the isolation of the whites in both cultures. Read the complete review

  • Bones of a Feather: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery

    By Carolyn Haines
    St. Martin’s Publishing Group, Minotaur Books, 2011
    $24.99, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Carolyn Haines of Semmes, Alabama, has now published eighteen novels and is the winner of both the Harper Lee Award and the Richard Wright Award. Things are going well. Bones of a Feather is the tenth in her very popular Bones series. Sarah Booth Delaney’s home place is Dahlia House, Zinnia, Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta. But Haines cannot set all her mysteries there or the population would be, literally, decimated, so Bones of a Feather is set in historic Natchez. Read the complete review

  • Damnatio Memoriae

    By Michael Meyerhofer
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2011
    $15.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Lewis Robert Colon Jr.

    Crack the lid on the melting pot of contemporary poetry and you’ll find no shortage of poets trying to do what Michael Meyerhofer does effortlessly in Damnatio Memoriae, his third full-length book. Many of the poems in the Brick Road Poetry Prize-winning volume are the kind of imaginative feats of cleverness that Amy Gerstler has perfected. This good-natured weaving of tragicomic autobiography, obscure history, and imaginative dives down the what if rabbit hole is the sort of stuff that’s easy to like but not so easy to pull off. Read the complete review

  • Drunken Robins

    By David Oates
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2011
    $12.95, Paperback

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Allen Berry

    Drunken Robins is a new collection of haiku and senryu from poet David Oates, collected over the last twenty years of living in rural Appalachia and Athens, Georgia, where Oates is a teacher and public radio host. By his own account, Oates's work adheres to the philosophy of the poet Basho in that he tries to write, not as if he were in medieval Japan, but rather drawing inspiration from nature and the life that surrounds him. Read the complete review

  • Kismet

    By K.T. Archer
    iUniverse, 2011
    $27.95, Hardcover; $17.95, Paper; $9.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Marianne Moates Weber

    When Alabama author K.T. Archer completed her first novel, The Silver Spoon, she knew she had created a character in Lizzy Wallace that would have many more adventures. The latest for the protagonist is in Kismet, where Lizzy focuses on rebuilding her own life rather than being swamped by the family drama in The Silver Spoon. Read the complete review

  • Possible Crocodiles

    By Barry Marks
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2010
    $15.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Melissa Dickson

    Barry Marks’ Possible Crocodiles, winner of the 2010 Alabama State Poetry Society book of the year award, is remarkable as a living document of a man engaged in the quiet heroics and failures of life on earth. Marks doesn’t seem concerned with issues of craft or artificial manipulations of language for the sake of Poetry with a capitol P. His work speaks to a genuine struggle in the face of emblematic twenty-first century ordeals: a computer virus, a tedious wedding guest, a holiday meal with family, the body as depreciating real estate, returning to the dating scene, loving and mourning a lost daughter, doing the dishes, and the impossibly shifting dynamics of human love, connection, and communication. Read the complete review

  • Songs of the Burning Barrow

    By Anne Cope Wallace
    Summerfield Publishing/New Plains Press, 2011
    $14.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Kathleen Thompson

    A funeral pyre and a vibrant Veteran’s #2 rose: what contrarieties does this book of ninety-one pages hold beyond its cover? Wallace confirms in her brief preface that she has discovered such collisions of “music and cacophony,” their “sounds of sorrow and song, grief and joy” wherever she’s traveled. Indeed her poems in four numbered sections hum along from darkness to light, from grief to acceptance, and from weakness to power. Read the complete review

  • The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy

    By Dave Madden
    St. Martin’s Publishing Group, Minotaur Books, 2011
    $26.99, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    It seems that Dave Madden, now an assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama, was taking a course in nature writing when he became interested in museum dioramas and then taxidermy. Madden researched this book on taxidermy for five years and, as unlikely as the subject may at first seem, it is, in its own very odd way, a page turner. Read the complete review

  • The Color of Lost Rooms

    By Irene Latham
    Blue Rooster Press, 2010
    $14.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Sue Brannan Walker

    Irene Latham’s The Color of Lost Rooms is a museum of art, history, literature, and the long treasured artifacts of the human heart. To open the book is to take a museum tour, to stop and revel in all that is found there. Read the complete review

  • The Ranger: A Quinn Colson Novel

    By http://www.aceatkins.com/>Ace Atkins
    G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011
    $25.95, Hardcover; $12.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    The Ranger is the first of the Quinn Colson books. The protagonist, Colson, has been an Army ranger for ten years, since before 9/11, and served with distinction in Afghanistan and Iraq. Stationed now in Fort Benning, Georgia, Colson is called back to the bleak, depressed town of Jericho in Tibbehah County in northeast Mississippi for the funeral of his sheriff uncle. Hampton Beckett, Quinn is told, committed suicide. Well, readers know this will be questioned. Uncle Hamp wasn’t the type. Read the complete review

  • The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History: 1939-1949

    By Joseph Caver, Jerome Ennels, and Daniel Haulman
    NewSouth Books, 2011
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Nancy Wilstach

    Danger, fear, confrontation, heroism. The legendary, history-making saga of the nation’s first black combat pilots is the stuff of romance, that heady aura that surrounds a man who stares down death amid the clouds. He soars far above the earth and deep into our imaginations. It also is the stuff of these particular men’s gritty determination to defend their country, never mind that it was a country steeped in rock-hard racism, a country that then would not even have let them try on a pair of trousers in a department store or drink a malted milk at a drugstore soda fountain. Read the complete review

  • Three Stories from Cairo

    By Gretchen McCullough; Translation by Mohamed Metwalli and Gretchen McCullough
    Afaq Bookshop and Publishing House, 2011
    $12, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Gretchen McCullough is a true WT, a world traveler. Not cloistered in a comfortable Midwestern college, McCullough, now fluent in Arabic, is a writer with a lot of life experiences and material for her fiction, much of it exotic, even fantastic. This is the world of 1001 Arabian Nights, where not everything is what it seems. These three stories, all set in Cairo, make use of some of these experiences and exude a sense of the magical. Read the complete review

  • To Speak This Tongue

    By Louie Skipper
    Negative Capability Press, 2010
    $17.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Russ Kesler

    It seems most probable that the “tongue” in the title of Louie Skipper’s new collection is meant to connote language, or a way of speaking—the “tongue” of poetry. In fact, in the book’s title poem, the speaker acknowledges that he’s “planned the jailbreak of these words from within, / my scratching of ink.” Yet I couldn’t help but think, as well, of the concept of speaking in tongues—praise and consolation—as I read these lyrical and well-made poems. That religious connotation of “tongue” also seems appropriate, given that Skipper is an ordained Episcopal priest. Read the complete review

  • After the Tornadoes: Reflections for Recovery

    by Janet Johnson Anderson
    Mirror Press, 2011
    $20, Paper

    Poetry

    Book Noted

    This collection of some 160 pages by Janet Anderson, a Huntsville poet, was compiled in response to the tornadoes that hit Alabama on April 27, 2011. The book features black-and-white photographs of the tornadoes and their aftermath and poems related both directly to the tornadoes and more generally to themes of loss, grief, resilience, and recovery, often from a religious perspective. This book is available for purchase at all Books-A-Million locations, with profits going to disaster relief organizations at work in Alabama. Read the complete review

  • Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

    By Natasha Trethewey
    University of Georgia Press, 2010
    $22.95, Hardcover; $13.77, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    In Beyond Katrina, Natasha Trethewey looks at the life, death, and ongoing resurrection of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Trethewey is not the center of the story, nor is she alone in it. She speaks with a former mayor of her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, state legislators, a young waiter, an historian, and family members, among others. Besides bringing a fresh witness to the lives of those who were violently baptized by Katrina, the book concerns her brother who was incarcerated for trafficking cocaine. Read the complete review

  • Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, and the Partnership That Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe

    By Jonathan W. Jordan
    NAL Caliber , 2011
    $28.95, Hardcover; $14.99, eBook

    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This somewhat hefty book has "Winner" subliminally imprinted on its stately, classic cover. The Introduction defines it as "the story of three men sent to tear down an empire.... This account of the campaign to liberate Europe is drawn from the words, observations, and writings of Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton, as well as those of the many aides, staffers, superiors, secretaries, stenographers, celebrities, chauffeurs, and orderlies who walked with them through their great struggle." Read the complete review

  • Cotton Mary

    By Bob Whetstone
    Lulu Enterprises, 2011
    $35, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    Bob Whetstone, professor emeritus at Birmingham-Southern College, came from an environment far, far away from academia. He grew up in a cotton mill village near Alexander City, a childhood that generated this book. Cotton Mary is the life story of Mary Christine Tarley Stone, a young girl growing up with an abusive father, forced into backbreaking labor in the cotton fields and orphaned and pregnant as a young teenager. Life is a roller-coaster ride of exhilarating highs and stomach-aching lows for Mary. Read the complete review

  • Gone to Graveyards

    By Brewster Milton Robertson
    Mangus Hollow Books, 2011
    $24, Paper; $4.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Book Noted

    From the publisher: Gone to Graveyards, an epic novel of the Korean War, has an immediate relevance today, over a half-century after the Korean truce was signed. Incredibly the daily headlines portend the ominous threat of North Korea’s nuclear ambition while UN troops still anxiously patrol the Demilitarized Zone at the 38th Parallel. Pundits have variously called the Korean War "a black hole of history" and "The Forgotten War." Most of the meager legacy of written history about the so-called “Forgotten War” would have current and future generations believe the Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel into Seoul and ended slightly over one year later on July 10, 1951, the date both sides sat down at negotiating tables at Panmunjom, a village a few miles north of Seoul. This is the farthest thing from the truth. Read the complete review

  • Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives

    By Wayne Flynt
    University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $29.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Norman McMillan

    Wayne Flynt’s memoir, Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, is an excellent read for anyone, but it should be required reading for Alabamians. Through the prism of his own life, Flynt addresses some of the most profound issues Alabama has faced over the years and shows how the state has failed to deal with them adequately. Read the complete review

  • Last Bus Out

    By Beck McDowell
    Kirkland Fort, 2011
    $9.99, Paper; $7.99, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Book Noted

    From the publisher: The true story of Courtney Miles' rescue of over 300 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While government officials posed for cameras, a boy from the projects with no driver's license stepped up and showed what "drive" is all about. Last Bus Out tells how Courtney Miles stole a bus, charged past a police roadblock, and argued with a National Guardsman who threatened to lock him in the makeshift jail at the Greyhound Bus Station. Sick with worry about his missing grandmother, he drove his passengers to safety, and then went back into the city at midnight to help others. Read the complete review

  • Civil Rights History from the Ground Up: Local Struggles, A National Movement

    By Emilye Crosby, ed.
    University of Georgia Press
    $69.95, Hardcover; $26.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    These essays by twelve scholars analyze how and why local-level organization was crucial to the success of the national Civil Rights Movement. Emilye Crosby, a professor of history at the State University of New York at Geneseo, justifies and clarifies that rationale in her Introduction, "The Politics of Writing and Teaching Movement History." A basic theme is that the existing "top-down literature" does not reveal the whole story to students "who want to do in-depth study of the movement, and to make connections between the history and their contemporary world." Read the complete review

  • Leaving Havana

    By Conchita Hernandez Hicks
    Author House, 2011
    $14.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Beth Wilder

    In the 1950s, Havana, Cuba was a playground for the rich and famous. Wealthy Americans and Europeans traveled to and from the worldly city, enjoying the beautiful beaches, glamorous nightlife, luxurious hotels, and fine restaurants and casinos. This was the Cuba Conchita Hernandez Hicks called home. This was the Cuba where Conchita and her close-knit family lived a life of luxury, complete with chauffeurs and nannies, palatial homes and sugar plantations, government connections and influential business partners. But this was not a Cuba that would last forever. In 1959, everything changed—for the country and for the Hernandez family. Read the complete review

  • My Mother’s Cuba

    By Eva Skrande
    River City Publishing, 2010
    $20, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Russ Kesler

    If you think of the flight of a butterfly—unpredictable, jinking and dodging, lighting for a moment then off again into the ether—you will have an apt metaphor for the movement of imagery and story and sound in the poems in Eva Skrande’s My Mother’s Cuba. Don’t look for the personal narrative or the political polemic, but expect instead the ethereal lyric, poems that pay homage to the sublime. Read the complete review

  • Rhapsody for Lessons Learned or Remembered

    By Georgia Ann Banks-Martin
    Plain View Press, 2010
    $14.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    Georgia Ann Banks-Martin particularizes the homiest of subjects, which ironically, charges them with emotion. A splinter is small, but when stuck in your hand, it feels large.

    She creates no distance between herself as a writer and herself as speaker. Her voice, which runs throughout the collection, creates a narrative pull and suggests connections. Read the complete review

  • The Yellow House

    By Robin Behn
    Spuyten Duyvil, 2011
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Emma Bolden

    The Yellow House, Robin Behn's blisteringly brilliant fifth collection of poetry, shows the reader how the inner space of a woman moves as she moves through her life—through loss and love, creation, death, and recreation—with the metaphor of a yellow house, a house which “is the dream of the woman”—the self known and recognized—and at the same time “the dream about the woman / another woman, her/not her, / woke in the middle of, and wept.” The collection is, in one sense, narrative: as one moves through the poems, one moves through the shifting spaces of the house and comes to discover the events of the woman's life which create these spaces, and how the house itself reacts.... Read the complete review

  • When Winning Was Everything: Alabama Football Players in World War II

    By Delbert Reed;
    Foreword by Paul W. Bryant Jr.
    Paul W. Bryant Museum, 2010
    $39.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    If this were just another Alabama football book I would neither read it nor review it. The world does not need another game-by-game, play-by-play recapping of another however-glorious season. Even the title I take to be a subtle variation on the dubious pronouncement “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” Football is a serious game, true enough, but war is not a game at all. Read the complete review

  • A Senator's Wife Remembers: From the Great Depression to the Great Society

    By Henrietta McCormick Hill, Foreword by Henrietta Hill Hubbard
    Reviewed by Don Noble

    On February 20, 1928, Henrietta McCormick, age 23, of Eufaula, Alabama, married U.S. Representative Lister Hill. Hill had been a member of the House for five years, its youngest member. He usually ran unopposed and won a seat in the Senate in 1938. Through those early years and on through the Kennedy assassination in 1963, Henrietta kept a journal, wrote letters home, gave the occasional talk or wrote the occasional magazine piece. These scattered and various writings have been edited and pieced together by Henrietta’s daughter to make this informal memoir. Read the complete review...

  • Alabama Afternoons: Profiles and Conversations

    By Roy Hoffman

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    Warren Koon, a former editor and colleague in journalism, once said everybody has a story to tell if you will just take time to listen to it. Indeed, it was something I had already learned, and Roy Hoffman drives the point further home in this wonderful collection of Alabamians and their stories. Read the complete review...

  • Otherness

    By M. Ayodele Heath
    Reviewed by Allen Berry

    Hailing from Atlanta, M. Ayodele Heath is a unique and powerful poetic voice. In his new collection, Otherness, Heath explores the age-old themes of otherness and the African American experience in a fresh way. However, it would be a grave error to state that Heath’s latest collection offers the black perspective, Read the complete review...

  • Pain Diary: Working Methadone & the Life & Times of the Man

    By Joseph D. Reich

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Allen Berry

    Joseph D. Reich's latest work, Pain Diary, is ambitious both in length and in style. The book consists of two lengthy poems each roughly as long as T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” which draw on Reich’s time working with recovering drug addicts and the purportedly Kerouacian experiences of his time on the road. Read the complete review...

  • Runaway Will

    By Linda C. Fisher

    Children

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    A former school teacher, Prattville author Linda C. Fisher has written tourism articles and brochures, hosted a television interview show, and composed two young adult novels about William Shakespeare. The first, A Will of Her Own, utilized a youthful Shakespeare as a sleuth. This second narrative in the series is somewhat reminiscent of the real Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It begins on the famous Bard's sixteenth birthday, in April 1580. Will is running away from his home in Stratford and, in particular, from his father John Shakespeare, who told him he would never amount to anything. His mother has advised Will to head for London, where he could be a lawyer's apprentice and work off a family debt. Will's goal is mainly to avoid danger. His father had warned him to "stay away from Gypsies." So, of course, he immediately encounters and takes up with a band of them. Among the group is a lovely young girl, Katya. Read the complete review...

  • The House by the Side of the Road: The Selma Civil Rights Movement

    By Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson
    Reviewed by Kimberly Carter

    Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson’s The House by the Side of the Road is a dazzling masterpiece composed of extraordinary events during the Selma Civil Rights Movement. Jackson, a native of Mobile, writes about her part in history when she embarked on a life-changing journey with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Read the complete review...

  • Things Come On {an amneoir}

    By Joseph Harrington
    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    Memory is the velocity of a Self formulated in the cracked mirror of art. Joseph Harrington’s masterful new book, Things Come On, is more than an amnesiac memoir, the “{amneoir}” of its subtitle. Indeed, this text is more than a radically-conceived biography in which the personal and the political are fused in Harrington’s mother’s death from breast cancer and his parallel study of the concomitant disintegration of the Nixon administration. Things Come On is, indeed, a new form of epistemology, a fearless crossing of the fold between narrativity and knowledge. Read the complete review...

  • Birmingham Museum of Art: Guide to the Collection

    By the curators of Birmingham Museum of Art and Gail C. Andrewes, Foreword
    Reviewed by Ruth Beaumont Cook

    The Birmingham Museum of Art last published a comprehensive guide in 1993 which highlighted 130 of the 14,000 art objects included at that time. Now, seventeen years later in celebration of the Museum’s sixtieth anniversary, this new guide features exquisite, all-new photographs of more than 250 artworks representing the Museum’s collections, which now include 24,000 pieces of Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, Native American, and Contemporary art. Read the complete review...

  • Motorcycling Alabama: 50 Ride Loops Through the Heart of Dixie

    By David Haynes
    Reviewed by Don Alexander

    Some Alabama motorcyclists relish track time, some their trail time, some their vacation escapes across country, and some the wonderful viewing experiences at Alabama’s Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum and Barber Motorsports Park. Certainly, most of us relish our excursions on a clear weekend day. Motorcycling Alabama is perfect for such day-trips. Read complete review...

  • What There Is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell

    Edited by Suzanne Marrs
    Reviewed by Don Noble

    A volume of collected letters gives readers special insights, at a variety of very particular moments, into the psyche, personality, character, concerns, sense of humor, range of interest and circle of friends of one individual. A volume of correspondence between two people gives you this and more—a dual autobiography and the ongoing, intimate building and unfolding of a friendship.
    Read the complete review...

  • Acrimony in a Little Corner of Academia

    By David Morgan
    Book Noted

    From the publisher: This is a fable* about a small public university in a little southern town—a town tucked away from the world, a little off the beaten path…. For the most part its history has been free of wrangling and controversy, but that ends when a young, articulate president takes the helm determined to enhance the school's image and elevate it to what might be called junior-Ivy-League status. After a while the college community is asking itself if this boy wonder is promoting the school or himself….Read the complete review...

  • Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit

    By Sonny Brewer, ed.
    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Reading this book was a great pleasure. Sonny Brewer has somehow convinced twenty-three hard-working, busy, professional writers to pause and remember when they weren’t writing full-time, but earning a living at some job, dirty or clean, poorly paid or lucrative, dangerous or only mortally boring, that they quit in order to devote themselves to their craft. The premise of each of these essays is the same: describe what job you were working at when you decided to try your hand at earning a living writing. The assumption is that the job the writer left would be pretty terrible, in some way or other, and they mostly were. But each of these writers, man or woman, young or old, rural or urban, blue collar or white, has a distinct personal voice.

    Read the complete review...

  • Long, Last, Happy: New and Selected Stories

    By Barry Hannah
    Reviewed by Don Noble

    At 464 pages, this volume of new and selected stories is a large, generous gathering of Barry Hannah’s best short fiction. Hannah had, in addition to eight novels, four volumes of stories. There is no announced editor but the Publisher’s Note acknowledges advice from Brad Watson, Jack Pendarvis, Richard Howarth, and others, and they are the best, most knowledgeable people to ask. Until the Library of America or someone else publishes Hannah’s complete stories, this collection will serve admirably.Read the complete review...

  • Outside Voices: an email correspondence

    By Jeffrey Side and Jake Berry
    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    Dear Felix*,

    I have a proposal and a problem, indeed the two are one. Each is less knowable than the other. And here it is: I’ll write to you in the manner of the post-belletristic bon-vivant and you reply in the corresponding style, a style of correspondence, or a corresponder, a core responder just so we can get to the heart of the matter and it matters heartily or either hardly matters. In any case, let’s write. Because it is the right thing to do. Read the complete review...

  • Cameo

    By Melissa Dickson Blackburn
    Reviewed by P.T. Paul

    Conventional wisdom holds that a cameo is either an oval piece of jewelry “consisting of a portrait in profile” or “a short descriptive literary sketch that neatly encapsulates someone or something” and that a sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines, usually romantic in nature. In the case of Melissa Dickson Blackburn’s Cameo, conventional wisdom would be both right and wrong. While there is a portrait in profile on the cover of the book, it is the one posed full-face—an emaciated figure whose dark gaze and articulated ribcage startle for their incongruity in the cameo setting—that is most compelling. And within the covers of her book there is a preponderance of fourteen-line poems, but these are not your typical sonnets. Blackburn’s poetry startles just as surely as the portrait in the cameo frame startles, but with the same juxtaposition of expected and unexpected, conventional and unconventional. And her sonnets are love poems, but they embrace her heritage, her family, her childhood, and her grown self, while encompassing the influences of her artistic education and experience.

    Read the complete review...

  • Hugh Martin: The Boy Next Door

    By Hugh Martin
    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    Fortunately for us, the late Hugh Martin—born and raised in Birmingham before fleeing to New York City and later Hollywood to forge a brilliant career as a songwriter and vocal arranger—wrote his memoir Hugh Martin: The Boy Next Door a year before his death this past March. Even those not particularly enamored with Broadway and film scores will no doubt be lured into Martin’s charming world of show tunes, a life he shares with amusing, self-deprecating delight. Martin is a superbly engaging writer, with a captivating, dramatic style laced with blunt honesty.

    Read the complete review...

  • Persons Unknown

    By Jake Adam York
    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    Jake Adam York’s third book of poems continues his project of investigating recent southern history. Specifically, in his last two books, York has set out to identify and memorialize the twentieth-century martyrs, America’s own martyrs, of the civil rights movement.

    Read the complete review...

  • Tracking Systems

    By Alan May
    Reviewed by Robert Gray

    Many of us come to poems with what might be called an outdated metaphysics. We have been conditioned to think that poems are puzzles waiting for their “Deep Hidden Meaning” to be unlocked, that the poem’s meaning is in there, coherent and whole, just as the poet intended. But a lot of contemporary poetry doesn’t work that way.

    Read the complete review...

  • Twice A Spy: A Novel

    By Keith Thomson
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Hard on the heels of Birmingham author Keith Thomson’s critically acclaimed first novel, Once a Spy, this aptly-named sequel smoothly propels the cast forward as though it’s the second season of a popular thriller-TV series. The main characters are a father-son duo. The elder of this pair, Drummond Clark, has been an undercover agent of the CIA for thirty years, in charge of a unit that sells nuclear weapons concealed inside washing machines to terrorist groups. When a sale is made, the terrorists are arrested, and no harm is done. Charlie Clark, whose main occupation heretofore has been gambling, has only recently learned that his Alzheimer’s-addled father is not an appliance salesman. Some of the one-liner humor is built around Drummond Clark’s memory problems, but in spite of that hurdle, he comes across as heroic and capable enough to save the day.

    Read the complete review...

  • Year of Our Lord: Faith, Hope, and Harmony in the Mississippi Delta

    By T. R. Pearson; Photographs by Langdon Clay

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This handsomely produced book is the initial project of Mockingbird Publishing, a unique enterprise in Fairhope, Alabama, that has been formed to partner good causes with talented writers. As noted on the Web site by president/editor Ashley Gordon: "We invite authors to tell us about causes they want to support, encourage nonprofits to share with us stories that need to be told, and welcome our readers to suggest authors and causes that would be perfect for each other." In addition to Gordon and her staff, the magical combination here includes eloquent narrative by novelist T. R. Pearson and full-color, artistic photography by Langdon Clay. The real-life main character, Lucas McCarty, is a white boy with cerebral palsy, an exuberant spirit, and a heart of gold.

    Read the complete review...

  • Georgia Bottoms

    By Mark Childress
    Reviewed by Perle Champion

    In his latest novel, Georgia Bottoms, Mark Childress introduces readers to a southern belle who makes Scarlet O’Hara seem tame by comparison. Georgia is the sole support of her family, and she tries always to put her best foot forward to maintain the family image of genteel wealth. That’s hard to do with a no-account brother who’s rarely employed in anything legal and an elderly mother who is losing touch with reality and who daily rails against that “evil Rosa Parks” whom she blames for everything wrong with this new South of 2001.

    Read the complete review...

  • Time

    By Roger Reid
    Reviewed by Sarah Eckermann

    Roger Reid’s Time is the third book in a series that serves to introduce young people to scientific locales in Alabama. The title refers to the Steve C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site, located just south of Jasper. Primary characters Leah Pickens and Jason Caldwell are invited to visit there to look for fossils, learn more about the ancient history of the area and—figuratively speaking—travel back in time.

    Read the complete review...

  • eyestodewhurld

    By: E.E. Wade
    Reviewed by: Bruce Alford

    The novelist John Updike, who died in 2009 just shy of seventy-seven, when asked, “How have your aspirations changed?” responded, “The urgency of my youthful news presses less groaningly.” Remove the word “less” from Updike’s statement, and you get a sense of the voice and tone of this debut collection of poems, eyestodewhurld. E.E. Wade, “the young artist,” has something urgent to say. However, she tempers her enthusiasm with straightforward self-assessment.

  • Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama

    By: Wayne Greenhaw
    Reviewed by: Colin Crews

    Fighting the Devil in Dixie is an enthralling mosaic of individuals and organizations working to achieve civil rights and the groups that fought against them. Harper Lee Award winner Wayne Greenhaw’s latest work is as much a character study, personal journey, and legal drama as it is a first-hand account of the struggle for equality. The narrative flows from motivations and intent to historic speeches and Ku Klux Klan terrorist attacks.

  • New Covenant Bound

    By: T. Crunk
    Reviewed by: Lewis Robert Colon Jr.

    The poems in Tony Crunk’s new book, New Covenant Bound, attempt to release some of the humanity bound up in data. Alternating between lyric poems written by a grandson and epistolary prose sections written by a grandmother, Crunk’s preoccupation is not so much the original displacement of one western Kentucky family but the ways in which the single wound of that displacement can expand across two generations.

  • Back To The Moon

    By Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    Written by a couple of authors with extensive NASA backgrounds in physics, astronomy, and aerospace engineering, Back To The Moon is a thrilling, fictionalized account of America’s return to the lunar surface some fifty years after astronaut Gene Cernan left his footprints in moon dust as the last human to walk there. What makes Travis Taylor and Les Johnson’s novel so believable is their ability to weave technical, rocket-science accuracy into their tale. Their knowledge is paramount, and their incorporation of the current state of America’s space exploration capabilities—including the inclusion of private companies’ attempts to replicate what was once exclusively NASA’s territory—makes the book nothing short of intriguing.

  • Dream Fishing: Stories

    By Scott Ely

    Fiction

    Reviewed by John Wendel

    The eleven stories in Scott Ely’s Dream Fishing are on the dreamy and bizarre side. His characters are prosperous folks who know how to spend their leisure time and lead comfortable lives. His men and women make love to one another not out of frustration, but as genuine acts of tenderness. Yet, they are a mystery to each other. In the most straight forward prose—never ponderous or self-consciously philosophical—Ely illuminates our troubles in connecting and relating to people, even in the best of times.

  • The Cosmopolitans

    By Nadia Kalman

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Caroline McLean

    The Cosmopolitans is Nadia Kalman’s intelligent and entertaining debut novel. Drawing from her own immigrant experience, Kalman explores the dynamics of the fictional Molochniks, a Russian-Jewish family from the former Soviet Union, as they assimilate to life in Stamford, Connecticut. The novel’s eight sections each begin with a chart tracking the changes the family undergoes as each daughter explores love and marriage. If readers resist the urge to skip ahead to glance at the next chart, they will be rewarded with brief, witty insights into the lives of the characters.

  • God & Football

    By Chad Gibbs

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by John Gruenewald

    Author Chad Gibbs is a diehard Auburn football fan who loves and participates in everything connected with the college football scene. He is also a devout Christian. He wonders if he, like many others who love and follow college football, spends too much time and effort following his football passion than attending to his faith.

  • I Still Dream About You

    By Fannie Flagg

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The first sentence on the jacket flap describes Fannie Flagg’s latest—actually, her sixth—novel as "a comic mystery romp through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, past, present, and future." I would not put "comic" in the lead place there. Since the landslide success thirteen years ago of her novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, luminous, light-hearted humor has been a key factor in Flagg’s style of writing. This time around, the light is more sepia-toned.

  • Nature Journal

    By L.J. Davenport

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Marianne Moates Weber

    Take a stroll around the yard or spend a few minutes by a stream and you cannot help but be awed by a landscape teeming with creatures crawling, burrowing, flying, and being what they are called to be. In Nature Journal, L.J. Davenport shows the extraordinary in the ordinary in the natural bounty surrounding us. Davenport draws on personal experiences and his “Nature Journal” columns that appeared in Alabama Heritage to induce readers to observe, contemplate, and write about nature.

  • The Fairytale Trilogy

    By Valerie Gribben

    Young Adult Fiction

    Reviewed by Beth Wilder

    Fantasy books are all the rage among young adult readers, but rarely is one of those books actually written by a young adult. Until now. Valerie Gribben, a UAB medical student, has penned a fast-paced, intriguing fantasy series, the first of which was written when she was only sixteen years old.

  • The Red Tower: New and Selected Poems

    By: David Rigsbee
    Reviewed by: Russ Kesler

    Reading David Rigsbee’s The Red Tower, I am struck by the difficulty to categorize these poems. While there are lyric moments, these are not lyric poems; while there are specific allusions to family and friends, the intent of this work is not narrative—not in the conventional denotation of that word. Rather, these poems tend to narrate a tension between seeing the world as it is and accepting it on those terms.

  • My Journey: A Memoir of the First African American to Preside Over the Alabama Board of Education

    By: Dr. Ethel Hall
    Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

    Dr. Ethel Hall, a dedicated wife, mother, grandmother, educator, and statewide political leader, is the epitome of a true role model for all generations. She has graced the literary world with her autobiography, My Journey, co-written with Carmelita J. Bivens. Hall’s journeys from childhood to a long career in education led her to become the first African American to preside over the Alabama Board of Education.

  • The Bucyrus That Was: Growing Up in Small Town, America, in the 1950s

    By Bill Elder

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    Bill Elder is the winningest men’s basketball coach in University of Montevallo history. He started the athletic program at the University of Mobile. He has had successful coaching/athletic director stops at several other schools and has been inducted into the National Intercollegiate Athletic Association Hall of Fame. But you won’t learn about any of those things in reading this book. The Bucyrus That Was is a joyous celebration of being a boy in the 1950s.

  • Rest in Black Haw

    By: Emily Elizabeth Schulten
    Reviewed by: Jane Elkington Wohl

    Emily Elizabeth Schulten’s poems wash with the slosh and slurp of southern American wetlands. The reader feels always on the edge of creeks, puddles, rivers, and oceans. Schulten seems to be particularly interested in the intersections of water and land, whether it’s the actual bank of the river or the mud on the creek’s bottom.

  • Barbecue: The History of an American Institution

    By: Robert F. Moss
    Reviewed by: Marianne Moates Weber

    Not many things tug at our primal urgings more than meat based in spicy sauce and roasted over an open fire. If I drive past a hole in the wall diner with smoke curling from its chimney, my mouth waters like Pavlov’s pup. The same goes for Robert F. Moss, barbecue aficionado, who spent a decade researching and writing Barbecue: The History of an American Institution.

  • Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family

    By Mark Leslie

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Theatre professional Mark Leslie has made Alabama his home base for almost a quarter of a century. His peripatetic career as a stage manager keeps him on the move around this country, and he spends his vacation time in Italy. This fascinating memoir/cookbook includes Leslie’s daily journal of August 2005, when he lived in Viterbo (in the Lazio region just south of Tuscany) with a family who became his tutors in the language, culinary arts, and the Italian way of "looking at the world."

  • Family Meeting

    By Miles DeMott

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This enterprising first-time novelist has created an intriguing, imaginative saga with characters some readers in Montgomery, Alabama, where the author holds forth, may think they recognize. DeMott says they don’t, though; it’s all fiction.

  • Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food that Makes Everybody Feel Like Family

    By: Christy Jordan
    Reviewed by: Sarah Eckermann

    Preparing a meal from Christy Jordan’s recipes is as familiar as your favorite pair of tennis shoes or the hand of a loved one. Her tender yet rustic stories that accompany every recipe invite any cook to feel as if Christy is there in the kitchen, sipping on iced tea, sharing a smile and a warm hug, while you preheat the oven and set the water to boil. The food is classically Southern yet uniquely charming. But as Jordan says, “No one will ever cook for you like your mama did, and I’m surely not here to try.”

  • Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge

    By: Ramey Channell
    Reviewed by: Perle Champion

    In Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge, Ramey Channell doesn’t narrate as Lily Claire, she is Lily Claire. For those of you who’ve had no children, and/or have forgotten what it’s like to be one, buckle up. This is not a slow walk of a book. Lily Claire’s breathless detailed telling of just about everything that happens in her small world is told as if it was the most important thing in all the world, and you should know it.

  • The House Across the Road and Other Stories

    By: Jim Buford
    Reviewed by: Jay Lamar

    “Luminous fiction.” “A master magician.” “Impressive.” “Superb.” These are the words of a handful of readers of Auburn-based writer Jim Buford’s latest book, The House Across the Road and Other Stories. They are also testimonials from those who know what they are talking about: writers and scholars, professionals in their fields who are not easily impressed.

  • The Last Queen of the Gypsies

    By: William Cobb
    Reviewed by: John H. Hafner

    William Cobb’s latest novel, The Last Queen of the Gypsies, is a terrific story about two wanderers: Minnie, a young woman abandoned by her Gypsy family at age eleven because she has one blue eye and one green eye and is therefore unlucky; Lester Ray Holsomback, a young man who runs away from his abusive, alcoholic father at age fourteen, accompanied by an elderly woman (Mrs. Mack); and a fourteen-year-old girl named Virgin Mary Duck. The novel is hilariously funny yet sometimes very sad, raunchy at times yet wholesome in its search for family and community, about love but also about cruelty and murder, full of delicious detail yet fast-paced and impossible to put down.

  • To Stitch a Summer Sky

    By: Sue Scalf
    Reviewed by: Melissa Dickson Blackburn

    Sue Scalf’s chapbook collection, To Stitch a Summer Sky, is full of the lush imagery its title implies. From first poem to last, Scalf presents visual vignettes which weave the natural and the mortal worlds with a romantic flair. The poems’ central preoccupation is frequently the mutability and solitary nature of the human experience.

  • Adam & Eve: A Novel

    By: Sena Jeter Naslund
    Reviewed by: Julia Oliver

    It should not come as a surprise to anyone who’s read Ahab’s Wife, Four Spirits, and Abundance that Alabama native Sena Jeter Naslund has produced another powerful, full-of-grace literary epic. As the title implies, this novel has its roots in the biblical Book of Genesis, which most readers will know is taken literally by conservative religious groups, and is assumed to be apocryphal by others. The opposing credos of evolution and creationism are also a major theme in Adam & Eve.

  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel

    By Tom Franklin

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    We know that our region of the country has produced more highly gifted, motivated fiction writers over the last hundred years or so than any other, and we concede that, yes, there probably is something in the water. It has become customary, perhaps to the point of being trite, for reviewers in the South to render tribute to an outstanding, living writer by linking him or her to a famous counterpart from a previous era in the same neck of the woods. Tom Franklin, of Oxford, Mississippi, and before that Dickinson, Alabama, does not need such puffery. He has reached the top of the ladder with his previous novels, Smonk and Hell at the Breech, and the story collection Poachers. But a thought that reoccurred to me as I read this latest work is that Franklin appears to have channeled Faulkner’s passion, spirit, and insight, without exhibiting any sign of the latter’s occasional affectation.

  • Second Sluthood: A Manifesto for the Post-Menopausal, Pre-Senilic Matriarch

    By: Ruby Pearl Saffire
    Reviewed by: Beth Wilder

    Ruby Pearl Saffire is a true patriot, as evidenced by her bejeweled red, white, and blue name. And like any true patriot (as opposed to the impostor who simply waves or wears a flag— symbolism and substance are two very different things according to Ruby), she has penned a manifesto. Ruby’s manifesto is not for the faint-of-heart, for it has less to do with politics and sociological theories and more to do with sex (XXX sex, to be exact).

  • The Typist

    By: Michael Knight
    Reviewed by: A. M. Garner

    For readers, this first person account of a military typist from Mobile as he experiences General MacArthur’s post-World War II occupation of Japan is immediate and compelling. “Van” Vancleave expects a routine tour of duty, but life hands him something quite different when his roommate turns out to be a shyster who weaves the unsuspecting Van into his schemes. Then, to complicate matters even further, Van’s wife sends disconcerting news from home, leading Van to examine his life and the circumstances around him. The Typist, set convincingly at the mid-point of the twentieth century, underscores the fact that the problems of war know no century.

  • Albert Murray and the Aesthetic Imagination of a Nation

    By: Barbara A. Baker, ed.
    Reviewed by: Norman McMillan

    The title, Albert Murray and the Aesthetic Imagination of a Nation, certainly gets to the heart of what the book is about, but it seems to me that it runs the risk of making some readers expect that it is meant for those especially interested in matters of aesthetics. I think that would be a false assumption. The twenty-seven essays, interviews, and short statements of appreciation included in the volume create, slowly and steadily, a profound portrait of Albert Murray as a thinker, a reader, a writer, a teacher, and a friend. From the pages of this book emerges a present-day Coleridge, who seems to have taken all knowledge as his province and then has set out to reconcile all the pieces.

  • American Rendering: New and Selected Poems

    By: Andrew Hudgins
    Reviewed by: Jennifer Horne

    Few poets writing today engage so thoroughly with questions of good and evil as does Andrew Hudgins. Since his first book, Saints and Strangers, twenty-five years ago, Hudgins has consistently, unflinchingly, investigated human nature, and why we so often fail ourselves and one another.

  • As the Sycamore Grows

    By Jennie Helderman

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This amazing chronicle of a courageous woman’s escape from a life of poverty, squalor, and domestic violence should attract many, many readers. It should also be a contender for awards. The author, Jennie Helderman, is a former Vice President and Board member of Alabama’s Department of Human Resources. Currently living in Atlanta, she has been a crusader for victims of abuse in Alabama and Georgia.

  • In That Sweet Country: Uncollected Writings of Harry Middleton

    By: Ron Ellis, ed.
    Reviewed by: Scotty Merrill

    In the sometimes macho world of outdoors writing, rarely does one writer flatter another by selecting and publishing his work. But with the publication of In That Sweet Country Ron Ellis has chosen to thus honor Harry Middleton, a former senior editor of Southern Living, by collecting thirty-five previously published essays and one poem.

  • Morning Haiku

    By: Sonia Sanchez
    Reviewed by: Barry George

    Although “Alabama writer” and “haiku poet” are not associations which readily spring to mind in relation to Sonia Sanchez, both her Southern roots and life-long passion for haiku figure prominently in Morning Haiku. Sanchez, born and raised in Birmingham, moved to Harlem in her late teens. At twenty-one, as she recounts in the book’s preface, she experienced “an awakening,” reading haiku in New York’s 8th Street Bookstore. Ever since, she has revered this “tough form disguised in beauty and insight,” the one-breath poem that makes us alive to the moment.

  • Rickwood Field: A Century in America

    By: Allen Barra
    Reviewed by: Bill Plott

    Rickwood Field, patterned after Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and Shibe Park in Philadelphia, was among the first steel and concrete stadiums. Both of those major league parks are long gone but Rickwood remains—the oldest ballpark in America still in use. Allen Barra, a notable sports author and Birmingham native, has put together a quite readable history of A.H. "Rick" Woodward, the ballpark, and the rich baseball history that transcends the past century.

  • Within the Shadow of a Man

    By: Dennis Sampson
    Reviewed by: Russ Kesler

    The poems in Dennis Sampson’s Within the Shadow of a Man often address big questions such as evil and injustice, as a few random titles might suggest: "Mysteries," "Naming the World," "Brotherly Love," and "Concerning the Suffering of Others.” These poems are more often interested in ideas than in things. And fittingly, the poems are structurally capacious, usually having long lines and sometimes running to four or five pages.

  • Dead Letters

    By: Alan May; Illustrations by Tom Wegrzynowski and Alan May
    Reviewed by: Carey Scott Wilkerson

    In a time when perhaps too few poets are willing to explore the ontological rift between language and meaning, discovering Alan May’s book Dead Letters is an occasion both for a new mode of celebration and some old-fashioned investigation of the poetic project itself. This daring collection—by turns experimental and surreal, meditative and poignant—is indeed a powerfully imagined and, finally, astonishing achievement.

  • Threading Stone

    By: Carey Scott Wilkerson
    Reviewed by: Jeremy M. Downes

    One of the central poems of Wilkerson’s attractive first book, Threading Stone, unravels the title’s mystery, as the Greek hero Theseus is challenged to follow the thread (the gift of Ariadne) through the great stone labyrinth at Knossos. Even for Theseus, this is much harder than it first appears; not only is there the monstrous Minotaur, but the very act of “threading the stone”—through using language, through creating narrative—is called into question by this book’s “rhizomic world” where every thread appears to lead in multiple directions.

  • Auto-Erotica

    By: Stacia Saint Owens
    Reviewed by: Colin Crews

    Any one of Stacia Saint Owens’ female protagonists could be the title character of The Doors song “L.A. Woman.” However, Auto-Erotica is more than motels, money, murder, and madness. The winner of the prestigious Tartt First Fiction Award is also brutal, funny, sexy, and consistently compelling. Spanning thirteen tautly written short stories, Saint Owens recalibrates Hollywood’s soft filter focus into stark high definition and reveals the flaws and scars that can only be seen at pointblank range.

  • The Secret World of Walter Anderson

    By: Hester Bass; Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
    Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

    Enter the world of reclusive nature-lover Walter Anderson, a renowned watercolor artist who lived a simple life at the edge of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a place where the sea meets the earth and the sky. In this exquisite picture book biography, Orbis Pictus Award winning writer Hester Bass and Caldecott Honor winning illustrator E.B. Lewis pay honor to this uncompromising American artist and offer a powerful glimpse into the secret world of Walter Anderson.

  • An Interview with Abraham Lincoln: April 1, 1865

    By: Wade Hall
    Reviewed by: Kevin Wilder

    According to author Wade Hall, next to only Jesus, more books have been published about Abraham Lincoln than any historical figure. Lincoln was a natural storyteller, too, often using humorous narratives to get his political points across without “insulting or angering.” Hall, author of more than twenty books featuring other “good people,” has done something similar in his new book. Decorated with historical illustrations, photographs, and a detailed chronology, it offers yet another charming portrait of our sixteenth president’s rich life.

  • Blood Ties & Brown Liquor

    By: Sean Hill
    Reviewed by: Bruce Alford

    The cover illustration of Sean Hill’s debut collection is a striking detail from a watercolor, circa 1939, by Frank Stanley Herring. A crowd of “colored” people, leaning on trees or sitting on benches, blends into a storefront. The buildings are copper-colored and deep red. Shades of red, from strawberry to rich rust, dominate. This is Milledgeville, Georgia, the setting of Hill’s book. Specifically, this is McIntosh Street—as red as a McIntosh apple—named for a Scottish clan whose tartans were chiefly red. “McIntosh Street the sign reads,” writes Hill in the poem entitled “Nigger Street 1937.”
    Black people have settled here and transformed the place into something that surpasses the single shade the street sign implies. Now the street is red....

  • Foot Soldiers for Democracy

    By: Horace Huntley and John W. McKerley, eds.
    Reviewed by: Ruth Beaumont Cook

    James Armstrong served his country during World War II, landing at Normandy Beach. “Fear leaves you,” he said of that experience. “You think about what you are trying to do, and you just move forward filled with faith.”  After the war, Armstrong used the GI bill to become a barber. He also became a registered voter—not an easy accomplishment for an African-American in Birmingham at that time.

  • She Said

    By Sue Walker

    Reviewed by Celia Lewis

    She Said demonstrates Sue Walker’s finely honed ear for poetic language (including the nuanced rhythms of southern speech), an unerring sense for authentic characters, and a command of the lyrical narrative. She sets herself the daunting task of consistently engaging the reader while using “she said” in each poem. A Houdini of a tale-teller, she seamlessly succeeds, never allowing the tension of these forty-eight poems to falter or fail. It is a tour-de-force of word play, brimming with joyous riffs of sound.

  • Bottle Tree

    By: Jennifer Horne
    Reviewed by: Kathleen Thompson

    Jennifer Horne’s first full-length poetry book is as stimulating and breath-catching as its initial promise. The cover art, the title, and its epigraphs are all rife with folk art, superstition, and history. Eudora Welty’s words alone conjure up the image of Cash McCord slinging rocks into a bottle tree as Livvie’s old Solomon lies inside dying—another titillating tale told on a porch aptly framed with southern yard art. And the framework for this book? Oh, no—it has thirteen parts.

  • How God Ends Us

    By: DéLana R. A. Dameron
    Reviewed by: M. Dickson Blackburn

    DéLana R. A. Dameron has written a terrific book in the original sense of the word. How God Ends Us is an exploration through poetry of those terrifying and terrific aspects of life that may cause one to tremble, whether in fear, in beauty, or in love. While God is often present throughout the book, the collection is not simply a celebration of the God that Dameron proposes ends life so much as a searching meditation on the ways of ending and the nature of the human condition and mind as endings emerge into view.

  • I Love You—Now Hush

    By: Melinda Rainey Thompson and Morgan Murphy
    Reviewed by: Beth Wilder

    What really happens “. . . after the parties are over, the thank-you notes are written, and the bride takes off the big white dress . . .”? According to Melinda Rainey Thompson and Morgan Murphy, plenty of hilarious stuff. Their new collection of essays, I Love You—Now Hush, is a collaboration of the two popular humorists about the reality of marriage that sets in once the honeymoon ends.

  • The Works of Matthew Blue, Montgomery

    By: By Mary Ann Neeley, ed.; Foreword by Edwin C. Bridges
    Reviewed by: Julia Oliver

    This compendium is a brilliantly enhanced reproduction of a nineteenth century historian’s chronicles of Montgomery, Alabama, during the city’s formative era. The writings of that journalist, Matthew Powers Blue, have been edited and annotated by Montgomery’s current keeper of the flame, Mary Ann Neeley. With enthusiastic participation and encouragement of publishers Suzanne La Rosa and Randall Williams, Neeley has refreshed and amplified the source material with lucid analysis and additional information.

  • Truth, Lies, and O-rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

    By: Allan J. McDonald with James R. Hansen
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    Truth, Lies, and O-rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster is an abrupt slap in the face, awakening the reader to the mess left on NASA’s hallowed grounds in the wake of the 1986 Challenger disaster. One freezing cold January morning in Florida, seconds after launch, the first in-flight deaths in NASA history occurred. Onboard was Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher who was to be the first ordinary citizen to fly into orbit.

  • Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt

    By: Hasan Kwame Jeffries
    Reviewed by: Nancy Wilstach

    It should come as no surprise that Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries’ account of the struggles and hardships faced by African-American Lowndes Countians is a well-researched and scholarly work. After all, he is an assistant professor of history at Ohio State University. Unexpected, however, are the heartache and anger the story evokes.

  • Mark Twain on the Move: A Travel Reader

    By: Alan Gribben and Jeffrey Alan Melton, eds.
    Reviewed by: Elaine Hughes

    Mark Twain on the Move: A Travel Reader, edited by Alan Gribben and Jeffrey Alan Melton, is an appropriate tribute to the literary figure many think the greatest American writer. On the occasion of the centenary of Twain’s death, this collection offers reflection on his early career and his first successes. The collection includes excerpts from all five of Twain’s travel writings—The Innocents Abroad (1869), Roughing It (1872), A Tramp Abroad (1880), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and Following the Equator (1897)—and commentary by the editors on the genre and on Twain’s mastery of it.

  • Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power

    By: David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito
    Reviewed by: Nancy Wilstach

    Talk about the idol with feet of clay: Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard’s character flaws were in proportion to his virtues. The Beitos have painted their portrait of this mesmerizing man without trying to gloss over his flaws.

  • Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming

    By Rheta Grimsley Johnson

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The French noun "memoir" looks and sounds mysterious and inviting. It’s all but replaced the solid term "autobiography." Yet frequently, the most attention-getting books in this genre present a victim’s viewpoint of a life filled with horrific situations. That is not the case here. Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming is a testimonial of life as an optimistic, ambitious adventure from a spunky, greatly gifted and disciplined writer. It’s also a paean to a nurturing circle of family, lovers and friends, mentors and colleagues.

  • Portions

    By: Hank Lazer
    Reviewed by: Sue B. Walker

    Hank Lazer’s fifteenth book of poetry, Portions, is a “language house a / moving place that / feeds & carries,” a linguistic portioning that addresses how it is “to be”; it is “a way / to see out / to learn of / the world we / miraculous stand upon” (“House,” “Nature”). The book is an “invitation into a / new way of / saying (“Invitation”) that is in keeping with Heidegger’s claim that “language is the house of Being” (On The Way To Language). Portions is a “secret & saving / way through the / world in a thin book” (“Way”).

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: The Big Read: Alabama Edition

    By: Mark Twain; Foreword by Alan Gribben
    Reviewed by: Elaine Hughes

    Few Americans will admit to not having read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a classic tale of childhood by Mark Twain, literary icon. And though decades may have passed since readers discovered Twain’s characters, they still can recall vividly the memorable fence-whitewashing scene, the witnessing of a murder by Tom and his friend Huck, the fear of Tom and Becky Thatcher while lost in the cave where the murderer is hiding. Published in 1876, Twain’s depiction of the adventures of childhood—both fantasy and real-life—has become much more than “a book for boys, pure & simple,” as he had planned. The story has survived as a tribute to the innocence of childhood, as a reflection on the pains of growing up, as a recollection of the rural and small-town life of a now-distant past. The Big Read: Alabama Edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer invites all Alabamians, young and old, to rediscover and to revisit this treasure of American literature.

  • Drew: Poems from Blue Water

    By: Robert Gray
    Reviewed by: Russ Kesler

    Robert Gray’s book Drew: Poems from Blue Water straddles two genres. In its subject matter and narrative arc, it is a memoir of the life and death of Gray’s older brother Drew. Broken into seventeen discrete sections, the story centers around the family’s cabin at a central Alabama lake. Yet that story is told via a series of poems, each section comprised of one to four poems. As memoir, the book is a moving and compelling tale.

  • Equivocal Blessings

    By: Mary Carol Moran
    Reviewed by: Melissa Dickson Blackburn

    Strewn with frequent sonnets and the occasional villanelle—as well as historical, literary, and personal reflections—Mary Carol Moran’s Equivocal Blessings delves into the penance we all must pay to the loved, the lost, the dead, and the remembered. Divided into three sections—“Clearing,” “Breathe With Me,” and “Strong Bones”—Equivocal Blessings features diverse approaches and narrative themes....

  • Haunted Birmingham

    By: Alan Brown
    Reviewed by: Danny Gamble

    Alan Brown’s title Haunted Birmingham is a bit of a misnomer since his book visits haunts not only in the Magic City, but also in Bessemer, Columbiana, Jasper, and Montevallo. The book fairly drips ectoplasm. All the wonders of the invisible world are here—the orbs, the shadows, the footsteps, even a haunted mummy. And some of these specters remind us that the metaphysical is not so far from the physical.

  • HealthSouth: The Wagon to Disaster

    By: Aaron Beam with Chris Warner
    Reviewed by: H. F. Lippincott

    Aaron Beam, co-founder (in 1980) and comptroller of HealthSouth, has written an account of his involvement with CEO Richard Scrushy, who was convicted in 2006 of bribery, conspiracy, and fraud. Although Beam left the company in 2003, eventually to become a whistle blower, he too was convicted as a felon and served three months in the federal prison camp in Montgomery. Since, Beam has spoken widely at business schools about the morality of corporate finance. This book spells out the details of his rags-to-riches story—and back to rags again: Beam now operates a one-man lawn service in Lower Alabama.

  • Symmetry

    By: Joyce Scarbrough
    Reviewed by: Delores Jordan

    Joyce Scarbrough is the author of three books, True Blue Forever, Different Roads, and now this best of the three, Symmetry. One can see her skill as an author in the manner that she puts the reader into each scene and shows the dynamics of a marriage going sour but with both people truly loving each other.

  • Leaving Gee's Bend

    By: Irene Latham
    Reviewed by: Beth Wilder

    As a crow flies, Camden, Alabama, is only about forty miles from the community of Gee’s Bend. But for ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett, it might as well be on the other side of the earth. Ludelphia has never left the safety of her poor but closely-knit community, and she has no idea what lurks in the wider world. Set during the trying times of the Great Depression, Leaving Gee’s Bend chronicles the dangerous and exciting journey that Ludelphia must make to save her mother’s life.

  • A Christmas Ride: The Miracle of Lights

    By Edie Hand with Jeffery Addison

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This compact family saga in the Ride series from North Carolina’s Parkway Publishers is beautifully packaged. The cover art looks like a tranquil Christmas card, with its fir-green background, snow-white lettering, and touches of gilt. But the lyrical subtitle, The Miracle of Lights, is somewhat of a misnomer for the angst-ridden narrative that lies in wait inside the covers.
  • Black Barons of Birmingham: The South's Greatest Negro League Team and Its Players

    By: Larry Powell; Foreword by Clayton Sherrod
    Reviewed by: Bill Plott

    Larry Powell has broken new ground with this general history of the Birmingham Black Barons, a storied team in the Negro baseball leagues.  It is the first real overview of the team that includes both a basic timeline of the team and also profiles of some of the more notable players.
  • Dancing on the Rim

    By: Clela Reed
    Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

    The opening poem of Dancing on the Rim pointedly announces the scope and general subject of Clela Reed’s first book of poems. "Prologue" describes a sort of pre-lapsarian age in male-female relationships, when "Love / was that boundless pool that held / the swirl of Time…."  Though most of the poems directly engage this theme of romantic love, the theme of time is the more subtly handled, and the most effective poems are those that engage both themes most obliquely.
  • Dixie Noir

    By Kirk Curnutt

    Reviewed by John Wendel

    Kirk Curnutt’s Dixie Noir is a hard boiled mystery set in the mean streets of Montgomery, Alabama. References to magnolias, crepe myrtles, and oft rhapsodized Deep-South niceties serve only to draw the reader’s attention to the hot and humid August setting. Narrator Ennis Skinner sweats buckets between decaying old town and creepy McMansion sprawl looking for a young lady named Dixie. His search gets him tangled up in a web of murder, mayhem, and Alabama racial politics with a direct line back to the Montgomery bus boycott.

    Ennis encounters a variety of rich characters and wild situations. High C, a meth cook turned book publisher, is one of the more engaging scoundrels you are likely to run across since Shakespeare gave us Falstaff. Reese Justice, known in town as the “Kudzu Ann Coulter,” manages her incumbent father’s mayoral race. Her down and dirty deeds give the likes of Karl Rove and Jack Abramoff a run for their money. Thugs and would-be great men intermingle in the state capital, highlighting what a strange and contrary, but fascinating place Alabama can be.

    Ennis Skinner is a disgraced former Crimson Tide football hero who spent one decade in a methamphetamine haze, and another in Kilby Prison. He is a man looking to make amends, and hopefully find a little redemption. His journey involves dealing with some dark corners of his life, and Curnutt doesn’t shy away from graphic scenes, specifically in flashbacks to Ennis’ drugged out days with his ex-lover Faye (Dixie’s dead mother). Fortunately, he neither romanticizes their degradation, nor does he simply rub the reader’s nose in a lot of nastiness. He sets the record straight, which means recording nasty events in clear and stark language. Ennis knows all too well our capacity to sentimentalize, if not mythologize, unhealthy people and episodes in our lives. Only when he replays those memories without the fog of drugs or sentiment does he stand a chance at that redemption he so desperately craves.

    The memory of the civil rights movement also looms large. It haunts and burdens characters close to Ennis and those he’s forced to deal with. Ennis’ daddy, Quentin, and black mayoral candidate, Walk Compson, remind us of how all-too-human former movement heroes can be. And sometimes memories from that past are just cold factors in the cynical machinations of dirty southern politics.

    Dixie Noir twists and turns with plenty of action. You’ll race toward each plot point, but ultimately the characters own this story. The last few pages reveal a little too much, and too suddenly, of who did what to whom, but wit and intelligence abound in this dark entertainment. Dec 2009

    John Wendel teaches English as a foreign language for Dongguk University in Kyeongju City, South Korea.

  • From Peanuts to the Pressbox: Insider Sports Stories from a Life Behind the Mic

    By: Eli Gold with M. B. Roberts; Foreword by Verne Lundquist
    Reviewed by: Don Alexander

    One may know Eli Gold as the radio voice of The Crimson Tide, of NASCAR, of the Birmingham Bulls, or of regional Ford advertisements. But how about the Long Island Ducks, the Roanoke Valley Rebels, World of Outlaws races, or Arena Football? From Peanuts to the Pressbox is a delightful collection of stories about broadcasting, from the recollections of a man whose mom (primarily because of excessive absences) negotiated his high school diploma: “He knows what he wants to do. Give him his diploma, and he won’t bother anyone.”
  • Literture

    By: Catfish Karkowsky
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    It’s not surprising that someone named “Catfish” serves up fiction marinated in a curious, surreal concoction loaded with chunks of oddball characters, with occasional naive misfits sprinkled in for good measure. Catfish Karkowsky’s new book Literture is a collection of brief vignettes offering twisted tales of stalkers, teenage soda jerks, a kid with no arms and legs named Seal, a father abusing his robot infant, and the occasional schizophrenic.

  • Mighty By Sacrifice: The Destruction of an American Bomber Squadron, August 29, 1944

    By: James L. Noles and James L. Noles Jr.
    Reviewed by: Bill Plott

    Last Spring, a writer in Smithsonian magazine noted that “even after half a century, there are little nuggets of stories about World War II that have just not been told or have not been understood very well.” This fascinating book by James L. Noles and James L. Noles Jr. is proof positive of that observation.  The Noleses have penned a narrative of a United States bomber squadron’s mission to destroy an oil refinery and railroad yards in Moravska Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, in August 1944.
  • The Donkeys’ Tales—The Donkey’s Easter Tale

    By: Adele Colvin; Cover illustrated by Peyton Carmichael
    Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn

    Several talented Birmingham residents worked together to produce an audio version of Birmingham author Adele Colvin’s two books ,The Donkeys’ Tales, first published in 1998 by Crane Hill of Birmingham (and re-released by Pelican Publishing of Gretna, La., in 2008), and The Donkey’s Easter Tale (Pelican Publishing, 2009). The result is a pleasant audio experience of the reading of both books as though they were told by three generations of donkeys who took part in the life of Jesus.

  • The Widow and the Tree

    By: Sonny Brewer
    Reviewed by; Kevin Wilder

    Sonny Brewer has delivered a fourth book, The Widow and the Tree. Rarely do storytellers like Brewer emerge, capable of presenting tender narratives possessing tremendous power. Each page of the story is filled with carefully-crafted sentences, making up concise chapters that sweep like elegant poetry.
  • Whistlin' Dixie in a No'easter

    By Lisa Patton

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This debut novel combines deep-South, heart-warming, chick-lit style with a chill-out setting way north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Leelee Satterfield is happily and generationally entrenched in Memphis, Tennessee; she and her husband Baker, whom she’s adored since they were in the tenth grade, have two small daughters. Life is idyllic, until that husband talks her into leaving their comfort zone to become inn-keepers in Vermont. Leelee’s three best-friends-forever think she’s lost her mind.

  • Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

    By: Askhari Johnson Hodari Foreword by The Archbishop Desmond Tutu
    Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

    Common sense is the theme of these African proverbs. They are kept alive by centuries of experiences handed down by word of mouth from African elders. How many times have you talked to individuals and needed to say something to cause them to think about a situation and see the solution? Do you need a message of guidance and inspiration? Welcome to Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs, edited by Askhari Johnson Hodari and Yvonne McCalla Sobers.

  • Noah's Wife

    By: T.K. Thorne
    Reviewed by: Perle Champion

    In Noah’s Wife, consummate storyteller T.K. (Teresa) Thorne takes us back to 5500 BCE. Here we meet Noah’s future wife. Born to a mother who dies giving her life, Na’amah is a beautiful girl with peculiarities. She sees the colors and patterns of words overlaid with the color of their truth.

  • Potluck, Postscripts and Potpourri

    By: Jean Gay Mussleman
    Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn

    Those who love the South will enjoy the cookbook memoir Potluck, Postscripts & Potpourri by Jean Gay Mussleman of the Oakland community near Florence. Mussleman interjects a down-home wholesomeness when tying personal stories to time-honored Southern recipes. In the process, she preserves stories of her growing-up years in the 1930s to present times. She writes stories behind many near-forgotten customs that older generations witnessed as children, such as watching their mothers cut up raw chicken, throwing barn parties for neighbors, listening to elderly relatives, honoring their ancestral homes, and celebrating all holidays with food and family.

  • Snakeskin Road

    By: James Braziel
    Reviewed by: Andrew McNamara

    Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

    At once the recognizable inscription marking the entrance gate of hell in the Inferno, Dante’s warning is equally appropriate for the apocalyptic vision of America depicted in James Braziel’s haunting new novel Snakeskin Road. Set in 2044, Braziel’s dystopian world is plagued by government corruption, and the southern United States—or more appropriately, what’s left of it—is ravaged by harsh, inhospitable deserts created by gaping holes in the earth’s ozone layer.

  • Teddy's Child: Growing Up In the Anxious Southern Gentry Between the Great Wars

    By: Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton
    Reviewed by: Rebecca Dempsey

    Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton’s book is more than a memoir; it is a narrative complete with interesting characters and rich historical detail. Teddy’s Child: Growing Up in the Anxious Southern Gentry Between the Great Wars is about the failures and accomplishments of the author’s eccentric family, but the themes extend beyond Hamilton’s family to comment on the struggles of humanity: the dreams individuals reach to possess and the nobility, and at times futility, of that effort.

  • The Pillared City: Greek Revival Mobile

    By: John S. Sledge; Photography by Sheila Hagler
    Reviewed by: Dee Jordan

    Like most readers, I don’t understand the intricacies of nineteenth century architecture. However, in his new book The Pillared City: Greek Revival Mobile scholar and Mobile Press-Register books editor John S. Sledge reveals his passion and knowledge of architectural history. And this history is fascinating.

  • The Sad Epistles

    By: Emma Bolden
    Reviewed by: Alan May

    Often in love poems (or poems about unrequited love), we see the love relationship stand as metaphor for something more complex and, perhaps, profound. During my first reading of Emma Bolden’s The Sad Epistles, I was slightly worried that Bolden’s poems weren’t working hard enough, that the honest-to-god ache she relays, akin to the ache we often hear/feel in pop songs, wouldn’t be enough to carry me through the chapbook again and again. However, with subsequent readings, I fell more deeply in love with the poems and their earnestness, humor, and terror.

  • Tin Man

    By Charlie Lucas; Interviews by Ben Windham; Photographs by Chip Cooper

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This Art-with-a-capital-A book is an astutely synchronized compilation of as-told-to autobiography that often reads like music sounds, and brilliant images that look as if they might leap off the pages. In fifteen triumphant chapters, Ben Windham has corralled the essence of wit and wisdom, creative energy, and life-experience of internationally known folk artist Charlie Lucas.

  • Basil

    By: Christine Hale
    Reviewed by: Kevin Wilder

    Basil’s Dream is a suspenseful, absorbing tale juggling multiple themes of love, politics, and race relations. The Bermuda of Christine Hale’s first novel is far from the oversimplified island of postcards and popular lore (though vivid imagery of craggy pink beaches, motor scooters, and Rastafarians are all there). Hale’s descriptions of the British overseas territory are particularly interesting and unique, as they draw attention to the post-9/11 social unrest and political strife the region has faced. Also, there’s enough island background to whet any history-lovers’ appetites.

  • Brand New Emily

    By: Ginger Rue
    Reviewed by: Peter Huggins

    It’s a wonder any of us survives middle school, much less high school. Survival is definitely on the mind of Emily Wood, the fourteen-year-old narrator of Ginger Rue’s fun debut novel Brand New Emily. Poetry geek Emily attends Wright Middle School in Ohio and becomes the prime target of the Daisies, led by uber-bully Heatherly, a Nurse Ratched in training. Through intelligence and courage, Emily comes up with a plan to defeat Heatherly and the so-cool Daisies.

  • This Day in Civil Rights History

    By: Horace Randall Williams and Ben Beard
    Reviewed by: Nancy Wilstach

    This is the kind of book you CAN put down, but you will pick it up again an hour later, a day later or the next time that blowhard at the office holds forth on what “really happened” in 1965 or 1963 or 1950. Originally published in 2005 by Emmis Books, this paperback edition will help you win arguments, impress friends, and find a launch point for further research.

  • A Family Home: A History of the President

    By: Nell Richardson
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    For the Auburn aficionado who thinks he or she has bought every piece of merchandise available that celebrates his or her beloved orange and blue, Nell Richardson, wife of former Auburn University president Dr. Ed Richardson, has added one more little souvenir. Mrs. Richardson has documented the history of the school’s President’s Mansion in her book A Family Home: A History of the President’s Mansion at Auburn University. It’s a written history packed with candid photographs of the university’s presidents and their families (and dogs) who have ruled over the academic/football kingdom in the Loveliest Village on the Plains.

  • American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

    By Jon Meacham

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    You may not have much admiration for the famous subject of this biography, but don’t let that keep you from reading it. One incentive could be that the book, which came out last year in hardcover, has won the Pulitzer Prize. Newsweek magazine editor Jon Meacham’s superior journalistic and analytical skills are evident on every page of this fascinating, vividly imagerized history. The modernized style of narration, which at times is delightfully gossipy in tone, makes the long-dead players come alive, especially the central figure.

  • Burnt Offerings

    By: Sue Scalf
    Reviewed by: Keith Badowski

    The strongest poems in Sue Scalf’s latest book Burnt Offerings are dramatic monologues that go beyond their Biblical sources and imaginatively explore the personalities of the speakers. “The Plain One,” for instance, reveals Martha’s fiery reaction to the “scolding” Jesus gives her. The poem has an angry tone as Martha internally justifies her hurt over Mary’s lack of help in preparing and serving the food....

  • Chasing Wings: Birding Exploits and Encounters

    By: Richard Modlin
    Reviewed by: H. F. Lippincott

    A retired marine biologist who is also an occasional bird watcher, Richard Modlin has collected his birding field notes from all over the world along with meticulous lists of birds for each section. I’m not a birder, but I’ve carted around my youthful Peterson bird guide—Modlin calls him "the Audubon of our time"—all my life, even though I never use it. Yet I soon got caught up in Modlin’s book, and I highly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in the subject, especially young people. Informal scientific books of this quality are all too rare.

  • Coming Together

    By: Joyce Norman and Joy Collins
    Reviewed by: Perle Champion

    It’s said that many first novels are, at least in part, autobiographical. In this instance, it is true. The core of Coming Together is a true story. Birmingham writer Joyce Norman lived it. With her friend Joy Collins acting as foil and prod, Norman tells us her story of a single woman traversing the hostile bureaucratic maze of the foreign adoption process in 1980s Brazil. She seamlessly weaves every minute detail of that intriguing slice of her life between the pages of an entertaining love story that never was.

  • In and Out of Madness

    By: N.L. Snowden (Delores Jordan)
    Reviewed by: Colin Crews

    “Madness made me restless,” N. L. Snowden writes in her courageous debut novel In and Out of Madness. The relentless mind of protagonist Lee Thames storms through Snowden’s engrossing story. The semi-autobiographical work is a raw and painful clinic on mental illness, adultery, and addiction.

  • Second Sluthood: A Manifesto for the Post-Menopausal, Pre-Senilic Matriarch

    By: Ruby Pearl Saffire
    Reviewed by: Beth Wilder

    Ruby Pearl Saffire is a true patriot, as evidenced by her bejeweled red, white, and blue name. And like any true patriot (as opposed to the impostor who simply waves or wears a flag— symbolism and substance are two very different things according to Ruby), she has penned a manifesto. Ruby’s manifesto is not for the faint-of-heart, for it has less to do with politics and sociological theories and more to do with sex (XXX sex, to be exact).

  • The Cannibals Said Grace

    By: Pat Mayer
    Reviewed by: Jill Deaver

    From the opening pages of Pat Mayer’s novel The Cannibals Said Grace, it’s clear that something is amiss. “It’s in the nature of the place and its people to coat and cover,” he writes. The place is Benedict, Alabama, and what the quirky townspeople have been coating and covering is their appetite for corruption.

  • The Lions

    By: Peter Campion
    Reviewed by: Russ Kesler

    Among contemporary collections of poetry, many books tend to be dominated by the personal narrative; others employ a more public, politically aware voice. Peter Campion’s The Lions blends these opposing temperaments. In poem after poem personal experience is set against the larger concerns of war and the “baleful knowledge” that an understanding of the world is by nature fragmentary at best.

  • The Shortest Distance

    By: Kathleen Thompson
    Reviewed by: Robert Gray

    The first thing one notices about Kathleen Thompson’s The Shortest Distance is the blurb by Harper Lee, stating that Thompson’s poems are “quietly earth-shaking” and have reduced her to “a quivering mass of admiration & greed for more.” This impressive introduction establishes high expectations. Furthermore, Lee’s use of oxymorons to characterize Thompson’s work attunes the reader to the many paradoxes and contradictions that pervade the volume.

  • The Soldier's Ride: Inspiration from Desperation

    By Edie Hand with Jeffery Addison

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Labeled "A Novella" and subtitled Inspiration from Desperation, this attractively packaged book has the look and heft of the Young Adult genre. However, as noted on the marketing insert in the review copy, it’s one of a series geared to "Women 35 plus" from a collaborative duo of Alabama authors.

  • Einstein at the Odeon Café: Poems from the Big Table

    By: Jerri Beck, ed.
    Reviewed by: Kathleen Thompson

    Technically a chapbook (less than forty-eight pages), this book contains twenty-seven poems by eight poets.  How invigorating to be reminded, surrounded by in-your-face-tweeting heads, of the art of conversation—its give and take, its eclectic range of subjects, its intellectual stimulation—interspersed with an occasional lyrical whisper.

  • Images of America: Gadsden Public Library: 100 Years of Service

    By: Library History Committee, eds.
    Reviewed by: Delores Jordan

    This beautiful picture book of the Gadsden Public Library is not just a historical recounting of the many buildings that made up the library and its branches, but it also is a history of a literary community. Readers can’t help but be impressed by the outpouring of money, time, talent, energy, and love by the people of Gadsden and its surrounding communities. Images of America: Gadsden Public Library: 100 Years of Service is a jewel.

  • Images of America: Gadsden Public Library: 100 Years of Service

    By: Library History Committee, eds.
    Reviewed by: Delores Jordan

    This beautiful picture book of the Gadsden Public Library is not just a historical recounting of the many buildings that made up the library and its branches, but it also is a history of a literary community. Readers can’t help but be impressed by the outpouring of money, time, talent, energy, and love by the people of Gadsden and its surrounding communities. Images of America: Gadsden Public Library: 100 Years of Service is a jewel.

  • Little Lamb Lost

    By Margaret Fenton

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The author lives in Birmingham, the city that provides the locales for this compelling first novel. In crisp, camera’s-eye style, Margaret Fenton has placed her first-person narrator, Claire Conover, at the helm of a horrific enigma: Michael, a little boy she knows well, has been murdered. As the child’s caseworker with the Department of Mental Services, Claire had recommended he be returned from a stint in foster care to his mother, Ashley Hennessy. Aided by Claire’s guidance and encouragement, Ashley had cleaned up her act, and regained custody of her son. Now Claire learns that Michael has died in Ashley’s apartment from drug-poisoned orange juice in a “sippy cup,” and the single mom has been arrested by the police.

  • Meeting Myself 'Round the Corner

    By: Carol Prejean Zippert
    Reviewed by: Bruce Elliot Alford

    Carol Prejean Zippert returns to her southern roots in this second volume of poetry, Meeting Myself ’Round the Corner. These poems are about love, community, and family. She writes about her father, for example, who she describes as quiet, witty, and clever, who could solve word problems in his head. She writes about her aging mother, forgetting her medication and “emptying every dresser drawer,” and she writes of her grandchildren.

  • The African Book of Names

    By: Askhari Hodari
    Reviewed by: Colin Crews

    Early civil rights activist and author Richard Moore said, “Free men name themselves.” This idea is embodied in Askhari Hodari’s The African Book of Names. The four-part work contains an overview of African culture and history, a guide to traditional naming ceremonies, and more than five thousand African names. Hodari infuses the historical facts with her own story of renaming and self-discovery.

  • The South's New Racial Politics

    By: Glen Browder
    Reviewed by: Colin Crews

    Dr. Glen Browder’s credentials in Alabama politics are as impressive as his unique new work The South’s New Racial Politics: Inside the Race Game of Southern History. The former United States congressman gives a firsthand account of the South’s most enduring and troubling issue and offers an original thesis. Browder displays an uncommon style and approach to this scholarly topic early in the introduction when he refers to Martin Luther King Jr. and George Wallace as “these guys.” But his informal style helps make a sensitive subject more accessible.

  • Twelve and Counting: The National Championships of Alabama Football

    By: Kenneth Gaddy, ed.; Foreword by Mal Moore
    Reviewed by: Van Newell

    Like Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, Twelve and Counting: The National Championships of Alabama Football features a mountain of information, of anecdotes and of history and is a book best enjoyed slowly, letting the history digest in one’s brain. Each of the chapters encompasses at least a year’s worth of information regarding (trumpets at the ready) the Alabama Crimson Tide football program and each national championship that they celebrate. Like a road trip, the reading may take a while, but that may mean you may enjoy the ride all the more.

  • Black Sabbatical

    By: Brett Eugene Ralph
    Reviewed by: Michael O. Marberry

    In his poem “Firm Against the Pattern,” the first of twenty-nine poems in his new collection titled Black Sabbatical, poet Brett Eugene Ralph writes: “Closing my eyes, I extended my tongue / and pressed it firm against the pattern: / I tasted yesterday’s rain, / the carcasses of moths, / broken glances, tears, / the smoke of not-so-distant fires— / all those desperate gestures / we collect and call the seasons.” These lines, so reminiscent in their focus, set the tone for Black Sabbatical—a collection that frequently hopes to navigate the connections between character, place, and memory.

  • God's Dogs

    By Mitch Wieland

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Each of the ten titled chapters in this book first appeared as a short story in The Sewanee, Southern, Yale, or Kenyon Reviews, TriQuarterly, Shenandoah, StoryQuarterly, or Prairie Schooner. That the author has a significant presence in elite literary circles is borne out by dust jacket blurbs from Melanie Rae Thon, Anthony Doerr, Brad Watson, George Core, Richard Ford, Lee K. Abbott, and Alan Cheuse.

  • On Harper's Trail

    By Elizabeth Findley Shores

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This engrossing biography of Roland McMillan Harper, “Pioneering Botanist of the Southern Coastal Plain,” is clearly a labor of love as well as an extraordinary feat of erudition.... Like many others plagued with the onus of genius, Harper was rife with eccentricities. In the scientific circles he moved in, he became legendary for his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and regional terrain, much of which was gleaned during long, solitary treks over the countryside and coastal plains of Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle.

  • Sonata Mulattica

    By: Rita Dove
    Reviewed by: Lewis Robert Colon Jr.

    The erasure of George Bridgetower from 182 years of Beethoven biographies inspires Rita Dove’s new book Sonata Mulattica, a kind of speculative elegy that appends to the biographies an extended and playfully conjectured footnote. Dove recognizes in Bridgetower a familiar historical archetype: The black or brown artist whose genius and importance, the authors of history seem to have agreed, are negligible. It’s a syndrome that treats some of history’s marquee stars like background scenery, props in the lives of their white counterparts.

  • A Generous Life: W. James Samford Jr.

    By: Wayne Greenhaw
    Reviewed by: Jim Buford

    The saga of this family began with William James Samford, who was a successful attorney and governor of Alabama. He took to heart the words of Luke 12:48 that “To whom much has been given, much is expected,” and he ensured that the virtues of hard work, service to others, duty to country, and standing up for what’s right were passed on to his children and grandchildren. In A Generous Life, Wayne Greenhaw chronicles the life and times of his great-grandson, William James (Jimmy) Samford Jr.

  • Behind the Hedges: Big Money and Power Politics at the University of Georgia

    By: Rich Whitt
    Reviewed by: Karl Jones

    Behind the Hedges, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Rich Whitt, is a riveting tale of self-interested bureaucrats, politicians, and power-brokers and how they will do most anything to preserve their power and influence. On the surface, the book is a stinging indictment of University of Georgia President Michael Adams, his senior staff, and the news media (including Witt’s former employer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) that turned a blind eye to improper and perhaps illegal activities. As a sad aside, the author died as this book was published.

  • Headwaters: A Journey of Alabama Rivers

    By: John C. Hall and Beth Maynor Young
    Reviewed by: Britt Blake

    While I was growing up in Montevallo, my father often mused that if I took the inclination, I could launch my canoe in Shoal Creek across the street from our house and paddle all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Headwaters: A Journey on Alabama Rivers, with text by John C. Hall and photographs by Beth Maynor Young, offers a much easier tour of the state’s diverse water system–from rain dripping from beech leaves into the soil in mountainous northern Alabama to the "Great River’s" arrival at Mobile Bay.

  • Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory

    By: Kimberly Wallace-Sanders
    Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

    Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory presents an in-depth analysis of the various myth, fiction, history, and other embodiments of the mammy characters between the 1820s and 1935. Kimberly Wallace-Sanders probes the images and themes immortalized in American literary and cultural imagination that continue to have a provocative hold on the American psyche. This book engages questions asked time and time again: Who is this mammy? What does she reveal about race and the American culture? Why do portraits of her insist she preferred white children to her own? How did she become a central figure in our understanding of slavery, gender, motherhood, and the American South?

  • Spit, Scarey Ann & Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another

    By: Kathryn Tucker Windham
    Reviewed by: Rebecca Dempsey

    Kathryn Tucker Windham’s memoir is refreshing because it is not about childhood trauma; there is no abuse or poverty in this story. Rather, it is a nostalgic look back to a distant childhood and a past era of the American South. Windham’s remembrances are tender without being sentimental, and the tone of Spit, Scarey Ann, & Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another is one of tranquility, as if Windham is writing simply because she enjoys savoring her memories.

  • Sweet Spot: 125 Years of Baseball and the Louisville Slugger

    By: David Magee and Philip Shirley; Foreword by Ken Griffey Jr.
    Reviewed by: Sidney J. Vance

    Sweet Spot: 125 Years of Baseball and the Louisville Slugger is a generous pictorial history of the Louisville Slugger, the essential baseball bat for over a century. David Magee’s and Philip Shirley’s complete chronological account begins with the mythic origins of the bat in the 1880s and extends to the technology of contemporary composite alloy techno-bats. The book relies on the unique historical consistency of baseball and its meticulous records to show how the Hillerich family business has imparted a mystique to its bats that has enhanced the game and made its brand one of the most recognizable and profitable in all of sports.

  • The Donkey’s Easter Tale

    By: Adele Colvin; Illustrated by Peyton Carmichael
    Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn

    This flawlessly written book for children ages eight-up is framed by a grandfather donkey taking advantage of a rainy day to tell his two grandchildren donkeys stories about his associations with Jesus. The grandfather donkey tells how he was scared to be ridden, only to find that his rider was none other than the gentle Jesus. The grandfather’s parents, he said, knew Mary and Joseph. His mother, he said, carried Mary to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. The grandfather donkey tells how he carried Jesus to the temple when he threw out the money changers, healed the sick, defended himself against tax collectors, and taught the crowds. The grandfather donkey also witnessed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the cross, and at the resurrection.

  • U.P.

    By: R.A. Riekki
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynold

    Auburn University English professor R. A. Riekki has wowed critics with his novel U.P., drawing speculative praise from one fellow writer who is convinced that Kurt Vonnegut would love the book if only Vonnegut were alive to read it. Vonnegut must have had a stronger stomach than I. According to the book’s cover summary, U.P. is a “complex tale of friendship and brutality.” Complex and brutal? That’s one heck of an understatement. Rather, Riekki slaps the reader in the face with a stark, disturbing portrayal of teen angst in the frozen northern peninsula of Michigan.

  • Up Close: Harper Lee: A Twentieth Century Life

    By: Kerry Madden
    Reviewed by: Norman McMillan

    Considering such a large audience for To Kill a Mockingbird, it is little surprise that Viking would have wanted to include Harper Lee in its Up Close series, which publishes short biographies for young readers on a wide range of important figures from the twentieth century. The publisher approached Kerry Madden, author of books for young readers, about writing the biography, and she took on the daunting task of researching the life of a subject who has not given an interview since 1964 and who has made it known widely that she will not cooperate with any such project.

  • Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee

    By: Allen Barra
    Reviewed by: Bill Plott

    Why yet another book on Yogi Berra? Simple answer, according to author Allen Barra: There has never been a serious biography of the Hall of Fame catcher, noted mostly for his years with the New York Yankees and his ability to churn out seemingly dimwitted but nevertheless amusing sayings. Barra says Berra is America’s most beloved former athlete and the most quoted American since Mark Twain. It’s hard to deny either assertion.

  • Alabama Sports: A Comprehensive Guide to Sports in Alabama

    By: Steve Dupont
    Reviewed by: Van Newell

    Part travel guide, part historical record, Alabama Sports offers ten chapters involving the exhibits, venues, sports, and sports legends that have made a mark on the state’s sports history. Giving extra gravitas to the publication is an introduction by Governor Bob Riley, a foreword by Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Executive Director William Legg, and stellar photography reaching back over a hundred years.

  • It Was the Orange Persimmon of the Sun

    By: Louie Skipper
    Reviewed by: Emma Bolden

    Rarely comes a book with the power to change the way its reader thinks, believes, and lives for the deeper, the fiercer, and the better. Louie Skipper’s It Was the Orange Persimmon of the Sun is such a book. These startling poems present a mind wrestling with the most difficult questions of being—what is our place in the world, what is God’s place in the world, and what are we to make of death?—in such a beautiful and brave way that the reader cannot help but be engaged in—and better for—the struggle.

  • The Help: A Novel

    By Kathryn Stockett

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The ingenuous title of this new bestseller clarifies it on the jacket cover as “a novel,” but these 400-plus pages are as convincing as fine journalism. It’s the summer of 1962, in Jackson, Mississippi, the author’s hometown. In The Help, Stockett, who has a degree in creative writing from the University of Alabama, has reproduced perfectly pitched speech patterns and description of a time and place that belonged to her mother’s generation.

  • We Generous

    By: Sebastian Matthews
    Reviewed by: Jennifer Horne

    Perhaps due to the growth of MFA programs, leading to more competently-written poetry as well as more competition for publication, most first books of poems don’t seem like first books any more. We Generous is no exception. Stylistically mature, with a distinctive voice and viewpoint, the poems in this book, many of them published originally in journals small and large, take us on a kind of road trip, into scene after scene of late-night jazz clubs, rainy bad-neighborhood streets, rural roads, a country church, a vacation cabin, even to “Wine Mart, that cavernous retail barn” (“Buying Wine”).

  • Alabama Roots Biographies

    By: Various Authors
    Reviewed by: Rebecca Dempsey

    Julia Tutwiler, Amelia Gayle Gorgas, and Jennifer Chandler are Alabamians who distinguished themselves by overcoming obstacles unique to their respective goals and the times in which they lived. Components of the Alabama Roots series, these three biographies are written in simple but engaging prose designed to interest third through eighth graders, and they are educational, entertaining, and inspiring. Roz Morris, Zelda Oliver-Miles, and Tom Bailey have thoroughly researched their subjects to create memorable characters who are an integral part of Alabama’s history.

  • And So: Poems

    By: Joel Brouwer
    Reviewed by: Steven Ford Brown

    Joel Brouwer’s new book And So furthers his reputation as careful craftsman and ensures his inclusion among the best of the younger generations of poets writing in America today. And So is a lyrical and erudite book in which the characters—and this is a book about people together, alone, and often alone together—live out their lives in a series of changing landscapes and relationships.

  • Dirty Little Angels

    By: Chris Tusa
    Reviewed by: Beth Wilder

    In his debut novel Dirty Little Angels, Louisiana writer Chris Tusa explores the dirty little world of the New Orleans slums and the downtrodden people who stumble through the bad side of town among crack houses, drug dealers, and rampant poverty. This raw and gritty story sucks the reader in to the dangerous, hopeless lives of two urban teenagers, Hailey Trosclair and her brother Cyrus, as she desperately tries to save her dysfunctional family from ruin.

  • Fanning the Spark: A Memoir

    By: Mary Ward Brown
    Reviewed by: Norman McMillan

    In 1978, Mary Ward Brown attended a series of lectures at the University of Montevallo by the renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell. According to her new memoir Fanning the Spark, she was most taken with some advice he gave: “To fulfill one’s destiny, a person should follow his bliss.” The central bliss this memoir focuses on is the bliss of writing. However, Brown shows us how that particular bliss competes with many other blisses, such as the delights of family and motherhood, the pleasures of place and home, and the joys of books and reading. Too often, pursuing one bliss means scanting another, and that unresolved conflict takes its toll, sometimes in the form of guilt. Her final thought in her memoir: “I just hope to write one or two more stories before I leave this earth and, at the same time, be forgiven a few sins of omission while doing it.”

  • Heaven Overland

    By: Jim Murphy
    Reviewed by: Mary Kaiser

    In Heaven Overland’s opening poem, the seller of a broken-down Cadillac El Dorado claims its metal chassis functions as “a powerful antenna / to draw so much distant matter down to earth.” This image is the perfect introduction to Jim Murphy’s beautifully structured collection about Americans and the faulty, charged vehicles in which we travel.  Iconic figures ranging from the revered to the notorious, from W.E.B. Du Bois to Elvis Presley, inhabit these poems in settings from New York to the Sonoran desert, but their real destination is the past: a turn-of-the-century riverboat, a Hollywood street corner in the thirties, a Bakelite radio tuned in to early rock ’n’ roll.

  • Shut Up, You’re Fine: Poems for Very, Very Bad Children

    By: Andrew Hudgins, with illustrations by Barry Moser
    Reviewed by: Norman McMillan

    When I pulled Andrew Hudgins’ new volume, Shut Up, You’re Fine, from the mailer, I was struck immediately by Barry Moser’s cover design. The choice of print, the border, the faded subtitle all looked terribly old-fashioned, and I thought immediately of The New England Primer. After completing the poems, I went online to check my memory, and I found that the covers are indeed similar. Then I read the Primer, and I knew that Shut Up, You’re Fine could well be read as a parody of books that exhort children to be good and warn them of the terrible dangers of not doing so.

  • The Seasons Bear Us

    By: Jeanie Thompson
    Reviewed by: Jake Berry

    The title of Jeanie Thompson’s new book is extracted from a letter written by James Wright. A portion of it appears as an introductory quote: “[The seasons] move, as we move, from place to place. As we move, we carry them and they carry us . . . the seasons bear us.”  This sense of the seasons is evidenced in the rich poems that fill Thompson’s new collection.

  • The Second Blush

    By: Molly Peacock
    Reviewed by: Russ Kesler

    The poems in Molly Peacock’s sixth collection, The Second Blush, are playful and insouciant, but also unafraid to look deeply and honestly at the vagaries of human relationships, whether marriage or friendship. And as always with Peacock’s work, a formal element, particularly in this case riffs on the sonnet form, provides another layer of polish and opportunities for joy in experimentation.

  • Drunk In Sunlight

    By: Daniel Anderson
    Reviewed by: Russ Kesler

    The title of Daniel Anderson’s second book Drunk In Sunlight suggests an altered state of consciousness. But “Drunk On Sunlight” could also serve as the book’s title, since so many of the poems here reflect a kind of rapture provoked by the wonders of being: “How excellent it is to be alive,” as the speaker of “Aubade” puts it.

  • Eat, Drink, and Be from Mississippi

    By: Nanci Kinkaid
    Reviewed by: Beth Thames

    Courtney and Truely Noonan, brother and sister, sit across the kitchen table from each other in their Mississippi childhood home, a southern table loaded with their mother’s fried chicken and skillets of cornbread. Nice kids, they are growing up as expected. But expected comes to a halt when Courtney announces she is moving to California to pursue her dreams, whatever they might be. She imagines it to be "a place generously littered with dreams and dreamers," but her parents wonder what’s gotten into her, and what’s wrong with chasing your dreams in Hinds County, Mississippi? When little brother Truely follows a few years later, the parents puzzle over what they did wrong. The answer, of course, is nothing at all.

  • I Wish That I Were Langston Hughes

    By: Robert Gray
    Reviewed by: Michael Marberry

    In his new collection of poetry I Wish That I Were Langston Hughes, Robert Gray, over the course of thirty-two poems, attempts to do what so many of us cannot: pay precise and appropriate homage to those classic, influential wordsmiths. Whether praising John Donne (“he held holiness at arm’s length yet firmly in his hand”), Langston Hughes (“[he] awoke the power pain and beauty that springs from blues”) or U2’s Bono (“he sings a new song / one man struggling to find what he’s looking for”), Gray dives right into the thick of it—losing punctuation and capitalization along the way, meditating on and incorporating these poets’ own sentiments into his praise of them.

  • Jane Ellen’s Path

    By: Sue McDougald Watson
    Reviewed by: Liz Reed

    There’s an inherent problem in starting a new book at bedtime: If it’s a good read, 3:00 a.m. comes quickly regardless the hour set for the next day’s beginning. Such was the case with Jane Ellen’s Path. From the first chapter, author Sue McDougald Watson “mourned the lack of control that seemed the birthright of all females.” McDougald’s first novel follows Jane Ellen from pre-school through retirement and presents a picture of Alabama women of the 1950s woven with the familiar threads of racism, classism, misogyny, and fear.

  • Life and Death Matters

    By: Robert L. Baldwin, M.D., M.A.
    Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn

    The autobiographical account of how Dr. Robert L. Baldwin came to write against capital punishment is the story of his life. His book, Life and Death Matters, is a candid look at how he, a Birmingham physician of accomplishment, discovered error in his own thinking.

  • PR Made Easy

    By: John Bitter
    Reviewed by: Philip Shirley

    John Bitter reveals the point of this fifty-two-page book in his foreword, saying the purpose of a public relations practitioner is to achieve “action of some sort on the part of the recipient.” Through a series of personal anecdotes and observations, Bitter attempts to put the entry-level PR person or the volunteer publicity director drafted by a not-for-profit at ease as they attempt to tell the story of their organization. He correctly leads them to understand that their mission is not merely to convey information, but to persuade.

  • The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard

    By: Erin McGraw
    Reviewed by: Jody Kamins Harper

    When Nell Platt first meets the domineering woman who will employ her to sew costumes for Hollywood actors, she sells herself with these words: “I know that details are important. Details create illusions. I never forget that people are trying to escape their own lives.” This revelatory statement is also a metaphor for a novelist’s ambitions, creating detail within the seam of a story that gives readers a well-wrought tale to escape into. Erin McGraw’s novel, The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard, has a precise stitching of language and a sturdy plotting pressing on like a needle through daunting fabric.

  • There’s Hope for the World: The Memoir of Birmingham, Alabama’s First African American Mayor

    By: Richard Arrington
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    Former Birmingham mayor Richard Arrington has written his recollections and impressions of his two decades running the state’s largest city in his autobiography There’s Hope for the World: The Memoir of Birmingham, Alabama’s First African American Mayor. Arrington’s 1979 election marked a profound change following decades of white rule that was eventually dismantled with the city’s conversion from a city commission style government run by racist thug Bull Connor to a mayor-council operation in the early 1960s that began to recognize black residents in a more equal light, though it took another decade for profound changes to take root.

  • Truman Capote’s Southern Years: Stories from a Monroeville Cousin

    By: Marianne M. Moates
    Reviewed by: Norman McMillan

    Happily back in print is a charming book that many of us found essential in understanding the young Truman Capote. The new version is re-titled Truman Capote’s Southern Years: Stories from a Monroeville Cousin, thereby emphasizing the essential role played by Capote’s cousin, Jennings Faulk Carter, who was the source of the wonderful stories that Moates recounts in the book. The book also sports a new cover photo of Capote holding Queenie, the dog owned by Capote’s soul-mate Sook, a picture that suggests better than the one on the 1989 book the Monroeville world of his childhood and adolescence, when Truman lived in his elderly cousins’ home or returned to Alabama on summer visits.

  • Whirl Is King: Poems from a Life List

    By: Brendan Galvin
    Reviewed by: Mary Kaiser

    A birdwatcher’s life list is the record, compiled over his lifetime, of all the species he has spotted, whether in his travels or while watching his backyard feeder. But the phrase suggests other meanings too—the rolls of the living, the list of what survives. In his latest collection, Whirl Is King, subtitled Poems from a Life List, Brendan Galvin compiles the poems of a passionate birdwatcher who calls himself a “failed / teetotaler of birds,” and a poet with a passion for locating and honoring what is truly alive.

  • A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright

    By: Anne Wright and Saundra Rose Maley, eds.
    Reviewed by: Dennis Sampson

    The American poet James Wright was a voluminous correspondent, and these more than five hundred pages of A Wild Perfection are merely a sampling of his letters. Wright was a poet of supreme importance to his generation, and to the generation that followed. He was also, as these letters indicate, a man of tremendous compassion and intelligence. He lived, as Rilke said of the sculptor Auguste Rodin, "at the very center of his art."

  • I Just Make People Up: Ramblings with Clark Walker

    By: Foster Dickson
    Reviewed by: Julia Oliver

    This is a gorgeous coffee table book. Elegantly square, not the most comfortable shape to hold, it might be more perused than read—which would be a shame, as Foster Dickson’s narrative biography of Clark Walker is a triumph of the as-told-to style of writing.
  • Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer

    By: Solomon S. Seay Jr. Foreword by John Hope Franklin
    Reviewed by: H.F. Lippincott

    Rather than a conventional memoir, Solomon S. Seay Jr., the distinguished Montgomery civil rights attorney (b. 1931), gives us “disjointed episodes” about his memorable trials and incidents between 1957 and 1977, key years for the civil rights struggle. The tone is lively, to appeal to a broad audience—stories that “have some meaning, yet while being entertaining.”

  • Renditions: Poems Written and Read by Sue B. Walker

    By: Sue B. Walker
    Reviewed by: Jennifer Horne

    Alabama Poet Laureate Sue B. Walker recently released a CD. No, she has not become a musical artist as well as a poet (although there is some quite nice singing on this CD); rather, Walker has recorded two of her longer poems, “Blood Must Bear Your Name” (28.51 minutes) and “We Are All Alike” (12:15 minutes).
  • Weird Science and Bizarre Beliefs

    By: Gregory L. Reece
    Reviewed by: Van Newell

    There are those of us who are sated with the basic cable specials on Big Foot, Hidden Worlds, UFOs, and the occult, but for most of us, we are really told very little that we did not already know. Weird Science and Bizarre Beliefs by Montevallo’s Gregory L. Reece capitalizes on the inherent interest that many people have regarding obscure pseudosciences and faux “alien” technology. Instead of a forty-four-minute “hour long” special of by-the-numbers cotton candy that most of us already really know about Big Foot, Reece goes a much appreciated step further.

  • A State of Laughter: Comic Fiction from Alabama

    By: Don Noble, ed.
    Reviewed by: Norman McMillan

    The twenty-one stories in the collection, all by post-World War II Alabama authors, run from the traditional to the experimental. Arranged according to birth order of the writers, the collection leads off with “The Byzantine Riddle,” the comic masterpiece of Eugene Walter, whom some have called the funniest man in Alabama. The greatest appeal of the story to me is Walter’s ability to reproduce with unfailing accuracy the speech of a group of Mobile women who well understand that language is not simply a utilitarian instrument, but, equally important, a means of entertaining one’s listeners.

  • America’s Revival Tradition and the Evangelists Who Made It

    By: David T. Morgan
    Reviewed by: Rebecca Dempsey

    The famous evangelists in America’s history differed somewhat in doctrine, and were widely disparate in education, oratorical style, and business acumen. However, they shared a desire to preach the gospel to as many people as they possibly could, and had the ambition and commitment to make this goal their life’s work. David T. Morgan traces the path of revivalism in America’s history, beginning with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield in the eighteenth century and ending with the modern-day televangelists. Charles Finney, Dwight L. Moody, Sam Jones, Billy Sunday, and Aimee Semple McPherson, along with Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, and others “contributed to shaping, to a significant extent, the mosaic that is contemporary America.”

  • Born Country: How Faith, Family, and Music Brought Me Home

    By: Randy Owen
    Reviewed by: Kevin Wilder

    If anyone’s qualified to sing in a band named after the Yellowhammer state, it’s got to be Randy Owen. In Born Country, he paints a magnificent portrait of Northeast Alabama, the area where he was born and continues to live.
  • Cities of Flesh and the Dead

    By: Diann Blakely
    Reviewed by: Jennifer Horne

    Cities of Flesh and the Dead, Blakely’s third book, is composed of five sections which hold nineteen poems, many of them long and sequenced. Some are in memoriam poems for other poets: Anthony Hecht, Lynda Hull, William Matthews, and Herbert Morris. Because of this, an elegiac tone runs through the book, but it is by no means the only note struck.

  • Images of America: Bibb County

    By Vicky Clemmons and David Daniel On Behalf of the Centreville Historic Preservation Commission

    Reviewed by Danny Gamble

    I’m a sucker for historical photographs. The faces, places, and spaces fascinate me. Images of America: Bibb County by Vicky Clemmons and David Daniel on behalf of the Centreville Historic Preservation Commission is one book I will spend hours and hours perusing. The 126-page book is filled with black and white photographs of Bibb County, Alabama, from the late nineteenth through the early twenty-first centuries. The photos were collected from area residents and focus on the people, institutions, and commercial endeavors that once made Bibb County the industrial capital of Alabama. The cover sets the tone for this collection. In it, Mariana and O.P. Dailey stare at the camera from behind the dry goods cluttered counter of their mercantile store in Centreville, circa 1939. This pre-war photo illustrates that while the Great Depression ravaged the country, the Daileys and Centreville were open for business.

  • Images of America: Tallassee

    By: William E. Goss and Karren Pell
    Reviewed by: Ruth Beaumont Cook

    If a picture is worth a thousand words, an all-verbal equivalent of Images of America: Tallassee would run to several volumes. As a slim paperback, this book employs vintage photographs to tell the story of an historic Alabama town whose origins mingle with the Native American settlements of Talisi and Tukabahchi, which also thrived beside the great falls of the Tallapoosa River. A comprehensive Introduction and detailed photo captions fill out the narrative.

  • In the Company of Owls

    By: Peter Huggins; Linda A. McQueen
    Reviewed by: Junebug Books, 2008

    In the Company of Owls by Peter Huggins will instantly grab the attention of the reader. It is a delightful, easy to read adventurous story of courage and family loyalty. It also employs humor and wisdom. While reading this novel you can visualize life on a dairy farm from sunrise to sunset. Huggins’ descriptive metaphor such as “hugging a pillow and listening to the crack and pop of the cedar as it glowed and burned in the stone fireplace” gives a feeling of peaceful coexistence with nature. All is well at the end of the day. Unfortunately for the Cash family, their peaceful life will have frightening consequences.

  • Moundville

    By: John H. Blitz
    Reviewed by: Chris Bouier

    With Moundville John Blitz presents readers a characterization of a place that by all rights and accounts is as much a national monument as the colossal undertaking of Mount Rushmore and also as invaluable an international heirloom of the human family as the pyramids on the Giza plateau. He develops this profile of the park in three distinct segments: 1) an examination of its modern history; 2) an explication of the scientific methodologies and efforts that have shed so much light on its pre-history; 3) the humanization of this pre-historic data in story form. Finally, Blitz caps this biography of the monument with a brief chapter consisting of the most relevant data of all: an outline and description of what potential visitors should seek and expect when planning their next trip to this remarkable site.

  • Rommel's Peace; Rommel and the Rebel

    By Lawrence Wells

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Although priced separately, these books are presented as a pair. The first listing above is a sequel to the second, which is a reissue of a 1986 novel published by Doubleday. Other previous editions of Rommel and the Rebel were published by Bantam in 1987 and Yoknapatawpha Press in 1992. The idea to write a novel about a fabricated journey to America by the German military leader Erwin Rommel, who had distinguished himself in World War I before achieving fame as the wily World War II Field Marshall known as the Desert Fox, came from a press account of a visit to Mississippi by a group of unnamed military men from Germany in the late 1930s. Wells has drawn a convincing parallel between the military tactics of this colorful, well-developed character and those of the Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest.

  • The Boatloads

    By: Dan Albergotti
    Reviewed by: Mark Dawson

    Some first books are revised MFA theses, and some are wonderful. The Boatloads, however, is so unified in its themes and in its sets of poems, and conveys such maturity in each poem, that I believe it is shaped more by the author’s obsessions than by chronology of the poems.

  • Winter Sky: New and Selected Poems, 1968-2008

    By: Coleman Barks
    Reviewed by: Sandra Agricola

    Winter Sky by Coleman Barks is a perfect book for muted December. And winter is the ideal time to dig into books piled beside the sofa requesting our attention. It is the season for the wholehearted yes that poetry demands—“I have often avoided / the wholehearted yes / saying there is plenty / of time. There is not.”

  • A Tiger Walk Through History

    By: Paul Hemphill; Foreword by Vince Dooley
    Reviewed by: Jim Buford

    Another book about Auburn football by an Auburn alumnus. This time it’s Paul Hemphill celebrating glorious victories, legendary coaches, and noteworthy performances of student athletes on the field of honor—especially the field known as the Iron Bowl. But what about objectivity? Hemphill admits up front that he can’t be objective. And what was First Draft thinking when it sent me the book to me to review? I’m an Auburn alumnus from the class of 1960, which means I was a student in 1957 when Auburn won its only national championship and Hemphill was sports editor of The Auburn Plainsman. All that aside, don’t we need to be encouraging people in our state to attend plays, read non-rhyming poetry, and become more involved in activities that increase their cultural awareness than in reinforcing their preoccupation with revenue producing sports? So do you really think I’m going to tell you that a coffee-table book about football advances the literary arts? Well, yes, actually.

  • A Yellow Watermelon

    By: Ted M. Dunagan
    Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

    One of its back-cover reviewers states that Ted Dunagan’s young adult novel, A Yellow Watermelon, reminds him of To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn. The novel is squarely in Twain territory, but that of Tom Sawyer rather than of Huckleberry Finn. By the same token, it only comes within shouting distance of Harper Lee territory. That is, it is an engaging and well-told adventure story....

  • Dancing With Bears

    By: William Borden
    Reviewed by: David Wyman

    William Borden’s novel, Dancing With Bears, is a very odd book about the extremely odd business of living. The publisher’s Web site informs us that Livingston Press is hot on the trail of the quirky and odd, always on the hunt for "offbeat literature." Well, Livingston bagged a stuffed and mounted trophy loony-toon with this one, and you just might like it.

  • Elom

    By: William H. Drinkard
    Reviewed by: Kirk Hardesty

    Who is the Creator? What is the Creator’s plan? In William H. Drinkard’s first novel, he explores these universal questions. Writing in the science-fiction genre, which is ideally suited for the examination of society and civilization, the author takes his readers on an epic journey where the principal characters are challenged with the possible extinction of their race. In facing this challenge, the characters get an unprecedented backstage look at the forces affecting the evolution of their people and the social structure that drives their cultural progression on Elom, a planet near the center of the
    galaxy.

  • SELMA: A Novel of the Civil War

    By Val L. McGee

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    From the opening sentences, you know you’re in the hands of a good storyteller. Dale County retired district judge Val McGee, who has served as president of both the Alabama Historical Association and the Friends of the Alabama Archives, is the author of several books of history. His ambitious, impressively researched first novel is set in and around the town of Selma just before, during, and after the Civil War.

  • Space

    By: Roger Reid
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    As the follow-up to his first young adult novel Longleaf, author Roger Reid offers Space, the story of teen sleuth Jason Caldwell and his hair-raising discovery of international espionage at a Huntsville, Alabama, observatory. Seizing an opportunity to educate, Reid shares scientific enlightenment while engaging the reader with mysteries that lurk in each chapter of the tales he tells.

  • Swine Not? A Novel Pig Tale

    By: Jimmy Buffett; Illustrated by Helen Bransford
    Reviewed by: Don Alexander

    Imagine, if you will, a mom that’s a former Opryland Hotel cook but now a pastry chef in a four star New York hotel, twelve-year-old twins—a soccer whiz son and an aspiring fashion designer daughter—a screenplay writing absentee dad who’s in Iceland, a cat that is typically draped on a twin’s shoulders, and a potbellied pig named Rumpy that can read (but can’t Google) and disguises herself in a dog costume.

    No, this is not a Rod Serling introduction to an episode of The Twilight Zone. This is Jimmy Buffett’s most recent novel, Swine Not? A Novel Pig Tale.

  • The Calpocalypse: An Allegory in Verse

    By: Maurice Gandy
    Reviewed by: Sue Brannan Walker

    “What are words worth?” the poet of The Calpocalypse asks—and the answer is “not less than everything.” Maurice Gandy’s rollicking linguistic “coming-of-age” epic/ poem/narrative/myth/journey/beach-life 1960s-early 1970s California experience is a virtuoso tour-de-force pop-culture history/performance that marks Gandy as a significant poetic voice not only in the Alabama poetry scene, but nationally and internationally. The Calpocalypse won an iUniverse Publisher’s Award and a USA Book News Recognition, and it was displayed in the 2008 London Book Fair.

  • The Yazoo Blues

    By: John Pritchard
    Reviewed by: H. F. Lippincott

    John Pritchard has followed his first novel Junior Ray (2005) with the further adventures of his eponymous hero in The Yazoo Blues. The place is the Mississippi Delta, south of Memphis, along Route 61—a place of levees, oxbows, and now casinos built over water. The charming but foul-mouthed hillbilly hero, retired as sheriff’s deputy—he insists he’s a “law-enforcement professional”—now works parking security at a casino. Gone is the unsuccessful search for a shell-shocked veteran of World War II of the first book, along with the somewhat tedious excerpts from the soldier’s diary. Now the picaresque adventures are more wide-ranging, exploring the sexual peccadilloes of modern Mississippi and Memphis residents.

  • Walk-On: My Reluctant Journey to Integration at Auburn University

    By: Thom Gossom Jr.
    Reviewed by: Chris Bouier

    If you are looking for a different type of civil rights story or if you are seeking a different type of sports tale, then Walk-On is the book for you. Unlike many memoirs connected to the era, Walk-On is not a “nuts and bolts” civil rights tale about politics, social unrest, or any of the usual suspects. Those elements are certainly there to be sure, but this is a resolutely personal story written after the height of the most extreme upheavals by someone who was not directly involved in those facets of the movement. Those elements most often lurk in the background of Gossom’s world until they inevitably rise to the fore and force him to deal with them directly.

  • You Want Fries with That? A White-Collar Burnout Experiences Life at Minimum Wage

    By: Prioleau Alexander
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    Auburn graduate Prioleau Alexander is one hilarious writer. At age forty-one, he walked away from his job as a well-paid advertising executive to explore the underbelly of the employment world by hiring on for a series of low-paying jobs to write a book about his experiences, You Want Fries with That? A White-Collar Burnout Experiences Life at Minimum Wage.

  • A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States

    By: Timothy J. Henderson
    Reviewed by: David T. Morgan

    Timothy J. Henderson contends in this book that there is glory in defeat, in spite of the fact that the Mexican-American War proved Mexico to be militarily incompetent and resulted in the loss of a vast amount of Mexican territory. After all, Henderson argues, Mexico received millions of dollars in compensation and defended its national honor against a mightier foe. Does that equal a glorious defeat? Let the reader decide after reading this delightfully written account of Mexican political history from 1821 (the year Mexico declared its independence from Spain) through the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

  • Gone to the Swamp: Raw Materials for the Good Life in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta

    By: Robert Leslie Smith
    Reviewed by: H. F. Lippincott

    If you asked Leslie Smith’s grandmother where her husband was, she’d answer, “Gone to the Swamp”—the area in north Baldwin County, Alabama, where the family conducted lumbering operations for 150 years, starting before the Civil War. As a boy of ten, Smith (b. 1918) began to accompany the logging crews, helping with chores and gaining self-reliance and a sense of responsibility. Now in retirement from the Navy and as a county school superintendent, he recaptures in great detail the period before World War II when lumbering had not yet been motorized.

  • In Search of Mockingbird

    By: Loretta Ellsworth
    Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

    Erin Garven is a teenager who desperately wants to connect to her mother who died when she was three days old. The only connection Erin has to her mother is a worn paperback book of To Kill a Mockingbird. The day before her sixteenth birthday, Erin’s father gives her the diary her mother had kept at sixteen. Upon reading a few pages, Erin realizes that she and her mother have a lot in common. Both wanted to become writers. She also discovers that her mother once wrote to Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird.

  • Only Son

    By: Lafie Crum
    Reviewed by: John Wendel

    Bill is a young daddy from the hills of East Kentucky who has just been laid off from a construction job. He and his wife Martha are whisked away to a party, out next to an old abandoned mine, by smarmy cousin Andy who has shown up from Ohio flush with cash, booze, and pills. The buzz they catch offers a bit of relief on a bad news day. Things get fuzzy in the course of just a couple of paragraphs, setting the tone for a world of hurt poignantly explored in Only Son, Lafie Crum’s debut novel.

  • Pitching In the Dark

    By: J. Patrick Travis
    Reviewed by: Chris Bouier

    In Pitching In the Dark, J. Patrick Travis has crafted an insightful glimpse of the effects of mental illness on a typical American family and the consequences of both the denial of these effects and the journey that accompanies the affected individuals’ decisions to face the reality of their situation. It is a tale of compassion and a tale of apathy illustrating how each of these emotions is itself as much of a burden on the sane as the disease is a burden upon its victim.

  • The Dream of the Red Road

    By: Scott Ely
    Reviewed by: Katherine Henderson

    When Pender Hartwell returns to Egypt Ridge, Mississippi, after a tour of Vietnam, he receives no warm hero’s welcome. Instead, he is greeted with thinly veiled hostility which quickly turns into death threats. Scott Ely’s The Dream of the Red Road finds Pender largely unconcerned about these displays of the town’s animosity, however, preferring to spend his time remembering a girl, or as he phrases it, “studying love in my dreams.”

  • The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama During World War I

    By Martin Olliff, ed.

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Although World Wars I and II and the Civil War have been eulogized, excoriated, and expounded upon in numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, the attraction of serious readers to these immense, history-making-and-altering subjects does not abate. Subtitled Alabama During World War I, this book contains well-written essays by authors with scholarly credentials. Editor Martin T. Olliff, director of the Archives of Wiregrass History and Culture and a faculty member at Troy University-Dothan Campus, acknowledges that “these chapters examine how Alabamians responded to the pressures and changes brought on by the Great War, but with a single caveat: singly and collectively, they are not the final word on any of the points raised.”

  • The Hollywood Culture War: What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You!

    By: Michael Vincent Boyer
    Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn

    University of Alabama at Birmingham graduate Michael Vincent Boyer is a former location scout for the movie industry for many high-profile films, including Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump, Glory, and Fried Green Tomatoes. From his twenty-year vantage point, he was able to observe the influence of leaders in the movie industry, and he was able to observe the powerful and money-rich culture created by Hollywood’s relationship with leaders in the government, namely those in Washington, D.C.

  • The Wrong Side of Murder Creek

    By: Bob Zellner
    Reviewed by: Chris Bouier

    The Wrong Side of Murder Creek is an important book for many reasons. First, it offers the minority perspective of a Caucasian who was intimately involved in the Civil Rights Era of the mid-twentieth century on the frontline: the Deep South. The significance of this perspective cannot be overstated. Although the vanguard of the movement was African-American, its universal relevance is starkly illustrated by those who could have found their niche in the dominant social hierarchy yet chose to cast their lot with said vanguard for the sake of all who found themselves disenfranchised by the extant power structure.

  • This Will Go Down On Your Permanent Record

    By: Susannah Felts
    Reviewed by: Beth Wilder

    Vaughn Vance is not like any American teenager I have ever met, but she is just like every American teenager I know. The protagonist of Susannah Felt’s debut novel This Will Go Down On Your Permanent Record, Vaughn is a sixteen-year-old artist coming of age in a school and a community where she is struggling to fit in, struggling to find her identity somewhere between the giggling, silly girls who used to be her friends and the burnouts and freaks she finds herself hanging out with at a local park known as The Dragon.

  • Wishbones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery

    By: Carolyn Haines
    Reviewed by: Jody Kamins Harper

    Any southern girl worth her salt knows a double first name is iconic in this region, so why not dual vocations as well? Sarah Booth Delaney, as narrator and protagonist, lives out concurrent roles as private investigator and actress in Wishbones, the latest in the series of light-hearted mysteries by Carolyn Haines. Leaving her happily haunted house in Zinnia, Mississippi, and unsure if she can withstand homesickness and lovesickness, the protagonist plunges into the sexy leading role in a remake of Body Heat.

  • A Dangerous Age

    By: Ellen Gilchrist
    Reviewed by: Anita Garner

    A Dangerous Age is Ellen Gilchrist’s twenty-second book of prose, so we who have followed her career for the last thirty years recognize her distinctive voice and finely crafted sentences. The time of the novel spans from the bombing of the World Trade Center to the eve of Hurricane Katrina, indeed a dangerous age. Yet this book is a brave step: a novel that explores a political hot-button issue, released in the heat of an election year.

  • Alabama Masters: Artists and Their Work

    By: Georgine Clarke, ed.
    Reviewed by: Jerry Griffies

    An awareness of history begins close to home. Alabama Masters: Artists and Their Work, published by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, provides us with a glimpse of the history of our artistic community, without which we would have difficulty learning something of ourselves, our cities, our past, and our future. The men and women gathered in this collection earned local, national, or international fame during the twentieth century. All were born in, or achieved fame in, Alabama. The past is a part of their present and of their future.

  • Bearing the Print

    By: Sue Scalf
    Reviewed by: Allen Berry

    A good friend and teacher of mine once told me, “Poets have the gift of an extended goodbye.” Sue Scalf’s new collection of poems, Bearing the Print, dedicated to her late husband Sam and daughter Leslie, reads at times like an extended farewell. Using nature as a slate, Scalf explores the themes of love, death, and the hope for renewal. These themes are addressed with beauty and grace, without the slightest overstatement.

  • Béjart and Modernism: Case Studies in the Archetype of Dance

    By: Pamela Gay-White
    Reviewed by: H.F. Lippincott

    As a young woman, before college, Pamela Gay-White studied ballet in France, where she incidentally met Béjart. Later, while at Berkeley, he invited her to Europe for a residency to research her thesis, the original basis for this book. Then and subsequently she has seen all of Béjart’s major, full-length works, and her vivid, first-hand descriptions and analyses are the most valuable part of her study.

  • Bohemian New Orleans: The Story of the Outsider and Loujon Press

    By: Jeff Weddle
    Reviewed by: David Wyman

    The book’s title says it all, daddy-o. Bohemian New Orleans: The Story of the Outsider and Loujon Press is a muted trumpet-moan, a woeful but quietly triumphant wail about a now-forgotten literary mag (the Outsider) and its struggling mimeograph-era publisher, Loujon Press. Get your kicks with Jon and Louise ("Gypsy Lou") Webb—bohemians themselves, outsiders both—as they dream, shock, and heroically toil for Art through "Beat-generation" New Orleans in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

  • Coming of Age at the Y

    By: William Cobb; With a Preface and Afterword by Don Noble
    Reviewed by: Kirk Curnutt

    First published in 1984, William Cobb’s Coming of Age at the Y is a reminder of a type of bawdy, rollicking novel that only Christopher Buckley seems to write anymore. From the late 1960s through the mid-80s, writers who came of age in the Eisenhower era tended to parody America’s kitschy commercialism and newfound sexual freedoms, almost always satirically but not always with the metaphysical preoccupations of Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon, or Philip Roth. Instead, several comic authors aimed only to capture the lunacy of contemporary life in all its gaudy, gauche silliness. To read Livingston Press’s reprint of Cobb’s Southern delight is thus a bittersweet experience....

  • Gathering Moss

    By: Jim Herod
    Reviewed by: Katherine Henderson

    Thanks to his grandfather’s secret DNA experiments, Wesley Stone has fathered a new and improved version of the human race—a strain of humanity mysterious government forces are determined to destroy. Driven into hiding, members of this new race, most of whom have never met Wesley, desire to learn about their founding father, “the new Adam,” and bond together to ensure the survival of the species. In Jim Herod’s Gathering Moss, Thomas Stone, Wesley’s son, though not by blood, has collected scattered pieces of Wesley’s life story in order to help his family understand their father and the responsibility they share as his descendents.

  • Half Life of Love

    By: Barbara Wiedemann
    Reviewed by: Irene Latham

    This forty-page staple-bound chapbook features twenty-six poems that take the reader on a journey to places like "Kelly, New Mexico" and "The Oregon Coast Near Langlois." With nearly a third of the poems titled after specific locations, it reads on one level like a travel journal, documenting the sights and sounds on the trail.

  • Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays, 1996-2008

    By: Hank Lazer
    Reviewed by: Alan May

    In little more than a decade, Hank Lazer has published three very important books of poetry: Days, The New Spirit, and Elegies & Vacations. During this time, Lazer has also made various presentations, written, and had conversations about poetry. We can see this fruit come to bear in the probing, provocative, and essential essays in his book Lyric & Spirit.

  • Patterson for Alabama: The Life and Career of John Patterson

    By: Gene L. Howard
    Reviewed by: Ruth Beaumont Cook

    After working with his material for two decades, Gene L. Howard has written an extremely readable biography of John Patterson, governor of Alabama from 1959 to 1963. The beginning chapters bring to life Patterson’s father’s crusade to clean up rampant corruption in Phenix City in the early 1950s. It was the mob-related murder of Albert Patterson on June 18, 1953, that led his son John reluctantly into a political career he would never otherwise have pursued.

  • The Mariner’s Wife

    By: Emma Bolden
    Reviewed by: Mary Kaiser

    Emma Bolden, a distinguished alumna of the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and an assistant professor at Georgetown College, writes lush, sensuous poetry that explores the territory where intimacy partakes of myth, where the contemporary confessional mode merges with tale and elegy, ode and ballad. In the seventeen poems that make up The Mariner’s Wife, Bolden’s voice, following in the tradition of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, heightens the personal through language that has the precision, candor, and dignity of Sappho’s classical idiom.

  • A Murmuration of Starlings

    By: Jake Adam York
    Reviewed by: Bruce Alford

    How does a white man from Gadsden, Alabama, deal with a topic that was once thought perhaps better and more appropriately handled by African Americans? York succeeds because he speaks with his own voice. He does not appropriate the language of another culture and remains devoted to telling the truth his way, while not disowning the cultural and linguistic identity of another.

  • Clean, Well-Lighted Sentences: A Guide to Avoiding the Most Common Errors in Grammar and Punctuation

    By: Janis Bell
    Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson

    Few people nestle themselves into a comfy couch to read a grammar book. And when one tells another that this is the plan for her evening, she may get a sympathetic frown in return.... Sometimes, a secret for self-improvement is kept in a book, though. Clean, Well-Lighted Sentences by Janis Bell holds such a secret. Delivering clear, insightful explanation of commonly flubbed grammar rules, Bell provides clever rationale and easy-to-follow guidelines for proper grammar each and every time one speaks or writes.

  • Liquor in the Land of the Lost Cause: Southern White Evangelicals and the Prohibition Movement

    By: Joe L. Coker
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    Samford University religion professor Joe L. Coker has written a fascinating, thorough history of the strange, evolving relationship between liquor and the South, especially southern evangelicals’ dalliances with the demon rum. It’s nothing short of astonishing that Bible-thumping Christians, including Primitive Baptists, were divided on temperance. Some Baptists said grace before pouring rounds of whiskey. Coker writes hilarious anecdotes of evangelicals defending drinking, including a Georgia Baptist preacher who carried a hollow cane full of whiskey which he sipped from during his sermons to prove that he could imbibe while delivering the word of God and not get drunk.

  • Making Crosses

    By: Ellen Morris Prewitt
    Reviewed by: Delores Jordan

    Ellen Morris Prewitt posits an intriguing concept: kinetic prayers. By using one’s creativity of discarded and rejected objects, one can make crosses and commune with God. "Cross making is an ongoing intentional process of making prayerful decisions," she writes. Her book is a testament to her philosophy. It is both a guide and a workbook.

  • No One You Know

    By: Michelle Richmond
    Reviewed by: Anita Garner

    Mobile native Michelle Richmond has already shown in her first three books that she can artfully cast a spell on readers, drawing them into her stories with subtleties of voice, style, nuance, and plot. From her prize-winning collection of short fiction through her first two novels, she has gained growth and maturity as a writer. Now with the latest novel No One You Know coming right on the heels of last year’s successful The Year of Fog, one might wonder if she has been able to sustain the pace. What Richmond has written is a perfectly paced novel that will appeal to many levels of readers.

  • The Work Ethic of the Common Fly: still shots from the journey

    By: Louie Skipper
    Reviewed by: Sydney F. Cummings

    Louie Skipper’s third major book of poetry, a “verse autobiography,” titled The Work Ethic of the Common Fly: Still Shots from the Journey, is a compilation of fifty-five poems, divided into four sections: Prologue, One, Two, and Three. All of the poems, except the Prologue and the last poem in Three, which are couplets, are three-stanza poems of varying length in free verse. Its theme is not only time but the influence of time past on the present and both of these on the future.

  • Apologies Forthcoming

    By: Xunjun Eberlein
    Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson

    The claim is made often that people are the same wherever you go. This statement seems trite in the shadow cast by Xujun Eberlein’s first short fiction collection, Apologies Forthcoming. Set in China during and after the Cultural Revolution, this book proves that our human similarities are strengthened or negated by personal experiences.

  • Bill’s Formal Complaint

    By: Dan Kaplan
    Reviewed by: Michael Marberry

    “Let me guess: you knew a guy named Bill” is the sentiment that begins Dan Kaplan’s investigative poetry collection, Bill’s Formal Complaint—a group of thirty-two poems, ranging from sonnets to prose poems, that seek to answer one question: who exactly is Bill? Or better yet, what is Bill?

  • Church Booty

    By: Carol Manley
    Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson

    In her collection of short stories aptly titled Church Booty, Carol Manley leads her readers on an excursion through the most exotic American landscape. The route she chooses meanders through the Bible Belt, a praying place that punctuates error with lashing tongues and caustic looks. And the natives she introduces may be as white as a Sunday dinner apron or as black as the dirt of our own Black Belt soil.

  • Hang in There, Mom!

    By: Phyllis Barrett
    Reviewed by: Rebecca Dempsey

    Hang in There, Mom! is a collection of lighthearted and humorous vignettes based on a column Phyllis Barrett wrote for the Birmingham News between 1979 and 1987. She writes of the problems and rewards of marriage, rearing children, and aging, and the adjustments in life that each of these demand.

  • Hard Scrabble

    By: Mark “Tiger” Edmonds
    Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn

    The genre of creative nonfiction, which autobiography is, usually employs the same elements of fiction, such as setting, characterization, plot, theme, and time, in order to give the reader a balanced view of what is important in the daily lives of the story’s characters. These elements also move the reader along the path of a major change of characterization, usually with plot leading the way. The “almost-all” true story, a reference to what Edmonds says about his book on the back page...chronicles in an almost diary writing style a description of frequent visits he made to the home of his best friend, Nancy Pacey, as she struggles with a death sentence brought on by cancer. The point of the story seems to be that a mature man and woman can have a meaningful, nonsexual relationship.

  • Pelican Road

    By Howard Bahr

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Master novelist Howard Bahr...has moved on in time from his triumvirate of Civil War fiction (The Black Flower, The Year of Jubilo, and The Judas Field) to almost the midpoint of the twentieth century. The elegiac tone of those novels has carried over into this brilliant, often visceral narrative about men who worked on or around trains in the great era of American railroads.

  • The Long Night

    By Andrew Lytle

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Originally published in 1936, this is the classic first novel of one of the twelve Fugitive Poets who were founders of the Southern Agrarian literary movement at Vanderbilt University. The group also included Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, and Frank Owsley, who later became chairman of the University of Alabama History Department. Lytle begins his narrative with a letter of acknowledgment to Owsley, who had told him the true story on which the book is based. The reprint edition’s Introduction by the professor’s son, Frank L. Owsley Jr., also adds interesting credibility to the aspect that this impassioned, colorful tale is not entirely fictional.

  • A Place Called Wiregrass

    By: Michael Morris
    Reviewed by: Elizabeth Via Brown

    “Like a mosquito gone mad,” the steel needle of the sewing machine in the Haggar factory pounds into Erma Lee Jacobs’ index finger. Oozing out with the blood is thirty years of fearing her husband’s angry fist. She has already lost her daughter, Suzette, to drugs, prison, and a low-life husband, and when there’s no sympathy from even her mother, long a battered wife herself, Erma Lee knows it’s up to her to save her thirteen-year-old granddaughter from repeating history.

  • Leslie

    By: Richard Matturro
    Reviewed by: R. Garth

    Richard Matturro has produced an interesting novel in his latest, Leslie. Interesting in that it combines Greek and Roman allusions surrounding the life of a forty-three-year-old librarian heading out for her own “Odyssey” from “Troy” with her dog “Argos.” Homer might not be amused, but his beautiful marriage quote (Odyssey VI, 180-185) is cryptically (written in Greek) paid respect to in the novel’s opening. Leslie is Matturro’s third novel and the second of a trilogy; it stands, however, well on its own.

  • Micrograms, Bilingual Edition: Spanish-English

    By: Jorge Carrera Andrade; Edited by Ivan Carvajal and J. Enrique Ojeda; Translated by J. Enrique Ojeda (essay) and Steven Ford Brown (poems)
    Reviewed by: Juan Carlos Grijalva

    Ecuadorian poet Jorge Carrera Andrade is more alive than ever. After reading a good number of outstanding Latin American poets, I usually ask my students: “Who was the most interesting, provoking, and engaging poet?” The simplicity, beautiful imagery, and existential complexities of Carrera Andrade are always among my students’ top poetic preferences. For their and my own enjoyment, and for that of others who do find in Latin American poetry a good companion, this new Spanish-English edition of Micrograms (Tokyo, Japan, 1940), edited by Iván Carvajal and J. Enrique Ojeda and translated by Ojeda and Birmingham native Steven Ford Brown, is an occasion for celebration.

  • Red Helmet

    By: Homer Hickam
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    While Hickam’s last work was an historical adventure novel set in World War II in the Pacific, in Red Helmet Hickam depends more on humor as he paints an Appalachian setting that is simple yet rife with backstabbing, crime, murder, and outside corporate meddling.

  • Reuben

    By: Sue Brannan Walker; Illustrated by Kate Seawell
    Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

    Sue Brannan Walker, a state literary treasure, is associated as closely with Mobile as with Alabama. She has further cemented that legacy with a charming new book for children (and their affiliated adults), Reuben’s Mobile. The book’s conceit is simple but engaging: through a series of page-long poems and accompanying illustrations, the title dog, a (real-life) Harlequin Great Dane, visits a number of key Mobile landmarks. In the process, readers receive thumb-nail introductions to distinguishing features of the city’s history, natural landscape, and cultural traditions.

  • Scherib

    By: Bill Goodson
    Reviewed by: Dee Jordan

    Bill Goodson takes a tired plot and adds a fresh twist to it in his book Scherib. The novel, though set mainly in the state of Tennessee, takes the reader around the world, even to the Vatican.

  • Stoney Creek, Alabama

    By: Jennifer Youngblood and Sandra Poole
    Reviewed by: Jody Kamins Harper

    Investigating the violent death of her father, a determined young woman risks her life for answers, finding faith and romance amidst the dangerous truth in a small North Alabama town. A sawmill rife with fatal accidents is the site of trouble in the fictional town of Stoney Creek, a place full of misgivings for protagonist and reader alike, but for different reasons.

  • Tales from Blue Springs: The Hatchet Woman

    By: R. Garth
    Reviewed by: Veronica Kennedy

    R. Garth’s novella is part stream-of-conscious, part horror tale—and somewhat confusing....  Garth apparently uses his real-life return home to Athens, Alabama, as the frame for the story of Sarah, a four-year-old kidnapped by a sexual predator and eventually "purchased" by a bitter couple for $60.

  • the girl who stopped swimming

    By: Joshilyn Jackson
    Reviewed by: Elizabeth Via Brown

    Just who is the girl who stops swimming? The first few pages of Joshilyn Jackson’s new novel reveal that Molly, a neighbor’s child, is the girl found floating face down in the Hawthornes’ backyard pool, but as the story unfolds, it seems that everyone is drowning in their own sea of secrets.

  • The Wait

    By: Frank Turner Hollon
    Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson

    Frank Turner Hollon’s latest novel, The Wait, is a heartbreaking journey through the life of a single man that explores the shortcomings of humanity as it exposes the inner workings of James Early Winwood’s mind. This cerebral setting is uncomfortable even for Early, yet from the very beginning the entire tale is grounded there. Angsty, angry, confused, and fractured, Early’s mind ticks first like a clock in relatively orderly succession as he processes the questions whose answers define the individual and then like a time bomb as he progresses toward his own destruction, choosing paths, solutions, and alternatives that lead him further into the darkest recesses of human thought.

  • The Well and the Mine

    By: Gin Phillips
    Reviewed by: Beth H. Wilder

    The opening paragraph of Gin Phillip’s debut novel, The Well and the Mine, is only two sentences long, but those two sentences hook readers immediately and pull them into an unforgettable tale of small-town southern lif

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, Birmingham, 2nd Edition

    By: Russell Helms
    Reviewed by: Britt Blake

    60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, Birmingham provides sixty hike descriptions close enough to Birmingham that the drive and hike can be completed in one day. Each hike includes driving directions, an elevation profile, basic trail map, and hike description. Helms offers thorough descriptions that make each hike easy to locate, and the reader is informed on what to expect along the walk.

  • Nobody But the People

    By: Warren Trest
    Reviewed by: David T. Morgan

    This biography of John Patterson by Warren Trest offers inside stories of dramatic and monumental events in the history of Alabama. The author tells Patterson’s story in a highly readable, narrative style. Scholars looking for exhaustive documentation and thoroughgoing analysis will not find it here. However, the intelligent general reader will discover a well told story about an interesting man.

  • Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana

    By: Rheta Grimsley Johnson
    Reviewed by: Joey Kennedy

    If you dare write about this area, you’d better get it right. In her memoir, Poor Man’s Provence, veteran journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson gets it right. She finds the heart that draws her back to this quirky paradise with its every beat. Not far from Lafayette, Johnson is introduced to the kind of people who are salt of the earth despite their idiosyncratic personalities.

  • Roger Brown: Southern Exposure

    By: Sidney Lawrence
    Reviewed by: Beth H. Wilder

    “I really think that my going in the direction I went comes from being southern.” So opens a new book on the life and work of nationally celebrated artist Roger Brown by the noted art critic Sidney Lawrence. Brown, an Alabama native, was one of the key innovators of the Chicago Imagist movement during the 1960s and 1970s, creating paintings and three-dimensional pieces that moved past the New York Pop Art style and fused influences from folk art, surrealism, comic strips, and advertisements.

  • Stories From Real Life

    By: Tony Crunk; art by Peter Wilm
    Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

    Interesting, thought provoking, and eye-opening—all of these adjectives add up to Stories from Real Life, a collection of short fiction by poet and children’s writer Tony Crunk with artwork by Peter Wilm.

  • Tartts Three: Incisive Fiction from Emerging Writers

    By: Joe Taylor, Debbie Davis, Tina Jones, Tricia Taylor, eds.
    Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

    Tartt’s Three is an anthology culled from the manuscripts submitted to the third annual First Fiction Contest, which awarded publication to two short story collections by writers who had not previously published such a work. Given the competition’s lack of editorial agenda, these twenty-three stories amply suggest the broad range of subjects, styles, and voices that contemporary American fiction so vitally encompasses.

  • Terminal Switching

    By: Bruce Alford
    Reviewed by: Jennifer Horne

    Bruce Alford’s first book, composed of sixty-six poems, many of them set in the South in small towns, truck stops, and roadside attractions along blue highways, offers an almost carnival-like abundance of sights, smells, and sounds, an imagistic and linguistic richness sometimes strange, sometimes surprising.

  • Unmentionables

    By: Beth Ann Fennelly
    Reviewed by: Lauren Goodwin Slaughter

    The poems in Beth Anne Fennelly’s third collection “can not / not no longer” (“Colorplate 23” in “Berthe Morisot: Retrospective”). They are compelled—reluctantly or recklessly, sometimes hilariously—to (“not / not”) try to speak out. But throughout its seven parts, including three section-long poems, Unmentionables emphasizes the difficulty of such articulation....

  • William Christenberry’s Black Belt

    By: William Christenberry
    Reviewed by: Jerry Griffies

    William Christenberry wants to go home. In his D.C. suburban home, surrounded by artifacts of bygone times, his mind and hands busy themselves, bathed in the warm glow of childhood memory and beyond. Christenberry, best known for his color photography of rural Hale County, one of the poorest counties in the state, shows us this memory through his stark, childlike imaginings of this place holding magical sway and leaving room for the viewer’s own wanderings.

  • Bucolics: Poems

    By: Maurice Manning
    Reviewed by: Jeanie Thompson

    Like all great poetry written from the heart, Maurice Manning’s Bucolics holds up a mirror for us, reflecting our fear and awe in the corporeal world. A balm as well, its music and humor can soothe our ragged souls.
  • Catholic Boys

    By: Philip Cioffari
    Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson

    Through Catholic Boys, Philip Cioffari offers a lens to peek into a dismal space—the place where innocence is lost and humanity is challenged—to share the pain and heartache that surrounds the death of a child and to inspire his reader "to seek the light amid the darkness."
  • Cumberland

    By: Tony Crunk
    Reviewed by: Lewis Colon Jr.

    Tony Crunk writes the kind of poems that compel folks who claim to “hate” poetry to admit that well, actually, they like his poems. Crunk’s is a poetry of unlabored images and unadorned language. His new book, Cumberland, is complicated in the best way for contemporary poetry to be complicated.

  • DeSade II: A Brown Recluse Romance

    By: Rex Burwell
    Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson

    On the surface, Desade II: A Brown Recluse Romance may seem a traditional romantic mystery as its title misleads the reader. Within the thin cover of this book lie mysteries as esoteric as the origin of humanity and as practical as the human need for companionship and continuance. 

  • Hadleyville Nights: A Novel

    By: M. Wilhoit
    Reviewed by: Catherine Alexander

    “Who am I?” The quest for self-knowledge has provided authors and readers the opportunity to ponder this question through literature.  This deceptively simple question propels M. Wilhoit’s novel Hadleyville Nights, which is comprised of a collection of Internet postings written by the protagonist, Heathcliff Vanlandingham, to understand how his life has become what it is and to explore the meaning of life through the Internet, specifically in chat rooms and blogs.  

  • Montgomery and the River Region: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

    By: Mary Ann Neeley; Featuring the photography of Robert Fouts; Corporate profiles by Charles Barnette
    Reviewed by: Julia Oliver

    No one writes more animatedly and authoritatively about the history of Montgomery, Alabama, than Mary Ann Neeley. The author of four previous books on the subject, plus guidebooks, supplementary school texts, and scholarly essays in regional journals, Neeley was for many years the original Executive Director of Landmarks Foundation....

  • Outlaw Style

    By: R. T. Smith
    Reviewed by: Mark Dawson

    Some poets are prolific and productive, while some are merely prolific. R. T. Smith is decidedly the former. Outlaw Style is his fourth full-length book of poems in six years (and from four different, very respected presses). It is, perhaps, his most ambitious and impressive book since Trespasser (1996).

  • Stand Up for Alabama: Governor George Wallace

    By: Jeff Frederick
    Reviewed by: Ruth Beaumont Cook

    In the preface to Stand Up for Alabama, Jeff Frederick declares George Wallace “the most important Alabama politician in the twentieth century….” Early in the first chapter, Frederick also reminds the reader that Wallace “had the power, charisma, and political savvy to prevent his home state from becoming the Alabama that the nation and world would come to scorn.”  

  • The Buccaneer's Realm

    By: Benerson Little
    Reviewed by: David Wyman

    It is rare for a critic to run across a regionally-written popular history so overall perfect in its scholarship and lively prose as The Buccaneer’s Realm by Huntsville’s Benerson Little, a follow-up of sorts to his 2006 book The Sea Rover’s Practice. If you want the scoop on the real Pirates of the Caribbean, this is the book for you.
  • What Came Before

    By: Irene Latham
    Reviewed by: Bonnie Roberts

    The cover art aptly describes this first poetry collection by Irene Latham as an organic, growing, nature-of-life-itself work—the roots, the thorns, the blossoms, the birds.

  • A Centennial Celebration of the Bright Star Restaurant

    By: The Bright Star Family with Niki Sepsas
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    The Bright Star Restaurant in Bessemer commemorated its one-hundredth anniversary in 2007. In honor of the occasion, long-time Birmingham writer Niki Sepsas has penned A Centennial Celebration of The Bright Star Restaurant with help from the family of the restaurant’s third generation owners, Jimmy and Nicky Koikos, as well as longtime employees and loyal customers. The Bright Star’s perfect combination of unpretentious, friendly service in
    a fine-dining atmosphere makes for a memorable night on the town, regardless if one is dining with parents or drinking with friends. And you must sample a couple of entrees: the Greek-Style Snapper (with a delicious Greek tartar sauce made daily from an "old-country" Mediterranean recipe) and the shamefully rich Lobster and Crabmeat Au Gratin.

  • American Wars, American Peace

    By: Philip D. Beidler
    Reviewed by: David T. Morgan

    In this book Philip Beidler emphasizes that one cannot discuss war without also discussing politics, since it is politicians who lead the American citizenry into conflict. He raises a question about “misperceptions and outright falsehoods brought forth to justify large-scale military commitment ….” He cites Congress’ dutiful response to President Lyndon Johnson’s “carefully orchestrated pretext of alleged attacks…in the Gulf of Tonkin” and President George W. Bush’s shaky claims to Iraq’s having weapons of mass destruction as examples of making war under false pretenses.

  • Crock Pot Living in a Pressure Cooker World

    By: Teddy Butler Copeland
    Reviewed by: Nancy Hutcheson

    Instant everything society—busy schedules, borderline craziness, hectic pace, chaotic lifestyles—that’s life today. Our pace of life is frenetic, bordering on insanity, racing at break-neck speed—and for what? Teddy Butler Copeland, author of Playing the Hand You Are Dealt and Holes in the Darkness, examines this new generational phenomenon of stress and frenzy in everyday life and causes us to reflect on our own harried lives in her most recent book, Crock Pot Living in a Pressure Cooker World.

  • Different Roads

    By: Joyce Sterling Scarbrough
    Reviewed by: Delores Jordan

    Joyce Sterling Scarbrough creates an atypical Southern character in her book Different Roads. The novel, set in Tampa, exposes the power of money in making or breaking a person’s life. Scarbrough takes us on a disturbing journey as the conflict of the book pits the rich against the poor.

  • Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination

    By: Harriet Pollack
    Reviewed by: Nabella Shunnarah

    In this book of literary criticism, the editors present a rich compilation of writers who attempt to give insight into the minds and hearts of the people surrounding the murder of and trial for Emmett Till. Citing literary figures such as William Bradford Huie, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Lewis Nordan, this book is an important work to any student of the civil rights movement in the South. This book is a study of the “interracial consciousness” of the times.

  • Lee and Fields of Asphodel

    By: Tito Perdue
    Reviewed by: B.J. Hollars

    We are first introduced to Leland Pefley—the crotchety, perpetually dissatisfied protagonist of Tito Perdue’s debut novel Lee in 1991—in his final days on earth.  In many instances, the novel, recently reissued in paperback, reads like a “shame on you” to society—blasting money and materialism as cardinal sins—while Lee himself prefers the simplicities of reading. Yet in many ways, Lee feels like a mere stepping stone to help us arrive at Perdue’s powerful sequel, Fields of Asphodel.

  • Letter from Point Clear

    By: Dennis McFarland
    Reviewed by: Julia Oliver

    The bestselling author of School for the Blind and The Music Room returns to his Alabama roots for the setting of his seventh novel.  The writing in this domestic drama is sophisticated, textured, and introspective. With the exception of one amazing, hair-raising epiphany, the storyline is pretty much sedentary.

  • Mose T A to Z: The Folk Art of Mose Tolliver

    By: Anton Haardt
    Reviewed by: Georgine Clarke

    Mose T was an internationally recognized self-taught or folk artist. At his passing he was the last living artist from the landmark 1982 exhibition Black Folk Art in America 1930-1980, organized at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The field interested in self-taught artists is consistently asking for scholarly works of definitive analysis, works which extend beyond biography, interesting as it may be. This book is not that endeavor. It is rather a love letter written by a friend.

  • Oh Don’t You Cry for Me

    By: Philip Shirley
    Reviewed by: Kirk Curnutt

    Oh Don’t You Cry for Me is Philip Shirley’s first book of fiction, and some readers will inevitably look for hints of his prestigious career in this nine-story collection. Those hints won’t be found in the content, which tends toward the dark, sad, and twisted. Rather, the influence is in the craft. These are precise, sharply structured tales with plenty of what admen say it takes to break through the clutter and arrest a reader’s attention. Put simply, Mr. Shirley’s got hook.

  • Our Former Lives in Art

    By: Jennifer S. Davis
    Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson

    Jennifer S. Davis, whose first collection of short stories, Her Kind of Want, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award, melds a deep understanding of southern culture, an affinity for the human spirit, and a poignant if cynical insight into the universal truths of the human condition in her newest collection, Our Former Lives in Art.

  • The Prince of Frogtown

    By: Rick Bragg
    Reviewed by: Perle Champion

    With this title, The Prince of Frogtown, one expects a story akin to the tall tales of Uncle Remus, and Rick Bragg does not disappoint. He is a consummate storyteller in the southern tradition of “pull up a chair, and let me tell you about the time….” Here he closes the circle of family stories in which his “father occupied only a few pages, but lived between every line.”

  • About Euthanasia and the Religious Right (The Righteous and the Mighty)

    By: David T. Morgan
    Reviewed by: David Wyman

    When is a long-form work of prose fiction not a novel? When it’s a Socratic dialogue, and its title is About Euthanasia and the Religious Right. I can’t remember the last time I encountered a fictional book so un-“novelish,” and yet so useful and necessary.

  • Breathing Out the Ghost

    By: Kirk Curnutt
    Reviewed by: Julia Oliver

    This latest book by Alabama writer and college professor Kirk Curnutt is a brilliant example of how a novel can be an artistic medium which connects the reader to the creative process that went into it. The mystically evocative title comes from the epic poem The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser. Although most chapters (all of which have titles) are in third person limited perspective, some are in first person. At times, the narrative takes on a baroquely omniscient quality which seems fitting, as a universal lamentation runs through this prose like a river of grief...

  • City in Amber

    By: Jay Atkinson
    Reviewed by: Karen Pirnie

    New England writer Jay Atkinson may seem a strange choice for Livingston Press, but his City in Amber could easily be set in Alabama. Social change and cultural conflicts plague a town with a long history and a defunct textile mill. The accent is different, but the issues confronting Lawrence, Massachusetts, affect towns across Alabama.

  • Feral

    By: Janet McAdams
    Reviewed by: Lewis Colon Jr.

    Several poems in Janet McAdams’ Feral “retell or refer to stories about feral children” as the author clarifies in the “Notes to Poems” addendum. Upon finishing the book, McAdams’ second, the reader may recall as the most interesting poems those that are referred to rather than retold.

  • Focus on Fitness: 5 Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle

    By: Jerry B. Williams, MD
    Reviewed by: Bruce Alford

    You want to lose weight. Eat God-given foods. This is the cornerstone prescription in Focus on Fitness: 5 Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle. “Eating a plan based upon God-given foods is not a diet. It is a way of living,” states author Dr. Jerry Williams, MD.

  • Grave Dancin’

    By: Bob Whetstone
    Reviewed by: Wayne Greenhaw

    Bob Whetstone’s first novel is a page-turner. From the first sentence, “My life took a turn toward Hell that spring day Dock Turley returned my runaway sister to the house on a mule’s back,” to the final quote years later, Grave Dancin’ captures the reader and carries him through Hell and upward.

  • Hazard and Prospect: New and Selected Poems

    By: Kelly Cherry
    Reviewed by: Lauren Slaughter

    In a 2002 interview with Southern Scribe, Kelly Cherry commented that as a young child “even before I had words to say it with, I had something to say…. This need to say what was mine to say preceded anything else in my life.” This urgency “to say” has produced a seventh collection of poetry that demonstrates a range of emotional, technical, and lyrical concerns.

  • Kelbrn

    By: Carter Martin
    Reviewed by: Penne J. Laubenthal

    Carter Martin’s debut novel Kelbrn is the story of a modern day Odysseus, Miles Kelley, whose wanderings take him not only through the first fifty years of twentieth century America but also across the country itself from Wisconsin to New York to North Carolina and finally to California. Miles’ journey parallels the movement of modern America from rural to industrial from dairy farms to textile mills from East to West from idealism to disillusionment.

  • The House in the Heart

    By: Willie James King
    Reviewed by: Sue B. Walker

    Willie James King is a masterful poet-physician, environmentalist, and surgeon-priest. He attends to the ills that befall the bonehouse of the body in which we live and recognizes that it is at once the mortal frame, our spiritual being, the work we do, and the earth we inhabit. The House in the Heart is a potent poetic prescription that helps right wrong.

  • The Sweetest and the Meanest

    By: Tom Kimmel
    Reviewed by: Jennifer Horne

    Performer and songwriter Tom Kimmel’s debut book of poems is uneven but nonetheless pleasing. Like a homecooked meal made with much care and some ability, it satisfies.

  • UFO Religion: Inside UFO Cults and Culture

    By: Gregory L. Reece
    Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson

    In his latest investigation of cultural fascination, UFO Religion: Inside UFO Cults and Culture, Gregory L. Reece soars straight into a world that on one end of the spectrum celebrates the possibility of learning, growth, and communication that interaction with other beings on other planets throughout the universe and beyond offers and the dangers that such interaction and communication may present to those who participate, willingly or unwillingly.

  • The Holiday Season

    By: Michael Knight
    Reviewed by: Anita Miller Garner

    Anyone having recently survived the holidays will be charmed by Michael Knight’s sleek prose and quirky, stunning selection of details in this look at contemporary life on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Spanning the emotional minefield from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, these two novellas showcase Knight’s mastery using a form in which we could have predicted his expertise.

  • A Will of Her Own

    By: Linda Fisher
    Reviewed by: Peter Huggins

    When well done, historical novels are great fun. A Will of Her Own, a young adult historical novel set in London on April 23-24, 1589, is great fun.

  • Cormac: The Tale of a Dog Gone Missing

    By: Sonny Brewer
    Reviewed by: Catherine Alexander

    Sonny Brewer’s third novel departs from his previous forays into fiction. The events that unfold are not merely musings on a scenario, but based on real-life experiences surrounding the disappearance of Cormac, the Brewers’ much beloved family dog, and the ensuing search that becomes a quest. With a surprising mix of complicated situations, intrigue, loss, hope, and immediacy, the text engages the reader beyond mere interest. 

  • Just How I Picture It in My Mind: Contemporary African American Quilts from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

    By Mary Elizabeth Johnson Huff; Photography by Emily Stuart Thomas

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    A joint venture by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and River City Publishing, this well-designed, hardcover book documents a collection of quilts obtained from Kempf Hogan of Birmingham, Michigan. Museum Director Mark M. Johnson states in the Foreword: “The Hogan collection encompasses the work of a diverse group of African American quilters working in Alabama and its environs during the last half century.” The collector was aided in the selection, a seventeen year process, by gallery owner Robert Cargo.

        

  • Longleaf

    By: Roger Reid
    Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

    Longleaf is an engaging novel that applies a good deal of educational insights into Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest.  Boys and girls will become knowledgeable of all facets of the longleaf pines and the preservation of forest life there.
  • Prophet From Plains: Jimmy Carter and His Legacy

    By: Frye Gaillard
    Reviewed by: David T. Morgan

    The reader searching for a definitive biography of the thirty-ninth president of the United States will not find it in Frye Gaillard’s Prophet From Plains. What he or she will find is the portrait of Jimmy Carter’s presidency and post-presidency, the picture of a rare man who dared to make human rights the cornerstone of his policies as president, and an elder statesman who, after leaving the White House, refused to play it safe.

  • The Bear Bryant Funeral Train

    By: Brad Vice
    Reviewed by: Joey Kennedy

    Before ever getting to the ten stories in this collection from Tuscaloosa native Brad Vice, we must deal with the nastiness. In this instance, that’s the plagiarism. Or, according to some critics, the multiple plagiarisms that spoiled Vice’s debut and, more importantly, Vice’s literary reputation.... Except it was all a terrible mistake, a horrible misunderstanding.
  • The Hand of Esau: Montgomery’s Jewish Community & the Bus Boycott

    By: Mary Stanton
    Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn

    Those interested in Civil Rights history will find a treasure in The Hand of Esau by Mary Stanton, an author, public administrator, and former teacher. The book is written chronologically with ample stories of the personalities involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56, an event that called on black, white, and Jewish residents to take part in an economic boycott to force an end to segregation in Montgomery.
  • The Legend of Caty Sage

    By: Ellie Kirby
    Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

    According to the Author’s Note at the end of this picture book, “On July 5, 1792, a five-year-old child named Caty Sage disappeared from a farm in Grayson County, Virginia.  In 1848 her brother Charles found a white woman living with an Indian tribe in Kansas and became convinced that she was Caty.  Since then her story has been told and retold until it has become a beloved legend in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.”
  • The White Squirrel

    By: D.W. Hunt
    Reviewed by: Van Newell

    The novel The White Squirrel, written by D.W. Hunt, is the first piece of narrative fiction I have ever read that is reminiscent of a Roger Corman film. The book feels low-budget, salacious, campy, and eventually macabre.

  • Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician

    By: Daniel Wallace
    Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson

    Exploring Faustian pacts, Daniel Wallace’s Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician rips the fabric of reality, slices the underbelly of American culture, and leaves the reader with few answers and numerous new questions.

  • The Assigned Visit

    By: Shelley Fraser Mickle
    Reviewed by: Liz Reed

    The Assigned Visit contrasts lives lived in the North and South. As a born and bred Southerner, I find Shelly Fraser Mickle’s descriptions of family, food, and foibles so familiar they elicit memories of my own experiences as a child, teenager, and adult.  Having never spent more than a week at a time up North, I find her descriptions of New England customs, cuisine, and characters intriguing, but unfamiliar.  To me the essence of a good novel lies in the believability of its characters.  Mickle’s descriptions and dialogue are so familiar they seem like friends, and sometimes relatives, of my own.
        

  • A History of Things Lost or Broken

    By: Phillip Cioffari
    Reviewed by: Van Newell

    Phillip Cioffari, author of A History of Things Lost or Broken, manages to cut his own little sliver of New York City, and in a refreshing twist he goes not to Wall Street, Greenwich Village, or Central Park but instead to the swamps of the 1950s and 1960s Bronx, filled with debris, both human and not. It reminds me of Phillip Roth’s Newark: working class, ethnic, and it reminds me not of New York City but of the American “every city.”

  • A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation

    By: Robert S. Graetz Jr.
    Reviewed by: Derryn E. Moten

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often noted that “an unexamined life is not worth living,” but as scholar and philosopher Cornel West has subsequently observed, “An examined life is hard.”  Robert S. Graetz’s A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation fulfils the dicta of both King and West.  As the only white minister belonging to the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) board during the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, Graetz’s latest memoir is a follow-up to his 1998 A White Preacher’s Memoir:  The Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • Blindsight

    By: Carol Vanderveer Hamilton
    Reviewed by: Perle Champion

    In Blindsight, Carol Vanderveer Hamilton explores the struggle between the dark and the light through people in dark places praying for a light to better see by.  She opens with an invocation from The Common Book of Prayer, “Enable with perpetual light / The dulness (sic) of our blinded sight.” Her quest begins with diminished sight in Part I, Scotoma; travels through Part II, Double Vision; and ends with far-seeing in Part III, Hyperopia.
  • Called to China: Attie Bostick’s Life & Missionary Letters from China: 1900-1943

    By: Rebekah E. Adams
    Reviewed by: Rosanne Osborne

    Attie Bostick left her home in Shelby, North Carolina, in June 1900 and did not return until December 1943.  Her success as a missionary was achieved within a context of famine, illness, war, and detention.  Her great-niece, Rebekah Adams, has relied on Bostick’s letters and diary entries to reconstruct the life of dedication and sacrifice of this pioneer missionary.
  • Edge by Edge: Poems

    By: Gladys Justin Carr, Heidi Hart, Emma Bolden, and Vivian Teter
    Reviewed by: Kyes Stevens

    Edge by Edge is a collection of four chapbooks with poems by Gladys Justin Carr, Heidi Hart, Emma Bolden, and Vivian Teter.  In How To Recognize a Lady , Emma Bolden’s chapbook ,  the reader will find sharp and unabashedly direct poems pushed and pulled by the lilt of language, and then bitten back to the driving point by words skillfully crafted that show what women are subjected to in society’s written and unwritten rules. 

  • Fleur Carnivore

    By: Richard Lyons
    Reviewed by: Jim Murphy

    At a point approximately midway through Fleur Carnivore, Rich Lyons’ Washington Prize-winning third volume of poetry, an augury emerges, voiced in such a way that both bleakness and hope are held within a single couplet: “The future never is, it dies to arrive. I’m not what you said I’d be, / the future whispers. The future is . . . .” The achievement of tone at a moment like this, simultaneously filled with authority and puzzlement, is pure Lyons.

  • Ham Bones

    By: Carolyn Haines
    Reviewed by: Linda Busby Parker

    Ham Bones is Carolyn Haines seventh novel in her Southern Belle Mystery Series.  To date all of the previous six novels have had Bones in the title:  Hallowed Bones, Crossed Bones, Them Bones, Splintered Bones, Buried Bones, Bones to Pick, and now Ham Bones.  The Southern Belle Series falls in the genre of cozy mystery.  The cozy generally has a female protagonist—a good girl with down-home values, a sharp wit, and a reasonably well-tuned ability to add up clues and solve a mystery, be that mystery great or small.  Cozy fans are most often female readers who like a good beach read or a fun read on a rainy Saturday.
  • Some Glad Morning

    By: Irene Steele
    Reviewed by: Foster Dickson

    Irene Steele’s debut novel, Some Glad Morning, tells the tale of Mildred Johnson, a young African American woman living in Chicago with her Aunt Rose. Mildred is the reluctant good girl who facetious refers to herself as “Unstained Mildred Johnson,” a stark contrast to the woman that her aunt tells her she was named for: Mildred Walker.
  • The Blue Moon Boys: The Story of Elvis Presley’s Band

    By: Ken Burke, Dan Griffin, Brian Setzer (Foreword)
    Reviewed by: Don Noble

    The Blue Moon Boys is not the kind of book I would normally read. I am not, I confess, a music guy. The names Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and D. J. Fontana meant nothing to me, and I have not made the pilgrimage to Graceland. Lead author Ken Burke has a previous title, Country Music Changed My Life. I cannot say the same. But, I was a teenager in the fifties and was entranced by the young Elvis of “Heartbreak Hotel” and the other early work, and I was impressed and amused by Dan Griffin’s documentary about Elvis, Two Hundred Cadillacs, in which he explores one of Elvis’ odder hobbies—buying Cadillacs and giving them away, often to strangers.
  • The Christmas Bus

    By: Robert Inman
    Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

    This is an interesting hybrid of a children’s book. While long enough to be a chapter book, it more closely resembles a picture book in format (per physical dimensions, color illustrations, e.g.). As a holiday book, then, it seems designed to appeal to all ages of young readers (or listeners).

  • The Race Beat

    By: Gene Roberts
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    Gene Roberts and Alabama’s Hank Klibanoff have written a fascinating Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the media’s role in the civil rights movement. The Race Beat is an in-depth, often moving account of the dangers of reporting the plight of black Americans’ fighting for equal rights during the turbulent 1950s and 1960s in the South. Newspaper and television reporters were at times included in the beatings inflicted upon African-Americans by segregationists.

  • The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South

    By: Nikki Finney, ed.
    Reviewed by: Jessica Hume

    The idea of a ringing ear often connotes certain sensory reactions: curiosity, intense listening, and persistent musicality so inherent in one’s being that it refuses to leave. These connotations are what make The Ringing Ear the perfect title for Cave Canem’s anthology of black poetry released in the spring of this year. The anthology, fully titled The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, and edited by the estimable poet Nikki Finney, is a fresh and enrapturing collection which embodies the sensuality of the South, in all its beauty, tragedy, ugliness, and wonder. 
  • A World Without End

    By: Matthew Graham
    Reviewed by: Jennifer Horne

    This is Matthew Graham’s third volume of poetry and the sixth book in the River City Poetry Series, edited by Andrew Hudgins. The title refers to one of the book’s two epigraphs, this one from the Book of Isaiah: “ . . . ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.”

  • Brambu Drezi

    By: Jake Berry
    Reviewed by: Sue B. Walker

    Brambu Drezi: Words that define liberation, that are beyond boundaries, that testify to the genius of Jake Berry. Brambu Drezi: a Wittgensteinian rendering of: “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. But of course there is then no question left and just this is the answer.” Brambu Drezi is an answer.

  • Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone

    By: Janice N. Harrington; foreword by Elizabeth Spires
    Reviewed by: Bruce Alford

    The entrails of a slaughtered sow, the child born with a goat’s face, the cousin laid on a railroad track: such images make up the core of Janice Harrington’s Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone. These images weave in and out of her poems but never appear the same as the poet plays with theme and variations.

        

  • Fire Ants: A Collection of Short Stories

    By: Gerald Duff
    Reviewed by: Kirk Curnutt

    The author of Memphis Ribs and Coasters returns with fifteen stories that are both geographically and temporally diverse, ranging from Texas to Baltimore and the nineteenth century to the twenty-first. Duff is that rare writer that can conjure up Dixie eccentricities without demeaning his characters.

  • Heart Tree for Empty Nesters

    By: Sherry Kughn
    Reviewed by: Bethany A. Giles

    Personal struggles have a way of pushing us to action—research, conversations, and lots of reading online or in the bookstore aisles. Anniston native Sherry Kughn approached one set of personal issues similarly, by talking with friends, listening to others’ stories, reading, and meditating.

  • Lost City Radio

    By: Daniel Alarcón
    Reviewed by: David Wyman

    Please don’t take it as a sign of disapproval when I say that this is a very weird book. Set in a mythical South American capital that bears a parallel-universe resemblance to Mexico City, Lost City Radio is part science fiction, part death-comedy political satire, and, overall, a sweeping indictment of betrayal as the central element of the human psyche all rolled into one.

  • MoonPie: Biography of an Out-of-This-World Snack

    By: David Magee
    Reviewed by: Catherine Alexander

    "Hey, Mister, I want a MoonPie!" David Magee’s book MoonPie: Biography of an Out-of-This-World Snack demonstrates the significance of this phrase: it has propelled a family-owned business for three generations and a product that has relied upon word-of-mouth support rather than formal advertising.  Magee, who has previously explored American product advertising, marketing, and branding with books on Ford and John Deere, turns to the lone product of Chattanooga Bakery for his most recent foray into Americana.

  • Notes Toward an Apocryphal Text

    By: Alan May; Images by Tom Wegrzynowski
    Reviewed by: Stuart Bloodworth

    The poems in Alan May’s Notes Toward an Apocryphal Text appear as tight little blocks on the page, like columns of newspaper print, or as if larger poems had been trash compacted. I admit I had trouble getting past the seemingly arbitrary form. Then early in the collection I came upon this...

  • Tartts 2: Incisive Fiction from Emerging Writers

    By: Joe Taylor with Debbie Davis, Gerald Jones, and Tina Jones, eds.
    Reviewed by: Kirk Curnutt

    Having had the good fortune a few years back to be selected for an anthology of emerging writers (Full disclosure: it, too, was published by Livingston Press), I can heartily testify to both the fun and fear that comes with belonging to the sort of virtual community that a collection like this one creates. In essence, anthologies provide writers a peer group against whose themes, styles, and motifs they can measure their individual interests and begin firming up their own literary outlook and values. The downside is that seeing your name among better-known folks can be intimidating; even worse is happening on a story you doubt you yourself could have written.

  • The Far Reaches

    By: Homer Hickam
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    When I saw the title of #1 New York Times best-selling author Homer Hickam’s latest novel The Far Reaches, I anticipated a story of astronauts onboard sleek spaceships flying through the universe in search of strange life forms in otherworldly environs. Hickam, who penned the bestseller Rocket Boys, the basis for the film October Sky, and the novel Back to the Moon, did indeed take me on an adventure to another world, though it was a journey to lush islands in the South Pacific rather than some strange planet in a distant galaxy.

  • The Life and Art of Jimmy Lee Sudduth

    By: Susan Mitchell Crawley
    Reviewed by: Georgine Clarke

    Fayette native Jimmy Lee Sudduth was one of a significant group of artists whose work falls outside the mainstream of the defined fine-art field. Alabama is remarkably blessed with many of these artists, generally characterized as “self-taught.” These artists, capturing interest often as much by their stories as by their artwork, seem particularly “Southern.”

  • Wrestling with God: The Meditations of Richard Marius

    By: Nancy Grisham Anderson, ed.
    Reviewed by: David T. Morgan

    Richard Marius was obviously a “Renaissance” man. Few have been more versatile than this Tennessee farm boy, for he was a journalist, minister, historian, novelist, and teacher of writing par excellence. Nancy Anderson and her publisher deserve praise for reviving public interest in this extraordinary man who directed Harvard University’s Expository Writing program for sixteen years, during which he influenced hundreds of Harvard students.

  • Alabama Folk Pottery

    By: Joey Brackner
    Reviewed by: Scott Meyer

    As a “folk-challenged” artist, I looked to Brackner’s book to find a productive vantage point from which to view the objects and the people who made them. What I found is one of the most scholarly, rigorous treatments of a topic I have ever read. It is not only well organized and logically presented, it manifests an exhaustive research within which the author’s obvious love for his subject is both potent and contagious. 

  • Alabama, One Big Front Porch

    By: Kathryn Tucker Windham
    Reviewed by: Bill Fuller

    Kathryn Tucker Windham is strongly opposed to most introductions in public and will often nudge the enthusiastic fan tapped to offer opening remarks with "Hush and go stand over yonder." No doubt she also fiercely resists any form of book review, though the Windham canon, now spanning twenty-six volumes, is ripe for scholarly and artistic exegesis...

  • All Guts and No Glory

    By: Bill Elder
    Reviewed by: Paul Finebaum

    When the galleys to All Guts and No Glory arrived in the mail in early spring, I shook my head, saying, “I know it sounds interesting, but I’ve been there and done that.” How many more books can I handle set with the civil rights movement as the backdrop? A month later, with the tome gathering dust, I had inched no closer to cracking it open. Finally, knowing the deadline was knocking on my door, I took a shot and honestly couldn’t put the book down.

        

  • Discovering Alabama Forests

    By: Doug Phillips with photographs by Robert P. Falls, Sr.
    Reviewed by: Mike Hardig

    In his recent book, Discovering Alabama Forests, Doug Phillips informs the reader that change is what a forest is all about. Phillips has prepared a wonderful treatise on one of Alabama’s finest natural features.  With a style that is succinct, thorough, and engaging, Phillips leads a comprehensive tour of the evolution of Alabama’s forests, from prehistoric times to the modern age... 

  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House: The Birth and Rebirth of an American Treasure

    By: Barbara Kimberlin Broach, Donald E. Lambert, and Milton Bagby
    Reviewed by: Todd Dills

    The story of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Rosenbaum House in Florence in northern Alabama is one that shares the traits of the tales of other of the pioneering architect’s projects—his and his apprentices’ staunch commitment to architectural vision leads to cost overruns and other frustrations that intersect neatly with personal dramas near and far. This seventy-nine-page tome, somewhere between art history and coffee-table book, tells the story of the home’s genesis, degradation and restoration in words and pictures both current and historical.

  • Ghosts on the Road: Poems of Alabama, Mexico and Beyond

    By: Wayne Greenhaw
    Reviewed by: Jennifer Horne

    Wayne Greenhaw is something of an institution in Alabama, well known for both his fiction and nonfiction, winner of both the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year and the Clarence E. Cason Award for Nonfiction. Now, in his nineteenth book, he has turned his attention to poetry, or, one might better say, has collected in print the output of a lifetime...        

  • Hallelujah, Alabama!

    By: Robert Ely
    Reviewed by: Edward Reynolds

    With his wickedly funny, satirical tale of notorious political dramas portrayed by Alabama rascals, Robert Ely pens to life unforgettable characters that include governors, bureaucrats, legislators, hero attorneys, and the little people—the salt of the earth, common folk of the state. Ely tells the story of an attorney determined to break the shackles of demagoguery that threaten the state’s social and safety welfare.   

  • Like Trees, Walking

    By: Ravi Howard
    Reviewed by: Todd Dills

    Roy Deacon is turning forty, and the weather’s perfect for a jubilee. On a beach on Mobile Bay’s eastern side, he waits for the stunned sea creatures to arrive, tools in hand to snare the beasts and bide the time—chief among them a fifth of Crown Royal from which he pours a swallow into the sand to commemorate all those who’ve come before him, those who couldn’t be here this fine night.
        

  • Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families

    By: Andrew Carroll, ed.
    Reviewed by: Don Noble

    If you read only one book about America at war since 9/11, let it be this one.  Operation Homecoming began as an idea to get a conversation going between the troops and their families and the American public, most of which is nearly unaffected by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This led to a series of writing workshops on military bases, sponsored by the NEA. The response to this project was huge...
  • Queen of Broken Hearts

    By: Cassandra King
    Reviewed by: Norman McMillan

    In Queen of Broken Hearts, novelist Cassandra King has written a very perceptive modern-day novel of manners.  Set in Fairhope, Alabama, the book paints an excellent picture of the town’s upper crust—people who sip Dom Perignon, eat candied ginger, inhabit beautiful interiors, and dance the tango.  But King, building her narrative around the central theme of marriage and divorce, delves far beneath this surface sophistication to expose the faults and failures of a number of Fairhope’s finest.    

  • The Year of Fog

    By: Michelle Richmond
    Reviewed by: Anita Garner

    The dilemma with Michelle Richmond’s newest novel is this:  the plot is so compelling you can’t read fast enough, but the writing is so crisp and exact you want to savor every word.  Richmond’s 2000 short story collection, remember—The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress—won the Associated Writing Programs Award and has continued to be used in college literary and writing courses.  This second novel surpasses her debut novel Dream of the Blue Room.
        

  • Whatever Remembers Us: An Anthology of Alabama Poetry

    By: Sue Brannan Walker and J. William Chambers, eds.
    Reviewed by: Wade Hall

    Alabama’s colorful history and cultures have always provided our writers with plenty of raw materials and inspiration for their poetry and fiction, and this collection of poetry testifies to the variety and richness they have found. Good material, however, doesn’t automatically translate into good poetry.                    

  • . . . and the angels sang

    By: John Sims Jeter
    Reviewed by: Elaine Hughes

    In his first novel, John Sims Jeter succeeds in weaving a narrative that melds together varied art forms—classical music, poetry, architecture, blues, baseball—into a symphony of nature that resonates with the lyrical voices of his characters. Jeter, a recently retired mathematician, professional engineer, and native of Birmingham, combines his love of music with his insights into “humanness” in creating a novel about the maturation of a Southern boy...    

  • A Conquering Spirit: Ft. Mims & the Redstick War of 1813-1814

    By: Gregory A. Waselko
    Reviewed by: James W. Parker

    Near midday on August 30, 1813, hundreds of Indians attacked a small wooden fort that had been hastily erected around the residence of Samuel Mims. The ensuing events here and at other sites near the juncture of the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers began a large scale war that changed the face of the Old Southwest forever.

  • Ain’t Nothin’ But a Winner: Bear Bryant, the Goal Line Stand, and a Chance of a Lifetime

    By Barry Krauss and Joe M. Moore
    Reviewed by Joe Formichella

    "Where were you when the ‘play’ happened?"

    The “play” occurred in the 1979 Sugar Bowl game, fourth and inches from the goal-line, Alabama clinging to a seven point lead. The play propelled Alabama to the National Championship, the team’s stalwart defense to the cover of Sports Illustrated...         

  • Fall Sanctuary

    By: Jeff Hardin
    Reviewed by: Mark Dawson

    Jeff Hardin’s Fall Sanctuary was chosen by Mark Jarman as the seventeenth winner of the Nicholas Roerich Prize. The poems are deeply informed both by Hardin’s Christian faith and by a lifelong, meditational relationship with nature.         

  • Falling into Velázquez

    By: Mary Kaiser
    Reviewed by: Russell Helms

    Much like the canvas of Joan Mitchell, which “leans so all her drips go down,” Mary Kaiser writes with her paper leaning forward, words too heavy for the task slipping to the floor. Bound within a serene yet austere hand-sewn cover, Kaiser’s seventeen poems weave together a seemingly dissimilar community of master artists. From the brilliant and fleshy images of Velázquez to the curiously sterile yet surreal box art of Joseph Cornell, Kaiser imagines them into a combined reality to illuminate the magic of eternity.

  • Grievances

    By Mark Ethridge
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Probably not at all surprisingly to those who know him, North Carolina writer Mark Ethridge has made the crossover from award-winning, third-generation newspaperman to first-time novelist with grace and aplomb. Credited as having directed the Charlotte Observer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations of the textile industry and the PTL/Jim Bakker scandal, Ethridge studied as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and has written for many publications.

        

  • Guests Behind the Barbed Wire: German POWs in America: A True Story of Hope and Friendship

    By: Ruth Cook
    Reviewed by: Jim Reed

    Ruth Beaumont Cook’s amazing and entertainingly detailed account of the tiny town of Aliceville, Alabama, during World War II is at once a highly personal narrative, an engrossing true tale of heroism and extreme kindnesses, and a textbook about a time and place that must not be forgotten.

  • Poems from the Big Table

    By: Jerri Beck, ed.
    Reviewed by: Keith Badowski

    Poems from the Big Table samples the work of five poets, all members of a Birmingham poetry workshop. The concept of binding several chapbooks together in one volume makes economic sense and potentially widens the audience for each poet.

        

  • Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming Our Democracy

    By: David Mathews
    Reviewed by: Jim Wrye

    In poll after poll, Alabamians list education as the single most important issue facing the state. Yet ask citizens about Alabama’s public schools and attitudes change. Differences appear between parents with school-age children and those without. People will speak highly of their local schools, yet say Alabama schools overall are either poorly run, poorly funded, or both.

  • Sons of the Rapture

    By: Todd Dills
    Reviewed by: Jim Murphy

    Billy Jones, the central character in Todd Dills’ debut novel Sons of the Rapture, is a son of South Carolina, the progeny of a fractured idealism embodied in his father Johnny, and heir to a staggeringly heavy weight regarding community and responsibility that has dogged him all the way to Chicago.

        

  • Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum: Critical and Creative Responses to Everette Maddox

    By: Grace Bauer and Julie Kane, eds.
    Reviewed by: Dwight Eddins

    Yeats asks, in a question that is really a lyric lament, “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” In the case of the uniquely-gifted poet Rette Maddox, it is impossible to separate the two. His dance was the dance of death in the embrace of the Scotch, malnutrition, and tobacco that ultimately killed him (he was 44) in the form of esophageal cancer, but it was out of this embrace—organically and inevitably—that his poetry bloomed.

  • Walking Wounded

    By: Jimmy Carl Harris
    Reviewed by: Sue Walker

    To read this book of short fiction is to think of Flannery O’Connor, who was known for her ability to write powerful tales of truth and terror that cut to the core of being uniquely human, often flawed, and in need of grace. As O’Connor says, "When the poor hold sacred history in common, they have concrete ties to the universal and the holy which allow the meaning of their every action to be heightened and seen under the aspect of eternity..." Or as Harris puts it: "Church doors are open to saints and sinners alike."

        

  • Score! 50 Poems To Motivate and Inspire

    By: Charles Ghigna; Illustrated by Julia Gorton
    Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

    Do you or a friend need a boost, a little inspiration to get you to that goal or accomplish that dream? If you answered “yes,” then look no further. Charles Ghigna, a resident of Homewood, Alabama, and author or more than thirty books of poetry, has written a collection of fifty poems that inspire everyone-children, parents, athletes, coaches, teachers, and graduates from middle, high school, or college.