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Pat's Book Reviews

Otherings - Cundiff

3.0 out of 5 stars
Not much to make it a part of an Ozark-themed set

 on August 11, 2018
I was asked by Golden Antelope Press to review 5 Ozark-themed poetry books it recently published. St. Louis is the farthest edge of the Ozarks, and while she throws in a couple of references to the theme, she departs from scenes and sense of place, and homes in on the human body and its evidences of pasts. She (tsk-tsk) titles haiku. "Hard Rain" I call prose; odd line breaks in "Valentine's Day." "Love" is full of good poetic techniques, one of which is the assonance of close-together words "beige" and aged." The f-bomb (twice) in "Pickup Parked Outside" negated two beautiful similes for me. "Shame" is an anaphora pattern, and "Dear" uses an allusion. She includes three-and-one-half pages of prose, but not in the typography of a prose poem.

4.0 out of 5 stars A songwriter publishes a poetry book

 on August 11, 2018
An Arkansas Ozark's songwriter, Rogers alludes to happenings he lived through or heard about. His poems read like prose broken into lines, sometimes ending a line with "in," "or, "as.
Finally, on pages 23-24, similes!! Roger's images are detailed and some of his titles elicit a smile, e.g., "A Horse-Drawn Cart with Car Tires for Wheels." Rather like the late poet Miller Williams, whose occasional title was longer than the poem itself, one of Roger's poem's title is "For Andy Why Signed with the San Francisco Giants in 1972 (Written after Finding His Bubble Gum Contract in the Smokehouse)." His formatting range varies from 1-2 words per line, to two pages (last entry) of a prose poem.

5.0 out of 5 starsAn academic, his craft and skill rise to the top
 on August 11, 2018

Of the set of 5 Ozark-themed poetry books I was asked to review for a small-press journal, Howerton's poetic art is one of the most profound. I generally nit-pick, craft-and-convention-wise, but noted nothing except ideas from his poems for some of my own. Highly recommended.
~ ~ ~
5.0 out of 5 stars His poetry book also a pleasure
 on August 11, 2018
Having Dr. Albin in a week-long writers workshop, and reading his short story volume, I was glad to see this poetry book in the set of 5 Ozark-themed volumes. His first poem dazzles with ". ..cacophonies/ of coyotes. . ."; his second, with ". . . bullying winds/ bluffing . . .". Later, the assonance of ". . . eons of instinct. . ." and ". . . haunches launch . . .." But he ends lines with "the," "his," "a," and "of." Perhaps I am behind the times, and there's a new convention regarding line breaks and ending lines with strong words. He uses "legend" as a verb and a delicious image, "clawbone hands." He alludes to Preacher Roe, Porter Wagoner, Lou Brock, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, plus ". . . a man named Jackie." Recommended.
This volume, Malone's 7th deals with people, places, and things. Written in free verse with tis requisite poetic devices--similes, assonance, inner rhyme, and alliteration--the only questions I had were why some poems had the beginnings of each line capitalized, while others were punctuated as sentences. Also, the convention of ending lines with strong words seemed to be unimportant, for two lines ended in "was," and "to the," But my favorite penultimate and final lines of "The Shepherd" reads, "Thimble and needle flowing/ to patch up what's never said."

 on May 28, 2018
Like some other reviewers, I was pleased to read mostly about Mr. Comey himself, his family, and his ascent into the higher loyalty he espoused. His working years with Mr. Giuliani shone a light on what is happening today. I've passed the book on to friends. Recommended reading for those who want to understand more about James Comey.
out of 5



 on January 13, 2018
I love it because I love the artist whom I've known since this 50-something woman was in the 8th grade. She was writing songs even then.
I helped her with an accompaniment to a song, and we've been close in spirit ever since. This CD is her first and her lyrics are backed by
interesting and well-selected instruments. She has studied the craft and it shows. Some selections in addition to the title song are "My Mirror,"
Dreamer Dream Big, Watching You Walk Away," and four more. Good traveling music, good listening music.

Short looks into a Christian writer's life and loves
December 29, 2017
on January 3, 2018
Five stars is because I love/ respect the author, who is a friend. But, I had trouble with the 1943 sections, though I know they were a big
part of the book. If I couldn't get past the white-on-black violence in Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, and if I didn't like Christah
so much, I would have abandoned the book at the first flashback. But I didn't. Though I wasn't much interested in the details of Elyse's
credit-union work, I read on. I loved the love story, the camaraderie of the group and the final breakthrough leading to a happy ending.
I'm better off knowing all this, but it was a difficult read. Soldier on, readers, soldier on.

5.0 out of 5 starsBoyhood antics

By P. Laster on November 2, 2016 Jan. 3 2017

Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

This memoir is organized around specifically remembered incidents in the author's boyhood. Well written and one that a lot of
men will smile over while reading.

5.0 out of 5 starsGreat stories in one small package

By P. Laster on January 3, 2017

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

I met the author at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs AR. She read "Split Shift" to a gathered group. It was quite
a hit, as was she. The stories are here compelling and strongly written. I'll share my copy with anyone who wants to read it.

Review3.0 out of 5 starsNot too sure it was helpful, January 3, 2017
P. Laster


This review is from: Poetry: A Survivor's Guide (Paperback)
I couldn't quite decide if I liked what he said or the way he said it. Even at the end of the book, I still wasn't sure, so I handed if
off to a writer friend.
~ ~ ~

5.0 out of 5 starsSearching for ways to end your novel? Search no more, December 31, 2016
P. Laster


This review is from: Great Endings: Closing Lines of Great Novels (Hardcover)
Ensign's categorizing of endings includes examples from classics and other well-known titles. The first grouping, "Happily Ever
After," is divided into the subgroups, "Til Death Us Do Part," Future Perfect," "Future Almost Perfect," "To the Rescue," "Triumph,"
and "Home Sweet Home." Each sub head has 3 or 4 last paragraphs/ lines from well-known works.
Other categories are "Hope Springs," "Unhappily Ever After," "The Dead End," "Irony--With a Twist, Please," "Surprise!" "Hero Redux,
" "The Master Theme," "Once upon a Title," "Sheer Poetry," "The Epilogue" and "Author! Author!"

3.0 out of 5 starsModern in Woolf's time, but hard for many to call this "a good read.", February 10, 2016
P. Laster


Jacob's Room – Virginia Woolf
This was the third book of Virginia Woolf's I read. It's a good thing there was a "Note" at the beginning telling a little bit about how
this book fit into the author's (at this point) oeuvre. Experimental? I say so. This style of writing, so modern in her time, used many
of the techniques that my writers' groups have "tsked-tsked" in my own work--particularly using third person plural POV. Of the 29
characters mentioned in the book, only a few stay with us the entire way. Others come and go--another technique today's novelists
eschew. That she self-published it on her/husband's Hogarth Press because--it is said--she knew she would have a hard time getting
it published otherwise, was a smart move, though they did make enough profit to pay the printer a bit. Not a subway/ bus/ short-term
read, but a quiet, lengthy spate of time one. And even then, it might merit a second reading later on.

5.0 out of 5 starsAn enjoyable pastiche of short works, March 11, 2016
P. Laster


This review is from: Flights of Fancy (Paperback)
Because I intend to write a similar collection of short stories (& long poems), I bought this book so I could get the feel of such a
volume. Also, because Crow Johnson Evans and I are both tied into the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs AR. Funny,
the book I received from Amazon was autographed to "Lou" in 2013. The variety of pieces in this volume are different enough to be
interesting and entertaining. In "Glorious Cacophony" is a good example of synesthesia: ".... a .... neon beat...." Though there were
some production glitches--"Sara" in places that had been "Sarah," those were easily dismissed. Crow is a peer of Crescent Dragonwagon,
who created Dairy Hollow, both of whom have added flavor and texture of the Ozarks to their works. Recommended.

3.0 out of 5 starsNot a beach read, for sure, February 10, 2016
P. Laster


This review is from: To the Lighthouse--Virginia Woolf
I first read Leonard Woolf's publication of (one of?) Virginia Woolf's diaries. As is my wont--I was a music major and didn't delve deeply
into literature until after I retired--I try to read several things by one author one after the other. I ordered --or found--Mrs. Dalloway,
To the Lighthouse, Jacob's Room, Three Guineas and The Waves.
I began with Mrs. Dalloway, continued with To the Lighthouse. I consulted reading forums, discussions, etc. to help me understand and appreciate this (I thought) odd way of novel writing. Since finishing this one, I've read Jacob's Room, and begun The Waves. To the
Lighthouse has memorable scenes that resemble a plot. I'd never consider it "fun reading," but with my lack of literary-ness, I'm glad
I read it. Perhaps with time (edging toward 80), I'll be able to internalize it and better appreciate Woolf's "modern" narrative skill.

by Pat Laster, author of A Journey of Choice (2010) and Her Face in the Glass (2015)
Cows with Mona Lisa Eyes
                Only people who’ve never lived anywhere outside of metropolitan areas will/ cannot relate to Pat Durmon’s poems found
in her third poetry volume, Push Mountain Road.
But those country folk among us certainly can, since her subjects include ladybugs, barking dogs, the White River, an apple tree, flowers,
bats, falling stars, deer stands, skunks, snakes and marital love, among others.
How does she deal with conflicts? If you knew Pat, you would know the answer: with love, even a bear at the birdfeeder. Even disposing
of bats. No so much with snakes and a wild hog, however.
Her poetry is predominately free verse, is easy to read and understand, but deep enough to catch any double meanings therein.
Highly recommended for a delicious taste of life in the Ozarks.
2. 5. 2016- PL

4.0 out of 5 starsGood read for theater folks, January 25, 2016
P. Laster


100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater

Not knowing that it was a lot about theater and small children, I bought it for what it sounded like it might be: how to write essays.
Or different subjects for essays. Prompts, perhaps.
However, it was a fun, easy, fast read, and I'll gladly pass it on to my actress friend for Valentine's Day. Or whenever I see her.
She'll love it.

3.0 out of 5 starsYes, it was hard to read, but I kept plowing through it, January 24, 2016
P. Laster


This review is from: Mrs. Dalloway
I'm glad I read it, but I kept marking the changing POVs--even within one paragraph, which today's editors eschew. I'll read the other
books I have by V. Woolf next so I can get a better idea of her total output. I've read the diary that her husband published after her death,
so I'll keep an open mind. Mrs. Dalloway, et al. kept reminding me of the era of Jane Austen, whether it was correct or not. In my quest
to use as many different POVs as possible, I might try this stream of consciousness technique myself. Different times produced different standards of writing, that's for sure.


    from P. Laster on January 13, 2016
Wolff delves deep into the human psyche
It took a while to finish this book, but not because it wasn't compelling. In my quest to read as many short stories as I can, in hopes of improving my own, I'm glad I found and read this volume. I will pass it to my reader/ writer friends.

5.0 out of 5 starsAdd my voice to those who loved this book, April 23, 2014
P. Laster


This review is from: A Phone Call to the Future: New and Selected Poems (Paperback)
Mary Jo Salter's hardback book sat (with other poetry books) on Hastings' sale table. I'd only heard of her, never read her. The book
sat in my own shelf for a year before I pulled it out. Add my voice to those who laud her work. I especially liked "Goodbye, Train." I
underlined this phrase from "Musical Chair": "... in a pond now deepening to a shade that looks like bedtime...". Her villanelle, "Refrain"
is full of slant rhyme--something more of us should perhaps consider using. Repetition in the "re-" and alliteration in "Inside the Midget" caught my eye, too: "...refurnished, refinished, refined...recognize--..."
Alas, I promised it as a door prize for a poetry retreat, but if I ever see another one, it's mine. Highly recommended.

Anonymous narrator the big draw for this reader, November 8, 2015


P. Laster

 This review is from: The Virgin Suicides: A Novel (Paperback)

When I was "called down" and nearly ousted (again) from the writing group after I'd used the anonymous narrator in a short story, I
reported such to a mentor friend. First, he said I probably needed a new writing group. Then he told me about The Virgin Suicides. I
read it, exulting in the many "we"s as POV. I guess I don't read like others. It did seem like it took a long time for the suicides to occur,
but I wasn't looking for anything unusual. However, I certainly got "unusual" in the depiction of the rooftop shenanigans. The book
convinced me that I should keep my few instances of "we"-as-narrator intact in my story. Even if others disagree.

Having read Sherwood Anderson's name in several places, and after reading his story, "I Want to Know Why," in the Oxford Anthology of
Short Stories, when I saw this title at a flea market in northern Arkansas, I bought it. Five years later, I read it. The owner/ reader before me
had underlined and annotated the meaning of each chapter, so I got more than I bargained for. I'm glad I read it, but I doubt it will "stay"
me for very long. Still.......... for a book of sort-of-related stories written in 1919, I'll have to call it "a classic."