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I Don’t Want This Poem to End: Early and Late Poems

Mahmoud Darwish, ed. and trans. from the Arabic by Mohammad Shaheen. Interlink, $20 trade paper (242p) ISBN 978-1-56656-000-9

This alluring volume comprising three poetry collections from acclaimed Palestinian poet Darwish (1941–2008), available in English for the first time, also features complementary correspondence and essays on the poet’s life, composition process, and activism. Translator and editor Shaheen treats the poetic text as an artifact of a life in language, recognizing that Darwish’s movement through language was inevitably both personal and political. The title of the collection and some of its lines “might be said to be the last words spoken by the poet,” observes Elias Khoury in his introduction. Such graceful contextualization allows readers to appreciate the nuances of the translation and Darwish’s own words: “He says to her as they gaze at a rose/ Which scratches the wall: death came a little nearer to me,” Darwish writes in the title poem. That these may have been among Darwish’s last words heightens the emotional impact of both the poem’s craft and the faultless translation. The image of the rose functions as an emblem for the possibility—of empathy, kindness, and enlightenment—that art opens within political life. By carefully framing Darwish’s poetry as the record of a citizen inhabiting the complexities of Palestine’s political landscape, Shaheen delivers a volume ideally suited to both scholars and newcomers to Darwish’s body of work. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Concerto al-Quds

Adonis, trans. from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa. Yale Univ., $25 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-300-19764-8

In this stunning volume about Jerusalem (al-Quds in Arabic), Syrian poet Adonis, who has been hailed as a founding voice in Arabic-language modernism, envisions the poem as a space for dialogue between traditions, nations, and historical milieux. Mattawa’s careful English rendering preserves the integrity of Adonis’s cosmopolitan influences, paying homage to the book’s various inspirations. The voice of these poems bisects time and geography, revealing the convergences contained within each “flower,” each “accusation,” even the “nets that encircle” one’s own steps. History is revealed as recursive, elliptical. “Time was busy filming the battle, turning it into a documentary,” Adonis writes. The poems’ documentarian approach records this battle—this collision of worldviews, aesthetics, and implicit assumptions about language, self, and reason. He invites readers to share the experience of encountering the other, see their selves as other, and recognize the transformations to which this awareness might give rise—re-imagining themselves, to carving space within the psyche for multiple ways of ordering the world, explaining its “dust,” its “angels,” and the missiles that “only target lovers homes.” (Dec.)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Beneath the Mountain

Luca D’Andrea, trans. from the Italian by Howard Curtis. Harper, $16.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-268017-4

D’Andrea’s superb debut thriller mines the darkness that hides beneath the surface of Siebenhoch, a beautiful, remote Italian village. New Yorker Jeremiah Salinger, a documentary filmmaker, nearly loses his mind after he’s the only one to survive a disastrous shoot in the Dolomite mountains involving the region’s rescue group. With the support of his Italian wife, his five-year-old daughter, and his father-in-law, Salinger comes back from the brink. Meanwhile, he becomes obsessed with the never-solved murder and dismemberment of three students in the Bletterbach Gorge in 1985. His interest in the case comes to the attention of the local head of the forest rangers, who warns him not to dig up the past. Undeterred, Salinger unearths some sinister secrets, but revealing the truth could cost him his family and his life. D’Andrea makes excellent use of his unusual setting, its idiosyncratic denizens, and the troubled Salinger’s outsider status. A genuinely unexpected denouement hits like a freight train, perfectly bringing together all the pieces of a macabre, utterly riveting puzzle. Agent: Piergiorgio Nicolazzini, Piergiorgio Nicolazzini Literary Agency. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Sparsholt Affair

Alan Hollinghurst. Knopf, $28.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-101-87456-1

A gay man’s search for love and artistic expression is at the center of Booker Prize–winner Hollinghurst’s masterful sixth novel, written in elegant, captivating prose. Here, he shines a clarifying light on the gay and art worlds (often synonymous) through decades of British cultural and political change. The story sweeps along in five interlinked sections, in which the characters move through different stages of their lives and their country’s history. Some of the characters are first observed at Oxford as they wait to be called up for military service during the tense early days of WWII. Stunningly handsome David Sparsholt draws the attention of a group of friends, literary aesthetes who observe him with interest and, in some cases, with lust. Two decades later, David is a war hero, married and the father of a son, Johnny, who will be central to the remainder of the novel. Readers gradually learn about the homosexual scandal that brought David national attention and a prison term in the ’60s. David would like to disown his past; Johnny is an uncloseted gay man in a changed society in which homosexuality is no longer a crime. In 1970s London, Johnny, beginning his career as a painter, enters the milieu of some of his father’s former Oxford friends. In the last section, set in the present day, Hollinghurst makes explicit reference to “time, loss and change,” and celebrates Johnny’s erotic passion and the emotional haven of domestic companionship. In this magnificent novel, Hollinghurst is at the height of his powers. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Feast Days

Ian MacKenzie. Little, Brown, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-316-44016-5

No one could accuse the heroine of MacKenzie’s second novel (after City of Strangers) of leading an unexamined life, and the wit with which she conducts that examination elevates this brilliant work. Emma—her name evokes Flaubert’s restless housewife—is a “trailing spouse” accompanying her investment banker husband to São Paulo, “a city that reminded you of what Americans used to think the future would look like—gleaming and decrepit at once.” Possessing a degree in cultural anthropology and dead languages, she interrogates her position in this unfamiliar, stratified society: “There were aspects of the world that, because of my husband, I had the luxury of not paying attention to.” Emma gives English lessons, lunches with affluent wives, flirts with adultery, and muses on time as a “confusion of folds,” seeing Brazil, her marriage, and language as palimpsests bearing signs of the past, the present, and the future. Her observations are satirical, incisive, and often melancholy. As street protests calling for political change intensify, so too do Emma’s anxiousness and aimless desires, beset as she is by an “affliction of vagueness.” There is no cataclysm but rather a pervasive sense of unrest, both large and small scale, social and personal, conveyed in MacKenzie’s unruffled, discerning prose. With it, MacKenzie has captured one of the most memorable narrative voices in recent fiction. Agent: Anna Stein, ICM Partners. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Come Home with Me

Susan Fox. Zebra, $7.99 mass market (363p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4326-3

In the cozy second Blue Moon Harbor contemporary (after Fly Away with Me), Fox primarily showcases the setting, a lovely but remote island off the coast of British Columbia where everyone knows your name. Miranda Gabriel (the younger half-sister of previous protagonist Aaron) is a single mother who’s always been unlucky in love. Now, forced to ask her brother for support, she has returned to Destiny Island to make a home with her child and wallow in her low self-esteem. Luke Chandler is the island vet, a handsome young widower with four-year-old twins and a long-ago crush on former goth girl Miranda. Luke encounters Miranda when she starts working at a toy store, and there’s an immediate zing of attraction, but Miranda is reluctant to date while trying to take control of her life and can’t believe someone as great as Luke could love her. As the romance builds, Miranda uncovers more details about the mysterious commune that was once a Destiny Island scandal, which will clearly be a throughline for the series. Readers will appreciate this pleasant second-chance story. Agent: Emily Sylvan Kim, Prospect. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Fake Wife: Crazy Love, Book 1

Stacey Lynn. Loveswept, $4.99 e-book (230p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9784-3

When library assistant Teagan Monroe is laid off from her job, catches her boyfriend cheating, and ends up homeless all in a matter of hours, she doesn’t think life could get any worse. Then she rear-ends the Mercedes of wealthy Corbin Lane, member of one of the richest families in Portland, Ore. Corbin’s had a pretty bad day himself, thanks to the clause in his grandmother’s will that states he must marry within six months (and stay married for at least two years) in order to keep the home he grew up in. When Corbin discovers Teagan’s dilemma, he thinks he’s found the perfect spouse, especially since she’s beautiful and, as he quickly learns, has a great personality. He promises her money in exchange for a temporary, sex-free marriage. Corbin’s life isn’t as happy as the press portrays it, and he finds a new confidant in Teagan, who’s nothing like the gold-digging socialites he usually dates. The loyalty and consideration they show for each other enhances their immediate, intense connection. Fun-loving secondary characters and great chemistry between the leads make this introduction to Lynn’s Crazy Love series a winning romance. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Devil in Scotland

Suzanne Enoch. St. Martin’s, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-09545-9

Enoch’s heady third No Ordinary Hero historical romance (after My One True Highlander) is a scalding tale of pent-up desires finally unleashed. In 1806, roistering Highland laddie Callum MacCreath stormed out of his Inverness home because his boyhood buddy Rebecca Sanderson had decided to marry his stodgy but titled older brother, Ian. Callum decides to build a new life and a successful distillery in wild Kentucky. He’s drawn back to Scotland in 1816 by the news of Ian’s death, which makes him the new Lord Geiry. Callum suspects Ian was killed in a plot that might have involved Becca, who’s now the wealthiest widow in Scotland. He launches a vendetta against Ian’s shipping business partners, the dastardly Duke of Dunncraigh and his conniving son, Donnach. When Becca first sees Callum, she faints. Callum nearly swoons himself, undone by six-year-old Lady Margaret, his niece and legal ward. As he comes to trust Becca and the two of them learn how to share in Margaret’s upbringing, they commit to bringing Ian’s killers to justice and mesmerize each other into passion. Enoch weaves together sly humor, a convincing supporting cast, and explosive erotic encounters between a hero who feels being civilized is a nuisance and a heroine who both matches his ardor and outplots his plans for vengeance. The combination is sure to keep romance fans enthralled. Agent: Nancy Yost, Nancy Yost Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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My Lady’s Choosing

Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris. Quirk, $14.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-68369-013-9

Curran and Zageris’s cheeky riff on the Choose Your Own Adventure stories puts readers in the shoes of a feisty 28-year-old Regency miss who’s living as a lady’s companion to a sour dowager. The pinched old woman’s beautiful niece offers the reader a choice of futures, including a romance with a traditional haughty hero who covers his desire with angry indifference. Other candidates for love include a Scottish war hero and a do-gooder with a penchant for helping orphans. Then there is the dowager’s son, Lord Craven, a Gothic hero living with his strange servants in the Yorkshire moors, who hires the plucky heroine as his son’s governess. Readers may also pursue an Egyptian adventure that includes a passionate affair with the dowager’s niece. The authors understand romance novel tropes, and those looking for a farcical romp will find plenty of laughs, winks, and nods in how the stories play out. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Dragon’s Trail: The Outworlders, Book 1

Joseph Malik. Oxblood, $24.99 (390p) ISBN 9780997887549

Malik’s debut novel sparkles with a fresh take on some traditional epic fantasy tropes. Jarrod Torrealday is a disgraced Olympic-level fencer. Years ago, when he was at the top of his game, he accidentally killed a competitor and was consequently banned from the life he loved. He’s survived since by teaching the art of the sword and consulting on stunts for films. When offered the opportunity to travel to the fantasy land of Gateskeep and assist with their upcoming war, he happily accepts, bringing along his friend Carter Sorenson, a greatsword expert, and as many of his “artisanal killing tools and works of 21st-century metallurgical genius” as he can carry. What follows is a deceptively simple and shockingly painful crash course in the politics of a world with Dark Ages–level technology. Despite a slow start, the action, humor, and intrigue quickly build, showcasing Jarrod as James Bond in tarnished armor. Detailed descriptions of equipment and tactics don’t distract from the plot; rather, they add a layer of depth and dimension that carries the tale to the next level. This is a highly enjoyable story for fans of self-aware epic fantasy. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 11/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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