Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: May 30-June 3, 2022

Dreams of Near and Far

Book Cover
Martin Widmark
Emilia Dziubak, illustrator
Floris Books
Hardcover $17.95 (36pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

For Noah, who is grieving, familiar sights take on new, morose dimensions. For brave Mia, a girl without a home, her cat’s adventure is worth an open tag-along. Destiny—and the love of their furry companions—brings Noah and Mia, and their different forms of longing, together in this delicate early reader set in erstwhile times. The book’s illustrations are a marvel, both soft and replete with involving details, like Noah’s messy hair, a rotund villain, and the dark swamps of dreams.


Baby Teeth

Book Cover
Meg Grehan
Little Island
Hardcover $16.99 (192pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In Meg Grehan’s compelling novel in verse Baby Teeth, a vampire falls for a human and decides how far to take her desires for love and blood.

Immy is one of a trio of vampires. Unlike the vampires of legends, they live again and again, in new lives and bodies, keeping the secrets of their other lives. They try to live without drawing attention to themselves or drawing human blood directly from its source, but their desire for blood, and the echoes of the voices who once drank it, pulses through every moment. So it is that, when Immy first meets Claudia, who’s working at a flower shop, her attraction is immediate. Still, Immy has to decide whether to act on her desires, as well as how much of herself and her history she can reveal.

The poetic narration is immediate, immersive, and comes sans punctuation; there are pauses for breath without the need of the latter. Often, words and phrases repeat to indicate an overwhelm of emotion on Immy’s part; the effect is powerful.

The backstory of the vampires, and of how they achieve their new lives and bodies, is never fully explained, but the hints at explanations are tantalizing. Henry and Freddie, Immy’s two companion vampires, once lived a life in which they loved each other; regardless of those lives, they always find and try to protect each other. This new version of vampirehood makes the creatures much more vulnerable, particularly as each of their lives is haunted by the vague memories of past mistakes that impact them in the present.

Baby Teeth is an unexpected LGBTQ+ novel in verse; it takes elements of horror and mixes them with romance, resulting in a changeling of a book that reimagines vampire myths for the twenty-first century.


Small Marvels

Book Cover
Scott Russell Sanders
Indiana University Press
Softcover $18.00 (214pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Midwestern magic abounds in Scott Russell Sanders’s fairy tale short story collection Small Marvels.

In Limestone, Indiana, Gordon Mills is a jack of all trades whose big family lives in a dilapidated house that only remains standing because it doesn’t know which way to fall. His wife, Mabel, keeps the family together. With their respective parents, Gordon and Mabel work to make ends meet. Even though money is short, there is always food on the table and plenty of love to go around. But while, on the surface, the family’s hometown seems to be an ordinary place, and the Mills to be an ordinary family, these linked stories reveal that there is more to both than meets the eye.

Written like fairy tales, the stories about the family and their hometown are full of absurd twists. The mundane becomes fantastical, and the fantastical mundane. In “Aurora,” magical light glows above the local landfill; only Gordon and his daughter can see it. In “Trees,” Gordon’s children take on the characteristics of the trees he plants for them in their garden. In “Blues,” Gordon suffers from depression that makes his beard turn blue. In “Sisters,” the corn stalks in the family vegetable plot grow to reach the sky, while the beans yield an endless harvest.

In “Centaur,” the limestone caves beneath the town are populated with unicorns, griffins, dragons, centaurs, and a solitary phoenix. In “Flood,” the family is caught in a heavy downpour that nearly drowns them. This story also sums up the message of all the stories put together: what makes you rich is not money, but love, family, and community.

Small Marvels is an evocative short story collection that tickles the imagination as it explores the magic of a Midwestern town.

ERIKA HARLITZ KERN (April 27, 2022)

I, Antigone

Book Cover
Carlo Gébler
New Island Books
Softcover $18.99 (256pp)
Buy: Amazon

Carlo Gébler’s I, Antigone, recounts the Greek tragedy of Oedipus Rex. Speaking with anguish, eloquence, and love, Oedipus’s daughter, Antigone, tells Oedipus’s story to justify her father’s actions.

Oedipus’s curse begins with the compulsions of his father, Laius. Before becoming king of Thebes, Laius feels intense attraction toward Chrysippus, a royal youth. Laius gives wine to Chrysippus and rapes him, and the traumatized boy commits suicide. The reason for his death is known only to Laius, Chrysippus, and the gods.

Laius is later told by the Delphi oracle that his own son will kill him, a punishment decreed by Zeus because of his violation of Chrysippus. Laius thus concocts a secret plot to abandon and kill his newborn son. The infant is brought to another king’s home, however, and is raised as his child.

In a captivating, fateful tone, the novel follows the saga of Oedipus as he fulfills his prophecy of unknown patricide and solves the riddle of the Sphinx. Oedipus marries his widowed mother, Queen Jocasta, and has children with her; afterwards, he blinds himself, horrified over the revelation of his sins. I, Antigone infuses immediate, vibrant energy into this classic myth. The “leonine” Sphinx is described as having a “dripping head” and snake-like tail, her “hot breath” smelling of “straw and dates.” Prisoners are hurled off of Mount Phicium at sunrise in public executions. And as Antigone tells her harrowing story, she notes the gentle rustling of olive trees, and the chirping of “sparrows as they bathe in the dry bitter dust of the red earth.”

Both epic and intimate, the riveting, sinuous novel I, Antigone recreates ancient Greek stories of capricious gods, fantastic creatures, and troubled mortals.

MEG NOLA (April 27, 2022)

Little Bird

Book Cover
Tiffany Meuret
Black Spot Books
Softcover $15.95 (226pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In Tiffany Meuret’s contemporary fantasy novel Little Bird, a divorced woman encounters magic beyond her comprehension, shaking up her messy life and forcing her to assess her priorities, as well as the meanings of life and death.

Josie works from home. Her only companion is her chihuahua, Po. Mourning her dead father and estranged from her mother, Josie drinks herself to sleep every night and wakes hungover every morning to emails full of client demands. She has her groceries delivered so that she does not need to interact with anyone. Then an inquisitive new neighbor, Sue, threatens to shatter Josie’s beloved solitude. Between Josie’s escalating drinking habits and Sue’s irritating presence, Josie begins to question the path her life has taken.

Next, a talking skeleton whom Josie dubs Skelly shows up in Josie’s yard, surrounded by undulating vines that seem to respond to Josie’s thoughts. Mysterious earthquakes follow—ones that impact the entire neighborhood, not just Josie. Prodded by Skelly and Sue’s attentions, Josie confronts her choices and delves into her past, deciding whether joining Skelly’s otherworldly family holds more appeal than limping along in her broken and isolated life on Earth.

The tone, at times humorous, captures the absurdity of Josie’s situation: her imperfect life is punctuated by the arrival of impossibilities. Josie’s grief threatens to swallow her, while her obligation to feed her demanding dog keeps her moving. The banality of daily life shines through in Meuret’s prose, even as wonder and terror beckon from Josie’s front porch.

Blending the mundane with the fantastical, Little Bird flirts with magical realism, depicting the tension between a woman’s commitment to maintaining her bubble and the demands of a force that’s larger than life.

JEANA JORGENSEN (April 27, 2022)

Barbara Hodge

Load Next Article