Book Review for BhB Director’s The White Rail

whiterailBlog Chamber Four has recently reviewed BrickHouse Books’ Director Clarinda Harriss’ book The White Rail in their recent literary reviews. Filled with details, analysis, and a strong summary, reviewer Charles Rammelkamp assess The White Rail with great enthusiasm and understanding of the novel.

Below is an excerpt from Rammelkamp’s review:

Reading Clarinda Harriss’s fiction is like reading another version of Laura Lippman’s and Anne Tyler’s Baltimores mixed up together, from the genteel dilapidation of old Baltimore to the dangerous underbelly of the city’s streets. The White Rail is a slender volume, precious as a poetry collection, consisting of six stories, all set in Baltimore or nearby…

To read the full review go here and make sure to check out Chamber Four and their other literary reviews!

New review for All the Heat We Could Carry

Chamber Four, a blog that provides a plethora of information about publishing, literature, and ereading technology, has reviewed All the Heat We Could Carry by Charlie Bondhus. The review does a wonderful job of providing background on the author and book along with providing their favorite lines from All the Heat We Could Carry.alltheheatwecouldcarry

Short preview of Chamber Four’s review:

Winner of the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, Charlie Bondhus’ All the Heat We Could Carry is a meditation on war, the effects of war, particularly on gay soldiers, specifically with regard to the endless war in Afghanistan in the 21st century.  Shifting scenes from the home front in America to Afghanistan and back again, these poems expose the emotions and perspectives of soldiers, in the midst of conflict in the strange, alien terrain of  war and in the familiar, but now no less alien, environs of home.

The title comes from a line in “April,” the final poem in the middle section, a poem about the beginning of the end of a romantic relationship.  For one of the storylines in this collection is about the break-up of two lovers affected by the war.

Make sure to check out Chamber Four’s full review here and to check out their blog overall! Another great resource for book lovers. Many thanks to Chamber Four for their beautifully written review.

Master List of Finalists for National Book Awards

The National Book Awards are almost like the Emmys or Oscars for the book lovers out there. Yes, we will bet on who we think will win for the categories (Fiction, Non-fiction, Young People,  and Poetry). Yes, we make huge announcements who wins what and whether it was well deserved. While it might not be a Twitter trending topic nation wide, it’s important in the literary world. And this past Wednesday, October 16th, the finalists were announced. Now  we’ll scramble to read all the books and try to figure out who will win.

Each book and full review can be found on Amazon.


flamethrower1.  Rachel Kushner for The Flamethrowers (Scribner)

The Flamethrowers is an intensely engaging exploration of the mystique of the feminine, the fake, the terrorist. At its center is Kushner’s brilliantly realized protagonist, a young woman on the verge. Thrilling and fearless, this is a major American novel from a writer of spectacular talent and imagination.”


2. Jhumpa Lahiri for The Lowland (Knopf)

“Masterly suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a work of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga and a story steeped in history that spans generations and geographies with seamless authenticity. It is Jhumpa Lahiri at the height of her considerable powers.”


3. James McBride for The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead)

“An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.”


4. Thomas Pynchon for Bleeding Edge (Penguin Press)

“If not here at the end of history, when? If not Pynchon, who? Reading Bleeding Edge, tearing up at the beauty of its sadness or the punches of its hilarity, you may realize it as the 9/11 novel you never knew you needed… a necessary novel and one that literary history has been waiting for.”


5. George Saunders for Tenth of December (Random House)

“Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December—through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit—not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov’s dictum that art should ‘prepare us for tenderness.'”



1. Jill Lepore for Book of Ages (Knopf)

“To stare at these siblings is to stare at sun and moon. But in Jill Lepore’s meticulously constructed biography, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, recently placed on the long list of nominees for the National Book Award in nonfiction, this moon casts a beguiling glow….Consistently first rate.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times


2. Wendy Lower for Hitler’s Furies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“Hitler’s Furies builds a fascinating and convincing picture of a morally “lost generation” of young women, born into a defeated, tumultuous post–World War I Germany, and then swept up in the nationalistic fervor of the Nazi movement—a twisted political awakening that turned to genocide…..Hitler’s Furies will challenge our deepest beliefs: genocide is women’s business too, and the evidence can be hidden for seventy years.”


3. George Packer for The Unwinding (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer’s novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.”


4. Alan Taylor for The Internal Enemy (Norton)

“This searing story of slavery and freedom in the Chesapeake by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian reveals the pivot in the nation’s path between the founding and civil war.”


5. Lawrence Wright for Going Clear (Knopf)

“In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.”

Young People’s Literature:


1. Kathi Appelt for The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (Atheneum)

“Newbery Honoree and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt presents a story of care and conservation, funny as all get out and ripe for reading aloud.”


2. Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck (Atheneum)

“There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck—which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family in this novel from Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata.”


3. Tom McNeal for Far Far Away (Knopf)

“Veteran writer Tom McNeal has crafted a young adult novel at once grim(m) and hopeful, full of twists, and perfect for fans of contemporary fairy tales like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Holly Black’s Doll Bones. The recipient of five starred reviews, Publishers Weekly called Far Far Away ‘inventive and deeply poignant.'”

Picture Me Gone

4. Meg Rosoff for Picture Me Gone (Putnam)

“Printz Award-winning author Meg Rosoff’s latest novel is a gorgeous and unforgettable page-turner about the relationship between parents and children, love and loss.”


5. Gene Luen Yang for Boxers & Saints (First Second)

“One of the greatest comics storytellers alive brings all his formidable talents to bear in this astonishing new work.”


Frank Bidart for “Metaphysical Dog” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)1.  Frank Bidart for Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

“A vital, searching new collection from one of finest American poets at work today.”

stay, illusion

2. Lucie Brock-Broido for Stay, Illusion (Knopf)

Stay, Illusion, the much-anticipated volume of poems by Lucie Brock-Broido, illuminates the broken but beautiful world she inhabits. Her poems are lit with magic and stark with truth: whether they speak from the imagined dwelling of her “Abandonarium,” or from habitats where animals are farmed and harmed “humanely,” or even from the surreal confines of death row, they find a voice like no other—dazzling, intimate, startling, heartbreaking.”

the big smoke

3. Adrian Matejka for The Big Smoke (Penguin)

“Long listed for the 2013 National Book Award in Poetry—a new collection that examines the myth and history of the prizefighter Jack Johnson.”

Black Aperture

4. Matt Rasmussen for Black Aperture (Louisiana State University Press)

“In his moving debut collection, Matt Rasmussen faces the tragedy of his brother’s suicide, refusing to focus on the expected pathos, blurring the edge between grief and humor.”

Mary Szybist for “Incarnadine” (Graywolf Press)

5. Mary Szybist for Incarnadine (Graywolf Press)

“In Incarnadine, Mary Szybist restlessly seeks out places where meaning might take on new color.”

Only United States citizens are eligible for the award which are administered by the National Book Foundation. The award ceremony is November 20 where we’ll learn who won what.

Do you have any favorites? What book do you think will win each category?

Image Source

Indie Lit Festival: bringing book nerds together one event at a time

By: Shelby Hillers

Despite the rain, fog, and cold weather, the Western Maryland Independent Lit Festival 2013 continued on and showed just how dedicated readers and writers are.


The Festival featured two events. The major event, The Press Festival, took place on East Main Street in Frostburg, Maryland on Saturday, October 12 from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. Featuring panels like genre specific writing, Publishing: A How to Guide, Marketing Your Work, and Future of Books for Readers, Writers, and Publishers, the Indie Lit Festival highlighted the relationship between a publisher and the writer. It’s often forgotten that both parties need each other in order to thrive.

readingeventThe day before, Friday, October 11, featured a reading event that included Deena November from Hyacinth Girl Press, Phillip Terman from Autumn House Press, Nathan Leslie from Atticus Books, and William Hathaway from The Gettysburg Review. The reading event was held at Main Street Books, an amazing book store in town that features both independent and well-known publishers. Due to the rainy weather, the event was very intimidate and personal. It was a great chance to get to know both the publishers and writers. Every writer was thankful for their publisher and having the chance to share their works with equally enthusiastic readers and writers.

The main event, The Press Festival, brought together editors and publishers with writers and educators. The journals and presses that participated had tables where they displayed books, submissions guidelines, and other promotional materials like tee-shirts, book marks, and pens. The journals and presses’ tables were held in the Lyric Theater while the panel discussions took place along the buildings on Main Street.tableevent

Personally I used this chance to network and get to know other publications. During my time there, I met with Big Pulp, The Fourth River, Hyacinth Girl Press, The Idiom Magazine, and Ink Press Productions. All the editors with their journals and presses were amazingly friendly and gave insight into the community. And that’s really want these events are for. Sure, it was a great chance to spread the word about the publication I was with (Grub Street) but I also was able to talk to editors about how they reach out their readers and writers, what it’s like to be on a staff that constantly changes, and what genres need more attention. It’s being around book-loving fanatics that reminds me why I love the literature community so much. We geek out over books and that’s totally okay.


Shelby Hillers is the Online Assistant Editor for BrickHouse Books where she helps manage Facebook, Twitter, and the blog. She is a senior at Towson University majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing. Her works have been published by The TowerlightLimerence Magazine, and TU Career Center’s co-written blog The Thriving Tiger.

The spoken and unspoken moments of Carroll’s GLTTL STOP

GLTTL STPGLTTL STP by Doritt Carroll

BrickHouse Books 2013 $12.00

A review by Sonja James

Beginning with the title, GLTTL STP, Doritt Carroll’s new book of poems encourages us to consider the importance of what is present and what is absent in our understanding of the world. Though Carroll has removed the vowels from the title, she kindly defines herself and her project by clarifying the title in the epigraph at the beginning of the book. “GLTTL STP” is “glottal stop,” which is “a sound produced in speech or singing by a momentary complete closure of the glottis.” This is also described as “a tightening or choking off of sound.”

Carroll simplifies this definition in the title poem, “glttl stp.” She clarifies herself in the opening lines: “everything good/is in the things/that we don’t say.” She then gives examples of “glottal stop” with images from everyday life: the space between sculptures in a museum, the moment before a struck match bursts into flame, and the tension in the air before a recess bell rings. She concludes with the image of two birds pausing in their song “because it was/the right place/in both of their songs/to pause/the/glottal stop.”

After establishing these parameters of the spoken and the unspoken, Carroll then decides on the concrete content of exactly what she is willing to reveal about herself in subsequent poems. In the poem, “2010,” she writes of the death of her father while distancing herself from it. She writes of herself in the third person: “the year her father died/Christmas wasn’t awful/just divided.” In “report,” Carroll reverts to the first person and gives a cheerful account of an ordinary day of life.

The upbeat mood does not last. She then writes four poems that are reflections on various aspects of death: “final commendation,” “death poem #5,” “in re: the scheduled rapture,” and “erasure.” The opening lines of “erasure” sum up the finality of death: “everybody dies the same/boning up like skeletons/stinking like toilets.”

In “first apt.,” Carroll turns to a different subject when she describes an incident of marital discord between a newly married couple. In “to each,” she elaborates on the theme of relationships:

we come into this place

trailing clouds of others

daughters and husbands

mothers we hated

lovers we rejected

and forgot about


forgot again

The closing poem of the volume, “edits,” compares life to the act of poetic creation. Carroll addresses herself as “you:” “you’ve already written the poem/but now you have to fix it.” The poem she speaks of stands for the act of living one’s life. Everything in the poem is “in the wrong order” and the poem and she have “never really gotten along.” The poem can’t be erased because it has been written “in ink.” At this point she tells herself “there’s no more blank paper/so the only thing you/can really do with it is/revise/revise/revise.”

And so the volume concludes with this note of hope. Life in its permanence and vast array of mistakes can be revised. Carroll has spoken, revealing herself as one who is overtly silent and yet profoundly vocal. This is “glottal stop.” The vowels have been restored in this book celebrating and defining what one poet is willing to say and not say. The poems in GLTTL STP transport us to the edge of speech and then save us from any temptation to leap in despair. This is an exciting book and one worth reading.

Sonja James is the author of Baiting the Hook (the Bunny & the Crocodile Press, 1999), Children of the Moon (Argonne House Press, 2004), and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press, 2013).

Poets are invited to submit recent books for review consideration. Contact Sonja James at

Little Patuxent Review recaps literature event

Missed the Baltimore Book Festival? Kicking yourself for missing out on the opportunity to celebrate literature? Fear not because now you can read this great review that recaps the event along with pictures to make you feel like you were almost there.

Kind words for GLTTL STP

Amazon user Margaret “Margie” E. Ott recently wrote a review for BrickHouse Books author Doritt Carroll’s collection of poems, GLTTL STP. On top of the review, Margie gave GLTTL STP five out of five stars. Her comment then became a top reviewed ranking comment. Margie had this to say:

“Sprinkled throughout with wry humor, Glttl Stp explores the things left unsaid, the spaces between people, the distance between birth and death. In this volume of powerful poems, Doritt Carroll gives voice to the pains of middle age – illness, aging parents, departing children, regret, death. Excerpt:

old bag

she rattled around the house
like the last chip in the bag

planning to ignore the phone
if it rang
except it didn’t

she would bathe
if a reason came up

the t.v. so loud
the pixels floated
in the room
like the sparkles of dust
the afternoon sun
was just catching

specks of the show
and specks of the real
right next to each other
in the air like jots of color
in an impressionist’s painting

the forsythias stuck yellow
out through snow
like caution signs saying
don’t wind up
like this”

Check out the review here and buy GLTTL STOP here.

Review for Peter Weltner’s The Outlands

The Outerlands by Peter Weltner

BrickHouse Books 2012 $18.00

A review by Sonja James

Peter Weltner’s The Outerlands is a superbly crafted book of poems that electrify with their emotional impact. Weltner, who lives in San Francisco, writes sensitive and highly aesthetic poems about the Pacific coast, his family, his sexual orientation, and his struggle with religion and notions of the afterlife. He also writes of art, composers, and various poets who have touched his life.

Throughout the volume Weltner revisits his loss of faith which occurred when he was thirteen. He is openly pained by his inability to believe in God. In “A Walk Down Mount Tamalpais,” he excavates the origins of his lack of faith:


Thirteen, when I lost my faith, I set myself on

a mortal quest. Old age would come and I’d

be done, having learned what I’d sought, all God

had wrought on this earth, and I’d be willing to go.

Is it too late? In ancient Colonus, death brought

one blind to an olive grove. I wait by the sea.


Weltner’s loss of faith and lack of belief in an afterlife informs his poem, “A Dead Man in the Dunes, New Year’s Day.” He posits the life after this one as “nothing” when he states “I’m buying too much stuff: books, CDs, DVDs./There’s not enough time left for me to read,/listen to, look at them. I’ll be nothing too soon.”

He continues this nihilistic trend in the title poem, “The Outerlands,” where he writes of the place where a man drowned “last Sunday.” He describes the loss of the body of the man: “No body has been found washed up on the beach./It’s become unlikely it will ever be recovered,/another soul, his name, lost to Pacific riptides.” He then compares the makeshift gravestone of the man to the wreckage of a ship called the Prince Philip which went down in a tempest in 1886: “It’s mere traces now, fragments/of a vanished world….”

In “Resurrection,” he describes his mother’s death: “I’m always too late. Ninety, she dies alone/in a metallic white, shrilly lit hospital room.” He closes the poem with the conclusion he has drawn about any possibility of an afterlife: “There’s resurrection but not for us.”

The hope of the book lies in the poet’s relationship to other artists, both living and dead. He writes poems that resurrect the dead without glossing over their personal failings. In “Randall Jarrell,” he describes the poet Jarrell at a party given for his step-daughter. He describes it as an evening where “There’s pain in the air.” In “Ezra Pound,” he highlights the anti-Semitism of the Modernist poet, Ezra Pound. He also writes of poets Delmore Schwartz, John Wieners, and George Oppen. He celebrates his love of music by commemorating Joseph Haydn, Rossini, Edvard Grieg, Arnold Schoenberg, Richard Strauss, Shostakovich, and Igor Stravinsky.

Of these poems about composers, one of the most hauntingly beautiful passages is from “Edvard Grieg:” “Such cold is what his music wants to say,/the strange chill of age from the day he was born,/the nip of fall in all he has loved, the notes/of his scores chiseled from ice. That crystalline./That light, impossible to touch or hold, like sleet/to a boy’s delight melting in his hands.”

The sheer virtuosity of the poems in The Outerlands demonstrate that Peter Weltner is a poet to be reckoned with. Both the human condition and the human heart are the subjects of these often gloomy poems where we are allowed to glimpse a moment of salvation when Weltner writes of art and music. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, but then, no work of such brutal soul searching ever is.


Sonja James is the author of Baiting the Hook (the Bunny & the Crocodile Press, 1999), Children of the Moon (Argonne House Press, 2004), and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press, 2013).

Poets are invited to submit recent books for review consideration. Contact Sonja James at


Yiddish review of Richard Fein’s Yiddish Genesis

Yiddish publication Afn Shvell, which translates to “on the doorstep”, recently reviewed BrickHouse Books author Richard Fein’s collection of essays titled Yiddish Genesis.

Afn Shvell had this to say about Fein’s work:

“This work is a chronological collection of personal essays, written over a period of forty years, which expresses the attitude of the essayist and literary critic, Richard (Rubin-Jacob) Fein to the Yiddish language and to the Book of Genesis. In the moving and learned memoir Fein illuminated the condition of Yiddish tradition from its Biblical roots to the modern creators and innovators. The theme of Genesis and the decline of Yiddish is the repeated conflict in his dialogue with the theme of the Book of Genesis, the book of creation. The strength of his thoughts about Genesis is that we can read the stories of those Biblical heroes such as the Fathers (Uves), Moses the teacher (Moshe Rabeinu), Isaiah the Prophet (Ishaia Hanovi) with inner feeling, through the lens, not of holy language (loshn kodesh), as is ordinarily done, but through the mother tongue (mame loshn).”

Translation provided by Leon Gildin.

Buy Yiddish Genesis here.

Same review written in Hebrew.

Same review written in Yiddish.

Doritt Carroll reviews Mark Lamoureux’s 29 Cheeseburgers + 39 Years from Pressed Wafer Press

If you’re looking to hire someone to craft an unforgettable phrase, one that will play itself to the tune on your car radio or float like an asterisk across the report you’re trying to read, hire Mark Lamoureux.

It might be more accurate to say that the phrase will append itself like a footnote, since footnotes play an important role in Lamoureux’s new book, 29 Cheeseburgers + 39 Years, but more of that later.  For the moment, let’s sink our teeth into the deft phrasing and wry sense of humor that pervade the opening section of the book.

Here, Lamoureux takes the 29 cheeseburgers, as well as many other objects from pop culture, and uses them as a common language for the poet’s and the reader’s growing awareness.  As Lamoureux holds up one familiar and overlooked item after another, the insights come like jolts from a game show buzzer.  Thus, the very young poet, looking up at glow-in-the-dark stars in his bedroom sees, “plastic/constellations that glow/on the wall of my room for a short time after eating/dim light.”  The child’s first moment of skepticism comes a moment later when he reflects, “They call these meals Happy.”

Later, describing a gypsy moth infestation, the author observes, “the neighbor’s kid kills/them with rocks, green/slicks of guts make/maps on the blacktop.”

It is an arbitrary thing to choose favorites, but a hit list would have to include: “cheese crisped & curled, upturned/edges pointing at grease,” “chugalug of a helicopter descends,” “waffle irons snapping at air like clockwork mussels,” and last, the phrase “Your father’s not coming back” stuck off to the right of a seemingly unrelated poem, like the margin note of someone trying to study while distracted by events.

Pop culture intrudes in a different way in the “39 Years” section of the book.  Here, a poem marks each year of the poet’s life, with multiple footnotes in many of the poems used to remind readers of sounds or catch phrases associated with various cartoon and commercial references.  For example, when the poem includes the line “Fear the Man-Bat,” the footnote assists us with the sound “Shreek! Booga Booga! Skreek!”  When a later poem references Megabug Gladiator, the footnote explains, “In the year 2003, Earth was invaded by a vehicle from a galaxy thousands of lightyears away.  This vehicle has the appearance of a giant spider.  People called it Megaspider. ™”

In this way, the footnotes become like a soundtrack playing behind the poems or the sound of the television left on during a family fight.

This technique makes vivid sense in most instances, but occasionally seems burdensome when the footnotes are long and the reader must make an effort to return to the meaning of the poem.

On most occasions, however, the footnotes provide sharp and helpful “gotcha” insights.  Anyone who has ever taken a college exam will feel a shock of recognition to see the phrase “omit needless words” appended to a description of “magma for melting/the chickenscratch off the /diamond leaves of/those blue, blue books” like a professor’s acidly displeased correction.

Those of us already past the 40th year will find much to relate to in the lines of the final 39th poem that reminds us, “what cannot be/reimagined/only decays,/winded/from the stairs” as we wait, in front of our aging portrait “for the fake brick to/grumble open.”