Read On: Reviews of the latest releases

Happy National Poetry Month, everyone! Grace contributer Kim Baker's first book of ekphrasis poetry: "Under the Influence: Musings on Poems and Paintings" (paperback, $14), was released this month by Finishing Line Press. Dating to ancient Greece, ekphrasis is the practice of literary writing about visual art. Baker is now working on her second book of poetry, which is inspired by the portrayal of women in paintings by women. Visit www.kimbakerpoet.com for information on upcoming readings. We share an excerpt with permission from the author:

THE FIRST VENUS

Inspired by The First Venus, Oil on Canvas, by Jean-Pol d. Franqueuil

I am woman speaking woman.
I inhale hatred and exhale hope.
Exhale flowers of tender resistance.
Flowers of persistence.
Flowers of grace and beauty and soul.
I am swathed in blue tranquility.
No cancer will eat me.
No violence can wound me.
No loss can boss me around.
They could not believe
I have no weapon.
So they took my arms.
But my weapon is affection.
I was reaching for you.
To wrap you in my happiness,
in the vines of my imagination
where horses with green legs and hearts of red outrun hunters.
These blue daisies line my abundance.
You think I have no face?
My head is thrown back in laughter.
I am sacred when naked.
Touch me.
Don't be afraid.
My pendulous breasts are fields for flowers.
Bees feed on my milk of human kindness.
Here. Let me hold you.
You are as I was then.
Lean of spirit.
Come. Lie down with me.
We will feast on history
and art fat with forgiveness
and love.

~~~

MORE GOOD READS

By Annie Philbrick

"Burial Rites," by Hannah Kent (Little Brown, September 2013, Hardcover $26.00)

This is an amazing story set in Iceland where every woman has the last name of her father, more or less. And Iceland is one of those countries where you think everyone is safe, and raising sheep or fishing. Yes, they all do that but there is also a steadfast religious ethic that is instilled in everyone who lives there, young or old. Hannah Kent is a writer who draws you in and you can't let go; absolutely fascinating and captivating. The ending will stay with you for days.

"A White Wind Blew," by James Markert, (Sourcebooks, March 2013, Hardcover, $25.99)

Music, a tuberculosis sanatorium, racism, love — what more could one want in a novel? Markert combines them all in a dramatic, beguiling tale that brings you right into its core. Music is the in heart of Wolfgang Pike who believes a little faith and a finished requiem will heal his patients. Music does not judge by color or race which leads Pike to trouble within the sanitorium and its sufferers. I loved this book and felt like I knew the characters when finished.

"We Need New Names" by NoViolet Bulawayo. (Little Brown, May 2013, $25.00)

NoViolet Bulawayo gives Darling such a emotionally powerful voice while telling her story in such sparse and brilliantly crafted sentences, I had to put this down every once in awhile just to savor the writing and take a break from the heartbreaking scenes of Zimbabwe strife. This novel takes us on one young immigrant's journey from a country being destroyed by violence to one where the grandness and wealth is overwhelming, and the mid-western cold is piercing. This is a debut novel not to be missed as it shows us how one world can discover another and manage to accept one another despite the collision of cultures.

"Brewster" by Mark Slouka, (Norton, August 2013, $25.95)

I read this book from cover to cover, savoring each word and sentence. What an amazing work of literary art. Set in a small town in eastern New York, Brewster could be any blue-collar working town and row houses where love is scarce and violence is sequestered. Slouka writes of friendship and loss with such grace and clarity, creating an incredible read.

"One Way Bridge" by Cathie Pelletier (Sourcebooks, May 2013, $24.99)

I enjoyed, well, loved, "The One Way Bridge" by Cathie Pelletier. I read it on the train last week and got completely involved in the eccentric characters and their friends and their lives in a small town Maine. Pelletier does a wonderful job of capturing their moods and loves and losses and yearnings. She gives you a very good idea of what a small town means to its residents, and her writing is lovely and so descriptive.

"Crime of Privilege" by Walter Walker (Random House, June 2013, Hardcover, $26.00)

This novel tells the story of how wealth and privilege can cover up a heinous crime, only for so long. Traveling the globe in search of answers, George finds more secrets and lies told to protect the guilty. Walker shows that living the life of the fabulously wealthy can mean a walk into perilous territory where no one tells the truth, no one is faithful and no one is lying. "Crime of Privilege" is compelling and well-told, a legal and literary thriller.

Annie Philbrick is the co-owner of Bank Square Books in downtown Mystic. (www.banksquarebooks.com) Look for more of her reviews in the April issue of Grace on Wednesday, April 17.

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