Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I'd apologize for the break in posting, but it's called grad school and a job so there's really no excuse for it (grin). Straight to book reviews then. These are from Sacramento Review.

My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big-City Backyard into a Farm

By Manny Howard Scribner, $25.00, 273 pages
There is no doubt that Manny Howard is an outstanding writer. His articles have been featured in some of the most predominate magazines in this country. The doubt is whether or not he could carry over his style into a book format. My Empire of Dirt, his first book, does live up to that reputation Manny has painstakingly crafted over the years. He is bestowed with the task of building a working farm in his backyard and he must be able to live off the food grown (or raised) there for over thirty days.

This Brooklyn born and raised city dweller, without any farming knowledge, struggles as he uses his only virtue and flaw, spontaneity, to try and succeed. Life on “The Farm” is tough, strenuous, and ultimately dark. It feels perverted to enjoy Manny hurting himself, and to be the voyeur as his marriage slowly crumbles. It’s like watching a train full of puppies colliding with a bus full of dynamite. Hard to watch, but hard not to stare at the wreckage.

Each chapter draws in the reader to Manny’s self-involved world and it’s refreshingly addicting. The book’s goal isn’t to parade his sick twisted life in front of the reader. The book tries to prove that we should leave farming to the professionals, and for city-dwellers to take a closer look at their consumer products. Go the local super-mart and imagine how much time and effort goes into one simple carrot.

It’s eerie to wake up and actively acknowledge how dependent society is today on grocery stores and mega malls. Sure, even my mom grows little tomato plants in her tiny gardens outside, but she would never raise chickens to feed herself. Let alone kill, pluck and de-bone one of nature’s feathered friends. My Empire of Dirt is a great book that shatters the perception that this country could ever go back to being a state of independent farmers — at least not without a lot of hard work and an examination of our inner human nature.

Reviewed by Kevin Brown

Fury: A Memoir

By Koren Zailckas Viking, $25.95, 319 pages

Koren Zailckas is mad as hell and she wrote a book about it. Her second novel is no less absorbing or self-deprecating than her first, Smashed: A Story of a Drunken Girlhood. The first book exposed and identified the pain connected with alcoholism among young adults while her second novel connects a similar audience with rage. The fury of a former alcoholic is hypnotizing to behold and helped this reader at least identify her own anger.

Following a breakup, Koren moves back to the U.S. from England and back in with her parents as she survives a paralyzing heartbreak, leading her to feel everything except rage. At least until her research for a book on anger, work with a shrink, and self-medication with homeopathic remedies lead her to confront the most basic and powerful of passions: her anger. Unleashed, Koren’s rage is ruthless and a balm to her wild confrontation with family and her own identity. Koren’s story isn’t just her own, but puts a voice to a generation with their own issues with rage.
Reviewed by Axie Barclay

Friday, September 3, 2010

Magazines for Writers

Aside from sample copies and online ‘zines, I only read a very few magazines cover to cover on a monthly basis. Why? Simple. I’d rather read a book. I’ve never been drawn to articles, I’d rather read a good story. Of course, some magazines are chuck full of stuff we writers need to absorb. So rather than tackling a textbook, try out some of these

Writer’s Digest – Duh. Like everything about writing you could ever want to know.

Poets and Writers – just subscribed, ironically, when my old mentor suggested I check out their listings for magazine submissions. It deals with a higher brow type of literary, the kind one encounters at literary magazines and through MFA programs. Very new reader, but like what I’m reading so far.

Buzzard Picnic – While this is a new online ‘zine for me and not exactly a fav, it is the last one I read and thus made the list. Find it at

Oysters and Chocolate – my current fav online erotica journal. Vanilla, dirty martini, oysters, licorice whips… it won’t just whet your appetite but maybe just soothe that itch. (Am I mixing metaphors again… oops. ;)

Shape – Too much time at the keyboard makes us all get a little junk in the trunk. Stave it off with an addiction to fitness. I spend an hour on the elliptical most days of the week at a steady pace but the time isn’t wasted as I read books I’m reviewing at the same time. This mag is a great one to inspire healthy living.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Calves, Calves, Calves... and Books!

Eleven calves so far and one unconfirmed, with four to five cows left to calve. Pretty good considering they weren’t supposed to calve until September! August was a dizzying month considering and now with the back to school and milking doubles, September looks to be just as insane.

I’ve got some book recommendations today, stuff I slotted to write about in August but lost time to sick babies, new babies, tagging babies…well, you get the idea. First up is a book by an author I hadn’t read before: Jocelyn Drake Nightwalker. It’s written from the point of view of the vampire which is a cool switch. Problematic when the vamp dies for the day, but Drake handles it well. Another vampire book that truly blew me away was 12 by Jasper Kant. The review for this one is up on San Francisco Book Review, see below. Also just discovered Jacqueline Carey, a Michigan writer and big name in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Unfortunately, her book was the one with the repeated pages I talked about in a post a few weeks ago so am stalled on that book until further notice. :( Instead, I turned to Molly Gloss and her book, Wild Life. It’s based on journals from Gloss’s grandmother and other pioneer women. Her writing is truly a gem. So while I wait in earnest to find out Imriel’s fate after page 576 in Kushiel’s Scion, to the rest of you, Happy reading!

   I didn’t review it, but a subject close to my heart and perhaps soon my masters portfolio.