Category Archives: Reviews

In Praise of Solitude

BUKOWSKI: A LIFE by Neeli Cherkovski

This is the book that I had been waiting for. This biography came out last year in time for Charles Bukowski’s 100th Birthday, August 16, 2020. It is a rewrite of Cherkovski’s 1990 book Hank: The Life of Charles Bukowski. It is updated as Hank (Charles Bukowski’s nickname) died in 1994.

Most people have heard of Bukowski and form polarizing opinions of him. He is either seen as a drunken, womanizing, slob and bum. Or as the King of the Streets and the working underclass. Especially the drinking kind. Like all of us, he was mostly somewhere in between the extremes that the world can see us as.

Cherkovski, a fine poet himself, was a friend of Hank’s and knew him well from the 1960’s until Hank’s death in 1994. He humanizes Hank and sees the wild man, but also sees the sensitive poet within. Hank was probably the most prolific poet ever. He lived to write. He often starved to write. The rest was just a rebellion against a phony society and abusive parents. His father beat him often with a razor strap and his mother offered no help. He also had really bad acne and was a total outcast in school. All of this oppression made one great poet with no pretensions except the one he created as himself, but he winks to let you in on it.

He began writing short stories, with very few getting published. Later he wrote poems that often were like short stories. He worked at the Post Office for about a decade. He was freed from that mental slavery and physical pain at age 50 by a publisher who paid him to just write. Since poetry doesn’t make a lot of money, Hank finished a novel in three weeks called Post Office. It is short and funny. He wrote five other novels and countless books of poetry. He endured the loneliness and solitude it takes to be a prolific writer. He starved for his art like few others.

So, read this book. Read his poems and novels. You will find he was a true philosopher of human nature, much like fellow Californian Eric Hoffer, but with poems.


AT THE CENTER OF ALL BEAUTY by Fenton Johnson

This is a book that I found by accident, and being a person who writes and craves solitude, this was a must read. The author’s name sort of rang a bell, but I couldn’t place him. Later I found out that Johnson grew up in Kentucky and he teaches half of the year right down the street from where I work at Spaulding University.

Much to my surprise, I had much in common with the author. His great grandfather and I have the same name. His family was close to the monks at Gethsemani. I have visited and know two friends of Thomas Merton, their most famous monk. And I got to meet Merton’s secretary. Although I’m not Catholic, I have an affinity for the monks. Johnson and I both have spent long periods of our lives living alone. Fate had a hand in this for both of us. We both crave SILENCE!  And Thoreau’s simplicity, too, as a direct rebellion against consumerism as happiness.

He quotes many of my favorite people, such as Van Gogh, Eudora Welty, Henry David Thoreau, Colin Wilson, Nietzsche, James Baldwin, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Virginia Woolf. Johnson is gay, and I am not, but that doesn’t really matter. We are both outsiders by nature and circumstance. Toward the end he goes into personal Queer experiences which I have no understanding of. But, I am truly grateful that they are getting the human rights and freedoms they deserve.

The French philosopher Blaise Pascal said it best, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. So, go sit in a room alone and read At the Center of All Beauty. You’ll be glad you did.

Reviewed by Tom, Main Library

The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson

Crystal Wilkinson, founding member of the Affrilachian Poets and Kentucky’s current Poet Laureate, is an outstanding author even among our state’s especially rich history of lyrical storytellers. Set in the fictional rural, black township of Opulence, Kentucky, this 2016 novel gives voice to the lives of generations of women of the Goode and Brown families in the twentieth century. The reader floats through the hidden lives of these characters, suffering along with them the abuses and losses they experience and the pressure of living up to community moral expectations (or at least avoiding becoming the subject of local gossip and scorn). But there are also the joyful experiences – the public celebrations, family reunions. And above all there is love: the intensity of the romantic loves and the complexity of the love that binds the families.

Wilkinson brings to life for us a much different time when magic was much more real and connections to the land, to family, and to the community were uninterrupted by our current pace of life, industrialization, digitalization, and urbanization.

– Review by Scott, Main Library

Destination Romance: Two Books That Will Scratch Your Itch For Travel And Love

These books by Emily Henry are the perfect way to immerse yourself in your summer feels.

People We Meet on Vacation is a fun story about two college friends that go on vacation together every summer. Alex and Poppy couldn’t be any different from each other but what they have works…until it doesn’t. When one vacation goes completely wrong, Poppy and Alex take a two year break. Poppy is ready to fix their broken relationship and proposes a trip to do just that. Will Poppy and Alex mend their relationship? You have to read People We Meet on Vacation to find out.

This book is great fun for travelers and non-travelers alike. Henry’s descriptions of Poppy and Alex’s vacations will take you back to places you’ve visited or entice you to go to places you haven’t been. Travel the country from New Orleans, LA to Vail, CO with Alex and Poppy as they explore not only their vacation destinations but who they are as people and what they want from life.

Beach Read by Emily Henry is the story of two authors, Augustus Everett and January Andrews. January is trying to cure her writer’s block and write her next best-selling romance novel. What better place than the beach house her father left her? Augustus is writing his next literary best seller, right next door. Imagine January’s surprise when she discovers Augustus, an old college peer, living right out her doorstep. A challenge is issued. Can Augustus write the perfect romance novel? Will January be able to write a dark literary novel?

The two take turns giving lessons and field trips about their genre of expertise. From book clubs to death cult interviews the two run the gambit of experiences and challenge their views of the world. As they open up to each other about their writing experiences they learn even more about themselves and each other. Who will win the challenge and will it bring them together or divide them? Time will tell.

– Review by Catherine, Main Library

Seed by Ania Ahlborn

As we approach “spooky season” I start to crave a good horror novel…one that I can read on the couch in the middle of the day with all the windows wide open and the sun shining, of course. It’s not my usual fare but a coworker recommended Seed to me, Anita Ahlborn’s debut novel set in rural Louisiana, and I was intrigued and in the mood for something supernatural and sinister. I got exactly what I wished for.

Jack Winters has been carrying the burden of something evil and hungry all his life – he’s even gotten the snarling grin that chases him tattooed onto his back – but despite years of silence and his attempts to build a life with his wife Aimee and their two daughters, despite rebuilding his terrified psyche from what he saw as a child and struggling financially in the present to make ends meet for his small family, he’s about to learn he hasn’t outrun anything. On a dark highway traveling home the Winters family experiences a freak accident that brings Jack face to face with his monster…and this time his youngest daughter, Charlie, sees it too. And Charlie begins to change almost immediately, following the Young Child in a Horror Story playbook: her health suffers, she starts acting out, she suddenly knows things she shouldn’t and starts sowing discord, and then violence. Aimee knows something is wrong, but not to what extent, as her youngest starts to stalk the household. And Jack is torn between finally telling Aimee everything about his past and losing her and the girls forever, and realizing that by the time it becomes vital, it’s too late…that it was always too late. Because while Jack remembers the demon that haunts him there’s a lot of details about his flight from his own childhood home that he doesn’t remember, and he is forced to start searching for the truth about his family, his parents and a single, similar escalation of terror they all experienced before in order to have a chance at saving Charlie in the present.

I really liked the Winters family and felt terribly for them, even if you logically know that it’s not always wise to get attached to the characters in horror stories.* Jack worked a tough, physical job for the family he adored and played in a band with his buddies on the side, and he genuinely reminded me of some of the boys that lived in my grandparents’ holler growing up, a little wild and extremely into metal bands and WWE but you knew they were good-hearted. I don’t see a lot of people like that reflected in literature, and I loved it, even if in this case they were being seriously terrorized. We experience some of the more terrifying scenes from Aimee’s perspective while alone with the kids, and I really felt for her as well: in addition to being terrified for/terrorized by her own daughters, we the readers know Jack had been trying hard to conceal his past from her, and so it was obvious to us that she was in no way equipped to deal with Charlie’s sudden, dramatic possession. Ahlborn peppers the book with creepiness, sliding brief scenes and horrifying lines from Charlie into the constant narrative of Jack’s mounting dread, and they’re effective. Her progression from normal little girl to a vessel for unspeakable evil is gradual, until the plot crashes into us – and the Winters family – and you realize along with all of them that there will be no return to innocence.

I’ve read reviews of this book after the fact where readers have surmised that it contains a major theme of how family violence gets passed down in families for one generation after another. As far as I can tell the events of the story happen over the course of a couple of weeks – I found myself assuming Jack had so much more time to figure out how to save his family, right up until the climax of the novel suddenly crashed down on him and us. Additionally, one of the factors that makes the possession and sundering of this family so painful to read is because Jack clearly loved his children, and treated them well, and he and Aimee loved each other and were fighting desperately to hold their family together. There wasn’t a history of violence in Jack’s family as far as we can see and even if there had been, experiencing familial abuse as a child isn’t a guarantee that a person will grow up to be abusive.

So in my opinion, this isn’t a story about the enduring nature of family violence. It’s simply a story about the Devil playing a game wherein he wagers that a parent will murder their possessed child to protect themselves, because even when he loses he wins, and he’s been winning like that for a very long time. And now it’s Jack’s turn to play.

I’d recommend this book to horror fans who appreciate a Southern Gothic set dressing, creepy kids and the slow reveal of a thriller, with a moderate amount of gore and a side of existential dread. As it turns out however, Ania Ahlborn is one of the more prolific horror authors in recent history, and the plots of her books run the gamut of horror tropes from cannibalistic hillbillies to haunted houses to unseen monsters lurking in the woods, so if you’re a horror fan who hasn’t yet heard of Ahlborn, it looks like she writes a little something for everybody…as it were.

*As a side note, I try to flag reviews of books I read where animals experience violence, because that can be a major trigger for a lot of folks. It feels silly in a book where so much haunting and harm comes to humans, including kids, which would theoretically take precedence over animals in a lot of our sympathies, but just in case I’ll put it here anyway: be aware, a dog is hurt during the course of this story.

– Review by SarahMain Library

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

It’s 1991 and Charlie Jordan is having the worst year of her life. Her best friend and college roommate Maddie was murdered by a suspected serial killer and Charlie has retreated into a fantasy world to deal with her grief and guilt. Charlie was with Maddie the night she died, but after a fight Charlie left her friend and went home. Maddie’s body was found a few days later.

Despite the care and attention of a loyal boyfriend, Charlie feels she has to get away from campus to start to heal, so she calls a number on the local ride share board and snags a ride back to Ohio with a man named Josh. Charlie assumes Josh is a fellow student, but as they begin their journey Charlie starts to feel like Josh’s stories don’t add up. Soon Charlie begins to suspect that Josh is the serial killer responsible for the murder of her best friend and she has to figure out a way to survive this night and save herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed Survive the Night and found the premise to be unique. This is a book that could only have taken place in the early nineties, because with the advent of cell phones and GPS a lot of Charlie’s struggles could have been avoided. But Sager knows this and tries to make the most out of setting this thriller in the not-so-distant past. Music and cultural events of the era weave throughout the book, with grunge band Nirvana playing a role in the plot development.

This book has a fast moving story and plenty of twists and turns to keep you engaged. Charlie’s way of dealing with her grief and pain has been to place herself inside a classic film instead of facing the events in front of her. This makes Charlie an unreliable narrator. You’re sometimes not sure if what is happening is really happening, or if it is what’s happening in the movie in Charlie’s head. I didn’t love the side plot about Charlie’s mental disassociations to deal with her pain and grief, but it works to move the story along.

This book is perfect for fans of true crime stories, podcasts like My Favorite Murder, or those who like recent titles like The Guest List, The Girl on the Train, or the works of Ruth Ware.

– Review by Jenny, Middletown Branch

Music with Hoopla!

As years come and go, so do our contracts with certain services. Unfortunately, this new fiscal year has marked the end of our most recent contract with Kanopy… But! In return, we’ve picked up a contract with Hoopla! While Kanopy primarily focused in movies, Hoopla offers much more, including access to television shows, E-books, audiobooks, and comics! On top of all that, and for the first time in LFPL history, you can have access to stream a variety of mainstream music, popular classics, soundtracks, and more! You can browse their music catalog under their collections or genre sections, or by using their search function on the home page. In this piece, I’ll highlight a few of my favorites from this catalog that you can listen to today! Provide Hoopla with your library card information and gain access to all of these links.

Hoopla offers a TON of the incredibly well produced Audiotree Live Sessions. The image on our left is for the performance of some buddies of mine in Pinegrove, a band I’ve had the pleasure of playing with, and their skill made those shows some of the best I’ve ever been a part of. Yet ANOTHER example of the mysterious waters between Emo and Country, and they hit a home-run every time. Audiotree has helped several buddy bands I’ve played with over the years, marking them as a desirable privilege for any travelling independent band: Leggy, Trunkweed, The Reptilian, Ratboys, White Reaper, and Slingshot Dakota, just to name a few. Check out Invalids, Birds in Row, and Elephant Gym for more favorites.

This is the newest release from St. Vincent, marking it her 6th solo studio album. St. Vincent has one of my favorite catalogs in Art Rock, for her sophistication and guitar shredding skills. She’s toyed with many styles over the years, ranging from sexy and funky to delicate and charming, but this new effort has her leaning specifically into the nostalgia of New York in the 1970’s. A style that’s hard to emulate, but her songs here go toe to toe with many of the Classic Rock greats. In some places, this makes me wonder if my mom would tear up to these songs, fooling her into thinking it was a Bowie or Clapton tune. Despite how different this style may look for St. Vincent, I think she is as in her prime for this record as she’s always been.

This 2000 record may have been ignored or scoffed at later in Rock history for its short-lived fashion sense, but considering this album is 21 years old, Nu-Metal has never sounded so good. Perhaps I’m clouded by my nostalgia of listening to this as a kid while playing video games, but this unique blend of Metal, Industrial, Hip-Hop, and Electronica was ground breaking for its time and Linkin Park deserves that credit for shaping Rock and Metal moving into the 21st century. The music industry sucked a lot of life out of this project as time went forward, but this and their second album are Nu-Metal classics. A moment of silence for Chester Bennington, please… also, for Joey Jordison, of Slipknot, whom Hoopla offers a compilation of.

This album came out in 2003 and must have struck a chord with soon to be social media users, because I remember hearing “Such Great Heights” as the singular indie song that EVERYBODY knew once the internet made music discovery more accessible. There are countless covers of this song, and I’m SURE you’ve heard it in some capacity, but the rest of the album sews this single into a seamless work of art that can now be considered a godfather of Indietronica. I prefer Ben Gibbard here, as opposed to Death Cab For Cutie, for these graceful, groovy, and poetic tunes that the genre attempts to replicate to this day. This 10th Anniversary Edition has some covers and remixes of the tracklist as well.

— Reviewed by Noah, Bon Air Branch

Ten Graphics You Should Check Out

Real quick…there are tons of great comics out there and your library has quite a selection. We’ve got something for every age, rage, or cage, baby…believe that.

I’m not here to sell you anything, just sharing. Here are some works that I have enjoyed since the beginning of the year. Click on the links below and check the bibliography for more details (including a description of and – sometimes – reviews of the work).

Imagine if the Mothership Connection met Firefly…but funkier

Jonathan Hickman jump-starts the whole X-Men side of the Marvel Universe…which is X-cellent if you’ve never read them before and need a convenient place to dive in

Indigenous (?) rebellion against an American Empire gone amuck

Some of the most embarrassing autobiographical stories about the comic biz collected in one place

’70’s-into-’80’s sci-fi, sure, but it also is one of the early works that showed what a new wave of British artists were about to do to the comics industry…completely change it for the better

  • Ms. Tree by Max Allan Collins & Terry Beatty
Currently, the longest running continuous pulp-detective series in comics form (outside of comics strips)

  • Satania – Fabien Vehlmann, Marie Pommepuy, & Sébastien Cosset
From the same creative team that brought you Beautiful Darkness, a phantasmagorical tale about adventurers discovering what really lies deep below the Earth’s surface

Amazing art, fantastic story. You have got to read this one just for the beauty of it


Another great edition to DC’s Graphic Novels for Young Adults series. This time, it’s a coming of age tale of a daughter who feels she has had to live in her mother’s shadow for all these years, only to find her own path
Just gorgeous. Toppi is an amazing artist and an inspiration for many who’ve come since. Sci-fi, fantasy, you name it, he can do it all

All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. Each title has a “Check Our Catalog” link that will take you to where you can view the location and status of the specific item in our system. You may have the item shipped to the library of your choice by placing a hold request (using the “Place Request” button on the right-hand side of the item’s catalog entry).


If you are interested in discussing these titles or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Our next meeting is this Saturday, September 11, 2021. We will be taking a look at The Great Darkness Saga by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen.

– Review by Tony, Main Library

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Tor Books (2020)

176 pages // 3 hours & 46 minutes on Audio

Link to the book in LFPL’s catalog

Riot Baby came out in January 2020 to much acclaim and nominations to many of the most respected science fiction awards (Nebula Award Nominee 2020, Goodreads Science Fiction Choice Award Nominee 2020, Hugo Award Nominee 2021, Locus Award Nominee 2021). But this book is so timely I had to triple check its release date as I was listening to the audiobook–its prescience for the summer of 2020 is as apt as the future sight of the protagonist, Ella.

Ella is only about 5 when her brother Kev is born during the Rodney King riots in 1992 Los Angeles, but she can already see flashes of the future. Ella and Kev grow up protecting each other, developing their skills, and trying to escape the effects of racism, but by adulthood Kev is incarcerated and Ella has to leave to find her full power. But how will she handle having that much power in the face of a system that’s hurting her brother and their community so much? At once hopeful and devastating, Riot Baby is strongly recommended, especially the wonderfully done audiobook version narrated by the author himself. This book is for readers who want to further explore the effect racism and the prison industrial complex has on families and individuals, including one who happens to have superpowers.

– Review by Valerie, Newburg Branch

The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
A New York Times Notable Book, 2013

Recently, a friend placed before me a request: please read The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates.  You see, she herself had read this novel and was interested in discussing it with someone, a situation with which I can relate.  So I agreed, despite its plot type residing well outside my typical reading boundary.  And I am so glad that I did.

Set in the year 1905 and in Princeton, New Jersey, the story is ostensibly the work of a historian who has acquired new materials related to the terrible happenings of that year, which involved several prominent families of Princeton.

At this time, much is taking place in the normally tame town of Princeton and its famous university.  Woodrow Wilson, university president, is embroiled in a power struggle with an influential dean, the daughter of one of the oldest Princeton families leaves her groom at the altar for a recently arrived visitor of dubious origin, and ghosts have begun to make their presences known.

Following the storylines of several characters, Ms. Oates crafts an incredibly engaging story, which takes twists and turns that constantly pique the interest of the reader.  What is real?  What is imagined?  And will the reader ever learn which is which?  Along the way, historical personages with ties to Princeton, including Grover Cleveland and Upton Sinclair, make their cameos and reveal aspects of the history of Princeton not well known.

And while at a length of six hundred sixty-nine pages this is not what one would consider a short book, the plot pushes the reader along at a remarkable rate.  An exceptionally novel story, Ms. Oates awes the reader with her imaginative characters and wonderful prose.

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

Everything Sad Is Untrue: (a true story): Nayeri, Daniel: 9781646140008:  Amazon.com: Books

Inspired by Daniel Nayeri‘s real life, Everything Sad is Untrue is the phenomenal story of twelve year old Khosrou or as his American classmates call him, Daniel. Settle in as Nayeri weaves a tale that is all things magical, beautiful and dangerous. Daniel and his mother and sister have fled Iran and ended up in Oklahoma to start a new life. Daniel sets out to tell his story at school to his disbelieving classmates and we have the pleasure of joining them.

In a world where Daniel feels untethered, where details and dates are fuzzy, he makes connections and builds his history with stories of his relatives and ancestors. Gathering inspiration from 1001 Nights and the tradition of Scheherazade (a story about stories), Nayeri shares the rich and vibrant stories of Persian myths and legends. He weaves in his own story with literary mastery in the most moving way.

This is an adventure story filled with kings and drug lords, persecution, and carpets woven with gems. The story makes it’s way from Iran to London, Abu Dhabi, Italy, and the United States. When finished, the reader will sit with stunning imagery of Persian culture. Although this story is written from the perspective of a twelve year old boy, the rich language and cultural references, along with Khosrou’s struggles make this a stunning book for all ages.

An important component of this novel is the art of storytelling and unearthing what makes a good story. It’s about how stories blend together and how people’s stories in particular connect and in turn bind humanity together. It’s a commentary on how the stories of our past and of ourselves live on and mold us into who we are and who we are becoming. This book celebrates not only Persian literature but the writer in all of us. As Nayeri says “Every story, is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive.”

For this work of art, Nayeri has been recognized with the following:

– Review by Catherine, Main Library