“Struggles in the Void”

Review by Joey Madia

Four months ago I was introduced to Fleur Robins, with whom I fell instantly in love. Not romantically, understand, but as a father who wants to protect a curious and brilliant, although socially and emotionally challenged, young woman from the darkness in the world, while wanting her to bathe immersively and unabashedly in the light of it as well.

Perhaps it is the recent event of my only daughter’s eighteenth birthday, and her starting her senior year of high school as I write this. Perhaps it is the dancing whirl of contradictions that are her chosen isolation and digital world-traveling, her emotional and social strengths and weaknesses, her brilliance and naïveté and her own journey into the darkness and re-entrance into the light that make me invest so heavily in Fleur’s adventures.

This is to take nothing away from Sharon Heath, who writes with a power and honesty that draws me in and makes me laugh out loud and flinch in pain—often within the span of a page, or a paragraph.

In the interest of space, I encourage you to read my review of the first book, and, better yet—read the book itself. Continue reading

Minor Confessions of an Angel Falling Upward

Review by K.P. Ambroziak

This is one of the most interesting, intoxicating, and innovative books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a journal, a confession, a celestial manifesto for the Fallen. But it’s also a throwback to all the great writers of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, those who lived on the edge of art and admission, paving the way for deep meditation and mental masturbation. Tortured thoughts and explicit scenes steeped in a rich vat of lush vocabulary, all make up this devil / vampire / possessor’s confessions—think Marquis de Sade (who makes an appearance), if he were a vampire.

But this isn’t an easy read, nor is it a read for those who’ve spent a lifetime ignoring the core of romantic literature and its predecessors. The wealth of literary, religious, and philosophical knowledge Planner Forthright possesses is astounding. One can believe he’s a fallen angel if only for the immense head on his shoulders. His voice is emotive and stilted at once, and his honesty would have anyone too embarrassed to read his words aloud. But he’s also shared more here than one could ever hope, teaching his reader about the ways of God and the power he’s usurped, a potency that may well have been split evenly. Planner tells us he is heir apparent to the Universe herself, but has no interest in power. If he had a talent, he says, he’d pursue it to the exclusion of all else because “forsaking one’s gifts, when you are lucky enough to have them, is one of the greatest crimes.” Continue reading


“The World within a Nutshell”

Review by Joey Madia

The true gift of poetry as an art form is its deft use of air. Of space. Of pauses and gaps into which the reader can pour him- or herself.

Blue takes these strengths of poetry and puts them to maximum use. With its glossy pages, blue and black ink, illustrations, and numerous typefaces, Blue looks like and reads with the speed of a children’s picture book, but don’t mistake the design for simplicity—Blue invites and rewards multiple readings, each with its own approach.

For instance, the first time I read the book, I took it in as a single poem, telling only one story. The second time, I used a panel with a quote by e.e. cummings as a dividing line between two acts—one that takes as its central character love of a human and the second love of God.

The third time I focused on each passage as delineated by its typeface. This third approach is like reading a book of Asian poetry or koans. Each passage is its own rich moment, an invitation to meditate upon its many meanings. Continue reading

Random Road

“Is Anything Ever Random?”

Review by Joey Madia

Arthur Conan Doyle. Agatha Christie. Edgar Allan Poe. Peter Straub. The Mystery genre is certainly daunting. With such a rich heritage built over so many decades, one has to applaud any new writer breaking into the genre. How do you honor the well-known (and often well-worn) tropes that make the genre what it is while also bringing something new?

Let’s face it—not bringing anything new to a pillar of a genre such as Mystery is like playing a song note for note as originally arranged and expecting your cover to be remembered.

With this skeptical opening in mind, I have to congratulate Tom Kies on not only honoring what makes a good mystery a good mystery—twists and turns, richly detailed locations, lots of likely suspects, an overall moral depravity and subtle condemnation of society, and of course a compelling detective—he manages to bring something new and attention-getting to the genre: the main character’s private life literally and figuratively competes with the mystery all the way through. Continue reading

Way of the Diviner

Review by Joey Madia

Half a dozen years ago, a package arrived in the mail from a publisher. As I made the half mile walk back from the mailbox toward my house on a hill on the far side of a West Virginia hollow, I pulled back the tab on the top of the mailer and out spilled The Toltec I-Ching, a beautifully illustrated new take on the venerable divining method of ancient China.

Sending an email to the publisher that afternoon, I said that I would put the book thoroughly through its paces as a self-help guide, as I was in the midst of making several important decisions, both professionally and personally. The Toltec I-Ching, my review of which is available at New Mystics Reviews, was more than helpful—it was life changing. Taking the complexity of the trigrams and hexagrams of the I-Ching and breaking them down into understandable explanations, Horden, along with his illustrator, allowed me to access insights that yielded immediate results on application. I recommended the book to others, and shared it with many visitors to my home who were also seeking some guidance. Continue reading