Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black



Book Review: The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

Sara A. Mueller has a wicked imagination. She’s created a complex mythology for her unusual fantasy novel, The Bone Orchard, one where the main character, Charm, is a necromancer, a prisoner, a gardener of sorts, a madam, and a concubine to the king. That is until the king is killed, and his dying order is for Charm to discover which of his sons murdered him. If she can discover the truth, despite her personal objections and those of the spirits that haunt her in her bone orchard, she will at last earn her freedom. To further complicate an already complex story, Charm is a sort of mother to women named for their purposes (such as desire, justice, and pride), women crafted by Charm in her orchard – or rather, aspects of her split personalities (the result of tremendous trauma.) And, Charm has an entity called The Lady who lives within her as well who must be protected. The book is filled with political intrigue, magic, science, a toxic patriarchy, and some violence (especially toward women).

Book Review: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

In Jason Rekulak’s Hidden Pictures, a young, recovering addict takes a job as a live-in nanny to an adorable youngster named Teddy. Teddy is an artist, and it doesn’t take long for the nanny to notice something off, something sinister in Teddy’s art. When she tries to address the issue, she’s admonished by Teddy’s folks who accuse her of superstition. When something clearly supernatural occurs, the nanny teams up with a charming landscaper and a kooky neighbor to protect the innocent and to discover surprising truths. The book is well written and suspenseful with a strange twist.

Book Review: In Defense of Witches by Mona Chollet

French writer Mona Chollet published the non-fiction In Defense of Witches at a strange time of gender unrest. She begins the book with the witch trials of the past in Europe and America, including historic anecdotes to enhance the reader’s understanding. Somewhere around the midpoint, she applies some of the lessons from the past and applies them to modern issues faced by women to this day. It’s a mixture of scholarly work and thoughtful opinion.

Book Review: Yours Cruelly, Elvira by Cassandra Peterson

In her autobiography, Yours Cruelly, Elvira, Cassandra Peterson reveals an interesting life. As a child, she almost died from burns that covered a huge portion of her body. Although she experienced difficulties at home, a psychic told her she would enjoy success in the theater. She began her stage career in Las Vegas as a show girl where she met Elvis. Her natural comedic sense and beauty guided her through many adventures before she created the Queen of Halloween, Elvira. This book is told in what is easily recognized as Elvira’s quirky and upbeat voice, even when she discloses some of the terrible experiences. What she said of her marriage resonated with me and brought me to tears. Cassandra offers insight and empowering bits of advice in this charming, compelling book.

Book Review: Pilgrim of Tinker Creek by Anne Dillard

Anne Dillard wrote a contemplative, beautiful collection of introspection and observation with her nonfiction narrative, Pilgrim of Tinker Creek. The beautifully written work explores a year the author spent in nature in Virginia. The erudite author marries scientific knowledge with an unabashed appreciation for the natural world. The author draws interesting parallels between even the smallest parts of the environment with her personal experiences. It translates into almost meditative, spiritual, connected thoughts. This Pulitzer winner was written in the 1974.

Book Review: The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli is a MG story set in medieval times. The story follows a young boy who, after an illness, loses the use of his legs. A kind monk takes him in and teaches him. The boy’s whole life plan was upended, yet he needed to find a “door in the wall.” Resilience. The positive in a negative experience. The value of education and patience. My younger readers enjoyed it. 

Book Review: The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

Authors Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson have teamed up to introduce a whole new generation of readers to the wit and wisdom of Agatha Christie. Their book, The Agathas, unmistakably pays homage to the Grand Dame of Mystery. Each chapter begins with a Christie quote. In it, young Agatha Christie enthusiasts and their friends find themselves using Ms. Christie’s methods to help solve a real murder in their town. It has a lot to say, too, about preconceptions, friendships, cliques, and the power of social media. With good writing, fresh dialogue, and a complex mystery, it succeeds! Trigger warnings: This is a murder mystery. It’s not terribly grisly, though. There are also major subplots that involve domestic violence and emotional abuse. (I could have done without the ending recap, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the reading experience.) Since this is the first in a series, there’s much to anticipate from this dynamic duo of sisterly mysteries!

Book Review: Rookfield by Gordon B. White

The Covid19 pandemic changed perspectives for the population of the world, and Gordon B. White takes on the masked world in his novella, Rookfield. When Cabot’s ex-wife and young son flee the city for the relative safety of the small town of Rookfield, Cabot follows. The small town takes masking seriously, with their young donning bird-beaked plague masks. Cabot plans to collect his son and his ex-wife and rescue them from what he’s certain is some nefarious wrong. The story is tense, atmospheric, and unique. In about 96 pages, Gordon B. White fleshes out a quirky town and its inhabitants while making a subtle statement about parenting and social responsibility.

Book Review: West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

In the historic fiction novel West of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan writes of the last few years of the Jazz Age’s favorite son, F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life needed work. He had debt, including money owed for his wife Zelda’s stay in an asylum for her mental health. His fame had waned. His health suffered from years of unbridled living. His personal life remained turbulent. His relationship with his wife and daughter continued to weigh upon his mind. He watched his friends succeed and had to rely on acquaintances to plead his case to secure work while he continued to pen his latest novel. 

F. Scott had famous friends, and many of them make appearances on these pages. His is a tragic life. He famously said (or may not have?), “There are no second acts in American lives.” Certainly, Mr. Fitzgerald’s work would bely something contrary. Whereas his Great Gatsby was not as well received as his earlier writing, these days, Gatsby defines the age. 

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