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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Heart, You Bully, You Punk by Leah Hager Cohen (Viking) A high school girl, her father, and her math teacher – in Heart, You Bully, You Punk, Leah Hager Cohen, non-fiction writer and mother of three, uses this unlikely triangle to chart the complexities of the human heart.
Iphegenia Julia Esker (she prefers to go solely by her last name) is a prickly thirty-one-year-old high school teacher at the Prospect School in Brooklyn who, after various heartbreaks and disappointments, has found a quiet resolve in her lonely spinster routine. But when a mysterious fall or jump from the top of the bleachers leaves her star math student, Ann James, injured and housebound until exams, Esker volunteers to tutor the precocious teenager at home. And soon, against her will, she begins falling edgily, haltingly in love with the girl's father, Wally. The feeling is mutual for Wally, too, a separated but not divorced restaurateur. As if Esker's natural resistance to happiness weren't enough, the Prospect School frowns on her nascent relationship with Wally, and Wally's wife (Ann's mother), who left three years ago to act in independent films, visits at Christmas.

Charged with Esker's own irreverence and wit, Heart, You Bully, You Punk sweeps us irresistibly into her profound and wistful struggle to unite the rest of her self with her unruly heart. This is a slim novel, a bittersweet romance, cheerful and yet full of nuance. There is room for enchanting poetic observations and romantic similes. Both the metaphor of physical injury, the significance of small gestures carrying great weight, and exquisitely drawn images and fine details reverberate throughout. And the tension builds.

Gabriella's Fire by Venero Armanno (Hyperion). It a Romeo and Juliet story with Australian Italian ethnic background. Their love has some twists and turns over the years and there is a mystery at the heart of their relationship that creates some suspense. powerful and transformative novel.Telling the story of Salvatore and his childhood love Gabriella, and the decades that follow - is an ultimately a moving story of mythic and intimate proportions. Armano writes with grace that draws the reader into a world of lovers, past and present and the nature of obsessive love.

From the flyleaf:

At fifteen, Salvatore (Sam) Capistrano is a normal Australian teenager in all ways but one: he's got Sicilian blood coursing through his veins, with all the zest for life and romance that implies. The object of his desire is Gabriella, the Italian-Irish girl next door, whose brilliant red hair and incendiary personality prompt Sam to nickname her Firehead. Gorgeous, independent and maddeningly elusive, Gabriella teases Sam with her beauty while luring him to perform favors that not only compromise his values, but endanger the already shaky relationship between their two families. Then one day Gabriella disappears abandoning Sam just when he needs her most. Bitter and resentful, Sam moves on with his life: into the shady world of Brisbane's nightclubs, into intense relationships with unobtainable women, and into the company of Gabriella's beloved grandfather, who possesses remarkable powers of his own. Over the next two decades, Sam and Gabriella will find their lives inextricably, painfully, and passsionately linked. How and when they will meet again is the subject of this romantic novel that's as colorful, lyrical, and languid as a Sicilian summer day.

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