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San Francisco Book Review - January 2010
A monthly printed book review publication reviewing about 150 books in 30 different categories.
Jan 10 VOLUME 1, ISSUE 5 F R E E NEW AND OF INTEREST 4 Local Author 18 The Vows of Silence: A Simon Serrailler Mystery Murder in Merry Old England Page 6 The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart Grossbart is a geat debut Page 8 Expanded Sequential Art 20 Page 11 Subversive With a Smile By Terry Bisson PM Press, $12.00, 121 pages 24 Terry Bisson is one of the sharpest short story writers in science fiction today. Under his watchful eye, the country of England has journeyed across the ocean, Death has taken a vacation, and insightful ATMs have offered advice to their customers. Now he tackles the Left Behind series with his tongue-in-cheek satire The Left Left Behind, looks at a world where born-agains, afternoon talk show hosts, world leaders, CEOs, celebrities, and right-wingers have been raptured, and a small group of survivors forms a band while they ride out the Tribulation. Bisson spins the entire genre on its head with his ending, offering more than a few laughs along the way. Also included is Special Relativity, a one-act play where Albert Einstein, Paul Robeson, and J. Edgar Hoover find themselves at a political rally. Concluding with an interview with Bisson, The Left Left Behind captures the rebellious spirit and creative vision handily, even if the stories featured arenâ€™t among the authorâ€™s best. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage An inspirational page-turner Page 16 Bloodworks: Sleeves A tattoo masterpiece! Page 23 107 Reviews INSIDE! History The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000 By Chris Wickham Viking, $35.00, 651 pages The historical literature covering the early Middle Ages has expanded in the past few decades, with new ways of looking at an era that was once ignored and called the “Dark Ages.” Expanding knowledge shows that this period in time was not a “Dark Age,” but something that was between classical Rome and the Renaissance. Chris Wickham enters this area with his latest book The Inheritance of Rome, as he takes a closer look at the cultures that arose around Europe and the Near East after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. He argues that the people who followed the Romans inherited many of their traditions but added their own twist. Mr. Wickhams’ research is sound and impressive. Unfortunately his writing is not. The writing is often dull and boring. I found myself often falling asleep and distracted while reading this book. His organization of the chapters can leave the reader confused, as he refers to events that happened several chapters, and hundreds of pages, ago. Good research, poor writing. Reviewed by Kevin Winter Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching By Crystal N. Feimster Harvard University Press, $35.00, 312 pages This study follows two well-known southern, Reconstruction-era women (Ida B. Wells and Rebecca Latimer) in their political and journalistic attempts to understand and change the outcome of lynchings of that era that were the result of rapes or cries of rape. This narrative line is, of course, tied up heavily with reported data and Fresno studies on the political and cultural phenomenon of both crimes during that time. Themes of white male patriarchy, feminism, reconstruction politics, race and color relations, sexual violence and sexual power are explored in depth using the arc of these two women’s lives and work as a backdrop. An interesting, though somewhat disheartening, tale of the times, this book is destined for a special place in the classrooms and libraries of those concerned with sexual and racial politics. It is a readable study for those simply interested in the historical account, and is made so by multiple narratives of affected citizens, passages from diaries and newspapers, as well as the lives of the two main scholars. Reviewed by Allena Tapia Final Voyage: A Story of Arctic Disaster and One Fateful Whaling Season By Peter Nichols Penguin, $26.95, 294 pages The second part of the title of Final Voyage calls the book “a story of Arctic disaster and one fateful whaling season,” but that billing is erroneous; the disaster that left 32 whaling ships abandoned in encroaching ice floes in the Arctic and put the lives of 1,218 crew members (as well as a few captains’ wives and children) in jeopardy is only a fraction of the book. More accurately, Peter Nichols chronicles the rise and fall of the American whaling industry, based primarily in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and similar towns in New England, from the 17th century through the late 19th century. Nichols discusses at length the Quakers who settled in these areas and their culture and mentality that helped whaling to flourish, the influential families who controlled the industry, and the whales, the ships, and the captains and crew who kept the enterprise going. It is an interesting, informative look at a past era of prospecting for a finite energy source, one that has resonance in our current day of Arrrrgggghhhh! i should have checked the san francisco book review website before buying this book! diminishing oil reserves. However, to call it an “adventure story” would be a stretch. Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim Erotic City By Josh Sides Oxford, $29.95, 292 pages Professor Josh Sides of California State University in Northridge has brilliantly researched the sexual revolution in San Francisco from its beginnings as a gold rush center of vice and high times up to the present. This scholar looks at the various sections of the city where sexual history began from the Tenderloin, Haight, Castro, and Mission. One sees in this book the evolution of burlesque shows to gay liberation, as well as the summer of love. It is shown in these pages how the sexual revolution politics were a major factor in the development of post-war U.S. cities. Sex radicalism is explored by indication of the fact that postwar urban transformations were the causes of race relations. Professor Sides displays that emerging sexual revolutions are not only to be found in San Francisco, but in all metropolitan cities. Erotic dancers, prostitutes, free lovers, birth control advocates are among those individuals who transformed neighborhoods and the political landscape of San Francisco in ways which were rarely appreciated. This study assesses the recent passage of the gay marriage ban in California and has shown in vivid detail the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. A bibliography of sorts would have enhanced the usefulness of this study for a wider audience. This reviewer found the notes at the end of the book invaluable along with archival sources. Reviewed by Claude Ury More than 3 0 0 book rev iew s written each month w w w. S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w. c o m local events 2 January 10 local authors meet the reviewers San Antonio everywhere Unique reviews Local authors sacramentobookreview.com sanfranciscobookreview.com sanantoniobookreview.com fresnobookreview.com w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com San Francisco Book Review 1776 Productions 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 Ph. (916) 503-1776 email@example.com EDITOR IN CHIEF Ross Rojek firstname.lastname@example.org ASSOCIATE EDITOR Kaye Cloutman email@example.com GRAPHIC DESIGN/LAYOUT Heidi Komlofske firstname.lastname@example.org COPY EDITORS Autumn Conley Diane Jinson EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Jen LeBrun Jordan Dacayanan DISTRIBUTION Reliable Distribution Mari Ozawa ADVERTISING SALES Jordan Bassior email@example.com The San Francisco Book Review is published monthly by 1776 Productions. The opinions expressed in these pages are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the San Francisco Book Review or San Francisco Book Review advertisers. All images are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders. All words © 2010, 1776 Productions. January 10 print run - 10,000 copies. Subscriptions Send $18.00 for 12 monthly issues to 1776 Productions, 1215 K Street, 17th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814. Become a Book Reviewer If you would like to review books for us, send three sample reviews in the body of an email to reviews@1776productions. com, along with the category areas you are interested in reviewing. Reviews are uncompensated, except for a review copy of the book and publishing credit. But you do get to read books before all your friends, so that should count for something. IN THIS ISSUE History...........................................................2 Children’s Books.............................................4 Modern Literature..........................................5 Mystery, Crime & Thrillers.............................6 Romance.........................................................7 Music & Movies...............................................7 Science Fiction & Fantasy...............................8 Local Calendar................................................9 Young Adult..................................................10 Sequential Art......................................... 11-14 Tweens.........................................................15 Books About Books.......................................15 Biographies & Memoirs................................16 Business & Investing.................................... 17 Popular Fiction............................................. 17 Cooking, Food & Wine..................................18 Religion........................................................19 Current Events.............................................19 FROM THE EDITOR Since Ross and I started publishing this newspaper back in September 2008, we’d sometimes joke about how we’d ever put an issue together if we both were sick. Luckily, we lasted more than a year before putting that to the test. The January 2010 issue is brought to you by Immodium AD and Tylenol. But, hey...we did it! You’re getting me instead of Ross this time, because, let’s just say, who knows what he’d write about in the condition he’s in today. Our book review publications continue to expand. In October, we launched San Antonio Book Review. We’re pleased to announce our newest licensee: Fresno Book Review -- proof that the book/publishing industry is not dying. This is our first expanded Sequential Art section, which you’ll find on pages 11-14, where you’ll find some wonderfully illustrated books. We also have an impressive Art, Architecture & Photography section on pages 23 and 24, as well as 23 other book categories. Something for everyone! February 12-14 brings a slew of talented writers and publishing houses to the San Francisco Writers Conference. If you’re a local writer, be sure to not miss this one. We’d also love to review your book. Submission guidelines for self-published authors can be found on our website: www.SanFranciscoBookReview.com. Did you know that this is only the tip of the iceberg on book reviews? We can’t possibly fit all of them in the publications. Come on over to the website to find hundreds of reviews in a bevy of categories. Parenting & Families....................................20 Happy reading, Reference......................................................20 Heidi Komlofske —Owner/Co-Publisher firstname.lastname@example.org 1776 Productions Philosophy....................................................21 Science & Nature..........................................21 Self-Help.......................................................22 Spirituality...................................................22 Art, Architecture & Photography.................23 Coming Up... Our February issue will feature an expanded Children’s section to promote the Dr. Seuss Read Across America Program. Look for reviews written by 4th and 5th graders from the San Francisco Bay Area. January 10 3 Children’s Books Polo and the Dragon (The Adventures of Polo) By Regis Faller Roaring Brook Press, $9.99, 24 pages Polo is a young dog who goes into adventures despite bad weather. In this story, he goes on a boating trip during a snowstorm and promptly gets stuck in the middle of the sea as the water turns into ice! What to do, what to do? He spots a treasure chest and finds a quill pen in it. The pen turns out to be magical because as he uses it to draw a door on the ice wall, the door becomes real. Polo opens the door and what does he see on the other side? Well, it depends on who is telling the story. Like in previous Polo adventures, Polo and the Dragon does not have any dialogue or text to tell the story. Instead, it has welldrawn pictures from which the story reader/ teller can make up his own dialogues and come up with his own twists. This is one book that children from ages 3-8 years can read and come up with varying narrations. The reviewer especially recommends it for children learning to speak and those who like to talk a lot! Reviewed by Donabel Beltran-Harms Five Minutes Until Bed By Dorothea DePrisco Wang Andrews McMeel, $14.99, 14 pages 5-4-3-2-1… Join the bedtime countdown of our well-loved forest creatures as they put their little darlings to sleep in Dorothea DePrisco Wang’s latest wonderful addition to your child’s bedtime reading routine Five Minutes Until Bed. Made out like a preschool progress chart, little stars are rewarded to young ones as they turn the pages of this book to pull the tabs and count the minutes as they prepare to get their forty winks. Kids will enjoy watching parents tuck in the little rabbits, birds, beavers, bears and foxes and make them realize that they are not the only ones in need of some shuteye. The whole spread of this charming storybook is filled with whimsical illustrations and vibrant colors done by Patricia Vaux to give life and animate the characters in such a manner that is both endearing and inviting. So after only five minutes, five animals, and five shining stars, your child will be ready to join their snuggly friends’ amazing journey to Dreamland. Reviewed by Kaye Cloutman 4 January 10 Dinosaur Park By Steve Weston Kingfisher, $17.99, 20 pages + 4 play scene It’s a book! Oops, it’s more than a regular book… it is a field guide, a pop-up book and 3-D press-out dinosaurs complete with four different play scenes: T-Rex Valley, Maiasaura Forest, Triceratops Volcano and Diplodocus Lake. Our young readers and scientists will explore various kinds of dinosaurs and learn the hard-to-pronounce names. From the field guide, readers get to know the size, weight, food and footprints o f Tyrannosaurus Rex, Maiasaura, Oviraptor, Triceratops, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, and finally the modern reptile that we are more familiar with, the Crocodile. Not all dinosaurs are fierce, meat-eating giants. Some ate plants and others ate both plants and meat. Some were smaller in size and weight. Some flew, some crawled, walked, run, and swam. The setup for the playscene is very easy and sturdy. The press-out dinosaurs in a little booklet (included) enable our young scientists to create vivid 3-D realism and take them back in time to their imaginary extinct past. This book offers a complete satisfaction to introduce our young readers and dinosaur fans. Reviewed by Sophie M. One More Hug For Madison By Caroline Jayne Church Orchard Books, $16.99, 25 pages The time has come for Madison to go to bed. After this little mouse puts away her toys, washes her whiskers, brushes her teeth, and puts on her pajamas, her mother reads a bedtime story until Madison looks sleepy. After a hug and a kiss goodnight, Madison begins a ritual performed nightly by children everywhere. Afraid of the dark, Madison asks her mother for her doll. On receiving her doll and one more hug, Madison realizes that she is thirsty and asks her mother a drink and a blanket. After her mother provides these and another hug, Madison hears a sound and asks yet again for her hat. Once in place, Madison asks for and receives one more hug. Finally, as Madison begins to whisper her last request, she finds her mother has fallen fast asleep across Madison’s bed. This charmingly illustrated story makes perfect bedtime reading and might even curtail the listener’s seemingly endless list of “just one more thing.” Reviewed by Annie Peters A Little Books Boxed Set By Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace Chronicle Books, $19.99, 80 pages This set contains three books: Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink. Little Hoot is a young owl who is told to stay up much past his bedtime, because that is what owls are supposed to do. Little Oink is a piglet who likes things clean and orderly but is told to mess his room up. Little Pea hates having to eat candy for dinner and would much rather eat spinach. Each main character breaks their stereotypical mold. This is a set of books that belongs on every infant and preschool-aged child’s bookshelf. This would also make a wonderful baby shower gift. These stories are absolutely adorable! Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s writing is whimsical and perfect for the targeted age group. Jen Corace’s illustrations are darling and playful. This set is something I am definitely saving for the day I have my own children. Reviewed by Jen LeBrun HELP WANTED Want to be a part of a growing book review publication? San Francisco Book Review is looking for an ad sales person Local San Francisco Bay Area ad sales Opportunity for Sacramento area ad sales + national sales Make up to 50% commission on a sliding scale Ad sales experience is a plus Training provided Please send your resume to: email@example.com w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Modern Literature New World Monkeys By Nancy Mauro Crown, $23.00, 293 pages In her debut novel, Nancy Mauro digs deep to uncover the uncomfortable realities of marriage. Here are Duncan and Lily, a couple in their early thirties who have lost the ability to connect with ease. The story opens ominously with them hitting a wild boar with their car, as they are driving to Lily’s ancestral home in upstate New York. The pig turns out to be the town mascot. Lily and Duncan choose not to tell the townsfolk what happened, hoping it stays buried. But after Duncan discovers a grave marker for Tinker, Lily’s grandfather’s nanny, they begin unearthing her bones. When one of the bones is carted off by a dog, it arouses the suspicion of the pig’s owner, Skinner, an eccentric old man with a proclivity for firing Civil War cannons. Sharply observed and darkly witty, Mauro manages to build a complex structure of various sub-plots that include Duncan’s ad campaign for jeans set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and Lily’s odd friendship with a peeping tom. The ending feels rushed and, unfortunately, how Tinker died remains a mystery. But so much of life is. A winning debut that manages to marry dark comedy and emotional heart. Reviewed by Deb Jurmu The Museum of Innocence By Orhan Pamuk Random House, $26.95, 532 pages I knew Orhan Pamuk was a Nobel Laureate, but I had never read any of his works. Once I started reading The Museum of Innocence, I looked for all of his earlier works. I am drawn to Pamuk’s narrators; they never fail to intrigue. “Let everyone know--I lived a very happy life” In The Museum of Innocence, Kemal tells a moving story love and delusion. The narrator is very friendly and establishes rapport with the reader, gaining trust, but he shocks us when the details of his own story become too overwhelming for him to handle. At last, he does what no other narrator I know has ever done: he passes on the story-telling to the author and, graciously, Pamuk finishes it for him. By this point, much has transpired—Kema l has fallen in and out of love and in again, but his quest becomes that of understanding different layers of Istanbul life, the very rich, to which he belongs, the middle class, to whom his cousinlover belongs, and the local entertainment industry, which becomes his obsession. This is an engaging story, a powerful introduction to the Pamuk corpus of work. Reviewed by Emmanuel Sigauke The End: A Novel By Salvatore Scibona NAL, $16.00, 336 pages Salvatore Scibona’s National Book award shortlisted debut novel, The End, transports his readers to the Italian suburb of Elephant Park, Ohio, circa 1953. Rich characters populate the landscape, from the baker who refuses to admit that his POW son has died before returning home, to the aristocratic abortionist who imagines herself the guardian of the community she feels slipping away. Layered, nuanced, and often poetic prose testify to this author’s extraordinary gifts. Unfortunately, as with many debuts, overwrought, oversculpted writing and a self-conscious structure occasionally teeters on the edge of pretension and threaten to overwhelm the story. At times, you feel his characters trying to hold their own against Scibona’s intermittent desire to craft every sentence into a masterpiece. Thankfully, more often than not, the characters win this struggle. Make no mistake, this novel sprawls across the page, showing more than a few electric flashes of brilliance; when it shines, The End can make you catch your breath as multifaceted characters wrestle with their demons. While challenging, this novel has strengths serious readers of fiction will recognize and appreciate and will join me in looking forward to Scibona’s next effort with eager anticipation. Reviewed by Jordan Magill The Art Student’s War By Brad Leithauser Knopf, $28.95, 496 pages Living in Detroit with her family, 18year old art student Bea Paradiso finds herself caught up in continual turmoil. While the first wave of injured soldiers trickles in from the jungles of World War II, a battle of another kind has erupted in the Paradiso household, driving a dark splinter into the once close-knit familial bond. While trying to cope with her altered family relationships, Bea faces yet another wave of emotional onslaughts when she agrees to support the war effort by sketching the portraits of wounded soldiers, young men whose lives have been unalterably changed before they even truly start. The only disappointment of The Art Student’s War occasionally comes from the main character herself. At times Bea Paradiso is so irritatingly bewildered and laughably out-maneuvered that it grates on the reader’s nerves. Fortunately, the strength of the story itself compensates for the heroine’s sometime shortcomings. Not to mention the power of the author’s writing itself, a strong poetry-like prose that effortlessly leads the reader through the twists and bends of Bea’s story with such ease that it comes almost as a shock when you look up from the book and realize that you’re still in your own living room. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz The Theory of Light and Matter By Andrew Porter Vintage, $14.00, 178 pages Reflecting back on his summer romance with an Amish girl, one character in The Theory of Light and Matter concludes, “I still shudder at our carelessness, our blind motions, not watching where we were stepping, not even considering what was below us.” Memory and the scars of the past form the connecting theme of the ten stories in this debut collection by Andrew Porter. In these delicately lovely tales, all narrated in the first person, his characters either recall significant past events or are, in their current states, burdened by them; a married woman still torn with the pain of having chosen between lovers; two friends trapped in a relationship that they will neither develop nor relinquish; a man still afflicted by the death of a childhood friend. Porter’s spare, lean voice deftly captures the rhythms of recollection, with the tranquil resignation of recounting what has already happened cloaking the latent emotions left roiling underneath. Wandering tentatively over the rocky terrain of friendship, romance, and family, the characters’ struggles to put meaning to their experiences are handled at times a bit too blatantly, but are throughout rendered with sensitivity and depth. This new author definitely deserves some attention. Reviewed by Ariel Berg Mystery, Crime & Thrillers Detective Stories Edited by Peter Washington Knopf, $15.00, 384 pages Murder over an Asian board game – a Chicago private investigator can get to the bottom of it. A petty criminal who always escapes from prison – one Edinburgh policeman can always bring him in. A young French lady who fears for her safety – a retired police inspector will put her at ease. Danger for a pretty girl waiting for her exconvict lover – the house detective will work things out. A millionaire’s daughter kidnapped and held for ransom – the Continental Detective Agency goes to work. A death that was predicted by a psychic reader – Miss Marple is on it. A murder and a missing racehorse – Sherlock Holmes will solve the crime. A cigar case that isn’t really missing – a bumbling detective will find a culprit anyway. And a stolen letter – found by one of the world’s earliest great detectives. Detective Stories edited by Peter Washington brings us short stories by some of the greatest writers – Simenon, Gardner, Chandler, Hammett, Conan Doyle, and Poe, to name a few. Some of the stories may not be the authors’ best known works, but others – such as The Purloined Letter - are old favorites. Read the book. Reviewed by Douglas McWilliams The Silent Hour (Lincoln Perry) By Michael Koryta Minotaur Books, $24.95, 320 pages Lincoln Perry is doing okay as a private investigator in Cleveland until he lets himself be talked into taking a case for Parker Harrison, a confessed murderer who served 15 years in prison. Harrison’s ex-boss Alexandra Sanabria and her husband disappeared 12 years ago, and the husband’s body has just been found buried in Pennsylvania; now Harrison wants Perry to find Alexandra. But the trail is old and cold, and Alexandra’s brother is a Mafia boss who doesn’t want any investigator sniffing around. With help – and often hindrance – from another private investigator, an aggressive Pennsylvania police officer, local law enforcement, and a retired FBI agent – all with their own agendas – Perry is determined to unravel this disappearance. But he starts to suffer from job burnout, wonders if he’s exposing those closest to him to needless danger, and considers drop- 6 January 10 ping the case and backing away. The Silent Hour by Michael Koryta is in the style of Hammett and Chandler. The story is interesting, starting well and moving slowly with a complex, intricate plot. There is an abundance of bad guys, and we can’t pick out the real culprit until the end. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Douglas McWilliams Targets of Deception By Jeff rey Stephens Variance Publishing, $25.95, 329 pages Jordan Sandor – ex-CIA – stumbles into an ambush on his way to meet a terrorist trainer who wants out of the game. Sandor’s friend is wounded, and Sandor soon finds that the terrorist - who apparently wanted to trade information for safety - has been tortured and killed. When violence explodes against his acquaintances, Sandor must determine who is behind it – probably Vincent Traiman, a rogue ex-CIA agent who was once Sandor’s mentor. Accompanied by a woman that he doesn’t fully trust and another terrorist who wants to bail out, Sandor is going to raise a ruckus in Florida and various parts of Europe until he gets to the bottom of assassination and chemical weapons plots. And who in the CIA is going to help and who is going to betray him – can he trust anyone? “This is going to blow. Let’s get the hell out of here.” Targets of Deception has a decent plot and moves along at a good pace from beginning to end, with plenty of action and blood. The characters of the hero and the ruthless villain are well defined – perhaps too well defined. Other characters show up and then are gone without adding to the story. Even so, this is an excellent read. Reviewed by Douglas McWilliams Blind Delusion By Dorothy Phaire iUniverse, $ 25.99 , 476 pages Blind Delusion is the second book by Phaire and continues her story of Renee Hayes, a middle-aged psychotherapist. Hayes is in a failing marriage, having recently ended her affair with a younger police detective and is still trying to find the love she knows she wants, but hasn’t yet had, in her life. Several story lines converge around Hayes and her accidental re-meeting with Deek Hamilton, The Vows of Silence: A Simon Serrailler Mystery By Susan Hill Overlook Hardcover, $24.95, 336 pages Somebody is murdering women in Lafferton, England – young women – some shot at close range, some killed at longer distances by a sniper. Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler is on the case, but there are no clues and no obvious connections between the victims. What is the motivation, and is there one shooter or two? Superiors in law enforcement are concerned at Simon’s lack of progress, particularly in light of an upcoming wedding that royals are expected to attend. And these murders are not the only things bothering Simon. His widower father is becoming quite friendly with a younger woman. There is a serious illness in his sister’s family. A woman to whom Simon was attracted is back in the area. And a widowed acquaintance is having trouble reconciling with her son. Susan Hill’s Vows of Silence has a good basic plot – murder. Unfortunately, not much time is spent on the murders and even less on detective work. There are too many characters with too many problems, and a good deal of the book is spent on interesting but perhaps nonessential details. A good book, but not a thriller. Reviewed by Alex Telander her former lover. Hayes’ husband, Bill, takes her to a birthday dinner hosted by Clifton Shaw, a local attorney and DC power player. Bill is actively being courted by Shaw for a new company he’s starting up, and she has misgivings about both his association with Shaw and this sudden shift in his career. A cross-story about Brenda Johnson and her husband Jerome, who is caught up in a local drug ring, collide with Hayes’, as Deek is investigating the dealer Jerome works for. Deek needs Hayes to assist him because the drug dealer has started dating one of her best friends. Through everything, Hayes keeps looking for that spark that is missing in her life. Phaire has a strong sense of character, and all of them come across full and threedimensional. Hayes is particularly well written, and her internal thoughts and confl icts give pathos to a woman of a certain age trying to make the best of what they have and yet not settle for less than they feel they deserve. Blind Delusion is a strong romantic thriller that successfully blends both genres. Sponsored Review The Hidden Scroll: An Archaeological Adventure By Avraham Anouchi Xlibris, $19.99, 376 pages The Hidden Scroll is an archeological thriller in the genre of The Di Vinci Code, though focused on Jewish history. Jewish professor Avner Amram is following clues to a lost scroll written by Judah the Maccabee, the acclaimed Jewish leader in the mid 160’s BC. The story ranges from the mid 1930s, into the near future, and ties in story lines involving the Dali Lama, the British Mandate of Palestine, and Israel’s history through it all. The search for the missing scroll also takes the reader through much of the history of the Jewish diaspora as Amram and his colleagues follow historical clues and documents from around the world, each one leading to the next. Anouchi straddles the line between historical facts and fiction fairly well. The story line holds together well, and will be intriguing to fans of archaeological stories and those interested in Jewish history. Elements of the dialog and descriptive text could have used more editing or rewriting, but that doesn’t take away from the story line. Anouchi’s obvious interest in his subject shows, and his protagonist mirrors some of his own experiences and history. For a debut novel, The Hidden Scroll is an engaging book set amid the history of the Jewish-Palestinian confl ict. Sponsored Review w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Romance I Never Fancied Him Anyway By Claudia Carroll Harper Collins, $13.99, 448 pages Written by Claudia Carroll, an Irish actress and writer, I Never Fancied Him Anyway is amusing, whimsical, and charming, filled with Irish colloquialisms; a book that will make you smile indulgently as you turn the last page. From the time she was a wee lass, people have relied on Cassandra to tell them their future. Through her psychic flashes, she can tell whether a person might meet their soul mate or travel to a distant land or reach great heights. For Cassie, her second sight is something she simply takes for granted, like being born left-handed or with a wicked backswing. As an advice columnist for Tattle magazine, she advises the lovelorn and heartbroken, yet Cassie never sees what is in store for her own future. Cassie’s friends, including spoiled and self-entitled Charlene, a twenty-something socialite, activist and down to earth BFF, Jo and the obligatory gay friend, Marc (with a c) provide both comic relief and more than just a little touch of drama. Curled up on the couch, with a cup of tea, reading I Never Fancied Him Anyway is a nice way to spend a couple of hours. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley Guardian By Claire Delacroix Tor, $6.99, 368 pages Guardian is the second book in Claire Delacroix’s futuristic paranormal Fallen Angels trilogy. This exciting follow-up to the futuristic fantasy Fallen continues the saga of Lilith Desjardins’ quest to locate Delilah, the daughter taken from her at birth. Part romance, part urban science fiction, part political commentary, Guardian serves as a warning to all humankind advising against the dangers of Big Brother or too much government involvement in the daily life of its citizenry. In postapocalyptic America, church and state have merged into the New Republic. Although still ruled by a president, an Oracle, the voice of the angels, advises government on all decisions. Long ago the Daughters of the Solace have chosen the Oracle from their ranks, claiming divine guidance. Only this time, the angels have chosen their own Oracle. In the new Republic, any physical abnormality is enough to proclaim one as a secondclass citizen, deemed SHADE(s), or humans who fail the Sub Human Atomic Deviancy Evaluation. A shade’s only purpose in life is to serve. When Shade Delilah Desjardins reveals in front of millions she is the true Oracle chosen by the Heavens, she has little choice but to run or face assassination. With help from a fallen angel named Rafe, she is racing for safety. The fast-moving, descriptive prose keeps you turning the pages till the very end. The romance between Delilah and Rafe is a sweet bonus. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley Demon Forged By Meljean Brook Berkley, $7.99, 432 pages Author Meljean Brook has created an incredibly rich and dynamic mythology in her Guardian Series. Although Demon Forged is eighth in the series, it’s still as fresh and entertaining as the first. Irena has been a Guardian for over sixteen centuries. Over the years, she’s trained many a novice and hunted any demons or vampires who dared to step out of line or threaten the human race. Four hundred years ago she trained Olek. They never planned on falling in love, nor did they plan on having a demon use that love against them, tearing them apart. Now four hundred years later a new threat brings them back together, first to protect mankind and then to repair the damage to their relationship. Irena and Olek have serious chemistry and genuine love for each other once they face their inner demons. Demon Forged is not for the novice. Although Meljean Brook attempts to bring the reader up to speed, there is simply too much ground to cover. The Guardian mythology is complex with a seemingly endless supply of supernatural characters including but not limited to Demons, Vampires, Nosferatu, Nephilim, Grigori, Guardians, Dragons and many, many more. In order to adequately enjoy the complex, dark world of angels and demons, I found first reading Demon Angel and then Demon Bound greatly increased both my understanding and enjoyment of Demon Forged. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley Music & Movies The Art of The Princess and the Frog By Jeff Kurtti, John Lasseter, John Musker, & Ron Clements Chronicle Books, $40.00, 160 pages If you’re like me, you’ve missed the original, hand-drawn Disney movies that are synonymous with Walt Disney’s dreams. Sure, the computer stuff is good, but it’s just not the same. My favorite movie as a child was The Little Mermaid and I’ve been waiting for years for the Disney Studios to go back to their roots. I watched The Princess and the Frog the weekend it came out, and I felt like the other 6-year-olds in the audience. I wanted to dance and sing along to the music and felt like I too could become a Disney princess. The Art of The Princess and the Frog is a glorious book filled with original concept drawings and character development notes in addition to snippets from the animators, who bring each of these characters to life. I highly recommend this book for all Disney fans that have waited years for a movie like this. Hopefully they continue to make hand-drawn animated movies, but until the next one, I will thoroughly enjoy flipping through this wonderful book. Make this timeless piece a part of your library today! Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun Race Results: Hollywood vs. the Supreme Court; Ten Decades of Racial Decisions and Film By Eileen C. Moore Cool Titles, $25.95, 305 pages In Race Results, Eileen C. Moore tackles the stereotypes of the Supreme Court and Hollywood: the former as a moribund body of elites lagging behind the times, and the latter as a progressive and liberal pusher of society’s envelope. Moore, a Justice on the California Courts of Appeal and a former judge on the California Superior Court, compares the two bodies decade by decade, starting in 1915 (the year Birth of a Nation was released) and moving through 2009. In truth, as Moore argues, the reputations could well be reversed. While initially upholding the country’s racist attitudes, the Supreme Court gradually became a major mover in racial rela- tions, often taking the lead in changing racial attitudes, while Hollywood, constantly concerned about public opinion, crept along cautiously, regularly attempting to hide from the issue by ignoring or minimizing the existence of African Americans in its films. “The Supreme Court has declared the rights of all Americans. For decades Hollywood did little to help deliver them to African Americans. But as all America turns the racial page, Hollywood has little choice but to get in step.” The work reads a little too much like a thesis, ordered for the facility of the professor rather than the pleasure of the lay reader, and Moore focuses more on painstakingly presenting evidence rather than providing in-depth analysis. Nevertheless, Moore’s comparison is damning, and should force a rethinking of Hollywood’s role in racial progress. Reviewed by Ariel Berg w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Heads on and We Shoot: The Making of Where the Wild Things Are By Editors of McSweeney’s, Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers It Books, $ 39.99, 240 pages A pleasant little surprise, Heads On and We Shoot: The Making of Where the Wild Things Are from the editors of McSweeney’s is a quaint and entertaining title. Designed like an accordion, Heads On and We Shoot consists of three sections, or “books,” that are back to back and separated by a zig-zagging spine. The three books center on preproduction, production, and post-production, respectively, and the way that they and the entire book is set up is quite creative. Each book goes through every step of its respective process, from the book concept all the way to the final pieces of post production, and does so with a variety of different and interesting techniques. Interviews with staff, cast, and crew give a multitude of individual accounts that highlight just as many See HEADS, page 20 January 10 7 Science Fiction & Fantasy Swiftly By Adam Roberts Trafalgar, $14.95, 359 pages How would Lemuel Gulliver’s discovery of the tiny Lilliputians and giant Brobdingnagians have affected the world? Disastrously, according to Adam Roberts’ novel Swiftly. By 1848, England has wreaked havoc on both races, enslaving the Lilliputians for their dexterous handiwork and either exploiting the peaceful Brobdingnagians for labor or preemptively massacring them. Meanwhile, France, in brutal rivalry with England and allied to the two races, is poised to invade. Caught in the middle are Abraham Bates, a moodswinging crusader for Lilliputian freedom, and scientificallyminded Eleanor Burton, unhappily married to an aged enslaver of Lilliputians. IIFounded in Swift’s satirical subtext of human corruption while toying with the scientific implications raised by these creatures’ existences, Adams’ work presents fascinating themes with unimpressive execution. The book builds sluggishly, wallowing far too long in the personal lives of its protagonists; neither likable nor interesting, they are also yawninducing passive, undergoing convenient but unbelievable character shifts as the novel progresses. Adams’ rather elaborate prose style sometimes reads as clever and hilarious, but other times feels tedious. Swiftly holds many excellent elements and builds to an ultimately exciting (though strangely curtailed) climax, but one might wish the payoff would come, well, more swiftly. Reviewed by Ariel Berg The Infernal City: An Elder Scrolls Novel By Greg Keyes Random House, $14.00, 288 pages All is not well in the world of Tamriel. A massive floating island city named Umbriel has appeared, which leaves behind death and an undead army ready to do its bidding. But all is not lost, for the young Breton woman Annaïg and her Argonian companion Glim have found a way inside, and together they seek a way to destroy it. For help, she has called upon prince Attrebus, who sees danger where his father the empe ror does not. Their actions may decide the fate of the world. The Infernal City is the first published novel set in the epically detailed world of the Elder Scrolls video games. Fans of the games will delight in experiencing this world in a whole new 8 January 10 way, but even readers new to Tamriel will enjoy this exciting and well-written story. The characters are likeable and surprisingly well-developed, considering how short the book is, and the story is captivating. Hopefully there won’t be a long wait for the story’s conclusion! Reviewed by Holly Scudero Catalyst: A Tale of the Barque Cats By Anne McCaff rey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough Del Rey, $26.00, 272 pages Be prepared for a slightly mind-bending tale of space cats, iridescent beetles and humans. This is a mystery/adventure/quest that is being touted as the first in a trilogy from the authors who penned the Power of Three series. The setting is outer space and the time is several centuries after the fall of Earth. The first third of the book is devoted to meticulous development of the characters (feline and human), locations (space stations and planets), and the physical dynamics of space travel. Unfortunately, the naive sing song style can become annoying very quickly. This reader kept wondering whether the book was intended for young children as it lacks the witty dry humor of a Sneaky Pie Brown mystery. The confusion was cleared up with adult-rated scenes of violence against and among animals. The story improves with the addition of interspecies telepathic communication, clever space suits, a dangerous alien, and character interactions approximating what humans experience. The iridescent beetles support the rationale of the story. The narration shifts from character to character and sometimes to an observer-narrator. The two main themes are loyalty and adaptability with underlying threads of greed and self-interest. Let’s hope the sequels are better. Reviewed by Ruta Arellano Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes Edited by J.R. Campbell; Charles Prepolec EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, $16.95, 311 pages As an unabashed fan of all things Sherlockian, I am constantly seeking out anthologies of Holmes adventures I’ve yet to read, and there has been a recent renaissance of short stories collections featuring the Great Detective. A great many of these are adequate at best, but those few truly stirring additions to the Holmes canon make all the searching worthwhile. Unfortunately, the stories in Gaslight Grotesque tend heavily toward the former. The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart By Jesse Bullington Orbit, $14.99, 435 pages One is never sure what to expect in a debut novel. With prepublication endorsement from the likes of Jeff VanderMeer, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, perhaps unfairly, has a high level of expectation. Fortunately for Jesse Bullington, he’s got the writing and storytelling chops to back up the expectations. His debut is a gruesome travelogue of Medieval Europe, chronicling the dastardly deeds of Hegel and Manfried, the titular brothers. Bullington spares very little time introducing the violence and bloodshed that would go on to follow the brothers in their quest for riches in Gyptaland (Egypt). Although demons, witches, and man-beasts roam the countryside, they are not nearly the monsters the Grossbarts are. Hegel and Manfried have a strict moral code which amounts to death if you cross them. More often than not, the form of death is violent and gory. Contrasting the heinous acts committed by the brothers is their pious belief in the Virgin Mary as the holy being at the center of their faith. There is more to the novel than the simple journey the brothers take across Europe and the ocean to Gyptland. Bullington’s knowledge and love for stories is apparent. The novel contains stories within the larger novel and along the Brothers’ entire journey, elements of folklore are evident. In many ways, I was reminded of Angela Carter’s fairy tales in The Bloody Chamber. In particular, Bullington’s rendering story of Nicolette the witch was powerfully engaging. Another element that might be initially off-putting considering the novel is set in Medieval Europe is the speech pattern of the Brothers. I was put in the mind of a backwater, uneducated redneck dialogue. However, it wasn’t long before I grew accustomed to, and enjoyed reading, their dialogue. The novel is gripping, despite a relatively predictable outcome. However, the path is well worth the journey if you can stomach protagonists who murder with the same ease as most people breathe, and with a calmness inversely related to the joy and amount of violence they infl ict on their victims. The novel can’t be easily categorized because it has flavors of fantasy and horror along with elements of folklore and historical fiction. Readers who can handle Hegel and Manfried as protagonists will be rewarded with an ultimately rich and entertaining reading experience, that is especially more impressive since it is the author’s first novel. Reviewed by Rob Bedford Holmes, Watson (and in one entry, Lestrade) cross paths and wits with the undead, the spiritual, monstrous creatures and demonic possession alike, including two reinterpretations of The Hound of the Baskervilles, but for the most part, the tales mostly read like horror stories with these characters shoehorned in clumsily, many of the pleasurable trappings of Holmes stories abandoned in the quest for frights. There are bright spots in the collection -- for one, The Affair of the Heart is an outstanding entry, deftly combining a revenge story with a mindbending murder mystery -- but for the most part, horror fans will get more enjoyment out of Gaslight Grotesque than most loyal Sherlock Holmes fans will. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Are you a local author? San Francisco S e nd us your book for revi ew. San Francisco Book Review c/o 1776 Productions 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 Gallies and final copies accepted. Books will not be returned after review. w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Local Calendar 6 7 pm - Former California Assemblyman Bill Bagley talks about California’s Golden Years: When Government Worked and Why Book Passage - 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 7 6 pm - Paul Linde, M.D. talks about his medical biography Danger to Self: On The Front Line with an ER Psychiatrist Book Passage - 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 7 pm - Don Lattin talks about The Harvard Psychedelic Club Book Passage - 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 8 7 pm - Janice Y.H. Lee talks about her debut novel The Piano Teacher Book Passage - 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 9 Journalists Jeffry Fawcett and Layna Berman present Too Much Medicine Not Enough Health Book Passage - 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 7 pm - Marsha Black presents tips and tricks for the point-and-shoot photographer from The Accidental Photographer for the Camera Bag Book Passage - 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 11 7 pm - Jacob Needleman talks 16 2 pm - Larry Gonick talks about What Is God? Book Passage - 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera about the Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part II Book Passage - 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 12 6 pm - Larry Smith and Rachel 17 11 am - Local Author Day! 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William Stout Architectural Books 804 Montgomery Street San Francisco, CA 94133 | 415.391.6757 Books on architecture, design, and art, both new and rare. M-F 10-6:30, S 10-5:30 Green Apple Books 506 Clement Street San Francisco, CA 94118 | 415.387.2272 New & used books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, journals, cards & more! Alexander Book Store 50 Second Street San Francisco, CA 94105 | 415.495.2992 20 7:30 pm - In Awakening Joy, Baraz and Alexander show how you, too, can access the switch inside yourself and live life with greater joy 2349 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley 25 7 - 9 pm - Kid Lit Salon • Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Salon • Led by Lissa Rovetch • 4th Monday each Month • 7:00-9:00 pm • $120 per year 2349 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley 30 7:30 pm - Poets Keith Ratzlaff and Jesse Nathan Nebraska-native poets Ratzlaff and Nathan read from Dubious Angels and Dinner, respectively. Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, (510) 649-1320 Subscribe to San Francisco Book Review Sign up to receive this monthly publication in the mail. Send $18.00 for annual subscription, along with your mailing address, to: Subscriptions 1776 Productions 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 Are you a local book store? Take out a Directory Listing for only $25/mo. Email firstname.lastname@example.org email your events to email@example.com Young Adult Winter’s End By Jean-Claude Mourlevat Candlewick Press, $17.99, 410 pages Winter’s End is a story about two teen couples and their adventurous plight from the strictest military-school type orphanage to freedom from the hatefully, oppressive Phalanges. Milos, Helen, Bart and Milena all breakout of the horrible school in which they lived and set off on new journeys to find their pasts and start a new future. Winter’s End has a World War II era setting about it and yet it reveals in small, albeit powerful intervals, fantastical characters such as the Dog-Men and the consolers; sort of a NaziGermany meets Alice in Wonderland. JeanClaude Mourlevat, the renowned French children’s author, seemed to have been teetering on which category his audience would be, young adult or adult, for this narrative. All too much harsh, exploitive misery and depression for a young reader to grasp, bordering on despotic. The plot was strong, descriptions picturesque but something was missing; the emotions weren’t real, they were flat as if the story was an ongoing investigation report lacking any human sentiment. This reviewer enjoyed Jean-Claude’s imagination but would have found it more pleasurable reading with reality-based emotions thrown in now and again. Reviewed by M. Chris Johnson Adam Canfield: The Last Reporter By Michael Winerip Candlewick Press, $16.99, 377 pages WE’RE STILL HERE!!! The Slash is back! But there’s no question—they’re in a bad situation. A powerful family—the Bolands—terrorized the Slash a few months ago and completely shut it down. The school budget’s pulled out, and they must fund themselves. They’re self-run! The big question is, how will they raise one thousand dollars in a couple of weeks? Their final answer: the Ameche brothers, who have jumpstarted dozens of businesses, and kept them on a steady pace. The co-editors, Adam and Jennifer, check out the scene. The Ameche brothers are sketchy, but Adam decides to work with them. They’re skilled at making money fast, but dangle strings on the end of the dough. And what is Don’s sudden interest in Jennifer? Will they make it? Or is the Slash completely slashed to shreds? Readers will enjoy Winerip’s fast pace and great humor. The relationship between Adam and Jennifer is balanced perfectly, as all normal relationships are. A little love, a lot of like, a nudge of rivalry, and a pinch of attitude is what keeps Adam and Jennifer running smoothly, and buoying the Slash in above a rough battle. It’s kids vs. adults—a great topic and what makes Adam Canfield The Last Reporter an excellent book. Reviewed by Alex Masri A Brief History of Montmaray By Michelle Cooper Random House Children’s, $21.00, 304 pages The year is 1936, and in a decrepit castle on the island nation of Montmaray, princess Sophia FitzOsborne and her family watch as the world teeters on the edge of calamity. On an island where there are as many royal title-holders as there are subjects, Sophia frankly narrates the novel through her wry journal entries, detailing her dreams and ambitions, the poverty of the royal family, and the encroaching threat of world war. When Nazis land on Montmaray on a quest to find a legendary artifact, demanding and forcing their way into their castle’s grounds, the stark reality of war settles in, and nothing will ever be the same for the FitzOsborne family and their small nation. A Brief History of Montmaray is one of the most enchanting novels I have read all year. Blending taut writing and sharp characterizations with historical fact and fiction, this slim novel is impossible to resist. Sophia shines as the intelligent and charming heroine of this tale, as do her siblings and relatives. Ms. Cooper manages to bring an imagined island nation to life, weaving an intoxicating romance fraught with tension and danger. Montmaray is a land sure to enthrall readers of all ages. Reviewed by Thea James Fat Cat By Robin Brande Random House Children’s, $16.99, 336 pages Cat is smart and funny but she struggles with her weight. For a science project she decides to do an experiment with herself as the subject. She decides she is going to eat as close to the diet as the early hominids did as she can and see the effect it has on her health and body. She is also hoping this experiment will be enough to beat her ri- val, Matt McKinney, who was once her best friend and long time crush in the science fair competition. Despite its being somewhat predictable, I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read that I finished in one day. Once Cat dropped junk food from her diet, started walking everywhere and disconnecting herself from technology as much as possible, the pounds started melting off. She soon found herself the attention of several guys, including Matt. Watching her various dates with a wide range of guys was funny and listening to Cat’s thoughts throughout this process was intriguing. There was also a cute side story regarding Cat’s younger brother and his own self-esteem. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Reviewed by Debbie Suzuki The Book of the Maidservant By Rebecca Barnhouse Random House, $16.99, 240 pages In her debut novel The Book Of The Maidservant, medieval historian Rebecca Barnhouse brings us the well-crafted story of a young girl of fifteenth-century medieval Europe. Dame Margery Kempe was an actual person, a renowned holy woman of great piety who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and wrote about it in the first English autobiography. Johanna, the Maidservant of the tale, is a young girl who has “entered service” after her father loses the family farm. She is loosely based on the historical character of Dame Margery’s personal servant. Dame Margery may be a person of great piety, but she has little patience and is vastly critical of all about her. Johanna is far removed from the “perfect servant” when the story begins, but we watch her mature from a petulant, lazy, ungrateful, poorly trained, unbearably self-centered wretch to a young woman of grace through trial, hardship, sacrifice and drudgery. Author Barnhouse’s considerable talent places us right in the midst of the sights and sounds and smells of medieval Europe with immediacy and verisimilitude. She enables us to experience the long trek from England to Rome with all the exaltation the original travelers must have felt -- and all the weariness, fear, hunger, pain, thirst, and deprivation as well. We can only hope Ms. Barnhouse discovers more historical characters worthy of her talent. Reviewed by Claudette Smith Meow.org: The Cat-Napping Caper By Darby Lee Patterson; Hal Hammond Stories and Books.com, $12.95, 98 pages Elzbeth and her group of friends (known as The Crew) are looking for a new mystery to solve when Elzbeth learns that dozens of cats and kittens have been mysteriously disappearing from their homes. Many of the cats have been adopted from Elzbeth’s aunt and the group is determined to figure out who’s been kidnapping the cats. What would someone want with hundreds of cats anyway? On the surface this looks like a short, fast-paced mystery, but it fails to satisfy those expectations. Although it is short, this is mostly because the plot isn’t complicated enough to be sustained past the short page count. The author does a good job of showing each member of The Crew’s different disability and how they overcome that struggle to help solve the mystery. Unfortunately, most of the book is spent talking about these differences, and Elzbeth in particular as a main character falls short of being a sympathetic figure. The overall tone of the book comes off as somewhat preachy and overbearing, as if the moral was being presented to you on every page. Still, young children may be able to overlook its flaws if they are very interested in this kind of mystery. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller Peter and the Sword of Mercy (Starcatchers) By Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson; Illustrated by Greg Call Disney, $18.99, 515 pages It’s been twenty years since the cataclysmic showdown between the Starcatchers and the Others at Rundoon, and the world beyond Peter Pan’s domain on Mollusk Island has changed a lot. The lovely Molly has grown up and married George Darling, raising three curious children, Michael, John, and Wendy. When a former Lost Boy comes to Molly and asks for her help investigating mysterious disappearances in the heart of London, the wheels are set in motion for a grand reunion that could save the world… or doom it to eternal darkness. Meanwhile, new enemies and old alike have designs on the peaceful denizens of Mollusk Island. With threats abounding on two continents, can even the indefatigable Peter Pan stop the evil forces allied against him? See PETER, page 22 10 January 10 w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com San Francisco & Sacramento E X P A N D E D Jan 10 S E C T I O N Sequential Art Copper By Kazu Kibuishi GRAPHIX, $12.99, 96 pages Most web comics try and get a regular daily or weekly schedule going to encourage regular traffic and readership. It takes a special kind of comic to not only survive on a monthly release schedule, but also to thrive. Kibushi’s Copper is the story of eponymous boy in the series who, along with his dog, Fred, mostly just wander throughout a fantastical environment with a moral often quietly released at the end. While there are a few multi-page stories, Copper’s stronger ones seems to be in the single-page complete stories. “Climbing” has Copper and Fred climbing a mountain with Fred wanting to turn back and Copper selling him on the idea that either they’re lost or on an adventure, and they get to decide which. In “Waves,” Fred and Copper are sitting on a surfboard waiting for the right wave. Fred keeps up a constant flow of complaints until Copper gets them on a wave. Fred silences up as he gets into the groove, with his final comment being “So, when are we coming back?” as they are driving away. Kibushi’s art is clean and his often-involved layouts brings one back looking for the small details in the background. Several of the stories have no words, and the feeling, emotion and personalities still shine through. The interaction between Copper and Fred is reminiscent of Calvin with Hobbes, if Calvin lived full-time in his dream world. Fred is the worrywart and constantly self-doubting, needing Copper to give him that extra boost of confidence or encouragement for whatever Copper is planning on doing next. Kibushi is also producing the comic series Amulet for Graphix, of which book two was just released in September 2009. Stephen King’s The Stand Vol. 1: Captain Trips By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; Illustrated by Mike Perkins Marvel, $24.99, 160 pages After the success of the popular graphic novel series of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Marvel has decided to take on the epic story of Stephen King’s The Stand. For those not familiar with the story: a government-made lethal virus gets out of the lab after an accident that has the now-infected guard fleeing for the hills with his infected wife and kid. The virus spreads at an alarming rate and soon there’s only a se- lect population left. These people have dreams of two people: Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg; they will have to choose whether they’ll be fighting on the side of good or evil. In true Marvel style, the artwork is stunning, combining elements of the TV mini-series, as well as incorporating exact scenes from the book; but Perkins also establishes his own style and look for The Stand. In Captain Trips, readers meet our main characters and see just how devastating this virus is, and to what extent the government will go to prevent panic and keep things quiet. A must for any King fan, and for anyone interested in The Stand. Reviewed by Alex C. Telander w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com January 10 11 E X P A N D E D Some New Kind of Slaughter By Mann & A. David Lewis Archaia Comics, $19.95, 136 pages Fitting right in with the recent environmental-conscious trend in the media, the people, and our culture, and yet still standing out by offering non-preachy and quality content, Some New Kind of Slaughter by A. David Lewis and Marvin Mann is a complex, multi-layered, and rather well-executed combination of a variety of flood myths from different cultures and traditions, intertwined with a modern story of an environmentalist looking for his son in post-natural-disaster chaos. Though the artwork is, at first glance, quite plain and stripped down, it is not so in a way that takes away from anything that Some New Kind of Slaughter is. As the story progresses, more and more elaborate art is shown throughout, revealing that the majority of the panels were drawn in a subtle fashion so that those that weren’t would pop even more dramatically, and they most definitely do that. With a solid concept and solid execution, Some New Kind of Slaughter, though it may not be the best graphic novel ever, is well deserving to be named a great one. The depth of the story line, and the strategic art direction combine to make a more-thannoteworthy work. Reviewed by Jordan Dacayanan Things Undone By Shane White N B M Publishing Company, $12.95, 80 pages Things Undone is billed as dark comedy, and there’s definitely more dark than comedy. Rick, the protagonist, is a video game artist struggling to find a place where his creativity can flourish, only to find himself hopping from one loony employer to another. Rick also attempts to work through relationship insecurities with his beguiling, amorous, and slightly psycho girlfriend. His odd and difficult coworkers add extra elements of tension to the adequately engrossing plot. Rick’s feelings of hollowness and simmering anger multiply as his professional and personal life deteriorate. Some of Rick’s problems result from his poor decisions, though he seems oblivious to this reality. “And there’s a phantom feeling of what used to be there but isn’t.” White gradually transforms Rick into a zombie so readers have a visual perspective of what’s going on inside Rick as his life 12 January 10 S E Q U E N T I A L crumbles. Zombies, you may recall from horror fl icks, are folks who died and were reanimated, and White uses a clever twist on this attribute at the climax. The color scheme of black, white, and orange does little to help the story at the beginning but enhances the slide into the dark and gloomy at the end. Though a bit trite and not appropriate for children, it will keep you reading to learn Rick’s fate. Reviewed by Grady Jones ALEC: The Years Have Pants (A Life-Size Omnibus) By Eddie Campbell Top Shelf Productions, $35.00, 640 pages Eddie Campbell is probably best known for his work with Alan Moore on From Hell, the comic about Jack the Ripper, eventually turned into the movie of the same name staring Johnny Depp. While Campbell has done a number of other books, either as illustrator or as full creator (Bacchus), one project that he has maintained for more than three decades is his semi-autobiographical stories of Alec MacGarry, Eddie’s alter-ego. Originally distributed like minicomics (photocopied and hand sold), different parts of the story have been collected by various publishers over the following years. This massive collection (640 pages) has almost every Alec story previously published (except The Fate of the Artist still in print at First Second), and a new 35-page story that provided the title to the collection. Even as an alter-ego, Alec is an engaging character, and Campbell’s insight into personal interaction keep even the most innocuous interplays into a realistic exchanges most anyone could relate to. Being that the project has been done over years in small pieces, you can also see the development of Campbell’s art as he experiments with new styles rejecting what doesn’t work and keeping what does. You can also see the growth and changes of Alec/Eddie as the years go by and he changes from a pub crawling youngster to a wine drinking parent, trying to potty-train his child. Guest appearances from Dave Sim (Cerberus) and Alan Moore (Watchman, Swamp Thing) and other comic luminaries provide a behind the scenes look at some of Campbell’s professional life. Even as autobiographical comics have been popular for the last couple of decades, no one has really ever produced something of this magnitude yet. Alec “The Years Have Pants” is a lifelong labor of love, and it shows, not only in the magnitude of the volume, but in the persistence of production and the honesty of the stories. A R T S E C T I O N Awakening By Nick Tapalansky, illustrated by Alex Eckman-Lawn Archaia Studio Press, $19.95, 144 pages I get it; I know. I know that you’re sick of zombies in pop culture. I get it, I get it. I know. They’re in recent literature (World War Z, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), they’re in recent fi lms (28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, I am Legend, Shaun of the Dead, Resident Evil, Zombieland); they’re in recent video games (Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Resident Evil, Dead Rising); they’re everywhere! Zombies are spreading like, well, zombies. And I get it! I understand that it’s becoming played out and overdone, but bear with me here, bear with me. Don’t let the fact that Zombies are played out discourage you from getting a hold of Archaia Press Studio’s Awakening: Volume One by Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn. It’s near, if not at, the pinnacle of the best execution of a zombie graphic novel. It breathes death into the dead fad, and somehow, in contradiction, brings it back to life by doing so! Trust me on this. Though the storyline, that mainly consists of a private investigator attempting to figure out what exactly is plaguing Park City and its inhabitants, is undoubtedly awesome, the even more exciting part of the graphic novel is the art. The illustration is dark and telling, and obviously skillfully and passionately done. Eckman-Lawn was bold with the use of big black lines and strategic with the use of color and intentional “messy” shading, all of which create a tremendous depth of atmosphere and feeling. Reviewed by Jordan Dacayanan Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster By Craig Yoe Abrams ComicArts, $24.95, 160 pages Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created the comic book character Superman and sold the rights to National (later named DC Comics) for the not-so-super sum of $130 in 1936. Superman was an instant hit, making National millions of dollars. Siegel and Shuster didn’t see much of that, simply paid page rates by National for their ongoing stories, until National cut them in for part of the syndication fees paid when a newspaper strip started running. Eventually, both men decided to sue for the rights to the character, and when they lost their suit, both were blacklisted from working in the comic industry. In the mid-1950’s, Shuster began drawing illustrations for several pulp magazines, owned and distributed by the Mob. These magazines, most notably Nights of Horror, were stories of S&M, drug use, torture, and kinky sex (for that time). And Shuster’s illustrations often closely resembled his most famous characters—Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Did he do it as revenge against his treatment by DC Comics or out of his own feelings about the characters he no longer drew? No one will know, but Secret Identity will provide you an excellent history of Joe and Jerry’s creation of Superman, their rise and fall, and more than 100 pages of the art Shuster did for Nights of Horror and a couple of sequel magazines. While not drastically pornographic, Secret Identity definitely isn’t for children, and prudish Superman fans might find themselves offended. Wasteland: The Apocalyptic Edition Volume 1 By Antony Johnston; Christopher J. Mitten; Ben Templesmith Oni Press, $34.99, 136 pages Bad Ass. This review for Wasteland: The Apocalyptic Edition by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten may as well start and end right there, with those two words, because together they are the best words to sum up what it is. It’s simply bad ass. Set a century after a mysterious and mythshrouded apocalyptic event, Wasteland takes place somewhere in the Americas, which are now barren and near inhospitable. Michael, a wandering and scavenging trader, stumbles upon a device, a piece of advanced technology from the past (technology is no longer very advanced in Wasteland times) that speaks in a strange and dead language and purportedly tells w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com E X P A N D E D the way to a place thought to be only a myth, and during his travels must survive the desert that the world has become. With excellent illustration to go along with the plot, Wasteland is one of those collections of a comic that is just necessary to have and to read. While the only thing that occasionally feels missing is color, the lack of it is made almost irrelevant by the quality inking and highly entertaining plot. Wasteland is bad ass. Reviewed by Jordan Dacayanan Lost Girls By Alan Moore; Melinda Gebbie Top Shelf $45.00, 320 pages As old women who have led intense lives, Alice (of Wonderland fame), Dorothy (of Oz fame), and Wendy (of Peter Pan fame) happen to meet each other and begin to share the stories of their lives in Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. Though each of their stories is already well known to be filled with fantasy, Moore has the women recounting almost even more unbelievable, yet more realistic (in a Freudian sense) versions of their lives where they show that all of the fantasy surrounding each story is a shroud to cover the sexual escapades that each of the women had as young teenagers. Highly graphic and revealing, the concept is one that only Moore could dream up, though its execution does not seem to live up to his name. With overly simple and flat artwork, Lost Girls, despite however explicit and outrageous the acts it depicts are, simply becomes rather boring to look at. As for reading it, the concept and story line are highly original, and quite hilarious, but the execution of that concept is somewhat lacking. When that is combined with the less-than-satisfactory artwork, Lost Girls is simply not up to par, no matter how inventive its concept is. Reviewed by Jordan Dacayanan Mercy Thompson: Homecoming By Patricia Briggs Del Rey, $22.95, 112 pages Published only four years ago, Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series has quickly acquired a legion of fans, which propelled the series to the number one spot on the New York Times best-seller list. Briggs gives fans a taste of Mercy in a new format: the graphic art book Mercy Thompson: Homecoming. The book is a prequel to the first book in the series, Moon Called, and narrative-wise, it does an excellent job at filling in Mercy’s back- S E Q U E N T I A L ground prior to settling in the Tri-Cities. The book falls flat as a comic book. Two artists provided the drawings for Mercy Thompson: Homecoming, and it shows, particularly when comparing the rendering of Mercy by the male artist to that done by the female artist. Another disappointment is how beloved characters are drawn, as though neither artist were overly familiar with Briggs’s descriptions of them in the novels. At best, the graphic novel adaptation of the Mercy Thompson series is for fans only, since the art is not spectacular and the story, despite being a prequel, would not create a sufficient enough bond with the characters (as seen in the comic book) as one would by reading the actual series. Nonetheless, Briggs’s excellent writing shines through the flat medium of a graphic novel, which would make Mercy Thompson: Homecoming a good buy for fans of the series. Reviewed by Angela Tate Pearls Sells Out By Stephan Pastis Andrews Mcmeel, $16.99, 261 pages The newest treasury from Pearls Before Swine has the whole gang back at it again. This treasury also marks the beginning of interaction between Pearls characters, such as Rat representing Crocs while they sue Zebra. The character names may not be original, but those who already love Pearls Before Swine know that where the strip might lose points for creative names, it makes up for with lots of laughs. The things that set this book apart from other Pearls books is the commentary by Stephan Pastis for many of the strips. You can learn the little inside jokes and stories that make the comments even funnier while learning a little more about what goes behind the scenes of this comic. For fans who can be patient enough for the biannual treasures (like this one) to come out over the regular Pearls books, you will be greatly rewarded. Pastis’ commentary really does make all the difference. There’s also a special section in the back of the treasury featuring comics that were edited, pulled or changed and never made it to newspapers. A great addition for new Pearls fans and veteran fans alike. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller Simon’s Cat By Simon Tofield Grand Central Publishing, $12.99, 240 pages Having not read a book without words since childhood, this reviewer was skeptical of Simon’s Cat. But this comic did not disappoint, and I was soon chuckling and laughing aloud. The illustrations capture the hilarious escapades of a cat’s interaction with his hapless human. Tofield does a wonderful A R T S E C T I O N job blending realism and exaggeration to convey the curious feline soul that leads to antics that land them in uproarious situations. Some of the stories are told in a single frame, others require several frames or pages to convey the gist of the jest. Most of the humor jumps off the page, but a few of Simon’s illustrations require some contemplation to get the joke, which was slightly aggravating and might say more about the reader than the writer. Especially endearing are the cat’s efforts to outwit the birds and mice that plague the house and yard where he lives. This book evokes a vicarious connection to simple living and pleasures. Readers who live with a cat or have spent time observing cats will get the most out of this book. If you’re a hard-core dog person, better pass on this one. A quick fun comic for feline fans. Reviewed by Grady Jones Heavy Liquid SC By Paul Pope Vertigo, $24.99, 256 pages Mixing elements of cyberpunk, psychedelia, and noir, Heavy Liquid by the inventive and ever-unique Paul Pope chronicles the story of S, a tall and slender, soft-spoken outcast who not only knows about, but often deals with, and uses the enigmatic and elusive substance known as “Heavy Liquid,” a soft metallic-like material that is poisonous and highly unstable, though also one that creates an intense drug called “black milk” when boiled down, and is also apparently known as the best material for creating sculptures with in the strange and eclectic world of high-art. S is involved in heavy liquid theft, sale, use, and ultimately takes on a job to find an artist (who happens to be his ex-girlfriend) to sculpt the ultimate piece of art out of the substance, and the happenings along the way become evermore complex and mind blowing. With an exciting art style, Heavy Liquid gives off a darker, more complex and mature energy than the supremely energetic manga styles that have obviously influenced Pope. This, along with the heavy subject matter, creates a unique atmosphere of action and drama with a captivating plot. Reviewed by Jordan Dacayanan w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com High Moon Vol. 1 By David Gallaher; Steve Ellis Zuda, $14.99, 192 pages One of the first graphic novels of DC Comic’s Zuda Comics imprint, High Moon Volume 1 is the story of Edward Conroy and his personal road to redemption, with just one complication: He’s a werewolf. And he’s taken on the name of McGregor, without being aware of its affiliations. The story is organized like a serial, with each few pages leading to a cliffhanger, and those cliffhangers comprising an entire story. Of course, it’s a little grittier than that, earning the series a comparison to spaghetti westerns. The art backs that, with highly detailed artwork. A number of steampunk elements are also incorporated into the comic (best exemplified by one character’s weapon arm that projects electricity). High Moon Volume 1 won the monthly Zuda contest as well as creating some controversy by winning the Harvey Award for best new series. The translation from web to print is another consideration when critiquing this comic, and hasn’t hurt it, as the colors are just as vibrant on the page as they were on the web. Fans of the series will not be disappointed, and the printing may bring it even more fans. This is definitely a comic to look at. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim Mister X: Condemned By Dean Motter Dark Horse, $14.95, 120 pages Mister X was an early noir independent comic, created and edited by Dean Motter, but actually written and drawn by other comic artists. Motter envisioned a city designed by psychetecture, architecture that would make the citizens happier and more productive. But something went wrong and, instead, the design caused insomnia, dementia and madness. The title character returns to fix what’s gone wrong, and in order to avoid the influence of the city, he forgoes sleep through the use of “insomnalin.” Condemned is the latest tale of Radiant City, and the city council has finally decided to start condemning and destroying parts of the city to try and mitigate the influence it is having on the residents. Mister X returns yet again to the city to deal with the remnants of his original failure. Motter wrote and drew Condemned, so this may be more true to his vision of Radiant City than previous volumes that he only oversaw. The strong Bauhouse, Art Deco and German Expressionism themes that Motter has woven into his world are all still there, January 10 13 E X P A N D E D providing a a visual feel that matches the noir feel to the story and characters. Mister X is one of those stories that keeps finding a new home, and continues to find new readers to plunge into the book, wondering just how they could have missed picking it up previously. Talking Lines By R. O. Blechman Drawn and Quarterly, $29.95, 272 pages With all that R.O. Blechman has done during his professional career, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for a proper overview of his comic art to be collected. Blechman had one of the first graphic novels ever produced (The Juggler of our Lady, 1953), was an initial artist for Harvey Kurtzman’s Humbug, illustrated National Lampoon (from the 1970s when it was still funny), along with covers and illustrations for The New Yorker, Storey magazine, The New York Times, The Nation and The New York Times Book Review. This collection includes pieces from throughout his career, along with commentary by Blechman. Much of his work is political, and left of center, sometimes overt— ”Cont a m i nat ion” where the accidental discovery of the ultimate weapon drives its creator mad, and “The Emperor’s New Armor” which mixes the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” with a pointed comment about the Vietnam war. Blechman’s scratchy-line style is highly distinctive, and his use of white space often eliminates the need for panel lines allowing the story to flow naturally across the pages. The pieces range from words plus pictures, “Nothing”, to his wordless Humbug pieces. Talking Lines// is an important survey of Blechman’s work, and should find a place on the bookshelf of any aspiring comic artist along with anyone that follows the medium. S E Q U E N T I A L Reader’s Advisory: An Unshelved Collection By Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes Overdue Media, $17.95, 128 pages In this newest volume of popular web comic Unshelved, Dewey the teen librarian and his team are back to once again help out the library patrons of Mallville’s public library. From the overly positive Tamara to Buddy the Book Beaver, this team of dysfunctional librarians is sure to have you laughing in no time. With very little continuity between strips, this is the perfect volume for new readers to pick up on the story. Returning Unshelved veterans will find that this strip keeps getting better as it goes along, and Reader’s Advisory doesn’t disappoint. Dewey’s as hooked on coffee as ever, Mel’s still fighting for maximum patron satisfaction, and Merv is still trying to wreak as much havoc as possible. You’re sure to find at least one library patron who acts like that one person you met at the grocery store that one time. This volume also includes the corresponding full-color comic strip book reviews from the Sunday runs, which adds a nice touch to the overall book without interrupting the flow of the regular strips. It’s a side of the library you’ve never seen before, and probably won’t ever see anywhere else. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller The Batman Vault By Robert Greenburger and Matthew K. Manning Running Press, $49.95, 189 pages The Batman Vault touts itself as a museum-in-a-book, and it is just that: at once a primer on the character, a retrospective on his history in pop culture, and an impressive assemblage of timeless images, stories, and reproductions of collectibles. Chronicling the creation of the Dark Knight, his journey through comics, television, films and other media, it is a celebration of everything Batman. With almost eighty years of stories to cover, it is hardly all-encompassing, but the authors do an A R T S E C T I O N admirable job picking and choosing what to include while giving tantalizing glimpses into the much-larger (and often, more convoluted) world of the Caped Crusader. Brief but detailed profiles highlight many key characters, including Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, the various Robins, the Joker, and other villainous members of his Rogue’s Gallery, but the collectibles are what put this collection over the top. How-to books, promotional images, coloring book pages, paper toys, a fold-out poster of the Batcave, and even a replica playbill featuring a first sketch of Robin the Boy Wonder, these inserts are links to the past and terrific little additions to stir the spirit of the fanboy in all of us. Museum-in-a-book? Yeah, I’ll buy that. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Math, Science, and Unix Underpants By Bill Amend Andrews McMeel, $12.99, 144 pages For most people the worst thing about high school was math, with science running a close second. In Math, Science, and UNIX Underpants, those memories are brought back one comic strip at a time. Bill Amend has gone through the archives of Fox Trot and brought out what he thinks are the strips that best represent our collective school nightmares, even if you’re like that geek Jason. Math, Science, and UNIX Underpants has some of the funniest moments in Fox Trot history, and they show how the various characters have suffered or exalted in the fields of math and science, and how computers haven’t exactly helped the generation divide or sibling warfare. It’s interesting to see how the kids fight on every field, even if it’s just tweaking the others, and how even the sciences can be wielded like weapons. Part of Fox Trot’s appeal has always been how the kids fight and ally, and they don’t let even grades get in the way of that. Learn- ing about computers, science, and math are definitely one of our weakest areas, and its interesting to see how Amend has chosen to demonstrate that. This is a great book, especially if you’ve suffered through school. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth By Apostolos Doxiadis; Christos Papadimitriou; Illustrated by Alecos Papadatos & Annie Di Donna Bloomsbury, $22.95, 352 pages History and entertainment in one, Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou is a very fun, based-upon-a-true-story account of one of the most groundbreaking mathematicians, logicians, philosophers, and thinkers of the 20th century, Bertrand Russell. Russell, the co-author of Principia Mathematica, as well as countless other papers, books, essays, and articles, is widely considered one of the most influential men of modern times, and is payed tribute to in Papadimitriou and Doxiadis’s work, which showcases his younger life, eccentricities, and troubles in a highly entertaining fashion. A quirky art style offsets some of the harder-to-digest portions of plot, philosophy, and drama, creating a balance of genuinely good content and light-hearted attitude and approach that is rarely found in comics of today. With a good bit of humor, it puts the comic back into comics, and takes stories from a fascinating life and makes them accessible to all. While not the landmark of the century, this volume is definitely a breath of fresh air and accomplishes what it sets out to do with ease and precision. Goofy and fascinating, Logicomix offers some much needed feelgood intellectualism into the sequential art atmosphere. Reviewed by Jordan Dacayanan Want to be a successful published author? You’ve got to be here, too! SAN FRANCISCO WRITERS CONFERENCE Preconference day—February 11th Main Conference—Feb. 12th-14h, 2010 Jacquelyn Mitchard InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill 100 Bestselling Authors, Literary Agents, Editors & Book Marketing Experts 50+ Sessions plus ‘Speed Dating with Agents’ & ‘Ask-A-Pro with Editors’ Dan Poynter Publishing Houses at the 2010 SFWC: Steve Berry Random House, St. Martin's Press, Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster), Jossey-Bass/Wiley & Sons, Mira Books, Walker Books, Seal Press, Writers Digest Books & Author Solutions! Hurry! This event sells out every year. Event information & registration: www.SFWriters.org 501(c)3 Nonprofit Organization or call: 415-673-0939 Susan Wiggs Tweens N.E.R.D.S. By Michael Buckley Abrams Books YR, $14.95, 309 pages Jackson Jones is on top of Nathan Hale Elementary. He’s popular, has tons of friends, is the star of the football team, and he loves to torment nerds. But when a trip to the orthodontist leaves him with a brand new pair of braces and headgear, Jackson’s popularity evaporates. Now Jackson spends his new amounts of free time hiding from his old friends and snooping around the school. These covert activities lead him into the secret lair of the National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (or NERDS for short). These children make up the nation’s elite of secret agents. And they’re all nerds! Jackson’s been given the chance to become a super spy, but how will he ever work with a team of the very people he used to torment? If you’re looking for a spy novel that’s different from the same old, Michael Buckley delivers. The story is fast paced and exciting with just enough mystery to keep readers sustained through a slow beginning. The humorous situations that Jackson finds himself in are just the right balance to the somewhat serious schemes of the evil Dr. Jigsaw. This is sure to be a hit with both boy and girl readers, and even many adults too. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller Odd and the Frost Giants By Neil Gaiman Harper Collins, $14.99, 117 pages Odd is a proud, crafty son of the Vikings, lacking a bit in the luck department. After suffering a crippled leg from a fallen tree and losing his beloved father on an expedition, Odd wanders off into the woods in the hopes of finding some answers, despite the seemingly endless winter that has descended on his people and his home. Along the way, he encounters a curious threesome -- a bear, a fox, and an eagle -- and with them, he embarks on a journey that will test his mettle, his spirit, and his cleverness. And he just might save the world along the way. Short, too short really, Odd and the Frost Giants is a colorful and strange fairy tale, typical of Gaiman’s penchant for journey stories and the smarter-than-the-averageoutsider outsiders that populate many of his works. I sincerely wish there were more pages and more adventures featuring Odd, but his story is so perfectly wrapped up in Odd and the Frost Giants that any additions would be at best superfluous. Odd’s one outing is brief, but worthwhile, for both him and the reader. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas My Big Fat Secret: How Jenna Takes Control of Her Emotions and Eating By Lynn R. Schechter and Jason Chin Magination Press, $9.95, 48 pages Everywhere we look we see it--on TV, in glossy magazines, inside of ourselves--the pressure to look better, to be better. As if this is not nagging and detrimental enough as an adult, the low self-image leak has trickled down to our youth. Lynn R. Schechter, who is a psychiatrist who counsels young girls and boys on issues dealing with weight Books About Books Memoir: A History By Ben Yagoda Riverhead, $25.95, 304 pages Before the controversy erupted over the truth of James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces, Frey attempted to sell the manuscript to publishers as a novel. There was no interest in his story, until he called it a memoir, allowing it to be marketed as a true story and as part of the wave of life writing flooding publisher’s lists today. Life’s stories, once disguised as fiction, are now proudly offered as fact. We may be living in “the golden age of autobiographical fraud,” as Ben Yagoda asserts in his Memoir, A History, but he also shows how these debates about truth and falsehood animated 19th century America’s own interest in the genre. Yagoda’s keen encyclopedic sense of the history of memoir is eye-opening: his deft connections between current trends in the genre and their historical antecedents will send you to the library for memoirs by P.T. Barnum, Edmund Gosse and Helen Keller. “[Memory] is itself a creative writer.” Memory, Yagoda reminds us, “is a creative writer,” and every memoir a creative reconstruction of the past. Ben Yagoda’s affable, learned Memoir, A History is a timely guide to our own cultural fascination with life stories – and to the debates they occasion. Reviewed by Catherine Hollis The Literature of Australia: An Anthology Edited by Nicholas Jose Norton, $49.95, 1,464 pages Literature anthologies bring to life, and light, the areas that they are covering, from American literature, to British literature and now to Australian literature. While Australian literature might not be as well known as American or British, it provides interesting stories and viewpoints of a distinctly English culture thousands of miles from its home in England. Norton provides us with a rich, and thick, anthology of Australian literature starting with the arrival of the first white settlers to modern writing. It is mainly a collection of poems, fiction, and letters, with some non-fiction at the beginning. It provides insight into the cul- ture of history of Australia through the eyes of first the white settlers, and then the Aborigines, and other cultures during the 1960s, as Australians struggled with their national identity. Like all anthologies there will be disagreements over what should be included, and anger over some authors not being included. But Nicholas Jose has done a marvelous job including a wide sample of Australian literature, and hopefully with this collection Australian literature will start to become better known, as are American and British literature. Reviewed by Kevin Winter 50 Things to Do with a Book: (Now That Reading Is Dead) By Bruce McCall It Books, 16.99, 100 pages With people reading less and the introduction of eBooks, sometimes it seems like books are going out of style. So now that you have all these useless heaps of books lying around, what are you supposed to do with them? Author Bruce McCall offers you 50 ideas of ways to use those seemingly useless heaps of tree pulp. From creating your own version of a book skeet shooting club, to staging your own fall of the Roman Empire, there is at least one idea in here you could use for your personal library. w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com and body image, has written a story about this very subject. “I, too, am so glad I have you as my student! I just wish that you would really pay more attention to all of your terrific qualities. Tu est fantastique!” In My Big Fat Secret, Jenna is a twelveyear-old who has just entered middle school, and as if that is not challenging enough, she is a bit overweight, which results in her being teased and ostracized by her peers. Although Jenna is funny, kind, rocks out on the guitar, and has a great best friend and a loyal, although distant, cousin, she cannot see beyond what the scale says. She also has a problem with emotional eating. She eats snacks to fill the void of feeling sad. In talking with her school counselor, she learns healthy alternatives to reducing stress, how to open up, and most importantly, that her worth is not measured in pounds. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez “In brief: the end of books, as man has known and loved them since Gutenberg’s movable-type breakthrough of 1439, is nigh.” Overall, the idea started off as a good one, but it isn’t executed as well as it could have been. While the depth and creativity of the satire presented here is certainly stunning, the book’s humor lacks consistency. Some of the ideas are funny, certainly, but the ideas that surround these few gems make the rest of the book seem dull in comparison. Still, this book is interesting to read (if only to make you reflect a bit), but this might be a volume you want to borrow from a friend or pick up from the library instead. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller January 10 15 Biographies & Memoirs The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance By Elna Baker Penguin, $25.95, 276 pages Elna Baker’s first book, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, is the comical story of Baker’s struggle between staying true to her religion and succumbing to her desires. All her life, Elna struggled with her weight, until deciding to finally loose the extra pounds when she went to college. Being a Mormon in New York isn’t easy. Elna was challenged by the strict rules that come with being a Mormon, testing them at times and making decisions that went against her original beliefs. Every year, Elna attends the New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance to search for the “perfect Mormon man,” but finds no luck. Her dating life isn’t the greatest either, with her longest relationship lasting only six weeks (two of which, the guy was out of town). Elna soon strikes some luck when she falls in love with who she thinks is the man of her dreams. The only problem is… he’s an atheist. Baker takes the cliché “true beauty is on the inside” to a whole new level in this humorous account of her life – eventually admitting that it would be nice to be pretty on the outside as well. A wonderfully funny read, giving some insights into the Mormon religion and some of its misconceptions. Reviewed by Jordan Thaw The Bauhaus Group By Nicholas Fox Weber Knopf, $40.00, 521 pages InThe Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism,art historian, Nicholas Fox Weber has written a timely (a Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) exhibition: “Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity,” a Guggenheim retrospective: “Kandinsky, and the 90th anniversary) “group” biography of the six key individuals/instructors at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau Germany. “As I pedaled along the tree-lined avenue, past the spectacular and ornate structures that line it, I realized that this was what the Bauhaus intended. The goal of its guiding lights was to get us to see things, to notice what is allegedly ordinary but is in fact totally extraordinary.” 16 January 10 Weber befriended the Albers in the 1970’s and mined that relationship for intimate details about the Bauhaus’s major players, including themselves: Josef Albers (painter and master colorist), Anni Albers (textile artist), Walter Gropius (architect), Paul Klee (painter), Wassily Kandinsky (painter), and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (architect). Their reminiscences and personal anecdotes provide a unique insight into the lives of these dynamic, creative individuals.The influence of the Bauhaus is nothing short of astounding. That a small school for the arts with only a handful of teachers could have such an impact on the world (art, architecture, textiles, furniture, typography…the list is endless) almost a century later is unparalleled. The Bauhaus’ legacy is even more remarkable considering it operated for a mere fourteen years. Founded in 1919 and closed by the Nazis in 1933, the Bauhaus, though it no longer exists as a school, continues to exist as a state of mind, as evidenced by such modern mantras as, “less is more” and “form follows function.”//Weber makes the material accessible by limiting the jargon and by including numerous illustrations of both the art and the artists. Filled with insights into their guiding principles as well as juicy tidbits about their private lives, this book is an excellent primer for anyone interested in the arts, modernism, and living a creative life. Reviewed by Bruce Genaro Everything Will Be All Right By Douglas Wallace GreenLeaf Book Group, $21.95, 256 pages Douglas Wallace was born into a life of extreme poverty. Doug, who was one of eight children, moved constantly throughout his life, lacking structure with each move. He knew this life wasn’t for him and his dreams often consisted of becoming a lawyer. The principal in his oneroom schoolhouse told him a poor boy like him could never go to college or become a lawyer. He fought hard just to survive and watched as his alcoholic father abused his mother. He was determined not to become a high school dropout, until violence at school forced him away for good. Eventually, his path led him to Job Corps, where he received his GED and was accepted into a four-year university. A mistake in his class schedule cut his units down to 9 (less than full time), which meant he received the dreaded draft card. He had been trying to distance himself from violence and now he would face it once again. After serving time in Korea (not Vietnam, thankfully) he moved back to Nashville, where he landed a Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage By Christopher Andersen William Morror, $25.99, 326 pages This selected biography includes individual incidents that Barack and Michelle endured and information already in the public domain. Clear, rare, and extraordinary, Barack’s not racially poisoned. He was raised to believe “to be black was to be the beneficiary of a great inheritance, a special destiny.” Michelle, raised in South Chicago by loving parents, was deeply rooted in the black community, or as Jeremiah Wright would say, “the hood.” Regardless of geography, Barack and Michelle experienced rare childhoods and share similar minds. They married, had the kids, and the arguing began. Barack’s political ambitions grew cumbersome. They even considered divorce before a crisis changed their life. They worked together on many campaigns to change public policy. Who knew they would change history? President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Michelle, seemingly complement each other; obliviously work as a team, but they do not profess to have a perfect marriage. Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage is a well-written, inspirational page-turner. Reviewed by Vivian Dixon Sober great job and eventually entered law school, passing the bar exam on his first try. Today, Mr. Wallace is a successful lawyer and has buried three brothers and his father to alcohol abuse. He continues to support his family and remembers the mantra that helped him become as successful as he is: Everything Will Be All Right. Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun Cast Member Confidential: A Disneyfied Memoir By Chris Mitchell Citadel, $15.95, 258 pages Having been a huge Disney fan as long as I can remember, I have always been curious about what it’s like behind the scenes at the Magic Kingdom. Is everything as perfect backstage as it is throughout the park? Hardly! Chris Mitchell needs to escape. After he’s let go from his job, his girlfriend cheats on him with his best friend, and his mom’s health begins to deteriorate, he decides to start over where everything is seemingly perfect: Disney World. It takes him a while to adjust, but eventually he does and it seems like he’s completely left the past behind him. Until the same things begin to reoccur. His mom continues to lie and never admits to having cancer; he walks in on his girlfriend cheating on him, he gets fired from his job, and he loses his best friend. This was supposed to be an eternal Fantasyland, but it was far from perfect. The book does include many of the things that go on behind the scenes at Disney World, like who’s a member of the SOP club, and having to keep your eyes out for “collectors.” Those were definitely entertaining, but the story is more about the journey to finding yourself, and that escaping problems isn’t the answer. Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun Too Good to Be True: The Rise and Fall of Bernie Madoff By Erin Arvedlund Portfolio, $25.95, 310 pages In this book, financial journalist and first-time author Erin Arvedlund systematically maps out the intricate network of relationships within the Bernard Madoff investment fiasco. Arvedlund expended a considerable amount of time and energy in producing this book. She realized that Madoff was full of double talk and could not be delivering the consistent returns to his investors that they thought they were earning when she interviewed him for her 2001 Barron’s magazine article titled, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Typical of Madoff, in response to her quesSee TOO GOOD, page21 w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Business & Investing Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World By Tyler Cowen Penguin, $25.95, 259 pages This well-known behavioral economist of George Mason University gives his perceptive and though-provoking take on how we can impede technology, embrace multi-tasking, and open our minds to neuro-diversity as a means of creating our own happier, richer personal economies, arguing that one should not define autism in terms of its impairments, but must extrapolate the strengths of people with autism. When, according to author Cohen, the economy is doing poorly, people turn to less expensive pleasures. The author economist feels that these questions must be carefully considered -- namely, rather than surrendering to the recession, what can one do to empower oneself and create a better life? Also, are new digital technologies of any real use, and how can one use them to advantage? Professor Cowen looks at current technology, such as social networking, digital music, microblogging, and smart phones, and indicates how these technologies allow us to better educate ourselves. Keeping in touch with loved ones enables us to develop richer community feelings that one might feel uncomfortable expressing in person or writing in a longer format. Also, programs like Facebook and iTunes help us to activate and share newer interests. Reviewed by Claude Ury Past Due By Peter S. Goodman Henry Holt, $25.00, 336 pages It was big trouble for many people when the financial crisis struck in 2008. In Past Due: The End Of Easy Money And The Renewal Of The American Economy, Peter S. Goodman, national economics correspondent for The New York Times takes us behind the headlines and exposes how the flow of capital from Asia and Silicon Valley to the suburbs of the housing bubble perverted America’s economy. He follows a real estate entrepreneur who sees endless opportunity in undeveloped lots in Florida until the mortgages for them collapsed. And he watches as a deliveryman from Oakland, California, unable to land a job after being trained for work in the biotech industry, slides into unemployment and living in a homeless shelter. As Goodman shows, for two decades Americans binged on imports and easy credit, indulging in a spending spree abetted by ever-increasing home values—and then the bill came due. “There has always been poverty in the United States. There has always been unemployment and foreclosure and bankruptcy. Even in good times, many people fail. Such is the reality of capitalism, the downside of the growth and innovation contained within a system in which people are free to take great risks and pursue great rewards.” In this environment of thrift and financial pullback, Goodman argues that economic adaptation is possible, through new industries and new safety nets. His tour of emerging businesses in Michigan, Iowa, South Carolina, and elsewhere, along with his clear-eyed analysis, point the way to the economic promise America still holds while pointing out the risks it still faces. Even if you are not an economist, and you just want to know where all the money went, Goodman’s Past Due is an engaging and enlightening read. Reviewed by Dominique James The Leap: How 3 Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career from Good to Great By Rick Smith Portfolio, $24.95, 209 pages Just how many steps do you really need to take in order to succeed? If you are to believe Rick Smith, in his The Leap: How 3 Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career From Good To Great, you only need to take three— yes, three—“manageable” steps. Nothing more, and nothing less. I suppose, in just three steps, “it is possible for anyone, anywhere, to take the leap and unlock their ultimate potential,” according to Tim Robbins. And yes, chimes Sara Blakely, it “doesn’t require you to jump off a cliff!” Rick Smith knows firsthand what it’s like to feel stuck in a career rut. He worked in a midlevel job where he had modest success. Then his life took an unexpected turn and he found himself creating a business that became successful beyond his wildest dreams. He unlocked a level of performance he didn’t know he had in him. He realized that the secret doesn’t lie with some mysterious talent, trait, or affinity for risk. And it See LEAP, page 18 Popular Fiction Millie’s Fling By Jill Mansell Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.00, 512 pages In a quirky twist of Fate, heroine Millie Brady loses her boyfriend and her job and gains a new friend, all in one day, in this work by bestselling romance author, Orla Hart. Living in Cornwall, England, Millie considers both herself and her love life to be boring. So boring in fact, she can barely make herself pay attention when her boyfriend asks her to move in with him. She’s far more concerned about the woman (Orla) ready to jump off the cliff at Tresanter Point. Orla feels extra humiliated when she suspects her husband is having yet another affair, especially as she is supposed to be the queen of highend romance, Jackie Collins style, and vows to end it all. Millie comes along in the nick of time—leaving her boyfriend so enraged, he dumps her. Grateful and feeling a touch guilty, Orla vows to play matchmaker and find Millie the love of her life. Romantic mishaps ensue as Millie barely treads water in the dating pool, reporting and updating Orla all the while. Millie’s Fling is a delightful way to spend an afternoon, a feel-good Brit chick lit novel, light and funny, and packed with memorable characters. However at 500+ pages, the novel could have used some heavy editing, and could easily lose a good hundred pages without sacrificing the heart of the tale. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley Kingdom of the Golden Dragon By Isabel Allende Harper Perennial, $14.99, 437 pages After the initial, disappointing introduction to Alex Cold and his grandmother Kate in City of the Beasts, it was with some trepidation that I picked up the second installment in the series, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon. Isabel Allende, a powerhouse novelist often grouped with greats like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, takes a second step into the YA market by picking up the threads of the Colds’ adventures, and sending them off into Himalayas, where they face another round of kidnappings, secret plots and exposure to ancient religions. Unfortunately, normal readers of Allende, whether those who adore her South American-set sagas, or those who prefer her emotional memoirs, will be disappointed by this traditional YA adventure tale. A times the dialogue is hokey, the “lessons” are too obvious, and the characters seem more like caricatures, but the Colds will grow on a reader just enough to hang around to see what happens next. Reviewed by Allena Tapia Labor Day By Joyce Maynard William Morrow, $24.99, 256 pages Bring up the name Joyce Maynard and you’ll hear from a few strong supporters and just as many if not more detractors of the author’s work. Labor Day will likely provide more ammunition to the detractors. This is a slight work, both in length and substance. A convict escapes from a state prison and enters a Pricemart (think WalMart) where he spots a woman and her son. He turns to them for help in hiding and the rest of the story describes events over the w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com next 6 days. There’s also a type of afterword that looks forward eighteen years. This story is told from the thirteen-yearold son Henry’s point of view. Henry’s more concerned about his loser status in school-he’s not good with sports or girls--than the implications of harboring a fugitive. Henry’s mother has been a hermit since her divorce and she sees the convict Frank as a last chance for affection. The average reader will correctly guess the ending only a quarter of the way through. Maynard’s style is easy to read and it may appeal to some young adult readers. Labor Day is reflective of Joan Didion’s fiction, but not much happens A slight tale, told slowly. Reviewed by Joseph Arellano January 10 17 Cooking, Food & Wine Emeril 20-40-60: Fresh Food Fast By Emeril Lagasse Harper Collins, $24.99, 257 pages Emeril’s latest cookbook is meant for those of us on the go without the time to cook the meals we want. As the title implies, the recipes are indexed by the time it is supposed to prepare the dish--twenty minutes, forty minutes, and sixty minutes. Each time slot has a wide variety of dishes with a few from each major category, starters, vegetables, and main courses. There are also a few thrown in for that lazy Sunday when you want to spend the afternoon cooking; the way your grandmother used to. “With a little prior proper planning (the three P’s, as I like to call it), you’re on your way to an impromptu meal in no time.” Although it may only take Emeril twenty minutes to make a dish with his fully stocked kitchen, normal people with have to add an extra 10 to 15 minutes. Emeril does preface in the beginning that certain things should be done in advance such as chopping and dicing. None of the dishes are difficult to make for an intermediate cook with a variety of cooking supplies. The novice cook will need to read the recipes beforehand to ensure that they have the proper cookware and understand basic cooking terms. The recipes are excellent, as expected for a chef of Emeril’s quality. The salmon in an orange butter sauce was by far the favorite of myself and my friends. I had no shortage of mouths lining up for a taste test. This cookbook has earned a place next to the stove for those times I need to impress a date on short notice. Reviewed by Mike Scott The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies, and Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own By Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox Clarkson Potter, $35.00, 256 pages With the recent surge in dumbed-down baking books (like those that zip up boxed cake mixes,) and overly-complicated ones (like those that require professional culinary knowledge,) it is refreshing to see a book that settles nicely in between. The Craft of Baking, is an accessible dessert book that presents primarily simple, creative recipes with a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients. DeMasco, currently the pastry chef at Robert 18 January 10 De Niro’s Locanda Verde in New York, cut her teeth at some of Manhattan’s finest restaurants. Recipes in the book feature familiar ingredients used in both traditional and unique ways. More straightforward are those like rich Chocolate Pudding or Sour Cherry Scones, while, conversely, the Rustic Blueberry Cornmeal Tart, bursts with interesting flavors and textures and dense Gingerbread Cupcakes, carrying deep undertones from dark beer, coffee, and molasses, are brightened by candied fresh ginger. The book includes subsections, packed with tips for recipe additions and substitutions, that encourage you to flavor things exactly as you like. In addition, deft explanations, such as mixing brioche dough until “it is shiny and makes a slapping sound on the sides of the bowl,” help to guide you through the more challenging processes. Reviewed by Andrea Rappaport B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style By Barbara Smith Scribner, $35.00, 336 pages B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style is both a traditional cookbook and a piece of history. The items found inside are known typically as “soul food,” but B. Smith—a world-renowned restaurateur—kicks the recipes up a notch, adding her own special flavor to the dishes. From the acquired taste of chitterlings to yummy deserts such as Candy Apple Grits Crème brulée, the recipes are inventive, plentiful, and best yet, extremely tasty. Throughout the book, B. Smith reveals the history of African-Americans in the United States, each recipe a testament to the combination of Anglo-American, Native American, and African cuisines adapted by enslaved Africans to create a distinctly American cuisine enjoyed by not only Southerners, but also Americans all across the country. An added bonus is B. Smith’s health-consciousness: though “soul food” is fattening, Smith creates healthy alternatives to the traditional usage of fats and lard, while retaining the distinct flavor of the dishes. Even if you’ll never try chitterlings or Alligator sausage patties (among the more interesting recipes included), B. Smith Cooks Southern Style fits neatly beside books on African-American culture and history. Reviewed by Angela Tate The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook By Cybele Pascal Celestial Arts, $25.00, 189 pages Alas, a prayer arrived on my doorstep in yellowish paper wrapping. Clawing through the parcel, I dug into the pile of next month’s review books, to the last one. A colorful cov- er with words I did not know could coexist lay in my hungry hands, The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook. Love at first sight…then, er, bite. As I am a recent member of the everescalating food allergic community, the challenges of partaking have rolled over me like chocolate spouting from a lava cake, only instead of lapping it up before it hits the plate, I can’t have any. However, now that notion may be out, much like the gluten in my diet, thanks to Cybele Pascal and her 100 recipes for the sweet tooth. A recipe I have loved, and not forgotten, since childhood, has been found! Although under a new moniker, the Chocolate Sandwich Cookies are alive and begging to be had. Want some more temptation? Fudge brownies, Quebec Maple Date Cookies, Glazed Vanilla Scones… food allergies will no longer be an excuse not to taste, indulge, and enjoy. standby recipes, including as baking the turkey with Cranberry & Pecan Stuffing. In buying this book, one knows it will not be much on the shelf this winter but open on the counter, the pages sprinkled with flour and spice-scented. Reviewed by Meredith Greene “This book is for everyone. It’s for all of you out there who’ve ever said, “No thanks, I can’t eat that. I’m allergic to _____.” “When I first started the Cake Project, I found a lot of cookbooks that seemed calculated to make me feel woefully inadequate, that I had somehow failed as a woman because I’d concentrated on a career rather than mastering home economics.” No more deprivation. She makes it even easier with a “stocking the pantry” and resources section. Thank you Cybele Pascal, thank you. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez Stonewall Kitchen Winter Celebrations By Jonathan King; Jim Stott; Kathy Gunst Chronicle Books, $19.95, 144 pages Having seen a goodly number of holiday & seasonal cookbooks, I was genuinely surprised by this piece. The sheer simplicity of the recipes and the easy directions make this book a handy staple for the upcoming feasting season. If the idea of multiple winter salads strikes you as odd, these prove themselves otherwise, taking on the more acceptable mantles of “scrumptious” and “healthy” (two words which we all could use more of during the holidays). All healthier eating aspects considered, the authors did not make the mistake of over-embellishing the food because of winter holidays. Many of the recipes follow classic, straightforward lines; the Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Crust and Roasted Garlic Potatoes had but few ingredients, yet came out looking as good as in the photograph, and tasted so superior that the dish could easily grace any party buffet table as a satisfying hit. For the more adventurous cooks, this book included new twists on All Cakes Considered By Melissa Gray Chronicle Books, $24.95, 224 pages All Cakes Considered chronicles “the cake project”—an effort by one of the producers of NPR’s All Things Considered to teach herself to bake. The author reminisces about family traditions and bemoans the loss of sinfully delicious desserts at family gatherings. Her brother throws down the gauntlet in the form of an expensive tube pan, thus beginning the author’s quest to learn how to bake exceptional cakes from scratch. Following the southern tradition of “food is love,” she chooses to indulge her work colleagues every Monday with her latest experiment in baking cakes. Beginners are advised to follow the recipes from start to finish as they increase in complexity while the book progresses. Many of us have old recipe cards from Grandma or Great Aunt Sally that use cryptic cooking shorthand, and the author is no exception. She uses a traditional family recipe to teach the basics, and there is plenty of detailed instruction sprinkled throughout the cookbook. While the baking lessons and delicious recipes are the main reason for buying this cookbook, the author’s quick wit and sense of joie de vivre (joy in living) is what makes it truly special. Reviewed by Laurie Racca LEAP, cont’d from page 17 and start from scratch. Rather, it lies with your ability to harness your true strengths and passions—called Primary Colors. You don’t have to be a daredevil to succeed. In fact, what you should be doing is minimizing risk and making small bets. Success, if you’ve been wondering, as Rick Smith will tell you in this book, “is not as far away as you thought.” Reviewed by Dominque James w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Religion Good Without God By Greg Epstein Harper Collins, $25.99, 250 pages The strengths of this book are many: in a straightforward, non-confrontational and patient manner, Epstein doesn’t deign to step into the god-no god debate, but, instead, simply states the history of non-religiousness in the world and then goes on to explain the constructs, frameworks, and beliefs that non-theists (or atheists) operate from. This explanation centers on ethics, morality, and the belief systems that humanists/non-theists/ atheists reference in choosing and making decisions. Epstein calls humanism a “lifestance” – as in, this is where I stand in my life, how I operate in my life, and the stance I take in my life—and then clearly and easily illustrates some of the particulars of that stance. The author doesn’t approach the subject of God’s existence or non-existance from a negative standpoint--that is, he’s not looking to disprove anything here, but is, instead, codifying the alternative system of what those who don’t believe in God do tend to believe. In fact, the chapter on pluralism was one of the most enlightening treatments of society, and particularly religious society, that this reviewer has happened across. Epstein’s background is in Judaism and the book contains many references to nonreligious (cultural) Judaism which were also quite educational and interesting. This was one of the most enlightening and positive books I’ve read in quite a long time. Reviewed by Allena Tapia On the Wings of a Dove: Inspirational Poems Reflecting the Power of the Holy Spirit By Terry Lawrence iUniverse, $14.95, 200 pages Of the three aspects of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is probably the most overlooked. Jesus is seen as the Saviour, God as Creator and Father. But the Holy Spirit isn’t often invoked, except during Pentecost and in reference to the acts done in His name. One of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is that of Paraclete, or one who intercedes, supports or acts as an advocate, particularly in times of trial. Lawrence’s collection of poetry, On the Wings of a Dove, focuses on that role, celebrating and acknowledging the need for the peace and comfort the Holy Spirit offers to Christians. Some of the poems provide a seed to meditate on, others just focus on the peace and comfort the Spirit offers. While the poems are, by nature, religiously focused, most Christians won’t find any denominational differences in Lawrence’s interpretation of the Holy Spirit’s place in their lives. His use of the image of a dove for the Holy Spirit is based on the baptism of Jesus, where he rose up from the waters, and the “Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him” (Matthew 3:16), is continued throughout the poems and provides a visual reminder of the grace and peace offered by the Spirit. On the Wings of a Dove would be a good gift for a friend going though a personal crisis or facing emotional turmoil. Sponsored Review God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World By Dean Nelson Brazos Press, $15.99, 224 pages The Christian Church has used sacraments as rites that reflect an outward symbol of the inner grace provided by Holy Spirit. And while many participate in the sacraments as observers and participants, often the underlying meaning of the rite is shadowed by the event itself. Journalist Dean Nelson, has taken the major sacraments, and through stories explained how they can not only be experienced in the traditional sense, but how they also can hap- pen in everyday life, allowing one to feel the power of the Holy Spirit outside the limits of church services. Nelson uses the sacraments of Vocation, Communion, Confession, Confirmation, Marriage, Baptism, Last Rites and Service to show how any believer can find the Holy Spirit working in their life, and in the lives of those around them. The stories he tells range from being invited to a neighbor’s house to see the Christmas decorations but not being invited in off the porch, to a trip to India to teach creative writing and having one of his students using Nelson’s fatherin-law as a subject in a class essay. God Hides in Plain Sight is both a guide to the sacraments in a conversational style and a memoir of important personal events in Nelson’s life. Nelson is a strong writer, and his firm grasp of not only the importance of the sacraments, but also his insight into their meaning, created a book not only worth reading, but re-reading to continue to remind oneself about how to slow down and see the works of the Spirit as one goes about their life. Sponsored Review “You’d be forgiven for thinking that this ongoing bailout from nature and society to private enterprise is what puts the “free” in free market--despite its protests, corporate capitalism has yet to prove that it can operate without these kinds of subsidies.” Naomi Klein calls THE VALUE OF NOTHING "a deeply thoughtprovoking book about the dramatic changes we must make to save the planet from financial madnessargued with so much humor and humanity that the enormous tasks ahead feel both doable and desirable. A brilliant book." /UTNE/ calls Raj's solution to the pricing problem "a truly radical idea whose time has ome." Current Events The Value of Nothing By Raj Patel Picador, $14.00, 237 pages The current recession has forced everyone to reexamine what matters in their lives. On a grander scale, Raj Patel’s The Value of Nothing asks us to reevaluate the system of capitalism that caused this recession in the first place. As an economist, Patel artfully draws on connections among history, sociology, and finance to stage his argument for change. Author Signing! Patel begins by quoting Oscar Wilde, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Patel draws a logical pathway to the passivity that marks global capitalist society today. Along the way, the reader is reminded that corporations have been granted the rights of individuals in America, and that market pricing ignores the true cost of producing material goods. By his calculations, “a burger grown from beef raised on a clear-cut forest should really cost about two hundred dollars.” Patel deftly lays out an argument for a restructuring of markets driven by need and society, rather than mere profits that are paid out to an elite few. The book concludes with an inspiring call to action reminiscent of Deep Economy and Bright Sided, providing examples of revolutionary democracy taking place around the globe. A smart, eyeopening read! Reviewed by Amber K. Stott w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Bookseller Bill Petrocelli, or Book Passage in Corte Madera, writes "We already have a candidate for the most important book of the year." Bay Area events, before Raj heads off to tour the rest of the country, are: 1/5 Corte Madera - Book Passage 1/6 San Jose - The Commonwealth Club at Hoover Theatre (with Kepler's) 1/7 San Francisco - The Commonwealth Club of California 1/8 Oakland - A Great Good Place for Books 1/9 San Francisco - KALW West Coast Live (morning) 1/9 San Francisco - The Booksmith (evening) January 10 19 Parenting & Families Why Boys Fail By Richard Whitmire Amacom, $24.95, 256 pages Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That’s Leaving Them Behind authored by Richard Whitmore proclaims a problem in school systems nationwide. Boys are not making the grades. These boys become disciplinary problems and get suspended to avoid the embarrassment of anyone knowing that they can not read or write. “It doesn’t really matter if you’re Hispanic, AfricanAmerican, or white. Men are looking for the same thing. They are looking to come to school, get a job, and eventually get a career. It’s the ‘in between’ they don’t know.” According to this research, these are not just poor minority boys. Many of them have affluent parents and some even work as professionals in educational institutions and their boys are included in a system that is failing. Why are the girls making the grades? Excuses such as “Boys will be boys” must end. What are we going to do? Keep the boys on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. Many of these boys drop out of school by the ninth grade. This problem has caused colleges to become the new high schools. Why Boys Fail presents frustration on many levels. This book makes you quizzical. Has the educational system really failed the boys? Have parents placed too much responsibility on the school system? What about the boys, your boys, your sons? Reviewed by Vivian Dixon Sober Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parent’s Operational Manual By Marie Carr; Katharine Carr; Ann Carr Dicmar Publishing, $15.95, 260 pages The key to using Sending Your Child to College is to treat it as a reference book, not as a readable manual or source of advice. The book is a series of chapters, yes, but it’s not really readable or related – nor is it meant to be. This book’s value definitely lies in its series of worksheets and hints and tips on the nuts and bolts of shipping your child off to college. Those who are looking for the keys to getting their child into college will need to look elsewhere, though- this books starts at the point of separation (or, the summer before). The arrangement seems a little haphazard and without any sort of a timeline, but its solid hints and general parenting advice are worth the price. And, for those on the fence, an added bonus is an entire section on outfitting a dorm room entirely with environmentally green products. Reviewed by Allena Tapia as Teddy Roosevelt, Ben Franklin, and Rudyard Kipling, the McKays provide a history of man, as well as a guide. The Art of Manliness proved to be a late, but important, addition to the Christmas gifts for all the young men of my family. Reviewed by Mike Scott takes his photography seriously. Often, the background elements take prominence; there’s a shot of a woman reclining in a concrete cylinder, and she is almost the afterthought in the geographically precise pose. The author does an excellent job of guiding the reader through light, shadow, color, and technique. There’s a chapter on gaining the model’s trust and confidence, an important yet often overlooked topic. If there’s one drawback, it’s that The Naked And The Lens focuses almost entirely on the female nude. A true artist will want more than the token male photograph or two included within. Still, this is a comprehensive how-to guide guaranteed to please. Reviewed by Mark Petruska Reference The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man By Brett McKay HOW, $16.99, 274 pages Brett and Kate McKay have given the latest generation of young men something they truly need--a guide on how to be a man. In a day and age where there is no clear rite of passage for young men, this book provides the teaching that had previously been passed on from grandfather or father to son. It is truly a reference guide for many of the common situations a man will encounter. It provides instruction on how to be a gentleman, friend, lover, hero, leader, father and virtuous man. Most of the teachings are set toward a nineteenth century English gentleman adapted to the modern world without losing the colorful language of nineteen century London streets. It is entertaining and funny while at the same time being educational. It has the practical things every man should know including changing a tire, table manners, and the all important--what different types of flowers mean. It also has some of the impractical but humorous things as well, like how to land a plane in an emergency and how to perform the American man hug. Using the teachings of many classic gentlemen, such 20 January 10 The Naked and the Lens By Louis Benjamin Focal Press, $34.95, 236 pages The best thing about The Naked And The Lens is not, surprisingly, the nude photographs; they are tasteful, restrained, and creative. The real beauty of this guide to shooting nude photography is its treatment of the subject as serious art; Louis Benjamin has put together a how-to book that will appeal to the novice just starting out, as well as the seasoned photographer hoping to improve his art. “This is an encouragement to color outside the lines.” Benjamin treats his subjects as exactly that: art, with shots that focus less on sensuality and more on framing, exposure, and the right aperture. They bend in poses that are more dramatic than provocative, a distinction that shows Benjamin Practical HDR By David Nightingale Focal Press, $24.95, 160 pages This results-oriented guide to the creation of High Dynamic Range images references the most current software programs as well as sophisticated equipment. Its incamera image capture directions and digital darkroom techniques encompass both aesthetic and technical considerations. This information focuses on the comparative and sometimes combined utilization of HEADS, con’t from page 7 different nuances about the production of the film. Photography of the set shows day to day activity both on and off the various shooting locations, and really ties the book together. For those interested in the film, in the book, in Dave Eggers, in production processes of movies, or in photography Heads On and We Shoot is a great little gem of a book. Reviewed by Jordan Dacayanan Subscribe to San Francisco Book Review Sign up to receive this monthly publication in the mail. Send $18.00 for annual subscription, along with your mailing address, to: Subscriptions 1776 Productions 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 See HDR, page 21 w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Philosophy The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics and Physics By Steven E. Landsburg Simon & Schuster, $26.00, 267 pages Once again, Steven E. Landsburg, PhD takes us to infinity and beyond. Blurring the lines between philosophy, mathematics, and economics, the author invites us on a humorous, synaptic trail of mathematical morality that will delight some and disturb others. If Schrödinger’s half-dead cat disturbed you, Landsburg’s “The Economist’s Golden Rule” will surely give you pause. Dr. Landsburg, a self-proclaimed truth seeker, admits to a certain amount of disillusionment--especially on the dance floor--but argues his points utilizing theorems, research, and what philosophers label as “logic.” Beginning with a mathematical structure for everything from the universe to human conscious- ness, Landsburg expands his mathematical fiefdom to include: voting, giving to charity, and religious beliefs. Political issues, like welfare, are also explored as eco-moral dilemmas with a mathematical substrate. Even hot-button issues like the economic impact of immigration are examined. This book is a fantastically fun way to refresh your relationship with quantum mechanics and God. Reviewed by Sheli Ellsworth What I Believe By Tariq Ramadan Oxford University Press, $12.95, 148 pages Banned from the United States, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Tunisia, Tariq Ramadan is determined to give clarity and grounding to his opinions, which have set both the Western and Muslim worlds against him. A devout Muslim and ethnically Egyptian, Ramadan criticizes Shariah law and dictatorships, which keeps him out of favor with HDR, con’t from page 20 his roots. Under George W. Bush’s blanket anti-terrorism approach, the United States denied him a visa in 2004 for having donated to Palestinian charities, which Bush alleged to be terrorist groups. “I understood that nothing is finally achieved and that our frailties remain .. behind the masks of strength.” Ramadan makes headlines each day, most recently due to the review of his U.S. visa by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan. He was also recently dismissed from Erasmus University (Netherlands) over his participation in a television program on Press TV, which is primarily funded by the Iranian government. What I Believe succinctly, and in Ramadan’s own words (Ramadan happens to be one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Important Innovators for the 21st Century), is a compact opus that tells readers exactly what they want to know: who he is and what he stands for. This is one of today’s most important books. Reviewed by Dominique James Science & Nature Dreaming the Biosphere: The Theater of All Possibilities By Rebecca Reider University of New Mexico Press, $39.95, 258 pages With reverence and pizzazz, Rebecca Reider has unveiled Dreaming the Biosphere. Based upon a concept first developed by Sir Thomas More in 1516, known as Utopia, The Biosphere is a breath of fresh air. Far from Utopia, the Biosphere hoped to bring about a new way to view surviving on a planet troubled with uncertainty. She also poses a broader question that addresses what we need to do once we leave Earth, raising deep concerns about colonization outside of our blue sphere. Instead of a pile of chapters, Reider combs through four “acts:” Seeds, Genesis, Pioneering, and The Reset Button along with an epilogue, in which she explores the multi-faceted sterility of Dreaming the Biosphere. She does not pretend to exhibit her work in anything but a human experiment. In so doing, she has accumulated a chronicle of dedication to the task of discovering just what constitutes our living sphere and how we can live in it, ensuring our intense interest in further development. Her book is an inspiration, a canvas to build upon for those bold enough to undertake the effort and research to better understand our living environment and a reflection on the human need to understand our world. Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky The Humans Who Went Extinct By Clive Finlayson Oxford, $29.95, 273 pages Making complex science decipherable to lay audiences is not only a tremendous challenge, but often underappreciated. For this alone, Clive Finlayson deserves much credit for his work The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived. The science underlying human evolution requires multidisciplinary expertise on topics from anatomy, to ecology, to anthropology. Finlayson makes his task no easier by wishing to attack much of the conventional wisdom with regards to Homo sapiens and Neanderthal development, arguing cogently that too many conclusions have been made based on evidence that could charitably be described as scant. And where he succeeds, such as in arguing for broad dispersion of, and a less than clear point of origin for, Homo erectus or the importance of environmental chance on our evolutionary success, he both elucidates and entertains. The Humans Who Went Extinct is not without shortcomings. Finlayson can get bogged down in details and anecdotes. One cannot help notice that he glances over certain areas, such as the importance of energy efficiency for Homo sapiens’s evolutionary success and his “oversell” of Neanderthal cultural sophistication. Nonetheless, here is a provocative work, which will not only teach, but leave readers wanting to learn more. Reviewed by Jordan Magill A Splintered History of Wood: BeltSander Races, Blind Woodworkers, and Baseball Bats By Spike Carlsen Harper Collins, $15.99, 411 pages For those of us who have never witnessed a belt-sander race—yet have wished to w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Adobe Photoshop, FDR Tools and Photomatix Pro through specific diagrams from each program. High Dynamic Range photography is not for amateurs, and neither is this book. If, however, you have an adequate background in digital photography, the insight offered by David Nightingale could be of value. While gorgeous in presentation, some of the graphics distract from and sometimes obscure the text; it’s counter-productive when a carefully structured graphic layout renders text user-unfriendly. Its gallery of exquisite samples adds to the stunning appearance, but this manual falls short as a definitive tool for shooting and processing. The merit in Practical HDR is one of inspiration more than instruction. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio TOO GOOD, con’t from page 16 tions, he was evasive and off-putting when she asked him how his system for investing worked. The fact that an immense Ponzi scheme was carried out by Madoff through his nearsecret advisory activities eluded all but a few of the most Wall Street-savvy auditors. This secrecy was coupled with the attitudes of his elitist-minded millionaires - there were enough greedy and willing people to feed the pyramid and maintain its immense demand for money over many years – and how many is anyone’s guess. This reader sends kudos to Arvendalund for her calm, balanced and well-written narrative. It delivers facts, figures and helpful insight. Reviewed by Ruta Arellano know more about the intimate relationship between humans, woodworking and wood products—columnist and carpenter Spike Carlsen brings us A Splintered History of Wood. Besides the pleasant, novel-like feel of this enjoyable read, Carlsen’s wry humor shows through in the various people and things showcased, which circumvent normal wood topics experienced on television programs, stepping into another realm altogether. Via a knowledgeable guide, the reader is deftly led through historical logging techniques, unique stories of “minimalist” board merchants, even including a piece on former president Jimmy Carter, pictured skillfully woodworking in his garage. Who knew that one could vacation in a huge, hollowed-out tree? Apparently you can, at a “treesort” near Cave Junction, Oregon… or for world travelers, the Kayila Lodge in Zambia. A far cry from mundane, this book holds a well of interestinvoking topics whose educational intent is so subtly purveyed that one almost does not know they are learning. Reviewed by Meredith Greene January 10 21 Self-Help The Power of Trauma: Conquering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder By Ute Lawrence iUniverse Star, $11.95, 116 pages Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is usually associated with soldiers in wartime or civilian law enforcement during major disasters (9/11). But PTSD also affects civilians who have experienced major loss, accidents, abuse, or other trauma, and, often, those people don’t have access to the same support networks and professionals that exist for the groups traditionally exposed to the events that might trigger PTSD. In 1999, Ute Lawrence and her husband were caught in a eighty-seven car accident— the worst accident in Canadian history. Trapped in their car, surrounded by, and under, other cars and trucks, the Lawrence’s owed their lives to a young girl trapped in the car next to them who was yelling for help. While the girl, her father, and brother died, Ute and her husband escaped their car with the help of a stranger who broke through their windshield and pulled them to safety. In the aftermath of the accident, Lawrence had repeated bouts of depression, numbness, and distraction. It wasn’t until she recognized that she was not just going to “snap out” of her feeling that she began to pursue help and doing her own research into PSTD. She has gathered the lessons and skills she learned to create The Power of Trauma, which outlines different forms of therapy that can help people overcome PSTD, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Eye movement desensitization, and reprocessing and counseling. She also uses other people’s examples of life stressors that can lead to PSTD and the skills that were used to overcome them. The Power of Trauma is a short book, but contains a wealth of information for helping overcome trauma and stress, a checklist for self-identifying PSTD and reference information for further research or help. For someone dealing with a major negative, life-changing event, The Power of Trauma can provide a good first step in overcoming it. Sponsored Review I Prescribe A Positive Vibe: Stay On Track No More Looking Back By Anthony Catalano Xlibris, $41.99, 71 pages At 24 years of age, Anthony Catalano went from being an active healthy adult to a Quadriplegic through an accident at work. Part of his recovery was finding that the limits he had were mostly internal, and that by facing each day with a positive attitude led to successful and joyful days. In I Prescribe a Positive Vibe, Catalano shares insights and feelings that have helped him manage to keep his spirit and attitudes positive in the 24 years since that accident. With a mix of essays, free verse and photographs, Vibe is an inspirational book that reflects the values and relationships that Catalano found helped him the most with his challenges - that external limitations don’t have to also be internal ones. The saying “I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet” is highly applicable here. Plenty of people feel they don’t have enough, and that the limitations they have can’t be overcome. Catalano has not only survived but overcame with grace and dignity, a situation that would break many others. I Prescribe a Positive Vibe provides inspiration to overcoming daily travails, and shows that there are no limitations that love, faith and a positive attitude cannot overcome. Catalano is a man with no feet, teaching the shoeless to make their own shoes. Sponsored Review Spirituality 10th Anniversary Edition: The Art of Happiness By His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. Riverhead Books, $25.95, 320 pages The pursuit of true happiness is not as hard or as illusive as it seems. All you need is a little compassion—an idea that is at the heart of the tenth anniversary edition of The Art Of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. Updated with new material and a strategy by which to pursue it, the book continues to spread a message that genuine happiness is an achievable goal. Integrating the best of the East and the West—age-old Buddhist principles and practices with contemporary Eastern psychology and science—the Dalai Lama and Dr. Cutler come together to provide a systematic approach to achieve greater happiness in realworld terms. It offers concrete techniques and practices that help to overcome anxiety, depression, anger, and loneliness. With a clear-eyed and accessible approach, the Dalai Lama teaches that real and lasting happiness can be obtained not by bettering one’s outward circumstances, but by training the mind through daily practice and dedication. By cultivating an inner discipline, you can undergo a dramatic trans- 22 January 10 formation in your outlook and approach to living, drawing on inner resources to attain a greater sense of joy and happiness in daily life. If Facebook’s newly launched and wildly fluctuating Gross National Happiness Index is any indication (yes, they did actually launch a thing called the GNHI), it seems the updated version of The Art Of Happiness: A Handbook for Living (which stayed for two years on The New York Times bestsellers list when it was first released ten years ago) is perhaps more relevant than ever. Reviewed by Dominique James Guardians of Being By Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell New World Library, $18.00, 119 pages The Power of Now and A New Earth author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle joins illustrator Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the comic strip Mutts, to create Guardians of Being. The simply illustrated book contains Tolle’s basic teachings regarding consciousness, in simple, accessible form. Many pages of the book contain insight and show a deep reverence for the world—humans, animals, all forms of life. Tolle’s basic message—the necessity of living in the present moment— encourages us to see the world with new eyes and to notice the beauty all around us, which we often don’t because we’re too wrapped up in our minds. Given the issues in the world, few approaches seem as worthy or ring as true. The only bothersome thing about the book is Tolle’s romanticizing of animals and giving them human attributes: various creatures are extolled as examples for human beings: for example, we are told that animals don’t worry, yet how do we know they don’t, in their own way? And if they really don’t, could it simply be because they aren’t as intelligent as human beings? We are also told that dogs celebrate life continuously, yet do they honestly do this? Any way you cut it, it seems naïve to take animals as our role models. With Guardians of Being, Tolle seems on much less solid ground. Reviewed by Aaron Stypes The Angelic Way: Angels Through the Ages and Their Meaning for Us By Rami Shapiro BlueBridge, $15.95, 240 pages The Angelic Way is an intelligent and reasoned exploration of angels in religious tradition and spiritual myth. Shapiro’s approach is to consider angels as metaphors for the mutual yearning of the heavenly and the human to connect with one another. He describes the spiritual journey as one that begins at selfish ego centeredness, moves to appreciation of others and God and finally blossoms into a realiza- tion that I, others and God are all part of a Whole. And he thinks angels in religious traditions and stories help people understand this journey. The book includes myths and stories of angels in the Abrahamic faiths and in eastern Buddhist and Hindu thought. Drawing examples across multiple faiths and traditions, Shapiro finds this consistent pattern: whether it is angels who come to earth with messages, angels that help people ascend to heaven or angels who travel to and from heaven to earth and back with multiple messages, all are metaphors for this journey to wholeness. What keeps you reading this book cover to cover is the combination of rich historical information, fascinating comparisons among religions traditions, astute and appealing spiritual insights, all presented without a hint of dogma, religiosity, or New Age platitude. The book is carefully footnoted and includes a rich bibliography. I thought it was heavenly. Reviewed by Marcia Jo PETER, cont’d from page 10 The 4th book in Barry and Pearson’s marvelous revisionist look at the Peter Pan mythos, Peter and the Sword of Mercy not only brings the timeline forward into far more familiar territory, but it expands on the emotional history established in the previous trilogy. Continuing an enthralling, well-told story, Peter and the Sword of Mercy isn’t as sharply focused as its predecessors, but the ride is so fun, you’ll hardly notice. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com Art, Architecture & Photography The Vatican Gardens By Alberta Campitelli Abbeville Press, $125.00, 532 pages Joining last year’s The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, Abbeville Press has released a new historical volume on the gardens of the Vatican. In a survey of the gardens (almost fifty percent of the Vatican proper) and their relationship to the Popes, gardeners and architecture surrounding them, The Vatican Gardens is a spectacular collection of drawings, sketches, and photographs, historical and modern, along with a detailed commentary about the personalities and events that lead to their current form. Originally developed in the thirteenth century by Pope Leo IV, the Vatican gardens were expanded or altered by every successive pope hoping to make his own mark on the palace and grounds. As some Bloodworks: Sleeves Produced by Analog Tattoo Arts, $250.00, 350 pages Epic!!! The one word that sums up this gorgeous, limited edition 350-page book gigantic, not only in size (16 x 9 1/2 inches), but in archived historical content featuring the artwork of today’s most world renown tattoo artists: Aaron Cain, Freddy Corbin, Grime, Tim Lehi, Scott Sylvia, and the book’s creator, Adrian Lee, as well as others--30 tattoo artists in all. With its Rolls Royce-like quality, beauty, and presence, it’s simply stunning! The book comes with its own heavy-duty, cloth-covered slip cover. Nice touch for providing protection for this coffee table masterpiece that will prove to be a stellar addition to your library. Also epic is the effort, work, and dedication from Adrian Lee and ATAK:Analog Tattoo Arts Kolective, along with the stunning photography of Max Dolberg that went into the creation of this masterpiece. About as easy as herding cats, I would assume, in the gathering of 67 collectors and 30 high-profi le tattoo artists and extensive photo shoots that spanned across the U.S. as well as Zurich and London. “Collectors” are the tattooists’ clients who adorn their work and have provided them with canvases of human flesh in order for these masters to create their art. The unique nature of this collection of tattoo art is that it’s completely dedicated to full sleeves (arms covered from shoulder to wrist with one artist’s work). All styles of the art are represented in full brilliance, traditional, Japanese, contemporary modern, bio-mechanical, and black and grey in fold-out pages. Also unique is in how the sleeve is documented in the book. Windmill, Wingspan, and Rotation, all in a singular view, offer a complete look at the total finished artwork on a collector’s arm, as well as exploded detailed views that offer an idea of how complex some of these artist’s creative work really is. High-quality art paper, metallic spot mat, and gloss varnish pages throughout this book is a serious collectible limited to 1500 handnumbered copies. A $250.00 price tag will assure that this “artistic novel” will wind up in the hands of mainly serious collectors and tattoo and art enthusiasts, but considering people grab a handful of Tattoo mags at $7.99 each month, this amazing book could prove to be quite a bargain, featuring content that will never be seen anywhere else. This reviewer was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the “collectors” in the book. Reviewed by Robert Hamilton Y O ’R U 1 m t ee IN E V E IT 3 2 th e ar tis ts 4- 8p D m 10 M us ic 8p m Featuring the art of Kyle Thaw Enjoy the music of ART Living Modern: A Biography of Greenwood Common By Waverly B. Lowell William Stout Publishers, $45.00, 176 pages Greenwood Commons was a project of architect William Wurster in the 1950s to create a cluster of uniquely designed homes that not only shared a common area, but a design aesthetic that mixed with each other and the surrounding environment. The eight homes were developed by seven different architects— Harwell Hamilton Harris designer of Berkeley’s award-winning Weston Haven House, Howard Moise, Henry Hill, Joseph Esherick, John Funk, Robert Klemmedson, and Donald Olsen. The common area gardens and four home’s private gardens were designed by Lawrence Halprin. This midFifties experiment still lives today, with private owners sharing a common area, yet still having private outdoors space of their own. As today’s housing tends to megacomplexes of private homes packed into the available area, the concept of a shared public space may come as a waste of potential residential space to modern developers. But what one gives up in extra housing, the residents gain a stronger sense of neighborhood and community. Waverly Lowell is the curator of the Environmental Design Archives (EDA) at UC Berkeley, and Living Modern is part of the ongoing Berkeley Design Books series exploring the architectural history of the Bay Area. HOUSE GALLERY ART HOUSE GALLERY & Cultural Center 2905 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, CA 94705 (near Ashby Bart Station) Art House is wheelchair-accessible for more info: Harold Adler 510-472-3170 Donation sliding scale: $10-$100 at the door See VATICAN, page 24 w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com January 10 23 VATICAN, cont’d from page 23 popes lasted only a few years, the changes sometimes happened quickly, and often the documentation about them was fragmented or lost, but Campitelli does a masterful job tracking down what is known, and fi lling in gaps with best guesses. These gardens are the oldest continuous gardens in Italy, and with the wealth of the popes and Church behind them, grew and expanded to become as much a part of the Vatican as the Sistine Chapel or its massive collection of art. A bonus chapter on the Pope’s summer palace in Gandolfo covers another set of gardens also not often seen by modern visitors. The Vatican Gardens is breathtaking book for horticulturists, botanists, Church historians and Italophiles. Himalayan Portfolios By Photographs by Kenneth Hanson IPG, $85.00, 190 pages Beautiful. One of the many adjectives that could be used to describe Kenneth Hanson’s Himalayan Portfolios. This breathtaking and exciting collection of photographs takes us to the feet of the tallest mountains in the world…with stunning results. Each portfolio begins with a short essay by Kenneth Hanson about the particular region and where he went, followed by one amazing photograph after another. Hanson shows his technical skill by taking his camera to some of the most inhospitable terrain imaginable. Through his many journeys into the Himalayans and his accidental interest in photography, Hanson has given new life to nature photography. The portfolios are arranged to go from east to west, starting in Kashmir and working to the very western edge of Nepal. The size of these mountains will simply take your breath away. They just rise into the heavens above the valley floors. The rivers rush down narrow canyons, at times washing away the only road. The villages that are perched right on the edge of cliffs that just seem to hang in the sky. Hanson brings this all to life with his camera. Reviewed by Kevin Winter Caravaggio: Complete Work By Sebastian Schütze Taschen, $150.00, 306 pages Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio (1571 - 1610), was an Italian painter who achieved great critical acclaim and controversy during his short, but prolific, career and life. His paintings were highly realistic and included dramatic use of light and shadows that heavily influenced the Baroque style that followed his life. His personal life kept him from settling in one place, having had to flee one city after an- 24 January 10 other for fighting and once killing someone in a brawl. However, he continued to find patrons for his art, and turned out some of the most dramatic paintings of his age. In Caravaggio: The Complete Works, the emphasis is on all the known surviving pieces, reprinted in large multi-page spreads, including several fold out pages giving three pages of detailed reproduction. The extensive text places each painting in historical context with his life and the changes going on in the Church and Italian art. The first two-thirds of the book are printed on a heavy gloss paper, allowing detailed reproduction of each work, and fine blow-ups of individual elements for closer inspection. A final seventypage catalog of all Caravaggio works reprints each in a smaller form, with a short detailed history of the piece. There are few publishers that do art books as well as Taschen, and this book is no exception to their usual standard. It is entirely in English (as opposed to some volumes that run a three language commentary throughout), and the opening sequence two-page facial reproductions from several paintings sets the stage for the extensive detail that follows. Reviewed by Ross Rojek The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay By Umberto Eco Rizzoli, $45.00, 408 pages In a lavishly illustrated collection of art, Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose) uses mostly Classical pieces to explore the concept of lists, catalogs, and those that create them. He moves from the differences between lists and catalogs to the various forms of lists— practical and poetic. The practical list is one with a purpose, a shopping list, a guest list, a inventory of items, whereas a poetic list is one that evokes a feeling, a sense of time, place or mystery—Homer’s list of ships in the Illiad are less necessary as an accurate list, but more to create the overwhelming feel of unity and strength in the Greek invasion of Troy. The Infinity of Lists is a product of Eco’s residency at the Louvre, where he organized several conferences and exhibitions on the subject of lists and list makers. Eco takes a subject and after a brief essay provides reproductions of art and text to illustrate his thesis. In the chapter “Lists of Places” he name drops a number of quick references of authors and artists that used lists to illustrate their subjects—James Joyce in Finnegans Wake with lists of rivers—and then excerpts from texts illustrated by multiple full-color illustrations. “Places” includes a list of countries from the Book of Ezekiel, part of Chapter 1 of Dickens’ Bleak House, and Edgar Allan Poe’s description of members of a crowd from “The Man of the Crowd.” Lists is less a book to be read cover to cover, and more one to sample, moving from illustration to essay. The hundreds of illustrations range from mosaics of antiquity to recent modern art, as does the text. While Eco doesn’t adequately survey much of the modern world, “the Mother of all Lists,” as he calls the Internet, only gets a single paragraph; his primary focus of Classic to Renaissance art and list-making is meat enough for hours of additional research (probably using the Mother of all Lists) and enjoyment. Check out our website: i te r l W i l W or f ks O O B SanFranciscoBookReview.com for even more book reviews! Become an SFBR book reviewer! email us three sample reviews of recent books (150-200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org 1010 Mission Street San Francisco, CA 94103 tel 415.553.8185 fax 415.553.8176 email@example.com ARKIPELAGO www.arkipelagobooks.com THE FILIPINO BOOKSTORE w w w. S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com | w w w. S a c r a me nt oB o ok R e v ie w.com