Page 1

Sacramento

Feb 2012

Book Review NEW AND OF INTEREST

9

The Back Page: Outward Bound By Author Jon Reiner Page 10

Why Negative Publicity Isn’t Necessarily the Worst Thing in the World

27 Janet Schulman, Linda Davick Knopf Books for Young Readers, $8.99, 26 pages

33 67

VOLUME 4, ISSUE 2

A fun educational holiday counting book, 10 Valentine Friends is a delightful book to entertain children while they learn to count and share. Ten friends are making Valentine’s Day cards. Pete, Pan, Aloysius, Priscilla, Annie Lee, Max, Tom, Lily, Alexandra, and Baby, with scribbles, make cards for each other. Each designs the card based on the personal likes of the friend to receive the card. The story takes the cards one-by-one, on a two page spread for each, to tell who the card is for and why with fun illustrations on one and a half of the two pages. The last half of the right page has a white background highlighting the number with the appropriate number of Valentines, counting from one to ten. Ending with a Valentine party overflowing with cards, the last two pages challenge children to count the pictures of Valentines, which number 100. This adds educational room for growth beyond the initial learning to count to ten. This book is an exceptional treat for young children for Valentine’s Day that they will continue to enjoy all year long. Reviewed by Angie Mangino

By Christina Mamangakis, Publicity Manager for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Page 30

Expanded Valentine’s Day Section Pages 32-35

The Critical Eye: Amazon vs. the Publishers By David Marshall Page 48

The Back Page: Let Them Change Your Ending By Author Eric D. Goodman Page 64

157 Reviews INSIDE!


1776 Productions. LLC 1722 J Street, Suite 9 Sacramento, CA 95811 Ph. 877.913.1776 info@1776productions.com EDITOR IN CHIEF Ross Rojek CONTRIBUTING EDITORS David Marshall Eric D. Goodman Christina Mamangakis Jon Reiner GRAPHIC DESIGN/ LAYOUT Heidi Komlofske COPY EDITORS Megan Just Lori Miller Diane Jinson Holly Scudero Robyn Oxborrow Kim Winterheimer EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Elizabeth Tropp Lisa Rodgers Justin Salazar Stewart Erin McDonough Shanyn Day Christopher Hayden WEBSITE The Sacramento Book Review is published monthly by 1776 Productions, LLC. The opinions expressed in these pages are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sacramento Book Review or San Francisco Book Review advertisers. All images are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders. All words © 2012, 1776 Productions, LLC.

IN THIS ISSUE

Children’s..................................................................................................... 3 Classics........................................................................................................ 8 Historical Fiction........................................................................................ 9 The Back Page: Outward Bound...............................................................10 Modern Literature....................................................................................12 Poetry & Short Stories.............................................................................. 14 Mystery, Crime & Thrillers......................................................................18 Biographies & Memoirs............................................................................22 Popular Fiction..........................................................................................27 After the Manuscript: Why Negative Publicity Coverage Isn’t Necessarily the Worst Thing in the World...................................30 Sequential Art...........................................................................................31 Valentine’s Day Expanded Section: Romance Books....................................................................................32 Relationships & Sex.............................................................................34 Science Fiction & Fantasy.........................................................................36 Young Adult...............................................................................................40 Tweens.......................................................................................................44 The Critical Eye: Amazon vs. the Publishers...........................................48 Art, Architecture & Photography............................................................49 Cooking, Food & Wine..............................................................................52 Self-Help....................................................................................................56 History.......................................................................................................58 Business & Investing................................................................................62 The Back Page: Let Them Change Your Ending.......................................64 Crafts & Hobbies.......................................................................................66 Current Events & Politics.........................................................................67 Health, Fitness & Dieting.........................................................................68 Home & Garden........................................................................................70 Humor-NonFiction...................................................................................71 Reference...................................................................................................72 Science & Nature....................................................................................... 74 Religion.....................................................................................................76 Spirituality & Inspiration.........................................................................77 Books About Books...................................................................................78 Travel.........................................................................................................80 Popular Culture.........................................................................................82 Parenting & Families................................................................................83


Book Reviews

Category

Children’s

Subway Story By Julia Sarcone-Roach Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 40 pages ISBN 9780375858598 Jessie, a New York subway car, is repurposed after being carried out to the Atlantic and “plunged into the salty ocean.” Gone are the days of traveling throughout the city, carrying commuters and their sometimes unusual belongings to school and work. She once proudly shuttled travelers to the 1964 World’s Fair. She loved zipping beneath the river in dark tunnels. Jessie was even part of the “Redbirds,” a well-known fleet of New York subway cars. Then new shiny silver subway cars appeared on the tracks. To Jessie’s dismay, she was taken out of service, left to sit in the yard. She was dismantled. “Off came her lights, her signs, her brakes, and her horn too!” Now at the bottom of the ocean she finds new passengers as fish and plants call her home.

Cute Jessie has headlights for eyes and ropes for a mouth. Her expressions portray happiness when transporting passengers, worry when the silver trains arrive, and fear when thrust into the ocean. Saturated acrylic paintings match the text almost verbatim. Children will enjoy creating subway scenes of both the city and sea after hearing Subway Story. Author notes explain Redbirds and artificial reefs in more detail. Reviewed by Africa Hands Pickles, Please!: A Dilly of a Book By Andy Myer Running Press Kids, $15.95, 32 pages ISBN 9780762440184 Alec Smart is one smart kid. Instead of noshing on ice cream or nachos, Alec wants to eat pickles. Lots and lots of pickles. Nobody in Alec’s circle of friends and family comprehends his pickle mania, and Alec realizes his bread-and-butter world needs to be spiced up. Pickles, Please!: A Dilly of a Book by Andy Myer tells Alec’s story. When Alec stumbles upon a pickle delivery truck, he jumps aboard and ends up at the pickle factory. Here, he discovers a whole new world that’s pickalicious! Andy Myer’s story reminds me of my youngest daughter, who believed dill pickles were the end-all, be-all food. And now that she’s a mother, she’s realizing her son has the same passion for dill pickles. The deeper lesson of the book is about acceptance, which Myer accomplishes through Alec’s journey. Simple, fun cartoon-like photos add depth to the story, transporting readers to the pickle factory with the young protagonist, and standing alone with him when his classmates disregard his love of the tasty treat. Delicious fun for young readers. Reviewed by LuAnn Schindler Hippo Hippo Hurray! By Kristen Wells illustrated by Omega DiStefano Share Publishing Children’s, $7.95, 32 pages ISBN 9780963370570 It’s Penny the Hippo’s first day of school in Africa, and she is very excited to meet up with her best friend, Sal. As they go through their first days there, Sal makes friends with

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 3


Book Reviews

Category Children’s

some of the other students, who deem Penny to be not quite worthy of being accepted into the “popular group.” Feeling quite the outsider, Penny eats lunch by herself and studies by herself. She quickly feels very sad that she is always the last one to be picked for games and does not have any friends. One day, Corrine the Ostrich finds herself in a terrible predicament in which Penny comes to the rescue – saving C o r r i n e ’ s life. From that point on, Penny is the courageous hero. I can pretty much guarantee that all of us—adults and children—can relate to Hippo Hippo Hurray! in that we’ve all, at one point in our school careers, been the unpopular one or been teased for not quite fitting in with the rest. As you read this book to your children, author Kristen Wells, along with illustrator Omega DiStefano, will take you back to those school days. The moral to the story – and to the message we all should carry with us through life – is that you should always remain true to yourself and be a kind and good person. Someday, that fortitude will be recognized. If you have a child who is struggling with fitting in, this would be a wonderful story for them, pointing out that it won’t always be this way. Sponsored Review Bang!: How We Came to Be By Michael Rubino Prometheus Books, $17.00, 69 pages ISBN 9781616144722 In sixty-seven explosive pages, Michael Rubino covers the origin of the universe from the big bang to contemporary global problems that threaten this planet. With the turn of a page, millions of years elapse as the development of earth and the first life creatures evolve. Self-replicating molecules coalesced to form the WE representing the beginning pattern of life. Transitions from unicellular organisms to multi-cellular creatures are traced through eons of time. Evolutionary differentiation describes the appearance of specialized organs,

as adaptation to changes directs the process. Finally, WE arrives at human representation and the concurrent dilemmas that this species poses for our world and the threat to the generation of other varieties of life. The book is beautifully illustrated by the author. It would greatly have benefited by the inclusion of simple diagrams to give the reader a more tangible grasp of the time line to show when these life forms appeared. While the book might appeal to those adults familiar with the evolutionary story, this rapid fire presentation may befuddle and overwhelm those unschooled in the biological background. The bibliography includes three references, among which famed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is noted along with cartoonist Larry Gonick, as well as an encyclopedia of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals. Reviewed by Aron Row If You Give a Dog a Donut By Laura Numeroff (author), Felicia Bond (illustrator) Harper, $16.99, 32 pages ISBN 9780060266837 Laura Numeroff has teamed up again with illustrator Felicia Bond for a silly and fun tale in the If You Give… se- ries. This time the overly energetic and fun-seeking culprit is a two-toned, spotted-eyed dog who just can’t resist donuts and apple juice. Your little one (aged 3 and up, perfect for preschoolers) will be giggling at and reciting the amusement in no time. Each page is a colorful romp through the day of a busy boy and his dog. From tree climbing for apples to playing catch and baseball to kite-making, your head will whirl with activity (not to mention the questions this begs from your wide-eyed pre-reader). And in true Numeroff and Bond fashion the story wraps into a full circle at the end, leaving the back ‘doggie’ door open to the inevitable request, “Read it again!” Always a joyful time, these stories are perfect for a quick read before naptime, a longer and more exuberant learning time at story hour, or an entertaining introduction to your preschooler learning to read for herself. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez-Fischer

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 4


Book Reviews

Category Children’s

Stars By Mary Lyn Ray (author), Marla Frazee (illustrator) Beach Lane, $16.99, 40 pages ISBN 9781442422490 This is a quiet book, a gentle exploration of stars and how children think about them. Stars are magical things, but perhaps especially so to children. They can only be seen in the dark of night, and you can’t capture them no matter how hard you may try. But you can make one of your very own from paper and keep it in your pocket. You can use it for making wishes or make an extra and give it to a friend. There are many uses for stars and this book explores them. And there are many different kinds of stars. You can find stars in places other than the sky – such as in some flowers and recognizing snowflakes are stars. Mary Lyn Ray has captured the enchanted view of stars young children have and given voice to these ideas. Marla Frazee’s charming illustrations are the perfect backdrop for Ray’s lyrical prose. Frazee captures the pure delight every child can find in something as simple as a paper star. If you are looking for a lovely bedtime book, you have found one here. Reviewed by Rosi Hollinbeck Francis Woke Up Early By Josephine Nobisso (author), Maureen Hyde (illustrator) Gingerbread House, $17.95, 32 pages ISBN 9780940112209 Many children wonder about the lives of saints, about the difficulties they faced and overcame. Seldom do we find a book that examines what the childhood of a saint might have been like, and what might have shaped who he or she became. St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the men’s Franciscan order and the women’s Order of St. Clare, is also known as the patron saint of animals.

Francis Woke Up Early is the story of an incident that might have happened in his childhood, one that may have helped shape the man he became. Author Josephine Nobisso based this tale on the story of St. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio, a creature he tamed and made peace with that had been killing the animals and people of the town. This charming adaptation of that story as part of Francis’s childhood is illustrated with lush, soft paintings by Maureen Hyde in gentle earth tones. While religious in nature, this book is not preachy, but a simple story highlighting the saintly nature of Francis of Assisi. Reviewed by Rosi Hollinbeck Sunbelievable By Jo Ann Kairys, Daniel Kairys, Frank Thompson (illustrator) Story Quest, $15.95, 40 pages ISBN 9780982699829 Sunbelievable is the story of two young sisters who are forced to abandon their playtime on the beach for their home when darkness falls and their bedtime nears. Indoors, they weave fanciful stories about the Sun and what he likes to do: everything from riding rollercoasters, to teaching fireflies how to shine so they can eat pizza—with sun-dried tomatoes of course! Sunbelievable offers young readers the best of both worlds: an amusing story about a personified Sun and a page of true facts about the star we call the Earth’s Sun. While the Sun story will encourage readers to use their imagination to create even wilder stories about the Sun’s life, the page of facts will encourage learning about the Earth’s Sun. I wish there had been even more space dedicated to Sun facts or activities to complement the story. However, most teachers and parents will probably find many jumping-off points in the story to encourage factual learning…the seashore, fireflies, sunflowers. There is also a sweet sub-plot of the family: the girl’s love for each other and their relationship with their parents.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 5


Book Reviews

Category Children’s

When, so often, children’s cartoons and books portray the relationship between siblings and parents as less than ideal, this is an encouraging detail. The quirky illustrations of Sunbelievable not only burst with color, but also offer a “second-read” appeal. Young readers will discover new details in the illustrations each time they page through this book. The illustrations—like the book’s story—are an interesting combination of realism and fantasy. Although the girls, the beach, and their home are portrayed realistically, the illustrators added intriguing detail, such as sprinkles of fairy dust and mice wearing top hats. And the pages that feature the Sun’s life are unforgettable. You can’t take your eyes off of them! Sponsored Review

Animal Planet: My Life in the Wild: Cheetah By Animal Planet, Meredith Costain Kingfisher, $9.99, 32 pages ISBN 9780753467251 My Life in the Wild: Cheetah is one of the first in a new “My Life in the Wild” series being developed with Animal Planet. The story is told by one young cheetah, from her birth through her growing years and to when she ultimately starts her own family. The illustrations that accompany the text are so realistic they almost seem like photographs. They include close-ups and action shots of cheetahs, as well as showing the environment they live in. The book also manages to be realistic about hunting without drifting into blood and gore with careful choices of how they show the hunt. The text is short and simple, and because it’s told in the first person brings a personal feeling to the story. Perhaps one of the things that makes this book so valuable in an educational setting is the four pages of “Did You Know?” facts— two pages about the broader cat family (including a quiz young readers can answer by using the illustrations) and one page with a glossary of terms. I’m sure many teachers will look forward to collecting this entire series. Reviewed by Jodi Webb

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories By Dr. Seuss Random House for Young Readers, $15.00, 72 pages ISBN 9780375864353 Something new yet familiar just came in from Random House. In a momentous publishing event comes the book The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by the beloved Dr. Seuss. These seven original stories were written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss and published in magazines in 1950-1951 but never ZooZical took book form. Dr. Seuss, who By Judy Sierra with died in 1991, hardly needs an introduction. Any book-lovillustrations by Marc Brown ing household has all of his books. So here’s another one to Knopf, $17.99, 40 pages inspire children of all ages to explore the joys of reading. ISBN 9780375868474 This collection features “The Bear, the Rabbit, and ZinniWhat do the animals ga-Zanniga,” about a rabbit who’s saved by a bear with a do when their youngsingle eyelash; and “The Bippolo Seed,” in which a schemster friends can’t come ing feline leads an innocent young duck named McKluck to visit them in the zoo to make a bad decision about a magic seed that will sprout in the winter time? Author and grow into anything you wish for. Judy Sierra and illustrator For the collectors and adults, the book has an introducMarc Brown have come up tion by Seuss scholar Dr. Charles Cohen, explaining how with an adorable story that this book gives the reader a glimpse into Dr. Seuss’s forma- little ones will enjoy. Winter time at the zoo is a boring tive years. Ages 6 and up. quiet time. The lemurs aren’t leaping, the owls don’t give a Reviewed by Phil Semler hoot. The ocelot has lost his spots! Oh dear! Even the penSacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 6


Book Reviews

Category Children’s

guins have an attitude problem. The illustrations in this book are colorful, delightful, and fun. Youngsters may be begging to go to the local zoo to see the Zoozical and to see what mischief and play the animals are up to. This storybook puts a fresh spin on old song favorites and rhymes. It will inspire little readers to come up with their own stories, rhymes and activities, and is sure to scare away any wintertime doldrums. Ages 4–8. Reviewed by Laura Friedkin Binky Under Pressure By Ashley Spires Kids Can Press, $16.95, 64 pages ISBN 9781554535040 After successfully building a space rocket and rescuing his best friend from outer space (the backyard), Binky is perfectly content to spend his time protecting his space station (house) and humans from aliens (flies). When a new foster kitty named Gracie comes to visit, Binky’s world is turned upside down. She’s cuter, neater, and generally just about perfect. Binky’s determined to

investigate this stranger, because there’s no such thing as a perfect cat! The third installment in Binky’s Space Cat Adventures is just as wonderful as the first two. Binky is cute enough just on his own, but Gracie is a fresh addition to the storyline. Kids will love the cutesy drawing style, and many of the visual details that give the artwork depth beyond the text. Meanwhile, adults will appreciate the humor of the cats’ feline antics, especially those who are cat lovers. This dual quality makes it a great book to read together for younger kids, or a good way to introduce older or reluctant readers to graphic novels. This is another great addition to a cute series with tons of kid appeal. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller

Find hundreds of our Children’s book reviews online by clicking HERE

Announcing the book industry’s

FIRST. . .

Kids Book Review

app thousands of book titles, find author events, listen to author interviews searchable database Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 7


Book Reviews explores the tendency to view others through our own windows, rather than as people in themselves. He critiques the English standards of behavior viewed through the backdrop of Italy, but each novel goes about its investigation in its own way. Lucy knows she does not conform perfectly to English standards, but she is the last to know of her own unconscious rebellion. Lilia, in Where Angels Fear to Tread, knows what a marriage to the poor, handsome Gino will do to her social standing in British eyes, but she does not understand that Italians have their own standards of behavior. Lilia desires to stand apart from English ways while also attempting to maintain them. These characters, both successfully and unsuccessfully, attempt to discover who they are really, not just who they are expected to be. Reviewed by Kerry Ellen Lindgren

Category

Classics

A Room with a View; Where Angels Fear to Tread By E. M. Forster Everyman’s Library, $27.95, 379 pages ISBN 9780307700902 “Charlotte, don’t you feel… that we might be in London?” observes Lucy in A Room with a View regarding their hotel in Italy. They might as well be. Lucy discovers that she is expected to behave as if she were still in England, despite the nudes in the museum, the Italians’ physical affection, the rivers, and the sunsets. In this pair of novels, Forster

O Pioneers! By Willa Cather Everyman’s Library, $24.95, 188 pages ISBN 9780307700919 If you’ve never had the pleasure of reading a Willa Cather novel, O Pioneers! is a good place to start. Back in 1913, it was the novel that first made Cather famous (ten years later she would be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours). Now her first classic is newly published as part of Alfred A. Knopf’s Everyman’s Library and neatly packaged as a little red book with a gold ribbon dressed in a book jacket bearing a picture of Cather herself looking strong and serene, much like her novel’s heroine. Cather wrote of what she knew best: pioneer life on the Great Plains. In O Pioneers!, a dying Swedish immigrant hands over the reins of his Nebraska farm to his daughter, Alexandra Borgson, instead of his two older sons who are hard workers but lack imagination. Alexandra sees the path to prosperity but is blind to the tragedy slowly approaching. Even though this story is relatively brief, resist the urge to read it quickly. Cather’s gift for descriptive prose is exceptional. Take time to enjoy her words. Reviewed by Diana Irvine

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 8


Book Reviews

Category

Historical Fiction Curiosity By Joan Thomas Emblem Editions, $21.00, 416 pages ISBN 9780771084188 Upon its original Canadian release, I named Joan Thomas’ novel as my Book of the Year for 2010. If anything, I remember the novel even more fondly now and I have been impatiently waiting for its American release. Lucky for you, that day has arrived. This historical novel is the story of Mary Anning, the little girl who takes fossils from the beach near her Dorsetshire home, cleans them, and sells them. She is doing this nearly fifty years before Darwin writes The Origin of Species. What the modern reader tends to forget is what a truly profound event it was when the nineteenth century was confronted with the evidence that not only were there extinct species, there were species that seemed to have turned into other species. Religion, science, and philosophy were all sent spinning. This is more than a Girl’s Own primer on plucky science discoveries. It is lushly written. Thomas, one of Canada’s most esteemed book reviewers, gives Jane Austen a run for her money in describing Dorset and its class milieus. There

is also a beating heart of a love story running through the novel, and for once it is a love story between members of different classes that actually resolves as it would in reality. Curiosity is everything you want in a book: informative, poetic, and just a damn good read. Reviewed by Hubert O’Hearn Paper Conspiracies By Susan Daitch City Lights, $16.95, 361 pages ISBN 9780872865143 This is one of those novels that readers will either admire for its originality or become extremely frustrated with. The story centers on the Dreyfus Affair from late nineteenth century France, in which a Jewish man was falsely imprisoned for being a spy even though the real spy confessed. The beginning starts out as a mystery. A one-eyed woman who is a film preservationist is asked by her boss to restore an old Georges Melies silent film about Dreyfus, but he asks her to cut out the ending. The woman is then contacted by a mysterious and possibly dangerous man who wants her to restore the film without changing the ending, and suggests that a real life murder took place on screen. Just when the story starts getting interesting, the novel jumps to another time period with all new characters. The rest of the book follows the same vein. As the reader becomes familiar with a new set of characters, the book abruptly switches again: from present day to 1968, 1935, 1902, and late 1890’s, respectively. (This is where the frustration comes in.) All of the plot lines are merely snippets, and the reader is left with unanswered questions. Most of the action takes place in France, and relates in some way back to Dreyfus, an obscure event to most Americans. This reviewer can’t entirely recommend the book. Readers who don’t mind non-linear, disjointed novels might want to take the plunge. Reviewed by Leslie Wolfson

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 9


The Esquire story is a great opportunity, but you really should think of this as a book.” It was a charged observation from an old friend, even more so given that the old friend, Mitchell Waters, is also literary agent who’d come to call. He’d read an advance copy of my autobiographical feature story, The Man Who Couldn’t Eat, that would appear in the magazine the following month. Funny thing was, my Esquire editor, Mark Warren, had said the same thing. I didn’t need further convincing. Having spent my adulthood writing novels that failed to get published, I knew that I was up to the challenge of completing a book, even though I’d be a rookie in this particular genre. I’d never written, or thought about, writing a memoir. Call it confidence, call it arrogance, call it cluelessness, call it what you will – I, and all writers, must have it, “it” being the quality necessary to face a blank page and fill it with story. It is the foundation of book writing, magazine writing, all writing. My “it” would surely see me through whatever was required to expand a single story all the way to book length. I’d had no reluctance to sell the book concept based solely on the magazine story and a first chapter. “Trust me” was the subtext of the proposal. Then, I received the contract from the publisher – “author agrees to deliver an 80,000 word manuscript in six months” – exactly what I had offered and agreed to in the pep rally of the conference room overlooking

Rockefeller Center! I must have been dizzied by that heady atmosphere. What was I thinking? The challenge I’d faced writing the Esquire story concerned how to throw so much away and still hold the narrative together. My 15,000-word first draft had to be reduced to 5,000 words (paper and ink cost money, and magazine advertising isn’t what is was when Mad Men sold the pages), so the art of storytelling was metered by the act of compression. I suffered the usual writer’s pain in having to scalp my own coiffed prose, but I couldn’t complain about the result. The published story was intense and hard as a diamond and well-received, nominated for a National Magazine Award and winning – ironically – the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for food writing. Getting scalped never felt so good. And from what I heard in the juiced conference room with the view, that was the mode of precision Simon & Schuster expected in the book version. Obscured by the cheers was an unspoken question: did I have it in me to mine that size of a jewel?

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 10


Article: Outward Bound Lesson One: Get To It

I delivered the manuscript on time and true to the proposal. Skilled editing directed me through three Deadline pressure accelerated my thinking and led drafts. The reviews have been good and taken little me to realize the first of two key lessons for the sto- notice that the book began its life on five glossy pages. ry-to-book process. One man’s panic is another man’s My friends were right; the story really was a book. opportunity. All those years when I’d been frustrated by agents’ and editors’ failure to see the brilliance of my 100,000+ word manuscripts, I would have killed for this kind of an opportunity. Put it in perspective, About Jon Reiner brother. You’ve been graced with dumb luck and handed a great story (the basis of The Man Who Couldn’t Jon Reiner is the auEat). You’ve been telling people for years at cocktail thor of the debut memoir parties, little league games, car washes, that you’re a The Man Who Couldn’t writer. A writer writes. In the words of John BerryEat, published by Simon man, “The artist is extremely lucky who is presented & Schuster. The book is with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually based on a story of the kill him. At that point, he’s in business.” The best writsame title he wrote for Esquire which won ing is done on an empty stomach, right? You’ve got the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award hunger in your wheelhouse. Get to it.

for Magazine Feature Writing, was nominated for a National Magazine Award, and was translated into multiple languages for international publication.

Lesson Two: Open The Valve If the first lesson of the process was practically essential, the second was creatively liberating. Open up the narrative. The central theme of the magazine story – the existential crisis of food deprivation – contained acres of events, characters, experiences, and reflections for which there just wasn’t enough real estate in Esquire to tell. Simon & Schuster had more land. Immediately, I saw the three-month scope of the magazine story as just a section of a much longer narrative arc. I wrote an outline – a chore I normally detest – to chart the journey, but kept it simple: three parts, three chapters each. Once I began writing (eventually going to 11 chapters), the story hydrated. Watering the dynamic elements that always inspired me as a fiction writer – dialogue, character, description, setting, conflict, meditation – grew the story into a book. The word counter on my laptop screen showed 60,000, 70,000, 80,000, 85,000 and up. There wouldn’t be enough paper to hold the damn thing!

After earning a B.A., magna cum laude, in English and theater at Fairleigh Dickinson University and an M.A. in English at the University of Maryland, where he was an instructor of writing and literature, he worked for two decades as a creative executive for international corporations and arts organizations. Jon is a member of PEN American Center and is writing his next book, Chutes and Ladders, (read a post on nytimes.com) a memoir of finding work and meaning in an age of greed and unemployment. Jon lives in New York City with his wife and two children. He is still learning how to cook. Follow Jon on his blog.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 11


Book Reviews

Category

Modern Literature

Zone One By Colson Whitehead Doubleday, $25.95, 272 pages ISBN 9780385528078 Eclectic writer Afro-American Whitehead is one of my favorite writers from Brooklyn, which USA Today calls “America’s very own Bloomsbury.” This novel, like his others, is existential; just as The Intuitionist, a mystery, was very existential, something like a Richard Wright or Ralph Ellison. My favorite sentence was on page 41: “And a foot-

note to what, for that matter. No one was writing this book. All the writers were busy pouring jugs of kerosene on the heaps of dead, pitching in for a change.” Sure, there were some gory sentences about blowing the heads off the “stragglers,” and the mindless chomping of the Infected and a kind of macho-soldier-dark-humor to hold back the madness, but mainly this is a book about New York, believe it or not. Mostly told in flashbacks over three days, the protagonist, Mark Spitz, a survivalist even as a toddler, desperately fights for survival after the “Last Night.” He finds fighting zombies his niche, after a previous zombie-like existence as a “social-network functionary.” The thing is, Spitz continually says, current New York, and even its current inhabitants, is a lot like old New York, and the apocalypse means, “in the future things will be even worse than they are now.” Full Disclosure: I have not read any zombie genre books until now. Therefore, I can’t say how this book contributes to this hot genre. Reviewed by Phil Semler Wunderkind: A Novel By Nikolai Grozni Free Press, $24, 304 pages ISBN 9781451616910 Konstantin, a brilliant fifteen-yearold pianist, attends the sterile, heartless Sofia Music School for the Gifted. Konstantin’s story takes place in Bulgaria during the two years leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in Europe. Reminiscent of Holden Caulfield’s “phonies,” wigs, bobbleheads, and apparatchiks (agents of the apparatus, or Communist Party) fill Konstantin’s school and life with misery. As adults, we can see why his smoking, drinking, and sex would drive the school officials up the wall, regardless of their political orientation, yet we also see how Konstantin is ostracized within the School for the Gifted because he is gifted; since his talent makes him stand out, he does not fit the desired prototype for a good citizen. Grozni titles each chapter of Wunderkind after a piece of Konstatin’s repertoire, weaving the music into the story, teaching us how music works both technically and as a lived experience. While cringing dur-

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 12


Book Reviews

Category Modern Literature

ing Konstantin’s, at times, heinous behavior, we also know why he behaves as he does. Unlike Holden, Konstantin is not alone in his dissatisfaction with the status quo, as the hordes of college students attest in November of 1989. Reviewed by Kerry Ellen Lindgren Snow By Orhan Pamuk Everyman’s Library, $24.95, 460 pages ISBN 9780307700889 When Turkish writer Oham Pamuk won the Nobel in 2006, he had already produced several extraordinary works. Since winning, Pamuk has continued to produce both excellent fiction and non-fiction. However, his 2004 novel Snow still stands out his best book to date. The story follows the Turkish poet Ka, newly returned from political exile. He journeys to the provincial city of Kars, which is suffering an epidemic of suicides among girls who refuse to uncover their heads. Ka is also searching for Ipek, a woman he knew in college about whom he has been carrying a torch for decades. Isolated by a snow storm, Kars falls into political chaos. Caught in the middle, Ka must navigate factional violence, even as he decides what compromises he’s willing to make to gain the woman he loves. Pamuk writes with a Nabokovian charm, knitting together a cast of endearing characters and a fast-moving plot. Layered within the story are thoughtful discussions about a host of topics: identity, god, religion, love, and poetry, all delivered with a subtle ear for prose. One must also tip a hat to this handsome edition, which is being put out by Everyman’s Library. The volume also includes a thoughtful essay by Margaret Atwood, herself a worthy Nobel candidate whom the sphinxes of Stockholm seem committed to overlooking, and a post-script by Pamuk. Whether you are encountering this fine novel again, or for the first time, this edition of Snow is a treat. Reviewed by Jordan Magill

In Caddis Wood: A Novel By Mary F. Rockcastle Graywolf Press, $15, 272 pages ISBN 9781555975920 At first glance, Carl and Hallie Fens seem to have it all: a long marriage, two beautiful grown daughters, successful careers as an architect and poet, and an idyllic vacation home in gorgeous Caddis Wood. But when Carl is suddenly struck with what turns out to be an incurable, degenerative illness, the cracks in their marriage and the dark periods they’ve endured invade the present and threaten to unravel their bond just when they need it most. A love story about both a marriage and a landscape, In Caddis Wood brings the Wisconsin forest to many-colored life and is filled with specifics about the flora and fauna that inform Hallie’s poetry and, ultimately, Carl’s final work. Nature both enlivens Carl and Hallie and destroys much of what they hold most dear, but the beauty of their forest retreat is powerful enough to renew itself even after the devastation of fire and pollution. The analogies among the landscape’s evolution and Carl and Hallie’s lives and marriage are seamless and effective, and Rockcastle’s lovely prose makes it impossible not to be swept up in the peace of Caddis Wood. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 13


Book Reviews

Category

Poetry & Short Stories

Apricot Jam: And Other Stories By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Counterpoint, $28.00, 375 pages ISBN 9781582436029

In “Fracture Points,” one of the nine stories comprising what one assumes is the last collection of work drawn from the final years of the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, there is a quote from Gogol: “I’ve given birth to you, and

I can kill you as well.” If pressed to name an organizing theme to Apricot Jam, I think that would be it -- survival in a world that can either nurture or murder on whims of fate. When I was about halfway through this collection, the thought occurred to me that these nine stories might have been the working notes for one last gigantic novel by Solzhenitsyn. Certain characters reappeared in cameos decades after their first introduction, and there was an undoubted linkage to the Civil War following the 1917 Revolution, through to the central narrative of World War II, ending with the denouement of the USSR transitioning into Russia. By the time I had come to the end, reading the closing words of “No Matter What” -- All will proceed according to plan -- I had changed my mind. These were not notes. This is the entire symphony. This is a people’s history of the USSR. There’s always the temptation to open the cracked leather briefcase of well-worn phrases and lift out “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” That would be grand if true. Instead, the parts are equal to the whole. You will never forget these people: whether the simple village girl Nastenka in the story of the same name, who gives her body at first reluctantly then willingly to men, then manages to become a teacher faced with an evershifting list of what books or poems could be or could not be taught; or the historical figure of Marshal Georgy Zhukov in “Times of Crisis,” a true hero of World War, alternately praised, damned, elevated, or exiled by Stalin and his successors. Truth be told, I had never been a great fan of Solzhenitsyn. I had read most of the major works, beginning with August 1914, through Ivan Denisovitch, and The Gulag Archipelago, without ever truly enjoying one of them. I’m highly pleased to say that my opinion of Solzhenitsyn’s writing has changed. Perhaps the translation by his son Stephan Solzhenitsyn with Kenneth Lantz is superior to those earlier works, or perhaps I have matured and can now appreciate the author’s work. Regardless of the reason, I can unreservedly endorse Apricot Jam. Reviewed by Hubert O’Hearn

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 14


Book Reviews

Category Poetry & Short Stories

Cat Stories (Everyman’s Pocket Classics) Edited by Diana Secker Tesdell Knopf, $15.00, 400 pages ISBN 9780307700896 Cat Stories is a fascinating anthology of stories about our feline friends and foes. For less than one dollar per story, editor Diana Secker Tesdell has made available stories old and new, classic and contemporary, fun and worrisome, realistic and fantastical, etc. One may not identify with or appreciate all of the stories, but there is likely to be something enjoyable here for every member of the family. This collection broadens the definition of family to now include cats, something she had already done with dogs. Tesdell has, so far, edited more than half a dozen books for Everyman’s Pocket Classics, which seeks to be a guide and companion for the everyman in this literary and historical realm. Part of the fun of these titles is getting to read stories by both classic and new writers. This collection features Lessing, Kipling, Highsmith, Poe, Gaiman, Leiber, Le Guin, and a dozen others. The variety of styles keeps this from becoming monotonous, with many stories on the fantastical side. The cats are not always the only stars in these tales, but they do lead their nine lives in full. Reviewed by Ryder Miller Smoke and Mirrors: Screenplays, Teleplays, Stage Plays, Comic Scripts & Treatments By Richard Chizmar, William Peter Blatty, Kealan Patrick Burke, Brian Keene Cemetery Dance Publications, $40.00, 435 pages ISBN 9781587672101 Horror is a marvelously visual medium, so it’s not surprising that it lends itself so readily to films, comic books, and television shows. Smoke and Mirrors collects a swathe of screenplays, treatments, summaries,

and scripts from some of the genre’s most recognizable names, offering them to you unedited, often in the original format. From the dark hokeyness of Tales from the Crypt to the most nightmarish of short stories, from war and westerns to sci-fi and macabre magics, there’s a flavor for every horror fan’s taste buds to savor. Mick Garris is in rare form here with an unfilmed screenplay, and his centerpiece is surrounded by works from names as capable and wide-ranging as Joe R. Lansdale and Frank Darabont, Poppy Z. Brite and Stewart O’Nan, Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill. While the sheer dimensions of the book make it a bit unwieldy -- attempts to shrink screenplay-format scripts to a smaller page would have ruined the effect somewhat -- that doesn’t detract from the some of the gems contained within. There are a few stories that didn’t resonate with me as a reader, but the ones that hit make the collection totally worthwhile. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Letters: Emily Dickinson By Emily Dickinson Everyman’s Library, $13.50, 254 pages ISBN 9780307597045 Emily Dickinson, best known for her poetic themes of death and immortality, predisposition to seclusion, and a mind that whirled with wonder and illumination was also an impassioned letter writer. In this almost pocketsized edition by Everyman’s Library, Emily, unbeknownst to her, entices readers through a bundle of thought provoking and finely crafted correspondence. She pens letters to

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 15


Book Reviews

Category Poetry & Short Stories

family, friends, classmates, and sometimes to those only speculated. She is quite confidential in her connections, probably because these letters were only meant for the recipient’s eyes, which makes it all the more intriguing. You will not be disappointed if you crave the language Ms. Dickinson is best known for: her ability to capture so much in so little a space, and her propensity to summon innocent joy at times, bleak sadness, and an overall wonderment. Her letters carry a weight in the smallness of their power. Feeling a little like a voyeur, peeking into the window of such a private and intensely compassionate woman, I teetered slowly on her words, not making a sound as I listened in on Dickinson’s love for all things around her, from her ailing mother to the rebirth of spring, careful not to disrupt the auspiciousness I had stumbled upon. Each letter is a cup that she has poured herself into and we are lucky to drink from it. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez-Fischer The Hunger Moon By Marge Piercy Knopf, $30.00, 319 pages ISBN 9780307594105 Marge Piercy is a poet with a powerful voice and large presence, “the wicked rose/that wants to bloom all year,” and she is one of the rare poets these days whose publisher is Knopf, one of the big New York houses. Collected from 10 books spanning 25 years, with the addition of some new poems, the early poems recall the sexual wars ignited by Feminism: a woman, expected to serve her husband’s dinner on a glittering platter, wanted to grill him “spitted over a slow fire.” Piercy’s theme is love in all its forms: how we give it and how we take it away. The marriage bed is the setting for many poems, and the ideal marriage is like the open-sided chuppah, the canopy of a Jewish wedding–– “not a box, not a coffin.” At times, Piercy can be ecstatic, but her strongest poems invoke her mother, a woman downtrodden as much by

her ideas as by her poverty. In a striking poem about her mother’s death at “the dark socket of the year,” Hanukkah, the game of dreidles becomes a powerful metaphor: “Shall you have all or nothing / take half or pass by untouched? / Nothing you got, Shin said the dreidl / as the room stopped spinning. / The angel folded you up like laundry / your body thin as an empty dress.” Reviewed by Zara Raab Swimming the Eel By Zara Raab David Robert Books, $20.00, 112 pages ISBN 9781936370443 Pounding against the earth, planting crops and a mother that that got away are all marvelous themes presented in this new collection of poems. This is a book that follows the family tree of the writer done in elegant verse. Zara Raab takes up the task of plotting a course through history, with her family tree as inspiration. The time line flows from the 1800s to modern times. Zara Raab is a native to Northern California and shows in this book the beauty of the American West. The Ell in this book refers to the Eel River territory. Raab also unleashes countless childhood memories. One theme that develops is how harsh life is in the West, from the settlers that had to plow hard ground to just trying to grow up. While neither overwhelming dark nor sweet, Zara Raab delivers solid slice of life poetry. I feel that poems are works of art, and no two people will have the same opinion on that work of art. I think that Swimming the Eel is a wonderful collection that will charm any reader. There are many great works here, some of which I have already forced upon my friends. I really like the balance and similarities between the timeline.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 16


Book Reviews

Category Poetry & Short Stories

While life can be beautiful and comical, Raab is always ready to remind us of the grief we will all encounter. This After the Apocalypse is an encounter I will not soon forget. By Maureen McHugh Reviewed by Kevin Brown Small Beer Press, $16.00, 193 pages ISBN 9781931520294 And God Said: A Brief History of Creation After the Apocalypse is a themed By Barbara Leff collection of nine stories, three of Broadstone Books, $18.50, 80 pages which are original. From the title, ISBN 9780980211757 you’ll guess the theme but, in each of This is a daring endeavor Ms. Leff the stories, there’s a slightly different has trekked upon—the retelling of effect. There are nuclear explosions, a the stories in The Bible and the atplague, and global warming evaporattempt to “answer,” or rather, infer ing the water. We even get a few zomwhat might have been “left out.” Up bies. But, equally important are the stories about front, I want to really like this colpersonal devastation. People are vulnerable to lection, and I do—mostly. But let me emotional and intellectual damage. So, when you put it say this is not a “fill in the blanks” analtogether, this is a collection about survival. swer sheet. Her imagination is deep and Societies can emerge from disasters in a poor state. crafty, with a good command of form and They need time to heal. Those who remain to live in the rhythm, a hymn of cadence throughout. midst of this destruction can find themselves suffering As a work of art, Ms. Leff has called into existence a col- a sense of dislocation. It’s as if they no longer fit into lection unto which will have readers both intrigued and the landscape. Some, therefore, retreat into themselves. questioning, a firm foundation for a book of poetry. Others abandon their relationships and strike out on I am led to wrestle with several pieces in this their own. It’s all about self-confidence or the lack of it. book. God is often depicted as a mistake maker, Without exception, the stories are beautifully written. “So I [Jesus] raged out of control/ until He made McHugh has a crisp, uncluttered prose style that says me the link/ between heaven and earth, / bound what it means with absolute precision. It’s a joy to read. by the laws of neither, / commanding the respect Although not every story hits the mark of perfection, of all, / subject to His whims/ and witness to His mis- this is a collection to savor. Read or miss out on somesteps. / And then the tide turns, God is set back to His thing special! rightful reign; as if we, as the creations get to tell the Reviewed by David Marshall Creator a thing or two; it seems to be a wrestle within the poet’s mind. So with that nugget, I both cringe at, and applaud, Ms. Leff’s contribution. What a great dichotomy for writing, I must admit. She has succeeded in Follow us on Facebook creating an inventive collection with some highly enterLots going on every day! taining and imaginative “what ifs.” Reviewed by Sky Sanchez-Fischer

Be Social!

Follow us on Twitter Instant updates!

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 17


Book Reviews

Category

Mystery, Crime & Thrillers

Monument to Murder: A Capital Crimes Novel By Margaret Truman Forge, $24.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780765326096 A young black woman in Savannah is the victim of a drive-by shooting. Or not. She’d just been released from prison, having confessed to a crime she didn’t commit. Her mother suspects there’s more to the story, and now, a good many years later, hires one-time cop and now private investigator Robert Brixton to find the truth. To his surprise, the trail leads him to several swamps, both in Savannah

and Washington DC. He finds himself in the middle of a political scandal that leads directly to the White House – and a secret organization that thinks it has a ‘license to kill.’ Wow. A sort-of cameo appearance near the end brings the always enjoyable Washington-based Mackensie and Annabel Lee Smith into the middle of the proceedings. As always with Ms. Truman’s books, the writing is smooth as silk. There are a few minor glitches within, indicating that someone may have tried to bring the book into today’s world, but didn’t quite master the job. Still, the story and the plot should hook you. There is nothing in this book to indicate when the book was written or if there are to be others, possibly left behind by the author when she died on January 29, 2008. She’ll be missed! Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz Mia By Bernard Leo Remakus Wasteland Press, $13.95, 144 pages ISBN 9781600476150 If Lifetime produced this as a movie, I’d watch. Mia is the story of a soldier who, due to a horrible accident, can only be saved through a gender-changing operation. The CIA then hires her to take down the terrorist responsible for the accident. She then heads back home, where she becomes a teacher and moves in with her widow, and is there to help her widow and son get over their loss. Yes, the plot seems silly on the onset, but it somehow works, and works really, really well. There are a number of twists and turns, yet always seems to straighten out. The biggest problem is the lack of a decent antagonist; Mia overcomes any difficulty placed before her far too easily most of the time. Mia is such a strong protagonist that she deserves a strong antagonist, and that’s the only lacking element in this book. Otherwise, there’s a lot of nice character development, and the characters grow logically; of special note is the son, who matures nicely and logically, without the usual coincidences that seem to litter books. Once Mia shows him how to deal with his anger issues, he becomes a great kid. The romance between hus-

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 18


Book Reviews

Category Mystery, Crime & Thrillers

band and widow is especially nice, as it grows rather than explodes. This is definitely a book that will keep you turning the pages. It’s probably one of the more interesting stories one could read this year. It definitely shows the adaptability of the human spirit and how love will always find a way. It also helps that the pun it sends you out on is one that actually makes you smile a little bit. If you think that you have every permutation of the veteran-returns-home story, this one will definitely take you by surprise. Sponsored Review The Immortalists By Kyle Mills Thomas & Mercer, $14.95, 332 pages ISBN 9781612181509 Microbiologist Richard Draman has been working toward finding a cure for progeria ever since his 8-year-old daughter was diagnosed with the disease of premature aging that claims its victims by around the age of thirteen. Finding funding has been an uphill battle, and he is steadily losing his fellow researchers to better-paying projects, but he is soldiering on. His life changes dramatically, however, when the pioneering work on aging of a brilliant but dead scientist is brought to him: Richard suddenly finds himself hopeful that there could be a cure for his daughter — but he also finds himself on the run from both the law and incredibly wealthy and powerful mystery men who don’t want him to have the information. Richard slowly learns who he can and can’t trust — and learns about an astonishing scientific breakthrough that would change life as we know it if word were to get out. But all he wants is to save his daughter and his family and have a normal life. Kyle Mills has crafted a gripping page-turner that explores the edges of science and where it meets social mores and ethics. Readers will have a hard time putting The Immortalists down until the very end. Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Field of Dead Horses By Nick Allen Brown Harrowood Books, $16.99, 334 pages ISBN 9780915180240 If I could sum up Field of Dead Horses into one word, it would be realistic. A torrent tale of horse races, true love, and father-son issues. It’s more than just an interesting book, but rather, a series of multiple events that create a sense of tension that continues until the last page. The story is told by an aged Elliot Chapel as he looks back at the year in 1939. He is a horse trainer—training horses runs in his blood—in Georgetown, Kentucky. His father, Paul Chapel, became emotionally detached to his son when Elliot’s mother died during childbirth. With his father retired and drunk, Elliot’s star as a trainer is beginning to rise. Fate allows him to meet Ellie Evans. Ellie is married to the abusive, and crooked, Mayor Evans. Ellie finds comfort and security in the Chapel Farm, but her husband wants to move their family to Baton Rouge. Elliot not only faces these challenges, but also has a horse race that could make him or break him. Field of Dead Horses is a wonderfully written drama that will hook readers into the engaging plot. Right out of the gate (sorry, I had to do at least one horse pun), the book starts off really strong. In the first chapter, you get a real sense for the characters—full and detailed to the point of being real people. It’s obvious that the author has done much research. I love how the book is historically accurate, down to the tiniest detail. I enjoyed how it is a love story that did more than bring two people together. Elliot and Ellie’s romance helps in bringing together many people—from the hammering of horseshoes on the soft racetrack dirt to the grim pouch that housed Elliot’s drunk father, there is a sense of realism that rings true on every page. It’s an outstanding book with much passion and many thrills. Sponsored Review

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 19


Book Reviews

Category Mystery, Crime & Thrillers

A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery By Charles Todd William Morrow, $24.99, 340 pages ISBN 9780062015709 This is the third Bess Crawford novel, set slightly earlier than the continuing Inspector Rutledge saga. The new series is genre-bending, with the books being historical mystery adventure stories with romantic overtones. Or, to put it another way, our plucky heroine is a battlefield nurse during World War I who gets caught up in murder mysteries and has to think and, sometimes, fight her way out of trouble. Needless to say, a number of men tug at her heartstrings, so far without much success — she being an up-and-at-em, rootin’ tootin’ kinda gal, terribly British, and so sexually reserved. I can forgive many things if there’s a really good puzzle. At first, this looks like a Golden Age, country house murder, but this is not a problem to be solved with the little grey cells. The answer depends on information not available to any casual observer. Worse, there’s also a lot of running around battle-scarred France which, while relevant, makes A Bitter Truth romantic fiction set in a sanitized version of history and focusing on love, marriage, and the role of children. Being a mere man, I found it mildly interesting but unexciting. Reviewed by David Marshall Morgue Drawer Four By Jutta Profijt, Erik J. Macki (translator) AmazonCrossing, $14.95, 242 pages ISBN 9781611090321 Crime shows love to depict forensics lab guys doing all the detecting, but that’s simply not true. This novel draws much attention to this conceit. Dr. Martin Gansewein is a competent coroner -- but he’s not well-versed in detection or dealing with ghosts. All bets are off when Pascha the car thief, cur-

rent occupant of the morgue, starts bugging Martin to investigate his death. Pascha knows someone killed him and made it look like an accident, and he’s not going to shut up about it. Good-natured Martin is forced to go out of his comfort zone to find out, bumbling his way through the inquiries. To make matters worse, several people wanted Pascha dead: his drug dealer, his boss, even his ex-wife. While initially entertaining, Pascha is a polarizing narrator. There might be readers who will put this book down because they can’t stand him. He’s not very likable and he’s occasionally sexist. A thoroughly crooked character, Pascha is mostly unrepentant for all the things he’s done in his life. Still, his gradual appreciation of Martin’s better qualities makes up for some of his obnoxious observations. While it may not appeal to all tastes, Morgue Drawer Four is a highly original mystery with a lot of punch and urban grit to it. I daresay it’s more realistic than some crime shows, even with a talkative ghost. Reviewed by Rachel Anne Calabia Death And the Maiden By Gerald Elias Minotaur, $25.99, 287 pages ISBN 9780312678340 For professional classical musicians, performing in a quartet is to get in bed with the devil himself. Group infighting, personality clashes, and artistic differences on an epic scale are just part of the job. But the New Magini String Quartet seems to be getting more than their fair share of ill luck. Not only are they being sued by their former second violinist, but now, on the eve of one of their greatest performances, their egotistical first violinist has gone missing. Now it’s up to Daniel Jacobus, former renowned violinist turned blind-crotchety-old-man and sometimesdetective, to try to find the missing musician before it’s too late. Death and the Maiden is a finely-tuned piece of work that’s enhanced by its somewhat unusual background environment. Let’s face it – the classical music scene isn’t every-

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 20


Book Reviews

Category Mystery, Crime & Thrillers

one’s bag, yet Elias manages to make it come alive without ever making the reader feel lost or pointedly un-cultured. My only complaints are that Jacobus’s character – while delightfully abrasive – sometimes comes over as just a tad too acerbic, and the events surrounding the final performance have at least one foot firmly over the line of believability. But I urge readers to form their own opinions of this otherwise excellent story. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz All Cry Chaos (Henri Poincare) By Leonard Rosen Permanent Press, $29.00, 332 pages ISBN 9781579622220 Sometimes you read a book, find faults, but overlook them because the compensations outweigh the doubts. Literally, All Cry Chaos is a first novel, except this is not Leonard Rosen’s first published book. He is, in fact, something of an expert on academic writing and, in this book, he merely swaps hats to write fiction. This is both the strength and the weakness of this Interpol police procedural. Because it makes so much of chaos theory, it’s not quite a standard read. We even have computer-generated pictures and diagrams inserted into the text so we can get a better understanding how they represent both natural and unnatural systems. This means you have to approach this book with a little courage, prepared to wrestle with some chaos theory for dummies on your way to the solution of the murder mystery. Is it worth the effort? Yes! I’m impressed by the ingenuity of the plot which is carefully picked apart by our hero. The whole is a little melodramatic and slightly contrived, but I think there’s more than enough to recommend you give this a try. Assuming he writes more featuring this detective, Leonard Rosen is almost certainly someone to watch. Reviewed by David Marshall

Down the Mysterly River By Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham Starscape, $15.99, 336 Pages ISBN 9780765327925 The dynamic duo who’ve been entertaining fans for years with the fantastic comic book series Fables now turn their writing and illustrating talents for the middle readers. Down the Mysterly River is a quaint, entertaining tale that straddles a perfect balance between a memorable fable or fairy tale, and a great kid’s story. Combining Bill Willingham’s skill as a storyteller and Mark Buckingham’s recognizable illustrations, this book is a delight for anyone, be they child or adult.llMax “the Wolf” is the best of the best when it comes to Boy Scouts, so when he wakes up to find himself in a strange and unfamiliar place, the last thing he’s going to do is panic. He’s got his tools and his abilities to tackle anything. When a badger named Banderbrock shows up and starts talking to him, Max thinks it’s a little weird – maybe he’s dreaming? – but keeps on going. Before long he’s on the run from a group of hunters and their snarling hounds, picking up new friends along the way: Walden the black bear and McTavish the Monster (who looks quite a bit like an old barn cat). The question is will they be able to keep themselves from getting caught, and why is this all happening to Max anyway? Reviewed by Alex Telander

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 21


Book Reviews

Category

Biographies & Memoirs Little Miss Merit Badge By Ronda Beaman Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, $16.00, 233 pages ISBN 9781936214471 Ronda Beaman developed an intense addiction at a young age – to Girl Scout merit badges. Born to young, immature parents who generally had more interest in each other than in the three children they produced in a short amount of time, Ronda grew up feeling an all-consuming need for recognition, a need that she filled by attempting to be the best at everything, including earning the most badges. It didn’t help that the family moved often, forcing Ronda to change schools (and Girl Scout troops) with a frequency that undermined any attempts to develop close friendships. Despite this, her desire to better herself through scouting helped her to develop into the accomplished woman she is today, not to mention helping her come relatively unscathed through a childhood that, by any account, sounds “challenging.” On the surface, some readers might dismiss Beaman’s memoir as just another book about a difficult childhood with eclectic parents, but that would be a mistake. What makes this book fun is Beaman’s style of storytelling, her sense

of showmanship: relating childhood anecdotes through the lens of Girl Scout badge-earning is simply genius, and something that many women will be able to relate to on some level. On top of that, these stories are heartwarming; some are just plain funny, others are poignant in their brutal honesty. At times, it can be hard to read about some of the methods her parents employed, but at other times, it is clear that despite everything, these children were loved, and ultimately, Beaman’s work ethic allowed her to overcome some particularly adverse circumstances. Ultimately, Beaman’s story has a happy ending, which makes it easier to endure some of the more heartbreaking passages. Little Miss Merit Badge is a fun and uplifting read that will be appreciated by readers of all kinds. Join Little Miss Merit Badge, Ronda Beaman, for a book signing, pick up your own souvenir badge and win antique scout pins on March 3 from 1-3pm at Samuel Scheuer, 340 Sutter Street. Sponsored Review Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman By Robert K. Massie Random House, $35.00, 625 pages ISBN 9780679456728 It is easy to understand why Catherine II of Russia was called Catherine the Great. Although she refused to be referred to as such during her lifetime, what she achieved during her thirty-five years as leader of Russia is laudable. Catherine was a liberal, following the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers like Voltaire and Diderot, with whom she was personal friends. Although she believed in autocracy, she prided herself on being “a benevolent despot,” which she was. It was important to her that her subjects were behind her, and before making most decisions that would affect them, she made sure she was in touch with the needs of every class. Brought to the throne at age fourteen from Germany, she was forced to marry the nephew of Queen Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Peter the Great. Her husband to be was a major piece of work, not to mention hideously scarred from smallpox. Once they married, he showed no interest in her,

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 22


Book Reviews

Category Biographies & Memoirs

and his idea of after-hours marital activities included playing toy soldiers on the bed. At thirty-three, with the support of the people, she overthrew her husband and became queen. Within a week her husband was dead at the hands of her current lover, Gregory Orlov and his brothers.

My orders would not be carried out unless they were the kind of orders that should be carried out...I examine the circumstances, I take advice, I consult the enlightened part of the people, and in this way I find out what sort of effect my laws will have.” During her time on the throne Catherine accomplished a remarkable amount. She built of a university and she formed alliances with Prussia, Poland, France, and England. She avoided wars with everyone but Turkey who attacked first. She assembled a congress with representatives from all three classes, including the serfs. She took a sixmonth tour of the whole of Russia, where towns, schools, and churches had been built via her orders. After losing her husband, it’s no wonder that Catherine didn’t want to remarry. She had a succession of boy toys, who kept getting younger as she aged. She was a true 18th century cougar. This biography is what readers have come to expect from the author: meticulously researched and imminently readable. It comes highly recommended. Reviewed by Leslie Wolfson

Zelda, The Queen of Paris: The True Story of the Luckiest Dog in the World By Paul Chutkow Lyons Press, $22.95, 212 pages ISBN 9780762771479 In the era of Marley and Me and the dozens of imitators who jumped onto the dog memoir bandwagon, this gem stands out. The homeless canine in question is an Indian Pi dog (short for pariah), a breed indigenous to India the way a dingo is indigenous to Australia. While author Chutkow worked as a journalist in New Delhi, he and his wife were won over by the persistent pooch who kept showing up at their back door. Eventually Zelda, named after the famed but outrageous wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, becomes part of the family. As she travels the world with the Chutkows, Zelda makes a notable impression wherever she goes. Zelda is neither goofy nor bratty, but she has an oversized personality, and panache to spare. Over the years, she becomes a connoisseur of French food, a burglar catcher, a predictor of earthquakes, and an overall celebrity. Along with Zelda, Chutkow introduces the reader to a host of other intriguing characters, such as Sheela, the Indian housekeeper, Punjab Singh, the taxi driver, as well as Mother Theresa and Jack Hemingway. This slum dog who rises above her humble beginnings will win over even the most cynical reader. Reviewed by Leslie Wolfson

Don’t miss the Little Miss Merit Badge

Book signing!

Meet Ronda Beaman March 3 1-3pm at Samuel Scheuer 340 Sutter Street, SF

Pick up your own souvenir badge and win antique scout pins Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 23

info


Book Reviews

Category Biographies & Memoirs

Einstein on the Road By Josef Eisinger Prometheus Books, $25.00, 280 pages ISBN 9781616144609 The image of Albert Einstein possesses a charisma that charms the viewer, whether or not one understands his science theories. His appeal and warmth radiate from his inherent gentle simplicity and basic morality. This benevolence and pacifism are reflected in the excerpts from Einstein’s travel diaries. Josef Eisinger knits together the trip itineraries and comments that were recorded by Einstein in his travels throughout the world from 1921 to 1933. Escaping from the political unease in Germany in the aftermath of World War I, Einstein accepted a speaking tour to Japan. On this journey, the ship stopped in Singapore and several ports in China. The voyage on the return to Germany made stops in Palestine and Spain. In the mid-1920s, Einstein and his wife Elsa visited Argentina and Brazil. The travelogue continues with ship passages to Cuba, Panama, Pasadena, England, parts of Europe, and finally the flight from Germany to Princeton. The author presents an excellent concise biography of Einstein and vividly describes the history behind the hostile atmosphere that erupted in Germany. This memoir recalls Einstein’s perceptions of the different cultures encountered, and his interactions with heads of state and notable personalities in the humanities and sciences. The reading gives us another view of the genius who left his impression on our world. Reviewed by Aron Row

Mensaert all play a role, but none of them ever take the focus away from Margaret. The plot follows Margaret as she steps into the real world of publishing as a copy editor at Random House in the 1960s. While the job was great, it always felt like her real passion was a step away. Even her friends commented that she should write, not just a book, but her book. While the job at Random House did offer her the opportunity to meet a lot of writers and famous people, it is Hunter that became her secret office romance. The two start a correspondence within letters and long distance phone calls that morphs from a concealed passion into a long-term friendship. Keep This Quiet! is a book about a woman’s life and her loves, determination, and discovery. Harrell is a great writer, and it’s amazing to see her thought process and inner-workings, as she tells a story. A great deal of the book is personal letters from Hunter to Margaret, with Margaret’s inside emotions written in the theoretical margins. Harrell is an excellent storyteller, in a story that is never about the narrative, but about the real people. Every person in the book is bold and well defined; and I especially liked the notes where Harrell backs up her story with proof. One of my favorite parts was when Hunter goes on the show To Tell The Truth, in which Margaret is backstage waiting and wondering who this is man. This is a book that will tell you everything you need to know about this time period and the writers that made it great. If I could tell Margaret anything, I would want to thank her for giving us a snippet into her private life. Sponsored Review

Keep This Quiet! My Relationship with Hunter S. Thompson, Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert By Margaret A. Harrell Saeculum Univeristy Press, $17.95, 258 pages ISBN 9780983704508 Rattling cages was the standard pastime for author Hunter S. Thompson. At least that was the image I used to have of him. But this is not a story about him. It is a story about a woman finding herself. Hunter, Milton, and Jan

The Arrogant Years: One Girl’s Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn By Lucette Lagnado Ecco, $25.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780061803673 Recalling her youthful transition from affluent life in Cairo to penurious residence in Williamsburg, NY, reporter Lucette Lagnado dramatically renders the cultural differences between the two civilizations. Driven from the

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 24


Book Reviews

Category Biographies & Memoirs

formerly safe Egyptian haven by the revolts in Egypt and the Israeli presence, formerly secure Jewish citizens were forced to join the diaspora. The author vividly describes the clash of values and recaptures the intimate bonds forged between mothers and daughters as they struggle to find their place in the world. Not only is this a compelling story of a rebellious, free spirited girl who gains understanding through her arrogant youthful years, but a moving memoir recording the power of maternal-daughter bonding through the generations. The author’s mother, a brilliant scholar, holds as her talisman her youthful memory of once holding the key to the Pasha’s library, but marriage annulled that honor. Instead, the mother she adored read books rather than ate food. Nonetheless, the tenacity and principles which guided her mother and grandmother have left an indelible impression on the daughter. This is a poignant story that will impress the reader with its eloquent and tender evocation of growing up in an immigrant culture. Reviewed by Aron Row Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest By Wade David Knopf, $35.00, 655 pages ISBN 9780375408892 More than merely chronicling George Mallory’s legendary assault on the summit of Mount Everest with Sandy Irvine, Davis recreates a forgotten era of emptiness, that emotional vacuum following the Great War that wiped out an entire generation of men and left its shellshocked survivors searching for answers that only the highest mountain in the world might provide. “They had seen so much death that life mattered less than the moments of being alive.”llWith rich prose that bears reading again and again, Davis weaves the color-

ful threads of lives through the utterly senseless chaos of slaughter, past the stoic numbness of the aftermath, and into the heart of uncharted Himalayan mountains and the mysterious culture of Tibet.

...in the wake of the storm a golden light swept the entire upper face of Everest. He scanned the summit ridge, the dark face and the Yellow Band below. All he could see was freshly fallen snow evaporating before his eyes, a gossamer veil rising off the body of the mountain.” Having missed the actual discovery of both poles and lost a generation of its finest to trench warfare, Britain pressed to score the cap of the world and map it. Known as Chomolungma--Mother Goddess of the World--by the locals, the thirteenth Dalai Lama warned the explorers of the demon spirits living within the mountain, which to date has claimed the lives of more than three hundred climbers since Mallory disappeared from its upper Northeast Ridge. Reviewed by Casey Corthron Blue Nights By Joan Didion Knopf, $25.00, 188 pages ISBN 9780307267672 A great book from one of the greatest living American authors: Joan Didion. In this beautiful prose poem, Didion confronts the issues surrounding our common mortality and sense of loss, both present and the anxiety of anticipated future loss. This reader first discovered Didion’s writing when a professor assigned “compare and contrast” the styles of a journalist with their fiction. He said there were no female writers in this category, only to later apologize and bring Joan Didion to my attention. Reading Play it as it Lays and Slouching Toward Bethlehem was a discovery of her masterful command of any category, including her later political writings. There are so many wonderful passages in Blue Nights, and even unexpected laugh-out-loud moments. In her personal life, Didion has suffered staggering losses of: close friends;

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 25


Book Reviews

Category Biographies & Memoirs

a beautiful niece, Dominique Dunne; her brother-in-law; of us in this transition. Blue Nights is a remarkable achieveher husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne; and most ment. It is a classic and the crowning achievement of her incomprehensibly, her beautiful daughter Quintana Roo at fourteen other published books. age thirty-nine. Reviewed by Julia McMichael

’You have your wonderful memories,’ people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are the Westlake uniforms in the closet, the faded and cracked photographs, the invitations to the weddings of the people who are no longer married, the mass cards from the funerals of the people whose faces you no longer remember. Memories are what your no longer want to remember.”

In her previous book, The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion deals with the loss of her husband. In Blue Nights, Didion traces the life of her daughter in a quilt of remembered visions, fragments, and stories which thread through the narrative like ribbons of persistent yet elusive memories. The repetition of certain phrases or memories serve as a Greek chorus punctuating her remembered stories: “Let me just be in the ground and go to sleep.” Sacramento-born Didion has an uncertain relationship with her birthplace. The most important Sacramento writer since Mark Twain has written of the five generations of Didions selling off their land, including the family cemetery. She has written of a California of endless freeways and fragmented connections. Yet despite her New York residence, she will always be essentially a California writer whose deep knowledge of the California mobility and uncertainty, which defines our lives and creates our losses, lends her theme of impermanence: “the center does not hold.” Blue Nights is an important book and a testament to the power and craft of this great Sacramento writer. Blue nights are the long, dark, evening hours before and after Summer Solstice. Didion tells us that they do not occur in California, the land of endless summers. Blue nights are a foreboding of chill and endless change. As Didion remembers her daughter, she also writes of the terrors of aging – also an Un-Californian thing to do. In these moments the book becomes intensely personal, yet so vivid for those

The Sum of My Parts: A Survivor’s Story of Dissociative Identity Disorder By Olga Trujillo New Harbinger Pubns Inc, $18.95, 248 pages ISBN 9781572249912 Imagine being afraid of your family without understanding why. Imagine not being able to sleep at night for fear someone will hurt you. Imagine waking up with injuries, but not remembering being hurt. In this shocking memoir, Olga Trujillo describes the abuse she suffered at the hands of her family and how she coped by dissociating, creating separate parts of herself to contain her feelings and memories of abuse. Trujillo discusses how she discovered that she has dissociative identity disorder and how it affects her daily life today. Because of Trujillo’s violent childhood, the first half of the memoir is difficult to read. I often put it down and did something else in order to keep from being overwhelmed. In fact, Trujillo recommends that sensitive readers skim or even skip the first seven chapters. Despite the intense emotions her story creates, Trujillo draws the reader into her life, painting a picture of a little girl learning to cope, changing her own brain in order to live, learn, and grow. This riveting memoir shows how and why dissociation works to protect people, but also how it hinders people from living a full life of love, intimacy, and understanding. Reviewed by Kerry Lindgren

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 26


Book Reviews Category

Each woman is unaware that the others exist, and each carries her own reasons for cursing Jessie’s name. Now, Jessie is dying and he’s determined to let them know why he faded from their lives. Will the pull of family be enough to melt long-bruised hearts? Or will the fierce pang of abandonment deny reconciliation between their estranged family?

Popular Fiction

Something, be it butterflies or destiny or simple inevitability, had led to the year everything changed. It was also how she had wound up in the middle of a cemetery where she was about to do something that could land her in jail.”

Bockoven’s ability to construct five disparate and seemingly incompatible puzzle pieces out of her main characters and then to connect them all together into a touching and startling picture makes this book a great read. Unlike a majority of literary characters, Jessie, Elizabeth, Ginger, Rachel and Christina actually grow and change as their stories unfold, displaying a maturity at the conclusion of the book that makes the ending rich and touching. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz

The Year Everything Changed By Georgia Bockoven William Morrow, $14.99, 416 pages ISBN 9780062069320 Jessie Reed has built – and lost – his fortune several times during his eventful life, but to him his greatest achievement has been his daughters: Elizabeth, a middle-aged mom with an empty nest; Ginger, who is sweet, beautiful and in love with a married man; Rachel, a successful career woman blindsided by her husband’s affair; and Christina, a burgeoning film student, full of dreams and anger.

On Canaan’s Side: A Novel By Sebastian Barry Viking, $25.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780670022922 As Lilly Bere mourns her twentysomething-year-old grandson who has just killed himself after coming back from the Gulf War, she reflects on her 89 years of life. Her life has been full of tragedy, loss and separation, from her native Ireland and from family members. As each chapter of her life has passed, she has kept forging on, but now that she nears the end she allows herself the indulgence of memory, planning to end her own life. So over the course of seventeen days, she writes what she remembers of her loves, of her friends, of her family, and of the work she has done to keep going and to keep surviving. The tale is heartbreaking and elegiac, but compelling. Author Sebastian Barry is also a playwright and poet, and it

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 27


Book Reviews

Category Popular Fiction

shows even here in his prose: the writing is lovely and mes…We’re connected to every being, every rock, every merizing, even as the tale is heavy with loss. On Canaan’s star and every atom out there.” Side takes readers on a tour of Ireland, America, the 20th century — and, most importantly, the inner workings of There is a plethora of non-fiction material melded into this the heart of a woman. sci-fi drama, and Wilson does a remarkable job in keeping Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim the reader’s interest. Every character is significant; some you grow to love, others you love to hate. In the end, WilSedona: The Lost Vortex son leaves the reader wanting more, and the open-ended By Mikel J. Wilson conclusion of Sedona: The Lost Vortex leaves the door open CreateSpace, $16.95, 415 pages for a sequel. Anyone who reads this book will undoubtedly ISBN 9781463719777 be exuberant, anxiously awaiting Wilson’s sequel with anSedona: The Lost Vortex ticipation. presents a very thought-proSponsored Review voking and compelling science fiction story that pulls The Wilding the reader in from the very By Benjamin Percy beginning. Wilson does an Graywolf Press, $15.00, 255 pages amazing job of entertaining the ISBN 9781555975968 theme of science vs. religion, while at the same time, The Wilding certainly lives up maintaining a suspense-filled, intriguing novel. to its name. It hurtles the reader The main characters, Travis, Gregor and Cadence, set out into a carnal thriller, instilling for the city of Sedona. There is something calling them to in its characters a primal cuthe city, and once there, even more compelling characters riosity and, ultimately, bringare introduced. August, the minister, Mitchell the church- ing those seek to venture deep into the goer, Lily and Iris—all of whom draw the reader even woods of the human mind. You must sprint along to keep deeper into the story. There are several philosophical ar- pace with Percy, who expertly pushes the plot with his racguments discussed; for instance while speaking to Travis, ing momentum. It’s brilliantly defiant – if you don’t want Gregor states “…our bodies do encase an energy that could to be here, you don’t belong. And perhaps that is why readbe called our souls,” “…We’re connected to every being, ev- ers are brought into The Wilding with that independent, but ery rock, every star and every atom out there. We all start- magnetizing, choice. For his tale is brunt and bloody, yet ed from the same singularity. All energy in the universe deliciously so. always was and ever will be, so we are as much a part of the Justin’s father has always taken a strong opinion on his universe now as we were in its beginning and as will be in life, for he only takes only strong opinions, nothing less. its end.” Much of the novel is interwoven between science Justin’s son – polite, delicate, and pleasantly beyond his and religion. There are significant references to Biblical age – has little to do with his grandfather, yet is willing to verses, as well as scientific data and legend mixed with Wil- please. Justin himself has suffered the distance of a wife son’s fictitious plot and characters in the backdrop of Se- and the loss of a stillborn child. So his father’s solution is to dona, Arizona. Wilson’s characters portray reliability and explore the Oregon wilderness at their back doors for one believability, allowing even the idea of paranormal activity, last time before a construction project takes over. However, crystal energy forces, and lost vortexes to be plausible. As what awaits them there is only the dark eyes of fear, bringthe story progresses, there is talk of a crystal cult, witches ing out instinct, adrenaline, and most of all, survival. who use crystal energy, and how there are lost vortexes in Reviewed by Alex Masri Sedona. Gregor and Iris even compare amulets. Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 28


Book Reviews

Category Popular Fiction

Annuity By Leslie Marcus Gaiter Publishingbylesley.com, $19.96, 332 pages ISBN 9780615375151 It started as a club for six friends to raise money to go on vacation with their families. But when they won a billiondollar lottery prize, everything changed. The A Just Cause Foundation was formed, a way to support causes that members believed in, from education to aid for the impoverished. When the foundation decided to focus on bringing the electric car to the American people, they discovered they had bitten off more than they could chew. Opposed Industries quickly initiated a smear campaign to discredit both the electric car and the foundation itself. How do you fight back against wealthy opponents who care more for their own profits than they do for the people they supposedly serve? And how far are those opponents willing to go? Leslie Gaiter’s first novel, Annuity, reads like a tale of caution for those who think that improving life for American citizens trumps corporate profits. The author has conceived of some intriguing ideas: We the People, a nationwide group with the interests of the American people at its heart which apparently controls a surprising amount of political happenings; a lottery trust fund as a way to solve the Social Security crisis; and the optimistic (if unrealistic) idea that a group of young men, when presented with a collective fortune, could overcome personal desires and instead do a great deal to benefit their community and the nation as a whole. Other than the conspiracy theorist undertones, this novel’s biggest drawback is its acute need for a skilled editor; numerous instances of bad punctuation and grammar jarringly detract from the author’s otherwise decent writing skills. The characters are varied and well-developed, though different enough to keep things interesting while still meshing nicely with one another. The plot is generally engaging and will hold most readers’ interest throughout. Sponsored Review

Damned By Chuck Palahniuk Doubleday, $24.95, 256 pages ISBN 9780385533027 While I do enjoy satire quite a bit, I think that Chuck Palahniuk fails to bring the themes across as such in this novel, which he writes with a heavy hand and much indulgence. Gone is the rumination that Palahinuk has showcased in his previous novels, and instead is a novel-length love letter to his own wit in its place. Damned seems to be written with an effort to shock the reader. Each chapter starts off with eleven-year-old Madison writing a letter to Satan in Judy Blume style. “Are you there Satan? It’s me Madison.” Filled with blood and gore and reflections from a sarcastic and annoying child, Damned misses the funny mark by a hillbilly mile. I think Palahniuk is a very opinionated man and should probably write a book about his views on marijuana, celebrities and high school instead of touting his pop culture scorn disguised as a novel. It seems that the muse has left the building and I am not planning on reading further installments in the Damned trilogy. Can’t anything, including satire, stand alone anymore? I don’t see how the author can extend his version of Hell, which is hellish enough to read, without slapping more indulgent pop culture-speak onto the page. Reviewed by Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 29


V

ery rarely will a book receive entirely positive reviews–and that includes sprawling works by beloved authors and novels that are advertised on every street corner in towns from San Francisco to New York. As such, it’s extremely important for all authors–whether they are big-name or relatively unknown –to take review coverage with a grain of salt and to know going into the publicity process that high praise and laudatory reviews are neither the expected nor the norm; they are simply hoped for. In fact, I’d say that the majority of books I work on tend to receive mixed reviews, but that is not to say that books that receive mixed reviews don’t go on to become New York Times bestsellers. As someone who’s never written a book, I can see how caustic it might seem for me, as a publicist, to turn to someone who’s just signed a first book or even just published their fourth and say, “No matter how good (insert name here: you, your partner, your editor, your grandmother, your 9th grade English teacher, etc.) think your book is, you WILL have certain critics write negative things about your book. Try not to take it personally.” I’ve learned how to become much more diplomatic in broaching this subject with authors over the years (usually by channeling my first ever publicity director, who could take the most negative comment and turn it into something gracious), and I tend to tell them some version of the following: “Honestly, I don’t believe there’s really any such thing as bad publicity–even negative coverage gets people talking about you and your book.” And I really do believe it’s true. I’ll never forget the industry luncheon I went to several years ago at which the featured speaker was the book

review editor for the New York Times Book Review. He told us an anecdote about an author he personally knew whose new book had gotten absolutely slaughtered by the TBR, but who actually thanked the editor for it; as it was, that single review, though negative, was extremely controversial and really got the national conversation going about the book and its subject matter (details weren’t relayed at the luncheon), thus leading to tons of book sales. While that’s not a typical occurence, I do happen to agree with the editor’s point in that a review in such prime real estate (and really, with the “death of print coverage,” aren’t all paper’s book sections prime real estate these days?) still says something about the book’s value simply because the editors felt it was worth covering at all, despite hundreds of other titles that could have been selected! Even when I’m working on a book that receives a mixed or negative review in the TBR, the following Monday I find at least a good handful of requests from other media outlets asking for review copies of that particular title. When an author comes to me with a negative review in a prominent publication, I often try to see if we can pick out even a few good phrases that I can run with (and many reviewers fit at least one nice thing into their criticism). Those quotes can be used to pitch other outlets. Publicists can even use the negativity as a whole and make the argument to other publications that they too might want to join the national conversation by reviewing the book or featuring the author, no matter what their end evaluation might be. So while it would be great to publish a book to widespread acclaim, negative publicity coverage isn’t the worst thing an author can have going for him/her either!

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 30


Book Reviews Category

Sequential Art

Dawn of the Bunny Suicides By Andy Riley Chronicle Books, $12.95, 160 pages ISBN 9781452104980 Suicide can be funny, in the right context. Dawn of the Bunny Suicides is all about cute little bunnies that express their death wish in a lot of truly messed-up methods ranging from launching themselves at snakes, to some of the most complicated methods devised by lapin minds. There is some definite creativity expressed here, and the bunnies march to their deaths in a very messy fashion. Although the drawings are very simple, this works very well for the book. The strips are very funny, albeit morbid, but the ability to laugh at death is one of the things that make us human. Riley has some fun having the bunnies off themselves, and why they are killing themselves is thankfully not explored. Although this book is not recommended

for the very young, as the pictures are a little morbid and detailed enough to make reading this book questionable, it is nonetheless a great read for young adults as well as adults. This is book will make for a very interesting read, especially when others see you reading it. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim The Last Unicorn By Peter S. Beagle, Peter Gillis, Renae DeLiz, Ray Dillon IDW, $24.99, 152 pages ISBN 9781600108518 Unlike many of my friends, I did not read The Last Unicorn as a child so I cannot approach this graphic novel with rose-colored nostalgia. I am happy to report, however, that this adaptation by Peter B. Gillis is a magical tale, even for a jaded adult like myself. This deceptively simple narrative of an immortal and emotionally isolated unicorn who suddenly seeks others of her kind is a compelling read. The unicorn suffers enslavement and enchantments during her quest, and the end as bittersweet as a Hans Christian Anderson tale. The illustrations bring delicate beauty to the story. Unskilled artists might have given in to the temptation of overwhelming the unicorn with sparkles and rainbows, but Renae de Liz and Ray Dillion both handle the situation with restraint and subtlety. They infused life into the varying landscapes and focused on the moods and facial expressions of all the characters. Like Frodo Baggins who saved the Shire for everyone but himself, the Last Unicorn grows and alters beyond recognition. On the surface she triumphs, but deep inside she’s been wounded by her brush with mortality and human emotion. It’s impossible not to be moved. In its latest form, The Last Unicorn will surely gain a whole new generation of fans -- and it will be well-deserved. Reviewed by Rachel Anne Calabia

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 31


Romance Books If You Give a Girl a Viscount By Kieran Kramer St. Martin’s, $7.99, 372 pages ISBN 9780312374044 Lady Daisy Montgomery has pretty much resigned herself to a life serving her unpleasant step-mother and two evil step-sisters. Ever since her father died, her life has been a living hell. She takes a huge gamble by reaching out to her Godmother, whom she’s never met. What she gets in return is beyond anything she could have imagined. Viscount Charles Thorpe is in charge of his Grandmother’s affairs while she’s traveling and receives Daisy’s urgent plea for help. The penniless Viscount sets out immediately, determined to solve her problems based on his wits alone. He’s determined to turn his life around and get back into his parent’s good will… but nothing has prepared him for what awaits in the Scottish Highlands. The whole Cinderella story was a bit too cliché for my tastes and the first few chapters were too similar to the fairy tale. By mid-book, however, I was hooked. The chemistry between Daisy and Charles is delicious and the drama, intrigue, and plot-twists kept me on the edge of my seat. I love how the “evil stepsisters” turn out to be multifaceted young women capable of a whole lot more than being dreadful, and how the surprises just don’t stop. I really liked that Kieran Kramer focuses more on plot than on sex scenes, and I really enjoyed her lighthearted humor. I can’t wait to check out the next novel in this series! Reviewed by Jennifer Melville

A Beginner’s Guide to Rakes By Suzanne Enoch St. Martin’s Paperbacks, $7.99, 339 pages ISBN 9780312534516 The very mention of Diane Benchley’s name makes Oliver Warren flinch. His former lover and now-widowed Lady is back in town. She stuns society by opening a Gentleman’s Gaming Club in the family mansion and threatens to tell Oliver’s deepest secrets if he doesn’t help her. He doesn’t dare refuse but soon finds himself in over his head. A strong-willed woman who has been burned in the past, Diane is determined to make it by herself in a male-dominated culture. To further ruffle society’s feathers, Diane hires disgraced society ladies to work in her club! Will Oliver risk everything to help her? While the writing is great, I just could not get into these characters. The heroine is jaded, bitter, and just plain mean. Her hurt and anger toward Oliver becomes clear as their past is revealed, but this doesn’t do much to endear her to readers. For some reason, Oliver puts up with the pain and insults and tries to win over his ex-lover once again. Historic romance is my lifeblood, but this novel simply didn’t get my heart pumping. I’ve heard great things about this author, but A Beginner’s Guide to Rakes is an absolute miss. Reviewed by Jennifer Melville

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 32


A Night to Surrender By Tessa Dare Avon, $7.99, 400 pages ISBN 9780062049834 This book is the first in Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series, which focuses on a seaside resort created strictly for unconventional ladies. Spindle Cove was founded by Susanna Finch, who sought to create a haven away from the uncompromising, violent, and masculine elements of Regency England; when Victor Bramwell storms into her utopia to build a militia, sparks fly in more than one way. From line one to the last, Dare’s trademark wit, warmth, and way with characters are evident. Though the premise is a bit fantastic for the time period, once the story settles in there is little to complain about. The emotions and the sexual tension between Susanna and Bram are intense and hot, and their verbal sparrings were highly amusing. The bevy of characters make this book full of promising future storylines, though it did take away from the main couple a bit. The only issue I did have was the conventional plotting. Susanna and Bram clashed in a battle-of-the-sexes manner, and Dare didn’t quite lift them beyond the expected. Susanna’s utter surrender to Bram was also a bit disappointing, particularly when her feminist stance was so strong and unshakable in the beginning. A Night to Surrender is a fun and witty romp with great characters, and the next books promise just as much, if not more, of Dare’s excellent writing. Reviewed by Angela Tate Pirate of My Heart By Jamie Carie B&H Books, $14.99, 304 pages ISBN 9780805448153 Kendra Townsend’s mother’s final wish was for her to be married to her own choice. Far be it for anyone to disagree that her father did the best he could to save her from the dread of a marriage lacking love. However, promises do not keep well, especially when those who

made them are deceased. Kendra is launched into the care of her uncle, whose indefatigable lust for money cannot be quelled. So she is set up with Lord Berrymore, a rich, salacious man whose interest in her…well, it’s not good. Kendra has but one more option, to take the leap and travel to America to live with her distant relatives in a hope of a better life, and perhaps fulfill her mother’s wish. Ms. Carie has been famous for her romance novels, and perhaps this will be no exception. Kendra is the comfortably offbeat heroine; independent, blissfully unaware of her beauty, and ridiculously charming. In this sense, she is a tad unbelievable, but there is no doubt that readers will stick with her through and through. And as for the suave Dorian Colburn, the sweeping hero on the white horse, well, he might just be the best part of this story. The Last Letter from Your Lover By Jojo Moyes Pamela Dorman Books, $26.95, 400 pages ISBN 9780670022809 Whether you love doing research or just enjoy reading about how it’s done, you should really enjoy this engrossing book. Even if you don’t like anything about research, you would probably be thoroughly intrigued by the premise and how it’s all laid out in surprising fashion. It’s very hard to put down! In 1960, when women of a certain class were pretty much supposed to be ‘arm candy,’ said arm belonging to a high-powered executive, there were those few who rebelled. Jennifer Stirling had never considered such a rebellion until she encountered a battle-scarred reporter while on vacation with her husband. She refers to the reporter as ‘Boot’, a character in a novel by Evelyn Waugh. They embark on an affair. And then – Jennifer is involved in a horrendous car accident. The male driver is killed outright, and she is left in a coma with most of her memory missing. She struggles to recover, while her husband remains ever-distant. And then one day she discovers a love-letter signed with only the initial B, in which the writer implores the recipient to leave her husband and be his love. Who in the world was B? Was this letter really meant for her? What happened in that part of her life that is now lost?

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 33


Eventually she discovers other letters, but other than their fervent declarations of love, they shed no light on the writer’s identity. While still struggling to find her identity, she becomes pregnant by her husband, and life goes on. Forty years later, another journalist, a young woman named Ellie, is somewhat unhappy with her job when she stumbles over a batch of love letters signed with the letter B. Although there is no other identification in them, impatient with her own love life and its misguided text messages, she determines to seek out the earlier lovers. Perhaps there’s a story in there somewhere. Period details throughout are absolutely spot on. Younger readers will no doubt question some of them, but trust me, that’s the way it really was. The ending is so unexpected, yet perfect beyond imagining; it still comes as a shock when you read it. There are so many layers, so much story, so much lovely writing in this book’s 390 pages that I daresay you’ll find yourself going back to it again and again. It just will not leave your head in peace. Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

Relationships & Sex

Steamlust: Steampunk Erotic Romance By Kristina Wright (editor), Meljean Brook (foreword) Cleis Press, $14.95, 256 pages ISBN 9781573447218 Steamlust, edited by Kristina Wright, is a collection of steampunk erotic romances full of strong female protagonists, gears, metal, and steamy scenes. This collection will keep you entertained with quick and captivating stories of timetravelling bandits, rebellious aristo-

crats, military scientists and engineers, liberated automatons, and everything in between. I’ve read steampunk novels before but never an erotic one, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It paid off; I fully enjoyed reading this collection. They were fun and quick reads, perfect for someone always on the go. Even though I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t recommend this book to just anyone, like my mother or my grandmother of course, but I would and did recommend it to friends who have enjoyed steampunk novels before and can handle the extra steamy scenes. Those scenes, after all, are a big part of the fun. The stories are all well-written with characters you want to invest in, even if it is only for 20 pages. On a few I even found myself wishing it wasn’t over. If you’ve never read steampunk before, don’t skip the editor’s note. It’s a great explanation of steampunk and how it got its roots in literature. Reviewed by Hannah Walcher The 72 Hour Rule: A Do-It-Yourself Couples Therapy Book! By Margot Brown Brown & Brown Enterprises, $15.95, 342 pages ISBN 9780692013113 Get over yourself! seems to be the message of this book which advocates dropping any discussion or hurt feelings that have an expiration date over seventy-two hours. This is great advice, but we wonder about a couple’s ability to do this without professional guidance and support. The publisher bills this book as a “do-ityourself marriage counseling guide.” The author, who is a licensed marriage family therapist, has structured excellent exercises to focus the reader who does not have professional intervention in their troubled marriage. One such exercise focuses on defining core values and shared values, which are at the heart of a successful marriage. The author also has an excellent section on describing the variety of mental illnesses and substance dependence which can prevent a successful partnership. This book will also be an excellent primer for those couples who want to understand the scope of marriage counseling

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 34


before committing to this arduous task. The author’s approach is a collaborative model rather than authoritarian. She stresses that the real work must be done by the couple in learning new behaviors and communication strategies, which will enhance intimacy and restore a balanced nurturing relationship.

Well, it is a lot of blaming and it is all about the past. For many couples, this can go on for years and for many of those couples it is the ‘same ‘ole same’ole.’ Can you imagine having the same old argument over and over? Life is not about rewinding.”

Since 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, even healthy couples would benefit from reading this book and developing stronger skill sets in relation to one another. Reviewed by Julia Mcmichael Cheat on Your Husband (with Your Husband): How to Date Your Spouse By Andrea Syrtash Rodale, $15.99, 201 pages ISBN 9781609611095 If the title doesn’t catch your interest, nothing will. Columnist and author Andrea Syrtash’s Cheat On Your Husband (With Your Husband): How to Date Your Spouse is a breath of fresh air in the relationship genre. Open its pages to learn how to create an exciting and more fulfilling marriage. Learn how to be passionate about your own life and discover the possibilities waiting for you. A new partner or lover isn’t the answer. Whether you’ve been married for one year or fifty, this book is a relationship gem sure to spice up your love life.

The heart of our love story — and the most interesting and dynamic chapters in our relationship — happen after the dopamine has dissipated and we become attached to our partners. Falling in love and getting married are simple, but staying married — happily married — is a challenge.”

If you don’t read the subtitle, you might think this book was a sleazy guide to being immoral. My husband certainly gave me a strange look when he saw it lying on the counter! Syrtash certainly succeeds in getting attention. Inside, readers will find relationship medicine. Learn about finding balance in your marriage, the modern relationship, and keeping love alive after kids. Learn to improve your communication skills and solve arguments effectively. “Your love story doesn’t end at “I do” — it is always evolving.” This book is a quick and easy read full of great advice and interesting stories. I learned a lot and can’t wait to apply some of these ideas to my marriage. Who couldn’t use a little spice in their relationship? Reviewed by Jennifer Melville

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 35


Book Reviews Category

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Outspoken Authors) By Cory Doctorow PM Press, $12.00, 136 pages ISBN 9781604864045 Featuring Terry Bisson’s candid interview with Doctorow about plotting a story and how the website Boing Boing is better than a writer’s notebook, his “Creativity vs. Copyright” talk on digital rights management at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2010, and the title novella, this collection offers readers an essential introduction to Doctorow’s work. Jimmy Yensid is a transhuman adolescent engineered to age at an unusually slow pace. Forced to leave his father and hometown of Detroit after a full scale attack by the monstrous creatures called wumpuses, Jimmy goes

east and joins a community of wireheads. In a scant one hundred pages, Doctorow infuses our imagination with engaging characters, a tightly woven narrative, and carefully woven themes of isolation, family, and genetic engineering into Jimmy’s journey through the American wasteland. Doctorow eloquently marks the differences between change and progress as one of Jimmy’s preoccupations. When comparing his immortality to his father’s Jimmy says, “With me, it was all about the germ plasm...a native of the transhuman condition. And no one knew what that meant, really. Including me.” Doctorow’s prose is precise and perceptive. His vision of the future, although gritty, is an entertaining and thought provoking reflection of our present. Reviewed by Wendy Iraheta The Power of Illusion By Christopher Anvil, Eric Flint (editor) Baen, $7.99, 592 pages ISBN 9781451637601 Some of you may think all you need to know about time travel is found by watching Doctor Who on PBS, but there’s a different way you can suddenly find yourself in the past. That’s by reading books in Legend or Master series of books where publishers search for the work of an author out of copyright or so close to anonymity that his or her estate will not ask for a big advance to reprint early stories. Such is The Power of Illusion by the pseudonymous Christopher Anvil, which contains a short novel and multiple short stories. Now I’m not going to tell you all the stories are bad. This would give the wrong impression. But you have to understand the style of prose was somewhat wooden in the 1950’s and 60’s and there’s little real characterization, so be prepared for a culture shock if you buy this book. I found I remembered about half the content and, for me, revisiting that time was uninspiring. Some of the plot ideas are quite clever but the execution is very mechanical. Sadly, Christopher Anvil was not the greatest performer of his age and this collection confirms this truth. Reviewed by David Marshall

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 36


Book Reviews

Category Science Fiction & Fantasy

Myth-Fortunes By Robert Asprin, Jody Lynn Nye Ace, $7.99, 280 pages ISBN 9781937007072 Sometimes a glove can fit too well. Myth-Fortunes find Skeeve and the crew trying to help Aahz through an existential crisis. The old pervert, er, Pervect, has begun worrying about what he is leaving behind, and a pyramid builder gives him the opportunity to leave a perfectly solid legacy behind. However, the legacy has its own legacy and anyone associated with the project is being affected by a curse of bad luck. When the crew starts investigating they find the culprit, but they have no idea how to make him undo it. In the mean time, the girls are wondering if Skeeve will ever start dating. This is a perfectly serviceable book, and this makes for an excellent passing of the torch from Aprin to Nye, who takes over the series. However, the problem is that the Myth, Inc., has gotten too comfortable with each other, and it shows here; the usual insanity is subdued here, and although it’s understandable why, it makes for a weird feeling given what the series usually does. The usual rollicking good time is missing here, but here is hoping for more bad puns in the next edition. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim Alloy of Law By Brandon Sanderson Tor, $24.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780765330420 Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson is back with a 336-page “novella.” In between lengthy, epic fantasy projects, Sanderson likes to have fun with some short pieces. The Alloy of Law is an example of one of those, once he was done with The Way of Kings and Towers of Midnight and before he started working on the final Wheel of Time book, A Memory of Light.

In the acknowledgements he talks about the potential to write two more trilogies set within this world, each trilogy set further in the future from the original Mistborn trilogy. The Alloy of Law is a shorter work set in the time of this second trilogy. Three hundred years have passed and the planet of Scandrial is now turning into a modern place with railroads and electric lighting in the homes of the wealthy. Waxillium Ladrian is called back to his old city of Elendel to take the mantle left by the death of his uncle, living the city life and looking for a potential wife. As he tries to turn away from his rebel, gun-toting days, a series of strange train cargo thefts and kidnappings pulls him back into action. Wax will need Allomantic powers, with his ability to Push on metals; he’s also a Twinborn, with the Feruchemical ability to make himself lighter or heavier at will. Reviewed by Alex Telander The Thirteen Hallows By Michael Scott and Colette Freedman Tor, $24.99, 348 pages ISBN 9780765328526 For centuries the thirteen Hallows of Britain—ancient magical relics that serve as the keys to the doorway between this world and demonkind— have been guarded by the Keepers, ordinary men and women who have carried out their responsibility to keep the Hallows safe and to keep them apart. Sarah Miller and Owen Walker have never even heard of the Hallows, yet the dying wish of one of the Keepers has sucked them into their lore. Now they must face the individual known as the Dark Man who has been brutally murdering the Keepers one by one, and collecting their Hallows for his own dark purpose. The premise of The Thirteen Hallows is excellent—full of mythology, a truly nasty antagonist, and a nice sense of destiny come full circle. However, it’s also possessed of a few plot holes and an aching lack of believable motivations to tie to the actions of some of the characters. Both of these cause a sort of mental niggle that keeps you from fully enjoying the story. Only those who

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 37


Book Reviews

Category Science Fiction & Fantasy

aren’t particular about the cohesiveness of their storyline Claire struggles to navigate a clear path will probably be able to fully enjoy this book. between her own desires (and fears) Reviewed by Heather Ortiz and young Emily’s quest for a path of her own, it’s clear that Claire’s actions The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten won’t just change her life or Emily’s... By Harrison Geillor they just might change the world. Night Shade Books, $14.99, 292 pages All About Emily is a story I could have ISBN 9781597802840 blissfully enjoyed for another hundred Many years ago, I read Bored of the pages, but it doesn’t need them. The Rings, a parody of The Lord of the Rings. crisp narration, the engaging characLater I read National Lampoon’s Doon ters, and the unobtrusive couching of moral a parody of Dune. But here’s the thing: quandaries against the backdrop of self-inif you hadn’t read the originals, you terest, jealousy, and suspicion of the alien a m o n g would find the parodies more or less us is heartbreakingly effective. Willis loads the story incomprehensible. So here comes The with style, emotion, and weight, all without laboring Twilight of Lake Woebegotten by Harrithe text or distracting from the drama that unfolds. son Geillor, which reinvents the vamIt’s economic storytelling at its finest. pire novels by Stephenie Meyer, and the broadcast and For sci-fi lovers and Golden Age film fans alike, All About written adventures set in Lake Wobegon attributed to Gar- Emily melds the genres seamlessly, creating a masterful rison Keillor (there’s something familiar about this name narrative bridge between the past and the future. With the but I can’t quite put my finger on it). The good news is you charm of her collection Miracles and the emotional heft of can read this new novel with great enjoyment even if you’ve Passage, Connie Willis has done it again. been living in a cave for the last twenty years and have not Reviewed by Glenn Dallas encountered the originals. It’s emerged from this author’s head as a fully-formed, stand-alone book about vampires, Palimpsest were-bears and human monsters. By Charles Stross No matter what you may think of the current trend for Subterranean Press, $35.00, 136 pages mash-ups this is pleasingly sophisticated, picking its tar- ISBN 9781596064218 gets carefully and then gently having fun at their expense. A panopticon organization known I managed a few smiles — those who know me will un- as the Stasis keeps humans from the derstand this is high praise — even though I’m a natural brink of final extinction. They archive curmudgeon. No matter what your taste, you’ll find some- human history and experience, store thing to like in this book. these in libraries and send agents into Reviewed by David Marshall other points of time. When Pierce, a new Stasis recruit, begins his twenty-year apprenticeship and travels through All About Emily different human histories, he encounters an unexpected By Connie Willis palimpsest, or rewriting, and must directly confront the Subterranean Press, $20.00, 96 pages uses and abuses of time travel. ISBN 9781596064522 Stross intertwines alternate histories of the solar system There’s nothing an aging starlet hates more than shar- with Pierce’s journey toward active duty unveiling a world ing the spotlight, but when Claire Havilland agrees to a where humanity endures repetitive extinction. While televised meet-and-greet with a renowned scientist’s win- notable characters like Kafka and Yarrow were not comsome niece, she gets even more than she bargained for. As pletely fleshed out and the switching between second and Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 38


Book Reviews

Category Science Fiction & Fantasy

person narration tricky, Stross’s command of language is more than sufficient to overcome these vulnerabilities. His ideas about how the dynamics of time travel work are wonderfully complex. Stross’s imaginative view on the consequences of writing, rewriting and hacking history allow us to enjoy the layered complexities of entering time portals while intrigued by the details of an inspection society that exists outside of time. Borrowing from Asimov’s The End of Eternity, Stross’s exploration of time travel isn’t wholly new, but certainly invigorates us for the immersing experience of time travel. Reviewed by Wendy Iraheta Star Wars: Darth Plagueis By James Luceno Lucasbooks, $27.00, 416 pages ISBN 9780345511287 Darth Sidious was the architect of the Clone Wars, the instigator of the Jedi extermination, and the overseer of the Republic’s descent into empire,

and yet, we know he did not accomplish it alone. Who was his mysterious master, Darth Plagueis, and how did Sidious become his Sith apprentice? How many nefarious schemes, vanquished threats, and fateful events transpired under their watch? I wanted to love this book. The growing canon of Sith-centric stories have been some of the best Star Wars fiction to emerge over the last decade. But Darth Plagueis, for all its puzzle piece placement and dangling story threadknotting, is mostly for completionists who need every little gap filled. The novel so heavily relies on knowledge of concurrent events that it should include a recommended reading list for the references made to numerous other novels and comic book storylines. And for all his mystery, Plagueis is simply not an engaging character; Sidious instead is the character that shines. His growth and refinement as both a Sith and a politician are well plotted, and the inevitable confrontation between him and his master is immensely satisfying. In the end, it’s only Sidious that makes the book worth a look. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 39


Book Reviews

Category

Young Adult

Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls Part One By Victoria Foyt Sand Dollar Press, $18.99, 307 pages ISBN 9780983650324 The earth’s temperature has risen dramatically, forcing most humans to live underground. Those with dark skin who are more adapted for the new environment have a high status, named Coals. The Pearls – those with white skin – are treated like slaves. They struggle to survive in a hostile environment, darkening their skin to blend in. If they don’t marry and reproduce by the age of eighteen, they are

thrown onto the surface of the earth to die. Eden, a Pearl, is almost eighteen and under the pressure to marry, but she is waiting for the perfect guy who will see the real Eden under all her make up. Meanwhile, Eden’s father is working on a project that could change the life of all the Pearls in the world. Victoria Foyt creates an original and thought-provoking concept of the future Earth and those who inhabit it. Once I started reading I wasn’t able to stop, drawn into the story by the mysteries surrounding the characters. Eden’s character – not without flaws – embodies a girl’s wish to be seen and loved for who she really is. Though her lack of education in the romance department is slightly frustrating, it makes the book go ‘round. Reviewed by Amanda Muir A Midsummer Night’s Dream By William Shakespeare HarperTeen, $8.99, 186 pages ISBN 9780062066008 Man, it’s complicated from Act One. Demetrious loves Hermia. Lysander loves Hermia. Hermia loves Lysander but is betrothed to Demetrious, much to her dismay, but it’s her father’s wish. Helena burns hot love for Demetrious. No one loves Helena. Hermia and Lysander elope. The enraged Demetrious chases them. Helena chases him. OMG, what a mess! They enter a magic forest and get involved in Oberon and Titania’s spat. Older male readers (are you out there?) like me might like the parts with Puck and Bottom and rest of the crazy “Mechanicals” practicing a “bad” play for the Duke’s wedding. However, this edition is for contemporary teen girls so there’s no introduction by Bloom or some old critic like that. We get right into the play, since that’s the thing. However, there are a few “prose retellings” by award-winning teen girl writers in this edition and we learn about the various “types” of teen girls—the Patient one, the Cheerful and Emotional one, the Impulsive one, and of course, the Romantic one. Moreover, we learn about the problem with boyfriends. Me, I’m just happy if students read the book, see the play, and even watch the film

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 40


Book Reviews

Category Young Adult

(I’d recommend the 1999 one with Kevin Kline as Bottom). awakens the Light inside her to send Just dig epic lit. them on to the Other side. Her mother Reviewed by Phil Semler also has this ability and teaches her their inherited job. During a car wreck You Against Me aftermath, something goes wrong By Jenny Downham with the ghosts and Wendy’s mother David Fickling Books, $16.99, 413 pages becomes comatose, her body alive but ISBN 9780385751605 her soul gone. A few months after this A highly emotional read, You Against Me forces the reader episode, a ghost named Piotr -- one of to take a closer look at families, friends, and relationships. the Riders who protect the Lost (kid The book begins with the discovery ghosts) notices weird events that bring him and that Mikey’s sister may have been the the Lost close to danger. Uniting with the other victim of sexual assault. Emotions run Riders, they investigate to discover this growing threat and high as Mikey tries to keep his family meet Wendy along the way. afloat and deal with the boy that Lightbringer is an original idea that captivates readers. caused harm to his sister. To furAlthough the beginning of the prologue is cliché, the charther complicate matters, Mikey acters are well developed. The plot moves along at a good decides a visit to the aggressor pace so that it is never boring. Some scenes need to be exis in order, but when he arrives plained more to clear up confusion. I actually enjoyed the he instead meets the boy’s sister switching view points, and rather than favoring one charEllie, and they immediately hit it off. Unaware of the con- acter loved both equally. The ending leaves room for a senection they have, Mikey and Ellie begin a friendship that quel, so fans should cross their fingers! runs emotions even higher. Both feeling extremely loyal to Reviewed by Amanda Muir their siblings, Mikey and Ellie struggle with what’s right and wrong, and yearn to find out the truth. Ingenue Downham’s ability to convey emotion and struggle By Jillian Larkin throughout this contemporary novel is clearly demonstrat- Delacorte Press, $17.99, 351 pages ed as readers stumble along with both Mikey and Ellie. ISBN 9780385740364 Because the truth isn’t made clear, the reader is forced to It’s pretty understandable why the era examine personal feelings on loyalty and truth right along of the flappers is so appealing in curwith the characters. rent in teen fiction. And who can blame An emotionally powerful read, You Against Me not only YA? Socialite women in the Roaring has Mikey and Ellie discovering what they truly stand be- 20’s were no strangers to the world of hind, but will have the reader determining this as well. drinking, sex, and lavish parties. This Reviewed by Shanyn Day book captures just that, and tops it with a heavy dusting of passion and intrigue. Lightbringer New York City—the place of opportunity—is By K.D. McEntire where Ingenue starts what Vixen left behind. Jerome and Pyr, $16.95, 321 pages Gloria have no choice but to drop their life in Chicago to ISBN 9781616145392 escape being pinned for the murder of Carlito Macharelli. Ever since Wendy saw her friend Eddy’s father die in a car However, Lorraine, Gloria’s scandalized former best friend, crash, she has been able to see ghosts -- mostly decaying has no intention of letting them get away. Last to follow the souls that walk around. They are attracted to her when she train, but certainly not least, Vera Johnson, Jerome’s sister, Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 41


Book Reviews

Category Young Adult

learns of the danger the couple is about to be in and, with the help of her friend Evan, follows them into New York, where the rising tension tumbles into inevitable drama. Flickering back and forth between glimpses of different characters, Larkin leads readers in and around her cleverly crafted plot. The expected soap-opera style is not undelivered, yet the characters form repetitive, stilted molds. However, fortunately for Larkin, that will not stop many readers from looking forward to her sequel and enjoying this novel. Reviewed by Alex Masri The Game of Triumphs By Laura Powell Knopf, $16.99, 265 pages ISBN 9780375865879 Cat doesn’t believe in magic. Nor does she play videogames or read fantasy. London is a hard place, and when you’re an orphan living with her sister who works for a seedy bar, “not easy” would be an understatement. That is why, when The Game of Triumphs is introduced to her, she is quick to judge its players and walk away. Except this is no ordinary game, as she finds out soon enough. The rewards are real, but its punishments just as much. However, it’s not just that she’s interested in. Cat learns, through entering the Arcanum, the alternate universe where the Game is played, that her parents were more than a little involved. And the Game was more than a little involved in their murders. Let me start by saying that The Game of Triumphs has many marvelous ideas going for it: tarot cards, deliriously crazed rulers, and illustrious, very covetable prizes all set in a history-rich and culturally advantageous city. However, even these cannot save limp dialogue and flat characters. Cat comes off as a snide cynic, mercilessly beating down upon the one (and only?) person who tries to befriend her. And the Arcanum itself? It failed to hold my attention for five minutes. Hopefully Powell’s sequel will muster up and garner a more attentive audience, for the potential of the series becoming great is not quite lost yet. Reviewed by Alex Masri

Isle of Night By Veronica Wolff NAL, $9.99, 302 pages ISBN 9780451234629 In Isle of Night, Veronica Wolff takes the reader on an adventure filled with trope. The author leaves much to the imagination of the reader, however, the need-to-know plot bits are some of the information left out of the book. Convenient characters paired with the best media from several other leading YA series, and popular television shows should have given Isle of Night flair. However, flair was replaced with confusion and impossible situations. Drew is a genius; we know because she continually tells us that she is, however, when faced with academic problem sets she shows a rudimentary high school level problemsolving skills. It is incredibly hard for me to believe that a genius went to school for seventeen years and made not one single life connection. This is incredibly hard to believe and convenient for the author. Drew agrees to leave Florida and go with Ronan to an island in the middle of nowhere to learn. The island is filled with vampires and her existence becomes a fight to the death with other girls recruited. The winner? Well, she gets to become a Watcher. However what a Watcher is, is never explained. Isle of Night is a fantastic premise that just failed to live up to its promise. Reviewed by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg Crossed By Ally Condie Dutton Juvenile, $17.99, 367 pages ISBN 9780525423652 I enjoyed Crossed more than its predecessor Matched. While Matched was touted as the next big dystopia novel, it was really more of an anti-utopian tale. Crossed brought the dystopia vibe to the series. Cassia’s journey takes her to the edge of everything she knew about her world and back again. Finding Ky is her main objective. True love in a world of

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 42


Book Reviews

Category Young Adult

matchmaking gone crazy is her single-minded goal. I love how focused Cassia is in this book. She was incredibly wishy-washy in Matched and I enjoyed her growth of character immensely. She was more deserving of the heroine of a dystopia title in Crossed. She has to question more than her love for Ky. There is rebellion and danger lurking behind everyone she meets. When Xander pops back into the picture things get really complicated. Crossed reads fast and is truly exciting in its prose. There is much to be said on the improvement of this second book in the sense of style and urgency propelling the reader to a climactic finish. The cover art is just lovely and I love the symbolism of the girl breaking out of her bubble. It remains to be seen if Cassia, too, can break the chains that bind her. Reviewed by Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg Beautiful Dead: Phoenix By Eden Maguire Sourcebooks Fire, $8.99, 278 Pages ISBN 9781402239472 This is the fourth instalment of the Beautiful Dead series, and in this one we are captured by Darina’s story as she struggles to make sense of her boyfriend’s death before his time runs out. As usual, Darina places herself in danger, and with determination searches for clues to find the truth behind Phoenix’s death in order to find peace and help those who loved him find peace as well. While I was captured by the sub-stories, such as discovering the truth behind the relationship between Darina and Hunter, I found the actual story to be much more predictable and banal than the first three novels. A lot of assumptions and presuppositions were made, but I was impressed with how she went after the truth with all of her heart, and didn’t let angry family members and ruthless gang members get her down; her usual perky and courageous nature definitely was allowed to shine at times. Although beautifully written, I wasn’t overly entranced with the conclusion however, as I felt it just didn’t fit with the feel of the rest of the novel, and the overall emotional impact was lost.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel, but I wish there had been a bit more to it; too much focus on Darina’s musings and ramblings took a lot of the emotion out of the novel, and as a result, I don’t feel it lived up to the expectations of the previous three novels in the series. Reviewed by Stephanie Nordkap The Girl of Fire and Thorns By Rae Carson Greenwillow Books, $17.99, 432 pages ISBN 9780062026484 The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson is about Elisa who is the Chosen one. The purpose of the Chosen is to serve her God and to fulfill her destiny. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a fantasy novel that drew me in from beginning to end. It is probably one of a very few young adult fantasy novels that I have actually enjoyed. I love the whole purpose of this novel and the purpose of the Chosen. Elisa may seem to not fit the title, but as she continues her journey, she learns and figures out the destiny she needs to be fulfilled. What I found really different and an interesting in this novel is the Godstone that Elisa bears. Her connection with this Godstone that lives with her helps her when she senses danger. The Godstone is much more powerful than I thought it would be when I first encountered it in the story. Throughout the novel, you can really see how much Elisa has grown and how noble and intelligent she has become. She lives up to the titles she bears. The love interests are indescribable and fascinating. It is a great addition to Elisa and the novel itself. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a superb, fantasy novel. Those who like YA fantasy, adventure, and romance, should read this novel. Reviewed by Ivy Leung

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 43


Book Reviews America with him. His father tells him he must pass a hard test to get into America and training begins. Family secrets are revealed and Gim Lew learns much on his journey.

Category

Tweens

Sometimes I think you and I are changelings. When we were born there, some American souls got lost and wandered into the wrong babies.’”

It is hard to find well-written historical fiction that teaches and fascinates young readers. Laurence Yep is an engaging storyteller, and his work with niece Dr. Kathleen S. Yep gives parents and teachers a wonderful option for teaching. Based on records from Angel’s Island, journals, and conversations with his father, Laurence Yep weaves a tale of his father’s journey from China to America that has a strong, authentic voice and a compelling story. Yep is a master storyteller and this book is no exception. Readers eight and above will learn much and enjoy the process while they read this compelling story. Reviewed by Rosi Hollinbeck

The Dragon’s Child: A Story of Angel Island By Laurence Yep, Kathleen S. Yep HarperCollins, $5.99, 160 pages ISBN 9780062018151 Ten-year-old Gim Lew Yep hardly knows his father, who has been gone living in America for most of Gim Lew’s life. He only knows life with his mother and sisters in his small village. He works hard to overcome a strong stutter and the handicap of being left-handed. His brothers have already moved away. When his stranger-father arrives, the village celebrates. Then Father announces Gim Lew will go to

Stan and the Toilet Monster By Steve Shreve Marshall Cavendish, $12.99, 160 pages ISBN 9780761459774 Stan is not having a very good summer. His dog, Mr. Snuggles, knocked his pet chameleon, Fluffy, into the toilet and flushes him. Try as he might, Stan can’t save Fluffy. After memories of Fluffy begin to fade, Stan is out playing baseball with his friends when their ball rolls into the sewer. It’s the only ball they have, because Mr. Snuggles had chewed up all the others. Stan and his friend Larry go into the sewer to find the ball. It stinks in the sewer, really stinks. And it’s full of slimy things. The boys see the ball, but every time they get close, it slips away, farther and farther into the sewer. When they finally think they have it, it turns out it is something else

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 44


Book Reviews

Category Tweens

entirely. Soon strange things start to happen, people act from a child, specifically Emma. strangely, and they begin to wonder if a sewer monster has Will Emma be able to help Mr. Crackle with the challengfollowed them out of the sewer and is after them. ing recipe or will the extraordinary baker face doom? Read this hilarious, suspenseful fantasy to find out! The smell coming from the rock was completely Reviewed by Sarah Guller, 11 years old foul. Worse than toe cheese and sweaty baseball jersey combined. The odor was so bad, in fact, Killer Koalas from Outer Space: and that not even Mr. Snuggles could come near it. And Lots of Other Very Bad Stuff that Mr. Snuggles smelled like he’d been rolling around in Will Make Your Brain Explode! a garbage dumpster for the last two weeks. Which, of By Andy Griffiths (author), Terry Denton course, he had.” (illustrator) Feiwel & Friends, $12.99, 172 pages This is a clever story with fun illustrations throughout. It ISBN 9780312367893 is a perfect book for young boys (second grade and up) who Bad roads, killer koalas, romances bewill be excited by the adventure and the pure, unadulter- tween filthy people, negligent parents... ated gross factor boys that age love. Killer Koalas from Outer Space is a collecReviewed by Rosi Hollinbeck tion of absurd illustrations and micro-stories focusing on monsters, misbehaving children, The Magic Cake Shop oblivious adults, and all sorts of bathroomBy Meika Hashimoto centric attempts at humor. I say attempts because, for the Random House for Young Readers, most part, I found the collection disappointing and unfun$15.99, 159 pages ny in the extreme. The pitch black humor would serve a ISBN 9780375868221 book with less puerile content, but considering the mix of Emma Burblee has a problem. Her death and excrement-based comedy, I’m not entirely sure parents expect her to be a model, love what audience the book is intended for. It seems too dark cosmetics, and be rich and famous, just for kids and too goofy for adults. (You might suggest that like them. This means dinner every it’s intended as a satire of dark humor for kids, but that other day, nothing with even a pinch of argument rings hollow after twenty pages or so.) sugar or salt, and absolutely no junk food. But There are a few exceptions, like the surprisingly charmEmma has no desire to become a star or model, ing “The Boy Who Forgot His Head Because It Wasn’t all she likes to do is bake, which is forbidden Screwed On,” which is engagingly silly without bearing in her house. When Emma does make a cake – the meanspirited energy of the rest of the book. It feels breaking the rules – her parents ship her to Uncle Simon positively Silverstein-ian by comparison. For someone who for the summer. Uncle Simon is a smelly, filthy, hunter who enjoys dark humor, satire, and the occasional poop joke, eats like a pig. He keeps Emma busy with chores and cook- you’d think this book would be right up my alley. But Killer ing in his disgusting house. While running errands, Emma Koalas from Outer Space comes off mostly as pointless and steps into Mr. Crackle’s bakery. One bite of his truffle, and unpleasant. Emma knows Mr. Crackle had magic on his fingertips. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas One day Uncle Simon and a greedy acquaintance of his, Maximus, poison Mr. Crackle with a deadly potion. The two threaten to not give the antidote unless Mr. Crackle makes the perfect Elixir of Delight, something no one has ever succeeded in making. Part of the recipe requires help

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 45


Book Reviews

Category Tweens

Dragon Puncher Book 2: Dragon Puncher Island By James Kochalka Top Shelf Productions, $9.95, 40 pages ISBN 9781603090858 You simply cannot deny the unbridled creativity and willingness to experiment that accompanies any work by James Kochalka. As a writer who seems somewhat aware of the conventions of storytelling, but firmly believes they don’t apply to him in the slightest, Kochalka always shows you something you’ve never seen before, whether you enjoy it or not. The visually engaging and exceedingly goofy Dragon Puncher Island is a perfect example. The story is borderline nonsensical -- featuring a cat-faced hero and his furry apprentice -- but the gorgeous photographic background and constantly changing expressions of the characters show a great deal of care and attention went into the book. This book is weird, so very weird, but it’s delightfully so. It’s the perfect antidote to the saccharine sweetness of most kids’ books, and it has enough charm and snark to engage the parents that will most likely end up reading it a few dozen times to their happy-clappy offspring. No matter what you’re expecting, Dragon Puncher Island defies your expectations. I’m sure the enormous amount of silliness will turn some people away immediately, but those who stick around will no doubt enjoy the fast, furious, and farcical story. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

per’s malevolent ways have taken hold. Can Dwight’s friends rally behind him and Origami Yoda in time to save him from punishment? The sequel to the uproariously delightful The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper Strikes Back picks up the story midstream a year later, and explains what we’ve missed along the way. While the darkness sweeping the school is somewhat lighter than advertised, the quest to save the misfit Dwight is worthwhile, and the friendships forged in the first book are the real centerpieces of the tale. At first, I thought this one was fun, but not as much as the first book. And then, my inner Star Wars nerd kicked in, and I realized the brilliantly tongue-in-cheek parallels driving those moments in the story that I’d previously found abrupt and disjointed. Well played, Angleberger. I look forward to the trilogy’s completion. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

Dragons of Silk By Laurence Yep HarperCollins, $16.99, 352 pages ISBN 9780060275181 Lawrence Yep traces several generations of strong women, all of whom work with silk. The Weaving Maid, a symbol of silk and sacrifice, is a point of Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book reference for each. In legend, the WeavBy Tom Angleberger ing Maid wove silk robes for heaven. Amulet Books, $12.95, 165 pages She neglected her duties for love of the Cowboy, ISBN 9781419700279 so Heaven separated them by the Milky Way, letMcQuarrie Middle School hasn’t been the same since the ting them reunite only under special circumstances. arrival of Origami Yoda, Dwight’s mysterious finger puppet and advisor who has saved the student body from pop All the terrifying memories flooded into her mind quizzes and guided a few of the students toward romance. — the shouting, her mother’s painful cries, and But a shadow has fallen over the school: Darth Paper. Now worst of all, her father’s face, as grotesque as some Dwight has been threatened with expulsion and Darth Pamask of a monster.”

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 46


Book Reviews

Category Tweens

In 1835, Lily, Swallow, and their mother run the family business raising silkworms. Father, an opium addict, returns home whenever he runs out of money, always promising he’s reformed. His latest return results in tragedy, exacting a cruel sacrifice from Swallow. She becomes a legend herself to later generations of the family. In 1881, Lily’s granddaughter, Little Swallow, is working in the local silk factory until an uprising changes her life. In 1932, her granddaughter, Lillian, is faced with a choice between music and silk during the Depression in America. In 1962, Lillian makes sure her own daughter, Rosie, will not have to sacrifice her dreams. And in 2011, Rosie, a successful designer, meets someone who draws all the threads of the family story together in an unexpected way. An engrossing read all the way. Reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan

Wonkenstein: Creature from My Closet By Obert Skye Henry Holt and Co., $12.99, 240 pages ISBN 9780805092684 Rob Burnside has a problem. He, like most boys his age, has been storing everything in his closet for a long time. It started with a chemistry lab he built in there, but when he tired of that, instead of getting rid of it, he piled things on it and piled more things on them and so on and so on. Now his closet is jammed, and he can’t even get it open. But something inside gets it open and slips out. It is a small, strange creature that looks like two people jammed together. He seems to be comprised of Willie Wonka and Frankenstein’s monster, characters from two books Rob has been avoiding. Once the creature is out, the trouble and the adventure begins for Rob and his friends.

Judy Moody’s Thrill-a-delic Hunt for Bigfoot By Kate Fletcher, Jamie Michalak Candlewick Press, $5.99, 96 pages ISBN 9780763657086 I guess I’m a nobody, but I don’t think I mind. I’m This activity book will be treasured not the first person people think of, but I’m probby Bigfoot fans. Full of animations, ably not the last. I’m kind of like a backup singer in word searches, and more, this interacthe song of life.” tive book is great for road trips, travel, and with family and friends. The guide This book has the look of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, has detailed instructions on how to trap but is very fresh and clever. The writing and drawings are Bigfoot and what to do if you see him. It has funny, and kids will relate to the antics and problems of pop quizzes for Bigfoot experts and tons of the very likable characters. This first in a new series will be information for newbies of the Bigfoot club. extremely popular with young boys and will be particularThis book has pictures from the actual motion picture, ly good for getting reluctant readers to become enthusiastic Judy Moody’s Not So Bummer Summer. The fun book can readers. be great for Bigfoot non believers, if you want to convince Reviewed by Rosi Hollinbeck them to seek Bigfoot. Though it lacks a focused topic, the book has tons of inFind more formation on this mythical creature. With absolutely no story to it, it can lose the reader’s interest. Fortunately, it book reviews on our contains eye-boggling methods of traps and a creative lay website. out. This book may not be suitable for nonfiction reading, but is certainly fun to complete. Judy Moody, in general, is probably intended for six- to ten-year-olds, but everyone in Click HERE. the family can enjoy this one! Reviewed by Sarah Guller, Age 11

Tweens

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 47


vs. the publishers By David Marshall

F

or decades, authors have been playing the branding game. Knowing their next peanut butter sandwich depends on enough readers buying their next book, they’ve carefully put their names “out there” as “top authors.” Today, this means working at all the social networking sites, writing blog entries on a regular basis, and turning up at conventions and other events, say organized by local bookstores. They need to keep the fan base loyal. Now ask whether those same loyal fans know who publishes their heroes’ books. Consumer surveys consistently find only about 10% of readers can name the publishers and the imprint. The other 90% buy based on their authors’ names. Amazon has realized this and is now working to cut the publisher out of the equation. This ever-lovable online store is seducing “top authors” away from their publishers, packaging many of the services provided by agents, reviewers, and marketing departments. Amazon gives their chosen books high visibility. When you use the site, the search engine displays the results of key word searches, there are recommendations, there are emails and newsletters, people post reviews on the site, and so on. Naturally, Amazon charges publishers for giving their authors this exposure. Because the rates rise fast, this makes authors less profitable to the publishers. So now, Amazon Publishing is offering full contracts. It started with the self-published authors and now spreads to established authors. With the launch of 47North, Amazon lays down the gauntlet in publishing science fiction, fantasy and horror titles from both new and established writers. Because it’s undercutting the established bookstores, more people will turn to Amazon to buy. With

greater volume comes the power to offer more competitive royalty rates, particularly on e-books. The traditional publishing industry offers 25% for digital rights, which Amazon can easily beat. The publishers will have to rethink their royalty structure should Amazon extend the list of titles it publishes. In all this, the most interesting questions are whether Amazon will go for full distribution of their titles, and will the brick-and-mortar bookstores display them on their shelves? Amazon can probably afford to not distribute. This will further undermine the traditional stores if they cannot sell desirable titles. In all this, Amazon is acting like a monopolist, trying to dominate the market in both publishing and book retailing. If it can cut out the publishers and drive the bookstores into bankruptcy, all it needs are authors. About David Marshall He’s one of these guys who’s always made a living from words--written and spoken. He started off conventional. Training as an attorney, he combined tenure as a professor with some private practice. Except, in moments when no one was watching, he was broadcasting, acting, and writing, always under stage names and pseudonyms so his two worlds wouldn’t meet up. Later, he set up his own business consultancy and ran a small press. Now that he’s retired, he can look back on a life misspent, always doing stuff that was interesting and never getting too caught up in the career development rut. Except he’s just as busy. Someone told him staying active keeps the brain going longer. So this is his plan for immortality. He’s very conscientious. If he plans enough work to last him into next year, he’ll be around to do it. Have a comment about this article? HERE’S the link to it on our website.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 48


Book Reviews Category

Art, Architecture & Photography

LOCAL AUTHOR! Adventure in Color: The Impressionism of Anita Wolff By Suzanne Blaney Zandal Books, $24.95, 94 pages ISBN 9781450773478 This biographical journey of impressionist Anita Wolff enriches the reader with vivid and enchanting paintings that accompany her personal story. The subject is a California woman who has traveled widely to study painting with masters such as Robert Brackman, Frederic Taubes,

and Sergei Bongart. As a teacher herself, her students rave about her expertise and inspiring personality. This beautifully illustrated book presents eighty-eight outstanding oil and pastel reproductions. While following the history that molded Wolff’s personality, her philosophy and pedagogy of producing art is informally exposed. Using quotes from the masters to illustrate specific aspects, chapters cover how to understand art, the skills necessary to evaluate good composition, techniques for landscapes, plein aire works, values and color, along with a discussion on the materials essential for working with oils or pastels. The book concludes with a message on how to learn from your mistakes, recommending that artists not be afraid, but let go and have fun—to dive into this colorful craft. This is a lovely book for anyone interested in learning about art and about one of our own, very personable and talented artists. Reviewed by Aron Row An Elephant’s Life: An Intimate Portrait from Africa By Caitlin O’Connell Lyons Press, $29.95, 208 pages ISBN 9780762763740 Elephants have long been regarded with affection for their intelligence and praised for their loyal family bonds. Ecologist and naturalist Caitlin O’Connell has put together a fascinating photo journal of elephants as individuals and as members of family groups, along with pictures of associated denizens of the veldt in and around Etosha National Park in Namibia. This is a grand photo revue of these mammoth animals outlined within awesome vistas while displaying their identifying features, family members, social rules, and interactions. Meet the matriarchal family of Big Momma, or other recognized females called Sheba and Nandi, or of the bull elephant named Greg. Follow these families through the recorded photos and listen to their plans through the interpretive and concise explanatory text. The impressive array of colored prints conveys the flavor of Africa, and the reader continues along the safari examining the animals as they follow their normal routines. Each photo is accompanied by a short text clearly explaining some detail of the animal’s behavior or situation. This charming album re-

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 49


Book Reviews

Category Art, Architecture & Photography

cording elephant life will interest all age groups, especially those who love elephants. Youngsters will be especially enthralled to learn that much in elephant behavior parallels that of humans. Reviewed by Aron Row

plenty of scares for Halloween. The fifth entry in the Dragonbreath series, No Such Thing As Ghosts is easily picked up by unfamiliar readers, serving as an excellent standalone book but offering enough tantalizing hints of Bent Object of My Affection: The Twists and earlier adventures to intrigue the readTurns of Love er. While the characters are a little oneBy Terry Border dimensional -- Danny the adventurous, Running Press, $13.00, 128 pages Wendell the meek, Christiana the dubious -- they’re ISBN 9780762441877 endearingly so, and Danny and Christiana both reTerry Border is an artist. Yes, he could ceive moments of growth where they play against type. also be called a blogger, or a humorist, The illustrations, making great use of green and black or a dude who spends too much time tones, aren’t interruptions or filler either; they’re an inplaying with wire, but first and foremost, he’s tegral part of the story, which is both a nice touch and a an artist. He sees the potential of everyday pleasant diversion from the text. While the book went on a items and tells stories with them in a single bit longer than necessary -- with a somewhat dark turn tophotograph. Whether it’s two attracted magward the end -- the rich detail and authentic sense of childnets sharing a kiss or two cups of coffee sharing, well, like wonder, horror, and exploration more than make up each other, his images are instantly, universally recogniz- for a few unnecessary red herrings. able, and yet wholly unique and witty expressions. Some of Reviewed by Glenn Dallas them are puns of the most unabashedly shameless variety, but others deftly play on visual, narrative, and pop culture The Landscape Photography Field Guild: Capturing conventions, and each and every one of them will elicit a the Great Outdoors with Your Digital DSLR Camera smirk, a smile, or the occasional uproarious laugh. By Carl Heilman II Most of the jokes are perfectly innocent, but a few stray Focal Press, $15.95, 192 pages into the fringes of “might have to explain this one to the ISBN 9780240819228 kids later.” But nonetheless, the craft and cleverness inExpert landscape photogherent to every image are simple joys. Bent Object of My rapher Carl Heilman II, who Affection is a worthy successor to his first collection, and has appeared on PBS and here’s hoping there are many more Bent Object collections taught outdoor photography to come. What fun. courses, created this pocket Reviewed by Glenn Dallas guide for field use of digital SLR cameras. The contents are divided into six sections: EquipDragonbreath: No Such Thing As Ghosts ment, Technique, Shooting, Creative Effects, By Ursula Vernon Editing Workflow, and Reference. Subject matter includes Dial Books for Young Readers, $12.99, 201 pages setup, location, framing, exposure, lighting, composition, ISBN 9780803735279 focus, depth of field, time-lapse, storage, and image editWhen Danny Dragonbreath goes out trick-or-treating ing. Charts, diagrams and actual photographic examples with his skittish pal Wendell and skeptical classmate Chris- supplement the text. tiana, he’s expecting a pillowcase full of candy and some The information contained in this guide is applicable to appreciate comments about his vampire costume. What use with almost any manual camera, and the author’s easyhe doesn’t suspect is a bully’s dare, a haunted house, and a to-follow tips make landscape photography accessible to Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 50


Book Reviews

Category Art, Architecture & Photography

even the novice shutterbug. Its handy size is conducive to carrying in the field for on-the-spot reference, and would no doubt be indispensable to amateurs. Though the print is especially tiny in some places, this is a usual drawback of portability when it comes to instructional booklets. Otherwise, there is an impressive range of advice, from the technical to the creative aspects of outdoor photography during any season. Versatile yet informative, The Landscape Photography Field Guide emphasizes simplicity and functionality as a means to enhancing individual creativity in the photographic medium. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio The Mammoth Book of Gorgeous Guys By Barbara Cardy (editor) Running Press, $17.95, 480 pages ISBN 9780762442737 Barbary Cardy, who has edited twenty-seven anthologies, created this collection of over 500 male figures shot by more than fifty of the world’s foremost photographers. The images, both black-and-white and color, vary from posed to candid, from clothed to unclothed, and from traditional to innovative. Samples of each artist’s work are accompanied by a brief bio and a selfportrait. There is an introduction by Palm Springs photographer, Tom Bianchi, as well as a foreword by the editor. The title of this book is somewhat misleading, even though the notion of beauty has myriad interpretations. The term “gorgeous” in this case should have been applied to the visual translations and the diversity of perspectives regarding maleness: stylization is used to eroticize objects and depict ethereal themes, while conventional techniques attempt to define the essence of masculinity. Each photographer has his own distinctive approach, from surreal and dreamlike imagery to straightforward portraiture, all handled tastefully, explicit or not. The reproductions are beautifully displayed and, though they share a common subject, warrant more than one viewing as any fine art de-

serves. This collection is proof that a discerning eye can elevate the sensual image to a mythic level. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio Wilhelm Sasnal By Dominic Eichler, Joerg Heiser, Andrzei Przywara Phaidon Press, $45.00, 158 pages ISBN 9780714860794 Wilhelm Sasnal is largely known in Europe--especially Eastern Europe. Only among the serious collectors is he known in the United States. Hopefully, with this book that will change. Mr. Sasnal is one of the growing number of young Polish artists who came of age right as the Cold War was ending and grew to prominence when their country was transitioning from Communism to Democracy. In this survey, we get to explore the life and work of Wilhelm Sasnal, a modern artists painter and filmmaker who is based in Poland. Originally, he went to college to study a practical career, but decided to go to art school instead. He would work a full-time job and paint in his garage. His paintings would be shown all around the world and win awards at competitions. Mr. Sasnal’s paintings are invocative of the modern art approach to painting, where less is more and the small details do not matter in the big picture. His is the work of a few colors and line work that stands out against the background. His work might not appeal to everyone; but he is rising star on the international stage. Reviewed by Kevin Winter

Visit our WEBSITE for more reviews on Art, Architecture & Photography books.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 51


Book Reviews Category

Cooking, Food & Wine

The Food52 Cookbook: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks By Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs William Morrow, $35.00, 440 pages ISBN 9780061887208 Here is a most unusual, even unique, cookbook. Food52 Cookbook recipes are the result of the cooking community’s best of the best. The authors, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, have undertaken an interesting experiment through their blog: a weekly recipe contest for a year, testing many of the more promising ones, and choosing the best as the winner of the week’s contest. They chose two or three top ones for their cookbook. In addition, for an un-

usually good recipe they added a trophy-winner called the Wildcard Winner. For each recipe the head notes give a little bit of the recipe, and in some cases a quote from the cook. Below the recipe there is a brief Tips and Techniques and another short blurb about the cook submitting the recipe. These are good recipes and listed in order of the week of the contest, thus the recipes are random. They range from very simple (Salted Almonds) to time consuming (Braised Moroccan Chicken and Olives), but are mostly within reach of the least ambitious cook. The recipes are well written, easy to follow, and rarely require you to search for special ingredients. The excellent, extensive index helps you find anything quickly. Reviewed by George Erdosh The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance By Greg Koch, Steve Wagner, Randy Clemens Ten Speed Press, $25.00, 201 pages ISBN 9781607740551 Since 1996, Stone Brewing Co. has presented a confident face to the world, naming their most-well known brew “Arrogant Bastard Ale.” This book continues the self-assured approach while discussing the brewery’s history, “our way” approach, and roster of beers, amongst other things. The book includes two classes of recipes: the first are food recipes optimized to serve with beer, and may or may not include beer amongst the list of ingredients. The recipes run the list from finger foods, like Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings or Spud Buds, to delicious-sounding soups, salads, and sides (the Brussels sprout recipe is amazing), to main courses. Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie is a vegetarian take on ultimate comfort food, perfect for pairing with Stone Smoked Porter. The second class are home-brewing recipes, perfect for those who brew their own beer; they turn this book into something special. The advice sections of the book are exceptionally strong. The beer-food pairing section is insightful, giving examples of what and what not to do. The cellaring tips explain how

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 52


Book Reviews

Category Cooking, Food & Wine

to properly age your beer without turning your bottles into a skunky mess. This would make a great gift for a home brewer or beer snob in your life. The writing is easy to read, and it’s like a knowledgeable friend is guiding you through the world of beer. Reviewed by Kelly Garrett Quick-Fix Gluten Free By Robert Landolphi Andrews McMeel Publishing, $16.99, 203 pages ISBN 9781449402938 Fearful of French toast? Chills from cheesecakes? Paralyzed over pie? No more! Author and chef Rob Landolphi shows how to tweak every day, wheatladen foods into something delicious and edible for those who are gluten intolerant. His healthy recipes and ingredients have little or no emphasis on processed ingredients and more emphasis on whole foods that are low in sugar, low in carbohydrates, and are healthy even for those without gluten intolerance, making enjoyable foods for the whole family that are quick and gourmet. This book presents a tasty and decadent array of meal selections that promote a gluten-free diet through simple recipes. These aren’t cheap, fast-food alternatives and don’t fall back on the “junk food” gluten-free foods, but instead consist of healthy, whole food options, along with helpful tips and lists to stocking the glutenfree pantry. This is not a meat-and-potatoes cookbook, but instead offers recipes in a thirty-minute-or-less style. Recipes such as pistachio and mustard encrusted lamb chops or parmesan potato gnocchi with roasted garlic butter have a short ingredients list that don’t fall back on corn-based products and are easy to prepare with high-quality results. Reviewed by Axie Barclay

Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard By Romney Steele Andrews McMeel Publishing, $25.00, 178 pages ISBN 9781449402402 Cooking and eating are synonymous with memories for folks the world over. However, there is something about ripened stone fruit berries and tree-ripened citrus that incites the deliciously hazy, summertype of recollections replete with enough natural sweetness and harnessed sunshine to brighten even the gloomiest morn. In Plum Gorgeous author, artist, and cooking enthusiast, Romney Steele, waxes poetry over the recipes she chose for this book, and the memories surrounding each. None of these recipes are your average tossfruit-together fare, but a journey of taste, smell, sound; and the most visually-pleasing pictures of plums, blood oranges, and eclectic art you ever saw. Honey-Lavender Lemonade compliments the Herb-Roasted Salmon with Huckleberry Sauce well, followed up with Plum Soup and Basil Ice Cream. Gear up for summer menus--and cheer up winter days-with this unique cookbook. Reviewed by Meredith Greene From the Ground Up By James Villas Wiley, $22.99, 404 pages ISBN 9780470571651 From the Ground Up would benefit any cook’s kitchen library, novice to advanced. Though it has no illustration, it is a handsome trade paperback with clear, large prints and 210 recipes using ground meats of every possible kind. The book is well written, the head notes are excellent and

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 53


Book Reviews

Category Cooking, Food & Wine

… in this book you’ll find lessons that respect the traditions for the past, but with a definite nod to present trend and to the future.”

worth reading (even for those who never bother reading them). The introduction is thorough, telling you everything you need to know about ground meats. The recipe writing is equally good, using logical steps (some of which many recipes writers neglect) and the ingredients are mostly easily available. The serving sizes indicated are designed for very large eaters—in most you can multiply the number by one-and-half and still have leftovers.

The possibilities for jazzing up ground dishes are endless, and I urge you to use your imagination and common sense throughout this book.”

The variety of recipes are astonishing and taken from cuisines around the world; ranging from simple American hamburgers to complex French pâtés. Occasional recipes (like Coney Island Dogs) don’t use ground meat but include it in the pre-processed ingredient. The types of preparations also cover the cooking spectrum from appetizers to hashes and chilies, even forced meats and sausages. Layout could’ve been better, though most recipes are placed on single or facing pages. The well cross-referenced index is perfect. Reviewed by George Erdosh French Lessons By Justin North Hardie Grant Books, $29.95, 382 pages ISBN 9781740668859 The title says it all: French Lessons is a totally French cookbook for advanced cooks and professional chefs, covering much of the repertoire of French cooking for contemporary kitchens. Casual and novice cooks need to stay away. Some simple recipes, like Buttered Peas are easy, having two ingredients, but many are elaborate, like Bouillabaisse with 25 ingredients.

However, the major problem with this large-format, beautifully illustrated cookbook is that the Australian author/ chef Justin North produced it for the Australian market. The publisher didn’t bother to re-print the book to be suitable for American cooks; all measurements are in metric and thus useless for nearly all of us lacking metric measuring tools. The recipes are very well written and easy to follow, each with preparation time (much too conservative for the average cook) and cooking time. Many ingredients are unknown or difficult to find in our markets: e.g. blue eye fillet or hapuku fillet. For Verbena Vinaigrette you need to find lemon verbena, Marco Polo tea, and chardonnay vinegar (no substitutes given). The introduction gives you the basics of French cooking, ingredients, equipment, and techniques. For artistic reasons, many pages are left unnumbered—an error that inconveniences the cook. Index is very good. Reviewed by George Erdosh Best Food Writing 2011 By Holly Hughes (editor) Da Capo Lifelong, $16.00, 305 pages ISBN 9780738215181 If you’re hungry for another serving of the delectable offerings you have undoubtedly become accustomed to from this savory collection, then you’ve come to the right table, so sit up straight and strap on the bib…this is one delicious fete. Holly Hughes has gathered up some of the industry’s finest culinary-inspired stories and essays in this year’s dish: a real farmer’s market of variety here. With seven sections to choose from - including ‘Home Cooking,’ ‘Food Fights,’ ‘Stocking the Pantry,’ ‘Guilty Pleasures,’ and more - there is sure to be something to satisfy every palate, from novice to connoisseur. Each tidbit is a flavorful slice of life with the emphasis on the author’s personal adventure, insight or experience. There is something for everyone between these pages. Don’t

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 54


Book Reviews

Category Cooking, Food & Wine

believe me? How about ‘800 Words on Tater Tots (No, Seriously)’? Or this little taster: “Fact: We all crave fast food. It’s as human as hangnails, bad hair days, and squabbles with the mother-in-law.” And what the heck is ‘broccolini’ anyhow? Enter the world of fodder, never intellectually scrutinized, and in edible bites…no overwhelming aftertaste here, just a smoothly savoring sampler. Enough said. Now dig in. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez-Fischer The Table Comes First By Adam Gopnik Knopf, $25.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780307593450 The restaurant as it is known today—red banquettes, mirrored walls, leather-bound menus—wasn’t always this way. Indeed, this restaurant of the imagination was invented in eighteenth-century France and marks the beginning of an epic food evolution. Vast changes in taste and values have shaped what we consider to be “good” food, and the very act of thinking, talking, and writing about food has helped transform cooking—and eating—across the centuries. Gopnik is an adept writer on any subject, but his Francophilia—demonstrated so unforgettably in Paris to the Moon--makes him a particularly agile guide here. From the history of cookbooks to the delicate interactions among fashion, values, and taste, Gopnik provides a noseto-tail examination of just how food and eating as we know it came to be. Of course, those who read Gopnik because they loved the stories of his charmed Paris years may be disappointed that his family and his personal Paris make only scant appearances here. And his e-mails to nineteenth-century cookbook writer Elizabeth Pennell at times seem precious and self-indulgent. Regardless, The Table Comes First is a pleasing reminder that talking about food has a history as rich as the food itself. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littel

Betty Crocker Cookbook: 1500 Recipes for the Way You Cook Today

By Betty Crocker Wiley, $29.99, 686 pages ISBN 9780470906026 For sixty years, home cooks have turned to the Betty Crocker Cookbook for recipes ranging from bread and muffins to cakes and desserts, to classic fried chicken and pot roast. Contained within the practical loose-leaf binder are 1,500 recipes, including classics as well as hundreds of new ones that reflect the modern needs of society. Cooking can indeed be fast, flavorful, and healthy, and there are plenty of options to choose from here. Also included are new sections, such as “Do It Yourself,” which discusses homemade jams and pickles, and “Breakfast and Brunch,” a central location for recipes for pancakes and other early morning favorites. Another useful new feature are photographic reference pages to help cooks identify anything unfamiliar, from vegetables to cuts of meat, to herbs and spices. As always, the recipes are meticulously tested to ensure optimum taste and ease of direction, and numerous color photographs are included that will surely make readers’ mouths water. No matter what you’re looking to cook, this delightful cookbook has something to offer. The new and updated 11th edition of this kitchen classic is destined to become a trusted favorite for a whole new generation. Reviewed by Holly Scudero

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 55


Book Reviews Category

Self-Help The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life By Robin Zasio Rodale, $24.99, 240 pages ISBN 9781609611316 Dr. Robin Zasio understands the reasons we may not be willing to part with our stuff. In The Hoarder in You: Taking Control of Your Relationship with Stuff to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life, the clinical psychologist (who is the therapist on Hoarders on A&E Network)

uses her clients’ experiences to illustrates how hoarding may develop. Zasio explains that hoarding is a “debilitating anxiety” and that often people are trapped by their relationship with their stuff. Zasio understands that we all may have difficulty ridding our lives of stuff—even she has the drawer overrun with old makeup—and so The Hoarder in You has useful tips and tricks for everyone to use to de-clutter. Zasio brings us into the lives of some of her clients, explaining the scale of emotional attachment that they may exhibit and its relationship to those who may save, for example, a childhood teddy bear. The book provides checklists and questions to ask for people to take charge of our stuff. The Hoarder in You is a fascinating look into the world of people who are obsessive hoarders, as well as a manual for a more healthy relationship with our belongings. Reviewed by Elizabeth Humphrey

More Joy, Love, and Peace in Less Than 5 Minutes! ...that's the guarantee Attitude Reconstruction delivers. This groundbreaking approach integrates wisdom from east and west in an easy-to-use, tabbed format. Get ready to create the life you truly deserve: www.AttitudeReconstruction.com. Available through your local bookseller, Amazon, the author's website, or anywhere fine books are sold. Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 56


Book Reviews

Category Self-Help

Beauty Pure and Simple: The Ayurvedic Approach to Beautiful Skin By Kristen Ma Trumpeter, $16.95, 231 pages ISBN 9781590309209 This book is a guide to beauty from the Ayurvedic perspective. Ayurveda is a five-thousand year-old Indian science of health and medicine and teaches that healing or beauty stems from a balanced lifestyle supported by knowledge. Its main concept is that our bodies are composed of three different energies: Pitta, Kapha, and Vata. These energies may be new to the readers of this book, but they are sensible and comprehensible. The author shuns quick-fix chemical solutions, whether it is a drug, a surgical procedure, or a practitioner. The author says people looking for quick-fixes are looking to the external and to someone else to heal them, and they do not consider how they, themselves, contribute to their status and recovery.

How Happy Is Your Marriage?: 50 Great Tips to Make Your Relationship Last Forever By Sophie Keller Harlequin, $9.95, 114 pages ISBN 9780373892501 For most people, walking down the aisle is the easy part; the hard part is actually making that relationship work in the long-term. How do you cope when you start to notice your spouse’s quirks? What if he snores? What if she doesn’t actually listen to anything you say? How can you keep the spark alive through job changes and the arrival of kids? Sophie Keller, columnist and author and acknowledged “happiness expert,” offers her advice in How Happy is Your Marriage?, a cute little book featuring fifty tips to help keep your marriage, well, happy. The book starts with a quiz, which can help readers zero in on specific tips that might be useful to them. She follows up with plenty of advice. Some of it is obvious: learn to say sorry, understand how your moods affect communication. Some of it will defIt is natural for tissues to sag and internal systems initely make you think: address differences in sleep habits, to become exhausted with living, but if you take care don’t nag (but don’t inspire nagging by not doing what you of your body, mind, and spirit, you can evolve say you will), practice simple Feng Shui to keep harmony gracefully.” in the bedroom. There’s nothing earth-shattering here, but Keller’s tips could no doubt be useful to many people strugAyurveda is a more proactive approach, and emphasizes gling in relationships today. prevention instead of short-term solutions that merely supReviewed by Holly Scudero press symptoms. People who suffer from dark circles under the eyes, rosacea, eczema, hyperpigmentation, or premature aging must read this book. Kristen Ma is introducing the reality of aging gracefully and naturally and offers helpful knowledge on how to enhance your appearance as you tend to your health. Beauty belongs to those who accept it. Reviewed by Vivian Dixon Sober

Find more Self-Help book reviews on our WEBSITE.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 57


Book Reviews Category

are explored. The unequivocal depth of Lorge’s exposition presents a most informative study. The misconceptions of the arts, as well as how martial arts itself are linked and interwoven into Chinese society, are also discussed. Boxing, fencing with swords, and spear techniques are a few styles of fighting that melded with Chinese martial arts and are elaborated upon. I found that one of the interesting things Lorge discusses is how martial arts changed during the Ming Dynasty: “… the largest shift was intellectual rather than in practice.” I found the effect of writing about martial arts and its subsequent effect on society quite interesting. “Martial arts and martial artists played important roles in fiction as well, linking performance, theatre, novels and practice in society and on the written page.” How this shaped our understanding, interpretation and perspective of martial arts is also examined. Lorge does exemplary work in presenting the historical record of Chinese martial arts and his love for the art is inextricably seen through his writing. Reviewed by Jennifer Ochs

History

Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the TwentyFirst Century By Peter Lorge Cambridge University Press, $29.00, 340 pages ISBN 9780521878814 This book is a concise historical survey of the changes in martial arts and their relationship to the changes in the Chinese society itself. Lorge covers the Stone Age and progresses through the Chinese dynasties that followed, up to the Qing Dynasty and Post-Imperial China. The development of martial arts as a military skill and notions that many people have about Chinese martial arts

Happy Days!: A Humorous Narrative in Drawings of the Progress of American Arms 1917-1919 By The First Division Museum, illustrations by Alban B. Butler Jr. Osprey, $14.95, 110 pages ISBN 9781849086295 The American Expeditionary Force was the first group of Americans to reach Europe after the United States entered World War I. They consisted of the current standing army and a collection of new conscripts that had just completed training. They were quickly molded into new units and shipped over to Europe where they went through trench warfare training and handed their first assignments. At first they were sent to a quiet sector to get their feet wet, sometimes literally, then got their first taste of action and distinguished themselves. The eyes of the world were upon them and they knew it. During this time the AEF put out a paper, and in that paper Alban B. Butler, a graduate of Yale, provided cartoons. Cartoons that show what everyday life was like for the av-

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 58


Book Reviews

Category History

Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation By Kariann Akemi Yokota Oxford University Press, $34.95, 354 pages ISBN 9780195393422 This epic research project is a massive overview of the cultural history of the New World, the United States. BePinkerton’s War: The Civil War’s Greatest Spy and the ginning with the Enlightenment and Birth of the U.S. Secret Service moving through post-colonial AmerBy Jay Bonansinga ica, Yokota brings all aspects of the Lyons Press, $24.95, 288 pages infant country into play – everything ISBN 9780762770724 from the tobacco exports to the porceMany books on the Civil War touch lain imports has a role in this drama. on Allan Pinkerton’s involvement in Extensively researched and dense with politisafeguarding President-Elect Lincoln cal and historical facts, at times it reads a little through Baltimore, and even more fomore like an encyclopedia than a historical narcus on his agency’s roll in union bustrative, but Yokota’s voice is easy to follow. She examines ing; this book is different. This is Allan the paradoxical conflicts of early Americans who wanted Pinkerton, the man, the abolitionist, the voluptuousness of their mother country, but were tied one of many heroes and, ultimately, an by principle to the rude harshness of their new home. Readunsung, almost forgotten patriot of the ers will find the old arguments against imported goods and Civil War. non-local items familiar, but not tedious. Yokota loads her study with pictures and prints on almost I would rather you worshiped President Lincoln, every page detailing old maps, portraits, and engravings. ‘ she wrote, ‘since I suspect that a general is a hero A book that will appeal to students of ethnology, history, only so long as he wins battles, and no general wins Americana, politics, and cultural studies, it is heavy readthem all.’” ing but nonetheless unique and informative. A cup of cofScottish-born, Pinkerton knew a bit about civil wars. fee would be an appropriate accompaniment – imported, of Having a price on his head for his liberal machinations, he course. made his way to America in 1842 and never looked back. Reviewed by Andrea Huehnerhoff He loved his adopted country and stood behind the Union, putting his life and his trusted agents on the line daily dur- The Haunting of Twentieth-Century ing the dark 1860’s. He created what later became the Se- America cret Service, went behind enemy lines for information, and By William J. Birnes, Joel Martin served as a trusted ally to General McClellan and Presiden- Forge, $15.99, 464 pages tial Lincoln. ISBN 9780765327857 Bonansinga paints a portrait that many of us have never In this sequel to The Haunting of Ameriseen before of a man that many discount because of his ca, the authors turn their attention to the agency’s later support of the robber barons. Our error has past decade. The book’s topics range from been our loss, but the pages of time have been corrected or Nazis to turn-of-the-century psychics to maybe better filled in by Pinkerton’s War. spiritualism. The purposes of the book is Reviewed by Gwen Stackler to explain how these paranormal events erage soldier. From sitting in trenches, to night bombings, to being on leave in Paris. These cartoons are eye opening in that they show both the action side of being a soldier and the more mundane. From standing in mud, to trying to cross barbed wire. His cartoons are often hilarious and informative. Reviewed by Kevin Winter

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 59


Book Reviews

Category History

not only were drastic in their own time, but were the catalyst to some world shattering decisions. The book tries to be part paranormal thriller with some basic government history classes thrown into the mix. My biggest problem with the book is the bibliography. Many times the authors cites themselves in previous work as a source. This, and other not-creditable sources, leads me to think that this book was written with a bias. For any history book, that is not good. The pace of the book is slow and sloppy at times. It was really hard to keep my interest throughout the book. A lack of plot and a horribly segregated thought process makes this book discouraging. Maybe if there was a clear thesis or idea, the book would be passable. The only positive thing I can say is that it was an all-right story. But that is what this book really is: just a story. Reviewed by Kevin Brown Acrocanthosaurus: The Bones of Contention, True Story of Cephis Hall and Sid Love, The Arkansas Hillbilly and the Choctaw Indian Who Outsmarted the Corporation and Saved the Dinosaur By Russell Ferrell Historical Dimensions, $19.95, 448 pages ISBN 9780615413365 Acrocanthosaurus: The Bones of Contention, True Story of Cephis Hall and Sid Love, The Arkansas Hillbilly and the Choctaw Indian Who Outsmarted the Corporation and Saved the Dinosaur is most certainly one of the lengthiest titles I have ever heard. However, this story is as rich and as full as its title. The extraordinary lives of Cephis Hall and Sid Love presented by Ferrell is a thorough account of their experiences, struggles, and obstacles encountered as they set out to unearth the fossil remains of one of the largest bipedal theropods living in the early Cretaceous period. One of the foremost conflicts to take place was the private land rights of the corporate-owned land by Weyerhaeuser, one of American’s most wealthy corporations, and the battle for the “bones,” thus, became a legal issue. Interestingly, until reading this story, I never realized that

there was a window of time in which excavated bones must be treated, else they deteriorate and subsequently disintegrate. Despite the obstacles, Hall and Love were able to complete their excavation and have the bones treated and casted barely in a timely fashion as they struggled for their legal right to the bones they found. Ferrell, as a writer of historical non-fiction, truly does a remarkable job in making this story not only informative, but educational and entertaining as well. His writing style is quite unique and makes for a most interesting read. Although the vastness of the material presented, at times, could be a little overwhelming, the focus of the story is never lost and is presented in such a way that maintains the reader’s interest. It is truly a remarkable story. “The story of Cephis Hall and Sid Love represents a rare instance in history when two “little guys” defeated giants.” These men faced immense obstacles, yet they never gave in or gave up. Their unique and extraordinary lives are a living testimony of ethics and morality for the everyday man. Despite the power of the corporate world and its influence, one thing is clear. Money can never take the place of hard work, as evidenced by the lives and careers of these amateur paleontologists. “The mounted dinosaur case of the Acrocanthosaurus now adorning the halls and galleries of some of the best museums in America is a testament to that hard, enduring labor that was expended in pursuit of their dream.” Sponsored Review Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941 By Stanley Weintraub Da Capo Press, $24.00, 224 pages ISBN 9780306820618 It was one of the most devastating attacks ever done on American soil. On December 7th, 1941 the island nation of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and pushed America into World War II. But what about the holiday season that came after that? In his new book, Stanley Weintraus looks closely at Christmas time right after the shocking events. The story spans from military bases

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 60


Book Reviews

Category History

across the globe, as young men fight in foreign lands while celebrating Christmas in brotherhood. The other half is about the Christmas meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt, which sparks into the plan to end World War II. The book itself is solid in research. Weintraub is very an expert at citing and finding great sources for his historical books. The book only focuses on the military aspect of Christmas and spends a good portion on the Pacific side of the war. This is fine, but it is presented in a very dull and bland format. The book is interesting in parts, but those parts are far apart and not interesting enough to hold focus for the entire book. This book is fine for World War II junkies, but your everyday person isn’t going to be that captivated. Reviewed by Kevin Brown The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution By Brion T. McClanahan Regnery History, $24.95, 272 pages ISBN 9781596981935 As modern politics become ever more partisan, many of the major issues being debated today are inevitably being brought back to their roots: the Constitution. But to many, our Constitution is a vague, difficult-tounderstand document. What were the Founding Fathers really thinking when they wrote about “the right to keep and bear arms” and Congress’ power to “make all laws which shall be necessary and proper”? Many politicians like to twist the words of the Constitution to support their own position, but the truth is that the best way to interpret the Constitution comes from the mouths of the Founding Fathers themselves. In The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution, Brion McClanahan sets out to do just that. He takes all of the key clauses in this document and interprets them, using key historical writings from the authors that were published during the years the Constitution was being debated among the states. The author, who holds three separate degrees in history and American history, has clearly done his research here. While the resulting book is a little too dry and dense for light reading, you can’t

argue with the words of the Founding Fathers. All modern politicians would benefit from reading this thorough book; it’s highly recommended for anyone interested in the way our country is run today. Reviewed by Holly Scudero The Complete Roman Army By Adrian Goldsworthy Thames & Hudson, $26.95, 224 pages ISBN 9780500288993 Hollywood epics did their best. The Roman army became a spectacle of glamour and machismo. But whichever movie version lingers does not compare with reality. Organized as a volunteer militia with landowners temporarily leaving their fields to meet the challenge of war, over centuries the Roman army changed size, shape, and composition and became a professional army marching across a large tract of Europe, on into Asia and Africa. Drawing on meticulously researched sources, Goldsworthy has created an epic reconstruction where text and illustrations complement each other to flawless effect. The cover, a compelling group of uniformed men from a stone relief found in Rome, invites immediate interest. The pages describe military formations, the training and discipline, and the burgeoning of power, never losing sight of several individual officers whose personality and eccentricities have survived for over two thousand years. Daily life, as well as the military factors, are closely described. The book would be overwhelming if it were not so fascinating. The history is drawn from literary, archeological, military, and personal writings, as well as epigraphic and artistic fragments, the surviving elements of one source juxtaposed to another into remarkable coherence. Reviewed by Jane Manaster

Want more HISTORY book reviews? We gotcha covered. Visit our WEBSITE.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 61


Book Reviews Category

Business & Investing

Beyond the Keynesian Endpoint: Crushed by Credit and Deceived by Debt — How to Revive the Global Economy By Tony Crescenzi FT Press, $27.99, 298 pages ISBN 9780132595216 Let us begin a review of this highly technical book, which assumes a background in finance and economics when explaining Keynes’ General Theory of Employment. John Maynard Keynes, in his classic book The General Theory of Employment, theorizes that the proportional increase in spending when compared to income is closer to 100 percent than it is to zero. Keynesians feel that recessions are a poor time to increase government spending. Keynesians

believe that government spending will generate excessive spending by consumers. They also believe that global bond investors will continue to be attracted to nations with strong audit histories. Also, central banks will keep shortterm interest rates low for the forseeable future. We are told that Keynes, in the era of depression, fully appreciated the importance of productive, even though he lacked empirical data. It is of note to this reviewer that the housing boom was due, among other things, to low interst rates and capitol flowing into the United States from abroad. One can surmise that land, labor, and capital were important in the expansion of credit and growth of the US economy. Also, it can be deduced that the world has vast international reserves which influence financial markets and the global economy. Further, our government has an obligation to provide a minimal standard of living for its citizens. Reviewed by Claude Ury The Culture Cycle: How to Shape the Unseen Force that Transforms Performance By James Heskett FT Press, $44.95, 372 pages ISBN 9780132779784 This book should inspire leaders of companies to start with people and shape their organizations cultures to drive engagement, inclusion, trust, innovation, and results. It is the essential handbook for today’s organizations that care about their people and are determined that theirs is an organization of the future. In fifteen chapters featuring the author’s vast knowledge of management, this book provides a thoughtful prospect on how to challenge the performance hurdle managers face in today’s competitive marketplace. This outstanding book will enable one to view the voluminous literature on organization and culture so as to assist in understanding managing organizations during the period since 2008, when many CEOs put their organizations through reforms to address declining demand and rapid globalization. In this book one is shown how culture affects the bottom line and is the

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 62


Book Reviews

Category Business & Investing

most important task any supervisor and manager faces. As one reads this book and its case studies, one will be learning from a master teacher with a wealth of experience. One is shown how, through four R’s, one can improve its culture of an organization. Of interest to this reviewer was Appendix A: Sample Questions, for measuring the strength and health of any corporate culture. This questionnaire is divided into 6 segments: mission,shared assumptions and values, expectations versus experience, trust, engagement and ownership, policies, organizational ,learning, and measurement of results. A very technical book which should interest the general reader as well as the corporate community. Reviewed by Claude Ury Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work By Dan Roam Portfolio, $29.95, 333 pages ISBN 9781591844594 Dan Roam readily admits that he believes in the “power of pictures.” Since Roam’s bestselling book The Back of the Napkin, he has wondered, ‘Why don’t more people think with pictures?’ Roam’s Blah Blah Blah: What to Do When Words Don’t Work sets out to answer that question by combining the visual with the verbal and introducing readers to three tools: the Blah-Blahmeter, Vivid Grammar, and the Vivid FOREST. In fact, the Vivid FOREST is a Venn-diagram extension of the 6x6 rule Roam explained in his first book. Blah Blah Blah is Roam’s treasure map that encourages reader participation into mastering these three elements on their path to improving how we share our ideas. Roam spends one book on each element, instructing how to make the most of our verbal and visual minds. Roam’s line illustrations and explanations bolster his claims and make this an entertaining and fun read. Part Four wraps up the concepts, and Roam includes three appendices, including one that creates connections for readers to his first book and other helpful information. Reviewed by Elizabeth Humphrey

Content Marketing for Dummies By Susan Gunelius Wiley, $24.99, 346 pages ISBN 9781118007297 With the explosion of online content, more and more businesses are looking for ways to tame their own content marketing. Content Marketing for Dummies by Susan Gunelius is the in-depth reference you may need if you are interested in building a content marketing strategy for your business. Gunelius is a 20-year marketing veteran and author of other books in the “For Dummies” series. Gunelius thoroughly unpacks the concepts and tools to create a plan you can use for creating, managing, and analyzing your content. The seven parts of the book take you through the planning stages of marketing with video, audio, and online events, as well as using Twitter and other short-form content. Besides addressing integration methods and building a content management team, Gunelius also explains in detail how to engage in online conversations and how to use Web writing. Along the way, Gunelius introduces readers to various available online resources—many of them free—and a useful glossary. She even gives three “quick start” plans: one for those focused on blogs, one focused on Facebook, and one concentrated on YouTube. This book is a great introduction for those wondering how to get started in content marketing. Reviewed by Elizabeth Humphrey

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 63

M O R E


Good fiction has to be true to itself. Writers of literary fiction often claim that sometimes the “made up” truth of fiction is more true than the facts of non-fiction. As a writer, I believe in my work and want for it to be the best it can be. For that reason, I don’t take suggested changes lightly. And perhaps the biggest fear is that of having an agent, editor, or publisher ask you to make a significant change to the manuscript I’ve painstakingly slaved over for years. Don’t they know it’s already perfect? That’s why it took so long for me to complete it! I’m not alone in this fear. It seems that a common fear writers have is that after working so hard to complete a manuscript, revise it, polish it, submit it, and finally get the green light, in will come an editor thirsty for changes. “Why don’t you make this character a man instead of a woman? I think this middle chapter is actually your opening. Don’t you think you should kill off this character or bring that one back to life?” And worst of all: “I think we need to change the ending.”

I remember as far back as high school reading about authors who refused to make the changes demanded by their publishers. Of course, these were the ones who went on to get published elsewhere, triumphing over the tyrannical, commercial-minded publishers who just didn’t understand their art. But I believe such stories are few and far between. Perhaps if I’d been lucky enough to get my first novel published fresh out of college, I’d have a different attitude about my “high art.” But having gone through years (decades even) of false starts and query letters met with form rejection slips, I have to admit that when I finally got a good agent in New York City, I was fully prepared to make any changes requested. It was a careful balance to let this be known. On one hand, I made clear that, yes, I have been working hard on revising and polishing the manuscript for years, that what I submitted was indeed the best possible work in my opinion—not just a draft I expect to be revised. On the other hand, I let my agent know that I was aware that any work can be improved, that they were the professionals who better knew what would appeal to publishers and readers, and that I was flexible and would make the changes

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 64


Viewpoints Article

Let Them Change Your Ending

they thought were necessary, as long as I believed those Good agents, editors, or publishers know the art, changes did not hinder the truth of the stories or the the business, what is going to appeal to readers. If they novel as a whole. make a suggestion that can help improve the story, stays true to your intent, and can actually make the In my experience, it worked well. My agent loved book more marketable to a readership, then go ahead Tracks, my novel in stories. That’s why they offered to and change your ending! Writers should face their fears represent it—because they believed in it. All the same, and embrace the changes suggested by editors, publishthey knew the areas that would be stumbling blocks to ers and agents. publication, and they did suggest changes. In fact, they uttered the words many new novelists fear most: “We So take it from them—don’t be afraid to change your think you need to change the ending.” ending. At first, I sunk. What I thought was a completed manuscript was a train wreck. “Change my ending? About the Author Cut a chapter? Add two new stories? Why don’t I just Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer and editor. start over with a new book?” His novel in stories, But it didn’t take long for me to understand that my Tracks, was published agent and her creative staff were right. After I’d written by Atticus Books sumtwo new stories featuring the conductor of the train—a mer 2011. He’s also the character whom only made appearances in other peo- author of the childrens’ ple’s stories before—I realized just how right they were. book, Flightless Goose. The two new stories were two of my favorite in the colEric’s work has aplection. I’ve had several readers tell me that the conducpeared in The Baltimore tor is their favorite character in the book. Review, Pedestal MagaIn my earlier draft, I tried to tie too many endings zine, Writers Weekly, The Potomac, Barrelhouse, JMWW, in the finale. Each chapter in Tracks is a stand-alone Scribble, Slow Trains, and New Lines from the Old Line story about a passenger on a train traveling from Bal- State: An Anthology of Maryland Writers, among othtimore to Chicago. They link together to form a novel. I tried a little too hard to offer resolution in my earlier ers. Visit Eric on Facebook, Twitter, and at his literary draft. My agent understood the power of these subtle, blog, Writeful. Learn about his latest work, Tracks, at open-ended stories, the pleasure in allowing the reader www.TracksNovel.com. to imagine what would come next in some of their lives. When I cut old stories, wrote new ones, and came up with an entirely new conclusion to the book, I saw that Click HERE for more THE BACK PAGE my agent understood the truth of my book even better articles written by your favorite than I did.

published authors.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 65


Book Reviews Category

will find themselves inexplicably drawn to it. You won’t find page after page of patterns here. Instead, the pages of this book are filled with ideas to research on your own, from individual designers to exciting new yarns to specific patterns that are worth seeking out on your own. There are some valuable tips and techniques to be found here, as well as fascinating interviews with big names in the knitting world and tons of beautiful pictures and illustrations. The conversational tone used throughout makes this book very inviting for knitters of all levels of experience, while the wealth of information and ideas keep readers eagerly turning the pages to find out what’s next. Knitters of every stripe can find something to love here! Reviewed by Holly Scudero

Crafts & Hobbies

The Knitter’s Life List: To Do, To Know, To Explore, To Make By Gwen W. Steege Storey Publishing, $24.95, 320 pages ISBN 9781603429962 Every serious knitter knows there’s never enough time for everything. New patterns to make, new fibers to work with, new techniques to learn... the possibilities are countless and the to-do list endless, but that didn’t stop knitting enthusiast Gwen Steege from trying to compile them all together in one book, The Knitter’s Life List. This is definitely not your typical knitting book, but anyone who picks it up

On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life By Amy Walker (editor) New World Library, $16.95, 372 pages ISBN 9781608680221 Do you remember the Whole Earth Catalog? This is a new cycling version. Small, compact, tough cover, and filled with illustrations, facts, how-to’s, including bike gear and hardware. Bicycles are another reason to be cheerful in this sometimes-cruel world. This book is a must for any cyclist, especially the city cyclist. Walker, who lives in Vancouver (and, it goes without saying, loves to cycle in the rain), is the co-founder of Momentum magazine. She edits here a kind of manifesto of cycling with sections on culture and economics, improving and changing life in the cities on bicycles, the environmental and health concerns, how to dress, how to share the road and work with the law, and even the future of bikes. Those of us who ride in the city know it’s tough. Cities were designed around cars, but things are changing—and not just bike paths. Bicycles will be an important element of the future in planning and re-engineering cities. Imagine more people on bikes! This book offers the vision. We get the reasons to bike (as if we didn’t know!) and a lot of knowledge from other bicyclists. There’s a good index for surfing. Reviewed by Phil Semler

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 66


Book Reviews Category

Current Events & Politics Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy By Bill Clinton Knopf, $23.95, 196 pages ISBN 9780307959751 In Back to Work, the former Commander-in-Chief summarizes the politics and events leading to our current recession and explains that we need to get “back in the future business” in order to compete with the rest of the world. Back to Work offers over forty ideas for educating our people, reducing our national debt, taking care of our sick and elderly, and most importantly, bringing jobs back to America. The former President uses the book to remind the reader of his own accomplishments and to stress his opinions on what is happening today. From harshly criticizing Republican leaders from the past thirty years (while paying some compliments to Presidents Reagan, Bush, and George W. Bush where he felt they had succeeded), to praising President Obama (while respectfully disagreeing with some policies). While warning the reader of the dangers of anti-government/anti-tax politics, the former leader of the free world is able to guide the reader through the problems

at hand, offering examples of his ideas utilized in the real world, and leaving enough room for the reader to question: what kind of government do I want? Back to Work is intelligent, comprehensive, and provides a clear, confident voice that takes the reader through the issues of the time. Clinton will get the wheels in your mind whirling as you analyze where we were, where we are, and where we are going as a nation. Reviewed by Justin Salazar-Stewart Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative By Lawrence Weschler Counterpoint, $26.00, 272 pages ISBN 9781582437576 Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative is a collection of 23 literary nonfiction pieces of Lawrence Weschler’s articles from the past fifteen years. Weschler, who is a prolific and award-winning writer, examines a wide-range of topics in this collection—from the mundane to the amazing and extra-ordinary— and frequently introduces insight. Whether it is delving into digital animation, profiling a Yugoslav artist, human rights experiences in Rwanda, or a journey with his own writer’s block, Weschler delivers for his readers. Weschler, a contributing editor to McSweney’s and Threepenny Review, has also been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, the Atlantic Monthly, and many others. This volume is divided into several sections that may have a varied number of stories within. For example, while the “Uncanny Valley” has one article, “Some Probes into the Terrain of Human Rights” has five. But the collection is far from uneven. Some of the articles are accompanied by black and white photos or illustrations. Weschler’s writing is captivating and alluring. Uncanny Valley is for those who love the craft of writing as much as they love reading compelling stories. Reviewed by Elizabeth Humphrey

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 67


Book Reviews Category

Health, Fitness & Dieting

Ticker: A User Guide for Everyone With a Heart By BP Loughridge, MD BP Loughridge, $24.95, 154 pages ISBN 9780970339317 Ticker: A User Guide for Everyone with a Heart is a boilerplate of cardiovascular anatomy and physiology. Author B.P. Loughridge, MD, is an outspoken advocate for patientguided medical care. His own twenty-nine years of experience as a cardiac surgeon is used to enlighten others about the structure and function of one of the most important

systems in our body. The subject is elegantly illustrated and easily explained in casual, understandable language. It is especially suited—for anyone who is facing their own heart problems or those of a loved one—as a guide for understanding options and communicating with doctors and other medical personnel. Besides the full-color illustrations, there is a patient guide for questions to ask about your physician’s qualifications, as well as questions to ask about testing procedures and treatment options. The medical information is interspersed with vignettes about actual people who have experienced various cardiac events. The section titled “An Ounce of Prevention” is a gentle reminder about the simple do’s and don’t’s of cardiac health. “A Cardiovascular Event” explains the best way to handle an emergency and how to recognize warning signs ahead of time. The book’s superior quality is suitable for hospital or medical waiting rooms, or as a gift. The formatting is clean and makes the subject matter simple and enjoyable. The vignettes are in smaller print, which may send some readers searching for stronger reading glasses or a magnifying glass. The first ninety-seven pages are pure anatomy, where heart chambers, valves, arteries, and veins are explained in step-by-step fashion—an excellent resource for classrooms or medical offices. It also includes a comprehensive index, making it a practical home reference for anyone who is under the care of a physician or even for those who may be resistant to medical care. Sponsored Review Weight-Resistance Yoga: Practicing Embodied Spirituality By Max Popov Healing Arts Press, $18.95, 206 pages ISBN 9781594773907 Many practitioners of yoga avoid targeted strength training, either because they are made uncomfortable by the “usual” type of people who are drawn to weight lifting or because they feel that their yoga practice fulfills all of their personal fitness needs. Some just feel that there is

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 68


Book Reviews

Category Health, Fitness & Dieting

no way to maintain a sense of mindfulness while pumping iron. Author and fitness trainer Max Popov believes differently. With his new book, Weight Resistance Yoga, he sets out to show how strengthening the muscles can lead to a whole new sense of bodily awareness. The book starts out by explaining the principles of mindful strength training, goes on to discuss 26 weight-resistance exercises in intense detail, then finishes with a series of meditations on the body and its muscles and joints. There is an appeal in this book to both yogis and traditional strength trainers who are interested in bringing a new dimension to their exercise. While the writing has a tendency toward being very dry, almost tedious to read, the information provided is very valuable and explained thoroughly. For the right reader, this book is a treasure waiting to be discovered. Reviewed by Holly Scudero Toxic Free: How to Protect Your Health and Home from the Chemicals That Are Making You Sick By Debra Lynn Dadd Tarcher, $15.95, 272 pages ISBN 9781585428700 In a world over 24-7 news, reports, medical discoveries, and the rantings of occasionally-paranoid ‘experts,’ a practical guide is worth its weight in gold. Real facts about real items are something most shoppers spend countless hours searching online for, but now you can rest your eyes for awhile and open this handy book instead. Consultant and consumer advocate Debra Lynn Dad put together a succinct, logical list of things folks use or buy everyday--or nearly every day--each accompanied by a warning and an alternative to help the average person avoid adding additional toxins to their already chemically-enhanced lives. Even better, the author manages to accomplish this without showering scorn upon the reader’s head for already using possibly-harmful products out of ignorance. Dad’s down-to-earth manner of writing helps the reader to understand that exposure to chemical (unlike a bacteria-borne illness) can be remedied by simply removing the offending substance from one’s home, much

like easing a sunburn by staying indoors. Aside from the many everyday uses of this book, it is fantastic as a housewarming, bridal or baby shower gift. Reviewed by Meredith Greene Your Pregnancy Week by Week, 7th Edition (Your Pregnancy Series) By Glade B. Curtis/Judith Schuler Da Capo Lifelong Books, $15.95, 673 pages ISBN 9780738214641 Upon finding out that they are pregnant, the first thing many women do (besides scheduling an appointment with their doctor or midwife) is go shopping for books. There are many pregnancy guides available, covering every baby-related topic under the sun, but it’s important to get one that is as upto-date as possible. Thank goodness for the new, seventh edition of Your Pregnancy Week by Week! This is one of those books that aims to answer every question readers could possibly have about how pregnancy affects their own health and about the growth of their baby. Each chapter tells readers how big their baby is during a particular week and offers information and advice on common pregnancy ailments, things that might come up when dealing with their healthcare provider, nutrition, exercise, and even topics like traveling and preparing your pet for your baby. As this book is written by a board certified gynecologist, pregnancy is approached from a very traditional, hospital-oriented view; readers who are interested in alternative birth topics will not find much useful information on ideas like birth centers or doulas. Readers will appreciate the extensive index, which makes it easy to find information on a specific subject, and everything is clearly explained. Most women will find that this book contains everything they need for a healthy pregnancy. Reviewed by Holly Scudero

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 69


Book Reviews Category

I needed to surround myself with these things, and how they are reflective of a person I need/want/desire to be. SoulSpace could be that for you. Reviewed by Laura Friedkin

Home & Garden SoulSpace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life -- Creating a Home That Is Free of Clutter, Full of Beauty, and Inspired by You By Xorin Balbes New World Library, $14.95, 216 pages ISBN 9781608680375 What does your home say about you to people that visit? More importantly, what does it say TO YOU? Is it a sanctuary, a place of retreat, a place where you feel nurtured and transformed? Award-winning architectural conservator Xorin Balbes invites readers to make their homes something more than just a place to eat, sleep, and live. SoulSpace will take readers not only deep into their closets and their prized collections to discover what truly speaks to them and what tells the rest of the world about them, but also deep inside themselves into their “souls.” Through eight SoulSpace stages, Balbes invites readers to really get to know what it is that makes us collect those prized possessions, which ones still speak to us and for which ones is it time to let go, and in turn free ourselves to transform into something extraordinary - in our homes and deep within. After all, shouldn’t our homes be our retreat from the world? Shouldn’t they truly feed us, nurture us, and give us safe haven to heal, to grow, and to encourage ourselves to be what we are supposed to be? I know that reads like a mighty tall promise, but as someone who has filled my own home with prized treasures from vacation trips to faraway places, I wanted to know why it is that

Homesteading in the 21st Century: How One Family Created a More Sustainable, Self-Sufficient, and Satisfying Life By George Nash, Jane Waterman Taunton Press, $24.95, 410 pages ISBN 9781600852961 The authors, a professional construction and repair expert and a medical doctor, veterans of homesteading from the level of a patio garden to a small ‘stead, have put together a lot of advice for anyone wishing to homestead on any scale. This is an ambitious book. Their constant jumping from small to medium scale is somewhat disconcerting as a read. Nonetheless, George Nash’s grasp of the pitfalls of older homes and poor soils is worth the purchase price of the book. Jane Waterman’s cautions as to the personal obligations of various commitments to small stock and livestock are worth reading. Her treatment of vegetables by families is unique and invaluable. Good things said, the writing and illustrations would have benefited from a good technical writer’s proofing and editing. This admirable and experienced couple has tried to avoid recovering material available elsewhere. They have succeeded to the extent that they have avoided total repetition. Anyone who has followed the field of sustainable homesteading over the last few decades will hear echoes. That is inevitable. Enough of what they have to say is unique enough to make this book a worthy buy for anyone planning to homestead. I will reread it frequently. Reviewed by David Lloyd Sutton

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 70


Book Reviews Category

HumorNonFiction CollegeHumor. The Website. The Book. By Writers of College Humor edited by Streeter Seidell Da Capo, $20.00, 266 pages ISBN 9780306820267 Dorm life, Facebook, pop culture ... all are fruitful targets for skewering, and all three get thoroughly worked over in CollegeHumor. The Website. The Book. From the inner thoughts of students to the truth behind beer goggles, from a lost Harry Potter character to the Death Star’s design flaws, from Heaven’s suggestion box to Mom’s science textbooks, the crew at CollegeHumor.com have it in their crosshairs. Naturally, a collection like this is pretty hit-or-miss, though in this case, the hits definitely outweigh the misses. Some of the entries left me laughing out loud, and a lot of the brief comic strips are clever. The Facebook parodies grow a little tiresome after a while -- though the Star Wars and Genesis ones are terrific -- as does the alcohol-centric humor, but when you’re geared for a college-age audience, this is understandable.

The snark level here is exceedingly high, but the abject offensiveness is kept to a minimum, as the writers instead play on misconceptions, a shared library of cultural references, and the goofy social mores we all accept and engage in. This collection is great for teens and twenty-somethings alike. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas How to Poo at Work By Mats, Enzo Plume, $13.00, 144 pages ISBN 9780452297661 If everyone does it, why is it still a shy topic? Poop. Just the word is funny, or has you cringing right now, maybe a little of both. I am not much of a poop talker; I don’t find it humorous, nor do I want to hear about other’s experiences. However, since I have a teenage son, I am in a direct shot of this organic topic. I wanted to like this book, I really did. I felt that if I could give it a fair shot I might be in the loop of cool parenting, not making a big fuss over a wind pass in the hallway or a slip-out in the car on the drive home from soccer. Show me something new, something I might be missing. The topics were intriguing enough, with categories like “Problems on the Way There,” (“You are stuck in a meeting,” “The toilet is next to the gossip queen’s desk,” and the horrific “Your boss enters at the same time as you”), “Problems on the Spot” and “Problems on the Way Out.” Some suggestions were realistic enough: No Eye Contact, No Talking, No Emotion, No Excuses. But the humor was a little dry. I mean, this is poop talk we’re having here! There are charts, legends, and diagrams but the humor…not to be found; perhaps it was flushed with the... well, you get the point. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez-Fischer

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 71


Book Reviews Category

Reference

Japanese Throwing Weapons By Daniel Fletcher Tuttle, $16.95, 128 pages ISBN 9784805311011 This is one of those specialized and fascinating facets of the Japanese martial arts. Basically, all the short range distraction and sword technique amplification devices a blacksmith could dream up are herein. Having learned under Yasuyuki Otsuka, Daniel Fletcher has rendered an English language overview of this subset of martial arts: the tactics and hardware of shuriken throwing techniques. There is good discussion of the way shuriken are embedded in most historical schools and practices, and fine technical

writing integrating sword and hand methodologies with shuriken usage. Fletcher San has provided good photographic illustrations and a systematic treatment that makes Japanese Throwing Weapons a fine reference work. The photographic treatment of the hardware is excellent, and the angular views of throws are cleanly illustrative; it should permit a reader to self-teach the techniques presented. A caution: some of the postural illustrations are constrained and exhibit poor hip position and insufficient flexion, an obvious artifact of still photography attempting to show dynamic movement. With that one proviso, I recommend this book for the martial arts aficionado or practitioner. Reviewed by David Lloyd Sutton A Trip to the Number Yard: A Fun and Easy Guide to Math You Need for Construction By Alan Cook Freshwater Press, $19.95, 113 pages ISBN 9780979409707 People enter a trade field such as construction for various reasons: a lack of interest or inability to pursue so-called “higher education,” a family business, or a genuine love of building. Many don’t realize how essential basic math skills are to this profession, both to the technical process of gaining a contractor’s license and in the day-to-day work that the job entails. And learning or brushing up on those math skills can be a challenge, since most college and adult math classes encompass so much that construction workers do not need to know. Alan Cook presents a solution to this dilemma: A Trip to the Number Yard. This handy little textbook is a primer for the math used by construction workers in their jobs. Topics covered include the so-called basics, such as determining area and working with fractions, to slightly more advanced concepts that readers will still find very useful, such as volume and calculating payroll taxes. All of this is smartly presented in the context of building a sample house so that readers can see exactly how this math applies to the job.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 72


Book Reviews

Category Reference

The book includes diagrams to visually illustrate the concepts, as well as countless examples and samples of the math in action. Amusing illustrations by Mary Scott complete the book, providing a nice element of comic relief to lighten the reading. Cook’s guide has great potential for construction workers of all types, both those who have been working the field for years as well as those just learning the trade. The information is provided in an easyto-understand format; concepts are clearly explained, and sample problems walk readers through practical use of the math, step-by-step. Cook has put together a real winner here; this book has great potential for those in the construction field. Sponsored Review Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little By Christopher Johnson Norton, $19.95, 246 pages ISBN 9780393077407 Headlines. Tweets. Status updates. Seems like most people today have something to say, and usually, they say it in 140 characters or less. Question is, is anyone listening? In Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little, branding consultant Christopher Johnson examines how the landscape of the short message has changed from the ad men on 5th Avenue to the stay-at-home mom who sells jewelry on Etsy. Seems these days, everyone writes copy, trying to grab attention. Using advertising slogans, movie titles, headlines, and several clichés, Johnson breaks down the art of writing small into four categories: meaning, sound, structure, and social context. Within each group, Johnson explains what does – and doesn’t – work. As a writer, I’m intrigued by the verbal culture Johnson talks about. How do we connect with others and make an impact with words? Yet, the element that is missing from the book is the instructional, how-to vibe that can help me make my short messages sizzle. Instead, I’m entertained, albeit greatly, but I feel a bit short-changed: like I’m on the tip of the iceberg of discovery, only to slide backward into the everyday abyss.

Reviewed by LuAnn Schindler The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life By Marion Roach Smith Grand Central Publishing, $12.00, 114 pages ISBN 9780446584845 This is hands-down one of the most honest books on writing ever; the slender, yet full-bodied endowment that it is. There are 112 pages that will have you clinging to every last point, period, and dangling participle. Marion Roach Smith takes her readers on a quest for the self, the stories that inhabit us, and how to connect the dots between writer and reader in telling our tales. With candid humor, personal narrative, and outright encouragement, she dares writers to stretch their minds to encompass the small and detailed rather than the vast, big picture of sharing. Sound a little too simple? It is and it is not. So often in writing memoir the details are glazed over to get to the incalculable amount of an experience. She puts the hammer down on that sort of thinking, “taking inventory of all my stories, acknowledging that many more exist, while looking for only those that fit this assignment,” helps to streamline thinking and put you on a path that leads to relationship. The reader needs a reason to keep the story within them, carrying it through their day and through their own experiences. Cramming that pack too full of events and lessons drags readers down and ultimately forces them to drop it—clearly not the goal for a writer. Instead Marion Roach Smith teaches how to lighten the load with only your finest offerings. The Memoir Project is a frank and funny date with a friend who tells you the truth and you love her for it. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez-Fischer

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 73


Book Reviews Category

Science & Nature

Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain By Michael S. Gazzaniga Ecco, $27.99, 272 pages ISBN 9780061906107 Tackling our evolutionary history, brain theory, and the world of the unconscious, Michael Gazzaniga’s latest book provides a thorough look at what neuroscience really knows about the brain. Drawing from his research on split

brain patients, Gazzaniga builds a basic framework for understanding the essentials of neuroscience. He devotes the first half of the book to the neuroscientific library and gently unpacks this otherwise dense subject while incorporating the larger issues of free will and personal responsibility. In a notable chapter about the uses of neuroscience in the courtroom, he discusses how the dangers of not believing in free will can release criminals from accountability. While Gazzaniga delivers a solid argument against the notion that free will is meaningless at times, he struggles to address the larger issue of personal responsibility. But he arrives at a weighty conclusion. He offers us a new way of seeing our existence - personal and social experiences constrain the brain. Our conscious reality, our real time, exists in the layers of brain and mind. Our struggle is to find ways to express our condition and see we are that abstraction that exist in space between the meeting of the minds. Reviewed by Wendy Iraheta 100 Plus By Sonia Arrison Basic Books, $25.99, 272 pages ISBN 9780465019663 In this very reader-friendly book, the author tackles the issue of increasing human longevity in the coming years and its future impact. Of especial interest to baby boomers is new technology that enables organ regeneration: stem cell therapy and genetic manipulation, along with the novel pharmaceuticals, promise healthier prognoses for the advancing years. Skillfully drawing from myths, the bible, history, and the literature, Arrison summarizes the cultural views of death and the persistent search for the fountain of youth. By tracing the history of science advances, health education, increased food availability, and economic stability, parallel gains in lifespan are graphically shown to correspond to the improvement. As a futurist, it may be predicted that increasing longevity will result in differing perspectives relating to legal issues, marriage and family, religious beliefs, employment prospects, and the social milieu. The picture provided for the practicability of increasing longevity and the social consequences of en-

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 74


Book Reviews

Category Science & Nature

abling a functioning older population is provocative. While the author optimistically focuses on the positive attributes of longer life, one needs to realistically view the increasing demand for assisted living facilities and nursing homes currently needed for senescent bodies and aged mind; the quality of life remains a moot point. Still, this is a compelling book, the contents of which will churn the thinking of the mature reader. Reviewed by Aron Row The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and SelfDeception in Human Life By Robert Trivers Basic Books, $28.00, 416 pages ISBN 9780465027552 Known as an erudite scholar on evolutionary theory, Robert Trivers serves as a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University. In this lengthy book, the author examines a phenomenon that he terms deceit and self-deception. Within the brain itself, images that may be termed reality are distorted to suit the individual. This an aspect of natural selection that serves to ensure the success of the species. The definition of self-deception itself is elusive, and the yardstick against which deceit and reality are measured remains obscure. Self-deception is viewed from many aspects: at the personal level, within the family, in sexual matters, and out to medicine, war, and religion. Guile appears to be an integral part of life; we tend to fool ourselves and deceive others, and it is a natural part of behavior. This exploration into immorality provides provocative reading and the reader will question one’s perception of self, others, and events, wondering what is really real and what is fabrication. Deception is common in this world as history is rewritten to suit the social order, and thinking adapts to changing customs. Trivers points out that lying can be costly and presents fascinating examples to illustrate this point in this intriguing account. Reviewed by Aron Row

The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It By Valerie Young Crown Business, $25.00, 304 pages ISBN 9780307452719 Workshop leader and public speaker, Valerie Young, has assembled some of her talks into a coherent treatise to apprise readers of the psyche’s weaknesses that sabotage success and deprive satisfaction. Females primarily suffer from the fear of success, that even when they do make the grade, they still are filled with self doubts that erode their competence. In this advice and self help book, the reader works through the illogical basis of such defeatist thoughts. In the dozen chapters aimed to correct female and male fears, scenarios are presented to illustrate sensitives situations, questionnaires are presented to expose reactions, exercises are listed to encourage more positive approaches.

How you define and experience competence, success, and failure has everything to do with how confident and competent you feel.”

The writing is smooth and the reader will find situations illustrated that have been experienced at different times. This is a book that will encourage those who feel insecure and alone with feelings of inadequacy. It is okay to feel vulnerable at times but it is not okay to feel guilty about it. While males generally do not feel guilt when they make mistakes, it seems to be a female characteristic -- no matter how successful-- to take blame for personal errors. The book presents the guidelines to overcome the distressing uncertainly that afflicts us all at one time or another. Reviewed by Aron Row

Click HERE for more Science & Nature book reviews on our website.

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 75


Book Reviews Category

churches around the world? I didn’t, but I do know. Craughwell shares information about 350 of the some-40,000 Saints and describes the relics of each. These relics can be placed into one of three categories. First-class relics include physical remains, such as hair or bone. A second-class relic is a personal possession of a saint, including clothing or letters. A third-class relic is an object, like cloth or a holy card, touched to a first-class relic. The alphabetical listing includes famous saints, like Saint Peter, and the not-so-famous, like Saint Foy, and discusses notable relics, such as the Holy Grail. Anyone interested in history will find Saints Preserved an enlightening read. Reviewed by LuAnn Schindler

Religion

Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics By Thomas J. Craughwell Image, $16.00, 313 pages ISBN 9780307590732 I’m not Catholic, but in real life, I’m a Catholic school educator. When I saw Thomas J. Craughwell’s Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics on the list, I grabbed it immediately. Why? I thought it would offer interesting information about some of the Saints. I wasn’t disappointed. For centuries, Catholics have preserved various relics from both saints and martyrs. But did you know that the hearts, teeth, and skulls of some saints are enclosed in

Wayward Son By Tom Pollack, Jim Alves, John Loftus Cascada Productions, $15.99, 505 pages ISBN 9781450755634 I’m kind of at a loss as to how to present this book to people. The book, Wayward Son is a thriller in the vein of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Wayward Son is a nested tale, the story opens with young archeologist Amanda James being invited to Italy to examine a recently uncovered observatory near Mt. Vesuvius. Once there, she triggers a mystical trap that sends her back into the far past, where she re-lives the life of Cain, Son of Adam and Eve, killer of Abel, and cursed by God. As Amanda experiences Cain’s life, she is unaware of the diabolical forces that are arranging themselves against her in the modern world. While Wayward Son is a decent thriller, I found myself closing the book repeatedly over the authors’ seeming inability to develop their characters through anything more than physical descriptions (everyone is well dressed and beautiful) and inappropriate anachronisms. Ancient people were not just like us! How they saw, experienced, and interacted with the world and each other are not how we interacted with it and each other. I’m not even going to touch the authors’ assumption that the Christian Bible is a historical document that accurately portrayed the world... Reviewed by Jonathon Howard

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 76


Book Reviews Category

Spirituality & Inspiration Here I Am: Using Jewish Spiritual Wisdom to Become More Present, Centered, and Available for Life By Leonard Felder Trumpeter, $15.95, 179 pages ISBN 9781590308448 Leonard Felder, a licensed psychologist in West Los Angeles, draws from his work with clients over the last thirty years combining traditional Jewish prayers and blessings used for centuries to refocus one’s mind. This book is very enjoyable and an invaluable guide that shows how Jewish spirituality can help us cope with those moments of intense stress that are part of everyday life. Felder has a long history of multi-faith counseling utilizing stress-management practices with clients whether Jewish or not. These people are looking for more awareness, clarity, and calmness when dealing with stress-related emotions. I believe that there are some lessons to be learned from this impressive book which includes examples from client experiences, explanation from mind-body psychology and neuroscience. The ideas which this reviewer wishes to share with the readers include: knowing when to intervene and let go in a situation, how to outsmart one’s moody anxious brain, finding inner quiet and peace when

one is agitated, and responding with wisdom when one is being treated harshly. An outstanding book which belongs in all libraries and households. Reviewed by Claude Ury Why We Love Them So: Surviving the Loss of an Animal Friend By Father Paul A. Keenan iUniverse.com, $14.95, 126 pages ISBN 9781440143403 The death of a pet always causes some remorse, and it can be hard to let go. Why We Love Them So is an exploration of how we deal with their death, and what steps we go through when we lose a valued pet. As the death of a pet is usually the same as the death of a family member, and few pet owners would dispute that pets are not part of the family, the passing of a pet can be devastating. This book is a look at the stages of mourning, as well as how to survive them. The book is almost an eulogy to the author’s lost pets. Besides dealing with bereavement issues, it also looks at other issues regarding pets, such as a poignant argument for euthanasia, as well as how sorrow can be a cause for the celebration of life. A nice touch is the list of organizations that can be contacted for help, as well as pets taken to a better place. As a discussion on the need to mourn, the book is an excellent anodyne for grieving heart. Although the reason for the short chapters is well-received, a little more content would not be an unwelcome thing. Also, the pictures would have done better if they were either collected into one section or there was more pets shown. But these are minor complaints, given the material covered. This is a book those that are still in the grieving process must read. Father Keenan makes for an excellent person to take you through the stages of grief, and it would be hard not to be consoled by his own grief at the loss of his pets. This is an excellent memorial to pets lost, and a way for owners to obtain some closure. Sponsored Review

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 77


Book Reviews Category

Books About Books

The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction in the Media By John C. Tibbetts Palgrave Macmillan, $27.00, 416 pages ISBN 9780230118171 Science fiction, fantasy, and horror are ways to communicate stories across time and space, a way to turn the mirror on ourselves and to see what we are truly made of. They give voices to our nightmares and hope for our future. They can inspire us to be a better person, or show us the night-

marish path that we currently travel. Science fiction gives us shows like Star Trek, movies like Star Wars, and writers like Frank Herbert. They excite the imagination to explore strange and new worlds. In this collection John Tibbetts takes us down the road of science fiction, fantasy, and horror with the writers, artists, and scholars who made it all possible. Mr. Tibbetts interviews great writers and artists that many people will recognize. In these interviews we get to explore the worlds they create, the works they write, and what has influenced them. This book is for any fan of this kind of writing. The interviews are informative and enlightening. This work explores the major themes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror in an entertaining format. Reviewed by Kevin Winter One Hundred Great Jewish Books: Three Millennia of Jewish Conversation By Lawrence A. Hoffman Bluebridge, $16.95, 352 pages ISBN 9781933346311 In Part One, the reader is introduced to the written works of Rabbis, whose major books span the period from late antiquity up to the early Middle ages. Part Two gives an overview of medieval philosophy, which sets forth the foundation of rabbinic masterpieces in terms of Jewish attitude on life and death. Parts Three to Nine gives the reader a sense of the change in Judaism, which has been called the period of modernity. The latter period begins with the European enlightenment in the l8th Century, which ended about a century later with the Jewish emancipation. During this latter period, Jews whose home base was in the ghettos, became active participants in local and national affairs.

Of all the books that line the shelves of a Jewish library it is the Siddur, not the Talmud , and not even the bible that Jews know best.”

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 78


Book Reviews

Category Books About Books

In the l800’s it is shown that Jews could easily become open Jews once again. They could exist without any social stigmas, fear of reprisals from the church, or government restrictions. This latter situation gave rise to such themes as Jewish Marxism, Zionism and modern Jewish religious denominations as Reform, or Orthodox. The two critical events in modern Jewish history, namely the holocaust and the founding of the Jewish State in l948, are described in Part Seven. Part Nine of this impressive book looks at the evolving expression of Judaism during the late l9th and 20th century. It discusses such topics as the Sabbath, the Haggadah (which one reads on Passover), being a Jewish Feminist, Jewish food, and Synagogue architecture in America. A must-read for Jews and non-Jews alike. An illuminating encounter with the Jewish experience showing all of its sensitivity and genius. It’s a beautiful exercise of the mind, which touches the heart and the soul. Reviewed by Claude Ury Deadly Powers: Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination By Paul A. Trout Prometheus Books, $26.00, 304 pages ISBN 9781616145019 Travel back to Pleistocene times, 2 million to 10,000 years ago, and view the food chain of that period-populated by beasts more ferocious than imagination allows. Picture Sabertooth tigers, gigantic killer cats, serpents eighty feet long, and many more on land. The sea housed a sampling of crocodiles, alligators, sharks, snakes; while in the air giant raptors similar to those viewed in the film ‘Jurassic Park’ held reign. Primates and man were emerging and were easy fodder for these voracious predators. In this riveting account, Paul Trout traces the evolution of man as vulnerable victim to skillful hunter as survival from these ferocious feeders demanded. Not only were weapons essential to escape extinction, but the fear factor transformed the incessant anxiety into coping mechanisms that developed into mythological tales. The

dramatic myths began with the origin of language and were verbal lessons recounting tales of the prevailing monsters. Many of these fearful creatures were deemed so powerful, they were made into gods.

The Nile croc is reputedly the biggest killer of humans on the African continent, responsible for more human deaths than lions, leopards, buffaloes, hippopotamuses, hyenas, rhinoceroses, and elephants combined.”

The book is a page-turner and will appeal to those fascinated by the story of man as prey to the most spine chilling carnivores that actually ruled the earth earlier on. Reviewed by Aron Row

e t i r w s l l k i w or boo f Become a book reviewer! email us three sample reviews of recent books (150-200 words) to reviews@1776productions.com

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 79


Book Reviews Category

Ceylon, passing, as darkness falls, people carrying torches held high, the sparks dropping behind them. Motoring through Morocco on 17 cents-a-gallon gasoline, we meet hippies from America’s “lost generation.” We ride a swift Berber camel through the Sahara, where Bowles undergoes a “baptism of solitude” in the absolute silence. As well as an astute observer of the political landscape, Bowles was a keen observer of the natural one, his wind swirling “the dust into tall yellow pillars,” his thorny argan trees growing bark scaly as crocodile hide. We go along as Bowles, an accomplished composer, records the ethnic music, watching the Berbers working themselves into a frenzy in dance and ordeals by fire. To feel a country’s pulse, Bowles passes hours in a Moroccan café, with its grass mats for sitting under the shade of grape leaves. It’s a happy experience to sit with him. Reviewed by Zara Raab

Travel

Travels: Collected Writings, 1950-1993 By Paul Bowles Ecco, $16.99, 507 pages ISBN 9780062067630 Writing when travel was comparatively safe and much of the world was as yet untouched by Bowles’ “gangrene” of modernism, Bowles’ rich vernacular captures the landscapes, heritage, political disasters, and above all the ordinary people of the cities and villages of North Africa, Ceylon, where he owned an off-shore island, Thailand, and Kenya. We ride a bullock-cart along the back roads of

Maya Roads: One Woman’s Journey Among the People of the Rainforest By Mary Jo McConahay Chicago Review Press, $16.95, 261 pages ISBN 9781569765487 Some people find the way to pursue their dreams. They know, at a young age that they want to travel places, learn about different cultures, ancient civilizations perhaps. Author Mary Jo McConahay is one such person and she takes readers deep into the history of an ancient people, the Maya, in her book Maya Roads - One woman’s journey among the people of the rain forest. McConahay’s travel memoir vividly depicts this deeplyhidden jungle civilization and the descendants that still live today, simply, in the muggy moist vegetation of rain forest in Central America. Through various chapters outlining numerous visits over several years, we begin to understand her interest in the history of these people. Conditions are less than ideal and the journey is difficult much of the time, but her determination to make known the story of the Maya never falters. She seeks out people that others caution her not to talk to. She is fearless. This is armchair travel at its best. One can feel the humidity, the damp of

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 80


Book Reviews

Category Travel

the rainforest, almost hear the wild inhabitants, and smell the earth. As someone with my own fascination for Native American history and cultures, this book was enjoyable. And McConahay’s writing is descriptive and telling, and portrays an oft misunderstood people whose history is rich with mystery, great beauty, and terrifying violence. The Maya were/are strong people. McConahay’s Maya Roads is an excellent journalistic chronicle of their strengths, their flaws, and their perseverance. Reviewed by Laura Friedkin California History for Kids: Missions, Miners, and Moviemakers in the Golden State, Includes 21 Activities By Katy S. Duffield Chicago Review Press, $16.95, 130 pages ISBN 9781569765326 As a homeschooling parent, I have come to realize that history can either come alive for a child or die on the page, along with the child’s interest in history. For this reason, I like Katy Duffield’s California History for Kids. In a little over one hundred pages, Duffield covers the major events in California history from the Pleistocene era to Schwarzenegger’s governorship. In doing so, she includes authentic black-and-white photographs and anecdotes that break up and enliven the text. Better still, she provides twenty-one, fun, hands-on activities, such as Chumash rock painting, making an astrolabe, sailing a Spanish galleon made from a milk,carton, baking a hardtack snack, creating a railroad cipher, and packing an earthquake preparedness kit. Finally, Duffield includes a nice timeline summary of California history and a list of additional resources, including books (differentiated by the reader’s age), websites and places to visit. California has an interesting past, and this book will prove an excellent choice for the teacher or parent seeking to make that past an memorable experience for children. Reviewed by Annie Peters

In the Dolphin’s Wake: Cocktails, Calamities and Caiques in the Greek Islands By Harry Bucknall Bene Factum Publishing, $12.95, 298 pages ISBN 9781903071342 Author Harry Bucknall is a freelance travel writer, and his works have been published both nationally and internationally. He’s got a varied background of trades, having served in the British army, consulting in the Middle East, working in the oil and mining industries, as well as being a theater producer. That said, one would anticipate a captivating tale of adventure on the high seas in his new book In The Dolphin’s Wake – Cocktails, Calamities and Caiques in the Greek Islands. Unfortunately, for this reader, Bucknall tries too hard to appeal to a wide audience, with heavy handed doses of historical geographical information with snippets of light-hearted dialogue and descriptions of conversations and experiences tossed in, in this chronicle of his journey through the Greek Islands. His writing is thorough and very detailed, and at times, there is great humor in these recollections of his challenges and the people he met along the way. But digging deeper into the book, I found myself yearning more for the humor and easy banter, as the descriptions and asides of history were long-winded and bloated. Greece is an exotic place steeped in history. There is great beauty in the sunbleached snowy white architecture that clings precariously above deep indigo blue ocean waves. I’d probably have enjoyed this book more if Bucknall had included pictures of the places he described. I expected a light humorous book that instead hit me squarely over the head with heavy historical information. I honestly had difficulty finishing this book. Reviewed by Laura Friedkin

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 81


Book Reviews Category

This is how a book on a particular occupation should be written. There is almost no wasted space in this book, and even the illustrations work. The detail in terms of how to cope with problems as a pirate covers almost every aspect of pirate life, including what to do if the pirate is marooned. The history of piracy is explored, but only with the lens of practicality versus academic; if the history doesn’t give some sort of insight it is omitted, which is why there is so little history. If time travel is ever invented, this is the book that they should take with them to the era of the Jolly Roger. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim

Popular Culture

The Pirate Handbook By Pat Croce Chronicle Books, $18.95, 176 pages ISBN 9780811878524 Pirates have an effective business model, so it can be worth it to look at them. The Pirate Handbook takes a very thorough look at a pirate’s life and how to live it. Samples of diaries, factoids about pirates, and how to deal with things like a pirate are covered. Outside of piratical history, it touches on almost every aspect of how to be a pirate, and even that history is touched on. For someone looking to be a pirate, this is an excellent place to begin.

Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes By Adilifu Nama University of Texas Press, $24.95, 180 pages ISBN 9780292726741 Comic books are still one of the biggest pop culture items in the United States. Comic book movies regularly top the box office. Comic books have been a place to explore racial identities, racial politics, culture wars, and political divides without raising awkward questions or a violent backlash. During the height of the Civil Rights movement, comic books took on a previously neglected topic: the issue of race and black superheroes. Adilfu Nama explores the world of black superheroes in the two main companies, DC and Marvel. Mr. Nama expertly explores the changing role that black heroes have played in the world of comic books. From powerful, ethnocentric to the awkward and stereotypical. Marvel and DC have created some iconic characters, but they made some stumbles along the way. In the end, they did a good job of exploring race relations in a time when that was a volatile topic. They presented it to young readers in ways that they could understand. The impact on young readers might not have been great, but the writers knew what they were doing. Black heroes might not be around as much as they have in the past, but they will always have a role to play in the world of superheroes. Reviewed by Kevin Winter

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 82


Book Reviews Category

to Las Vegas, Raymond could count cards like a machine. It was a great movie. Except that story was not the whole story of autism. There are autistics like the fictional Raymond. One of the children in Respecting Autism has the ability to tell time in his head. Without a clock anywhere in sight, he knows with pinpoint accuracy when it is 3:30. Equally, he can also memorize entire city maps and transit routes after a few minutes of study. Even with that, however, although he knows his route and destination, when faced as a pedestrian with a stop light, it may turn red to green to red to green five to fifteen times before he will cross the street. There is much more to Autism than just strange memory tricks, which only a few autistics have. Autism is a term that covers a range of disorders, including but not limited to, sensory sensitivities, inabilities to process knowledge into action, or compulsive hand fluttering. The Rebecca School in New York attempts with considerable success to assist autistic children in developing and overcoming their disability. Its methodology is detailed in the case studies presented in Respecting Autism. The child is given an initial therapy regimen, then Dr. Stanley Greenspan would assess both client and treatment and make his recommendations. I was truly saddened to read that Dr. Greenspan passed away not long before this book was released. He seems to have been a wonderful and intuitive practitioner. The methodology is very much individually oriented and play-based; specifically, play is in accordance with Dr. Greenspan’s Floortime model. The client-child is given full respect for his or her individuality and creativity. Trainertherapists follow the child’s lead, while attempting to increase circles of communication and expand skills. I truly believe that this book is a valuable addition to the Respecting Autism: The Rebecca School DIR Casebook shelves of both therapists, special education teachers, and for Parents and Professionals parents of autistic children. These are proven techniques By Stanley I. Greenspan, Gil Tippy and strategies for the former to put in place, and for the latVantage Press, $19.95, 226 pages ter to insist upon. An intriguing book that provides methISBN 9780533164547 When you hear or read the word “Autism,” the first image ods for hope. Reviewed by Hubert O’Hearn that comes to your mind is likely the 1988 Dustin Hoffman - Tom Cruise movie Rain Man. Hoffman played Raymond, the autistic younger brother. Spill a container of toothpicks on a table, Raymond knew how many had been spilled. Go

Parenting & Families

Sacramento Book Review • February 2012 • 83

Sacramento Book Review - February 2012  

A bi-monthly book review publication, covering books from about 40 different categories. In addition to posting about 300 reviews a month on...

Sacramento Book Review - February 2012  

A bi-monthly book review publication, covering books from about 40 different categories. In addition to posting about 300 reviews a month on...

Advertisement