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Sacramento

Feb 10

Book Review VOLUME 2, ISSUE 6

F R E E

NEW AND OF INTEREST

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Valentine’s Day Page 14

Read Across America

See what children have to say about their favorite book and why reading is important Page 11

5

The Last Will of Moira Leahy Twins, again Page 6

500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference

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Moving in Place By Anne Tyler Knopf, $25.95, 288 pages

Liam Pennywell has just been downsized from his teaching position at a private school. Since he’s 60, he’s mostly settled on retiring now. He downsizes into a smaller, simpler apartment, and after the first night he’s slept there, Liam finds himself in a hospital room, recovering from an injury he can’t remember incurring. Distressed not so much by the break-in to his apartment (in which nothing was stolen because he owns nothing of value), but by the inability to remember “a piece of his life,” Liam tries to figure out a way to recover the missing memory. His effort to do so leads him on a path he wouldn’t have imagined.

Anne Tyler, as always, creates a cast of characters who are average people living mostly mundane lives, when one small twist of fate knocks them out of their orbits. Liam is a man who has never expected much nor contributed much and has seemed mostly content, and the twist in Noah’s Compass leads him to re-examine his life — or, rather, examine it for the first time. Tyler’s newest is not her best, lacking more depth that could make it great, but it should largely satisfy those who are fans of her work. Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

If you want to give back while taking a break from your cubicle life, you’re sure to find inspiration here Page 10

My New Orleans: The Cookbook

This is more than a cookbook: it’s a calling, inviting you to turn the next page, and the next, and the next Page 18

92 Reviews INSIDE!


History The Vikings: A History By Robert Ferguson Viking Adult, $29.95, 464 pages There have been many books written on the Vikings, and everyone has their own stereotypical – and in most cases, inaccurate – idea of who the Vikings were and what they were like; media has done much to reaffirm these clichés. Thankfully, there is The Vikings: A History by a “leading authority in the field of Scandinavian studies,” Robert Ferguson. Ferguson puts all the misconceived and incorrect notions of Vikings to rest, launching into a comprehensive history of these northern peoples and what effect they had on Europe from the eighth centuries on through the first millennium. Ferguson pulls from many sources, and presents not just the viewpoint of the Vikings and their achievements, but also short histories on the northern British Isles, Charlemagne, and the various kingdoms of the European continent, showing how greatly affected they were by the Viking attacks and takeovers. The Vikings: A History will clear away the image of a horn-helmeted brute and replace it with a developed, complex culture that was intelligent and creative, and had reasons for the attacks against the various peoples of Europe. Reviewed by Alex Telander As If an Enemy’s Country By Richard Archer Oxford University Press, $24.95, 271 pages Much of the American Revolution has been romanticized and elevated to near myth that we forget that how with minor changes it could have never happened. Thirteen colonies that had their own animosities toward one another coordinated rebellion against the most powerful empire in the world to eventually succeed? It sounds ridiculous. Richard Archer’s As If an Enemy’s Country helps dispel the mythic aspects of the American Revolution and shows how in just one small state and mainly in one city, Boston, the seeds of revolution were sown. Archer details how it was not inevitable that Massachusetts, or New York, Pennsylvania, or any of the colonies would eventually go to war to separate themselves from the British Empire. Decisions that were made by the colonial governor, British officers, and the elites of Boston backed by

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artisans, laborers, and sailors helped shape Bostonians as a people with their own identity. As If an Enemy’s Country is not for the lay historian; it isn’t a book that you pick up to browse and learn a little; this is a serious historical analysis rich in details, primary sources, and the minutiae that make up our history. Excellent, but not for everyone. Reviewed by Jonathon Howard From Every End of This Earth By Steven V. Roberts Harper, $25.99, 323 pages From Every End of This Earth is about immigration, America, and a reminder that the two cannot be separated. Each chapter is dedicated to a different family, thirteen in total, and tells the story about why they came to this country and the shock of transitioning into a culture so different from their own. Steven V. Roberts selected people from multiple countries (China, Rwanda, Greece, and Afghanistan, to name a few) and multiple generations to interview for this book, which allows each chapter to have a different perspective on the American experience. Roberts does an excellent job of uniting the thirteen different stories into one book by separating it into five different sections - The Survivors, The International Entrepreneurs, The Business Owners, The Professionals, and The Woman – and writing an introduction for each. The style is journalistic in that it is clear and concise without being dry. There are moments that are difficult to read, but rather than being a detriment to the story, they increase its honesty. This book has been published in a time where the value of immigration is debated, and is worth reading no matter what side of the argument you support. Reviewed by Kayli Crosby

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20 09 -2010 SE A SON Crest Theatre | 7:30 p.m. Lectures, Readings, Conversations

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ABR AHA M VERGHESE National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Cutting for Stone, My Own Country February 11, 2010

SCOTT SIMON Peabody Award | Emmy Award NPR Host - Weekend Edition Saturday April 26, 2010

RUTH REICHL James Beard Award | Food Critic Not Becoming My Mother, Garlic and Sapphires March 26, 2010

JOHN WATERS Filmmaker & Writer Role Models (May 2010), Pink Flamingos, Hairspray May 26, 2010

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Sacramento

Book Review 1776 Productions 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 Ph. (916) 503-1776 info@1776productions.com EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Ross Rojek ross@1776productions.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR Kaye Cloutman kaye.cloutman@1776productions.com GRAPHIC DESIGN/LAYOUT Heidi Komlofske heidi.komlofske@1776productions.com COPY EDITORS Autumn Conley Diane Jinson EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Jen LeBrun Jordan Dacayanan DISTRIBUTION Sacramento Distribution Services Mari Ozawa ADVERTISING SALES Shawn Barnett sales@1776productions.com www.SacramentoBookReview.com The Sacramento Book Review is published monthly by 1776 Productions. The opinions expressed in these pages are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sacramento Book Review or Sacramento Book Review advertisers. All images are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders. All words © 2009, 1776 Productions. xx print run - 10,000 copies.

Subscriptions Send $18.00 for 12 monthly issues to 1776 Productions, 1215 K Street, 17th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Become a Book Reviewer If you would like to review books for us, send three sample reviews in the body of an email to reviews@1776productions. com, along with the category areas you are interested in reviewing. Reviews are uncompensated, except for a review copy of the book and publishing credit. But you do get to read books before all your friends, so that should count for something.

IN THIS ISSUE History...........................................................2 Horror............................................................4 Home & Garden..............................................4 Modern Literature..........................................5 Mystery, Crime & Thrillers.............................6 Historical Fiction............................................6 Biographies & Memoirs..................................7 Music & Movies...............................................7 Science Fiction & Fantasy...............................8 Popular Fiction...............................................9 Young Adult..................................................10 Travel...........................................................10 Read Across America................................ 11-13 Valentine’s Day............................................. 14 Tweens.........................................................15 Reference......................................................15 Poetry & Short Stories..................................16 Current Events.............................................16 Business & Investing.................................... 17 Humor-NonFiction....................................... 17 Cooking, Food & Wine..................................18 Religion........................................................19 Parenting & Families....................................20 Technology...................................................20 Science & Nature..........................................21 Urban Fiction................................................22 Philosophy....................................................22 Sequential Art..............................................23 Art, Architecture & Photography.................24

FROM THE EDITOR Welcome to our one-and-a-half-year anniversary issue of the Sacramento Book Review. We’re still excited about producing it, and we’re hoping you’re still enjoying each issue. This month brings a “Read Across America” section with some of our kid readers sharing their favorite books, and a Valentine’s Day section of romance and relationship books. February is also the San Francisco Writers Conference for new and experienced writers to network, learn, and teach. We’re going to be displaying there, so if you are one of our readers and attending, please look for us in the cafe at the Mark Hopkins hotel. One of the more interesting developments in the last year or so are the multitude of eReaders and pricing and formats for books for them. As of this editorial, Amazon has agreed to new pricing on all the books published by Macmillian (Tor, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Henry Holt), after having pulledall their titles, both electronic and physical from online sales. Macmillian had just release new pricing for their ebooks as part of the new Apple iBook store and the iPad (horrible name, btw.) The book industry is beginning to face what the music industry went through with iTunes being the dominant platform and setting pricing standards. Only this time, the publishers have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight from the music industry’s experiences. But, readers interested in the future of the book industry (not just the physical form you are going to read from) will want to pay attention, because this development will effect how books in the future will be priced. Thanks for picking us up again. We hope you find a couple of good books to read this issue. And please find some time to drop by the website - sacramentobookreview.com. Many reviews that didn’t make it into the paper end up there, and local Sacramentans also can find upcoming events and author appearances. Ross Rojek —Editor-in-Chief ross@1776productions.com

Announcing...

We launched an exciting new feature on our website and in the printed newspaper called Viewpoints. You’ll find columns from some of our reviewers--experts in their respective fields of photography, gardening, writing, publishing, relationships & sex, mental health, and book reviewing. New columns uploaded weekly at: www.sacramentobookreview.com

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Horror No Doors, No Windows By Joe Schreiber Del Rey, $14.00, 288 pages Small town secrets, an eerie house, and an unfinished manuscript form some of the support structures in Joe Schreiber’s haunted house novel No Doors, No Windows. It is also a story about a writer, Scott Mast, who returns to his hometown in New Hampshire to attend his father’s funeral. Scott initially stays with his brother Owen, who is the lone parent of Henry, Scott’s nephew. Owen never recovered fully from the death of his and Scott’s mother a decade ago and has succumbed to alcoholism. This is only the tip of the iceberg’s darkness, because Scott, a writer himself, finds a manuscript revealing dark deeds, on which his father was working. “A precise, creepy, and engaging novel that pulls no punches - highly recommended.”

Scott returns to skeletons in the closet, people whom he left behind when he moved to Seattle and gave little consideration to in the intervening years. These include an old girlfriend, a town-wide tragedy, the town’s most popular girl, and Round House – a dark house not far from where Scott’s father crashed his car and died. On one level, No Doors, No Windows is very much a haunted house story. Scott soon finds himself spending a great deal of time in Round House trying to finish the creepy manuscript on which his father was working. He soon wonders if the dark events relayed in the unfinished manuscript actually occurred in Round House. Some of the conventions in the novel are familiar – the darkness surrounding the “present” of the novel is informed by events generations removed from the protagonist and a haunted writer struggling with his craft have been done on more than one occasion by Stephen King and recently to great effect by Caitlín R. Kiernan in The Red Tree. However, Schreiber terrifically takes the familiar elements and molds them into his own satisfying vision of darkness. Schreiber’s style might be considered sparse and natural. Characters who have known each other don’t immediately unfold their histories when they come together; there are no para-

graphs and/or pages of exposition. Characters simply act as themselves and speak without regard for the reader’s foreknowledge of these characters. In this respect, Schreiber paints a very realistic picture of how these people would interact. No Doors, No Windows// is a taut and emotional ghost story, the root of whose hauntings are revealed carefully and deftly. Schreiber has written a precise, solid and engaging novel that pulls no punches and is recommended. Reviewed by Rob Bedford The Girl On Legare Street By Karen White NAL, $15.00, 335 pages Most people inherit things like eye color and a tendency towards premature baldness from their parents. Melanie Middleton shares something even more bizarre with her mother…the ability to talk to ghosts. But after her mother walked out on her and her father over three decades ago, Melanie would rather pretend she didn’t even have a mother, much less one that she shares an unusual psychic talent with. Except now Melanie’s mother has returned, insisting that Melanie is in danger from a vengeful presence that occupies their ancestral Charleston home and is convinced that only by working together can the two of them banish the evil spirit.

“That would have been an acceptable explanation, but in my world—where phone calls from people long dead weren’t as unusual an occurrence as most people would expect—I wasn’t satisfied.” The Girl on Legare Street is a real pageturner, mostly due to regular ghostly appearances, the pace at which each twist in the hundred-yearold mystery is carefully (and sometimes startlingly) revealed, and also due to the superb cast of believable characters. Unfortunately, the final conclusion of the book feels more like bracing yourself for a strong punch that never gets thrown and the pentup anticipation keeps you waiting for the conclusion even after you’ve read the last line of the book. However, this is still an enjoyable read for historical mystery lovers, despite the somewhat incorporeal finale. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz

Home & Garden The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible (10th Anniversary Edition) By Edward C. Smith Storey Publishing, LLC, $24.95, 351 pages This is truly a must-own for any gardener. A Vegetable Gardener’s Bible is an in-depth guide covering everything you need to know: where to plant your garden, soil, seeds, diseases, and details on specific veggies from artichokes to thyme. What sets this apart from other garden guides is its attention to detail, complete with photos and illustrations. First, the narrative explains the case. For instance, the section on cold frames begins with the author’s personal insight, “A cold frame is one of those tools I didn’t know I needed until I got one” (page 62). (Frankly, the same can be said of this book!) Next, you’ll find instructions on how to build one of your own. Finally, there are step-by-step instructions for using this tool, including sidebar best-practice tips. The “plant directory” is a true standout in the gardening book genre. Not only does it provide tips on sowing and growing, but more importantly, it tells you how to harvest when ripe, complete with photos. This section alone will lead new gardeners to

success. With this guidebook, you aren’t left guessing. Between the superb blend of written explanation, drawings, and bullet points, the author truly covers all your gardening bases. Reviewed by Amber K. Stott The New Low-Maintenance Garden By Valerie Easton Timber Press, $29.95, 284 pages Whether you’re looking to entertain, grow vegetables, or create a Zen cove, The New Low-Maintenance Garden offers ideas and resources. This helpful guide features real-life anecdotes from yards across the country. You’ll learn how an urban couple turned a tiny outdoor space into a hip place to entertain. You’ll meet a California wom-

an who transformed the notion of front yard into an edible landscape. You’ll learn about rooftop garden solutions, water-wise landscapes, and even container growing. If none of these sound exceptionally “new” or “low-maintenance,” author Valerie Easton readily provides the contemporary twist to each approach. She recommends techniques like growing native plants, purchasing high-quality landscape materials, and “editing” your plant varieties. Fertilizing chemicals are out; composting is in. Lawns are eliminated; raised beds are incorporated. Hardscaping, design, and structure

are emphasized. “Less pruning, less watering, less fertilizing, less manipulation of the garden uses fewer resources and creates less waste,” Easton writes (page 162). This text offers a broad overview to meet the needs of varied gardening interests. If you’re looking for photographic inspiration, key tips for garden victory, additional books and resources, or success stories from other gardeners, you’ll find it all in this well-written, easy-to-navigate guide. Reviewed by Amber K. Stott


Modern Literature Hot Springs By Geoffrey Becker Tin House, $14.95, 318 pages Manic and irresponsible behavior are the two main ingredients in Geoffrey Becker’s Hot Springs. The novel’s protagonist, Bernice Click, is a thirty-something-year-old Gen X-er who decides--on a whim--that it would be best to move her daughter from a sleepy Arizona town to the bustling metropolis of Baltimore. The only problem is that Bernice gave her daughter, Emily, up for adoption five years ago to a seemingly nice Christian couple. From the start of this novel, readers are given a glimpse into Bernice’s madness. And from this madness comes Bernice’s rationalization for kidnapping Emily. Bernice’s likable aloof personality slowly pings away at readers’ emotions until they are convinced that--yes--it is best for the child to be with her biological mother on a cross-country drive. Also falling under the spell of Bernice’s roguishness is Landis, her boyfriend and accessory in the late-night kidnapping. Once in Baltimore, more tidbits about Bernice’s life are revealed, and here all pity is lost for this lost soul. Bernice’s pings of the heart are seen for what they really are--a felony. Becker is a phenomenal storyteller; only a writer of his caliber could have pulled this off so well. Reviewed by Joseph Kopaczynski

Cockroach By Rawi Hage Norton, $23.95, 320 pages In Cockroach, Lebanese-Canadian author Rawi Hage paints a dark, twisted, misanthropic picture of the immigrant community in Montreal, focusing on a man who, although unnamed, can almost be called the book’s title character, a self-professed thief and part-time cockroach (in his mind, at least) who, after a failed suicide attempt, allows a glimpse into his hand-to-mouth existence. The world portrayed in Cockroach, and the world inhabited by its main character, is rife with fellow immigrants, many of whom our narrator abhors, incuding a well-meaning therapist who cannot understand the motivations of her patient, having never experienced trauma and violence of the manner he has; of bourgeois, pretentious, self-satisfied yuppie-hippies who snort cocaine, eat expensive food and revel in slumming with the “exotic”; and an Iranian love interest whose past experiences have wounded her so tremendously that violence may be the only remedy. “As I went down I noticed the low beams that hung above the staircase. I bent my long whiskers and thought how self-absorbed these humans are. All they ever build is for their own kind and their own height.” Complete with drugs, sex, violence and a deep understanding of the conflict inherent in immigrant communities, Cockroach is an interesting investigation into the psyche of

the émigré, especially those from war-torn regions, who relocate to new countries and end up lost in the system, in the culture, and in themselves. An interesting, entertaining and exciting read throughout, and a strong novel that digs deep into the life and mind of a character who is at once unlikeable, potentially psychotic and deeply sympathetic. Reviewed by Ashley McCall The Last Will of Moira Leahy: A Novel By Therese Walsh Shaye Areheart Books, $24.00, 292 pages Therese Walsh’s first novel is a story of twins; a pair of near mystical sisters who call to mind the twins in Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. The twins share thoughts, a unique language and their lives until an accident with tragic consequences for the piano-playing prodigy Moira. Maeve, the narrator, must then find the means to continue her life on her own. She’s assisted on her journey by finding a magical keris sword, and this leads her to Europe, where she finds out special things about her life and her sister’s life. Maeve blames herself for the accident involving Moira and the journey she takes provides her with a new perspective and much-needed forgiveness. This is a well-told and very entertaining read from Walsh, although the reader must be willing to suspend reality as parts border on magic and science fiction. There’s also a tremendous amount of jumping around, jarring the reader’s patience with the lack of chronological order. Sticking with the story until the

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end will, however, reward the reader with a satisfying conclusion to this unique story by a very promising writer. Reviewed by Joseph Arellano The Passport By Herta Müller; Translated by Martin Chalmers Serpent’s Tail, $12.95, 94 pages In The Passport, Windisch, the miller in a German village in a small Romanian town, yearns to leave his troubled home for West Germany, and he undertakes to obtain a passport. Such a goal is none too easy a task, however, and to reach his goal he must submit to a series of indignities that unseat his perception of what it means to be a man, and a father. Set against the bleak landscape of Ceausescu’s dictatorship, the novel chronicles the trials faced by those people for whom escape—and freedom—is a tantalizingly close but ultimately distant dream. Muller, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature, is largely unknown in the United States, and The Passport, the first of her novels to be translated into English, is a stunning introduction to her jewel-like prose, hard and clear as a diamond. Her short sentences— “The floor slopes. The floor rises. It rises high against the wall.”—eerily flatten objects and landscape, people and animals, into a dreary, hopeless tableau where humanity and compassion, if they are to be found at all, are painfully elusive. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell

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Mystery, Crime & Thrillers Mister Slaughter By Robert McCammon Subterranean Press, $24.95, 440 pages Flushed with success (and no small amount of fame) from his most recent triumph, Matthew Corbett, apprentice problem-solver for the respected Herrald Agency, is on his way to becoming a gentleman of good standing in the New York colonies. But even an up-and-coming young man with a quick mind can be led astray, as Corbett soon discovers in a most grisly fashion. Charged with escorting a psychotic murderer from an asylum to the New York gaol, Corbett and his colleague, Hudson Greathouse, set in motion a series of calamitous events, the effects of which will stay with them until the end of their days. “With each step Slaughter took towards his prey, he seemed to grow… His spine lengthened, his chest pushed forward, his shoulders bulged. Matthew had the mad thought: He’s crawling out of his hole.” Through the streets of colonial New York, to the Amish valleys of early Pennsylvania, through the hillsides and forests of a young America, Mister Slaughter is one hell of an eye-popping ride. McCammon managed to take an African warrior (a mute), a crossdressing sycophant (who happens to be the Mayor), an unhinged madman (with a gentleman’s manners), a noble (yet insane) Indian brave, a courageous (yet doomed) girl and an upright (yet flawed) young man and blend them together into a spine-tingling

mystery with a touch of historical flavor that you won’t regret sinking your teeth into. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz Deeper than the Dead By Tami Hoag Bantam, $26.95, 432 pages It’s 1985, and in the idyllic town of Oak Knoll a serial killer has revealed his presence by leaving a body out in the open to be found. Fifth-graders from the local elementary school stumble across the body and the traumatic event exposes the secret lives of their families as some of their parents end up under the scrutiny of the police and the FBI. Vince Leone, a veteran agent who recently survived being shot in the head, comes to Oak Knoll to unofficially assist on the case and finds himself attracted to the local fifth-grade teacher. But as the teacher tries to help the kids, she may come too close to the killer and may end up next on the list of victims. Tami Hoag is known for writing character-driven mysteries and Deeper Than the Dead is no exception. Going back in time to when profiling and forensic technologies were in their infancy is an interesting plot device, but does not add too much to the overall plot. Some characterizations are also somewhat cliché. But Hoag still has a talent for creating compelling characters and adding touches of romance. Doesn’t break new ground, but is solidly entertaining. Reviewed by Theresa Lucas

Grave Passage By William Doonan Glencannon Press, $22.95, 277 pages In his book Grave Passage, author William Doonan gives us detective Henry Grave. During his many years on the planet Henry has acquired many traits, rude, obnoxious, obtrusive and funny. He uses all of these characteristics or rather Doonan uses these to make this a delightful and interesting read. Henry is called upon to solve a murder on a cruise ship. He takes us for an adventure on the high seas intrigue that is soooooo entertaining. What can I say--I started reading this book with the anticipation that it would be an average murder mystery, and boy was I wrong. This was so much more; it exceeded my expectations by far. I was bummed when I got to that last page because that meant the story was over. Aside from the wonderful characters the book is very well written. Doonan’s writing style is one that really draws you into the story line. Doonan’s writing style also has a kind of easy eloquence to it. Not a lot of big intellectual words just that the words and sentences come together flowing so well in a way that you rarely see from a new author. Reviewed by Marc Filippelli

The Breach By Patrick Lee Harper, $7.99, 384 pages Suppose you’re Travis Chase – an ex-cop and ex-con – working in Alaska now and going straight. Hiking in the backcountry, you come across a plane crash – specialized 747, murdered crew, and the dead wife of the U.S. President. A hand written message from the dead woman – track the criminals and kill them, and kill the hostages they’ve taken because they have too much knowledge; and there are references to an organization called Tangent and to a dangerous little blue sphere. Tracking the criminals, you kill the hostage takers, rescue one of the hostages – sexy Paige Campbell – and recover the sphere, but now you’ve made yourself the target of a sinister master criminal with seemingly limitless resources and a desire for world domination. What are the capabilities of the blue sphere – the Whisper – that makes it worth killing for? And what’s this tear in the world – the Breach, result of a scientific experiment gone wrong – that has everyone so concerned? ? The Breach by Patrick Lee combines action with science fiction and makes good reading through the first half of the book. Then the plot goes from interesting (if unbelievable) to somewhat unraveled. A decent read, but not a masterpiece. Reviewed by Douglas McWilliams

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter By Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway Crown, $24.99, 336 pages Lady Vernon and Her Daughter is a novel based on Jane Austen’s early unfinished novella Lady Susan, which tells the story of a widowed titled woman and her unmarried daughter left virtually penniless after the untimely death of her husband, Lord Vernon. Lady Vernon relies on her friends and, at times, on her brother-in-law; but more than anything else, she relies on her wits as she seeks to claim both a rightful inheritance and a well-to-do husband for her daughter. There are

rumor-mongers set to destroy everything, elegant bachelors ready to defend a woman’s honor, and older matrons quick to offer advice. While not an uninteresting or disengaging book, complete with a slick plot and tight narrative, there is a shallowness to the characters and their actions. This shallowness is, to some extent, inevitable, given that the novel sprung from a work by one of the greatest writers of any era. Comparisons with the original and with Austen herself can never be far from readers’ minds, and that’s one tough comparison to win. Rubino and Rubino-Bradway try mightily, but the cards are stacked against them here. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell

Historical Fiction The Yellow House By Patricia Falvey Center Street, $21.99, 329 pages The setting is the highly dramatic revolutionary period in Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century. Eileen O’Neill’s family is at the epicenter. The “Yellow House” in which she spent her childhood is lost to her through political upheaval, and regaining this house and the sense of home it represents becomes the central focus of her young adulthood. Falvey very successfully weaves together the politics, history, and landscape of Ireland

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in this period. She deftly creates a heroine with strong personality and believable convictions, adds interesting heroes (one a passionate revolutionary leader and one an ardent pacifist) who offer the heroine alternative choices for romantic love. And the island country itself becomes a character: green rocky hills, Catholic rules and comforts, whiskey, music, weavers and mill workers. With this setting and these characters as her tools, Falvey brilliantly illustrates the cultural, political, and economic conflicts that result in erecting Ireland’s North/South dividing border. The well-researched history of the period emerges through the characters, their conflicts, and their choices. The story is absorbing and satisfying historical fiction. Reviewed by Marcia J

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Biographies & Memoirs William H. Miner - The Man and the Myth By Joseph C. Burke Langdon Street Press, $25.00, 556 pages William H. Miner (1862 to 1930) was a self-made man in a time where such men were legend, but because he chose to focus his philanthropy to one specific area of the county, New York’s Champlain Valley, many of us may not have heard of him. An orphan at ten, he was sent to a rural Chazy, New York homestead to be raised by his aunt and uncle. The farm was a loving home, but offered little opportunity to an intelligent boy and like many in the late 1800’s, he was lured to the city. Working his way up, first through an apprenticeship at Pray Manufacturing in Minneapolis, he eventually held many patents for railroad appliances which made him his fortune. Childless, he and his wife eventually made their way back to his Chazy homestead where he decided that the reason so many youths left farms and rural cities was because the small farms were not changing with the times and

scientific accomplishments of the industrial revolution. He saw education, power and healthcare as the keys to success in the Champlain Valley and sought to underwrite the Chazy Rural School, Physicians Hospital and eventually an agricultural institute. ’’Success could still depend not on who you were but on what you could do.’’ Many myths surround W.H. Miner, but what Burke was able to confirm about the man was that he was ahead of his time and he worked tirelessly for the area that he grew up in to bring it into the 21st century. Reviewed by Gwen Stackler Michelangelo: The Artist, The Man and his Times By William E. Wallace Cambridge University Press, $30.00, 401 pages The life of Michelangelo is the most documented outside of Leonardo da Vinci, both in fiction and non-fiction, from the movie The Agony and the Ecstasy to the many books written on the life and art of Michelangelo, from the Sistine Chapel to David. Is there room for yet another biography on Michelangelo? William Wallace attempts to answer the main question. He only slightly answers the question. Mr. Wallace takes a

Music & Movies Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo, and Pygmies By Stewart Copeland HarperStudio, $19.99, 330 pages Readers looking to find the dirt on internal Police battles from the band’s heyday won’t find much of it in drummer Stewart Copeland’s memoir Strange Things Happen. The well-written and funny memoir is an entertaining journey through the strange rhythms, adventures, ritual, and mojo after the breakup of the trio rock sensation of the 1980s. It starts just about when he looks in his closet at his “exotic collection of leather pants, hostile shirts and pointy shoes,� and realizes he is a forty-something father of seven children, a “tax-paying, property-owning, investment-holding lotus-eater� and, therefore, has nothing to wear. Copeland’s life didn’t end with the band. He is a sought-after composer of film and, of all things, opera. He still rocks. And he has played polo with none other than Prince Charles.

He dips back, of course, into his childhood in Lebanon, where he lived with his secret-agent father and played with the kids of other secret-agents. In the final section of the story, he describes The Police reunion tour of 2007 and 2008, and the reader gets some flashes into the creative differences that may have forced the band’s demise at the height of its fame, and a bit of a peak into “Stingo� moodiness. He had to include it. This is the stuff that makes rock-n-roll memoir. Reviewed by Robin Martin Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora By Maria Wilhelm; Dirk Mathison It Books, $17.99, 224 pages This “survival handbook� and field guide to Pandora, a moon in the distant Alpha Centauri system, is an encyclopedic compilation of scientific notations and xenobiological research data by a Terran activist of the future. It describes an alien ecosystem that includes the culture and physiology of its indigenous race called the Na’vi. The account proceeds to document exploration as well as exploitation of this alien world by the Resource Development Administration, a corporate entity that uses sophisticated technology to profit from Pandora’s mineral

more academic look at Michelangelo’s life, from going out on his own instead of working in a traditional workshop, to supporting family and good friends. The scholarship is sound; Mr. Wallace uses primary source documents when it is possible to take a look at the life and mind of Michelangelo. Mr. Wallace looks at the major works, and examines the impact that they had on Michelangelo and the culture of Renaissance Italy. The literature on Michelangelo is vast and dense, though not all of it good. There is not a lot of room for a new biography on Michelangelo; this is a good work it will have to fight for attention from the other works. Reviewed by Kevin Winter Manhood for Amateurs By Michael Chabon Harper, $25.99, 306 pages Michael Chabon’s newest book, Manhood for Amateurs, is a departure for the Pulitzer Prize winner. Unlike his previous works, Manhood for Amateurs is not a piece of surreal fiction, but a collection of short auto-

biographical stories. Regardless of the new venue Chabon’s ability to weave achingly wonderful and melancholy pictures with his prose remains. The subtitle of this collection is The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, which fully describes the content of the essays within. Chabon takes us on a journey through his childhood: the unflagging support of his mother; the inability to connect with his father despite the love between them; the joy and privilege of being able to explore, unhindered by adult supervision, the world around him; and, the ache of realizing one is losing it all. From his childhood to adulthood and then to fatherhood we follow the unique tale of a man’s life, one who is gifted enough to share with his readers all the joys and disasters that a life lived carries with it. I can’t recommend this book highly enough to sons, fathers, husbands, wives, daughters, and mothers! Regardless of your thoughts on his fictional work Manhood for Amateurs is the first must-read book of 2010. Reviewed by Jonathon Howard

wealth. The accumulated evidence is meant to help environmentalists save this fertile planet from the same fate suffered by ours. “I became lured by a magic and a mystery out there, by hope and belief in an informed spirit woven through Pandora that is the author and origin of the vital interconnectedness of all its living things.â€? As a movie tie-in, this manual could interest role-playing gamers, CGI fanatics or casual moviegoers who love those special features offered on most DVDs. While it offers some backstory to the film, it lacks any real narrative structure and comes off as clichĂŠd and derivative. Any originality here is in style of presentation, which could have been improved with hand-drawn concept sketches in lieu of mediocre computer imagery that should exemplify the vision of filmmaker James Cameron. Instead, this book’s best redeeming quality can be found in its politically correct message of ecology. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio

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Science Fiction & Fantasy Elric: In the Dream Realms By Michael Moorcock Del Rey, $16.00, 418 pages Elric in the Dream Realms is the fifth volume in the Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné, a complet(ish) collection of Michael Moorcock’s writings centered around his iconic and most famous character, Elric the albino and last sorcerer-emperor of Melniboné. The Elric stories were considered revolutionary when they were first released in the 1960s, but their relevance today is questionable. The genre has progressed considerably since the 70’s and 80’s. I believe that the dark pulp fantasy of Moorcock, wonderfully expressed in the Elric saga, influenced many of today’s most famous fantasy authors. Moorcock’s writing though and his cre- ation, Elric, are beginning to wear a little thin these days, worse this volume is padded with various poor black & white reproductions of bold book covers and comics that do the original colored art no justice. Further padding is provided by the new cover for the just released Elric book in Taiwan, where the character is just being introduced. These extras are interesting to the ardent Moorcock fan but meaningless to the average reader who picks this book off the shelf. Mr. Moorcock and his publisher need to work harder putting the author’s work in the appropriate context if they want new readers. Reviewed by Jonathon Howard Through Stone and Sea By Barb & J.C. Hendee Roc Hardcover/, $24.95, 424 pages The Noble Dead Saga is a darkly medieval-style fantasy series. This is the second book of the second series, following the sage Wynn Hygeorht in her efforts to recover ancient texts that she discovered but were taken from her. The texts provide clues to a history of war and a long forgotten evil. Wynn fears that evil is preparing to return and feels compelled to find clues for stopping it within the ancient texts. As with all the books in the Noble Dead series, several important characters are half-breeds or hybrids. While genetic hybrids are obviously conflicted by their dual heritage, a consistent subtext in the character development throughout the Noble Dead series is the dual nature and conflicting motivations hidden within everyone.

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“You remain my tool, like all who step beyond life yet linger, dead but not dead.” Through Stone and Sea leaves many questions unanswered looking forward to the next book to continue the tale. If you are unfamiliar with the Noble Dead Saga, jumping in with this novel will be confusing. Unlike many multi-novel series, the authors provide only minimal explanations for events in previous books. However for fans who have followed the Noble Dead Saga, Barb & J. C. Hendee have crafted another complicated yet fascinating tale in Through Stone and Sea. Reviewed by Laurie Racca Eternal Horizon: A Star Saga By David Roman Eternal Horizon, $24.99, 404 pages Written and illustrated by David Roman, Eternal Horizon is a space opera story of good and evil. FBI agent Vincent Saturn impulsively goes into a crash-landed spaceship, and ends up being kidnapped by the ship and taken across the galaxy to become part of a rebellion against the evil Empire. Joining a group of rebels, and finding that he has begun to change, developing powers and skills he never knew he had, Saturn finds himself conflicted between staying and help those becoming his friends and trying to return back to Earth and his former life. Also complicating the situation is his interest in the alien princess Gaia, and her dedication to the Rebellion. The use of both high tech weaponry and swords is reminiscent of classic sci fi, and there are scenes that bring to mind classic movies (Star Wars being a major source of inspiration). Instead of simply lifting plot and characters from other stories, however, Roman has used universal themes and archetypes to make his own story. He has also included illustrations for each chapter, and a section in the back that provides illustrations of every major character, along with the vehicles and soldiers encountered in Eternal Horizon.While the writing and dialogue could use some polish, it is a readable, entertaining first novel. Sponsored Review Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword of Avalon By Diana L. Paxson Roc Hardcover, $24.95, 416 pages Set at the end of the Bronze Age, Sword of Avalon is a prequel to the legend of King Arthur. The priestess of Avalon saves Mikantor, a baby ordained by the gods to become a leader capable of uniting and defending his people during a time of crisis. The story

AFTER THE MANUSCRIPT Tips for Getting Coverage Off the Book Page by Kate Siegel Bandos, KSB Promotions

Often the best coverage for a book comes from feature articles, authors-as-expert comments, excerpts, and even sidebar mentions. Here are a few tips to get you started. 1. Develop 2-10 different angles or “hooks” that you think are newsworthy. 2. (With 500,000 new books published each year, the publication of a book is not news. Content from the book is news and you as an expert on the subject is what to stress.) 3. For each angle, select 10 media that you think are a perfect match. Research each outlet by checking its web site to be sure. 4. Approach the media you selected for your favorite angle. You can do this by: • Emailing your idea to the right contact. Keep it simple and to the point. Use a good subject line. Attachments are a no-no, but adding hotlinks to your web site is fine. • Calling and pitching the idea. Make sure to get your idea across in 25 words or less. Most of the time you will be leaving a message. Tell them you have just sent an email with the subject line such-and-such with more details. If they are intrigued, they can check it out. • Emailing a ready-to-use article. Let the editors know it is free for them to use with proper credit. • Emailing editors/bloggers with information on your free, ready-to-use articles, listing a few of the headlines and a hotlink to the articles on your web site. • Mailing your book to the editors or producers you have chosen, with a note about why it is a perfect for their audience. Mark the pages that are especially applicable. Include appropriate press materials. 5. Depending on your success, try another method of contact and/or fine-tune your approach and try again. If you are successful, select additional media to contact in the same way. 6. Pick another angle and start the process all over again. 7. Read and watch everything you can. Be ready to send letters to the editors, offer comments at web sites, submit follow-up show or article ideas, etc. Think of how what you have to say connects with something in the news. 8. Make sure all the materials you develop are available electronically. 9. Research key dates that you can tie into — or establish your own. Chase’s Calendar of Events and other books, as well as many web sites, have this type of information. 10. Be accessible. If you are hard to reach by phone or email, they will likely move on to another contact on their list. 11. Success breeds success. Send articles, reviews, and good coverage to other media. It can reinforce the appeal of your message and establish you as an expert. We have seen books and authors use these methods keep a book alive for ten years or more, becoming the “go to” person on the subject over and over again. You can do it too. Kate Siegel Bandos established KSB Promotions in 1988. A veteran of nearly 40 years in book promotion, she was promotions director for Globe Pequot Press (CT) and publicity director for Pelican Publishing Company (LA), Acropolis Books (DC), and M. Evans & Company (NYC). She has been a featured speaker and panelist at numerous regional and national conferences. She has spoken about book promotion and the importance of publicity at the IBPA (PMA)/BEA Publishing University, the National Small Press Book Publishing Institute, Mid-America Book Publishers Conferences, and the Favorite Recipes Press Conference. You can reach Kate at 616-676-0758 , kate@ksbpromotions.com , www.ksbpromotions.com & www.ksblinks.com. You can find other VIEWPOINTS columns on www.sacramentobookreview.com on the topics of home & garden, relationships & sex, photography, cooking, and more!

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follows the child as he grows up, forged by his experiences into the man capable of fulfilling his destiny. Velantos is a smith from a foreign land who befriends Mikantor and becomes a mentor and trusted advisor. Velantos’ fate is intertwined with his friend’s as the gods have chosen him to create a sword like none that have come before. Made from meteor iron, it is a sword fallen from the stars and blessed by the gods. An enjoyable read, the story progresses logically, but at times seems to lack intensity or passion. However, Diana L. Paxson has done her research, using archeology to provide a convincing historical context for the tale. For fans of the Arthurian legend, her credible descriptions of Bronze Age metalworking provide a plausible origin for the mythological sword Excalibur. Reviewed by Laurie Racca Not Less Than Gods By Kage Baker; Illustrated by J. K. Potter Subterranean Press, $60.00, 328 pages Kage has written a series of books that reference a mysterious group or company, “The Gentlemen’s Speculative Society (GSS).” Above and apart from art, politics, money and power, the creation and protection of science and technology was this society’s singular purpose. Baker’s new book develops details of GSS, which is believed to have operated clandestinely in several countries during the Victorian era. Though its origins are hard to document, members reputedly included Archimedes, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Dr. John Dee. The story begins with a GSS senior member using a couple of London’s vulnerable gentry to create himself a child, one Edward

Bell-Fairfax, who he then raises and trains for the GSS. The story follows as Edward grows to manhood, completes his training, recognizes his personal and extraordinary powers, and takes up his first mission. Edward and his fellow agents are armed with a lethally useful array of “gadgets” and the advanced technology so essential to good spy thrillers. The agents brave the heat and dust of the Holy Land, outwit enemies in Constantinople, and fight to the death in the freezing streets of St. Petersburg. The characters are complete, the spy action is taut, the dialogue is flawless, the jokes are funny, and the details of Victorian London are rich and convincing. A delight for Baker fans, and a good place to start if you are new to his work. Reviewed by Marcia Jo The Good, The Bad, and the Uncanny By Simon R. Green Ace, $24.95, 275 pages John Taylor is a private eye in the Nightside, the dark flipside of London where gods, sinners, miscreants, and fugitives from time and fantasy roam free beyond the prying eyes of the real world. Taylor has a supernatural gift for locating things, for better or for worse, and this has made him a legend even in the Nightside, where myths and monsters are commonplace. Charged with escorting an unwelcome elf across the city and coerced into helping a dead detective locate his long-vanished brother, John finds himself with a third, more dangerous assignment: spending a day in the shoes of Walker, the man who polices the Nightside, a man who knows all, reveals

nothing, and keeps the balance. And he wants John to take his place. The tenth book in Green’s Nightside series, The Good, The Bad, and The Uncanny is at heart a piecemover novel, wrapping up dangling threads from previous storylines and setting the stage for books to come. Nonetheless, it is an enjoyable read and a worthy addition to the series, with plenty of Green’s patented snark and style. And the glimpse behind the curtain of one of the series’ most mysterious players is a real treat. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Unknown (Outcast Season, Book 2) By Rachel Caine Roc, $7.99, 320 pages Once a powerful Djinn, Cassiel was cast out and stripped of her powers when she refused to use her powers to destroy the human race. She must confront an ancient evil while living in a human body with all its frailties and the need to draw power from the Wardens to survive. Initially Cassiel resents her newborn humanity but soon bonds with her assigned Warden and his family. So when her friend is killed and his daughter is kidnapped, Cassiel is driven to get the girl back. But the child is only one of many who have been kidnapped and exploited for their Warden powers and Cassiel has to confront the possibility that she may have to fight an army of children who have been twisted into believing their loved ones are now their enemies. Unknown is the sec-

ond book in Rachel Caine’s Outcast Season series and while it is entertaining, it relies heavily on action and falls short on character development. Cassiel is well drawn as the story is told from her perspective, but the secondary characters are little more than outlines as their thoughts and backgrounds are rarely revealed. Fun, but lacks enough detail to be really memorable. Reviewed by Theresa Lucas Grand Junction By Maurice G Dantec Del Rey, $18.00, 579 pages In his latest work, Grand Junction, Maurice Dantec injects a heady dose of quasimetaphysics into a cyberpunk mix, creating a work that is confusing and not fully satisfying. Grand Junction tells the tale of Link de Nova who, with other remnants of a once thriving society, lives in Grand Junction around a former space port. Society has been decimated by lethal computer viruses that destroyed most technology and killed billions of people that were linked to tech devices. Now the viruses have morphed, infecting people directly and wiping out their ability to speak, think and perceive reality. While the plot sounds fairly straightforward, it is anything but. Dantec is after something bigger than your typical sci fi adventure and he loads the story with a variety of philosophical, cultural, and metaphysical elements. In fact, there is so much of this that the plot becomes confusing and hard to track and Grand Junction becomes a real “head scratcher.” Reviewed by Doug Robins

Popular Fiction Mooch By Dan Fante Harper Perennial, $13.99, 180 pages If you like your fiction dark, harsh, violent, and bleak, then Dan Fante is your man. Fante’s works are populated by down-andouters struggling with drugs, alcohol, or other vices and trying to survive each day. In Mooch, Fante continues to explore this dangerous territory. Bruno Dante is the anti-hero of both Mooch and its predecessor, Chump Change. He has a job in sales, which pays the rent but also creates anger and angst, which help fuel his addictions. When Bruno gets involved with ex-stripper Jimmi Valiente, his life spins wildly out of control into a dark tangle of drugs, crime, sex, and violence. Fante has a dark vision and is not afraid to explore the outer boundaries of human behavior. Sometimes, however, the desola-

tion is hard to take – just when you think nothing worse can happen, something does. However, somewhat unexpectedly Mooch does not end on an entirely down note. Fante chronicles the brutal reality of society’s cast-offs, and he does it well. Reviewed by Doug Robins Amigoland By Oscar Casares Little, Brown and Company, $ 23.99, 357 pages Amigoland at first seems to have a lot going for it. The author, Oscar Casares, had success with Brownsville, a collection of

short stories. The Tex/Mex locale is one he knows well, and two crotchety, antagonistic brothers embarking on a quest would seem to be a recipe for a lively story. Unfortunately, Amigoland ends up being somewhat less than satisfying. Don Fidencio and Don Celestino are long-estranged brothers, each fiercely proud, independent, and in the twilight of their lives. Don Fidencio, who gradually has become romantically involved with his housekeeper, Socorro, breaks his brother out of the nursing home where he has been recuperating after a stroke. The two, plus Socorro, journey into Mexico to settle a long-standing family dispute over their

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grandfather’s history. On their trek, the brothers discover truths about their family and themselves. Amigoland is not a bad book; it is simply not a fully satisfying one. The brothers, despite their cantankerous natures, never really come to life. Yes, their quest has moments of poignancy, but it is hard to care much about them. Further detracting from the book’s potential is that Casares provides too much exposition in some scenes and not enough in others. This drains much of the dramatic tension from the narrative. While the ingredients are all there, Amigoland ultimately tastes a bit flat. Reviewed by Doug Robins

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Young Adult Almost Perfect By Brian Katcher Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 360 pages High school senior Logan is having a hard time getting over his girlfriend of three years, who betrayed him by sleeping with another guy. Logan finds himself obsessing over her, until Jade enters the scene. New at his small town school, she is pretty in an unconventional way. Logan is interested, but whenever he asks her out, she tells him she is not allowed to date, and her sister seems to be unnaturally protective of her. One night Jade allows Logan to kiss her, and afterwards he finds out her dark secret: she is actually a boy. Though her secret is revealed on page 99, the rest of the book explores the issues of transgender teens, and Logan’s vacillation between attraction and revulsion.

Travel Return to Antarctica: The Amazing Adventure of Sir Charles Wright on Robert Scott’s Journey to the South Pole By Adrian Raeside Wiley, $29.95, 326 pages This book detailing a generations-long exploration adventure came across as fascinating; author Adrian Raeside did not disappoint. After enlightening the reader of his family’s history with explorer Robert Scott’s rather obsessed voyages to “conquer” Antarctica, Raeside spells out an informative and slightly humorous look into the “discovery” of the continent, listing with care the many subsequent explorations attempted thereafter by various groups and countries. “… I am looking forward to music and seeing a girl’s face and hair…. These eternal beards and matted hair and grubby clothes are rather monotonous.” Armed with unstinting research, familyheld photographs and letters long stored away, Raeside paints a picture of the 1911 and 1912 expeditions of Scott and his crew, one that differed in many ways from the

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“The reason we can’t date...the reason we can’t kiss...the reason why I was homeschooled...I’m a boy.” The author based the story on interviews with transgender teens, and the hardships they face every day. This is not a common topic for YA novels, but it’s dealt with in a sensitive and enlightening way. The story is moving, and both characters come across as likable and empathetic, even when Logan is alternately supportive and cruel to Jade. Unlike most teenage guys, Logan makes an effort to understand Jade and her circumstances, with surprising results. Reviewed by Leslie Wolfson The Ring By Bobbie Pyron WestSide Books, $15.95, 252 pages Fifteen-year-old Mardie Wolfe feels she can never measure up to her perfect older brother, Michael. Desperate for her father’s approval, Mardie is equally desperate to fit in with the popular kids at school. Her boyfriend, Ben, has his own agenda. Mardie’s best friend, Alexis, lets her down. New friends urge Mardie to reckless behavior. Soon she has a drunk and disorderly citation and a court appearance for attempted shoplifting.

more legendary, “clean-shaven” version that he’d heard growing up. The reader learns of the experiments run by the crew of using snowshoes, VS skis, and how these simple tests aided future explorers. The included photographs depict a story all by themselves, but the maps Raeside drew of the smaller journeys taken--how far they got in so many days--were helpful in understanding better the frightful positions these men placed themselves in. This piece is a candid, studied look at an extreme journey, yet written with more familiarity than a mere documentary. Reviewed by Meredith Greene Frommer’s 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference By Andrew Mersmann Frommer’s, $19.99, 471 pages Travel for fun, sun, and a better planet! 500 Places where you can make a Difference is sure to change the way you view “vacation.” The book’s title is self-explanatory: it lists 500 servicebased trips for every interest you might have in nearly every corner of the globe.

A boxing class opens a new world to Mardie. The instructor, Kitty, understands angry girls who don’t appreciate their own worth. As Kitty teaches the fundamentals of boxing (not fighting), Mardie finds her own internal anchor and discovers her true strength. With persistence, she gains selfrespect and wins respect from her family, her best friend, and a new boy friend, Rick, who can make room for the champion she has become. The author’s deft writing captures the angst of high school peer pressure and wanting to fit in with friends who may not be good for you. Mardie’s determined journey from self-doubt to self-belief (with occasional backsliding) is entirely believable. Teen readers will appreciate the pithy wisdom Kitty dispenses as Mardie turns her life around. Reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan

wtf By Peter Lerangis Simon Pulse, $8.99, 246 pages On a crazy Friday, five high school kids and one recent graduate have a night that none of them is soon to forget. There’s Jimmy, the innocent one who gets in over his head; Cam, the star athlete and pretty boy; Waits, the low-life dealer; Reina, the smart and sassy girlfriend; Bryon, the know-it-all and MC, the girl from the mountains. Their paths will cross and mesh through the night when each will have to grow up a little to survive. In his book WTF, Peter Lerangis tells the story of friends and strangers as they get into and try to avoid trouble. Switching back and forth between six points of view, he reveals how a few simple lies and deceits can change an ordinary Friday night into one that may even end in death. This book is fun in places, disjointed in most. It’s often absurd. None of the characters strikes any kind of resounding note and in the end, one can’t help but wonder if the W in WTF was supposed to stand for Why instead of What—as in why the f@%k did I read this book? Reviewed by Albert Riehle

Through these pages, you’ll travel from Asia and Africa to New Orleans and North Carolina. You can build a school or change baby baboon diapers. If you want to give back while taking a break from your cubicle life, you’re sure to find inspiration here. The text is offered as more of an overview than a true guidebook: each entry is no longer than a page with a summary of the volunteer work to be expected, highlights of the area’s tourist attractions, and contact information to conduct your own detailed research. The well-laid indices are helpful tools: one is listed geographically (in case you are already planning a trip and want to add a volunteer component), and also alphabetically. The book also serves as a delightful tale of the many positive organizations and worthy causes around the globe. You probably can’t read this without booking yourself on the next project! Reviewed by Amber K. Stott

interests ranging from people looking for luxury to surfers who want to camp near the ocean. The clear, tri-colored maps, as well as a set of helpful symbols—representing good deals, insider’s finds, overrated sights, and activities for kids—help travelers quickly feel comfortable in new cities. As an American journalist working a newspaper in Mexico City, author Joy Hepp is well qualified to share travel experiences in Mexico. She is honest about the current drug-related violence and provides candid comments and suggested itineraries throughout the guide that will point travelers exactly where— and where not to—go. When reporting on hotels and restaurants, the guide represents inexpensive through top-end options, but does not offer much coverage of shoestring travel options such as hostels and public transportation. Frommer’s Los Cabos & Baja would be a great guide for anyone vacationing in the Los Cabos area, as well as Southern California residents who take weekend trips to the northern part of the peninsula. Reviewed by Megan Just

Frommer’s Los Cabos & Baja, 3rd Edition By Joy Hepp Wiley, $17.99, 214 pages Frommer’s Los Cabos & Baja is a conveniently small yet comprehensive guide to Mexico’s Baja California that provides a solid base of information for all travelers, as well as tailored advice to more specialized

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San Francisco & Sacramento

Feb 2010

What’s your favorite book and why do you think reading is important? My favorite book is "The Last Olympian," by Rick Riordan. I think reading is important because it helps you learn. When you read, sometimes you can find details. The details can help you find out answers to questions in a book. Also, if you read, then you can find ideas and start lots of series. Take Rick Riordan, for example. He probably read lots of books because he has written three series already! Remember to read, because sometimes books hold the key for what you need to find out. Aaron, 9 years old

I like to read because books make me dream and learn. I bought Scholastics’s "The Magic School Bus Shows and Tells" because it is about archeology. It reminded me of Indiana Jones. This story starts in a show-andtell game show. Arnold showed a strange hoop to the audience but he didn’t know what it is. His classmates went into the magic school bus and it transformed into a lab. They turned into archeologists and they put together clues to find out what it is. I give this book 5 stars out of 5! Thank you Joanna Cole for writing all the books! Kids, reading is fun, go and read a book today! Emilio, 7 years old

Right now, I am reading Goosebump’s "The Curse of Camp Cold Lake" by RL Stine. This great scary book will give you the shudders when you turn every page... especially the part where the main character realizes what happens when she pretends to drown. I know that ghosts are not real, but this story frightened me. I almost wasn’t able to sleep!!!!! I’m also a Scaredy cat but I could not put this book down because it was written so well. I think kids should read a lot because it helps your knowledge and you become wiser in everything too, so keep reading! Perri, 10 years old

I like the Twilight Saga because it is a mixture of drama, action, comedy and romance. It was very easy for me to read the book because the characters were relatable. The modern and thrilling lifestyle of the vampires and werewolves just fascinated me so much. Reading can be very entertaining and delightful but only if you read the kind of book that suits you. I take pleasure in reading Stephenie Meyer’s books and I look forward to the next series of books she writes. Reading is important because it is an excellent way to expand your vocabulary so I suggest you read as much as you can. Depending on your capability to imagine, you may see yourself transported to places like Europe, the Amazon, the future and even a fantasy world if you really get into a story. The one thing I really like about reading too is the ability to make your own imaginary movie in your head. You are the director of your own story so if you want to be the part that plays Bella then you can definitely make that happen! Amber, 12 years old Mitch Albom’s "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" is hands down my favorite book to date. I was so engrossed with it because it seemed like it was based on a true story. Something about it was so real to me. The way it was written was just really gripping and will tug on your heartstrings. As a kid, you kinda really don’t care about grown up stuff like marriage, career, military life and aging but I thank the author for opening up my heart to the elderly people, their hopes and struggles that I otherwise would not really be concerned about in the first place if I had not read this book. Reading is important because it makes you feel. I was in tears when the dying character spoke to his wife. Reading also helps you

My two year-old son’s eyes lit up when our Editor, Ross Rojek, handed this book to me weeks ago for review. Once again, Random House blows all the board books away with "Big Bird’s Big Book". As all mothers, I try to instill an early love of reading in my children, and this book certainly makes my mission effortless and easy. The great artwork and layout by Joe Mathieu provides so much curiosity and fixation for my twoyear-old Johnny that from the moment we first picked up the book, I could already tell from his eagerness to flip the pages that it was going to be a struggle for me to get this book away from him. Readers will quite literally jump into the colorful, fun, learning world of Sesame Street and will not stop uttering the names of the colors, vehicles, numbers, letters, animals, and the different kinds of sporty games so vividly rendered on the pages of this mother’s helper. Reading to our children is a valuable way to create long-lasting bonds, as well as to generate a lifelong love of books, which can be a comfort, a solace, and a source of inspiration. "Big Bird’s Big Book" is a fine example of where to start. Kaye 34, mother of Johnny 2

My favorite book is "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen". Reading is important because 90% of what I know I learned by reading books. Books can teach you anything you want to know. Reading exercises your brain each time you say each word in your head. I think people need reading to live. Without reading, the world would be a puzzle full of a million mysteries. Reading unlocks the secrets of life. Adan, 9 years old learn the important values in life by witnessing it through other people’s lives in the story. Aside from making you really smart, the moral lesson you get from reading a book is truly priceless and will help you have a better life. Sierra, 11 years old

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February 10 11


What’s your favorite book and why do you think reading is important? My favorite book is "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" by Jeff Kinney because it is funny and like a biography. The character makes me laugh out loud with all the things he does and the crazy things that happen to him. This is by far the coolest book I’ve ever had. Reading is fun because it takes the blah out of you. Also when reading you can relax and enjoy yourself. Reading also makes you think of what will happen at the end. So I think kids all over the world should read! It makes you smart and READING IS AWESOME. Leonardo, 10 years old

Hi, my name is Mariela Meza. My favorite book is "Tinkerbelle and the Lost Treasure." I think books are important because it could help you with your education. It also helps you find information about different stuff. Another reason is, when you read books you could learn lessons. Reading also helps you with your writing skills. There are a lot of different books that people could enjoy. Reading is great and fun! Mariela - 9 years old

My favorite book is "Battle of the Labyrinth" and I think that reading it will help you learn. Don’t fight in the war because you might be one of the people who die. I’ve read the whole series and I think Rick Riordan’s books are great. I want to read his other books even though I think his other books are grownup books. I want to visit his website at www.rickriordan.com. I think it’s important because you should care about everyone and you should not turn men into guinea pigs and you should do what someone tells you to do. Noah, 6 years old

I love to read. My favorite books of all time are the "Pretty Little Liar" series because they’re exciting. They make me really get into the story; it always has twists and turns that keep me reading. I think reading is important because it takes you away from the real world for a little bit and lets your imagination go free. Samantha, 15 years old

12 February 10

My favorites right now are the books in the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. I like watching how each story unfolds for the main character Greg. From his school life to his summer vacation, I guarantee that there is never a dull moment when you read all his misadventures! In addition, I can claim that I have already been a fan of Author Jeff Kinney ever since he put out his first book 3 years ago and I am in high spirits to see the success of his work result to a movie deal with 20th Century Fox this year! I think just like anyone, Jeff Kinney started out reading piles and piles of comic books and drawing all sorts of art so it is important that we all read because it paves the way to a better future! Taylor - 12 years old

"You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you will be the guy who’ll decide where you’ll go. Oh the places you’ll go. " Dr. Seuss "Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way." -- Dr. Seuss

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose." -- Dr. Seuss

The value of Reading By Kaye Cloutman, SFBR Associate Editor

According to the National Reading Group Month Chair, Jill Tardiff “Every month…thousands of groups nationwide gather to discuss the latest from Barbara Kingsolver or Isabel Allende, to revisit Tolstoy or Nabokov, to share Harry Potter or the Twilightseries with enthusiastic sons and daughters… No one knows exactly how many groups are out there, but one reading group web site has at least 3,500 book clubs registered and 225,000 unique visitors a month. This February, as we celebrate the “Read Across America” campaign amongst schools all over the United States, Cindy Hudson can give you all the tools needed to create your own book club. Author of Book by Book; A complete guide to creating Mother-Daughter book clubs published by Seal Press, Hudson offers practical advice using her own firsthand experience as the founder of two long-running, successful mother-daughter book clubs and provides suggestions on book topics and strategies for keeping your book club thriving. “When I was growing up I loved going to the library, and I read voraciously. One of my favorite memories is of lying on my bed in summer with the window open and my attic fan pulling a breeze across the pages. During my early teen years, I read two books over and over again. They were Drake: The Man They Called a Pirate by Jean Lee Latham and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare. These books ignited a love of history in me that’s still strong today. I’ve read both of those books to my daughters, and we had a great conversation about what I was like as a teen and why those books appealed to me then. As an older teen I discovered Gore Vidal’s historical novels. Now I’m reading his entire American history series to my oldest daughter, and we have great fun talking about

them together. To me, that means you don’t know how books you read will ultimately affect your life even many years after you first pick them up.” says Hudson. “I love nothing more than to share a passage from a book I thought was funny, insightful, or educational with my husband and daughters. That usually starts a conversation where we reveal our thoughts and beliefs and talk about issues that are important to us in some way. Reading and sharing is also a way to blend the introverted and extroverted parts of my personality, since reading gives me time alone and talking about what I read helps me connect with people important to me.” she delightfully exclaimed when we asked her about why reading is valuable for her. “To all the parents out there, I advise reading to your children as soon as they are born and keep reading to them. Board books are great for little ones, because they can hold them and fl ip pages without worrying about tearing them. Read picture books and board books slowly so your children have time to explore everything on the page. If they memorize pages of books you read repeatedly, let them “read” to you and make sure it’s fun. Don’t force them to read for a certain amount of time, because then reading becomes just another chore.” For more information on Cindy Hudson visit her online at www.motherdaughterbookclub.com

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Children’s Books Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine By Herman Parish Greenwillow Books, $16.99, 32 pages Amelia Bedelia is a quirky lovable kid. This timeless character always takes things in their literal meaning because she is obviously not very familiar with certain idiomatic expressions, so the ultimate outcome results in sidesplitting situations. In Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine young readers will delight in Amelia’s very unusual way of expressing her affection towards her classmates with the cards she prepares for them. She puts a bandage across a broken heart, tossed peanuts into an envelope and pours honey over a note. I highly recommend this book for all the wonderful idiosyncrasies displayed by the main character. Lynne Avril’s illustrations are drawn in a whimsical manner awash in pink and red colors combined with Cupid, hearts and arrows that makes it a great seasonal read. From a comforting teacher to a sweet young male neighbor, to going home to a family encircled with love, author Herman Parish’ target audience witness and realize the true essence of Valentine’s Day. Reviewed by Kaye Cloutman Magic Tree House #43: Leprechaun in Late Winter By Mary Pope Osborne; Illustrated by Sal Murdocca Random House Books for Young Readers, $12.99, 128 pages Lady Augusta Gregory is a well-known Irish folklorist. During her happy childhood, her family had a very special nurse, Mary Sheridan, who told her Irish folktale nightly. Lady Augusta Gregory once said that Mary Sheridan held the whole library of Irish folklore in her head. Jack and Annie were sent on a mission by Merlin the magician, to find an imaginative and creative girl named Augusta. However, it was not as Jack and Annie expected when they met Miss Augusta. She was totally un-imaginative and un-creative girl they ever met. Actually, their mission was not only to find Augusta, but also to inspire her, so she could explore her hidden talents and became her gifts to the world. Through their adventure to accomplish the mission, Jack and Annie were led into fairy’s realm. In this late winter, Leprechaun Willy may be roaming trying to interfere with our human world. Don’t miss out!! Whatever you are doing, Leprechaun

Willy may be right in front of or right behind you. Whether your children are as adventurous as Jack and Annie, or as then unimaginative as Augusta, or as mischievous as Willy, they deserve this book as a special treat. Reviewed by Sophie Masri Raspberries! By Jay O’Callahan • Will Moses, Illustrator Philomel, $17.99, 32 pages Simon was born to be a baker, and folks from miles around traveled for his bakery goods, until two scoundrels made off with his money. Devastated, he left for a new town to start over in an egg-selling business. One day a young woman appeared. She thanked Simon for helping her when he had his bakery and gave him raspberry seeds. That night a storm ruined his eggselling business. In despair, Simon scattered the raspberry seeds in the wind. The next morning raspberry-fi lled bushes covered his field. He tasted one and they were so sweet he could not stop himself from singing out “Raspberries!” He picked baskets of them and took them to town to sell. But no one was interested in the raspberries; they wanted his eggs. However, the baker thought he could make tarts and bought one small basket. When the baker tasted the freshly baked tarts, he too sang out, “Raspberries!” The baker and Simon stayed up all night baking raspberry tarts. The townspeople loved them and sang out, “Raspberries!” They placed a huge order to celebrate the town’s birthday. The baker asked Simon to join him and now voices can be heard throughout the town, singing, “Raspberries!” The true delights of Raspberries! are storyteller Jay O’Callahan reading the story on a CD and the period illustrations by folk artist Will Moses, the great-grandson of Grandma Moses. Reviewed by Susan Roberts While the World is Sleeping By Pamela Duncan Edwards, Daniel Kirk, Illustrator Orchard Books, $16.99, 30 pages Beckoned by a large white owl, a sleepy child leaves his bed and embarks on a nighttime journey through the dark landscape of his neighborhood while the rest of the world sleeps. As the child clings to the owl’s back, the owl points out the animals below, who, unlike humans, are awake and active. Fawns dance near their parents, silver fish swim toward the sea, baby rabbits play, beavers build a dam, and other animals duly engage in their nocturnal

lives. The nighttime world is fi lled not only with beauty but with danger, too; the owl points out a mother mouse alerting her babies to the presence of a snake, and a fox looking for chickens to eat. The illustrations show the animals’ calm, starlit world in hues of indigo, chestnut, gray, and black, while the owl adds the soothing refrain “while the world is sleeping” to each portion of its narration. Though no harm comes to the child or the animals he observes, the mysterious, somewhat dark aspects of this nighttime world make the child’s return to his bedroom a pleasing relief. We, too, go along on the owl’s journey, exploring the secret world of nighttime; and we, too, are happy to ultimately return home to bed. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littel Return to the Hundred Acre Wood By David Benedictus Dutton Juvenile, $19.99, 201 pages Can you believe Winnie the Pooh was created 80 years ago?! This book, written by David Benedictus, (not the original author – A.A. Milne) stays true to the tradition of the Hundred Acre Wood that began many decades ago. There are 10 chapters, and each one reads like its own story, so there’s no

need to read them in order. Mark Burgess graces each page with wonderful decorations in the spirit of the classic Winnie the Pooh (not the later modified version you see in the store and on TV). This is a great book for readers beginning to venture into chapter books, as well as a wonderful nightstand necessity for a quick go-to bedtime story. I have loved everything Winnie the Pooh as long as I have been alive. My nursery was adorned with the Silly Ol’ Bear and his pals, and as I grew older, the accessories may have changed, but the theme didn’t. Some of the first books I ever read were the original Winnie the Pooh stories. One of my most prized possessions is a stuffed Winnie the Pooh I received many years ago under a very sensitive time in my life, which I still proudly place on my bed every day. Return to the Hundred Acre Wood left me feeling nostalgic. I will save this book to read to my children someday. Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun

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February 10 13


Valentine’s Day A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex: Reclaim Your Desire and Reignite Your Relationship By Laurie B. Mintz Adams Media, $14.95, 237 pages A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex would more accurately have been titled A Tired, Heterosexual, Married Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex. Author and licensed psychologist Laurie B. Mintz, PhD. makes very clear this book is “geared to…heterosexual coupled women” as “low desire is something that generally occurs within the context of a long-term relationship.” For the many women who are in long-term relationships and are not married she expects the reader to disregard her use of the word husband and “fi ll in the word or name that fits you.” Women not in longterm relationships with little or no sexual desire who are also tired are on their own. Maybe that will be a follow-up book. Mintz tells her own story and shares vignettes from her psychotherapy practice that demonstrate how her theory of the “five T’s and a Bit of Spice” as part of a sixpronged program will enable the regeneration of passion and libido. Her program uses aspects of sex therapy, marriage enhancement, stress management, communication skills and self care. The five components are Thoughts, Talk, Time, Touch, and Trysts. These five aspects when applied get the tired woman hungry for sex again. The “bit of spice” is whatever the individual chooses to add in that will further power up the sexual experience. Information is presented in a clear and direct fashion. The chapters take the reader on a journey that integrates the components of thought, talk, time, touch and trysts with observations from the author, friends and clients who have successfully applied this program. The final pages of the book include resource material on a variety of topics from anger to reproduction that can affect or inhibit sexual desire, including a section with references for the husband to explore. A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex is a no-nonsense approach with useful tools for the married heterosexual woman looking to regain the sexual energy lost in her life. Reviewed by Vicki Hudson

14 February 10

101 Ways to Torture Your Husband By Maria Garcia-Kalb Adams Media, $9.95, 202 pages When we were younger, tickling was our favorite form of torture. This book presents more than 100 hilariously ticklish suggestions on ways to torture your spouse while meekly standing passively on the sidelines. For one, you can hide the remote control; that’s the master switch, the lifeline to the frontal lobes of the male ego. Along that line, you can gleefully drink his last beer, or mess up his computer, or even send some suspicious e-mails. These are just some of the lighter torments that you can infl ict; others described here are so deliciously horrible that you may place yourself at risk for retribution. Maria Garcia-Kalb, a New York broadcaster, has compiled a wickedly impish set of recipes to keep the male companion housebroken, docile, or exasperated and explosive. Because of the possible male reaction, each tactic is assigned a risk factor. Under mental torture with a low risk factor of 1 (on a scale of 1 to 5), convince him that he has some exotic illness. Going to a higher risk factor of 4 under physical torture, bribe him with sex….but don’t pay up. If you really want to test the waters at a quick high risk torture, watch him squirm while you cause a scene in public. You can sabotage his recliner on football day, mess up his grill during barbecues, play with the bald pate while admiring the hairy hemen….so many devious devices to expose the Y-chromosome’s weaknesses. For the woman, I’d prescribe at least one torture per day, in place of the omega-3 supplement or tranquilizer. Remember that laughter is the best medicine and the chuckles provoked by the directions in this marvelously funny do it yourself at home manual are priceless. Share the stories along with the reactions to the various recipes tried with colleagues and have a good giggle over the ploys that women employ to maintain their command over the “stronger” sex. While the content is rich in whimsical advice, unfortunately the book paper quality is low grade and the soft book binding is liable to crumble after a few uses. I guess these are the drawbacks that accompany low prices. Reviewed by Rita Hoots

Pornicate With Your Husband To Be By Kaye Cloutman Months ago, I picked up the book Porn for the New Mom for a friend who was having a baby shower. I was naturally elated to see that a follow-up title was released for the brideto-be, and it was even more of a thrill to know that the amazing photographer is a local resident of San Francisco. After numerous attempts of exchanged correspondence with the publicists, I was able to book a meeting with photographer Gretchen LeMaistre. Gretchen did not plan to become a photographer; rather in hindsight, photography seemed to pursue her. As a high school student, she was invited to do an internship at a prestigious gallery in Washington, D.C. The job provided Gretchen with an incredible opportunity to become acquainted with the work of some of the world’s finest photographers, including Stieglitz, Weston, Cartier-Bresson, and Eggleston. Eventually Gretchen worked as an assistant to a magazine portrait photographer. Their work appeared in Time, Fortune, Newsweek, and other well-known publications. Around this time, a friend of Gretchen’s who knew many local artists invited her to help with an art show he was holding. The show was to be based on his dog Bo and was called “Bo’s Arts” (a play on the well-known “Beaux Arts). Gretchen photographed Bo lying on a Victorian couch, and the exceptional photograph led to more dog portrait work for Gretchen – something she enjoyed doing very much. Her astounding dog portrait portfolio caught the attention of a designer at Chronicle Books, and she was asked to take photos for a humorous book entitled Training People. As is often the case in the industry, one thing led to another, and when the Chronicle Books designer heard about the Porn for Women series, he was quick to recommend Gretchen for the job. For Gretchen, the whole experience has been nothing short of pleasurable and fun. Not only did she get to work with many attractive male models, but the experience also provided her with an abundance of laughs. “I often read the captions to them in order to get the shots,” says Gretchen. “I want this bathroom to shine!” or “”It’s the guest book. I made it myself! It sounded pretty absurd after twenty or so repetitions, but when the models saw me mimicking the captions, they usually loosened up.” Gretchen tells us that one of the models in Porn for the Bride is a former stand-up comic, and in between shots, he talked in a hilarious voice that had her in stitches. “I still laugh when I think of it now,” says the photographer with a reminiscent smile. “There’s one curious caption in Porn for the Bride where the guy says, ‘Invite all your old boyfriends. Let them see what they’re missing!’ That’s great male bravado, and it puts a positive twist on a sticky situation. The one that hits my funny bone, though, is ‘Baby, I can’t wait to look at china patterns this weekend!’” There is much in the book to humor the fun photographer, but she says her favorite, hands-down, is the shot captioned, ”Breakfast in bed – or at least coffee.” As for the blushing bride and her dashing groom, the best advice Gretchen can give is to plan ahead and assign someone else to take care of anything that might need managing on the day itself. “Make sure to take a few moments alone with your sweetie after the ceremony. It’s an important time for the two of you to take it all in.” For more information on Gretchen LeMaistre and her work, visit www.gretchenlemaistre.com.

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Tweens Grk Smells a Rat By Joshua Doder Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $15.99, 202 pages Ever since he found his dog Grk, 12-yearold Tim Malt has had adventures he would not have had otherwise. First, he went from his home in England to a small European country to save Grk’s first owners, Max and Natascha Raffifi, who were left as orphans when the country’s dictator killed their parents. In Grk Smells a Rat, Tim and his parents, who have taken guardianship of the siblings, accompany them to India, where Max is competing in a tennis tournament. As they travel to tour the Taj Mahal, they meet a boy who is selling pirated books, and they start on a new adventure, this time one involving a strange gang headed by a rat. This latest Grk book, the fifth in a series, delivers action and peril tailored nicely for young readers and serves it with sides of fun

and silliness. It’s great entertainment for middle readers. Reviewed by Cathy Lim The Wyrm King (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles) By Holly Black; Tony DiTerlizzi Simon & Schuster Children’s, $11.99, 202 pages The Wyrm King is the third and last book in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles. As in the previous two books, it tells of the adventure of Nick with his brother Jules and their stepsister Laurie, along with the Grace kids - Simon, Jared and Mallory. Being gifted with the Sight, all of them could hear the songs of the nixies (from Book 1) and see that boulders around them are actually giants (from Book 2). Fresh from their banishment of the giants, the group, now faced with fast-growing hydras, are seriously contemplating their actions from the last adventure. For all their good motives, they now realize that the giants exist for a

reason: the destruction of the Wyrm King. Fast and action-packed, the story does not waste any time or word moving on. There’s none of the historical context narration found in serial works, confusing the reviewer a bit at the beginning. Similar to other Spiderwick stories, nevertheless, emotions are given equal footing with physical actions: sibling love, commitment to promises made and responsibility over others are just a few of the humane elements in this work by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Reviewed by Donabel Harms The Wizard of Rondo By Emily Rodda Scholastic Books, $21.99, 385 pages The Wizard of Rondo is the sequel to Emily Rodda’s first entry into Rondo -- The Key to Rondo. Leo Zifkak and Mimi Langlander return to the enchanted land to search for Spoiler, the Blue Queen’s erstwhile assistant. They reunite with the Quest Team consisting of Conker (a wild-haired stocky man), Freda (a pragmatic brown duck) and Bertha (a pig which has become very popular since the last adventure) as they end up investigating the mysterious disappearance of another missing wizard instead. The cousins

are distracted from their original quest, but more so when Mimi begins experiencing the pull of the hypnotic Cloud Palace. Will they be able to go home, or will they remain trapped in the world of a music box? With a tried-andtested fantasy formula, this book can never really go wrong. The idea of teenagers going into adventures with talking animals has been done many times. But what is quite different is that the characters don’t really have fantastic superpowers. Their success in mystery-solving is due to their skills, their teamwork and their heart. It makes one look forward to how these “normal” characters will react in the next Rondo magical mystery... Reviewed by Donabel Beltran

Reference Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That and Go There By Mark Di Vincenzo Harper Paperbacks, $13.99, 170 pages This was a quick, slick read presenting “behind the scenes” types of information about timing--whether it’s the timing of a job application, or the timing of an insurance adjustment. Seven chapters each carry dozens of small, bite-sized tips that tell you the WHEN, but also provide the WHY and the HOW. For example, the best time to shop a garage sale is early in the morning. The WHY is because the treasures are still available, and the HOW is to come before opening! How about the best time to end an Ebay auction? That would be between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on a Sunday night, as many people are on their computers at that time specifically for leisure purposes. Although I can’t think of a single reason to specifically purchase this book, I did enjoy it, and I did read it all in one quick sitting. Reviewed by Allena Tapia

Pet Photography 101 By Andrew Darlow Focal Press, $14.95, 190 pages Pet Photography 101 is a helpful tool for the new photographer. Anyone who already has some experience or training in the field of photography won’t find anything new in this book, but if this is the first time you’ve picked up a camera and want to jump into photographing pets, then this book is for you. The author; Andrew Darlow, walks you through a step-by-step guide in the very basic tips of the pet photography trade so you will be able to choose the correct camera mode, understand the best perspective for composition and make informed decisions about choosing a lighting source for both indoor and outdoor shooting sessions. Andrew offers the reader 101 tips to guide and inspire the creative aspect of pet photography. Included in this step-by-step book are some guiding principles for having prints made, creating studio lighting and for multi-pet portraits. If you are new to digital photography and love pets, then you would enjoy this book and you might just learn a few techniques that will inspire you to want

to gain more in-depth knowledge about this challenging and rewarding field of photography. Reviewed by Doreen Erhardt SEO Warrior By John I. Jerkovic O’Reilly, $44.99, 452 pages SEO Warrior is one of those books that’s titled slightly misleadingly: It’s not as exciting as it would seem. SEO Warrior is one of the most thorough books on the subject of search engine optimization ever written. No topic, no matter how minor, isn’t covered thoroughly and with a number of examples; reading this book and following it will definitely help your website climb in the search engine rankings. Just be prepared for a long read. This book was written as a textbook, and is about as enthralling. The language frequently slips into a pedantic style, making for a boring, exhaustive read into a topic that requires some programming background to fully appreciate. There is almost no concession made to the non-programming audience, and even programmers will likely get bored

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quickly, skimming through some sections. This is just not a book that lends itself to easy reading. The online extras for those that purchase the book are worth it, however. SEO Warrior is a great reference book, but is not a book whose reading should be taken lightly. The topic covered is definitely important; this just should not be your first and only book on search engine optimization. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim

Other reference reviews available on our website www.sacramentobookreview.com

...plus hundreds more!

February 10 15


Poetry & Short Stories Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds By Edited by Billy Collins; Illustrated by David Allen Sibley Columbia University Press, $22.95, 268 pages Bright Wings is a collection of poems and art that will appeal to poets and bird lovers. Edited by well-known poet Billy Collins and illustrated by author and ornithologist David Allen Sibley, Bright Wings makes an excellent addition to any bookshelf. It features famous poets and contemporary voices, and an introduction by Billy Collins that explores the ability of poetry to continue to tackle old topics (birds) in new and surprising ways. Poetry is a living art and its persistent power mirrors the endless power birds have over us. We humans continue to be fascinated by winged creatures, those that can fly and make music, skills we humans openly desire for ourselves. David Allen Sibley’s beautiful illustrations fill this book with color. Each picture is accompanied by a short caption with information on the habits and habitats

of the bird written about in an adjoining poem. This information enriches the reader’s understanding of each poem. I found many favorites among the poems in this collection, but I am truly haunted by the heron in Jane Hirshfield’s poem, “Hope and Love.” In the winter, some of us do fold ourselves like birds, and hope keeps us warm. Reviewed by Viola Allo The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables By Seamus Heaney FSG, $25.00, 183 pages Philip Larkin, a curmudgeon after my own heart, once called Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde “the most boring poem in the English language.” Whatever word one might use to describe Seamus Heaney’s new translation of fifteenth-century Scots poet Robert Henryson’s followup to Chaucer, it isn’t boring: in fact, this is the most enjoyable volume of poetry I’ve come across in some time. Henryson’s poetic language ranges from noble to rowdy, and his tone is closer to that of Ovid or Robert Herrick than it is to a stuffy medieval

epic. In other words, it’s playful, even in the more solemn central poem (description of the god Saturn: “his lips were blue, his cheek hollow and thin/ And from his nose there streamed a steady nose-run.”). Henryson’s Cresseid is a wonder also: a fully human, tragic figure, more a victim of the gods than the faithless femme fatale of Chaucer and Shakespeare. The other “moral fable” poems, based on Aesop, are jaunty even in their moralizing. “Lodged among leper folk, in grief past telling,/ I sigh a sore and desolate, Alas!” I had my doubts when I picked up this book (medieval moral poetry-- good God), but between Henryson’s stirring stanzas and Heaney’s exuberant lyricism, I’m sold. More power to them both. Reviewed by James Vasser New Collected Poems By Eavan Boland Norton, $18.95, 320 pages New Collected Poems is a complete collection of Irish poet Eavan Boland’s first nine volumes of works. This collection begins with poems first published in 1962, when Boland was just eighteen years old, and con-

Current Events The Dollar Meltdown By Charles Goyette Portfolio, $27.95, 248 pages Charles Goyette, a former Phoenix, Arizona talk show host, details where the U.S. economy is now, how we got there, what might happen next, and how to protect your money. By government intervention in money and markets, the U.S. faces runaway inflation. Between September 2008 and March 2009, the U.S. monetary ratio grew 199%, according to this writer. The author feels that our national debt costs up to $43,000 per individual taxpayer. Furthermore, China owes approximately $717 billion in U.S. treasury securities. The latter is due according to the equivalent of every American citizen borrowing $3,300 from people in China. This reviewer found the chapters on investing in oil, natural resources, bonds, and foreign currencies of interest, offering detailed information on the investments.

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Each chapter of this book, starting with the second chapter, begins with a few thought-provoking quotes--take for example Chapter 7, “How It Comes Down.” Reviewed by Claude Ury The Narcissism of Minor Differences By Peter Baldwin Oxford, $24.95, 310 pages This is an important book and an easy one to grasp. Baldwin uses concise language and clear data (over 200 very easy to read graphs) to make his point: differences between Europe and America in the areas of the economy, healthcare, welfare in general, crime, the environment, are minor differences. When we believe otherwise we simply do not know the facts. For each of several social and political indicators Baldwin compares (those easy graphs) the U.S. with 18 to 20 European nations. So, for example, the chapter on healthcare depicts differences in government spending, total spending, hospitals per 100,000 population, infant mortality, obesity, diabetes, alcohol consumption, and more. For each indicator the

graph exposes where the United States falls in comparison and thus does Baldwin make his point…(over 200 times he makes the point): the differences are minor. The differences among European nations are often greater than the difference in the U.S. Baldwin’s book is short, focused, and surprising. He draws on the latest evidence from sources like the United Nations, the World Bank, OCED and he includes 50 pages of end notes and source material. A well-respected Professor of History at UCLA, Baldwin set out to “unsettle the prejudices and dislodge mistaken assumptions…on both sides of the Atlantic.” I strongly suggest you let him update your thinking as completely as he did mine. Reviewed by Marcia Jo First As Tragedy, Then As Farce By Slavoj Žižek Verso, $ 12.95, 157 pages Take a flavorsome voyage down to South America with my favorite “Indiana Jones of Spices” Nirmala Narine. Best known for her cookbooks, spices, seasonings, grains and exotic salts, her latest book is Nirmala’s Edible Diary. Nirmala’s Kitchen retail gourmet products are preferred by chefs and celebrities around the world including Anthony Bourdian, Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray.

cludes with works published in 2001. This forty-year span permits the reader to perceive themes that permeate Boland’s work over time. Clearly, Boland is well versed in Irish literature and history. Indeed, I enjoyed this collection on one level simply for the opportunity it gave me to research rich allusions and references to Irish history and myth. For a similar reason, I also enjoyed her numerous ekphrases as well. However, it is the very personal themes to which Boland repeatedly and eloquently returns that struck the deepest chord with me. For example, Boland mourns the loss of something significant on leaving Ireland as a child in poems such as “Fond Memory” and “Happiness.” In other poems such as “Ode to Suburbia” and “Against Love Poetry,” she struggles with her place as a modern woman who is also a wife and mother in suburbia. New Collected Poems captures the evolution of a master poet. As such, it is a pleasure to read, and the poems contained therein continue to resonate with the reader long after the book is closed. Reviewed by Annie Peters

The author utilizes those spices suitably with classic muy delicioso food preparation methods for tantalizing stews, juicy drinks and inviting sweets. Tropical drinks such as Sugarcane, Fig, Basil Vodka and Guava Pisco Sour will not just whet your appetite but quench your culturally curious thirst and cravings as well. The first few pages introduce the diverse ingredients that will expand your South American food vocabulary and the chapter on each country reads like a travel blog, with exquisite pictures of locals and their lifestyles together with distinct images of items and places for which each country is known. (I did get a little confused with the identical rooster images in Guyana p37 and Brazil p227, what country do they really belong to?) But kidding aside, you’ll find this a pleasurable gastronomic read and an excellent addition to your cookbook library. Nirmala’s Edible Diary captures the flavors, rhythms and excitement of South America and brings it home to you. Reviewed by Dylan Popowicz

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Business & Investing Getting To Plan B By John Mullins; Randy Komisar Harvard Business Press, $29.95, 249 pages Life in the business start-up lane is never what it seems. New ventures run on plans that have been conceived on untested assumptions almost always fail. Entrepreneurs can only succeed by quickly opting out of their Plan A to a responsive and evolved business model that makes it work. That’s what John Mullins and Randy Komisar’s Getting To Plan B: Breaking Through To A Better Business Model is all about. In this book, the authors argue that there is a far better way to launch new ideas without wasting years time putting to work the wrong business plan. They offer a fieldtested process for putting an initial business idea to a rigorous trial and using the evidence to uncover fatal mistakes and make swift corrections to almost guarantee business success. “If you ‘ just get out there and do it’ you are likely to fail. Why? Today, uncertainty rules. Flux is the only constant.” Taking a hard look at the five business components of economic viability—revenue, gross margin, operating, working capi-

tal and investment models—risk of failure can be reduced by: comparing ideas to determine what works, avoiding what doesn’t, and adding improvement; identifying leaps of faith or the as-yet untested questions you are banking your business on; conducting fast, inexpensive, data-driven experiments to support or refute those questions; and, using this data to make smart strategic changes and course corrections. Whether launching a new venture in the marketplace or inside your company, Mullins and Komisar’s Getting To Plan B will help replace assumptions with evidence—and vastly improve your odds of success. Reviewed by Dominique James So You Have a Great Idea for a Business... By Justin Herald Allen & Unwin, $12.95, 144 pages The year 2010 could just be the year when you get to turn your life around by finally working up the courage to quit your numbing day job and follow your entrepreneurial guts. What do you need to know to prepare yourself for your new, fast and exciting life? The answer is most likely a book by Justin Herald called So You Have A Great Idea For A Business. “Ideas are like armpits--everyone has two and they most often stink.” If you are inclined to go into business, based on nothing more than a great idea that’s been bugging you, you can tip fortune

to your favor by reading what Justin Herald has to say. He is, after all, is a man who knows a thing or two about turning an idea into a business. Consider this book a chat with a pal who wants nothing more than for you to succeed. Based on his own experiences, and if for nothing else, he willingly dispense world-grounded advice that will help properly prepare yourself to turn your bright idea into a successful business. It is full of practical suggestions on what to do and what to avoid. It is also rich in generous servings of motivating wisdom, and case studies of successful and not-so-successful ventures that you can learn from. Herald’s So You Have A Great Idea For A Business is possibly an essential reading for you if you want a head start in small business. Reviewed by Dominique James There’s Always a Way: How to Develop a Positive Mindset and Succeed in Business and Life By Tony Little Wiley, $24.95, 212 pages He’s baaacck! That energetic, famously recognizable business-in-the-front-partyin-the-back haircut, personal trainer and infomercial guy from the early 80s; Tony

Little is still going strong! In his latest book, There’s Always a Way; How to Develop a Positive Mindset and Succeed in Life and Business; he exudes the same pep and fervor for a positive attitude the same way as he’s pushed his wares for the last two decades. Tony has written this book in a Life Coach or more fitting, personal trainer voice, giving the reader practical advice on powerful personal mindsets for success-driven individuals, conquering performance issues and being the top salesman. The initial chapters introduce thinking failures and successes then ease you into the next chapters of high-end successful salesmanship. While his philosophy and mantra work in other fields, he hones in on what he knows and does best; selling yourself, your business, to an audience, passionately and sharing the secrets of selling. Tony is truly himself in this near-autobiographical self-help book. You can’t read it without hearing his voice in your head. If salesmanship is what you lack, then this is the book for you. Reviewed by M. Chris Johnson

Humor-NonFiction I Drink for a Reason By David Cross Grand Central Publishing, $23.99, 236 pages I Drink For A Reason demonstrates Cross’s ability to prattle off free association thinking in an engaging way. His prose reads like a stand-up comedy act transferred to print, and therein lies the problem. This style of mockery, cynicism, and sporadically vulgar and offensive humor might enjoy greater appreciation from a nightclub audience than attentive book readers. This reviewer appreciates some lowbrow humor but Cross takes it to a level devoid of creative value. He doesn’t do it often, but enough to ruin the reading experience. His occasional forays into the profane come off as gratuitous. He has talent, but the reader has to wade through a lot of commentary between the moments of actual humor. One example of his creative ability is revealed when he

fantasizes about appearing in a reality TV program where he says, “The Younger Me would of course be played by Orlando Bloom or Jude Law, whichever one is, as of the publishing deadline of this book, hotter in accordance with the scientists at People Magazine.” Such gems are funny but one must wade through a lot of muck to find them. Save your money unless you enjoy being offended with reckless abandon. Reviewed by Grady Jones Wanted - Bear Cubs for My Children: One Hundred of the Weirdest Posts Ever Seen on Craigslist (and Their Responses) By Gary Fingercastle Adams Media, $10.95, 215 pages It seems like you can find anything on Craigslist these days -- haunted armoires, wax figures of Phil Collins, acting opportunities, requests for people to dress up like squirrels and bite someone -- the Internet is really a wonderful playground and trading post. And that’s where prankster and worldclass rascal Gary Fingercastle comes in. While posting some of the most bizarre

and hilarious ads you’ve never answered on Craigslist, Fingercastle has conducted a unique social experiment, probing the limits of what is too ridiculous to sell, too peculiar to request, and too unbelievable to offer. He has compiled his findings in the book Wanted: Bear Cubs for My Children, and it is an eye-openingly funny read. By including some of the responses to his posts -- ranging from interested and baffled to irate and nonplussed -- as well as those few posts flagged and rejected by patrons, the author assembles a virtual carnival of silliness, perversity, and flat-out stupidity that would make P.T. Barnum proud. As someone who has posted the occasional fake Missed Connection for laughs, I bow before the master. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

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February 10 17


Cooking, Food & Wine More Best Recipes (America’s Test Kitchen) By Editors of Cook’s Illustrated Cook’s Illustrated, $39.95, 790 pages Here is the cookbook for home cooks that want to learn. Compiled by a team of cooks, tasters, food scientists, and more, this professional collection comes straight from America’s Test Kitchen. Modeled after the famed magazine Cook’s Illustrated, More Best Recipes covers every topic with thorough zeal. For example, in the appetizer section, they’ve included a two-page spread on “Supermarket Cheeses 101.” This layout provides tasting notes, cooking tips, and definitions for ten common cheeses, complete with information on cheese graters, their price range, and how to measure cheese. Each detailed recipe is no less comprehensive. They painstakingly explain the experience you should expect from the recipe, provide background on why you should avoid certain techniques, and follow with fool-proof instructions to help the dish land successfully on your table. “Sometimes muffins will stubbornly stick in the pan. To pry them out with little likelihood of tearing the muffin apart, use a grapefruit knife.” The extensive text covers basic American staples like Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings, complete with modern suggestions (in this case, adding leeks and tarragon). It also provides critical knowledge, like “Gas Grilling 101,” and professional tips like “Turning your grill into a smoker.” Whether it’s the Ultimate Oatmeal Cookie you seek, or spicy Enchilada Verdes, you’ll learn how to do it best with this cookbook. Reviewed by Amber K. Stott My New Orleans: The Cookbook By John Besh Andrews McMeel Publishing, $45.00, 374 pages Like its exquisite recipes, My New Orleans is a masterpiece. Author John Besh’s cookbook sparks all the senses: taste through enticing recipes; sight from stunning photography; touch by weight and cool, glossy pages. This is more than a cookbook: it’s a calling, inviting you to turn the next page, and the next, and the next. Besh is as much author as he is chef. My New Orleans is a storybook. Besh walks you through childhood memories, offers historical tales of his great city, and un-

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ravels adventures in food from Mardi Gras parades to “crawfishing” in mud bogs. Filled with memories, grand New Orleans photography, and brilliant recipes, this book offers a rich experience. My New Orleans reflects Besh’s hometown approach to cooking: seasonal, local, and utterly New Orleans. He includes Pan-Fried Croaker with Sweet Corn Hush Puppies and Cole Slaw, Strawberry Shortcake, King Cake (for Mardi Gras), and a good old-fashioned Crawfish Boil. Each recipe is painted with the hand of a James Beard Award-winning chef—which means they are brilliant, yet articulately explained for everyday cooks. The best cookbooks are meant to be savored through words and images, in addition to recipes. My New Orleans nails it. Reviewed by Amber K. Stott The Naked Pint By Christina Perozzi; Hallie Beaune Perigee, $19.95, 336 pages Beer is a glorious, glorious beverage. Enjoyed, it could be argued (although perhaps not accurately), by the majority of the world’s population, it is nonetheless often misunderstood and misrepresented, even by those who seem to have the closest relationships with it. Currently, with the ironic (and obnoxious) hipster trend towards PBR consumption, and the glorification of other beers that please the wallet while not necessarily pleasing the palate, it’s easy to forget that beer is actually a complex beverage with a long and varied history. In their book The Naked Pint, Los Angeles-based beer sommeliers Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune undertake the considerable task of making the wide world of craft beer (which is, by its very nature, not the same creature as big brewery superstars like Budweiser and hipper than thou, but formerly scoffed at, inexpensive ales) accessible to the general populace—most especially women. While it can easily be argued that women who still think beer is a man’s drink don’t deserve to learn about beer, Perozzi and Beaune write about the history, diversity and various applications of beer in a lighthearted, conversational manner that is informative while remaining easy to understand. The book’s topics range from the different types of beer in existence to the history of beer to tips for home brewing. There are beer-drinking tips for everyone from the beer newbie to the connoisseur and they are, for the most part, delivered with a dearth of pretension—although the writing can occasionally rely too much on cheek and cute-L.A.-girl charm. Reviewed by Ashley McCall

Far Flung and Well Fed: The Food Writing of R.W. Apple, Jr. By R. W. Apple Jr. St. Martin’s Press, $26.99, 432 pages Far Flung and Well Fed is a collection of “best of” essays written by the late New York Times political journalist-cum-food writer, R.W. Apple Jr. Apple was revered for his passionate, enchanting writing, his wry sense of humor, and his unique ability to tell tales (sometimes on the driest of subjects) that left readers clinging to his every word. Themes such as legendary Parisian restaurants and buffalo mozzarella have obvious mainstream appeal, but more obscure topics, such as Danish smorrebrod (openfaced sandwiches) or the history of black pepper, are equally engaging and delightfully informative. This book chronicles many of Apple’s food and travel adventures, covering regions from Kentucky to Budapest and culinary treasures from pho to po’ boys. The essays are concise, most averaging around eight pages, but full with detailed stories about quirky food producers, extraordinary meals, unusual ingredients, compelling food histories and a variety of libations. The food writing is descriptive to the point of inducing salivation, yet Apple is equally masterful at captivating the reader with his various characters (home cooks, farmers, shop owners, chefs, mycologists, mixologists, fishermen and restaurateurs) and the other myriad details of his worldly adventures. Reviewed by Andrea Rappaport Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition By Barbara Lynch Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35.00, 335 pages The flavors of both South Boston and Italy come to life in Barbara Lynch’s first cookbook, Stir: Mixing It Up In The Italian Tradition. Lynch, a James Beard Award-winning chef, has crafted a book that includes not only the usual suspects in Italian cuisine, but also some uniquely original recipes, as well. Stir’s chapters run the gamut from Starters And Small Bites to From The Sea; Chicken, Duck, And A Goose; and the quintessential A Passion For Pasta. Cleverly named, there are dishes both familiar (Fried Calamari with Spicy Aioli, Gnocchi, a Pappardelle with Tangy Veal Ragu) and exotic (Spiced Prunes, Chicken Meatball

Lasagnettes, Poulet Au Pain). None of the recipes are overly complicated, making them appealing to even the modest chef, though Lynch’s insistence on making and using fresh pasta dough may intimidate the lesser skilled. Packed with a nice variety of recipes, and including an array of simple but useful tips (“start with the best ingredients,” “season well and keep tasting”), Lynch’s cookbook is a must-have for anyone looking to impress with their grasp of Italian cooking. Reviewed by Mark Petruska More Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: A Drop-Top Culinary Cruise Through America’s Finest and Funkiest Joints By Guy Fieri; Ann Volkwein William Morrow Cookbooks, $19.99, 247 pages As with his previous book, More Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives is in author Guy Fieri’s own words, off the hook. If you are a fan of his Food Network TV show of the same name, you will love this book. It’s fun to read – even if you never plan to make any of the recipes included in the book. The reader gets a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes anecdotes and people involved in the making of the TV show, and includes Guy’s local color comments and recipes from 52 locations around the United States. Some of the offerings are the Lobster Sandwich from Kelly’s Diner in Somerville, Mass., The Turducken from Alpine Steakhouse in Sarasota, Fla., the Italian Roast Beef Pizza from The Original Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria in Chicago, Ill., and the Gorilla Mac and Cheese from Pacifica, Calif. (not too far down the road from where I live and definitely on my list for my next road trip). I recommend you get two copies of this book--one to keep in your car and one to keep in your kitchen. As Guy would say, “that’s money.” Reviewed by Sharon LeBrun

Other cooking, food & wine reviews available on our website www.sacramentobookreview.com

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Religion The Genesis Enigma By Andrew Parker Dutton Adult, $25.95, 294 pages Books seeking to blend science and religion usually succeed only in banalizing one and demeaning the other. Andrew Parker’s The Genesis Enigma has reinforced this opinion. Parker, an Oxford zoologist noted for his theory regarding the relationship between the vision and the “Cambrian explosion,” here seeks to stand against the stampede of British atheists wishing to use science to “disprove” religion, arguing that creation in Genesis closely tracks the evolutionary record understood by science. As with British atheists like Dawkins, Parker suffers a parochial view, believing that everything he needs to know about religion he learned in Sunday school. He never delves into the complex original Hebrew, believing the King James sufficient. Worse still, his reading of Genesis 1 might charitably be called selective, ignoring words and phrases that discredit his thesis. And, when it comes to the ultimate question of this work – how the ancient Israelites might have had such a deep understanding of science – Parker evades, equivocates and ultimately surrenders. Interested readers would do far better to seek out Gerald Schroder’s original and engaging works on this topic. Didactic, digressive, and ultimately dissatisfying, The Genesis Enigma purports to say a lot, but merely disappoints. Reviewed by Jordan Magill God Encounters By James Stuart Bell Howard, $14.99, 218 pages James Stuart Bell, prominent writer, editor, company director and publisher with 30 years’ experience, compiled God Encounters: Stories of His Involvement in Life’s Greatest Moments from 40 published authors’ stories of God’s intervention in our lives. These authors wrote stories from their hearts, giving their account of a God encounter that moved them. Some examples of the stories include an alcoholic husband traveling across country to enter a 30-day rehab program and an angel on his fl ight unknowingly makes sure he gets there safely and soberly. And then there’s the one of the small-town wife who just had triple boys, her husband was injured and lost his job and all she has is $10 for groceries. Tale after tale of circumstance we all have heard about or even

experienced ourselves; a difficult labor, a miscarriage, an atheist’s struggle for truth, an artist plight, slavery. Everyday experiences, both good and bad, but the common thread in these tales is God’s love for us as humans, that He does answer prayers and watch out for us. There is something for everyone in this book. Brilliantly orchestrated publication! Reviewed by M. Chris Johnson

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February 10 19


Parenting/Families Feeding Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition During Pregnancy, Childhood, and Beyond By Alan Greene Wiley, $16.95, 296 pages Just in time for the recent spotlight on making every aspect of life eco-friendly comes Feeding Baby Green by Alan Greene, M.D. This book proposes a method of developing “healthy, safe nutrition” for children, starting with pregnancy and continuing through about eight years old, forming the basis for a full lifetime of healthy eating. Here Dr. Greene shares his thoughts on how to avoid a

picky eater (by eating a wide variety of “flavor threads” throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, and taking advantage of the window of opportunity when young babies are more likely to try new things), the best solid foods to start a baby on (say no to bland rice cereal and yes to whole grains and real vegetables and fruits), and a plethora of exciting recipes that are kid-friendly and nutritionally sound. This book is laid out in a very straightforward manner, progressing chronologically through the years, and each chapter focuses on recurring themes (windows of opportunity, engaging the senses) to keep the information provided clearly sorted and easy to understand. This book would be a great read for any expecting mother. Reviewed by Holly Scudero

Technology Windows 7: Up and Running By Wei-Meng Lee O’Reilly Media, Inc., $24.99, 185 pages While this manual is about getting around in Windows 7, it seems to be based on the OEM (Original Equipment manufacturer) beta version. The author discusses the fact that you can have only one wallpaper in this version, usually to give the OEM a place for their logo so it the first thing you see when the PC is done booting up. Because I am Certified Microsoft Systems Engineer the book wasn’t really geared towards users like me looking for technical detail so I had to shift out of technician mode and read the book only as a user. In my opinion the average user looking to find their way around Windows 7 will find this book helpful for all of the basic functions that most people would be working with. The book does cover the minimum hardware requirements and gives the reader a good overview of the basic system functions. I found it easy to follow. There are many screen shots that the author uses to help the reader understand the point being made. Well written and illustrated. Reviewed by Marc Filippelli

20 February 10

Make: Technology on Your Time Volume 20 By Edited by Mark Frauenfelder O’Reilly Media, Inc., $14.99, 179 pages Make is a quarterly magazine that focuses on serious Do-It-Yourself projects and targets DIYers, builders, crafters, and other creative sorts. The Winter 2009 issue’s main feature is an interview with Adam Savage of the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters. This issue, among other projects, features a hydrogenoxygen bottle rocket, an Autophenakistoscope, a marble adding machine, and so much more. All of these projects are accompanied with detailed instruction and large full color photos to guide even the most building illiterate through all the projects in this Make. I especially enjoyed the lunch box laser show project, which is now my DIY high tech project for 2010. As always my sole complaint with this Winter 2009-10 issue of Make, and all issues really, is how daunting many of the projects are! The intimidation factor for this magazine is pretty high, despite all the help the magazine and its website offer. For the uninitiated much of Make is opaque, esoteric, and indecipherable. The persistent reader, prepared to step out of their comfort zone, will learn much from Make Volume 20. Reviewed by Jonathon Howard

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Science & Nature The Case for Pluto By Alan Boyle Wiley, $22.95, 258 pages With a fresh style and a clear voice, Alan Boyle addresses The Case for Pluto. Ever since the search for a planet between Mars and Jupiter led to the discovery of the asteroid belt, the hunt for a planet at the edge of the solar system not only led to the discovery of Clyde Tombaugh’s Pluto, but also to the now well-known Kuiper Belt and the lesser known Ort Cloud. Several efforts have aimed to demote Pluto to dwarf planet status, leading to one of the biggest controversies astronomy has seen since astronomers tried to capture images of stars hiding behind the sun during a solar eclipse as predicted by Einstein. A number of planet demystifiers have come to the aid of the planet degradation era, some with torches held high and some with lynch knots. The main problem is that Pluto has enjoyed popularity. Boyle puts up a good battlefront in the case for Pluto, considering every angle and leaving no scientific mind undisturbed. What the scientific community could agree upon was that Pluto was both a planet and not a planet at the same time. The solution was to reclassify, hoping to quell the problem. A must read. Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal By Tristram Stuart Norton, $27.95, 426 pages Released initially in the UK, Waste tells the story of a bloated culture’s unconscionable, systematic, hour-by-hour waste of food (in the UK and US) and how this waste destroys our environment. In rich, developed nations, food is thrown away through neglect. In poor developing nations, it rots for lack of means to process, store, and transport. Together we waste enough to feed everyone on the planet. Stuart charts the global food crisis with examples and research from New York, Pakistan, China, Japan, and the UK. His style is journalistic and he explores unhelpful policies (for example adopting “use by” rather than “best by” labeling) unhelpful practices (for example, sushi restaurants throw away literally tons of very expensive fish) and unhelpful expectations (farmers tossing away perfectly good though mis-

shapen fruits because consumers refuse to buy them). The book is heavy on storytelling, moderate on good data, and weak on offering cogent solutions. He does describe his personal practice: he eats exclusively “wasted food” from refuse piles. The book is interesting and the multinational comparisons are especially good; but it needs editing, and needs to be out in paperback for half the price. Reviewed by Marcia Jo How We Live and Why We Die By Lewis Wolpert Norton, $24.95, 240 pages The base of all life is the cell, of which all living things are composed. Cell study enables scientists to understand How We Live & Why We Die. Cells are amazingly adapted to gather proteins, enzymes and other molecular structures, which provide the building blocks and energy of life. Cells also provide the written instructions of how to build the organism, from their DNA. Like a nail-biting mystery, the author unravels the secrets locked up in the cell. He reveals the grand contribution of Gregor Mendel and other great scientists who helped develop the theories that explain how life works. Many of these have given rise to new ways to study diseases and understand, in a more profound way, the meaning of life itself. Sensitive to the bases of all life, Wolpert goes on to explain how we become human, how we reproduce, how we move, think and feel, how we grow and why we age, how we survive, how cancer strikes, how diseases are caused and the origin of life. Although he explains his points from the perspective of a scientist, he succeeds in his use of very readable language and draws clear conclusions. A mind-expanding read. Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky Edison’s Concrete Piano: Flying Tanks, Six-Nippled Sheep, Walk-on-Water Shoes, and 12 Other Flops from Great Inventors By Judy Wearing ECW Press, $14.95, 270 pages Thomas Edison famously said that genius was one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. By that logic, invention must be one percent success and ninety-nine percent frustration, failure, disillusionment, and embarrassment. Wearing’s book assembles sixteen examples from that ninety-nine percent, detailing duds, flops, and lackluster products from some of history’s most brilliant and

celebrated luminaries. Edison, Da Vinci, Tesla, Bell, even Einstein isn’t invincible under the watchful eye of Judy Wearing, as she details the circumstances and missteps behind the creation of their less-renowned efforts. Sure, some of these are blatantly bad ideas, but many were either unpopular with consumers, due to misleadingly bad press, or blackballed by unions and corporations to protect their own interests, which makes them less failures than victims of the time. In fact, several of these “flops” are finding new life decades later, which makes their inclusion in this book questionable at best. In the end, what should be an interesting romp through the less-than-stellar days of historical icons comes off as an exercise in mean-spirited pointing and laughing. The stories behind these inventions are fascinating, but Wearing’s conclusions leave a bit of a sour taste in the reader’s mouth. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Time: Big Ideas, Small Books By Eva Hoffman Picador, $14.00, 214 pages Eva Hoffman’s well-crafted and tantalizing prose posits a new mode of thinking in the area of temporal studies. Her book is an attempt to link every aspect of life to the inescapable grip of time. She determines human temporality by how humans live by the clock. Her rich testament to those concerns encompasses four specific areas: Time and the Body; Time and the Mind; Time and Culture; and Time in Our Time. She peeks beneath the obvious to reveal hidden temporal relationships that animals experience. This raises some rather curious questions of time realization. She explains that, “Elephants live seven times longer than mice and an elephant’s heart beat is seven times slower. Does that mean that mice feel that they live as long?” She refers to the Hayflick limit that explains the limitation on cells’ ability to replicate. The implication is that we are deemed finite by nature. Time in Our Time discusses the way time allocation has changed. The author observes how home time is now more closely aligned with work time. These new temporal arenas allows us to understand how it seems that the way we experience time has also changed with time. A terrific read. Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky

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The Physics of Superheroes: Spectacular Second Edition By James Kakalios Gotham, $16.00, 424 pages Lab accidents, experimental test flights, military weapon malfunctions, alien technology... scientific principles inform and influence comic books on a fundamental level, but how much of what we see in the comics are true to the laws of physics? That’s the question The Physics of Superheroes seeks to answer, and it does an admirable job of straddling the line between keeping its explanations simple and properly detailing the principles involved. Superman leaping tall buildings, the Flash running up walls, the power of Ant-Man’s punch, Iceman’s freezing ability, Magneto’s gravity-defying levitation... all are put to the test under Kakalios’s insightful eye. While it occasionally vacillates between using science to explain superheroes and using superheroes to explain scientific concepts, the difficulty level rarely wavers, even when tackling such mind-bending fields as solid-state physics, electromagnetism, and alternate universes. The author’s affection for the subject is undeniable, his knowledge of characters both famous and obscure is impressive, and his sense of humor is immensely nerdy, not to mention shamefully chuckle-inducing. In short, The Physics of Superheroes is the best of both worlds, or however many worlds you believe are possible. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

February 10 21


Urban Fiction Dying For Revenge By Eric Jerome Dickey Penguin/NAL Trade, $16.00, 512 pages Dying for Revenge, the third installment in the Gideon series, is a strong departure from early Dickey. Less emotional drama and more fast-faced action, steamy, exciting, sex scenes, seedy characters, and a wicked revenge plot. Action explodes from the very first page, in a wild roller-coaster ride through the seedy underbelly of international crime. Professional assassin, Gideon thought he was finally safe on the warm beaches of the Cayman Islands.

Too bad he left a little unfinished business at home. When a cold-blooded woman hired him to kill her husband in Detroit, he never should have let his emotions get in the way of doing the job. Now the Lady from Detroit is city’s mayor with money and power to spare. She will stop at nothing to destroy Gideon. Knowing he won’t be safe until his enemy is destroyed, Gideon turns the tables when the hunted becomes the hunter. Dodging hired assassins, a seasoned killer known as El Matador and his ruthless wife, Gideon crosses the globe from the gritty streets of Detroit to the flash of London to palm trees and white sands of the Caribbean to destroy the Lady from Detroit before she destroys him. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley

Philosophy On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears By Stephen T. Asma Oxford University Press, $27.95, 368 pages Quick--think of the last time you were truly and irrationally terrified. I bet you were a kid, right? And I bet the thing you were scared of then probably wouldn’t scare you now. When you stop being a kid, you’re supposed to stop being afraid of monsters. But just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean the monsters all disappear. Bogeymen and things that go bump in the night are only part of what Stephen T. Asma covers in his excellent book, On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears. Cyclopes and golems get their own chapters, but then so does Medea, star of her own Euripidean tragedy. You might remember her as the mythical monster who killed her own children to exact revenge on their adulterous father. In the introduction, Asma writes, “If we find monsters in our world, it is sometimes because they are really there, and sometimes because we have brought them with us.” That sentence easily sums up the appeal of On Monsters. Nearly all of the creatures mankind has encountered, manifested, or simply made up are here, and the scariest ones don’t look all that different from us when the lights come on. Reviewed by Amanda Mitchell

22 February 10

The Genius and the Goddess By Aldous Huxley Harper Perennial Modern Classics, $13.99, 192 pages It can be a bad gamble to pick up a book based on the author’s name and one or two titles that carry the connotations of “classics.” This may be true with Aldous Huxley’sthe Genius and the Goddess. The work starts out with some clumsily framed philosophical ramblings, but once the reader gets past the waxing and waning, the p lot—a scientist’s protégée has an affair with his “goddess” wife—the questions raised and love triangles revealed are fascinating, and the end gratifying. Parts of this book, such as the morals (or lack of them) projected on the wife, seem to carry a nod toward enjoying life, and enjoying a hedonistic “here and now” lifestyle. Reviewed by Allena Tapia 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction By Rebecca Newberger Goldstein Pantheon, $27.95, 398 pages 36 Arguments for the Existence of God is a fantastic example of good fiction accompanied by subtle social commentary, and one of my most enjoyable reads all year. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein has created a work that both entertains and indicts the radical fringes of

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American culture: New Atheists, pedantic academics, unimaginative rationalists, and ignorant theists all feel the sting of Goldstein’s prose. I had only one complaint with the book, and it is a credit to the author that I didn’t figure it out until I was through most of the book: the one-dimensional characters that populate the pages. Outside of the protagonist, every supporting figure is a stereotype hidden behind artful scenery and dialogue existing only for the author to

attack and inevitably knock down. This is a real shame as the Goldstein is a talented writer, and the subject she writes about is an important one that the United States will one day have to deal with: Our spilt-personality disorder between fundamentalism and secularism. I wish the author had been able to deal with the intricacies of the issue as opposed to the straw men she went with. A beautifully flawed work. Reviewed by Jonathon Howard

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Sequential Art Hero Tales, Vol. 1 By Huang Jin Zhou Yen Press, $10.99, 174 pages Once I’ve overcome the initial disorientation of having to read the novel starting from the back cover to the front, right to left side (which is how reading materials are designed to be read in Japan, China and several other Asian countries), going through Hero Tales is not a bad way to spend half an hour. The novel consists of three chapters detailing the coming-of-age (in the traditional Japanese hero style) experience of Taitou, who was gifted with a magical sword. The sword was stolen from him and so he takes on a journey to get it back. Accompanied by his sister Laila and a teacher reluctant to accept Taitou’s powerful destiny, Taitou must overcome his impatience and pride to be worthy of his place among the stars. Based on a Japanese legend, this graphic novel -- with its story and its typical anime

stylings -- can make a wonderful addition to a young person’s list of reading materials. Reviewed by Donabel Harms Kitchen Princess: Search for the Angel Cake By Miyuki Kobayashi Del Rey, $9.99, 160 pages When middle school student and aspiring chef Najika Kazami is charged by a sick old woman with recreating a cake made by her deceased parents (famous chefs themselves) many years ago, she sets out to find the perfect recipe. Along the way, she gets the opportunity to make other people happy with her simple, delicious cooking. The four recipes printed at the end of each short story include the mysterious angel food cake, which I made. It was easy enough, and the result was a light, sweet dessert that was a nice alternative to all the super-sweet chocolate bombs I usually make this time of year. Based on the

manga (graphic novel) of the same name, Kitchen Princess: Search for the Angel Cake is something that could probably only be appreciated by fans of the series. The writing--translated directly from the Japanese source material--is awkward, and I have to wonder why it wasn’t turned into a fully illustrated graphic novel, too. But the recipes at the end of every chapter nearly make up for the prose, and it’s fair to treat this like a very, very short cookbook. In that respect, it’s a sweet little treat. Reviewed by Amanda Mitchell Missile Mouse #1: The Star Crusher By Jake Parker GRAPHIX, $10.99, 172 pages Missile Mouse Book I: The Star Crusher is one of those books that comes really close to making the bridge between “cool” and “classic.” Overall, it’s not a bad book, and is an enjoyable read. The characters are well developed and believable, and the plot develops naturally and organically. Of particular note is how well one character’s racial memory is treated. The art style is actually fun to look at. It’s a book you wouldn’t be ashamed to have on your bookshelf.

However, there are few problems. The most obvious is that the book starts in color, and then switches to black and white; it’s a bit jarring. It’s also a perfect metaphor for the characters; they’re well developed, but that development is used as a crutch in areas, as too much time is spent on some areas, and certain plot developments can be easily predicted. The book could have been better if there had been a little more plot. Missile Mouse Book I: The Star Crusher is an enjoyable enough read, and a great way to pass an hour or two. It just could have been better, and I think the sequel should live up to that promise. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim

Herman Franck, Esq. is the author of the following books, available through www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com


Art, Architecture & Photography Harry Benson: Photographs By Harry Benson powerHouse Books, $50.00, 227 pages After sixty years, the famous photojournalist puts out a book covering his entire career, from the first photograph that was ever published to the most recent photographs taken of President Obama. Harry Benson has covered the major events of the latter half of the 20th Century. From the building of the Berlin Wall, to the assassination of Robert Kennedy, to the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11, Harry Benson has been there in his capacity as a photojournalist, to bring the images to the public. Many famous people are in this book, and many well-known photographs are in this book as well--even if we did not know it was a Harry Benson photograph. The photographs are arranged chronologically, so you get to see how he progressed as a photographer, he might not always be the most artistic as other photographers, he does get the shot he wants in the end. These photographs give us a look at the history of the 20th and 21st centuries, as we went from the revolutionary 60s and the counter culture 70s, into the 90s and the beginning of a new millennium. This is a book for people who love photography. Reviewed by Kevin Winter Fine Art and High Finance By Clare McAndrew Bloomberg, $39.95, 336 pages While many will readily agree that art is a thing of beauty, not too many people will readily consider it as an investment. However, art is more than just beauty. It is money—big money. In 2008 alone, the international art market is estimated to have turned over more than $65 billion in total sales, the highest-ever annual recorded total. With that kind of figure, art is no longer something that we can readily dismiss as “just art.” Art trade is big business—a lucrative market that continues to develop despite global economic downturns. As other assets dip, art has become the attractive alternative. To make sense of art as money, the book to read is Dr. Clare McAndrew’s Fine Art And High Finance: Expert Advice on the Economics of Ownership. It provides the novice and sophisticated art investor, as well as artists and collectors, a comprehensive guide into the art economy today. Bringing together contributors such as Jill Arnold, Anthony Browne, Dr. Rachel Campbell, Charles T. Danziger and Thomas

24 February 10

C. Danziger, Jeremy Eckstein, Christiane Fischer, Rachel Goodman, Suzanne Gyorgy, Elizabeth von Habsburg, John K. Jacobs, Dr. Roman Kräussl, Ralph E. Lerner, Rena Neville, Barbara A. Ramsay, Pierre Valentin with Philip Munro and Samantha Morgan, and Randall Wilette, Dr. Clare McAndrew’s Fine Art And High Finance: Expert advise on the Economics of Ownership is an outstanding and fascinating resource about where the money is the world of art. Reviewed by Dominique James Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist By James Gurney Andrews McMeel, $24.99, 224 pages My cousins were all quite young when Dinotopia was first published; they spent many an hour engrossed in the fantastic tales woven by author and master illustrator James Gurney. Not surpringly, Dinotopia-themed pictures appear frequently in Imaginative Realism. The premise of the book is a dichotomy in and of itself: how to draw things that aren’t there, as realistically as possible. Having grown up in a household of artists and i llustrators, I saw familiar themes and equipment displayed and simply explained from proper lighting, clay figurines and buildings…even using one’s friends as models “en costume.” The artist is unstinting in relaying advice, varying techniques and a startlingly vast array of topical illustrations, including many pieces drawn for National Geographic magazine. Despite the book’s title and object lessons in pure imagination, I most enjoyed his studies of real faces as well as the historical illustrations; the figures, details and expressions are so well drawn that one can almost guess the entire story from the pictures. Despite knowing that one is not to “judge a book by its cover,” in this case I found it difficult not to; the odd, gremlin-like creature pictured on the front is universally unappealing, and unduly juvenile compared to the exquisite drawings within. I encourage consumers to look past the cover and peruse the inner delights for themselves. Reviewed by Meredith Greene Creative Composition By Harold Davis Wiley, $29.99, 240 pages “Point-and-shoot” is called that for a reason—you just point and shoot, almost with no regard as to how it will come out. But if you want to develop a keen eye toward producing dynamically, creatively, artistically composed photographs, let Harold Davis show you how to do it with his book, Creative Compositions: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques.

In this book, you will master the many professional composition tips and techniques that will advance your skills to a new level by learning how to pre-visualize photos and compose images in your imagination—seeing in advance how your choices of lenses, lighting, focal length, and exposure will produce the desired results. You will also learn how to take advantage of the RAW format, master depth of field, and discover how to work with shapes, lines, and patterns, etc. In addition to letting you in on the valuable tips and techniques, Davis also shows you how it will come out with breathtaking images to amply illustrate each of the compositional point. The pictures accompanying his explanation of how these were achieved will teach you how you can do it too. Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques by Harold Davis is a book for you when you are ready to cross the photographic chasm of good snapshots to great photographs. Reviewed by Dominique James

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Sacramento Book Review - February 2010  

A monthly printed book publication reviewing books in 30 different categories

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