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VOLUME 2, ISSUE 6

F R E E

NEW AND OF INTEREST

6

An Interview With Writer and Publisher Thomas Farber Page 4

Zombie is the New Undead Page 11

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Children’s Book Week Expanded Section Pages 13-19

Betcha Can … Men Can Write Believable Female Characters Page 20

More than just a big party By Steven T. Jones CCC Publishing, $17.95, 312 pages

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Burning Man, the xeric bacchanal held annually in Nevada, turned 25 last year. Improbably surviving its early years, the counter-cultural art festival and social experiment overcame the legal and logistical challenges of its tumultuous teens and has finally matured into relative tranquility. But, like any modern twenty-something might ask in an introspective moment – I’ve arrived, but so what? Steven Jones tackles this question is his book, The Tribes of Burning Man. Jones doesn’t hide his belief – and hope – that the

event is changing the American counterculture. Don’t worry if you’ve never been; Jones gives a thorough description of daily life on the playa. The meat of the book, however, is a year-by-year look at the event from 2004 through 2010. He chronicles the familiar (La Contessa, Paul Addis, Borg2, and of course the obligatory quotes from Larry Harvey), but comes into his own relating lesser-known stories, such as the role of a large-scale sound camps, or the stresses of conceiving and executing big art projects. See TRIBES, cont’d on page 7

Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps Page 25

Festivus for the Restivus Page 29

146 Reviews INSIDE!


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Modern Literature Blood By Jack Remick Camel Press, $17.95, 286 pages This is a well-crafted, intense, and complex novel. The main character is disturbing and dangerous, yet intelligent, thoughtful and, in his own way, highly ethical. A seemingly unsympathetic psychopath on a voyage of self-discovery; he manages to touch upon the many vagaries of the human condition. A ruthless murderer who views himself as the angel of death, engaged in a touching and tender romance with his prison cellmate. Hank Mitchell is a contract killer who has allowed himself to be imprisoned for stealing women’s underwear. “Mitch” views prison as a sanctuary from his former profession, and as penance for crimes far worse than the theft of panties. He is a man painfully aware of the darkness living inside of himself, his kin, and his fellow man. Hank tries to purge his demons by becoming a writer, giving a voice

Providing an interesting look at ways to consider your world, not just through your natural filters, but through others as well.

Sacramento Book Review San Francisco Book Review

Two brain hemispheres, two perspectives on the world.

Are you taking full advantage of both? ISBN 9781579830557

Available on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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100% White CIIS: URW Clarendon T, Regular, 38.75/46.5pt (kern 10pt) PUBLIC PROGRAMS: URW Clarendon T, Regular, 36/67pt (kern 10pt) URL: URW Clarendon T, Medium, 19/40pt (kern 40pt. EXCEPT for slash. No kerning there.)

to the many he has killed. A word of caution: The storyline contains highly charged adult themes which will make some readers uncomfortable. The narrative includes graphic descriptions of rape, prison sex, and murder. But do not dismiss this as mere sensationalism. It is Hank Mitchell’s voice, and the novel would not be the same if these passages were deleted. Be prepared for a wild ride as the author, Jack Remick, does not ease gently into the story. From the very first page, the reader is immediately swept up by the prose as if caught in a flash flood. Multilayered themes combine with Mitchell’s nightmarish de- lusions blurring into reality: corporate and individual corruption, biology versus destiny, environmental damage and human depravity, betrayal and deception. The narrative is rhythmic, almost hypnotic, with a cadence like a relentless drum beat or at times a turbulent raging river. All of this combines to result in one of the best books I’ve ever read. Sponsored Review I Think I Love You By Allison Pearson Knopf, $24.95, 331 pages Whether it was Elvis, Donnie, or Leonardo, no woman forgets her favorite teen idol. Here, the year is 1974 and thirteenyear-old Petra is obsessed with David Cassidy, living for his dreamy fan magazine letters. The letters, though, are actually written by a young writer named Bill, who is humiliated by this duty. As the excitement builds toward David’s London farewell concert, Petra scrambles to complete a contest in Bill’s magazine that offers a trip to California to meet David. Following the concert, author Allison Pearson forwards us to 1998 where an adult Petra returns to Wales for her mother’s funeral and discovers she had won the contest all those years ago. Petra, who is still reeling from her husband’s recent abandonment, calls to claim her prize. Bill, now the head of the publishing company, sees a story in this and arranges a meeting with the fifty-year-old Cassidy in Las Vegas. I Think I Love You is a fascinating exploration of teen idols. Pearson’s beautiful, observant writing keeps readers joined at the hip with young, tender Petra who is so earnestly striving for a place with the “it” girls and experiencing feelings of love for the first time. The actual meeting with Cas-

sidy doesn’t happen until the end, where Pearson tells it obtusely and quickly. By that time, there is a real love story developing that deliciously trumps the imaginary love affair from yesteryear. Reviewed by Megan Just The Uncoupling By Meg Wolitzer Riverhead Hardcover, $25.95, 271 pages Meg Wolitzer’s latest offering, The Uncoupling, poses intimate questions about relationships and what happens when love begins to fade, and sex, well, sex just ends. Using Aristophanes’ comedic play Lysistrata as the catalyst for action, a similar spell is cast over the inhabitants of Stellar Plains, New Jersey, shortly after the arrival of the new drama teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. No one is immune from the cold spell that circles throughout the school and town. Slowly, the females of this vibrant community are turned off by sex, or even the thought of intimacy. And, none of these women understand why the excitement is fading. Neither do their husbands or boyfriends. Will the flames of passion and lust reignite? Wolitzer’s uncomplicated take on a complicated issue will

leave readers laughing out loud and secretly understanding the muddy path that many relationships experience. She presents a group of likeable characters that readers will relate to. The best thing about The Uncoupling is its sincerity and fresh outlook about relationships and why they do – or don’t – click. Using an ancient play and applying its worldly lessons to the present is simply brilliant. Wolitzer’s storytelling pulls readers into the heart of the action. You’ll be entranced, too. I’m just glad the spell didn’t circulate around me. Reviewed by LuAnn Schindler Jump By Terra Little Urban Books, $14.95, 288 pages Lena Hunter and her sister, Victoria, spent many childhood years being “good girls” for the their grandmother. But when Lena finds out that her own daughter’s innocence is now a target of this horrible request, she hurries to her grandmother’s house and pulls the trigger on the old woman’s heart. After spending eight years in prison for taking her grandmother’s life, Lena is finalSee JUMP, cont’d on page 25

T hou s a nd s of b o ok re v ie w s at S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com


San Francisco

Book Review 1776 Productions. LLC 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 Ph. 877.913.1776 info@1776productions.com EDITOR IN CHIEF Ross Rojek ross@1776productions.com

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Joseph Arellano George Erdosh David Marshall Kelly Furjutz Rachel Wallace D. Wayne Dworsky Sky Sanchez-Fischer Zara Raab

GRAPHIC DESIGN/LAYOUT Heidi Komlofske heidi.komlofske@1776productions.com

COPY EDITORS Megan Just Lori Miller Megan Roberts Sky Sanchez-Fischer Megan Roberts Julia McMichael Mark Petruska

EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Mary Komlofske Ariel Berg

DISTRIBUTION Sacramento Distribution Service

MEDIA SALES larry.lefrancis@1776productions.com

The San Francisco Book Review is published bi-monthly by 1776 Productions, LLC. The opinions expressed in these pages are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the San Francisco Book Review or San Francisco Book Review advertisers. All images are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders. All words © 2011, 1776 Productions, LLC. May/June 2011 print run 10,000 copies.

IN THIS ISSUE Modern Literature......................................... 2 ARTICLE: An Interview with Writer and Publisher Thomas Farber............................ 4

FROM THE EDITOR Out of all the issues we produce every year, this one has always been my favorite! It’s the one that celebrates Children’s Book Week. For the

Romance......................................................... 5

third year running, we’ve teamed up with local

Mystery, Crime & Thrillers............................. 6

up the field to include our regular reviewers’ kids

elementary schools. For the first time, we opened and grandkids. I arrived in Ms. White’s 5th grade class about

Science & Nature............................................ 8

6 weeks ago carrying a giant box of books, which I

Art, Architecture & Photography................... 8

room as the children finished up their lesson on

Science Fiction & Fantasy............................... 9 ARTICLE: Zombie is the New Undead........... 11

layed out across the floor in the back of the classRome. The classroom quickly filled with whispers and glances to where the books layed. The kids were scoping out their selections. I gave them a quick overview of what the publications were about -- showing them last year’s

Poetry & Short Stories.................................. 12

issue that had the expanded Children’s Book Week

Home & Garden............................................ 12

pressed with the printed publication than the kids

Humor-NonFiction....................................... 12

the classroom to peruse the wide array of titles I

Children’s Book Week..............................13-20 ARTICLE: Betcha Can...Men Can Write Believable Female Characters................... 20 Young Adult.................................................. 21 Current Events & Politics............................. 23

section. I think teachers and parents are more imare, though. They formed a single-file line across brought from publishers. My helpers handed out our guidelines to help them write their review. In no time, most of the books were selected. I can’t tell you how many kids came up to me and asked “Do we get to keep the book?” When I said “Of course you do, their eyes lit up!” I came away from the classroom feeling amazing. Together with the publishers who donated books for this program, we made their day. How cool is that?! The remaining books went onto the 6th grade classroom. The very few books that were leftover were

Health, Fitness & Dieting............................ 23

gladly scooped up for the classroom library, an in-

Reference...................................................... 23

cuts in schools have effected our classrooms.

dication of just how much the country’s budgetary You’ll find the kids’ reviews a real treat to read.

Biographies & Memoirs................................ 24

Pay attention, Children’s publishers...this is your

History......................................................... 26

heart-felt than this.

Cooking, Food & Wine.................................. 28

who participated in this program. I hope you feel

audience. The reviews don’t get more honest and I can’t possibly thank the publishers enough as good as I do.

Travel........................................................... 29

Sincerely,

ARTICLE: Festivus for the Restivus.............. 29

Heidi Komlofske

Religion........................................................ 30

President & CEO

Popular Fiction............................................. 31 Books About Books....................................... 32

May/June 11

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An Interview With Writer and Publisher Thomas Farber Thomas Farber is a recipient of Guggenheim, National Endowment, Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Dorothea Lange––Paul Taylor fellowships. He is the author of many works of fiction, creative nonfiction, screenplays, and the epigrammatic, including Truth Be Told, The Twoness of Oneness, and Hesitation Marks. Thomas Farber is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the publisher, through El Leon Literary Arts, of more than twenty novels and books of contemporary poetry, including Karl Marlantes’ Matterhorn, featured recently on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. Zara Raab: Are you working on a book now? Thomas Farber: I recently finished last edits on a new book of the epigrammatic, Foregone Conclusions, with companion essay (“Equivoques, Apercus, Spars & Catarrhs”). It will be published this summer. Meanwhile, I’m drifting/drifting toward a nonfiction (??) book about writers and their writing in old(er) age. ZR: What are you reading? TF: I’m reading everything I can about old age, death, and dying. I also continue to read anything that sheds light on human foible, which feeds my ongoing interest in the epigrammatic. To this end, I’ve been working my way through the journals of Frederic Raphael, and now his novels. Sharp mind, tongue, this fellow. ZR: You recently published a screenplay. Tell us about that. TF: My co-authored screenplay, The TwoBody Problem (now a book), began with my friendship with film buff, art lover, and math-genius Edward Frenkel, who teaches at U.C. Berkeley. Collaboration is exhilarating after the habitual solitude of writing, also amusing—ideas one would never have had on one’s own! Further, Edward is a dynamo. Edward-the-relentless! For me, the project was always going

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to be a book: to sell a screenplay is next to impossible. I believe this though in the past I’ve been commissioned to write treatments or screenplays, have been well paid for them. Still, a “low-budget” feature film costs several million dollars, minimum, and that’s a lot to hope others will invest in, bring to completion. At the moment, Edward and I also have a stage adaptation of the screenplay, which last December was given a stage reading directed by the gifted Barbara Oliver, and Edward and I are doing yet another revision of the screenplay before he heads to Cannes in May to spread the word to the assembled moguls. ZR: Before the screenplay, you wrote several books of epigrams. Yet you started out with short stories and a novel, several novels. Is the novel dead? TF: Since publishing my first chapbook of the epigrammatic in 1996, at age forty two, I’ve published a second book

of creative nonfiction about the Pacific; a second novel; a memoir; three collaborations with great marine photographer Wayne Levin; a screenplay; and, along the way, four books of the epigrammatic. That is, last fifteen years I’ve been able to continue to work in different forms to express what I was yearning to find a way to say on the page. I’ve never, ever had the notion that one form is higher or harder than another. The novel is in no way dead as far as I am concerned, though writers who do think it is dead should of course refrain from trying to write one. Nor have expectations of editors or agents ever influenced my decisions about what or how to write. Never! At sixtysix going on sixtyseven, I know my time and strength are limited, have to pick my shots. Or, as always, perhaps, my shots will pick themselves. Whether or not my next book–say, the one on aging writers–will be nonfiction as I now imagine it, or a novel, or haiku, only time will tell. I’ve guessed wrong before, as with The Beholder, a novel when I thought I was preparing for a work of creative nonfiction. I still miss the nonfiction book about the female nude that it might (also) have been. ZR: In recent years, with El Leon Literary Arts, you’ve become a publisher of some note in the area. Why did you get

into the publishing business? Where do you see El Leon going in the next decade? What are some of your best sellers? What are the satisfactions of being a publisher? TF: I started being a publisher ten years ago. A foundation, having declined to support a project I wanted to do (retelling a 19th century story with the goal of increasing social justice in Hawai’i), offered instead to help me start a publishing nonprofit. I’d always thought writers should try to create the means of production, free themselves from the marketplace. Current technology makes that increasingly possible. El Leon is pure cottage industry. Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes, is our great commercial success, though commercial success was never my intention. I just like stealing fire from the gods, seeing certain manuscripts become books. Always miraculous, and, like a cathedral, the work of many talented artisans. Shawna Yang Ryan’s novel, Locke 1928 (now titled Water Ghosts) was picked up by Penguin, and Barrio Bushido, by Benjamin Bac Sierra, is apt to find a wide audience. But audience isn’t my primary concern, it’s making the book. By the end of 2011, El Leon Literary Arts will have published 25 of them, many more than I ever thought of bringing into an unwilling world. I can’t predict El Leon’s future—as with my writing, it will be a question of time, stamina, desire. About the Interviewer: Zara Raab’s Book of Gretel draws on her experiences in remote parts of rural California. Her poems appear in West Branch, Arts & Letters, Nimrod, and Spoon River Poetry Review, her reviews in Poetry Flash, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Colorado Review. Her first full-length collection, Swimming the Eel, is due out this fall.

We e k l y colu m n : A F T ER T H E M A N U S C R I P T S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com


Romance Dead on Delivery (A Messenger Novel) By Eileen Rendahl Berkley, $15.00, 309 pages Dead on Delivery is Eileen Rendahl’s second Messenger novel, and it is even better than the first. In the aftermath of a botched delivery and the loss of a close friend, Melina juggles new responsibilities in her personal and professional lives now that she has inherited a dojo and has acquired a very human boyfriend, police Officer Ted Goodnight. Having died briefly as a child, Melina can see the supernatural world, and she works as a Messenger for the beasties and vampires of the Sacramento region. Her already complicated life grows even more so when two recipients of packages Melina personally delivered end up dead. This time, Melina is put up against darker forces than usual, and Rendahl’s plotting is tight and nail-biting, each chapter ratcheting up the suspense. Holding the story and paranormal mythos together is Melina, who is beginning to pull away from the standard urban fantasy heroine mold and turn into a compelling and unique character. Melina’s friends, boyfriend, and family, are equally interesting, and it’s a breath of fresh air to find a heroine in this genre with a female best friend and a romantic relationship that does not bring out a host of cliched insecurities. Once again, the Sacramento setting is fun to read since the River City is so neglected in fiction, and Rendahl obviously knows the area. Dead on Delivery can be read on its own, but once you finish this, you will be anxious to read book one in the series. Reviewed by Angela Tate The Blue Viking By Sandra Hill Avon, $7.99, 341 pages After a wild night of love-making, Scottish witch Marie left her mark on Rurik the Viking with a blue zigzag across his face. This simply does not abide well with the fierce Viking. He vows to bring Marie to heel or die trying in a quest to remove the curse. This will free him from her and allow him to marry his betrothed. Rurik rescues Marie from a MacNab prison after searching for her for several years. He promises to help her save her land from MacNab claim, but even then the witch doesn’t believe she’ll be able to undo her curse. Turns out, she’s a pretty bad witch who frequently

mixes up her chants with comical results. As Rurik spends time with her, his blue streak becomes less important to him. Can the mighty Viking resist falling for the witch — again — and return to his betrothed unscathed? Or, is her magic more powerful than either of them suspected? The Blue Viking is exceptionally steamy, so this is certainly not a book for underage romance fans. The characters are enjoyable and the storyline is laugh-out-loud humorous, fast-paced, and packed with sizzling chemistry and adventure. This is one of my favorite Sandra Hill books, and one I’ll definitely read again. I can’t wait to see what happens next! Reviewed by Jennifer Melville Nightshade By Michelle Rowen Berkley, $7.99, 352 pages Nightshade has those typical elements usually founded in vampire urban fantasy, but with some nice twists. There are excellent fight scenes, underlying tension and twists you won’t see coming. Jill Conrad is working a boring temp job. On her way back from her coffee break, she finds herself caught between a man in a white lab coat who works for a pharmaceutical company in her building and a tall, scary gunman with a black patch over his left eye. Jill is soon injected with a serum that’s meant to kill vampires. She’s then kidnapped by Declan Reyes, half-vampire, halfhuman. The poison in her system is called Nightshade and she’s now the most deadliest weapon available for the fight against the vampires. Declan’s adopted father wants Jill to infiltrate the king of the vampires, Matthias, where she’ll seduce him into drinking her blood, which will kill him. Nightshade has a few shades of gray with incredible violence and a forced sex scene with Jill and Matthias that may rub the reader the wrong way. Otherwise, Nightshade is s a well written, explosive thriller that any paranormal fan will want to read. Reviewed by Kate Garrabrant The Countess By Lynsay Sands Avon, $7.99, 371 pages The Countess by Lynsay Sands features Christiana stuck in a bad marriage to the Earl of Radnor. When she and her sisters find her husband dead in his office she assumes her troubles are over. That is, until the sisters decide they need to hide the body for a couple days and, even more disconcerting, the husband appears later that night at a ball they are attending. If this seems a touch

improbable, don’t be alarmed, it’s not actually her husband; rather, it’s her husband’s identical twin brother come back to recover his identity. Unfortunately, this unlikely scenario is the highlight of the book. There is nothing particularly wrong with the protagonists, but there isn’t anything particularly right either. In the midst of what could be a fun and quirky story, they are bland and without any real chemistry. This is exacerbated by the writing style which is prone to over-explanation and repetition. The plot and character development, such as they are, are probably better suited to a short story. This is certainly not a title for general readers. Even romance fans will most likely want to give it a pass. Reviewed by Rachel Wallace A Discovery of Witches: A Novel By Deborah Harkness Viking, $28.95, 579 pages After stumbling across a bewitched alchemical text, Diana finds herself caught in a struggle among vampires, witches, and demons who all want to possess this text. After denying her witch heritage for so long, Diana has to face her powers in order to protect herself. She turns to an unlikely ally in vampire Matthew Clairmont. The world building in this book is extraordinary and it is filled with rich detail about the Bodleian Library, the historical events, the people Diana meets and everything around her. It does slow down the reader, but it is all so fascinating that it adds to the appeal of the story. Both Diana and Matthew are well drawn and pleasantly flawed yet accepting of each other’s secrets and weaknesses. The chemistry between the two is palpable and the suspense of what will happen next is steadily built; it will leave you wanting more even after finishing the almost 600-page book. This is a promising new series that will entrance the lover of paranormal books. Reviewed by Debbie Suzuki The Knitting Diaries: The Twenty-First Wish\Coming Unraveled\Return to Summer Island By Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery, Christina Skye Mira, $7.99, 352 pages You don’t have to be a knitter to read and enjoy this book. You might become one by

R e a d T H E B A C K PA G E b y p u b l i s h e d a u t h o r s a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w . c o m

doing so, however. Easy patterns preface each of the three novellas, which vary as much as yarns and patterns. Debbie Macomber’s opener The TwentyFirst Wish is a total charmer. Ten-year-old Ellen knows she’s adopted by Anne Marie, a widow, but how do these two react when they discover Ellen’s biological father Tim? Coming Unraveled by Susan Mallery moves the action to a little town in Texas, and the return home of Robyn Mulligan to help her Grandmother recuperate after knee surgery. Grandma’s yarn shop has been a haven for lost souls since it opened, but there weren’t too many men there until T. J. Passman needs physical therapy after a horrendous accident that cost him his wife and child, and nearly his will to live. In Return to Summer Island by Christina Skye, Caro McNeal returns to the coast of Oregon. After years in Chicago, an accident weakens her arm and hand so she cannot knit. Along with the goal of being able to knit once again comes an unexpected romance with a Marine lieutenant headed to Afghanistan. Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz My One and Only By Kristan Higgins HQN Books, $7.99, 379 pages Decidedly unromantic divorce attorney Harper James has her life all planned out, including her upcoming marriage to her uncommitted boyfriend, Dennis. Getting him on board, however, is the problem. Her life is further complicated by the upcoming nuptials of her much-married, beloved younger stepsister, Willa. And then there’s the concern that the groom just happens to be the brother of Harper’s own ex-husband, Nick. Harper and Dennis make the trip from New York to Montana for the wedding at the picturesque Glacier National Park, where Harper of course encounters her exhusband, for whom she still has feelings, and complications ensue. I was kept engaged by the first-person voice of the Harper James character: coolly cynical about romance and marriage, she nevertheless regularly calls on her parish priest for advice. The plot is not quite at the same level as the characters, however, much of it predictable: of course See ONE, cont’d on page 19

May/June 11

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Mystery, Crime & Thrillers Point Deception By Jim Gilliam Booklocker, $16.00.95, 314 pages Point Deception opens to undercover cop Tim Kelly’s adventure as Kelly’s life hangs on the line in the secluded hacienda of a Mexican cartel drug lord. As the story unfolds, the reader follows Kelly’s life back to where it began, on the streets of 1956 New Orleans, and moves to the Coast Guard, which Kelly joined after lying about his age at fourteen. Combat and deep personal losses in Vietnam leave Kelly scarred, causing him to make a career move into the hardcore world of undercover narcotics. It’s here that his life comes full circle when he’s charged with the mission of bringing down the drug kingpin who largely sponsored his early, very hungry days in New Orleans, supported him through everything, and helped him become the man he is today. When Kelly fails to check in with his handler, a team of Texas lawmen embark on a daring rescue mission to save Kelly, or recover his body, whichever occurs first, through any means necessary. This novel has a strict, no-frills and nononsense approach to storytelling. Obviously the author draws from a deep reservoir of experience and the book is all the richer for it. The creator’s comfort with military and law enforcement jargon gives the book a raw feel and sense of immediacy. While the characters appear to have deep inner lives and complexity, they come across as stiff and oddly formal, perhaps due to their career choices. If the book lacks anything in style, it’s made up for in the reality of the information presented. Overall, Point Deception is an interesting novel that draws its rapid-fire pace from real life scenarios that are complex, disturbing, and touching, making this thriller an engaging production from a local San Francisco author. Sponsored Review I’ll Walk Alone: A Novel By Mary Higgins Clark Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 337 pages In this story, the author covers familiar territory of a woman in peril. In this case, it’s Alexandra “Zan” Moreland, a beautiful and gifted interior designer whose identity has been stolen. The crime goes beyond credit card theft. Two years before the novel’s opening, Moreland’s son was kidnapped. Now, on his fifth birthday, pictures surface suggesting Moreland herself

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kidnapped him. Moreland knows someone is impersonating her, taking her son, and using her store accounts. However, everyone else, from her vindictive ex-husband to her dearest friends, believes she took her own son and has been hiding him — with criminal intent or because of mental illness. Zan begins to doubt her own sanity. I found this pretty standard Higgins Clark fare: the characters, professional-class Manhattanites, and the storyline of a victimized and beautiful woman who manages to find love despite her baggage. The mystery of who took her son was not difficult — I knew it was not the most obvious suspect. However, I found the actual culprit and that character’s motivations melodramatic and not believable. However, I don’t read Higgins Clark for the mystery but rather for the colorful characters and settings — and the comfort of knowing what I’m getting. Reviewed by Stacia Levy Haunt Me Still: A Novel By Jennifer Lee Carrell Plume, $15.00, 406 pages Shakespearean scholar and director Kate Stanley has built a fine reputation in the theatre, so when a famous actress-turned-royal bride wishes her to stage Macbeth, Kate pounces on it. But it seems like the curse of the Scottish Play is at work, as Kate and her troupe confront mysteries galore, strange pagan rituals, and a baffling murder. Could the curse be real, or is there a darker secret at the heart of Shakespeare’s most infamous work? Haunt Me Still is Carrell’s follow-up to her adventure-infused mystery Interred with Their Bones, and thankfully, she’s pared down the worst of those Dan Brownesque trappings in the sequel. Haunt Me Still is more atmospheric, preferring the ominous tones of a murder mystery, and Carrell shifts gears effectively. While the plot is a bit convoluted for its own good, Carrell efficiently vaults its few flaws with a very engaging protagonist and an intriguing cabal of characters, toting secrets and motivations galore. The supernatural trappings are interspersed nicely with the more down-to-earth threats and developments, and overall, Haunt Me Still is a pleasure. I don’t know where Kate Stanley is headed next, but I’m looking forward to finding out. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

A Pointed Death: First in the Pointer Mystery Series By Kath Russell CreateSpace, $14.24, 333 pages Russell’s junketing thriller, set in the biotech ménage of San Francisco, involves the murder of a former colleague and eventually entwines with an international bioengineering espionage scheme. Be prepared for contemporary romance and a cultural, geographic enchiridion of the Bay Area, but prepare yourself for a SF driving route monologue that could have been abridged. For t y- somet h i ng , “techno wiz” Nola Billingsley is shocked when she finds her former, rapacious accountant beheaded on a bench at the popular Fort Funston dog walking area. Trying to recover from a failed dot.com enterprise, Nola resumes her biotech consulting business and is quickly pulled into the murder and the motive behind it when she connects the deceased to prospective clients. After a strange package addressed to the former accountant arrives in the mail, she becomes convinced that the company that sent it, is connected to the murder. Nola uses her professional connections and a consulting ruse to get inside the company and purloin information from their computer files. Along the way, she makes the acquaintance of Robert Harrison, a tall, handsome detective, who is also recovering from losses of his own. Nola finds that living with Janie Belle, her plucky, church-going Southern mother, is not exactly conducive to romance, but her Pointer, Skootch, does make for a dependable sleuthing companion and accompanies her on numerous reconnoiters—a practice adamantly discouraged by her new beau. The author—obviously determined to expand our vocabulary—generously peppers the story with unique verbiage and humorous situations. The book generally has a “chick lit” feel—our protagonist walks us through her fashion choices and lipstick applications, but the plot has tension and the characters have personality: a fun indulgent picaresque for a rainy weekend. Sponsored Review Heartstone: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery By C. J. Sansom Viking, $27.95, 634 pages Epic historical mystery fiction is what you find when you pick up the latest Matthew Shardlake mystery from C.J. Sansom. Set in 1545, with the French fleet bearing down on England’s shores, attorney Matthew Shardlake is sent by Queen Catherine

Parr to investigate a wardship that one of her old servant’s sons said was horrific before he committed suicide. Just what was wrong with the child or the way he was being treated, he never revealed, so Shardlake is given the task of finding out what is happening at the Hobbey household near Portsmouth. Shardlake is also using the trip to investigate a more personal case. Ellen Fettiplace, resident of the madhouse, Bedlam, has been there for almost 20 years without ever being legally committed. Something horrible happened to her at Rolfswood, near Portsmouth, but she won’t talk about it and her keepers are paid well to keep mum as well. Heartstone is a large book, filled with many mysterious twists and turns, completely colored by Tudor history, and peopled with characters that are so real that you feel like you can reach out and touch them. This reader is in awe over Sansom’s mastery. Reviewed by Gwen Stackler The Mozart Conspiracy By Scott Mariani Touchstone, $24.99, 352 pages I’m such a sucker for anything to do with classical music. I really must learn some discretion. I so wanted to like this book, but it gave me little to like. Actually, it reads as though a film script had been novelized, but there isn’t yet a film. You know what I mean – fuzzy tilted shots, quick cuts, slashing music in the background, violence and/or conspiracy rampant. Characters here there and everywhere, some you never see again, which can be a major blessing. This is especially good for those you didn’t want to see in the first place. Ben Hope is a former SAS officer, cold, distant, unemotional, and completely unlikeable, except to another like himself. Leigh Llewellyn, on the other hand, is a noted operatic soprano, and gorgeous to look at, even when she isn’t singing. Her father, a piano technician in Wales, once found a letter purporting to be from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in which he blamed a member of the Freemasons for his imminent death. Now, her brother Oliver (once Ben’s best friend) has decided to track down the letter again, to write a book about it, but he suddenly ends up dead. See THE MOZART cont’d on page 7

A d ay i n t he l i fe a s a book re v ie wer : T HE C R I T IC A L E Y E Sa n Fra nc i scoB ook R e v ie w.com


THE MOZART , cont’d from page 6 I did not enjoy this book. It has very short chapters, each in a different time and place, and lots of fast action, and even more (described) violence. I don’t recommend it, unless of course, you like this sort of thing. Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

honoring the Princes of Wales. One guest, actor Rex LaSalle, claims to be a vampire. The evening ends in tragedy when the hostess is found dead. Soon Oscar Wilde and his good friend Arthur Conon Doyle are investigating the crime. The main characters’ wit and humor are featured on nearly every page. It’s as if the reader steps right into the 1890s and into the shoes of Oscar Wilde. Brandreth presents the story using primary sources – evidence that ties the case together (journal entries, newspaper articles, invitations, letters, and telegrams). Thus the narrative is fast-paced and highly enjoyable. The investigation leads Wilde and Conon Doyle to asylums for “hysterical” women, to private audiences with royalty, and to a theater run by Bram Stoker. Will the supersleuths break the case before it’s too late? Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin

ance wondering which side of Gallo will prevail. Could he really be crazy enough to have killed his own daughter? The wonderful thing about Johansen’s books are that even if you have not been reading this series from the beginning you can still jump in an become engrossed in the story. This is only the second book I have read but I already feel connected to each of the characters and the anticipation of finding Bonnie’s killer will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. This book will leave you clamoring to read more. Reviewed by Debbie Suzuki

Bless the Bride (Molly Murphy Mysteries) By Rhys Bowen Minotaur Books, $24.99, 272 pages Previously, I’ve only read most of the author’s Evans series and enjoyed them immensely. So finding a new (to me) series was a pleasant surprise! Even more of a surprise was that this is the 10th book in the series! Good grief. However, such is the author’s skill, that even knowing nothing of the previous nine books, I was never at sea plot-wise, or left wondering “who are these people, anyway?” This time around, the heroine Molly Murphy is about to marry a NYPD captain, Daniel Sullivan. He thinks she will be a somewhat biddable bride and give up her investigative/sleuthing career. Of course, everyone else knows otherwise—don’t we? Daniel’s mother is managing the wedding, leaving Molly at very loose ends, when a message arrives from a high-ranking member of New York’s Chinatown, asking for her skills in finding a missing object. From then on, it’s full speed ahead! Lee Sing Tai wants a jade pendant back, or so he says. But really, he wants the young woman to whom it was attached. He’d promised her marriage, but neglected to tell her that he already had a number one wife. Molly quickly stumbles over the young woman, but then discovers the truth of the situation, about the same time as Lee is found dead. Who did it, and why? Just in time for the nuptials, Molly solves the case and ties all the ends up very neatly. Can’t wait for number eleven. First, though, I have some catching up to do. Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

A Pyer for the Night: An Amish-Country Mystery By P.L. Gaus Plume, $13.00, 224 pages For Amish youth, Rumschpringe is a rite of passage during which they can experience the freedom of the outside world before fully committing to an Amish life. The teens experiment with modern life to test the English world and come to their faith through sacrifice and devotion after knowing what the outside world has to offer. In P.L. Gaus’ newest Amish-Country Mystery, A Prayer for the Night, a group of wild teens take Rumschpringe too far. It ends in murder. Series regulars Professor Branden, Sheriff Robertson, and Pastor Troyer take the case after Sara Yoder, a member of the teen group, asks for help. Soon she disappears. Branden finds evidence linking the youth to a ruthless drug ring operating within the heart of the Amish community. One of the best qualities about Gaus’ writing is that it’s suitable for any audience. As with any good mystery, there is intrigue and suspense, but Gaus writes from a place of respect for a community that is, at its very core, honest, trustworthy, loyal, and good. Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin

Phantom Evil By Heather Graham Mira, $24.95, 361 pages In this novel, the wife of prominent state senator David Holloway falls to her death at her mansion in the picturesque French Quarter of New Orleans. Having lost her son in a car accident six months before, she is initially thought to have committed suicide. However, paranormal investigator Adam Harrison has other ideas and calls in a team of “ghost busters,” headed by skeptic, part-Cheyenne Jackson Crowe, who is haunted by his own very real demons. The team moves into the New Orleans mansion, which has a history of ghost sightings, and it’s not long before a body is unearthed, and the voodoo priest grandmother of one of the team called in. Both rational and irrational forces are addressed as causes to Regina Holloway’s death: Did she leap from her balcony or was she pushed, either by a ghost or one of her husband’s political enemies, “real monster” white supremacists? Or, was it one of his assistants or a member of a local cult? Although the scenes featuring one of the team, Angela Hawkins, who can see past inhabitants of the house including its homicidal Reconstruction-era owner, are exaggerated and unbelievable, the mystery and New Orleans’ color are compelling. Reviewed by Stacia Levy

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders: A Mystery By Gyles Brandreth Touchstone, $14.00, 369 pages Women are dying in London and Oscar Wilde is on the case. The victims have suspicious puncture wounds on their throats. Can a creature of the night be loose in Europe? With Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders, the fourth book in the series, author Gyles Brandreth provides a thrilling addition to the historical crime fiction genre. The story opens at a glamorous party

Eve (Eve Duncan) By Iris Johansen St. Martin’s Press, $27.99, 384 pages The latest book in the series featuring Eve was another great addition. If you are a fan of the series, you definitely do not want to miss this one. The reader gets to learn more about Eve’s past and what type of man fathered Bonnie. John Gallo was such a contradictory character who had both a scary, cold blooded killer side and yet a sweet, protective side. He constantly kept Eve, the other characters, and the reader off bal-

All the Lives He Led: A Novel By Frederik Pohl Tor Books, $25.99, 347 pages It’s 2079, and the ancient city of Pompeii is now a massive theme park, getting ready to cash in on the two-thousand year anniversary of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Brad Sheridan is indentured, fleeing from the poverty-stricken streets of an America that has been all but obliterated by Mother Nature. At first, working at Pompeii during the wildly popular anni-

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versary celebration seems like a good idea. But Brad quickly finds his hands full with not only the woman he loves, but with disturbing information about a terrorist cell determined to use the Pompeii celebration to wipe out most of the human race. Pohl does a remarkable job of crafting his story in first-person perspective which goes a long way to pulling you into the life and times of Brad Sheridan. Unfortunately, the beguiling use of this often-difficult-towrite-in form doesn’t quite make up for the numerous and puzzling plot holes and the ambiguous rambling storyline. The book can’t even claim a moral compass since the debatable dilemma of whether or not the human race should be punished for the atrocities it commits against itself, is presented merely as a motive and is never fully addressed by the characters. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz The Templar Salvation By Raymond Khoury Dutton, $26.95, 416 pages The Templar Salvation is an engrossing sequel to Khoury’s The Last Templar and begins in the year 1203 at Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. While the city is under siege, a small band of ambitious Templars enters the imperial library with the intention of securing a cache of documents. If revealed, these documents would challenge the unity and power of the Vatican and thus the Catholic Church. After finding sanctuary in a monastery, these Templars are murdered, never having learned the secrets of the documents they stole. Fast forward to the present day – FBI agent Sean Reilly must infiltrate the Vatican Secret Archives, located in an underground tomb, as the life of his lover, kidnapped Tess Chaykin, rests on Reilly’s success. Specifically, Reilly must retrieve a document known as the Fondo Templari, a secret history of the infamous Templars. The Templar Salvation is a wellconstructed, fast-paced page turner. Readers of Khoury’s earlier novels will thrill at this exciting sequel, but crime/mystery/ thriller aficionados new to Khoury’s story telling will be equally captivated. Reviewed by Christina Forsythe

TRIBES, cont’d from page 1 It’s probably too early to assess Burning Man’s impact on American culture. History, like a cynical grandparent, will decide if the event ever amounts to anything. The Tribes of Burning Man will entertain and educate, but also get you thinking about possible meaning behind the sprawling desert art party. Reviewed by Ted Hullar

May/June 11

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Science & Nature Quantum Physics for Poets By Leon M. Lederman and Christopher T. Hill Prometheus Books, $28.00, 338 pages There is no easy way to explain quantum physics. Physicist Niels Bohr said, “Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum mechanics cannot possibly have understood it.” But explaining the science isn’t enough. You need to make the reader understand why we bother with the science at all. It’s a challenge Lederman and Hill meet admirably. Unlike most introductory guidebooks to quantum physics which offer a quick summary of classical physics and the sciences that preceded quantum theory, Quantum Physics for Poets delves deeply into the development of the laws that define the macroscopic world. With that firm foundation established -- as well as the questions classical physics fails to answer, the holes that need plugging -- quantum physics takes over, with a beat-by-beat breakdown of the basics. The authors do a marvelous job of making the material accessible, even offering colorful insight into many of the major players, such as Schrodinger, Einstein, and Dirac. In fact, the only issue I take with the book is the title; a dozen or so poetic references, however well-chosen, simply doesn’t satisfy the promise the title makes.

This book isn’t just for poets. Let’s call it Quantum Physics for Everyone. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

of water. Reading this book is tantamount to reading a clever mystery. Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky

The Hidden Reality By Brian Greene Knopf, $29.95, 370 pages Although theories of the cosmos over the years have remained elusive, Brian Greene has found a way to legitimize them all and offer a collective understanding of the cosmos in his new book, The Hidden Reality. Here, he uncovers the latest speculation and affirmation of the concepts in his subtitle, Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos. The author has touched on the most sensitive chords of thought on the ever-expanding ideas connected with String Theory. He examines these topics in a most clever and intriguing way, uncovering all the connections for the layman and scientist alike. He does so with witty insight, crystallizing important connections for the layman. Looking at cosmology through Greene’s eyes is like seeing the universe in high definition for the first time. The Hidden Reality attempts to define what it is that we have come to understand within the limits of our three-dimensional, fishbowl existence. If other universes are barely connected to what we think of as reality by the flimsy idea of a string, then we must know what it feels like to be a fish out

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea By Donovan Hohn Viking, $27.95, 416 pages This is a rather longwinded title, which like the story is wordy but filled with fascinating information about our plastic polluted planet. Transfixed by the news account of a ship loss of 28,800 Chinese manufactured plastic yellow ducks, green frogs, red beavers, and blue turtles along its route from Hong Kong to Tacoma, Washington, the author took up this search. Obsessed to trace the fate of these floating toys as they were carried by ocean currents and deposited at different sites over the years, the author discovers that the toys along with mountains of plastic waste contaminate the seas, endanger marine life, and contribute to a vast garbage reservoir within the once boundless seas. While tracking the ducks, this quest leads him to Alaska, Hawaii, China, and the Arctic as he interacts with the researchers who work in these areas. In tune with his academic background the author-journalist, somewhat in the style of John Mcphee, meshes the historical, scientific, cultural, and ecological components into this odyssey. Clearly the

author is a gifted writer and the message of a plasticized future is one that should be seriously noted. While filled with fascinating narrative, some maps and simple illustrations would have helped the reader to stay on course. Reviewed by Aron Row Acceleration: The Forces Driving Human Progress By Ronald G. Havelock Prometheus Books, $28.00, 363 pages Be prepared to be taken on an amazing ride filled with eye-opening detail that will change the way you view the world. Here is an upbeat, optimistic view of the world. Not only does Havelock see hope for man, but he reveals just how this brave, new world will unfold. He does this in a dazzling style that drives the foundation of his beliefs. He sees the world through what he describes as six fundamental forces. He explains how our knowledge grows by referring to basic learning paradigms, making use of simple diagrams and observations. His thesis outlines the importance of six laws. In Part One, consisting of the first three chapters, he develops the case for progress. Part Two sets the stage for the six laws. Part Three establishes the argument for where the laws are taking us. The six forward funcSee ACCELERATION cont’d on page 28

Art, Architecture & Photography Indian Weddings By Simran Chawla Schiffer Publishing, $24.99, 144 pages Customs take on a new importance for those living away from their own culture. In her how-to guide to weddings for Indians living in America, Simran Chawla restates the centuries-old rites. Illustrated with gorgeous photographs, she covers every facet of the ceremony and its surrounding events, suggesting a budget be resolved before all else. There follows an optional two-week shopping spree to India for a trousseau, stylish invitations, the traditional baarat or entry of the bridegroom on an elephant or horse (what an image for readers!), and clothing appropriate for every occasion. Her mix of exotic and mundane is delight-

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ful. For the bride-to-be mehndi ceremony, she recalls her own experience when her auntie took a popsicle stick and toothpick to apply the familiar henna designs to her hands. The daughter of Indian immigrants, thus an expert almost by default, Chawla writes gracefully and thoughtfully, supported by a lavishly produced book that will appeal to readers with a penchant for Indian culture, weddings, and glamour. It may be a wakeup call for couples shrugging off the significance of the marriage ceremony in favor of an informal exchange of vows. Reviewed by Jane Manaster

Rebel Youth: Karlheinz Weinberger By Bruce Hackney, Editor, Martynka Wawrzyniak, Editor, Patrik Schedler, Editor, Karlheinz Weinberger, Photographer Rizzoli, $45.00, 176 pages Rebel youth only used to belong to the United States of the 1960s and 70s. But with this collection, we see the rebel youth of Switzerland. Readers can be forgiven if they are confused and think these teens are from the United States and not from Europe. But they are European teens, coming of age in a Europe that is divided and still recovering from World War II. They mix elements from the United States--Elvis belt buckles and blue jeans--with their own flare--kerchiefs, bullets and rivets. These rebel youth did

not build a lasting movement like those in the United States, but they did scare the conservative scene in Switzerland. Eventually, many of them faded back into society, taking proper jobs, getting married. A few most likely tried to hang on, but they died young. For these rebel youth, it was a bit of fun and games before settling down. These photographs, by a photographer not widely known, bring to life these disenfranchised youth with their fashion tastes and their lack of hygiene. Readers will be amazed at how well dressed many of these rebels were before their time. Reviewed by Kevin Winter

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Science Fiction & Fantasy Xombies: Apocalypso By Walter Greatshell Ace, $7.99, 289 pages Pacing is everything, even when the undead are involved. Xombies: Apocalypso isn’t necessarily a bad book, it just needs some better pacing. This is the last book in the Xombies series, where all of the threads in the last two books come together. Lulu Pangloss and the xombies attempt to form their own society, while Sandoval and Dixon’s Adamites are finding ways to deal with the xombies permanently. Somewhere in all of this Uri Miska is acting like an undead Elvis Presley as he waits for the disaster of the Big Enchilada to destroy the planet. It’s not a bad book. The individual plot lines separate and come back together rather well. Although there is little in the way of character development, that’s fine. This is a popcorn book; it’s the literary equivalent of a Michael Bay film. Although there are some interesting logical issues, such as why anyone with any intelligence would be fighting against the xombies and not joining them, the biggest problem is that the book wraps up rather suddenly. Even the disaster is dealt with in a few short pages. If you are looking for something light, this is book for you; otherwise avoid it. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim The Desert of Souls By Howard Andrew Jones Thomas Dunne Books, $24.99, 320 pages The Desert of Souls, a first novel by Howard Andrew Jones, is the type of adventure fantasy that might as well be coming straight from the lips of Scheherezade. The story tells of the travails of Asim, the captain of the guard for Jaffar, a young judge in Baghdad, and Dabir, a scholar also in Jaffar’s employ. The two accompany Jaffar on an excursion outside the gates of the palace, where they have their futures foretold by a magic woman – despite the fact that meddling with magic is forbidden to good Muslims, as these men are. The fortuneteller obliges, and then orders the men to leave quickly to make certain that the fortunes come to pass. Thus launches this entertaining escapade of magic, djinn, jewels, and a mysterious city

All in a day’s work: New titles from Tor

lost in the sands of the past. This tale has everything for those who love The Arabian Nights: descriptions of fights only Amir could win, encounters with strange magical beings, puzzles only Dabir can unravel, and a sad story of thwarted love. The Desert of Souls is a thoroughly enjoyable novel for anyone with a taste for something different from the usual medieval Western fantasy. Reviewed by Terry Weyna Time Hack By Carel Mackenbach AuthorHouse, $11.99, 448 pages Time traveling brings to mind the images of flashing lights, a spinning tunnel, and a white-haired doctor piloting a huge clock. Well, those images are about to get their teeth kicked in, because Time Hack is not your father’s time-travel book. This book has a fresh outlook on what it means to visit the past. Written by Carel Mackenbach, the story follows a number of heroes and villains as it takes place in both the modern-day Vatican and far-off future Beijing. The book also closely examines how the mind works, over how the body travels in space. It is an eyeopening experience and causes the reader to rethink the possible of the human mind. Mackenbach perfectly blends Cold War paranoia with new-age digital terrorism. For the most part, there is a lot of technological jargon and “time paradoxical” theories thrown around, but they never overwhelm the story. I personally enjoyed the concept that no one can travel past the point before the time machine was made. It’s the kind of paradox that most people don’t think about. It is enjoyable to read a smart book and not have the book talk down to the reader. Time Hack has a solid plot. The book’s time frame skips around plenty, but it never loses the reader. In part one of the book, there are at least four or five different narratives that all seem disconnected. Mackenbach weaves these narratives masterfully into a well-balanced story. These characters are lively and unforgettable, and even the “future people” have human elements that make them appealing. Time Hack is a classic example of enthusiastic writing intermingled with an engrossing plot and characters. Sponsored Review

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Only the most desperate colonists dare to make a home on Hellhole, a dumping ground for undesirables, misfits, and charlatans. But it can also be a place of real opportunity, for the planet Hellhole hides an amazing secret—one that could tear the galaxy apart. ★ “Hellhole is a militaristic SF story of galactic

proportions. The characters are easy for the reader to believe in, brought to life through not only their own emotions but also the responses and thoughts of the individuals around them.” —Booklist, starred review on Hellhole 978-0-7653-2269-2 • Hardcover | 978-1-4299-6516-3 • eBook

Welcome to a land that has known peace and prosperity for generations. But the veil that has held deific evil at bay is weakening, and the world must acknowledge the new threat before it can be confronted. The Unremembered is both an authorial debut, and the start of epic fantasy series The Vault of Heaven. “This is one huge, compelling, hard-hitting story. A major fantasy adventure.” —Piers Anthony 978-0-7653-2571-6 • Hardcover | 978-1-4299-6086-1 • eBook

In Book Two of The Chronicles of Siala, Harold and his companions continue their journey. Where armies of warriors and wizards before them have failed, they must fight legions of untold, mysterious powers before they can complete their quest for the magic horn that will save their beloved land from The Nameless One. “A cast of charming, quirky, unsavory, even loathsome characters in a fast-paced, entertaining adventure.” —Kevin J. Anderson, co-author in the Dune universe 978-0-7653-2404-7 • Hardcover | 978-1-4299-3487-9 • eBook

Can an accountant defeat a super-villain? Celia West, only daughter of the heroic leaders of the super-powered Olympiad, has spent the past few years estranged from her parents and their high-powered lifestyle. But when mutation fails, only auditing can bring down the villain. “Enough excitement, astonishment, pathos, and victory to satisfy any reader.” —Charlaine Harris on Kitty and the Midnight Hour 978-0-7653-2555-6 • Hardcover | 978-1-4299-6085-4 • eBook

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Continuing Science Fiction & Fantasy Black Halo (The Aeon’s Gate, Book 2) By Sam Sykes Pyr, $16.00, 520 pages Lenk and his not-so-merry band of adventurers have located the mysterious Tome of the Undergates, but now face new problems as weeks at sea begin to take their toll. Wizard Dredaeleon fears he may be falling victim to a magical malady, while dragonman Gariath deals with the loss of his race. Rogue Denaos fights past memories, while priestess Asper fears the power growing inside her. Kataria the shict tries to hold on to herself in the face of growing feelings for Lenk, and Lenk himself struggles with the other aspect of himself that he does not know how to control. And that’s just their personal problems; in the real world, the team is shipwrecked on an island inhabited by little lizard men who may have ulterior motives for saving them. In this installation, Sykes continues to weave the twisted yet fascinating story that drew readers to his first book. The characters, already fully-fleshed out, begin to take on new dimensions as the story becomes more complex. The author has lightened up on the references to flatulence while keeping his fierce sense of humor intact. Lovers of epic fantasy will find themselves left eager for more. Reviewed by Holly Scudero Revolution World By Katy Stauber Night Shade Books, $14.99, 228 pages Like a bucking bronco, Katy Stauber crashes out of the starter gate with a combination of intelligence, integrity, and intensity. Revolution World is a book that unites everything that is great about science fiction and pours that into Texas. Giant rabbits, blond quadruplets, and government conspiracies are just the tip of the iceberg. Stauber’s writing style can be best described as a cross between a 1950s pulp comic and a Texas A&M brochure. It is amusing, free flowing, and made to be liked. The plot is a solid love story with a running theme of questioning the level of control a governing body should have in times of crisis. Everything in the story works together very well, like a group of psychically linked Pomeranians. The world created by Stauber is flat and bleak and I mean that in an effective way. She perfectly captures the Texas backdrop and makes a post-apocalyptic taste that never leaves the tongue. The main cast, like Seth and Clio, sparkles with ingenuity. The villains are

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somewhat two dimensional and lacked real motive. My real problem was a certain plot twist involving Seth’s family that needed more foreshadowing. For a short time, it made the story feel forced and unnatural. Revolution World is unequivocal in its uniqueness and is a prominent start to what will be a brilliant career. Reviewed by Kevin Brown First Grave on the Right By Darynda Jones St. Martin’s Press, $21.99, 310 pages First Grave on the Right is the first of a new urban fantasy series. With the glut of urban fantasy series on the shelves, this book is distinguished by the heroine’s profession--a Grim Reaper. Other than that, Charley Davidson is rather similar to the other smartmouthed, snarky, and stubborn urban fantasy protagonists out there. The book begins full-throttle and the pace rarely slackens, but this delight is hampered by the multitude of characters quickly introduced into the narrative, making it difficult to know or keep track of them. Another slightly aggravating aspect was Charley’s sexy dreams, which, with the introduction of the mysterious and attractive Reyes, came across as awkward, rather than intriguing. However, the mythology surrounding Charley and her grim reaper status is fascinating and unique, and there’s enough introduced to interest me in the second installment of this series. I would recommend First Grave on the Right to those who enjoy a fast paced read and a lot of sarcasm in their paranormal fiction, but longtime urban fantasy fans may find themselves burnt out by yet another snarky heroine. Reviewed by Angela Tate The Angel’s Game By Carlos Ruiz Zafon Subterranean Press, $125.00, 512 pages The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, first seen in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, appears again in The Angel’s Game. However, the central and undeniably engaging focus is David Martin. As a young man with an indifferent family, Martin makes a home for himself writing for a newspaper. He eventually finds success as a commercial writer but, with it, loses the acceptance of his colleagues. Feeling isolated, he accepts a literary commission against his better judgment. It’s easy to compile a list of faults in this novel, but The Angel’s Game is so much fun to read the faults mostly take a backseat. Martin makes nonsensical decisions, the

woman painted as pivotal to his self-worth is the least interesting character in the book, and the mystery loses steam halfway through. However, Martin’s dialogue can be laugh-out-loud funny, his assistant acts as an interesting foil to his quirks, and Zafon’s Barcelona is a perfect backdrop to the gothic nature of the story. Readers will find themselves turning pages despite a few snafus. Reviewed by Rachel Wallace Twilight’s Dawn: A Black Jewels Book By Anne Bishop Roc, $25.95, 448 pages Twilight’s Dawn combines sensuality, terror, horror, and more than a few lighthearted moments. It should please fans, until the final story, which will upset more than a few readers. ”Winsol Gifts” is a time of celebration for Daemon Sadi and his family where they honor The Witch, the living myth, dreams made flesh. “Shade of Honor” stars Lucivar who must deal with a traitor among the Eyrien people Lucivar rules over. “Family” is the darkest of the four. Daemon’s father, Saetan’s lover is brutally murdered and her two boys are marked for rape and death. Daemon and Saetan will try to find the psychopath. “The High Lord’s Daughter” starts a year after Jaenelle’s death and spans decades where Daemon tries his best to move on without his beloved wife. Twilight’s Dawn is Anne Bishop’s final goodbye to fans. The first three stories are amazing, while “The High Lord’s Daughter” is upsetting in more ways than one because of the deaths that occur. That and more will likely anger Bishop’s readers. If not for the final story, this would have been a near perfect read, but it ends up being an unsettling disappointment. Reviewed by Kate Garrabrant The Griffin’s War By K.J. Taylor Ace, $7.99, 448 pages The beating of flapping wings and the cry of a mythological creature shakes the foundation of their enemies to their core. That is the power of the griffin and, until now, it has been untapped. K.J. Talyor finishes up her groundbreaking Fallen Moon Trilogy with The Griffin’s War. It is the conclusion of the three book arch and it does a wonderful job of wrapping up the storyline and is an excellent read. Taylor’s writing style is fast, freewheeling, and fun. The story is set in a medieval, feudal Australia, and the cast of characters are as vibrant as they are dark. The great twist in Taylor book is rooting for

the “dark side.” The antihero of the story, Arenadd Taranisaii, is done in such a masterful way. In one chapter, you are cheering for him, and in the next, you are disgusted by the sight of him. Invoking such emotion is one of Taylor’s strongest skills. For those fans out there, this is a must buy and you know it. For the rest, I recommend picking up the first book and testing those dark griffin wings. Reviewed by Kevin Brown Right Hand Magic: A Novel of Golgotham By Nancy A. Collins Roc, $6.99, 289 pages Publishers have decided there’s a massive female audience for romance with a supernatural twist. So they’re offering big dollars to good authors for following the script. Meet the new Nancy A. Collins. She’s abandoned her usual harder edge to write something mild. Sadly, Right Hand Magic is urban fantasy by the numbers. Naive and slightly spoiled chick rebels against her super-rich parents by becoming a heavy metal artist (she makes sculptures out of auto parts). Driven out of her loft by neighbors who hate the Thor act of hammering and welding, she migrates over to the supernatural side of town and rents a room in a house owned by a hot-looking wizard. Their eyes meet and we all know it’s just a matter of time before they ... and while we await their consummation, there’s this cute “were-kitty” that becomes a real cougar when roused, a mafia underground fighting operation, and assorted centaurs, satyrs, valkyries, leprechauns, and other creatures from mythology all jostling for our attention. There’s no denying the plot is quite inventive, but the writing style is too soft-hearted. Shame really. With her trademark harder edge, this could have been way better. Reviewed by David Marshall The Remembering: Book Three of The Meq By Steve Cash Del Rey, $15.00, 280 pages Clashing powerful abilities with historical events is what I call a cool idea. I was all aboard when I heard the concept of The Remembering. Then I read the books. This is the final chapter to the Meq Trilogy, and Zianno “Z” Zezen is finally understanding his calling and everyone, everywhere, is prepping for the Remembering. The book relies to a great exsee REMEMBERING cont’d on page 23

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Zombie is the New Undead By Alex C. Telander

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ou sit in your favorite chair, in your favorite room of the house: the library. Your legs are comfortably crossed, the temperature is just right: warm and cozy. You’re reading your favorite book on your Ipad, swiping your finger rapidly across the screen to turn the page and continue with the gripping story. You’ve tuned out the world, focused on the captivating story with the unstoppable heroine who is fighting to save the day; you know she will triumph, but you still read for the inevitable surprise. As you begin a new chapter, you finally here a scratching at the door. But you have no pets; who could it be? The scratching continues, as if whatever is on the other side is trying to claw their way through the door. It is then that you hear the deep, inhuman groaning. You put down your Ipad, fear crawling its way up your spine, as you hesitantly walk towards the door. Building up your courage – kidding yourself that it’s just your little brother playing around, but you secretly know better – you fling open the door and scream as the zombie reaches out for you . . . Zombie. Dictionary.com (http:dictionary. reference.com/browse/zombie) defines it as “the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose.” Wikipedia (http:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie) says, “A fictional undead monster or a person in an entranced state believed to be controlled by a bokor or wizard.” But if I was to refer to Night of the Living Dead, you would have a concrete image in your mind of a weak, slow-moving undead human with its arms stretched out, groaning and moaning, hungrily in search of brains. While the concept of zombies has been around for a long time, George A Romero’s cult classic brought the idea of the walking dead human back to life in a whole new way, spawning countless successive zombie movies. Zombies have appeared numerous times in literature, but it wasn’t until the publication of The Book of the Dead in 1989 that we first saw a collection of zombie stories, based on the premise from Night of the Living Dead. The image of the archetypal zombie described above had fully solidified in our society’s conscious. But during the first decade of the twenty-first century, there was a drastic change in the familiar paradigm of the zombie, thanks to the likes of 28 Days Later (2002) and Shaun of the Dead (2004) in film, and Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide published in 2003, followed by his New York Times bestseller World War Z

(2006). All of a sudden, the zombie wasn’t a scary, slow-moving creature, but one that was an incredibly fast, terrifying nightmare, or could be funny and entertaining; a pet to be kept in your shed. It was a creature we fought a war with and barely survived. It was, jokingly, something we might one day have to face, and here were some detailed ways to protect yourself. S. G. Browne, author of the bestselling Breathers – a book about how zombies would be treated as members of society – has this to say about our contemporary zombies: “In addition to running like Olympic sprinters and making us laugh, modern zombies are domesticated as pets (Fido), write poetry (Zombie Haiku), and have invaded classic literature (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). They can also be found on the Internet going to marriage counseling, falling in love, and singing to their former co-workers (Jonathan Coulton’s “Re: Your Brains.”) In short, they’ve expanded their range, become more versatile. More wellrounded. And who doesn’t enjoy a more well-rounded zombie? Plus, zombies are tragically comical. Shuffling along, losing their hair and teeth and nails and the occasional appendage. Add the fact that they used to be us and we can’t help but relate to them.” And what is it about these undead that fascinates us so? Browne’s last sentence does point out an interesting fact that zombies

were once people, and when we recognize the person, that is when we have issues in “putting them to rest.” But what is resonating with humanity on a psychological level to want to read and watch and experience the thrill of a living corpse coming for you? Browne continues: “The prevailing argument I often hear describes the current popularity of zombies as a direct reflection of global fears regarding the economy and terrorism. Horror as catharsis for the fears and anxiety of a society making commentary on itself. I disagree. I believe the current fascination with zombies has less to do with economic angst and more to do with the fact that zombies have been taken out of their proverbial archetypal box. No longer are they just the shambling, mindless, flesh-eating ghouls we’ve known and loved for most of the past four decades. Today’s zombies are faster. Funnier. Sentient.” This is but one opinion on why we enjoy watching and reading about zombies. Mira Grant, author of the bestselling Feed presents another viewpoint: “Zombies are, in many ways, a blank slate for our fears — they let us fear illness, fear sublimation, fear the terror of the familiar becoming the alien – without admitting that those fears cannot always be fought in a physical form. And in a time when so many of the classic monsters are being sexualized and humanized, zombies are one of the only things it’s still acceptable to hate and fear on sight.” Grant brings up an important point. The world of vampires over the last two decades has certainly been revamped (pun intended!) with the likes of Louis (Brad Pitt) and Lestat (Tom Cruise) in the 1994 adaptation of Interview with a Vampire, Angel and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and – of course – Edward (Robert Pattison) from The Twilight Saga. And yet zombies continue to pervade every sphere of entertainment, as well as every genre of writing, whether it’s bestselling anthologies like John Joseph Adams’ Living Dead, or Christopher Golden’s New Dead; to original novels like Brian Keene’s The Rising, Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, or Stephen King’s Cell; to the popular graphic novel series (and now successful TV series) The Living Dead; to international levels with Swedish author of Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Handling the Undead. Jonathan Maberry has even brought the subject of zombies to the popular world of

Listen to author inter v iews at Audible Authors.net

young adult fiction with his first book in the series, Rot & Ruin. With the success of the first book, Maberry has three sequels planned, with Dust & Decay coming out in August. The Age of the Zombie is still alive, undead, and well, because the archetype of the zombie has been so drastically altered. Zombies are like superheroes now, in that there is little limitation to what they may be capable of. Writers are constantly coming up with new and different ways to present the living dead, whether it’s decaying family members we feel the need to aid in Handling the Undead, or the concept of a zombie prostitute in S. G. Browne’s short story “Zombie Gigolo” from Living Dead 2, or even zombie Stormtroopers in Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars: Death Troopers. Anthologies, on the other hand, help to reveal zombie stories known authors have written, but also pose a challenge of writing a zombie story by a writer not know for this genre. In fact, in five years time it is far more likely that the remaining bookstores will have an individual zombie section, separate from their horror section. It really boils down to a relatively simple concept, which Adams pointed out above: as long as there are people buying and reading zombie stories, publishers will continue to publish it, and writers will therefore continue to write it, as well as parody it. Think of it as a never ending cycle, if you will, or perhaps an undead cycle that cannot be put to rest. Author’s note: The zombie works mentioned above are just a smattering of the whole body of zombie work, covering all mediums. As a reader and movie watcher, I know I have only been exposed to a small amount. I invite readers to post comments on their favorite zombie stories, or perhaps rare ones that not many are familiar, as well as anything else they might want to mention about the living dead. Alex C. Telander is a writer, reviewer and interviewer. He is the creator and host of the podcast and website BookBanter (www.bookbanter.net), featuring over 500 book reviews and over 40 exclusive interviews, both written and audio. A number of the authors mentioned in the article above have been interviewed on BookBanter.

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Poetry & Short Stories Life is a Treasure By Karen Ann Treasure Xlibris, $15.99, 107 pages Poetry has a rhythm of its own?one that speaks to the mind and deeply impacts the heart. Karen Ann Treasure, in her beautiful poetry book Life is a Treasure, captures the intricacies of life, love, and relationships. Divided into two parts, Speak to Me and Matters of the Heart, Karen Ann?s book offers more than 75 poems written by a strong, creative, and honest woman. The author has a knack for finding the perfect rhyming combinations, and readers may find themselves reciting the poems aloud to further feel their beat and musicality. One is reminded of spoken word sessions. Karen Ann?s faith shines through in poems like Quiet Time and Angelic Wings. Fan favorites are sure to include Unclassified, a poem that takes on the notion of labeling and classifying oneself and turns it on its head. The poet does indeed define herself but, at the same time, delivers the message that no one can be defined in a simple way?we are all multi-dimensional. Karen Ann?s love poems take us to sandy shores and beaches filled with moonlights and romance. Only a woman who has experienced deep, passionate love can capture its essence like the author does in poems like Wild Nights and Rendezvous. In Treasure?s

world, love is something to make sacrifices for and something to take a chance on. Just as in life, there are ups and downs, but love does prevail. Karen Ann ends the book with a song titled You Will Remember Me. Even though the notes are not printed on the page, readers will hear a tune as they take in the words. Every reader will find a poem to identify with, whether as a woman, a mother, a lover, a traveler, or as a friend. Life certainly is a treasure with Karen Ann Treasure?s poetry. Sponsored Review Did You See The Monkeys? By Eddy Arnold Trafford Publishing, $11.92, 94 pages Did You See the Monkeys? is a stream-ofconsciousness narrative that invents itself in much the same vein as Woolf?s Mrs. Dalloway. The protagonist, a young boy by the name of Tad, allows readers a look into his thoughts as he goes about the business of his daily life, much like Dalloway. However, unlike the matron, Tad brings into his narrative a series of secrets, relationships, and human bonds. Tad?s foil is his opposite in every way: strong, confident Tom, and the book follows the burgeoning friendship between he two via Tad?s florid thought process. Did You See the Monkeys? is packaged as a fiction novel, separated by scenic chapters, but an ending section titled ?Characters in the play? allow the readers past Tad?s (beautiful, but narrow) perspective through a summary of the major ?characters? in the

book. Readers who are highly interested in characterization, or who are frustrated by the monologue of Tad, may want to flip to the back for a little more depth on the other ?players.? Despite the title of this section, the novel can still be characterized as such, as it lacks the formal scenery, blocking and dialogue necessary to be considered a dramatic act. The revisionary purposes of the novel seem to be to touch and reach targeted readers with the strong bond and friendship between the two main characters, Tom and Tad. In addition, the author makes a statement about the kinds of plot, action and dialogue that is available in this type of narrative. The copy style can seem a bit purple at times, but the florid language is well done in certain chapters. In these areas, it draws the reader into the syntax-level beauty that is possible with this type of prose, but does so without detracting too much from the plot and story of our main characters. The novel would be most enjoyed by those open to experimental prose and stream-of-consciousness styling; it delivers both, while also giving adequate attention to action and plot. Sponsored Review

Home & Garden Homegrown Herbs By Tammi Hartung Storey Publishing, $19.95, 255 pages I love herbs because they are usually hardy, pretty, and useful in crafts, cooking, or medicine. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to review Tammi Hartung’s Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing,

Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs. Frankly, I wondered if Hartung could live up to such an expansive title. She more than met the challenge. Hartung covers every aspect of herbal gardening, including selecting plants and designing the garden, creating great

Body Rhymes By Donna L. Emerson Finishing Line Press, $14.00, 30 pages When your eyes flicker across the last line of a particularly satisfying poem, one of two reactions is virtually guaranteed. Either you will instantly go back to the first line and begin rereading it, reveling in the parts that danced in your mind’s eye, or you will sit quietly for a few moments, silently reflecting on the magic left in the poem’s wake. I’ve always been one to experience the former more so than the latter, and several of Donna Emerson’s pieces in Body Rhymes had me journeying back to the beginning of the piece to again explore the flowing peaks and valleys of language she so deftly employed. The meticulous word choice is often as effective as it is stirring. From the brutal melange of nostalgia and pain in The Orchard to the honesty and vitriol of The Princess Who Told the Truth, from the aching desire in Close to the Heart of Rose to the unabashed sentimentality of Heath and Audrey, Body Rhymes is unrelenting in its emotional demands on the reader. Your soul will be stirred, whether you wish it or not. The centerpiece of the chapbook is She Lay Asleep Wearing Oxygen, a multi-sectional examination of a woman’s last moments See BODY RHYMES cont’d on page 22

soil, propagation, disease and pest control, making preparations for medicine and personal care, and cooking with herbs. She covers these topics with unusual depth. For example, she provides nine different garden designs based on different themes and a chart detailing the best propagation techniques for around one hundred herbs. Indeed, I even found a new method for ant

control that I’m excited to try. Despite an abundance of information, she finds room to include gorgeous photographs that make me want to run out and start adding new herbs to my own garden. If you are seeking one truly complete resource for herbal gardening, Hartung’s Homegrown Herbs is for you. Reviewed by Annie Peters

Your Mother, and I was immediately sold on the character of Barney. And The Playbook is as funny as it is outrageous. (One of the plays is called The Trojan Lesbian, another The I Can Land This Plane.) While many TV show tie-in books can be disappointing -- see the Mad Men tie-in Sterling’s Gold

for an example -- The Playbook drips with Barney’s signature mojo and impenetrable confidence. Matt Kuhn has outdone himself with this satiric and satyric little gem. This one runs out of steam a bit near the end, but with laugh-out-loud entries such as The Grandpa Wonka and The Other Jonas, it’s still a hilarious read. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

Humor-NonFiction The Playbook By Barney Stinson and Matt Kuhn Touchstone Fireside, $13.00, 141 pages Barney Stinson is probably television’s greatest lecherous character. How I Met Your Mother’s resident ladies’ man is smarmy, manipulative, cynical, and impossibly likable in spite of it. Not only that, but he’s magnanimous enough to share his many

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tricks, scams, hustles, and cons to pick up the ladies. The Cool Priest, The Jim Nacho, The Pinocchio Puppy, The Lorenzo von Matterhorn ... they’re all here in The Playbook, organized in ascending difficulty and ranked by your chances for success. ”The Playbook” was the first episode I ever watched of How I Met

A r c h i v e d p u b l i c a t i o n i s s u e s a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w . c o m /a r c h i v e s


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Chil d re n ’s Book W e ek Celebrating Reading and Writing Who better to provide the best children’s/tweens book reviews than kids themselves?! For the third year running, we promoted Children’s Book Week by teaming up with elementary schools. This year, we added a new twist by inviting our regular reviewers’ children and grandchildren to participate. You’ll find childrens and tweens reviews written by kids ranging from kindegarten to 8th grade. Students learned how to read a book with a critical eye and how to write a review to tell a bit about the story without giving away too much about the book -- and, especially, not the ending! They also got to learn a bit about newspaper publishing. Promoting reading amongst children has always been a priority of the San Francisco and Sacramento Book Reviews. This is an annual feature we here at SFBR/SBR enjoy very much, and we hope you have as much fun reading the reviews as we did. We thank the following publishers for supplying the books to the teachers and school libraries, and the teachers and students who participated. Publishers Abrams Books for Young Readers Felony & Mayhem Scholastic HarperCollins Kingfisher Robertson Publishing Lima Bear Press Orchard Books Arthur A. Levine Books Delacorte Books for Young Readers 4TH Division Books Kids Can Press Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books

Poppy Beach Ball Books Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books Schwartz & Wade Knopf Books for Young Readers Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Wendy Lamb Books Simon & Schuster Philomel Delacorte Books for Young Readers Dial Tricycle Press Houghton Mifflin Harcourt lulu.com

Ariana Leaves San Francisco By Morales Martha, Bessie Chiu Robertson Publishing, $8.50, 28 pages Ariana Leaves San Francisco is about a baby sea lion who has to move from San Francisco to Oregon to help her aunt and uncle care for her grandfather. This makes Ariana very upset! If you want to know what happens next, you”ll have to read the book. The setting in this book is mainly in San Francisco, but she is also in the ocean swimming and at her new home. Ariana is a baby sea lion who lives with her parents. Mommy Sea Lion is Ariana’s mother. Daddy Sea Lion is Ariana’s daddy. Uncle Peter and Aunt Rachel are Ariana’s loving aunt and uncle. And Grandpa Walrus is Ariana’s old grandpa. I recommend this book for children in preschool to third grade. Kids will enjoy this book because it will teach kids how hard moving is, but it can be a lot of fun. I liked this book because it taught me home is where your family loves you very much, whether you move many times or just stay in one place. Children will love this book and will want to read this book over and over again! I hope you enjoy Ariana Leaves San Francisco. You will love this book! Reviewed by Kyra Crawford, 6th Grade The Underpants Zoo By Brian Sendelbach Orchard Books, $1.99, 32 pages This book is about zoo animals being silly and wearing underpants. The ending is really funny. The characters are monkeys, lions, camels, zebras, leopards, hippos, elephants, kangaroos, sloths, snakes, crocodiles, octopi, dolphins, penguins, and anteaters. All the animals are in this funny zoo. During the story, you will learn about animals

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wearing wacky underpants. I loved this book! My favorite part is when it shows the zebras! I would recommend this book to first and second graders. Reviewed by Zoey Anderson - 6th Grade The Honeybee Man Lela Nargi and Kyrsten Brooker Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, 40 pages This book is called The Honeybee Man. It is about a man who lives in a small apartment in the city of Brooklyn. Every day when the man wakes up he creaks up two flights of stairs, so that he can say good morning to his bees. They are like his family, other than his cat named Cat and his dog named Copper. He gets a nice cup of honey tea and sets off on a wondrous journey. I actually loved this book and so did my little brother’s class. I let his teacher borrow it, so that they could know how great a book it is. And yes, I would recommend this book to everyone who loves to read. Reviewed by Ashley Stewart, 6th Grade Arthur Turns Green (Arthur Adventure Series) By Marc Brown Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 32 pages In Arthur Turns Green by Marc Brown, Arthur’s class is making a project called The Big Green Machine. It is a project about ways to save the Earth. Arthur does his project about saving energy in his house, and when he is working on it his hands turn green from the green paint. His sister D.W. is scared because she thinks the Big Green Machine is a real machine that is turning Arthur green! She is scared to go to Family Night and see the machine, but later she feels silly when she finds out Arthur’s project is just a poster. At home, D.W. turns green by helping save electricity. See ARTHUR, cont’d on page 14

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E X PA N DE D ARTHUR cont’d from page 13 I like this book very much because I like Arthur. I think it is funny when D.W. dreams that the Big Green Machine is a monster that runs around turning everyone green. The end of the story really makes me laugh because D.W. is so silly. In the story, Arthur turns off her light when she is reading to save electricity. At the end of the story, D.W. turns off the bathroom lights on Arthur and says, “Looks like I’m turning green too!” That is really funny. You should read this book because it is fun and teaches you about being green. Reviewed by Alexandia Melville, Kindegarten Monkey and Elephant’s Worst Fight Ever! By Michael Townsend Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15.99, 40 pages In Monkey and Elephant’s Worst Fight Ever, a monkey and an elephant get in a fight because monkey didn’t know about a costume party. He thought elephant didn’t invite him so he wanted to do payback. That’s when elephant did something mean to him and he wanted to do something mean to elephant. It was funny, especially when they lassoed the pet rocks. My favorite part is when they get stuck in a boat and monkey’s present is a hammer and thing (chisel) to break the cement on elephant’s feet. I like the drawings where monkey peeks in the windows, sees the surprise party, and throws his cupcakes all over the house. I think boys and girls will like this but mostly boys because there’s stuff about farting. I would read more book by this writer because I like the funniness especially the funny names like Bubba Butt. It was easy to read. Reviewed by Nathan Tropp, 2nd Grade Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children By Lisa Wheeler, Sophie Blackall Atheneum, $16.99, 48 pages Spinster Goose Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children is a nursery rhyme book. It has well known rhymes such as Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty, and Little Miss Muffet. However, each of these rhymes has an added twist. The main character is Spinster

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Goose. She may be Mother Goose’s sister, but she is much stricter. She loves it when people have manners, but when they don’t, she’ll do whatever it takes to teach them some. The setting takes place at Spinster Goose’s school. Spinster’s school is all mottled and gray, she doesn’t like it to be pretty. She mostly likes it plain and doesn’t like to fix it up. I loved the book. However, for being a kid book, this book had some very long words. A thing that I didn’t like about this book was I didn’t understand all the words. I liked every thing else about this book. I would recommend this book. Though, for little kids, I recommend an adult be around to help you understand some words in the book. Overall, I think this is a terrific book. Reviewed by Yadira Nevarez, 6th Grade Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems (I Can Read Book 2) By Lee Bennett Hopkins with illustration by Barry Gott HarperCollins, $3.99, 48 pages Dizzy Dinosaurs is just a bunch of poems about dinosaurs doing things like kids. It is a silly book. My favorite poem is “After the Bath” because one dinosaur steals another dinosaur’s lotion. It’s very funny, especially the drawing. Since I like dinosaurs, I liked all the drawings. They make you laugh. It is easy and fun to read. My dude friends would like this one -- and girls, if they’re into dinosaurs. I would like more poem books like this, maybe all about Star Wars. Reviewed by Nathan Tropp, 2nd Grade Our Daddy Is Invincible! By Shannon Maxwell and Liza Biggers 4TH Division Books, $15.95, 36 pages The story Our Daddy Is Invincible! is about a daddy who gets hurt. The main characters are Eric, his sister Alexis, their mommy, and their daddy. In this story, their daddy is a Marine. They think it must be very scary to be so far from home, but they shoo their worries away. Each night they ask for his protection. But one day he gets hurt on the head, but he will be okay. But they realize that even things can happen to mommies too. They find out something very important, but you have to read the book to find out what they learned. I literally loved this book. The first time I read the story, I felt really bad. But I got hap-

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py when it said that their injuries can’t break their love for us or their inner strength and spirit. Plus, I would recommend this book to someone else, especially to people who’s mommies and daddies are hurt. Then, they will know the special things told in this story. Whoever reads this story, I hope they enjoy this story. Other children just like you experience parents with an injury. This was a spectacular story! Reviewed by Anmol Haar, 6th Grade Your Mommy Was Just Like You By Kelly Bennett and David Walker Putnam Juvenile, $16.99, 32 pages Need a good story to put the little one to sleep, or to sit together in a quiet corner to soothe a tearful face? This is the best book that a grandparent and tot can read together. Can the child ever conceive of their mother being young and undergoing trials and tribulations of childhood? This book asks the children to imagine Mom as a crying, pesky baby who matured into a testy toddler. Mom throws tantrums and needs disciplining. Imagine Mom in a time-out, sitting in the corner. As for games, Mom loved make-believe; she collected all sorts of doo-dads. Like this little one, she also fumbled with her shoe laces, and learned to ride a bike, and found reading and writing to be quite a chore. Too fast, Mom grew up and had her own baby, but Mom will always remain Grandma’s baby, just like the little tyke she’s telling this story to. Reassuringly warm, this is a family yarn that will captivate youngster and generate hugs with big open eyes. Tastefully illustrated to mirror the cozy family atmosphere, this version complements the earlier edition of Your Daddy Was Just Like You. Reviewed by Aron Row Mr. Duck Means Business (Paula Wiseman Books) By Tammi Sauer with illustration by Jeff Mack Simon & Schuster, $15.99, 32 pages Well, Mr. Duck makes a lot of signs -- No Trespassers and stuff like that -- because he wants peace and quiet. But then he makes a sign that reads “Noise Welcome 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.” because he finds out he actually likes noise and friends. This is a silly story. Mr. Duck and the chicks are my favorites. The chicks are so cute and I like when Mr. Duck is painting signs. My favorite part is when he makes the “Noises Welcome” sign. I like the pictures because they are so

SE C T ION funny. It was fun to read out loud. My teacher would like to read this in school. You will like to read this book a bunch of times. Reviewed by Nathan Tropp, 2nd grade Ants in Your Pants, Worms in Your Plants! By Diane Degroat HarperCollins, $16.99, 32 pages This is another in the author’s Gilbert series. This time the story revolves around Earth Day and how children can help maintain a “green” world. In the classroom, Gilbert the opossum and his menagerie of class mates are asked to come up with ideas that will help make the planet cleaner. As before when presented with a school assignment, Gilbert’s mind freezes and he can think of nothing that hasn’t been suggested by others, such as recycling, turning off lights, conserving water, riding bicycles, and even composting. Frustrated and anxious, Gilbert sits back across a tree and watches some ants march along the lawn, when suddenly a light flashes. Gilbert now knows what his project will be: He will plant a tree to provide shade, keep the air clean from pollution, and the tree eventually will provide wood for construction. This is a neat book for the youngster with lessons for environmental health taught by impishly illustrated characters. The reader can readily adapt some of the projects for his own use. This is a lesson told as a charming story. Reviewed by Aron Row A Suitcase Surprise for Mommy By Cat Cora with illustration by Joy Allen Dial, $16.99, 32 pages Suitcase Surprise for Mommy is a cute little story about Zoran’s mommy leaving to New York for a business trip. Zoran is a little boy who is really cute! His mom is a lady who will have to go away for a little while. The story takes place in Zoran’s mom’s room. The book is about Zoran having trouble about his mom leaving to New York. His mom said to go look for something for her to take on her trip. He looks and looks, but can’t find anything. He finds his fire truck, but it’s too big for the suitcase. He finds a robot, but it’s too noisy. He doesn’t know what to give her.

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E X PA N DE D I liked the book because it’s very cute and very touching. What I didn’t like about the book was the setting. I think it started too soon. I would really recommend this book. Reviewed by Anneliese Contreas, 5th Grade Watch Me Grow! A Down-to-Earth Look at Growing Food in the City By Deborah Hodge and Brian Harris Kids Can Press, $16.95, 32 pages Filled with photographs of city gardens, fruits and vegetables, and adults and children gorging on the juicy yields, the book focuses on eating local. Watch Me Grow! is divided into four sections: one for growing, sharing, eating, and last but not least, a part on caring. Readers learn that almost any place can serve for planting as long as it has soil, sunlight and water. Short of space? Try a windowsill. Even chicks and bees can be raised for the eggs and honey. Community gardens are great for sharing space and resources. Share the garden with birds, bees, butterflies, earthworms, and other creatures that can be identified. As for eating, you can grow a pizza garden with some of the grown tomatoes, squash, garlic, basil, and other ingredients from the crop. Gardening is a way of caring for nature by nurturing the seeds that will develop into the plants that supply our sustenance. The writing is a bit too pedantic to spark an interest in city children, and while the photographs are colorful, adults will appreciate them more than children. While the intent is admirable, the writing reads more like a text-book that will require an adult to supervise the reading. Reviewed by Rita Hoots Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de SaintGeorge By Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, 40 pages Born in the West Indies to the French owner of a sugar plantation and a black slave, Joseph Boulogne’s life had a remarkable trajectory: His father, Guillaume-Pierre Tavernier de Boullongne, moved the family back to Paris when Joseph was nine. Prejudice and French law prevented Joseph from taking the family title, so his father created the title of Chevalier de Saint-George for Joseph, along with the variation on the family name. In Paris, Joseph had a noble’s education. He studied riding, fencing, and violin, excelling at each. At twentyone, he decided to devote himself to

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music. Soon he held the position of first violin and time keeper in an orchestra called Le Concert des Amateurs. By the age of thirty, he was a renowned violinist, playing the same programs as Mozart, finally playing for Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI at Versailles. He also composed operas, concertos, and symphonies. Eventually a street in Paris was named after him. Lesa Cline-Ransome’s graceful writing captures both the atmosphere of the West Indian plantation and the world of eighteenth century Parisian society. James E. Ransome’s richly colored illustrations are elegantly suited to the text. Reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan Ten Birds By Cybele Young Kids Can Press, $16.95, 32 pages When this witty fable begins, we meet ten birds flanked by ten complicated-looking contraptions, all arranged on one side of a river. The birds’ goal seems easy enough: cross the river. One by one, each bird sets out to fulfill this goal in his or her own ingenious way. The bird named Brilliant uses tall stilts to walk across. Magnificent builds a kite and flies across. Outstanding builds a catapult and hurls herself across. Highly Satisfactory builds a fan-powered raft and sails across. Eventually, only one bird, Needs Improvement, remains. And though his promisingly named peers succeed in their crossings with expertly engineered contraptions, Needs Improvement finds an ingenious solution of his own: He simply walks over the bridge that was there all along. With pen and ink illustrations on rich paper stock, Ten Birds is a beautifully produced book with sly messages about expectations, underest i m at ion s, and the tendency of the best and brightest to sometimes miss the obvious. Older children will enjoy Needs Improvement’s proud, simple walk over the bridge and the tangled mass of contraptions the other birds ultimately leave behind. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell This Child, Every Child: A Book about the World By David J. Smith, Shelagh Armstrong Kids Can Press, $18.95, 36 pages Ling is a young girl living on a houseboat in Hong Kong, Sam is a teenager from Sierra Leone who was abducted and forced into the army as a child soldier, and Lucas is a happy boy from Sweden. These children are a part of This Child, Every Child, a book about chil-

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dren around the world, their differences, their similarities, their rights, and the lack thereof. Author David J. Smith has successfully portrayed a journey around the world discovering the lives of children through the eyes of children, and this book makes a big impression on elementary school kids, as it opens their eyes and will perhaps give them a greater appreciation for their lives and the rights they have. This Child, Every Child explores facts about children all over the world such as education, poverty, family relationships, and religion, while it incorporates personal stories so that kids can actually relate to the facts. The book ends with a special childfriendly version of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is a great conversation starter to teach children about their rights and how to ensure that their rights are not violated no matter where they live. Reviewed by J. Rodney My Dog Jack Is Fat By Eve Bunting, Michael Rex, Illustrator Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, $16.99, 32 pages The minds and imaginations of little children will not only be engaged in the wonderful illustrations by Michael Rex, but they will be receiving a much needed lesson in today’s world…the importance of nutrition and exercise. Eve Bunting’s story of a little boy named Carson and his dog, Jack starts with a trip to the veterinarian who examines Jack and lets Carson know that his dog is ten-pounds overweight. Taking the health of his pal seriously, Carson begins a routine of heavy exercise and poor Jack also has to give up all his treats. But does Carson exercise with Jack or does he learn a lesson himself in the end? Eve Bunting is a mother of three and a grandmother of four. She has offered her experience and understanding of a child’s mind by authoring more than 200 children’s books. Bunting has won many awards including the Golden Kite Award. Illustrator Michael Rex discovered art as a senior in high school, attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City and now successfully writes and illustrates children’s books. His

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SE C T ION colorful style is so well suited to this story that it will delight children of all ages. Reviewed by Doreen Erhardt Bug and Bear: A Story of True Friendship By Ann Bonwill, Layn Marlow, Illustrator Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, $17.99, 32 pages Bug and Bear are best friends, but they don’t always get along. One day, Bug annoys Bear by pestering her to play—when all she wants to do is sleep. She tells Bug to go away, but Bug can’t take the hint, even when Bear tries her hardest to avoid Bug entirely. Bug is nothing if not persistent, and he mistakes Bear’s increasingly desperate attempts to hide for a game. Finally, Bear reaches her boiling point and tells Bug to go jump in a lake. But the immediate relief she feels from her outburst quickly turns to guilt, and then worry—and she begins a frantic search for Bug that teaches her that true friends speak kind words, not harsh ones, and treat each other with care and love. Beautifully illustrated and charmingly populated with various creeping, crawling creatures, Bug and Bear will surely touch young readers who may feel the sting of Bear’s sharp words and understand the remorse she feels for speaking them. Though not preachy in the least, Bug and Bear: A Story of True Friendship conveys a sound lesson about the effects our words can have on others and the value we should place on those we call friends. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell Dear Tabby By Carolyn Crimi, David Roberts, Illustrator HarperCollins, $16.99, 32 pages Children ages four through eight will thoroughly enjoy the furred and feathered friends of Critterville who write letters to Dear Tabby seeking advice from a witty and cleaver cat. Tabby D. Cat lives in a dumpster with a dented top on Straye Street Alley and accepts table scraps as payment for her wonderful advice. She receives letters from pets whose lives may be pampered but not purrfect and creatures who are looking for love or looking for courage. Tabby D. Cat answers all the letters with words of encouragement. All the while, she wishes she had someone to love her. Will she find that purrfect home? David Roberts’s illustrations are just delightful and the perfect accompaniment to Carolyn Crimi’s engaging tale. Carolyn reSee DEAR TABBY, cont’d on page 16

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E X PA N DE D DEAR TABBY, cont’d from page 15 sides in Illinois and is the author of numerous children’s books including; Boris and Bella, Where’s My Mummy?, and Don’t Need Friends. David Roberts lives in London and was the runner-up for the Mother Goose Award for children’s illustrations. His numerous illustrations include the popular Eddie Dickens Trilogy. For a wonderful addition to your child’s library, Dear Tabby might just become your little one’s favorite bedtime story! Reviewed by Doreen Erhardt Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile By Gloria Houston with illustration by Susan Condie Lamb HarperCollins, $16.99, 32 pages As a child, Dorothy Thomas makes a decision to one day become a librarian, and she dreams of the beautiful brick library over which she’ll preside. She takes all the right steps toward her goal — going to college, getting a degree from library school — but things don’t turn out exactly as she planned. After she marries, she goes with her husband to a mountain town in North Carolina, a place very different from the Massac husetts town where she grew up. There are no imposing brick libraries in her new home, and though Dorothy finds a friendly community of book lovers, her dream of becoming a librarian remains unfulfilled. When her neighbors gather together to help Dorothy start a bookmobile,

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however, Dorothy finds that her dream just might come true after all — even if it takes a shape she never imagined. Based on a true story, this book recounts the powerful influence Thomas had on those lucky enough to encounter her bookmobile. Sadly, as an author’s note reveals, no one knows where Dorothy Thomas is buried; but Miss Dorothy confirms that this plucky librarian’s love of books lives on in those she inspired. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell All the Water in the World By George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, $15.99, 40 pages This is a really good book! It is mainly about water and rhymes. Water drips and flows like rain. Cloud go around so beautifully. The character in the story is water. The setting is everywhere: oceans, mountains, a city, a rainforest. Water travels everywhere; it never stops, it just keeps on going. It won’t stop until the world is clean. It keeps the plants green. I love this book. I give it five stars. I love rhymes and riddles. And to read, out of any books, All the Water in the World is the best book to read to kids. I will recommend this to kids between ages 4-6. It’s a really good book. I’m 12 and I even like it. Hope you enjoy reading this book. You could even read it to a sister or brother as a bed time story. Reviewed by Taylor Wagenknecht, 6th Grade

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If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World By David J. Smith and Shelagh Armstrong Kids Can Press, $18.95, 32 pages Reduce the global world to a village, transform the 7 billion inhabitants proportionately into 100 villagers and then describe what the world is like. Translating the unimaginable numbers that make up statistics into figures that children can handle makes the world a more meaningful and realistic place for the young learner. In a village of 100 people, 33 are Christians, 21 are Muslims, 13 are Hindus and 15 are non-religious. To find the others, read the book. As for languages, there are almost 6,000 languages in this global village, but more than half of the inhabitants speak these eight languages: Chinese dialect, English, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, Portuguese and Russian. Look at energy in this global village and 76 people have electricity, 24 do not. With pedagogic skill, the authors through text and illustration transform the vital statistics of complex issues into realistic and credible concepts that youngsters can ingest, digest and assimilate. The story covers the world’s languages, nationalities, ages, religions, food, money, energy, and health, along with air and water. Enrichment exercises are included to involve the students more fully. This production should be lauded, and the title and text set to music. Pete Seeger, where are you? Reviewed by Aron Row

SE C T ION The Best Birthday Party Ever By Jennifer Larue Huget and LeUyen Pham Schwartz & Wade, $16.99, 40 pages The Best Birthday Party Ever is about a six-year-old girl who loves dogs, hamsters, bunnies, and the color pink. The characters in this story are the six-year-old, her parents, her dog, her hamster, and her friends. She daydreams about having a birthday party with everything, including pink party favors. For her party, she plans to invite all her friends, clowns, magicians, elephants, camels, firefighters, and her grandmothers. For her party favors, she plans to give out hamsters and diamond necklaces to the girls. She always keeps track of how many days, months, hours, seconds, and weeks until her birthday! I really like this book because it is like my fantasy birthday. I would totally recommend this book because it is awesome and it has lots of detail. I think every girl would love to read this book. I would also recommend it if people like short and detailed stories. Reviewed by Janeth Guzman-Gonzalez, 6th Grade Tallulah’s Tutu By Marilyn Singer Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99, 32 pages Tallulah sees a ballerina tutu in a shop window and dreams of becoming a dancer. Her mom sends her to ballet lessons and Tallulah is a natural. Dance becomes her life and she dances whenever she can. But when she went to first class, Tallulah didn’t get

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E X PA N DE D her tutu. Thinking it will come at the next class, she’s disappointed and consoles herself that they must be flying it in from Paris. When it doesn’t come again, she gets very, very mad. How can she be a ballet dancer without a tutu? So upset, she quits dance lessons. Only she can’t stop dreaming and practicing ballet! After dancing in a grocery store, a girl wearing a tutu sees her and says, “I want to dance like that. I’ve already got the tutu.” Suddenly Tallulah gets it and says, “Maybe you need a lesson or two. Or twenty-two.” Tallulah returns to class knowing someday she will get her tutu. Tallulah’s Tutu is a wonderful story that moves quickly. Illustrations by Alexandra Boiger are exquisite, capturing the bliss, as well as the techniques, of dancing. A great book for any young ballerina. Reviewed by Susan Roberts Transformers: Hunt for the Decepticons: Buddy Brawl By Lucy Rosen with illustration by Mada Design Inc. Harper, $3.99, 32 pages In Transformers: Hunt for the Decepticons: Buddy Brawl, there are two people, three good robots, and one bad robot. The people are Sam and Mikaela. The good robots are Optimus Prime, Wheelie, and Bumblebee. The bad robot is Starscream. Bumblebee and Wheelie are driving through the city streets with Sam and Mikaela. Suddenly, Starscream comes out of nowhere to destroy the two robots and capture Sam. Bumblebee and Wheelie begin to fight over what to do, and Optimus Prime has to stop Starscream. Bumblebee and Wheelie still won’t talk to each other. Finally, when Starscream is ready to battle again, Wheelie and Bumblebee become friends again to destroy Starscream. They steer him into a tunnel, which crumpled Starstream’s wings. I really like this book, and I want to read more books in this series. It is easy to read because there are only a few words on each page, and I like the Transformers. I think other kids would like this book if they like robots or if they like the Transformers movies. Reviewed by Kyle Petersen, 2nd Grade

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Hush, Little Horsie By Jane Yolen, Ruth Sanderson, Illustrator Random House Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 32 pages Mothers and foals gather in this book to lull young readers asleep in this horse-centered bedtime story. There are five mother/ child combinations, each one a different type of horse and in a different setting (field, moor, etc.). The last set is a human mother and daughter, whose bedroom decorations show a love for all things horses. Each pair is given two pages of rhyming text showing mother and child together, and then falling asleep on the next page. The accompanying text is cute, but doesn’t quite measure up to the level you would expect from Jane Yolen. It tends towards the repetitive side, where every other page is a repeat of the section before. The real star of this book is Ruth Sanderson’s illustrations, which are absolutely beautiful. Kids and adults alike will find themselves staring at these stunning renderings of mother and baby horses, which seem to almost jump off the page. And while the book could easily be enjoyed by all children, it’s definitely geared more towards girls. It’s the perfect bedtime story for those who love horses. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller ABC Is For Circus By Patrick Hruby Ammo Books, $14.95, 56 pages A is for apple? No, A if for Acrobats! Here, you’ll find an alphabet book where every page is circus-themed, from C is for Calliope to T is for Tiger. For an alphabet board book, the concept is a cute and original one. The slightly larger than average size of the board book make this a great choice for kids who are just learning to read and have difficultly holding smaller board books, and also makes it easier for parents to hold when reading with children. The illustrations are a digitallooking medium, with very geometricallyfocused shapes and an almost vintage feel to them. This works well for fireworks and ice cream, but the people featured can look a little rigid or oddly-shaped. The colors are also a confusing choice, as you would expect a circus theme to have lots of vibrant colors. Some illustrations do, but many of them are

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also heavy with black silhouettes, which can sometimes overpower the colors. In other spreads, the colors seem to be a bit washed out, using a more yellow-green color in place of the bright primary yellow featured in other pictures. Still, these details are one that the children this book is intended for will probably not notice. This would be a great book for parents looking for an alphabet book that’s out of the ordinary. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems By Kristine O’Connell George Clarion Books, $16.99, 48 pages Little sisters can be such pains, and Emma is no exception. In the stands at the soccer game, dressed like an Easter egg, Emma lets everyone know she is Jessica’s little sister. How embarrassing! And she copies everything Jessica does. And she scares her. And she puts rocks in one of Jessica’s best shoes when the school bus is coming. And she tells terrible jokes. And she gets Jessica in trouble with Mom. But Emma’s hand fits perfectly inside Jessica’s. And she loves Jessica with all her heart. And she lets Jessica hold her duck, Quack, when Jessica gets a bad grade. Being a big sister is no easy task. There are ups and downs, bumps and scares, and so many ways to love a little sister. This charming collection of free-verse poems tells the story of the two sisters learning to live together and love each other. Delightful illustrations fill in the details of this very normal, contrary, and caring relationship. Everyone who ever has been either a big or a little sister will enjoy this warm, sweet, funny book. Keep a tissue handy. Reviewed by Rosi Hollinbeck The Loud Book By Deborah Underwood Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $12.99, 32 pages Fans of Underwood and Liwska’s The Quiet Book (2010)—a grand celebration of quiet—will be thrilled with this new companion, The Loud Book. Once again, we meet eclectic creatures—rabbits, ducks, bears, porcupines, foxes, iguanas, all equal in size and stature—who romp through peacefully rendered scenes done in Liwska’s trademark soft pencil. This

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time around, the animals demonstrate all manner of loudness, from the most humiliating to the most raucously fun. “Dropping your lunch tray loud,” “Home run loud,” “Parade in the park loud,” and “Last slurp loud” are just a few of the witty, charming, alltoo-recognizable instances of loud that pop up in every child’s life. Even the nighttime scenes with which the book concludes have their own forms of loud—disrupting what should be sleepy slumber. As they did in The Quiet Book, Underwood and Liwska show a touching perspicacity about what goes on in the daily lives of children. Though much here is silly and funny, the illustrations often show the fear, surprise, and hesitation children exhibit as they make their way through an unpredictable and often threatening world. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell Around the World on Eighty Legs By Amy Gibson Scholastic Press, $18.99, 56 pages Around the World in Eighty Legs is sixty poems—each featuring a different animal. The book is arranged into “families” based on what continent the animals call home. The last three pages list all the animals and a few facts about each to back up the imaginative and often humorous poems earlier in the book. Around the World in Eighty Legs serves several purposes. First, the brief poems— which manage to be both informative and fun—can convert many “I don’t like poetry” young readers. With their rhythm and silliness, these poems beg to be read aloud. And their brevity makes them manageable for hesitant readers. Second, although the book features many familiar animals, at least a third of the poems introduce readers to little known animals or facts. Third, See AROUND, cont’d on page 18

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E X PA N DE D AROUND, cont’d from page 17 the arrangement shows the continents as distinct environments, not just seven words to memorize for a test. Last, combined with the quirky illustrations it gives readers a giggle. Who wouldn’t laugh at an elephant dunking a donut? With hidden meanings and questions the poems bring to mind, this book appeals to a wide age range. Useful with classroom lessons, it’s also welcome in a home setting. Reviewed by Jodi M. Webb The Secret Box By Barbara Lehman Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15.99, 48 pages A long time ago, a young boy buried a secret box in the floor of a school, and decades later the box is discovered by a group of children. Inside the box they find a map, and although the city has changed entirely over the time that has past, the children are able to follow the map on an adventure to the Seashore Pier. Opening up a book without words can be a bit overwhelming, but it can also be a wonderful surprise that will open up a child’s mind to new adventures. This is exactly what The Secret Box is; it is a treasure full of adventure, a book without words that will lead children on a journey with their imagination. Barbara Lehman has created a book solely of illustrations that children can dive into with all of their curiosity and creativity, and soon a story will enfold right in front of them. The story will be different from child to child, which makes it even more special. The illustrations in The Secret Box create a creative and visual puzzle for children to assemble with the use of their own imaginations. Reviewed by J. Rodney Looking for the Easy Life By Walter Dean Myers with illustration by Lee Harper HarperCollins, $16.99, 32 pages While Walter Dean Myers is an awardwinning author, he missed it on Looking for the Easy Life. I found two things disturbing. First, the opening paragraphs did not set up the story well enough. What I read was that “life was pretty good on Monkey Island” and their chief UhHuh-Freddie worked hard to make it so. I read they were being taken care of already. The story didn’t establish that the monkeys were working hard enough to complain about not having an easy life. The second thing that disturbed me was the boyfriend-girl friend innuendos. Phras-

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es, such as “Pete was sweet on Drusilla,” “Betty Lou who had flirty eyes,” and “the lion went off to mess with his girlfriend,” seemed inappropriate. When I read the third one, I literally had to find out at what age the book was targeted, and was disturbed when I read it was for 4-8 year olds. If Myers had set up the story better with a few more sentences and cut out the inappropriate innuendos, the story would have been a good solid read. Reviewed by Susan Roberts

Weird Sports By Michael Teitelbaum Beach Ball Books, $6.99, 48 pages This book is about sports that you would not see every day. Some of the sports are: bog snorkeling, underwater hockey, mullet tossing, extreme unicycling, extreme ironing, lawn mower racing, toilet racing, polar marathoning, turkey bowling, elephant soccer, cheese rolling, and chess boxing. Bog snorkeling is when you use your feet to swim. You cannot use your hands for the breast stroke or forward stroke. The materials you will need are: a wet suit, a snorkel, flippers, and a scuba diving mask. For under water hockey, you would use a stick twelve inches long. When you do mullet tossing, you take one of the fish and see how far you can throw it. Lawn mower racing is just like quad racing, except you’re on a lawn mower. I really liked this book because it has a lot of different kinds of sports. The sports that I think were cool were lawn mower racing, toilet racing, bed racing, elephant soccer, and cheese rolling. I would like to try lawn mower racing. I would recommend this book to people who like crazy, cool, awesome, and weird sports. Reviewed by Devin Matalavage, 6th Grade Ten Little Puppies / Diez perritos By Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy with illustration by Ulises Wensell Rayo, $16.99, 32 pages The book is about a girl losing puppies one at a time for a certain reason. This girl has ten puppies and every hour she loses one. The little girl loves the ten puppies she has. The settings are the mountains, the girl’s house, firework show, parade, lake, birthday party, doctor’s office, and in front of the girl’s house. Every time a puppy leaves her, she gets sadder and sadder. She is excited at the end, but I will not tell you the end until you read it.

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It is a good story, trust me; if I liked it, you will also like it. I liked this book a lot. It was really joyful to me. I liked it because of the ten little puppies, they’re so cute. I would recommend this book to anyone because people like puppies a lot. They are just a great friend to everyone. Even if you don’t like puppies, you should read it because it’s that awesome to read. Reviewed by Kenny, 6th Grade The Governor’s Dog is Missing (Slate Stephens Mysteries) By Sneed B. Collard III Bucking Horse Books, $16.00, 161 pages Two young detectives, using science, deductive reasoning, public appeals, and just plain luck, risk their lives to track down the kidnapper of the governor’s beloved dog, Cat. The police are baffled when the dog disappears without a trace. But Slate and Daphne re-enact the scene of the crime, find seemingly unrelated clues, and stick to the case, even when the police give up. Weak clues, but a strong hunch, take them to Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park to spy on Karelian-bear dogs, especially trained to protect people from grizzly bears. While the two long-time friends sleuth for clues to track down the kidnapper, something else blossoms between them. Slate suddenly finds himself having new physical reactions when he’s around Daphne, and Daphne confuses him more when she starts flirting. Fascinated, uncomfortable, and embarrassed all at the same time, Slate accidentally, maybe on purpose, kisses her ear and knows she’ll never talk to him again. Excellent detective work that outshines what the police do, teased with early encounters with romance, make for a fun and intriguing tale. Reviewed by Susan Roberts Mathemagic!: Number Tricks By Lynda Colgan with illustration by Jane Kurisu Kids Can Press, $16.95, 40 pages Magic takes on new life when you add the magic number nine or digital wizardry; even mummy math becomes fun when a little magic is added. All of sudden words such as multiplier, factor, and product become special words just as abracadabra would be for a magician. Author Lynda Colgan has put together a brilliant collection of mathematical magic tricks for kids, and you do not have to be fond of math to understand just how phe-

SE C T ION nomenal this collection is. If you want to learn how to multiply by nine without finding the calculator, Colgan has the trick for you. Whether you are a math genius, a curious young magician, or a mom trying to help your kids with math homework, Mathemagic!: Number Tricks is a book that will make you wonder and make you want to do math. These special mathematical tricks will surely impress your audience. Jane Kurisu has created fun and easyto-follow illustrations, which provide visual explanation of the math magic. Between the helpful illustrations and the explanations by Colgan, your child will be learning easy and complicated math concepts without even realizing it. Reviewed by J. Rodney A Little House Traveler: Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Journeys Across America By Laura Ingalls Wilder Collins, $7.99, 368 pages Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the beloved Little House series, traveled throughout her life, seeing the country by covered wagon, train, and car. In Little House Traveler, fans get an inside look into Laura’s journeys through journal entries, pictures, and letters from three of her most memorable adventures. Laura traveled quite a bit – by twelve years old, she’d lived in twelve different houses! In “On the Way Home,” Laura writes about the 1894 covered wagon trip she took with her family from South Dakota to Missouri. “West from Home” features letters Laura sent to her husband Almanzo about her adventures in California during a visit with her daughter Rose in 1915. In “The Road Back,” readers learn about Laura and Almanzo’s 1931 journey back to the town in South Dakota where she was raised. Black and white photographs and maps enhance the narrative and lists of prices from the various trips give a real sense of time and place. In 1932, Laura began to record memories of her life and these writings turned into Little House in the Big Woods. People loved reading about her frontier experiences. You’ll love reading about Laura the Traveler in this fascinating book. Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin

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E X PA N DE D The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book II: The Hidden Gallery By Maryrose Wood, Jon Klassen, Illustrator Balzer + Bray, $15.99, 240 pages Book Two in this whimsical series takes the Incorrigibles and their plucky governess, Penelope Lumley, to London, where Lady Ashton has leased temporary lodgings to escape disruptive house repairs. The Incorrigibles are three feral children -- Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia -- raised by wolves, and discovered by Lord Ashton in the woods on his estate. Under Penelope’s tutelage, they’re semi-socialized and becoming well-educated, though they still howl when anxious, and pigeons or squirrels can make them drool. London presents Penelope with mysteries: When she meets with Miss Mortimer, her former headmistress at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, she is advised to use her hair poultice and not ask questions about dangers that threaten. The London guidebook Miss Mortimer gave Penelope has only paintings and poems, except for a section on the zoo. A Gypsy woman warns that “the hunt is on.” Lord Ashton is strangely interested in moon phases. Judge Quinzy is inexplicably interested in the Incorrigibles. What is the significance of the sight that greets Penelope and company in the hidden gallery? And have we seen the last of Simon Harley-Dickinson? Not every mystery is resolved, of course, leaving this reader eager for Book Three. Reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan Greek Myths By Ann Turnbull Candlewick Press, $18.99, 167 pages Ann Turnbull revives theses age-old myths with a storyteller’s voice, evoking fairy tales and childhood wonder. Unlike earlier collections, where myths can seem unrelated, Turnbull links one story to another. Arethusa, the nymph fleeing from the river god Alpheus, spies Hades’ captive bride underground. In the next story, she tells Demeter where her daughter is hidden. Ariadne, who helps Theseus slay the Minotaur (and is abandoned by him on the island of Naxos) finds true love with Dionysus, the god of wine, in a later story of her own. A great pleasure in reading this book is the beautiful language. Turnbull’s poetic voice brings to life the passions, schemes, and follies of mortals, as gods weigh in with agendas of their own: Arachne dooms herself to spin webs instead of clothing. Echo,

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the gossip, is reduced to repeating what she hears. Phaeton’s request to drive the sun god’s chariot plunges him to death. The storytelling is never preachy, but lessons resound like soft, musical notes. Sarah Young’s rich illustrations are layered in color and have the feel of woodcut prints, yet simultaneously capture the style of ancient Greek friezes. No library is complete without this book. Reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan

await the questing hedgehogs. Jones’s humorous writing sails like a windship, pulling a reader along. Long-suffering Trundel and cheeky Esmeralda are endearing characters. Dialogue is snappy. Settings are vivid. Chalk’s black and white illustrations are reminiscent of intricate woodcuts, perfectly suited to the text. Young readers will love this book--and the five more that are in the works. Reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan

Angela’s Odyssey By Edith Beale lulu.com, $9.99, 42 pages There once was a girl named Angela and she had golden hair, was nine, but she couldn’t walk. One night, she looked out her window and saw a shooting star. After she made her wish to be able to walk again, a horse named Pegasus came for her. They would go on a journey to help Angela walk again. First they went to the Land of the Fierce Dragon, next, the Land of the Emir, the Land of the Giants, the Land of the Rainbow, the Land of the Beautiful Maidens, then, the Land of the Wix Wax. Finally, after accomplishing all the tasks in all the lands, Angela and Pegasus reached a waterfall. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next. I would recommend this book to people who like adventures and fairy tales. I like that when there is a problem Angela and Pegasus can always solve it. Reviewed by Perri Thaw, 5th grade

Freddy! King of Flurb By HarperCollins Children’s HarperCollins, $5.99, 160 pages Freddy King of Flurb is about a family: the mom, dad, sister, and of course, Freddy. Freddy is a 10-year-old boy who is kind of a troublemaker. He gets bad grades like D’s and C’s. The sister thinks she is perfect and better than Freddy. She gets straight A’s and, even if she gets an A-, she freaks out. The mom is very sweet and kind but the dad is really mean and strict. The setting is on Flurb in outer space. What happens is Freddy and his family get abducted by aliens. If you want to see what happens next, you will have to read it. I really liked this book because it was funny and entertaining. Some parts I didn’t like because they were really boring. I would recommend this because it is a weird, hilarious book. I would mostly recommend this to people who have siblings and know how annoying they are. Reviewed by Lauren Rudnick, 6th Grade

The Six Crowns: Trundle’s Quest By Allan Jones Greenwillow Books, $15.99, 160 pages Can two ill-matched hedgehogs fulfill an ancient legend about the floating archipelago known as the Sundered Lands? Trundel Boldoak, the lamplighter for Port Shiverstones, doesn’t believe in legends. His quiet routine is disrupted when Esmeralda, a Roamany hedgehog, bursts into his home with the claim that the Fates have chosen him: his quest is to help her find the first of the Six Crowns of the Badgers of Power. Before Trundel can refuse, pirates invade the port, searching for Esmeralda, burning and looting the town. Thus begins a fastpaced series of adventures involving windships (they sail through air), badger blocks (they work like Tarot cards), a pirate hog named Grizzletusk, his bo’sun Razorback, slave-trading rats and sniffer-shrews, gambling dens, and, finally, the dreaded mines of Drune, where good news and bad news

Wish Stealer: A Dangerously Uncommon Tale By Barbara Kolberg Fingernail Moon Studios, $19.95, 176 pages We all have to make choices in our lives—some are the right choices, and some are wrong. When we make a wrong choice, we have two options: choose to accept the consequences, or try to fix it. This is just one of the things that we learn from Algernon in Barbara Kolberg’s Wish Stealer: A Dangerously Uncommon Tale. Desperate to buy a red model car before his classmate, Algernon comes across a water fountain full of coins that carry others’ wishes. He is tempted to steal the coins, but with them comes consequences that even Algernon couldn’t foresee. As a result, Algernon is faced with a choice that only he can make. Before even opening Wish Stealer, I was captivated by its beautifully illustrated slipcase and equally stunning book cover. The allure stayed with me through more than fifty full-color illustrations that are scattered throughout the story to help make the

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SE C T ION story come alive. Getting into the story was very easy. Algernon is a wonderfully written character that seems to grow before our eyes on the pages as he faces and deals with what unfolds from the choices that he made. His friends, Clovis and Ivy, are equally as enduring with their true bonds of friendship and fun dialogue. Although the character that won my heart wasn’t even human, but Algernon’s dog Rio. He portrays being a loyal pet perfectly. Deeper than just the characters, I loved the moral of this story and the true life values that were also taught through Algernon’s adventures. Not only do we see what it means to have to face your consequences, but we also discover the real differences between selfishness and selflessness. Wish Stealer: A Dangerously Uncommon Tale is a favorable combination of pageturning suspense and spectacular artwork that translates into a journey of fantasy full of action, friendship, love, plot and purpose that any child (or adult) would love to venture into. This would make an incredible gift for a parent to give their child and read to them at night. Sponsored Review

ONE, cont’d from page 5 on a ride through the park, Harper would find herself facing down a bear, and it would be her ex-husband who rides up to save her. Nevertheless, this is a fine example of the romance genre for its more than stereotypic characters. Reviewed by Stacia Levy

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Betcha Can …

Men Can Write Believable Female Characters By Barry Hoffman

This May, Chaos Unleashed, the third novel in my young adult series, The Shamra Chronicles, goes on-sale. This series, along with the eight adult thrillers I’ve written, have been very well received by readers and critics alike. What do they all have in common? All have females as protagonists and more than half of my antagonists are also females. Oh, and I’m male. Can a male write from the perspective of a woman (teens and women in their twenties)? Not only do I think it’s possible, but it’s something that I think I’ve gotten quite good at doing—and I don’t like to write sweet and weak female characters either. My main characters are strong and often flawed females, and they are definitely not dependent on males to save the day. Having two strong-willed, independent daughters (and a ten-year old granddaughter in the same mold) has certainly influenced my choice to write these kinds of characters. But just as significant is my experience of thirty years as a teacher of fifth to eighth grade students. I found the eleven to fourteen year old girls I taught to have unique and diverse personalities while the boys in my class were lumps of clay still waiting to be molded. My very first short story was inspired by a sixth grader in my class: Marjorie, who compulsively brushed her hair. No matter how many times I demanded she cease and desist, within ten minutes she was at it again—though not in defiance. She was just being Marjorie. I had told numerous stories to my class using my students as characters. Now I challenged Marjorie. “Brush your hair again and I’ll write a story for the entire class to read.” Her response,“No you won’t,” was the perfect challenge, and something you just don’t say to a writer. Ten minutes later she was brushing her hair again and three days later, to Marjorie’s delight, I presented “Lice” to my class. “Lice” was a horror story about a girl (of course I named her Marjorie) obsessed with her hair. Her brother put lice in her hair and the lice burrowed into her brain, driving her insane. Maybe not my finest short story but Marjorie thought I got her right. Adolescent girls are incredibly forthcoming to those they trust. Many students (mostly girls) ate lunch in my classroom gossiping and swapping tales (some humorous, others heart-wrenching) in my presence, knowing I wouldn’t betray their confidence. One girl, for instance, was particularly upset one day and confided to me that her father had ripped off a necklace she had put on that morning. He said it made her look too old and he didn’t want any back talk. The incident made its may into one of my novels. Just as significant in my development of writing believable female characters was my five year stint coaching a fifth to eighth grade girls’ basketball team. Most

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of these girls had never played the game before. There was not a lot of talent on the team, but they exhibited more heart and passion than any boys’ teams I had coached. Quite simply, they were a group of girls with soul, compassion and determination. When one of the girls lost her sneakers and her parents pulled her from the team as punishment, the girls (on their own) took up a collection to buy new sneakers. To their credit, the girl’s parents refused the money. However, they noted the commitment these girls possessed, and relented, allowing her to remain on the team while coming up with another punishment. So, when it came to writing my first novel, Hungry Eyes, both my protagonist and antagonist were females. So many unique female personalities (not to mention their mothers and grandmothers with whom I had also made contact) had passed through my class that I wrote about what I knew best. I felt comfortable slipping into the shoes of my female characters. And I didn’t think twice about who would be the lead character when I plotted my young adult series. Each book of The Shamra Chronicles is populated with young women bearing a remarkable resemblance to those who have walked through my classroom door. I’ve been told by many women that they can easily identify with my female characters—and as authors we crave validation, don’t we? And my female characters themselves demand I create three-dimensional women, not stereotypes or clichés far too prevalent in YA literature. Knowing the young women I’ve met and created, I’d be a fool to ignore their call. Barry Hoffman has been a teacher, a publisher, an editor, and, of course, a writer. Hoffman’s eight adult books have been well received by critics and most recently, he is the author of the popular young adult novels, THE SHAMRA CHRONICLES; the last novel in the series, CHAOS UNLEASHED, will be released May 2011. What do all of his novels have in common? All have females as protagonists and more than half of the antagonists are also females. These female characters are strong and often flawed, but they are definitely not dependent on males to save the day.

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Young Adult Through Her Eyes By Jennifer Archer HarperTeen, $16.99, 240 pages Tansy is an outsider as a result of her mother’s constant moving around to write her horror stories, and it seems to be no different when they move to Cedar Canyon. While exploring her new home, Tansy discovers old trinkets connected to a boy named Henry who seems to be communicating to her through her photography. As she’s drawn deeper into his world, her world starts to fade away. I think one of the best parts of this book was that the characters were never really as they seemed at the first. Tansy was a bit bratty, but soon developed into an incredible main character, while Henry went from being a swoon-worthy character to, well, not. Other characters seemed to have similar growths, both positive and negative. The flashes into the past showed us more story as to why Henry was communicating with Tansy, showing a connection that I didn’t necessarily see coming. Dealing with a ghost, I thought there would be a more eerie feeling to the book but I never felt it. What it lacked there, it made up in rich history and an ending that was pleasantly unexpected. With a stunning cover and equally as impressive premise, I found Through Her Eyes to be a wonderful ghost story. This is a great YA book for fans of paranormal reads, as well as mysteries. Reviewed by Missy Wadkins Across the Universe By Beth Revis Razorbill, $17.99, 398 pages Across the Universe is a pioneer of a novel from debut teen writer Beth Revis. The book begins with immediate action. Amy is cryogenically frozen with her parents, leaving her old life behind knowing she will wake up again in three hundred years to help build a new society on a new world. The narration is shared between Amy and Elder. Elder is a lifer on the ship, he is next in line to rule the others who work to keep the Godspeed running and well on its way to reaching Earth’s new domain. When Amy is unfrozen, she wakes up expecting to see her parents. Instead she finds Elder. They must work together in secret to solve the mystery of her attempted murder while staying under the radar of the current ship captain Eldest.

Amy and Elder are incredibly likable and the dialogue between the two is easy and fun to read. I love the world that Revis creates in her universe and the subtlety that make the book believable. A good example was her intense way of conveying Elder’s awe the first time he truly sees stars. I highly recommend this book to teens who have a love of science and space. Reviewed by Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg Angry Management By Chris Crutcher Greenwillow Books, $8.99, 256 pages This collection of three novellas reprises characters from earlier novels providing new glimpses into their lives, neatly framed by notes from counselor Mr. Nak (Ironman). Kyle Maynard and the Craggy Face of the Moon brings Angus Bethune (Athletic Shorts) together with Sarah Byrnes (Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes). Two damaged people find the perfections in each other, take a painful journey, and find love. Montana Wild takes a hard look at foster care, examining adults who make the system work and those who throw sand in the gears, while making a strong case for student free-press rights and legalizing medical marijuana. Montana West (The Sledding Hill), student reporter, has to face down the wrath of her adopted father, president of the school board. Meet Me at the Gates, Marcus James is the most powerful of the three. Marcus James, lone black student in a small town, refuses to hide his homosexuality. Allies Mr. Simet (Whale Talk) and Matt Miller (Deadline), a devout Christian, can’t hold back the hate. Chris Crutcher fans will be thrilled to find this new addition to his well-crafted books populated with strong, searingly-witty, quirky characters--ones nearly every one of his young readers can relate to. Reviewed by Rosi Hollinbeck

hate; however, in this case, it’s not going to be an easy decision on which. After reading the book, I had to take a few moments to put into words how the story made me feel. The story itself was seamless, with description so eloquent you practically fell into the story while reading it. The characters started out a little unsettled, but grew with the progression into wonderfully loved, strong characters that make you warm and fuzzy on the inside. The twisting and turning throughout the book was methodic and almost effortless. The setting felt a little otherworldly, in parts a little sinister. I love dark stories with wonderful characters, so I fell in love with the book itself. If you want a novel from an incredible storyteller, Franny Billingsley’s Chime is the way to go. Reviewed by Missy Wadkins Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and its Legacy By Albert Marrin Knopf Books for Young Readers, $19.99, 192 pages March 25th marked the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, in which 146 lives were lost. Marrin has managed to make the story and importance

come alive to younger readers in a way that no other writer about the fire has ever been able to do, whether geared toward young or adult readers. Leaving the more gory details to others, the book focuses on the important facts. What immigrants came here, why they came here, why they worked the jobs that put them in such danger, what was it like to be an immigrant in the early 1900s, and most importantly, what changes the fire brought about that effect us to this day. The writing is approachable and easy to understand without being condescending to young minds. Thirty four new pieces of legislation were passed to protect workers in reaction to the fire spurred on, not only by the deaths, but by the women who didn’t even have the right to vote at the time. One women in particular, Frances Perkins, went on to become the Secretary of Labor under President Roosevelt. The Triangle Fire was important and Flesh and Blood So Cheap is a vital resource YOUNG ADULT cont’d on page 22

Chime By Franny Billingsley Dial, $17.99, 361 pages There once was a girl named Briony who lived in Swampsea. She kept a lot of secrets, and only got away by telling stories to the Old Ones that lived in Swampsea. Then, Briony met a boy. A boy who made her feel, so much so that she felt as though she could tell her secrets … Chime is one of those books that people either love or

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in teaching just where we were then and how far we have come since. Reviewed by Gwen Stackler Delirium By Lauren Oliver HarperTeen, $17.99, 442 pages Lena is counting the days until she can have the procedure. The disease has touched several in her family, and as soon as she gets the cure, she can start resting easy. Everyone knows how dangerous amor deliria nervosa is. It is so serious that the United States has closed its borders since the cure was discovered and made mandatory, to make sure that no one can come in carrying the deadly disease. Of course, there are some on the fringes of society who believe that love shouldn’t be cured. But they’re tried and sent to the Crypts or executed. It’s just that important to society’s safety and freedom from pain. Lena will be 18 soon. But then she meets a boy, and she starts to wonder whether the procedure will save her — or if it will end any real happiness in her life. Lauren Oliver’s second novel is a dystopian tale that’s hard to put down. She not only creates a gripping story that keeps you guessing, but she captures the feel of first love perfectly. Readers will be happy to know sequels are in the works, but disappointed to have to wait to see what comes next. Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim Memento Nora By Angie Smibert Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, $16.99, 192 pages If you could take a pill to forget any traumatic event, would you do it? This is the question Nora is faced with when her mother takes her to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic after she witnesses a terrorist attack. After hearing about the traumatic experience, Nora’s mother wants Nora to forget, but Nora decides to secretly avoid taking the pill. In reality, she knows little of the truth behind the terrorist attacks and the clinic. This is a great story for those new to dystopias. It’s told from the alternating view points of Nora, Micah, a classmate that prompts Nora to not take the pill to forget, and Micah’s friend, Winter. It’s a very quick read. Nora’s character is wonderfully engaging. Micah is a little more difficult to like. He comes across as whiny and spoiled, despite supposedly coming from a poor family. Winter, on the other hand, is an intriguing character. Unfortunately, the reader only gets brief glimpses into her depths. Still this is an intriguing dystopia that readers won’t want to miss. Reviewed by Debbie Suzuki

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Catcher, Caught By Sarah Collins Honenberger AmazonEncore, $14.95, 246 pages The author of Catcher Caught admits she is a fan of Catcher in the Rye; she intersperses comparisons between the main character, Daniel, and Holden Caulfield. While this technique doesn’t really add anything to the plot, the overall story is not bad. Daniel Landon, the 16-year old son of hippie parents, lives on a houseboat. He knows he will die soon of leukemia, and has accepted it. He has his good days and bad days, but is determined to live life to the fullest. His parents are refusing the traditional treatment of chemo and radiation which attracts the attention of local law enforcement. Meanwhile, his mother is secretly saving for experimental treatments in Mexico. Daniel and his best friend, Mack, meet new neighbors and twin sisters Meredith and Juliann. Daniel and Meredith have an instant connection; and the fact that Daniel is dying doesn’t scare her off. As the book progresses, the couple become closer and love blooms. What doesn’t work is Daniel’s impulsive trip to New York City in an effort to discover Holden’s world. Since Daniel is portrayed as sensible and responsible, his plan-less journey makes no sense. Despite a potentially depressing plot, it never becomes maudlin and is infused with humor and a realistic teen protagonist. Reviewed by Leslie Wolfson All You Get Is Me By Yvonne Prinz HarperTeen, $16.99, 280 pages Like it or not, San Francisco city girl Roar has become an organic farmer’s daughter. Buying the farm was her lawyer father’s big idea after Roar’s mother walked out on the family. Now, Roar spends her free time tending to a coop of ungrateful chickens and selling vegetables at the farmer’s market. The book begins on the summer day Roar and her father witness a woman with road rage cause an accident that kills a young woman who happens to be an illegal immigrant from Mexico. Roar’s father coaxes the worker’s husband to sue for wrongful death, but things get complicated when Roar begins to fall in love with Forest, the introspective, tender son of the woman who caused the accident.

Yvonne Prinz’s novel is an enjoyable read that is also educational as it explores the topics of migrant worker rights and sustainable living. Roar’s delightful sidekick is Storm, the disobedient daughter of fundamentalist Christians, who is almost as interested in Roar losing her virginity as she is in finding her next inappropriate lover. The events of the book build toward a unified, satisfying conclusion that coincides with Roar’s sixteenth birthday at the end of the summer and the date when Forest must return home to Los Angeles. Reviewed by Megan Just Blessed By Cynthia Leitich Smith Candlewick Press, $17.99, 480 pages Cynthia Leitich Smith fans have waited for the third book in her Tantalize series for almost two years. We knew the story was coming back to Quincey in Blessed and we were all waiting with bated breath for the conclusion. I must say Blessed did not disappoint. We find Quincey in the same boat where she was left in book one, and her problems are immediate. Kieren is completely out of the picture living in the wild with the other werewolves and Quincey is forced to move in with Kieren’s parents and sleep in his old room due to her lack of guardianship. She wants to reopen the restaurant even though she is trying to figure out how to be a teenage vampire and stop the whole town from turning into bloodsucking neophyte vamps. Blessed brings you straight back into the world of Tantalize even though it has been years since any of us have read the first volume of the series. You are intensely wondering if Bradley is coming back, if there is any way to get Kieren back from the wolf pack and what Quincey is going to do next. Smith is a master of vampire fiction. Blessed is just begging to be read! Reviewed by Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg Dark Mirror By M.J. Putney St. Martin’s Griffin, $9.99, 304 pages Lady Victoria Mansfield is about to be introduced to society and have her pick of any husband she desires. But the unthinkable happens: She starts to show signs of having magic, which is despised among the nobles. When an event forces her to display her magic ability, she is shipped off to Lockland Abbey, where she will learn to suppress her magic and hopefully return to society. Once there, she meets people who embrace their special ability, and her opinion changes. Together, they all train to

fight with Britain in an impending war with France. They will defend their country in a way they would never have imagined. I found this book captivating and very suspenseful from beginning to end. It is filled with humor and evokes strong emotions in the reader, which are signs of a good book. Tory is a satisfyingly strong female character for her time; she is loving, wise, and at the same time headstrong. Readers will fall head over heels for her secret crush, Allarde. The seventeenth century England Putney creates is strikingly beautiful, full of magic that is both loved and despised. I hope readers can get by with little sleep, because this is a real page turner! Reviewed by Amanda Muir Teeth By Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling HarperCollins, $17.99, 480 pages A girl recruits her boyfriend to honor a family tradition with a strange funeral vigil. A grandmother walks her granddaughter through her newfound vampirism. A strange little creature is discovered in a box in the attic. A young man working in an antique shop learns about the underground vampire collector’s market. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have the magic touch when it comes to assembling a primo assortment of stories, and they showcase it once again with Teeth: Vampire Tales, a collection that beautifully meshes some of the greats of fantasy with lesser-known names and newcomers worthy of greater attention. By focusing on stories that skew toward a somewhat younger audience than your standard vampire book, Teeth offers freshness to a stale and tired genre, injecting energy into each story. The true standout of the collection is Cecil Castellucci’s “Best Friends Forever,” a tale of companionship that wonderfully juxtaposes the living and the undead while highlighting their curiously parallel struggles. It’s unlike any vampire short story I’ve encountered in recent memory. In a literary world full of underwhelming vampire stories, Teeth definitely leaves a mark. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas BODY RHYMES, cont’d from page 12 moments after a long illness. Taxing in its sincerity, it’s one of the most personal and revealing works I’ve encountered in a long time, and such pellucidity contributes to its impact. The entire book, in fact, feels like the rise and fall of a regular pulse, an EKG of emotional highs and lows, leading up to and through She Lay Asleep Wearing Oxygen and into the subtle resignation and optimism of Grace Notes. It’s a fitting conclusion to an evocative project. Sponsored Review

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Current Events & Politics Somalia, the New Barbary?: Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa By Martin N. Murphy Columbia University Press, $26.50, 277 pages Somalia is the problem child of the world. It has not had a functioning central government since the corrupt dictator Barre left office in 1991. It has been a scene of humanitarian crisis after humanitarian crisis. The United States tried to intervene under the auspices of the United Nations, but left after a short stay and refuses to send troops back into the quagmire that is Somalia. In recent years, piracy has been

on the front pages, with pirates from Somalia getting special intention. Many political commentators are asking are they working for themselves, are they supporting Islamic terrorists, and how to stop them so they stop praying on ships. In this well written book Martin Murphy takes the reader on a journey of history of piracy in Somalia, but also the political factions and the role that clans play in this society. For many people in the West, it is hard to understand the role that clans play in Somalia, but to understand piracy and how to get it under control we have to understand clans and embrace the role that they play. This book should be read by anyone wanting to know more about the situation on the ground, and what can be done to combat the problem of piracy. Reviewed by Kevin Winter

Theories of International Politics and Zombies By Daniel W. Drezner Princeton University Press, $14.95, 153 pages The book opens with a simple vignette: a Graceland tour guide must satisfy two very different creatures: devoted Elvis fans who have finally arrived at their mecca and those “who took great pleasure in the kitschy nature of all things Elvis.” Drezner’s task is just the same. For hardcore devotees of the zombie canon poised to look for errors in his reasoning, he uses international relations theory to predict what would happen to humanity during a zombie apocalypse. For the casual reader, there’s humor to address the nonsensicalness of a serious professor of international politics tackling our current zombie fascination with scholarly energy.

The result is an amusing primer on IR theory, a comprehensible introduction to the tenets of liberalism, neo - conser vat ism, social constructivism, bureaucratic politics, realpolitik and insight into their plausible responses to a new type of threat. Drezner uses zombies as a tool to hook curious readers. He draws distinctions between the archetypal, mindless ghouls of Romero’s Dead trilogy and the fast, almost sentient creatures we’ve seen in recent Hollywood productions, enticing readers with a more enjoyable way to learn about IR theory. Reviewed by Wendy Iraheta

Health, Fitness & Dieting Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness through Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Western Science By Claudia Welch Da Capo Lifelong Books, $18.00, 319 pages Has stress devoured your energy, outlook and overall health? With the high demands of motherhood and work, many women are facing the upheavals of stress and its’ detrimental impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. So what’s a busy woman to do? The key lies in balancing hormones according to Claudia Welch who has written a thoroughly, thought-provoking look into the way our bodies are driven, and, often, run

into the ground. The terrain of everyday life will take its toll, eventually, and many more women are being seen by doctors with complaints stemming from headaches, stomach disorders, fatigue, painful periods and even heart disease. Scary, but true; hormones are the vehicles that drive us. In Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, Welch combines Western medicine with Eastern wisdom and provides lifestyle change solutions and tools to help our bodies recover from our daily trauma in the trenches of life. She offers overviews, ways to get started, stress-management techniques and an extensive education on the ‘balancing’ between two worlds of medicine.

If you are tired of being sick, and sick of being tired this is a read in which you will find the beginnings of simple, holistic and lasting relief. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez-Fischer

find good and bad examples so you can learn from other’s mistakes. Not even the tiniest detail is overlooked by the authors: selecting paper, using bold type, being polite. The book also includes information not found in other books, such as the importance of publishing industry Web sites. Another advantage is the authors don’t give general advice but break it down for fiction, nonfiction and various genres. The book is

well organized with an authoritative voice. It convincingly makes the case that if you follow it step-by-step, you will be that much closer to becoming a published author. Newbies and those switching agents or publishers? Definitely! Reviewed by Jodi M. Webb

Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? By Perry Romanowski Harlequin, $16.95, 208 pages Why doesn’t armpit hair grow down to your knees? (see below for answer) Read about issues like this in Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm?, a guide to products you use every day and other beauty information. Are those new “mira-

cle” products on the market worth all that money? You’ll learn four ways to tell if your cosmetics have expired and how to properly pop a pimple. Find out just how important sunscreen is for your skin. The authors cover hair, skin, makeup, and the beauty industry (scandals, secrets, and concerns). At the end of every explanation the data is summed up in “The Bottom Line,” which gives a one to two sentence concise answer that is perfect for browsing. The book’s tone is conversational and often times funny. Let’s face it – we need a little humor to soften the blow when we find out we’ve been spending too much money on products. P.S. – Armpit hair, like arm and leg hair, has a very short growing cycle. It’ll never grow as long as scalp hair, which is good because then we’d have to start sporting armpit braids! Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin

Reference The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Book Proposals & Query Letters By Coleen O’Shea Alpha, $16.95, 320 pages Do you have a manuscript gathering dust? Or maybe just an idea for a book? The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Book Proposals and Query Letters takes would-be authors from honing the idea to landing an agent. The authors, Marilyn Allen and Coleen O’Shea, are two agents who have spent over 55 years in the publishing industry. This book full of checklists, insider tips, online resources and explanations for even the newest newbie. One of the most helpful aspects of this book is examples of queries, titles, proposals, and more. Here you will

REMEMBERING cont’d from page 10 book relies to a great extent on the last two books for background information, so do not bother with this one until you read the others. One of the nice points of this book is how the characters are ageless in time. I

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would love to be a fly on the wall for some historical events, even some non-historical events. A problem I had was how unattached everyone was to the events around them. The bombing of Nagasaki, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Kennedy Assassination feel more like window dressing than actual events that effect people, let alone the main cast. Even in this climatic ending, the characters are two dimensional and boring. While the ending will be a pleasure for fans, I think this is one book not worth remembering. Reviewed by Kevin Brown

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Biographies & Memoirs The Band that Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the Eight Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic By Steve Turner Thomas Nelson, $24.99, 259 pages If you’ve seen the movie Titanic, you can’t help but be moved by the courage of the orchestra that continued to play while the ship sank. Tragically, this event was no invention of the cinema. It really happened. Rather than take their seats on one of the coveted lifeboats, band director Wallace Hartley and his fellow musicians Roger Bricoux, John Wesley Woodward, George Krins, John Law Hume, Fred Clarke, Theo Brailey, and Percy Cornelius Taylor chose to remain on deck with their instruments. They went down playing the mournful dirge that for many survivors brought the necessary faith to press on in the face of fear. Piece by piece, Turner reveals how the band came together under arduous circumstances to play for little pay and second class passage on the most luxurious liner of its time. Despite the many narratives on the sinking of the Titanic, this book is the first of its kind to tackle the tough questions: Why of the three bodies recovered was Wallace Hartley the only one sent home for burial? What happened to the violin reportedly strapped to his leg when his body was recovered? What was life like for a ships’ musician? As we approach the centennial of the Titanic’s tragic maiden voyage, this marks a tribute too long in coming. Reviewed by Casey Corthron The Pigs’ Slaughter By Florin Grancea CreateSpace, $9.99, 141 pages 1989 was a chaotic time. There were earthquakes, massive revolutions, and Seinfeld premiered. The Pigs’ Slaughter is a book about the revolution in Romania. Written by Florin Grancea, he gives us a window into the world of Romania during those last days of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. It is a hybrid story about a boy becoming a man and a country learning to walk. While “freedom” runs rampant, all Florin can wish for are new shoes. The book makes strong comparisons to many different themes. Topics ranged from the French Revolution, to horrors of World War 2, to the War on Terror. Each small snippet helps create, and explain, Grancea’s life and philosophy.

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The plot centers around a poor Romanian family, as they celebrate Christmas, and are ecstatic for change in their government. Grancea is almost nostalgic about how life was back during Ceausescu’s reign. He remembers that people were suffering, but they were more self-sufficient. At one point, he recalls a time when pork tasted like pork and not the slated industrialize meat that he came to know later on. The book’s best qualities are that it is both emotional and informative. Grancea makes you care about every single person in that book, and they feel real. Grancea masterly jumps from time period to time period, to give the reader a greater view of independent events. It creates a great flow, and it keeps the reader fascinated. I feel that this book knows no boundaries. It is more than a biography, it is a prestigious piece of history, but overall, it is a seriously outstanding book. The events of that Christmas in 1989 will forever be etched into Florin Grancea’s mind. Now, thanks to this unforgettable book, the world will never forget it as well. Sponsored Review We Be Big: The Mostly True Story of How Two Kids from Calhoun County, Alabama, Became Rick and Bubba By Rick Burgess, Bill Bussey, Don Keith, Contributor Thomas Nelson, $16.00.99, 223 pages When you read about a couple of guys whose world is so different from your own, it may just be the simplicity of their style, and straight forward tale that makes the book readable. And it isn’t just a couple of guys, anyhow. It’s two successful radio broadcasters who keep a third party (the good Lord) with them on every page. If it weren’t for feeling an oversize sense of respect for the pair, the book would be…well, nauseating. As it is, the story offers a glimpse of another America, two men who really are country, and as the photos attest, they “Be Big.” They’re definitely not svelte, city types but are certainly not as hick and unsophisticated as they claim. Most of us have radio stations we feel obliged to listen to for 10 minutes a day, shuddering to hear how the “other half” thinks. But this book doesn’t fit that mold. They sound like good guys, hard-working, genuine, and, in truth, the book is a real good read. Reviewed by Jane Manaster

The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America By Joanna Clapps Herman State University of New York Press, $24.95, 248 pages Joanna Clapps Herman comes to us palms up, arms outstretched, her naked wounds open for the doubtful hand to reach into her riven side. This is the genuine article. Intertwined with the woof and warp of her colorful memoir, her gaze homeward invokes the genius of Thomas Wolfe in subtle Latina tones. This journey begins on the outskirts of Manhattan where the author leads a double life. She carries us like a tour guide back to her roots, intoxicating us along the way with snippets of Homer and the parallels of ancient Greek myths to her hometown. We travel through the quaint hills of upland Connecticut, around a bend to an old wooden bridge guarding entrance to Waterbury. Somewhere in the overgrown thickets, a faded sign warns us we are now leaving the United States and the twentyfirst century. We cross the bridge and are transported magically to twelfth century Tolve, Italy. Here the customs, the clothes, the wine making, the fiefdom rule of the “primo figlio,” the first born son, still reign. Nothing has changed. This kettle of family history boils with the aroma of Old Italy and metropolitan America, savory rich in sorrow and joy, humor and rage. Reviewed by Casey Corthron Island of Dreams: Memoirs of My Life By Heidy Ramos Xlibris, $15.99, 103 pages Island of Dreams is a compelling story of early childhood memories of poverty, abuse, and deprivation in a dysfunctional, broken family. Along with her siblings, author Heidy Ramos was abandoned by her mother in Subic City, Philippines, and sent to live with elderly grandparents. Life with her grandparents was harsh, marred by constant relocation from island to island. Impoverished and destitute, the grandparents had barely enough resources to keep the family fed, much less indulge the children in displays of affection. Heidy was subjected to beatings by a drunken uncle who dominated the grandparents as well. Her only escapes were some happy times at school, playing with friends, and swimming in the ocean.

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The return of her mother, accompanied by four other children by her American husband, was the first of Heidy’s dreams to come true, but this joy soon faded when her stepfather rejoined the family. It was clear that her mother was ashamed of her older children, as she told her friends they were her dead sister’s children. Ironically, Heidy ultimately escaped as her mother had, marrying an American sailor and moving to the U.S. Told in the form of a narrative stream-ofconsciousness, the book seems disjointed at some points with somewhat haphazard organization. In a stark, matter-of-fact way, the author paints a portrait, albeit at times sketchy, of the realities of her life as events woven together by her idyllic hopes and dreams for a better life away from the Philippines. Ramos has written her own private accounting of her life for her five children as a legacy of her love for them. She has told of parental neglect, abuse, and the toll taken by ill-health on her, so that they will know their mother, and where she came from. Sponsored Review Conversations with Scorsese By Richard Schickel Knopf, $30.00, 423 pages A film lovers delight, the dialogue between Schickel and Scorsese sizzles with detailed references to a host of movies, their histories, their impact, and their artistic contribution to the craft. Although the book contains rich biographical sketches of Scorsese’s life work and virtually every other aspect of the industry, something magical emerges within the body of the conversations. ll To fully appreciate this presentation, it helps to remember that Schickel is more than merely a film critic; he is also a filmmaker who has written dozens of books and articles on the subject, as well as host regular television programs. Likewise, Scorsese brings to the table encyclopedic knowledge of the film industry with insider prospective. ll From the onset Schickel warns us: “Everyone knows from Marty’s many appearances on television and on DVD’s that he is an explosive, free-associational talker about movies. But what I was at first unprepared for was his self-deprecating humor...he knows he is obsessive. He knows that he is quite capable of driving people crazy with his attention to minute details, not just about the making of his own movies, See CONVERSATIONS cont’d on page 25


CONVERSATIONS cont’d from page 24 but about everyone else’s movies as well.” ll They start at the beginning, in Little Italy, and cover every film from the little known, to the blockbusters like The Color of Money, Goodfellas, and Casino. After disclosing the secrets of the trade, they end with a discussion of what the auteur has in the wings for us. Reviewed by Casey Corthron I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River: Reflections on Family, Fishing, and Photography By Henry Winkler Insight Editions, $21.95, 144 pages If you are looking for that hard edge, behind the scenes, memoir from the star of Happy Days and Scream, look somewhere else. This is the delightful ramblings of an man that loves fishing. Mr. Winkler, who has been writing children books since 2004, discusses his own personal academic demons. Here, Henry Winkler focuses on the activity of fishing as a metaphor for his life. He was not gifted with perfect motor functions, but now he dry castes ninety percent of the time. I am told that is very impressive. The book’s structure is more based on topics than linear. Stories about the past filter in and out of chapters. I am not a huge fisherman type person, but I found the book relatable because I am dyslexic. There is something for everybody in this book. It is also filled with personal pictures done by The Winkler himself. The book is a touching story about overcoming personal problems to reach one’s goals. It is too short to feel complete. Besides that, it is a quick, deep book, and as Henry Winkler would say, “Tight lines,” but not too loud. You’ll scare the fish. Reviewed by Kevin Brown I, Monster: Serial Killers in Their Own Chilling Words By Tom Philbin Prometheus Books, $19.00, 263 pages I, Monster is a compilation of documentation from twenty of the most notorious serial killers from the last 100 years. In their own words, these demons-on-earth recount how and why they committed their atrocious crimes and what they did to get rid of the evidence. Aside from the obviously disturbing content of this book, I found it to be a disjointed read. Each chapter features a summary of a different killer’s crimes, and occasionally a blurb on their childhood. This is followed by either court or interrogation transcripts,

journals or letters written by the killer, a list of the killer’s random comments or some combination thereof. The overall effect is one of minimal effort expended for no apparent reason. One chapter consists of 37 mostly illegible Xeroxed pages from a killer’s journal, with no attempt by the author to transcribe them. Another chapter is 46 pages of rambling interrogation that deals mostly with the locations of various bodies. Some chapters were only a couple pages long and in the course of additional researching, I found at least two erroneous comments made in the book. The verdict: suitable to be read at slumber parties if you’re out of good ghost stories. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz My Father’s Love, Volume II: The Legacy By Sharon Doubiago Wild Ocean Press, $20.00, 490 pages Volume II of My Father’s Loveexplores what Doubiago calls “the ecology of abuse” and the legacy of the incest first recounted in Volume I: her whipping girl status; the confused, tumultuous, entangled relationships with family members, including the father who raped her, her boyfriends and husbands, colleagues and friends; the determined and ultimately doomed attempts over half a century to conciliate, harmonize, and heal. The bulk and at times tedium of these accounts are broken by Doubiago’s wry tales of a nomadic existence roaming from Mendocino to Taos to Ashland and countless other destinations in the car she lived in and called Psyche, as well as the hilarious anecdotes about other writers and poets, including Allen Ginsberg, at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Colorado. What emerges is a heady dose of West Coast counterculture simmering in a broth of human potential and other New Age ideas. At times the power of her story to move us gets lost in the abundance of detail. Insights are lost in her zoom lens, but Doubiago‘s struggle and her courage in confronting a taboo subject (one we as a culture have only begun to understand) deserve our deep appreciation and respect. Reviewed by Zara Raab Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep, and Enough Wool to Save the Planet By Catherine Friend Da Capo Lifelong Books, $16.00, 233 pages According to an over-used cliché, it takes all kinds; and Catherine Friend, while avowing she’s the city girl kind, does a fair job of sheep farming. Playing second fiddle to her longtime partner, she shares the adventures and the exasperating and hilarious occasions when the sheep take her willingly or unwillingly from her professional life as a writer.

Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps By Chris Jericho and Peter Thomas Fornatale, Contributor Grand Central Publishing, $27.99, 448 pages

He is the Highlight of the Night, the Man of 1,004 Holds, the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla, and the best in the world at what he does. He is a rock star, a television personality, and a shoo-in for the WWE Hall of Fame. He has held every title in professional wrestling, including the first-ever undisputed world championship. He is Chris Jericho, and he’s back in print, picking up exactly where his previous memoir, A Lion’s Tale, left off: the moment of his WWE debut. Undisputed is an unflinching look -- I would say “no holds barred”, but the book deserves better than that -- behind the scenes of the wrestling business, conducted by one of its premier practitioners. Rich with stories of success and failure, Jericho narrates his story without self-aggrandizement or self-pity, instead opting to own his mistakes as well as his accomplishments. His gratitude to the business and his good fortunes is omnipresent and never comes off as anything less than genuine. From his first moments on the WWE stage to his run as a World Champion, from his time away from the ring to the rise of his band Fozzy, from his attempts to break into acting to his inevitable return to the ring, Undisputed offers full access to his life and thoughts during his first adventure in the WWE, painting the portrait of a competitor and perfectionist with a lot to learn and a lot to offer. As he chronicles his journey, anecdotes and missteps abound, humanizing the man as he builds the legend of the character. As a writer, his immense charm and humor permeate every sentence, going so far as to ignite a playful rivalry with fellow wrestler-turned-writer Mick Foley over the record against each other in the ring. The vast majority of the book is simply great fun. The less-cheerful tales in the book are just as enthralling, as Jericho describes the aftermath of an accident in the ring that left a fellow wrestler paralyzed, as well as the deaths of his beloved mother and his long-time friend and in-ring comrade Eddy Guerrero. But his section on the death of longtime friend Chris Benoit is what elevates Undisputed from a great read to a must-read, as Jericho struggles to reconcile the friend he knew and loved with the man who committed that terrible act. It is a sobering interlude, sincere without being exploitative or overwrought, punctuating an otherwise relatively lighthearted effort with heart and emotion. Undisputed ably continues the adventure started in A Lion’s Tale, and I cannot wait for Jericho to pen the next chapter. By Glenn Dallas Full of good intentions, both women refrain from naming the lambs for fear of becoming too attached to them. Friend, who vowed she wouldn’t become entangled with the wool sub-culture, becomes a dedicated, joyful knitter. The book takes a seasonal chronology of sheep farming, but even as Friend pitches in, writing comes first. More than the farming, the book seeks empathy for the difficulty in sustaining a lasting relationship, the high and low points easier to handle than monotony. This isn’t chick lit in the derisory sense, but the female of the species especially will find plenty to enjoy. Reviewed by Jane Manaster

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JUMP, cont’d from page 2 ly free to start her life again. Only the transition from imprisonment to free society doesn’t come easily for Lena as she quickly learns she can no longer go back to her old self and being the mother she once was. The years behind bars have hardened Lena. If she is to successfully adjust to her new life, Lena must face the deadly choice she made. Readers, you need to pick up this book. Jump is a fantastic journey that will have you feeling the widest range of emotions: crying, laughing, and holding your stomach from sickness. Terra Little’s writing dares to show readers what many authors would shy away from describing. Little has created a truly dynamic and complex heroine in Lena. A character other writers should look to for inspiration. Despite the many gritty details, readers won’t help but want to walk each step with Lena as she adjusts to her new life. Reviewed by Robyn Oxborrow

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History Italian Oakland By Rick Malaspina Arcadia Publishing, $21.99, 127 pages Packed within the Italian history in and around the Temescal district of Oakland, Malaspina includes about 200 photographs of family weddings, outings, businesses, banquets, and championships. His book reads more like a family album with snapshots of inventions and accomplishments by Italian immigrants and their progeny. Those familiar with Oakland will recognize names like Aletto, Bianchi, Biggi, Calamoaci, Croce, Cutritta, DeNurra, DeVinvenzi, DeStefano, Ferrari, Guidotti, Lavazzi, Maita, Mellana, Moglia, Orio, Poggi, Rainero, Scalise, Soldati, Spingolo, Tamburrino, and Truzzolino, among a host of others. Athletic greats such as John Vella, Cookie Lavagetto, and Joe DiMaggio, are featured within an entire chapter of ball players. For those with even a trace of Italian heritage, half the fun is discovering family origins within these pages of photos and vignettes. Old social clubs such as the Fratellanza, Colombo, Liberty and Ligua, render their own brand of nostalgia with the continued festivals, and pageantry still celebrated today, including the Italian Festa. Malaspina presents all of this with novel details about the various regions of Italy represented by certain Oakland neighborhoods, and the dialects and customs that came to America with the immigrants. A brief lexicon of Italian proverbs is even included with the Peimontese and North Beach Italian dialects peculiar to Temescal. Reviewed by Casey Corthron In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin By Erik Larson Crown, $26.00, 464 pages After recounting the chilling murderers H.H. Holmes and Dr. Crippen, Erik Larson turns his attention to one of the most chilling regimes in history: Nazi Germany. He tells the story through the eyes of the family of forgotten Ambassador William E. Dodd, of whom his daughter, Martha Dodd, quickly made a name for herself in the highest Nazi circles. The story begins in 1933, and the sheen of innocence which cloaks the Dodds’ arrival in Berlin--and was also wrapped around the American nation--was frightening to read.

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Larson chooses his words carefully, drawing from the memoirs written by both Dodd and his daughter, as well as primary and secondary sources, to build a portrait of this tense and frantic period in history. The usual names trot across the pages--Hitler, Goebbels, etc.--but this is not a story about the Nazis and its leaders. It is a story about how and why most turned a blind eye to the growing horror of Nazism. In clear, sparse prose, Larson seeks to understand the motivations not solely of the powers during the 1930s, but also of the average American. The Dodds were a marvelous subject, not simply because of his Ambassadorial post, but because they were ordinary Americans caught in the maelstrom. In the Garden of Beasts is enjoyable, but it is not an easy or fun read, and it forces one to reassess and hasty conclusions one could make about our 1930s counterparts. Reviewed by Angela Tate Escape from the Land of Snows By Stephan Talty Crown, $26.00, 302 pages Back in the 1920s William M. McGovern published his Tibetan expedition account, In Disguise to Lhasa, an enthralling and humorous book introducing a Himalayan country wholly off limits to foreigners. In 1957 Heinrich Harrer’s Seven Years in Tibet introduced readers to the teenage Tenzin Gyatso, universally known as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, a gentle soul who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1988. In Escape from the Land of Snows, Stephan Harty focuses on the plight and flight of the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of a vast but still unfamiliar country who wrangled in prayer, meditation, and conference before fleeing his homeland. With a journalist’s sense of pace, Harty recreates events that to Chinese triumph and hegemony years after their invasion. Harty contends that the Dali Lama’s fame and his persona are stronger weapons than his antiCommunist image or impact as a Westernized guru. He aptly names him “a movable Tibet.” Reviewed by Jane Manaster In Search of Civilization: Remaking a Tarnished Idea By John Armstrong Graywolf Press, $24.00, 208 pages Some words get a bad rap. There are a ton of words that mean one thing today, but didn’t start that way. The book, In Search of Civilization is not about the history or the research behind civilization but a story about the meaning of the word and how it applies to today’s world. The book is more about philosophy than history. John Arm-

strong is a charming, intellectual, writer, who uses his past experiences with part of history to form a well thought out thesis. He argues that “civilization” is not as evil as it has come to be known as, but merely misunderstood. Armstrong’s book would find itself in a fight against some scholars for his insight on other non-western cultures. He argues that the Ancient Egyptians were prone not to flourish and there is no analysis of other cultures like China, Maya, or India. It really hurts his focus and his ideas by ignoring a good 66 percent of the world’s population. While the focus is on the subject of civilization, it is not really searching as the title suggests. Armstrong does do his part to try to clean up the idea of the word, but he might of done it more harm than assistance. The book is still an engaging, terrific read, and anyone reading it will come to their own opinion. I hope Armstrong is in the mood defend his points, because there are going to be some criticism coming his way. Reviewed by Kevin Brown She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth By Helen Castor Harper, $27.99, 480 pages If you love the Tudors, this book is like Anglophile chocolate. You won’t be able to get enough. Castor’s historical nonfiction begins with three well-known figures: Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Edward VI, Henry VIII’s short-lived son. When young Edward VI died at the age of 15, England was in a precarious position. No male heir to the Tudor line remained, and the crown would either go to one of Henry VIII’s living daughters or to their female cousins. No matter who succeeded the crown, England would have a reigning queen for the first time in history. Readers soon discover that before Mary and Elizabeth, there were numerous strong women who came achingly close to ruling England. Castor chronicles the stories of Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjou in strikingly powerful and colorful language. This book is meticulously researched and endlessly intriguing. These women accomplished extraordinary feats, yet they always

risked being called out as unnatural “shewolves” for their efforts. While this book appeals to fans of the Tudors, it is also fresh because it offers so much insight into those who came before them. The historical connections between various generations of women and their unique struggles are fascinating. How could the crown be held successfully by a woman in a time when people believed the woman was ruled by the man, and the king ruled all? Reviewed by Jennifer Melville Perilous Fight By Stephen Budiansky Knopf, $35.00, 423 pages Through careful research, Stephen Budinasky takes what historians often dismiss as an unnecessary conflict and demonstrates that, far from unnecessary, the War of 1812 changed American naval history. More accurately, it made American naval history possible. Using a blend of facts and good storytelling he creates an account of the who, what, when, where, why and how of a war that quietly changed history. The book’s size makes it look like it takes longer to read than it took to fight the war, which might leave some a little baffled as to how Budiansky manages to give such a long-winded account of such a tiny event. It is, after all, little more than a paragraph of American history, seemingly not enough to write more than 300 pages about. And yet, there is not one page of filler or fluff to be found between the covers of Perilous Fight. Through journals, letters and personal accounts, Budiansky clearly and accurately details each of the key players and all of the bloody oceanic clashes that took place between 1812 and 1815, completing the novel with a concise and convincing account as to why the modern navy owes a sincere thanks to this forgotten war. Reviewed by Kayli Crosby The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War By Ben Shephard Knopf, $35.00, 489 pages The aftermath of World War II, Europe was devastated. Millions were dead and billions in property were destroyed. Entire communities were uplifted from their homes and moved to other parts of Europe, sometimes of their own free will and other times by force. The question, after the conflict ended, was what to do with these people and how to prevent a humanitarian disaster like the one that occurred after World See LONG ROAD cont’d on page 27

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LONG ROAD cont’d from page 26 War I ended. In this work, Ben Shephard explores what happened to these displaced people, how the allies treated them and how it helped shaped late-20th century history. Displaced persons were more than just Jews; Jews were actually in the minority. The allies first put them into camps based on what country they were from and then tried to get them back home. At the same time Russians and Poles were kicking out Germans and forcing them back into a devastated Germany. The Allies quickly realized they had to feed, clothe, and provide transportation for all these people. This is a well-written book, and it avoids many of anachronisms that befall many authors who take on this topic. Hopefully this will open the doors for other historians to look at this period of time objectively. Reviewed by Kevin Winter Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World By Maya Jasanoff Knopf, $30.00, 460 pages When students read about the American Revolution in textbooks, they read about the patriots’ defeat of the hated British soldiers and the monarchy to gain independence. What is largely ignored is those who decided to remain loyal to the king; they were called Tories. Tens of thousands of people decided they would rather remain loyal to the king and not participate in the war, that they would rather maintain stability. Questions that are often ignored in textbooks and rarely talked about are: What happened to the loyalists after the war was over? Where did they go? How did they settle in their new homes? In this book, professor Maya Jasanoff tells the story of these early refugees, and their struggles and triumphs as they lived elsewhere in the British Empire. This is a subject long ignored by historians and it is refreshing to see someone write about the issue. With clear, concise, and witty writing, Jasanoff brings to life the late 1700s and early 1800s for these refugees. Readers of this work will learn a side of the American Revolution that they did not know about before. Reviewed by Kevin Winter Romanov Riches: Russian Writers and Artists Under the Tsars By Solomon Volkov Knopf, $30.00, 285 pages Romanov Riches is an ambitious look at Russian culture under the Romanov tsars who reigned from the early 17th century

to the early 20th century. Solomon Volkov details the way in which tsars sought to direct the development of nationalism and culture via the censorship of artists. While expansive, this look at the intimate control tsars practiced over artists remains accessible due to its anecdotal tendencies. Volkov has the curious ability to make the work feel infused with his personal feelings and opinions while simultaneously maintaining a voice of historical authority and withholding moral judgments. The book is fascinating with clear language but the organization can be hard to follow. As Volkov chronicles the tsars, he tends to jump between generations to expand on the outcome of an individual’s career or simply to relate an interesting aside. Sixteen pages of photos accompany the text and, due to Volkov’s habit of peppering the text with physical descriptions, are an interesting reference. This is probably not the book with which to begin an exploration of Russian history, but any reader already having an interest in Russian history or culture will find much to satisfy within the pages of Romanov Riches. Reviewed by Rachel Wallace The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It By Brooks D. Simpson, Editor, Stephen W. Sears, Editor, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Editor Library of America, $37.50, 816 pages With the political disturbances in the Middle Eastern capitols in recent months, it is rather unnerving to learn from The Civil War: The First Year Told By Those Who Lived It that the first fatalities of the war occurred in street riots begun by secessionists in Baltimore in April 1861. Other documents found here also remind us how our attitudes toward war have changed, at least the public face we put on them. In June 1861, for example, Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise orated, “I rejoice in this war.” And an army surgeon wrote to his father of the carnage after a battle, saying, “It was a bloody enjoyment.” In over a hundred entries, covering November 1860 to early 1862, we hear from President Lincoln (a State of the Union address and various proclamations); Jefferson Davis (addressing the Confederate Congress); Harper’s Weekly; Confederate Baptist minister Henry Tucker, who begins his sermon, “Thousands of our young men have been murdered”; abolitionist thinker and writer Frederick Douglass; a teenager from Madison Parish, Louisiana named Kate Stone (writing in her diary); and numerous soldiers and generals from

both sides. One interviewee in particular stands out: eleven-year-old Sam Mitchell, a slave freed in November 1861 with the Union victory at Port Royal. Reviewed by Zara Raab The Eichmann Trial By Deborah E. Lipstadt Schocken, $24.95, 237 pages With so much at stake personally, Lipstadt earned the right to author this historical examination of Eichmann’s trial. In 2000, the author was dragged into a London court by David Irving who sued Lipstadt for libel and lost after she successfully defended her 1995 book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. The comparisons of these two trials, one for creating the Holocaust and the other an attempt to deny its existence, give substance to this the seventeenth book in the Jewish Encounters series, a collaboration between Schocken Books and Nextbook. Lipstadt outlines the agonies of her own experience in the introduction, then lightly salts the narration of the Eichmann trial with parallels. “Rather than move, as genuine mistakes do, in numerous directions, Irving’s so called mistakes ‘always’ moved in one direction: denial of the Holocaust, exonerations of the Third Reich, and implication of the Jews ... The more Eichmann piled one excuse on top of another ... the more he sounded like a drowning man grasping at straws ...” This account begins with the kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann, then moves briskly through the pretrial media frenzy into the lengthy trial and execution. In postscript, Lipstadt includes the lingering impact as expressed in Hannah Arendt’s controversial series of articles. Amazingly compact, Lipstadt explores every conceivable angle of the Eichmann trial. Reviewed by Casey Corthron Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink By Louis Hyman Princeton University Press, $35.00, 378 pages This book explains how in recent decades American consumers and households got more and more credit which created, in part, the recent financial crisis and recession. Stretching from 1910 to the 1970’s this study shows how Americans began to rely on credit to finance the good life and how public policies and business practices supported the development of this type of credit. One is shown in these pages how personal debt achieved a new role in American

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capitalism when it became sellable and profitable. Unemployment, wealth, inequality, and discrimination were all factors in the shifts in lending and borrowing practices of Americans. During 1939’s New Deal, policy makers devised mortgage and consumer policies, convincing commercial banks that consumer credit could be profitable. Following World War II suburban Americans borrowed in the belief that their income would grow (which it did from 1945-1970). Alternatively financial institutions lent more money and borrowers paid it back. Consumers of the 1980’s borrowed on a wider scale to deal with other factors such as job losses and medical expenses. This important book should be of interest not only to students of American history but also anyone interested in knowing how Americans became addicted to borrowing. Reviewed by Claude Ury 15 Minutes By L. Douglas Keeney St. Martin’s Press, $26.99, 351 pages Written with the understated flare of Vonnegut, the author chronicles the Cold War with the advent of nuclear weaponry. The narrative employs a hopscotch method of chronology, mounting tension around events to give readers a well rounded feel of the time, even readers born well after the Cold War ended. Comprehensive in scope, Keeny doesn’t merely dwell on the horrific bombs, but brings into focus the multiple sideline industries the arms race proliferated. How, for example, technologies in off shore drilling found their way into early-warning radar stations, only to end Texas Tower Number Four with fatal disaster. Most everything contained in this book was once labeled top secret. Some of the declassified material, released only recently, is published for the first time here. Politically embarrassing military foulups in the Marshall Islands with a 23,500 pound runaway nuclear bomb named Bravo that vaporized Namu and contaminated the Bikini Atoll; inter-continental bombers packing nuclear bombs that crashed or otherwise jettisoned their payload within our borders; and the disheartening flexibility of our government’s concern, or the lack thereof, regarding exposing citizens and soldiers to lethal levels of radiation--Kenney leaves nothing out. Reviewed by Casey Corthron

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Cooking Slow Cooker Revolution By Editors at America’s Test Kitchen, America’s Test Kitchen Boston Common Press, $26.95, 336 pages America’s Test Kitchen has put together another invaluable resource for the kitchen. Slow Cooker Revolution contains two hundred recipes for the crock pot. The Test Kitchen has not limited the recipes to soups and stews either, recipes are included for pasta sauces, casseroles, eggs, desserts, barbecue classics and many more types of meals. The first few pages of the cookbook are devoted to equipment and basic slow cooking tips, a hallmark of America’s Test Kitchen, and then the recipes fill the rest. Each recipe starts with a “Why This Recipe Works” section which may include why the dish was chosen for the slow cooker, why changes were made to a classic slow cooker recipe, or specific information regarding attributes of the dish. Recipes are easy to follow and usually end with extra tips such as sides for the dish, ingredient or equipment recommendations, and quick prep ideas. Cookbooks put out by America’s Test Kitchen are a must-have for any kitchen, but they are also an excellent resource for beginning cooks. The directions are clear, shortcuts you can or should not take are often detailed, and helpful prep and shopping tips are usually included. Reviewed by Rachel Wallace Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap By Nicole Hunn Da Capo Lifelong Books, $19.00, 257 pages Pizza, pasta, pastries … oh my! Who could pass on such delicious delights as these? Now what if you had to? All of these indulgences have one super ingredient in common, and no, it’s not fat. It’s gluten. And the culprit isn’t just found in bread, it creeps its way into just about everything; sauces and sweets, among the lot. Some people do not fare well with this ever-present protein. In fact, as many as 1 in 133 people suffer from a serious health affliction known as celiac disease. No gluten? No problem, with this wonderful lifesaver from Nicole Hunn. She has devised a user-friendly go-to, in which she lays out her many years of test kitchen days and provides us with a superb gift. One of the biggest complaints amongst gluten-free foodies is the skyrocketing prices of the goods. Hunn has not only bestowed her readers

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with a complete cookbook (covering 125 recipes ranging from Wonton Wrappers to Basic Chocolate Truffles to, yes, Sourdough Bread), but she shows us how to save money, and time, on our meals. This cookbook is filled with comfort food and shows us that, though we may be gluten-free, we need not be flavor-free. She includes pantry-stocking tips, where to find ingredients and how to find fun in food again. The only drawback would be the lack of photographs; she includes an extremely intriguing, though thin, insert, leaving a craving for more. It’s well worth a bite. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez-Fischer Italy Dish by Dish: A Comprehensive Guide to Eating in Italy By Monica Sartoni Cesari with Susan Simon, translator Little Bookroom, $24.95, 373 pages Over the centuries, Italy has been fractured into many local regions that remain isolated and self-contained. Each developed its own cuisine and gastronomy within the broad umbrella of “Italian cuisine.” Two nearby villages, for example, may have produced virtually identical cheeses, each giving it a different name. As a result, a colossal number of food and menu items developed over the country. This reference book lists an astonishing 3,000-plus menu items, explaining each in a brief paragraph as the result of extensive and exhaustive research. The book, nevertheless, is likely to find a small readership thanks to its high degree of specialization. It is ideal for public library shelves, for kitchen shelves of Francophile foodies, and possibly for travelers to Italy serious about identifying Italian menu items. The book is designed to be travelerfriendly with small size and light weight (10.5 ounces), perfect for a handbag. The author divides Italy into 17 regions and lists food term for each, according to courses of the meal, including liqueurs and wines. A selected recipe follows each region. The terms are well cross-referenced. It is unfortunate that a map was not included to show locations. Reviewed by George Erdosh

Everyday Grilling: 50 Recipes from Appetizers to Desserts By Sur La Table Andrews McMeel Publishing, $15.00, 125 pages As days grow longer and warmer, we’re all anxious to grill up some good food. Summer just wouldn’t be complete without the proverbial cookout. Everyday Grilling thinks outside the box, going beyond the usual summer fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks. Separated into food categories, recipes cover everything from appetizers, sandwiches, vegetables, main courses, even desserts and salads! Each recipe has a mouthwatering full color picture aside the detailed step by step instructions and ingredient list for items needed to create the dish. Easy to follow, Everyday Grilling is a small book, won’t take up precious table top space, and the variety of recipes will have you cooking up dishes one might expect from a high end eatery or five star restaurant. Grill up some excitement in your summer menu. Try something new, something unique. Change the way you think about grilling. It’s not just for hot dogs and hamburgers anymore. You’ll impress family and guests alike with these recipes. Get your grill on! Reviewed by Laura Friedkin BabyCakes Covers the Classics: GlutenFree Vegan Recipes from Donuts to Snickerdoodles By Erin McKenna Clarkson Potter, $25.00, 144 pages After chef and writer Erin McKenna’s debut cookbook where she divulged her sweet secrets to how to invent delectable vegan and gluten-free treats, she has sent forth yet another manifesto for creating deliciousness by means of health. Babycakes Covers the Classics is almost the pristine sibling to the rebellious sister//Babycakes/ / (a rather wild take on deserts with such recipes as Big Pants Cake). The new book accomplishes the re-creation of timeless favorites, yet still adding the perfect amount of pizzazz. Dealing with such epic tradition caveats, Erin has won the feat of a donut, and not just a simple plain donut, but blackberry swirl donut and spiced maple donut. With her certain urban 1950s flare, the talented cook and health-enthusiast also explores the possibilities of waffles,

cakes (ice cream cake too!), Irish soda bread, and an array of bake-sale worthy cookies the Girl Scouts should start selling. Included in this book of sweet treats are directions and instructions and tips on how to make the best of each recipe, where to shop for the specific ingredients, and the personal touch of glamorous pictures and funny stories. For the enthusiastic vegan, this is a powerful book; for the interested baker, it is a wonderful addition; for the young at heart it is just the thing. Reviewed by Natalie Fladager Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking By Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij Douglas & McIntyre, $35.00, 230 pages Should chefs stay in the kitchen and reserve cookbook writing to professionals? A few very good cookbooks were written by chefs, but most are mediocre at best. The co-authors of this cookbook own two Indian restaurants and decided to share their recipes with those interested in both traditional and modern Indian cooking. The book includes many stories of the authors’ family that are interwoven with recipes; they tend to be overwhelming. The first six introductory pages give somewhat intimate (and often uninteresting) details of the family. Each recipe is preceded with more stories as headers. In many, headers are longer than the recipe itself. The first section of the cookbook describes Indian spices, staples and a good Indian cooking guide. The list of recipes in front of each section is useful for the cook. For many of the recipes you need to include a side trip to an Asian or Indian market. Most recipes are for six servings. Preparation and cooking times are given with every recipe. Nice photos illustrate the final products of many recipes, but the 18 photos showing the authors are tiresome. Editing is less than perfect; however, the index is excellent and well cross-referenced. Reviewed by George Erdosh

ACCELERATION cont’d from page 8 knowledge platform, 5) scientific problem solving and 6) modern global diffusion. With a positive outlook on life and the world, he describes in eloquent English just how the world can be saved. He does this without condescending remarks or a preachy attitude. His is a work that will endure and set realistic goals for the benefit of mankind. Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky

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Festivus for the Restivus I spent a bit of time in Los Angeles last month. Trips in your own backyard do not always inspire excitement like far-off and exotic destinations. But it wasn’t just the city that I visited – I had access to a portal. A most excellent and generous fellow reader tipped me off to the L.A. Times Festival of Books, an annual event jam-packed with authors, readers, and all things bookish (in other words, a little slice of heaven). With holiday-like excitement, I had my panel tickets safely ensconced in my book bag and my place in line early. Two of my favorite authors were panel participants at this year’s event. A voyage of the mind is guaranteed when reading a book, but the landscapes of the best books create journeys that linger long after the last page. While their books have little else in common, these authors construct vivid backdrops for their stories. Robert Crais, best known for his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels, uses the city of Los Angeles to great effect in his series. The city is like a quiet, supporting character. It is rarely center-stage, but its presence is such that you can’t imagine the characters without it. In fact, the city begins to feel as necessary to the essence of the characters as the actions they take. L.A. had never been a city that piqued my interest until I started reading Crais. His knowledge of and affection for the city practically jumps off the page. At this point, very few neighborhoods have escaped a cameo in his novels. You can see quite a bit of the city with Crais as a guide. Megan Whalen Turner, known for her fantasy series set along a Mediterraneanlike coast (the latest of which, published

last year, is A Conspiracy of Kings), was one of those “how did I get so lucky?” finds for me as I was browsing through the library one day. Unbeknownst to me, I had picked up the second book in the series. I’m pretty sure I was hooked from the first paragraph, but I’ll be conservative and say the first page. There is so much that draws readers into all of her novels, but one of my favorite aspects is her choice of a Grecian environment for her fictional kingdoms. I have a special affinity for the Mediterranean and have always wanted to visit Greece. Turner’s ability to seamlessly incorporate a foreign, and simultaneously familiar, landscape into her stories is extremely satisfying. Sadly, I haven’t yet made it to Greece, but each time I am on the Mediterranean, I see pieces of what she includes in her stories. L.A., only a longish drive from my front door, allowed me to explore in person a city from some of my favorite books and to glimpse the imagination that continues to inspire me to, finally one day, make my way to Greece. No wonder it’s so easy for me to get blissed out on books.

Travel Lonely Planet Discover New York City By Michael Grosberg Lonely Planet, $21.99, 296 pages This handbook, separated into color-coded chapters, depicts the various neighborhoods of New York City, and describes the entire city in terms of the world center and cultural playground it has become. Each chapter is further subdivided into sections about shopping, eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, entertainment, and other highlights.

New York City in Focus concludes with general information about history, transportation, communication, climate, and the arts. The book includes detailed maps, photographs, planning tools, contact information, an index, a pull-out map, and a special $50 discount on New York City accommodations.

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Rachel Wallace has lived on both US coasts, innumerable points between, and once called The Netherlands home. These wanderings have fueled her love of travel, which is her favorite hobby next to reading. A research assistant holding a master’s degree in biology, she currently resides in Northern California with her husband, two dogs, and one overly inquisitive horse. Rachel has been reviewing for San Francisco / Sacramento Book Review since January 2010.

This addition to the reputable Lonely Planet series of travel guides is just as user-friendly as the others. Handy tips will help inform even the most confused tourist about accommodations, transport, and worthwhile sightseeing. Images are sharp and beautifully illustrate the diversity of this city’s population, architecture, cuisine and

cultural attractions. The only drawback is the handbook’s focus is almost exclusively on Manhattan, and barely mentions the other boroughs that constitute New York City. Though not comprehensive, intricate street maps, legible print, and logical contents make this guide both enjoyable and relatively informative. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio

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Religion Understanding Jesus: Cultural Insights into the Words and Deeds of Christ By Joe Amaral FaithWords, $13.99, 191 pages Standing atop a historic site in the Holy Land in 2002, a Canadian pilgrim discovered Jesus wasn’t a Canadian, but rather a Jew who lived in a first century Jewish culture. Understanding Jesus: Cultural Insights into the Words and Deeds of Christ is the culmination of author Joe Amaral’s quest to discover the real Jesus and promote better understanding of the Jewish roots of Christianity. Amaral channels his enthusiasm into a blend of scripture passages, convincing interpretation (with more than a nod toward Rapture eschatology), and suggested personal applications. His book speaks well to the disconnect that often occurs when Jesus’ life and teachings are read and interpreted solely in the context of Western culture. For example, what did Jesus mean when he said faith as small as a mustard seed will move mountains? Why is it significant that Jesus waited “four days” to raise Lazarus from the dead? Amaral organizes his research around the life of Jesus, placing special emphasis on the significance of Jewish feasts and the four Messianic miracles Jesus performed. The insights from this author’s research are illuminating and can serve as a springboard for those serious about delving deeper. Reviewed by Diana Irvine Modern Science in the Bible: Amazing Scientific Truths Found in Ancient Texts By Ben Hobrink Howard Books, $23.99, 288 pages Modern Science in the Bible is pretty good, as long as you don’t read one chapter. Hobrink explores The Bible from the scientific perspective. Although it does rather well in most chapters, the chapter on evolution fares rather poorly. It is interesting that Mosaic Law is pretty good for hygiene, espousing some rather solid rules as far as modern science is concerned, placing it millennia ahead of its time. Even its suggestions for nutrition are something that you would hear from modern-day nutrition experts, and its explorations of the natural world do basically work. Overall, it shows

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that The Bible has some strong science going for it. However, it espouses a strictly non-scientific refutation of evolution. The problem is that it provides a purely logical explanation of how evolution is wrong, which is always the wrong approach. Rather than using evidence to build his case, Hobrink refutes evidence based on whether or not it fits the case he is trying to build. Because of that, the case ultimately falls flat. Overall, it’s not a bad book. It provides for some interesting reading, but ultimately this is a book only a creationist could love. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim An Enlightened Philosophy: Can an Atheist Believe Anything? By Geoff Crocker O Books, $13.95, 121 pages It is always interesting to see someone trying to build a bridge between beliefs. An Enlightened Philosophy: Can an Atheist Believe Anything? shows that there is a way for atheists and the religious to share the same beliefs. An Enlightened Philosophy shows that both paths have a lot to teach the other, and that there is a path to enlightenment for even the most non-religious. It’s best towards the end of the book, as it takes out the religious aspects of The Bible, showing that they apply to everyone. The problem is that it depends too much on dictionarydefinitions. Atheists are presented solely as those with no supernatural belief, and the religious are presented in their worst light. The problem is that religious beliefs are along a spectrum, not into specific groups, but Crocker has concentrated solely on the ends of that spectrum. This problem presents itself throughout the book, as terms are presented in the most black and white possibilities. There should have been more exploration in the first and last chapters, and it’s too bad that it wasn’t. Overall, it needs to lighten up, but it does provide the bridge it promises. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim


Popular Fiction Phyllis Marie By Terry Row Clifton Edwin Publishing, $17.95, 380 pages “Finally it was their turn to take off. The instructor turned, came to a complete stop, waited one extra second, and then pulled back on the stick. Perry felt only a small increase in prop wash, but the volume of noise seemed to drill into his ear canals. Come on, buddy, he thought as the airplane rumbled down the runway. You’re never going to lift this thing off the ground if you don’t give it more juice. At what felt like the last possible moment, the ship lifted off the runway, to Perry’s surprise, reducing the vibrations by seventyfive percent. He flew, for the very first time.” Perry Row was born to fly, and he gets his chance after the infamously disastrous day of December 7, 1941. Through trial and persistence, struggle and gain, Perry, along with the vast cast of characters shared throughout, reveals a passion and thirst fueling not only his life, but, indeed, that of a universal proportion. Terry Row has a mesmerizing voice, transporting his readers on a flight of family ties, determination, honor, allegiance and, starkly evident, love. His story of Phyllis Marie spans a multi-generational territory, taking its readers from a warm bedroom shared by a timeless love to 1941 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the desire of young men lining up to defend their freedom and privilege, to the Great Salt Plain, traveling by wagon and horse; we are threaded through time, terrain and theme. Each chapter flips through a different family and their heartfelt predicaments and joys, culminating into one immensely solid family tree. Although this is a work of fiction, based on a true story, Row has captured every bit of reality onto his worn pages. This story has every bit of blood, sweat, tears, and heart imaginable poured into it. Through an exact execution of detail, character development and story, Row has catapulted himself; he, too, has flown, and hopefully not for the last time. Sponsored Review Caesura By Frank Hyle Tate Publishing, $20.99, 272 pages Caesura, the first novel by lawyer Frank Hyle, tells the tale of Michael Telford, a middle aged professor helping to care for his aging mother, who is quickly succumbing to dementia and ill health, and the struggles he faces in both attempting to maintain her clarity and dealing with the unpleasant fact that, for his mother, the end is near. As Helen Telford lives out her last year in an assisted living facility, both she and Michael are introduced to a variety of characters, from the terminally ill man with whom both

mother and son form a bond (who ends up playing an integral role in the novel’s heartwarming climax) and a nurse who just may provide Michael, still mourning the death of his first love more than 20 years ago, another chance at happiness. Through the recounting of memories and with faith, love, and endurance, Michael connects with his mother through stories and with Amy, the nurse, through music and a mutual affection for his mother. First novels can be tricky for both authors and readers, as the first-time author’s prose has often not reached a point of maturation that reveals their full potential as storytellers. Caesura is no exception to this rule; Hyle’s prose is clear and concise, but he relies too heavily on dialogue and not nearly enough on description, and many of the pages consist largely of conversations between characters that simply feel unnecessary. That said, in spite of its limitations, Caesura proves a more enjoyable read than many novels published by small, under-the-radar presses. The story is heart-warming, family-oriented, and sure to appeal to people who enjoy sentimentality and know what it’s like to deal with aging, fading parents. Some of the ends of the book are tied up too neatly, and some not neatly enough—what was, after all, so special about Michael Telford’s first love that more than 20 years after her death, he still can’t move on—and certain plot points are a little too convenient, but Caesura is a sweet, lovely, and enjoyable little novel about familial bonds, parental role reversal, loss—and a little bit about music, as well. Sponsored Review The Mirror of Karma and The 4 Sisters By Alicia Hou Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc, $21.00, 211 pages Alicia Hou has made a brave attempt depicting a Chinese legacy. She has woven an intricate tapestry of lineage, tradition, and relationship, and laced it with deep colors of secret, betrayal, and restoration. The Mirror of Karma and The 4 Sisters is a constructed chorus of voices spilling story throughout it. Mimi Kingsbury, the narrator, is a sixteen-year-old girl whose mother has fled China in search of new beginnings, only taking with her Gigi, her oldest daughter, and a knapsack full of clandestine memories. On the journey from China to Panama, where they immigrate to, we meet many See THE MIRROR cont’d on page 32

For those interested in why radio “was and is a force in our lives, this is an enjoyable trip for a quiet afternoon.

-- San Francisco Book Review

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$15.99 You Think That’s Bad By Jim Shepard Knopf, $24.95, 225 pages

One doesn’t so much read a Jim Shepard story as dive into his infectiously delicious prose. If you’ve enjoyed his previous novels or story collections, then you’re no doubt thrilled at the publication of his latest, You Think That’s Bad. And if you’ve not yet had the pleasure, well then consider yourself graced by good fortune and avail take opportunity to immerse yourself in his spectacular imagination. Other writers too often settle for their comfort zone; by contrast, Shepard stands out for bold leaps in genre, style, and voice, bringing his empathic spirit to topics few others would tackle. Consider his novel Project X, which pushed past the shallow moral outrage that followed the Columbine tragedy and explored a school shooting from the perspective of the perpetrators. Indeed, in addition to his deep research, his black sense of humor, and his gift for characterization, it is his deep pathos, his easy rapport with the exotic, which chimes through this author’s work. The string which binds the stories in You Think That’s Bad is that empathy ladled onto our common existential tragedy – sure you are alone, struggling, and going to die, but at least we’re all in it together. We all want to understand and to be understood. All of us want to be loved. Not that many of us – or Shepard’s characters for that matter – achieve these goals. Many, perhaps most, of those inhabiting these stories aren’t particularly nice, indeed they often range from the damaged to the outright cruel, but they are all in their own way familiar, even while being impossibly alien. Real life explorer Freya Stark flees her egomaniacal mother, whose machinations have led to her sister Vera’s death, to search the Persian wastes for Alamut, the lost citadel of the Assassins. The creator/effect artist of Gojira (Godzilla) must balance his troubled marriage, post-war Japanese culture, and the pain of his past against his need to create something unique. During WWII, a soldier struggles to survive Papua New Guinea and a love triangle which includes him, his girlfriend, and his older brother. A peasant in 15th century France finds himself bound in service to the infamous child murderer, Gilles de Rais. Part of the delight in Shepard’s work is how he helps us inhabit these dispirit milieus, to get to know and feel for these distant characters, even as he deftly layers in an array of fascinating details. Ever wonder about how the Netherlands will manage to hold back the ocean against global climate change? Might you be curious to learn that the Godzilla costume was so broiling that the actor needed to be removed from it every fifteen minutes and that each time over a cup of sweat was drained from each boots? Or perhaps you’re curious what it is like to be married to an engineer working in the black world of secret military research? Yes, Shepard answers all these questions and more; he is a sort of time-hopping, sorcerous prose genius with a gift for research. Yet he isn’t a writer who feels the need to batter us with facts. Settings and factoids work to uncover a sense of something true and universal, even as they aid in his telling of a great story. More than anything that may be the source of Shepard’s genius, the ability to take the most alien of people in the most unimaginable places and demonstrate how, despite vast chasms of distance and time, we are all far more alike than we are different. We struggle, we strive, and we all enjoy a great tale when it is well told. On that last score, few writers can hold a quill or a candle to the great Jim Shepard. By Jordan Magill

May/June 11 31


Books About Books Forgotten Borough: Writers Come to Terms With Queens By Nicole Steinberg State University of New York Press, $21.95, 206 pages Queens: the ugly little duckling, the black sheep, the forgotten. When one thinks of New York one thinks of Manhattan, the financial nerve center with Broadway, Times Square and Central Park; Brooklyn, the historic and industrial center of New York right across from Manhattan; the Bronx, home of the quintessential New Yorker, and the New York Yankees. And, we can’t overlook Staten Island, kind of forgotten but viewed as the under dog. But Queens is truly the forgotten borough. It is a place that is not full of historical sites, history, or even what you think of when you hear ‘New York’. Instead it is the working person’s New York. It is the most diverse county in the country and the biggest district; yet you will hardly find any tourists unless they are going to the airports. This collection brings Queens to life; it shows the underbelly of New York, the place of the nitty gritty. Most of these

stories work, they help bring this unknowable region alive. Only a few stories do not work, and thankfully they are both short and do not distract from the rest. Hopefully this will help bring Queens out from the shadows. Reviewed by Kevin Winter Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life’s Stages Through Books By Arnold Weinstein Random House, $27.00, 442 pages Books teach us how to live, from growing up to growing old. Brown University professor, distinguished scholar and author Arnold Weinstein teaches us how literature instructs us to grow up for years, how the adventures of Huck Finn, or Catherine and Heathcliff’s tumultuous love, can be used as mirrors and guides. But Weinstein doesn’t explore much about how literature teaches us to age and die. With humor and a true love of books, Weinstein draws us through the dawn, noon, and night of the human experience, tapping into the humor of Rip Van Winkle sleeping through his marriage, to the poi-

gnancy of King Lear’s grief at facing death daughterless and mad, to the simple rationale gleaned from William Faulkner’s work that growing up merely means learning to read. While books about books can seem like overkill, the English majors among us will appreciate the course this book travels, tracing the human experience like tracking sun or moon across the sky, in the ever ongoing attempt to locate meaning in existence and trace commonality in experience. Reviewed by Axie Barclay THE MIRROR cont’d from page 31 characters from the past, present, and some who claim to know the future. The family secrets come rushing to the surface, children left behind, now adults, and longstanding resentments unearthed. Hou has taken great pains to create such a deeply rooted story, however there are many weeds along the way. As with any story with multiple characters and generations there comes the risk of confusing the reader. She has eliminated much of the preliminary wonder by providing an extensive introduction, complete with twenty-one character sketches and their caricatures. However, once the meat of the story begins, all of the characters begin to jumble around, and it is necessary to keep flipping to the front to keep them all straight, at least until you become quaint with the story. It is a nice touch with the introduction, but it would have been better suited to simply knit characters from the past, present, and some who claim

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to know the future. The family secrets come rushing to the surface, children left behind, now adults, and longstanding resentments unearthed. Hou has taken great pains to create such a deeply rooted story, however there are many weeds along the way. As with any story with multiple characters and generations there comes the risk of confusing the reader. She has eliminated much of the preliminary wonder by providing an extensive introduction, complete with twenty-one character sketches and their caricatures. However, once the meat of the story begins, all of the characters begin to jumble around, and it is necessary to keep flipping to the front to keep them all straight, at least until you become quaint with the story. It is a nice touch with the introduction, but it would have been better suited to simply knit them into the story, it would have made for a much more significant impact, a way to bring the characters to life; without it, they just fell flat. Another challenge with the novel is with the language and tenses. She flips from past to present within the same line throughout, and the reading feels interrupted. There are definitive language errors, the writing is basic, and it never flows. There is a lack of description where the story could really take off; instead she relies on exposition to tell the entire backdrop, as well as what is happening in the moment and offers random sketches throughout. With such an intriguing storyline, I was truly hoping for a Joy Luck Club feel, but no such luck here. Sponsored Review

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San Francisco Book Review - May 2011