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The Sower

The Sower reaps a good tale Page 7

Holiday Gift Guide Six pages of gift ideas! Page 13

Civil War Wives

Three Kinds of Strength: Civil War Wives Page 19


Extreme Cuisine: Exotic Tastes from Around the World Bon appetit, if you dare! Page 26

Green Metropolis


Go green gone wild Page 27

The Christmas Magic By Lauren Thompson, Illustrated by Jon J. Muth Scholastic, $16.99, 40 pages


I love this time of year, as Christmas draws near. You are reminded of the joys of giving, having family around, and the smells of wonderful dinners cooking away. I didn’t quite find that magic in The Christmas Magic. The story doesn’t read with the right kind of flow. Muth’s illustrations are lovely and surely keep the reader turning the page to see the next. The story keeps mentioning

that the “magic” is drawing near, but never really explains it. Though Santa is the main character, the elves and Mrs. Claus are absent. This isn’t quite what I’d expect a children’s Christmas story should be, especially since so many classics have come before around this holiday. Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun

Whole Earth Discipline A breath of fresh air Page 27


I’m not in this book... Page 32

109 Reviews INSIDE!

Horror Hell Hollow By Ronald Kelly Cemetery Dance, $40.00, 500 pages There’s something enrapturing about a story involving some kids who are heroes that save the day. It reminds us of times when we were young, going out on fantasy adventures in our own little worlds. Hell Hollow is one of those stories set in the rural town of Harmony, Tennessee. The secret of the evil of Hell Hollow has been hidden and forcibly forgotten by its residents for a long time, until it is awakened and will involve four bored kids looking for some excitement during their summer. Then there is the killer who has yet to be captured, on the run from the law, continuing to mercilessly kill, and the rape victim who is on a specific mission. All of these characters will play a part in Ronald Kelly’s Hell Hollow. Kelly uses a descriptive, colorful writing style that matches the tone and plot of the book, keeping you hooked. Reviewed by Alex C. Telander The Best Horror of the Year Volume 1 By Ellen Datlow (editor) Night Shade, $15.95, 321 pages It’s hard to encapsulate any short story collection; the contents of the short story compendium are, by design, as eclectic as possible, offering a multitude of different voices, styles, and tales. In a horror collection, these disparate stories are unified in only one aspect: their desire to chill the bones of the reader. With that goal in mind, the results of The Best Horror of the Year, Volume One are hit and miss. While those that miss are disappointing, those that hit do so with remarkable effectiveness. Euan Harvey’s “Harry and the Monkey” is a surprisingly engaging tale featuring a father’s spur-ofthe-moment distraction for his infant son, crossing paths with a neighborhood urban legend that could mean disaster for his young family. The power of the imagination and the power of paranoid suspicion will leave you questioning the line between fantasy and reality. Joe R. Lansdale’s short short story “It Washed Up” delivers a marvelously tonguein-cheek twist on both the classic monster and the legend of the Pied Piper, as something rises from the depths with an agenda all its own.

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Daniel Lemoal’s “Beach Head” is a particularly off-putting segment. When three smugglers awake to find themselves buried up to their necks on the shoreline, they discover that the rising tide is the least of the horrors they’ll experience. Simon Bestwick’s “The Narrows” presents a fairly unique view on the end of the world, detailing the last few moments of normal life at a school before plunging us into the desperate and frenzied struggle for survival, as a group of teachers and students descend into the tunnels beneath the city in search of a safe haven. Their harrowing journey is as claustrophobic and tense for the reader as it is for the characters. A dark memory of childhood, the haunting loss of a loved one, the invasion of a mysterious stranger, unexplained disappearances, the hobgoblins of the mind, the collapse of society, the certainty of death, the slow growth of insanity in a former friend, the unknown that lurks just behind the veil of civilized life... many of the classic horror story tropes are featured, with varying degrees of success. In the end, Ellen Datlow has put together another impressively diverse group of stories and storytellers for this collection, and even the most discerning horror aficionado should find at least one worthwhile tale within. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Under the Dome: A Novel By Stephen King Scribner, $35.00, 1,088 pages If nature abhors a vacuum, then humanity abhors normalcy, which is why we seek out things that are unusual, stories that are out of the ordinary. And Under the Dome may just be one of the strangest, and yet both fascinating and compelling stories ever written. Imagine the quintessential American town – Chester Mills, Maine – where life has rolled along at its own sedate pace since the beginning of time; it is a simple life that many envy and yearn for, while others disregard and ridicule. Now imagine that an

invisible dome forms around the boundaries of the town, trapping everyone and everything inside, as well as preventing anyone and anything from entering; all that is able to pass through is air since it is composed of tiny molecules. From now on the humble citizens of Chester Mills must live off of whatever supplies and reserves they have. Then add some classic, unique and outright bizarre Stephen King characters; you’ve got yourself a very special story, weighing in at over a thousand pages. There’s Dale Barbara, an ex-military man who came to Chester Mills to get away from everything, who works as a cook at Sweetbriar Rose. After getting into a serious fight with the town bullies – who include the sheriff’s son – he’s all set to quit town, but the dome falls down before he’s able to make his escape. Now he’s trapped inside with a whole mess of people who hate his guts and would sooner see him dead. Jim Rennie – known as “Big Jim – is the town’s Second Selectman, a member of the three-member team that makes up the governing body for Chester Mills. Only Big Jim has everyone in his pocket, owing him favors, and he’s also been running an underground scheme that’s making him a very rich man. He also thrives on power and being in charge, and when the dome comes down he thinks it’s the greatest thing in the world; his calling from god to take charge once and for all. Julia Shumway is the editor, publisher, and devout writer for her very own Chester Mill’s Democrat, continuing the family business, and always looking for a great story and a way to reveal the true, seedy underbelly of Chester Mills that she knows exists. After Dome Day, she knows Jim Rennie is up to something and will stop at nothing to expose him for the fraud he is. And there is 13-year-old Joe McClatchey, a good-looking nerd with all the answers, but who also has some important ideas about what exactly the dome is and what might’ve made it happen. While the town slowly devolves into pandemonium, he spends his time trying to find out the cause of it all.

San Antonio

See UNDER, page 21

Stocking Stuffer Idea! Merry, Merry Ghost By Carolyn Hart $15.95

Recommended by William Morrow

everywhere Unique reviews Local authors

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San Francisco

Book Review 1776 Productions 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 Ph. (916) 503-1776 EDITOR IN CHIEF Ross Rojek ASSOCIATE EDITOR Kaye Cloutman GRAPHIC DESIGN/LAYOUT Heidi Komlofske

IN THIS ISSUE Horror............................................................2 Mystery, Crime & Thrillers.............................4 Current Events...............................................5 Modern Literature..........................................6 Pop Fiction......................................................7 Romance.........................................................8 Young Adult....................................................9

COPY EDITORS Autumn Conley Diane Jinson


EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Jen LeBrun Jordan Dacayanan

Biographies & Memoirs................................11

DISTRIBUTION Reliable Distribution Mari Ozawa

Local Calendar..............................................10 Humor Non-Fiction......................................11 Science Fiction & Fantasy.............................12


Gift Guide.....................................................13

The San Francisco Book Review is published monthly by 1776 Productions. The opinions expressed in these pages are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the San Francisco Book Review or San Francisco Book Review advertisers. All images are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders. All words © 2009, 1776 Productions.


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

History.........................................................19 Sequential Art..............................................22 Business & Investing....................................22

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All of us here at the San Francisco Book Review are very happy to share with our readers the many excellent books that have come through our offices this holiday season. Fall is when most publishers release their best books, hoping for strong sales. Several publishers only release books during the Fall, making holiday sales a critical component of their publishing schedule. We hope you find something of interest for yourself, or as a gift, not only in our reviews, but also in our Gift Guide. This is our second December publishing-the first in the Bay Area. As we sat down for Thanksgiving, both Heidi and I were thankful for the opportunity we’ve had to create our book review and to grow it from Sacramento into the Bay Area. We’re also thankful to all our publishers and authors that work with us every month, getting us great books for us to review and recommend to our readers. And we’re thankful for the thousands of you that pick us up every month and pass the paper along to other avid book readers. Please also let the distribution point where you pick up the San Francisco Book Review know you read it and appreciate it. As we reach the end of the year, it is a time for thankfulness, giving, and reflection. When you finish your next book, consider donating it to a school, library, halfway house, or shelter. In addition to food, clothing, shelter, and toys, books are always welcome for those in need. Thank you for picking up our latest issue. Let us know what you think.


Happy reading,


Ross Rojek —Editor-in-Chief 1776 Productions

Travel...........................................................26 Science & Nature..........................................27 Sports & Outdoors........................................28

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Art, Architecture & Photography.................28

Coming Up... The January 2010 issue of San Francisco Book Review will feature an expanded Sequential Art, crafts and hobbies, and do-it-yourself sections.

Cooking, Food & Wine..................................29 Children’s.....................................................30 Poetry & Short Stories..................................31

December 09


Mystery, Crime & Thriller The Blessed By Lisa T. Bergren Berkley Books, $15.00, 421 pages Lisa T. Bergren’s third installment in her Gifted trilogy, The Blessed, is sure to win accolades from avid readers of fourteenth-century-based fiction. She carves a captivating tale of love and hate, castles and knights, angels and demons, and cardinals and duchesses. The Gifted consist of one who has the power to heal, one with the gift of wisdom, one with the gift of faith, one with visions of the future, one who can discern good and evil, and one can produce miraculous acts. This troop of good Christian people travel to the land of Avignon to have an audience with the Pope. They meet many allies along the way, healing, baptizing, and preaching to win the people of the villages over to the Lord. But, their journey is met with constant danger from their enemy, Abramo Amidei, who grows his army as well, plotting their demise for his one true master. Bergren’s writing is true to the era, right down to the nuances of the day’s slang. She keeps it comprehensible with a strong message of living a life trusting the Lord and dealing with evil, even by today’s standards, all the while transporting her readers to an era with a vivid storyline and picturesque details. Reviewed by M. Chris Johnson The Asylum Prophecies By Daniel Keyes Leisure Books, $7.99, 368 pages Raven Slade is an unfortunate young woman who suffers from multiple personality disorder and regular dissociative episodes. Believing that she has the secret to a surprise terrorist attack planned against the United States locked somewhere in her divided subconscious, the FBI, the State Department and two different terrorist regimes battle to control her and unlock her secret before it’s too late. The premise of The Asylum Prophecies is unique and mesmerizing; unfortunately the writing doesn’t do it justice. Filled with utterly direct statements and characterizations, the author doesn’t bother implying anything about the characters, settings or actions. Instead, the reader is told what to feel and what to think. The action is disjointed and at times completely non-linear (how does one “mime strumming guitar” if in the previous sentence one has

4 December 09

just been “strapped down” to an interrogation chair?) To throw the reader even more off-balance, the foreign characters regularly slip from perfectly normal grammar to suddenly conversing in broken sentences as though they’ve completely forgotten how to converse in their native tongue. Unfortunately, the one-dimensional characters, chaotic action and abrupt tone changes make this book less of an entertaining diversion and more of an undeserving effort. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz House of Reckoning By John Saul Ballantine Books, $26.00, 291 pages A story of a family ripped apart by grief, House of Reckoning tells the tale of fourteenyear-old Sarah Crane—a girl who’s been forced to grow up quicker than she should have. After losing her mother to cancer, her grief-stricken father turns to alcohol to numb the pain, forcing Sarah to look after him and assure his safety. After a night of binging at a bar, Ed Crane enters into an altercation with a belligerent drinker, killing him in the alley. Worried about her father’s long absence, Sarah heads out on her bike down the dark road to the bar, where she’s sure to find her father. Unbeknownst to Sarah, her intoxicated father is plowing down that same road in his truck towards home. The two collide in the dead of night, crushing Sarah’s hip and leg. What ensues is the beginning of a nightmare for both father and daughter. Ed winds up in prison, and Sarah is taken under the watchful wing of social worker Kate, who finds what she thinks is a caring foster family, but which turns out to be Sarah’s worst fear. Tossed into the mix is schoolmate Nick, a schizophrenic who hears voices and tries to silence them with medication. Add to that a caring high school art teacher and you have a plot that builds with anticipation. The problem with House of Reckoning is that the anticipation of the book’s crescendo ends up playing out in what I thought was a rather disappointing apex. I’m a big fan of John Saul, but found myself sorely disappointed in the hokey way he chose to shed light on and tell the story of the prisoners who died at Shutters. Reviewed by Heidi Komlofske

Nine Dragons By Michael Connelly Little, Brown and Company, $27.99, 384 pages Michael Connelly might very well be the best novelist working in the United States today. Nine Dragons is his twenty-first novel and his fifteenth staring Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch of the Los Angeles Police Department. Bosch is assigned the task of investigating the death of a Los Angeles liquor store owner. What might seem like a run of the mill crime takes on unexpected dimensions when the prime suspect turns out to be a member of the Chinese mob. Most of Connelly’s books have been police procedurals. This one starts out that way and Connelly leads his readers to believe the story will reveal much about his past given Bosch’s brief but important connection with the murder victim during the Rodney King riots of 1992. Instead, the book ends up becoming a thriller when Bosch has to travel to Hong Kong to rescue his daughter after she is kidnapped in retaliation for his arrest of the Chinese mobster. Fans of Connelly will enjoy this book. A major feature in his plots have been the wrong turn in an investigation, reflecting what he saw in real life as a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times. This approach is present here and brings about some dramatic twists in his narrative. In the past, Connelly has been willing to kill off major characters, including some of the main protagonists of his novels, and Nine Dragons is another manifestation of this realistic account of life in law enforcement. Bosch survives, but the events of this investigation will weigh on him for years to come. Connelly’s writing, as always, is simple and straightforward, making it a pleasure to read. Reviewed by Nicholas Evan Sarantakes Unsafe By John Connor Orion, $14.95, 358 pages Connor takes the reader on a UK roller coaster of twists and turns in this crime thriller. Follow detectives through the investigation of the murder of a young mother that involves several personal and professional relationships. “. . .she could definitely hear children crying now. She felt a momentary panic because of the lack of detailed current knowledge. . .They might even be their victim’s missing kids.”

Stocking Stuffer Idea! Recommended by Andrews McMeel Nell Hill’s O Christmas Tree By Mary Carol Garrity , $29.99

After the tortured body turns up roadside, Detective Sergeant Karen Sharpe is determined to connect the homicide to a known drug dealer she has tried to convict in the past. Her relationship with detective trainee Marcus Roth becomes an ethical dilemma that threatens to ruin both of their careers. Detective Sharpe’s rocky relationship with her college-age daughter also complicates the situation. Connor, a former barrister, exposes much of the dirty under-belly of police work. Scenes are graphically violent and language is gritty. Not for the faint of heart. Some scenes involve the abuse of children. Most of the passages in Unsafe are brilliantly written—some barely palatable. It has a strong narrative drive, but British acronyms make it a challenging read for the average American. Reviewed by Sheli Ellsworth Stuff to Spy For By Don Bruns Oceanview Publishing, $25.95, 320 pages It isn’t easy to write a crime novel that successfully mixes suspense and humor. Elmore Leonard does it routinely, while Loren Estleman, Joe R. Lansdale, and others have also demonstrated the knack. In Stuff to Spy For, Don Bruns shows that, unfortunately, it is also possible to get the mix See STUFF, page 21

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Current Events & Politics If We Can Put a Man on the Moon By William D. Eggers & John O’Leary Harvard Business Press, $24.95, 275 Pages If We Can Put a Man on the Moon…Getting Big Things Done in Government should be a required reading before running for public office. Eggers and O’Leary eloquently argue the pitfalls of policy, legislation, and program implementation and how to avoid them. They also gracefully explore the psychology of public servants. “The media has...turned government into a celebrity gossip game, a reality television show packed with strongwilled and dysfunctional characters.” The authors identify several major mistakes made by most well-meaning politicians: the Tolstoy Trap (failing to recognize and admit failure); the Design-Free Design Trap (drafting legislation that is without an executable structure); the Stargate Trap (poor implementation of policy); the Overconfidence Trap (failing to allow for error); the Sisyphus Trap (underestimating the special challenges that exist in public reform); the Complacency Trap (fearing change more than fearing antiquation); and the Silo Trap (the insular nature of government entities are bound for failure). In their “Creating a Better Future” section, they offer ideas for reform that meets the needs of personal, political, and public needs. Using examples of both good and bad government programs from seventy-eight case studies (such as the 1944 G.I. Bill to the ongoing New York City School Reform,) make it more than a political “how-to.” The book is, rather, a treatise based on survey results

from the National Academy of Public Administration, the Senior Executive Service, and a Canadian Policy Execution Survey. Reviewed by Sheli Ellsworth Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East By Dennis Ross and David Markovsky Viking, $27.95, 366 pages The author of the acclaimed book Statecraft focuses on the region he knows best with Myths, Illusions, & Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East. Ambassador Dennis Ross, among America’s most seasoned diplomats, and co-author David Markovsky successfully demolish many fictions on which our Mideast diplomacy is often based. Neocons imagine that negotiating with autocrats is by definition fruitless. Their opponents, socalled “Realists,” claim that ideology and religion are just veneers for power politics and that America’s “rational” calculus is universal and axiomatic. Both cling to the specious notion that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of all the region’s woes and conflicts. Through careful historical analysis, the authors shatter these misguided notions and offer a new way forward. ...the appropriate response to the mistakes of the Bush administration is not an opposite view that is equally flawed and equally simplistic. Iran and Islamic extremists stand out as among our nation’s most vexing foreign policy challenges. Ross and Markovsky offer workable thoughtful prescriptive in these areas that could serve as a roadmap

for the new administration. Occasionally reading like a long, imploring memo to the state department, Myths, Illusions, & Peace is a must-read for them and for any serious student of America’s role in this crucial region. Reviewed by Jordan Magill Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars By William Patry Oxford, $29.95, 266 pages Provided in William Patry’s book is a brief history of copyright legislation beginning in Britain and moving forward to America and the effects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. The book argues that copyright has created a monopoly for copyright holders, who are able to determine how their works are used, in what forms, and who will provide them to the public in the digital age, all to the detriment of the public and our culture. Pretty much copyright is responsible for lackluster contemporary major label music, motion picture publishers receiving tax credits from states to film moves on location, DVD players not coming equipped with record buttons, and are part of why America is falling behind the rest of the world on the technological front. While all this continues to happen copyright owners continue to legislate their competition away, strengthening their market monopolies. This book is informative, simplified, and smart about our current situation but in ultimately leaving us there—without a tangible way out—the book falls short of aiding us around this behemoth culture-crippling industry. Just as copyright holders do not walk away from paychecks, Patry—by day a lawyer for Google—won’t necessarily be leading the revolution he calls for. Reviewed by Joe Atkins

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Stocking Stuffer Idea! Recommended by Scholastic The Christmas Book By Juliana Foster $9.99

Five To Rule Them All By David L. Bosco Oxford University Press, $24.95, 310 pages The story of the United Nations is the story of the Security Council, and more specifically the five permanent members who have veto power on the Security Council. In a way these five members have control over security of the world, and have the power to decide whether to intervene in conflicts or not. Yet the shape of the Security Council, and what its role should be, has changed and is ever changing. Is it a place for nations to hold diplomatic discussions, and have ways for belligerent nations to save face; or is it a governing body that can actively take part in governance of the world by getting actively involved in local conflicts? It has been both of these things, See FIVE, page 27

December 09


Modern Literature & Fiction The Carnivore: A Novel By Mark Sinnett ECW Press, $26.95, 288 pages In The Carnivore, author Mark Sinnett uses 1954’s deadly Hurricane Hazel as the axis around which the story of his protagonists Ray and Mary Townes’ relationship is explained in all of its intricacy, from her early hopeful naiveté to her eventual bitterness and desperation. By alternating between the two main characters’ voices from chapter to chapter, Sinnett is able to paint a picture of a cowardly, selfish and physically ill old man who is miserable and, in keeping with his character, renders himself unable to do anything about it, as well as a portrait of his wife, who has stayed with him in spite (or perhaps because) of her rancor, which has sucked the joy from not only her marriage, but also her life. Unfortunately for Sinnett, whose writing can be quite sensitive and effective but also can be obvious and slow-moving, the story is not altogether engaging. Ray Townes is hardly a sympathetic character, and while his wife’s bitterness and vindictiveness are not endearing, they’re easy to understand. Add to that the fact that the book takes a good 50 pages to pick up steam and The Carnivore turns into a well-written but less than exciting novel about relationships—and misery. Reviewed by Ashley McCall Rough Country By John Sandford Putnam, $26.95, 388 pages Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Virgil Flowers, known for towing his fishing boat behind him to crime scenes, is enjoying a nice, relaxing day competing in a fishing tournament on a pristine lake up north, when his boss, Lucas Davenport calls: A woman has been killed and with resources in the area stretched thin due to a manhunt for an abducted girl, Virgil is being called into service. “It’s what you got with a good-looking small-town jock who’d grown up with an intact family and enough, but not too much, money. There was nothing faked about his attitude—but beneath the attitude, she thought, there was something cool, watchful, calculating. Hard, maybe.” In Rough Country, the second spinoff to his highly successful Prey series, John Sand-

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ford tells the story of the BCA Agent, playboy, fisherman and celebrity cop known to his friends as “that [effing] Flowers.” Only the drugs are missing as sex and rock n’ roll become the center of a case where a sniper is picking off innocent women. Is the motive money, clandestine lesbian affairs or something deeper? In his own unique way, Flowers delves in and hopes to come out alive. Sandford delivers with a well-told story and a tight, suspense-filled plot that will have you guessing to the very end. This book will please Prey fans who have followed Sandford for years as well as those who have never read him before. Don’t pass this one up! Reviewed by Albert Riehle The Gates: A Novel By John Connolly Atria, $24.00, 296 pages Samuel Johnson is a good kid, though perhaps a bit odd. When he tries to go trick or treating a week before Halloween to “show initiative,” he unwittingly becomes the only thing standing between Earth and an army of demons who want to take advantage of a wormhole, created by the Large Hadron Collider, that can act as a portal which would allow them to destroy the world as we know it. The problem is, because of his eccentricities and the fact that he’s just a kid, no one believes him. John Connolly is really coming into his own and The Gates is a prime example of his ample skill. The characters are rich and fun, like Nurd, the outcast demon who really just wants people to like him; Mrs. Abernathy, the cold, calculating chief demon who wants to hunt Samuel down before he ruins her plans; and Samuel’s friends and family, the only people who can help him stop the end of the world. The Gates is written for a young audience but young-at-heart adults will also love this story. Told with humor and a light touch, Connolly succeeds both at enthralling and entertaining his audience and leaves you wanting more. Reviewed by Albert Riehle Ulysses and Us By Declan Kiberd W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., $28.95, 399 pages Ulysses is for everyone: so argues Declan Kiberd in his passionate defense of the democratic spirit of James Joyce’s 1922 novel. Despite this novel’s reputation for difficulty, it is primarily a novel of the pleasures and pains of everyday life: waking, eating, walking, thinking, drinking, loving, dying. Joyce celebrates the civic virtues through the inte-

rior monologue of Leopold Bloom - husband, father, animal-lover, Jew, citizen of Dublin – as he goes about his day in the public spaces of the modern city. “It is time,” Kiberd argues, “to reconnect Ulysses to the everyday lives of real people.” Doing so allows us to read Ulysses as a type of wisdom literature, meant to teach us a “way of being in the world.” Appropriately, Kiberd’s book is as suitable for common readers new to Joyce as it is engaging for long-time Joyceans. In admirably clear, no-nonsense prose, Kiberd situates Ulysses in context with Irish culture, the Bible, Dante, and Shakespeare, while also providing a chapter-by-chapter guide to the novel. As Kiberd acknowledges, however, the best way to learn how to read Ulysses is to let the novel itself teach you. His book encourages you to pick it up and read. Reviewed by Catherine Hollis The Art of Disappearing By Ivy Pochoda St. Martin’s Press, $24.99, 311 pages Magician Toby Warring has a secret: years ago, he made his assistant disappear— and she never returned. Toby’s magic is real, not an illusion, and when he meets Mel Snow, he is struggling to forgive himself for his assistant’s disappearance and establish himself as a magician of note in Las Vegas. Mel, a textile designer who hears music in fabrics, has her own reason for fleeing to the desert, and she and Toby fall quickly in love. But the couple’s love is tested when Toby’s magic spirals out of control yet again, claiming another victim. They take refuge among a mysterious cohort of magicians in Amsterdam while Toby attempts—however unwisely—to reverse the past. Pochoda, a firsttime novelist, writes with compassion and style; yet from the moment Toby and Mel fall in love, readers must suspend their disbelief to engage with a story that grows more and more implausible. Toby’s “real” magic; Mel’s magical connection to fabric; Mel’s brother’s otherworldly relationship to water; the lonely mesa on which Toby’s assistant eventually reappears—it’s a lot to take in, and a lot to weave together. The story ultimately teeters under the weight of so many fantastical whims. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell

Freaks and Revelations By Davida Wills Hurwin Little, Brown Books, $16.99, 240 pages Freaks and Revelations, the most recent novel from ALA award-winning young adult writer Davida Wills Hurwin, is a young adult powerhouse, telling the story of two boys from disparate backgrounds, one a hardcore Los Angeles County punk rocker sliding out of control and towards the white power movement, and the other a Bay Area boy reduced to turning tricks on the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles after being kicked out of his house for being gay. The stories are told in parallel fashion, narration alternating from one boy to the other by chapter, and lead up, ultimately, to a night in 1980 when their paths intersect, changing both of them forever. The book, based on part on the lives of two men, Timothy Zaal and Matthew Boger, is a compassionate and raw look at the lives of these two young men, reserving judgment and presenting their perspectives, no matter how skewed they may seem to an outsider, with honesty and clarity. Hurwin has taken a story that could have easily slid into melodrama and imbued it with a sense of reality, youth and, perhaps most importantly, compassion, showing that no matter how different our backgrounds, beliefs and lives, unity between people is what really matters. Reviewed by Ashley McCall Where the Heart Was: A Novel By Glenn G. Boyer Legendary Publishing, $34.95, 538 pages Where the Heart Was tells the story of Bennie Todd growing up with his rustic, imperfect family as they doggedly pursue a better life during and after the Great Depression. Boyer begins the tale using flashbacks to give the reader historical context for the unfolding of Bennie’s life in turbulent times. Boyer eventually settles into a steady grove that’s easy to follow. The reader is soon introduced to Bennie’s loathsome No image mother, a bitter, mean, available abusive woman. As the story progresses, the reader will likely soften to Bennie’s mother as the details of her life are revealed. Bennie’s gentle unemployed father struggles with thoughts of suicide fueled by loss of confidence. Enter Bennie’s aged but gregarious uncle Newt who’s been living in Alaska where he made a small fortune. Reviewed by Grady Jones

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Popular Fiction

The Sower

Best Friends Forever By Jennifer Weiner Atria Books, $26.99, 362 pages There are not one but two inciting incidents within the first five pages of Best Friends Forever. The first is a make out session gone terribly wrong, resulting in the abandonment of a bleeding man in an frigid, isolated parking lot. The second is a knock on the door where mousy greeting card artist Addie Downs discovers her childhood ex-best friend, now Chicago TV news anchor Valerie Adler. The two haven’t spoken in 15 years. The inciting incidents lead to other curious mysteries which are delightfully unraveled in delicious bites through the entire length of the book as the ex-best friends embark on a Thelma and Louise-type road trip, closely tracked by the town’s policeman, who has developed an adorable crush on the oncegrotesquely overweight Addie. Best Friends Forever is absolutely not a book to miss. It has the clever, can’t-put-itdown style of a chick-lit novel, the intricate plotting of a truly surprising thriller, plus the depth and themes of modern literature. As she has in her previous books, Weiner has created a protagonist who is universally loveable, and a deck of supporting characters whose quirks and nuances ring tangibly true. Reviewed by Megan Just

In The Sower, Kemble Scott tackles some politically charged issues and I applaud him for doing so. Of course he’d already blazed that trail in his debut novel, SOMA, but controversy can be risky, especially in a second novel where the expectations are higher. While Scott’s Columbia University education (Graduate School of Journalism) certainly prepared him to tackle the political issues in the novel, which he does with humor and finesse, he also seems to be one of those writers who’s a naturally born storyteller with an innate ability to provide or withhold just the right amount of information to keep you turning the pages. Even though I had read some early drafts of a few chapters (Scott and I once belonged to the same writing group,) and even though I consider myself unfazeable, having lived in the Bay Area for two decades, this book still shocked and surprised me. Scott has a natural sense of timing when it comes to shaping a story, of knowing when to keep the storyline moving forward and when to divert your attention to make you anticipate (and speculate) what will happen next. Throw in some international intrigue and some humor, and it’s hard to put the thing down. Bill Soileau (pronounced “swallow”) is a petroleum engineer consulting on a project in Armenia when he meets Quif Melikian, a research physician from the Insitut Pasteur. What Bill doesn’t know is that Quif has a sister with AIDS whose days are numbered. What Quif doesn’t know is that Bill is gay and HIV+. But those details become common knowledge when Bill is accidentally infected with a genetically engineered virus (phage) that restores him back to perfect health. Unfortunately the source where Bill was infected has been destroyed, leaving Bill the only hope of a cure for Quif’s sister, not to mention every other person with a fatal disease. Bill and Quif soon become allies, but with different ideas of how to proceed. As a physician, Quif needs time for research and study. But Bill wants to spread the virus as quickly as possible. Only one, not so small problem: the virus can only be spread by way of unprotected sex. With this one premise, Scott takes us on a wild ride that is both politically and morally charged. With the use of characters who serve as stand-ins for some of our most famous and influential politicians, religious leaders and pop stars, The Sower is as much an essay on hypocrisy and bigotry as it is a thriller. Both satirical and provocative, this is a novel that will have you questioning much of the status quo. Reviewed by Bruce Genaro

Goldengrove By Francine Prose Harper Perennial, $13.99, 275 pages Francine Prose’s fifteenth novel takes its title from a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem: “Margarét, are you grieving / Over Goldengrove unleaving?” In the novel, Margaret is the charismatic older sister to Nico, but after Margaret’s sudden drowning death in Mirror Lake, she is the one grieved for as her parents, boyfriend, and sister sink into separate worlds of anguish. The sisters’ father plunges into writing a book about the end of the world he threatens to name Eschatology for Dummies, while their mother disappears into a tranquilized haze. This leaves Nico, at 13, alone to bear the loss of her sister, made worse by her increasing physical resemblance to Margaret. Could mirroring her sister bring Margaret back? Nico tries to maintain contact with Margaret by wearing her clothes and scent – and by secretly

spending time with Margaret’s boyfriend Aaron. However, what begins as shared grief becomes an increasingly fraught relationship, as Aaron’s interest in Nico turns creepily physical. Francine Prose brilliantly captures Nico’s fascination and terror with sexuality, providing a beguiling counter-weight to the novel’s exploration of the mourning process. Through Prose’s deft characterization, Nico emerges from under her sister’s shadow, while never losing touch with her memory. Reviewed by Catherine Hollis Loving Mr. Darcy By Sharon Lathan Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.99, 448 pages When it comes to revamping a classic story like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. The fairly recent release Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the right way. Sharon Lathan’s Loving Mr. Darcy is the wrong way. For while the former adds a new element to a popular tale while still managing to respect the integrity of well-established, well-loved characters, the former... does not. Picking up five months after the end of Pride and Prejudice, Loving Mr. Darcy details what feels like every tedious second in the lives of newlyweds Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy (née Bennet). If you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time with a couple newly in love, I think you’ll understand why this hardly makes for gripping prose. Lathan seems to have taken it for granted that those of us who adore Pride and Prejudice will enjoy anything featuring Elizabeth and Darcy. But Loving Mr. Darcy lacks all of the interesting conflict and tension that existed between the two characters in Austen’s novel. Without it, even such beloved characters as these fall flat on their faces. Reviewed by Amanda Mitchell Bunko Babes Gone Wile By Maria Geraci Berkley, $14.00, 316 pages Bunco Babes comes disguised as a Judith Weiner-like chick-lit novel. Like Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, it starts off jerky and disjointed before changing gears and offering the promise of a good story. But in Babes this preface is just a facade, as the story degrades into a sex romp with characters having sex in near-public places. The story is supposedly about Georgia, whose divorced boss/boyfriend does not want to commit to her so she runs off to Florida to lick her wounds at her sister’s house. There

By Kemble Scott Vox Novus, $23.95, 232 pages

she runs into a Latin hunk (“Mr. Hunky” to her and her sister’s friends), whose chest muscles are always heaving. Eventually Georgia begins to forget her ex-employer as she has sex in an exhibit hall closet with Mr. Hunky while hundreds of guests attend a public function. Author Geraci supposedly warrants a pat on the back for ensuring that her Mr. Hunky uses a condom while jumping on Georgia; he’s a so-called “safe driver.” Our mothers and aunts read racy novels like those written by Harold Robbins. A Stone for Danny Fisher would be considered to be of National Book Award quality when compared to the ultratrashy Babes. Reviewed by Joseph Arellano

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Stocking Stuffer Idea! Recommended by HarperOne The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Birth

By Marcus J. Borg; John Dominic Crossan $13.99

December 09


Romance Holiday Brides By Farrah Rochon, Stefanie Worth, and Jewel Amethyst Leisure Books, $6.99, 336 pages While anthologies can often be a useful way to introduce readers to authors they’ve somehow previously overlooked, they also can serve to highlight inadequacies in an underdeveloped author. In “From SKB with Love,” since her husband’s death five years earlier, Widow Venetta David has had little to celebrate during the holiday season. But this year close friends help her to rediscover her holiday spirit by treating her to a vacation in sunny, tropical St. Kitts. Venetta soon meets local Sean Bryan and is forced to decide if she’s ready to finally lay the ghost of her husband to rest and take up the veil of the living. In “No Ordinary Gift,” Kemah Griffin is super-successful in business but unlucky in love. Recently dumped via text message and forced to work alongside her ex, she just can’t seem to catch a break. Ex-beau Tyson Crawford seizes his chance to get back in Kemah’s good graces, knowing he made a huge mistake by letting her go. In “,”

Brenna Campbell has followed a well-crafted checklist to prepare herself for dating. Exercise. Check. Savings. Check. Good job. Check. Now she’s ready to find Mr. Right. Unfortunately she misses someone right in front of her: Evan Shephard. Despite the help of a heavenly website, these two struggle to discover how well they fit. While the basic premise of each story works, the execution falls far short of the mark. As a quick light-hearted read, Holiday Brides is a great choice. However, once finished it’s easy to throw this book to the side, quickly forgotten. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley Seduced By Shadows: A Novel of the Marked Souls By Jessa Slade Nal/Signet, $7.99, 387 pages Sera Littlejohn has survived a near-fatal encounter with a drunk driver, only to find that her physical as well as psychic wounds set her up to be possessed by a powerful demon. Ferris Archer is a man possessed by his own powerful demon, endowed with supernatural powers to battle other demons. The battle between good and evil is escalating, and it looks as if evil has the upper hand. Ferris and Sera are members of an ancient, secretive group of demon fighters, trying to keep the balance from tipping too precariously towards evil. As the bond between Ferris and Sera, the first female de-

Stocking Stuffer Idea!

mon-possessed in memory, deepens, the battles take on a more personal tone. Will Sera and Ferris survive to spend near-eternity battling side by side? Or will evil triumph and destroy them both? Seduced By Shadows is a supernatural thriller with a romantic underpinning. The tension between good and evil is well done, and understanding the words and phrases used takes just a little bit of effort to get acclimated to. Once that is done, it is a gripping, suspenseful story, with some hot romantic interactions thrown in for good measure. Reviewed by Elyse Sabilia Hot for the Holidays By Lora Leigh; Angela Knight; Anya Bast; Allyson James Jove, $7.99, 352 pages This is a delightful anthology featuring bestselling authors Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Allyson James, and Angela Bast. Although touted as a holiday themed mixture of paranormal romance, truly the four novellas center around love lost and found again. In “Vampire’s Ball,” Kat Danilo is reunited with her father and introduced to a world she never knew existed. With the

help of Ridge Champion, Kat takes her place in the magical society of Mageverse. In “A Christmas Kiss,” Jessica Raines was declared traitor by the members of the Breed and shunned. Even her mate Hawke Esteban kept his distance. However when unknown enemies threaten her life, Jessica has no choice but to rely on him once more. In “A Little Night Magic,” Jamison Kee left Naomi two years ago without a word. Now he’s back to reclaim his place in her life and her bed. And in “Sweet Enchantment,” Bella Mac Lyr, Fae nobility, lives only due to the good graces of her pure Seelie Queen. Although Ronan Quinn broke her heart thirty years ago, Bella lays her life on the line to save him from destruction at the hands of her Queen. The four tales in Hot for the Holidays are an enchanting mix of sexual tension, action, and true romance. Each provides just a taste, inspiring the reader to satisfy their appetites by picking up other volumes by these talented authors. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley

Stocking Stuffer Idea!

A Christmas Blizzard By Garrison Keillor $21.95

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books By Charles Dickens $18.00

Recommended by Viking Adult

Recommended by Everyman’s Library

Stocking Stuffer Idea!

Stocking Stuffer Idea!

A Classic Christmas By HarperCollins Publishers $14.99

Auntie Claus, Home for the Holidays By Elise Primavera $17.99

Recommended by HarperOne

8 December 09

Recommended by Simon & Schuster Children’s

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Young Adult The Squire’s Quest By Gerald Morris Houghton Mifflin, $16.99, 288 pages The latest book in Gerald Morris’ Arthurian anthology for young adults, The Squire’s Quest, continues the story of Terence, the half-human, half-faery who acts as a squire to Gawain, one of the legendary Knights of the Round Table. Terence’s quiet observations and otherworldly abilities make him a valuable asset to Camelot—even if he is just a squire—and his intuition tells him that something has gone terribly wrong when he suddenly loses touch with the magical world. When a mysterious stranger shows up and charms everyone from King Arthur on down, Terence sets out to find out what’s gone wrong and how he can save his friends. The ninth book in the The Squire’s Tales series is as clever, magical, and delightful as the previous installments. Morris’ enthusiasm for Arthurian legend comes through loud and clear, and it ought to infect all readers, both those new to and familiar with his previous works. Though I would recommend starting with the first book—The Squire’s Tale—any reader who starts with this book instead will still find plenty to enjoy. And they’ll undoubtedly get to all of the other books in this series eventually anyway. Reviewed by Amanda Mitchell The Long Wait For Tomorrow By Joaquin Dorfman Random House Children’s/Random House/ Golden Books Young Readers Group, $16.99, 352 pages Patrick Saint and Kelly McDermott make a strange pair – while Kelly is a star football player, arrogant and popular, Patrick is his quieter sidekick of a best friend. Constantly second-fiddle to Kelly’s cocky sense of selfentitlement, Patrick lives his life on the sidelines, but is more than happy to go along with Kelly’s usual shenanigans--including the brutal bullying of a science geek who sees something he shouldn’t have. So, when Kelly wakes up the next morning and has transformed into an eloquent and sympathetic, not to mention cigarette smoking, pool shark that cannot remember his football team’s plays overnight, Patrick is flabbergasted. Kelly tells Patrick that he’s from twenty years in the future, granted one opportunity to right a terrible wrong.

The Long Wait for Tomorrow is a comingof-age high school novel with a science fiction bend, tackling the age old struggle between fate and free will. Joaquin Dorfman crafts a poignant tale about friendships and second chances with this heartbreaking novel, written in raw, powerful prose. Recommended especially for mature teens and older readers. Reviewed by Thea James Andromeda Klein By Frank Portman Delacorte Press, $17.99, 424 pages Fans of Frank Portman’s successful first novel King Dork may be a little weirded out at the enigma of the title-character Andromeda Klein. No surprise here; tormented Andromeda deals with the bad hair, boyfriend and body issues like any other teen girl. But her other problems are far from the ordinary. In fact, they are far from anything in this physical realm. Among the many puzzles she has to solve, occult-obsessed Andromeda has to figure out these abstruse messages she believes are coming from her dead friend Daisy. Who is the King of

Tweens The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow By Tim Kehoe Little, Brown, $14.99, 185 pages It’s the age old story of the bullied, misunderstood kid with an evil step-mother who packs him stale sandwiches and brown bananas for lunch, who turns out to be an awesome inventor of fantastical and zany toys. Tim Kehoe, a toy inventor himself, has created a fast page-turner with a fun-loving and endearing main character in The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow. Vincent has a “problem”: he suffers from extreme headaches in which he is blinded and becomes very dizzy. Only, in these headaches he is also given the gift of a vision: he sees his next invention. The toy becomes very real and takes control in his mind. This is a secret only he and his mother know about, and now that she is no longer around Vincent must keep these ideas to himself. Vincent has an amazing lab in the attic of his home, also a secret. But now that his dad has remarried, a monster of a woman with

Sacramento and why is he invading her dreams? Oh, and what does this text message mean? It comes from her on-again-offagain boyfriend Saint Steve, a.k.a. UNAVAILABLE. The first chapters of the book start off very much like the lead character – obsessive, hard-to-read and slightly overwhelming. Readers should take heart, stick with it and read on to reveal its part Nancy Drew, part The Craft storyline, droll wordplay and an Occult 101 crash course. When stripped of its mystic shroud, Portman’s second novel reveals a highly digestible tale of a teenage girl who has communication problems on all levels (text messaging, the metaphysical and mishearing) and how she just tries to figure it all out. By the end of the book, Andromeda could possibly the best girlfriend you’ll never have. Reviewed by Auey Santos <<Listen>> Audible Authors interview with Frank Portman at frank_portman.php The Blue Shoe: A Tale of Thievery, Villainy, Sorcery, and Shoes By Roderick Townley Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99, 255 pages Written in a fairytale-like prose, The Blue Shoe is an exquisite book that any age will enjoy. It starts at the town of Aplanap, which

altogether different plans and three girls of her own, Vincent is plagued by isolation. Until (!), he lands himself in a toy invention contest and learns that being different is what makes life fun. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez The Little Prince Pop-Up By Antoine de Saint-Exupery Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35.00, 64 pages Stranded in a desert after his plane crashes, a pilot meets an enchanting little prince who describes his interplanetary search for the meaning of life. During this quest, he meets a businessman, a lamplighter, a king, a drunkard, a snake, a fox and others. The results of these encounters are as surprising as they are captivating. Question: How does one improve upon the perfect story? Answer: Create a pop-up book from it. The complete original text of The Little Prince is accompanied in this edition by Saint-Exupery’s charming illustrations as moving mechanical designs and pop-up pages. Though the recommended reading age for this time-

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is shadowed by a towering mountain whose peak eerily lights up every night, which sustains the myth that the goddess Xexnax lives there. Aplanap is much like an ordinary mountain town; with legendary cheeses, cuckoo clocks, and a very special shop, the Blue Shoe. The Blue Shoe itself is famous for a jewel-encrusted shoe that sits on a cushion on display. The inhabitants of the Blue Shoe—Grel and his assistant Hap— are peaceful workers until Hap is accused of thievery. He is sent in exile on Mount Xexnax, which holds a deep and powerful secret that is beyond his imagination. Townley has created a novel that is simple, yet has the essence of an extremely capturing book. Side by side with blue-toned pictures by Mary Grandpre, it creates something anticipated of a classic novel. It is a book that many will fall in love with, and those new to Townley’s writing will crave every word of this delicious book. Reviewed by A. Masri

less classic is 9-12, it can and should be enjoyed by adults and everyone in between. Its allegorical significance is so universal that it demands to be shared with friends and loved ones, not just during the holiday season but at any time of year, anytime in life. This tale is certain to capture your heart and guaranteed to make a believer of anyone. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio The Magician’s Elephant By Kate DiCamillo Candlewick, $16.99, 208 pages The Magician’s Elephant is what quality children’s literature is all about. It’s not only beautifully written, it is full of the longings and dreams and heartache that lie at the core of all memorable novels, whether written for children or adults. Peter Augustus Duchene is an orphan living in the city of Baltese with his guardian, an old and ailing military man who dodderingly tries See MAGICIAN’S, page 10

December 09


Local Calendar 9

1 pm - Author Signing - Julie Powell - Cleaving:A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera - 415.927.0960 7 pm - Dr. Neal Birnbaum talks about The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Arthritis Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera - 415.927.0960


7 pm - Debra Ollivier talks about What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera - 415.927.0960

11 7 pm - Ben Fong-Torres talks

about Grateful Dead Scrapbook: The Long, Strange Trip in Stories, Photos, and Memorabilia Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera - 415.927.0960

William Stout Architectural Books

804 Montgomery Street San Francisco, CA 94133 | 415.391.6757 Books on architecture, design, and art, both new and rare. M-F 10-6:30, S 10-5:30

Green Apple Books

506 Clement Street San Francisco, CA 94118 | 415.387.2272 New & used books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, journals, cards & more!

12 11:45 am - Georgeanne

Brennan talks about her book Gather: Memorable Menus for Entertaining Throughout the Seasons Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera - 415.927.0960 1 pm - Family Movie Matinee: Nightmare Before Christmas Hayward Public Library-Weekes Branch, 27300 Patrick Ave. (near the E. Tennyson Rd./Hwy. 880 interchange), Hayward 1 pm - Laura Rennert Bunny Eat Bunny: How to Succeed in the Competitive Picture Book Market Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera - 415.927.0960 2 pm - Brigitte Moran and Amelia Spigler talk about North Bay Farmer’s Market Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera - 415.927.0960 7 pm - Left Coast Writers Launch! In the Gallery: Wendy Tokunaga talks about her novel Love In Translation Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera - 415.927.0960

Black Swan Books

4236 Piedmont Avenue Oakland, CA 94611 | 510.428.2881 Eclectic stock of used and new books, original artwork, collectibles and surprises.

10 5:30 - 8 pm - San Francisco

Wine Association Holiday Showcase. Featuring the 20 boutique wineries of the SFWA offering premium wine tasting and some tasty morsels! Crushpad - 2573 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 1-877-WINE-404

13 1 pm - Joel Paul, author of

Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution Clayton Books, 5433 Clayton Road Clayton, 925.673.3325 1 pm Does the Secret Mind Whisper: Bob Kaufman Celebration San Francisco Public Library, Main Library, Lower Level, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street (at Grove) 3 pm - Allyson Byrd, author of A Tree’s Wish, the story of a little Christmas Tree Clayton Books, 5433 Clayton Road Clayton, 925.673.3325

14 1 pm - Dave Eggers, nation-

ally acclaimed author of Zeitoun, The Wild Things, and What is the What and founder of McSweeney’s Pegasus Books, 2349 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, 510.649-.320

Alexander Book Store

7 - 8 pm - Woody LaBounty discusses his new book and shows slides of images from Carville-by-the-Sea: San Francisco’s Streetcar Suburb San Francisco Public Library, Sunset Branch Library, 1305 18th Avenue (at Irving)

15 7pm

Douglas Gayeton, author of Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town Clayton Books, 5433 Clayton Road Clayton, 925.673.3325 7 pm - Special Discussion of Part 1 of Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces For Revolution, new talk by Bob Avakian. Part I of this talk is entitled: “Once More on the Coming Civil War... and Repolarization for Revolution” Revolution Books 2425 Channing Way Berkeley, 510.848.1196

16 6 - 7:30 pm - Author Joanna

Gewertz Harris is a Bay Area-based dance critic, writer and historian. She will speak about her book Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, the Early Years 1916-1965 San Francisco Public Library, Main Library, Lower Level, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street (at Grove)

17 7 pm Michele Clarke talks

about The Dreaded Feast: Writers on Enduring the Holidays Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera - 415.927.0960

50 Second Street San Francisco, CA 94105 | 415.495.2992

Are you a local book store? Take out a Directory Listing for only $25/mo. Email email your events to “Enough,” said Gloria. ”No,” said Leo Matienne, “not enough. Never enough. We must ask ourselves these questions as often as we dare. How will the world change if we do not question it?”

of gentle, almost Fawlty Tower-esque type humor that runs through some scenes, particularly one with the policemen of the city trying in vain to determine what should be done about the elephant suddenly dropped in their midst. That Ms. DiCamillo could meld these strands with the supernatural in such a seemingly effortless fashion is truly astonishing. Her prose is slightly old-fashioned and lean, without a word too few or too many and Yoko Tanaka’s delicate, misty illustrations are an ideal match. The result is a tale of remarkable beauty. It’s tough to think of another book that conjures up so much magic in a scant 200 pages. Reviewed by Michelle Kerns

MAGICIAN’S, con’t from page 9 no wish to have anything to do with soldiering or wars: his father died in battle when Peter was very young. When Peter’s mother heard the news, she went into premature labor and died after giving birth to a baby girl that, Peter has been told, also died. Peter is lonely and unloved and wants his family back. As the couple who live beneath Peter and the elderly soldier say of him, “He is up there with no one and nothing to love. It is a bad thing to have love and nowhere to put it.” Peter never completely believes his little sister is dead. When he is sent to the market to buy fish and bread, he visits a fortuneteller instead to find out the truth. She tells Peter his sister is alive, and that he must

follow an elephant to find her. When a magician, in the only act of true magic he has ever performed, conjures up an elephant, Peter is determined to find it and, through this impossible creature, find his sister. The story is full of beautifully and sparingly constructed characters, each consumed with a secret desire for something: meaning, love, healing, belonging, forgiveness. The elephant wants to go home; the lady who was crippled when the magician conjured the elephant wants to walk again; the street beggar’s dog wants to be of use to someone; the policeman, Leo Matienne and his wife, Gloria, want a child. All the different characters’ desires come to a head on the magical night that Peter finally finds and speaks to the elephant.

10 December 09

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What is most amazing about The Magician’s Elephant is that, intermixed between the fantastical and dream-like portions of the story are gems of observation about the human condition. When the magician is onstage the fateful night he conjures the elephant, he is “struck suddenly, and quite forcibly, with the notion that he had wasted his life.” When the fortuneteller tells Peter that his sister is alive, she advises him, “Perhaps you have not noticed: the truth is forever changing.” There is also a thread

Biographies & Memoirs Cold Eye, Warm Heart By Gerald Rosen Calm Unity Press, $17.95, 531 pages Nice, Jewish boy Gerald Rosen first began questioning the meaning of life while studying engineering in college. He completed a master’s degree at Wharton School of Business, joined the army, and got a PHD, all the while questioning why he was so unhappy. He searched for meaning by various methods, including reading the beat poets, experimenting with swamis, Eastern philosophy, and LSD, and remaining permanently drunk or high. He fought against materialism and became a professional Vietnam War protester. Eventually, he moved to northern California with his odd wife, Charlotte, to live in a shack on a commune. Along the way, he landed a job as an English professor at Sonoma State by telling the hiring committee that his first lesson would be to burn a dictionary in class. Rosen’s memoir is filled with colorful, offbeat characters and some fascinating, often bizarre experiences. Readers will be privy to an intimate portrait of the fifties, sixties, and early seventies from someone who was very involved with the artistic, social, and political climate. However, Rosen asks too many questions, over-philosophizes, and frequently comes across as self-absorbed. Some readers will find that charming; others will want to hand him some Prozac and tell him to see a shrink. Reviewed by Leslie Wolfson

Samuel Johnson By David Nokes Henry Holt and Company, $30.00, 432 pages Dictionaries are important. Not only do they tell people how to spell words that they do not know, they also promote a common definition, which will not dramatically change from region to region. The person most responsible for this was Samuel Johnson, who lived in the 1700s in England. His most well-known work was publishing a definitive dictionary, bringing together the many different spellings and definitions to promote a standard version. Besides that his life is full of missed opportunities and over-promotion. He constantly thought more of himself than what he actually accomplished. David Nokes took on the task and telling us why Samuel Johnson’s life was so important. Unfortunately the work, Samuel Johnson, falls flat throughout. We get the standard biography, with many events happening and all of them very important, though with little analysis or digging into these events; and many events in the long run being not very important or memorable. The best analysis happens when Mr. Nokes is examining some of Johnson’s couplets and poems; Mr. Nokes seems more adept at analyzing poems than living the life of a writer. Samuel Johnson’s life is not very impressive and he was not that nice of a man. Besides his Dictionary, his life is utterly forgettable. Reviewed by Kevin Winter

The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and the Completion of the American Dream By Harlow Giles Unger Da Capo Press, $26.00, 352 pages As an 11-year-old student at Westmoreland County, Virginia’s only school, James Monroe formed what has to be one of the most remarkable schoolboy friendships in history, with 14-year-old John Marshall. They would eventually take different philosophical paths over the Constitution, with Marshall taking the Federalist viewpoint that the federal government could use any appropriate means to achieve its legitimate ends, and Monroe taking the Republican position that federal powers should be limited to national defense, foreign affairs, and international and interstate commerce. They would come back together on March 4, 1817, when, at the request of his old friend, Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office to President James Monroe. Monroe’s relationship with Marshall is more than just an interesting bit of trivia. James Monroe made a lifelong practice of establishing and maintaining relationships with people. As president, he toured the nation to promote national unity, something no president had done since Washington. I appreciated Unger’s clarity of expression. His descriptions of the American and French Revolutions, the events surrounding the Louisiana Purchase, and the War of 1812 are among the most lucid I’ve read. Reviewed by Paul Mullinger

God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Political and Personal Memoir By Joseph Sebarenzi with Laura Ann Mullane Atria, $25.00, 272 pages God Sleeps In Rwanda (Atria Books) by Joseph Sebarenzi (with Laura Ann Mullane) is a riveting, searing memoir by genocide survivor and parliamentarian Sebarenzi. In lyrical prose, he takes us from his childhood in rural Rwanda through his rise to Speaker of Parliament in the 1990’s. Though he states his family was poor, by the standards of the time and place, they were actually quite comfortable; his father had three wives, and the family owned land and cattle. However, they were Tutsi, and the family twice survived Hutu/ Tutsi violence. He escaped Rwanda before the 1994 genocide, but was forced to leave his wife and children behind. He lost seven siblings, his parents, and many other relatives in the genocide. He rejoined his wife and children in 1995, was elected to Parliament, and became Speaker. He details his growing disillusionment as promising democratic foundations based on the rule of law were gradually undone by Paul Kagame (currently President of the Republic of Rwanda), and as constitutional rights were abrogated. Convinced he was slated for assassination, he executed another harrowing escape, again leaving his wife and children behind. Eventually, with the aid of cooperating governments, the family was reunited. Today, Sebarenzi argues passionately and eloquently for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, so that Rwanda can survive and prosper. Overall, a “must read.” Reviewed by Claudette C. Smith

Morecock, Fartwell, & Hoare: A Collection of Unfortunate but True Names By Russell Ash St. Martin’s Press, $14.99, 256 pages In this gleefully written volume are some of the silliest English names in history. I know of some silly-but-true names already, so when I see a volume like this I imagine it’s filled with names not too far off from those I’ve already encountered. That said, author Russell Ash has done a fine job crafting this book, and it’s organized so as to explain much prior to diving into the lists of various genres of ill-considered names. I didn’t expect to get as many laughs out of

this book as I ultimately did get, and confess to having laughed myself to tears once or twice. Despite the fact I didn’t find anyone named Hammond Egger in there, and clearly some of the names wouldn’t be funny if not for the advent of something over time to make it so (e.g. the name Minnie Cooper wouldn’t be funny prior to about 1970) there was no shortage of really incredibly silly names in this book. Some names were painfully embarrassing. This book could be a very dangerous thing in the hands of a pubescent boy a la Bart Simpson so I’d recommend keeping it away from the ‘tweens in the house. Short of that, especially over cocktails or coffee, this is a great little book to have strategically placed for a little conversation-making. Reviewed by John Cloutman

Humor - NonFiction The F Word By Jesse Sheidlower Oxford, $16.95, 270 pages Futz, fug, frell, frak, foul, mofo, OMFG, snafu, janfu, MILF, variations starting with cluster, mother, goat, and many others... the word in question has numerous linguistic siblings and cousins, and there has never been a more exhaustive or more complete collection of them than the third edition of Jesse Sheidlower’s The F Word. Annotated with the same attention to detail as the OxfordEnglish Dictionary -to be expected, since Sheidlower is Editor at

Large of the OED -- The F Word is replete with examples of usage spanning decades, sometimes centuries. Through it all, the book remains utterly professional, never descending into sophomoric snickering. It even goes so far as to document numerous stand-ins and safer alternates for the aforementioned word, as well as an unfortunate species of bird, simply as a matter of thoroughness. As an unabashed swearing enthusiast, I know full well the unbridled joy that a properly expressed swear can elicit, and as an equally unabashed word lover, the presentation and diligence of The F Word makes it both a satisfying read and a worthwhile resource. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

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December 09 11

Science Fiction & Fantasy Time Travelers Never Die By Jack McDevitt Ace, $24.95, 384 pages Time travel is one of the classic tropes of the science fiction genre, and in the hands of one of the genre’s most prominent writers like Jack McDevitt, fertile ground for an enthralling story. Adrian “Shel” Shelbourne is a man in search of his father, which is not all that uncommon in any kind of story. In this case, however, Shel is searching for dear old dad across time. His father, Michael Shelbourne, disappeared, and a funeral was held for him despite Shel not really knowing what happened to Dad. A mysterious note from Michael is delivered to Shel instructing him to destroy two iPod like devices that turn out to be time machines. Of course curiosity gets the better of Shel and he eventually uses the device and travels through time himself. As a back-up of sorts, Shel invites his friend Dave Dryden along for the ride since Dave is a linguistics professor, allowing for smoother acclimation within each era to which Shel and Dave travel. One thing McDevitt often excels at in his science fiction is balancing the explanation of scientific principles and the characters, and this book is no different. One of the other elements is that McDevitt simply tells a compelling story, and again he succeeds very well on this count. Shel and Dave encounter a great many historical figures, including Galileo, Thomas Paine, Churchill, and Ben Franklin, to name just a few. In a lesser writer’s hands, this novel could be simply a travelogue through history. McDevitt, however, fills each era the time travelers visit with enthusiasm and elicits believability in the historical figures Dave and Shel meet. This, coupled with the unfolding mystery of where in time Michael Shelbourne is, makes the story come across as refreshing and energetic. McDevitt pulled a couple of neat narrative tricks in the book, with Shel and Dave taking turns as protagonists. McDevitt also adhered to some of the typical rules of time travel that would prevent paradoxes from happening, like preventing Abraham Lincoln from being murdered. Smartly, the protagonists avoid traveling to such dark historic moments for fear of upsetting history beyond repair. Time Travelers Never Die is an addictive reading experience, and an optimistic science fiction adventure. Though the novel is a bit more light-hearted than most of McDevitt’s work, the novel is ultimately a satisfying and entertaining read. Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford

12 December 09

Black at Heart By Leslie Parrish Signet, $7.99, 345 pages Lily Fletcher is a bright, young IT Analyst who works for Internet Crime Department of the FBI. Wyatt Blackstone is her older, intense, emotionally-controlled boss. For these two, everything changes in the span of one terrible night. Lily is dead at the hands of the depraved criminal she was trying to arrest, and Wyatt’s reputation and famed icy calm have both taken a beating. Now, seven months later, a series of brutal murders has been committed—each one leaving a very visible trail of evidence that unbelievably points to Lily as the perpetrator. Is she still alive? Is she seeking her own form of twisted vengeance? Or is there someone else trying to get to Wyatt by using the one thing he couldn’t possibly ignore? “They had not discussed it but he was no fool. He knew what demons drove her, knew she felt with an undeniable certainty that the man who’d kidnapped her would come after her if he ever found out she was still alive.” Black at Heart is part love story, part testament to the ability to face impossible horrors and still come out whole. One of the book’s major twists comes out in the second chapter, a delightful deviation from more conventional plot lines. Parrish manages to capture the reader’s attention without describing detailed gory crime scenes, and although the plot gets a little shaky at the end, the characters are interesting enough that you don’t mind. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz The Book of Illumination By Mary Ann Winkowski & Maureen Foley Three Rivers Press, $14.00, 308 pages Anza O’Malley is, in many ways, your typical single mother; she juggles her fiveyear-old son and her work as a freelance book binder. But there is another side to Anza: she can see ghosts. When a friend asks her to help when a priceless illuminated manuscript goes missing, and two angry ghosts that have been guarding it for hundreds of years tell of its desecrations, she finds herself compelled to help. With the help of her friend and former lover, Declan, a Boston

detective, Anza takes us on a journey that uncovers treachery, danger, and chilling intrigue. The Book of Illumination is a very good easy read and a will keep the reader turning pages. Anza is a fun character; she isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, even when she knows that not everyone will believe her. The best part of the book is that the ghosts don’t interfere so much in Anza’s daily life like in other books where the main character sees ghosts. She gets to lead her daily life without the constant interruption of ghosts demanding her attention. The Book of Illumination is based on the life of and co-written by Mary Ann Winkowski, a consultant for the CBS television series The Ghost Whisperer. While similar in some ways, it is very different for the most part. Reviewed by Katie Monson This Crooked Way By James Enge Prometheus Press, $16.00, 399 pages This Crooked Way by James Enge is the second in a fantasy series featuring the anti-hero swordsman Morlock Ambrosius. As with the first in the series, Blood of Ambrose, it is chock full of swordplay, battles, magic, and a variety of creatures that Morlock must overcome. Unfortunately, it is also written with such stilted, clumsy prose that the writing itself is a distraction. “I hate you,” Vost hissed, raising the dungfork in his hands like a stabbing spear. “I hate you. Nothing will stop me from trying to kill you until you’re dead.” This time around, Morlock journeys along This Crooked Way to try to find and defeat a deadly enemy. Along the way, he encounters all kinds of obstacles, including golems, stone creatures, and persons who can turn into living flames. Without a doubt, Enge has a fertile imagination and has created wonderfully inventive creatures and other challenges that Morlock and his other protagonists must face. However, as creative as Enge is, it is not enough to compensate for the awkwardness of his writing. The dialog, at times, is especially cringe-worthy. The tone Enge was striving for in This Crooked Way. is unclear. By opening each chapter with passages from famous poets, including Tennyson, Yeats, and T.S. Eliot, Enge seems to be saying that he will address grand themes in a serious manner. On the other hand, the dialog is such a clunky mix

of bad sword-and-sorcery speak with more modern usage, that it almost seems like Enge is trying to mock the fantasy genre. This Crooked Way scores some points for creativity, but not for much else. Reviewed by Doug Robins Servant of a Dark God By John Brown Tor, $25.99, 448 pages The days of a person’s life are something that can be bought or stolen in the new fantasy series by John Brown. The great Divines are the only ones allowed to draw the fire from a man’s soul and bestow it on a warrior to bolster their natural strength, stamina or longevity. Anyone else practicing the art of drawing fire from another person is considered unnatural and will be hunted down, tortured and killed. But the power of the Divines is quietly being challenged by a group, known as the Grove, who believe that the Divines have been hoarding the power and using it unjustly. Talen, a young clansman, has always believed the rules as set forth by the Divines, but soon learns that secrets have been kept from him that will change everything. Servant of a Dark God is a very complex debut novel that takes fairly standard fantasy tropes and weaves them into a well layered story with excellent characters and world building. Occasionally the magical system seems almost overdeveloped, and that can make the book seem heavy-handed. However, the strength of the characters make Servant of a Dark God a successful foundation to a new series. Reviewed by Theresa Lucas

The White Knight Syndrome By Mary C Lamia, Ph.D. & Marilyn J. Krieger, Ph.D. New Harbinger Publications, Inc., $16.95, 193 pages

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San Francisco & Sacramento Holiday


Dec 09 FREE

Guide Frank Lloyd Wright Complete Works, Vol. 3: 1943-1959 (v. 3) By Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, Peter Gssel, and Peter Gossel Taschen, $ 200.00

The staff at San Francisco Book Review would like wish you a joyous holiday season. We’ve assembled book recommendations in this Gift Guide to make your shopping a little easier. San Francisco Book Review

Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip By Stuart Hample and R. Buckminster Fuller Abrams, $35.00 The quirky and undoubtedly hilarious life of Woody Allen is put to paper in a series of comic strips, now collected in Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip. With style and a sense of humor, Allen’s personality shines through the comic and into the lives of those who read it.

The Cocktail Primer: All You Need to Know to Make the Perfect Drink By Eben Klemm; Mary Goodbody Andrews McMeel, $19.99 The Cocktail Primer teaches how to make a variety of good drinks, and more important, is what you need to know, other than the recipe, that will make a drink perfect for any occasion.

This three-volume monograph features all of Wright’s designs, both realized and unrealized. Made in cooperation with the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives in Taliesin, Arizona, this collection leaves no stone unturned in examining and paying tribute to Wrights life and work. Author Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer highlights the latest research and gives fresh insight into the work. Volume 3 starts after World War II, when Wrights organic living architecture introduced ideas for the use of solar energy and curved open spaces.

Herblock: The Life and Works of the Great Political Cartoonist By Herbert Block W.W. Norton & Co., $35.00 A celebration of the man and his work, including a DVD with 18,000-plus cartoons. There was no one like him. Throughout a career spanning 72 years and 13 American presidents, Herblock’s spare, folksy cartoons made complex issues seem simple and moral choices clear. It is a celebration of his life that reinforces the importance of editorial cartoons as a vital means for expressing political opinion in America.

Lincoln Life-Size By Philip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt, Peter W. Kunhardt Jr. Knopf, $50.00 An essential collection of photographic portraits of Abraham Lincoln, in a striking format, from “the foremost family of Lincoln pictorial scholarship” (Harold Holzer). This unique and beautiful book captures an overlooked but vital aspect of Lincoln: his face. Taken across a span of nearly twenty years, from 1846 to 1865, these images provide us with a visual account of Lincoln’s intertwined political and personal lives as we watch him age and observe the toll taken by the Civil War in the final four years of his life.

Into the Earth: The Wine Cave Renaissance By Molly Chappellet and Daniel D’Agostini Panache, $50.00 From the hand-dug caverns of the late 1800s to the elaborate, dramatic caves of recent decades, this is an intriguing overview of Napa Valley’s wine caves—where wine is stored at specific temperatures in order to leave the land unscarred and available for agriculture. The magic and magnificence of the region—from the rich history and unique character to the classic architecture and delectable cuisine—is fully captured in this stunning guidebook that profiles such esteemed estates as Quintessa, Spring Mountain, Far Niente, and Stags’ Leap. Perfect for wine enthusiasts and novices alike.

For Dad Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback: A fully caffeinated guide to everything you need to know about the NFL By Peter King Sports Illustrated, $25.95 Part memoirs, part analytical look at the sport of Football (an everything and everyone that Football includes).

Sports Illustrated: The Golf Book By Editors of Sports Illustrated Sports Illustrated, $29.95 As only Sports Illustrated can bring you, Sports Illustrated: The Golf Book offers up the rich history of a game that has baffled, been loved by, played by, hated by, and watched by billions over the 500 years.

Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War By Terry Brighton Crown, $30.00 Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War illustrates the living and fighting philosophies and personalities of three World War II commanders from three separate nations, the USA, Britain, and Germany, respectively.

For the Artist Picasso By Dagen, Philippe Random House, $150.00 An intimate, and yet still worldly look into the life of the undeniably most famous artist of modern times, Picasso by Philippe Dagen covers the life, the work, and the legacy of Pablo Picasso.

Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo By Edited by Annice Jacoby Abrams, $35.00 A fine example of a beautiful art book, as the name suggests, differentiates itself by providing images and background on some of the most stunning pieces of street art in the city.

John Rombola: Eclectic Eccentric By Veronique Vienne; Melissa Tardiff Chronicle Books, $50.00 Veronique Vienne and Melissa Tardiff have found the perfect description of John Rombola’s unique, folksy, and utterly creative art with Eclectic Eccentric.

For the Music-Lover All You Need to Know About the Music Business: 7th Edition By Donald S. Passman Free Press, $24.95 A much-needed guide for anyone interested in or entering the fickle waters of today’s music industry. Covering recording to getting signed and branding, this manuscript also offers ideas that may be useful in helping the growing internet-pirating problem. Michael By Jason Fine; Editors of Rolling Stone HarperStudio, $29.99 A complete biography of the most famous man of our time, Michael chronicles the life and career of Michael Jackson, pop megastar. From the early days until his tragic death, the editors of Rolling Stone take an in-depth look at the life of a great musician.

Let It Bleed: The Rolling Stones, Altamont, and the End of the Sixties By Ethan A. Russell Grand Central Publishing, $35.00 Ethan A. Russell, who traveled with The Rolling Stones on their Let It Bleed tour, has brought forth a telling book with Let It Bleed: The Rolling Stones, Altamont, and the End of the Sixties. The Velvet Underground: New York Art By Edited by Johan Kugelberg Rizzoli, $50.00 The Velvet Underground; the most famous project by Rock and Roll legend Lou Reed, the band almost universally named as one of the most influential and creative bands of its time, has its own thorough and authoritative book.

The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer By Johnny Mercer, Robert Kimball, Barry Day, and Miles Kreuger Knopf, $65.00 Johnny Mercer, widely regarded as one of the greatest American lyricists of all time, took the art of writing and performing song lyrics to a whole new level. Now, his complete collected works are together. The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965 By Sam Stephenson, W. Eugene Smith Knopf, $40.00 Until the publication of The Jazz Loft Project, no one had seen Smith’s extraordinary photographs or read any of the firsthand accounts of those who were there and lived to tell the tale(s).

For the Movie-Lover Some Like it Hot By Laurence Malson Harper Collins, $35.00 More than a film-companion guide, Some Like It Hot is filled with information from both on-scene and behind the scenes from the classic film of the same name. Perfect for the enthusiast and the newcomer alike, this work gives the film a new depth.

14 December 09

Audrey Hepburn: International Cover Girl By Brizel, Scott Chronicle Books, $45.00 A collection of hundreds of magazine covers featuring the marvelous Audrey Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn: International Cover girl contains more than just an assortment of images that prove the book’s title.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence By Jan Harlan; Jane Struthers; Chris Baker Thames & Hudson, $60.00 Showing and telling the story of one of the most important movies of the 2000’s, A.I. Artificial Intelligence contains textual and visual insight into the film. A collaboration between legendary directors Kubrick and Spielberg, the film’s back-story and making-of has much to reveal.

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For Kids Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Complete Series By Rick Riordan Disney, $89.99 Packaged in a series-themed chest, contains all five books bound in hardcover. This special edition also includes a built-in secret chamber with a few Percy-fied surprises. Brisingr Deluxe Edition By Christopher Paolini Random House Childrens, $29.95 Continuing the fantastical journey of the Inheritance Series, Brisingr Deluxe Edition is great fantasy for the young reader. Included with the deluxe edition are items that tie into the series, such as art and deleted scenes.

New Moon Collector’s Edition By Meyer, Stephenie Little, Brown Young Readers, $30 For those who have read New Moon and loved it, as well as for those who are new to the series, New Moon Collector’s Edition is a subtle-yet-good-looking addition to Meyer’s wildly popular Twilight series. The Twilight Journals By Meyer, Stephenie Little, Brown Young Readers, $24.99 Write your own Twilight Saga! With The Twilight Journals, four blank slate (save art and a quote here and there) hardbound journals, one can create their own story, or do anything else they wish with them. The possibilities are literally endless.

Eragon’s Guide to Alagaesia By Christopher Paolini Random House Children’s, $24.99 For the Eragon-enthusiast and general fantasy-fan alike, the easily accessible Eragon’s Guide to Alagaesia is here and filled with art from the series. This is a great accompaniment and/or introduction to the magic of Eragon. The Annotated Wind in the Willows By Kenneth Grahame Norton, $39.95 Presenting one of the modern classics in young reader’s English literature in a new light and with new insight, Annie Gauger gives us an annotated version of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows with this The Annotated Wind in the Willows.

For the Decorator Majestic Metropolitan Living: Visionary Homes in the Heart of Cities By Sue Hostetler Clarkson Potter, $65.00 Taking a look into the highest-end heart-of-the-city homes, from San Francisco to New York, this work tours some of the most exquisite residential usages of prime city real estate.

Lasting Elegance English Country Houses 1830–1900 By Michael Hall Monacelli Press, $65.00

Rooms To Remember By Suzanne Tucker Monacelli Press, $65.00 A large art book filled with inspiring interior-design ideas, examples, and perfection, Rooms to Remember takes a glance at some very finely decorated buildings. From minimalistic to gaudy, a range of styles are covered and exemplified.

Portraits of remarkable English and Welsh 19th century homes, many of which are closed or unknown to the public, are found within Lasting Elegance: English Country Houses.

For the Fashionista The Ballets Russes and the Art of Design By Alston Purvis, Peter Rand & Anna Winestein Monacelli Press, $60.00 Considered still some of the most avantegarde performances of all time, Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes were a culmination and overlapping of the pinnacles of many different forms.

<<Title Book>> Sumo HelmutofNewton: By <<Author>> By June Newton <<Publisher/Imprint>>, <<Price (use Taschen, $150.00 $)>>, <<Page Count (type>> Originally clocking in at more than 66 pounds in weight, Sumo is back in a more common-man friendly version, but it definitely does not lack any content.

Posing Beauty By Deborah Willis Norton, $49.95 Big, Black, and Beautiful, Posing Beauty by Deborah Willis is a thorough and varied collection of photographs of African American people, culture, and life spanning from just before the 20th century all the way until today.

The World in Vogue By Bowles, Hamish Random House, $75.00 A hardbound collection of Vogue’s most vogue people and events, The World in Vogue offers an insider’s look into the uber-elite world of the ultrachic celebrity life. Hundreds of photographs of some of the most recognizably high-class-cool people.

The Style Strategy: A Less-IsMore Approach to Staying Chic and Shopping Smart By Garcia, Nina Harper Collins, $21.99

Dita: Stripteese By Von Teese, Dita Harper Collins, $30 Dita: Stripteese by the ever-sexy burlesque star Dita Von Teese is a tribute to the art of burlesque and the strip tease. With flip books of her performances, this enticing title is sure to excite readers, and leave them Teesed and wanting more.

Reconciling the two seemingly contradictory goals of frugality and fashion sense, Nina Garcia’s The Style Strategy walks the everyday fashionista through looking good without spending a lot.

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For the Home Chef/Foodie My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur By Romney Steele Andrews McMeel, $35.00 A memoir of life in the seemingly faraway world of Big Sur, California, My Nepenthe tells of growing up in an isolated, beautiful, and laid back community. It also tells of dining at the Nepenthe resteraunt, nestled in the heart of Big Sur.

The Competent Cook: Essential Tools, Techniques, and Recipes for the Modern At-Home Cook By Lauren Braun Costello Adams Media, $19.95 The Competent Cook offers advice, methods, and tips on how to make your home cooking and kitchen more exciting, efficient, and just plain better. The Competent Cook will leave readers more than just competent.

Venezia: Food and Dreams By Tessa Kiros Andrews McMeel, $34.99 A partially autobiographical cookbook, Tessa Kiros’s Venezia: Food and Dreams is an outline of the food, fun, and culture of Venice. Chronicling Kiros’s escapades in the great Italian city, meal by meal, readers and cooks will end their day satisfied.

Coffee Table Books Space Project By Lynn Davis; Alan Weisman Monacelli Press, $65.00 Offering a view into the futuristic looking and often secretive world of space travel, Space Project provides background and images of the many different space programs and program sites around, on, and outside of the Earth. Lives of Devotion: The Many Faces of Faith Photographs by Fernando Moleres Rizzoli, $80.00 Lives of Devotion is a photographic look at the devoutly faithful of all types that dedicate their lives to religion, God, spiritualism, monasticism, and the like.

Ancient Light: A Portrait of the Universe By David Malin Phaidon Press, $49.95 Literally reaching for the heavens, Ancient Light: A Portrait of the Universe by David Malin is a star-studded book. Filled with graciously primal photographs of some of the highlights of the known universe, it is an awe inspiring work. Painting Today By Tony Godfrey Phaidon Press, $75.00 Painting Today is a comprehensive overview of the last 30 years of painting, presenting work by celebrated figures like Gerhard Richter and Neo Rauch alongside emerging artists like Jumaldi Alfi and Ingrid Calame.

Jesus of Nazareth: The Illustrated Edition By Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger Rizzoli, $60.00 Pope Benedict XVI’s book about Jesus, the man, is back and illuminated! With its release coinciding with the holiday season, Jesus of Nazareth: The Illustrated Edition is a beautifully put together book. Earth on Fire By Bernhard Edmaier and Phillip Strand

Phaidon Press, $59.95 Earth on Fire features images of a wide variety of phenomena that are the result of volcanic activity, accompanied by clear, accessible texts explaining key details and events.

History Buffs Women Aviators By Bernard Marck Rizzoli, $45.00 A tribute to women taking to the skies, Women Aviators documents the stories of women in the air, all the way up to modern female astronauts.

Woodrow Wilson: A Biography By John Milton Cooper Jr Knopf, $35.00 Woodrow Wilson: A Biography tackles the touch assignment of writing an interesting, fair-minded, and balanced presidential biography with ease and knowledge. Covering Wilson’s life and controversial career, Woodrow Wilson is a prime example of an indepth and non-recycled biography.

16 December 09

Amelia Earhart: The Thrill of It By Susan Wels Running Press, $35.00 An in-depth biography of one of the most famous female pilots ever, Amelia Earheart: The Thrill of It not only chronicles her early life and flying career, but also travels into deeper and lesser-known aspects of the enigmatic woman.

American Entrepreneur By Larry Schweikart and Lynne Pierson Doti AMACOM, $29.95 A history of America told through the lens of biographies of our most innovative businessmen, American Entrepreneur is an informative collection of biographies.

How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood By William J. Mann Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 A big, beautiful book for a larger-than-life beauty, How To Be A Movie Star chronicles the life and times of the most famous violet-eyed woman of all time, and one of the first movie-mega-stars, Elizabeth Taylor. New York 400 By The Museum of the City of New York Running Press, $40.00 New York 400 celebrates the 400th Hudson River anniversary in a very researched, thorough, and downright interesting fashion. A visual history and portrait of the great city is within the pages, and what a portrait it is!

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For the Photographer Bolivia By Don McLaughlin Fields Publishing, $39.95

Photography in 100 Words By David Clark Focal Press, $29.95

Empty Quarter By George Steinmetz Abrams, $40.00

Give the photography, literature, or general arts enthusiast a peak at this book and they won’t be able to put it down. Photography in 100 Words is not only a stimulating concept, it is executed with precision, and the end result is excellent artistic commentary.

While on a Standard-Oil sponsored oil hunt through South America, Don McLaughlin took the opportunity to photograph a far off and exotic country and its people. The result, now almost half a century later, can be seen in the stunning collection of photographs within Bolivia.

The stark and literally barren heart of the Arabian Desert is viewed aerially in The Empty Quarter. The complete lack of any life proves for very enigmatic photographs, as this concept of places on our Earth being so inhospitable is hard to wrap one’s head completely around. What results is breath-taking imagery.

For Mom Style and Substance: The Best of Elle Decor By Russell, Margaret Filipacchi Publishing, $45.00 Offering the cream of the crop of 20 years’ worth of Elle Decor magazine’s featured rooms, floor plans, DIY advice, and general tips concerning the decoration and organization of space. Return to Beauty: Old-World Recipes for Great Radiant Skin By Narine Nikogosian, Nancy Singer Simon & Schuster, $25.00 Return to Beauty offers regimens made from fresh ingredients that can be found right in your kitchen. With recipes for winter, spring, summer, and fall, you can look beautiful throughout the year.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl By Drummond, Ree William Morrow Cookbooks, $27.50

Girlfriends Are Lifesavers By Reeda Joseph Viva Editions, $14.95 Filled with pairings of photographs of kindred women accompanied by whimsical captions, Girlfriends Are Lifesavers celebrates the friendship of women and brings a variety of emotions to the table.

The semi-autobiographical The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a personal story of love, food, and finding one’s inner country side. Filled with color recipes and colorful anecdotes, The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a wonderfully entertaining guide. Simply Stunning Jewelry: A Treasury of Projects, Techniques, and Inspiration By Nancy Alden Crown Publishing, $24.99 No matter what material you want to work with, this book has it covered. In one indispensable volume, renowned designer Nancy Alden shares her expansive knowledge of jewelry design.

Site Furnishings: A Complete Guide to the Planning, Selection and Use of Landscape Furniture and Amenities By Bill Main, Gail Greet Hannah Wiley, $65.00 Introducing the first all-in-one guide to site furniture principles, processes, and best practices. Site Furnishings comprehensively examines how to elevate the design of site furnishings to achieve programming goals.

For the Baker Gingerbread: Timeless Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Desserts, Ice Cream and Candy By McGlinn, Jennifer Lindner Chronicle Books, $19.95

The Amish Cook’s Baking Book By Lovina Eicher with Kevin Williams Andrews McMeel Universal, $29.99 In The Amish Cook’s Baking Book, this elegant simplicity, this minimalism, is demonstrated to still be able to provide flair and pleasure through the presentation of 100 delicious baking recipes.

It’s the time of year for Gingerbread! Original and creative, McGlinn will have you salivating for this often Holiday-only treat all year round.

Rose’s Heavenly Cakes By Rose Levy Beranbaum Wiley, $39.95 An all-new, full-color cake-lover’s companion from Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Diva of Desserts! This comprehensive guide will help home bakers to create delicious, decadent, and spectacularly beautiful cakes of all kinds with confidence and ease.

For the Writer The Oxford Companion to English Literature By Graham Rees, Margaret Drabble Oxford University Press, $125.00 The Oxford Companion has been thoroughly revised and updated to meet the needs and concerns of today’s students and general readers. More than 1,000 new entries have been added from around the world.

Garner’s Modern American Usage By Bryan Garner Oxford University Press, $45.00 In this update of A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (1998), a contributor to The Chicago Manual of Style (2003) offers entries that discuss either a particular word or phrase, or larger issues of usage and style.

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The Talented Miss Highsmith By Joan Schenkar St. Martin’s Press, $40.00 In this revolutionary biography, Joan Schenkar paints a riveting portrait, from Highsmith’s birth in Texas to Hitchcock’s filming of her first novel, Strangers On a Train, to her long, strange, self-exile in Europe.

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Games Samurai: The Card Game Rio Grande Games # of Players: 2-4, $19.95

Ninja Versus Ninja Out of the Box #of players: 2, $16.24 A Stealthy Game of Swords and Rewards. Your Ninjas must defend the honor of their dōjō against a rival dōjō. Victory hinges on eliminating Ninjas and skillfully venturing into the opponent’s dōjō. Every move is critical as you position.

Samurai - The Card Game requires players to follow the traditions set by the Samurai (unfailing courage, unquestioned loyalty, and internal harmony) in order to win this new, but old, game.

Word on the Street Out of the Box # of Players: 2-8, $24.99

Burger Joint Rio Grande Games # of Players: 2, $24.95 In this two-player game, each player runs a chain of fast-food joints: one specializes in burgers and the other in pizzas. As each expands, he takes on some of the menu items of the other in order to compete for customers. The most successful chain will win in the end!

Letter Roll Out of the Box # of Players: 2-8, $24.99

On each turn, one team flips over a category card. Team members frantically brainstorm words that fit the category while the opposition tries to sidetrack them. The team must agree on a word and pull each letter of that word one lane closer to their side of the street, all before the time runs out.

Everybody’s Word Game! Roll the special dice and flip the timer. Players race to list words containing the three letters shown on the dice. Only words listed by a single player score points so players are rewarded for their speed and creative thinking!

Dominion Rio Grande Games # of Players: 2-4, $44.95 You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion!

Holiday-Related A Kidnapped Santa Claus Illustrated by Alex Robinson Harper Collins, $14.99

French General: Handmade Soirees: Simple Projects for Special Occasions By Kaari Meng Chronicle Books, $29.95

The Gift of the Magi Illustrated by Joel Priddy Harper Collins, $14.99

A re-imagined cartoon version of L. Frank Baum’s holiday tale, A Kidnapped Santa Claus is fantastical fun, especially during this season. More than just a little bit of creativity and imagination put into the illustration of such an entertaining story. A Christmas Present For: ME! By Lily Karr, Illustrated by Jill McDonald Scholastic, $6.99 Made to look like an already wrapped Christmas present, A Christmas Present For Me! offers a gift and a holiday story all wrapped up into one. Save time and energy, and give the gift of a warming Holiday Book!

A comic-book interpretation of a classic holiday tale, The Gift of the Magi by Joel Priddy adds a new dimension to the story with his art. A touching story, The Gift of the Magi is sure to warm the hearts of all.

With over 20 projects outlined, French General: Handmade Soirees shows everyone how to add a touch of class to their homes, and makes it as easy and fun as arts and crafts should be. My First Countdown to Christmas By Dr. Mary Manz Simon Scholastic, $9.99

A Chanukah Present for: ME! By Lily Karr, Illustrated by Jill McDonald Scholastic, $6.99 Made to look like an already wrapped Chanukah present, A Chanukah Present For Me! offers a gift and a holiday story all wrapped up into one. Save time and energy, and give the gift of a warming Holiday Book!

Count down to Christmas with someone special to you or with your kids! Countdown to Christmas (My First Read and Learn) is filled with activities and lessons that the family can enjoy.

Miscellaneous Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt By Kata Golda Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $19.95 With Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt, Kata Golda shows the arts and crafts enthusiast how to sew a variety of quaint and fun crafts out of felt using simple, easy-to-follow techniques. With over 25 projects, Golda will keep reader’s hands busy for some time to come.

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The USA Book: A Journey Through America (General Pictorial) By Karla Zimmerman and et. al. Lonely Planet, $39.99 A state-by-state tour of the best that this great country has to offer, The USA Book: A Journey Through America reminds one why they love living in this nation. Filled with visually stunning photographs.

Ranches of the American West By Linda Leigh Paul Rizzoli, $65 Exploring the contemporary ranch-house: Both functional and elegant, these ranch houses incorporate all of the utility of American ranches of the past, as well as the beauty of modern architecture.

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History Civil War Wives By Carol Berkin Knopf, $28.95, 350 pages Carol Berkin has established herself as a notable historian with research acumen, analytic insight and expertise in early America. “Civil War Wives” helps cement her reputation for high quality publications with something new to say. Berkin has selected three women whose husbands were important statesmen during the Civil War period. She made the selection amongst all the potential subjects because of the clarity of voice and viewpoint these individual women left. The book is three biographies that Berkin ties together with comparison, commentary, and history itself. (For example, each of these women and their husbands had very different political and social positions….but Berkin reminds us what each was doing as blood was shed at Shiloh, or on the night Richmond burned). Thus the book is more than unlinked biographies, but instead a piece that shows off this remarkable period of America history from three distinct viewpoints. Angelina Grimke was deeply philosophical and her diary, along with the essays and speeches that made her so controversial in her own time, describe the sacrifices and deep conflicts that resulted from her radical viewpoint. Varina Howell Davis wrote copious letters that have been preserved and also wrote her memoir late in life. Her temperament, intellect, and bravery were seen as strengths for a Southern aristocratic woman. Julie Dent Grant did not write letters, at least none that were preserved, but she did write her memoirs. Her guileless inattention to issues of politics and war are astonishing but also endearing. Berkin first brings these three women alive for us, and compares their opportunities, experiences, and points of view. At the same time she paints a detailed backdrop of the era from 1830 through 1870: a time of stunningly rapid change, reform and reaction in America. It is Berkin’s flawless depiction of the socio-political energy of this period as the stage for the women she portrays that makes this book captivating, innovative and important. Reviewed by Marcia Jo Revolution 1989 By Victor Sebestyen Pantheon Books, $28.95, 480 pages In Revolution 1989, Hungarian expat author Victor Sebestyen, whose previous book Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution discusses uprising of the Hungarian people over a half-century ago against their oppressive Communist rul-

ers, deals with the implosion of the Soviet Empire by discussing the years and events leading up to 1989, when the empire—and the Soviet Union—crumbled. Every chapter in Revolution 1989 is based in a different Soviet bloc country, and tells the story of the often bumbling, generally deceitful, and sometimes despotic and psychotic Communist leadership that played such an integral role in its own destruction. Sebestyen does not offer sympathetic portraits of the Eastern European Communist leaders who, for almost half a century, forced most of their populations to live in unnecessarily shoddy conditions while they received the best and most expensive—but he also does not demonize the leaders who don’t deserve it—and such is one of the strong points of Revolution 1989: while no book can be impartial (especially not one written by someone who suffered through the Soviet era), Sebestyen offers an honest, thorough look at the end of the Cold War and all of the factors that led to it. Reviewed by Ashley McCall A New History of Early Christianity By Charles Freeman Yale University Press, $35.00, 377 pages The first question historians must answer when they are writing a book is: why are they writing this book? Especially in areas where many books have already been written about a particular topic, and this is the case of early Christian history. Charles Freeman does answer that question in a convincing manner with his new book A New History of Early Christianity. He claims a work that covers early Christian history has not been written since the 1960s, which is a long time even in historical studies. He approaches the topic not from a political perspective of the Church setting itself up to become the official Church of Rome. Instead it is a look at the philosophical, moral, and theological foundations of Christianity and how it started to change when the Church went from a small, mostly underground sect of Judaism to the Imperial Church, officially sanctioned by the government and starting to split from Judaic teachings and forming its own theology. The conflicts are presented not so much as having political motives, but as trying to explain philosophical/theological questions, and at times not arriving at conclusions.

Most of the focus of this work is in the Near East, where Christianity first started. It was a sect of Judaism and slowly started to split away when the first generation of Christians started to die, and their descendants had to find answers for themselves. They believed that the Second Judgment was coming soon, and when it did not happen people had to have explanations for this. Mr. Freeman delves into the New Testament examining the major works, and the minor works briefly, for their historical significance; and also to explain the context of the time in which they were written, which is important as philosophy and Christianity started to diverge from one another. There are a few problems with this work. First, the final few chapters feel rushed, as if Mr. Freeman is rushing towards an end date, though the work has no real end date. We do not know when the period of early Christian history moves into the more Medieval period. The final chapters are mostly political intrigues in the Byzantine court, and this after he has mainly stayed away from these types of events for most of the book. Second, is the lack of an end date for this work. While finding an end date for historical writing can be tricky, Mr. Freeman offers many dates for the end of early Christian history, from the official end of the Western Roman Empire, to the reign of Gregory the Great as Pope. The ending feels like a let down after a masterful work that adds to the knowledge of Christian history. Reviewed by Kevin Winter Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation By Mitch Horowitz Bantam, $27.00, 289 pages America, as it turns out, offered the perfect cultural climate for the incubation and expansion of Occult practices. Our national passion for religious freedom, selfimprovement, and social reform made 19th century America fertile ground for a revolution in alternative spirituality.

Horowitz believes that magical movements and occult practices have been an underappreciated but critical element of American history and an organizing force of our national identity. Before the American Revolution, Horowitz teaches, a small group of mystical scholars established themselves in Philadelphia where they studied astrology, alchemy, esoteric Christianity, and Kabala. As word spread of their safe haven, the community grew and ultimately contributed to an American culture that hosted a remarkable assortment of breakaway faiths: Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventists, and Christian Science, as well as a wide array of mystical philosophies and lore. Horowitz explains that occult practices are those mystical philosophies that include belief in “an unseen world” whose forces act upon us and through us. And in America, a unique practice developed in which the occult practitioners were interested less in narcissistic power than in the ethic of social progress and individual improvement. Religious orthodoxy tends to make people fearful of the occult. As a result, many of us have not been exposed to its history and influence. But this comprehensive account shows clearly that current alternative and New Age spiritual practices grow from this history, as does America’s current interest in Eastern religions, and in mystical practices within the traditions of Christianity and Judaism. The book is well-researched and convincing. Beginning with a New World community of mystics, and following with an explanation of the tremendous impact of Freemasonry, Spiritualism and Transcendentalism in 19th century America, Horowitz make a case that the occult shaped mainstream American identity. He further argues that the movements of Spiritualism and progressive liberalism created opportunity for women’s leadership and contributed to the growth and development of America’s revolutionary women’s movement. Horowitz writes with authority but does not overwhelm with citations and so succeeds in engaging the reader through a plethora of details that solidly prove his case. Reviewed by Marcia Jo

Stocking Stuffer Idea! The Christmas Baby By Marion Dane Bauer and Richard Cowdrey $15.99

Simon & Schuster Children’s

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Seasonal The Random House Book of Children’s Bible Stories By Mary Pope Osborne, Natalie Pope Boyce, and Michael Welply Random House Books for Young Readers, $24.99, 176 pages The most awe-inspiring stories of the Bible come alive with The Random House Book of Bible Stories. For generations, people have been captivated with the parables of The Good Samaritan, Noah, Moses, David and Goliath but most especially Jesus Christ. Select chapters and verses from the Old and New Testaments are successfully highlighted by two beloved authors, Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, in this timely tome combined with the vivid and stunning illustrations of Michael Welply. There is a dearth of visually stimulating religious reading material out there so this book is for children who would like to learn more about the Bible and are not enticed by heavily worded scriptures. The stories in this book are, of course, timeless; The Random House Book of Bible Stories will truly make a meaningful Christmas gift to children between the ages of 6-12 and is a great addition to any Sunday School library as well. Reviewed by Kaye Cloutman Under the Star By Jane Yolen Key Porter Books, $16.95, 24 pages Jane Yolen is considered a modern-day Hans Christian Andersen, with dozens of books to her name as both an author and an anthology editor. (Even Wikipedia is reluctant to compile a complete list of her literary works.) Fantasy and folklore are her most recognized fields of

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stylistic expertise, but she has also contributed a great deal to the children’s section of the library, and it’s here that you’d most likely find her latest effort, Under the Star: A Christmas Counting Story. With Vlasta Van Kampen’s simple illustrations vividly enhanced by a rich, vibrant palette, Yolen seamlessly meshes a simple sequential counting activity from one to ten with a barebones look at the birth of Jesus Christ. The slow progression provides a sort of reverse countdown to the momentous event, even as the gathering people and animals herald the growing interest and knowledge of the importance of what’s happening. The final image of the assembled masses (fifty-five in all, if my addition skills haven’t abandoned me, across a crowded two-page spread) highlights both the multitude of those affected and the magnitude of the event itself. And trust me, all fifty-five are accounted for, as I confirmed with a brief and mildly frustrating Where’s Waldo?-esque exercise of identifying each of the players featured. The closing image of the animals and people all gazing with wonder into the tiny ramshackle manger, as two new parents look down upon their newborn, is an impressive one, both in scale and execution. (Though, admittedly, the familial trio are almost dwarfed by the size of the menagerie gathered around them.) While the cynic in me would love to ask a few questions of the author -- Why are the sheep arriving separately from the shepherds? What are cows doing in the desert following the star? Why no mention of the donkey that accompanies one of the fathers? -- the reader can’t help but enjoy the simplicity of the story, the terrific renderings of the various animals, and the looming expectation of something important about to occur, unified under a gorgeous, captivating, starlit sky. At its heart, Under the Star is about more than counting, though it handles that task with ease. It’s an exercise in slow-burn anticipation, disguised as a simple counting

Stocking Stuffer Idea! I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Gifts, Decorations, and Recipes that Use Less and Mean More By Anna Getty $ 24.95

Recommended by Chronicle Books book, and no matter how heavy-handed you may find its message, the two are inextricably linked. You may pluck it off the shelf for the counting, the story, or both, but it’s those rich visuals that will convince you it’s worth your time. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Christmas with Rita and Whatsit By Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod Chronicle Books, $14.99, 32 pages Rita and her no-name dog (now named “what-is-it” or, in short, Whatsit) are best friends. What do you think they are going to do this Christmas? To Rita and Whatsit, Christmas means … making a long list, a long wish list. What do you think Whatsit want? Not much. Just about a hundred things or more. Now, what about Christmas decoration? Whatsit is trying to help Rita put up the ornaments, garlands, and lights. Well, he has his own taste and his own way of decorating. He even has his very own tree. What kind of ornaments and garlands do you think Whatsit has for his tree? Hmm, not-so-surprising-it is both delectable and edible! Wait--don’t forget the snack for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Last but not least, stockings, shoes and some chewed-up slippers must be lined up for Santa to stuff the presents in. Well, something is going wrong…Will Santa still come? Will Rita and Whatsit get all of the items on their wish list? Christmas with

Rita and Whatsit is definitely a must-have book for any age. It is a cute and delightful story that both readers and listeners would enjoy for this Christmas. Reviewed by Sophie M. A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas By Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills Chronicle Books, $18.99, 38 pages If you are the type of parent who does not mind messing with the traditional trimmings of Christmas, you and your children might enjoy A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas. This modern updated twist on the classic The Nutcracker is based on the hit musical by popular children’s rock star Ralph Covert of Ralph’s World. “Every toy must pass through this gate before it leaves Christmas Wood,” said the Major. “The toys here are all alive until that moment. Then the magic goes inside, and the only the love of a child can bring it out again. All the major characters are present: Fritz, Clara, the Mouse King, and the Nutcracker, but the tale is reworked in modern times and involves a video game, which had trapped and released the Mouse King. This time, Fritz takes center stage and is out for a magical journey to stop the regal rodent from ruining Christmas. The author did

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take some liberties and departed from the original tale, but it has enough elements to make it relatable. Read the book along with the music CD for a truly fun and wacky experience. The music is of the folksy-alternative rock variety and is sure to appeal to a young audience. The story itself could have used some work and has some “eh?” moments but the book, coupled with the great music and the quirky illustrations, still makes it worth checking out. Reviewed by Auey Santos

Who Would Like a Christmas Tree?: A Tree for All Seasons By Ellen Bryan Obed Houghton Mifflin, $16.00, 32 pages We always think Christmas tree is only meaningful during Christmas season. Adorning them with ornaments and glittering lights is one of our traditions. But what does a Christmas tree mean to other creatures? On a Christmas tree farm in Maine, Obed tells us all of about this wonderful tree and uncovers its mysteries, from month to month and season to season. The Christmas tree is food and shelter, as well as playground for creatures from large mammals to small insects. In January, black-capped chickadees come to feed on moth eggs and little spiders hidden under the bark in the day and to sleep in the thick branches through the night. These chickadees keep the trees healthy because

I Love Christmas By Anna Walker Simon & Schuster, $9.99, 22 pages Ollie loves Christmas. And he loves every detail about Christmas, from the stars in the sky to singing about Santa. This is a perfect bedtime story for the nights leading up to Christmas, and a timeless book that children will be reading for generations to come. “But what I love best is to sit on my bed and listen for Santa’s sleigh bells with Fred.” Anna Walker does a fantastic job of using appropriate language for 2- to 6-year-olds. The illustrations are adorable and simplistic, which is perfect for this age group as well. Parents will enjoy reading the story as much as their child will enjoy listening to it. I Love Christmas is a must-have for your child this holiday season. Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun Santa’s Stowaway By Brandon Dorman Greenwillow Books, $16.99, 40 pages When I first saw this book I thought the artwork would most impress me. It seemed like authentic Victorian-era art gracing the pages of this sweet-hearted children’s holiday story. At first I thought maybe the storyline was a bit too familiar ,though I don’t suppose there’s much left to wring out of Kris Kringle stories that hasn’t been conceived already. It’s more about the way the story is told. It’s a wonderful story, with just the right level of complexity for a child and with minor details linking the artwork with the storyline that make a big difference in the end. Notice the little girl who stayed up late on Christmas Eve and met Santa, and see that she is missing a button, just like the doll that the elf thought was somehow imperfect. That is a hidden lesson in the story I hope every little boy and girl learns – something can seem defective, broken or incomplete, but still be perfect. That detail alone makes this a sweet, sincere, and endearing little story and it’s sure to send any little boy or girl to a happy dreamland when it’s read to them at bedtime this holiday season. Reviewed by John Cloutman

Twas the Night Before Christmas By Clement Clarke Moore Accord, $17.99, 28 pages The classic Christmas poem ’Twas the Night Before Christmas gets a new life in this beautiful AniMotion edition. The story has been illustrated by Jon Goodell, but hidden within these warm and cheery pictures are AniMotion windows, which literally bring the story to life, causing stars to twinkle, sugar plums to dance, and Santa’s jolly belly to literally shake “like a bowlful of jelly.” This lovely book could be a perfect holiday gift for a special child: an amazing edition of a timeless story. Reviewed by Holly Scudero UNDER, con’t from page 2 Stephen King conceived this book, originally titled Cannibals, early on his career, but was never satisfied with the story. Now he has delivered the weighty tome of Under the Dome, where lines will be drawn, sides declared, alliances forged, and enemies and allies made. Many people will die – which is no surprise for a King novel – but the wild thrill ride will keep you addictively reading, aching to find out how it all ends. Reviewed by Alex C. Telander

Last month, we gave away 20 books. Have you entered to win?

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New Clothes for New Year’s Day By Hyun-Jun Bae Kane/Miller, $15.95, 32 pages How does a little Korean girl welcome a New Year? What does it mean to her? A New Year means a new day, a new morning and the first day for the beginning of everything. The little girl, dressed in a white nightgown, looks out of her window. The front yard landscape is white, covered with snow. She is ready for this new day. Her new set of attire, complete from head to toe, is ready for her to put on. She has been waiting for this moment, long enough to know what she has to do to put the pieces together. All little girls who like to dress up and be fancy would truly enjoy this book. Bae has displayed her specialty in oriental painting. In some pages, she laid out beautiful pastel wallpaper with various prints that highlight each subject very harmoniously. The choice of colors and its contrast is all elaborated to a great detail. In a couple of last pages, Bae also includes reference pages to explain the significance and details of the costume. It is an easy and delightful reading for the young ones at home or in class. Reviewed by Sophie M.

they eat harmful insects. White-tailed deer, however, roam around and munch on the tender branches in early spring. In the last pages of the book, Obed explains how the farmers keep the deer out in an eco-friendly way. Finally in December comes the familiar holiday harvest enjoyed by farmers and families. Anne Hunter paints a very picturesque and serene view of both distant and close-up scenes. This book is definitely great for read-aloud or alone, for young and old. Reviewed by Sophie M.

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STUFF, con’t from page 4 working on the installation of a security system for a company called Synco Systems. It seems like the perfect opportunity to earn some much-needed cash. However, there is a slight “catch” in that Moore has to pretend to be the boyfriend of the Synco employee who got him the job and who is having an affair with the company’s president. Meanwhile, the president’s wife wants the boys to do some snooping and give her the details of the affair. Complications ensue, as they so often do. The problem with Stuff to Spy For is that neither the complications nor Lessor and Moore are all that interesting, involving, or funny. Bruns just doesn’t supply enough juice to power the plot or the characters. Lessor and Moore don’t come to life and seem to be just pale versions of more memorable buddy combinations like Hap and Leonard in Landsdale’s more colorful and energetic books. I expected Stuff to Spy For to pack a jolt or go off with a bang. Instead, it was just a dud. Reviewed by Doug Robins LOCAL AUTHOR HALCYON: Raised by God Never Told to Lay Down By Michael Holder BookSurge, 15.99, 282 pages Sacramento author Michael Holder has published a supernatural thriller based in the Sacramento area, dealing with a multigenerational occult plot to release a demonic force into the world, a Vatican investigator the eponymous Halcyon, and a Sacramento Sheriff’s officer Hunter Musgrave. Halcyon and Musgrave have to find the human host of the demon Confectororis and his summoner before it is too late for mankind. The action takes place in easily identifiable areas around Sacramento, making it fun for local readers to follow the story as it takes place around town. The story has high points, and some surprises (including the actual identity of Halcyon and his relationship with the church), which make it a pleasant read. It does have some rough edges with dialog and structure that could be smoothed out with either editing or more experience writing. For an initial release, Halcyon is a good book, and leaves enough room for another story about Father Thaddeus Halcyon. Sponsored Review

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Sequential Art Salt Water Taffy: The Truth About Dr. True By Matthew Loux Oni Press, $5.95, 96 pages One of the basic truisms about comics is that they seem to go into more adult areas every year. In the regard, Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny: Volume 1: The Truth About Dr. True is a refreshing break from the norm. Benny finds a bottle in the middle of the woods while his older brother Jack relaxes. The bottle propels the two into a detective story that holds the fate of a seaside at stake, as a local hero’s reputation is tarnished. Adding to the fun is that it also part ghost story, where the ghosts are just ghosts. There is the predictable twist at the end, but the story is about how they get there, and it’s a fun road that explores the history of a local town and the people that inhabit it. It’s a fun little tale (with none of the usual pretensions), and the art is fun to look at (it’s got nice detail to it that is lacking in most children’s comics). It’s definitely worth a read, and a great introduction to comics for children. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim

Refresh, Refresh By Danica Novgorodoff, Benjamin Percy, James Ponsoldt First Second, $17.99, 138 pages Refresh, Refresh is an interesting look at the Iran War. Rather than looking at it from the standard perspective of the soldiers or a soldier’s wife, Refresh, Refresh looks at three boys whose fathers are fighting. Although the fathers are never seen, their shadows are all over the book. The boys don’t do anything that doesn’t involve their fathers, or at least mention of the military. It’s been interesting to hear about how the Iran War affects family, but it really hasn’t been explored in pop culture beyond wives; the children involved are usually glanced over as the camera concentrates on the yelling and the bedroom. Although the boys aren’t exactly children, it is interesting to see something that looks at that perspective, and the book for that alone deserves high praise. That the boys are well-developed characters and that the plot progresses organically with only a few forced segments, make it a great read. This is a great read; it leaves room to talk about it (especially the beating of a soldier by the boys) and is something to which sons of soldiers will probably relate, and probably wish they were these boys. Refresh, Refresh is definitely recommended. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim

Alan Moore By Lance Parkin Pocket Essentials, $12.95, 160 pages Graphic novelist Alan Moore, author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell, is widely heralded as a revolutionary force in the world of comics; he helped to elevate the genre to a literary art, and remains one of its most distinctive voices. Lance Parkin’s Alan Moore, a chatty, casual tour through Moore’s body of work, is a Pocket Essential but would more appropriately be titled “adequate,” filling the interim before better work arrives. Parkin certainly knows his stuff; he also seems to have consulted with Moore, and thanks Moore for reading his manuscript. But it is a slapdash work, filled with fumblingly fanboyish declarations of Moore’s greatness. More useful is the last quarter of the book, a detailed bibliography of Moore’s work minus the commentary. The nature of comic writing means that Moore’s work, which started in 1969, feels scattered to the winds, as he wrote for competing titles and contributed to various storylines; having an annotated list of all his work is immensely helpful. Parkin’s guide is hardly essential or even enjoyable, but it works as an Alan Moore primer, and could help budding Moore fans grasp, if not appreciate, the scope of his work. Reviewed by Ariel E Berg

Vampire Dance By Sergio Bleda Dark Horse, $16.95, 160 pages Before the clean-cut vampires of Twilight and New Moon, there were the vampires of Sergio Bleda. Forget about sprawling homes in the country and going vegan vampirestyle (choosing to eat and drink animal flesh and blood), the vampires in this sequential art piece live in smelly sewers and tiny apartments, and they have no compunction feasting on human flesh and blood-particularly if it’s the flesh and blood of humans who have done evil deeds. Vampire Dance is the English translation compilation of Sergio Bleda’s previously released El Baile del Vampiro (1997) and its prequel Ines 1994 (1999). The plot can easily be summed up as a collection of variations of a love story -- love triangle, unrequited love, love revenge, loving life … you name it, the plot has it. But then, this kind of work does not really identify itself by its story (though it’s quite good). Instead, all its glory can be seen on the graphics and visuals, which are absolutely crazy, stunning and perfect! Forget about the dialogue balloons and just focus on the liberally used black ink as that is what hides and tells (at the same time) the tale that Jacob, Ines and Ana find themselves involved in. Reviewed by Donabel Beltran-Harms

clean air and water, I was a bit surprised at the number of dire warnings reiterated throughout the piece. Olsen had several inspired and techno-savvy suggestions for corporate change but seemed unaware of their cost to the average business. Oddly, several “green” businesses--like Burt’s Bees-were referred to in the “endnotes” but not mentioned in the prose. I must also note that the advance copy I received does not indicate anywhere that it was printed on recycled paper. Olsen’s emphasis on resource conservation is appreciated and admirable, but the book appears to focus on why rather than how green solutions can be plausibly implemented, without generating higher consumer costs. Reviewed by Meredith Greene

Happy at Home, Happy at Work By Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio Broadway, $23.99, 227 pages Authors Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio, best known for their work in helping women take control of their careers, now focus on mothers with their latest book Happy at Work, Happy at Home.

unto a path of home-work balance, with tips on streamlining priorities and getting organized. The book covers almost every working mom issue possible, including knowing your rights in the workplace, care-giving options, and the challenges of getting back into the workplace. The book is empowering, informative and entertaining, smattered with funny true-life stories of working moms. The chapters feature to-do lists, web resources and hints on how break down life and work challenges into manageable nuggets. With blurbs such as “15 Working Mom Mantras” and “Ten Signs that Things Need Readjusting in Your Life,” the book offers every type of working mom a pearl of wisdom or, at the very least, relief that they are not alone in their push-pull demands of being both devoted to their children and work. Reviewed by Auey Santos

Business & Investing Better Green Business By Eric G. Olsen Wharton School Publishing, $36.99, 218 pages The subtitle of this book, Strategy, Methods and Solutions for Environmental Stewardship, provoked my interest; it sounded like a handbook for businesses, filled with tips for employers on reducing waste. As a small-business operator--and personal conservationist--I eagerly sought helpful information betwixt the pages, expecting studies on low-flow toilets, an emphasis on greenbuilding techniques or a campaign for replacing cellulose products with e-paper. However, after reading the book a more pertinent subtitle presented itself: Controversial Business Criticism with Little Practical Application. Knowing that most folks already want

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“Even if we could afford to give up the income and our careers, why would we want to? We love work and believe we are better mothers because of it. Society doesn’t ask men to choose between work and family. Why should we?” The premise is that a happy and fulfilled woman at work will be a happy and fulfilled mother, and that one doesn’t have to choose one role over the other. The chapters steers the working mom

See BUSINESS, page 23

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BUSINESS & INVESTING, cont’d Borrowing Brilliance By David Kord Murray Gotham Books, $26.00, 293 pages There is nothing new in this world—not a thing, not an idea. And yet, paradoxically, we know that there is always something new because we swim in a never-ending stream of inventive fascination where all around us is a construct of seemingly new ideas. The question is, where does it all come from? David Kord Murray, author of Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others, has the answer: Every single one of the new ideas you come upon is borne out of the old ones. Murray reveals that all the new and exciting and workable ideas are actually nothing more than a product of working through many of the old and tired ideas. The skill is in knowing where to look, how to combine and how to morph previous ideas into new and more useful ones. In Borrowing Brilliance, he provides you with a stimulating six-step process that you can apply to generate truly useful and practical ideas. Along each step of the way, he shares numerous colorful examples of how others have done it. He brings a practical approach to the subject of innovation by explaining the common obstacles to creative thinking and how to break repetitive thinking patterns that impede creativity. And, he feeds you with simple but inspiring strategies for unleash-

Religion The Case for God By Karen Armstrong Knopf, $27.95, 406 pages Amid the hubbub about creationism and intelligent design, Karen Armstrong comes forth with The Case for God, which redirects our attention toward a larger issue that subsumes the current creationism debate. Armstrong asserts that modern brands of monotheism, especially Christianity, have succumbed to a scientific approach to the sacred. For example, modern believers and fundamentalists rely on scripture to prove doctrinal points and defend creationism in much the same way scientists rely on research and data to prove their theories. Moreover, modern religion is flawed partly because it claims certainty of who God is and what God wants— another inheritance from modernity’s scientific approach to knowledge. Ultimate-

ing your creative mind to get your creative juices flowing. While providing the tools to borrowing brilliance, Murray weaves his own dramatic story of how he rebuilt his life and career using the techniques in the book. His engaging voice and his personal journey, combined with the copious research he conducted on the origins of creativity, make for an entertaining read. Borrowing Brilliance is a fresh and timely book that will help you win in the art of inventively constructing new ideas that you can put to good use today. Reviewed by Dominique James No Size Fits All By Tom Hayes & Michael S. Malone Penguin/Portfolio, $25.96, 259 pages If you are trying to sell a product or a service, you know you will be confronted with two of the most obvious options in letting people know about it: first is through the traditional media which includes print, radio and television, or, the new media which runs the gamut of everything on the Internet—word search, SEO, social media, blog, etc. But, how do you know which of these options that’s available to you will really work? How do you figure out which ones will yield returns? These are the questions that authors Tom Hayes and Michael S. Malone answer in their intriguing new book, No Size Fits All: From Mass Marketing to Mass Handselling. They assert that, to be really effective nowadays, one must return to “handselling writ large.”

ly, Armstrong finds that very “certainty” a crushing liability to one’s search for God. Armstrong argues for recapturing a more ancient, mythological sense of religious experience, when God was more mysterious and unknowable, worship more ecstatic, and spiritual connections more moving. The mysterious and incomprehensible God inspired awe and commitment, and such a view of the sacred depended not on belief in this or that doctrine but on holy ritual and compassionate action. The Case for God is simultaneously a chronological discussion of Western thought and culture. It is not necessarily a light read, but it is worth the work. Even if one’s own religious convictions lie within what Armstrong deems the questionable realm of modernity, the reader can benefit greatly from her solid research and astute observations, which respectfully challenge recent tradition and potentially refine one’s own convictions. Reviewed by Suzanne Christensen

What does this mean and what’s a marketer to do? Businesses must find and cultivate the right online societies, gradually winning their trust, earning their loyalty, and heeding their feedback. The key, according to Hayes and Malone, is to take a “no size fits all” approach: bottom-up instead of top-down, personal rather than public, subtle rather than full frontal. Once a marketer has been accepted by a group of people, the members will expect to receive rich benefits that will then motivate them to spread the word. In short, “marketing is now membership.” To illustrate this point, the authors draw on a number of case studies—from Tila Tequila to Nintiendo’s Wii to the Ron Paul presidential campaign—to show how the smartest players are already navigating the new world of marketing. They also cite examples from Apple, Google, and other tech giants who are thriving today. They offer guides to the paradoxes of today’s world: simultaneously global and personal, vast and small, open and private, futuristic and oldfashioned. If you want to understand the whys and wherefores of reaching out to and targeting the right groups among the more than 2 billion people online, it will do you a lot of good to study Hayes and Malone’s No Size Fits All. Reviewed by Auey Santos The Pursuit of Something Better By Dave Esler and Myra Kruger Esler Kruger Associates, $15.95, 276 pages David Esler and Myra Kruger’s The Pursuit of Something Better is a two-in-one story. It is a story of the transformation of U.S. Cellular, a mid-sized wireless telecommunications provider, from a thoroughly ordinary

Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI By Tracey Rowland Oxford University Press, $17.95, 232 pages With the election of Benedict XVI many people believed he would move the Church in a different direction than John Paul II, and attempt to undo the reforms of Vatican II. Tracey Rowland delves beyond the surface and gives us a portrait of a man who is not that different from John Paul II, he just arrives at his conclusions in a different philosophical way. In Ratzinger’s Faith, Rowland looks at theology of Benedict XVI and his place in the post-Vatican II Church. Rowland finds that while Benedict XVI might be considered a bit more conservative than John Paul II, the changes that Benedict XVI would bring to the Church would not be that radical.

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company (ranked 8th in its industry and in danger of extinction) into an organization that is loved by customers and employees alike, and proved to be a winner. It is also a story of Jack Rooney, the unconventional CEO who had the vision to see the limitations of the traditional business model a decade before it imploded, and the courage to replace it with something much, much better. “The company’s success demonstrates convincingly what we have long known: that there is a better way; that bigger, better, and more lasting results can be achieved by overturning some of the most sacred tenets of the conventional business model; that putting people first works best; and that anyone with the will and the heart can do it.” What’s really impressive about these intrinsically woven stories is how the transformation took place. U.S. Celluar focused on the “soft stuff” so often discredited by conventional business wisdom: values and heart; inspirational and empowering leadership; motivation by values, not fear; ethics and integrity and an insistence on always doing the right thing. Most of all, U.S. Cellular thrived by obsessively putting the customer, and the quality of the customer experience, first. Though this is about a company and its big boss that you may not know about (after See PURSUIT, page 31

This is a book for students of theology, or religious studies, or scholars. It gets technical in examining the many different schools of thought in the Vatican II era, from Thomists and Neo-Thomists to Radical Orthodoxy. Without a solid foundation in religious studies it is difficult to follow all these different schools and their arguments. The complexity does not take away the brilliance of this work. Rowland is able to follow all the different schools and present their beliefs in a readable fashion, so one can follow the debates at Vatican II and not get lost. With this book people will be able to understand Benedict XVI as someone more than just the “guard dog of the Church.” Reviewed by Kevin Winter

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Reference Mac OS X Snow Leopard: The Missing Manual By David Pogue O’Reilly, $34.99, 886 pages Although software manuals seem like the complete antidote to controversy or enthusiasm, the author is not a typical technical writer. David Pogue’s increasing prominence and influence is starting to get him in trouble when he expresses opinions in periodicals about Macs and PCs. “The real snow leopard is an endangered species, native to Cental Asia. It has no larynx and so it can’t roar. It can kill animals three times its size. Insert your own operating system metaphor here.” Mac users are typically suspicious about operating system upgrades like Snow Leopard that result in all G4 and G5 machines losing technical support and can be wary of writers like Pogue who trumpet the change as a big improvement. A recent dustup in The New York Times forced an editorial clarification about his multiple status as a product reviewer, writer of computer guides and quotable computer pundit. Nonetheless, Pogue is eminently qualified to lead both computer novices and seasoned users around the new features of the latest Mac operating system, even if he sometimes seems a bit too enthusiastic about some of the latest improvements. Pogue makes up for it somewhat by being so readable. Although it seems to nearly outweigh a MacBook, Pogue’s book is extremely user friendly, and goes way beyond operating system questions to explain basics of the fifty pieces of bundled free software that come with Snow Leopard, as well as explanations of online Apple services like MobileMe. The book does not shortchange arcane subjects like networking with PCs, using Unix commands and utilities, debugging permissions, or troubleshooting web connections. It genuinely seems to have something for everyone who buys an Intel Mac. Reviewed by Richard Tolmach Doug Box’s Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers By Doug Box Amherst Media, $34.95, 126 pages If you are a budding photographer who has been struggling to get people to look right by posing them right in pictures, Doug Box’s instructional Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers might just offer you the right information to get you started in the right direction.

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“There is as much psychology in making great photographs as there is science.” Doug Box attempts to guide you step by step through the process he uses in trying to make subjects look their best from head to toe. Included are techniques for posing both individual subjects and groups, on location or in the studio, as well as tips for working with kids. The visually intensive approach (read: lots of pictures) makes this book a reference to see what works and what doesn’t, which readers can judge on their own, and allowing them to quickly adopt portrait poses that will hopefully work. This book is about: understanding the goals of posing and why good posing is critical to the success of portraits, posing the face for a flattering view and getting great expressions from subjects, matching the pose to the portrait length, tips for posing the hands to look natural and relaxed, techniques for designing effective group portraits, making lighting and posing work together seamlessly, choosing the best focal length and camera height for each pose, establishing good communication with each of the subjects, using activity-based posing to enliven the images, corrective posing techniques for addressing concerns your subject may have about appearances. You will surely gain more understanding and learn a thing or two about what to do and what not to do when it comes to posing with Doug Box’s Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers. From there, you can evolve and update it to your own style and to today’s standards. Reviewed by Dominique James The Beginner’s Guide to Photographing Nudes By Peter Bilous Amherst Media, $34.95, 126 pages The Beginner’s Guide to Photographing Nudes by Peter Bilous touches on a lot of grounds: understanding the genre of nude photography and the qualities that define them; finding the right models for your images; creating nude images with models of varying experiences and background; ideas for incorporating the features of the location into your images; selecting the right cameras and lenses for the work you want to do; choosing lighting equipment to meet your technical and creative needs; creating a detailed but flexible plan for each session in order to

maximize your results; what to expect at a session from the moment the model arrives; techniques for posing your models and working with them during the session; editing your images and archiving your files; taking the images to the next level with creative tips for lighting, posing, and post-production enhancements; and, ideas for displaying, publishing and sharing your images. What is not discussed in the book, though, is how you can make the most out of your creative approach, technique, and style as an artistic or cutting-edge photographer. “Shooting the nude female form inspired me like no other subject ever had.” As you will most likely discover, the greatest pitfall of shooting nude is in coming up with nothing more than common, typical and ordinary images of people without their clothes on. If you are not in touch with today’s modern outlook in terms of taste, style, creativity and the art of nude photography, or if you lack an expansive view or a classical view of nude imagery, you can be quickly left behind along with the rest of the unimaginative photographers. For those without experience who are interested in exploring the art of nude photography for the first time, Peter Bilous’ The Beginner’s Guide to Photographing Nudes might just prove to be an eye-opener on how the process works from start to finish. But in order for you to succeed as a photographer of the nude human form, it’s up to your sense and sensibility to lift yourself and your photographs from out of it and out of there. Reviewed by Dominique James The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You: iPhone Photography by Chase Jarvis By Chase Jarvis New Riders, $19.99, 246 pages Who could have imagined that, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs officially unveiled the iPhone on January 9, 2007, it would turn out to be a mobile device so imaginative that it would eventually challenge numerous notions of what pocketable gear is and what it can do? As we know now, it ended up revolutionizing the mobile phone industry and the computer industry, among others. And then, as people got into the habit of using the iPhone for any number of reasons (you know, there’s an app for that!), that it would also, in no small measure, somewhat “revolutionize” photography as well. We see an example of such “minor” revolution in Chase Jarvis’ mini photo book, The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You.

“Inherently, we all know that an image isn’t measured by its resolution, dynamic range, or anything technical. It’s measured by the simple--sometimes profound, other times absurd or humorous or whimsical--effect that it can have upon us. If you can see it, it can move you.” This book is a collection of Jarvis’ artful and artsy pictures taken with the iPhone’s puny 2- and 3-megapixel camera over a period of about a year, all edited to its final visual construct from within the iPhone itself using nothing more than a number of 3rd-party applications (or apps) such as Photogene, CameraBag, TiltShift, among others, and then uploaded to the Internet directly from the iPhone. One way of looking at it is that, in a Photoshop-crazy world, Photoshop was actually “not harmed in any way” in the making of any one of the photos in this book. And in a sense, Jarvis somehow legitimizes the idea that great images can come from any camera, even that of a mobile phone. The subjects of the pictures in the book are varied—airports, beverages, bodies of water, cars, chickens, humans, road signs, school buses, shoes, traffic cones, and words—serving as a “sketchbook” of a visual world revealing in some ways how Jarvis as a photographer absorbs and process the visual information that’s all around him. But you don’t have to just pick up and admire Jarvis’ photographs. You can participate in the creative process. This book simply is a part of an “ecosystem” that feeds upon a multimedia/multi-platform advantage: a new app with the same name as the book that iPhone users can buy from iTunes, and which they can then share through an online community (again, with the same name). All in all, this book, whether a part or not of an “ecosystem,” is a very clever idea. Reviewed by Dominique James The Photographer’s Eye Field Guide By Michael Freeman Focal Press, $19.95, 192 pages If you are the type who packs a “photography” travel bag whenever you venture a mile or more away from home, there is one pocket-sized guidebook that you shouldn’t be without—Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye Field Guide: The Essential Handbook for Traveling with Your Digital SLR Camera. Though small in size, this book is big one two things: All the essential information you need to know about doing photography wherever you may happen to find yourself in the world, and, See REFERENCE, page 25

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REFERENCE, con’t from page 24 helping you get inspired with a number of lush photographic ideas and examples. The book is conveniently organized into six logical sections: Preparation, On the Road, Appreciating Light, Subjects, Themes, and Reference. These sections, written in a direct, easy-to-understand format, will help you prepare for the trip, provide invaluable practical advice for when you’re traveling, and offer, through superb illustrative images by one of the world’s most respected travel photographers, masterful guidance on how, what and when to photograph. “The broad idea of travel has a long and intimate relationship with the camera.” With The Photographer’s Eye Field Guide by Freeman, the aim is for you to be armed with practical and applicable knowledge as well as a creative frame of mind when confronted with the striking beauty of the world that is all around us. When you want to shoot images of people on location or create scenic landscapes, The Photographer’s Eye Field Guide is a useful, practical and inspiring pocketable reference. Reviewed by Dominique James

The Book of Inkscape By Dmitry Kirsanov No Starch Press, $44.95, 448 pages Inkscape is a powerful open source SVGbased vector-based graphics editor that competes with expensive drawing programs like Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw. And yes, it’s free. If you are a graphics professional or even someone who’s merely interested in being able to create graphic arts, Dmitry Kirsanov’s The Book Of Inkscape: The Definitive Guide To The Free Graphics Editor is for you. “A vector editor is not yet a standard accessory of a computer in the same way a bitmap editor like Photoshop is, but it’s getting there--and Inkscape has been a major part of this ‘vector revolution.’” In The Book Of Inkscape, core Inkscape developer Dmitry Kirsanov shares his design experience and knowledge of Inkscape’s inner workings as he walks you through the basics of using the program: drawing, working with objects, transformations and styling, adding text and shapes, and more. Kirsanov couples his detailed explanations with step-by-step tutorials that show you how to create business

cards, animations, and technical and artistic drawings. In addition to the basics, you will learn how to: navigate the canvas and customize your workspace and views; create new objects and then transform, style, clone, and combine them; use drawing tools, strokes, and Bézier curves; use gradients, patterns, filters, and path effects to liven up your work; use the XML Editor to view and manipulate the structure of your artwork; work with layers, groups, object order, and locks to control your images; and export your artwork to various formats. This practical guide will show you how to harness Inkscape’s powerful features to produce anything from a child’s doodle to highend, professional design projects. With this book, you can go ahead and draw something fun or awesome, or hopefully, both. Reviewed by Dominique James

portraits. Tamara Lackey shows us how to do it right. All levels of photographers who wish to break into the children’s photography market can benefit from this book, as Lackey covers the basics of portrait photography, the psychology of dealing with children and delivering killer shots that sell big.

The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography By Tamara Lackey Amherst Media, $34.95, 125 pages Photographer and author Tamara Lackey offers fresh insights and solid know-how in her book, Children’s Portrait Photography. Gone are the days of Little Lord Fauntleroy pants and painted backdrops and murals. Today’s trend in children and family photography is relaxed, expressive and natural. Parents see it in glossy magazines and envision their children in these modern

Filled with beautiful images from Lackey’s own portfolio, the book is a great lookbook for children’s portraits. A noteworthy chapter in the book contains Lackey’s refreshing honesty about the mistakes she made in the early years of her business. Written in easy conversational style, any photographer can feel her pain, share in her triumphs and learn from her photography business anecdotes. Pick it up for giant dab of inspiration. Reviewed by Auey Santos

“Part of what you take on by working in a clearly creative profession is the energy of the subjects with whom you connect through these portrait sessions. It is arguable that the more tuned-in you are to your subject’s feelings and reactions, even the most subtle nuances, the better you will be as a photographer. “

Justina Robson Chasing the Dragon Robson's novels have been noted for sharply-drawn characters, and an intelligent and deeply thought-out approach to the tropes of the genre. She has been described as "one of the very best of the new British hard SF writers." Living Next-Door to the God of Love is a loose sequel to Natural History, inasmuch as it is set in the same universe. Keeping It Real marks the beginning of a series, the Quantum Gravity Books.

Chuck Fischer Angels

Author Interview podcasts.

Frank Portman Andromeda Klein Frank Portman (better known by the pseudonym Dr. Frank) is an American musician, singer, guitarist, and author. He is the singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the Berkeley, California, punk rock band The Mr. T Experience, and has remained the only consistent member of the band since its formation in 1985, performing on ten studio albums and five EPs. He has also recorded and performed as a solo artist, releasing the album Show Business is My Life in 1999 and the EP Eight Little Songs in 2003. In recent years he has pursued a writing career in young adult literature, authoring the novels King Dork (2006) and Andromeda Klein (2009).

Chuck Fischer’s paintings hang in some of the finest residences in the world. His designs have been reproduced on holiday ornaments and home furnishings, including on wallpaper and fabrics in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. He is the author of five previous pop-up books—The White House, Great American Houses and Gardens, Christmas in New York, Christmas Around the World, and In the Beginning. He lives in New York and Florida.

Travel Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing By Tony Wheeler Lonely Planet, $14.99, 271 pages The Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing serves up slices of the travel life that are seemingly chosen for their brevity, universal themes, lessons learned and engrossing exposition. Well-published authors share the requisite vignettes, unhindered by theme or geographic region; this is simply “the best.” Interested readers will want to note, however, the type of trip that Lonely Planet ascribes to: although there is mention of favorites such as Paris and Prague, Lonely Planet, in general, features the proverbial “road less traveled.” The subtleties of travel writing are apparent here, so connoisseurs of travel essays won’t be disappointed, but Lonely Planet tends to dig deeper and be willing to confront the sometimes darker side of travel. Not to be missed is Miles Roddis’ hilarious account of a pick pocketing in the heart of Africa, and Alana Semuels’ account of the marriage between a Peace Corps worker and an Ecuadorian famer, complete with a suburban American family and the gift of a pig to the in-laws. Reviewed by Allena Tapia City of Gold By Jim Krane St. Martin’s Press, $27.99, 368 pages Americans have a skewed view of the Middle East. It’s very far away and the cultures throughout the countries that make up this part of the world are very different from our own. Add to that the fact that, for many of the last 30 years, the United States has been in conflict of some sort with a Middle Eastern country, and it seems understandable that many of us really have no idea what to think about the Middle East. Unfortunately, it isn’t just familiarity that breeds contempt; ignorance often plays a role. Fortunately, there are people working to inform us truthfully about these locations that are too often soiled in the media by their location, religion, or proximity to other nations. Jim Krane is one of these people, and in his book City of Gold, he demystifies one of the Middle East’s most famous cities and anomalies: Dubai.

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In City of Gold, Krane traces Dubai’s growth from a small village in harsh desert conditions to one of the richest, most metropolitan cities in the world. City of Gold provides information about the tribal history of Dubai as well as the last 50 years of the country’s history—a period which has brought immense change and made Dubai the vibrant, complex and exciting city that it is today. Reviewed by Ashley McCall Hawaii (Regional Guide) By Jeff Campbell et al. Lonely Planet, $21.99, 616 pages “Aloha!” “How you stay?” Before you answer this question, throw a copy of Hawaii into your daypack. You’ll be glad you did. “Never let it be said that ancient Hawaiians didn’t know how to play... Wave sliding, or surfing, was integral to society; then as now, when surf was up, everyone left the taro fields to grab the biggest waves.” As with other Lonely Planet books, Hawaii offers ideas for the active traveler, the person who shudders at the thought of being called “tourist.” The book begins with the region’s rich history and continues with cultural insights including lifestyle, economy, religion, and more. Once you’ve started thinking like a local, the real fun begins: food and adventure. You must ask: What other guidebook would include a section dedicated to “Hawaii’s Locavore Movement”? Or one focused on “Vegetarians & Vegans”? And for those seeking Hawaii for adventure, you’ll find outdoor activities aplenty: kayaking, hiking, caving, surfing, and more. You’ll also find nightlife suggestions, and even a list of popular bands. You’ll find the best bookstores, coffee shops, local crafts, and the best eats. When considering lodging, the guide lists bargains as well as the occasional splurge. If you want to see more than the beaches of Hawaii, and perhaps try your hand at speaking with the locals, pack along the Lonely Planet guidebook. Reviewed by Amber K. Stott

Extreme Cuisine: Exotic Tastes From Around the World By Lonley Planet Publications Lonely Planet, $9.99, 136 pages

Some books are meant to be read for knowledge; others for entertainment. Extreme Cuisine certainly falls into the latter category. It’s the type of book you might buy for your teenage son to occupy his time on a car trip. In fact, I’m not sure how many readers will be able to stomach the content. In addition to the vividly horrific photographs (slimy concoctions, wiggly worms, pigs faces), the unappetizing text confirms that this is not meant as a cookbook: “A fetid flavour is guaranteed if the intestines weren’t cleaned well,” or, “Assuming you don’t have issues with slimy textures and phallic shapes at dinner time, then sea cucumber is a pleasure to eat.” Extreme Cuisine is a tiny guidebook to the world’s most exotic fare. But by “exotic,” they really mean “absurd.” They’ve included bull penis, popular in Asia; fish sperm, a delicacy in Japan; cow udder, enjoyed in Italy; and of course, lime green Jell-O salad, an American favorite. (A link to this recipe is included—taking the reader directly to a Sacramento-blogger’s website). Each food comes complete with a full-color image to help produce nausea. I don’t recommend reading this on either an empty or a full stomach. “Even less attractive than natto itself is having to watch someone eat it, so do it at home. Otherwise, you risk looking like a swamp thing with strings of natto slime attached to your lips, stretching and contracting with each bite.” Perhaps most unappetizing are the ethical issues tied to some of this bizarre food, such as the poison fish, fugu, known to cause death to those who eat it if not properly prepared; or the animals that must suffer to produce it, such as foie gras. Then again, this thankfully wasn’t meant as a cookbook; just a close-up look at the weird world of food. In fact, since the fine folks at Lonely Planet produced this unsavory morsel, you might consider picking it up as a guide for what not to eat on your travels. The book explains what each featured food actually is, where you’ll find it, how it “works,” and what sort of food experience you can expect. The next time you find yourself in Peru being offered a guinea pig sandwich this book might save you from an awkward lunch! The author best describes what it takes to dine on such cuisine, “Some people consider themselves gustatorily liberal, but when push comes to shove, or when eggs over easy become balut, these eaters curl up into a foetal position…” Packed with humor, Extreme Cuisine doesn’t take itself too seriously. “So if you think you might enjoy the taste of an oversized rat with a hint of turkey flavour, gobble up a nutria.” Bon Appetite, if you dare! Revieed by Amber K. Stott

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Science & Nature Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day By Diane Ackerman WW Norton and Co., $24.95, 240 pages Diane Ackerman’s essays take your breath away. They make you stop everything and sit in wonder. With simple assessable poetic prose she observes and gives voice to natural wonders…like snails, dew, sunrise, cattails, cranes in flight. The book’s personal meditations average 1500 words each (about 5 small nicely spaced pages) and they are arranged according to the seasons, about 10 or 15 essays for each. The book is so rich that I took it in a little at a time, reading an essay every day or so, savoring the images and insights. After reading, I usually felt prompted to get outside and look around, to pay finer attention to what happens moment by moment outdoors in my own neighborhood, parking lot, or garden. Ackerman’s most compelling quality is that of focused attention. With this focus she examines nature up close (bees in hives, moss on trees) and from this peering in nature’s window she finds perspective about life’s intimate truths. In a lovely piece describing a spider spinning her web, we learn about spiders in general and in particular, spiders that went on space missions, and how spider web spinning changes when weavers are given various drugs. Then a sweet commentary on how the web of the young spider shows the energetic excess of youth in extra layers of webbing. More mature spiders, we learn, spin better webs with fewer strands, using their energy more efficiently. “Dawn Light” is not just poetry and inspiration; it is also full of interesting facts astronomical, nautical, civil and biological. And passion: earth loving, sky scraping, life hugging, and wisdom seeking, celebratory passion. Reviewed by Marcia Jo Whole Earth Discipline By Stewart Brand Viking Adult, $25.95, 325 pages While many make a lot of noise about the green movement, Stewart Brand makes a bold statement that simply cannot be ignored. His discussion about the world’s carrying capacity is disturbingly fascinating and right on target. He points to a rather scary scenario for various systems reaching their capacity threshold and changing forever, and forever changing the landscape on earth. He sees millions of

species lost, and large landlocked ice shelves sliding into the ocean, increasing water levels by 16 feet or more. Stewart Brand has orchestrated a diverse approach to understand the environmental predicament we find ourselves in. He accomplishes this with a unique and resourceful embodiment of knowledge reaching out to a distinguished group of thinkers who have established authority in their own realm. Together, Brand points the way to understanding. We must become benevolent ecosystem engineers. We must be like earthworms, terra forming the planet for its future sustainability. We must be like the birds and the bees, pollinating the earth for prosperity. His work is a breath of fresh air. If we are to enjoy that air in future generations, we better wake up and see what we have done and find ways to fix it. Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky The Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities: An Unconventional Compendium of Health Facts and Oddities from Asthmatic Mice to Plants That Can Kill By Nicholas Bakalar Henry Holt, $15.00, 225 pages Well, this is fun: here’s a book for anyone with an inquisitive mind about all things medical or, alternatively, a burning desire to ace a category on a Jeopardy quiz show. Bakalar covers everything from murder sprees by doctors to why sweat stinks to downright delectable descriptions of Ebola disease and Lassa fever. For an “addictive collection of trivia,” as the publisher describes it, the book is extremely well-researched and accurate, with rare exceptions (at one point he states: “creatinine levels indicate whether your electrolytes are in balance.” Close, but not exactly). This is all aimed at the general reader, and the explanations are blessedly clear, even on such esoteric topics as knockout mice and glycogen storage diseases. The style ranges from pretty damned clever to mildly corny, but overall this is an enjoyable browser book: it can be read cover to cover in a short time, but it’s probably best to take the author’s advice and just “flip from page to page at random.” Or better yet, check out the index and pick your poison (and yes, there’s a section on that as well). Reviewed by James Vasser, MD

Green Metropolis

By David Owen Riverhead Hardcover, $25.95, 368 pages Green Metropolis is well written, thoughtfully researched, and passionately argued. It is also obscenely pretentious, patronizing, and a supreme example of pointy-headed thinkers taking their idealist precepts to intrusive and kooky levels. Mr. Owen’s thesis is this: big cities, instead of being the hell-holes of pollution and environmental apocalypse that we all assume them to be, are actually less of a strain on the environment than we’ve been led to believe. According to Mr. Owen, residents of cities like New York City – and, in particular, Manhattan – use less energy, throw away less trash, and drive much less (if at all) compared to their wasteful, commuting, SUV-driving, water-consuming-yard owning, great-big-house buying relatives in the suburbs. So, according to Mr. Owen, we should strive to become more like Manhattan – less suburban and much, much more urban. Sounds eminently reasonable, doesn’t it? Not a bad idea at all, right? That is, until you start getting into the nitty gritty of Mr. Owen’s arguments. For instance, try this quote on for size: “A sensitive person’s first reaction to the mounting evidence that Americans, especially young Americans, may be losing interest in directly experiencing the natural world is likely to be one of regret and loss, or even despair. But is it necessarily a bad thing, globally speaking? It seems perverse to say so, but sitting indoors playing video games is easier on the environment than any number of (formerly) popular outdoor recreational activities…In the end, it may not be a bad thing for the earth or for the human race if increasing numbers of Americans would rather watch our shrunken wilderness on TV than fly to it in an airplane and drive across it on a motorbike.” If this were satire, it would be hilariously funny. But it isn’t. Mr. Owen’s solution to the waste and degradation of natural resources is to “live closer”: screw backyards and camping and rural living. We don’t need that stuff. Kids just want to stay in and play video games anyway. What about our rapacious use of oil and other energy sources? Easy – live in smaller houses, closer together. In other words, forget your selfish ideal of living in a house in a pleasant rural area with more than 1.34 children and room to grow. You’re killing the world as we know it if you even consider it. Mr. Owen’s arguments are interesting and appealing, but only in a world populated by individuals who are perfectly willing to let someone else decide where and how we should live, how many children we should have, and how and what we should eat. The overwhelming majority of Americans bucks against this sort of highhandedness, and thank goodness for that. The concepts he puts forward are definitely worth considering – it’s his solutions that are problematic. America has always been about the search and discovery of more solutions, not fewer. Let’s hope that Mr. Owen’s dream of a greener America doesn’t end up being constrained by this horrendous vision of one big, brave, urban new world. Reviewed by Michelle Kerns

FIVE, con’t from page 5 David Bosco gives the reader the story of the Security Council from the point of view of the Big Five--How the relations of the Big Five affected how the Council worked, from the early days, through the height of the Cold War to the fall of Soviet Russia and the rise of transnational threats. Bosco uses a United States-British point of view of the Council, briefly bringing in the other voices. He admits this at the end--that drawbacks include a combination of lack of archival access and a language barrier. While the book is good for students early on in their

education or a reader wanting to know more, there is a lack of discussion about how the Security Council interacted with other bodies in the UN besides the General Assembly and how formal treaties came to be, with or without approval from the Big Five. Reviewed by Kevin Winter

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December 09 27

Sports & Outdoors K2 Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain By Ed Viesturs; David Roberts Crown, $25.00, 342 pages Ed Viesturs brings K2 to life in his monumental book, K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain. No doubt, the ascent of the world’s second tallest mountain must be a triumph that boggles the imagination. According to Viesturs, there is a big price to pay to bask in the horror of conquering K2. The contents, which includes seven chapters, covers: 1) The Motivator, 2) Decision, 3) Breakthrough, 4) The Great Mystery, 5) Brotherhood, 6) The Price of Conquest and 7) The Dangerous Summer. Within these, he chronicles the six most dangerous seasons in the mountain’s history from 1938 to 2008. He walks us through all the danger zones with brilliant, clear language complemented with dazzling photographic images.

The breathtaking vistas, captured in photography throughout the book, only add to the descriptive details this work enjoys. Clear sketches of the mountain’s majesty adorn the content on both ends of the book, adding to the depth of the imagery created by his account of the adventure of a lifetime. Rich with adventure, the author entertains the reader with awe. He draws upon adventures of the greatest climbers such as Rheinhold Messner, Edmund Hillary and countless others to embroider his tale. Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky

Wilderness Survival for Dummies By John Haslett, Cameron Smith Wiley, $19.99, 462 pages The “For Dummies” series of books has been a wildly successful franchise since its debut in the early 90s. The books are topical, step-by-step instructional guides geared towards the layperson that claim to “make everything easier” – and largely succeed. Wilderness Survival For Dummies is the latest in the series, proving that if there is enough of a niche market, then a “For Dummies” guide is certain to follow. “We wrote this book with sympathy for both - those involved in exotic adventures and those who just got a little turnedaround while taking pictures.”

Like the other books in the franchise, Wilderness Survival For Dummies is written by people with impressive credentials; John Haslett is an expedition leader and adventure writer, and Cameron Smith is an archaeologist who has journeyed to the Arctic. They have encountered tough situations in which survival depended upon keeping their wits, and impart that knowledge to the reader in a friendly, easy-to-read tome that generously incorporates illustrations, diagrams, and charts with practical advice on everything from making fire and building shelter to carving bones into tools and identifying which berries and insects are safe to eat. Wilderness Survival For Dummies is one of those books that you hope you’ll never need, and yet if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself in a life or death situation, will be thankful you read. Reviewed by Mark Petruska

Art, Architecture & Photography SOM: Architecture of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1997-2008 By Introduction by Kenneth Frampton The Monacelli Press, $40.00, 264 pages Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is an American architectural powerhouse. It was founded in 1936. Today, with nine offices all over the world, it is one of the largest and most influential firms in the United States and elsewhere. SOM: Architecture of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1997-2008, with an introduction by noted architectural critic, Kenneth Frampton, who contextualized the importance of SOM’s contribution to global architecture, is the fifth in a five-volume monograph that surveys six decades of the most iconic building projects designed by the firm. “In an era of true globalization in design and commerce, SOM has come to occupy a unique place in American and international architecture.” This fifth volume covers more than thirty of the firm’s recent built works. Among the buildings presented is 7 World Trade Center, the first structure built at Ground Zero after September 11, 2001. Other major projects include the Time Warner Center in New York, the Northwest Science Building at Harvard University, the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, and a portfolio of airports from New York to Singapore. Together, the five books, a monumental

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publishing event by The Monacelli Press and the Partners of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), offer a near-complete history of the firm’s work from its recognizable buildings of the 1950s through to exceptional current projects. Each is generously illustrated with archival and new color images, site and building plans, and drawings. The first three volumes are reprints of the original editions published by Verlag Gerd Hatje in 1963, 1974, and 1984, while the final two volumes (which includes this one, the fifth) are newly compiled with materials from the past 25 years. The acclaimed modern aesthetics of the first three volumes’ graphic presentation has been updated for the new books, and all the covers have been redesigned to create a consistent set. The five SOM monographs, taken as a whole, or even individually, constitute one of the most amazing and authoritative references on modern-day international architecture, as seen from the prism of the firm’s undeniably stellar achievements and influence. Reviewed by Dominique James Dan Kiley: Landscapes The Poetry of Space By Reuben M. Rainey and Marc Treib William Stout Publishers, $37.50, 157 pages This exploration of designs from landscape architect Dan Kiley is filled with photographs, diagrams, essays, lectures and even a panel discussion that includes the designer himself. The span of his award-winning work ranges from private residences to enormous urban spaces that include Dulles Airport, the Oakland Museum and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library. Most

of these are pictured and accompanied by astute text that describes Kiley’s concept of space and his method of integrating structures with their natural surroundings. Though dry at times, and most definitely intended for the landscape designer or urban planner, there are still some intriguing aspects about this book. Most fascinating is an insightful interview that reveals Kiley’s take on the creative process, the Post Modern movement, and on what he terms “the poetry of space.” Though not your average coffee table book, this would be quite suitable for students of architecture or anyone in the field of environmental design. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats By Bradley Trevor Greive, Photographs by Rachael Hale Andrews McMeel, $19.99, 224 pages Being an animal lover, I was especially anxious to begin reading this book. Based on the title, Why Dogs are Better Than Cats, I thought it would a humorous comparison between the two. The author, Bradley Trevor Greive, said the book is more about his love of dogs than his hatred of cats. I’m not quite sure that point comes across successfully, because a lot of the time it seems like he’s busier bashing

cats than he is expressing his love of dogs. I own three cats and one dog and I don’t feel that either species is superior to the other. Cats and dogs have unique characteristics that make them the two most popular pets in the world. “The lesson here is that dogs match up to people, but people must match up to cats.” Greive does make some accurate comparisons, and often does it with a bit of humor. I would like to have read more about why he loves dogs instead of all the reasons he feels cats are inferior. But aside from that, it is a pretty good book. Rachael Hale’s photographs capture the essence of why both species are loved so much throughout the world. Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun Pattern Factory By Ayako Terashima Collins Design, $29.99, 176 pages If the word “pattern” conjures up dull images of pinstripes and polka dots, think again. Fresh from the creative mind of Tokyo-based editor and graphic arts guru Ayako Terashima, Pattern Factory features an inspirational collection of colorful patterns from leading artists and designers from around the world, including Takashi MuSee PATTERN, page 32

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Cooking, Food & Wine

The Silver Spoon for Children: Favourite Italian Recipes By Editors of Phaidon Press Phaidon Press, $19.95, 104 pages I’m no chef. The closest to a culinary experience I’ve had was opening a box of Betty Crocker cookie mix and adding an egg and butter to it. I’ve mastered the timing and baking after many attempts and burned cookies, so the outcome has definitely improved over time. In the current economy, both parents need to work and children like myself do not have the luxury of having home-cooked meals every night. Many may feel sorry for me but it’s unavoidable… Honestly, I hate to admit it but I was growing tired of constant PBJ sandwiches, Mac and cheese and cup noodles until I came across this book. My mom gave it to me and I thank her for it. They say “survival is learning how to cook,” so I was ready to take on the challenge! First of all, let me tell you that any child from age 8 and above will be drawn to The Silver Spoon for Children because of its appealing and colorful illustrations. Aside from providing us the various choices of scrumptious Italian dishes, the recipes are very kid-friendly and easy to do. I appreciate how they provide graphic explanations of how to cut, slice, stir, mix and serve as well as some history behind the dish. Adult supervision and help is needed for some that require baking but overall any kid my age will be able to prepare a hearty gourmet pizza, bruschetta, and pasta dishes that will be a source of pride and joy to any parent. Reviewed by Amber Guno Cloutman Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook Momentum Program Edition By Weight Watchers Wiley, $29.95, 440 pages Weight Watchers is known around the world for its success with helping many people accomplish weight-loss goals and keeping up healthy lifestyles. Weight Watchers also will be releasing a new cookbook for the holidays, titled Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook Momentum Program Edition. The Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook Momentum Program Edition is easy to understand, easy to read and makes dieting seem THAT much easier! One of the nicest things about this resource is how useful it can be, for a wide variety of occasions. Di-

vided up neatly into recipes and nutrition data on breads, marinades, sweets, main courses (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian) and much more, this is a great tool to keep around the kitchen. Whether or not you are looking to lose weight, this book is a treasure trove of information on healthy eating, and offers a nice variety of recipes for everyday use. This is a book I would recommend, both for personal use and as a holiday gift. Reviewed by Susie Kopecky The American Lighthouse Cookbook By Becky Sue Epstein & Ed Jackson Cumberland House, $26.99, 295 pages If you are looking for the perfect gift for someone who loves to cook, travel, and explore the past, this book is the one! Epstein and Jackson present not only the main dishes, but also appetizers, side dishes, dessert, sauces & dips, and drinks to go along with them. The level of difficulty ranges from cooking game to baking cake from the box, or making some simple but delicious drinks. If you think that the meat they use are mainly fish or shellfish, you are missing out: venison, pork, chicken, duck, quail and elk are part of the ingredients. You’ll be surprised that the authors give out lots of vegetables dishes as well. Enough of the chef’s delight; the book also includes some tasty tidbits on the coastline history and tradition, where the sketches of lighthouses add to cozy and romantic feelings. The homemade comfort food covers year-round recipes. The steps are easy to follow, even for beginners; however, I am more of a visual learner. Therefore, if this book included more photographs of the dishes, I would highly recommend getting one! Reviewed by Sophie M. Ace of Cakes: Inside the World of Charm City Cakes By Duff and Willie Goldman Harper Collins, $35.00, 307 pages One thing Duff makes very clear in the beginning of this book is that it is NOT a cookbook or a “how-to” manual. This is a book about the people that make up Charm City Cakes and how they all came to work there. It also talks a lot about the making and filming of Food Network’s Ace of Cakes. There are amazing photographs from the cakes themselves, the bakers, and


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some of the clients. Each baker has their own unique story. Many of them were never chefs but had skills in another field that helped once at the bakery. If you’ve ever watched the show, you hear Duff say “So I hired some of the most talented people I know--my friends”. And he sure has. Most of the people that work there he has known for many years and reading the book makes you feel like you’ve known them just as long. Duff was a devious child who didn’t always have a creative outlet for his art. He tells the story much better than I can, but the message he sends is clear: follow your instincts. They are not just cake decorators, but artists. This would make a great Christmas gift for the fan in your family. Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun

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December 09 29

Children’s Books Wag! By Patrick McDonnell Little, Brown Young Readers, $15.99, 40 pages Wag! is the adorable tale of tails! The question raised in this story is what makes Earl’s tail wag. It wags for tummy rubs, squeaky toys, and friends. But what really makes it wag is love. Patrick McDonnell is the well-known creator of the Mutts comic strip. This book was written out of the love for his own dog, named Earl, and that love shows through. The drawings are adorable and completely appropriate for young readers. One subtle thing I liked about this book was that each page was printed on different colored paper. This a great book for the beginning reader in your family or for a quick bedtime story. Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun A Gift of Days By Stephen Alcorn Atheneum, $28.99, 128 pages I am quite lost at first, trying to match the title of this book: a gift of days: the greatest words to live by with its content. I try to interpret what the author really means by “the greatest words…” Alcorn presents this book as a calendar with daily quotes. Each day is associated with some famous or known individuals, who come from various walks of life and over a long stretch of time. Some of them are famous; their lives and words are courageous, inspiring, and heroic…the rest, however, carry much less weight. In his foreword, Alcorn defended his selection of individuals and their words: “… Inspiration travels in mysterious ways and flows from a seemingly infinite variety of sources, and has a way of striking when one least expect...” Since Alcorn’s target audience is readers from ages 8 and up, some of the selected quotes can be “a gift,” and/or “greatest words to live by” to the young ones; the rest is catered to an older crowd. The same is true for the illustration and selection of the artwork, including the highlighted words; they are both impressive and inspirational. This book will last the readers for quite a lifetime. Reviewed by Sophie M. The Seeing Stick By Jane Yolen Running Press Kids, $16.95, 30 pages Originally published in 1977, The Seeing Stick is a beautifully written and gloriously illustrated tale of a blind girl who learns to

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see the world, not through her eyes, but through the intricate carvings on a seeing stick. Re-introduced with new illustrations, the book features renderings by artist Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, who complements what the blind girl experiences by illustrating the story in shades of gray. When a wise, old man shares his seeing stick of detailed carvings depicting his world around him, the pages burst into color. Award-winning author Jane Yolen sings the story with almost musical language that is still fresh and rich today. “Her fingers, like little breezes,”” Feel the lines in the old man’s face…from years of worry and years of joy.” Attentive to every detail, Yolen named the girl Hwei Ming, which translates into “the lightless moon on the last day of the month” and “becoming luminous.” A rich tale pleasant for the eyes, ears and heart. Reviewed by Susan L. Roberts Skippyjon Jones, Lost in Spice By Judy Schachner Dutton Juvenile, $16.99, 32 pages To read Skippyjon Jones, you need an acquired taste. I suggest that if you are new to this series, this book is not a good one to start with. Though I do understand a little Spanish, the Spanglish conversation can really get in the way. However, lo and behold, my seven-year-old who has no Spanish background, laughed out loud reading this book for the first time. She thinks Skippyjon Jones is a really entertaining book, and would like to read the whole series. Aside from Spanish and Spanglish vocabulary, Schachner also included quite a number of challenging words for youngsters, such as Galactic Zoo, Chihuahua and Martian. I have to not only translate the words from Spanish to English, but also explain new words in the right context. I wonder how Schachner waved her magic wand to attract tireless young readers into Skippyjon’s world. As an adult reading this book for the first time, I don’t get the fun or funny part. But Schachner’s unique illustrations with whimsical characters must somehow help them step into the world of Skippyjon Jones. Reviewed by Sophie M. Monster Sleepover By Scott Beck Abrams Books for Young Readers, $14.95, 32 pages Doris is getting ready for a very special party. She has invited all her friends, and wants to make sure things are just right for

when they arrive. She cleans up the bones in the living room, and sets fire to the leaves outside. Doesn’t sound like your typical party? Well it’s not. Doris is throwing a slumber party for all her monster friends. They play typical games like Simon Says and they also look into the crystal ball. But the best part is staying up past their bedtime, which Vampire really enjoys. This is a cute book perfect for bedtime for your little monster. Scott Beck, author and illustrator, does a great job with the simple pictures and dialogue which makes this book suitable your younger children. Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun Do You Sing Twinkle?: A Story About Remarriage and New Family By Sandra Levins and Bryan Langdo Magination Press, $14.95, 32 pages At a glance, this book looks like most other kids’ books, but when I saw this was about remarriage and how kids (and parents, and stepparents) have to adapt, all of a sudden I was intrigued. The illustration is very nicely done and has an air of early 60’s vintage stylings belied only when the subject matter (like e-mail) deals with the present. The topic is a difficult one, and in my youth I saw a lot of my friends go through some of the emotions described in this book. I think it is handled gracefully here, with tact and composure. Author Sandra Levins shows sensitivity and creativity in describing ways to handle the problems, and I could tell that she had written this in part from her own personal experience. The “Notes to Parents” section in the back of the book is of vital importance. As much as this book is intended to help kids, it also tries to reach parents and stepparents as well. Anyone undergoing this difficult transition could benefit from “Do You Sing Twinkle?” Reviewed by John Cloutman Louise the Big Cheese By Elise Primavera and Diane Goode Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 34 pages Louise Cheese was a small girl who had big dreams. She longed for her mother to be the Brownie troop leader and prayed for her father to be the principal of her school. But Louise knew they did not like the limelight. Louise wanted to be a diva and her motto was to Dream Big! So when her teacher, Mrs. Little, announced that this year’s school play was

going to be Cinderella, Louise wished she could be Cinderella in the play. This was her chance to be a big star—a divine diva. One small problem: Fern her best friend was going to try out to be Cinderella, and she could act and sing beautifully. This was a dilemma for Louise. Louise was very small and was afraid she would get an unimportant part like a mouse—and after all, she had told her parents and Pee Wee her dog that she already got the part of Cinderella. You must pick up this book to find out what happens in this story. This is a book where friendship, jealousy and humor all play their part. Who gets to be Cinderella? Will Louise and Fern stay friends, as they both want to be Cinderella. The competition is tight. Louise does an act of kindness for Fern in this heartwarming story about two friends. This is a great read with an unforgettable ending. Illustrations are fun with lots of excitement on each page. At the end of the story is a Broadway quiz on what you would do if you became a big cheese. Comics on the front and back are also extra fun for the kids to read. You learn that in the heart of your parents, you are always a star! I give this book two thumbs up! Reviewed by Rhonda Fischer Who Lives Here? Savanna Animals By Deborah Hodge, Illustrated by Pat Stephens Kids Can Press, $14.95, 24 pages The savannas of Africa are full of amazing animals. Animals with tongues as long as your arm, animals that weigh as much as 13 pianos, and animals that can run just one hour after their birth. This book is full of great information about the animals and the things that make them so unique. Having reviewed many children’s books, I’ve found it’s hard to find the balance between educational and kid-friendly. This book nails it. I’ve loved animals as long as I can remember, and many times preferred Animal Planet to Cartoon Network. If that sounds like your child, this book is perfect for the animal lover in your family. This book is full of information even I didn’t know. Who Lives Here? Savanna Animals is a great treasure. Deborah Hodge’s information is simple to understand while being extremely informative. Pat Stephens does an excellent job of the illustrations; they are realistic and yet still appropriate for a children’s book. The last page of the book features some of the animals’ special body parts to help reinstill some the facts your child has just read. Kids Can Press also features more books in their Who Lives Here? series. Pick this book up today! Reviewed by Jennifer LeBrun

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Poetry & Short Stories The Face in the Mirror: Writers Reflect on Their Dreams of Youth and the Reality of Age By Victoria Zackheim Prometheus Books, $25.00, 278 pages Is who you are now the person you expected you would be? Is there a dichotomy between your reality and the fantasy of your childhood yearnings? Editor Victoria Zackheim asked these questions to compile The Face in the Mirror: Writers Reflect on Their Dreams of Youth and the Reality of Age, and received eloquent and intelligent reflective essays from twenty talented writers from diverse backgrounds. “At the very least, my parents wanted a child who was normal, but what they got was a writer.” Syndicated columnist and novelist Joyce Maynard observes that, “sooner or later, the truth about who you really are is likely to slip out,” a theme found in many of the essays. It seems that with age comes a certain acceptance, and appreciation for oneself, especially if, like Alan M. Dershowitz, we have exceeded even the best hopes anyone held for us as children,

but even if we happen to end up looking exactly how we hoped we’d never look, or acting just like our parents. Despite re-occurring themes, each essay manages to surprise and delight. Reviewed by Robin Martin The Suicide Run By William Styron Random House, $24.00, 194 pages William Styron’s new collection contains stories written from the 1950s to the 1990s. They are an honest depiction of Styron’s Marine Corps experiences, stories that delve deeper into what life means when one is in and away from the battlefield. “In my reveries of the Marine Corps it is for some reason almost always raining.” The narrator of “Suicide Run” tells us about his redrafting after World War II for the Korean War, but he we never get to see him in either of the wars, choosing to share the frustrations of life at the base. An army prison guard in “Blankenship” is made

to understand that he too is imprisoned by his meaningless authority. In “Elobey, Annobon, and Corisco,” the narrator fights his fear of impending war by daydreaming about distant islands in his stamp collection, and in “My Father’s House,” a returned soldier struggles to resettle in a civilian life, but keeps thinking about the deaths in the battlefield. Styron’s stories are forceful in their honest depiction of the fears of soldiers fighting wars they don’t understand. The stories are written in a language so concrete that the sentences roll across the page with a serpentine wriggle only characteristic to the Styron of Sophie’s Choice. Reviewed by Emmanuel Sigauke PURSUIT, cont’ from page 23 all, it’s not Apple or Google), you will find nuggets of wisdom that you can apply. As Jeff Childs noted in the book’s introduction, “Whether you are a CEO, an aspiring leader, or a reader hungry for a feel-good story in these troubled times, this book will renew your faith in the possibility of ‘something better.’ It will challenge what you think about leadership, about what it takes to produce superior results, and about the capacity of ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.” Reviewed by Dominique James

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From the co-creator of the bestselling Olive, the Other Reindeer comes a tale about friendship. “Quirky charm.”— School Library Journal

A perfect gift for the holiday season!

ISBN (978-0-8109-8410-3) • $16.95

Abrams Books for Young Readers An imprint of ABRAMS

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PATTERN, con’t from page 28 rakami, Julian Opie, Keichi Tanaami, Perks and Mini, So Me, and many more. This book shines a light on the creative flow of cutting-edge illustrators and graphic designers, illuminating how they design unconventional, contemporary patterns for high-profile clients such as Nike, Medicom Toy, Bernard Willhelm, and Silas, and how these unique patterns are applied to products and presented in stores. With more than 150 full-color illustrations of vibrant patterns and an exclusive CD-ROM of 85 original patterns to mix and match for your own creations (tote bags, stickers, wallpaper, and more), this serves as an excellent resource for artists, illustrators, fashion designers, and graphic arts enthusiasts looking for inspiration and hands-on practice. “Patterns serve many purposes in our lives, from the aesthetically pleasing to the functional.” Split into three sections—Archives; Ideas, Process + Output; and Products—Pattern Factorydelves into the complex world of how pattern is inspired, generated, and applied to products such as furniture, clothes, accessories, handbags, toys, footwear, and even motor vehicles. It is more than just textile design, exhibiting how patterns have become recognized as an art form and as

graphic icons over the past decades. In light of the recent trend toward commercial collaboration with artists to apply their artwork to specific brands of merchandise, this book showcases the renewed appreciation for handmade craftsmanship and personalized style. If plain and simple just doesn’t cut it, Ayako Terashima’s Pattern Factory will do the trick, whether you use it as a creative kick-start or a visual treat. Reviewed by Dominique James

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By Chuck Fischer Little, Brown and Company, $30.00, 18 pages My two-year old boy is dying to get his hands on this. If he succeeds, this will be the worst day of his young life. While the back cover of Angels proudly proclaims “for all ages,” I think they meant “over two.” What an incredible, ornate, extravagant work of art is Chuck Fischer’s Angels! The paper engineering was done by Bruce Foster, who has his own website dedicated to the craft. I’m amazed at the level of sophistication with which these images were wrought. I don’t recall seeing a pop-up book this intricate when I was a young boy. I must say in complete honesty, this work is superlative. I can’t heap enough glowing praise on Chuck Fischer, who did the artwork, Bruce Foster who figured out how to fold it all neatly up into a pop-up that is smooth-flowing and easy to open, and to Curtis Flowers for the articulate, eloquent dissertations that give us the legends, myths and history of the Angels. What more perfect time of year to bring out this gem than at the holidays? This is a superb gift book, just not for my two-year old boy. Not this year. Reviewed by John Cloutman Listen to our interview with Chuck Fischer at”

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There’s no place like home

for the holidays. Introducing the perfect gift: The USA Book The USA Book explores the unique personality and magnetic appeal of each of the 50 states with insightful observations and over 400 color photographs. The book contains informative and engaging details on each state, including history, culture and traditions, politics, myths and legends, trademarks and essential experiences.

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San Francisco Book Review  
San Francisco Book Review  

A monthly 32-page printed book review newspaper