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Feb 10 VOLUME 1, ISSUE 6




Read Across America

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

The Girl With Glass Feet


Wondrous and vivid Page 5

The Advance Man A painful lesson Page 8

Valentine’s Day


Dangerous Mapping of the Invisible By Tash Aw Spiegel & Grau, $25.00, 17 pages


Tash Aw’s new novel is a haunting, multilayered story; it takes us into the heart of Indonesia in the 1960s and weaves the experiences of different characters separated by time but interlocked by fate. Adam is an Indonesian orphan raised by a Dutch father who claims Indonesian identity. Adam and his brother Johan were abandoned by their mother as children; Johan was adopted by a wealthy couple and has not been seen ever since. The two brothers grow up apart. As the story begins, Adam witnesses the arrest of his foster father, Karl, by soldiers under Sukarno’s regime, which is cleaning 1960s Indonesia of people of Dutch ances-

try, who are the country’s former colonialists. In his efforts to fight for Karl’s release, Adam seeks the help of Margaret, an American woman who once dated Karl. The two embark on a dangerous quest in a time of rapid national change. Johan leads a dangerous life in Malaysia, but the memory of his brother haunts him and affl icts him with guilt. This is a well-crafted, moving story that shocks with its wide tapestry of character experiences, which the author harmoniously weaves into one satisfying story.. Reviewed by Emmanuel Sigauke

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Too Much Happiness

There’s no such thing as too much munro Page 16

Too Big to Fail

Written like fiction, but with all the nausea-invoking trappings of reality Page 17

89 Reviews INSIDE!

History Empire of Liberty By Gordon S. Wood Oxford University Press, $35.00, 752 pages Empire of Liberty immediately engages the reader from the first page. Author Gordon S. Wood keeps details in their proper narrative context, allowing those details to enrich the reader’s experience; Wood expertly weaves the overarching discussion of historical happenings with the personal depictions of the founders of the United States. Although the book is chronological, it is not bogged down in a dry recitation of events; rather, it is structured upon interesting issues such as the early desire not to have political parties, the intense fear that the president would become a monarch and that the United States would become England all over again, and the spiritual connection with France and the Enlightenment, mirrored in the person of Thomas Jefferson. “If they were to be a single national people with a national character, Americans would have to invent themselves, and in some sense the whole of American history has been the story of that invention.” Empire of Liberty is a book about struggle and bears out the notion that agony itself leads to the best humankind can produce when tempered by the rule of law. Indeed, it was a struggle to throw off European traditions of monarchy and social hierarchy. The struggle between the founders’ personalities and their differing political philosophies was at times strident and impassioned. One leaves the book thinking that the development of the United States in the years following the Revolutionary War was nothing short of a miracle and that early American leaders were exceptional human beings, in

spite of their shortcomings. Wood’s insight into people and events makes Empire of Liberty a worthwhile and satisfying read. Reviewed by Suzanne Christensen Defend the Realm By Christopher Andrew Knopf, $40.00, 1,032 pages On the one hundredth anniversary of the United Kingdom’s spy shop, MI5, comes Defend the Realm, the authorized history of the agency. The British Security Service opened its files to Cambridge professor and historian Christopher Andrew, giving him “virtually unrestricted access” to its archives. Although the Service vetted Andrew’s work for reasons of national security, this exhaustive tome seems to offer a fair and balanced review of MI5’s fascinating history. Of course, readers cannot possibly know what might be missing from Andrew’s account. But regardless of what may have been omitted—for whatever reasons, security or otherwise— what remains is revealing. As Andrew writes in the preface, “For most of its history the Security Service (MI5) has seemed to outsiders a deeply mysterious organization … The Service, like the rest of the intelligence community, was to stay as far from public view as possible.” One might wonder why, then, after one hundred years, the Service decided to open its vault, exposing its successes as well as its failures. Andrew notes that recent directors, beginning with Stella Rimington, have sought to demystify the Service. With that, Andrew uncovers warts and all in Defend the Realm, from its origins as a fledgling office staffed by two people to its work—clandestine and otherwise—during World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the War on Terror. Andrew traces the history of the Service as it thwarted espionage, subversion, and

terrorism from domestic and international threats. He chronicles the agency’s inner workings, highlighting key players throughout MI5’s history, shedding light on the Service’s culture throughout the years, and illustrating its ongoing struggle to avoid political entanglements. Readers will find in-depth examinations of “The Magnificent Five” ring of Soviet spies who had infiltrated the Service, the double-cross system, and the agency’s alleged plot to smear Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Andrew also reveals the Service’s work regarding threats to the empire from around the world, including Soviet Russia, the IRA and PIRA, and jihadists. Defend the Realm clearly is one of the most comprehensive accounts of MI5. There is much ground to cover, and it seems as though Andrew has left little out. The early history of the Service is examined in vivid detail; the more contemporary history of the agency is less clear although still revealing. It seems Andrew has left few stones unturned. He not only examines the culture and morale of the Service throughout its history, but also occasionally notes the personal interests of some of its leaders. It is unclear what bearing hobbies such as hunting, fishing, and riding have on the successes or failures of the Service, but such details tend to bog down what already is, at more than one thousand pages, a lengthy book. At times, Defend the Realm takes on a “ripped-from-the-headlines” tone, exposing sex, politics, suicides, and betrayals—both within the agency and within the government. These juicy bits certainly add some color to the text, but often come with the caveat that once investigated, such events often were found to have no bearing on the Service or on the security of the United Kingdom. Readers who are looking for more than tabloid voyeurism may find it easy to skim such details, which seem to add little to the overall history of the Service. Defend the Realm will appeal to readers with a deep interest in the Service. However, although much in the book is fascinating,

the breadth of detail, as well as the shear length of the book, may well overwhelm readers who enjoy spy novels but have just a passing interest in MI5. Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen Gilded By Deborah Davis Wiley, $25.95, 309 pages Before there were movie stars, America focused its celebrity obsession on aristocratic families, namely, the elite Knickerbocker families of New York. And anybody who was anybody summered in idyllic Newport, Rhode Island. Beginning in the mid1850s, these moneyed families built lavish “cottages” in Newport, and each, with the help of a household staff of over 100, hosted and attended dawntill-dark social functions for the duration of the two-month summer season. Gilded is book that is custom-written for lovers of Newport and the Gilded Age, as well as any person who is curious about the private lives of the uppermost tier of American society. Although much of Gilded studies the famous one-upping Vanderbuilt and Astor families at the turn of the 20th century, author Deborah Davis also treats readers glimpses of post-World War II Newport, including the story of John F. Kennedy’s marriage to Newporter Jacqueline Bouvier, and Grace Kelly’s film industry presence in some of the famous Newport cottages. Most importantly, Davis studies the Newport’s tourism industry through the years, focusing on the post-World War II decline of the cottages which, along with the colonial homes in Newport that date to the 1630s, were meticulously restored by a forward thinking-preservation society. Reviewed by Megan Just

SAN FRANCISCO WRITERS PRECONFERENCE Preconference day—Thursday, February 11th Mark Hopkins Hotel Limited Space—Hurry! Main Conference—Feb. 12th-14h, 2010 SOLD OUT! Learn from EXPERTS z Chose from Seven In-Depth Sessions z Special Topics for Serious Writers. Small Classes with our favorite SFWC presenters z Half-Day or Full Day available

Sheldon Siegel

N.Y. Times Bestselling Authors Robert Dugoni & Sheldon Seigel—Putting the Thrill in Thriller Writing Major N.Y. Literary Agent Donald Maass—Writing the Breakout Novel Plus: Writing a Book Proposal, PITCHCRAFT!, Online Book Marketing...

Katharine Sands, Lisa Rector-Maass, Julie Salisbury, Stephanie Chandler, Michael Larsen Robert Dugoni

2 February 10

Event information & registration:


or call: 415-673-0939

Donald Maass

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Book Review 1776 Productions 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 Ph. (916) 503-1776 info@1776productions.com EDITOR IN CHIEF Ross Rojek ross@1776productions.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR Kaye Cloutman kaye.cloutman@1776productions.com GRAPHIC DESIGN/LAYOUT Heidi Komlofske heidi.komlofske@1776productions.com COPY EDITORS Autumn Conley Diane Jinson EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Jen LeBrun Jordan Dacayanan DISTRIBUTION Reliable Distribution Mari Ozawa ADVERTISING SALES Shawn Barrett sales@1776productions.com The San Francisco Book Review is published monthly by 1776 Productions. The opinions expressed in these pages are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the San Francisco Book Review or San Francisco Book Review advertisers. All images are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders. All words © 2010, 1776 Productions. February 2010 print run - 10,000 copies.

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

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


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

February 10


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

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

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

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

Home & Garden Comfort Living: A Back-to-Basics Guide to a More Balanced Lifestyle By Christine Eisner Lifestyle Design, $19.95, 82 pages Our lives are moving at full tilt speed these days, and it is easy to forget our priorities and what really makes us tick. Christine Eisner, through her book Comfort Living, helps bring us back to center by offering simple clues to making our homes a haven. Part decorating book, part journal, Comfort Living leads you on an exploration of pleasures, treasures, and obstacles in your home to move you toward creating a living space that focuses on your priorities and heightens your quality of life. She does this with simple exercises like identifying what adjectives describe home to you, hone in on creating balance, comfort, and practicality in your home life. Simple, thought provoking and requiring very little from your wallet, Comfort Living shows one the path to balance and inspiration. Reviewed by Gwen Stackler

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

it provide tips on sowing and growing, but more importantly, it tells you how to harvest when ripe, complete with photos. This section alone will lead new gardeners to success. With this guidebook, you aren’t left guessing. Between the superb blend of written explanation, drawings, and bullet points, the author truly covers all your gardening bases. Reviewed by Amber K. Stott The Well-Designed Mixed Garden By Tracy DiSabato-Aust Timber Press, $24.95, 460 pages Having read and reviewed a multitude of gardening books, I am always happy to see a new offering with large dimensions; DiSabato-Aust begins her book with philosophical musings on why mixed gardens linger in one’s memory, being multi-sensory and creative. The authoress defines a mixed garden as a combination of herbaceous (soft stemmed) plants and the more woody material. Though color plays a large part, DiSabato-Aust does not

stop there but explores the importance of shape, size, texture and compatibility to provide an overall complementary tone to one’s garden. After viewing the many photographs included, it is quite apparent that this particular designer is singularly talented in choosing the right plant for the right place; the before-and-after snapshots of her work showcase dramatic improvements. For the homeowner with less planning time, the writer came up with several suggested combinations that have proved themselves viable and visually stunning. The plants described are largely ornamental, however; as a backyard vegetable garden enthusiast, I would have liked to see more “edibles” mixed in with the pretty shrubs and flowers. Included in the book is a sizable appendix of types, zones and growth heights, along with a unique plant list sorted by color and another list of textures, which any gardenplanner will vastly appreciate. Reviewed by Meredith Greene

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Modern Literature Ransom: A Novel By David Malouf Pantheon, $23.95, 240 pages Ransom (Pantheon Books) is the new novel from Australian writer David Malouf. The book is noteworthy on two fronts: it is by a man many view as the greatest writer in Australia and it is his first novel in more than a decade. Though the title sounds very contemporary, it is actually a reworking of a very classic tale from Homer’s The Iliad: Achilles’s killing of Hector during the Trojan War and Priam’s attempt to ransom his son’s body, thereby saving it from further desecration. What is interesting about this book is its seamless efficiency. Malouf covers quite a bit of ground in 224 pages, essentially re-envisioning the story and giving it a contemporary flair. Even more remarkable is Malouf’s streamlined treatment: the book is highly evocative due to a certain terseness of style and sparseness of detail. That he is able to cut such an epic tale down to size (and in the process make it his own) is truly a testament to his gift as a novelist. Reviewed by Aaron Stypes The Girl with Glass Feet By Ali Shaw Henry Holt, $24.00, 287 pages On the remote archipelago of St. Hauda’s Land, where eerie bogs teem with tiny mothwinged bulls and poisonous jellyfish crowd the coasts to die in bursts of light, Midas, an artistic misfit only willing to experience life through the lens of his camera, meets Ida, a former adventurer whose limbs are gradually turning to glass. From this initial connection The Girl With Glass Feet unwinds a skein of re-

lationships colored with longing, regret, and sorrow, flung over a landscape where specks of the wondrous glitter amid the placid environs of a backwater community. Author Ali Shaw in his debut offers the rare delight of a world freshly and richly imagined. Yet he is restrained enough to hold his creation as the backdrop to the emotions and conflicts of his characters. The story is soothingly spellbinding, pulling the reader with steady delicacy into the hearts and minds of its characters amid the enthralling murmur of the fantastical. The central story makes a graceful arc into a lovely conclusion, but the wider world of St. Hauda’s remains tantalizingly untraveled, containing mysteries awaiting further exploration. I can only hope that Shaw has plans to one day allow us back in. Reviewed by Ariel Berg In the First Circle By Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn Harper Perennial, $18.99, 741 pages This highly readable novel deals with a fascinating period in history and steeps us in the world of secrets and threats, punishment and death. Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that this is not a new novel, but the uncensored version of a text that made it into original publication in tatters. When the English version first appeared in the 1960s, it was missing nine chapters, which have been restored in this edition. On Christmas Eve 1949, in Moscow, the Soviet secret police intercept a call to the American embassy in which Innokenty, a Russian diplomat, promises to deliver secrets about the Soviet Atomic Bomb program. An imprisoned mathematician and a linguist are commanded to decode the caller’s recorded voice to determine his identity, and there begins a life full of fear, pointing to the brutality (that includes the Gulag camps in Siberia) of Stalinist rule.

This is a novel full of mystery, rewarding in its masterful execution and powerful story sense. The translation is brilliant, delivering this gem as the author originally intended, in astounding clarity and delicious diction. Solzhenitsyn, who died in 2008, has left us a great literary gift. Reviewed by Emmanuel Sigauke Sicilian Tragedee: A Novel By Ottavio Cappellani Translated by Frederika Randall Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26.00, 340 pages Translated from the Italian, Sicilian Tragedee spins a tale of star-crossed lovers, Mafioso wise guys, cultural ministers, a local theater production of Romeo and Juliet, and the ensuing drama that occurs when all parties are thrown together in a Sicilian town where everybody knows everybody else. Words and bullets fly in this true slice of Sicilian life, which is set in the present day and mirrors the Bard’s most famous tragedy; and this local perspective is the most engaging element of the whole affair. That’s not to take anything away from the labyrinthine plot, however, which is as finely woven as the characters’ Gucci suits. But what may attract readers most is the wonderful pacing of the tale, which sweeps readers up in the rhythms and vibrations of the characters’ fast-paced daily lives. From Alfio Turrisi’s luxurious Mafia lifestyle to Tino Cagnotto’s by-the-seat-ofyour-pants productions, all the characters are fully realized. And while the language is as coarse as some of the Mafioso characters, the end result is a laugh-out-loud farce that packs a punch. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell

The Butterflies of Grand Canyon By Margaret Erhart Plume, $15.00, 352 pages Called by author Alan Weisman a “deceptively gentle, wise novel,” Margaret Erhart’s The Butterflies of Grand Canyon is at once a sweeping epic of a novel, incorporating elements of mystery, romance and the less widely read entomology and geology into a novel about butterfly catching, life, love— oh, and a skeleton— and a humble undertaking, obviously composed in earnest and with a large measure of sympathy for and understanding of its characters. Populated by real-life characters and based, in small part, around a real event (controversy regarding a human skeleton found in a man’s garage), Erhart weaves a complex and cohesive tale that combines intrigue and genuine wisdom into an engrossing, easy-to-read missive that harkens back to what some may call a “simpler” time: the early 1950s. The story begins when young Jane Merkle and her much older husband Morris arrive in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a stay with his sister Dotty and her husband Oliver. Throughout the course of their stay, a controversy comes to light, we are introduced to a large and varied cast of characters (the most prominent of whom are connected by their love of butterfly catching), and Jane feels the tug of freedom in the form of attraction to another man. Through the dramas and discussions of her characters, Erhart tells a sweetly complex story about love and human nature. A book that exceeds expectations, indeed. Reviewed by Ashley McCall

Mystery, Crime & Thrillers No Mercy: A Mystery By Lori Armstrong Touchstone, $25.00, 320 pages Mercy Gunderson, an injured army sniper fresh out of Iraq, returns home to South Dakota to recover. Strong, capable, willing to do what needs to be done at whatever the cost, Mercy is a real woman’s woman. Between dealing with her Dad’s death, a ranch she wants no part of, a rebellious sister who acts like a teen, an angry and embittered nephew and an injury that may sideline her from her beloved military career, a series of bizarre murders is just icing on the cake. When a boy’s body is dumped on the family ranch, Mercy wants no part of the investigation. Yet as police fail to turn up any suspects, locals turn to Mercy for help. Set in South Dakota where ranch owners and reservation Indians co-exist sometimes not peaceably, where one-quarter Sioux blood can make a woman not quite white enough, No Mercy provides a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the no-holds-barred life of the Wild, Wild West. This is a gritty, unforgiving brutal tale of murder and deceit, filled with family drama and intrigue, where cowboys drink,

fight, and love hard, and I couldn’t put the book down till the fantastic climax. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley The Day Time Was Hacked By Carel Mackenbach BookSurge, $19.99, 488 pages A book about a centuries-old religious secret being uncovered in modern times isn’t new. A book about time travel and the paradoxes that happen from it also isn’t new. Combining the two, and not coming off like a cheap Da Vinci Code clone is. The Day Time Was Hacked has all the elements of a mediocre thriller, but rises above it to pull those disparate elements together. A death bed secret told by Mary Magdalene to a priest leads to the creation of the Basilica of Sainte Madeleine in Vezelay, and the secret she had carried about Jesus is hidden within the architecture of the church. But it takes a fourteen-year-old boy from Washington, DC and a 37 year-old monk working at Pope’s summer palace at Gandolfo to put those pieces together and outwit an agent from the future who is always one step ahead. By moving back and forth in time, the story unfolds and reunfolds as things that happened in the past, change, and things that happened in the future change back again.

The story is tight and well crafted. The consistent changes in place, time, and alternate history stay understandable and not unmanageable. The characters are well rounded with interesting personalities. There was obviously a great deal of research done in The Day Time Was Hacked, from the history of the Church, Popes, the Vatican to reasonably thought-out theories of time travel. And while the science fiction aspects of the story are instrumental to it, this is still more a thriller than science fiction. Sponsored Review The Take-Us By John Raymond Takacs AGE Publishing, $ 27.95, 303 pages How much disruption could an electric car that not only generated enough power to run itself, but also enough to power a couple of houses while driving around, cause in today’s run-by-oil world? And what will those profiting from gas-driven cars do to protect their power and money? With the inventor of the Take-Us electric car being a self-taught inventor and using a no-gas road trip across the country as publicity (accompanied by an attractive Fox News executive), there is the potential for an entertaining romp

across America, along with some room for thought. The Take-Us fails on its potential by relying on highly stereotyped characters, clichéd situations and Republican talking points. Take-Us inventor John Christenson is a self-made man of Ayn Randian proportions and could easily have fit into Atlas Shrugged, which is either a complement or a criticism, depending on your view of Rand’s writing. The Take-Us relies on a very black and white view of the world, people are either Good with a capital G or Evil with a capital E. The Good characters are mostly Christian Republicans, and the Evil ones are either foreign (middle-eastern particularly) or liberal democrats. Which does leave room for this to be a readable book for those who view the world in those terms. It is a cop-out to review something with the statement “if you like things like this, you’ll like it,” but The Take-Us may be a great example of such a book; if you like the politics, you’ll probably enjoy the book. If you don’t, you won’t. And, in some ways, that is a pity There was a potential to tell an entertaining story for a broader audience, especially one with the electric car theme in today’s Green movement; unfortunately, a majority of those readers are probably liberal Democrats. Sponsored Review

Historical Fiction Girl Mary: A Novel By Petru Popescu Simon & Schuster, $15.00, 351 pages I loved this novel. Mary is the one of Nazareth and her story is told with a reverently light touch. Mary and Joseph live with their family and friends through the instability of Roman occupation, Herod’s banishment, and survival in the harsh Judean desert. We know the end of the story, but the beginning is almost never told. Popescu’s telling of it is full of charm….with just the right mix of myth, action, familiar detail and new interpretation. The Christian story is enriched when we imagine Mary as a girl, a young woman with many ordinary as well as extraordinary experiences and dreams. Also to imagine Joseph: a man with a heart and mind, with a story of his very own. Both these characters are well developed and absolutely believable. Another challenging character, Mary’s God of Abraham, emerges as a divine

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friend and counselor to Mary, one who initiates, reciprocates challenges and supports a mutually loving, challenging relationship. The girl Mary knows she is loved, and hopes to be special. She is dutiful without being a bore, loving without being perfect, sexual without shame, and submissive to the divine in a way that brings her power. Popescu has done the scrupulous research required to bury us utterly in rich detail of color, song, and dust of the period. Bare feet in hot sand, headscarves in the wind, relief at the wells, prayer, judgment, lightning on the mountain; Rome’s decrees, Jewish faith: we are completely captivated by the community within which this never-told tale takes place. If you love the story of Mary, and are willing to play, this book belongs on your shelf as it does on mine. Reviewed by Marcia Jo Sand Daughter By Sarah Bryant Berkley Trade, $15.00, 471 pages The daughter of a sheikh and a heathen outlander mother, Khalidah has long since accepted the fact that her life only has as much importance as whichever man her fa-

ther marries her off to. But then a total stranger opens up a world of unbelievable adventure where Khalidah shoulders the role of warrior, lover, friend and messiah while she learns more about her dead mother’s people and her place among them. The backdrop of the deserts of Arabia give this adventureromance a refreshing twist and although the ending was a tad too anti-climactic (and disappointingly predictable), the steady action doesn’t have to work too hard to get you to keep turning the pages. Charming enough to provide satisfying entertainment, it’s a good book to cleanse the palate between more complex tomes. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz

Other historial fiction reviews available on our website www.sanfranciscobookreview.com

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Biographies & Memoirs The Advance Man: A Journey Into the World of the Circus By Jamie MacVicar Bear Manor Media, $32.50, 672 pages Readers will be surprised at how much they will enjoy this absorbing true story, The Advance Man: A Journey Into the World of the Circus. Fresh out of college in 1974, Jamie MacVicar loves his job as a promoter or advance man for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Where else can he carry a 33-inch man in the crook of his arm, watch a contortionist turn into a human pretzel on top of his desk, or convince sleepy circus clowns to rise early and entertain stoic mental patients? To escape the inevitable loneliness of life on the road, Jamie sets out on a selfdestructive course promoting back to back shows in Indiana with an eclectic mix of locals to an area which hasn’t seen The Greatest Show on Earth in 20 years. MacVicar’s description of his first year as a circus advance man and the personal crisis that ensued provides a fascinating glimpse into the high stress

world of event marketing. With the book’s well-timed humor and pacing, the reader is swept along with Jamie as he painfully learns “to care...but not so much.” Reviewed by Diana R. Irvine A Devil to Play: One Man’s Year-Long Quest to Master the Orchestra’s Most Difficult Instrument By Jasper Rees Harper Perennial, $14.99, 336 pages At the beginning of his narrative, Jasper Rees, a successful journalist in London, finds himself turning forty years old and recovering from a recent divorce, two events that might naturally lead one to do a little introspection. But instead of returning to his past in a metaphysical sense, Rees decides to return in a much more physical way—by picking up the musical instrument he studied and played as a child. It’s lucky for his readers that the instrument in question is the French horn, and that Rees is such a funny, selfdeprecating writer. Rees’s book is fi lled not only with humorous tales about his own childhood and his attempts to relearn the horn well

enough to perform in front of an audience within a year, but also with the history of the horn and the quirkiness of professional horn players. Rees delves headfirst into the horn’s place in the orchestra, its place in the minds of the master composers, and its place in his own life. This book is sure to delight anyone who, by wish or by force, took music lessons as a child. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws By Margaret Drabble Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25.00, 353 pages Margaret Drabble is the first to admit that this is not the book she set out to write. Initially conceived as a decorative history of jigsaws and childhood board games, The Pattern in the Carpet evolved into a hybrid form: a memoir of a life seen through jigsaw puzzles. “You cannot see the joining, it fits so nicely.”

as a bed and breakfast. Tea sets and jigsaws, children’s books and country life are the comforting elements she chooses to focus on, for good reason. Doing jigsaws, as well as writing about them, gives Drabble a sense of control at a time when her husband, biographer Michael Holroyd, is fighting cancer. They allow her to “defeat melancholy and avoid laments.” Drabble’s meditations on family history, depression, and writing are as intrinsic to this book as its more historical chapters focused on jigsaws (she does provide a solid history of the game). But we feel the missing pieces: everything she doesn’t say about her estranged sister, novelist A.S. Byatt, and their unhappy childhood. Although this autobiographical puzzle is incomplete, it is still a pleasure to observe Drabble shuffl ing its parts. Reviewed by Catherine Hollis

The autobiographical pieces Drabble assembles revolve around her Aunt Phyl – an irascible old lady – and childhood memories of Bryn, the rural farmhouse in Nottinghamshire that Drabble’s grandparents ran

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

secret-agent father and played with the kids of other secret-agents. In the final section of the story, he describes The Police reunion tour of 2007 and 2008, and the reader gets some flashes into the creative differences that may have forced the band’s demise at the height of its fame, and a bit of a peak into “Stingo” moodiness. He had to include it. This is the stuff that makes rock-n-roll memoir. Reviewed by Robin Martin Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora By Maria Wilhelm; Dirk Mathison It Books, $17.99, 224 pages This “survival handbook” and field guide to Pandora, a moon in the distant Alpha Centauri system, is an encyclopedic compilation of scientific notations and xenobiological research data by a Terran activist of the future. It describes an alien ecosystem that includes the culture and physiology of its indigenous race called the Na’vi. The account proceeds to document exploration as well as exploitation of this See AVITAR, page 20

alien world by the Resource Development Administration, a corporate entity that uses sophisticated technology to profit from Pandora’s mineral wealth. The accumulated evidence is meant to help environmentalists save this fertile planet from the same fate suffered by ours. As a movie tie-in, this manual could interest role-playing gamers, CGI fanatics or casual moviegoers who love those special features offered on most DVDs. While it offers some backstory to the fi lm, it lacks any real narrative structure and comes off as clichéd and derivative. Any originality here is in style of presentation, which could have If you arehand-drawn in debt, you may benefit from our customized been improved with concept FreedomQuest Program. In addition to consolidating your debt sketches in lieu of mediocre computer imagintoexemplify one lower payment, our programs can do the following: ery that should the vision of fi lmmaker James Cameron. Instead, this book’s best redeeming quality can be found in its politically correct message of ecology. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio

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Science Fiction & Fantasy Except the Queen By Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder Roc, $23.95, 371 pages Playing pranks on unwary folk is the only interaction Serana and Meteora, born to the high court of the Fairy Queen, have ever had with the mortal realm. But all that changes when, in a moment of carelessness, Meteora reveals the Queen’s scandalous secret and both she and her sister are exiled violently into the human world. Stripped of their magic, their glamour and each other, both sisters soon discover that the worlds of mortals and the fey are intertwined deeper than imagined, and if they wish to return to the Greenwood they will have to face the demons of elfland on human ground. While many books have trod the paths of mortals becoming lost in fairy mists, Except the Queen illuminates the astonishing trail of immortals who have been thrust into the iron-and-concrete forests of modernday mankind. And through the eyes of two Elvin sisters, our polluted, noisy, crowded, dirty world suddenly resonates with a veritable rainbow of magical undertones. Yolen and Snyder’s prose is an a cappella composition of small magics, both human and fairy, and each character seems to step right out of the pages of our much-beloved storybooks. A fantastic read whether you believe in fairytales or not! Reviewed by Heather Ortiz Blackout By Connie Willis Spectra, $26.00, 512 pages A caveat: Blackout ends on a monster cliffhanger. Willis returns to the time-travel series seen in Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. This time, the Oxfordbased team of scientists sends three scholars to World War II-era England to observe events and uncover how English people of that time found the fortitude to cope with the violence and fright of the war. Michael Davies, equipped with American accent and naval knowledge, who expected his original assignment of Pearl Harbor, is sent to observe the evacuation at Dunkirk; Polly Churchill is to be a typical shop-girl in a London department store during the Blitz; and Merope Ward (under the name Eileen), is forced to nanny a bevy of ill-tempered children sent to the safety of the countryside by their parents. The three are meant to be mere observers of history, but circum-

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stances conspire to link them irrevocably to those living in the past, one instance of which threatens grave consequences on the war’s outcome and the future. Blackout’s strength does lie in its characters, but more so in Willis’s strong and harrowing description of life during London’s deadly Blitz. Watching films or documentaries or hearing stories about the incessant bombings of 1940 pale beside what is shown in this book. Besides the bombings, trouble looms when Polly, Michael, and Merope/Eileen cannot find their way back to the future, leaving the three not only stuck in WWII-era England, but also completely ignorant of what’s to come. Though classified as science fiction, Blackout is more than its genre, and Willis has written one of the strongest, best books of 2010. Reviewed by Angela Tate The Ruling Sea By Robert V.S. Redick Del Rey, $27.00, 640 pages In this massive sequel to the equally massive and acclaimed novel The Red Wolf Conspiracy, author Robert V. S. Redick picks up his story from the very moment we left. Thasha is about to get married in sham wedding, Pazel Pathkendle struggles internally with his hatred of the Empire who destroyed his homeland and his friendship with its representative, the awakened rat Felthrup still lives on a knife’s edge, and the most destructive person the world has ever known lies hidden deep in the bowels of the Chathrand. Politics, intrigue, suspense, and seaborne action-adventure all take place onboard the world of Alifros’s most massive sailing ship. Unlike the first novel, The Ruling Sea keeps much of the story confined to the ship as it travels into the uncharted Ruling Sea in the far south of the world. Though the novel is a lengthy piece of prose, Redick keeps the reader well entertained, using multiple perspectives and multiple dangers to keep the suspense high. The intriguing characters become a second family and their successes and failures are our own. It is a challenging novel; both in terms of writing style and length, but the payoffs are large. Robert V. S. Redick is fantasy’s response to Patrick O’Brian, and an excellent buy if you enjoy large, complicated fantasies with many characters, a unique world and high attention to detail. Reviewed by John Ottinger

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

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

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Local Calendar 6

1 pm - Make Valentines! Hayward Main Library, 835 C St. @ Mission Blvd., Hayward 6 pm - Reading by author Chuck Forester from his new memoir, Do You Live Around Here, San Francisco Library, Third Floor, Gay and Lesbian Center, 100 Larkin St. , SF


12 pm & 6:30 pm - The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji, Peet’s Coffee (noon) (B Street and Mission, Downtown Hayward) & Hayward Main Library, 835 C St. at Mission Blvd., Hayward (6:30)


7:30 pm - Amy Reed reads from her debut young adult novel, Beautiful PEGASUS BOOKS DOWNTOWN 2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

11 7:30 pm - Candacy Taylor

discusses and shows photographs from her book, Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress PEGASUS BOOKS DOWNTOWN 2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

7 pm - Bill Yenne, author of Aces High: The Heroic Saga of the Two Top-Scoring American Aces of World War II, and Tommy Gun: How General Thompson’s Submachine Gun Wrote History CLAYTON BOOKS, 5433 Clayton Road, Suite D, Clayton 6:30-7:30 pm - Bay Area author Anastasia Hobbet reads from her new novel, Small Kingdoms, San Francisco Library, Third Floor, Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room, 100 Larkin St., SF

12-14 2010 San Francisco

Writers Conference at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Steve Berry, Susan Wiggs and a full faculty of bestselling authors, editors, publishers and literary agents. www.SFWriters.org

13 2 pm - Dr. David Simon talks

about Free to Love, Free to Heal: Heal Your Body by Healing Your Emotions , Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera

15 7:00 pm - Rebecca Rosen talks

about Spirited: Connect to the Guides All Around You, Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera

William Stout Architectural Books

16 6 pm - Marisa Meltzer talks

about Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music, Book Passage, Ferry Building store:, 1 Ferry Plaza, San Francisco 7 pm - Sam talks about Sky Train: Tibetan Women on the Edge of History Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera

17 7 pm - Joan Frank talks about

In Envy Country: Stories, Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera

18 7:30 pm - Erica Bauermeister,

reads from her debut novel The School of Essential Ingredients, PEGASUS BOOKS DOWNTOWN, 2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley 10 am - Special for kids! Chinese New Year Celebration! Michele Wong McSween talks about Gordon and Lili: Words for Everyday, Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera

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

Green Apple Books

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

Alexander Book Store

50 Second Street San Francisco, CA 94105 | 415.495.2992

23 7:30 pm - Elise Marie Collins discusses her book An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods, PEGASUS BOOKS DOWNTOWN 2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

25 7:30 pm - Renowned Science Fiction authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Terry Bisson PEGASUS BOOKS DOWNTOWN 2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

7 pm - Jacqueline Luckett talks about her novel Searching for Tina Turner Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera

Are you a local book store? Take out a Directory Listing for only $25/mo. Email sales@1776productions.com email your events to calendar@sanfranciscobookreview.com

Popular Fiction The Overnight Socialite By Bridie Clark Weinstein Books, $23.95, 288 pages When Lucy Jo Ellis falls through the runway at her boss’s big fashion show, she’s certain it’s the end of her aspirations to become a famous designer. Set to leave New York City for her hometown in Minnesota, Lucy Jo has a chance encounter (is there any other kind?) with Wyatt Hayes, handsome, wealthy member of Manhattan’s elite social scene. After making a bet with a friend, Wyatt takes Lucy Jo under his couture wing and decides to transform her into the number one socialite in NYC, even though her humble beginnings couldn’t be more

different from those who frequent the revolving gallery-club-dinner party scene. In case you hadn’t already guessed, Bridie Clark’s second novel is an update of My Fair Lady. And as far as updates go it’s not bad. I generally have a low tolerance for chick lit, but I thought The Overnight Socialite was a funny, engaging read. And, maybe because I lived in northern Wisconsin for a decade, I actually sympathized with Lucy Jo as she tried to navigate the murky, perilous waters of Park Avenue. Also, props to the author for giving a realistic ending to an otherwise improbable story. Reviewed by Amanda Mitchell

Hero’s Tribute: A Novel By Graham Garrison Kregel Publications, $13.99, 239 pages Michael Gavin’s final request was an odd one. This small town hero, admired by all for his heroics on the football field as a kid and later as a soldier after becoming a man, chooses, as he loses his battle against cancer, to have his eulogy done by a man who he’d never met. “I don’t want this town going up to the pulpit and spitting out pleasantries about my life. That seems standard practice, like somehow when you croak you all of the sudden become an unblemished person. Well, as you’ll find out, I was anything but.”

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Wes Watkins is a local sports reporter. In rural Georgia, he spends most of his time covering high school football games. He hasn’t been at his job very long and he doesn’t plan to cover high school football forever. When he gets the news that he is the man chosen by a recently deceased small town legend, he can’t help but wonder, why him? In his novel Hero’s Tribute, Graham Garrison tells the stories of these two men and their lives in a search for truth and self. Garrison opens the book beautifully and in a way that is sure to leave a lump in your throat. He tells a good story overall, but one that doesn’t deliver as powerfully as it could have. You’ll be fully invested after just a few pages, but will wish, in the end that it had ended as impressively as it began. Reviewed by Albert Riehle

February 10


Young Adult Pendragon Book Nine: Raven Rise By D.J. MacHale Aladdin, $8.99, 544 pages Enter the world between worlds,and time between times—the novel where you can travel where you’ve never dreamed of before. Raven Rise, book nine of the Pendragon series, and although quite hefty, gives fans a chance yet another book they can polish off in one day. It truly is one of the most superb yet. Saint Dane’s goal to rule Halla and all of the Earths has grown stronger than ever, and the pivotal moment of the Convergence has started to override all that Mark, Bobby, and Courtney (Travelers from Second Earth) have ever known. Mark and Courtney are on a mission to destroy KEM, the technology company that they sold dados, or evil human-like robots to. Meanwhile, Bobby Pendragon is still trapped on Ibara, having collapsed the flumes in order to seal him and Saint Dane inside. Patrick, a Traveler from Third Earth, wakes up one morning to find

the clean Earth he once called home has turned it to a corrupt, communist world full of confusion and disorder. All the while, Saint Dane and his helper Nevva Winters have been plotting to dig out the flume and continue with their mission of world(s) domination. Needless to say, this book is quite imaginable, and is a series equal, if not surpassing, the greats (think Tolkien). This book is timeless (quite literally). Reviewed by Alex Masri The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein By Libby Schmais Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 276 pages The sweetness of youthful obsession exudes in Libby Schmais’s latest young adult novel, the focal point being France and everything French. Lotus Lowenstein is a restless teen raised by hippyish, Americanized parents, who wants nothing more than a life-changing trip to Paris where she can read poetry, ponder existentialism,

and fall in love to a wonderful existentialist boy with a thick accent. There is a darling tangibility to this book, one which girls can relate to, and to the older generation a familiar, long-past memory of once loving what we knew nothing truly about. Even though Lotus is a relatable character she is not necessary special enough to hold a place in the heart, a much needed “something extra” in the infinite world of YA fiction. Despite of the nice writing, impressive French culture knowledge (Edith Pilaf, Jean-Paul Sartre), and a deeper story of a girl coming of age, there remained a lacking; but c’est la vie. Reviewed by Natalie Fladager Crocodile Tears By Anthony Horowitz Philomel, $17.99, 385 pages The pulsing pace of Alex Rider has kept readers entranced ever since Alex’s first adventure, Stormbreaker. Lately, Alex and his books have evolved into an escape from the communistic top-secret spy group, MI6. All he wants is a normal life. But after a threat from a greedy, overconfident reporter, he must turn to MI6 for help. MI6, in return, gives him a mission: to find out what the

plant gene scientist Leonard Straik is up to. Alex finds out that Straik is teamed up with suspicious billionaire, Desmond McCain. McCain is currently an allegedly avid Christian and supporter of charities, but Alex believes something else hides behind the mask of generosity. Alex decides to follow his own drift and ends up at the peak of cutthroat adventure to save the world—again. Alex Rider’s other adventures have never disappointed, but Crocodile Tears seems without the regular intrigue and seemingly unsolvable mysteries that have always bested other attempts at good spy novels. I am happy to say, however, that this book assures that Alex Rider is not finished with his regular routine of saving the world. Although not the best Rider, it still keeps the series floating above all other teen spy books. Reviewed by Alex Masri

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

10 February 10

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

You can build a school or change baby baboon diapers. If you want to give back while taking a break from your cubicle life, you’re sure to find inspiration here. The text is offered as more of an overview than a true guidebook: each entry is no longer than a page with a summary of the volunteer work to be expected, highlights of the area’s tourist attractions, and contact information to conduct your own detailed research. The well-laid indices are helpful tools: one is listed geographically (in case you are already planning a trip and want to add a volunteer component), and also alphabetically. The book also serves as a delightful tale of the many positive organizations and worthy causes around the globe. You probably can’t read this without booking yourself on the next project! Reviewed by Amber K. Stott Frommer’s Los Cabos & Baja, 3rd Edition By Joy Hepp Wiley, $17.99, 214 pages Frommer’s Los Cabos & Baja is a conveniently small yet comprehensive guide to Mexico’s Baja California that provides a solid base of information for all travelers, as well as tailored advice to more specialized interests ranging from people looking for luxury to surfers who want to camp near the

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

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San Francisco & Sacramento

Feb 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The value of Reading By Kaye Cloutman, SFBR Associate Editor

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

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

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Children’s Books Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine By Herman Parish Greenwillow Books, $16.99, 32 pages Amelia Bedelia is a quirky lovable kid. This timeless character always takes things in their literal meaning because she is obviously not very familiar with certain idiomatic expressions, so the ultimate outcome results in sidesplitting situations. In Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine young readers will delight in Amelia’s very unusual way of expressing her affection towards her classmates with the cards she prepares for them. She puts a bandage across a broken heart, tossed peanuts into an envelope and pours honey over a note. I highly recommend this book for all the wonderful idiosyncrasies displayed by the main character. Lynne Avril’s illustrations are drawn in a whimsical manner awash in pink and red colors combined with Cupid, hearts and arrows that makes it a great seasonal read. From a comforting teacher to a sweet young male neighbor, to going home to a family encircled with love, author Herman Parish’ target audience witness and realize the true essence of Valentine’s Day. Reviewed by Kaye Cloutman Babymouse #12: Burns Rubber By Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm Random House Books for Young Readers, $5.99, 93 pages In the latest installment of the In this addition to the Babymouse series, Babymouse and her friend Wilson are preparing to enter the Downhill Derby. Wilson has been working on his soapbox racer for months, but when Babymouse decides to enter too, he joins in to help Babymouse out. Will they win the trophy against standing champion Chuck E. Cheetah? If you’ve never read a Babymouse book before, now is the time to start! This pinkprinted graphic novel is great for reluctant readers, graphic novel enthusiasts, and veteran Babymouse fans alike. In this tale filled with the perils of fractions, quicksand, bent bicycle wheels, mud, and aliens, Babymouse is up to her old tricks once again. These books just seem to get better as they go along, with this volume incorporating everything from ancient Rome and video games to the Titanic and Star Wars. The book is fun to read and also has a great message (without being overbearing). The occasional banter between Babymouse and the narrator adds a great humor element to the plot. Babymouse

might not look like she has what it takes to win the derby trophy, but you can bet on one thing… nothing stops Babymouse! Reviewed by Alyssa Feller Dogs: Wild Reads By Marjorie Newman Oxford University Press, USA, $3.95, 31 pages Children will go “wild” with interest in this Oxford series of very readable and exciting books about wildlife. Wonderfully illustrated with cheerfully engaging colorful drawings of the topic animals, the narratives will pique the interest of the reader. This special book will appeal to youngsters who have or want a dog, and the descriptions will answer questions that children either did or did not know how to ask. The domestication and evolution of dogs is simply explained, the varying breeds are examined and their habits described. Careful explanations instruct how to care for dogs, while pictures of canines are tastefully displayed. The author uses short, crisp sentences to explain the dog’s useful services as sled dogs, guide aides, and in other roles. Especially interesting for children are the hints for training their pets, while the illustrations of the different breeds will help with identification of leashed pets that they meet on their walks. The series of Wild Reads covers about a dozen topics including Big Cats, Crocodiles, Dinosaurs, Elephants, Frogs and Toads, Rats, Sharks, Snakes, Spiders, Whales, and Wolves. The book dimensions are ideal for a child to handle and parents to package at approximately 5in x 7in, which includes 31 pages of high-quality paper, large clear print, and an elegant narrative style with dynamically drawn illustrations that complement the print. In addition, the price is reasonable for such a versatile mini-book. The preschooler will read the pictures and tell the story about the animal on his/her own. A glossary along with related websites are included. These are wonderfully crafted books that will intrigue children from three to eight along with their accompanying adults. Reviewed by Rita Hoots Sunday Love By Alison Paul Harcourt Children’s, $16.00, 33 pages Sunday Love is a picture book about convict named Bruno who escapes from prison on Valentine’s Day in order to pursue his one true love: ice cream. On his journey he helps a soccer team win its game, destroys a restaurant, sneaks into a Catholic school, and evades the authorities with the help of Cupid. It is done in the style of a silent movie,

where the only words are sound effects, and it is drawn completely in black, white, and red. Although the concept behind this wordless book is whimsical and creative, the actual thing does little but disappoint. Instead of being straightforward, Bruno’s multiple escape efforts are complicated and, without words, are sometimes difficult to understand. The illustrations are all right, but not excellent. And since Bruno isn’t exactly a loveable character, it’s difficult to care too much about his plight. Curiosity about who or what his true love is may keep a child interested for a while, but otherwise the story is not overly engaging. Reviewed by Kayli Crosby What Do You See Under the Sea? By Neil & Cassandra Lillard Chronicle Children’s Books, $15.99, 24 pages What Do You See Under the Sea? is not what I expected. This book does not use adhesive stickers to depict actual sea life. Rather, vaguely aquatic but amorphous shapes create eleven play scenes. The reader chooses from more than 200 vinyl stickers depicting fins, claws, eyes, shells, and small sea creatures to create his or her own underwater fantasy world. Because the stickers rely on static-cling, they can be applied over

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and over again. The authors also suggest turning the play scenes upside down and sideways to see the scenes in new ways. The scenes themselves are rich in intense color and intriguing shapes. They evoke endless possibilities. The authors correctly note that there are no right or wrong answers. For that reason, this book provides a wonderful opportunity for open-ended creativity and subtly encourages children to look at the same landscape in new and different ways. For my family, I will readily pack this book along on our next long car trip or waiting room visit and then watch to see where my sons’ imaginations take them. Reviewed by Annie Peters

Other children’s reviews available on our website www.sanfranciscobookreview.com

...plus hundreds more!

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Valentine’s Day Porn for the Bride By Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative; Gretchen LeMaistre Chronicle Books, $12.95, 96 pages The mere mention of “porn” can often result in raised eyebrows, uneasiness, awkward smirks, and “Oh, my” mutterings from those affl icted by a sense of taboo, but this next installment in the Porn for Women series is nothing short of endearing and hilarious. Porn for the Bride will tickle the bride pink with a pleasurable feast-for-the-eyes featuring forty provocative scenarios of gorgeous hands-on hunks involved in every detail of the big day, doing and saying things that will spoil and fulfi ll every blushing bride’s dream and fantasy. If your Mr. Right pops the question during this month so famous for heart-shaped boxes of candy and chubby cupids wafting about, remember to pick up a copy of Porn for the Bride. This lighthearted read will prepare you and your partner for what’s to come, and because we all know that men can be clueless in the planning department, Porn for the Bride can serve as their manual because it is a humorous, holistic approach to stimulating any woman’s “secret desires”. It is also safe to assume that your Prince Charming is more likely to read anything with Porn in the title, right? This book will show your man that sometimes, a clean house, repairing a broken item, installing or assembling a new purchase, and shopping for groceries could be the best aphrodisiacs. While most men are all about visual stimulations, your man needs to know that women often place more importance to situations and gestures that result in combined mental, physical, and emotional orgasms. Porn for the Bride can also be Porn for the Groom if you both play your cards right! Photographer Gretchen LeMaistre and The Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative are to be commended for redefining the way we look at pornography and empowering their female patrons. Reviewed by Kaye Cloutman Best Women’s Erotica By Edited by Violet Blue Cleis Press, $15.95, 208 pages The collection of stories in Best Women’s Erotica, edited by Violet Blue, will have women lapping up every word. Not one story will be found boring as each writer is able to create unusual scenarios that will have readers wondering how they came up with it, and wishing they could experience it in the real world. Violet Blue has done wonderful work in choosing stories that cover an array of sexual fantasies. From a lusty neighbor’s vegeta-

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ble garden, and even lustier body in “Vegging” by K.C. Grace, to latex submissive in “Where Rubber Meets the Road” by Aimee Pearl, and an early morning encounter with strangers in Spain in “On My Knees in Barcelona” by Kristina Lloyd, these stories will be sure to capture readers’ attentions, and have them picking out their favorites. For readers wanting to avoid stories that might be more of a turn-off, Blue gives a snippet of each racy tale within her introduction, while giving a look into her own work and private life-although it is strongly encouraged that each feisty encounter is read, as readers may find they have a new favorite fantasy. Reviewed by Robyn Oxborrow Cupid’s Playbook: How to Play the Dating Game to Win! By Jeannine Kaiser Emerald Book Company, $18.95, 272 pages Dating books. What hasn’t been said? Some are useful, some are rubbish, and most are somewhere in-between, inhabiting a land that borders tedium as well as applicability. Dating books, as with all self-help books, often contain elements of truth that can be easily applied to our behaviors, conscious and unconscious. And much like other dating books of the same nature, Cupid’s Playbook, authored by a married couple who are using their current relationship’s success and past failures as a drawing board, is merely a written version of what we all know to be true, but often don’t want to acknowledge, or aren’t quite consciously aware of. It provides helpful tips that are more likely to be useful to someone who has been blindly wondering why their relationships fail (as we are all wont to do multiple times in our lives) rather than taking an honest look at the patterns in their behavior, as well as the behaviors of their partners, that doom their relationships—or may have spelled doom from the onset. A must-own? Absolutely not. But perhaps useful for people who are interested in learning techniques that will aid them in having more successful, long-lasting relationships…if they’re willing to be honest about it. Reviewed by Ashley McCall

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

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Tweens Amulet #2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse By Kazu Kibuishi GRAPHIX, $21.99, 219 pages These are the sounds of good forces combating evil in The Stonekeeper’s Curse, Kazu Kibuishi’s second book in his Amulet series for middle grade readers. A brother and a sister set off for Kanalis to find a cure for their mother’s illness. The cure is in the fruit of the gadoba tree. In Kanalis, the evil Elf King gives his son Trellis and a servant named Luger the mission to eliminate these two siblings. They must also retrieve the amulet the sister, Emily, wears around her neck. Luger’s second mission is to kill Trellis if he falters. “Listen for your staff’s life force, and focus your energy on it.” A house like a giant transformer, animals who were once people, a bounty hunter turned mentor, talking trees, robots, and

evil elves form the cast of this graphic novel. Emily comes to realize her search to save her mother is also a fulfillment of prophecy, as well as a quest. In order to succeed, she must learn to control the power of the amulet. The illustrations are richer than the plot (which seems a derived mix of Star Wars, Harry Potter, Terminator, and The Hobbit.) But young people will probably enjoy it for its swift pace and lush drawings. Reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan The Vampire Is Just Not That Into You By Vlad Mezrich Scholastic Books, $7.99, 176 pages For those of you who’ve ever wanted to date a vampire, this is the book for you. Written by vampire expert Vlad Mezrich, this book has all the answers to those burning vampire questions. Learn how to distinguish between those smoldering vampire looks, and decode text messages and aggressive actions. Is he really into you, or just being undead? From hookup to breakup, Vlad will help you find

the perfect way to snag a vampire boyfriend (because, after all, he is one). The book starts out as fun and engaging, and the use of satire fits the subject perfectly. This is one book where the design outshines the writing. The red and black printing perfectly complements lots of lists, testimonials, quizzes, and diagrams that teach the best way to navigate the waters of vampire romance. However, even a book this short could have stood to be a little shorter. By the end the continuous line of quizzes and lists was starting to get a little repetitive. Nevertheless, Twilight fans will eat this up, as it appeals to both the romantic side and has tons of subtle references readers will love picking out of the text. A great read for the true vampire romance fanatic. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller Nate the Great and the Hungry Book Club By Marjorie Weinman Sharmat; Mitchell Sharmat; Illustrated by Jody Wheeler Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $12.99, 64 pages What’s better than a book? A book about a book club with a mystery woven into it! Nate the Great is at it again in Nate the Great

and The Hungry Book Club. Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat have created a gang of readers headed by Rosamond, the book club leader. Rosamond and the Ready Readers gather around to chat about their latest reads. However, the real story does not lie within the pages of the books in the club, the real tale begins with what is not found in it. The ripped page! Who has taken it? Why? Rosamond is stumped and seeks answers. She enlists the help of Nate the Great, the sleuth, and his furry partner in clue hunting, Sludge. As they are on the hunt for the culprit they are led to the kitchen, where they now find a missing page from the cookbook! Now the case has gotten even deeper, and the evidence leads them through a maze of people and situations. A good choice for the beginning reader. Any young detective, (and what child isn’t?), will enjoy this colorful yarn. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez

Reference From The Horse’s Mouth By John Ayto Oxford University Press, $21.95, I found From the Horse’s Mouth to be an interesting tool for the writer, and anyone who needs more depth into the unique traits of the English language. What is an idiom, you ask? Well the short definition is a phrase that behaves as a word. Perhaps it is our idioms that make the English language one of the most difficult to learn. Someone who works in a very social environment, needing to converse with a wide variety of English speaking people, might benefit greatly at having this book as a reference guide. Can you imagine what someone just learning the English language might think if in your conversation with them you casually said “Let’s kill two birds with one stone”? I’ve had this happen, with the need to explain that I would never kill a bird or throw a stone! For the creative writer, this book would be a nice addition to the thesaurus and dictionary volumes on your bookshelves. Being an avid reader, I know that writers do a tremendous amount of research when creating

a novel, and this dictionary of English idioms might just save a little research time. If you need to read between the lines, then grab a copy of From the Horse’s Mouth! Reviewed by Doreen Erhardt Close-Up and Macro Photography By Adrian Davies Focal Press, $29.95, 188 pages This manual of practical advice for the macro photographer considers everything from choice of equipment to optimum workflow techniques. Through color-coded chapters, it distinguishes between the variety of lenses, cameras, supports, lighting, software and studio equipment available to the contemporary digital photographer. Technical aspects of three-dimensional scanning and post-production image enhancement are also covered using precise charts, graphs, formulas, and sample images. A helpful glossary and list of resources are included at the end. The sensibly structured approach of Adrian Davies’ writing is somewhat dry but comprehensible and quite logical. His insight clues us in to how to modify the macro process depending upon the specific type of subject mat-

ter being photographed. He manages to de-mystify such concepts as depth-of-field, histograms, image size and camera settings in an intelligible manner. Of particular interest are examples that delineate ultraviolet fluorescence, imaginative backlighting, polarized light, and image sequencing. Whether used by a professional for scientific documentation or by an amateur for purely creative endeavors, Close-up and Macro Photography is a valuable reference that could save time, effort and money for anyone involved in this particular field. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio Shakespeare Matters By Geoff Spiteri Portico, $10.95, 158 pages Ok, so everyone knows that the Bard is important. By the time you’ve graduated from high school you’ve already read three or four of his plays, watched at least two of them on television, and might have had to sit through a performance of one of them. In Geoff Spiteri’s Shakespeare Matters readers get an overview of the whole of Shakespeare’s work, consider it a quick refresher course for those who haven’t read any of the Great Old Man of Literature’s work since you left school. The book is packed with quick synopses of the plays, a run-down of his most famous (and titillating) sonnets,

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even a catalogue of the bloodiest plays, the raunchiest, etc., etc. The coverage of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays like Titus Andronicus and The Life and Death of King Richard III is especially useful as a prod to tardy readers who haven’t yet waded into the Bard’s catalogue. For reader’s familiar with Shakespeare Shakespeare Matters offers little though, besides the trivia that the book contains which won’t increase an understanding of, or an appreciation of Shakespeare’s works. A nice little book to prod others into reading him though! Reviewed by Jonathon Howard Other reference reviews available on our website www.sanfranciscobookreview.com

...plus hundreds more!

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Poetry & Short Stories LOCAL SF AUTHOR! The Ancient Book Of Hip By D. W. Lichtenberg Fourteen Hills Press, $12.00, 89 pages D.W. Lichtenberg’s poems in his first book, The Ancient Book of Hip, are those that will remain timeless. Lichtenberg, filmmaker and winner of the Michael Rubin Chapbook Award at San Francisco State University, presents a “case study” of hip. Readers will be taken through the streets and subway system of New York and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The narrator will take us on a tour of Europe, ride on the wrong train, see monuments, and make a pit stop at McDonald’s. Strained relationships will also play a pivotal role as we read about young people falling in love, and the tension that builds between them. Despite Lichtenberg setting The Ancient Book of Hip in the New York City area, and from the point of view of a someone in their early twenties, accessibility should not be an issue for readers of any age. All readers have felt love, have known (or will soon know) what it’s like to question your life and

future in your twenties, and what it’s like to lose another. Readers might be thrown off at first when reading Lichtenberg’s poetry as the writing will suddenly jerk into a new thought. However, this soon doesn’t become an issue as this writing style portrays the young, experimental attitudes often attributed to those in their twenties. Reviewed by Robyn Oxborrow The Chester Chronicles By Kermit Moyer The Permanent Press, $28.00, 232 pages Kermit Moyer’s aptly named second book, The Chester Chronicles, is a series of linked short stories which span the Fifties and Sixties, chronicling the adolescence of Chester Patterson. An army brat and perpetual new kid, Chester is awkwardly selfaware and prone to bouts of vivid daydreaming. He barely tolerates his sexy alcoholic mother and selfeffacing father, envies his popular sister, and searches for an identity in environments rife with political and social upheaval.

“Of course, my face is the one that’s impossible to gauge, the one made unseeable by its sheer familiarity, so that observing it is like trying to smell your own breath.” In “Slightly Far East,” he meets an intelligent and bigoted boy who impregnates his Japanese maid. “In the Georgia Rain” recounts Chester’s first trip to a bar, where he faces racism head on. As a “Face Man” for his fraternity, Chester thinks he has it made, until he meets another face man and learns who the true heroes are. The stories, told from Chester’s point of view, reveal a romantic, vain, and highly observant boy obsessed with women and sex. He is often unlikable, a testament to Moyer’s realistic portrayal. Even as he realizes the truth about his family, Chester is still unable to see himself clearly. That’s ok, because we see ourselves in this melodramatic and scarred boy. Reviewed by Katie Cappello

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

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

point…(over 200 times he makes the point): the differences are minor. The differences among European nations are often greater than the difference in the U.S. Baldwin’s book is short, focused, and surprising. He draws on the latest evidence from sources like the United Nations, the World Bank, OCED and he includes 50 pages of end notes and source material. A well-respected Professor of History at UCLA, Baldwin set out to “unsettle the prejudices and dislodge mistaken assumptions…on both sides of the Atlantic.” I strongly suggest you let him update your thinking as completely as he did mine. Reviewed by Marcia Jo U.S. Grown: To Survive a Nation Must Feed Itself By Herman Franck Esq. BookSurge, $12.99, 184 pages You always hear the phrase “buy American”; however the consumer rarely hears this phrase applied to the food chain. In the book U.S. Grown, author Herman Franck, Esq., discusses the effect that Americans have on the world food chain. The more food we consume that’s grown in third world countries the harder it is for the starving in those countries to get food. Franck uses many reports and much statistical informa-

Too Much Happiness: Stories By Alice Munro Knopf, $25.95, 304 pages Alice Munro presents another series of the epitome of what the modern short story should, and could, be. Using an absolutely delightful turn of phrase, she writes the things that the rest of us only think about, and sometimes those things that we only think about for a moment, as they’re not “proper” or “socially acceptable” situations to dwell on. What happens to a mother after the violent death of her three children? What is the answer behind the mystery of a special-needs child drowning at summer camp? Munro shines a flashlight on the human condition, but only enough to get you to think. Indeed, there’s not much happiness in Munro’s most recent collection, but her depth, her talent, and her raw look at the world make this book (and Munro) one in a million. This book is haunting, the storylines are memorable, and it’s an honor to own and read Munro’s words. Reviewed by Allena Tapia

tion to make his points. He talks about the expanding bio fuel market taking food out of the mouths of the hungry, and also talks about food wars. Franck discusses NAFTA; he talks about the Chinese dumping food in the American market at prices so low that our farmers can’t compete. “U.S. Grown is devoted to reviving and supporting U.S. agriculture.” This reviewer found this book startling. Startling because I didn’t fully grasp the effect of my food purchasing choices. The book is a kind of call to action to the consumer to be aware of what they are buying and where it’s coming from. Franck is also promoting a labeling company called “U.S. Grown.” If you like reading statistical information you will love this book as this reviewer did. Reviewed by Marc Filippelli

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Business & Investing The Communication Problem Solver: Simple Tools and Techniques for Busy Managers By Nannette Rundle Carroll AMACOM Books, $18.95, 304 pages Let’s face it – when it comes to the manager/employee relationship, communication is not always at its finest. The workplace can be a volatile environment and many managers, especially new ones, struggle to find solutions to address communication issues. In The Communication Problem Solver, Nannette Rundle Carroll tackles these issues head on! Ms. Carroll provides straightforward advice for handling even the hardest communication problems – from learning how to manage friends, to addressing the “judging habit,” to dealing with generation gaps amongst employees. She provides real life examples of common workplace problems and action steps to take to address them. The tools and techniques are easy to understand and extremely usable. Her knowledge and experience provides the reader with confidence that these tools and tips have been used before and will actually work. As a new manager I applied her technique about setting turbocharged expectations with my employees and the results have been nothing but positive. I look forward to applying more of her techniques with my team and helping them be the best they can be! This book should be required reading for ALL managers, no matter what

experience level and I will be recommending this to all of my coworkers – including my own managers! Reviewed by Nicole Will The Art of the Idea: And How It Can Change Your Life By John Hunt, Illustrated by Sam Nhlengethwa powerHouse Books, $24.95, 135 pages John Hunt’s ascerbic The Art Of The Idea: And How It Can Change Your Life, gently couched in Sam Mnlengethwa’s engaging illustrations, is a thought-provoking journey from the nebulous clouds of ideas into the hard-hitting rocks of the real world. It goes from here to there, in a straight line, but in your mind, it does not. It swirls around— the ideas, I mean. In sum, this book is about 20 ideas wrapped in a lovely package of 20 observations. Neat. Clean. Organized. And yet, the thoughts carefully nestled in each, are anything but. Cataclysmic. Explosive. Revolutionary. It does not tell you what you already comfortably know; it shakes you to your core—the kind of knowledge that can happen only from something new, concocted largely from piecing together what is already known to you, and yet don’t. The ideas in this book make me both happy and sad; happy because positive thinking is a good thing without being kitschy, and sad because not everyone, specially some of those who need to, will be able to read this book.

Anyway, reading this must be how kindergarten kids read children’s book—full of fascination, full of possibilities—and that life is a world of wonderful ideas. The only difference? We’ve grown up and we’re no longer kids. Reviewed by Dominique James Too Big to Fail By Andrew Ross Sorkin Viking Adult, $27.95, 600 pages Surreal. Too Big to Fail takes everyday folks inside a world most of us will never enter, the world of the rich and powerful: Wall Street and Washington DC. Inside this spine-tingling story of the financial collapse of 2008, you’ll find daily helicopter commutes to work; secret meetings in Moscow; tough talk; and hard falls. This is the true tale of the failing of America’s banking system and the demise of Lehman Brothers. Written like fiction, but with all the nausea-invoking trappings of reality, Too Big to Fail doesn’t miss a detail—sometimes failingly so. Indeed, it could earn the nickname Too Big to Read with its 539 pages of text and its 38 pages of what appears to be 8-point font notes. Yet, its mass is also symbolic. The enormity of the economic crash of 2008, the multiple events leading up to it, and the dozens of players involved could not be chronicled in any smaller a scale. In fact, the tome begins with eight pages listing “The Cast of Characters and the Companies They Kept.” While reading, you’ll surely flip back to that

list frequently as the characters mount and the details unfold. Author Andrew Ross Sorkin, also a New York Times reporter, deftly moves these characters across the chess board that makes up his ultra-in-depth report. He helps bring to life otherwise unknown pawns from our daily newspapers. He provides details of their real lives—the good and the ugly. He reveals their inner motivations, their secret meetings, and their deep interconnectedness. Reading this book is like being a fly on the wall in some science fiction novel. But this is real; all too real. Sorkin reminds you of this fact with a haunting insert of frat-boy-style men’s club images of suited and tuxedoed politicos, bankers, and the general leading men (and a few women) in this horrifying drama. Too Big to Fail plays out the cards that only an elite few were allowed to deal as most Americans watched their television sets in fear. It explains the panic, the missteps, and the strange strategy interlinking Wall Street and DC. You’ll find it hard to remember you’re not reading fiction, and will be plagued by a foggy feeling of being somewhere between two worlds. Sorkin concludes the book with his own learned insights, which you’ll trust beyond compare after completing his detailed depiction of the crisis. “Vulture investing is back in vogue again, with everyone raising money in anticipation of the collapse of commercial real estate and the once-in-alifetime bargains that might be available as a result.” Have they learned nothing? Perhaps this book will become required reading for generations to come? One can hope. Reviewed by Amber K. Stott

Humor-NonFiction I Drink for a Reason By David Cross Grand Central Publishing, $23.99, 236 pages I Drink For A Reason demonstrates Cross’s ability to prattle off free association thinking in an engaging way. His prose reads like a stand-up comedy act transferred to print, and therein lies the problem. This style of mockery, cynicism, and sporadically vulgar and offensive humor might enjoy greater appreciation from a nightclub audience than attentive book readers. This reviewer appreciates some lowbrow humor but Cross takes it to a level devoid of creative value. He doesn’t do it often, but enough to ruin

the reading experience. His occasional forays into the profane come off as gratuitous. He has talent, but the reader has to wade through a lot of commentary between the moments of actual humor. One example of his creative ability is revealed when he fantasizes about appearing in a reality TV program where he says, “The Younger Me would of course be played by Orlando Bloom or Jude Law, whichever one is, as of the publishing deadline of this book, hotter in accordance with the scientists at People Magazine.” Such gems are funny but one must wade through a lot of muck to find them. Save your money unless you enjoy being offended with reckless abandon. Reviewed by Grady Jones

Wanted - Bear Cubs for My Children: One Hundred of the Weirdest Posts Ever Seen on Craigslist (and Their Responses) By Gary Fingercastle Adams Media, $10.95, 215 pages It seems like you can find anything on Craigslist these days -- haunted armoires, wax figures of Phil Collins, acting opportunities, requests for people to dress up like squirrels and bite someone -- the Internet is really a wonderful playground and trading post. And that’s where prankster and worldclass rascal Gary Fingercastle comes in. While posting some of the most bizarre and hilarious ads you’ve never answered on Craigslist,

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Fingercastle has conducted a unique social experiment, probing the limits of what is too ridiculous to sell, too peculiar to request, and too unbelievable to offer. He has compiled his findings in the book Wanted: Bear Cubs for My Children, and it is an eyeopeningly funny read. By including some of the responses to his posts -- ranging from interested and baffled to irate and nonplussed -- as well as those few posts flagged and rejected by patrons, the author assembles a virtual carnival of silliness, perversity, and flat-out stupidity that would make P.T. Barnum proud. As someone who has posted the occasional fake Missed Connection for laughs, I bow before the master. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

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Cooking, Food & Wine The Omnivore’s Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat By Michael Pollan Dial, $17.99, 298 pages Food has been getting a spanking for quite some time now and America is taking the brunt. We all know the fast food industry has been playing a large role in making the country’s youth obese, but how much more do we really know? And what else is the government not telling us? Journalist Michael Pollan has taken it upon himself to find answers to arising questions and to literally experience what it means to grow food, raise chickens and eat differently than the norm. As opposed to his shockingly raw Omnivore’s Dilemma, the author has toned down the drama and presented a yet still absorbing kid’s version. Knowledge is power, and Mr. Pollan doesn’t hold back when describing the vicious effects of mass production, preservatives and the danger behind slaughtering animals in inhumane ways. “Of the thirty-eight ingredients in a Chicken McNugget, at least thirteen come from corn.” Even as a grown-up the book was not easy to digest—no pun intended—for there is no evading the hard, cold and often brutal truth behind the food chain, but by the end you arise informed enough to make a difference in not just your own life, but possibly in the world as a whole. Reviewed by Natalie Fladager Anyone Can Cook: Step-by-Step Recipes Just for You By Better Homes & Gardens Meredith Books, $24.95, 482 pages Better Homes and Gardens have promised something immense: that anyone (yes, you) can cook. Do they realize there are people out there that don’t know how to whisk an egg, let alone steam broccoli? Turns out they do, for in their new gigantically equipped book, Anyone Can Cook Step-byStep Recipes Just for You, even the most novice chefs (including the ones who use kitchens for storage or chatting on the telephone) will learn something useful. If, like me, you watch Giada or Tyler Florence and learn great recipes but are often flabbergasted by the finished product, then take comfort. For lack of a better metaphor, lets just say

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that Ina Garten was God and you were Adam; you would know that you couldn’t create a scrumptious mushroom soufflé in ten minutes, especially if you wanted a soufflé that was French-cooking-school light and airy. Gotta leave that to the master. But here is a cookbook that not only shares some basic, tasty dishes but the foundation to deliver the recipes—and most others you desire to whip up—in delicious, edible, “mmmm, this is good” style. Reviewed by Natalie Fladager So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week By Ellie Krieger Wiley, $29.95, 272 pages Lately I have been disappointed with cookbooks. The array of them, all with their bright covers and heavy binding, at first excite me but then, after an hour or two of browsing, contemplating the individual dishes, visualizing myself grocery shopping for the ingredients, I am thoroughly unhappy. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I expect too much out of them. Maybe I do just judge a book by its cover and its cover alone. Maybe I am asking for the impossible, that every recipe be appetizing, delicious, easy enough for me to make, and relatively healthy. Even if this is all true I have finally found my miracle: Food Network alumni and healthfood advocate Ellie Krieger’s newest book, So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week has come and saved me from cookbook apathy. Everything from the stunning photographs to the helpful grocery lists and nutrition tips make this book all the more essential. And who could pass up scrumptious dishes like chocolate and strawberry stuffed French toast and herbed goat cheese crostini? Let this question remain rhetorical, for there is nothing lacking in this cookbook-except, say, Ellie Krieger herself emerging from page 135 to whip up her aromatic chipotle orange glazed pork chops. Bon Appetit! Reviewed by Natalie Fladager Real Simple Best Recipes: Easy, Delicious Meals By Editors of Real Simple Magazine Hachette/Real Simple, $27.95, 208 pages If you want uncomplicated cooking, here’s a cookbook for you. If, however, you already know your way around a kitchen, you probably won’t find any new challenges in Real Simple Best Recipes. This is Rachel Ray simple, but with Martha Stewart presentation and elegance.

Here is a compact collection of appetizers, soups, main dishes, and desserts. Some recipes take a healthy approach, such as the Ginger Chicken Soup with Vegetables, while others aim mostly for taste (calorie-counting aside), such as the Croissant and Chocolate Bread Pudding. You’ll find dishes that require sprucing up a packaged item, like Potato Pierogi with Sauteed Cabbage and Apples (the pierogi are pre-packaged; the cabbage slaw is homemade). You’ll also find made-from-scratch decadence, like ApricotCoconut Cake. “Salad for dinner” doesn’t have to be synonymous with “prelude to a craving for a huge slice of pie an hour later.” Although the book works with the utterly simplistic, it doesn’t lack for quality or originality. Every color photo reveals a stunning dish, while recipes invoke creativity like Creamy Barley Salad with Apples or Chicken Souvlaki, a Greek-inspired dish served with kalamata olives, yogurt, and fresh dill. The book also offers something that many do not: an entire section devoted to vegetarian main dishes. If you’re looking for easy ways to impress, Real Simple Best Recipes won’t let you down. Reviewed by Amber K. Stott Princess Tea By Janeen A. Sarlin with Noelle Shipley Chronicle Books, $19.95, 120 pages All right, so, strictly speaking, I don’t have any kids. I probably shouldn’t have reviewed this book, but the pink cover and promise of tea party menus made my brain light up like the Las Vegas strip, and I just couldn’t resist. I do have friends with daughters, so I reasoned that this might make me a popular pseudo-aunt, as in, “Mom! Aunt Amanda’s here and she brought lavender cupcakes and tea and pretty fairy wings and she’s the coolest person ever so thank you for knowing her!” That little fantasy isn’t very far off now that I have this book in my possession. Princess Tea is a blueprint for all manner of get-togethers, even Halloween parties for kids who might be too young for monsters and ghosts. A few of the recipes call for ingredients that might be difficult to find (unless your local Stop ‘n’ Shop carries culinary lavender buds), but a quick web search told me that they’re all at least obtainable by mail order.

Personally, I can’t wait to put this book to use. Now I just have to wait for one of my “fake” nieces to get old enough for a proper tea party. Reviewed by Amanda Mitchell Read Amanda’s weekly cooking column, Amanda and the Ferocious Feast at www.sanfranciscobookreview.com/viewpoints/

Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home: 52 Quick Meals to Cook for Family and Friends By Martha Stewart Clarkson Potter, $35.00, 272 pages Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home promises quick meals when you don’t have “all day.” Looking through the table of contents, you may wonder if shrimp in saffron and candied pears could really be considered a quick meal? And quail? Really? Indeed, it can be done, and Stewart does it masterfully by planning menus by season, thereby working your food pairings for you, and making sure that all ingredients are readily available—a service she calls “menu planning strategy.” Dedication: “To all the homemakers in America, pressed for time yet caring for their families.” Each season has a potential 10-12 meals which are laid out with descriptive names in that season’s introductory page. The book should be used according to this system, which is key to its time-saving effect. As this menu page employs very specific names, the cook can preliminarily choose a meal with ingredients that are already available in the pantry or garden. Additional features include suggestions on obtaining or substituting ingredients that may be hard to find, a “basics” section for the new cook, and several offerings of culturally coordinated menus—such as Spanish torrijas paired with Strip Steak Chimichurri. In addition, each plate is beautifully presented, and the heavy hard cover and flat binding are perfect for the kitchen. Reviewed by Allena Tapia

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

experienced ourselves; a difficult labor, a miscarriage, an atheist’s struggle for truth, an artist plight, slavery. Everyday experiences, both good and bad, but the common thread in these tales is God’s love for us as humans, that He does answer prayers and watch out for us. There is something for everyone in this book. Brilliantly orchestrated publication! Reviewed by M. Chris Johnson Subversive Sequels: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other By Judy Klitsner Jewish Publication Society of America, $35.00, 230 pages It’s no surprise that Biblical narratives borrow from each other. The four gospels of the New Testament are, basically, four retellings of the same story. But that doesn’t keep a book like Judy Klitsner’s Subversive Sequels in the Bible from shedding new light on familiar stories. From her examination of the parallels between Noah and Jonah to her interpretation of the narratives that feature women, Klitsner employs a modern literary voice to convey subject matter that can easily become impenetrable scholarly mumbo jumbo.

As much as I enjoyed this, though, I feel like I should offer a word of caution: some readers might take umbrage at Klitsner’s statements that the Bible contains stories about Jehovah written by humans. Personally, I don’t take offense to this, but since there are plenty of people who view the Bible as the inspired word of God, it’s worth noting. Klitsner has written a special, insightful, surprising book. Her devotion to the subject matter is obvious, even if the conclusions she draws are likely to be seen as controversial. Reviewed by Amanda Mitchell

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

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

Technology Windows 7: Up and Running By Wei-Meng Lee O’Reilly Media, Inc., $24.99, 185 pages While this manual is about getting around in Windows 7, it seems to be based on the OEM (Original Equipment manufacturer) beta version. The author discusses the fact that you can have only one wallpaper in this version, usually to give the OEM a place for their logo so it the first thing you see when the PC is done booting up. Because I am Certified Microsoft Systems Engineer the book wasn’t really geared towards users like me looking for technical detail so I had to shift out of technician mode and read the book only as a user. In my opinion the average user looking to find their way around Windows 7 will find this book helpful for all of the basic functions that most people would be working with. The book does cover the minimum hardware requirements and gives the reader a good overview of the basic system functions. I found it easy to follow. There are many screen shots that the author uses to help the reader understand the point being made. Well written and illustrated. Reviewed by Marc Filippelli Make: Technology on Your Time Volume 20 By Edited by Mark Frauenfelder O’Reilly Media, Inc., $14.99, 179 pages Make is a quarterly magazine that focuses on serious Do-It-Yourself projects and targets DIYers, builders, crafters, and other creative sorts. The Winter 2009 issue’s main feature is an interview with Adam Savage of the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters.

This issue, among other projects, features a hydrogen-oxygen bottle rocket, an Autophenakistoscope, a marble adding machine, and so much more. All of these projects are accompanied with detailed instruction and large full color photos to guide even the most building illiterate through all the projects in this Make. I especially enjoyed the lunch box laser show project, which is now my DIY high tech project for 2010. As always my sole complaint with this Winter 2009-10 issue of Make, and all issues really, is how daunting many of the projects are! The intimidation factor for this magazine is pretty high, despite all the help the magazine and its website offer. For the uninitiated much of Make is opaque, esoteric, and indecipherable. The persistent reader, prepared to step out of their comfort zone, will learn much from it. Reviewed by Jonathon Howard AVITAR con’t from page 7 lated evidence is meant to help environmentalists save this fertile planet from the same fate suffered by ours. As a movie tie-in, this manual could interest role-playing gamers, CGI fanatics or casual moviegoers who love those special features offered on most DVDs. While it offers some backstory to the fi lm, it lacks any real narrative structure and comes off as clichéd and derivative. Any originality here is in style of presentation, which could have been improved with hand-drawn concept sketches in lieu of mediocre computer imagery that should exemplify the vision of fi lmmaker James Cameron. Instead, this book’s best redeeming quality can be found in its politically correct message of ecology. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio

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

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

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

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

February 10 21

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

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

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

22 February 10

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

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

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

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Sequential Art Zeus: King of the Gods By George O’Connor First Second, $9.99, 80 pages Beginning, appropriately, before the beginning of time, Zeus: King of the Gods by George O’Connor chronicles the story of the ancient Greek God of Thunder and master of Olympus. Staying rather true to Greek myth, O’Connor literally illustrates the universe-creation story; Gaea, the Earth, bears the children (the Titans, the Cyclopes, and the Hekatonchieres) of Ouranos, the sky. Ouranos, ashamed of how hideous the Cyclopes and Hekatonchieres were, imprisoned them deep in Gaea, in a place called Tartaros, much to Gaea’s discontent, and so she had the Titans, led by Kronos, overthrow their father. Once done, the Titans also did not allow the Cyclopes and Hekatonchieres out of Tartaros, and so Gaea turned to the children of the Titans, the Olympians (led by Zeus, the son of Kronos, of whom Kronos did not know about), to overthrow the Titans, and thus Zeus’s rise to power begins. Though the art and illustration are very well executed, and the story line starts off amazingly, something feels as if it is missing towards the middle and end of the plot. Though the title is Zeus: King of the Gods, more time and attention to detail seems to be given to the story of the Titans than the story of Zeus, and many integral portions of Zeus’s story seem to be missing. Bearing all of this in mind, that which is presented from Zeus’s story is true to myth, it’s simply that not all of it is presented that becomes the issue. Reviewed by Jordan Dacayanan Smile By Raina Telgemeier GRAPHIX, $10.99, 224 pages Raina wants nothing more than to be a normal sixth-grader, and her idea of that does NOT include having braces. But braces are her destiny, and that’s only the beginning of her dental drama. A fall leaves her missing her two front teeth, and the next four years bring a circus of braces, headgear, fake teeth, and surgery, all in the quest for a normal smile. On top of that, Raina is also dealing with family, school, boys, and confusion with what true friendship entails. Smile is a deceitfully normal coming-of-age tale, one that a surprising number of younger readers will find themselves identifying with. Raina could be any young woman, and the au-

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thor, who based this story on her own struggles, truly manages to bring her younger self to life through her drawings. A fun, uplifting read, with a wonderfully happy conclusion. Reviewed by Holly Scudero Nelson Mandela; The Authorized Comic Book By The Nelson Mandela Foundation; Illustrated by Umlando Wezithombe Norton, $27.95, 193 pages Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book retells Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, in the graphic novel form. The illustrations created by Umlando Wezithombe help provide a visual counterpart to the constant struggle of President Mandela’s life story. We begin by following the dispossession of the Mandela family at the whim of the apartheid state decree. Mandela’s birth name Rolihlahla, literally “troublemaker,” rings true as he educates both himself and other black South Africans about the disparity forced upon them through the practices of the dominant apartheid government. Employing the African National Congress to demonstrate through nonviolent means initially, Mandela was ultimately incarcerated for 27 years because of the ANC’s decision to use violent sabotage as a necessary tactic. Upon his release from Robben Island the ANC was reinstated as a political party and Mandela was elected President in 1991. The comic form of this story is an appeal to the youth education market of the U.S., as well as an attempt to gain international recognition for a story of strength, discipline, and honesty. The difficulty of this particular work is recognized in both its shortcomings and triumphs as these attributes are highlighted in a form so heavily associated with hyperbole and manipulation. Reviewed by Joe Atkins

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Arrrrgggghhhh! i should have checked the san francisco book review website before buying this book!

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February 10 23

Art, Architecture & Photography Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist By James Gurney Andrews McMeel, $24.99, 224 pages My cousins were all quite young when Dinotopia was first published; they spent many an hour engrossed in the fantastic tales woven by author and master illustrator James Gurney. Not surpringly, Dinotopia-themed pictures appear frequently in Imaginative Realism. The premise of the book is a dichotomy in and of itself: how to draw things that aren’t there, as realistically as possible. Having grown up in a household of artists and illustrators, I saw familiar themes and equipment displayed and simply explained from proper lighting, clay figurines and buildings…even using one’s friends as models “en costume.” The artist is unstinting in relaying advice, varying techniques and a startlingly vast array of topical illustrations, including many pieces drawn for National Geographic magazine. Despite the book’s title and object lessons in pure imagination, I most enjoyed his studies of real faces as well as the historical illustrations; the figures, details and expressions are so well drawn that one can almost guess the entire story from the pictures. Despite knowing that one is not to “judge a book by its cover,” in this case I found it difficult not to; the odd, gremlin-like creature pictured on the front is universally unappealing, and unduly juvenile compared to the exquisite drawings within. I encourage consumers to look past the cover and peruse the inner delights for themselves. Reviewed by Meredith Greene Human Documents: Eight Photographers (Peabody Museum) By Robert Gardner, Charles Warren, Michael Rockefeller, and Adelaide de Menil Harvard University Press, $50.00, 128 pages In Human Documents, the selected images of eight photographers—Michael Rockefeller, Robert Gardner, Adelaide de Menil, Kevin Bubriski, Christopher James, Jane Tuckerman, Susan Meiselas, and Alex Webb—are all presented. The works of these photographers were realized over a period of nearly fifty years under the auspices of the Film Study Center at Harvard University. Their images achieve the status of what Gardner calls “human documents”—a visual evidence that testifies to our shared humanity. You can say that there is really nothing new in this book except that it presents the individual visions of the photographers and

24 February 10

it refines the view from which we look at them. In images and words, the book adds to the already significant literature on photography and fi lmmaking as ways to gather both fact and insight into the human condition. In nearly 100 images spanning geographies and cultures including India, Ethiopia, and the United States, Human Documents demonstrates the important role photography can play in still furthering our understanding of human nature and connecting people through an almost universal visual language. Author and cultural critic Eliot Weinberger contributes the essay “Photography and Anthropology (A Contact Sheet),” in which he provides a new and intriguing context for viewing and thinking about the images presented here. Reviewed by Dominique James Sydney and Flora By Susanna Moore; Geoff rey Biddle, Photographer Turtle Point Press, $29.95, 120 pages Putting a modern spin on a classic surrealist photography technique, that of triptography (triple exposing a single roll of fi lm), Geoff rey Biddle presents a startling and interesting collection of photographs in Sydney and Flora. Sydney and Flora are Biddle’s aunt and uncle, and both avid participants in the arts. Flora had the original photographs commissioned, and for this work Biddle had them digitally overlapped in order to create one of a kind experimental and deeply personal familial explorations, which he has shared with all of us. The final result is a collection of photographs that are jarring, sentimental, innovative, and very powerful. Though the work is often on the bizarre end of the scale, it appears to be the point to be so; With eyes overlapping mouths, and foreheads melding with hair and noses, each image is unique in the utmost and as such brings up a different rush of feeling and emotion. Finishing off with an explanation of the background of the work and his personal thoughts and feelings concerning it, Biddle has given us a look into his life and into the life of Sydney and Flora. Reviewed by Jordan Dacayanan

make an amateur photographer dream of something bigger (figuratively and literally). The book begins with the history and basics of panoramic artistry, followed by detailed specifications and features of the tools (hardware and software) one can use; and then culminating in step-by-step instructions of how to create four different panoramic projects

(which he has already done), enabling someone else to create similar projects. At the end of each chapter, there is also a listing of useful internet links about the key items discussed. Definitely, there are jargons that can sound intimidating. When lost (which is rare), the reader can just sit back and enjoy the pictures for a while. Reviewed by Donabel Beltran

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Mastering Digital Panoramic Photography By Herald Wieste RockyNook, $34.95, 151 pages Harald Woeste’s Mastering Digital Panoramic Photography makes panoramic photography achievable to anyone who has the interest in dabbling in it. It’s not “easy,” mind you, but Mr. Woeste’s easy wordings, practical visualizations and examples can

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San Francisco Book Review - February 2010  

A monthly printed publication featuring book reviews in 30 different categories

San Francisco Book Review - February 2010  

A monthly printed publication featuring book reviews in 30 different categories