Feb 11 VOLUME 2, ISSUE 5
F R E E
NEW AND OF INTEREST
What’s not to like about giant crabs in epic fantasy? The Way of the Kings Page 2
Secrets and silk worms
Dark Water Page 8
Do we need another book on “peak oil”?
Peak of the Devil: 100 Questions (and Answers) About Peak Oil Page 15
Busted! By T.M. Shine
Shaye Areheart Books, $23.00, 294 pages
Author T. M. Shine has managed to accomplish the improbable. He’s written a very funny novel about unemployment. In this story, Jeffrey Reiner writes for a South Florida weekly before being handed his pink slip. Based on his wife’s incorrect calculations, he has a set amount of time in which to find a new job before his unemployment benefits run out. He has, in fact, a third less time than he thinks he does. While out of work, Reiner finds that he actually enjoys life for the first time, although this is at the price of his relationship with his spouse. No matter, since Reiner gets closer to his dog, his kids and
the young woman next door. He takes some very odd jobs in the community that are provided to him by the biggest hustler in town, a man who runs five questionable businesses simultaneously. Shine joins the company of David Sedaris, Dave Barry, Lisa Scottoline and Jerry Seinfeld with his musings about a life that is slowly falling apart. Reiner is a loser who becomes a winner. This is a highly entertaining debut novel from an author who’s otherwise unemployed in his real life. Wouldn’t you know it? Reviewed by Joseph Arellano
Missing You, Metropolis: Poems Page 30
By Randi Hutter Epstein, MD Author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank Page 32
137 Reviews INSIDE!
Science Fiction & Fantasy Mercy Blade By Faith Hunter ROC, $7.99, 305 pages I was delighted to have the opportunity to read another Jane Yellowrock adventure. I was not disappointed, but was somewhat overwhelmed by the obvious growth in Faith Hunter’s writing skill. In Skin Walker, Faith Hunter explored Jane’s world of magic, shape changers, vampires, and their dependents. In her earlier work, Jane’s sexuality, while obviously present, was tentative. In Mercy Blade it has become mature and important. While the author maintains sexual tension throughout the nonstop action of this tale, she never allows her protagonist to find satisfaction. She does, however, bring her poor shape changer so close to satisfaction so often that the reader may have an occasional problem breathing. In this story, Hunter’s Yellowrock universe, while still developing, is more fully established, and she is able to exploit already introduced characters and expand their wondrous diversity and perversity. We first encounter Jane, cat-content with recent lovemaking. Soon her boyfriend and her content disappear, and she is introduced to new classes of supernaturals. They are Were Cats from Africa, and homegrown Werewolves, who, it turns out, are animae non grata with her vampire boss, Leo. The action is nonstop, almost literally. I wish Faith Hunter would reintroduce musing. Reviewed by David Sutton When Wicked Craves By J.K. Beck Bantam, $7.99, 328 pages For centuries, the firstborn children of the Lang family have carried a terrible curse – any being they touch is transformed into the vilest of demons. Petra Lang has lived for twenty-six years under her family’s curse, with only her twin brother Kiril to share her lonely life and to protect her as their grandmother bound him to do. Now the Shadow Alliance has sentenced her to death, claiming that she’s part of a prophecy that predicts their destruction. But when Petra is rescued by Nicholas Montegue – advocate, scientist, vampire – she finds her life even more
2 February 11
complicated than usual. Dodging Alliance goons as they search for a cure, both Petra and Nicholas end up finding more than they ever dreamed of. The only yawn in this story is the ending which feels stilted and doesn’t seem get the build-up it really needs in order to go out with a bang. But I give mad props to Beck for managing to create yet another twist in the seeming never-ending sea of current vampire lore. As an added treat we also get a taste of other shadowy characters such as jinn, werewolves and succubi, not to mention an old-fashioned, demoninspired curse to boot. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz The Ice Cradle: A Novel from the Ghost Files By Mary Ann Winkowski and Maureen Foley Three Rivers Press, $14.00, 292 pages Cold weather, the crisp fall leaves, a dark deep sea mist and a crashing shore, those are the images conjured up in the second novel in the Ghost Files series. If you are a fan of the books, then the second one will knock your socks off. For those new to the story, do yourself a favor and buy them. The team of Mary Ann Winkowski and Maureen Foley has the uncanny ability to create amazing characters that stay with you. Each character has a life and voice of their own, and even the ghosts and animals seem to have personalities and a liveliness that is unique. It is refreshing to see writers who seem to honestly care about the depth and detail of their work. Overall it is the rich and elaborate plot that holds these characters to the light and makes them shine. The real core of the book is the motherson relationship between main character, Anza O’Malley, and Henry, her 5-year-old son. Henry starts to show that he has the same “power” his mom has, the ability to see and talk to ghosts. Anza is conflicted and troubled inside, but she presents herself as a calm and cool mother to the world. Anza’s strength is always being tested as she manages her son, a new relationship, and a questionable new job. The Ice Cradle is not only a great continuation of a good series, it’s also a story about the strength of the human heart. Reviewed by Kevin Brown
The Way of Kings By Brandon Sanderson Tor, $27.99, 1008 pages
During his teenage years, when Brandon Sanderson was in college working on his writing and looking to make it as an author, in the back of his mind a story idea formed and began to germinate and develop and become more and more complex. Over a decade later, with Sanderson firmly established as one of the most important, best selling fantasy writers being published today, he has now turned that idea that was a dream into a reality in The Way of Kings, the first book of the “Stormlight Archive” Series. Epic fantasy story aside, the book itself is a work of art: beautiful maps on the inside covers, further maps, illustrations and drawings throughout the lengthy book for each story; illustrations for each chapter title; and a captivating cover by artist Michael Whelan. Another part of the dreamcome-true for Sanderson is the permission of the publisher, Tor, to publish a book weighing in at over a thousand pages—an indication that Tor has full confidence in the book and in Sanderson. Sanderson begins the book with the important history of this world. Long ago, there was a mighty war between the Voidbringers and the knights known as Radiants, who used a special kind of armor known as Shardplates and their weapons were the unstoppable Shardblades—“A Shardblade did not cut flesh; it severed the soul itself”—but then the Radiants turned against mankind and abandoned them, leaving their armor and weapons. We turn to the present day, thousands of years later to the Shattered Plains, a harsh and horrific landscape where armies battle the enemy for domination, with the goal of securing more Shardplates and Shardblades. Then there are the Chasmfiends, great, destructive, terrifying beasts that they also fight to kill, for deep within their crustacean bodies lie priceless gemhearts. Our story focuses on two characters. Kaladin is a young man in his twenties who has seen much of life already. Raised by his surgeon father to become a brilliant doctor, he instead turns to the life of a warrior, with hopes of getting his hands on a Shardblade, and soon sees his fair share of death and bloodshed. Now he is a slave, for reasons unknown, with little to hope for in life. He soon becomes a member of the bridge crew, a group of slaves whose job it is to carry a giant, heavy bridge across great distances and to lay it across the chasms to allow the soldiers to cross and attack the enemy. Kaladin becomes part of bridge team four, which is renowned for losing the most lives each time it races into battle. Kaladin finds luck on his side, as he manages to continue to survive, and then chooses to work for his team, train them, create survival tactics for them, and he discovers something he thought he’d lost for good: hope and his will to live. Then there is Shallan, a young woman whose family has fallen on hard times after the death of their father. The family is in possession of a Soulcaster, a unique magical device that can create just about anything out of nothing, only now it is broken. However, Shallan has a plan: to become the ward and student of Jasnah Kolin, sister of King Elhokar of Althekar, with plans to replace Jasnah’s Soulcaster with her own; her only problem is she has no idea how to use it. While a thousand pages may have been a little too much for Sanderson to tell the stories he wanted to tell in this first volume of the projected ten-book series, as some story lines drag a little before something happens, Sanderson has nevertheless done what he does best: created a truly unique fantasy world that at times feels as complete and complex as our own. There is the class system of eye color, with darkeyes, who are looked down on, and lighteyes, who are the only ones who may bear Shardblades (though there are hints that this is not set in stone). There is the important religion of the Vorin, which most of the known world follows, which tells of the struggle between the Voidbringers and humanity; while some other religions are hinted at; and then there is Jasnah Kolin, an atheist decreed a heretic, who is a most unique and fascinating character. A number of interludes throughout the book help to introduce some minor characters to explore some more of this overwhelming world, such as Szeth-son-son-Vallano, who is an assassin from the land of Shinovar, possessing a unique magic to flip gravity around. And then there are the spren, which are spirits that seem to be caused by or drawn to specific happenstances and emotions, such as fear, pain, music, rot, and glory, to name a few. Little is known or understood about the spren, other than that they exist, while Kaladin finds himself befriending a specific spren that seems to be evolving. One would think that much could be told in a thousand pages, but Sanderson has barely chipped slivers off the mighty iceberg of “The Stormlight Archive,”, but considering he has the penultimate book, Wheel of Time, coming out soon at almost 800 pages, he has certainly proved that he can get a lot of good-quality writing done when he needs to, so fans shouldn’t have to wait too long before the next mighty volume in this terrific new series is released. By Alex C. Telander
T hou s a nd s of b o ok re v ie w s at S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
Book Review 1776 Productions. LLC 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 Ph. 877.913.1776 firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR IN CHIEF Ross Rojek email@example.com GRAPHIC DESIGN/LAYOUT Heidi Komlofske firstname.lastname@example.org Rowena Manisay COPY EDITORS Megan Just Lori Miller Megan Roberts Sky Sanchez-Fischer EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Jen LeBrun Mary Komlofske WEBSITE/SOCIAL NETWORKING/ APP DEVELOPMENT Ariel Berg Robyn Oxborrow DISTRIBUTION Reliable Distribution Mari Ozawa MEDIA SALES email@example.com
The San Francisco Book Review is published bi-monthly by 1776 Productions, LLC. The opinions expressed in these pages are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the San Francisco Book Review or Sacramento Book Review advertisers. All images are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders. All words © 2010, 1776 Productions, LLC.
Subscriptions Send $18.00 for 12 monthly issues to 1776 Productions, 1215 K Street, 17th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814.
IN THIS ISSUE Science Fiction & Fantasy............................... 2 Romance......................................................... 4 Mystery, Crime & Thrillers............................. 5 History........................................................... 7 Young Adult.................................................... 8 Tweens........................................................... 9 Sequential Art.............................................. 10 Modern Literature........................................ 11 Humor-NonFiction....................................... 12 Biographies & Memoirs................................ 13 Science & Nature.......................................... 15 Historical Fiction.......................................... 16 Crafts & Hobbies.......................................... 18 Relationships & Sex...................................... 18 Current Events............................................. 19 Health, Fitness & Dieting............................. 19 Children’s..................................................... 20 Religion........................................................ 22 Music & Movies............................................. 23 Popular Culture............................................ 23 Popular Fiction............................................. 24 Business & Investing.................................... 24 Cooking, Food & Wine.................................. 25 Self-Help....................................................... 27 Philosophy.................................................... 27 Spirituality................................................... 27 Travel........................................................... 28 Art, Architecture & Photography................. 28 Poetry & Short Stories.................................. 29 Horror.......................................................... 31 Classics......................................................... 31
FROM THE EDITOR With February comes, as usual, an issue with extra Romance and a dash of Relationships & Sex. And not only in the paper, but online, we’re running the 14 Days of Love, each day highlighting different book reviews of books relating to love, relationships and things of Cupid’s nature. We hope you’ll find something to pique your curiosity, add some spice to your current relationship, or help you find a new one. We have some exciting new developments coming up. In March, long-time reviewer Chris Johnson will be printing her first issue of the Portland Book Review. We’re excited for her and happy to see another community with an outlet for the literary minded. Portland is an exciting town, with a fine literary community, and Chris should find fertile ground there. We’re finishing up San Francisco and Sacramento Book Apps for the iPhone and iPad, that will let readers check out the latest issues, find local events quickly, and even download electronic books directly out of the app when available. We’re also going to be adding in reviews of books only available as downloads, since that is a growing market for readers and for authors. While we still prefer the feel of books, electronic books are both convenient for many situations (anyone who has to take four or more books with them when traveling knows what I mean), and, in some ways, more economical. Plus, most books allow you to read the first chapter for free, and often that’s enough to tell you if you want to read the rest. Upcoming, March will have our semi-annual Science Fiction & Fantasy insert, plus some great author interviews at AudibleAuthors. net. So far, we have Orson Scott Card (The Lost Gate, Ender’s Game), Greg Bear (Hull Zero Three), Patrick Rothfuss (/he Name of the Wind) and Joe Abercrombie (The Heroes) lined up. All exciting authors and some great conversations. Check them out when you get a chance. Thanks for picking us up once again. We hope you find some good books to pick up. Heidi & Ross
Romance The Lady Most Likely ...: A Novel in Three Parts By Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Connie Brockway Avon, $7.99, 384 pages The Lady Most Likely … to be reading with a smile on her face (men could too, though) is the one who is clever enough to have picked up this book. It’s a charmer. As long as there are men and women, there will be match-making. If only that process could always be as much fun as this delightful tale. Lady is one long book, written by three best-selling authors: Julia Quinn, Connie Brockway, and Eloisa James. There’s an opening chapter which sets up a summer house party (Regency era) with a married sister inviting all the most eligible young ladies from that year’s season to meet her brother, the Earl of Briarly who needs a wife. Then comes Quinn’s section about one couple — the stunningly beautiful Gwendolyn Passmore, who is discovered by the eligible Earl of Charters. A bridging chapter follows, and then comes Brockway’s tale of another couple — Kate Peyton and the war hero Captain Neill Oakes. Their story resolves into another few bridging pages. Finally, we come to James’ portion and the Earl of Briarly whose marriage predicament began the entire party, which of course, includes his sister’s best friend, the widowed Lady Georgina Sorrell. These two engage in perhaps one of the top five seduction scenes I’ve ever read! And there’s an epilogue of course, just to tie up all the loose ends. It’s perfectly delightful, and I can’t praise it highly enough. I totally loved it and would give it more stars if I could. Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz Something Wicked By Michelle Rowen Berkley, $7.99, 368 pages It’s not always easy living with another person. Now imagine trying to live with another person inside of you, always privy to each other’s thoughts, knowing what you’re going to do before you even know, never having any privacy -- ever. Yikes. That’s the premise behind Michelle Rowen’s latest installment in the Living in Eden series. Poor psychic Eden Riley has a demon inside of her, literally. During the day, Darrak can take his own form. At night they share everything.
4 February 11
I was so excited to pick up this book, but found myself quickly disappointed. Unfortunately, Something Wickedfails to fulfill the promise of a fun and entertaining read. With a storyline that jumps so often one feels they have to use a notebook to keep track and characters that don’t add anything to the main story, I found this book easy to walk away from and difficult to pick back up. The main character was often naïve and unbelievable, and the narcissistic hero was a turn-off. Plus, the ending left a little something to be desired. With so many wonderful paranormal romances on the shelf these days, skip this one and find something else. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley The Accidental Wedding By Anne Gracie Berkley, $7.99, 328 pages One of the scariest situations ever devised is to wake up and not know where you are – or even who you are. Imagine then, the confusion surrounding Nash Renfrew, who finds himself in exactly that situation. The location soon becomes apparent – he’s in a small cottage in rural England, with a most capable young woman in charge of five children. He doesn’t recognize anything about any of them, much less his situation. Maddy Woodford didn’t exactly need yet another mouth to feed or person to worry over, but how could she leave the stranger lying in the icy mud where his horse deposited him? Her grit and determination are made clear as she struggles to get him into the cottage. Of course, tongues in the village wag over the scandalous circumstances, but Maddy keeps to her clear-headed course. Until, that is, the “Bloody Abbott” makes yet another scary appearance in an effort to dislodge her from her cottage. Who in the world is this trouble-maker? When the unmasking finally occurs, you’ll cheer for Maddy and Nash as they attempt to build a new alliance. Independent Maddy has not revealed all her history, but then Nash didn’t immediately remember his either. The Accidental Wedding is a wonderful, heart-wrenching romp that’ll stay with you for a good long time. Perhaps you may even want to read it again. Immediately! Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz
To Save the Devil By Kate Moore Berkley, $7.99, 296 pages If you miss the first of a three-act anything, you’re bound to be a tad confused and questioning, until you can somehow find that missing beginning and catch yourself up! That’s where I found myself several times while reading this mostly enjoyable book. I have greatly enjoyed books by Kate Moore over the years, and this one was no exception. But still, I wish I’d have known there was a previous story in this threebook series, Sons of Sin. As always, Moore’s characters are people you’d really like to know. They’re deep and complicated, loving and giving — other than the villains, of course. The villains are dastardly, and you can’t help but cheer (politely) when they meet their well-deserved demise. Whichever variety, they’re very real people. Set in 1820 London, Will Jones, (the Devil of the title) buys a “virgin” at a notorious brothel. He doesn’t really want her; it is just his way of gaining entrance to the place, more tightly guarded than the Tower. But “Helen of Troy” turns out to be more than he bargained for. She has been caught sneaking into the house on Half Moon Street, and after refusing to identify herself or her mission, she is drugged and put on the auction block. From this somewhat unusual beginning, Moore weaves a tale that encompasses all levels of society in this great city. It’s a somewhat breathless — but very enjoyable — ride. Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz Prelude to a Scandal By Delilah Marvelle HQN Books, $7.99, 384 pages Labeling a book ‘historical romance’ doesn’t make it so when the author willfully ignores all the conventions that determine the labeling process. Of course, calling the book a “fantasy/obsessive lust” might not get the readership desired, either. First off, the author insists on referring to this book as Regency, when it’s set in 1828. Now, the Regency era, which technically is 1811-1820, is indeed history, which she likes to debunk. I don’t think there’s any way possible to justify 1828-29 as Regency. But really,
other than the use of horses for transportation, the content isn’t very historical either. The language used, the costumes, the very structure of the book defies the “historical” tag. And the romance isn’t so much, either. Even after they’re married to each other, the two main characters primarily avoid each other, as the Duke struggles with his sexual obsession. At least he’s gentleman enough not to risk upsetting his bride, but despite her youth, she’s not exactly the innocent miss that most young women were in that period. Her parents were scientists who spent a great deal of time in Africa, where they observed nature at its most raw. I just could not maintain any interest in finishing the book. I didn’t care about any of the characters, and was forever tripping over the outlandish behavior indulged in by all of them. There are far more interesting books to read. Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz Eternal Hunger: Mark of the Vampire By Laura Wright Signet, $7.99, 384 pages Psychiatrist Sara Donahue can’t seem to catch a break. Regardless of her training or skills, she can’t help the brother she loves so dearly break out of the trauma-induced emotional cocoon he’s wrapped himself in. A former patient has targeted her as his object of affection, declaring if he can’t have her, no one can, and an ages-old vampire has shown up on her doorstep demanding entry. Vampire Alexander Roman isn’t having such a hot time of it either. Forced to go through a change over a hundred years before his time, he has little choice but to take refuge in the doctor’s home. Soon, the two find their lives interwoven in ways they never imagined possible. Readers may want to keep a pad of paper nearby. With so many plotlines going at once, they’ll have to take notes to keep track. However, author Laura Wright does an incredible job in wrapping everything up in a deeply satisfying conclusion, while enticing readers to continue on. I know I’m looking forward to the next in the Mark of a Vampire series. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley
We e k l y colu m n : A F T ER T H E M A N U S C R I P T S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
Tad Williams Shadowmarch Tad Williams has held more jobs than any sane person should admit to—singing in a band, selling shoes, managing a financial institution, throwing newspapers, and designing military manuals, to name just a few. He also hosted a syndicated radio show for ten years, worked in theater and television production, taught both grade-school and college classes, and worked in multimedia for a major computer firm. He is cofounder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well as novels. Shadowmarch begins Tad Williams’ first epic fantasy trilogy since his best-selling Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Rich with detail and exotic culture, and filled with a cast of characters both diverse and threedimensional, Shadowmarch is a true fantasy achievement, an epic of storytelling by a master of the genre.
Felix Gilman The Half-Made World
Jeff Kinney Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series Greg Heffley has always been in a hurry to grow up. But is getting older really all it’s cracked up to be? Greg suddenly finds himself dealing with the pressures of boy-girl parties, increased responsibilities, and even the awkward changes that come with getting older—all without his best friend, Rowley, at his side. Can Greg make it through on his own? Or will he have to face the “ugly truth”? Jeff Kinney is an online game developer and designer, and a #1 New York Times bestselling author. In 2009, Jeff was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He spent his childhood in the Washington, D.C., area and moved to New England in 1995. Jeff lives in southern Massachusetts with his wife and their two sons.
Felix Gilman is a writer of fantasy and weird fiction. His 2007 novel Thunderer (published by Bantam Spectra) was nominated for the 2009 Locus Award for Best First Novel and earned him a nomination for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in both 2009 and 2010. Gilman lives in New York City, where he practices law.
Listen to the inter views at www.AudibleAuthors.net
Mystery, Crime & Thrillers Nocturne By Syrie James Vanguard Press, $19.95, 264 pages An avalanche. An icy road. A raging blizzard. Nicole Whitcomb realizes — too late — that she should have stayed back at the lodge. Now, freezing and injured, Nicole realizes she’s out of options. The nearest town is twenty miles away and no human being would be out in a storm like this. Luckily, Michael Tyler is not a human being. A centuries-old vampire, Michael has lived in his secluded Colorado valley for decades, removing himself from the constant temptation of living around humans. Now he finds himself tested to the limit as the raging storm forces both of them into close proximity for days. Will Michael be able to resist his darker urges long enough for the blizzard to blow itself out? While the setting and characters of Nocturne are beautifully crafted, it’s not enough to raise the story above its predictable, archaic premise: Handsome enigmatic boy
rescues girl; girl discovers boy is a vampire; boy tries to warn girl of the monster he really is; girl stubbornly refuses to believe. True love ensues. Bittersweet ending occurs. Unfortunately, in the seemingly endless buffet of vampire chronicles, Nocturne just doesn’t have the extra kick needed to be more than just a side dish. Reviewed by Heather Ortiz Moonlight Mile By Dennis Lehane William Morrow, $26.99, 324 pages New York Times best-selling author Dennis Lehane’s Moonlight Mile takes readers into a grimy, murky Boston underworld as Patrick Kenzie revisits a case he solved in 1997. Amanda McCready disappeared then and was returned to her mother, who wouldn’t win any accolades as a caring parent. It’s a case that has haunted Kenzie and has cast a shadow on his career. Now as a teen and a serious student, Amanda hasn’t been seen in weeks. This time there are two others missing, as well. A lot has changed
in 12 years: Kenzie and his wife, Angie Gennaro, have a child; Angie’s getting a degree; Kenzie’s working as a PI to pay the bills. But much is still the same with Amanda’s mother still at the center of the puzzle. Can Kenzie and Gennaro find Amanda and her classmates before it’s too late? Kenzie has a strong need to make good on his promise to keep her safe. But can he? Lehane has crafted a fast-paced thriller that will have readers turning pages faster and faster in an attempt to learn the fate of McCready, Kenzie and Gennaro. Reviewed by Elizabeth Humphrey The Track of Sand By Andrea Camilleri and Stephen Sartarelli, Translator Penguin (Non-Classics), $14.00, 288 pages The twelfth book in the Inspector Montalbano series opens with the Sicilian inspector discovering a gruesomely bludgeoned horse carcass on the beach in front of his home. The sardonic, idiosyncratic Montalbano is baffled as the complications
grow after the carcass disappears leaving only a trail in the sand. In Sicily there’s always a connection to the Mafia, and as the inspector investigates the growing crimes, certain that the events are linked, the track leads to the seedy underworld. Always melancholic, he finds daily solace in the gastronomy in his seaside home. Eating shrimp, prawns, squid, tuna, urchin, mussels, clams, octopus, anchovies, sardines, and swordfish, perhaps drowned in a tomato sauce or a little olive oil gives him joy at least for a few moments during his silent meals (he believes in absolutely no conversation during eating). This book, as well as the previous eleven, is an absolute joy for Montalbano’s fans, who are lovers of lite world-lit, a detective who can’t stay out of trouble, with a lot of women troubles and, of course, his gustatory adventures. The colorful characters in the small town of Vigata are out in abundance, and by the end, we’ll hear him break into “Che gelida manina” from Puccini’s opera La Boheme as the last pieces of the puzzle come together. Reviewed by Phil Semler Cont’d on page 32
R e a d T H E B A C K PAG E b y p u b l i s h e d a u t h o r s a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w. c o m
Mystery, Crime & Thrillers Damage By John Lescroart Dutton, $26.95, 416 pages In this, his twenty-second book, John Lescroart has done it again with another formulaic thriller in this lengthy story involving three deaths that confound the San Francisco District Attorney and police department with its legal complexities Challenged by the powerfully rich publisher whose son, previously convicted of rape and murder, is suddenly released from prison on a technicality. The law officials are handicapped by the political restraints generated by the wealthy family. The psychopathic son is linked to several murders of witnesses and others associated with his subsequent retrial. Legal questions abound and the naive DA and caring but inept police department have a solution, but their frustrating efforts to contain this ‘mad dog killer’ is thwarted by the law and the disposition of its rendering by the judges themselves. There is plenty of sadistic sex, murder, beatings, corruption, sorrow, legal question that will satisfy Lescroart fans. Unfortunately the characters are stereotyped, two dimensional and the chapters appear to be pieced together from different sources. The only appealing character in the book is the DA’s dog, who doesn’t say much. This would make a good read when imprisoned in a plane that is stuck on the tarmac for several hours. “ell, I didn’t remember it right away, in fact almost not at all, but he told me a lie.” Reviewed by Aron Row
A Reunion of Friends and Enemies! 5
Available at: Amazon.com BarnesandNoble.com | iUniverse.com www.terryisaacson.com
6 February 11
Skating Around the Law: A Mystery By Joelle Charbonneau Minotaur Books, $24.99, 288 pages Having never heard of Indian Falls, Illinois, I’ve already added it to the list of places I’d like to visit. It’s the small-town setting for this delightful debut mystery that abounds with quirky characters and situations. The heroine/protagonist Rebecca Robbins took a temporary leave from her job (and pushy boss) in Chicago in order to return to her hometown to sell the roller rink she inherited from her Mom, a former champion skater. Her grandpa (Pops) still lives there – and does he ever! A happy and frequent target of all the older single ladies in town, his activities keep Rebecca hopping—and blushing. Unfortunately, the rink’s handyman Mack turns up dead, which seriously interferes with the plan to sell the rink. The police don’t seem to think it’s a serious matter, so Rebecca and Pops decide to figure it out on their own. One of the suspects is the local veterinarian, Lionel Franklin, who is a real hunk, and sends Rebecca into a constant dither. Or maybe it’s his favorite animal – Elwood, the retired circus animal. (Warning: he’ll quickly become everyone’s fave! He’s totally charming. The camel, that is.) With humor and sensitivity, Rebecca and Lionel finally sort through the scattered clues and allow the case to be closed. However, the rink remains unsold, so she’ll stay for a while. For myself, I’m looking forward to a return visit! Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz Blue and Gold By K.J. Parker Subterranean Press, $25.00, 99 pages Saloninus the Philosopher is a liar. He tells you so himself about 100 words into Blue and Gold, and after that everything is up for interpretation. He accidentally killed his wife … or not. His best friend is Prince Phocas … or not. He’s trying to escape … or is he? Phocas wants Saloninus to turn metal to gold … or not. He’s penniless … or not. He’s discovered the fountain of youth … or not. “Her eyes were open and her face still had that look of mild bewilderment that I’d seen the last time I saw her, as the beaker slipped through her fingers and smashed on the floor.” This first-person novel slips back and forth between the present and the past, often as a way to explain Saloninus’ actions
and give background on the people in his life. Saloninus the Philosopher is also an alchemist and the main storyline is his attempt to escape punishment after his wife drinks one of his potions and dies. But the most significant things seem to have happened years before the book began. The shift from past to present can be a bit jarring at times, and the constant voice in your head wondering if Saloninus is actually telling the truth is distracting. As the book continues, you learn that Saloninus isn’t the only liar. The untruthful characters do allow for some startling revelations throughout the book, but at what cost? Even when you meet other characters, it is through Saloninus’ eyes, so you have to wonder if he’s telling the truth. There are sections where you sense the truth: his wife’s fear of aging, the emotions of an old student named Laodicus. But I wish more of the book had those snatches of truth. It’s hard to get invested in a book when truth and falsehood are indistinguishable. The uncertainty can be exciting or frustrating. I think this book leans toward frustrating. Reviewed by Jodi M. Webb
a story about, a young college
student whose life takes a major left turn when she discovers some truths about her past and about who she really is and wants to be.
Availabl e Now at Barnes & Noble Amazon Borders about the popular stories, and could easily inspire a new book club idea. It’s truly “food for thought.” Reviewed by Elizabeth Kalfsbeek
Recipe for Murder: Frightfully Good Food Inspired By Fiction By Esterelle Payany Flammarion, $24.95, 144 pages Just in time for the holidays, Esterelle Payany’s Recipe for Murder: Frightfully Good Food Inspired by Fiction is an inventive way to combine this reviewer’s two favorite things: food and literature. Payany adopts 31 recipes to reflect various “villains” in history, from Lady Macbeth (Lady Macbeth’s Possets) to Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal’s Express Sweetbreads). Each entry provides the reader with a mini synopsis of the story, an excerpt from the work of fiction, unusual trivia about the dish and the recipe itself. I must admit that it’s a strange idea: peering at all of literature’s ‘bad guys,’ villains, and shady characters from the rim of a saucepan. ‘Oh, I would kill for a taste of that!’ Literally. Koliva, a drab Greek dish served at funerals and on certain holidays to honor the dead, seems a perfect accompaniment to the myth of Medea, who kills her own two children to make sure her cheating husband dies heirless. Paprika Hendl, a Romanian dish similar to Hungarian chicken paprika, conjures images of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The meal preparation and instructions are straightforward and the ingredients are fairly easy to come by. At the very least, the recipes will make you think differently
A d ay i n t he l i fe a s a book re v ie wer : T HE C R I T IC A L E Y E Sa n Fra nc i scoB ook R e v ie w.com
History Stealing the Mystic Lamb By Noah Charney PublicAffairs, $27.95, 336 pages Jan van Eyck is one of the most important of Flemish painters. His early use of oil paints helped revolutionize painting techniques, his individual works of art are highly regarded and, sometimes, so highly sought after that they’ve had the endure centuries of pilfering. In his book Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece, art professor and novelist Noah Charney details the history of van Eyck’s famed Ghent Altarpiece — a polyptych oil painting of immense size, detail, naturalism and brilliance, considered by some the birth of Renaissance painting — and the tumultuous history that surrounds the painting’s multiple panels. While Stealing the Mystic Lamb delves into great detail about the history of the Ghent Altarpiece, and about Jan van Eyck, the politics and society of what is now Belgium during his lifetime, and the different historical conditions that have resulted in the painting being so widely regarded and oft-stolen, the subject of Stealing the Mystic Lamb somewhat limits its popular appeal. However, what Charney has managed to accomplish is to tell the history of one particular piece of art, and to delve into the different historical conditions that have made this masterpiece so appealing to looters, armies, collectors, and the public. A fascinating historical document. Reviewed by Ashley McCall The Constitution of the United States of America By Sam Fink, Illustrator Welcome Books, $29.95, 133 pages An exquisitely designed version of this historic, revered document, Sam Fink, a multi-talented artist and calligrapher, has brought the Constitution to life with his vibrant illustrations and sometimes ironic, interpretative captions that keep us laughing, sighing, and shedding tears of wonder at the foresight of the Constitution’s creators. “This is a backbone. Man cannot stand erect without one. Neither can a country. The backbone of the United States of America is her Constitution.”
A visually appealing book for the home or the classroom, it is an enjoyable, “user friendly” educational tool that reproduces the Articles and Amendments of the Constitution, the highest law of the land. Still strong after two centuries and nearly a quarter, our Constitution enumerates the powers vested in the government of the United States, and the rights guaranteed to our citizens. As a collector’s piece, it belongs in every household, and each article, each amendment, each word so thoughtfully placed should be read and re-read and savored. The book also contains Benjamin Franklin’s Address to the Delegates upon the signing of the Constitution, a chronology, and a glossary. I highly recommend it, especially for those politicians who deign to run for public office, yet are not knowledgeable on this remarkable document, the meaning of its content, and laws and rights it confers. Please, someone, send a copy to Christine O’Donnell. For more on this book title, visit www.welcomebooks.com/constitution/ Reviewed by Christina Forsythe Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History By Fawn M. Brodie Norton, $18.95, 594 pages The original publication of Fawn M. Brodie’s Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History in the 1970s was a landmark re-interpretation of one of America’s Founding Fathers. Unlike previous biographers, Brodie studied Jefferson’s life with a special emphasis on how his personal life affected his political life. This year’s re-release of the book includes an introduction by Annette GordonReed who explores the added dimension Brodie brought to Jefferson’s history, and the impact it had on Jefferson scholars. This book is a significant undertaking and incredibly thorough. The chapters are in chronological order but there is a slight tendency to jump to information in other years. This makes some chronologies a little obscure but, on the plus side, it results in each chapter being a distinct unit that can be read in any order. Brodie’s purposively psychoanalytic style may be off-putting to some but it never detracts from the integrity of the research. This is required reading for Jefferson aficionados and will also appeal to anyone with an interest in American history. Additionally, those who like biographies will be intrigued by the distinct style. Reviewed by Rachel Wallace
The Abacus and the Cross By Nancy Marie Brown Basic Books, $27.50, 249 pages Like a shining beacon of hope, Pope Sylvester II becomes the rallying point for an interesting thesis by author Nancy Marie Brown. Her opinion: The Dark Ages were not that dark at all. People tend to think that before the 15th century, common people believed that the world was flat and math was not yet rediscovered. This was a world of strict Christian values; a world where it was impossible to imagine science and religion coexisting. Brown does her best to destroy that perception and show the truth. In Abacus and the Cross the life story of Gerbert, the man that would eventually become Pope Sylvester II, is giving in great detail. Every argument is supported by real sources and/or found artifacts. It is a great informational book, unfortunately it is extremely dull. It feels like at certain points that the book deviates on a long rant pulling attention away from Gerbert. Gerbert should be the star, but secondary and third rank characters in his life end up getting page after page of additional information that’s not needed. The lengthy detail of these people slows the story down. It’s incredibly frustrating because the book has such great thought and really challenges the reader not to be limited by conventional ideas. Brown brings up how close the world was to uniting Muslim and Christian faiths at one point. It’s engrossing. For fans of history, this book will change your lookout on medieval times, and that is worth the unnecessary additional information. Reviewed by Kevin Brown By Honor and Right: How One Man Boldly Defined the Destiny of a Nation By John C. Jackson Prometheus Books, $28.00, 319 pages In the fledgling nation under President Thomas Jefferson, when the fastest means of travel was horseback, and the designs of Aaron Burr threatened to usurp the hard won victory of the American Revolution, no one had heard of the expedition of Lewis and Clark. To the north, British trade threatened to claim the unmapped Oregon Territory for itself, except for the ruse of one man, John McClallen.
had ever heard of United States Captain Zackery Perch or his Lieutenant Jeremy Pinch, the ten federal regulations governing foreign trade with American natives sounded official enough to establish the Northern border at the forty-ninth parallel. Not even members of McClallen’s family knew that their native son, John, pulled off the bluff before losing his own life in a cloaked cause. Superbly written, Jackson’s clever turn of a phrase brings to life the tangle of American history shrouded in mystery. This biography of McClallen and his exploration of the Pacific Northwest is a book well suited for the ardent student of history. Jackson wastes little time dwelling on rudimentary elements and cuts right to the heart of political intrigue, warring factions of savage natives, and the heat of the race to establish commerce in the uncharted land around the upper Columbia River. Reviewed by Casey Corthorn Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem By Robert Kaplan Walker & Company, $25.00, 304 pages The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the two adjacent sides. Even readers who left math class behind long ago will likely remember the Pythagorean Theorem — simple yet elegant, and, as Hidden Harmonies explains, surprisingly revealing about the nature of mathematics and our often very personal relationship to numbers. Far from being a math textbook or geometry primer, this book addresses the Pythagorean Theorem from a layperson’s perspective; indeed, the Harvardbased authors have made names for themselves as purveyors of complex ideas via witty, accessible explanations and connections. But can a mathematical idea be tantalizing — even exciting — to anyone but a mathematician? History suggests the answer is yes. For centuries, the Pythagorean Theorem has attracted men and women of all stripes, from a young blind girl in the late 1800s who attempted a proof to the Pythagorean Theorem in between knitting and writing children’s books; to the ancient Greeks and Babylonians; to James A. Garfield, the twentieth U.S. president. Contemporary readers will surely find themselves succumbing as well. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell
Although no one
Week ly colu mn BOOK I T! h igh l ight ing loc a l businesses at Sa nFra nc iscoBook Rev iew.com
Young Adult Siren Song By Cat Adams Tor, $14.99, 384 pages Vampires! All the kids love ’em! With the success of the Twilight series, vampires have usurped wizards and werewolves as the fictional creatures of the moment, and the young adult literary establishment has jumped on the bandwagon with the same fervor as Hollywood, churning out mass quantities of mediocre vampire “lit” for preteens and teenagers to devour. Pseudonymous writin g team Cat Adams has, with their second Blood Singer novel Siren Song, found a firm home in this mass of mediocrity — has … and then hasn’t. Siren Song continues the story of Celia Graves, Los Angeles area bodyguard, whose life has been turned upside down by a vampire bite that has turned her into a perceived monster and menace, a halfvampire, while also releasing her previously latent siren tendencies. Added to these most stressful developments are the recent murder of her best friend, romantic turmoil, ghost, demons, and some seriously bad guys who are out to get her, no matter the cost. Siren Song is in many ways cliché, mostly providing an alternative to Twilight — one with some sex and an edge. It isn’t brilliant or great literature, but it is the sort of novel that grabs and keeps your attention. And isn’t getting teenagers to read really the point of it all? Reviewed by Ashley McCall Fallen Angel By Heather Terrell HarperTeen, $8.99, 336 pages This book definitely tries to cash in on two of the hottest trends in young adult fiction: vampires and fallen angels. When Ellie meets Michael, she is instantly drawn to him. She soon finds out it’s not just a physical attraction she shares with him; they also share the ability to fly and they get flashes of what people are thinking by touching them or tasting their blood. Michael’s theory is that they are vampires, but the truth is something much more sinister. The romance did not do it for me in this story. Other than sharing the same abilities, there seemed to be no other reason why Ellie and Michael would be attracted to one another. There is not much given about their personalities or other traits that make
8 February 11
them complement one another. So the romance seemed a little forced to me. Most of the book dragged and did not catch my attention until the last 40 pages or so when things are finally explained and the action picks up. I felt the book could easily have been much shorter, although the ending intrigued me enough that I may read the next book in the series. Reviewed by Debbie Suzuki Laney: The Brookehaven Vampires By Joann Martin Sowles Brookehaven Publishing, $19.99, 285 pages Laney and Kiera are college roommates, and the best of friends. Laney doesn’t know yet what to do with her life, so she goes to school with her friend. A new guy named Oliver shows up at college on the first day and is totally hot! Laney can’t stop thinking about him. What’s even better, he is guy friend Carter’s new roommate; and Kiera has a big crush on Carter. Oliver and Laney are attracted to each other, and it only helps that they always run into one another. There is a secret to Oliver though, and the reason why he is there. I absolutely loved this book. The beginning was very girly (with lots of ogling, which was funny) and the whole book was very teen romantic. There are a few Twilight moments, but it is clear to see the difference between the two books. The story plot is very original, and I thought the addition of the dog into Oliver’s family was fantastic. Some of Laney’s mood swings are a little strange, but Oliver seems to cope with them alright. The ending of the book left me wanting to know more -- like when’s the sequel coming out? Reviewed by Amanda Muir Wildthorn By Jane Eagland Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $16.00, 352 pages Louisa Cosgrove is on her way to what she thinks is a new job, one as a companion to a wealthy lady. Her arrival at Wildthorn Hall turns out to be much more grim, as Wildthorn is actually an insane asylum. There she is called Lucy Childs by the asylum staff, although Louisa constantly insists there has been a mistake. Louisa is determined to find out why she’s at Wildthorn, but she’ll have to survive long enough to escape first.
By Laura McNeal Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 287 pages Laura McNeal’s young adult novel explores the turgid complications of teenage girlhood with the deftness of a skilled author. Written from the heart of 15-year-old Pearl De Witt, the contemporary story is set on a Southern California avocado ranch owned by Pearl’s Uncle Hoyt. Pearl, the child of recently divorced parents, lives with her mother in a dilapidated historic guesthouse, rent free, on her uncle’s property. Struggling to survive high school, while sorting out complicated relationships with her friends and relatives, Pearl develops an interest in one of the Mexican migrant workers.
“I realized the obvious, finally: getting to know a mute person was going to be tricky. I forgot about my heterchromia, too. I forget about it more than you might think because it’s not a limp or missing finger or a port-wine stain on my arm ...”
Amiel, the talented, young day laborer Pearl is attracted to, is mysteriously unable to speak normally. While Pearl is desperately trying to figure out how to communicate with Amiel, her mother is desperately trying to make ends meet working as a substitute teacher, and at a secret part-time job that Pearl finds out about by accident. Pearl and her mom are also coaxing silkworms — that munch happily in a container on the kitchen counter — into cocoons that produce the prized fiber. Uncle Hoyt’s wife, Agnès — pronounced Aun-yez and no other way — is exotically, intolerably French and their son, Robby, is a little older than Pearl. Robby is the recognized genius in the family, and Pearl is his adept confidant. Robby and Pearl have developed their own French-influenced expressions, and McNeal synthesizes them with the local Spanish language. When Robby suspects his father of having an affair, he and Pearl try to piece together the supporting facts of the indiscretion, befriending the young college co-ed they suspect of involvement with Hoyt. Pearl, however, keeps her adventures to herself. No one knows she is exploring the local river, discovering where Amiel stays, or visiting him at his tiny hut on the riverbank. When Pearl lies to her mother and disappears during a huge wildfire, the entire family is torn apart. McNeal has succinctly constructed genuine characters who are both bizarre and believable. Her plot is genuinely intriguing without the shallowness of many novels written for teenagers. The language is clean, interesting, and fun. The local culture, geography, and weather provide an authentic context for the scenario. The frightening wildfire incident is inspired by an actual 2007 wildfire when the author had to evacuate her home. The book may have been written for teenagers, but explores the intrigue in a way that many adult readers will also enjoy. Reviewed by Sheli Ellsworth Wildthorn reads like a modern gothic novel set in historical times. Louisa’s plight is immediately engaging, and the pervading sense of desperation for escape and the mystery of why she’s there are well done. The mystery is broken up with chapters of flashbacks to Louisa’s childhood. It seems this is intended to give the reader greater insight into Louisa’s background and motivations, but in the beginning at least they are sometimes simply distracting. The book contains a lot of social commentary, which will probably be lost on many younger readers. There are several mature themes to consider as well, including incest and Louisa’s emerging lesbian tendencies. A wellresearched novel, this will
be enjoyed by older teens who flock toward historical fiction. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller
ise t r ve d A th Wi
co cis iew n Fra ev
San ok R o
L o ok i n g for a go o d re a d? G o t o S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
Tweens The Phoenix and the Carpet By E. Nesbit with illustrations by H. R. Millar Random House Books for Young Readers, $10.99, 305 pages The Phoenix and the Carpet is one of the richest novels by the legendary Edith Nesbit. Written in her indelible style and infused with imaginary perfection, there is no doubt that this will stay a classic. This is the second book in the Five Children and It series with characters Anthea, Jane, Cyril and Robert (and sometimes the Lamb, their baby brother). They have a knack for discovering magical creatures that grant wishes, and at the same time teach the children lessons. The Phoenix and the Carpet is no exception. The children discover the creatures when their mother goes shopping for a carpet, and they end up with a wishing carpet and a mysterious egg that eventually hatches the Phoenix. The Phoenix may be one of the most beloved characters of literature history. He’s wonderfully pretentious and preening, but endearing at the same time. Together, they go on adventures that include 199 Persian cats, making their cook an island queen, and rescuing a French family from poverty. This gorgeous edition is wonderful for winter reading (or any for that matter) and is a great gift. The Phoenix and the Carpet will provide many adventures for much more than five children. Reviewed by Alex Masri Inconvenient By Maggie Gelbwasser Flux, $9.95, 312 pages Alyssa Bondar has always been different from the rest of the town. Her and her friend Lana’s families keep to themselves because they are Russian, and to their classmates, they eat weird food. When Alyssa is in her junior year of high school, her mom starts drinking more than usual. She is stressed by work and a new boss. Alyssa helps out at first, anything to make it better, but it gets worse. She only wants to focus on her crush
on Keith, a guy on her track team. With the stress at home, Alyssa doesn’t know how she will keep her problems at home. Lana is too busy trying to fit in with the popular group, and doesn’t notice the full extent of Alyssa’s problems. I was drawn into Alyssa’s world, wondering when Keith was going to find out about Alyssa’s problems at home. Lana is a very real and stereotypical type girl trying to fit in with the popular crowd. Lana’s character demonstrates a type of self discrimination against her own nationality as she struggles to fit in. The idea that sometimes outside help is needed and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it, is a good lesson to take away from this book. Reviewed by Amanda Muir The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero By Rick Riordan Hyperion Children’s, $18.99, 384 pages Author Rick Riordan first melded the ancient histories of mythology with presentday junior high school in his book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. This time around, Riordan brings together Greek and Roman mythology in The Lost Hero, the first book in a new series. For fans of Percy Jackson, The Last Hero picks up shortly after the ending events of the final book of the first series, with added new characters Jason, Piper and Leo. Readers will quickly learn that all is not what it seems. Mythological creatures live among us, some fronting as teachers; and demigods (children of a god and a mortal) are students in junior high. These kids soon discover who they really are, which adds a far greater purpose to their everyday lives.
As Jason learns more about himself and his newfound friends, they embark on a crosscountry quest with grand intent. As in Riordan’s previous stories, the gods are forces to be reckoned with, and somehow these newly self-realized demigods are an important part of the puzzle, essential to uniting both the Roman and the Greek demigods to fulfill a prophecy. The Lost Hero promises a great escape to tween readers, and it is both broadly educational and fantastical. The second book in the new series The Son of Neptune is due in the fall of 2011. Reviewed by Laura Friedkin
out, causing Artie to question his uncle’s intentions. Will Chester bring the fireworks to the family New Year celebration or will Petey continue to torment Artie? Although the book is a quick read, several sections feel repeated, with similar passages within same chapters. Upper elementary school students will appreciate the easy flowing narrative and colorful supporting characters created by the author. Older readers may find the story too simplistic, although the themes of family and honoring one’s word should resound with everyone. Reviewed by LuAnn Schindler
The Star Maker By Laurence Yep HarperCollins, $15.99, 112 pages Award-winning author Laurence Yep draws on personal experiences and memories in his latest book The Star Maker. The role of luck and a fresh start for the New Year combine for a charming tale of the power of family.
The Fairy Godmother Academy #3: Zally’s Book By Jan Bozarth Yearling, $6.99, 176 pages Sometimes Zally feels like her parents ask too much of her by employing her at the family bakery. But that’s nothing compared to the challenges she faces in her quest to become accepted as a fairy godmother-intraining in the magical dreamland of Aventurine! When Zally learns about the charmed gifts she has inherited from the women in her family, she is determined to prove herself worthy of them in her own unique way. So Zally sets out to create Aventurine’s first map, and to bring healing to Kib Valley, it’s despairing queen, and all of the creatures that depend on the fairies who inhabit the valley. In this third installment of the Fairy Godmother Academy, Zally’s Book, Bozarth continues in the rich, imaginative tradition that she established in the first two books. Zally is a worthy heroine, desiring only to help others, even her motives are not always fully understood by others. The scenes in her home and the family bakery are full of warmth and joy, and Zally’s quest in Aventurine will inspire young girls everywhere to believe in themselves and their own abilities to help others. This series continues to be full of magic and wonder. Reviewed by Holly Scudero
“Uncle smiled and laughed a lot through dinner. But his smile was always a little too big and his laugh too loud. He was trying to fool everyone. He wanted us to think he was the same as always ... I wanted to tell him to get his money back. But Mom knew what I was thinking. She shook her head. So I didn’t say anything.” Artie is the youngest – and smallest – member of the family. When his cousin Petey bullies him too far, Artie blurts out he’ll supply fireworks for the entire family for the Chinese New Year. Uncle Chester is also the youngest member of his generation. He tries to protect Artie and informs his nephew he will provide fireworks. Together, uncle and nephew bond through journeys in Chinatown. Although Chester tries to help people, his luck runs
F i n d l o c a l a u t h o r e v e n t s a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w . c o m /c a l e n d a r
Sequential Art The 120 Days Of Simon By Simon Gardenfors Top Shelf Productions, $14.95, 416 pages Simon Gärdenfors was not a familiar name to me and, likewise, I imagine the name means nothing to other people in the United States. In Sweden though, Mr. Gärdenfors is not only a cartoonist but also a rapper, television presenter, and radio host. He might even be considered “a big deal.” The 120 Days of Simon is his first book translated and published in the American market. The comic, all 416 pages of it, deals with Mr. Gärdenfors’ four-month social experiment in which he asked strangers on the Internet to put him up at their house for a day or two. Simon gave himself only two rules: he couldn’t return to his apartment and he couldn’t spend more than two nights at the same place. Simple rules, but Simon gets in to all sorts of trouble. Gärdenfors’ line work and style is great: think newspaper funnies from the ‘30s and ‘40s and you’ll have the idea. The subject matter is far from that ‘innocent’ era though as it includes drugs, sex, racism, etc. Simon finds himself getting into all sorts of trouble during his 120 days. 120 Days is an interesting graphic novel removed from the influences of the American scene that helps display the diversity of this field of literature. Reviewed by Jonathon Howard Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess (Olympians) By George O’Connor First Second, $9.99, 80 pages Like the previous book in this series, Zeus: King of the Gods, this is a graphic novel about a deity attributed to the ancient Greeks. Athena is the goddess of war and wisdom. Athena’s book begins with a one-page summary of Zeus’s book, so readers can pick up this volume without worrying about coming in part way through the story. On other hand, Athena’s story is more episodic that Zeus’s, so this series of adventures could be read independently. The art is reminiscent of classic comic books, with a lot of darker blue and gray tones, which suits Athena well. Inevitably, the book deals with some violent subjects – Athena is the goddess of war – but most of the violence is implied rather than shown, making it bearable for readers of any age. This is a great book for anyone who is learning about Greek mythology for the first
10 February 11
time; it also makes an interesting refresher, in a new medium, if you have perhaps forgotten about these ancient stories. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller Super F*ckers By James Kochalka Top Shelf Productions, $14.95, 143 pages Aspiring amateur superheroes from all over are coming together for the big team tryouts. Several of the team’s members are trapped in an alternate dimension. A strange creature has plans for another teammate and a struggle for power is tearing the team apart as a pocket of the past may collide with the present and destroy the world. And none of these plotlines will be resolved, let alone considered. This is the world of Superf*ckers. Like the Justice League if they were all lecherous self-centered teenage jerks, the Superf*ckers are less about saving the world and more about getting laid and getting high. In James Kochalka’s anarchic, swear-laden epic, Jack Krak, Orange Lightning, Princess Sunshine, Grotessa, Ultra Richard, and the others bicker and scheme and screw each other over on a daily basis. It was a bit too random and mean-spirited for my taste, but if you’re looking for some inventive cursing and a lot of irrational silliness, Superf*ckers will most definitely deliver. (The series starts with issue #271, after all.) But if you’re looking for coherence, family friendly language, or heroic role models, you’ve definitely picked the wrong book. The title should have been your first clue. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas BodyWorld By Dash Shaw Pantheon, $27.95, 384 pages Some comics are pretty straight-forward; BodyWorld is not one of those. BodyWorld explores what we consider of ourselves, and the boundaries that separate one from another. An alien race is conducting an experiment in consciousness, and have dispatched agents to spread a plant that, when burnt, causes individuals to share their consciousness, even allowing some to control the actions of others. They can share memories and sensations, and it creates some interesting issues. This book will make you explore those boundaries, especially as to whether or not those
boundaries should be crossed, as various pairs see the pluses and minuses of being able to share their deepest, darkest memories, and the ramifications of that sharing; couples find that they are both more deeply sympathetic to as well as repulsed from the person that they share with. It’s an interesting exploration of what is generally glossed over in most science fiction. Combined with one of the most interesting book designs (there is a flip-out map and character information that can be read even while reading the book), and this book is definitely worth the price. Reviewed by Jamais Jochim The Bards of Bone Plain By Patricia A. McKillip Ace, $ 24.95, 336 pages From bestselling author, Patricia A. McKillip, comes a new, strong fantasy employing her classic writing style, storytelling, and complex plot. The Bards of Bone Shard Plain is a unique fantasy novel, as it covers the history of this strange world through different means, with archaeological excavations, research by its characters, and flashbacks. At times the reader can feel somewhat lost and disconnected with what’s going on, yet McKillip does an impressive job telling a classic fantasy in a new and interesting way. Phelan Cle is about to graduate, and for his final paper chooses Bone Plain, a place steeped in mystery and legend, which has been debated by scholars for centuries, with the metaphor of the three trials, three terrors, and three treasures; but is it nothing more than a metaphor? Cle’s research takes him to Nairn, known as the Wandering Bard, and through a series of flashbacks, we see his life. Then there is Jonah Cle, Phelan’s father, who spends his time planning and making excavations, searching for trinkets and pieces of this world’s history. One of his most eager followers is the king’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, who shouldn’t be doing the things she wants to, getting involved with these excavations. Then a disk is unearthed with strange ancient runes. McKillip explores her own world using her characters as archeologists and researchers, creating individual plot lines that eventually come together. The switching back and forth between character and timeline can become a little confusing, but is worth the strong conclusion at the end. Reviewed by Alex Telander
Papercutz Slices #1: Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring By Stefan Petrucha with illustrations by Rick Parker Papercutz, $6.99, 64 pages After their mentor, Dumb-as-a-door, is killed by the seemingly traitorous barista Frappe, Harry Potty, Don Measly, and Whiny Stranger must find a way to defeat the nose-less dark lord Value-Mart (Hewhose-prices-can’t-be-beat) and his followers. Along with Paco Malphy, Robby the elf, and Seriously Black, Harry, with plunger ready, must face the Odor Eaters in order to avenge the death of his parents and bring balance to the world of magic at Nosewarts. The creators of best-selling graphic Tales from the Crypt offer the extremely unauthorized parody of the best-selling books. Will J.K. sue because of the dreadful puns? Why should you buy this book? First, you won’t have to read hundreds of meandering pages, instead of just words you get – comics! Drawn MAD Magazine style, with jokes in MAD style — perfect for the bathroom! (You will be contributing to the death of books, of reading, of Muddle Culture.) Can Harry brew a decent mega grandissima releasing the delicate power of caffeine as it tickles the tongue, speeds the mind, tightens the intestines, brew anxiety, even steam milk. You’ll have to find out! Kill him, please…. Reviewed by Phil Semler
Are you a local author?
San Francisco S e nd us your book for revi ew. San Francisco Book Review c/o 1776 Productions 1215 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 Gallies and final copies accepted. Books will not be returned after review.
Ne w cont e nt uplo a d e d d a i l y at S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
Modern Literature Sissinghurst By Adam Nicolson Viking Adult, $27.95, 341 pages Adam Nicolson’s Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History tells the story of his ongoing quest to convert the historic National Trust property that belonged to his grandmother, writer Vita Sackville-West, back to its origins as a working farm. Nicolson’s sense of place is the animating spirit of this book: Sissinghurst’s past, present, and future tucked into the ancient weald of the Kent countryside, one hour outside London. ”My nutrients come from this soil.” Nicolson’s goal is simple: he wants to serve lunch to the over 100,000 tourists Sissinghurst entertains each summer from food grown on the land itself. But his quest to shepherd this proposal through England’s National Trust is anything but easy, and he discovers that nature is deeply embedded in culture and community. Sissinghurst was Nicolson’s childhood home, and he combines memoir, natural and cultural history, and poetic celebrations of flowers and streambeds into his main story about the push to recreate the farm. Nicolson is an amiable storyteller, presenting the inevitable conflicts in a balanced and fair light, but he is at his best as a nature writer, a poet of the land like his famous grandmother. Readers interested in local food movements, environmental literature, and beautiful prose will be delighted with this book. Reviewed by Catherine Hollis Admission By Jean Hanff Korelitz Grand Central Publishing, $14.99, 464 pages I wasn’t sure about Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel Admission. Did I really want to invest 450 pages of reading time on a novel about the Ivy League college admissions process? But Korelitz and her main character, Portia Nathan, almost instantly won me over and I found myself unable to put down this oddly compelling academic melodrama. Korelitz’s portrait of East Coast academia, competitive high schools, and feminist Vermont moms is hilariously spot-on. But it was Portia, an admissions officer at Princeton, who truly kept me glued to the page. Portia has an utterly compelling messed-up love
life and a secret from her past that keeps her frozen in her office, sorting through the thousands of applications from high school seniors. While her emotional drama is riveting, her tendency to burst into epic monologues about millennial parenting and college admissions (even in bed with the hot experimental schoolteacher) drags. Apart from these didactic slow-downs, I appreciated the leisurely pace of the narrative, which gave me time to sink into the story and to appreciate Korelitz’s deft hand with characterization. Readers who appreciate the academic novels of David Lodge and James Hynes will similarly enjoy Admission. Reviewed by Catherine Hollis Nothing Happened and Then It Did By Silverstein, Jake Norton, $23.95, 231 pages Faced with the twin dilemmas of the rising doubts about the veracity of memoirs and the West Texas’s propensity for tall tales, Jake Silverstein has crafted an elegant solution in his finely written Nothing Happened and Then It Did: A Chronicle in Fact and Fiction. Silverstein’s account of his – mostly failed – youthful efforts to become a journalist after driving out to West Texas boasts a curious structure: the chapters are alternatively fact and fiction, knitted into a single flowing account. Searching for the bones of journalist Abrose Bierce and joining a team for a frequently fatal Mexican auto race (one which boasts an ex-Nazi mechanic)? Fact. Coverage of the opening of the first McDonald’s in the only Mexican state without one and his search for Jean Laffite’s treasure? Fiction. “There are people who make their home in this region [West Texas] and speak of its unspoiled beauty...But the beauty is pitiless and unusual...prolonged exposure is often to leave you wondering what is real.” One can’t feel too bad for Silverstein’s blundering efforts at journalistic success (he’s now the editor of Texas Monthly), time and again hilariously foiled by The New Yorker. His keen observations, finely wrought characters, and self-deprecating humor all add to the book’s success, as does the running question of which seems more improbably, his accounts that are fact
or those that are fiction. A fine, fun work, readers are sure to want to join Silverstein on his next road trip, whether real or imagined. Reviewed by Jordan Magill The One That I Want By Allison Winn Scotch Shaye Areheart Books, $24.00, 288 pages Tilly Farmer’s life is perfect. She’s lived in the same town for her entire 32 years, she teaches at the same high school she herself graduated from, and she likes it that way. She is married to the perfect man – her high school sweetheart, naturally – and still hangs out with her best friend. But Tilly’s life isn’t as perfect as she thinks it is. Her old friend Ashley Simmons is about to give her something she desperately needs, the gift of clarity. Tilly starts to see her life without her rose-colored glasses. Her father, sober for ten years, is suddenly drinking again. Her husband wants to be anywhere but trapped in a small town with her. Her relationships with her sisters aren’t quite what she thought they were. Suddenly her life is a little less perfect. Despite its formulaic setup, The One that I Want proves to be a heart-warming tale of a young woman coming to accept that you can’t force life into a little box. This is a third novel from Allison Winn Scotch. I can’t wait to see what comes next. Reviewed by Lanine Bradley The Lake Shore Limited By Sue Miller Knopf, $25.95, 278 pages Like Hamlet, The Lake Shore Limited opens with a play. In Miller’s play, which brings together the four central characters of the novel, a terrorist attack on a Chicago train leaves a husband wondering if his wife is still alive, and feeling a mixture of relief, remorse, grief, and love. The playwright of this play within a play has drawn on her own experience, losing a lover in 9/11, and knowing just how “limited” her love for him was.
what you’re truly feeling, you don’t disabuse them. You go through the motions for them. That’s why, I think, I wanted to write the play--about a man who doesn’t feel what’s he’s suppose to. Who has an entirely too-confused response to it for lots and lots of reasons. So he can’t show . . . anything, almost.’” Alternating chapters focus on the stories of the other characters. The lead actor in the play transforms his life’s experience into art. The sister of the playwright’s lover, who died in 9/11, rededicates herself to her marriage. Deciding at last to let go of an old attraction to a widowed architect, she reluctantly introduces him to the playwright. Will the architect and playwright reach through their numbing losses to risk loving each other? Through these four characters, Miller skillfully teases out the lines of tenderness, frustration, relief, guilt, and sorrow in each individual’s harrowing progress through middle age. Reviewed by Zara Raab LOCAL SF AUTHOR! City of Tranquil Light: A Novel By Bo Caldwell Henry Holt, $25.00, 289 pages Will Kiehn is living a simple farming life with his family in early-1900s Oklahoma when he feels the call to serve as a Mennonite missionary. Despite feeling “ordinary” and “unexceptional,” he decides to follow a family friend back to the North China Plain. There his life truly begins and he experiences his greatest joys and sorrows. Will marries a fellow missionary, learns Mandarin, and settles in a town with a name that translated into English means “City of Tranquil Light.” Will, called mu shih or shepherd-teacher, by the people in the town, and his wife, Katherine, alternate telling their story through his memories and her journal entries. Their story is lovely and inspiring, one of perseverance and finding joy through difficult conditions and deep sorrows. Their faith shines through, as does their love for each other and for the Chinese people they come to call their greatest friends. City of Tranquil Light is a beautiful, satisfying book. Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim
“’People think they know what you’re feeling.’ Her voice was softer, suddenly. ‘What you must be feeling. And because it’s easier not to expose yourself,
Listen to author inter v iews at Audible Authors.net
February 11 11
Humor-NonFiction I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas By Lewis Black Riverhead Books, $19.95, 178 pages Lewis Black might seem like an odd choice for a Christmas author, seeing as so much of the holiday frivolity annoys him to no end. He considers the tree at Rockefeller Center a hooker, the songs insipid, the traditions obnoxious, the people insane, and the holiday an abomination. But, somehow, that doesn’t stop him from finding something worth celebrating and even a few things to be thankful for during all the tinsel-strewn lunacy. I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas is Lewis Black unfettered, pure and simple. He harangues against the excess and the nonsense and the inanity and the stupidity, as you’d expect, but he also brings to the fore the thoughtful and -- dare I say it -- reluctantly vulnerable side of himself he revealed so eloquently in his previous book, Me of Little Faith. Sure, I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas is funny and occasionally mean and downright shocking once or twice, but it’s honest, unfailingly so. Lewis is as unflinchingly incisive as I’ve ever seen him, and even more so with his own foibles, failures, and doubts than he is with those of Christmas. It’s not always hilarious, but it is wholly worthwhile. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas
You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News: Shocking but Utterly True Facts By Cracked.com Plume, $14.00, 320 pages After flipping through a few of the articles featured in You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News, the reader comes to a few conclusions: Lots of people are lying to you. Lots of things can possibly kill you, or are actively trying to kill you. Some of our cultural heroes are frauds, and others truly were larger than life. Basically, the world is so much weirder than you could ever imagine. History is stranger than fiction. Everything you know is wrong; and we as a species are doomed. “In the world of classic cartoons, roughly 80 percent of all children are orphans. This is important because it teaches young viewers that someday their parents will mysteriously disappear from their lives for no reason and never be mentioned again.” Thankfully, while the writers at Cracked. com are teaching you all of this, they’re also making you laugh far too hard to care. From the redacted exploits of Jesus to cute animals that can destroy you, almost armageddons and true urban legends, the intrepid trivia masters at Cracked gleefully shine a
spotlight into the dark corners of history and modern life, finding humor in the worst and the weirdest in human culture. As a trivia book with bite, You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News is thoroughly surprising and entertaining. As a comedic effort with a lot of facts, it’s absolutely hysterical and a painfully good time. Read it. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Why You Should Store Your Farts in a Jar and Other Oddball or Gross Maladies, Afflictions, Remedies and Cures By David Haviland Tarcher/Penguin, $12.95, 272 pages Medicine is a constantly evolving science, and there have been a lot of strange missteps and tangents along the way. Why You Should Store Your Farts in a Jar is a catalogue of the most bizarre, featuring real conditions and surprisingly beneficial results alongside some of the weird conclusions and peculiar treatments that have graced the profession over the centuries. From bloodletting and fire cupping to ether frolics and plague doctors, you won’t believe some of the “cures” conjured up by quacks. While some of the entries are positively stomach-churning, the vast majority of the information offered is fascinating, both in what works and what people thought would
Arrrrgggghhhh! i should have checked the san Francisco book review website before buying this book!
local events local authors meet the reviewers
M o r e th an 300 b o o k r evi e ws w ri tten ea c h m o nth
work. For instance, I’d never heard of Chimney Sweep’s Scrotum or the theory that Columbus had brought syphilis back to Europe from the New World. And who would have thought that Tyrannosaurus Rex often suffered from gout? As a brief, curious history of the medical profession, Why You Should Store Your Farts in a Jar is a tribute to the intricacies of the body and how long it’s taken us to understand as much (or, perhaps, as little) as we do. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Four Word Film Reviews By Benj Clews, Michael Onesi Adams Media, $9.95, 184 pages Some movie reviews seem to drag on forever. Wouldn’t it be nice to hit the point and move on? Four Word Film Reviews sets out to do just that. Covering hundreds of movies from the classics such as Jaws and Star Wars to more recent movies such as Harry Potter and The Hangover, you’ll find lots of mini-reviews for many movies. Some are shorter, some are longer, but none of them are longer than just four words. The book itself is set up by category (Animation, Horror, Drama, etc). There’s a nice mix of older movies and newer ones, and as well as popular and obscure titles. Each movie is introduced with a short plot paragraph that also explains any directing or acting credits you may need to understand some of the reviews. The reviews themselves are varied. Some are good while other fall flat, although many of them focus on puns and wordplays for a quick laugh. There’s also a “Guess the movie” quote on the bottom of each two-page spread, which added a nice touch. A great book for any movie-lover, although for everyday reading it falls flat. But marketed to its niche, it hits the target spot on. Reviewed by Alyssa Feller
w w w. S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w. c o m
12 February 11
A r c h i v e d p u b l i c a t i o n i s s u e s a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w . c o m /a r c h i v e s
Biographies & Memoirs That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row By Jarvis Jay Masters HarperOne, $14.99, 281 pages In That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row, Jarvis Jay Masters hopes to bring awareness to the ruptures of a child welfare system. Masters’ stark, spare language pulls the reader from his heroin-addicted mother and into the foster home system. Initially, Masters lands in a loving and supportive home, but circumstances send him to an abusive home. At that point Masters becomes desperate for someone to understand him and what he needs. Running away from different centers devised to help youth such as Masters, however, the adults often do more damage. Not yet a teenager, Masters is moving toward a life of violent crime. At the age of 23, he lands on death row for a crime he claims he did not commit. Masters currently is in the process of an appeal with the California State Supreme Court. During his time in prison, he begins to face his tribulations and becomes a Buddhist. Fascinating insight make That Bird Has My Wings a must-read, especially for those wanting to help children in the troubled system now. Reviewed by Elizabeth Humphrey John F. Kennedy By Robert Dallek Oxford University Press, $12.95, 96 pages Robert Dallek is the revered author of John F. Kennedy: An Unfinished Life and he has written several other biographies and articles in prominent publications. Dallek has taken the overwhelming task of writing a diminutive 88-page biography from 800
A Filipino Woman's Legacy of Strength
Available at: Amazon.com BarnesandNoble.com | Xlibris.com hramos.webs.com
pages of information he has complied over the years. The subject? One of the top five presidents of the United States of America: John Fitzgerald Kennedy. John F. Kennedy is a succinct and complete account of his fascinating life and a bit beyond to explore the what-ifs, had he not been assassinated at such a young age. There are no chapters or sections, no breaks in the telling of his tale, which becomes a bit of a distraction while reading. The use of profanity is, albeit, authentic quoting of our 35th president, but it limits the potential benefits of a broader audience: our young readers and aspiring historians. Pictures would have made this hard cover short synopsis more enjoyable but would defeat the purpose with so much data and so little space. Just like JFK’s life, it’s all too short! Reviewed by M Chris Johnson All By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed, and Me By Jeff Dunham Dutton, $25.95, 356 pages Few of us can claim we make a living talking to inanimate objects; in fact, this has probably cost a few people their jobs in the past. But Jeff Dunham can proudly declare that he supports his family by talking to dolls in public, and All By My Selves ably chronicles his creative journey from kid with a weird hobby to comedy superstar. But Dunham’s book is hardly selfcongratulatory. He discusses in detail the long road to success, with all the missteps, minor triumphs, and lucky breaks along the way, and he never comes off as anything less than incredibly grateful for what he has. While Dunham’s personal journey is interesting and well-told, it’s the history of his colorful cast of characters that really shines. Like minor-league creation myths, the origin stories for Peanut, Walter, Achmed, Jose Jalapeno and others past and present are engaging tales in their own right, as the puppets themselves will tell you. Oh yes, far be it from Dunham to deny his puppet entourage the chance to interrupt him with alarming and funny frequency, even in print. Like the man himself, All By My Selves has more humor and charm than you might expect. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas
A true story about a boy placed in a
Roman Catholic Boarding School in England during World War II.
Discover how the story ends!
Heavy discipline by the Teaching Order of Priests and the bullying was almost unbearable. To counteract this, John was gradually befriended by one of the priests, initially unaware that the man was physically attracted towards him. He was at first pleased to have this attention, as his own father had died before the war, John was invited to stay at the Order’s Novitiate College, during a summer holiday, where the sexual advances by the priest increased. The boy felt a strong urge to go to confession, but who could he trust? He was determined to stop the sexual overtures and eventually taught the priest a lesson he would never forget.
Available from Xlibris, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders and www.thepenancewalk.com Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire By Marianne ‘’Jolly’’ Robinson Regent Press, $20.00, 180 pages Now in her eighties, the intrepid Marianne Robinson girds her memories in this recollection, which records the chaotic history of America over the past century. Raised by liberal, free-thinking parents, the author reveals her independent spirit in childhood. She still maintains that quality. Forever in economic straits, Marianne describes how she survived during the Depression and the war years, and continued to plug along to the present. She took jobs wherever available, sang and played guitar with Pete Seeger and his gang, knew the Weavers, and always sought gigs on her own. She was a communist agitator organizing workers, assisted Gloria Steinem with the woman’s movement, was involved in the civil rights movement, and was a natural activist. “All these experiences formed the frying pan from which I leaped into the fire after high school.” Always what might have been referred to as a “hippie,” she underwent several abortions with family support, had several love affairs, and had a child from an interracial marriage at a time when such matches were unpopular. With great determination, she returned to college to earn a degree in anthropology and worked with Margaret Mead, explored photography, and engaged in many creative projects. This is one very determined lady who sought fulfillment and along the way experienced the gist of the American way of life, maturing through the ups and downs of her life experiences. Reviewed by Aron Row
Listen to author inter v iews at Audible Authors.net
The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love By Kristin Kimball Scribner, $25.00, 256 pages A good writer is one who convinces readers they would enjoy something improbable and beyond any likelihood of enjoyment. Kristin Kimball’s The Dirty Life is a wonderfully exuberant account of her switch from East Village to northern New York State, from urban sophistication to a lowtech rural lifestyle. On assignment for a freelance writing project, Kimball meets Mark, an anachronistic but unswervingly dedicated farmer who’s none too clean, but wildly attractive -- though she tries to suppress this at first, fearful of the change it will bring to her life. Mark is determined to pursue and expand the concept of community-supported agriculture, or CSA. Members buy shares in the farm and receive weekly distributions of seasonal production. This is the story of Kimball’s first year as a farmer, a tale alternatively dream and nightmare, witty and unremittingly readable. She manages to make the discomforts of winter and the demandingly productive summer almost appealing. Her honesty is humbling as she describes her doubts during the bad times, the endless and exhausting work, and her continuing ambivalence. The payoff in friendship and love prove worthwhile and one turns the last page elated and admiring. Reviewed by Jane Manaster
February 11 13
Biographies & Memoirs Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory By Patrick Wilcken The Penguin Press, $29.95, 416 pages Considered an icon in the fields of anthropology and ethnology, Claude LeviStrauss, who died at age one hundred last year, was adjudged to be one of the foremost intellectuals of his time. For the first time, a biography of this acclaimed thinker has appeared in English. “Drawing inspiration from surrealism, linguistics, aesthetics and music, Levi-Strauss cut a fresh trail through the humanities.” As an independent thinker, Levi-Strauss plunged through Brazil doing his fieldwork in short visits to different tribes. His studies lead him to conclude that the so-called “savage mind” is equivalent to the civilized mind; that the characteristics of man are the same no matter where. Patrick Wilcken follows the peripatetic scientist from his initial explorations to his exile to the United States during the war years and the publication of the renowned Tristes Tropiques. The second half of the book glances at the subject’s controversial and profound ideas that challenged prevailing schools of thought. The biography explores the structuralist theory, the analysis of myths and other innovative ideas advanced by this independent and isolated thinker. Levi-Strauss has long been admired as one of the most important thinkers of our time. This book gives the reader the opportunity to look at the profound personality and evaluate his heritage. Reviewed by Aron Row Memoirs of a Life Insurance Icon: Khuda Buksh By Muhammad Rahim Xlibris, $19.99, 352 pages Khuda Buksh isn’t a familiar name to most Americans, nor is his job as life insurance salesman seem stylish, but there more to life than names and titles. Memoirs of a Life Insurance Icon: Khuda Buksh is not a book, but a collection of letters and notes about a man that lived a great life and had amazing qualities. Each letter is like a piece of a soul and as you read the book, the soul itself becomes hole. The editors of
14 February 11
this book did a outstanding job showcasing Khuda’s strongest personal traits. He was a kind, generous man, and cared so much about his job and employees. A trait every American can admire. He loved his job. He was also very concern with everyone having their own car. Khuda went to great lengths to make sure that everyone he knew, met, worked with, or loved, was shown the same love in return. Khuda would visit employees at home, or have an impromptu meeting to convince people to stay with a company. He was an awe inspiring person. He was born in 1912 and lived in a disconcerting times. The social problems of India and Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh all happened while he worked in insurance in those places. None of the social problems phased him, as he crusaded for get insurance to every able body he could. All the while, he was juggling his family life and treating his employees like equals. The last part of the book was remarkable, because the editors added some personal documentations. Khuda’s own memoirs, letters he had authorized and a commission for him being a Kentucky Colonel are just some of the pages added. It gives a great personal touch to the end of a long journey. Khuda Buksh is not with us on earth anymore, but a book like this, he will never be forgotten. Sponsored Review Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley By Jeffrey Spivak The University Press of Kentucky, $39.95, 408 pages Buzz Berkeley was born to be in the theater. He was born to actors, Frank Enos and Gertrude Berkeley, and his mother was determined to keep him away from a stage career. “His originality and sharply defined style brought him professional acclaim and financial reward.” With no acting credits and absolutely no dance training, he burst forth as a dance director shortly after a few roles post service in World War I. His mother found herself unable to keep her boy off of the stage, but was never far from his side. His story is one that Hollywood dreams were made of at the time. Sam Goldwyn came calling in 1930, and the first picture he worked on for them was Whoppee!. At the time, movie musicals were stale and outdated, but with a touch of the Buzz
magic, they came alive. Most credit Berkeley with saving and then recreating a whole new genre of the movie musical. The book is heavy into his technique and art, but pretty light when it comes to fleshing out the picture of just who Busby Berkeley was as a man. If you are a lover of musicals, this is the book for you. Reviewed by Gwen Stackler Chuck’s Women By Patricia Everett Trafford Publishing, $25.99, 412 pages All the ingredients are here for a really readable family saga, which chronicles the setbacks and challenges of farmers and small-town businesses in California, beginning shortly before Pearl Harbor. Ne’er do well Chuck brings bigamy, havoc, heartache, and death to those around him, as he flits between California and Alaska. The tale re-awakens memories of a time now gone, when life was more relaxed. And of society’s attitudes, where husbands were forgiven, even indulged, in their “manly” escapades and wives blamed themselves for all marital problems, even miscarriages. Dialogue and private thoughts are the book’s main strength. The author has an ear for individual voices, what people are thinking and, more especially, their true character. The real Chuck comes through when he speaks, revealing a pretty unpleasant charlatan and puncturing the front he puts on in public. Patricia Everett’s weakness is that she tells the story almost as a personal chronicle—there are obviously events she was involved in—that comes through as being intended for those of her immediate circle and not for a wider readership. Enormously detailed accounts of mundane daily activities put off the reader, while too little attention is devoted to the important milestones, including the pivotal murder. Events that are of interest to the author make the reader’s eyes glaze over, such as the names of every guest and their relationship at Thanksgiving dinner, instead of boiling it down to something like “ 16 family members sat down.” A wonderful one-sentence description of what Chuck’s wife thinks of their marriage is lost in the detail of exactly who is going on what rides at a funfair. A professional editor could easily set about the story, cut it by half, and bring the potential level to the near crackerjack. Sponsored Review
From the Cliffs of Pyla: A Memoir By Karlan Strong Xlibris, $19.99, 289 pages Karlan Strong’s story begins with her childhood experience of a bomb raid in Paris. From this moment, her orderly, predictable family life collapses to a mix of dislocation and loss. Beginning when she was a child of four and concluding some 40 years later with the death of her husband, this memoir traces the suffering and triumph not only of Strong but of the man she married and the others she loved. Strong’s memoir maps the emotional and mental courage required to craft an authentic and loving adult life from a chaotic injurious childhood. Her presumed intention is to accomplish this mapping with craft, compassion, artful description, and literary skill. She has succeeded in this intent. Memoirs of a difficult life are the only ones worth writing, but are also most difficult for readers. We are wary of emotional manipulation and exposure to an excess of personal suffering. But I was fully engaged in this memoir from the opening lines: “Paris: June 1940. Bombs fell and everything shook. My sister, Joan, threw up. And no one got my breakfast.” Strong’s strength is her ability to write from various perspectives: first of as four-year-old, then a bewildered, loving child on the run in wartime, then a boisterous adolescent wearing her pain with bravado. In adulthood, of course, Strong seeks friendship, marriage, and motherhood. To do this successfully, she must face squarely the facts and the sequela of her war-torn and injured past. Strong’s struggles, secrets, and her loyalties are rendered with craft, intelligence, and with respect--both for her individual subjects and for the readers. Throughout the memoir, we understand Strong and her husband: their struggles, their motives, their growth and change. Strong finishes her story mid-life and she graciously provides us with a short epilogue which eases the closing of the book. I enjoyed this memoir and look forward to sharing it with friends who themselves have had struggles, injuries, losses and victories and who will appreciate the words of a companion on the journey. Sponsored Review
A r c h i v e d p u b l i c a t i o n i s s u e s a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w . c o m /a r c h i v e s
Science & Nature How Intelligence Happens By John Duncan Yale University Press, $28.00, 256 pages John Duncan recognizes how order is born out of what seems to be chaos. It is through curiosity and study that we find order in chaos. He describes the essence of how things are, and why they are that way, as a machine — the thing to study. There we must seek out the regularity within the machine. Then the author surprises us by delving deeper into understanding how it is that our sense of logic emerges from our sense of perception. It is rather like getting into a gripping novel, and then, just when we get our minds in tune with what drives us into the story, the plot thickens. Duncan’s arguments make a great case for Gestalt Theory and Mental Set. With these tools described in layman terms, he reveals How Intelligence Happens. The book is an invigorating read, giving the reader a chance to reflect on how the principles Duncan poses reflect on what we perceive as thinkers. It’s an easy and energizing read. It’s winter reading at its best. Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky You Are the Earth: Know Your World So You Can Help Make It Better By David Suzuki and Kathy Vanderlinden Greystone Books, $16.95, 144 pages David Suzuki has spent a career sharing his interest in natural history and environmental responsibility, especially with young people. In You Are the Earth, he draws together a medley of information on our threatened natural world, and the way salvation is at hand if our surroundings are treated with respect rather than exploited. It’s not a unique idea but Suzuki, co-author Kathy Vanderlinden, and illustrator Wallace Edwards present their case in a gripping manner, mostly filling the pages with hands-on experiments alongside folktales that illustrate the universality of the subject. The activities invite more stimulating opportunities than a classroom allows, and Suzuki’s enthusiasm comes across as he includes his own childhood experiences. At times the voice is open and direct with the readers, but in patches it seems to be directed at a much younger audience; the two tones don’t quite blend.
This is not a book for a quick read. It’s chock-a-block with a wealth of ideas to be enjoyed with friends or siblings who will soon be captivated with the same gusto as the authors. Reviewed by Jane Manaster In Search of the Multiverse: Parallel Worlds, Hidden Dimensions, and the Ultimate Quest for the Frontiers of Reality By John Gribbin Wiley, $24.95, 240 pages John Gribbin, an acclaimed science writer and astrophysicist, tackles a number of subjects in his new book, In Search of the Multiverse. People are often sent running for the hills when they hear terms like quantum mechanics, and string theory, not to mention the important differences between general and special relativity. The key with Gribbin is that he doesn’t hold back in throwing the reader into the thick of all this scientific thought and theory. He then leaves them there, but acts as a life-saving guide, taking readers along step-by-step, explaining terms and ideas in their simplest form and in a way that any reader can appreciate and understand. He also provides numerous examples with normal everyday settings, and fully admits that there are areas of the above mentioned terms that no one fully understands, at least not yet. Quantum mechanics for one: the idea that every possibility in a particular situation can be achieved in an instant to the point where possibilities in other dimensions are reached. It all sounds like science fiction, and yet results have somehow been achieved. Gribbin takes you through, thoroughly, so in the end – at least for a little while – you are able to grasp what’s going on. The other key to In Search of the Universe is that it’s not a 600- to 800-page tome, but a relatively short 200 pages, with concise chapters, making it easier for the reader to get through these complex subjects at a decent pace and to reread, if necessary. And how many parallel universes are there out there? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. Reviewed by Alex Telander National Geographic Kids: The Ultimate Dinopedia By Don Lessem National Geographic Children’s, $24.95, 272 pages The Ultimate Dinopedia is divided into four main sections. The first section tackles general information such as extinction, mi-
gration, and paleontologists with two pages of easy-to-digest information, illustrations, and photographs per subject. One section each is devoted to plant eaters and meat eaters. Each dinosaur gets two pages: one large illustration and one information page including things like physical description, geographic area, and interesting facts. There are also photographs that are relevant to dinosaurs: fossils, tools, similar existing animals. The final section is a dictionary which organizes the dinosaurs alphabetically. After life with two young dinosaur enthusiasts, I thought I knew everything about dinosaurs. But I happily learned many new facts from The Ultimate Dinopedia. This book will have a long shelf life: Younger readers will soak in the action packed illustrations while older readers learn from the text. You’ll appreciate the page number references in many dinosaur descriptions that lead you to others with similar characteristics. I strongly recommend this sturdy, oversized book for school libraries or classrooms. Reviewed by Jodi M. Webb Hope Beneath Our Feet: Restoring Our Place in the Natural World By Martin Keogh, Editor, Michael Pollan, Contributor, Barbara Kingsolver, Contributo, Alice Walker, Contributor, Howard Zinn, Contributor North Atlantic Books, $18.95, 319 pages Although politicians may quibble over the reality of global climate change, it seems most of us have accepted the fact that the environment is at a tipping point—and that we humans are responsible. With that in mind, Hope Beneath Our Feet seeks to answer the question “If our world is facing an imminent environmental catastrophe, how do I live my life right now?” The question is answered in more than four dozen responses written by environmentalists, activists, and leaders from various walks of life. The essayists waste little time in convincing readers that the issue is, in fact, an issue. Instead, most either suggest ways that individuals can do even little things that might have lasting positive effects on the planet or describe some of the practices they are putting into action in their own efforts to create positive change. Though at times strident and repetitive, this collection of essays does resonate.
Listen to author inter v iews at Audible Authors.net
And although some readers may find some of the advice and tools a little impractical, other suggestions, such as growing your own food, may be more accessible for many. More than a book to simply read and ponder, Hope Beneath Our Feet offers thoughtprovoking suggestions for implementing real change. Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen Peak of the Devil: 100 Questions (and Answers) About Peak Oil By Chip Haynes Satya House Publications, $14.95, 224 pages Do we need another book on “peak oil”? By using his quirky sense of humor, Haynes is a peak oil evangelist with an unusual style, raising awareness that global oil production has or soon will peak and then slowly decline. He does not preach, recite many facts, or wade into controversies or politics. Rather he stays on message in a chummy, disarming, semi-serious -- and upfront -- manner that this indeed is a big deal. He gives a page-and-a-half, freewheeling answer to each of one hundred questions (or topics). For example: What to tell the kids; should I live in the woods; or what about ethanol or hydrogen? He focuses on our lives and little habits -- not geopolitical politics or science -- and reminds us frequently to keep the bicycle tires pumped and to consider living without oil for a day while we still have the choice. Somehow he does this without making us too gloomy. Does his approach work? If you are only vaguely aware of peak oil, or wonder if this is related to climate change (it isn’t), and you enjoy a disarming writing style, then this might be a good place to start. Or, it might be a good gift idea. If you don’t believe in peak oil, you will probably have trouble. If you already believe in peak oil, then you might not find the book particularly informative, other than an occasional interesting fact (WWII gas rationing was 5 gallons per week). I did object to his loose implications and his rapid dissing of alternative energies, until I realized what he was doing: raising awareness that this will be an age of transition, or “Dim Ages.” However, I cannot recommend the book. It avoids real controversies, is vague where it might inform (little oil is used for U.S. electricity), lacks an index, has no graph of Hubbert’s peak, and -- given the humor -- not even a single cartoon. Reviewed by Jim Rothstein
February 11 15
Historical Fiction The Good Healer By Dimitrije Medenica CreateSpace, $13.95, 160 pages During the Medieval Ages, bloodletting and witch-hunts held more power than medicine. Through this excellently written story of a man caring for patients more humanely, the author realistically transports readers back to those superstitious times. Jean Duchesne was born in 1411 with a sixth finger. Today, the medical profession calls this hexadactyly, a common congenital malformation. At Jean’s birth, this was the devil’s mark. “’How dare you,’ yelled the outraged priest, still holding the baby in his arms. ‘ How dare you defend this creature, this bit of devil, you who hid the devil’s work from our poor innocent eyes?’” With that, the villagers expelled Jean and his parents from their village to face the harsh winter that was to change Jean’s life. Realistic dialogue continuously draws readers into Jean’s life. Readers are there when his father gives the infant to the woman riding in a cart in the forest. “In her ear, he whispered while pointing high into the tree, “This up there. My child. You save, you save … he name Jean, Jean Duchesne. I love, you take care, you…’ Guillame gave his last breath, released his iron grip on the woman’s collar, and dropped his heavy arms into the snow.” Fully developed characters come alive for the reader. Readers meet every person with whom Jean interacts, as if they were there with him through excellent writing that propels each character to life. The Inquisitor stuck fear throughout. Feeding on this fear, his greed ruled while eradicating the “witch confraternity.” Readers can feel the fear, as well as shudder at his harshness. “He would round up people, true members or not; the distinction was often ignored, for as the Inquisitor would say, ‘Some testimonies are worth considering, and others are not.’” The author’s note at the conclusion explains the scant two liberties taken with the precise historical context, his faithfulness to history adding a compelling dimension. Sponsored Review The Report: A Novel By Jessica Francis Kane Graywolf Press, $15.00, 256 pages The subject of Jessica Francis Kane’s novel The Report is a largely forgotten event in the Bethel Green district of East London during World War II, when 173 men, women and children were crushed to death in a terrible accident on the stairs of one of the district’s tube stations. The book takes place both in flashback form and in 1973, when a curious young filmmaker whose life was person-
16 February 11
ally touched by the tragedy contacts the author of the official inquiry of the accident in order to shed light on what really happened, and, perhaps, to uncover more about that fateful night. In this simply written novel, Kane displays great sympathy for her characters and understanding of their plight without dissolving into melodrama, as would be an easy route for many authors to take. Her characters are well-rounded and believable, and her treatment of the facts is never floral, overwrought, or contrived. In writing about an actual historical event, she takes a risk as an author to present the facts authentically while still weaving an engrossing story for her readers, making them care about the people with whom she populates her Bethel Green. The tales in The Report, the lifelines, intertwine beautifully, although it takes a bit for the momentum to pick up. What Kane has crafted is a cleanly written novel that is a meditation on human tragedy and memory, and also its own sort of historical record. Reviewed by Ashley McCall The Courtiers By Lucy Worsley Walker & Company, $30.00, 432 pages Gossip, glamour, treachery. Fathers versus sons, mothers imprisoned in castles, and mistresses aplenty. Sounds like the setting for any good fictional romance. But these are the raw materials Worsley, chief curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, has to work with when writing the history of the first two Georgian courts. Worsley does excellent work with the material she has. Her writing brings these true characters back to life, and she clearly demonstrates her passion both for the era and for historical accuracy. At times, some readers may tire from plodding through some of the finer details she includes, but most will be carried along by the story and by the tragic humanity of some of the main characters. Certainly in the current era of paparazzi, obsession with royalty and the rich and famous knows no bounds, a theme that is easily identifiable in the Georgian era as well. A hit in the U.K., The Courtiers should find a welcoming home here in the US. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littel
Available at Amazon .com Barnes and Noble.com
At the end of the Civil War, one of the significant issues that plagued the new Congress was the threat to colonization from the many Indian tribes of the American West. It was in response to this pressure that the U.S. Congress passed an act that required the formation of new regiments to add to the strength of the regular army. Follow the exploits of two of the four new regiments, the Ninth and the Tenth U.S. Cavalries, in Harper’s first installment in his historical fiction series, The Buffalo Soldier Chronicles: Incident on the Arikaree.
The Mistaken Wife: A Novel By Rose Melikan Touchstone Fireside, $15.00, 402 pages Historical fiction fans, this one’s for you. Mary Finch is on a top-secret mission in Revolutionary France, a British agent posing as the wife of an American artist, Samuel Vangenzen. Her mission is dangerous and complex. She must enter into the small circle of American envoys living in Paris, winning their trust and ultimately convincing them that the common language and shared heritage between America and England could forge an alliance between the two countries, and not between America and France. If she is discovered by the French she will be imprisoned… or worse. To make matters more interesting, Mary’s love interest, Captain Robert Holland, is also sent to France on a mission. When their paths cross in Paris, sparks fly. Can their relationship—and their lives—withstand their dangerous missions? The third in the Mary Finch thrillers, The Mistaken Wife is based on actual historical figures and events. Its historical accuracy is flawless and immediately captivating. The story is deep and complex and far from a light read. My heart raced as the French authorities became suspicious of Mary and Robert and I felt as if I was running for my life as well in this fastpaced, action-packed work of espionage amazement. Reviewed by Jennifer Melville The Mistress of Nothing: A Novel By Kate Pullinger Touchstone, $24.00, 250 pages In Victorian England lived a historical figure named Lady Duff Gordon who traveled with her lady’s maid, Sally Naldrett, to Egypt, hoping the dry weather would ease her tuberculosis. Mistress of Nothing is a fictional account of the journey told by Sally.
As they adopt Egyptian ways of eating, dressing, and living, Sally is fooled into believing they have both changed. But when Sally shatters an unbreakable rule by falling in love, Lady Duff Gordon reverts to her English self and casts Sally out of her household. Sally finds herself jobless in the unfamiliar, friendless streets of Cairo. Reading Mistress of Nothing was like reading about a fantasy world because the rules that bound Victorian gentryservant relations were so completely different from today’s world. The book constantly explores the relationships people form across boundaries, and asks the question, “Are any of these relationships real?” Telling the story from Sally’s point of view made it even more powerful. Although Sally can guess at other’s feelings and reasons, not knowing raises many questions for readers to ponder. This is a book you can’t stop thinking about. Reviewed by Jodi Webb Lily of the Nile By Stephanie Dray Berkley Trade, $15.00, 340 pages Stephanie Dray’s Lily of the Nile is a spectacular blend of history and unforgettable fiction. The novel opens with the suicide of the great Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and the subsequent journey of her imprisoned children to the Roman court. Princess Selene Cleopatra and her two surviving brothers are drug through the streets of Rome to certain death, but are spared by the Emperor’s sister and become part of a group of formerly royal, orphaned prisoners of war. They are now the “children” of Emperor, a sickly but power-hungry man who sought See LILY, con’t page 23
A r c h i v e d p u b l i c a t i o n i s s u e s a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w . c o m /a r c h i v e s
Catch the App Wave
Heading to Santa Cruz?
Let us show you the way
Want an app of your own? firstname.lastname@example.org
Crafts & Hobbies Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes By Jenny Dean, Karen Diadick Casselman Watson-Guptill, $22.99, 144 pages Wild color begins with Dyeing Techniques which covers the what, how, and when of variances possible from one dye bath, and some vibrant history, then segues into The Dye Plants.In this segment the photography for clear identification of the botanicals is exquisitely good. Color tabs on the outer edges of each page make for quick access to desired shades without requiring a complete rereading. Some botanicals are widely known, like Indigo, others, like Mahonia and Oregon
Grape, are less publicized. I always thought Tyrean Purple was boiled out of Sea Hares, the huge purple slugs that periodically populate and breed in California’s inshore waters. But Wild Color says that the purple dye of antiquity (and today) is pressed from a gland of murex and purpura shellfish directly into fibers where photo reactivity creates the purple tint from a clear liquid. I recommend this well done reference not only for Dyers, but for all interested in the evolution of handicrafts. Throughout, the author has given Cultivation and Harvest, Dyeing Procedure, and in many cases history and mythos associated with each dye source. This richness of fact and thorough coverage of actual technique, coupled with an extraordinarily clear writing style, make this fine reference a wonderful acquisition. Reviewed by David Sutton
Creative Paper Cutting By Shufunotomo Trumpeter, $19.95, 128 pages This is a charming resource craft book that will benefit all members of the family and familiarize the reader with the art of paper cutting. Cleverly designed with easy to follow directions enhanced with black and white illustrations as well as attractively colored photographs, the multiple projects invite participation. Combining the talents of nine Japanese contributors, this paper recipe book requires no more than scissors, an X-acto knife, cutting mat, ruler, pencils, stapler, and of course, a variety of papers. Following the basic directions for folding and cutting, different figures, such
as ballerinas, wildflowers, or rows of trees will emerge. Fourteen projects for lampshades, stationery, t-shirts and more are tantalizingly described. Figure designs, mobiles, cards, collages, party decorations, and other creative ideas are included. Following the basic patterns allows the adult or child to fashion their own inimitable paper production. The Japanese art of paper cutting invites all family members to snip away, and of course, what better time to recycle all kinds of paper into holiday snowflakes?
tion such as black men having large penises, shoe size correlating to penis size, and aphrodisiacs like alcohol and bitter kola, are debunked. There are references to published “research” conducted by magazines including Vibe in the book, along with song lyrics and television sexual innuendo. The author also addresses issues such as pubic hair, female genital mutilation, sexual positions, and sexual turn-ons and turn-offs. There is also a how-to chapter on cunnilingus. Unfortunately, the book is not succinct enough to be considered an academic work, nor comprehendible enough for an enjoyable read. Many of the words and expressions may be unfamiliar to Westerners and because the underlying theme of the book has a tendency to wander, the work required for comprehension may not be worthwhile to the average reader. The book may have value as a reference for someone wishing to do serious academic research into African sexual/mating behaviors. Sponsored Review
at in your life, and provides warm fuzzies that prove being single is part of life. “Single” does not mean you’re a romantic failure. According to Cove, single women fall into four categories: looking for Mr. Right, experiencing conflict about singledom, changing love-life goals, and navigating a marriageobsessed culture. Each chapter begins with a pop quiz pinpointing if this chapter is for you. The quizzes also offer a quirky sense of humor. Personal anecdotes from interviews Cove conducted supply plenty of examples of what single women may experience from friends and relatives. Through writing exercises, reflection and checklists, Cove shares tools readers need to be happy while single. Considering that there are more single women living in America than married women and more single women in their 30s than ever before, Cove’s insight breaks through the fairytales and stereotypes women have long been subjected to. Reviewed by LuAnn Schindler
“Paper cutting requires nothing more than taking a pair of scissors to a piece of paper and going snip-snip.” Reviewed by Aron Row
Relationships & Sex Just Watch Me: Erotica for Women By Violet Blue, editor Cleis Press, $14.95, 225 pages In her latest compilation of sex stories, Violet Blue presents an arousing array of erotica by women, for women. Just Watch Mepushes the limits, yet presents a realistic look at how women view sex, lust, and sensuality. No dark, depressing stories in this collection. Instead, Blue’s selections are intended to motivate female readers to seek satisfaction in the bedroom. Consider Cate Robertson’s “Just Watch Me, Rodin.” A young woman poses nude for a more mature male artist. He pushes her to the edge, but the artist is no match for this young vixen. It’s like creating a piece of art and masterfully watching all elements blend together, an appropriate choice to start the anthology. An unsatisfied young woman seduces an older lover while reading erotica to him in Sydney Beier’s “Reading to Horst.” Saskia Walker provides a sexy look at power and how to wield it in “The Upper Hand.” In “Utterly Nondescript,” Geneva King transforms an ordinary office worker into a sex kitten with a penchant for orgies. Every story appeals to sensual and sexual cravings and hidden desires, proving why Blue is one of the top erotica editors. Reviewed by LuAnn Schindler
18 February 11
African Sex Education: Chronicles and Manual: Miyidima—The African’s Erotic Convocation:Liberation of the Long Suffering Birds and Bees of Africa By Boniface Wewe iUniverse, $16.95, 172 pages Intended as a “pseudo dissertation” on differences in sexual cultures, the author uses idiosyncratic research to make a case for the necessity of sexual revolution and education in his native country. A native of Cameroon, West Africa, author Boniface Wewe graduated with a Master’s Degree in library science from the University of Pittsburgh. He became interested in the sexual openness he saw in the West as compared to the sexual conservativism he knew from Africa. The arranged marriages where brides are purchased with goats and palm wine in Africa contrasted with American brides, who are the product of the sexual revolution, caused Wewe to question some of his native country’s social problems. The author desires to be recognized as a Professor of Sexology with this manuscript. Most of the book consists of Wewe’s recollections of conversations he had in Africa, Europe and America with anyone willing to answer questions regarding their sexual attitudes and practices. Sexual misinforma-
Seeking Happily Ever After By Michelle Cove Tarcher/Penguin, $16.95, 306 pages If you’re sitting around waiting for Mr. Right to waltz into your life and put a ring on it, then Michelle Cove’s Seeking Happily Ever After: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Being Single Without Losing Your Mind (and Finding Lasting Love Along the Way) will provide a wake-up call for all the single ladies. Cove’s common-sense approach, including how to handle naysayers who think a relationship makes one complete, begins with an honest assessment of where you’re
Current Events Pitchforks and Torches: The Worst of the Worst, from Beck, Bill, and Bush to Palin and Other Posturing Republicans By Keith Olbermann Wiley, $24.95, 265 pages Keith Olbermann is a national treasure. On his nightly cable show, he has courageously stood up to the crimes of the Bush administration and the lies that accompany them. He has often been the only media voice for liberals and progressives. As passionate, compassionate, opinionated, and insightful as he is, it is his stinging humor that makes his show so enjoyable. Night after night he uses sarcasm, ridicule and most importantly, facts, to hilariously skewer politicians and their minions in the media. The right-wing blowhards who infest radio and cable news are favorite targets. Just one example: He refers to Glenn Beck as “Lonesome Rhodes Beck.” This is a witty allusion to a fictional character from the film A Face in the Crowd that only devotees of obscure films would get. The one problem with this book is that it loses much of its impact on the page, not only because the chapters (which consist of transcriptions of television monologues) are dated, but without the sound bites of “Bill-O
the Clown” and the rest, the fun is diluted. Future historians will no doubt turn to this book when researching the “Worst persons in the World” during the early part of the 21st Century. Reviewed by Bruce Marshall Pinstripe Patronage: Political Favoritism from the Clubhouse to the White House and Beyond By Martin Tolchin and Susan J. Tolchin Paradigm Publishers, $24.95, 271 pages Pinstripe Patronage is an exposé of what “business as usual” looks like behind the scenes in politics. Patronage is the practice whereby elected officials reward friends and campaign volunteers by giving them jobs in government. Problems occur when too many positions in a department are filled based on political connections rather than competence. This was evident in FEMA’s response after hurricane Katrina. “Politics is still more art than science, and it depends on the glue of community before anything can get done — bills passed, political leaders elected, fundraisers held, and campaigns launched. The networks that emerge from all these activities are root-
ed in relationships, all of which still depend on a complex system of rewards.” The Tolchins demonstrate how the current trend has been for politicians to award lucrative contracts to friends and supporters in the private sector. Another outcome of patronage has been the empowerment of formerly marginalized groups. Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Miller appointed more women judges, commissioners, and cabinet officers than had previously served in state government. “The women helped me, and now I’m helping them” she said. Rewards and vindictiveness abound in the patronage system. We see how the President can use his celebrity status to build support or punish the unfaithful using patronage tactics. If you believe politicians work out ideological differences through convincing arguments, this book will burst your bubble. It’s also an indictment of the news media for superficial reporting. This reviewer loved the book because it didn’t seem to give special dispensation to any party ideology. Reviewed by Grady Jones American Wasteland By Jonathan Bloom Da Capo Lifelong Books, $26.00, 360 pages I considered myself a fairly “green” person. My spouse and I recycle and compost. We go out of our way to conserve water and energy. We eat as responsibly as we can.
I thought we were doing well, and we are, but it wasn’t until after reading Jonathan Bloom’s American Wasteland that I realized how much more we can do, and how large of a problem food waste is in the United States. “Every day, America wastes enough food to fill the Rose Bowl. Yes, that Rose Bowl -- the 90,000-seat football stadium in Pasadena, California.” As the subtitle of the book states, our country wastes nearly half of all the food we grow! Mr. Bloom goes to great lengths to explore how and explain why that waste happens. He takes us from the crops in the fields to the distribution networks that carry it across the country and globe, to the super markets where it is neatly stacked and arranged, and finally to our refrigerators and plates. Along that entire chain, at every link, food is wasted. Fortunately, changes can be made to reduce the waste and help alleviate the hunger of millions of Americans. Mr. Bloom’s book is a fascinating look at how the food industry and we its customers waste food. Thankfully, it is also a guide to ending that waste. Reviewed by Jonathon Howard
Health, Fitness & Dieting Morbid Obesity: Will You Allow It To Kill You? By Eduardo Chapunoff, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.C. Xlibris, $19.99, 244 pages Tough times lie ahead? Of course! But instead of saying, “Oh my god, how am I going to deal with all this?” Say, “I’m overcoming my problems one by one. Come on, little bastards, come into my life. I will dispose of you with my bright outlook, my faith, my sense of purpose, and my great reservoir of optimism.” Words of wisdom, and honesty, from Dr. Eduardo Chapunoff reveal the sanguinity of his latest contribution to both the medical world and patients in Morbid Obesity: Will You Allow It To Kill You? This book is both a manual on the ever-increasingly significant reality of obesity and a candidly straightforward discussion of the factors that affect patients with this disease.
Chapunoff is a chief of cardiology in Miami, Florida, and has written on other highly charged medical conditions. With other publications paving the way, he has created a sincere and reliable guide that leads his readers through rather complicated situations in an easy-to-understand, compassionate, and, even, humorous tone. He is the kind of practitioner that any patient would pray to be assigned to. He leads the way, describing each aspect of morbid obesity and how to overcome it, from the roots of the problem to bariatric surgery (and who would benefit from it) to risks associated with morbid obesity if left untreated. With simple penned diagrams, his explanations are visually implemented, leading to a firmer understanding of the reading. Morbid Obesity is a significant read for anyone who values their life, particularly those who feel they are at the end of their rope. This read offers much-needed resolution and education. It is filled with a sizeable amount of medical terminology, which can feel overwhelming but, rest assured, Dr. Chapunoff never leaves you alone to fend for yourself; he is right by your side the entire
way, softly describing, explaining and, most importantly, giving hope. Sponsored Review Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time By Toni Yancey University of California Press, $22.95, 263 pages Dr. Yancey is truly qualified to deliver the message that being active, more than diet, will help our overweight nation to begin the reversal of the increase in obesity. She delivers her message as she would an important lecture at the University of California at Los Angeles, where she is a professor in the Department of Health Services. The saying, “Those who can do, those who can’t teach,” does not apply in this case. Being
Listen to author inter v iews at Audible Authors.net
a medical doctor, a collegiate athlete, and a former fashion model gives her ample credibility regardless of the setting. The public health arena has provided Dr. Yancey with real-life examples of programs to help people overcome inertia. Many of the programs and studies cited in the book are of her own creation. She speaks to the reader in a firm voice while conveying a well-developed strategy that is backed by experience in the real world. There are some mighty large obstacles to overcome before the obesity rate slows and reverses. One of the most formidable is Big Food. By that Dr. Yancey means McDonald’s, et al. It’s a tough call for an inner-city parent to stay away from McDonald’s when the only clean, safe playground in the neighborhood is located on the premises. Reviewed by Ruta Arellano
February 11 19
Children’s Books Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique By Jane O’connor with illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser HarperCollins, $17.99, 32 pages The world has gone crazy for ruffles, shine, and fancy things, and is it any wonder why? In the center of this dizzying flurry of color and charm is Fancy Nancy, of course! In this newest edition to the series, Nancy is getting prepared for her little sister JoJo’s birthday party. JoJo loves all things pirate and Nancy is excited to get her a pirate eye patch as a gift, but while she is shopping she sets her eyes on a lace fan, the fanciest of all. Now she wants it but can’t afford it. What to do? Set up a Fabulous Fashion Boutique in her very own front yard, naturally! Let the selling and fun begin. Jane O’connor and Robin Preiss Glasser have teamed up once again to enliven the imaginations of little girls who love fancy things, and, additionally, they have done a superb job at teaching the gifts of giving. This read is a cornucopia of color and activity as we follow Nancy through her busy tasks and ingenious entrepreneurship. She makes an ideal pal to her friends on the page, as well as the little ones who have come to know and love her through the joy of reading. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez
Edith Ann Marie The Sun is in My Heart By Lynne Carol Austin Wise Wind Press, $19.95, 132 pages Edith Ann Marie is a heartwarming story of the precious bond a little girl has with her own grandmother. The simple stories that instill value and encouragement are enough to empower a child’s infinite magnitude to imagine and grow. What are truly special are the moral lessons which the readers will take with them upon reading this hardback. Not your typical feel-good picture book, the conflicts in the stories are believable and presented in a subtle style while ingraining a kind of insight, which brings us to believe that persecution can come in many ways even within the family. Edith Anne Marie represents a child with the insatiable desire to explore and identify with everything life hands her, and we should all be so blessed to have a grandmother who is as lovingly supportive as hers. Obviously the product of a labor of immeasurable love, the unconventional illustrations included on every page were carefully done with such an endearing charm. Filled with anecdotes about devotion, protection, understanding and nurturing, Edith Anne Marie makes for a great handme-down gift for the most important women in your life. Sponsored Review
Soup Day By Melissa Iwai Henry Holt for Young Readers, $12.99, 32 pages Soup Day is at the same time nurturing and educational, a wonderful way to introduce and reinforce eating healthy foods. Plus, it has a Snowy Day Vegetable Soup recipe that parent and child can make together. Illustrator and author Melissa Iwai identifies both the vegetables used in the soup and the shapes into which they are cut. While the soup cooks, mother and child play “pretend’. When the soup’s ready, they add spices and cook the pasta. Seven different pastas are illustrated, showing the variety soup’s can have. While the pasta cooks, they clean up the toys, put away books, and tuck in the “monster. “ Just as the soup is finishing, dad comes home, and they sit down to a delicious, familymade, nutritious meal. Using acrylics, collage, and Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Soup Day is illustrated in vibrant colors and does a brilliant job of introducing the simplicity of making soup. This reviewer was disappointed the illustrations did not show a family from the author’s background, and more disappointed a girl was chosen, rather than a boy, as the author was inspired to write the story from her soup day experience with her son. Reviewed by Susan Roberts
Hubknuckles By Emily Herman Crown Books for Young Readers, $14.99, 32 pages Not everyone is lucky enough to have a ghost who reliably visits every Halloween, dancing in the yard and trees. But this year, young Lee is skeptical. Rather than buy into the magic and enjoy the “small tickles of fear” that she, her sisters, and her brother always feel when Hubknuckles makes his appearance, she boldly tells her siblings that the ghost is simply their parents, creating the ghost with a sheet and a flashlight. So certain is Lee that she says she’ll prove her theory — instead of watching the ghost from the window when it appears that night, she’ll go outside and dance with it. Though Lee’s courage doesn’t fail her during her haunted dance, not all is as it seems, and Lee has a Halloween scare the likes of which she could never have predicted. Originally published in 1985, Hubknuckles is a classic both for its cozy, evocative pencil illustrations and for the deliciously scary story. A perfect seasonal read even for very young readers, Hubknuckles will surely haunt readers’ bookshelves for years to come. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell
Announcing the book industry’s
FIRST. . .
Kids Book Review
app thousands of book titles, find author events, listen to author interviews searchable database
Children’s Books The Carnival of the Animals By Jack Prelutsky and Camille Saint-Saens, creator Knopf Books for Young Readers, $19.99, 40 pages Back in 1886, Camile Saint-Saens composed a delightful musical creation, The Carnival of the Animals, with melodies inspired by animals and their quirky habits. Fast forward to 2010, and author and children’s poet laureate Jack Prelutsky has taken Saint-Saen’s melodic moods and infused this classic work with fun-to-read rhymes. Pairing the new text with mixed media renderings by illustrator Mary GrandPre, of Harry Potter fame, and The Carnival of Animals becomes brand new. This colorful little book comes with a CD of the classic compositions performed by the Wurttemburg Chamber Orchestra, along with animated whimsical readings of Prelutsky’s verses, read by Prelutsky himself. The colorful pictures and the amusing rhymes along with the merry music will captivate readers young and old. An interesting side note: The Carnival of The Animals musical work was not published in original creator Camille Saint-Saen’s lifetime, except for the cello solo “The Swan.” It was released in 1921, according to directions in his will. Saint-Saen’s original intent for this composition was as a private joke, written for family and close friends. Reviewed by Laura Friedkin Me, Frida By Amy Novesky, with illustrations by David Diaz Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95, 32 pages While Me, Frida is light on story, its illustrations are completely engaging. Caldecott Medal-winning artist David Diaz uses vibrant colors that shimmer off the page. Bold, stylized illustrations and dazzling backgrounds are rendered in acrylic, charcoal and varnish on primed linen. Brilliant work. Author Amy Novesky tells the story of Frida Kahlo when she and her famous artist husband leave Mexico and arrive in San Francisco. Knowing no one and unable to speak the language very well, Frida is lonely. While exploring the new country with her husband, Frida is mostly despondent, but in time, she starts exploring the city herself. She becomes fascinated with the sights and smells of Chinatown, the streetcars and this city’s vibrant colors. When she looks down on San Francisco she sees, “It was small enough to
fit on the wing of a bird. For once, Frida felt larger than life. Me, Frida! She felt like she could fly.” She returns home and starts painting small portraits, vastly different from the wall-sized murals her husband creates and eventually earns the notoriety she deserves as an artist in her own right, unusual for a woman in the 1930s. Reviewed by Susan Roberts Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys By Bob Raczka Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $16.99, 48 pages A form of Japanese poetry from the seventeenth century does not immediately strike one as ideal entertainment for treeclimbing, grasshopper-catching young boys. But with Guyku, Bob Raczka proves the opposite is true. His haiku adhere to the traditional five-seven-five structure and focus on nature as their subject; but these haiku have a take on nature that Basho and other Japanese masters likely never anticipated. For example: “If this puddle could / talk, I think it would tell me / to splash my sister.” Each poem is accompanied by an illustration showing a boy doing what boys do when they have the outdoors at their fingertips: eagerly eyeing a puddle, building a dam out of rocks. Each poem is thoughtfully rendered and often funny, and this book just may spark some haiku-writing among its readers. Though it’s impossible to quibble with the cleverness of the poems, the charm of the illustrations, or the satisfying play on words of the title, one wishes, perhaps, that this collection could have been a bit more inclusive — focusing on nature and kids in general rather than just boys. Girls, too, can find much to admire and relate to in these lines. Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell April and Esme Tooth Fairies By Bob Graham Candlewick Press, $16.99, 29 pages April and Esme Tooth Fairies is the story of two young sisters and toothfairies in training who, after a cell phone call, go on their first tooth delivery. Bob Graham, in this modern and well-written bedtime story, creates a sweet and believable adventure of the fun and challenge of children going out on their own for the first time. The magical world he creates combines with the technology of this new generation of cell phones and text messages, capturing the reality of children today. However, it is difficult not to imagine April and Esme fly-
ing in through your window and leaving a splash of water and a coin underneath your pillow. “Not so long ago, a tooth fairy took a call on her cell phone.” Perfect to read night after night, this is one adventure the whole family can love—those just losing their tooth for the first time to the parent or family member remembering that first morning they discovered a shiny new coin under their pillow. When April and Esme return home— the boy of which they took the tooth from wakes to find the shiny new coin left behind by the magical fairies of his dreams-like the children who will be drifting off to sleep, dreaming about this wonderland, tooth resting beside them. Reviewed by Ashley Dodge I See the Sun in China (English and Chinese Edition) By Dedie King Satya House Publications, $12.95, 39 pages As a mother of three young boys, I wonder about the world in which they will live. With the advent of the Internet and an increasingly global economy, both of which are making our world increasingly smaller, I believe it is imperative my sons have an understanding of cultures foreign to their own. For that reason, I love I See the Sun in China. This book affords a window into Chinese culture through the eyes of a young girl, who leaves her island home of Putuo Shan to visit her aunt in Shanghai for the day. The illustrations, collages of photographs, paper cut outs and drawings, create a sort of dreamy realism that gives a true sense of place. Both provide a great opportunity to discuss how the reader’s life is similar and different to the main character. Intended as part of a series of books that will also address Nepal and Afghanistan, each page of I See the Sun in China is written in both English and Mandarin, and a glossary provides a further definition of foreign terms used in the text. I See the Sun in China serves as a good introduction into Chinese culture that will hopefully spawn further discussions and explorations. Reviewed by Annie Peters
Imagine Africa By Summer Burns-Allen Xlibris, $31.99, 55 pages How do you see your family? The little girl sees her mother as a tall giraffe, her father with the pride and strength of a lion, and her sister no less than a graceful antelope. In her creative tale, Summer Burns-Allen transposes her ‘family’ to Africa, to the form and character of animals in the jungle and savanna. Besides the physical likeness, the family members possess the traditional characteristics of the animal they resemble--her mother’s gentleness and dignity, her father’s strength, and her sister’s speed and poise. Along with these features, her family shares happy and good times with each other, eating right, exercising right, treating each other with kindness. The little girl spends time with the individual members of her family, seeing them at work and play, their effort and pleasure. More especially, and this is the book’s unique touch, the family shares an imagination and whether performing household chores, playing tag, enjoying a picnic, practicing ballet steps, or taking a road trip, African wildlife (in good and gentle mood!) is always alongside them. The child’s parents take the stage in turn, praising her, admiring the way she is following the path they hoped she would. Although short, the book is filled with lessons on respect, good diet, and including imagination as an integral part of their daily life. The illustrations eloquently represent scenes of family activities, though the family could do with a little more to confirm their African heritage. The animals are slightly fanciful, rather than photographic images, adding a lovely dreamlike dimension. The absence of political leaning and behaviors with no hint of ethnic or racial difference are two of the book’s notable features This is a charming and inventive book, and it was evident (without her mentioning it) that the book is telling the imaginative tales she has created with her own children. Sponsored Review
T H E B A C K PA G E , w r i t t e n b y p u b l i s h e d a u t h o r s a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w . c o m
February 11 21
Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference By Max Lucado Thomas Nelson, $24.99, 212 pages Do you ever feel insignificant and want to make a difference in this world? Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado will open your eyes to all the possibilities of making this life, this world in which we live, better and more meaningful. Lucado’s long-standing reputation as an inspirational Christian writer is brought to the forefront in this timely published work. He recounts simple tales of how every day people have made contributions all over the world to make a difference. He cites that 1.75 billion people are desperately poor and 1 billion are hungry, and yet a mere two percent of the world’s grain harvest would be enough to erase starvation in the world. Those numbers are devastating and overwhelming statistics, but Lucado goes so far as to tell how one taxi driver in London was able to assist a Mexican entrepreneur. If you want to outlive your life, you need to be aware and willing to take even those small leaps of charity, compassion, and service. Lucado’s style of writing allows the reader to feel in the moment, as if he were right there telling you his insights and God’s design for your life. Wonderfully motivating, beautifully enlightened, a heroic piece of literature. Reviewed by M Chris Johnson God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says By Michael Coogan Twelve, $24.99, 195 pages There is so much controversy when it comes to religion and sex, with people claiming the Bible backs their beliefs in topics as varied as homosexuality, monogamy, women’s roles, what constitutes forbidden sex, adultery, and much more. Have you ever wondered what the Bible actually says about sex? The title made this book irresistible, considering it is about two of my favorite topics: sex and religion. God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says did not let me down. Once I started reading it, I could not stop. Michael Coogan’s work is divided into six fascinating chapters. The first delves into the various ways the Bible refers to sex. I knew that “to know” in the Biblical sense meant to have sex, but had no idea that “feet” and “hand” are often used in place of the
22 February 11
male organ. I wanted to bring out the Bible and re-read passages for a new and exciting meaning! The status of women in the Bible is discussed extensively, including the place of widows, the value of virginity, and women’s public and domestic roles. You’ll also learn about the biblical take on abortion, arranged marriages, polygamy, divorce, adultery, and what constitutes forbidden sex. Curious? Check out Chapter 4. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was well-written and jam-packed with interesting information. Be prepared to see familiar Biblical stories in a whole new light! Reviewed by Jennifer Melville Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom By Dzogchen Ponlop Shambhala, $21.95, 210 pages Simplified, to follow the Buddha’s essential message, one must be awake and aware. Everything we do is a choice that determines either our happiness or our suffering. The cultural elements of Buddhism, while beautiful, may hold back the Western mind from exploring its possibilities. This book presents Buddhism clearly and understandably, offering a chance to apply the concepts to find our own truth. “On this road, what we free ourselves from is illusion, and what frees us from illusion is the discovery of truth.” Why seek Buddha? “The word Buddha, however, simply means ‘awake’ or ‘awakened.’ It does not refer to a particular historical person or to a philosophy or religion. It refers to your own mind.” Why be a rebel? “On the spiritual path, this rebel is the voice of your own awakened mind.” From getting to know your own mind to building community, this book offers much to ponder. Concluding with an appendix with instructions for meditation practice and selected poems on which to reflect, this book concisely shares insights into all Buddhism has to offer the modern mind today, with a global view that transcends the limitations of culture. It is a true meeting of East and West. Reviewed by Angie Mangino
V i e w p o i n t s
sanfranciscobookreview.com C ome on o v e r a nd s e e w h at w e ’v e got at S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
Music & Movies Masters of Cinema: Steven Spielberg By Clelia Cohen Phaidon Press, $9.95, 103 pages Steven Spielberg is one of many American directors who get a career overview in this new series of books from Cahiers Du Cinema. The best thing about this volume is its comprehensiveness; from Spielberg’s earliest films to the last Indiana Jones adventure. “he took entertainment to new heights...” -back cover The second best thing about this collection is the great photos. Not so great are the many, repeated, myths and outright mistakes concerning his career. Once again the statement that Jaws “invented” the summer blockbuster; Hook was a box-office bomb (it was the number 4 grossing film of 1994); E.T. as the first film to use product placement, etc. This laziness in researching is very frustrating. Less frustrating, but disappointing is the critical analysis. Mediocre films like Minority Report are way over-praised as are the ambitious but flawed efforts of A.I. and Empire of the Sun. The brilliant Schindler’s List comes in for surprising criticism!
Spielberg is not only the most commercially successful director ever, but one of the great artists of our times. This book tries to do him justice, but falls a bit short of its objective. Reviewed by Bruce Marshall Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes By Stephen Sondheim Knopf, $39.95, 480 pages WOW!!! That’s the only word that really does justice to this large and lavish book. Almost everyone (I should think) knows that Steven Sondheim is one of America’s greatest composers, especially of major successes in musical theater. Think Broadway and movies. Perhaps not as many know that he was also a fabulous lyricist (West Side Story). With this book he proves that his everagile mind and amazing memory are equal partners with his intellect. It’s unfortunate that the book’s designer let him down by making the book hard to read, with its small, light typeface. That’s the only possible grumble about this big (8½ x 11) 480 page book. It has bunches of pho-
tos and several indexes. In fact, you might think you’ve inadvertently stumbled over his private scrapbook! It has that look and feel to it. The book is a fascinating mélange of notes, lyrics, memories and whatever Mr. Sondheim’s creativity conjures up. It’s not a book that will be read straight through from front to back, but rather one to be opened at leisure and sampled as one does a fabulous buffet. At times, he is a teacher, patiently explaining the various types of poetry/lyrics, at other times he can be a tad catty in his remarks, but only about those long departed. The dust jacket proclaims this as Collected Lyrics (1954-1981), and promises that the curtain goes up on volume two with the opening lines of ‘Sunday in the Park with George’. Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz Michael Jackson: The Making of “Thriller”: 4 Days/1983 By Douglas Kirkland Filipacchi, $30.00, 192 pages In this coffee table book, photographer Douglas Kirkland’s lens captures the childlike innocence in Jackson’s eyes as the entertainer, who was at the height of his
Popular Culture Stuff Hipsters Hate: A Field Guide to the Passionate Opinions of the Indifferent By Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz Ulysses Press, $14.95, 160 pages Long, long ago (2009 to be exact), Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich would exchange e-mails about their dating misadventures, a one-upswomanship of bad date after bad date. As often the best and worst stories would center around “hipsters,” it wasn’t long before the ladies decided to share their misadventures on a small Tumblr blog of the same name. Bartz and Ehrlich document, chart, graph and illustrate the mating habits, grooming practices, clothing choices, preferred entertainment, and dating habits of the hipster. As modern-day cultural anthropologists, Bartz and Ehrlich observe their prey in their wild habitat and gently poke fun. Hipsters are generally defined by the authors as priv-
ileged twenty-something’s characterized by crazy style choices, terrible grooming habits, inability to commit, and a general air of apathy. For all intents and purposes, they are overgrown children. Stuff Hipsters Hate isn’t your average blog-to-book, one-trick pony, relying on one-line jokes and a couple of pictures to get through the required page count. Each section is carefully written with tongue-in-cheek humor and sarcastic wit. Definitely worth reading. Reviewed by lanine bradley Chasing Zebras By Barbara Barnett ECW Press, $17.95, 352 pages Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is a dissection of the hour-long medical mystery TV series House. The book is divided into two main sections. The first addresses various subjects as they’re related to the show: music, Sherlock Holmes, props, religion, as well as a chapter delving
career, lets his guard down between takes. Kirkland follows Jackson through the set to snap never-before-seen pictures of Jackson’s patience and professionalism in the make-up chair for hours at a time as well as showing the intensity in which Jackson portrays each character in the infamous music video. “He once quoted Michelangelo as saying, ‘Know the creator will go, but his work survives.’ That is why, to escape death, I attempt to bind my soul to my work. And that’s how I feel. I give my all to my work. I just want it to live.” Journalist Nancy Griffin takes us into the making of Thriller with her keen choice of words and gives us her private insight into Michael Jackson, the man, before his image was tarnished. Her detailed observations and in-depth interview with Kirkland, allows us to imagine what it was like to be in the presence of such a talent as the King of Pop. This book is a must-have for anyone whose music has been influence by Michael Jackson. It stands a good chance to become a collector’s item for Jackson fans past, present, and future as his legacy lives on. It’s a great gift book! Reviewed by Linda Welz
LILLY, con’t from page 16 into each of the main characters. The second is an episode-by-episode analysis of the first six seasons along with a few sidebars with more details on certain aspects of the season. “A writer comes up with an idea -- a disease, a ‘cool’ case they’d like to play with, or maybe a character they’d like to explore in a particular way. This is where the episode begins.” I read Chasing Zebras as a casual viewer, not a super fan. From that viewpoint, I learned details about the show I hadn’t even thought about. Who knew House had a cane he saved for special events? Of course, much of the book (best episodes, jerkiest House moments, etc.) is subjective and at times I wondered if the author read more meaning into certain props, lines of dialogues, or shared looks than was ever intended. Section 1’s short divisions make it an easy read, although some of the information is repeated in Section 2 leaving you with a déjà vu feeling. Overall, it was an interesting book that any House fan would enjoy. Reviewed by Jodi Webb
B o ok re com me nd at ion s at S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
to defy a fortune teller’s prediction that he would only have one child, a daughter. As Selene grows up, she struggles to reconcile her Roman present with her Egyptian heritage and religious beliefs. She is reminded of her destiny as Isis Reincarnated when bloody hieroglyphics carve messages into her skin. Yet how can she remain faithful to her mother’s vision when she has no control over her future? How can she honor her lost legacy when doing means certain death? Lily of the Nile is a fresh and vibrant story of family, loyalty, political games, and love. It’s exquisitely written and left me begging for more. The only letdown was that it had to end. I cannot wait until this author’s sequel novel is released; I’ll be the first in line to buy it and discover what happens next. Reviewed by Jennifer Melville
February 11 23
Popular Fiction The Bay Men: A Clammer’s Story By Evert Bay Scott Xlibris, $19.99, 201 pages Clam digging runs in the family of Evert Bay Scott. His great-grandfather was a clammer too, and as a child Scott was inspired by stories of him. The difference between the two, of course, is that Reggie Steins was an honest man, while Scott unashamedly spent the majority of his career on the darker side. The Bay Men: A Clammer’s Story is a collection of Scott’s memories about his life and livelihood on “the Great South Bay.” Younger audiences will admire the author’s drive and “stick-it-to-the-man” attitude, but others may not find his frequent brushes with the law and the mob scene less than endearing. The book begins with Scott and his buddy Cole getting chased after poaching in illegal waters, and this story is the common narrative that strings the rest of the similarly themed stories together. Scott has spent nearly his entire career dabbling in the illegal side of clamming, and seems to spend a good portion of the book trying to defend his actions both to his readers and himself:
“...the rewards of it all were something a young man like me just couldn’t resist.” The novel does have its positive points, however. Scott has a very conversational style of writing, which makes his stories flow smoothly off the page. Reading this book almost feels like you’re right there listening to the author spin his tales, and the cramped coldness of his boat during the chase narrative add a realism that makes it all seem so much more tangible. His family and friends are all interesting, if not particularly well-developed; some readers might wonder how much Scott’s wife and daughter know about his business dealings, and what their family dynamic is like. The story is interesting, but the nature of it all is not for the faint of heart. Sponsored Review The Charming Quirks of Others By Alexander McCall Smith Pantheon, $24.95, 272 pages Isabel Dalhousie, professional philosopher and gifted amateur detective, is very good at discovering the truth about others, whether they intend her to or not.
But when her fiancé’s fidelity is called into question, she must face not only uncomfortable facts about her relationship with the father of her young son, but also some inconvenient truths about herself. And, as if all this soul-searching and philosophizing wasn’t enough, Isabel is approached by a local school seeking a new headmaster. They have three candidates. One is anonymously accused of hiding a very dark secret; they’re just not sure which one. Alexander McCall Smith continues to capture the best of traditional British mysteries in his seventh Isabel Dalhousie novel. There is something extremely charming in the understated ways Isabel conducts not only her investigations, but also her life. The drama here is real, and the suspense important because Isabel and her fellows feel like us and people we know. Or, at least, the people we want to recognize in the slightly more prudish and vastly more well-spoken who inhabit McCall Smith’s delightful and dangerous Edinburgh. Reviewed by Amanda Mitchell Starlit By Lisa Rinna Gallery Books, $24.99, 243 pages Up and coming actress Tally Jones has worked hard for years to make it big in Hollywood, and it seems like a role on a nighttime soap opera might finally win her the
fame she covets. With that fame comes money, parties, paparazzi, and eye candy in the form of Gabriel, a hunk starring on a medical drama. But that fame has its downsides too: Gabriel is kinky and controlling, and she seems to have discovered an enemy in Susie Sheppard, a prima diva who also stars in Tally’s show and now seems bent on ruining Tally’s life. But when Tally finally meets the man of her dreams, will Susie succeed in stealing him away? Lisa Rinna’s Starlit is a classic work of stereotypical chick lit with a Hollywood angle, containing all the necessary elements: love, best friends, and backstabbing enemies. This novel certainly has nothing new, but that doesn’t stop it from being entertaining. Tally is naïve and sweet, her friend Sadie savvy, while Mandy is outgoing and loveable; every reader will find aspects of herself in one of them. And like any good chick lit, the ending is both predictable and satisfying. Reviewed by Holly Scudero
Business & Investing Start Your Own Business, Fifth Edition By Editorial Staff of Entrepreneur Media Inc. Entrepreneur Press, $24.95, 780 pages If you have ever pondered, even just for a moment, of setting out on your own in business, this book is the ultimate book for you. From first thought to resources, to getting investors, to choosing locations, this book should be called the Bible of Starting Your Business. “We firmly believe anyone with the desire and the initiative can be an entrepreneur.” Honestly, I would be hard pressed to come up with anything that is missed in Entrepreneur’s 5th edition. It is written similar in style to the Dummies books with tips, checklists, and important things to note in the sidelines, but never managing to be condescending like the Dummies books tend to be. With the economy the way it is, more and more are considering striking out on their own. Many tries won’t get off of the
24 February 11
ground because they don’t have their plans well formed, they don’t do the footwork required, or they don’t realize just how much goes into the bigger picture. Starting a business entails a lot more than just printing up business cards and waiting for the phone to ring. With Start Your Own Business you will have a yellow brick road all laid out for you, including ideas, laws, and hopefully, success. Reviewed by Gwen Stackler Psych Yourself Rich: Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life By Farnoosh Torabi FT Press, $22.99, 204 pages He who dies with the most stuff doesn’t win. The Great Recession has taught many Americans the value of being frugal, but the savings rate in this country is still painfully low. Psyche Yourself Rich is a no-nonsense guide to growing your personal wealth. Learn how to create a personal roadmap for moving toward your life goals and transforming your dreams into a reality.
What I liked most about this book was the personalization. Torabi has her readers personalize “rich,” as it varies with every person. Establishing your goals will help you get on the path toward fulfilling your dreams. This book is incredibly timely and relevant. The information presented is not mind-shattering, but it is information that should be reinforced. You’ll learn how to embrace your relationship with money and overcome financial illiteracy. You’ll learn how to be your own best financial advocate, committed to your goals, knowledgeable of your rights, exercising common sense, having persistence, identifying helpful resources, and always assuming there are risks to everything. For someone who doesn’t know a whole lot about finances, this book is an invaluable resource. The Internet tools mentioned for managing finances will be extremely useful, and Torabi’s debt-reduction techniques will be valuable for many readers. Whether you’re new to managing your personal finances or a seasoned pro, there are worthwhile gems of information in these pages. Reviewed by Jennifer Melville
S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
The Employee Rights Handbook: Effective Legal Strategies to Protect Your Job from Interview to Pink Slip By Steven Mitchell Sack Legal Strategies Inc, $39.95, 620 pages The Employee Rights Handbook: Effective Legal Strategies to Protect Your Job from Interview to Pink Slip by best-selling author Steven Mitchell Sack is a comprehensive, unbiased look into employee rights within the workplace. Fascinating case studies are examined with step-by-step instructions from interview to termination and beyond. This guide book is broken down into four major parts being the stages of employment: How to Be Hired, How to Protect Your On-the-Job Rights, How to Avoid Being Fired Unfairly, and What to Do if You Are and Collecting Your Due. Within each of the four parts are chapters and topics ranging from e-mails to office romances, salaries to whistle-blowing. Each subject is treated with professionalism and straightforward, See EMPLOYEE, page 30
Cooking, Food & Wine Party Vegan By Robin Robertson Wiley, $17.95, 278 pages There’s no shortage of vegan cookbooks on the market these days, but the genre is new enough that there’s still plenty of room for specialty cookbooks such as Robin Robertson’s latest. Menu-planning is tough enough, but when you need to come up with delicious dishes that honor your dad or pay homage to Mardi Gras while leaving out meat, milk, and eggs, the task goes from daunting to seemingly impossible. Luckily, Robertson has simplified the process and provided recipes and ideas for every occasion. Robertson’s partyplanning expertise is applied not only to formal get-togethers, but to any occasion for which people will gather and eat. She provides ideas for crafting free-for-all vegan smorgasbords, putting together a taco bar, and even hosting a Japanese okonomiyaki night. Plus, she gives great information on how to shop for two, five, even twenty guests and how to prepare food ahead of time. The recipes here range from wonderfully simple (Caramelized Tofu, Stuffed Dates) to delightfully decadent (Chocolate Pots de Crème, Pastry-Wrapped Seitan Roulades With Spinach-Mushroom Duxelles). In fact, the recipes are so good, they make me want to throw parties for holidays I don’t even celebrate. Say, what’s everybody doing for Chinese New Year? Reviewed by Amanda Mitchell Jamie’s America: Easy Twists on Great American Classics, and More By Jamie Oliver Hyperion, $37.50, 360 pages Jamie’s America, the newest release by Jamie Oliver, documents Oliver’s travels throughout the United States and features recipes for American regional cuisine. It also takes a look at parts of the country that many Americans have never even seen. Oliver focuses on just a handful of states, from California to New York, Louisiana to Wyoming, and a few stops in between. He goes behind the scenes into small towns, ethnically rich neighborhoods, and even to an Indian reservation, to garner an authentic sense of the country. As Oliver is known to do, he has put his
own twist on many of the recipes in the book, but each is based on the foods he ate during his travels. There are American classics such as burgers, cheesecake, fried chicken, and deep dish pizza; and then there are recipes that showcase what a true melting pot the U.S. is. Spicy Chinese noodles, matzo ball soup, Cajun alligator, Navajo flatbread, BBQ, chocolate mole tart, peach cobbler, and sweet tamales are just a few of the enticing recipes featured. In addition, there are photos and stories which tell of each of his experiences and introduce the many people he got to know along the way. Reviewed by Andrea Rappaport A World of Cake By Krystina Castella Storey Publishing, $24.95, 352 pages When Krystina Castella set out to explore the tradition of cakes around the world, she had no idea what she was getting herself into. The beautiful resulting book, A World of Cake, is equally suitable for a prominent position on a coffee table or a treasured position on the kitchen bookshelf. Castella has delved deeply into the history of cake, introducing readers to the earliest appearances of cake as we know it. After a primer on the art of cake baking, she then jumps into a whirlwind tour of the globe, offering recipes for cakes from many cultures for nearly every occasion imaginable. Sprinkled throughout are anecdotes about specific cakes and beautiful photos. The cakes range from sweet to savory; included are simple cakes suitable for the amateur baker, as well as complex creations that will challenge and invigorate those with more experience in the kitchen. Readers will find recipes for well-known favorites, such as Devil’s Food and Funnel Cakes, and for lesser-known, more exotic specialties such as M’hanncha (a Moroccan cake) or Dorayaki (a Japanese cake). This picturesque cookbook is perfect for your favorite cake-lover. Get ready to get hungry! Reviewed by Holly Scudero
Recipes, seeks to prove the naysayers wrong with a compendium of delicious recipes ideal for beginners and advanced cooks alike. “Why have casseroles been so popular for so long? It’s simple, really: they offer a relatively easy, economical, convenient way to prepare delicious food. And the possible combinations are endless.” Collins explains in the introduction how the casserole’s image took a hit in the 1970s when families began turning to canned ingredients over fresh, in an effort to save time and money. A nationally recognized culinary professional, Collins has responded with a cookbook that takes the casserole in a number of interesting and creative directions. This hearty collection includes both classics you probably remember from your childhood, as well as thoroughly modern creations. There are sections brimming with recipes for every occasion, including breakfast, brunch, and dessert, and chapters devoted to appetizers, side dishes, and healthy choices. There’s even a Kid’s Stuff chapter aimed at pleasing
even the most finicky eaters. While more photos would have been nice – and a Chapter Index is sorely lacking – overall, 300 Best Casserole Recipes turns out much like the celebrated dish itself: hearty and satisfying. Reviewed by Mark Petruska Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3: The Secret Formulas for Duplicating Your Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home By Todd Wilbur Plume, $16.00, 448 pages If you love to eat out raise your hand! It is expensive, but going to your favorite restaurant and getting your favorite dish can be like heaven. What if you could make your favorite restaurant dish in the comfort of your own home? Luckily the genius that is Todd Wilbur has made that possible. In Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 Wilbur unlocks the secrets to some classic recipes from America’s favorite chains. Now, I can’t cook… at all. The recipes in this book are really easy to follow, even for the newbie in the kitchen. I started out with some of the easy cocktail recipes, like the On The Border Mexican Mojito and COOKING cont’d on page 26
Looking for a
day trip to wine country?
The Livermore Valley... It’s right in your backyard. it's free!
300 Best Casserole Recipes By Tiffany Collins Robert Rose, $24.95, 349 pages Nothing says “comfort food” like a warm, satisfying casserole. There’s often a stigma attached to this type of dish – a suggestion that it doesn’t take much skill to put together a casserole, or that it’s simply a jumbledtogether collection of leftovers – but Tiffany Collins’s new book, 300 Best Casserole
We e k l y V I E W P OI N T S colu m n s at S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
February 11 25
Cooking, Food & Wine that got me familiar with his writing style. Then I tried Red Robin’s Creamy Artichoke and Spinach Dip. Super easy and super delicious! I can’t wait to try more recipes, especially Olive Garden’s famous breadsticks. This book is fun, easy to follow and gives some interesting facts about each chain and dish. This is the perfect gift for the foodie in your life…or for yourself if you want a yummy treat! With Wilbur’s direction I may learn to cook after all! Reviewed by Nicole Will Woman’s Day Healthy Slow Cooking: More Flavor, Fewer Calories By Editors of Woman’s DayFilipacchi Filipacchi, $12.99, 95 pages If you’re a busy mom who’s looking to spice up the weekly menu plan with healthy, family-friendly dinners that will be ready when you are, this is exactly the recipe book you’re looking for. I’ve got a big family and little time to spend in the kitchen, and I get sick of making the same things over and over again. This book gave me great ideas using ingredients my children will actually eat. There’s nothing better than a crock pot full of hot, delicious, and nutritious dinner waiting for the family to sit down and enjoy together at the end of a long and hectic day. I made the split pea soup for my family and it was not only easy to prepare, but restaurant-quality amazing. I followed the suggestion to make cornbread croutons to serve on top of the soup and it was a huge hit. I also prepared the Spring Vegetable and Chicken Stew and not only did it taste delicious, but it was visually appealing as well. I loved the addition of the asparagus during the last 10-15 minutes. This meal is a real treat for a weeknight dinner, or fancy enough to make for guests. If your dinners could use more variety and you want something healthy and easy to throw together, this book is for you. You’re sure to use it again and again. Reviewed by Jennifer Melville Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe By Joanne Chang & Christie Matheson Chronicle Books, $35.00, 320 pages If your space or budget limitation only allows you to own one baking book, this is the one to purchase. This cookbook (from Boston’s Flour Bakery) is about the best on baking I have come across — a serious, nononsense baking book without the frills of a hundred or so beautiful full-page photos destined for the coffee table. This book is destined for your kitchen shelf. The book is nicely prepared with many nice, profes-
26 February 11
sional food photos, good layout and great, informative sidebars. The first 40 pages are a good introduction on ingredients, equipment, techniques and baking tips — a compulsory reading material for both beginner and advanced bakers. Recipes are easy to follow, logically put together using easy-to-find ingredients. It is unfortunate that some two-page recipes are not on facing pages for the baker’s convenience. Recipes range from simple muffins and quick breads through a large variety of cookies and bars to relatively easy cakes, yeast breads and somewhat more difficult French pastries. But most recipes are achievable by any baker. Each chapter starts with a convenient list of content. Index is excellent and nicely cross-referenced. Pages are on heavy (presumably) spill-resistant high-quality paper stock. Reviewed by George Erdosh At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka By Madhur Jaffrey Knopf, $35.00, 320 pages At Home with Madhur Jaffrey is the latest addition to Indian cuisine’s extensive offering of cookbooks. Jaffrey’s intent with this book is to demystify southern Asian cuisine and to make it more accessible to the average, busy home cook. She accomplishes this by simplifying recipes and reducing both the number of steps and the quantity of ingredients necessary to complete the dishes, but is careful not to compromise the integrity of the original recipes. “My purpose in writing this book is to vanquish that fear, to make Indian dishes as simple and straightforward to prepare as, say, a beef stew, and to hold your hand through the entire process with clear instructions and detailed explanations.” Most of the ingredients featured in the book are easy to find at good grocery stores, and the majority of the techniques are likely already familiar to most cooks. Recipes in the book cover all the bases, from starters such as zippy spiced popcorn or grilled eggplant with yogurt, to bold soups such as classic Mulligatawny or spinach and ginger perfumed with cloves. Standout entree
recipes include mussels in creamy coconut sauce, chicken with apricots, braised lamb shanks with cardamom, as well as a plethora of curries. There are also a handful of recipes for vibrant chutneys and relishes and a few traditional desserts. This is a perfect introductory book for anyone who has previously been too intimidated to attempt cooking this type of cuisine. Reviewed by Andrea Rappaport I Love Bacon! By Jayne Rockmill Andrews McMeel Publishing, $16.99, 136 pages It should have its own spot on the food pyramid as far as most are concerned. Its cured, sweet, smoky, crispy goodness keeps people of all different taste distinctions coming back, begging, for more. Now we know we love it…but how many ways can we have it? Jayne Rockwell has compiled a belly-grumble inducing menu of more than fifty recipes consisting of the favorite in I Love Bacon!. Each recipe is presented by a collection of some of America’s favorite chefs. Joining such classics as Bacon Mac and Cheese and Roasted Oysters with Bacon Crumbs are exciting, if not downright surprising, adventures such as Cat Cora’s Pig Candy Ice Cream, John Besh’s Cane Sugar and BaconIced Cupcakes, and Elizabeth Ramsey’s Chocolate-Dipped Smoked Almond-Bacon Brittle! Sound interesting? Think sweet and salty; a flawless blend to end a perfect meal or a serious craving. With clean and classic photography, this cookbook is easy on the eyes, along with easy-to-follow instructions and just the right size to add to an eclectic collection of culinary volumes. Who knew there were so many variations to this wonderfully savory snack? Now you can wow your breakfast, lunch and dinner guests with delectable delights straight from the sizzling strip. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez The How Not to Cookbook: Lessons Learned The Hard Way By Aleksandra Mir Rizzoli, $25.00, 306 pages This unusual, whimsical, humorous book is a challenge to review. This type of humor hits the funny bones of many readers as totally hilarious, and they likely roll on the floor with laughter. Others read a few random pages, unable to crack a smile, and are ready to return the book to the shelf (or worse, put it into the trash). No matter which camp the reviewer belongs, it is hard to be impartial with a review. Two haphazardly chosen quotes may
help you to see if this book is for you or not: “Oh, my God, never confuse plastic food trays with cookie sheets! Baking casualty!” “If you want to heat up milk for your breakfast, remember to turn the gas on.” Every page has five or six different fonts and styles that add to the book’s whimsical character, but disturb the eye and disrupt readability. Note that some of the statements are true as kitchen facts; others are false, either deliberately or otherwise. Don’t attempt to use this book as a cookbook. The book is of high quality production with monochrome sketches. Reviewed by George Erdosh Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours By Sarabeth Levine with Rick Rodgers Rizzoli, $39.95, 305 pages This baking book is one of the best, most user-friendly, complete books on the market. Many of the recipes follow the classic French baking style, which can be timeconsuming to prepare and intimidating for the beginner or casual home baker. However, this book also includes relatively easy recipes for muffins, scones, cookies, and puddings. “When I decided to write this book, I wanted it to be more than a collection of recipes. Sarabeth’s [the bakery] is known for its perfect renditions of classic baking.” Sarabeth’s Bakery is truly complete, encompassing just about everything in anyone’s baking repertoire. A section on spreadable jams and preserves is special, as these are what gave Sarabeth Levine a start in a business of her own. There is no shortcut in these recipes, such as using pectin. The recipes use the traditional, long process of cooking down the fruits, and that accounts for their far better flavor that pectin and freezer jams can never match. Recipe ingredients are generally readily available. Recipes are written in clear, easily understood language, and many are illustrated with full-page photos. The multiphoto presentations illustrating techniques are excellent. The beginning section on ingredients and equipment is useful, the cross-referenced index is perfect. This book could stand as a coffee table book with its large size, superb illustrations and heavy paper stock. Reviewed by George Erdosh
G o t o S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w . c o m /c a l e n d a r f o r a u t h o r e v e n t s
Self-Help Outsiders on the Inside: How to create a winning career even when you don’t fit in! By David Couper Career Press, $15.99, 224 pages The middle of the worst job market in decades may, at first blush, seem an odd time for Outsiders on the Inside: How to Create a Winning Career… Even When You Don’t Fit In!. Yet David Couper’s book comes at the perfect moment. He combines classic career search counseling – how to network, resume preparation, etc. – with an
eye to the “fish out of water” that is often the most in need of help. Of particular interest, Couper suggests how to turn traits often misperceived as deficiencies into strengths, by demonstrating to bosses and potential bosses how they can boost productivity and increase profits. A skilled coach, Couper understands the value of combing strategies with case studies, modeling success for his reader. Some of his best cases are those in which he found himself as the outsider and needing to find a way to convert shortcomings into assets. Such examples might have been annoying, but Couper combines humor and humility to make them feel real and inspiring. For many readers, this will prove particular value, offering courage and action for readers often despairing. Likewise, I was impressed
Philosophy Essays from the Nick of Time By Mark Slouka Graywolf Press, $16.00, 194 pages Following the words of Thoreau with the charge “to improve the nick of time,” where the past and the future meld, and the mind follows the stream of thought merged from the dribbles of memory and imagination. The dozen provoking essays, many of which have appeared in Harper’s magazine, are divided into two sections: reflections and refutations. Selections in the first part ruminate on history and several revert back to Hitler, death and salvation, the pain of inexplicable tragic accidents, and the loss of silence. Refutation deals with current values and moral standards within our country. Each piece is full of observations that force the reader to examine his own memories, sensitivities, and perspectives. The reflection essays are woven from a tapestry of literary comments, personal experiences, and Kafkaesque images. The reader floats through the beguiling thoughts. The refutations essays are more down to earth, the author blasting away at the pretentiousness and vacuous correctness that corrupts our nation. Sounding rather like a curmudgeon in his introduction to this book, his writings rather reveal an extremely sensitive, thoughtful, and vulnerable life witness wrapped in a defensive shield. The essays expose an exceptional writer whose conscience and expressive talent together result in passionate essays describing the vicissitudes of life and experience. Reviewed by Aron Row
Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology By David Abram Pantheon, $26.95, 313 pages David Abram, a cultural ecologist and environmental philosopher, has written a truly alchemical book. Becoming Animal shakes the reader out of any anthropomorphic prisons still existing in our mental constructions and any species chauvinism that keeps us separate from nature. Do you believe we are veering toward a climate catastrophe? Those of us who still hope for a revolutionary change in our thinking toward animals and the living land and the climate will welcome this book. Abram is an audacious thinker, a true visionary, and, really, just a damn good nature writer. The reader joins Abram in a journey deeper into the animal world, deeper into our animal senses, and deeper into the elemental relationship between our bodies and the breathing earth. As you read Abram’s invigorating prose, you might find yourself asking like the author: “But wait: Are we not simply projecting our own interior mood upon the outer landscape ... making ourselves the source and center of the world?” Not if we own up to being an animal and understanding that thinking itself is not born in the human skull, but is a “creativity proper to the body as a whole, arising spontaneously from the slippage between an organism and the folding terrain that it wanders.” Reviewed by Phil Semler
by this author’s specificity, such as in his chapter “Marketing your Uniqueness” and another “Becoming a Long Term Successful Outsider” about planning for a longer time horizon. On a shelf-full of uninspiring career planning manuals Outsiders on the Inside shines as one to take down and study with care. Sponsored Review Hard Goals: The Secrets to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be By Mark Murphy McGraw-Hill, $28.00, 224 pages Looking for a way to be accountable, especially with those New Year’s Resolutions, the 2011 versions? Hard Goals: The Science of Extraordinary Achievement by Mark Murphy is a playbook — full of quizzes and nurturing information — for working toward goals. With information based on research and studies from Murphy’s company Leadership IQ, Murphy transforms how one develops goals. Murphy is also the author of Hundred Percenters: Challenge Your Employees to Give It Their All, and They’ll Give You Even More and CEO of a leadership training company. Hard Goals contains prompts to get moving toward accomplishing greatness and happiness.
Murphy sets out the HARD philosophy of creating goals that are Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult. Murphy makes the point that another direction for one’s goals is in making the goals incredible. Not just setting the standard-issue ones, but to develop extra-special goals. Besides an introduction and a conclusion, Murphy spends a chapter on each of the four elements of HARD goals, guiding through each with research and easy-to-understand examples. Whether HARD Goals will work for you or not, Murphy certainly has a thorough process to setting and working to achieve goals. An interesting book, but not riveting reading. Reviewed by Elizabeth Humphrey
I Am the Body, the Mind and the Soul By Sami S. Jarroush Xlibris, $19.99, 282 pages Sami Jarroush is a Reiki Master and Energy Healer. He is companioned by his guardian angel, James, whom Jarroush speaks with frequently. It was through these conversations that the bulk of I Am the Body, the Mind and the Soul originated, with Jarroush asking questions and James providing answers. Some of the subjects covered include the nature of souls, angels, God, the Devil, and human nature. Some of the questions come from the clients Jarroush works with in his healing and counseling work; other questions stem from his own personal experiences. The chapter on soul mates arises from when Jarroush met a woman at a Reiki
S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
healing. They both had an immediate connection to each other. Yet it is a platonic relationship, even though he believes that their souls are linked. Jarroush’s book provides practical lessons and tools for managing crisis and pain in one’s life. Suffering, pain, jealousy, and death are universal issues, and according to Jarroush, are as important as hope, love, joy, and pleasure for souls to experience. But just because one is suffering from something doesn’t mean it has to be accepted. A person can change not only how they feel about their circumstances, but also what those circumstances are. To appreciate and benefit from I Am the Body, the Mind and the Soul, one needs to be open to the basic beliefs of guardian angels, astral projection, and reincarnation. For those who are open to these beliefs, the book will provide an opening to understanding your current life and how to help create a peaceful balance within it. Sponsored Review LISTEN to our interview with Sami
February 11 27
Travel A Year of Adventures By Andrew Bain Lonely Planet, $19.99, 216 pages Many of us want to travel, to explore the world, from the populous and renowned cities of Europe to the far corners of Asia and beyond. Unfortunately, life often gets in the way of the most ambitious travel plans, and children and finances (amongst other factors) can prevent us from going on the journeys which we so crave. Luckily, the people at Lonely Planet provide not only travel guides, but also books that provide photographic and verbal details of many exciting, exotic and beautiful locales around the globe. A Year of Adventures is such a book, providing a full year of adventures, organized by week and month, in order to encourage visits to certain locations at the optimum time of year. From visiting the Andaman Coast of Thailand to storm watching on Vancouver Island, the activities in A Year of Adventures are varied, covering the whole of the globe. While the book is geared towards the physically active -- those who enjoy cycling and mountain climbing -- the descriptions of locations and adventures are enthralling even for those who know that they will never go to Kazakhstan or hike the Tian Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan. But we can dream, andA Year of Adventures provides us with that opportunity — and perhaps the impetus to do more than just dream. Reviewed by Ashley McCall
Discover Greece By Korina Miller Lonely Planet, $24.99, 384 pages Divided into chapters that represent seven regions of Greece, this handbook includes sections on individual islands, cities, and towns. The country’s top itineraries, finest experiences, best forms of transportation, and general information are covered as well. In “Greece in Focus,” the country’s history, cuisine, art, architecture, weather, mythology, and customs are described. The entire color-coded manual includes detailed maps, photographs, contact information, planning tools, and a glossary. Discover Greece makes a wonderful addition to the respectable Lonely Planet series of travel guides, being as informative and easy to use as the others. Tips on communication, accommodations, currency, transport, and worthwhile sightseeing are prevalent throughout. Lush images are strategically placed and attractively define Greek settings, inhabitants, and culture. Special insets with advice from experts on architecture, food, and activities are wonderful additions as they deliver in-depth insight into this fascinating culture. All in all, this guidebook is comprehensive, educational and quite pleasurable to read. Reviewed by Richard Mandrachio Where To Go When: Italy By DK Publishing DK Travel, $40.00, 336 pages Organized by month, this book about Italy, with fascinating trip ideas for each month of the year, is an excellent travel guide. Each month features the vacation themes of Festivals and Culture, Unforgettable Journeys, Natural Wonders, Luxury
and Romance, and Adventures and Family Getaway, to meet each individual need and desire. It includes the practical information of “Getting There”, “Getting Around”, “Weather”, “Accommodations”, “Eating Out”, “Price for 2” and website references for more information. There are even do’s and don’ts tips for each location. All of these tips and guidelines make
it easy to plan by the seasons. Read for the month you plan to travel to Italy or use the index to find a particular travel destination. Not just a travel guide, this book offers interesting facts about each area, both geographical and historical, so whether a trip to Italy is immediate or only a hopeful dream in the far distant future, readers will enjoy this book. Just sit back and enjoy Italy from the comfort of one’s chair at home, as the stunning pictures transport you for a preview taste of Italy. Reviewed by Angie Mangino
Reference The New York Times Presents Smarter by Sunday: 52 Weekends of Essential Knowledge for the Curious Mind By The New York Times St. Martin’s Press, $24.99, 560 pages If you have about two hours to spare on Sundays and want to round out your education, this book might provide you with all those missing details that will help fill some gaps in your sphere of knowledge. Divided into fifty-two sections, one per week, each chapter covers topics the publishers think should be familiar to the public. Sample topics span a realm of subjects ranging from ancient Egypt, the computer revolution, nuclear weapons, classical music, literature, art, religion, medicine, and numerous other subjects.
“We acknowledge that the contents of the book are overwhelmingly devoted to matters that concern Western history, art, literature, and even science.” While the intent is praiseworthy, in this technological world when one can “Google” for instant information, this rather thick text-like publication does not arouse enthusiasm. It reads more like a condensed encyclopedia, where the reader can select the topic of interest and quickly glean the desired information. Unfortunately, the text is printed on a poor quality paper that will start to turn the color of a cut apple as the pages are turned. For someone who enjoys filling voids in his or her knowledge base, the contents might provide some useful information and some inclusions might provoke momentary interest. As for myself, I prefer to spend my time on the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle. Reviewed by Aron Row
Art, Architecture & Photography Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart By Shutter Sisters Focal Press, $29.95, 175 pages Ten women photographers shooting from the heart collaborate and produce a wonderfully complete reference book for exactly that: expressive photographing. “When a photograph captivates you and stirs your soul, you know it instinctively. You not only know the image, you feel it.” The Shutter Sister’s Expressive Photography is an eye-candy guidebook that illustrates how delightful and heartfelt images can be captured. From lighting through per-
28 February 11
spective and composition to approach, the reader is inspired to look at simple life and the world around them with a rejuvenated creative eye. The book is filled with images from many facets of photographic opportunities—life as it happens in all sorts of lighting situations: outdoor in natural light; indoor with artificial light; or soft light from a window; and the world at night. Readers who wish to step up their skills will be pleased to learn from the “Set It” guides for reference, which detail ISO, exposure, aperture and focal length settings of the images in the book. To enhance wellcomposed images, “Edit It” guides reference post-production edits for the final product. I absolutely loved this book and many times have it by my bedside for inspiration. It will be a cherished present for the avid photography buff. Reviewed by Lulu Del Rosario
Perspectives on Design California: Creative Ideas Shared by Leading Design Professionals By LLC Panache Partners, editor Panache Partners LLC, $40.00, 271 pages This coffee-table book will help make your home look world class. This examines first-rate California homes, and designers, as they talk about different aspects of designing a house, from the architecture, to the lighting design, landscape architecture, entertainment design, and more. You will see how these designers—artists, really—go about designing world-class houses. These homes are outside the price
range of most people, but it will give you ideas and tips that you can incorporate into your home, from art through light fixtures to even light bulbs. You do not need to have an expensive fireplace made of imported marble to make your home look good. This is also a book to leave on your coffee table for when you have guests over. Full of ideas for the average designer, these homes will inspire you to want to make your home look world class. Many people might not be able to afford the same designers, but you can get similar materials at local stores and make your own design. This is a book to inspire and to help interior design students to design better homes. Reviewed by Kevin Winter
e R e a d e r C o m p a r i s o n C h a r t a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w . c o m /e R e a d e r s
Poetry & Short Stories Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East By Reza Aslan, Editor Norton, $35.00, 654 pages Scholar Reza Aslan, a recent guest of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, outlines the politics behind the stories and poems in this sampling of Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Urdu literature of the past hundred years. Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh’s hilarious take on a Persian jail (“Persian is Sugar”) and Refik Halit Karay’s comic folktale (“The Gray Donkey”) establish one mood, while Sadegh Hedayat’s necromantic “The Blind Owl” evokes something much darker. Sa’adat Hassan Manto’s “For Freedom’s Sake” is a modern parable of a young, married couple who promise to abstain from love-making till India gains her freedom so they don’t risk bringing “slaves” into the world. In Simin Daneshvar’s “The Playhouse,” a penniless actress seeks an abortion in a country where they are strictly forbidden. Haifa Zangana’s exile in “Dreaming of Baghdad” struggles with the reality of loss and change. Variety abounds here. Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish elegizes the anguish of his people, while Adbullah Hussein’s “The Refugees,” tells the moving story of a Muslim who remembers his father’s inexplicable yearning for lost British rule. Nobel prize winners Orhan Pamuk and Naguib Mahfouz stand beside little known writers, but all contribute to our understanding of this culturally rich region. “His life was short but rich, crammed with events. He was arrested at the age of seventeen, released five years later, and executed when he was twenty-four.” Reviewed by Zara Raab Dog Stories By Diana Secker Tesdell Everyman’s Library, $15.00, 384 pages This handsome little book is the sort that would prompt a reader to say ‘they don’t make ‘em like this any more!’, but they do! This is a new edition: cloth-covered with lovely dust-jacket, attached ribbon book mark, printed in good old Garamond type on cream-wove paper that fits so neatly into your hands you’ll wonder why anyone ever prints with any other font or size! If forced to come up with one minor quibble, it would probably
be that there are no headers, only page numbers, so you’re never quite certain what story you’re reading at the moment. But no matter. There are twenty fabulous short stories in this collection. Strangely enough, they’re all about dogs! From the wise-cracking ‘Lovey’ er, ‘Pete’ of O. Henry’s beginning opus to Penelope Lively’s Black Dog, this collection from Everyman’s Pocket Classic is a winner. You don’t have to be a man to enjoy it, however, and you will enjoy reading these captivating tales of man’s best friend from such prestigious authors as Patricia Highsmith, Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov, P. G. Wodehouse, Bret Harte, Doris Lessing plus a dozen others. They range from flat-out humorous to whimsical to adventuresome to borderline gruesome to ambiguous or maybe enigmatic. Probably, like me, you’ll appreciate some more than others, but it would be hard to beat the price for what you get! The paintings on the dust jacket are worth the price of admission, all by themselves. Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz God, Seed By Rebecca Foust Tebot Bach, $20.00, 85 pages GOD, SEED is aesthetically pleasing; merging both the visual and written art forms in a neatly packed collection about the reception to tangible world and how that affects personal connection: “seeking meaning/ from rain, memory/from pain, how it feels/to feel anything”(Seed). Almost every page is adorned with watercolor, charcoal or ink drawings of animals, fruits and plants that are lavishly juxtaposed to tightly-str uctured poetic sequences. In so doing, a seed becomes an equivalent of creator and akin to a god; an extended metaphor for the center of origin, occasions, seasons, times and locations, so that the poems are broadened between three sections in the book to mark evolution as a primary consensus of being, which is also suggestive of the three stages of any living organism: beginning (birth), middle (quintessence) and lastly (death). There is also this underlying theme of reincarnation: “through the wither of winter to find something born/ of the decay of all that was young once,/still growing and green” (Perennial). The hopeful and endearing tone of the text also infiltrates the pictorials with implications of potency, growth and mobility that is pertinent to survival in the most of unlikely situations: “Spring will come despite the rain—“ Reviewed by Erienne Rojas
The Semiconducting Dictionary (Our Strindberg) By Natalee Caple ECW Press, $16.95, 122 pages A very unique collection inspired by August Strindberg, these poems sustain a haunting mythos and eclectic voice, structure and style. Including a full-comprehensive chronology of the writer’s trajectory from birth to death and a tabulation of his successes, Caple’s poetic sequences and variations are magisterial and masterful in paying homage to this predecessor. An impressive and grandiose feat, Caple grabs the platform by its bullhorns and creates a surreal world with a crafty eye and suspenseful tongue in reverence to the great dramatist’s flair for narrative and chaos. With that being said, there is a poem in this book for every fanatical reader because the author gravitates from different schools and movements of poetry: straightforward lyric, found poetry, list poems, prose to magic spells and alchemical recipes. She even incorporates some playwriting; caricature doodles and pseudo interviews to authenticate a rather obscure but equally engrossing tribute. By engaging audiences with this hinge of universality, wide-ranging claims are stationed on the page with ease of play. Her language is hypnotizing with an imagery so stark and yet so eloquent that captivates the aura of a complicated world one is most fearful in admitting exists but secretly invested in exploring further and experiencing. Reviewed by Erienne Rojas
Did You See The Monkeys? A story about brotherly love between two boys who are not born brothers, but who choose to be brothers. $11.9b2ack paper
Available in paperback and eBook at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders
Many will want to read it, but only few will be able to handle it”. It’s Real, Raw and Rare… pass the salt and change a life. Available at:
Amazon.com BarnesandNoble.com Authorhouse.com anitanaves.com Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems By Alice Walker New World Library, $18.00, 165 pages Like soup the day after, allowed to steep in their wise flavors, are her words; their taste enhanced by time. Renowned for such prolific works as The Color Purple and countless collections of poetry, essays, and fiction, along with a steadfast role in hu-
Nature’s Cathedral From veteran photographer, Terry G. Amburgey comes a series of poems and pictures in Nature’s Cathedral. Nature’s Cathedral is a fusion of words and stunning images that highlight landscapes of the American continent. Readers will find several pictures of varied locations. Each image is accompanied by a Haiku poem that emphasizes what the author felt looking through the lens of his camera.
terryamburgey.com | Available on Amazon.com
S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
February 11 29
Poetry & Short Stories man rights activism, Alice Walker bestows her readers with steep depths of grief and soaring heights of gratitude in her newest collection of poetry, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing. In it, she releases emotions experienced by all and in this we are connected through the pain and loss, reconciliation and restoration, love and longing; she breaks her own heart open and shows us inside. Amongst the sorrow, there is newness; a light spilling over from the awareness and thanksgiving for this gift we have been given in life. Her form is simple, yet complex, easy to let in, but not quite so easy to let out. Her words stay with us, flowing from the page and leaking into our beings, “The world has changed: Don’t let yourself remain asleep to it.” She does not simply lament the lost but welcomes the way that is now, coming to terms with a lightness of being. The words sing hushes of lullaby while we sway to the truths of their rhythms. Reviewed by Sky Sanchez Naked Sacred Earth Poems By Dona Nieto (La Tigresa) Regent Press, $18.00, 92 pages A return to pastoral, naturalist poetry, Dona Nieto takes reign with NAKED SACRED EARTH POEMS. Romanticizing the idyllic mother earth with heightened sensibility, Nieto deconstructs the notion of industrialization and commercialized mass production as such are properties of urbanization because purity lies in the raw splendor of openness: “Peel back the layers of what you call progress—/ I am so much more beautiful naked than clothed” (I Am the Goddess). Using vegetation and forestation as forms of foreplay, the poet takes license in seducing the reader with her double entendres: “Soft green moss/ on the velvet loveseat of a fallen tree trunk” (Biosexual). Nieto’s bluntness with language and assertive action to describe a frivolous and fruitful sexuality renders a woman’s manifesto: a feminist spirit where social norms and means of propriety are ever so gingerly replaced with independent and self-sufficient matriarchal figures. This poetry anthology is a bold and ambitious collection that does not shy away from rhetorical and /or honest assumptions of gender roles, relationship qualms, issues about mortality and decay “the moment we dissolve in vulnerability” (Poem for Sis) and observes the analogies of abandonment in the environment to be as livid as a body no
30 February 11
longer inhabited by wildness of love or animalistic desire. Reviewed by Erienne Rojas
and hubris in human beings, the superhero and monster. Reviewed by Erienne Rojas
Missing You, Metropolis: Poems By Gary Jackson Graywolf Press, $15.00, 80 pages MISSING YOU, METROPOLIS is a neatly packed stream of narratives centered on the lives of Marvel heroes and their villains that serve as keen stand-ins for the poet’s own social and personal consensus on love, racism, war, suicide, violence, nationalism, adolescence and puberty. With rich and action-packed language, including lucid epigraphs from comic archetypes like Batman, Professor Xavier, Joker, Phil Sheldon, Jackson provides a very significant portrayal of an insatiable America (Metropolis). As a contemporary poet, he recalls W.H. Auden in The Secret Art of Reading a Comic and Sylvia Plath in Listening to Plath in Poetics to contrast his own manifesto on deconstructing the marvelous for even an otherwise worldly and brute force of superheroes have their own humbling and crippling moments of anxiety and insecurity about an intended but very much prolonged, catastrophic finale; this raw sensibility reminds the reader that a fictionalized account of reality in a comic is indeed not the opposite of a road less traveled in literature. Therefore not enough recognition is given to the culture of mainstream iconography because of an obvious lack of literary emphasis to the genre of comic books and its implications of tangible space and disposition of time, which clearly evokes the stream of consciousness in prose. Through the personal inscription of Stuart in the poetic sequences, there is a grounding touchstone in the relationship between the writer and these characters, especially with this constant haunting of the beloved friend Stuart, who disappears physically in the story by mid-book but somehow remains mentally and emotionally present in each and every one through their suggested actions, discourse, preoccupations and rationalizations. Stuart becomes a resourceful ploy in connecting the threads between a quasi utopia and the uncanny-grotesque. Jackson is a master of drawing these landscapes of the sacred and the profane in urbane citylife and domestic chore. Toward the closing of the book, the reader realizes that the diverging lines between hero and antithesis become a blurred tour de force about psyche
Nature’s Cathedral: Photography & Haiku Poetry By Terry Amburgey Xlibris, $21.99, 42 pages Nature’s Cathedral combines nature photographs and haiku, a form of Japanese poetry. Photographer and poet Terry Amburgey matches most photographs in the book with three haiku placed on the facing page and often reflecting some aspect of the photograph. Haiku is a strict form, but like most modern writers in the genre, even those writing in Japanese, Amburgey loosens the formal constraints. He maintains the three phrases traditional to haiku, placing them on separate lines flush to the left margin, as is usual in English. But in many of these verses, he nicely captures nature and seasonal change, as traditional haiku demands. For instance: “Crisp Air. Crunching Leaves/Long Shadows Casting Soft Light/The Smell of Autumn/.” Although many of his verses do concern nature as a theme, some are more philosophical, while others have themes of war or politics: /”Really Politics/ Not Something For Honest Men/ But Good Men Needed”/. Or:/”Uneasy Emotions/ Oh How I Wish It Were Me/Son Leaving For War”/. Amburgey uses the form to pose existential questions and express emotions that arise as he waits, often alone, for the next stage of a journey, or as he grapples with his own creative process, attempting to find his ground as artist and thinker in his boredom and loneliness. /”Bad Thing, Not Really/ Loneliness Is Like A Pet/It is Always There”/ is an example. /”Funny What You Think/In That Time You Must Fill Time/When Your Mind is Quiet”/ is another. Unfortunately, Amburgey does not often take advantage of the signature technique that gives haiku its spice: comparing or contrasting two events, images, or situations. Nonetheless, his poems and accompanying photographs of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Central Park, rural Kentucky, and the Dominican Republic exhibit a delicacy rare in our contemporary culture. One photograph shows a sun setting behind a winter tree in Lone Tree, Colorado. The accompanying verse reads: /Taste It, Yes, Taste It/Place Sugar On Your Tongue/Stimulate Yourself.” Reading Nature’s Cathedral is a tasting and seeing. Sponsored Review
Deathbird Stories By Harlan Ellison Subterranean Press, $45.00, 416 pages I imagined returning to Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories twenty-five years after my first reading would be nostalgic, akin to revisiting a fondly remembered friend. To my surprise, I found his short stories, themed broadly as musings on the birth and death of gods ancient and modern, just as sharply affecting as I had at fifteen. Ellison remains a brilliant short story writer who’s never gotten the appreciation that is his due. If anything, this exquisite 35th anniversary reissue is even better than the original collection. Ellison has added several later, darkly humorous stories. Tom Kidds’ cover is appropriately gothic and fantastical. In the whole collection, only “Along the Scenic Route,” a tale of dystopian suburban road combat, feels dated, and even that in a pleasing, wistful reminder of the ’70s weighty darkness. Though I might quibble with the oftenrepeated claim that Deathbird Stories is Ellison’s best collection, in story after story he shows his gifts for plot, character, and entertainment. “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” recalls the Kitty Genovese murder, that lodestone of urban violence and indifference in America’s collective psyche. In “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes,” Ellison combines tragedy, romance, and a Twilight Zone sensibility into a story as heartbreaking as it is breathtaking. And stories like “Paingod” and the Hugo-Award winning “Deathbird” will not only leave you wanting to pick up more Ellison, but also have you thinking for days and weeks. If you’ve not gotten the point, let me repeat. Harlan Ellison is one of our master storytellers. If you’re not aware of this fact, consider this opportunity to learn firsthand a gift fallen from heaven. Reviewed by Jordan Magill
EMPLOYEE, cont’d from page 24 understandable verbiage, even going so far as discussing federal and state laws on discrimination and court hearings. Every working American and his employer should own and study this book. Steven Mitchell Sack has been protecting employees’ rights for over 30 years and has ten best-selling books on employee and employer legal issues. Sack is most assuredly qualified to give sound advice on the legal matters of employment. Reviewed by M Chris Johnson
R e a d HO L LY ’ S C U L I N A R Y N I R VA N A c o l u m n a t S a n F r a n c i s c o B o o k R e v i e w. c o m
Horror The End of the Line: An Anthology of Underground Horror By Christopher Fowler and Mark Morris, with Jonathan Oliver, editor Solaris, $7.99, 358 pages Claustrophobia, fear of the dark, loss of control, disease and waste, and crime, and monstrous machines ... traveling underground can evoke dread in a great many ways; and in some of the world’s major cities, facing these fears is a necessary evil of everyday life. With ghosts and monsters, time travel and the worst of humanity, The End of the Line exploits every last one of them. Unfortunately, the clunkers outnumber the successes in this collection, many suffering from unsatisfying conclusions and a dearth of atmosphere. The few standouts, however, are tremendous efforts, epitomizing evocative horror at its finest. Simon Bestwick’s “The Sons of the City” and Mark Morris’s “Fallen Boys” build their own miniature mythologies with style, indulging in a bit of urban legend storytelling, while Christopher Fowler’s “Down” gracefully brings to bear the weight of tragedy and history in one man’s journey. But the terror peaks with James Lovegrove’s “Siding 13,” one of the most skin-crawling stories I’ve read in quite some time. Most short story collections by nature are hit or miss. This one is no exception, but there are still a few gems in the rough in The End of the Line. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas Handling the Undead By John Ajvide Lindqvist Thomas Dunne Books, $24.99, 384 pages These days, with zombie media invading, attacking, and overriding the TV, big screen, and printed page like the very armies of living dead they are talking about; to make a zombie story stand out and seem original and interesting is not an easy thing to do. Maybe it takes setting your zombie stage somewhere different and foreign, and perhaps changing the entire dynamic of how zombies are created. Enter Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of the internationally best-selling Let the Right One In, who turns to the living dead in a totally new
way in Handling the Undead. Lindqvist doesn’t waste any time setting the scene, throwing the reader straight into the story. We’re in Stockholm and something very weird is going on: a power surge, making it impossible to turn off electronic devices, while the lights keep getting brighter. As the minutes tick by on this hot summer night in Sweden, everyone has a splitting headache which isn’t being helped by the heat or the bright lights. Nerves are frayed and anger is rising. When it seems like one’s head might explode, there is a final surge and then it goes black and everything returns to normal. Then the dead come back to life. No one knows what to do, including the zombies. They have risen from the cold slabs in the morgue; dug themselves out of their graves; and pulled themselves up from their final resting place, looking for their home, a place of familiarity. They are unable to communicate and appear to be walking corpses that shouldn’t be alive. The families and friends of these zombies are just as confused, not knowing whether to help or run away. The Swedish government steps in, rounding up the living dead and quarantining them until more can be found out; fears of a virus or contagion run rampant. But this is a socialist state and the government is going to do its job and protect its people. Rosters are created of all the dead to ensure every last one is collected. One young boy remains unaccounted for, as his mother – who never recovered from his death – and his grandfather secret him away to a Swedish countryside cottage in the archipelago and attempt to halt the state of his decomposition and make him look more ... human, with the use of saline and glucose solutions and lots of moisturizing cream. Meanwhile, it seems that the very recently deceased zombies do possess some faculties of communication. It also appears that when the zombies are grouped together, people nearby are able to read each others’ thoughts, as well as the zombies presumably reading theirs. When bad thoughts are created, the zombies turn violent. While the ending of Handling the Undead leaves a lot to be satisfied – failing in ways that many horror books do – Lindqvist has created an interesting and different zombie story that doesn’t just seek to scare the reader, but to make them think and question what it means to be alive. Fans of Lindqvist will enjoy this book and look for what’s to come next. Reviewed by Alex Telander
Tales of Woe By John Reed MTV Press, $20.00, 204 pages Depressingly true stories dredged from news reports may appeal to the sadist within some of us. In these twenty-five essays, John Reed recounts tales of bad things that happen to good people. There is no recourse, no salvation, and life is displayed in some of its more savage forms. From sex slavery with its linked kidnapping and murder of young teenagers, to corruption within the bureaucracy, to accidents caused by ineptitude or chance, these tales serve as reminders that life is not fair.
scald the soul. The misery reported here is not unique. Reviewed by Aron Row
“Sometimes people suffer for no reason.” Beginning with a baboon snatching and gnashing an infant’s head in South Africa and ending with the tale of the journalist campers recording as they are mauled and eaten by a grizzly bear while camping in Alaska, these tales of woes are startling and repulsive. But there are so many more wretched stories appearing daily on the Internet and still printed in the newspapers that one may wonder why these stories require a special epiphany. Printed on a bleak black background, the type stands out in red and white paragraphs illustrated with grotesque images of pop art. It would help if an antidepressant were included within the dark binding. Unfortunately, life involves too many incidents that
Looking for a good book? Find hundreds (yes, hundreds) of reviews in 30+ categories sanfranciscobookreview.com
Classics The Greek and Roman Myths By Philip Matyszak Thames & Hudson, $24.95, 224 pages The mythology of the Greeks and Romans is more convoluted and contradictory than any other in human history, and to attempt to unravel is as Sisyphean a task as that infamous boulder. Nonetheless, Philip Matyszak attacks the challenge with gusto, and like Heracles with his labors, he triumphs with impressive flare. The Greek and Roman Myths crafts the first truly effective linear examination of the rise of the Greek and Roman pantheons that I’ve ever encountered. Matyszak lays out the confounding family trees and
T H E C R I T I C A L E Y E . . . w h a t ’s i t l i k e t o b e a b o o k r e v i e w e r ?
history of the gods in a straightforward and enjoyable timeline, from the creation of the cosmos to the Trojan War, detailing the generations of deities and man with great clarity. But the book also analyzes the influence the mythos had on society, from the numerous geographical names drawn from the gods and their adventures, to the many phrases and works of art spawned by the rich tapestry of Greek and Roman myth. Matyszak even shows where archaeological history coincides (and occasionally diverts) from the legends of ancient Greece and Rome, offering the impressive possibility that “the morning of 21 April 753 BC marks the exact point when mythology ends and history begins.” What a treat. Reviewed by Glenn Dallas
February 11 31
Mystery, Crime & Thrillers (cont’d) Damage By John Lescroart Dutton, $26.95, 416 pages In this, his twenty-second book, John Lescroart has done it again with another formulaic thriller in this lengthy story involving three deaths that confound the San Francisco District Attorney and police department with its legal complexities Challenged by the powerfully rich publisher whose son, previously convicted of rape and murder, is suddenly released from prison on a technicality. The law officials are handicapped by the political restraints generated by the wealthy family. The psychopathic son is linked to several murders of witnesses and others associated with his subsequent retrial. Legal questions abound and the naive DA and caring but inept police department have a solution, but their frustrating efforts to contain this ‘mad dog killer’ is thwarted by the law and the disposition of its rendering by the judges themselves. There is plenty of sadistic sex, murder, beatings, corruption, sorrow, legal question that will satisfy Lescroart fans. Unfortunately the characters are stereotyped, two dimensional and the chapters appear to be pieced together from different sources. The only appealing character in the book is the DA’s dog, who doesn’t say much. This would make a good read when imprisoned in a plane that is stuck on the tarmac for several hours. Reviewed by Aron Row Skating Around the Law: A Mystery By Joelle Charbonneau Minotaur Books, $24.99, 288 pages Having never heard of Indian Falls, Illinois, I’ve already added it to the list of places I’d like to visit. It’s the small-town setting for this delightful debut mystery that abounds with quirky characters and situations. The heroine/protagonist Rebecca Robbins took a temporary leave from her job (and pushy boss) in Chicago in order to return to her hometown to sell the roller rink she inherited from her Mom, a former champion skater. Her grandpa (Pops) still lives there – and does he ever! A happy
32 February 11
and frequent target of all the older single ladies in town, his activities keep Rebecca hopping—and blushing. Unfortunately, the rink’s handyman Mack turns up dead, which seriously interferes with the plan to sell the rink. The police don’t seem to think it’s a serious matter, so Rebecca and Pops decide to figure it out on their own. One of the suspects is the local veterinarian, Lionel Franklin, who is a real hunk, and sends Rebecca into a constant dither. Or maybe it’s his favorite animal – Elwood, the retired circus animal. (Warning: he’ll quickly become everyone’s fave! He’s totally charming. The camel, that is.) With humor and sensitivity, Rebecca and Lionel finally sort through the scattered clues and allow the case to be closed. However, the rink remains unsold, so she’ll stay for a while. For myself, I’m looking forward to a return visit! Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz By Charles Todd William Morrow, $24.99, 344 pages The mother-son writing team of Charles Todd deliver a solid war-time mystery with An Impartial Witness. Continuing the wartime theme of A Duty to the Dead, Charles Todd delivers a believable and strong Bess Crawford, who is a competent and curious nurse serving on the bloody battlefields in France during World War I. Often entrusted to help transport wounded British soldiers to England, she finds herself passing a familiar face in a train station. The chance encounter leads Crawford into direct contact with Scotland Yard as a murder investigation begins. Crawford, at first, appears as the impartial witness to provide information. As the mystery deepens, Crawford finds herself intrigued and pulled into the investigation. Questions of her impartiality begin and Crawford’s life seems to be in jeopardy. In contrast to a contemporary suspense novel, An Impartial Witness sets a comfortable pace as Crawford sets about to solve the crime. But even after an arrest is made, Crawford puts her life at risk while trusting her instincts to bring the killer to justice. This book is an engaging mystery with a compassionate and smart heroine. Reviewed by Elizabeth Humphrey
By Randi Hutter Epstein, MD Author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank I had my very first book reading in New York City nearly a year before my book was even published. I spoke to sixteen third graders in my daughter’s class. What happened was that a few days before my debut, her teacher was trying to convince a group of boys to rewrite their essays. She tried to explain that all writers rewrite, which apparently made no sense to these 8-yearolds. They had a thought. They wrote it down. And that was that. My daughter heard them arguing and added, “My mom’s a writer and she re-wrote her book proposal eleven times.” Truth be told, I don’t mind telling people I rewrite, but I really didn’t want anyone to know how much I re-jigged the proposal. It’s one thing to rewrite a draft for your editor, but it’s quite another to tinker obsessively about a notion for a concept of book. At least at this point, the book was sold; I was nearly finished with draft two; and I figured that third graders don’t know what the word “proposal” means anyhow. In any event, my multi-versioned proposal landed me my first speaking gig. For my daughter, who is used to seeing me in sweatpants at home, or worse, walking by her classmates while they are at recess and I’m walking the dogs, showing up at school as real professional was a thrill. That is until it was time for Q and A. My book is called, Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank. I tried my best to slur the subtitle. And yet, a boy’s hand shot up. “What’s a sperm bank?” My daughter turned beet red. She knows I’m one for straight talk. I could see that she was thinking this whole book-talk idea wasn’t so great after all. For part of my research, I had flown to LA to visit a sperm banker and came home with all sorts of sperm-themed goodies from the doctor who owned the bank. (Think banker not doctor.) I got a deck of sperm-decorated cards; a Tshirt with mustached-sperm with the caption: Got Sperm? (Get it?); and light-up pens filled with squiggly sperm, to name a few. None of my four kids wanted the toys. But I did explain to them the business of sperm freezing and how it helps a lot of parents have children. Let’s just say that by the time I got to class that day, my daughter forgot about the embarrassing business trip and somehow in the midst of the excitement of having her mom as the guest speaker, she forgot all about my subtitle. Or, I think she was so used to it, that she forgot that it may come off as obscene to a classmate. At first, I tried to ignore the question and focus on the point of my talk. The fact that I’m a rewriter. I told them that I know a lot of writers and most of them consider their first shot at a story as merely a draft. Sort of like a scrimmage. You try hard, but you know it doesn’t really count. You save the pearls, perfect the good stuff, and get rid of the zingers. Then I realized that most of my audience wasn’t with me at all. These were third graders, for goodness sake. They were happy to have a speaker to break up the routine, but they were not the least bit interested in the writing process. Most of them them were really still focused on the fact that I nonchalantly spewed the word sperm. There was nothing I could do to avoid what had become the elephant in the room. Or rather the sperm in the whatever. So I thought fast, and as this boy waited for a true, honest answer, I said: “I can’t give away my ending. You’re going to have to read the whole thing and find out when you get to the end.” My daughter let out a huge sigh of relief. For once, I was not a source of public humiliation for one of my kids. I’m not sure I persuaded anyone about the power of rewriting, but at least, for moment, I sounded like a real storyteller. Randi Hutter Epstein, MD is a medical writer and adjunct professor at The Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University.Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank (W.W. Norton & Company, 2010) is her first book.
T hou s a nd s of b o ok re v ie w s at S a n Fr a nc i s coB o ok R e v ie w.com
A bi-monthly printed book review publication reviewing books from more than 30 categories