Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book with a View September 2009

New Vintage Type
By Steven Heller & Gail Anderson
Watson Guptill Publications, New York
ISBN: 9780823099597, 2007
Contact Reviewer: hojoreviews@aol.com
Publisher's Site: www.watsonguptill.com
Rating: five of five
Reviews for Riters ™

Book from the Bible of Publishers

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This Is the Place. Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, Tracings, a chapbook of poetry, and the How To Do It Frugally Series of book for writers.

If you will, imagine a Bible for publishers, self-publishers, book cover designers and formatters. It might well be as fat at the King James version of the real thing. A book on fonts and typefaces -- if taken by itself much as you might read the book of Genesis on its own -- would be pretty hefty.

Even then that book -- an essential part of a tome for the publishing world to live by -- would probably not be as crammed full of great fonts and logo designs and book cover designs as this one, Watson-Guptill Publication's New Vintage Type by Steven Heller & Gail Anderson. The subtitle is "Classic Fonts for the Digital Age." A subtitle like that expands the reader's take on what might be inside but still comes up short as a description of this expansive book.

I don't think one has to have been raised up, as I was, on the near-spiteful smell of printers ink, the clatter of a linotype, the click-clacking of a teletype and the experience of making Times New Roman fit into a one-column headline to appreciate this book. Most writers are grateful for fine paper, exquisite letterform, good design and a finely-honed serif. This book will not disappoint.

Further, it seems publishers are selecting typefaces more carefully than they once did. It probably costs little more to be more daring or a good bit more artistic with the fonts they choose than many other upgrades they might consider. I've seen Ramdom House dedicate a page describing the font they selected for a book. I'm referring to Lisa See's Peony in Love. It was set in "an old-style Roman face that was used for Cardinal Bembo's tract De Aetna in 1495" and has a slightly oriental cast -- like fragile brushwork -- to the columns and pedestals of each letter.

I'm hoping I've convinced anyone in the publishing world that they will benefit from this book. It includes faces that look like wood (Old New Wood), faces like a sign painter's scrawl (Sign Painter Upright), and ones you will recognize in a moment like Las Vegas Nugget. You'll be inspired by full color posters, old labels for Hershey's candy, engravings, record albums, and, yes, book covers.

The pictures are kitschy and nostalgic but many could easily inspire something elegant as well. See p. 149 for the chic Austrian-inspired example of the font called Progressiv Regular (yes, the spelling is German and correct).

If you, in any capacity, are pondering a book, this one calls for more than a browse. Give copies of the example that inspires you to your graphics woman or your designing man and let their artistic minds play with it a bit. You won't be sorry.

I won't be lending this book out; it will stay in my library so I know where it is when I need it.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This is the Place, has won eight awards. Her book of creative nonfiction Harkening, won three. A UCLA Writers' Program instructor, she also is the author of another book essential for writers, USA Book News' Best Professional Book of 2004, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo). The second in the HowToDoItFrugally series, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (www.budurl.com/TheFrugalEditor) covers writing successful query letters and includes helpful hints from twenty of the nation's top agents. It, too, won USA Book News top award in its category and Reader Views Literary award. Learn more at her site http://howtodoitfrugally.com/.

Author: R. L. Sloan
ISBN: 978-1-4327-4032-0
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com, 2009
Genre and Target Market: fiction, paranormal, romance
Pages: 237

In the past decade, the literary world has seen an explosion in books that have a focus on the paranormal and feature otherworldly entities as main characters. These novels often seem to incorporate a spark of romance that adds a deeper element to humanize the storytelling. The Harry Potter series has created a whole new generation of children and adults alike who are fascinated with magic, wizardry, and evil spirits. More recently, the Twilight novels have portrayed vampires in an entirely new light and sent young girls rushing to the book stores and, subsequently, the movie theaters. In an attempt to take advantage of this phenomenon, many authors have quickly published similar vampire novels that lack any real originality. I was pleased to discover that the new book Embellish by R. L. Sloan is far from an attempt to join the vampire craze. Instead, Sloan offers her readers an exciting and sexy novel with an entirely new approach towards the vampire phenomenon.

Embellish tells the story of Solis Burkes, a young woman with a painful past and amazing powers that she has yet to recognize, and Nacio, a handsome stranger who first intrigues Solis at a local club in San Antonio and turns out to be a vampire with centuries of history behind him. Their relationship immediately develops into a passionate romance that has been set in place by destiny. With her new love by her side, Solis is confronted once again by the group of children who sexually assaulted her many years ago, now all adults and more violent than ever. As the novel unfolds, the action accelerates and a family feud that Solis discovers has been brewing for generations comes to a terrifying and bloody finale.

Author R. L. Sloan uses vivid language to engage her readers in this fascinating tale of true love, vampires, voodoo, and family loyalty. I particularly enjoyed the expressive dialogue that forms the catalyst for the forward movement of the story. Sloan has tremendous skill for selecting words and phrases that express emotion and the sense of urgency that is present throughout Embellish. Every sentence skillfully moves her reader to the next twist in the plot. Her evil characters effectively use harsh, emphatic words to wound and command, while her protagonists evoke a sense of compassion and genuine relationship with their words.

Embellish is a novel that demands attention from its readers. Sloan introduces us to many characters and beautifully weaves their stories together into a plotline that brings new surprises right up until the final pages of the book. In many instances, the connections between characters are not revealed until a new revelation in the story takes place and then the hints that Sloan had been including throughout the novel are finally understood. I always enjoy books that go beyond the one-dimensional, linear storyline and Sloan manages to do this with skill and fluidity.

While there certainly are plenty of questions answered by the end of Embellish, the final moments of the story leave the reader wishing that there were more pages to turn. I am happy to report that the end of Embellish leaves the readers with a preview of what we can expect from R. L. Sloan’s next installment in the series. I look forward to reading what R. L. Sloan, through her characters Solis and Nacio, has in store for us next!

Title: Celestial Desire
Author: Sandy Sams
ISBN: Paperback 978-1-4327-3466-4
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Pages: 276
Reviewed by: Barbara Milbourn for Writers in the Sky

A generous peppering of French [sometimes translated, sometimes not] transports the reader directly to France and locks them in step with the two main characters—a woman of the night and a woman of the light.

A waif had been plucked from street urchin status and tutored to most-prized courtesan at Madame Simonet’s. Celeste is acquainted with the touristy streets of French cities and the world of the rich, cultured, and powerful. In Paris, on solitary walks, she seeks the quiet grace and architectural beauty of the older city, and the sanctity in the stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle. Here she meets Gilles, a promising artist who first saw her and painted her bathed in the light and looking like an angel.

In time, love blooms, hearts are given, and the confession comes as it must: she is no angel—she is putain. When her exquisite honesty and intuition and his poor business sense and tattered self-esteem mix with mutual love, pain and trouble erupts.

That eruption—or one of several later—results in an unlikely friendship between Celeste and Desiree: a nun, a reader of Rumi, and doer of good deeds. While Desiree is in residence at the Abbeye des Soeurs Carmelite and contemplating the rebirth of spring flowers in the garden, the growing unrest in her heart and mind are far from rosy. She is agitated to distraction; she has become complacent; the joy has leached from her duties and ministrations. She longs to discover what’s missing in her quest for a deeper love and walk with Christ. And she does.

Through the most unexpected circumstances each woman embarks upon a personal pilgrimage of huge proportion that will surprise and satisfy you until the book’s last phrase.

Celestial Desires is a love story—moving and layered with beautiful parallels of the human and divine. Notice the structure: the title, characters’ names, what they represent; the parts so aptly presented as sacraments; the successful maneuvering between chapters and characters. Sandy Sams has delivered an intelligent and engaging work that reveals her as a woman who thinks, feels, and believes deeply.

Alzheimer’s A Caretaker’s Journal
Marie Fostino
Seaboard Press, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59663-562-3
Reviewed by Yvonne Perry

As the title implies, Alzheimer’s A Caretaker’s Journal, is about dealing with a family member who has Alzheimer’s. The book truly is a caretakers journal. There is little commentary from the author to cloud our opinion. Instead, we get to see into the personal lives of Jim and Marie as they take on the daunting task of caring for Jim’s father, Joe. As Joe’s dementia worsens, Marie rises to the call of a saint.

The passion of the author was noted throughout the book and my emotions were stirred as I read Marie’s account of her time spent with Dad—a man who didn’t even know her once he had progressed into the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. “Lady” is what he called his own daughter-in-law.

“Show, not tell” is what I often repeat to my authors when I am editing their books. Marie instinctively did this in Alzheimer’s A Caretaker’s Journal. She shows us who she is, what she is capable of, and how she managed day by day. Never once did she brag on herself. Using a chronological diary format, she showed us her human frailty and gave us a true picture of what it is like to watch a loved one’s mental and physical demise.

I was especially touched that both of the author’s daughters gave a short commentary about what it was like to live in the house with their grandfather in his impaired condition. The author’s husband, Jim, also shared his thoughts. Therefore, we get to see how this disease affected the entire family. I hope I never have to go through something like this, but if I do, I pray I have the strength and wherewithal to endure and persevere the way Marie did.

Check out Marie’s book website at http://www.mariefostino.com/.

Distant Thunder
Author: Jimmy Root, Jr.
ISBN: 978-1-58982-553-6
Publisher: American Book Publishing, 2009
Genre and Target Market: fiction, thriller, Christian
Pages: 326

As in so many instances, life’s realities make for more interesting storytelling than the most imaginative piece of fiction ever could. I always have enjoyed literature that incorporates actual events into a storyline that shares the moment through the eyes of everyday individuals. Whether I am reading historical pieces about soldiers on the battlefield during the Civil War or the retelling of one family’s struggle on the frontier, I appreciate the research and creativity that goes into such writing. The events that are making headlines today also provide an endless supply of material on which authors can expand. We certainly can admit to a variety of perspectives on the root causes behind the current geopolitical situation in the world. However, regardless of who we choose to blame or victimize, most of us will agree that we are living in fascinating and dangerous times. In his new book Distant Thunder, which is the first release in a trilogy called “The Lightning Chronicles,” author Jimmy Root Jr. shares his perspective on the major events that are unfolding across the globe and how he believes that Biblical prophecy has predicted what we are now seeing on the nightly news.

Root, whose has spent his life in ministry, shares with his readers the lives of Pastor Ty Dempsey, who lives in Missouri, and Moshe Eldan, a pilot with the Israeli military. He skillfully presents these two men as everyday characters whose struggles with love, faith, family, and work can be understood by anyone who decides to sit down and open the book’s pages. By telling his story through the perspective of two such relatable personalities, Root makes the events in Distant Thunder even more startling. Through Root’s expert storytelling, readers are brought to the point at which they can see themselves as participants in the world’s most cataclysmic events.

Distant Thunder opens with an ancient scene in which the prophet Ezekiel foretells of the destruction of Israel’s enemies. The book then brings us to modern times as we see the prophecy of the Old Testament coming to fruition in a terrifying way. Root brings his readers through the plot development in short segments, switching between key locations around the world. Just as a scene reaches the moment of climax and you wonder if destruction is about to occur or one of our protagonists is headed for personal disaster, Root directs your attention elsewhere. These quick scenes give the readers the feel of the 24-hour news channels to which we have become accustomed in our post-9/11 world. Our global society is moving at a pace that is unprecedented, and Root powerfully argues that this progression is bringing us closer to the end times that were foretold in Biblical prophecy many centuries ago.

If you are a Christian who believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible, you will embrace Distant Thunder as an affirmation of your faith and a way to share the coming prophecies with others. Or, perhaps you have heard discussions about how current events are aligning with the messages shared in the Bible, but you have never studied the prophecy of end times or understood how it relates to what we see on the news every evening. In this case, Distant Thunder will serve as a wonderful book through which to experience through the eyes of “ordinary” characters the events which many Christians believe are soon to come. Whatever your motivation, I believe that you will find Distant Thunder to be a book that will make you think and desire to learn more.

My Splendid Concubine
Lloyd Lofthouse
ISBN: 0981955304
Reviewed by Linda Ballou, author of Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii

Having two, delicate as a flower, sisters fighting over which one gets your sun instrument for the night, is probably an unrealized fantasy of most men walking the planet. But, for Robert Hart, a randy, runaway from his puritanical Irish background, it is a dream that comes true. Inspired by a man who arrived in China in 1854 who rose to great respected heights, this character has just that problem. The sensual descriptions to bring home how wonderful this dilemma was for him, was for me a bit overdone, but overall I enjoyed learning the nuances of the Chinese culture. I admit to not knowing much about ancient China other than that I believe acupuncture, tai chi and Fung Shui are all practices with great benefits. The fact that women were chattels sold to the highest bidder and that girl babies were routinely slaughtered was news. The warring, poverty, and harsh realities for commoners comes as no surprise. I found the book fascinating, but wanted more details of the culture revealed, details of how this man grew into his role, what he accomplished and less focus on the sexual ecstasy of a man torn between two enchanting lovers. I understand that my yearning for more knowledge will be addressed in the sequel to this book coming soon.

Wally the Walking Fish Meets Madison and Cooper
Gary Lamit
BookSurge (2009)
ISBN 9781439225417
Reviewed by Sophia McElroy (age 6.5) for Reader Views (7/09)

This is a great story about a walking fish named Wally. Madison and Wally meet when Madison catches Wally in the pond. Of course, she let Wally go because she believes in “catch and release.” Madison and her dog Cooper discover that Wally can walk and talk! Wally is my favorite.

I never knew that Catfish could walk! They are called “Walking Catfish.” They put their tail in like a puddle or something and can stay out of the water for several days as long as they stay moist.

The three friends have fun singing songs in the forest and swimming to meet the beaver family. Wally, Madison and Cooper met a flying fish named Frankie. They don’t really have wings!

The artwork is beautiful. My favorite picture is of Wally walking. My favorite funny part of the book is when Cooper, the yellow Labrador, jumps into the air trying to fly. This really made me laugh!

Shakespeare Ashes: A Novel
Chris DeBrie
Infinity Publishing (2009)
ISBN 9780741454492
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views (8/09)

Chris DeBrie has written a highly-entertaining, fast-paced book for readers. We follow the lives of four individuals through trials and tribulations of finding the right love; addressing gender issues and the all-encompassing racial issues.

The book is somewhat like letters and conversations exchanged between friends. With the elaborate descriptions of the characters readers will feel they know each one individually. The language is completely today’s language that you would hear anyone speak. In his writing he starts each sentence with small letters instead of the usual capital letters, which I found intriguing. I might even compare this to a journal one would write.

Readers will find themselves rooting for each of the characters and disliking other minor characters in the book. From the very first page readers will be captivated by the writing style and language. This book is everything we experience in our daily lives, right down to the elderly lady with an open umbrella and cane trying to maneuver getting on public transportation.

The author has written two other books, neither of which I have had the pleasure of reading. If they are anything like “Shakespeare Ashes”- they are a must read for all.

Viva Cisco
Author: Patrick Shannon
ISBN: 978-1-4327-3037-6
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com, 2009
Genre and Target Market: children; fiction; fantasy
Pages: 249

I grew up with a great passion for reading. On many sunny afternoons, you would be able to find me perched in some tree branches in my front yard reading Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables. The places that my imagination would go as the result of the words on a page formed some of my favorite childhood memories. Now that I am a mother of a young son and daughter, I am hoping that they will find the same happiness in books that I continue to experience to this day. I sometimes worry that, in the age of constant television viewing and video game playing, kids do not get the chance to develop a real passion for books. Therefore, when a book comes along that I believe will engage a child’s imagination, I take heart that the written word might actually win out over the latest Wii game or social website. I have found such a book in Viva Cisco by author Patrick Shannon. In this three-part fantasy tale, Shannon creates a vivid world through which young readers can stretch their imaginations, maybe even while spending the afternoon sitting in a tree.

Viva Cisco shares the adventures of Cisco the Parrot, who lives in the land of Topopootl surrounded by a colorful cast of characters from every imaginable species … except humans! Shannon provides his readers with three separate tales detailing Cisco’s efforts to become famous, from trying to learn Flamenco dancing and becoming a professional wrestler to starting a detective agency and leading a dangerous mission to discover the story behind the founding of his homeland. Along the way, Cisco seeks the advice of the elder animals and various skilled professionals in Topopootl, who approach his wild ideas with both sympathy and doubt. However, we quickly learn that Cisco is a bird who is not easily deterred from his dreams.

Patrick Shannon creates a fantasy world that offers amazing imagery for his readers. While there are no illustrations in Viva Cisco other than the front cover, I quickly began to picture bold colors and exaggerated backdrops as I turned the pages of this engaging book. Of course, when you start with the premise of talking animals, you already set the stage for an interesting mental picture! The personalities in Viva Cisco also are over-the-top caricatures, which is perfect for a children’s book. The running movie that developed in my head as I was reading Viva Cisco is directly attributable to the strength of Shannon’s writing. He uses animated language during conversations and employs sarcasm, humor, and outlandish scenarios to keep readers both young and old engaged with every page.

Viva Cisco offers young readers a story and a set of characters that they will not have encountered before. Instead of simply being another book that attempts to copy an already successful format in hopes of attracting the loyal readers of another author, Shannon brings us something completely original. The starring personality of Cisco the parrot, the outlandish ideas that he attempts with amusing results in his efforts to be famous and the final adventure that finally brings him the accolades he craves will keep children and their parents turning the pages. With the impressive ambitions and energy of Cisco, I believe that more stories of this memorable parrot may be in our future.

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