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Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith

Eve Tushnet. Ave Maria, $15.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-59471-542-6

Popular Catholic blogger Tushnet tries to forge a truce between the gay community and religious groups, often at war with one another, by explaining how, as a lesbian, she lives a celibate lifestyle that is consistent with official Catholic teaching about human sexuality and finds joy in doing so. The author is irreverent and has a sharp wit, making for appealing reading. Her polished writing style and humor move the autobiographical narrative along briskly. Her conversion from liberal atheist to traditional Catholic is fascinating and not overly pious. Struggling with alcoholism, she found solace in the Catholic Church, deep friendships, and faith, three themes to which she recurs. She also offers insights about faith that spiritual seekers will find helpful. While some might find the author's strict adherence to celibacy contrary to natural human desires, the message that all human beings have a vocation to love will appeal to everyone. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Pulpit and Politics: Separation of Church and State in the Black Church

Marvin A. McMickle. Judson, $22.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-8170-1751-4

McMickle (Where Have All The Prophets Gone?), president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, delivers a concise if sometimes confusing analysis of the less-than-arm's length relationship of church and state in black churches. By describing his own experience as a preacher/politician, McMickle writes from the perspective of someone with intimate knowledge of the necessary components of black leadership. He explains that there is a long tradition of preacher/politicians who use "politics as a means of grace" in the black community, since there are few other paths to opportunity for African-Americans in politics than via participation in religious life. It is sometimes not clear who the audience for McMickle's argument is – some but not all of the chapters end with discussion questions potentially for use by book or classroom groups -- and there is some repetition, but he has clearly done his homework about the rules for preacher/politicians, and he describes those clearly. The end result is a solid reference book for pastors and churches in time for midterm – or other – elections. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Young Neil: The Sugar Mountain Years

Sharry Wilson. ECW Press (Legato Publishers Group; U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $18.95 trade paper (456p) ISBN 978-1-77041-186-9

Wilson's debut work chronicles the formative years of 1945 to 1966 of Toronto-born guitarist singer/songwriter Neil Young. Using first-hand accounts from Young's family and friends, she meticulously recounts Young's childhood and teen years, focusing on the people and events that influenced his musical growth. Readers meet Young's father, Scott, a journalist and author, and his mother Rassy, and get an intimate view of their rocky marriage and eventual divorce. Wilson details Young's parents' struggles to get their son to apply himself to schoolwork, which ended when he dropped out of high school to become a musician. The book examines musical influences right from Young's father, who introduced him to his first instrument (a ukulele), to the music he listened to on his transistor radio, to the bands and guitarists that he encountered. Wilson also traces Young's beginnings with various bands and the path that led him to Fort William, Ont., where he met Stephen Stills, his soon-to-be bandmate in Buffalo Springfield. Enriched with more than 100 photos, this is a book written by a true fan for true fans. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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How to Breathe Underwater: Field Reports from an Age of Radical Change

Chris Turner. Biblioasis (Consortium, U.S. dist.; PGC/Raincoast, Canadian dist.), $17.95 trade paper (301p) ISBN 978-1-927428-75-7

This collection of essays is drawn from the career of award-winning journalist and author Turner (The War on Science) from 1999 to 2012. The 15 previously published essays range in subject from online gambling companies in Antigua to the beginnings of Cyberjaya, Malaysia's version of Silicon Valley, to the inevitable death of the Great Barrier Reef to the livability of Calgary. While the essays themselves are well-written, many are now dated and no contemporary context has been added. We therefore never learn whether Antigua is still a hotspot for Internet gambling startups or whether Cyberjaya was ultimately a successful endeavor or how the Great Barrier Reef is currently faring. Still, there are a few essays that stand the test of time, including the story of Pepsi's ill-fated attempt at marketing a morning cola or Turner's take on why it is important to tip well in Cuba. It is also interesting to read the essays chronologically to note how Turner's writing style progresses and how his interests shift from the technological world to the sustainability crisis. The topical nature of some of the essays, however, leaves the collection as a whole sinking in the waters of history. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Far and Near: On Days Like These

Neil Peart. ECW Press (Legato Publishers Group; U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $29.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-77041-257-6

This introspective account details three years of the author's "life, work, and travels" across Canada, the U.S., and Europe by motorcycle, . Peart (Far and Away: A Prize Every Time) is primarily known as the drum god/lyricist extraordinaire for Canadian prog-rock institution Rush, and while Peart often references his band in this narrative (much of his motorcycling was done in between tour dates), the bulk of this book centers on the surroundings, people, and weather encountered on his travels. Peart's writing here is personable and conversational as he catalogues the sights and sounds of the motorcycling lifestyle. These include pun-laced church signs in the Bible Belt ("Jesus Paid the Price, You Keep the Change") ancient Roman ruins in Britain, mind-melting south-western desert temperatures, foliage-lined fall byways, basalt pillars in Nova Scotia, and California's giant redwoods, among other encounters. Peart frequently discusses some of the history of the regions, and each chapter is interspersed with his occasional ruminations on life, philosophy, and music. The book is also richly detailed with road and landscape photographs from Peart's journeys, most of them taken from a motorcyclist's view. This is a fine travelogue that fans and general readers alike should enjoy. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Arts & Crafts: Living with the Arts & Crafts Style

Judith Miller. Mitchell Beazley (Hachette, dist.), $39.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-84533-943-2

In this visual encyclopedia of the British and American designers, makers, and manufacturers of the Arts and Crafts movement, Miller writes that the "style found a voice in the simple shapes and minimal decoration of the furniture created by Gustav Stickley and the Gothic and medieval designs produced by Charles Rohlfs." Sections on furniture and furnishings, including lighting and even wallpaper, emphasize these influences, from the Japanese flourishes on a mahogany sideboard by Edward William Godwin to the graphic symmetry of a Mackintosh chair. The legendary Kelmscott Press, with its beautiful books on hand-made paper; William Morris's unmatched textile designs; and Tiffany's iconic lamps are represented, but so are the lesser-known but equally important silvery toned, matte finish green vases of Teco Art Pottery and organic ceramic shapes and matte glazes of potter Artus Van Briggle. In her selections of examples from the movement, Miller shows her appreciation of the genius of these designers and their lovely, simple, effective solutions that are now synonymous with good design. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III

Janice Hadlow. Holt, $35 (704p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9656-9

Beginning with the ill-fated match of George I and Sophia Dorothea, the stage was set for the Hanoverian royals: rifts between husband and wife, and father and son, were the standard family dynamic. But in this engrossing and thorough portrait, BBC executive Hadlow reveals George III as a young man who wanted change—one who believed being a good king started with being a good person, a good husband, and a good father—and he set out to pursue a moral family life. He got off to a relatively good start, according to Hadlow, arranging a fulfilling marriage with Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, moving the family to a more private residence, and being actively involved in the informal raising of 15 children. Hadlow reveals the difficulties of living a private life in the public sphere and how, despite George III's good intentions, the tension of succession, political difficulties (including the American war of independence and conflict with the French), and a fall into fits of madness dominated royal family relations. Hadlow provides a critical, yet compassionate and intimate account of George III's trials and tribulations in undertaking to create the ideal family. Agent: Peter Robinson; Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World's Leading Neuroscientists

Edited by Gary Marcus and Jeremy Freeman. Princeton Univ., $24.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-691-16276-8

Cognitive scientist Marcus and neuroscientist Freeman intend this well organized collection of 22 essays to be an introduction to cutting-edge brain science. Yet the work suffers from three shortcomings: repetition; dense, inaccessible text; and misleading focus, i.e., rather than helping readers understand what scientists have learned about brain configuration and function, virtually every essay looks to the future and concludes that at the moment we know remarkably little. In essay after essay, the closing remarks refer to breakthroughs just over the horizon, from understanding the origin of language to the reverse engineering of the brain. A typical claim posits that "by taking advantage of an ever-growing tool kit for investigating gene function, it will at last be possible to bridge the mechanistic gaps between DNA, neurons, circuits, brains, and cognition." One essay advises readers to bear in mind that many scams were perpetrated in the name of science during the push to decipher the human genome and that scientists have a responsibility to "debunk hype, allay groundless fears, and anticipate likely ways in which efforts may be made to exploit or dupe the public." (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Juliet's Nurse

Lois Leveen. Atria/Emily Bestler, $25.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5744-5

In her second novel, Leveen (The Secrets of Mary Bowser) imagines the life of Angelica, the nurse in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. She brings mid-14th century, post-plague Verona to life with its poor, its royalty, and the battles between rival families—here called "Cappalletti" and "Montecchi." Before Angelica can grieve the loss of her own (unexpected) baby in childbirth, her husband, Pietro, a beekeeper, arranges, with the politically savvy Friar Lorenzo, for her to be the wet-nurse for the newborn Cappalletti daughter, Juliet. As the inevitable bond between babe and wet-nurse grows, we are drawn into the protected world of the ultra wealthy, seen through the eyes of the hardworking, no-nonsense but good-humored nurse. Also remarkable is the strong relationship between the nurse and her steadfast husband (in marked contrast to the stiff Cappallettis), who uses his beekeeper trade to gain access to the Cappalletti gardens and his beloved wife. The characters from Shakespeare's work become present—Lord and Lady Cappalletti, Tybalt and Mercutio, Rosaline, and the ill-fated Romeo—and Leveen adds rich new layers to the story we know so well. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Knife Fight and Other Struggles

David Nickle. ChiZine Publications (Diamond, U.S. dist.; HarperCollins Canada, Canadian dist.), $16.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-77148-304-9

While his past work has embraced the genre, it's not entirely accurate to label award-winning author David Nickle's newest collection as "horror." Yes, tropes are at play that support the classification: throughout the tales frolic possessed babies, vampires, and house-destroying worms, "[crawling] over the floor lamp, tiny bodies making an uneven pattern of curling silhouettes on the shade…[covering the] leather recliner, like a new, writhing layer of upholstery." Yet the collection as a whole belies its category. It isn't "Boo!" horror; this is the horror of uncertainty, of helplessness, of traditions and change. In Nickle's fevered imagination political disputes are settled not with debate but with blades, the combatants "stripped naked to the waist, polished with a thin slick of goose fat." The stories are sui generis in presentation, veering from the discombobulating nightmare that is "Basements" to the squid-laden eco-satire "Wylde's Kingdom" to the sci-fi love of "Loves Means Forever." When it comes to this book, only two things are certain; the stories never travel where you expect, and David Nickle is a monumental talent. Agent: Monica Pacheco, The Anne McDermid Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/17/2014 | Details & Permalink

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