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A 4-Week Meal-by-Meal Makeover

Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman. S&S/Touchstone, $24.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5329-4

In the wake of the popular book Forks over Knives (which was also made into a film), physicians Pulde and Lederman (coauthors of Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole) explain how readers can change over to a whole-food, plant-based diet. Part I lays out the science behind the lifestyle/diet, which focuses on "fruit, vegetables, tubers and starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes" (meat, oils, eggs, and dairy are excluded). In Part II, readers are led chapter by chapter through the four-week transition to the Forks over Knives breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with week four devoted to"fine-tuning your lifestyle" and being prepared to deal with dining out, travel, and socializing. To their credit, Pulde and Lederman admit that some lifestyle changes may not come easily or swiftly for all and encourage readers to move at their own pace. Part III serves up 100 recipes from chefs Darshana Thacker and Del Sroufe, ranging from simple breakfast smoothies to Polenta Curry. Those new to the plan may be surprised that portion control is out the window; because, as the authors point out, plant-based foods have a lower calorie density, larger portions are required to maintain satiety (without weight gain). This is a worthy addition to the growing Forks over Knives library. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History

Jeff Greenfield. Putnam, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-399-16696-9

The premise of Greenfield's alternate history, a follow-up to 2011's Then Everything Changed, is certainly a fascinating one, fleshing out plausible scenarios of what might have happened had J.F.K. survived his trip to Dallas. Illustrating how often minor things can change the course of history, rain causes the bubble top on the presidential limo to stay on, thereby preventing Oswald's shots from proving fatal. The imagined fate of L.B.J., Kennedy's 1964 reelection campaign, and U.S. involvement in Vietnam are all believable, though Greenfield can't resist some throwaway lines that undermine the suspension of disbelief (e.g., " ‘Makes sense,' Al Gore Jr. said. ‘It'd be damned hard for a national candidate to lose his home state'"). Perhaps more fitting than plausible is what Jackie decides to do, in the light of her husband's philandering, after the couple leave the White House in 1969. In Greenfield's scenario, the overall arc of JFK's political career post 11/22/63 is logical and supports the point of such speculations—to better understand what did happen by looking at the alternatives. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction

S.T. Joshi. Hippocampus (www.hippocampuspress.com), $40 (804p) ISBN 978-1-61498-089-6

Joshi (American Supernatural Tales)—the world's foremost authority on H.P. Lovecraft and one of the great living scholars of weird fiction—delivers an opinionated but insightful two-volume history of supernatural fiction that will likely become one of the touchstone texts for future studies of the literature. Although he dates the origin of supernatural horror fiction to the 18th century—when "science (and human knowledge as a whole) had advanced to the point where certain objects or events [the ghost, the witch, the vampire, et al.] could be stated with fair certainty to be impossible or, at best, highly improbable"—he nonetheless begins his study more than three-and-a-half millennia earlier, with a chapter that tracks weird motifs in classic Sumerian, Greek, and Roman texts, and works from the Middle Ages and Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. In a brilliant and exhaustive chapter on the Gothic novel—the first true works of supernatural literature—he establishes the key themes and approaches that dominate supernatural horror to this day. This chapter also sets the pattern for the rest of the book, insofar as Joshi points out that the preponderance of writing in the Gothic era—as in any discrete era of the genre—is mediocre, derivative, and trite. Joshi lavishes his greatest praise on the titans of supernatural fiction—Poe, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, Lord Dunsany, Ambrose Bierce, and (of course) Lovecraft—but he doesn't flinch from goring sacred bulls, among them J. Sheridan Le Fanu, who is generally revered as a 19th-century god of ghostly fiction but criticized for doing "almost nothing to advance the field of supernatural literature." Joshi reserves his sharpest judgments for contemporary horror writers, especially popular bestsellers, dismissing Stephen King as "a schlockmeister—just the literary equivalent of all the B movies and comic books he digested in his youth." At the same time, he champions the work of a number of modern writers whose works have not found a large readership, among them Ramsey Campbell, Ted Klein, David J. Schow, and Caitlín Kiernan. The vast scope of this study limits Joshi primarily to tackling his subjects in author studies only several paragraphs long, rather than discussing the fiction in a broader cultural context. Regardless, the totality of his research is impressive, and the opinions he expresses are likely to compel readers to seek out the authors and works under scrutiny to make their own appraisals. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Trees Up Close: The Beauty of Bark, Leaves, Flowers and Seeds

Nancy Ross Hugo and Robert Llewellyn. Timber, $15 paper (200p) ISBN 978-1604695823

If ever a case is to be made for ignoring the forest for the trees, Hugo and Llewellyn makes it with these beautiful 169 color photographs -- many magnified -- that are a study celebrating "tree watching," the act of taking time and applying intention to enjoy the visual details of the tree, in all its idiosyncratic habits and varied seasonal expressions. A "practiced tree watcher knows there are dozens of seasons, not just four -- and that one of them, for example, could be called ‘acorns plumping out,'" they write. The narrative of looking closely at a tree begins with a chapter titled Leaves. Highlighting venation, pinnation, and serration, the detailed photographs lend stunning individuality to foliage. Subsequent chapters (Flowers and Cones, Fruit and Seeds; Bud and Leaf Scars; Bark and Twigs) fill out the narrative that brings full circle the seasonal life cycle of trees as exotic as the mimosa and as ordinary as the maple. Seeing them in this intimate detail introduces the universe that is the tree, which ought not to be lost in the forest. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Sgt. Reckless: America's War Horse

Robin Hutton. Regnery History, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62157-263-3

Animals have been used in war for thousands of years, but few U.S. military animals attained the notoriety of Reckless, a sorrel mare small for her size that joined the Marines during the Korean War, and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. Employed to help move heavy recoilless rifles and ammunition across steep and treacherous terrain, Reckless proved a quick learner, knowing when to take cover and when to proceed. Her true value and dedication was made apparent in the field, where she proved she could do the work of 10 marines. Reckless regularly proved her bravery and endurance, making precarious trips hauling ammunition to soldiers in need, often during heavy fire. Once home, news of her promotion to Staff Sergeant quickly spread, though that notoriety has since faded. Author Hutton aims to correct that, having spent over eight years researching the remarkable story of Reckless and gathering many of the photos shared here; stories of fellow soldiers litter the book, backing up claims of her bravery and playful personality (not to mention her love of food and beer). Hutton's passion and admiration for her subject (she also heads an effort to create a monument to Reckless) shines through in this sparkling and engaging portrait of a most remarkable and courageous animal. Photos. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Maverick of Copper Creek

R.C. Ryan. Grand Central/Forever, $8 mass market (400p) ISBN 978-1-4555-7225-0

The magic of Ryan's best work is missing from this perfunctory effort, which kicks off the Montana-set Copper Creek Cowboys series. The contemporary reunion romance between Ash MacKenzie and Brenna Crane offers little that is new. Ash, the first son of a legendary rancher, leaves behind his sweetheart, Brenna, to strike out on his own. He returns home a decade later following the murder of his father and learns that his onetime love is engaged to an ambitious government official. The murder is not the focus of the suspense subplot; by the story's midpoint it becomes clear that sweet, kind, and loving Brenna is in grave danger. Though the MacKenzie family dynamic is a strong point and Ash and Brenna share a nice chemistry, Ryan (aka Ruth Langan) does a poor job of foreshadowing true colors of Brenna's fiancé and an even worse one maintaining the secrecy of the villain's identity. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Electric City

Elizabeth Rosner. Counterpoint, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-61902-346-8

In her structurally flawed multigenerational tale, Rosner (Blue Nude) explores the history of "Electric City," the New York town along the Mohawk River where Thomas Edison chose to relocate Edison Machine Works (later General Electric), his research and manufacturing enterprise "that would light up the world." The bulk of the novel alternates between two eras of the company town. The first begins in 1919 and focuses on Charles Proteus Steinmetz, a physically deformed mathematician known as the "Wizard of Electric City." Steinmetz is conducting cutting-edge research on manmade lightning generators while developing a spiritually rewarding friendship with a Native American named Joseph Longboat. The narrative then switches to the latter half of the 1960s when the company embarks on series of layoffs that harbinger Electric City's decline. We meet Sophie Levine, a high school student whose Dutch-Jewish father works for the famous company begins a romance with Henry Van Curler, the privileged son of a storied Electric City family. Sophie is also intrigued by Martin Longboat, the rebellious grandson of Joseph Longboat who is interested in Steinmetz's life and works. The novel fails to achieve a balance between the earnest but stale teenage love story and the portrait of Steinmetz, which is informative but often dramatically inert. Throughout, the writing is flooded with countless electrical metaphors, which generate thematic unity if not a particularly galvanizing tale. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Eldritch Chrome: Unquiet Tales of a Mythos-Haunted Future

Edited by Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass. Chaosium (www.chaosium.com), $17.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-5688238-9-8

This mixed bag of 18 short stories adds little to the countless volumes of fiction inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. The introduction illustrates the challenge the editors set for themselves—the stories are all set in a near future Cyberpunk world—but arming the "Cyberpunk Cthulhu hero" with "high-tech weapons and other advances at their disposal" changes nothing, because "to beings where time has no meaning, beings so technologically advanced that their actions seem supernatural or powered by magic, no human has the edge." There are a few entries that succeed in being more than a thin narrative punctuated with a twist ending intended to shock. Michael Tice's "Inlibration" opens with an Internet-age appropriate tweaking of the opening of "The Call of Cthulhu": "The most wonderful thing in the world, I think, is the ability of the augmented human mind to correlate all its contents." The story goes on to be yet another search for the Necronomicon, but the framing device is clever. "CL3ANS3," by Carrie Cuinn, is also well done, with horrors spawned in part by the relentless drive to turn all of human experience into accessible data. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel

Lee Child. Delacorte, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-8041-7874-7

A sniper threatens the forthcoming G8 conference, to be held at a stately manor outside London, in Thriller Award–finalist Childs's clever, deceptively straightforward 19th Jack Reacher novel (after 2013's Never Go Back). Protected by a glass shield, the French president escapes unharmed when someone fires a shot at him while he's delivering an outdoor address in Paris. One of only four people in the world could have fired the 50-calibre bullet with such accuracy from a distance of 1,400 yards. One is John Kott, a former Special Forces soldier, who was recently released from prison, where Reacher helped put him 15 years earlier for killing an Army sergeant in a fight. Gen. Tom O'Day, of whom Reacher is wary, manages to recruit the peripatetic former M.P. to look into the matter. Reacher first visits Kott's empty house in rural Arkansas before traveling to Paris and finally to London, where he tangles with gangsters en route to trying to stop the sniper from striking again. Reacher's keen analytic mind in action will entertain readers as much as the assorted physical means he uses to take down the bad guys. Agent: Darley Anderson, Darley Anderson Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Wolf Centos

Simone Muench. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-936747-79-5

Muench (Orange Crush), a winner of the Marianne Moore Prize for Poetry and 2013 NEA Fellowship recipient, successfully restricts herself to the cento form in her fifth collection, repurposing the lines and fragments of other writers. "Every transformation is possible," Muench writes, eschewing narrative obligations to create poems in which each iteration of the wolf adds something intangible to this complex world. The words, gleaned and repurposed from over 200 sources, have an exponential emotional impact; Muench manages to amplify her own creative power through the megaphone of literary history as she cobbles together a series of modern, sensual, and urgent short poems that howl about self, desire, and song. "In the space of a half-open gold door/ your body's animals want to get out," Muench names a still-present, lurking, unnamable wildness. She uses old words to point to a still contemporary connection between poetry and the primal, demonstrating the consistent importance of language, despite all obstructions: "Night in all things: in corners, in men's eyes—/bees in a dried-out hive. Thus we forget/ that only words still stand like tar fires in the woods." Thus, Muench advises: "Sing with big blue tongue,/ sing until it breaks the night—/ black champagne, a lamentation." (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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