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300 Sandwiches

Stephanie Smith. Zinc Ink, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-553-39160-2

Smith, a senior reporter for the New York Post, had her 15 minutes of fame in September, 2013, when the Post ran an article on her attempt to woo her boyfriend into marriage via his stomach. "Honey, you are 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring," he told her. Thus began a marathon of meats and cheeses, which led to a blog (300sandwiches.com), which in turn led to feminist and anti-feminist responses, an appearance on the Today Show, and now to this memoir-cookbook hybrid with a release date conveniently set two and a half weeks before Smith's wedding. As memoirs go, this one is easily digestible in one or two sittings, and involves a lot of—not surprisingly—sandwich making, along with healthy doses of engagement anxiety and envy-inducing vacationing. The froth is counterbalanced by the poignant tale of Smith's relationship with her dying father, which effectively hijacks the narrative for the better. The recipes, a handful of each at the end of every chapter, include pheasant sliders, gingerbread cookie sandwiches, sweet and sour Sloppy Joes, and a chicken and waffle BLT. There is also a collection of "Forbidden Sandwiches," made with ingredients her fiancé despises. These, of course, prove irresistible to Smith when she gets to make them for herself. (May)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Let the Elephants Run: Unlock Your Creativity and Change Everything

David Usher. House of Anansi (PGW, U.S. dist.; HarperCollins Canada, Canadian dist.), $24.95 (227p) ISBN 978-1-77089-868-4

Usher's debut is a guidebook to help readers awaken their own creativity. Best known for his career as rock musician, Usher also runs a company called CloudID Creativity Labs, which has furthered his knowledge of the creative process in a multi-disciplinary way. He strongly believes that creativity is a crucial part of our modern world, shaping many things beyond what is typically considered artistic endeavours. With a conversational style, he aims to help readers overcome self-doubt, connect with their own innate abilities and passions, and then put their ideas into motion. Each chapter outlines a creativity-related concept, often something gleaned from other artists, authors, and innovators. The reader is encouraged to follow through with a corresponding action item to break out of old habits and patterns and discover fresh ways of thinking and doing. The design invites marginalia, and Usher asks readers to draw, dream, and explore as they read. The entire book is also visually stunning, with beautifully chosen photos, typography, and graphics throughout. Combining hard data and personal experience, Usher offers inspiration and a clear map to creativity. (May)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Sea Fever: The True Adventures That Inspired Our Greatest Maritime Authors, from Conrad to Masefield, Melville, and Hemingway

Sam Jefferson. Bloomsbury/Adlard Coles Nautical Press, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4729-0881-0

Taking its title from a John Masefield poem, Jefferson's study of how seafaring has influenced great American and English writers has moments of great charm but ultimately falls flat. Jefferson, a maritime historian, covers household names like Ernest Hemingway, who had a passion for big-game fishing; James Fenimore Cooper, whom Jefferson considers the first of the modern nautical novelists; and Herman Melville, whose experiences aboard a whaling ship found voice in his great masterpiece, Moby-Dick. Jefferson pinpoints 18th-century satirist Tobias Smollett as the first to write convincingly about the sea and ship life, after serving in the Royal Navy as a surgeon's mate. Other authors covered include Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Joseph Conrad. Jefferson writes in a winsome, casual, somewhat hyperbolic style, and clearly loves both the sea and his equally salty subjects, but that may not be enough to engage even those readers generally interested in the authors whose work he analyzes. Jefferson cheerfully confesses that he is not writing as a literary critic or a scholar, rather offering a mostly descriptive, occasionally speculative account of the convergence of seafaring and literature. His intense focus offers some revelations, but more often provokes a feeling that the big picture is being obscured by this microscopic approach. Illus. (May)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Many Faces, One Voice

Bud Mikhitarian. Central Recovery, $17.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-937612-93-1

Mikhitarian provides a thoughtful, empathetic look at the disease of substance addiction and the redemption of recovery in this tome, which follows his 2013 documentary on the same subject, The Anonymous People. Director Greg D. Williams and the author—both in recovery themselves—came up with the idea of compiling a book after having to edit one too many compelling stories out of the 88-minute film. In contrast to the traditional first-name-only policy of 12-step programs, many of those interviewed here give full names, including former Miss U.S.A. Tara Conner, former U.S. Congressman Jim Ramstad, and journalist Laurie Dhue. What they all share is a deep commitment to overcoming alcohol or drug dependency, and a fervent desire to help others do the same. The focus is not on scaring readers straight but on giving them a new sense of optimism while reducing the stigma attached to addiction. The book also traces the history of addiction and recovery, including anti-drug and alcohol legislation and the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. Both the film and book take their names from phrases common to AA. Since anonymity is a central tenet of AA and other 12-step programs, Mikhitarian discusses the paradox of balancing anonymity with advocacy. This book will offer hope to those recovering from substance abuse, as well as to family members and friends striving to understand the disease and help those suffering. (May)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Getting There: A Book of Mentors

Gillian Zoe Segal. Abrams Image, $27.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1570-9

Segal (New York Characters) does exactly what her title promises: she delivers thought-provoking advice from some of the world's best-known success stories. The collection consists of short first-person essays in which individuals from different creative and entrepreneurial fields share their life experiences and words of wisdom. The strength of this work is in its organization and its interesting and varied slate of contributors. Warren Buffett describes his personal idea of success ("As you grow older, the people who you hope love you actually do"). Anderson Cooper talks about plunging headfirst into fear while starting out as a freelance news reporter equipped with nothing but a home video camera. Kathy Ireland discusses prioritizing time while she worked to create her own business. Perhaps less engaging are Segal's photo portraits of each speaker, which don't particularly seem to capture the subjects' personalities as revealed in their essays. Regardless, this is a book that belongs on the shelves of anyone (perhaps especially anyone young) who's searching for meaningful pursuits as well as career success. 30 color photos. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (May)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica

Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Cleis, $15.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-62778-125-1

Prolific editor Bussel (Best Bondage Erotica 2015) collects 24 appealing shorts featuring sexual devices in mostly lighthearted, contemporary stories that show daring couples exploring together. Diversity and humor enhance some of the best entries: a transgender dildo salesman demonstrates his wares to the woman he discovers walking his lost dog in "Lost and Pounded" by Zee Giovanni; an older woman reminisces about a past lover while pleasuring herself with fresh produce in "Vegetable Love" by Susan St. Aubin. And though some of the creative devices—like the strange invention of Malin James's "The Prototype," the sex doll of Giselle Renarde's "Must Love Dolls," and the bee-infused ceramic and crystal dildo of Kamala St. Deed's "Byrd and the Bees"—almost become characters in their own right, pieces like Dildo E. Bellamy's "The Superman" reassure readers that inanimate objects won't supplant people. The only story that really falls flat is Livia Ellis's "My Life as a Vibrator," which takes the first-person perspective of a sex toy. Those who were drawn to Fifty Shades of Grey for its paraphernalia will find this an approachable next step, straightforward enough for new erotica readers and perfect for the reader with her own toys in hand. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Cortez on Jupiter

Ernest Hogan. Digital Parchment Services/Strange Particle (digitalparchmentservices.com), $12.99 trade paper (191p) ISBN 978-1-5025-6169-5

Hogan's debut, first published in 1990, introduced the subgenre of Chicano SF to a startled, dazzled American audience. Now, 25 years later, the book's Spanglish prose and freeform plot still amuse. All Pablo Cortez cares about is creating art, whether it's humongous graffiti sprayed across Los Angeles or zero-gravity paint slinging in space. Uncool authorities and timid collaborators can't stop him. When he confronts the alien Sirens of Jupiter, who have zapped the minds of earlier explorers, he takes their overwhelming flood of bizarre images as subject matter for new masterpieces. Hogan keeps Pedro's obsessive rants from becoming too intense by working them into a collage of comments from friends and enemies, along with hefty chunks of Aztec mythology, as he builds a jangling, rambunctious picture of artistic genius. This is tons of fun for freethinking readers who appreciate heroes with cojones. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Not Until You

Roni Loren. Berkley, $16 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-425-27503-0

Originally presented an eight-part e-serial, this erotic romance is listed as book 3.5 in Loren's BDSM-themed Loving on the Edge series, now collected in print for the first time. Newly graduated, innocent veterinarian Marcela Medina has a huge crush on her sexy neighbors, Pike (a rock star) and Foster (a businessman). When she finally gives in and accepts their offer of company, she swiftly discovers a submissive streak that leaves the dominant Foster surprised and intrigued. Together, they discover new heights of passion, as Foster unleashes virginal Cela's sensual side. But the more intense their relationship gets, the more frightened Cela becomes of her newfound fulfillment in submitting to Foster, while he struggles with the idea of actually falling in love with her. Loren's depiction of a couple finding their balance through BDSM is safe, sane, consensual, and blisteringly hot, an ideal interpretation of an oft-misunderstood lifestyle. The romance is as emotionally satisfying as the erotic sessions are vivid and stimulating, and the characters are worth rooting for. Agent: Sara Megibow, Nelson Literary Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Broken

Cynthia Eden. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-234956-9

Eden (the Dark Obssession series) launches a suspense series with a fast-paced and erotic thriller about the Last Option Search Team (LOST), an Atlanta-based private agency that specializes in tracking down missing persons. LOST founder Gabe, a former Navy SEAL, falls almost instantly for Eve, an amnesiac who comes to LOST convinced she's a survivor of an Alabama serial murderer called the Lady Killer. Eve falls just as hard for Gabe, and when her life is threatened, the LOST team heads to Alabama's Gulf Coast to get answers. Eden isn't shy about getting her characters together right away. The romance and mystery are both uncomplicated, but the suspense is ratcheted up constantly, and the large group of secondary characters ensures both danger and some gruesome deaths. With a solid cast of LOST employees as future protagonists (all with their own dark backgrounds and secrets) and plenty of well-delivered romance and sex, this novel works well on its own and as a starting point for the series. Agent: Curtis Brown, Curtis Brown, Ltd. (U.K.). (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Hard as a Rock

Christine Warren. St. Martin's Paperbacks, $7.99 mass market (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-01267-8

Warren's third book of the paranormal romance Gargoyles series (after Stone Cold Lover) is an alluring, fast-moving tale with a wry, gutsy heroine and a sexy-as-sin hero. The Guardians who protect humans from the Order of Eternal Darkness have been turned into stone statues, and human Wardens need to find and revive them before the Order destroys them. Wynn Powe, a witch and healer, resents that women aren't permitted to be Wardens. She goes searching for a statue in an old mansion but finds only fragments. When she's attacked by the property's caretaker, a Guardian appears in fierce warrior form. Knox, a newbie Guardian whose human form is walking sex magnet, cannot believe the audacity of the feisty human witch; she both dispels his expectations of humans and is curiously fascinating. As Knox is brought up to speed on the activities of the Order, Wynn attempts to decipher her missing Warden brother's to-do list while resisting her attraction to Knox. A quirky ex-Warden uncle and a super hacker friend help with the mission, while seductive kisses and sizzling intimacy smooth out the edges in Wynn and Knox's relationship. This is a fiery, fierce, and fun outing in a series that has staying power. Agent: Ethan Ellenberg, Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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