Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Dark Associations"



Chico writer Marie Sutro evokes the gritty reality of police investigations in a stunning debut novel of violence, eroticism, and suspense that holds the reader in its grip until the very end. In "Dark Associations" ($9.99 in paperback from Viper Press; also for Amazon Kindle) a serial killer, a psychopath obsessed with medieval torture methods, horribly mutilates a succession of young women whose bodies each bear the brand of the ancient Norse thorn symbol.

The novel's central figure is Kate Barnes, a Special Victims Unit detective with the San Francisco Police Department, a thirty-something beauty racked by her seeming complicity in the death of her younger sister when they were kids.

She is paired with Detective Tyler Harding from Boston. He had failed to catch that city's "Tower Torturer" who killed seven young women. Harding and Barnes realize the murders have begun again, this time in San Francisco. And the new victims are all somehow connected to Kate.

Stymied, the department captain calls in FBI superstar profiler, Special Agent Ben Fraye, with whom Harding had worked in Boston in the fruitless effort to track down the "unknown subject."

Detective Barnes had not dealt with a psychopathic killer before, so Special Agent Fraye explains to her that the UNSUB "sees something in you--something he feels he can relate to." Such killers "cannot relate to others in terms of compassion and empathy" but, "oddly enough, while you can't figure them out, at least one of them seems to understand aspects of you--and you're the one accusing them of being emotionally handicapped."

Complicating matters is the growing attraction between Barnes and Fraye, Harding's own past with Kate, and a killer taking lives just because he wants to. The characters are deeply drawn and the complex plot provides surprises at every turn. The grisly details are there, but so also is a pulse-pounding story that keeps the pages turning.

Marie Sutro (mariesutro.com) will be signing copies of her book at Barnes and Noble in Chico this Saturday from 2:00-4:00 p.m. The author has also scheduled an interview with Nancy Wiegman, who hosts Nancy's Bookshelf on mynspr.org; readers can subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes at apple.co/2igUfQz.


Sunday, January 08, 2017

"Lulu Meets The King Of Poo"



Chico resident Janice Condon (janicecondon.com), a retired occupational therapist, writes in an author's note in her new children's book that "the overuse of antibiotics in childhood" took its toll when she reached middle age. She joined a local group which followed nutrition principles of the Weston A. Price Foundation (westonaprice.org), emphasizing "nutrient-dense foods" (such as raw dairy). Condon found renewed energy once her digestion improved.

Helping children care for their "bio-terrain" is at the heart of "Lulu Meets The King Of Poo" ($14.95 in paperback from Austin Macauley Publishers; also for Amazon Kindle), with colorful illustrations by Paradise's Steve Ferchaud.

A glossary at the end provides key definitions. "Bifidus" refers to "friendly bacteria living mainly in the colon (large intestine)" and "acidophilus" to "friendly bacteria living mainly in the small intestine; also the bacteria added to dairy products (as yogurt and milk)."

One night young Lulu complains of a stomach ache to her mom. It might be the result of a big piece of birthday cake she ate, but maybe anxiety over a science project she had yet to begin. Once asleep, "she had an amazing dream: she climbed into her mouth--and swallowed herself!"

In her stomach she meets a new friend. "I'm Emily Enzyme, and this is my space./ How great that you've landed in just the right place./ Your science project is what you came for./ I'll give you an incredible, digestible tour!"

From the stomach to the small intestine where Lulu meets Abby Acidophilus. "We help your food digest," she says: "We hula in the villi; that's what we do best!" (Speaking of hula, the author's website features a music video called "Do The Acidophilus Hula.")

Then Lulu puts on rubber boots for the journey to meet someone who lives in the large intestine. "Big Benny Bifidus, King of Poo! At your service. How do you do?" Benny tells Lulu that "there are more Bifidi in one quarter inch of your colon, than all the people that ever lived on Earth!" And he adds: "It's our most important duty/ We make things happen in your bootie."

Bottom line (so to speak): That microbe team is pretty gutsy.


Sunday, January 01, 2017

"That Ribbon Of Highway I: Highway 99 From The Oregon Border To Sacramento"



Old US99 was, according to Siskiyou County writer and publisher Jill Livingston, "the expedient way to move people and truckloads of locally grown produce up and down the state through the heartland. The Main Street of California."

The state highway system began construction in 1912; in 1925, thanks to a new Federal numbering system for US Highways, US99, "emblazoned on a white porcelain sign," came into existence. Today, with road and bridge realignments, parts of US99 are now just memories.

Livingston and her photographer sister Kathryn Golden Maloof formed a small press in 1996 to chart the history of the roadway. Now the first volume in the series has been updated and enlarged, and it's a joy to read.

"That Ribbon Of Highway I: Highway 99 From The Oregon Border To Sacramento" ($17.99 in paperback from Living Gold Press, livinggoldpress.com), sized for the glovebox, features a hundred photographs, from the past and present, and maps detailing the route. (Volume II takes the reader from Sacramento to the Mexican border; Volume III tracks Highway 99 through the Pacific Northwest.)

The first part traces the development of the California highway system, and Livingston's conversational style and endless curiosity draw the reader into an extraordinary tale of transformation. The story includes not just how public funding happened (and how much money was saved by painting dashes rather than continuous lines to separate the lanes), as well as the role of private auto clubs, but the development of roadside attractions.

Old motel signs and remnants of service stations recall a time when recreational driving was new. ("The town of Corning on Highway 99 is credited with having the first auto camp in California, opening in 1900 in an olive grove.")

Part 2 is a Northstate tour. Livingston notes that "in 1915 the Esplanade became part of the state highway, later US99. The center was paved with a fifteen foot wide strip of concrete." Part 3, the appendix, is a detailed guide to following the 99 trail.

It's a must-have book; besides, who would want to miss the art deco Shell station in Chico, on First Street in 1935?


Sunday, December 25, 2016

"The Day The Revolution Began: Reconsidering The Meaning Of Jesus's Crucifixion"



The Christmas story invites readers, in the words of the carol, to "Hail th'incarnate Deity." The declaration is that God has come to earth in Jesus, that Israel's true King has arrived. But few understood the path Jesus would take, that it would involve not a triumphant military conquest but instead a shameful death on a cross.

Biblical scholar N.T. Wright contends that "the New Testament insists, in book after book, that when Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross, something happened as a result of which the world is a different place. And the early Christians insisted that when people are caught up in the meaning of the cross, they become part of this difference."

Wright explains in "The Day The Revolution Began: Reconsidering The Meaning Of Jesus's Crucifixion" ($28.99 in hardcover from HarperOne; also for Amazon Kindle). (In the book's acknowledgments he mentions a number of colleagues "who have given me the benefit of their experience and insight … even though we still disagree about many things." Among them: Reformed theologian Michael Horton, who grew up in Paradise.)

The book is a popular account of Wright's claim that the death and resurrection of Jesus was the culmination of Jesus' vocation, "the one moment in history on behalf of all others through which sins would be forgiven, the powers robbed of their power, and humans redeemed to take their place as worshippers and stewards…."

Wright insists that the crucifixion is not the story of an angry God, fed up with humans and out to kill them all, with Jesus stepping in at the last moment and taking the wrath upon himself. Instead, "for the early Christians, the revolution had happened on the first Good Friday. The 'rulers and authorities' really had been dealt their death blow."

That makes it possible for humans to "embrace the 'covenant of vocation' or, rather, be embraced by it as the Creator calls you to a genuine humanness at last, calls and equips you to bear and reflect his image" and turn away from misplaced worship of money or sex, "when the power of love overcame the love of power."


Sunday, December 18, 2016

"A Short Golden Life … The Town Of Bidwell At Bidwell's Bar 1848-1860: Volume II"



"In 1998, as a volunteer for the Bidwell Bar Association at Lake Oroville Visitor Center," Chuck Smay writes, "I set up a three-ring binder titled The History of Bidwell's Bar In One Place. … That started a fifteen-year search."

Several years ago Smay published his findings as "Town Of Bidwell At Bidwell's Bar: Boom To Bust, 1848-1860," but now comes a new book, twice as long as the first, with new source material.

"A Short Golden Life … The Town Of Bidwell At Bidwell's Bar 1848-1860: Volume II" ($30 in paperback, published in association with the Butte County Historical Society) is available at the Society's Museum Store, 1749 Spencer Avenue (at Baldwin) in Oroville (buttecountyhistoricalsociety.org) or through Lulu.com (http://bit.ly/bidwellsbar). Additional materials are at bidwellthetown.com. The book contains historical photographs, 50 pages of endnotes, and a name index.

In the Foreword, Smay writes: "As you read, allow your senses to hear the distant bells on the freight wagon as it descends the hill into town, and the responding whinny of the horses milling about … sense the terror of the nighttime fire burning the town's buildings as you helplessly watch the destruction."

The book is far more than a collection of historical documents. Smay writes a narrative that weaves together the lives of business and political figures, and ordinary citizens, so that the reader senses the vibrancy of this Butte County mining town.

It was once the county seat but found itself "locked in a bitter political struggle" with Oroville; it was a community which burned twice (in 1854 and again in 1859); and a place which ultimately was inundated by the waters of the Oroville Dam project.

The final chapter details the fate of the Mother Orange Tree, a Bidwell legacy that lives on. The plaque near its protected enclosure in Oroville notes that the Mediterranean sweet orange seedling, first planted at Bidwell's Bar, is in large measure the origin of California's citrus industry.

Smay closes with a sweet confession. The fruit, he writes, tastes "like tangerine" but "more important than the taste was the feeling of being connected with the past!"


Sunday, December 11, 2016

"Searching For The City Of Love"



"I woke up … in a hostel to expect nothing less than to discover the beautiful city of Barcelona. But then I met you. … Maybe the fortune teller forgot to say that if I were to fall in love with a traveler like you, we would wash away in the Mediterranean Sea along with our footprints in the sand."

"Searching For The City Of Love" ($13.99 in paperback from AuthorHouse; also for Amazon Kindle), by Anna Quimpo Maguire (facebook.com/annaquimpomaguire), presents in free verse and prose poems a quiet meditation about love's loss and memory's place. It is a journey of realization.

The eighteen-year-old Paradise author is the owner of a blog called Three States of Mind (threestatesofmind.tumblr.com), which features her poetry.

She began writing after taking a poetry workshop when she was twelve, and hasn't stopped. In an email, she observes that "free verse poetry gives people the ability to raise their voice without rules. I would wish for young writers to not be afraid to share their work."

In "Searching," the poet comes to terms with what is not to be: "You were my every wish// That I thought would be granted/ But we woke up from our dream/ And the universe pulled you away/ I thought your love was promised to me// You and I never came true."

Each poem is set off as a small chapter accompanied by an evocative image. "Maybe Barcelona should be called the city of love. I've fallen in love with this place, and you've made me love it even more."

But "You left for Morocco this morning, just like I'm leaving to go home to California in 2 weeks. … Our hearts wander just like we do. It's the price you have to pay being a traveler."

And then, in another poem: "You can find magnificence in every part of the world/ Wandering is not measured in distance/ You just have to open your eyes."

"My dreams are embedded in the sand," the poet writes, "I am the waves that collide with the shoreline/ Washing into the land/ I will float away eventually/ And drift to every coast/ To find another dream."


Sunday, December 04, 2016

"The Road To Cherokee: A California Epic"



"September 23, 1880, was a gala day in Chico. … President Rutherford B. Hayes and a party … were entertained by General Bidwell at the Mansion. … The next day, the party visited Cherokee where there was … a great banquet served in the Company's blacksmith shop."

"By 1880, the Spring Valley Company had at Cherokee one of the most completely equipped and largest hydraulic mines in California. This was the giant that Sam Morris and the valley farmers were fighting, in which they spent over ten years of unremitting battle, and success was still not yet in sight."

Sam Morris is the fictional creation of Mary Ray McIntyre King, poet and "the first female attorney in Butte County," who at her death in 1949 in Oroville was working on the final draft of a novel.

"The Road To Cherokee: A California Epic" ($24.95 in paperback from ANCHR, anchr.org) is that novel. It's available at The Bookstore (Chico), My Girlfriend’s Closet (Paradise), Discount Books (Oroville), the Butte County Historical Society (Oroville), and the Gridley Museum. My advice: Get it now.

"The Road" was brought to the attention of the Association for Northern California Historical Research by Jean Whiles, King's granddaughter, and was edited, with explanatory footnotes, a biography of the author, historical introduction, and numerous photographs, by Nancy Leek, Ron Womack, Charles Copeland, and Josie Smith.

It's the first work of fiction published by ANCHR but so rooted in the historical record that it's a must-have not only for fans of historical romance but local history buffs. Why was it that, in 1884, "the whole prosperous system of hydraulic mining went broke overnight"?

The novel begins in 1857 with two intertwined families setting out for "Californy": Sam Morris (who seeks land of his own) and his bride, Becky; and Sam's brother-in-law Tom Norman (who wants gold) and his wife, Cynthia.

King writes in an Afterword that "the Road to Cherokee is now only a country road, … a forgotten road back into the past, and the saga of gold and hydraulic mining, and bitter old feuds and personal tragedies." King brings that emotional story to life. It is a triumph.