Tag Archives: Pasadena

Book Lovers

My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, edited by Ronald Rice (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, $23.95, 384 pages)

My Bookstore (313x475)

In My Bookstore, edited by Ronald Rice, numerous authors pay tribute to their favored bookstores, which are usually, but not always, the ones located near their homes. Eighty-one bookstores are examined, including three of the best, essential bookstores — Powell’s Books of Portland, Vroman’s Bookstore of Pasadena, and the University Book Store in Seattle (across from the University of Washington). Chuck Palahnuik explains that the city-block sized Powell’s is divided into color-coded rooms and “…each of these rooms is the size of most independent bookstores.”

Californians will be pleased to see that ten of the state’s bookstores, including two in San Francisco, are lovingly described here. (But San Franciscans will be shocked to find that both City Lights Books and Dog Eared Books are excluded.) Only 3 of these “favorite places to browse, read, and shop” happen to be in southern California. The underlying message of these accounts is that one-on-one service counts. These private businesses have thrived and survived the onslaughts of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and now-departed mega-chains.

This collection of essays will no doubt cause some to visit bookstores that they were previously unaware of. And perhaps at some point Mr. Rice will ask book reviewers to write about their favorite places, and this reader will shed a light on Orinda Books and Lyon Books of Chico.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Note: City Lights Books is located at 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway in San Francisco. Dog Eared Books is located at 900 Valencia Street in the Mission District of The City. Both are worth paying a visit to.

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Telstar

Trader of Secrets: A Paul Madriani Novel by Steve Martini (William Morrow, $26.99, 392 pages)

Be prepared for globe-trotting action as Steve Martini launches his most recent Paul Madriani thriller at a full throttle.   This pace is maintained as the action shifts among key players and the locales where they are hiding, cooking up mayhem or stalking human prey.

Martini’s fans will be pleased that the story picks up the thread of danger and fear that Madriani’s nemesis, Liquida Muerte, has brought to previous novels.   The nucleus of characters includes his attorney partner Harry Hinds, lady friend Joselyn Cole and, of course, Madriani’s beloved daughter, Sarah.   Further out from the inner circle are Thorpe at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and his cohort of spies and snitches.   The premise, locating and stopping terrorists bent on producing the means for destroying key targets in the U.S., creates tension and no end of drama.   The subplot is pure Martini – fierce papa Madriani needs to assure the safety of Sarah and will do most anything to secure it.

”I knew it.   I knew it.   This thing smelled the minute I got that call from the White House.”   Thorpe got out of his chair, waiving the cigarette around like a torch.   “So now they dump it on us to find these guys, and if we fail, it’s our ass in the flames.   And if that’s not enough, they want to play hide the ball.   They can’t tell us what it’s about.   Son of a bitch,” said Thorpe.   “Damn it!”

The focus on wicked scientist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California seems a bit like the reverse play on the TV show NUMB3RS where brilliant scientists solved ugly crime with math and physics.   The doubts about who’s the good guy and who’s the self-centered monster make the plot twists and turns all the more enjoyable.   Martini knows how to play out the suspense and snap to a conclusion, segue to more action and never miss a beat.

While some thriller series may lose their vitality, thankfully, the Madriani franchise is clearly not one of them.   This reviewer is looking forward to the next installment from Steve Martini’s vivid imagination.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Martini is a crafty pro.”   The Washington Post

“Martini has created one of the most charismatic defense attorneys in popular fiction.”   Linda Fairstein

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Trader of Secrets: A Paul Madriani Novel by Steve Martini.

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Wesley the Owl

Wesley

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien (Atria Books, $16.00, 256 pages)

“Wesley changed my life.   … I wondered if he was actually an angel who had been sent to live with me and help me through all the alone times.   He comforted me; many times I cried into his feathers and told him my troubles, and he tried to understand.”

These are words that come near the end of this true love story about an adopted barn owl named Wesley, who lived for 19 years with author Stacey O’Brien.   O’Brien was a young biologist, trained in wild animal behavior at Caltech in Pasadena, when she adopted the baby owl with the injured wing, knowing that he would not survive in the wild.

What O’Brien did not know at that time was that she was literally following in the footsteps of her maternal grandmother, who had adopted a barn owl that had been injured by dogs and had named it Weisel.   This explained the long-time mystery of why her grandmother had lived in a home filled with owl dolls and figurines.

O’Brien’s story takes us from Wesley’s adoption at a mere four days old to his death from cancer after what amounted to a remarkably long life for a barn owl.   Anyone who owns a cat or dog will identify with O’Brien’s discoveries about her “wild animal.”   Wesley loves to preen and groom, to tell her about the events of the day, and to attack “prey” such as pencils and film cannisters.   Wesley also understands the difference between words like tonight, tomorrow and (in) two hours.   Most importantly, Wesley attaches himself to his owner as a lifelong surrogate mate, since barn owls have but one partner in life (although Wesley was often tempted by the wild female barn owls who hovered outside the window of his San Diego canyon area apartment).

Wesley teaches O’Brien about trust, commitment and love; as she puts it, “It’s the Way of the Owl.   You commit for life, you finish what you start, you give your unconditional love, and that is enough.”

O’Brien learns, via Wesley’s life and death, that “If all I had to give was love, that was enough.”   Her life was forever changed by knowing Wesley, the intelligent and loving barn owl, and the reader is blessed by having access to the story of this very remarkable and very special relationship.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

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