Between the Lines: Season's readings – and plenty of them

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7AANDE

One way to mark the changing seasons is by cruising the new titles coming from publishers. For instance, summertime books trend toward seaside romances and high adventure. Fall books feature A-list authors and a much wider range of genres.

As September moves toward December, bookstore shelves and online sites get more crowded with holiday-themed reads, like this sampling:

• "Angels at the Table" by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine, $18, 240 pages): A trio of well-meaning but slightly ditzy angels – Shirley, Goodness and Mercy – return for another adventure in "angelic intervention," once again bringing a holiday miracle to lonely strangers.

• "Eleven Pipers Piping" by C.C. Benison (Delacorte, $24, 496 pages): "Clerical sleuth" Father Tom Christmas must deliver grace at the annual (and somewhat raucous) Robert Burns Supper at the local inn. When the innkeeper is found dead from an apparent heart attack, the vicar senses something is amiss.

• "A Winter Dream" by Richard Paul Evans (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 288 pages): Here, "the master of the holiday novel" reweaves the biblical story of Joseph and the coat of many colors. In this version, a young man at odds with his family, and who has lost everything, must start over by first confronting his troubled past.

• "The Ghost of Christmas Present" by Scott Abbott and Amy Maude Swinton (Howard Books, $16.99, 240 pages): A widower is in danger of losing his son to court-appointed guardians, then saves the day when he is struck by a strange idea: Dress and act the role of the Ghost of Christmas Present from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," to "change the lives of all who come his way" – including his vindictive father-in-law.

• "Christmas in Cornwall" by Marcia Willett (Thomas Dunne, $25.99, 320 pages): Another Christmas comes to a close, but the holiday spirit lives on for Dossie, her family and friends. Is it enough to see them through a threat that may mean an end to their Christmases to come? This is Willett's 13th Christmas-centered, family-oriented book.

• "A Christmas Home" by Greg Kincaid (Crown, $16, 240 pages): Todd and Laura work in an animal shelter, where they bond over a Labrador retriever named Christmas and a rescue dog named Gracie. All is well until a few weeks before Christmas, when word comes down that the shelter is about to be closed. Is a Christmas miracle too much to ask for?

• "A Christmas Garland" by Anne Perry (Ballantine, $18, 208 pages): Perry is a master of the holiday mystery novel, having written 10. This year, she sets her annual story in turbulent 1857 India, where an innocent man is arrested in connection with a series of "baffling" murders.

• "Christmas in Tinseltown" by Frank DeCaro (HCI, $14.95, 240 pages): Somewhat macabre for the holidays, but fascinating in itself is this collection of "celebrity recipes (from) and Hollywood memories (about)" deceased movie stars. As behind-the-scenes gossip, it's dishy; as a cookbook, it's retro. Recipes include Danny Kaye's stir-fried oysters and shrimp, Judy Garland's ham casserole with sherry, and Elvis Presley's hushpuppies.

It'll take place in snow

On the phone with Davis-based science-fiction novelist Kim Stanley Robinson, whose "Mars" and "Three Californias" series are legendary in the genre.

"I'm finishing a novel set in the ice age, about the people who made the paintings in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in southern France, about 32,000 years ago," he said. "I do a lot of snow camping in the Sierra, and I put my snow knowledge into it and tried to explain how we became who we are now.

"It's only science and archaeology that allow us to write historical fiction with any accuracy," Robinson added. "So it's kind of science fiction in a way."

The title? "My publisher and I are still discussing that," he said. "It will be out in September. In the meantime, I'll bash away at something else."

Library 'swap meet'

The Sacramento Central Library will host a book, CD and DVD "swap meet," 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 30 at the library, 828 I St.

A library spokesman added: "Celebrate the approaching new year by having conversations with friends and friendly strangers about the music, movies and books they like. Receive 'Central Bucks' to trade for books, CDs and DVDs that others will bring to the library's 'swap and meet' event."

More information, (916) 264-2920, www.saclibrary.org.

Get California Northern

Issue No. 6 of Sacramento-based California Northern magazine is available for $6.95 at bookstores and newsstands, as well as at Whole Foods, Walmart, Costco and other locations.

The twice-yearly magazine specializes in examining Northern California's "new regionalism," said Casey Mills, publisher and editor-in-chief.

"It explores the region's culture, environment, history and identity (via) essays, long-form journalism, literature, poetry and photography," he said.

Among the contents of the new issue is the conflict in Sonoma over woodlands being destroyed to make way for vineyards; a memoir about coming of age near Lake Oroville; the importance of storytelling in family traditions; a photo essay focused on the rural life; plus poetry and fiction.

To subscribe: www.calnorthern.net.

No connection, just good

Here's a disparate duo, both of which are inexplicable in their own way:

• "Conversations With Kreskin," by the Amazing Kreskin and Michael McCarty (Team Kreskin Productions, $24.95, 232 pages): The famed mentalist sees all and tells all in his 19th book, presented in question-and-answer format. Kreskin was a regular headliner in Las Vegas, appeared so many times on Johnny Carson's "Tonight" show that he could have been the co-host, and has logged more than 3 million miles in his six-decade career.

It all started when he was a teenager and toured as the World's Youngest Hypnotist. New Jersey-born George Joseph Kresge legally changed his name to the Amazing Kreskin – which is not as amazing as this: He has had his headstone made, with the epitaph: "Even now I know what you're thinking."

• Independent publisher Volcano Press in the gold-country town of Volcano has a new title just out: "Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage: 900 Miles to Englightenment" by Amy Chavez ($18.95, 220 pages).

Chavez is an expatriate from Ohio who originally went to Japan to teach English. After four years, she became a columnist for the newspaper Japan Times in 1997.

This is her memoir of an "odyssey of self-discovery," in which she literally ran 900 miles in five weeks to visit 88 Buddhist temples on the island of Shikoku.

"People say that after you finish the pilgrimage, you soon get the itch to do it again," she writes at the conclusion. "I can understand this now. Day after day, you can just fly with the wind."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Allen Pierleoni



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