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Al's picks: Two choices as best for summer reading

Published: Sunday, Jun. 9, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 8AANDE
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 10, 2013 - 8:57 am

FICTION

Seduction

M.J. Rose

Atria, $24, 370 pages

Two parallel and merging story lines separated by 160 years are set on the isle of Jersey off the coast of Normandy, France, with the author shifting between the two.

One involves French writer Victor Hugo, in self-exile on the island, and his attempts in the 1880s to reach his drowned daughter's spirit via hundreds of séances. After making contact with spirits from ages past, he is confronted by one that identifies itself as the Shadow of the Sepulcher, with an offer of a gruesome deal.

The other story, set in the present, sees the return of mythologist-perfumer Jac L'Etoile, protagonist of Rose's 2012 "The Book of Lost Fragrances." She travels to Jersey to meet a troubled friend, with plans to explore the island's Celtic ruins. The real agenda, though, is to find Hugo's hidden transcripts of his last and most devastating séance.

The tension ratchets up as the two stories converge. Lyrical, spooky and rich in history.


NONFICTION

Wild Ones

Jon Mooallem

Penguin,

$27.95, 368 pages

San Francisco-based journalist Mooallem and his young daughter go on a safari of sorts to gain a realistic view of endangered wildlife and its threatened habitat. Half of all animal species could be gone by century's end, he learns in his research.

Much of his focus is on a trio of at-risk species – the polar bear, the whooping crane and the Lange's metalmark butterfly.

This is no emotional animal-rights plea, but a clear-eyed examination of the natural world, its current crisis state and a bridge between the way creatures are viewed in our culture (cute, cuddly and disposable) and the way in which they actually exist (at the mercy of progressive environmental disaster).

It's also a father's legacy to his child.

Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.



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