Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, June 14, 2103

Week ending June 14, 2013

Benson, Sara & others. California’s Best Trips: 35 Amazing Road Trips. 2d ed. Lonely Planet. (Best Trips). 2013. 400p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781741798104. pap. $22.99. TRAV
Another title in Lonely Planet’s “Best Trips” series, this second edition covers 35 road trips throughout California. For a compact book, this guide packs in not only popular sites and journeys, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Coast Highway, but also lesser-known gems, such as MacArthur Burney Falls and the Trinity Scenic Byway. Lonely Planet authors Benson, Nate Cavalieri, and Beth Kohn do justice to the plethora of treasures throughout California with descriptions that evoke the vibe of the places and people. Photographs and useful small overview maps complement the descriptions. As in the other series titles, there are brief city guides and some in-depth focus on areas in the “Stretch Your Legs” features. Restaurant and lodging suggestions are provided but are not extensive. A short section on California driving provides information on rentals, parking, and suggested websites for further specifics. Look for the excellent playlist of a half dozen road trip tunes listed and buried in the driving guide section.
Verdict A gem of a guidebook for those who are seeking to road trip in California.—Louise Feldmann, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins

Bryne, Paula. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things. HarperCollins. 2013. 400p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780061999093. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062199065. LIT
Byrne (Jane Austen and the Theatre) promises a novel addition to the body of scholarship on Jane Austen’s life. Rather than taking a cradle-to-grave approach, Byrne begins each essay in this collection with an image and description of an object of particular importance to Austen, which leads into a discussion of how these items influenced her life and informed her work. This premise is stretched thin at some points—it is arguable whether a carriage, for example, ever profoundly affected Austen—but it is an engaging narrative technique and effectively persuades that Austen intentionally drew inspiration from life in order to add what was at that time an innovative realism and verisimilitude to her novels (e.g., a familiarity with the navy and life in India, noteworthy in someone generally considered a quiet spinster). Byrne contends Austen’s authorial focus upon an object is a clue to readers that events of emotional importance are afoot. Less convincing are Byrne’s arguments that other Austen biographers and Austen’s own family were often mistaken about her character or writerly intentions.
Verdict A rarer approach to deciphering the meaning of Austen’s work through her life. Recommended for Austen fans, those committed to close reading, literature lovers, and those enthralled by discussions of authorial intention.—Megan Hodge, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., Richmond

DeLong, David. Graduate to a Great Job: Make Your College Degree Pay Off in Today’s Market. Longstone. 2013. 225p. notes. index. ISBN 9780988868601. pap. $15. CAREERS
Consultant DeLong (David DeLong & Assocs.; Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce) states there are “simply fewer jobs out there today” and provides career guidance for those in college (and thinking ahead) or for the newly graduated. Based on 30 case studies, his book explores the current challenges of job hunting in a tough economy and offers strategies like using internships to gain experience or networking to make connections, among others. Scattered throughout are helpful websites and titles for more specialized advice. Personal stories and job search approaches give an inside look to some recent experiences. DeLong advises against “spraying and praying,” which is the practice of sending out generic résumés to online sites. The importance of Linked In and social media and an understanding of applicant tracking systems are also discussed. Most chapters end with a “checklist for action” that aids in giving focus. Parental concerns are covered, featuring ways that parents can help.
Verdict DeLong offers a practical guide of solid advice and orientation to the hiring process.—Barbara Kundanis, Longmont P.L., CO

Graham, Peter. Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century. Skyhorse, dist. by Norton. 2013. 384p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781620876305. $24.95. CRIME
In June 1954, one New Zealand teenage girl decides to help the other murder her mother, exposing a complicated story of love, delusion, and family secrets. New Zealand lawyer Graham’s (Vile Crimes: The Timaru Poisonings) well-researched book on the case that inspired filmmaker Peter Jackson’s 1994 movie Heavenly Creatures is a readable and eye-opening story of 1950s Christchurch and the complicated family dynamics that produced one of New Zealand’s most famous murder cases. The book explores not only the murder itself but the backgrounds of the two girls, Pauline Parker/Rieper and Juliet Hulme (now well-known mystery writer Anne Perry); their forbidden and rumored lesbian relationship; and their troubled family lives, as well as what happened after the young women were released from prison after serving “at Her Majesty’s pleasure.” There are few other books on this case, and this one looks at all sides of the debate around the girls’ motivation for the murder of Pauline’s mother, Honora. Graham uses primary source material like the girls’ diary entries, writing, and poetry, along with standard sources such as court reports, interviews with lawyers and psychiatrists, and police and news records to try to address still unanswered questions about the case.
Verdict Recommended for general readers, true-crime buffs, those interested in LGBT history, and fans of Heavenly Creatures.—Amelia Osterud, Carroll Univ. Lib., Waukesha, WI

Moreno, Rita. Rita Moreno: A Memoir. Celebra: Penguin Group (USA). 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780451416377. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101615225. FILM
Actress Moreno’s memoir begins with dreamy recollections of her early childhood in Puerto Rico, and then proceeds in a more straightforward fashion, sometimes with the air of someone consulting a well-preserved date book to remind herself of events that need to be covered. Moreno’s life has had significant high points, including having won Emmy, Oscar, Grammy, and Tony awards—known as an EGOT—which she mentions several times, yet she doesn’t flinch at examining low points, such as her suicide attempt or the “roller coaster ride” of her career. She dishes, sometimes intimately, on Hollywood associates, both at length (Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley) and in brief tidbits (e.g., Mario Lanza, Donald O’Connor, Gene Kelly, John Kennedy, Rory Calhoun, Ann Miller, and many others). Though Moreno at times complains of being typecast as an ethnic spitfire, she would also emphasize her accent or exotic looks for laughs or to get a part. Perseverance is a theme throughout.
Verdict This readable and sometimes moving story of Moreno’s life in movies, on television, stage, and screen is surrounded by details of her politics and personal life.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX

The New York Times: Disunion; Modern Historians Revisit and Reconsider the Civil War from Lincoln’s Election to the Emancipation Proclamation. Black Dog. 2013. 456p. ed. by Ted Widmer with Clay Risen & George Kalogerakis. index. ISBN 9781579129286. $27.95. HIST
In 2010, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War the New York Times launched the Disunion blog to offer essays—with the “snap, crackle and pop of lively online writing”—addressing the Civil War from a variety of angles. Widmer (assistant to the president for special projects, Brown Univ.), with two Times staff editors, has selected over 100 of the blog’s pieces, presenting them in chronological parallel with the war years covered. Here are essays by some notable academics (e.g., David W. Blight), but more are by independent scholars (for example, Amanda Foreman, Harold Holzer) and popular interpreters such as Ken Burns and Winston Groom. The topics range from traditional discussions of President Lincoln, the war’s generals, and major battles to essays on African Americans in the war and studies of other marginalized groups including women, immigrants, and Native Americans.
Verdict The result is a lively anthology that documents the state of today’s scholarship and popular opinion on the war. It is quite different from other new anthologies such as America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on Their 150th Anniversaries, edited by Edward L. Ayers, which includes longer selections of older materials (including fiction) dating from 1852 to the present. This is recommended for most Civil War history collections.—Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. Lib., PA

starred review starPepper, Terence. Man Ray Portraits. Yale Univ. 2013. 224p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300194791. $60. PHOTOG
This title accompanies the first major museum retrospective of the legendary surrealist Man Ray’s innovative portrait photography. The exhibition catalog concentrates on the artist’s career in the United States and Paris between 1916 and 1968 and features his friendships and collaborations with key figures within the Dadaist and surrealist movements, such as Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. Organized chronologically, this elegant book includes more than 200 important portraits that not only showcase Man Ray’s impressive connections within the artistic community but also his signature experimental photographic approaches such as solarization and multiexposure techniques. The years he spent in Paris represent the most creative and productive time of his artistic life, including the genesis of such iconic images as Le Violin D’Ingres, Nior et Blanche, and Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller. Of special note are testimonials from the sitters themselves and the many self-portrait approaches that Man Ray continued to explore throughout his lifetime. Also included is an introduction by Marina Warner (literature & film, Univ. of Essex; Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights), an essay on Man Ray’s magazine and editorial work by Pepper (curator, photographs, National Portrait Gallery, London), and an exhaustive, illustrated chronology.
Verdict Highly recommended for fans of photography, art history, and surrealism.—Shauna Frischkorn, Millersville Univ., PA

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"