New books with Alameda, Oakland, and California connections.
The Perfect Tea Thief by Pam Chun (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014, $13.19, 363 pp.)
Alameda novelist Pam Chun uses her vivid powers of description to weave an intriguing tale of how the historic botanist Robert Fortune of Scotland used his charms to slink his way through China stealing the Celestial Kingdom’s guarded secrets of tea production. It’s twisting, turning, 1840s espionage all the way, with the bold and sneaky antics of the swaggering plant hunter cast against mysterious and nefarious interactions with a disguised (and beautiful) warrior princess of sorts, Jadelin from the House of Poe. Deception, falsehoods, and empires collide. This is Chun’s fourth book, which the author says took her a decade to research and write.
Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids & How Its Lessons Could Change Food & Farming Forever by Kiera Butler with photographs by Rafael Roy (University of California Press, 2014, $24.95, 208 pp.)
Curious about the subculture of the 4-H Club? City-living Kiera Butler was, after the slaughter of the family-raised turkey for a Thanksgiving dinner attracted a crowd of questioning neighborhood kids. She tracks down a handful of prototypical 4-H’ers to explore the disconnect between us humans and where our food comes from, using the kids’ tales and perspectives to report some surprising animal husbandry and agriculture nuggets from California and Ghana while dispelling a few 4-H stereotypes. Butler is a senior editor at Mother Jones magazine and lives in Berkeley.
A Pinch of Ooh La La, A Novel by Renee Swindle (New American Library, 2014, $15, 308 pp.)
A somewhat bored and once-broken-hearted Oakland bakery owner, Abbey Ross, decides to, finally, give love—and men—another chance. Her best friend, Bendrix, serves as the matchmaker, hooking up the bread-and-pastry diva with one handsome, suave, too-good-to-be-true Samuel Howard, and that’s when things get complicated. This is a redemptive tale of how the bonds of family and friends can put things right, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Renee Swindle is an Oakland-based novelist and the author of Shake Down the Stars and Please Please Please.