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In today's ever-increasing digital age, you're either online or you don't exist. That being the case, it's crucial to have a sparkling online reputation. Sonoma County social-media consultant Kerry Rego has written 'Take Control of Your Online Reputation' ($14.99), which combines a no-nonsense approach with a humorous touch to tackle all of the necessary information to create a stellar online presence, be it for individuals or for businesses. Whether you're Chris Rock and you've just thrown out one of the worst-ever first pitches in baseball, or you're Beyonce's publicist and you want to get rid of some unflattering pictures from the Super Bowl, or if you're simply a small local business hoping to attract positive attention in people's Google searches, Rego will tell you what to do next.—T.M.
San Leandro author Scott Terry grew up believing that the world would end in 1975. After all, Terry was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, and that's what his church told him. Needless to say, said Armageddon didn't arrive as predicted, and that's not the only belief Terry began questioning. 'Cowboys, Armageddon, and the Truth: How a Gay Child Was Saved From Religion' (Lethe Press; $18) is Terry's story of leaving the church, joining the rodeo and embracing his sexuality while overcoming parental physical abuse and religious homophobia. Terry's tumultuous childhood, with beatings and bruises, is spent in Fillmore, Calif., whose motto is "The Last, Best Small Town." A sense of traditional small-town values pervades Terry's story, with one conspicuous, modern upgrade. Terry travels from Missouri to Chico and comes to terms with being gay, no longer needing to pray to God to wash his desires away. He finds community in the rodeo, and then is amazed at his first trip to the Castro to learn that most men he meets are like him. Told in simple language redolent of the range, Terry's memoir serves both as a reminder of a more repressed era in America and an empathetic tale for those who've left their religious upbringing in the dust. Recommended.—G.M.
Dogs always know when something's wrong with us. Dog owners know this, but few can explain why. It's just nature's way, some say. This inexplicable connection can be used to train dogs, says Marge Cantwell in 'Good Puppy Academics: Using Nature's Way to Raise Your Dog's GPA' (Self Published, $19.99). The key is to apply positive reinforcement, she argues, because the natural home for negative reinforcement lies in life and death situations in the wild, and constant training in this way causes undue stress in animals. Think of pets as stress reducers, not stress producers; if a dog is causing stress in a person's life, chances are the same is happening for the dog. After volunteering at Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, Cantwell trained at the Assistance Dog Institute on the same side of town with Bonnie Bergin, who placed the first service animal with a person with disabilities in 1975. Her studies led to the creation of the nonprofit Service Dogs for Self Reliance and numerous other endeavors, including this book.—N.G.
Joelle Burnette had already seen cancer disrupt or take the lives of several family members when she was tested for and diagnosed with the BRCA genetic mutation. In other words, Burnette was likely to get cancer herself, and for the sake of her children, she began the preemptive process of removing perfectly healthy parts of her body most prone. 'Cancer Time Bomb: How the BRCA Gene Stole My Tits and Eggs' ($14.99) is just as frank as its title implies, and though the specific subject matter is the BRCA gene and Burnette's resultant oophorectomy and masectomy, the themes of anxiety, courage and family are universal. Burnette, who covered Rohnert Park for the Press Democrat's Towns section from 2010 to 2012, chronicles her three-year journey in great detail, with what seems like nearly every step, conversation and thought along the way presented on the page. The story of meeting with the doctor to discover the results of her initial test takes up 24 pages, including such passages as an argument with her daughter about what to wear in the morning and an idle musing on the exterior colors chosen for Port-a-Potties. In the midst of all this, deeper philosophical truths emerge in blunt fashion. After telling her mother she needs to get laid, Burnette writes, "I've had one sister who has already died, and that's when most people start echoing the well-established mantra to appreciate every day and live life as if it's your last. Fuck that. I was 12 when my best friend in the world was yanked out of my life. The horrible experience didn't turn me into a cheery person. Yes, life is precious, Yes, life is short. And blah, blah, fucking blah . . ."—G.M.
The earth speaks to authors Ellae Elinwood and Mary Lanier, and they in turn speak back. Now the two speak for the earth in 'Earth Is Your Sweet Spot: A Woman's Guide to Living Beautifully' (Confluence Books; $12.95). This book is an interactive guide of feminine wisdom that offers practical and supportive information for living beautifully. Through femininity and aligning oneself with the earth's pulse, this book teaches how to enjoy a clear, comfortable and confident mind, body and spirit.—T.M.
Reading 'The Lotus Cross' (Dark Planet; $16.99), I found myself constantly thinking loudly to no one in particular, "It belongs in a museum!" Ray Anderson, Santa Rosa resident and minister in the United Centers for Spiritual Living, has penned an adventure novel revolving around a historical religious artifact that many had thought to be a myth. The Lotus Cross contains traces of blood from a risen Christ, and once its existence is confirmed, agencies from the British Secret Service to fanatical religious groups vie for possession. The premise sounds familiar: an archeology professor fends off others in an international expedition riddled with clues to find an artifact of religious significance, but in this case, it happens to contain DNA from a long-dead being. It's the long-awaited combination of Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. The chapters are short, and most of the book is dialogue; this puppy is tailor-made for Hollywood. There's even a preface stating the people and events in the book are completely fictional, though the settings may be historically accurate. I'll be in my Jeep with fedora and bullwhip, ready for the midnight screening.—N.G.
Much of the story of 'The Gift of Guylaine Claire' (Two Rock Press; $14.95) consists of a family sharing memories of a murdered Canadian sculptor. Taking place in the days preceding the funeral after the sculptor was slain in a cross-fire between Mounties and an indigenous splinter faction, the family is forced to dodge media inquiries and piece together the missing threads of the murder on their own. The gathering reveals as much about the family members as Guylaine (pronounced "gee-lain"). The result is a celebration of the woman who found her own meaning through living a creative life and staying true to her beliefs. Sonoma County author A. V. Walters was born in Canada, but has lived in California for 37 years. Though her accent may have waned, her love of French names has not, and there is a pronunciation guide in the beginning of the book to help with phonetics—just about every character in the book has a French name.—N.G.
Sonoma author Jill Koenigsdorf has penned a poignant, comedic novel with 'Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall' (Macadam Cage; $24). Phoebe is a struggling artist making a living by painting labels for wineries, but it's getting tough to pay the bills, and her home falls into foreclosure. The ghost of 20th-century Russian painter Marc Chagall appears and helps her find a painting of his that he intended for her father to keep after the liberation of France. The valuable painting would surely help Phoebe pay her bills, but the adventure leads her to France to uncover hundreds of missing Chagall paintings. The two main characters are engaging on their own, but the kooky folks they meet along the way really give the book a lighthearted touch that helps the freewheeling story fly right by enjoyably.—N.G.
'The NapaLife Insider's Guide to Napa Valley' ($24.99) is an unusual reference book for the Napa Valley. "It's written to be used with a smartphone or tablet," writes author Paul Franson, who explains that this basic list of tips, information and opinions doesn't "waste space on details of attractions, which are readily available online and change often." Thus, the book is essentially one man's Yelp reviews of everything in the Napa Valley. Instead of explaining destinations in detail, the author suggests that, with his expertise, it's best just to take his word on these things. In Franson's 16 years of living in and writing about the Napa Valley, he's been just about everywhere and done almost everything; he also publishes a paid weekly newsletter with his insider news about the Napa Valley. This book is geared toward tourists, and Franson is their no-nonsense tour guide.—N.G.