Monday, September 21, 2009

New Book Review Comes to the Bay Area

A year after two Sacramento book lovers, one with a dubious past, launched the Sacramento Book Review, the duo has released something called The San Francisco Book Review.

It’s a free, 32-page tabloid newspaper stuffed with 150 short reviews of everything from literary novels to teen fiction to crafts and hobbies. I picked up a copy Sunday at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland. The paper will be available in local bookstores, libraries and coffee shops.

The review is put together by Heidi Komlofske and Ross Rojeck, who served four years in prison for mail fraud and money laundering in connection with a scheme to sell phony terrorist-tracking technology. He once also owned the largest chain of comic book stores in the country, Comics and Comix. He was released from prison in 2008.

Rojeck pissed a lot of people off, and the web is full of blog posts about his once-large role in the comic book world and people’s anger over his bad side. It looks like time in jail enhanced his appreciation for books, according to this interview with Rojeck by Rich Johnson, of the website Bleeding Cool.

According to Rojeck: “I had been the librarian at two different prison camps, and in trying to find enough new books to keep me busy I ended up reading a number of different book reviews and review sections. From there I started drafting my “dream” book review that would be helpful to me in my situation.

When my friend was unable to follow through with the book review, Heidi stepped up and offered to create and produce the paper. We got my parole officer to approve it, and as Heidi’s employee, a portion of every paycheck goes to my restitution.:

The reviews range from well written to amateur, but the paper does provide another outlet to find out about books. One strange aspect to the review, however: Publishers can pay a fee to expedite a review of a book. For $99 dollars a publisher can expect a review up on the website in 9 to 12 weeks. For $299, that review will go up in 2 to 4 weeks. The pay-for-a-review aspect shows that this is really a more amateur than professional operation.

But the first issue reviews some really fine books, such as The Puzzle King by Betsy Carter, The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliot, The Devil's Tickets by Gary Pomerantz, and more.

Another Bay Area tidbit:

Tonight, Monday Sept. 21, is the premiere of the new CBS television series,  Accidentally on Purpose, based on the memoir written by Bay Area writer Mary Pols. It stars Jenna Elfman and has garnered mixed reviews. You should have no hesitation, however, to read Pols' delightful book, now out in paperback.

1 comment: said...

By virtue of my appreciation of Jenna Elfman, I will check out the book. A sort of TV by proxy.