Category Archives: Reviews

What I’m reading: The Supernatural Enhancements

I hadn’t heard of Edgar Cantero’s The Supernatural Enhancements, which was released last August. I picked it up from the “New Releases” shelf at the library because the title and the Goreyesque cover art drew my eye. I was hooked when I read this back-jacket copy: “Cantero pays homage to Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft and The Shining, but he’s no less enamored of The X-Files, fax machines [the novel is set in 1995], and punk girls with dreads.”

At 50 pages in (out of 353), I’m enjoying it but wondering if it will sustain my interest. On one level it looks like a modern variant of the haunted-house story; the title is from Edith Wharton’s phrase “a house with supernatural enhancements.” On another it’s a formal exercise: a clever–perhaps too clever?–mishmash of letters, diary entries, transcripts of security-camera footage, and so on. That mixed-media, semi-epistolary structure and the eerie-house setting recall Mark Z. Danielewski’s 2000 novel House of Leaves, which I loved, so I am going to keep on with this one, despite already being a bit tired of one of the two main characters. (The other one is growing on me, so they balance out.) And I’ve gotta say that, post-Shining, if you put a hedge maze next to a huge spooky building, something damned original better happen in that hedge maze. I’ll let you know.




Redoubtable? I’ll take it!

From School Library Journal‘s review of The Third Chimpanzee for Young People, my YA adaptation of Jared Diamond’s book The Third Chimpanzee:

“Adapted for younger audiences by the redoubtable Stefoff . . .  this wide-ranging study of what makes us human offers provocative views of evolution, adaptation, cultural diffusion, sexuality, genocide, race, mass extinctions of the past and present, the roots of drug abuse and language, and even the search for extraterrestrial intelligence . . . . Thoughtful readers interested in any fields related to evolutionary science, anthropology, psychology, human history, and culture will find plenty to ponder.”

It would have been nice to have been described as “the famous Stefoff” or “the indecently wealthy Stefoff,” but neither, alas, is true. Being redoubtable–or at least being called redoubtable–is nonetheless awesome. Never doubt it. The OED defines “redoubtable” as “to be feared or dreaded; formidable” and “to be reverenced or revered; commanding respect.” Fear me or revere me, it’s all good!

Some horn-tooting

My publisher just forwarded me the review from the March issue of School Library Journal of my four-book series Humans: An Evolutionary History. My first act was to call Joyce Stanton, the awesome editor who worked with me on the series, to thank her for pushing me to make each volume as strong as it could be.

This project was and is near and dear to my heart. It was also a lot of work. I’m pretty pleased with this review:

Gr 8 Up–The origin of the human species is always a topic of educational inquiry as well as fierce debate. Providing students with information that is credible, detailed, and appealing can be challenging: these books exceed the challenge. Stefoff provides an enlightening and entertaining history of the evolution of Homo sapiens, their ancestors, and cousins, from primitive origins to today. The clear, insightful texts are accented by intriguing sidebars and colorful photos, maps, and graphs. The author provides compelling details from the lives of innovators such as Darwin and Leaky, intelligently discusses the tools of the trade, and deftly explores many monumental discoveries, such as those of Australopithecus in 1924 (First Humans) and the Old Man of La Chapelle in 1908 (Ice Age Neanderthals), and of a “family tree” for mitochondrial DNA (Modern Humans). Readers will be drawn into these discussions and the mysteries that surround our evolutionary story.–Brian Odom, Pelham Public Library, AL

School Library Journal, March, 2010