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Local tomes hold suspense, history and natural sciences

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"Cry Ohana: Adventure and Suspense in Hawaii," by Rosemary and Larry Mild (Publish America, $29.95)

Adolescent Kekoa Pualoa figures he has no option but to run for his life. His father is in jail, his mother dead, Kekoa is being raised by his uncle when the boy witnesses the man’s murder by his business partner. Kekoa goes into hiding, scraping to get by on Honolulu’s mean streets, while his sister, dumped on a foster family, becomes the object of a deadly business scam.

"Cry Ohana" is certainly a page-turner, and the authors seem to have a good take on the evolving concept of "ohana" and fractured families in modern Hawaii, and the action proceeds in a logical and gripping pace. The oddest thing is the tone of the book, which seems aimed at younger readers, despite some graphic sex scenes. But the characters in this large novel are all drawn well — even those that skirt on ethnic cliche — and even the villain isn’t evil so much as consumed by inchoate rage.

"African Americans in Hawaii," by D. Molentia Guttman and Ernest Golden, African American Diversity Cultural Center Hawai‘i (Arcadia, $21.99)

One of Arcadia’s sepia-photo books, this edition is a survey of African-American residents in the kingdom, territory and state of Hawaii. It starts out fascinatingly, with black sailors and adventurers and even a missionary woman settling into the islands. Alas, the book quickly devolves into a kind of photo album instead of an organized history, and the photographic reproduction, usually a hallmark of Arcadia’s books, is pretty gray and fuzzy. There are notable omissions. Off the top of my head, where are Ira Vanterpool, Dorrie Miller and Ron Artis?

"L.D.: Rocketry, Race and a Colorful Journey," by Lee D. Young (Vantage, $24.95)

Born a black kid in Tennessee during the Depression, Young turned a natural aptitude for mechanics into an engineering career that reached for the stars, helping develop the American space program. Often, he was the only black person on the staff.

This is a casual, well-written and deeply remembered autobiography by a man who succeeded as a rocket scientist in the era of Jim Crow. After retiring, when the Youngs moved to Hawaii, he couldn’t help himself and wound up designing and engineering every detail of the home they built.

"Living On the Shores of Hawai‘i: Natural Hazards, the Environment and Our Communities," by Charles Fletcher, Robynne Boyd, William J. Neal and Virginia Tice (University of Hawaii Press, $27.99)

This hefty compendium is about as timely as it gets, thanks to the recent tsunami. Everyone in the islands lives within a few miles of the shore; it colors all our lives. Hawaii’s shoreline is one of the most heavily managed zones in the nation, and yet legislation and restrictions are often at odds with cultural practices. The authors examine this conundrum with well-chosen examples, as well as eye-opening graphics and pictures.

Although it’s a bit heavy going at times, as the writers are scientists and lawyers, "Shores of Hawai‘i" seems to be a one-stop resource for environmental issues concerning shoreline management.

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