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The Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 1 January 2022 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Technology Shelf Art Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Literary Fiction Shelf Western Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Fast Track Online
Judy Nichols
In House Publishing Australia
9780646829340, $4.99 ebook

Fast Track Online: Transition Your Work, Knowledge, Purpose And Skills Online To Earn More, Live More And Be Free focuses on starting up an online side gig that holds income and promises freedom from 9-5 workplace demands, and is highly recommended reading for those who want to tailor a plan of action to support this transitional opportunity.

It synthesizes author Judy Nichols's years of research, digital learning, and trial and error experiences into a set of ten recommended best practices for achieving success, conducting the leg work needed so that those who would make this change don't experience the same pitfalls that Nichols faced.

From self-assessment of expertise and strengths that could translate well to an online work environment to what influences online business success stories, Nichols pairs basic business ideas about risk management, new ventures, and customer development into a specific set of rules that apply to those making such transitions, no matter what the skill or job. Specifics range from webinars and e-teaching to understanding affiliate relationships and various choices in email and social media marketing tactics, offering advice on developing online content, emphasizing expertise and reaching target audiences, and crafting LinkedIn and other profiles that sync with strategy priorities identified in early efforts.

From finding the best way to research, hire, and utilize talent to learning from the stories and challenges of others who successfully made the transition to online business, Fast Track Online contrasts processes that held different lessons.

Fast Track Online should be a standard acquisition for any business library seeking a blend of business advice and personal experience. Its focus on navigating the conundrums of transitional processes makes it an important guide that offers approaches and strategies proven to hold superior results.

The Technology Shelf

Lifecycle IoT Security for Engineers
Kaustubh Dhondge
Artech House
685 Canton St., Norwood, MA 02062
9781630818036, $129.00 HC, $129.00 Kindle, 215pp

Lifecycle IoT Security for Engineers provides a detailed introduction to the Internet of Things, considering the system vulnerabilities and risks that present security threats to the industry. Risks at each stage of its evolution blend with real-world examples of industry breaches and events, covering best practices programmers can use to secure IoT networks. Discusisons range from operational security requirements during all phases of an IoT launch to vulnerabilities and security techniques that can thwart attackers. No IT or business collection should be without this survey of IoT industry challenges and regulations.

An Introduction to Optical Wireless Mobile Communications
Harald Haas,
Artech House
685 Canton St., Norwood, MA 02062
9781630816551, $159.00 HC, $159.00 Kindle, 406pp

An Introduction to Optical Wireless Mobile Communications is recommended for college-level and reference libraries strong in communications systems, and documents the move from radio frequencies the optical spectrum in cellular and wireless environments. It considers modeling examples, provides the first comprehensive reference for understanding the technologies that influence this shift, and addresses the science and nature of interfaces, multiuser access, and other techniques, including a review of recent standardization activities. Math examples of the geometry and applied formulas to optical wireless channel characteristics and more provide technical grounding in discussions of different analytical approaches, while diagrams and examples lend to study as they provide visual reinforcement. No library interested in advanced mobile communications should be without this strong reference.

Artech House
685 Canton St., Norwood, MA 02062

Two new arrivals from Artech House are top recommendations for college-level technology and reference collections.

Those strong in electrical engineering will find Steli Loznen and Constantin Bolintineau's Electrical Product Compliance and Safety Engineering Volume 2 (9781630818388, $165.00) adds to the best-selling reference as it considers safety engineering and product compliance. From product approval processes and global markets to safety instructions, environmental testing, and electrical product compliance with regulations, the authors discuss everything from medical electrical equipment to radiation sources, environmental stresses during storage and transportation, and hazardous materials management, creating a wide-ranging survey that should be in any collection strong in safety, product compliance, and engineering.

Sebastien R. Mouchet and Olivier Deparis's Natural Photonics and Bioinspiration (9781630817978, $159.00) provides a methodology for working with bioinspiration, including experimental tools nedded for working with photonic structures and providing examples of all concepts. College-level science holds strong in biology and health will find this in-depth review of photonic structures in nature to be absorbing, blending discussions of modeling concepts with surveys of the design of bioinspired photonic devices in technology.

The Art Shelf

Drawn Into the Dream
Walter Berry
Precocity Press
9781736217498, $19.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Drawn into the Dream: How Drawing Your Dreams Can Take You to the Land of Awes sports a deceptively simple cover art of a drawing of a dream that introduces us to the book's intriguing subject -- drawing simple sketches of one's dreams to solidify their underlying meanings and emotions.

The book is meant to attract people interested in a very different form of dream analysis. Unlike the typical dream inspection which encourages psychological analysis, Walter Berry uses art to support the process. The art of drawing is one way of connecting to the unconscious mind, and often produces results that enhance the dream analysis process. Examples and instructions are provided in a step-by-step approach that encourages readers to put drawing implement to paper to capture these meanings.

While it may sound like psychological analysis is part of the equation, it's not. Berry connects all the dots needed to understand why drawing one's dream differs from writing, how to do it, and how to understand its fruitful results. The enthusiasm and spark of energy is also captured in this book: "In spite of their thoughtfulness, words cannot truly capture or encompass the experience of standing in the place of awe. These definitions refer to awe as an emotion, but I look at it also as an experience, not just the emotion alone. It is a state of being for me, a place where you can connect with something outside yourself. The difference between the concept (and definitions) of awe and the experience of awe is akin to the difference between the concept of love and being in love."

As readers pursue Drawn into the Dream, the choice of its simple cover art becomes apparent. It's a deliberate representation of all the possibilities this method of dream inspection promises. All that's required is the memory of one's artistic talent is needed. Just draw.

The General Fiction Shelf

Stage Seven
Ruth F. Stevens
DartFrog Books
9781956019018, $16.99 Paper/$5.99 ebook

In Stage Seven, Barbara is a busy caregiver and part of the "sandwich generation" caught between family and the needs of aging parents. Dedicated to family and more than "taken" by her responsibilities, Barbara is in desperate need of love and caring, herself. And when she finds it in an unusual way, she stands to lose more than propriety in Stage Seven.

As the story opens, Barbara struggles with her recent decision to move her mother, Dolly, into an Alzheimer's facility. Driven by her sense of family and responsibility to live up to her obligations and values, Barbara nonetheless finds the energy to move in a different direction for herself with Jack, a married older man who struggles with a wife with dementia who no longer knows who he is. "Every place is a strange place to Ma now."

It's also a strange situation, for Barbara to consider options she never knew she had, much less believed in pursuing. Barbara has spent quite a long time denying her own needs. When new possibilities blossom, she faces a transformation that challenges not only her sense of duty and trajectory in life, but the values she has built about love, making connections, and taking risks.

While the story centers on Barbara and Jack, it doesn't neglect the thoughts and reactions of those around them such as Sarah, Barbara's daughter. Ruth F. Stevens takes the time to give her a voice in matters, as well, as her perception of her mother evolves and changes. These realistic, intimate inspections of lives affected by dementia, obligations, and love create a compelling story that will prove especially appealing to any "sandwich generation" member struggling with similar duties and opportunities.

Its ability to juxtapose fun with serious inspections and thought-provoking moments makes Stage Seven highly recommended for women and families who are navigating the currents of dementia and romance concurrently, and who look for stories steeped in real-world emotions and interpersonal explorations.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Ghost Runners: An Olympic Dream Betrayed
Robert Rubenstein
Independently Published
9798480247794, $27.95 Hardcover/$19.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Ghost Runners: An Olympic Dream Betrayed is an historical novel and sports examination that also portrays anti-Semitism in the athletic world. The story opens at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933, where Joshua Sellers awakens on a Greyhound bus with the memory of a footrace against Jesse Owens and dreams of losing once again. He holds one more chance to beat Jesse, the champion "Brown Thunderbolt" whose ability seems impossible to defeat.

From the start, Robert Rubenstein outlines the real focus of his story -- racism: "Blacks paid double the price to Soldier's Field. Not even to get to see the midway outside the Fair. It was an outrage worse than a racial slur. It was racism undisguised. The Century of Progress, the theme of the fair, only served corporate interests. Neither women nor Blacks were represented. Blacks worked as porters, latrine cleaners, or as "freaks" or pygmies in midway spectacles."

His inspections of real-world events surrounding the American Olympic team in Nazi Germany in Berlin in August of 1936 (during the Holocaust) will interest and attract novel readers not just for its sports milieu, but for its close inspections of racism and the forces that contributed to oppression in various forms, against various peoples, around the world. Even champions.

The reader who begins this odyssey may hold initial interest on Joshua's racing career and not racism. But as both immediately entwine to breach boundaries both real and imagined, readers delve into the 1930s via a series of vivid descriptions that bring this era to life. Rubenstein does a fine job of juxtaposing the trappings of normalcy with the rise of Nazi powers and rules that confront and alter that state. Even the Olympics are not immune to political pressure and social strife as white supremacy rises, young radicals are provoked to action, and friendships are tested with new rules of decency and morality.

Under Rubenstein's hand, history is closely inspected, melding with a fictional overlay that brings peoples, events, and issues to life. While it would have been too easy to limit discussions to racial implications alone, Rubenstein implicates and describes the underlying business interests that affected and directed social and political currents both in America and abroad. This focus on motivation and financial entanglements adds depth and further thought-provoking inspection to the evolving story of two Jewish-American athletes who both hone their competitive abilities and examine their decisions during the 1936 Berlin Olympic games.

Perhaps the real power of Ghost Runners lies in its ability to meld an impressive historical backdrop with a fictional consideration of special interests and the political struggles that inject themselves into an athlete's choices and competitive drive to win against all odds. In this milieu, winning against all odds includes more than physical ability. It's about reconsidering the kinds of decisions and influences that dictate the rules of the game itself, even at its highest levels. The audience for Ghost Runners may begin with those who look for historical fiction surrounding sports events, but to limit it to this readership would be to do the book a grave disservice.

Ideally, it should be in any collection strong in Jewish experience, Nazi examinations, and the social and political atmosphere of the 1930s. Many themes and historic events are explored in a story that looks to connect the dots between systemic racism, from the rise of eugenics theories in America and its influences on Nazism to The White Bridge, Ginger Lee's relationship with Joshua and her trials and tribulations as a cub reporter and as a woman in Jazz Age Chicago, and the story of Jesse Owens. What seem to be disparate themes, biographical sketches, and events dovetail in a hard-hitting, thought-provoking work that embraces a lot of researched history.

Ghost Runners should be digested in snippets, to assure that its astute points and powerful revelations are entirely understood. From one individual's secret use of philanthropy to fund National Socialism at home and abroad to powerful statements of responsibility in America for events that unfold in Germany, Rubenstein pulls no punches and lets no country go uncriticized for what transpires. All these strengths set Ghost Runners apart from many stories of these times; making it a top recommendation that literary collections and readers won't want to miss.

The Western Fiction Shelf

The Unredeemed
D. Laszlo Conhaim
Broken Arrow Press
9780984317530, $13.90 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 248pp

With The Unredeemed, D. Laszlo Conhaim delivers a sequel to Comanche Captive that will appeal to prior fans of Conhaim's work as well as newcomers who enjoy Western historical fiction. From intrigues involving Indian raiders and U.S. Cavalry scouts to dialogue that fits the times, Conhaim presents a story that is vivid, evocative, and filled with satisfying insights about interactions between all kinds of frontier types.

While its foundations lie in real-world Herman Lehmann's experiences of abduction and living nine years with the Apaches (during which time Lehmann lived and thought as one of them and not as a "paleface," as he came to call white people), The Unredeemed provides a fascinating read that depicts a form of Stockholm Syndrome, in which the captive becomes allied with his captor in order to survive.

Lehmann's story, however, is only the jumping off point of this fiction about a captive's choice to remain an "Indian." The story of the white boy turned Native American warrior is explored against the backdrop of the little-known Buffalo Soldier Tragedy of 1877. Another notable approach that differentiates The Unredeemed from the typical Western is its attention to diversity. African Americans are prominently represented here in the Old West.

Black sergeant Emanuel "Tops" Chance takes risks and makes choices every bit as critical as his white or Indian counterparts in this story. This, too, sets The Unredeemed apart. Much food for thought emerges as the story unfolds, presenting characters and readers alike with new perspectives. The resulting achievement expands upon its predecessor, Comanche Captive, and yet presents nicely as a stand-alone Western that excels in its sense of place, and whose unusual mix of characters makes it hard to put down and satisfyingly unpredictable.

The Unredeemed should join Comanche Captive in any collection strong in Western novels and Native American history.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Thresher Ghost
Spencer Compton
Independently Published
9798742785774, $10.99

The Thresher Ghost is a powerful historical thriller set in 1960s America. It revolves around a cast of characters both real and fictional including a disgraced Los Angeles surgeon, Howard Hughes, the Kennedy family and relationships and events which change everything.

From the opening paragraphs, Spencer Compton excels at outlining evocative scenes connecting the worlds of Jack, Bobby, Marilyn, and other real-life people. From Marilyn's not-so-mysterious death (as it's explained in the opening scenes) to doctors, actors, and personalities that move through the 1960s with both familiar history and fictional presentations conjured by Compton, this is a fine examination of how an ordinary man is caught up in murder and danger. Compton creates a wide cast of characters and places them in environments that test their perceptions, prejudices, and objectives.

As Dr. Wiley McCoy finds himself immersed ever deeper in an intriguing world beyond his medical training, this milieu comes to life through various characters' eyes. References to music stream through many of their encounters. Circumstances surrounding the lost American nuclear submarine Thresher move through these scenarios and create a focal point of intrigue as McCoy's antagonist Romulo, a scientific adventurer, selects American malcontent Lee Harvey Oswald for an extraordinary mission. Meanwhile, McCoy embarks on life aboard the newly retrofitted Thresher, whose journey connects Romulo and McCoy in unusual ways.

From the cultural milieu of Haiti to a dangerous dictator's murderous confrontations; intrigue, politics, and personal ambition create an absorbing interplay between characters in a story that moves far beyond Kennedy's assassination into international waters and political motivations.

Spencer Compton's novel is complex and involving. Readers of historical thrillers will find its roots in facts and its extrapolations of connections and people to be engrossing, mercurial, and hard to put down.

The Witch's Child
Susan Van Kirk
Prairie Lights Publishing
9781737667407, $19.95

The Witch's Child blends several elements of the mystery genre (cozy, culinary, and animal-oriented) to brew up an intriguing read that returns to the small town of Endurance and its treasure trove of special offerings.

In this story, retired teacher Grace Kimball is delighted when a former student returns to town, even if it's to oversee the sad duty of burying her mother. The woman was a self-proclaimed witch who died in jail after an eye-popping murder trial that turned the small town on end. Detective TJ Sweeney is well aware that Sybil Mackenzie's death holds as much potential for controversy as her life once did. But what she doesn't know is that the return of the witch's child will prove a catalyst for unleashing forces both psychic and psychological that will, once again, turn the town upside down and challenge his investigative skills.

As author Susan Van Kirk moves through this story of ill-fated lives touched by magic and mystery, even newcomers to this milieu gain a fine sense of the small town's special atmosphere as controversy brews up a storm.

Has fate led Grace to that restaurant where her boyfriend Jeff Maitlin and best friend TJ are discussing political changes when all hell literally walks through the door? The peaceful and cooperative atmosphere described at the beginning of the story is a wonderful contrast to what evolves as Fiona Mackenzie's arrival reawakens trouble and introduces danger to the peaceful small town atmosphere.

Van Kirk is especially adept at portraying Endurance's struggle to live up to its name as events unfold. Does Fiona have the power to be in two places at the same time? Is Sybil haunting them all? As relatives, strangers, and town history intersect, readers are treated to a blend of atmospheric small-town concerns and intrigue that capture its residents' love for their beautiful place as much as the forces that conspire to change it.

This cozy mystery unfolds on many levels, most of them designed to support the 'cozy' designation of its characters and intrigue with a layer of pleasurable comfort that will delight readers more interested in a supernatural whodunit (or, who is it?) conundrum than a tension-laden piece. Any mystery collection interested in small town settings or another story of Endurance's compelling people will find The Witch's Child delightful.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Compass to Vinland
Dani Resh
Warren Publishing
295 Herlong Ave., Suite 401, Rock Hill, SC 29732
9781954614512, $32.95 Hardcover/$16.95 Paper

Compass to Vinland will appeal to urban fantasy readers from young adult into adult audiences. It follows the adventures of loner Wren Larkin, who finds his life changed when Maria moves to town and befriends him. Used to being ignored by his father and bullied by his peers, Wren finds her support unusual and welcome-- even if it does lead to his involvement in a magical threat.

It's not chance that leads Wren to live in a strange house that looks like a shoe. There's a magical shoe-making workshop underneath it. His discovery of this leads to a brush with danger as he and his companions flee strange visitors to enter the world of Underfoot and its many strange inhabitants.

Author Dani Resh does an excellent job of exploring magic in an unlikely setting. References to shoes, feet, and a mission leads the characters to find hope in the Eradicator, who might be able to wake up Maria's abuela...for a price.

As Tristen, Rusty, Maria, and Wren uncover many new truths about the nature of their world, reality, and the Undershoe residents, their journey embraces revised perceptions of their lives: "People didn't appear and disappear because they were ghosts, they were simply Vins traveling from one port to another."

All ages will appreciate the blend of paranormal and fantasy inspection in an epic adventure that melds the individual desires and perceptions of four disparate teens. Resh's ability to show each of these young people try to make sense of an alien world and their place in it (and at home) makes for satisfying contrasts and plenty of action. The tension is nicely developed, the magical components are intriguing, and the adventure spirit never lets up. The result is an enticing story of the absurd and the impossible.

Compass to Vinland will particularly delight readers looking for an urban fantasy/paranormal magic experience that builds on the evolution of teen relationships and changing senses of place and purpose.

In Fury Born
David Weber
Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781982125738, $16.00

In Fury Born is a powerful chronicle of survival that centers around Alicia, the only survivor of an attack on her frontier-world family. She harbors the spirit of the Fury Tisiphone, who has been awakened and seeks battle revenge. As for Alicia, she led battles in the past, defending human civilization before she was betrayed and regulated to obscurity. Is she really up for being motivated by a spirit intent on revenge? Weber provides an absorbing tale of battles and courage that pits Alicia against everything she's familiar with and threatens either further loss or redemption. Its engrossing story of courage and change will attract a wide audience interested in powerful young women whose lives intersect with forces beyond their control.

Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471

Two new arrivals from Baen Books are highly recommended picks for sci-fi collections looking for mystery and history added to sci-fi backdrops.

Tom Kratman, Justin Watson and Kacey Ezell's The Romanov Rescue (9781982125707, $25.00) is recommended for fans of alternate history and military sci-fi and recreates the world of 1918 Russia and a formerly powerful family that faces their fate as their fortunes decline. As alternate futures clash, the fate of not only this pivotal family but Russia and communism are placed on the line in a historical revamp that offers many unpredictable moments and astute characters whose struggles come to life.

Charles E. Gannon's This Broken World (9781982125714, $25.00) tells of the changing fate of a young man slated for leadership from an early age. His destiny changes when he discovers a wider world and mysteries that challenge his command and future as he watches nearby kingdoms and absorbs some hard lessons in realities of his world. From how heavy dragons can fly to the presence of ancient fossils in a world that is supposed to be young, Druadaen finds himself on a journey involving dragons, ancient artifacts, and long-hidden truths.

Both are outstanding tales replete in action and adventure that are highly recommended reads for sci-fi fans looking for complex, unpredictable stories.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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