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California Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 4 April 2023 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Social Issues Shelf Cookbook Shelf
American History Shelf Economic Studies Shelf Theatre/Cinema/TV Shelf
Literary Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Poetry Shelf Biography Shelf
Christian Studies Shelf Holiday Shelf California Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Handwritten Notes
Carrie Pierce
Hiccup Press
9798987090305, $11.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Handwritten Notes: Learn How a Small, Powerful Act Can Enrich Your Life covers not just how to write notes, but how to communicate more effectively and personally via a rapidly-diminishing art form: the handwritten (not typed!) note.

Readers expecting a primer on how to write actually receive much more than another creative writing lesson. Carrie Pierce addresses the wider-ranging impact of the handwritten note, discussing the broader force of personal interaction rituals that have been largely replaced by technological distance and a from-the-hip shooting style of impulsive responding. Handwritten notes require more thought, purpose, and thinking about others. They inject a form of personal psychological inspection as communiques are put onto paper, taking the modern propensity for succinct interactions and expanding it into a deeper effort that promises greater rewards via improved life connections.

The promise of personal enrichment is presented from the start: "If you read the book closely enough you might convince yourself that this practice of writing notes by hand and sending them out into the world can do more than simply express thoughts, it can actually fill your life with greater joy and abundance." While this sounds lofty (and might, indeed, feel impossible) to generations raised in the age of technology, Pierce explores how heartfelt communications can change relationships and lives.

Both a lost art and a form of magic, the effort of putting a thought to paper via pen fulfills the promise of a type of closeness that has largely been dissolved by the distance created by typewriter, computers, and voice commands. From the neuroscience behind note-writing efforts to famous notes of others and the psychology that drives them to succeed where other avenues of communication fail, Pierce makes a thought-provoking argument for the power of the pen and the influence of written words that take time to be produced.

Handwritten Notes teaches by example, including reflections on Carnegie and others whose approaches fulfilled the goal of creating and fostering authentic connection. It also considers the long-term effects of isolation created by reliance on devices and technology over personal interactions, including case histories of disparate individuals. These include the author's own father, whose health and psyche was heavily impacted by the distance created by COVID isolation.

The book is far more than another 'how to write' guide, but a social survey of the handwritten note's impact, potential, and inspirational results. Handwritten Notes represents a promise, an opportunity, and a return to basics. Libraries and readers that pursue its wisdom will find its promise of abundance to be inspirational reading, promoting a form of connection that can reap surprising rewards via deeper authentic relationships.

The Social Issues Shelf

US: The Resurrection of American Terror
Rev. Kenneth W. Wheeler
Precocity Press
9798985149494, $29.95 Hardcover/$19.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

US: The Resurrection of American Terror is a memoir of Black anger and struggle, and comes from an Evangelical Lutheran pastor who identifies white supremacy as the real terrorist threat on American soil.

Using his experiences growing up in the Jim Crow South, Wheeler embarks on a historical and personal examination of racism and prejudice which exposes how its roots and spreading contamination have touched not only seven decades of his own life, but the experiences of every Black person in modern America. History blends with civil rights struggles and insights about the roots and impact of white supremacy as readers receive an unusual blend of scripture references and social examination that embraces scholarly and spiritual works alike.

From community-wide grief in response to senseless shootings to personal, political, and social examination on the deepest levels, Wheeler shows how his search for answers led him to look to Biblical references to explain and explore Black experiences: "When I learned of this shooting I immediately turned to Psalm 88. It is a Psalm that is rarely used in the Church because it conveys such total bleakness. The Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann calls Psalm 88 a Psalm of deep lament. The words of Psalm 88 are the words spoken by people who have faced an evil that has turned their world upside down. The evil has left them disoriented. The enigma of slavery was the beginning of our nation's disorientation. You stand in a place where everything that once gave you meaning and mooring and balance has been taken from you at an instant."

The heartfelt nature of this memoir reflects both a call to action, a drive for wisdom, and Wheeler's own experiences in a major white Lutheran denomination that was glaringly scarce in its own examples of racial diversity. The hopes expressed by such a congregation seemed more like "white noise" than sincere efforts to be inclusive or representative. The religious roots of the writer and US: The Resurrection of American Terror sets this memoir apart from most others.

Far more than another civil rights history or personal story of struggle, US: The Resurrection of American Terror offers an unusual blend of scholarship and religious inspection that make it especially recommendable to religious library holdings. These audiences, as well as libraries catering to diverse populations interested in issues of Black participation in largely White groups, will find US: The Resurrection of American Terror holds many groundbreaking insights that deserve to be included in book clubs and social issues discussion groups.

The Cookbook Shelf

The Complete Small Plates Cookbook
America's Test Kitchen
America's Test Kitchen, Publisher
9781954210370, $34.99

The Complete Small Plates Cookbook features over three hundred shareable dishes that can be defined as anything from Spanish tapas to bar snacks and salads. In keeping with the modern trend to eat less, but more flavorfully and diversely, this notion of sharing several small plates initially might feel like a challenge for home cooks used to producing a single large meal with a few side dishes. The trick of easy preparation lies in putting the pieces together that result in different dishes using similar ingredients, then balancing tastes, textures, and food displays for maximum diversity and appeal.

The Complete Small Plates Cookbook presents foolproof recipes for dishes such as Apple-Fennel Remoulade, Crab Croquettes, and Sweet Potato Hummus, with colorful photos of dishes combining eye-catching attraction with food that home cooks can easily reproduce to support the concept of small dishes shared among family and friends.

Libraries seeking a fine, diverse representation of small dish recipes should include The Complete Small Plates Cookbook in their collections.

Lizzie Stark
W.W. Norton
500 Fifth Avenue New York, New York 10110
9780393531503, $28.00

Egg: A Dozen Ovatures is a rousing tribute to the egg that will attract cooks and anyone with an interest in historical and scientific facts about eggs. The egg represents a paradox in many ways. This is thoroughly explored by an author interested in all of the egg's facets, from myths and realities about eggs to the possibilities of utilizing them more widely in the kitchen. While this far-ranging examination brings it far from the typical cookbook recipe format, Egg is featured here because it should not be missed by any with an interest in food history in general and eggs in particular.

Libraries will find Egg unparalleled in its in-depth focus, lively considerations of history, and ability to appeal to historical readers as well as cooks who normally don't receive such an expansive survey.

The Slimming Foodie in Minutes
Pip Payne
c/o Octopus Publishing
9781783254989, $26.99

The Slimming Foodie in Minutes: 100+ Quick-Cook Recipes Under 600 Calories combines speedy dishes with a healthy perspective on cooking, offering recipes that can each be prepared in under 30 minutes, containing under 600 calories.

Pip Payne proves that "low-fat" needn't translate to "high effort," presenting dishes packed with flavor. Examples include Light Lemon, Smoked Salmon & Pea Spaghetti, Sweet & Spicy Mango Prawns, and Creamy Chinese Five Spice Chicken Curry (the cream comes from light coconut milk). With attractive facing color photos accompanying each recipe, even the busiest cooks can easily produce healthier main dishes that shine.

The American History Shelf

Speaking While Female
Dana Rubin
Real Clear Publishing
9781637550304, $30.00

In the chronicles of history, male speech-makers are typically highlighted while women are portrayed as clapping on the sidelines of their success. That's why Speaking While Female: 75 Extraordinary Speeches by American Women is especially powerful and important - it captures women's voices and showcases their strength to illustrate that women are no less capable in this department than men. They've just been understated and buried in a patriarchal society's representation of historical characters and strengths.

Dana Rubin's survey of women's voices in America exposes and captures their nuances, passion, and equally powerful presentations. Rubin herself is curator and founder of the Female Speech Bank. As a notable speaker, Rubin created this project to highlight women's voices, illustrating and returning their power to historical and social significance and, through this book, hopefully widespread knowledge.

This collection, although very accessible to individual pursuit, would really shine when utilized by drama students, in women's issues classrooms, and by women's history discussion groups. The speeches themselves raise many important points both in their content and by their choice of words and passion.

Another important note is that these works assume a chronological strength made uniform by their historical journey through women's experiences from the 1800s to modern times. Many won't anticipate that a modern-sounding subject such as Lucy Stone's impromptu speech "Disappointment is the Lot of Women" would be presented as a moving speech in October 17, 1855 at the Seventh Women's Rights Convention at Smith & Nixon's Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio. Stone's words ring with strength and protest: "The question of Woman's Rights is a practical one. The notion has prevailed that it was only an ephemeral idea; that it was but women claiming the right to smoke cigars in the streets, and to frequent barrooms. Others have supposed it a question of comparative intellect; others still, of sphere. Too much has already been said and written about woman's sphere. Trace all the doctrines to their source and they will be found to have no basis except in the usages and prejudices of the age."

This is just a single example of an eye-opening collection that corrects the absence of women in the history of America's great orators, bringing to life the topics, repression, and achievements of not only the speech-maker or writer, but her fellow female audiences at that point in time. A wide range of library collections will see popularity with this survey, which ideally will not just be studied by individuals, but utilized in group and classroom settings, as well as book clubs, as a source for debates and consideration of women's words and the force with which they were written and delivered.

Their impact on modern audiences interested in women's history and issues cannot be stressed enough.

The Economic Studies Shelf

The Evolution of China's Anti-Poverty Strategies
William N. Brown, PhD
9789811972805, $59.99 Hardcover/$49.99 Paper

The Evolution of China's Anti-Poverty Strategies: Cases of 20 Chinese Changing Lives reveals a program replete with new examples of how China's population has overcome poverty. It is highly recommended reading for social issues students interested in alternative anti-poverty strategies that have proven successful in the real world.

The book is based on Dr. Brown's personal travels through China from 1988 onwards, when he moved there to study Chinese. It follows family travels around Southeast China, where he observed rural and urban poor Chinese that were not only optimistic about their future, but active participants who embraced the Chinese Dream as part of their daily lives.

How did China achieve what many Western nations grapple with? They didn't rely on economic development to end poverty, but instead educated and provided even the remotest communities with the infrastructure and education to encourage citizens to participate in and build their own anti-poverty programs.

In 2019, Dr. Brown again embarked on a journey around China to chart what had actually changed in 25 years of idealistic effort. What he saw proved that even the remotest of areas benefitted by the wide reach of China's anti-poverty program. The power of this story lies in Dr. Brown's personal observations, conversations, and interactions with ordinary people affected by seven decades of conscious anti-poverty efforts. He found that the entire country had progressed much more rapidly than he would have thought, the people were optimistic about their national programs and personal lives, and restoration efforts that took place not just economically but in farming and ecosystem revision via community involvement were far more effective than the typical government approach of trickling down wealth or bequeathing aid for the poor.

The result is an eye-opening survey, on many levels. For students of Chinese history and culture, The Evolution of China's Anti-Poverty Strategies provides the personal insights, interviews, and touches missing from more scholarly debates about China's people and policies. For those interested in the social issues of various nations and China in particular, The Evolution of China's Anti-Poverty Strategies provides a blueprint of entrepreneurial efforts that demonstrates how prosperity may be encouraged at all levels of society. These case histories should ideally be part of any library interested not just in China, but the social effort of overcoming poverty and empowering people at all economic levels. The Evolution of China's Anti-Poverty Strategies should also be part of book clubs and groups discussing anti-poverty issues and strategies beyond the typical Western experience and focus.

The Theatre/Cinema/TV Shelf

The Imagineering Story
Leslie Iwerks
Disney Press
9781368049368, $35.00

The Imagineering Story: The Official Biography of Walt Disney Imagineering is not for the casual Disney fan used to books packed with colorful Disney illustration, but for the avid arts reader interested in an authorized biography of how Walt Disney Imagineering created a theme park that captured world attention. Connections between Walt Disney's own life and interests dovetail nicely with the story of how Disney films, theme parks, and the brand evolved.

Accompanying a TV documentary of the same name, The Imagineering Story is replete with insider information and history not seen elsewhere, as well as film-specific insights which will educate and attract film students. From worldwide Disney teams to incarnations of Walt Disney's dream, this book is a definitive 'must' addition not just for Disney fan collections, but arts libraries strong in animation and film history, who will receive an in-depth, weighty survey of the evolution of Disney's dream. Even with all the Disney biographies and discussions on the market, there is nothing as in-depth, authoritative, or wide-ranging as The Imagineering Story.

The Literary Fiction Shelf

Among the Fallen
Henry Mitchell
Creative James Media
9781956183580, $16.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Among the Fallen focuses on a sleepy Appalachian village, but doesn't open with the ordinary world. Instead, it introduces a milieu in which portents of change between the Two Worlds charge Wendl with introducing Gobnait (aka Abigail Trammel) back to the Stream from the world of the Fallen. Readers come to realize that the Fallen's world is our own familiar one.

Abigail is no spring chicken. Well into her elder years, Abigail prides herself in maintaining abilities her peers have not. Wendl VonTrier is just the new renter in town -- or so she thinks! Why is a visitor coming off-season and unannounced? It's none of her business, Abigail thinks -- but it turns out to be entirely her concern, because the visitor lies at the heart of an edict to change worlds and her own future via the challenges Wendl introduces to Abigail's set life.

As crimes, victims, and puzzles mount, readers will find this story a special blend of magical realism, murder mystery, and a tale of evil, redemption, and other worlds that come to center on one small town and an aging woman who holds unexpected answers to odd circumstances and questions. "How perverse are the gods. More inscrutable, even than dragons." Given the keys to a special kind of kingdom, will Abigail use them?

Author Henry Mitchell mixes mystery, literary reflection, magical realism, and discoveries with Appalachian community culture in a manner that lends to the book's enjoyment by fantasy and novel readers alike. Its magic is rooted in two worlds, its characters operate on the edges of both, and its action and psychological tension develop many surprises in the course of events which draw all kinds of people into a transformative encounter.

Libraries will find Among the Fallen easily recommendable to patrons interested in mystery, magical realism, fantasy, and small town rising forces alike, creating a bridge between fantasy and fiction that, like its characters, operates equally powerfully in two genre worlds.

Society, Suspicious
Freeman Smith
Atmosphere Press
9781639887064, $24.99 Hardcover/$16.99 Paper

Society, Suspicious represents political satire at its best, blending a first-person observational style with experimental fiction in a manner designed to challenge reader perceptions and ideals.

Freeman Smith's saga opens with a bang: "I faked my death in Paris, which proved far easier than I had imagined. The one time in my life I devoted my mind and soul to planning. Real planning. France is not like America. A few hundred years older, maybe not wiser, but definitely too tired to deny or regulate a man's personal freedoms."

A stolen citizenship card from a dying man leads the narrator into a life " of fame and chaos and forced narcissism." The self-professed "Mr. Mojo Rising" has been a busy man in America, playing the 'victim/hero' in a variety of scenarios that keeps testing his identity and fostering his participation in the nation's "collective narcissism."

The poet/rebel narrator crafts so many observations and dialogues that readers ride a roller coaster ride of irony and social inspection that moves from money to madness around the world, juxtaposing a jaunt through others' lives with a wry sense of embellishment and commentary that runs over disparate lives like a river of judgment. Whether attacking affirmative action and prejudice, the love child of a seventeen-year-old's dalliance, or scenes from a play that offer serious messages, the strobe light roller-skating foray is certain to intrigue, offend, and give rise to all kinds of thoughts. Whether he's embedding poetry, play scenes, or nonfiction into his saga, one thing is for certain: this experimental work will challenge some and intrigue others.

Ultimately, its romp and realizations deserve attention and discussion in book groups interested in satirical experimental fiction firmly embedded in social inspection. Society, Suspicious will do well in libraries that look for contemporary satire, experimental literary fiction, and stories that reverberate with contemporary angst.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

A Third Option
E. Aly
Marshwinds Press
9781734117066, $12.95 Paper/$20.95 Hardcover

Does ambition preclude romance? In Amy Leonard's case, it may prove an unlikely and unwelcome obstacle to achieving senior partner in her company -- a goal she has strived and fought hard for.

As the story opens, Amy already has a lover and roommate in Tom. In many ways, her life is predictable and its course has been set. Relatively quickly into the story, it becomes evident that Amy's life course is not on the same page as Tom's. In fact, it's set to change in a way that challenges her greatest ambition.

As readers move through Amy's increasing dilemmas about what she envisions as being valuable for her future, they face, alongside her, choices which are both different and irrevocable. Each option holds the possibility of totally transforming her life, but no option seems completely satisfying.

Her protege in the company, Reggie Boykin, offers her another choice that adds new possibilities, but his idea also places him at risk in new ways as he takes his own big step into the unknown and struggles to keep a secret from Amy that he has hidden all his life.

As an author, E. Aly builds a romance from unlikely roots, adds the conflict created by job and two co-workers who face their own life-changing moments, and follows each through the mire of ethical and emotional choices. The focus on emotional evolution, changing priorities, and the juxtaposition of work world and family life creates a satisfying backdrop for an evolving relationship that rests on rocky foundations.

As Reggie, Tom, and Amy find themselves mired in an increasing love triangle-style dilemma, each must make choices that seem to go against everything they've believed and fought for. A Third Option is a study not in traditional romance and relationship-building, but what happens when life introduces surprising twists to carefully planned life paths. Each of the characters feels compelled to step up to the challenge in different ways, holding different feelings, and these lend a fine layer of complexity to the story.

While the result can be billed a 'romance', A Third Option actually is far more detailed than the usual story of love. As Amy, Tom and Reggie re-examine their lives and options, new paths emerge which recreate ideals of love as well as testing their characters and life objectives.

Libraries looking for love stories that emerge from turbulent roots and surprising connections will find A Third Option attractive and recommendable, especially to book clubs seeking more than the standard romance's progression.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Catherine Coulter, Editor
Suspense Publishing
B0BLR9KYD2, $9.99 ebook YD2

Infinity: A Suspense Magazine Anthology features a host of notable writers, ranging from Susan Wingate and Tosca Lee to E.J. Howe, and provides an adventure-oriented thriller collection that excels in the unexpected. Thriller readers usually don't receive laugh-out-loud moments. Nor does the genre typically embrace a broad spectrum of age ranges in its protagonists, or perspectives laced with the bite of irony and unusually poetic inspections. All these facets and more support a diverse selection that travels time, space, and the suspense genre to pick out those gems that truly stand out from the crowd.

Take J.T. Ellison's "Louche 49," for one example. 1985 Paris comes to life through the eyes of assassin Annalise, whose latest "easy" assignment has gone very, very wrong. The outcome of her failure is outlined from the start: "The woman with the blue suede shoes will sit at table ten. If she orders the tartare, the job is done. If she orders the sole, something went wrong. Do not order the sole. Those were the final words before the call had been terminated and she was sure she'd never, ever have to debase herself by admitting defeat. Do not fail. She has no idea that, were she to order the sole, it will come with a lethal dose of poison in the tender white flesh. The patrons of the restaurant will assume she's choked on a sliver of bone, the waiter who deboned the fish tableside summarily dismissed, and the body taken to a field near the Bois de Boulogne for a discreet burial." A lie will buy her time while she seeks to fulfill her mission. The progression from Paris to modern-day Nashville represents a sea change in perspective as readers seamlessly shift into another reality which holds unexpected consequences and insights.

Another satisfying twist of tale lies in Kelley Armstrong's "The Joy of Wrong Numbers." Here, a grandma recovering from a heart attack in a hospital stumbles upon the joy of wrong numbers when a mishap results in the unexpected.

Armstrong's ability to inject fun into a thought-provoking story is only one of the attractors, here: "How does one go from "Whoops, wrong number" to a recipe exchange? Well, first, one needs to be my grandmother." One accident can lead to a lifestyle change. In Gran's case, it certainly does, as daughter Lily finds that the wrong number pursuit may result in the right thing for her.

Each story is unique. In a genre replete with formula writing and often-predictable results, it's refreshing to find a gem of unpredictability and diversity. Such is Infinity.

Libraries looking for short story thriller collections that stand out from the ordinary with writers who each craft very different visions of suspense, horror, and the intersection of thriller and life endeavors will find much to relish in Infinity, which should be held up as an example of truly creative thriller writing.

Salt Island
Lisa Towles
Indies United Publishing
9781644565889, Kindle $3.99, PB $16.99, HC $26.99, Audiobook $15.99

Salt Island is the second book in the E&A Investigation Series. It follows former CIA operative-turned-private-P.I. Mari Ellwyn's investigation into a CEO's blackmailing and the witness determined to bring his corrupt ways to public and legal attention. Mari's new business partner, Derek Abernathy, is thrown into her complex world as unexplained deaths take an even more dangerous turn for them both, placing them in the crosshairs of a conflict that evolves beyond a singular case to embrace many facets of wrongdoing and threat.

On its surface, Salt Island may be labeled a work of suspense and intrigue. Scratch that appearance to find it's fraught with layers of satisfying complexity that drags moral and ethical conundrums into the fray. The peace before a storm is captured in a surprising prologue that opens not with adversity, but the image of a surreal place of safety powered by a gently rocking boat. This peace is suddenly shaken by a body in the water that changes everything.

The first-person narrator's father was a spy before he went missing, and so the corpse introduces both a mystery and a flashback to possibilities the protagonist would rather not think about. Especially since this former officer of the law should not have been in the area in the first place.

The situation is further complicated by the question of whether her boat and discovery lie in US waters and jurisdiction. With this, Lisa Towles takes off on a globe-hopping journey of discovery which probes international waters and past and present events alike.

Old friends, new news, assertions and rebuttals in the legal arena, and deadly purposes evolve in the course of Ellwyn and Abernathy's venture into unknown waters and unfamiliar territory. From chemical dumping and toxic relationships to family secrets and discoveries that rock Mari's personal life as well as her professional acuity, readers are treated to changing subplots and revelations that lend a dance of danger to the story.

Towles is especially adept at entwining personal and political circumstances in such a way that readers are kept guessing about outcomes. Who is the perp and who the good guy, and what entangled relationships keep circling back to a missing father's own agenda? Thriller readers thus receive a far more complex story that many; yet it's one which is firmly planted in the personalities and lives of not just perps, but their pursuers.

Another plus is that each partner is charged with reconsidering not just their involvements and own lives, but each other. Salt Island is a gripping suspense story that reveals many unexpected connections, yet takes the time to inject a sense of place into the sense of purpose, creating a "you are here" experience no matter where the partners are in the world: "We sat there for thirty minutes, sheltered by the wind in the protected chess park of Santa Monica Pier on a grungy table eating the most delicious Mexican food from my favorite taqueria, while I told him the story - at least part of the story..."

Salt Island both enhances and expands Ellwyn's world from her prior appearance in Hot House, standing nicely alone as a riveting work of espionage, wrongdoing, and discovery. It will attract and grab the attentions of those interested in stories as much about uncovering personal secrets as in crime-busting efforts.

Libraries seeking exceptional thriller reads powered by the passion and purpose of unexpected revelations that continue to the story's concluding lines will find Salt Island more than worthy of acquisition.

Star Tangled Murder
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press
9781952886256, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Star Tangled Murder is the eighteenth book in the Bad Hair Days cozy mystery series -- but that doesn't mean that newcomers need pursue the other 17 books in order to start with and thoroughly enjoy this latest addition.

The 4th of July holiday has led hairdresser Marla Vail and her detective husband Dalton to visit a historical village in Florida, where they plan on steeping themselves in American history ... until a simulated battle becomes too real. A body is left on the battlegrounds, raising the investigative hackles of husband and wife. What ensues is a romp through American and Seminole Indian history in a probe that takes place on domestic soil, but ventures into foreign territory with another hair-raising tale. How many modern folk die via tomahawk? Which cast member in this insidious play took the next step into becoming a murderer, changing the plot of an entire village's holiday celebration? With a hairdresser's precision for employing effective cuts, Marla joins her husband in the probe, only to find that they are not confronting one suspect, but the murky undercurrents and secrets of an entire village.

Forced to assess intention from strangers in a world she barely knows, Marla's investigative eye for trouble uncovers too many possibilities in even the most casual of encounters: "Was Uriah passing on a friendly warning, or did this threat come from him directly? She couldn't ascertain his purpose and tossed out another query to test him."

As astute as the methodology is between husband and wife, which contrast according to their skill sets, is the character-building and community-revealing force Nancy J. Cohen employs. History and mystery entangle in unusual manners as the story unfolds, revealing a series of lies and possibilities that become even more convoluted and puzzling as Marla and Dalton delve deeper.

As the history and more murders evolve, the duo finds themselves ever more twisted in a mystery that leads Marla to consider when to obey her more savvy husband's detective edicts and instincts and when to embark on her own course of action. The result is delightful in its progressive unfolding of facts and fancies, cemented by characters that encounter a strange twist on American history and pursue these links to their surprising conclusions.

Libraries seeking cozy mysteries replete in psychological strength and American history drama will find Star Tangled Murder a compelling portrait of a historical reenactment gone awry.

Velma Gone Awry
Matt Cost
Encircle Publications
9781645994176, $27.99 Hardcover/$17.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Velma Gone Awry is a mystery set in Brooklyn during the Roaring 20s. It follows a middle-aged Hungarian P.I., 8 Ballo, who enjoys a relatively simple and satisfying life until he's hired to locate the missing daughter of Fritz Hartmann, a wealthy German businessman. His efforts force him out of his comfort zone as 8 delves into the life of Velma, a twenty-five-year-old woman who at first seems more than capable of taking care of herself.

Velma considered herself a flapper. The fact that she's been missing three days and there's no ransom demand is puzzling, indicating to 8 that there may be more at stake than a simple abduction for money scenario. As 8 moves in and out of her life and his own fugue states, readers learn that both characters are not what they initially seem. Each harbors dreams and takes actions that are not always supportive to their goals. Velma's mystery has awakened in 8 a renewed passion: "It must be Velma who'd thrown him back into disturbing fantasies of being a hero. Once again, in real life this time, he'd been tasked with saving the girl. He didn't mean to fail."

Readers won't anticipate the blend of historical and social inspection of the times that permeates Velma Gone Awry, but this strength is just one of the pleasing surprises of the vivid story. As 8 moves into impossible, challenging scenarios, his feelings about his moves translate to themes embedded in the overall story: "He didn't realize where he was going until he was almost there." The fact that readers, too, won't realize the outcome until they are nearly there makes Velma Gone Awry a powerful tale of intrigue, redemption, and discovery that comes full circle from Velma's circumstances to her family's history.

Libraries looking for full-bodied mysteries that display equally captivating elements of historical and social intrigue will find Velma Gone Awry just the ticket for a more literary and complex inspection than a simple whodunit alone.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Burn the Ship (Pirates of New Earth series, Book 3)
Sarah Branson
Sooner Started Press
9781957774060, $18.99 Paper/$1.99 ebook

Burn the Ship is the third book in the Pirates of the New Earth series begun in A Merry Life, continuing the saga of mother and pirate Kat, who made such a splash in the first book and continues her foray into uncharted territory here.

Unlike typical pirate stories, Burn the Ship assumes a cyberpunk overlay of dystopian angst as Kat juggles her duties. She faces the added task of serving justice to the world and eliminating human trafficking on Earth while serving dinner to her family and keeping her personal life intact and separate from the political and social issues that drive her to be a leader. Kat is, in short, a force to be reckoned with.

As an officer in the Bosch Pirate Force, she is charged with entering the fray of a blossoming threat while addressing both her family's needs and the ghosts from her past that continue to haunt her, affecting her choices and values. As powerful as the social and political turbulence Kat navigates are matters of the heart which keep redirecting her special interests from home to broader social and political issues.

Readers looking for rollicking rides through dystopian worlds that are replete in emotional currents and undercurrents will especially relish the confrontations that lead Kat to re-examine her closest connections in life. Mystery, high drama, and new opportunities for Kat blend into the kinds of conundrums that can destroy, shake, or build a family. How she chooses to navigate these disparate worlds makes for a powerful dystopian adventure story that will attract not only Kat's prior fans, but newcomers who like exceptionally powerful female protagonists who tackle the dual and concurrent challenges of family and freedom alike.

The new possibilities which emerge from Kat's actions and reflections promise to attract a wide audience with components of thriller, mystery, adventure, and women's literary inspections, as well as those reading the sci-fi genre it will be identified with.

Blow the Man Down (Pirates of New Earth series, Book 4)
Sarah Branson
Sooner Started Press
9781957774107, $18.99 Paper/$1.99 ebook

Because Blow the Man Down is the fourth book concluding the Pirates of New Earth sci-fi series, it's recommended that readers have at least an initial familiarity with pirate mother Kat and her unusual pursuit of justice and family before joining her on her final adventure. Those with such background will already know of Kat's evolutionary process, conundrums, and special challenges in remaining true to both her mission to end human trafficking and meeting her family's needs.

Both pursuits continue in the year 2366, as Kat faces both the culmination of her life's pursuit and a new threat when her children are abducted. Torn by the blows to her heart's deepest desire, Kat's initial feeling that "the world is now in balance" shatters with each event that further proves she is not in as much control as she'd imagined. As events unfold, Kat faces threats even in places she'd formerly felt safe, and begins to wonder if she and her allies can ever defeat the storm that has driven both human trafficking on New Earth and the man who once enslaved her.

Sarah Branson builds a story that centers not just on Kat's strength, but the emotional currents and forces that buffet those around her. One such character is fellow former slave and survivor Carisa, who has adopted extraordinary measures and compromises in order to endure. As Kat begins to realize the real impact of past, present, and future decisions she must make about the course of her life and its pursuits, readers absorb a powerful crescendo of events that both challenge her convictions and solidify her life purpose.

Sarah Branson creates just the right special blend of action and discovery that keeps Kat growing, evolving, and challenged to do and be more. Women who look for characters that can serve as role models for adaptation and courage will find Kat's dilemmas and scenarios emotionally compelling, realistic, and educational.

Libraries that choose Blow the Man Down should consider the series as a whole. Each book builds another piece of Kat's character and world. Together, the series books create a world both realistic and thoroughly absorbing. Book clubs interested in stories of proactive women who confront new lessons about their convictions and power in life will find many discussion points sparked by not just Blow the Man Down, but the series as a whole.

New Dragon Soaring
G.S. Carline
Dancing Corgi Press
9781943654253, $19.95 Paper/$.99 ebook

New Dragon Soaring is the third book in the Dragon Shadows series featuring dragons, girl pirates, and curses. In this book, Lisette de Lille and Tristen de Rocco have a young daughter, Alara. The kidnapping of their child by a Ruhee, a vengeful women obsessed with Rocco, separates the couple and leads them into different discoveries as each strives to find their baby.

Between the events which led to Alara's birth in the aftermath of battle to the specter of a savior turned deadly force because of a love that takes a dark turn as author G.S. Carline paints a compelling story replete with twists and turns that both serves as a standalone tale and enhances the prior series novels.

Exploring moon and blood dragons and how they differ to the yet-unexplored powers her new daughter may exhibit, the story provides a satisfying blend of quest and discovery that involves readers of all ages in a special tale of combat and revelation. Carline is especially adept at portraying the different kinds of growth each character experiences both individually and as part of a couple.

Embedded within Rocco's lessons on transformation from dragon to man and back, for example, are instructions on everything from relationships to parenting choices. The strength of New Dragon Soaring doesn't just lie in a quest or the uncovering of personal power, but in the discoveries surrounding transmitting this power and these lessons to new generations. There is plenty of struggle, battle scenes, and interpersonal interactions between good and not-so-good forces, but Carline takes the time to examine the psychological influences on all choices, making the characters believable and compelling.

Libraries and reads looking for action-packed sword-and-sorcery fantasies that take the extra step in explaining the growth of power and connections will find New Dragon Soaring a sterling example of a series book that holds equally powerful appeal to prior readers as well as newcomers.

Scales and Stingers
K. M. Warfield
Creative James Media
9781956183726, $12.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Sword and sorcery fantasy readers seeking epic and memorable stories will find Scales and Stingers, the first in the Heroes of Avoch series, to be a compelling introduction to a world in which half breed Thia Bransdottir is shunned. Her father's protection vanishes upon his death, and she is slated for religious work in a cloister, but her story doesn't end here.

Jinaari Althir is sworn to protect Thia throughout her life no matter where she goes. Her unwillingness to trust anyone after her father is killed leads her to wonder about everyone in her life - even those seemingly charged with protecting a half-Fallen like herself. Thia has never run from anything. Does this make her courageous? As she comes to know Adam and a host of people that swirl around her, some with special interests and some with their own preservation in mind, Thia discovers innate abilities she'd never considered. These are brought to the forefront both by new challenges and those who observe her closely. It's not in Thia to quit - or to make friends. She must learn different ways of reacting to life and adversity if she is to not just rise above her heritage as half-Fallen, but embrace its strengths.

K. M. Warfield crafts a story that is compelling as different characters deal with banishment, shame, courage, and unexpected strengths. From warlocks and unusual homecomings to secrets that bind a disparate group of friends, Warfield's ability to build a story based on changing political and social environments creates a tale that's hard to put down. Perhaps Thia's greatest lesson isn't just to learn to trust others and herself. It's to know how to oppose and guide the forces at work in her kingdom: "Wisdom isn't telling someone what they should do, it's showing them the support they need to make the decision themselves."

Libraries looking for introductory series titles in sword and sorcery fantasy arenas will find the character-building moments in Scales and Stingers to be vivid draws that nicely juxtapose social action and dilemmas with individual struggles.

The Poetry Shelf

Create Destruction
Ryan A. Kovacs
PHiR Publishing
B0BRNW1JY7, $7.49 ebook

Create Destruction adopts an unusual format in presenting a novel in verse. It's centered around a crazy doctor hell-bent on harnessing the psychic abilities of a 12-year-old for his own nefarious intentions. While the poetic component of the story may thwart the typical novel readers looking for thrillers in the usual prose format, Ryan A. Kovacs successfully creates a compelling draw both in plot and form which will appeal to more literary-minded readers interested in epic dramas.

The process of explaining destruction as the power of "...the undeniable action/that man chooses - /the very thing he creates" assumes a vivid set of descriptors that follow the bad doctor into moral, ethical, and uncharted territory via the perspective of young Thomas, who participates in a deadly experiment. As the major player representing the doctor's vision, Thomas harbors his own personality, doubts, and struggles. These carry him into revelations about his own evolving abilities and their direction.

Readers who at first might find the verse structure a struggle will be surprised at how intensely Kovacs draws readers into Thomas's perspective, experiences, and evolving sense of purpose under the doctor's hand and his own evolutionary process. The verse reinforces the specter of an ambitious, thought-provoking inspection of responsibility, choice, exploitation, and the talents utilized by a boy who comes to realize he is being employed as a weapon.

Passages prove thought-provoking and impactful than if they had been rendered in prose, neatly drawing readers into Thomas's dilemmas: "Nothing matters because we have lost the meaning of life./Until we understand that once again/we are only ever moving backwards in time." The result is a powerful story that combines the experimental creativeness of literature with the draw of a thriller and the power of fiction to produce an accessible, revealing story that should attract a wide audience.

Ideally, Create Destruction will be profiled not just for its unusual form of a novel in verse, but for the embedded psychological and philosophical discoveries that bring Thomas and his questionable abilities and guidance to life.

Corpse Beneath the Crocus
N.N. Nelson
Atmosphere Press
9781639887385, $16.99

Corpse Beneath the Crocus may sound like a murder mystery, but its subject is literary in nature and emotional in content. In detailing the experience of grief, loss, and re-creation, Nelson brings to the table the added value of growth and revelation, injecting a sense of new possibility and beginnings under impossible circumstances. Take 'A Seed' for one example. It compares life to a seed, then metamorphizes to reflect a personal stage of growth: "Sometimes life is like a seed/And sometimes I am the seed The waiting change/The burst of freedom/The power buried beneath turned soil..." 'Lost' is about the "waves of reflection" that follow loss and batter against life itself as newfound coldness results in "Crying the flood/Crying for the beautiful soul/Wandering somewhere in the dark..."

All the works are not succinct expressions. 'Bizarre Mind', for example, explores "Cirque du ridiculous" in considering the meandering pathways of thoughts and hearts challenged by reality and imagination, and the mercurial boundaries that separate them. The heartache of loss and the pain of transformation are captured in a work that chronicles the process of going down the rabbit hole of loss and emerging into a new world, transformed.

Libraries and readers seeking poetry collections that are candid, vivid expressions of this process will find the free verse of Corpse Beneath the Crocus compellingly rich in its study of the emotional peaks and valleys of grief.

Wave Pulse
Michael Zucaro
Atmosphere Press
9781639887064, $24.99 Hardcover/$16.99 Paper

Wave Pulse is a poetry collection dedicated to representing the waves of life change that pulse through worlds of man and nature alike. Centered in the experiences of humans and environment, each poem is a powerful observation of the banality, focuses, representations, and the "spontaneous patterning" of daily conversations, random events, and underlying connections. Many of these inspections stem from inspirational observations, as in 'FROM A PHOTO OF A HOPI PRIEST BY ADAM CLARK VROMAN': "seedjar spills into night/snake priest jaws gripped/eyes glisten..." One doesn't need a photo to reinforce these visual words - their description and impact are enough.

Others reflect the magnetic attraction of science, as in 'OF COSMOGENESIS', which crafts an evocative physics-laden discourse connecting waves of science with life: "atoms protons electrons/neutrons arc, quarks! What/sparks neurons in our veins?" The flow and pulse of waves of life, light, and insight resonate through free verse designed to contrast the bluster and focus of human affairs with the wider-ranging limitations of and possibilities in nature. Wave Pulse is an energizing collection of inquiries into the models and spirits of man and nature.

Libraries that pursue it for its contemporary literary style will find much to recommend to poetry readers interested in the flux and rhythms of life.

The Biography Shelf

Butterfly of Hope: Finding My Wings
JoAnn Santore Dickson
Independently Published
9798844093654, $15.95

Butterfly of Hope: Finding My Wings is a memoir about facing illness and spiritual roots, and listening to life-changing messages in adversity that push author JoAnn Santore Dickson's life into new directions. It addresses a variety of topics as it moves through Dickson's life, from loss and self-healing to not only getting life back, but delving into the past to consider better choices for the future.

Dickson's goal was to accept herself unconditionally and embrace new facets of spiritual realization that helped form a different personality and perspective on life. This is achieved both in her actions and reactions to her experiences and upon publication of her book, which points the way for others on the same path of self-discovery. As Dickson moves from her Christian Science upbringing that led her to resist going to the doctor after a car accident delivers alarming symptoms weeks later, to a state in which she pays more attention to her body and soul, readers will appreciate her progression. Especially strongly described is her relationship with family, which steeps the story with additional conversations about relationship ideals, spiritual realizations, and a life complicated by health challenges on all sides.

As Dickson learns how to stay strong for others as well as herself, she moves into training programs that help her better achieve her emotional, spiritual, and physical goals. By writing her memoir, Dickson does more than explore the process of emergence. She gives wings to her readers, who in turn can use her experiences and lessons to tackle their own possibilities of growth and flight. She offers insights into not just accepting change, but how to run and fly with it.

Libraries looking for memoirs steeped in spiritual and healing processes will find much to like in Butterfly of Hope: Finding My Wings, which is spiced with journal entries that reflect the author's progressive realizations about her life and her approach to it.

Good Morning, Hope
Argita and Detina Zalli
Sandra Jonas Publishing
9781954861060, $14.95 Paperback/$26.95 Hardcover/$6.99 Ebook

Good Morning, Hope: A True Story of Refugee Twin Sisters and Their Triumph over War, Poverty, and Heartbreak belongs in any library interested in stories of refugee experience in general and Albanian history in particular. It is also about family, strength, and the bond between twins, it's likewise for any reader interested in stories of growing up struggling and fighting for a better life. It chronicles the efforts of an Albanian family to flee the financial meltdown in their country in 1997, but it doesn't end with their successful escape to England. In some ways the story is just beginning at that point because the twins and their parents then move into a social milieu nearly as challenging as the environment they fled.

As the story evolves, from mystery helpers who assist the family's flight to circumstances that threaten to separate the family at numerous junctures, Argita and Detina Zalli present the emotional tension both outside and within the family as they confront the pressures of their choices.

Another thought-provoking component to their story is the prejudice against immigrants and refugees, which the children experience in a land that took so much effort to reach and initially showed so much promise.

As events unfold, these ongoing struggles challenge the family to adopt new methods of handling their vastly changed world. The Zalli twins powerfully detail the emotional tides and revelations that force disparate individuals to come together: "I had been a good actress so far, but how could I pretend that the past didn't exist? How could I pretend that we would work well together with two girls who hated us and had caused us so much suffering? How could I forgive them without their asking for forgiveness?"

The result will move beyond readers interested in Albanian experiences and into general audiences attracted to stories of refugee survival, prejudice, and integration processes. This is a book for libraries and readers seeking vivid first-person chronicles that embrace family, a sense of place, and alien territory. Good Morning, Hope is a study in adaptation and courage that chronicles growth against all odds, documenting how one family blossoms even in the midst of social, political, and psychological storms.

Where Yellow Flowers Bloom
Kim Cantin
Precocity Press
B0BVC7HY42, $9.99 ebook

Where Yellow Flowers Bloom: A True Story of Hope Through Unimaginable Loss is a mother's memoir of the gripping tragedy that resulted in the loss of her home and the positive life she had built. It opens with a vivid experience that occurred when the family was buried in their home by a landslide. As Kim Cantin documents events from 2017 onward that involved struggles with fire and the products of California's changing weather, readers gain a sense of what it means to survive not just one, but a series of life-altering environmental events. These reach from the crazy weather events of 2017 to the pouring rains of 2018 that produced avalanches that ran through their home at 35 miles per hour.

Where Yellow Flowers Bloom cultivates a "you are here" experience as it narrates the blows Cantin's family endured.

Kim Cantin believed her entire family would die that night. Her house totally destroyed and her loved ones missing, she barely survived, herself. One of the strengths of her story, which lends to its vivid appeal, lies in daughter Lauren's notes about her experiences, juxtaposing with her mother Kim's reflections about being survivors against all odds.

David and Jack Canton, as well as dog Chester, were lost. Jack was not found for three years. The search Kim was to undertake involved the community and brought together strangers who helped: "I witnessed some of the best of human kindness." This joint effort to save her family resulted in compelling examples of kindness and concern from strangers that was to set the course for recovery and the rest of their lives.

Where Yellow Flowers Bloom is more than a portrait of family disaster. It's a riveting account of surviving personal achievement, love, and perseverance that carries a mother and daughter into a new life where kindness becomes intrinsically entwined with survival. The lessons Kim receives are given back in different ways; one of which is the publication of this memoir: "It reminds me to accept my life's changes, and to work to thrive and move forward. I know for sure that this is what my husband and son would want for us. And, maybe, just maybe, they helped this coincidence to happen."

As hope and goodness emerge from inconceivable circumstance and loss, readers gain a sense of how hope and faith become tied to community response and supportive efforts. They also receive a diverse portrait of kindness in action from all types of community members.

Libraries looking for memoirs of tragedy, adversity, grief, and, ultimately, hope will find that Where Yellow Flowers Bloom is an especially powerful portrait - one that should join any other true stories about surviving the impossible.

The Christian Studies Shelf

C.J.S. Hayward in Under 99 Pages
C.J.S. Hayward
CJS Hayward Publications
9798485392727, $11.99 Hardcover/$5.99 Paper/$.99 Kindle

Anyone who has followed the spiritual writings of C.J.S. Hayward well knows they are thought-provoking, lengthy productions designed to engage spiritual thinkers and audiences in intellectual discourse. This is why C.J.S. Hayward in Under 99 Pages represents a significant achievement, appealing to modern readers who may not have time or inclination for a tome of hundreds of pages, however relevant or intriguing they might be; but who will find this a fine synthesis of his works that touches on the highlights.

The attempt to consolidate so many trains of thought, literary, spiritual, and philosophical references, and intellectual discourse into such a diminutive work must have been daunting, given the length and breadth of Hayward's previous writings. Those familiar with them might expect that the idea that the scope of these works could even begin to fit into 99 pages would be a task especially daunting (perhaps nearly impossible). And yet, Br. Christos achieves this goal, offering six chapters, an introduction, and an epilogue that touches upon the basic principles more heavily outlined in his previous works.

Readers who would gain an introduction to Christian Orthodoxy principles in general and Hayward's extensive reflections on it would do well to begin with C.J.S. Hayward in Under 99 Pages. Its ability to capture audiences with discussions that are lively and contemporary makes it a top recommendation for book clubs interested in debates and discussions over spiritual concepts and analytical approaches: "Where the reader only sees one question, an ancient reader saw at least two other questions that are invisible to the present reader. As well as the question of "How?" that evolution addresses, there is the question of "Why?" and "What function does it serve?" These two questions are very important, and are not even considered when people are only trying to work out the antagonism between creationism and evolutionism."

The Holiday Shelf

A Happy Christmas Ceilidh
Zoe Tasia
Independently Published
B0BPB1CPZD, $0.99 ebook

Fans of short two-hour sci-fi and fantasy stories will find A Happy Christmas Ceilidh a fine addition to the Shrouded Isle series. It offers not just a fine Christmas story, but a compelling tale of fun, family, and community.

Much in the matter of an O. Henry story, Zoe Tasia presents the dilemma of holiday dreams that one couple cannot afford. Tempering this altruistic approach to the holiday is a series of challenges, from a moving elf on a shelf to an unwelcome snowman and the changing world of Becca, her boyfriend Greg, and her children, teenage daughter Jessie and younger daughter Tate.

It's a cozy mystery spiced with Christmas seasonal celebrations, Scottish culture, and island life which both dovetails nicely with the prior books in the series and stands well on its own for newcomers. As Tasia develops the natures and perspectives of each family member, readers receive a warm survey of magic and seasonal giving that is steeped with many of the literary devices of O. Henry in its development of ironies and life inspections.

While teens and young adults will find this story attractive, it would be a shame to limit its readership to this audience alone. Many a busy adult looking for a shorter seasonal read that embraces the warmth of caring and clues to solving puzzles will find A Happy Christmas Ceilidh compelling, uplifting, and satisfying, with its special blends of place and changing purposes. Tasia's focus on building community characters and added notes of cultural and social interaction creates a story that is as warm and cozy for winter pursuit as it is embracing in the concern that each of the characters exhibits towards others. Libraries looking for shorter reads will welcome A Happy Christmas Ceilidh whether they have prior books in the series or want a stand-alone seasonal story.

The California Shelf

Guide to Local Government Finance in California
Michael Multari, et al.
Solano Press Books
PO Box 773, Point Arena, CA 95468
9781938166174, $90.00, PB, 332pp

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated and revised second edition, "Guide to Local Government Finance in California" by the team of Michael Multari; Michael Coleman; Kenneth Hampian; and Bill Statler brings the financial picture for California governments up to date, while making this comprehensive reference resource even easier to use.

This new edition of "Guide to Local Government Finance in California" provides a solid foundation for those who are interested in better understanding and navigating the complexity of California local public finance. The first edition, published in 2012, introduced a unique look at local government finance covering not only the vital fundamentals - like budgeting, accounting, and investing - but also lesser known yet equally powerful forces that affect the ability of cities, counties and special districts to deliver essential services. In a constantly changing environment, economic conditions evolve, new laws are enacted, different issues become especially topical to the public and the academy.

This new second edition of Guide to Local Government in California addresses those changes with discussions of: Court decisions related to rate structures and pensions; Fiscal reforms that were emerging in 2012 that have been advanced (or dropped); Increased interest in the early diagnosis of possible fiscal difficulties; How some of the benefits of redevelopment that were lost might be recaptured, including Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts; Other incremental changes to the system.

In addition, much of the statistical information contained in the numerous charts and graphs has been updated with more current data, and the graphics have been improved. The glossary has been significantly expanded to help clarify some of the technical terms used in the book. The primary purpose of this book is to provide a solid foundation for those who are interested in better understanding and navigating the complexity of California local public finance.

Critique: An essential resource for public agency managers and other staff, including planners and policy analysts, as well as appointed and elected public officials, teachers, students, and citizens at large who want to understand and improve California's complex system of local government finance, "Guide to Local Government Finance in California" is impressively comprehensive, and throughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. Featuring four Appendices (An Overview of Public Finance Theory; Detailed City Budget Process; Presenting Financial Information; Useful Information Sources), a two page Bibliography, a sixteen page Glossary, and a seven page Index, "Guide to Local Government Finance in California" will prove an invaluable addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library California Governmental Policy & Finance collections. It should be noted that "Guide to Local Government Finance in California" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $45.00).

Editorial Note #1: Government Finance Almanac, an online resource of data, analyses and articles on California municipal finance and budgeting. He is the principal fiscal policy advisor both to the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers and, for over twenty years, to the League of California Cities. Coleman is a popular presenter at graduate schools and conferences, and is the author of numerous articles and references on the topic. Coleman received an MPA from the University of Southern California.

Editorial Note #2: During Ken Hampian's thirty-five year public sector career he served at the county, federal and city levels of government, including twenty years in San Luis Obispo where he retired as city manager in 2010. Honors have included the League of California Cities John S. Nail Award and selection to the prestigious Presidential Management Internship Program. In the summer of 2011, Hampian served without compensation as the interim city manager of beleaguered Bell, California, during a time of dire need. His service there has been recognized by a variety of professional associations. Today Hampian teaches, trains, writes, and consults.

Editorial Note #3: Michael Multari was the community development director in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo before co-founding Crawford, Multari & Clark, Associates, a consulting practice that provided planning and fiscal assistance to public agencies throughout California. Since leaving CMCA in 2000, he has served as the executive director of the non-profit Morro Bay National Estuary Program and has worked on various campus planning projects at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He received an MPA from Princeton University and has been a member of the adjunct faculty in the City and Regional Planning Department at Cal Poly for over twenty years.

Editorial Note #4: Bill Statler served as the director of Finance & Information Technology for the City of San Luis Obispo for twenty-two years and for ten years as finance officer for the City of Simi Valley before that. Under his guidance, San Luis Obispo received national recognition for excellence in its financial planning, budgeting, reporting and management systems. He has played a large leadership role in the municipal finance profession, including serving on the Board of Directors of the League of California Cities as well as president of the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers (CSMFO) and the League's Fiscal Officers Department, In 2011, Statler was awarded the CSMFO's Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding contributions to the municipal finance profession; and in 2012, he received the Cal-ICMA's Ethical Hero Award for his services to the City of Bell in the aftermath of well-publicized scandals. Statler continues to be deeply involved in the field as a consultant, trainer and author.

Navagating The California Coastal Act
Jana Zimmer
Solano Press Books
PO Box 773, Point Arena, CA 95468
9781938166211, $80.00, PB, 255pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Navigating The California Coastal Act", Jana Zimmer presents the only book that provides a comprehensive but concise overview and guide to practice under the California Coastal Act.

Offering a clear understanding of current substantive standards and procedures including how development along the coast is defined, where it may be permitted and under what substantive and procedural standards, and how jurisdiction over planning for development and conservation in coastal areas is determined, "Navigating The California Coastal Act" features practice tips throughout the book suggest ways to work effectively with Coastal Commission staff and present cases to the Commission. Navigating the California Coastal Act is intended for planners and officials at local, state, and federal agencies, as well as property owners, real estate developers, attorneys and judges, interested citizen activists, and students.

The topics covered in "Navigating The California Coastal Act" include: The Coastal Commission its qualifications, organization, and role in implementation of the Coastal Act; The Local Coastal Program its purposes, processes, and common issues; Coastal development permit requirements types of permits, and emerging or recurring issues; The Coastal Commission hearing and appeal process; Interpreting and applying Coastal Act standards; Other relevant agencies and laws; Enforcement of the Coastal Act; Judicial review.

Appendices contain a glossary of terms and summaries of key legal cases. "Navigating The California Coastal Act" reflects both a love of the coast, and a love of the law, and is enhanced by extraordinary photography, courtesy of Reeve Woolpert, and the artwork of the author.

Critique: "Navigating The California Coastal Act" is enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of illustrations, a two page listing of Acknowledgments, two Appendices (Glossary of Terms & Table of Authorities), and a three page Index. Comprehensive and exceptionally well organized and presented, "Navigating The California Coastal Act" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "Navigating The California Coastal Act" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $40.00).

Editorial Note: Jana Zimmer is a Santa Barbara-based attorney, arbitrator, and former Coastal Commissioner with over 35 years of experience in work under the California Coastal Act. During her legal career, she represented public agencies, environmental organizations, and private parties with issues before local government and the Coastal Commission. From 2011 to 2015, she served as an at large appointee of the Speaker of the Assembly, John Perez. She served as Vice-Chair of the Coastal Commission from December 2013 to July 2015. Ms. Zimmer currently works as an expert witness, facilitator, and governmental relations consultant specializing in Coastal Act matters. She remains licensed to practice in California, the 9th Circuit, and before the U.S. Supreme Court.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
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phone: 1-608-835-7937

Diane C. Donovan, Editor & Senior Reviewer
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phone: 1-707-795-4629

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