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California Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 12 December 2017 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Cookbook Shelf Audiobook Shelf
Technology Shelf Science Shelf Photography Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Independent Publishers Shelf
California Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire
Kurt Andersen
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400067213 $30.00

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History examines American politics and culture to consider how delusion and fantasy have preempted the democratic process, and offers a sweeping survey of half-truths, lies, fake news, and more which holds its roots not in contemporary society, but in the ways this country has often thought over the course of five centuries of history. In trying to "make everything more fantastic and nicer", Americans have set the stage for today's trials and tribulations. From scientific interpretation and 'magical thinking' to the retailing of fantasy by legalizing casinos and other processes, this offers a fascinating examination into how many good intentions not only veered off-track, but created today's problems.

The Cookbook Shelf

Leon: Happy Soups
Rebecca Seal & John Vincent
c/o Octopus Publishing
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781840917635 $19.99

Leon: Happy Soups provides 100 new soup recipes that are intended to make hearty winter meals, and provide standbys based on the Leon naturally fast food culinary model. These recipes are gluten free, dairy free, vegan and vegetarian, and range from a Chilled Avocado Soup with scallions, cucumber and hot sauce to Lohikietto, made with salmon, dill, cream, and more. The variety and attention to detail will make these dishes accessible and attractive to a wide audience.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104

Two powerful new audiobook presentations are top picks for any collection looking for lasting lending popularity and for individuals who want exceptional stories paired with powerful readers. John Saunders works with friend and best-selling author John U. Bacon in Playing Hurt: My Journey From Despair to Hope (9781478975045, $35.00) and benefits from Dion Graham's powerful narrative style as it tells of a popular sports newscaster who discusses his troubled life. From a tumultuous childhood to a brain injury and depression that nearly killed him, his autobiography comes to life in vivid detail. Marcia Muller's The Color of Fear (9781478916086, $30.00) provides a Sharon McCone mystery and receives a moving narration by Elizabeth Evans, who adds a passionate and clear voice to this story of a P.I.'s investigation into an attack on her own father. What she uncovers will change both their worlds. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro's latest Women's Murder Club addition is The Medical Examiner (9781478971436, $10.00), adding to the shorter 'Bookshots' series with a fine reading by Kate Russell, who brings to life the story of two bodies at the morgue - one questionable. Two very different women, big money involved, and a murder club's investigation makes for a powerful story that's hard to stop listening to. Also adding to Kate Russell's narrative prowess is another Bookshots title by Patterson and Kecia Bal, The Dolls: Looks Can Kill (9781478974413, $10.00), which tells of perfect companions and killers who harbor dangerous secrets. Investigative reporter Lana endangers everything by probing these secrets, in a gripping audio story that comes to life with Kate Russell's evocative voice. All are fine audio books highly recommended for any discriminating collection.

The Technology Shelf

Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062

Three new titles are top recommendations for electronics and reference collections, offering statistics, reviews, and case examples key to understanding power grid and connected systems. Bob McQueen's Big Data Analytics for Connected Vehicles and Smart Cities (9781630813215, $139.00) considers how 'big data' analytics apply to smart cities and transit systems, and will particularly interest transportation professionals who want to link data analytics to designing connected vehicles and smart city functions. Case studies and examples accompany details on modeling, governance, energy networks, and other elements of a smart city structure, explaining how such data applies to measuring performance and structuring services based on data results. George Koutitas and Stan McClellan's The Smart Grid as an Application Development Platform (9781630811099, $119.00) explores the power grid's evolution from a utility provider to an application development platform. The differences between these two processes and the new technology and ecosystem involved in grid structure and smart grid relationships are covered in chapters that discuss everything from virtual power plants and microgrids to energy use analysis, smart metering, and consumer usage. Nicholas Abi-Samra's Power Grid Resiliency for Adverse Conditions (9781630810177, $124.00) considers weather and climate change impacts on the power grid, with special attention to how it recovers from storms, floods, and other natural weather-induced disasters. It reviews line insulation, tower strength, and how to insulate power systems and components against wind pressure and disaster, and will be a key acquisition for any involved in maintaining, building, or revamping power systems to survive global climate change.

The Science Shelf

Roadside Geology of Washington, second edition
Marli B. Miller and Darrel S. Cowan
Mountain Press Publishing Company
PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806
9780878426775 $26.00

The second updated edition of Roadside Geology of Washington covers the geology of the region with an eye to incorporating the latest research findings into the original 1984 classic, and is recommended both for aspiring geologists with a special interest in the region and for those who plan a road trip through Washington. From mountain peaks and sea cliffs to flood basalts and rocky wilderness areas, this book adds much to the original, making it a highly recommended replacement volume for any collection seeing popularity with the prior version and a 'must' for budding geologists who would better understand the terrain and geologic history of Washington.

The Photography Shelf

Photograph Restoration and Enhancement Using Adobe Photoshop CC, 2017 Version, second edition
Vickie Ellen Wolper
Mercury Learning
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605
9781683921509 $54.95

Users of Photoshop CC 2017 receive a fine manual on how to create professional restorations and enhancements in a manual that accompanies seven demo videos on how to apply these techniques. Real-world projects in every chapters are geared towards linking the tools and techniques to common best practices and restoration approaches, while tips range from colorizing black and white photos to repairing common flaws, working with layers, correcting discoloration and contrast, and more. The details are enhanced by color examples and Photoshop screen shots throughout, which leave nothing to wonder in a powerful survey that requires only a basic foundation in Photoshop features to prove accessible.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Forged in Blood
Michael Z. Williamson, Editor
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781481482707 $25.00

Forged in Blood: One Sword, One Thousand Destinies. Stories Set in the Freehold Universe features short stories by Larry Correia, the editor, and others, and hold the unified theme of being set in the Freehold universe. Military struggles, vengeance, warriors, and the conflicts that challenge their times and psyches all assume different perspectives in a satisfyingly diverse collection of battle scenarios and special interests that will especially intrigue readers already familiar with Williamson's Freehold books.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Mrs. Jeffries and the Three Wise Women
Emily Brightwell
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399584220 $25.00

Mrs. Jeffries and the Three Wise Women provides a fine Victorian mystery returning the housemaid Mrs. Jeffries to the limelight. In an unusual twist on the theme, the servants are the detectives in this series, and here they operate in a holiday setting. A grumpy, unpopular dinner guest is shot dead during evening fireworks, and though many believe it's a robbery gone awry, six weeks later the unsolved case attracts Inspector Witherspoon and his entire household, who are forced to blend a murder investigation into their holiday plans. An engrossing holiday murder saga evolves.

Desert Remains
Steven Cooper
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781633883336 $15.95

Desert Remains provides a fine Gus Parker and Alex Mills novel replete with mystery, a detective story, and the unusual pairing of a psychic and a well-read homicide detective who stalk a psychopath through the desert. It's rare to see a crime piece that incorporates humor into the mid, but humor and intrigue pair well in this story of a ruthless killer operating in an environment virtually impervious to detection, making this story a powerful tale that's completely absorbing and unpredictable to the end.

The Independent Publishers Shelf

Children of Tiber and Nile
Deborah L. Davitt
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9780986091643 $16.50

Book II in the series 'The Rise of Caesarion's Rome', Children of Tiber and Nile, blends real-world history elements from the alternative 'edda-earth' Deborah L. Davitt has created previously for a fresh new perspective and approach that twists serious Roman historical scholarship in a fantasy to keep social issues different and engrossing and characters - even familiar ones from history - fresh and unexpected. Especially notable are the contrasts between Egyptian and Roman culture, the possibilities of Britannia's druid atmosphere permeating events in Hispania and Rome, and an attention to women's positions in societies that don't fully empower them, and what happens when simmering resentments turn into violence. Readers with a special interest in Roman and Egyptian ancient history mixed with a fictional focus will find Children of Tiber and Nile a vivid focus on the evolution of men, women, and societies at war with one another, and will relish the evolving political awareness between disparate forces who participate in their world's vast changes.

The Saints of David
Anthony Caplan
Hope Mountain Press
9781549546365 $10.99 Paper; $2.99 Kindle

The Saints of David, the final book in the Jonah Trilogy series, is especially recommended for prior fans who will find this wrap-up volume is a powerful conclusion to Anthony Caplan's thriller/sci-fi tale. Old connections are revitalized against the backdrop of disaster in this 2072 story of strange romances, half-humanoids, free thinkers and slaves, and unAugmented people living outside the new norm who may prove the last bastions of true humanity. Brooklyn-born David is a secretive Saint whose motives are in question. He has a city, the City of David. He has devoted followers. Nobody can touch him. David harvests the "untold stories" of the poor, and his narratives provide them an unusual voice in a new world order which has long ignored them. This process will ultimately redirect evolution itself. Readers who have imbibed of the previous Jonah Trilogy titles will find The Saints of David packed with a flavor of doom and hope that makes it hard to put down and an exquisitely demanding, satisfyingly read that leads readers to question many beliefs before they are through.

This Second Chance
D.L. Finn
Privately Published
ISBN Print: 9780997751901 $9.99
ISBN eBook: 9780997751918 $2.99

This Second Chance tells of newlywed Rachael Battaglia, who should be enjoying everything about her new marital status until the unexpected gift of a snow globe - something connected to her abusive ex-husband - introduces an evil into her new life that threatens to shatter everything. The juxtaposition of supernatural forces and real-world dilemmas is satisfyingly done as the characters find themselves caught up in something they never could have predicted. The result is a vivid, engrossing story that keeps readers guessing to the end, bringing to life a new family's efforts to survive against all odds. Readers who like supernatural and spiritual elements in their novels will relish this story of lives and spirits on edge.

The Cult of Venus
David S. Brody
Eyes That See Publishing
9780990741336 $14.95

The Cult of Venus: Templars and the Ancient Goddess adds yet another volume to the six volumes in the Templars in America Series and is based on real artifacts and sites, but with a fictional overlay that keeps action fast-paced and makes for an excellent dramatization.

It should also be noted that just because The Cult of Venus adds to a series, doesn't mean that newcomers would be confused. The book is designed as a stand-alone read supplementing previous series titles and does a fine job of achieving this goal as it presents the investigations of 42-year-old attorney and historian Cameron Thorne and his passion for early North American history.

Three different, connected lives move in trajectories that coalesce into a series of mysteries, revelations, and revisions of historical fact that lead into greater questions about spiritual foundations affecting all who encounter this greater mystery. The result is a gripping story of Goddess worship from ancient to modern times, its lost history, and the archaeological pointers that reinforce both the story line and real North American events with newfound questions about beliefs and facts. Astarte is committed to fulfilling her destiny and changing the world. But will Amanda and Cam let her? Color images of relics are included. An affinity for historical facts will enhance satisfaction with this reality-based adventure story.

A Few Streets More to Kensington
Alex Sheremet
Crossroads Press
ASIN: B075812SDR $4.99

Mature teens and new adult readers will relish a more contemporary backdrop to the traditional coming-of-age story in A Few Streets More to Kensington, which is set in New York City in the 1990s and focuses on the evolving life of Artem, whose newfound position as an artist opens up a wealth of memories on how he got to this uncertain point in his life. Artem's journeys between memories of the past and attempts to navigate the streets of New York to understand his world bring readers along for a stroll through memory lane and the rough face of present-day New York. A Few Streets More to Kensington is as much a work of literature as fiction. Readers should anticipate crass language and conflicts, gritty street life, young love and life's lies, and Artem's urge to escape, change, grow, and even explore paths that are obviously dark and dangerous routes.

L'assassiner de Sebastian Dubois
G.N. Hetherington
GNH Publishing
9781975931995 $15.99 Paper; $3.99 Kindle

The setting is small town Montgenoux, France in 2016, where Hugo has just returned to his job as Captain of a small French town's police station after two weeks on a Caribbean island, where loneliness and the possibility of quiet anonymity is juxtaposed by the attention he earns as an obvious stranger in town. Kidnapped girls endangered, internal investigations when no crime has really been committed, and circumstances which keep drawing Hugo back to the past and to the new Centre Penitentiaire de Montgenoux all coalesce in a story that examines gay life in prison and subterfuge that embraces Sebastian Dubois, a "cat with nine lives", and a situation which has spiraled out of control and out of the hands of the police. In the midst of this all, does Hugo have a future with Tristan - without hiding, without secrets, and with full reciprocity? Hugo's always been single and has always been a wanderer - but Montgenoux is his home and Ben is his life, even if circumstances have changed. And as Hugo and Tristan join forces to handle both personal and professional complexities, one of the most difficult challenges of their lives and careers may turn out to be love. L'assassiner de Sebastian Dubois is a powerful continuation of all the forces evident in previous books in this series, takes many unexpected turns, and is very highly recommended for prior readers who have developed an affection for a French investigator who constantly finds his personal and professional lives entwined and challenged by deadly forces.

Mirror, Mirror
Deborah Hawkins
Privately Published
ISBN 9780988934795 (ebook) Price: $2.99
ISBN 9780999218006 (print) Price: $17.98

Mirror, Mirror is powerful legal thriller by Deborah Hawkins, who brings her background as an attorney to yet another engrossing courtroom drama about a man who has achieved the pinnacle of his legal career, only to see it crumble from a ghost from the past and accusations that he's encouraged a witness to lie. One of the ongoing pleasures of Deborah Hawkins' approach to the legal thriller lies in not just high-octane action loaded with unpredictable twists, but in ethical and moral dilemmas, whether she's talking of forbidden love or approaches to life that hold huge impact for everyone involved. These questions move beyond innocence, proof, and justice and into the realms of choices, consequences, and both legal and personal processes. In these gray areas, there is no black and white of truth and exoneration; no obvious path that doesn't lead to some form of disaster. As Jeff navigates his own trial and murder investigation, readers receive a tense thriller that ultimately winds up in the courtroom with a surprise reveal in a story that is engrossing and hard to put down and highly recommended for legal thriller readers looking for a satisfyingly unexpected plot.

On Liberty's Wings
Diane Dettmann
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478714026 $20.95

Book 3 of the Courageous Footsteps series continues the story of Yasu, who is now married and leading a new life in the aftermath of World War II, which landed her family in a Japanese internment camp and resulted in the death of her beloved brother. How does one recover to lead a new life in the aftermath of such gut-wrenching disaster? That's one of the keys to understanding the determined, feisty Yasu's process as she faces a vastly changed world and life, including a new teaching job and expanding opportunities, even as her husband Masato struggles to pursue a degree and faces losing his job to an experienced, returning war vet.

Readers who have followed Yasu's evolution in previous books will especially appreciate seeing these threads of change, which force characters to consider new actions, reactions, and consequences of their behaviors even as society changes and evolves around them. While the story stands nicely alone as an individual piece, when read in the wider context of Yasu's life, it serves as yet another jigsaw puzzle piece creating the bigger picture of the World War II experience. Especially when taken as an integral part of this blossoming series, it is recommended for mature teens to adult readers seeking far more psychological depth and social inspection than the usual focus on the Japanese experience in America during the War.

The California Shelf

Bold Women in California History
Kay Moore
Mountain Press Publishing Company
PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806
9780878426799 $14.00

Bold Women in California History uses the biography format to illustrate little-known information about California's historical figures, profiling the achievements of thirteen women as diverse as architect Julia Morgan to actress Shirley Temple Black and Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut. Their individual stories are woven into the bigger picture of California history and notable figures, covering the political and social oppression of their times and how these women made a lasting impact in California's history and evolutionary process.

Craven Street Books
c/o Linden Publishing
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721-9875

Stephen H. Provost's Highway 99: The History of California's Main Street (9781610352963, $18.95) is packed with historical photos and documents the growth and evolution of Highway 99 and its communities. The exploration takes the form of a road trip that includes sections on restaurants and their fare, amusement parks and attractions, classic small towns off old Route 99, and even accommodations which ranged from cabins and auto camps to mega-hotels. Any with an interest in California's history and culture will find Highway 99 a fine collection that offers many images and ideas not to be found in more general California history titles. Kim Steinhardt and Gary Griggs' The Edge: the Pressured Past and Precarious Future of California's Coast (9781610353090, $18.95) considers the state's changing coastline, its nature and human encroachments, and how the past uses and landscape of California's coastline is changing today and will change even more in the future. Two marine experts who grew up on the coast provide both a scientific and a cultural analysis that warn of threats and documents changing communities and usage patterns in the face of global climate change that particularly affect California's coastal residents. This should not only be in nature collections, but in any library strong in California history and issues.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

Diane C. Donovan, Editor & Senior Reviewer
12424 Mill Street, Petaluma, CA 94952
phone: 1-707-795-4629

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