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California Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 12 December 2019 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Needlecraft Shelf Liquor Shelf
Cookbook Shelf General Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Philosophy Shelf Computer Shelf
Technology Shelf Audiobook Shelf Self-Help Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

A Bad Hair Day Cookbook
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press
9780999793244, $4.99, Digital
9780999793251, $15.99

Fans of Nancy Cohen's prior books already know that her Bad Hair Day series of cozy mysteries are compelling reads, but A Bad Hair Day Cookbook offers something different in presenting recipes by 'Marla Vail', the fictional Florida hairstylist and salon owner whose exploits powered Cohen's Bad Hair Day series. These recipes are anything but fictional, however. They not only supplement the series with a fun nonfiction twist, but emphasize Nancy J. Cohen's original creations (along with recipes from friends and family), designed for busy cooks who may not be out solving crimes, but whose time is equally challenged. If it's a quick and easy, tested cookbook that is desired, A Bad Hair Day Cookbook should be the item of choice. And if you're already a cozy mystery reader of Cohen's books, this cookbook makes for a delightful complementary volume to the series, and possible gift for any fan of the series.

Conscious Confidence
Sarah Mane
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
9781620559550, $16.99
9781620559567, $11.99, Ebook

Conscious Confidence: Use the Wisdom of Sanskrit to Find Clarity and Success comes from a motivational confidence coach and Sanskrit scholar whose practice involves apply Sanskrit to life experiences. This is more than a review of Sanskrit practices: she takes these lessons and weaves them into larger life goals and a confidence-boosting program designed to apply to all walks of people in different stages of their spiritual or life journeys. This creates an environment of positive thinking and reflection which forms the foundation of a treatise that is flexible enough to be applied to many situations on many different levels. The result is a handbook on far more than conscious confidence. It's a program that can apply to the most simple and complex approaches to life, and one which empowers readers to "live each day with enthusiasm, creativity, and vitality." What self-help or inspirational reader wouldn't want to achieve this ultimate goal? The key is placed in the reader's hand through the parables and clear admonitions of Conscious Confidence.

Buddha at Work
Geetanjali Pandit
Bright Hart Books
9781950355013, $16.95

Buddha at Work: Finding Balance, Purpose and Happiness at Your Workplace comes from an HR professional whose Buddhist perspective gives an unusual twist to the usual workplace advice guide. Personal and professional breakthroughs are outlined in a book that doesn't require readers to have any prior knowledge of or affinity with Buddhism. All that's needed is an interest in creating and participating in a better work environment. There are plenty of books about workplace success, and plenty about Buddhist ideals and principles. Having both under one cover translates to an inspirational read firmly grounded in workplace experience and filled with thought-provoking insights especially recommended for readers who would adopt different, more positive approaches to work goals and life.

The Needlecraft Shelf

Martingale & Company

These excellent quilt project guides are highly recommended picks for quilters seeking fun, bright new ideas. Susan Ache's Quilt by Color: Scrappy Quilts With a Plan (9781683560272, $22.99) offers a specific formula for success in showing how to use coordinated Moda Color Cuts bundles to create a different look. Using her approach, readers can also substitute fabrics from a stash or create innovative new patterns, while projects are displayed in full color accompanied by all the step-by-step plans for their easy enactment. Barbara Groves and Mary Jacobson's Third Time's a Charm: 21 Colorful Options for Charm-Pack Quilts (9781683560265, $18.99) features seven charm-quilt patterns and variations on the theme that can result from using packs of 5" fabric squares, and offers arrange of ideas for baby quilts, wall hangings, and more. Each design is displayed in three different color choices, making it easy for newcomers to learn the basics about mixing, matching, and achieving polished results, and each receives full-page colorful displays to make them easy attractions. Kristyne Czepuryk's Perfectly Pretty Patchwork: Classic Quilts, Pillows, Pincushions & More (9781683560258, $25.99) teaches quilters how to turn classic blocks into quilts, featuring them in different arrangements and approaches for fresh, new creations. Some sixteen patterns for baby and wall quilts, throws, purses, and more come with tips for newcomers and cutting and materials lists, along with clear step-by-step directions for different assembly. Color photos throughout leave nothing to wonder and attract needleworkers and quilters alike. All are top picks for new and seasoned quilters alike.

The Liquor Shelf

Schofield's Fine and Classic Cocktails
Joe & Daniel Schofield
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9780857837325, $19.99

Schofield's Fine and Classic Cocktails: Celebrated Libations and Other Fancy Drinks comes from two renowned bartenders who share their own recipes for classic cocktails, and stands out from the crowd of cocktail recipe books by emphasizing how fine ingredients change the taste and impact of a cocktail. Personal recommendations for ingredients and garnishes alike accompany appealing, artistic full-page color photos of the finished drink. Recipe history is often included in each cocktail's introduction, as in the Espresso Martini, which was created in 1983 and originally called a 'Vodka Espresso'. If only one cocktail book were to be purchased, this should certainly be among the top contenders.

The Cookbook Shelf

Octopus Publishing

These fine new additions from Octopus Publishing offer engrossing coverages to home cooks and those interested in food and wine. Rebecca Seal and John Vincent's Leon Happy Curries (9781840917970, $19.99) provides yet another cookbook based on the natural fast food restaurant Leon; this one focusing on some 100 curry recipes from across not only Asia, but Africa and the Caribbean. Busy cooks who don't have a lot of time but who are interested in curry productions will find this a fine, unique guide that pairs full-page color photos with recipes not to be found in every curry cookbook, from a Chicken Meatball Coconut Curry that preps and cooks in under an hour to a speedy 30-minute Skinny Parcel-Baked Salmon & Eggplant Curry. The variety is appealing and expands the usual notion of Indian-based curries to different dishes around the world. Mark Dredge's A Brief History of Lager: 500 Years of the World's Favorite Beer (9780857835239, $19.99) focuses on lagers and their history, adding tasting notes that cover what makes up a lager, how it was first brewed, and the various influences that went into the lagers we know today. These are fine additions to any culinary collection.

The General Fiction Shelf

Demons, Well-Seasoned
Patricia V. Davis
HD Media Press
9781732064911, $34.95, Hardcover Special Edition
9781732064966, $15.95, Trade Paper
9781732064973, $5.99, Kindle

Demons, Well-Seasoned is the third and last book in the Secret Spice Cafe Trilogy which began with Cooking for Ghosts, and contains the same momentum and formula for success as its predecessors. While newcomers to the series could conceivably enter into this story without prior knowledge of the other books, it is highly recommended that these tales be absorbed in chronological order because the background events enhance and complete this final book's strength and the series as a whole. It should be noted that, like its predecessors, Demons, Well-Seasoned stands apart from mystery, novel, or strict literary genre definitions. It and its fellow series titles are in a category of their own, making them a delightful recommendation for readers seeking something different. To call Demons, Well-Seasoned a work of mystery, romance, historical fiction or intrigue would be to do it an injustice. It's all these things and more: quite simply, a lovely literary romp through time, place, and interconnected lives and spirits that draws in readers and proves riveting to the end.

The Poor and the Haunted
Dustin McKissen
Black Rose Writing
9781684333646, $15.95, Paper, $5.99, Kindle

Jimmy Lansford and his sister suffered abuse and trauma during their childhoods. It's a legacy that carries into his future even as a successful man, when purchasing his new home awakens dreams and threats he'd thought were long-buried. As the story focuses on his brutal conflicts with both father and mother and his efforts to protect his young sister and identify the force that threatens them all, readers receive a story not just of ghosts, but of psychological growth and revelation that power a study in violence. Readers anticipating a traditional ghost story may be disappointed by these added dimensions, but those who look beyond the trappings of supernatural influence to consider the roots of struggle will find McKissen's story both thought-provoking and vivid. It's a pragmatic survey of PTSD, suicide, family legacies, the consequences of choices, and the raw wound of childhood trauma that Jimmy has kept a secret for far too long. All these components keep The Poor and the Haunted unexpected, unpredictable, and fast-paced. It's an emotional tear that grips the heart and proves difficult to put down, even for those who thought that the horror factor would come from a different direction.

Shirley F'N Lyle: VIVA the REVOLUTION
Clayton Lindemuth
Hardgrave Enterprises
9781686889608, $14.99, Paper, $2.99, Kindle

Rarely does chic lit get so raunchy, outrageous, or fun as in Shirley F'N Lyle: VIVA the REVOLUTION, a novel of big urban girl Shirley, who is a successful hooker until she runs awry of a drug lord. Soon she finds herself involved in a mystery that revolves around a Russian stripper friend who has vanished under suspicious circumstances. Ribald, sometimes rude, rollicking, and risque: that's Shirley and her world, and this is the power and impact of a story that's a standout whether you want to label it chic lit, women's literature, or urban mystery. No matter what it's called, the out-of-the-box read that is Shirley F'N Lyle: VIVA the REVOLUTION is highly recommended for readers of contemporary women's fiction who like their characters urban, rough, and outrageously hilarious.

Corruption in the O.R.
Barbara Ebel, M.D.
Barbara Mary Ebel, Publisher
9781732446663, $11.95, Paperback
9781732446670, $3.99, eBook

Anesthesiologist Viktoria Thorsdottir's first day on a new job is fraught with difficult patients and situations as she assesses and interacts with those who would use her services and the medical systems and personnel that support them. However, matters are about to go from bad to worse when her first day on the job takes on an ominous tinge of future disaster. And the fact that she's only signed on for a 4-week stint in her temporary position doesn't belay the fact that she's about to delve into some hospital secrets that set this facility apart from any she's experienced in the past. Corruption in the O.R. is the first book in Dr. Ebel's 'Outlander Physician' series, and is highly recommended for medical mystery and thriller fans who will find it just as riveting as not only Dr. Ebel's past medical novels, but any Robin Cook thriller. As the seemingly disparate threads of her new dog and the hospital's processes begin to come together, readers who enjoy well-developed medical mysteries will find the story excels in subplots and connections that reveal pleasing surprises. These touches make Corruption in the O.R. an excellent story that delves into moral and ethical conundrums and the choices of a young woman whose job and life are changed by her new assignment: a read designed to keep readers thinking long after its well-done conclusion.

The Hanging Doll
Robert Rubenstein
Independently Published
9781086963137, $7.70 Paper, $2.99 Kindle

The Hanging Doll crafts a literary search for meaning steeped with atmosphere and opens with a first-person review of the progress of the 'silent generation' of war babies who lived through the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan. It comes from the pen of a fictional 75-year-old noir horror writer whose literary errors haunt his potential legacy, and who faces a slow death tempered only by the determination to craft a literary work of art inspired by best friend Fallon's experiences in Asia: a goal which sparks to life after Fallon's suicide. The mercurial presence of Hiroshima's events and their resounding impact on everything in the world winds through The Hanging Doll and lends a surreal vision to its juxtaposition between a generation's horrors and an aging man's reflections. Throughout it all, a potent hanging doll puppet offers power and an opportunity to develop a different voice and perspective. Compelling, atmospheric, and revealing on both a personal and cultural level, The Hanging Doll is a powerful literary story of achievement, failure, life and death, and one man's ultimate search for redemption. Readers of literature, mystery, historical and cultural pieces, and philosophy alike will find The Hanging Doll comes packed with many intriguing twists and turns and memorable moments.

The Other Gloria
L.A. Villafane
Empire Publishing
9780998949673, $15.95, Paper, $3.99, Kindle

Imagine coming to consciousness while driving a car down a dark, lonely road at night. The terrain is only vaguely familiar. The destination is unknown, the past a blur. A road sign reminds Gloria that she lives in Bakersfield and she senses that this drive is one she's often done; but a blinding headache obscures any details. All she knows is that she's in pain and driving on a road to nowhere. Is this just a dream, or a living nightmare? Villafane does a remarkable job of depicting not just Gloria's personality and experience, but the logic, reactions, and reasons behind her choices both with and after Charles. It's this solid attention to psychological inspection (and, especially, the rationale behind decision-making processes) that makes The Other Gloria a standout in the world of fiction that explores the lives of abused women and how they confront their abusers and change their futures. Readers looking for a memorable story that delves deeper into these conundrums will find The Other Gloria both engrossingly realistic and thought-provokingly astute.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Christmas in Newfoundland
Mike Martin
Ottawa Press and Publishing
9781988437255, Paperback
9781988437279, $2.99, Epub

Christmas in Newfoundland adds another book to the Sgt. Windflower mystery series for a special seasonal treat not only directed to prior fans of Canadian Mountie Windflower, but those who harbor affection for Christmas, snow, and small-town seasonal atmospheres. While mystery readers expecting a traditional whodunit may be surprised by the atmospheric reads and holiday celebrations throughout, it's important to note that Christmas in Newfoundland is about just that - small town ambiance - and is not solely about the mystery. If it's an atmospheric river of celebration and relationship connections that is desired, with a meditation on winter in a small town juxtaposing first and third person styles, then Christmas in Newfoundland is the perfect choice for a cold night by a hot fire.

Fire, Fog and Water
Mike Martin
Ottawa Press and Publishing
9781988437286, $14.99, Paperback
9781988437309, $2.99, Epub
9781988437293, $2.99, MOBI

Canadian Mountie Sergeant Winston Windflower faces not one but three mysteries in Fire, Fog and Water, a dilemma that tests his normal good nature as much as the weather and his new boss (both have become challenging). Most murder mysteries create a cat-and-mouse interplay between perp and investigator, but the fact that Sgt. Windflower is also probing his own motives, reactions, and life adds an extra dimension of interest to the story that makes for rich and absorbing reading indeed. Set these topics against the sizzle of steaks on the grill and interpersonal relationships on and off the job for a mystery that probes more than criminal intentions, involving readers in Sgt. Windflower's ultimate quest for personal satisfaction and happiness. Readers seeking a fine story steeped in psychological inspection will relish both the character of Mountie Windflower and his ability to navigate the murky waters of self, community, and home.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

David Nees
Independently Published
9781696252041, $14.95, Paper, $3.99, ebook

Undercover continues the story of Jason's movements through a post-EMP world. This time, he's left his newfound home and family in Hillsboro to journey to a nearby town of survivors which, he finds, is run by a mob. They are getting back some semblance of civilization, but it's built on a fragile foundation indeed, on the backs of laborers who are not willing participants in this rebuild process. Prior fans of Jason and his world will find that he takes another step forward in his emotional growth as well as his physical confrontations in Undercover. In his desire to be proactive about his information-seeking and threat to his loved ones, he comes across as less than human. But as the cost of his actions and approaches becomes apparent, readers will be surprised to find that Jason's nearly superhuman abilities mask a vulnerability and fallacy in thinking. If Jason doesn't confront who he has become, and the cost of survival, he may very well turn into the type of survivor who eschews humanity. Readers well steeped in Jason's prior adventures will find Undercover a solid addition to the series that retains the tone and objectives of prior books while moving Jason into areas of growth and change that reflect society's struggle to regain its sense of humanity.

Genesis Rising
Elle Lewis
Black Rose Writing
9781684334513 $16.95 pbk

Genesis Rising returns Book 2 of The Glass Star Trilogy with a satisfying sequel to the prior Dark Touch that features Sloan and other characters in new adventures. As with Dark Touch, supernatural elements are woven into the fantasy story along with accounts of warriors, confrontations, and vivid struggles, all powered by the struggles between the Warriors of the Guild, the Dark Ones, and rising armies which portend dangerous clashes in the future. And Sloan stands in the middle of this struggle as her story opens, awaiting...what? From Aleo's terrible powers of destruction and Sloan's struggle with her destiny to the rising tides of war and unexpected romance, Genesis Rising crafts an engrossing, action-packed story that ultimately rests firmly on the shoulders of Sloan's own growth process. This is what makes Genesis Rising among the most notable fantasy series titles of 2019, in for a compelling read that tests not only Sloan's rising abilities, but her values.

The Raffle
Randy Smith
Rude Cat, LLC
9780578562452, $6.99, Kindle

The Raffle is a futuristic story in four parts and is set in 2027, when the New United States has survived a deadly biological, nuclear and electromagnetic pulse attack that has changed not only the landscape of California, but the politics of the nation. With its roots in modern-day reality and conflicts and its sci-fi grounded in a survivor's transformative experiences, The Raffle is more than another dystopian tale. It probes how social and political strife can lead to disaster both from without and from within. The Raffle's premise is unique and refreshingly original, the protagonist and characters hold depth and attraction on more than a surface level, and the result is a powerful read that's very, very highly recommended above most others in this genre. It's a story that will leave readers thinking about the roots of our fractured nation long after Ramsey's sojourn is complete.

Year of the Child
R.L. Dean
Independently Published
9781691385690, $12.27, Paper, $6.99, Kindle

Year of the Child is the second book in the Harmony series and takes place two months after the destruction of the Harmony dome. Ganymede serves as the focal point of several disparate characters: Misaki Iriyama, who destroyed the dome and flees her guilt; former detective Tetsuya Takahashi, who has been reassigned but keeps searching for Misaki; Alexandria, who is somehow connected to a new discovery beneath the ice fields on Ganymede; and others who find their lives unexpectedly entwined. Played against the backdrop of a stellar chessboard of cat-and-mouse moves, this story of power struggles and the clash between a civilian science mission and a military undertaking will delight not only prior fans of the first book, but sci-fi buffs who enjoy military sci-fi and political struggle blends. Year of the Child does a fine job of adding onto the characters, atmosphere, and efforts of the crew of the Sadie and the Harmony milieu. It's recommended both for readers who enjoyed The Rhine and newcomers alike.

The Philosophy Shelf

Stranger Things and Philosophy
Jeffrey A. Ewing and Andrew M. Winters, Editors
Open Court
9780812694703, $19.95

Stranger Things and Philosophy: Thus Spake the Demogorgon adds Volume 126 to the Popular Culture and Philosophy series. This book uses the Stranger Things TV show, a horror/science fiction adventure story set in the 1980s, as a starting point for linking philosophical discussion to concepts of the Demiurge, Neoplatonism, and more, adding psychological inspection to the process of considering the underlying philosophical influences in Stranger Things. Followers of the TV series will appreciate this examination of changes that took place in philosophical thinking in the 1980s in general and the importance of Stranger Things to this process, in particular. It's packed with ideas and food for thought and discussion, and another highly recommended addition to philosophy, media, and popular culture collections alike.

The Computer Shelf

TensorFlow 2 Pocket Primer
Oswald Campesato
Mercury Learning
9781683924609, $35.95

TensorFlow 2 Pocket Primer joins others in the pocket series for newcomers who want to get up and running quickly. This guide focuses on basic machine learning algorithms using TensorFlow, and offers an introduction paired with real-world code examples that cover all the basics. From examples of how to solve real-world issues to migrating code, working with datasets, understanding filters, and importing tensorflow, this primer provides the opportunity to get up and running quickly and efficiently.

The Technology Shelf

Artech House

Mateusz Malanowski's Signal Processing for Passive Bistatic Radar (9781630816229, $149.00) covers all the basics of this system, from bistatic geometry and radar equation to signal analysis, and places the passive radar concept in contemporary hands as it covers its potential and limitations. From the pros and cons of passive radar systems and signal processing to analysis of different configurations and antenna geometries, common problems, solutions, and challenges to measurement and implementation are covered for novice and advanced practitioners. Different processing methods and calculations supported by mathematical formulas make for an important technical manual. Richard A. Poisel's RF Electronics for Electronic Warfare (9781630817053, $179.00) is especially recommended for technical military electronics holdings, and discusses how RF communications work in electronic warfare systems. From how they apply to jamming efforts to power supplies for high power amplifiers and basics of RF communications, chapters offer extensive and in-depth detail on RF power and electronics, making it a rare synthesis of electronic warfare concerns and oscillator applications.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

These new audios offer delightful nonfiction that comes alive in audio format, from memoirs to essays, and are top picks for libraries and listeners looking for lasting value and strong impact. Adam Rippon's Beautiful on the Outside (9781549121968, $35.00) is read by Rippon, a former Olympic figure skater, and provides a fun and pointed observation of what it takes to become an Olympic medalist without the financial backing of wealthy parents. His different perspective on getting ahead will delight not just aspiring skaters, but anyone interested in Adam Rippon and the process of finding success against all odds. Shea Serrano's Movies (And Other Things) (9781549124112, $35.00) is the second book in the 'And Other Things' series, this focusing on movies. It's read by Mario Toscano, who provides a clear and pointed voice to this question and answer movie trivia collection. Each chapter is a question about either a single movie or a group of movies under one theme, and each provides fun enlightenment that will especially intrigue film buffs. A .pdf of charts comes on the final cd to this coverage. Leslie Jamison's Make it Scream, Make It Burn (9781549153365, $35.00) collects Jamison's essays about obsession and her life, and provides a literary examination of its highs and lows. Her own voice lends drama and interest to a collection of the journalist's experiences, challenges, and changes. Gail Collins's No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History (9781478900771, $35.00) is reach by Tanya Eby, whose smooth and revealing voice brings to life this celebration of women throughout American history, from early days to modern times. The lively social history of women and aging pairs anecdotes and fun facts with historical precedent and will prove an enlightening, absorbing listen with special value in audio. Marc Randolph's That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of An Idea (9781549153495, $40.00) is narrated by the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, and reveals how he founded a revolutionary new company on a revolutionary new concept. From beginning on a shoestring and creative financing arrangements to its present-day wealth at over 150 million subscribers, this business success story will intrigue not just followers of Netflix, but those interested in how a new idea sees fruition in the business world. All are enjoyable, involving listens.

The Self-Help Shelf

How to 10 Easy Steps
William H. Arntz
9781786782748, $18.95

How to 10 Easy Steps: Discover, Embrace, and Own the Mechanics of Misery is a startling expose that takes a different approach to misery. Rather than adopting the usual approach of taking steps to mitigate misery, this book promotes embracing, owning, and using it as a stepping-stone to success. The goal is not to alleviate suffering, but to embrace and direct it. Perhaps the greatest message of this powerful survey is that suffering is not just here to stay, but improves lives in unexpected ways, if approached properly (and more differently than the norm). The message is thought-provoking, backed by studies and considerations of different schools of thought, and is a powerful revelation for readers who think that a peaceful, pain-free life should be their goal. It's highly recommended for self-help and psychology readers looking for different ways to grow and evolve.

Your Vivid Life
Shayne Traviss
9781788781628, $14.95

Your Vivid Life: An Invitation to Live a Radically Authentic Life follows Shayne Traviss's personal journey after he left the corporate world, claimed bankruptcy, and began his journey to freedom far from a challenging job and demanding life structure. This journey offers keys for readers who would lead a more engaged, meaningful existence. Other books may advocate changing one's life, but fail to properly address the 'how' (or these obstacles). Traviss is not afraid to closely examine these common barriers to creating a vivid life. The result is an important, thought-provoking survey that promotes meditation and stillness in order to identify and dismantle old patterns, conditioning, and barriers to self-awareness. This focus sets Your Vivid Life apart from similar-sounding competitors advocating self-discovery, creating an inspirational read of not just theory, but applications and revelations. Your Vivid Life is not just highly recommended, but is a 'must have' acquisition for anyone beginning the process of a radical life change.

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