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California Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 1 January 2019 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Parenting Shelf Cookbook Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Needlecraft Shelf Photography Shelf
Technology Shelf American History Shelf Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Audiobook Shelf
Biography Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Police Craft
Adam Plantinga
Quill Driver Books
9781610353311, $16.95,

Fans of true crime stories who want an insider's view of police processes, crime, and issues of community connections and violence will find Police Craft a pointed observation from a Sergeant in the San Francisco Police Department. It cover Plantinga's daily encounters in the course of his job, discusses police shootings, racial profiling, and other community concerns, and blends a touch of humor with many insights into the policeman's job and perspective. Anyone interested in police processes and issues will find Police Craft an absorbing, revealing account. Science, Nature & Technology

NOLS Wilderness Navigation, third edition
Gene Trantham and Darran Wells
Stackpole Books
9780811737739, $16.95,

The third updated edition of NOLS Wilderness Navigation is especially recommended for sports and outdoors collections, and provides an official guide to outdoors navigational ideas and processes designed for readers who would build skills in these areas. It comes from an experienced navigator who taught NOLS courses throughout the US and around the world, and covers various techniques for using maps, compass, and GPS to chart locations, take bearings, plan routes, and understand topo maps. From potential problems faced by compass and other users to sidebars of at-a-glance information and handy articles, this is a book that should not be neglected by anyone who would navigate the wilderness using the latest techniques and best practices.

The Parenting Shelf

Brain Stages
Patricia Wilkinson and Jacqueline Frischknecht, PhD
Sandra Jonas Publishing
9780985581503, $16.95,

Brain Stages: How to Raise Smart, Confident Kids and Have Fun Doing It is for parents, teachers, and anyone working with children who have more invested in their interactions than scholarly instruction alone. There's been much new research and many studies in brain physiology and learning processes, and Brain Stages offers more than a casual inspection of how these studies apply to specific pursuits with kids. From the importance of physical fitness and unsupervised playtime to what needs change from year to year for optimal health and thinking, Brain Stages creates a logical progression of changing attitudes, perspectives, and approaches to fostering a healthy child based on his natural growth and development. It's not unusual to have instructions specific to all these goals, but the strong point of Brain Stages is its ability to pair games and activities and a nurturing focus with the latest insights on best practices for healthy progressive development. No educator, parent, or childcare professional should be without this specific early childhood guide, which offers an invaluable, accessible resource for brain-based learning from a veteran teacher's perspective.

The Cookbook Shelf

Feasts of Veg
Nina Olsson
9781909487888, $29.99,

Feasts of Veg: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes for Gatherings comes from a noted food blogger who takes plant-based cooking to entertainment levels as she gathers recipes influenced by international flavors and fare, suitable for entertaining. From pizzas and roasts to celery root 'steak' and Tandoori veggies, full-page color photos and smaller inserts accompany each recipe, while descriptions offer insights on how to make the foods visually appealing for entertaining. Vegetarian cooks looking to elevate the usual fare to classy, colorful presentations suitable for all kinds of parties will find Feasts of Veg a vibrant, refreshingly different collection filled with flavor, color, and surprisingly easy recipes that require only access to a well-stocked market to prove accessible.

Searing Inspiration
Susan Volland
W.W. Norton
9780393292411, $29.95,

Searing Inspiration: Fast, Adaptable Entrees and Fresh Pan Sauces offers a refreshingly different approach to sauces and searing that explains how to add sauce to a pan to spice seafood, meats, and even vegetables and eggs. Some 60 recipes offer techniques and recipes that spice up even ordinary fare, such as a recipe for Split Cornish Game hen with Chipolte BBQ Sauce. From a tangy Picked Pepper Relish to be served with Skirt Steaks with Artichoke to an easy Lamb Steaks with Simple, Fresh-Tasting Tomato Sauce, Searing Inspiration focuses on easy dishes and sauce pairings that don't require a chef's degree to prove successful. By narrowing the focus to searing alone, Searing Inspiration creates a treasure trove of dishes cooks will find accessible and appealing.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

Smart Ass
Margaret Winslow
New World Library
9781608685905, $16.95,

Smart Ass: How A Donkey Challenged Me to Accept His True Nature & Rediscover My Own comes from a field geologist whose midlife crisis involved answering an ad to buy a "large white saddle donkey". Her adoption of Caleb defied many presumptions about the donkey's personality, abilities, and difference from horses, and the lessons he offered her translated into her own life, providing new meaning and lessons on purpose and more. Margaret Winslow's ability to capture and translate hilarious scenes as she attempts to train her donkey and comes to terms with his personality makes for a lively, fun read that is hilariously hard to put down. Nature and life lessons blend in a fun story that is highly recommended for a wide range of readers, from those familiar with donkeys to others who want an accessible collection of life lessons packaged in a fun tale.

The Needlecraft Shelf

Martingale & Company

Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson's The Splendid Sampler 2: Another 100 Blocks from a Community of Quilters (9781604689525, $28.99) packs in a range of block patterns and alternatives designed not only by the two author quilters, but others who offer designs based on patchwork, applique, embroidery, and other block piecing embellishments and techniques. Quilters who want new ideas for block designs will find this a treasure trove of samplers, each opened with an introduction that includes insights on the block, a color photo of the completed quilt, materials lists and placement guides, and assembly instructions. Pam Buda's Vintage Patchwork: A Dozen Small Projects from One Bundle of 10" Squares (9781604688672, $25.99) offers small quilt projects created from a pack of precut squares, and shows how to put together eight quilts for wall hangings, baskets, or more. Cutting diagrams in a pullout sheet accompany color photos throughout that show all levels of quilter how to make the most of a single bundle. Both are exceptional collections.

The Photography Shelf

Photoshop Elements from Novice to Expert, 2018
Vickie Ellen Wolper
Mercury Learning
9781683922339, $54.95,

Photoshop Elements from Novice to Expert, 2018 is designed for photographers at all levels of experience, and offers easy, progressive instruction for Photoshop Elements users. It supplies files that supplement and illustrate step-by-step instructions, teaches the basics of working with photos and organizing them in Elements, then moves to more in-depth tools such as using layers, repairing or converting photographic detriments, sharing photos between systems, and more. Packed with color screen shots throughout, the 2018 edition of Photoshop Elements from Novice to Expert can be used as both a primer for newcomers and as a refresher course for those with some prior background in Elements, who want a more logical course of instruction to fill in knowledge gaps.

The Technology Shelf

Artech House

B. Michael Aucoin's From Engineer to Manager: Managing the Transition (9781630815431, $109.00) appears in its second updated edition to provide specific guidance to engineers who would become managers, and uses the author's 30 years of experience to discuss how to properly prepare and train for this position. This revised edition represents a revamp and expansion of the original, adding new topics on team and meeting management, delegating, and more, and explaining how to better communicate among colleagues and leaders. Templates, exercises, and worksheets are available online, to support the text, while chapters covering common problems, solutions, and the delegation of responsibility assure that engineers understand all facets of a transition into management. Eyal Weiss and Roger Alimi's Low-Power and High-Sensitivity Magnetic Sensors and Systems (9781630812430, $159.00) belongs in any college-level reference collection where electronics, sensors, and system designers are patrons. It focuses on sources of noise and clutter common to magnetic sensing systems, guiding developers on how to build low-noise systems and discussing typical challenges of system noise and clutter. The mathematical calculations and scientific analysis and descriptions of variables that affect low noise measurement systems make for a reference that delves into changing environments, digital selective bandpass sampling, magnetic calibration, and more. Mervin C. Budge Jr. and Shawn R. German's Basic Radar Tracking (9781630813352, $149.00) is recommended for military and electronics reference holdings alike, and offers a resource considering closed-loop radar tracking techniques in range, Doppler and angle tracking. Techniques for modeling digital, closed-loop trackers and discussions and examples of simulations pack a reference that considers fluctuations, sources of problems, provides MATLAB code with analysis and simulation work, and offers a wide range of solution to common radar tracking issues. All levels of readers will find this a basic handbook that covers a wide set of radar applications, issues, and solutions.

The American History Shelf

The Greatest Cowboy Stories Ever Told
Stephen Brennan, Editor
Lyons Press
9781493036950, $19.95,

The Greatest Cowboy Stories Ever Told: Inspiring Tales of the Western Frontier offers a literary and historical examination of cowboy characters and charts the 'Kingdom of Cattle' which lasted from the end of the Civil War to the turn of the twentieth century. It was an era of frontier justice, duels, escapades, and such legendary heroes as Pecos Bill, Billy the Kid, and more. This gathering of stories by different authors charts these legends and adds personal touches that provide powerful insights into the making of the cowboy image and its effect on American history and its interpretation.

The Black Legend
Doug Hocking
9781493034451, $24.95,

The Black Legend: George Bascom, Cochise, and the Start of the Apache Wars belongs in any collection serious about Native American struggles and history, and examines the Apaches who routinely raided the heavily-traveled Emigrant and Overland Mail Trail. The kidnapping of a young boy from his stepfather's ranch led Lieutenant George Bascom to confront Cochise even though there was no proof he was involved, and the bloodbath that ensued would change lives forever. Doug Hocking re-examines evidence surrounding this confrontation and event, offering a new analysis of both Bascom and Cochise's behaviors and how they influenced the Indian Wars after the American Civil War. Quotes from source materials of the times compliment text that clearly delineates supposition from fact, enhancing a saga that offers a narrow inspection of an encounter and relationship that would forever change Native American and white perspectives.

Wright Brothers, Wrong Story
William Hazelgrove
Prometheus Books
9781633884588, $24.00,

Wright Brothers, Wrong Story: How Wilbur Wright Solved the Problem of Manned Flight revises aviation history and refutes many common misunderstandings about the Wright Brothers as it considers their early years, development, and why attention should be focused on Wilbur, not Orville, as the designer of the world's first airplane. Family letters, archives, and original research blend in a consideration of the brothers' personalities, abilities, and why history has chosen to profile perhaps the wrong brother. The result is a lively story supported by much source material that delves into the heart of facts surrounding the Wright Brothers and their lives.

The Fiction Shelf

Christmas in Prague
Rick Pryll
Foolishness Press
9780974505626, $8.99 signed pbk. / $2.99 Kindle

Christmas in Prague is a novella that excerpts the second part of Rick Pryll's full-length The Chimera in Prague, and is a worthy stand-alone holiday story that will engross readers year-round, undoubtedly leading to newcomer interest in Chimera. Even prior fans of the full-length Chimera will find that by taking this second section and making Christmas in Prague a stand-alone production, Pryll successfully crafts a microcosm of inspection and revelation that offers food for thought even prior readers will want to return to for additional flavors.

Jonathan LaPoma
Almendro Arts
9780998840352, $15.95,

The first thing to note about Hammond is its astute and compelling connections between these two worlds. James reflects on his condition in the first person, and the description illustrated his state of mind, right from the first few sentences. Although mature teens and new adults will be the likely audience for this coming-of-age story, Hammond is really a saga of mental illness, portraying the world through the eyes of a teen whose greatest challenges lie off the court. Readers who look for compelling sagas of mental illness struggles will find Hammond a revealing standout in the literature which grabs the reader's attention and swings through a life that too often feels stuck. Few stories can capture this gritty and stark existence, and Hammond is reminiscent of the classic I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, with its powerful, introspective view of an evolving (and, sometimes, devolving) young man.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Berkley Prime Crime

Victoria Thompson's City of Secrets (9780451491619, $28.00) is a Counterfeit Lady novel that represents the second book in a new series, and introduces another Elizabeth Miles mystery as she navigates the 20th century as a clever con-woman who leads a covert life. Her association with suffragists, social struggles, widowers, and scandals leads to a mystery that pits her against helping her friend and being exposed for her own indiscretions in this multifaceted story of murder and revelation, perfect for prior fans and newcomers alike. Laura Childs includes recipes with her latest Eggs on Ice (9780425281727, $26.00), a Crackleberry Club mystery revolving around the sleuthing women of a cafe club who determined to solve a murder before the holidays. A curmudgeon cast as Scrooge in a play is stabbed to death during a rehearsal by the Ghost of Christmas Past, who escapes. Who was the Ghostly murderer, and can the women hunt him down before he strikes again. The scrapbooking mystery series expands with an inviting story that is perfect reading for holiday intrigue.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Assassin Prince
P.G. Badzey
Stone Owl Press
9780997139785, $12.99 Print/$4.99 ebook,

Readers of Assassin Prince will be quick to discover that P.G. Badzey has created a complex, absorbing atmosphere driven as much by differences between its inhabitants as by connections between all who live in it. It should be noted that Assassin Prince is not a casual, light read. Those familiar with the previous Grey Riders novels will recognize the use of maps and an extensive glossary to define identities and connections; these should ideally be consulted both at the onset and at various points in the tale, to make for a smoother read. There are many characters, and the complex setting, a strong point of the overall story, is not one to be hastily absorbed. Readers seeking a complex fantasy replete with magic, battles, and a myriad of involving characters will find Assassin Prince a compelling saga that adds another piece of satisfying action to Badzey's world-building series.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

These new audio fiction listens are highly recommended for those who seek evocative stories spiced by engrossing readers who bring each tale to life. James Patterson and James O. Born's Ambush (9781478999164, $35.00) receives an engrossing narration by Danny Mastrogiorgio, who brings to life this Detective Michael Bennett thriller. Bennett is the only man who stands in the way of two drug cartels fighting for control of the illicit drug trade in New York City. He's willing to risk his own life, but when his children are threatened and a series of murders ensues, Michael finds his investigative skills are paramount for solving not one major problem, but two. Engrossing twists involve him in a killer's plans which hold the city's future at stake. Kate Atkinson's Transcription (9781549116650, $35.00) receives a vivid reading by Fenella Woolgar, who brings to life a moving story set in 1940, when teen Juliet becomes an undercover agent monitoring British Fascist sympathizers. Ten years after her mission is complete, the past returns to haunt her in this powerful story of new threats, old talents, and a world under siege. Laini Taylor's Muse of Nightmares (9781549142659, $30.00) is read by Steve West, who provides a sequel to the Printz Honor Book bestseller Strange the Dreamer. Sarai has had nightmares all her life; and she and Lazlo have been changed by the tragedy they both experienced. But their love for one another and their shared adversity don't necessarily resolve all conflicts, for Sarai is the Muse of Nightmares, and she is still coming into her powers. A romance and fantasy blends with mystery and evocative action that come to life in an audio especially recommended for prior fans of Strange the Dreamer. Nicholas Sparks's Every Breath is presented both unabridged (9781549194696, $35.00) and abridged (9781549194702, $25.00); both narrated by Sean Cameron and Michael and Vanessa Johansson and featuring an introduction read by Sparks himself. Hope is nearly forty and has been dating her boyfriend for six years, with no wedding in sight. Her decision to get away to clear her mind results in yet another option that makes more sense than her current life. Sparks excels at crafting stories that bring disparate people together in love: Every Breath is no exception, and makes for a vivid romance. Robert Galbraith's Lethal White (9781549119833, $40.00) provides a Cormoran Strike novel read by Robert Glenister, is the fourth book in the 'Strike' series, and tells of a private eye who becomes involved with a troubled young man with a childhood memory he wants to have investigated. Strike and his partner Robin find themselves on more than a mercy mission when their search for their new client and his secret take them into the streets of London and into the countryside, which harbors a sinister manor. An engaging and complex story of intrigue will keep readers engaged and listening to the end. James Patterson's Target (9781549194870, $35.00) is narrated by Andre Blake, who provides a lively professional tone to this Alex Cross story of a sniper's bullet, Washington politics and detectives, and Cross's premonition that the sniper's attack is only the beginning of a greater threat. Action is tense and exquisitely wrought in audio. David Baldacci's Long Road to Mercy (9781478999294, $40.00) is narrated by Brittany Pressley and Kyf Brewer, whose dual voices bring to life this Atlee Pine thriller revolving around a twin whose sister was kidnapped. Atlee never saw mercy again, and three decades later she works for the FBI. An especially puzzling case and her abrupt departure from routine lead straight to past heartbreak in an engaging thriller. Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Moon (9781549142598, $50.00) is read by Maxwell Hamilton, Joy Osmanski and Fedor Chin, whose combined prowess brings to life the story of an American journeying to the Mars colony who witnesses a murder and goes into hiding. As other characters enter the scenario, politics and detective insights combing in a riveting, unpredictable sci-fi story. All are solid picks for discriminating audio listeners.

The Biography Shelf

First Comes Marriage
Huda Al-Marashi
Prometheus Books
9781633884465, $24.00,

First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story tells of how the author met the boy she was destined to marry, when she was six years old. They were American-born children of Iraqi immigrants who grew up in California, at in very different areas. Hadi viewed Huda as the only girl he'd ever loved, but Huda wanted more, and their conservative Muslim families placed barriers to anything other than their destined relationship. This memoir of Muslim-American marriage and love offers important insights into Western culture and Muslim values, and is a lively way of absorbing what happens when two very different cultures clash in this country.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
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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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