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California Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 1 January 2020 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Needlecraft Shelf Cookbook Shelf
Political Science Shelf General Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Audiobook Shelf Technology Shelf
Health/Medicine Shelf Christian Studies Shelf Biography Shelf
California Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

The Joy of Letting Go
Suzanne Falter
Love and Happiness Publishing
9780991124848, $4.99, Kindle

The Joy of Letting Go: Helpful Thoughts for Challenging Times is the first book in Suzanne Falter's 'The Joy Series' and comes from an author, podcaster, and self-help advisor who covers basic strategies for letting go of worries, issues, and the kinds of life connections which create an atmosphere of negativity and angst. With The Joy of Letting Go in hand, readers receive real keys, based on Falter's own experiences and those of others, to the underlying obstacles to a happy life. Also analyzed are the meaningful lessons that can come from adversity if the individual used to being in a victim role can overcome this state of mind to absorb some valuable lessons even from most terrible of circumstances. From what to let go of to how to identify and build better patterns, analytical skills, and routines that support a more positive lifestyle, The Joy of Letting Go is the perfect anecdote to ennui and depression in a chaotic world where many feel pressed to over-control or defy change. Readers who tend to be angry, co-dependent, and frustrated by life's slings and arrows will benefit from Falter's approach, which lists many important perceptions and keys to revising them for a better result and a bigger heart.

The Needlecraft Shelf

Martingale & Company

Katja Marek's The New Hexagon 2: 52 More Blocks to English Paper Piece (9781683560364, $27.99) returns from her success with the prior The New hexagon to provide over fifty more ways of using hexagon shapes in quilting efforts. From her special how-to techniques, depicted in clear step-by-step color photos, to expanded block sizes and projects utilizing them, The New Hexagon 2 especially excels in large-size color images of each hexagon which is detailed enough to show stitching and color mixes. Quilters familiar with Marek's previous book or hexagon designs will relish the expanded attention to new projects and ideas. Linzee Kull McCray's Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric (9781683560425, $29.99) is more than a needlework history alone, but is accompanied by over eight hundred patterns, full-page color close-ups of feed sack designs, and vintage displays of samples, ads, and more. Packed with color and everything that relates to feed sack history and usage, Feed Sacks is an outstanding reference recommended not just for needlework collections, but for history and culture holdings as well as general-interest readers who may be amazed at McCray's wealth of facts and colorful insights.

The Cookbook Shelf

Chocolate: Recipes and Techniques from the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts
Ferrandi Paris
9782080204066, $35.00

Chocolate: Recipes and Techniques from the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts comes from the acclaimed French school renowned for their pastry and culinary education, and narrows the focus to using chocolate and creating all aspects of desserts from it, from pastry and candy to decorations. Over two hundred color photos accompany a survey especially rich in techniques, creating a virtual culinary school in a book that's recommended for home cooks serious about moving into professional baking circles. From the full-page photos of finished productions to the step-by-step images and text covering their creation, Chocolate: Recipes and Techniques from the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts is especially strong in blending traditional skills with insights on the wellsprings of creative culinary innovation. Its recipes, approaches, and encouraging approach simplifies what could have been a complex discussion, encouraging home bakers to move behind their comfort zones in using chocolate for a variety of dishes.

The Political Science Shelf

Capitalism for Democrats
Martin Lowy
Public Policy Press
9781694514721, $19.95, Paper, $5.99, Kindle

Capitalism for Democrats: Why The Country Needs It Now is recommended reading for not just Democrats, but any American who needs a refresher course in what capitalism is, how it operates, and how to preserve its key elements. Capitalism for Democrats is a wide-ranging consideration of temporary and permanent features of capitalism and other economic systems that contrasts moral hazards with ethical choice, reflecting on not just the economic organization and impact of capitalism, but its underlying ideals. Because the title is Capitalism for Democrats, it's a shame to note that other political groups may bypass its important message. Really, the title should be Capitalism for All. It is just that inclusive -- and just that important. Its coverage should be basic to American economic and political history collections from the high school level on up, and should be on the reading list of any American concerned about creating the kinds of institutions that ultimately lead to benefits and prosperity for everyone.

The General Fiction Shelf

A Thin Line
Craig N. Hooper
Independently Published
9781733375511, $11.99, Paper, $2.99, ebook

Fans of Craig N. Hooper's Garrison Chase series will welcome yet another story of intrigue and adversity with A Thin Line, which opens with Garrison's encounter with his mentor, who shows up on his doorstep with a different face and intriguing big news. Readers will find A Thin Line just as grippingly hard to put down as Garrison's prior adventures. The story is peppered with physical fights and struggles that lead to the challenge of defying investigative restrictions in order to achieve results. This juxtaposition of professional, ethical, and personal entanglements is what lends to a solid, realistic, and absorbing drama that goes beyond the usual mechanics of special interests and dark forces to probe the struggles of one man's heart. Thriller readers who seek a memorable, absorbing suspense story - particularly those who enjoyed Garrison's character and prior adventure - will find with A Thin Line holds the same attention to psychological and ethical dilemmas that adds an extra boost to the intrigue.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

City of Scoundrels
Victoria Thompson
Berkley Prime Crime
9781984805652, $26.00

City of Scoundrels provides a new 'Counterfeit Lady' novel centered around Elizabeth Miles, whose fiancee is on the cusp of fighting in the Great War. Corporal Tom Preston needs a new will to protect his secret marriage and pregnant wife, but when he's killed, the new will vanishes after his hidden bride reveals her identity to his grieving family. The original will left everything to Tom's brother. Can Elizabeth and Gordon help Tom's widow and unborn child, fighting both some terrible legal threats and the possibility of murder? This engrossing story will captivate readers with a strong historical backdrop and a struggle that involves not just inheritance, but life itself.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Wil McCarthy
Baen Books
9781481484312, $25.00

The vivid cover art of Antediluvian leads readers to want to take the dive into this tale of the Antediluvian age before the Flood, where the myths, legends, and history of the human race receives a revised twist by Wil McCarthy. From human memories released from genetic codes that change the perceptions of history to rising waters, encounters with spirits, and changed perceptions that grants even trolls the basic courtesies of being sentient beings, this story is vivid, engrossing, and mind-bending all at once.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

These excellent audios represent some top new publications by Hachette, and should be considered mainstays of any audio lending library, on the reading lists of listeners looking for superior blends of literary and audio excellence. Jenny Slate's Little Weirds (9781549142345, $35.00) demonstrates how a fresh, positive observation of life can change one's vision and perspective of its potential. Essays in this collection blend humor with serious observation and are narrated by the author herself, whose spunky and reflective voice brings her words to vivid life. Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy's All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator (9781549124105, $35.00) is narrated by the authors along with Molly Parker Myers. This trio of voices succeeds in bringing the nonfiction survey to life as the book examines Trump's history with women from his childhood through school years and business and political pursuits. Interviews, reporting challenges, and more create a vivid story of Trump from the viewpoint of the women whom he has dated or pursued, making for a captivating listen indeed. Michael Connelly's The Night Fire (9781549120770, $40.00) is narrated by Titus Welliver and Christine Lakin, who bring to life the Renee Ballard and Harry Bosch novel about a murder case that thwarted Bosch's own mentor when he was just a rookie detective. A 'murder book' that this mentor kept of an unsolved killing draws Bosch and Ballard into an inquiry that questions the investigation proceedings as much as the murder in an engrossing suspense story that comes to life under the dual narration. David Baldacci's A Minute to Midnight (9781478999317, $40.00) also receives a dual narration, this by Brittany Pressley and Kyf Brewer, who add solid, compelling voices to the FBI agent Atlee Pine thriller resolving around an investigator's own unresolved case, her anger, and her task of solving an impossible question. As Atlee searches for answers and a serial killer, her life comes under close inspection in this gripping drama set in Georgia. Julie Andrews works with Emma Walton Hamilton in Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years (9781549194917, $35.00). Andrews narrates her own memoir, which is the second installment and documents her arrival in Hollywood and her rise to fame. Her insights on the growth of her professional life, experiences, and performances is perfect listening for Andrews fans who want to know more. All are wonderful listens with solid audio narrator/performers backing superior writing.

The Technology Shelf

Artech House

Two new reference titles are recommendations for college-level students and industry professionals seeking the latest research and reference information on radar systems and electronic warfare, containing comprehensive guides suitable for those involved in analytical and applied science roles. Introduction to Radar with Python and MATLAB by Andy Harrison (9781630815974, $159.00) shows how to produce synthetic aperture images, covering the basics of tracking filters and their parameters and effects and various radar measurement techniques. The Python tool suite is used to help readers predict radar variables and performance, while MATLAB scripts work with the Python tools and graphic interfaces to help learners visualize the concepts and understand their real-world applications. Nicholas A. O'Donoughue's Emitter Detection and Geolocation for Electronic Warfare (9781630815646, $139.00) provides information for detecting and geolocating emitters, and discusses many foundations of geolocation science and math for students involved in warfare studies and detection methods. MATLAB code provides the statistics and is linked to math incarnations in real-world detection problems, including problems and examples of solutions to help students and advanced practitioners alike. Filled with math, statistics, and applications information, both are strong references.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Holistic Keto for Gut Health
Kristin Grayce McGary
Findhorn Press
9781620559819, $16.99
9781620559826, $11.99, Ebook

Holistic Keto for Gut Health offers a step-by-step keto diet program promoting digestive health, and adds the science that's necessary to absorb some basic information about gut health and why many people experience chronic gut conditions. Unlike a regular keto cookbook, Holistic Keto for Gut Health excludes foods proven to cause inflammation and damage, pairing its health discussion with recipes carefully selected for their restorative abilities. Thus, this cookbook purposely excludes all dairy, eggs, soy, nuts and seeds, and chocolate for the first two to four months, as well as other foods known to cause inflammation. It offers many eye-openers, such as the fact that human digestive systems aren't geared for a strictly vegetarian diet, and contrasts the basic tenets of the keto approach with those of paleo and other diets. Readers who embark on the journey to gut health will appreciate this concrete, science-based nutrition program, which outlines many pitfalls and possibilities and leaves little to wonder about. The straightforward discussions, statistics, recipes, and organized program provides an empowering, information-packed strategy for anyone who has been frustrated by their overall health and the inability of traditional approaches to define, much less treat, a myriad of gut-related problems.

The Christian Studies Shelf

Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, revised edition
Brian Thomas Swimme
Orbis Books
9781626983434, $20.00

The revised edition of Hidden Heart of the Cosmos: Humanity and the New Story will reach religious and science collections alike with a scholarly, intriguing survey of how the universe works. It comes from a professor of evolutionary cosmology who considers cosmic relationships, comments on false, misleading perceptions of the universe's beginnings, and contrasts metaphysics with philosophy and spiritual insight in a newly revamped revision of the original classic that updates the science to reflect new research while maintaining a reflective investigation into the hidden heart of that universe. Science, philosophy, and spiritual thinkers alike will find Hidden Heart of the Cosmos a well-reasoned, lively study.

The Biography Shelf

Better Off Bald
Andrea Wilson Woods
Build Your BLISS
9781544504612, $29.99, Hardcover
9781544504599, $14.99, Paperback
9781544504605, $9.99, Ebook

Better Off Bald begins with a younger sister's pain and evolves into a life story that documents the two sisters' changing relationship with one another and with life, from a custody battle over her sister's guardianship to how the two sisters packed a lifetime of experiences into just 147 days.

Most stories about cancer focus on survival and handling the rigors of physical challenges. Better Off Bald considers different facets, from how closeness develops and changes between these sisters to how a young person chooses to live her final days of life. The story offers many specifics not just about relationships between sisters, but encounters with the medical community and treatment choices and their effects, from changing roles between the sisters to struggles with pain management and medical decision-making. Better Off Bald is a story that is thoroughly engrossing and fulfills one of its many purposes: to help readers know a feisty teen who discovered new life while facing its end, moving from being a suicidal, depressed teen to one who figures out how to inject new life into her world and those around her. It's at once sad and inspirational - a story that will linger in the mind long after its conclusion.

The California Shelf

The California Immigrant
Barbara King
Cypress Point Press LLC
9781733536905, $16.99, Paper, $4.99, Kindle

Yugoslavian immigrant Martin Petrovich is only in San Francisco for a few years when disaster leads him to flee to the farming community of Watsonville, where he again points his goals towards his dream of a better life. The community of mixed European, Japanese, and Mexican immigrants seems a perfect match for his ambitions and background until Pearl Harbor changes everything once again.

While The California Immigrant's message about racial strife, profiling, and hatred explores a repetitive, key issue in American society, perhaps at few times is its story more relevant than to modern audiences.

Barbara King stumbled upon the background facts while researching her own family's immigrant history, but she's taken the story and run with it, elevating it to another level for historical fiction readers interested in either California in particular or the immigrant experiences of teens coming of age in America. Readers of California history will be delighted to discover that a rural Monterey Peninsula town is profiled which rarely receives attention in the usual California history chronicle.

From Martin's English classes and life with his uncle in San Francisco in 1904 to his connections to the Slavonic Society which keep him rooted to his heritage, King does more than set the stage for a good read. She educates her readers about immigrant perceptions and experiences, offers contrasts between new and old countries, and discusses how an immigrant maintains old and builds new connections to both worlds.

One minute, Martin's life is filled with ambition and promise; the next, it's fragmented, with all his dreams crushed. To its credit, The California Immigrant only uses the backdrop of the 1906 earthquake to propel its protagonist forward to Watsonville, where the heart of the story lies. Where other tales rehash familiar ground, King departs for something different. She follows the tracks of a young immigrant who is forced to relocate not only his physical life, but his dreams. There is still a Slavonic Society to provide connections and roots, there's still family to support him, and there's still hope for the future in his new home.

The California Immigrant is steeped in the Croatian community and documents how world politics invades a quiet town and leads Martin to become politically active to help his fellow countrymen back home. It juxtaposes the culture of California and its mixture of ethnic groups and immigrants with the broader questions of an America posed on the brink of conflict, blending the concerns of rural farmers and local small townspeople into changing worldviews which many of the immigrants foster through their actions and choices.

In many ways, The California Immigrant represents the quintessential mix that is American culture, which takes the roots and concerns of an array of different peoples and blends them into an evolving society, creating something completely different than its individual units or origins.

From the San Francisco diplomatic conference that reconnects Martin to his family and San Francisco as it attempts to move the world into a new era before the war is even over to Watsonville's struggles as Japanese-Americans who had been interned during the war return to fragmented and uncertain futures, King captures all the nuances of the times.

These blend wonderfully into Martin's changing life over the years, acknowledging the passage of time, the healing of hurt, the solidification of new objectives, and how immigrant perspectives change American culture.

These lessons are embedded in a vivid, realistic story that's hard to put down. Readers seeking a California immigrant tale that weaves discussions of war into rural concerns will relish the delightful juxtaposition of interests and history that makes Martin's story come alive in The California Immigrant.

No California collection should be without it.

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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