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California Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 6 June 2018 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Botany Shelf Political Science Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Science Shelf Antiques/Collectibles Shelf
Gun Shelf American History Shelf Theatre/Cinema Shelf
Audiobook Shelf Photography Shelf Art Shelf
Health/Medicine Shelf Biography Shelf Cookbook Shelf
Education Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf California Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Common Bees in California Gardens
Christopher Jadallah, et al.
Agriculture & Natural Resources
c/o Heyday Books
9781627110013, $15.00, Spiral Bound, 56pp

Nearly 1600 species of native bees can be found in California's rich ecosystems; "Common Bees in California Gardens" is colorful pocket-sized spiral bound card set printed on sturdy laminated paper that will help to easily identify 24 of the most common bees found in urban gardens and landscapes. Using this card set, even the most novice of observers will be able to identify bees on the wing to the genus level. Included for each featured bee are color photographs, a general description of appearance, the distribution and richness, flight season, nesting habits, floral hosts, and how each transports pollen. Also included is a brief description and illustration of the anatomy of a bee, a glossary, bibliography, and online resources so the reader can delve deeper into the lives of these fascinating social insects. Designed as a companion to the book "California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists" (Heyday Books, 9781597142946, $28.00, PB, 304pp), "Common Bees in California Gardens" is an especially recommended identification guide for personal and professional observers.

The Botany Shelf

California Plants
Matt Ritter
Pacific Street Publishing
c/o Heyday Books
9780999896006, $27.50, PB, 320pp,

"California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora" is an essential resource for outdoor enthusiasts. With his vibrant photographs and lively writing, Matt Ritter takes the reader on a journey through the Golden State's iconic landscapes and abundant plant life. This definitive guide features more than 500 species, along with detailed descriptions, fascinating natural history stories, and handy tree and wildflower color identification charts. Exceptionally informed and informative, "California Plants" is a complete course of instruction and identification under one cover and as a thoroughly 'user friendly' field guide will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.

The Political Science Shelf

California Fights Back
Peter Schrag
Heyday Broadsides
c/o Heyday Books
9781597144476, $7.99, PB, 112pp,

Peter Schrag is a journalist, a scholar of Californian politics and political history. In "California Fights Back: The Golden State in the Age of Trump" he thoughtfully argues that California's role in the era of Donald Trump is twofold: to act as a leader in the resistance to the current administration, and to be held up as an alternative to the course being pursued in Washington. Given the Democratic Party's stronghold on all statewide elected offices and legislature, it isn't surprising that California has become a beacon of progressivism. But this is hardly an inevitability. California was almost where much of the GOP wants to take the nation today, leading the country in tax revolt, passage of the Three Strikes criminal sentencing law, and virtual prohibition of bilingual education in public schools. In "California Fights Back" Schrag points to the state's shifting demographics and the erosion of the Republican Party in the wake of Proposition 187 as two major reasons behind California's shift to the left. It is particularly pertinent, then, that a state that formerly espoused these values now negotiates with other nations on climate control, asks its agents not to sweep courthouses in search of people to deport, and has approved major tax increases. "California Fights Back" gives proof to the rest of our nation that things can be better, and raises the possibility of this becoming the story of other states. Impressively informative and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "California Fights Back" is very highly recommended and critically important reading. It should be noted for political and social activists that "California Fights Back" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Serenity Murder
Dan Petrosini
Independently Published

The Serenity Murder is Book 3 in the Luca series, and tells of a wealthy woman murdered on a private island. The tale opens with Gideon's perspective as he lives an estranged life with Marilyn at Serenity House on the island, contemplates a divorce that would allow him to keep his place at the house and his beloved artwork, and Marilyn's decision to lock him out of everything he loves. The appeal of Dan Petrosini's story lies not so much in a standard murder whodunit but in his approach to building competing motivations for murder from different angles and different character perspectives. Readers are along for a interesting delve into fine wines, rich people, and a host of special interests which weave a strong story line and keep readers guessing about the outcome and Luca's ability to get at the heart of what's really going on. Mystery fans seeking a well-rounded and engrossing attention to detail as characters dance around each other and the world of the rich will find The Serenity Murder a powerful, compelling tale that centers around what happens when a clearly guilty perp faces too much competition and an adept detective is forced to trust his sense something is not quite right with his obvious conclusion.

Passion Play
W. Edward Blain
Pegasus Books
9781681776507 $25.95

Passion Play is back in print after a decade and returns a classic mystery to new audiences as it follows a young man murdered in a Times Square sex theater and the clues that surround his mysterious demise. When a student dies, then more corpses begin turning up, the local police and school administrators struggle with a force that seems relentless and proves an even greater mystery when the only suspect turns up dead. A vivid saga makes for engrossing reading.

Berkley Prime Crime

The Murder, She Wrote series keeps expanding, and Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain and Jon Land's latest A Date With Murder (9780451489272, $24.00) expands the TV-based series with a fine new mystery. Jon Land debuts with this latest book which tells of an ordinary-looking death by heart attack that causes Jessica to investigate Hal's love of online dating sites and surprising debt. Victoria Thompson's Murder on Union Square (9780399586606, $28.00) adds to the author's Gaslight series with another satisfying winner; this revolving around Frank and Sarah's adoption of Catherine, whom Sarah has cared for since Catherine's biological parents passed away. Her legal guardian wants the Malloys to pay for her custody, but when he mysteriously dies, all their lives are thrown into chaos. A fine mystery evolves, perfect for prior fans and newcomers alike.

The Science Shelf

Artech House

Dr. Mani Vadari's Smart Grid Redefined: Transformation of the Electric Utility (9781630814762, $159.00) is written by a leading industry expert, who considers the science and evolution of the Smart Grid and its components. It pairs examples and real-world case studies with discussions of typical challenges relating to smart grid supply and demand, examining new technologies and how they affect utility operations and organization. Professional engineers will find this a comprehensive overview which provides not only an assessment of how the smart grid has evolved, but it's likely growth in the future. Black and white photos and charts accompany surveys of smart homes and buildings, transportation systems, and energy storage developers alike. Jamie Bergin and Joseph R. Guerci's Mimo Radar Theory and Application (9781630813420, $159.00) covers the latest technological changes in MIMO radar and introduces its use in real-time operations and the latest advancements in its detection applications. Technical details include discussions of various types of radar systems, insights into MIMO channel estimation, optimization processes, and operations backed by mathematical equations, charts, and technical discussions. No radar collection should be without it. JC Olivier's Electric Circuits: A Primer (9781630815493, $129.00) introduces the basics of electrical circuits and is recommended for college-level students of and courses in electronics interested in exploring fundamentals to lay the groundwork for more advanced courses. From models and their limitations to linear equations relating to circuit design and MATLAB code for field applications, this reference covers many key tools and the latest technologies for professionals interested in the latest in circuitry design and science.

The Antiques/Collectibles Shelf

Miller's Encyclopedia of World Silver Marks
Judith Miller
Octopus Books
9781784721329 $175.00

Miller's Encyclopedia of World Silver Marks is a weighty, 'must have' reference for appraisers, collectors and dealers of silver hallmarks, and produces reproductions of thousands of hallmarks from over sixty countries and regions on every continent. Because there is so much information offered, it's arranged into two volumes under one slipcase holder; with the first listing hallmarks by category and type, cross-referencing them to the second volume's contents, which covers country of origin, center of marking, special marks, and maker's marks. An international team of experts has contributed many hours and much information to this encyclopedia, which also includes a concise review of hallmarking history in each country and a survey of the hallmarking process itself. Any reference collection strong in antiques, collectibles, or silver identification in particular needs this authoritative survey.

The Gun Shelf

Blue Book of Gun Values, 39th edition
S.P. Fjestad
Blue Book Publications
9781936120321 $54.95

The 39th updated edition of Blue Book of Gun Values packs in over two thousand pages of the latest information and values for both modern firearms and antiques, and includes all the new makes and models for 2018. Gun collectors will find there are listings of nearly two thousand manufacturers and trademarks, nearly 24,000 models which are all listed and described, and updates to all the values from the old condition. Nearly a hundred pages of color images illustrate a percentage grading system and make for an authoritative reference that should be a foundation acquisition for any serious collector and libraries catering to them.

The American History Shelf

Eisenhower vs. Warren
James F. Simon
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
9780871407559 $35.00

Eisenhower vs. Warren: The Battle for Civil Rights and Liberties comes from a legal historian who considers the battles between a sitting President and a Chief Justice which influenced key years of the modern civil rights movement, and is a powerful political and social survey that should be in any American history or civil rights holding. Each individual produced long-term influences and results on civil rights from different angles, but especially notable in this discussion is how two very different and equally determined individuals clashed over segregation and civil rights efforts and how to enact them. The detailed legal insights blends nicely with psychological profiles and political history to lend an unusual set of insights key to understanding the decisions and processes that continue to affect civil rights today.

Heart of the Trail
Mary Barmeyer O'Brien
Two Dot/Globe Pequot
9781493026678 $14.95

Women's history holdings will find Mary Barmeyer O'Brien's collection of stories of covered wagon women makes for a thought-provoking collection based on the diaries and journals of women who journeyed the trail and made their own observations of fellow travelers and endured hard journeys to strange places. It documents faithful entries made by ordinary women whose families struggled for survival and it contrasts different experiences in a satisfyingly different approach to most male-authored wagon days experiences.

The Theatre/Cinema Shelf

The Sound of Music: the Making of America's Favorite Movie
Julia Antopol Hirsch
Chicago Review Press
9780912777382 $19.99

If The Sound of Music: the Making of America's Favorite Movie sounds familiar, that's because this is a revised edition of the classic tribute to the musical and returns to print a survey that has been out of print for decades. This is more than a reprint returning the classic to print: it's been repackaged and updated with new material for modern fans, including the numerous interviews with cast and crew, candid photos from behind the scenes, anecdotes and deleted scenes, and more. Packed with color and vintage black and white images, any fan of The Sound of Music needs this vivid discussion of its evolution.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

Four new audiobooks are top, recommended listening that offer engaging authors paired with exceptional narrators for added listening impact. M.C. Beaton's Death of an Honest Man (9781478950257, $30.00) received a smooth and compelling reading by Graeme Malcolm, who brings to life this Hamish Macbeth mystery revolving around a Scottish policeman moved to investigate when a too-critical newcomer to the village is found murdered. The problem is that everyone has hated him, and Hamish faces too many suspects and some puzzling schemes. James Petterson's hand is in three new collections of murder mysteries recommended for fans of short murder fiction works. His Murder Beyond the Grave (9781478995562, $20.00) presents true crime thrillers which receive a gripping narration by Christopher Ryan Grant, who brings to life two real-life stories as seen on Murder is Forever. Kidnapped and buried in a box, Stephen Small once had everything and now has only 48 hours of oxygen left. Developers in the Sierra Nevada mountains intend to transform a small community; but someone is determined to thwart these plans, even if it takes murder. Patterson works with Howard Roughan on Instinct (9781549169045, $20.00), which was previously published as Murder Games and here is narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, who brings to life the riveting story of a NYPD detective in charge of a puzzling murder revolving around a killer's special threat. Patterson works with Candice Fox in Fifty Fifty (9781478995227, $35.00), read by Federay Holmes, who adds a sharp and revealing voice to this new Detective Harriet Blue mystery about a convicted killer's possible innocence of serial murders and a detective determination to clear her brother's name. Rick Steves' Travel As a Political Act: How to Leave Your Baggage Behind (9781549197550, $30.00) is narrated by the author and includes a .pdf of photos as it provides the third updated edition about the politics and sociology of travel. Steves has extensively traveled around the world; so he's in the perfect position to comment on how to learn about other cultures, the influences of travelers on these cultures, and how cultural revelations change the viewer. All are engrossing mysteries that are hard to set aside.

The Photography Shelf

Christian Tagliavini
Christian Tagliavini
9783961710850 $65.00

Christian Tagliavini is a Swiss photographer who has long harbored a passion for mise-en-scene photography and Renaissance portraiture and the masters who produced these styles; so if his photographic collection embraces an atmosphere and styles of yesteryear; this is why. His stages portraits capture the 15th and 16th-century and includes the photographer's own costume designs and approach to portraiture; but often with a modern twist. The result is an eerie blend of past approaches with futuristic embellishments, offering satisfying contrasts in subject, setting and style which make this highly recommended for any serious photography arts collection.

The Art Shelf

The Painter's Wedding
Kristy Rice
Schiffer Publishing
9780764354427 $34.99

The Painter's Wedding: Inspired Celebrations with an Artistic Edge comes not from the usual perspective of a wedding planner; but from an artist who gathers wedding images and inspiration from a wide range of sources, pairing these with advice in each chapter on artful celebration choices from table to clothing. Each chapter introduces an artist who offers inspirational images and approaches to a piece of the wedding, whether it be special jewelry, portraiture, backdrops, or the addition of pop art influences. The result is both outstanding and refreshingly different from most of the wedding books on the market, offering both inspirational ideas and artistic food for thought.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Eat What You Want! Stop When You Want!
Sora Vernikoff, M.A., M.S.
Green Mind Press
9780692850237 $24.95 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Eat What You Want! Stop When You Want! comes from an author who struggled with her own weight issues, and who used her background as an educator to create a workbook of weight management approaches that differs from most other treatments on the market. For one thing, she decided to stop dieting and instead kept a journal of all her eating habits. But her approach didn't stop there: she decided to apply her very successful classroom management techniques to managing food after reaching her weight loss goals without any dieting involved. Thus, the birth of this workbook; which of necessity involves an interactive approach as Vernikoff encourages her readers to identify when they do and do not think about food, how they think about food differently, and how to use the power of thinking to change eating impulses. The mile markers of achievement are nicely outlined in a set of explicit instructions highly recommended for anyone interested in active food management that involves revising habits, perceptions, and ideas of food, dieting, and satisfaction.

The Biography Shelf

Yunte Huang
Liveright Publishing
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
9780871404473 $28.95

Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History examines the lives of Siamese twins Cheng and Eng, whose condition coined the term and came to exemplify the experience of being conjoined as they posed on stages across the country as peculiarities and sideshow entertainment. This examines how they came to that position, how they evolved beyond being sideshow freaks to be Southern gentry, and their journey from Siam to the U.S. in a venture that was only supposed to last five years, but captivated a nation attracted to 'monsters'. Most know little about the couple: this biography's in-depth survey of not only their lives but their times makes for a hard-hitting and lively social and biographical survey that's hard to put down.

Enzo Ferrari
Luca Dal Monte
David Bull Publishing
9781935007289 $49.95

Suffice it to say that a 954-page book about an automobile personality and the empire he built won't be a title for the general-interest reader or even for transportation buffs more attracted to photojournalism reports than serious information. But those who are even peripherally aware of Ferrari's influence on the automotive industry will relish the depth and unique biographical approach of this survey, which represents over a decade of original research and packs in new facts about Ferrari's life, business practices, and influences. The approach goes far beyond an automotive-based history to consider how he rise to the top in auto racing, how he built his own company and team, and how he then moved into designing cars for both racing and the road. Many lesser-known aspects of his life are exposed, while better-known facts are reconsidered in light of this and other angles. The result is a powerfully complex story of a complex individual, unparalleled in its scope, approach, and depth and a 'must have' foundation acquisition for any library serious about businessmen and automotive leaders alike.

The Cookbook Shelf

Lunchbox Salads
Naomi Twigden and Anna Pinder
9780738234878 $18.99

Lunchbox Salads: More Than 100 Fast, Fresh, Filling Salads for Every Weekday pairs lovely color photos with a basic primer on how to construct a salad that can be transported to work, providing recipes which are easy, filling, and take no more than thirty minutes to prepare with ten ingredients or less. There are vegetarian as well as hearty meat options and salads are organized by main vegetable ingredient (Tomato, Red Pepper, Squash, Carrot), making it easy to choose a salad based on one's refrigerator contents.

The Weekend Baker
Paul Hollywood
Trafalgar Square Publishing
9780718184018 $32.95

The Weekend Baker: From Paris to Copenhagen, Naples to New York, Over 80 Brand New Bakes collects sweet and savory recipes from cities around the world, but many add Paul Hollywood's own twist to traditional dishes. Thus, there's a recipe for scones that are Kale, Cherry and Cheese creations, one for Apricot and passion Fruit Wholemeal Danish, and an iconic Florida Key Lime Pie. While the book includes savory dishes, it seems that the sweet baked goods are the standout, here.

Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books

Three excellent new titles are top recommendations that stand out from the crowd, offering discriminating culinary collections top picks that are solid, refreshingly different choices. Aine Carlin's Cook Share Eat Vegan: Delicious Vegan Recipes for Everyone (9781784724122, $24.99) comes from a British author who creates a treasure trove of over a hundred vegan recipes, pairing them with appealing professional color photos of finished dishes on every facing page. Readers new to vegan cuisine might suppose strange ingredients or difficult processes will be involved; but this book is both simple and appealing and adapts many international influences, offering recipes such as Hawaiian Mango Poke Boats, Fakafel Shakshuka, and Turmeric and Ginger Sweet Potato Soup. David T. Smith's The Gin Dictionary: An A-Z of All Things Gin, from Juniper Berries to the G&T (9781764723989, $20.00) covers everything from botanicals to making the best gin and tonic drink, and defines terms, outlines techniques, discusses equipment, and offers variations on gin-based cooking. Stephen Beaumont's Will Travel for Beer: 101 Remarkable Journeys Every Beer Lover Should Experience (9781784723200, $19.99) provides travelers who would travel for beer with a solid discussion of breweries and beers from around the world, outlining festivals, presenting quirky facts, surveying beer destinations around the world, and including tasting notes, drinking tips, and travel advice for beer-oriented globetrotters. It's a travel guide with a beer focus that will delight brewers and imbibers alike.

The Education Shelf


Six new education titles should be considered 'foundation reads' for any authoritative educator's collection, and provide lasting lending value with their best practices tools and research. John Almarode,'s Visible Learning for Science: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning (9781506394183, $36.95) gathers science teaching tips for grades K-12 that have been proven successful in the most effective science classrooms. This synthesis of the latest approaches to science instruction comes from some fifteen years of educational research and creates a solid framework for best practices applications, including classroom examples and video clips from all grade levels. Nancy Frey,'s Developing Capable Visible Learners (9781506389981, $36.95) also applies to grades K-12, and shows how to give students tools for self-motivation and clear paths to learning. It covers the basics of critical self-assessment and shows how these tools can help motivate students to support their own learning processes, with chapters covering both feedback processes and how to teach students that their mistakes are actually learning opportunities in disguise. Jayme Linton's The Blended Learning Blueprint for Elementary Teachers (9781544318639, $34.95) is for K-5 teachers who want to make the most of blended educational environments, and examines the basics of the iNACOL Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework and how it translates to the classroom. From developing a blueprint for blended learning to expanding one's tools through collaborative learning processes and encouraging self-paced learning, this offers specifics teachers will appreciate. Ben Springer's Happy Kids Don't Punch You in the Face: A Guide to Eliminating Aggressive Behavior in School (9781506392790, $29.95) is for teachers who want better tools for handling student tantrums and meltdowns, and provides a guide on decreasing such incidents through behavioral motivation and positive psychology. Chapters examine connections between optimism and behavior with an eye to providing tools and guidelines for identifying problems before they become major meltdowns, and adopting solutions that support each student. Serena Pariser's Real Talk About Classroom Management: 50 Best Practices That Work and Show You Believe in Your Students (9781544317755, $26.95) encourages a different view of one's classroom as a resource to prepare students for collective interactions and better listening processes, and offers some 50 proven best practices for encouraging this atmosphere. Where other educator guides would focus on good behavior and quiet study patterns, this one shows how to encourage students to work together and form better relationships with each other and the adults around them. The result is a solid review of building better life skills through a different classroom approach. Nancy Akhavan's The Big Book of Literacy Tasks: 75 Balanced Literacy Activities Students Do (Not You!)(9781506389639, $33.95) will reach teachers of grades K-8 with an eye to connecting literary growth with independent study and social engagement processes, and presents seventy-five tasks in color to help students through presenting challenging projects requiring critical thinking skills. Researched proven results backs these tasks, which have been organized into three sections for daily, weekly, and occasional applications, while teaching charts outline each lesson's objectives and illustrate work-arounds, where appropriate. All are solid references essential to any authoritative educator's reference collection.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Witchy Winter
D.J. Butler
Baen Books
9781481483148 $25.00

Witchy Winter provides a fine sequel to Witchy Eye but requires no prior familiarity with that story in order to prove accessible to newcomers. Here is a different American frontier world of the past, where Sarah Calhoun pays a steep price to become involved in the Empire of New York's politics and is now riding into Ohio and her father's kingdom of Cahokia. The story is reminiscent of Orson Scott Card's 'Prophet Alan' series but with a feisty female protagonist who faces a changing kingdom, a hidden goddess, and her own well-concealed birthright. Prior fans and newcomers will find this a vivid, well-constructed universe worthy of repeat reading.

The California Shelf

More Than Gold in California
Gesa Kirsch, Editor
TwoDot/Globe Pequot
9781493026517 $16.95

More Than Gold in California: The Life and Work of Dr. Mary Bennett Ritter belongs in history and women's issues collections as well as California history holdings, and provides a powerful story of a farmer's daughter who pursued her dreams of medical training in the 1880s. Her memoir chronicles her calling, obstacles to success, adventures, and the atmosphere and flavor of the 1880s, placing her ambitions and dreams in broader context of her times. The result is a lively read that will intrigue anyone with an interest in women's early experiences and professional challenges.

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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