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California Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 3 March 2021 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Technology Shelf Photography Shelf
Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Biography Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Play the Rules, Book ONE: Empowerment
Dr. Monica Armillotta
DartFrog Books
9781951490843, $18.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 326pp

Play the Rules, Book ONE: Empowerment is a self-help book designed for those who don't ordinary turn to self-help guides, and adds a sense of humor into the mix of advice on how to understand and tap into empowering routines in life, adding them to personal approaches to success. Unlike other books on empowerment, Dr. Monica Armillotta utilizes narrative non-fiction to blend autobiography and humor as she presents over thirty 'rules' that can be used, broken, manipulated or tailored to support efforts towards achieving empowerment.

Many stereotypes dominate both this subject and the self-help industry in general, which is why a number of readers might initially avoid these helpful insights in yet another book about empowerment. That would be a shame, because Play the Rules is truly different.

From a review of the typical polarization between faith and fear and how to challenge that trepidation and redefine its limits to the side effects of indulging in magical thinking instead of proactive behaviors, Dr. Armillotta draws upon concrete personal experience to cement her advice. From the lasting impact of stories and scenarios, which form foundations for subconscious decision-making not always to our benefit, to revising these stories to discover that belief may be based on shaky ground and needs revising, chapters draw out the common connections, concerns, and conundrums of daily living. They point out, through example, how many underlying patterns may be identified, confronted, and changed.

The observations are often not only astute, but hard-hitting and funny, all at once. More so than most self-help titles, the result is a lively read that offers comic relief and concrete observations about the process of gaining more empowerment in life. Play the Rules, Book ONE: Empowerment is highly recommended reading for those interested in the subject, who want a different recipe for success than the usual formula self-help book provides.

The Technology Shelf

Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062

Two new titles from Artech House are top picks for technology managers and reference collections catering to them.

Darcy Brooker works with Excels tools created by Mark Gerrand in Practical Reliability Data Analysis for Non-Reliability Engineers (9781630818272, $139.00 HC, $139.00 Kindle, 224pp), a survey of basic probabilistic and statistical methods or tools used to extract the information from reliability data to make sound decisions. This process is accompanied by PC-based Excel tools that were developed after years of study and analysis by the authors, in a presentation unique to this book and its coverage scope. From checking repairable item failure data for trends to product life acceleration stresses and management of data analysis applications, this comes packed with the formulas, real-world connection and common failure points, and engineering challenges that point out and solve many common issues, making it an essential reference.

Garik Markarian and Andrew Staniforth's Countermeasures for Aerial Drones (9781630818012, $149.00 HC, $139.00 Kindle, 224pp) covers UAVs, drone threats, counter-UAV systems, and strategies to handle UAVs. Radar engineers will find it a solid focus on counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems and technologies which reviews basic theory, technical and operational practices, and how they are applied within the industry to affect policies and usage. The authors explore not just technological aspects but legal ramifications of adapting and deploying drones to address cyberattacks and detection resource systems, offering a comprehensive, in-depth approach that explores and contrasts various platforms. The result is a survey that should be in every radar technology collection as a standard desk reference.

The Photography Shelf

Photograph Restoration and Enhancement Using Adobe Photoshop CC 2021 Version
Vickie Ellen Wolper
Mercury Learning
22841 Quicksilver Dr., Dulles, VA 20166
9781683925989, $59.95 PB, $31.49 Kindle, 432pp

The third updated, 2021 edition of Vickie Ellen Wolper's Photograph Restoration and Enhancement Using Adobe Photoshop CC 2021 Version comes with a disc of companion files of photos to complete and all the projects covered in this book, includes 7 demo videos, and is the perfect accept for a survey that teaches through a learning approach filled with projects and examples. Applications are illustrated in each project, which builds a foundation for learning both basic techniques of photo restoration and more advanced approaches used by professionals to touch up and restore photos. From preparing the photos for restoration to working in Photoshop's complex environment, this powerful primer is packed with color photos, charts, and information throughout that covers the latest Photoshop CC version and best practices, and should be a 'must' for photo restorers at all levels.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

Moments Like This
Anna Gomez & Kristoffer Polaha
Rosewind Books
9781645480457, $14.95 trade paperback / $7.99 ebook 300pp

Moments Like This (From Kona With Love, Book 1) captures the repercussions of choices made by Andie Matthews when she opts for career over marriage, only to see her career fall by the wayside. Nick, her ex, pronounced her 'heartless' because of her one-track decisions in the interest of business. It's time for Andie to reassess her psyche. And what better way to do that than to step out of her comfort zone and help run a friend's coffee shop in Hawaii?

Peace and romance don't immediately stem from this decision, however, as Andi finds old patterns and habits hard to break and becomes immersed in trying to save this business, too. Her meeting with Warren Yates on Christmas Eve, however, offers her a lifeline of opportunity to create something different...if she's strong enough to take the offer.

Anna Gomez and Krist offer Polaha craft a compelling, clean romance story that centers not just on business ambitions, but the impact of deception, honesty, and change in love relationships. Andi's discovery that Warren isn't all she thought leads to yet another challenge to a fragile new life that was just beginning to come together, sending her on a journey not just through his life and Hawaii's culture, but her own singing heart as it expands to embrace new worlds. The result holds the full flavor of a life ripe with change and replete with possibilities. Its story about love, not giving up, trust, and reinventing one's life grips readers with promise and hope for a different future.

Moments Like This is highly recommended for clean romance readers looking for an exploration of the fine line between a woman's strength and her ability to accept the vulnerability and promise of love.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Tropical Deception
David Myles Robinson
Terra Nova Books
9781948749671, $19.95 PB, $9.49 Kindle, 256pp

Legal thriller readers who choose Tropical Deception for its promise of a backdrop of paradise will not be disappointed in the setting nor its protagonist, Honolulu criminal defense attorney Pancho McMartin, who sees something sinister in the seemingly cut-and-dried case of the death of Peter Roosevelt, who was trying to stop a development project on Kauai. The obvious perp is Peter's neighbor, Wayson Takei. It all seems so obvious. His gun was the murder weapon, Takei had motive and plenty of opportunity, he has no alibi, and everyone else that could be fingered is more than covered. Or, are they?

Pancho is never one to take the easy road in his investigations, and so he delves deeper to uncover a host of possibilities that all seem well explicable, but somehow dubious. Another complication is that Peter was involved with Takai's estranged wife Lei. This added fuel to the fire with the possibility of a confrontation uninfluenced by the political special interests involved in seeing that the project evolved.

As the pursuit of justice unfolds, Pancho finds that those around him are threatened, as well, when fellow investigators (his best friend, PI Drew Tulafono, and Khalid Armstrong) get in an accident deliberately intended to maim or kill them. As a cat-and-mouse game unfolds between Vegas mafia crime boss Freddy Costanzo's people, Joe Malen, and other forces outside Hawaii, readers receive a dual exploration of legal process and criminal investigation.

The story deftly captures both courtroom proceedings and the process of not taking evidence at face value alone. The juxtaposition of the Hawaii and Vegas milieus and the forces that connect them in the underworld are nicely played out as Pancho and his readers move ever closer to a dangerous truth that offers more than a few surprises. The sudden, unexpected revelations at the story's end may surprise those who expected something different to evolve, but that's one of the hallmarks of a good thriller -- the ability to surprise even the seasoned genre reader with a conclusion they didn't see coming.

Tropical Deception's mercurial tale of subterfuge and justice will delight prior Pancho fans (who will relish this fourth book in the series) and newcomers, who need have no prior familiarity with Pancho's approaches to his work to enjoy this latest thriller.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 20471

Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon's 1637: No Peace Beyond the Line (9781982124960, $25.00, $8.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 688pp) provides another new story in the alternate history adventure series about modern people cast into the past. Here, in 1637, a 20th century commander and his admiral friend embark on a new mission to forge new relationships that will change the colonists' future in the Caribbean and the balance of power in the Americas. Imperial Spain is their adversary, and the battle for who owns the New World has begun with a difference: the up-timers who can effect change based on their special knowledge of what could transpire. Prior fans of Flint's series will find this latest addition doesn't disappoint.

D.J. Butler's Serpent Daughter (9781982124977, $16.00 TPB, $8.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 608pp) adds another volume to the Witchy War series of alternate historical fantasy stories that includes Witchy Winter and Witchy Eye, and requires no prior familiarity with these others to prove accessible to newcomers. Here, Sarah Calhoun has become both a queen and a goddess, stepping into prophecy and ability simultaneously. But her uncle sizes power as she faces possible death, and tries to take Sarah's throne as well as her life. Meanwhile, Simon Sword is attacking her on another front. Can Sarah form the kinds of alliances that preserve both her life and her rule? An engrossing story evolves that is powered by strong characters and seat-of-your-pants reading, promising fast-paced action.

The Biography Shelf

Still Moving
Linda Durham
Mobius Pathways Press
9780578722931, $17.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 252pp

Still Moving is a memoir that chronicles a powerful search for self and spiritual identity. It takes place after Linda Durham closes the art gallery she ran for over thirty years, a venture that defined her and her boundaries. The next step in the discovery process is a world-hopping journey that brings Durham and the reader into contact with new cultures, from ceremonies by tribal women to an encounter with a Voodoo priest in a Haitian cemetery.

The usual soul-searching approach is to think outside the box of tradition. Durham more than achieves this as she moves far from comfort zones to delve into other cultures around the world in search of newfound wisdom and growth. Her memoir differs from similar-sounding accounts in that she documents not just encounters with new people and places, but the writings and insights that affected and guided her journey. Her story embraces the rigors and challenges of travel as well as social and spiritual obstacles that stem from a combination of attitude changes and experiences.

From existential loneliness during the course of these escapes and encounters to explorations of the different processes involved in staying at home or venturing beyond the comfort zone, Durham captures a powerful contrast in revised approaches to changing and reconsidering her trajectory.

Between journal entries and letters to reviews of different lessons learned along the path of discovery, Still Moving provides a powerful story that holds many insights and lessons for others intent on following their own path towards self-enlightenment, whether it be at home or on the road.

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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