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California Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 5 May 2018 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Science Shelf Travel Shelf
Political Science Shelf Cookbook Shelf Needlecraft Shelf
Technology Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fiction Shelf Biography Shelf Jewelry Shelf
American History Shelf World History Shelf Music Shelf
Audiobook Shelf Theatre/Cinema Shelf Religion/Spirituality Shelf
California Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Izzy Ezagui
Prometheus Books
9781633884274 $24.00

Disarmed: Unconventional Lessons from the World's Only One-Armed Special Forces Sharpshooter comes from an American who enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces at age 19, lost his arm in a mortar attack, and rehabilitated enough to reenlist as a squad commander who became the world's only one-armed Special Forces sharpshooter. His memoir comes with an unexpected bonus: a twist of humor that keeps the experiences immediate and unexpectedly involving. It also covers his early family life in a religious household, his search for direction and meaning, and the military and social forces that led him through disaster and into a new life. Readers will find this a moving, memorable read.

The Science Shelf

Rare & Exotic Orchids
Joel L. Schiff
9783319700335 (Hardcover) $37.85
9783319700342 (eBook) $29.99

At first glance, Rare and Exotic Orchids: Their Nature and Cultural Significance seems yet another science book discussing the botany and natural history of orchids; but Joel L. Schiff's added focus on their cultural importance and why international communities around the world take special note of orchids adds an extra dimension to the subject. Orchid aficionados will find Rare and Exotic Orchids's different approach eschews the more common attempt to classify and cover thousands of species in favor of a more concentrated profile of selected exotics which represent some of the rarest plants on Earth. Schiff's high-quality images of exotic orchids (many of which are unique to his orchid book) nicely supplement facts that include the latest DNA research on orchids and their deceptive evolutionary behaviors, nicely complimenting the discussions of historical and scientific conundrums. It's this approach, combined with lovely close-up color photos throughout, which makes Rare and Exotic Orchids a recommendation not just for professionals or botany libraries, but for general-interest readers who will enjoy a highly accessible study that invites an in-depth interest in orchids and their importance to human affairs.

The Travel Shelf

Why Travel Matters
Craig Storti
Nicholas Brealey Publishing
9781473670280 $24.95

Why Travel Matters: A Guide to the Life-Changing Effects of Travel is not another travelogue or guide to destinations; but an in-depth look at the travel experience itself, and offers keys on how to travel in such a way that the experience offers lasting life-changing impacts. Travel is long noted for its possibilities of broadening one's horizon; but here phrases concerning travel functions are taken literally and examined closely. The focus on how to travel in such a manner as to assure these life-changing options take place makes for an engrossing discussion that's hard to put down and highly recommended for any who enjoy travel.

The Political Science Shelf

A Worldly Affair
Pamela Hanlon
Empire State Editions/Fordham University Press
9780823277957 $29.95

A Worldly Affair: New York, the United Nations, and the Story Behind Their Unlikely Bond tells of the shared occupancy of the island of Manhattan, shared by New York City and the United Nations in a sometimes-tumultuous affair that began in the 1940s, with the UN's arrival in New York and the early conflicts surrounding racial prejudice and anti-communism. The UN's growth of necessity involved much political maneuvering and interactions between local and world leaders, all documented here in a survey of legislation, the growing pains of the UN and its ability to exist in harmony with New York, and the evolution of a relationship between them. What makes A Worldly Affair especially intriguing is its focus on the evolution of a social and political relationship over the decades which was anything but amicable in the beginning. Readers interested in the evolution of New York or the UN will find this a revealing, absorbing story worthy of addition to any authoritative New York history or political history holding.

World War Trump
Hall Gardner
Prometheus Books
9781633883956 $25.00

World War Trump: The Risks of America's New Nationalism narrows the focus to Trump's "America First" policy and its impact on international stability, maintaining that Trump's approach will alienate America's allies and enemies alike and encourage closer alliances between Russia, Iran, Turkey and China. The forging of a Sino-Russian alliance could complete a dangerous new rebalance of power in the world, destabilizing forces through the America First protectionism effort. Political science readers, especially those long interested in global alliances and stability, will find World War Trump a specific and engrossing examination of patterns of association and disassociation among nations, and will find Hall Gardner makes an important case for diplomacy over nationalism in a hard-hitting probe political science readers won't want to miss.

The Cookbook Shelf

Sabrina Ghayour
Weldon Owen
415 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
9781681883748 $35.00

Feasts: Middle Eastern Food to Savor & Share features over 90 recipes inspired by the author's Persian upbringing, but adapted to modern American kitchens, and provides a wealth of options for breakfast and brunch, seasonal feasts, celebrations, comfort food, and more. The British-Iranian chef's repertoire will delight cooks looking to integrate Persian influences into their cooking, offering such varied dishes as a Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Pomegranate Salsa, Brown Rice Salad with Olives, Preserved Lemons and Apricots, and Eastern Shrimp Linguine with feta, Garlic, Pul Biber and Greek Basil. Full-page color photos offer appealing images of finished dishes, while ingredients are easy to find in any general supermarket. The recipes require only a willingness to try new flavor combinations to prove successfully appealing.

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, revised edition
Tarek Malouf
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Publishing
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784724436 $24.99

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook comes from the founder of the London-based bakery and the Hummingbird bakers, who provide readers with a new edition of recipes from the American-style bakery Notting Hill. Recipes for such varied productions as Strawberry Cheese cupcakes, Key Lime or Pecan Pie, Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie and more pair color photos of finished dishes with insights into how to assure traditional recipes work well, and how to take traditional baked goods and create winning embellishments. The result will appeal to any dessert baker seeking a revised, expanded edition of the original international best-selling guide.

The Needlecraft Shelf

Add One Stitch Knitting
Alina Schneider
9781438010892 $18.99

Add One Stitch Knitting: All the Stitches You Need in 15 Projects gathers all kinds of stitches under one cover, from garter and rib stitch to seed stitch, hurdle and other kinds of ribs, and more, and pairs these with instructions based on mastering just two basics: knit and purl. The goal is to get knitters moving on to more complicated projects, and this book covers 15 stitches and projects that can be used with them. From a seed stitch headband to a potholder, all that's required is an interest in knitting and a basic knowledge of knitter's abbreviations and directions. This book provides the rest, consisting of building blocks of expanded stitch knowledge.

That Patchwork Place titles

Five new titles provide needleworkers with a range of projects accessible by beginners and advanced quilters and sewers alike, and are highly recommended picks. Lissa Alexander compiles Mini-Charm Quilts: 18 Clever Projects for 2 1/2" Squares (9781604689235, $24.99), which builds a series of projects based on mini-charm squares by providing some 18 options by Moda designers. Small quilts can be easily constructed and used as pillows, table runners, and small embellishments; this book tells how to put these squares together for a range of results. Lunch Hour's Patchwork (9781604686993, $21.99) is designed for busy needleworkers who only have lunch hour time to create small projects. This book promotes portable patchwork that can be done in an hour or over a few lunch breaks, and offers a range of projects perfect for beginners or busy quilters. Kathy Brown's Lunch Hour: Wool Minis (9781604685978, $21.99) offers portable designs that only require an hour and some basics (needle, thread, and wool) to provide accessible. Seasonal projects range from framed art to a pincushion and nautical decor. Both include color photos and clear directions. Lissa Alexander's Oh, Scrap! Fabulous Quilts That Make the Most of Your Stash (9781604686946, $27.99) comes from a scrap quilter who has over thirty years of using scraps in quilts as her claim to expertise. Her book packs in tips for making the most of scraps, blending prints, textures and colors for maximum effect. Her personal approach to making these combinations work are taught through patterns and keys to organizing and using one's stash to better effectiveness. Jo Morton's Jo's Little Favorites III: Enduring Designs for Classic-Quilt Lovers (9781604689044, $27.99) shares how this professional quilters displays quilts in her home. While it also comes packed with techniques for making them, the dual focus on materials, cutting, and piecing and working with finished quilts makes hers a top recommendation for quilters at all levels, whether or not they have prior familiarity with Morton's books and work. All are top recommendations needleworkers will appreciate.

The Technology Shelf

Artech House

James Genova's Electronic Warfare Signal Processing (9781630814601, $139.00) comes from a prominent expert in electronic warfare, and presents anti-ship missile electronic protection techniques being developed by China and other nations. The international approach to the subject makes for an in-depth introduction to modern electronic warfare, and explores naval and air EW and information warfare in general. From Doppler radar spectrum basics and LPI radar models to extended target signal processing, electronic security and military personnel will find this an in-depth and specific engineering guide packed with graphs, charts, and specific calculations. Preetpaul Singh Devgan's Applications of Modern RF Photonics (9781630811594, $159.00) focuses on applications of modern RF photonics that use these components for signal processing systems, and considers how a range of RF systems work together and are constructed. From component performance to oscillators utilizing RF photonics, this will reach any engineer studying optoelectronics. All are top recommendations for electronics engineer reference collections.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

A Call to Vengeance
David Weber,
Baen Books
9781476782102 $26.00

A Call to Vengeance provides Book 3 of the Manticore Ascendant series and a new 'Honorverse' story that tells of two defenders of the Star Kingdom who face added challenges as the Royal Manticoran Navy is about to collapse. A new enemy can send warships across light years to conquer new lands, while the Star Kingdom faces other challenges on the home front. It's up to Travis, Lisa, and other officers to conquer the impossible in this engrossing continuation of an epic saga, especially recommended for prior fans of the series who will welcome this new addition to the blossoming series.

Kurintor Nyusi
Aaron-Michael Hall
0998409049 $3.95 Kindle / $15.00 Paperback

Many epic fantasy reads hold the same familiar trappings: destiny redirects a young life, heritage dictates its obstacles, the protagonist either rebels against or struggles to achieve his birthright, and new abilities come into play to change everything. Kurintor Nyusi takes a different approach, adopting a focus on protagonist choices in the face of changing circumstances and emphasizing these changing options at different points during the tale. Kurintor Nyusi is an epic fantasy filled with satisfying battles, confrontations with self and others, and changing ties between present, past, and future: a powerful saga especially recommended for epic fantasy fans who like their action-packed stories seasoned with examinations of personal power and how that is cultivated.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Plum Tea Crazy
Laura Childs
Berkeley Prime Crime
9780451489609 $26.00

Plum Tea Crazy includes recipes and tea-time tips to supplement a tea shop mystery that adds the nineteenth book in the series. A mansion offers the perfect place for watching the parade and Timothy hosts a party to do so; but when a local banker falls over widow walk raining, it's soon discovered that a murder has occurred. Theodosia is told to mind her own business; but Timothy asks for her help, and this places her and her friend Drayton in danger as their investigation brings them ever closer to a dangerous truth that could threaten business and personal lives alike. Prior fans and newcomers alike will find Plum Tea Crazy a wonderful mystery.

The Fiction Shelf

The Juggler
Stan Freeman
Hampshire House Publishing
9781983740598 $5.25

The Juggler is a novella, which means its diminutive size (83 pages) allows for a succinct, digestible format that even (and especially) the busiest reader will appreciate. Richard thinks his life is over. Could he have imagined a day would arrive when juggling takes back stage to something new? Of necessity, the novella format demands tight prose, clear and succinct characterization and plots, and an approach that poses a key dilemma and provides solutions in a very short period of time. The best novellas achieve an identity and feel that do not leave readers wishing for a longer production. The Juggler more than satisfies the craving for strong development and satisfying resolution by providing a story line that grabs reader attention from the start. Replete in reflections on growth, transformation, self-discovery, and adaptation, The Juggler offers a solid, first-person reflection on how a boy grows into adulthood and hones new goals in life. It's highly recommended for any reader interested in a different coming of age saga presented in a compact, hard-hitting package.

The Biography Shelf

Movie Nights with the Reagans
Mark Weinberg
Simon and Schuster
9781501133992 $28.00

Movie Nights with the Reagans: A Memoir provides a look at the Reagan presidency through an unusual vantage point. Over some eight years the author traveled to Camp David nearly every weekend with the Reagans, invited for "movie nights" showing various films. The movie viewing allowed the Reagans to relax in a family atmosphere, and this account is arranged by movie titles to examine productions that stirred emotions, reflected events of concern to the Reagans, or mirrored conflicts happening in social and political circles. Spiced with color photos peppered throughout, Movie Nights With the Reagans offers a unique and intimate perspective on the Reagans that few other biographies can match.

The Trials of Annie Oakley
Howard Kazanjian & Chris Enss
TwoDot/Globe Pequot
9781493017461 $24.95

The Trials of Annie Oakley provides a lively, involving biography of how Annie Oakley advocated for the U.S. military, encouraged women to become sport shooters, and generally improved lives beyond the entertainment venue she's better known for with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West shows. As such, it's a wider-ranging survey of her many achievements and should be required reading not just for biography readers; but for anyone interested in women who made a different, and for those who might associate Annie Oakley's name with entertainment alone.

The Jewelry Shelf

Diving for Starfish
Cherie Burns
St. Martin's Press
9781250056207 $26.99

Diving for Starfish: The Jeweler, the Actress, the Heiress, and One of the World's Most Alluring Pieces of Jewelry offers an unusual focus on a single piece of jewelry: a starfish pin created in the 1930s by a young designer working for a famous Parisian jeweler. Only three of these special gold starfish were crafted. Fascinated by the pin she viewed in a Manhattan private jewelry showroom, author Cherie Burns began a long journey to research the pins; history and the two fashion and social icons who received them. Hers is a history that moves beyond these pins and into the wider world of high-end, privately-sold jewelry and combines a passion for the pins with a detective's eye for investigating their past and present history. No jewelry or arts collection should be without this lively survey.

The American History Shelf

TwoDot/Globe Pequot

W.C. Jameson's The Lost Canyon of Gold: Discovering the Legendary Lost Adams Diggings (9781630761769, $16.95) tells of the legend of the Lost Adams Diggings, one of the most popular myths of lost treasure in American history. The story began in the 1860s when gold was taken from the canyon in huge quantities. The miners were slaughtered in a surprise attack and one Adams and his companion fled with only their lives. They told of amazing finds when they arrived at a military post; but neither returned to the mother lode and treasure hunters who came after them were never able to locate the riches. Treasure hunter and author W.C. Jameson located the canyon 150 years later, and his story creates an engrossing true history that will delight history readers and leisure readers alike. Charlie Seemann's Way Out West (9781493027279, $24.95) joins others in the 'Images of the American Ranch' series, gathering photos from the Farm Security Administration from 1936-1943 to explore the changes affecting Western ranches. Major photographers' works are presented in this captivating survey of ranching culture during the Depression years and pre-World War II, while accompany text discusses dude ranches, bunkhouses, and how the cowboy life changed. W. Michael Farmer's Apacheria: True Stories of Apache Culture 1860-1920 (9781493032792, $18.95) blends some ten years of research into 19th century Apache history and culture with stories of Apache perspectives of their lives in the Southwest to create a memorable saga of Apache encounters from the Native American viewpoint. Many American history titles offer the opposite perspective; but this account, embellished with artwork and historic photos (many unique to this book), provides engrossing stories of bureaucrats, military men, Apache prisoners of war, and more. No story of Native American encounters with the white man would be complete without this perspective which places Apache experiences and culture in proper perspective.

The World History Shelf

The China Mission
Daniel Kurtz-Phelan
W.W. Norton
9780393240955 $28.95

The China Mission: George Marshall's Unfinished War, 1945-1947 comes from a former State Department official who now edits Foreign Affairs Magazine, and who here reveals diplomatic and military conflicts centering on events that happened after the end of World War II, after Marshall's retirement from the Army. China was to be his final mission. His assignment was to intervene in a conflict between Nationalists and Communists that threatened revolution, and to encourage a Chinese democracy that would thwart the rise of Communism in that nation. China was to prove a quagmire of social and political obstacles that led to grueling negotiations, failures, and desperate efforts to avoid another world war. Until now, much of this focus on these pivotal times has been relatively subdued. Daniel Jurtz-Phelan's in-depth probe returns this lesser-known set of events to modern readers' attention in a history very highly recommended for any definitive American political history collection.

The Music Shelf

The Monk's Record Player
Robert Hudson
9780802875204 $23.99

The Monk's Record Player: Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966 offers a biographical examination of the parallel lives of Thomas Merton and Bob Dylan, and comes from a Dylan scholar and member of the International Thomas Merton Society who considers the lives of both icons. Merton was a Dylan fan who was addicted to his music. His poetry was influenced by Dylan and many of their life directions were similar. While this focus on Merton's life and influences will also be enjoyed by Merton followers, fans of Dylan will find this an unusual perspective, as well. It's featured here in our music section so that no Dylan fan misses the unusual perspective of Dylan and Merton's concurrent worlds.

The Audiobook Shelf

Olivia Turner's Amazing Amazon Adventure
William Graham and Stephanie Belinda Quinn
Amazon Audible
ASIN: B079TG725R
Audiobook: $6.95; Paperback: $6.99; Kindle: $3.99
Audible link:
Amazon link:

Stephanie Quinn's youthful, enthusiastic voice is the perfect match for narrating Olivia Turner's Amazing Amazon Adventure, a vibrant story set in Ecuador that captures the culture and atmosphere of the Amazon jungle. The Amazon environment comes to life in an engrossing combination of Stephanie Quinn's vivid rendition and William Graham's descriptions of high adventure rooted in a solid sense of place. This spirited, highly recommended audio story pairs action with realistic observations of the Amazon and its environmental and social challenges. It will thoroughly engross young readers seeking the vivid immediacy of an audio narrative paired with a heroine's determination to survive against all odds as she faces a series of encounters with deadly, unforgiving jungle denizens.

The Theatre/Cinema Shelf

Short Classroom Play series titles
Trisha Sugarek
Writer at Play

Black vs. White vs. Brown (9781985369856, $6.50) is a one-act play designed for classroom use, and joins a series of stand-alone 10-minute plays by Trisha Sugarek that require no props, costumes or sets; making them perfect choices for budget-stretched classrooms looking for short, affordable drama pieces. This short work is #32 in the series and features nine characters, a 'Greek Chorus' of texters, and is introduced by production notes to the play director. The contemporary flavor of this one-act play will not only educate drama students on how to depict the scenes and emotions of characters, but teaches acting in the course of a drama that teens will easily relate to. Black vs. White vs. Brown is a wonderful blend of honest portrayal and useful drama student scripting! Adding to the 'Shortn'Small' series of one-act classroom plays that require no special sets, props, or costumes is You're Fat, You're Ugly, and You Dress Weird (9781479175680, $6.50 Paper/$3.99 Kindle): a play about a girl who faces bullying when a new girl affects her friendships at school. As young actors read through emotional scenes and learn how to depict these strong forces, they also absorb lessons both about bullying and representing dramatic encounters. Tolerance and compassion are outlined as the maligned Aanya finds her life and reputation being systematically destroyed by cruel and nasty online postings attacking her character and ego. The result is a powerful and wonderfully wrenching story that will lend perfectly to drama classes. No Means No! The Tale of Four Super Hero Girls (9781979195157, $6.50) is a short one-act drama for classroom instruction, requires no sets, costumes, or props, and features characters ranging in age from 13 to 22 as it explores the dilemmas of Emilee and her girlfriends, who are facing pressure from their male peers to engage in sexual activities. Teens receive lessons in more than acting abilities as they explore a play that deftly outlines dilemmas, choices, consequences, and peer pressure. Teachers receive a wonderfully compelling story line paired with an attention to dramatic embellishments that teaches kids about acting, life and love, simultaneously. Physical domestic violence is explored in Love Never Leaves Bruises (9781478176282, $6.50), a one-act play designed for budget-minded classrooms interested in contemporary themes and productions that don't require sets, props, or costumes. Megan knows her boyfriend loves her: so why does he lose his temper and hit her? Kids receive more than just a lesson in drama through an inviting, refreshingly true-to-life one-act play that provides fine keys to surviving typical life challenges. Very highly recommended as a strong addition to Trisha Sugarek's excellent set of acting lessons!

The Religion/Spirituality Shelf

Find the Seeker!
Genro Xuan Lou, Laoshi & Clifford Stevens
Gatekeeper Press
ISBN: 9781619848566 $13.99
eISBN: 9781619848559 $9.99

Find The Seeker! The Pathless Path to Fulfillment and Happiness offers spiritual readers a road to enlightenment that doesn't take the usual paths of other approaches, but creates its own original creative course based on the age-old pathless path and encourages its readers to do the same. While readers especially well-versed in Zen writings might therefore anticipate a familiar supportive stance, they will be pleasantly surprised to discover that Find the Seeker! holds something new in that it supports (but also challenges) readers while maintaining that there is no singular guide (even this book) to personal success. Zen readers used to concepts of the Oneness and its power will be particularly intrigued by a presentation that charts the perils, pitfalls, and potentials of moving toward a different level of being. Find the Seeker! is as much about the journey as the destination, and is especially recommended for readers already familiar with Zen perspectives who want a concrete set of insights into better understanding its basic principles and connections to daily living.

The California Shelf

The Golden Elixir of the West
Sherry Monahan with Jane Perkins
TwoDot/Globe Pequot
9781493028498 $24.95

The Golden Elixir of the West: Whiskey and the Shaping of America provides a history of distilleries and how whiskey shaped the West, combining source material accounts with photos and historic cocktail recipes and insights into the West's culture and expansion. While this could have been featured in a general history or food and wine section, it's featured here for its wealth of historical background, social issues and evolution, and nuts and bolts of how 'liquid gold' came across America to influence the West.

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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