Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / California Bookwatch

California Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 5 May 2019 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Computer Shelf Education Shelf
Needlecraft Shelf Technology Shelf Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Audiobook Shelf
Cookbook Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Eight Dates
John Gottman, PhD, Julie Schwartz Gottman, PhD,
9781523504466, $24.95

Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love comes from two marriage researchers and clinicians who examine what makes relationships work, and which uses some forty years of research in their Love Lab to understand relationships successes and failures. Coauthors Doug Abrams and Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams join the Gottmans in examining the keys to a better relationship, from family and sexuality issues to trust, spirituality, and the foundations of building better intimacy. From cultivating passion in a relationship to helping couples grow within the structure of a relationship, Eight Dates offers important keys to success and should be on the reading lists of anyone who wants to cultivate a meaningful and better partnership.

The Computer Shelf

Excel Functions and Formulas with Excel 2019/Office 365
B. Held,
Mercury Learning
9781683923732, $59.95,

Excel Functions and Formulas with Excel 2019/Office 365 offers a new, updated edition that incorporates the latest as well as older versions of Excel, and explores best practices and real-world applications of Excel in a reference designed to be used as both a textbook and an at-a-glance refresher course. From logic applications and formulas to basic kinds of functions and working with analysis approaches, this pairs Excel screenshots and descriptions with video tutorials in a companion disc, and examples of well over 200 worksheets. Excel users who want to move beyond basics to better applications will find this an excellent Excel Functions and Formulas with Excel 2019/Office 365 to start, as it integrates basic Excel with Office 365's latest abilities.

The Education Shelf


Lisa Cranston's Lab Class: Professional Learning Through Collaborative Inquiry and Student Observation (9781544327952, $28.95) provides teachers with a model for better understanding student processes by encouraging a collaborative effort between a host teacher and a teacher observer who assumes the role of a student. The observational focus is encouraged through different grades (K on up) and encourages meaningful professional growth through an observation-based learning program that encourages the analysis of not just student learning processes, but actions and conversations. Through this process, patterns are identified, instructional decisions analyzed, and methodology explored for triangulating data and achieving actionable results. The result is highly recommended for any educational collection strong in collaborative learning opportunities for teachers. Two California-specific educator resources by Ivannia Soto, Linda Carstens, and Jim Burke are highly recommended guides for understanding the state's ELD standards. The California ELD Standards Companion for grades K-2 (9781544301235, $34.95) contrasts the differences between California's ELD Standards and the CCSS ELA Standards, displaying them side by side for an at-a-glance cross-comparison that makes it simple to understand their differences and similarities. The same is achieved for grades 3-5 in a separate manual (9781544301280, $34.95), which also holds horizontal and vertical views for grade and proficiency levels. Each provides keys to teacher approaches and activities in the course of exploring these standards, offers space for notes, and covers various activities from analyzing language and speaking and listening skills to collaborative modes of interaction. Professionals will find these very specific guidelines are important keys to successfully applying ELA standards under a variety of circumstances, and to a wide grade range. Carol Roberts and Laura Hyatt's The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing, and Defending Your Dissertation (9781506373317, $36.95) appears in its third edition to expand and update coverage on all matters related to producing a dissertation, from understanding its nature and using sample forms to the latest information its creation and assessment. Students receive completion schedules, tips on approaching a potential advisor and working with a dissertation team, keys to writing introductions and content, and much more. No student tasked with writing a dissertation should begin without the solid insights of this guide.

The Needlecraft Shelf

Text It!
Sherri Noel
Martingale & Company
9781604689839, $24.99,

Text It! Quilts and Pillows with Something to Say incorporates written messages into home decoration and shows how stitchers can use letters, numbers, and symbols of seven different fonts (provided on pullout pattern sheets) in the course of producing ten quilt and pillow patterns. Text can be added to such decor using a range of techniques from paper piecing to fusible applique, and the projects emphasize fun single-word messages as well as phrases which can be blended into any fabric design. Its approach is unique and fun.

The Technology Shelf

Artech House

Ivan Vidal,'s Multimedia Networking Technologies, Protocols, and Architectures (9781630813789, $149.00) provides college-level telecommunications students and practicing professionals with a survey of industry best practices used to implement and work with networked multimedia services, and covers both basic introductory background to the concepts behind such networking and specifics on the analysis of different network protocols. Of special interest to professionals will be the discussions of networked services that have proven success rates such as Internet telephony and video-on-demand. Exercises help students analyze these services and their understanding of its components, and provide technical reinforcement to the content being provided. Brian C. Watson and Joseph R. Guerci's Non-Line-of-Sight Radar (9781630815318, $149.00) is the first book to cover the science of detecting and tracking targets via radar multipath alone, and considers the various applications involved in using the NLOS system in various environments. Theory, techniques, and applied science to develop a viable NLOS radar and use it effectively are all covered with a wealth of examples, black and white charts and graphs, and discussions of processing algorithms and radar simulations, providing radar engineers with exciting new information.

The Fiction Shelf

Floating on Secrets
Tantra Bensko
Insubordinate Books
9780578449081, $16.00 bpk / $2.99 Kindle,

Stories that offer romantic suspense edging into steamy sex scenes topped with a thriller edge to keep readers guessing are relatively rare in the book world. Too many books that cross these genres don't create the kind of even-keeled attention to detail that support both the romantic and the psychological suspense elements in their stories. In some ways, it may be said that Floating on Secrets is neither fish nor fowl. Thriller readers looking for predictability will be delighted and surprised by the novel's psychological tension; while those anticipating a steamy romance will find the sexual encounters augmented by a series of mysteries that embrace emotional connections between mother and son, girlfriends, and a house band called Floating on Secrets which mirrors the experiences of many. Engrossing, compelling, and filled with mercurial experiences, Floating on Secrets lives up to its title and creates a shifting atmosphere to carry its readers into worlds of changing purpose and experience.

Suzanne Falter
New Heights Publishing
9780996998147, $4.99 Kindle,

The first thing to know about Committed is that it's a romance story about intersecting lives, dating, careers, and the culture of a lesbian community in an urban city. Readers may not anticipate that PTSD will be part of the story line; nor that homophobia will change lives of lesbians long rooted in their community. Committed excels in expanding the boundaries of not just the original story, but the notion and actions of this urban ghetto community as a whole and lesbian interactions in general. This translates to a vivid, realistic read based on real-life atmospheres (this reviewer is well familiar with Oakland's milieu), lesbian community interactions, and issues that arise on a microcosmic and macrocosmic level. Add an injection of mystery about careers and life choices to a series of transformative moments that leads many of the characters to reassess their perceptions and values for a fine, multifaceted read. Committed is especially recommended for California audiences, lesbian readers, and those who would receive a better understanding of urban approaches and challenges.

The Interlocutor's Tale
Paul Kaufman
Collioure Books
9780972825030, $16.95

The Interlocutor's Tale opens in 1980, on a Saturday evening in Manhattan. Tina and Yvette are two beautiful young sisters who, ironically, find themselves in an America their genteel European father abhorred, and from which he tried to shelter them. As the first person observer of the story, who maintains an eye for irony and magic in the world, explores not just their lives but those of others, The Interlocutor's Tale evolves a certain sense of joie de vivre blended with astute observations as Yvette, Tina, Pierre, and others find their seemingly different destinies complicated and entwined. Readers seeking a multifaceted romp through the lives and influences of a cast of characters whose trajectories in life overlap and influence one another will relish the astute observations of The Interlocutor's Tale, which creates a compelling, almost surreal survey of nightmares, dreams, and revitalized relationships. It's a highly recommended story for readers who like their characters rich in detail and well steeped in the culture and international influences of New York.

The Lonely Tree
Yael Politis
Independently Published
ASIN B07F3V54M6, $2.99 Kindle

The Lonely Tree is a literary piece that deserves a place in any collection of contemporary historical fiction or Jewish studies. It vividly recounts the experiences of Tonia Shulman, who is a small child when her family leaves Poland for British Mandate Palestine and a teenager when they move (against Tonia's strenuous objections) to an isolated kibbutz. Life on the kibbutz is dangerous and demanding, but its difficulties pale in the face of the growing Nazi presence that is consuming Europe - and the extended families they left behind. The Lonely Tree is the first fictionalized account of the true story of the siege and fall of the Etzion Bloc settlements, south of Jerusalem. Seen through Tonia's evolving political, spiritual, and social sensibility, this period is brought to life in a compelling read that requires no prior familiarity with the time and place. Especially adept at portraying personal growth and changing perceptions, The Lonely Tree is a riveting work that deserves a place in any collection of contemporary historical fiction or Jewish/Israeli literature.

Mamma's Moon: The Hoodoo of Peckerwood Finch
Jerome Mark Antil
Little York Books
9781732632103, $14.95, Paperback Edition
9781732632110, $29.00, Hardcover Edition

Mamma's Moon is a sequel to the novel One More Last Dance, but newcomers will find it stands nicely alone as a tale steeped in Louisiana French Acadian history and culture. The friendship between four individuals continues to unfold a year after the events chronicled in One More Last Dance. From Peck's homecoming visit with a mother and grandmother and the red tape and opportunity it offers him to come to terms with the past and present to a prize gator, revised history, and changed nicknames from the past, Mamma's Moon provides a gentle account that winds mystery and intrigue into a story of evolving families and friendships. The result is especially highly recommended for anyone who likes Louisiana backdrops and tales of evolving interpersonal connections, which are woven into a historical mystery that addresses the flux of years, generations, and lives.

Daniela I. Norris
Roundfire Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781789041392, $13.95

Premonitions, the second book in the Recognitions series, opens with a prologue set in 1500s West Africa, where a healer works his magic on a baby and faces fear and gratitude from the villagers he helps. Fast forward to 2018 New York City. Here, a mother faces both her daughter's rising confidence and power and her own changes when her acceptance of past lives leads her to separate from her husband after twenty years of marriage. As readers probe each character's world, emotions, perceptions, and changes, they will delight in a story that evolves beyond the usual timeslip or alternate lives exploration to probe the presence and impact of different kinds of magic in dissimilar cultures and eras. While Premonitions will best be appreciated by those who enjoyed the background provided in Recognitions, it will also reach newcomers who look for novels of reincarnation, connections, and transformation. Uplifting and enlightening, Premonitions is a worthy sequel to Recognitions that deserves just as much acclaim as the first in the series.

The Summer of 1974
Yael Politis
Independently Published
9781797400808, $2.99 Kindle

The Summer of 1974 is a literary work of Vintage Contemporary/Jewish fiction that deserves a place in any collection. Gavrielle, a young Israeli woman who is an officer in the Intelligence Branch of the Israel Defense Forces, is struggling with a number of personal issues. The most immediate is a decision she faces - does she really want to embark upon a search for her unknown father? The Summer of 1974 has the full-bodied flavor of a fine experiential learning piece. As Gavrielle and Charlie interact, they help one another reconcile their past and present lives with their ambitions for the future, and are able to view their own lives through a fresh perspective. The Summer of 1974 is a riveting story of self-doubt, confrontation, redemption, recovery, and determination. It will linger in the thoughts of readers, long after they turn the last page.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Scopas Factor
Vincent Panettiere
9781543947700, $15.99 paper, $7.99 Kindle,

The Scopas Factor follows Detective Mike Hegan as he moves from Chicago, where he's hoping to recover from the last tragic investigation that has taken much out of him, to a small town in California which faces two murders and a kidnapping that may involve his girlfriend's family. To call The Scopas Factor a mystery alone would be to oversimplify its impact and scope. Readers who enjoy international intrigue, changing action and settings, and a host of characters who find their lives intersecting in surprising ways will relish the mystery and intrigue crafted in The Scopas Factor, a powerful story of suspense and love.

Winter of Murder
Trisha Sugarek
Writer at Play
9781794168800, $4.99 Kindle, $7.99 Paper,

Winter of Murder is the tenth book in the World of Murder series, and like its predecessors, it both stands alone as a remarkable read for newcomers and as a supportive addition to the series as a whole. While prior familiarity with these characters and their experiences will enhance appreciation for how much Stella and her comrades have grown since their first appearances in the series, newcomers will find this story completely accessible and thoroughly engrossing. Personal and professional dilemmas abound, encounters between all are realistically portrayed, and the contrast between Stella's urban world and the rural wilds of Alaska are well done, creating a compelling environment in which Stella finds herself far from familiar scenarios or approaches to solving problems. Steeped in personal growth and revelation as well as a satisfyingly complex murder mystery that ventures into cross-cultural perceptions, Winter of Murder is an engrossing and strong addition to a powerful series.

Serpents of Old
Kirk Millson
Independently Published
9781794388437, $8.94 paper, $5.99 Kindle

Serpents of Old is a novel steeped in Southwest atmosphere and mystery. Author Kirk Millson's familiarity with Arizona and Mexico's byways (albeit now changed by growth and technology) lends a solid background to the evolving story of dogs, murder, and desert struggles when reporter Carter Miguel follows his nose for trouble from Arizona to Utah. There are many angles that separate this southwest-steeped mystery from other genre reads to make it an exception to any formula approach. One of the strongest is this clash between investigators, and each's special interest in the case. Who is pulling the strings behind an innocent man's indictment for murder? How have the Atoners gotten a toehold in law enforcement circles, and how can romantic feelings between suspect Tom and Casey evolve in the crosshairs of a justice system gone wrong and a flight to freedom? As a teaser about one of the story's underlying themes, dog lovers also are thrown a pleasantly unexpected bone. All these angles intersect to create a vivid story that will especially delight fans of Tony Hillerman and others interested in capturing the southwest landscape against the backdrop of murder, mystery, and struggles for justice.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Legacy and the Lion
Elaine Jemmett
Titonik Books
9780995327221, $14.99 Paper/$0.99 Kindle,

The Legacy and the Lion is the first book in the Yusan Chronicles, a military sci-fi story that holds a different atmosphere than most. It's set in the future, but focuses on a primitive world of kings, horse-riding soldiers, murder plots, and power plays. It actually reads more like a history of an ancient world than a chronicle of a futuristic one. The Legacy and the Lion is simply outstanding in its world-building approach and its strong characters and their individual concerns. The central protagonist Patrick, who faces a new job, a king's commands, mysteries and plots, and the changing political atmosphere of a society under siege, brings all these pieces together. As events move full circle into Patrick's realizations about his own family ties, readers receive a satisfying, multifaceted story that is as much a mystery and political examination as it is the story of one man's search for a new place and realizations in a futuristic world. It's especially highly recommended for readers who like multi-volume series reads steeped in social, political, and military encounters.

David Nees
Independently Published
9781794606425, $13.95 Paper/0.99 ebook,

Readers of After the Fall who have absorbed Jason's story of survival after disaster hits the world will appreciate the continuing saga in Uprising, which moves through Jason's changed milieu and ongoing challenges. Uprising will especially appeal to survivalist readers of military fiction, who will be intrigued by the story's focus on military strategy and the confrontations and responses of those involved in both sides of the newfound struggles. Uprising is a powerful saga that stands out from other survivalist pieces by presenting a closer inspection of individual choice, growth, and struggles both within and outside the greater social structure. Uprising is a read which is lively, evolutionary, and fast-paced, all in one.

Baen Books

Three fine new titles are top recommendations for science fiction readers seeking quality writers and productions. John Ringo and Gary Poole join forces with Voices of The Fall (9781481483827, $26.00), a sequel to the anthology Black Tide Rising which needs no prior familiarity in order to prove accessible and satisfying for newcomers interested in thirteen new stories set in Ringo's world. From plague to assassins, soldiers, and threats to those who have managed to survive the plague and live through the Fall, this will especially satisfy readers of survival and apocalyptic sci-fi. Travis S. Taylor and Jody Lynn Nye's Moon Tracks (9781481483834, $24.00) tells of a team of young scientists competing to completely circle the Moon. The Bright Sparks must learn how to face dangers, solve deadly problems, and build alliances with each other as they compete in a race that may include potential disaster. Martin L. Shoemaker's Today I am Carey (9781481483841, $16.00) provides an engrossing story of an android assigned to help a failing Alzheimer's patient. Carey cares for Mildred and serves her in his role to help fill her memories, but after she passes, Carey is charged with different tasks involving her family and their connections. This story of a repurposed android is original and hard to put down.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

Seven new audio listens are top, recommended picks for any consumer or collection interested in a combination of high-quality readers and sold writers. It's satisfying to note that Maria Semple's Where'd You go, Bernadette (9781549113512, $20.00) is just as refreshingly vivid and different in audio, brought to life by Kathleen Wilhoite's smooth and fun voice, as it is in print. Wilhoite does an outstanding job of capturing the quirky spirit of the tale as a trip to Antarctica results in a missing mother and a family disaster. Leisure audiences who seek high drama in their audiobooks will also appreciate James Patterson and Brendan DuBois's The Cornwalls Are Gone (9781549118869, $35.00), brought to life by Lauren Fortgang and Edoardo Ballerini. Here an Army captain has 48 hours to commit a crime or lose her family. The ultimatum and her handling of it makes for engrossing listening. Dan Pedersen's Top Gun: An American Story (9781549148745, $35.00) comes from the creator of Topgun, the Navy fighter weapons school. This story of his its founder and eight others changed the nature of aerial combat receives a vivid reading by Jim Meskimen, includes a .pdf of photos, and will especially appeal to military and business leadership listeners. Listeners will also relish Steffanie Strathdee and Thomas Patterson's The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug (9781549148866, $35.00), a memoir that pairs a scientist's efforts to find a forgotten cure with a struggle to save not just her husband's life, but the lives of millions. Christine Lakin works with Dan Worer to bring this saga to life in an audio that includes a .pdf of photos. Trump fans will find Victor Davis Hanson's The Case for Trump (9781549148774, $40.00) comes to life under David Lertham's reading, and supports the President's rule as it analyzes the approaches that make him successful. Trump's office is volatile, but Hanson argues that a political outsider with different ideas was needed, and that Trump is getting things done in a unique, effective manner. Rachel Roy and Ava Dash's 96 Words for Love (9781478999089, $30.00) is read by Soneela Nankani, who lends a vivid and evocative voice to a different kind of love story that comes to life in audio. Raya Liston has many dreams, but when her grandmother dies, she sees it as a sign to run away to the ashram in India where her grandparents fell in love. Her return to her family's roots and her encounter with a rebel make for a dangerous choice between love and self-realization. Joan I. Rosenberg, PhD.'s 90 Seconds to a Life You Love: How to Master Your Difficult feelings to Cultivate Lasting Confidence, Resilience, and Authenticity (9781478999768, $30.00) receives a fine reading by the author herself and reviews the basics of how to master overwhelming, intense feelings to build confidence and authenticity. More than three decades of clinical experience blend of cognitive psychology and mindfulness to provide readers with important keys to improving life experiences and perceptions. All are outstanding audiobooks.

The Cookbook Shelf

Kyle Books

Two outstanding books are top recommendations for culinary collections seeking appealing picks for home cooks. Clodagh McKenna's Clodagh's Suppers: Suppers to Celebrate the Seasons (9781909487994, $24.99) provides 120 dishes that move through the seasons and shows how to use seasonal produce to create a variety of foods. This is not everyday comfort food and often will prove unfamiliar but appealing. Hazelnut & Herb-crusted Lamb Cutlets with Pea & Wild Garlic Puree, an Irish Farmhouse Cheese Souffle made with mature Irish Cheddar, mustard and eggs, and Broiled Cauliflower with Sumac Yogurt, Hazelnuts & Pomegranate are just a few examples of dishes inspired not just by the author's Irish roots, but by travels and tastes she experienced in other countries as well, such as a Creamy Parmesan Polenta with Blood Sausage inspired by a dish she enjoyed when she lived in Turin in Southern Italy. Artistic color photos accompany these diverse recipes. Richard Bertinet's Crumb: Show the Dough Who's Boss (9780857835543, $34.99) isn't for casual newcomers to baking, but for cooks who would refine and better understand the process of creating the perfect crumb in bread. All stages of working with the dough are covered, along with recipes that explore use with such appealing dishes as Apple and Cider Rolls which use hard cider to strengthen the dough and boost flavor and properties of the crumb, English Muffins (warning: individual tart pans are required), and light, semi-sweet Multicolored Buns. Measurements are presented in grams, while color photos enhance the appeal of the dishes and provide a basic understanding of how they are put together and displayed.

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design