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California Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 11 November 2019 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Social Issues Shelf Education Shelf
Antiques/Collectibles Shelf Science Shelf Western Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Political Science Shelf Cookbook Shelf
Audiobook Shelf Needlecraft Shelf Art Shelf
Biography Shelf Literary Studies Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Edge of Perception
Steve Bellinger
Wordwooze Publishing
9781688041028, $12.99
B07WF9WDY1, $3.99

Ron Lewis isn't psychic; but if he could have predicted the future, he might not have been blindsided so badly. His work as a physicist and engineer is firmly rooted in science, but his innate attraction to the strange, weird, and inexplicable both in human interactions and brushes with childhood and adult monsters seem to counter everything he believes in.

What if an old family curse and these supernatural encounters are more real than anything else? Ron's venture into the spirit world will attract fans of paranormal fiction who enjoy accounts of scientific and psychological investigations. Edge of Perception skirts the edges of logic and the supernatural, creating a compelling story that opens the door to other worlds and a particularly dangerous force that Ron unwittingly unleashes onto his friend Mike and the world.

With a compelling, action-packed story following Ron from childhood night terrors to adult confrontations with the nature of reality and evil, Edge of Perception offers a powerful narrative that sifts through the demons in Ron's life to conclude with an unexpected bang.

Cancer: It's Not a Death Sentence
Ross Suozzi
Privately Published
9781949639971, $19.99, Hardcover, $14.99, Paper

Cancer: It's Not a Death Sentence is about reaching for happiness and recovery in the face of sudden life-threatening situations like cancer, and reviews the caregiving, life, and health challenges of survivors and members of Ross Suozzi's family. Where other cancer memoirs often become singular focuses blending personal experience with recovery and medical insights, Suozzi's ability to cover both sides of the cancer coin creates an atmosphere that is as specific about emotional hurdles as it is about treatments, what works and what doesn't, and how to handle not just physical but psychological and social challenges surrounding cancer. This cancer survivor's ability to incorporate all these facets under one cover represents a unique approach to his subject that will educate and enlighten not just fellow sufferers, but caregivers, families, friends, and anyone whose lives have been touched by a cancer diagnosis.

The Social Issues Shelf

Carlos Slim
Diego Osorno
Verso Books
9781786634375, $29.95

Carlos Slim: The Power, Money, and Morality of One of the World's Richest Men could have appeared in our biography section, but is reviewed here because of its powerful survey of a man who was the first from a developing country to reach the top Forbes list of billionaires, and whose focus on philanthropy and market power offers revolutionary insights into modern capitalism and Mexican politics. Its insights into Slim and social issues of modern times are a 'must' for understanding modern Mexican influences in general and the heart of a successful billionaire who holds some radical perceptions of financial wealth, capitalist systems, and social change.

The Education Shelf

Same As It Never Was
Gregory Michie
Teachers College Press
9780807761960, $26.95

Decades after author Gregory Michie worked as an education professor, he decided to return to the classroom in the same Chicago neighborhood, grade level, and subject as he'd taught in the 1990s. Anticipating a familiar teaching environment, Michie was surprised to learn just how much had changed, and Same As It Never Was: Notes on a Teacher's Return to the Classroom documents these changes, joining others in the 'Teaching for Social Justice' series in exploring not just the teaching experience in general, but the social, political, and cultural changes that have affected teachers and classrooms alike. More so than most discussions of teaching, Michie's ability to contrast and document the social and educational system changes that have been and are still evolving makes for an engrossing survey that blends autobiography and teacher experience with many pointed insights about equality, justice, and classroom management, making Same As It Never Was a 'must' for any aspiring teacher as well as those thinking of returning to the classroom after a long hiatus.


Three new titles are top recommendations for education collections, offering educators and reference holdings solid lesson plans and real-world-tested approaches to lessons and learning. M. Colleen Cruz's Writers Read Better: Narrative: 50+ Paired Lessons That Turn Writing Craft Work Into Powerful Genre Reading (9781506349442, $27.95) provides a simple formula that takes traditional learning approaches and turns it on end, flipping the usual "read lesson first, write lesson second" sequence to help teachers pair lessons that can be either integrated into a curriculum or used as a program enhancement. Each lesson receives an at-a-glance overview of its purpose, student audience, materials needed, and lesson steps, while the "What I Say to Students" discussions leaves nothing to wonder by capturing actual teacher dialogue instigating these instructions. Marcia L. Tate's 100 Brain-Friendly Lessons for Unforgettable Teaching and Learning (9-12) (9781544381563, $36.95) uses research- and brain-based teaching methods from different content areas to produce plans based on common objectives from national and international curricula. Educators can use these lesson outlines in their own classrooms, or as a foundation for developing their own plans. The strategies are designed for a wide range of learners and classroom situations, and include basic questions high school teachers need to address as they create brain-compatible lessons, making for an important primer for lesson development and brain-based objectives. Elaine K. McEwan-Adkins' Teacher's Guide: How to Deal with Parents Who Are Angry, Troubled, Afraid, Or Just Seem Crazy (9781544352442, $28.95) is packed with strategies for working not with kids, but with parents. This teacher's edition of a best-selling guide collects strategies teachers can use to reach out to angry parents, and pairs vignettes with guidelines that review different approaches and experiences, desirable outcomes, and tips on how teachers can form better relationships with parents.

The Antiques/Collectibles Shelf

Miller's Antiques Handbook & Price Guide 2020-2021
Judith Miller
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784726102, $45.00,

Miller's Antiques Handbook & Price Guide 2020-2021 has been a classic industry-wide reference for some forty years, now, and remains the top guide to the antiques market today, despite the blossoming of specific antiques guides that narrow discussions to particular collectible areas. Part of the reason why it remains so authoritative is that it's revamped annually, is compiled by an antiques expert, and constantly expands its listing. This latest edition includes over 8,000 new items with color photos and the latest price information. Special sections add further enlightenment on what influences value and how to value items, allowing novices to expand their knowledge even as they consult the latest edition for the latest prices and trends.

The Science Shelf

ESRI Press

Two new books from ESRI Press provide excellent, solid discussions of the intersection between mapping, science, and spatial analytics. Karen E. Firehock and R. Andrew Walker's Green Infrastructure: Map and Plan the Natural World with GIS (9781589484763, $59.99) reviews green infrastructure (GI) mapping processes and explore how to utilize ESRI's models to develop strategies for conserving or restoring natural resources. It's a specific exploration that uses actual data to illustrate and create two case studies, showing how this model can be integrated with local data and planning needs to customize mapping. The result is a survey highly recommended not just for geography students, but environmental scientists. Dawn J. Wright and Christian Harder edit GIS for Science: Applying Mapping and Spatial Analytics (9781589485303, $39.99), a collection of real-world case studies linking modern science with mapping techniques that expand scientific inquiry and processes. One might expect this book would be of interest to professional scientists, but lay readers and neo-professionals intrigued by relationships between science and geography will find this wide-ranging discussion incorporates everything from climate change and natural disasters to homelessness and resource management issues. The full color maps and photos throughout lend an extra dimension of interest for anyone intrigued by GIS mapping objectives and science.

The Western Fiction Shelf

Fight for Wet Springs
Charlie Steel
Condor Publishing Inc.
9781931079242, $12.95

Fight for Wet Springs appears in a completely revised second edition as a Young Adult Western. It probes the life of the youthful pistol-carrying Western frontier fighter Kurt West. From childhood to age eighteen, he fights to protect his ranch, his family and friends - and even his pets, a horse and cat. Where other Westerns too often give female characters the "short end of the stick," Charlie Steel takes time to build insights about all the family members and neighbors involved in this Western community's operations and challenges. This strengthens a saga that is nicely steeped in social concerns ranging from homestead problem-solving to cross-cultural relationships between Mexican vaqueros and Anglos. By cementing these relationships and the atmosphere before delving into town politics and processes, Steel crafts a story that is truly gripping. It will reach beyond the usual Western reader audience and into the hearts and minds of leisure readers who enjoy historical fiction. Readers seeking an entertaining read that grabs the heartstrings and doesn't let go, but which incorporates the realistic backdrop of the old West with all its challenges, will relish Charlie Steel's lively novel. It is an exploration of a community's spirit in an epic fight for freedom. Fight for Wet Springs is definitely a story packed with adventure.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Meat Hunter
Megan Allen
Burn House Publishing
9780999054840, $TBA

Fans of crime stories and thrillers will find The Meat Hunter provides just the ticket with a read that skirts the borders between detective pieces and tales of intrigue, offering many differences that places it above others and alongside some of the best reads in each of these genres. The Meat Hunter may not be appropriate for readers sensitive to descriptions of animal cruelty, but murder mystery fans who look for ethical and moral conundrums wound into an absorbing story line will find it compelling reading indeed. The specific processes of a murder investigation that's constantly thwarted by a clever woman more than able to cover her tracks are nicely detailed in cat-and-mouse games of detective work while entwined relationships gone bad create backdrops of discovery and insight to keep readers engaged. As paradoxes and ironies mount, mystery and thriller fans receive a thoroughly engrossing tale that lingers in the mind long after the story's conclusion, creating satisfying twists and turns that lead to more than one surprise.

Berkley Prime Crime

Sofie Kelly's 'Magical Cats' mystery series continues with A Night's Tale (9780440001133, $25.00), in which Kathleen's brother has come to town with his band, only to face fights, murder, and an accusation of crime. Kathleen is involved because of her brother and seeks to solve a case that holds way too many suspects and far too few answers. And, of course, feline sidekicks Owen and Hercules are drawn into the intrigue as well, which will provide cat lovers with a delightful story as the three investigators try to uncover a tangled tale indeed. The gripping first-person narrative style fuels a fun and absorbing mystery newcomers and prior Magical Cat fans alike will relish. Emily Brightwell's Mrs. Jeffries and the Alms of the Angel (9780451492241, $26.00) is a Victorian mystery that tells of a helpful church member who is murdered, shocking a small town and inviting the skills of Mrs. Jeffries and Inspector Witherspoon, who begin to question the apparent appeal of the victim. It's Christmas time, but murder doesn't respect holidays, religion, or community angst. Fans of prior Mrs. Jeffries mysteries will find this latest investigation just as compelling and rich as the prior books in the series.

The Political Science Shelf

Audience of One
James Poniewozik
Liveright Publishing
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781631494420, $27.95,

Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America draws important connections between Trump and modern American television, and should be considered an essential acquisition for not just general-interest collections, but media studies holdings. From how TV images and approaches shape public opinion and perception to specific approaches Donald Trump has utilized that have resulted in some forty years of social fractures and controversies, James Poniewozik's important analysis holds examples and insights other Trump and television analyses fail to touch. It's a standout in the literature of both political and social inspection not just for its Trump considerations, but for overall documentation of television's role in America's social controversies.

The Cookbook Shelf

Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017

Joel Harrison & Neil Ridley's The World Atlas of Gin: Explore the Gins of More Than 50 Countries (9781784726546, 34.99) comes from two spirits experts who examine gin-producing nations and their products, and is the first to provide a global focus on the subject, reviewing each country's gin creations. Different varies, techniques, and tastes are covered in an atlas which considers gin from literally the ground up, from botanicals and brands to global styles, trends, and changing gin brands. From cocktail recipes and history, this country-by-country atlas, packed with color photos throughout, is a fine exploration highly recommended for anyone interested in gin's history, production, and usage. Diana Henry's From the Oven to the Table: Simple Dishes That Look After Themselves (9781784726096, $29.99) comes from a noted cookbook author who loves cooking and has produced cookbooks that excel in foolproof dishes. Her latest quite simply celebrates the oven and the simplicity of putting together ingredients that meld well during baking, and her promise is that these complicated-sounding dishes will produce results suitable for entertainment. The recipe for Chicken with Plums, Honey & Pomegranates, for example, adds orange and brown sugar into the mix to produce a dish that is appealingly different, while Sausages & Lentils with Herb Relish crafts an easy protein-packed dish that stands out for its exceptional flavor combinations. This is an outstanding addition to Henry's repertoire, but most importantly, its promise of simplicity combined with its flavors and unusual dishes offers ordinary cooks the opportunity to become extraordinary. Sipsmith London's Sip: 100 GIN Cocktails With Only 3 Ingredients (9781784726225, $19.99) should be in any definitive cocktail recipe collection and features recipes that each have only three ingredients. The seasonal approach combined with new ideas for classic, uncomplicated fare from a Gin Basil Smash to a blend of gin and creme de cacao in an Alexander or a gin and pineapple juice G&P makes for an outstanding gathering of cocktails that refute the notion that mixed drinks need be complicated or exotic. Color photos and gilt-edged hardcover binding makes this an appropriate gift, as well.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

These fine new audio stories bring powerful writers and readers to life in productions highly recommended for leisure listeners and libraries catering to them. James Patterson and Candice Fox join forces in The Inn (9781549118883, $35.00), which receives a vivid narration by Edoardo Ballerini that brings to life the story of a lonely inn, a former Boston police detective who is new at innkeeping, and the arrival of a thug with a crew of killers who break laws and threaten the town while living at the inn. As Bill Robinson is forced to step up to deal with the threat literally under his own roof, tension rises in a superb tale of intrigue. Leila Meacham's Dragonfly (9781549150098, $35.00) receives a fine multivoiced reading by eleven narrators who elevate the story of a dramatic play production that tells of five American spies who risk their lives during World War II. A mysterious letter results in a handpicked team code-named Dragonfly who assume false identities to be dropped behind enemy lines in German-occupied Paris. A fine novel of intrigue and World War II history evolves, highly recommended for an exceptional brand of tension brought to life by the multiple narrators involved. James Patterson's Killer Instinct (9781549145391, $35.00) is written with Howard Roughan and narrated by Eduardo Ballerini, who captures the vivid tale of a professor's murder which compels Dr. Dylan Reinhart to investigate along with former partner Detective Elziabeth Needham. Terrorist attacks on New York threaten to expose Dr. Reinhart's deepest secret even as Elizabeth enters unfamiliar territory as a result of her act of courage. This powerful thriller will keep listeners riveted. James Patterson and Robison Wells's The Warning (9781478995265, $30.00) enjoys a dual narration by Christine Lakin and Will Collyer as it tells of the first anniversary a small town faces after it was evacuated and placed on quarantine after a power plant accident. Some residents have returned home, among them Maggie and Jordan, but with the military everywhere and suspicion rampant, they can't help but probe the events that changed their lives and home. What they discover will keep readers captivated and engaged. Emma Donoghue's Akin (9781549178207, $35.00) receives a powerful reading by seasoned audiobook narrator Jason Culp, who does an outstanding job of narrating the story of Noah Selvaggio, a retired professor and widower who takes on the unexpected job of caring for a great-nephew. As he struggles with his new duty, Noah stumbles into a family mystery that reveals more details to challenge Noah's knowledge about the past and his future. An intense, moving story comes to life in audio. Preston and Child's Old Bones (9781549142246, $40.00) receives a solid narration by Cynthia Farrell, whose voice captures the underlying tension that builds slowly and inexorably in the tale of a young, successful curator approached by a historian with a rare opportunity to lead a unique expedition. Nora's acceptance of the challenge leads to a historical revelation that could rewrite everything known about the Donner Party and California history in this complex historical thriller. All are solid, engaging, engrossing stories that come to new life under the voices of seasoned readers.

The Needlecraft Shelf

Martingale & Company

Two new quilting guides are recommended picks for quilters and collections catering to them, offering appealing projects that expand quilting skills and applications. Sharon Keightley's Autumn Bouquet: Patchwork and Applique Quilts from Reproduction Prints (9781683560180, $25.99) provides a collection of quilts based on both scrap basket contents and machine applique skills, and presents two ways to prepare appliques to quilting projects. Close-up color photos show how to blend antique-style fabrics in wall to lap quilts, while the focus on reproduction prints creates a fun focus on recreating yesteryear's styles and approaches. Sheryl Johnson's Returning to Temecula: Scrappy Quilts With a Nod to the Past (9781683560210, $25.99) comes from the owner of the Temecula Quilt Company and provides more quilt ideas from the past. Her collection features some fourteen small quilts that are particularly accessible to beginners with their easy blocks and piecing, ideas for blending colors, and tips for both making and arranging blocks. Both are top recommendations quilters will appreciate.

The Art Shelf

Art for All Ages
Corinne Miller Schaff
Top Reads Publishing
9781970107036, $24.99, Paperback
9781970107104, $9.99, Ebook

Art for All Ages: Reignite Your Artistic Self holds a promise in its title: that a prior affection and talent for art only needs to be reignited in order to blossom. While readers can learn new art skills here, there are many books on the market that "teach art." Art for All Ages's purpose is to go beyond the mechanics of creating art to fire up the inspiration that promotes it in the first place. This approach places Corinne Miller Schaff's book in a category of its own. There are three separate parts to Art for All Ages: activities, art skills development, and encouraging creative exploration. Each segment receives simple step-by-step coverage, and each presumes no prior knowledge of art or the roots of creative inspiration. This psychological component is what truly sets this book apart from others, as readers are encouraged to not only create, but explore their feelings about their intuition and artistic pursuits through fill-in workbook questions. Using this book, adults and children of all ages can learn together. It's a special participatory choice for parents who would not just teach kids about art, but join in for a shared, successful experience. And this is the final component that places Art for All Ages in a category of its own: it offers the rare opportunity for adults and children to work side by side as they build skills and explore their creative natures. This opportunity for a shared learning experience on equal grounds is rare, indeed, making Art for All Ages especially highly recommended for parents, kids, and any adult seeking supportive manuals not just for art, but for self-discovery and growth experiences that overcome age-related barriers.

The Biography Shelf

Burt Reynolds: Put the Pedal to the Metal
Darwin Porter & Danforth Prince
Blood Moon Productions
9781936003631, $34.95

Burt Reynolds: Put the Pedal to the Metal combines biographical inspection with the dramatic flourishes of a gossip column based on fact and well-researched events, and is brought to life by colorful language surrounding a flamboyant character indeed. Few other actors have captured the public imagination and eye like Burt Reynolds. And few (read: no) other books delve so deeply into the oddities, ironies, struggles, and controversies that swirled around Burt. These facets, combined with a solid attention to describing Hollywood politics and processes, sets Burt Reynolds: Put the Pedal to the Metal more than a notch above any other book about the man. It's a powerful survey based on source material research and comes packed with quotes, observations, insights and revelations.

The Literary Studies Shelf

Burn Marks: A Strange Time for Letters
Robert D. Rice Jr.
Writer's View Publishing
9781099163289, $9.99, Paper, $6.99, Kindle

Burn Marks is a literary presentation of five short stories holding many compelling features that make each uniquely attractive gems. Before the reader even embarks on reading these tales, each story's title offers a tantalizing, succinct description of its premise, as in 'Ethel - letters of innocence - Letters to Santa Claus en route to the electric chair' or 'The Jumper - She's a fighter who won't take crap from anybody.' Unlike popular media accounts of historical events, Rice takes on the challenge of describing life-altering moments from the perspectives of individuals who are just a bit outside the normal investigative path. This lends both a literary and reflective atmosphere to the intersection of American history and fiction, drawing readers into bigger pictures and more engrossing insights than might be anticipated by their subjects. The five short stories in Burn Marks defy neat categorization, so suffice it to say that readers of good literature who enjoy diverse tales of historical fiction, psychological growth and suspense, and humor will find each story packed with food for thought and delightfully well-crafted characters based on real-world dilemmas: a combination of approaches that results in superior reads easily digested, but not easily forgotten.

Comet Fox
Peter Quinones
Independently Published
9781796993929, $6.95, Paper, $9.00, Kindle

Banja de Banja is bisexual, divorced, determined to lead an outrageously vivid life. She's also the heroine of Comet Fox, which romps through not only her life but the artistic circles in which she moves. Readers who enjoy being challenged either in their perceptions of the art world or a divorcee's sexuality or in an emotionally riveting account of entwined passions, relationships, and choices will find Comet Fox just the ticket. It's a lively romp through both business and art worlds, examining the life of a woman determined to take back her strengths and empower herself. The tale thus walks a thin line between a cultural commentary, an artistic examination, and a lively probe of a woman's sexual and emotional awakening. Whether it be politics, business, entry into middle age, or a woman newly capable of blocking anything from the past (even her son) that doesn't contribute to her revised purposes and future, Comet Fox serves up a warm dish of intellectual, social, and psychological growth. This delivers a lively, vivid read that's hard to put down, powered by a protagonist who doesn't just walk through her life, but rocks its foundations.

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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