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California Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 10 October 2018 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Writing/Publishing Shelf Technology Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Audiobook Shelf Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Social Issues Shelf Education Shelf
Health/Medicine Shelf Needlecraft Shelf Cookbook Shelf
Literary Studies Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Biography Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

The Woman Who Wrote the West: Polly Pry
Julia Bricklin
c/o Globe Pequot
9781493034390 $24.95

The Woman Who Wrote the West: Polly Pry chronicles the experiences and works of the first female reporter to work for the Denver Post under the pseudonym of Polly Pry in 1900, and considers not only her documentation and reporting, but the overall impact of her efforts to serve as an early champion for the rights of women, laborers, and prisoners during her times. She wrote some of the most sensational stories in the Denver Post, and this survey of her works and achievements is long overdue and should be in any journalism history holding.

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

My Career as a Book Reviewer Defending the Faith
Maurice A. Williams
Maurice Williams, Publisher
ASIN: B01F43ZUCA $2.99

In 2008, Maurice A. Williams began writing and posting book reviews to the internet, partially in effort to promote his own book Revelation and cement his name as a writer. All in all, he's written about a hundred reviews; yet his name and his book remain in relative obscurity. As he produced these reviews, he vastly revised his notion of what a book review (and a good book reviewer) should be. This collection gathers 70 reviews that Williams considers his finest pieces. Ideally, they should be read alongside the books they refer to; but they are also stand-alone works that offer fellow book reviewers and readers much food for thought. Not only does My Career as a Book Reviewer Defending the Faith successfully sum up the extent of one book reviewer's career; but it presents different approaches to reviewing. Book reviewers new to the industry and to writing about others' creations would do well to look at this collection as a series of templates for producing powerful reviews, which could easily serve as a solid example for creative writing classes covering the fine art of book reviewing.

The Technology Shelf

Introduction to Modern EW Systems, second edition
Andrea De Martino
Artech House
9781630815134 $169.00

Introduction to Modern EW Systems appears in its second updated edition to present a newly revised update that's been expanded to include much new information. Some books receive updates when a basic foundation of detail changes; but this revision includes subjects not in the original book, from remote piloted airborne systems and surveillance to using real-time data links, emitter identification, digital signaling, and more. If it's not completely new to this edition, it's been expanded or updated in some way, making for a key reference for communications, military, and electronics reference collections alike.

Machine Methods
M. Adithan
Mercury Learning
9781683921325 $49.95

Machine Methods: A Self-Teaching Introduction provides an easy primer in a question-and-answer format that introduces readers to machine design methods. Some 1,000 questions and answers provide information suitable for exam prep, reviewing key concepts in machine methods and including everything from engineering drawings and lathe work to machine tool technology, hand tool practices, milling, automobile electrical equipment, and more. No collection strong in machine technology should be without this reference.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

Rescuing Ladybugs
Jennifer Skiff
New World Library
9781608685028 $15.95

Rescuing Ladybugs: Inspirational Encounters with Animals That Changed the World offers true stories of people who worked to save animals, and whose efforts and choices demonstrate connections between animals and people which should be cultivated, acknowledged, and celebrated. From animal relationships with humans in Tasmania and cruelty to animals in processing plants to individuals who made decisions to stand up for animal rights, Rescuing Ladybugs is an inspirational account of compassion and animal aid for both wild and domestic creatures, and will delight any reader interested in animal and human relationships.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

James Patterson's Triple Homicide (978154915806, $20.00) receives a fine narration by Ty Jones, Kate Russell & Danny Mastrogiorgio in a production which offers three different thrillers from prior 'case files' of Alex Cross, the Women's Murder Club, and Michael Bennett. From an anonymous caller's promise to set off bombs in the nation's capital to a woman who faces a deadly assault when she entertains a man not her husband and a Thanksgiving Day Parade attack in front of Michael Bennett and his family, each case appears for the first time and rounds out prior characters with new dilemmas. Having multiple narrators offers nice differences in tone and presentation to each piece, and thriller listeners will find these short stories come to life in audio and require no prior familiarity with settings or characters to prove inviting. Megan Abbott's Give Me Your Hand (9781549168994, $30.00) is read by Chloe Cannon, who lends a smooth and engrossing voice to the story of Kit Owens, who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a classmate that changes when Diane shares a big secret. A decade later, Kit is still reaping the benefits of the former friendship but believes she's put the past behind her, until she discovers Diane is competing for a coveted new research position with her which could change everything. Beth Macy's Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and The Drug Company That Addicted America (9781549194689, $35.00) is narrated by the author, includes a pdf of photos, and provides a hard-hitting health, social and political history of the rise of opoid addiction in modern-day America. Two decades of struggle are charted in a survey that begins with a single small-town dealer and follows personal lives in various communities affected by the problem. By putting human experience to statistics that pepper daily news, Macy provides a hard-hitting survey that no health or social issues holding should be without; especially since it comes movingly to life in audio. Marcia Muller's The Breakers (9781549194610, $30.00) is narrated by Elizabeth Evans, who lends a strong and compelling voice to highlight this story of Sharon, who checks on her former neighbors' daughter, who is living in their house, only to uncover a deadly secret involving mass murders and terrible truths. As Sharon investigates further, she discovers that the pictures lead to a real horror house right next door in this vivid thriller about a race against time. Sandra Brown's Tailspin (9781478916840, $35.00) is narrated by Victor Slezak, whose personable, clear, and evocative voice proves the perfect choice for a romantic thriller that ells of a pilot who is charged with a dangerous deadline. His reputation for facing down all odds finally comes to rest in a deadly delivery that involves him in a sabotage attempt on his plane and an encounter that challenges all of his skills. James Patterson and Andrew Bourelle's Texas Ranger (9781478975472, $35.00) receives an excellent narration by Christopher Ryan Grant, who brings to life the story of an officer and lawman who is called home to settle some scores that test even his best law-enforcement skills. A killer's acts and a lawman's determination to risk everything to pursue the truth makes for a heady, involving story that simply shines in audio, perfect for thriller listeners. These are powerful audios highly recommended for leisure listeners looking for superior writers, voices, and productions.

The Fiction Shelf

Angels on a Tombstone
J.F. Foran
Page Publishing Inc.
9781642147797 $20.95

Angels on a Tombstone tells of 19-year-old Jeremiah, an Irish lad who is studying law in Scotland, and who is personally committed to the idea of removing the British from his homeland and pursing his legal career with this purpose in mind. All his efforts don't involve legal process, however, as he becomes a leader in the Brotherhood and creates a plan that lands him in jail and then on a ship to Boston to live with his lawyer uncle. Even banishment cannot quell his desire for justice and change in this moving story, based on research into the Irish-American immigration experience during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Readers interested in learning more about the immigrant experience through the compelling story provided in fiction will find Angels on a Tombstone a vivid blend of coming of age, political and social changes, and a young man's journey to a strange land and new purposes.

T.D. Holt
Available at
9780692158234 Paperback: $12.99/Kindle: $6.99,

A technical introduction of hologram science and its potential for future expansion provides theory and background for this story; but if readers think HoloHead is going to be a hard science tale, be advised that it's not. Politics and romance wind into a story of intrigue and crime in a scenario of innovation gone wrong, documenting the hijacking of the American government in an entirely new way. T.D. Holt has a real gift for taking current events and projecting them to future scenarios; but perhaps the greatest attribute of HoloHead lies in the timing of this story. What may have seemed improbable only a few years ago feels all too possible today. This makes its plot even more compelling, between the realistic references to modern political atmosphere and Holt's combination of thriller/sci-fi genres and attention to building detailed, fast-paced action.

The Moving Blade
Michael Pronko
Raked Gravel Press
9781942410164 $5.99 Kindle

The Moving Blade is well steeped in Japanese history and culture: an unexpectedly delightful backdrop to an investigative 'whodunnit' mystery that actually teaches readers much about this culture and its people. The fact that this is the second thriller in the detective Hiroshi series shouldn't stymie newcomers, who will find the story requires no prior familiarity with either Japanese culture or Hiroshi's efforts in order to prove immediately understandable and involving. The action-packed plot, backed by solid research, makes for a story that is not just a dramatic whodunit piece, but a slice of life piece inspecting Japanese heart and minds. Readers who like their detective stories more than lightly flavored with cultural insight and history will relish The Moving Blade's ability to move in both worlds, adding the insights and flare that keep the story fast-paced and informative all in one.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Berkley Prime Crime

Two excellent new mysteries should be on the shelves of any collection or reader who likes solid series titles, and provides riveting tales that are powerfully done and hard to put down. The latest in Jenn McKinlay's 'Library Lover's mystery' series, Hitting the Books (9780451492678, $25.00) presents the ninth book in her series and opens with library director Lindsey Norris, who witnesses a hit-and-run accident. Theresa survives, but falls victim to another accident days later, and it becomes evident to investigators that someone is trying to kill her. This cozy mystery is replete with satisfying twists and turns as a host of characters find their worlds shaken. Sofie Kelly's 'Magical Cats' mystery series expands with the tenth book, The Cats Come Back (9780399584596, $25.00), in which librarian Kathleen and her feline sidekicks Owen and Hercules investigate another crime in Mayville Heights. This time, the victim is Kathleen's close friend, and while she wonders if he really was the target, she must turn all her research skills into uncovering the truth in this fine cozy mystery made all the more captivating for its inclusion of feline investigators.

The Social Issues Shelf

Attention: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction
Joshua Cohen
Random House
9780399590214 $28.00

Attention: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction is not a singular production but will attract a wide variety of thinkers about social issues, politics, the arts, travel, and culture. This represents two decades of writing about life and gathers essays, diary entries, letters, and a memoir under one cover, examining connections between a information and experience to draw together an intriguing set of reflections and insights. Readers with an interest in Joshua Cohen or devise of literary and social reflection will find this diverse collection an intriguing gathering of insights.

The Education Shelf


Three excellent new education titles provide teachers with clear insights into streamlined systems and applications that further education in a more efficient manner. Dave Stuart Jr.'s These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most (9781506391038, $25.95) is for teachers of grades 6-12 who want to adjust their teaching strategies to proven, classroom-tested processes that have received the best results from students. From specific hang-up points that prevent students and teachers from effectively engaging to an outline of literacy-rich learning engagement strategies, this book provides the basics that teachers need to move their classrooms into positive avenues of literacy success. Maria Walther's The Ramped-Up Read Aloud: What to Notice As You Turn the Page (9781506380049, $19.95) is for teachers of grades Pre-K to 3, and uses the picture book read-aloud experience to survey new tools for educational opportunities. Fiction and nonfiction titles are organized into chapters that follows typical primary teacher curriculum plans, offering books designed to help build communities and literacy and pairing these with coaching tips for better educational experiences. The result is a more powerful series of applications for read-aloud impact and success, highly recommended for teachers who want to use specific read-aloud books to best advantage. The fourth updated edition of Joyce L. Epstein and Associates' School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action (9781506391342, $45.95) is based on 30 years of research and fieldwork and comes from a team of experts who provide clues on creating successful inclusive programs. From best practices for preschool through high schools to checklists, templates, tools for district leaders, workshops and developing a goal-linked approach for middle to high schools, this provides a well-rounded set of directions recommended for a wide audience of educators, leaders, and school organizers.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

The Healing 100
Cherie Kephart
Bazi Publishing
9781947127067, $12.95 (paperback)
9781947127074, $4.99, Kindle

Cherie Kephart struggled for years with an undiagnosed ailment that left her bedridden and barely alive. The fact that she moved from this state to a full life is extraordinary in and of itself; but that she did so from her personal investigation into a range of healing techniques is amazing. The Healing 100 is both a memoir of her battle and a list of the top 100 healing techniques that finally moved her from almost dying to embracing an active life. It holds much promise for those who eschew formula, "one size fits all" health routines that choose singular approaches. Anyone struggling with health issues can find plenty to appreciate and much hope from The Healing 100, which should be in every alternative health collection and many a general-interest library.

The Needlecraft Shelf

Natural Dyeing With Plants
Franziska Ebner & Romana Hasenohrl
Schiffer Publishing
9780764355172 $26.99

Natural Dyeing With Plants features full-page color photos of plants, textiles, and dyeing techniques and covers the result of obtaining dyes from over 40 source plants available in gardens and roadsides. Dyed color swatch samples of various textiles which have received natural dyes are provided, along with tips and techniques for using barks, plants, trees, and even common kitchen ingredients. Packed with recipes and examples, Natural Dyeing With Plants is a clear, specific survey that will delight textile artists looking for clear directions and details about applying dye to a range of fibers.

The Cookbook Shelf

The Art of the Party
Kay Plunkett-Hogge
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
9781784724634 $14.99

The Art of the Party: Drinks & Nibbles for Easy Entertaining offers nearly a hundred easy recipes for cocktails and finger food that can be made in advance, and shows hosts how to produce both classic cocktails and modern innovations. The focus on quick, easy drinks and finger foods are accompanied by full-page color photos and feature an international flare for such recipes as the Asian-influenced Mini Laarp Lettuce Rolls, savory 'Soup Shot' cocktails, various roasted and spiced nuts, and small sandwiches such as a Grilled Cheese with Ham and Hot Peppers. Any host who likes to entertain but wants easy, foolproof small dishes and drinks will find this a delightfully varied collection.

Kyle Books

Two new cookbooks are highly recommended picks for readers looking for something appetizingly different. John Whaite's Comfort: Food to Soothe the Soul (9781909487925, $29.99) gathers recipes designed to be comforting and hearty, rebelling against the Clean Eating trend and offering fare that satisfies the urge for comfort food. Some recipes have impacted the cook author's life and others represent his own creations to fit into the style and perception of comfort foods. Readers should expect innovative dishes not seen elsewhere, such as a Pea Soup with Parmesan Pretzel Crust or a slow-cooked Spiced Chicken in Milk. Full-page color photos accompany dishes such as Rhubarb & Ginger Jam Lamb Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Beets, adding visual appeal to the diverse taste treats offered. Rich Harris's Root & Leaf: Big, Bold Vegetarian Food (9780857834416, $19.99) provides dishes with international influences and flavors new even to vegetarian cooks with such dishes as Miso-Glazed Pumpkin, a 30-minute Butternut Squash Laska, or a savory version of the French apple tart in Fennel Tarte Fine, a savory dish of mascarpone cheese and fennel. The diversity and appeal of the dishes assures that this collection will provide a range of new ideas to vegetarian cooks seeking something uniquely different.

The Literary Studies Shelf

Understanding Irene Nemirovsky
Margaret Scanlan
University of South Carolina Press
9781611178685 $49.99

Understanding Irene Nemirovsky analyses the works of a best-selling 1930s novelist who re-emerged in a new light in 2004 when her book Suite Francaise became a success in France and the U.S. It had survived for sixty years after the author was deported to Auschwitz, but despite the renewed attention to the nearly-lost manuscript, the extent of her works was never fully analyzed and many were condemned as being anti-Semitic as critics billed her a "self-hating Jew." This sympathetic, scholarly review of Nemirovsky's fiction also considers her life, how her experiences were reflected in her writings, and the social and political facets they contained. This is a reader best appreciated alongside Nemirovsky's own works, or through a re-reading of their contents and impact, and deserves a place in any collection strong in Holocaust literature and experience.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Baen Books

Avalanche by Mercedes Lackey with Cody Martin, Dennis Lee and Veronica Giguere (9781481483223, $25.00) is Book 5 in the Secret World Chronicles series and tells of the aftermath of the destruction of Metis, a secret city. But that's not the end of the onslaught by the Thulians: as waves of ships and troops attack multiple targets, John Murdock and his team face both individual challenges and the survival of worlds as they battle for their futures. Prior readers of the series will particularly appreciate this continuation of the world-building (or, in this case, possible world-destroying) theme as a seeming Armageddon makes way for further revelations and battles. Tim Power's Alternate Routes (9781481483407, $25.00) focuses on Los Angeles freeways and the phantom cars that are showing up on them. Ex-Secret Service agent Sebastian Vickery drives for a supernatural-evasion car service, but as he faces government plots and supernatural forces alike, Vickery discovers that it's not about where the cars are going: it's about where they're coming from. Readers seeking an action-packed blend of sci-fi and supernatural detective work will relish the multifaceted encounters presented in this riveting story.

The Biography Shelf

Kick-Ass Kinda Girl
Kathi Koll
Ward Publishing
9781732364905 $16.00

Kick-Ass Kinda Girl is an inspirational memoir documenting author Kathi Koll's challenges and achievements, presenting a blueprint on not just surviving life's slings and arrows, but finding joy despite adversity. Readers of books about caregiving, survival, and being a widow will find a remarkable energy within Kick-Ass Kinda Girl that belays the usual focus on mourning and picking up pieces to instead follow a passion for seeing the good about life even during the throes of grief. The result isn't just a memoir by and about a "kick-ass" girl: it's a lesson plan others can use to find their own rainbows behind the clouds, and represents a standout in the literature surrounding grief, recovery, and illness.

Dispatches from the Sweet Life
William Powers
New World Library
9781608685646 $16.95

Dispatches from the Sweet Life: One Family, Five Acres, and a Community's Quest to Reinvent the World follows the prior account, Twelve by Twelve, which recounts the author's move to an off-grid tiny house in rural North Carolina, and his New Slow City, in which he sought a slow existence in Manhattan, one of the fastest-paced cities in the world. Here he moves to Bolivia with wife and baby, there to seek happiness in a model community that promotes self-sufficiency, leaving America behind altogether. From life in a blossoming small town where carbon footprints are important and measured to their integration into the lives of Bolivians, this vivid story of sustainable living and overseas encounters will delight anyone who has envisioned moving to another country to embrace a simpler, more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
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phone: 1-608-835-7937

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phone: 1-707-795-4629

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