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California Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 10 October 2019 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Business Shelf Technology Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Literary Studies Shelf
Health/Medicine Shelf Needlecraft Shelf Computer Shelf
American History Shelf Cookbook Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

When Plants Dream
Daniel Pinchbeck and Sophia Rokhlin
Watkins Publishing
9781786780799, $24.99

When Plants Dream: Ayahuasca, Amazonian Shamanism, and the Global Psychedelic Renaissance follows the journey of the psychedelic ayahuasca plant around the world from its roots in the Amazon to its place in modern drug wars and rituals. As an addition to health or social issues collections, When Plants Dream offers a standout survey of the accompanying quest for knowledge and transformation that this plant and others promise. From medicine to religion, psychology, and evolving cultural challenges to political and legal concerns, When Plants Dream adopts a multifaceted approach to its examination. Unlike most considerations of psychotropic drugs, this focus elevates discussions on many levels and makes the book more than just another singular survey. Anyone interested in anything related to the subject of psychodelics in general and how a plant used in Amazon spiritual quests reached around the world to influence other cultures will find When Plants Dream an outstanding consideration of endangered ecosystems, humanity's critical junctures, and the latest details in biomedical science and psychedelic research.

The Business Shelf

Christopher Leonard
Simon & Schuster
9781476775388, $35.00

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America should be in every business, economics, and political history collection. It follows the evolution of Koch Industries and how the Koch Brothers' fortune evolved, comes from a journalist who reported on their operations over the years, and considers both the Koch empire and the concurrent evolution of modern corporate processes in America. While readers might think this story would be more of a singular biography, it holds wide-ranging implications for understanding the course of American and business history as a whole, weaving the Koch story into the broader fabric of U.S. affairs and social issues. The result is a powerful, winning examination that links Charles and David Koch to not just wealth acquisition or business evolution, but American economic and political developments as a whole.

The Technology Shelf

Women and GIS
ESRI Press
9781589485280, $34.99

Women and GIS: Mapping Their Stories collects twenty-three stories about ordinary girls who made innovative breakthroughs in the GIS field, serving as role models for others using maps and geographic information systems to change the world. Each woman receives a biographical sketch that begins with childhood and discusses the unique challenges they faced in the process of achieving success. From diver Sylvia A. Earle's efforts to save ocean life to Kristen Kurland's teaching and use of 3D visualization techniques for urban planning, these profiles are inspiring and backed by color illustrations and photos throughout in a survey that will appeal to all ages.

The General Fiction Shelf

The Dearly Beloved
Cara Wall
Simon & Schuster
9781982104528, $26.99

The Dearly Beloved tells of two young married couples whose husbands are assigned to co-minister a New York church in the 1960s. Each couple is at a pivotal moment in their lives and careers, each is inspired by their relationship and goals, and each is changed by not just their encounters with the other couple but by turmoil and events that will affect their church, devotion, and life choices. This powerful story of love and achievement will prove uplifting reading for anyone interested in an emotionally charged story of challenge, change, and love.

Clifford's Spiral
Gerald Everett Jones
LaPuerta Books and Media
9781733268400, $15.95, Paper, $6.99, Kindle

Clifford Klovis is a stroke victim struggling to regain his memories, his personality, and his life. From faith to philosophical discussions, Clifford interacts with the only person who can help him recreate much of his life and can him attention, his paraplegic son Jeremy, who embarks on a journey with his father to uncover truths about his past through journals, letters, and what memories remain. Dilemmas don't just revolve around Clifford's inner world, but on the intersected lives of patients, medical providers, and family alike, all changed by stroke and incapacity, who face questions about cognizance and maintaining life. The result takes a romp through much-changed lives and, in the end, comes full circle not to who Clifford was, but who he is to himself and others in the present day, under very different circumstances. Literary novel readers interested in a deep probe of psychological development will find Clifford's Spiral an intriguing story - hard to easily define or put down.

Lily Fairchild
Don Gutteridge
Independently Published
9780991679898, $9.99, Kindle

Historical novels come steeped in facts, but too often focus on a sense of place and events over emotional connections, but Lily Fairchild stands out from the usual genre work because it goes beyond presenting to embrace this psychological piece, bringing Lily's story to life. Lily Fairchild was a 1800s Canadian pioneer woman who observed a host of social and political changes between 1840 and 1919. Changing relationships with Indians and the coming of railways to open up new vistas; the Underground Railroad; the discovery of oil; and her own personal trials with marriage, children, and a rapidly changing world capture these times with solid atmospheric observation and emotional reflection. Lily Fairchild is a sweeping story that deftly considers social changes and personal transformation as it affects individuals, family, and overall societal norms. It's a revealing, engrossing read especially recommended for readers interested in Canadian history and the transitions experienced by ordinary people at the turn of the 18th century.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Genesis II
Eugene T. Schurter
Eugene T. Schurter, Publisher
9781950866007 (pbk-KDP)
9781950866014 (ebk-KDP)
9781950866021 (pbk-Ingram)
9781950866038 (ebk-Ingram)
$12.95 print, $3.99 ebook

Genesis II provides an expansion to Eugene T. Schurter's 'Elastic Society' theory (introduced in Dark Web Rising) and opens with an invasion mission conducted by enhanced military man Colonel Matthew Brannon. The stage is set for an attack - on unsuspecting pineapple pickers in paradise. The capture of one Conrad Heit is the goal of the Marine force. And something is going wrong, even though it appears to be an uncommonly smooth, nonviolent operation. The tension, interactions, and unexpected twists and turns of Genesis II are nicely done, and will especially appeal to prior readers of Dark Web Rising, which introduced a group of young adults on the cusp of defiance and success. Stewart returns with further conundrums that tax even his brilliance, the mission begun by stealing the Genesis II continues, and the speculative science fiction premise of the Elastic Society is even better developed than in the previous book. The result is an absorbing adventure filled with conundrums, questions, and twists and turns. While the characters are young and new adults, Genesis II and its predecessor Dark Web Rising will easily appeal to both young adult and adult sci-fi readers alike. Genesis II is highly recommended not just for its action-packed adventure, but for explorations of the underlying motivations and perceptions of realistic characters who are devoted to the concept of the Elastic Society and all its revolutionary promises.

Labyrinths of Time
Jonathan Michael Erickson
Independently Published
9781948746069, $15.00 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 529pp,

Labyrinths of Time is the second book in the Song of Ancients series, based on an epic song predicting a mysterious woman's fall from the sky, and continues the saga begun in Relics of Andromeda. While readers might think that prior familiar with Relics is a prerequisite for enjoyment of this continuing saga (and, indeed, it helps), Jonathan Michael Erickson provides a detailed back-story and lexicon at the end of his book, so newcomers will want to turn to the end to learn about the beginnings of Anka's time-bending journey and pick up its strands in Labyrinths. A chronology of human history is provided in an introduction, which recaps the formation of the Andromeda colonies and the discovery of the relics in the 24th century. To call Labyrinths of Time a time-travel odyssey per se is to do it a grave injustice. Wound within this story of fate and heroism is a tale of choice, consequences, and selflessness and selfishness alike, designed to keep readers thoroughly engrossed right up to the unexpected conclusion.

Brian Fitzpatrick
9781947848153, $13.99 Paper, $9.99, Kindle

Jake London is an ordinary teen with an extraordinary problem: he harbors a swarm of nanotech in his DNA - and he can control it. On one level, Mechcraft's young adult protagonist would seem to relegate this sci-fi thriller to teen audiences; but many an adult with an interest in nanotech thrillers will find the action, characterization, and unexpected twists of plot just as compelling as in a read geared to more mature audiences. Brian Fitzpatrick's ability to craft a nanotech thriller that incorporates the basics of human desire, uncertainty, power, and vulnerability creates a much more satisfyingly complex read that blends moral and ethical conundrums into the bigger picture of a teen finding himself. Teen to adult audiences will find Mechcraft a powerful coming of age story that incorporates considerations of new abilities, rising powers, and loss into its fast-paced, action-packed adventure.

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy: The Dragon Sisters
Claire Youmans
American I
9781733902014, $16.99 Paper, $5.99, ebook

In Book 6 of The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, The Dragon Sisters, set in 1800s Japan, Dragon-girl Renko's ability to assume human form places her in a unique dilemma while her sister Otohime faces similar conflict about her identity after the death of her human husband. Where do their loyalties and hearts lie: with humans, or dragons? The Dragon Sisters is a compelling, involving story that blends fantasy, Japanese history and folklore, and a different kind of coming of age story that reaches well into adult readership. It's highly recommended for its wonderful twining of personal and social change that leaves readers not just with a fine adventure which both adds to the series and stands well on its own, but that transmits the history and cultural identity of Japan to audiences who may be relatively unfamiliar with Japanese peoples and history.

Baen Books

D.J. Butler's Witchy Kingdom (9781481484152, $25.00) follows Sarah Penn's dilemmas after she encounters her father's goddess, then discovers her city's survival depends on her accessing a power that her father never succeeded in commanding. Sarah faces priests, demons, goddesses, and the hunt for a sibling as a storm threatens New Orleans and a power struggle on supernatural levels emerges. Fans of fantasies rooted in sorcery and struggle will find this story engrossing and hard to put down. Gordon R. Dickson's Hour of the Horde (9781481484176, $16.00) reprints one of the early classics of military science fiction from 1970, and genre fans will relish this new edition that introduces Miles Vander, who may be the only man who can destroy the alien Horde that has made their way across the universe destroying everything in their path, only to reach the Milky Way. Classic battle scenarios are powered by a human-against-alien-invasion scenario that will keep readers absorbed and guessing to the end.

The Literary Studies Shelf

Marion's 25
Marion Hill
Red Mango Publishing
9780998761268, $9.99, Paper, $2.99, Kindle

Marion's 25 is the book to turn to when you run out of inspiration for selecting a read practically guaranteed to be a page-turner. It comes from a professional book reviewer whose recommendations are backed by the authority of nine years in the book reviewing business, plowing through mundane readers to unearth the gems that make up this compilation. As readers browse through the chapters and learn why each book is exceptional and worthy of attention, they receive a rare opportunity to broaden their typical book choices - and this is the unique attribute of Marion's 25. Hill does more than review the books as individual entities, but often interrelates them in ways that cross genres and expectations to reveal why readers of one will be attracted to something that at first seems entirely different. The result is especially recommended for readers looking to branch out from their normal comfort zones of genre reads, but who want to pick exciting, better-quality reads that surprise, delight, and promise that the risk taken to expand one's repertoire will result in superior choices.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

The Korean Skincare Bible
Lilin Yang, Leah Ganse and Sara Jimenez
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781788401661, $12.99,

The Korean Skincare Bible: The Ultimate Guide to K-Beauty Secrets promotes not just a healthy routine of skin care, but a lifestyle and philosophy. Step-by-step tips on how to care for skin or handle cosmetics accompany insights on home beauty products, wellness routines, and a Korean-based history of beauty that is filled with cautions, recommendations, and a focus on natural ingredients.

The Needlecraft Shelf


Gracey Larson's Patchwork Picnic: Simple-to-Piece Blocks That Celebrate the Outdoors (9781683560104, $25.99) features projects that celebrate nature with animals, bugs, flowers, insects, and more, and focuses on sewing straight seams using an easy stitch-and-flip technique that doesn't require templates or special piecing instructions. The 30 blocks featured lend to a sampler quilt or other adjunct projects which are covered in this survey, while cutting charts and a lettering system help newcomers to quilting learn patchwork processes in an easy manner. It's a wonderful starting place for any quilter looking for an easy nature-based starting point. Lynette Anderson's Lynette's Best-Loved Stitcheries: 13 Cottage-Style Projects You'll Adore (9781683560128, $27.99) comes from an Australian designer who combines patchwork with applique and embroidery techniques to create fun, small projects from mini-quilts to journal covers, a sewing caddy, and more. Templates, step-by-step instructions for each project, materials and cutting directions, and a wealth of color photos leave nothing to puzzle over. Both are exceptional project idea guides that will appeal to newcomers looking for quick, simple, foolproof projects.

The Computer Shelf

The Penetration Tester's Guide to Web Applications
Serge Borso
Artech House
9781630816223, $99.00

The Penetration Tester's Guide to Web Applications provides a new resource to professionals interested in how to attack web applications, identifying and taking advantage of typical web applications vulnerabilities. This is a book for offensive security measures and will especially appeal to those actively involved in information security issues. Chapters address these vulnerabilities, show how to exploit flaws to obtain basic access, and details the foundations of building a penetrating testing service. Readers involved in information security should consider this a basic primer for not just offense, but defense.

Excel 2019 Programming By Example
Julitta Korol
Mercury Learning
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781683924005, $64.95,

Excel 2019 Programming By Example With VBA, XML, and ASP has been updated for Excel 2019 and is based on prior editions. It provides a full reference book especially recommended for prior Excel users, and is packed with real-world application tips, exercises, examples, and topics that move from introductory to advanced. This book can be used as a self-study guide or as a reference for those already versed in Excel who want a brush-up manual or a basic desk reference. Either way, it is packed with code examples, step-by-step processes, and plenty of information to make Excel 2019 understandable and applicable to real-world situations.

The American History Shelf

The Second Founding
Eric Foner
W.W. Norton
9780393652574, $26.95

The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution comes from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who considers the amendments to the Constitution which were made in the aftermath of America's only civil war. These amendments, known as the Reconstruction amendments, abolished slavery, guaranteed equal rights for all, and made many other changes, but their ambiguous language subjected them to debate and numerous conflicts in interpretation. Historian Eric Foner reconsiders the language and intentions of these amendments, their controversy and fate over the decades, and how Reconstruction politics still influence modern American political processes and precedent. More so now than ever, The Second Founding should be considered an integral part of any serious American history or American political law collection.

The Cookbook Shelf

American Cuisine and How It Got This Way
Paul Freedman
Liveright Publishing
c/o W.W. Norton
9781631494628, $39.95

American Cuisine and How It Got This Way is a history of American food that goes back to the 1800s, holds over 80 photos and illustrations, and considers the evolution of both American fare and the concept of what makes for American cuisine. From experiments with flavors and other cultural influences to recipes and literary reflections on food throughout the years, American Cuisine and How It Got This Way provides a lively set of origin stories, cultural inspections, and considerations of the elements that define and shape American foods and cuisine. Anyone interested in food history, cooking, or American history will find this an appealing blend of culinary history and social inspection.

The Pig
Robin Hutson
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784725570, $40.00

The Pig: Tales and Recipes from the Kitchen Garden and Beyond comes from the country house hotel and restaurant of the same name, and seeks to share the people and processes that contribute to The Pig's success. It's about cultivating a kitchen garden, using its seasonal fare, and pairs recipes with how-to guides and stories ('Pig Tales') about how the traditions of The Pig evolved. From a Cosmic Mash, Man made with potatoes and beet root to a Proper Fish Pie made with whatever fresh fish is available that day, the British flare and inspired dishes and the stories behind their creation will appeal to anyone who enjoys a blend of recipe and culinary lore.

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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