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California Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 9 September 2019 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Writing/Publishing Shelf Needlecraft Shelf
Cookbook Shelf Health/Medicine Shelf General Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Audiobook Shelf
California Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Paolo Valentino
9781635061505, $26.99

Catfulness: A Cat's Guide to Achieving Mindfulness comes from a cat's point of view and considers the fine art of better living and meditative techniques. It's a seven-week program covering mindfulness designed for human beings who seek to emulate the habits and peaceful life of the cat, and offers a quirky, fun approach to ideas of mindfulness that will delight both those serious about cats and others interested in a more accessible survey of mindfulness than the typical new age book offers. Fun cat drawings complete the effort of a little book of big feline ideas.

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

Write to Influence, second edition
Carla D. Bass, Colonel, USAF (Ret)
Orlean Press
9780997593020, $24.99, Paper, $9.99 ebook

Barnes & Noble:


Want to improve your writing skills? Look no further than the second edition of Write to Influence! The original, published in 2017, is such a gem, so clearly written, and widely endorsed, one might wonder at the need for a revision. The answer lies in its wealth of new information, based on the author's highly acclaimed workshops. This book charts the course to success with clear examples and exercises, delivered with an acuity that many similarly sounding "how to write" guides don't begin to touch. Her material is anchored in the authoritative experience of a proven, successful author, who instinctively knows how to craft outstanding communications and demonstrates an intrinsic understanding of what makes the written word weak or powerful. In this second edition of Write to Influence! Carla produced another winning blend of a preeminent how-to guide for impactful messaging and an entertaining reading experience. Professionals in the workplace to students in high school and college, everyone can benefit from this book. Do yourself a favor... if you want to produce sterling results, this is well worth your time and investment!

The Needlecraft Shelf

Martingale & Company

Two fine quilting guides are recommended for novices and advanced quilters alike, offering original and new approaches to the art which expand quilting concepts and approaches. Sherri L. McConnell and Corey Yoder's Sunday Best Quilts: 12 Must-Make Quilts You'll Love Forever (9781683560045, $27.99) pairs two avid quilters' approaches with a set of six different quilt themes and varied designs that can be created from these different styles. From Pineapple to Red and White, these are themes that are expanded through author quilters who challenged each other to design a quilt in each style. Commentary from both designers compliments these projects, which come with full color photos throughout. Terry Atkinson's Follow Your Heart: 10 Fun-to-Make Quilts You'll Love (9781683560098, $25.99) will prove especially accessible to novices who are interested in both foundations of quilting and skills-building approaches, and comes from a designer who offers nine quilts from a beginning sampler to runners, bags, and more. All are based on blocks from the sampler quilt, and are inspired by different places and travels Terry Atkinson experienced. These are fine guides that newcomers and experienced quilters alike will appreciate.

The Cookbook Shelf

Burn the Ice
Kevin Alexander
Penguin Press
9780525558026, $28.00

Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End comes from a James Beard Award-winning food journalist who observed huge shifts in American cuisine and culinary invention as the chefs of Portland, Oregon rose to challenge those of the well-established New York City and San Francisco Bay Area environments. Portland's emphasis on casual fine dining sparked a culinary revolution that changed the face of cooking and culinary appreciation, and this survey combines a historical approach with a focus on Portland's evolving restaurateurs. Burn the Ice will prove of special interest to chefs, food fans, and anyone with more than a casual interest in modern American cuisine.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Kyle Books
c/o Octopus Books

Two new herbal guides are highly recommended picks for readers interested in herbal remedies and botanical applications for better health. Victoria Chown and Kim Walker of Handmade Apothecary's The Herbal Remedy Handbook: Treat Everyday Ailments Naturally, from Coughs & Colds to Anxiety & Eczema (9780857835024, $22.99) offers natural treatments for many common conditions, includes first aid and health interventions for conditions women to women, men, and children, and includes recipes for balms, tonics, and foods. The focus is on creating a kit of herbal remedies and applications for many common ailments, but the book goes beyond the usual alternative health guide to include such formulas as a rub that heals muscles and serves as a decongestant, a floral face toner to improve skin tone, a homemade antifungal power for jock itch or ringworm, and more. Access to a health food establishment or herbal shop is required for effective use of this handy home health book. Cinead McTernan's Grow Your Own Botanicals: Deliciously Productive Plants for Homemade Drinks, Remedies and Skincare (9780857835314, $24.99) focuses on plants that can be grown in a home garden and which add beauty to a garden as well as being used for practical uses in the home. From a herb and spice rub for roasts to burnet, cultivated for teas, mouthwashes, sore throats, or as an additive to spritzers, plant descriptions include growing information and care, notes on pests and harvest, storage, and both home remedy and recipe applications. The color photos of each plant make it easy to identify in a garden and add full-page color to the usage tips, creating an excellent all-round recommendation for gardeners and health collections alike.

The General Fiction Shelf

Moon Path
Steven Greenberg
Evolved Publishing
9781622532254, $14.95, Paper, $4.99, Kindle

Moon Path is historical novel writing at its best, and moves between the points of view of Samuel, who is sent from Poland to an arctic Soviet Gulag before World War II, and his brother Aron, who leaves Poland for Palestine. Readers of literary works that survey dreams, realities, and the process of rebuilding lives when everything falls apart will relish the astute observations, strong characters, and survival tactics of these individuals, who face obstacles with courage, fortitude, and determination. Moon Path should be on the shelves of any collection strong in Jewish literature or World War II history.

Suzanne Falter
New Heights Publishing
9780996998154, $4.99, Kindle

Destined adds another book to the Oaktown Girls series which is set in Oakland, California and revolves around a lesbian car garage owner and the circles she moves in. From issues of safety and unconditional love to career moves and community interactions, Destined captures not just the interactions and heart of Oakland's lesbian community, but the interpersonal challenges and growth opportunities all relationships afford. As the characters face their demons and grow, readers receive a compelling saga of hope, dreams, reflection, and renewal which deftly captures the California lesbian community's individual pursuits and spirit in a manner achieved by few other writers. California and lesbian readers will find Destined is thought-provoking, involving reading that considers the avenues of romance and personal growth alike, offering many insights as it traverses the roads of strong, determined women and their romantic connections to each other. Destined is very highly recommended as a revealing probe of love, entrapment, growth, and new possibilities.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Pawful Truth
Miranda James
Berkley Prime Crime
9780451491121, $26.00

The Pawful Truth provides a 'cat in the stacks' mystery revolving around grandfather Charlie, who enrolls in a medieval history course, only to find a fellow classmate, Dixie, is at odds with their professor. When she is killed, Charlie wonders if the professor had something to do with it, but when he begins investigating, a host of possibilities emerge which leads him into some dangerous relationships, another death, and a crime that requires Charlie to jeopardize his own life. An engrossing story emerges, with the masterful mystery punctuated by felines to further attract cat and mystery fanciers.

Forgotten Bones
Vivian Barz
Thomas & Mercer
9781542041638, $24.95

Forgotten Bones is set in small town Perrick, California, and tells of a car crash, a hidden grave, and the mystery of a little boy's death. It's a cold case that suddenly becomes hot, especially as the boy isn't the only victim. As more bodies of missing children emerge, Officer Susan Marlan can't resist lending her expertise and savvy to a case that leads her to defy orders to bring a perp to justice. The juxtaposition of a serial killer of children and a seasoned officer instructed to back away from a case she suspects she can solve makes for an intense, riveting mystery.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Jeremy Austin and the Paladin
Rod C. Spence
Gallant Press
9780999087947, $17.95, Paper, $9.99, Kindle

Jeremy Austin and the Paladin is young adult sci-fi thriller writing at its best: an exceptionally fast-paced story of mystery and magic revolving around technology's drive and dangers. This combination of elements might at first appear better suited to adult audiences, especially given its introductory background details on future biotech promises, citizen watchdog efforts to control it, and secret experiments conducted by corporations determined to turn a profit over either government concerns or citizen objections. Jeremy Austin and the Paladin deserves a place in the chronicles of epic fantasies that cross both genres and age groups, reaching well into adult readership even as it outlines an engrossing search for parents, place, and destiny. The cliffhanger ending portends more in the series. Jeremy Austin and the Paladin provides an excellent follow-up to War Worlds and is accessible to newcomers as well as prior fans of Jeremy Austin's remarkable exploits.

Ryan's Robot
Brian Kacica
Magic Penny Press

'Plastics' are attempting to infiltrate human society in insidious ways, and a few astute people aren't having it in Ryan's Robot, which moves between real people and the robots which are replacing them. There's a lot happening in Ryan's Robot, and no singular robot is at the heart of these events. From the introduction of Eva and her little robotic dog who try to get the residents of a small community used to the benefits of 'plastics' living alongside real people to the motivations of a son and magician who seeks to translate magic to life's challenges, Ryan's Robot takes some unexpected turns. The result is a read which holds futuristic elements but is not quite sci-fi; crimes which can't quite be identified as such because their victims aren't human; an evolving romantic element which takes an unexpected turn; and even a futuristic time-travel theme that keeps readers guessing about where the story will end up. Readers who appreciate multifaceted novels that hold no linear path to resolution will find Ryan's Robot a delightfully complex, even whimsical survey of the impact of robotics and special interests in one community, and possibly the world.

Baen Books

Two new sci-fi books from Baen are top recommendations for readers of alien invasion or zombie scenarios. T.C. McCarthy's Tyger Burning (9781481484107, $16.00) is a riveting alien invasion story about a Burmese military unit member whose leader, Maung, is being hunted for the atrocities his unit committed during the war. When aliens threaten mankind, however, a new escape route to the stars seems to give Maung a new beginning as he travels to the stars, finds love, and discovers an ongoing conflict embroils him and his people even from afar. An engrossing alien story with a difference proves hard to put down. John Ringo and Mike Massa's River of Night (9781481484213, $25.00) provides a new novel in the Black Tide Rising series for zombie enthusiasts and tells of Tom Smith and a few survivors who have escaped zombie New York. Heading for the hills of Tennessee per an evacuation plan, he and his people face a dangerous journey across a much-changed country of infected and non-infected people. And surviving the journey isn't the only problem: at stake is an attempt to rebuild civilization itself. A riveting horror/thriller piece emerges.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

These three outstanding audio listens from Hachette are top recommendations for listeners and collections seeking something different. Each provides an absorbing story that will linger in the mind long after the audio is done. James Patterson works with Emily Raymond in Sophia, Princess Among Beasts (9781549197598, $30.00), the story of a beloved princess devoted to her kingdom until a series of events results in her imprisonment in a fantasy realm of beasts even as her realm is threatened. Gemma Dawson provides a gripping voice perfect for bringing out the mystery and drama in this story of life and death. David Baldacci's One Good Deed (9781549151941, $40.00) receives a solid narration by Edoardo Ballerini, a winner of the 2013 and 2019 Audie Award for Solo Male Narration. Ballerini's voice has powered many a story to success and is no less evocative here, where it brings to life the new character of Archer, a former World War II soldier who has just left prison after serving time for a crime he didn't commit. Set in 1949, it tells of small towns, powerful political and social influences, a murder, and the hunt for a deadly killer. Janet Fitch's Chimes of a Lost Cathedral (9781549175763, $50.00) receives a fine narration by Yelena Shmulenson, whose voice is the perfect match for this ongoing epic Marina Makarova story. Here Marina, heroine of the Revolution of Marina M, is alone and pregnant in the aftermath of the Russian Civil War. Herr home is nearly unrecognizable, but even in the midst of change, Marina finds new passions in caring for orphans and growing new interests in this powerful saga of social change and a young woman's challenges. All are powerful stories spiced by readers who know what they are doing and who bring the tales to life.

The California Shelf

Spooky California
Retold by S.E. Schlosser
Globe Pequot
9781483040773, $17.95

Spooky California: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore is especially recommended for California readers interested in statewide folklore and spooky legends, and retells many classics, which are embellished in black and white by artist Paul G. Hoffman. From ghosts and haunted houses such as the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose to a Los Angeles story of a notorious flirt, these stories are diverse and intriguing, capturing both well-known tales that will be familiar to California residents and lesser-known, haunting stories.

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

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