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The Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 2 February 2022 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Sports Shelf Religion/Spirituality Shelf
Science Shelf Biography Shelf General Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

The Adult Side of Dyslexia
Kelli Sandman-Hurley
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
P.O. Box 960, Herndon, VA 20172-0960
9781787754751, $19.95

The Adult Side of Dyslexia offers a particular focus on dyslexic adults, and is a much-needed title that stands out from the crowd of many books that focus on the educational challenges faced by dyslexic students. It features interviews with dyslexic adults who comment on their education, the impact of dyslexia on mental well-being and literacy, and strategies employed to handle mental and everyday challenges. Also included are parenting tips for those with dyslexic children, who find both their child's struggles and their own conditions may affect their parenting choices. This much-needed guide is highly recommended reading for parenting and self-help collections alike.

The Sports Shelf

Golf 360
Stephen Altschuler
Sacajawea Press
9798475167342, $16.99

It's unusual to find a golf book that can appeal to a wide audience of all types of players. Typically, golf coverages are tailored either to newcomers to the sport, or those already well versed in golf who seek to improve their swings or learn more advanced techniques. Golf 360: For Current Players and Those Who Are Considering the Game lives up to its subtitle by providing lessons and appeal for all levels of player. All that's required is a prior interest in the game.

Another plus that sets Golf 360 apart from competing golf titles is its well-rounded approach, which adds spiritual and psychological components into the discussion of playing and improving. Instructions cover such basics as keeping a steady head during shots, learning new techniques from the pros, and deconstructing different methods employed by golfers who hold a proven track record of success. Instructions in the first segment cover the physical aspects of golf, but the heart of this survey lies in its second and third sections, which cover mental aspects of golf shots and how to troubleshoot common problems and barriers to success.

Each segment includes case history examples and is delivered in a lively, personal tone that instructs, educates, and entertains. Readers may expect (and receive) the lessons on techniques, rules, and improving one's game; but the surprise inclusion of spiritual and psychological lessons are just as astute and important to success. Making them an intrinsic part of the instruction and pairing them with case history examples of revised approaches to golf not only sets Golf 360 apart from most of the other golf how-to books on the market, but places it in a special category of its own. It's highly recommended for all levels of player, those who would better understand golf from a spectator viewpoint, and for any library collection where golf attracts patrons.

The Religion/Spirituality Shelf

Peaceful Heart, Warrior Spirit
Dan Millman
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato CA 04040
9781608687909, $17.95

Peaceful Heart, Warrior Spirit: The True Story of My Spiritual Quest provides a memoir about the author's spiritual awakening and follows his passage from questioning youth to adulthood. During the course of this journey, he captures a way of living that embraces peace and strength alike, discussing the impact of mentors who inspired not only a different approach to spirituality that resulted in his best-selling Way of the Peaceful Warrior, but the circumstances that led to his attraction to and influence by each type of mentor. The result is a vivid study in growth that will especially be appreciated by prior Millman readers, but also by any on the road to spiritual discovery and self-improvement.

The Science Shelf

Mountain Press Publishing Company
P.O. Box 2399, Missoula MT 59806

Two new geology books in the 'Rocks' series survey different states' geologic formations and how they came to be, and are highly recommended for collections located in each state as well as libraries interested in travel and science books.

Magdalena S. Donahue and Marli B. Miller's Colorado Rocks! A Guide to Geologic Sites in the Centennial State (9780878427055, $22.00) features fifty sites that represent the many different geologic landscapes of Colorado. From a canyon that, today, holds no river to mounds of colorful silica at Pagosa Springs and the Chalk Cliffs of Mt. Princeton, attractive and good-sized color photos of each area accompany geologic discussions of how that area came to be. The contrast between vastly different geologic events and their lasting heritage is nicely done, designed to appeal to science readers and novices alike.

Nathalie Brandes's New Mexico Rocks! A Guide to Geologic Sites in the Land of Enchantment (9780878427048, $22.00) features some sixty of the state's outstanding sites, which range from the remnants of volcanic activity to the White Sands of gypsum, the caves of Carlsbad, and the evident of dinosaurs to be found at Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. Beautiful color photos of each site accompany maps, geologic discussions, and travel tips for those destination-bound visitors. Both books excel in a blend of travel-oriented practical details and scientific insights that help explain these sites, making for top recommendations for science and travel collections alike.

The Biography Shelf

Not Book Club Material
Aaron Zevy
Tumbleweed Press Inc.
9798596940893, $10.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Not Book Club Material is a memoir packed with wry humor, mouth-watering revelations, and insights that are candid, thought-provoking, and fun all in one.

The introduction to this collection captures all these facets in a few succinct lines: "Before my first collection came out, I toyed with the notion of adding a recipe section in the middle of the book because many of the stories were about the Egyptian Jewish food I was raised on. Books, especially self-published story collections by completely unknown former powder paint salesmen are, as it turns out, surprisingly hard to market and I thought the recipes might be a compelling hook. One July morning, over a breakfast of scrambled eggs at the cottage, I made the mistake of casually suggesting it might be of interest for book clubs. I actually thought it was a pretty good idea. This led my sister-in-law to utter the sentence which became the family's favorite line in the summer of 2020. "Your book," she said in her completely honest and unfiltered style, "is not book club material."

Thus, the title was born...and a rollicking ride through a life that introduces (and quickly answers) the question of what makes a good book club read and why this book likely doesn't fit that definition: "Book clubs, they explained, read thick best-selling novels with complicated themes, motifs, and plotlines. Grey matter material they could discuss over coffee and low-fat gluten-free banana muffins. They went on to list a bunch of books as examples. Most of them appeared to have the word Crawdad in the title. Anyway, book clubs, they stated emphatically, did not read short story collections." This belays the point that book clubs, above all, enjoy vivid, thought-provoking material.

Ironically, Not Book Club Material's stories represent these very things, and it would be a shame if book clubs judged the title by the size of its tales. Here lies bright, sparkling jewels of insight and experience in fun mix of reality and fantasy that features a host of characters and dilemmas and more than light references to food. Take the opening story, 'Home Made Cake'. Here, facts about his mother's Cairo life meld with the memory of a Cairo French patisserie owned by Greeks, called Home Made Cake. Zevy brings to life the atmosphere of Cairo and his family's love for this quirky place: "...every time they spoke about the patisserie on rue Ismaili Pasha I never, not once, heard the words Home Made Cake. Only Om Met Kek. Of all the food my family was nostalgic about after leaving Egypt, the one they missed the most was not Egyptian at all. It was from Home Made Cake." The strange pronunciation comes back to haunt him in adulthood when Zevy decides to get to the heart of his memories about Home Made Cake, only to stand corrected.

The delightful family stories usually conclude with ironic twists. Each stand-alone piece adds to the strength of the collection as a whole, providing enticing tidbits of facts and whimsy to delight the heart and mind like sugar on the tongue. Perhaps now, more than ever, there is an exceptional need for the laughter, fun, and family reflections of the stories in Not Book Club Material. And these facets make for, ironically, perfect book club material indeed as readers navigate the Jewish culture, Egyptian heritage, and observations of food, love, and learning that permeate this collection.

Jewish, literary, and general-interest humor and memoir readers who delight stories of in food and family will all find Not Book Club Material a major attraction. And, yes, book clubs interested in any of these subjects should put it high on their reading lists.

The General Fiction Shelf

The 31 Near-Death Experiences of Jenny Black
F.E. Shearer
Pumpjack Press
9781734519747, $16.95 Print; $7.99 eBook

Loretta Sparkman is becoming a zombie in The 31 Near-Death Experiences of Jenny Black. It's not the brain-eating specter of horror novels; but rather, Loretta reflects that "I'm certainly not hungry for brains. And it's not that my ability to think and be smart and read and talk and love and so on is gone. It's just, I'm no longer sure who's doing that stuff anymore. Like, there's no 'I' inside me." Matthias, her husband, responds with questions about the specific way in which Loretta is fading from life and emotional connections.

As the story evolves, so do ethical considerations that move from the introductory description of Loretta's changing state of mind to events that provoke medical conundrums and social inspection.

F.E. Shearer's story is compelling on several levels. First, it excels in character descriptions that capture underlying emotions and reactions in a succinct, hard-hitting manner: "Loretta sees in the slump of his shoulders - pushed down now by the weight of a decades-old scream - a man determined to do good in the world."

As Loretta moves from increasingly reactive, zombie-like response to life to embracing a host of new challenges, she becomes involved in a case of misplaced sperm (a PR nightmare for the university where she works) and simultaneously, her childhood friend Jenny's near-death occurrences. Each holds special challenges to her and her work for the university, forcing Loretta to re-engage with life in a different manner than she chose in the past. Her friend, world traveler Jenny, is on the cusp of a new experience for 2020. And it doesn't involve predictable change, either for her or for Loretta. Jenny has had twenty-two near death experiences, which medicine has yet to explain. Her ability to draw Loretta into a strange new world of possibilities embraces many evolving issues that change both their lives.

Readers won't anticipate the concurrent development of issues related to medical research, including bias in mental illness diagnoses, treatment, and progression; scientific racism; and the cosmological limitations of cultural analysis.

As consciousness, neuroscience research into the nature of reality, and spiritual and philosophical elements are brought into play, Loretta and Jenny find their connections changing on more than one level. Readers will find in The 31 Near-Death Experiences of Jenny Black a story that evolves on many thought-provoking levels. Those who anticipated a zombie horror scenario from the book's opening introduction will instead find a delightfully unexpected series of inspections into social and medical communities that comes full circle in a surprising way.

Collections strong in stories about social and medical issues will find The 31 Near-Death Experiences of Jenny Black riveting reading that considers self, ego, and how near-death experiences lead to revisions of life, death, and what lies between them.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Michele Packard
Platform Publishing
9798691626647, $4.99 digital, $9.99 paperback, $19.99 hardback

Counterintelligence takes place in a world where a virus has changed everything, and opens with an astute inspection of the changing political climate in the U.S., which is seeing its freedoms erode from a deluge misinformation and misunderstandings. Matti and her family of genetically altered intelligence pros stand in the middle of this hurricane of change virtually alone, since the President who had employed her is no more, and a new administration leaves her team in limbo.

That's not to say that she's idle. Far from it. She maintains a professional acuity during nonstop action that places herself, her family, and her friends in a crescendo of investigation and danger that challenges even their supercharged abilities.

Counterintelligence takes place in a very believable world reinforced by current events. Michele Packard takes the time to explore motivations, changing loyalties, challenging choices and impossible consequences, and political changes. This mix of thriller and social and political inspection keeps the action fast-paced, but what really powers the story is Matti's ongoing exploits, courage, and determination.

If the characters seem larger-than-life in their ability to confront their enemies and each other, that's because the story itself is intrinsically woven into a milieu of believable events that keep the characters (and their readers) on their toes and hyper-aware. A wry sense of humor lends comic relief ("Does Doc McHottie realize that he probably won't be working in the public sector anymore, after this?"), while Matti's determination fuels a series of proactive responses to her changing situation.

A heady dialogue that connects characters and reinforces their purposes also keeps the story riveting. Readers of thrillers use to the usual pragmatic approach of heroes will find something different in Matti: a sassy sense of purpose and courage that dictates her actions and confrontations to keep her not just realistic and likeable, but thoroughly engrossing. The musical references and contemporary song lyrics that pass through Matti's mind during the action scenes will especially delight contemporary pop music fans. How has Matti's world been changed from birth onwards by an edict to protect America?

This thriller moves from past to present and considers a much-changed future in a manner that will attract political fiction readers as well as fans of espionage, action, and powerful female protagonists. Counterintelligence is very highly recommended for its unique brand of social inspection and death-defying action.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

That Was Now, This is Then
Michael Z. Williamson
Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781982125769, $25.00

That Was Now, This is Then represents military sci-fi and alternate history at their best. It tells of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan flung back to the Paleolithic Age, along with other historical figures from different eras. As new allies and foes emerged from the fracas, the team survived and even found a way back home.

Enter the present, where humans from the far future have done the same thing to another group of humans, standing them in the past. Sometimes, it's not enough to survive. Sometimes duty calls upon the soldier to return to fight again. Thus it is that Sean Elliott, having survived one time-travel disaster, is called upon, with his veterans, to rescue another time-stranded team. The gripping, unpredictable scenarios make for a story that is gripping and involving as past, present, and future circumstances collide.

1637: The Coast of Chaos
Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett, and Gorg Huff
Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781982125776, $25.00

Prior fans of Eric Flint's classic 1637 Ring of Fire stories will enjoy the short novel and stories in 1637: The Coast of Chaos, which adds more segments to the adventure, expanding the political conflicts that keep the stranded West Virginia town residents on their toes on the past. In this story, the newly formed United States of Europe has made an agreement that holds the possibility of abolishing slavery... until the French send invading troops to New England to create a special form of chaos that may change the future irrevocably. Fast-paced tales emerge that will delight Eric Flint readers with compelling drama and new events.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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