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The Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 2 February 2024 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Cookbook Shelf Pets Shelf
Autism Shelf Science Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Growing Up Army
Robert R. Heath Sr.
Warren Publishing
9781960146557, $30.95 Hardcover/$18.95 Paper

Growing Up Army: The Story Of A Soldier, His Loving Wife, And Their Nine Adventurous Army Brats Traveling The World In Service To Our Country is a powerful, enlightening chronicle of what it means to be a family participating in Army life, providing a service to others by documenting the daily routines of a military family.

This isn't your usual two-children family. Nine kids and two parents made numerous journeys, as military service required. Robert R. Heath was one of these family members, and his account of what it meant to "grow up Army" captures, as few other stories do, the impact of the nomadic life that gave so much to country and, in turn, built a family rich in values and flexibility: "Through all our lives, as Army Brats, we had to deal with the heartbreak of constant separation from good friends due to the normal rotation of Dad's assignments. Then occasionally we had the great joy of meeting them again a few years down the road at another base. Growing up Army means never having roots to any one "hometown."

As the third of nine "Army brats," Robert learned not only to survive, but thrive. Family adventures and growth experiences blend in a multi-generational effort to draw together family history and stories of military associations, achievements, and life. These, in turn, strengthen and add historic dimensions into this story.

Readers who come from Army roots themselves will well recognize many of the challenges and opportunities this lifestyle presented to the author, while those with little familiarity with Army life but a real interest in how families (especially large ones) develop will find many thought-provoking insights accompanying the adventures the family navigated and absorbed.

Whether presenting a child's illicit adventure encounter with Chinese soldiers or learning about differences between Army and civilian life, Growing Up Army synthesizes the wealth and variety of life experiences that can only be found in the world of "Army brats": "Experiencing all the differences in how other people lived has always been one of the great benefits all of us Brats express when talking about growing up Army."

The result is lively, fun, and unexpected -- a story that holds the power to attract not just military families and those about to enter service, but general-interest readers, who will enjoy a rollicking ride through cultural interactions and family dynamics. Libraries and readers interested in Army experiences will find much to appreciate in Growing Up Army, which is highly recommended for a wide audience.

The Cookbook Shelf

Kitchen Gear: The Ultimate Owner's Manual
Lisa McManus and Hannah Crowley
America's Test Kitchen
9781954210691, $40.00 HC, $24.99 Kindle, 432pp

Kitchen Gear: The Ultimate Owner's Manual is especially highly recommended for cooks who don't already have their kitchens outfitted with the latest and greatest gadgets. It will save these novices a lot of time in the kitchen as it recommends skillets that produce predictably easy results, ice cream makers that churn out superior blends, coffee makers that excel in high-quality flavor, and more. Many may be surprised to learn that the right tool, even in a kitchen environment, will make all the difference not only in ease, but outcomes. Kitchen Gear is packed with expert tips on what is and is not useful in a kitchen. It should be the first book consulted when building a kitchen from scratch (once the walls are up).

Wok for Less
Ching-He Huang
Kyle Books
c/o Octopus Books
9781804191590, $29.99 HC, $14.99 Kindle, 208pp

So many books about Chinese, Asian, and wok cooking are on the market that one might wonder at the need for yet another, but Wok for Less: Budget-Friendly Asian Meals in 30 Minutes or Less is ideal for the busy cook who always presumed that making Asian food at home was too labor-intensive (or special-ingredient-specific) to be worth the effort. Ching-He Huang offers new creative ideas on how to stretch the meat and seafood in Asian dishes to make the most of a budget, organizing dishes into cook-friendly chapters, from Budget Chop Suey to Entertaining, Sharing & Leftover Meals. Dishes come with full-color photos to entice all eaters with such fare as Spicy Sweet Oyster Sauce Prawns with Pine Nuts or Roast Hoisin Chicken Wings - all of which can be made in a snap. Cooks looking for Chinese cookbooks that are appealing, different, and which put the 'quick and budget-minded' back into the kitchen and on the table will find Wok for Less a winning choice.

Coffee Art Masterclass
Dhan Tamang
c/o Octopus Books
9781788404648, $14.99 HC, $6.99 Kindle, 128pp

Coffee Art Masterclass: 50 Incredible Coffee Designs for the Home Barista is for coffee lovers who always admired the artistic bent of professional coffee house drink creators, and who wish to create homemade coffee using the same decorative skills. Dhan Tamang provides a surprisingly diverse set of creative options, from images based on surrealistic elements and art to seasonal designs, animals and birds from nature, and more. The color options will surprise any who associate barista art with one-dimensional shades of brown, making Coffee Art Masterclass of particular interest to coffee fans that would put the time into finishing touches. No special equipment required is an added bonus, here!

The Pets Shelf

Barking Up the Right Tree
Dr. Ian Dunbar
New World Library
9781608687718, $29.95 HC, $12.99 Kindle, 376pp

Barking Up the Right Tree: The Science and Practice of Positive Dog Training joins other books on the subject of canine management systems, but with a difference: it comes from a dog training expert who introduced his SIRIUS Puppy Training in 1982. It was a positive reinforcing approach that, at the time, was considered revolutionary. Now that positive reinforcement training is widely accepted, his new book presents yet another diversion to traditional thinking, arguing that the typical "reward/punishment" routines dog trainers adopt too often fail ... and Dr. Dunbar shows why. Readers seeking different training choices that embrace not just new routines, but an entirely different way of viewing behavior management in canines, will welcome Barking Up the Right Tree as a lesson in positivity thinking and training alike.

The Autism Shelf

Notes for Neuro Navigators
Jolene Stockman
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
9781839978685, $13.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 144pp

Notes for Neuro Navigators: The Allies' Quick-Start Guide to Championing Neurodivergent Brains celebrates neurodiversity and champions its development in autistic loved ones, offering caregivers, helpers, and friends concrete information on how to support their advocacy and aid intentions. From strategies for fostering personal safety and understanding triggers and breaking points to navigating life's challenges and typical family and public challenges, Jolene Stockman considers a host of situations, support systems, and choices. These will prove essential for understanding and aiding neurodivergent individuals in all kinds of situations. Libraries catering to readers interested in psychology, neurodivergent issues, and autism in particular will welcome this strategy guide.

The Science Shelf

Roadside Geology of Kansas
James S. Aber, Susan E.W. Aber, and Michael J. Everhart
Mountain Press Publishing Company
9780878427154, $26.00, PB, 318pp

Roadside Geology of Kansas should be on any destination traveler's reading list, to be used as a take-along tote for those planning to explore Kansas, who harbor an appreciation of geology. Sixteen roads, including all the state's scenic byways, are covered in a trip that not only points out geologic landmarks that might otherwise be missed, but discusses the history and influences on their making, preservation, and appearance. Packed with inviting glossy color photos, route suggestions, and science, Roadside Geology of Kansas is the perfect gift for any Kansas resident and those looking to explore the state's wonders.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Baen Books

Charles E. Gannon's Protected Species (9781982193072, $26.00) adds to the best-selling Caine Riordan series. Here, Caine and his companions have overcome battles, aliens, and environmental attacks. They've even overcome the ferocious x'qao, who consider other species vermin and take pleasure in eradicating them. As Caine and his troupe make friends in their pursuit of survival long-term, they grapple with forces both natural and human that would rid the world of them. An epic story replete with battles, action, and intrigue makes for a compelling story.

Timothy Zahn's The Icarus Twin (9781982193058, $28.00) tells of Gregory and his partner Selene, who have a new job undercover, working with the Icarus Group to locate teleportation portals that have been left behind by an alien race eons ago. When the realize they are being stalked, they manage to locate and confront their spook; but when he turns up murdered, Roarke becomes a major suspect. Intrigue, aliens, and locating lost portals fuel a story replete in adventure and action.

Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell edit Down These Mean Streets: The Dark Side of the City (9781982193126, $28.00), which offers stories by Correia and Ezell, Marisa Wolf, Laurell K. Hamilton, and others. They each create a blend of sci-fi and hardboiled noir investigations that bring the darkness of urban territory to life in a different way that embraces sci-fi and fantasy elements. The result is a diverse collection of intrigue and noir problem-solving that a wide range of readers, from sci-fi to hardboiled mystery fans, will find thoroughly engrossing.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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