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The Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 3 March 2023 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Cookbook Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Philosophy Shelf Divorce Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Disability Pride
Ben Mattlin
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth St, Boston, MA 02210
9780807036457, $26.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Audio CD/$13.99 Kindle

The Americans With Disabilities Act reshaped the face of access in America; but until now, its impact on generations pre- and post-ADA has received relatively little close inspection. This is why Disability Pride is such a notable landmark examination, and why any library strong in disability issues needs to include it in their collection.

Ben Mattlin, himself disabled, notes the social, economic, and political influences that define "success" as well as "disability" and "achievement." His exact attention to not just historical developments and social change, but the platitudes and cliches surrounding the perception of disability provides quick (and sometimes brutal) condemnation of the facets of society that would either condemn or overly praise the disabled community for attempting to live life at its fullest. He also considers the hard questions of privilege and the influence of gender, sex, and economic status in the disability mix.

His definition of 'disability pride' of necessity involves the kind of blunt inspection that will likely make readers uncomfortable as they examine their own perceptions of ability, disability, and what constitutes pride: "I inadvertently picked up on a kind of disability code that was common then: minimize the impact, hide it, sweep it aside as a mere personal detail - and get on with your life. This, I see now, was the opposite of disability pride."

Perhaps nowhere else does the impact of the ADA to cut across gender and class status to enable the community to not just enter mainstream America, but take fuller advantage of its possibilities, receive such attention as in Disability Pride. With its history, social inspection, contrast of experiences of different generations of disabled individuals, and the ADA's role in changing the hearts and minds of an entire nation,

Disability Pride provokes the kinds of discussions and insights that should appeal widely to reading groups and those debating generational differences in disability experiences. As Mattlin reviews profiles of a wide-ranging series of individuals, it becomes evident that there is no homogeneity among disabled people. The group's very diversity indicates that its needs, experiences, and perceptions differ widely. All this stirs into the melting pot of the disabled and abled community alike, with the ADA at the heart of new promise and potential for future generations.

Indeed, it's a beginning. Disability Pride should take center place in any discussion of past, present, and future inclusive actions and perceptions of the disabled community as a whole.

The Cookbook Shelf

SatisFRY: The Air Fryer Cookbook
Mona Dolgov
You Live Right Publishers
9781736675618, $19.99 Paper/$8.99 Kindle

SatisFRY: The Air Fryer Cookbook should be boxed along with one's new air fryer as a basic manual to both using the fryer and linking its cooking method to healthier eating practices. Specific meals, such as breakfasts or snacks, accompany dishes such as desserts. The latter may not immediately come to the mind of a new owner of an air fryer, but needs to be explored as part of the fryer's wide-ranging possible applications. The introduction begins with a discussion of which fryer accessories should be added to one's kitchen tools to expand the air fryer's potential. This moves into a discussion of spices, then a chapter of breakfast recipes. These form a foundation of knowledge for the different uses of the air fryer, from baking muffins to making "perfect" grilled sandwiches. Rather than attempting an all-encompassing cookbook, each dish is designed to profile the different types of cooking possible in the air fryer. Appealing, full-page color photos of finished dishes add visual emphasis to the ways in which the air fryer excels over many conventional approaches. Chapters move on to complete meals with the same attention to methods of cooking, nutritional content, and Mona's own tips for shopping for ingredients or adding value to the recipes. The result should ideally be presented to a new air fryer owner, along with the device. It's the easiest way of getting started quickly and pursuing all the different options the air fryer holds for producing a wide range of dishes.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Memoirs of Spurius
D. Laszlo Conhaim
Broken Arrow Press
9780984317547, $TBA

At first glance, contemporary readers - particularly those who are not intrinsically attracted to the genre of historical fiction - might not realize the gem they hold in their hands with Memoirs of Spurius. The story features a figure who lived in second-century BCE Rome, and whose actions crushed the cult of Bacchus. It will take an open mind to new possibilities in historical writing and one able to spot connections between the ancient and modern world to uncover the delights embedded in Memoirs of Spurius. The novel draws many parallels between the past and present, from cultism and terrorism to the actions of a leader whose choices not only influence but transform his world.

D. Laszlo Conhaim's efforts in recreating and depicting the times are particularly notable, given the dearth of information about these events. Close attention to the historical record and archaeological evidence helped fill in many gaps. Our narrator, Spurius Postumius Albinus, thus comes to life as a believable character whose actions as Romeís consul are understandable within the context of his circumstances and which surprisingly foreshadow the politics of today.

One way Conhaim makes his story so vivid and relevant, even for readers with little to no prior familiarity with ancient Rome, is in the use of the First Person to bring Spurius to life as he recounts and ponders his duties in bringing order to a threatened society:

"Still rivaled by neighbors on the Italian peninsula, the state was weaker then, but by the age of my consulship we had subdued every major enemy at home and also abroad. Thus, when we suddenly discovered the state threatened by an internal foe, some of my colleagues in the Senate suggested that the gods were punishing us for having neglected public morals at home in favor of building the empire. Now, if the godsí method of exposing our slippage was indeed to threaten Rome with a false and pestilent religion, then they had consequently made me the champion of her moral revival."

The political and social struggles that unfold, and the moral and ethical questions that arise, offer countless discussion topics for book clubs.

For example:

"As the cult gained in popularity and influence throughout Italy so did the amount of chattel offered to the god for the maintenance and enjoyment of his rites. Thus the wealth of the sect burgeoned to a size comparable with the treasury of a small state. Through free will or coercion, people began signing away whole estates and bequeathing legacies to or through the cult, in effect giving Italy away to the Bacchanalians..."

Indeed, so many thought-provoking talking points arise from this novel that it would be impossible for one review to detail them all. Nor would it be wise to expose all the elements of surprise and insight embedded in this powerful exploration.

Suffice it to say that Memoirs of Spurius shatters any notion that a work about ancient Rome will be one weighed down by plodding facts. Under Conhaim's hand, Memoirs of Spurius is lively, timely, and holds so many possibilities for debate that it earns top recommendation for libraries and readers alike.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

What Price Victory?
David Weber
Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781982192419, $27.00

What Price Victory? is the seventh book in the Worlds of Honor series begun by David Weber, and provides new stories by Weber, Timothy Zahn and Thomas Pope, and others who contribute their space opera tales to expand the 'Honorverse.' Military sci-fi fans, especially those with prior familiarity with Weber's world, will find the action-packed collection compliment the new Weber novella "First Victory" and provide a diverse series of compelling adventures to attract newcomers to Weber's universe.

Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471

Two new releases from Baen are intriguing works that deserve attention from sci-fi audiences.

Simon R. Green's Dead Man Walking (9781982192433, $17.00) returns supernatural detective Ishmael Jones to a new case. Here, he confronts the murder of a rogue secret agent whose body vanishes. All this takes place in one of the most secure interrogation centers in the world. Ishmael's probe into the mystery reveals secrets and too many deaths as sci-fi blends with intrigue in a moving story of revelation and change.

David Boop edits High Noon on Proxima B (9781982192426, $18.00), packed with ten tales of an alternate West which may not exist in past history, but in the future. From a Western being filmed on a colony ship which turns all too real for its participants to a soldier hiding from her choices, the collection features a few familiar names such as Walter Jon Williams paired with others such as Thea Hutcheson and David Boop to create a diverse display of disparate talents that take the Western theme, integrate with sci-fi elements, and produce rollicking good tales.

The Philosophy Shelf

Sam Harris: Critical Responses
Sandra Woien, Editor
Open Universe
315 - 5th St., Peru IL 61354
9781637700242, $24.95

Sam Harris: Critical Responses blends philosophy with political science in a survey that intersects both disciplines by examining thinker Sam Harris and his ideas. Nineteen critical essays consider a wide range of Harris's social and political ideals, from how his Moral Landscape treatise works to his neuroscientific training and how it lends a particular perspective to his views of AI technology, superintelligence, and other scientific evolutionary processes. The result requires a prior familiarity with Sam Harris and his works, but will prove enlightening to those with such a background, or students interested in philosophical debates about his works and perspectives.

The Divorce Shelf

My Husband Chose The Homewrecker Over Me, Now What?
Yolanda Randolph & Roshonda N. Blackmon
9781734385380, Paperback: $17.99; E-book: $9.99; Hardcover: $20.00

My Husband Chose The Homewrecker Over Me, Now What? makes a big promise to its readers from the start -- the promise of recovery from heartache and betrayal in love:

"With each chapter, I'll take you through my own personal burn, sharing stories of my process of maneuvering past my heartache and divorce in hopes that my story will be a motivation for you to push past your pain and to focus on your healing."

This is a candid account about being burned, confronting bad choices and unintended good consequences, and the process of facing betrayal and reconstruction. It features an eye to salvaging not just one's financial life, but emotional connections to life, faith, and new possibilities in love. The roller-coaster of emotions experienced during this journey is explored with a sassy, lively voice that reviews the peaks and valleys of infidelity and divorce. The advice to fellow women who are walking the same path comes not from a psychotherapist or relationship expert, but one who has confronted her own heartbreak, illusions, healing, and recovery process.

Yolanda Randolph and Roshonda N. Blackmon explore all these elements and more, following what happens when a marriage breaks apart. Many books on the market seem to offer similar-sounding approaches; but what sets My Husband Chose The Homewrecker Over Me, Now What? apart from most others is its candid blend of memoir and self-help exploration, which adopts both a determined tone and one that exposes all the raw moments of heartbreak and the processes that strengthen the soul.

From exes who, like ghosts, seem to "come back again and again" to haunt and thwart recovery to moving on to the tests of character and misunderstandings that emerge from different situations when one attempts to lead a Christian-based life, Randolph and Blackmon pull no punches in either Randolph's candid assessment of herself or the situations that draw her towards or away from her foundation of faith. Another difference lays in the chapter about kids and the impact of infidelity, heartbreak, and emotional currents in the home. Readers receive the astute admonition that " need time to process, too, after breakups, changes, and divorce. There was a void in their lives, too, just as much as there was one in my life."

The story goes on to expand into the scenario of a stepfather also departing: "First their father is gone and now this! The stepfather may not be the biological father, but his presence is still missed around the house when he's no longer around."

The in-depth details about the household impacts of such events offers readers much food for thought about the adjustments and clashes between all family members as healing takes place, and is an invaluable part of the curative process that's often missed in books about divorce and recovery. The result is a Christian-based examination of marriage, lapses, recovery, and redemption that places the onus of strength on the woman who faces a home-wrecking situation and emerges from it to forge a new life not just for herself, but her whole family.

Libraries strong in Christian stories of redemption, revitalization, and rejuvenation will find the honest tone and practical insights into recovering from a breakup offers not just much food for thought, but many discussion points that Christian reading groups can raise and learn from.

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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