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California Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 8 August 2019 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Education Shelf Health/Medicine Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Needlecraft Shelf Theatre/Cinema Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Audiobook Shelf Journalism Shelf
Cookbook Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

For Good of Country: The Plot to Kill an American President
Thomas E. Sawyer, PhD. JD
Living History Publishing House
9781732737105, $14.97, Paperback
9781732737112, Hard Cover

For Good of Country: The Plot to Kill an American President adds yet another book to the chronicles of conspiracy surrounding the murder of John F. Kennedy, but focuses heavily on the actions of the U.S. government's role in blocking public access to information about the assassination. This focus pairs a political coverage of Kennedy's rise to presidential status with a survey of the Warren Commission's presumptions, failures, and Oswald's questionable status as a lone assassin acting independently.

While many of these considerations appear in other books on the subject, of particular note here is Thomas E. Sawyer's survey of apparent attempts made by the U.S. Government, immediately after the assassination, to quash any public notion of the existence of either other assassins or a conspiracy. Why? Dramatic embellishments lend to this story's appearance of a novel, including dialogue, which may deter more scholarly readers who prefer their investigations firmly rooted in facts rather than reconstructed possibilities, but readers of true crime and political intrigue will find these touches appealing. It also should be remembered that the basic premise is (as with other Kennedy treatises) hypothetical, so some poetic license in description and reenactments is allowable.

Sawyer's ability to add political analysis of government entities and their choices at different levels of involvement creates a survey different from many competing Kennedy examinations.

The result is an unusually lively, dramatically embellished, but thought-provoking read that sheds new light not just on Kennedy's assassination, but the actions, motivations, and role of the American government itself.

The Education Shelf

Clarity for Learning
John Almarode and Kara Vandas
9781506384696, $34.95

Clarity for Learning: Five Essential Practices That Empower Students and Teachers provides teachers with an easy approach to developing clarity in the teaching process, helping teachers define clarity, its processes, how to share and give feedback with clarify, and how to use it as a better collaborative tool. One of the big strengths of this approach is the inclusion of insights from teachers in the field, who supply visuals of their own classroom approaches and processes. From timing opportunities to modeling independence, this book's range of insights specific to classroom processes should not be missed.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

B.O.P. Cancer: The Fight is Real
April L. Jones, PhD.
Visionary Consulting Services, LLC
9781986062138, $25.00

In order to understand the basic premise of B.O.P. Cancer: The Fight is Real, a different approach to cancer management, it is first necessary to receive the definition of 'B.O.P' which Dr. Jones provides in the opening introduction of her book: "B.O.P Cancer is the slang expression for knocking out (K.O.) cancer." Why 'B.O.P'? It also serves as an acronym from the four types of cancer addressed in the book series (breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers). B.O.P. Cancer fills many gaps in cancer literature by providing a self-help, psychological inspection of various approaches to cancer's mental and physical challenges and how to overcome cancer's mental effects. There is no singular approach or focus to B.O.P. Cancer, which uses all tools, from traditional to new age, to address the challenges of dealing with cancer. This wider-ranging approach than most gathers a plethora of resources under one cover, offering cancer patients and their caretakers a workbook template for positive emotional and spiritual reinforcement. Cancer patients and their caregivers need to make this toolkit a part of their arsenal for cultivating positive paths away from negativity, overwhelm, and chaos.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

ResQ and the Baby Orangutan
Eva J. Pell
Tumblehome, Inc.
9781943431489, $13.95

ResQ and the Baby Orangutan reaches ages 9-12 with a vivid story set in Indonesia and centered around animal rescue efforts, adding a dash of added sci-fi to keep the tale especially engrossing. Mattias Lanas adds black and white drawings to enhance the story of boy genius Wheaton and his nature-loving cousin Stowe, who embark on their first adventure in their animal rescue organization when they fly their modified space shuttle to Borneo to find a missing baby orangutan, helped by a grandmother equally determined to influence a successful rescue mission. Eva J. Pell incorporates the atmosphere of Indonesia's jungles and peoples as she presents this vivid story, adding a realistic feel to events that swirl around people and animals. These elements help ground a story that also changes its perspectives to add additional insights from the characters, including notes from Stowe's journal of observations, which are a fine contrast to Wheaton's reasoned first-person narration of events in Borneo and journeys through Indonesia. The result is a powerful story that invites preteens to learn more about Indonesia and illegal animal trafficking. Its facts are based on firsthand accounts of those familiar with both orangutans and Borneo, and this reality enhances an adventure that will not only entertain, but educates.

The Needlecraft Shelf

Martingale & Company

Two excellent new quilter guides will appeal to patchwork artists, providing outstanding projects that include plenty of small projects and home decor outside of the traditional bed quilt approach. Jan Patek's Tabletop Turnabouts: 2-for-1 Small Quilts for Your Home (9781683560005, $22.99) features 'turnabout' quilts that can be draped over racks, doors, and more. One end of each 12" x 24" quilt shows a single block, while the opposite end profiles a four-block display for a different twist. In effect, these are two quilt decorations in one, and offers a folksy feel that lends nicely to home decoration. Large, full-page color features of finished quilts accompanies patterns, smaller examples of applique and stitching, and step-by-step directions any needleworker can easily follow. Lynne Boster Hagmeier's Prairie Life: Patchwork Quilts, Runners & More (9781604689990, $27.99) features the author's focus on layered patchwork techniques that streamline and simplify the quilt making process in comparison to the usual piecing. This simple technique involves cutting and simply topstitching them to a base fabric, and is designed to produce a layered look which is much quicker, but there are projects for traditional patchwork, as well, which provides runners to pillows and more. Both are exceptional guides which will appeal to beginning and advanced quilters alike.

The Theatre/Cinema Shelf

22 Comedy Ten-Minute Plays
Laurie Allen
Meriwether Publishing
c/o Pioneer Drama Service
PO Box 4267, Englewood, CO 80155-4267
9781566082112, $19.95, PB, 164pp,

Usually, short plays are directed to teen audiences and young drama students whose teachers seek quick, uplifting pieces for this age group; but one of the special attributes of Laurie Allen's 22 Comedy Ten-Minute Plays is that it's directed to ages 15-30, and so its themes are not limited to teenage concerns. It should be noted that each play is complete unto itself, from its evolving plot to its list of characters, setting and property descriptions, roles which are gender-neutral, and cast compositions of 2-8. This makes for easy assignment and flexible scheduling, which will delight drama teachers and coaches. A final plus is that these plays not only embrace comedy, but do so in a clean, fresh manner. This makes the works especially appealing because so much humor these days revolves around risque innuendo or crass language. And yet, these works are seasoned, appealing productions designed for mature audiences and actors alike. The result is a unique presentation that should be in every drama collection and on the radar of any director looking for original writings designed to appeal to wide audiences.

The General Fiction Shelf

Her Wingless Eyes
Robert Rubenstein
Independently Published
9781095215838, $14.00 Paper
1071100149, $5.00 Kindle

Her Wingless Eyes is set in 1936 and focuses on Jewish-American athlete Joshua Sellers, who has his eyes set on winning a gold medal in the 11th Olympiad in Berlin. This brings with it not only athletic challenge, but political and social conflict, because Berlin, at the time, is only one place where hatred against Jews has flared. One of the many other places in the world is America. Pointed and complex, Her Wingless Eyes is no light venture into prejudice, but a hard-hitting, thought-provoking story that will leave readers pondering long after Joshua's ultimate race to "illuminate a future in a darkened land." Her Wingless Eyes is very highly recommended for its ability to follow personal journeys with heroic characters and big dreams into the jaws of political and social transformation processes; there to emerge revised and forever changed.

Shadow Kid
Jennifer Vaughn
Waldorf Publishing
2140 Hall Johnson Road 102-345, Grapevine, TX 76051
9781643160009, $16.95,

The first thing to note about Shadow Kid is that it's not a coming-of-age story, per se. Jennifer Vaughn's use of reflective voice and metaphor creates a read recommended for adult as well as mature teen audiences. Indeed, there are many adult realizations here; from a break-in prank where participant Gavin discovers that a corrupt school principal is blaming thieves for his own pilfering of school money (but can't do anything about it) to learning to fly, having this become a driving force in his life, and turning 21 with a pile of cash in the bank and no sense of purpose. While these elements (and a candid tone that includes swearing) would seem to indicate the maturity level of a Shadow Kid reader should lie in adult realms, the novel is reviewed here because mature teen to new adult readers will gain much from the story. It reaches out on many levels to explore Gavin's evolution as a young man, a pilot, a reporter, a father, and a journeyman. All ages will find Shadow Kid compelling and nicely presented: a read perfect for those interested in exploring the influences and sources of shadows in their own backgrounds.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

The Cassendre Decree
Sheryl Lynn Rosenstock Marcus
9780692824917, $TBA

The Cassendre Decree is paranormal romance thriller writing at its best, offering a different kind of story than one might anticipate from the usual genre read. What is the cost of being human and leading a human life, and is it worth it? Both characters are about to find out. Sheryl Lynn Rosenstock Marcus crafts a delicate dance between the two lives and very different personas. Readers who come along for this ride will find The Cassendre Decree is not just about paranormal experiences or love. It questions sanity, insanity, and what constitutes normality. The result is a different kind of paranormal romance than most: one designed to keep readers engaged right up to a surprise ending which, on reflection, held its roots from the beginning, but still ends with a shocking bang in a final, satisfying, resolute conclusion that lingers in the mind long after the final crescendo.

Publisher Services
9781532391293, $14.95, Paper, $4.95, Kindle

Hope translates to despair quite easily as a blogger experiences a sensual night of bliss with a celebrity chef who appeals to her senses on more than one level, then jetsets out of her life as quickly as he entered. These two men who enter her life back to back shake J's world. Which one should she wait for? Does she even have a choice? Dhtreichler writes with a rich, sensual style that captures J's dilemma, world, and the men who hold the power to change it. All the ingredients of a fine romance are here, but to peg Hope as a 'romance read' alone would be to do this literary novel a grave disservice. Hope is highly recommended reading for audiences who like their protagonists strong, thoughtful, and growth-oriented as J explores the process of both finding and losing hope and understanding the different contributions individuals make to the lives around them.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Book Supremacy
Kate Carlisle
Berkley Prime Crime
9780451491404, $25.00

The Book Supremacy is a fine bibliophile mystery that begins with a honeymoon in Paris, with Brooklyn and Derek browsing book stalls. The find of a rare spy novel and an encounter with an old friend leads to trouble when they return home with the rare book in hand to find it's worth enough to justify murder. This engrossing story winds between Paris and San Francisco atmosphere with a compelling mystery that's hard to put down, and highly recommended for bibliophiles and mystery fans alike.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Publisher Services
9781532391323, $14.95, Paper, $3.99, Kindle

There is no perfect world: J'ne is confident of that. But if there were one, she's not sure that the choices she's making would enhance it. Choices winds a ghost story into a time travel adventure, employing an unusual twist on the typical alternate history approach. Readers who follow such stories will discover that time travel is only one surprising adventure that trial lawyer J’ne Wilcox undertakes after her ghostly encounter. Dhtreichler excels in taking the typical time travel scenario a step further, adding elements of intrigue via government involvement, professional quandary. J'ne stands at a crossroads in her career's objectives, and must regain control of her present and future by examining both through a different lens of reality. Minor grammatical errors are peppered throughout, and a final proofreading could have contributed to a more polished read. This caution aside, the premise, progression, and characters in Choices are nicely presented. The plot is a notch above competing time travel tales, and the focus on J'ne's process of validating herself makes for a winning combination that will keep readers immersed to the end.

Our Great Escape Part 2: Return to the Tunnel People
Donald Hricik
Independently Published
9781074765712, Paperback, $9.99, e-book, $4.89,

Is it the end of the world, or a new beginning? The first book in 'Our Great Escape', Dumbers, presented the far-future world of 2360 when a small group of human survivors affected by longevity is changed by the awakening of potential leader Henry Shannon, who finds himself considering a world without these drugs and their deadly effects. Return to the Tunnel People extends the story into new realms, but is actually a stand-alone read which doesn't require prior familiarity with Dumbers in order to prove accessible and enlightening. Previous events are reviewed quickly in the first chapter, 'Snakes', and provide a recap which segues smoothly into the ongoing dilemma Henry faces as he steps into his role as the Orchestrator of an expedition of survivor refugees on their way to Jupiter and a new life. As events move from Earth to the stars and back again, readers receive a lively, astute consideration of the future of the human race which builds nicely upon the setting the protagonists of Dumbers, but adds an extra dimension of insight and thought-provoking passages about human endeavors and growth. Sci-fi fans interested in a uniquely different saga of change will find Return to the Tunnel People a delight.

A Chain Across the Dawn
Drew Williams
9781250186164, $18.99

A Chain Across the Dawn adds to the Universe After series with a story set three years after Esa has left her planet to become a member of the Justified. She and agent Jane Kamali have been searching for children who share her supernatural powers, but on a remote planet they discover they are not alone in their mission, and face danger from an adversary who sports his own mysterious power. This engrossing tale is especially recommended for prior fans who will find Esa's ongoing story compelling and action-packed.

Baen Books

Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell edit Noir Fatale: The Dark Side of Science Fiction and Fantasy (9781481483971, $25.00), a collection of short pieces by Baen authors from Correia to David Weber and other sci-fi notable names. The short stories adopt the noir style and are centered around female detective archetypes with sci-fi settings. The diversity and allure of girls, women, and extraordinary situations makes for a gritty, involving collection featuring new stories by some of the top names in sci-fi writing. David Weber and Jacob Holo's The Gordon Protocol: Time is a Harsh Mistress (9781481483964, $27.00) tells of a history professor who leads a happy life. He has everything he wishes for until everything changes upon receipt of a student's dissertation, which sparks a psychotic episode in Benjamin. During this experience, he is overtaken by memories of another world in which history is very different. Nuclear destruction is eminent in that world, and when timelines collide, Ben faces a very dangerous possibility indeed. This different take on the alternate history format will delight genre fans looking for intrigue and something different. David Drake's To Clean Away the Shadows (9781481484022, $25.00) tells of the crew of the Far Traveller which is exploring uncharted territory to open routes for trade and possible future war. Harry has been posed to the Far Traveller, as has Lieutenant Rick Grenville, who longs to be part of battle. Both become tangled in a power play and a scientific investigation that taxes them both in an absorbing story of survival and discovery.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

Four new audiobook arrivals are top leisure listening picks from recent audio publications, offering a combination of solid plots and evocative readers who bring them to life. James Patterson and David Ellis collaborate in Unsolved (9781549117305, $35.00), which receives a powerful dual narration by Kevin T. Collins and Brittany Pressley. Their voices bring to life a murder mystery thriller revolving around a driven FBI agent's shocking new case, which involves a clever serial killer able to elude her attempts to solve the mystery. A fellow FBI agent thinks everyone in the FBI is a suspect, including Emmy, so she faces trouble from more than one front in this engrossing tale. Elin Hilderbrand's Summer of '69 (9781549119378, $40.00) is read by Erin Bennett and tells of the Levin family, who finds everything changing around them as the country experiences flux and challenges. The family becomes a microcosm of conflict and Bennett brings the tale alive as she explores the many changes affecting a middle class family's world. Kevin Wignall's When We Were Lost (9781549197819, $30.00) is presented by James Patterson and read by Will Collyer, whose evocative voice brings to life the drama of a plane cash in the jungle. It's shades of Lord of the Flies as the high school students involved find their field trip turns into a nightmare where survivors begin turning on each other and a killer emerges from their midst. Kate Atkinson's Big Sky (9781549169960, $35.00) enjoys a fine narration by Jason Isaacs, who brings to life another Jackson Brodie detective story. Brodie is now living in a quiet seaside village, but as in his other adventures, he can't quite escape the darkness hiding under the façade of peace. When his latest case turns into a nightmare, he's led into a sinister plot and network that threatens everything. All are outstanding audios that provide lasting listening value.

The Journalism Shelf

The Best American Newspaper Narratives V. 6
Gayle Reaves, Editor
University of North Texas Press
9781574417524, $19.95

The Best American Newspaper Narratives is a yearly anthology gathering the 'best of the best' literary and reporting achievements under one over, and this features the eleven winner of the 2018 Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Conference run by the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. Readers receive a broad compendium of winners, from the story of a baby polar bear raised by humans in a zoo to an investigative piece about domestic violence and survival. Stories were submitted from a range of newspapers across the country and are united not by theme, but by high-quality approaches that demonstrate special literary and reporting prowess. No collection strong in media studies should be without this top-notch reference.

The Cookbook Shelf

Saffron in the Souks
John Gregory-Smith
Kyle Books
9780857836373, $29.99

Saffron in the Souks: Vibrant Recipes from the Heart of Lebanon provides a satisfying regional approach to Lebanese culture and cooking and comes from an author who traveled across the country to collect Lebanese traditional dishes, from street food to rare Druze recipes, and adapted them for home cooks. Color photos of Lebanese landscapes as well as finished dishes contribute to a cookbook that allows Westerners unfamiliar with the fare to ease into an appreciation of the country's many offerings, as with Rita's Beef Shawarma, a marinated meat dish which here is tempered to be more accessible by home cooks. Very highly recommended for any ethnic cook and collections catering to them.

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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