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California Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 8 August 2020 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Computer Shelf Technology Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

The Luddite's Guide to Technology
C.J.S. Hayward
CJS Hayward Publications
9781478184911, $12.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 310pp,

The Luddite's Guide to Technology: The Past Writes Back to Humane Tech! comes from the "Major Works" series by C.J.S. Hayward and blends philosophical inspection with science, Luddite orthodoxy, and a curious blend of life inspection. It romps through the world of new devices with a clever eye towards considering the guideposts of technology choices. In the discipline of ethics, the Golden Rule represents a feat in formulating ethics: a single, short criterion that sheds light on many situations, and Hayward takes a cue, opening with a formulation of a "Silicon Rule" of "What do Silicon Valley technology executives choose for their children?" with a surprising answer: Steve Jobs did not give his children iPhones and iPads but walls of paper books and animated discussions with them. This single criterion unfolds at length in variations on the theme of right use of technology.

C.J.S. Hayward (abbreviated "CSH" for "C.S. Hayward" on Facebook) adopts a revealing, chatty tone that winds intellectual debate, spiritual reflection, and cultural and social analysis in a curious, compelling manner. While this tone might not be for all readers, it will prove exceptionally fun and thought-provoking for those who relish both humor and a spiritual/philosophical style of inspection.

Indeed, it is the Orthodox reader versed in this discipline and Biblical references and inspections who will most likely be fascinated by the technological probe Hayward undertakes here. This audience will also appreciate the scholarly yet accessible inspections that consider such elements as 'porn mode' in a browser, Newtonian physics, the pros and cons of assistive technologies, and how technology shifts the mindsets of children and adults alike, as in the Lego scenario: "Charles Baudelaire, in his "la Morale du Joujou" ("the moral of the toy") talks about toys and the fact that the best toys leave something to the imagination. Children at play will imagine that a bar of soap is a car; girls playing with dolls will play the same imagined drama with rag dolls as they will with dolls worth hundreds of dollars. There has been a shift, where Lego sets have shifted from providing raw material to being a specific model, made of specialized pieces, that the child is not supposed to imagine, only to assemble."

While some could say that this treatise is disjointed and too wide-ranging, The Luddite's Guide to Technology always stays true to its foundation subjects (religion, technology, and social impact) even as it traverses historical and social settings with seemingly disparate topics. Much like an internet browsing session, Hayward leaps from topic to topic, making logical connections that move readers from Biblical analysis to social and technological changes and back again. The result is a literary blend of spiritual, social, and technological reflection wound in an overlay of tongue-in-cheek wry humor.

Besides Eastern Orthodox and those interested in Eastern Orthodoxy, the work commends itself to those interested in the social dimensions of technology, including those drawn to the Lead Pencil Society and the Humane Tech movement, and the Nature Connection movement. The Luddite's Guide to Technology will especially appeal to intellectual thinkers interested in the intersection between orthodox beliefs and technology's allure.

The Computer Shelf

Mercury Learning
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012

New computer book releases from Mercury Learning are solid references for libraries and home study alike, combining self-study lessons with overviews and information that make for solid discussions recommended for refresher courses, self-study, and introductory computer learning alike. Four basic introductions to computer skills will lend to self-teaching with approaches that are easy to absorb.

N. Gupta and R. Mangla's Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Self-Teaching Introduction (9781683925163, $41.95 PB, $34.95 Kindle, 203pp) covers the basics of AI with a review of its history and basic concepts, as well as early technology surrounding it. Chapters move to the fundamentals of game playing and knowledge, examining programs and hardware alike, before moving into specific programming chapters on Prolog and Python. The sequential learning opportunity, basic AI programming techniques, and inclusion of review questions lends to quick comprehension.

C.P. Gupta and K.K. Goyal's Cybersecurity: A Self-Teaching Introduction (9781683924982, $41.95 PB, $26.49 Kindle, 305pp) uses the same format as it covers the basics of cybersecurity and cybercrime challenges. Basic threats from data hijacking and manipulation to malware, firewalls, and viruses are all covered in a survey that considers both security measures and cyberlaw, presented in a "self-teaching" format that blends discussions with programming basics.
C. Greco's Data Science Tools (9781683925835, $49.95 PB, $35.95 Kindle, 206pp) covers Excel, OpenOffice, KIME and R, and examines how statistical concept are analyzed, translated, and surveyed. It uses data from Federal sources and reviews basic statistical concepts, from distribution and histrograms to various forms of analysis and representation. The contrast between the different software approaches and uses will especially interest students looking to understand the different software systems and how they approach data representation and analysis.

C.P. Gupta and K.K. Goyal's Computer Concepts and Management Information Systems (9781683925866, $59.95 PB, 232pp) covers the basics of computers for those who would embark on a self-study program at home. It covers all the major basics of hardware and software, from systems to applications. While it provides information on Microsoft Office and other information systems, it expands its subjects to cover security issues, cybercrime, and even business ethics. Self-study readers looking for a basic introduction to computers will find this an excellent starting point.

Oswald Campesato's BASH Command Line and Shell Scripts Pocket Primer (9781683925040, $35.95 PB, $31.95 Kindle, 266pp) joins others in the 'Pocket Primer' series, covering the basics of command-line utilities that can produce effective shell scripts. Programmers relatively new to this concept as well as those seeking a refresher course will find this introduction to shell scripts key to contrasting approaches to data analysis and shell-based problem-solving.

Programmers who want to get up to speed in Python 3 will appreciate O. Campesato's Python 3 for Machine Learning (9781683924951, $51.95 PB, $16.06 Kindle, 364pp), a survey of basic Python 3 programming concepts, applications, expressions, and machine learning relationships. This introduction is packed with supporting mathematical, programming, and statistical information and summarizes each chapter's machine learning components, making it an excellent self study guide.

Autocad learners who want some manuals on the 2021 program have two new books by M. Hamad to choose from. The weightier primer AutoCAD 2021: Beginning and Intermediate (9781683925224, $69.95 PB, $44.95 Kindle, 850pp) is an all-in-one, comprehensive reference that covers all of the 2D concepts, and is designed for both self study and classroom assignments for newcomers to CAD drawing. Each chapter discusses different functions and applications, pairing overviews with workshops and projects that help reinforce user learning. Black and white screen shots, step-by-step instructions on using AutoCAD 2021 in different sample projects, and three full projects for architectural and mechanical designs make for a solid survey that leaves nothing to wonder.

AutoCAD 2021 3D Modeling (9781683925255, $59.95 PB, $41.16 Kindle, 382pp) focuses on the 3D aspects of AutoCAD 2021, providing both new and professional users with step-by-step procedures for creating 3D models and working with AutoCAD's many features. It presents these techniques in both metric and imperial units, like the preceding book, making it useful for a worldwide audience as it surveys the program's many design tools. A companion disk of drawing exercises and projects compliments discussions (also like the prior book) and expands the workshop feel of the instructions.

I. Gupta and G. Nagpal's Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems (9781683925071, $49.95 PB, $33.33 Kindle, 412pp) covers the latest applications and techniques of AI in problem-solving environments, surveying logic, neural networks, fuzzy logic, and more, comparing them to conventional computer systems and approaches. There are numerous branches to AI and this covers their various incarnations and uses, providing programmers with an overview of different programming approaches for each. From math formulas to exercises, this provides an outstanding overview programmers new to AI will especially appreciate.

All of these new titles from Mercury Learning are solid references that support classroom study and lend to home use alike!

The Technology Shelf

Lithium-Ion Batteries and Applications V. 1: Batteries
Davide Andrea
Artech House
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781630817671, $159.00 HC, $151.05 Kindle, 553pp,

Lithium-Ion Batteries and Applications: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Lithium-Ion Batteries and Arrays, from Toys to Towns, Volume 1, Batteries is the first part in a two-volume resource for engineering practitioners and students which covers the latest lithium-ion battery technology and its design, usage, and testing process. Numerous applications, problems, solutions, and different types and chemistries of batteries are discussed in chapters which consider their design, selection, and repair. Discussions are as wide-ranging as considering calendar life tests and specifics surrounding capacity and resistance versus time, and various measurement approaches to temperature, operating ranges, charge transfer balancing, and more. Equations and formulas, charts of examples of battery processes, and discussions that include examples of problems and various scenarios make for specific engineering insights that students of battery science will find specific and enlightening. College-level engineering collections as well as professionals in the field looking for a refresher course on the latest technology and best practices will find Lithium-Ion Batteries and Applications V. 1: Batteries an outstanding, comprehensive survey that tackles some of the major problems, solutions, and battery challenges particular to the industry today.

The General Fiction Shelf

The Road to Gesualdo
Erika Rummel
D. X. Varos, Ltd.
9781941072707, $18.95, 304pp, Paperback
9781941072714, $ 6.99,, Ebook

The Road to Gesualdo tells of the dilemma 1500s noblewoman Leonora d'Este faces in being betrothed to a widowed prince she doesn't know. It's only after she dutifully but reluctantly marries him that she discovers he murdered his former wife and her lover for adultery, and that his mental state seems precarious, placing her in a similar danger.

Is Prince Carlo really a monster? How can Leonora protect herself and her lady-in-waiting and friend Livia? Leonora has been raised to take seriously her vows to love and obey her spouse, but if he turns out to be a threat, how far do obedience and promises extend? Leonora is determined to preserve her faithfulness and her life. This mixed ambition, combined with the Prince's unstable reactions to life, makes for a delicate dance with danger indeed.

As Livia finds that forces in town hold their own grudges against the Prince, and that her own romantic interests are thwarted by vows and dangerous attractions, the two women find themselves in a whirlwind of dangerous forces that extend beyond home life and into the politics and social influences of 16th century Italy.

The Road to Gesualdo is a vivid historical novel blending romance and intrigue in a female-centered story of strong women who rise above their upbringings and duty to become more effective forces in charge of some aspects of their lives. While much is out of their control, Erika Rummel does a fine job of portraying how they face their different challenges, from romance to politics, and how each woman develops a unique perspective on how to navigate impossible circumstances. Leonora is expecting a child, but her husband's actions only draw pity from others who also come to believe he may be mad.

For his part, the Prince's struggle between God and his conscience is tearing him apart, bringing him into the influence of Livia's admirer Pietro Paci in a pivotal moment that changes everything. Pietro has been present from the start, from the marriage negotiations through the Prince's evolution. His evolving relationship with Livia and his own romantic quest and conflicts also influences Leonora and her Prince's destinies.

Rummel's attention to strong characterization and capturing the sights, smells, and atmosphere of 16th century Italy contributes to a vivid story that intersects different lives and perspectives. Her characterization is psychologically astute, and the story winds through the complexity of Italian culture and politics with an intriguing approach that keeps readers guessing about both relationships and their outcomes.

The result is a historical novel that is vivid in its sense of place, compelling in its many social and political conundrums, and cemented by powerful women who may be driven by social mores, but who still wield a sense of identity and purpose that helps each overcome adversity. Historical novel readers who enjoy romance and political inspection will welcome the complex encounters in The Road to Gesualdo, which concludes with a satisfying twist to bring the story full circle.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

On the Border
Betta Ferrendelli
Independently Published
9798638815073, $11.99 Paper, $2.99 Kindle

On the Border is a new Samantha Church mystery that revolves around an anonymous tip that leads reporter Samantha into a dangerous world of money laundering and murder. Sam is no stranger to trouble. She's been there and back again, struggling with a sister's death and a substance abuse problem that threatened the job she loved at the Denver Daily. Finally, she's begun to flourish, is in AA, and has received national acclaim for her groundbreaking stories. Living at the ranch with her daughter, Nona, and Howard and feeling the support of coworker Wilson has allowed Sam to recover her equilibrium, but this is shaken when she recruits cub reporter Hunter John Hollingsworth to help her in an investigation that threatens them both. As Hunter and Sam near a complex truth, readers join them for a battle between good and evil, with the two reporters edging ever closer to a dangerous truth that will either reveal all or destroy them. Betta Ferrendelli created a memorable, engrossing character in her other Samantha Church mysteries, and this stand-alone addition to the series expands Sam's personality and choices in life, using the backdrop of an international encounter to explore her evolving relationships. The bilingual Spanish/English encounters, flavor of Mexico, and cross-cultural insights season a series of encounters that teach Sam not only about danger, but Mexican culture. This is a satisfying atmosphere for her latest mystery, adding depth and insights to a story that is filled with satisfying twists and turns. As a compliment to the other series titles, On the Border further expands Sam's world. As a stand-alone read, it will attract newcomers to Sam's feisty personality and penchant for investigative prowess, and deserves a place in any mystery reader's library of 'best picks'.

All the Good Men
Craig N. Hooper
Independently Published
9781733375528, $10.99, Paperback
B08BCTLXQ6, $2.99, Ebook

Garrison Chase was introduced to fans of political thrillers in The Greatest Good, dealt with being framed and persecuted in A Thin Line, and here returns to face more confrontations and political battles in All the Good Men. Both newcomers to his action and prior fans will relish a thriller that opens with a bang, needs no prior introductions or discussion, and keeps suspense readers riveted throughout. Chase is cautious by nature, which is why he's advising a senator to pack heat in the aftermath of a dangerous discovery. But even his careful nature and investment in protecting good men may not win over the bad guys in this story - especially since they involve Washington insiders just as astute and clever as he. Politics, suspense, and danger coalesce in a tale that involves combat missions, plausible deniability, homicides and military engagements, and subterfuge that keeps even the savvy Chase on his toes and guessing. As the pieces fall into place for the senator and those involved in protecting him, Chase faces some unique and difficult dilemmas in the course of a cat-and-mouse game that plays out in the highest echelons of Washington. The format of a detective mystery investigation blends with that of political suspense in a delightful manner. As in his previous books, Craig N. Hooper excels at creating an atmosphere of intrigue that toes the line between a police procedural and something more. Garrison Chase is a savvy investigator, a street smart fighter, and an unexpectedly vulnerable fighter for closure and justice for Ramona, Hattie, and others who are involved in an increasingly complex struggle. When this vulnerability is exposed, Chase finds himself at the center of a conflict that could cost him his life. Craig N. Hooper creates a believable, perceptive, involving protagonist whose moves and logic are impeccable. Powered by unexpected confrontations, twists and turns, and action that move from political insights to investigative challenges, All the Good Men keeps readers guessing about the outcome. They will be immersed right up to an ending that imparts some international relationship lessons and neatly concludes, while leaving the door ajar for more possibilities.

The Detectivists: Dragon Ripper
Melanie Bacon
Del Sol Press
9780999842584, $6.99 Paper, $10.99 Kindle, 271pp

Fans of Sherlock Holmes-type mysteries who enjoy stories steeped in intrigue and cat-and-mouse investigative processes will relish Book 1 of 'The Detectivists', Dragon Ripper, which introduces the sister of Sherlock Holmes, Astraia, who wants to impress her crime-solving brother with her similar abilities. The case involves a dragon-like killer, and her sidekick is also a female, Madeleine Barquist. But her brother Sherlock suspects a more dangerous force than a human being, fears for her safety, and becomes involved in the case in an effort to protect his sister and solve the puzzle. Having a clash not just between detective and perp but brother and sister, who demonstrate their capabilities on the arena of murder and intrigue investigations, makes for a fast-paced, involving story that includes the back story of Madeleine, who also has a secret to hide. It could change how Sherlock and Astraia feel about her equally-impressive problem-solving skills. As Maddie observes her friend in action, comments on the crime scene and explorations that lead Astraia far from her comfort zone, and provides a fine perspective on the events and threats that build, readers will relish the atmosphere and the 'you are there' feel. Another very notable feature to this engaging story lies in the dialogue between Maddie and Astraia, which captures perceptions and efforts in a fine, revealing manner. The exquisite blend of dialogue, atmosphere, mystery, and supernatural intrigue, tempered by the relationship between all three main characters, gives this story a solid blend of historical backdrop and investigative depth that will keep mystery readers thoroughly engaged in each character's evolution, motivations, and confrontations. Very highly recommended reading for Sherlock Holmes fans who will appreciate the female perspective and approaches to problem-solving and relationships. These touches keep this story vivid, accessible, and hard to put down.

Five-Dollar Indian
Lu Clifton
Two Shadows Books
9780998528465, $15.95, Paperback
9780998528472, $7.95, Ebook

Five-Dollar Indian will delight mystery readers who enjoy Native American backdrops, as it focuses the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a dilemma surrounding a proposed Native Theme park. As if the joint efforts of an Apache and a Sioux promoter aren't strange enough, a dead boy found in the wilderness attracts the further inspection of investigators who uncover more than just a drug overdose. Four tribal lawmen (one Sioux and three Choctaw, including Lieutenant Sam Chitto, the protagonist in this story) join forces, but each struggles with their own psychological challenges as the mystery unfolds and the beliefs, values, and lives of each are challenged. As the challenges intensify, Sam becomes concerned that a trait Carl Jung described as the "shadow self" will emerge. Sam wonders if his fellow investigators will survive as judicious leaders, or raging monsters? For that matter, would any of them?

The "Five-dollar Indian" referenced in the title is a white man who poses as native to profit at Native Americans' expense. Sam Chitto's task is to unravel all the convoluted interrelationships, secrets, and profiteering influences surrounding not just the boy's death, but the development of a lucrative Native American business that could damage the Nation's standing. Discussions of beliefs, varying Native American perceptions of and approaches to life, opportunity, and moral issues, and comparisons between Sioux, Choctaw, and overall tribal heritage add depth and dimension to the mystery, educating readers about Native issues while expanding the intrigue.

From impasses between opposing forces and powwows that are more than they seem to the infiltration of gang influences and special interests into Native American culture, Sam and the other investigators finds their hands full as Sam struggles to expose some unusual evidence. Lu Clifton's mystery is powerful not just because of it fine attention to building intrigue, but because of its focus on exploring Native American culture, interests, values, and points of conflict both within and outside the community. The time taken to explore these underlying themes and atmospheres lends to a tale that is educational and compelling in a story of Sioux Nation processes, the repercussions of decisions and opportunities, and decisions made to survive on different levels. Readers of such Native American fiction as Tony Hillerman are in for a treat with Five-Dollar Indian.

Tokyo Traffic
Michael Pronko
Raked Gravel Press
B087QVRXZB, $9.99, PB

In Tokyo Traffic, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is tracking a dangerous killer through the nightclubs and byways of the city, moving through the city as he tracks his perp through a puzzling series of environments and motives. Michael Pronko excels at capturing the atmosphere of Tokyo.

Thai girl Sukanya, a victim of sex trafficking, is eluding her former captors in Tokyo. She's also using the city's opportunities to plot revenge. As evidence leads Hiroshi to join others in trying to track this clever girl, the bodies mount, as do the threats to studio contractor Kenta Nakamura and others who have a dangerous inclination to become involved with young girls and trouble. Although Tokyo Traffic is the third in the Tokyo-based Detective Hiroshi series, no prior familiarity is needed in order for newcomers to enjoy this latest adventure. Michael Pronko crafts a fast-paced atmosphere that covers Kenta's involvement in a plot and a dangerous game, tracing the astute detective's attempts to halt the murders that are changing even the underworld.

As Tokyo's streets and a diverse set of characters come to life, readers will find the underlying social inspection and intrigue revolving around the adult film industry and Jack and Jill Studios to be involving, unpredictable, and a test of even the seasoned Hiroshi's skills. Pronko's familiarity with Japanese culture in general and Tokyo atmosphere in particular enhances a story that once again excels in exploring both while presenting a murder mystery and romance that holds reader attention to the end. The result is a story that winds through Tokyo's streets and Hiroshi's heart alike, drawing readers through a dangerous game that culminates in an unexpected, satisfying conclusion that further expands Hiroshi's world. Mystery readers who enjoy their detective pieces firmly rooted in reality will find Tokyo Traffic an excellent read, highly recommended for those who enjoy tense thrillers that take place in other cultures and affording opportunity for education and involvement in more than one outcome.

Truth Kills
Nanci Rathbun
Independently Published
9781986762625, $14.99 Paper, $0.99 Kindle

Truth Kills is the first book in a new Angelina Bonaparte series about an investigator with a penchant for trouble. She's a 'professional snoop' who is good at what she does. Perhaps this is because, in a former life, she was a middle-aged librarian used to research, who finds problem-solving and troubleshooting a skill that lends to being a private investigator in her new life. Angelina is pulled into a case she instinctively resists: investigating the innocence of a mob boss accused of murdering his mistress. If it weren't for his pregnant wife's pleas, she'd never become involved in helping a man she considers basic scum. The other challenge in this case is the requirement that she interact with homicide detective Ted Wukowski, who believes that women have no place or talent investigating crimes. As an older woman, Angelina can choose to be either 'invisible' or stand out. That skill serves her well as she embarks on a journey into a world that challenges both her research skills and her perspective of her abilities and life. Nanci Rathbun injects a wry sense of humor into the story that plays on Angelina's life and perceptions. Readers will find themselves laughing at the feisty observations of this protagonist as she traverses dangerous ground, continues her probe, and faces the truth that "Secrets take on a life of their own. They fester and grow." As she hones her own sharp-edged scruples against the dubious ones of those she meets, Angelina immerses herself both in her real dilemmas and, for escape, reading crime stories by such notable authors as Sue Grafton, reflecting on her techniques in comparison to theirs.

From Angelina's unconventional relationship with Detective Wukowski to encounters that increasingly threaten her life, Rathbun crafts a story powered by Angelina's first-person observations, struggles, and feisty attitude towards life. The attention to psychological depth and detail meld well with the investigative intrigue and moments of comic relief to pepper a story with different twists and turns. This will delight readers who enjoy female investigators with an attitude about life and their work. Add a touch of romance for a fine tale that weaves an older woman's life and perspectives into bigger pictures about crime, love, family connections, and life purposes. Mystery readers are in for a treat when they delve into the deceptions and realities of Truth Kills.

Black Hearts and Hungry Bears
Steve Shear
Catalina Sun Press
9798641124568, $12.00 Paper/$3.00 ebook

Black Hearts and Hungry Bears is Book Two in the novel series Confronting Religious Fanaticism, and will best be enjoyed by readers of the first book, An Eye for an Eye, introducing the problems of Western religious forces.

This continuation of the tale is an epic journey that requires uninterrupted reading between books, but rewards its readers with a compelling, thought-provoking assessment of family relationships, historical religious precedent, and the evolving tale of Ira Neebest (now sixty and living in San Francisco), who reflects on the true story of three generations of family history. Readers are swept into a three-act story narrated through the different viewpoints of would-be writer Ira's parents, wife, and those who affect his world. These changing perspectives are clearly delineated in chapters that include each character's name, building the individual's perspective on life experiences. The story opens with Natalie's observations and demonstrates Steve Shear's talent in capturing the nuances of relationships and moods

Shear is skilled at moving the story line quickly from past to present, injecting elements of social, political, and religious inspection as each character's moves builds background and personality. When Ira goes missing despite the best security, Natalie finds herself involved in a dangerous game beyond her experience in a vivid story that alternates between personal ambition and choice and political ramifications that set the world afire. In a comatose state, Natalie relives and revisits the terrible episodes of her life, from social and legal confrontations and childhood rape by a priest to her part in a religious revolution that seems bent on changing the world.

Ira's mother Rebecca, who was prominently featured in the prior An Eye for an Eye, also returns to reflect on her contribution to life events, struggles with her Hasidic roots, and the underlying guilt which dictates her choices and worldview. Black Hearts and Hungry Bears is ultimately about survival and religious inspection. It juxtaposes both elements in a chronicle that weaves through adversity and survival tactics in a manner designed to involve and engross readers in bigger-picture questions and answers about the state of the world and the individuals who affect it. Literary, philosophical, and introspective all in one, Black Hearts and Hungry Bears injects elements of revelation and hope while expanding the milieu of An Eye for an Eye in a complex, studied manner that prior fans will find engrossing. It's highly recommended reading for literature readers looking for cultural and religious inspection in a sweeping, epic novel of family and social connections.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588

Two excellent new titles from this publisher provide prior fans and new enthusiasts with welcome stories that are powerfully compelling. Nancy Kress's The Eleventh Gate (9781982124588, $16.00, $8.99 Kindle, 352pp) is a space adventure that tells of an accidental war between vying dynasties, the clashes between different classes who want to use conflict for their own gain, and the unlikely heroes of a philosopher and a spoiled young granddaughter who discover a new star-jump gate. As the Eight Worlds face challenges not only from each other but from the new discovery, a mystery evolves which provides a captivating puzzle readers will find thoroughly engrossing. Lois McMaster Bujold's Penric's Travels (9781982124571, $25.00, HC, 336pp) tells of nobleman Penric's mission to travel afar to gain the services of a duke. His mission comes to an unexpected end when he's thrown in a dungeon, but evolves to embrace other factors, from political challenges to his new task guiding a general and his widowed sister across hostile territory. A fast-paced series of adventures keeps readers guessing and engaged in a series of mishaps that not only keeps Penric on his toes, but evolving. Both are excellent readers, highly recommended for sci-fi and fantasy readers.

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