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California Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 6 June 2019 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Needlecraft Shelf Audiobook Shelf
Literary Studies Shelf Cookbook Shelf Education Shelf
Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
American History Shelf Self-Help Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Pale-Faced Lie
David Crow
Sandra Jonas Publishing House
9780997487176, $28.95, hardcover
9780997487152, $16.95, paperback
9780997487190, $9.99, ebook

Pale-Faced Lie is a riveting memoir of a Native American family raised on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It tells of an ex-con who raised his children to admire his military background and battle achievements. What only became apparent to David Crow later in his life was his father's questionable ethical and moral values, which not only justified lies and murder, but led to his father's abuse of his own son as he forced the boy to commit criminal acts. As a dangerous, violent father loses his ability to control his son and extend his criminal hand, readers receive a story steeped in Native American culture and landscapes. Strongest of all is a son's growing understanding, as he evolves, of his father's bitter roots and their threat to his life. The result is a hard-hitting, gut-punch memoir that should be on any reading list about family relationships and abuse, true crime, and Native American culture and interrelationships.

The Needlecraft Shelf


Five new needlework books pair patterns with unique approaches to creating a wide variety of quilts, and are highly recommended picks for any needleworker's reference collection. Pat Sloan's latest, Celebrate the Seasons: 14 Easy Quilts and Companion Pieces (9781604689877, $25.99) pairs easy instructions and positive admonitions with a collection of simple patchwork and applique projects arranged by season. The full-page color image of each quilt in its home setting is accompanied by smaller close-ups that accompany instruction on materials, cutting, assembly, and embellishments. Judith Steele's Strip-Pieced Bargello: Dynamic Quilts, Step by Step (9781604689860, $25.99) provides details on a quilting-by-number-like bargello technique, showing how to use straight strips to craft some amazing geometric forms. Steele's many tools and tips make it easy to begin with as few as four fabrics to produce outstanding home decor. Martingale's The Big Book of Lap Quilts (9781604699808, $27.99) packs a little over fifty patterns for lap quilts into a book that comes from a wide range of seasoned quilters. Each quilt project receives a full page color image of the completed project that includes overall dimension and finished block, which leads into an easy set of directions opened by a materials list and cutting instructions. Further pages use illustrations to teach the basics of making the blocks and assembling them. Newcomers to lap quilts, in particular, will find this an outstanding collection of novel ideas. Gail Pan's Changing Seasons: 17 Embroideries to Mix and Match (9781604689938, $23.99) teaches the basics of sewing interchangeable embroidery panels that make it easy to swap out panels in a project. Small quilts and art projects accompany tips for seven embroidered banners for all occasions in a survey that pairs full-page patterns and color panels of finished projects with step-by-step instructions on how they can be mixed and matched. Ken Turner Goodhart's Stitched from the Heart: Quilts and More to Give With Love (9781604689921, $25.99) teaches how to meld embroidery, patchwork and applique details into various gifts as big as a wall quilt or as small as a pincushion, and offers patterns for a hand-lettered alphabet in two sizes that makes it easy to personalize projects and embroider phrases into a project. Step-by-step color assembly directions accompany tracing and stitching tips and patterns, making it easy to reproduce each project. All are outstanding additions to any needlework library.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

Six new audio releases are top recommendations for listeners seeking a superior blend of narrative style and story. Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy's Once & Future (9781549115882, $30.00) is presented by James Patterson who lends his brand of quality and authority to an original takeoff on the Excalibur legend. Ari has long been a refugee from tyranny, but when she crashes on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its stone, she becomes another reincarnation of King Arthur and finds herself thoroughly immersed in that world. A vivid reading by Lauren Fortgang brings everything to life. James Patterson also provides The 13-Minute Murder (9781478992240, $35.00), read by MacLeod Andrews, It documents the "perfect murder" that takes place in an extraordinarily short period of time. Three thrillers are contained in one audio which lends nicely to quick, thoroughly engrossing listening, especially given the multiple narrators involved. One way Patterson expands his brand is to personally endorse notable works; the other is through collaborative writing. In The Fall of Crazy House (9781478995494, $25.00), he works with Gabrielle Charbonnet in a production deftly narrated by Therese Plummer. Twin orphan sisters are very different, but both are set on revenge. Their efforts to bring down the crazy house will result in either freedom or death in this vivid, compelling saga of choice and consequence. He works with Peter De Jonge in Miracle at St. Andrews (9781549195518, $35.00), which receives Henry Leyva's moving voice as it provides a gold novel about a former professional who journeys to the course where golf began. His sojourn will lead to personal as well as professional revelations. William W. Li, MD's Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself (9781549116190, $35.00) is read by Peter Ganim, who outlines the basic theory of five defense systems linked to five disease-fighting foods, eaten five times a day. It not only promotes healing foods, but designs a schedule based on bodily defense systems, teaching listeners how to properly integrate these foods into a health plan for optimum results. Rick Reilly's Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump (9781549148811, $35.00) is narrated by the author, a sports writer who examines Trump's golfing prowess based on both his own experience with Trump and interviews with some 100 golf pros, caddies, and more. It focuses on how Trump cheats, lies, and demolishes the standards of golfing etiquette, and draws important connections between these approaches and his overall game. All are excellent, involving listening.

The Literary Studies Shelf

Creek Bait
Richard Lutman
New Meridian Press
9780999461754, $16.00

Creek Bait's short stories are iconic slice-of-life representations; but aside from being literary productions that are a cut above leisure pursuit, they don't neatly drop into a given genre - or even a set perspective. Whether Richard Lutman is creating stories using humor, a Western theme, or a quasi-allegorical fantasy/romance about two star-crossed Chinese lovers, one thread is common to all these productions. They each provide thought-provoking glimpses into characters who escape from ordinary life to discover new realities about themselves and everything around them. Each story unfolds like a butterfly's wing: delicate, observational, and ultimately thought-provoking. Even those which are whimsical in nature contain a depth of experience that leads readers to reflect on accidental meetings, marriage and aging, journeys begun and concluded, and the nature of existence between life and death. Literary readers seeking accessible stories that represent slices of life and emotional introspection will find these characters' escape routes to be absorbing, different, and ultimately ironic.

The Cookbook Shelf

The Midcentury Kitchen
Sarah Archer
Countryman Press
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781682682289, $24.95

The Midcentury Kitchen: America's Favorite Room, from Workspace to Dreamscape, 1940s-1970s provides a history of the changing American kitchen from before World War II to modern times. Many books discuss changing food habits, cultural influences, and influences on eating trends, but by focusing on the kitchen and its changes, this book pairs an artistic interior design examination with a consideration of how the kitchen's design ideals fostered new cooking approaches, as well. While this book could have been featured in our arts section for its appeal to interior design historians, it's reviewed here because no culinary history collection should be without this thought-provoking survey of the heart of a home's culinary roots.

Hetty McKinnon
9783791385426, $35.00

Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day celebrates vegetable-based home cooking in a different way, focusing on vegetarian main meals and both classic and innovative flavor combinations. Fare is inspired by international influences but focuses on dishes the whole family, young and old, will find appealing. Family stories accompany recipes from different roots, from a Maltese Ricotta Pie and a Erin Jang's Vegetable Pajeon (Korean Savory Pancakes) to Chitra Agrawal's My Great Aunt's Chana Masala. Having the family history and diverse ethnic roots accompany these dishes makes for a presentation that is unique and appealing.

Recipes for Respect
Rafia Zafar
University of Georgia Press
9780820353678, $24.95

Recipes for Respect: African American Meals and Meaning refutes any notion that African American cooking comes from illiterate cooks, and captures the long history of African American dining, cooking, and serving. It weaves in cultural explorations and insights as it peppers recipes with discussions of the Black Power Movement, early cookbooks by African Americans, changing civil rights perceptions and culinary approaches, and more. By weaving cooking traditions into the mix of history, politics, and social science, this book offers a focus that will lend to its use in college-level classrooms as well as by culinary historians interested in ethnic roots in general and African American food in particular.

Kyle Books

Three fine new books are recommended picks from this publisher, offering a cookbooks home cooks can easily learn from. Emma Hollingsworth's Vegan Treats: Easy Vegan Bites & Bakes (9780857836311, $19.99) focuses on sweets that use natural ingredients, and which are gluten-, dairy- and refined-sugar-free, yet appealing. The desserts range from a Cornwall-inspired Blackberry and Pear Crumble and a cashew-coconut Quadruple Chocolate "Cheesecake" to an author-created No-Bake Salted Caramel or Chocolate Fudge Flapjacks and Maple-Pecan Crunch Cookies. The extensive section on "cheesecake" recipes which capture the texture without the cheese are particularly well done and appealing. Rita Serano's Vegan for Good: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Recipes for Every Day (9780857636175, $24.99) emphasizes preparation simplicity as it surveys dishes that make vegan meals easy to prepare, whether it be for main course dinners or quick lunches. From a quick chickpea crust that lends to weekday dinner for a working cook in Spring Green Chickpea Pizza to a quick nut milk that calls for just three ingredients and a blender, or an Indian-based Nina's Lentil Chili, readers receive an emphasis on tasty vegan fare that's a snap to prepare. Both are packed with appealing color photo of finished dishes to round off the attraction.

The Education Shelf

The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences, 14th Edition
Marybeth Kravets, MA and Imy F. Wax, MS
Princeton Review
c/o Penguin Random House
9780525567899, $31.99

The 14th updated edition of The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences features over three hundred colleges that have special problems for students with learning differences, ADHD or ASD, and is a top recommendation for any parent looking for such special programs or services. Each profile reviews the school's programs and special services, includes assessments of accommodations along with the usual costs, financial aid information and admission requirements, and juxtaposes facts with insights from experts and an attorney on disability law. The result is a detailed resource highly recommended for parents who want specific guidance.

The Fiction Shelf

In the Midst of the Sea
Sean Padraic McCarthy
Pace Press
c/o Linden Publishing
9781630353342, $16.95

In the Midst of the Sea cultivates the same brand of psychological horror as Shirley Jackson's Haunting of Hill House. Set on Martha's Vineyard, a woman seeking refuge from a battle with her parents becomes immersed in not a new life, but a winter nightmare when she begins seeing ghosts of people long dead. As a host of strange events cause her to question her sanity, Samantha discovers a strange book and possible parallels between her own life and the challenges faced by a woman from the past. A satisfyingly compelling haunted house story with a twist evolves in a literary achievement highly recommended for readers who like their ghost stories packed with literary achievement and suspense.

Christian Kiefer
Liveright Publishing Company
c/o W.W. Norton
9780871404817, $26.95

Phantoms will pleasure California readers in particular with its setting in the Sierra Nevada foothills and its story of two families who are haunted by events after World War II. John Frazier wants to return to his childhood home and refuge after serving in Vietnam, but he is a heroin addict and his attempts to become a great writer are thwarted by his family and his addiction. When an aunt brings him to the home of a Japanese woman for a confrontation, the story Frazier becomes privy to becomes one of long-buried family secrets that involve two very different families and their relationships. The Takahashis were sent to an internment camp but the social sentiment that alienated them from their community and roots lives on long after the war's end. Can Frazier's own experiences lead to redemption for both families? An engrossing story of past and present strife makes for a thought-provoking novel of redemption, guilt, and change.

A Puff of Silk
Kathleen Shoop
Independently Published
9781720073635, $9.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

A Puff of Silk is Book One in the Bridal Shop Series set in New York, and tells of famous dress designer Amelia Pettipiece, whose career has taken off. She has a successful, great life until one of her classic designs falls apart on a bride on the day of her wedding, changing her career completely. A Puff of Silk is a novella steeped in intrigue, romance, and twists of plot. It is a quick read designed for busy readers who want the most action and emotion packed into least number of pages than a usual novel poses, yet it doesn't sacrifice complexity and drama in the process. It's chick-lit with a flare for exposing dilemmas, problem-solving, and family conundrums. The fact that it achieves all this in under 200 pages makes it a top recommendation for leisure pursuit, whether it be a beach read or take-along vacation tote.

The Strongman & the Mermaid
Kathleen Shoop
Independently Published
9781731561138, $15.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

The Strongman & the Mermaid is a historical novel based on past and present events in Donora, Pennsylvania, a small town that once represented the dawn of the industrial age in America. From the Polish community which attracts Polish immigrant Lukasz Musial to a coveted mill job and leads him to dream of a family and roots in the new country to loner Mary, who meets the unexpected man of her dreams, this story is both a romance and a saga of an immigrant's long journey, fueled by dreams of a mermaid and new opportunities. Kathleen Shoop does a fine job of contrasting lives in new and old countries like. Under her hand, readers learn about the immigrant experience from the eyes, ears, and heart of a man about to see his dreams both realized and challenged. The promise and overwhelming pressures brought about by opportunities in a new land are presented even before the adventure begins. Different worlds of past and present are brought together by an old, dusty attic book that holds the power to transport its readers to a bygone world, introducing truths of the past and connections to modern lives. The result is an engrossing story that succeeds in highlighting myths, legends, and lives in a manner that will appeal not just to historical novel readers, but to any with an interest in immigrant experiences and the evolution of family ties that begin with an unexpected romance and ultimately questions if love will be enough.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Preacher Finds a Corpse
Gerald Everett Jones
LaPuerta Books and Media
9780996543880, $15.99, Paper
9780996543897, $6.99, EPUB

If you found your best friend dead in a cornfield from suspected suicide, then discovered the cause of death might not be so obvious, what would you do? In Preacher Finds a Corpse, lapsed divinity student Evan Wycliff's discovery leads straight into danger when a turkey shoot turns into a murder investigation. Jones does an outstanding job of crafting a murder mystery that romps through a small town's secrets and various lives. His main protagonist is realistic and believable in every step of his investigative actions and setbacks; but so are characters he interacts with; from his boss Zip to a final service which holds some big surprises. With its roots firmly grounded in an exceptional sense of place and purpose, Jones has created a murder mystery that lingers in the mind long after events have built to an unexpected crescendo. Murder mystery fans will find it more than a cut above the ordinary.

Memories of the Future
Siri Hustvedt
Simon & Schuster
9781982102838, $27.00

Memories of the Future is a novel depicting 'S.H.' whose move to New York City in 1978 in search of inspiration and her writer's muse leads to her overhearing a neighbor's odd and frightening monologues about her daughter's murder. Forty years later S.H. uncovers and recalls the journal she kept of that year. This novel is that process, documenting memories of the past, artistic efforts and frustrations, and how events coalesce to become both inspirational and dangerous. From how the 'melting forces of fiction' come to dictate memory and muse alike to dangerous lives, this hard-hitting novel is a revealing literary treasure.

Cop or Killer?
Dan Petrosini
Independently Published
9781796735659, $13.99 Paper, $0.99 Kindle

Cop or Killer? returns Detective Frank Luca to the spotlight for prior fans of his exploits, yet does a fine job of creating a stand-alone story for newcomers as it portrays the dilemma he faces when Luca is accused of killing the man who has harassed his wife. Revenge would be a logical response for most men; but Luca isn't most men. The real story lies not just in a satisfying detective piece, but in the conundrum of a dedicated cop who finds himself on the other side of the line, suspected by friends and fellow law enforcement officials alike; his usual sources of support now missing. Very highly recommended for prior fans and newcomers alike, Cop or Killer? is a compelling chronicle that's hard to put down, cunningly crafted to surprise and delight right up to an unpredictable conclusion.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Luna: Moon Rising
Ian McDonald
9780765391476, $29.99

Luna: Moon Rising adds to the trilogy with the final book about a battle set a hundred years in the future, when a war rages between five families who control the Moon's industrial companies. Each will do anything to win. Each has deadly skills. As the story continues and winds down, prior readers interested in the gripping conclusion to an excellent blend of political thriller and sci-fi will find Luna: Moon Rising as exhilarating as its predecessors.

Traveller Inceptio
Rob Shackleford
Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.
9781528912631, $21.95, Paperback
9781528912648, $4.64, E-Book

Traveller Inceptio, by researcher and storyteller Rob Shackleford, offers a different, more complex time travel novel than most as it documents a new time machine invention that, upon its discovery, accidentally sends a traveler some 1,000 years into the past, to Saxon England. It's obvious that Shackleford has conducted much research on the times. He does an outstanding job of contrasting the technological world of the present with the very basic one of some 1,000 years ago. It should be noted that the facts are intricately detailed. This will especially delight historical fiction readers who typically don't read time travel pieces. Casual readers not necessarily interested in history will find that this extensive description supplements the action and strong characterization which keep the story line moving along nicely (though readers who seek nonstop action and high drama may chafe at this attention to detail). Readers will, however, remain engaged in the story of the Travellers and their different challenges. For those who don't want the journey to end, it should be noted that Traveller Inceptio is the first in a projected series; but unlike other series productions, it is a powerful standalone story and doesn't read, nor is presented, like an artificially-divided tale.

Baen Books

Two new releases from Baen are recommended acquisitions for libraries strong in science fiction. Eric Flint's latest 1637 novel, The Polish Maelstrom (9781481483896, $25.00) provides a new alternate history story in a world where the Ottoman Empire has captured Vienna and is attacking an exiled Austrian government. Polish revolutionaries, Morris Roth's army, and his ulterior motive to expand King Wallenstein's empire in eastern Europe creates a powerful saga of displaced Americans, special interests, and trouble. Wm. Mark Simmons' A Witch in Time (9781481483902, $25.00) provides the fifth volume in The Halflife Chronicles and tells of half-vampire Christopher, founder of After Dark Investigations who wakes up in a world of the present charged with confronting the supernatural world. Encounters with humans, a trio of witches, and legends places Christopher in dangerous positions as he is haunted by monsters.

Immortal Revelation
Daniel A. Willis
D. X. Varos, Ltd.
9781941072509, $17.95 Paper, $6.99 Kindle

Immortal Revelation concludes the Chronicles of the Mages trilogy and follows the dual story of Sebastian's ascendancy to priesthood (a move dictated by his ambitious, controlling father) and the mystery surrounding his heritage. Sebastian is uncertain about the former move but is determined to solve this mystery. When he learns that the Vatican holds the key, he is more motivated than ever to make serious decisions to draw back the veil of secrecy. Steeped in adventure, self-revelations, and religious inspection, Immortal Revelation is a fitting conclusion to a vivid trilogy and is especially recommended for prior readers of the series, who will appreciate the attention to detail given to winding up the disparate strings of Vatican involvements and political, social, and religious struggles both within the church and in Sebastian's life. Immortal Revelation is very highly recommended, especially for historical novel readers with a special interest in Church affairs.

The Rhine
R.L. Dean
Independently Published
9781791739713, $10.26 Paper, $6.99 Kindle

The Rhine is Book 1 in the Harmony sci-fi series and revolves around a Martian space colony that relies on an increasingly unstable Earth for support. In this future, pirates browse the asteroid belt, attacking ships in what might be a political ploy, and protagonist Matthew Middleton, an aptly-named hero, finds himself in the middle of an idealistic, political, and social battle on more levels than one. Be advised: there are many details added into the story line. Casual pursuers might consider this an overload of information. Dean's affection for detail-oriented description is offset by a talent for setting scenes that lends a "you are there" feel to the entire production. Characters and causes are nicely developed and logical in their approaches to life and changing scenarios, which successfully draws the reader. The result is especially recommended for sci-fi fans who enjoy detailed descriptions of environment and psyche alike. This audience will relish the time and attention Dean lavishes on a story that considers all options and players in the process of crossing the Rhine to effect lasting change.

The American History Shelf

Wicked Salem
Sam Baltrusis
Globe Pequot
9781493037117, $16.95

Wicked Salem: Exploring Lingering Lore & Legends provides leisure readers and history students alike with an excellent re-examination of the town of Salem, but it's not the usual focus on its connection with witchcraft purges. It offers a broader inspection of the town and its struggles with murders and violence, and while ghost lore is a part of Sam Baltrusis' consideration, it also considers the various historical reports and social focuses that have contributed to Salem being equated with witches and violence. From trials to haunted cemeteries, readers receive an involving inspection of the various forces that have shaped Salem's history and culture over the years in a special recommendation for anyone with an interest in Massachusetts local lore.

The Self-Help Shelf

Keep Going
Austin Kleeon
9781523506644, $12.95

Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad shares keys to understanding not just life challenges, but responses to them, and tells how to achieve a better balance that encourages creative, positive responses. Descriptions of Austin Kleeon's experiences supplement tips that are practical and tied to everyday, familiar routines ("If you're bummed out and hating your work, pick somebody special in your life and make something for them."). The black and white, fun drawings enhance a survey that is whimsical and lively as well as practical for self-help readers.

The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology
Dominique Antiglio
New World Library
9781608686131, $16.95

The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology: breathe and Connect with the Calm and Happy You provides a concrete method for overcoming stress, and covers a practice founded by a Spanish neuropsychiatrist to connect body and mind. There are many books that advocate doing so via different methods; but this tailors a form of meditation that helps users relax and achieve the most from their meditative state. Sophrology is widely practiced in Europe, but is relatively unknown in the U.S. The author, a Sophrologist specializing in stress management and birth preparation, began her lessons as a teen and here offers the self-help technique to any meditator who would get better results from the practice.

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