Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
|Home / California Bookwatch
Table of Contents
Judy and Barry Breckling
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781493040667, $29.95, www.falcon.com
Yosemite Wildflowers is a fine field guide to the region's wildflowers that blends small but clear color shots of each plant with written description, notes on their flowering time and habitats, and comparison to similar plants. It should be noted that this is the first guidebook to catalog these flowers in over twenty years. It comes from a husband and wife team whose expertise in photography and wildflowers creates a unique presentation suitable for study and take-along tote.
The Economic Studies Shelf
Income Sharing Programs For All
Amazon.com Services LLC
B082N2CWBB, $9.99 Ebook
Income Sharing Programs For All is a business book designed for entrepreneurs who would use an income sharing program to attract and retain customers, and surveys the mechanics of what it would take to put one together. These ISPs are typically utilized by self-employed individuals who want to cultivate an additional income stream without working another job. Income from this type of arrangement is directly connected to client numbers and sales figures, and so requires an active business environment. That said, members of an ISP needn't be connected to the business, while income relies on both direct and indirect referrals. Entrepreneurs interested in setting up such an income stream not only receive step-by-step coverage on how to organize and implement such a program, but will learn from the numerous case history examples of successful individuals from different business pursuits. These range from a home-based beauty business and a school instructor to students, self-employed drivers, and new college grads facing significant debt. Each of these examples builds a successful ISP, navigating many obstacles to formulate a concrete effort that results in measurable financial rewards. From reference journal examples for bookkeeping to examples of income distribution reports, financial donors and how they are registered, and attracting new members to expand the pool, Igor Stukanov provides the specifics and examples necessary for aspiring ISP entrepreneurs to create their own vehicles for financial return. Anyone interested in the ISP's attraction, especially small businesspeople, will find no better starting place or primer than Income Sharing Programs For All, which clarifies and defines the process and idea of creating a successful income sharing program.
The Architecture Shelf
Build Your Dream Barndominium
Special Introduction by Erik Cortina
Copyright Bunker Hill Press
$3.95 Ebook, https://barndominiumlife.com/ebook
The first question to answer about building a barndominium is...what exactly is a bardominium? Quite simply, it is a barn-style structure converted into a living space. This concept represents the latest in home building trends for those who wish a luxury rural lifestyle in a well-constructed home that differs from the usual condo or home layout. Build Your Dream Barndominium is for the homeowner who wants something different...something unique, durable, flexible in layout, and spacious. Author Don Sloan was initially attracted to this concept, but found that most websites were written by builders with a particular focus on how they would construct such a structure. There was nothing on the market for a potential owner/builder to contrast all options for a building that incorporates a solid 'back to the country' feel. Therein lies the importance of Build Your Dream Barndominium, which walks novices through the process.
Unlike websites that plug specific contractor services or 'barndo' designs, Sloan's goal is to save a fortune by acting as his own general contractor, building his own bardominium. And unlike other alternative housing trends such as the tiny house, a barndominium promotes spacious living, which will attract those who don't want to live in a tiny domain. Most books about housing adopt a singular approach to their subject, but Sloan provides a host of internet references to educate those who may never have heard of the word 'bardominium'. All information needed to make any kind of decision is included, from its various construction options and definition to who issues insurance, finding a lender, cost comparisons with other types of structures, and in-depth tips on the process of converting an existing barn into a house. From deciding whether to become an owner-builder to selecting floor plans, owning such a home debt-free, and understanding county codes and zoning laws, Build Your Dream Barndominium is the perfect item of choice for both newcomers to the idea and those who have long dreamed of retiring to the countryside in rustic but elegant comfort. Color photos of interiors and exteriors abound and illustrate the different construction methods.
Build Your Dream Barndominium's clear coverage of all the opportunities and options makes it a top recommendation for anyone interested in learning about or solidifying their knowledge base about the special approaches and benefits involved in building a barndominium.
The Interior Design Shelf
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9780857837158, $21.99, www.octopusbooksusa.com
Biophilia: You+Nature+Home: A Handbook for Bringing the Natural World Into Your Life comes from a concept by Edward O. Wilson, the psychologist who first popularized the term Biophilia as a way of connecting to nature in an urban environment, and takes the next step in this idea by showing homeowners and interior design readers how to bring nature into a personal or working place. Each section includes discussions of this process, blending psychology, interior design, and environmental research findings into a book that surveys decoration choices ranging from visual impact to natural sounds and daylight. The links between these disciplines lend to a book accessible by a range of readers, from psychology and home design students to those who would simply incorporate nature into the home atmosphere using better techniques and approaches.
The Gaming Shelf
Lucy Little, compiler
Modern Vaudeville Press
Circus Games is for educators and organizers working with youth, who are encouraged to adopt, adapt, and share these strategies for engaging play. Unlike most general books of games, this collection is designed to be adaptable by collective participants and includes space to add notes and variations on their themes. Adaptations are not only encouraged, but a website link is provided for sharing them to others working with youth. As for the games themselves, they are designed to be used for a variety of skill sets, age ranges, and groups, and include specific educator tips on timing that encourage games to be introduced as icebreakers, teaching group interactions, cooperative skills, and successful conclusions. Most game books focus on methodology and omit the underlying goals involved in learning the game. This collection represents the opposite approach, emphasizing teaching opportunities and community-building activities and providing specific approaches to reinforcing these lessons through each game's structure. Take, for example, an intriguing 'Friends & Enemies' exercise. "The goal of this activity is for participants to try to get their shield-person in between them and their bomb-person. Participants choose who in the group is their "enemy" or their "bombs" and who is their "friend" or their "shield" without telling anyone. At the end of the round, the participants get together and try to guess who was who." It's a 15-minute, 10-person group exercise that builds awareness, cohesion, and conclusions with a discussion of perceptions, insights, and feelings that encourages participants to not only bond, but understand.
Another good example is 'The Scarf Made Me Do It', in which, "...each participant in the circle is given a turn to improvise a motion or action using a small scarf/fabric, which the whole group then has to mimic for a few seconds, before passing the scarf to the next participant." This game encourages creative use of objects, can be used as a precursor to teaching scarf juggling, and encourages improvisation and imagination. Each game holds far more than building skills. They simultaneously build interactive skills and community. In a world replete with competition and community-challenging strategies, this makes for a healing standout that uses circus games and skills as an avenue for positive social engagement and change. While its likely audience will be youth and teachers interested in circus themes and abilities, its true value lies far beyond the game or circus structure alone. Thus, Circus Games is highly recommended for any adult working with youth with the objective of building not just better skills, but better relationships.
The Technology Shelf
Electric System Operations Evolving to the Modern Grid
685 Canton Street, Norwood, MA 02062
9781630816889, $139.00, www.artechhouse.com
This second updated edition of a best-selling technical reference on system operations completely revises and expands the original, adding case studies and a business system focus that will appeal to any engineering course and students needing a primer on systems operations and utility integration. It focuses on modern grid operations and needs for smart grid operations, discussing network operations and engineering protocols for developing more efficient, reliable, and safe grid management systems. Dr. Vadari is an expert in his subject and this book is a 'must' for any student of grid modernization and revision protocols.
c/o Mercury Books
The third updated edition of A. Aghayere and J. Vigil's classic Structural Steel Design (9781683923671, $99.95) covers all theoretical concepts and exercises for structural engineering students who are interested in pursuing careers in structural design, and adopts a project-based approach that teaches through example. Updated exercises to reflect the latest industry codes, coverage of ASD and examples, and how the design of individual steel framing members contributes to the overall result make for discussions that link theory to real-life creations and challenges, from axial loads and compression to composite beams used in steel-framed building construction. Math, black and white illustrations of concepts such as shear and FR connections, and modification factors for different types of frames are all examples of the in-depth discussions that link science and theory to construction applications. The result is an in-depth survey that can be used as either a classroom text for college-level engineering students or a refresher course for engineers who would review the latest codes and best practices. D. Malhotra and N. Malhotra's Data Structures and Program Design Using Java: A Self-Teaching Introduction (9781683924647, $79.95) reviews data structure basics using Java and provides tips and applications designed to enhance understanding and explain basic concepts of data structures and information management systems. Chapters provide supporting code and algorithms, include summaries and exercises suitable for self-study or review, and contain introductions, definitions, and insights on stacks, linked lists, and many more related concepts.
The Cookbook Shelf
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
The Pastry School: Sweet and Savoury Pies, Tarts and Treats to Bake at Home by Julie Jones (9780857837806, $39.99) provides home bakers a comprehensive collection of pastry recipes and methods that pair step-by-step directions with color photos to teach how to make all kinds of pastries successfully. Creative decorations, innovative fillings, and pairings of textures are a highlight of a cookbook that includes fruit, savor, and sweet productions from a Vegetable Patchwork Tart to a Sausage and Fig Plait.
The result is a delicious collection that doubles as an instructional on working with and handling different kinds of pastries. Tatyana Nesteruk's Beyond Borscht (Old-World Recipes from Eastern Europe (9781624149603, $21.99) presents family recipes passed down through generations of Slavic community influence and adapted for modern cooks, and provides not just adaptations but tips for quick cooking that make some of these specialty ingredients accessible to modern American cooks. From a Classic Beef Borscht made with beets and tri-tip to Butter and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes and Beef and Mushroom Cabbage Rolls, recipes are accompanied by exceptionally bright, lovely full-page facing page photos and introductions that discuss the dish's invention, evolution, and importance in Eastern European cuisine. The section covering Meaty Main Dishes is particularly inviting and well-done.
The General Fiction Shelf
Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
9781945181757, $15.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle
The Latecomers is a story that may be all too familiar to many Americans today. Maggie and Charlie Latecomer are in their sixties. They are both celebrating newfound freedoms, confronting their limitations and aging process due to kids who have moved far away and retirement that is forced upon them sooner than they'd anticipated. These events propel them on a different path from fulfilling dreams, leading them to question life's meaning. Have they retired, or been "reinvented as artists"? Trains of thought include finances (shaky), children (loving but distant) and health (good). Life is filled with love, but it's about to get more exciting rather than drawing to a quiet close. Like so many, they embark on a journey of self-discovery in later years. Unlike most, they find some of the answers when they discover a mysterious book filled with logographs which points the way to a very different future than they ever envisioned. The Latecomers paints a fine portrait of a loving couple set to be satisfied with their life decisions, then adds questions and explorations into the mix as Charlie decides he's missing something that Maggie can't help him fulfill and plans an exit that leaves her hurt and wondering. Maggie's love "lets him go where he needed to go," but sometimes she can't follow - especially when it's a choice that depends on his exit to help him feel "fully alive." Charlie's restlessness has to do with a longing to know what will happen to him in his last stages of life. When he meets an unusual woman during his retreat who promises him the kind of friendship and support which goes beyond romantic entanglements, Charlie receives yet another piece of a puzzle that continues to grow throughout The Latecomers. One satisfying note to this story is that it's a literary work that embraces elements of psychological tension, art, magical realism, and philosophy. It doesn't neatly fit into a particular category, but dances between being an end-of-life saga, a romance, and a fantasy, incorporating elements of all these themes without becoming a singular production. Readers begin with a conventional-seeming tale that takes the time to explore their lives, but will be surprised by an approach that builds upon this foundation to journey into unexpected arenas of love and discovery. As Charlie's life becomes entangled with Ebba yet remains firmly connected to Maggie, he contemplates going home and moving forward with her.
"When people spin out, when they snap, is what follows truly a choice?" Charlie and Maggie's contemplations about life, loss, grief, moving on, and love separate them, then bring them back together in a different manner. This ebb and flow of emotions carries readers on a tide of revelation that probes lifelong commitments, the end of life, and the beginning of something new. As the story expands and evolves beyond Charlie and Maggie to involve other aging friends and their lives, readers receive a powerful, unexpected story that surveys issues of aging in America, the special interests of pharmaceutical companies, and a mysterious book that holds the power (and threat) to change everything. There is much to recommend in this unusual, outstanding read. From its exploration of too-familiar challenges in the lives of aging Americans to its unexpected injection of moral and ethical questions and the process of going after the biggest question of all (life's purpose), literary readers who enjoy strong contemporary stories of transformation have much to relish in The Latecomers. Its incorporation of mystical and philosophical elements places it a step above the anticipated story of an aging couple's conundrums and changes.
9780578637334, $10.99, www.amazon.com
Pamela Carr is a study in contrasts between two very different lives: Priscilla Preston, a struggling would-be actress who lands a coveted part in a film overseen by despot Morton, and recent immigrant Anna Andrzejewski, who aspires to succeed in Hollywood despite the shadow of her past. Screenwriter Lyman faces his own recovery and struggles, but becomes involved in the lives of both actresses as he finds himself investigating a possible murder and the the transformation of Anna and Priscilla, and with Morton, who is not only Priscilla's lover but is implicated in the death of her husband. A complicated web of deceit, career struggles, changing notions of freedom and adversity, and castmates who find themselves on opposite sides of a complicated equation ensues, involving readers in personalities that meld, clash, and struggle to achieve their goals. As Pamela Carr grows and changes, so Priscilla and the investigations whirling around her lead to personal revelations about love, divorce, connections, and fragile emotional states that result in breakdown. Readers navigate the press, the perps, and these changes in a story that considers causes of death and the influence of Morton Blackwell and men like him on women's lives. The links between different forms of abuse and the #metoo movement are strong, creating revelations that give much pause for thought in the course. This, in turn, translates to a thoroughly engrossing production that grabs attention and doesn't let go until the persona of Pamela Carr and alter ego Priscilla are thoroughly explored. More than just a Hollywood story of aspiration, murder, and control, Pamela Carr crafts a story of second chances and ways in which strangers become key players in each others' lives. It's a gripping read that challenges traditional genre definitions with a multifaceted story that's hard to put down.
Marc Ziller meets social worker Lauren after his suicide attempt and their encounter changes both of their lives in Social Work, which explores their relationship against the backdrop of a psychiatric hospital in New York City. From the beginning, Thomas Duffy excels in an approach that explores social worker Lauren's hopes, motivations, beliefs and psyche as much as patient Marc's life. Lauren's worry about Marc's size and her vulnerability being alone in a room with a suicidal stranger she really doesn't know provides a realistic introduction to her first encounter to him, reinforcing the idea that this story will be realistic and psychologically astute. As Marc recovers, begins to date, and relies on Lauren for life advice at difficult moments, he begins to consider the type of life and partner he needs to pursue. As their professional encounters develop, he comes to acknowledge the distrust and fear that he faces from being truly vulnerable. The reasons why he's afraid to open up in his intimate relationships with different women he encounters in the course of this story are also the same reasons he can't fully allow Lauren into his world before he makes some bad decisions along the way. As Thomas Duffy carefully charts dialogues and conversations, readers interested in psychological fiction are drawn them into Marc's world, choices, and the relationships he both pursues and keeps at arm's length. The detailed dialogues between Lauren and Marc reinforce the process of becoming a positive person, able to view life's opportunities without fear and with patience rather than a sense of urgency. The challenges of daily living are explored as Marc navigates new jobs, new women, a new therapist, and new ideas as they relate to the progression of his independence. Any reader interested in lives of quiet desperation and psychological profiles which capture emotions and reactions rather than artificial high-octane action will welcome Social Work's engrossing exploration of two disparate individuals who operate on different sides of life, but come together for a common cause.
9780997211047, $18.00 Paper, $3.99 Kindle (Part I & Part II sold separately)
If star-crossed lovers were to come to life in a story, it would be in Susan's War, because the romance between Catherine and Henry moves from a loving affair to a turbulent confrontation due to Henry's former fling Susan's vindictive actions. This sequel to Catherine's War is a fitting tribute to the strength of its predecessor, expanding their relationship and building on a love that is accompanied by much strife.
The couple has already overcome many misunderstandings and adversities to be together, but Susan's special form of retribution shakes their foundations and at least seems to make headway when her latest scheme convinces Catherine that Henry is not what he seems, posing a heartbreaking truth she needs to flee from. When Catherine takes flight, however, it's with unexpected consequences that bring her into a new family situation with a very different potential for romance far from Henry's ability to connect with her. Has Susan won her war, after all? Can Catherine and Henry's love survive a battle in which Catherine's own memory works against her and Susan's own relative participates in creating an illusion of the past that never existed? Denise Micka's romance is a standout in the genre for several reasons. The connections between Catherine and Henry are beautifully portrayed from the beginning. Their very different personalities, the underlying motivations behind Susan's hatred and her own personal drive for vengeance, and Catherine's evolving spunk as she stands up for what she believes, only to be shot down for her courage, is exquisitely presented. Readers who look for not just life-changing events but underlying psychological motivations and explanations for choices and actions will find Susan's War excels in all these areas, creating a story that is compelling, unpredictable, and hard to put down. Historical romance readers who look for clean, wholesome descriptions of blossoming love and interpersonal relationship tensions will find Susan's War more than a cut above the ordinary. Catherine's many challenges and struggles create a book that is thoroughly absorbing and very, very highly recommended indeed.
The Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Lavender Blue Murder
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780451489661, $26.00, www.penguinrandomhouse.com
Lavender Blue Murder is a fine Laura Childs novel revolving around tea maven Theodosia Browning and her sommelier Drayton Conneley, who are guests at a bird hunt when disaster strikes, narrowly missing Theodosia and her companion and killing their host. Agreeing to stay the night to help the widow, Theodosia and Drayton awaken to find the house afire. It's clear that something more than an accident has transpired, and so the Lavender Lady Tea team becomes involved in much more than a cultured event as they find themselves not only investigating a murder, but possibly entertaining the perp. Another involving tea shop mystery will especially attract prior fans to the latest adventure.
The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Genex of Halcyon
Arch + Gravity Publishing
9780692184271, $17.99 Paper
9780578514635, $7.99 Ebook
Enthusiasts of hard sci-fi well know that there's all too little of this in the modern genre, which at times seems overloaded with sword-and-sorcery fantasy quests. Genex of Halcyon remedies this lack by providing a soaring vision of the near future of Halcyon, where everyone is free, having moved on from modern humanity to the next level of human evolution, a synthesis of human/machine. Harmony and Azad are members of this utopian society: siblings caught in the poetry and promise of opium and high technology in a world where winged men fly, purposeful genetic mutations can turn a human into a half-cat, and "angels cross the sky" as barely-human participants in life's interactions. Part of the special allure of Joshua Stelling's Genex of Halcyon lies in its atmospheric descriptions of this strange new world and the people who inhabit it. Stelling does an outstanding job of taking the familiar and twisting it just a little to provide a unique take on the futuristic possibilities and relationships that evolve in such a world. 2051 is not without its flaws and dangers, however. In this land of promise and happiness, three characters search for different forms of satisfaction in a world of chaos, machines, and artificial constructs and augmentations. How does love and connection evolve in the face of such transformations? And how can a sense of purpose exist when everything is manipulated, controlled, and artificially contrived? One of the powerful forces in this story is Stelling's ability to inject these issues and those of emotional ties into a very futuristic setting. Readers may not anticipate the depth of philosophical and ethical examination, nor the time taken to craft metaphorical descriptions of this strange universe, but these elements propel the story to higher levels. And so utopia crumbles and ripples, with mercurial changes driven by the characters and their relationships and questions. Hard sci-fi readers can expect to be delighted, surprised, and entertained with a thought-provoking story of evolution that probes the boundaries of pleasure, pain, transformation, and human connection. As Harmony and Halcyon step into inhumanity and embrace machine-driven changes and urban environments, all fall down. Genex of Halcyon is, quite simply, an outstanding literary work of sci-fi that pushes the boundaries of expression and self-realization, both in its characters and in its journey through their lives.
c/o Tor/Forge Books
120 Broadway, 22nd Floor, New York, NY 10271
9781250168214, $16.99, www.tor.com
Sci-fi readers seeking a cyberpunk story gritty with urban encounters, comedy, and elements of romance will find Automatic Reload a hard-hitting romp that tells of Mat, a mercenary on the black market who is a soldier by day and vulnerable to PTSD at night. Silvia, his companion, is genetically altered to be a killer with one major emotional flaw, herself. The two together interplay strengths and weaknesses in an action-packed story of missiles and hits, a woman who doesn't want to be a murderer, and an unlikely relationship that develops between individuals who are not wholly human. Ferrett Steinmetz takes time to draft an engrossing story of an increasingly machine-controlled world where Mat and Silvia exist on the border of change. This vivid exploration defies easy categorization, providing sci-fi and literary adventure readers with a different brand of entertainment that's exceptionally well crafted, hard to predict, and equally difficult to put down.
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
Two fine new books are excellent reads from Baen. Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin's Breaking Silence (9781982124342, $25.00) tells of Staci, who is sent to live with an alcoholic mother in an isolated community in Maine. Soon she discovers that Silence is more than a backwater: it's a purposeful shun of technology created by its founders, the dark elf Blackthorns who thrive when humans are miserable and repressed. Can Staci and her friends change everything and confront an engrained evil that has crafted a world according to their liking? James L. Cambias's The Initiate (9781982124359, $25.00) tells of the Apkallu, magical masters who use mind control and monsters to remain powerful rulers of the world. Sam lost his family to one of their demons but knows nobody will accept this strange form of reality. When he finds an ally who is willing to help him confront them, Sam assumes a new identity, learns magic, and becomes set on destroying them the only way he can...by becoming one of them. A thoroughly engrossing adventure evolves.
The Audiobook Shelf
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
Sarah Watson's Most Likely (9781549184499, $25.00) tells of four female best friends, one of which will become the president of the United States. As listeners explore each young woman's psyche, challenges, and unique abilities which can contribute to her presidential bid, they will enjoy a fine story of friendships, romance, and evolving personalities that come to life under the voice of narrator Christie Moreau. It's a story that will linger in the mind long after the final truth comes to light, and one which does exceptionally well in audio form. First Lady Barbara Bush's Pearls of Wisdom: Little Pieces of Advice (That Go A Long Way) benefits from multiple narrators as it gathers advice on all kinds of subjects, from handling romance and family to living a good life and behaving in public. Barbara Bush was well-known for her tendency to give advice, but having this collection of her wisdom in audio makes for a lovely inspirational listen especially recommended not just for prior Bush fans, but for listeners who look for motivational pieces.
The Literary Studies Shelf
In the Lateness of the World
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780525560401, $24.00, www.thepenguinpress.com
In the Lateness of the World is a literary poetry collection resting on the notion of migrations and journeys through time, space, and life and death. It's an ethereal, shifting landscape where these borderlines coalesce and where these poems often take the form of longer works that fully capture these senses of place in a world where brevity is increasingly the form of poetic choice. In 'The Refuge of Art', for one example, the slice of an artist's life and purpose in his work is captured in a series of metaphorical and evocative images: "Slate tiles light his vigil over stags in flight,/bison stampeding, wild aurochs with lyre-shaped/horns, horses galloping his walls, and upon them/serpents, spirals, lozenges, and stars." Startling, beautiful blends of history and image mark a thought-provoking and lovely collection.
The California Shelf
Fire in Paradise: An American Tragedy
Alastair Gee and dani Anguiano
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781324005148, $26.95, www.amazon.com
The Camp Fire was an unprecedented conflagration that destroyed an entire California community and illustrated the state's increasing vulnerability to wildfires as climate changes, humans build into heavily forested areas, and changing weathers can whip winds into tornados of flames that destroy in minutes. This book points out that a third of Californians live in areas surrounded by or near wildlands. But the history of fire activity, firefighting, and human habitation is rapidly being transformed. As this book surveys California's history, settlement, PG&E's drive to provide electricity for a rapidly expanding population, and how transmission lines play a part in fire vulnerability, readers receive a solid story that goes beyond documenting individual experience in Paradise to illustrate the lessons to be learned from its destruction. Those seeking a wide-ranging discussion of fire history and modern fire prevention challenges will find Fire in Paradise essential reading.
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575-1129
Diane C. Donovan, Editor & Senior Reviewer
12424 Mill Street, Petaluma, CA 94952
Site design by Williams Writing, Editing &