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The Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 5 May 2022 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Philosophy Shelf General Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Christian Studies Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

How to Get Your Act Together
Felicity Hassan and Suki Sandhu
Penguin Business
9780241485217, $28.00 Paper/$12.99 Kindle

How to Get Your Act Together: A Judgement-Free Guide to Diversity and Inclusion for Straight White Men discusses workplace discrimination and culture for business managers, providing a review of diversity issues. Authors Felicity Hassan and Suki Sandhu maintain that the white male reader is not just part of the problem, but part of the solution. Their advice applies to all levels of business operations, from recruiting inclusively to identifying underlying bias in all facets of workplace operations and interactions.

Hassan and Sandhu address a range of workplace diversity perspectives and issues affecting women, LBGTQ colleagues, and different generations. Of key importance are the insights on what discriminatory practices actually look like in the workplace, backed by sometimes surprising statistics that pack the profiles and recommendations with real-world facts from authoritative sources. Religion is another topic addressed in this hard-hitting examination of various forms of workplace diversity conflicts.

A major issue in workplace management revolves around identifying problems and choosing better courses for mitigating the conflicts that arise from them. Hassan and Sandhu focus on the business leader's responsibility to not just make and enforce non-discrimination rules, but to "set the tone and lead by example." The authors also provide recommendations on proactive approaches that business leaders can take.

In adversity lies opportunity. This is perhaps the strongest message in How to Get Your Act Together. By identifying workplace diversity goals and being proactive in crafting a positive, embracing culture that welcomes all workers, Hassan and Sandhu present a blueprint for positivity that shows how business interests and operations can dovetail neatly with social change and diversity goals.

Corporate and academic libraries strong in books about workplace management, as well as psychological collections that look for leadership books that advocate real-world change by outlining common issues and better ways of addressing them, will find How to Get Your Act Together: A Judgement-Free Guide to Diversity and Inclusion for Straight White Men a study in business transformation.

It only requires an open mind and heart from business leader readers who seek to make their workplace better than 'average'.

The Philosophy Shelf

Neon Genesis Evangelion and Philosophy
Christian Cotton and Andrew M. Winters, Editors
Carus Books
9781637700044, $19.95

Neon Genesis Evangelion and Philosophy: That Syncing Feeling is the second volume in the Pop Culture and Philosophy series edited by George A. Reisch connecting philosophy to popular TV and film. This book surveys the philosophy of an anime show that focuses on teens who defend Earth from destruction by Angels. While familiarity with this show and preferably an interest in its popularity will lend special appreciation to this survey. Anyone interested in how modern philosophy operates in pop culture and in media will find these discussions intriguing. From how reality is perceived differently by different people to divine philosophy and representation, this book holds many inviting discussions philosophy classes and media studies students alike will find relevant and intriguing.

The General Fiction Shelf

A Thing or Two About the Game
Richard Paik
Atmosphere Press
9781639882403, $17.95

A Thing or Two About the Game is a novel about former executive Brad, who is charged with coaching a team of girls in softball. This unexpected endeavor has been foisted upon him by his ex-wife, who taps him to take her place. He hadn't expected to do his ex-wife's boyfriend a favor, and even though he was successful at coaching boys' hockey, dealing with a team of girls is something quite different. His mission is not to put together a winning team, but to teach them how to work together and how to understand and work with the game's aggressive, competitive demands...something young girls may not have been taught before.

As Brad oversees his team and watches them grow, he begins to struggle with outside forces and influences, from parents who see winning as being paramount above ethical behaviors, to coaches who bend the rules and special influencers who seek to change them. These are the same conundrums he's also faced in the business world. As Brad comes to realize that growing his team reflects a microcosm of the greater world's challenges, he too begins to grow and change along with them, in unexpected ways.

A Thing or Two About the Game is about much more than softball, coaching, or teaching girls to become proactive winners. It's also about a coach's evolving teaching strategy as he confronts his different players and the struggles they face both on and off the playing field of life. A Thing or Two About the Game also imparts a thing or two about players, teamwork, individual influence and struggle, and the competing styles of different coaches all charged with creating a winning team.

Its ability to teach and inspire about life's progression and challenges makes for an involving book that will appeal to a wide audience, from those who like stories of softball and coaching to females who seek tales of growth and teamwork. Anyone looking for a read that is ultimately about a quest for purpose, meaning, and achievement will love A Thing or Two About the Game.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Desert Getaway
Michael Craft
Brash Books
9781954841161 $18.99 pbk
B09PSN4KJ1 $5.99 Kindle

Dante O'Donnell made the wrong relationship choices and followed the wrong dreams. Now he makes ends meet as a concierge for a vacation rental outfit in Palm Springs. Jazz Friendly is an ex-cop whose career was challenged not just by racism, but by her own addiction. Now she's honing her skills in a new career, as a private eye. Both are starting over. The last thing they need is each other.

For one thing, they are polar opposites in race, sexual orientation, and temperament. What they do share is a new beginning and new aspirations... and being misfits who aren't yet in solid positions in their revised lives. They also share a common goal when circumstances draw them together over the puzzling murder of the director of a local art museum.

Motivated by their jobs and special interests to become involved in the investigation that follows, Jazz and Dante find their clashing lives at odds even as their objectives dovetail in strange ways. In the typical mystery genre read, the investigation often is the major draw of the story.

In Desert Getaway, it's the often-stormy relationship between these two investigators which drive the action and drama. This makes for a psychologically astute inspection that will especially please readers who want their stories motivated by emotion and stimulus beyond perp and victim relationships.

Author Michael Craft's ability to inject humor into the intrigue provides comic relief at unexpected moments as each character employs their typical modus operandi to inspect possibilities, often injecting snarky observations of each other into the process: "When I switched on my computer, I spotted an email from Jazz, which was unusual, as she seemed to prefer phoning. Opening it, I found that she had sent me an enlarged screen grab from the video of the presumed hit man who had apparently drowned Noreen - a naughty pool boy, indeed. Jazz wrote, "Arcie says this was digitally enhanced. Still looks like crap. Call me." When she answered my call, she said, "Where were you all day?" "Working." "Banging another client?" She broke into a belly laugh. "Now, don't you start. I've been taking care of business. And you?"

As the first-person narrative traverses the possibilities of money laundering, real estate and banking deals, and the lives of various staff members of M3A who attended the pool party (including Hannah, the soft-spoken wife of CFO Howard Quince), the intrigue strengthens with too many suspects, secrets, and possible motives for murder. Jazz and Dante are challenged at many crossroads by not just the characters they interview and consider, but each another and their disparate viewpoints.

Craft brings these personalities and perspectives to life in a murder mystery which captures the underside of Palm Springs life and its art world, bringing into question the possibility of justice for the victims and a friendship which evolves from seemingly dissimilar roots. Readers who are interested in the interactions and shared objectives of a misfit team that must draw together the threads of many special interests to uncover the truth will find Desert Getaway a compelling romp through fiascos, fairy-tale lives, and organized crime.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Heir of Lemminkainen
David Allen Schlaefer
DartFrog Books
4697 Main Street, Manchester Center, VT 05255
9781953910790, $16.99 Print/$4.99 ebook

Book II of the Far Northern Land Saga, The Heir of Lemminkainen, continues an epic fantasy based on heroic figures in Finnish mythology and reflects David Allen Schlaefer's long-standing interest in and studies of Finland's folklore. Readers who harbor a similar interest in folklore and myths won't be daunted by the unfamiliar words and letters that pepper the story, and will find the diacritics, the attention to details that reflect how the peoples of Iron-Age Finland lived, and the adventures that embrace goblins, mortals, and mages to be thought-provoking and absorbing.

Under Schlaefer's hand, the world of the Kalevala comes to life, continuing the rich saga that began in the first book, The Mark of the Bear Clan, as King Egan tries to unite seven disparate clans in a common endeavor to survive. His efforts to assume command as Finland's High King involve overcoming witches and magical creatures in powerful clashes, and unraveling the complex and sometimes twisted purposes of men. Betrayal is the last thing he needs on his plate, but it's the first thing that will truly challenge his mission and his heart.

While Egan confronts his destiny, the tale's other protagonist, Ulla, embarks on her own journey to become a wizard. Both her budding love for Egan and her deep-rooted fear of loss complicate her efforts to live up to the ancient prophecy that foretold her pivotal role in the fight for the Far Northern Land's freedom.

As an author and storyteller, Schlaefer is a master at weaving Finnish mythology into the evolving story of a battle that tests all of the characters. The action is constant and swift, the cultural and mythological references are challenging but engaging and emotionally compelling, and the story is replete with satisfying twists and turns that most readers won't see coming.

Most of all, The Heir of Lemminkainen charts the course of a leader and other characters who face challenges to their objectives, perspectives, and attempts to hold their worlds together.

The interplay of myths, magic, and minds is spiced with strong action, making The Heir of Lemminkainen a fantasy epic that's accessible to a wide audience. But it's the reader who enjoys culturally-based fantasy and battles that test all of the characters, and who holds a special interest in Finnish legends and cultural influences who will find it an especially compelling read.

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

Three new books are recommended reading for science fiction enthusiasts who like unusual scenarios and riveting stories.

D.J. Butler and Aaron Michael Titchey's The Jupiter Knife (9781982125998, $8.99) is set in a 1934 Southeastern Utah unlike any in history. It tells of a small town facing dangerous magic that kills despite any efforts by traditional law enforcement to quash it. What is needed is a cunning fighter also well-versed in magic as well as justice. Such comes forth in The Jupiter Knife, engaging readers in a vivid quasi-Western tinged with magic and unpredictable events.

Blood and Whispers by A.C. Haskins (9781982125981, $8.99) tells of sorcerer Thomas Quinn who has a guilty conscience about his centuries of actions. While he's retired from his service to the Arcanum, running a quiet occult shop, two detectives involve him in a ritual murder's investigation that leads him back into the Arcanum and into his powers as a sorcerer. A gripping story evolves blending supernatural fantasy with mystery and intrigue.

Valhellions by Tim Askers (9781982125950, $16.00) depicts a journey to hell and back as John Rast finds his quest to be a hero funneled into futile efforts to patrol game conventions seeking dangerous villains. When a necromancer shows up to change this balance of power, John and his team find their efforts both needed and essential. As they gain new meaning and power, so do their enemies in this fine story of confrontation and heroic efforts.

The Christian Studies Shelf

Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 9
C.M.H. Koenig (compiler)
C.M.H. Koenig Books (through IngramSpark)
9781956475159, $14.99

Like its predecessors, the 9th volume of Old Testament Readings & Devotionals continues the approach of linking daily devotional readings to the accompanying wisdom of three Biblical commentators: Robert Hawker, Charles H. Spurgeon, and Octavius Winslow.

Their perspectives continues to offer the greatest accessibility by linking, in chronological order, books of the Bible to spiritual analysis that relates to daily experiences. The timeline in this 9th volume is 687 BC to 538 BC, before and after the exile of the people of Judah from the southern kingdom. The books covered are 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Lamentations, and Psalms.

Key verses for each day are presented in italics and are from the Christian Standard Bible, with scripture references sometimes linked to the key passage and other times incorporating other scripture. When quoted directly, the Authorized King James Version of the Bible is used. These readings are accompanied by footnotes linking to all the Biblical references, including Romans, Ezekiel, Luke, and other Old Testament books. This deepens and widens discussions which seek to emphasize the goodness and purpose of God through interactions in early history.

Within this 9th volume lie promises, insights, and analyses of prophecies and calamities alike. From the lessons of false prophets and keys to identifying them to the role of the church in leading people closer to God, Hawker, Spurgeon, and Winslow's reflections use Biblical stories and examples to bring their lessons directly into the discussion groups and minds of readers who would better interpret and understand God's word.

The books of Jeremiah help define the concept of the living God, while the inspections of these three wise men offer further enlightenment that Christian readers will find thought-provoking and essential to both the effort of daily living in keeping with God's word and the bigger picture of how faith operates in human affairs and history.

Volume 9 continues the analytical path set forth in Volumes 1-8, and will be appreciated by Bible students who study the passages and their connections to daily living.

Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 10
C.M.H. Koenig (compiler)
C.M.H. Koenig Books (through IngramSpark)
9781956475180, $14.99

Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 10 is another fine addition to Koenig's Bible study series. It expands the reflections of scholars Robert Hawker, Charles H. Spurgeon, and Octavius Winslow to consider works from Ezekiel, Daniel, Psalms, Haggai, and Zechariah.

This period of time covers Israel and Judah's exile from 605 BC to 518 BC. It examines key verses and scriptures that are accompanied by in-depth reflections by one of the featured scholars on God's intentions and message. As with its predecessors, each passage is linked to discussions designed not just to expand upon their underlying meaning and message, but link to the reader's daily experiences and efforts to become closer to God's living word. These range from specific admonitions key to the passages selected to general observations contrasting the approaches and messages of the Biblical prophets.

One early example lies in Hawker's thought-provoking contrast between Ezekiel's delivery and other prophet choices in delivering God's word. Ezekiel used lively images to cement his messages with visual embellishments, for example. Hawker's commentary on the passages and messages in Ezekiel allow for insights that expand upon the evolution of the church, God's message, and the Lord's concern for the poor and repressed of His world.

Hawker provides most of the commentary in this volume as he moves from Ezekiel to Zechariah's book of prophecy and its importance and impact on the church. The promise of salvation to representations of Christ, Israel's history, culture, and the impact of the prophets on the delivery of God's word and its incarnation in human affairs makes for many thought provoking insights highly recommended not just for individual pursuit, but, ideally, Bible group discussion.

Having the commentary linked to specific passages and presented in a digestible daily devotional format lends to a study that excels in embracing the messages of God, Jesus, and how they were interpreted or can be reconsidered in light of Scripture references. Bible students will find this 10th volume an ongoing journey of discovery that offers many analytical insights connected to the word of God.

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Diane C. Donovan, Editor
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