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The Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 11 November 2021 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Money/Finance Shelf Biography Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

The Long Game
Dorie Clark
Harvard Business Review Press
20 Guest Street, Suite 700, Brighton, MA 02135
9781647820572, $28.00

The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-term World comes from a business thinker and career expert who applies the basics of long-term strategies to best business practices. Her book talks about difference between short- and long-term thinking processes, explores how smarter choices evolve from stepping back and taking time to consider bigger pictures, and how to adopt tolerance and patience for longer outcomes that serve better purposes than quick relief or satisfaction strategies. The result is a 'must' for businesses and innovators who are in it for the long haul.

The Money/Finance Shelf

Iceland's Secret
Jared Bibler
Harriman House
9780857198990, $29.95 Hardcover/$18.95 Kindle

Iceland's Secret: The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Con is not your usual travelogue, but a financial review that ideally should be in any financial or international business or economics collection. It explores the lesser-known history of Iceland's 2008 financial collapse that took down the nation's banks, economy, and the author, Jared Bibler's, livelihood. It almost destroyed the nation.

That Iceland's Secret was able to be published to expose an underlying con game in its entirety is testimony not only to the perseverance of Bibler in uncovering truths and facts, but to a writer who captures not just the financial but the social, political, and cultural milieu of the nation and its responses. Even more absorbing than the financial secrets themselves are the reactions of Iceland's people and government to the biggest economic crisis in its history. These elements support a story that is eye-opening and revealing, adding the personal touches needed to make it accessible and appealing even to readers without any prior understanding of the 2008 events or Icelandic culture.

From stock market manipulations to Bibler's personal involvement in a high-profile investigation, readers receive an insider's view tempered by the reactions of citizens and officials around him. These elements contribute to an expose that is powerfully presented and tailored to appeal to a wide audience; especially those involved in financial circles, whether they trade in the stock market, are involved in banking regulations and processes, or are facing moral and ethical accountability for financial choices. While Iceland's Secret is recommended for financial collections, anyone interested in Nordic modern history and affairs will find it an exceptional read.

Unlike most business books, it's very accessible to the lay reader and even incorporates a sense of intrigue and action that makes it a top recommendation for general-interest collections, as well.

The Biography Shelf

Who Could Have Imagined... Change Your Perspective, Transform Your Destiny
Dr. Aliette St. Hilaire, CRNA, APRN
Radiance Words Press
9780578935881, $14.95 Paper/$.99 ebook

Readers of memoirs who look for stories of adversity, transformation, and immigrant experience will find all these elements and more in Dr. Aliette St. Hilaire's Who Could Have Imagined... Change Your Perspective, Transform Your Destiny. It's hard to envision less of an early path to the success that evolved: thirteen-year-old immigrant Allie became pregnant and yet grew to become not just a doctor, but a successful mother and wife. Her story isn't just about personal achievement, however. It's about cultivating a mindset that leads to revised options and better possibilities. She presents the "how" of this approach as she traces a different path chosen after her early decisions involved marrying the father of her child, who was twice her age, and convincing a court that this was a good idea. One big attraction to this memoir is its candid reveal of the emotions that ran through the author's mind even at the age of twelve.

These reflections and insights explain both the logical and emotional roots of her decisions, serving as the foundation for understanding how this critical thinking process was influenced early on in life, and how it began to change. As spiritual and social elements come into play, Allie's story of renewal and growth takes on a different tone as she matures: "No matter how many times I tried to get into a comfortable routine, something unexpected would happen that would force me to reconsider my life. Of course, not all these unexpected changes were bad."

These spiritual influences represent some of the wellsprings of her transformation as Allie travels the world and becomes involved in HOPE Worldwide, an organization that helps the poor across the globe. Readers interested in learning about the juxtaposition of challenges and opportunities that influenced not just Allie's course, but her perspective on life, will find Who Could Have Imagined far more than a memoir alone. It's a blueprint to cultivating a more aware lifestyle that leads to real change and better living, and deserves a place in any inspirational, self-help, or memoir collection as a testimony to the strength of belief and the power of perseverance, as well as how to " your heart to a whole new way of seeing the world."

The General Fiction Shelf

Hold My Place
Cassondra Windwalker
Black Spot Books/Vesuvian Media
c/o Independent Publishers Group (distribution)
9781645481003, $15.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Horror fans who enjoy novellas and shorter works that pack a punch with fewer words than many will find Hold My Place a satisfying blend of romance and ghost story. It holds the appeal of the classic Rebecca, but is entwined with an unexpected sense of wry humor and observation.

The first-person narrator is a librarian. And before you think "dull," keep in mind that Sigrun cultivates an interest in the paranormal that defies the usual image of the mousy, shy librarian personality: "I have a weakness for paranormal romance. So what? Librarians have the most degenerate taste in literature there is. Why do you think we're forever trumpeting the cause of banned books?"

Sigrun is deeply attracted to a beautiful man and initially redirects her passion into a gourmet cooking class, where "Here I am, two weeks later, abusing beignet dough in a class of nine other no doubt equally infatuated women. How humiliating." Despite all her reading of paranormal literature, she never anticipated that this man's entry into her life would bring with it a threat that rivals any of the reading she's done on the subject.

As readers move into the events that unfold during the course of this ill-fated romance, they will find Cassondra Windwalker a worthy opponent to the genre's often-formula productions. Hold My Place is anything but ordinary or predictable, despite its firm roots in the horror world. Part of the reason why this works especially well is Windwalker's creation of a feisty character unafraid to expression her passion in different ways, already savvy in the possibilities of the paranormal world, and yet vulnerable to its lure and challenges. This flawed hero brings all the events to life using a brevity of words and nicely paced action that draws readers in, leaves them laughing at unexpected descriptions, and creates a compelling story filled with romantic twists.

Readers who look for well-balanced blends of horror, passion, and unexpected humor will find that Hold My Place cultivates a sassy sense of fun that is a satisfying alternative to more staid and predictable genre reads.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

M MacKinnon
DartFrog Books
PO Box 867. Manchester, VT 05254
9781953910769, $16.99 print/$3.99 ebook

Drumossie presents the first book in the Echoes in Time series, and opens with a preface set in 1746, during the aftermath of a battle. A wounded Highlander awaits his demise on the battlefield on Drumossie Moor. But, he's destined to survive this living hell, and this will affect generations to come. Fast-forward to present-day Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, where twenty-seven-year-old Fiona's dreams of terror have just awakened her - for the third time. Fiona isn't used to suffering such vivid dreams, especially of murky threats that include smells and sensations she's never been exposed to. And somewhere in that dream is a memory of one who meant something special to her...someone she knows she's never encountered in real life.

As the story unfolds, M MacKinnon injects history into the story that follows battles, tragedy, reawakening, and impacts on future generations. The history of Scotland comes to life under her hand as Fiona finds the past not as distant as she'd imagined and faces a force that changes her present-day world. As the lives of 1745 eighteen-year-old Eilidh MacLean and twin brother Rory (her "partner in all things") are also explored, M MacKinnon's ability to juxtapose different people, history, and cross-purposes makes for a moving account that is vividly portrayed and hard to put down.

Part of what makes these stories come alive is M MacKinnon's descriptive turns of phrase: "Eilidh fell into the chair like a marionette whose strings have been cut." As Eilidh is charged with preventing the murder of Prince Charles and other events that will bring down her world, Fiona finds herself in present-day Scotland, at a gloomy exhumation of a body in the cemetery. This portends an investigation of the past that could change everything - especially the isolated life of Ewan MacArthur. The impact of the Battle of Culloden echoes through time, and a mystery and an evil force are resurrected that carry four characters into new peril and dangerous situations in a bid for freedom that moves from the killing fields of Drumossie Moor to the impact of Eilidh's choices. These bring love and healing to Scotland's descendants even as an old evil awakens with a thirst for revenge.

M MacKinnon cultivates the strong ability to smoothly intersect events of past and present, juxtapose evolving love with growing evil threats, and present all four characters in three-dimensional form that lends each a realistic flavor. Whether readers choose this title for its murder mystery, romance, or historical components, each genre fan will be attracted to and entranced by Drumossie's vivid story, which pairs well with the psychological and historical details.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

Christmas in Silverwood
Dorothy Dreyer
Rosewind Books
c/o Vesuvian Books
c/o Independent Publishers Group (distribution)
9781645480532, $14.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Romance readers who enjoy Hallmark-style stories of unexpected love will relish the down-home feel and evolving tale of Holly and Nick, who are on different trajectories in their lives when they find each other after a near-accident in a small town. Christmas in Silverwood cultivates a sense of discovery and recovery set against a snowy Christmas season backdrop, and explores set paths changed by interpersonal relationships and new opportunities. From a small town's obsession with an annual holiday tree-decorating contest to broken spirits and lonely individuals who find in each other unexpected solutions to life problems, Dorothy Dreyer paints a compelling portrait of love that takes the time to spice its presentation with atmosphere. As various characters interact, from those who embrace the Christmas spirit to others who would rather be alone, Dreyer builds scenic beauty, evolving romance, and moments that encourage inspiration. The crux of Holly and Nick's experiences and evolving relationship stem from a simple observation: "Sometimes we're disappointed about things because we're looking at them the wrong way."

Christmas in Silverwood explains how a set course in life can be turned upside down to create a different approach and perspective. In the course of exploring romantic and interpersonal connections, it creates a heartwarming read about change and flexibility to make for not just a satisfying holiday read, but an affectionate insight into the origins of love and connection. Romance and holiday readers will find Christmas in Silverwood just the ticket for a cold night's read by a roaring fire.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Tokyo Zangyo
Michael Pronko
Raked Gravel Press
9781942410256, $24.99 Paper/$7.99 ebook

Tokyo Zangyo adds to the Detective Hiroshi series set in Tokyo with another story of intrigue that both adds to the others while standing nicely on its own, for newcomers.

Here, Detective Hiroshi investigates the death of a top manager in a Tokyo company. And this is where Michael Pronko's own familiarity with Japan's culture comes into play; because the story's ability to capture the milieu of corporate life and business concerns excels in creating realistic backdrop that brings not just Hiroshi's efforts, but his world to life. Political and economic concerns blend into the investigative focus to inject a full-bodied feel to the story: "If we can't get all the information on Onizuka, our investigation could drag on for longer, possibly interfering with PR for your overseas expansion. We want this case closed as much as you do," Hiroshi said.

From personal interactions within the company and between different layers of authority to Hiroshi's personal involvement with Ayana, a woman who tries to support him and keep him together, Pronko excels in dialogues and interactions that go beyond investigative circles alone. These romantic, social, and political interplays keep the story unpredictable and multifaceted as events play out to challenge Detective Hiroshi on more than one level. There are also atmospheric references that bring Tokyo's backdrop to life: "Hiroshi looked away at the lights of Tokyo spreading like fallen, cooling stars all the way to the horizon. Overhead, the skyglow that hung over Tokyo blocked the real stars."

In addition to the homicide investigation, readers who enjoy learning about Japanese cultural influences and processes receive a wealth of insights that are neatly woven into the intrigue. The resulting interplay between characters, a sense of place, and a murder mystery that plays out on an especially involving stage will keep both prior readers and newcomers to Detective Hiroshi's world thoroughly engaged and guessing to the end. Pronko is masterful at bringing all these elements to life in the richly depicted Tokyo Zangyo. This makes it not just highly recommended for mystery readers, but a standout in the genre. Its added value of social inspection and Japanese business pressures will educate readers about that nation's perspective even as it builds a blossoming, compelling mystery.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Deception Island
Janice Boekhoff
Lost Canyon Press LLC
9781948003087, $16.99

Sci-fi and thriller readers who enjoyed Jurassic Park (and also the first book in Janice Boekhoff's Jurassic Judgment series) will find Deception Island a fine continuing saga of genetic manipulation gone awry. In this future world, Costa Rica is overrun by dinosaurs. As if this isn't enough, Oakley Laveau is also struggling to understand why her mother tried to kill her. Apparently, not just dinosaurs are on the receiving end of genetic manipulation, placing Oakley in the center of a struggle to survive that pits her against forces that would destroy her freedoms and sacrifice her for a greater good.

It turns out that Oakley Laveau's initial banishment to Extinction Island for her supposed involvement in a murder she didn't commit is only the opening salvo of the struggle, and discovering the truth behind her genetic makeup and origins was just the beginning. As she moves through a world of captive dinosaurs, examines who has manipulated her and why, and faces a jungle adventure replete with Indiana Jones-style action (but with a Jurassic Park overlay), readers will find the action, intrigue, and premises unpredictable despite their seemingly unsurprising backdrop.

Janice Boekhoff's ability to create a thriller format that incorporates sci-fi elements but heavily rests upon intrigue and survivalism will expand the audience of Deception Island to those who normally don't pursue the sci-fi genre. As Oakley faces self-discovery on a level that challenges her perception not just of herself but the world and her place within (or outside) it, readers receive a compelling, fast-paced action story filled with unexpected twists and turns to keep them guessing. One might think that prior familiarity with its predecessor, Extinction Island, would be a requirement in order to easily absorb the milieu of Deception Island; but Boekhoff provides recaps that are so seamlessly wound into this story that even prior fans won't balk at receiving information they already know. Ultimately, the question boils down to "why were we created?" The answer will surprise many.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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