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The Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 2 February 2023 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Humor Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Self-Help Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Frozen By Fire
Donald Kentop
Black Heron Press
c/o Independent Publishers Group (distribution)
9781936364398, $18.00

Frozen By Fire covers over a century of American history, following the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 and its aftermath. In verse. This approach sets the story apart from any other feature of the events that surrounded one of America's greatest tragedies, painting poetic portraits that run from a prologue of events to the fire itself, and its lasting impact.

An introduction sets the stage by recounting, in prose, the roots of this poetic discourse. It all began when author Donald Kentop, a New York University student attending classes in the Brown Building, came to realize that the structure actually was once known as the Asch Building, and was the site of a tragic fire.

Decades after learning this history, Kentop wrote his first poem, then discovered accounts by survivors of this ordeal. More than a hundred years after the fire, this collection brings history to life in a shocking account of working conditions and experiences that is tempered by a dual attention to preserving the meter and foundations of poetic structure. Why reproduce this story in verse, then? Because, in so doing, Frozen By Fire poses a more personal and vivid impact than the usual account backed by facts, figures, and accompanying dryness.

Kentop's effort personalizes and produces a history that can reach easily into a much wider audience than the usual staid nonfiction review. The author says it best, himself, in his introduction: "...the restrictions of verse, paradoxically, liberate characters and events from the prosaics of reportage and open a way of learning through the heart." What is best recalled long-term is that this heart-centered method of learning in Frozen By Fire offers a rare opportunity for immersion, adding another notable difference to the effort -- quotes from source material, outlines of characters involved in the tragedy at all levels (from owners to survivors and responders), and details that personalize the motivations and actions of all involved.

History is thus presented in a truly unique fashion that does justice to both historical research and facts and to the literary poetic structure that synthesizes and represents them. The result is highly recommended for two types of readers and library collections: those interested in making history more accessible to lay audiences and who harbor a special interest in working conditions and experiences of the past; and those interested in profiling unusual poetic devices that intersect the seemingly-disparate worlds of history and literature.

The Humor Shelf

Business Fables Adopted From Aesop For Humans Who Work for a Living
Erika Schelby
Lava Gate Press
9780989121644, $9.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Business Fables Adopted From Aesop For Humans Who Work for a Living is a spoof on American corporate culture that adopts a tongue-in-cheek countenance as Erika Schelby explores the world of work in a satirical Aesop-style collection of fables that includes an indirect critical eye on business profit-centric focuses. Consumers traditionally suspicious of big business interests will find not only statistics but information here supporting this viewpoint. Irony and social inspection come alive from the start: "Originally, kites had beautiful singing voices. But one day they heard the horses neighing, became envious, and decided to acquire that same skill with the greatest speed.

The desire to learn the neighing of horses became known and spread as quickly as a prairie fire. The kites happened to live in a country inhabited by many creatures of great ingenuity in matters of need recognition and wish fulfillment. Before one could count to three a whole neighing industry had sprung up, with neighing consultants doing a brisk business throughout the land."

Whether analyzing office outings and assertiveness training or considering the ineffectiveness of megatrends and a fox who becomes involved in financing, each story holds a link to the business world that points out its ironies, inconsistencies, and underlying mirth that accompanies downfalls, misperceptions, and business strategies. The idea is to elicit the rare laugh from the business-oriented mentality while adding a touch of thought-provoking inspection into that reader's mindset that injects doubt and questions into the process of modern business operations, pursuits, and methodology.

The result is a rollicking good read that tempers humor with real-world inspections and invites all readers to consider the roots of decision-making and analytical process.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

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

Summer's End by John Van Stry (9781982192297, $17.00) tells of Dave Walker, a new college grad with his Ship Engineer 3rd-Class certificate in hand who only needs to find a berth and a job. Oh, and avoid being killed by a vengeful stepfather he's never met. Dave finds himself not searching for gainful employment, but on the run as he fields assassins, pirates, and challenges in space that his degree never prepared him for. Fast-paced action, strong characterization, and a story filled with interplays between past influences and future opportunities make for a sci-fi space-hopping read that is delightfully intriguing.

The Scarab Mission by James L. Cambias (9781982192366, $18.00) tells of Solana Sina, a scarab scavenger with a crew that lives for salvaging abandoned space habitats. A raven a cyborg, and a dinosaur begin to score some serious loot until the scarabs confront a gang of pirates seeking both riches and slaves. Fast-paced action marks a story that is vividly compelling.

Charles Gannon, Griffin Barber, Chris Kennedy, and Mike Massa's Mission Critical (9781982192600, $18.00) is a Terran Republic novel that tells of soldiers lost in time and transported light-years from home. Major Rodger Y. Murphy is only one of the latest who faces a helicopter crash in 1993, only to wake up alive in 2125, over a hundred light-years from home. They have been tapped by the Consolidated Terran Republic for a battle nobody quite understands, and the impact will change not only their futures, but the world.

These are fine action-packed stories that are hard to put down or neatly categorize, and will attract a wide audience.

The Self-Help Shelf

A Bridge Not Too Far
Deepak Ohri
Waterside Productions
9781957807836, $24.95 Hardcover/$31.95 Audio

A Bridge Not Too Far is both a memoir and a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit. It charts the rise of Deepak Ohri from modest means to becoming the CEO of a circle of luxury hotels and restaurants in Asia, an endeavor that earned him financial success and acclaim as an innovator in this field.

More than a rags-to-riches tale, however, A Bridge Not Too Far is the story of a businessman who created a vision of opportunity and achievement that embraced both the bigger-picture thinking of the concept of hospitality, and its simpler incarnation in joining employees and customers as part of a supportive symbiotic relationship. This approach to business is what ultimately contributed to the success of a vision that embraced both loyalty and understanding the job and motivations of the lowest employee in the company.

"My goal was to make the world sit up and take notice." How this goal was envisioned, achieved, and superseded by other goals more intrinsically tied to relationships and bridge-building is an essential focus, here. This guide will appeal uniformly to self-help and business readers, with its real-world examples of adversity, bridge-building, and creating support systems that work on many levels. The examination of what comprises success, achievement, and the humanistic moves to achieve both will appeal to a wide audience.

While, of course, business leaders will want to consider A Bridge Not Too Far for its focus on how wealth and business success work hand in hand, readers equally interested in self-improvement and cooperative life ventures will find many lessons applicable to all kinds of life situations.

From birds-eye views to bigger picture thinking, A Bridge Not Too Far tackles the gap that often exists between ideals and applications, offering, through many examples, strategies that can be applied to all walks of life and a myriad of ventures. Libraries looking for success stories that translate well to discussion groups will find A Bridge Not Too Far also highly recommendable to general reading groups, self-improvement circles, and business discussion meetings as a survey of the educational and collaborative process's ability to transform hearts and minds.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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