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Wired to Connect: The Brain Science of Teams and a New Model for Creating Collaboration and Inclusion

Britt Andreatta. 7th Minding Publishing, $17.99 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-0-9973547-5-1

Consultant Andreatta, who “creates science-based solutions for common workplace challenges,” devotes her spirited primer to the significance of work groups today, when “nearly 90% of workers say they spend one-third to one-half of each day working in teams.” These teams are frequently composed of members “from another region, or even country, thanks to technology and web-based work tools.” To underscore key points, Andreatta uses 14 case studies from successful or not-so-successful teams in workplaces both large and small. Andreatta employs simple lightbulb graphics at the end of each section to mark points in “Your Learning Journey,” declaring the importance of “engaging with concepts in a personal way.” Readers will learn about the new model for group success (“coordination, cooperation, collaboration”), the neurochemistry associated with teamwork, and the importance of mentorship. They’ll also learn about the “boosters” and “threats” that either add or drain “energy” from group efforts, and about the “4 Gates to Peak Team Performance” (namely: safety, purpose, belonging, and peak performing). Andreatta’s enthusiasm may well prove contagious for her target audience, encouraging them to apply her advice to their own workplace teams. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Phantoms of the Hotel Meurice: A Guide to the Holocaust in Paris

Jeremy R. Mack. Tandem Lane Editions, $38 (238p) ISBN 978-1-7326338-0-3

Psychoanalyst Mack does a solid job of summarizing the war crimes of Vichy France against the Jews in this accessible history. He begins with the history of French anti-Semitism, which predated Nazism and the depth of which partially explains French actions between 1940 and 1944. Mack, using secondary sources, then traces the promulgation of anti-Jewish legislation, including statutes aimed at enabling the French to seize Jewish assets before the Germans could. Mack does not mince words: he concludes that the “French, passively and actively, turned their country into... an outpost of Auschwitz, a supply and delivery center for the murder industry of the camp.” By the war’s end, he notes, more than 70,000 Jews living in France had died. Mack makes clear that, despite public statements by prominent politicians such as Jacques Chirac and Emmanuel Macron denouncing French complicity in the Holocaust, denial remains prevalent; for example, he notes, the website of the Hotel Meurice, which had served as the headquarters of the German Military Administration, has an extensive history section that, glaringly, skips 1940–1945. The author’s goal “to undo the obvious attempts on the part of the Parisians and the French to forget, deny, disavow, and to try to remain oblivious of the events” of the 1940s is more than met. Illus. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Boomer Brands: Iconic Brands that Shaped Our Childhood

Barry Silverstein. GuideWords, $12.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-9965760-3-1

Silverstein (Let’s Make Money, Honey), a business writer and former marketing and brand management consultant, explores the way in which brands “tunneled their way” into the consciousness of the Baby Boomer generation. In 14 breezy but highly informative chapters, Silverstein covers various product categories that were popular during the Boomer childhood years, from breakfast cereals of the 1950s to early “green” products arising from the environmental movement in the ’60s. Silverstein’s observations are rooted in his argument that “the advertising industry pushed brand management to new heights” by making a “real emotional connection” between consumers and products. He explains how Frosted Flakes, for example, used cartoon characters to develop children’s affection for the product (which was “generally accepted to be the forerunner of the sugary cereal brands”). He also explores how the powdered breakfast drink Tang used the popularity of NASA to pitch itself as “a space-age drink” after astronauts drank it in space. Perhaps the most interesting section is a year-by-year list of the various consumer developments from 1946 to 1964, the peak of the baby boom: 1949, for example, saw the introduction of Clearasil, Dunkin’ Donuts, and the television remote control. Silverstein’s slim book is a delightful journey through a time that saw “the birth of the modern brand.” (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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After the Dark: The Castaway King Chronicles

Spencer Labbé. Little Pieces of Paper, $9.99 paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-948208-00-0

In this serviceable fantasy series opener, 17-year-old elf Pil Persins and his friends Felicity and Dirk apply to join the Exidite—the only group of elfin allowed to leave their underground home of Westleton to hunt for aboveground supplies at night. Ever since dangerous creatures drove the elfin underground hundreds of years earlier, they’ve considered it too perilous to be on the surface during daylight. After passing an exam, Pil and the other new graduates are rushed into an important mission, where they learn that there might be a traitor in their midst. The trio must then survive on its own when a creature attacks the Exidite. Labbé’s debut requires two suspensions of disbelief: that brand-new recruits would be sent along on a dangerous mission, and that an authority figure would immediately reveal the presence of a traitor. The addition of a two-dimensional bully feels like a shortcut to building added drama. Readers who can overlook these stumbling blocks, however, will find enjoyable characters and an appealing world. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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I Can Be Kind

Heather Lester, illus. by Amanda Appiarius. For Good Media, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-9992621-3-9

A sensitive girl named Alice describes what she likes (horses, her bike, “the sound snow makes when you step on it”) and dislikes (roosters that chase her, rising early). Most of all, she doesn’t like it when bad things happen. Her diverse family members offer tips for how she might improve the world, including being kind and brave, and learning from the past and from others. Putting the ideas into action, she stands up to bullies, contributes to a bake sale, and visits a museum, where she views a drawing of black activists carrying protest signs (discussed in back matter). Appiarius illustrates in a straightforward art style, with characters who communicate through clear expressions and dialogue balloons. Lester provides an authentic missive about choosing kindness and making personal connections. Proceeds from book sales go to charities started by kids. Ages 5–6. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Learning Curves

Ceillie Simkiss. Ceillie Simkiss, $2.99 e-book (70p) ASIN B07FDFMGKP

In this middling debut novella by journalist Simkiss, two female graduate students at the University of North Carolina meet in class and develop a friendship that blossoms into love just in time for Christmas. Through lackluster dialogue, Simkiss delineates the differences between the two women: Elena, a curvaceous, Puerto Rican lesbian in law school, comes from a large Catholic family, while Cora, short, white, asexual, and enrolled in the business school, hails from a small Methodist family and has ADHD. The women’s attraction grows steadily through library study sessions, dancing in a surprise snow storm, bonding over cooking, and simply understanding each other. For example, knowing that Elena likes quiet, Cora comes to her rescue when Elena’s teenage cousins turn her apartment into a dance hall. The only point of conflict, Elena telling her family about Cora’s ADHD without permission, resolves quickly, while the suspense revolves around Elena’s willingness to be in a nonsexual relationship. The depiction of mutual affection and familial acceptance results in a sweet love story, and readers looking for tenderness without drama will be charmed. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Merging: An Ian Dex Supernatural Thriller

John P. Logsdon and Christopher P. Young. Crimson Myth, $2.99 e-book (206p) ASIN B075FTMXYH

The breathless first Paranormal Police novel pits a playboy police officer against a troubling threat. A routine call to contain a vampire goes sideways for the chief of Las Vegas Paranormal Police, Ian Dex, when a massive werewolf shows up. Soon, Dex’s squad of mages, were-creatures, and other supernatural beings is barely escaping from a series of shockingly powerful enemies. The department’s resources are strained as they scramble to figure out who is behind these confounding new attacks and attempt to keep nonsupernatural humans from learning about the existence of magic and mythical creatures. Dex’s boundless libido stands in for a personality and sows frustration among his female colleagues, including the department’s flirty artificial intelligence, but these conflicts and all character developments take a back seat to breakneck skirmish scenes. Light worldbuilding, however, does lay groundwork for sequels, including explanations of Dex’s nature as a type of genetically modified supernatural creature known as an amalgamite. Readers looking for breezy action who don’t mind frequently puerile jokes will enjoy this uncomplicated romp. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Prophet Without Honor: A Novel of Alternative History

Joseph Wurtenbaugh. G Realist Ink, $14.99 trade paper (450p) ISBN 978-1-976705-57-1

In this fair historical novel, Wurtenbaugh reimagines Hitler’s rise to power, supplemented with letters and excerpts from fictional historical texts and memoirs. The father and stepmother of Karl von Haydenreich begin the story, with German officer Heinrich marrying a Jew, Rosamund, his deceased wife’s best friend. Karl picks up the narrative with his own letters and journal entries, adding layers to his personality as he grows up in 1920s Germany, joins the National Socialist party as a teenager, and eventually becomes a member of the Reichswehr, or German Army, as an officer assigned to be an “observer” of official activities. The perspectives of colleagues and acquaintances, including Dwight Eisenhower, follow the career of the man whose actions change the path of the Third Reich, because Karl “saw what was happening in Germany, and he didn’t like it.” The flow of smart, competent prose is disrupted with headings for the invented texts and letters, and the disordered mix of fact and fiction is distracting. Still, the longer sections of narration are engaging enough to hold readers’ attention, making this an intriguing historical novel. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Soul Mender

R.S. Dabney. Red Pen Warriors, $14.99 trade paper (380p) ISBN 978-0-692-47201-9

A familiar science fiction theme—a parallel reality populated by alter egos of the inhabitants of our own—gets a fresh spin in this intriguing variant of a dark fantasy. Since childhood, Riley Dale, an environmental scientist living in Boulder, Colo., has been plagued by visions. Then she unexpectedly crosses over into the world of her imaginings with the help of a magic ring left to her by her grandmother. Partnering with Oz, a drug-addicted ne’er-do-well who represents the other half of her divided soul, and protector Zachary Stone, who’s a serial killer in her own world, Riley travels cross-country to Los Angeles, the terrorist-bombed capital of this alternate U.S., to learn the crucial role she must play in events rocking the parallel world. Dabney’s writing is crisp and confident, and her characters—including both of their personalities—are well-developed. She introduces more subplots than can be resolved by the novel’s end, making this a promising start for a projected trilogy. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 11/04/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Hunting in the Zoo: A Detective Pete Nazareth Novel

R.H. Johnson. Hampton, Westbrook, $17.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-5323-0214-5

Johnson’s suspenseful third novel featuring Det. Pete Nazareth of the NYPD (after A Measure of Revenge) places presidential candidate Archer Grande, who boasts that he could “stroll naked down Fifth Avenue, and my supporters would still vote for me,” in the crosshairs of an assassin. Nazareth is half of a team dubbed the Dynamic Duo, after he and fellow detective Tara Gimble amassed an impressive record for “not only closing the toughest cases but also for putting themselves in harm’s way again and again to get the job done right.” New York City’s mayor taps the pair to go after Stone Jackson, an expert sniper who has begun taking out child molesters, starting with the Little League coach who abused him. As Nazareth and Gimble search for Jackson, the killer ups the ante after concluding that Grande is a dangerous demagogue. Unexpected developments ratchet up the tension en route to a dramatic climax. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 11/04/2016 | Details & Permalink

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