Book Review: The Marigold Chemise

The Marigold Chemise – book cover

Book: The Marigold Chemise

Author: Sheryl Westergreen (@SDWeste) / Twitter

Genre: Historical fiction, business

Review copy: Reedsy Discovery

Available at: Amazon.in

Recommended: Must Read

“The seduction had begun.” I could not resist picking up The Marigold Chemise by Sheryl Westergreen as it gave vibes similar to one of my favorite historical fiction featuring a painting – The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer. The stunning book cover with yellow-orange hues was instantly attractive. I deep-dived into this book with much anticipation and undivided attention.

When young Lucida of the conservative Glavani family agrees to model the marigold silk chemise for portraits by her friend Alessia, the reader can relate to her eagerness. How can one not revel in the beauty of silken wonder almost as bright as the sun? The book does justice to these sentiments – both of the protagonist and the reader as it brings forth a mesmerizing story.

A fine lesson in history, architecture, food, decor, art, and the culture of Roman society, the author’s research features in an impactful narration. Some of the prose is poetic. The dreamy color of the marigold occurs more than once. The romantic tale thrills and the historical fiction enthralls. Halfway through the book, a nefarious element builds up and keeps the reader glued. The whispering of clandestine dealings with scandalous consequences creates further curiosity about how the characters will handle the brewing storm.

This is a young, bashful story – of two women trying to fulfill dreams and desires. As always, the base conflict is between aspirations and how to keep them alive in the face of societal bindings. The characters are well-fleshed out. Even the male characters are tender and understanding, wanting the best for their women. The story moves at a breathtaking speed with twists and turns like the cobbled streets of Rome. This book is a tribute to the artistic spirit.

Eventually, how do events transpire in the lives of a talented female painter and her gorgeous female model, wrapped in the magic of a marigold chemise? They have the same dream, but can they stand for themselves in a world that would rather have them relegated to lavish living rooms and busy kitchens? How does the marigold chemise inspire a business venture? Read this alluring tale with an artistic and feministic theme, just as I did. I have added this book to my beloved historical fiction list. It brims with the fire and the glow of the marigold. Make it yours.

Read the author’s interviews:

https://www.newswire.com/news/sheryl-westergreens-new-book-the-marigold-chemise-is-an-intriguing-21716448

Book Review: Don’t Feed the Elephants!

Don’t Feed the Elephants! – Sarah Noll Wilson – Book Cover

Book: Don’t Feed the Elephants!: Overcoming the Art of Avoidance to Build Powerful Partnerships

Author: Sarah Noll Wilson (@sarahnollwilson) · Twitter

Genre: Non-fiction, business

Review copy: Reedsy Discovery

Available at: Amazon.in

Recommended: Must Read

Don’t Feed the Elephants! by Sarah Noll Wilson is a handbook for personal and professional life. With an appealing cover and text embellished with relevant drawings, the content of the book is engrossing. Building on the proverbial elephant in the room, Wilson, a leadership coach with a doctorate in Adaptive Leadership, reflects on common behavioral issues that create barriers at work and home. Feigning ignorance, harboring avoidance, seething in silence, or telling problems to people other than those who can resolve them, are some hallmarks of “feeding peanuts” to the elephant in the room.

Sarah Wilson writes on the subject from a place of knowledge and experience. By sharing her life scenarios and professional case studies, she expounds on concepts of vulnerability, courage, mindfulness, powerful conversations, and even curiosity. The subject will resonate with many, including those who walk out of meeting rooms knowing too well, “If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.

The book has nuggets needed for good leadership and relationship management, including references from other writers. As Wilson observes, “… a productive relationship is one where all parties can disagree openly, effectively, and respectfully.” After establishing the book’s premise, including explaining the science behind a triggered Amygdala, Wilson names the elephants that we nourish at the expense of our mental peace and spiritual growth. She provides cheat sheets to not only identify each but also how to tackle them out of your life.

The questions toolkit is handy, and one can create their own each time one faces an elephant. The book has relevance for leaders with information on unconscious bias, feedback, intentions, team dynamics, and conflicts. Wilson explains the significance of learning to identify and stop feeding elephants in corporate setups. She also advises how to introduce the concept of elephants to a team.

Elephants belong in the vast expanse, not the shallow confines of insecure minds. Use Sarah Wilson’s book to set them free and liberate yourself from mind games and self-manipulations. I relished this book and will refer to it often. The anecdotes were enlightening and relatable. The writing is crisp, and the book is well-organized. This truly enjoyable and informative book deserves to be on your bookshelf.

Book Review: Crafting Great Stories

Crafting Great Stories -Gerald Gallagher – Book Cover

Book: Crafting Great Stories

Author: Gerald Gallagher

Genre: Non-fiction, writing

Review copy: Reedsy Discovery

Available at: Amazon.in

Recommended: Must Read

A concise guide to starting with the art of crafting impactful stories – ideal for students, beginners, leaders, and writers of all genres.

Storytelling is a buzzword not just amongst creatives and academicians but also in corporate boardrooms. Off late, there is an emphasis even on delivering impressive stories around bland data charts. Effective storytelling requires skills in story writing and narration. While there are several books on the subject, Gerald Gallagher’s Crafting Great Stories is a succinct and handy guidebook. It gets straight to the basics and carves an easy-to-grasp set of rules and practices based on research.

Gallagher summarizes all the key elements of story writing and supports them with ideas that can act as writing prompts for a beginner. He builds his book on the affirmation – “The author is mighty, indeed, having the ability to create worlds unlike our own.” His book is then a simple toolset to get a writer started on this unique journey. Crafting Great Stories has valuable information for those who are exploring the art of storytelling and a ready-reckoner for those wanting to hone their craft. My copy of the book has several highlighted takeaways for reference.

Apart from the rules related to good writing, such as outlining, plotting, characterization, setting, and tying it all up neatly together, Gallagher talks about an important subject – writer’s block. He offers advice on how to tackle writer’s block and acknowledges, “…writing burnout is a real and sometimes terrifying thing.” He talks about first deciding on the narrative type you want to build. On this canvas, one can add brush strokes and colors that give a complete picture of an outline. Sometimes, where to start from is the toughest question and Gallagher gives sound advice.

He has given numbered lists and cheat-sheets while providing ample material to create your own. There is information on story arcs and subplots, secondary characters, subvert expectations, and how the story’s theme differs from the moral. I found it interesting that the moral should be woven “into your writing mostly during the middle section of your writing.

I appreciate the author has dedicated an entire chapter to the art of editing and publishing, which I always believe breathes life into any piece of writing. I also enjoyed the chapter on creating settings and backdrops, and even treating them as characters. This is an important book and a must-have for all writers who want to learn the dynamics of creating impactful stories.

When the words beckon

Analysis of the art of reading

Blogger, Tom Johnson, of the I’d Rather be Writing blog recently experimented with reducing his smartphone usage and filled that time with reading. He shares some interesting views in this latest post. I made notes that ended up becoming observations worth sharing.

  1. “Queuing up books” – Been there, still doing it. My eBook library has books for seven lifetimes. Every time I read a good review or hear a recommendation, I grab a copy. The reasonable pricing of eBooks makes piling on the reading list relatively easy. However, looking at the ever-expanding reading list can be stressful. Often, I have this urge to give it all up and just wade through that enormous shelf.

2. “The problem is that my interests evolve from book to book.” This, I believe, is not the problem but the “power” of reading books. It opens new thought vistas and encourages questions. Someone asked me the other day what kind of books I read and my response was “anything that holds my attention.” My taste has increasingly shifted from fiction to nonfiction but I can also devour Calvin & Hobbes or Garfield, cover-to-cover, any time of the day. Reading variety changes the mood and widens our knowledge.

3. “….I decided it wasn’t worth slogging through.” It took me some mental reconditioning to accept that some books are not worth the effort, and some are good in just bits and pieces. I still find it a difficult decision but I have started rationalizing skip-reading and not making it a battle to finish a book that I don’t want to. Tom talks more about this in the section, “Can I skip ahead when bored?”

4. “Buy print versions of audiobooks I enjoyed?” – It’s a personal choice but audible formats don’t hold my attention. Audible versions keep me hooked to my smartphone, which is counterintuitive to the act of reading. I also miss making notes and highlights. I love physical books and buy many on impulse, however, I usually end up with the Kindle version for convenience.

5. “For me, part of the reading experience involves interacting with the book through these annotations. Writing in a book destroys it for resale, but I consider that part of the cost of reading.” – I try to keep my books clean and find a local library to donate or share it with a friend. However, the desire to annotate is as real as Tom describes and this makes eBooks an appropriate choice for me.

6. “I dislike Kindle entirely. Reading from screens is the worst.” This is a universally debatable notion since the birth of the eReader. The eInk technology and the disconnect from any other app or truly workable web access, differentiate a Kindle from a typical screen. I love my Kindle Paperwhite because it powers a more immersive reading experience and is more portable with anytime-anywhere reading. Tom also talks about “How to remember words I look up?” For me, the Kindle highlights and dictionary lookup work well to create a mental map. I can easily search and refresh my memory.

7. “Is reading expensive?” – This is subjective and depends on the format as well as a source of books, for example, libraries, free or discounted eBooks, or used book stores. However, any hobby or pastime involves a monetary angle.

8. “I do think writing reviews would be a good skill to develop, though.” – As a regular book reviewer, I agree with this. It has helped me in developing critical analysis and vocabulary, paraphrasing, and writing in engaging ways. It enables me to pay back to the community of writers, especially self-published, by spreading the word about their work. Book reviews are a beautiful thing to do – for the self and the authors.

9. “Reading is a natural precursor, even a requirement, to writing.” – Always! The more you read the better you write and that’s true for self-review or edits in one’s own writing. The work evolves with each iteration.

10. “What value do non-technical books have on a technical career?” I am glad that Tom raises this question about how book reading as a hobby can help in our technical writing profiles. Well, content strategy, paraphrasing, minimalism, understanding audiences, and trends, are all skills that grow as we expand intellectually. As Tom says, “Perhaps reading helps prime and tune my intellectual engine, which then makes me more capable in performing other tasks (even in writing documentation).”

I enjoyed reading Tom’s article and crystallized my views on the wonderful hobby of reading. Tom’s article has many more points to ponder, for example, is reading passive or are book clubs worth the time. You may find your takeaways or rediscover the lost art of reading. At the end of it, don’t forget to grab a book.

Book Review: Remote, Not Distant

Remote, Not Distant – Gustavo Razzetti – Book Cover

Book: Remote, Not Distant: Design a Company Culture That Will Help You Thrive in a Hybrid Workplace

Author: Gustavo Razzetti

Genre: Non-fiction, business

Review copy: Reedsy Discovery

Available at: Amazon.in

Recommended: Must Read

The “new normal” became the buzzword in most professional circles during the pandemic years. Today, the “new normal” is the “new world” demanding a mindset change and adjustments. The diktat for return-to-office has led to an upheaval that is said to feed the Great Resignation, particularly in the corporate realm. Remote, Not Distant by Gustavo Razzetti is one of the most relevant books that leaders and employees can read to build bridges and settle down in a hybrid work mode.

Gustavo’s book is well-researched and well-organized. It puts together details in a succinct and meaningful format. The book endorses that corporate leaders have to accept that “The hybrid workplace is here to stay.” Employees expect leaders to understand their perspectives and include them in decisions about flexibility and a hybrid work model.

The book provides a 5-step Anywhere/Anytime Culture approach to tackle the issue head-on. The writer has used examples and quotes from industry practitioners and consultants to explain how a hybrid work model requires resetting prior notions. He breaks down jargon to their basic connotations to showcase why words must truly convey our intentions – be it culture, purpose, employee engagement, rituals, or ideas. He mentions asynchronous communication, proximity bias, single-source of truth, and conflicts.

Readers are presented with an array of frameworks and tools, downloadable with QR codes and topic recaps. My copy of this book has several highlights and notes. It is insightful to read how some companies got it right with their employee-first approach, while some took a fall. A storehouse of information, this guide, can help leaders define what they need to make the hybrid workplace work. It can assist employees to see where the lines converge and how they can contribute to their organizations in a remote or hybrid setup. They can be equipped to bring suggestions to the table.

This guide endorses a switch in our thought process and provides actions to redraft our way of working for a “unique opportunity to reset your culture and leverage the best of both worlds: in-person and remote.” Gustavo Razzetti, the CEO and founder of Fearless Culture, a culture design consultancy, is vocal about integrity, trust, conversations, connections, and letting go of control tactics. Behaviors and emotions are more important than physical perks. The bright-yellow book cover is unmistakable and brings to attention one of the most crucial issues of the employer-employee relationship in a post-Covid world. This is a book for keeps.

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