Mind the Gap
Wood Dragon Books / 22 June 2022

Mind the Gap: Navigating Your Leadership Journeyby Doug Forsdick, Keri Schwebius, and Heather ThomsonPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Toby A. Welch$19.99 ISBN 9781989078846 Like the title spells out, Mind the Gap covers how to become a more effective leader, but it is much more than that. It is geared towards leadership in the workplace, but those not interested in career leadership advice will also get valuable information from the pages. Additionally, employees will find the information helpful as they contemplate workplace situations. This book is divided into four areas of leadership: ‘focus on you’, ‘plot the course and steer the way’, ‘maneuver within your organization’, and ‘continue the journey’. We read about the differences between managers and leaders, the role your values play in leadership, how to have difficult conversations, and many other aspects of leadership. Each chapter ends with Reflection Questions, a list of questions to get you thinking about your own leadership journey and how you want to grow. They are powerful questions that can lead to hours of contemplation. My favourite chapter is #20: “Getting Sh*t Done.” It shares how to create a system to help you accomplish what needs to get done. It also touches…

Finding Izzy
Wood Dragon Books / 22 June 2022

Finding Izzyby Sheryl DohertyPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Toby A. Welch$18.99 ISBN 9781989078662 Finding Izzy is a dense book, almost 300 pages with a small font. But that is a great thing for the readers – it gives the author enough space to flesh out an engrossing story that pulls you in from page one.  Speaking of page one, that is where the action begins. In the opening scene, the main character, Izzy, wakes up in a hospital with no idea who she is. She sees a news story on TV about missing Indigenous women and is convinced she is one of them. She shares her theory with the two police officers who are trying to figure out who she is; they aren’t convinced she’s right. Once discharged from the hospital, Izzy is taken to a temporary emergency home in North Vancouver as Family Services believes she is under 18. From there the story takes off as police try to identify her through dental implants, fingerprints, and distinguishing marks.  Although this is a work of fiction, it is fascinating to ride along with the main character on her journey with amnesia. Doherty does a superb job of dropping us…

Shoot Out
Wood Dragon Books / 25 May 2022

Shoot Out (Jessie Mac Hockey Series)by Maureen UlrichPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$18.99 ISBN 9-781989-078648 In 2009 I reviewed Maureen Ulrich’s YA novel Power Plays—the first title in her Jessie Mac Hockey Series—and all these years later it’s been a pleasure to read her fourth and final book in this action-packed series. As with the earlier books, Shoot Out concerns hockey: 14-year-old protagonist Courtney’s debut with a U15 boys’ team (Moose) in Estevan, and her 19-year-old sister Jessie’s second season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Women’s team in Saskatoon. Ulrich’s successfully “passes” the spotlight back and forth between these two athletic characters: the siblings’ narratives alternate throughout this adeptly-written novel. Interestingly, Ulrich’s melded real-life Huskie hockey players and experiences–based on the schedule and statistics of the 2013-2014 women’s team, for which her daughter played—with fictional ones, and it’s a win-win. There’s plenty to admire, from the crisp writing to the personal growth of the McIntyre girls, who have much more to navigate than hockey ice. Romance simmers on the back burner for both gals, and there are mercurial friendships, family dynamics, educational upsets, and injuries to attend to. The major conflicts, however, are how young Courtney…

Stroke of Grace, A
Wood Dragon Books / 25 May 2022

A Stroke of Grace: A Guide to Understanding and Living With an Acquired Brain Injuryby Julianne HeagyPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Toby A. Welch$19.99 ISBN 9781989078891 This powerful book is a must-add for your to-read list! In a nutshell, Assiniboia-based writer Julianne Heagy suffered a life-changing stroke on her 31st wedding anniversary. This compelling read shares her story. Heagy doesn’t sugarcoat anything in this memoir; she includes all the grisly details.  I appreciate how this book is broken up chronologically. Heagy had her stroke on May 21, 2019, and A Stroke of Grace details one month per chapter. Once Heagy passes the one year anniversary of her stroke, the chapters morph into approximately yearly quarters. This layout allows for a seamless flow of the book with no distracting timeline jumping. While taking us on her journey, Heagy uses a friendly, casual tone with her words; it suits this story perfectly. Aesthetically speaking, this is a beautiful book. The image drawn on the cover carries throughout the book, softening the words. The font the creators picked was an excellent choice, pleasing to read and soft. The size of the font is bigger than you usually find in books although it…

Poetry and Lyrics of Jay Semko, The
Wood Dragon Books / 25 March 2022

The Poetry & Lyrics of Jay Semkoby Jay SemkoPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99 ISBN 9-781989-078631 “She ain’t pretty she just looks that way.” If you’re a Canadian of a certain age, there’s a good chance you’ll recognize that lyric from the song “She Ain’t Pretty” by The Northern Pikes, a Saskatchewan-based band that rose to popularity in the 1980s and still records. The Pikes’ bassist and a vocalist, Jay Semko, also penned many of the band’s songs, and now he’s released a book that’s “a mixture of song lyrics and ‘stand alone’ poems written over a 25-year period”. The Poetry & Lyrics of Jay Semko begins with the artist’s abbreviated autobiography. Jay Semko was bullied as a grade-accelerated child in rural Saskatchewan; became passionate about learning guitar and writing songs in his teens; and enjoyed career success both with The Northern Pikes and as a solo artist (ten albums plus music composition for film and television). We also meet the Jay Semko who is “a recovering addict … living with Bipolar Disorder”. Sharing his experience “helps [him] immensely, and is crucial to [his] own personal recovery”. “Write what you know” is a common literary adage and…

Baby Rollercoaster
Wood Dragon Books / 8 December 2021

Baby Rollercoaster: The Unspoken Secret Sorrow of Infertilityby Janice ColvenPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99 ISBN 9-781989-078587 I’ve just had the pleasure of reading the well-written, beautifully designed, highly personal and informative book by teacher/ranch wife/writer Janice Colven about her lifelong yearning to be a mother and her seven-year journey on the rollercoaster that is infertility. Throughout the candid, 207-page story, Colven uses the extended metaphor of a rollercoaster to parallel the ups and downs she and her husband experienced during this painful time, and the book’s title—Baby Rollercoaster: The Unspoken Secret Sorrow of Infertility—reflects their hopeful highs and heart-breaking lows. Colven writes that she’s always dreamed of becoming a mother. As a child she “loved baby dolls and everything that went with them,” and her “loving and nurturing spirit” even extended to the prairie girl wrapping a dead gopher “in a soft, pink blanket” and strolling it as one would a baby. Later she practised her maternal skills on younger siblings. “We buy the map to motherhood and have the trip planned down to the smallest detail,” she writes. In her introduction Colven shares that she wrote this “for the women who are walking the same…

Water Sight
Wood Dragon Books / 4 August 2021

Last of the Gifted, Book Two: Water Sightby Marie PowellPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Allison Kydd$18.99; ISBN 978-1-989078-29-7 (softcover) Those encountering the world of a Marie Powell fantasy for the first time with Last of the Gifted, Book Two: Water Sight will be impressed by her confident storytelling and vivid characterizations, especially because she combines history and fantasy. The historical setting is 1283, near the end of the second Welsh uprising against Edward Longshanks, the King of England at the time. The fantasy portion involves supernatural abilities, as the title suggests. Apparently the Last of the Gifted series was inspired by Powell’s visit to Wales in search of her own family story. She doesn’t tell that story this time, but she has done her research, uses the historical backdrop effectively and incorporates local myths and legends where she can. She also takes the time to provide authentic spellings and pronunciation, whether the names are those of people or castles. Serials are a popular novel form, especially for juvenile and young adult readers. However, the form is not without its challenges, since the author must find the balance between enough backstory and more than enough. Those who have read Spirit…

Field to Flask, 4th Edition
Wood Dragon Books / 3 March 2021

Field to Flask: Fundamentals of Small Batch Distilling (4th Edition)by Malcolm BucholtzPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Marlin Legare$52.00 ISBN 9781989078075 Field to Flask: Fundamentals of Small Batch Distilling is an arsenal of knowledge for anyone seeking to begin or perfect the art of distilling spirits. Whether you are a DIY enthusiast looking to try a new business endeavour during the pandemic or a wide-scale distiller with years of experience in the industry, there is something for everyone to learn in this book. Published by Wood Dragon Books in Regina, SK and written by native Reginian Malcolm Bucholtz, this book is just as locally sourced as the products that have taken consultation from Bucholtz, such as Saskatchewan’s own Sperling Distillery and Doucette Distillery, just to name a couple of examples. Bucholtz is a B. Sc. and an MBA who has been crafting alcohol for over 30 years. In 2014, he went on to complete his General Certificate in Distilling from the Institute for Brewing and Distilling to fully pursue his passion for entrepreneurship and crafting quality spirits. This expertise shines through from cover to cover of this comprehensive guide, which Bucholtz distributes to budding and experienced distillers during his 5-day…

Power Plays
Wood Dragon Books / 3 March 2021

Power Playsby Maureen UlrichPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Michelle Shaw$18.99 ISBN 9781989078273 In this first book in the Jessie Mac Hockey Series, we are introduced to fourteen-year-old Jessie McIntyre, the new girl at Estevan Junior High. In Saskatoon, at her old school, Jessie was part of a close group of friends. Now, not only does she not have any friends but one of the girls, Kim, a real bully, makes every day of Jessie’s life a nightmare. Things get even worse when Jessie somehow manages to get on the bad side of a group of older kids who have a really scary reputation. She can’t tell her parents. They think she’s the one being difficult. Jessie’s mom discovers that the local girls’ hockey team is in desperate need of players and signs her up, hoping to give her daughter a fresh start. But Jessie is a ringette player. She’s never played hockey before and she is horrified at what her mother has done. She’s also convinced that the other girls consider her a troublemaker and don’t want her on the team. But slowly Jessie begins to learn the game and fit in, and life starts looking up. Until her…

Cartwright Men Marry, The
Wood Dragon Books / 3 March 2021

The Cartwright Men Marryby Monique DesrosiersPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Toby A. Welch$19.99 ISBN 9781989078242 I love when a book sucks you in immediately with a great action scene. This one does just that, pulling you into an avalanche in 1863 before launching into present day. The Cartwright Men Marry jumps often from the years in the 1860s to current day. At its heart, this book is two separate stories linked by history and family roots. Desrosiers seamlessly pulls off the constant shifting, never making it awkward for the reader.  As a child of the 70s, this book had a Bonanza vibe right from the get-go for me. (For you millennials and non-TV watchers, Bonanza is an American Western TV series that ran from 1959 to 1973, a record-breaking 14 seasons. The show featured a family of Cartwright men dealing with ongoing moral and situational dilemmas.) The names sounded familiar, as did some of the history, and I discovered why. When you get to the end of the story, Desrosiers includes a page titled Why I Wrote The Cartwright Men Marry. She explains how binge-watching Bonanza in December 2018 inspired this book. She couldn’t stop thinking of what kind…