Beach Books

The Mender
By R.J. Moershel
Self-published
369 pages
Reviewed by Anna Killenbooks-mender

“You know what that guy is? He’s a disruptor.”

This is a sentence you might hear yourself saying one Thursday night in reference to a not-so-nice man you and your friends did not enjoy talking to. Your friends might look at you quizzically, “What’s a disruptor?” You’re happy to explain the term, borrowed from the young adult eco-fantasy novel, The Mender, which you’ve been quietly engrossed in for days. After spending so much time deep in the parallel worlds, one set 75,000 years ago, the other right here in present day Toronto, it’s only natural that you’d find yourself drawing from the book’s lexicon to explain the events taking place around you, right?

R.J. Moershel’s first novel is an accomplishment. Written while visiting all 100 Toronto library branches, retiree Moershel draws on her more than 30 years of experience working with people trying to make the world a better place at non-profits to bring us the story of Esri, a 14-year-old girl living in a low-rent, high-rise East York apartment with her dad and younger sister. Esri discovers she has a special gift – she is a ‘mender,’ someone who can travel through time, healing the past to create a better future. The novel bounces back and forth between the challenges Esri faces in her prehistoric life and her modern life. Both realistic and fantastical, it’s a compelling book on several levels – rich language, quirky characters, forward momentum, every-day challenges – with subtle and not-so-subtle morals of the story peppered throughout, and a thoughtfulness that both young adults and actual adults will appreciate.

 

Purposely Profitable: Embedding sustainability into the DNA of food processing and other businesses
By Brett Wills
Published by Wiley Blackwell
144 pages
Reviewed by Jon Muldoonbooks-profitable

In Purposely Profitable, recently landed East Ender Brett Wills lays out a blueprint for businesses to embrace the concept of sustainability – environmental, financial and social – as a core value when planning for either new business or re-thinking the way business is done.

The book begins with a section on clarifying the purpose of a business, before walking readers through narrowing the focus of the business with a vision statement, and choosing strategic pillars, a replacement for the traditional mission statement that allows for more flexibility and ability to focus on more than one objective at a time.

Next is a primer on key performance indicators, or “measuring what matters.” Using those KPIs and measuring success then allows a business to set further goals. The main section finishes off with a section on developing and then executing a strategic plan.

In his ‘Final Thoughts’ section, Wills opens with a Jack Welch quote: “Change before you have to.” Successful businesses, large or small, are those that take this advice. Any business in the planning and development stages or ready to change and adapt to the modern world should be able to find advice worth taking to heart in Purposely Profitable.

 

Kristina with a K
By Heather Anne Hunter
Hunter Books
183 pages
Reviewed by Anna Killenbooks-kristina-with-a-K

Kristina with a K isn’t an easy book to read. The young adult novel touches on difficult topics in a raw, yet ultimately compassionate voice that doesn’t shy away from detailing how its characters really feel – the good and the bad. That, combined with a setting localized to the East End with plenty of recognizable landmarks, gives the story a realness factor that isn’t always comfortable, but is fitting form for a novel that deals with a young girl’s discomfort and struggle to not only accept, but thrive, when life throws her a curve ball.

Should stories with a lesson, with heart underneath, be easy? Not always. Author Heather Anne Hunter trusts that her reader will be OK in the situations she places them in. Whether that’s understanding first-hand the trauma a young girl experiences at the hand of her step-father, or the anger and exasperation directed by a mother towards the hospital staff attending to her now-disabled daughter, or the judgmental side-glances of teens in the high school hallway. It’s a book about finding compassion and seeing the world through another’s eyes and experiences, and the tough moments felt through the eyes of Kristina and her mother throughout the book, as is often the case in life, are rewarded and softened as the book draws to a close, leading the reader to wonder what goals Kristina will meet next.

 

Upstaged
By Patricia McCowan
Orca Book Publishers
160 pages
Reviewed by Anna Killenbooks-upstaged

For Patricia McCowan’s second novel, Upstaged, the east Toronto author once again draws on what she knows – the excitement and struggle of artistic pursuit from the eyes of a teenager. Her first novel, Honeycomb, offered a glimpse into what happens when a group of friends take their harmonies to the next level and try for a spot at a music festival. In this endeavor, McCowan taps into her theatrical past to bring us the story of Ellie – a teenager recently landed in Toronto from a small town where she was used to being centre stage, literally. Ellie played the lead in all of her former school’s plays, but in Toronto, she has competition.

This wholesome quick-read for the younger sect will certainly appeal to those with background in performance – it’s a realistic portrayal of the varying and quirky casts, characters, and settings one finds when immersed in musical theatre. But it’s also a fine lesson about the values and negatives of competition, and why in life there are some things more important than being in the limelight.

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