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Book Reviews
A Brigit of Ireland Devotional: Sun Among Stars
By: Mael Brigde – Moon Books, $22.95

Description: She is the gateway to inspiration, the eternal sparkling flame. A Brigit of Ireland Devotional – Sun Among Stars evokes this much-loved Goddess and Saint, drawing on her history, mythology, and traditions, and on the author’s intimate bond with her.

Thoughtful essays, a daily devotional practice, and extensive resources make it a useful reference as well as an inspiring text.

Verdict: Simply put, this book is a veritable must-have for everyone with an appreciation of beautiful poetry, prayer and love for and about Brigid; she as has also been known as Goddess and Saint (along with The Mother of Poetry), and is inspiration to Bards aplenty.

Just immersing yourself within her prose makes life oh-so much more tolerable, understandable, calm, and what’s more you can actually hear her voice speak through these collective poems.

I mean, everything in this new book A Brigit of Ireland Devotional: Sun Among Stars comes under the heading of either being verse, poetic prose, autobiographical, and so much more, and thus it speaks from such a deeply authentic, and spectacularly unique, highly personal viewpoint, which in turn provides a way into the lore and practice of those who are like mindedly devoted. As well as becoming an instant resource for those who have already had long practice in working with Brigit, of course.

A beautifully constructed, artfully created and wholly multifaceted book that is part devotional poetry, part mystical reflection, and part resource, this text belongs on the shelves of all who genuinely read with the heart, as from there such literary works can transcend to the intellect, alerting the aware seeker of the historical and mythical legend simply known as Brigit.

Obviously informed by the author’s years of devotion and study, thus giving it a deep authenticity that other books on her subject have somewhat skated over, A Brigit of Ireland Devotional: Sun Among Stars brings forth the poet’s consoling, empowering, keening, teaching, and singing vocal expressions as if they were being told from a comfy chair, by a roaring fire, alongside your very self, safe and cozy within your own home.

And so I ask you, what better way is there to connect with the goddess of poetry other than through her poetry itself? And, of course, this book is the ultimate reveal, to this juncture, of the beloved Brigit (or perhaps, depends where you come from, Brighid of Kildare), a woman dedicated to her service and creative work for women, children, poets and nuns alike.

About the Author: Mael Brigde is a devotee of the Irish goddess and saint, Brigit, and the founder of the Daughters of the Flame, which has tended Brigit’s perpetual fire since Imbolc 1993. She publishes a general interest Brigit blog, Brigit’s Sparkling Flame, and a Brigit poetry blog, Stone on the Belly.

She teaches courses and webinars on Brigit, including Journey with Brigit, Goddess of Poetry, an intensive class that explores reading and writing poetry as a sacred act. Mael Brigde lives in Vancouver, Canada.

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The Deceptive Brain: Blame, Punishment ...
By: Robert L. Taylor – IFF Books, $17.95

Description: Preposterous as it sounds, we are not who we seem to be. Not even close. At the heart of this misperception is our deep-seated conviction of free choice. Based on emerging neurobehavioral science findings, The Deceptive Brain makes the case for human experience as a narrative illusion — an executive summary of sorts — that emerges from an incredibly complex brain.

Verdict: Given that The Deceptive Brain drills down on what this aforementioned finding means for the way we blame and punish, and therein presents a bold alternative approach to criminal justice based on blameless responsibility, you won’t be shocked to learn that author Robert L. Taylor, M.D. dives deep into examining how ideas and understandings that deviate from reality are now tantamount to being accepted and spread as truth and beliefs.

After the Preface (where we are told that central to our understanding of human experience is an unswerving conviction in mind that puts us in control and allows us to choose and will our way through life, and yet despite this deep-seated, and wholly universal belief, rigorous attempts to prove it have met with surprising failure), we then get the Introduction (subtitled Waning of Homo Grandiose, and featuring a Mark Twain quote), we then get 11 chapters (albeit the final one is solely Conclusions) that stream through the analyzation of the human cognition systems, how human perception and memory are not perfect, and, in part, how we humans fill in the gaps with our understanding of the world, thus creating a reality that is a combination of sensory input and our preconceptions.

With rational thinking only accounting for a small part of the overall thinking process it seems most of our day-to-day understandings and decisions are driven by an intuitive operation with our brains. Furthermore, the subconscious has tremendous influence in our thinking process where often we reach a conclusion subconsciously and only then, once now residing within the conclusion itself, provide reason and logic to justify the results.

Therefore, we need “meta-thinking,” i.e., self-examination of our thinking process to reduce undesirable bias and misconceptions, I would willing acknowledge and thus within these articulately creative, always thoughtful, never pandering, and yet always steadfast chapters we get titles such as Getting Blame Right, The Devil Made Me Do it and Other Defenses, The Astonishing Illusion, and both Deep Story Telling and the Self and Relocating Evil.

In conclusion, Neurobehavioral science is sending us an unexpected message. As preposterous as it sounds, we are not who we seem to be. Thus our deeply held conviction that we choose our way through life is being seriously challenged and this brand new book - based on relentlessly accumulating evidence – provides evidence that, in time, a radically revised version of criminal justice will be forced. Better it happen sooner than later, I think we can all agree.

About the Author: Robert L. Taylor, M.D. is a psychiatrist who has spent much of his career exploring the relationship between mind and brain. He is the author of six books and has been a consultant to several high-security state prisons and the U.S. Secret Service.

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Bringing God Up to Date
By: John Hunt – Christian Alternative, $20.95

Description: Religion is an essential part of our humanity. We all follow some form of religion, in the original meaning of the word. But organized religion establishes definitions, boundaries and hierarchies which the founders would be amazed by.

This is perhaps more true of Christianity than most other religions, due to the short life of Jesus, his sudden death, the lack of any contemporary records. His teaching about the kingdom of God is great; it could see us through our time on earth. But his followers watered it down and soon lost it altogether. It became a kingdom in heaven for the few, rather than one here and now for everyone.

The Church, or Churches, that resulted became increasingly irrelevant, even a hindrance, to seeing it realized. Many will always find security and truth in the traditions that developed, and good for them. But for those who can’t, for those who have given up on religion or never thought it worth considering, the original teachings are worth another look.

If we could recover them and live by them, we could change ourselves and the world for the better. We could bring God up to date.

Verdict: In what is an extremely comprehensive book from author John Hunt, Bringing God Up to Date: And Why Christians Need to Catch Up is a 395-page outpouring of thought provoking challenges and epiphanies surrounding the way Hunt believes that the original message of Jesus has thusly been watered down (and, at some levels, even undermined) over the decades.

Most definitely a modern day religious book of some masterful creativity (albeit it one that the author freely admits is a rehash of a couple of books I wrote a couple of decades and more ago, now out of print for a while: Daddy, Do You Believe in Go? And Bringing God Back to earth”), and perhaps (as some have already suggested) a contender for compulsory reading for every budding theologian, the information and personal insight within these pages is strong, adamant, well thought out and presented and never once wanes from its pre-destined and chartered course.

”John Hunt is to liberal theology what Richard Dawkins is to evolutionary biology,” has been said by Christian Marketplace, and that is hard to argue with as the depth of inspirational context here provides a seemingly bottomless well of hope, of religious sustenance that anyone could ever hope for in these most desperate of times we all now face together.

This page-turner of a book (which, as I’m sure you are all aware, is hardly the term one would ever consider using for a religious book of any kind, save for perhaps The Bible, of course, but this one truly is) is profoundly wide ranging in its seven chapters: Why We Believe, How Credible Is Religion?, How We Became Christian, A New Religion?, The Early Christians, The Way Forward and Fanciful Thinking, which makes for a read that not only provides an abundant acreage of information and personal reveal, but shares its hopes and dreams about God and Christians for a better, more rounded informationally, better connected to one another future for all.

About the Author - John Hunt has spent his life in publishing. Semi-retired, he now works as a reader and advisor in his eponymous company, in between writing, sailing and bee-keeping. He lives in Hampshire, in the south of England.

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Roky Erickson: True Love Cast Out All Evil
By: Brian T. Atkinson (Author), Billy Gibbons (Foreword), Henry Rollins (Foreword) - Texas A&M University Press, $28.00

Description: “Roky was one of Texas’ most original and unique singer-songwriters,” author Brian T. Atkinson says. “His short time fronting the psychedelic rock pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators in the ’60s made him a cult legend, but his 50-year solo career that followed was barely noticed. Hopefully, this book will shine a light on that important and influential time in Texas music.”

Verdict: “Transcendence came with a price,” Brian T. Atkinson writes in his introduction to this collection of reflections by and about pioneer psychedelic rocker Roky Erickson (1947–2019).

The singer and songwriter who fronted the 13th Floor Elevators burst onto the Texas music scene in 1966 with the release of “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” the band’s only charting single, which featured Erickson’s primal vocal stylings.

Indeed, Erickson’s 1960s band have been called the originators of psychedelic music and they were certainly the first to apply the word to disorientating, acid-warped rock, influencing the likes of the Grateful Dead, and later were covered by REM, Primal Scream, the Jesus and Mary Chain and even ZZ Top (whose roots also lie in Texas psychedelia).

Furthermore, you might even recognize the Elevators’ incendiary first single, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” from the opening scene of the beloved film High Fidelity.

The 13th Floor Elevators attracted considerable regional attention, including interest from a young Janis Joplin, who considered joining the group before opting to go to San Francisco instead.

As with his previous books on Townes Van Zandt, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Mickey Newbury, Atkinson has recorded hours of interviews with veteran and upcoming musicians who were impacted by Roky Erickson.

Through his interviews with those who were there and presentation of Erickson’s own words, and are inclusive of more than 70 friends such as Henry Rollins, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Stu Cook and Butthole Surfers’ King Coffey, as well as disciples such as the Meat Puppets’ Cris Kirkwood, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, the Black Angels’ Alex Maas and Okkervil River’s Will Sheff, et al., Atkinson chronicles how Erickson was haunted for most of his life by mental illness, likely compounded by his liberal usage of hallucinogenic and other drugs.

But despite all that seemingly went against him, self-induced for the most part, his influence on Texas musicians of various genres is vast. As Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top attests in his foreword, “He stands alone to this day and is revered as an artist because he had the gift of a wonderful voice.”

Butthole Surfers’ King Coffey says it perfectly when he says: “Roky’s voice was undeniable. He screamed and yelled like great Texas blues singers — freaky, rocking, weird. Roky was a visionary singer and songwriter.”

And legendary outlaw country singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard backs that up when he says: “Roky Erickson opened the door and he showed the way. Bands today still strive for what he brought.”

Along with the insights of long-time music journalists like Joe Nick Patoski and the bittersweet recollections of friends and family members like Mikel Erickson, brother of the singer, this work includes poetry and lyrics written by Erickson during his confinement at Rusk State Hospital in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

More than his music, though, what Erickson became famous for was losing his mind. In 1969, he pleaded insanity over a drugs charge and spent three years in a Texas mental institution, from which he emerged somewhere south of normal.

A famous interview with the NME’s Nick Kent in 1980 fixed him in the mind of rock fans as a befuddled wreck, burbling about aliens and demons. “The devil, see, he’s my friend,” he informed a bewildered Kent.

Thus the picture that emerges is that of a brilliant, yet eagerly troubled mind and an artist whose influence extended far beyond the period of his greatest notoriety, continuing even beyond his death in 2019.

But, and in conclusion and as we garner from within this prevalent and wholly informative new book from Atkinson, is that as much as the counter-culture in San Francisco embraced the Elevators, and as much as he was becoming increasingly unwell due to that fact, adding heroin to the pharmaceutical mix of his everyday life, and as much as there were most definitely three decades that were chaotic and very unproductive, Roky Erickson was then, and is still today, an heroic icon of modern rock & roll and one of the best friends music ever had.

About the Author: BRIAN T. ATKINSON is the author of I’ll Be Here in the Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt, The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wiley Hubbard, and Looks Like Rain: The Songwriting Legacy of Mickey Newbury and coauthor of Kent Finlay, Dreamer: The Musical Legacy behind Cheatham Street Warehouse. He lives in Austin.

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She Walks In Beauty
By: Jim McCarty (Author), Dave Thompson (Author) -, $19.95

Description: My last book, Nobody Told Me, was the story of the best days of my life, and a musical career that took me from a holiday camp in the English west country to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland McCarty explains.

This book, on the other hand, begins on the very worst day of my life, June 7th, 2020 — with the death of my wife Elisabeth. Lizzie.

She Walks In Beauty (out now) is the tale of Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty’s lifelong quest to unravel the mysteries of the world that exists beyond the world in which we live.

Verdict: With an introduction that tells it like it is (”All our lives, everything that we do is bound together by threads. There could be hundreds of them … some are so frail they are barely tangible. Others are strong, like torrents … all of them are invisible and we see them wherever we go”), McCarty opens the book (and his heart) by revealing a childhood fascination with the paranormal – one that only gathered strength as he grew older.

In She Walks in Beauty, he continues to explore the world hidden just out of reach, the shadows that are just out of sight and the certainty that there is an enduring connection between the living and the dead.

As with his opening introduction, woven in and around his career as a musician, McCarty reflects upon the books and films that signposted his course, and the myriad places to which his curiosity led him - from war-time bomb-sites to public seances, from suburban English healing centers to pilgrimages to India, China and the Himalayas.

In his prior book, Nobody Told Me, it’s true that McCarty had already talked a little about his interests in spirituality and the paranormal, but they were mere passing references to the deeper explored subjects on display here.

In this new book, he looks back at the songs he has written that chart that journey, beginning with the Yardbirds’ Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, through to his recent solo work. He recalls the friends and musicians who have joined him on his quest, including Yardbirds vocalist Keith Relf, and Renaissance/Stairway bassist Louis Cennamo.

And he tells stories, oh so many wondrous stories of his years in and out of music, of which he actually apologizes for in this new book - ”To the readers of the first book, I apologize for the stories that you might have read before, but I hope I compensate for that with ones you‘ll be hearing for the first time.”

Having seemingly been on an endless search for answers to the many questions he had - and, ultimately, perhaps possibly now having found them all - She Walks in Beauty is not the typical rock’n’roll autobiography. There again, Jim McCarty is not the typical rock’n’roller!

About the Author: Jim McCarty was a founder member of rock legends The Yardbirds (with whom he still plays today) and Renaissance. This is his second book.

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The Effective Presenter
By: Ryan J. Warriner – JHP Business, $17.95

Description: The Effective Presenter: The Winning Formula for Business Presentations serves as a presentation resource for everyone from interns to executives in the private sector.

It centers around a proprietary presentation framework and outlines the complete formula to preparing, designing and delivering an effective professional presentation.

The Effective Presenter combines information, research and first-hand experiences to offer unique insights and outline common misconceptions of professional presentations. It provides a blend of practical skills and advice to supplement the optimal presentation formula and build confidence.

Verdict: Simply put, The Effective Presenter is a quite magnificently structured framework for any and all people either readying themselves for their very first presentation or their fiftieth or even their hundredth and counting.

With more than a decade of professional presentation experience and skills in his locker, Warriner has spoken to, and presented in front of small, medium and large groups for many years now.

Thus his incredible brain-stored database of the best ways to conduct not only your presentation but also yourself during such events is pure, unadulterated gold dust for both newbies and old timers alike.

Again, The Effective Presenter is more than just a How To with regard how to deliver your presentation visually, for it delves deeply into how to mentally prepare, physically prepare and then how to conduct yourself accordingly throughout.

With Warriner having himself performed thousands of professional presentations, whilst designing hundreds more for others, his knowledge is truly invaluable within this business.

In closing, you will soon find that the book becomes a Go-To for all your thoughts, questions and needs. From your very first through to your tenth and so forth, whenever you need some information, so guidance or simply a little pep talk of encouragement, Ryan J. Warriner and his The Effective Presenter book will always be there for you.

About the Author - Ryan Warriner is a Professor of Communication, as well as the Director and Executive Coach of Professional Presentation Services.

With over a decade of professional speaking experience and expertise, Ryan has mastered the art and science of enhancing communication. Throughout his career, Ryan has performed thousands of professional presentations, while designing hundreds more.

He has developed a compassionate, strategic, highly effective approach to navigate professional communication. He believes in systematic skill development to improve confidence, optimize messaging, and enhance overall delivery.

He lives in Toronto, Canada and has offices in California, as well as New York.

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No One Playing
By: Martin Wells – Mantra Books, $14.95

Description: This is a story about a strange encounter on the golf course with someone who, on the face of it, knows nothing about golf but who ends up teaching the author about the inner game and questioning his approach to golf and to life itself.

It is not just about golf or sport, nor about improvement or progress or how to do something. If anything, it points to a way of living effortlessly that is free and harmonious, that is, to the essence of mindfulness and non-duality.

Each of the nineteen chapters contains a lesson which the author palpably resists for the first few holes. But, gradually he comes to realize the profound truth in the teachings of the stranger and begins to understand the radical perspective of no one playing.

Verdict: At its heart a coveted exposition of the layered, deep darks secrets of life that we tend to neither acknowledge or, if we do, push onto the back burner to attend to another time (that just never seems to come), No One Playing: The Essence of Mindfulness in Golf and in Life reveals how we can actually deal with such things; one way or another.

A rather mystical journey, if you wish, that brings forth ways and means within wisdom to help us deal with and handle the suffering and/or delights of our world, No One Playing provides us an attitude to guide ourselves smoothly into and through anything put in front of us.

Enjoyable, touching, faithful, openly honest and at all times informative, imaginative and thought provoking, No One Playing has the ability to be widely useful to everyone interested in opening and expanded their horizons.

Definitely not a book simply for golfers, absolutely not, ok, sure, No One Playing does obviously angle itself toward those such players and lovers of the sport, but overall its depth encompasses a richness of text that is abundantly digestible to one and all.

About the Author - Martin Wells has worked as a psychotherapist in the NHS for over 30 years.

He also teaches mindfulness to patients and staff. Ten years ago his own profound experience of letting go radically changed the way in which he now works. Martin lives in Bristol, UK.

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Earth Spirit: Saving Mother Ocean
By: Steve Andrews – Moon Books, $10.95

Description: We’ve all seen the news of dead and dying whales, and the alarming amounts of plastic pollution washing up on beaches or floating on the tides. The oceans are in very great danger for many reasons, and it is not just plastic waste, which is bad enough.

Overfishing, acidification, coral bleaching, nuclear waste, seabed mining, military testing, and climate change, are taking a very heavy toll on marine creatures of all types, from tiny plankton to the massive whales. The eponymous Dead Zones are aptly named.

Many marine creatures are in danger of extinction. Life on this planet depends on healthy oceans. We depend on healthy oceans. This book takes a look at the threats to marine life, and what is being done to save the seas.

Verdict: Simply put, everything noted above and within the book itself is all a massive call to action to save Mother Ocean.

We humans have been squeezing life out of the sea for many years now, let alone the fact that increased CO₂ levels in the atmosphere have made the ocean more acidic, threatening food chains.

Warming waters are not only killing sea life they are also changing currents and affecting global weather patterns. Meanwhile we dump 8 million tons of waste into the ocean a year, in addition to agricultural and industrial runoff that poisons coastal areas.

Indeed, at the rate we are harvesting fish, by 2050 there will likely be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

Here in Earth Spirit: Saving Mother Ocean, the author Steve Andrews explains how he became personally motivated to do what he could.

As a singer and songwriter he wrote songs and came up with the idea for Ocean Aid concerts. Now he has written the book you are holding. He hopes to inspire you to think about what you can do and trust me when I say that we all need to help save the seas.

Andrews dives in (all pun intended, sorry) to the problem we have brought upon ourselves as humans by exploring all angles, detailing the threats cast with ease forward, whilst admitting that our own fate as the human race depends on the seas and so forth.

For a revitalized ocean would not only feed a growing population but could also strengthen our fight against climate change. Coastal habitats such as mangroves and salt marshes are extraordinary carbon sinks, sequestering as much CO₂ per acre as 16 acres of pristine Amazonian rain forest.

New developments in offshore wind-farm technology can provide an inexhaustible supply of green energy, while mineral deposits on the seafloor, if mined sustainably, offer the raw ingredients for the batteries to store it.

In conclusion, Andrews continues on his painstakingly revealing journey here trying to always focus our attention on the (for the most part) man-made problems we have growing every day with this regard, and how we can help reduce the amount of plastic pollution to slowly make a difference for generations to come.

About the Author - Steve Andrews is a man of many talents. He is a writer, a journalist, a singer-songwriter, a poet and a naturalist who has contributed to many publications including Kindred Spirit magazine. He is also known as the Bard of Ely and Green Bard. Born in Cardiff, Wales, Steve now lives in Sesimbra, Portugal.

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Earth Spirit: Healthy Planet
By: Fred Hageneder – Moon Books, $24.95

Description: Healthy Planet offers a clear and concise overview of the global ecological crisis that humanity has brought upon itself, and what options we still have to save a benevolent climate, to restore biodiversity, reduce pollution, and heal the ecosphere of this planet, including ourselves.

Verdict: Since well before the Covid-19 crisis the United Nations have been emphasizing that only a healthy planet can support healthy people. The degradation and pollution of nature also poisons our own bodies.

Climate breakdown and the global loss of biodiversity also threaten the human species. But what is a healthy planet? How does it work, how much do we disrupt the planet’s life support systems, and what changes are overdue?

Within Earth Spirit: Healthy Planet: Global meltdown or global healing by Fred Hageneder, we quickly learn that we have all the necessary means at our disposal, though just patching up the worst symptoms won’t do anymore, we have to address the underlying causes, including our habits, values, and paradigms.

Ergo, we are at a crucial crossroads, and time is running short. If we act fast enough, a dignified and truly sustainable healthy future awaits.

At its core, a slap-in-the-face wake up call about Climate Change, and yet one that ably showcases a diligent balance between the science and non-scientific facts that always reside within such conversations, Earth Spirit: Healthy Planet is not only a wonderful resource for scientists and (people of that ilk) but a rather tremendous one for average joe’s; people that are curious, but don’t have a scientific bone in their body.

Far from a Doomsday scarefest, Hageneder brings us the information in bite size formats, always allowing us to take in (and subsequently digest) as much as we ourselves wish to.

Ok, sure, some of it doesn’t sound like it could ever possibly happen, thus leaning toward a more wary point of view (should we decide to let sleeping bogs lie), but for the most part there is an unerring accuracy to his proclamations; so much so that, perhaps, the most hardened of pessimists to the subject might start to second guess their own adamantly engrained thoughts.

A book for everyone on the planet to take on board and allow Hageneder’s words to filter through, in my humble opinion this is a book chock full of realistic analysis and one we should all pay attention to: sooner rather than later, of course!

About the Author - Fred Hageneder is a leading author in the ethnobotany of trees, a founding member of the Ancient Yew Group (AYG) in the UK, and a member of the Ecocentric Alliance, a global advocacy network for ecocentrism and deep green ethics. He lives in Llandeilo, Wales.

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Conform or Be Cast Out
By: Logan Albright – Moon Books, $16.95)

Description: Everyone knows that being different is a good way to be unpopular, but what if you’re so different that people think you are an actual servant of evil?

Conform or Be Cast Out is a history of humankind’s tendency not only to shun nonconformists, but to label them as devils, demons, and Satan worshippers.

Beginning with scapegoats and devil figures in folklore and mythology, the book moves on to look at other aspects of nonconformity such as witchcraft, the Inquisition, spiritualism and medical conditions once mistaken for lycanthropy, vampirism, and demonic possession before concluding with a discussion on aspects of contemporary culture ranging from heavy metal music to zombie movies.

Verdict: As noted above, the thoroughly intriguing Conform or Be Cast Out from Logan Albright is a history of humankind’s tendency not only to shun nonconformists, but to label them as devils, demons, and Satan worshippers.

Our human trait to wish to learn to appreciate another person’s point of view, albeit possible one that grates against everything we think we know and what we stand for, is an admirable one, but one undertaken in some quarters with a pinch of rebellious salt.

So it begs the question: Is the truth different from one man to another, or is it simply more vital for one set of men to desire (perhaps even need) to believe it means something else than the common core that it exudes to the general masses?

Thus, if that is genuinely the case, as we learn from Albright’s engrossing new book, there is obviously then no need to cast out or shun (or perhaps even burn re: heretics) people based on their own belief systems or other arbitrary categories solely because they don’t slide neatly into your own beliefs of the world.

An unapologetic celebration of those that like to call themselves free-thinkers and who tend to baulk the system as much as possible, in hopes of tilting it to their way of thinking, Conform or Be Cast Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists is an informed, passionate discussion of the trials and tribulations of being an individual with free will.

About the Author - Logan Albright is a pagan, occultist, libertarian, and writer. He lives in Washington, DC.

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Quaker Quicks: In Search of Stillness
By: Joanna Godfrey Wood – Christian Alternative, $10.95)

Description: How can we find inner stillness in our lives today? What is it for and how can we use it?

Inspired by the fiery writings of early Quakers, such as George Fox and Margaret Fell, this book calls on their advice to go within and wait, adapting it to create a modern, relatable method for finding stillness and peace.

This meditation is for us to use however we most need it, whether to explore and heal the self and others or to help us be more effective in the wider world.

Verdict: It has been said many times that Meditation is emptying yourself of all content. When there is no thought moving inside you there is stillness; that stillness is meditation.

Ergo, Meditation is a priming of the mind and strengthening of awareness where on a micro level, we learn to detach from thoughts, feelings, sensations — to remain balanced.

Here in Quaker Quicks - In Search of Stillness: Using a simple meditation to find inner peace, Joanna Godfrey Wood brings forth an enlightened regime of Meditation techniques, based on, and to encourage within us, the act of genuine stillness (re: mind, body and soul).

As we all know, or at least those of us that have tried, “I think too much” and “I can’t get out of my own head” are comments we spurt out after just a few minutes of trying to find inner peace, inner stillness within Meditation.

This is pretty common, as we learn from Wood, thinking isn’t the actual problem, but moreover the struggle comes when we’re constantly spinning stories in our head and getting caught up in them.

For it is at those times, especially when we are trying to calm and quieten everything internal and external, that our minds suddenly jump from one thing to another, seeking distraction or avoiding difficulty.

We can’t focus, we can’t be present in the moment, and we feel the need to be constantly busy again. But found in Quaker meetings, Meditation re: slowing down, a connection of mind and body can not only provide peace amongst your daily turmoil, but can spur you into action thereafter also.

For as much as our inbred mental processes — jumping around and distraction and being caught up in stories — don’t have to cause anxiety, they are not only common, but it feels like they are part and parcel of the normal human condition.

If this is how our minds are most of the time, then feeling afflicted by this condition is probably going to cause us constant anxiety. Hence why this new book from Wood allows you to take strident steps into a Quaker attitude toward stillness that, and take this from me, works like a charm.

About the Author - Joanna Godfrey Wood has been a Quaker all her life and she attended a Quaker school. She recently took the Equipping for Ministry course at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, England, which gave her a chance to study the works of Margaret Fell.

In her local Quaker meeting her particular ministry is facilitating study groups. She has also written Travelling in the Light: How Margaret Fell’s Writings can Speak to Quakers Today. Joanna spent her working life as a book editor. Joanna lives in North London, UK.

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I Wonder: Mind-Freeing Encounters With God
By: Nathan Aaseng – Christian Alternative, $18.95

Description: Many Christian leaders today promote rigid doctrine that says, “Never doubt. Never question.”

This insistence has been demonstrably disastrous for the church because the first step in any faith formation is to wonder.

Nathan Aaseng revives the gift of wonder in seeking a fuller, more awesome experience of God. It welcomes unsettling questions, that are too often dismissed with pat answers.

Verdict: At a time when many Christian denominations mistakenly assume that it is their task to give answers — and sadly, often simplistic answers — author Nathan Aaseng invites us to honor our questions.

His “wonderings,” like all honest human inquiry, are grounded in a spirit of holy wonder. They are rooted, not in a fragile faith, but in a radical trust for our human intelligence, respect for scriptural symbols, and a profound openness to the mystery of God.

An extremely well-reasoned book, I Wonder: Mind-Freeing Encounters With God allows Aaseng to ask all those pesky “God questions” - and for which most are answered as best as any can - that we as followers, as believers have always shunned and shied away from.

His personal stories and sense of humor make for delightful reading for with the heart of a Pastor, the wit of a humorist, the eloquence of a bard, and the clarity of a scientist, Aaseng encourages the minds and viewpoints of the reader to journey with him on a quite eye-opening trek into the Holy Lands.

Containing many passages of solid scripture along with enticing moments long the way where Aasseng asks the questions and posits possible answers - in a magically joyous manner - I Wonder: Mind-Freeing Encounters With God is one of those readings that, in my humble opinion, could also qualify as a most perfect addition to Confirmation classes (so that confirmands are openly encouraged to ask such questions - and as they are learning and developing their relationship with God - rather than being given a rigid doctrine to follow; so to speak).

About the Author - Nathan Aaseng has worked as a research microbiologist, then spent 20 years as an award-winning freelance author, followed by 13 years as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

He was featured in a 10,000-word essay in Something About the Author, vol, 236. He was honored as a Notable Wisconsin Author by the Wisconsin Library Association, and a starred review in Kirkus Reviews declared “his stories are as addictive as peanuts.” He lives with his family in Eau Claire, WI.

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Magnificent, Rational, Strange
By: Ian Breckenridge - Iff Books, $15.95

Description: In Magnificent, Rational, Strange, you will take a voyage of discovery to explore the entire universe as we know it today.

Notice its magnificent rationality, its deep complexity, and some of the paradoxes seemingly built into it. Ponder the strangeness of time and of vast numbers, black holes, Big Bangs, and quantum dimensions.

What are our human origins? Are we alone in our mysterious uniqueness? Or are we part of a natural pattern characteristic of this universe?

The human voyage continues, but travel back first, to celebrate life, how it emerged and how it works. Examine the ancient roots of humankind and our journey thus far.

Circle back to the biochemical underpinnings of human understanding. Where will this voyage take us now?

Ian Breckenridge, a layman, has for many years been immersed in the indescribable wonder of our universe. In a single compact volume, this book manages to raise quite a few deep questions.

Verdict: The search for life beyond Earth is really just getting started, but science has an encouraging early answer: there are plenty of planets in the galaxy, many with similarities to our own. But what we don’t know fills volumes.

Observations from the ground and from space have confirmed thousands of planets beyond our solar system. Our galaxy likely holds trillions. But so far, we have no evidence of life beyond Earth. Is life in the cosmos easily begun, and commonplace? Or is it incredibly rare?

In Ian Breckridge’s rather wondrous, and for a smaller-paged book, wholly expansive Magnificent, Rational, Strange: A beginner’s guide to the universe, we learn that as much as there are way more questions than answers, life may well be all the things that the title suggests its wonderment to be, but in his words, the author brings forth rational answers to a lot of our burning questions.

In the thousands of years humanity has been contemplating the cosmos, we are the first people to know one thing for sure: The stars beyond our Sun are teeming with planets. They come in many varieties, and a good chunk of them are around the size of Earth.

That then begs the question: Are we alone in our mysterious uniqueness? Or are we part of a natural pattern characteristic of this universe?

Thus we travel back first, to celebrate life, how it emerged and how it works. Examining the ancient roots of humankind and our journey thus far - before circling back to the biochemical underpinnings of human understanding - it has always been clear (at least to myself) that for too long many Christians have doubted the stories in Genesis; such as creation and the Great Flood.

But more and more today we see Christian scientists finding evidence to prove that these stories are in fact true, disproving the theories of mainstream scientists.

Furthermore, our history books today don’t even acknowledge our creator God or the stories of Genesis (even though most, if not all, ancient civilizations had similar stories like the ones we find in Genesis); therefore, it’s impossible with today’s history books to study ancient civilizations and historical figures before and after the Great Flood.

But I digress, for Magnificent, Rational, Strange: A beginner’s guide to the universe tackles a lot of these questions and more, all be they responses from Breckenridge that (and admittedly) sometimes themselves struggle to find the exact words which can bring full justice to its extraordinary subject.

About the Author - Ian Breckenridge has for many years been immersed in the indescribable wonder of our universe. He is a Quaker, living in Norfolk, England.

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[F1] Reiki: A Self-Practice to Live in Peace ...
By: Elise Brenner, PHD & Nancy Spatz, MD - O Books, $16.95

Description: How is Reiki practice like a snow globe, a palm tree, and an anchor? As we navigate life’s unpredictable squalls and waves of adversity, we aspire to settle like the snow in a snow globe, feel rooted like the base of a palm tree in a storm, and be anchored like a steady ship.

Reiki: A Self Practice to Live in Peace with Self and Others provides readers with self-Reiki how-to’s for putting these metaphors into action to build an inner mind-body unshakable foundation, and to relieve the suffering of others.

Verdict: Taking it back to its origin, Buddhist monk Mikao Usui introduced the energy-healing therapy of reiki in 1920 in Japan before it came to the United States in the 1940s, and then Europe in the 1980s.

The aim of the practice? To provide for improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being via meditation, mindfulness, hands-on healing, attunements, and the use of symbols and mantras.

Thus Reiki: A Self-Practice To Live in Peace with Self and Others is an easy to read, easy to understand and easy to put into motion new book from both Elise Brenner, PHD & Nancy Spatz, MD opens a door to a mindful way of living with ease rather than struggle.

Whether it is fear of coronavirus, receiving texts in ALL CAPS, a frightening diagnosis, or worry over a child, the self-Reiki practices introduced here will alleviate pain and overwhelm, ushering in mindfulness, resilience, and recovery capacity.

With their collective hope that their new book will democratize and demystify the teachings and practices of Reiki, bringing them into the direct reach of all members of the human community, both Brenner and Spatz bring forth a book that admirably showcases a way for those seeking a natural, non-pharmaceutical, strengths-based approach to health, mindfulness, resilience, and inner peacefulness.

As I would hope we all know by now, and as a form of journalistic side bar, while Reiki is not meant to replace scientifically backed strategies prescribed by medical professionals, it can most definitely be called upon to complement other healing practices.

And sure, though you cannot technically practice Reiki on yourself until after completing Reiki Level 1 training, you can use such things as Seven-Step Reiki re: a self-healing practice (much like the ones outlined here in this book) to your benefit at home (whether stuck in a lockdown, sheltering whilst in quarantine, and beyond).

In closing, and as with any tool for transformation, the growth happens in consistently showing up for the practice and so we highly recommend you visit this book (regularly) to learn more about Reiki and its possible benefits for your very own mind, body and soul.

About the Author - Elise Brenner, PhD, Reiki Master, Mindfulness Meditation Teacher, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health & Sociology at Simmons University in Boston, provides Reiki training and presentations to health care professionals and to the public. She lives in Auburndale, MA.

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Secrets to Successful Property Investment
By: Deborah Durbin - JHP Business, $16.95

Description: A recent study found that 88% of people cannot afford to buy their own home and will always rent a property. Written by journalist and property investor, Deborah Durbin, Secrets to Successful Property Investment teaches you how to start your own successful property business.

Taken from her seven years’ experience of knowing nothing about property investment to creating a multimillion-pound property portfolio, this book will guide you step-by-step to creating your own property empire.

Indeed this guide will show you ... * How to generate deposits * How to get a mortgage * Renovations * Dealing with contractors * Dealing with bad tenants * How to grow your portfolio.

Verdict: The property business is ripe with opportunities for those willing to work at it. Whether you’re looking to replace your current career, build wealth, supplement your income, or help support your retirement, starting a real estate business can be a wonderful way to accomplish your goals.

Starting and operating a real estate business isn’t easy, but if you’re focused, dedicated, and willing to put in the work, it can pay off. Whether you’re getting prepared and educating yourself on the process or ready to dive in now, this new book/guide from Deborah Durbin will help you understand how to start a real estate business, including the costs and steps, as well as ideas for the different types of real estate businesses you can pursue.

Amongst the bullet-pointed rungs of the ladder to pay stricter attention to as you progress are: How to generate deposits; How to get a mortgage; Renovations; Dealing with contractors; Dealing with bad tenants and How to grow your portfolio.

But what comes across from the off is that once you have decided the best path for you ie: property investment, you must develop a plan quickly thereafter.

Think about what’s needed to get started in that career or business and whereas becoming a real estate agent or real estate broker may require you to attend a school or pass a test to get a license, others (such as just being in control of your own self-purchased properties) may allow you to get started right away with as little as a real estate business plan.

Thus it is always best to determine what is needed to get your foot in the door and plan what you want to accomplish or do with your business soon thereafter.

If you want to focus on buying an investment property, Durbin suggests you decide whether you are focusing on commercial real estate, residential rental property, fix and flips, wholesaling, or mortgage notes, et al.

Identify where you’ll source potential clients or investment property leads and what the conditions are like in your target market.

All these juicy, highly informative and at times pleasing bite-size tidbits of knowledge are readily made available within this book, a one-stop shop for all the teachings you will ever need to know how to start your own (and make it subsequently successful) property business.

About the Author - Deborah Durbin is a British journalist, author, and columnist. She has 11 non-fiction titles commercially published in the fields of wellbeing, Mind Body Spirit and natural health, writes features for magazines and newspapers, and works for several UK book publishers.

She is a full member of the Society of Authors, Women in Journalism and the National Union of Journalists. Oh Great, Now I Can Hear Dead People is Deborah’s debut novel and reached number one in the Kindle UK best seller charts (Supernatural category).

It has recently been signed to Soul Rocks Publishing for print rights and the paperback version is now available.

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Seeds of Silence: Essays in Quaker Spirituality...
By: R. Melvin Keiser - Christian Alternative, $22.95

Description: R. Melvin Keiser delves into the depths of Quaker spirituality and their philosophy, showing us that we require silence to unlock our relationship with God.

Seeds of Silence: Essays in Quaker Spirituality and Philosophical Theology questions the modern world’s addiction to distractions and instant gratification and leads us toward a semi-forgotten Christian tradition of contemplative thinking.

Verdict: In what is a must-read for today’s generation of heads down, eyes fixated on small, glowing screens humans, R. Melvin Keiser’s quite masterful, highly insightful and wholly direct Seeds of Silence: Essays in Quaker Spirituality and Philosophical Theology may well be imbedded in Quaker theology and spirituality, but at its heart it contains an imperative directive for us all to take on board and then spread the word of.

For the uninitiated, Quakers practice a religion of experience, a contemporary, simple, and radical faith. Quakers are also called Friends and Quakers believe that every person is known by God and can know God in a direct relationship.

The Quaker faith also has deep Christian roots. Many Quakers consider themselves Christians, and some do not. Many Quakers find meaning and value in the teachings of many faiths.

Quakers also strive to live lives that are guided by a direct encounter with the Divine, more than by teachings about the Divine. Quaker terms for the Holy include God, the Seed, the Light Within, and the Inward Teacher, among others.

Living through what are termed Testimonies, these are ways that Quakers have found to express their experience of the Divine in their lives. Furthermore, some of the best recognized testimonies include simplicity, integrity, equality, community, and peace.

Formulated as a deep dive into the roots, coherence and originality of Quaker living, other knowledge we glean is that Quakers gather in the silence and wait expectantly to come into the presence of the Divine and to be guided by the still, small voice by which God speaks to them from within.

During the silence anyone — child, woman, or man — may feel moved to offer a simple spoken message (vocal ministry) that is inspired by this holy encounter. Following the message, the silence resumes and a period of worship may include several messages or none.

Thus, and as I’m sure you can already tell, Seeds of Silence: Essays in Quaker Spirituality and Philosophical Theology is written with an honest sense of directness and honesty, where author R. Melvin Keiser opens himself up to the experience of wonderment and puzzlement that made him ask these inner-bound questions to himself at one time.

About the Author - R. Melvin Keiser, Professor Emeritus of Religious and Interdisciplinary Studies, Guilford College, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA, now lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

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Quaker Quicks - That Clear and Certain Sound
By: Pamela Haines - Christian Alternative, $10.95

Description: Stay alert to the ring of truth and reach for solid ground in all aspects of life. John Woolman, a colonial Quaker, advises us to “Dig deep. … Carefully cast forth the loose matter and get down to the rock, the sure foundation, and there hearken to the Divine Voice which gives a clear and certain sound.”

What if moving ever closer to what rings true were the central principle for organizing our lives? There may be no work that’s harder - or more worth doing. And maybe, as we keep trying, it will get less hard - and we’ll hear that ring of truth in our lives more and more.

This collection of meditations on being alive in these wonderful and perilous times encourages us to stay alert to the sound of truth even in the most unlikely places, to reach for solid ground in all aspects of our lives, and to stretch from there toward lives of greater connection and integrity.

Verdict: In a rather lovely, albeit rather thin new book from Pamela Haines (I only observe that fact as I would have wished for a few more mediations to have been included; as I’m sure you will be lovingly clamoring for yourselves once you have read it), the aforementioned meditations included feature a generous portion of life lessons learnt, whilst all being deeply rooted in the Quaker faith.

Thus this collection of meditations on being alive in these wonderful, and yet perilous times encourages us to stay alert to the sound of truth even in the most unlikely places, to reach for solid ground in all aspects of our lives, and to stretch from there toward lives of greater connection and integrity.

Featuring sub-sections on Windows and Reflections, Love and Grief, Separation and Belonging, Hardship and Hope and culminating in Peril and Possibility, Quaker Quicks - That Clear and Certain Sound: Finding Solid Ground in Perilous Times is a journey through refreshingly orchestrated prose of wisdom that allows us to sink in, to bed in, and to soak in all that is being proffered us.

Could you want for anything else in your life right now during these desperate times we are all facing together?

About the Author - A student of economics since childhood, Pamela Haines has spent a lifetime gathering experience, knowledge and perspective to speak with authority on how economic theories and structures shape our lives and challenge our values.

She has written pamphlets and magazine articles and lead workshops based on demystifying connections between economics and daily life, while challenging people to claim their power and act on their values. Pamela lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

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The Coronation of King Charles
By: Nicholas Hagger - O Books, $12.95

Description: In King Charles the Wise, Nicholas Hagger celebrated Prince Charles’s humanitarian vision and foresaw the birth of a united world. In The Coronation of King Charles he celebrates the coming Carolingian Age.

The hope is that all the divisions within the UK and problems of humankind will be resolved under a new democratic World State working to abolish war, enforce disarmament, combat famine, disease and poverty, and solve the world’s environmental and ecological problems of climate change and global warming; and that King Charles, Head of a Commonwealth of 53 nation-states, will work to bring his humanitarian vision to all the world’s nations.

Verdict: Following the tradition of Ben Jonson’s 17th-century court masques in verse and of his own masques The Dream of Europa and King Charles the Wise, which incorporate the blend of mythology and history and five sections (prologue, antimasque, masque, revels and epilogue) found in all masques author Nicholas Hagger sets the third masque in his trilogy in London’s Banqueting House, where masques were performed before James I.

This coronation masque contains three pageant entertainments that are viewed by King Charles before his coronation and contrast the disorder and political chaos before his reign with the order and harmony of his new Carolingian Age.

His philosopher-King’s concern to benefit the lot of all humankind is applauded by the Universalist God of the One who assumes protean forms - the gods of all faiths including Biblical Israel’s Yahweh and Olympian Zeus - and cares for all creation, and watches over him.

King Charles, co-author of Harmony, is shown as presiding over what promises to be an Age of Universal Harmony.

Hagger’s incorporation and subsequent blend of mythology and history here is, as always, and without fail, allows the reader to enter unto a quite wondrous, if not acutely stylized adventure.

With his questions filtering onward from the propositions and ponderings associated with both Brexit and Britian’s potential role in a more united world, Hagger demonstrates an excellent grip on the current economic state of play within the country, along with a broader understanding of what it will take to get the country (hopefully seamlessly) transitioned into becoming at one with others under the umbrella of a democratic world state within the next hundred years (or more).

About the Author - Nicholas Hagger is the author of more than 50 books that include a substantial literary output and innovatory works within history, philosophy, literature and international politics and statecraft.

As a man of letters he has written over 2,000 poems, two poetic epics, five verse plays, 1,200 short stories, two travelogues and three masques. His archive of papers and manuscripts is held as a Special Collection in the Albert Sloman Library at the University of Essex.

In 2016 he was awarded the Gusi Peace Prize for Literature, and in 2019 the BRICS silver medal for Vision for Future. He lives in Essex, UK.

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Pagan Portals - The Triple Goddess
By: Rachel Patterson - Moon Books, $10.95

Description: An updated approach for working with the Triple Goddess in modern times The Triple Goddess has three facets: the maiden, the mother, and the crone.

The Triple Goddess represents many things such as birth, life, death and the phases of the moon, waxing, full and waning. Whilst in the form we recognize it may well be a modern idea, it still gives a wonderful way of working with the goddess and her phases, to help us evolve and understand our own pathway through life and this journey can help you to embrace your own personal power.

Verdict: Written by author Rachel Patterson - who, aside from writing over a dozen books on the Pagan subject, but who also practices both magic and paganism along with being a High Priestess of the Kitchen Witch Coven, and an Elder of the Kitchen Witch School of Natural Witchcraft - Pagan Portals - The Triple Goddess is chock full of not only practical tips, but oodles of metaphysical wisdom.

Here in Pagan Portals - The Triple Goddess, Patterson focuses on the pagan history and the myths that circulate, but moreover reveals how modern devotion and worship now factor in to bring a more grounded philosophy to the phases detailed above.

Focusing on the aforementioned Triple Goddess having three facets: the maiden, the mother, and the crone, Patterson first gives an introduction to herself, before explaining how the book works and what you should be able to garner from it.

The Triple Goddess represents many things such as birth, life, death (sometimes known as the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone), each of which symbolizes both a separate stage in the female life cycle and a phase of the Moon, and often rules one of the realms of heavens, earth, and underworld.

Progressing deeper from there, we get subject chapters such as Don’t be Limited by Labels, The Triple Goddess: Her History, and Working with the Triple Goddess and each has multiple sub-chapters within them.

About the Author - Rachel Patterson has penned more than a dozen books on the rituals and practices of magic and paganism. She is High Priestess of the Kitchen Witch Coven, and an Elder of the Kitchen Witch School of Natural Witchcraft.

A Hedge/Kitchen Witch with an added dash of folk magic, Rachel writes regularly for Witches and Pagans, Moon Books and Patheos Pagan blogs. She lives in Portsmouth, UK.

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The Winds of Homecoming
By: Christopher Goodchild - Christian Alternative, $16.95

Description: Written in the true spirit of the wounded healer, The Winds of Homecoming draws from and is enriched by the poetry and writings of Rainer Maria Rilke.

These fifty short meditative reflections offer you hope and inspiration to embrace your loss and loneliness, transforming what is limiting and restrictive into something freeing and infinitely expansive.

Through his writing, Christopher Goodchild walks alongside us, not in his role as spiritual guide, but as a fellow-traveler, writing from a deeply human place of vulnerability.

He does not just tell us how to sit in the contemplative fire and be transformed, he shows us. He shows us by the life he has lived, and continues to live.

Christopher’s latest book, written with his characteristic lyricism and tender-hearted, compassionate observations on the human condition, is enhanced by four evocative woodcuts by Kent Ambler.

Allow the Winds of Homecoming to guide you home.

Verdict: Widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets, Rainer Maria Rilke was unique in his efforts to expand the realm of poetry through new uses of syntax and imagery and in an aesthetic philosophy that rejected Christian precepts and strove to reconcile beauty and suffering, life and death.

Rilke’s early verse, short stories, and plays are characterized by their romanticism. His early poems show the influence of the German folk song tradition and have been compared to the lyrical work of Heinrich Heine.

Walking alongside author Christopher Goodchild, his poetic musing never overtaking the purposeful, and intended, and cultured stride of their creator, The Winds of Homecoming: Transforming Loss and Loneliness into Solitude contains fifty short meditative reflections that offer the reader hope and inspiration to embrace their loss and loneliness, transforming what is limiting and restrictive into something freeing and infinitely expansive.

As we read along with Goodchild, it quickly becomes clear that whenever Rilke writes about God, he is not referring to the deity in the traditional sense, but rather uses the term to refer to the life force, or nature, or an all-embodying, pantheistic consciousness that is only slowly coming to realize its existence.

Indeed, in the last few years of his life, Rilke was inspired by such French poets as Paul Valery and Jean Cocteau and wrote most of his last verses in French.

Rilke suffered from illness his whole life and died of leukemia in 1926 while staying at the Valmont sanatorium near Lake Geneva. On his deathbed, he remained true to his anti-Christian beliefs and refused the company of a priest.

About the Author - Christopher Goodchild is a Quaker, Ignatian spiritual director, teacher of the Alexander Technique and author of A Painful Gift and Unclouded by Longing.

Based in London, he has a deep interest in eastern philosophy and the Christian contemplative tradition. He loves walking in both remote and urban areas and is known for writing from various locations in the wild. He is a keen supporter of Wealdstone, his childhood football team.

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Free Marcus Katz!!!
By: Howard Marc Chesley - Roundfire Books, $13.95

Description: Woven into his odd, chatty Yelp reviews of restaurants, stores and services, 22-year-old Aspie Marcus Katz chronicles in vivid detail how, after the death of his doting mother, he is railroaded by the Los Angeles probate court into an abusive conservatorship.

When his bullying conservator tries to warehouse him in a run-down, dead-end group home, intending to drain his inheritance, Marcus runs away to Oregon, pursued by his conservator, on a risky, ill-advised road trip to meet up with fellow Aspie Durinda, a devoted fan of his now viral Yelp reviews.

She lives with others also on the autism spectrum on a collective farm in rural Oregon. It is here that Marcus hopes to make a stand and finally take control of his life.

Verdict: In a move that the author himself freely admits blew his mind, out of the blue one day he received a call from an editor at John Hunt Publishing who professed to not only being a total Yelp junkie, but also knew in her heart that if he could group together just the right Yelp reviews kindly left for him over the years, they would make for one highly engrossing read.

Thus, what we get is a very cleverly formatted creation of a book in the form of Yelp reviews from businesses that, and along with threading their own individual stories along the way, also manage to make the reader think twice about unwarranted, and at times malicious abuse of people with disabilities and such.

And so what we get within this quite wondrous, and highly inventive new book, is not only a jolly fine bantering between humorously written observations and some delicately balanced, if not teetering on the brink of aggravating verbal outpourings within reviews of law offices, smoke shop, guitar shop, supermarkets, restaurants and even a low key group home (that actually contains the alluded to, and rather serious message within the book), but an opening of our eyes to those individuals with intellectual disabilities who are either flailing badly against a stonewall institution or being smothered within a relative-enforced, form of conservatorship (where the end result will always be financial gain for those undeserved).

About the Author - Howard Chesley has had a long professional career as a producer and writer of dramatic television and films, having worked for all the major Hollywood studios.

An interest in sourcing interesting books at auctions and selling them online led to the inspiration for his debut novel, Greater Fool. Howard lives in Los Angeles, CA, USA.

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