Angel at the Paradise Hotel
By: Teresa O’Driscoll / Roundfire Books / $19.95
Overview: When tourism transforms a fishing village on the green and beautiful Greek island of Corfu, old hatreds, envy and greed threaten to tear the community apart.
Behind the scenes, personal demons fuel division while guardian angels battle to neutralize their influence.
Here in the new novel Angel at the Paradise Hotel, we glimpse the angelic backstory of life as an idyllic Corfu resort is visited by evil!
Verdict: Hotelier Jason - planning to get rich - ruthlessly chases his goal, unaware of the trouble and danger he is stirring up. Three visitors from Ireland, America and Wales bring their own problems.
Clare, running from a broken relationship, is drawn into a love triangle with Jason. Aeron, battling a mid-life crisis, is closer to despair than he realizes - while Bethany, jolted by a Big Birthday into doing a Shirley Valentine, is hoping it will sort her life out.
As the sizzling summer unfolds, each faces make-or break-challenges. Extra help is at hand though, with the arrival of Gabriella, angel of Greece. When meddling demons prevail, and smouldering greed and vengeance reach flashpoint, can she avert disaster?
Quilting together an incredible patchwork of not only characters, but scenery together so seamlessly, that if you closed your eyes after each paragraph, you could see everything that author Teresa O’Driscoll is willing you to, that is what makes Angel at the Paradise Hotel such a compulsive summer read this year (especially for those of us not leaving the country, of course).
A quiet moving, at times veritably touching, and yet always threaded with both intrigue and uncertainty, the book is one of those where when each chapter ends, it does so in a way where you say to yourself, OK, well, I’ll just start the next one to see where this is going ... and suddenly you are through that chapter and considering the same for the next!
From the character seeking to escape, to the ones looking to re-embed (for their own variety of reasons), to those holidaymakers just looking for the three S’s (sun, sea and sex), and I won’t give it away, but Angel at the Paradise Hotel is so much more than just a story about Good vs. Evil.
For it sets out, amid a backdrop of the beautiful island of Corfu, a place I once visited on my own honeymoon, back in the day, to now only wax lyrical about the, shall we say, forces for good and for bad, but brings forth someone who dares the reader to pick a side early on; and dares them further to stick with said same choice as the book rounds out.
About the Author - Teresa O’Driscoll, born in Wales to a Scottish mother and Welsh father with Irish roots, worked as a journalist in Greece. Now back home in Wales she feels her experience of living abroad enlivens her work, while a Celtic heritage adds a mystical touch. For more information, please see: www.teresaodriscoll.co.uk
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Atlantis & Gaia
By: Diana Mary Rose / O-Books / $17.95
Overview: Atlantis and Gaia is a celebrity filled book about karmic consequences, the Atlantean civilization, and Gaia’s capacity to heal us through natural medicine.
Verdict: A brilliant portrayal of how karma works over the centuries, Atlantis and Gaia: Magic, Reincarnation, Covid and Earth Healing Today (to give it its full title) explains in easygoing style reincarnation and soul healing through natural medicines such as homeopathy and herbs.
Furthermore, author Diana Mary Rose brings famous modern-day celebrities into her writing. We see George Harrison, for instance, as a monk, and John Lennon as a famous peace man - eons before their fame today - and William Shakespeare appears in a new light, too, as this psychic author delves into his past and future lives. Indeed, from Julius Caesar and Fred Astaire to Angelina and Brad, there is no end to interesting tales here!
Everyone alive has reincarnated multiple times over. Karma is a merry-go-round. And underpinning the entire book is Atlantis, that mystical civilization, for the Atlantean light shines brightly over every aspect of society today.
Having now read this book twice, and back-to-back at that, I can honestly say that Atlantis & Gaia is such an interestingly curated, and eye-opening book on the subject matters to hand that I myself can ever recall having come across.
Opening minds, of which our inner doors and home grown perspectives will most definitely be jolted awake from, and featuring pages of knowledgeable prose that I truly believe that many people may not have previously encountered, the book will have you thinking (internally and aloud), but moreover, asking newly inspired questions about not only what is happening in your own world, but the world (and to others) around you.
You’ve probably heard talk of a heightened, say spiritual awakenings and how they can lead to more enlightened (some might say, these days, woke) people, but what Diana does here is simply parlay her own perceptions of the present heightened awakening, and how she is so impassioned to not only believe it, but share it also.
Diana’s homegrown traits as a healer and as a psychic also come into play, as this allows her to dig deeper into her own psyche, and make us all aware that a spiritual awakening can be triggered by anything, from the completely mundane to the completely life-altering.
As for Gaia, the short version is that she was the Greek goddess of Earth, mother of all life, similar to the Roman Terra Mater (mother Earth) reclining with a cornucopia, or the Andean Pachamama, the Hindu, Prithvi, “the Vast One,” or the Hopi Kokyangwuti, Spider Grandmother, who with Sun god Tawa created Earth and its creatures. Simply put, in Greek, Gaîa means a primordial earth goddess in mythology, which literally means earth.
So, what does a spiritual awakening really mean, and what does it actually entail? To answer these questions and more, I implore you to read this wondrous new book Atlantis and Gaia: Magic, Reincarnation, Covid and Earth Healing Today, which will introduce you to new concepts, and may even have your brain do a complete 180 on many of the perceptive, enlightened prose brought forth!
About the Author - Diana Mary Rose is a psychic clairaudient medium. She is also a qualified Reiki Sekhem healer and a homeopathic practitioner. She is an expert on past lives, and can intuit how thoughts and behavior in a prior existence may create sickness and infirmity today. She lives and works in Rutland, UK.
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By: Steve Taylor / Iff Books / $25.95
Overview: DisConnected: The Roots of Human Cruelty and How Connection Can Heal the World shines a light on us, the human race, to regain awareness of our connection, and that it is the only way by which we can live in harmony with ourselves, one another, and the world itself.
Verdict: DisConnected offers a new vision of human nature and a new understanding of human behavior and social problems. Connection is the most essential human trait - it determines our behavior and our level of well-being.
Cruelty is the result of a sense of disconnection, while “goodness” stems from connection. Unfortunately, the most disconnected people gravitate to positions of power, which leads to “pathocracy,” the most common form of government during the 20th century.
Disconnected societies are patriarchal, hierarchical and warlike. Connected societies are egalitarian, democratic and peaceful. We can measure both social progress and personal development in terms of how far we move along a continuum of connection.
At the most essential level, we are always interconnected. Altruism and spirituality are experiences of our fundamental connection. Regaining awareness of our connection is the only way by which we can live in harmony with ourselves, one another, and the world itself.
Simply put, and as is the fundamental mantra within this book, having a strong support system helps people overcome challenges more easily and maintain a state of mental well-being. Indeed, human connection also decreases health risks and improves physical well-being and longevity, whereas strong social connections strengthen the immune system and increase your chances of a longer life by 50%.
Or, taking the need for human connection in another way, loneliness has been shown to impact not only our physical health but our emotional health, too. Furthermore, the same 2018 study conducted by the researchers from ACS also found that lack of social connection may be associated with obesity, heart disease, and smoking.
Through the years, we’ve thrived as a species by connecting with others. Whether we were hunting for meat, gathering berries, or traveling in stagecoaches — we did it together in social groups.
But with the rise of digital interactions, we’ve also seen an increase in loneliness. We no longer meet for drinks after work or gather with our friends for game or movie nights. Meetings and social gatherings are now done virtually. We celebrate the events in our lives with a heart or thumbs-up emoji.
In what is a most captivating, and for this generation, if not the one fast riding its coattails, some might say compulsory read, author Steve Taylor, PhD. showcases the basic (yet, for a lot of blinkered folk, overlooked) fact that one of the most amazing things about humans is that what we call “human nature” covers such a wide spectrum; from the psychopathic and evil of Stalin and Hitler, to the selfless goodness of Gandhi, Nelson, Mandela, or Martin Luther Ling.
I mean, lockdown’s aside, I think we all know by now that human connection can be a chat over coffee with a friend, a hug from a partner after a long day, or a hike in the woods with a family member. Indeed, connecting with someone doesn’t have to always include words, either. Time spent in relative closeness and experience can also be a bonding experience.
But, and as aforementioned, unfortunately, the most disconnected people gravitate to positions of power, which leads to “pathocracy,” the most common form of government during the 20th century. Thus, and as easy as it is written, “pathocracy” begins when a disordered individual emerges as a leader figure.
While some members of the ruling class are appalled by the brutality and irresponsibility of the leader and his acolytes, his disordered personality appeals to some psychologically normal individuals. They find him charismatic. His impulsiveness is mistaken for decisiveness; his narcissism for confidence; his recklessness for fearlessness.
Soon other people with psychopathic traits emerge and attach themselves to the “pathocracy,” sensing the opportunity to gain power and influence. At the same time, responsible and moral people gradually leave the government, either resigning or being ruthlessly ejected.
In an inevitable process, soon the entire government is filled with people with a pathological lack of empathy and conscience. It has been infiltrated by members of the minority of people with personality disorders, who assume power over the majority of psychologically normal people.
But, I (slightly) digress, for what DisConnected: The Roots of Human Cruelty and How Connection Can Heal the World has at is prose heart is Taylor, at his core, a creative psychological thinker, trying to significantly augment our understanding of human experience and its highest possibilities.
A book to read NOW, and a book to pass along to as many others as humanely possible, through the lens of connection and disconnection, DisConnected is oh-so much more than just an intelligent soothsayer informatively barking out the known differences between the roots of good and evil. Moreover, it is someone desperately trying to educate us, in both practical and, in some context, experimental ways to simply understand more about our own human being’s before malignant narcissists take over.
About The Author - Steve Taylor PhD is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University. He is the author of many best-selling books on spirituality and psychology.
For the past ten years, Steve has been included in Mind, Body Spirit magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most spiritually influential people. Eckhart Tolle has referred to his work as ‘an important contribution to the global shift in awakening.’ He lives in Manchester, UK.
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By: Phill Webster / O-Books / $17.95
Overview: Letting Glow: A Guide to Intuition, Spirituality, and Living Consciously is a profoundly personal account of grief, and finding solace and hope by connecting with our higher consciousness.
Verdict: What if mystical experiences are real? What if inspiration, instinct, and ingenuity are the same as intuition, divination, and clairvoyance? Letting Glow is an adventure into mediumship and takes a deeper look at how we experience time, consciousness, and our relationship with our higher self.
A profoundly personal account of grief during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Letting Glow aims at finding solace and hope by connecting with our intuition. Simple changes in thinking, meditation exercises, and shifting our perspectives on everyday reality can transform our lives into ones of intent, purpose, and a deeper connection with the all that is.
Using his own story of how he received a phone call at 7:50am on January 14th, 2021, from his mum’s neighbor, asking if he had spoken to her recently, as the carer’s couldn’t get in, Phill instantly assumed the worst.
Maureen was a 76 year-old with a heart condition and high blood pressure who after a year of isolating at home through 2020 due to Covid-19, had starting acting confused due to being outside of her usual routines.
Sadly, she had passed away, and sure, he cried, and cried, and cried, but ultimately author Phill Website began to put together this insightful, thoughtful, and ultimately heartfelt book as a guide to intuition, spirituality, and living consciously; to not only help others grieve as he himself did, but for those looking to embark on their own journey to spiritual enlightenment.
Looking at the bigger picture, research by neuroscientists has already begun to clarify some of the types of brain activity associated with mystical experiences although Neuroscientists disagree about the implications of their research for mystics’ beliefs about the nature of reality, however.
Some scientific materialists believe that their research effectively disproves mystics’ interpretations of their experiences, while others believe that scientific models of mystical experiences leave room for God or some other transcendent reality.
Personally, I argue that the former is correct in dismissing mystics’ interpretations of their experiences, but that they are incorrect in asserting mystical experiences are pathological or otherwise undesirable.
Reports of mystical revelations usually have the same two parts: a perception, and a metaphysical explanation. The experience itself is often said to be ineffable, in which case there would be nothing that could be said about it. Usually, though, accounts do include descriptions of non-ordinary perceptions; what we’d call “hallucinations” in other contexts.
Back to the prose here to hand, and via twenty-five easy-to-read chapters, Phill brings forth a comprehensive look at what his journey involved, along with it also being an overall guide for the reader to begin to formulate, and perhaps even understand, their own thoughts, and seek their own path forward.
In closing, and as much as there is nothing special, weird, or unique about being intuitive, for we all get feelings, sense, and thoughts about things, I think we all know that intuition is, at its core, basically data in the world that has not fully formed yet, but can be experienced through a sixth sense.
Therein, this is something that Phill also mines, and in such an expert, tender, and honest way that you feel you are being walked, hand-in-hand, slowly through the pages, with him right by your side, as it slowly, but surely, begins to reveal previously unresolved issues and such from the back burner of your own mind.
About The Author - Phill Webster is a writer, actor, and spiritual teacher. He has appeared in movies alongside Sylvester Stallone, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Elle Fanning. Letting Glow is his first book. He lives in Richmond, UK.
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By: Charles H. Brewton / O-Books / $25.95
Overview: Muslim Mechanics is a factual and informative resource guide for Islam written for non-Muslim Western audiences. The word mechanics, as in quantum mechanics or classical mechanics, represents a branch of physical science that studies the working parts of complex systems, machines, or even organizations and institutions.
Taking the same tact, Muslim Mechanics is the study of how Islamic policies, activities, and functions affect populations and organizations.
Verdict: Going further, Muslim Mechanics looks at the functional and technical aspects of actions and determines their impact on an organizational and institutional level.
As the word mechanics would indicate, there are hundreds of policies, rules, and beliefs that make Islam tick like a Swiss watch. Dr. Brewton presents an objective and secular view of a religion that is anything but secular.
In a jovially-stanced Preface, we are forewarned that this book is not about Muslim mechanics who work on automobiles, although some good ones undoubtedly do, moreover the book is the study of Islam as a religion, as an organization, as a social institution, and the rules that make it unique.
So, what do Christians, Jews and Muslims all have in common? They all believe in one God, angels, the Day of Judgement, and the afterlife that follows. In summary, when believers in these faiths die, they think they will be judged by God and hopefully experience eternity from God’s purview.
But the average American does not understand much about Islam and its customs and its beliefs. While not as prevalent as current-day Christians or Jewish believers, disrespect of Islamic beliefs, can inspire some of their adherents to kill for religious purposes.
Of course, we all know how the plot unfolds from there (ISIS, et al.), so why read this book? Well, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details, and many details (most all, I would imagine to Westerners) have gone into this story, trust me on that.
Indeed, most people do not know what Sharia Law is, for as research indicates, many jihads fighting for the Islamic State caliphate only had a shallow awareness of just how comprehensive it was.
Sharia is the ideal form of divine guidance that Muslims follow to live a righteous life. Human interpretations of sharia, or fiqh, are the basis of Islamic law today.
About half the world’s Muslim-majority countries have sharia-based laws, and most Muslims worldwide follow aspects of sharia in their private religious practices.
In truth, debate continues to flare over sharia’s place in the modern world, particularly with regard to its teachings relating to criminal justice, democracy, and social equality, but with the Islamic religion being the backbone of the legal system, some form of Sharia governs some 1.8 billion Muslims globally.
Thus, and as I hope you can already tell, here in Muslim Mechanics: The View from Behind the Curtain by author Charles H. Brewton, everybody, no matter who they are, what religion they worship, what color their skin is, or where they live, can be brought up to date on Islam, and how it impacts on the cultures that surround it, whilst at the same time giving us all a glimpse into not only how to peacefully exist with God, but what the future might also hold.
About The Author - Charles Brewton is an American professor of business strategy. In addition to a career in higher education, he is one of the few classroom professors with operations experience in private industry and state government.
Currently, he teaches MBA courses in business strategy, marketing, public budgeting, public policy, and international business. He lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
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By: Nassir H. Sabah / O-Books / $26.95
Overview: Spirituality Rekindled: The Quest for Serenity and Self-Fulfillment explores the attainment of serenity and self-fulfillment through a rational spirituality, which author Nassir H. Sabah posits is a quality of being predicated on a sense of connection to The Almighty.
Verdict: Incontrovertible, science-based, and objective evidence for the existence of The Almighty is derived from the Quran, which for non-Muslims is to be regarded as a stand-alone text that should be judged on its own merits, without prejudice or bias.
Based on this, and on cognizance of the limitations of present-day science, Dr. Sabah makes the case for a spirituality that provides the foundation for a continual, immensely beneficial, and comprehensive self-development - spiritually, psychologically, morally, and intellectually.
Dedicated to those who seek liberation from the cage of worldly concerns to the heights of serenity and self-fulfillment, the aptly-titled Spirituality Rekindled: The Quest for Serenity and Self-Fulfillment by Dr. Sabah, not only presents a detailed roadmap for this spirituality, but also truly hopes that all who read it, seeking to achieve a lasting connection with happiness, serenity, peace, satisfaction, find one, most, or even all of those heartfelt destinations within its guidance.
Informative, well-paced, and not bogged down with skeptical facts, Spirituality Rekindled contains seven chapters - Why Spirituality?, What Science?, What Is the Quran?, Is the Quran of Divine Origin?, What Can Be Said About The Almighty? and both Is Death the End? and What Does It All Mean - and is an impassioned exploration of the facts, the science, the religion that dutifully holds his own world together; the glue being human happiness and well-being in the modern condition.
Clearly showing that both science and spirituality are wholly compatible, and in such a way that we need, as a human race, to better understand, further our own education about both science and religion, as a whole, only then can we being to ground ourselves, to begin over, if you will, to start afresh and after reading this book, and also the Quran (also romanized Qur’an or Koran, and which is the central religious text of Islam, believed by Muslims to be a revelation from God), continue to use it as a guide, as a tool to help others to benefit from its glorious wisdom.
About The Author - Nassir Sabah is a neuroscientist and Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, where he also lives.
He has over 100 technical publications, mainly in neurophysiology, biophysics, and biomedical instrumentation and has authored four books on electric circuits, electronics, and neuroscience.
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Gentleman of Jazz: A Life in Music
By: Ramsey Lewis & Aaron Cohen / Blackstone Books / $25.99
Overview: Ramsey Lewis is a man who has touched all of our lives. Not everybody finds their calling in life as a four-year-old boy sitting at a piano in the living room, but ever since he did he’s filled our lives with music and with joy. -- President Barack Obama.
Gentleman of Jazz: A Life in Music is an immersive new autobiography provides insight into the early life and illustrious career of the late great Ramsey Lewis, one of the most popular jazz pianists of all time.
Verdict: Beginning with his childhood growing up in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood, a new public housing complex, Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis (who sadly passed away on September 12th, 2022) recounts his memories of the music in his parents’ church and his early piano lessons.
One of three children of Pauline and Ramsey Lewis, his father worked as a maintenance man and it was his mother who encouraged him to learn the piano from the age of four. Thus, and with his family, he attended Zion Hill baptist church where the gospel music he experienced there would, Lewis later noted, never leave him. Furthermore, his father was the choir director and encouraged his son to accompany the singers.
Lewis graduated from Edward Jenner elementary school in 1948 and enrolled at Chicago music college with the idea of becoming a concert pianist, soon leaving to marry Geraldine Taylor, taking a job in a record shop and joining the Clefs, a seven-piece dance band.
As he learned classical technique, Lewis also absorbed countless jazz records and heard gospel music weekly, finally becoming a performer himself in his teenage years. With his coauthor and collaborator, Aaron Cohen, Lewis describes his early steps in jazz from joining The Clefs in the ‘50s, to eventually establishing The Ramsey Lewis Trio.
In 1956 he formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio with the Clefs’ rhythm section bassist Eldee Young and the drummer Isaac “Redd” Holt. The trio signed to Argo – a subsidiary of Chess Records, Chicago’s foremost independent label.
That year saw the release of their debut album, Ramsey Lewis and His Gentle-men of Swing. In it, Lewis largely interpreted standards with a jazz flavour. He continued this formula – at least one album a year (including live, bossa nova and Christman albums) – into the 60s, attracting solid sales if little recognition.
The In Crowd album was the trio’s 17th LP and third live album. Its title track, when issued as a single, was picked up by US radio, soaring to No 1 in the R&B charts and No 5 in Pop while the album reached No 2 in the US charts.
The band’s dynamic performance, recreating effectively the excitement and joy Lewis recalled from church, connected with listeners and Lewis found himself famous. Later that same year they released another live album, Hang on Ramsey!, providing another hit single with their interpretation of the 60s pop hit Hang on Sloopy.
Tensions between Lewis and his rhythm section saw Young and Holt leaving to form Redd Holt Unlimited. The 1966 album Wade in the Water gave Lewis his third US hit single and was his first recording to feature the Memphis native Maurice White on drums. White left Lewis in 1969 to lead the hugely popular Earth, Wind & Fire.
In 1974, White produced his former employer’s Sun Goddess, giving Lewis his most successful album and ensuring his sound was suitably keyed into a contemporary jazz-funk aesthetic.
Lewis continued to tour and to record regularly – including sessions with Minnie Riperton, Stevie Wonder and Nancy Wilson – alongside appearing on the rapper Guru’s Jazzmatazz Vol 2 album.
Everyone from Mariah Carey to the Geto Boys would sample Lewis’s recordings. He reunited his original trio for one album in 1983, joined the all-star jazz fusion group Urban Knights for eight albums between 1995 and 2019, hosted the Legends of Jazz TV series and, during the Covid-19 pandemic, produced a monthly Saturday Salon livestream series.
This beautifully sculptured, complete with ornate lines of gossamer prose book lovingly provides an evocative tour of Lewis’s life from the club circuit of the early 1960s and recording with Chess Records to working with producer Maurice White and musicians such as Stevie Wonder.
In this deep dive into an exceptional life and expansive career, Lewis takes us through the artistic challenges, offers insight and perspective on his own musical growth and the creative process, and describes his eventual foray into symphonic composition and performance.
Gentleman of Jazz: A Life in Music serves as both an inspiration to young musicians eager to follow in his footsteps and a tribute to the legacy of Ramsey Lewis and is sure to excite longtime fans as well as those new to the jazz scene.
About The Authors:
RAMSEY LEWIS (1935-2022) was one of the most popular jazz pianists of all time, with more than eighty albums to his name. A National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, Top 10 hitmaker, and winner of three Grammys, Lewis also hosted popular television and radio shows that honored the history of jazz music.
He was not only influential for many modern jazz artists but beats he created decades ago can be heard across R&B and hip hop. Through it all, Lewis remained grounded, never leaving behind his roots in Chicago, IL.
AARON COHEN teaches humanities at City Colleges of Chicago and writes for numerous publications, including the Chicago Tribune, DownBeat, and Chicago Reader. He is the author of Move on Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power and Amazing Grace.
Cohen has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar and is a two-time recipient of the Deems Taylor Award for outstanding music writing from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
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Three Legs in the Evening
By: Bette Ann Moskowitz / Roundfire Books / $16.95
Overview: Three Legs in the Evening comes from the Sphinx’s riddle in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus is asked what creature walks on all fours in the morning, on two legs in the afternoon, and three in the evening. The answer, which Oedipus gets right, is Man, who crawls as a baby, walks upright as a man, and leans on a cane in his old age.
Received wisdom, in other words, can be unreliable.
Verdict: Enter the story of Sally B, an over-sixty widow about to retire from her successful greeting card business in the aftermath of 9/11. She has a devoted family who relies on her wit and wisdom. But suddenly all hell breaks loose — her best friend dies, she falls into an open grave and she breaks her ankle.
As this is happening, her children’s marital lives are unraveling, her grandchildren are in turmoil, and a man she has known from a time before comes back in her life. Taking place over a year, this is a story of love in a time of horror, as well as the profound and surprising ways in which everything Sally thought she knew changes.
Sexy, funny and heart-wrenching, and much like Kent Haruf’s Our Souls At Night, Three Legs in the Evening speaks about people running out of steam, running out of time, and finding solace and wisdom even in the finality of all that. A life carefully built can crumble in a moment, but what happens then? Sally B. plays it out as best she can.
The third novel from author Bette Ann Moskowitz, Three Legs in the Evening is one of the most down to earth, profoundly grounded within our own day-to-day, ordinary, one might say, existences, all be it one tinged with endearing sarcasm and quick wittiness, that I myself have had the pleasure to engross myself into from the off for a long, long time.
I mean, just the whole prose on the lead up and actual event of our central character, Sally, falling onto her recently deceased best friend Susie at her funeral (kinda sorta, for she was still in a coffin), thus breaking her ankle, is as an absorbing a detailed moment as you could ever hope to read on the subject to hand.
Did she fall or was she pushed? is the obvious question, but, and without giving the entire plot away, trust me when I say that she didn’t give her best friend one last embrace (kinda sorta) on purpose!
Chock full of real life experiences all woven together within a smorgasbord of dutifully crafted issues and hurdles, such as medical, divorce, sex and more, what Bette has done here is not only beautifully shown us these aforementioned three legs of life, but moreover walks us by the hand, at a very congenial pace, through the latter stages of life.
At all times done so in a heartwarming and yet diligent way, Sally is someone you will sooner than later end up siding with amongst all the incoming battles she has to fight, her wit, her annoyances, her sharp-tongue, clearly an attribute to how she survives - both physically and mentally.
About The Author - Bette Ann Moskowitz is a published author of two novels, a memoir, a non-fiction tale of aging and institutional
advocacy, and a non-fiction narrative about aging and ageism. For several years she wrote a lifestyle column for a
regional newspaper in the Hudson Valley, where she presently lives.
Her website has samples of her previous work ( www.betteannmoskowitz.com).
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The Christ and Jesus: The Difference
By: Rev. Don MacGregor / Christian Alternative Books / $15.95
Overview: Is Jesus the Christ? If so, what does that mean? How can a human person be a Cosmic Principle? Don MacGregor hopes to make Christianity more relevant for the twenty-first century in his reflection into the difference between the Universal or Cosmic Christ principle and the human figure of Jesus of Nazareth.
Here within the pages of The Christ and Jesus: The Difference, author Rev. Don MacGregor takes a deep dive into reincarnation, mysticism and the message of transformation that Jesus taught, contrasting that with the transaction that the institutional Church taught.
This is the third book in the Wisdom Series (Christianity Expanding and Expanding Scriptures, are the others) in which the author seeks to reframe Christianity within a larger sphere, that of the Perennial Philosophy.
Verdict: In what is a rather engrossing, Sunday afternoon read, The Christ and Jesus: The Difference, by author Rev. Don MacGregor, starts
out, from the very off, to showcase the major distinctions between The Christ and the historical Jesus, thus providing us with a read that moves quickly, yet at no point contains fluff filler.
The historical Jesus, the human being who walked the roads of ancient Israel, gathered disciples, and who was executed by the Romans, is often contrasted with the Christ of faith, a supra-historical figure whose presence in the world enlivens and nourishes Christian communities.
The Christ was not originally a name but a title derived from the Greek word christos, which translates the Hebrew term meshiah (Messiah), meaning “the anointed one.” This title indicates that Jesus’ followers believed him to be the anointed son of King David, whom some Jews expected to restore the fortunes of Israel.
In what turns out to be, although you can definitely sense it as the pages are turned, a well researched, heartfelt and importantly dutifully correlated book on the subject at hand, Rev. Don tells things through his own eyes, thus creating a story line that is wholly follow-able and laced with spiritual, personal intimacy.
As Rev. Don MacGregor himself concludes, “It is my belief that in order to survive in the twenty-first century as a credible belief, Christianity has to take on board some of the precepts and understanding of the Ageless Wisdom teachings, especially as the leading edge of science is now putting forward the idea that there is a universal consciousness from which everything stems at a deep level of reality”.
As for the aforementioned Ageless Wisdom, here, it is not something that is being taught through the pages of Rev. Don’s book, but moreover is a telling of the collective wisdom of humanity, the treasury of the human
That said, when delved into, Ageless Wisdom urges you to be something higher than you are in your beingness. Urges you to offer something greater to humanity than what was offered in the past, which is something that we should all already be embolden with.
Furthermore, the goal of the Teaching is to create a new world, a world that has discovered the treasury of the heart, a world that has mastered the science of right human relations, a world that has understood the mystery of human brotherhood/sisterhood, a world that has seen the vision of divinity living in each human being.
Inclusive of insights on the subject from Alice A. Bailey, Helena Blavatsky and the Tibetan (Djwhal Khul), Rev. Don also includes his own scientific and theological background to springboard the subject to the forefront, when required here, for what it does is provide a clear and mightily accessible set of contents that, come the end, could well be an excellent guide for students of the Ageless Wisdom (whether they be newcomers or intermediate beginners).
In closing, this is the third in the Wisdom Series, a series which seeks to reach those followers of the teachings of Jesus who are open to a wider theology and philosophy than that of traditional Church teaching.
About The Author - Don MacGregor is an author, retired Anglican Priest, former science teacher and university chaplain. He has
embarked on a series of books which seek to expand the theological framework of Christianity into the Perennial Wisdom cosmology, thus making it a more universal spirituality.
Don is passionate about finding a new way forward for Christianity which incorporates twenty-first century science and worldviews. He lives in St Davids, UK.
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Earth Spirit: Beyond Sustainability
By: Nimue Brown – Moon Books, $12.95
Description: Changing your life requires effort. Often, that effort brings its own benefits and you can end up improving your quality of life by making better choices.
Beyond Sustainability - Authentic Living at a Time of Climate Crisis is an extended discussion about individuality and choice and how, to thrive as individuals and a society, we must seek to move beyond the notion of sustainability.
Verdict: What do we really want from life? How do we find happiness, health, purpose and comfort? Humans are increasingly a miserable species, caught in ways of behaving that gives us very little will cost us the earth.
While we’re convinced that saving what remains of life on the planet would cost us too much, we won’t do it. We need to think seriously about what it means to be human, what it means to live, and how much we stand to lose.
With this book, Beyond Sustainability: Authentic Living at a Time of Climate Crisis from author Nimue Brown, she hopes to show us just how much we stand to gain from abandoning capitalism. Life could be good. We could have rich, peaceful, and joyful lives. All we would really have to give up is our misery and competitiveness.
So, what if it was easy to change our lives? What if happiness wasn’t an impossible dream to chase after? What if we could have nice things? The answer is simple. The answer begins with authenticity.
Thus, the book begins on the chapter What Makes an Authentic Life?, a question that has been central to Brown’s own path as a Druid for many years now, and thus it is primarily through Druidry that she has found her answers.
Written from an intrinsically Druidic perspective, but without assumption of who the reader is and what path they themselves might be taking, for authenticity is not the sole preserve of Druidry, and thus can be sought through any sincere exploration of life and self, other chapters include: Authenticity and the Unsustainable, Slow Life Sustainability, Wealth in Relationships, Creativity for All, and both Privilege, Poverty, Inclusion and Political Changes.
The message within? Try changing you life NOW. Cutting your very own carbon footprint. Don’t wait for someone to provide leadership, make whatever changes YOU can and NOW.
On a side note, yet one not wholly unattached, here are 12 ways to live more sustainably, for every day we make choices in our lives that affect the environment, the climate and other species. From what we eat to how many children we decide to have, there’s a lot we can do to “choose wild” and reduce our environmental footprint to leave more room for wild animals and plants.
1. Think twice before shopping
2. Make sure your big purchases have big environmental benefits
3. Go Plastic Free
4. Boycott products that endanger wildlife
5. Pay attention to labels
6. Be water wise
7. Drive less, drive green
8. Green your home
9. Choose Wild Energy
10. Take Extinction Off Your Plate
11. Choose to have a smaller family
12. Use your voice and your vote
About the Author - Nimue Brown is a Moon Books author with a passion for supporting other authors. Getting good books in front of the people who need them is something of a calling. A year as a press officer, and marketing experience with previous houses and projects give her a basis for the ever evolving task of getting books in front of people.
She looks after the JHP fiction blog, the Moon Books blog and works on promoting Moon Books titles. Nimue is an adept at the arcane art of social networking, and a well established blogger. She lives in Gloucestershire, UK.
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The Magic of Cats
By: Andrew Anderson – Moon Books, $14.95
Description: Discover the Cat of the Night and the Cat of the Day. Over the centuries, the relationship between cats and humans has been one of profound change, of both darkness and light. In Ancient Egypt, we worshiped them as the physical embodiment of a goddess. In Medieval Europe, we tortured and punished them for being the familiars of witches.
In the twenty-first century, we are obsessed with filming and posting their antics on social media. And while we may think of them as our pets, that doesn’t mean that we are in charge.
Far from it. Cats know exactly how to get their humans to follow their orders! They have been an ongoing source of intrigue and mystery throughout human history. They are the stuff of myth and legend, as well as being our best friends. They sit among the stars and curl up on our laps.
There is nothing so wonderful as the magic of cats.
Verdict: Separated into two chapters, The Cat of the Night and The Cat of the Day, each chapter features three stand alone stories: the former being The Universal Cat, The Witch’s Cat and The Knowing Cat, the latter bringing forth The Idiomatic Cat, The Physical Cat and The Evolving Cat. [Although it also has an Appendix entitled The Cat of the Night and The Cat of the Day, a story for kittens of all ages].
For the author himself, Andrew Anderson, he has always had cats in his life growing up. Indeed, when he was born, his family had a cat called Nicky, who he used to chase around the house and try to catch!
When she died, not from being chased or even being caught by Andrew though, of course, the family adopted a kitten to replace it from his brothers cat (itself named Nicki) and Andrew named it Whiskey! [Although, the bond between he and cat at that time was not in full swing, as he had more time for the family dog, Tina!].
But when Tina died, Whiskey inherited Andrew and that was that for them both, so what we have here in The Magic of Cats is a must alluring, impassioned and unadulterated look into the lore behind them, which subsequently delves into their history, mythology and aforementioned folklore, to a measure that has not yet been quite so obtainable to the reader before now, me thinks.
A truly fascinating insight into the cats we all know and love, whether they be (as reputation proceeds them) worshiped as Gods or considered to be agents of the Devil, Andrew (who discovered Druidry in 2018) brings forth elegantly delivered poetic prose on the subject matter(s) to hand, whilst revealing how cats have been part of magickal practice for hundreds of years.
Complete with adorable illustrations by Hannah Willow, The Magic of Cats is a must-read for all those families and households that contain cats, if not for the chance to get to know your own furry friend a little better, but moreover to perhaps discover what type (Night or Day) of cat you actual have!
About the Author - After trying a number of spiritualties, Andrew discovered Druidry in 2013. He is currently studying the Ovate grade with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Andrew is a freelance English and Creative Writing teacher, and is training to be a celebrant.
His passion lies in working with the spirit of place, and he spends a lot of time in the nearby Cotswolds. Andrew lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.
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Death, Resurrection, and the Spirit of New Orleans
By: Ken McCarthy / Jazz on the Tube / $9.99
Overview: Despite the catastrophe caused by the 2005 failure of the New Orleans levee system, the biggest engineering failure in U.S. history, New Orleans was re-inhabited, rebuilt, and re-ignited with the spirit that makes it one of the world’s greatest cultural gems.
This book tells the story of how it happened with a special focus on the city’s musicians. They were among the first to return to the devastated city. The spirit they brought with them was the key to putting New Orleans back on its feet, and even dancing again - against all odds.
Verdict: New Orleans is known for its music. But 18 years ago, the music was drowned out by the howling winds and rising water brought by Hurricane Katrina.
Musicians joined other residents fleeing the city, but subsequently, part of the effort to bring New Orleans back to life focused on bringing back the musicians and creating a place where they could live and work, and make music.
In what was a all-hands-on event, and with help from 40,000 volunteers, Habitat for Humanity built 72 low-cost homes in one of the city’s residential neighborhoods. The village also includes a community center named after New Orleans jazz great Ellis Marsalis that features a performance hall and recording studio.
Since then, over 200 musicians have moved in, a lot there from the very first nail being hammered in, so that they learned the empowering feeling of seeing how their neighborhood was going to be reconstructed.
Featuring interviews with John Swenson, Ronald Lewis, Roger Lewis, Chuck Perkins, and Ornette Coleman, with excerpts from Glen David Andrews’ speech at the Silence Is Violence rally of 2007, and inclusive of links to NOLA videos of important historical events that took place after the 2005 flood that you won’t find anywhere else, Death, Resurrection, and the Spirit of New Orleans: Jazz on the Tube Conversations (by author Ken McCarthy) is an engaging, informative and downright easy read that will have you learning stuff about what happened that you have, most likely, never heard before today.
Written by someone who has an obvious passion for the city of New Orleans, and who not only holds NOLA in high regard, but has it freely, proudly flowing through his veins, McCarthy may well not physically live in New Orleans, but he most assuredly has a firm handle on the heartbeat that continual dwells within it.
Freely admitting early on that he had grown up in New York City, McCarthy also goes on to say that he himself thought he had grown up in the center of the musical universe, but thanks to subsequently-made new friends and projects attended to, suddenly he was on-and-off in New Orleans, learning these things along the way:
1. New Orleans is wildly underappreciated.
2. New Orleans is a paradise for musicians and has more world class musicians per capita than any place he knows.
3. New Orleans is deep.
4. New Orleans food is really good.
But, I digress, for this book showcases not only that, but even why the title was chosen due to it. You see, New Orleans was rebuilt by spirit, thus the title. The spirit was captured by many people, but first among equals were the musicians of the city.
They were the first back. The first to set up shop. The first to say with their horns and keys and strings and sticks and skins and voices: This city must come back. This city will come back.
In closing, what McCarthy hopes is that his book encourages readers to come to New Orleans, but get off Bourbon Street and start the process of discovering the city’s real riches.
For, and musicians in particular, if you haven’t explored the city’s music scene, you are missing one of the great wonders of the age.
About The Author: Time Magazine (March, 2014) credited Ken McCarthy with being the person who had the fundamental insight that made it possible to transform the Internet from a non-commercial technical platform to the world’s biggest marketplace and publishing platform.
His insight? That clicks had a commercial value and that their value was variable depending on audience. This insight is literally the foundation that made online businesses like Google and Facebook and millions of others possible.
In 2002, when everyone else in the market had shut down after 9/11, and the Dotcom Crash, and declared that opportunities on the Internet over, Ken launched the most important and influential Internet marketing seminar series of all time: The System Seminar.
Thousands of students attended over the years from twenty-three countries and five continents and many went on to become leaders in the industry.
In the System Seminar, Ken laid down the fundamentals of Internet marketing still used today: opt-in, email follow up, A/B split testing, knowing your conversion rates, multiple forms of media (text, photos, audio, video), virtual seminars, and high quality ad copy.
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Mindfulness & Me
By: Kira M. Markoff, LCSW-C / O-Books / $17.95
Overview: Mindfulness and Me: A Practical Guide for Living is an 8-week guidebook to living your best life through practice of mindful meditation practices handed down for thousands of years across space and culture.
Verdict: Are you ready to see mindfulness in a whole new way? As a set of relevant practices for emotional stability, concentration, insight, relaxation, self-control, and mental fortitude, mindfulness was never intended to be shrouded in mystery.
Indeed, current psychological research shows that just 8 weeks of daily mindful meditation practices significantly lowers the activity in the fear (a.k.a. stress) center of the brain.
Mindfulness and Me: A Practical Guide for Living is a myth-busting, philosophy-integrating handbook designed to lead you through 8 weeks of practices for creating a meaningful, empowered, kind, and relaxed life.
To prove there’s nothing mystical or magical about mindfulness, these practices integrate Buddhist, yoga, and Christian philosophy, mental health treatment, modern psychology, and so much more.
In what has already been a massive help to both myself and my partner, this book of strategies and techniques for helping people - professionals and home dwellers alike - is most definitely an able-bodied prose tool for those with the need to declutter their minds from all the world is throwing at them; these mindful meditation practices a Godsend to behold.
Off the bat, and some that we here have tried down the ages, have included, but were never beholden to:
• Pay attention. It’s hard to slow down and notice things in a busy world.
• Live in the moment. Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do.
• Accept yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
• And, focus on your breathing.
And so here in Mindfulness and Me: A Practical Guide for Living, author Markoff offers an informal and approachable style of writing, whilst at the same time never over complicates the messages she is trying to parlay.
Always mindful of providing the reader with a clear understanding of why, and importantly how, to engage in activities that reduce stress and promote well-being, tranquility, and contentment, this well researched guide to bringing awareness to our forefront, thus enabling us to create a personal well-being guide to use throughout each day, will have you living a happier, and more fulfilling life in just 8 weeks.
In short, Mindfulness and Me will take you through the biology of stress, changing thought patterns, managing emotions, and having a better relationship with yourself and others. There’s nothing magical about it. It just makes sense!
About the Author - Kira Markoff, LCSW-C is a licensed social worker and psychology PhD student. She has practiced yoga and meditation since 2018 while working as a mental health therapist. She lives in Chambersburg, PA.
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By: Eldon Taylor / O-Books / $17.95
Overview: A pragmatic case for the rational viability of a spiritual belief in a higher power, author Eldon Taylor makes a compelling case that the scientific worldview - one that sees humans as “meat machines” - is inconsistent with people’s experiences of themselves and is not nearly as rationally superior as it is so often presented.
This alone makes the author’s compact consideration a worthwhile read. A philosophically astute challenge to the rational supremacy of science over its spiritual rivals.[Kirkus Reviews]
Verdict: In what can only be described as an intellectually smart approach to the subject of God and therein belief, one wholly immersive within the authors very own engaging and impassioned beliefs, this thoroughly uplifting read by author Eldon Taylor is a monster of a thought-provoking prose on life and the afterlife both.
Indeed, Taylor has taken the themes of spiritual feeling (belief in a higher power and a sense of transcendent awe) and the supposedly contrasting themes of atheism (often associated with science, logic and reason) and offered us an excellent chance to explore both.
The book - which has been organically sculpted for those open-minded folks regarding matters of both philosophy and theology - includes research and theory allowing us to contemplate each disposition, whilst showing us that the future of our planet hinges upon humankind’s capacity to grow up spiritually.
We always have choice though, of course, which this book dutifully showcases, thus allowing the reader to make their own thoughts as they progress through the book, but what this prose also does is make an excellent case for the logic and reason involved in believing in God — that the existence of a higher power is also a rational and beneficial experience.
In closing, what stands out the most to me is how the book makes its points in ways that seem so logical, so grounded, and thus no matter what a person’s disposition on spirituality may be, encouraging an open mind and a passion for questioning is where we learn the most and find appreciation in the views of others.
About the Author - Eldon Taylor is considered to be an expert in the area of preconscious information processing and has served as an expert trial witness with regard to both subliminal communication and hypnosis. Eldon was a practicing criminalist for over ten years, where he supervised and conducted investigations and testing to detect deception.
Eldon is a New York Times best-selling author and the subject of his books range from exposing the darker sides of mind programming and brainwashing to the spiritual search for life’s meaning. He lives in Medical Lake, WA.
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The Soul & the Sea
By: Benig Mauger / O-Books / $19.95
Overview: The Soul & The Sea, by author Benig Mauger, tells the tale of how in an age of spiritual awakening, emotional healing must move beyond psychology if it is to be effective. A Jungian therapist shows how connection to nature and the spiritual world can heal emotional wounds.
Verdict: In what is an immediately engrossing, and highly effectual new book from author Benig Mauger, The Soul & The Sea: Essential Healing for Everyday Life is quite easily one of the most seductively alluring, impassioned and deeply engrossing books on the subject matter to hand that I have had the pleasure to read in over a decade.
For, In The Soul & the Sea, Mauger interweaves depth psychology with spirituality to present a new model of healing. Inspired by the sea and land around her home, Mauger draws from her own life experiences as a Jungian therapist and spiritual teacher to illustrate how connection to nature and the spiritual world can heal emotional wounds.
In a time of spiritual awakening, emotional healing must move beyond psychology to be effective. As both a guide and a creator of a new portal for healing, The Soul & the Sea reads like a story as it charts the journey to healing through nature and spirit while serving as a tool for emotional healing and soul growth, showing us how to connect to our inner healer.
Mauger also leans into the Jungian psychology, and idea proposes that there is a universal version of the personal unconscious, which is shared with all other members of the human species. These shared ancestral memories, born from evolution, are called archetypes by Jung and are represented by universal themes that appear in various cultures.
In closing, and with Carl Jung having identified four main archetypes — the persona, the shadow, the anima or animus and the self - what this book does is open and therein offer pathways to the deeper meanings of life for the reader to walk themselves through. Not one to hold the hand of and steer, no, Mauger instead puts the breadcrumbs of knowledge down, and allows the reader to discern their own chosen path forward into becoming a soul journeyer.
About the Author - Benig Mauger is a Jungian psychotherapist, transformational teacher and author specialising in spirituality and wellness. As well as maintaining a private practice, she teaches and runs courses and workshops on psychological healing, spiritual wellness and how to live an empowered and soulful life. Her work is featured on her website www.benigmauger.com. She lives and works in Connemara, Ireland.
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Resetting our Future: Feeding Each Other
By: Nicole Civita & Michelle Auerbach – Changemakers Books, $23.95
Description: Food does much more than fuel our bodies. Food helps us express care, create culture, and connect. But while food today might feed some of us, the growing, producing, packaging, and distributing is also killing us.
Trying to ‘feed the world’ is accelerating the collapse of environmental, economic, and social structures. The current “solutions” aren’t working. By blending research, insights from diverse thinkers, and lived experience, food systems educator Nicole Civita and story justice activist Michelle Auerbach make sense of sustenance.
They demonstrate that our lives depend on the relationships we make with and through food, and make the case for a much-needed cultural shift in the way we approach food.
Verdict: As Thomas Lovejoy says in the foreword, The Pandemic has changed out world. Lives have been lost. Livelihoods as well. Far too many face urgent of health and economic security, but almost all of us are reinventing our lives in one way or another.
Meeting the immediate needs of the less fortunate is obviously a priority, and a big one. But beyond those compassionate imperatives, there is also tremendous opportunity for what some people are calling a Great Reset.
This series of books , Resetting Our Future, is designed to provide pragmatic visionary ideas and stimulate a fundamental rethink of the future of humanity, nature and the economy.
In short, and as is detailed from the off, we are part of a system that is rigged to fail us! It has been rigged to fail our bodies and our communities and our planet while extracting profit from all three.
So when we talk about a food systems change, the recipe is simple: Our first job is to say no to the status quo. And this book will tell you how to do so. Then we need to make changes to system where we have the most impact.
The change itself is a readily available ingredient: Relationship. For us, relationship is an active practice of a nurturing connection and reciprocity. This is an especially powerful move when it displaces transactional behavior. Focusing on connections, and their quality, makes it easy to put our collective survival first, over our individual needs, fears and self interest.
For relationship will always help us undo the damage caused by centuries of objectification and division caused by racism, colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy and all the other isms. For as we let our relationships go deep and spread wide, we experience a sense of belonging and meaning among kin.
Ok, so having said all that, you start to get a fuller picture of what to expect from this most agreeable, wholeheartedly-written, and distinctly sculptured prose, for you may well think that sustainability is ultimately an impossibility, but authors Nicole Civita and Michelle Auerbach will strive to show you a whole other thought process.
In a sidebar, I myself have been knee deep in fostering sustainable food production systems across Asia Pacific, where by 2030, the goal is to ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production; which all that will help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.
But that is in and unto itself, only one side of this book, for Resetting our Future: Feeding Each Other features its own thought provoking chapters for the reader to navigate, ones that clearly show a path for us all to do much better, create fundamental changes, the aim to create radical new entities to our current food systems.
Moreover, Resetting our Future is an informative warning of a guidebook, and one that goes a lot deeper than just showcasing that the implementation of sustainable food value chains can offer important development pathways for millions of poor households in each and every country around the world, but moreover serves to reset our human minds to become more in tune with nature, and to transform not only our food systems, but our own personal lives.
About the Authors - Michelle Auerbach MFA, Ph.D. is an activist, writer, educator, and consultant who uses trauma-informed narrative theory to support individuals, organizations, and communities in shaping change. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.
Nicole Civita, JD, LL.M. is a food systems innovator, educator, ethicist and attorney. Her approach to fostering change in and through food is grounded in systems thinking and ecological knowledge, attentive to relationships of care and reciprocity, and framed by comprehensive law and policy knowledge. She is currently the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for Sterling College in Vermont. She lives in Berthoud, Colorado.
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From Dream to Reality
By: Jessie L. Kwak - Microcosm Publishing, $14.95
Description: Want to make a living as a freelance writer? Here are the resources, answers, and real talk you need about what it takes to make a living as a writer for hire.
Drawing on her own varied and successful years of freelance copywriting experience, Jessie Kwak (author of From Chaos to Creativity and From Big Idea to Book) offers valuable insights on how to figure out if this fast-paced, ever-evolving career is for you — and how to make it work if you decide to go for it.
Verdict: In what is a deeply compelling, well-written and more importantly, highly informational new prose, From Dream to Reality: How to Make a Living as a Freelance Writer by author Jessie L. Kwak is, and even for a 30+ year veteran writer such as myself, most assuredly a book I had read back all those decades ago!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had much more success than I could ever have hoped or dreamed for over all that time, but at the start, well, I would have helped propel me forward a lot sooner had this book accompanies me to all the libraries, student halls, coffee shops, and so forth.
Starting with the most important factor for a successful freelancer — mindset — Kwak walks you through everything you need to know about choosing your niche, setting up your business, building a portfolio and website, finding work, setting your rates, billing, firing clients, and growing your freelance career intentionally in a rapidly changing market.
Indeed, the book’s special focus is on business writing for hire, with valuable lessons for writers of all stripes. Freelancing isn’t for everyone, but if you’re the sort of mercenary chaotic good soul who would find your happy place in freelancing, you’ll find all the encouragement and tools you could need in this book, trust me.
Opening with the most pertinent of questions, So, you want to be a freelance writer? or you are simply freelance-curious and just want to test the waters, either way Kawk hears you and understands you.
For on the surface, freelancing sounds like a magical job where you get to set your own hours, choose your own clients, and work from anywhere. And you know what, it is a magical job and one - when fully accomplished - will have you loving your decision for life.
But there is obviously a lot of work that has to go into creating, prizing open and then profiting from those early pathways into the chosen industry that you have set your heart on burrowing into.
A few go-to tips that I found helpful myself, and which resonant in various forms throughout this solid guide as to how to become a freelance business writer, include:
Research the freelance writing industry
Develop necessary business skills
Ensure you have the tools of the trade
Understand current writing conventions
Work on improving your writing skills
Decide on a writing niche
Create a writing portfolio
Market your writing
And as Kwak herself adamantly states early on, this book hones in on freelance business writing and its various sub-niches. She doesn’t cover how to break into journalism or magazine writing (which is where I eventually found myself), or even how to make a living with your own writing as an influence, or thought leader - for those are just not her areas of expertise, although journalists, magazine writers and others will find plenty of useful tidbits in this book - but she can help you with the nitty-gritty of those types of freelance career.
So, in closing, why should you listen to her? Well, she has been a freelance copywriter for about ten years - which, in her opinion, puts her in the sweet spot for giving advice to new writers - and as much as she freely admits she didn’t start out wanting to be a freelance copywriter, she soon found her path, her niche and has been very happy ever after.
About the Author - Jessie Kwak is an author, ghostwriter, and freelance marketing copywriter living in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not writing, she can be found sewing, mountain biking, or out exploring new worlds both at home and abroad. She is the author of a supernatural thriller, two series of space pirate and space mafia sci-fi crime novels, and the productivity guides From Chaos to Creativity and From Big Idea to Book.
Official Book Purchase Link
Unf*ck Your Business
By: Joe Biel & Dr. Faith G. Harper - Microcosm Publishing, $14.95
Description: How do you start and run a successful business despite the odds? This unique business guide teaches you practical - alongside emotional - intelligence and coping-skills that you need in order to overcome internal barriers to success no matter what type of business you are in.
Joe Biel draws on 26 years of business ownership and management experience to walk you through how to think like a business owner and keep your focus on what’s most important.
Dr. Faith G. Harper provides vital skills that aren’t often lauded in business books, such as communicating your boundaries, overcoming imposter syndrome, and more.
Verdict: Our brains are doing our best to help us out, but they can be real assholes sometimes. Sometimes it seems like your own brain is out to get you — melting down in the middle of the grocery store, picking fights with your date, getting you addicted to something, or shutting down completely at the worst possible moments.
You already told your brain firmly that it isn’t good to do these things, but, of course, your brain has a mind of its own! That’s where this book comes in.
With humor, patience, and lots of swearing, both authors Joe Biel and Dr. Faith G. Harper shows you the science behind what’s going on in your skull and talks you through the process of retraining your brain to respond appropriately to the non-emergencies of everyday life.
If you’re working to deal with old traumas, depression, anxiety, anger, grief, or addiction, or if you just want to have a more measured and chill response to situations you face all the time, this book can help you put the pieces of the puzzle together and get your life and brain back.
Knowing what’s going on up in your brain is HUGE. So much of how we interact with the world around us is a completely normal response when we take into account our past experiences and how our brains work.
• Freaking the f*ck out
• Avoiding important shit we need to take care of
• Feeling pissed off all the time
• Being a dick to people we care about
• Putting shit in our bodies that we know isn’t good for us
• Doing shit we know is dumb or pointless
None of these things are f*cking helpful, but they all make sense. Your brain has adapted to the circumstances in your life and started doing things to protect you, bless it. It’s not TRYING to f*ck you over (even though it totally is, at times).
As we navigate the world, nasty shit happens. The brain stores info about the nasty shit to try to avoid it in the future. Sometimes these responses are helpful. Sometimes the responses become a bigger problem than the actual problem was. It’s called a trauma reaction.
And even if you aren’t dealing with a specific trauma? Adaptive coping strategies, bad habits, and funky behaviors all wire in similar ways. And research is showing that these issues are actually some of the easier ones to treat in therapy … if we address what’s really going on, rather than just the symptoms.
• Then we learn more about How to Make a Decision:
• What is my desired outcome?
• What is the simplest solution to achieve it? Is there an easier way?
• Does my idea work for everybody involved?
• Are the costs & consequences acceptable?
• What are the worst, best and likely outcomes? Can I manage them all?
• Does this decision cause harm to anyone I care about and/or our relationship?
• Does this decision take too much time and energy from the things I want and need to do?
• Could this decision cost more money than I can afford? Is there a cheaper way?
• DO IT!
In short, what this books does is take a deep dive into how to retrain your brain (and your sanity) to respond in ways that are much more helpful, calming, relaxing, understanding and soon thereafter responsively, and positively intuitive to not be so damn problematic in your day to day decision making.
Whether you be tip-toeing, at your own pace in these headachey waters, or have been diagnosed as a sufferer from mental health issues - or anything in-between - creating understanding and confidence within you is the first step to not only feeling better, but is a solid rock from which you then learn to combat such things as anxiety, depression, and trauma on your very own terms.
About the Authors - Joe Biel is a self-made autistic publisher and filmmaker who draws origins, inspiration, and methods from punk rock. He is the founder and CEO of Microcosm Publishing and co-founder of the Portland Zine Symposium. He has been featured in Time Magazine, Publisher’s Weekly, Art of Autism, Utne Reader, Oregonian, Broken Pencil, Punk Planet, Bulletproof Radio, Spectator (Japan), G33K (Korea), and Maximum Rocknroll. He is the author of People’s Guide to Publishing: Building a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful Book Business, Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business on the Spectrum, Manspressions: Decoding Men’s Behavior, Make a Zine, The CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting, Proud to be Retarded, Bicycle Culture Rising, and more.
He is the director of five feature films and hundreds of short films, including Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland, $100 & A T-Shirt, and the Groundswell film series. The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy described Biel as not trained in pedagogy. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Faith G. Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN is a bad-ass, funny lady with a PhD. She’s a licensed professional counselor, board supervisor, certified sexologist, and applied clinical nutritionist with a private practice and consulting business in San Antonio, TX. She has been an adjunct professor and a TEDx presenter, and proudly identifies as a woman of color and uppity intersectional feminist.
She is the author of the book Unf*ck Your Brain and many other popular zines and books on subjects such as anxiety, depression, and grief. She is available as a public speaker and for corporate and clinical trainings.
Official Book Purchase Link
Quaker Quicks - Quakers in Politics
By: Carl and Margery Post Abbott – Christian Alternative, $10.95
Description: In Quakers and Politics, Carl and Margery Post Abbott establish the theological roots of political activism among members of the Society of Friends.
By profiling a number of representative individuals and describing the major institutions through which Quakers influence public policy, the Abbotts trace the history of Quaker activism and survey the political involvement of Quakers today.
Quakers and Politics brings a special approach to political action that draws on 360 years of activism.
Verdict: For those unaware, I shall quickly bring you into the mix, so to speak, for the Religious Society of Friends (better known as the Quakers) is a diverse global community.
Indeed, you may have heard about Quakers sitting in silence, waiting for a message from the Holy Spirit. That’s a crucial part of how Friends worship—but each Quaker community can, and often does, have its own way of doing things.
Hence, Quakers have been influential in shaping public policy, even though a relatively small faith movement. Therein, this new, and very informatively helpful new book Quakers in Politics, draws together examples of Quakers who have impacted public policy around the world; both as individuals and members of Quaker organizations, recognizing without exaggerating the impact of the Quaker movement.
So, I hear you ask, just what is the Quakers main political view? Well, their agenda focused on disarmament, conscientious objection, sustainable energy, restorative justice, and human rights, but those are just some various examples, of course. Quaker bodies in different countries may also develop policy proposals that they can feed in to political processes.
With each Friends Committee composed of members of the Religious Society of Friends, who bring spiritual values to bear on public policy decisions in vast majorities, their public policies grow out of their basic belief that there is that of God in every human being and that God’s love endows all creation with worth and dignity.
And that through individual and corporate worship, they try to be open to the will of God and to express God’s spirit in all relationships and levels of interaction, whether personal, community, state, or global.
Furthermore, they work together to secure justice and freedom for all people, that they may live at peace with one another. As seekers after truth, Friends strive to make the social, economic, political, and environmental aspects of our lives consistent with our spiritual values and Quaker heritage. They endeavor to live in right relationship with the earth.
They also seek to engage in the positive, continuing process of interpreting to people in government our convictions on the moral and spiritual values that should undergird government and law. They will work to encourage spirit-led decision making on legislative matters.
They will always listen to others, convey their beliefs about policy issues, urge members of the legislature and others in government to support specific policies and actions, and try to shape and support practical legislation consistent with their convictions.
Also showcasing the fact that they will also work to encourage and facilitate Friends’ participation in the political process, whether as voters, activists or elected officials, authors Carl and Margery Post Abbott have provided us here with a simply excellent, smooth, informative, read that highlights all the work done by, as the title says, Quakers and Politics.
About the Authors - Margery Abbott is a widely published Quaker author who has taught regularly in the UK and US. She was the Backhouse Lecturer for Australia Yearly Meeting in 2017. She has also served as clerk for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, DC.
Carl Abbott is Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University, USA. He is the author of numerous books in the fields of urban history and science fiction criticism. They live in Portland, Oregon.
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Quaker Quicks - Quakers and Science
By: Helen Holt – Christian Alternative, $10.95
Description: Quakerism has a rich tradition of engaging with science and has produced many notable amateur and professional scientists in fields ranging from psychology to physics.
Quakers and Science discusses some of the historical reasons why Quakers embraced science and introduces ten 20th-century Quaker scientists to explore the intriguing resonances between science and Quakerism.
Author Helen Holt shows how the distinctive Quaker emphasis on ‘deeds not creeds’ motivated Quaker scientists to address the ethical questions raised by science, and how the emphasis on continual revelation meant that they often gladly reformulated their religious beliefs in the light of new scientific discoveries.
Verdict: From the 17th Century onward, Quakers have made significant contributions to science in a wide variety of fields.
Like other non-conformists, Quakers were barred from attending Universities in England until 1871. Many were therefore self-taught or, later, attended the ‘dissenting academies,’ which allowed the sons of non-conformist families to receive higher education. Quaker schools like Bootham School in the north of England and Westtown in Pennsylvania actively fostered their pupils’ interest in science.
Indeed, the early days of Quakerism coincided with the development of experiment and observation in science, and these had a natural affinity with Quaker curiosity and open-mindedness. Early Quakers were particularly drawn to observe God’s creation (as they saw it) in the natural world around them, particularly in the fields of botany, meteorology, and astronomy.
Thus, what we get here in the latest edition of the wonderful Quaker Quicks series is Quakers and Science by author Helen Holt. What Holt does, and veritably from the off, is deep dive into the whole science-and-religion debate that has been ongoing for, well, centuries.
Explaining, but moreover detailing in granular biographical form via ten highly insightful, and prominent Quaker scientists, the distinctive approaches that Quaker scientists have brought to their scientific work over that time, we soon learn all about the Quaker commitment to social justice, pacifism, experience and the Inner Light, amongst a host of other things.
At all times a highly readable, smooth-sailing prose, and one that even teaches us how to be socially responsible human beings, if we so choose to, Quaker Quicks - Quakers and Science is one of the most eye-opening and thought-provoking books that has been released on the subject to hand in a long time, in my humble opinion.
About the Author - Helen Holt has PhDs in physics and Quaker studies and an MSc on the relationship between science and religion. She is active in her local Quaker meeting in the beautiful Scottish Borders.
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Quaker Quicks: Exploring Isaac Penington
By: Ruth Tod – Christian Alternative, $10.95
Description: Quaker Quicks - Exploring Isaac Penington: Seventeenth-Century Quaker Mystic, Teacher and Activist, brings forth the story of Isaac Penington, who was a leading Quaker when the movement first emerged during the confusion and crisis of the English Civil War.
Inspiring people to move toward a new vision of peace, equality, generosity and integrity, Penington saw the potential in everyone to help create such a new world.
Verdict: For those uninitiated, Isaac Penington (1616–1679) was the eldest son of Alderman Isaac Penington, Lord Mayor of London from 1642–1643. He was brought up in a strict and rigid Puritan family, and was interested in religion from an early age. In 1634 he was admitted to the Inner Temple and was called to the bar in 1639.
He became dissatisfied with what seemed to him to be an outward and formal religion. By 1649 he had become associated with some Independents (a loose coalition of political and religious radicals). After this he went through a period of spiritual darkness and later became a Seeker looking for a more inward and spiritual religion.
He actually wrote much about this quest. In ‘A voyage out of Thick Darkness’ (1650) he argued that it was essential to wait for the Spirit’s light and in ‘Light or Darknesse’ he recounted his spiritual troubles and his longing for a more perfect righteousness.
In 1654 Penington married Mary, the widow of Colonel Springett. Mary had also experienced difficulties with her religious beliefs and had spent some years trying to find spiritual satisfaction, so she and Isaac had much in common in a spiritual sense. Within two to three years they came into contact with the Friends.
One day in 1657 when they were walking in the park an unidentified Quaker rode by on his horse. He chastised the Peningtons for their elaborate and fashionable attire. Later he sent two Quakers Thomas Curtis and William Simpson to visit them. Then, in 1658, after hearing George Fox speak, Isaac and Mary joined the Friends.
Their home at The Grange in Buckinghamshire became a hub of Quaker activity. They befriended Quaker Thomas Ellwood and made him the tutor to their five children.
Mary and Isaac suffered greatly for becoming Quakers. Friends and relatives shunned them and they were stoned on their way to Meetings. Between 1660 and 1670 Isaac was imprisoned six times because of his Quaker principles.
Throughout this time he showed a forbearance and even tenderness towards his persecutors. When not in prison Isaac spent his time spreading truth by preaching and writing, and he continued to write even when in prison.
By now, his writing was often political. In ‘Three Queries Propounded to the King and Parliament’ he reminded readers that in the recent Civil War God had overturned the government and empowered men of low estate and warned that it could happen again. In ‘A Weighty Question’, addressed to King and Parliament he asked whether they had the right to enforce laws people could not conscientiously obey.
In March 1665 he was imprisoned in Aylesbury for a month for attending a Quaker funeral. Soon after his release he was imprisoned again for refusing to address the Earl of Bridgewater as “My Lord”. He was released after serving nine months, but was arrested again about three weeks later and held in Aylesbury prison for about eighteen months. He was released after one of Mary’s relatives obtained a writ of habeas corpus and had his case transferred to king’s bench.
During his 1665 imprisonment their house was seized and Mary and their children were evicted. They found a new home at the much smaller Berrie House in Amersham.
His imprisonments had taken their toll on his health, but in 1672 he was able to witness the marriage of his step-daughter Gulielma Springett to William Penn.
Isaac Pennington died in 1679 and is buried at Jordans in Buckinghamshire.
Thus, here in this most wondrous addition to the quite brilliant Quaker Quick series, as a whole, author Ruth Tod reveals to us the life and work of this 17th century Quaker, Isaac Penington, in a way that her prose really brings the man to life on the pages.
Diving deep into his writings, and astutely mirroring how they can still be drawn on today within our very own spiritual lives, the way Ruth details everything is really rather enriching to the soul.
For, and much like other Quaker leaders, Isaac Penington discovered that silently waiting on the divine helps us better understand ourselves and others so that we are more able to respond to life’s challenges with openness, confidence and courage.
Thus, in this book, author Ruth not only draws upon Penington’s letters and pamphlets to build a bridge between his time and ours, she also uses examples and interpretations of his writings to explore the beliefs and habits that shape our lives.
About the Author - Ruth was a programme co-ordinator for Quaker Peace and Social Witness in London, facilitating, training and writing on peace, economics and sustainability. Since then she has campaigned and facilitated meetings locally, both in London and now where she lives in Henley, Oxfordshire. She has also taught the Alexander Technique, which has given her insights into the value of waiting and listening.
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When Rock Met Disco
By: Steven Blush / Backbeat Books / $24.95
Overview: Disco began as a gay, black, and brown underground New York City party music scene, which alone was enough to ward off most rockers. The difference between rock and disco was as sociological as it was aesthetic.
At its best, disco was galvanizing and affirmative. Its hypnotic power to uplift a broad spectrum of the populace made it the ubiquitous music of the late ’70s. Disco was a primal and gaudy fanfare for the apocalypse, a rage for exhibitionism, free of moralizing. Disco was an exclamatory musical passageway into the future.
1978 was the apex of the record industry. Rock music, commercially and artistically, had never been more successful. At the same time, disco was responsible for roughly 40% of the records on Billboard’s Hot 100, thanks to the largest-selling soundtrack of all time in Saturday Night Fever. The craze for this music by The Bee Gees revived The Hustle and dance studios across America.
For all its apparent excesses and ritual zealotry, disco was a conservative realm, with obsolete rules like formal dress code and dance floor etiquette. When most ’70s artists went disco, it was the relatively few daring rockers who had the most impact, bringing their intensity and personality to a faceless phenomenon.
Rock stars who went disco crossed a musical rubicon and forever smashed cultural conformity. The ongoing dance-rock phenomenon demonstrates the impact of this unique place and time.
The disco crossover forever changed rock.
Verdict: In what is a mighty fine job from author Steven Blush in describing the advent of the disco lifestyle and the subsequent backlash from the rock world as the movement peaked in 1979, the just-released tome When Rock Met Disco is, and quite easily, one of the most fascinating reads I have had the pleasure to undertake in the past few years.
Laying the foundations of the culture before focusing on his topic of the rock crossovers, the book begins with a brief overview of rock music in the ’70s, showing that most bands were hungover either from success or excess, with song making or even performing high on their lists of, well, highs!
Into this grew a music that brought people to the dance floor, with beats and grooves that made even the squarest person want to dance, and for those who could dance, this lead to more of a chance of meeting others of the same, or opposite sex who also wanted to move and groove.
The book states that it is an important read as it caters informationally to those who were not there at the time, and thus it feels that they need to know the whys, the hows and the wheres to get the full picture. I’m not totally sure that is true, as we’ve all seen Saturday Night Fever and those of us that are old enough do still fondly recall the time period, and those of us not old enough, well, they just don’t seem to care, but that said, we get one entire chapter devoted to talking about several of the most famous New York City discos and how each had their own unique vibes and flavors.
As most all of us now, within a very short period of time, disco was big business, with actual Discos opening and attracting crowds who would pay to get into a club to dance, buy drinks, and peacock to all and sunder on the dance floors.
Soon, the much-beloved (especially by DJ’s) 12 inch singles became big money, which made more money for the music companies, but with that landslide of money, the music industry slowly began to get corrupted. Thus, into this breaking apart tsunami of a closing decade and an awakening new one, came rock musicians, looking to take their own version of the new music scene onto the dance floors and, of course, hopefully into the Hot 100 Charts.
In fact, and in a personal sidestep, my neighbor still listens to the disco music of that era, and still adopts some of the fashions that were swirling and twirling back then! Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans, Candie’s shoes, Danskin top and Faberge perfume. Yup, still today she is a most glorious sight to behold.
But I digress, for this book from Blush is so descriptively written that it brought me right back to the smells and feel of the fabric, the way my hips used to move on the differently colored, light up dance floor tiles, and thus I even personally recall the rise of disco, together with the backlash, as well as rock groups getting on the disco-vibed train to produce their own cross-bred hits: KISS, Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, to name a few.
A solid, informative and thoroughly entertaining read from start to finish, When Rock Met Disco does a great job of giving everyone an honest view of an era that everyone says they hated musically, and yet was one of the most successful of its time.
Complete with a rundown of which shows rock songs that used the disco influence, complete with producers and studio musicians and other little tidbits of information, Blush also never over examines any part of the substance that he discusses, moreover allows you, the reader to fill in the blanks.
Indeed, within this latter half of the book, which primarily focuses on the rockers who ventured into the disco waters and the extreme backlash that the dance genre received come 1979, Blush’s writing style is never less than engaging and creative.
Inclusive of quotes from musicians of the era and thereafter, simply put, When Rock Met Disco is a mighty fine, albeit very different look at music in the ’70s and ’80s and the legacy that came from disco meeting rock music. [FYI: Personally, I had no idea that Ethel Merman made a disco album or that there was an album called Sesame Street Fever!]
STEVEN BLUSH has written five books about rock music: American Hardcore (2001),.45 Dangerous Minds (2005), American Hair Metal (2006), Lost Rockers (2015), and New York Rock (2016) — and one about Billie Jean King’s rebel tennis league, Bustin’ Balls (2020).
His journalism has appeared in over fifty publications, like Spin, Details, Interview, Village Voice, and The Times of London. Blush was a contributing editor to Paper Magazine. He got his start in the early ’80s promoting punk rock shows in Washington, DC, and then moved to NYC in 1986, where he published fifty-two issues of Seconds Magazine through 2000.
He wrote and produced the theatrically released Sundance Film Festival-premiered doc film American Hardcore. His follow-up film with director Paul Rachman, Lost Rockers, about great forgotten rock musicians, came out in 2017.
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By: Jeff Colvin / Chronos Books / $23.95
Overview: Avoiding Apocalypse: How Science and Scientists Ended the Cold War tells the little-known story of the worldwide scientists’ boycott of the Soviet Union that set in motion an astonishing sequence of events.
Starting simultaneously with the rise to power of an obscure Soviet bureaucrat named Mikhail Gorbachev, the scientists’ boycott led to the end not only of the Cold War but also of the Soviet Union itself.
Verdict: From an author who is uniquely suited to tell this story, and one who has spent his professional career as a research physicist, first at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and then at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California (the two U. S. nuclear weapons design laboratories), helping to develop the science that has made technically possible a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), one linchpin of the Cold War stand-down, Avoiding Apocalypse: How Science and Scientists Ended the Cold War by Jeff Colvin is one of the most informative, intriguing and wholly-heartfelt books on the subject matter to hand that I personally have ever read.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the worry in the West was what would happen to that country’s thousands of nuclear weapons. Would “loose” nukes fall into the hands of terrorists, rogue states, criminals – and plunge the world into a nuclear nightmare?
Fortunately, scientists and technical experts (in both the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, in all truth) rolled up their sleeves to manage and contain the nuclear problem in the dissolving Communist country.
But the nuclear experts faced an immense problem. The Soviets had about 39,000 nuclear weapons in their country and in Eastern Europe and about 1.5 million kilograms of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (the fuel for nuclear bombs).
Consider that the bomb that the U.S. dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in 1945 was only six kilograms of plutonium, he added. Meanwhile, the U.S. had about 25,000 nuclear weapons in the early 1990s.
The challenge that Russia faced with its economy collapsing was enormous, but the Russian scientists were motivated to act responsibly, because they realized the awful destruction that a single nuclear bomb could wreak.
In short, the primary reason why we didn’t have a nuclear catastrophe was the Russian nuclear workers, the Russian nuclear officials, and most importantly, the Russian scientists. [For the record, the Soviet collapse was due to the decline of communist ideology and economic failure which would have happened even without Gorbachev].
Their dedication, their professionalism, their patriotism for their country was so strong that it carried them through these times in the 1990s; especially when they often didn’t get paid for six months at a time!
A compulsive read of a time in history when a lot of us either turned our backs on the situation, not wanting to know, or buried ourselves so heavily into the TV coverage that our anger sometimes got the better of us, Avoiding Apocalypse: How Science and Scientists Ended the Cold War is an historical read that reveals how the decade long stand-off between superpowers came to a calming conclusion, what went into it, just who were the overall soothsayer’s of the peace, and sadly, maybe how things have not changed all that much since those days of human-intervened diffusion.
About The Author - Jeff Colvin has spent the past 45 years as a research physicist helping to develop the science that has made technically possible a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), one linchpin of the Cold War stand-down.
He is the author or co-author of nearly 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications and has written (with Jon Larsen) what has now become the standard graduate-level text book in the new field of physics: Extreme Physics. He lives part-time in Livermore, California, and part-time in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
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The Living Fountain
By: Benjamin Wood / Christian Alternative / $19.95
Overview: In the second decade of the twenty-first century, Quakers are increasingly divided over matters of theology, religious belonging, and the status of Friends’ Christian past.
Recent controversies over Theism, Non-Theism and Universalism have highlighted deep-rooted transformations of Quaker self-understanding. In contrast to earlier decades, many contemporary Quakers hanker after an intensely inclusive community, unhampered by the particulars of Christian theology.
Many British Friends no-longer see the Quaker movement as an expression of the Gospel nor a manifestation of the Universal Church. What might Friends be missing by re-imagining Quakerism in these resolutely post-Christian terms?
Verdict: Author Benjamin Wood argues that, far from limiting the bounds of Quaker identity, a selective return to Quakerism’s seventeenth-century roots can restore to modern Liberal Friends a shared story capable of deepening their spiritual life and worship-practice.
Based neither on doctrinal agreement nor inflexible religious borders, the Quaker narrative recovered in The Living Fountain: Remembrances of Quaker Christianity is drawn together by sacred experiments in mutual love and enduring hope.
Through a series of extended reflections on God, Jesus, and the language of salvation, Wood seeks to uncover a dynamic faith committed to universal healing, reconciliation, and the crossing of religious and cultural boundaries.
At the center of this retrieval is the insistence that the God revealed in Quaker worship cherishes our differences and delights in our diversity.
So, Can you be a Christian and a Quaker? In the early years it used to be a Christian-based religion, but that is no longer true in the last 50+ years for some members of the Society associate themselves exclusively with Quakerism, others combine with other faiths.
And so what author Benjamin Wood strives to find answers to is, at its core, fundamental: Can we live as Friends or Strangers? Which gives us the issue of what he has termed as being The Problem of Thin Quakerism.
Wood admits early that he wrote this book because of what he feared was being lost within contemporary British Quakerism. Chief among his anxieties was the sense that many liberal Quaker communities (of which Britain Yearly Meeting is one) have become simply incapable of communicating a collective spiritual story that can glue individual Friends together.
Sadly, from Woods’ point of view, this uncomfortable conclusion has been long in the making. When he first entered the Religious Society of Friends in the mid-2000’s, he began his worship life as someone who had felt deeply alienated from the Christianity of his Anglican childhood.
The Ceremonies and prayers of the Sunday service neither spoke to his heart, no satisfied his intellectual curiosity. Indeed, he had, like many in their teens and early twenties, explored other religious traditions, inclusive of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Neo-Paganism, most especially).
As for Quakers, in general, they seek to experience God directly, within themselves and in their relationships with others and the world around them. Ergo, Quakerism is a way of life, rather than a set of beliefs.
Sure, it has roots in Christianity and many Quakers find the life and teachings of Jesus inspirational, but they also have no creed. Indeed, Quakers today do not look any different from other people, although they try to avoid extravagance and excess, of course.
Simply put, their vision is of a world of justice, peace and equality where their collective inner experiences lead them to be committed to equality, peace, simplicity and truth; all of which they try to live out in their lives.
And so, rounding back to the original questions, Can you be a Christian and a Quaker? and Can we live as Friends or Strangers?, here in The Living Fountain: Remembrances of Quaker Christianity, author Benjamin Wood deep dive’s into this thoughtful analysis of contemporary liberal Quakerism, and invites those curious to read, and therein get a better understanding going forward.
About the Author - Ben Wood is an Associate Tutor at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre and a visiting researcher at the Centre of Religion and Public at the University of Leeds. He teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students in diverse areas of study including Systematic Theology, Christian ethics, and the history of Western Philosophy. He lives in Leeds, UK.
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The Womanpriest: A Novel
By: Stafford Betty / Roundfire Books / $18.95
Overview: A young Catholic woman, 22-year-old ex-Marine and unwed mother, begins to see cracks in the Church she grew up loving. Bad priests preying on children, harsh treatment of the divorced and LGBTQ, a deep-seated and toxic sexism, and archaic dogmas force Macrina McGrath to choose between leaving the Church or trying to make it better.
Verdict: Graduate school in theology at Georgetown and a trip to India help form McGrath’s resolve: She will stop at nothing to take the Church out of the Middle Ages and deliver women from their abject status.
She joins and soon heads the excommunicated Womanpriest movement and with help from the Archbishop of Boston becomes the leader of disaffected Catholics who want change.
The world notices the indomitable American willing to take on the Vatican, and she achieves a spiritual stardom the equal of the pope. Where will all this lead?
Meanwhile she contacts the daughter she gave up to adoption; and Ezra, the man she has long loved since their teaching days together at Amherst, reaches out to her one last time.
She must choose between family life with him and the new Catholicism she helped create, where women and men minister on an equal basis. Her choice will affect world history.
My goodness, what a read this book is! From start to finish, well, in truth, I simply couldn’t put it down until it had been completed! Although, sure, I did have to have a night’s sleep in between (albeit one filled with my own moral compass flying around all over the shop, my heart and soul following the story I had read before bed, whilst at the same time my subconscious was trying to address all the theological, political, cultural and even gender issues in ways that had to be resolved both thoughtfully, and, at times, perhaps even scholarly).
Here in The Womanpriest: A Novel, author Dr. Stafford Betty has brought to the fore a deceptively woven, and intriguely veined mystery that not only centers around something very powerful, but like a tree over years, branches out into showcasing the human condition; via the guises of the aforementioned flawed priests (and their preying on children), the harsh treatment of the divorced and LGBTQ, a deep-seated and toxic sexism, and archaic dogmas that just don’t seem to have a sell by date.
Set in the second half of the century, from the off, Southern American fisherwoman Macrina McGrath - destined to become the first female pope - is up for the fight, no matter who it is against, and will leap any hurdles (physical or mental) on her journey to self-discovery. But she also has to face her own demons, of course, such as some deeply-rooted personal issues, and both spiritual and secular conflicts, and more.
Complete with quite a few twists and turns, and strewn with deeply-woven insights about the human condition, along with a deep examination within the souls of those she comes up against, the book is a genuine page-turner, and one that even though I myself didn’t know much about going into, just couldn’t put down once opened (save for that night’s sleep, although I tried to stay awake and push through, honestly!).
About the Author - Stafford Betty is an author of fiction and non-fiction. Professor of religion at California State University, Stafford earned his PhD in theology from Fordham University, and is a world expert on afterlife and paranormal studies. He lives in Bakersfield, CA.
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Healthy Models for Relationships
By: Barbara Berger / O-Books / $25.95
Overview: What do healthy relationships look like? Most of the difficulties we face on a daily basis have to do with our relationships - be it with our partners, families, children, parents - or with our friends, neighbors or colleagues at work.
This is why most of us really want to know how we can best get along with other people. What do healthy couple relationships look like? What do healthy families look like? What are the characteristics of respectful, constructive conversations?
How can we best navigate through the challenges we meet in our daily lives and disagree with our friends, colleagues and families in a respectful way without running away or going on the attack? Is it possible to speak respectfully and reach compromises which function for everyone involved?
In short, what do healthy relationships look like?
Verdict: Barbara Berger’s answer to these important questions are her Healthy Models which describe what healthy relationships look like in practice. The value of these Healthy Models is that when we have clear models of how healthy behavior looks, we can then compare our own relationships to these models and identify what is not working in our relationships.
And this can be a big help because then we can begin to work to improve our relationships. And thus, Healthy Models for Relationships: The Basic Principles Behind Good Relationships With Your Partner, Family, Parents, Children, Friends, Colleagues and All the Other People in Your Life (phew, now that’s a title) by author Barbara Berger, is genuinely packed with practical techniques and exercises for us all to take on and learn from.
So, do you ever wonder what healthy relationships look like? Well, they involve honesty, trust, respect and open communication between partners and they take effort and compromise from both people. Furthermore, there is no imbalance of power. Partners respect each other’s independence, can make their own decisions without fear of retribution or retaliation, and share decisions.
Much of my own journalistic life/career has involved speaking, writing, and interpreting research, albeit not wholly linked to how to handle relationships that have gone wrong, where partnerships that are controlling or toxic, for instance, or where trust has been broken, of course.
Scenarios like that often lead to infidelity, betrayal, or emotional upheaval within a relationship and as we all know, it can be heartbreaking how widespread those issues tend to be.
But just as important is learning to identify when a relationship is going well. Many people are unsure of what to look for, or worse yet, they don’t know all the positives that they truly deserve to have within a relationship.
If someone grew up watching their parents or other family members act out chronically toxic patterns, then that person may very well come to define those patterns as normal and have difficulty understanding the baseline of what a good relationship looks like.
From many of her years of clinical experience working with people, Barbara Berger discovered that the value of Healthy Models is that when we have a clear Model for how healthy behavior looks, people can then compare their own life situations and relationships to these Models and then identify what is off in their own experience.
As for those aforementioned Healthy Models, well, I won’t give them all away, as you will obviously have to buy and read this deliciously enticing (for the brain) book yourself, but there are 16 Models; starting with Basic Democratic Principles in Families and Other Close Relationships, The 3 Levels of Conversation, The 4 Main Aspects of Good Couple Relationships, through to You Have Inherent Worth, You Have an Inner Compass, culminating in Life is a Learning Curve and We Are All Evolving and Moderation.
The second section contains 12 Basic Observations about this thing called life, and begins with There is Reality and Then There Is Your Thinking About Reality, Your Thinking Determines Your Experience of What Is Going On - Not What Is Going On, through to You Can’t Fix or Control or Change Another Person, culminating in Other People Are Not Responsible For Your Existence and It’s Not Personal!
The third and final section brings us 8 Healing Processes, where Berger talks about dealing with stress, dealing with anxiety, using the power of mind wisely for healing and recovery, culminating with The Great Universal Intelligence - the greatest healing power of all.
About the Author - American-born Barbara Berger is the bestselling author of fifteen self-empowerment books. After Barbara left the USA to protest against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, she settled in Scandinavia and continued her quest to learn more about the science of the mind, spirituality and psychology.
Today, she gives workshops and coaching to help her clients harness the power of their own minds. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.
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Torch of Brighid – Flametending for Transformation
By: Erin Aurelia / Moon Books / $15.95
Overview: What is flametending, and how can a simple devotional practice be engaged with as a transformational spiritual path? Here in author Erin Aurelia’s new book The Torch of Brighid: Flametending for Transformation, all is revealed.
Verdict: For those new to the subject matter at hand, the Goddess Brigid and Saint Brigid are intrinsically entwined, with myths and legends attributable to one or both, sometimes indistinguishably. Each is traditionally associated with fire, with Goddess Brigid in particular to the forge, the sunrise, and dawn.
Celtic lore infers that Brigid in her many guises and names, along with other deities, are tied to fire and ritual as well. Mythology tells us that nineteen Druidic priestesses — known as daughters of the fire (inghean an dagha), or fire-keepers/flametenders (breochwidh) — kept a perpetual flame in a large shrine dedicated to the Goddess Brigid in Kildare, Ireland.
It is written that when Saint Brigid was born at the liminal moment of dawn, a beam of light burst around her head like a flame. When she built her monastery and church in Kildare, she continued the priestesses’ custom of keeping a fire alight.
For her and her nuns, the fire represented the new light of Christianity, which reached the shores of Ireland early in the 5th century. Also of note, Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), a Welsh chronicler, visited Kildare in the 12th century and reported that the fire of St. Brigid was still burning and that it was being tended by nuns of St. Brigid.
Some historians record that a few attempts were made to have the fire extinguished, without success, and Brigid’s perpetual flame survived for many years, possibly up to the suppression of the monasteries in the 16th century.
The flame was re-lit in 1993 by Sr. Mary Teresa Cullen, leader of the Brigidine Sisters in Kildare, and since then they have tended the flame in their Solas Bhride Centre.
This famous perpetual flame in Kildare, and other flamekeeping sites around the world, are testament to the number of Brigid devotees who keep alive this sacred practice.
Thus, here in new book The Torch of Brighid: Flametending for Transformation by author Erin Aurelia - herself founder of the Daughters of Brighid Flametending Order - we immerse ourselves in the facts how this devotional practice of flametending for Irish Goddess and Christian St. Brighid, traditionally kept once every twenty days, can become a daily spiritual practice for transformation when combined with twenty spiritual inquiries as an inner journey of reflection.
As noted, Brighid is a goddess of the fires that transform ore into tools, plants into medicine, and inspiration into poetry so through guided meditations, energy work, contemplation, and journaling, you yourself will learn how to open yourself to Brighid, so her torch of illumination can guide you in transforming your fear and pain into power and joy.
You will also discover how Brighid can walk with you through the seasonal cycle of the year and bless your personal endeavors. So come, let Brighid become your daily companion so her light can lead you to wisdom and wholeness.
About the Author - Erin Aurelia is an author, poet, spoken word performer, and book editor who has tended Irish goddess Brighid’s flame for twenty years. Her work has been featured in the Paganism 101 anthology by Moon Books and in two anthologies by Goddess Ink: Brighid, Sun of Womanhood and Stepping Into Ourselves, An Anthology of Priestesses. She lives in Vancouver, Washington.
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Pagan Portals: Where Fairies Meet
By: Daniela Simina / Moon Books / $12.95
Overview: For the first time ever, Where Fairies Meet brings together Irish and Romanian fairy traditions and lore. The book highlights similarities yet also accentuates the uniqueness of each culture, seeking to substantiate the reality of fairy phenomena.
Verdict: Traditions surrounding fairies are, essentially, a cross-generational compass that helps young and old to orient themselves into the ever-changing cultural landscape.
As such, fairy traditions allow people to position themselves on the time-space continuum, not only through perpetuation of values but also through connecting deeper with the subtler realms that surround and interpenetrate consensus reality.
Connecting to subtler realms gives access to a body of knowledge built upon the record of interaction between our world and the Other.
In Ireland and Romania, fairy traditions are alive and evolving. The study of the parallelism that exists between bodies of lore, past and present, from areas diametrically opposed on the map of Europe, gives scholars, lay people, and spiritual seekers access to an everlasting repository of wisdom.
Here in Pagan Portals - Where Fairies Meet: Parallels between Irish and Romanian Fairy Traditions, author Daniela Simina does more than make you aware that, in both Ireland and Romania, fairies are not just part of their collective history and mythology, but that belief in them is still very much alive and well.
I mean, we all know that the world over has its legends of goblins, ghosts and giant snowmen, tales abounding of beasts and brides of the sea, and sure, Ireland has its noted magical creatures - banshees and leprechauns being high on the list - but fairies still inspire the upmost respect there.
Romania’s literature also features a rich history of Romanian folk tales and fairy tales, these days more stories for children, and enhanced to be colorful, lively and imaginative.
Yet still their story is older than anyone can remember, and their origins cannot be pinpointed in time. They are otherworldly beings wielding powers that can help or harm, creatures of extreme beauty or of terrifying looks.
A while ago, Romanian fairies, once a strong presence, nearly vanished from the landscape of a nation’s consciousness. But today, their names are whispered with reverence, both feared and revered.
Thus, Yoga instructor Daniela Simina’s captivating, and highly informative, and thoroughly engaging book offers readers a behind-the-scenes look at viewing a whole host of these Irish and Romanian fairy beliefs, whilst drawing from folk tales, mythology, and even pulls knowledge from her very own grandmother, a notable a medicine woman and fairy seer, nonetheless.
In what is a must read for anyone interested in the subject of fairies, especially those based in Europe, Pagan Portals: Where Fairies Meet is a provocative book that will gently take your hand from the very first page and quietly, yet wisely, walk you through to the very end; in a way that you didn’t even realize that the book was done, your prose journey ended, but your quest for more information now most definitely flamed alive.
About the Author - Daniela Simina is a medicine woman, fairy witch, and author focusing mainly on Romanian and Irish fairy lore and traditions. She researches, writes, and teaches various classes on esoteric subjects related to energetic healing, yoga, and of course, fairies. She lives in Alpharetta, GA.
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Staff of Laurel, Staff of Ash – Sacred Landscapes
By: Dianna Rhyan / Moon Books / $17.95
Overview: At the crossroads of nature and human imagination, ancient goddesses, outcasts, heroes, and poets reveal living myths in sacred landscapes here with author Dianna Rhyan’s new book Staff of Laurel, Staff of Ash: Sacred Landscapes in Ancient Nature Myth.
Verdict: Thus, at these very same crossroads, Earth is sentient, fertile, and eloquent. When ancient goddesses, outcasts, heroes, and poets speak, they speak on her behalf to reveal living myths that first enchanted sacred landscapes.
Their primal stories emerge from wilderness and rise from buried libraries to jolt us awake. We meet a lone goddess battling fifty giants, a beguiling wife who is secretly a serpent, a radiant lyre about to sing her own poetry, and an ogre whose heart is his forest.
When oaks and rivers call for justice, when furies and monsters counter king and plow, let us turn our ear to hear. As we listen, mythic fragments lead us from marble palaces to nymph-haunted gardens, on a quest that teems with strange immortals.
Along the way, a goddess of desolation, a mistress of animals, ash tree spirits, and a trickster water god appear as guides. Primeval green wisdom emerges from abyss, forest, and borderland, hidden in myths we almost lost forever, in ancient images that say things we no longer can.
So what author Dianna Rhyan’s beautifully crafted, heartfelt, intriguing, informatively-sculpted and wholly impassioned new book Staff of Laurel, Staff of Ash: Sacred Landscapes in Ancient Nature Myth sets out to do is put on paper an unassembled form of sketches, fallen like samaras, whose order is ultimately undermined.
For example, the priestess of Apollo actually wrote her prophecies on leaves. When strong winds came, they scattered all over her cave. Did she mind? Amidst the leaves, voices of winds and voices of trees, lost and found, thread their way. Their tapestry of songs, weaving authentic life, is fading.
And so, and as that story is told more in the opening Prologue, Rhyan hopes you, the reader, find that these very same pages of newly-curated, newly-embodied prose, speak perilous bright adventure: part memoir of fertile forest floor, part mythic library found in fragments.
For, and in closing, I have myself now read it cover to cover three times in two weeks and have to say that each and every time I latch onto something different that sparks something within me. I hope it always manages to do that for you also, dear reader.
About the Author - Dianna Rhyan is a mythologist and therapist whose work focuses on nature goddesses and the spirituality of sacred landscapes. She has a PhD in Ancient Greek and Latin, taught college for thirty years, and has been a visiting scholar for archaeological excavations in Greece and Cyprus. When not delving into archaic myth or studying Sumerian, she can be found exploring the Cuyahoga Valley trails of Northeast Ohio.
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A Conversation with an Atheist
By: Daniel McKenzie / Mantra Books / $17.95
Overview: In A Conversation with an Atheist, Daniel McKenzie takes on the thorny topic of God. Countering religion’s simple faith-based answers to life’s biggest questions, McKenzie uses everyday logic and the teachings of non-dual wisdom to make a clear case for God-knowledge over God-belief.
Verdict: A Conversation with an Atheist: An Ancient, Reasoned and Radical Approach to Knowing God begins with a contentious dialog between an atheist and a sage who shares a vision of God that isn’t in conflict with reality.
Taking inspiration from the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita (The Song of God), the author shows that in order to understand God we must first see it as two different operating principles before seeing it as a unified whole - what he calls God 1 and God 2.
The result is a cognitive shift that changes not only our view of God but also how we view ourselves and our connection to each other and the cosmos.
It annoys the author, Daniel McKenzie, when people bring up the notion that there is a God, for the whole debate around whether or not God exists is a nonstarter for him.
And let’s face it, God is an awkward topic for most westerners, in general. God is rarely spoken of outside a house of worship and rarely among friends or even family.
As a society, we are more comfortable discussing our own sex lives, or even others, than we are God! Thus God is now a private affair best kept to oneself in fear of offending the neighbors, posits McKenzie.
From the life that I have shared thus are, some Christians think all atheists are ridiculous, so they openly mock or belittle those who question God, but you should never make that mistake.
Indeed, most atheists I have met are smart, sincere, and goodhearted. And even if they are not, treat them as if they are. Don’t talk down to them or speak condescendingly, the way you might to a child. Treat them with respect and acknowledge their intelligence. When you do, they’ll be much more likely to listen to what you have to say.
So instead of trying to present your views aggressively to your atheist friend, first ask them what they believe. This tact will help you then understand where they are coming from, so you are not responding to a straw man version of their beliefs.
Contained within the seven chapters brought forth by McKenzie here in A Conversation with an Atheist: An Ancient, Reasoned and Radical Approach to Knowing God - God 1, God 2, Creator Sustainer Destroyer, One Great Order, The Field of Experience and both Devotion and Is God Love - he begins with God 1, the consciousness principle, or the higher of God’s two-fold nature and then moves seamlessly into God 2, the formless consciousness principle, before heading into more intellectual insight and understanding for the discussion at hand.
About the Author - Daniel McKenzie enjoys writing in the context of Advaita Vedanta, an ancient and venerable wisdom tradition that is a proven means for understanding the nature of experience. His influences include James Swartz, Swami Dayananda and Swami Paramarthananda. He lives in Cameron Park, California.
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By: David Birch / Iff Books / $19.95
Overview: A book for thinkers young and old, Befuddled is a journey back in time to explore the lives, legends and ideas of ancient philosophers.
Verdict: Theories on the origin of the universe, the nature of the mind, and much more are presented alongside bizarre stories of mad emperors and talking skulls here within the pages of Befuddled: The Lives & Legends of Ancient Philosophers.
Featuring an array of iconic figures, including Socrates, Pythagoras and the Buddha, Befuddled superbly illustrates how lives devoted to confusion and wonder not only give rise to fascinating ideas about reality, they also brim with wild moments and remarkable tales.
As for author David Birch, well, he stands by his statement that philosophy is for freaks and that the stories in this book prove it! I mean, what other conclusion can one reasonably draw when faced with tales of public urination, volcano jumping and bean phobia?
As for his quite wondrously told, highly informative, and delightfully entertaining philosophical concepts, complete with rousing anecdotes to bring it all to life, Birch freely admits that with his list of names included within the pages of this book having lived thousands of years ago, that it is not always possible to know what really happened.
For some of the stories may seem unbelievable and some are most certainly legends rather than facts. Nevertheless, though these stories may not always be true, they are always interesting. And that is the real point of this mesmerizing new prose, to present strange stories and curious ideas so that you may start your own extraordinary explorations, discover your own powers of thought, and experience for yourself the freaky thrills of befuddlement!
In closing, author David Birch invites you to add your own life to the collection, for along with questions and activities designed to start you on that very path, contained within the pages are a curiously-curated series of amusing and informative sketches of some great philosophers and thinkers; such as Pythagoras, Buddha, Socrates, Plato, and both Jesus and Diogenes.
About the Author - David G.W. Birch is a director of Consult Hyperion, an IT management consultancy that specializes in electronic transactions.
Described by The Telegraph as ‘one of the world’s leading experts on digital money’, by The Independent as a ‘grade-A geek’, by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation as ‘one of the most user-friendly of the UK’s uber-techies’ and by Financial World as ‘mad’, Dave is a member of the editorial board of the E-Finance & Payments Law and Policy Journal, a columnist for SPEED and well known for his blogs on digital money and digital identity.
He is a media commentator on electronic business issues (having appeared on BBC television and radio, Sky and other channels around the world) and has been named by WIRED magazine as one of their global top 15 favorite sources of business and finance information.
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Into Shadow: The Tallan Chronicles
By: Morgan Daimler / Cosmic Egg / $18.95
Overview: Muireann spent six months planning to kill the dragon that killed her family.
Now the dragon is dead, and she’s realized that it was actually the lesser threat guarding a devastating weapon that, if it falls into almost anyone’s hands, will bring war and destruction to her world.
Verdict: It can’t be left where it is. It can’t be hidden. It can’t be trusted in the hands of anyone in power or who seeks power.
Muireann’s only option becomes a reluctant quest with the elf she rescued from the dragon, a would-be knight, a selkie, and an elven mage to find out as much as she can about the weapon and seek a way to understand the magic that created it.
Pursued by a dragon-worshipping cult bent on revenge and a hidden enemy that will do anything to remake the world, the five friends must try to find answers before all is lost.
Muireann thought that killing a dragon was going to be impossible.
Saving the world is going to be much harder.
Harnessing the power of high fantasy and interweaving it with her prose in a way to highlight awareness of pressing issues that humanity must, and will confront, here in Into Shadow: The Tallan Chronicles, author Morgan Daimler brings forth a really fascinating, truly delightful, and wholeheartedly entertaining, and cleverly educationally-veined new book.
Chock full of dramatic situations, traditional elements of life, vibrantly complex, and yet full-grounded, fully-rounded characters, along with a highly uncertain hero, loyal companions, and a mightily magical item that puts the world at risk, Daimler’s richly created world of fantasy is one that come the turn of the final page, you yourself will wish you could dutifully step into. It’s just that engrossing. It’s just That tantalizing. It’s just that good.
About the Author - Morgan Daimler is a blogger, poet, teacher of esoteric subjects, witch, and priestess of the Daoine Maithe. Morgan is a prolific pagan writer, having published more than a dozen books under Moon Books alone, and she is one of the world’s foremost experts on all things Fairy. She lives in Connecticut, US.
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El Jazim: Say YES!
By: Albert Waszink / O-Books / $12.95
Overview: El Jazim restores the common foundations of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It also explains the seven stages of the inner ‘Path to God’.
Verdict: El Jazim: Say YES! begins by explaining the end time in which we live today and shares direct knowledge that restores the common foundations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which involve the first and last names of God, the nature of God, the meaning of the word Amen, Jesus Christ, the coming of the Messiah, the archangels, the purpose of life, and the first commandment: ‘Love.’
The book then explains the inner Path to Christ consciousness: the path from an ego-centred awareness to a heart-centred awareness, which comprises seven development stages that can be extracted from the Bible.
And yet, and as much as we are indeed living in the end time, this doesn’t actually mean the end of our planet. It is simply a time during which Earth is affected by a huge increase of Light Energy, and this increased Light Energy may just allow you to turn from an ego-centred awareness to a heart-centred awareness.
Author Albert Waszink explains that he has written this book to help us achieve that, for it outlines the whole concept in a broader perspective, but it also explains the details of the transfer itself: what it means for you and what you can do to stimulate it.
In doing so, he goes on to describe the growth pattern for each stage and offers practical pointers that induce growth through all the development stages.
Simply put, Waszink hopes to offer a vast amount of knowledge that was lost or kept hidden. He also adds structure to that knowledge so that we will not just gain clearer insight into the broader perspective of the end of time, but also into the opportunities that this end may offer you.
Simply put, this book was written to interconnect, and having myself now read it twice through, cover to cover, I can eagerly attest to the fact that I have am now hooked into the core message that Albert Wazink was so gracious enough to bring forth here on these magnificently impassioned pages.
About the Author - Albert Waszink was born in The Netherlands in 1968. He works as an in house legal counsel for one of the larger property development and contracting companies in The Netherlands. Albert and his wife are both members of the local Christian church in their village. They live in a small village in the eastern part of The Netherlands on the edge of National Park The Veluwezoom.
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The Afterlife: A Journey To
By: Stephen Paul Chong / 6th Books / $16.95
Overview: My name is Athar. At least it is now that I am here, in heaven. I can tell you the story only now. I couldn’t back then, when it was too painful, when it hurt too much. But now I know what happens. More than that, I now know why. I am not here to tell you what to believe. I am here to tell you what is true.
Verdict: The Afterlife - A Journey to: Now You Know What Will Happen is an inspirational voyage of discovery through heaven’s many portals. For you will experience heaven’s many levels BEFORE you get there.
Death is not the end of life. Death is just a departure for the Spirit World, which is our true home in the afterlife. People today know about earthly things in much greater detail than they did in the past, but when it comes to the important spiritual matters such as death and the world after death, it can be said that the people of the past were much more knowledgeable.
Information concerning the world after death is not taught at schools, many people believe that talk of the world after death is old-fashioned, and spend their lives in ignorance of it. This results in all kinds of confusion when they die and return back to the Real World.
Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults say they believe in heaven. Based on a survey from back in 2020, it did not immediately offer a definition of heaven, though subsequent questions explored what respondents think heaven is like.
Furthermore, respondents who believe in neither heaven nor hell, but do still believe in an afterlife, were given the opportunity to describe their idea of this afterlife in the form of an open-ended question that asked: “In your own words, what do you think the afterlife is like?”
Within this group, about one-in-five people expressed belief in an afterlife where one’s spirit, consciousness or energy lives on after their physical body has passed away, or in a continued existence in an alternate dimension or reality.
Indeed, one respondent describes their view as “a resting place for our spirits and energy. I don’t think it’s like the traditional view of heaven but I’m also not sure that death is the end.” And another says, “I believe that life continues and after my current life is done, I will go on in some other form. It won’t be me, as in my traits and personality, but something of me will carry on.”
Thus here in The Afterlife - A Journey to: Now You Know What Will Happen, author Stephen Paul Chong details, in a highly thoughtful, and genuinely impassioned manner, seventeen chapters (inclusive of The Passage, The Redemption, The Renewal, through to The Great Gardens, The Planning, culminating in The Recovery, The Rescues, The Chosen Pathway and The Great Vista) that will enthrall the reader from start to finish.
I mean, in general, the big question has always been Is there life after death? After all, we are all going to die, but the real question should be When, not if, professes Chong.
Which then leads to What then? Is that all there is? Is it just a case of That’s it? We go to dust and all that are left are legacies of a life, hopefully well lived?
Chong adds that within this tome he has brought forth, he can only lay claim to the words as the author by virtue that it is his fingers that are waltzing on the keyboard. The source of the words is what us, the reader, need to determine as truth, folly or fiction.
Or, perhaps, it all just comes down to the ism of What you believe is true.
About the Author - Stephen Chong M.Ed. is a highly sought-after professional development coach, keynote speaker and author who shares his passion for life with everyone that he meets. He lives in Queensland, Australia.
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The Language of Flowers
By: Joan D. Stamm / Mantra Books / $15.95
Overview: In 2020, as COVID-19 spread from Asia to North America, Zen Buddhist and ikebana practitioner Joan Stamm was forced to cancel her long-anticipated trip to Japan, where she had planned to research a flower temple pilgrimage and learn the deeper meaning of flowers known as “little Buddhas”.
But with lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, Stamm, who lives on a mountain on an island in the Salish Sea, sequestered herself like a hermit and turned to her own flower garden for solace and meaning as the pandemic engulfed the world around her.
Verdict: The Language of Flowers in the Time of COVID tells the story of Stamm’s life and spiritual journey through these difficult times. Using traditional Japanese flowers as seasonal indicators, Stamm speaks the poetic language of flowers to explore ancient flower metaphor as it relates to the pandemic and the many manifestations of impermanence in one of the most tumultuous years in American history.
For many Americans, let alone the world, of course, the scale of the coronavirus crisis calls to mind 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis—events that reshaped society in lasting ways, from how we traveled and purchased homes, to the level of security and surveillance we’re accustomed to, and even to the language we use.
A global, novel virus that kept us contained in our homes for months that ran into a couple of years, if only fear wise, was already reorienting our relationship to government, to the outside world, even to each other.
This meant that some changes the experts expected to see in the coming months thereafter, and for years to come, might/would feel unfamiliar or unsettling.
But crisis moments also present opportunity: more sophisticated and flexible use of technology, less polarization, a revived appreciation for the outdoors and life’s other simple pleasures.
One of those being writing, for when the onset of the pandemic puts a pebble in the shoe of author Joan D. Stamm, her cherished plans for a flower temple pilgrimage in Japan all blown away in the Covid wind, instead of being angry or overly disappointed, Stamm combined her knowledge of flower symbolism and Buddhist teachings to bring forth a quite unique, and wholly heartfelt new prose.
One where the Great Mystery, that unnamed, and many named, universal force that operates in its own way, in its own time, in unique and complex patterns too intricate to comprehend by the human brain, had laid out a most devious plan for 2020 that nobody, except for a few infectious disease experts, saw coming.
So with her planned journey to include spending the whole month of April 2020 in Japan exploring a flower temple pilgrimage in the Kansai region - which would have been the quite literal face-to-face of her investigation into the deeper meaning of hanakotoba: the language of flowers, now gone, her book The Language of Flowers in the Time of COVID: Finding Solace in Zen, Nature and Ikebana is one dutifully laced with some of the most beautifully-curated, colorfully-hued details and descriptions, that you yourself will close your eyes after reading each chapter and see (maybe even smell) each and every flower that is being oh-so lovingly described.
About the Author - Joan D. Stamm is the author of A Pilgrimage in Japan: the 33 Temples of Kannon, and the award winning Heaven and Earth are Flowers: Reflections on Ikebana and Buddhism. She is co-founder of Cold Mountain Hermitage, a Zen Buddhist study and practice group, and a certified teacher of the Saga School of Ikebana. www.joandstamm.com. She lives in Eastsound, Washington.
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Transcendental Spirituality, Wisdom & Virtue
By: Douglas Charles Hodgson / O-Books / $19.95
Overview: Venturing beyond the inter-faith literature on ancient wisdom, Transcendental Spirituality, Wisdom and Virtue: The Divine Virtues and Treasures of the Heart, identifies and explores the meaning of 36 Divine Virtues or Universal Ethical Principles shared across the world’s religions, providing the reader with a pathway to a higher spiritual understanding.
Verdict: In the face of potentially cataclysmic challenges and existential threats to both humanity and the planet, it is timely for this generation to recall and then live by forgotten or ignored universal ethical principles and virtues.
Transcendental Spirituality, Wisdom and Virtue: The Divine Virtues and Treasures of the Heart by author Douglas Charles Hodgson, identifies and explores 36 such principles that represent divine virtues or universal ethical principles.
Supported by relevant scriptural passages from various faiths such as Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Indigenous spiritual beliefs, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism, each chapter is devoted to exploring and synthesizing the essence of the scriptural meaning and scope of one Divine Virtue.
As the author himself states from the off, in these times differences and divisions appear to consume us on a daily basis. In a post-secular and increasingly technological and digitalized world which is now exploring possibilities in A.I., ancient wisdom and virtue appear to have been cast aside as unfashionable and irrelevant.
As knowledge exponentially increases, application of the wisdom of the elders recedes. But why must this be so? Can we not explore and affirm what unites and binds humanity together, and what has brought us to this point in human history?
Hodgson also adds that due to these questions and more that he has searched the sacred scriptures of the most prominent religions and belief systems with a view to determining not what divides or differentiates them, but to identify and celebrate the common spiritual and ethical foundations upon which they are all based.
Furthermore, it is his hope that the readers who consider themselves spiritual and/or religious, that those who are interested in interfaith dialogue and those who may still be searching for their own truth will be able to identify with and embrace in their lives the Divine Virtues and Universal Ethical Principles which bind these religions together like an ethereal mortar.
And so, in closing, and whilst previous works have focused generally on ancient wisdom, this must-read book extends beyond wisdom to include 35 additional virtues or spiritual principles that underpin these great and diverse religions.
About the Author - Douglas Hodgson’s involvement with legal education and university administration has spanned over four decades in Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand. As a lawyer, teacher, researcher, author and human rights advocate, his interest in religious discrimination and religious fundamentalism issues motivated him to engage in the study of the scriptures of the world’s religions, ultimately inspiring him to write Transcendental Spirituality, Wisdom and Virtue: The Divine Virtues and Treasures of the Heart. He lives in Perth, Australia.
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No, You’re Crazy: A Novel
By: Jeff Beamish / Roundfire Books / $21.95
Overview: In this coming of age story, No, You’re Crazy: A Novel, by author Jeff Beamish, a teenage girl with a rare mental disorder attracts dangerous attention when she claims she can see into the future.
Verdict: When sixteen-year-old Ashlee Sutton’s home life falls apart, she is beset by a rare mental illness that makes her believe she’s clairvoyant. While most people scoff at her, she begins demonstrating an uncanny knack for sometimes predicting the future, using what could either be pure luck or something more remarkable.
And when she helps her drug-addict father win enough casino cash to accidentally overdose, she becomes the target of violent people determined to exploit her, and she goes on the run.
Ashlee reaches out to a distant relative, traumatized war journalist Mike Baker. Soon, at least in Ashlee’s eyes, they are both plunging dangerously into an existential rabbit hole where their core belief, that humanity and personal connections are a blight, will be put to the ultimate test.
No, You’re Crazy is a multilayered novel that examines the many ways a family can wound and heal us. A page-turning thriller and a sensitive look at faith and neurodiversity, it ultimately dares to ask, Who gets to decide what’s real?
Furthermore, and a book that fully deserves to be read in one sitting, although its magically alluring prose shouldn’t be rushed through at any cost, this sweeping book of connection, loss and love (and most every illuminating human factory sense in-between) is a uniquely captivating read brought forth by author Jeff Beamish.
Full of intertwining sentences, solidly written paragraphs, and artfully told chapters, what we witness on the page is made all the more intriguing by the fact that what our lead character is going through is nothing short of how a lot of people sense life to be today for themselves.
And although not a How To manual, by any stretch of the imagination, right there comes the most perfect word to sum this literary ride up: Imagination. For without it, not only can Ashlee begin to survive in the world around her, but the reader themselves can catch a little bit of its wide-ranging enchantment, thus following alongside our lead on her adventure(s) in perfect symmetry.
A hefty read, sure, but one that draws you in instantly from the very first paragraph on through to the satisfying, yet dulcetly-crafted, perhaps even dutifully thrilling conclusion, No, You’re Crazy will bring pause to ponder throughout a generation that reads it - given that how we define ourselves, our preconceptions on how life should be, are expertly veined throughout.
About the Author - Jeff Beamish is a fiction writer, former journalist and author. His previous novel, Sneaker Wave, was shortlisted in 2014 for a national fiction award in Canada. He has been fortunate to find inspiration in the stunningly beautiful scenery in the Canadian province of British Columbia, where he lives and works.
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