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A Middle-Grade Story of Hope and Healing

Lucy in Her Secret Wood (The Lucy Series) - Christina M. Pagès

Book 1 of the 'Lucy' series is set in 1970s England and tells of eight-year-old Lucy, who has lived most of her life locked in a small closet until one day her angry stepfather takes her into the woods and abandons her.

One might think that, like Hansel and Gretel, disaster will come of this move; but in fact Lucy thrives in her new wilderness world outside of the closed-in room that has been her life. In the process of adapting to the outdoor wonders she has only read about in books, she comes to feel a new kind of freedom and appreciation for life.

Despite her friendship with a boy who helps her, and her ability to adapt, Lucy's not out of the woods yet: when authorities discover a child living alone in nature, they 'rescue' her and take her to an orphanage where, once again, she is bullied and abused.

One notable feature of Lucy in Her Secret Wood is its focus, not on the abusive situations, but on Lucy's sense of wonder as she discovers the good in her world. Her closed-in life serves, in this case, as a backdrop for the sense of appreciation she evolves for nature (wild though it may be), and the focus is on this sense of growth and discovery and not just upon the abuse she endures.

Gorgeous color paintings enhance the feel of Lucy's woods experience and the comfort it involves, while dialogue throughout reflects Lucy's respect for the newfound world she moves through.

 

Now, all is not sweetness and light in the woods: Lucy discovers she lacks and requires very basic survival skills despite the efforts of her new friend's help, and in the course of her explorations, she learns survival and problem-solving skills.

 

As advanced elementary to early middle school grades read about Lucy's evolution, it becomes evident that her story is about more than abuse, escape, and an appreciation of nature: it's about healing, recovery, and how to maintain a sense of wonder and appreciation of surrounding beauty.

In this respect, Lucy in Her Secret Wood offers an appealing window of opportunity for kids of all ages to reconnect with the world, use art to express these connections, and ultimately arrive at better places in life where hopes, dreams and promises do come true.

Lucy in Her Secret Wood offers a message, not just of survival, but how to choose positive paths that wind through the world's negative influences, making it a recommended children's novel for many reasons.

A Story Steeped in Victorian London Atmosphere!

Forever Gentleman - Roland Colton, Erin Willard, Anna Faktorovich

Forever Gentleman is a historical novel set in Victorian London and blends the author's love for architecture, music and history as it steeps its story in the sights, sounds, and flavors of the era and follows Renaissance man Nathan, whose struggles as an architect and a musician bring him in contact with the ladies and lords of high society.

Nathan's gifts bring him love in unexpected places; but they also are challenged by his economic misfortunes and by threats that give him clear choices between romance or seeking safety in another country.

From the squalor of Debtor's Prison to judges, courtroom dramas, and the beckoning possibilities of a new life that takes his beloved piano concertos to new heights, Forever Gentleman is about a young man finding his place in society and the social trials and snafus (and romance) that confront him along the way.

Readers who like atmospheric, sweeping historical sagas cemented by the personal goals, observations, and challenges of protagonists who interact on many levels will relish Forever Gentleman's special ability to turn out a rollicking good read while remaining true to the history and influences of its times.

It's a romance, it's a mystery, and it's a history all wrapped into one satisfyingly beautiful production, and is highly recommended for anyone who appreciates a depth and attention to detail that results in a powerful story line.

The Politics and Processes of Fracking

Fracking America - Walter M. Brasch

Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefits provides a follow-up to Walter M. Brasch's prior, acclaimed Fracking Pennsylvania; expanding the subject's scope and using some of the Pennsylvania settings as examples in a wider-ranging assessment of fracking's environmental, economic, and political impact on America.

Because many fracking discussions focus on environmental impact, it's satisfying to see an account that moves well beyond the usual focus to analyze some of the other reasons why fracking is an unusually dangerous pursuit. The wide-ranging discussions move from theological perspectives on fracking (from religions that include admonitions to care for the environment) to connections between industry interests and political maneuvering, which have influenced politicians to create laws skewed toward industry benefits and against public health and environmental concerns.

Dr. Brasch isn't just a naysayer who fills chapters with emotional rants: he offers a studied, rational series of analyses centered around the mechanics of fracking and its impact on different levels. And while it may be his third book on the topic (at first, he didn't want to write any of them; initially not wanting to take the time and effort to learn about engineering, geology, and political practices involved in any real in-depth treatment of the subject), Fracking America may well be his most important yet.

As Dr. Brasch delved into the mechanics of the natural gas fracking process, he became more and more convinced it is a bad idea on many levels - and Fracking America continues this conviction by gleaning more hard evidence from fracking operations across the country.

Readers should anticipate the same attention to detail and facts as in his other books on the subject. Charts, graphs, and footnoted references to CAC studies, news reports, scientific papers and documents support his contentions and provide authority to support every statement. While the prevalence of so many footnoted references (several thousand) may seem daunting to some, these serve to not only support Dr. Brasch's contentions, but provide annotated references readers can turn to (almost all of them presented as website links) for their own research.

Discussions and assessments of renewable energy resources around the world, their locations, and their potentials round out what has to be the most authoritative, well-researched, rational and evidence-based discussion of fracking in America to hit the book market to date.

Fracking America is highly recommended for anyone studying the subject at any level, whether they are newcomers to fracking or activists who have only researched environmental impact, and need to fill in the blanks on political processes and impacts that hold important questions about American freedoms and political maneuvering.

Being a Hero Versus Being Human

Conductoid (Volume 1) by M. B. Lehane (2016-04-15) - M. B. Lehane

Open with a typical student soccer game in which player Jack declines team celebrations at the end of a successful game to examine an illuminated device on his ankle in the privacy of the still-empty locker room, then flees. But there's something extraordinary in the method of his flight and in his ride home, implying that Jack is not the ordinary soccer-playing schoolboy he portrays.

 

Not every boy has a secret compartment in his closet and a jetpack accompanying his lunch bag. No normal boy can rocket into the sky through his rolled-back bedroom ceiling. And what boy can face his greatest enemy with nary a quiver? Nobody, it turns out - even Jack. But, a boy can dream!

 

In a world that constantly challenges Jack to be extraordinary, he consistently fails. His performance in class, in P.E., and in life are all met with obstacles and his best intentions to do better send him into a dream world filled with creatures more realistic than his own life. In contrast, his twin Phoebe is a winner at nearly everything she does. Even worse, his mother is about to become his teacher at school.

 

What's left to enjoy are dreams, which sometimes come with nightmares attached. And in this world, he shines.

 

Conductoid is a super-hero story, a saga of dreams and reality, and tells of a boy who shifts between the persona of a failure and that of Conductoid, a superhero with extraordinary abilities who saves lives and faces down challenges. What, exactly, is a 'conductoid'? It's "A being who can have another’s powers transmitted through them.’"

 

As Jack faces strangers, transformations, and challenges even in his super-world, he finds that the very qualities that limit him in one world come back to haunt him in the one place he feels powerful.

 

Not everything in Conductoid focuses on Jack's changing worlds: in between there are family encounters and relationships, field trips, and revelations about the underlying meaning of being strong.

 

 Readers move between fantasy adventure and Jack's real world as Jack explores his position in both. Do the stories Jack creates have their roots in reality? While readers are treated to a satisfying intersection between fantasy and reality, the real questions lie in Jack's ability to move between two worlds and face the consequences of his choices in each.

 

This gripping saga will especially delight advanced elementary to middle grade readers who secretly dream of being heroes even as they struggle with being human.

A Christian Perspective on Toxic Relationships

Not A Blueprint: It's The Shoes That Matter--A Journey Through Toxic Relationships - Nina Norstrom

Not a Blueprint: It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter A Journey Through Toxic Relationships achieves what few other books offer, surveying the elements of toxic relationships and people in life which defines 'toxic' actions and tells how to handle them. That it does this with acknowledgement to the hand of God and a nod to the idea that "…that God gives us strong shoes to walk those paths." Makes for a discussion particularly recommended for spiritual self-help readers.

 

The author knows her subject: toxic relationships at home, at work, and in life nearly destroyed her. She learned from these relationships: "My ultimate lesson in my journey has been that healthy relationships require honesty, compassion, strength, and courage. Given the right mechanisms, these traits make maneuvering through life less stormy."

 

Her life story unfolds in these pages, from a religious upbringing and the importance of God in her life to her job, family, and friendships. Christian guilt, shame, sin, emotional attachments and parenting are explored with insights into toxic communications, individuals, and - yes - attractions to and between toxic personalities.

 

Not a Blueprint thus serves a dual purpose, providing Nina Norstrom's autobiography and charting her life's course through toxicity and onto a more positive, supportive path. What's the difference between a 'blueprint' that guides one and the 'shoe print' mentioned in the title? Quite simply, this is a focus on the lasting effects ("shoe prints") which lessons learned from experience leaves on one's psyche and life. The author is quite clear about the difference and God's role in this: "…my belief is that God gives us strong shoes to walk those paths. If we are willing, we can readily learn to distinguish whether relationships are toxic or nontoxic."

 

Followers of her footsteps should ideally be spiritually-minded readers who will appreciate the incorporation of God's purposes into discussions of the characteristics that constitute toxic relationships and how to handle or avoid them. Readers with such a background will appreciate the consistent injections of faith into life experiences (a regular thread in the stories), and will appreciate the life lessons Norstrom shares along the way which serve to support that faith: "So, when a person comes into your life, don’t question their existence—just embrace their presence. Take it from the Holy Father: they are there for a reason, and we must embrace that moment."

 

Each lesson provides enlightenment, making for an appealing combination of psychological and spiritual inspection recommended for self-help and Christian readers alike.

An Urban Fantasy Vampire Romance

Bound (The Silverton Chronicles Book 2) - Carmen Fox

Florian is a vampire who has hit the big time with business success (a rare position to be in for a member of a werewolf pack) until a female werewolf pads into his life to offer a special challenge with an unusual romance that tests his loyalties and even his true nature.

 

While Bound: The Silverton Chronicles is best described as an urban fantasy romance, it actually holds much more depth than this genre's usual read. For one thing, Florian's identity isn't based on his successful relationships between different worlds: it's a carefully-honed tightrope walk, and the lines he's so carefully built and trod all his life are about to come apart.

 

Secondly, Bound: The Silverton Chronicles injects a light dose of humor throughout, engaging readers through a series of fun encounters that are delightfully unexpected additions to a usually-serious genre: "I sucked in a huge breath of helium from the tank. “Why are we doing this again?” I asked in a high-pitched voice. My head spun, but it was totally worth it. Ivy punched me in the arm. “If you could be serious for a second, you’d realize it’s necessary. You can’t just stomp into another pack and demand they join yours. They need to be schmoozed.

 

Carmen Fox's approach makes the most of the comic interlude device and adds dimension and fun to a read which sashays around two powerful protagonists who are each determined to get the most out of their very different lives, and who hold different alliances to their packs and their alpha leaders.

 

As readers absorb the social and political concerns of werewolves, vampires, and their intersections with human worlds, their different psyches and concerns are embellished with lively notes that add creative fun to the story line: "Any excuse to party, and werewolves were first in line at the kegger."

 

Readers should be prepared to enter a world where all forces exist in the same realm and mingle on the same plane: "The humans treat him like any other, and the kin… He’s got fae sending in donations. Trolls are doing his accounts and, on his instruction, helping out other kin with their finances. Gino even has demons working for him.”  I frowned. “Demons? As in more than one? Demons don’t work for anyone, let alone in groups.”

 

By keeping secrets, Flo has endangered the thing he loves the most. It's time for his secrets to end, and the process of unraveling them, love, and werewolf objectives makes for a riveting, fun read that goes beyond the usual portraits of vampires and werewolves to inject a healthy degree of mystery, action, intrigue, and romance into the bigger picture of two very different souls who struggle to unite.

 

Readers of urban fantasy who look for both romance and rare humor in more complex stories of conflict will love Bound: The Silverton Chronicles, which takes passion and purpose and winds them into a captivating tale holding many different twists as it unravels a complicated truth.

A Modern Epic Narrative Poem!

The Boundary Stone - Christopher Hassett

Narrative poetry readers well know that many of the true 'classics' of this literary form have not only been written hundreds of years ago, but appear only rarely, compared to other poetic and literary styles. Indeed, the epic narrative poem has largely gone by the wayside in modern times, with the exception of Christopher Hassett's The Boundary Stone, a production some ten years in the making.

 

The Boundary Stone eventually grew to embrace 300 poems, then was edited back to the structure seen here: 70 poems carefully woven together to form an epic saga about a nomad wandering through the aftermath of an apocalypse.

 

The narrator stumbles through this smoky world with only a bone lit from its fires for illumination when he comes upon a glass-fused hole in the desert and throws himself down it in despair, presenting shades of "Ozymandias" and Danté in a vivid description that will shake readers to their poetic roots.

 

Each piece of this vivid collection holds multiple meanings - the flame of the narrator's heart is love, but the flame of his discovery lies in a torched bone reminiscent of humanity itself - both illuminating his path through past, present, and future options.

 

Descriptions of this blasted landscape are vividly wrought: "The trails through arroyos and those in the hills become/deadpaths of bone and darked plainswood, skeletal saguaros/and sparceoak,/and the peaks above and the towering basalts, where tree/stone and sun and calendar steps, scripted piers, altars of let,/stairglyphs told to temple mouths,/all in the ashfall stood spectral." Through this example (just one tiny segment of a greater whole), readers can gain a sense of just what can be done with the epic narrative poem, which cannot be similarly achieved using a different structure with roots in either other poetry or fiction.

 

One might anticipate, through this example, that The Boundary Stone will be a complex and challenging read; and that it is - but with the added note that it is accessible, stimulating, and vivid even to those unfamiliar with this style. The caveat here is that The Boundary Stone is not a collection to be read quickly, but a thought-provoking series of images and philosophical reflections best digested a little at a time.

 

In this ever-faster modern world where "high speed" and "high octane action" are revered, this requirement for reflective, slow, thoughtful reading could prove a challenge for some, but especially in an era where the epic narrative has all but vanished, The Boundary Stone stands out as a rarity in the poetry world.

 

But, soft! As one descends with the protagonist into the pits of Hell and hope and back up again, a transformation happens. The complex, the challenging, and the thought-provoking become compelling and visionary, while any preconceived obstacles to understanding fall away.

 

In the end, what is left is a saga of enrichment, discovery, and a new process of "becoming" something different in this strange new world. And what, exactly, is that?

 

Pursue The Boundary Stone in all its nuances to find out. Fans of the epic poetry narrative and newcomers to the form are in for a real treat, here: but be prepared to descend with the observer in the story into the depths of destruction to arrive at the heart of resurrection.

 

A Surreal Short Story Collection of Gems!

Prasvapa - Chand Svare Ghei

Short story collections unified by a common theme are typical creations; but what gives Prasvapa its unique flavor isn't its story structures or protagonists, but its ethereal, surrealistic air that contributes an atmosphere of surprise to its dream-like descriptions.

 

In short, readers expecting linear short stories will find that the strength in Prasvapa lies not in predictability nor even in plot or action, but in creating scenarios that describe and support the concept of "prasvapa" ("consciousness during sleep"). It crafts dark, unpredictable, yet compelling fantasy states that skirt the edge of real scenarios, then dip over into the impossible.

 

Such is the case with 'An Everyday Adventure', which opens the collection with the story of one woman's sadness about her life and blossoms from a her obsession with her sanctuary/home, where she lives distant from people and their concerns, to a cat who leads her to involve another in her life, transforming her isolated, unchanging world.

 

Descriptions of these worlds are succinct and precise.

 

Chand Svare Ghei's special talent lies in the ability to take the smallest of events, moments, and scenes and show how these can twist and convert into new worlds at the blink of an eye. It doesn't take pages of description to craft these gems (these are short productions, after all), and it doesn't take high drama to inject them with a sense of compelling insight.

 

'The Strife for Water', for example, tackles the simple needs of a child who is taken on a long road trip against his wishes. Ghei's ability to capture the child's inner feelings while in transit is well done, as is the sudden change of events when his mother throws him out of the car and drives away. Left to his own devices, he must satisfy his own needs - which include those most basic: hydration.

 

As with the other stories, this represents a microcosm of experience, not the usual plot revolving around events, actions, and logical conclusions. The compelling piece lies not in high drama but in everyday circumstances enlarged for examination; much like a small photograph, when enlarged, reveals pieces and facets not seen in its smaller counterpart.

 

Short story enthusiasts who appreciate approaches that deconstruct simple experiences for their greater meaning, adopting a surreal feel in the process, will love Prasvapa's compellingly unique visions.

The Mallast Family's Immigration Experience

Mallast: A Historical Novel - Bob Prevost

The Mallast family's move from Germany to America in 1882 is, in one way, a classic story of immigration involving turbulent times, difficult adjustments, and new paths in life. After an introduction emphasizing that Mallast stems from his family history, Bob Prevost provides a journey through time, opening with the feel of rural central Prussia in 1879 as August Mallast tends the family fires on their tenant farm while musing on his country's progressively dangerous military ideology.

 

August's life has been changed by battlefield horrors in three wars, already: how can he avoid having his son conscripted into service? It's obvious: the family has to flee their homeland.

 

Bob Prevost takes the time to fully cover the logical progression of thought, from initial analysis of a country's political, social and military history and its impact on August and his family to their difficult decision to immigrate to a strange new country.

 

The frugal farming lifestyle the family's cultivated could translate to success in America, and as August follows progressively more bad news and tries to find a route that will allow the family to remain in their homeland, it becomes increasingly evident that this will not work: "Do we stay and endure the possible future treacherous wars with our sons’ lives at risk?

 

This decision-making process is particularly well detailed, taking into account not just political changes, but the psyches of young men which are often geared to the glories of conflict and battle: "He knew his sons would initially look forward to a perceived glorious adventure with the army, especially since many of their young friends would be part of the big build-up as well."

 

August's task lies in using his more mature knowledge of war's horrible effects to move his family to a safe place where the drama lies not in battle, but in new opportunities for growth. As they make their choices and moves, these themes rise to the forefront of a plan that brings the family to a new home and some unforeseen challenges.

 

As the family experiences newfound prospects and change with their new American farm and business ventures, so does its history evolve from one of Old Country hardships to New World opportunity.

 

The European setting, motivations for major changes, family connections and support systems, and Mallast's family history (the facts are reviewed in a concluding section to the novel) all make for a lovely historical piece that takes a family history and transforms it into a microcosm of immigrant experience.

 

Any fiction reader who appreciates historical facts and stories of early European immigrant experience will relish this sweeping saga of a family that ultimately recreates their lives and makes decisions that have lasting, positive ramifications for future generations.

A Middle Ages Adventure for Middle Grades!

Stumbling On A Tale (TIME TO TIME Book 2) - Suzanne Roche

Books for middle school readers about the middle ages are too often dry affairs that favor historical fact over captivating magical scenes. This is far from the case in Stumbling on a Tale, the latest addition to the 'Time to Time Kids' series, which decorates its facts with the compellingly colorful embellishment of fiction.

 

A lively introduction firmly cements the adventure with a dose of historical explanation that creates a solid backdrop of world history, setting the stage for the story to follow.

 

Enter twelve-year-old Henry Hawkins and his older stepsister Peri, who are still developing their newfound relationship as siblings. Henry's stepsister isn't the shy, antisocial girl he'd envisioned a fifteen-year-old to be: she's precocious, curious, and always ready to step into trouble - and thus, she's at the top of his list of things to worry about.

 

They're again playing with a curious book that holds strange powers; this time trying to find out more about its author and publisher. When Max repeats the sequence of events that led to their last time-traveling history adventure, disaster once again strikes. This time they're not in 1900s New York City, but are in a forest in an era that feels much older.

 

The key to returning home lies in finding an antique. The only problem is that Max, who has brought them all here, has no idea what the antique is - and so they are looking for a needle in a haystack.

 

Knights, dragons, and lost siblings - oh my! Winding through the historical encounters are the real, contemporary concerns of kids who have had to make big adjustments to modern times.

 

It may take a return home to make these Middle Ages events make sense - and even then, life becomes more complicated when time travel adventures are added to the mix.

 

Quizzes, puzzles, riddles and games, activities, and even recipes at the conclusion of the story add value to this tale, which ends in a manner that paves the way for more time-traveling history explorations; but its real meat and protein lie in chapters packed with a vivid blend of adventure quest and historical insights. 

 

As the siblings come to realize some of the meanings of the antiques, the book, and their encounters, they also come to absorb wisdom and more mature approaches to problem-solving and begin to understand how myths, quests, and history intersect.

 

A rollicking good adventure story spiced with real insights on past and present make Stumbling on a Tale a lively read highly recommended for any middle-grade fan of time travel action stories.

A Girl's Awakening Abilities and Heart

The Girl Who Could Read Hearts - Sherry Maysonave

The Girl Who Could Read Hearts opens with six-year-old Kate, who huddles in the safe embrace of a walnut tree in Berkeley, California. At this point, Kate is clueless about her hidden intuitive powers and the presence of an angel on her birthday cake, who is charged with overseeing the evolution of a soul eons old, belaying her latest six-year-old incarnation's physical age.

 

While the story line focuses on the evolution of Kate's powers and her growing relationship with this angel overseer, it's also a story of parents and others who view her visions as a form of mental illness and who try to help her accordingly.

 

The Girl Who Could Read Hearts may be directed to young adult audiences, but the first thing to know about Kate and her world is that her ability to 'read' others and effect changes that might not be entirely desirable makes for a compelling tale that many an adult will also want to read.

 

As events unfold and Kate finds herself caught in a web of self-discovery and self-induced interventions, facing the consequences of her choices as her abilities grow, so readers are drawn into a plot that pairs a story of growing faith and evolving talents with a myriad of social, political and personal conflicts along the way.

 

Sherry Maysonave's ability to juxtapose inner and outer worlds for a maximum sense of impact and her realistic portrayal of a youngster's world make for satisfying blends of extraordinary and ordinary experiences: "See, you’re not such a smarty pants after all. Like you can’t even win a game for four-year-olds,” Marilla Marzy taunted."

 

Medical procedures and murder, teen angst and police involvements, eating disorders and intrigue, and interactions with the afterlife push The Girl Who Could Read Hearts into unexpected directions. Readers won't expect to find these themes wound into an overall saga of a girl's awakening abilities; but they are an intrinsic piece of a plot that combines spiritual reflections with social issues, and they make for a complex web of events that succeed in creating a moving, memorable story.

 

The Girl Who Could Read Hearts is a highly recommended, evocative read for young adult to adult audiences who are interested in stories of evolution, spiritual guidance, and ultimately, hope.

Live Music, Concert Photography, and a Woodstock Memoir

Peace, Love n' Mud - Kraig Geiger

Author Kraig Geiger was only eight when he first caught a glimpse of his future, while in a movie theater, watching the original Woodstock Documentary movie: this event would eventually change the course of his life.

This isn't just the story of a young man's rise to fame in a challenging world; it's a story of serendipity and evolution, it's a love story, and ultimately it's a saga about how the author chose not to wallow under life's slings and arrows, but maintained a tight grip on his creativity by nurturing it to fruition.

 

On January 4th, 1994, the new word division of Merriam Webster’s Dictionary - and on February 14th, 2014, the new word division of The Oxford Dictionary - officially recognized Kraig Geiger (by letters of file citation) for coining the word Contographer ® (i.e. concert photographer).

 

In 1996, the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Mr. Geiger an official trademark to use the word Contographer ® in commerce worldwide. While credited for naming an industry with no prior professional moniker through his unique trademark, Kraig has successfully found the key to distinguishing himself, along with his photographic works of art, from all other photographers and concert photographers worldwide.

 

Defining the work of a concert photographer as a trade (or a special brand) goes well beyond the normal boundaries of portrait and studio work. However, these are just some of the many aspects and achievements in his life, all documented in his story.

 

As chapters wind through the decisions involved in taking some leaps of faith to capture memorable experiences and moments on film, as Kraig is not a digital photographer, readers gain a sense of the concert photographer's special challenges behind Geiger's decisions.

 

The 1994 Woodstock Art and Music Fair may be the focal point of his story, but like ripples in a pond, everything evolves steadily outward from the point that he's dropped into this art world.

 

Just as his family history involves facing many challenges and crafting new beginnings Kraig's life moves relentlessly forward in a trajectory that brings readers along on a rollicking good ride through time, space, emotional challenges, and the artistic evolution of a true artist.

 

Expect this family history to be supplemented by a healthy dose of philosophical and cathartic reflection. Also anticipate a multi-faceted read that in many ways replicates the magic of Woodstock ’69 in the very different world of 1994.

 

Throughout the buildup of this momentous musical celebration, readers are treated to the unvarnished truth about the pros and cons of this historic event.

 

Peace, Love n’ Mud contains a multitude of powerful insights and statements about life in general, the author's life, his family relationships, his creative career, his involvement with the Woodstock ‘94 Music and Art Fair, and an unforeseen romantic connection ties this winning-against-all-odds/ love story into a once in a lifetime experience! Of special note: Kraig Geiger has only read one book in his entire life: The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Peace, Love n’ Mud sends a powerful message of how someone who isn’t an avid book reader can not only produce a book, but can craft a vivid saga that is hard to put down.

 

It must have been written in the stars! The first time Kraig Geiger met Woodstock Ventures founder and promoter John Roberts, in 1997, a strong connection was immediate made. At the conclusion of their first meeting, when asked by Kraig to sign a copy of Young Men With Unlimited Capital, a book about the original Woodstock Music & Art Fair co-written by John Roberts, his best friend and Woodstock Ventures partner Joel Rosenman, and collaborator/editor Robert Pilpel, John wrote this inscription: "To Kraig, We admire your grit!" A few years later (and just before his passing, in 2001), John Roberts wrote the official book preface for Peace, Love n’ Mud.

 

Formed with the passion of an observer, artist, activist and a career Contographer ®, Peace, Love n' Mud isn't just an autobiographical story: it captures the experiences, ideals, and challenges of several generations, making Peace, Love n’ Mud a compelling standout read especially recommended for anyone interested in live music, concert photography (or photography, in general) or for those who attended one of the three major Woodstock Music & Art Fairs held in 1969, 1994 and 1999.

A Lively Story of How Changing One's Image Changes One's Life

Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise - Stacy Harshman, Veronica Tuggle

Crowning Glory -- An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise may initially sound like a psychological self-help read; but in actually it is an unusual memoir based on the author's experiment in wearing a number of wigs in New York City, assuming personas which change as often as hair color in the process of discovering who she is and how appearance changes psyches.

 

Her idea for this transformation didn't begin overnight with an Internet buying binge: all her life, Stacy Harshman felt defined by her hair … what it wasn't, and what it could or should have been. What began as a simple acknowledgement of the limitations on her life imposed by her self-image and longing for flowing locks and her investigation of why bitterness had grown to permeate her psyche evolved into a determination to buy not just one wig, but to wear a series of changing wig colors (same style) and analyze changing reactions to her hair.

 

Her initial experiences after she dons her first wig are dramatic and leads her into an unexpected exploration of the influence of hair in self-image and psychology.

 

Photos throughout do a terrific job of illustrating these colorful transformations as Harshman tells her story, adding visual impact to an unusual research process that weaves in and out of dating and personal relationships, the reactions of strangers, and how her hair affects all facets of her approach to life; whether it be on the dance floor, in internet cafes, or on the street.

 

Expect a lively romp through the dating world with plenty of opportunities for exploring the results of Harshman's changes. In the course of conducting these experiments, Harshman finds her own healing path through life, altering her world and finding a different kind of romance in the process.

 

Any reader who would consider the process and result of self-transformation will find Crowning Glory a lively, pointed story of what it means to change one's image and, consequently, one's life.

Humor, Accessible Ideas, and Colorful Visual Insights on Tibetan Buddhism

Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?: A Westerner's Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice - Lama Tsomo, The Dalai Lama

Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? A Westerner's Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice applies the ancient traditions of Tibetan Buddhism to modern life through a series of step-by-step instructions and explanations and comes with portable meditation cards, a handy glossary of terms, and foundation lessons from the Namchak Foundation eCourses.

 

One doesn't expect to find science 'tidbits' peppered into a spiritual treatise, but they are wonderfully present here. Rupert Sheldrake's research into morphic resonance is among the works supporting these Buddhist practices and discoveries.

 

There are many candid discussions about this process, such as why people get 'stuck' in processing lives and choosing paths, how to block hindering karmic channels, or how to sustain an uninterrupted session of Tranquil Abiding - all aided by color photos throughout.

 

There's also an unexpected thread of humor that runs through many discussions ("Now you're ready to "assume the position". No, not THAT position!").

 

More so than almost any other book covering Tibetan Buddhist wisdom and its applications, these are just a few of the methods utilized by Lama Tsomo to make a potentially technical or confusing discussion lively and accessible to her audience. When combined with her powerful, exact messages, which take ethereal philosophy and spirituality and translate them to accessible, compelling, and actionable ideas, readers are in for a real treat.

 

This book is simply exquisite. It's packed with colorful visual insights, meditative connections, and strategies for mindfulness and change; all wound into a format that is bright, joyful, and hard to put down. It promises to reach readers with a verve and usefulness that exceeds most other discussions of Tibetan Buddhist practices directed to Western audiences, and should be on the shelves of any new age or spirituality collection.

A Memoir of Self-Acceptance and an Uplifting Life

The Fathers We Find - Charles P.  Ries

 

 

The Fathers We Find is a saga about the types of fathers, father figures, mentors, and leaders who influence and guide us as we move toward the wider world. These figures who are present throughout the narrative, offer fine insights into the importance of adults on a child's life and growth.  It is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys spirited, vivid coming-of-age family sagas, spiced with an overlay of religious upbringing, close knit family, and small town interactions all resting upon the question of who it is that guides us to our best selves.

 

Readers should anticipate more than a light dose of humor and fun in the process of following Charles Ries's coming of age. They will find his vignettes uplifting and revealing, from mink yards and commercial fishing, to confession services and boyhood pranks gone awry.

 

It delivers exactly what its subtitle (The Making of a Pleasant, Humble Boy) promises: a memoir about the author, who grew up in Wisconsin on a mink farm whose life evolves from a small town, deeply catholic family, and moves to self-acceptance and a joy-filled life.

 

It's this drive, and the author's spunk and motivations, which create compelling and fun scenes that alternatively keep readers laughing and lead them to consider the various paths that one can take towards enlightenment. It's not a weighty philosophical piece. Its vignettes are revealing, and fun. It offers a lively blend of nostalgia, delightful characters, and the enjoyable evolution of a precocious boy who is rescued by a sea of family, friends, uncles, priests, and quirky characters who each guide him to a deeper sense of himself.

 

A New Bride Romps Through Marriage and Money Matters

Moonlighting Bride (Happily Ever After Book 1) - Deborah Kulish

Moonlighting Bride's protagonist Jan is a new bride who seems to have it made: she has a good job and a lifestyle with many perks, and now she's snagged the man of her dreams. Or is it the man of her nightmares?

 

Jan isn't used to the basics of daily living, whether it's budgeting and living within her means or worrying about groceries and bills. Her high standard of living has involved a relatively carefree lifestyle with few money worries, until Rob. Suddenly these are concerns - as is their wildly different financial lifestyles.

 

It's surprising to note that a moneyed woman in modern times would be so oblique as to not have realized this gaping difference in their lifestyles before marrying, but on the way back from the honeymoon this becomes quickly evident.

 

Don't most couples at least discuss basic money matters before they jump into marital bliss?  One wonders that Jan (as well as Rob) has been so captivated by love and lust that the subject never came up, even concerning credit card use.

 

Be that as it may, it quickly becomes evident why Rob wasn't committed to discussing money matters. And Jan had plenty of warning signs, but chose to ignore them.

 

While the first few paragraphs of idyllic bliss lead readers to believe they will be pursing a light read, in reality Moonlighting Bride tackles all kinds of serious and thought-provoking issues as Jan's life begins to unravel and the carefree, flighty existence she has led turns into a tense situation.

 

Lest readers think this is an entirely serious social commentary, it should be mentioned that Moonlighting Bride holds more than a small degree of tongue-in-cheek humor that permeates situations and leads to laughs and fun, as when Jan insists that she hasn't gained any weight.

 

Light moments permeate the story line and provide much comic relief.

 

Determined to make her new marriage work, Jan begins a juggling act between leading the kind of lifestyle she's used to and making her new husband happy. It's an impossible dream already; but when she discovers new truths about the consequences of the one time she abandoned caution to impulse, she is tasked with a new objective: survival.

 

Expect a lot of shopping in Moonlighting Bride, and concerns over a high-maintenance lifestyle - but that's just one of the facets of a read that moves between a light leisure choice and one embedded with deeper issues of domestic violence and money management.

 

One of the pleasures of Moonlighting Bride is that nothing is what it appears to be. Readers move forward anticipating a certain progression of events, but just when the story line seems to oblige, it takes a complete turn and moves in the opposite direction. While the tone is light and airy at points, it's also a serious investigation of the progression of two personalities after their union, and provides an inviting story that offers no pat personalities or solutions.

 

The result is an engrossing read with more than light comment on marriage, fortunes, and the collision of two powerful lifestyles.