Mirror Meditation by Tara Well, PhD

I’ve been a believer in various forms of meditation for many years. This book caught my attention because it sounded new and intriguing. BUT — a mirror? Looking at myself in a mirror has never been a favorite pastime. In fact, I avoid mirrors as much as possible. A brief look to make sure nothing’s in my teeth, or that my hair isn’t frightening, or my makeup smeared, and I’m good to go.

It turns out, though, that this book addresses, among many other things, the art of learning to look at and learn from, one’s reflection. Far from being an act of narcissism, it’s a way to embrace self-discovery. The book is written in an easy-to-read format, and author Tara Well, PhD is highly knowledgeable. She’s an Associate Professor in Psychology and it shows. I loved the amount of interaction that’s encouraged throughout, with ideas for not only looking in the mirror but doing a video diary of what you’re experiencing while doing it. Whether it’s anxiety, fear, anger, lack of self- confidence, low self-esteem, or lack of understanding the way you see others and they see you, there is something to be learned here. I had several moments of “aha! that’s me!” when reading.

It might be easier for a very young generation to warm up to looking at themselves – after all, selfies rule the world today. But as the book explains, there’s so much more to looking at oneself or sharing a selfie. Life is not just about getting “likes”, it’s about making real contact, with oneself and with others.

I found this book not only a way to make contact with my inner self, but to overcome self-criticism of myself and others. I highly recommend it!

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Mysterious Midwest by Adrian Lee

My interest in this book was two-fold: I have been interested and involved in psychic phenomena for many years. And the book is about the Midwest, particularly Minnesota – where I was born.

It was a treat to read about these spirit encounters as told by British psychic and psychic investigator Adrian Lee. Haunted locations in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin are featured, whether they’re hotels, opera houses, banks, homes, graveyards or railroad depots.

Following today’s trend of ghost-hunting, Lee and his team use every tool in their investigations, from a ghost box (which spirits speak through) to EMF and EVP meters, plus thermal imaging cameras, but also their own psychic abilities of sight and sound, which this “old school” spirit hunter appreciates.

The author gives a historical description of each location before beginning the actual investigation. While a bit dry at times, it nevertheless provides a brief background. The encounters are quite believable, and the book also offers addresses for the locations, should amateur ghosthunters choose to see for themselves what spirits manifest in places that are still open to the public. My only question arises from cases where spirits from the 19th century, for example, use words such as “yeah” or “sure.” I’m not sure whether people spoke that way in the 1800s, but it’s a minor detail, and I could be wrong about speech patterns of the time.

It’s well worth a read for those intrigued by the afterlife, and the author has similar books available, as well.

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A Ghost for a Clue – Immortology Book One by C.L.R.Draeco

Are ghosts real? Can they be proven and communicated with, whether you’re psychic or not, with the help of advanced technology?

Set in the year 2032, A Ghost for a Clue takes place just far enough in the future to make you wonder if some parts of the story could actually happen by then. Robotic waiters and cops are just two elements that belong to the time period in the book.  It has a strong beginning, several intriguing side stories, and keeps readers wanting more.

Main character Bram works at a company that makes robots – sophisticated ones that are capable of far more than we have in the present time. Yet in spite of this, he is saddened and shocked at the fact that his friend and co-worker Franco has just been killed in something as simple and outdated as a car crash. Franco’s death triggers the beginning of an exploration into ghostly activity. At first it appears to be a hoax when Bram hears Franco’s voice, but as time goes on, things appear more real.

Bram has been dreaming of a career as an astronaut, though he’s been turned down three times. Then, he is offered a job working at an offshoot of NASA, on a project called PANGAEA, the International Space Exploration Alliance. It would mean leaving Earth for good to work on the mission. He’s seriously considering the job but feels it would only be worthwhile if he can convince the love of his life, his former girlfriend Torula, to give up everything and go with him, even though they haven’t seen each other for years.
When Bram returns to the town where he once lived, he’s determined to re-connect with Torula and see if she will make this commitment.  But before asking her, he has more ghostly encounters and Torula seems involved in them.  The story is fascinating and well written. The best part? There’s a Book Two on the way!  I can’t wait!

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Take Your Mark, Lead! By Kelly Parker Palace

Take Your Mark, LEAD!  by Kelly Parker Palace

Kelly Parker Palace seems like the perfect person to write a book about being a champion and a leader. She’s been a champion athlete and swim coach, and then became a top figure in the corporate world.

There’s no question she calls on her sports background in writing this book, beginning with a Foreword by Bob Bowman, coach for Olympic legend Michael Phelps. But in the process, she relates how winning – in life, in love, in your career – can apply to anyone.

With advice from top business leaders and champions in the sports world, as well as quotes from General Douglas McArthur, Nelson Mandela, Mark Twain and many others, she motivates the reader to be their best. She reveals top attributes of a champion, recommends books to read, lists resources to follow and gives simple but powerful advice.

Her honesty about her own life is inspirational and motivational, including her experiences on 9/11 and living through (triumphantly) a bout with breast cancer.

Whether you want to break a bad habit, manage pain, set better goals, improve your communication skills, and of course if you want to be the best leader you can be, I highly recommend this book. I took away information I will remember and apply in my own life from now on.

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Moments Like This – by Anna Gomez and Kristoffer Polaha

Moments Like This reads like the perfect premise for a Hallmark Channel movie – sweet, exciting and deeply romantic. Actually, that’s not a surprise, since it was co-written by Kristoffer Polaha, a popular film and television actor who is often a favorite in Hallmark movies.

He and co-author Anna Gomez give readers a romance set in idyllic Hawaii. It’s like a breath of fresh air, enticing you to relax, unwind and enjoy.

In the story, high-powered venture capitalist “Andie” Matthews collapses during a traumatic work meeting, ending up in the hospital with exhaustion. In a fortunate turn of events, her dear friend Api invites her to take a break from her power career to run Api’s island coffee shop while she’s away. Andie agrees. It’s not exactly the money-making enterprise she’s used to, but something about the island lures her and awakens her creativity.

She quickly makes friends with the staff and meets a mysterious man named Warren. They share a special, unexpected moment on Christmas Eve, leading to many other moments on their way to a blossoming love. But Warren holds a secret. When Andie finds out – will it change everything?

I immediately “cast” Polaha as Warren as I was reading, and it worked beautifully. This is the first pairing of established author Gomez and new but highly-talented writer Polaha, but they promise more books in the future. Readers, I’m sure, will be eagerly awaiting them. And perhaps the Hallmark series will come about , too?

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Griffin’s Heart by Reagan Pasternak

If you’ve ever loved an animal, and perhaps more importantly, if you’ve ever suffered the devastation of losing one, this book could be the first step in your healing process. Just as the author points out in the book, some people will get this, and some will not. For some, losing that dog or cat or any other creature is something you “get over quickly” – it was “just an animal.” Author Reagan Pasternak is not addressing those people here. And rightly so. They aren’t the ones needing help.

But for the rest of us, and there are many, who feel our beloved companion animal is actually a member of the family – perhaps our best friend or our saving grace in life – the grief process is real. And painful.

The book is a guide to dealing with the loss, accepting it and feeling free to not only grieve, but mourn. This means being able to openly express your sadness with a chosen few people who won’t judge you, who won’t expect you to “recover” at warp speed.

Griffin was the author’s cat, who in 7 short years found a way into her life. The heart in the title takes on a double meaning – Griffin suffered from a heart condition, but also gave and received enormous love during those years.

What makes this book special is its interactive nature. The author relays her heartfelt feelings during her own process, but then incorporates them into exercises designed to help readers heal, whether through journaling, attaching photos of a beloved “Being”, as she refers to a pet, answering questions, going through meditation, and other very gentle but hands-on techniques. The book itself becomes a memorial of sorts for the Being who has passed. Each topic and section is short, so you can move at your own pace, not feeling overwhelmed by the contents. Do a little, do a lot, it’s about the journey. Essays from others as well as quotes about grief, life and loss from famous persons help to offer comfort and inspiration, as well.

She covers topics about disenfranchised grief, guilt, seeing our pets as babies who never grow up, even as their bodies betray them, and how they are to many of us a guardian angel. I speak from experience about this, having lost several feline and canine companions over the years. And I feel that my current dog Wally, as I often tell friends, literally saved my life. My life partner Kenny passed away and I’m not sure how I’d have gotten by without the gentle kisses and warm fur that Wally provides. I know he was sent by my partner, three weeks after his passing, as a way to slowly heal me.

How I wish I’d had this book during past times of loss. But I have it now, and dread the day when I might need it again, though I also treasure it. There couldn’t be a more perfect book, either for a friend or family member who is going through pain, or for yourself as you struggle to deal with the very real mourning process.

My heart goes out to Reagan Pasternak for writing this book, and to little Griffin, who inspired it.

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For many people, they may best remember Cissy Wellman for her 5 seasons on the classic TV show, “The Waltons.” And while it was a fun and memorable role, there is so much more to her. Of course, there are numerous acting roles (and some dancing ones, too!), including appearances on “Hart to Hart”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Chips”, and many more.

But it’s her personal life that is the main subject of this book, and what a life it’s been! She grew up the “good-natured one” in a show business family. Her mother was a Busby Berkeley dancer, her father was famed director William Wellman (his films include “Wings”, the original “A Star is Born”, “Public Enemy” and “Beau Geste”, to name just a few classics. Family friends included the “Who’s Who” in show business. You’d think with this pedigree, her life has been only sunshine and roses – but that’s not the whole truth, as she details in the book. Cissy often thought she didn’t fit in with the family.

Still, the book is not a sad tale. Far from it – she delightfully tells happy Hollywood stories about some of her experiences with truly the biggest names in show business. It’s a delightful reading experience, and should be included in the reading list of anyone interested in a Hollywood book with a twist – no seedy stories here.

And by the way, this reviewer definitely thinks she deserves that crown she mentions!

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Discover Why Smoking Has Nothing To Do With Nicotine… by Crispian Jones

This is my go-to stop smoking book recommendation from now on.

I never smoked. But I’ve had friends who did, and my late life partner did (he didn’t pass due to smoking, full disclosure). As a result, I’ve read books on the subject in an effort to offer help. But it became clear that there were just so many different theories about how to stop smoking. It was – take this pill, wear this patch, just toughen up, use your willpower and go cold turkey. Eventually, my friends, and my partner, all stopped, but had this book been available then, things could have gone a lot smoother for them.

This book explains in a very conversational tone why the traditional methods don’t work. There is just enough medical information to back up ideas, but the author focuses more on the psychological reasons behind the smoking habit. I enjoyed the interactive exercises he provided and really learned about cravings, distraction, and how the subconscious and conscious mind work. There were several “Aha!” moments, even as a non-smoker. There’s still one friend of mine who’s a holdout to the smoking habit, thus my interest in the book, and you can be sure I’m recommending it right away!

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Robert Wise – The Motion Pictures (Newly Revised and Updated Edition) by J.R. Jordan


One of my favorite films of all time is ‘The Sound of Music.” It holds a special place in my heart and of course I’m not alone – it’s one of the most beloved movies in history. Because of the number of times I’ve seen the film, the name of its director, Robert Wise, is happily burned into my memory. In the years since then, I’ve been drawn to many of his other movies, including another classic musical, “West Side Story.”

But Wise directed 40 films in his career – most of them, in fact, NOT musicals. There were mysteries, thrillers, sci-fi and horror films. This book explores each of those films with a brief plot synopsis, behind-the-scenes stories and special interviews with cast members and others who were involved in the production. They paint a picture not only of Robert Wise the director but also Robert Wise, the man. There’s even an unexpected and delightful Foreword by actor Gavin MacLeod (yes, “The Love Boat” TV Captain!), who appeared in an earlier Wise film, and a heartfelt Introduction by Wise’s nephew, Douglas E. Wise.

From the origins of the story idea to the screenwriting process, from casting stories to pre-production and filming tales, information about post-production to the film’s premiere, author J.R. Jordan’s extensive research shines through on each page.

The book is a must-read for movie buffs and should be a part of anyone’s film history book collection. It’s also a fascinating look at the earlier days of Hollywood. Not only is Robert Wise an important part of filmmaking history, this book should also be part of movie history literature.

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My Life with Helen by Diane S. Nine

   Dean of the White House Press Corps, first president of the Women’s National Press Club, first female officer of the National Press Club – Helen Thomas was revered, perhaps at times feared, but almost always highly respected.

This is the image that was known to the world during her decades-long journalistic career.

But there was a human side to her that not many knew, and that’s what is so special about My Life with Helen, written by her longtime (30+ years) literary agent and friend Diane S. Nine.  Author Nine, and Helen’s small group of friends dubbed “The Ladies”, knew her perhaps better than anyone – not only as a journalist but as a woman.

Insider stories about Helen’s interaction with presidents, first ladies and presidential families from the administrations of John F. Kennedy through Barack Obama are fascinating, to be sure. But equally fascinating are tales of how this seemingly all-business trailblazer openly called out comments during movie screenings or stage plays, loved to sing, broke down in tears the first time she returned to the Shenandoah Valley cabin she’d shared with her late husband Doug, and kept going through a series of illnesses and hospitalizations that few people ever knew about.

Nothing is off limits in the book,  including the scandal created by Helen’s inappropriate, hateful comments to a rabbi which tarnished her career  when the contents leaked in audio and video form. Yet, in the hands of author Nine, even this is handled honestly but without aiming for sensationalism.

As a journalist myself, I’d always admired Helen Thomas, associating her with her role as a powerful force in White House history.  After reading My Life with Helen, I’ve gained an insight into her as a human being, as lovingly revealed by her dear friend.  This book is a glimpse of history that few knew and I can highly recommend it!

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