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Alternative Culture Magazine

book reviews: new releases


e-book review Rendezvous

e-book review I Call Myself Earth Girl

e-book review Another World is Possible

e-book review Birth of a Psychedelic Culture

e-book review Island Born

e-book review The Selfward Facing Way: A Course for Living the Direct Experience of Your Eternal Nature

e-book review Wild Delicate Seconds: 29 Wildlife Encounters, Black Bears to Bumble Bees

e-book review Gypsy Fire

e-book review What Gods Would Be Theirs?

e-book review 2013: How to Profit from the Prophets in the Coming End of the World

e-book review Partnering with Nature: The Wild Path to Reconnecting with the Earth

e-book review True Tails

e-book review Ley Lines

e-book review Nemu's End: History, Psychology and Poetry of the Apocalypse

e-book review Abducted by Aliens: or, How I Learned to Cope with High Strangeness, Government Harassment, and My Mother

e-book review What is America? - A Short History of the New World Order

e-book review The Shell Game

e-book review God is an Athiest

e-book review Astral Projection and the Nature of Reality

e-book review The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

e-book review [link]: The Secret Library of Hope: 12 Books to Stiffen Your Resolve

e-book review Endgame - I: The Problem of Civilization; II: Resistance

e-book review Novels, Essays, and Stories by Nowick Gray
(synopses, sample chapters, free ebook downloads)

e-book review Alternative Publishers of Books in North America

e-book review The Path of Empowerment

e-book review Revelations

e-book review Progressive Logic: Framing a Unified Theory of Values for Progressives

e-book review Let Today Be a Holiday: 365 Ways to Co-Create with God

e-book review The Golden Thread of Time: A Voyage of Discovery into the Lost Knowledge of the Ancients

e-book review Aquarius Now: Radical Common Sense and Reclaiming our Personal Sovereignty--Marilyn Ferguson

e-book review 10 Books that Teach Compassion for Animals

e-book review Cancer: A Personal Challenge

e-book review Three New Self-Help Books

e-book review Love is Not a Game (But You Should Know the Odds)

e-book review Dream Maker--Grigor Fedan

e-book review The Spiritual Life of Animals and Plants--Laurie Conrad

e-book review There Must Be More Than This: Finding More Life, Love, and Meaning by Overcoming Your Soft Addictions - by Judith Wright

e-book review Unlocking Alien Closets: Abductions, Mind Control, and Spirituality--Leah A. Haley

e-book review Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam--Paul Clayton

e-book review The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming--Michael Drake

e-book review Eternal Treblinka: Our treatment of Animals and the Holocaust--Charles Patterson

e-book review Unidentified Flying Objects: Starcraft--Der Voron

e-book review Looking for the Summer--Robert W. Norris

e-book review Gem's Story: The Spiritual Journey Of A Shy Girl And A Perfect Monk --Joost Boekhoven

e-book review Enlightenment in Our Time: The Perennial Wisdom in the New Millennium--Lonny J. Brown, Ph.D.

e-book review Conjuring Maud--Philip Danze

e-book review Mother of All--Richard Schiffman

Rendezvous--Nowick Gray (guest reviewers):

A fabulous tale full of tingling fear-filled apprehension. Each fork in the road leaves you waiting bristle-backed for the next avalanche of possibilities, suspense-filled details culminating in twists of possibilities. Rendezvous is a slide show of white-knuckle catastrophe, a virtual sword swallower. It took courage to watch the next move through the maze of manifested fears. Drink your carrot juice; this book will take your blood pressure off the charts. -- Raye Rabbitfoot, Ley Lines

Rendezvous took me by surprise in its utter seamlessness, despite the shifting and often juxtaposed possibilities arising from profound uncertainty—inherent not only to the remote locale but also the dynamics within and between the characters.  Though the narrative thread twists, loops and even knots, its captivating forward momentum never skips a beat. -- Sally Ross, The Selfward Facing Way

Rendezvous is a great story. Great because its spark is struck upon a deep awareness of the wilderness. Nowick uses a technique of multiple endings to go to the heart of being solely responsible for your own survival, where even the worst disaster imaginable must be considered seriously. Nowick is an author informed from his own remarkable experiences living deep in the wilderness.  His seemingly otherworldly dreaming of scenarios is in reality an underlying and innate human ability to survive in the wild. His gripping story technique creates a transparency in even the simplest activities of his characters, holed up in their remote cabin on the crest of a mountain, and that makes every choice, every moment verge on the miraculous. This is exciting and honest writing that awakens us to our humanity and interconnectedness with nature. -- Frank Burnaby, author of Island Born

Rendezvous is beautifully written. Having been a tree planter, it brought back vivid memories of the heaven and hell that comprises tree planting; those lovely sun lit days of our youth, of mountains and rivers, rain, sleet and snow; love of a woman and child, a time when we thought we could do anything...and did. Looking back — how close we came to disaster, the risks we took unaware of the danger, of other scenarios that might have been, and the role of fate in the unfolding mystery known as life. -- Colin Mallard, the author of Stillpoint, a novel of war, peace, politics and Palestine

Read free sample chapter and order Rendezvous

Another World is Possible: Freedom, Economic Truth, and Creating a Society of Humanness--Colby Hopkins

Colby Hopkins brings a wealth of scholarship and practical experience from the front lines of the Occupy movement to bear on the central political, social and economic issues of our time. In lucid, commonsense language he demystifies fundamental concepts such as freedom and democracy - digging beneath the polarized rhetoric of conventional politics to the roots of the Western tradition. Then he brings the discussion home to what is needed today to reimagine and remake politics, to be responsive to human needs and rights.

The fundamental premise is that underlying our supposed disagreements is an unrecognized common ground, basic needs and rights that with an opportunity for civil discussion, we can all agree on. Well, at least, say, the 99% of us who are not currently benefitting from dominance over the political, economic and natural landscape. The Occupy movement has demonstrated a twenty-first century evolution and maturing of models of nonviolent resistance and communication that give practical hope for such a revisioning of society.

Hopkins is both humble and thorough in exploring and explaining the principles and techniques of group facilitation and consensus decision-making. Such tools are essential for making meaningful dialogue possible on a group level, as we move up the scale from local agreement to larger-scale political entities. The hope, and indeed the imperative, is that in our time the organization of social problem-solving depends not upon empty and co-opted representation, but upon true, living democracy, thriving In grassroots communities.

Visit or

Birth of a Psychedelic Culture: Conversations about Leary, the Harvard Experiments, Millbrook and the Sixties--Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner, with Gary Bravo.

This entertaining and firsthand account of those heady days of the sixties sheds light on the intentions, dynamics, trials and errors of the utopian movement led by Timothy Leary and his chief lieutenants, Richard Albert (later Ram Dass) and Ralph Metzner. A clear evolution is painted: from the carefully controlled scientific explorations and academic background of the early phase beginning at Harvard; to the middle years in Mexico and at Millbrook in upstate New York where LSD became a key element of experiments in group living; to the disintegration of the movement under the influence of ego battles, family demands, a trend to indiscriminate drug use, and the inevitable crackdown by officialdom. Along the way we hear live interviews and conversations with Ram Dass and Metzner, interspersed with written excerpts from Leary and some of the other notable consciousness pioneers. Overall the book serves not only as a fascinating chronicle of a unique period of social and cultural history, but also as a tale about the testing of the limits of human potential - the boundless and universal truths accessible with the aid of psychedelics, and the counterbalancing forces of ego and social constraint - the range of possibility we continue to confront half a century later.

Island Born--Frank Burnaby

Island Born is a monumental book, a real thriller start to finish, and a joy to read with its rich descriptions and well-paced dialogue. The best stories, after all, are the true ones, and this one is true not only in the facts as they are brought to life, but also in the depth of the personal challenges faced and overcome. It is an archetypal story of heroic adventure against all odds, yet strikes home with the personal honesty of the narrator who after all is vulnerable and human.

What starts with enticing promise--a California guy meets girl to join him with a dream to sail the world and find true freedom--navigates a wild ride doing just that. Oh yes, and birthing a baby on a deserted island in the Maldives, why not, when all else is done? The story compels us throughout to its satisfying conclusion, its characters discovering the world, and themselves, the meaning of freedom, and love.

Author Site | Facebook Page | Order Kindle Edition

The Selfward Facing Way: A Course for Living the Direct Experience of Your Eternal Nature--Sally Ross

The Selfward Facing Way, a new ebook release by Sally Ross, offers a fresh approach to that age-old quest to "Know Thyself." In these lucid, bright pages of transparent truth, the reader is invited to redefine self in the largest possible terms, to find new identity in that most radical of forms, the formless and all-forming universe. First there are concepts and words, and since these can obstruct, the author exposes them for the vehicles they are. Once freed from their limitations, it is possible to see beyond (which is also to say, deeper within) and to see ourselves in that beyond/within. Such a vision can ground, can become our ongoing Practice.

The Selfward Facing Way: A Course for Living the Direct Experience of Your Eternal Nature. This is the initial volume of two, the first being on "Understanding." The companion volume, "Practice," will be published by the end of the year.

For information and to download the e-book as a PDF, please see There is also a link on the site to a publishing platform for downloading it in other file formats, if you have an electronic reader like the Kindle or the iPad.

Gypsy Fire--Liviu Oltean

The picaresque story (a short novel) of a young man from Romania who tries to start a new life in post-WWII Western Europe. His quest requires wit and guile, humility and humanity as he overcomes hardships and stereotypes to attain his goal. While learning how to be successful and happy, he also stumbles upon a neglected tragedy of the twentieth century, the holocaust of the Gypsies. From these experiences and events he not only learns how to deal with oppression and vicissitude, but also how to gain strength from adversity, how to fight to win against all odds.

Toma is an engaging protagonist who captures our sympathy as he fights bureaucracy and oppression not with anger but natural charm and grace. He seems guided by the gentle hand of fate as well as a likeable sociability as he crosses borders, shelters outside or in monasteries, finds work illegally, and enters into relationship with beautiful women.

One woman invites him to share his past, and so the middle chapters of the novel recount Toma's adventures as a teenager traveling with his uncle Laitza, a judge of Roma laws, and aunt Rada, a gifted healer. The romantic Gypsy lifestyle confronts the full force of Nazi brutality in Auschwitz; and the narrator in his later years finds the inspiration to share with modern-day Gypsies a forgotten story of heroism, a rebellion in the death camp led by his uncle.

The style of this book is disarmingly simple and easy to read, yet it conveys a strength of character and an irresistable story of persistence and survival.  With Toma we are able to relive the life of pre-war Europe in vivid scenes and dialogue, discovering a hidden side of the war and an inside view of traditional Gypsy life.

Available now on Kindle from Amazon

What Gods Would Be Theirs--Colin Shanafelt

Simply put, this is a great novel. I know next to nothing about Colin Shanafelt and yet I put this book beside such greats as Henry Miller, Thomas Wolfe, Tom Robbins, Vonnegut and Mailer, Heller and Pirsig. In other words, a compelling novel of ideas, embodied in passionate characters grappling with their destinies in archetypal relationships. The narrative is woven in a schoolboy’s tale, Salingeresque in its direct simplicity. The ideas are those of hero Gavin McBride, who delivers stunning monologues of eloquence, power, and relevance to today’s political stage - in front of his high-school English class, in bar conversation with his foil Laird Hardin, finally on YouTube, and from the very rooftop of the institution, megaphone in hand. This is a novel for our time of challenged truth, dangerous polarities, fundamental blindnesses. Yet in these respects too the theme is timeless, a call to real belief worthy of the eloquent speakers and writers of the ages, from Plato to . . . well, may I recommend Colin Shanafelt.

2013: How to Profit from the Prophets in the Coming End of the World--N. Nosirrah

Another in the epic non-genre entertainments provided by arch-ironist N. Nosirrah, author of God is an Atheist and Nothing from Nothing. But how to describe a genre which is not of any genre of this world, a plot that has no beginning or end, and characters each more elusive than the next (all right, let us just put Nosirrah and his intrusive "editor," Lydia Smyth, on the same page in this regard).  So I might just mention that this book skewers the current craze in alternative circles concerning the coming collapse of all we hold dear; takes philosophy to its illogical conclusion, serves a heaping dose of multilevel marketing antidotes-cum-anecdotes, and comes out on the other side sharing a smile with the appreciate reader. 

Partnering with Nature: The Wild Path to Reconnecting with the Earth--Catriona MacGregor

2010 Best "Social Change Book" Award

2011 Earth Day: Three things you can do to transform the planet and your life

Catriona MacGregor in this book accomplishes an impressive feat: writing about nature in a way that includes the personal, the mystical, the scientific, the practical, the historical, the philosophical.  The most memorable portion recounts her vision of light surrounding a particular tree which, just one day later, she found as just a stump--suggesting an undeniable kind of communication between these two partners in nature, human and tree.  Another telling image appears as a graphic comparing the complex molecular structure of chlorophyll and hemoglobin (from blood), showing the single difference between them, the center which is either magnesium or iron respectively.

MacGregor's down-to-earth prose is rich with both information and passion, informed by a lifetime of intimate contact with other species and by research in numerous fields of study. Included are excercises and guidance for deepening our own connection with nature, whether through quest, dream, meditation or environmental action.  Whichever path we choose in honoring our unity with the natural world, we are rewarded with peace, healing and joy.

True Tails--J. H. Soeder

This is a charming and profound book, written in a simple, personal style, which presents to us the reality that humans are not alone in our ability to communicate intelligently. The author recounts many examples from his own life showing meaningful contact and thought-conversations with a variety of other species, from a salamander, at age 2, to humpback whales on more than one occasion. Lizard, butterfly, pigeon, cat, crow, snake, dog, peacock, horse, dolphin, gull, spider, deer ... this is an impressive parade of anectdotal evidence that interspecies communication can and does take place. The most dramatic story is that of seven whales who breach together as a prearranged demonstration to prove to “the one named Jon” that the conversation he has just imagined with them was in fact real.

In the middle of the book is a 50-page chapter covering the author’s trials and tribulations in high school academics and sports, dealing with the small-mindedness of our own species - other students, teachers, coaches. This segment, though interesting in its own way, has little relevance to the rest of the book. Another complaint could be made about the substandard quality of writing and editing, which at times surfaces to reveal the pitfalls of the self-published book, and doesn’t do justice to the excellence of this story’s intriguing content.

If you can overlook the lapses in grammar and tendency to ramble into personal territory somewhat off-topic, this excursion into interspecies contact is well worth the price of admission. Reading True Tails might even inspire you to open your mind to listen to the voices echoing all around us on this magical planet.

Nemu's End: History, Psychology and Poetry of the Apocalypse--Reverend Nemu

Be prepared for a roller-coaster ride through the grand sweep and infuriating/intriguing minutae of human history ... which might be coming to an end, or more likely an end of our conceptual box-minded understanding of it.  The right-or-wrong Reverend Nemu is our tour guide, as we explore the mysteries of the Amazon, expose the machinations of the geopolitical machine, untie the conundrums of science and spirituality, grapple with the repercussions of love and evil, and much, much, much, much more.  If you are hungry for information of every sort imaginable, presented in a serpentine smorgasbord guaranteed to satiate, this large tome just may be your ultimate meal ticket.  For more info see

Ley Lines--Raye Rabbitfoot

This is a profound book of life experiences told in a disarmingly folksy style. A series of episodes in a life story, each stands alone as an entertaining vignette complete with salty characters, honest self-revelation, and witty insights into the human condition.

Following the author's trail of adventures and misadventures is akin to watching the everyman Forrest Gump weave his naïve way through a tapestry of recognized history. Along the way we meet nuclear physicist Joan Hinton, while beachcombing at Martha's Vineyard; go with Raye on her search for enlightenment in the early 70s; experience firsthand the explosion and devastation of the Montserrat volcano in 2007; befriend an artful freeloader of the streets of Washington D.C.; discover Inuit art and culture in Canada's Eastern Arctic; meet up "with a 'Praise the Lord' Bible-toter and Jack Nicholson with a golf club" in rural New Mexico; undertake a field study of a nudist camp; befriend Pueblo Indians and attend the Sundance of the Lakota Sioux; venture by rowboat down the mighty Mississippi River; and almost get hitched with a renegade Icelandic pilot grounded in New York City on 9/11.

The whole history of the human race is here, but not in vague outline - rather in pithy resonances as the timeline of the species intersects with the personal life journey. These are the ley lines: the patterns of connection that weave all people together in a web of synchronicity. This is a unique tapestry of small stories linked to larger ones, humble personages (like the author herself), to iconic figures and movements that we all recognize as part of our own story.

Available through your local bookstore’s order desk or at these online
or by phone at 1-888-795-4274 ext. 7876

The Shell Game--Steve Alten

This explosively topical political action thriller sports three subtitles hinting at its primary themes: "The End of Oil," "The Next 9/11," and "The Deception of a Nation." Alten has planted himself firmly in the contemporary arts movement blending fiction and non-fiction, as this documentary of the future incorporates many points of research about the all-too-real events of 9/11 and the global research wars it fuels to this day. Assassination, rigged elections, false-flag "terror" operations, all play a role in this future-present drive to war with Iran. John Dos Passos with his "newsreel" footage in the U.S.A. trilogy of a century ago broke new ground then, and that technique of blending fact with fiction finds new relevance today - when media spin puts objectivity in question, and the historical record is washed away before it is even registered, by a fresh assault of fast-breaking story lines. Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 also come to mind here as earlier works unmasking the true nature of the "New World Order." When the nukes come to American cities, who will know their origin and purpose? In this book the web of truth and lies, already half-woven, is laid out for all to see.

God is an Athiest--N.Nosirrah

This unusual book is a modern Tristram Shandy - which is to say, it will probably not be wildly popular, except as a word-film in the "cult" section; but its incisive and intelligent wit on matters spiritual and worldly offers a refreshing alternative to most tomes normally found in the genres of fiction, spirituality, autobiography, or philosophy. This book has all of those elements couched in a voice which is at once profoundly irreverent and mystically sound. Fundamentalists beware: the God of this religion brooks no pat description, no belief system, no creed or manifesto except perhaps that of freedom from such limitation, with a healthy dose of comic irony in both concept and conversational delivery.

Astral Projection and the Nature of Reality: Exploring the Out-of-Body State--John Magnus

This comprehensive study of astral travel is both a practical guide and a profound examination of the nature of reality. John Magnus shares a wealth of personal experiences along the way, inspiring and equipping us to make the inner journey. In case we have difficulty with one method, he supplies numerous techniques and pointers. Key to the whole enterprise is to consider our physical reality in a new light, as simply one possible realm among many.

Astral projection has much in common with lucid dreaming, as Magnus’s oft-cited dream journals demonstrate. In any case, whether waking or dreaming, inside or outside the body, the key lesson for consciousness is to become more aware, and in doing so, to realize the greater potential for manifestation of our soul’s desire.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself--Michael A. Singer

With all of the numerous approaches to spiritual development being presented today, it is so refreshing to find a book truly original in its simplicity of style and approach. The combination of profound insight and simple, direct writing amount to a single impression and impact, which I would define as clarity. After the first illuminating chapter on who we really are -- not the incessant voice we are used to identifying with, but the silent witness -- it is hard to imagine where Singer will take us from there. Yet chapter by short chapter (easy and compelling to work through 3-5 pages at a sitting), the layers of our obstructing habits of thought are peeled away, and we emerge even clearer than before.

The forms and filters imposed by ourselves and our society are many, and each is a metaphor for the others. The inner voice in one incarnation is an "inner roommate"; in another, it is a dreaming self that can awake to conscious or lucid dreaming, and waking life. The ordinary self holds on, but can be persuaded to let go, centered and peaceful. The heart can open from its fearful life within walls, to an ocean of infinite energy. Thorns of pain are useful but ultimately not necessary. Our psyche can become a comfort zone or cage, yet we can choose to go beyond. The solidity we cling to can be seen as the illusion it is; instead, we can choose unconditional happiness. Contemplating death, we can be inspired to live more fully in our worldly experience. Reaching "God" demands letting go of the lower self, not in judgment but release to ecstatic love.

To summarize the points of the experience of reading this book does not do it justice, as the real clarity comes from the easeful consideration and contemplation of each problem and solution, presented in turn. Simply put, this is the spiritual book of the year.

Alternative Publishers of Books in North America (6th edition)--Byron Anderson
under the auspices of The Alternatives in Publication Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association

"Alternative press as a term is nearly inexplicable. Everything is alternative to something else, meaning that one could theoretically define alternative as one would wish. Yet, in social and political arenas, alternative is a term generally associated with the political left. The 102 headings found in the subject index further help to define the presses by assigning them publication interests in the areas of, for example, sustainable development, punk, social justice, gender studies, human rights, anarchism, and globalization. The presses provide a platform to spread progressive ideas to activists and ordinary citizens alike, and the publications help the ideas find a place in our culture."

With the conglomeration of big-money interests controlling the vast majority of media, information and disinformation, and opinion flooding to the North American public, it is refreshing to see this compendium of alternative publishing outlets. Even without stable funding, there seems to be an unquenchable commitment to providing alternative venues for those with something to say that's outside the mainstream party lines. This book is a valuable resource for authors and readers, with an inspiring preface and a no-nonsense listing of 126 US presses, 19 Canadian and 18 international entries with a North American address or distributor. Each listing is comprehensive, with both nuts-and-bolts details and a thorough blurb about what the press covers.

There are even 12 listings in the index under "Alternative Culture" - so I guess I have my next networking direction cut out for me.

Revelations--M. Scott Byrnes

Revelations is a novel in the mold of Dan Brown or Michael Crichton. That is, the dialogue is plain and action-oriented. The plot is primary, and in this case overrides anything like literary character development. The story in this book is intriguing, as there is mysterious evidence on Mars of a long-extinct civilization. On earth, Tim Redmond struggles with his own mysterious powers of vision and destiny. The book traces the confluence of these two speculative currents. I found the action long-delayed by uninspired conversation in research and conference rooms, spiced by cuts to harrowing missions collecting pieces of the puzzle. While for me the conversation fell flat and the action was trite, the concept kept me going. The same is true of my last ventures into Chrichton and Brown, however, so if this genre is your cup of tea, you just might enjoy it.

Progressive Logic: Framing a Unified Theory of Values for Progressives--William J. Kelleher, PhD

Kelleher, a professor political science at UC Santa Barbara, breaks new and necessary ground with this book, a throwback to Thomas Paine and the early radical thinkers that helped created the United States. It has long been apparent that progressives lack the unifying force that puts and keeps conservatives in power: in the latter case, a do-nothing philosophy, or an appeal to fundamental fears and security needs. What progressives can offer as a rallying point both for political organization and popular support, is a single clear and unassailable value proposition. Kelleher states this as follows: "All persons always deserve positive regard." What may seem at first glance to be a precept of Quakers or other idealists, can actually be found at the core of many of the fractured progressive movements of the past and present. What has been lacking is the vision and will to organize around a common principle; we now, however, have Kelleher's concise and readable analysis to help guide a fresh start.

Let Today Be a Holiday: 365 Ways to Co-Create with God--Rose Rosetree

This is the vanilla ice cream of self-help books.  The style and content matches the promotion and distribution of the books, as Rosetree seeks a market in the general population.  That said, it’s always good to be able to bring spiritual messages to people who need them, and to make those messages accessible.  Rose Rosetree, who also does “face readings” of people’s auras from their photographs, is well tapped into mainstream consciousness, and serves as a capable medium through which to bring spiritual angles into everyday life.  Each page provides another such angle for a day, as she fills the year with simple advices, poems, guidance, queries, and steps to self-improvement.

The Golden Thread of Time: A Voyage of Discovery into the Lost Knowledge of the Ancients--Chrichton E.M. Miller

As a layman entering into the realms of archaeological politics and radical revisions of history, Chrichton Miller has opened himself up to many challenges.  In this book he sets out to defend his theory that the ancients knew more than is commonly believed about astronomy, navigation, and architectural design, and about the links between these arts.  In fact he claims to have found the missing link in the Great Pyramid, a simple cross and plumb line providing the technological means to accomplish astonishing feats which heretofore have been unexplained by conventional history.  If the scholarship is uneven and conclusions larded with conjectures, at least this is a fascinating read which should put to rest many key assumptions about the ancient world--for instance, the notion that they believed the earth was flat.

Aquarius Now: Radical Common Sense and Reclaiming our Personal Sovereignty--Marilyn Ferguson

Yes, it’s been a full quarter-century since Ferguson’s groundbreaking book The Aquarian Conspiracy, and here she attempts to update the cultural currents that make up the great paradigm shift we’ve all been waiting for (and, come to think of it, participating in). The trouble is, there’s not much meat in this new meal; but rather a lot of pudding, or padding, or more precisely, a succession of glib one-liners lifted helter-skelter from other readings and tossed willy-nilly into this new-age salad.  The topics and subtopics and catchwords (“metastrategies”) are all very heady and trendy, even profound and you might say necessary; but somehow for this reader, they are already familiar, or at least tamely presented.  Is it because some of us have been doing the work for twenty-five or more years?  Or is there a relative irrelevance to all of this theory and concept, when too many still haven’t bought into the need for a new paradigm in the first place?  For this reviewer the lack of substance comes down to the bibliographic style of the writing itself. When every brief paragraph, every disconnected sentence is merely a quote or paraphrase from another writer, there is not enough original cement between them all to hold it together.  The back cover is full of praise for the book from the usual array of notable PhDs and authors, so there must be some appeal, either to those more in the know than I, or perhaps to those more in need of a crash refresher course in popular/intellectual “alternative culture.”  If you are in one of those camps this may just be the book for you.

Cancer: A Personal Challenge--ed. Bob Rich, PhD

Bob Rich has assembled a comprehensive and readable collection of personal stories and informative articles that should guide anyone in becoming acquainted with cancer and its conventional and alternative therapies. The book is well balanced in its approach: no-nonsense scientific descriptions of the medical conditions; heartfelt narratives of personal journeys with disease (involving acceptance, recovery and support); and insightful portrayals of alternative healing methods. Chief among these are various forms of meditation and visualization, with proven effects in reducing the threat or impact of cancer. All in all this book is a powerful testament to the power of mind over body, convincing both scientifically and spiritually.

Dream Maker--Grigor Fedan

Dream Maker begins with a chronically depressed man, Martin Devon, struggling with a failing marriage and a collapsing business. At his bleakest hour he is helped during his sleep. He finds himself revisiting a past life, Britain 464 AD and encounters mystics who practice meditation and Agape, practices that were to be eradicated in a few more centuries. The Arthurian legend also figures prominently, and the book provides a good factual account of the time period. In the course of events Martin discovers the cause of his condition, but also the means to heal himself. It's a fun, good read with substance.

The Spiritual Life of Animals and Plants--Laurie Conrad

Clairvoyant, music teacher and psychic healer Laurie Conrad has written a charming and engaging book about her often miraculous experiences of prayer and healing with her numerous cats, dogs, and other fauna and flora. The book is disarmingly simple, almost naive...yet powerful and believable, as we read about how the animals respond to (and sometimes help compose!) classical music, pictures and statues of holy figures, and directed prayer.

Unlocking Alien Closets: Abductions, Mind Control, and Spirituality--Leah A. Haley

If you're already a believer and want to be entertained with a continual stream of abduction fantasies--er, experiences--then this is the book for you. But beware; They might be onto you then. Usually I'm pretty open-minded about these things, but when the abductions happen daily (nightly) and take every form seen in the literature, it gets to be a bit much. To her credit, Leah Haley is educated, articulate, and passionate about the personal growth lessons implicit in her long history of contact with "a whirlwind of dark mysteries"...which include media mistreatment and shadowy government coverups. Ultimately it comes down to a judgment call about what is real; a leap of faith. This is the choice for "unwitting victims" like Leah, as it is for the reader.

Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam--Paul Clayton

This slim novel (196 pages) came out of nowhere (ebookland) to become a finalist at the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Awards, alongside such a notable as Joyce Carol Oates. Its style is plain and unassuming; its content likewise confined to the daily experiences of the mundane foot soldier in Vietnam.

Yet this book has a certain na´ve charm that grows on the reader, at the same time as the narrator experiences the growing horror of the doomed ground war from close up. Neither the beginning nor the end of the story, framing a year's tour of active duty, are earthshaking. Yet in the reading of it we have a compelling portrait of a real and likeable person undergoing the life-and-death charade that is war.

The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming--Michael Drake

This book is a valuable, well-researched, and well-written treatment of all aspects of shamanic drumming. The author weaves together both ancient and modern lore, from oral shamanic chants to modern physics and biology, along with personal experiences to illuminate the practice of sacred drumming.

He draws most heavily from the Native American shamanic tradition, which uses the frame drum, but also covers similar traditions from other primal cultures around the world.

I didn't find much in this book that I hadn't come across elsewhere; yet perhaps nowhere else have I seen such a wealth of information and insight specific to the use of the sacred drum for contemporary shamanic and healing uses.

Included are step-by-step exercises, analysis of different beats and tempos, and chapters on cosmology, journeying, power practice, and healing the earth. Recommended to anyone seeking to connect deeply with the drum as a tool for personal, interpersonal, or group spiritual and healing work.

website link

Unidentified Flying Objects: Starcraft--Der Voron

Starcraft has a lot of interesting material thrown together: this sums up my reaction to the book. Aimed at "UFO beginners," thought-provoking questions are raised and intriguing evidence is presented (from an array of sources of inconsistent reliability) for the long-term presence of alien intelligent life on earth. Unfortunately, the material is unprofessionally written and poorly organized. There is no central principle or conclusion, except that we are not--and have not been for a very long time--alone.

Some of most captivating evidence concerns areas showing apparent ancient nuclear blast damage, in a number of archaeological sites from Scotland to the Sahara. Other chapters (in no particular order in the book) cover UFO sightings and crashes, extraterrestrial technology (the most poorly documented), biological/genetic engineering of humans, and secret US government research on alien starcraft.

If you are not already convinced of the existence of starcraft on earth, this book is unlikely to do it for you. But it might open your eyes to some startling "facts" to ponder.

Looking for the Summer--Robert W. Norris

Bob Norris tells a riveting true-to-life story of the Vietnam era and its aftermath. A young man has a high draft number, joins the Air Force, and then serves a year in military prison rather than going to war. This archetypal predicament serves as background for the adventures related here, beginning in Paris and extending to Germany, Afghanistan and India. David Thompson has left the U.S. and is seeking a broader vision, finding in the world around him and within himself the inspiration to write. Along the way he finds friendship and support by a number of other interesting characters, who accompany him in a journey of discovery. Physical danger and political intrigue are part of the bargain, but these he survives until the final revelations he receives in the squalor of India. Finally he is able to come to terms with his own private demons, his estranged father, his homeland, the past.

The book is entertaining, fast-paced, and well-written. The language is fresh and smooth, the characters are alive, the scenery vivid. We are able to identify with Mr. Thompson (presumably Norris) through his struggles to find meaning and peace in his self-exile. Mr. Norris has given us an apt and representative portrait of a generation.

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Gem's Story: The Spiritual Journey Of A Shy Girl And A Perfect Monk --Joost Boekhoven

I particularly enjoyed having this ebook along, efficiently packed inside a 12-oz mini-computer, during a recent walking journey through Spain and Portugal. The journey of an unusual young girl in the company of a wandering monk was evocative of some of the same truths my partner and I were discovering. The simple style made for refreshing and easy reading, and also was good for reading aloud. Yet reading aloud raised the question of how different the two main characters' voices are--not very. They seem in fact to become more similar as the story progresses; but perhaps this is intentional, as the connection between the characters increases.

The text reads like journal entries...yet its place in the action is more like interior thought...yet dialogue and conventional narration is included, too. Somehow it all works, anyway, as the central theme is certainly gripping and allows the story to carry our interest despite stylistic questions or minor flaws. The overall effect is of a cartoon or comic-book type presentation: a fable, a parable, a fairy-tale, using simple word pictures and captions to carry the story forward. The stark lack of detail in physical and cultural setting is not necessarily a fault, as prominence is thereby given to the narrative device of the two alternating voice-tracks.

The ending seemed to me too abrupt, summarized. The revelations and spiritual lessons in the second half weren't new, though at times they were presented as if they were. And after following both characters through their learning about the oneness of God's all-present manifestation, I found the monastic conclusion rather sterile. Still, it's a captivating love story with unusual spiritual depths, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to explore the ways in which love and wisdom might conspire.

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Enlightenment in Our Time: The Perennial Wisdom in the New Millennium--Lonny J. Brown, Ph.D.

This is a book I personally had trouble reading; but it might be just the right book for another spiritual seeker. My problem was that I found nothing new in it. I had already been exposed to the ideas and philosophies and wisdom teachings so thoroughly described and collected here. Truly, however, Mr. Brown has done a remarkable job in bringing under one roof the many teachings, practices, questions, and insights that any quest for wisdom must encounter.

In the matter of style I was also disappointed, finding quotes and second-hand knowledge substituting for original thinking. By contrast I think in this regard of a truly fresh and original treatment of spiritual awakening, Satyam Nadeen's From Onions to Pearls: A Journey of Awakening and Deliverance; another is Eckhard Tolle's The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.

In my opinion, the shining jewel in this volume is a guided visualization through the path of the seven chakras. I found Dr. Brown's elucidation of these energy centers comprehensive and vivid.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend Dr. Brown's compendium to anyone coming relatively new upon the landscape of alternative spirituality. For more seasoned inner travelers, however, I would recommend looking elsewhere for a stimulating read.

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Conjuring Maud--Philip Danze

Philip Danze's first novel is a dazzling descent into a heart of darkness, while also an enchanting tale of an unusual romance. The vivid imagery and taut narrative carried my interest solidly to the end. Danze gives us a simple yet unique love story in an unforgettable setting in equatorial West Africa in the early part of the twentieth century. A recommended read--scheduled for print release in October 2001 by GreyCore Press.

Mother of All--Richard Schiffman

Richard Schiffman has written an entertaining and illuminating portrait of one of India's lesser known saints: a woman who earned by her exemplary spiritual depth the name, "Mother of All." A humble housewife in the tiny village of Jillellamudi, "Mother" ministers to all and sundry with the same self-effacing yet all-powerful message of simplicity, identifying with, and manifesting without effort, the undiscriminating grace of the mothering cosmos.

Schiffman writes both from his first-hand experience with the Mother and, in top-notch story-telling style, of Mother's early years on her somewhat miraculous path to public fame. His elucidations of the Mother's message of wholeness are at times repetitive and lengthy, but always well-articulated and clear. The book concludes with the memorable sayings of the Mother herself, who passed from her earthly sojourn in 1985.

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