Wednesday, January 21, 2015


I Am NOT Selling My Tooth
Kelli Nielsen, Author
Kelly Hawkins, Illustrator
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Kelli and Kelly Books
Order: Amazon
978-1503366077  $9.97 PB  40 pages


What is there to say about children’s “baby teeth” that has not already been said? On the face of it, the traditional equation is simple: 1 lost baby tooth = $ from a Tooth Fairy. Kelli Nielsen’s “I Am NOT Selling My Tooth” puts a charming spin on this scenario with heartfelt warmth and humor by taking the position that children are capable of making their own decisions about how to respond to the body changes that are part of growing older. It is a gentle examination of a rite of passage that adults, as well as children, can relate to and appreciate. 

The story takes off when the rebellious Austin declares, “I’m keeping my teeth small just like me.” He doesn’t see why his teeth just can’t grow bigger as he grows bigger. The fact that Austin shares the same name as the author’s son, whom she thanks in the book’s Dedication along with her other son Alec, grounds the story in reality and gives it a very personal tone. 

Enhanced by Kelly Hawkin’s fun illustrations that evoke a child’s abstract perception of space, color and line, “I Am NOT Selling My Tooth” never talks down to children, but is right there with the child’s need to have some autonomy in life choices, no matter how “small” they are. It takes readers on a tour of the tooth-loss phenomenon that includes sharks, baseball injuries and even an octopus that receives something other than money for its lost tooth. 

I would recommend this book for any parent with a child about to lose a tooth or who has lost a tooth, and as an excellent educational aid for dentists. It might even be helpful for therapists and life coaches who wish to discuss life changes and the various options available for responding and adjusting to them—no matter how old we are.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Thank you, Midwest Book Review, for featuring this review!

"I can't leave you alone for a few hours without 
somebody else being murdered."—Murder in Hand

Title: Murder in Hand
Author: Celia Conrad
Published 2012 by Barcham Books    
ISBN 13: 978-0954623340
ASIN: B00A1O1YQE (Kindle)
Available on Amazon U.K. and Amazon U.S.
Author Blog: Celia Conrad Blog

 Lawyers aren't the most popular people, Miss Allen..."

—Murder in Hand

In her cerebral legal mystery, Murder in Hand, Celia Conrad pulls her feisty London Probate/Estate lawyer heroine, Alicia Allen, deeper into the quagmire world of unscrupulous attorneys, the unfortunates who work with them and their unsuspecting innocent victims. In this third book of the Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy (AAI), Conrad hits her stride as a bona fide puzzle master in the tradition of Agatha Christie. The easy-to-follow plot line keeps readers guessing and the pages turning, while great pleasures lie in Conrad's refusal--or perhaps inability--to write for the lowest common denominator of brain power. Instead she aims for the highest.

If you want to roll with Alicia Allen...better bring your A-Game (and some knowledge of the Classics wouldn't hurt).

Murder in Hand could be enjoyed as a stand-alone book if readers don't mind not knowing the history between the justice-loving attorney Alicia Allen and her adoring cohort Alex Waterford; her investigator friends, Jo and Will; or her cultured elderly neighbor Dorothy. 

The story takes off when Alicia's Italian American client Fabio confides that he believes someone is trying to kill him. Fabio's family ties span New York, England and Italy/Sicily; and when his sister is killed in the midst of doing some family estate research in Italy, Alicia embarks on a quest to find the killer.

"I can't leave you alone for a few hours without 
somebody else being murdered."—Murder in Hand

As in Books 1 and 2 (A Model Murder and Wilful Murder), Alicia leaps where proverbial angels fear to tread, resisting Alex's concerns for her safety. and soon he is helping her sort the puzzle pieces as the body count goes up (with the neat twist that as they hone in, it is lawyers or their assistants who are now dropping dead). Their relationship has matured into an easy partnership built on love, trust and the potato chip that rhymes with "Tingles." It provides a soothing stability that contrasts with the dark, random world of mayhem they are navigating together.  

"I generally advise my clients to make both 
a British and an Italian Will."—Murder in Hand

All the AAI books turn on classical theater or operatic references or clues. Murder in Hand pays homage to Gianni Schicchi (which Puccini based on Danté's Divine Comedy), a comic opera about a dead man's Will gone wrong, schemers and estate swindlers. And it won't be spoiling too much to divulge that key action takes place in the Italian town that hosts an annual Puccini festival.
The book's title is a double entendre. British police refer to an investigation in progress as "in hand." And as for the other meaning...well, you'll just have to read the book, won't you?

(Hint: Bone up on your Puccini!) 


This review first appeared on Marlan Warren's blog: Dancinhg in the Experience Lane   


Title: Wilful Murder
Author: Celia Conrad
Published 2011 by Barcham Books
ISBN-13: 978-0954623333       ISBN-10: 0954623339
Amazon Kindle - ASIN: B00A1NCNRO

Look to the past to see what the future holds. —Wilful Murder 

Who doesn't enjoy a ripping good tale of a Will, murdered relatives and love's labor rewarded? For Wilful Murder, the second book in the Alicia Allen Investigates trilogy, British author Celia Conrad has concocted a pastiche composed of the basic elements we expect in a murder mystery that spins on disgruntled relatives, and reinvented it as part-Travelogue, part-Greek Tragedy, part-Shakespeare and part-Love Story.


Thank you, Midwest Book Review, for publishing my review of A Model Murder:      "Wow book review of Wow crime novel"

In law firms, nobody can hear you scream...

Title: A Model Murder (Book 1)              
Author: Celia Conrad
Series: Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy
Published 2011 by Barcham Books
ISBN-13: 978-0954623326                      
ISBN-10: 0954623320
Author Web Site: Alicia Allen Investigates Web Site
Author Blog: http//
Available on Amazon:
U.S. Amazon: A Model Murder   /   U.K. Amazon: A Model Murder

He told me he was used to getting what he wanted...
--A Model Murder, Celia Conrad

What do law firms and men’s “hostess” clubs have in common? If your first thought is “alpha males,” you’re already on board with A Model Murder. Conrad draws disturbing, often painfully entertaining, parallels between these two worlds where Neanderthals still roam the Earth, and a resistant female might get a bop on the head or worse.

A Model Murder is a fast-paced suspense mystery, full of twists and turns, following in the tradition of Nicci French and Sue Grafton.

Alicia Allen is a London-based Anglo-Italian lawyer on the verge of her 30th birthday whose experience of Death has been limited to sorting estate issues...until her beautiful Australian neighbor and wannabe model, Tammy, turns up raped and murdered before she can collect her first paycheck from the job she wants to quit in a sleazy men’s club.

British author Conrad has painted a loving portrait of the multi-cultural melting pot that is London and her down-to-earth heroine who has no superpowers of intuition and deduction, but is quite simply a good neighbor who will stop at nothing until a wrong is made right.

Thursday, January 1, 2015



How to crack the mystery of who we are, why we love, 
and where we came from can be the greatest mystery of all.

What's not to love?

In her newest memoir, THE SPOON FROM MANKOWITZ: A Bittersweet Roots Journey, award-winning international travel writer Judith Fein dives beneath the surface of her Russian Jewish American heritage--pushing past all obstacles--to find the truth behind the shrouded story of where she came from, what the Old World was like, and what remains of the places so many of our ancestors left behind when they came to America.

We cannot help but want to accompany this passionate woman who will not take "No" for an answer as she treks through graveyards, has a private audience with the Gypsy Baron of Moldova, meets the last Jew standing, communes with the dead, quaffs cognac with Russians, wanders among ruins, and hears the call of the ancestors, driving her on. Ultimately, it is our story too, as we experience the legacy of what was handed down to us in our families, relationships, beliefs, fears and longings.

Suddenly, I felt as though there were people behind me, following me. I turned around, but no one was there. I continued walking. Again, I felt the presence of a lot of people in my wake. I spun around and was greeted by a chorus of voices. Although I didn’t see anybody, I heard the Eastern European ancestors of many people like me calling out. “Remember us. Don’t forget us. Our story needs to be heard. Write our story. Write your story."--The Spoon from Minkowitz

Originally published in Marlan Warren's L.A. Now and Then Blog
Author bio and more details, including Discussion Guide, can be found on the Author's Web Site or at


Title: THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands
Author: Judith Fein with Photographs by Paul Ross
ISBN:     978-0-9884019-3-8
Published 2014 by
Author Website: Global Adventure Web Site
Available at Amazon:  Amazon: The Spoon from Minkowitz

Summary :  Author Judith Fein embarks on a quest to call on ancestors and urges us to do the same in The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet  Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands.

Finding roots is the solution for a rootless life.”

 I heard the Eastern European ancestors of many people like me
 calling out. “Remember us. Don’t forget us. Our story needs
 to be heard. Write our story. Write your story."
—Judith Fein, The Spoon from Minkowitz:
     Judith Fein is a travel journalist’s travel journalist. Like a latter-day Marco Polo, she has globe-trotted without maps or preconceived notions. By her own account, she has swum with Beluga whales, consulted with a Zulu sangoma in South Africa, and eaten porcupine in Vietnam (“not with relish”). In 2011, when Fein and her photojournalist husband Paul Ross visited Tunisia during the Arab Spring, the French-speaking American Fein found herself on the radio, speaking to Tunisians about Democracy. Her popular travel memoir Life Is a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel conveys her need to find out where people of different cultures come from and what makes them act, think, and behave the way they do. After decades of travel, there was one frontier that still eluded the “I-live-to-leave” Fein: the mystery of her own ancestral roots.

     Fein’s new book, The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands, takes us on the trip she finally made in 2012 to the shtetl her Jewish grandmother left behind in an obscure Russian (now Ukrainian) village.

     The Spoon from Minkowitz has garnered stellar reviews. Catharine Hamm, travel editor of the Los Angeles Times, found The Spoon from Minkowitz “as tense as a thriller and as tender as a love story.” Zelda Shluker, editor of Hadassah Magazine, noted the book is “unlike any other back-to-roots book…driven by the author's almost mystical quest to recover the past…Her curiosity, openness and passion take us along on a journey that turns out to be ours as well.”

     We had the opportunity to catch Judith Fein for a moment when she was not in perpetual motion to talk about the deeper meanings of genealogy as explored in this book:

For those who have not yet read your book, what is “the spoon from Minkowitz”?
My grandmother was from a village called Minkowitz in what was then Russia. That fact plus five others were all she would ever tell me about where she was from and why she left; she didn’t want to talk about the past. My mother told me virtually nothing.

When I met my husband Paul, we were immediately attracted. But here’s the kicker: when I asked Paul's parents about their ancestral roots, it turned out his father’s family came from…Minkowitz

Okay. So the “spoon.” When Paul told his parents we were getting married, his father offered us the only thing left from his parents’ shtetl of Minkowitz: a soup spoon they brought with them to America. I treasured that spoon because it made our ancient, ancestral connection so real and concrete. We made a place of honor for it under the chupa  (Jewish wedding canopy) on a satin pillow.

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW: Be who you want to be. ("CHANGING SPACES" by Nancy King)-

“How is it possible that one minute I’m a wife
and the next I’m a discard?”
—Changing Spaces, Nancy King


Not since Marilyn French's 70s novel, THE WOMEN'S ROOM, has there been such a groundbreaking feminist novel. Nancy King tackles 180-degree life flips, divorce, women’s friendship and the healing power of New Mexico in her novel CHANGING SPACES. Just as in THE WOMEN'S ROOM, the central character (Laura) gets an "anvil" dropped on her head when her husband suddenly wants a divorce after a longtime marriage in which Laura has been deeply in love. That King has the couple coupling a few hours before this shocking news is testimony to how skillfully she lets readers know (a) older women can still have sex with their husbands and enjoy it and (b) men are dogs.

Okay, maybe not that last one.

In CHANGING SPACES, men are not so much "dogs" as they are "dogged" in their pursuits. Laura's husband has doggedly pursued a younger woman, thus resulting in his asking for the divorce. And after Laura disappears off the face of Oberlin, Ohio where they have lived their comfortable lives, The Cad regrets his error and tries desperately to learn where she is.

Where Laura "is" determines the trajectory of this story and beats like a heart liberated from its rib cage. CHANGING SPACES is about lost and found identity--specifically the identity of married women who identify so much as wives (even if they have careers such as Laura does) that they eventually lose sight of what they really want until they get the rude "stick in the eye" of their spouse announcing divorce plans.

INTERVIEW: NANCY KING (CHANGING SPACES) - "That was before I lost my life."

Title:   Changing Spaces
Author: Nancy King
Genre: Women's Fiction 
Published 2014 by Plain View Press 
ISBN: 978-1-891386-43-5
Author Web Site: Nancy King Stories
Available at Amazon:  Amazon: Changing Spaces

“How is it possible that one minute I’m a wife
and the next I’m a discard?”
—Changing Spaces, Nancy King

    Santa Fe author Nancy King’s newest novel (Jan. 2014, Plain View Press) about a Midwestern runaway soon-to-be-divorced wife who gets a “makeover” in Santa Fe could end up doing for New Mexico what Moby Dick did for whales.

     Changing Spaces grew out of three incidents. “First there was a woman who said to me, ‘That was before I lost my life,’” said King. “Her husband of 40 years had divorced her to marry a younger woman.” The following week, another friend “showed up in tears because her husband wanted out of their 40-year marriage so he could marry his secretary.” By the time Nancy King spotted an Op-Ed about the author of a book that touted the joys of being a stay-at-home-wife whose husband now wanted a divorce after 40 years—she knew she was on to something.

     Into this familiar scenario, King injected a “What if?”. What if a Midwestern 60-year old woman woke up as she always did, made love with her husband of 40 years, and several hours later, learned her husband had fallen for a younger woman and wanted a divorce—and what if—she hit the road and ended up in the healing bear-hug that is Santa Fe, New Mexico?

     As one reviewer put it: “Heartbreak turns to intrigue. A season of grief leads to a wig, a closet, a script, cookie recipes, new friendships, and a wide-open future.”

“Hey, ya got the Santa Fe idea. No need to be who you were.
Be who you want to be.” —Changing Spaces, Nancy King

    In 2001, King moved from New York City “and never looked back.” The decision to leave friends and job would have been bold for anyone, but since 1985, King has been living with a rare form of leukemia known as Hairy Cell. 

     “When I realized I had a chronic disease with no cure, I made the decision that it was not going to run or ruin my life. I focus on what I can do; not what I lost or what I used to be able to do. Even when I don’t feel well, I force myself to walk or hike or play tennis because I always feel better afterward.”

     The unsinkable Nancy King has trekked Thailand, hiked the Grand Canyon, and “run people 50 years her junior into the ground,” according to one friend. “She overcame the odds of a disastrous diagnosis.”

Laura tried on outfit after outfit, hoping to alter her personality
from the outside in. She practiced taking bigger steps…
—Changing Spaces, Nancy King

     Why Santa Fe? “The nature around Santa Fe is spectacular. Many people find it has a magical energy that renews and regenerates. Even those born in New Mexico talk about this area’s special energy, nature, culture.”

     It’s not unusual for newcomers to experience difficulties. “It’s as if Santa Fe were trying to spit them out. Those who manage to survive their initial problems often experience personal transformations that they couldn’t have articulated before coming.”

     Nancy King also authored the novels, Morning Light, A Woman Walking, and The Stones Speak, which was optioned for a film and won first place in the New Mexico Presswomen’s Communications Contest. She has facilitated international arts-based healing workshops, which she detailed in Dancing With Wonder: Self-Discovery through Stories.
   “If there is a theme that runs throughout my writing, it is an exploration of the need to reconnect with the disconnected Self after trauma,” King said. “I’m interested in what happens when characters realize their old lives and ways no longer serve them.”

     What helps the most when living with illness or a life out of balance? “Having a sense of humor about every aspect of life. And good friends.”

     Just as in her novel where Santa Fe women form a circle of care around the stranger in their midst, King’s friends have seen her through the best and the worst.

     “When a nurse expressed concern that I don’t have family here to support me while I undergo treatments, I told her. ‘Don’t worry. My friends are the best support network in the world.’”

     Nancy King, Ph.D. lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she weaves, writes, and finds inspiration hiking in the mountains. She is a contributing writer for the online journal Your Life Is a Trip.

     To read more about Changing Spaces and check out early reviews, please visit:


One of life’s memorable intersections...

Title:  Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers: An Odyssey of the Heart
Author: Susanna Starr with Photographs by John Lamkin
Published 2014 by Paloma Blanca Press
ISBN-10: 0991095618
ISBN-13: 978-0991095612
Author Web Site: Author Web Site
Available on Amazon: Amazon: Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers

OUR INTERWOVEN LIVES WITH THE ZAPOTEC WEAVERS: An Odyssey of Heart celebrates American entrepreneur and gallery owner Susanna Starr’s forty years of working with the Zapotec weavers of the Oaxaca Valley in Mexico. Starr  takes us back to the moment when she first navigated dirt roads into the remote village of Teotitlan in the 70s, and fell in Heart with the vibrant Zapotec hand-loomed weavings and the warmth of the weavers themselves. She leads us on a three-generational trek of mind and spirit, as the Zapotec families and her own grow in parallels of symbiotic prosperity and mutual respect that reminds us that “business” does not have to be a negative word.

Susanna Starr is the owner of Starr Interiors in Taos, New Mexico, which began as La Unica Cosa in 1974, and features hand-dyed 100% wool rugs, wall hangings, and pillows traditionally dyed and loomed by the Zapotec weavers.

OUR INTERWOVEN LIVES WITH THE ZAPOTEC WEAVERS: An Odyssey of Heart reflects Starr’s philosophy that business need not be kept separate, but can be an integral and meaningful part of everyday lives.

“I hope this story serves as a reminder that business is not a negative word,” says Starr. “Trading is as old as human history, whether for goods or services. It need not be exploitative or impersonal to be successful. Rather, if it is infused with joy and happiness, it can provide a vital, important and enriching aspect of our lives.”

The weavings have been purchased by numerous celebrities including Paul Simon, Sting and Diana Ross, and featured in style magazines such as “Architectural Digest.”

With Love it began…With Love it flourished…And with Love it continues.

For more in-depth information including bios and a peek at a chapter, please visit


Title:                           ALL STORMS PASS: The Anti-Meditations
Author:                     Luke Benoit

Date published:     2012 by CreateSpace

ISBN-10:                    0615520138
ISBN-13:                    978-0615520131
Author’s Web Site:  All Storms Pass
Available on Amazon: Amazon: All Storms Pass

 "If anyone ever told you that you were less than wonderful...
They lied."
--All Storms Pass: The Anti-Meditations by Luke Benoit

I love this book. It fell into my life during a rocky time of self-doubt, anxiety and regrets, and I started dog-earing pages five minutes into my first reading. The title "All Storms Pass" is fitting since the book's brief passages (written in non-rhyming poetry format) focus on the transitory nature of life. At a whopping 635 pages, an alternate title might have been "The Big Book of Self-Esteem."

Benoit urges readers to share these "anti-meditations" with others to stimulate dialogue and promote healing. They function as the jumping off place for discussion rather than the end of it. "They beg for personal interpretation," says Benoit on the back cover, while acknowledging that "All of them require introspective rumination."

This is such a personal book and at the same most of us can relate to the struggle to gain peace and balance in our lives. Life Coach/Therapist Benoit has obviously suffered and continues to wage war against internal forces that threaten his peace of mind. This honest approach makes the book riveting.

Reading this book is like reading someone's life-journal, and as you gather the bits of wisdom, you realize you're looking in a mirror. What Luke Benoit has suffered and transcended one day at a time, each of his readers can suffer and transcend one page at a time, right along with him.

It is a brave masterpiece.