The Lapone Sisters

Author: Barry Wilker
Publisher: Archway Publishing
Genre: Women’s fiction
ISBN: 978-1-6657-2343-5
Pages: 314
Price: $28.95

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Yvonna Lapone was born in Romania, and suffered a terrible tragedy during World War II. After losing most of her family in a bombing, she decides to name her three daughters after her sisters – Shmellda, Sorina, and Esmerelda. The Lapone Sisters follows the family during the summer of 1976, after an unusual bank robbery in Nashville affects them all.

From multiple viewpoints, author Barry Wilker visits the lives of all three sisters, their parents, and a few other Nashville residents. We see Shmellda blossom after altering her appearance and her career. Sorina discovers hidden talents and overcomes her biggest weakness. And Esmerelda takes off on an adventure that will change her life. Yvonna and Frank Lapone can only smile as they watch their daughters grow into such beautiful young adults.

The Lapone Sisters is a feel-good story full of sensory imagery that provides a happy ending for almost everyone involved. It would make a fabulous vacation read.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, children, music

Billy Joins the Circus

Author: Anna Christina
Illustrator: Jenika Ioffreda
Publisher: Music Audio Stories
ISBN: 978-1-8383892-0-8
Pages: 34
Price: $18.99

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Billy the monkey has always wanted to join the circus, but his parents are less enthusiastic about the idea. One day a circus comes through the forest, and Billy jumps at the chance to join. But first he has to convince the Ringmaster and the flying dolly that he’s the right fit. Both ask him what he can do, and Billy sings to them about his skills.

Since this is a music audio story, the song is repeated three times with mounting enthusiasm. Billy shares his mobility skills, and kids will be able to join him as he stamps his feet, claps his hands, spins around, and jumps up and down. They will laugh with glee as they experience Billy’s joy in finally experiencing his dream of joining the circus.

Billy encourages kids to also follow their own dreams, because you never know when a circus will show up and offer you the opportunity you’ve always waited for. I highly recommend Billy Joins the Circus.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


Something’s Happening in the City

Author: Paula Merlán
Illustrator: Concha Pasamar
Publisher: Cuento de Luz
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-84-18302-50-3
Pages: 32
Price: $18.95

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Hannah is delighted to go for a walk in the city with her dog, Pippin, on a lovely spring day. She passes her neighbor, who is looking down and barely notices her. She sees a man walking with his head down who doesn’t see the red squirrel above in the tree. And she sees a father with two boys, who is busy with something in his hand, not watching the boys as they play.

What could be causing such unusual behavior? Everyone appears to be under some kind of spell, she thinks. Finally, Hannah notices the problem. They are all holding their cell phones in their hands. The next day, Hannah has a plan to break the spell, because so much is happening in the city that they have all been missing.

Something’s Happening in the City is a gentle reminder that life is passing us by and we can too easily become distracted by our phones. If we want to enjoy our lives, we need to put the phones away and actually see and experience what’s going on. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

farming, home

The 2023 Old Farmer’s Almanac

Author & Publisher: Old Farmer’s Almanac
Genre: Home & Garden
ISBN: 978-1571989260
Pages: 288
Price: $9.95

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The Farmer’s Almanac has been a trusted resource since 1792 and is filled with new, useful, and entertaining matter. Topics include: trends, amusement, astrology, astronomy, calendar, farming, folklore, food, gardening, genealogy, home remedies, husbandry, miscellany, nature, sports, and weather.

Although this almanac is most known for its weather and farming information, the articles in this magazine are enjoyable and informative. Ads are also targeted to the reader and provide helpful products for the homesteader. However, we’ll have to wait to see if the weather forecasts are accurate or not!

As it has been for the past 231 years, the 2023 Old Farmer’s Almanac will be a useful guide for the coming year. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, children, nature

Where the Heart Is

Author: Irma Gold
Illustrator: Susannah Crispe
Publisher: EK Books
Genre: Children, nature, animals
ISBN: 978-1-925820-87-4
Pages: 32
Price: $18.99

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A tiny penguin washed ashore in Brazil, covered in oil. Joao cleaned him up and fed him, and named the penguin Dindim. When Joao tried to set him free, Dindim didn’t want to leave. They spent many months together before Dindim finally waddled down to the shore and paddled away. Joao was sad to see him go, but knew it was for the best.

But Joao was surprised when one day Dindim came back to him. Dindim now spends eight months of the year on Joao’s tiny island, before heading to the Patagonia coasts of Argentina and Chile.

This wonderful true story will warm the hearts of parents and children alike. I highly recommend Where the Heart Is.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

self improvement

Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation

Author: Dr. Jenelle Kim
Publisher: Watkins Publishing
Genre: Self-help
ISBN: 978-1-78678-594-7
Pages: 192
Price: $18.95

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“All things in nature and our surroundings share a connection.”. But how do you become aware of this connection, and how can you cultivate it? Living the Eight Keys of Myung Sung Living Meditation is one way to do this.

These Eight Keys are: 1) Know Your True Self, 2) The True-Right-Correct Method, 3) Stop Being Drunk on Your Own Thoughts, 4) How Will You Be Remembered?, 5) Seek Connectedness & Honor, 6) Change Your Reality For the Better, 7) It Only Takes One Match to Light a Thousand, and 8) Be Like Bamboo. These mindfulness meditations, combined with herbal medicine and movement can change your reality and your life for the better. Each section features a lesson Dr. Kim’s father learned under the tutelage of his Master, followed by an expansion on the lesson and a guide on how to apply it in our own lives.

If you’re looking to explore ways to enjoy better connections with the world around you, Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation would be a great place to start.

Reviewer: Alice Berge

acting, children, tween

Monologues for Kids and Tweens II

Author: Mike Kimmel
Publisher: Ben Rose Creative Arts
Genre: Acting / Children / Middle-grade
ISBN: 9781953057037
Pages: 140
Price: $14.99

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In a follow-up to Monologues for Kids and Tweens, Mike Kimmel offers some new material for kids who are looking to hone their acting skills. These new comedy and drama monologues are short but effective, filled with positive messages for kids to perform.

So much of comedy today is filled with vulgar humor, so it’s great to see such uplifting ideas presented in this book. While some topics are designed with the intention to sway opinion – like “Get Involved,” “What Not to Do,” or “Be Careful What You Talk About” – some are just fun dialogue. “The Mighty Mustache Men,” “Egg Salad Sandwiches,” and “An Old Ugly Couch” are a kid’s attempt at philosophy, and they’re enjoyable to perform.

All of the monologues in this book are age appropriate, written in kids’ language, and will delight the listener. Monologues for Kids and Tweens II would be perfect for young actors looking to improve their skills. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


The Year One Challenge for Women

Author: Michael Matthews
Publisher: Oculus
Genre: Fitness
ISBN: 978-1-938895-32-6
Pages: 376
Price: $19.56

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If you’ve read Thinner, Leaner, Stronger for Women, you may have realized that you need a good workout tracker to keep track of your progress. Paper tracking is fine, but having a year-long fitness journal is even better.

The Year One Challenge for Women is the perfect tracker for this program. The first 80 pages are a summary overview, followed by one year’s worth of blank trackers. These are set up to follow the six phases of the program, including deloads. Workouts can follow a 3, 4, or 5 day per week schedule. Exercises are pre-printed on the pages, so the only thing you will need to record are the weights and reps. A “Notes” section is also provided for each workout.

If you’re serious about following the Thinner, Leaner, Stronger program for a year, this tracking journal is an absolute must-have. It will make everything so much easier for you to track, plus you’ll have your whole year’s history in one book as a reference. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


The Fragrance of Death (Sally Solari Mystery #5)

Author: Leslie Karst
Publisher: Severn House
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1448309283
Pages: 224
Price: $17.95

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Sally Solari is determined to win the annual Artichoke Cook-off, even though she’s suddenly and completely lost her sense of taste and smell. But her problems pale in comparison to Neil Lerici’s, when he is found murdered at the event.

When Sally meets up with Grace, Neil’s sister and her old friend from grade school, she is eager to renew the acquaintance and find out what’s going on in the Lerici family. Something feels off about their interactions. Since the detective she’s sort of dating asks for help, she does whatever she can dig up information, even when it leads to trouble. And she keeps hoping she’ll begin to taste the food she’s preparing in her restaurant again. Sally’s efforts don’t go unnoticed by the perpetrator of the crime, and she will have to be careful not to become the next casualty.

I didn’t read the first four books in this series, but I found this mystery engaging and easy to follow. Sally is a determined sleuth who just keeps digging, despite the adversity she faces. I highly recommend The Fragrance of Death.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


If I Had an Octopus

Author: Gabby Dawnay
Illustrator: Alex Barrow
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-0-500-65225-1
Pages: 32
Price: $14.95

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A little girl dreams of her perfect pet – an octopus! It would be able to play with all her friends at once, in whatever game they wanted to play. It’s a whiz at math, since it can count up to eight. It has great camouflage and can hide from everyone. But it would be especially good at hugs, since it has so many arms.

Imagination runs wild in this fun book that explores the joys of having this unique pet. I highly recommend If I Had an Octopus.

Reviewer: Alice Berger