The Thank You Letter

Author & Illustrator: Jane Cabrera
Publisher: Holiday House
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-0-8234-4250-8
Pages: 34
Price: $23.99

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Grace is celebrating her birthday and receives a bunch of really great gifts. So the very next day, Grace sits down to write Thank You letters to everyone who gave her a present. But when she’s finished, she keeps writing Thank You letters to other people she knows. Everyone who receives a letter feels really special.

One day, Grace comes home to find Love letters written to her. Her Thank You letters have sparked a lot of love in the community, and everyone wants to share how good they’re feeling. Grace had no idea how her letters would impact the community in such a wonderful way.

The Thank You Letter is a terrific book for kids on the power of gratitude in their lives. By showing her gratitude with others, Grace has opened up a flood of positivity all around her. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


Brother John

Author: August Turak
Illustrator: Glenn Harrington
Publisher: Clovercrost Publishing
Genre: Christian living
ISBN: 978-1-945507-94-6
Pages: 48
Price: $19.99

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When answering the question, “What is the Purpose of Life?” in an essay for the Templeton Prize, August Turak shared an encounter with a Trappist monk named Brother John. His essay won the contest and went on to be published in two anthologies. Readers reached out to him over the years, telling how the story had inspired them. But as it grew harder to find, Turak realized it was time to publish it as a book of its own.

Brother John is a simple, humble man who manages much of Mepkin Abbey, a 3000+ acre property run by the Trappist monks. There is no task he considers beneath him, and he’s always there to lend a hand for anyone who needs it. As Turak spends time at Mepkin, he encounters Brother John holding an umbrella one rainy Christmas Eve, waiting to walk with anyone who had forgotten his own. Struck by the way that Brother John lives his life, Turak examines his own, questioning if he has the ability to be so selfless in his giving.

Brother John offers a gentle reminder that Jesus asks a lot of us, and many of us aren’t willing to take the risk to give more of ourselves to others. What is the purpose of life? No answers are given, other than to look things square in the face and do the work we know we must do.

Turak receives a wonderful message from his spiritual director: You would not seek Me if you had not already found Me, and you would not have found Me if I had not first found you. May we all find Him in our own lives.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


Herring Hotel

Author: Didier Lévy
Illustrator: Serge Bloch
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
ISBN: 978-0-500-65212-1
Pages: 40
Price: $14.95

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There once was a very nice hotel called the Sherrington Hotel, but some time ago, it lost a few letters, so now it’s the Herring Hotel. But along with the missing letters, it’s also fallen into disrepair. Water leaks through the ceiling in dozens of places, but the guests don’t seem to care. They’ve been there forever, and they really don’t want to leave.

Gabriel lives there with his parents, and he likes to spend time with their unusual guests, especially Mrs. Kettle, also known as Tina the 23rd, exiled Queen of Kettlippia. One day the damage to the hotel is much too bad, and they will all need to pack their things and find someplace else to live. But Mrs. Kettle has a big surprise for them all.

The guests of the Herring Hotel are an eccentric bunch, but they form a lovable family. When forced to leave, they struggle to control their tears. Kids will love Gabriel’s interactions with them all, especially Mrs. Kettle. I highly recommend Herring Hotel.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


The Art of Health

Author: Aarti Patel, N.D.
Publisher: D2 Books
Genre: Health
ISBN: 978-0996775908
Pages: 186
Price: $8.03

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Taking care of our own health can be scary and confusing, and it can be hard to know the best options to try when facing a problem. Aarti Patel, N.D., wrote The Art of Health to show us that there can be more than one path to follow, depending on the origins of the issue we’re dealing with.

Lifestyle plays a large part in our overall well-being, and can be a root cause in medical issues. Weight loss or gain, skin conditions, insomnia, mood swings, and other common ailments may have a physiological cause, but they can also be exacerbated by stress and lack of self-care. Patel suggests that each person explore all options when determining how to treat a problem.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, Patel shares several case studies of people who came to her office believing that the only way to deal with their condition was through traditional medical means. But in working with them, she discovers that there are more factors involved that need to be addressed. In all cases, these people made changes that helped them feel better over time.

There are no clear-cut answers to any particular health issues in The Art of Health. Instead, there is encouragement to dig deeper when issues aren’t being resolved using traditional medicine. But at no point does this book recommend to drop your current treatment for a holistic one. These helpful ideas are expected to be used as a supplement.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


The Bobcat

Author: Katherine Forbes Riley
Publisher: Arcade
Genre: Literary fiction
ISBN: 978-1-948924-09-2
Pages: 212
Price: $22.99

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Laurelie has found refuge at a small college in Vermont after experiencing a fraternity rape. As an art student, she turns to her work to help her make sense of what happened to her, drawing the feelings she can’t express outwardly. While she’s living in a rented cottage, she discovers a hiker who is tracking an injured, pregnant bobcat and providing her with food.

The hiker is a kindred spirit who seems to enjoy living on the fringes, as she does. As they get to know each other, Laurelie begins to test her ability to be present in a normal dating relationship, even though she feels so broken inside. The hiker also appears to harbor secrets, and he opens his heart to her slowly.

The Bobcat is told through Laurelie’s eyes, as she explores how she’s feeling and experiencing life. Full of imagery, it parallels her own artistic creations. The reader will appreciate how Laurelie begins to find closure and moves forward after feeling helpless and held back by the circumstances of her past.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

self improvement

Elastic Habits

Author: Stephen Guise
Publisher: Selective Entertainment
Genre: Self-improvement / Habits
ISBN: 978-0996435475
Pages: 236
Price: $15.99

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Wouldn’t it be great to work on your most important tasks every day without exception? Most habit forming systems will guide you to seek peak performance, but what about those days when your heart just isn’t in it? You’ve got the flu, your boss is demanding that report you promised, and the kids won’t stop whining. So what do you do? If you’re following the Elastic Habits system, a day like this would still be an opportunity for a win.

Like Mini Habits, Elastic Habits focuses on the smallest possible step you can take toward a daily goal. But while Mini Habits only focused on that smallest action, with extra effort not recognized other than as bonus reps, Elastic Habits gives us credit for our extra effort. Each Elastic Habit stretches in multiple ways, allowing us to not only just meet the minimum, but to also strive for more.

I wanted to give this system an honest try before writing my review, and I’ve been using it for about two weeks. First off, I could hardly wait to get started, and even began before finishing reading the book. Secondly, I’ve never felt so excited about meeting the goals I’ve set in my life. It’s December, so there have been a lot of Mini days this month, but there have also been some Plus, and Elite days, which is more than I could have expected.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Elastic Habits before setting a single New Year’s Resolution. If you use the guidelines in this amazing book, you’ll be sure to crush those goals in the coming year.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

cooking, health

The One-Pot Weight Loss Plan

Author: Shelley Rael, MS, RDN
Publisher: Rockridge Press
Genre: Cooking, Diet
ISBN: 978-1-64611-048-3
Pages: 267
Price: $16.99

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The calendar is once again inching toward January 1st, and thoughts of losing weight this year may have crossed your mind. While it may be tempting to jump for one of the “lose weight fast!” plans, they may not be your best option. Instead, Shelley Rael has created some easy to prepare meals that can help you shed the pounds once and for all.

Speed and easy cleanup were the goals in creating healthy meals for your slow cooker, skillet, sheet pan, and more. Prep time is usually less than 20 minutes per dish, and meals are cooked in one pot for a minimum of dishes. Ingredients are all readily available in most supermarkets, and no “fake foods” are included. Along with the recipes, a 28-day plan guides you on your journey to healthy eating.

I did not personally test these recipes, but there are quite a few that sound yummy. Overnight oats, smoothies, and even desserts are featured, along with the standard soups, casseroles, and skillet dishes. If eating this well can lead to weight loss, this book is sure to give you the success you’re looking for. I highly recommend The One-Pot Weight Loss Plan.

Reviewer: Alice Berger