creativity, writing

The Writer’s Roadmap


Author: Leigh Shulman
Publisher: The Future is Red
Genre: Writing
ISBN: 978-0-9996973-0-6
Pages: 106
Price: $12.99

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Building the perfect writing life may seem out of reach – but it can be done, if you have the right plan. Leigh Shulman is living the life of her dreams, and she wants to share her secrets with other writers.

Using what she calls the OGSM, she guides writers through a step-by-step method of planning their ideal writing life. First, the Objective defines, in one sentence, what an ideal writing life looks like. Then Goals are the dream projects that support it. Strategy is the itemized list of things that need to be accomplished. And Measures provide feedback on whether the Strategies are working.

At each step in building the writer’s own OGSM, Shulman asks probing questions designed for thoughtful rumination. Blank pages provided in the book are a perfect place to make note of these answers.

Shulman acknowledges the realities of work, family, and other time constraints that keep writers away from the page. But this OGSM process allows for all aspects of a writer’s life – not just writing. She also has created a writing group called The Workshop where writers can network and continue to learn from each other. I highly recommend The Writer’s Roadmap to all writers who want a better focus in their writing life.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

Amish fiction, holiday, romance

The Christmas Remedy


Author: Cindy Woodsmall & Erin Woodsmall
Publisher: WaterBrook
Genre: Amish fiction / Romance
ISBN: 978-0-7352-9104-1
Pages: 208
Price: $14.99

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Holly Zook is not a traditional Amish girl. She’s determined to bring better health care to her Amish community, after seeing how their neglect has affected the quality of their lives. But this choice might cause her to sacrifice her own happiness in the process. Rather than choosing marriage and family, she’s pursuing a nursing degree. And now, the pharmacy Holly works for that caters to the Amish community is threatened.

Joshua Smucker was captivated by Holly’s charm when they met many years ago, but Holly abruptly ended any attempt he might have made to court her. After meeting her once again at the pharmacy, he understands why Holly chose the path she followed, but was this her only choice? If her bishop was enlightened enough to let her get her degree, might he also be willing to let her work once she married?

This delightful Amish romance-mystery takes place during the Christmas season, but could easily be read at any time of the year. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

sports, tween

The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher


Author: Sean Jensen
Publisher: Broadstreet Publishing Group
Genre: Middle grade / Sports / Football
ISBN: 978-1-4245-4979-5
Pages: 176
Price: $14.99

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Just because an NFL player has made it to the pros, it doesn’t mean he’s forgotten how he got there. In this unique biography, Sean Jensen captures some of the memorable moments of Brian Urlacher’s Middle School career.

This children’s story reads like a novel, as the timeline progresses through Urlacher’s Middle School years. Touching on basketball and football games, along with family and friendships, it shows us a snippet of this great linebacker’s life. Good sportsmanship and fair play is highlighted in a non-preachy manner.

The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher is part of a series of books sharing the Middle School years of sports figures. Chicago Bears fans will enjoy this look at Brian Urlacher’s Middle School career.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

romance

A Holiday by Gaslight


Author: Mimi Matthews
Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Genre: Victorian Romance
ISBN: 978-0-9990364-7-1
Pages: 172
Price: $8.99

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Sophie Appersett needs to marry well in order to help her family. When the affluent merchant, Edward “Ned” Sharpe, chooses to court her, she readily agrees, despite the difference in their class. But their courtship leaves much to be desired.

After making a decision she comes to regret, Sophie finally speaks frankly to Ned. Giving him one last chance, she tells him what she needs in a relationship, and hopes he’ll see the light. And as her family hosts their traditional Christmas gathering, wonderful surprises await them all.

A Holiday by Gaslight is a delightful Victorian holiday romance. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

fitness

The Dumbbell Workout Handbook: Weight Loss


Author: Michael Volkmar
Publisher: Hatherleigh Press
Genre: Fitness
ISBN: 978-1-57826-754-5
Pages: 144
Price: $15.00

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A customized dumbbell workout is a great way to gain muscle and lose fat. In The Dumbbell Workout Handbook, Michael Volkmar provides several different workouts in varying levels of difficulty that are designed for weight loss.

The opening pages provide information about dumbbells and how they are effective in strength training. Mobility warm-ups are shown as essential to be performed before any of the fat burning workouts. Then all of the exercises in these workouts are listed.

While I’m not a workout guru, I expected to see photos or diagrams of the various exercises in this book. Instead, the reader receives just a list of the names of the workouts, with no explanations or pictures. If he’s not already familiar with these exercise names, he would have to do the research to find out how to do them.

If you’re already a pro at strength training with dumbbells, this book will provide your own customized weight loss workout. But if you will need to look up every exercise, this is probably not the best book for you.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

journal

Amish Wisdom: Lined Journal

Created & Published by: The editors of Quiet Fox Designs
Genre: Journal
ISBN: 978-1-64178-027-8
Pages: 144
Price: $9.99

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This hardcover lined journal contains full-page snapshots of Amish life including horses, buggies, fields, and head coverings. Each two-page spread has a Pennsylvania Dutch design located in the corner, plus witty advice and practical wisdom sayings at the bottom of the pages.

Amish Wisdom: Lined Journal is the perfect journal for recording prayer intentions and gratitude lists, as well as day-to-day thoughts. This beautiful book would also make a great gift for the Amish fiction reader.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, children, nature

Hidden Critters


Author: Stan Tekiela
Publisher: Adventure Publications
Genre: Animals / Nature / Children
ISBN: 978-1-59193-812-5
Pages: 48
Price: $14.95

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The ability to blend in with its surroundings can mean the difference between life and death for many animals. In Hidden Critters, Stan Tekiela shows kids some of these animals that survive by hiding.

Tekiela is a gifted nature photographer who has captured images of the animals in hiding and in plain sight, so kids can see them in their natural settings. In the first picture, kids need to try to find the hidden animal. The second picture shows it in plain view. Closing pages provide fun facts about each of the animals featured: burrowing owl, gray wolf, southern flying squirrel, American alligator, brown creeper, short-tailed weasel, bullfrog, praying mantis, white-tailed deer, and polar bear. A key to the hidden critter pages is also included, showing exactly where to spot these animals.

Nature lovers of all ages will enjoy this book. I highly recommend it for home and classroom.

Reviewer: Alice Berger