that flows effortlessly, punctuated with intelligence and humor. And although he writes
glowingly of the Shakti he receives from his
guru, he never proselytizes. The result is an
important contribution to the rank of spiritual memoirs, especially those concerning
The Lethal Equation.
By Jacquel Clark.
2016. 112p. Xlibris, paper, $15.99 (9781514438046).
This mesmerizing supernatural mystery fo-
cuses on a 59-year-old woman tasked with
collecting evil souls for hell. Having grown up
in a haunted house with a murderous step-
father and inattentive mother, Icee now lives
alone with her talking dog,
Mason, after her husband
inexplicably abandoned her.
Her life is upended when
her dead grandmother’s
spirit informs Icee that she
is destined to collect evil
souls while evading Satan’s
demons, who view her as
competition. Meanwhile, when Icee’s es-
tranged husband dies overseas and she and
Mason leave for the funeral, she winds up in
a hospital teetering between life and death.
The fantastical plot prevents readers from
knowing what will happen from page to page.
Likewise, the first-person account blurs illu-
sion and reality. Clark playfully manipulates
readers by misrepresenting facts and making
occasional forays into gentle humor despite
the depravity. Her concise writing exerts com-
plete control over the storytelling, even as the
character’s life rages out of control. In sum,
this supernatural thriller offers a deliciously
disturbing journey into one woman’s night-
Living in Color: A Story of Love, in
Sickness and in Health.
By Michael Murphy.
2015. 201p. CreateSpace, paper, $26.95
Much more than another sentimental me-
morial to a deceased loved one, Murphy’s
account of his beloved second wife Margot’s
struggle with cancer is a love
story, a primer on accepting
whatever life brings, and a
practical guide for caregiv-
ers, all rolled into one. In
2000, Murphy, then 43,
was living in the Bay Area,
running successful car deal-
erships, and married to his
high-school sweetheart. Then he met Margot,
decades younger and also married, and they
fell in love and married, despite their wrench-
ing guilt about their spouses. The title reflects
what Margot often said: that until she met
Michael, she was living in black and white.
Together, they lived “in color,” even while
Margot endured nine years of cancer that
finally took her life. Murphy doesn’t spare
readers the details, but there’s no self-pity
tion of northern Germany meticulous, and
her characters emotionally compelling. The
book’s conclusion is more like a respite, rather
than a formal ending, but readers will quickly
forgive the lapse if the second book is as stellar
as this one.
Firedancer: Your Spiral Journey to a Life
of Passion and Purpose.
By Kami Guildner.
2016. 228p. Merry Dissonance, paper, $16.95
Sometimes the best insights come from
those who’ve suffered great loss, like Guildner, whose supercharged life came to an
abrupt halt when her lucrative marketing
job was phased out and, a month later, her
beloved father passed away. Here Guildner,
now a women’s life coach, skillfully integrates her personal story with advice on
how to find and follow your true calling.
A cross between business-style mentoring
and New Age inspiration, Guildner’s book
offers illuminating client examples, from
the woman who rediscovered her artistic
side and used it to help veterans to another
who quit her high-tech position to launch
her own company. Each chapter ends with
a “Reflection” questionnaire and a “Pony
Ponderings Inspiration Card”—an abstract
equine illustration and message that may be
a little off-putting to those uncomfortable
with the metaphysical approach. Those open
to New Age thought who want to reclaim
childhood pastimes that made them happy
will enjoy Firedancer. Those who feel lost will
find comfort in Guildner’s words: “Your gift
is meant to matter. . . . Who are you to withhold this gift from the world?”
Growing Old with Grace: How a
Shakti Guru Transformed My Life.
By Ramakrishna Michaels.
2015. 210p. Moana Publications, paper, $14.99
The life cycle of the lotus flower serves as a
metaphor for Michaels’ compelling memoir
that contains five sections: “The Seed,” “Ger-
mination,” “The Sprout,”
“The Bud,” “The Blossom.”
Born in 1944 and raised in a
well-to-do family, Michaels
displays a prodigious tal-
ent for piano and contends
with an uneasy relationship
with his mother. When he
leaves for college, he lets go
with a vengeance, quitting piano to become
“the ultimate gay party boy.” Eventually, he
eschews his debauchery. Seeking ways to get
healthy, including yoga, he encounters a holy
man known as Babaji, a man so charismatic
that, upon first encounter, “his entrance al-
most took my breath away.” Michaels slowly
commits to the practice of yoga, despite
the required long hours of meditation and
often-tedious works of devoted service. The
author produced this book after 13 years of
dedication to the practice, offering writing
here, and throughout, Margot’s thoughts on
fear, dying, life, and faith are deeply moving.
The author ends on an up note: he founded
the Love from Margot Foundation to fund
low-income cancer patients as a way to keep
her love “flowing freely through me to serve
these women in need.”
By Janet Moller.
2016. 207p. AuthorHouse, paper, $18.24
This charming British cozy, set sometime
after fax machines but before common cell-phone use, features Matilda, a retired private
investigator who specialized in finding
valuable lost art. The novel is narrated engagingly by Ella, Matilda’s 26-year-old niece,
an archaeologist who’s vacationing with her.
While puttering in her garden, Matilda hears
a gunshot. Rushing to her cottage, she finds
a dead man clutching one of her scarves. In
the ladies’ subsequent private investigation,
it appears that the scarf is a map of sorts to an
old gold mine in Zimbabwe, and eventually,
the women unearth one of the greatest finds
in history: the proof that, in at least one instance, the Bible is literal truth. Throughout,
they overcome dangerous adversaries, squalid living conditions, and repeated attempts
on their lives. The writing is confident and
competent, with charmingly titled chapters
and efficient, effective description. Although
the author omits the potential global effects
of the find, Peacocks Kill is delightful in every
other aspect, and mystery fans will enjoy this
skillfully told tale.
Train off the Rails with Kody and Dot.
By Robert von Goeben. Illus. by Mike
2016. 26p. Green Toys, $14.99 (9780997143409).
In this excellent picture book from toy
manufacturer Green Toys, teddy bears Kody
and Dot travel the same loop every day on
their train, delivering boxes. One day, the
train hits a bump and bounces off the tracks,
allowing them a break from their routine and
a chance to explore. They see the boxes they
previously delivered being moved by boats,
trucks, cars, and planes, enjoying a wider
worldview and gaining a new appreciation
for the importance of their work. Although
designed to accompany a toy-train set, the
book is anything but an afterthought and
offers a wry statement about exceeding limitations. It encourages children to use their
imaginations and strikes a pleasant note as
the bears learn of the importance of their
daily delivery run in the wider community.
Von Goeben’s text is a perfect balance of simplicity and rhyme, and Yamada’s illustrations
carry the same simplicity, vividly capturing
what toys might be like if they came to life.
The images are the final component in a
book that delivers a perfect package.