*Happy Harry by Barbara Lampert


*Happy Harry by Barbara Lampert
Publisher: Golden Wolf books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Animal Essays
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

“Nobody who loves dogs will be able to resist your book! A magnificent love story!” – Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, international bestselling author of Dogs Never Lie About Love and When Elephants Weep.

In her dog memoir “Happy Harry: A Magical Golden”, psychotherapist Barbara Lampert, a lifelong dog lover, tells the story of her beloved Golden Retriever, Harry. Like her first dog memoir, Harry’s story comes from her mostly uncensored daily journal and takes place in Malibu, California.

Harry was a genuinely free spirit – wild, and very wolf-like. Did all this contribute to his being exceptionally happy? Perhaps.

Harry was not only the happiest being Barbara’s ever known, happy to the very core of him, but also the bravest. More than once in his life, Harry had to face true adversity, and each time, Barbara would look at him in wonder, not fully understanding how a being could be so brave and at the same time continue to be so happy.

Harry literally pranced through life, with a joyous attitude that made being around him like magic. Barbara fell in love with Harry. And as you immerse yourself in Harry’s story, it’s likely you will too! Happy Harry is unforgettable!

You don’t have to be a lover of Golden Retrievers to find this story captivating, but if Goldens are your favorite dog, you will thoroughly enjoy this story about Harry the rambunctious, precocious and fun-loving Golden Retriever.

When I first saw this book about Harry, a Golden Retriever I knew I had to read it. I have raised four Goldens throughout my life and currently have Charlie, a two-year-old Golden Retriever. So many things Barbara Lampert wrote about resonated with me. I could relate to so many of her experiences with Harry. The descriptions of Harry are funny and poignant. The writing is entertaining and interesting, and I fell in love with Harry along the way. The story chronicles Harry’s life from the time he is adopted at nine weeks, until his death. Harry is a typical friendly Golden Retriever, and I enjoyed reliving Barbara’s experiences with him. Her love of dogs and how much Harry touched her heart is evident in her writing.

Barbara takes us on a thoughtful and insightful journey. It is a beautiful tribute to Harry and made me laugh at all his crazy antics and cry when his end was near. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a sweet, feel good, well written story. This story touched my heart and made me want to give my dog a hug and make sure I enjoy the time he is with me.

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Still No Kids & Still Ok: A Childfree Humor Book by Ellen Metter


Still No Kids & Still Ok: A Childfree Humor Book by Ellen Metter
Publisher: Browser Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

There’s less pressure these days to make lots of dimply babies. But what about the indecision that would-be parents experience as they consider the Baby, Yes or Baby, No choices? Or the subtle societal nagging that says having zero children will lead to a lonely life with only Netflix and a grizzled old guy with no teeth as your friends?

Now that Ellen Metter is nearly old enough to get “Save the Date” invites from the Grim Reaper, she’s ready to share an illustrated, light-hearted look at an intentionally childfree life, as well as an appreciation for those who do parenting with love, patience, and not too many screaming meltdowns.

Still No Kids & Still OK is for everyone!
It’s for those considering a stroll down the toy-strewn path.
It’s for those who said, “Hell, no, I won’t glow!” and never looked back.
And it’s for parents who will read this in the bathroom for about a minute at a time and appreciate and understand every word.

The author looks at such burning questions as:
“Who will support you when you’re old?”
“Won’t you be lonely?”
“You don’t have a teenager, do you? She’d never have let you out in that sweater!”
And, “Is ok really enough?”

Still No Kids & Still OK has the answers!

The author loves it when people have children since we need kids who grow up to create hilarious Netflix shows. But since parenting can be like flying a Boeing jumbo jet with squirrels in your hair, it’s best if the desire for children is strong. Like Superman strong.

And for those who hesitate to procreate? Ellen Metter gets it! The only doll she loved as a kid was Barbie since that doll seemed old enough to date. (With protection, of course.) Still No Kids & Still Ok shares illustrated evidence that a long and childfree life is often even more than Ok.

Parenthood should be a choice, not an obligation.

One of the things I liked the most about this novella was how deeply it encouraged its readers to think about every aspect of being a parent before deciding to have kids. There are pros and cons to any decision someone might make about if, when, with whom, or how many children they want to have. What works marvelously for one person might be difficult to impossible for someone else for reasons ranging from health to finances to what sort of support system one might have among many other options, so it’s important to have a realistic view of both the joys and challenges of what parenthood entails beforehand.

Sometimes this went a little off-topic with stories that did not seem to be related to the decision to be childfree. As interesting as they were, it was also distracting for me as a reader to be led in those directions instead of digging more deeply into what other options exist when having children is taken off the menu. I would have preferred to have fewer digressions along the way even though I enjoyed getting to know the author along the way.

People who choose not to reproduce are often stereotyped as folks who hate children. I loved the way Ms. Metter pushed against that stereotype by describing why it’s important to ensure that every child has their needs met and the difference between enjoying the company of kids under certain circumstances and wanting to raise one or more of them for two decades or so. There are many other ways to inspire and look after the next generation, from being a teacher to volunteering with at-risk youth to becoming the fun aunt or uncle in the family who gives tired parents a much-needed break for a few hours, and her inclusion of such alternatives was helpful.

I’d recommend Still No Kids & Still Ok: A Childfree Humor Book to readers who would like to understand why some folks choose not to have children just as much as I would to readers who are childfree themselves.

My First Birding Adventure – North America by Elya Baird


My First Birding Adventure – North America by Elya Baird
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Bring the world of birding indoors with My First Birding Adventure-North America!

My First Birding Adventure- North America was designed to replicate the outdoor birding experience. When outdoors, bird enthusiasts will go to various locations in nature, look for birds, and identify the birds they find using their field guide. This book brings the world of birding indoors as readers flip through nature scenes, search for birds, and identify them with the mini field guide at the back of the book.

Once the book is finished, complete the bonus activities or go outside with the field guide and see if you can find any of the birds in nature!

Calling all bird lovers as well as future fans of this hobby! I have quite the treat for you.

Bird watching requires patience and close attention to detail, so it only made sense that this picture book encourages both of those habits. This is something that is meant to be savored and returned to again and again as readers both young and old sharpen their identification skills. I’d recommend bringing it out on such excursions when possible in the beginning in order to have a quick reference for what to look for.

I liked the fact that Ms. Baird included so many hints about where to find this sort of wildlife, how to identify them, and how to tell the differences between males and females of the same species. This was a solid introduction to those topics that can easily be built upon as new bird watchers become more comfortable with quickly taking note of these things and learning how to identify lots of other types of birds, too.

The best portions were the ones that showed various nature settings and asked readers to quickly identify which birds they could see there and remember as much about them as possible. Sometimes one only has a moment or two to figure all of this stuff out in real life, so practicing ahead of time is an excellent way to get better at it while at a park, field, lake, or other natural setting. While it certainly isn’t possible to include every common type of bird in something like this, I thought the author picked a nice cross-section of possibilities for readers living in North America.

My First Birding Adventure – North America was exciting and informative.

Dance in the Meadow by Cathay O. Reta


Dance in the Meadow by Cathay O. Reta
Publisher: Keep Walking Publications
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

What do you do when you become widowed, leave your church family of 45 years, retire from your job and move halfway across the country? You get real with yourself. Emerging from a season of loss and the unraveling of every belief and certainty she had so carefully cultivated, Cathay began to sit in conversation with God. With God, not to God. Listening to the still, small voice of her spirit, their conversations went deep and released a well-spring of life and wisdom. These musings will leave you feeling inspired to reflect on your own life and to find answers to questions you didn’t know to ask. They will leave you knowing that you are not alone.

This book took me a while to review because I kept making notes, re-reading certain passages or chapters and brought the book with me on trips. For people who are aghast at readers who mark pages in books, they’d explode because I have chapters, pages and sentences underlined (in pencil) and I have post-it notes sticking out all over the place and weird items being used as bookmarks. I found many references I could relate to in my own life. I found inspiration and experienced more Aha! moments than I expected while reading Cathay O. Reta’s journey with God as she navigated the dark times that followed upon becoming a widow. For the first time, she was defined not by the person she married or the job she had and what she did during it, but as her own person. Thing is, after identifying herself as part of everything outside herself, how does she see herself when all she has is … herself? All good questions.

There are many chapters and sections in the book so at first it might look overwhelming. The chapters are short, like baby-steps on a journey. Each one tackled a perception of self that needed to be torn down and re-written with the focus on how God sees and loves us. There is strength to be gained when we get out of our own way and let the good Lord lead us where we are meant to go. Dance in the Meadow is a year’s journey in the life of the author; what she learned, the internal conversations she had during meditation that led her to self-awareness, and their results. It may sound a bit woo-woo-ish, but meditation is practiced all over the world as part of many religious rituals and practices. The concentration needed to accomplish deep meditation is hard. Our world is inundated with distractions, noise and problems, and they affect the mind to the point it’s as busy as the world. At times, it is almost impossible to shut out. The author found a way to escape from the chaos, but it was not an overnight thing. Again, baby steps.

Elvis Presley was a distraction at one point (I do that kind of thing), the realization that rain isn’t an enemy, it’s adulting that makes it so, and the idea that certain foods weigh you down in unexpected ways (Chapter 25), was eye-opening. In Chapter 27 I learned that clutter isn’t restricted solely to our homes, but our souls and hearts, and is just as distracting and burdensome. What was interesting to me was the explanation of how love works. Not the love we read in romance books, but a healthy, non-commercial, spiritual, and profound love that is hard to put into practice. We’re actually out of touch with its true application in our lives. The author discovers that and more on her relationship journey with God. I even found it fascinating that we really do jump to negative interpretations. When we hear our boss say, I’m going to give you a challenging project, or if you are told, ‘here’s something to challenge you’, our response is most often negative, and we jump into self-protection mode. Yeah, I relate to that. But there’s another way to look at it, and Chapter 31 offers up that way. All I know is, that chapter is me.

There were a few observations and sections I didn’t agree with, some parts I gave the side-eye to, but overall, this book really does deliver an insightful, positive, and uplifting look at healing after the upheaval of becoming a widow after decades of being married and being part of a couple. Healing is not easy or quick, but with the right focus, it can happen.

Dance in the Meadow was a book I savored slowly. It’s going on my keeper shelf, mostly because of all the markings and notes I made, making it a book I’ll revisit for reference and to be reminded of what is and should be important in my life. To remember that I’m loved, not because of anything I’ve done or will do, but just because God loves me, unconditionally, unceasingly, and unswervingly. People can’t help but put conditions on it, whether they realize it or not. This book helped me to remember how it’s supposed to be. I’m glad I read it.

Lion Man: The First and Greatest Black Superhero by Demetrius Sherman


Lion Man: The First and Greatest Black Superhero by Demetrius Sherman
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When no Black comic book heroes existed, he battled the most dangerous villains in the world.. He was Lion Man. Discover the fascinating history of African American journalists and cartoonists. Learn why Lion Man was the first and greatest Black superhero.

World War II changed the world in many ways…including when it came to what people expected from superheroes!

One of the many things I learned from this novella was just how much some adults fretted over comic strips in the 1940s. There were fears that children would prefer this style of entertainment over reading novels, so some parents tried to discourage their kids from picking up comic strips at all. I have seen some modern parents share similar concerns about what their children are reading and whether graphic novels should be counted as reading time at all. The solution to this dilemma that Evans came up with made a great deal of sense for his era as well as for our own.

It would have been helpful to have more examples of how the last few sections were intended to tie into Lion Man’s groundbreaking accomplishment. While I understood that they were giving other examples of how African-American artists and creators were producing all sorts of toys and content beginning in the early 1900s, it did feel a little disjointed to me to suddenly leap to this topic after spending so much time on Orrin C. Evan’s career specifically. As much as I wanted to give this a full five-star rating, I needed stronger connections between these sections in order to feel justified about doing so.

I appreciated all of the time Mr. Sherman invested in explaining the historical context for Lion Man and the other African-American comic book characters that Orrin C. Evans invented. There were some scenes from these strips that could be read in very different ways today due to how much American culture has changed over the last eighty years, so knowing the original intentions behind them was as educational as it was interesting.

Lion Man: The First and Greatest Black Superhero made me smile.

Lavender Is a Boring Color by Kevin Courtney Black


Lavender Is a Boring Color by Kevin Courtney Black
Publisher: Satin Colorway Publishing
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Lavender is a Boring Color follows a collection of poetry woven together through the vivid experiences of the author, as he depicts his early adulthood struggles with debilitating depression, anxiety, heartbreak, self-doubt, and his journey of self-love. The author wrote this book longing for better days when life feels blissful and fragrant as if it were lavishly engulfed by the fiery sweet nectar of lavender. Divided into three sections, Lavender Is A Boring Color takes the reader through the turbulence of life-questioning thoughts and reflective healing. This is his first book of poetry.

Life is full of second chances.

Some of the most memorable poems were the ones that explored how relationships can be affected by mental illness. “A Somber Sky of Aurora Lights” was one of the best examples of this in my opinion. Part of it was dedicated to the speaker’s relationship with a woman who was as dark, gloomy, and beautiful as an aurora borealis against a cloudy night sky. Interspersed with these descriptions were allusions to how her deep, unrelenting sadness was forever changing their relationship. It’s important to remember who a person is beyond their illness, but it’s also a good idea to recognize how diseases like depression can affect not only the person suffering from them but also everyone who cares about that individual.

It would have been helpful if some of these poems had gone into more detail. “Please Find Us in Me and Our Alternate Universe” was one such example of this. No sooner had the narrator described the overwhelming thoughts of the character in this poem than the whole thing was finished without much of a resolution. As much as I appreciated Mr. Black’s brevity when he had a quick thought or image or share, I would have loved to see him dive even more deeply into what it feels like to go through a day with the heavy thoughts that often roll around in his head. This is something I’m sharing as someone who has struggled with many of the same things he has. While I was able to make educated guesses about what he left unsaid, readers who don’t have this same personal experience with the subject might not be able to do the same. My hope is that his next book will do just that as I’m quite curious to read more from him.

I resonated with the descriptions of what it’s like to have anxiety and depression. There were far too many examples of this to list as almost the entire collection fit into here in some way. Those diagnoses can make even simple tasks feel insurmountable and can also wildly distort the way one thinks about oneself and their relationships with others. As someone I know once said, depression lies. Not every frightening thought the human mind comes up with has any basis whatsoever in the truth.

Lavender is a Boring Color was thoughtful.

Gratitude: A Way of Life by Louise Hay


Gratitude: A Way of Life by Louise Hay
Publisher: Hay House
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-Help, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

New York Times bestseller, Louise Hay, has gathered the insights and collected wisdom of some of the most wonderful teachers and writers she knows…people who have demonstrated the power of gratitude in their own lives.

Gratitude is an inspirational book meant to highlight all the wonderful things in your life to be grateful for.

Renowned contributors share their understanding of the practice of gratitude with Louise… and with you. Including:

• Dr Wayne W. Dyer: “Gratitude: One of Life’s Miracles”
• Dan Millman: “Transcendental Gratitude”
• Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.: “Gratitude: A State of Mind”
• Amy E. Dean: “Gratitude Is Awareness”
• Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.: “Noticing the Abundance”…and many more!

If you need a pick-me-up, then this might be the book for you.

Gratitude is the thing you need when you’re down. It sounds odd, but it’s true. Be grateful for all the things you have and even the things you don’t have. Maybe there are terrible things happening in your life. This book helped to open my eyes that sometimes the terrible things are gateways to better things. It’s true. Be grateful for what you have and you’ll see you have a lot.

There are little essays and this ventures into the inspirational at times. It’s good. It works. Give it a try. The dose of positive will help.

If you’re looking for something positive to give you a lift, then give this book a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Hound for the Holidays by Kim Levin and John O’Neill


Hound for the Holidays by Kim Levin and John O’Neill
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Genre: Photography, Non-Fiction, Holiday
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

“This holiday season, let’s remember the things that really matter.” So begins Kim Levin and John O’Neill’s Hound for the Holidays a warm reminder from man (and woman’s) best friend to hold loved ones dear at this special time of the year.

The holidays (like dogs) are all about sharing, unconditional love, and enjoying the moment, but sometimes, with the hubbub of shopping, open houses, family gatherings, and parties, it’s easy to lose that holiday spirit.

So who better to put the “happy” back in holidays than a cast of dogs celebrating the season? Whether they are two pooches window-shopping, an urbane Jack Russell on a trip to the big city, or a German Shepherd catching snowflakes on his tongue, the dogs in these charming photos all deliver the message “Enjoy!”

Pet portrait artist Kim Levin’s striking and expressive photos pair perfectly with John O’Neill’s warm and upbeat words to make a great holiday treat.

A cute book for the holiday season.

I picked up this book because it was cute and had dogs. I mean, how can you go wrong? The photos are great and make the season bright. The little captions fit the photos perfectly, too. This is a short book, but worth the read. This is a great book as a gift or to share with family over the holidays.

If you want something warm and fuzzy this holiday season, then this is a must read for you!

Hello Around the World by Sindhu Narasimhan


Hello Around the World by Sindhu Narasimhan
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Non-Fiction, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Hello Around the World: Learn to Say Hello in 20 Languages – A Practical Guide with Pronunciation, Flags, and Traditional Dress for Kids Across Cultures” offers an immersive learning experience for children aged 2-6. This paperback book is designed to open young minds to the richness of global cultures and the power of simple greetings.

Saying hello can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I appreciated the pronunciation guides for saying hello in all of these different languages. It made it easy to sound them out and practice this greeting with all of the characters I met in this picture book. I was surprised by how many syllables are required for this greeting in some languages as well as how similar some of the answers were depending on which parts of the world they came from and how closely related they were to similar tongues. What a fun discovery that was!

It would have been nice if the children’s names were given the same treatment. While I already knew how to pronounce some of them, others weren’t so familiar to me. Knowing someone’s name is such an important part of socializing and learning about other cultures, so I wish there had been some assistance here as well. I would have chosen a higher rating if this had been included.

This little book was the perfect length for toddlers or young preschoolers. Those aren’t always easy ages to write for by any means, so I commend the author for condensing his messages about kindness, inclusion, and learning small pieces of new languages down to something that can be read in a few short minutes and adapted to even the shortest attention spans. What a good job he did with that. I look forward to seeing what he might come up with next.

Hello Around the World made me smile.

2024… Your Year of More by Noah William Smith


strong>2024… Your Year of More by Noah William Smith
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

ELEVATE YOUR LIFE WITH THIS UNIQUE SELF-HELP NEW RELEASE

2024… Your Year of More is your go-to book to set goals and mindfully invest your efforts. It appeals to adults of all ages, nationalities, and backgrounds who wish to improve their lives. Its pages are packed with something special for everyone.

The pages contain practical ideas from A to Z, thought-provoking questions, and self-reflective exercises that inspire you to live your best life.

The book is an ideal companion during your moments of solitude. You can read it in the early morning before the rest of the world wakes up or during the evenings after a long day. You may also find it enjoyable while writing in your journal or taking a lunch break.

Enthusiastic indie author Noah William Smith knows the blessings and challenges of intelligence, creativity, high sensitivity and being a minority, underdog and outsider. While his books are based on his experiences, they offer valuable insights without being prescriptive or offering advice.

The book’s authenticity and invaluable insights make it a compelling read that will remain relevant for many years!

Are you considering investing in yourself or searching for the perfect gift for someone special? 2024… Your Year of More is a life-changing book that you cannot afford to miss!

The new year is a fabulous time to turn over a new leaf.

This was a gentle look at self-improvement that included plenty of tips for self-care and for determining if the things you might have wanted in 2023 (or 2013 or 2003!) still resonate with you today. Incremental changes over time are often the most effective way to begin any sort of new habit or lifestyle change, so it was nice to be reminded regularly to be kind to myself and to focus on small steps one at a time instead of trying to drastically change everything at once.

The repetition made it difficult for me to remain interested in reading this at times. Every section began with an anecdote or two from the author’s life before diving into the same series of questions about goals the reader might want to set in three-month increments in 2024. I must admit that due to this I felt the urge to skip ahead to sections that appealed to me more, although I did read the entire thing in order.

One of the things I appreciated most about this book was how much it could be customized. It made few if any assumptions about the ages, backgrounds, or values of the people who will read it. This meant that nearly ever section could apply to anyone in any stage of life from being a student to being retired. The few that were more specific could still easily be altered for people who are disabled, stay-at-home parents, otherwise out of the workforce, working multiple jobs or long hours, or who feel out of step with most other adults for any other reason. There is definitely something to be said for making goal setting so accessible to anyone who wants to change a few things in their lives next year!

2024… Your Year of More was a thought-provoking look at how to make goal setting easier for everyone.