Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology by Chila Woychik

Reviewed by Teri Takle

Many people write about the events in their daily life and the thoughts that make it memorable. Daily record keeping is unnecessary, but every few days is needed to view what we have enjoyed in our little snippets in the back of our minds.

Depending upon where you live, life is different. If you live in a large city, it is busy, crowded, noisy, and many residents thrive upon that lifestyle.

For some of us, we live in Iowa, one of those fly-over states. We thrive in the quiet life of the country, or a small town, or even a large city.

For the author, Chila Woychik, she adores her life on her farm with her husband in the beauty and joy of nature in Iowa.

January 21

“First snows, like first loves, leave one panting for breath.”

January 31

“Iowa is nothing in winter, but endless roads slick with lonesome.”

How can these two entries be written just ten days apart? The answer is Iowa. The first draws the reader inside the beauty, silence, and complete awe of the first snow. The second reflects the days of hard work, shoveling, and the constant slipping and falling on the ice.

Another author, Stephanie E. Dickinson, is also an Iowa native. In her foreword to Chila Woychik’s chronology, she reveals her love of the people and the way of life in Iowa. She also beautifully reflects about her childhood memories in Iowa.

The Future of Leadership in the Age of AI: Preparing Your Leadership Skills for the AI-Shaped Future of Work by Marin Ivezic and Luka Ivezic

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Are you ready for the next revolution? Few people are. But the good news is that it is not too late to prepare yourself. And The Future of Leadership in the Age of AI by Marin Ivezic and Luka Ivezic proves to be a great boot camp for what is to come.

It is a book that encompasses the past, present, and future in order to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of a phenomenon. The revolution that is to come. Or is it already here? While it might seem like a more or less far-fetched futuristic topic, it is not so. AI is already part of our world. The reason why this might be hard to notice, for some, is that it is so well integrated in our everyday life.

In order to determine The Future of Leadership in the Age of AI, we must first turn to the past. Marin Ivezic and Luka Ivezic will start by walking the reader through the first three Industrial Revolutions, only to set the foundation for the fourth because this will most likely have an exponentially bigger impact than all its predecessors. However, any one of us can act in order to ease this (unavoidable) transition and ensure that we will not be swept away.

New Yorkers: A Feisty People Who Will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish You by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

When it comes to New York City, its dynamic environ and multicultural fusion of distinctive inhabitants, author Clifford Browder focuses his keen literary eye on his life and experiences as a seasoned resident there, as well as providing glimpses of the eclectic history of the city in his recent work, New Yorkers: A Feisty People Who will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish You. Moreover, being no stranger to using the backdrop of New York as a setting for his previously published books, including a series set in nineteenth-century New York, titled Metropolis, author Browder once again provides an intriguing exploration of a very culturally distinctive locale.

Moreover, this is not your typical cut and dry biography, providing dry facts; instead, the read is a heartfelt memoir of a man and the city he lives, loves, survives and works in. The narrative keeps you rapt in its pages with a winning combination of information gleaned from Mr. Browder’s unique standpoint, research, and experiences from his many years as a resident. Consequently, author Browder does well with transfixing the mental eye with descriptions of his life as a longtime resident, including historical glimpses and insider tidbits of the better-known aspects of New York as well as the lesser-known and even the obscure.

Endless Incarnation Sorrows: A Spiritual Odyssey of Mortal Imprints on Earth by Lucia Mann

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Endless Incarnation Sorrows is a daring literary feat of an intergenerational tale that closely follows a soul across its rebirths. Triggered by true events, Lucia Mann shares her personal insights into what was and what might come to be. Following repeated resuscitations, she starts un-forgetting her previous selves. Thus many seemingly disconnected lives scattered across time and space are connected by an invisible string that pulsates throughout the pages of the book. Lucia Mann takes us on an inspirational inward journey, by unveiling the darkest corners of her past and present.

One of the features that makes the read stand out is how gripping all the characters are. Since, the main players shift between the scenes of this play of life, the reader has a narrow window of opportunity to become emotionally invested. Yet, Lucia Mann successfully outlines convincing and enticing personages that faithfully act out their destiny in front of our eyes. And through these harsh lives we can see and to a certain extent even feel some of the hardships that plagued humanity and continue to do so. The first incarnation, Lala bares the burden of her parents’ incest and her desert exile ends in enslavement; Lyveva surpasses her victim status branded upon her by Vikings to become a healer; Lucja experiences the lowest and highest of humanity within the Auschwitz fences.

The sands of time uncover various taboo subjects, ushered away by our consciousness, such sensible subjects that we would much rather turn a blind eye to. While these practices are presented in a contextual fashion, as an integral part of a certain period in history, some survived into our present under various forms, themselves being subjected to a string of reincarnations. Behind the front narrative of survival and redemption of a lost soul, there is a strong underlying outcry for the incarnation of social practices that embrace numerous souls.

All in all, Endless Incarnation Sorrows is hard to put down; there is always an immediate sense of peril or surprise on the next page. While, the subject and the writing style makes the read appealing to a wide audience, there are some details that steer the direction toward an adult or young adult group. Lucia Mann does not shy away from topics that are now deemed taboo and this piercing truthfulness might just be the secret ingredient that keeps the reader on this magically painful and eye-opening journey that the author initiates.

Learning to Quit: How to stop Smoking and Live Nicotine Free by Suzanne Harris and Paul Brunetta

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Often easier said than done, quitting smoking can be one of the more daunting experiences that someone can face in life and while there is an abundance of guides on the market, it may seem like when you have read one, you read them all. However, within the text of Learning to Quit: How to stop Smoking and Live Nicotine Free, readers/potential quitters become empowered by virtue of its expert authors, encouraging tone, motivational success stories, a bevy of resources and easy to manage exercises. Co-authored by Suzanne Harris R.N. and Paul Brunetta MD, this book is more than just another guide to quitting smoking; it is more like the bible for quitting smoking.

Overall, the book presents a full-spectrum view of the multilayered and quietly intimate process of taking back your life from smoking. Both well-written and thoroughly organized, the book text is divided into two halves; the first half of which explores and delves deeply into an intriguing series of questions concerning smoking which also are the same questions that smokers looking to quit should challenge themselves with answering; for example, Chapter 1 queries “What Moves You to be a Non-Smoker? ” followed by an overview of the issue and original documented experiences told from the experiences of several past patients. The connection to their struggles comes easily as their stories ring as relatable, candid, and insightful with the ultimate outcome of their eventual successes bearing a gift of motivation.

Also, there are included pictures of the patients which adds an additional dimension of realism to their included testimonies. Each chapter ends with a reiteration of key points, action steps and also includes a space for personal notes. Additionally, within this half of the book, Chapters 9 and 10, amply provide a blueprint to be implemented for embarking on your personal smoking cessation sojourn.

Consequently, as a whole Learning to Quit: How to Stop Smoking and Live Nicotine Free brims with inspiration and powerfully important information presented in an attention-grabbing multi -perspective view of a life-threatening habit that to some (myself included) seems almost impossible to overcome. Entirely, this was not only an intriguing read but a necessary read for any smoker period. As you move through the content, your mindset becomes altered as you stop and take pause while wallowing in the fact that when you smoke, you have lost authority over yourself, your life and your health. Anytime is a good time to start taking it back, as a matter of fact, the sooner the better as proven by the many success stories within the book, including the authors. One aspect of the book that I found particularly interesting was the poignant look at the difference between fear-based and desire-based motivation. Also, the authors offer access to a multitude of helpful resources through their website Learningtoquit.com. Ultimately, this book is a must-have for anyone thinking about or determined to quit. It is an eye-opening and mind-altering call to take back your power.

Kensington: A Memoir About Friendship, Love and Life in a Small Town by Robert Haydon

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Kensington: a memoir about friendship, love, and life in a small town is a fascinating recollection of Robert Haydon’s life in the 40’s and 50’s that also includes enthralling ancestral stories along with entertaining anecdotes involving animals. Haydon’s family moved from Kensington, Maryland, to Dallas, Texas, in 1957. Haydon not only shares some of his unforgettable memories of Kensington through engrossing stories but also writes about the tough scenario the family faced that prompted the move to Dallas. During Haydon’s teen years in Dallas, music became an important part of his life, especially after he met Steve Miller, a fellow classmate, who shared his love of music. This friendship led to the formation of a band that included other fellow classmates, and the group named themselves “The Marksmen Combo.” This was the beginning of Haydon’s performing career, which brought him into contact with some of the greatest musicians of all time, who are mentioned in the book.

This memoir grabs readers’ attention from the very beginning with the wonderfully written prologue that sets up the story, which is told in the stylistic tradition of a novel. The Haydon and Mann families joined together through marriage and had different outlooks on life. The Haydon’s led a rural lifestyle, whereas the Mann were city folks. Haydon shares intriguing snippets about his ancestors along with more specific details about the lives of his grandparents and immediate family members. Pivotal and historical events in the lives of both families that are touched on by Haydon connect with readers’ emotions. Haydon also uses vivid, sensory details along with realistic dialogue to draw readers in and keep them invested in continuing to turn the pages. The black and white photographs sprinkled throughout the book not only help legitimize the story but also help readers visualize the people that are an inherent part of it and the places where events have taken place.

Haydon does an excellent job of using anecdotes that pull readers into the heartaches and celebratory moments experienced by individuals in this well-researched narrative that also provides readers with opportunities to form their own opinions about some of the material presented in this historical account. The honest and genuine telling of moments and events that encompass family and friends will appeal to readers, especially anyone who is interested in influential rock music icons and a real insight into what it was like growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. Kensington is an enjoyable, moving, and enlightening memoir that covers historical junctures and personal incidents of a time period in history that was far different than today’s culture.

Geraldina & the Compass Rose: One Woman’s Faith-Filled Journey To Find Love by Geraldine Brown Giomblanco

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Geraldine Brown Giomblanco’s compelling memoir Geraldina & the Compass Rose is an inspirational read that prompts to self-reflection and action. By telling her story in a most candid way, the book outgrows just one person and gradually reveals its reflective surface in which the reader’s own psyche is mirrored.

The novel closely follows the life of a woman along the major spheres of her life: faith, family, career, and love. Throughout the pages, Geri skillfully tries to find balance between all these which proves to be far from an easy task. However, even in the darkest hours, at least one thing remains constant and safely guides her through hardships – a strong devotion that springs from her beloved Grandmother. When least expected, but most needed, subtle divine interventions illuminate the right path.

Geri is a big personality who does not hesitate to rely on wits and instinct to propel her through career and guide her through personal matters. Even so, she is constantly reminded that the road to success is not easy. Often enough she hits the stop button and gathers all strength to restart hoping for a better outcome. The final payoff is well worth it, as she grows ever closer to her aspiration. After flicking through a magazine an image made a great impact on her and it served as a personification of a successful business woman. Striving to grow into that glossy image, she ends up becoming much more. Behind the aesthetics hides a savvy business brain and the courage to break the mold.

Beyond the ups and downs, Geri’s career seems to have a general upward trend, something that cannot easily be said about her love life. She seems to be a lucky love charm to many of her friends at playing a hand in matching them up with a Mister Right but she is having trouble finding the same kind of luck. Geraldine Brown Giomblanco takes us behind closed curtains and reveals some of her most intimate thoughts and actions in a frank and considerate tone. She does not shy away from hurt and heartache nor from passion and blind love. Trying to balance emotions and rationality in romance is a challenging task, but she relies on both in trying to undo some of the more difficult relationships.

All in all, it is Geraldine Brown Giomblanco’s honesty and courage to unravel her life story that makes the novel so appealing. Whether it is in the big picture or the smallest of details, certainly every reader will find a piece of herself or himself in the pages of the author’s life.

Surviving the Survivors: A Memoir by Ruth Klein

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Surviving the Survivors: A Memoir is a heart-wrenching life story that will touch readers in deep, emotional ways. Ruth Klein is a second-generation survivor of the Holocaust, and she candidly shares the story of her turbulent childhood in a brutally honest way. Ruth was born in a displaced persons camp in Europe, and the family emigrated to the United States when Ruth was a toddler. A number of factors affected the Klein family and made it far more challenging for the household members to integrate themselves not only into American life but also into a cohesive and loving family. Things such as the psychological trauma that haunted Ruth’s parents because of the Holocaust, the post-war treatment of Jewish refugees, the difficult transition to a new country that included poor living conditions and social rejection, and their father’s struggles with mental health problems.

The Four Hats of Leadership: Be Who Your People Need You to Be by Drake E. Taylor

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Drake E. Taylor, an officer in the United States Air Force, advocates four types of hats that will help individuals become effective and successful leaders. The Preface is an excellent tool for drawing readers into The Four Hats of Leadership: Be Who Your People Need You to Be. The four types of hats are The Farmer’s Hat, The Drill Instructor’s Hat, The Psychologist’s Hat, and The Self-Care Hat. Taylor does an excellent job of providing an analogy between a farmer’s job and that of leading a team of people, describing the role of when it is appropriate to use the drill instructor’s hat in a civilian environment, the value of the psychologist hat and ways to help people with their emotional well-being, and the importance of the self-care hat for a leader’s mental health.

Debt Cleanse: How to Settle Your Unaffordable Debts for Pennies on the Dollar (And Not Pay Some at All) by Jorge P. Newbery (Review #2)

Reviewed by Chris Phillips

According to the author and company that this book is basically an advertisement for, www.debtcleanse.com, Americans have been duped by creditors, credit card companies and other corporate entities into carrying on several self-serving relationships based on long-term or extensive term debt.

Mr. Newbery narrates the story of his problems when an unexpected natural disaster turned his business and enterprises into huge debts. He went from successful to broke and owning $26 million in debt in the matter of a few days following an ice storm. Instead of following the way of many in America, from the poorest to the wealthiest, he did not choose bankruptcy. He made the decision to not pay his debts, any of them.