Book reviews: Taking action

One book examines joy in one’s life and another looks at the evil wrought by racists


This week’s column offers reviews of two startlingly different books. The first suggests simple practices to revive joy in people’s lives. The second is a thriller in which the villains are white supremacists.

Spiritual Ecology: 10 Practices to reawaken the Sacred in Everyday Life

Often, it’s the little things that make a big difference, or in this case, 10 simple practices offered by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee and Hilary Hart, who follow the Sufi path.

Vaughan-Lee writes thoughtful, but not ponderous or preachy explorations about these 10 topics while Hart supplies accompanying exercises to help readers engage.

A bit of background on the co-authors: Vaughan-Lee, who lives in California, is a Sufi teacher and author of several books. Hart, who is a Taos resident, has written books about mysticism with an emphasis on the feminine consciousness.

The 10 practices range from walking to “meaning and the sacred.”

Vaughan-Lee explains, “These are simple practices of returning to the sacred in everyday life. They are not specifically Sufi practices, though they have been influenced by the love and awareness that are part of the Sufi path.”

So, in the first chapter, Vaughan-Lee writes about walking early in the morning while trying to be as “empty” as possible. “Here the sacred speaks to me in its own language, and I try to listen.”

For her part, Hart offers suggestions of when and how to take this walk. Turn off the cellphone. Walk every day. “Walk without expectation, with an attitude of openness and gratitude.”

These simple practices are not earth-shattering revelations. But for many readers open to this small book’s message, they are gentle options for living life fully.

“Spiritual Ecology: 10 Practices to Reawaken the Sacred in Everyday Life” is a 100-page paperback published by The Golden Sufi Center. It costs $12.95.


James Tacy Cozad begins his thriller with the grisly discovery of a mutilated corpse in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, where the protagonist, Finn Dalton, and his buddy are hunting rabbits.

Later, one of Dalton’s dogs, which did what dogs are often prone to do, barfs up some of the dead man’s intestines, plus a piece of electronics and a cryptic written message. The plot thickens when Dalton learns his friend, who was going to contact law enforcement, gets blown up in his vehicle.

Then we’re off, as Dalton, a Dos Equis-chugging veteran who served in Iraq and works with cattlemen, gets drawn into circumstances beyond his control. That includes teaming up with Kiera Utsi, a special agent who nabs poachers for the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Here’s an example from Dalton: “I turned to face the highway and dug into the snow just moments before the concussion hit and debris sailed overhead. When it quieted, I stared at what was left of my home. Nothing. A hole in the ground. Another hole in my heart.”

The bad guys are a group of white supremacists, led by a man who made billions in pharmaceuticals. The racists aim to use an Ebola-derived bioweapon to wipe out anyone who isn’t white all in the guise of religion. They even conduct deadly experiments on their followers at a compound called New Israel.

Who are the followers? As Trish Van Arsdale, a CIA operative working undercover, notes, they’re just “angry white folk.” Van Arsdale is “engaged” to the man developing the biological weapon that would be spread worldwide on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Cozad plunks Dalton and Utsi — and Van Arsdale — into extreme danger. Sometimes it’s hard for them to know who’s trustworthy. There’s a bit of techie stuff, plus a connection to Los Alamos. Oh, the corpse belonged to an FBI agent who had also been undercover at New Israel.

I have two suggestions for the author. I felt he could have cut a large chunk, say 50 pages, from this 378-page novel without sacrificing any of the action. Likewise, I found the use of first person for Dalton’s sections and third person for the parts about New Israel disconcerting. My preference would have been third person throughout.

Still, fans of this genre, especially those set in New Mexico, will find Cozad keeps things moving in true thriller fashion.

This is a debut novel for Cozad, a Taos resident who has been an engineer, mathematics professor and carpenter.

“Stormfront” is a paperback published by Taos eBook Editions that costs $11.99.

Book signing

Taos author John Nichols will discuss and sign his latest book, “My Heart Belongs to Nature,” Saturday (May 20), 3-5 p.m. at Op.Cit Books-Taos, 124-A Bent St. Nichols’ book was reviewed in the March 30 column.

Joan Livingston is a writer and a reader living in Ranchos de Taos. For more information, visit