Recent news and reviews . . . from and about Upper Access Books

This is a page where we occasionally post new reviews of our titles and other news about our tiny publishing house. We err on the side of including the full reviews rather than just the typical short excerpts, and events that may be important to our immediate friends.

First--a blatant but absolutely accurate plug for Henri de Marne's terriic blog site, which is published by Upper Access:

Editing Made Easy reviews

Editing Made Easy Cover


(Reviewer: Stacey Rae Brownlie, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA)

In this U.S. edition of his Australian book of the same title, longtime newspaper editor Kaplan offers no-frills advice to self-editors. He stresses the value of writers who know how to edit their own work. His approach is similar to Bruce Ross-Larson's Edit Yourself. In 37 short chapters, Kaplan covers most thorny writing difficulties, such as split infinitives, tautologies, and misplaced modifiers. This is a book with lots of lists and white space: it would seem just as well suited to use in a digital format as in the traditional print version. The book's portability and its low price make it especially useful for college students and bloggers. VERDICT This affordable, bare-bones guide will appeal to writers (and others who have to write)—especially those who like referring to a handy list of do's and don'ts.


(The Writing/Publishing Shelf)

It is rare that even an experienced and successful author has not needed the services of an editor. In "Editing Made Easy: Simple Rules for Effective Writing," Bruce Kaplan draws upon his more than forty years of professional experience and expertise as a newspaper copy editor and an editorial trainer to create a succinct, thoroughly 'user friendly,' 112-page compendium of instruction, information, commentary, examples, and techniques for editing a manuscript to make the writing energized, engaging, and just plain better. "Editing Made Easy" lays out common errors of grammar and spelling; reveals how best to avoid typographical and factual errors; become informed as to the diverse styles of print and the varied online media. One of the principal reasons for the novice author to give "Editing Made Easy" a careful reading is to substantially improve their chances of having their manuscripts published, and as published books have them achieve a marketplace success. Covering the rules and conventions of American English, "Editing Made Easy" is informed, informative, and highly recommended for both personal reference shelves and community library Writing/Publishing instructional collections.

Final Rights reviews

Final Rights Cover

Numerous rave reviews have com in for Final Rights. Here are a few:


(Reviewer: Joan Pedzich, Harris Beach PLLC, Rochester, NY)

Slocum (executive director, Funeral Consumers Alliance) and Carlson (executive director, Funeral Ethics Organization) offer a guide intended to prepare consumers to deal with what the authors claim is a deceptive and greedy funeral services industry. They look at the components of burying the dead, including choosing caskets and markers, dealing with cemeteries and funeral homes, understanding pre-need funeral purchases, and new and revived trends such as home funerals and green funerals. They offer numerous real-life examples of manipulation and questionable practices and provide tips for consumers to help avoid rip-offs, such as misleading perpetual-care arrangements and exorbitant embalming costs. There is practical advice on filing a complaint when wronged by the industry and a cautionary chapter on the Federal Trade Commission and what the authors see as its failure to enforce its own consumer protection rules.

VERDICT This book is a boon for those looking to simplify and personalize caring for the dead. The inclusion of a compilation of each state's funeral laws, including statutory citations and guidance for those investigating home funerals and burials and body donation, make this an essential purchase for consumer-protection collections.


(Reviewer: Pam Vetter)

Every approach to dealing with death is different because it's an individual choice. In today's world, there are a variety of options in funeral service. Knowing your legal rights in making those funeral arrangements or handling those funeral arrangements yourself is vitally important to the process. "Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death," written by authors Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson, is the most important resource book to guide you through the funeral process state-by-state.

In my years of experience as a Funeral Celebrant, the more hands-on a family is in their involvement in the funeral planning process and the resulting funeral service, the more healing the experience. If that means the family wants to make their own memorial folders, help dress the body or simply comb grandma's hair for that final day, then so be it. That last personal act of kindness and love, whether big or small, may be what the family needs to start healing. Imagine taking that personal approach further and eliminating the funeral home's involvement completely. Whatever the request, the family should be allowed to do it but there are limits as to what a family can legally do in some states. Maneuvering those requirements can be challenging in certain states. Answering the need, "Final Rights" details the legalities of what you can do in the process of dealing with the dead. With the most recent research, the authors have managed to provide a road map of legalities to funeral service inside and outside of using a funeral home. As a result, it's a fabulous, fascinating read.

I especially appreciated that in the preface both authors shared their own experiences in dealing with death, dying and questioning the funeral industry to emphasize the importance of doing things your intended way. With my own personal experience, I can stress that if you don't do what you need to do in the process of a loved one's funeral, it may haunt you for the rest of your life. There are no do-overs in funeral service. If grandma didn't want to be embalmed and you feel coerced into embalming her, you can't un-embalm her after it's done. With the help of this book, it reminds everyone to get funeral wishes in order, plan accordingly, ask questions, and follow-through on the plan.


Not much has changed in the decades since Jessica Mitford stunned America with her vivid description of deception and abuse in the death industry. Families are still exploited financially at a time of intense grief. They are charged thousands of dollars for goods and services they may not want or need. Prepaid funeral money disappears into thin air. Body parts are sold on the black market. In eight states, families are denied the healing that can come from greater personal involvement in caring for their own dead. And some in the industry are working to diminish consumer rights even further. But a funeral consumer movement is now rapidly awakening ... The authors of this book are the most prominent leaders of that movement. Both Slocum and Carlson have a long history of proposing reforms and testifying on behalf of consumers before legislatures and other government bodies. They are widely sought by journalists as leading experts on all funeral issues. In this book, they join forces, to tell consumers how they can take back their own rights under existing law and to propose legal changes for the benefit of all American Consumers.


Death has been stripping people of the dignity it once had, thanks to profiteers seeing your corpse as a dollar sign. "Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death" delves into the death industry and its exploitation of grieving families. Stating that one can control and fight this exploitation before they passed on, or encouraging funeral processions outside of a funeral home, Joshua Slocum & Lisa Carlson provide intellectual approach to the grieving process so one doesn't have to mourn their money as well as their loved one. "Final Rights" is a must for anyone who wants to be prepared for the unfortunate.


Like Jessica Mitford's "American Way of Death," "Final rights" deals with the industry that has evolved aroound our culture's reluctance to face theimmutable fact of our deaths and what to do with "the remains."

Written by the current and former executive directors of Funeral Consumers Alliance national office, "Final Rights" details in frequently polemic style methods of the funeral industry to increase profit. . . . The authors report many examples of funeral directors misinforming survivors that embalming is required by law and is necessary to prevent disease, despite the Federal Trade Commission specifically citing these practices as deceptive. Calling the FTC "a fickle ally," the authors scathingly condemn the agency's lack of enforcement of the Funeral Rule, since 1986 the only federal regulation dealing with funeral consumers' rights.

State-by-state chapters on laws regulating what happens after death outline what consumers need to know to deal with the funeral industry or, if they choose, how to legally manage their own services.

Reviews of True North

True North has also received uniformly favorable reviews so far. The following are reproduced in full, with permission from their publishers.


True North: Journeys into the Great Northern Ocean Myron Arms. Upper Access (, $16.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-942679-33-5

Veteran sailor Arms (Servants of the Fish) writes a notable collection of essays of the sea and sailing in the far reaches of the Great Northern Ocean, braving the frigid waters and dodging the dangerous ice fields. His trusty boat, Brendan's Isle, and his sturdy crew, which includes his youngest son, Steve, move through these cold crossings with few perilous incidents , maintaining watch and the standard sea responsibilities. Arms's narrative is rich, descriptive, almost poetic, and full of voyaging on the water as he journeys along the fiords of northern Labrador to western Greenland and among the fishing villages of the Faroe Isles. Much more than a slight travelogue, the book hits its stride when Arms cautions against "expanding human waste, changing atmosphere chemistry, disappearing species, rising sea surface temperatures, thinning sea ice, and melting glaciers." (Jan.)

©2009 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

(Reviewer: Meredith Laitos)

After lifelong sailor Myron Arms finished building his 50-ft cutter, he set off to the northern seas in search of adventure. Over the next two and a half decades he found isolated cultures, new companions, harsh weather and an enchanting pilgrimage that took him on the route of an ancient Irish warrior, Saint Brendan. Written as a series of 16 personal esseays, True North will leave you entranced with its tales of ice, mystery and hardship on some of the world's most challenging waters.

(Reviewer: Micah Andrews)

The northern seas were never meant to be lived upon by humanity, but that never stops some people. "True North: Journeys Into the Great Northern Ocean" tells the story of life in the northern seas from Myron Arms as he reflects on his times in the northern Atlantic through essays on his adventures. A new perspective on ocean life and the arctic circle, "True North" is an entertaining and intriguing read that should not be ignored.

(Reviewer: Carol Standish)

True North is the latest in the slight but remarkable oeuvre of Myron Arms. Teacher, sailor, explorer, writer, his previous work includes Riddle of the Ice (1998), Cathedral of the World (2000), and Servants of the Fish (2004). I am embarrassed to admit that I have read none of these books. Considering the length and breadth of my reading on marine subjects, how they escaped me is a mystery. However, if you are in my regrettable state, True North is a perfect introduction to Arms’ work.

The sixteen personal essays in this book describe just a few of Arms’ sailing experiences in the northern ocean on his 50’ ocean cutter, Brendan’s Isle. In the first essay he recalls his first cruise in the almost completed boat. It is 1983. With his wife, Kay, he sails to New England and back to their home port on the Chesapeake..a modest journey. He then explains, “Brendan’s sailing plans for the next two years began with a high-latitude crossing of the North Atlantic,…past the banks of Newfoundland, across ‘ice berg alley’…past the southern capes of Greenland and Iceland and on toward the coasts of northwestern Europe…Her first landfall, some twenty-three days and three thousand nautical miles after leaving the Chesapeake Bay was in the Faroe Isles, a mountainous archipelago several hundred miles east of Iceland and almost the same distance north of Scotland.”

The ambitious itinerary gives you an indication of the breadth of Arms’ preferred cruising grounds as well as his curiosity. But he wasn’t just cruising and he wasn’t just curious. A high school teacher in the 1970s, he traded in the classroom for his first blue water boat and founded (and led) a program of “sea learning” experiences. As a licensed Coast Guard ocean master, he sailed with hundreds of teenagers for the next five years. While aboard, they conducted a variety of scientific experiments. “The teacher was the sea…It was the beginning, really, of my own emerging awareness of the stresses being suffered by virtually all of the world's marine environments,” explains the author on his website.

As the essays follow the journeys of Brendan’s Isle over the years, scientific information and analysis becomes more of a narrative focus than the more simple pleasures of the beauty of the physical world and the exhilaration of sailing. With this focus, the text becomes more engrossing, the journey more unique and urgent and ages of the crews grow up--from high-school-ers to young adult “sail-trainees.” What they discover over the course of more than twenty years is that in an environment that at first seems huge, fierce and implacable is as vulnerable as an alpine flower.

“Milk Sea” is a good example. About midway through the book, Brendan’s Isle encounters a strange phenomenon about four hundred miles south of Reykjavik, Iceland. Arms quotes from the ship’s log, “…the familiar gray-green color of the ocean surface has been transformed. Now everywhere we look the water has taken on a bright turquoise color, as if we were sailing over a shallow bank of sand,” adding detail in the book. “The brilliant turquoise color seemed to glow with an interior light. The breaking white crests spilled down the faces of following seas like whipped cream.”

The phenomenon remained a mystery until ten years later when Arms was reading about data being gathered by early Earth-observing satellites. He tracks down one of the researchers and describes the “bloom.” The rest of the essay explains the mystery and examines potential consequences. But you’ll have to read the essay to find the answer and, and in the bargain, treat yourself to the pleasure of the author’s elegance of thought and phrase. The good news is that are three more Arms books to be enlightened by and enjoyed in the process.


("Books for Grownups" column, prepared jointly with the editors of Publishers Weekly)

Veteran sailor Arms (Servants of the Fish) delivers a richly descriptive, almost poetic collection of essays about sailing up and down fiords from northern Labrador to western Greenland and among the fishing villages of the Faroe Isles. The sturdy crew of his trusty boat, Brendan's Isle, included his youngest son, Steve.

Why the Wind Blows, Japanese EditionJapanese Publisher Translates Why the Wind Blows

A major Japanese publisher, Kajima Shuppankai, has issued its edition of Why the Wind Blows: A History of Weather and Global Warming.  The book is published in the US by Upper Access, Inc., Book Publishers.

The book, written by Matthys Levy, re-tells stories of historical events influenced by the weather—and, in the process, educates the reader on the science of weather. The narrative leads up to our current crisis, global warming, cutting through some of the public confusion about that subject by helping the reader to understand the causes, effects, and challenges posed by global warming.

The Kajima edition is a direct translation of the Upper Access title, including all of the graphics and cover design by Vermont artists Kitty Werner and Sue Storey.

This is the latest of Levy's series of books that provide a painless education on complex scientific subjects through story-telling. He is best known for the books Why Buildings Fall Down, Structural Design in Architecture, Why the Earth Quakes, Earthquake Games, and Engineering the City.

Kajima also published the Japanese edition of Levy's best-seller Why Buildings Fall Down. Its success with that title made it a logical choice for the Japanese edition of Levy's newer book, according to Upper Access Publisher Steve Carlson.

Carlson steps back role with IPNE

Upper Access Publisher Steve Carlson recently stepped down as interim executive director of Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE), the professional trade association representing publishers throughout the six New England states. The board chose as his successor Dan Nigloschy, described by Carlson as "more than capable of leading IPNE at this crucial time in its growth."

IPNE is going through a growth spurt. "The nature of publishing is changing dramatically, particularly as a result of e-books and other electronic media," Carlson noted. "This has made it more important than ever before for independents to band together for networking and continuing education. During tough economic times, trade groups typically dwindle, but I'm proud to say that IPNE is gaining in membership and influence."

Carlson has been a member of IPNE for several years. He served as president before stepping down to take on the position of executive director, when the position was vacant and the board needed time to conduct a search for the ideal candidate.

"I think the board was surprised by the field of candidates for this position," Carlson commented. "At least six candidates were more than qualified. That's the kind of problem we hoped for, but it was still difficult to say 'no' to several people who clearly would have also been ready and able to assume leadership of our organization."

Carlson has also served four years as a member of the board of directors of the national book-trade group, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA, formerly PMA). He co-founded Upper Access in 1986 along with his wife, Lisa, and has been active in the small-press movement ever since.


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