‘Behind Closed Doors’: the perfect marriage isn’t what it seems

behind doors

In “Behind Closed Doors” by B. A. Paris, the reader gets a glimpse into a perfect marriage. At least for the first few chapters. Grace seems to have it all — a very handsome, successful husband, a lovely home, a perfect figure, and the ability to cook flawless meals.

Told in alternating voices by Grace in the present and the past, readers slowly learn about how Grace first fell in love with Jack, and how Jack charmed Grace and her sister, Millie, who has Down’s Syndrome. Paris’ writing is also perfect — picture perfect in the carefully chosen words that only hint at first at the cruelty and malevolence that are slowly  revealed as the plot unfolds. Continue reading

‘Against All Silence: An SOS Thriller’ by E. C. Meyers

against all silence

“Against All Silence” by E. C. Meyers is the sequel to “The Silence of Six,” and both novels are young adult thrillers that will enthrall techie readers and non-techie readers alike.

In this sequel, main character Max Stein is just leaving Paris when he gets a message from his co-conspirator and sometimes-girlfriend Penny that he needs to go to Berlin. When he gets there, he becomes enmeshed in a global conspiracy that only he and Penny can bring down.

But when his ideals and Penny’s ideals part ways, what’s going to happen? Adaptive Books, the publisher, “…repurposes abandoned movie scripts into books” (according to Publisher’s Weekly) and in “Against All Silence,” as in “The Silence of Six,” one can visualize the non-stop action as if it were a movie. The action never ends, and Meyers includes several twists to make the story even more involving.  Continue reading

Sweet Baloo on the kill list for tomorrow


Volunteers at Rescue Me Tampa are begging for someone to help Baloo and seven other dogs who are all on the kill list for tomorrow in Tampa, Florida. The Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center is an open access county shelter, so when they run out of space, difficult decisions must be made.

Some of the dogs in danger are in isolation because they have an upper respiratory infection (URI), basically a doggy cold. Because space is extremely limited in the isolation wing, those dogs are killed when another dog needs their kennel. Baloo is going to die when his kennel is needed, unless someone steps up to adopt him or offer to foster him for ten days. Just a ten day foster, someone opening up their home for ten days, would save Baloo’s life.

True he would go back to the shelter and into a regular kennel, but he’d have more time and a better chance of getting adopted. The volunteers say that Baloo is very friendly and very rambunctious. That makes sense as he is only one year old — almost still a puppy!

Once Baloo ran a bit and was able to shake off the excess energy from being cooped up in a kennel, he lay next to the volunteer and relaxed. They said about him, “Awesome guy!” He may know basic obedience commands as he did sit on command.

There is more information on how to rescue Baloo on his Facebook thread. He is heartworm negative and ready to be adopted. He is ID#A1655846.

dogs in dangerFive other dogs, Thunderbird (ID#A1655477), Cooper (ID#A1651867), Bella, a small two-year-old bulldog mix, Becky (ID#A1653352) and Tiny (ID#A1653484), a one-year-old bloodhound mix, are also on the kill list.

To save Baloo’s life or any of the other dogs’ lives, you must send an email to the shelter by 9:00 am tomorrow morning. Email rescuepets@hillsboroughcounty.org and rescuemetampa@yahoo.com. Make the subject: DO NOT EUTH Baloo ID#A1655846. Include your contact information in the body of the email. You must be willing to pick him up by 3:00 pm.

They are at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, 440 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa, FL 33619. The phone number is 813-744-5660. The shelter is open daily from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Please note: Only comments that are respectful and profanity-free will be approved.

‘Sorrow Road’ by Julia Keller: Mystery continues Acker’s Gap story

sorrow roadJulia Keller’s “Sorrow Road” continues the story of Bell Elkins, the feisty, wise, strong-willed district attorney for Raythune County, and Acker’s Gap, where the county courthouse is and where Bell Elkins lives. It’s a small West Virginia town in the middle of coal country, and it’s where she grew up.

Bell is a charismatic protagonist, and Keller gives her great depth of character and great strength. But at the same time, Bell is vulnerable. She makes mistakes like the rest of us, and when it comes to mothering her now-adult daughter, she is as insecure about her decisions as anyone.

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Why are dogs still hidden at the old Miami-Dade shelter?

hex pic killed mdas

Hex, killed at this “no kill” shelter. Not aggressive, not in isolation. Why was he killed?

Why are dogs still hidden at the old Miami Dade Animal Services building? Why have they not made the move to the new, air conditioned building as the other dogs did? Why do those in charge refuse to give a list of dogs left at the old shelter or what their disposition will be? Volunteers fear the worst.

It’s been two-and-one-half months since Miami Dade Animal Services had their grand opening, replete with politicians and county employees grinning and showing off the new facility. However, what no one talked about were the dogs who were left in the heat at the old shelter. Those dogs had no way of being seen by the public. Some had pictures on PetHarbor, if people knew to look there. Others, like Olga, didn’t even merit a picture on her PetHarbor page. Olga entered the shelter system after the new shelter opened, but for some reason, she seems to have been stuck in the old shelter where there is no hope she will be seen or rescued. (See “Dog unavailable at new Miami shelter; is she at the old shelter and why?“)

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Dog unavailable at new Miami shelter; is she at the old shelter and why?


A beautiful dog, listed as a mastiff mix, arrived at Miami Dade Animal Services on June 17, 2016. Although the new shelter had been opened, somehow Olga ended up at the old shelter. Yesterday, August 19, that was confirmed by a poster on Facebook who wrote:

Just confirmed Olga is in old facility!

Volunteers are angry that although this dog — labeled by the veterinarian who treated her as “very sweet,” — has been at the shelter for over two months, she still does not even have a picture on her PetHarbor page.

And while her information is on PetHarbor without a picture, when a volunteer inquired about her, she was told that Olga is unavailable. The shelter email stated:

Good morning,

Thank you for showing interest in Olga (A1792731) she’s is currently unavailable now. A copy of your email will be noted in her profile. See attachment for medical.

Thank you,


Olga had arrived at the shelter very underweight. However, in two months she must have made progress and should be available for rescue at the minimum. There is interest in Olga. The shelter is not responding. Olga does not seem to be at the new shelter. The big question is: Why? Continue reading

Miami -Dade County to Chicago and loving homes: Four dogs’ stories

minni3 in cara

Minnie sleeps on the floor of the front seat on the trip to Chicago


When I planned a driving trip to Florida in July to visit two of the largest shelters in the state, feed dogs in the Redland area of Miami, and rescue three to four dogs, no one — least of all me — knew what we would be taking back with us to Chicago. A good friend — a retired teacher — who was very involved in cat rescue agreed to go with me on the journey.

Even a week before the trip, after the jugs of water had been purchased, after the crates had been set up in the minivan to make sure they fit, after the lists had been made, it was a question as to which dogs would be returning with us.

One lucky dog, Ebbe, had already been pulled from Miami Dade Animal Services. Sara, the ebbe adirabkeoffice manager for the veterinarian for Placing Paws Rescue of Libertyville (which was offering to sponsor the dogs), happened to see Ebbe’s picture online. Something about the picture tugged at Sara’s heartstrings. She showed Ebbe’s picture to Christie, one of the founders of Placing Paws of Libertyville, and said, “I’d love to foster this girl.” Then she realized that Ebbe was at Miami Dade Animal Services. “Oh, no. She’s in Florida,” Sara said, not realizing that one of the group’s foster families was planning the trip. Placing Paws said not to worry — they’d get Ebbe.

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‘How to Hang a Witch’ by Adriana Mather: Young adult witchy fantasy

how to hand

“How to Hang a Witch” by Adriana Mather is a fantasy tale of modern-day witchcraft, Salem, Massachusetts, and the effect history has on all of us. Mather feels a special connection to Salem and the witch history as she is a descendant of Cotton Mather, the infamous instigator of the witch trials. In the story, teenage Samantha Mather moves with her stepmother to Salem, to live in the house her grandmother left to Samantha’s father. Samantha has a history of not fitting in, and nothing changes at her new school.

In fact, in Salem, the name Mather is anathema. There are some creepy students called the Descendants who are, unsurprisingly, descended from the families of the original girls accused of witchcraft. But when strange things start happening in town, it is Samantha who is blamed.

There are also two young men, one a neighbor and alive, the other a ghost who lived in her house over three hundred years ago. Both try to help Samantha break the curse that has haunted the families of the descendants of the original witches and those who persecuted the witches in Salem. Continue reading

Volunteers at county shelter begging for access to pet information to save them


Rescue Me Tampa (RMT) is a group that for years has been aggressively promoting and publicizing the dogs at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center in Tampa, Florida, in hopes of getting them adopted or pulled by rescue before their time is up. And they’ve been very successful.

The shelter management worked with the group, giving them a volunteer login to the computer system. This allowed the volunteers in the group to access medical information, notes from playgroups, owner surrender comments, and other information vital to networking a dog. In fact, the shelter would provide RMT with a list of the dogs who were likely to be euthanized the next day unless they were pulled or adopted before their kennel was needed. RMT would then go into action, posting pictures of those dogs, including their medical information, their personality, their playgroup information and any other information that the shelter had — information that potential adopters or rescues needed before committing to a dog. Often, because of that posting, the shelter would receive that all-important email stating that the at-risk dog now had someone committing to adopting or pulling that dog. A life saved.

In 2013, the board of county commissioners passed the “Be the Way Home” plan. Under the “Technology” heading, the plan states: “Hosted Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 7.00.29 AMsoftware allows employees and volunteers to use it on any device and in any place with internet access. They only need log-ins to the shelter website which can be customized to allow access only to information for which the person has permission to access. This functionality is critical to remote operations like off-site adoptions or customer assistance in the kennel areas of the shelter. However, as in the current system, varying levels of security access for staff and volunteers will protect sensitive data.” In spite of this county plan, the shelter is now claiming that they can’t provide the volunteers with any access — even restricted access — to the program. The offered nightly reports instead. The volunteers say that they would be happy with the reports the shelter provides — so long as they get complete and correct information (like weight and medical information and which dogs are actually still alive).

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‘The Perfect Neighbors’ by Sarah Pekkanen

perfect neighbors

In “The Perfect Neighbors,” Sarah Pekkanen addresses the question: Do you ever really know those around you? In a perfect town with perfect lawns and no crime live several women. They have become friends, but each is struggling with a personal problem that the others are not aware of. Each will need help before the end of the story.

The story is about friendship and family, and the lengths to which we will go to protect both. In this story, Kellie has started working after being a stay-at-home mom for many years. She relishes her high heels and new clothes and the feeling she gets when a handsome co-worker flirts with her.  How much flirting will ruin her marriage?

Susan Barrett still struggles to recover from being blindsided when her husband left her — and whom he left her for was almost the worst blow. She admirably doesn’t allow her feelings to show to her son, but it’s difficult. She still stalks her husband and can’t let go of her feelings of betrayal. Gigi is the third main character. Her husband is running for Congress, but it’s making things difficult at home. Her teenage daughter, especially, is becoming emotionally distant from the family, and Gigi doesn’t know what to do. Then there is Gigi’s drinking problem and her rather colorful past.  When Tessa, the fourth member of the group, and her husband move into the neighborhood, the group befriends her. But they also notice something mysterious about the family. Both husband and wife respond strangely to simple questions. What is the secret they are hiding?

Pekkanen slowly allows the reader to get to know this group of women. She gradually reveals their secret thoughts and pasts. She also effectively makes the readers care about each of them. And in the end, what Pekkanen shows through her story about these four women is that there is nothing like family and friends — they need to be cherished and appreciated each and every day.

Longtime fans of Pekkanen will relish this addition to her books, and new readers will surely become fans.  (Washington Square Press)

Voyagers scifi series for middle grade readers: 6 books to excite readers


IMG_7919Voyagers is a series of six books about a group of twelve-year-old kids flying a mission across space to rescue a dying planet Earth. The six books are written by six best-selling children’s authors. Each book features a different adventure to a different planet — and the challenges and dangers don’t only come from battling aliens and nature on each planet. Sometimes, the danger may come from their fellow travelers because the Alpha team finds out that there is another team on the job — in a different ship and with a far more nefarious plan.

The series starts with “Project Alpha” by D. J. MacHale (author of SYLO) about the contest to find the crew for this mission and the first planet (and mission) in the series. In it, the travelers must extract the first of the elements they need to save Earth.  The second book in the series is “Game of Flames” by Robin Wasserman about the next planet that the team visits, a planet filled with molten lava.

Book Three in the series is “Omega Rising” by Patrick Carman, and the planet they visit is an ocean-filled world with dangerous predators and — perhaps — equally dangerous aliens. “Infinity Riders” by Kekla Magoon is the fourth book in the series. In this story, winged horses whose eyes are like flashlights help the voyagers on their quest. Who wouldn’t love a chance to ride a flying horse?

Book Five is “Escape the Vortex” by Jeanne DuPrau (author of “City of Ember”). The planet the Voyagers visit is a frigid, icy place where danger abounds. When their fellow travelers, the Omega team, are in trouble, do they help?

The last book is “The Seventh Element” by Wendy Mass (author of the Willow Falls series). In it, the Voyagers must combat dragons and elves to get the last element necessary to save Earth. But they are also batting time — one of their teammates cannot afford any delay in getting back to Earth.

Random House Kids also set up a website with many activities that tie into the series. Readers can play games, decode “alien” words, Round up ZRKs, connect circuits, and more. This exciting set of adventures is all great fun, and it’s sure to engage reluctant readers.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover books provided by the publisher for review purposes.