‘The Fate of the Tearling’ by Erika Johansen is the fabulous last book in the inspiring ‘The Queen of the Tearling’ trilogy


The trilogy that began with “The Queen of the Tearling,” continued with “The Invasion of the Tearling,” now ends with “The Fate of the Tearling.” The books seem almost prescient — especially the last book.

The world in the trilogy is a new continent where a group of people live together. They are those who left a world filled with violence, the rich and the rest — who lived horrible lives, to follow a visionary, William Tear, to a better place. But the “better place” is not better.

In fact, the world in which Kelsea, the Queen of the Tearling lives, is one in which “… there are drugs, there is an extremely corrupt Church (in this book the author shows just how corrupt), and there is unmitigated evil.”

Kelsea often has visions of the past. She sees the pre-crossing world through the eyes of Lily, William Tear’s lover, who was in an abusive marriage. In this world, the rich become even richer, the poor and marginalized become even more so, and women are deprived of their rights. Lily is married to a wealthy man, but he is — or becomes — weak and cruel. Because of her society’s anti-female rules, there is nowhere for Lily to go, and she has no means of escape from her awful marriage.

In this book, Kelsea has visions of a different character from the past. She is someone who was there at the beginning of the new world. Through her eyes, Kelsea sees the beginning of unrest in the small colony. She sees the cause of it, and the reader is left wondering whether mankind is capable of the utopia William Tear envisioned.

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Angel stayed with dead owner for five days; now she is terrified at shelter


Update: Angel has RESCUE!! She is safe. Thank you to everyone who shared her plight on social media!

She lies in her kennel shaking. She has lost her home and her owner, and now she’s confused and heartbroken. She doesn’t know why she’s in a kennel, alone and unloved.

This traumatized and depressed dog who was with her deceased owner for over five days is waiting for help in a Tampa shelter. Angel was found in the blood-filled home with her deceased owner. There is no relative to take her, so she is at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center. Continue reading

‘Fanny in France’ is the story of a chef’s (Alice Waters) daughter including recipes perfect for a young cook


“Fanny in France” is written by Alice Waters, the chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and Fanny’s mother. Waters advocated for organic and locally grown food long before it was popular. She received the prestigious Légion d’Honneur from the French government in 2010. She wrote the book with the help of Bob Carrau and illustrator Ann Arnold.

“Fanny in France” is a charming story of a life that almost seems to have been from another era — it’s about nature, cooking, travel and friendships. The story is written in first person narrative and it’s written as a memoir, even though it’s written by Fanny’s mother.

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‘Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas’ by Jonathan W. Stokes: Indiana Jones for middle grade readers


Is Addison Cooke the new Indiana Jones for middle school kids? In “Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas,” Jonathan W. Stokes seems to be using all his screenwriting skills to create an action story that would be movie-perfect.

Addison Cooke’s life is not an ordinary one. He and his sister Molly live with their archaeologist aunt and uncle in New York after their parents were killed while they were on a research job. Archaeology is in the Cooke blood, and Addison is not immune. His spare time is spent studying whatever culture his aunt and uncle are researching.

Addison’s uncle finds a stone key that legend says will lead to the treasure of an Inca King. When his aunt and uncle are kidnapped by a dangerous criminal who wants the treasure, Addison is convinced that he, Molly, and his two best friends are the only ones who can rescue them.

Conveniently, Eddie and Raj, his friends, are both talented in necessary skills. Eddie speaks Spanish courtesy of his nanny, and Raj has practiced his survival skills and is prepared for almost any event. Molly is brave and athletic, and Addison is brilliant.

Organizing a trip to Columbia, through Ecuador and on to Peru is nothing for a brain of Addison’s caliber. And the adventures and hair-raising danger they encounter on the way? Definitely not for the faint of heart. The humor that is infused on almost every page makes Stokes’ writing stand out from other middle grade adventures. With Addison Cooke, he has created a pre-teen cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond, suave and debonair (“Addison dearly loved a black-tie gala. He knew how to match his tie knot to the width of his shirt collar. He knew how to match the width of his tie to the width of his lapels…”). Yet Addison Cooke can also scheme and lie to get what he wants (first-class upgrade from coach, anyone?).

This is a perfect choice for reluctant readers, for movie lovers, for adventure-loving readers — in short, everyone. Get in now with this first book in what should prove to be an exciting adventure series. Read the sequel, “Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan.

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

Humane Society of Tampa Bay turns away dog because he is heartworm positive; he was from Humane Society of Pasco County


Bernie is safe today no thanks to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. This “no-kill” shelter has recently been on the receiving end of many unhappy posts on Facebook.

spatolaAt the end of October, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB) took in a dog from Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center. He was named Spatola. There was an adopter who had been told to wait for a medical condition to clear up before she could adopt him. When she heard that the dog she wanted had been transferred to HSTB, she immediately emailed them that she wanted to adopt him. They responded by telling her their veterinarian had already killed the dog she had fallen in love with.  The full Facebook post is linked here. See the communications below. Continue reading

‘You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?!’


“You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?!” is the latest entry in the “You Never Heard of…” series by Jonah Winter. This one is illustrated by Barry Blitt. And it’s a great read.

Stengel was a funny man who often gave the impression of being just a clown. But he was, in fact, a very complex person. On the one hand, his typical conversations were comprised of long, rambling monologues, detailing, in near-incomprehensible ramblings, his opinions about everything baseball. Yet he apparently knew exactly what he was saying and, more importantly, exactly what he meant.

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Nonfiction picture books for young and older readers: 4 Biographies and a Holocaust book


There are lots of great picture books for those looking for nonfiction reading material for kids. Biographies about such diverse figures as the first female presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, actor Leonard Nimoy, baseball giant Casey Stengel, and blind Louis Braille would fascinate and inspire readers. A fact-filled book about the Holocaust will — one might hope — inspire in a different manner, inspire young readers to be sure that there is never another holocaust.

In “Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille,” Jen Bryant and illustrator Boris Kulikov (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers) share the story of the boy who invented the Braille method of reading for the blind. Before Braille did this, the blind were not able to read at all. Braille was blinded at the age of five, and his family was very supportive. They realized that young Braille was very intelligent, and they found a way to send him to a school for the blind. Braille was able to take a method developed by a ship’s captain for communicating in the dark and change it so that it was practical for reading books. What he invented in the early 1800s is still being used today, practically unchanged. The text is written in first person narrative and includes much of what young Braille might have been thinking and experiencing. One particularly impactful illustration shows what a blind Braille experienced using a black background with light blue line drawings. A opened window in the center with yellow shutters shows Louis Braille with his eyes closed — the brightest part of the two page spread.

“Hillary” by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Raul Colón (Schwartz & Wade Books) is a very timely biography about the woman who has worn many hats in her life. Not content to be mother and wife, she worked as a lawyer when her husband was governor of Alabama. She was First Lady when he was elected President of the United States, then she became a U.S. Senator from New York. After running for president and losing the primary to Barack Obama, she became Secretary of State. Then she ran for president, becoming the first woman to run on the ticket of a major political party. The book shows her strengths and tells readers about how confident she is. The text is filled with praise for Hillary, and the illustrations glow with Colón’s signature paintings, which are rich in texture and color.

“Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy” by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Edel Rodriguez (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers) is about the actor who became famous for his role in Star Trek. His biography is, indeed, fascinating. From his childhood in Boston as the son of a barber who immigrated from Russia to his journey to Hollywood to pursue his dream of becoming an actor, the book faithfully shares Nimoy’s story. It’s written by a close friend, and Nimoy saw the book after Michelson wrote it. He told Michelson, “It’s wonderful and I’m flattered…It is an amazing piece of work and I love that you decided to do it.” The message of the story and of Nimoy’s life is to follow your dream.

“You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?” by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Barry Blitt (Schwartz & Wade) is the biography of the famous baseball team manager. And this book captures his entire story in lovely and hilarious detail while clearly delineating the myriad complexities of this most amazing man. He once walked onto the field with no pants on. He tipped his hat to fans who were booing him, and out flew a sparrow. He told his team to line up alphabetically by height. He said, “The team has come along slow but fast.” Yet while all of this seeming nonsense was going on, he was amassing an encyclopedic knowledge of the game and its intricacies. He was a creative, daring, brilliant technician and communicator. And all the personal and professional qualities are delightfully illustrated in the words and pictures of “You Never Heard of Casey Stengal?!”

“The Holocaust: The Origins, Events, and Remarkable Tales of Survival” by Philip Steele (Scholastic Books) is a remarkable book in terms of the information contained in it. The beginning text is perfect to set the tone.

“In most schools today, it is the teacher’s job to stop bullying. In Germany in the 1030s, it was often the teacher who was the bully. He would call Jewish pupils to the front of the class and order them to stand with their heads bowed while he mocked them and wrote on the blackboard, “The Jew is out Greatest Enemy.”

The book begins at the beginning of Judaism and gives an abbreviated version of “The Jews in Europe” which covers ghettos and pogroms and intolerance toward Jews. The history of what happened after WWI is explained, and one heading is “Hard Times Breed Hatred.” Jews and non-Jews alike will flinch from the photos of Nazi propaganda depicting Jews as ugly people with shallow foreheads and huge, hyperbolically crook noses. By contrast, a healthy, handsome young blond youth is the ideal Aryan. The book, in neutral text, describes what happened before, during and after the Holocaust. It’s carefully organized and planned, and the text and photos keep the reader’s interest. It’s not a book that young readers will read in one sitting, but it is a book that they will return to over and over. It’s a perfect complement to fiction books like “Number the Stars,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and other WWII books.

Please note: All the books reviewed herein were provided by the publishers for review purposes.

10,000 Puppies and Cats Imported to FL County Leads to Shelter Overcrowding and Euthanasia


In Hillsborough County, Florida, not all dogs are equal. Some homeless dogs are flown in on planes to be adopted while other homeless dogs are killed in the county shelter.

Over 10,000 dogs and cats were euthanized at the county shelter between 2013 and 2015. Yet during that same time period, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB) imported almost 6,000 dogs from outside Florida according to Sherry Silk, the CEO of the humane society.

The shelter volunteers and local animal rescuers are furious that puppies and cats are being imported into the county when so many local animals are dying because the shelter can’t holdscreen-shot-2016-09-16-at-1-13-45-pm them all. “It’s easy to adopt out puppies,” a volunteer from Rescue Me Tampa said. “It’s easy to be no-kill when you send the unwanted dogs to the county shelter to be killed.”

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Rescue Devastated That Their Injured Dog Was Killed Before They Arrived


A Florida Rescue, No Paw Left Behind, is devastated that one of their rescues, a dog who was adopted four years ago, was killed after being found injured by Miami Dade Animal Services (MDAS).

ShelterMe talked with Jacquelyn Johnston, the founder of No Paw Left Behind. “This should never have happened,” she said. “The dog was failed by multiple agencies in just one month.” Continue reading

‘A Torch Against the Night’ by Sabaa Tahir: Sequel to NYT bestseller ‘An Ember in the Ashes’


Sabaa Tahir, in “A Torch Against the Night,” the sequel to “An Ember in the Ashes,” manages to write a fabulous second book. The story of Elias, his best friend and now-enemy Helene, and Laia continues, laced with magic, adventure, and mystery.

This tale set in ancient Rome features soldiers with silver masks that become part of their faces, the silver melding with their skin. There are creatures who live for thousands of years, magical silver that is coveted by a jinn to avenge a past wrong, and characters willing to sacrifice all to defeat evil.

Tahir creates an antagonist who is pure evil. Marcus, one of Elias’ peers in the first book, becomes Emperor, and his cruelty knows no bounds. This is not a bad guy with shades of gray — he is evil through and through down to his coal-encrusted heart. Helene, Elias’ good friend, on the other hand, is out to kill Elias and Laia, but she is conflicted. She knows Elias is honorable and good, but Marcus is blackmailing Helene, threatening someone she loves. She has also promised to be true to “the Empire,” or Rome. And surely that means doing what the Emperor commands her to do — even if it is repugnant.

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