Incredibly — ‘Better, Not Bitter: Living On Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice’ by Yusef Salaam an inspiring read

Better Not Bitter by Yusef Salaam

The set of blazing emotions provoked by Yusef Salaam’s memoir, “Better, Not Bitter: Living On Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice,” includes strong doses of disgust, shame, anger — and inspiration. In 1989, five teenagers, all Black or Hispanic, were convicted in the notorious case of a young White female jogger who had been raped, beaten, tortured, and left for dead in Central Park. Salaam was one of those five teenagers.

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‘Poppy in the Wild’ by Teresa J. Rhyne a story of love and determination

Poppy in the Wild by Theresa Rhyne

The title of the story, “Poppy in the Wild: A Lost Dog, Fifteen Hundred Acres of Wilderness, and the Dogged Determination that Brought Her Home” by Teresa J. Rhyne is a bit misleading. It’s not really just the story of a beagle from China who escapes from her foster family and gets lost in a California wilderness area. It’s also the story of Teresa (I feel as if we are on a first name basis) and her love for animals. 

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Three Mothers: Unappreciated, Unnoticed, Unknown

The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Their names were Berdis Baldwin, Louise Little, and Alberta King. The percentage of Americans who might recognize those three names is approximately zero. But their lives, struggles, and accomplishments are every bit as important as those of the people we generally acknowledge as American heroes. And that is why Anna Malaika Tubbs’ detailed account of their lives is so significant and timely. Her study, “The Three Mothers,” shines a brilliant light on the influence these three women exerted in the lives of their sons — James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Attack dogs do not belong in jails

There have been many allegations that inmates in Virginia jails have been attacked by guard dogs, even when the inmates are lying prone on the ground — clearly not a threat. A Washington Post article dated March 6th, “Virginia is using dogs to ‘terrify and attack’ prisoners, say lawsuits that describe one man as mauled in his cell,” outlines how Curtis Garrett was mauled while standing with his hands behind his back, waiting to be put in handcuffs. The two dogs not only bit his arm and leg, but when he fell from the attack, the guards lifted him up while the dogs still had their teeth in him, biting him.

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‘When Harry Met Minnie’ by Martha Teichner is a touching and heartbreaking story of dogs, friendship, and serendipity

When Harry Met Minnie by Martha Teichner

I picked up “When Harry Met Minnie,” by Martha Teichner, thinking it was a story about dogs. I was wrong. While the dogs, two adorable but quirky bull terriers named, obviously, Harry and Minnie, are part of this story — it’s so much more. Teichner writes about serendipity, chance meetings that change lives, our love for our dogs and how they enrich our lives, the utter failure that our medical system can be for us in times of need, and above all, a friendship that arose quickly but became of supreme importance and changed the lives of both friends.

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‘A Promised Land’ by Barack Obama (review by Jack Kramer)

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

For those readers who are soon to launch into Barack Obama’s memoir, “A Promised Land,” be forewarned: if you think you’re about to enjoy anything like a light-hearted romp through a very successful 2008 presidential campaign and an arguably quite successful first-term presidency, it would be wise to radically adjust your expectations. Much of the memoir is serious — often deadly serious. It’s an extraordinarily (near-obsessively) detailed account of several tumultuous years of world-changing, earth-shaking decisions, ideas, ideals, events, and frightful dilemmas. It’s also a seven hundred page roller coaster journey of emotions — joy, depression, celebration, sorrow, anger, love, fear, courage, desperation, confidence, and crippling self-doubt.

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‘Big Kibble: The Hidden Dangers of the Pet Food Industry’ is the book that Purina and other huge manufacturers don’t want you to read

Big Kibble by Shawn Buckley and Dr. Oscar Chavez

If after reading this new exposé of the pet food industry, “Big Kibble: The Hidden Dangers of the Pet Food Industry and How to Do Better by Our Dogs” by Shawn Buckley and Dr. Oscar Chavez, you don’t decide to try to change how you feed your cat or dog, I don’t want to know what’s in your own refrigerator. While some of what is in this new nonfiction release is not news to savvy pet caregivers (I like to consider myself at least somewhat savvy), there is plenty to shock them.

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‘Wild Rituals: 10 Lessons Animals Can Teach us about Connection, Community, and Ourselves’ by Caitlin O’Connell

Caitlin O’Connell knows a lot about animals. She spent decades studying animals in their native habitats from the Pacific Ocean to the African savannah. She specializes in elephants, and this is just the latest of her many nonfiction books about these majestic animals. But while “Wild Rituals: 10 Lessons Animals Can Teach Us about Connection, Community, and Ourselves” does include elephant rituals, she also includes the rituals of diverse animals from flamingoes and other birds to Galapagos tortoises and African lions. Even her dog, Frodo, is included in the discussion.

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‘The Particulars of Peter’ by Kelly Conaboy is the book you didn’t know you needed to read

Kelly Conaboy loves her dog. She loves her dog Peter so much that she wrote a book, “The Particulars of Peter: Dance Lessons, DNA Tests, and Other Excuses to Hang Out with My Perfect Dog,” about him. Like most of us canine fans, she loves her dog to distraction. She obsesses about her dog more than most of us, and she writes about Peter in a humorous and touching manner that few of us could match. Continue reading

‘They Called Us Enemy’ by George Takei is a graphic memoir that brings home the horror of racism and judging people by their race and is a must-read for teenager readers

I’ve read about the internment camps for Japanese Americans during WWII, and there are many historical fiction books for children that are set in those camps (see some listed at the end of this review), but George Takei’s powerful memoir instilled in me a broader sense of what this country was like when this atrocity was implemented — taking away the property and rights of American citizens because of their ancestry and separating them from their homes. Continue reading

‘The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible: Birds, Behaviors, Habitats, Identification, Art Other Home Crafts’ gives you a plethora of information about birds

“The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible” is much more than a book about birds. In it you will find “The History of Birds,” “Practical Birdwatching & Identification,” “Understanding & Attracting Birds,” and “Bird-Friendly Gardens & Bird-Inspired Art.” It’s an all-encompassing work that is as beautiful to look at as it is useful for birding tips. The fact is that many experts wrote and edited it, including Paul Sterry, Christoper Perrins, Sonya Patel Ellis and Dominic Couzens, ornithologists, nature writers, photographers — and this precious book is the result of their collaboration.

There are four chapters, but it’s the first chapter that many will want to peruse. That’s the chapter that includes over 100 pages of species profiles with information about different birds, how to identify them, their habitats, their diets and their status. I learned that the red-bellied woodpecker that frequents my bird feeders lives throughout the eastern half of the USA. I know from experience that, as the book states, “it is an opportunistic feeder, taking a wide range of invertebrates, seeds, and nuts, also fruits (it drinks from oranges) and sap.” Mine also love suet. There are photos of both the male and female woodpecker and a map showing their range.

In the second chapter, “Birdwatching for beginners,” there is much information about the life of a bird from the hatchling to behavior. There are pages about the song of birds, territories and nests and eggs. There is information about birdwatching and how to best do it.

The third chapter is on attracting birds. The detail in the text is incredible. Want to learn about how to have a bird-friendly backyard? On page 266, there is detailed information from references to information on forage and feed pages and breeding shelters that can be found elsewhere in the book to information about flowers and shrubbery to plant in order to entice the winged visitors to stay.

And the fourth chapter is unusual for a bird bible; it’s all birds in art, historical art with birds, and modern art — it’s interesting, and the photographs, like the photos elsewhere in the book, are beautiful. From Audubon to Taiichiro Yoshida, who creates delicate metal work to create bird images, the art is inspiring.

The detailed index at the back helps find specific information, and the section with additional information is perfect for those looking for more specific information about birds and birdwatching.

This is a book you will come back to over and over for the facts. It’s a book that is so lovely, it could grace your coffee table. It would also be a terrific gift for a birdwatching friend.

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

Agent Sonya: Master Spy

 

We love our heroes; we despise our villains. What, then, do we make of Colonel Ursula Kuczynski, AKA Ursula Hamburger, AKA Ursula Burton, AKA — Agent Sonya?  “Agent Sonya,” author Ben Macintyre’s exhaustively detailed and consistently fascinating account of that amazing woman’s life, may force us to realign our predilection for clearly delineated hero-versus-villain judgments. Continue reading