‘To Tell You the Truth’ by Gilly Macmillan

When you don’t know whom to trust or who is telling the truth, the world can be a scary place. In “To Tell You the Truth,” by Gilly Macmillan, not only does main character Lucy Harper not know who is telling her the truth, or whether she can trust her best friend and alter ego Eliza, but we don’t know if we can trust what Lucy is telling us in her first person narrative.

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“Fallout” — the Horror and the Cover-up

“Fallout,” Lesley M.M. Blume’s non-fiction description of John Hersey and his essay, “Hiroshima,” is an all-too-vivid and, I’m quite sure, all-too-accurate account of how “Hiroshima” was created; of the dangers Hersey courageously faced because he dared to write and then publish the essay; of the roadblocks Hersey and his editors and publisher encountered because of the semi-forbidden subject matter; and, above all, of the horrors generated by war in general and the use of the first atomic bomb in particular.

The title of Blume’s work, “Fallout,” is itself a word of several relevant meanings: the fallout following the explosion over Hiroshima refers, in part, to the radioactive poisoning suffered by much of the city’s population and the resulting additions — deliberately hidden — to the original death-count caused by the bomb. The first estimate was 42,000. The count that was available to Hersey was 100,000. The count most often estimated today is about 280,000. Two hundred eighty-thousand dead innocent civilians. The entire U.S. government and military establishments, Truman to MacArthur to the government PR squads, perpetrated an expansive and complex cover-up in order to hide the horrors of Hiroshima. They implied that the Hiroshima event was “just” a big, impressive bomb invention that forced the Japanese to surrender and, in the process, demonstrated that America was inarguably the most powerful country in the world.

Blume concisely re-tells the stories of the six survivors whom Hersey chose to exemplify the actual devastation of the bomb and the effects of its aftermath. Hersey realized that numbers like 42,000 do not even begin to tell the story. The war-weary public was numb to the effects of numbers on their psyches. He also realized that in some cases a picture is not worth a thousand words. A mysterious mushroom cloud communicates nothing about the terror of a nuclear attack.

But, he knew, a detailed description of eyes hanging from their sockets; skin, like ill-fitting gloves, peeling off hands; and bodies and bones of loved ones forming ugly blackened masses lying all over the ground would affect readers in ways that death numbers and pictures of the bomb could never accomplish. And his words did work effectively to make the public aware of the very real and potentially very personal effects of the attack — personal because Hersey brought the sheer horror of the bomb directly to the minds, hearts, and homes of the American people. He accomplished his stated purpose: to warn every person that each of us is a victim; that the world would now be a boiling cauldron of nuclear power and waste; and that what happened to those six people might well happen to us if we don’t stop the spread of the  madness of nuclear armaments. The world was now in a new and different kind of ever-present mortal danger, every single day a threat to our very existence.

Blume’s work, like Hersey’s, is a testament to the power of fine journalism. She brilliantly recreates Hersey’s fragile position as the ultimate whistleblower, as well as his earth-shaking reporting. After “Hiroshima,” he was loved and appreciated by thousands of people. But he was also despised by hundreds of the world’s powerful figures and by many Americans who refused to see their nation in a new and unflattering light. He had divulged difficult truths. He had destroyed the cover-up. He had dented the glorious reputation of post-war America. He had exposed his country’s callous disregard for the lives of civilians — guinea pigs — human beings just like us.

And, ironically, he had become the enemy of both Cold War foes. Many American officials despised him and his essay because he had damaged our post-war image as the “good guys.” He had made the Japanese people the victims and had turned the spotlight away from the unforgivable tortures inflicted on American military men by the Japanese “animals.” He had given the Soviet Union even greater incentive to catch up in the nuclear arms race. And on the other side, the Soviet power structure felt that he had intended to make the USSR look comparatively weak in the eyes of the world; that he was simply a disgustingly effective purveyor of American propaganda; and that he was proclaiming, in effect, “Russia, here’s what we will do to you if you dare to challenge us.”

Finally, Blume makes a brief but powerful plea at the end of her book. She urges us all to demonstrate once and for all that we have learned the lessons of Hiroshima and “Hiroshima,” to heed the uncomfortable truths of journalistic truth-tellers, to accept and act on the reality that the world since Hiroshima is teetering on the edge of self-destruction, and to understand that the time for ending the madness is now. Time is short.

Review by Jack Kramer. First published on Bookreporter.com

‘One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues’ by Cara Sue Achterberg will grab your heart

“One Hundred Dogs & Counting” by Cara Sue Achterberg is her book about the second part of the title, “One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues.” In this book that will wring your heart, we learn about her selfless determination to foster, and thus rescue, as many shelter dogs as she can.

Achterberg makes no bones about the work that goes into fostering. She doesn’t play it safe like I do, only fostering adult dogs who will be quickly housebroken and are usually past the chewing and destructive stage. Her description of the work and cleaning involved in caring for litters of puppies has convinced me that adult fosters are definitely the way to go!

But Achterberg doesn’t shirk from hard work and from heartache. When you rescue, you know both. She passionately describes loving the foster dogs and then letting them go to permanent families. She knows that it’s easy to be what’s called a “foster failure” and adopt the foster dog you’ve fallen in love with, but then she wouldn’t be able to take in tens of dogs every year and save them. This one woman has saved over a hundred dogs in a short time by fostering them and then getting them adopted. Then repeat.

But the more dogs she saved, the more she thought about how the problem of unwanted and abandoned dogs doesn’t seem to be getting any better. And so she took trips to rural shelters to see what their problems were and what they thought needed to be done to solve the overpopulation problem which then leads to the problem of too many unwanted dogs. She describes her travels in detail. There are brutal descriptions of horrible shelters where caring people struggle to save as many dogs as they can in spite of almost insurmountable obstacles. There are also shelters where those in charge spend their own money to feed and care for the dogs. It’s a huge spectrum.

This is a book that will make you cry. It’s horribly depressing to realize that so many wonderful dogs and cats (and other animals) are discarded like trash when uncaring, heartless owners decide they don’t want them anymore. But those on animal rescue sites and Facebook pages dedicated to saving animals already know that. We see the despair deep in a senior dog’s eyes when its owner hands over its leash and walks away, away saying, “It’s too old so I don’t want it.” It will also make your heart sing as you recognize that there are many, many dedicated people who work tirelessly to save as many animals as possible.

It’s a book for those who already rescue. In Cara’s story, we recognize our own struggles with the mess, the baby gates, the dogs who have behavior issues. We know about the feeling of loss when the dog leaves – no matter how loving the adoptive home. And we all say to the adopters that if they ever don’t want “our” dog, we will take the dog back.

This is also a book for those who don’t know about rescue. Who might read this and learn how desperately foster homes are needed, and might just decide to try and foster a dog or cat. After reading about the work involved in fostering puppies, I can’t say she’s done a great job promoting that particular job! But also, it’s an important step in educating people on the importance of helping. Reach out to local rescues and see what they need. Usually they are the ones pulling from other public shelters in all areas of the country where dogs and cats are routinely killed for space.

No one wants to kill animals. But when shelters get overwhelmed, unless there are rescues willing to take the animals, there is no where for them to go. And unless there are fosters willing to help house and love the animals, the rescues can’t do it all. There are wonderful projects and things that shelters have done to get the community involved. Because once animal-loving people understand what is happening in their community, they often want to help. And sometimes it’s just as simple as asking for help, asking for dog walkers, building walking paths and inviting the community to come walk — with a shelter dog.

Please, read the book. Get involved. Foster a dog or cat. Or donate to your local rescue. Offer to help transport animals to their final destination. It’s a commitment of a few hours, but with a huge reward. Visit Who Will Let the Dogs Out for more information.

And when you are finished reading the book? Pass it on to someone who might benefit from reading it. Someone else who might help. (Pegasus Books)

A few of this reviewer’s rescues. Two black cats from the streets. One dog rescued from China (I flew her here) and the other from the Redland area of Florida by the Redland Rockpit Quarry Project, a group that feeds the homeless and abandoned dogs in that area each and every day. They do their best to find rescues for the dogs and cats.

Unions: The good, the bad, and the ugly

With all the news regarding police abuse of power, police assaulting and killing innocent people (like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd), and the fact that police unions support their officers no matter how heinous the crime, unions are going to come out of this as the bad guys. And you know what? Some unions deserve that bad rap. However, I was president of my local teacher’s union, the NSEA, for eight years. I think I can share what unions should and should not be about with a clear and unbiased voice.

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‘The K Team’: New from David Rosenfelt

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David Rosenfelt’s latest novel marks the beginning of a new series. After twenty Andy Carpenter books, we again meet newly designated hero Corey Douglas and his K9 partner Simon. Both had been introduced in the previous Andy Carpenter entry, “Dachshund Through the Snow.” And, Andy fans, fear not. Corey is just as funny, just as smart, just as charmingly naughty as Andy. Rosenfelt, here in “The K Team,” again demonstrates his prodigious talent for creating a main character whom you will love and laugh with, and who is very good at solving complex and confusing crimes that mere mortals like you and me are entirely incapable of de-puzzling.

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‘The Last Sister’ by Kendra Elliot is a nail-biting mystery that pushes all the right buttons

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Kendra Elliot has sold over seven million books, and after reading “The Last Sister,” this first book in a new series, “Columbia River,” her success is understandable. And this is a perfect opportunity to jump into a Kendra Elliot series at the beginning. Main character FBI special agent Zander Wells was introduced in a previous series, but readers “meeting” him for the first time will be charmed and touched by his story.

In this mystery, a man and his wife are brutally murdered in a small Oregon logging town. Emily, who is the first to find the murders, is horrified, especially when she sees that the husband was hanged just like her father when he was killed decades earlier. She also notices a racist symbol carved into the hanging man’s forehead, so when the sheriff declares it a murder-suicide, Emily calls the local FBI office and won’t get off the phone until they agree to send an agent to the scene to investigate it as a hate crime.

Zander and his partner Ava arrive and realize that they may have more than just one crime to figure out. Is there a connection between the current stabbing/hanging and what happened to Emily’s father all those years before? When there is another murder, it seems that everything has to be examined, including where Emily’s older sister went immediately after her father’s murder.

Elliot’s omniscient narrator works superbly in terms of letting us know what the characters are thinking and feeling. We are able to see the night of their father’s murder from both Emily’s point of view and that of her younger sister, Madison. So we know more than they do about what each sister is hiding from the other.

Slowly, clue after clue is uncovered and revealed, allowing us to try to connect the different threads at the same time as the characters in the novel try to put the puzzle pieces in place. We are thinking about the clues, and we are also feeling a genuine camaraderie with Emily as she struggles to keep their decrepit old mansion home in one piece while someone is slashing her tires and harassing Emily and her three sweet great-aunts. Their only source of income is their diner, because the logging operation that financed the opulence that Emily’s ancestor’s enjoyed was long closed.

Readers will find they enjoy meeting the three aunts, who all dress alike, and each of whom is a character worthy of admiration in her own right. When a mystery is certainly thrilling but also a character study of the people inhabiting the pages, readers know that the author got it right. And when the mystery is finally solved, and very satisfactorily, readers will be happy to remember that this is just the start of a series in which Zander, Ava, and maybe Emily will return to entertain us and amaze us.

This review was originally posted on Bookreporter.com.

Young Florida Dogs Urgently in Need of Rescue By March 1

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On Thursday, ten dogs at the Sebring Shelter in Florida will die unless they are adopted or pulled by rescue. Many of these dogs are still practically puppies. A few of the dogs should not go to homes with cats, including Ramsey, who is a volunteer favorite! Please read about them, share their story, and help them if you can. Pledging on their Facebook post helps rescues know that any medical needs will be covered. Please visit the Sebring Facebook page to see videos of the dogs, too.

Hammy is an incredibly sweet dog who arrived at the shelter horribly emaciated. He only weighs 36 pounds and he should be around 60 pounds. The volunteers say he’s sweet and happy. He certainly deserves a home where he will be fed and cared for, and where his love will be returned for the first time in his life. He’s only a year old.
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‘Act of Betrayal: A Will Cochrane Novel’ by Matthew Dunn Is a Thriller with Heart

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Author Matthew Dunn’s background in MI6 reads like the resume of his main character, Will Cochrane, in the eponymous series of which “Act of Betrayal” is the latest. While reading all the books in the series probably gives more background to the story, this reviewer has only read the previous book, “A Soldier’s Revenge” and that gave plenty of background for this novel.

Will Cochrane is the ultimate assassin but also the ultimate friend. His actions are always based on his strict morality, which he uses to do the right thing regardless of personal cost. To save a friend or an innocent person, he would sacrifice his life. But he also is human, which  means that he’s made mistakes. In fact, he killed the wife and daughter of a Russian spy by accident after painstakingly creating a plan to kill only the spy. It backfired and killed the spy’s family instead of the spy, but that spy is now one of Cochrane’s closest allies. That doesn’t mean they go out for coffee together, but that they can rely on each other in times of great need. Continue reading

‘Malala’s Magic Pencil’ by Malala Yousafzai Is a Story About Possibilities that Kids Love

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While the name “Malala” is quite familiar to adults, children may not know who the author of this picture book is. In “Malala’s Magic Pencil,” Malala Yousafzai tells her story and it’s one that opens the eyes of the kids hearing her tale.

She starts her story telling about a show that she watched as a child about a magic pencil that could create anything that was drawn with it. The boy who used it, the hero, always used the magic to protect people who needed help. Malala thought of the things she would do with a magic pencil.

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Cat Missing Two Legs Adopted To Be Therapy Cat For Disabled Veterans and Others

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An abandoned black cat with two missing back legs was rescued and flown from New York to Ohio to begin a new life as a therapy cat for disabled veterans and others who are amputees.

The extremely friendly cat was abandoned on the streets of New York. He couldn’t walk because of missing back legs. When Mary Tschinkel of Friendly Ferals heard about him, she was determined to help. She commented about the negative stereotypes about black cats:

“I can’t tell you what a wonderful cat this is. He’s gorgeous. Black cats – people should be inspired to adopt a black cat – they are wonderful there’s nothing better than a black cat! Superstitions are stupid.”

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‘Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat’ by Patricia Williams: A Story about Overcoming Almost Insurmountable Odds

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The story of “Rabbit” is a gritty account of a childhood that is something out of a nightmare. Yet the book is also full of inspiration and hope. It’s depressing but at the same time filled with humor. Patricia Williams’ story is certainly one filled with extremes.

The author’s life began with a mother who was ill-equipped to care for five children. Her childhood was filled with alcohol, drugs, and abuse — physical, sexual and emotional. By the age of 15, she was the mother of two children. Her nickname for her whole young life was “Rabbit.” The fact that she managed to turn her life around is a testament to her fortitude, her determination, and surprisingly, her sense of humor.

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