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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‘A Million Junes’ by Emily Henry is a Magical Young Adult Novel

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“A Million Junes” by Emily Henry is a tender young adult story about a girl and a boy who fall in love. But their romance is marred by family friction. This “Romeo and Juliet” family feud goes back generations, and no one knows exactly what started it.

The magic, though, begins on the first page in the very first sentence when the main character, June, says, “From my bedroom window, I watch the ghost flutter.” And this ghost is not the only ghost who lives within the pages of the story. Feather, as this pink, benign ghost is called, has a more sinister counterpart. Nameless is the dark ghost with no name who haunts both June’s family and their neighboring enemy – Saul Angert’s family.

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‘Raised by Animals: The Surprising New Science of Animal Family Dynamics’ Is a Stunningly Informative Guide to Child Rearing

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Those who adopt a dog often think of how much they have to teach their new family member, but few consider how much the animal kingdom has to teach us, even about childbirth and childrearing. As Jennifer Verdolin, author of “Raised by Animals” would tell you, they have lots and lots of good advice for humans. But since animals can’t talk, Verdolin has researched that information and consolidated it into an easy-to-read, fascinating book.

Animal lovers know that animals aren’t really that different from us. They can express affection, experience joy, get lonely, copy our actions and have families. But Verdolin explains that animals do much more than merely reflect human values; often, animals teach their offspring those very values. In fact, do our values spring from the combined knowledge of what we’ve learned from the animals around us? Verdolin might very well argue for that theory.

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‘Restart’ by Gordon Korman is fine middle grade fiction

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“Restart” by Gordon Korman is typical fabulous Korman middle grade fiction wherein a boy — usually in middle school — goes through an experience that changes him. In “Restart” Korman’s protagonist, Chase Ambrose, is a fairly dark character.

The reader learns that this middle school sports prodigy, a football player who has won awards, is also a terrible human being. He delights in bullying others. In fact, one fellow student has been so tormented by Chase and his two best friends that he’s left school and gone to a private school. Chase and his friends had set firecrackers to go off in the piano he was playing on during a concert.

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