Three Adorable Board Books for Toddlers from Silver Dolphin Books


Even babies a few month old often love to handle board books. They run their chubby hands along the sturdy pages and turn the books over and over. Those book-ready babies will be enthralled by three board books just published by Silver Dolphin Books. The series is called “Bright Books,” and they are written by Megan Roth and illustrated by Emiri Hayashi.

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Fredrik Backman, Author of ‘A Man Called Ove’ Talks About His Books


Fredrik Backman is the wildly successful author of “Beartown,” “A Man Called Ove,” “Britt-Marie Was Here,” and other novels from Sweden, but one would barely know that from his perfect grasp of the English language.


The “LL” book club

He met with a group of fans at the Old Orchard Barnes & Noble in Skokie, Illinois. Some fans braved terrible storms to travel hours to hear him speak and get their books signed. Backman did not disappoint.


His serious demeanor is belied by his obvious charm and self-deprecation. “I am weird,” he said when explaining that he writes about difficult people and tries to defend them, because he is one himself. He explained how the character of Ove was created. ‘Whenever I meet someone obnoxious, I think, “There must be someone who loves you.”‘ He shared that many of Ove’s characteristics come from him, and he charmingly admitted that,

“I call the internet provider a lot and I’ll end up shouting — you do this every day of your life and I expect the best. Why don’t you want to be good at your job?”

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‘Beartown’ by Fredrik Backman


beartown-9781501160769_hrSometimes you read a book that takes a long time to finish. It’s not because the book isn’t riveting or because you aren’t enjoying it. “Beartown,” for example, is not a quick read — it’s much, much more than that.

“Beartown” by Fredrik Backman is the kind of book that contains such a plethora of beautifully put together sentences, poetry almost, that the reader is compelled to read them, stop, think, read them again, and do it all yet again.

The philosophy, the wisdom, the absolute beauty of Backman’s  language is not the only reason that this book is a slow read. There is also the story — and it’s a heck of a story. It’s about loyalty, courage, love, honor, and family. It’s also about failure, losing everything that’s important, selfishness, lack of accountability, and the worst behavior of the rich and successful.

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Don’t Miss Fabulous ‘Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows’ by Balli Kaur Jaswal


In “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows,” Balli Kaur Jaswal manages to combine several interesting story lines into one fascinating read that is in turn tender, touching, humorous, exciting, and exotic. The protagonist is Nikki, whose parents immigrated to Great Britain in search of a better life. She considers herself quite a modern woman, and contrary to her family’s very conservative Sikh principles, moved out and quit law school trying to figure out what she wants in life.

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‘A Dog’s Way Home’ by W. Bruce Cameron Is a Sweet, Loving Story of a Dog Who Loved Unconditionally

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W. Bruce Cameron is best known for his blockbuster novel, “A Dog’s Purpose.” He has followed that with several other “doggy” novels, and now brings “A Dog’s Way Home” to the many legions of readers who adore his canine capers.

In this story, a puppy is rescued from an abandoned home from which her mother and siblings had previously been pulled. She was left behind, hidden with a mama cat she had befriended. The mama cat kept her alive until she was rescued with some of the feral cats who lived under the building.

Lucas, responsible for the pup’s rescue, immediately decides to keep her and names her Bella. She is a delightful dog and quick to learn the rules. Lucas and his mother are afraid to leave her alone in the apartment they share because she barks, so they sneak her into the VA where Lucas works. There she charms everyone and acts as a therapy dog with great success.

Unfortunately for Bella and Lucas, he lives in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets. Lucas also makes an enemy of the owner of the row of abandoned buildings when he feeds the stray cats and makes a fuss about the demolition. The owner is determined to stop Lucas so the construction can commence, and he bribes a local animal control officer (ACO) to declare Bella a pit bull — a breed of dog banned in the city of Denver. The ACO picks up Bella and has his buddies certify that she is a pit bull, in spite of her sweet and loving nature.

Readers quickly learn what it means to ban a breed in a city. If Bella is picked up by animal control again, a second time, they will kill her within three days. But Lucas lives with his mother, a disabled veteran, and they cannot afford to move immediately. When Bella is picked up again by animal control, Lucas must act quickly to save her life.

While Bella is being fostered hundreds of miles from Denver, she escapes so that she can find “her person,” Lucas. Along the way, she meets many people and animals, some friends, some foes, and throughout displays that wonderful canine ability to love unconditionally. Readers will root for Bella, and their hearts will break along with hers at some of the situations she must endure.

It’s wonderful that despite the story’s unethical animal control officer, Cameron makes it clear that most animal control officers really do care about the animals they handle. Unfortunately, there are a few villains along with the wonderful ones in real life as well as in this story.

Make the journey with Bella. Meet her family and her friends, but most of all celebrate life and love with this intrepid canine protagonist you will love. You will not be disappointed with this tale of doggy devotion.

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


Over 200 Feral Cats and Kittens Helped by Two Dedicated Women in Beach Park, IL


Mindy Brown and Janet Ward are determined to finish what they started. There were over 300 feral cats and kittens running around a trailer park, many of them literally in Brown’s backyard.  After a decade of stray cats multiplying, Brown decided something had to be done.


Mindy and Janet

“There were cats dying in the street. Some got run over by cars. Kittens dying from disease,” Brown said. So she called Spay and Stay, an organization that supports trap-neuter-release (TNR) in Lake County. They put Brown in touch with Janet Ward, one of their volunteers.   Continue reading

‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’ by Yuval Noah Harari


Yuval Noah Harari’s controversial — often startling — tome, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow,” will jar most of its readers. “Man God” seems at first to be a paean to humanity, a glowing description of where we may be headed — to divinity — but that god-ness is nowhere near as lovely as it sounds.

The entire piece is a treasure trove of scientific observations about homo sapiens, a unique analysis of the eras of our history, an objective view of the movements and religions of the twentieth century, and a daring prediction, thought not a prophecy, of what life may look like by the end of the twenty-first century.

Even now, Harari declares, we have basically overcome the old threats to our survival: plagues, famine, and war. He does not hold that those horrors have disappeared; rather, he asserts, they are no longer a threat to destroy our species. So we are now free to explore the roads to our most lofty goals: immortality, happiness, and divinity. Ergo Homo Deus.

But as we come closer and closer to achieving those goals == and we are certainly moving inextricably in that direction — a terrible and frightening paradox begins to emerge: reaching those heights will probably mean the end of homo sapiens.

Consider the conclusions of modern science: human beings are simply a set of biochemical algorithms. There is no external god or power that shapes or gives meaning to our lives. Intelligence, knowledge, and ultimately, power, depend solely on the collection of data/information and the processing of that data. Our machines, our computers, are far more capable of collecting data and processing it quickly and efficiently than homo sapiens alone can ever be. So as we advance, we must necessarily merge with those machines. That merging will result in super beings who will rule the universe and likely will treat plain old people in a manner very much like the way we treat our pets. Farewell homo sapiens.

A summary like the one above does not, of course, do justice to the plethora of information, factoids, histories, theories, and fascinating but scary — almost eerie — conclusions that Harari reaches here. But it’s all presented so logically, carefully, and convincingly that he makes it difficult to even begin to argue with him or his conclusions. And that’s scary, too.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Harper, the publisher, for review purposes. Review by Jack Kramer.

‘In the Shadow of the Sun’ by Ann Sibley O’Brien Is an Action-Packed Middle Grade Novel


“In the Shadow of the Sun” by Anne Sibley O’Brien has a most unusual setting — North Korea. There aren’t many children’s books that take place in this forbidding, remote and unfriendly country. And in this action-filled novel, O’Brien shows that North Korea is indeed a forbidding and unfriendly country, but also that North Korea is made of people who, like people the world over, can be kind and generous.

Mia Andrews was adopted from South Korea. Her father works getting food to starving people in North Korea. When he plans a trip to North Korea for Mia, her brother Simon, and both parents, it’s billed as a chance to see what he is working for. Or is it?

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‘I Found You’ by Lisa Jewell: A Novel Rich with Suspense and Atmosphere


“I Found You” by Lisa Jewell is a mystery that will keep readers reading, turning pages, and loving the various intertwining stories right to the end. The mystery begins on the second page with a strange man who has appeared on the beach outside Alice Lake’s rather rundown, small cottage.

A man sitting on the sand would not be notable, except for the fact that it’s pouring rain and he’s been there for hours. Alice is the type who takes on stray dogs and others, so she brings him a jacket and some hot tea. Later, she invites him to stay in her shed. The man does not know who he is or why he is in the small oceanside town of Ridinghouse Bay.

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


“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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