Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Embracing the Wild in Your Dog

Embracing the Wild in Your Dog: An understanding of the authors of our dog's behavior - nature and the wolf

Some people may embrace the message of this book, while others may run screaming into the wilderness to get away from it, but nearly everyone who reads it is bound to have a strong reaction of some sort. 

The anecdotes from the author's childhood in Alaska were vital to forming his approach to working with dogs, so I liked reading them to see what lesson his mentor taught him in each situation. Likewise, the anecdotes from his time working as a trainer illustrated his approach and the different types of clients and problems he has worked with professionally.

The author's knowledge of wolf behavior is something that many of us cannot hope to replicate, and he acknowledges this point. But we can follow his reasoning that treating dogs as small furry humans can lead to trouble. Every time he talked about owners who dress their dogs up and inundate them with toys and treats, I kept picturing a scene from the Nora Roberts book, The Search. In her book, the protagonist is a dog trainer who also runs a search and rescue unit. One of her clients has a very spoiled small dog who goes crazy and barks and attacks any dog that comes near. The trainer tells the owner that the dog sees herself as alpha of the pack and is defending her territory and place in the pack hierarchy. To prevent lawsuits and injuries the owners need to reclaim that alpha position. Mr. Bailey says much the same thing - if owners don't want their dog to bark at or bite other dogs or humans, then the owners must establish their place as the dominant ones in the relationship and have the dogs look to them for cues on how to react in a situation.

Bailey's chapter that discusses his views on rescue programs and no-kill shelters is sure to rile up some readers. He admits that his statements may make people think he dislikes all such programs, but that it is not true. He simply thinks there are dogs who cannot be safely worked into the human world and trying to do so will cause injury, heartache, and perhaps even death (of another pet or a human), or lawsuits. He gives several examples to support his point.

Overall this is a fascinating read and provides a lot of food for thought and discussion. It is comparable in some ways to a book I read years ago about the hidden or secret life of dogs (sorry, I can't remember the exact wording). That book also talked about things like the pack hierarchy that forms when you have several dogs. Embracing the Wild in Your Dog goes into more descriptions of situations that have gone wrong because the humans did not exert dominance when they should have.

If you are looking for a manual on how to train your dog, this is not intended for that use. If you are looking for something to read that will cause you to re-examine your beliefs and behaviors toward man's best friend, then you have found it.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

For more information about the author and his book, visit

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 The Woman Who Would Be King

Kings' Daughter. King's Great Wife. God's Wife to Amen. King. Pharaoh. Hatshepsut. They are all the same woman, one who played many roles in her short life and accomplished what no other woman in the ancient world did. Hatshepsut was born into the Egyptian royal family with the destiny of being married to her own brother to secure the royal bloodlines, but she managed to keep the throne after her brother's death and rule for over two decades. The author has written a detailed and informative description of what Hatshepsut's life would have been like, the responsibilities she carried, and the powers she wielded. Where it is necessary to fill gaps in our knowledge with hypothesis, Cooney explains her reasoning and also offers theories suggested by others. There is an extensive section of notes explaining where her information comes from and why she has chosen to interpret things in the way that she has.

I've always been interested in ancient civilizations; I even majored in Latin and Classical Studies during my undergraduate days. This is a book I would have been glad to find on a class reading list because it develops a comprehensive picture of what Egypt was like during Hatshepsut's lifetime. Everything from poor teeth due to all the sand in the food to the practice of shaving children's heads to cut down on lice is included in the descriptions of palace life. The key figures surrounding this female king are described and their importance to the king explained, as well as how they benefited from the relationship. And the actions of her nephew and co-ruler, Thutmose III after her death are also examined. 

The book is fascinating and packed with insights into the ancient world. Despite the names that are so unwieldy to modern tongues, it is a compelling read that carries you along from one obstacle that is overcome to the next. And there are so many facets of life in those times that are included - the palace and royal family; the temples and priesthood; festivals; the construction of buildings, obelisks, and tombs; and even the types of foods that were eaten or the embalming process all play a part in the saga.

I highly recommend this title to anyone who is interested in Egyptology, or ancient civilizations in general, and for those who enjoy reading about powerful female leaders. 
For more information about Kara Cooney, visit her author bio on the Penguin Random House site, where they also have more info about the book.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend


Imagine planning a trip to visit a friend and arriving at her house just as the funeral guests are leaving. Actually, I can't imagine what that would be like, and I'm grateful never to have had such an experience. But that is exactly how the story of Sara's visit to Broken Wheel begins. She has been pen pals with Amy (a resident of the town), and they have planned this visit, but Amy dies before Sara arrives. Now Sara is at loose ends. The bookshop she worked in back home in Sweden has closed, so she is between jobs. She is not particularly close to her sister and her parents were not wild about the idea of the trip. She has no really close friends or romantic ties to anyone back home, which was what had freed her to plan a 2-month visit with Amy in the first place. So she decides to stay for a while and spend some time in this town that she feels she already knows through Amy's letters. And the book lover in her comes out as she becomes acquainted with the townsfolk. She begins finding books for each of them: Grace, the fiercely independent woman with the gun below the counter of her diner; May and Gertrude, the older women who spend their time drinking coffee in the diner; Andy, the owner of the local bar; George, the town's reformed drunk; etc. 

I've seen blurbs comparing this book to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but I have not read that title, so I can't say if those comparisons are accurate. I've also seen it compared to The Storied Life of A J Fikry, which I have read. That is a fair comparison, although the Fikry book had critiques of classic books in it, and the Broken Wheel story depends more on quotes from books or references to books. But both show a deep love of books and an understanding that "There's always a person for every book. And a book for very person." As Sara says, "They're meant to be better than reality. Bigger, funnier, more beautiful, more tragic, more romantic." 

The story contains Amy's character through her letters to Sara, which precede each chapter and help us to know the people of Broken Wheel as Amy did. And Sara's idea to bring books to the townspeople is a carryover of her friendship with Amy and their common love of books. "She might not quite be a part of the town, but she had become a part of its history. And she swore to herself that she would force books on them before she was done here." Amy's nephew Tom sees why the friendship grew between the two women and advises Sara, "if you're going to get this lot to read, you're going to need to be more cunning."

The writing is so easy to read; it just flows along and before you know it, hours have gone by and the book is done. You find yourself sitting there and thinking of the characters as if they were real people that you might run into if you went out to the store. There is heartache, friendship, a bit of romance, humor, and lots of books - all in all a very good mix. Whether you enjoy books that have you laughing out loud, or stories where you may need to reach for a tissue, there is some of both in these pages. You may even want to dive right back in and read it again, just to figure out the answer to a question that comes up in the story, "What is it with this town?" Until you read it, you'll never know - and that would be a shame.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Rose Eagle


I have to admit that I missed this when it first came out, but that didn't hinder my enjoyment at all. Written as companion or even prequel e-novella to Killer of Enemies, this story takes place shortly after the Cloud surrounds Earth and causes all electronics to cease functioning. To Rose Eagle and the rest of the Lakota who are working in the Deeps, mining for the Overlords, it actually causes an improvement in their way of living. Rather than being trapped deep underground as some others were, the people of the Ridge listened to a warning dream from Rose's Aunt Mary and stayed out of the mines on the day when the mechanical elevators and other equipment stopped working. Many of the despotic Overlords died as the implants that gave them enhanced abilities shorted out, and many others were driven mad. For the first time in memory, the people of Rose's tribe are able to live as they choose, following the old ways, and worshiping as their ancestors did.

The book starts with Rose in a sweat lodge, following another of Aunt Mary's prohetic dreams. That may seem like a tame start to a post-apocalyptic story of survival, but don't be fooled. Soon enough there are genetically modified monsters to fight off, a vision quest to pursue, and perhaps even new allies to find. What makes Rose so unique is her ability with animals - everything from having birds land on her shoulder and chirp messages to befriending a grumpy badger shows how her talent is growing. I also appreciated how Rose was portrayed with human frailties; despite all her amazing gifts she is still shy and feels unattractive because she was teased over her height when she was younger. IT just shows that anyone can have issues to deal with, no matter what their background or ability.

For those who have already read Killer of Enemies and Trail of the Dead, you are already acquainted with Rose Eagle and her companions, so this will make a nice backstory to add to your knowledge of their world. If you have not yet started with Lozen's adventures, this is a quick introduction to her world and some of the other survivors she meets in her adventures. Either way it is a win-win situation.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 The Secrets of Blood and Bone

Magic. Mysticism. Alchemy. Voodoo. What a wild mix of elements make up this story. As the action toggles back and forth between 16th century Venice and present day England, the cast of characters swaps along with the setting. In Venice we follow Edward Kelley (a protege of the alchemist John Dee), as he tries to complete research for a patron named Lord Dannick. Among all the glittering masked balls, intrigue, and danger from the Inquisition, Kelley attempts to contact the family he believes holds the information his patron needs. In England, Jack is busy cleaning out the cottage that her foster mother has inherited. The local gentry stops by to ask about an herbal concoction that the cottage's owner had supplied to his family, the Dannicks. Sound familiar? Yes, it's the same family, which creates just one of the connections between the two time periods.

The characters are fascinating. Jack, or Jackdaw, is still trying to recover from her showdown with Elizabeth Bathory (in the first book, The Secrets of Life and Death). She and the teenager Sadie are both "borrowed timers" and need special magical symbols and potions to maintain their energy. Their friend Felix is busy researching others with their symptoms, trying to find a way to free them from their dependence on outside sources of energy. His search takes him from New Orleans to Paris and then to London and plunges him into the world of blood-drinkers and voodoo. Edward Kelley is one of the practitioners of alchemy, but he also has had experience with occult rituals, demons, and encounters versions of werewolves and blood-drinkers, as well as the Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Yes, another connection.

You should really read the books in order to see how all the connections form and how tightly these seemingly disparate threads are actually woven together. Whether you prefer historical fiction with alchemy and magic, or present-day urban fiction, this blend is an enjoyable one. Readers of books such as the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness will feel right at home in these pages.

Author info page from publisher 

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World


An intriguing look at the worldwide popularity of mysticism and mediums following World War I, The Witch of Lime Street goes into incredible detail about the period and the key players. Among the stars of the era were Harry Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mina Crandon (a.k.a the Witch of Lime Street). It may seem strange to those who have not read any other accounts of Houdini's life, but the famous escape artist was very involved in exposing frauds who posed as psychics. Even stranger, Doyle was a major proponent of speaking with spirits through seances - something you wouldn't expect from the creator of the ultra-logical Sherlock Holmes.

Author David Jaher has researched many existing museum and archival collections of journals, letters, and other papers from the main characters of his book, as well as reading innumerable articles and interviews from the time period. He has managed to reconstruct a story spanning from 1918 to 1941 (even including background and important events from earlier in the lives of the principals), and ranging across the U.S., England and Europe. He shows how Houdini and Doyle met, how Houdini became involved in the contest sponsored by Scientific American magazine to find proof that psychic phenomena were real, and the various competitors for the prize money.

More than just recounting the facts, Jaher manages to convey the emotional atmosphere of the times. First there is the weary feeling after the war, with so many missing their loved ones who died during the fighting. Then he captures the almost manic gaiety of the Roaring 20s with the dance marathons, speak-easies, and flappers. And finally he shows the gradual decline of the giddiness as the 20s gave way to the Great Depression. Those eras were important in creating a climate where thousands were desperate for contact with the deceased and eager for new breakthroughs, and then the change of focus from the great beyond to daily subsistence as the economy collapsed.

The use of extensive quotes from the primary source material helps to preserve the voice of the individuals involved in the quest to prove or disprove the question of mediumistic powers. Readers will also appreciate the way in which the author lets us know the fates of Houdini, Doyle, and Crandon, rather than abruptly ending the story with the end of the competition.

Excellent reading for those interested in the historical periods covered, or in the famous personalities involved. 

I received an e-book from the publisher through NetGalley.