Wednesday Poem: The Presence In Absence ~ Linda Gregg


The Presence In Absence

Poetry is not made of words.
I can say it’s January when
it’s August. I can say, “The scent
of wisteria on the second floor
of my grandmother’s house
with the door open onto the porch
in Petaluma,” while I’m living
an hour’s drive from the Mexican
border town of Ojinaga.
It is possible to be with someone
who is gone. Like the silence which
continues here in the desert while
the night train passes through Marfa
louder and louder, like the dogs whining
and barking after the train is gone.

Linda Gregg


Review: The Dogs of War ~ Lisa Rogak

The Dogs of WarMilitary working dogs gained widespread attention after Cairo participated in the SEAL Team 6 mission that led to Osama bin Laden’s death. Before that, few civilians realized that dogs served in combat, let alone that they could parachute from thirty thousand feet up.

The Dogs of War reveals the amazing range of jobs that our four-legged soldiers now perform, examines the dogs’ training and equipment, and sets the record straight on those rumors of titanium teeth. You’ll find heartwarming stories of the deep bond that dogs and their handlers share with each other, and learn how soldiers and civilians can help the cause by fostering puppies or adopting retirees.

An incredible story of the largely unseen but vital role that dogs play in our armed forces, The Dogs of War is a must-read for animal lovers everywhere.

5 Thumbs-UpIf you are picking this up expecting a book full of personal stories about military working dogs and the unique relationship that exists between them and their handlers, you may be disappointed as this book is written more along the lines of a history of the military working dog from how they came about to their current purpose in today’s military.

It is immediately apparent when reading this book that the Author has done their research as they cover, in fine detail, the selection process for a puppy to become a Military Working Dog (MWD) right through to their retirement and transition, hopefully to a civilian life.  With so much research and detail this is a book that could easily have turned into something resembling a research paper, but the Author manages to avoid this pitfall turning the book into an informative memoir through the telling of the stories of different dogs and the roles they play as a MWD.  Each chapter of the boo k is given over to a particular dog and their handler, and this leads to a greater understanding of the bonds created between the two, and the heartbreak felt when one or the other is lost.

Interspersed with some wonderful photographs that show these dogs in action, this is a book that will surely capture the reader and pull them in from the very first page.  It is emotional, funny, and above all informative and will give many readers a greater insight into the life of a MWD, and why they are held in such high esteem not only by their handlers, but by the Service Members they work alongside.  I could write a lot more about this book in my review, but to do so would involve quoting portions of the book to illustrate what a great read it is, and I would rather the reader find that out for themselves.

I would highly recommend this book to dog lovers and those interested in the military.


Review: Monterey Noir (The Barker Mysteries) ~ Patrick Whitehurst

Monterey NoirNot every hero lives in a mansion or works from a smoky, hard-boiled office. Enter Barker, a mysterious man with no memory of his past. Ferociously handsome and acutely observant, Barker makes his home under the soggy planks of Old Fisherman’s Wharf along California’s foggy Central Coast. His closest friends are an assortment of stray dogs, ranging from a large Rottweiler to a tiny Shih-Tzu, who live with him. Adventure and intrigue have an uncanny knack for crossing Barker’s path.

In the first entry of the series; Nickel, Barker’s sole human friend, bestows his makeshift home upon the man and his dogs just before dropping dead. It’s up to Barker to honor Nickel’s last wish, to atone for his sins, which doesn’t prove an easy task. Meanwhile, forces are at work in other parts of the fog-swept city, which will lead the homeless detective and his dogs to a deadly confrontation in the heart of Monterey Bay itself.

Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – California.

4 Thumbs-UpReading this book was a first for me from this Author, as I had neither heard of them nor read anything they had previously penned.  It was not a disappointment.

The main protagonist could be described as hard-nosed, but underneath all the strength and intelligence he exudes there lies a hint of a troubled past; one that the Author takes great pains not to reveal in this novel.  As this is the first in a series of books featuring this character, I am hoping that as they progress the reader will learn more of what haunts the main character.  Despite this feeling of there being something missing in this characters development and the reasoning behind my four thumbs review, the Author manages to create a personae in them that lets the reader know they can come so far into his world, and no further.  This main character is a standalone novel in himself, there needs to be no more explanation than that, and the reader constantly feels that this is a man who is content in his own skin and with the select company he keeps.

If the hidden strata of humanity makes you feel uncomfortable, so it should, and this book will make you feel uneasy as it focuses on those many of us chose to pretend don’t exist; the homeless and disenfranchised that live among us.  This section of society is used to great effect in this novel, which could be ranked up there with the likes of Wilkie Collins in its ability to keep the reader guessing until the final page.

I would recommend this novel to those readers who enjoy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries and to those wanting to read a detective novel with a different view on life.  I will definitely be reading more by this Author.


Against the Symbolism of Small Losses ~ Gregory Djanikian


Against the Symbolism of Small Losses

So you’ve lost your keys,
your life’s in ruin, over-
turning your simple afternoon.

Maybe it’s the accrual
of all those other losses—
the stolen wallet, a shattered window,
the peach sweater stained
a deep cranberry red—
that’s pushed you over the edge,
made you bleat your woe is me
to every neighbor.

What about your house? Intact.
The car: parked exquisitely
at your pleasant curbside.
Your dog: wagging a doggy tail.

But maybe you’re thinking
in bigger terms, one loss leading
to all the others, first cousins
to the final disappearance
of everything you love.

Frankly, today, it’s only made you
late for the movies, where your wife
has already found two seats together,
her head finding your easy shoulder

while a river of credits rolls along
and the music rises,
and the ticket stubs in your hand—
in spite of everything you know—
feel like crisp hundred dollar bills.

Gregory Djanikian


Review: One Dog Too Many (Mae December, #1) ~ Lia Farrell

One Dog too manyMae December runs a successful dog boarding business in Tennessee. When her neighbor, Ruby Mead-Allison fails to pick up her unruly Pomeranian from Mae’s kennel, Mae pokes around and discovers the woman’s body. She is found with a traffic counting cord around her neck, wearing one red boot. While delving into the mystery of Ruby’s death, Mae meets handsome Sheriff Ben Bradley. Together they find no shortage of suspects. Ruby was standing in the way of a project that would widen her rural road and make the area safer. Was she killed by an angry neighbor? The Road Commissioner? Her estranged husband? Her disinherited brother? The Sheriff may not appreciate Mae’s amateur detecting, but he responds to her as a woman. Meanwhile the murderer thinks its time to put a permanent stop to Mae’s meddling.

Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – Tennessee

5 Thumbs-UpWhat a great start to a series.  This Author’s debut novel contains exactly all the right ingredients needed to make a perfect cozy mystery.

Even if the reader wasn’t aware when they picked this up that is was set in the South, as soon as they start to meet and get to know the characters it would become apparent.  The women and their mannerisms all reminded me of the Southern women I have encountered since coming to live in the US, and some even resembled family members which made me smile.  Through a crisp writing style the Author brings their characters not only to life, but has them serving sweet iced tea to the reader as they progress through this book, and in this way it I found it very easy to connect with them and establish a relationship; even their gossip made me feel included in their everyday lives.

Although this is a cozy mystery, it is written in such a manner that it reflects its setting.  There is no rushing to the climax, which when it comes is fast paced and packs a punch, but rather a slow and deliberate feel to the whole plot; rather like life in a small rural Southern town, slow, deliberate and with meaning in everything that takes place.  So carefully has the Author worked at setting the scene for the plot that the reader is pulled into the town itself and made to feel part of a community where everyone knows everything about everybody… or do they?  In the writing of the dog boarding and breeding side of the novel, it was plainly obvious that not only had the Author done extensive research into these subjects, but then taken the time to make them interesting enough to their readers as to not seem out of line with the rest of the happenings; this time was well spent as I found these parts of the book very interesting and not off-putting at all.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of a good cozy mystery, and I will definitely be reading more in this series as they appear.


Review: Real Food for Dogs: 50 Vet-Approved Recipes to Please the Canine Gastronome ~ Arden Moore, Anne Davis

DogsLots of people enjoy making or buying treats for their pets, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to cook a real meal for the four-legged member of the household? Quirky yet practical, these cookbooks provide recipes that are nutritionally balanced and veterinarian-approved. They even include sections on “tandem” recipes – recipes for humans that, with slight modifications, can also be served to pets.


4 Thumbs-UpI know this is not the kind of book I would normally review, but after being asked many times if I have any recipes for dog treats, and what do I feed our very old dogs, I decided to review this book of recipes.

Since it was recommended by our vet, who is very much aware of what ‘rubbish’ they put into the generic store bought dog foods; and once I received the seal of approval from her to use it with a couple of tweaks for our dogs, it is a book that it used on an almost daily basis in our house.

Having older dogs, and being aware that as they age even more their taste buds tend to deteriorate, this is an ideal book full of recipes for people who are worried about their dog not eating or enjoying their food as much as they used to.  It is chock full of tasty recipes that can be cooked ahead and frozen, plus a section on recipes that can be made for both human and canine (with some tweaks) consumption.  Some of the recipes do call for a large amount of garlic and as too much of this is not good for our furry friends, I either ramp back the amount I use, or omit it all together from the recipe.  This doesn’t seem to affect the enjoyment the dogs get out of this food, and since I have been cooking for them they have lost a lot of that ‘middle age spread’ so many breeds (especially labs) seem to suffer from.  Not giving them processed foods has also resulted in a decline in that nasty gas dogs are able to conjure up at a moment’s notice, and has put a spring in their step.

One of my complaints about this book is that the Author, both vets themselves, seem to be under the impression that the reader has bottomless pockets with which to buy the ingredients; I find that there are some very well priced substitutes for some of the items listed in the ingredients that will not break any pet owners budget.  On the plus side of this review are the recipes for dog treats; the favourite on for my dogs is the peanut butter dog treats which only involves 4 ingredients, and makes enough treats to last a couple of weeks.  Another good thing about this book is that is caters to dogs of all sizes, so there is no scaling up of amounts for large dog breeds or reduction for their smaller counterparts.

I would recommend this book to all dog owners who are looking to remove processed foods from their animal’s diets; however, please make sure to check any and all new recipes or food items with your vet before feeding them to your pet. And, for the cat lovers out there, there is also a cat recipe version of this book.