Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review (OT): Wilde Lake (Maryland mystery)

Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins, 2016, 352 pages, $26.99)


You are your county’s first woman state’s attorney, a widow with 8-year-old twins who all live with your widowed father and the housekeeper who raised you and your brother in the planned city of Columbia, Maryland. Your brother is 8 years older and can do no wrong. Your father is the former county state’s attorney and your brother also went to law school. Your mother died when you were a week old. So, where is the mystery?

Or, are things really as they seem? It may take years to put the pieces together.

As a first grader and our tomboy narrator, you essentially have no friends (for years) because you have to be smarter and better than everyone else. And you are - but that does not endear you to others for many years.

Life revolves around your brother and his covey of friends, both black and white. He is in the chorus at a new school in the new town of Columbia. He saves a friend’s life during a fatal fight with a bully and breaks his own arm in doing so, at a high school graduation party. But he is the hero and your hero for life.

Some of his friends have become your friends as adults.

But things are not always as they seem.

Written in the vein of To Kill a Mockingbird, Wilde Lake is riveting, even for those who are not familiar with the Wilde Lake Village street names or architecture. Reliving the olden days of the 1970s is a fun bonus.

Another Stunning Story by Local Best-Selling Mystery Author!

Columbia’s favorite author (and Baltimore’s), Laura Lippman, has written another memorable mystery, her 21st – this time about residents of the Wilde Lake Village in the city of Columbia, Maryland.

A Waiting List A Mile Long

After being on the Howard County Public Library’s waiting list for two months and 22 days, I am still only number 29 on the waiting list of 261! Fortunately, a friend remembered I wanted to read it and loaned it to me for two days (that’s all it took, though it is a long read at times, especially if you do not relate to the neighborhood or the 70s – if you do, Wilde Lake is a book not to put down).

But Well Worth the Wait

Lippman, a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun newspaper, created our favorite ‘accidental PI,’ Tess Monaghan, in several books and also wrote a few non-Tess books, but Wilde Lake may well be her best yet.

Reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird

The story rotates around family secrets, teenage secrets, and adult secrets until they all coalesce quickly at the end of a long book. Like Scout in Mockingbird, we cherish little Lu as she tries to put two and two together subconsciously and finally computes the answers in adulthood – answers that are an Achilles’ heel, answers that were set in stone long ago and only recently revealed but answers that we wish were not true.

Unique Technique

Wilde Lake alternates between the story of Lu as the first woman state’s attorney in Howard County told in third-person, to reflecting back on her childhood in first-person narrative. The adult-written chapters are named by month and day while the child-themed chapters are titled.

Lippman has an uncanny ability to remember what it is like to be young, to eavesdrop on family conversations and not understand them all but file them away to add to other snippets years later. Another Scout.

And the Mystery is. . . .

Fun! You will probably learn some fascinating facts about the planned city of Columbia, Maryland, and many more about the village of Wilde Lake – from the street names to Wilde Lake High, a model “open-school for the nation,” built in 1971.  Besides Ms. Lippman, Wilde Lake also graduated Edward Norton, Academy Award nominee and grandson of Columbia founder, Jim Rouse.

If you remember the 70s, you will relive your childhood from dial phones to kids walking home alone at night, to teens drinking if their parents were present.

Go ahead. Put yourself on the waiting list. You will be glad you did, but if you can’t wait, Wilde Lake is available for purchase all over Columbia! And beyond. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Review: Saving Audie (lovable pit bull, children's book)


Saving Audie: A Pit Bull Puppy Gets a Second Chance*, by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent (author of The Right Dog For The Job), Bloomsbury, 2011, $16.99, 48 pages, ages 4-8)


Pit Bulls are Lovable

What the world needs now is more books like Saving Audie to keep reminding us that all dogs are individuals deserving of a chance at love, even if they are pit bulls – because even pit bulls have a lot of love to share!

MV

We need to be reminded over and over again that Michael Vick* really did the inexcusable things that landed him in prison – he hurt dogs.

The Book

Saving Audie is a coffee-table children’s book to be read even by adults but especially adults WITH children.  Discussions will result and questions arise (like how Audie got his name). 

Several adult pages at the end provide additional information about pit bulls, pit bull rescues, and the Michael Vick case.

Photography by William Munoz - clear, clever, and big - make you want to touch the dogs, to laugh at their antics, to be in the pictures playing with them.

The Dog: Little Number 86

Audie is an adorable little black pit bull. Little Audie, Number 86, was rescued from living an outside life and was then sheltered, evaluated and driven clear across country from Virginia to California for fostering and finally to spend the rest of his life with his forever family.

Ambassador Dog, CGC

But Audie, like all Vick dogs, has a job for life, which he loves: ambassador for the breed and for all dogs who survive dogfighting. Audie is a normal dog: he likes to chew shoes, doesn’t like baths, and has learned not to be afraid of people. 

But Audie is also a special dog: he passed his Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and is now an agility dog who still loves to play around with other Vick dogs when he’s not playing with the two pit bulls in his forever family.

Caveat

The subject matter may be a bit difficult for the youngest children but those pages can be glossed over, while focusing on the shelters, the ASPCA and all the wonderful people who helped the Vick dogs become just – real dogs. A very worthwhile read. A keeper!


*Also see The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant, and the new DVD, The Champions.

*Read more about it: Audie is a champion in agilityhttp://www.woofipedia.com/articles/from-vick-to-victory

Read about Wallace, a champion disc dog pit bull from a shelter, read about the Michael Vick case, and read about a new documentary, The Champions.

Apologies: This post is late. I have been trying to obtain an update and decided to go ahead and post it anyway. And I had planned to post about these reviews and the case in a final post, but I have so many posts on my desktop that I can't find it! 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Book Review: Wallace (disc dog, lovable pit bull), Part Two of Two


Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls – One Flying Disc at a Time, by Jim Gorant (Gotham Books, 256 pages, 2012, $26)

The Book

Wallace the book starts off with a couple of fellows sailing when a storm blows up. After two pages, we never meet these fellows again. Gorant jumps to a puppy and his littermates, then the book jumps to a guy and a girl in college and we follow them for a few years. How all these disparate threads fit together is truly a work of art.

Who is Wallace? The Disc Dog champion and the dog nobody wanted. The PBT (actually an American Pit Bull Terrier, an APBT) who showed the world that a dog 25 pounds heavier, slower and less agile than the canine body made for disc (like a border collie’s) could overcome it all with practice and determination and love.

The Main Character

The main character is Andrew* - Roo for short, but I wanted the main character to be Wallace. (I kept getting Roo the person and Wallace the dog mixed up.) Roo and his wife fall in love with a young pit bull shelter dog with an uncertain future until they adopt this high-energy dog and try weight-pulling (at which Wallace also excelled) and Disc Dog.  Disc Dog came to be their mainstay and kept the marriage together.

Disc Dog, the Sport

Disc Dog is a new sport where one or two people throw discs (Frisbees) for a dog to catch but they can throw backwards and under their legs and while running. Points are awarded for catching on the fly, for creativity, for difficulty.

Wallace learned to read Roo’s body language and to anticipate where he was going to toss the disc, when, and how fast and high.

Many competitor teams (human and canine) memorize an intricate set of maneuvers (rather like the sport of freestyle – dancing a musical routine with your dog) but Roo kept Wallace guessing. Both were flexible enough to learn each other’s body language - that may be what clinched so many championships, starting in 2005, in Minnesota.

Wallace turned out to be a natural at Disc Dog with high energy and a love for the sport. The bond between Roo and Wallace increased with each competition and each win, and with each fight to garner public acceptance of this breed across the county.

Down with Stereotypes

The best way to help demolish the pit bull stereotype may be to become a champion at a sport that pit bulls aren’t best suited for.

So, that is what Roo and Wallace do. They learn how to tug, attend a seminar called Coaching The Canine Athlete (by our local Dr. Chris Zink) and help develop the new sport of Disc Dog by becoming a champion several times, appearing on TV and in the press as well.

Nothing left to prove. . . .

To see Wallace and read more about this remarkable dog, check out www.WallaceThePitBull.com. You will be astounded!

Clearly Wallace has nothing left to prove - he has done it all!


*Roo also adopted one of Michael Vick’s dogs, Hector,
who became a therapy dog. To learn more about Hector, see Jim Gorant’s book, The Lost Dogs.

Tomorrow, another Vick dog, Audie, and the book, Saving Audie.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review: Wallace (disc dog, lovable shelter pit bull), Part One of Two

Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls – One Flying Disc at a Time, by Jim Gorant (Gotham Books, 256 pages, 2012, $26)


Nothing left to prove. . . .

Jim Gorant is the author of one of the best books in recent years – The Lost Dogs* - about the Michael Vick case and its aftermath, full of hope and success for the dogs. So, DogEvals jumped at the chance to read anything else by Gorant, but somehow, the magic isn’t there in Wallace. Both Wallace and The Lost Dogs are nonfiction: both, about pit bulls. But the magic isn’t there in Wallace. The story is outstanding but it took me a long time to get through the book (perhaps the book is too long?).

Wallace did, however, start the world (and DogEvals) on a pit bull reading frenzy, a total love affair. 

Pit bull types (PBTs) have always been tied for our second most favorite dogs along with rottweilers (first come golden retrievers and labs), but, somehow the magic isn’t there in Wallace. I didn’t feel as if I was in the story, not part of the book, but outside looking in – it just wasn’t happening to me, not pulling me in. Gorant was telling us about how we should feel rather than telling the story so well that we could only feel what he wanted us to feel - too many adjectives and not enough verbs, or perhaps too much detail – one competition after another, for years, until they all ran together for me, as did the different aspects of the sport of discs for dogs and the intricate, creative jumps and throws. I just couldn’t picture them.

The Lesson

On the other hand, there are many excellent quotables (p. 166, 203, 210, e.g.) about the injustices of breed-specific legislation (BSL), the lesson Gorant wants us to take home. How a dog that nobody wanted became a champion almost by chance in the beginning and then by a lot of determination, love and hard work.

The Book

Wallace the book starts off with a couple of fellows sailing when a storm blows up. After two pages, we never meet these fellows again. Gorant jumps to a puppy and his littermates, then the book jumps to a guy and a girl in college and we follow them for a few years. How all these disparate threads fit together is truly a work of art.

Who is Wallace? The Disc Dog champion and the dog nobody wanted. The PBT (actually an American Pit Bull Terrier, an APBT) who showed the world that a dog 25 pounds heavier, slower and less agile than the canine body made for disc (like a border collie’s) could overcome it all with practice and determination and love.

*Roo also adopted one of Michael Vick’s dogs, Hector, 
who became a therapy dog. To learn more about Hector, see Jim Gorant’s book, The Lost Dogs.

Next: More about Wallace the Disc Dog Champion and former shelter dog