Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Book Review: (OT) Pandemic: A Novel (and more books about the same)

Pandemic: A Novel (Dr. Noah Haldane Book 1), by Daniel Kalla (Tom Doherty Associates in 2005/Forge Books in 2007 [paperback], 407/420 pages, $7.99 [now available in Kindle only])

Pandemic, The Book!

Would you believe a book titled Pandemic written way back in 2005? And is it ever a page-turner! But don’t read it at night if you are alone: It’s that good! Why was it not a best-seller? Why has it not been made into a movie?

Yes! There really is a book called Pandemic! Actually, more than one but I am going to concentrate on the pandemic novel by Canadian ER physician-author Daniel Kalla, published in 2005.


Imagine, if you can, the sudden appearance of a deadly respiratory infection of unknown origin that kills quickly and indiscriminately (within four days and with an incubation period of three to five days). Imagine it first showing up in China, then Europe, then North America. A pandemic. This new disease is more deadly than SARS – sound familiar?

The ‘Reality’

I must reiterate that this Pandemic is a novel. However, it is more than just a novel about a disease, “ARCS”, Acute Respiratory Collapse Syndrome. WHO plays a large part in this pandemic in that several of the protagonists are doctors or scientists at WHO; others work at DHS or the CIA. Some are women, including the head of a bioterrorism section. And, of course, there is a bit of romance (but not too much) and even a quarantine. And a race against time – not only against such a tiny enemy but also against a human one.

A frightening disease, killing 25% of those infected, “ARCS” may very likely be spread deliberately (a much worse scenario than the reality of the 2019 coronavirus). However, the incubation period is shorter for “ARCS” (3-5 days) than for the current COVID-19 (1-24 days, usually accepted as 14 days).

Is it conceivable that some bad guys could get their hands on a deadly virus and pass it on to their enemies? Can you imagine us trying figure out the cause and just who the bad guys are?

The Canadian author gets a lot right about Washington, DC, and even places the climax in a town called Jessup, Maryland (the next town over to my town). There is murder and mayhem and a classy US  President who is definitely a good guy, a leader to look up to.
If you want a terse, scientifically correct, medical thriller, Pandemic is it! Then, like me, you will want to read more books by Daniel Kalla and even more books about emerging diseases, epidemiologists, and epidemics like small pox and polio.

Caveat: This book was purchased for review.

For fun (?) watch the medical mystery movie, “Outbreak*,” about an airborne virus epidemic with Morgan Freedman, Rene Russo, Donald Sutherland, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Patrick Dempsey. (* “The 79 Best Pandemic Movies to Binge in Quarantine”)

Websites that merely list good books without telling you why they are recommended are not so helpful after all. I haven’t read the following but am familiar with some of the authors and have scrutinized their contents so I can give you a little information to help you decide which of these books to start with. So, here we go.

Other books on my “To-Read” shelf, in no particular order (let know if you would like to borrow any of these):

The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus,
by Richard Preston (Random House, 1994, 450 pages, $8.99) Also a movie or two. This book is about some fairly local events and I recommend it to my Biology 101 students who are required to read an extra book from a list I provide.

Carriers by Patrick Lynch (Berkeley Books/Random House, 1995, 355 pages, $12.40 hard cover on Amazon) A bio-thriller. A sudden outbreak as deadly as Ebola but a hundred times more contagious.

Ebola: A Documentary Novel of the First Explosion in Zaire by a Doctor who was there, by William Close, MD (Ballantine Books, 1995, 400 pages) It came, it killed, it disappeared. 1976. By the surgeon father of actress Glenn Close who was also related to Marjorie Merriweather Post. Very readable. And scary. The first major outbreak of viral hemorrhagic fever in Central Africa. Zaire was crippled for many years afterward, its infrastructure demolished, leaving the country rife to corruption which ultimately contributed to further medical crises. Another book by the same name was written by Garrett, see below - The Coming Plague.

The Secret Life of Germs: What they are, whey we need them, and how we can protect ourselves against them, by Philip Tierno, PhD (Atria, 2003, 301 pages, $19.99). This book is high on my next-to-read list: it is written for the average person and contains helpful information to use around the house as well as explaining all about germs. The author has even been on the Oprah Winfrey Show so you know he is not only knowledgeable but also interesting.

Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World, by CJ Peters (Doubleday, 1997, 323 pages, $15.95). I am familiar with both authors and have read one book by one of them – it was riveting. Virus Hunter is a biography of a virologist and the diseases he studied and the worldwide outbreaks he traveled to. It is high on my to-read list.

The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance, by Laurie Garrett (Penguin Books, 1995, 750 pages, $22.50) She also wrote a book on Ebola: Eboa, The Story of an Outbreak. The author was interviewed in the recent Frontline documentary Coronavirus Pandemic (21 Apr 2020).

Also by Daniel Kalla:

Blood Lies, about an ER doctor with a twin in Seattle, 2008
Cold Storage, about mad cow disease, BSE, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, 2019
The Last High, about the opiod crisis, 2020

Of Flesh and Blood, about cancer and MS and the Pacific Northwest, 2010
Rage Therapy, the underworld of psychiatry in Seattle, 2007
Resistance, about a super-bug that is resistant to all antibiotics, 2010
We All Fall Down, about a current Black Death, 2019

And another series by Daniel Kalla:

Rising Sun, Falling Shadow: A Novel, (WW2 and the Shanghai Ghetto), 2012

The Far Side of the Sky: A Novel of Love and Survival in War-Torn Shanghai (Chinese, Japanese, Jewish history in 1938, and a doctor, of course), 2012

Nightfall Over Shanghai, (1944-45 Shanghai), 2016

Friday, April 17, 2020

Book Review (OT): A Family Secret (WW2, Holland, childhood friends)

A Family Secret, by Eric Heuvel (Square Fish, 2009, 64 pages, $11.45, grades 5-6, ages 10-14)

Another excellent historical graphic novel, A Family Secret may be considered a sequel to The Search* (see the previous review), and it reveals part of the story that took place but was not included in the first book.. Again we have a young Dutch boy in modern times visiting his grandmother, Helene, searching her attic for something to sell in the annual Queen’s Day flea market.

He finds his grandmother’s scrapbook from 1939 with photos of her best friend, Esther, a Jew. Helene’s father was a policeman who sided with the occupying Nazis to keep his job while her older brother joins the Resistance.

Jewish children are not allowed to attend school or play in parks. They were being rounded up. Esther and Helene were separated.

A wonderful historical that takes the reader to Dutch Indonesia where the Dutch were imprisoned by the Japanese during WW2 – then back again to today in The Netherlands.

I will not reveal the two-part surprise ending but it will remain memorable and very much worth the reading.

With a few fewer characters than The Search, A Family Secret also has a pictorial list of characters to help the reader.

You will remember this story long after reading it and may read it over and over again.

Caveat: This book was purchased for review.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Book Review (OT): The Search, A Graphic Novel (WW2, today, boys and girls)

The Search, by Eric Heuvel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, 64 pages, $17.99, Ages 10-14, grades 5-6)

A Graphic Novel for Everyone

You are never too old to read a graphic novel and this is a great one to start with. Although it is a novel, it is historically accurate in relating what life was like during World War II for two young girls (one being Jewish), and a boy named Bob.

The story opens in current times when Esther, now living in the US, visits her son in The Netherlands. Her grandson meets Esther’s childhood friend Helene’s grandson and together they hear about Esther being hidden on a farm during the Second World War.

The story is a bit complex, with three generations of friends plus going back and forth in time to different countries on different continents, but the first two pages show all the people involved and is a godsend for adult readers who know the history. Younger readers, of course, will have no problem keeping people straight but may not be as familiar with the historical events. And The Search stars both young boys and young girls.

Of course, there is also a mystery involved: after all the title is The Search. Where is Bob - Esther and Helene’s childhood friend? Did he survive the war? Can the grandsons find him by using the internet?

A companion book to The Search is A Family Secret, also a graphic novel. Read more about the family secret in the next book review.
Caveat: This book was purchased for review.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Product Review: Great Dog Hoodies!

Great Hoodies!

These are “a few of my favorite things,” to borrow the words of Julie Andrews. Thanks, Julie.

I know it’s almost summer and soon it will be too hot for hoodies but you do still have have time. Here are our favorites.

Do More With Your Dog!

The Kyra Sundance Do More With Your Dog hoodie is a lightweight, incredibly soft hoodie that will be your summer favorite hoodie or swimsuit cover-up. It comes in a light denim blue. I have had mine for a couple of years and still adore it. With a kangaroo pocket in front, it is currently available in small or medium. Mine is a roomy XL and I have worn it so much that I will soon need to get another! I usually wear it over a T-shirt or turtleneck but it would look great alone on you.

Never Alone

Our other “ties” for first place in the world of dog hoodies are from that wonderful company Dog is Good. They have a line of ‘Never Alone’ designs on several products. Again, I have had the ‘Never Walk Alone’ (“It’s not where you walk, it’s who walks with you.”) hoodie for a couple of years and it is still super soft. I purchased an extra large size so I can wear Ts and sweatshirts under it in the winter. It comes in dark navy blue and also has a kangaroo pocket and I discovered an inner pocket for an MP3.


I also have another Dog is Good  (DIG) hoodie (mine is an olive green)

‘Never Camp Alone,’ as well as several other items in the ‘Never Camp Alone’ line: a T-shirt, a magnet, a wall plaque, a mug, coasters, and a glorious tote bag that I use as a book bag – very sturdy with an inside zippered pocket.

A Dog Can Change The Way You See The World

Ain’t it the truth! A dog will change your life and lifestyle.

The ‘A Dog Can Change the Way You See the World’ theme is available in several different items. We love our wall plaque and large wall ‘picture.’

Caveat: All items were purchased by the reviewer for review.

Caveat: The Dog is Good hoodies have hoods made of doubled material, one is a soft fleece. Drives me crazy when it rides up the back of my neck and head rather than lying down flat but the wonderful hoodies by The Black Dog
(1-800-626-1991) are the same so perhaps it is the latest ‘thing.’ The Black Dog has so many wonderful Ts and jackets and everything else that I just can’t decide what to buy!

Update: I had a lot of questions for Dog is Good, my once favorite company, so, over 6 business days, I attempted to reach them by one long email and seven voice mails. It was interesting in that the same person’s voice was on each of the four different department’s numbers. They must be busy with orders! Consequently there is no photo in the blog of the Christmas hoodie or the baseball type T-shirt that I also love.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Book Review: Theodore Boone, The Fugitive (8th graders; dog; goats; fugitive; Washington, DC)

Theodore Boone, The Fugitive, by John Grisham (Puffin, 2015, 250 pages, $8.99 paperback, ages 8+, grades 3+)

Kid Lawyer with a Dog

Judge, the dog, does not appear often in The Fugitive, mostly in passing, as a sidekick to our hero Theodore, unlike in a couple of the other titles in the series, but Washington, DC, plays a major role. Kid lawyer Theodore Boone, 8th grade son of two lawyers in a small Pennsylvania town, goes on a class trip to Washington, DC, for a few days. (Being from Idaho, I thought it was the high school seniors in the East that did this, but perhaps times have changed.)

In the subway (the metro, in DC language), Theo sees a fugitive from his hometown. Of course, Theo tails him and snaps a photo unbeknownst to the murderer, number 7 on the FBI’s Most Wanted List!

Grisham Gets DC Right

Famous author John Grisham must have done his research well: he gets Washington, DC, right (except for one metro stop, Metrocenter that appears as Metro Center). (Oh, I just looked it up and I stand corrected – Grisham is correct!) However, he does use ‘the’ Metro Center while we here in the DC area just say Metro Center.

All the Usual Suspects

Well, not suspects actually but characters. The Fugitive continues many of the same substories as the other titles in the series, with friend April of the hippie parents and Uncle Ike* with the shady past that is slowly revealed more and more in each book.

The Fugitive, book 5, continues the story of a murder that occurred in book 1 when kid lawyer Theo spots this probable ‘perp’ on the metro but loses him. The FBI, called in on the case, cannot find him either. What is Theo to do? Then, . . . .  

Matinees in Book Form

The Theo, Kid Lawyer, series reminds one of the Saturday matinees on the big screen in small towns starting in the late 30’s with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in that the Theo books could be one long long epistle. Instead, it is broken down into seven (so far) books each of which stands alone but refers to incidents and characters in others and adds a bit more to each character’s substory.

The plots are good enough for adults to get hooked on and with several minor plots in each, the flow is fast to keep an adult’s attention.

The Fugitive may be the least fast-paced due to detailed courtroom scenes, but we love how Theo is considered an adult, wise beyond his years, and, the next moment, just a 13-year-old kid who can be grounded and will do almost anything to skip school and attend a jury trial.

Animal Court

Each book has a chapter about Animal Court and The Fugitive is no exception. Although animal lovers may object to some of the cases in Animal Court like possible outcomes for a barking dog, other cases serve a mild distraction to the main plot as the case of the fainting goats (For more on fainting goats, search in Youtube or read the DogEvals review of Please Don’t Feed the Mayor.)

Only two more Theo books remain (books 4 and 7). We may have to wait until our lockdown is over to read and share them with you. We wonder if book 7 will end the series or not. . . .

*I like Ike! And I can’t wait to hear his entire story. Ike is Theo’s favorite (and only) uncle and Theo is Ike’s favorite (and only) nephew. Ike is a disbarred attorney (like Woods, Theo’s father), who is currently an accountant in a T-shirt, jeans, and sandals with a 20-year-old car and who formerly spent three years in prison, but a good prison. He often saves the day for Theo.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Book Review: Theodore Boone, The Scandal (8th graders, otters, teachers who cheat!)

Theodore Boone, The Scandal, by John Grisham (Puffin, 2018, 212 pages, $8.99 paperback, ages 8+, grades 3+)

Kid Lawyer with a Dog

Here at DogEvals, we pretty much decided not to publish a review of The Scandal because up until Chapter 20, page 146, there were only slight mentions of a dog, specifically Judge, Theodore’s dog. Then we got to page 146 and decided to write and publish this, not because of a dog but because it is a darn good book for kids and adults that tackles a crucial question worth discussing.

We also decided that we will probably review the entire series: this is our fourth. See Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer; Theodore Boone, The Abduction;
and Theodore Boone, The Accused.

Dogs and Other Animals

If you like otters, each Theo book seems to have an incident in which Theo defends a different animal in Animal Court (our county has a Dangerous Animals Hearing Board but we love the idea of Animal Court).

But right before the otter case is heard, Animal Court hears a barking dog situation. The judge decrees that the owner must bring the dog inside at night to bark at the owners and keep them awake, or the owner must muzzle the dog, or get rid of him, or ---- the judge will have the dog put down. This is a situation definitely for parents to discuss with their kids. Previous titles in the Theo Kid Lawyer series involve a cat and a llama.

The Theo Kid Lawyer Series

Each book also has a situation with Uncle Ike, who, like Theo’s parents is (was) a lawyer; a situation with April, another 8th-grader like Thso but so not like Theo; biking around town; Boy Scouts; and kids asking Theo for legal assistance. He also gets to sit in a few court cases and, yes, even gets into normal 8th-grade trouble with his parents. Parents, by the way, that any kid would love to have.

“Theo watched them drive away. It wasn’t a good win, but then it wasn’t a bad loss either. Neither side was satisfied with the outcome, so, as Judge Gantry often said, justice prevailed.” (p. 162)

Kid Books

Kid books star kids, kids who teach the adults a lesson. The Theo books do this incredibly well! As soon as you finish one Theo book, you want to start another.

And all but the first in the series attach Chapter 1 of Book 1, just in case you didn’t start at the beginning.

 Parents in Kid Books

Marcella and Woods Boone are parents every kid (and adult) would love to have. They have adult-sized conversations with their kid even if they have to ground him. Mrs. Boone cooks once a week. Both Boone parents are sticklers. Put those two together and you get the week’s worth of dinners – Monday is always the same, Tuesday is dinner at the shelter followed by helping some of the residents. Wednesday is Wednesday’s dinner. You can always tell the day of the week by where the family eats, at home in the den, at the pizza place, at the same table at one restaurant eating the same thing. It makes life so much easier.

And the daily routine is rather routine (mornings seem to be, for everyone).

The Scandal

In probably all of the Theo books you will find a substory about Uncle Ike the disbarred grown-up hippie, one about April, one with Theo, one at Animal Court, and a legal issue or two. The scandal in The Scandal is centered around discovering that a handful of teachers cheat: they are caught. They are good teachers, who care about their students. We have all heard of kids cheating but teachers? What will become of them? Is this really a crime, a conspiracy? How were they found out?

Read it and see!

Caveat: This book was purchased for review.