Reading List by Jayne
Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing from Rural America is a collection of humorous and poignant stories from a veterinarian in a small, dusty farming and ranching community in rural West Texas. Dr. Brock gives you an intimate look into his small-town and big-hearted perspective on life, animals, and their owners. His unique perspective and tales of doctoring beloved pets, cantankerous livestock, and occasionally their owners will make you smile, laugh, cry, and evoke every other emotion under the sun.
The daughter of a dear friend of mine has decided she wants to be a veterinarian so when I saw this book at netgalley, of course it jumped out at me. I have no idea how MDs can remember all that they do so the thought of knowing all that information about mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians and other species leaves me both flabbergasted and amazed. Dr. Brock handles a multi-species (large and small animal practice) way out in West Texas where he, his fellow vets and the owners might have to drive for hours to get animals the care required. From beloved companion pets to hard working stock animals, Brock and his staff are there to help, to heal and when necessary to peacefully ease the passage of animals in need.
Brock writes with a downhome, folksy style as he covers the funny and the poignant side of his profession. He’s a great dad with his three daughters – letting them see him in action and even help with his work. As they tell him after he apologizes for not being able to take them fishing, any other dads can do that but only he could let them help bring a calf into the world. He’s definitely a “git her done” vet who often has to spend more time being tactful with the owners than it takes to treat their pets. Brock has also tirelessly given of his time to instruct the next generation of veterinarians out there being stomped on, snotted on, head butted, bitten and licked by their clients. Good luck in your studies RB and God bless the vets and vet techs out there. B
A former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe.
In the aftermath of 9/11 Kevin Hazzard felt that something was missing from his life—his days were too safe, too routine. A failed salesman turned local reporter, he wanted to test himself, see how he might respond to pressure and danger. He signed up for emergency medical training and became, at age twenty-six, a newly minted EMT running calls in the worst sections of Atlanta. His life entered a different realm—one of blood, violence, and amazing grace.
Thoroughly intimidated at first and frequently terrified, he experienced on a nightly basis the adrenaline rush of walking into chaos. But in his downtime, Kevin reflected on how people’s facades drop away when catastrophe strikes. As his hours on the job piled up, he realized he was beginning to see into the truth of things. There is no pretense five beats into a chest compression, or in an alley next to a crack den, or on a dimly lit highway where cars have collided. Eventually, what had at first seemed impossible happened: Kevin acquired mastery. And in the process he was able to discern the professional differences between his freewheeling peers, what marked each—as he termed them—as “a tourist,” “true believer,” or “killer.”
Combining indelible scenes that remind us of life’s fragile beauty with laugh-out-loud moments that keep us smiling through the worst, A Thousand Naked Strangers is an absorbing read about one man’s journey of self-discovery—a trip that also teaches us about ourselves.
I really liked “Crossing the Line,” a story about paramedics. When I read this book title, I thought, how can that title be resisted? It can’t, I must give in.
Kevin Hazzard’s interest in becoming first an EMT and then a (para)medic was piqued when he covered a news story in which firefighters and fire-medics responded to an emergency. These people seemed to know something about themselves – something Hazzard was struggling to find. But on his first night at an Emergency Medical Technician course, he wondered if he’d made a huge mistake. He stuck it out, took the national certification test and was among the 50% (average) who passed. A horrible first job (they stayed just ahead of Medicare fraud charges) behind him, he moved on to work in one of the rougher sections of Atlanta and discovered a calling. Responding to the emergencies of the poor, the desperate, the unlucky he and a long time partner ran calls, secured scene safety, debated the “perfect call” and tried to help those having one of the worst days of their lives. And the bullshitting frequent flyers who treated an ambulance like a taxi.
When this wasn’t enough, he made the decision to go back to school and move up to being a medic – the one in charge on the scene. A medic can read EKGs, administer drugs, insert breathing tubes and other things a basic EMT can’t. But it also means that the buck stopped with him and he had to be in control. Older and more experienced medics warned him that one day he would burn out and be sued. Roughly ten years after he started, both had happened. Hazzard knew it was time for him to get out before he became that other scourge of the profession – the uncaring Killer.
The stories he tells are hilarious (chapter 15 “Nailed to the Wall” had me almost choking with laughter), poignant, infuriating and fascinating. Each is there to illuminate some aspect of the job – the good, bad and the ugly and Hazzard’s progression in understanding himself. I’d be reading along, blink and realize I’d just inhaled a quarter of the book. Fair warning that though the stories are no doubt sanitized to some degree, they might be more graphic, bloody and descriptive than readers might want or be ready for. B+
NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author James Swanson delivers a riveting account of the chase for Abraham Lincoln’s assassin. Based on rare archival material, obscure trial manuscripts, and interviews with relatives of the conspirators and the manhunters, CHASING LINCOLN’S KILLER is a fast-paced thriller about the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth: a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia.
I had just finished reading “The Reluctant Bridegroom,” when I saw this book at my library. Well, said I, let me learn something. And I did. The book starts with a bit of background on what was going on in early 1865. Lincoln had just been reelected, Lee had surrendered but other Confederate generals were still fighting in the field, the end of the national agony was almost there and John Wilkes Booth was not happy about any of it.
He and a band of what can charitably only be called a collection of morons had plotted and schemed various ways to harm Lincoln or kidnap him for a leverage card to try and help the Southern cause. Up until then the plots had either not been carried out or had gone awry. But on the morning of April 14th, Booth had the opportunity he’d been waiting for drop in his lap. The plot was put into action, assignments to kill other various important people in the government (the Vice President and Secretary of State) were made and the rest is history.
I vaguely knew Booth had stayed on the run for days before his capture but after reading this book, I know much more about the ways and means behind why it took a determined Union Army and a whole bunch of people trying to get the staggering amount of money the government had offered for his capture – along with the other conspirators who had tried to kill the other men – so long to finally nab him. This is a YA version of Swanson’s book “Manhunt” and despite some questionable use of exclamation points and uninspired writing, it did the job of conveying the events. There are also lots of period items illustrated throughout the book. C+
As America’s Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons.
Annie Glenn, with her picture-perfect marriage, was the envy of the other wives; JFK made it clear that platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was his favorite; and licensed pilot Trudy Cooper arrived with a secret that needed to stay hidden from NASA. Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, providing one another with support and friendship, coffee and cocktails.
As their celebrity rose-and as divorce and tragedy began to touch their lives-the wives continued to rally together, forming bonds that would withstand the test of time, and they have stayed friends for over half a century. THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB tells the story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history.
After reading about the fictional wives of the fictional ASD I decided to read a bit more about the real women upon whom those ladies are based. Beyond their portrayal in “The Right Stuff,” “Apollo 13” and an episode in “From the Earth to the Moon,” I’ll admit that I didn’t know much. Here we see them catapulted – literally overnight – into America’s living rooms and onto the covers of Life magazine. Having for many years endured the danger of their husbands’ careers as military pilots and test pilots, the women now got to worry about rockets exploding on the launch pad or possibly faulty heat shields allowing the men to be incinerated. And all this with cameras and microphones thrust into their faces while they were expected to be “proud, happy and thrilled.”
The first half of the book, which focuses on the Mercury Seven was more focused mainly because of the smaller number to keep up with. With each new additional batch of wives added as the program grew, things got a bit disjointed. Which Marilyn is being referred to here? Jane was whose wife? I didn’t feel I got much information about each wife beyond a few anecdotes though given the sheer number of wives that would have been impossible for this length book. C+
After World War II the United States and Britain airlifted food and supplies into Russian-blockaded West Berlin. US Air Force Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen knew the children of the city were suffering. To lift their spirits, he began dropping chocolate and gum by parachute. Michael O. Tunnell tells an inspiring tale of candy and courage, illustrated with Lt. Halvorsen’s personal photographs, as well as letters and drawings from the children of Berlin to their beloved “Uncle Wiggly Wings.”
I can’t remember when or how I first heard of the story of the candy drops that took place during the Berlin Airlift but when I saw this book, I decided to try it. USAF Lt Gail Halvorsen wanted to see more of Berlin than he could from an airplane and hopped a ride there on one of his off days. At Tempelhof Airport, he saw a group of children behind a fence watching the unloading of the food supplies being brought into the hungry city. While talking with them, he noticed they never once asked for anything from him, but only mentioned how their families in the Russian sector where worried about the gradual but growing loss of liberties there.
On an impulse he divvied up and gave them the only sweets he had with him, 2 sticks of gum broken in half. If they promised to share what he brought, he told them, he told them he’d bring more and waggle the wings of his plane so they would know it was him. And so Operation Little Vittles was born. Soon children and parents all over the city were eagerly waiting for the parachute drops of candy donated by Halvorsen and his fellow Air Force crews. After a reporter heard the story and wrote it up, the brass got involved, delighted in the positive publicity. Before long, news spread around all the bases, then back to the US and then the world. Donations poured in and were either dropped from the planes or, in some cases, mailed directly to those who wrote letters to the crews about being too small to snag any candy parachutes or living too far away from the drop areas.
Grateful letters expressed appreciation for the treasured gifts of chocolate and one plane crewman gave lessons to excited children in a polio hospital about how to blow bubbles with their never before experienced bubble gum. In thanks, one little girl presented Halvorsen with her treasured battered teddy bear that had comforted her through the wartime bombing. Others sent letters to donators who had included addresses with the supplies they sent to be dropped and lifelong ties were formed. In 1968, Colonel Halvorsen was asked by the Air Force to drop candy for the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift and not long after, he was assigned as commander of Tempelhof Base and got to meet many of the (now adult) children who had caught some of the candy he and others had provided. Over the years, Halvorsen has been honored for what he did and has kept on flying and assisting with food and supply deliveries to other parts of the world going through new conflicts. But as one letter sent by a German boy explained, it wasn’t just that they got chocolate. It was more. B
“Suddenly, out of the mist came a parachute with a fresh Hershey chocolate bar from America,” he recalled. “It took me a week to eat that candy bar. I hid it day and night. The chocolate was wonderful, but it wasn’t the chocolate that was most important. What it meant was that someone in America cared. That parachute was something more important than candy. It represented hope. Hope that someday we would be free. Without hope the soul dies.”