Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War” by Mary Roach

“Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War” by Mary Roach c.2016, W.W. Norton $26.95 / $34.95 Canada 285 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Thank you for your service. You’ve said that many times recently, and meant every word to every soldier. Thank you for keeping us protected. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your sacrifice. And once you’ve read “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War” by Mary Roach, you’ll also thank those who serve our servicemen and women. Chickens are not ducks. Nevertheless, chicken carcasses are what the U.S. Military uses to test its equipment to ensure that it’s safe from “birdstrike,” which describes those instances when flying bird (duck, goose, even starling) meets flying machine. Birdstrike kills more than just birds, so the military needs to know its equipment can handle feathered foes – therefore, it uses a “chicken gun” to shoot pullets, not bullets. And that, says Mary Roach, “is most of what I have to say about guns.” Instead of focusing on artillery and battles in “Grunt,” she focuses on the fight to keep our troops comfortable, hydrated, healthy, and alive. While it might seem easy, for instance, to outfit many thousand people in identical clothing, what our troops wear is a kind of weapon. The U.S. government hires fashion designers to develop uniforms that are weather-appropriate, as fireproof as...

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“The Fireman” by Joe Hill

“The Fireman” by Joe Hill c.2016, William Morrow $28.99 / $35.99  Canada 753 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Your family has a good contingency plan. You all know what to do if there’s a blaze or a flood. You know where to go, what to grab if there’s time, and what not to do. You’ve practiced – at least in your mind. But what if your Plan A fails?  In “The Fireman,” the new novel by Joe Hill, that’s the burning question. Harper Willowes Grayson couldn’t quite believe that she’d gotten infected. As a nurse, she knew the dangers. She knew that those who got Dragonscale died horrible deaths in fire that consumed them from within. Millions of people world-wide had been reduced to ash, and she’d taken strong precautions against Draco incendia trychophyton but there it was: a filigree trail snaked black-and-gold around her hips and up her arms. A sign of infection. A death sentence. Her husband, Jakob, had sentenced her to death already, though, hadn’t he?  He forced Harper into agreeing to a suicide pact, should either of them fall sick. Would he really make her go along with it, now that Harper was pregnant? The answer was yes, but on the day Jakob became crazed with fear and tried to kill her, Harper learned that her months as a nurse offered her something unique: the friendship of a tall, mysterious man,...

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“Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman

“Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman c.2016, Atria Books $26.00 / higher in Canada 336 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER “Hey! Look at me!” You spent a fair amount of your childhood hollering that. Watch me. Look here. See what I’m doing, because nobody likes to be ignored. In fact, as in the new book “Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman, being invisible is the worst thing of all. Civility is dead. Britt-Marie feared that was the case these days. In civil households, silverware is stored forks-knives-spoons in the drawer. Windows are clean, clothes are pressed, dinner is at six o’clock and not a minute later. These things are important. She said that to Kent many times throughout their marriage, and he laughed. She also asked him repeatedly to put his dirty shirt in the hamper, but he always tossed it on the floor instead. It usually smelled of pizza and perfume. Britt-Marie didn’t wear perfume. Much as she loved her husband, Kent didn’t appreciate her. Britt-Marie wasn’t sure he even saw her anymore and so, deciding to leave him, she applied for a job. It had been decades since she’d done anything but keep a home and jobs were scarce, but there seemed to be one position for which she was qualified. And so, Britt-Marie went to work as a temporary recreation-center caretaker in Borg, a dying...

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“67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence” by Howard Means

“67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence” by Howard Means c.2016, Da Capo Press $25.99 / $33.99 Canada 288 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Things can change in an instant. It only takes a minute to catch a mistake, a blink for disaster to occur, a heartbeat to alter history. When it’s over, you wonder how things happened so fast: a second, two shakes of a lamb’s tail or, as in the new book by Howard Means, just “67 Shots.” May 4, 1970, was a deadly day in South Vietnam : twenty-four American soldiers died there in the jungle heat; just average boys, “mostly white, mostly single, mostly volunteers.” Mostly under age 20. It was hot in America , too, that weekend prior: the Lakers played the Knicks for the championship; Muhammad Ali had just been stripped of his boxing title; the Beatles were letting it be; ROTC centers across the nation were under attack; and Richard Nixon had just dropped a verbal bombshell in a “ Cambodia speech.” Residents of Kent , Ohio , who hated the local college population’s burgeoning political activism, complained about out-of-towners who seemed to be goading the students. Students at Kent State University were likewise restless; frisky at the end of a long cold winter, they flocked to downtown bars to let off steam, and various protest organizations had...

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“Cake: A Slice of History” by Alysa Levene

“Cake: A Slice of History” by Alysa Levene c.2016, Pegasus Books $26.95 / higher in Canada 303 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Take a deep breath. And blow. Blow for all you’re worth. Blow til your lungs are empty, your stomach’s concave, your face is blue. You’ve got a lot of candles to extinguish – one for each year you’ve been on Earth, to be exact, and in “Cake: A Slice of History” by Alysa Levene, you’ll see why they’re on top of a confection. What, exactly, is the definition of “cake”? When that question came up in a British courtroom, Alysa Levene’s curiosity was piqued. Cake, she discovered, can mean many things, depending on your preferences, background, and more. Today’s cake, says Levene, usually means “memories, almost always of celebration, family and love.” Generally speaking, to make a cake, you need four things: fat, eggs, sugar, and flour. Ancient Egyptians and the Chinese didn’t, perhaps, have those exact things, but they did make confections that we would recognize as cake. They also knew that baking in an oven made their cakes better. In Medieval times, however, the word “cake” could mean bread. That was because bakery ingredients – especially sugar – were often hard to get, and they were expensive. “Cakes” might be oddly shaped and cooked over a fire like bread, or they might be sweet...

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