Elephant Company by Vicki Constantine Croke

Elephant CompanyThe full title of this book is Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II. That’s quite a mouthful, and this is quite a book. James Howard Williams, aka Elephant Bill, found a job with the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation in 1920 when he was 23, fresh from serving in the First World War and looking for adventure. His experience with the British Army in the Middle East helped prepare him for the ruggedness of jungle life, and his love of animals soon won him a position as the main person in charge of the elephants employed to haul the teak logs that were the mainstay of the business.

Over the next few decades, Williams won the trust of the elephants and the high regard of the humans through his kindness and respect for the integrity of the animals and their handlers. He acquired enough veterinary skills to doctor the many wounds and illnesses of the elephants, and with the help of one of the handlers, he changed the way young elephants were trained, to be more humane as well as cost effective. When World War II began and Burma was under attack by the Japanese because of its strategic location, Williams led a caravan of his elephants and some refugees over steep mountains, to take them to safety in India. It was a harrowing trip and his crowning achievement.

This book was fascinating on several levels. I know much more about elephants than I ever did before – their intelligence, sense of smell, social skills, sounds, and determination are greater than I ever suspected. I learned about Burma, the teak logging industry, jungle life, and British colonialism. I learned about human-animal connections. There was even a little romance, as Williams met and married his wife and soul mate.

Members of the Book Discussion Group thought this was a wonderful book. They felt the writing was very good and never bogged down, and there was so much to learn. They gave it 4+ stars.

Reviewed by Nancy

Date of discussion: October 7, 2015              Rating: 4 stars

Posted in Adventure, Biography, Book Review, History, Library Discussion Group, Nature, Non-Fiction | Tagged | Leave a comment

Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles by Don Felder

HeavenHellA great inside view to one of my (and America’s) favorite bands. It is interesting to know some of the “dirt” that happened during Don’s stay with the band. But, now that I know it, I wish I didn’t. It changes my view of the members and not in a good way.

Review by Greg Schissler

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Finders Keepers by Stephen King

FindersKeepersI liked the story in this book as well as I liked Mr. Mercedes. My only disappointment is that Hodges, Holly & Jerome don’t appear until half way into the story. They were such an integral part of Mr. Mercedes & I enjoyed getting to know them as a team. It’s like King just threw them into the novel & they don’t really play as an important role to this story as they did in Mr. Mercedes. This is a great story & the ending will keep you thinking long after you finish the last page. Mr. King is quickly becoming my favorite author.

Review by Anonymous

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Girl Underwater by Claire Kells

GirlUnderwaterThis is the author’s first book. Claire Kells weaves a very good story about a college student who survives a plane crash. You were right there with the main character, Avery Delacorte, as she experiences the crash. You identify with the fears and nightmares that plague her afterward. This is a very believable tale. You register every emotion with Avery as she claws her way back to a normal life. This is a good read.

Review by Anonymous

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The Art of Migration by Peggy Macnamara

ArtMigrationAn interesting book that defies simple classifications, left me happy, but wanting more.  It’s appealing because it focuses on Chicago area wildlife, and has the authority of Field Museum experts behind it.  A primary feature is that it is filled with beautiful watercolor paintings.  However, detailed facts may be more accessible in a standard bird guide book.  Check it out and be more aware of the wonders of nature around you that are often overlooked.

Review by Kathleen Schissler

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The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

RacingRainThe narrator of this novel is a family dog. Not being a ‘dog person’, this aspect limited the initial appeal of the story for me.  Another important theme is business of drag racing, also of minimal appeal to me.  Regardless, overall, I enjoyed this easy read.  It really is a family drama.

Review by Anonymous

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Reel Culture by Mimi O’Connor

ReelCultureThe premise of this book is that these are the movies that you need to be intimately familiar with or else you will not be able to relate well with everybody else who no doubt has seen all of these classic movies.  It caught my interest, almost lost it, and then got some of it back again.  My complaint is that it’s probably more relevant to be up to date on current rather than classic movies.  There is some interesting trivia.  Worth a quick scan to get some ideas for movies to see that you missed, or re-see with your kids for example.

Review by: Greg Schissler

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