Plus: Checking the box and the farmers' plight

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“Rossen to the Rescue”

By Jeff Rossen

c. 2017, Flatiron Books

$24.99, $34.99 Canada; 256 pages

You know your rights. You’re well aware of what you can and can’t do legally because you’ve armed yourself with knowledge. You have rights and, in the new book “Rossen to the Rescue” by Jeff Rossen, one of them is the right not to be scammed, schemed, or unsafe.

So, let’s say you’re on a cross-country flight. The attendant just handed you something with ice, you’ve got the seat back, you’ll be at your destination in no time – and then something goes bump. Hard. What will you do if there’s a disaster?

As a national investigative correspondent and NBC News contributor, Jeff Rossen set out to find out. Surviving air disasters, home invasions, locked cars, and cheating claw games are just some of the things he knows. Here, he shares what learned about them, and more.

First, says Rossen, don’t say “don’t panic.”  He hates those words because you will panic. It’s what you do after that first gasp that makes a difference in disaster, so go ahead and panic. Then take action.

You have the right, for instance, to keep yourself and your family safe. More than 130 homes are invaded every day in America, and a simple, less-than-a-dollar device can boost your chances of not being one of them. A one-minute task now will help you avoid getting ripped-off if you’re locked out of your house tomorrow, while a 30-second fix on your laptop might save your privacy. And be sure to have the five-minute “Stranger Danger” talk … with your teen.

You have the right to be healthy. Did you know what sits beneath your refrigerator, for example, and what it might contain? Do you know how to avoid germs on airplanes, how you might be using a car seat incorrectly, or how to escape if your vehicle is submerged in water?

Stay away from train tracks, Rossen learned in his investigations. Know what you legally must do when stopped by a police officer. Always wash new underwear before wearing it. And monitor your credit, especially if there’s a child in the family.

Sometimes, ensuring that you’re secure can seem like drudge-work: so many calls to make, forms to fill out, things to do wrong. It can make you grumpy so, before you go any further, read “Rossen to the Rescue.”

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Cautionary tales like these can often be dark and ominous, but author Jeff Rossen shines serious light on scammers and dangers and things that go BUMP in your flight. With the help of his trusty staff, a bit of humor, and accounts of actual (sometimes shocking) experiments, he details cures for common, and not-so-common, consumer complaints. Then he exposes others that mightn’t have reached your awareness. For readers, that means a fun read that’ll teach you something, too.

If you have anything to protect, or if you merely live and operate in today’s world, here’s your next book. “Rossen to the Rescue” does double-duty: it keeps you safe, and it makes you chuckle. And if you think that’s enjoyable reading – you know you’re right.

“Rescued”

By Peter Zheutlin

c. 2017, Tarcher Perigee

$16, $22 Canada; 225 pages

You always know where your dog is. Right now, for instance, he’s at doggy daycare. She’s getting groomed, or she’s at the neighbor’s for a visit. He’s outside or inside or laying right at your feet. No matter where he flops down, you know where your dog is but, as in the new book “Rescued” by Peter Zheutlin, you might not know where he’s been.

An empty nest was staring him right in the face.

Peter Zheutlin wasn’t relishing the idea of a house without his sons. Ever since they were small, he’d been a work-at-home dad and he knew he’d miss their day-to-day company. Empty nest syndrome, that’s what it was - which was why, perhaps, after 20 years of saying “no” to getting a dog, Zheutlin finally agreed to get a dog.

This wouldn’t – couldn’t – be just any dog, though: Zheutlin had previously written a book about rescue dogs and the organizations that save them. He’d come to understand the importance of rescue, so he and his wife began there with a website search, a video, and they fell in love. And so, after several weeks of nervous waiting, Albie came to live with the Zheutlins.

There was, of course, a learning curve on both ends of the leash. Albie, a yellow lab, had been a stray, so his background was totally unknown. He seemed at least partially trained but there were times when he was growly and overly-protective, problems that intensified when the Zheutlins adopted a companion for Albie.

For his part, Zheutlin wanted to let Albie “be a dog,” to allow squirrel-chasing and rabbit-grabbing. He had to learn to ignore doggy-messes and bits of fur in his otherwise spotless house, and he had to relinquish his clean car. And though you should never, ever call him a doggy “dad,” he learned that dogs are a lot like kids, and you hate to see either one of them leave.

There’s a lot to love about “Rescued,” beginning with the fuzzy face on the cover and the promise of more inside. And there are two things that may make you growl. Starting with the decision to open his life to a pet, author Peter Zheutlin speaks to the heart of dog lovers everywhere with the journey he describes on his way to being a newly-minted dog-person. The path will charm readers in its earnestness to do right by Albie, and by the emergence of love for a dog.

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What’s not so fun? There’s advice in this book, but it may feel tinged with opinion, or even controversial. Also, there’s the scolding that readers get for anthropomorphizing their dogs and for calling themselves “parents.” 

Seriously: who’s going to the doghouse for that?

If you’re a dog lover from way back, be patient with what your might find here; this book is good but may make you snappish. If you’re thinking of getting a dog, this may show you where to go. And if you’re looking for a few sweet tales, then “Rescued” is where it is.

Bonus reads

“Same Family, Different Colors”

By Lori L. Tharps (Beacon Press)

You debated awhile before you checked the box. The choices were few: Black, white, Latino, Asian, pick one, tick the box, but that’s not the end of the story. Within that little square lies a lot more about who you are and who you feel you are, and in “Same Family, Different Colors” by Lori L. Tharps, you’ll see that perceptions – yours and that of others - matter plenty.

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Author Lori L. Tharps does an admirable job dissecting issues of prejudice within Asian, Latino, and Black communities, but take this as a warning: there’s a lot of throat-clearing here and it takes awhile to get to the meat of this book. Once there, you’ll be rewarded by stories of pain, careful parenting, history and science, and of everyday people who seem determined to change prejudicial perceptions but it may already be common-sense to you, especially if you’ve lived it. Still, though there’s a sunshine-and-flowers ending here, the overall tone of the book offers a good bit of hope.

“This Blessed Earth”

By Ted Genoways (W.W. Norton)

You really have to play it safe. You can’t afford to lose, can’t handle anything but a safe bet, can’t see anything without a guarantee. No big chances for you; risky behavior just isn’t something you like. You’re no gambler, no rebel or wild child. And in the new book “This Blessed Earth,” what you’ll see doesn’t always have a happily ever after, though author Ted Genoways, great-grandson of a Nebraska farmer, offers appealing glimpses of good here: readers can almost feel sun-warmed dirt and smell corn growing; we can imagine sunsets seen from a tractor cab and blissful quiet through Genoways’ words. But then he shows the flip-side: markets gone bad, failing crops, late harvests, bank loans due, and weather gone wrong, not to mention environmental concerns and what happens when farm meets government meets big business.

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Though Genoways’ subjects indicate that they can’t imagine life any other way, that kind of ending will leave readers with a sobering narrative and a forlorn feeling.

If you farm, you live this story and you’ll want to read it, too. If you don’t farm but you’re concerned about agriculture, the environment, or what’s on your plate, “This Blessed Earth” is still a good bet.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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