Yes, I’m still alive (and here’s what I’ve been reading…)

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Hi, everyone. Yes, I’m alive…

Sorry I’ve been away so long. But living and working in a renovation zone has been keeping me pretty busy. In other words, I have not had much free time.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

In the spare time that I have had, I’ve been struggling to find activities that allow me to escape from all of the stress and horrors  of, well…  living and working in a renovation zone. So I’ve been binge-watching a few TV shows, borrowing movies from my local library, and reading whenever I can.

Yes, I love to read. In fact, it’s something that I’ve loved to do since I was just a little kid. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved books about animals. I’ve also been known to enjoy a good mystery or two.

Here’s what I’ve been reading

So with all of that being stated, here’s what I’ve been reading.

Right now, I’m about three-quarters of the way through Live and Let Growl by Laurien Berenson. And so far, I really like it. I don’t love it. But I really like it.

It’s part of the “Melanie Travis Canine Mystery” series. As such, it’s what would usually be classified as a “cozy” mystery, which basically means that it’s a “who-done-it” without all of the mayhem and gore. And right now, that’s fine with me. I’ve got enough chaos in my life as it its.

But back to the point.

One of the reasons I like it so much is because the protagonist is from Connecticut. So I can relate. The other reason I like it is because of the setting. It’s set at a dog show in Kentucky horse country. Dogs…horses…mystery…intrigue… what’s not to love?

And now for some recommendations…

Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about all of my feline-loving friends out there. In fact, I’ve got some great recommendations for anyone who shares my passion for cats and books, or more specifically, cats and mysteries.

You simply must check out the Cat Who… series by the late Lillian Jackson Braun. This set of 20-plus books by Braun features an intrepid reporter (Jim Qwilleran) as the protagonist and his trusty Siamese sidekicks, Yum Yum and KoKo. Together they get in and out of their share of trouble while solving perplexing crimes.

Like Berenson’s books, these are “cozy” mysteries, so they’re suitable for readers of all ages.

Give them a try, and let me know what you think. Or you can share your thoughts about your favorite books in the comments section below. I’d love to hear about what you enjoy and the books on your summer reading list.

The tale of a well-read writer

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In the spirit of the holidays, I’ve decided to take a break from blogging about the law, animals, and animals who break the law.

Instead, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I love to read. And I read a lot. So this January I decided to participate in a reading challenge on Since it was the first time I participated in the annual contest — and with nothing at stake except pride — I decided to go for broke. I decided to try to read 100 books in 2016.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

By my calculations that meant I had to read roughly two books per week in order to complete the challenge.

Well, with less than two weeks left in the year, I can happily report… that I’ve failed. Miserably. According to the goodreads tally, I’ve read 68 books so far this year. But in the interest of full disclosure I’ve only read 66. This miscount happened because I marked one book as read (even though I didn’t finish it), and had to mark another one as read even though I accidentally clicked on the wrong title.

On one hand, 66 percent isn’t very good. In fact, it’s barely a “passing grade.” On the other hand, if you consider how much time it actually takes to read 66 book, it’s not bad. In fact, it’s not bad at all.

Here’s a closer look, “by the numbers.” So far I’ve read 66 books or:

  • Approximately 24,000 pages (give or take)
  • Shortest book 166 pages
  • Longest book 693 pages (actually this was the one I didn’t finish!)
  • Average length 386 pages
  • Average rating 3.3 (out of 5) stars

Here are my favorites:

  • An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Parts One and Two) by J.K. Rowling
  • The Death Artist by Jonathan Santlofer
  • Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag
  • Criminal by Karin Slaughter
  • Die in Plain Sight by Elizabeth Lowell
  • State of Fear by Michael Crichton
  • One True Thing by Anna Quindlen

My least favorites:

  • The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum (so horrible I didn’t get past the first chapter)
  • The Sigma Protocol by Robert Ludlum (not that much better)
  • A Touch of Ice by L.J. Charles
  • Once Gone by Blake Pierce
  • Before He Kills by Blake Pierce
  • Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell

My recommendations (for animal lovers, especially those of you who love cats):

  • Anything by Lillian Jackson Braun

So there you have it — for whatever it’s worth.

Words to soothe a savage beast: how reading affects traumatized dogs

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Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

A few weeks back, I mentioned that my cat, Eli, is extremely sensitive. And in that regard, nothing’s changed.

But I did learn something interesting the other day. Or more accurately an article in The New York Times confirmed something I’ve always suspected: animals might not understand everything we say, but they definitely understand our tone of voice.

I guess that’s why volunteers read to dogs at the ASPCA in New York City.

“As long as you read in a nice soothing voice, they enjoy it,” Hildy Benick, 69, a volunteer who has been with the reading program since shortly after it started, told the Times.

Victoria Wells is the senior manager of behavior and training at the ASPCA. She started the reading program in 2013, and says it is a great way to help dogs that have to relearn how to trust people.

“You know within each session the progress that they’re making,” she told the Times.  “In the beginning of the session, the dog might be in the back of their kennel cowering, and then they move forward, lie down, relax; their tail might wag.”

Meanwhile, across the country, volunteers are reading to dogs and cats at the Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA.

Like their counterparts in New York City, the animals awaiting adoption in Phoenix are good listeners. And apparently they’re not too picky about which reading material their human pals share. If you think about it, that’s saying a lot, considering some of the college kids that volunteer at the shelter often read from their text books, according to Whitney Fletcher, Director of Volunteers & Special Events at AAWL & SPCA.

“As you read out loud, you are focusing on something other than the animal,” she says. “In turn, the animal grows accustomed to your presence and voice, which is calming. Dogs and cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.”

If it works with shelter animals, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work with our dogs and cats, too. So the next time you curl up with a good book, try reading to your pet and see what happens. He (or she) just might enjoy it.

Recommended reading

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As a reporter, I always balked at doing “advertorial.” Actually that’s an understatement. I detested it.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, I can sum it up this way. Advertorial is basically a “news” or “feature story” about a specific business or product. In other words, it is basically a free plug.

Anyhow, as the saying goes, you can take the girl out of journalism, but you can’t take a reporter’s ethics out of the girl. Yes, believe it or not, I was a reporter who actually had ethics, but that’s another story for another time.

The point is that as the founder and owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, I am also concerned about doing anything that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. So I am still leery about getting involved in anything that could be construed as giving free endorsements.

“I am now going to set a dangerous precedent by breaking my own rules.”

All of that being stated, I am now going to set a dangerous precedent by breaking my own rules. I am going to recommend a few books that I consider “must-reads” for anyone interested in mediation, writing and the law.

The first book is one I’ve actually read. It’s called Nipped in the Bud, not in the Butt by Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton. In it, Hamilton a former lawyer who is now an accomplished mediator, shares why mediation is the best way to resolve conflicts involving animals. Specifically, she explains how and why mediation yields positive results. She also explains why litigation involving animal disputes often results in pain and frustration for everyone involved. In my humble opinion, this is essential reading for pet owners, veterinarians, animal rescue organizations, groomers, barn managers and anyone else who works with or loves animals.

I must confess that I haven’t read the next two books… but they are definitely on my list. The first is an e-book called Snoopy the Legal Beagle by Charles M. Schulz. The second is also an e-book. This one is called Snoopy the Literary Ace by the same author.

I can’t tell you much about them at this point. But I have no doubt that they’re awesome. After all, Charles Schulz was definitely a genius. And Snoopy is definitely my hero.