Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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High Octane Action Powers ‘Albertan Apocalypse’

Albertan Apocalypse

By John Keillor, 2021

Fiction/Dystopian/Action-Adventure

Summary: Governments have been destroyed worldwide by global catastrophe except in Alberta, Canada. But when malevolent forces try to take over, Albertans put up a ferocious fight to keep their freedom. 

Originally reviewed on Reedsy/Discovery.

Setting

It’s 2031. Twelve years ago a worldwide catastrophe destroyed the internet and disabled governments. Many human brains were also “ruined” when the atmosphere “was transformed into a microwave oven.” One of few stable societies remaining is in Alberta, Canada. But malevolent forces are converging to invade the province, exploit its natural resources, and enslave its citizens.

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GUEST POST: Author Jonathan Durham on Writer’s Block

Hello Friends!

Kimber here. Being my usual charming, magnificent, magnanimous self. While I’m sitting here waiting for She Who Must Be Obeyed (sometimes) to grab my leash so’s we can head out for a walk, I wanted to introduce you to one of our new friends.

His name is Edward Jonathan Durham. Isn’t that fun to say? Edward is the author of Winterset Hollow. It’s one of the most unusual books we’ve read all year. Read our full review here.

We recently reached out to Edward and offered him a guest post. He wrote about how he faces down The Dreaded Writer’s Block. There are some pretty nifty tips and ideas here. So I’d listen up ‘fize you. Take it away, Edward!

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What We ARE & AREN’T Interested In – or -Updated Submission Guidelines 3.0

Kimber here. Her Crankiness can’t come to the blog right now. That’s cuz she’s neck-deep in Mom Cranky. Lemme explain.

Back when Mom was young and foolish – like, yesterday – we took pretty much any request for a book review and ran with it. Hindsight being 20/20, we learned a few things in the process. Like:

  • Not all requests for book reviews are created equal
  • Our time is limited. So is our attention. We don’t have the time or attention to plow through a book that wouldn’t pass Troglodyte muster. Or spell check.

We get tons of requests for book reviews. From authors. Publicists. Publishers. Feline fans. (Nobody’s perfect.) We love reading good books by gifted writers. And doing honest book reviews.

Less Than Half

But we’re picky. In fact, we accept less than half of the review requests that come in.  We just don’t have time to read stuff that belongs on the bottom of a bird cage. (You wouldn’t believe some of the junk we get.) 

Clarifying

So we’ve found it necessary to clarify what we are and aren’t interested in regarding book reviews.  Like this:

What We’re Interested In:

No promises here. This list is for general reference only. It does not guarantee an acceptance of a request for a review, especially if we get a few chapters into your book and discover a dud. But in general, we’re interested in:

  • Thoughtful, well-written stories that speak to the human condition, offering hope and inspiration
  • Stories that are fresh and creative, not warmed-over leftovers  or wannabes (Hi, Harry Potter clones)
  • Uplifting stories that include some redemptive quality without being preachy
  • Books with a transcendent theme, e.g., that are bigger than the author
  • Books with a clear beginning, middle, and end
  • Books that are free of typos and grammatical or punctuation errors
  • Books anchored in a biblical worldview.

Special Interests Include:

  • Historical Fiction
  • Christian Fiction
  • Narrative Non-Fiction
  • Young Adult
  • Outdoor/Adventure
  • Memoir/Biographies (see below)
  • Travel
  • Clean love stories
  • Humor. One of us loves dry humor and wry wit. Bonus points if that includes a dose of sass (Hi, Mom)
  • Animal stories – Arf! Arf!

If your particular genre isn’t listed here, it doesn’t necessarily mean an Auto-Reject. Just be sure to query and provide an honest overview of your work before asking for a review.

What We’re NOT INTERESTED In:

  1. Memoirs about childhood trauma or abuse
  2. Trashy “romance novels”
  3. Anything with gratuitous violence and/or profanity
  4. Garbage (see #2 and 3, above)
  5. “Self Help” books unless written from a biblical worldview
  6. Anything needlessly dark, distasteful, or otherwise disgusting (see #2, 3, and 4)
  7. We no longer accept PDFs for review

AUTHOR ALERT

Are you an author who’s written a book series? Have we read and reviewed the first installment and liked it? Have you commented or connected on a good review of book one? Unless you have, please don’t send us the next one. We’re not interested.

For more, see 4 Reasons Why We’re World Champion ‘Book Bailers.’

For additional information on our Rating System and Submission Guidelines, please click here.

Are we clear?


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‘Spies Never Quit’: Spunky, With a Dose of Sass

Spies Never Quit

By M. Taylor Christensen

Moon Zoom Press, 2021

Fiction/Action-Adventure/Spy Thriller

Via: Author Request

Summary: When a young woman’s mom is abducted, she goes undercover to save her. Can the novice “spy” pull it off – or will her inexperience cost them both their lives?

“A light spy thriller where the romance is sweet and the suspense is cozy.”

What do you do when some Uber Bad Guys kidnap your research scientist mom and force you to steal and hand over all her research so they can build a huge lethal weapon, or else?

If your name is Mari Sandoval, you try to break into your mom’s lab and comply. Foiled by some spunky sorority girls who are more than they appear to be, the eighteen year-old college freshman considers her next move. And what it may cost.

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‘Winterset Hollow’: Cunning, Careful & Quite a Ride

Winterset Hollow

By Jonathan Edward Durham

Fiction/Dark Contemporary Fantasy

Published by: Credo House Publishers, 2021

Rated: PG-13

Via: Author Request

 

Freedom comes at a price.

Can he afford it?

These questions and more swirl throughout Winterset Hollow, a gut-grabbing, action-packed literary tour de force by Jonathan Edward Durham.

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Look Who’s a “Top Reviewer”!

Kimber here.

Isn’t it fun to toot someone else’s horn? I get to do that today! Cuz I’m braggin’ on Mom! (Do you think I’ll get some extra bacon outta this? Hmmm…)

You didn’t think Mom does book reviews just for this blog, did you? Naw! Mom loves books so much, she does reviews all over the place, including this outfit called Reedsy/Discovery.

Top Reviewer!

Did you know that Mom was recognized as a Top Reviewer for Reedsy/Discovery last month? (Well. It was mostly me. But Mom helped. A little.)

Anyway:

Mom says, “C’mon, Kimmi. Don’t get your water warm. It’s no big deal, okay?”

No idea what that means. But I’m still tooting Mom’s horn! Cuz she’s like, PAWsome! (I’m still waiting for that bacon!)

Happy Wednesday Friends! Thanks for Reading!

See you again soon! Cuz you’re Seriously PAWsome, too!

 

 

 


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GUEST POST: The Many Reincarnations of Cinderella

By Bruce Calhoun

Perhaps the most famous fairy tale in Western literature, Cinderella has been retold and reimagined in a staggering number of books and movies.   The books and movies fall within two categories:  modern day Cinderella stories featuring an underdog heroine and historical Cinderella stories with a twist – such as telling the story from the point of view of a mouse that gets turned into a horse.

“Cinderella” has also become part of a catchphrase for any sports team that attains great success against all odds or any individual who goes from rags to riches.   I will confine myself to commenting on a few historical Cinderella books, including my own:  Ardennia:  The Unlikely Story of Cinderella’s Prince.

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How ‘I’m Supposed to Make a Difference’ DOES

I’m Supposed to Make a Difference:

A Memoir About Overcoming Trauma and Abuse

By Kevin Vought

Non-fiction/Memoir

Via: Author Request

Summary: The true story of one man’s quest to confront the inner demons of his horrible childhood and chart a course toward hope and healing.

“The events that unfolded over the next few hours would define who I was to become in life. These few hours spawned much of the hatred, loneliness, terror, pain, and dread that have plagued me for decades. I still have nightmares about that day. I would go years at a time without a good night’s sleep because of those nightmares.” – Kevin Vought, I’m Supposed to Make a Difference.

This is a story of childhood abuse and its lingering, lifelong effects. It’s also a story of transformation and hope. The author shares how he not only healed from horrific childhood trauma, but how his journey also transformed him into someone who wants others with similar experiences to be able to heal and become whole, too.

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Sail Into Adventure With ‘My First Five Years at Sea’

My First Five Years at Sea

And Other Tall Tales

By John M. Tabor

Fiction/Historical Fiction/Action & Adventure

Via: Author Request

Summary: A country boy from Kansas makes an unexpected U-turn into high adventure on the water.

Shanghaied onto a rum runner in the 1930s, MIT-bound James Tyler sails into history and adventure faster than you can say, “Captain Anne Bonny.” He manages to land on his feet, “moving from one unexpected maritime intrigue to another.”

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5 Fine Reads for Fall (or anytime)

HAPPY FALL YA’LL!

Mom’s at it again. She’s skipping around the house chirping about sweater weather. Pumpkins. Leaves changing clothes. And FALL! I have no idea what that means. But you know Mom!

Squirrel!

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah. Fall and reading. Like we noted before, Mom says fall is perfect for curling up with a good book and a cuppa hot whatever. She made a list of recent reads that fill the bill. Checked it twice. (I helped. The first list didn’t smell right.)

Anyway, here are some of our top picks for the season. In no particular order:

1.Gone to the Woods: Surving a Lost Childhood (Farrar Straus Girous Books/Macmillan, 2021)

By Gary Paulsen

Non-fiction/Memoir

Via: Library

“One of the most remarkable memoirs I’ve ever read” – Mom

Gary Paulsen has long been a favorite author. We love his simple, almost terse style of storytelling about nature and outdoor adventures. So when this book came along, we snapped it up quick.

Can’t Skim or Skip

Some books you can skim. Skip through pages or chapters like a game of hop scotch. Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood isn’t one of them. This is the kind of book you have to slow down for. You’ll want to savor each chapter. Suck the marrow out of every paragraph and sentence.

Gripping & Compelling

Indeed, the story of how Paulsen survived his turbulent childhood is gripping. Compelling. Contents include The Farm, The River, The Ship, Thirteen, and Soldier. All are vintage Paulsen: Real and raw.

Backstory

With absentee/alcoholic parents, Paulsen pretty much raised himself. There were only two places he felt safe: the woods and later, the library.

He describes living in a basement at age 13 to escape his drunken parents. It’s “blue winter.” Paulsen stumbles into a library to get warm. With the help of a kind-hearted librarian, Paulsen discovers the wonderful world of books and reading. It changes his life.

This is Paulsen at his most powerful and riveting. An exceptional achievement.

Hardcover Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers Book2. Soldier’s Heart

By Gary Paulsen

Historical Fiction

Via: Library

“There’s always fear and there’s always a meadow.” – Soldier’s Heart

Charley Goddard didn’t really know what  a “shooting war” meant when he lied about his age, 15, to enlist with the First Minnesota Volunteers.  He didn’t really understand why he was fighting. He just didn’t want to miss out on “a great adventure.”

In this fast-paced, based-on-fact historical fiction, it doesn’t take long for Charley to discover the true face of war – and all its horrors – from the first Battle of Bull Run to Gettysburg.

Giving Voice

Soldier’s Heart gives voice to all the anonymous young men who fought and died in the Civil War. It is brutal. Chilling. Heartbreaking. And not to be missed. At just 102 pages, you can read it cover-to-cover in an afternoon. We did.

Another absorbing Paulsen read.

3. Neverhome

By Laird Hunt

Historical Fiction

Via: Library

A farmer’s wife disguises herself as a young man and marches into the U.S. Civil War to fight for the Union.

Compelling & Mysterious

In this compelling, mysterious read, “Gallant Ash” becomes a hero, a traitor, a madwoman, and a legend.

Told in the first person in short, staccato sentences, Neverhome makes the Civil War stand up and walk as “Ash” provides eye witness accounts of the bloody battlefield of war. Also intense longing. Suffocating loneliness. Sweat-drenched fear. Fierce devotion. Confusion and bewilderment as thick as a pea soup fog.

The narrative has an authentic first-person quality to it, with phrases common to the language of the period. It reads like you’re looking over the writer’s shoulder as she pens letters home or drafts entries into her diary.

Why?

Swirling throughout the story is the inevitable undercurrent of “Why?” Why did this woman leave her home and husband and join the war in the first place? Readers are kept guessing in this intriguing, unusual account of some of the bloodiest years in U.S. history.

4. Night Swiftly Falling

By Tricia D. Wagner

Fiction/Novella/Juvenile Fiction

Via: Reedsy/Discovery

Tragedy is narrowly averted when eight year-old Swift and his best friend and fellow pirate, Ash, suddenly discover the power of the restless sea.

The Story

After being warned not to play by the water alone, Ash tumbles into the deep. Frantic, Swift calls for help. But no one comes. So he dives in after Ash – and emerges with a fractured friendship.

Bewildered and confused by Ash’s sudden rejection post-rescue, Swift struggles with a friendship fabric torn asunder. As his older brother, Caius, helps Swift slowly realize he can’t control others, Swift discovers the anguish and frustration that accompanies the desire to help someone who needs help but can’t or won’t accept it.

How?

As Swift mourns a friendship gone south, he slowly learns that sometimes letting go is all that’s left. And that change “is the nature of life.” But “how not to lose oneself?” Swift wonders. “How not to lose those you love in the face of unstoppable pain?”

Tightly Woven

This is one of the most clever, contemplative books I’ve read in awhile. In addition to a tightly woven plot, the author demonstrates a masterful command of the language in every paragraph that’ll keep you turning pages until the end.

Propelled by delicious prose, Night Swiftly Falling is also poignant and heartfelt. It’s relatively short – just seven chapters. But this beautifully written novella packs a punch. It’s honest and hopeful at the same time. A triumph.

5. Listen to Me: How My Down Syndrome Brother Saved My Life

By Lynne Podrat

Via: Reedsy/Discovery

This book opens in August 2020 as the author watches the original Star Trek TV series with her Down Syndrome brother. “Brucie” has been diagnosed with kidney disease and pancreatic cancer at age fifty-three.

The rest of the book is a retrospective on Bruce’s life and the impact he had on not just the author but on many others as well.

Mission Change

Intent on becoming a veterinarian, the author’s life mission changes from saving animals to saving Bruce and children like him. While focusing on Bruce’s life and his unique challenges, the narrative also touches on family interactions and events such as bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, graduations, and later, trips to the hospital for Bruce as his health deteriorates. Through it all, Bruce remains a “source of heartache and inspiration.”

To ‘Open and Enrich’

The author writes that her plans for Bruce were “to open and enrich his world.” In the end, however, she realizes how being with Bruce “accomplished so much more.” She realizes how this “sweet small man” and “Brucie’s” capacity to love and to “just go on because there was no other choice” profoundly influenced her life. And how Bruce opened and enriched her world.

I’d bring tissue ‘fize you. 

 

 

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