Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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10 Terrific Books for Mom on Her Special Day (or anytime)

Does your mom love to read? Is her (or your) idea of paradise a quiet reading nook, a pina colada, and hours of uninterrupted page-turning?

Great! Then mom will appreciate our Best Books for Mom list.

Kindly note that books don’t necessarily have to focus on a mom to make the cut. Bonus points if they do. But our list is about compelling, captivating reads that mom can enjoy in that quiet nook with her chilled drink and some alone time. So our list is based on – but not strictly limited to – the following criteria:

  • Must be an enjoyable, uplifting read (who wants a downer on Mother’s Day? Ack!)
  • Superlative writing
  • Credible dialogue and a solid, poignant story
  • Strong, three-dimensional female characters who learn, develop and grow
  • Bonus points if all of the above include a dose of spunk and sass

That being said, Kimber and I are rushing in where angels fear to tread with our purely subjective, 100% unscientific list of Best Books for Mom on her special day:

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LONG WALK HOME Serves Up Hope & Dreams

Long Walk Home (Bookouture, 2021)

By Ellyn Oaksmith

Romance/Women’s Fiction

Home, no matter how long it takes to get there, is worth the struggle.

Lola Alvarez has a dream.  She wants to stand on her own two feet. “Make her mark on the family business.” Step out of the shadow of her older sister, Carmen. One way of doing this is adding tiny cabins to the family’s Blue Hills Winery and restaurant. Throw true love into the mix and she’s good to go. But it won’t be easy as past and present collide in this gentle romance about family, forgiveness, and courage.

Standing in the way of Lola’s dream are her overbearing restaurant manager and sister, Carmen. Gordon Ramsay wannabe “Horrible Neil,” Aka: Chef Jerk on Steroids. An overprotective father, Juan, who’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. And a choice between two men: steady, respectable Hidalgo Ruiz of Ruiz Construction and Gus Weaver, newly released ex-con, master carpenter, and Lola’s high school heart throb.

After his release from a ten-year prison stint, Gus is hired by Hidalgo to build Lola’s tiny cabins. This, while the relationship between Lola and Hidalgo heats up. Catch: Lola hasn’t exactly come clean to anyone about anyone else, the building project, or the tangled web of the past. And when Lola fires Chef Jerk on the eve of Carmen’s wedding, which he was going to cater, and Gus and Hidalgo square off, can disaster be far away?

Set in the stunning beauty of Chelan, Washington in the shadow of the North Cascades, Long Walk Home offers a mouth-watering menu of simmering romantic tension, familial friction, heart break, confusion, and intrepidity in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. It’s tightly written and reads quickly, with each chapter flowing seamlessly into the next.

Pro tips:

  • Keep an eye out for Daisy, Lola’s faithful Australian Shepherd mix. Scene stealer!
  • Don’t read this book when you’re hungry. The descriptions of cooking and meal prep inside the Blue Hills kitchen will have you drooling!

Possible Turn-offs:

  • The male protagonist’s name. “Gus.” Not Joe or Ethan or Blake? “Gus”? Seriously?
  • Perhaps unwittingly, the author repeats the same phrases, running on redundant. (“Your lack of empathy is stunning,” etc. We got it the first time, okay?)
  • Repeatedly lower casing the “g” in “God.” Yeah, we noticed.
  • Carmen’s future in-laws, the Hollisters. Cardboard caricatured much? Barf.
  • The 27 year old Drama Queen thing gets old. Fast.
  • The ARC, at least, could benefit from another proofread.

Even so, Long Walk Home is well-written, expertly paced, and packed with (mostly) memorable characters. This is a sweet and gentle read. If you’re hungry for bright and nimble fiction flavored with romance, forgiveness, rugged natural beauty, delicious food, family, and robust word pictures seasoned with hope and humor, take a bite out of Long Walk Home.  


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A Champion for the Ages

“Inevitable.” Isn’t that a great word? Learned it from Mom the other day. As in, the 147th annual Run for the Roses is coming up on May 1. So debates about who was the Greatest Thoroughbred of All Time are… inevitable.

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Or so I’m told.

A few other things I learned:

The “Run for the Roses” is also known as The Kentucky Derby. The Derby is always run on the first Saturday in May. It’s the first jewel in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Why do I, Kimber the Magnificent, care about Thoroughbred racing? Well, I don’t. Not really. But Mom does!

She’s been reading a Walter Farley book about one of the greatest champions to ever set hooves on a race track: Man O’War. Along with legendary Triple Crown winner Secretariat, Man O’War is a top contender for Greatest Thoroughbred of All Time honors.

Back to the Farley book.

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JUBILEE: Why Hermon Pettit May Be The Greatest Man You Never Heard Of

What?

Kimber Lugs-a-Lot here. I’ve been helping Her Momness lug stuff out of the resident black hole. (Mom calls it “the basement.” But it’s really a black hole where things go to vanish. Forever. Poof!)

Anyway, she lugged up this dusty old box. It hadn’t been opened since 1999. Inside? Books! Lots and lots of books!

“Oh, my!” Mom whispered, pulling out a dusty paperback. “I haven’t seen this since 1979!”

I have no idea what that means. But Mom was doing that glistening-eye thing again as she pulled out this book, Jubilee! Autobiography of Hermon Pettit.

Re-reading the remarkable saga of a man of God who devoted his life to intercession, we realized that Hermon Pettit may be the greatest man one of us has never heard of. Till now.

Here’s how and why Hermon’s story intersects ours:

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6 Literary Scene Stealers & Kimber’s New Best Bud

Dontcha just love scene stealers? That person or critter that outshines the rest of the cast, especially unexpectedly? You know. Like me?

“You gonna eat that?”

All modesty aside, Mom and I have been keeping a running tally of literary scene stealers in recently read books.

Some of the books they appear in are great. Some are awful. Not a main character, a scene stealer outshines everyone else, including a bad script.

Here’s a brief list of our top 6 scene stealers from recently read historical non-fiction and fiction fiction (that’s not a typo). A brief synopsis of each book is included:

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Hold on Tight for ‘Cliffhanger’

Cliffhanger (Moot Point Productions, 2021)

By Michael R. French

YA/Sci Fi/Political Thriller

Nostradamus, a 16th century self-proclaimed “prophet” with a batting average of about .500, predicts that in 2048:

“a string of political assassinations would push the world toward chaos, godlessness, and possible extinction. People would be imprisoned by their own fears, and their helplessness would allow others to strip them of their humanity.”

That’s the basic premise for this fast-paced political thriller. The action revolves around a tooth-and-nail race for student body president at Hawthorn High, a struggling school in a struggling town in Nowheresville, Indiana.

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‘Bel Sogno’ Becomes Reality in Fresh Travel Memoir/Adventure

Braving the World: Adventures in Travel and Retirement (2021)

By Pam Saylor

Non-fiction

 

If you’re looking for a “travel guide” bulging with “must-see” destinations and tips on where to eat, what to see, and what to do, this isn’t it. But if you want to step into a year-long trip with a gentle, authentic narrative covering adventures in nine countries and two continents, managing diabetes Type 1, and rekindling romance along the way, then dip your toe into Braving the World: Adventures in Travel and Retirement. 

The author describes how she and her husband’s Bel Sogno – Beautiful Dream – of living in Italy and traveling for a year originated and came to fruition, and what they learned in the process, both as individuals and as a couple.

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HEAR YE! HEAR YE! Temporary Closure to New Submissions

Bloggers! Readers! Writers! Book and canine lovers of all ages!

Your attention please!

Kimber here. Cuz Mom is going a little bit crazy. Well. I guess I should say crazier than usual. But it’s a good kind of crazy. The smiley kind if ya know what I mean.

Here’s the doggone lowdown on Pages & Paws:

We’re overwhelmed. Requests for book reviews have been flooding in like a tsunami. We love it! But we just can’t keep up.

Also, in case you’re wonderin’ – and even in you’re not – we hereby declare that we officially DETEST WordPress’s “Gutenberg” Block Editor. P.U.! Gag me with cat nip!

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Enchantment & Intrigue Abound in ‘The Disappearance of Emily’

Meet my new bud, Nola. You’ll get that when you read The Disappearance of Emily (Better Beginnings, 2021 ). It’s Book 2 in the Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic series by Elizabeth Pantley.

Just don’t tell Kimber about Miss Fancy Feline, okay?

Not on a Map

Anyway, Destiny Falls is a magical place. You won’t find it on a map. You can’t get there on your own. You have to be called by either the town or the “cozy, mansion-sized mountain cabin” family home of Caldwell Crest. And oh yeah. Once you’re “called” to Destiny Falls, you’re kinda stuck. You can’t choose to leave, as young Hayden, formerly of Seattle, finds out in this delightful sequel to Falling Into Magic. (See my full review here.)

Young Hayden is minding her own biz, enjoying a nice hot cuppa with her bro Axel when she’s suddenly accosted by a ferry boat captain, Nakita. The captain delivers a vague, mysterious message about meeting the day after tomorrow. Nakita says it’s a matter “of life and death.” She insists  Hayden come alone and “tell no one.”

Well. What the Hay?

Cuz next thing ya know, Nakita winds up dead.

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High Octane Powers C.J. Box Mystery-Thrillers

We discovered C.J. Box a year or two ago at The Book Place. By accident. Mom was reaching for another title when she accidentally bumped a C.J. Box book. It plopped onto the floor. Mom picked it up. Read the synopsis. Checked it out. We really liked the American west/great outdoors settings. Read our first Box book, The Bitterroots, cover to cover in one sitting. (See our full review of that first C.J. Box novel here.)

Pro Tip!

Same thing with a couple subsequent Box mystery-thrillers, Paradise Valley and Wolf Pack. Only this time mom made the mistake of starting the former in the evening. Pro tip: Don’t do that unless you can stay up all night reading. Cuz it’s a barn burner from the get-go.

Rugged outdoor settings and strong female leads make Paradise Valley a dual stand-out in the genre. Like investigator and Montana native Cassie Dewell. Now in Bakken County, North Dakota, she’s been trailing a serial killer for years. He haunts highways and truck stops. Anyone he picks up or grabs vanishes.

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