Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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Discover One Woman’s Road Back to Real in “The Girl I Used to Be’

The Girl I Used to Be (Bookouture, 2021)

By Heidi Hostetter

Women’s Fiction

All that glitters is not gold in this delightfully captivating of story of one woman’s inner search for and journey back to her true self. There are plenty of pitfalls along the way. Lots of obstacles to navigate. Like a full-time jerk who’s a part time hubby (to put it charitably). Lost friends. Fake “friends.” A humble past Jill ‘s been told to not just forget, but to erase and be ashamed of. Also enough tangled webs, betrayals and duplicity to make Shelob look like a piker.

But in the end, friendship, solidarity, personal fortitude and a refusal to be pressed into someone else’s artificial, pre-fab mold win out. Lots of intrigue and unraveling along the way.

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‘Sins of Our Mothers’ Blows a Gasket

Sins of Our Mothers (WiDo Publishing, 2020)

Nicole Souza

Dystopian Fiction

It’s a dystopian world, post solar flare and Global Catastrophe. Women run everything. “Defectives” (aka: men) are unnamed chattel property and rock-splitting Troglodytes. Any defective deemed “Exceptional” is in deep doo-doo. Think The Matrix meets Planet of the Apes with a stop in Amazon Women on the Moon.

This book starts off on the wrong foot, with two badly overwritten lead sentences that make Methuselah look like a youngster. I was hoping it’d get better. A hundred pages in, I was still hoping.

The characters are just ridiculous. Straight out of central You’re Kidding, Right? Like General Sarah Love. She makes Josef Mengele look like a piker. And “President of the United Sisterhood” (POTUS)? Seriously?

This is one of those books that you’ll either really like or you really won’t. I didn’t. The plot is so hackneyed, it made my hair ache. Example: How did women miraculously survive the calamitous solar flare A-okay, and men didn’t? Did the flare discriminate based on gender? Maybe that’s explained later on. I don’t have that kind of patience.

I tried and tried to get into this book. Gave it so many “second” chances, I lost count. Finally bailed after about 150 pages. I mean, hey. I could watch grass grow instead.

This thing is way out in left field, even for dystopia. As windy as a Kansas tornado. As subtle as a ton of bricks.

Whether the author intends to provoke, preach, inform, query, offend, alarm, entertain or just shock is unclear. And that’s part of the problem. A flea treatment is more entertaining than this brick. (We will not be rating this book. Puh-leeze!)

This review is part of a blog tour hosted by WOW! Women On Writing.


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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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