Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

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Steaks, Reads, & Rascals

My humans were doing the backyard barbecue thing the other day. Something about “summer’s last hurrah.”

They plopped four delicious “New York steaks” on the grill. Yes, four. Clearly that meant one each for Mom and Dad. One for The Kid. One for me. Right?

Rather than waiting for my hunk of happiness to fall off the grill, I figured I’d just hop right up and help myself. No sense standing on ceremony, right? So I didn’t.

Speaking of which, I thought “fall” was something you do. Apparently that’s not always the case. For example. Mom says “fall” is her favorite season. Something about leaves changing. “Crisp.” Curling up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. 

I get that. In fact, I know a couple good books that are just right for this “fall” thing: Winterdance: the Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod and Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers. Both are by Gary Paulsen  He’s a great adventure/outdoorsy writer. Also a pretty cool dog dude, according to Mom.

Winterdance is non-fiction. It was published in 1994. It’s the inspiration for the Disney movie, Snow Dogs. 

Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers celebrates Gary’s lead dog and longtime companion, Cookie. “Paulsen takes readers inside the kennel as Cookie’s last litter of pups grow and learn to pull sleds across the snowy frontier.”

Sounds like a couple of good “hot cocoa” and “fall” books to me. Whatever that means.

Back to the steaks. Thick, delectable, delicious steaks. How was I supposed to know Uncle Jimmy is “coming over later”?

By the way. Just what, exactly, is a “little rascal”? Askin’ for a friend.

Steak photo credit

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Turning a Corner  

It’s official. This blog is under New Management. Well, maybe “Management” isn’t the right word. Let me explain.

My name is Kimber. At least I think it’s Kimber. My humans – Mom, Dad, and four brothers, two of whom still live at home – sometimes use other names. Kimmi. Good girl. Hey Babe. 

Anyway, I was born on June 22, 2016. I’m a Golden Retriever/Black Lab/Border Collie mix. Mom says that means I’m super friendly, super smart, and super hyper. Whatever that means. I’m just me. 

Wait. Did the Powder Puff just saunter past? That’s what my humans sometimes call the neighbor’s dog. At least I think she’s a dog. It’s hard to tell under all that fur.

As I was saying, Mom says I’m a rescue dog. I’m not sure what that means either. But it sounds good when she says it. I joined my family in August of last year. We live on the Olympic Peninsula. We go on long walks and hikes, explore the Cascades, and play football, Frisbee and other games and activities when it’s not raining. It rains here a lot. Dad says that’s one reason why this place is called “The Evergreen State.”

Do I smell bacon?

False alarm. Beef jerky.

So, I guess you could say this blog is under new “dog-agement.” It will focus on adventures in writing, reading, and life in the rural hinterlands of western Washington. Narrated by me. Why me? Because Mom says I’m a “natural.” And that I’m way smarter than she is. I’m not sure what that means, either. But I like the way it sounds when she says it. 

See you again soon!

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Are you a book lover? Do you skip meals in order to “finish the next chapter”? Do you await your favorite author’s next release like a kid counting down to Christmas? Is a trip to the library a grand adventure?

I am rarely as content as when I’m neck-deep in a good story. Or even a mediocre one. I’ve never read “competitively” or to win prizes. I just love books. And I love to read. 

But every once in awhile it’s nice to get a little perk. Call it a reading bonus. 

I was delighted to get a phone call from my local library yesterday saying I’d won not one but two prizes in conjunction with this year’s Adult Summer Reading Program: an Amazon gift card and a book bag filled with goodies. I ambled over to the library today to pick up my prizes, pictured above.

The book bag is sturdy and zippered.  I can use it to haul checkouts and returns to and from the library, which I usually walk to. The bag was filled with some pretty cool stuff, including note cards, chocolate, a mini metallic notebook, and a giant coffee mug (for curling up with a good book). And who can resist Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark? Also four brand new hard book backs I haven’t yet read! The $25 gift card arrives next week.

 I read 136 audio and hard copy books in 92 days for this summer’s Adult Reading Program. Re-reading old favorites and discovering new ones was “prize” enough. But it still feels like Christmas.

Know what I mean?


How I Read 100+ Books in 90 Days


It took some creative juggling, but I met my summer reading goal: 100+ books in 90 days. Sound like a lot? Well, yeah.

When I set that goal per my local library’s Adult Summer Reading Program, I knew it was a pretty high bar. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I could clear it. But I liked the challenge. That’s one reason I set it. And made it. With room to spare.

Here’s how I read 100+ books in 90* days (the short version):

1. As a freelance writer, my schedule is flexible. I mostly work from home and set my own hours. I can choose which assignments I accept or decline. So I did. I also got up early every day, usually finishing my work by early afternoon-ish. I could then devote a large chunk of the rest of the afternoon and evening to my “other” job: reading.

2. I multi-tasked, reading audio books while cooking, doing dishes, driving, etc.

3. I turned off the TV.

4. I used voice mail. Prodigously.

5. I recruited my husband and kiddos . (Our youngest is 18.) They agreed to pitch in on time consuming tasks like running errands, grocery shopping, and walking the dog. They also picked up books I placed on hold at the library and/or helped with returns. They helped with book selections when I was out of ideas.

6. I asked the library staff for help. A lot. They were a huge help, from placing inter-library loans to suggestions for every category and genre.

7. I decided sleep is over-rated. I don’t really need 8 – 9 hours of sleep a night. I’m usually fine with 5 – 6 hours.  That’s an extra 3 – 4 hours a day to get busy.

8. I had a ‘reading buddy.‘ My good dog, Kimber, happily joined me through thousands of pages. (A golden retriever/black lab/border collie mix, Kimber isn’t really a ‘lap dog.’ She just thinks she is.)

9. I set up “reading roosts” – places where I could disappear (or almost disappear) for a while and read, undisturbed. Like a recliner off a living room window with lots of light, pillows, a big fluffy quilt and a snack stash. Or a closet off the spare room upstairs. I cleaned it out, moved in a rocking chair and ottoman, added a space heater for early mornings, and cleared shelves for books – in – progress. I grabbed reading lists, munchies and a note pad, and closed the door. No electronic devices allowed. (A library cubby hole also makes a pretty good “roost.”)

10. OverDrive. Library ebooks and audiobooks via Amazon. If you don’t have the app, now would be good.

11. I re-prioritized. If I was going to finish 100 paper and/or audio books in 90 days, some thing had to give. At least for 90 days. So I cut out unnecessary meetings. This freed up about 8 hours a week. I also dialed back on social media, limiting my time to no more than 30 minutes a day. Often less. I also dropped endeavors with limited ROIs (return on investment), like regular posting to other blogs/guest posting.

Yep, 100 books in 90 days is a lot. Some titles were better or quicker than others. For example, the sparse free verse of Karen Hesse’s Out of The Dust or Calvin Miller’s The Singer read much faster than the detail-laden, history-heavy style of Robert Matzen’s Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, or Dinesh D’Souza’s magnum opus, Stealing America: What My Experience With Criminal Gangs Taught Me About Obama, Hillary, and the Democratic Party. Since I’m already familiar with the plots, re-reads were also swift.

I also discovered some new genres and authors that turned out to be delightful surprises. Others, not so much. (Most Over-Rated: Anne LaMott, Diane Setterfield. Most Promising: Steve Sheinkin, Robert Morasco.) You can read my reviews of select titles on Goodreads.

Here are some stand-outs. In no particular order:


Miss Peregrine Peculiar Children series – Ransom Riggs

Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy – Laini Taylor

The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

Legend – Marie Yu


The Lost Letter – Jillian Cantor

The Secret Sky – Atia Abawi

An Eagle in the Snow – Michael Morpurgo

Shelter – Harlan Coben

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson


Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp – Jerry Stanley

The Family Romanov – Candace Fleming

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery – Steve Sheinkin

Unquestioned Integrity: The Hill-Thomas Hearings (adapted directly from the actual transcripts)

Twelve Years a Slave – Solomon Northrup


Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery– Spencer Quinn. (Told from the dog’s point of view)

Bunnicula – Deborah and James Howe. (Narrated by the family dog, Harold)

The Best of the West (Lux Radio Theatre Audiobook): Destry Rides Again, Gunsmoke, Fort Apache, and the best Western ever filmed:Shane.


Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis (on disc)

King of the Wind – Marguerite Henry. Newbery Medal winner.

Tuck Everlasting– Natalie Babbitt. Christopher Award winner.

Anything by Walt Morey, O. Henry, Gary Paulsen, or E.B. White (like The Ransom of Red Chief and Stuart Little. I also confess a perennial fondness for a little monkey and a man in a yellow hat.)

Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak. Caldecott Medal winner.

Fury – Stallion of Broken Wheel Ranch – Albert Miller

Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen

Flash of Phantom Canyon – Agnes Ranney

Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell. Newbery Medal winner.

The Silver Brumby – Elyne Mitchell. Set in Australia, it’s the book that made me want to become a writer.

This is a tough category. It’s highly subjective. Of all the books I read this summer, however, the stand-out here would have to be: Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man, by William Shatner (2016).

Meticulously researched and carefully crafted, this biography/memoir/history is a moving tribute to a complicated, talented man by another complicated, talented man. (Talk about rapier wit. Who knew “Captain Kirk” could be so hilarious – or so heartbreaking?)

Hence, the most poignant line I read all summer is probably Bill Shatner’s final sentence in this fascinating read. Toward the end of the book, Shatner chronicles how a rift in the relationship developed over an apparent misunderstanding. Despite Shatner’s efforts to mend fences, Nimoy stopped talking to Bill. Leonard died (2015) before the two old friends could reconcile. Shatner closes this warm, rich memoir with this final elegiac line:

“LLAP** my friend, my dear, dear friend.”


Of the 100+ books I read this summer, only two moved me to tears: Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, An Unexpected Journey, and Me (Jon Katz), and  The Dog Who Was There (Ron Morasco).

A story of faithful love, unswerving devotion, and understanding without words, Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, An Unexpected Journey, and Me effervesces like a bottle of Cristal Brut Methusalah.

An abandoned, half-feral border collie reluctantly taken in by author Jon Katz, Izzy becomes a hospice dog. Somehow Izzy learns what can’t be taught: how to help the dying leave this world with dignity – “Oh! A dog! Where on earth did you come from, you handsome thing?” – and how to best comfort those left behind.

Lenore – from the Edgar Allen Poe poem – is a “portable happiness generator.” “The UPS driver threatened to steal her,” says Katz. Big hearted and good natured, Lenore can pierce the armor of the hardest heart. As Katz battles a deep depression and phantoms from his past, the rambunctious Lab pup gently reminds him why he wanted to work with animals in the first place.

Set in first century Jerusalem,  The Dog Who Was There is a heart-warming, surprising story about a little dog, Barley (that’s not a typo), and a Teacher from Galilee. This wonderful story is soaked in loss, loyalty, sadness, promise, and Great Joy. I’ve never read anything quite like it. You won’t want to miss this one.

Indeed, The Dog Who Was There and Izzy & Lenore get the dual nod for Top Books. Paws down.

HONORABLE MENTION (You may detect a pattern here 😉):

Scrub Dog of Alaska – Walt Morey

Now, the real secret to reading 100+ books in 90* days? I. Love. Books. And I love to read. Always have. Ever since I was ‘knee-high to a grasshopper.’ For more, see: Hard Night: Growing Up in the Land of Endless Summer.

Is the library open yet?

*To be precise, June has 30 days. July and August have 31, for a total of 92 days. I slowed some but didn’t stop when I hit 100 titles in mid-August.

                   FINAL summer reading tally: 136 books in 92 days.

**Live Long And Prosper.  While you’re at it, grab a book. With a good dog.

NOTE: This blog will be turning a corner soon. A big one.

 Same URL.  New name. New look. New voice. 

Stay tuned.