Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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‘Aloha’ and ‘Family’ Merge Into Delightful Read in New Novel

The Aloha Spirit: A Novel Kindle Edition

The Aloha Spirit (She Writes Press, August 2020)

Historical Fiction/Romance

By Linda Ulleseit

What is “family”? How do families behave? Relate? Stick together? Who is and isn’t “family” – and why?

Captivating & Compelling

These questions and more swirl through the pages of a captivating new historical novel by Linda Ulleseit. Set in Hawaii and California, The Aloha Spirit is the compelling story of Dolores and her lifelong search for “family” and the aloha spirit.

We first meet Dolores when her father drops her off at a friend’s house. He and Dolores’s older brother are heading to California to find work.

Bewildered and feeling abandoned, the scrappy seven year-old soon wearies of the never-ending, back-breaking work at Noelani’s. Dolores dreams of re-joining her family on the mainland. But when her father finally invites her to join him in California some four years later, Dolores isn’t exactly turning cartwheels at the prospect.

Several different settings and experiences later, Dolores eventually learns that family “just is.” You don’t “choose it or grow it.” Most of the time “you just deal with it” with love and patience. She also learns that “family” sometimes means loving a person without loving everything they do.

Fascinating Blend

A fascinating, clever blend of history, culture and customs, The Aloha Spirit is divided into three parts. It covers 28 years between 1922 and 1950. In Part 1 Dolores goes from one “odd person out” context of “family, but not really” to the next.

The story takes readers to the sugar-white sand beaches of Hawaii and Diamond Head, San Francisco and the World’s Fair, and a backyard shelter during the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. We eventually wind up in Sunnyvale and then San Jose, California.

Much More

Along Dolores’ journey of personal growth and self-discovery, The Aloha Spirit gently shows us how even a blood brother can be ‘ohana in name only. How friends can be closer than sisters. What keeping “aloha in your heart” really means. And why.

It also shows us how and why “Aloha” is much more than a greeting or a farewell. It also means giving kindness and appreciation to everyone, even family members who are hard to love. Aloha is “the joyous sharing of life’s energy,” as Dolores finds out in her teenage years. But to have aloha, you need to love yourself first. Dolores finds this out later, when her teen marriage to Manolo unravels. Then family ties are sorely tested when Dolores and her two children evacuate Hawaii for California and her brother’s place after Pearl Harbor is bombed.

Somewhere along the way, Dolores falls in love with Alberto. She’s still married to a jerk. But Dolores is Catholic. And Catholics don’t divorce. Especially when doing so means losing her family.

Caveats

Dialogue attributed to a grade schooler strains credulity at times in Part 1. Joining Dolores in the kitchen to chop veggies or stir stew also gets a little old. But The Aloha Spirit quickly rises above such mundanities and paints a vast, vibrant mosaic of time, culture, loss and disappointment, triumph and redemption.

Winsome

Poignant and captivating, The Aloha Spirit brims with gentle insights and fascinating cultural and historical vignettes. This book has a realistic, authentic feel to it that makes it a winsome read. Characters are dynamic and three-dimensional. Fortified with rich, lyrical prose, settings are lush and unique. You can almost feel the trade winds and smell the pikake blooms as Dolores slowly realizes the true meaning of familia es todo.

A delicious read. Aloha.

Our rating: 4.0

Diamond Head Image Credit


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Move Over, Erma: There’s a New Queen on the Scene

Stand All the Way Up: Stories of Staying in it When You Want to Burn it All Down (B&H Publishing, 2020)

By Sophie Hudson

Christian Life/Self-Confidence/Faith/Humor

Move over, Erma Bombeck. There’s a new queen on the humor scene. Her name is Sophie Hudson. And although she may not be new to you, she was to me. Ditto her hilarious, excruciatingly insightful Stand All the Way Up: Stories of Staying in it When you Want to Burn it All Down.

Talk about a breath of fresh air.

Hooked

Anyone who opens a book with monkeys invading an open air lodge in Kenya and stealing Cajun-flavored Pistachios has me hooked. Ditto an author who candidly admits she’s “having issues” with birthdays where a “nine” rolls over into a zero, and her “stand-offish relationship” with fifty.

I hear ya, sista.

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‘Aura’ Offers Promise

Aura: Revive Edition

By Krisley Jior Castillo

“Do whatever it takes to survive for now. We both know this won’t end well.” – Aura

Looking for a quick, fluffy story as good battles evil in an epic fight for the future? You may want to check out this book, with a couple caveats.

Plot

Sixteen year-old Ren is minding his own business, sleeping under a tree in the futuristic Kingdom of Zinah. His younger sister, Garnet, hollers at him to wake up or get locked out of the house again. Suddenly a mysterious dark-hooded man shows up with a golden necklace. Everything goes sideways from there, when Garnet is captured and taken prisoner by the evil Gaians who are on the war path against pretty much everyone else.

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ATTN AUTHORS: Kimber’s 8 Book Review Rules

Shhh! Mom’s snoozing. So it’s just us, okay?

Can we talk? Like, about book reviews? Cuz Mom and I are getting flooded with requests for book reviews. We love it! But we also want to be efficient. So we decided to set and clarify some basic ground rules for our book reviews. Here they are:

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‘Petitions From My Heart’: Little Book, Big Message

Petitions From My Heart: A Scriptural Guide for Effective Prayers by [Carol E. Hind]

By Carol E. Hind

Petitions From My Heart is a little gem of a book for serious Christian intercessors.

Indeed, if you’re looking for a few “quickie” prayer ideas to zip through on the run or a “shotgun approach” to praying, this isn’t it. PFMH is for serious prayer warriors who are committed to “raising the roof” from their knees.

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TRIFECTA: Two Winners & A Loser

Ahoy summer readers and other lovelies! Today we’re clearing the decks to feature three recently read books. We’ll give you the lowdown so you know what’s hot and what’s not and can steer accordingly.

Sound good?

Cool. Here we go. We’re starting with a stinker so we get it out of the way first. Then we’ll move on to The Good Stuff:

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“Walks With Sam” Wades Into Grace, Dives Deep

Walks with Sam: A Man

Walks with Sam: A Man, a Dog, and a Season of Awakening (Roundfire Books, August 2020)

 

By David W. Berner

 

He had me at “dog” and “walk.” But the rest of this book is so absorbing and delightful, it’s like wading into eddies of grace and riding ‘em into deep water.

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Do YOU Know ‘Net Galley’?

Kimber here. Asking what a ‘Top Reviewer’ is? It must be good, right? Cuz Mom’s doing her happy dance. (Why she does this, I dunno. But she also loves asparagus. Sometimes there’s just no accounting for taste.)

Anyway. Mom’s a Professional Reader with Net Galley. Do you know Net Galley?

Mom says Net Galley makes ARCs available to professional readers and helps promote new and upcoming titles. Professional readers–reviewers, media, journalists, bloggers, librarians, booksellers and educators–can join and use Net Galley at no cost.

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YA Fiction Plumbs Eternal Questions in ‘The Celestial Gate’

Cover Image: The Celestial Gate

The Celestial Gate (BooksGoSocial, August 2020)

By Avital Dicker

Three teens dodge bullets – both ideological and actual – from the world’s three major religions in this mystery thriller/sci fi fantasy set in Israel, “heaven,” and various fantasy locations (think ABC’s “Lost”). The kids who aren’t really kids are plunged into a world of intrigue, conflict, and a seemingly endless cycle of religious-based hate in this imaginative, creative read. Can they save themselves and their loved ones before it’s too late?

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ROCK Goes the 4th With These 25 U.S. Historical Fiction Books

Kimber here. Mom is busy rustling up some Independence Day eats. I’m not too sure about the potato salad and corn on the cob thing. But I’m all over the grilled burgers! Yeah, Lassie!

Well. The subject of “best U.S. historical fiction” came up the other night. We were watching videos of last year’s fireworks or somethin’. You know. The stupid Big Boom things. (Why do humans do this every Independence Day? I don’t get it.)

I was all ears. (For the book list. Not the Big Boom things. Mom got me a Thunder Shirt for that.)

Anyway, just in time for Independence day, Mom and I put together a list of the best historical fiction reads set in the U.S. Mom says we aren’t even going to try to cover books by decade, social movement, issue, or what not. That’d take us like, till the cat comes home. Gag me with Meow Mix!

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