Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


‘Blood Countess’ Poses Strange Dichotomy

Blood Countess

Blood Countess (Lady Slayers)

Barnes & Noble

(Amulet Books, 2020)

By Lana Popovic

Historical Fiction/YA

“Sick puppy,” says I, Kimber the Magnificent.

“No kidding,” Mom rejoins. “Seriously off her rocker.”

I’m not sure what a “rocker” is. But the antagonist in this book, Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary, is off it by about a mile and a half.

This is a weird book to peg or review. Mom started it the other night. She kept me up until one in the morning finishing it. Ugh!

It’s a gripping read. For sure.

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Finding Treasure in ‘The Lost Jewels’

The Lost Jewels

The Lost Jewels: A Novel

Barnes & Noble

(Harper Collins, 2020)

By Kristy Manning

Historical fiction


How can a heart be full of both sorrow and joy?


That’s the salient question at the core of this finely crafted historical novel by Kristy Manning. An ambitious undertaking, The Lost Jewels spans some four hundred years between 17th century London and modern day Boston. It features two strong female characters, Essie Murphy in the early 19th century, and Kate Kirby, present day jewelry historian.

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10+ Bark-Worthy Books Set in Exotic-ish Locales

You don’t have to say it. I know I’m beautiful. Also shy, modest, and retiring.

Kimber here with another edition of Fine Wine Fridays. (I was holding out for Excellently Scrumptious and Splendiferous Book Lists That Are So Delicious, They’re Even Better Than My Fave Dog Chow or Squeaky Toy. Mom nixed that. Ugh.)

Anyway, today we’re highlighting books set in exotic locales or other continents. So if you liked Peter Pan or Narnia, you may like… Oh, wait. Scratch that. These are set in real places, not Neverland or Aslan’s Country (Mom, you are no fun!)


Wait. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Fun, interesting, engaging reads in other settings. Some titles are old. Some are new. They may be even better than my squeaky toy. (But I’m still holding on to it. Just in case.) So here, in no particular order, are:

10+ bark-worthy books set in exotic-ish locales:

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Why Did The Chicken Bus Cross the Road?

Adventure by Chicken Bus: An Unschooling Odyssey Through Central America (Resource Publications, 2019)


By Janet LoSole

hi res ABCB.jpg

When the author first reached out to me requesting a review, I didn’t know what to think about this book. As in, What’s a ‘chicken bus’?* (Kimber: “Can I eat it?”) I was dangling on the rim edge of Not Interested. As a veteran homeschooler myself, however, I decided to give it a chance.

What a ride.


Adventure by Chicken Bus is a thoroughly entertaining, fascinating ride along with a family of four as they travel through Central America over the course of roughly a year and a half. With two little girls in tow, ages then-five and eight, the LoSoles roam all over the region, including the Caribbean coast, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico.

It’s quite the odyssey. Continue reading


‘Invisible’ & ‘Unbroken’: Two Remarkable WWII Reads

Combining history and biography can be a challenge, especially when the setting is a world war. But two recently read books do that and more, offering compelling reads that shouldn’t be missed. Both are set in WWII.

Here they are:

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10 Fabulous Reads for FALL!

“Fall is in the air!” Mom announced the other day. I’m not sure what that means. But Mom is skipping merrily around the house, chirping about “fall colors,” “sweater weather” and “hot chocolate.” I’d be just as happy with a nice, thick New York steak. Whatever.

I figure it’s only a matter of time until Mom breaks out that stupid bright orange thingy she hauls me into whenever we go out in cold weather. Pay off: Coming home to a cozy spot in front of a nice, warm fireplace.

Anyway, Mom says fall is a great time to grab a hot cuppa whatever and curl up next to a roaring fire with a good book! She’s got a list. Checked it twice. (I helped. The first list didn’t smell right.)

Here are some of Mom’s top picks for the season. Some are old. Some are new. All are worthy reads. In no particular order:

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Shout Out for ‘Bell Hammers’

Kimber here. “This looks fun!” says I to Mom. “And it’s not even bacon!”

Bell Hammers

This debut novel looks promising. It purportedly has a Mark Twain-ish ring to it (we love ‘ole Sam Clemens). We just don’t have time to read it right now.

But the author recently reached out to us. He asked for “a quick shout-out on your social media platforms on the 12th of October, the day it comes out.”

Well. Mom and I? We like to be helpful. So:

Shout out for Bell Hammers, a new novel that looks almost as good as crisp-fried bacon.

The book blurb includes:

Four generations of carpenters and lovers take on major oil and coal companies using pranks.



Says the author:

Critics compare it to Mark Twain, but I compare it to my grandpa’s old pranks.

Bell Hammers comes out today. Find out more about Bell Hammers here.

How was that?

Rating System & Submission Guidelines

This might also be a good time to re-introduce our Rating System & Submission Guidelines.

We’re getting quite a few review requests that do not meet our submission parameters. Please save yourself and us some time and effort by taking a few minutes to read our submission guidelines prior to contacting us for a review. We’re picky, okay?

Thanks! and Woof!


AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Monique Roy On Art, Historical Fiction

You know we’re big historical fiction fans here, right? Kimber here. Mom and I, we love the creativity of a novel balanced with actual people, places, and events. We eat that stuff up like gourmet dog chow! So when we were asked to review a historical novel about Nazi looting of priceless art items from Jewish owners during World War II, we ate it up!

The book is A Savage Kultur. It’s by Monique Roy. Read our full review here.

We reached out to Monique and asked her to do a guest post, telling us a little more about herself and her book. Why historical fiction. Stuff like that. Monique agreed. Here’s her post. Take it away, Monique!

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‘Thirteen Miracles’ & My New Best Bud!


Thirteen Miracles

By D.L. Kennedy

Christian Fiction, 2020


Kimber the Magnificent here. Introducing my new best bud, Bebo. He’s a blue-eyed albino boxer dog. Super smart. Loyal. Dependable. Totally fearless. Solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. All-around awesome. You know. Like me.

Anyway, Bebo my new best bud is the hero of this cool book Mom and I recently read. It’s called Thirteen Miracles. Humans probably think this book is about a lady named Abby Welles. She kinda has a crisis of faith after her twin sister dies in a car wreck.

Depressed, confused, and running on faith fumes, Abby travels to Mexico to find Jose Luis Hernandez, aka: Destiny Man. He supposedly knows about miracles. Abby wants to research and write a book on the subject. She heads into the Sierra Madres and the Devil’s Backbone to try to make some sense of her life’s loose ends. What she finds is more than she bargained for as something dark and evil stalks her every step.

But Bebo steals the show.

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Why “A Healing Touch” Isn’t – or – How to NOT Tick Off Mom

Happy Sunday Authors!

At least it’s a happy Sunday for some of us. Others who shall remain nameless are sulking (Hi, Mom!). Lemme explain.


Her Crankiness (hi again, Mom) is miff-ified at authors who waste her time by not adhering to and/or ignoring our submission guidelines when they request a review.

Case in point.

A Big Stretch

Back in August Mom got a review request for a “historical fiction” book “because many people turn to independent reviewers for realistic recommendations on what to read. Considering the current social, economic, and political climate, not only are readers looking for something new and different, many are wondering about young America’s beginnings as a nation. A Healing Touch speaks to this interest.”

We enjoy historical fiction. So we decided to dive in. Only to find out that “historical fiction” is a mighty big stretch for this thing.

Cuz what starts out as a story “of two people blazing trails into the Northwest Territory along the Ohio River in 1796” crashes big time in chapter 22. Here the author seems to forget where she is, jumping from historical fiction into porno. Too bad. It was a pretty good story up until that point.

Bye! Outta here! Doneski! Hasta la vista baby!

“Can’t believe I wasted two days on that,” grumbles Her Crankiness. Cuz there are two things that’ll get your book into the nearest round file (trash can), right off the puppy chow:

  1. Mistreating any animal, especially dogs, or
  2. Crap of the R-rated variety (or worse).

So don’t even go there. Don’t waste our time. It ticks us off. It gets you on our Kitty Litter List. You don’t want to be there, okay? (I’m telling you this so you won’t hawk up a hairball when we pan your stuff  because you didn’t bother to read the submission guidelines. Think of it as a public service announcement.)

Speaking of Which

For the zillionth time, as noted in the first line of our Rating System & Submissions page (for anyone who could be bothered to read it):

We review fiction and nonfiction books rated G to PG-13. We don’t have the time or interest in anything else. (Occasional exceptions may be made on the basis of artistic merit. But that is rare.)


Stay Inside the Lines

The novel noted above colored outside these lines. Way outside. And nothing tees off Her Crankiness like authors who can’t or won’t follow simple instructions or who misrepresent their work. She will not be happy that you’ve wasted her time. (Not a good idea. Trust me on this.)

Since you’re still reading, however, you’re smarter than that. You’re up front about your book. Its genre, storyline and content. If you’re honest about that, we like you already. If you’re not, then off to the Big Kitty Litter Box in the Sky with you!

Are we clear here?