Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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7 Skunkers & Clunkers

Ever get a whiff of skunk? You don’t need to get close. One whiff is Plenty. (Don’t ask how I know that.)

Mom and I, we read. A lot. Like, 300+ books a year on average. We know what we like. What we don’t. What works. What stinketh.

We try to approach every book with an open mind. Give it a chance. That being said, it doesn’t take us long to smell out a stinker. (We don’t look for this stuff. It finds us.)

When we can, we pass on our 100% unscientific, totally subjective “olfactory discoveries” to you. No extra charge. Consider it a Public Service Announcement.

So here’s our newest list of literary skunkers and clunkers. Four topped our most recent DNF (Did Not Finish) list. Here’s why:

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‘Book of Lost Friends’ Hits High Notes

The Book of Lost Friends (Ballantine Books, 2020)

By Lisa Wingate

Historical Fiction

“If there is magic in this world, it is contained in books.” – The Book of Lost Friends

You know one of us looooooves historical fiction. And I love anything Mom loves! Because, hey! It’s me. Kimber the Magnificent!

Anywho, our intrepid humans at The Book Place know Mom loves historical fiction too. They’ve piled her with tons of historical fiction set in World War II. But Mom got a teensy-weensy bit tired of HF set during WWII.

So someone suggested The Book of Lost Friends. Set in 1875-ish and 1987. I’ll let Mom tell you more. You know how Mom is. Take it away, Mom:

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Political Fantasy Takes A Novel Bite in ‘King Genghis I’

King Genghis I (2021)

By Jonathan Yolan

Fiction/Adventure

It’s a bad day in Brooklyn. Turan Mugayev has just lost his girlfriend and his job. Rudderless, he recalls an invitation to visit his boyhood home of Genghistan, formerly Kushtamenistan, issued by the king himself. Turan hops a flight to the Central Asian country, enters the city of Shpagatt, the government seat, and has an audience with the king.

Turan winds up running Genghistan’s PR and overseeing social media for the government’s Ministry of Information. Sort of. It would be a lot easier if the testy Minister of Information wasn’t so testy. Active, unblocked Internet access would be helpful, too. (Even if Turan is stuck with the boss from hell, he can still pass the time with a good book.)

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Buckle Up for The Lane Betrayal & High Octane Historical Fiction

The Lane Betrayal (February, 2020)

By John Heldt

Historical Fiction

If you could time travel back to April 1865 and foil the plans of John Wilkes Booth, would you do it? Should you?

Those are some of the questions raised in this delightful historical fiction novel by John Heldt. The U.S. Civil War comes alive in this captivating and clever high octane novel in a skillful blend of historical fiction, suspense, gentle romance, and what ifs?

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Check Out of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ With New Book by Jared Woods

Heartbreak Sucks!

How to Get Over Your Break-Up in 30 Days

By Jared Woods

Non-fiction

 

Elvis put it this way:

Well, since my baby left me
Well, I found a new place to dwell
Well, it’s down at the end of Lonely Street
At Heartbreak Hotel…

 

If you’re looking to check out of Heartbreak Hotel and exit Lonely Street, you may want to consider Heartbreak Sucks: How to Get Over Your Break-Up in 30 Days.

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GUEST POST: The ‘Gentle Journey’ Continues With Author Cathay O. Reta

“Hey Mom!” says I. “How ’bout we do something special for Valentine’s Day?”

“What’d you have in mind, Kimber?” replies Mom. She’s doing that smiley eyes thing again.

“How ’bout we invite one of our new favorite authors to do a guest post? We could ask the Camino de Santiago walk lady. Cathay O. Reta and Keep Walking: You Heart Will Catch Up. Tell us what she’s up to. Any new books in the pipeline. Lessons learned. What’s next. What about Ray?  Perfect for this Valentine’s thingy!”

“Kimber, you’re a genius!”

Mom’s nothing if not quick.

So here, without further barking, is Cathay’s guest post. You’re gonna enjoy this! Take it away, Cathay:

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12 Most Romantic Movies of all Time

What makes a great romantic story or movie? One that tugs at the heart strings over and over? Makes you laugh and cry, sigh and buy stock in Kleenex?

The Basics

“Most romantic movie” is highly subjective. (IMHO, Hollywood hasn’t cranked out much worth seeing in this category in decades.)

But basic elements include credible dialogue and a solid, poignant script. Three-dimensional characters who learn, grow and develop. Superlative acting. A story that typically goes like:

1) Boy meets girl

2) Boy loses girl

3) Boy finds girl again.

Boils Down To

In between are all sorts of obstacles, angst, turmoil and tumult. Misunderstandings. Heartbreak. Despair. Tragedy and triumph. But the essence of a great romantic movie boils down to:

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16 Unforgettable Love Stories

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. And what better way to ring in the day than with a love story?

Now, I could line the bottom of my bird cage (if I had one) with most of what passes for “romance” stories these days. That’s not what this list is about. You won’t find any cheap dime store boiler plate trash here. This list focuses on timeless love stories that go above and beyond basic romance.

Some of these titles are relatively new. Others have been around for centuries. All reach straight for your heart. Climb in. And settle in to stay. B.Y.O. tissue.

Here are 16 of the most unforgettable love stories of all time, along with memorable quotes. Many have been made into movies. Some might surprise you:

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s masterpiece of love and life among English gentility during the Georgian era. Mr. Bennet is an English gentleman living in Hartfordshire with his overbearing wife, one of the most ridiculous mothers in all literature. Mrs. Bennet’s chief goal in life is to see her five daughters married off and living comfortably. But fate intervenes…

Memorable quote:

“My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”

2. Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak

This novel traces the lives and loves of its two tragic protagonists, Yuri Zhivago, a physician and poet, and Larissa Antipova. Pasternak’s epic love story takes place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and World War II. First published in Italy in 1957.

Memorable quote:

“Oh, what a love it was, utterly free, unique, like nothing else on earth! Their thoughts were like other people’s songs.”

3. A Common Life – Jan Karon

Laughter and wedding bells ring as Father Tim and his artist neighbor, Cynthia, get ready to tie the knot. Finally!

Memorable quote:

“I am not proud, but I am happy; and happiness blinds, I think, more than pride.”

4. Message in a Bottle – Nicholas Sparks

When a woman discovers a tragic love letter in a bottle on a beach, she’s determined to track down its author – and finds much more.

Emotionally intense story of love after loss. Set in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Memorable quote:

“Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul.”

  1. The Princess Bride – William Golding

Six-fingered swordsmen. Murderous princes. Treachery. Gallantry. Sicilians and rodents of unusual size.

Buttercup and Westley’s love story is a classic that not even the Dread Pirate Roberts can sink. Did you know the 1987 movie was based on a book?

Memorable quote:

“As you wish.”

  1. Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls

The powerful, poignant story of the unbreakable bond between a young boy and his two Redbone Hound dogs, ‘Ole Dan and Li’l Ann, reminds us what love really means. Set in the Ozarks during the depths of the Depression.

Once in a lifetime, a story comes along that inspires generations of readers. Where The Red Fern Grows is one of those stories. Bring Kleenex.

Note from Kimber: My personal favorite, friends! Even better than bacon! Mom always wants to snuggle up with this one. I’m a good helper, ya know. But I’m a World Class Snuggler and face-licker!

Memorable quote:

“I looked at his grave and, with tears in my eyes, I voiced these words: ‘You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.’”

  1. Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen

Set largely in Kenya, East Africa, this sweeping epic is a story of discovery, loss and love.

Karen Blixen followed her dreams until her dreams became reality. She came to Africa from Denmark to search for something inside herself. There, she discovers a man and a country. And life as she’s never known it.

Blixen published her autobiographical Out of Africa under the nom de plume, Isak Dinesen.

The 1985 movie won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. It stars Meryl Streep as Blixen and Robert Redford as her lover, Dennys Finch-Hatton.

Memorable quote:

“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

  1. The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks

A touching story about what we long for. What we settle for. And who we were meant for. Full of longing and wistfulness. Despair and hope. And unexpected plot twists. Vintage Nicholas Sparks.

“I read to her and she remembers.”

Memorable quote:

“We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me, love like that has only happened once, and that’s why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory. I’ll never forget a single moment of it.”

  1. Rome and Juliet – William Shakespeare

Don’t make me explain this.

Memorable quote:

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

10 – 13. The Last Promise, A Perfect Day, The Letter, The Sunflower, – Richard Paul Evans

  1. The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

How a brand new toy becomes Real.

Don’t think this “children’s” classic is a love story? Think again.

Memorable quote:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

  1. Jane EyreCharlotte Brontë

Beloved love story between the plucky orphan and governess Jane Eyre and the dark and brooding Rochester.

Memorable quote:

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

 

16. Bid Time Return – Richard Matheson

A haunting story of the link between a man and a woman that transcends time. The novel upon which Somewhere in Time is based.

My husband rolls his eyes every time I drag out my SIT DVD. I just smile and grab some more chocolate.

This story and the movie that followed starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour prove how little critics know and how even a predictable love story never fails to tug at the heart strings.

An unforgettable John Barry score doesn’t hurt, either.

Memorable quote:

“Come back to me.”

What would you add?


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Stories & Soirees: 5 DELICIOUS Valentine Pairings!

Hello February!

‘Tis the month for love and romance and all things heartfelt. That includes good books and good food! In fact, what better way to kick off Valentine’s month than with pairing some great love stories with great food!

The titles below feature love stories flavored with rich, robust writing. Also links to a culinary idea or two you can savor before, after, or while you’re turning pages.

Some of these titles may be familiar. Some may be new. Some may surprise you. Just don’t get so engrossed in the plot that you neglect to mind the stove, okay?

Ready? Set? Grab your book. Head to the nearest kitchen and Let’s Go!

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Delicious! ‘Crystal Shadows’ Fills Fantasy Bill

Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood (Olympia Publishers, 2020)

By R.J.  Parker

Fiction/Fantasy

It was a dark and stormy night…

No. Really. It was. I, Kimber, was there. And the night wasn’t just “dark and stormy.” Rain was coming down in sheets. Sideways. The wind was howling like a banshee with a tooth ache. A flood watch and a wind advisory were in effect.

“It’s a perfect day to curl up by the fire with a good book,” spake Mom.

Well. Who am I to disagree?

Thankfully, R.J. Parker’s Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood filled the bill. Here’s why:

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