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.