Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

3 Wag-Worthy Summer Stand-Outs

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One of my baby pictures. I know. I’m adorable.

Her Momness is doing that “I can’t decide” thing again. Like when she has a coupla/three books she enjoyed and thinks you will, too. But she can’t decide which one to feature in a blog post.

Mom’s just funny that way.

“Mom,” says I. “Why don’t you just do all three? Like, at the same time?”

You know that deer-in-the-headlights look? AKA: The Her Momness Look? Mom has it down pat. Ditto three books we recently read. One is a murder mystery: Muzzled: An Andy Carpenter Mystery. Super great cover. Best I’ve ever seen, in fact. The other is a non-fiction book, Empire of the Summer Moon. The third is News of the World. By Paulette Jiles.

They’re as different as day and night. Peanut butter and jelly. Intelligence and presidential debates. Wait. Let’s not go there. Anyway, here’s The Official Mom and Kimber Scoop on these two very different but wag-worthy summer reads:

What’s not to love?

Muzzled: An Andy Carpenter Mystery (2020)

By David Rosenfelt

Fiction/Murder Mystery

“The murder victim called… He wants his dog back.”

A murder mystery featuring a delightful concoction of intrigue, bad guys, corporate greed, high octane action, and a self-deprecating criminal defense lawyer who hates practicing law but loves working at a dog rescue.

Our kinda book!

Lawyer Andy Carpenter keeps trying to retire. Without much success. Then a friend who works to reunite stray dogs with their owners tells him she has a sweet yellow Lab, Aggie. Aggie’s owner died in a boat explosion. Andy isn’t too interested. But then the murder victim, Alex Vogel, calls and says he wants his dog back.

Well. Who can resist that?

What follows is a masterful piece of storytelling and generous doses of tension, dogs, action, dogs, courtroom drama, dogs, and chuckles. Did we mention dogs?

A chuckles sampling (lots more where this came from):

  • “Murders are not such a bid deal in the eyes of the media, but murder victims who come back from the dead make for a hot story.”
  • When Vogel is charged with murder in the first degree, Carpenter dryly observes, “If Vogel is convicted, he will never again have to worry about buying sunscreen.”
  • “The bartender is maybe fifty years old and seems like he is coming up on his fiftieth anniversary of working here. It has probably been years since he smiled, and one does not seem imminent.”
  • Carpenter: “Lawyers shouldn’t be in physical danger, which is one of the reasons I became a lawyer. But I am frequently in a hell of a lot of danger, which is one of the reasons I want to become an ex-lawyer.”
  • Carpenter: “I can spot a filing cabinet at fifty feet.”
  • Carpenter: “Laurie (his wife) and I are going to the Jefferson Home for Seniors in Rockland County to see about the possibility of my mother moving in there. It’s not urgent, since my mother passed away more than a decade ago, but it can’t hurt to prepare.”
  • “I’m driving home during rush hour through the Lincoln Tunnel, which means I could get there faster by walking. Laurie travels distance faster on her exercise bike than these cars are moving.” 

This book is wag-worthy. And one of us ought to know! 🙂

Our Rating: 4.5


Empire of the Summer Moon (2010)

Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History


By S.C. Gwynne

S.C. Gwynne writes history with an intensity that rivals the searing summer sun of the Great Plains.

In these pages you’ll find not only vivid descriptions of the Comanche nation, “the most powerful Indian tribe in American history,” but also compelling portraits of pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her son, Quanah, “last and greatest chief of the Comanches.”

Smack in the Midst

The sweeping narrative puts readers smack in the midst of the forty-year battle between the Comanches and white settlers for control of the American West. You can almost hear the whinnying horses. Smell the smoke. Shiver in the grip of an icy “blue norther.” Or drop from exhaustion after riding countless miles on horseback. An exceptional work and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Drawn from “a large number of firsthand accounts from the era” and many other sources, the narrative is meticulously researched and painstakingly thorough. It includes 20+ pages of Notes and an extensive Bibliography.

Fascinating & Prodigous

If you’re looking for a quick, light read, this isn’t it. This book has substance. Lots of it. It’s one of the most fascinating and prodigious accounts of the period I’ve ever read. It’s also the most balanced. Indeed, Empire of the Summer Moon may be destined to become the gold standard in historical non-fiction.

Our Rating: 4.0

News of the World (2016)

By Paulette Jiles

Historical Fiction

A National Book Award Finalist, the story is about an elderly man, Captain Kidd, who’s pledged to return a ten year-old girl captured by the Kiowa to her Texas kin.

What follows is an epic 400-mile journey across the state of Texas in 1870 after the American Civil War.

It’s a simple but powerful story of the unique relationship between a grizzled old man and a young girl. Neither “fit in” in their respective worlds. With patience, kindness, and tenacity, “Co-henna” and “Kep-dun” eventually make their own.

This tough but tender story was made into a movie in 2020. Tom Hanks stars:

Our Rating: 4.5

What summer stand-outs have you read this year?

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