Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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‘Little Dirt Road’ Offers PNW Pizzaz

Little Dirt Road

Bad Men on Whidbey Island

By Ted Mulcahey, 2022

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 242

Kimber the Magnificent here.

Bet you’re wondering why Mom and I agreed to jump on the blog tour for this murder mystery/action/adventure thingy. Glad you asked. We joined for two main reasons:

  1. The sub-title. As Californian transplants to the Pacific Northwest, Mom and I know exactly where Whidbey Island is. Ditto Bellevue, San Diego, and most of the other West Coast settings for this clever action/adventure/whodunit. But the Real Reason for joining the tour? See below:
  2. Emma the German shepherd. (You know who voted for that furry friend, right?)

So…

The Story

Kevin and Jenne (“Jenny”) O’Malley are “trouble magnets.” You won’t find that on their business cards. But the Washington-based interior designers seem to draw trouble wherever they go, even on vacation. That’s what happens when a cantankerous ex-client turns up dead in their room at a swank lodge in Napa Valley.

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‘Finding Grace’ and Peter Pan

Paperback Finding Grace BookFinding Grace

By Maren Cooper

Publisher: She Writes Press, 2022

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 333

Remember that line from the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot? The one about being a parent? While debating whether or not South Carolina goes to war against the crown, Gibson, portraying colonial militia captain Benjamin Martin, says he’s a parent and he hasn’t the luxury of principles. In other words, family first.

At about 3:55:

Caroline Booker never got the Martin memo.

Peter Pan?

Indeed, Caroline thinks she’s Peter Pan. Don’t give me that “bold and unapologetic” horse hooey. Caroline the “gifted ornithologist” just doesn’t want to grow up. Or assume responsibility for anyone. Or anything. She just wants to live a life of travel and adventure unencumbered by bothersome little details like her husband, Charles. Or her daughter, Grace.

A foundling child, Charles yearns for a family. Caroline doesn’t. He tricks her into getting pregnant (long story). Caroline’s pretty ticked with this unexpected turn of events. And not interested in her child. At. All.

Nope

Chuck hopes Caroline will change her mind. She doesn’t. You see, Caroline’s waaaay too busy “being me” to be a parent. She holds Chuck to his promise to parent their daughter Grace without her, so Caroline can travel the world and follow her birds.

Unsurprisingly, a rift develops between husband and wife. Think Grand Canyon with Toxic Mother a la mode. And Grace grows up caught in the middle of one ginormous familial schism. It leads to her mental illness.

Life Membership?

Kimber here. Telling you Mom’s nominating Caroline for life membership in the Big Kitty Litter Box in the Sky Society. In fact, one of us was ready to chuck the book after a few chapters. As in, So don’t have time for this.  (Hi, Mom.) But cooler heads and paws prevailed. So we gave it another chance. With mixed results.

Basically…

Overall, Finding Grace is an absorbing, intense, and complex read.  It’s peopled with flawed but carefully crafted characters. Some grow and learn. Others don’t. (More on that in a min.) The title has a double meaning.

Masterfully written and expertly paced, it traces the complicated ties and effects of commitment, community, abandonment, emotional neglect, and hope. It’s a searingly heartrending story about a father’s unconditional love for his daughter and a cold, calculating “mother” who never got the Martin memo. Caroline’s more interested in birds than she is in her own daughter. And that’s a problem. Cuz Caroline the Majorette Jerkette is as appealing as an overcooked cabbage.

For example, in a rare twinge of conscience, Majorette Jerkette flies in from Lisbon after Grace attempts suicide. Following years of physical and emotional abandonment , M.J. sweeps into the hospital like she owns the place. She demands to see her daughter because she’s Grace’s “mother.” Oh, really? When did that start, you overcooked cabbage on Peter Pan steroids?

Another example: On page 130 Charles and Caroline are “on vacation” in – where else? – the Canary Islands. It doesn’t go well. Demanding and utterly self-absorbed per usual, Caroline wonders, “Where has my adoring Charlie gone? And how do I get him back? What’s wrong with him?” Well, sweetie. Try looking in the mirror.

Later in chapter 27, Charlie finally realizes that “the mathematics of marriage to Caroline had been exposed,” and “he refused to participate in her rigged equation any longer. But what damage have I done to my daughter?” The answer is: Plenty.

This isn’t a bad read if you can get past Caroline and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Century. And a triumphant note of hope, grace, and Serenity is sounded toward the end. But Majorette Jerkette overwhelms the story. We just wanted to slap her. And lose the cabbage.

Scene stealers: Dr. Riley and Daisy. Also the Booker dogs Abigail and Bailey. So there’s that.

 


Our Rating: 3.0


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‘Reckless Grace’ Pulls No Punches

Reckless Grace book coverReckless Grace

A Mother’s Crash Course in Mental Illness

By Carolyn DiPasquale

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: E.L. Marker, an imprint of WiDo Publishing, 2022

Pages: 419 + Several pages of Endnotes and Works Cited

How do you help a severely ill loved one who can’t or won’t get healthy? How do you help someone who doesn’t necessarily want help? How do you help someone if you don’t really know they need help, or what kind of help is needed?

These questions and more are raised in this finely crafted, heartrending memoir. Reckless Grace is the shattering true story of a mother’s journey through her daughter’s physical and mental illnesses, told in retrospect following the daughter’s fatal overdose.

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The Dog Days & Children’s Classics

What?

Hello Friends and Happy August!

If you’ve been following Pages and Paws for any length of time – say, 20 minutes or so – you know that Her Momness sometimes says weird stuff about books. (Don’t tell her I said that, okay?)

Sometimes Mom’ll read a “best-seller” that’s topping the charts and go, “Aaaarg! Barf-o-rama and gag me with Meow Mix! Bleeeech and double bleech!!” And sometimes she’ll read an obscure-ish book by an unknown indie author and chirp, “Why isn’t this magnum opus in every library, on every shelf, and in every bookstore in America and the whole world included?! Cuz it’s Seriously Awesome!”

The Children’s Section

Well. You know Mom. (Insert eye roll here.)

She also thinks some of the best writing and coolest stories around can be found in the Children’s Section of the local library. (Not sure what that says about Mom. Can I get back to you on that?)

Pop Quiz!

Anywho, Mom was lumbering back from The Book Place the other day with her usual truckload of To Be Reads. All from the Children’s Section. I’m not making this up. Then she decides it’s time for a Pop Quiz. Like this:

“Okay, Kimmi. What children’s classic opens with these lines”:

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