Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


6 Best Reads of Summer

Whoosh! Or Whoof! Where did summer go? Mom and I were just getting used to long days and more sunshine. Before I could bark twice at the Powder Puff sauntering by on her afternoon walk, the season is done-ski. That makes Mom and me kinda sad, if ya know what I mean. (Summer winding down. Not the Powder Puff.)

Summer Wrap-Up

Anywho, since we recently posted a list of Summer Stinkers (as in, Do Not Waste Your Time, Do Not Collect $200 or even a penny), one of us thought now would be a good time to do a Summer Wrap-Wrap thingy. Like when we highlight our favorite reads from the summer. Books with heart. Solid writing. Something to say that matters. You might be surprised how hard books like that can be to find these days. Or maybe not?

Anywho again. Here are our 6 Best Reads of Summer (in no particular order). Drum roll please…

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‘Among the Innocent’ is Un-Put-Downable!

“The former chief believed Harrison had chosen death over being accused of murder. Now the real killer had returned. The clock was ticking.”


Among the Innocent

By Mary Alford

Revell, 2022

Genre: Crime/Murder Mystery/Thriller/Romance/Christian Fiction

Via: Author Request

Pages: 295

Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


That’s a new word Mom and I just made up. You already know what it means. So here’s the scoop on this gripping and intense barn burner. We couldn’t put it down!

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Big Kitty Litter Box in the Sky Awards, Part III -or – 9 Summer Stinkers (Skip These & You Haven’t Missed a Thing)

Kimber: Nobody wants to waste their valuable time reading stinkers, right? That’s why Mom and I launched the BKLBITS (Big Kitty Litter Box In The Sky) Awards awhile back. How does a book make the BKLBITS Award list? Like this:

Short criteria for Big Kitty Litter Box in the Sky Awards:

  1. A pointless slog to the Middle of Nowhere littered with unsympathetic cardboard characters we don’t know, don’t want to know, and could care less about.
  2. Poor writing littered with spelling and grammatical errors and typos.
  3. Political polemics disguised as fiction.
  4. Badly overwritten, tedious and mundane. Dull as a box of rocks and twice as dense.
  5. Does not enrich, enlighten, educate or inspire in any way.
  6. Gratuitous violence and/or profanity
  7. A snoozefest

So here, without further ado, are the Mom and Kimber BKLBITS Awards, Part III:

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High Octane Action Fuels ‘Sleeping Bear’

Sleeping Bear: A Thriller

By Connor Sullivan

Published by Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2021

Genre: Fiction – Action/Adventure/Thriller/Spy Novel

Pages: 388

Via: Library

Note: Occasional foul language.

What’s the last book you read that whizzed by like greased lightning? That grabbed you from chapter one and didn’t let go until the last page? The action-packed, high octane thriller Sleeping Bear is that kind of a book.

A Page Turner

I was going to read “a few chapters” just to get a feel for the story. Next thing I knew, I was 59 chapters in and goin’ for broke! Talk about a “page turner”!

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‘The Waltons’ Lives on in ‘Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned from Erin Walton” by Mary McDonough

Ah, August! The shoulder of summer. Deep summer has passed. But the sullen skies and cherry-cheeked winds of autumn are still waiting in the wings. Isn’t August a great time for a little trip down memory lane? That’s what we’re doing today. With a review from March of 2012. Cue Jerry Goldsmith musical score in 3, 2, 1…

Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned from Erin Walton

By Mary McDonough

Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011

For millions of American television viewers, The Waltons was a Thursday night staple. It was in my house. Candidly, I considered the second Walton daughter the least credible character in the whole clan. Mary McDonough’s Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned from Erin Walton provides some explanation, connects some dots and offers a glimpse into the girl who portrayed the red-haired Erin and her post-Waltons life.

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Pride & Prejudice Revisited in ‘Miriam’


By Linda O’Bryne

Page Count: TBC pages 

Genre : Historical

Today we’re doing a spotlight of this Jane Austen-ish book by British author Linda O’Bryne:

About the Book

Many years have passed since the dramatic events of Pride and Prejudice.  In The Cousins of Pemberley series we follow a new generation of heroines – cousins with lives as different and interesting as those enjoyed by their mothers.
Mary Bennet – overlooked, laughed at, despised – married a missionary and vanished into a life of service out in Africa.  
But now Miriam, her daughter, is coming to England, disliking everything she has been told about her family.  
Her aunts and cousins are expecting someone quiet, dull and bookish, just like her mother, not the quick-tempered, impulsive girl who arrives.  
How can this adventurous girl with her desire for freedom possibly fit into their well ordered world?  
And what havoc will she cause as she tries?  
Miriam is the third book in the Cousins of Pemberley series,

About The Author

Fiction has always been my go-to world, a place of entertainment, excitement and imagination – I am told that I wrote my first story when I was four about a lady who had twenty children! Sadly it has been lost for posterity.

I have been writing all my life in the time I could spare from having a “proper job”, mostly for children under the name of Linda Blake, stories of ballet dancers, pony riding and talking animals! Not all in the same book!

But my love of romance, a great tendency to say “What if..?” and the endearing characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice have now resulted in a series of books that will take the reader forward to the next generation of heroines. 

I am retired, live in Kent and am a keen member of my local drama group.  Directing and acting take up a lot of my time – I have been given the onerous task of writing the Christmas pantomimes – but I still need to cope with a large garden, doing daily battle with the heron who thinks my pond is his own breakfast buffet and keeping in touch with friends and family scattered all over the world.  

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Instagram


Note: We did not receive this book in time to read and review. So we’ll leave that to you. *Also, the cover for this book was “under wraps” when we were wrote this post, hence its absence. 



Mom and I like to feature new talent and fresh voices from time to time.  Today it’s author Gib Check.  Okay. So it’s not exactly “today.” This post is actually from  2011. (Yeah. One of us is older than dirt. I won’t tell you who.) Gib was one of our very first guest authors. So we’re honoring him today with a revisit of one of his submissions from yesteryear.

So grab a chair and sit down for some chuckles and “oh yeah!” moments with Gib’s humorous ode to modern day technology, Tech-Save Us. Does this sound familiar?

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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

Via: Book Blog Tour

Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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?)


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

Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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.


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.


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


‘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

Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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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