Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


Leave a comment

3 Surprising Packages of Hope

Kimber here. I bet you think Her Crankiness is… 100% cranky, right? So do I. (Don’t tell Mom, okay? Let’s just keep this our little secret.)

But every once in a while Mom surprises me. Not that I’m surprise-able. But …

Wait. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Mom and I read a trio of books recently that were … surprising. They were quite different from each other, too. Think dogs and cats. (Well, okay. Maybe not cats. But you get the picture.)

Anyway, the first book is a delightful new Christian romance from Kim Vogel Sawyer. The second is a non-fiction “travel tome with a twist” from Joseph F. Smith, M.D. There’s also an historical fiction novel by Kristin Hannah.

All get an Official Thumbs Up from Her Crankiness. Here’s why (short version):

Continue reading


2 Comments

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:

Continue reading


Leave a comment

‘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:

Continue reading


1 Comment

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:

Continue reading


Leave a comment

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:

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Join the Gentle Journey With ‘Keep Walking’

 

Kimber here. You already know that one of us is super stingy with uber high ratings (Hi, Mom). But every once in a while, a book comes along that makes the grade. Keep Walking, Your Heart Will Catch Up is one of those books.

We don’t say that often. So I’d listen up ‘fize you. Here’s why:

Continue reading


2 Comments

6 Titles to Curl Up With if You Love Whodunits

You’re kidding, right?

I say this to Mom a lot. Especially when she gets The Look. You know. That Look. It usually precedes a mile-long description of her new favorite book. Of course I listen. Because, ya know. That’s my job. Well, that and being beautiful and brilliant. (It’s a tough job. But I’m up for it!)

So when Mom came up with yet another harebrained idea for Fine Wine Fridays – where do these things come from? – I just smiled and listened.

Mom’s latest brainstorm? A list of really cool murder mysteries/whodunits.

Being the brains in this dynamic duo, I reminded Mom that she doesn’t typically gravitate toward either genre. But you know Mom!

So here, in no particular order, are Mom’s version of Fine Wine Friday murder mysteries/whodunits. (See more Fine Wine Friday picks here.)

Continue reading


2 Comments

5 Clunkers You Can Skip & Not Miss a Thing

Your time is valuable, right? Especially when it comes to books.

That’s why Mom and I launched the BKLBITS (Big Kitty Litter Box In The Sky) Awards last summer. It was one of our most popular features. I mean, Holy Meow Mix! No one wants to waste their time on lousy snoozers littered with unsympathetic, cardboard characters we don’t know, don’t want to know, and could care less about.

Mom and me, we like to be helpful. As in, save you some time. So here, without any further ado, we’re rolling out BKLBITS Awards, Part II:

1. Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese

This book gets all kinds of rave reviews elsewhere. It’s supposedly about two brothers “whose fate is intertwined.”

So not impressed.

It takes seven chapters – we kid you not – for a laboring mother to give birth. Yea, verily. We don’t expect or require every book to move at warp speed. But this thing moves with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth. Bye!

2. The Demeter Code, by Russell Brooks

We received a request to review this international spy “thriller” novel in November. It’s supposedly about biological warfare, CIA spooks, Syrian arms dealers, thieves, contract killers and corporate espionage, punctuated by lots of gun play and a seemingly never-ending dead body count.

It was obvious early on that the author did not bother to read our submission guidelines. Or maybe he figured we wouldn’t notice just how majorly this thing sails outside our wheelhouse. Ugh. (Main character Ridley Fox gives stray alley cats a bad name.)

But a request is a request. So here’s our review:

If you gravitate toward trashy “thriller” books of the pulp fiction variety, this one’s for you. Otherwise, feel free to choose something more productive. Like watching grass grow.

 

3. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo

“Beautiful forever” is a corporate slogan for Italianate floor tiles. That matters in Annawadi, a .miserable slum of Mumbai where residents young and old scrape out a meager existence in the shadow of luxury hotels and an international airport. Because this novel is all about mercurial promises that gleam like new tile but crack and crater the moment they’re set down or even lightly jostled.

This colorful novel centers around the “professional competition for trash” that keeps Annawadi barely alive, eking out bare subsistence in a society roiling with corruption, disease, poverty, and squalor.

A Pulitzer Prize nominee for general nonfiction, this story is reasonably engaging. It’s beautifully written. But you may find its pace uneven and the plot plodding.

4. I Will Always Love You, by Ashley Lee London

This book is an ambitious effort, spanning multiple generations and relationships. That’s part of its problem. There’s no real cohesive, unifying theme. It’s all over the place. The result is a confusing, muddled morass of artificial emotion and manufactured pathos. For example, the godfather/goddaughter relationships between Michael and Lori seems artificial. Like it’s trying too hard to make up for deficits in Lori’s upbringing.

There’s also a recurring issue with print quality. Numerous pages sport smudged ink and blurred paragraphs.

Additionally, the characters are hackneyed, the plot humdrum. While the story had potential, much of it is frittered away scampering down multitudinous bunny trails and story arcs that are tangentially connected at best.

Unfortunately, story threads don’t really start coming together until around page 300. Only the most diligent of readers is likely to wait that long before beating a hasty retreat to the nearest exit. (Read our full review here.)

5. The Aviator, by Eugene-Vodolazkin

A man wakes up in a Russian hospital. He has no idea who he is, how he got there, or what year it is. He gradually realizes he’s been in cryo storage for most of the 20th century. Memories of his grandmother reading Robinson Crusoe, a summer dacha, a murder, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and a barbaric gulag bubble to the surface as aviator Platonov tries to make sense of who he is, where he is, and why.

Reminiscent of Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, ‘The Aviator’ is also dense. At times it’s even oblique in the tradition of Franz Kafka.

The narrative is packed with details and rich descriptions of people, events, and observances that are seemingly superfluous or irrelevant. Connecting the dots into some semblance of coherence can be a challenge, perhaps mirroring the mental and physical deterioration of the main character.

Snorefest!

 

Next up:

One of the best historical fiction books we’ve ever read! Stay tuned!


8 Comments

Best Animal Stories EVER!

Happy New Year!

Mom and I are ringing in 2021 right (or write) with our latest Super Duper Awesomeness List of Best Animals Stories Ever. At least that was the plan. Until one of us got sidetracked. Again. (Hi, Mom.)

“There are just too many great animal books out there,” says Her Crankiness. “If we tried listing even a fraction of the excellent stories told from an animal’s point of view or feature animals as the main character(s), we’ll be here till Kingdom come!”

No idea what that means. But that’s where one of us changed plans. So instead of tallying up a list of Best Animal Stories Ever, we’re shifting to a list of Awesome Authors of Best Animal Stories Ever. Because some authors write numerous animal books.

So here to ring in the New Year WRITE is our totally subjective, 100% unscientific list of Awesome Authors of Best Animal Stories Ever and a brief list of their best known books. All are either told from an animal’s POV or an animal is the central character. (You may detect a slight canine bias here. But, hey! It’s me! Ready? Set? Go!)

Continue reading


2 Comments

SPOON UP 3 Hefty Helpings of Historical Fiction!

You know Her Momness loves historical fiction, right?

“If historical fiction was a flavor, it’d be raspberry white chocolate cheesecake! With double hot fudge!” croweth Mom.

Why she says this, I don’t know. I do know she’s breaking out her Happy Dance. Because we’re reviewing three sturdy historical fiction titles today! All set during World War II.

Break out some extra spoons for Lilac Girls, Irena’s War, and The Orphan’s Tale:

Continue reading