Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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‘Aloha’ and ‘Family’ Merge Into Delightful Read in New Novel

The Aloha Spirit: A Novel Kindle Edition

The Aloha Spirit (She Writes Press, August 2020)

Historical Fiction/Romance

By Linda Ulleseit

What is “family”? How do families behave? Relate? Stick together? Who is and isn’t “family” – and why?

Captivating & Compelling

These questions and more swirl through the pages of a captivating new historical novel by Linda Ulleseit. Set in Hawaii and California, The Aloha Spirit is the compelling story of Dolores and her lifelong search for “family” and the aloha spirit.

We first meet Dolores when her father drops her off at a friend’s house. He and Dolores’s older brother are heading to California to find work.

Bewildered and feeling abandoned, the scrappy seven year-old soon wearies of the never-ending, back-breaking work at Noelani’s. Dolores dreams of re-joining her family on the mainland. But when her father finally invites her to join him in California some four years later, Dolores isn’t exactly turning cartwheels at the prospect.

Several different settings and experiences later, Dolores eventually learns that family “just is.” You don’t “choose it or grow it.” Most of the time “you just deal with it” with love and patience. She also learns that “family” sometimes means loving a person without loving everything they do.

Fascinating Blend

A fascinating, clever blend of history, culture and customs, The Aloha Spirit is divided into three parts. It covers 28 years between 1922 and 1950. In Part 1 Dolores goes from one “odd person out” context of “family, but not really” to the next.

The story takes readers to the sugar-white sand beaches of Hawaii and Diamond Head, San Francisco and the World’s Fair, and a backyard shelter during the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. We eventually wind up in Sunnyvale and then San Jose, California.

Much More

Along Dolores’ journey of personal growth and self-discovery, The Aloha Spirit gently shows us how even a blood brother can be ‘ohana in name only. How friends can be closer than sisters. What keeping “aloha in your heart” really means. And why.

It also shows us how and why “Aloha” is much more than a greeting or a farewell. It also means giving kindness and appreciation to everyone, even family members who are hard to love. Aloha is “the joyous sharing of life’s energy,” as Dolores finds out in her teenage years. But to have aloha, you need to love yourself first. Dolores finds this out later, when her teen marriage to Manolo unravels. Then family ties are sorely tested when Dolores and her two children evacuate Hawaii for California and her brother’s place after Pearl Harbor is bombed.

Somewhere along the way, Dolores falls in love with Alberto. She’s still married to a jerk. But Dolores is Catholic. And Catholics don’t divorce. Especially when doing so means losing her family.

Caveats

Dialogue attributed to a grade schooler strains credulity at times in Part 1. Joining Dolores in the kitchen to chop veggies or stir stew also gets a little old. But The Aloha Spirit quickly rises above such mundanities and paints a vast, vibrant mosaic of time, culture, loss and disappointment, triumph and redemption.

Winsome

Poignant and captivating, The Aloha Spirit brims with gentle insights and fascinating cultural and historical vignettes. This book has a realistic, authentic feel to it that makes it a winsome read. Characters are dynamic and three-dimensional. Fortified with rich, lyrical prose, settings are lush and unique. You can almost feel the trade winds and smell the pikake blooms as Dolores slowly realizes the true meaning of familia es todo.

A delicious read. Aloha.

Our rating: 4.0

Diamond Head Image Credit


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‘Aura’ Offers Promise

Aura: Revive Edition

By Krisley Jior Castillo

“Do whatever it takes to survive for now. We both know this won’t end well.” – Aura

Looking for a quick, fluffy story as good battles evil in an epic fight for the future? You may want to check out this book, with a couple caveats.

Plot

Sixteen year-old Ren is minding his own business, sleeping under a tree in the futuristic Kingdom of Zinah. His younger sister, Garnet, hollers at him to wake up or get locked out of the house again. Suddenly a mysterious dark-hooded man shows up with a golden necklace. Everything goes sideways from there, when Garnet is captured and taken prisoner by the evil Gaians who are on the war path against pretty much everyone else.

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ATTN AUTHORS: Kimber’s 8 Book Review Rules

Shhh! Mom’s snoozing. So it’s just us, okay?

Can we talk? Like, about book reviews? Cuz Mom and I are getting flooded with requests for book reviews. We love it! But we also want to be efficient. So we decided to set and clarify some basic ground rules for our book reviews. Here they are:

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TRIFECTA: Two Winners & A Loser

Ahoy summer readers and other lovelies! Today we’re clearing the decks to feature three recently read books. We’ll give you the lowdown so you know what’s hot and what’s not and can steer accordingly.

Sound good?

Cool. Here we go. We’re starting with a stinker so we get it out of the way first. Then we’ll move on to The Good Stuff:

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YA Fiction Plumbs Eternal Questions in ‘The Celestial Gate’

Cover Image: The Celestial Gate

The Celestial Gate (BooksGoSocial, August 2020)

By Avital Dicker

Three teens dodge bullets – both ideological and actual – from the world’s three major religions in this mystery thriller/sci fi fantasy set in Israel, “heaven,” and various fantasy locations (think ABC’s “Lost”). The kids who aren’t really kids are plunged into a world of intrigue, conflict, and a seemingly endless cycle of religious-based hate in this imaginative, creative read. Can they save themselves and their loved ones before it’s too late?

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‘Wrong Place, Right Time’ Hits the Mark

Wrong Place, Right Time

By E.B. Roshan

Anna Belko is your average twenty three year-old garment worker in the fictional country of Sevia. Her life in the uneasy city of Dor takes a sharp turn when a waiter at a sidewalk café accidently spills a pot of tea in her lap. Turns out the waiter’s cousin has been recently killed, an innocent casualty in the high stakes battle for control of the country. And Boris Merkovich isn’t sure he can live with the loss – or with his growing affection for Anna.

Story

Simmering tensions explode as Dor plunges into war in Wrong Place, Right Time. Rival gangs fight it out in the streets. Anna’s family decides to leave Dor for safety, but she chooses to stay behind and be with Boris. As Boris unexpectedly rebuffs her, feeling he’s unworthy, Anna wonders if she’s made a terrible mistake. Internal and external conflict soon crashes into Anna and Boris’s private world, threatening to up-end them both.

Boris and Anna have their flaws. But Wrong Place, Right Time shows readers why that doesn’t really matter, and why forgiveness is always a choice, even in the midst of a raging gang war.

Lithe and agile, this uplifting faith-based story features robust world building and sturdy writing. You can almost smell the smoke. Hear the gun fire. Taste the sugar-glazed cherry tarts.

Suspense

Meanwhile, suspense builds as personal and political antes are upped in this gentle romance. Will Anna and Boris’s love survive as Dor descends into chaos and internal war threatens to tear them apart?

Keep an Eye Out

A new author, E.B. Roshan writes like a seasoned pro. Keep an eye on this author. I’m already looking forward to the next Roshan book.

4.0


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BATTER UP! 10 Summer Hits & Misses

Woof-hoo! It’s summer time, summer time, sum-sum, summer time! Doo-whop, doo-whop.

Kimber here. Mom and I are celebrating the First Week of Summer with something a little special. I was lobbying for filet mignon. But nooooo! Mom decided on a quick run-down on recently read titles. To save you some time. So you can avoid the clunkers. And enjoy the goodies.

Public domain

And hey. What’s summer without baseball, right? So I suggested we categorize titles as either Hits and Misses or as Strike Outs and Home Runs. Brilliant huh? (Mom helped a little. But it was mostly me.)

So here are five kinds of each book. Five duds. As in, swing-from-the-heels strike-outs and don’t waste your time. Five awesome-dawsome, tail-wagging, bonafide home runs. (One is somewhere in the middle, depending on which bat you choose.)

So… batter up!

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‘No Place Too Far’ Brings Family Home

No Place Too Far

(Lake Union Publishing, September 1, 2020)
By Kay Bratt

A Maui-based book that begins with a shaggy dog named Woodrow? Count me in!

A highly engaging story with a smooth-as-silk plot, No Place Too Far is just plain fun. It snaps and crackles with energy throughout and is chockful of memorable characters like a precocious four year-old named Charlie, a scatter-brained but loveable veterinarian, Dr. Joe Starr, and a blue-haired dynamo named Juniper.

Setting

Lush tropical locations and a pitch-perfect pacing surf in and out of intrigue, danger, and triumph. Oh yeah. There’s this great dog and veterinary heroes, too. My kinda book!

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Is ‘The Lost Queen’ Worth the Hunt?

The Lost Queen: A Novel (. Book #1 of The Lost Queen. Simon & Schuster, 2018)

By Signe Pike

Set in sixth century Scotland, The Lost Queen is a retelling of the Arthurian legend via the sister of Merlin.

Languoreth is the daughter of an ancient king (or chieftain). As such, she’s duty-bound to marry for socio-political reasons and not for love. But she has an affair with a young general.

Told in the first person, the story begins with Languoreth and her twin brother, Lailoken (later known as Merlin), mourning the recent loss of their mother, a Wisdom Keeper skilled in the healing arts. (Since this is a book review, not a history lesson, I am not going to delve into the historical underpinnings of this book and its protagonist. Google is your friend.)

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Why ‘Rainbow Bridge’ Will Melt Your Heart

Rainbow Bridge_COVER

Rainbow Bridge (Mirador, 2020)

By Dan V. Jackson

I can’t put into words how much I loved this book. How much I didn’t want it to end. How I really, really ought to buy stock in Kleenex.

For example, when I’m getting ready to write a book review, I typically take notes throughout the book. I started doing that with Rainbow Bridge. Then I stopped. The story took over. It resonated so deeply, in fact, I couldn’t read it and take notes at the same time. So I put my notes away and immersed myself in this extraordinarily powerful and poignant story.

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