Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

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Why “Waking Up” is a Snoozer


Waking Up on the Appalachian Trail: A Story of War, Brotherhood, and the Pursuit of Truth (BooksGoSocial, 2020)

By N.B. Hankes

Got insomnia? Forget Sominex. This snoozefest will put you to sleep in a foot fall.

Waking Up supposedly chronicles an Army vet’s hike with his brother along the Appalachian Trail as the author looks for “time in the wilderness” to help provide “answers and clarity” regarding his time in Iraq, or… something. (I’m deliberately not linking to it. You’re welcome.)

But this isn’t a hiking book or a trail tome. It’s not even much of a “memoir.” Most of Waking Up is just a convenient springboard for a slow roll into a slathering left-wing socio-economic harangue of Springer Mountain proportions. Indeed, a sizeable slice of the book is spent alternately blasting society for its alleged greed and corruption and blaming everyone else on planet earth for the author’s own lack of preparation, planning, and poor choices.

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How ‘Adorning the Dark’ Ignites the Creative Process

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making (B&H Publishing, 2019)

By Andrew Peterson

Ever read a book and started jumping up and down with:

 “Yes! YES! He gets it! I get what he gets! Someone has finally put into words what I’ve felt about the creative process for years! Zippity doo-dah, zippity-aye!”

Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark is one of those books.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Get ‘A Higher Calling’

Image result for A Higher Calling Pursuing Love Book cover

A Higher Calling: Pursuing Love, Faith, and Mount Everest for a Greater Purpose (Waterbrook, June 2020)

By Captain Harold Earls and Rachel Earls

A Higher Calling is the compelling true story of one couple’s courage and commitment, devotion and faith in the face of high adventure, unexpected adversity, and spine-tingling danger.

Co-authored by Harold and Rachel Earls, Higher is equal parts biography/memoir, love story, epic adventure, travelogue, and faith-journey. It’s a delightful, uplifting read about two people who sacrifice much to achieve a common goal: summiting personal and actual “Mount Everests.”

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No Foolin’! 7 Novel Hits & Misses

Kimber here. Mom says it’s time for a reading wrap-up. That’s when she does her version of recently read hits and misses. Why? So you can avoid the dumpster fires. Not waste your time on doggie doo-doo that some fluff ball who couldn’t track kibble with two noses published. And grab some Good Stuff.

Me? I’m going to catch up on some zzzzs from the delicious comfort of my brand-new doggie bed, courtesy of MyPillow. (Thanks, Mom! You’re Awesome!)

But first, to books! The stinkers first. These are the titles you don’t need to waste your time on (aka, The Bad, and the Really, Really Ugly):

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By the Book Cover – Which of These 3 Novels Delivers?

If Mom said it once, she said it a thousand times:


“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”


True that. But when it comes to books, we all do it, huh? (C’mon now. ‘Fess up. It’s just between us, okay?)


Well. Have you ever finished reading a book and wondered how in the heck did that cover wind up on that book?


I have. So I’m gonna save you a lot of time. After reading these three novels based on their covers,  I’m letting you know which books deliver and which don’t.

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“Born Free”: Timeless and Transcendent After All These Years

Have you ever re-discovered a book from your childhood that still has the power to move and profoundly impact you, even a half century after your initial read? If so, then you’ve found a true classic.


Joy Adamson’s Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds is such a book.

Evocative and compelling, Born Free is the remarkable true story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub raised by Joy Adamson and her husband, George. At its core, Born Free is a love story. With great sensitivity and precision, Adamson chronicles the mutual affection and bond between a magnificent lioness and the humans who loved her enough to release her to the Kenyan wilds where she was free born.

It’s probably the most moving and inspiring “animal story” I’ve ever read.

Joy Adamson wrote three books about African lions: Born Free, Living Free, and Forever Free. I read them all. Born Free is my favorite.

I first read Born Free in 1969, nine years after it was first published. I was in the fifth grade. Entranced, I read it over and over. There’s something timeless and transcendent about the story that’s difficult to put into words.

I lost track of Adamson and Elsa over the years. But I never forgot the extraordinary story of a free born lioness and the humans who loved her. I recently located a library copy of Born Free. Finally.

Elsa and “Born Free” author Joy Adamson.

Opening the Forward to the Fortieth Anniversary Edition (2000), I was startled to learn that Joy Adamson was stabbed to death by a disgruntled former employee in 1980. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I’d lost a best friend I’d never met. So it was with a mixed sense of sadness and reverence that I sat in a sun-soaked living room in a far corner of the Olympic Peninsula nearly thirty years after that sad event and re-opened a book that profoundly impacted my life, especially with regard to animals.

Lavishly illustrated with black and white photographs, Elsa’s story is still an unforgettable one. So is Adamson’s prodigious writing talent. Her breezy, bucolic style recalls another formidable literary talent who writes so evocatively about her life in Kenya: Isak Dinesen. Like Dinesen, Adamson’s descriptions of her life as the wife of a senior game warden in East Africa have a luminous quality that is almost melodic.

My favorite photo from the book. Joy Adamson and Elsa.

I read Born Free cover to cover in one sitting. Here’s a key line, from page 109:

“Her (Elsa’s) good-natured temperament was certainly due in part to her character, but part too may have come from the fact that neither force nor frustration was ever used to adapt her to our way of life. For we tried by kindness alone to help her to overcome the differences that lie between our two worlds.”

The Adamsons and Elsa succeed beyond all expectations.

Re-reading the last chapter, The Final Test, the same intense sense of sadness and loss these pages evoked in me five decades ago bubbled up again from some deep internal well. It was as if Elsa and her human pride had never left, patiently waiting 50 years for my return to their story.

Recording Elsa’s success in finding her own wild pride and mate, Adamson writes:

“We returned to camp alone, and very sad. Should we leave her now, and so close a very important chapter of our lives?”

The Adamsons decide to wait “a few more days” to make sure Elsa has been accepted by the pride.

In the final elegiac paragraph, Adamson returns to her “studio” by the river to continue writing the story of Elsa, “who had been with us until this morning.” Sad to be alone, the author writes that she tries to make herself happy “by imagining that at this very moment Elsa was rubbing her soft skin against another lion’s skin and resting with him in the shade, as she had often rested here with me.”

I cried. Again.

And that, friends, is the mark of a true classic.



Elsa on Camp Bed Photo Credit

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Review of ‘Angela’s Ashes’

Angela’s Ashes

By Frank McCourt

Touchstone (Simon & Schuster), 1996

“Not for the faint-hearted” is perhaps over-used, but in the case of Frank McCourt’s memoir of his growing up years, Angela’s Ashes, it is apt.  (“Angela” is his mother’s name.)

The son of an alcoholic Irish man, McCourt paints a gritty picture without a brush of self-pity.  The prose is genuine and so gritty you can almost hear McCourt’s brogue singing through each page as he recounts life in a tumbledown shack on “the lane” in Ireland that floods and freezes in winter and swarms with fleas and stink in the summer.

His story begins in America, but soon high-tails it back to Ireland, where he details a professional unemployed father, grim family members, the loss of a baby sister, two twin boys, “the hunger” as well as the “Angel on the Seventh Step.”      It’s all there – the almost unbelievable poverty, hunger, filth, disease, despair, religious superstition.

In spite of a childhood chockfull of incredible hardship, deprivation, cruelty and misery, there’s something transcendent and luminescent about McCourt’s story.  Even with typhoid fever, “the shame,” and his father’s habit of “drinking his wages on the pint,”  McCourt refuses to sink into a slough of despond or bitterness.  Plucky Frank (short for Francis, “after the saint”) pulls himself up by own bootstraps and does so in an engaging, almost lyrical manner that’ll have you cheering – and perhaps shedding a tear or two – by the end of this remarkable, heart-breakingly heroic Pulitzer Prize Winner.