Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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Seriously PAWSome!

Hello Friends!

Happy New Year!

Kimber the Magnificent here to tell you something you probably already know (if you don’t, you should):

MOM IS SERIOUSLY PAWSOME!!

She not only cooks a mean T-bone steak that’s all luscious, delicious and flavorful, mouth-watering and juicy and…

Wait. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Mom. Seriously PAWsome. As in, Bibliophile Extraordinaire and World Class Reader. Like this:

You read that right: Mom and I read 403 books in 2022. (Well, it was mostly me. But Mom chipped in. A little.)

It’s a New Personal Reading Record for most books in one year. And nope, we didn’t review every book. Cuz that’s just silly.

I’d let Mom tell ya more. ‘Cept she’s snoozing. For obvious reasons. I ‘spect she’ll wake up around spring. Or maybe later.

You gonna eat that? Askin’ for a friend.

What are your eating… I mean, reading goals for 2023?


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Incredibull Stella’s Story Warms Hearts

Incredibull Stella: How the Love of a Pit Bull Rescued a Family

By Marika Meeks

Citadel Press – Kensington Publishing, 2019

Genre: Non-Fiction

Via: Publisher Request

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

Her Grumpiness speaketh:

I had two distinct reactions to this book. It’s the true story of a pit bull puppy left to die on the side of a road in winter and the woman who adopted the dog while recovering from stage three breast cancer.

On the one hand, Incredibull Stella is an uplifting, heartwarming read about the power of love and second chances. Robust and engaging, it’s told with great honesty and empathy.

On the other, it too often reads like an overlong soap opera, careening from one cataclysmic, heart-rending event to the next with nary a dog’s whisker in between. Think Lassie meets As The World Turns.

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New Novel Reveals Untold Story Behind Scrooge Romance

The Red Button (2020)

A Novel That Tells What Became of Belle & Scrooge

By Keith Eldred

“I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”

Belle Endicott’s goodbye to her fiancé, Ebenezer Scrooge, is perhaps one of the best known farewells in all literature. But what happened to this couple? Who was Belle? How did she meet Ebenezer? How and why did the two fall in love?

A delightful new prequel to the Dickensian Christmas classic reveals the untold story “of how the young lovers found and then lost each other. And how their doomed union stayed with Scrooge daily and ultimately prepared the way for his famous redemption.”

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‘Sins of Our Mothers’ Blows a Gasket

Sins of Our Mothers (WiDo Publishing, 2020)

Nicole Souza

Dystopian Fiction

It’s a dystopian world, post solar flare and Global Catastrophe. Women run everything. “Defectives” (aka: men) are unnamed chattel property and rock-splitting Troglodytes. Any defective deemed “Exceptional” is in deep doo-doo. Think The Matrix meets Planet of the Apes with a stop in Amazon Women on the Moon.

This book starts off on the wrong foot, with two badly overwritten lead sentences that make Methuselah look like a youngster. I was hoping it’d get better. A hundred pages in, I was still hoping.

The characters are just ridiculous. Straight out of central You’re Kidding, Right? Like General Sarah Love. She makes Josef Mengele look like a piker. And “President of the United Sisterhood” (POTUS)? Seriously?

This is one of those books that you’ll either really like or you really won’t. I didn’t. The plot is so hackneyed, it made my hair ache. Example: How did women miraculously survive the calamitous solar flare A-okay, and men didn’t? Did the flare discriminate based on gender? Maybe that’s explained later on. I don’t have that kind of patience.

I tried and tried to get into this book. Gave it so many “second” chances, I lost count. Finally bailed after about 150 pages. I mean, hey. I could watch grass grow instead.

This thing is way out in left field, even for dystopia. As windy as a Kansas tornado. As subtle as a ton of bricks.

Whether the author intends to provoke, preach, inform, query, offend, alarm, entertain or just shock is unclear. And that’s part of the problem. A flea treatment is more entertaining than this brick. (We will not be rating this book. Puh-leeze!)

This review is part of a blog tour hosted by WOW! Women On Writing.


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JUMP Start Your January With These Fine Fiction Titles

Are you or your kids battling the winter blues? If so, check out these Juvenile Fiction and Young Adult titles.

You may not have heard of these books. But they’re all good, solid stories. Even better, they come highly recommended by The Momster and Kimber. (We love historical fiction. But we love well-written juvenile and YA fiction too. That probably means something. Can we get back to you on that?)

Anyway. Grab a hot cuppa. Put your feet up. Stoke up the fireplace or crank up the furnace. Get ready to warm up your winter with these excellent Mom-Tested, Kimber-Approved reads:

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From Appalachia to Yale Law: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Delivers Searingly Honest Memoir of Upward Mobility

Image result for Book Cover Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Thorndike Press, 2016

By J.D. Vance

You may want to buckle up before plunging into this memoir. Cuz it’s a doozy. It’s also an eye-opener worth the plunge.

“To understand me, you must understand that I am a Scots-Irish hillbilly at heart” explains the author in the Introduction. He grew up poor, in the “Rust Belt,” in an Ohio steel town that “has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember.” But he graduated from Yale Law. That’s a pretty compelling story any way you slice it. So I’d listen up ‘fize you. Like this:

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Feeling Sick?

Image result for spring flowers

Public domain

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogging to bring you this special commentary related to the coronavirus:

 

The coronavirus isn’t the first pandemic. It just feels that way, due in part to the 24/7 news cycle and social media.

 

So what are we to do with this, in this? Another perspective:

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While You’re Waiting – 9 Best Dog Stories Ever

Kimber here. Coming to you from my Purrell-slathered secret bunker. Laying atop my small mountain of T.P. Waiting for the world to end.

NOT!

But I am ready for winter to end!

I’m also waiting for another thing to be gone.

It seems like a lot of humans are freaking out over a virus thing-y. Maybe it’s the face masks?

Mom says be pro-active. Be responsible. But keep a level head. Don’t let fear and panic run your life.

I’m not.

In the meantime, if you’re stuck at home waiting for spring to show up, you might check out these titles (some of my favorites. Not that I’m biased or anything.)

1. Lassie Come Home, by Eric Knight

“First published in 1940, Lassie Come-Home has become a cultural phenomenon and one of the best-loved dog stories in the world, inspiring several movies and TV shows.”

2. Marley and Me, by John Grogan

The heartwarming international best seller about the world’s most loveable “worst” dog.

3. Big Red, by Jim Kjelgaard

Danny, a trapper’s son, knows more about the woods, trapping, and hunting than he does about the big city or dog shows, but when Red’s owner sees seventeen-year-old Danny’s love for the dog, he entrusts the boy with training the champion Irish Setter. A much-loved classic.”

4. Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson

Don’t make me explain this.

5. Kavick the Wolf Dog, by Walt Morey

When Andy Evans stumbles upon the snow-covered wreckage of a small plane, he’s shocked to find a survivor. Should he put the gravely injured dog out of his misery? The look in the animal’s eyes says he’s not ready to die. It turns out that Kävik’s a champion sled dog, and soon he makes a full recovery. When his rightful owner finds out Kävik is alive, he wants the dog back. But Kävik has other ideas.

6. Where The Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls

The beloved classic that captures the powerful bond between a boy and his best friends.

7. The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford

Two dogs and a cat and their journey home.

8. Because of Winn Dixie, Kate DiCamillo

Ten year old Opal goes to the supermarket – and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It’s because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it’s because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, just about everything that happens that summer is because of Winn-Dixie.

9. Shiloh, Phyllis Naylor

Marty will do anything to save his new friend, Shiloh, in this Newberry Award-winning novel.

Wait. Do I smell spring?

What’s your favorite dog story?


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How To Write a Killer Christmas Letter

Writing an annual Christmas letter is as seasonal as eggnog and mistletoe. Some Christmas letters have flair and panache. Others are like watching paint peel. How can you write a Christmas letter that’ll knock the socks of your family Saint Nick and make Rudolph’s nose dim?

Here are 12 tips for writing a killer Christmas letter:

1. Keep it short.

I’m talking one page. Preferrably just the front. The more loquacious you are, the less likely people are to read the whole thing.

People are busy, especially during the holidays. No one has time to read a Christmas epistle that’s a War and Peace wannabe. So keep it short and sweet.

2. Be yourself.

This may seem obvious. But it’s amazing how many people try to copy someone else’s style or voice. Don’t. People want to hear from you, not a clone.

3. If you include a photo, make sure you tie it in with the text of the letter. And caption it with the place, date, who’s featured and what they’re doing.

4. Mix it up.

If you used a first person narrative last year, try writing from another point of view. The kids? The dog? A neighbor?

5. Include humor.

Not everyone has an active funny bone. But most people like to laugh and enjoy some levity. Include some.

6. Choose a font that’s easy on the eyes.

I can’t tell you the number of times I gave up trying to read through fancy calligraphy or curliqued letters on steroids. It may look pretty. But if your type font is hard to read, few will.

Choose a standard font like Times Roman or Arial.

7. Handwrite the salutation and conclusion.

If you’re writing your letter on the computer and tucking it into an envelope, be sure to start it with, “Hello Bill and Marilyn” (or whatever). In handwriting.

Also hand write your conclusion and signature: “Merry Christmas from Jim and Eileen, Chad, Chloe, and Joey.”

It takes longer. But it’s more personal.

If you’re using an email delivery platform like Mail Chimp, you can customize the “To” field and do likewise.

8. Keep a list. Check it twice.

Staring at a blank piece of paper or screen and waiting for writing inspiration to strike can be intimidating. It’s helpful to keep a running list of key dates and events through the year.

If possible, jot them down real time. It’s a lot easier to just grab your list or review your calendar than it is trying to remember the last 11.5 months off the top of your head, without prompts.

9. Inclufe your contact info.

Make it easy for people to respond by including your address, email, phone, etc. In The Letter. You can do this in the footer of a Mail Chimp or in a regular email or hard copy letter.

10. Use white space generously

Resist the temptation to jam in as much copy as you can on a sheet of paper by cramming every available millimeter with type. It’s hard to read!

Instead, keep your paragraphs short. Indent for new paragraphs. Or better yet, double space between paragraphs.

Make sure margins are adequate. Choose Justify rather than ragged right for your right margin. It looks cleaner and more polished.

11. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes.

What do you want to know? What will be of interest? Do I really care about your second cousin’s bunion surgery or the egg substitute you just discovered?

We all find ourselves fascinating. But try to write yiur update with an eye toward news that will resonate with and be interesting to your recipient(s). Think: What will my friends want to know about and what can they best relate to?

12. Draw the reader in.

This is key. It’s also rare, as most Christmas letters tend to be one-sided. Even self-centric.

Engage your reader by “pencilling in” a question specifically for them. How was vacation? The new job? Is Norbert coming home for Christmas?

You might also close with something like, “Please let us know what’s going on with you, too” or drawing attention to your contact contact info. so they can easily respond. (See above.)

If your budget allows, print up your letter on some Christmas-y stationery.

Well, that’s it. Now get those creative juices going and make this year’s Christmas letter the best ever!