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review 2018-03-18 00:54
Dogs and Danger
Dogs and Danger - Diana Xarissa

You know the saying "Truth is stranger than fiction" right? Well in this book, fiction was stranger than fiction! I have to say, this is definitely a unique plot and I enjoyed it for the most part (since when do pets need to be fed or walked every 3 hours?) and I can honestly say I didn't guess the ending.

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review 2018-03-13 11:30
A delightful read, full of great characters, inspiring, and heart-warming. Also recommended to dog lovers!
When the Stars Sang - Caren J. Werlinger

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you want to get your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for the ARC copy of the book, which I freely chose to review.

I occasionally read romance novels although I am not their number one fan, but there was something about this book that called my attention from the very beginning. I am always attracted towards stories that are set in special locations (real or imagined) and the description of the island definitely fitted the bill for me. And, in this case, first impressions were right.  I loved the story and the place, and I wish it existed and I could be a part of the community in Little Sister.

The story is narrated in the third person from the point of view of two female characters, Kathleen, who returns to Little Island as an adult (after a traumatic breakup with her on-and-off girlfriend of 14 years), and goes to live to the house of her recently deceased grandmother (although she had not been back there since she was a child due to a very traumatic event), and Molly, the island’s sheriff, and also a handywoman, who loves restoring and repairing boats, but can set her hand at anything that needs repairing (even a broken heart). Although they are suspicious of each other at first, it is clear that they are meant for each other, but, as we all know, the path of true love never does run smooth, and there are a number of obstacles on their way, some of their own making, but others to do with childhood trauma, dysfunctional family relationships, and a past that refuses to be buried. If you are a big fan of romances, LGBT or otherwise, you do not need to worry. Although I won’t discuss the ending to avoid spoilers; I think you’ll be happy with it.

The author creates realistic characters we care for, and not only the protagonists. While Kathleen and Molly can be stubborn and blind at times (and even annoying, but ultimately likeable), there is a full catalogue of fabulous secondary characters, including Molly’s family (her wonderful parents, and her brothers, including Aidan, who is an integral part of the incident that made everything change for Kathleen), sisters Olivia and Louisa (who always carry the ashes of their father with them), Rebecca, the librarian and depository of the island’s traditions, and many more. Oh, and let’s not forget Blossom, a stray dog adopted by Kathleen (well, the adoption is mutual), that is both a totally realistic dog and a fantastic and heart-warming character.

There is lovely food, a variety of ceremonies and traditions, a strong sense of community [including matrilineal heritage that reminded me of the book The Kingdom of Women by Choo Wai Hong (you can read my review here)], secrets, deception, ecology and renewable energy, and plenty of love, not only between the two women, but between all the members of the community. The sense of belonging and the healing and growth of the characters is intrinsically linked to the way of life in this island that mixes Irish folklore and beliefs with Native-American (First Ones) ones. Werlinger creates a beautiful setting, both in its landscape and spirituality. Readers feel a part of this wonderful community, and I, for one, was sorry to come to the end of the book and would love to live in such a place.

The writing ebbs and flows, allowing readers to enjoy the descriptions of the island, its inhabitants, their actions and also their mental processes, although I did not find it slow and I was hooked to the story and the feeling of becoming one with the inhabitants of the place. As a writer, I easily empathised with Kathleen, who is an editor and also creates book covers, and I enjoyed the fact that female and male characters are diverse, are not restricted to standard gender roles, and the attitude of the islanders towards same-sex love is open and unquestioning. There are certain necessary characteristics that make a relationship truly compatible, but gender is not one of them.

As readers, we share the thoughts and experiences of the main characters although the third person narration also gives us enough distance to be able to make our own minds up. There are some surprises, some quasi-magical elements, some light and fun moments, but there are also nasty characters (although these are always outsiders), and intuition and family connections are very important. As for the love story, there are some sexual elements, but not a full-blown graphic description of events, and I found it rather delicate and in good taste (and I am not a fan of erotica).

I wanted to share a few things I highlighted:

Normally, those messages would have torn at Kathleen’s heart. But she wasn’t sure she had a hart any longer. She tapped her chest, half expecting it to sound hollow, like the Tin Man.

“It should be a mix. None of us is just one thing, complete in and of ourselves. We are the island, and the island is us.”

“That is not how it works. Love that has to be deserved or earned was never love to begin with.”

A joyful read, which I recommend to readers who enjoy books set in special locations, who appreciate a strong sense of community and belonging, and love solid characters. There are ups and downs, happy and sad events, although it is not a book for lovers of adventures and frantically paced novels. This is a contemplative and inspiring book, heart-warming and positive. If you need a pick-me-up, this is your book.

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review 2018-02-21 17:53
Lost & Found by Jacqueline Sheehan
Lost & Found - Jacqueline Sheehan

This book was dripping in sadness and grief. It didn’t make me weepy or a sobbing mess but I did read it with a constant pain in my chest almost the entire time. First it was for Rocky and then it was for Lloyd and later it was for the both of them! I wasn’t quite expecting to have this reaction but dog books can do that to me.

Things start out on a sad note when the author throws you headfirst into the life and grief of Rocky who has recently lost her husband to a heart attack far too early. It’s sad and her recollections of her beloved Bob are often quite funny which makes the grief hit you all that much harder. Unable to stick around in the house where she and Bob shared a life, she decides to leave her career and her life completely behind and hops a ferry in Portland, Maine and heads to Peaks Island to mourn. She reinvents herself on the island and impulsively becomes the new Animal Control Warden. 

I’ve been to Peaks and it is a little slice of yesterday and I enjoyed reading about life on the island and the descriptions almost make you feel like you are there. The rest of the book follows Rocky through her grieving process as she meets new people and becomes invested in the life of an injured stray dog with sad eyes she names Lloyd. You can guess what happens between Rocky and Lloyd, right? But all doesn’t go smoothly nor does it go sweetly. Lloyd has a history that Rocky is soon sorry she’s delved into. There’s a little mystery and a lot of quirky character building. It’s a little slow here and there and took me longer to finish than it should have but I’m not sorry I read it. If you’re a dog lover you might want to put this on your list.

“He is dog. His life is ocean, stick, ball, sand, grass, ride in the truck, sleep by the bed, look deep into the eyes of humans, lure them outdoors, greet them with a burst of joy when they come home, love them. Fill this brief life with more. “

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review 2017-12-05 17:03
Peace On Earth, Good Will To Dogs - Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
Peace On Earth, Good Will To Dogs - Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

Despite weird punctuation (what are all those dashes supposed to indicate?) and obvious period details this book feels remarkably modern. You could turn it into a modern story in about 15 minutes. You could turn it into a modern movie rom com script without a great deal of effort. Dogs! So cute. Oh, go on: it's free, it's short, it's amusing, it'll get you feeling jolly.



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review 2017-12-02 11:52
Wily old fox
Even Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin

After so many years it is still great to read about that wonderful creation from Ian Rankin, that wily old fox who even in retirement can never let go; John Rebus. "Even Dogs in the Wild" is once again written to a very high standard and inevitably sees Rebus not so much confronting but consulting with his great adversary Big Ger Cafferty. As the years have passed they have developed perhaps not a fondness but a grudging respect for each other. The plot revolves around the murder of a well known MP and his association with "Acorn House" a care home for children. Given the amount of news coverage attributed to sexual abuse and in particular sexual abuse of minors it comes as no surprise the direction and shape this story takes. To me the bolder than life characters are more important than the theme and in this Rankin excels with shady underworld connections in the guise of Darryl Christie and Morris Cafferty and the robust old fashioned policing, nor forgetting the deadpan humour, of Detective Inspector John Rebus (retired) Rebus is everything you would expect a detective, whose routes lie in the past, to be. His methods are more suited to dogged hands on police work rather than as I am sure he would describe...fancy computers. He has no interest in the comforts of this world preferring to drive an old Saab, listen to bygone bands on his record player (The Steve Miller band and the amazing Rory Gallagher) and relaxing at the end of the day in his favourite watering hole The Oxford Bar with a pint of IPA close by.


Those readers acquainted with the style and wit of Ian Rankin will devour this story, just like stepping into a comfy pair of slippers. The only sadness is knowing that in the not too distant future John Rebus must surely finish leaving the reader to ponder if he will finally be stopped... his own decision? ill health? or perhaps have his life ended suddenly by an old acquaintance or underworld operator!

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