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A Dog’s Perfect Christmas–meeting life’s challenges

A Dog’s Perfect Christmas

by W. Bruce Cameron

I have discovered an author I was unfamiliar with, but now I want to read more of his works. W. Bruce Cameron specializes in dog/people stories and knows how to combine some humor with tough reality. His A Dog’s Perfect Christmas could be labeled as a “feel-good Christmas story,” but it is so much more.

This is the tale of an imperfect family doing their best to survive the everyday struggles and big disasters. By the conclusion of this book, you’ll like all of the characters. Hunter loves his family but devotes himself to his job. His wife Juliana gave up her job to raise their children but struggles with inner conflict about her role. Ello (short for Eloise) is their thirteen year old daughter caught in a hurricane of hormones and middle school relationships. Her two younger brothers are three year old twins who excel in wreaking havoc and rely on Ello to be their translator to the rest of the world. Grandpa Sander is a widower whose beloved wife passed away from cancer. Her care drained their financial resources requiring Sander to move in with his son’s family. Completing the family is Sander’s faithful canine retainer Winstead. 

I devote so much of my review to the characters because the characters and how they interact with each other and meet life’s challenges is the focus of A Dog’s Perfect Christmas. Everyone in this book has specific needs to be met. The family undergoes a major crisis that could have thrown them all into despair, but as they work to stand strong together through the big problem confronting them, there is healing and a renewing of family and spirit.

Dogs play a part in this story that dog lovers will enjoy, especially the thinking process in Winstead’s brain as he reacts to his “daddy” Sander’s moods and actions. If only there were a puppy, this would be a perfect Christmas story…

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Forge for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction

Publication:   October 10, 2020—Forge

Memorable Lines:

He saw the tidal forces of rage fighting for control of Ello’s face. As a little girl, she had been able to charm her grandfather into reading her one book after another after another. Now, though, she’d morphed into this hideously unpleasant creature, spitting acidic venom.

Winstead and Ruby had already incorporated park visits into their bill of rights, and now gazed at Sander expectantly whenever he stood up out of his chair. They tracked him with eager intensity as he fetched their leashes, then bounded joyfully into the minivan, wrestling all the way to the park.

When Hunter released her, Ruby darted off with crazed energy, racing around the room in celebration, because puppies know how to celebrate everything.

The Crow’s Call–the taming of a crow

The Crow’s Call

by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Crow's CallI like Wanda E. Brunstetter’s foray into mystery with The Crow’s Call  which begins the Amish Greenhouse Mystery Series. It is a spinoff from The Prayer Jars trilogy, but that association does not impact the reader’s enjoyment of this new series. Having read the trilogy, I did enjoy the  pleasant surprise of encountering a few familiar characters.

The Crow’s Call begins with a family tragedy that will forever affect the King family. Woven into that background are mysterious occurrences which damage the Kings’ greenhouse and livelihoods. Amy, frequently the focus of the narration, tries to bear the burdens of maintaining her family both emotionally and financially, but the job is really too big for one young lady.

With interesting Amish characters who work at their relationship with God and others, this book includes the characters’ thoughts and prayers and the Bible verses they rely on as they deal with issues in their lives. The mystery of vandalism is not resolved nor are the issues of the depression of a young widow and the rebellion of her brother. I assume these problems will be carried into the next book in the series. A new Englisch couple moves in across the road from the greenhouse. The wife in the family suffers from a physical disability, but also from an unreasonable dislike of the Amish. She is rather mean spirited, but I have the feeling there must be a story behind her attitude. Other plot threads are an unexpected suitor from the past for the matron of the family and the opening of a rival greenhouse.

It was refreshing to read a mystery with no murders. I enjoyed learning more about Amish customs and beliefs. Reading The Crow’s Call is a good antidote to current social upheaval as this book emphasizes treating others with kindness and trusting in God.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Women’s Fiction, Mystery

Notes: This is most definitely part of a series, meaning if you want total closure on all threads, then this is not the book for you. I enjoyed the book, want to learn more about the characters, and anticipate further interesting plot developments, so I am “all in” to experience the rest of the series as it is published.

Publication:   March 1, 2020—Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines: 

Things she used to take for granted that had once seemed like simple chores now felt like heavy burdens she could hardly bear.

“It’s best not to worry—especially about things that are beyond our control. We need to pray every day and put our faith in God. And it wouldn’t hurt to ask Him to put a hedge of protection around us.”

She couldn’t let her discouragement tear down her faith. The best remedy was reading God’s Holy Word.

Tracking Game–explosive action

Tracking Game

by Margaret Mizushima

Tracking GameI am fairly easy going, taking life’s interruptions as they come. I found my limits, however, as I read Tracking Game by Margaret Mizushima. I resented every disruption because I just wanted to keep reading.

Mizushima is a master of K-9 police procedurals. Her character creations are outstanding. They include Deputy Mattie Cobb who has numerous personal issues stemming from her childhood, but is courageous and determined. Robo, her K-9 officer, is an amazing, skilled, and intelligent dog. With Mattie’s talents in training and reading her dog and Robo’s abilities to interpret Mattie’s signals and branch out into fields he has not been trained in, they make an outstanding team. Also important in the story is Cole Waker, the local vet, who loves Mattie but lets their relationship develop slowly to meet her emotional needs as well as those of his two daughters whom he is raising alone.

The story starts gently at a dance at the Timber Creek community center but literally explodes with action and doesn’t slow down as they discover a victim in the explosion, but also find the death was actually caused by a gunshot. As the sheriffs try to figure out that complication, they peel back layers of the onion only to find lots of people with motivations. What could cause seemingly nice people to commit horrific acts? Possibilities include drugs, affairs, and blackmail, but the situation here is even more complicated. Mattie and Robo are in potentially deadly situations as they engage in various searches. Another search dog with a different specialty is brought in to help. 

On a personal level, Mattie feels it is important to share her past with Cole, wondering how it will affect their relationship. Cole, meanwhile, is struggling to protect his daughters as they try to reengage with their mother who has mental issues.

The plot is complicated with some surprising twists that will keep you alternating holding your breath and turning those pages. As a police procedural, it is top notch. The reveal of the murderer and the motivation is a surprise and occurs in a very memorable scene. As the book draws to a close, Mattie receives information of a personal nature that leads the reader hanging in anticipation of the next book in the series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. I am a Basset hound, ears hanging down, sort of girl, but even I come away from this book just loving and admiring the sharp, but fun, and supportive Robo.

  2. #5 in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series, this book would probably be more fun if read in order in the series; but the action is most important, and the author brings the reader up to speed on any necessary personal details.

Publication:   November 12, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

She wanted to move forward in her relationship with Cole, but her childhood loomed between them like the two-way mirror Sheriff McCoy had recently installed in one of their interrogation rooms at the station. She could see Cole clearly, but she and her baggage remained hidden from him.

Robo edged closer, hovering at her left heel, growling as he searched the area with his eyes as well as his nose. A chill ran down her spine, and Mattie drew her Glock from its holster. She had no idea what they were facing, but she understood her partner’s warning.

Life seemed so simple for Robo: rest and relax when you can, take pleasure in a job well done. He didn’t lie awake at night wondering if he’d done the right thing. She loved him for it.

Deadly News–small town editor with big city roots

Deadly News

by Jody Holford

Deadly NewsIn Deadly News, the start of a new series by Jody Holford, Molly Owens accepts the editor’s job at the Britton Bay Bulletin. Owner Alan introduces her to the staff: old-timer Vernon with an insulting attitude and nothing good to say, reserved and polite Elizabeth, lecherous Clay, and enthusiastic intern Hannah. It is immediately obvious that it will take some time to fit in, but Molly is determined.

One of the staff members is murdered and Molly feels responsible. She also thinks it is important to follow up on that reporter’s last assignment. The waters get muddied quickly as Molly follows various leads, and someone in town makes it clear she is not welcome there.

The characters are interesting, and the mystery provides a challenging puzzle to solve. Romance is thrown into the mix in the form of Sam, whose dazzling smile attracts lots of attention. There is even a cute stray dog who plays an important role in directing Molly to a clue. Molly is likable and you’ll want to see her succeed in her job…and in staying alive.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Britton Bay Mystery Series

Publication:   October 30, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

Word of mouth was the fastest form of communication in any place with less than a dozen stoplights.

Sam’s smile made her feel like she’d just snuggled into a warm jacket on a cold day.

“We should do something fun this weekend. Do you like to camp?” Molly scrunched her nose up. “Only when I’m pretending I can’t afford a night in a hotel.”

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