Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: Emily and Einstein (dog, partly romance novel)

Emily and Einstein: A novel of second chances, by Linda Lee (St. Martin’s Press, 2011, 356 pages, $24.99)

In a Flash

Linda Lee’s astonishing creative ability results in a simple yet convoluted story of a 30-something Emily and a scruffy dog Einstein: I would love to read one of Lee’s (future?) mysteries if they too have a dog as a major character.

I first saw Emily and Einstein at my public library and may have even checked it out but never got around to reading it, so when I spied it at Dogwise (www.dogwise.com), I purchased it in a flash.

Titles and Covers

What a fun title! I quickly figured out that Einstein was the dog, and, being a fan of the real Einstein, I was intrigued, even if the dog on the cover was neither a Lab nor a Golden.

Book covers are fascinating and fun. Emily and Einstein has three different book covers, each one intriguing, each featuring Einstein.

Life and Love and The Dakota and. . . .

Emily and Einstein is all about life and love and a dog who saves a woman whose husband recently died. A bit of a tear-jerker, at least at the end, Emily and Einstein is about many things, but not too many – the New York City marathon, art galleries, a famous Women’s Lib mother, an apartment in the also famous Dakota apartment building in New York City where John Lennon lived, a sister (book editor) who is organized and everyone’s friend, and a sister who is the opposite (who gallivants around abroad working for non-profits until she runs out of money and has to return home for loans). Emily is a book about books with numerous ‘ends’ that all miraculously tie in in the end – I had to keep reading faster and faster to find out how it would end!

An intriguing book with different fonts for chapters ‘written’ by alternating characters. “Prefaces” to Emily’s chapters written come from a book titled, My Mother’s Daughter, an intriguing title on its own, and slightly familiar. I kept telling myself I just had to Google it (but never got around to it).

Unbelievable, but. . . .

Unfortunately, I don’t believe the author did her homework on running a marathon (this comes from a reviewer who HAS run a marathon). Emily’s being able to work as an editor almost when she pleases is a bit far-fetched and her lack of concern about being evicted from the Dakota is something to only strive for.

The book tries to be a romance novel at times but the fact that it doesn’t succeed is to its credit. Lee writes mechanically well but, instead of showing us her characters, she tells us about them, making them cardboard characters rather than pulling us into the story. We remain outside.

However, the characters are all formulaically human, even Einstein – they all have flaws, so they are quasi-believable. But, despite the twists and turns, Emily and Einstein lacks the magic of a book to love. It was a long read. Perhaps Lee could pair up with a good writer next time.

(Disclaimer: This book was purchased for review. Many other sources, including Amazon, will give you a summary of the story.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Review: Barking up the Family Tree (kids, dogs)

Barking up the Family Tree

Where do kids and pets belong? Together!
A Girl and Her Dog
A Girl and Her Dog
EverythingDogBlog #94: Book Review 
Barking up the Family Tree: Kids and Their Animal Kinships, by Mark Asher (2005, Andrews McMeel Publishing, $12.95, 80 pp)
The Three P’s of Pet-Kid Photography and Their Relationships
“There are only three things you need to photograph kids and pets: patience, perseverance, and prayer.”
“There is no better companion, teacher or medicine for a child than the family pet.” – Anonymous
These two quotes tell it all – about the relationship between kids and pets and what they can teach and learn from each other.
Barking up the Family Tree is a photographic (with words) inspirational compilation of interviews with both kids and their pets! From dogs and cats to birds, horses and snakes and everything in between.
Where do Kids and Pets Belong?
What can I say about this photo collection of kids and their best friends set against staggeringly majestic trees, leaning on weathered fences, lying on the green summer grass, sitting on an old garden bench, walking in the rain with a bright yellow slicker, squatting on a bale of hay, playing gleefully in a pile of Autumn leaves, or riding to nowhere in wheelbarrows and baskets – kids and pets belong outdoors, playing.
The Bond is a Gem, The Inteviews are Awesome
Both the pet and the kid interviews are the gems, although tied for first place with the professional scenic photos.
Each kid-pet pair talks about their common interests, their favorite activities to do together. They are also asked about what they have learned from each other (yes, we learn from our best friends) and if the kid were an animal, what animal would he be, plus, if the pet were a person, what kind of person would he be? The answers are hilarious and thought-provoking.
For Example, . . . .
What did Jordan learn from Jessie (his dog)? Not to leave his toys on the floor, especially stuffed animals.
And what did Jessie-the-dog learn from Jordan? That if she waits until the adults go to bed, she can sleep on his boy Jordan’s bed!
Kimberly and Jake-the-Lab like swimming in the ocean and sharing a big, stuffy pillow.
Spike wants to be a bouncer so he can patrol the dog park and keep out the lap dogs. And one little girl would like to be a bear, so she can sleep all winter and miss school.
Great idea
Barking up the Family Tree gives me a great idea for a new column in our golden retriever rescue newsletter. Thanks, Mark Asher! For a great idea and for a book to keep.
Bonus: And, finally, yes, even kids and their pets sometimes look alike!
To see more of Mark Asher's work: http://www.markjasher.com/books/
(Disclaimer: I purchased this book to review. The photo posted [credit: DS] does not appear in the book but is a wonderful example of the bond between a girl and her dog. I was unable to obtain an image of the book but you can view it here.)(This article first appeared on www.columbiapatch.com on 19 November 2013.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review: Throw the Damn Ball (poetry, dogs)

Throw the Damn Ball: Classic Poetry by Dogs, by R. Rosen, Harry Prichett, and Rob Battles (Penguin Publishing, 2013, 117 pages, $15)

One hundred twelve original poems by(?), for  and about dogs, if I counted correctly. And the same number of dog photos, mostly dressed to the nines. (Hmmm, that’s how many lives cats have. I wonder if there is a correlation there?)

I once paraphrased Hamlet’s entire soliloquy to reflect cramming for a human anatomy and physiology exam and went on to rewrite much of Robert Frost in the same manner. If that intrigues you, Throw the Damn Ball will also entertain you and very cleverly so.

Throw is a book for a couple of underrepresented segments of our society: teenaged boys and English majors. The former for the liberal scatological references and the latter, for the fractured poetry (at least some opening lines) by famous poets, all members of POEM (the Professional Organization of English Majors) like the aforementioned Frost, the ubiquitous Emily Dickinson, along with Dylan Thomas, William Butler Yeats, William Carlos Williams (don’t you just love people with same first names as last names?), the departed John Dunne, Allen Ginsberg, Joyce Kilmer, and, yes, even Helen Reddy, among others.

Pee, Poop and Flatulence

What are dogs interested in? Pee and food. Some study poop while humans are embarrassed by both, as well as flatulence. Therefore, this book. And, since two of the authors have been on NPR (National Public Radio), I would not be surprised to hear one or more of these classic canine poems on air.

Perhaps a milder one like “I think that I shall never see
“A poem as lovely as a half-eaten sandwich
That’s been on the sidewalk for hours,
Absorbing a rainbow of footwear odors, . . . .”

(Disclaimer: This was a First Reads book for GoodReads.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Review: Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs (mystery)

Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs: A Dixie Hemingway Mystery, Blaize Clement (St. Martin’s Press, 292 pages, 2009, $24.99)

A Cat Mystery?

Just the titles of this series are intriguingly fun: Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund, Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues, Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof and the one I read, Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs.

If you are a Kinsey Millhone (by Sue Grafton) fan, loved the Travis McGree series (by John MacDonald), have read everything starring Tess Monaghan (by Baltimorean Laura Lippman), or are just getting to know Stephanie Plum (by Janet Evanovich), you will love Dixie Hemingway.

A Killer of a Thriller, A Fascinating Family and a Luscious Setting

I was so glad I flew from coast to coast this week and was able to finish the entire book: the ending is a killer of a thriller! And though I guessed how certain parts of the story would interrelate, the ending surprised me but made total sense in retrospect.

Dixie is a former peace officer (and widow) turned petsitter who occasionally refers to her daughter (deceased, but we don’t know why), the time she killed a man, and being brought up by her grandmother and older brother, whom she still adores. Childhood friends play a major role in Raining, with the exception of her investigator boyfriend from Louisiana whom she is just starting to get to know.

"You are There"

Starting rather slow but replete ‘you are there’ descriptions of one of the Florida keys inhabited by a single petsitter with a fascinating family, Raining even has a rainy day! I can still see the egrets and other tropical birds, taste the tantalizing cuisine that Dixie’s brother whips up and smell the lush greenery of south Florida. Putting all that together with drugs, houseboats, gazebos, kidnappings, running with greyhounds, giving kitties pills and flying with birds, makes a fun read.

Yes, a Cat Mystery!

A cast of characters and a plot or two that seem contrived but turn out rather well-connected and explained in the end, Raining is a book that will get me to the library or the bookstore or the Internet to find the others in the series, even though I am a dog person rather than a cat person. After all, I did enjoy several The Cat Who . . .  books by Lilian Jackson Braun and Dixie also takes care of birds and dogs.

Other books in the series include Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons, and The Cat Sitter's Pajamas. Cat Sitter's Cradle, the latest book in the series, in conjunction with her son, writer John Clement, was published in 2013.

(I purchased this book for review. The series is available at the Howard County Maryland Public Library.)
(This review first appeared at columbia.patch.com on 1 Nov 2013.)