Bass Master’s Book of the Month: A Dark and Twisting Path by Julia Buckley

Bass Master is available for adoption at Austin Pets Alive! Check out his profile.

When Bass Master and I saw this ARC up for grabs on Netgalley, we couldn’t hit the request button fast enough! I love solving mysteries with Lena London and all her friends at Blue Lake, a sleepy little Indiana village filled with quirky townies and touristy shops. And Bass Master is rather partial to the two German Shephard sidekicks!

In the first book, Lena hit the jackpot when her favorite novelist, Camilla Graham, offered her a dream job as a writer’s apprentice! Not only does she get paid to live rent free at Camilla’s lakeside mansion, she also gets to solve real life Nancy Drew mysteries with her hot new boyfriend, Sam West. What a life!

In this new installment, the mystery begins when Lena stumbles upon the dead body of the local mailman–stabbed with Sam’s sword-shaped letter opener! It appears that–yet again–someone is inexplicably framing the poor guy for murder. It’s up to Lena to ferret out the killer before Sam gets thrown back into the same nightmare he experienced in the first book.

While tracking down clues, Lena finds more questions than answers. Who is this bearded man lurking within the shadows? Could a trusted friend or townie be moonlighting as a sleazy tabloid reporter? And why is the new sheriff’s deputy constantly patrolling Sam’s house? All signs point to a notorious kidnapper who has a serious vendetta against Sam and his ex-wife Victoria.

In addition to clearing Sam’s name, Lena must save Victoria’s kidnaped baby from the clutches of a madman. Will she save the baby in time? Will Victoria weasel her way back into Sam’s heart? Will Lena ever get to return to her cozy life of co-writing bestselling mysteries with her illustrious benefactor?! Guess you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Trust me, this is a dark and twisted ride you don’t want to miss! I enjoyed the jigsaw puzzle mystery and surprising plot twists. But what I loved most was the atmosphere and character development. Lena and Camilla have a great mother-daughter chemistry. I especially enjoyed taking a break from the mystery while Lena’s father and step-mom stopped by Blue Lake for a visit. The whole family vibe gave me the warm fuzzies–in a Hallmark Movies and Mysteries kind of way.

 

Derek’s Book of the Month: Woof by Spencer Quinn

PicMonkey CollageMove over, Lassie—there’s a new four-legged hero in town! Bowser’s his name and fighting crime is his game. Well actually his top priority is loving up on his little gal pal, Birdie. You see, this book is more than just a mystery. It’s a love story between a girl and her dog.  Derek (the handsome boy pictured above) thoroughly enjoyed watching their friendship come into full blossom throughout this puzzling little mystery. He hopes that maybe one day a cute little tomboy will stop by his kennel at Austin Pets Alive and insist on taking him home!

Like a shelter dog, Birdie feels lonely and out of sorts at her grandmother’s house in the Florida everglades. Her father died, leaving her mom with no other option than to work far away at an oil rig to make ends meet. Good thing her cantankerous grandma let her pick out a dog for her birthday—pretty much the best gift a kid could ever ask for! But Bowser isn’t just any dog. He’s a natural crime-fighter with a penchant for sniffing out clues. Whether he’s battling a behemoth alligator or chasing after a gun-wielding kidnapper, Bowser will stop at nothing to track down the perps and keep his little lady out of harm’s way.

The idea of a mystery narrated by a dog may seem a little silly—but fans of the author’s beloved Chet and Bernie series know that this style really works. Character development is everything. If you don’t’ care about the heroes of the story, why bother? That said, I dare you to read this book and not fall for Bowser and Birdie. Same goes for Chet and Bernie—a series I implore you to check out if you haven’t already! The love Bowser feels for Birdie is so powerful, and his soul is so pure and good. Sounds corny, but the author delivers this sugary goodness in a way that doesn’t give me a toothache.  It’s rather silly, but I got a little misty eyed when Birdie turned to Bowser as her only source of comfort. Back in the day, I wanted more than anything to have a dog just for this reason. Maybe that’s why this book really struck gold with me. I could see so much of myself in Birdie. She was at a point in her life when she knew that adults couldn’t be trusted—a rite of passage we all must go through at some point or another. Needless to say, it was her and Bowser against the world.

Their adventures begin when a stuffed fish goes missing from grandma’s bait shop. Unable to turn away from a good mystery, Birdie and Bowser go searching for clues to the missing marlin—breaking a lot of rules in the process…like not sneaking out at night and accidentally swimming in alligator infested waters! The dangers intensify when Bowser and Birdie find a connection between an old family rivalry and hidden treasure.

Although this book is for the youngsters, it’s sure to please readers of all ages who enjoy a good whodunit. And, of course, it’s a total win for dog lovers. In addition to the loveable characters and fast-pace plotting, the writing is—in Bowser’s words—off the charts! Just as I love how Spencer Quinn paints the Arizona desert scenery in his Chet and Bernie series, I really enjoyed his descriptions of the muggy Florida swamplands. Derek and I hope this will be the beginning of a new series so we can revisit grandma’s old bait shop and join these two adorable sleuths on their next adventure!

I should also note that like Bowser, Derek knows how to take a bite out of crime! Take him home and you’ll be safe, protected and loved forever and always! Hop on over to his bio page for more details.

Spanky’s Special Guest Post: Flawed Dogs

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6523443Hey guys, Spanky here from Austin Pets Alive. Yep, that’s right, I’m a shelter dog in need of a good home. Know anyone who’d like a handsome young sprig of a dog that likes lap-time cuddles and kissies? I’m available! Anyhoo, my “big sister” asked me to stop by her funny little lady blog to say a few words about my new favorite book Flawed Dogs. I didn’t exactly read it on account of me being a dog and all, but she did give me the highlights and showed me all the hilarious illustrations by some hot-shot comic strip author.

It’s weird, I never met this Berkeley Breathed guy, but somehow it’s like he knows me and my kind at some higher level that humans couldn’t possibly grasp. Is it possible that he could be part dog? Let’s think about this for a moment. What is it with these artists? How come some people have this amazing ability to visualize things in their minds and put it all on paper so perfectly? Clearly this is not an easy task because my sissy can barely draw a sad little stick figure. Are these artists on some different cosmic plane? Could they be extraterrestrials? Whoa…all this deep thinking is making me dizzy.

Big sissy told me not to reveal any spoilers, but I can say that this book will take you on a dog’s heart-wrenching journey to his forever home. I can totally relate to Sam the Lion (the hero of the story) because I’ve been through the ringer too. There’s dog fighting, ugly fur-wearing humans and—worst of all—one evil poodle set on destroying Sam’s chance at happiness with the one human he truly loves. Although this looks like a fun book for the tiny humans, I think it’s more for grown ups who can understand Sam’s plight and take away a few deep thoughts about breed bias and the grim reality of shelter dogs.

Speaking of homeless mutts, this book’s full of them! They may be “flawed” but their so-called shortcomings come in handy when they join forces to take down the Westminster Dog Show. Who knew that a funny little dog with digestive issues could launch himself into the air—all through the almighty power of bad gas?! Me thinks that maybe it’s the flaws that make us unique and special—this goes for humans too! If you ask me, those pure-breds with their fancy papers are rather boring. Don’t even get me started on their owners. Why in the world would you want to spend an entire day primping a dog and prancing it around like a perfectly coifed robot? Humans are strange creatures.

But I digress. There’s so much about this book that my big sissy and I love so very very much. We were in awe of the love story of Sam the Lion and his little soul mate, who in some ways is like the human version of a shelter mutt. They were clearly meant to find each other, and I believe this will happen to me too some day…hopefully soon. Is it possible for dogs to imprint on humans? I’d like to think so. Even though Sam lost his way and was at the mercy of other humans—mostly the bad kind—he never let go of his unconditional love for little Heidi. Even when it looked like he found a new home, he never fully trusted his so-called benefactor. It’s like he knew that the man would ultimately betray him in the worst possible way. Even though what he did was despicable, this makes me think that sometimes people come into our lives for a reason. Whether they’re good or bad, they move us along in this strange journey called life.

I’ll stop prattling on to save you from spoilers–also because I have a peanut-butter kong waiting for me in my kennel!  I will say that this little book is going to stick with me and my sissy forever and always. We absolutely loved everything about it—even the really devastating parts. I was so worried about Sam the Lion, but I knew he would find his way back home. That’s because I’m a dog, and me and my kind are nothing if not hopeful. We know when we’re home. We know to have faith in our soul mates. And most importantly, we know that we were put on this earth to do one thing: Love.

I hope you loved my special guest post! Don’t forget to visit me at the shelter. Here’s my website!

Step Away from the Mall and Hit Up Your Local Bookstore!

Sheeba approves this message. This sweet girl is up for adoption! Visit her website at Austin Pets Alive.

Sheeba approves this message. This sweet girl is up for adoption! Visit her website at Austin Pets Alive.

Spoiler Alert! If you’re a member of my family, stop reading this! Lucky for me, none of my family members habitually frequent my blog, so I should be in the clear.

Here you will see how Christmas shopping can be painless, quick and – gasp! – even enjoyable! I didn’t even do it online. Nope, this year I decided to stop fueling the Amazon machine and made a beeline for the crown jewel of Austin, Texas: BookPeople.

Have I ever told you how much I love BookPeople? It is the largest – and coolest – independent bookstore in all of Texas. It’s a haven for writers, coffee fiends and author groupies. Needless to say, this is my happy place. So instead of pushing my way through gaggles of screaming kids and their scowling mothers at the dreaded mall, I decided to tackle my entire shopping list in one stop. Come to think of it, I actually did have to push my way through gobs of people. But this time, I was happy to see such a huge crowd of people buying books and keeping my favorite store in the black.

While I was weaving my way through the labyrinth of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, I found the perfect gift for my dad, a voracious reader who loves all things dark and spooky. Doesn’t’ this book look like the perfect Gothic thriller for a cold winter’s night?

He’s also a big time eater, so I couldn’t resist getting him this signed copy of Austin’s most historic restaurants. Yum…I’m craving a Huts Hamburger right about now.dad

For my crazy marathon man, I scored a signed copy of Eat and Run by Scott Jurek. I sure hope this doesn’t inspire him to run 100+ miles in Death Valley, but hopefully it will give him a kick in the pants to start training for the Austin Marathon. This author is pretty incredible!  I still can’t wrap my mind around eating a plant-only diet, let alone running a zillion miles through a desert inferno. unnamed

As for the little kiddos, I got my 7-year-old niece a little Texas doodle book because she’s obsessed with all things Texas. When she becomes a famous artist, I expect her to tell everyone that her crazy Texas aunt is her muse. Since she’s a fan of those obscenely expensive American Girl dolls, I couldn’t resist getting her an Agatha Christie inspired kiddie mystery.

My little bitty 3-year-old niece loves furry little critters, so I got her this picture book about a stealthy tuxedo kitty. I have to confess, I read the book the second I got home. Hey, someone has to make sure it’s kid-approved!

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My fellow crazy cat lady friend is getting some sweet kitty swag. How can you go wrong with a Bad Cat calendar?

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Of course, not everyone has time for reading, especially if you’re chasing around four kids! So my sister-in-law is getting an address book. She’s refreshingly old school about keeping records on paper instead of apps.

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These are just a few gifts from my shopping binge, but I’ll stop right here before this blog post turns into a book all in itself. Books really are perfect gifts. They’re cheap, easy to wrap and ship! But most importantly, they’re thoughtful and personal gifts. Sometimes it’s a risk buying someone a book because reading takes time, and it seems like a lot of people have to schedule their bathroom breaks. But it’s a chance worth taking. Worst case scenario, it will get donated to Goodwill and eventually land in the right hands. Best case scenario, it will give your loved one hours upon hours of entertainment – and possibly inspire them to read more and more and more!

Happy reading, everyone! I hope you have many literary adventures waiting for you under the tree! 🙂

 

Gwen Cooper Reads & Signs “Love Saves the Day” at APA!

Me (the awkward blond on the left) and Gwen Cooper.

Me (the awkward blond on the left) and Gwen Cooper.

Oh happy day! I had the pleasure of meeting Gwen Cooper, the celebrated author of Homer’s Odyssey, at an Austin Pets Alive event! She spoke to a full house of crazy cat lovers about all my favorite topics: Kitties, books and how to break into publishing.

I’ve never heard of  Love Saves the Day, but the cover is super cute and the author is one of the bests in the animal memoir biz, so I went ahead and swooped it up. How could I go wrong with a story about an adorable little orphaned kitty that helps a woman through a long, complicated road of bereavement? I love a good tear-jerker about healing and self-discovery, so I’m sure I’m going to fall in love with this book.

Here’s a little snippet from the author’s website about the book, love_saves_the_daywhich is narrated by a kitty named Prudence who’s struggling with the death of her beloved owner. Sniff…where did I put that box of tissues?

Suddenly Prudence finds herself living in a strange apartment with humans she barely knows. It could take years to train them in the feline courtesies and customs (for example, a cat should always be fed before the humans, and at the same exact time every day) that Sarah understood so well. Prudence clings to the hope that Sarah will come back for her while Laura, a rising young corporate attorney, tries to push away memories of her mother and the tumultuous childhood spent in her mother’s dusty downtown record store. But the secret joys, past hurts, and life-changing moments that make every mother-daughter relationship special will come to the surface.  With Prudence’s help Laura will learn that the past, like a mother’s love, never dies.

Bumped into these little dudes at the event. They're up for adoption, y'all!

Bumped into these little dudes at the event. They’re up for adoption, y’all!

Oh and did I mention that I scored a free Litter Genie at the event? Now that’s some cool swag! With some help from corporate sponsors, she’s traveling from shelter to shelter to promote her new book and give back to the little animals in need. Be sure to check your local events calendars to see if she’s coming your way!