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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: August 2015

BLOG TOUR! Resist by Tracy Lawson with Q&A

 

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When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.

After their plan to rescue a group of dissenters imprisoned by the OCSD spins out of control, Tommy and Careen are on the run, dodging the quadrant marshals in a headlong dash for the remote mountain headquarters of the Resistance. Their budding relationship is tested when an attempt to spark a revolution goes awry, and the pair move toward an inevitable confrontation with the forces that terrorize the nation.

Will their differing viewpoints drive a wedge between them? And where does love fit in when you’re trying to overthrow the government?

 

I’m happy to be part of the official blog tour for RESIST! Tracy Lawson scored a hit with her first book in the Resistance Series, and the much awaited Book 2 just came out August 4th. Here is an exclusive Q&A with the author:

  1. Can you give us a brief summary of your first two books?

QUICK SUMMARY OF COUNTERACT:

The Resistance Series takes place in a near-future version of the United States. The powerful Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has enacted a long list of Civilian Restrictions designed to keep the people safe from frequent terrorist attacks, but it hasn’t worked: as the story opens, the threat of a chemical weapons attack is literally hanging over everyone’s heads.

Careen takes the OCSD’s offered antidote, but the side effects cause her to hallucinate. Her erratic behavior attracts the attention of a young law enforcement officer, who mistakenly pegs her as a dissident. Careen doesn’t realize the antidote is causing her confusion…until she runs out on the day of the anticipated attack.

Tommy, recuperating from injuries sustained in a recent auto accident, is unaware that there’s a link between that accident, which killed his parents, and the chemical weapons attack that threatens him now. When he discovers that working out before he takes his dose of the antidote helps him feel more like himself, he defies the rules to regain his strength and his sanity. On the day of the attack, he meets Careen, who just might be the girl of his dreams, and tries to save her by sharing his last dose of the antidote, even though doing so could potentially hasten his own death.

What Careen and Tommy learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action; their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government.

QUICK SUMMARY OF RESIST:

In Resist, the second volume in the Resistance Series, Tommy and Careen are no longer naïve, frightened teenagers who believe the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense can protect them from terrorist attacks. They’ve discovered the OCSD’s miracle antidote’s true purpose: to create a population bereft of free will, incapable of defying the tyrannical OCSD. They join the Resistance, but on their first mission, things spin out of control and soon they’re on the run, dodging the quadrant marshals in a headlong dash for the Resistance’s secret headquarters.

Being part of the Resistance presents them with new challenges. Not everyone working for change will prove trustworthy, and plans to spark revolution go awry with consequences greater than they could’ve imagined. Tommy and Careen’s relationship is tested when their philosophical differences and the pressures of interpersonal rivalries and jealousy put a strain on their romance. Can they make time for each other while trying to start a revolution?

 

  1. What was the inspiration behind The Resistance Series?

I was mentoring a friend of my daughter’s when the initial idea for Counteract came about. Chase is a pretty sharp guy and an excellent writer—and when he was in high school I had a lot of fun working with him and editing some of his short stories. We had finished working on a story about baseball, a broken nose, and a broken heart, and were ready to start something new, when he suggested we write scenes in response to the prompt: “What if everyone were on LSD and all thoughts were communal?” It was certainly thought provoking! Chase created the characters Tommy and Eduardo, I created Careen, and right away, we knew we were onto something. Obviously, the story morphed and changed a lot before it became the finished version of Counteract—but that was how it all began.

 

  1. Did you always plan to write another book in the series?

I let my husband read the first draft of Counteract when I was about a third of the way through the original outline. He was enthusiastic and supportive and suggested developing a story line that could be carried forward if I chose to make Counteract the first in a series.

I liked the idea of doing more than one book about Tommy and Careen, and as I wrote the rest of the first draft, I pinpointed elements of the story I’d need to develop and expand to pave the way for a series.

 

  1. How do the characters of Tommy and Careen develop in Resist?

Tommy and Careen are law-abiding citizens until they accidentally discover that the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense lied about the terrorist attack and why it mandated the use of the Counteractive System of Defense drug. They go from being accepting and compliant to impulsively joining a rebel group that’s working to overthrow the oppressive government agency, without having a chance to think about what they’re doing and why.

They’ve only known each other for a week, and their relationship has progressed far too quickly—they became a team, then a couple, without really getting to know each other, and soon they realize they don’t have much in common.

Tommy’s all for the physical aspects of revolution, and is eager to learn about guns and explosives. Careen finds kindred spirits among the older leaders of the group, who are committed to sway the public’s allegiance away from the OCSD by waging a war of information. Her pacifistic approach clashes with his need to prove himself on the field of battle, and further complicates their partnership.

 

  1. What do you enjoy about this series that cannot be found in any of your other books?

The Resistance Series is my first published fiction. My other book, Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, is based on a journal kept by my great-great-great grandfather during his family’s 1838 horse and wagon trip from Cincinnati to New York City.

I did a ton of research before writing that book, and amassed two filing cabinet drawers full of information related to the 22-page journal! During the publication process, I nearly went crazy double-checking all my facts and citations, and by the time the book went to print, I never wanted to see another footnote. Fiction? Yes, please!

Now that I’ve had a little break from footnotes, I’m enjoying writing another nonfiction history book. I’m planning to merge my two favorite genres and write some YA historical fiction sometime after I finish the Resistance Series.

 

  1. The main characters in The Resistance Series are Tommy and Careen. Where did you find your inspiration for them?

My characters are a little bit of me, and little bits of people around me, but as I spend time with them in the context of the story, they become less like people in the real world; I don’t stop developing them until they are individuals: unique and unlike anyone else.

Chase created Tommy, and at first I wasn’t as close to him as I was Careen. That changed as I wrote more scenes for Tommy—especially the scene when he and Careen meet. His reactions and his choices came from inside me; before long, he was unique and independent of any outside influence.

 

  1. How does the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense (OCSD) differ from other dystopian governments in young adult series like The Hunger Games and Divergent?

In the Resistance Series, there has been no rebellion, no cataclysmic event. The dystopian world in which they live has been created by fear, engineered by an enemy masquerading as a protector.
The Office of Civilian Safety and Defense was created to protect against the rampant terrorism that has affected the nation for the better part of the twenty-first century. Little by little, the OCSD usurped power from the traditional three branches of the US government.

The OCSD’s long list of Civilian Restrictions was designed to maximize safety and security. Most people don’t consider themselves oppressed or fettered by their lack of freedom. Teenagers like Tommy and Careen don’t know things were ever different. They can’t remember a time when teenagers learned how to drive and went on dates to malls and movie theaters.

 

  1. What elements test the relationship between Tommy and Careen in Resist?

Tommy and Careen had only each other to rely on in Counteract, and their relationship progressed quickly—perhaps a little too quickly.

Now they’ve joined the Resistance, and they’re part of a community for the first time. They have a hard time adjusting to the constant scrutiny, and Tommy laments about how their relationship seemed a lot less complicated when they were alone.

Their philosophical differences about how to fight the OCSD drive a wedge between them, and interpersonal rivalries and jealousy test their budding relationship.

 

  1. What do you hope readers take away from this book?

First and foremost, I want readers enjoy the story! I hope they relate to Tommy and Careen, and look forward to reading the next installment in the series.

Books for young adults often reflect the reader’s need to question authority and rebel against the rules set down by older generations; the Resistance Series looks at what can happen when people surrender our civil liberties in exchange for the promise of safety and security.

I hope readers understand that protagonists in dystopian books are often branded as outcasts or rebels because they question the restrictive rules of their societies—and that individuals who change the world rarely do so by going along with the herd.

 

  1. What kind of research did you do for the series?

Please don’t call the police if you see what’s in my browser history! I’ve Googled the effects of various controlled substances, different types of explosives, and interrogation techniques.

I learned to shoot a handgun so that my characters’ first experiences with weapons would be authentic. At first it was scary, but now I enjoy going to the target range. I’m no Annie Oakley yet, but I’m at least as good as Scarlett O’Hara, who once saucily told Rhett Butler, “I can shoot straight, if I don’t have to shoot too far.”

 

  1. What made you want to write books for young readers?

I love reading YA, and I taught dance classes for twenty years before I got serious about writing. I spent a lot of time around my students, my daughter, and her friends, so it seemed natural to write for a teen audience.

 

  1. How long did it take you to write Resist?

I wrote Resist in a little over a year. It went a lot faster than Counteract (which took almost three years) because I knew the characters well and had planned ways to continue the story into the second book.

 

  1. Do you have any interesting writing quirks?

I like to write with pen and paper—preferably outside. I sit quietly until one of the characters starts to speak, and then I write down what they say. Some days I’ll scribble for pages and pages, and when I look at the clock I’ll be surprised how much time has flown by! I usually let those pages sit for at least a few hours, sometimes a few days, before I transcribe them into the computer, and that’s where the scenes really begin to take shape.

As far as writing snacks go, I’m partial to sunflower seeds and Diet Dr Pepper!

 

  1. What does your family think of your writing?

My family has been very supportive. My husband knows how to urge me on when I get discouraged, and my daughter says I’m a better choreographer now that I’ve become an author. I guess writing helped me refine how to advance a story through dance.

I haven’t shared much about what happens in Resist with my family. My five teenaged nieces can’t wait to read it, and I can’t wait to hear what they think!

 

  1. Tell us where we can find your book and more information about you.

My books are available on Amazon.com (click here) in paperback and Kindle, and on Barnes & Noble’s online store. If you live near Columbus, Ohio, you can buy signed copies of my books at three independent stores: The Book Loft of German Village, Mary B’s, and Urban Emporium.

Author Headshot_Low Resolution

 

You can get the behind-the-scenes scoop on all things Resistance Series, see book trailers, and check out my blog at http://counteractbook.com. You can also find me on Twitter @TracySLawson and on Instagram as TracyLawsonAuthor.

 

 

 

 

Little Texas Sweetheart by Julia Chadwell

little texas

 

 

Little Texas Sweetheart is the gripping story of one woman’s spiritual, mental, and physical journey across America. The book takes you through the terror of domestic violence and abuse. The story of how she and their eight children escape to a free and healthy life is a hair-raising page-turner. The book is a chronicle of the advance of women’s rights in America.

 

 

 

 

I had the pleasure of meeting the author at BookCon 2015. Her story was so compelling I asked for a review copy, and she was gracious enough to give one to me. Thanks, Julia!

EXCERPT:

On a cold morning in Northern Florida, I am sent into a pancake house to ask if they could give us some food.  The manager looks at me as if I am a cur dog.  He looks out the window and sees three little cold, hungry waifs standing by an old jalopy.  Then he sees Ronald in his Army field jacket, stocking cap, and long red beard.  He winces and turns to me sighing.

     He says, “Bring the children in.  I will feed them, but not you.  I won’t even let him come in here.”
     I bring the children into the fragrant warmth and seat them on high stools at the counter.  I watch their eyes light up as the waitress brings them plates stacked high with golden pancakes.
     As they begin to eat, a gentleman customer steps up to the counter and says, “I’d like to buy breakfast for the lady.”
 Written in an unassuming style and full of raw emotion, LITTLE TEXAS SWEETHEART is an eye opening account of domestic violence and despair. I could not read this book more than a few chapters at a time, as the events described depressed and angered me. Hearing of precious possessions broken and thrown away, slaps and punches doled out, and Ronald’s viselike grip on the freedom of the family was just too much to take in large doses.
I actually had to re-read the passage when the police came to the house to see if everyone was all right, and left without doing anything. One of the officers even admonished one of the author’s children, saying “Daddies do that sometimes”–explaining that sometimes women have to get slapped to keep them in line. The times were so different then, and women truly had no rights.
Picture a woman with 3, 4, then 5 children in tow, living in a car or on a dirty campground, begging for food and clothing, washing that clothing by hand and trying to maintain a brave front. Now imagine that same woman being told that things were “her fault for being a bad mother and wife”.
Victims of domestic abuse are often people with no self confidence and a history of abuse during childhood. They may think that things truly are their fault and they are powerless to make a change. My heart went out to Chadwell time and time again, as Ronald would sweet talk her after a beating, or promise that “this time” they would stop moving from city to city, in search of the perfect job and living arrangements.
Make no mistake–this woman was no dummy. She got multiple degrees and became a teacher, and was always on the lookout for simple ways to educate and entertain her own children. Who knows where she would have made her way in the world if things were different?
Imprisoned by her own shame at the failure of her marriage, she stayed with her husband and endured years of abuse. This story matter of factly tells us how she prayed for help; sometimes her God helped her, sometimes not.
Particularly enlightening to me was the emphasis on how different things were in the 50’s and 60’s: domestic disturbances were the norm, almost expected, and were treated as minor things. Women were considered secondary citizens and sometimes “needed” to be kept in line, and the manly policeman apologized to the Man of the House for bothering him with a silly thing like an unexpected visit.
Chadwell makes no apologies for what she endured; at the end of the book she realizes that she is a battered woman with no self esteem, and that there are many others like her. She finally builds a support system and finds her backbone.  What a relief to be rid of the evil Ronald!
I guarantee you will feel outrage, disgust, and pity for this poor woman who wasted so many years of her life being miserable and downtrodden. Her goal in writing this book and exposing her shame was to help others in her position. When I spoke to her at BookCon, she was a lovely, well spoken, and kind individual, who gives no outward scars of her ordeal.  She has a strong faith in God and just wants to move forward and be happy.
This is a story I’ll not soon forget, nor will I ever forget Ms. Chadwell.
Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Breaking the Silence – Guest Post by author Maria Nieto

breaking the silence

On a sweltering summer day, the streets of Old Madrid that once resonated with the laughter of children playing are empty and silent. But inside the apartment buildings there is life as families faithfully wait for updates about an army uprising in Spanish Morocco. Before long, their greatest fears come true. As rebel troops storm Madrid and chaos fills the streets, six-year-old Mari wonders why she cannot go outside to play. Unfortunately, she has no idea she is about to be trapped inside the abyss of what is rapidly becoming a ruthless civil war. Already emotionally wounded by the absence of her mother, Mari attempts to go about her fear-filled days living with her father’s family, which includes a grandfather who lovingly teaches her about the history leading up to the conflict. As she embarks on a coming-of-age journey submerged in the darkness of war, Mari somehow stays alive despite the decisions of an intimidating, ruthless dictator, starvation, and brainwashing by the new Fascist regime. But when circumstances lead her to inadvertently commit the ultimate betrayal, Mari must face the horrifying consequences of her actions. Breaking the Silence shares the compelling tale of a little girl’s experiences as she attempts to survive amid the horror and death surrounding the Spanish Civil War.

 

Gimmethatbook had the privilege of communicating with  author Maria Nieto and discussing her book BREAKING THE SILENCE. We are proud to present her guest post, as she discusses why she wrote the book and the meaning it holds for her. If you are interested in having your own copy, you can get it here.

 

My name is Maria Nieto, and people have been questioning why, at the age of 85, I wrote  a book called Breaking the Silence.

It is a book describing the pain and the horrifying days of a small girl´s life during and after the Spanish Civil War. There are moments of humor in the book, but mostly it deals the devastating effects that war creates for children. The book goes a little further into Spain´s post war years under the yoke of a fascist dictatorship using ruthless  mind altering techniques on children in order to assure their total loyalty to the new order. Mari, the child in the book, ends with the terrible decision she must make to atone for an act of treason she innocently committed.

The book is written as a novel, a work of fiction, but fiction is often impregnated with truth.

Why did I write the book, and how did I write the book?

Please allow me to go back in time just a little.

I was born in New York City in the middle of the Great Depression.  Just a year later, the laws that rule the universes (I do not believe in coincidences), transported me to Madrid, Spain. Two years later,  the same universal laws took my mother away from me . I do not remember the days after she disappeared, but I do remember that even though I forgot how to speak English, at stressful times the sound of strange sounds would almost sing inside of my mind. Sounds like “mommy”, “daddy”, “Teddy the bear”, and sometimes I could hear the soft voice of a woman whisper something that sounded like, ”you are my princess”. Nothing more.

Three years passed and I suddenly found myself in the middle of falling bombs, crashing buildings and the passing of marching tanks in the night making cracking noises on the  street cobble stones  as they passed by the house.

Spain was at war. A war of brother against brother, and father against son: The Spanish Civil War. I lost most of my childhood friends  who died torn to pieces  under the explosions of bombs, the fire of machine guns, or the falling of mortar shells.  I survived day after day holding on to the image of a dark haired woman who held me in her arms in times of danger.

After the war, Spain fell under the tyrannical fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco, the Spanish Army officer who initiated the revolt against the Spanish Republic.

People were imprisoned and killed by the thousands. All freedoms were forbidden. Children marched in the streets dressed in Nazi-like uniforms with extended arms in a Nazi salute singing fascist songs to the beating of drums and the waving of flags. Soon I too became one of those children.

Some years passed and during  my early teens, I was found reading a Reader’s Digest (in Spanish). That type of reading was forbidden. Nothing foreign was to be read in Spain, and no listening to radio stations from other countries was allowed. Because I was an American Citizen, I did not go to jail . Instead,  my father was ordered to have me out of the country within three days. An uncle in New York who had converted into Judaism arranged for a Jewish organization helping children out of Nazi Germany, to look over me in Portugal as I waited for a ship to take me to the United States.

Franco died and Spain’s new monarchy passed a law of silence, “a pact of silence”, as it was called. The people of Spain were not to talk or act on any issues that incurred during the war or during the dictatorship after the war. Franco’s murderers never went to trial for their crimes and continued to flourish and continued to use their money to hold on to power. After that, when  I visited Spain, neither my family nor my friends would talk about or mention the  terrible years. During a visit to my grandmother’s  village, I came upon  a group of older women in the town’s plaza seated in a circle  noisily and happily talking as they did their sewing. I introduced myself and told them that my grandmother  was born in the village. They recognized her name, but when I told them that I had lived in the village for a short time during the war, the women looked at me, and one of them clipping her words almost yelled, “ Ah, that was a long time ago.” All the other women went back to their sewing in silence.

That was the beginning of the heavy weight in my chest that made me write Breaking the Silence.

After four years in the Navy, the GI Bill helped me to finish nursing school  and after graduation I was able to work during  the day and go to school at night. It was years before I finally gathered enough diplomas to teach me how  to help emotionally wounded persons identify their pain, and hopefully resolve it.

When  my working days ended, the heavy weight in my chest returned, and strange rumblings again woke me at night. As time passed, the weight got worse, the rumblings got louder.

Finally, it became clear to me what was happening: I was choking on Spain’s silence denying me of my childhood, as well as my childhood friends not being recognized and remembered.

That is why, very slowly and in silence, I began to write Breaking the Silence and no one, friends or family, knew about the book until it was published. My family in Spain received it well, and now  the rumblings and the weight in my chest are gone, and  I can again sleep through the nights.

I hope people will read it. I hope that in some way it may help people throughout the world  and the United States reject any further war suggestions from their leaders.

I started another book. Maybe  I can finish it before the laws of the universes  take me away from this planet and I begin to use my experiences on earth elsewhere.

 

Mind Me, Milady by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks

mind me milady

MIND ME, MILADY is a mystery set in New York City. As the book begins, the life of thirty-five year old Eve Petersen is in upheaval. She is an attorney who is in the process of winding up her recently deceased mother ‘s law practice, and she has just broken up with her control-freak boyfriend. She now has a new client to protect: a sweet but troubled young woman named Susan, who is struggling to understand both her foggy memories of the past and her constant sense of unease and danger in the present. And, as if all that weren’t enough, Kate herself keeps receiving unsettling phone calls from an Upper East Side serial rapist who has named himself “the Gentleman.” Each time he calls, the Gentleman casually discusses his latest victim in his eerily even, British-accented voice, hinting all the while that Kate will be the next one.

As the Gentleman continues his reign of terror, reprimanding each victim with his catchphrase, “Mind me, milady. Mind the Gentleman,” suspense and anxiety on the Upper East Side build to a fever pitch. A series of seemingly random women are brutally assaulted. Warring local political candidates fasten on these rapes as a pivotal dividing issue. Frightened and confused as to what to do, Susan undergoes hypnosis in an attempt to fill in memories that she had lost in the aftermath of a car accident years ago. Under hypnosis, she “remembers” living as an indentured servant in New York City during the period of the Revolutionary War and being raped by her Master while the Battle of Manhattan raged on the East Side. Whether these impressions are based in real memories remains a question, but as these bits of her past come to light, it seems more and more possible that Susan may be the Gentleman’s next target. With the Gentleman seemingly closing in on both women, Kate must try to put the pieces together and figure out the Gentleman’s identity so they can catch him before he strikes again.

Thanks to the authors for giving me this book in exchange for a review!

There is a lot going on in this book! Eve is a wonderful protagonist, especially when she is waxing sarcastically at the idea of hypnosis-as-healing. Her musings while having to clean up loose ends in her mother’s law practice were truthful and honest.  However, at times the various sub plots divided my attention and slowed things down. Susan was a sweet girl, but her mood swings made me wonder why everyone was continuing to deal with her at all. It also seemed that the endings to the sub plots were abrupt and didn’t serve anything except to get rid of characters.

It also seemed that there were some characters that were just filler and didn’t further the plot much either. The political machinations seemed murky at the beginning but by the time you get to the end, it will become clear.

One thing I did enjoy was the inclusion of the Old New York City detail, told through the hypnotic state of Susan. The Revolutionary War history is told well, and as more layers are uncovered, Susan’s story begins to seem almost truthful.

Another plus was that the murderer is not obvious, even after multiple red herrings pointing you in various directions. There are certainly enough suspects, and at the end I was completely surprised by how it turned out. I would have liked to know more about what made him tick; the mini chapters with his internal thoughts served more to confuse instead of enlighten.

Other reviews note that the writing style in the book seems divided, as it sometimes can be with dual authors. Perhaps this is the reason I felt MIND ME, MILADY to be disjointed at times. The plot is a good one, but I felt that the path to really get to the gist of the story took too long to get me hooked.

I think with tighter editing and some fewer characters this would have been a better book. Let’s see how the authors do in their next outing. I’m willing to read more about Eve Petersen and her law career!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

 

 

Ultraxenopia by M.A. Phipps

 

ultraxenopia

 

In a society where oppression and conformity rule the masses and the slightest unusual behavior could be seen as treasonous, Wynter Reeves would do just about anything to ensure she isn’t noticed. However, when she begins to show symptoms of a rare and debilitating illness, she unwillingly attracts the attention of the State—in particular, the feared research facility known as the DSD. Through them she learns of the true nature of her condition, a disease known only as Ultraxenopia.

 

Thanks to the author for offering this book in exchange for a review!

This book is dark and unsettling, especially in the description of Wynter’s seizures and how much pain she is in during one of her episodes. She is kept unaware of what her true purpose is and used by the research facility to try to discover how the world ends.

When she ends up in the outside world, she is understandably naive and unsure of how she fits in. The author does a nice job of conveying her doubt and confusion, while painting a dystopian world with an underground community trying to fend for themselves. There is a love interest, which adds to Wynter’s dilemma but should be a big hit with the YA audience.

I found the medical and hospital settings the most interesting to me, as this is a new addition to the whole dystopian theme. Wynter is a strong girl and the author creates her character as one who develops character as the book goes on, with elements of suspense that will keep readers wondering what will happen next. Wynter has some hard choices to make and she struggles with them, just as an ordinary teen would. She experiences betrayal and hurt in some very well written scenes, and I felt my emotions stirred as I started to realize what was happening to her. So much responsibility heaped on a person!

This is book 1 of a trilogy, following the patterns of many dystopian works. The ending of the book is the obligatory cliffhanger, guaranteed to keep you waiting for book 2. I for one can’t believe what the author has Wynter do at the end….but that’s the idea. According to many positive reviews out there, a lot of people are invested in this series and are waiting anxiously for the next one. I’d love to see how Phipps can build on this popular story.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

The Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ by Martha Ritter

 

PZ

A charming, classic adventure tale about the scary, crazy, and heart-thumpingly joyful plunge into connecting with others.

A mute, nameless foxhound has spent her life in a laboratory cage. She has never seen the sun. When she gets rescued, Dottie, a diva ladybug with a heart as big as her hat, helps the dog understand the world and find a home with Olivia, a restless, solitary girl seeking comfort that her new pet cannot supply.

The isolated dog and the hesitant girl must face their fear of connecting. They learn to tame each other, let go, survive adventures, and find the courage to trust as they search for their place in the sun.

The Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ— lyrical and approachable, with resonant details–has both humor and heart. Although intended for children eight through twelve, its classic unfolding and off-beat characters tickle the fancy of adults as well. It is both an adventure story and a tale with many layers–about overcoming obstacles, mining experience for what matters, and doing what is necessary, though not always desirable, for friendship. Ultimately, it is about the joy of a hard-won connection.

The classic illustrations–with a contemporary edge–reflect this fresh, poignant, wise, and sometimes downright wacky book.

Thanks to author Martha Ritter for gifting me this book for review! I had the pleasure of meeting her at BookCon 2015, and we had a wonderful conversation about many different things.  We discussed a book called Nest by Esther Ehrlich that I had previously reviewed, and wondered if PZ could be comparable to it.

Happily, I can state that yes, PZ is just as wonderful, touching, funny, poignant, and full of good feels as NEST. The plot is simple: lab dog ends its usefulness, goes to shelter, gets adopted, and learns about the world.  It’s the telling of the story: sometimes from the dog’s point of view, sometimes from the adopter’s, that makes it so beautiful and a joy to read.

Your emotions will range from tears to glee as PZ navigates through a world she’s never even known existed. Dotty, the ladybug that lives in her ear (just under the flap) encourages the former lab dog to be strong and learn how to be true to herself. There are moments where you can completely understand what the dog is thinking, as a situation arises and PZ reacts.  I could see her trying to go through a doorway and finding it terrifying, so much so that I was able to transfer her fictional emotions to living canines I’ve encountered. (I’m a vet tech by trade and felt that reading this book gave me better tools to cope with scared dogs at my clinic.)

The family that adopts PZ is a broken one. The father has passed away a year ago, and the 11 year old Olivia is getting skinny due to lack of appetite, and often breaks into tears. She and PZ circle each other warily at first, each doubting each other’s ability to be a good companion. There are disappointments and triumphs, and you can see how the girl and the dog truly help each other to grow and learn.

Towards the end of the book, there is an event that affects the relationship between the shelter dog and grieving girl. I can’t say I saw it coming, but it is fitting and well written. The author has created suspense and it is easy for the reader to want a happy ending, to hope that Olivia and PZ can work together as a team.  (No spoilers–you must read the book yourself!)

I felt I would be able to read this story without tearing up or laughing out loud. I was wrong! There is pathos and humor that fits perfectly together, and the plot advances seamlessly. What a perfect way to convey so many ideas: love, trust, uncertainty, and growth.  The illustrations complement the story, and add that other dimension of having a perfect picture of what the characters look like. The drawings are alternately moving and comic, without being too complicated.

Want your own copy? Yes, you do. Everyone should read this book.

You can pick it up here.

 

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