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The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes

Book Review :: The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes

First line: “The Silver Fox was waiting for me in a back booth at Wan-Q, the retro nonchic Cantonese restaurant that was two doors down from the rear entrance to the Essex House on West Fifty-Sixth Street.”

The Girl With Kaleidoscope EyesAfter a twenty-year hiatus, ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his four-legged side-kick Lulu are back. Full disclosure: I haven’t read any of the eight earlier books in this series, but now I want to hunt them down and explore the early years.

Stewart “Hoagy” Hoag is a ghostwriter. Years ago he wrote his own bestselling novel but then the well ran dry. Now he’s helping others get the notoriety, and his agent has a new job for him–one with personal connections. Reggie Aintree is a successful poet, Hoagy’s former flame and the woman he dedicated his single novel to. She also happens to be the daughter of Richard Aintree who also wrote one novel. The difference between Richard and Hoagy is the fact that Richard’s novel is taught in all high school English classes. Well that and Richard vanished after his wife’s suicide; he hasn’t been seen since.

Add into the Aintree family mix Monette, Reggie’s sister. Monette is a media mogul currently separated from her wildly popular actor husband, Patrick Van Pelt. And Monette believes she has just received a letter from her long-lost father. Enter Hoagy whose been summoned to ghostwrite the tell-all that could potentially arise from the return of Richard Aintree. Begrudgingly he packs his bags and heads out to Los Angeles, taking up residence in Monette’s beach house as they await the return of the infamous Aintree patriarch. Let murder and mayhem commence.

Set in 1992, David Handler takes me back down memory lane in The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes through new fangled mobile phones, references and allusions to the decade’s pop culture (90210 anyone?), and the emerging popularity of word processors. But the universal absurdity of celebrity chaos required me to regularly remind myself it was 1992.  Handler’s characters are as colorful as the book’s title and his humorous depictions of Lulu, especially her eating and sleeping habits, exude authenticity. As a dog lover, I appreciate that Lulu isn’t forgotten. If Hoagy’s eating on a restaurant patio, Lulu is laying at his feet. When he’s driving, she’s in the car. She doesn’t just vanish with no explanation of where she is or how she got there.

Some of the police procedure seems a little questionable, but I’m not an expert and the plot isn’t supposed to be a serious crime story. It’s light-hearted and fun with some weightier themes around drugs and relationships that are the real crux of the book.

Handler doesn’t leave his readers wondering what people or places look like nor what meals consist of. But as long as you can get past the excess detail, The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes is an enjoyable, fast-paced mystery chock full of Hollywood, humor and havoc. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m headed to find the earlier books in this series.

The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes is available in paperback and ebook from William Morrow.

Goodreads - Brown Dog Solutions

My review is the first of the TLC Book Tour for The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes. You can find out what others have to say about this fun mystery by visiting the tour page at TLC’s website. You can also find David Handler on Facebook.

Dual Book Review :: The Wisdom of Moms & Amazing Dads

I‘m kind of addicted to National Geographic books. It’s probably partly due to my love of photography. National Geographic sure knows how to do photography. Today I have two gorgeous little gift books to share with you just in time to pay tribute to the moms and dads in your lives.

The Wisdom of Moms: Love and Lessons From the Animal Kingdom

First line: “Moms can be feathered or furry, they can live in the mountains, at the water’s edge, or in the desert.”

The Wisdom of MomsThis little gem is chock full of glorious, color images of mothers and their offspring in the animal kingdom, among them a flamingo, bulldog, owl, dolphin and one of my personal favorites, the meerkat. The images are accompanied by little facts about the species and their parenting practices as well as lovely quotes related to parenthood, motherhood, love and life. Spread out throughout the book are short sections on characteristics of mothers, such as loyalty, compassion and grit. The narrative tells how the corresponding animal displays that trait.

The images are awe-worthy and the quotes are well-chosen. The variety of animals gracing the pages is terrific fun. Some regulars we expect to see everywhere–the graceful giraffe–and some that aren’t so common–free-range pigs! The Wisdom of Moms is a treasure for any animal lover, but it’s certainly the perfect gift this Mother’s Day. I’m not sure I can part with my copy of this one, though, so I will have to go get another one for my mother.

One of my favorite quotes from the collection is from Barbara Schapiro, “Sometimes the laughter in mothering is the recognition of the ironies and absurdities. Sometimes, though, it’s just pure, unthinking delight.” The Wisdom of Moms is certainly pure delight, but instead of unthinking it’ll have you pondering your own mom, guaranteed.

Goodreads - Brown Dog Solutions

 

Amazing Dads: Love and Lessons From the Animal Kingdom

First line: “There is that one special person who is always your biggest fan, your most tireless coach, and your friend no matter what: your dad.”

Amazing DadsThe companion book to The Wisdom of Moms is Amazing Dads. Set up in the same format, the book is packed with beautiful, bold images of animals throughout the world. The jacana and its spindly little off-spring practically tweet from the page. Meanwhile, it’s hard not to conjure up memories of Nemo as the brilliantly orange clownfish pop in their sea of blue.  The quotes range from heartwarming to humorous. And the facts accompanying the images are fascinating. Did you know that a male Japanese puffer fish spends nine days drawing intricate sand patterns on the ocean floor? Then the female deposits her eggs in the center. From hedgehogs to eagles, parenting in the wild is stunning, entertaining and magical. Amazing Dads captures that beautifully.

Either book will make beautiful gifts, but the pair complement each other wonderfully. Anyone who loves one with cherish the other…take it from me, I’m not relinquishing mine. National Geographic knows how to engage an audience with sharp, striking pictures and both The Wisdom of Moms and Amazing Dads are well-endowed with those images. And you really can’t beat the price on these little beauties either. Be sure to check them out!

Goodreads - Brown Dog Solutions

My reviews of The Wisdom of Moms and Amazing Dads is the kick-off post of the TLC Book Tour these great gift books. You can find out what other bloggers think about them by following the tour, listed here.

Book Review :: Loyal

First line: “There are dozens of reasons to love dogs, but the paramount reason for my passion emerged while I was writing the prequel to this book, Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty and Life With Dogs.”

Loyal - Brown Dog Solutions

Journalist Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a volunteer in a high-kill animal shelter. Because of her experiences in the shelter she helped found the Deja Foundation, which is devoted to funding the medical care and training costs of dogs rescued from high-kill shelters. This is a true animal lover, and she’s put together Loyal: 38 Inspiring Tales of Bravery, Heroism, and the Devotion of Dogs, a beautiful book celebrating dogs who contribute to the lives of humans in truly extraordinary ways.

If you’re a pet owner, you know how much your own furry friend(s) add to your existence.  So it won’t surprise you to hear the 38 heartwarming tales Ascher-Walsh has collected in this stunning little book. She found purebreds and mutts, old dogs and young. The common denominator is their pure, unselfish willingness to give of themselves. A Labrador who served in the military, a German Shepard trained as a seeing eye dog for a marathon runner, a German wirehaired pointed adopted from a shelter to improve community relations for a police department, a Spinone Italiano who comforted the children of Newtown following the Sandy Hook massacre. The stories are diverse and fun and inspiring. The full-color photographs in every chapter are top-notch, as you’d expect from a National Geographic publication.

Peppered throughout the book are small call-out sections with special facts or breed background. And the variety of organizations that come to light is astounding. For example, the Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri (PHARM Dog USA) that trains and places service dogs with disabled farmers or Canine CellMates in Atlanta that rescues dogs on the euthanasia list at shelters and matches them with jail inmates to be trained.

Through all of the stories and dogs and individuals, Ascher-Walsh illustrates how the loyalty of dogs can bring out the best in their human friends. Loyal is a perfect book for the bedside table or coffee table. Readers can pick it up for one story at a time, a couple stories or an uplifting hour or two of all the stories. After having read it the first time, I found myself flipping through to look at the pictures again and wanting to re-read the tales as the pictures reminded me of the smiles and warm feelings those words elicited the first time around.

Loyal is an ideal book for any dog lover. It’s a great gift book as well, but if you buy it as a gift, you may very well find parting with it a great challenge.

I’m kicking off the TLC blog tour for Loyal. You can check out the full schedule of bloggers and find out what others are saying about Ascher-Walsh’s tribute to furry heros. You can find purchasing information at the National Geographic site or at Amazon. And as always, below you’ll find the Goodreads link if you want to add it to your reading list.

Goodreads - Brown Dog Solutions

New Photo Friday - Pets

New Photo Friday

Good gracious is this ever overdue. Again, I apologize for the long silence there. Today I have a new photo to share with you and some fun news about Fredrik Backman. Those who know me and my book review history know I adore Fredrik Backman’s work. He’s absolutely astounding. Anyone who asks me for book recommendations can be fairly certain I’ll mention his name. So of course, I’m delighted that his next book, BEARTOWN, is coming out at the end of April. In addition to that, the film version of A MAN CALLED OVE has been chosen by Sweden to compete in the foreign language Oscar category. I saw this film and just adored it—it’s true to the essence of Ove and the man Backman created. Of course, I would have liked for it to be about three hours longer so they could have flushed out more of the delightful supporting characters from the plot, but it’s a film. What can ya do?

On to New Photo Friday. Last weekend Rufus and I went to a dog fair in the area, so today’s photo comes from that trip. I was quite smitten with this St. Bernard puppy. She was a bit resistant to having her picture taken, so I was delighted to catch this shot.

New Photo Friday - Pet photography

I’ve started setting up a mini studio with some new-to-me equipment I was fortunate to acquire. So you’ll probably see some pictures from that new set-up in the near future.

One last little book tidbit—o.k., really it’s a big, honkin’ bite—for those in the Northeast Ohio area. Another author I recommend regularly and obsessively is Craig Johnson. Hopefully you already know he writes the Walt Longmire mystery series…which the TV series LONGMIRE is based on. He’ll be at the Strongsville Public Library on Wednesday, May 24th. Save this date and register NOW. It’s free, but I’m fairly certain the event will fill fast, so make sure you get your spot. I’m just thrilled he’ll be here in the area. Hope to see you there.

Happy Friday, friends. Have a great weekend!

Quick Updates

My apologies for the delay between posts. I’ve been dealing with work, photography class, photography club, regular life “stuff” and of course the issues of the country’s political mess. I have a book-related post coming up about that. It’s mostly an effort for me to deal with my energy about all of this. But in the meantime, I wanted to give you a few fun updates.

First is the February Nerdy Special List, which Pop Culture Nerd has posted. I have a wonderful and timely recommendation over there for you.

Next is my new role at AudioFile Magazine. I’ll be posting each Monday about mysteries and thrillers and all forms of crime fiction in audiobook format. This week I have a post about new releases in February. I’ve offered just a small slice of the new titles out. Stop by and share what you’re excited about this month.

For dog lovers in my neck of the woods, this weekend I learned about a new magazine that’s launching here in April called CLE DOG. I’m excited because I’m always looking for new things to do with Rufus. This should be a fun publication.

And finally, if you’re headed to Honolulu in March for Left Coast Crime, I’ll be moderating a panel called “Reviewers & Critics: Are authors at their mercy?” That’s Friday at 10:30a.m. I’m joined by two fellow bloggers, Les Blatt and Dru Ann Love, as well as two authors Maggie Margarita and Jane Stillwater. I need to dust off my moderator’s hat. It’s been awhile. If you’re attending, hope to see you there.

More content is coming. While I haven’t posted a new photo in awhile, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been taking them. My goal for myself is to get back on track this week, so look for that on Friday. In the mean time, Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

New Photo Friday - Rufus

New Photo Friday – Week 14

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday and beginning of December everyone. How in the world is this year almost over already? Yikes! This week I’m cheating on my new photo and using one from a week ago. It isn’t because I wasn’t taking pictures this week; in fact, just the opposite. But I can’t share those with the world, yet. I will when I can.

So the picture I’m going to share with you is my greatest passion–photographing animals. My dog Rufus and I took advantage of a bizarre 70 degree day in November and played a little hooky in the park. This picture is from our romp through the woods.

I took this one with my Tamron 17-50mm lens with an aperture of 2.8, a shutter speed of 1/320 and an ISO of 100. I like the texture in Ru’s fur. He tends to blend in with the fall browns and reds, but his pose was fun and every chance I get to practice with animals, I’m thrilled.

New Photo Friday - Rufus

This weekend we’re headed to a dog walk sponsored by the local metro parks. It’s in the evening, but if I can get some good pictures of that there may be more dogs next week for New Photo Friday as well.

In the mean time, if you’re a photography enthusiast, you may want to check out this free ebook. I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to be free, so I’d go quickly. But working effectively with reflectors is one of my goals for the near future, so I want to check this one out.

jennifer forbus - camp unleashed

Camp Unleashed

Those who know me in person or follow me on social media know what a big animal lover I am. And I’m the crazy pet lady, I guess. My two dogs and three cats are my world.

jennifer forbus - camp unleashed jennifer forbus - camp unleashed

Last year I took my youngest child to camp. Yes, Rufus and I went to Camp Unleashed in the Berkshires. And it was the highlight of my year–I think Rufus’ too, but I really can’t speak for him. We spent Labor Day weekend living in a cabin at the Becket YMCA camp. We went hiking and swimming, learned to dance (Freestyle) and Rufus to dive (dock diving). We ran agilities and learned canine massage. Well, I learned the massage, Rufus benefited from it. I attended a session on pet photography, one on caring for senior pets (my Nestlé is almost 13), one on pet psychology. And through it all, we met like-minded folks–people who love their dogs the way I do mine. And of course, my social little guy made tons of friends as well.

jennifer forbus - camp unleashedEach morning we started at Yappy Hour where the dogs could run and romp with each other in a big open field. And as the camp name indicates, the dogs are off leash virtually the entire weekend. So they get to be natural dogs.

By the end of each day, Rufus was crashed, happily exhausted from all of his learning and jennifer forbus - camp unleashedplay. And so was I! There were many other activities that we didn’t get to enjoy, simply because there wasn’t time to do everything: canoeing with your dog, barks and crafts, tricks classes, grooming classes, the list of options seemed endless. It was an amazing and wonderful bonding experience for us both, too.

Needless to say, that first experience hooked us. In about two weeks, Rufus and I are headed back to Camp Unleashed for more fun. We can’t wait.

jennifer forbus - camp unleashed
One of our favorite activities–hiking!

Of course, Camp Unleashed isn’t for everyone. Dogs have to be able to get along with other dogs (obviously) and have good recall since they’re off leash. For example, I can’t take my Nestlé because she’s unpredictable with other dogs. We stay in a cabin with no electricity and you have to use a washhouse for showers and bathrooms. But they do have a hall with electricity and indoor plumbing if you don’t want to “rough it” quite as much. The cabins are quite cool, though–and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like camping!

jennifer forbus - camp unleashedEven though we were busy all weekend, there was also a sense of serenity at camp and I’m looking so forward to going back. I can’t recommend it highly enough. We attend the camp in the Berkshires and we go during Labor Day Weekend. They offer camp at that same location around Memorial Day weekend, and they also offer camp in October in Georgia at Camp Blueridge (new this year, it use to be in Asheville, NC).

jennifer forbus - camp unleashedI’ll be taking pictures at camp this year again, so I’ll definitely have updates when we return. But I also make sure that my focus during camp is on Rufus. This is our weekend together–something I save for and anticipate all year long–and I want him to have all the fun he possibly can. So stay tuned and I’ll share our fun when we return. If you’re someone with a dog that’s a good fit for camp, think about coming. I can almost guarantee you’ll have a blast. I figure if a non-camping person like me loves camp this much, just imagine what true camping lovers experience!

jennifer forbus - camp unleashed jennifer forbus - camp unleashed

Have a great week, friends!