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“Rescue Dogs: Where They Come From, Why They Act the Way They Do, and How to Love Them Well” by Pete Paxton, Gene Stone

For years, my daughter has been asking for a dog. My husband and I have always thought about it, but would inevitably end up by turning her down on account of us not having enough time to devote to a pet. We both work full time outside of the home. Every Monday through Friday we’d leave the house by 7:30 am and wouldn’t return until around 5 pm. I knew it wouldn’t be fair to have a dog be alone in the house all day for five days a week without any companionship or exercise.

But the great pandemic of 2019/2020 hit and suddenly we were housebound for the unforeseeable future. We no longer had an excuse to not get a dog. And the more we thought about it, the more we actually realized that we really wanted a dog. So in August of 2020, we went to a shelter (we specifically went to Don’t Be a Bully, a rescue in York, PA) and adopted the newest member of our family, Cooper “Corona” Graham.

After adopting Cooper, I found that I was drawn to everything and anything dog related. I watched animal planet, I read doggie blogs, and started noticing all of the dogs in the neighborhood as they walked by my house. It was no surprise that I found the book “Rescue Dogs,” by Pete Paxton.

Paxton works as an undercover animal investigator and has experience revealing the hidden cruelties associated with puppy mills, slaughterhouses, and many organizations that exploit animals. In “Rescue Pups,” Paxton focuses on dogs that have been abandoned, abused, and sometimes stolen. It’s an important book to read if you want to get more in depth knowledge regarding dog adoption.

Before adopting Cooper, I really didn’t know very much about how most people get their dogs. I knew that I shouldn’t shop at a pet store because those were considered “bad.” But honestly, I didn’t really know why. Paxton explains how pet stores usually get their dogs from places called “puppy mills.” Basically, a puppy mill is a large scale dog breeder and is sometimes referred to as a “dog factory.” The dogs are often kept in horrendous conditions and are neglected and abused. The dogs who are used as the breeders are put down once they can no longer have puppies. 

In “Rescue Dogs,” Paxton also explains what to expect when you adopt a dog from a rescue shelter. Far too often, people believe that rescues have behavior and anxiety issues that can’t be resolved. As a result, rescue dogs are overlooked as good companion animals. However, that is far from the truth. Rescues can be amazing pets. In fact, it is more common for dogs who were adopted from puppy mills to have unresolved anxieties due to neglect and abuse they experienced before they were adopted. 

One of the things that pleasantly surprised me about this book was that Paxton provides valuable information regarding how to care for your rescue dog. He gives a list of items needed before you even bring your rescue home and gives ideas on how to make sure your rescue feels comfortable and safe. 

“Rescue Dogs” is a book I would recommend to anyone who loves dogs and is looking into adoption. It’s also an informative guide for anyone who wants to know the truth about the dog breeding industry. It’s important to know why dog lovers should choose to look at shelters for adoption and not pet stores or corrupt kennels. By adopting from a shelter, you are saving a life. 

When we adopted Cooper, our family became complete. I didn’t realize how much I would love my little cuddle monster. But I can’t imagine my life without him.

According to the website One Green Planet, there are about 6 to 8 million homeless dogs and cats that enter animal shelters every year. Nearly half of those animals are euthanized due to overpopulation and lack of space in the shelters. If you have room in your home and in your heart, please consider adopting a dog from a shelter. You won’t regret it. I certainly didn’t! 

For more information from Don’t Be a Bully (the rescue we used to adopt Cooper), please visit them at their Facebook page at: facebook.com/dontbeabully01

If The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue were a movie…

After reading (and loving) The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab, I was so excited to hear that it’s going to be made into a movie!  

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This is a book that has been talked about endlessly on social media and booktube. It’s even been advertised in Times Square in New York City. So many people have read it and adored it and it seems like it has been one of the most hyped up books of 2020. 

And in my view it has completely lived up to the hype. 

The story begins in France in 1714. The main character, Addie LaRue, is about to marry a man she doesn’t love and live an ordinary life that she does not desire. In a desperate move, she prays to the darkness and asks to be free from this arrangement. As a result, Addie ends up making a bargain with the darkness in which she lives forever, but is forgotten by everyone she meets. 

The story becomes even more interesting when she meets a man named Henry at a local bookstore. Unlike everyone else that Addie meets, Henry is able to remember her. 

I loved everything about this book! I was captivated by Addie’s character and her relationships with the people she encounters even though those encounters were often sad. There were so many heartbreaking moments where Addie has to reintroduce herself to people who she has already formed deep connections with, only to be met with blank stares and quizzical looks. 

Throughout the book, I couldn’t help but think about how this story will be turned into a movie. Who would play Addie? Or Henry? And who could dare to play the darkness himself, Luc? Well, here are my thoughts!

For Addie LaRue, I kept picturing Lily Collins. Admittedly, this is likely because I’ve recently been watching the new series that she stars in, Emily in Paris. Plus, the fact that she’s in France in that series made it an easy transition to picture her as Addie from France. I mean, it makes sense, right? 

Of course, Lily Collins admitted that she was "wrong" about the age of her  character

Henry is a little more difficult. But my mind eventually settled on picturing Justin Baldoni (Jane the Virgin) to play his character. He’s got the black curls and a very friendly looking face. So why not? 

Justin Baldoni's new web series wants to help men grow

As for Luc… well, this one might be a little too on the nose, but how about Tom Ellis, from Lucifer? True, this would mean that he is playing the same character in a different show/movie, but it seems to fit well. Plus, it looks like Justin Baldoni, and I believe Henry and Luc are supposed to look similar.

Tom Ellis (actor) - Wikipedia

One of the biggest critiques I’ve seen regarding this book is that it is too long. I’m not sure if I completely agree, but I think if Hollywood is going to put this story on the big screen, that criticism should be taken into consideration. Therefore, I would suggest that the story be kept as a movie and not be made into a drawn out series. I’m not sure if people would have the patience for a series. 

However they bring Addie to the big screen, I am totally ready! I’m ready for the costumes, I’m ready for the music, and I’m ready to see this story come to life! Just let me grab the popcorn.  

Eating Popcorn GIFs | Tenor

Not a Fan of Reading Challenges

I noticed that reading challenges are very popular among my fellow book lovers, especially around this time of year when we’re setting our resolutions.

From the Goodreads Reading Challenge to BookRiot’s Read Harder Challenge, there are many challenges to choose from and there’s something for everyone. Well… everyone but me. 

This is not to say I don’t participate at all. I do at least put a number down in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. This is the one where the reader sets a goal for how many books he/she would like to read in a given year and tries to meet that goal. But to be perfectly honest, I never really “challenge” myself. Normally I read about 1 book a week. That means I read about 52 books a year (give or take a few). That number never goes up, but it could go down if I’m having a hard (or busy) year. 

This year I put down 30 books for my Goodreads Challenge. That keeps me on track to read throughout the year, but also leaves room for any possible catastrophes that may happen (ex: illness, lost job, etc.)

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2020 On This Splendid Shambles

So what’s the point? I do it as a way of keeping track of my reading for the year. That’s it. I also like to see if anything in my reading habits change. 

There are other reading challenges that I’ve looked into, thought about doing, and never did. For example, I often see “Book Bingo” cards where each square represents a different kind of book that the reader can read such as “a book that will make you laugh” or “the first book in a series.” Those are interesting. But again, I’m not biting. 

Pin by Cari Borchert on For the Classroom | Super teacher worksheets,  Reading worksheets, Reading incentives

I think my issue is that I’m too much of a spontaneous reader. I hear about a book, get excited, and then I immediately decide that that’s the next book that I’m going to read. I really don’t put much thought into the “category” of books that I’m going to read. 

With that being said, I’m just going to go through this year the same way I always do. I’m going to read what I want, when I want. I’ll probably still flirt with the idea of doing these fun challenges, but let’s be honest… I’ll read whatever strikes my fancy in the moment.  

This is not to say that I won’t read outside of my comfort zone. I usually am willing to try new genres, new authors, and different kinds of plots. I’m part of a book club which helps a lot. I’ve read so many different kinds of books that have been recommended by the women in that club and it’s really expanded my reading.

Besides, I don’t think it’s necessary to do a reading challenge in order to read beyond your normal reading parameters. There are many different ways to do this. Here’s what I do:

  1. Join a book club (something I previously mentioned). Sometimes those celebrity book clubs can be fun and they try to incorporate a lot of unique perspectives.
  2. Listen to different kinds of book podcasts. This is a great way to get different types of books recommended to you.
  3. Sign up for reading newsletters from different sources.
  4. Watch BookTube from a vast array of booktubers.
  5. Literally walk into a new (to you) section of your library/bookstore and browse the books
12 Empowering Podcasts for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators: | by  Teri Daniels | Dec, 2020 | The Writing Cooperative

This also works if you want to read from diverse authors. If your recommendation sources are diverse, the authors that you read will be diverse. It’s as simple as that. No need to do a full DNA check on an author you are interested in.

Maybe one of these days I’ll actually do a real reading challenge. But I think what I do now seems to work well for me. If anyone is like me and generally isn’t interested in these challenges (or doesn’t think they can follow through), but still wants to read beyond their comfort zone, it is still possible to do this. It just doesn’t have to be so “challenging.”

Transitioning into Fantasy

Since the pandemic started back in March, I have felt less compelled to read my usual types of books. These would include: historical fiction, literary fiction, and contemporary fiction. Why? Because they deal with real life situations that are way too hard to face right now.

This year has been a bust. 2020 has screwed so many people out of their jobs, their health, and let’s face it, their freedom to have fun. For me to read books about serious problems in the world seems like depression overload!

So I did something any serious reader would do in my situation… I dove head-first into the fantasy genre.

I was never much of a fantasy reader before because I thought all fantasy books mostly dealt with the same themes: princesses, dragons, swords, and fighting. None of those things interested me. But then I heard about The City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty. And although this book is filled with most of those fantasy elements, I still loved it and didn’t want it to end! Clearly my interests have drastically changed.

Admittedly, what initially interested me in this book was the setting: 18th century Cairo. It also focuses on Islamic mythology which is something I am not as familiar with. Since my family is from Egypt, I was intrigued and I wanted to learn more. So began my journey into my first fantasy series. I was hooked!

What I like most about fantasy is that it takes the reader into a world that is so different from the reader’s own world. That means no rat race, no bills, no Covid 19. Instead, it means magic and unlimited possibilities. And that’s exactly what I need right now.

This is not to say that there weren’t any realistic fiction books that interested me. There were many! But I found that I just didn’t have the right headspace for them. This is also true for TV and movies. I can remember being the biggest This Is Us fan. I never missed an episode and I was always excited about what was to come next in the story.

This Is Us Season 5 Key Art

Now… I can barely get through even one episode. The storyline is so heavy and it’s exhausting for me to finish it. When I watch TV now, it’s mostly to watch things like Nailed It or Emily in Paris. It’s like I can only handle funny and lighthearted shows. 

Emily eating a croissant on "Emily In Paris"

I know that I will eventually get back to focusing on real world problems. But for now, I’m happy boxing myself into a fantasy world with fairies, goblins and magic. If you’re in the same boat, here are some books that you might want to try. They are all books in the fantasy genre that I read and loved!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by VE Schwab

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A lot of people are calling this a good fantasy transition book. It’s a good place to start if you’re new to the fantasy genre.

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1), by S.A. Chakraborty

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This is the first book in the Daevabad trilogy that I mentioned in my post. The world building is phenomenal. 

Piranesi, by Susanna Clark

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This book is not for everyone. I don’t want to give too much away except to say that it deals with a labyrinth and… um… yeah, that’s all I’m saying! You just have to go with it.

Galatea, by Madeline Miller

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Technically, this is a short story, not a full book. I found it on Amazon and read it on my Kindle. If you’re a fan of Greek mythology you’ll love this. 

Circe, by Madeline Miller 

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So many people have loved this book! Again, it’s heavy on Greek mythology, so pick it up if that’s what you’re into. Otherwise, it may not be your cup of tea. 

And of course there are many other fantasy books that I can’t wait to dive into. Here are just a few…

The House in the Cerulean Sea, by T.J. Klune

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The Sword of Kaigen, by M.L. Wang

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The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy, #2), by S.A. Chakraborty

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The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy, #3), by S.A. Chakraborty

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House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1), by Sarah J. Maas

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Let me know if there are any that you think I missed and need to read right away. Like I said, I’m still new to this genre and will happily take suggestions! 

Giving The Romance Genre a Shot…

Over the past few months we’ve been inundated with terrible news on TV, radio, the internet, etc. Yet, I can’t seem to stop watching or scrolling through my social media feeds. I realize I am in desperate need of a break!

So with the world in utter turmoil, I’ve decided to turn my sights towards something lighter and more hopeful… romance! Anyone who knows me knows that I generally don’t do the romance genre. I prefer historical fiction, thrillers, or literary fiction. But lately, I’ve found those genres to be too heavy. And it’s too much for me right now. I need something different. Starting with…

Emma. This is the new movie based on the Jane Austen novel.

I know that many other versions of Emma have come out and I’ve never been interested in them. But for some reason, this one looked really good. I also remembered that I have a copy of the book on my bookshelf, just sitting there and collecting dust, never having been read. So I dove in, starting with Chapter 1.

The first thing that I realized is that Emma is a pompous snob who needs to stay out of other people’s business! Thank goodness there’s Mr. Knightley there to call her out on her shit. I’m only about 100 pages into this book but I already know how this is going to turn out. And maybe that’s why I’m so into this story. I know it’s going to have a happy ending and hopefully will remain comedic throughout.

 It’s not just books that are helping me to escape the madness of the world. I’ve also found a Korean rom-com on Netflix that I’ve completely fallen in love with! It’s called Crash Landing on You. It’s about a very rich South Korean woman (Yoon Se-ri) who accidentally lands in North Korea after a paragliding accident (hey, no one said this story had to be realistic).

There, she meets a handsome Captain in the North Korean Special Police Force (Ri Jeong-hyeok) who tries to help her escape. Crash Landing on You is now the third-highest-rated Korean drama in cable television history. I’m about half-way through the series and I completely understand the popularity. I like how it shows North Korea (though I’m not sure how accurately) and roughly what it’s like for people to live there. For example, there is a house inspector that will come into people’s homes without warning to check to make sure there is nothing illegal in the house (like a rice cooker). There’s another scene where all of the people in the community must go outside at a designated time to do government mandated group exercises that are led by a voice on the loudspeaker. Conversations are monitored and the people are micromanaged on how they live their lives. I read an article that said North Korean defectors helped to provide guidance to the writers of the show to get the scenes right.

Despite the harsh setting, the show is still upbeat and surprisingly funny. The focus is mostly on two star crossed lovers who meet against all odds. It’s sappy at times, but hey… sappy is what I’m looking for (don’t judge)! 

For now, those two romance stories are what I’m distracting myself with to get my mind off of pesky things like Covid19. So far it’s working!

What romance books/shows/movies would you recommend?