Book Review and Give-Away: The Changing Season by Steven Manchester

There is nothing that makes me happier than when I sit down with a book that I am about to read for a review, and the moment I read the first page, I am captivated, engrossed, and swept away into pages before me and eagerly anticipating the pages to come. It isn’t something that I experience often, but it IS something I experienced when sitting down to read The Changing Season by Steven Manchester.

Click the cover to visit the author's website!

Click the cover to visit the author’s website!

When Steven first approached me MONTHS ago asking if I would read his manuscript (the actual book will not be published until February of 2016), I hesitated because reading manuscripts of books isn’t always one of my most favorite things. Oftentimes due to the fact that they are in a “raw” form, they are replete with typos and grammatical errors. That certainly was NOT the case with The Changing Season.

Steven Manchester obviously not only has a passion for writing, but is a GIFTED writer. His descriptive and lyrical writing and thorough and intriguing character development is among some of the best that I have had the pleasure of reading.

The Changing Season synopsis from the author:

This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy; one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He’d fill the hours playing with Jimmy-his canine best buddy-going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they’d do before Billy left.

But that was before the accident that shook the entire town.

It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck.

And it was before Vicki.

This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn’t truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple.

An enormously touching, richly textured, deeply moving novel of new adulthood, The Changing Season is an experience to savor.

Allow me to touch on the sentence above. “enormously touching, RICHLY TEXTURED, DEEPLY MOVING novel of new adulthood.” is NO EXAGGERATION.  The Changing Season IS “an experience to savor.”

“I’ve been on this earth for more years than I care to admit. Trust me, the truth always comes out.” She smirked. “And justice is karma’s twin sister. They’re both bitches when you keep ’em waiting.”

The Changing Season is not a book where the canine is merely a “device” to make animal lovers want to read a book. Some of the most beautiful, poignant, touching and often funny moments, are conversations that Billy has with his beloved dog Jimmy, who shared his life with him since he was a little boy.

“The trick to a happy life is to expect change and then try to make each transition as smooth as possible.”

When I finished reading The Changing Season (and one evening I was so engrossed that I completely forgot a TV show that I watch RELIGIOUSLY was even on and I completely missed it one night this week!), I have to tell you I was SAD when I finished reading it. I literally was turning the pages in the back looking for more. IT IS THAT GOOD!

When you read The Changing Season, (and believe me when I say YOU MUST read this book), you will be transported back to a time of innocence, first love and lust, uncertainty about yourself and your own thoughts and desires, the excitement of new discoveries and experiences that lie ahead, instances of harsh reality, finding meaning in your life and answering the call of what you are MEANT to do with YOUR  life, all while sharing the most beautiful and unconditional love of your beloved canine friend.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR FROM THE AUTHOR!!

After returning home from a difficult tour of duty in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, I stepped back behind the walls of a Massachusetts penitentiary where I battled each day as a prison investigator. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time, and very little opportunity to heal from my wartime demons (or pursue my dreams of being published). I finally decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, my professor, Barry McKee, detailed police work, but barely touched on other topics. I finally raised his hand and asked, “As the criminal justice system is so vast, what about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” Barry smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, Barry explained, “Except from the slanted perspectives of inmates, there’s no real written material out there on corrections, or prisons.” Barry smiled again and then dropped the bomb that would change my life forever. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” It was the last push I needed to get writing. Nine months later, I placed the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue (under the pen name, Steven Herberts) on Barry’s desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.

Under the pen name, Steven Herberts, I wrote in newspapers, magazines, and even penned two collections of poetry. Once I’d found my true voice, I began, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy; an emotional account of the Gulf War that would heal my soul, and the souls of other suffering veterans.

Today, 20 years later, I have been blessed with a beautiful family; my wife, Paula, and our four children–Evan, Jacob, Bella and Carissa. From a professional perspective, I’ve written 16 books (with 12 in publication), and have contributed to more than three dozen international anthologies. My work has been showcased in such national literary journals as Taproot Literary Review, American Poetry Review and Fresh! Literary Magazine, as well as various magazines to include Angels on Earth, Obadiah, Titan, G.F.O. (U.K.), Skyline Literary, Alive Now, Dark Animus (Australia) and Spinnings Short Stories. Hundreds of my essays, poetry and short fiction have been contributed to Internet publications such as Zine5, New Mystery Reader, Wilmington Blues, Heartwarmers, The Murder Hole, Father’s World, and dozens of others.

My work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, BET’s Nightly News, Good Day Atlanta; in the New York Daily News, Newark Star Ledger, Boston Globe, Detroit Free Press, Providence Journal, Dallas Morning News, Orlando Sentinel, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The Daily Oklahoman; and on 50+ nationally syndicated radio shows from coast-to-coast.

 

 

GIVE-AWAY:Steven Manchester has generously offered to give away AN EBOOK TO THREE WINNERS LOCATED  WORLD-WIDE AND ONE HARD COVER BOOK TO A READER WHO RESIDES IN THE U.S. (Dollar amount is not available due to the book not being released at the time of this review/give-away). Entering is easy! Just enter on the Rafflecopter below, GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

 

In full disclosure: I was not compensated for this review/give-away. I was sent a complimentary manuscript of The Changing Season in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

CanvasPop: Turn your photos into wall art! Enter to Win and Discount Code

Today it is my pleasure to tell you about my new “go to” site when I wish to turn a photo into wall art. My new favorite?

Click to visit their website!

Click to visit their website!

I first learned about CanvasPop when I was reading one of my favorite blogs:Welcome To Colleen Richman.com   where people could enter to win  a canvas print of their own from CanvasPop!

Guess who was the lucky winner?

You got it! IT WAS ME!!!

Before I show you the photo I entered and the finished product, let me tell you a bit about CanvasPop.

Before finding CanvasPop I had ordered prints from “the other guy” and I must tell you, my experience with “the other guy” paled in comparison to my experience with CanvasPop. For me, after working with CanvasPop and being BEYOND ECSTATIC with  the entire ordering/creative process, as well as the finished product, “the other guy” has been permanently kicked  to the curb!

The people at CanvasPop make prints that are:

“MADE WITH LOVE”

When my package arrived, just by looking at it I KNEW it was going to be fantastic!

canvas pop package

Things I Love About CanvasPop

YOU RECEIVE FREE DIGITAL PROOFS: mind you, I think I received two or three (because I made one change) and the proofs were sent to me in a timely manner.  When I made my change it was made efficiently and correctly with a pleasant attitude as well!

You work with your OWN PERSONAL DESIGNER, you aren’t shuffled around from person to person. When they say that superior customer service is a priority of theirs, they are NOT kidding!

CanvasPop Provides:

The best quality prints in the world at a great price. All hanging hardware is installed on the back of the canvas and they use high quality piano wire and rubber bumpers to protect your wall and they even include the nail! here is a photo of the back of my print:

Canvas Pop back of dakotas photo

HERE IS A VIDEO THAT SHOWS YOU THE PROCESS:

 

Now, here is the original photo that I submitted to have made into a canvas print:

dakota stunning use for wordless wednesday feb 18 2015

It is one of my all time favorites of Dakota. When I sent CanvasPop this photo, there is something else that sets them apart from the rest. They asked me to VERIFY that indeed was MY photo and that I had permission to use it. HOW COOL AND ON THE BALL IS THAT? That was something that immediately impressed me, I was dealing with people who THINK!! What a concept!!!

Here is the finished product, that was resting on our dining room table when I took this photo:

Canvas Pop Dakota photo finished

(I inserted the blog name on the right of this photo, they did not…the brown at the bottom is our dining room table), they also removed my blog name from the finished product, which is what I had asked them to do. Here it is hanging on our wall (the colored part in the back is our wall)

Canvas Pop Dakota on wall

I wish you could see it in person to see just how fabulous it is! I did NOT change the color here in any way, I wanted this photo to be as close as possible to what I received, and what I received is A ZILLION TIMES BETTER than how it re-produced on the blog. It is breathtakingly STUNNING in person.

FROM CANVASPOP:

WE LOVE WHAT WE DO AND IT SHOWS.

Since 2009, CanvasPop has been obsessed with one thing: providing customers with the highest quality canvas photo prints anywhere.

This obsession doesn’t just stop at the finished product, it is a focus of everything we do, from our world-class customer service to our amazing lifetime guarantee.
You can buy a canvas print or framed print anywhere but there’s only one place to print a CanvasPop. Over 100,000 satisfied customers trust us with their photos and precious memories

 

Because I am so insanely happy with my canvas print from CanvasPop, and because I believe in “paying it forward” (I won and one of you should win too, and I also wanted you to receive a discount for an order), the incredibly kind people at CanvasPop  created a 35% discount for  my readers!!! Just enter the code DAKOTASDEN35 WHICH WILL EXPIRE ON  Sept 30, 2015 and is applicable to the entire order of www.canvaspop.com

 

GIVE-AWAY: CanvasPop has provided me with a SECRET CODE that won’t be a secret once the lucky winner is chosen! The code which I will provide when they are selected, will get one lucky winner a 16 x 20 canvas stretched on a .75″ frame depth (which is the exact size of the canvas that I received, mine also wraps around the frame,  it is a fantastic size!),  and would include the cost of shipping within Canada, the USA and the EU as well. That promo is scheduled to expire an entire year from now. That expiration date is Sept 30 2016.  ENTERING IS SUPER EASY! JUST ENTER ON THE RAFFLECOPTER BELOW!!! COMPLETE EACH ENTRY OPTION TO UNLOCK MORE CHANCES TO WIN!!! GOOD LUCK!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

In full disclosure: I was not compensated for this review/give-away. I had won a 16×20 canvas and was so pleased with the end result that I offered to blog about it and asked if I could have a give-away for my readers. CanvasPop graciously and generously obliged.

Caru Pet Food – “Nourish with Love”!! Enter to Win! (U.S. and Canada!)

It has been a looong time since I have featured a different pet food on Dakota’s blog, but he recently pawed a “like” on the Caru Pet Food Facebook page and ended up being the lucky winner of a case of their scrumptious stews!

Look at this pawesome prize!!!

Look at this pawesome prize!!!

As it turns out, Dakota was the 1000th “like” (which he didn’t notice at the time). The kind people at Caru  had decided that whomever was the 1000th like should be a lucky winner of a case of assorted flavors of their stew!

Click to visit their website!

Click to visit their website!

I had seen Caru Pet Food featured on a few blogs, but I didn’t know much about them. From the moment I looked at their website, held the packages in my hand, opened them and served the chicken flavor to Dakota, I was so impressed that  I had to give them a shout out on his blog!

What Sets The Caru Products Apart?

Carefully selected, human grade ingredients. 

They start with USDA inspected poultry or meat, plus veggies and fruit that are responsibly sourced. Their stews consist of 100% human grade ingredients, processed and handled in accordance with FDA regulations for human food.

The Food Is Created In Small Batches.

This enables them to  have more control over the way their stews and treats are prepared. As a result, they look, smell and taste more like homemade!

They test EVERY SINGLE BATCH FOR  QUALITY AND FOOD SAFETY!!!

I used Dakota's stew as a "topper" on his current dry dog food. That made for an extra tasty meal! Look at the pieces of chicken and the veggies and the delicious gravy!

I used Dakota’s stew as a “topper” on his current dry dog food. That made for an extra tasty meal! Look at the pieces of chicken and the veggies and the delicious gravy!

Made in the USA. 

This point in particular is of high importance to me!!!!

NONE of their ingredients are China-sourced!

Ideal for dogs with food allergies. 

Thanks to the limited number of ingredients they select, their products are perfect for food-sensitive pups.

Responsible packaging.

Caru Pet Food Chicken in box

Their packaging philosophy is reduce, reuse and recycle. They make every attempt to minimize their carbon output by using “green” materials that are less resource-intensive to produce and transport.

Courtesy of Caru Pet Food

Courtesy of Caru Pet Food

Why do Caru natural stews come in Tetra Pak® cartons instead of conventional cans?

Protects freshness and taste without preservatives

BPA-free packaging

Made from up to 70% paper

Easy to open, serve, close, travel with and store

 

Did you know?

“Caru” means “to love” in Welsh? From Caru: Love, after all, is why we care so much about the nourishment we provide for our pets.   Read more about why the name “Caru” was chosen here.

What did Dakota think?

Caru Pet Food Dakota eating chicken

 Check out the look in his eye above as he gobbles down this stew! He wouldn’t take his eyes off of it!

Caru Pet Food Dakota no more chicken

Dakota kept looking at the bowl for MORE!!! He even stood next to me watching the bowl as I attempted to take a shot of how he had devoured every morsel!

Caru Pet Food Dakota and I reflected in empty bowl

I would say that Caru Real Chicken Stew was a hit!  Dakota hasn’t tried the other flavors he received, but he will be eating each and every one soon! I think we have found a wonderful addition to Dakota’s current food regime, and I think that Dakota thinks so too!

Caru Pet Food Dakota more chicken please

Dakota and I can’t begin to thank the incredibly kind people at Caru Pet Food enough for this amazing prize! We were NOT asked to do a review, but I was so impressed with everything about Caru Pet Food that it was my choice completely to feature them on his blog. I was NOT compensated for this post! Dakota received a case of Caru Stews and that was it!

I also wanted to share the goods!!!

GIVE-AWAY!!

I asked the wonderful people at Caru if I could have a give-away for my readers, and they agreed! One lucky winner  who resides in either the U.S. or Canada  is going to receive a CASE of Caru Stews, just like Dakota did! Entering is super easy, just enter on the Rafflecopter below, good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Can’t wait to see if you are the lucky winner and want to purchase Caru Pet Food? Click here to find a Caru retailer near you!

 

Peace. Love. Paws. For Dog/Pet Lovers, Like YOU! Enter to win!

If you are reading this blog it is obvious that you are a dog lover.   There is nothing  I love more than sharing with YOU companies who design and sell fun, well-made, stylish and chic items, and who GIVE BACK!!

I was thrilled when I was contacted by:

Logo courtesy of Peace, Love, Paws

Logo courtesy of Peace, Love, Paws

and was asked if I would like to see a few of their items first hand and offer a give-away for my readers. I couldn’t be more delighted to feature them! They  offer  a wide variety of apparel, jewelry and accessories for pet lovers everywhere.

The inspiration for Peace. Love. Paws. is based upon three simple rules:

  • Be kind to one another
  • Do the best you can
  • Hug your pet daily

From the Peace, Love, Paws website: 

Peace. Love. Paws. is committed to the well-being of animals and animal caregivers. A portion of retail proceeds are used to support the efforts of numerous shelters located in the United States. The love and admiration for animals is a choice and lifestyle, and we choose to give back to those that can make the most difference. Please know that choosing to support Peace. Love. Paws. is also a choice for the betterment of many.

 

Peace, Love, Paws, offers apparel, bags, jewelry and accessories, scarves and magnets. All of the items share the message of Peace and Love towards animals.

 

peace love paws collage

The above items are just a few of MANY beautiful and fun items that are featured on Peace. Love. Paws. The designs on all of the items  are simple and classy.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled with my “goodie bag” when it arrived!

peace love paws my photo

I received the Peace. Love. Paws. Stacked Signature Tee , the True Love Canvas Tote Bag and the True Love Car Magnet .

You would not believe how incredibly SOFT the tri-blend T-shirt is! It is the kind of shirt that when you put it on, it is so light and  oh-so-soft that it is almost as if you have nothing on. It has the most delightful feel! When you purchase one for yourself, ( these items would also be  FABULOUS gifts for the pet lovers in your life!), you will see what I mean first hand!

The tote bag is a generous size (it would be pawtastic for a weekend get-away or to bring towels, magazines etc, in for the beach this summer! It would be the perfect tote to bring on an airplane too!) The car magnet is adorable and is  5 inches in size.

Assisting shelters and rescues is very important to Peace. Love. Paws.

Peace. Love. Cause. will give rescues a chance to raise funds through our website and promote their organization nation-wide.

If you are a rescue or shelter and are looking for ways to connect with people and raise money,  click here to find out how to contact them and to read about some of the causes they have been involved with.

GIVE-AWAY!!

Today is your lucky day! Peace. Love. Paws is allowing me to have a GIVE-AWAY!!! ONE LUCKY PERSON WHO RESIDES IN THE U.S., will receive all of the items that I received above. (An approximate $45 value). Entering is easy!! Just enter on the Rafflecopter below! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In full disclosure: I was not compensated for this review/give-away. I was sent the items shown in my photo above in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

Pick up your poop with Catch-a-Poo !!! Enter to Win!

Hi all! It’s Dakota and today I have a super innovative product to show you! In full disclosure, I didn’t pawsonally test it, nor were we compensated for this feature/give-away, and we did NOT receive this product.  Last November when Mom was at the Miami-Ft.Lauderdale Pet Expo, Mom got to see it in action! She SAW with her own eyes that it WORKS!  Mom thinks this product is super cool! She got to talking to the gentlemen at the booth that were exhibiting the product, they were SUPER nice so  Mom told them if they wanted to be featured on my blog to give her a bark out and they did! So, today I am introducing you to the amazing Catch-a-Poo!

Click the photo to visit their website!!!!

Click the photo to visit their website!!!!

How did Catch-a-Poo come to be?

When Mom met the nice man from Catch-a-Poo he told her that  he started working on the Catch-a-Poo right after  his  Great Dane dog, “Buddy”,  joined his family!! For obvious reasons, he was determined to create a product that would catch the dog poo before hitting the ground!

. Catchapoo buddy dog

catchapoo double photo use this

What is the Catch-a-Poo?

The Catch-a-Poo is a lightweight portable device that actually catches the

poo before it hits the ground. When retracted it is approximately 19 inches

long and when extended it is approximately 34 inches long. A flashlight

attaches to the handle for nighttime use. The weight of the Catch-a-poo with

the flashlight attached is less than one pound.

It works for BIG Dogs!!

IT WORKS FOR ALL DOGS!

The Catch-a-Poo eliminates the need to bend over and pick up dog poo with your

hand in a bag. It is great for the environment since it captures 100% of the

poo. The device fits multiple size bags and retails for less than $20. How can ya beat THAT?

dakota pick up your poop

Get Social with Catch-A-Poo!

Visit their website and give ’em a like on Facebook!

Guess what?

It’s GIVE-AWAY TIME!

Yep!  Our new furiend at Catch-A-Poo is offering TWO of our readers who reside in the U.S. (our apologies to our International readers but shipping can be quite costly!) a Catch-A-Poo of their own! Entering is super easy! Just enter on the Rafflecopter below………….GOOD LUCK!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

goDog® BedZzz™ Winner and an Important Update!!!

Dakota and I would like to thank EVERY ONE who entered our give-away for:

GoDog bed front view

The LUCKY WINNER IS GOING TO LOVE IT!!!

Remember when I said that Dakota doesn’t sleep on ANY bed? Well, the  goDog® BedZzz™ was the FIRST BED TO CHANGE THAT!! SEE FOR YOURSELF!!

GoDog bed dakota sleeping on it

Of course he slept on it AFTER I posted the review, but he SLEPT ON IT!!!

Now, on to IMPORTANT BUSINESS!

OUR LUCKY WINNER!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!!

Enjoy your bed!

Barks and licks and love, Dakota and Caren