Winner:The Airedale Diaries: Animal and Pet Fiction Series by P. J. Erickson

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Book Review/Give-Away: SIT! STAY! SPEAK! by Annie England Noblin

FROM THE PUBLISHER: People say nothing happens in small towns, but Addie quickly learns better. She’s got an elderly next door neighbor who perplexingly dances outside in his underwear, a house needing more work than she has money, a best friend whose son uncannily predicts the weather, and a local drug dealer holding a massive grudge against her. Ever determined, Addie is set out to unravel a secret among this curious town, even if that means confronting some big names.



But most surprising of all, she has a dog. Not any dog, but Felix–a bedraggled puppy she discovered abandoned, lost, and in desperate need of love. Kind of like Addie herself. She’d come to Eunice hoping to hide from the world, but soon she discovers that perhaps she’s finding the way back to living, laughing, and loving once more.

A touching novel of friendships, memories and quirky southern charm, fans of Alice Sebold and new readers alike will be transfixed by Noblin’s writing, and inspired by her real life rescue stories.

FROM DAKOTA’S DEN: SIT! STAY! SPEAK! exposes the sad reality of breed discrimination and dog-fighting vividly and for me, in a realistic and disturbing way. Disturbing because these archaic practices are still prevalent throughout our country.

“Author Noblin was compelled to write her novel after spending a year teaching in the Delta of Arkansas. She worked in animal rescue there during the same time the animal control facility was shut down due to city budgets. This act resulted in releasing all of the stray dogs into the national forest, which added to the issue of stray animals in the city. A few concerned citizens began a Humane Society, and Annie joined in and never looked back. It was the first time she worked with severely abused animals and there are so many animals that Annie will never forget working in her ten plus years of rescue.”


Annie England Noblin is an obvious dog lover which is what I loved most about SIT! STAY! SPEAK! I was less enthused with the main characters (Addie and Jasper), for me, they weren’t overly likable, that is my opinion and many might disagree. I found much of what took place between Addie and Jasper (and there is some lusty stuff in here!), to be a bit unrealistic, (could that be because I am in a much different stage of life than many who will read this book?  I viewed some of Addie’s actions with Jasper  as being foolish, you will have to read the book to see if you agree).

I do agree that Annie’s “portrayal of life in this part of the United States as seen through the eyes of an outsider gives an authentic take on small town southern culture–and a place where outsiders are few and far between.”

SPECIAL BONUS: There are tons of delicious regional foods mentioned in SIT! STAY! SPEAK! and the recipes can be found in the back of the book. I am looking forward to trying a number of them.

DAKOTA’S DEN FINAL THOUGHTS: If I zero in on the fact that there is an obvious love of dogs (specifically Pit Bulls), in SIT! STAY! SPEAK!  and a deep appreciation for the customs of this part of the country (and for antique buildings/furniture), I feel it is a worthwhile read. It definitely DID capture my interest. Will you find some parts of the book disturbing and difficult to read? YES. Are some important issues brought to light in reference to dogs, dog fighting/breed discrimination? YES. Are Addie and Jasper’s personalities dry and boring? (and their relationship somewhat unrealistic?), YES…but don’t let my opinion about them deter you from purchasing this book, pick up a copy and decide for yourself. PURCHASE WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Annie England Noblin lives with her son, husband, and four rescued bulldogs in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English full-time for Arkansas State University in Mountain Home, Arkansas. 

GIVE-AWAY! The publisher has generously offered to give away THREE COPIES of SIT! STAY! SPEAK! by Annie England Noblin, to my readers who are 18 and over and who reside in the U.S. (A $14.99 value). Entering is super easy! Just enter on the Rafflecopter below!

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In full disclosure:I was sent a complimentary copy of SIT! STAY! SPEAK! in exchange for my always honest review.

Book Review/Give-Away: House Trained, A Novel by Jackie Bouchard

It is with great joy that today I am featuring the THIRD novel by Author Jackie Bouchard:

Click to visit Jackie's Author website!

Click to visit Jackie’s Author website!

I have been eagerly awaiting this novel because I am a HUGE fan of Jackie’s writing. I have had the pleasure of reviewing both books that preceded House Trained (if you click on the titles below they will take you to my reviews of each):

What the Dog Ate

Rescue Me, Maybe

When I reviewed What the Dog Ate, I had mentioned I felt as if I had just shared some “girl” time with a friend, I felt the same way when I read House Trained.

Jackie Bouchard has a talent for creating leading characters that, well, I would LOVE to be friends with.  The leading characters are believable, often possess a dry sense of humor, they are likable and slightly flawed, just as we all are. Jackie’s writing style is casual, the conversations between characters flow, and her description of each and every character who is prominent in House Trained (as well as all of her books), feel as if they ALL exist. I can visualize them perfectly in my mind.

I sat down to begin reading House Trained the night after the unthinkable happened in Paris, (ironically Paris was a favorite city of Alex and Barry the leading characters in House Trained):

“I have a vintage travel trunk at the end of the bed, and a stack of old leather suitcases-my favorite thing in the room-forms a nightstand. A replica of the Eiffel Tower sits on the corner of the desk, and silver frames, filled with black-and-white photos of our tenth-anniversary Parisian getaway, stand out on the white shelving.”

—-and to be honest, I was so sad, that I wasn’t in the mood to read.

House Trained turned out to be EXACTLY what I needed. Light, but not “light” in a simpleton sense, just light enough to escape for two nights and  escape the horrors taking place in the world around me. Like What the Dog Ate and Rescue Me, Maybe, House Trained is another book where I grabbed my comforter, my coffee, a bag of chocolate covered almonds, and just nestled into the welcoming arm of my couch, ready to meet some new friends.

When I read the first sentence:

“This morning I overheard my husband talking to his penis”, I smiled and said to myself,Ohhhh, THIS is gonna be GOOD!!!!” I was sooo right!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:Alex Halstad, a childless-by-choice interior designer and dog mom, is a true perfectionist. But her orderly life turns chaotic when the teenage daughter her husband, Barry, never knew he had shows up on their doorstep…with a baby girl of her own in tow. While Alex’s dog enthusiastically welcomes the new arrivals, Alex struggles with the loss of her steady routine. She desperately needs peace and quiet to get her business back on track before Barry finds out she’s spent most of their savings. Meanwhile, the arrival of the girls stirs up old insecurities, and Alex can’t help but worry that Barry’s ex will make an entrance too. With her tidy life a distant memory, will Alex be able to learn from her dog the true meaning of love and acceptance?
From bestselling author Jackie Bouchard comes a humorous and heartwarming look at how life creates opportunities to love in surprising ways.

There are so many things that I love about Jackie’s writing. One of them being that I can’t immediately figure out what is going to happen next, as I can with many other books. Often what I think is going to take place, doesn’t, and what DOES, is so much better than what I would have thought would have happened!

Let’s not forget dogs….

Jackie’s love for dogs and her vast knowledge of them is obvious in all of her books. She takes the best qualities of our canine pals  and makes us mere humans wish we could be more like them. House Trained DOES feature a dog, but the book isn’t just about a dog. It is about the complex  relationships that those who are a part of the dog’s life, are going through each and every day.

House Trained resonated with me on a personal level as well, I am also “childless” (I do have two grown stepchildren), and some of Alex’s secret feelings about her husband’s newly discovered daughter and granddaughter are feelings that hit close to home for me as well. Throughout the book Alex states numerous times why dogs are so much easier and better than raising kids, and to help her cope with the discomfort of having a baby around, she would  summon her comfort zone in her mind…dogs…comparing dog behavior to that of babies:

“Babies. In terms of exploring their world, they’re a lot like dogs at this age, using their mouths to experience new things.”

but at one point her opinion changed and was stated in a laugh-out-loud funny way:

“Hmmm. This is one way babies are better than dogs–easier to dry off when they’re sopping wet. But with a dog, guidance counseling” only involves a leash.”

What makes Jackie Bouchard’s writing unique, in my opinion is, that many authors who write about dogs, merely write about DOGS. They have a marvelous understanding of DOGS but their understanding (or inclusion of), interesting HUMAN characters falls short. Jackie Bouchard not only has a superb understanding of dogs, but she understands HUMANS, (the  quirks that couples have that nearly every couple can relate to, the quirks that  make us want to peek into their world, voyeurs that we are!). The insecurities that women of all ages have, but that are  normally only shared with our close friends. Everything from our looks to our jobs, our homes, sometimes those that appear to “have it all together” are the biggest “messes” of all. Regardless of the “messes” that many of us are, and create in our lives, Jackie Bouchard GETS that our canine companions remain the most loving, accepting, and judgement-free of all. Jackie Bouchard GETS PEOPLE AND DOGS. She GETS how they think and feel and writes in a way that will resonate with all of us.

YOU want to make some new friends, don’t you?

RUN!! Don’t walk, to get this one…NOW!

House Trained would make the PERFECT gift for a sister, Aunt, Mom, dear friend, dog lover….you get the idea! You can purchase House Trained:

On Amazon (e-book, paperback or audiobook)
On B&N (only paperback or audio)
On Jackie’s website
On Jackie’s  blog

Photo "stolen" from Jackie's website! Click to visit!

Photo “stolen” from Jackie’s website! Click to visit!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jackie Bouchard, a USA Today bestselling author, writes what she calls Fido-friendly fiction:humorous and heartwarming stories about women and the dogs that profoundly impact their lives. Bouchard has lived in Canada and Bermuda and now lives in San Diego with her husband and dog. 

YOU CAN ALSO ENTER OUR GIVE-AWAY!! Jackie is offering one of our readers who is 18 and over and who resides in the U.S. and/or Canada the chance to win a copy of House Trained! Entering is easy! Just enter on the Rafflecopter below!

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In full disclosure: I was not compensated for this review/give-away. I was sent a copy of House Trained in exchange for my honest review.


Lucky winner of The Returns book series by M.K. Clinton !

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Book Review and Give-Away:All Dogs Go to Kevin: Everything Three Dogs Taught Me (That I Didn’t Learn in Veterinary School) by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

It is a distinct honor to present to you today, a book, that the second I saw the cover, wait, let me correct that, the second I heard the book had been WRITTEN, I KNEW not only was I dying to read it, I KNEW it was going to be superb. Such is the case with:

All dogs go to kevin cover

FROM THE PUBLISHERALL DOGS GO TO KEVIN is a humorous and touching portrait of a veterinarian, her beloved dogs, and the lessons they impart to her along the way.

You can’t always count on people, but you can always count on your dog. No one knows that better than veterinarian Jessica Vogelsang, who with the help of three dogs, is buoyed through adolescence, veterinary school, and the early years of motherhood. Taffy, the fearsome Lhasa; Emmett, an amiable Golden; and Kekoa, the neurotic senior Labrador, are always by her side, offering lessons in empathy and understanding for all the oddballs and misfits who come through the vet clinic doors. Also beside her is Kevin, a human friend who lives with the joie de vivre most people only dream of having. But when tragedy strikes, Jessica is reminded that the animals we love give more than they take.

FROM DAKOTA’S DEN: For me, the heart of All Dogs Go to Kevin,  the essence of this touching memoir, can be found on the first page:

To the misfits, the miscreants, the

misunderstood, the freaks and geeks and socially

inept, and the dogs who love them.

 I have had the honor of meeting Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, aka, “Dr.V.” at numerous blogging/pet-oriented events, (the latest, encounter took place just a few days ago at an event in New York City). Call it serendipity, but the FIRST person  I saw when I entered the hotel lobby, was “Dr.V.”  Each time I have had the pleasure of seeing, (for purposes of this review), “Jessica”, I was  always in awe of her poise, her “model-good-looks”, and her smarts. Dr.Jessica Vogelsang is one brilliant, warm and witty, “tell-it-like-it-is” type of a woman, with a talent for writing  that many in her field, are not blessed to have.
I first became aware of Jessica’s writing prowess when I began following her blog: Pawcurious  and I would think, “this woman HAS it ALL, she is confident, gorgeous, brilliant, I bet there was never an awkward bone in her body.” You know, the kind of woman who lesser women love to hate. The kind of woman who the words “freak”, “geek”, “misunderstood” and “nerd” would NEVER be used to describe her. Boy did I think wrong.

In All Dogs Go to Kevin I got to meet a side of Jessica that I never knew existed. I got to meet the  self-described awkward child who preferred the company of books and her Grandfather to people. The child who had a vocabulary well beyond her years, who did NOT know at an early age that she would become a Veterinarian. In her pre-teen years she was terrorized by “Mouth Breather Dan.” She had  “no understanding of how to stick up for myself. I hid behind by Coke-bottle glasses and buried my nose in my dog-eared Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, willing him to just go away.”

For me, All Dogs Go to Kevin is a book of many layers. You know the feeling, you sit down to eat a delicious layer cake, each layer has a different and mouth-watering filling. You take a bite of the first layer, you savor it, you continue on, and each layer is more delicious than the one that came before. That is the effect that All Dogs Go to Kevin had on me.
Not only was Jessica a self-professed “misfit”, “geek” and “nerd”, but each of the three dogs that were in her life at different times, were also, in their own way, “misfits”, “geeks” and “nerds.”  Jessica’s three dogs; “Dog the First”:Taffy (who “pooped rainbows”),  “Dog the Second”: Emmett, the “miscreant” who was owner-surrendered and rescued by Jessica,  and who though she didn’t know it at the time, “was the best dog I would ever have.”  “Dog the Third”: Kekoa,  who had separation anxiety to beat the band, who pooped in a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, who “went to Kevin”, (you will have to read the book for that explanation, I do not want to give anything away), all of these dogs had a significant influence on the person that Jessica is today.
One of the most significant “takes” for me from All Dogs Go to Kevin was that it humanized Veterinarians. My husband and I are blessed to have an unusually close and open relationship with our Vet. He has been an Angel in our lives numerous times, we view him as family. When I babble incessantly in his office or on the phone, he is always completely attentive. He has a conservative, non-alarmist approach with the care of our pets. It would never dawn on me that many of the mistakes and mishaps that have happened to me would EVER happen to him. In All Dogs Go to Kevin I learned how HARD it is to become a Vet, how mistreated and taken for granted they often are, how they DON’T have all of the answers, even with their own pets, and how HARD it is for THEM to let their own beloved pets  go. I learned how deeply they love their own pets and ours,  and the patience and dedication they have every day, even when presented with the most difficult of clients. As a client, we often forget that our Veterinarians are HUMAN, just like us. They weren’t born Vets, they worked hard to become one.
Dr.Jessica Vogelsang leaves us with this most poignant bit of advice when speaking of a special person in her life (and the individual’s name in the title, “Kevin”), and the pets that she has had, “I can honor them by striving just a little more to live like they did:with joy, unabashed and open, reminding myself and others that our flaws do not make us less, but ever more worthy of being loved, just the way we are.”

author photo credited to Paul Barnett

ABOUT DR.JESSICA VOGELSANG: she is a veterinarian, mother, and big-time dog person. She worked in small animal medicine before settling into her current practice providing in-home hospice care for dogs and cats. She is the founder of the website,  and her writing has been featured on Yahoo! and CNN, and in Ladies’ Home Journal, People, Outside magazine, and USA Today. Dr. Vogelsang lives in San Diego with her family.

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (July 14, 2015)
  • Editor: Emily Griffin
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455554936
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455554935
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
GIVE-AWAY! Dr.Vogelsang has generously offered one of our readers who is 18 and over and resides in the U.S. or Canada the chance to win a copy for themselves. Entering is easy, just enter on the rafflecopter below. There is ONE mandatory entry. Good luck!

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In full disclosure: I was not compensated for this review/give-away and the fact that I know Dr.Jessica Vogelsang in no way influenced my positive review. I ALWAYS give my honest opinion.

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.


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!

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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.