Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tuesdays Tomes: Quick Lit: Dog Books

Now that sweet summer vacation is here, I've been reading a lot--some for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge and some not--so for this month's Quick Lit hop, I'm focusing on the dog books I've been reading lately.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. I'll admit--I didn't know this was a dog book when I bought it and it's much more than just a dog book. Yes, there's a dog on the cover, but I bought the book not really having any idea what it was about. It's one that regularly showed up in my recommendations from Amazon, so when it was on a clearance shelf for under $7, I had to buy it. Salvage the Bones is the story of 15-year-old Esch and her family living in Mississippi in the 12 days leading up to and following Hurricane Katrina. This book is beautifully written. Esch's voice is incredible; I felt her pain, her confusion, her hope as she struggled with the knowledge that she was pregnant (which is information from the book jacket--no spoilers here!). But this book broke my heart. Esch's brother Skeetah's best friend is his pure white pit bull China, who's just had puppies when the novel opens. Skeetah intends to sell the puppies as fighters, just like their mom. Every single page where China was fighting made me cringe. I wanted to hate Skeetah. But I couldn't--he was a 16-year-old kid whose mother was dead and whose father was an alcoholic, whose family had one communal wardrobe, mostly large men's shirts--and he wanted to sell the puppies so he could pay for his older brother to go to basketball camp where he'd be seen by scouts who could give him scholarships, which in Skeetah's eyes was the only way Randall would get to college. And Skeetah did love China--he mowed lawns so that he could have money to buy her the most expensive food he could buy, even though he and his siblings mostly ate eggs and Ramen noodles; he told his dad that if he wouldn't let China stay in the house during the storm, he'd stay in the shed with her. Ward's descriptions of the relationship been Skeetah and China are breathtaking. I'm so very glad I read this book and it might find it's way onto a syllabus for one of my future classes, but it's not a fun read (although I think it does end on a hopeful note) and anyone who picks it up should expect to have their heart broken into many, many pieces.

The Trouble with Tuck by Theodore Taylor. This was my selection for a book from your childhood for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge. I discovered this book in 3rd grade during a class library visit. I picked it out for two reasons: there were dogs on the cover and the girl on the cover reminded me of my mom's high school pictures. I fell in love with the book and reread it every year until probably 11th grade. I never owned it because I knew exactly where I could find it at the library. Eventually, I bought a copy as an adult, but I never reread it because I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my memories, but it was the most obvious choice for my selection for this category. The Trouble with Tuck tells the story of Helen, whose parents get her a yellow lab puppy to help build her confidence. In their first few years together, Tuck saves Helen several times--once from a sexual predator in the park (although I'm not sure I picked up on what was happening when I read that as a child--it was just stranger danger), once from drowning. Then one day, Tuck runs through the screen door when he hears cats fighting in their yard and Helen's mother realizes there's a problem with Tuck's eyes. Helen's family tries to do what's right for Tuck, who has always hopped their fence and taken himself for walks that included crossing busy streets, but his spirit is broken when he's chained in the yard all day. Helen decides that the only option is to get Tuck a seeing eye dog. The book presents a very, very simplified version of dog training as Helen tries to get Tuck to accept retired guide dog Lady Daisy, but it shows how the best training comes from a place of love and requires patience and time. I was afraid that I would hate this book now that I have a dog as an adult and one of my biggest pet peeves is roaming neighborhood dogs, but none of that mattered (maybe because it was set in the 1950s?). I still loved everything about this book and highly recommend it, especially if you have dog-loving children in your life.


Paw Enforcement by Diane Kelly. I stumbled upon this one in Barnes and Noble one day while I was looking for a cat mystery (Soth sometimes seems offended when I read too many dog books, so I try to occasionally throw one in the mix), but I found this one and the sequel Paw and Order instead. These are silly books for when you just need a mental break. The series focuses on Megan, a cop in Fort Worth, who tasers her sexist partner in his man parts when she gets fed up with his rude remarks. As punishment, she's assigned to Brigit, a K9 partner whose old partner has left the force. In each book, they work together to solve a crime. You'll be horrified by the the amount of junk food Megan feeds Brigit and the mischief Brigit gets into when she discovers Megan's shoe collection; there are also things Brigit does that I can't believe any highly trained K9 would actually do while working (ex. stealing a pretzel from a toddler in a stroller while on patrol at the rodeo)--but if you can suspend your disbelief, these are fun books when you don't want to think. According to the bio at the end of the book, Kelly was a romance writer before this series--and there are definitely parts where that shows through. There are some pick up lines the characters use that are hysterical and some descriptions of their dates that I kept having to remind myself this was a crime book, not a trashy romance, but overall it kind of reminded me of the dysfunctional, but delightful partnership in ABC's show Castle--but with a dog instead of a writer.

Good Dog by David DiBenedetto and the editors of Gun & Garden magazine. This is one I got for Christmas that I've been stretching out throughout the year. It's a collection of short essays about dogs, covering everything from hunting to training to companionship. Since it's from Gun & Garden, many of the dogs in the stories are hunting dogs, but the stories are all relatable even to someone who has never held a gun (but is more than happy to eat bacon-wrapped venison that other people have hunted for) and has a gun-shy dog. There are many, many stories about people who get dogs for a specific type of hunting, only to find out that the dog is not the dog they thought they wanted, but might actually be the dog they needed. I save this one for nights when I've just finished a book and I'm not quite ready to start something new or when I know I can only stay awake to read a few pages. This is truly a book for dog people and there's something everyone can relate to in this book. No matter what story the reader is being told, each essay is really about what it means to love and share a life with a dog.

I've got an entire book shelf filled with just dog books, so I'm sure this list could be much longer, but these the ones I've been reading this month. Stay tuned next month for my post on a book published this year because I'm impatiently waiting on the release of the next book in my very favorite dog series! Also be sure to check out the other great blogs linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for the Quick Lit hop!

What have you been reading this month? What are your favorite dog books?

5 comments:

  1. Ooh...Salvage the Bones is on my To Read list - I love a Southern Gothic - and now that I know it features a dog, I'll be moving it up to the top!

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    1. It's a beautiful book, but have some tissues nearby! Let me know when you've checked it off your list--I'd love to hear what someone else thinks about it!

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  2. Haha, you know I can't read any of these unless the dogs all survive.

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    1. I put those in your room at Mom and Dad's ;)

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    2. Except The Trouble with Tuck. But the dogs all survive in that one, too.

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