Book reviews: ’Tis the season to be reading

Front cover of the book, 'Christmas in Blue Dog Valley'
Check out these reviews of ‘Christmas in Blue Dog Valley,’ ‘Project Solomon,’ ‘The Kitten Lady’s CATivity Book,’ ‘Merlyn the Magic Turtle,’ ‘The Year of the Puppy’ and ‘Way of the Horse.’
By Sally Rosenthal

Whether you’re looking for a new book to treat yourself to this holiday season or for an animal-loving friend, there’s something for everyone in the following list. Dogs, cats, horses and even turtles are represented here in fiction and nonfiction; so, sit back, relax and read.

Christmas in Blue Dog Valley by Annie England Noblin. Avon, 2022. Softcover, 348 pages, $16.99.

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Leaving her serially cheating boyfriend would have been easier for veterinarian Goldie McKenzie, the protagonist of Annie England Noblin’s warm-hearted novel, Christmas in Blue Dog Valley, had said philanderer not also been her business partner. Single and unemployed, Goldie takes a chance on becoming the vet of a small-town animal clinic in Wisconsin.

Encountering culture shock upon arrival in Blue Dog Valley, California girl Goldie wonders if she can ever trade her pencil skirt and heels for a parka and boots. As time progresses, though, Goldie is drawn to the quirky inhabitants and, of course, her patients, including a herd of alpacas, a tribe of goats and one very grumpy cat.

Through her involvement in renewing the town’s Christmas carnival and parade, Goldie discovers that Blue Dog Valley just might be the answer to her problems. Anyone who is a fan of Noblin’s well-crafted stories will not be disappointed by her latest offering.

Project Solomon: The True Story of How a Lonely Horse Found a Home — and Became a Hero by Jodi Stuber and Jennifer Marshall Bleakley. Tyndale Momentum, 2022. Softcover, 304 pages, $16.99.

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Every year I keep an eye out for a book that best fits the spirit of the year-end holidays. This year, Project Solomon tops the list.

Jodi Stuber wasn’t looking for another mouth to feed and add to her small herd of therapy horses. Finances were always shaky for her ranch but, when neighbors offered her a lonely horse, Stuber visited out of courtesy; however, when she met Solomon, all thoughts of practicalities and expense left her mind. The bond between woman and horse ran deep, and Solomon became the herd leader.

If the story ended there, it would still be a heartwarming tale; however, tragedy strikes Stuber and her ranch. Caught up in the tragic events and her own raw grief, she learns that, out of dark times, miracles can occur. To go into more detail would spoil the book, but suffice it to say that Stuber’s account of unexpected miracles will bring joy and hope to all readers.

The Kitten Lady’s CATivity Book by Hannah Shaw and Megan Lynn Kott. Harvest, 2022. Softcover, 128 pages, $17.99.

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Need a perfect gift for the cat lovers in your life? Look no farther. Hannah Shaw (aka The Kitten Lady) has come to the rescue with The Kitten Lady’s CATivity Book. Actually, rescue is nothing new to the New York Times best-selling author on all topics feline. Complemented by Megan Lynn Kott’s beautiful illustrations, this book includes information on rescue and fostering, games to enrich your cat’s life and an examination of cats as cultural icons. The Kitten Lady’s CATivity Book might be even better than catnip.

Merlyn the Magic Turtle: A Story of Love and Justice by Leonard Tuchyner. Independently published, 2022. Softcover, 498 pages, $7.75.

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I never dreamed I would be reviewing a book about a talking turtle. That, however, was before I read poet and memoirist Leonard Tuchyner’s extraordinary novel about a rescued turtle named Merlyn and the social worker, Leonard, who comes to the turtle’s aid in a Florida swamp in the 1960s.

Becoming fast friends, turtle and man set out on an allegorical quest involving equality among species, racism and bigotry. Along the way, they build an intentional family and demonstrate that love trumps whatever is in its path. Trust me on this one. Merlyn the Magic Turtle is a gem of a novel that defies categorization.

The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves by Alexandra Horowitz. Viking, 2022. Hardcover, 320 pages, $28.00.

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Nobody knows dogs like Alexandra Horowitz. An academic concentrating on the field of canine cognition, Horowitz is well-known for her previous best-sellers such as Inside of a Dog. In her latest book, The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves, she turns her scientist’s eye on the crucial first year of a dog’s life to discover how a puppy’s development is shaped by their interactions with other dogs, humans and the environment. Quid, the puppy Horowitz observes and adopts, proves to be an interesting challenge. Her ability to divulge cutting-edge science into a well-told narrative makes The Year of the Puppy another good read for dog lovers.

Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self-Discovery by Linda Kohanov and Kim McElroy. St. Martin’s Press, 2022. Hardcover, includes instruction book and card deck in a hardcase slipcover, $34.99.

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Animals have long been thought to impart wisdom to humans in a myriad of ways. In this updated and expanded edition of Way of the Horse, Linda Kohanov and Kim McElroy offer an instructional guide and divination cards for seekers. Horse lovers will treasure this elegant gift set.

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