Tag Archives: Road Trip

Review: The Last Days of California

The Last Days of California
The Last Days of California
By Mary Miller
(Liveright Publishing Corporation, Hardcover, 9780871405883, January 2014, 256pp.)

The Short of It:

Probably one of the best coming-of-age novels I’ve read in a long while.

The Rest of It:

Fourteen-year-old Jess and her family, including her older, pregnant sister Elise, set out from Alabama to California right before the Rapture. Their mission? To save as many souls along the way as possible. As they travel from town to town, handing out their pamphlets to anyone who will take them, it becomes obvious to the girls that their father has lost his job (again) and that there really isn’t money for a trip across the country. Plus, the parents are clueless about their own daughter’s pregnancy and Jess finds herself in a position to protect her sister’s secret for as long as possible.

I loved this family. For all of their faults, they are a family in the biggest sense of the word. As they head out on this road trip, it’s clear that things are at stake. Life, as they know it could be changed forever after the Rapture but Jess and Elise are not convinced of that. They want to believe, but at the same time, they have their doubts.

Because of these doubts, they test the waters a bit. Hanging out with boys, drinking and smoking and basically experimenting as kids are known to do. But what makes it different for them is that they don’t know if the world will exist by the time they get to California. Will they be one of the saved ones? As they stop along the way, they meet people and have experiences that change who they are and in the process, they come to terms with their beliefs.

Books can be such a personal thing but I LOVED this book. I loved the family, the girls (with all of their faults) and the road trip, yes… I love road trips and reading this book was like jumping in the car and taking off for an adventure. I could easily have been their long-lost cousin hiding in the trunk. I FELT as if I was with them every time they stopped for gas and horribly processed snack foods. And every time they jumped into a motel pool, I could literally smell the chlorine.

This was such a great read. It gave me a lot to think about and it took me out of my world and right into theirs. I read it in just a couple of sittings and if you are worried about the religious parts, don’t. It’s not heavy-handed in any way. As Jess contemplates life, you can’t help but fall in love with her as a person.

To truly appreciate it, you must read it for yourself. I’m sure it will be on my list of favorites for 2014.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Pit Stops

Pit Stops Book Cover

Pit Stops: Crossing the Country w/Loren the Rescue Bully
By Michelle Sathe
Say The Words Press

The Short of It:

Pit Stops is the kind of cozy read that you can curl-up with. There’s some sadness yes, but ultimately a lot of hope and stories guaranteed to warm your heart.

The Rest of It:

Sathe is a journalist for my town’s local paper. When she hit the big 4-0, she decided to head out on a road trip across the country to help promote animal rescue, specifically for the “bully” breeds that tend to get a lot of bad press. To do this, she had to pick the perfect companion for the trip. That lucky girl was Loren, a homeless pit bull/staffordshire/bulldog mix who was living at The Brittany Foundation, a rescue sanctuary very close to my home. Sathe, also a volunteer and board member for the foundation, was hoping that at the end of the trip, Loren would find her forever home.

As short as this book is, it packs quite a punch. As Sathe visits with animal rescues across the country, she encounters folks from all walks of life who volunteer their time to help animals in need. As she spends time with Loren, she see first hand how people react to bully breeds. Even though Loren is an absolute love, people are often hesitant to come up to her unless they are familiar with the breed or have big dogs of their own. In addition to this reaction, some towns have legislation in place that prevents the adoption of such breeds. What this means is that many of the animals are destroyed because agencies are not able to adopt them out.

As Sathe treks across the country, she continually asks herself why some dogs find homes when others do not. What makes a family go for one dog over another? And why is it that when some dogs find homes, they just don’t work out in the long run? As frustrating as it was for Sathe to address this in the book, I have to say that it comes down to confidence. A potential owner has to have the confidence to handle a particular dog. Sometimes, this is a learning process and some are more willing to give into that gray area (where they admit that they have no confidence) in order to gain the knowledge needed to care for a particular breed, and others simply cave to their lack of confidence and end up bringing the animal back.

Having had an adoption experience that did not go well, many years ago, I can honestly say that I’ve been that person. The person that completely loses confidence and suddenly realizes that she’s completely out of her league. It’s a very humbling and life-changing experience to think that in all manners of life, you are quite successful yet you cannot care for a dog who wants nothing more than to be with you. Now, I am not the type of person to give up easily and I refused to take the dog back so we went forward with training only for the poor thing to have a heart attack at the vet. Needless to say, he didn’t make it, but we learned so much from that experience. Now, several years later we decided to rescue a puppy from the shelter and it’s been a completely different experience. Not perfect, but everyone in the family is confident this time around which I feel really makes a difference.

No matter where you stand on “bully” breeds, Pit Stops will appeal to many readers. Sathe is a foodie, so all of her stops center around must-visit restaurants and let me tell you, the food is to-die for! She had me drooling more than once. The moments she shares with Loren are truly special because Loren is such a character. A loyal companion but a bit of a comedian, too. Although, I do not know the author personally, I sure feel as if I do after reading the book. Oh, and I’ll forgive her for saying that “Safety Dance” is the stupidest 80’s song ever made. How can she not love Men Without Hats?? She obviously did not dress-up in a black trench coat and rock the Mod look during that time. Ha!

Humor aside, I encourage you to check out Sathe’s website. There, you can purchase a copy of the book, see photos of the meals she enjoyed, visit her blog and read more about Michelle and Loren.

Although I ended up not adopting from The Brittany Foundation, a few of the folks there went out of their way to answer my questions. If you have it in your heart to make a donation, please visit their website here.

Source: Given to me by a friend, via the author.