Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Diane Daniels Manning - Almost Perfect - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

An old woman who has given up hope and a boy who believes the impossible wonder if life would be perfect at the Westminster Dog Show.

Seventy-year old Bess Rutledge has dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life. Despite her decades-long career as one of America’s top Standard Poodle breeders, she has decided she’s too old to hold on to her foolish dream. She sells off all the dogs in her once famous kennel except for the aging champion McCreery and his mischievous, handsome son Breaker. Part of her senses they might have been the ones to take her to Westminster, if only she’d dared to try.

Bess meets Benny, a teenager with mild autism who attends a therapeutic special school, and learns he has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to win his mother’s attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he just knows she will finally be proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy. . .

Up to 100% of the author’s profits will be donated to charities serving animals and children.

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My Review

It's refreshing to see a pet themed book delve into more serious issues. Yes, there are adorable survival stories like a frozen pup revived after being born in a blizzard, as well as the requisite cute moments like a lost dog being found, but at the heart of the narrative lies an autistic boy and a champion breeder who believes her best days are behind her.

The old and the young come together to save each other from the same underlying problem, a lack of self-confidence. Bess thinks she's nothing without her dogs. She's bred poodles all her life, and not just any old poodles, but superstars of the breed. Her single-minded devotion has come at a cost, she can't relate to people, not even her own son. Her neighbor Benny is that lazy preteen who would rather watch TV than interact with the rest of the world. Whenever there's an easy way out, Benny takes it, until he falls in love with Bess's dogs. That's when he finally commits to something bigger than himself,  opening Bess's eyes to the plight of those around her.

However, Benny's a troubled youth. He goes to a special school for children with behavioral disabilities. His only friend is a girl who may or may not have Aspergers who switches identities like everyday is Halloween. The students are encouraged by head mistress Dr. Kate to make their own decisions and are encouraged to take responsibility for their choices. Sometimes Benny complies, sometimes he doesn't. He's a frustrating case, but Dr. Kate fears that Bess doesn't understand just how much he stands to lose if she ends up disappointing him.

You see Bess agrees to let Benny be one of the handlers of her dogs at some of the smaller dog shows in the New England area. When the pup he's training, Breaker, starts to separate himself from the pack, Bess gets scared. She's never won at Westminster at Madison Square Garden - sort of like the doggie World Series and the Oscars rolled into one. Nothing terrifies her like failure, and she'd rather not risk it. Her pride is too valuable to her.

But as she grows fond of Benny, she doesn't want to let him down either. Gradually, he pushes her toward the one thing that she swore she'd never do. His confidence increases as he builds up hers. It's a beautiful metaphor for how the young can benefit the old and vice versa, showing that it's never too late to go after one's dreams, while at the same time driving home the point that a person can discover what they're good at quite early in life too.

Either way, Bess and Benny form a winning combination. As a reader, you can't help rooting for them, and that's what Daniels Manning's book is all about, falling in love with "almost perfect" characters who in the end learn things about themselves that their furry friends knew all along - nothing buoys the spirit like living for another person.


Almost Perfect can be purchased at:

Prices/Formats: $3.99 ebook, $8.99 paperback
Pages: 330
Genre: Pet Fiction
Release: January 29, 2014
Publisher: Beltor
ISBN: 9780578136394
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Diane Daniels Manning is the co-founder and director of The New School in the Heights, a therapeutic school in Houston, Texas which helps children dealing with social-emotional challenges find success in school and life. She has a Ph.D. in Education and a post-doctoral M.P.H from Harvard and is a practicing child psychoanalyst certified by the American Psychoanalytic Association. Formerly, she was the Director of the Reading and Learning Disabilities Clinic at Tufts University, Lecturer and Research Associate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard, and Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane University. She learned the inner workings of dog show kennels by writing an authorized oral history of a lifetime President of the Poodle of Club of America. Her writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and the Women in Film and Television Short Script Competition.

Links to connect with Diane:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

About the Giveaway

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  1. Thanks for the review! It made me like the book even more :)

  2. Carol, you have captured the essence of what I hoped to portray in ALMOST PERFECT. Nothing could be more gratifying (and humbling) to an author. You made the book come alive even for me.

    1. Diane, I couldn't be happier! You really bowled me over with your comment. I'm your fan for life!!!