Friday, July 11, 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.

Video Trailer

My Review

Some authors just know how to set the pace. Diane Daniels Manning is one of them. The short, zippy chapters of her dog-centeric novel ALMOST PERFECT move faster than a pup's tail when begging for a treat. This is a plus for a story that covers a lot of ground. Bess goes from a standard poodle breeder convinced that she just whelped her last litter to letting Benny, her precocious neighbor, keep her in the game as he persistently moves her closer and closer to the world's most prestigious dog show.

Benny is the ying to Bess's yang. He's a year away from high school, but he's different from other kids his age. On account of his autism, he finds he can relate better to dogs than he can to people. Turns out, Bess feels the same way. They're both on the recalcitrant side. They drive the people around them up a wall, including each other, but somehow they find a way to work together. Bess knows that Benny loves her dogs just as much as she does, and that goes a long way in strengthening their reluctant friendship into a lifelong bond.

They've both screwed up, and they've both let people down. It's hard for Bess to show love. She keeps everyone at arm's length from her son to her twin sister. She has a difficult time letting people in, so instead she puts all of her focus on her dogs. She's stacked up blue ribbons and trophy cups over the years, but she's also pushed away all of the people who care about her the most.

Benny has the opposite problem. He's hungry for affection, chasing after his mother's approval. After his parents' divorce, his father became his primary caregiver. However, he always saw Benny following in his footsteps and one day joining him in his law practice. After Benny's diagnosis, it became apparent that that isn't going to happen, and he never got over the disappointment, secretly wishing that somehow Benny might be able to turn it around and be normal. His mother, on the other hand, looks at Benny more like a meal ticket rather than a young boy starving for her attention. She doesn't care that her son's overweight or that the head therapist at his special school is worried about his progress. The only thing that makes her smile is when Benny steals money out of his father's wallet, providing them with the means to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Sad, but true.

But it's the two dogs in their lives that get Bess and Benny to where they need to be. McCreery, the pride of Bess's career, and his young son, Breaker, help them get their priorities straight. They give them a common goal, winning a championship, but they do more than that, reminding them that while dogs are pretty great, people matter, too. Win or lose, they each learn a valuable lesson - dogs have the power to bring people together, and keep them together. A lesson neither of these two loners ever thought they'd be able to learn, much less embrace.


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

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. By the time we arrived at the last day of the blog tour, I expected everything would already be pretty much said. Boy, was I wrong! It sounds sappy, but the last paragraph actually made me tear up. Who knew? The description that the dog helped the people "get their priorities straight" wasn't almost perfect, it was perfect. Thanks so much for caring about my book and the people in it.

    1. You made these characters come alive for me, Diane. They felt so real that you can't help caring about them :)