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Review: Moo

September 23, 2016


When Reena’s parents lose their jobs they decide a change is in order and move their family from New York City to a small town in Maine.  Reena and her brother Luke adjust to their new lives fairly quickly.  They’re not too happy when their mother volunteers them to help Mrs. Falala, a grouchy widow who lives nearby.  Mrs. Falala has lots of animals and lots of work for the kids to do.  They fall into a rhythm, though, and find themselves enjoying their time at her farm.  Luke is teaching Mrs. Falala to draw and Reena is focusing on her cow Zora – preparing to enter her in the fair.

Moo by Sharon Creech is a sweet book about the power of kindess that is aimed at middle grade readers but could teach us all a thing or two.  With a combination of great characters and a great storyline, this gem of a book is sure to become a classic.

What makes this book really exceptional, is the way it’s told, though.  Creech combines standard prose with verse and the two together tell a powerful story.  Moo is engaging, smart, and funny and will hold broad appeal to middle grade readers on up.  You won’t want to miss this gem of a book.

Ikid konnection new will link this up to Booking Mama’s Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, leave a comment as well as a link on her site.

I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

Review: Come Rain or Come Shine

September 22, 2016

Come Rain or Come Shine

Dooley Kavanagh and Lace Harper are all grown up and on the eve of their marriage.  They’ve bought Doc Owen’s veterinary practice and Meadowgate and are working on it while planning their simple, country wedding.  They’ve got a big surprise in store for everyone and they pray everything will come together before their big day.

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon is the latest in her Mitford series.  Just like the other books in the series, it’s quiet, sweet, and comforting.  Fans of the series will enjoy returning to beloved characters and places.  The book won’t mean as much, though, if you’re not familiar with the series.  I’ve been a fan of these books for years and thought Come Rain or Come Shine was a solid addition to the series.  I’m hoping the marriage means there will be more Mitford books with this new generation in the future.

I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

September 21, 2016

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative!   If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

Only one word for me this week, but it’s a good one.  It came from an uncorrected proof of Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple.

1. fakakta – “As for why I couldn’t just admit that I had to learn from the god-damned newspaper that my sister has a daughter, so in a fakakta attempt to get back at her, I stole the keys of a woman with a daughter of the same name?”

According to Urban Dictionary, fakakta is derived from Yiddish and means that something is not working well.



What words do you want to celebrate today?

Review: The Drowning Girls

September 20, 2016

The Drowning Girls

When high school guidance counselor Liz’s husband, Phil, gets a job managing The Palms, an exclusive neighborhood, they’re provided a home in the neighborhood to live in.  It’s way out of their league and Liz doesn’t feel like she fits in but she’s determined to make it work for her family.  Shortly after they move in, they’re invited to a charity event in the neighborhood and, while there, Liz accepts an invitation to a pool party for her quiet, nerdy daughter Danielle.

At the party, Danielle meets Kelsey, the gorgeous, brazen girl who lives next door.  The two quickly become friends but it doesn’t take long for Liz to see the friendship isn’t what it seems and Kelsey is up to something.  Things start to unravel and Liz’s relationships with Phil and Danielle fall apart and she can’t find a way to fix things.

The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard was an addictive read.  Liz and her family are in over their heads in the exclusive neighborhood they find themselves in and not just financially.  The other teens are far more sophisticated than Danielle so she finds herself in a friendship with out of control Kelsey and she doesn’t know how to handle it.  Kelsey is manipulative and destructive and her parents cover up for and defend her along the way.  Her actions threaten to destroy Liz’s family and there doesn’t seem to be a way out.

The point of view alternates between Liz and Phil and I was hooked on this book from the very start.  At first it seems Liz and her family have landed in the ideal neighborhood but the ugly underside quickly comes out.  Appearance is everything so secrets must be covered up.  I couldn’t stop reading because I had to know what would happen next.  Anyone who’s ever felt like a fish out of water will relate to Liz.

The audio version of The Drowning Girls is narrated by Amy McFadden and David Atlas and they both did an outstanding job.  I highly recommend this book, especially on audio!

I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

Review: Lucy and Andy Neanderthal

September 16, 2016

Lucy and Andy Neanderthal


Jeffrey Brown explores the world 40,000 years ago when Neanderthals lived in a fun way in his latest book, Lucy and Andy Neanderthal.  Even though this book is aimed at the early middle grade set, I thought it was fabulous.  It was entertaining, kept my interest, and taught me a lot, including the correct way to pronounce Neanderthal – NeanderTal.

The story is told in chapters and a pair of scientist are featured at the end of each one to separate fact from fiction and go into more detail.  The end of the book explains current research and admits that our view of Neanderthals is changing as more information is gathered.  Also included is a history of cavemen in books, a Neanderthal Timeline, and a “Fact vs. Fiction” section.

Kids won’t even realize they’re learning as they read Lucy and Andy Neanderthal but they’ll be engrossed in the story because of its fun graphic novel format and will be anxious for the next book in the series, which comes out in 2017.  Be sure to pick this one up for your budding young scientist!

kid konnection newI will link this up to Booking Mama’s Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, leave a comment as well as a link on her site.

Review copy provided by Penguin Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.

Guest post: Hassan El-Tayyab

September 15, 2016


Hassan El-Tayyab has written Composing Temple Sunrise, a memoir about his journey across the country to find his musical inspiration.  Since it sounds like my kind of book, I’m anxious to read it and I’m happy to welcome the author here today.

When I was about eleven, my cousin and I got grounded for stealing my sister’s Beanie Baby collection. As punishment, my mom sent me to the library and made me write a book report in the middle of summer vacation. In my search for potential topics, I stumbled upon the music section. There, I found a compilation album of the acclaimed blues singer Robert Johnston from the 1920s. I spent hours listening. I also found a biography on his life and decided to write my report on the legend of how Johnston sold his soul to the devil in order to be able to play guitar so brilliantly. I think that tells you a lot about my early music education. I love music that stems from the blues. The blues resonated with me at an early age because I respected the pain and wisdom in the art form. I loved how the music got into your bones. There was something deeply profound about the old blues masters and something that still blows me away to this day. This is a quality I look for in music. Is it real? Is it honest? Does it move me? Has it been shaped by real life experience.

With my blues roots firmly established, I kept on exploring music. In high school, I loved artists like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and ACDC. Typical, I know! But Classic Rock just did it for me as a teenager. I kept on exploring and found myself listening to gospel, jazz, and soul-inspired music by artists like Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Paul Pena. I was listening to oldies as all my pals listened to the contemporary music of the day. Bill Withers, also in that lineage, is one of my favorites. I know we’ve never met, but I feel a soul-bond with him beyond just his music. He lost his dad growing up and I lost mine. He was raised by his mom and grandmother as I had been. And he grew up with speech problems like I had and pushed through it to become a professional singer. I listen to Bill Withers and feel as though I’m listening to a friend give me advice about how to live. I love his tune, Just Another Day to Run. “If you don’t look inside your mind, and find out what you’re running from, tomorrow might be just another day to run.” The wisdom of that line will be true forever.

There are plenty of artists that I love that come from a great deal of hard earned life experience and raw talent too. I’m a huge fan of Tim Obrien, Darrel Scott, Sean Hayes, Anais Mitchell, Bela Fleck, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Taj Mahal, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchel, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Iron and Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Allison Krauss, Willie Dixon, Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and the list goes on and on.

As far as literary influences I find myself really drawn to memoirs, biographies, and real human stories. Two big influences for my book was Kerouac’s On the Road and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Kerouac traveled the country as a Beat during a really interesting time in American history. His call to adventure and exploration really appealed to me. Strayed appeals in a similar way. She lays it all out on the line in her book in a devastating yet totally inspiring way that I truly admire. She made herself so vulnerable you feel like she’s confiding in you as a close friend. Reading about all her painful memories and seeing her work through it is powerful stuff. It helped give me license to share what I did in Composing Temple Sunrise.

As I was writing the book under the direction of my editor/memoirist/professor of creative writing Faith Adiele, I read many other memoirs for inspiration and insight on the craft of writing memoir. I read books like Dharma Girl, Malcom Xs Autobiography, Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Travels with Charlie, Running in the Family, Chronology of Water, Outsider in the White House, The Fire Next Time, Between the World and Me, Meeting Faith, and many more.

In addition, I love political science books. I’m fascinated by government and the political arena. From the Unwinding and The New New Deal to the New Jim Crow, Cognitive Politics, and Manufacturing Consent, and anything I can get my hands on about Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and FDR!

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the book that started it all for me; the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. These books got me into reading at a young age. Tolkien to me is one of the all-time greats and someone I find myself continually going back to at different stages of my life.  

About the author:

Hassan El-Tayyab is an award-winning singer/songwriter, author, teacher, and cultural activist currently residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. His critically acclaimed Americana act American Nomad performs regularly at festivals and venues up and down the West Coast and beyond and he teaches music in the Bay Area.

About the book:

Composing Temple SunriseComposing Temple Sunrise is a coming-of-age memoir about a 26-year-old songwriter’s journey across America to find his lost muse.

Triggered by the Great Recession of 2008, Hassan El-Tayyab loses his special education teaching job in Boston and sets out on a cross-country adventure with a woman named Hope Rideout, determined to find his lost muse. His journey brings him to Berkeley, CA, where he befriends a female metal art collective constructing a 37-foot Burning Man art sculpture named “Fishbug.” What follows is a life-changing odyssey through Burning Man that helps Hassan harness his creative spirit, overcome his self-critic, confront his childhood trauma, and realize the healing power of musical expression.

In this candid, inspiring memoir, singer-songwriter Hassan El-Tayyab of the Bay Area’s American Nomad takes us deep into the heart of what it means to chase a creative dream.

After experiencing multiple losses (family, home, love, job, self-confidence) , El-Tayyab sets out on a transcontinental quest that eventually lands him in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. His vivid descriptions capture both the vast, surreal landscapes of the Burning Man festival and the hard practice of making art.


Wondrous Words Wednesday

September 14, 2016

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative!   If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

I found a new word The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta.

1. exurbs – “New Horizons was a private rehabilitation center located on a posh ten-acre campus in the exurbs of Tower County.”

I had an idea of the meaning of exurbs but decided to look it up.  I was close but didn’t have it exactly right.  An exurb is a district outside a city, especially a prosperous area beyond the suburbs.


I also found a word in Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple.

2. monstrance – “On certain Catholic holy days, the Eucharist was displayed in a golden sunburst monstrance where worshipful eyes gazed at it around the clock.”


A monstrance is a vessel used by the Catholic church to display some object of piety.


What words do you want to celebrate today?