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At last… Saturday Book Reviews: What’s On My Nightstand — Janet Evanovich, Jeannette Walls, Curtis Sittenfeld and Jonathan Safran Foer

July 13th, 2019

Keep Fucking Going

Just wanted to say hey and tell you — I love summer. I’m reading all summer long, and finishing a new manuscript (memoir, first draft is done, ready to send to agents, woooooooooot!), gardening, hanging out with my kids and the pets, eating as many nectarines/peaches/plums/grapes/cherries and as much watermelon as I possibly can.

Also back to writing letters and cards to friends, and that just feels good. Cuz you gotta send a letter to get a letter.

How’s it with you? :)

* Reading through Janet Evanovich’s “Stephanie Plum” series, about the New Jersey bounty hunter; her best friend and assistant, Lula; her granny and family; and her sexy, problematic boyfriends, Morelli and Ranger. These books are so much fun.

* “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls, is a whole different kind of read. Gritty, poignant, funny memoir that everyone else has read but me. It’s great, but it did take awhile to hook me. Books, that’s the way it is sometimes.

* “American Wife,” by Curtis Sittenfeld, is just a knock-out. I nabbed it from a Little Free Library, score! I’m really liking this novel, and it’s one of those reads where I just study the scenes, the characters, and re-read sections. So good.

* “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, is one that I’ve been wanting to read for awhile. Glad a friend recommended it and put it back on my radar.

So what are you reading?

xo

WM

Thursday Book Review: Here I Am, Baby! “Baby Astronaut,” “Baby Oceanographer,” “Except When They Don’t” & “Dibs!” — all by Laura Gehl, with illustrations by Daniel Wiseman, Joshua Heinsz & Marcin Piwowarski

May 16th, 2019

March 2019

“Sky High,” by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

May 2019

(Photo by moi)

What’s on the menu today?

Writer Laura Gehl and illustrator Daniel Wiseman have just released a pair of board books for the littles, the first in a new series: “Baby Astronaut” and “Baby Oceanographer,” HarperFestival/HarperCollins, ages 0-4, $8.99 apiece). So cool. Baby Astronaut and her friends have their suits, their helmets, and a big sense of adventure. Off they go! Baby Oceanographer studies the Atlantic, the Arctic, the Indian, the Pacific and the Southern oceans like a geeky rockstar. Great art, lots of colorful drawings and fun stories.

“Dibs!” is the first word baby Clancy learns from his big brother, Julian. Pretty soon he’s saying “dibs!” on everything at the bakery, an entire airplane, and… the White House? But what is he going to do if aliens show up? Laura Gehl wrote the words; Marcin Piwowarski did the astounding illustrations that are almost 3D, the way they pop full-color off the page.

“Except When They Don’t,” by Laura Gehl, charmingly illustrated by Joshua Heinsz, takes a whole bunch of stereotypes about girls/boys/boys/girls and turns them upside down. Gehl is a fun writer, I’m enjoying this crop of her work.

Bon appetit, babies! Basketball game is starting…

WM

Sunday Book Review: “Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn,” by Mary Pope Osbourne & Sal Murdocca; “One-Third Nerd,” by Gennifer Choldenko & Eglantine Ceulemans; and “Dragons in a Bag,” by Zetta Elliott

March 17th, 2019

March 2019

March 2019

March 2019

(Pix by N. Row Rawley)

“Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn,” by Mary Pope Osbourne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca (A Stepping Stone Book/Random House, 2007, 108 pages). Ah, the genius of Mary Pope Osbourne. My kids loved this series, the fiction and non-fiction titles alike.

It must be rough, I’m thinking, having a librarian as a mommy. One minute, you have this amazing set of Magic Tree House books, the next minute, she’s given them all to one of her third-grade classes because why? Because I said so. Lol. “Because they needed them more than you two did.” (In my own defense… they really did. They only had a few of the titles, and they were tattered and worn.)

But the other day, going through boxes containing Nerf darts, random coasters for the coffee table, misplaced board games and Tonka trucks, what should I come across? My daughter’s pretty necklace, for one. And an overlooked Magic Tree House book — “Dragon of the Red Dawn.” Such a great series. If I’m ever blessed enough to have grandkids, I’m buying the whole series all over again. (I won’t give it away this time. Promise.)

Check out some of Osbourne’s other work, too — the mythology books and science titles are great.

Next up: new releases.

“One-Third Nerd,” written by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans (Random House Children’s Books, 2019, ages 8012, 211 pages, $16.99). Loved this book. “One-Third Nerd” introduces us to a cool cast of characters: Cupcake, the dog that won’t stop peeing on the carpet; a family that has recently gone through a divorce, but are dealing; a big brother, Liam, who doesn’t want any extra attention called to himself; Dakota, the middle sis, a science geek who struggles making and keeping friends; and Izzy, the little sis, who has Down Sydrome and is the huggingest kid in America.

This is an awesome chapter book. Reviewers have compared “One-Third Nerd” to Judy Blume’s books, and it is that good. The drawings by Eglantine Ceulemans remind me of Hilary Knight’s work, they’re very sweet.

“Dragons in a Bag” is the latest from author, playwright and poet Zetta Elliott. (Her books for young readers include “The Girl Who Swallowed the Sun” and “Melena’s Jubilee.”) Geneva B. did the charming, detailed illustrations. This is a cool book, and a lot of fun, with some seriousness added to the mix.

Jaxon’s mom, worried that they are going to lose their apartment due to eviction, drops him at his Ma’s house. Only… she’s not really his granny, she’s kind of a witch.

Not a mean old lady — a witch. And she needs Jaxon’s help with some baby dragons.

Well-written, engaging, and go, Brooklyn!

xo and bon appetit,

your girl,

Wacky Mommy, aka Nancy

Thursday Book Reviews: “Where Did You Come From, Baby Dear?” by George MacDonald & Jane Dyer; “William Wakes Up,” by Linda Ashman & Chuck Groenink; “Rosie and Rasmus,” by Serena Geddes; and “The New Neighbors,” by Sarah McIntyre

March 14th, 2019

2019

2019

(Photos by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Reviewing this week:

“Where Did You Come From, Baby Dear?” by George MacDonald, drawings by Jane Dyer (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 3-7, 32 pages, $17.99). How is baby? British author MacDonald (1824-1905), a Scottish author, poet and minister, wrote this lovely story about babies touched by cherubs’ wings, made out of love, brought by God. Beautiful, airy pastels by artist Dyer, who has illustrated more than fifty picture books. This one would be a nice gift for new parents.

“William Wakes Up,” written by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (Disney-Hyperion, 2019, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $17.99). William, c’mon now. You and your buddies need to wake up. C’mon. You can do it. It’s spring, and it’s time to bake the Welcome Cake. Lovely art, a nice story, and a sweet welcome to spring. (Tell chipmunk, Get. Up!)

“Rosie and Rasmus,” by Serena Geddes (Aladdin, 2019, ages 4-8, $16.99). This one is due for release April 2nd and I cannot wait for the latest from this Australian writer and artist. We have an independent dragon, and a lonely little girl, and let’s see how this friendship will go. It’ll be good. #bffsAnd4ever #dragonsrock #girlpower The copy I have is review only, but the colors, the words — beautiful. Final copy will be even better, I’m sure. (The author dedicated it to her younger self, with an inscription that says, “This is us.” #love)

“The New Neighbors,” by Sarah McIntyre (Penguin Workshop, 2019, ages 3-7, $17.99). Well hello, rats! say the bunnies upstairs. They wanna tell Lettuce (their big sis) all about it. But… uh… wait. Who moved in? Will they be friendly? Let’s all go find out. Sweet art, nice use of repetition while the story builds, and funny, funny ending. (There will be cake.)

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Saturday Book Review — for the grown-ups: “Olive Kitteridge,” by Elizabeth Strout; “Son of a Gun,” by Justin St. Germain; ” “Dreaming in Cuban,” by Cristina Garcia; “The Sum of Our Days,” by Isabel Allende

March 2nd, 2019

2019

I’m late to the game for Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winner, “Olive Kitteridge” (Random House, 2008, 270 pages). Thirteen stories = one amazing novel. Olive is a retired school teacher who lives in Crosby, Maine, with her husband, Henry. Olives weaves and dodges throughout the stories. The stories are heartbreaking, beautiful, stripped down, spare, lush and rich. It’s a lot, this book. I’ll finish it and I’ll start it again. It’s that kind of book. xo

2019

If you’re looking for an extraordinary memoir to read, check out “Son of a Gun” by Justin St. Germain (Random House, 2013, 242 pages). It’s his story about the murder of his mother, Debbie St. Germain, and the fall-out in his life, before and after.

2019

(Winter 2019, all photos by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Just started “Dreaming in Cuban,” by Cristina Garcia (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, 245 pages). This is one I missed when it was first released. It’s a magical book.

“The Sum of Our Days,” by Isabel Allende, (HarperCollins, 2008, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden, 301 pages) is the sequel to “Paula,” Allende’s memoir about the loss of her daughter. Just like all of Allende’s work, it’s brilliant.

Bon appetit, babies. Happy winter, happy reading.

WM

Thursday Book Review — for the little kids: “How Do Apples Grow?” and “Ocean Life,” by Jill McDonald; “Vampirina in the Snow,” by Anne Marie Pace & LeUyen Pham

February 28th, 2019

2019

Hello, folks, and thanks for your patience. Meanwhile, my dining room table is ready to topple over cuz so many books!

Jill McDonald and Hello, World! have released two cute new titles, “Ocean Life” and “How Do Apples Grow?” (Random House Children’s Books, 2019, 0-3 years old, $7.99 apiece). Both have beautiful illustrations and extra tidbits of knowledge tucked into the edges. For example, from “Ocean Life”: “A sea horse father carries eggs in a pouch until they are ready to hatch” and “Sea turtles have lived since the time of dinosaurs!” Cool. Apples, apples, apples: “There are more than 7,000 types of apples!” Beautiful.

2019

“Vampirina in the Snow,” by Countess Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Mistress of the Night LeUyen Pham, is the latest in the Vampirina series (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, $17.99). The Vampirina books are funny and sweet, and you can catch it on Disney Junior, too. Vampirina and her ghoulish friends are catching snow flakes on their tongues, building snowmen and making snow angels. Here’s to winter.

2019

2019

(All photos by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley.)

Tuesday Book Review plus Recipe Club: Chickens! “The Healthy Hens Handbook,” by Terry Beebe; “Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken?” by Kelly Jones; “How to Speak Chicken: Why Your Chickens Do What They Do and Say What They Say,” by Melissa Caughey; “The Complete Chicken: An Entertaining History of Chickens,” by Pam Percy; “A Chicken in Every Yard: The Urban Farm Store’s Guide to Chicken Keeping,” by Robert and Hannah Litt

January 22nd, 2019

Chickens!

“The Healthy Hens Handbook,” by Terry Beebe (Bell & Bain Ltd., 2013, 224 pages, $29.99). The pictures in this handbook kinda freak me out, but chickens, let’s face it, can be a little gruesome at times. There is also lots of down-to-earth information, and some beautiful photos.

Useful, especially all the medical stuff that I don’t want to think about.

“Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken?” by Kelly Jones (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018, ages 8-12, 310 pages, $16.99). Another fun work of young adult fiction from the author of “Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.”

“How to Speak Chicken: Why Your Chickens Do What They Do and Say What They Say,” by Melissa Caughey (Storey Publishing, 2017). I’m putting this one on order, it looks great.

“The Complete Chicken: An Entertaining History of Chickens,” by Pam Percy (Voyageur Press, 2002, 144 pages, $19.95). This one is just pure fun, and was a sweet Christmas gift from my friend Lisa. Thank you! Kisses, kisses.

“A Chicken in Every Yard: The Urban Farm Store’s Guide to Chicken Keeping,” by Robert and Hannah Litt (Ten Speed Press, 2011, 196 pages, $19.99). This one, written by a Portland couple (#goRoseCity!), was a Christmas gift from my daughter. Thank you, love you!

And a recipe, for the Tuesday Recipe Club, a la Wacky Mommy:

Best Chicken Scratch Mix

Combine one 21-pound bag of Pullet Together (Chicken Crack and Here, Chicken Chicken are also good) with one big bag of Purina Premium Poultry Feed, Layena Crumbles or Pellets, plus one big bag of Durvet Fancy Flock Mealworm and Cricket Medley.

Yum.

Our chicks also like bananas, oh, they love bananas; bags of spinach; soft apples; yogurt that we spoon into egg cartons and leave in the garden; but best of all? On a hot summer day, we take an overripe watermelon and break it open on the ground for them. Watermelon bomb! Happy girls.

Bon appetit, babies.

WM

Tuesday Book Review: Happy (belated) Christmas! “The Chicken Chronicles,” by Alice Walker; “Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets,” by Sara O’Leary & Jacob Grant; “Where Do Diggers Celebrate Christmas?” by Brianna Caplan Sayres & Christian Slade; and “God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin,” by Adah Nuchi & Rob Polivka and other delights

January 15th, 2019

Untitled

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Those are the newest bok-boks, who turn one year old next month. We’ve lost one, but the other four are alive and well. Chickens = heartbreak, it turns out. Which I knew, but didn’t really know, until they were part of our family.

I started this post a long time ago, thought I hit publish and didn’t, so here we are. So happy-after-Christmas reviews.

I’m reading Alice Walker’s book about life, love, family and chickens. It’s called “The Chicken Chronicles: Sitting with the Angels Who Have Returned with My Memories: Glorious, Rufus, Gertrude Stein, Splendor, Hortensia, Agnes of God, the Gladyses, & Babe: A Memoir,” and I’m liking it. The title alone makes it worth the price of admission. I’ve always liked Walker’s writing, though, and her attitude. Like many of us, I discovered her in college when we read “The Color Purple.” If you don’t know her writing, or haven’t checked in with her lately, please do.

I have some other chicken books (that I received as Christmas presents) that I will review later. Bok-bok.

“Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets: An Unusual Alphabet,” written by Sara O’Leary, with pictures by Jacob Grant (Random House Children’s Books, 2018, ages 3-7, 40 pages, $17.99). Pretty art, sweet words.

“Aa: Alligators think you’d like them/if you got to know them” (I believe we all feel this way, at times…) and…

“Ee: Elephants are happiest at bathtime” are my two favorite pages.

Awesome book.

“Owl Babies,” by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson, was one of my children’s favorites, and mine as well, back in the day. And the “Little Bear” books, by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak. So. Many. Cool and sweet animal books.

“Where Do Diggers Celebrate Christmas?” (by Brianna Caplan Sayres, illustrated by Christian Slade, Random House, 2018, $16.99) These Digger books are funny.

“Where do food trucks celebrate Christmas after serving lots of meals? Are there special Christmas menus at these restaurants on wheels?” (With art of daddy snowman and kids, with their pink frosted cupcakes, by the cupcake dessert truck.)

Trucks, kids and gifts — winning combination.

Also recommending “God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin,” written by Adah Nuchi, illustrated by Rob Polivka (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, $18.99). Great bio of an incredible songwriter who has come to symbolize America. The book includes a list of websites and a bibliography in the back, but the song list? That’s all for me. It’s ten of his best-known songs, and includes “Blue Skies,” “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” and my favorite, “White Christmas,” which my dad taught me to play on the piano when I was a little bitty girl.

Lots of love, more reviews soon, and bon appetit, babies!

WM

Sunday Book Review: “Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe,” by Preston Norton; “The Perfect Secret,” by Rob Buyea; “It Wasn’t Me,” by Dana Alison Levy; and “Inkling,” by Kenneth Oppel

December 23rd, 2018

“Nothing is really so very frightening when everything is so very dangerous”

― Gertrude Stein

Misc., babeee!

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

New classic, just like that… “Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe,” by Preston Norton (Hyperion, 2018, middle school & high school readers, 410 pages, $17.99). Cliff Hubbard doesn’t want anyone to get too close. Nicknamed “Neanderthal” because of his size (6’6″ tall, 250 pounds at age 16), grieves for his dead brother, is ridiculed by the other students at his high school, is damaged daily by his abusive father, while cherished by his mother, who is trying to get a better life for them. In spite of it all? He’s an amazingly good person, who wants better for his mom, himself and those around him.

Chapter One

“There are three rules to high school irrevocably inscribed within the interstellar fabric of the universe.

Rule number one: It’s all bullshit.”

This novel has replaced “Catcher in the Rye” for me as my new favorite teenage angst book. It’s brilliant, well-written, and thoughtful.

“The Perfect Secret” is Rob Buyea’s sequel to “The “Perfect Score.” (Delacorte Press, 2018, ages 9-12, 364 pages, $16.99.) The kids from Lake View Middle School — Gavin, Randi, Scott, Trevor and Natalie — are back for another adventure, this time hoping to patch up the relationship between the mother/daughter duo who teach at their school. Buyea knows kids — he has taught third- and fourth-grade, plus high school biology, and was also a wrestling coach. His dialogue and stories will speak to young readers.

“It Wasn’t Me,” by Dana Alison Levy (Delacorte, 2018, ages 10 and older, $16.99), is a new one on my shelf. A prank goes wrong, a student’s photography project is damaged, and five other students claim, “It wasn’t me.” A la “The Breakfast Club,” we have the Nerd, the Princess, the Jock, the Screw Up, the Weirdo and the Nobody.

“Inkling,” by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 8 and older, 256 pages). Extraordinary children’s book by Oppel and Smith, both Toronto, Canada residents. It’s about an artist father, who has creative block; a son who is faltering because he can’t create the art he needs to for a school project, and a sister, who has Down Syndrome and is needing attention. They all miss Mom.

Reminds me of “Crenshaw,” the Katherine Applegate book, which is an outstanding read, too. Both are good titles for grabbing the reluctant readers.

Bon appetit, babies. Happy holidays, and here’s to a grand 2019!

WM

Misc., babeee!

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Saturday Book Review: Rick Riordan Presents “Aru Shah and the End of Time,” by Roshani Chokshi; plus “The Isle of the Lost,” by Melissa de la Cruz, Robert Venditti & Kat Fajardo; and “Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas: A Petrifying Pop-Up for the Holidays’”

December 8th, 2018

Halloween Books

(That dog loves to be read to. Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Book reviews! Fun stuff.

This is part of the Rick Riordan Presents series. “Aru Shah and the End of Time: A Pandava Novel, Book One” by Roshani Chokshi (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, 355 pages, $16.99). Chokshi, who also wrote “The Star-Touched Queen” and “A Crown of Wishes,” has written a great young adult novel that I’m hoping is turned into a film someday. Oh, wait! Looks like Paramount Pictures landed the rights.

Our heroine, Aru, plays kind of fast and loose with the truth. Her schoolmates find her out when they discover she’s working at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture (where her mother is curator) and not taking a fancy vacation like she told them she was. They don’t believe that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed and here, our story begins. Great to read a book that focuses on Hindu mythology, with an Indian girl as the main character.

The next book in the series, “Aru Shah and the Song of Death” will be released in April, 2019.

“The Isle of the Lost,” by Melissa de la Cruz, adapted by Robert Venditti, with art by Kat Fajardo, and lettering by Leigh Luna (it’s a labor of love, this one) is a very cool graphic novel. (Based on the “Descendants” novel, from Disney-Hyperion, but of course, 2018, $21.99). Nice art — all purples, greens and reds — that rises off the pages and invites you in. The plot is a little all over the place, but I think I’m the only one who’s going to have a problem with that, not Disney fans. A lost scepter; a big cast of familiar characters; Diablo (Maleficent’s evil raven); Dr. Facilier, the strange MC — it’s good fun. The story: Disney villains and their family members are given the heave-ho from the Kingdom of Auradon and sent to the Isle of the Lost.

Things get weird.

Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas: A Petrifying Pop-Up for the Holidays” was just released (Disney Editions, 2018, $65). Matthew Reinhart worked hard on this one, and it’s amazing. Save it for the teenagers and grown-up “Nightmare” buffs; keep it on the shelf and only let the babies admire it under supervision. It’s an outstanding work of art.

Bon appetit, babies.

WM

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