Happy International Cat Day!

posted in: Nonfiction, Our Work, Woof Trekking, Writing | 1 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Happy International Cat Day! We have two cats that we absolutely adore and celebrate every day, not just on International Cat Day. Mac is the furry mom to Billy, a 9 year old male tabby. You can read more about him here. Billy is the definition of a mellow cat. He loves to sleep and once a day harass Izzy, our crazy Wheaten Terrier.
cat, feline, domestic shorthair
Al is the furry mom to Tyra, a 13 year old female white cat. You can read more about her here. Tyra is not a fan of other animals but loves to cuddle with Al.

We have taken both of them on road trips with us at different times in the past. Check out our book, Woof Trekking: How To Road Trip with Your Pets, where we give advice on how to travel with your favorite cat.

We recently read about a pretty cool cat. The newly elected Prime Minister of New Zealand is Jacinda Ardern and she has an awesome cat named Paddles. Paddles is unique because she has a set of crazy thumbs! She also has her own twitter account which is pretty hilarious.


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Tips for Holiday Travel with Pets

Tips for Holiday Travel with Pets

posted in: Nonfiction, On the Road, Our Work, Travel, Woof Trekking, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

With the holidays coming up, many of you will be traveling over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. Pet lovers may be taking their precious pups and furry felines on the road with them, perhaps for the first time. If you are new to the ways of Woof Trekking (road tripping with your pets), this may cause some anxiety for both the humans and the pets. But have no fear, we are here to help.
holiday-travel-with-pets-2
We have been traveling with our two dogs, Izzy and Nana, and one cat, Billy, for four years. We have gained a lot of knowledge to share with you. If you are new to our blog, you can take a look at our previous woof trekking posts here. We have also written a book about our experience with traveling with our cat and two dogs. You can get your copy on Amazon and Kobo.
woof trekking, pets, road trip, vacation, holiday, travel, travel with pets
You may be surprised that we travel with our cat, however Billy is a pretty chill cat who does fairly well on the road. If you want to take your cat with you (or a skittish dog for that matter), taking them on short, little trips to see how they handle going in the car is a good idea. We actually have two cats, but Tyra doesn’t travel well and prefers to stay home and be kenneled.

We have previously talked about what to pack for both your dogs and your cats. Some important items include: food, bowls, and kitty litter box.

Safety is very important while traveling with your pets and we have some tips to keep everyone safe. First of all safety in the car is very important, both of our dogs wear car harnesses so they can be buckled in. Billy also wears a harness so he too can be buckled up while riding in a human’s lap. You can read more about car harnesses here.


Some dogs and cats travel really well on the road and have no problems. Nana is one of these dogs. She loves car rides and watching the world pass by. Izzy is the opposite, she loves getting into the car but as soon as it starts moving, she becomes anxious and starts to whine. When we travel, we give her Dramamine, per the recommendation of our vet, and it takes the edge off. (Always talk to your vet before giving your pet medication.) Billy on the other hand gets motion sick in the car. He also gets Dramamine to help him deal with this. You can read more about Anxiety and Motion Sickness here.
pacific coast highway 9
The last point we would like to make is about hotel safety. Some hotels are better than others but all should be inspected before letting your pets loose. We have found some interesting objects hidden under the bed. Our biggest tip is to get down on your hands and knees with a flashlight to clear the floor of any dropped pills and other foreign objects.

Go forth and don’t be afraid to take your pets on the road with you. If you want to read more about our travels, get a copy of our book. Bringing your pets on your travels will make your adventures even more memorable!

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Friday Reads: Inferno

Friday Reads: Inferno

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment, Our Work, Writing | 1 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Today’s Friday Reads post is about Inferno by Dan Brown. We are big fans of Dan Brown, we have read all his books including his first two, which are lesser known, Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Inferno is the fourth book that follows Dr. Robert Langdon, a professor of religious iconology and symbology, and was preceded by Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol.

Inferno was first published in 2013 and we bought it immediately. The paperback edition came out in May 2014 at which time Dan Brown gave an enlightening interview with CBS This Morning, which you can watch below. From it we learned that Brown’s father was a math teacher, textbook author, and was known to write codes to lead his children on a scavenger hunt on Christmas morning. Brown’s mother was a very religious woman who was also the church’s choir director. This explains so much about Dan Brown’s writing.

 
In Inferno, we are once again taken to a world that is dark and mysterious. It starts with a Prologue told from first person; we are to assume that this is the villain speaking, as is the pattern with Robert Langdon novels. Next, we meet a confused Robert Langdon, sifting through fuzzy memories and scenes that do not make sense to him. He finally realizes that he is the hospital, but has no memory of how he got there.

In usual Dan Brown style, Inferno starts with action and keeps it coming through the whole novel. We are taken on a wild journey through Florence and we also get a history lesson, another Robert Langdon novel standard. In Inferno, Robert Langdon and Dr. Sienna Brooks, his female sidekick in this book, must decipher a modified painting of Botticelli’s Map of Hell. The painting was based on the first part of Dante’s epic poem Divine Comedy, Inferno.

The pair collect clues along the way as to why Robert Langdon is in Florence and why he has no short-term memory. We also continue the adventure of what the modified painting and Inferno have to do with each other. In the end, Robert Langdon must solve the clues and save the world. As with the other Robert Langdon books, Inferno is very long (480 pages for the hardback edition), but with all the action and suspense it really doesn’t feel like it.


One of the reasons we chose Inferno for our Friday Reads post was that today is the American premiere of the movie version of the book. In the movie, Tom Hanks reprises his role as Dr. Robert Langdon. He is definitely the perfect actor to play him in our opinion. Tom Hanks is probably one of our Top 5 favorite actors. In fact, we just talked about another of his movies in Tuesday’s postA League of Their Own. We have seen all of the Robert Langdon movie adaptations and we hope to see this movie soon. Here is the trailer, if you haven’t seen it yet.


Happy Friday and have an awesome weekend!

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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Planner Stickers & FREE PRINTABLE!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Planner Stickers & FREE PRINTABLE!

posted in: Armadillo Amore, Indie Publishing, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

November is almost upon us, which means that it is nearly National Novel Writing Month. If you have never heard of this event, the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. This equates to 1667 words a day from 12:00AM November 1st until 11:59PM November 30th.

This event was started in 1999 amongst a group of friends in San Francisco. It originally took place in July, however it was moved to November “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.” We have never participated in this event however, we might try this year.


We have created a FREE printable sheet to help you keep track of your daily and running word counts during National Novel Writing Month in a colorful way! Click the image below for the free PDF printable: NaNoWriMo Tracker!

Free NaNoWriMo Tracker Printable

As some of you may know, as well as being indie authors of three books, we are also sticker makers. We have an Etsy sticker boutique called Armadillo Amore, where we specialize in original, handcrafted fancy planner stickers. We have designed a collection of stickers to help you keep track of and reach your NaNoWriMo goals.

NaNoWriMo Full Boxes & Motivational Stickers
Book Stack Icon Reminder Stickers
NaNoWriMo Half Boxes & Motivational Stickers
Book Icon Reminder Stickers
Book Icon Reminder Stickers
Typewriter Half Boxes
Typewriter Half Boxes
Open Book Icon Reminder Stickers
Open Book Icon Reminder Stickers

This weekend we are having a 25% off sale using the code: GRATEFUL! We also have cute Thanksgiving and Christmas Stickers up for sale!

Armadillo Amore Planner Sticker Shop 25 Percent Off Sale

Happy Saturday everyone!

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Friday Reads: The Good Good Pig

Friday Reads: The Good Good Pig

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

It’s FRIDAY! Woohoo! We made it through the week and that means it’s time for Friday Reads. Today’s Friday Reads choice is The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery.

As you can tell from my previous Friday Read posts, I really like books about dogs. I initially picked up this book because the pig on the cover looks very dog-like, just oozing personality.

The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery is part memoir of the author and part memoir of Christopher Hogwood, the pig she adopts as a piglet. We join Christopher’s adventure starting as the sickly runt of the litter, and follow him all through his life until the ripe old age of 14.


Ms. Montgomery lives with her husband in rural Maine in a house that is over one hundred years old and has an accompanying mini farm. After they nursed Christopher back to health, he became mischievous and would escape from his enclosure. However, he wouldn’t just escape and stay home; instead, he would take a jaunt to town and thus, everyone eventually came to know him and where he lived.

I read this book while still doing my bachelor’s degree. My school work at the time mainly focused on cattle. I took this book as a preliminary education in chicken and pig behavior. Ms. Montgomery paints life with chickens and pigs as a classic pastoral romance. Once I got to graduate school, and I met chickens and pigs for myself, I discovered that Ms. Montgomery’s chickens and Christopher Hogwood were very unique.

My experience with chickens was, in a word, AWFUL. Montgomery’s chickens just chilled in her yard and in their coop. The chickens I met chased me, scratched me, tried to jump on my back and wouldn’t let me take their eggs. Furthermore, all the pigs I have met are noisy, flighty and not very willing to go in the direction you want them to go. Christopher seems like a saint in comparison!

I definitely recommend The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery! After reading it, my respect for pigs grew tremendously and despite my unfortunate real-life experiences with pigs since then, I still harbor a secret dream to have a mini farm of my own with a saint-like pig like Mr. Hogwood.

If you are also a fan of dog books, check out our two books: Scout and Malcolm, a middle grade adventure/mystery, and Woof Trekking: How to Road Trip with Your Pets. Have a good weekend everyone!

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Friday Reads: “The Silkworm” is a Sophomore Success for Robert Galbraith

Friday Reads: “The Silkworm” is a Sophomore Success for Robert Galbraith

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, British, Entertainment, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

After reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I moved onto Robert Galbraith’s sophomore mystery, The Silkworm. It is set in the land of UK book publishing, with agents, editors, authors, and publishers as suspects. The book is a bit gruesome at times. It does feel as though Galbraith is keen to shock readers, for the mere sake of shock value at times. This may rub some readers the wrong way.

Read my review of The Cuckoo’s Calling here.

However, the ending was quite good, just like with The Cuckoo’s Calling. One maddening thing that Galbraith does is have Cormoran tell Robin, his assistant, who the villain is without telling us. That really kept the suspense going! WHO DID IT!!!??? This little move made the ending a real page turner.

The book is over 400 pages, but I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Robert Glenister, so it didn’t seem very long. The characters are interesting and everyone looks suspicious. But more importantly, we learn more about the backstory of both Cormoran and Robin, which I believe is the real reason why readers enjoy any series of books – to get to know the characters in depth and become “friends” with them.

The Silkworm Review

As I was reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I was comparing the text to Harry Potter. Last month, I wrote a post titled, Good, Evil, and J.K. Rowling, Post-Harry Potter, in which I tried to understand how/why Rowling’s mystery series has so much more evil in it than Harry Potter.

As I was reading The Silkworm, I started wondering more about Rowling as the author of Harry Potter compared to Rowling as the author of the Cormoran Strike series. It was strange to ponder how much of J.K. Rowling’s true sentiments about the publishing world are in this book. She is one of the biggest success stories in publishing history, and even she views the publishing world as dark and sinister?

Also, a big theme of The Silkworm is gender and gender-identity. It’s very current to our times, and I suppose it’s not really a topic that she could examine in such depth in the setting of a Harry Potter book. She also discusses things like Google Maps and indie-publishing. I was like, wait, J.K. Rowling uses Google Maps?

She’s the Queen of Harry Potter; she could be doing anything – living in a castle (wait does she live in a castle?), or entering a partnership with Jeff Bezos to try and make magic real, or perhaps the most obvious choice, writing a dozen more Harry Potter books. Instead she’s writing about gruesome murders! Say what?


I needed some answers, so I turned to YouTube. In a 2014 interview with Val McDermid, Rowling talked about her lifelong passion for who-dun-its, and shared that she actually viewed Harry Potter as a sort of mystery. Indeed, p-p-p-poor st-st-st-stuttering P-P-Professor Quirrell was an unexpected suspect/villain in The Sorcerer’s Stone. The interview was interesting to listen to and in it, she mentions how she picked her pen name.

Overall, the answer that I arrived at of “Who is the real J.K. Rowling” was thus: J.K. Rowling is just herself. She is not some fairy godmother living in the clouds. She’s a real human and an interesting one, at that. I’m happy that she made the brave decision to write mysteries, because if she had not, I would have not dared to read such grisly stories. There is something about facing one’s fears that really boosts the confidence. While I had previously enjoyed mysteries on television, I was not a fan of mystery novels. Now I am and it’s all because of Galbraith.

I did notice some Harry Potter connections in this book. First, there is a reference to Emma Watson, who is depicted on the cover of Vogue magazine. Also, Cormoran’s name is revealed to mean “Cornish Giant” and that seems to be a nod to Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper. Hagrid is part giant and has a Cornish accent. Cormoran is quite big and hairy like Hagrid, but the private detective is not a softy like the wizard with the pink umbrella wand. Others have drawn a comparison to Mad-Eye Moody, in terms of Cormoran’s temperament, and I quite agree.

Have you read the Cormoran Strike series? What do you make of it?

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Friday Reads: Review of Lessons from Tara

Friday Reads: Review of Lessons from Tara

posted in: Book Reviews, Our Work, Writing | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

A couple months ago, we wrote a review of Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt. It told the story of his cross-country move from California to Maine with 25 dogs, 3 RVs, and 11 volunteers.

Lessons from Tara is a follow up to Dogtripping. There is some overlap between the two books, but plenty of new material for readers of the preceding book. Earlier this month, I gave a list of my top 5 dog books so far and now, Lessons from Tara has earned a spot on that list.

In Lessons From Tara, David Rosenfelt details how his rescue dogs and their sunny outlook on life have changed his world view. Although the title specifically names Tara, she is not the sole focus of the lessons he has learned. However if he had never met Tara, then he wouldn’t have met or rescued any of the the other dogs.


Throughout this book I laughed at some chapters and also cried during others. I think that is what makes a great dog book because the book, like dog’s themselves make you laugh and at some point during their life, they will make you cry. While reading, I shed a tear each time he talked about the loss of one of the dogs and how it never gets easier. I laughed each time he talked about the antics of all of his dogs. I definitely laughed more than cried during this book.

I also enjoyed this book because he gave some insight about his life as an author. It was nice to read that he doesn’t spend hours and hours writing his novels. That was comforting to read since that is the way the we write our books. It is always interesting to hear the processes of other authors.

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Dragondrums: The Conclusion of the Harper Hall Trilogy

Dragondrums: The Conclusion of the Harper Hall Trilogy

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

In Dragondrums, the main character is no longer Menolly, but rather Piemur, Menolly’s first friend at the Harper Hall who we met in Dragonsinger. Here are my reviews for Book 1: Dragonsong, and Book 2: Dragonsinger.

A Brief Summary

The book opens three years after Dragonsinger, and finds Piemur’s splendid soprano beginning to crack as he is now in his teens. Consequently, he needs something else to do until his voice settles back. Master Robinton, head of the Harper Hall, decides to send sociable Piemur to the isolated Drum Heights.

His intention is to test sociable Piemur’s discretion and integrity, while also hoping he will learn an integral skill (drum beats are the equivalent of a very loud Morse code in Pern). After an unfortunate incident, Piemur completes his time at the Drum Heights and begins an all-together new adventure which involves travel and… going undercover!

A photo by Liz Weston. unsplash.com/photos/8zwyATYyrSY

Taking It As It Is

At this year’s Tucson Festival of Books, we attended a panel entitled, The Art of the Book Review, featuring two well known critics: Maureen Corrigan of Fresh Air fame and Louis Bayard, known for his recaps of Downton Abbey in the New York Times. In the panel, Corrigan talked about how book reviews ought to “take the book as it is,” rather than how the reviewer would have written the book. I have tried to keep that in mind while writing this review, but I really do wish that Dragondrums had continued Menolly’s journey.

As a reader, I became so invested in Menolly’s thoughts, feelings, and life purpose. She is still in Dragondrums, but she’s nearly just part of the background. Another book about Menolly would have really filled out the trilogy in the most beautiful way. That being said, Dragondrums was actually quite fun to read.


During Piemur’s new adventure, he revisits his earlier life as a herdsman’s boy, before he entered the Harper Hall. There is a particularly poignant scene near the end of the book involving a young herdbeast that nearly brought tears to my eyes. As always, Thread is a constant threat to life on Pern and Piemur has his own battle with Thread in Dragondrums.

With regard to length, the first book of the trilogy, Dragonsong is 208 pages, the second, Dragonsinger is 288, and the third, Dragondrums is 256. Dragondrums took me the longest to read because I just was not as into the book since it wasn’t about Menolly.

Dragonsinger is easily my favorite of the series and I highly recommend it! Happy Friday everyone!

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The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The Lincoln Lawyer is the 16th book of Michael Connelly’s and is the first in the Lincoln Lawyer Series. The main character is Mickey Haller, a defense attorney in Los Angeles who works out of his car, a Lincoln, hence the name of the book.

Mickey is doing fairly well defending drug dealers, prostitutes and motorcycle gang members. One day, he gets a call to defend a man accused of attempting to rape and kill a prostitute. The defendant claims he is innocent, and thus we begin the journey of Mickey trying to defend his new client and get an acquittal.

The Lincoln Lawyer Review

Skeptical at First

This book was difficult for me to read for a couple reasons. My first and biggest reason for not immediately liking this book is that the defendant is not a likeable guy. From the beginning, you are very suspicious of him. He doesn’t seem trustworthy.

The second reason I had a hard time with this book is that in the beginning, the storytelling is very choppy and we are introduced to a lot of characters. Now, maybe I would have been able to keep track of who was who if I didn’t read it before going to sleep, but I’m not so sure. There are a lot of names and it became confusing.

Eventual Redemption

I won’t spoil the ending, but for all my dislike of the first three-quarters of this book, in the end, I actually liked the Lincoln Lawyer. The ending was satisfying and brought all of the characters that Michael Connelly introduced along the way together.

This book was made into a movie in 2011 starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller and Ryan Phillippe as the defendant. I didn’t see the movie before reading, so I didn’t have any spoilers while reading the book. This fact made the ending all the better.

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Good, Evil, and J.K. Rowling, Post-Harry Potter

Good, Evil, and J.K. Rowling, Post-Harry Potter

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

After Harry Potter, the theme of good versus evil remains a key focus for J.K. Rowling, however post-HP, she has ventured much further into the evil side of things.

The Cormoran Strike series is set in London and features a cast of celebrities and models in the first book and a cast of prominent writers, literary agents, and editors in the second. I have just begun reading the third book of the Strike series, Career of Evil, and therefore have limited commentary on the book. Depraved behavior can happen anywhere, but it may be easier for some to observe it in the harsh conditions of London in the Strike series, rather than the purportedly idyllic setting of The Casual Vacancy.


In my 10th grade history class, we studied various Enlightenment thinkers, including Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Namely, Hobbes said, “The condition of man… is a condition of war of everyone against everyone.” This seems to be a guiding philosophy certainly for The Casual Vacancy, and to perhaps a milder extent, the Cormoran Strike series.

In all of Rowling’s post-Harry Potter work, it feels as though you are being forced to stare unblinkingly at the more unseemly side of humanity. It can be quite uncomfortable to read, and maybe that is her goal. There seems to be a keen desire to look at people’s imperfections, all the parts most people keep concealed due to social niceties.

Rowling pokes and prods mercilessly at her character’s vulnerabilities, creating a sense of brutal honesty. The bright jewel of hope that was a constant reassuring presence in Harry Potter is nearly entirely snuffed out in her work since. The brightest point of the Strike series is his assistant, Robin Ellacott, but even she may have a dark secret lingering in her past.

The Strike series so far is definitely engaging and thought-provoking; the storytelling and suspense, top-notch. However, and I realize J.K. Rowling doesn’t answer to me, I would love if she could write something a little lighter in this post-Harry Potter world.

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The Cuckoo’s Calling: A Classic British Mystery with an Expert Ending

The Cuckoo’s Calling: A Classic British Mystery with an Expert Ending

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

This is a review of the audiobook version of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, read by Robert Glenister.

Set among many rich, shiny people, as well as some grubby underlings who aspire to fame and wealth, The Cuckoo’s Calling centers around a private detective named Cormoran Strike. Strike is the illegitimate son of a rock star and a “super groupie.” He took up his gig as a private sleuth after part of his leg was destroyed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan where he was serving in the SIB (the British military police).

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a classic mystery. Consistent with the genre, it is not a particularly happy book, considering it’s dealing primarily with crime and death. (The main exception would be the “cozy mystery” which can tend to be quite cheerful, e.g. Father Brown, Miss Marple, or Grantchester. So, if you are looking for a light-hearted sunny read, consider those alternatives.) The ending is quite good with an unexpected surprise, which accounts for a lot when it comes to mysteries.

There is plenty of profanity throughout The Cuckoo’s Calling. If reading the physical book, this can easily be skimmed over but when listening to the audiobook, it can sometimes feel like a verbal assault. But beyond that, the characters are well drawn and the plot kept me guessing throughout, as you would expect from a seasoned author like Rowling.

I am nearly a third of the way through the second book in the series: The Silkworm. As soon as I finish, I will post a review. The Silkworm is set in the world of agents and publishers, including some “indie authors.” So far I am enjoying it quite a bit more than The Cuckoo’s Calling, but will wait until the end to say anymore.

In the coming days, we will be writing a couple more posts related to Cuckoo’s Calling, including how J.K. Rowling explores human nature in her writing, as well as the narration style of Robert Glenister.


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Dragonsinger Book Review: Harpers, Hogwarts and a Hawaiian Kolohe

Dragonsinger Book Review: Harpers, Hogwarts and a Hawaiian Kolohe

posted in: Book Reviews, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Earlier this month, I reviewed Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. Today, I will be reviewing the second book in the Harper Hall of Pern trilogy, Dragonsinger. If you wish to read the first book, I highly recommend you stop and read the first review, as this second review may spoil a key surprise.

In my last review, I drew comparisons between Dragonsong and the Giver Quartet. Dragonsinger then is most comparable to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but McCaffrey’s book is more upbeat (i.e., light hearted and less serious).


There are quite a few parallels between Harry Potter and Dragonsinger.

We join Menolly arriving on dragonback to the Harper Hall. This is the place of which she has dreamed of likely since Petiron began teaching her about music back at Half Circle Sea Hold. The Harper Hall is not at all what she had imagined it would be like, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. She is there to learn music and throughout the book, there are many teachers who invest a great deal in her education (much like Harry Potter’s education at Hogwarts).

Dragonsinger Book Review

I listened to this book, just like Dragonsong, through the OneClickDigital subscription through my local library. Sally Darling narrates again and once more, she does a lovely job!

Master Robinton has a twinkle in his eye similar to that of Albus Dumbledore, and like Dumbledore, he tracks the movements of his star pupil, Menolly, while keeping busy, managing any business that crops up throughout the continent of Pern. He is a very busy man, but remains compassionate, thoughtful, and generous. The best kind of leader.


The difference between Dragonsong and Dragonsinger is night and day, quite literally. Dragonsong is filled with a sad darkness and a sense of emotional and physical isolation. The ways of Half Circle Sea Hold are quite insular, given its closed off location, but also the mentality of Menolly’s father who happens to be the leader of the community. Menolly’s family attempts to snuff out her musical gifts at ever opportunity causing Menolly to feel she has no choice but to run away, at great personal peril.

Dragonsinger, on the other hand is full of light, laughter and friendship. Menolly’s gifts are revered and celebrated, even if a few Harpers are skeptical at first. They attend a Gather, pretty much a festival with lots of food, drink, entertainment, and trade/shopping! Life flows freely and abundantly in the Harper Hall – quite a 180 from Half Circle Sea Hold. There are still challenges to overcome, but none as serious as those she faced in the first book. Dragonsinger is a comparative breath of fresh air to Dragonsong.

The best part of reading Dragonsinger was the characters. Menolly’s fire-lizards continue to play a big part in the story, especially with regard to Menolly’s emotional growth. Each Master Harper has something unique to offer, as well as the Journeyman Harpers. We meet Piemur, a young rascal with an angelic soprano voice. Al and I spent a few years during our childhood in Hawaii, and there is a Hawaiian word that captures Piemur’s mischievious spirit: Kolohe (pronounced ko-lo-hay). Basically it means “endearing troublemaker” and that’s Piemur to a T.

I have begun reading Dragondrums and Piemur is the main character. I was surprised that Menolly was not the main character in this book since she was in the first two of the trilogy. That being said, I am on Chapter 5 and it really isn’t an issue. Piemur is a very pleasant character to spend time with. Stay tuned for my review of Dragondrums!

You can read a full summary of Dragonsinger at the Pern Wikia page here.

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Review: The True Meaning of Smekday

Review: The True Meaning of Smekday

posted in: Book Reviews, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

A couple of years ago, we attended the Tucson Festival of Books and we attended a panel where Adam Rex was a speaker. The panel was called “i-Illustrate: Art, Technology and Picture Books” in which panelists discussed utilizing Photoshop and other technologies, like SketchUp, to assist in the creation of illustrations.

Panelists included Adam Rex, Chris Gall, and David Diaz.
The panelists gathered around a painting David Diaz created on the spot. Adam Rex is on the far right.

Adam Rex is a writer and illustrator of children’s books. He also is a University of Arizona alum and according to Wikipedia, a resident of Tucson. He has a long list of books to his name, 51 according to Goodreads. While perusing the shelves at the local library, I stumbled upon his first book.


The True Meaning of Smekday is about a girl named Gratuity “Tip” Tucci who lives in an urban city similar to New York City. The earth is being invaded by aliens called Boov, who are forcing all residents of the United States to move to Florida and then to Arizona. On her way there, she meets a Boov named J.Lo and discovers that he is quite friendly.

We follow along with Tip and J.Lo and their adventures cross country to find Tip’s mother. Along the way, we find out that J.Lo accidently tipped off another species of aliens, the Gorg, and now they too want to take over Earth. The unlikely pair work to save the world from both the Boov and the Gorg. This book was particularly enjoyable for me to read because it featured our home state of Arizona.

In 2015, The True Meaning of Smekday was adapted into an animated movie, Home. Rihanna provided the voice for Tip and Jim Parsons as “Oh”, the movie version of J.Lo.

If you enjoy quirky, off-the-wall funny books, you will definitely enjoy The True Meaning of Smekday!

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Connelly’s ‘Black Echo’: A Gateway to Gritty LA (Book Review)

Connelly’s ‘Black Echo’: A Gateway to Gritty LA (Book Review)

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I was introduced to Michael Connelly and his main character, Harry Bosch, by my parents. They had seen Michael Connelly’s books for years at local bookstores, but only after seeing Connelly playing poker on an episode of Castle did they finally purchase their first Bosch book: Angel’s Flight (Bosch Book #6). This was a driving factor in our first Woof Trekking stop at Angel’s Flight. They have been hooked ever since and now I am too. We own all 18 of the Harry Bosch novels.


Black Echo is the first in the series and is the first that I read. It was originally published in 1992 and won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award that same year.
Black Echo by Michael Connelly Book Review
In Black Echo, we are introduced to Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, a detective in the LAPD. Bosch is a Vietnam veteran who worked clearing the tunnels of the Viet Cong, a so called “tunnel rat.” He has worked his way up through the ranks to detective in the elite Robbery-Homicide division until a bad shoot gets him demoted to the Hollywood division and assigned to be partners with Jerry Edgar.

Bosch is called out to a crime scene where the body of a fellow “tunnel rat” has been found. As Bosch and Edgar investigate, they discover their body leads to an unsolved bank robbery. This induces Bosch to call on the FBI for information. Special Agent Eleanor Wish is assigned to assist the LAPD in their investigation. As the investigation continues, the case becomes more and more dangerous. Bosch must follow his instincts and re-enter the tunnels under the city of Los Angeles to find out who murdered the tunnel rat.


Overall, this novel was very well written and I can see why it won an award. The book kept me guessing as to what was actually going on up until the end. The first couple of chapters are a bit difficult to get through but once you get to Chapter Four, you are rewarded. The action starts to pick up and you are sucked in. You want to keep reading and reading to find what is going to happen next.

The Bosch series was recently adapted to be a superb web television series, created by Amazon, starring Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch. We were skeptical at first if Welliver could really play Harry, but after watching both seasons, we are convinced. Each season is based on a couple of novels. The upcoming third season will be based off of this novel and A Darkness More Than Night. You can hear it from Michael Connelly himself in this video from his YouTube channel.

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