Friday, May 25, 2018

new leaf.

It’s been aWHILE since I posted here! I’ve kind of switched gears a bit and have gotten into bookstagram of late, so I’m doing short & sweet reviews over there and haven’t really been using this space. But I can’t let it go altogether, so I’m debating also posting my book reviews here...or at the very least, sporadically sharing other types of book-related posts. I’m not really sure yet.

But, anywho. This blog isn’t dead, and I’m going to be back again soon with something. I’m also leaving up all my old book reviews, even though my new reviews will likely be formatted differently.

So. See you soon!


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Book Review(ish): Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

So, I feel kind of lame with this review, because it’s a not-review-review. It’s a DNF-reasoning. But maybe this particular issue I have is something I’m not alone in? Perhaps this can serve as a disclaimer/warning on the book for someone else with my hangup. 

I was excited for my first dip into the waters of Margaret Atwood, and I had high hopes even though this isn’t one of her lauded staples. I’d previously read another entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare series I enjoyed, Vinegar Girl. And then, very early into the pages, I got stuck. It’s the same thing that happened to me with Good Omens by Gaiman & Pratchett and Wildwood by Colin Meloy. 

I can no longer stomach when bad things happen to babies or children, even in fiction. 

I think it must be some sort of evolutionary  reaction. Since having kids, I have an extreme emotional and visceral, physical reaction to hearing of even minor, slightly unpleasant things happening to kids. It goes far beyond the normal sad, sympathetic reaction most people have to the same sorts of things. I wish it didn’t happen—it feels kind of silly and it keeps me from enjoying otherwise great works of fiction. It almost feels like a phobia or something, to be honest. 

Does anyone else experience this? Is it a parent thing or do others deal with it, too? 

I feel bad that I can’t fulfill my duty to give an actual review of this book, but maybe I can help someone else with my problem to avoid the discomfort I’ve encountered. I’ll give it 2.5 stars, since I feel equally bad saying it was “good” or “bad” in this circumstance. 

For more on Margaret Atwood and The Hag-Seed, here is a link to visit:

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

Friday, June 2, 2017

book review: Yellow Owl Workshop’s Make It Yours by Christine Schmidt.

I'll admit, it has been a looooong time between when I got this book and now, when I'm finally reviewing it. I'll also admit that I don't really have time right now to test drive any of the cute, quirky crafts in this lovely little book, what with the twins due to arrive in 6 weeks or less! But that doesn't stop me from admiring the projects within this book and certainly making mental bookmarks for future endeavors.

Make It Yours by Christine Schmidt is a light, airy, colorful, and approachable collection of DIYs and crafts that center more around types of patterns than project type. It lays out instructions on how to embellish items from scarves and t-shirts and tote bags to dressers and wall art and upholstery. Projects are labeled by difficulty, and utilize a wide variety of techniques like screen printing, dyeing, stamping, stenciling, iron-ons, and more. Provided with the projects are tons of templates you can test drive before going off with your own patterns.

I've always been curious about some of the techniques in this book, like stamping and especially screen printing. I would definitely use this book instructionally to try out some of Christine's projects, even if I'd have my own patterns or applications in mind!

For more on Christine Schmidt, Yellow Owl Workshop, or this book, check out these links:

Happy crafting!

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

Friday, February 10, 2017

book(ish) review: amazing animal facts postcards by maja säfström

This review is a little different! It's not exactly a book review, but it's not exactly not one, either. Confused yet?

Awhile back I fell in love with Maja Säfström's book, The Illustrated Compendium of Animal Facts. So, for a couple of reasons, I jumped at the chance to check out her Amazing Animal Facts postcard set! First off, the postcards contained within are based off the aforementioned book, which I loved. Also, I had the fun idea of framing some of the postcards for the twins' nursery and/or our kiddos' playroom. Perfect way to see these cute, quirky illustrations and fun facts all the time!

Well, after looking through this postcard set, I was not disappointed and I definitely plan to frame some of the cards for the nursery. I really like the keepsake setup of the box, and the fact that the black-and-white postcards are colorable. The material they're printed on is sturdy, but perfect for coloring. I'm not sure whether I'll go that route or if I'll just mat them with bright colors to make them pop. Either way, Avery is going to love looking at the different animals, and the twins will, too, later on!

(I think the owls are my favorite.)

I highly recommend checking out these cute postcards from a really great artist. Especially if you have kiddos--they'd love looking through all the amazing animals!

For more on Maja Säfström, her artwork, and her books, check out these links:

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

book review: the lost hero (heroes of olympus, book I) by rick riordan.

I've been meaning to start this series for ages, and I finally did it!

(The Heroes of Olympus series)
by Rick Riordan
Disney-Hyperion, 2012
4.5/5 stars

From the publisher:

Jason has a problem. He doesn't remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently she's his girlfriend Piper, his best friend is a kid named Leo, and they're all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for "bad kids." What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea-except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he's in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn't recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on?

Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What's troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper's gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all-including Leo-related to a god.

Rick Riordan, the best-selling author of the Percy Jackson series, pumps up the action and suspense in The Lost Hero, the first book in The Heroes of Olympus series. Fans of demi-gods, prophesies, and quests will be left breathless--and panting for Book Two.

As I mentioned, I've been meaning to read The Heroes of Olympus series for a long time. I really enjoyed the Percy Jackson series--not without some criticisms, and not without favoring some books in the series over others. But as a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed the series as the fun, funny, adventurous romp that it is, populated by colorful characters against the backdrop of Greek mythology painted with a light, humorous, modern touch. So, of course I've intended to dive into the follow-up series at some point. It's been a few years, but here I am, back to the world of the demigods!

The Good:

  • I think if I had read this right after finishing the Percy Jackson series, I would've been disappointed in the switch to shifting points of view, because it's not Percy and because it's a big difference from the previous series. But having waited quite awhile, I actually really enjoyed the switch up.
  • Just a great, solid story from Riordan! Tightly woven, wonderfully plotted, exciting and engaging. It pulled me in immediately. This guy does epic adventures well.
  • I love the subtle way this story takes a step toward being more grown up than the original Percy series. Longer, more epic, more complicated, older characters...but young, avid Percy fans could jump in and not be out of their depth by any stretch. The writing style is basically the same, even if just a bit more mature with the distance from Percy. Because, let’s face it, he's not the most mature demigod!
  • The characters were great. Jason maybe fell the most flat, but with no memories, that's kind of forgivable. Piper and Leo were nicely fleshed out and quite relatable and likable.

The Bad:

  • I don't have any serious criticisms. This solid series opener was better written than some of the Percy installments, in my opinion. If anything, you could argue that it was almost too much of the same, but...if you finish the Percy books and are ready to dive into the Heroes series, you're probably not looking for something wildly divergent from the demigod adventures you know and love.

The Unexpected:

  • Not much to report here, either. The story pretty much played out and read how I expected it to based on my Percy experience, if not a little more maturely (see the good above).
  • As far as finer points go, there were some pretty juicy twists and reveals that surprised me! But I can't spoil them for you, sorry! ;)

The Takeaway:

Loved it! I was not disappointed. I'm ready to dive into the rest of the series, which I hope continues strong with the momentum of The Lost Hero. If you enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, I think you'll love this one, and if you haven't read Percy yet and you enjoy fast-paced, funny fantasy-adventure, you've got a lot of catching up to do!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

book review: the princess diarist by carrie fisher.

*I'm playing around with a new format for book reviews! Let me know what you think!*

The Princess Diarist
by Carrie Fisher
Blue Rider Press, 11/22/16
4.5/5 stars

From the publisher:

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie. 

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a regular teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

I finally finished reading The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher, and I'm so glad I did. The timing could not have been more, well, timely, with her recent passing. I had begun the book before she passed away, and finished it after the fact. It certainly brought a whole different perspective to my reading of the book.

The Good:

  • I just plain enjoyed reading this book. I went into it knowing who I was dealing with, meaning I had certain expectations for a bit of craziness, rawness, brashness, and even lewdness, and maybe I encountered more of some of those parts and less of others than I expected. It was an excusably jumbled collection of funny, often well-written, yet sometimes foggy memories and feelings. It was emotional and revealing and sad. Much more sad than I expected. Perhaps made more sad by Carrie's passing. 
  • Overall, it was something I came away from glad I had read. I feel like I understand the enigma that was Carrie Fisher just a bit more from having read it. I am going to have to read her other memoirs at some point, now.
  • Some parts were so funny and witty! Carrie may have had a sharp tongue in interviews, but she had an even more honed wit with the pen. 

The Bad:

  • I don't feel like I have any major criticisms of this. It's not a work of fiction. It is a piece of her heart. Sometimes it read like a confused, contradictory, jumbled mess, but I felt like that only reflected Carrie's clouded memories and feelings about that portion of her life. 
  • If there was anything truly bad, it's that the focus of this book sort of lasered in on the lead-up to her casting in Star Wars, the affair, the diary pages themselves, and then a meandering sort of wrap-up that brought us into the present. I wanted more details on life during Episodes V and VI. How were things between Carrie and Harrison then, when their affair had broken off but they were still working together? I wanted more details on other parts of her life, too, but I realize those parts have been covered in other memoirs and were too much to pack in here, again. It's not necessarily a bad thing that I came away wanting to read her other memoirs, though!

The Unexpected:

  • I expected more of the book to be her diaries from during the filming of Star Wars, and less her unpacking the situation before, during, and after for the reader.
  • I was surprised by how Carrie's writing voice was less reflective of her wild, brash public persona, and more introspective and thoughtful (all the while as wry and witty as you'd expect from her). If I had read any of her previous works, I'm sure I would have expected that. But it made the narrative all the more raw and sad when you realized she was a bit more down-to-earth than you thought she was.
  • Sure, it was her telling of the affair she had with then-married, much older Harrison Ford. But it was told in MUCH less racy detail and much more emotional detail than I expected.
  • I had no idea so much of the diary portion was written in the form of poetry! It was fascinating to digest nineteen-year-old-Carrie's feelings through the vehicle of her verse. 

The Takeaway:

There's no better time to read this book and get a glimpse into Carrie Fisher's last emotional, funny, witty, revealing memoir. I highly recommend it!

Friday, August 5, 2016

SPOILER-FREE book review: harry potter and the cursed child!

Part of me kind of can't believe that I'm sitting here writing a book review on a new Harry Potter book. It's crazy. It's amazeballs. Dare I say it's...magical?

Ha. Sorry. I couldn't resist.

I have to say I wasn't totally bummed when I learned Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would be in play format, but not totally on board either. I was just a smidge hesitant, I guess. It turned out that that didn't have a huge impact on my enjoyment of the story. I was still able to digest it and sort of translate it pretty smoothly into non-play, regular story format in my head. That's how I chose to read it, anyway. I just sort of translated the stage directions into the sorts of visuals the more traditional narratives in the rest of the HP books would have evoked for me. My biggest complaint on the script topic is that I wish I could have read it without having seen the actors cast in the roles first--not because I have any problems whatsoever with the casting, because I don't, AT ALL. I'll be the first to defend the Hermione casting, for instance. But I would've just preferred to not have that confusion of two different versions of my favorite characters kind of competing with the flow of the story. I'd have been able to just skip the confusion of whom to picture in my mind for the characters.

Moving on...

I will keep this brief and spoiler-free. I just have to say that at first, I wasn't sold. It started out a bit slow and a bit depressing. Then it got even more depressing and darker. But turned a corner and it all came together gloriously. And I loved it. I loved it and I am now once again depressed because Harry Potter came back for a minute just to end again! How cruel! 

Anyway. I have to say my favorite characters in this were good old Ron Weasley--I don't know what people are complaining about because to me, he was 100% Ron except BETTER--and Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius was perhaps the most well-written new character, and his one liners and personality were so great. I want a new series of seven books that focus on Scorpius. To tell you more would just spoil it if you haven't read it. Just go read it and be prepared to love Scorpius.

A couple of criticisms: the story actually didn't 100% make sense to me. And Ron, Hermione, and Harry all felt a little out of character for themselves. Draco, too. Some of their lines just didn't sound like them. Those sound like big problems, really, but when I quickly read through this in the format it's in, they didn't really seem like problems that impacted my overall impression or enjoyment, I guess. I suppose that was all part of taking into account while I was reading that this was going to play out a little differently than a HP novel by JK. If that makes sense?

Okay, that's where I am going to end this, because if I don't shut up now, I will continue to blab on about this forever. Just go read it. It's amazing that it even exists and it's pretty great in and of itself. Yay!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

book review: miss peregrine's home for peculiar children by ransom riggs.

I know I was supposed to read another classic for my Classics Catch-Up next, but I went ahead and hopped into Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs because I've been meaning to for awhile, and I wanted to make sure I knew what was up since the movie is coming out in September. I'm sure glad I picked this one up! So good!

It wasn't quite what I expected. I was imagining a much more horror-heavy, stylized, Victorian-esque dark horror fantasy. It was nothing of the sort, really. It was more like a good episode of Doctor Who (think Tennant) mixed with Series of Unfortunate Events (sort of) and the X-men, with a splash of Neil Gaiman, perhaps? But the narrative was pretty unfussy and straightforward. It read like a lot of YA I've read in that sense.

The concept of this story being built around all these eerie old photos is pretty novel and intriguing, but I think the thing that really drew me in was the story. It had its moments and parts were a bit underdeveloped, but in all it was just a good story that drew me in. I liked Jacob, the main character, and found his narrative to be well-paced and easy to get drawn into. The story of a boy discovering his grandfather's tall tales were true, and that he was a part of a time travel / WWII / dark fantasy / monster fairy tale type story in ways he couldn't have even imagined, kept me interested.

The story follows Jacob as he tracks clues left by his grandfather, who died a disturbing death, to discover the home for "peculiar children" he told tales of through Jacob's childhood was real. Then Jacob gets caught up in friendship, romance, adventure, danger, and makes shocking discoveries about himself and the world around him. Vague, I know, but to explain it in more detail would ruin it! The plot has enough twists and turns that you'll want to see for yourself.

I liked the vibe--dark, but not too dark, more historical fantasy fiction than anything. My biggest complaint is, again, that some of the story's threads seemed a little thin, and could have strengthened the story if they had been woven a big tighter and fleshed out more.

But, yeah, I really enjoyed it! Enough that I had to pick up the next book, Hollow City, right away. Looking forward to the movie this fall!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

double book review: smile and sisters by raina telgemeier.

Double graphic novel book review time! I devoured both of these graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier so quickly, and they were so closely tied together, there was no reason not to combine their reviews. Kind of how sisters get stuck sharing a bedroom? Ha.

I read both of these children's / YA (depends on where your library shelves it) graphic novels for my reader's advisory goal at work. I have seen so many young girls pick up copies of these two, I thought I should see what the fuss was about. I'm so glad I did!

Smile is the autobiographical story of Raina's pre-teen and early-teen years, centering around the ordeals she went through with her teeth and orthodontic work. Sounds like kind of odd, mundane subject matter, but it was far from it. On the contrary--Raina went through a lot of harrowing drama when it came to her teeth, which had a huge impact on her coming-of-age in that awkward stage of life we all go through. We follow her ups and downs, as she faces troubles and learns more about herself in the process. It's really a well-told story, the art is great, and the '90s references are the icing on the cake!

Sisters is the follow-up to Smile, illustrating Raina's relationship with her younger sister Amara through a series of flashbacks laced throughout a particularly dramatic episode in their lives as they braved a family trip together. Smile was my favorite of the two, but Sisters makes a great companion read and adds more background and depth to supplement the story you just didn't want to end in Smile.

These were both great reads! I'm pretty new to graphic novels, and these two were a great place to get my feet wet. I will certainly be recommending them to library patrons, and anyone looking for a good coming-of-age story!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

book review: hello, bicycle by anna brones.

I have loved bike-riding since I was a kid. I've never been a great cyclist, but I do love riding casually for fun and for exercise. It's one of those few physical activities I don't see as a chore! I haven't had the time or means to ride my bike much in the last few years, but I've had it on my mind for awhile to get my bike back in working order and get back into riding. Cue Hello, Bicycle by Anna Brones! The quirky, cute cover art and subject matter quickly caught my eye, so I had to grab a copy. Just glancing at the cover and at the illustrations throughout made visions of being a cute little hipster bike lady cycle through my head. ;)

Brones' book is dense and comprehensive, but well-organized and very readable. It stirred up my excitement to get back in the saddle. It covers everything from the rules of the road and safety, bicycle purchasing and maintenance, history, gear and accessories, information for cyclists with all sorts of levels of enthusiasm and purposes for riding in mind, bike culture, and even recipes for snacks to take along and some nifty bike DIYs. Again, this is a fairly intense and information-packed book, but there's something for every kind of cyclist in there, and I think just about anyone could skip around and find useful info in there. My only wish is that there was more extensive info and tips for riding with small children or pets in a bike trailer--I'm interested in purchasing one, but would like to research more before making that plunge. My area is growing up quickly and becoming more urban, so riding with my kiddo in tow to run an errand or do something fun is looking like more of a possibility for the future. But, regardless of the lack of info on towing a tot, there's plenty of other good stuff to dig into here.

For more on Anna Brones and her new book, check out the following links:
Happy riding & reading!

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!