The Thing About Jellyfish | Review

Middle Grade fiction about grief and grieving with a large dose of science thrown in for good measure. Ali Benjamin did a WONDERFUL job with this, check out the book and watch my full chat below.

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Review – Be Different

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Written by John Elder Robison as a series of short stories from his childhood and meant to give the reader a peek into the Aspergian mind, this book is a mix of memoir, education, mental health, and even self help.

Originally published: U.S. March 22, 2011

Blurbed by Temple Grandin and Mark Roithmayr (president of Autism Speaks) and sporting a beautiful cover, be different draws the audience in and prepares them for some quirky fun as they learn more about Aspergers, a form of autism.

When I requested, and was subsequently sent, this book for review from Blogging for Books, i was expecting something that looked more into the technical bits of Aspergian life. I saw that it was a series of advice/short stories and was honestly expecting to see articles, anecdotes from other Aspies (Robison’s word for those diagnosed with Aspergers), and maybe even some notes from a teacher or two. However, this book was not at all what I expected. While I was looking for the ‘advice’ part promised to me in the title, what most of the book entails is actually the other part, the part where he details his own adventures with Asperger’s. Except Mr. Robison was not diagnosed until his 40s. Which means that the stories we get in this book are actually told to us as an acknowledged Aspergian looks back at his childhood and discusses what happened in the light of having NOT KNOWN he was Aspergian. Sound confusing? It isn’t really.

What Mr. Robison does well in this book is, among other things, detailing what he did and what happened to him and then spending a sentence or two describing whether that was or was not a good way to handle it in the light of Aspergers.

The writing style is fairly clear and well done. The stories are mostly memoir with very little advice thrown in until the final chapter, but the advice seems like something most people can easily discern without explicit directions. (Unless you’re one of those Aspergians who NEEDS explicit directions. Hmm…)

However, Mr. Robison only mentions females as ‘girls’ to be learned about, feared, and, hopefully, dated. The only instance of women otherwise mentioned (besides offhand mentions of his mother) were of Little Bear, his son Cubby’s mother. She also has Aspergers…but he offers no advice or comments TO females. In fact, all of his stories and advice is written with an obvious slant to males. While this is understandable since he is, in fact, a male, AND the advice is applicable to both genders, someone with autism might not feel they ‘belong in/reading’ a book that doesn’t mention their gender. As someone dealing with a form of autism, I felt that he should have known and dealt with that at some point. He is also very self involved, which is typical for Aspergians and comes across well. I haven’t decided, and likely never will agree with myself, on whether this is frustrating, annoying, and a poor writing choice (especially in the times when he completely condones physical violence and leaving schools) or if it is necessary.

On the whole, I found this book to be well written and interesting. Though I would have liked more advice and possibly less repetition on the themes, I feel like this is a solid book for helping teen Aspies, Prot-Aspies (people with traits but not full on Aspergers) and Nypicals (neuro-typical or non-autistic people) understand how to handle their side of the spectrum and possibly how to help others.

I am rating this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review of Art Students League of New York on Painting

 

Penguin Random House’s Art Students League of New York on Painting page has this to say about the book:

….”This unique book brings you into the studio classrooms of some of the League’s most celebrated painters—including William Scharf, Mary Beth McKenzie, Henry Finkelstein, and Knox Martin—for lessons on a variety of fundamental topics, idiosyncratic approaches, and quirky philosophies. Scanning the table of contents is like flipping through a course catalog: do you want to take Naomi Campbell’s “Working Large in Watercolor,” James McElhinney’s “Journal Painting and Composition,” Sharon Sprung’s “Figure Painting from Life in Oil,” or Ellen Eagle’s “Poetic Realism in Pastel”? Now you can—from the comfort of your own home studio (or living room). ”

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Overview:

The Art Students League of New York On Painting was written by James L. Mcelhinney and the instructors of the Art Students League of New York. With amazingly detailed illustrations, artist biographies and autobiographies, and mini-lessons on art, this book is full of inspiration and new knowledge for its audience.

Character Believability:

This book is based completely on real artists and those artists gave interviews and lessons for us to read, so this should be a no brainer. However, a few of the interviews and auto-biographies felt padded and ‘jazzed’ as though they meant to make themselves come out super-cool, but they only managed to make themselves seem slightly less believable.

Flow and Pace:

A few places were a bit sluggish for me, but the majority of the book had a good pace and flow. The pictures and interviews moved well together.

Reader Engagement:

I was very intrigued by the art pieces and mini-lessons in this book. I didn’t enjoy the interviews as much, but I’m also not the typical ‘art person’ this book was aiming at. The set up of this hard-bound edition is very nice, with gorgeous art and thick pages that pack a vibrant punch and keep the reader flipping pages.

Reader Enrichment: 

I feel like I learned a lot about art and different types of painting in this book. Not only were the mini-lessons very educational, but the other segments were well written and provided a lot of random art facts for even the least artistic of souls.

Character Believability: 4/5
Flow and Pace: 4.5/5

Reader Engagement:4.5/5

Reader Enrichment: 5/5
Reader Enjoyment: 4/5
Overall Rate: 4.4/5

 

Buy The Art Students League of New York on Painting 

*I was sent this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and ratings herein are my own.*

Every Little Thing

 

 

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  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Potter Style; Csm edition (November 3, 2015)
  • Language: English

 

Every Little Thing

SUMMARY:

Wander through a 1980’s-inflected dreamscape of stuffed animals and boom boxes, dance along with a joyful parade of woodland creatures–each page of this coloring book invites you to explore a different kaleidoscope-like universe of pattern, shape and image. From the mind of Payton Cosell Turner—the creative force behind the celebrated wallpaper studio Flat Vernacular—comes this all-ages ode to the wondrous objects that make life beautiful. The coloring journey you take through these exquisite hand-drawn pages will inspire and delight.

Review:

I am sad to say that I was very disappointed in this book. Billed as a 1980s coloring book, there were very few instances of the minimal 80s editions in the repetitive and almost poorly drawn pages. While I’m sure many people find the repetitions to be soothing, it actually causes me anxiety. Very bad business. To top it all off, the pages are not easy to remove after coloring them, making it difficult to hang them up or gift them (One of my favorite things about the other non-story based coloring books I own is their perforated pages!).

I give this book a 2.5 out of 5 possible stars.

Healthy Mind Review

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A collection of more than 120 recipes formulated to optimize brain health, boost memory, improve mood, sharpen the central nervous system, and more.

Feed your mind.

Depression, ADHD, memory loss, agitation: These may seem like inevitable byproducts of modern lives spent multitasking, not getting enough sleep, and operating on digital overload. But while much of the brain’s work still remains a mystery, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the food you eat directly affects how well your brain functions. Brain health also plays a significant role in staving off diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

In The Healthy Mind Cookbook, Rebecca Katz has harnessed the latest research on the brain to identify the foods that can improve the brain’s ability to control cognition, emotion, and physical function—all of which dictate memory and mood. She then translates the very best of brain science into the kitchen, using delicious nutrient-dense foods as a tool for promoting a healthy mind from childhood through the golden years.

With a culinary pharmacy listing the benefits of key ingredients, complete nutritional details for each dish, and flavor-packed recipes for every meal of the day, including Avocado and Citrus Salad, Sweet Potato Hash, Turkish Lamb Sliders, and Chocolate Cherry Walnut Truffles, The Healthy Mind Cookbook will help lift the fog of everyday life so you can reach your full physical and mental potential.

The Healthy Mind Cookbook

By Rebecca Katz

                With Mat Edelson

 

The book jacket and interior photographs are glossy, well set, and mouthwatering. The hard cover itself is very classically designed and reminiscent of the type of retro cookbooks one might find in Grandma’s kitchen.

The book blurb is well written and uses a few scientific phrases to really sell the idea of eating correctly for mental and emotional health.

The book itself has beautiful images, well written recipes, and chapters full of essays explaining how each food can affect things such as memory, mood, and even ADHD.

However, due to the heavy use of scientific phraseology and recipes that did not veer toward the norm for my area (there were few recipes that included ingredients that could all be found in my town, let alone my own pantry!) I am giving this cookbook a total of 3 out of 5 possible dragons.

*I was sent this book by the publisher and Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions provided therein are of my own formation.*

The Seer Of Shadows – Book Review

The Seer of Shadows by Avi

The Seer of Shadows

Written By: Avi

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Summary:

Horace Carpetine does not believe in ghosts.

Raised to believe in science and reason, Horace Carpetine passes off spirits as superstition. Then he becomes an apprentice photographer and discovers an eerie—and even dangerous—supernatural power in his very own photographs.

When a wealthy lady orders a portrait to place by her daughter’s gravesite, Horace’s employer, Enoch Middleditch, schemes to sell her more pictures—by convincing her that her daughter’s ghost has appeared in the ones he’s already taken.

It’s Horace’s job to create images of the girl. Yet Horace somehow captures the girl’s spirit along with her likeness. And when the spirit escapes the photographs, Horace discovers he’s released a ghost bent on a deadly revenge. . . .

 

  • Age Range:8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level:4 – 7
  • Paperback:202 pages
  • Publisher:HarperCollins; Reprint edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0060000171
  • ISBN-13:978-0060000172

 

Character Believability:

The main character, Horace Carpentine, is a 14 year old scientifically minded boy. His boss, Enoch Middleditch, is a ‘society’ photographer and a flighty money grubber. They live in New York during the year 1872, when spirit photography is becoming popular.

Mr. and Mrs. Fredrick Von Macht are upper class society members who attempt to seem soft, sweet, and full of grief. However, they are eventually unable to hide their true personalities…which are not very nice.

Pegg, the Von Macht’s black servant girl, helps Horace with several things, including the main problem of the story, and they become great friends and allies.

Eleanor, the Von Macht’s dearly departed daughter, is starting to crop up in more than just the hushed conversation and covered paintings. She isn’t pleased with her ‘family’ at all.

As much as I wish I could tell you these characters are fully developed, multi-dimensional characters…I cannot. However, I have given this category a 4 out of 5 stars because, even as only one or two dimensional characters, they are well developed and definitely believable. This was written as a Middle Grade novel, however, and I do so wish the characters had been fleshed out just a smidgen more.

Flow and Pace:

Once I got into the story, I felt the pacing went at a very nice clip for the feel of the story. The first two pages did move a little slowly for me, but overall I felt that the pacing was very well done.

The flow is slightly choppy in place or two, as though they got into a situation or segment and then weren’t too certain how to get out of it. However, this is also mostly well done. I have given the pacing and flow 4 out of 5 stars as well.

Reader Engagement:

I think I would have found the story a bit more engaging earlier on if the characters had been made to be more in depth. However, the storyline was woven well enough, and the pace moved quickly enough, that I almost gave this category a rating of 4 instead of the 3.5 out of 5 that it wound up with.

Reader Enrichment:

The author includes some interesting information about the art of early photography. There are also a few historically accurate and very cool facts about the old practice of so-called spirit photography. I found these snippets and odd facts to be incredibly fun and mentally stimulating. I always love finding fiction that includes awesome information like this for the audience.

The book also included Literature Circle Questions and Activity ideas, which are wonderful enrichment resources. With the added bonus of these questions and activities, The Seer of Shadows can easily be used with small book clubs, literature circles, or larger classes without having to change much, if anything, about the enrichment. I have given this category 4 out of 5 stars.

Reader Enjoyment:

I found this book to be a quick and fairly enjoyable read. Though I did have a few small issues, as I pointed out previously, I felt that on the whole it was very well written and a great read for the intended audience of middle grade students.

In fact, there may possibly have been a place or two in the story that sent shivers scurrying up and down my own spine. I have given this category a 4 out of 5 stars as well.

Cover Art:

 I absolutely love the cover art, taken and copy written in 2009 by Mark Tucker, MergeLeft Reps, Inc. I felt like the photograph was absolutely the perfect touch for the book. 4.5 out of 5 stars for the cover art.

Back Copy:

I feel that the back copy is interesting, well written, and pulls at the potential reader to know more. Any back copy that makes you want to pick up the book and read is a good thing! 4 out of 5 stars for the back copy.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars overall for The Seer of Shadows by Avi.

Creative Journaling

Most of us have heard the term ‘Creative Journaling’ at some point or another. Some of us may even have attempted it at some point or another. Well let me tell you something…the world of creative journals has advanced significantly since the time I bought a little sketch book and some colored pencils, convinced that I could mix words and watercolors to create something amazing and awe inspiring. (I filled 4 or 5 pages and set it aside).

One of the best things to happen for the creative journaler, in my opinion anyway, is the rising popularity of creative journals. Not just notebooks or sketchbooks that you purchase and then fill as you see fit. No, these wonderful books provide you with specific ideas, prompts, and suggestions for each entry. Some of them are non-date specific, allowing the artist to pick and choose their prompts, moving through the pages on a whim and the wave of your emotions.

However, there is a daily creative journal that does include the dates. In fact, the Q&A a Day for Creatives: A 4 year Journal by Potter Style includes (you guessed it!) 4 years worth of dates. Each page is fitted with its own unique prompt and separated into four spaces. You merely fill in the year and fill out the box.

The prompts vary from the type of medium used, to the type of art created, and even to the type of question asked. Each day is a prompt meant to break you out of your box and allow you to view your day, and maybe even your life, in an inspiringly creative way.

I give the cover art 3 out of 5 dragons, the color blocking just doesn’t do it for me. I love the bright colors but feel the brown should have either gone completely across or not been included at all.

The inside, however, is exciting, fun, and definitely worth 5 out of 5 dragons! If you are a creative type (or if you want to try to be one) this is a great book to start with. You never even have to show it to anyone! If you aren’t an artistic type and don’t want to try this one, don’t worry! Potter Style has several more of these journals, such as the 5 year Q&A a Day that I still fill in every night, or the 3 year for kids and/or the the college student Q&A a Day! Check them out and find something that will fit your life, the questions are always interesting and thought provoking.

*I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review from Blogging for Books. Opinions are my own.*

The Little Paris Bookshop – A Review

*I was provided a copy of this book free of charge in return for my honest review. The following opinions are my own*

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George has a great summary on the back and an eye catching cover. However, I would not be perfectly honest if I didn’t tell you that this entire set – up, and the story between the covers, has be coming away with some very large mixed feelings.

On one hand, the summary is well written. On the other hand, the beautiful cover has a very minimal connection to the actual story line…yes it is partially set in Paris. However, there is so much more that could have been done to bring out the feel of the story through the cover art. I give the cover and summary combination 4 out of 5 dragons.

Now let’s move on to the story. I wish that I could tell you it immediately began to pull me in and i couldn’t put it down. That just isn’t the case. I’ve had the book for almost two months and I didn’t get through the first 3 chapters for a month and a half, the beginning just felt that sloow  to me.

There are several sections in the book whose inclusions baffle me. They don’t seem to add much, if anything, to the plot arc, the actions are so minuscule or non-existent that the story gains nothing but does get confusing for a bit. For example, the main character is called by several old nicknames during the story…3 or 4 of which are not explained and not used again. There is no background or additional information that allows us useful insight into the main character, just random, seemingly unimportant names tossed in to the story.

The main male characters are given a lot of background, some beautiful idiosyncrasies, and amazing backgrounds so that you want to know them better; however, Ms. George has written these great characters who feel like they should be friends of ours but are written almost flatly. The most well written and emotionally charged sections of the book are written from the perspective of the ‘missing’ main character, the woman who Jean Perdu (main character #1) loved, lost, and lost it over.

To this point, it may seem as though I don’t like the book but this is where the major mixed feelings start to rear their heads. A major action happens that sucked me back into the book and fulfilled a promise from the book summary. I got a little excited and kept reading…and reading…and reading. For a book that isn’t really that long (around 400 pages) it felt like I was slogging through hundreds of pages. Just when I would be ready to give up, a fun, exciting, and amazing little tidbit would happen and I would be sucked back in. It wasn’t until the final few chapters that I really got pulled into the story and felt that Ms. George was hitting her stride with it.

As an author, I understand the  use of these elements and actions that both moved and stalled the story. But has a reader who had been promised certain things, I was concerned with parts of the story and found myself wishing there had been a bit more consistent movement to the story

Overall I give this book 3/5 dragons. I enjoyed a lot of it, but felt the story was inconsistent and fell flat in a few places.