Review: Elemental Island

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Summary: Astie has always been different. Her 12th birthday is looming and she still has not decided on her thesis. All the Learners at the Hub picked theirs years ago. If it wasn’t for her cousin, Jakob, life would be unbearable on Elemental Island. On the verge of being diagnosed with Social Syndrome, she stumbles upon Danny who has landed in a forbidden flight machine….(continued here)

Age Level: Middle Grade (ages 8-13)

Genre: Adventure (with low level Sci-Fi feels)

Pages: 224 (hardcover)

Published: December 2015 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This book is a celebration of differences. In a world where everyone loves logic, order, and alone time, main character Astie is on the verge of turning 12 with no scientific thesis to obsess over and an enjoyment of spending time with people, and hugs, that is going to get her shunned as having what is known as Social Syndrome. Of course, Astie winds up saving the day. But I will leave it to you to discover just how she does it.

I enjoyed this book very much. It was a quick read, coming in at only a few hours in one of my days to read it, but the storyline has stuck with me. The world Ms. Hoopmann created is a logical, scientific narrative of what an island full of fully functioning autistic humans might be like. They are secluded. They are safe. They have no contact with an outside world, because there isn’t one (as far as they know). They like it that way, and if anyone starts being too social, or illogical, or touchy feely. Well they might have to be retrained. This flip-flop of what we normally see in books made me happy and excited to read on. I really liked the interactions between our main character and her family and friends. They were written true to how someone with non-neurotypical tendencies might speak and react, which I really appreciated.

This book earned 3.5 dragons from me. Go check it out.

 

Review: A Boy Called CHRISTMAS

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Written for Middle Grade Readers (Ages 7-12/Grades 3-6), this book is an origin story, a fable, a history, a drama, a family tale, and much more. In this adorable story we meet and follow a boy who grows up to be Father Christmas.

I read this via the audiobook (provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review) and the story is amazing, grabs you right off the bat and keeps you in its grips…and the narrations by Stephen Fry are so spot on it feels like the smoothest and most natural thing in the world.

There are some difficult issues addressed within the folds of this story: loss of parents, extreme poverty, and violence…but along with that are the trappings of Finnish mythology, the impossibilities of life, and magic (LOTS of magic!).

I am not the biggest fan of Christmas stories, they often seem to be formulaic and cheesy as all get out. This is not one of those stories. This is an adventure, a fable, a legend in the making. This is a story to listen to every year, for all the years. Haig has created a story with a life of its own, and I loved it.

4.75 dragons (stars) to this beautifully written phenomenon.

The Curse of Crow Hollow | A Review

The Curse of Crow Hollow

By Billy Coffey

Published in 2015

Thomas Nelson Publishing

Summary:

With the “profound sense of Southern spirituality” he is known for (Publishers Weekly), Billy Coffey draws us into a town where good and evil—and myth and reality—intertwine in unexpected ways.

Everyone in Crow Hollow knows of Alvaretta Graves, the old widow who lives in the mountain. Many call her a witch; others whisper she’s insane. Everyone agrees the vengeance Alvaretta swore at her husband’s death hovers over them all. That vengeance awakens when teenagers stumble upon Alvaretta’s cabin, incurring her curse. Now a sickness moves through the Hollow. Rumors swirl that Stu Graves has risen for revenge. And the people of Crow Hollow are left to confront not only the darkness that lives on the mountain, but the darkness that lives within themselves.

“Coffey spins a wicked tale . . . [The Curse of Crow Hollow] blends folklore, superstition, and subconscious dread in the vein of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery.’”

—Kirkus Reviews

 

Review:

I picked this up on Christmas Day, when I was in the mood for a thriller that would sweep me through the story and send tingles up and down my spine. Unfortunately, this was not that type of book. The narrator’s voice was confusing and wandered back and forth in time on a few occasions. The story meandered and took until 3/4 of the way through to really pick up and get exciting. I did, however, enjoy the look at small town beliefs and the type of people who inhabit such places and beliefs.

While the story is slow and slightly confusing at times, I did enjoy the journey and give this an overall rating of 3.25 dragons. If you like books dealing with secrets, lies, and demons…this is something you might want to pick  up!

The Snow Queen – Cloth Bound and Beautiful

This cloth bound, silver foiled, illustrated edition of Hans Christian Anderson’s timeless tale is even more beautiful than I expected it to be. The tall, skinny hardback feels gorgeous in your hand and the illustrations by Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka create an atmosphere that combines with the beloved words into something that will stick with you. 41zbzfrlyul-_sx282_bo1204203200_

Published by Ten Speed Press, translated by Odense City Museums, this book brings to life the classic story of The Snow Queen with imagery that makes me feel a part of the story, and reminds me of the ancient picture book edition my mother no longer allows me to play with. Five out of five Dragons to this gorgeous book.

*I received the book in exchange for an honest review from blogging for books*

Coloring with Wonder

I love to color. There is something creative and almost freeing in the act of choosing colors and finishing pages. I find so much inspiration in coloring, in fact, that I often incorporate it into my own writing process. So is it any wonder that I jumped at the chance to review another coloring book? Not really. Especially not since this particular coloring book is an imagining of Lewis Carroll’s world of Alice in Wonderland.

While I was expecting a fun and whimsical coloring book, the reality was so much more. Artist/Author Amily Shen not only created a gorgeous new reimagining for us to color, she included us in the story. Separated into 9 chapters, each section begins with a title pulled from Carroll’s Alice, followed by a few paragraphs that read as though you are, in fact, the one that followed the rabbit down into Wonderland.

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I love the artwork in this book. The style is distinctly whimsical and fun, showcasing wonderful imagination and inspiration from the artist  and for the color-er. Not to mention the fact that it came with a dust jacket that, when removed, revealed a cover ready to be colored on AND the inside of the dust jacket as a long poster waiting to be colored. SURPRISE!

Some of the pages are almost a little disturbing in their difference from my own imaginings or memories of the illustrations and movies. But my biggest complaint is that this doesn’t have more pages. I vote for a full Alice novel with coloring borders and illustrations.

**I received this book in exchange for an honest review**

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.

In the Mind of an Author

Liar: A Memoir

By: Rob Roberge

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When Rob Roberge learns that he’s likely to have developed a progressive memory-eroding disease from years of hard living and frequent concussions, he is terrified by the prospect of becoming a walking shadow. In a desperate attempt to preserve his identity, he sets out to (somewhat faithfully) record the most formative moments of his life—ranging from the brutal murder of his childhood girlfriend, to a diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, to opening for famed indie band Yo La Tengo at The Fillmore in San Francisco. But the process of trying to remember his past only exposes just how fragile the stories that lay at the heart of our self-conception really are. Via Amazon’s summary

Author, instructor, musician, husband, and addict – Rob Roberge has done a lot in his lifetime. When his years of hard living and mental illness combine to cause a degenerative memory issue, he sets out to keep the pieces of himself together by writing out his memoir. This is a gritty, fast paced, and sometimes frightening look at the role addiction and mental health play in life.

Writing:

Rob Roberge’s writing is fast paced and connected in the most seemingly random ways. The beginning is incredibly abrupt and the formatting confusing at times, which means its doing exactly what the author meant for it to do: thrust the reader into the mind of an addict and Bi-Polar. The swings of mania, the switches in years and topics, everything connects with a thin and winding thread of incredible logic. It grabs at your mind and your gut, causing reactions and trains of thought that you, as the reader, just won’t be expecting at the beginning of this journey. The writing is beautiful and scary and completely perfect.

Characters:

In a memoir you might not expect to meet a large cast of characters. However, having led a life of almost gypsy like movement so that we get at least a working knowledge of at least half a dozen important, non familial (in the strictest sense of the word anyway) players from Rob’s lifespan. Most of these will be women, a few will idiots, even fewer will be part of the late 2000s…but they all have a huge impact on both author and audience.

Overall Feelings:

I went in to this book on the recommendation of a good friend and was skeptical, to say the least. Of the non-fiction books currently sitting on my TBR 3 are scientists in graphic novel form, 1 is the autobiography of an actor/magician, and 1 is the story of a ballerina…none of them are especially pertaining to mental illness, addiction, excessive pain, sexual deviance, etc. etc. etc. I don’t typically even try to pick up things of that nature. However, she was right. This book was definitely worth the read. Though very raw and sometimes difficult to read, the formatting added to the overall feel of the book in such a way as to make me feel as though I was actually inside Mr. Roberge’s head as opposed the linear factual read most memoirs provide.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever wanted to know, and possibly understand, more of what it feels like to be an addict or have Bi-Polar disease. The manic feel of the book lends itself to providing that feel for its readers. HOWEVER – if you have a problem with large amounts of foul language, sex, and drugs please, PLEASE, refrain from picking this up. You will be offended.

I give this a whopping overall score of 4.5 out of 5 manic dragons.

Review – Collage This Journal

Collage this Journal

By Elanor Shakespeare

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The Summary, according to Amazon.com:

This irresistibly interactive journal is filled with dozens of clever ideas for recording your life, such as “Make balloons out of photos from special and happy occasions” or  “Fill the genie’s lamp with wishes.” The author/illustrator’s wonderfully layered photo-illustration montages invite readers to mix media, too, and make this keepsake truly their own.

Review:

Cover – 4.5/5 Dragons

Both clean and whimsical, the front cover boasts a classically creative design with just a hint of whimsy. The back cover pushes that whimsical element just a smidgen more, which is perfect. The blurb on the k is well written and perfectly descriptive on what the journal is about, without being over the top.

Interior – 5/5 Dragons

The idea of this journal is that you use whatever supplies you want in order to create collages in response to each new prompt.

For example, the very first prompt is a framed, blank page that asks you to collage a self-portrait…using images of yourself.

Another prompt asks you to redesign the covers of your favorite book, while still another asks that you write, draw, or collage images of who or what makes you laugh.

There are 52 such prompts, each with whimsical, almost water colored pages that provide a creative muse for the completion of your ‘journey’s’ art.

So be creative, be free, and ENJOY!

Overall Rating 5/5 Dragons (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.