Friday, December 28, 2018

[Product Review] Water Brushes

image via fangfang Store - Wish.Com
image via fangfang Store - Wish.Com
image via fangfang Store - Wish.Com


L/M/S Plastic Water Storage Soft Brush Drawing Paint Watercolor Calligraphy Pen 
Ship & Sold by fangfang store on 

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Category: Art Supplies, Watercolor water brush

Disclaimer: All prices listed on this review are prices at the time this was written and subject to change 

Part 1: Product Description

100% Brand New and High Quality
Material:Plastic + Nylon Hair
Total Length12cm 
Approx Package include: 3pcs different size pen

Size     Brush Head Length   Brush Head Diameter
L         1.8cm                          6mm
M         1.5cm                          4mm
S         1.5cm                          3mm

Use method:
A.Injection method
Unscrew the pen, put some water into the pen

B.Moisture adjustment tip
Initially, when used, squeeze a pen nib will effluent
You can wipe with the paper, adjust the water

C.Coloring method
Maintaining adequate moisture pen directly stained with paint and began painting

D. How to change color
Need to change color when the pen wipe with a paper towel, you can clear out the color

E.How to preserve
When not in use, the tip clean water, close the lid on it

Part 2: Recommendation

With the growing popularity of water brushes among the watercolor & brush lettering/calligraphy communities, I decided to get a cheap one on (I only had to pay for shipping of USD $2.00) instead of springing for the more expensive Pentel Aquash Water Brush (in the same pack of 3 brushes for USD $15.27 on Amazon) or the Arteza Water Brush Pen (pack of 4 brushes for USD $9.57 on Amazon) or the Sakura Koi Water Brush (pack of 3 brushes for USD $14.99 on Amazon) just to test out whether I'd enjoy painting watercolors with a water brush or not. There are now many water brush brands to choose from and you now can buy a water brush that fits your budget.

Since I started my watercolor journey back in 2004 with a Prang Oval 8-color set, I have only used synthetic watercolor paint brushes because that's all I can afford to spend on a hobby (aka, I'm not a professional watercolorist). Watercolor brushes, whether synthetic or natural sable brushes, have a wide range of sizes and shapes. The more natural your bristles are made out of, the more it can absorb water and pigment but you have less control with your strokes/marks on the page — at least, that's what I've learned from Angela Fehr's YouTube videos. So it doesn't bother me that all water brushes, as of writing, have soft nylon bristles. 

Before water brushes came on the market, traveling and painting with watercolors can be a bit daunting and challenging in the sense that you have to make sure you have a clean supply of water: either you bring it with you or the place you're going to -- like a hiking trail, park, coffee shop, restaurant, or the top of the mountain in the middle of nowhere -- has a clean supply of water (think river, stream, ocean, lake, water fountain, bottled water, etc) and all of your watercolor supplies (paints, brushes, palettes, watercolor papers/notebook, masking tape, pens and pencils, erasers, paper towels/rags, paint water containers for dirty water and clean water, spray bottle) all fit in a travel friendly bag. Yes, you can buy pocket-sized watercolor papers and notebooks and short-handled paint brushes, and if your paints are in a tube, you can easily squeeze them out into empty half pans and fit them in a palette the size of an Altoids tin but you still have the problem of carting around a heavy water bottle with you and what do you do with the dirty paint water? I don't think anyone should be draining paint water into rivers, lakes, streams and the ocean because we don't know if living things and other organisms will react badly to whatever our paints are made of. Well, that problem has been solved by water brushes. 

I haven't traveled anywhere with watercolors yet (unless going from my home office desk to the family room floor can count as such) but like everyone who has tried water brushes whether indoors or outdoors, in the middle of nowhere, I'm really loving them. The set I'm reviewing has a capacity of about 4.4cc/mL (I use a plastic syringe, without the needle, to fill up the water brush with water from a 3.5oz travel shampoo bottle on my desk). It doesn't leak from the barrel like some cheap water brushes I've heard about on YouTube, and like all nylon-bristled water brushes, the bristles will get a permanent paint stain on them. 

Nylon bristles are now permanently stained

It doesn't affect your painting as long as you rinse the bristles by squeezing the barrel and wiping the bristles on a rag or paper towel to clean off the current color/pigment until clean water comes out before you change colors, and you'll be fine. Rinsing these water brushes prior to switching colors was actually not bad. If you already have 2 pots of water set up, you can by all means rinse your water brushes the usual way and use your water brushes like you would a non-water brush paint brush. 

Water flow is good. I found that I do need to squeeze the barrel with a bit more effort especially when doing washes for wet-on-wet techniques and it uses a lot of water. So for painting washes, I found it is better to squeeze a couple or a lot of drops of water from the travel sized water bottle that I have set up as my clean paint water source. For wet-on-dry techniques, these water brushes performed really well despite having water in the barrel, as long as you don't squeeze the barrel and that you maintain a very relaxed hold on the barrel. If you have a tendency to grip hard when doing detailed work, I suggest moving your fingers closer to the bristles and grip the part where the filter is or what would be the equivalent of the ferrule. What I did was I dried the bristles on an old face towel first then dipped the brush into the paint and painted on dry paper. Because the bristles are made of nylon, they snap back into shape and you can easily control the marks or strokes you put on the paper. Definitely no surprise, weird marks from these brushes unless it was your intent to make those weird marks on paper. 

The downside to these particular nylon bristles and probably because of their size, it takes a lot more time to soak up excess paint puddles for medium to large washes on your palette compared to other synthetic paint brushes (I have the Master's Touch synthetic watercolor brushes from Hobby Lobby to compare with). This set I got are round brushes sized small (approx. between brush sizes 5-6), medium (approx. a size 8 brush), and large (approx. a size 12 brush). The points are quite pointy so technically, you can get away with a large or a medium water brush even for very detailed work. The brushes picked up a decent amount of pigment (and here I used a Prang Oval 8-color set because they're cheap, has good pigment compared to other children/student grade watercolor sets, doesn't dry up chalky, and you can buy refill strips on Amazon or once you've used up the Prang colors and you want to upgrade to Daniel Smith or you just want to try paint tubes, you can clean out the empty oval pans and squeeze your paint tubes in it since the Prang Oval pans hold a lot more paint than the regular half pans) when I'm making my puddles for washes or when mixing paints to create blue green or mixing blue and orange to get gray.

For the amount of water in the barrel, I'm quite surprised and happy to share that, they lasted quite a while and they remained clean.  They lasted through 2 watercolor paintings on a 5.5"x8" 140lb.(300gsm), cold press, Strathmore Watercolor Visual Journal. The large water brush, which I used the most and half of one page I did a wet-on-wet technique using the water in the barrel, had very little water left, like maybe 3-5% water whereas the medium water brush was barely used so it probably still had 85% water left and the small brush, which I used to color in the letters, had probably 75% water left. 

I have to say though that having this spill-proof, 3.5oz travel shampoo bottle filled with tap water did save me from using a lot of the water in the barrels especially when I was activating the paints and making puddles in my palette for washes. Since the travel bottle gives out a drop of water at a time, it was really easy to activate the paints with literally just one tiny drop and it was really easy and a lot more controllable to add drops of water for washes instead of using a syringe or your non-water brush paint brush. It is also equally convenient to just use the syringe to refill the water brush barrels from the travel water bottle when you don't have access to a sink. These water brushes in conjunction with a 3.5oz travel water bottle and an old 100% cotton face towel definitely removed my fear of spilling paint water all over my desk and possibly ruining any and all electronics on my desk or spilling paint water all over the carpet in the family room or worse, my dog drinking paint water and getting really sick and/or dying from it. Having these water brushes even if you're not one to paint outdoors or in the middle of nowhere, I think is a must have especially if you don't mind synthetic or nylon bristles or if you're afraid of spilling paint water everywhere or just for the sheer convenience of it.

Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 Update: After a while of solely using these water brushes, I still like them and it hasn't clogged up. I did notice however that the nylon bristles have started looking ragged. It's an easy fix if you're patient. I trimmed the ends of the bristles using a pair of very sharp embroidery scissors and now my brushes are back to looking like new. But I wonder though if the more expensive water brushes have the same issue. Do let me know in the comments box below if you have the other brands mentioned above and how the nylon bristles performed after a year of constant use.

Monday, October 22, 2018

[Book Review] Stuck In Manistique by Dennis Cuesta

Stuck in ManistiqueStuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Near the midpoint of the Upper Peninsula, along a Lake Michigan bend of shore, is the town of Manistique, Michigan. Mark had never heard of Manistique before the death of his estranged aunt, but as sole beneficiary of Vivian’s estate, he travels there to settle her affairs. As Mark tours his aunt’s house for the first time, the doorbell rings.

Days after graduating medical school, Dr. Emily Davis drives north, struggling with her illicit rendezvous on Mackinac Island. She never makes it—on the highway near Manistique, her car collides with a deer, shattering the car’s windshield. Stranded for the night, Emily is directed to a nearby bed and breakfast.

Maybe it’s a heady reaction, the revelation that his aunt, an international aid doctor, ran a bed and breakfast in retirement. Or perhaps he plainly feels pity for the young, helpless doctor. Regardless, Mark decides to play host for one night, telling Emily that he’s merely stepping in temporarily while his aunt is away.

As a one-night stay turns into another and more guests arrive, the ersatz innkeeper steadily loses control of his story. And though Emily opens up to Mark, she has trouble explaining the middle-aged man who unexpectedly arrives at the doorstep looking for her.

Will these two strangers, holding on to unraveling secrets, remain in town long enough to discover the connection between them?

Part 2: Recommendation

I love reading stories set in small towns for a number of reasons and this book delivers: slower pace of the locals vs the hurried pace of visitors, there's only one place to get pies, everybody knows everybody, quaint houses, quiet neighborhoods and the list goes on.

I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this book in it's entirety but I gave it 4 stars for the simple fact that I felt as overwhelmed and disorganized as Mark was upon first arriving at the Manistique Victorian and all these people arriving at his doorstep looking for a room to stay the night. That was quite funny to read as the story unfolds, at least until he got his bearings. Mark, Emily and George are easy to connect to but as for Bear Foot, Yvonne, Peter, Dr. Bulcher, and Dr. Olsen were okay as their presence in the book is required to move the story forward.

I like seeing Emily's character grow some back bone as well as seeing Mark try and work through his phobia and seeing a glimpse of Dr. Olsen in one of the last few chapters of the book. Too bad, that conversation wasn't included.

With the way things ended with Laura (George's niece), Dr. Currant, Mark and Emily, I feel like there's going to be a sequel (maybe?). I sure hope so as I would love to come back to Manistique and catch up with Mark, Emily, Laura and Dr. Currant. Definitely worth reading if you enjoy small towns.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

[Book Review] Indie With Ease by Pauline Wiles

Indie With EaseIndie With Ease by Pauline Wiles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this galley from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all that’s involved in self-publishing your book?

Being an indie author should be a delight, not a drudgery. Indie With Ease demonstrates how a blend of clear purpose and steady pragmatism will enable you to thrive as an independent publisher. Through simple self-care techniques and a few mindset secrets, you’ll maximize motivation and minimize author anxiety.

With a down-to-earth blend of inspiration and practical steps, you will:
~ Know yourself and your unique writing style.
~ Set authentic, long-term writing goals.
~ Nurture your creativity and protect your well-being.
~ Maximize your energy and work at a pace you can sustain.
~ Limit your marketing to what really works.
~ Prioritize key tasks and ignore distractions.
~ Dodge the most common pitfalls for independent authors.

For a little extra inspiration, you will also find:
~ Contributions and advice from over a dozen experienced indie authors.
~ Bonus resources: checklists, templates, and trackers to jump start your daily routine.

Indie with Ease is your essential guide to well-being, productivity and serenity as an indie author.

Part 2: Recommendation

Indie with Ease by Pauline Wiles is such a pleasant, enjoyable read despite it being a nonfiction book. I just love the author's voice throughout the book. She sounds like a really dear friend. Every section of the book, Introduction and Conclusion included, are all very well thought out, well researched and very well-written. This book is quite impressive. I especially love and appreciate how quotes from other writers are very well blended into the text and transitions well. I also truly enjoyed the self-reflection questions as they were well-thought out and I can see these reflections be quite helpful to indie authors especially if they (authors) dig down and honestly answer the questions. These self-reflection questions should prove to be enlightening.

I have to say though that the .Mobi file I received from the author had a few negatives about it in the sense that there was a lot of conversion errors like these: forg.< (for), dp w Toesn't (doesn't), Goop fgle (Google), knor.< knor., Soh f T buying (So buying), new/> < (If), ad C livocates (advocates), a Cournd (and), Fla C"juttering (Flattering), I JJJJp prowould (I would), RRRR dunder (under), [res>I, a ZZZZZ rnd (and), tr ZZZZZy eat (treat), mindful ZZZZZdness (mindfulness), yo jjjjjjme re your f eaur head (your head), yo sso ntuitiur (your), f s un Trom (from), {e ce my, {ts Treading (reading), Decem {capital ber (December), in zzzzzzzz="19" on (andaimidie (indie), webs">ites (websites), reviehas Twed (reviewed), experhey tiencing (experiencing), goin Wh olo, g (going), pl ained (pained), Vanl w gn="derkam (Vanderkam), some T of these (some of these), readerk, e in rs (readers), thefut Ty (they), /div> (fi. Aside from that, there seems to be 3 sections that were missing text particularly in the section titled Your Support Network, first paragraph; as well as in the 5th paragraph of the section titled Rank These Achievements; and another paragraph is missing in the paragraph that starts off as Multiple s ming in the section titled What are Your Financial Expectations.

Despite these conversion errors, my enjoyment and appreciation of the book was greater mainly because this book is full of really good, practical tips and sound advice for the well-being of the indie writer that is easily implemented and has been advocated by numerous other indie authors like Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Nick Stephenson, Derek Murphy, to name a few.

I have to be clear though that this book is not a Writing How-To Guide nor is it a Self-Publishing Step-by-Step Guide. It is also not a book on Creativity though it does lightly touch on the subject. This book is more like a tips and tricks to staying organized, productive, sane, calm, inspired and happy in your indie writing career and by following the author's advice, you can avoid feeling stressed out, overwhelmed and uninspired.

Indie with Ease should definitely be in every writer's reference book shelf that's within reach of their writing desk.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

[Book Review] The Lyons Legacy by Charlie King

The Lyons LegacyThe Lyons Legacy by Charlie King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this galley from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Ten years on from the events that took place inside The Lyons Orphanage, Sam is still no closer to finding his parents.

Sam takes a job at the Crown Prosecution Service to find clues about the identity of his parents by investigating the case against Howard Lyons, who was sectioned as a result of his actions.

Nicholas Lyons, stricken with illness, pleads with Sam to visit his brother and have him transferred to a prison for his crimes, to save Howard from the indignity of life in a psychiatric hospital.

This sets Sam on a path to learn all he can about the case but clean-cut Sam knows he’ll have to break a few rules to get to the bottom of it.

Part 2: Recommendation

Like the first book, The Lyons Legacy has that same slow, meandering feel to the narrative for about 75% of the book but then it speeds up quite nicely in the last 25% of the book. With this being the 2nd work that I've been exposed to the author, Charlie King, I'm assuming this is just his style of writing. And just like the first book, this book is also written in the POV of Sam Watkins, the orphan who is now a working adult, living in his own flat and still in contact primarily with Natalie, and the twins, Natasha and Gareth.

Majority of this book shows the struggle Sam goes through in finding the identity of his parents and the ways he goes about finding the information which made me think, "Don't do it, Sam. You know better than that," or "What is wrong with you, Sam? Why are you even considering this?" This book made me shake my Kobo eReader several times as if that would help shake Sam right back to his senses, right?

Having Natasha and Gareth back in the second book was a really nice touch as I liked them both. As for Nicholas and Judge Quinn, I don't really know what to think. I feel like they were put there in order to bring Howard back into the picture that would make enough sense to the readers. After all, it wouldn't be that much more interesting without Howard in the book. As for Liv, apparently, another mind reader, I guess having a 4th mind reader in the book evens things out and to have her as Sam's date/girlfriend makes it look and feel like Sam is finally moving on with his life, which it did nicely.

As for Howard, he's just as mean and I think scarier in this book. I can't say anymore about him otherwise, I would be giving the entire book away. I did love seeing how Sam realized a lot of things throughout the book, as it showed how his character developed further now that he's an adult.

I have mixed feelings about the ending because I liked how it neatly closes the entire Lyons/Watkins storyline but at the same time, I'm a bit disappointed because the ending left me hanging. The way the author ended this book makes me wonder if there's a 3rd book in the Lyons series?

The formatting of this book is much better than the first for sure and the cover had a similar theme of the Lion's head door knocker to let readers know that it's part of a series, which is fine but I think it needs improvement.

Overall, if you're looking for a slow, relaxed pace read, this just might be for you or if you happen to enjoy the first book and would like to know what happened to Sam, Natalie and the twins after leaving the orphanage, you'll want to read this book too.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

[Product Review] Teamoy Interchangeable Knitting Needle Case Organizer


My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Category: Arts, Crafts & Sewing, Organization & Storage

Part 1: Product Description

  • LIGHTWEIGHT & COMPACT ORGANIZATION- Patent pending. Extremely lightweight crochet hooks case keeps your set of hooks all in one place. Waterproof material-easy to clean up.
  • HIGHLY PROTECTION- padded interior layer provides better protection for your needles no matter where you go. A flat on bottom to help keep the needles from falling out when you open the case. You are not always worried about losing equipment or breaking your knitting needles/crochet hooks.
  • HOLDS for VARIOUS BRANDS CROCHET HOOKS -the first room for different sizes crochet hooks(interchangeable knitting needles, Aluminum Crochet Hooks, Ergonomic Crochet hooks, stainless steel crochet needles, rubber handles Crochet hooks and more).
  • INCLUDED PROJECT ACCESSORIES ROOM-2 elastic bands on the second room specially designed for the hollow cables and has 2 mesh pockets of knitting suppliers.
  • LARGE CAPACITY-the cases are large enough to store 2-3 set of knitting needles. Professional strongly recommend this case for either a gift or personal use.

Part 2: Recommendation

I bought the large Teamoy Organizer Case for Interchangeable Knitting Needles because I wanted to have all of my crochet hooks in one case instead of the several cases that I have and I also wanted a crochet hook case that can also hold different notions like tape measures, scissors, row counters, cords and stitch markers. The case is very well made, feels durable and has that easy to clean nylon/canvas type fabric. The zippers are smooth to pull open and close and there was no weird smell like other reviewers reported. I got the Pink Flowers case and it is as described and I love it.

Front/Top Section of the Case

The front/top part of the case holds my complete set of the regular Clover Soft Touch Hooks sizes 1.75mm - 6.0mm (15 hooks) on the left. On the right side holds, a complete set of the steel Clover Soft Touch Hooks sizes 0.50mm - 1.50mm, a pair of vintage scissors, a set of Boye Aluminum Hooks in sizes 2.25mm - 6.5mm and 1 Susan Bates 5.0mm hook (17 Hooks & a pair of scissors).

Back/Bottom Section of the Case

The back/bottom part of the case has 2 mesh pockets to hold notions. The top mesh pocket holds 2 Lion Brand row counters, 2 retractable tape measures and a Clover Yarn Cutter Pendant. The bottom mesh pocket holds a bag of 24-count Lion Brand Split Ring Stitch Markers, 2 blue Knook Cords, 2 pink Knook Cords and 2 purple Knook cords. The left side of the bottom part of the case has 7 elastic bands which holds my complete Knook hooks size 3.5mm - 9.0mm and 2 of my Yarnology Acrylic hooks sized 9.0mm & 10.0mm. The top and bottom elastic bands that’s supposed to hold interchangeable knitting cables are holding my 2 Susan Bates Crochet Hook Foam Grips that I use with my Boye Aluminum hooks. And floating around in this section is my Lacis Slide-On Hook/Needle Gauge.

This case is freakin’ amazing and I love it!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

[Book Review] Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Furyborn (Empirium, #1)Furyborn by Claire Legrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world...or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable--until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world--and of each other.

Part 2: Recommendation

The first two chapters of this book was quite confusing but after that, it becomes quite entertaining. A bit slow at first then it picks up the pace on both Rielle's and Eliana's chapters halfway through the book. Though each chapter alternates POVs between Rielle and Eliana, the story easily picks up where the last POV chapter leaves off so basically, you can read this book three ways: read all of Rielle's chapters first then Eliana's chapters or Eliana's chapters first then Rielle's chapters or read it from cover to cover with the alternating POV chapters like I did. Either way, you'll be able to easily follow the storyline.

Classified as a YA Fantasy book, I think this book should be reclassified as New Adult (NA) Fantasy because there was one romantic scene that was quite graphic and I don't think it is appropriate for young adults even though Rielle & Eliana are somewhat aged at around 18 years old, they both act and read a lot older like maybe 21 years old and the readers who might be picking up this book may not be mature enough for the mentioned romantic scene. I will have to reserve judgment on its merits as a fantasy book because so far, being the first book in a trilogy, it has only two fantasy elements in it: magic and violence. It did touch on Rielle's challenge or seven magical trials and on Eliana's quest but only a little bit. So I'm hoping that the other fantasy elements will come out and grow as the books progress.

Love all the characters in this book especially Rielle, Eliana and Remy and the plot is quite interesting and I can't wait to get my hands on book two.

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[Book Review] Paris By The Book by Liam Callanan

Paris by the BookParis by the Book by Liam Callanan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

A missing person, a grieving family, a curious clue: a half-finished manuscript set in Paris. Heading off in search of its author, a mother and her daughters find themselves in France, rescuing a failing bookstore and drawing closer to unexpected truths.

Once a week, I chase men who are not my husband….

When eccentric novelist Robert Eady abruptly vanishes, he leaves behind his wife, Leah, their daughters, and, hidden in an unexpected spot, plane tickets to Paris.

Hoping to uncover clues—and her husband—Leah sets off for France with her girls. Upon their arrival, she discovers an unfinished manuscript, one Robert had been writing without her knowledge…and that he had set in Paris. The Eady women follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. The whole store? Today? Yes, but Leah’s biggest surprise comes when she hears herself accepting the offer on the spot.

As the family settles into their new Parisian life, they can’t help but trace the literary paths of some beloved Parisian classics, including Madeline and The Red Balloon, hoping more clues arise. But a series of startling discoveries forces Leah to consider that she may not be ready for what solving this mystery might do to her family—and the Paris she thought she knew.

At once haunting and charming, Paris by the Book follows one woman’s journey as her story is being rewritten, exploring the power of family and the magic that hides within the pages of a book.

Part 2: Recommendation

I'm not exactly sure what possessed me to request a galley of this book. I'm guessing mainly because of the description and the fact that one of the characters is a writer and another, a bookseller. I have to say though that the author Liam Callanan writes beautiful prose that has a lyrical quality to it and it shows in this book. Unfortunately, for me at least, that is the only good point to this book.

Though the prose has that beautiful, lyrical quality to it, the pacing is extremely slow, it's not really what I would call a mystery and the meandering prose going back and forth between Milwaukee and Paris just about killed me to the point where I almost decided to not finish the book. But I did and wished I didn't waste any more of my time finishing this book because the characters, especially the wife, Leah, was quite annoying and a bit flat. The two daughters, Ellie and Daphne, also need more depth to them and I felt like Declan's character was placed there just to stir the pot a bit. Eleanor's character is okay in the sense that she's the most practical of them all though still a bit flat, and as for Robert Eady himself, well, I have to say that the little bit that I knew about him, I didn't truly like. He's selfish, self-centered and I've had enough of his drama.

Now, if you are a big fan of The Little Paris Bookshop and are hoping to get the same experience, stay away from this book because you will be sadly disappointed. However, if you want to read about what others think of The Red Balloon or about Madeline or about snippets of Lamorrisse' life and works as well as of Bemelman's then this might be worth your time.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

[Book Review] Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Every Note PlayedEvery Note Played by Lisa Genova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful and heartbreaking exploration of regret, forgiveness, freedom, and what it means to be alive.

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

As poignant and powerful as Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.

Part 2: Recommendation

I'm no concert pianist but having played the piano since I was 12 years old, I completely understand the fear of not being able to play the piano anymore or crochet or paint.

Every Note Played opens with Richard at his last concert and from there the story moves forward, between following Richard as ALS increasingly claims his body and Karina's life, interspersed with back flashes from when they were both at Curtis. The pacing of the story has a meandering, kind of exploratory feel to it when it comes to Richard's and Karina's thoughts of both the past and what lies ahead. There's no surviving ALS and the readers know that Richard is not going to get any better but despite this grim reality, I couldn't drum up enough sympathy for Richard knowing he's been a horrible husband to Karina and a very absent father to his only child, Grace. The true beauty of this book lies in how Karina, Grace and Richard find the ability to forgive one another through the difficulties of living with ALS and later on, the freedom to finally move on and pursue your dreams.

I really appreciate the amount of work that the author, Lisa Genova, put into this book and it showed especially through Richard's struggles with ALS. It's like you, the reader, is right there in the den in Richard's body or in Karina's or in Bill's. Lisa Genova successfully showed and with great detail exactly what ALS is all about. Because I couldn't put down this amazing read, I had a nightmare about being paralyzed and that it started with a tendonitis-like pain in my left thumb, which in real life, I was experiencing pain in my left thumb when I stretched it out and away from my hand. The pain in my left thumb is gone now after 2 days of not using my thumb to left click on the track pad of my work computer, thank God it wasn't anything serious.

In conclusion, if you want to know more about ALS without having to read lengthy medical texts, with excellent, well-developed characters, this is the book for you.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

[Book Review] The Circle by Dave Eggers

The CircleThe Circle by Dave Eggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users' personal emails, social media, and finances with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of transparency. Mae can't believe her great fortune to work for them - even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public ...

Part 2: Recommendation

The only reason I read this book was because of the movie starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks but I'm one of those who [for the most part] read the book first before watching the movie because we all know that books are always better and have more details than the movie versions.

I've been on the fence about deactivating my Facebook and Twitter accounts and signing up for Instagram or keeping my blog, Ravelry and GoodReads active since I use Ravelry and GoodReads mainly as online databases for my yarn craft and books respectively so I won't have to create an offline database from scratch and my blog as a way to share things that I enjoy and my book reviews like this one. The Circle by Dave Eggers definitely showed some pros and cons to going "off the grid" to quote Mercer and some pros and cons to being online to keep up with family and friends and social media is good way to reconnect with old friends especially if you have no way of contacting them because your address book hasn't been updated in a long while.

Enter Mae Holland who hasn't used her social media account in a while and ends up working for the Circle, a tech company who is all about sharing [everything] and being social online and offline and unifying everything into one account. I rated this book 4 stars not because it's really good but mostly because the author managed to make me feel something and made me think. When Mae first started working at the Circle, I felt as stressed out and exhausted as Mae felt while learning about her new job and balancing her work-related duties as well as her "social" duties and the constant need to "smile," "frown," and "zing" can be overwhelming for someone like me who likes to moderately share things online. Yes, I do believe that there are things that should be kept private and still do even after reading this book.

I don't think it is healthy to spend so much time online "smiling," "frowning," and "zing-ing" what other people share to the point where you no longer have time to live your life in the real world. And changing your opinions because you don't like getting "frowns" is not being human. Being human is about having different opinions and thoughts and it shouldn't matter if your opinion is unpopular because it is you. The way it is presented in this book is that slowly, everyone in the world is of one mind, one opinion which is already happening in the real world. People get shamed, hated on or bullied online when you express sentiments that are not in line with the sentiments of others. And this mentality should stop.

There are some aspects of unifying databases from this book that I liked the idea of. An example would be medical records that way when you switch medical providers or during medical emergency situations, all your records can be found in one centralized system/location to make it super efficient for the medical team to give you the right medication or treatment as well as if you're unconscious, there's a way to alert your medical/care team to send help. While it is also great to get real time results on polls and surveys, being forced to vote by suspending all electronic/computer/online activities until you've voted is wrong in the sense that people have the right to vote or not vote. Sure it will help a lot if everyone voted but to make it mandatory like what the Circle suggests violates the right to decide whether to vote or not. I'm on the fence about humans getting micro-chipped like most of our pets are micro-chipped because I personally don't want everybody in the world to know where I am. I only want my I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) contacts to know where I am and that's about it. There's more examples in this book that I'm either on the fence on or completely against the idea of but I have to end it here otherwise, this review will be as lengthy as the novel itself.

Moving on to the general overview of the plot. It's believable to some degree and I can see the parallels to the real world especially on the social media aspect and we are somewhat slowly getting there on the other technological aspects. The pacing of the story is slow to moderate and sometimes it makes you think if there's any point to this whole thing. The whole time I was listening to this book, I was waiting for a really cool plot twist or a big revelation or a big self-discovery, but unfortunately, none of those happened. There was a revelation towards the end but it was a bit of a let down because somehow, at the back of my mind, I already knew that.

As for the characters, I feel like they're not as well-developed as I'd hoped. There's no real depth to Annie, Dan, Jared, the three wise men, Francis, or any of the rest of the characters, including Mae (more on that, later). It feels like these other characters are there to either add drama in the case of Francis, to move the story along in the case of Dan, Jared, the three wise men, etc., and as proof of validation and someone to vent to as in the case of Annie. As for Mae, I somewhat resonated with her in the beginning but as the book progresses, her character became less real and more fake in the sense that the Mae readers liked in the beginning slowly disappeared as she became "one with the hive" err Circle and lost her own individuality. Another thing that was disturbing about Mae was in the end, while visiting her catatonic best friend, Annie, she looks at one of the monitors scanning Annie's brain waves and wonders what Annie's dreaming/thinking about while in a coma and decides that people's thoughts should be accessible to everyone and that "the world deserves nothing less" which to me, is frankly, quite disturbing.

Finally, the narration. Dion Graham did a wonderful job narrating/reading this book even though this book follows Mae's perspective and there's none of that high-pitched voice trying to sound like a woman/girl.

In conclusion, if you are someone who shares everything online then you might enjoy this book and if you are someone who is on the verge of deactivating all of your online and social media accounts, you might find extra reasons in this book to permanently go offline. If you are someone who likes to see characters evolve into a better version of themselves, this book is not for you.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

[Book Review] By The Book by Julia Sonneborn

By the BookBy the Book by Julia Sonneborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

An English professor struggling for tenure discovers that her ex-fiancĂ© has just become the president of her college—and her new boss—in this whip-smart modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Persuasion.

Anne Corey is about to get schooled.

An English professor in California, she’s determined to score a position on the coveted tenure track at her college. All she’s got to do is get a book deal, snag a promotion, and boom! She’s in. But then Adam Martinez—her first love and ex-fiancĂ©—shows up as the college’s new president.

Anne should be able to keep herself distracted. After all, she’s got a book to write, an aging father to take care of, and a new romance developing with the college’s insanely hot writer-in-residence. But no matter where she turns, there’s Adam, as smart and sexy as ever. As the school year advances and her long-buried feelings begin to resurface, Anne begins to wonder whether she just might get a second chance at love.

Funny, smart, and full of heart, this modern ode to Jane Austen’s classic explores what happens when we run into the demons of our past...and when they turn out not to be so bad, after all.

Part 2: Recommendation

By The Book is the first fiction novel from Julia Sonneborn, a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Because I read Persuasion last October 2017, the plot line is still fresh in my mind so when I downloaded this galley, I was kind of expecting to see all the plot lines covered. If memory serves me right, By The Book did not cover all the plot lines. Instead, it has the main elements of Persuasion: a broken engagement, the reunion of the two main characters 10 or so years later and the emotional struggle of the two main characters revealed, towards the end. There's also the part where both the readers and a few of the characters are playing at guess who Adam's going to end up with between Tiffany and Bex. Overall, the main plot lines were satisfied to easily match and identify with Persuasion. I mean, for a contemporary retelling with a limited word count, it was good enough, otherwise it wouldn't be 384 print pages.

As for the characters, Jerry Corey and Lauren Corey Winston perfectly matched Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot except that I feel Jerry and Lauren are very slightly more likable than their Persuasion counterparts. I truly detest Sir Walter & Elizabeth and I'm still wishing them both ill luck. Unfortunately, Dr. Russell was not as strong of a character (for me) as Lady Russell was. Don't get me wrong, the dialogue in that flashback scene between Anne and Dr. Russell was awesome and quite pivotal and showed the reader exactly who Dr. Russell is but let's face it, she's not as warm and caring like Lady Russell is to Anne Elliot. Then we have Tiffany and Bex who are very similar to Henrietta and Luisa Musgrove in the sense that they both were portrayed as Adam's current love interest but mostly for Bex, I get the feeling that it was forced to look that way for the sake of having a Henrietta counterpart. Rick Chasen, is definitely charming and likable but you get the feeling that he's not what he seems just like how you'd feel about William Elliot. And when all is revealed, you just want to see him in all manner of suffering. Very well done on this one. As for Larry, I'm not quite sure who his Persuasion counterpart is other than to play the part of Capt. Harville in that one scene where Anne [Corey and Elliot] talk about how women "kept loving someone, even when you know there's no hope" since Anne Corey can't very well just talk to herself about this in order for Adam to overhear her and write her that note.

Now, for the two main characters, let's start with Adam Martinez. He definitely is Capt. Frederick Wentworth with a little more heart compared to Wentworth. Wentworth was very aloof, guarded and properly civil, almost cold. But Adam is shown to be more caring in the way he built his home library with Anne in mind, how he was there for Anne at the ER and during the funeral service and that New Year's Eve scene. Sure, he was sometimes portrayed as a bit guarded and civil especially when Rick was around but that could also easily be because Adam doesn't trust Rick because they've known each other back at Houston which is the exact opposite of Wentworth and William Elliot's lack of previous acquaintance, which is fine I suppose since we don't really have a Mrs. Smith counterpart. As for Anne Corey, she does seem a bit more introverted than Anne Elliot and far less loved. I mean, Anne Elliot has a lot of friends and is loved by Mary and Charles, the Musgrove sisters, the Crofts, the Harvilles and Lady Russell whereas Anne Corey only has Larry on her side (I'm not counting Dr. Russell as she was really cold and harsh in the flashback scene and Emily, Anne's star student, was just there to validate Rick's infidelity and dastardliness). Compared to Anne Elliot, Anne Corey is more worried about getting a book proposal, getting tenured, and book revision deadlines than caring for people. Sure, she was supportive of Larry while he was having a breakdown over Jack and she thought Bex would be a great professor but that was about it. The author did try to show Anne Corey as having that compassionate and understanding spirit that Anne Elliot has in the final scene with Emily but somehow it didn't come out as strong as I would've liked it to be. And that scene with Anne and Lauren when Jerry died and throughout the whole funeral and thank you card scenes, it felt like it had to be there for closure and continuity of the story. It didn't make Lauren any more likable or Anne more complex. I truly wish there's something more to Anne Corey.

In conclusion, By The Book by Julia Sonneborn is a short, fun read for a contemporary Persuasion retelling as long as you are reading for pleasure without thinking of parallels too much. But if you love Persuasion, and if you can look past the differences in characterization and some of the plot lines, you might enjoy this book, otherwise you've been warned.

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