Series Review: The Books of Elsewhere #2, #3, #4, and #5

Spellbound: Goodreads     Barnes & Noble
Synopsis: The house isn't the only one keeping secrets anymore. You'll never guess what happens next in this thrilling, chilling fantasy series, perfect for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch, Coraline, and Septimus Heap.
Publisher/ Release date: Puffin Books; May 24, 2012

The Second Spy: Goodreads     Barnes & Noble
Synopsis: In Olive's third adventure, what lurks below the house could be as dangerous as what's hidden inside . . .
Publisher/ Release date: Puffin Books; Jul 11, 2013

The Strangers: Goodreads     Barnes & Noble
Synopsis: The stakes grow higher, the secrets more dangerous, and mystery and magic abound as Olive, the boys, and the cats uncover the true nature of the house on Linden Street.
Publisher/ Release date: Puffin Books; May 15, 2014

Still Life Goodreads     Barnes & Noble
Synopsis: In this fifth and final book, Olive must seek the full, complex story of Elsewhere, its magical origins, and its creator, and in so doing, face her own fears and limitations--and possibly the destruction of Elsewhere itself. How far will Olive go to save the people and home she loves? And what will be the final cost?
Publisher/ Release date: Puffin Books; Jun 2, 2015

Series: The Books of Elsewhere (#2-#5)
Author: Jacqueline West
Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
Source/Format: Bought; Paperback

You can read each full synopsis by clicking on the respective Goodreads link.

What I Thought:

This is a series review for the last four books in the Books of Elsewhere series (Spellbound, The Second Spy, The Strangers, and Still Life). You can find my thoughts for The Shadows HERE. Each book deals with Olive discovering yet another mystery about her stone mansion, its paintings, and sometimes the cats. Between Spellbound and The Strangers, she meets some new and exciting characters that usually, inadvertently, join her on her quest.

In general, and something I realize after I finished Still Life, I enjoyed Olive’s relationships. Especially concerning her mathematician parents. On many occasions it was made known she didn’t excel at the subject for her age, yet in the few spaced out scenes that we see the whole family, they were never hard or harsh on her for it. I enjoyed this aspect since the situations and each antagonist Olive would have to deal with became more and more dire as the series went along. And many times she had to face them without her parents. However, outside of her parents and the cats, she had a support system and wasn’t alone. Pretty much throughout the series, it was always a question of how is she going to get out of this? And just when it seemed hopeless, along with her friends, she found a way through the dark, murky paint. Plus, for the last two books, it was a relief when some of her character development finally showed itself. Some of it could have come a book earlier, but it didn’t make much of a difference anyway.

Overall I loved reading the rest of The Books of Elsewhere Series. Still Life wrapped up everything in a nice blanket revealing the truth of Elsewhere and a perfect ending for the characters. Sometimes it got dark, but this depends on the reader. If it sounds interesting to you or a young reader, you may want to check it out.

For the series.

Thanks for reading!

2022 September/October Art Dump

This year my co-blogger Breana got me to do Sha'an d'Anthes' (Furry Little Peach) Peachtober. I only took a few progress photos before finishing them. Some of them I almost forgot to take any at all.

I did have a digital Halloween painting that I started a little late. I'll post it when I'm happy with it. I'm really enjoying the process. Anyway, here are the photos. And you can find Breana's art here



Book Review: Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega and Rose Bousamra

Title: Frizzy
Written by: Claribel A. Ortega; Art/Illustrations by: Rose Bousamra
Source/Format: Bookish First, First Second; Paperback
Publisher/ Release date: First Second; Oct 18, 2022

Goodreads        Barnes & Noble

Synopsis From 
A middle grade graphic novel about Marlene, a young girl who stops straightening her hair and embraces her natural curls.

Marlene loves three things: books, her cool Tía Ruby and hanging out with her best friend Camila. But according to her mother, Paola, the only thing she needs to focus on is school and "growing up." That means straightening her hair every weekend so she could have "presentable", "good hair".

But Marlene hates being in the salon and doesn't understand why her curls are not considered pretty by those around her. With a few hiccups, a dash of embarrassment, and the much-needed help of Camila and Tia Ruby—she slowly starts a journey to learn to appreciate and proudly wear her curly hair.

What I Thought:
Frizzy, written by Claribel A. Ortega and art by Rose Bousamra, revolves around Marlene as she takes the steps to figuring out her curly hair and ultimately being herself.

The story was quite an emotional one as Marlene encountered various terms being thrown around by her family. Terms like “good hair” or “You should be more like your cousin.”(page 31), pushing the idea of a best type of hair. And I’m sure many who have curly hair may relate to this. I enjoyed Marlene’s supportive relationships with her best friend Camila, and her  curly haired aunt Ruby (who helped a lot). Most of all, Marlene was more concerned about her mother. Marlene wanted both her mother’s approval and to not hurt her feelings, especially given some rather sad memories. In the end, the story came together with a very heartwarming and emotional conclusion. 

Also, Bousamra’s art is beautiful and I love the style. It’s simplistic but not in a way that’s overly simplified. It’s just right. The colors are like muted pastels that mesh really well with the overall feel, giving off a refreshing modern retro vibe. I think Ortega's writing and Bousamra's art are a perfect combination.

Overall, I enjoyed reading frizzy. It sort of brought me back to the trials and fun of going natural, I loved it. If it sounds interesting to you or your young reader, I recommend checking it out.

I received this book from Bookish First and First Second for this review.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review: How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra

Title: How to Heal a Gryphon
Author: Meg Cannistra
Source/Format: Bookish First and Inkyard Press; Hardcover
Publisher/ Release date: Inkyard Press; Oct 4, 2022

Goodreads        Barnes & Noble

Synopsis From 
With her thirteenth birthday just around the corner, Giada Bellantuono has to make a big decision: Will she join the family business and become a healer or follow her dreams? But even though she knows her calling is to heal vulnerable animals, using her powers to treat magical creatures is decidedly not allowed.
When a group of witches kidnaps her beloved older brother, Rocco, and her parents are away, Giada is the only person left who can rescue him. Swept into the magical underground city of Malavita, Giada will need the help of her new companions to save her brother—or risk losing him forever.

What I Thought:

I thought How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra would be a sweet story after I read the preview and wanted to know what would happen next. The begninning was a pretty slow start and the pacing didn’t pick up until a few chapters in. After that it was smooth sailing –moving along nicely after Giada realized what was going on. Something else I liked was that she had a supportive friend, Alessia. While Alessia followed the tradition of only healing people with her magic, she was there for Giada throughout the story. And In some ways she grounded her since Giada tended to be reactive and impulsive. But she also had a go getter attitude and would do anything to help her brother, even break from a little more than tradition. In the end my main gripe was the Gryphons. They were imbedded throughout the story, yes. But I did wish they appeared a little more.

Overall, How to Heal a Gryohon ended up being a quick read that I liked it. It was a nice little adventure story with a vibrant environment. If it sounds like it’s up your alley, especially a young reader, you may want to check it out.

I received this book from Bookish First and Inkyard Press for this review.

Thanks for reading!

ARC Review: Black Skinhead by Brandi Collins-Dexter

Title: Black Skinhead: Reflections on Blackness and Our Political Future
Author: Brandi Collins-Dexter
Source/Format: Celadon; Paperback ARC
Publisher/ Release date: Celadon; Sep 20, 2022

Goodreads        Barnes & Noble        Celadon

Synopsis From Goodreads:
In Black Skinhead, Brandi Collins-Dexter, former Senior Campaign Director for Color Of Change, explores the fragile alliance between Black voters and the Democratic party. Through sharp, timely essays that span the political, cultural, and personal, Collins-Dexter reveals decades of simmering disaffection in Black America, told as much through voter statistics as it is through music, film, sports, and the baffling mind of Kanye West.

While Black Skinhead is an outward look at Black votership and electoral politics, it is also a funny, deeply personal, and introspective look at Black culture and identity, ultimately revealing a Black America that has become deeply disillusioned with the failed promises of its country.
Read the more on Goodreads.

What I Thought:

Politics is not my typical genre, but I still wanted to give Black Skinhead by Brandi Collins-Dexter a read since Celadon sent it to me. And I'm glad I did. Besides I thought I would like it from the sound of the synopsis.

I found Collins-Dexter’s writing to be excellent and enjoyable. I loved the way she incorporated her personal experiences into her points (or vice versa depending on how you look at it). Plus the way she goes about explaining said experiences and opinions does give a reader much to think about. For once I don’t actually have much to add since the synopsis (above) sums up Black Skinhead well. If it sounds like it’s up your alley, then you may want to check it out.

I received this book from Celadon Books for this review.

Thanks for reading!

Game Reveiw: Horizon: Forbidden West

Title: Horizon: Forbidden West
Developer/Publisher: Guerrilla Games; Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: February 18 2022
Platform: PS4 / PS5
Source/ format: Purchased, Disc
Other: Played on PS4

What I Thought:
I tried my best to keep this review vague, but there may be minor spoilers since I talk about specific parts of gameplay. 

I played Horizon: Forbidden West. Some of  what I said and felt in my review for Zero Dawn applies here, but it's done even better. All of this culminated to an enjoyable and dynamic playing experience.

The main plot was a wild ride with many expected and some unexpected twists. Needless to say, I’m glad that it didn’t hesitate to go in a more fantastical direction. Plot aside, like Zero Dawn, the side missions colored and expanded on the world, environments, and the plethora of characters both new and old. Each character felt super individualistic in their personality and in the way they spoke, moved, etc. Besides Aloy's interactions with different characters, it was nice being able to hear more of her personal feelings via periodically examining objects. Also nice was seeing more self realization developments for Aloy, especially by the end. The environments were straight up gorgeous, colorful, and felt broader. Finally, I have to mention Cauldrons. I enjoyed playing through them since, in a way, they seemed darker and more menacing. It's the same ambience I loved from the Frozen Wilds DLC.

To list my favorite new additions: the weapons (especially Spike Throwers),  different ways to get collectables, the ability to climb in countless areas, face paints, and armor dyes. Then there were others like a board game (Strike), racing, Melee Pits, additional mounts, and swimming. Swimming, sadly, ended up being frustrating during one of my favorite main missions. It felt a little awkward at times, even later when it was a lot easier. I enjoyed the added complexity to some of the puzzles like the Relic Ruins that used multiple Datapoints. Or how Tallnecks take additional and varied steps before being able to override them. The custom difficulty –where players can adjust a handful of options like the damage Aloy deals to or is dealt to for a truly customized experience. Last but not least, my absolute favorite and most important on my list –that I didn’t know I wanted –is none other than the Infinite Stash! With the Workbench based crafting system, it worked out great. Though, I definitely had to get in the habit of stopping by a bench to find out what was required for said upgrades.

My less enjoyed parts were mainly the later Melee Pits and combo chaining. The earlier ones, as well as the Pit Master and Enduring, were fine. But the instructions for the advanced combos weren’t as clear. After figuring those out, I then had to face the timing.  With that being said, I appreciated the combos in that they added more variety rather than a plain heavy or light attack.

Well, I loved how vibrant it got at times. And something I forgot to mention was, after going back to Zero Dawn, the controls felt smoother. Honestly, I want to see more. Overall, I had a swell time playing.

Thanks for reading.
*I originally published this on Our Thoughts Precisely under I Played Horizon: Forbidden West

Hello Again, Some Art and Art Block, New Old Books

I'm back from my break and wanted to catch up over here. 

I wanted to return earlier but that never happened. My art block kind of extended into everything. Before that I finished some art.

And sometimes it's nice to just sit there and create abstract things until they form something. That’s how I ended up with these two after feeling better.

Not much of a haul person, but I did get some things. First up are the last books from two series I needed to complete, The Books of Elsewhere and Dead City. Then I got some books from Better World Books. I was mainly after the Old-Fashioned Baking by Better Homes and Gardens. Then I looked for tap dancing books. 

Three books arranged in a triangle position. Inside Tap by Anita Feldmand, The Book of Tap by Jerry Ames and Jim Siegelman, and Old-Fashioned Baking by Better Homes and Gardens.Books arranged in an upside down triangle. The Books of Elsewhere: The Strangers and Still Life by Jacqueline West; and Dead City: Dark Days by James Ponti

I have to admit, I love old books. That's why I jumped at The Book of Tap by Jerry Ames and Jim Siegelman. I’m already  reading Inside Tap and currently like it –especially that Feldman starts with defining the terms. But, I'm going to stop myself here because this isn't  a review.

Thanks for reading!