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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Two for the Dough - You Can't Go Wrong With a Foot In the Fridge


Pros: Thank God my grandma isn't like this...
Cons: A little more detail please?

The Bottom Line: A Buick built like a tank, a hamster, clumsy female bounty hunter, sexy vice cop, wacky grannie = fun read.

A few weeks ago I finished Janet Evanovich’s first Stephanie Plum novel, One for the Money. I’d had three people telling me it was good stuff, hilarious, and so I hopped on the bandwagon to find out just what I was missing. Interesting times, I’ll tell ya that!

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter…er, mostly by accident. She needed a job – she was at the point where there wasn’t anything in her fridge aside from the random, moldy food item here and there. Her first catch was to be one Joe Morelli, whose guilt was iffy. You’ll have to read that whole book to find out just what went down, but you do get a bit of a recap in the beginning, so reading them out of order (I assume, and my mother has done it) isn’t such a bad thing. Each story is separate, just with connecting places and characters. So what’s Miss Plum up to this time?

Kenny Mancuso shot his best friend in the leg. He posted bond. He failed to appear. Hence, Stephanie and Ranger go out to reel him in. No dice. Things look even worse for Kenny when his pal goes from bullet in leg to all dead. Stephanie’s grandmother, Grandma Mazur, drags her to funeral viewings where Stephanie ends up with another little job – finding a load of missing caskets. On top of that, she’s getting threats – spray paint on her walls, notes, body parts…ew. On the bright side (maybe, she’s still iffy about the idea) she keeps running into vice cop Joe Morelli. Is Kenny the real bad guy here? Or is something else way creepier going on? And for Pete’s sake, will Grandma Mazur stop harassing the dead people in their caskets at viewings??

There’s only one way to find out…

As much fun as the first one was, this wasn’t quite as laugh-out-loud funny, but oh, it had it’s high points, trust me. You will not believe some of the stuff that happens to poor Stephanie, and you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that your grandma isn’t prone to knocking over caskets “accidentally” (and if your grandma is, then I feel for you). There are times when you wish Stephanie would come up with some better zingers against Joe, but I suppose she makes up for it with the naked in the street stint. What’s that you ask? Oh, I’m not telling you! You have to read to find out, but trust me, low blow though it may be, it’s still pretty great. I think my favorite parts are when Stephanie’s hamster Rex is involved. Makes me want a hamster, and it’s also not often you see hamsters in mystery novels, so it’s like a added bonus (albeit a goofy one).

Though there isn’t any clear cut explanation like there was at the end of the first book (as in the bad guy spills his guts to the heroine), it becomes clear enough what was going on, though it may confuse you for a brief moment in time. You sort of have to make sure you gather everything up as you go so at the end the rest of the puzzle pieces fit nicely. I went though thinking one way and it ended up being a slightly different way. Even my “real bad guy” guess was wrong. Kudos Janet.

Any problems? Sometimes things did seem a little more convoluted than they needed to be, or just weren’t explained well enough. My biggest issue, actually, is just some of the little details. Usually when Joe popped up and ended up hanging out with Stephanie. There were times he was in her car, and then suddenly he was in his following her. There were other times when I didn’t know who was driving, or if he’d gotten into her car or what. Just a little more clarity and I would have been crystal.

But overall, it was a good book. I’m looking forward to the next one and hope it cracks me up and keeps me glued all the way through. I need a good book that will have me thrashing around in the throes of laughter. Stephanie Plum is a good candidate, let’s see if she can deliver.


NT

Originally posted 2006 at Epinions.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

One for the Money - When I Jumped On the Bandwagon


Pros: A good read for plenty of fun
Cons: Nothing big enough for me or you to worry about

The Bottom Line: 4 stars for being a good book, but not super excellent - but I expect the future books to snag 5 stars sooner or later!

Back in college, my friend Sandra told me about these novels by Janet Evanovich that had her laughing out loud, and she highly recommended them to me. She said her sister had started reading them. Duly noted. Then my mother told me about the same novels and how great they were. Hmm…interesting. Then about two weeks after that my sister demanded I read them. She’d bought all eleven on Half.com and had gone so far as to amuse herself by creating a movie cast for the books.

I took this as some weird sign I should look into things. If I was getting told by three people to read these things, I guess it would be a good choice to do so. I promptly ordered it from the library (having just recently discovered again the magic of libraries).

“That’s great, Nicole, but what about the book?”

Stephanie Plum has been without a job for six months. Her refrigerator is turning into a barren wasteland, her hamster Rex may be beginning to resent her, and her car has just gotten repossessed.

Suck.

On a suggestion from her mother, Stephanie goes to her cousin Vinnie, who happens to be a bail bondsman. She just wants to be a file clerk until she can find something better, but the position’s been filled. What’s left? Turning into a bounty hunter. The mark? Joe Morelli, former cop wanted for murder. $10,000 sweet. How hard can it be? So, after a little blackmail-ish talk with Vinnie, he agrees to give her a shot at catching Joe. But it’s not as easy as it sounds – at all. During her time questioning people she bumps into Benito Ramirez, a psychotic heavyweight boxer who has a thing for hurting women and now has his sights set on her. Not so good. Hopefully her help from a cop friend, Eddie, and another bounty hunter known as Ranger, Stephanie can get enough money to get her life back on track – that is, if Ramirez doesn’t catch her first, or she gets shot by a side FTA (failure to appear – in court), or maybe even something more dangerous…

Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve read very many mysteries…at all. Much less crime and cop related mysteries. I think at most it comes to R.L. Stine’s Fear Street Series, Rule of Four, and two Dan Brown books. So One for the Money was a great change of pace. It’s 290 pages, all in first person from Stephanie’s point of view, and yes, there are parts that will make you laugh out loud. Some of the things she says or comes up with are great, and her Grandma Mazur is a hoot too. The banter between characters such as Stephanie and Joe or Stephanie and Ranger are usually pretty fun because they’re taking jabs at one another, more so Stephanie and Joe. Some people may find that the characters aren’t that deep, but we’re just starting out with them and I get the feeling that we’ll delve into them a little deeper later. Besides, this isn’t the type of book where your focus is going to be on that sort of thing. It’s more for sheer enjoyment. You know enough about the characters and get enough sense of who they are to fit the bill. If you want complicated characters, go read Moby Dick. I will say one thing though, Benito Ramirez was truly creepy.

Another good point about this book is that aside from its rather casual tone, it doesn’t focus on one thing and head towards the resolution with a few red herrings here and there to throw you off. Rather, Stephanie has her own personal goal, and goes down the road toward it rather haphazardly, not really focusing on a larger picture, and splitting off on branches of adventures from time to time, such as apprehending a few other court date skipping individuals, and interacting with plenty of other characters on her search for clues about Joe’s whereabouts.

Can you guess the ending? No. It connected to everything, but at the same time, it was so unconnected (or at least, very thinly connected) with Stephanie, that you’re just as “Whoa, really?” as she is. You’re busy driving around town and meeting people with her, not solving crimes, so when the reasons behind this and that come up, you stare at it just like her. Did I guess whodunit? Yes, but I didn’t know why, and I only guessed the right person because I always put my focus on the same type of person (as that’s always who it seems to be). But since you don’t know the reasons, even if you do guess, it’s not like it’s taking anything away from the book.

It was a lot of fun, and the only cons that I can mention would be tiny clichés. Or rather, cliché. Basically just the bad guy spilling his guts to the heroine; “Here’s what I did and why before I kill you.” But we do need to know, and I don’t really mind in the least. I just figure as long as all 12 books don’t do that, as it would get redundant and enhance the cliché, I’ll be fine.

So head to your library, book store, Half.com, whatever, and join me in the bandwagon. I’m convinced that these novels have gained in popularity due to word of mouth, and in fact, I think that’s one of the best way to find good books – especially when you’re being told to check it out by 3 or 4 people.

NT

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ready for Stephanie Plum September?

I kind of feel like an asshole after my last Janet Evanovich review, so I've decided to make September Stephanie Plum Month. There was a point in time where I didn't get so annoyed with her work as I do now. In fact, I loved it and read the books one after another. I really don't know what happened. Publisher pressure? Fan pressure? Who knows. But I remember having three completely different people tell me I had to read these books, and that was before I worked at a bookstore (where people tell me I need to read this and that all the time), and that's something that hasn't happened to me before or since.

In fact, I started reading and reviewing her novels for Epinions.com back in 2006 right around the end of college. At one point I stopped reviewing them - I think around the time she slowed down in writing them, which was okay because that may have been when they started to get repetitive with little (or no) character development. Actually, I worried that Ms. Evanovich was stuck under contract or something of that sort to keep churning out these novels and it was burning her out.

But in all truth, I don't know. I don't mean for this to turn into some expose about Janet Evanovich, who has had more literary success than a huge percent of authors, and has attained a famed status that I can only dream of hitting. I'll bet she even gets fanart - and that's something I'm jealous of.

So tomorrow starts Stephanie Plum September in which each day I will post a review of a Stephanie Plum book. In order, of course. I've reviewed up to 17, plus all the in-between novels, though I've read 18 and 19 (oh, look - I even have a post about #19 in 2012). Either way, I'll have to do some reading if I want to get up to number 22 for a full September of Stephanie Plum. Library, here I come.

And you know what? Maybe I'm just an idiot and she really does have a grand time writing these novels. After all, don't think I could crank out 22 books with the same characters and different mysteries every time. Pretty sure I'd lose my mind. Or just pull a Paul Sheldon and kill off the main character to end the series once and for all.

NT

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - The Original


Pros: A unique tale with nifty goodies
Cons: I never liked Howl

The Bottom Line: Close to five stars, but not quite - maybe I'm just picky about my books these days...

Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle has origins, and those origins are here, with the creation of Diana Wynne Jones’s book of the same title. The moment I heard the movie came from a book, I sought it out and finished the mere 212 page book in two days.

Sophie is the eldest of three, which means she won’t amount to much, or so everyone says. After her father dies, her mother Fanny sends her sisters Martha and Lettie off so they can make their fortunes and Sophie is to stay at the hat shop and become and apprentice. So Sophie makes hats. Day after day. She talks to them a little too, since there’s not much else to do while making hats. But one evening a woman comes in – a woman who turns out to be the Witch of the Waste, and when Sophie doesn’t give her what she wants, *poof!* a spell is cast and Sophie becomes an old woman. Drat.

Deciding to set out on her own even as an old woman, Sophie leaves and heads out, winding up inside Howl’s moving castle where she meets Michael, Howl’s young apprentice, and Calcifer, a fire demon. Calcifer sees Sophie is under a spell and they make a deal – Sophie breaks Calcifer’s contract with Howl and he will break her spell. Sophie agrees and announces herself as Howl’s new cleaning lady. But during her time there she learns that Howl does steal hearts – figuratively, and then breaks them, one of which may be her sister. There’s an odd and frightening scarecrow that keeps chasing after the castle. The Witch of the Waste is after Howl. Howl himself is a selfish pretty boy, whose talents are great, but redeeming qualities few. And throughout all this, Sophie learns a thing or two about herself and her own talents.

9 out of 10 times the book is better than the movie. Though this book was good in its own way, I liked the movie better. Actually, I think a meshing of the two would make things perfect, but that’s beside the point. Jones’s writing style is crisp and clear, and she gives us plenty of magical items and encounters, and people to boot. A man stuck as a dog. A scarecrow with a mind of its own. Boots that zip you ten miles over the landscape. A spell with some very unique end results. And of course, a castle that moves and has a door that opens to four locations. Delightful.

I think Howl and the very end was my only problem. Though I like all the characters and everything that is happening, it was no surprise that Howl was a spoiled pretty boy. But I expected to see some change as the book went along. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t ever recall seeing any. The things he says to Sophie are never truly mean-spirited, but I personally wouldn’t take to kindly to them either. Naturally Sophie is annoyed or angry with him most of the time, but at the end suddenly it’s as though we have a complete 180 by both characters. Actually just Sophie – there’s only one tiny instance before when we spot a change in Howl, but that’s it. Even in the book is said that he hadn’t changed much. I’m just not convinced she would fall for him, as I expected I should be.

But aside from all that, it’s a cute book. Read it to your kids, they’ll probably enjoy it. The plot may be a tad bit thick, what with the missing persons and the scarecrow’s purpose and what the bad guy was trying to do exactly. But read it yourself if you’re curious; you can’t go wrong when there’s a little fire demon involved.

NT


Originally published on Epinions.com.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville - The Wanderer is Weary


Pro: Definitely wasn't weary reading this!
Con: None now. At the time the third book wasn't even close to coming out.

The Bottom Line: Fun times all around. Now go get the next book.

If you haven’t read the first book, Into the Land of the Unicorns then shhh! Don’t read this part!!

When we left off with Cara, she had finished her journey to the unicorn Queen, Arabella Skydancer. With her were Lightfoot, the Squijum, the Dimblethum, and Thomas the Tinker. She had found out that the man after her and her grandmother was actually her father, Ian Hunter, and that Cara herself was actually a Hunter by blood as well. Cara also now had the gift of tongues from the dragon Firethroat and is able to speak to anyone and anything in Luster. And now, she must start on her journey back home to find her grandmother, Ivy Morris, who is also The Wanderer, and bring her back to Luster.

Ok, you’re good to go now.

Bruce Coville has done it again in Song of the Wanderer. At twenty-six chapters and 330 pages, this book is twice as long as the first. But that is not in any way a bad thing. On the contrary – many times thicker books mean more goodies for the reader!

Cara is once more setting off on a journey through the land of Luster in order to find a way back to Earth and to her grandmother. She leaves with a small glory of unicorns (a glory is the name for a group of unicorns – like a herd of cows, that sort of thing), Moonheart, who is Lightfoot’s gruff uncle, Finder, a unicorn who can find almost anything, and Belle, one of the Queen’s personal guard who enjoys a good battle. For reasons unknown to Cara, Lightfoot did not return to Summerhaven due to ill feelings between him and the other unicorns, and the Dimblethum simply feels unwelcome there. However, she does still have the Squijum and Thomas the Tinker to join her on their trek across Luster.

They must find the one called the Geomancer, who will tell Cara the exact place she must cross between worlds with the use of the amulet. They must avoid getting lost in an enchanted forest. They must fight against nasty delvers. Cara must resist the ever-persistent Beloved, who is somehow able to reach her, even across worlds. And still, so many questions plague Cara: where is her mother? Is her grandmother okay? How could her father be a hunter of unicorns? Will she see Lightfoot and the Dimblethum again? And just how will she get back to Earth?

Their trails take them into the underground caves of Grimwold, along the shores of River Silver, and to the desolate lands of Northern Waste. New friends will meet and join them on the way, such as Medafil and Jaques, who has a secret of his own, and others who are not so friendly, such as the unpredictable dragon Ebillan.

Through all this Cara’s past is unraveled, as is her grandmother’s. Many twists and turns reveal secrets long kept – and the end is the last thing anyone would have expected.

And yet there is still room for more.

Though this book is mostly one long travel book without many sudden turns (the turns that occur are subtle and not really unexpected, aside from a couple here and there), but it is still highly enjoyable. A lot of questions are answered and as things progress, they just get more and more “whoa” as you read. I read this book in two days (which adds up to just a matter of hours, really), so as you can see, it is hard to put down. I especially like the way Coville portrayed the gryphon and the words the gryphon used ("Gadfingled" comes to mind), I thought it was great and fit wonderfully.

If you were to look for this book in the bookstore, you would find it in the "young reader" section - suggested ages are 9-12 (wow, it's been so long since I've been a young reader). But then there are always kids out there at various ages that wouldn't have a problem with it. My little sister is actually in high school, but she's had the first one for a while and someone (me) finally made the effort to finish what was started. It's a smooth read and the only words kids might have trouble with might be a couple of the names (and very few at that), or the words the gryphon uses when he's fussing about something. Let's face it - if your kid has no problem reading Harry Potter, then this is a walk in the park.

At the time I originally wrote this review the year was 2005 and there was no third book and this one was copywritten in 1999. And there had to be one given the sort of ending that this book has. Luckily Bruce either never completely stopped on this series or went back to it because in 2008 Dark Whispers came out and the series wrapped up in 2010. I still haven't finished it (because I couldn't), but now that I'm going through these reviews, I think I'll have to revisit the land of Luster and finally discover the whole story. After all, I want to know what they’re going to do about Beloved.

That chick needs to go.

NT


Originally published on Epinions.com

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Buccaneers of America by Alexander O. Exquemelin - Pirates Don't Say "Aargh."


Pros: Want to know about pirates from the view of someone who was there?
Cons: If you were hoping for something more story-like, this isn?t it.

The Bottom Line: Find out about the true pirates of the Caribbean!

After Wicked Charms, I figured I might as well post a piratey book, and since this review never made it to this blog during my time in college in which I took a historical course about pirates (that is not a joke - I really did), now is the best time.

Some say he was French. Others say he was Dutch. However, the fact remains that Alexander O. Exquemelin provides us with a handsome dish of pirate stories, many of which might make you think twice about all that Disney stuff.

A pirate’s life for me!

Yeah, screw that.

My copy is a translation by Alexis Brown, with an introduction from Jack Beeching. As most introductions go, the reader is given an overview of piracy and a bit of history of the times in which the chronicles by Exquemelin fall into. The introduction also gives a bit of history on Exquemelin himself – or at least what can be found about him. From there the book goes right into Exquemelin’s story, which is broken up into three main parts, and from there broken into chapters. Here, as is on the page itself, is what the three parts contain:

Part One
How the French came to Hispaniola; the nature of the country and life of the inhabitants.
Part Two
The origin of the buccaneers; their rules and way of life; various attacks on the Spaniards.
Part Three
The burning of Panama City by the English and French buccaneers, together with an account of a further voyage by the author.

Each part tells you exactly what is listed above – only in greater detail. In Part One Exquemelin describes how he came to the Caribbean, gives the reader a quick history lesson about the French vs. the Spanish when it comes to the island of Tortuga (yes, it was real), describes the island of Hispaniola, including its trees, fruits, animals, etc. (and I do mean describe), as well as the French hunters and planters that live there. The final few chapters give you everything you ever needed to know about buccaneers – who they were, how they began, and why they turned to piracy. You even get to find out where the word “buccaneer” came from! Now isn’t this interesting?

Though the first section can get a little boring from time to time, don’t worry too much because the second section gets into the actual piracy, dealing with captains and such. The reader is introduced to a French pirate by the name of Francois l’Olannais and all of his exploits, from raiding Spanish fleets to sacking and ransoming various towns. L’Olannais wasn’t a very nice guy by the way, and neither were his men, which makes for some interesting reading. After knowing l’Olannais’s fate, the next captain, Henry Morgan comes into play. Is this where the famous Captain Morgan comes from? Haha, who knows!

However, I will say that Morgan was a lot more successful than l’Olannais ever was. He had great pirating skills and managed to attack (with great success) several places – including one that might sound familiar to you…Panama anyone? Here is where you can read of the taking of a fort without firing a single shot, escaping Spanish warships, and see lists of the booty they managed to steal. Good times to be a pirate under Morgan’s leadership – and you’d probably be surprised at the number of men and ships he had following him at one point in time. Bet it’s something you’d never guess when it comes to pirates! I was certainly surprised! Much of this is mentioned in the second and then third sections, the break right between campaigns by Morgan.

The remainder of the third section, Exquemelin has broken off from Morgan’s group and set off with some others sailing from island to island and encountering various things, such as hostile natives, friendly natives, and manatees (which apparently taste like pork). The final chapter is a short account of the governor of Tortuga, who tries his hand at piracy and barely succeeds.

And that is where the book ends. Yes, it may seem abrupt, but one must remember, this wasn’t made to be a story with a plot – it is an account of a man’s life and the things he encountered and/or heard about during his time in the Caribbean. So does that make it suck? No! This is more historical than anything, and quite all right. It’s not like it leaves you on some kind of cliffhanger.

But, interesting though it may be, it can get a little tiresome with nothing but Exquemelin’s descriptions to go by. Are you an author who is confused about showing and telling? Well, this is a perfect example of telling. There is next to no dialogue and the battles aren’t quite as exciting as they have potential for. As I said though, it is more historical, though that whole concept might put some readers off. As for myself, it was a required book for a pirate class I’m taking (yes, they do offer those), and when compared to other text books one might have to read, this rocked.

Oh, and no one ever says “Arg!” in here either.

NT

Originally published on Epinions.com.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton - Slapstick in a Book


Pro: Quick, mildly entertaining read
Con: Some dumbness; characters don't take anything seriously

Bottom Line: I'm glad these books are so far apart – reading them in quick succession would get really old, really fast.

Wicked Charms is the third book in the Lizzy and Diesel series. In case you didn't already know, Diesel is a character with some above normal abilities who's showed up in Stephanie Plum novels from time to time to make Stephanie's life even more interesting than it already is (if interesting is the right word for it). Lizzy has the ability to sense objects of power, and she's only one of two people in the world to be able to do so. Diesel's cousin, Wulf, is after certain stones that embody the Seven Deadly Sins, so it's a race to see who can get what stone first.

This time we're after Greed.

The base of the story is good. Kind of Goonies-esque, if you will. There's a rich and powerful man involved who hopes to become the incarnation of Mammon, a Prince of Hell who's all about greed. There are pirates, treasure, traipsing through thick island woods (we're off the East Coast so it's not jungle), dead guys, cupcakes, and more. Characters are quirky as usual, Diesel is his sexy self although his timing for leaving people in peril is impeccable, and I still really want to see more of Wulf, but it's understandable that we don't.

It's not a difficult read and will keep you entertained for about 4 hours or so; I brought the book home and read the entire thing that night. It's not that it's, "Oh, I can't put it down" but more like, "This won't take long so I'll just get it out of the way." As I mentioned above, it's mildly amusing, but I think it would be even better if the characters weren't so stupid and occasionally over the top.

That's where the book falls down and things get annoying. There are so many moments in which people come face-to-face with awful or terrifying situations but don't have anything close to a normal reaction. Instead they're too busy making casual statements or silly quips. From seeing fresh dead bodies to having guns shoved into one's back, it doesn't matter. I can only recall two times where Lizzy has somewhat of a normal reaction, but even these are glossed over: once when she is grossed out by a dead guy (and even then all that's mentioned is that she tries not to look at it), and the next when it's mentioned that she's panicking. That's it. Otherwise it doesn't matter if people are left to drown or going to be shot in the head, it's all no big deal.

The problem with this is that is totally takes away from the tension that would normally be there. You never have to worry about characters being hurt, much less killed. I mean, these books are clearly meant to be the "read and have fun" sort, but you can still insert some tension in there so I'm at least concerned someone is going to get injured. Heck, Diesel leaves to get groceries, people break into Lizzy's house (for the umpteenth time), but they're unscathed, Diesel comes back, and basically has the air of, "What happened? Oh, okay. Let's have dessert." Really? Also, you're not going to speak in pirate dialect when in certain situations. You're just not.

And while it's deviated some from the design of Stephanie Plum books (not sure if Phoef Sutton is there for the research aspect, as I was admittedly impressed with some of the pirate information being accurate, or to help change things up a bit), it's still pretty clear that Lizzy is 50% Stephanie, Glo is Lula, Clara is Connie, and now Clara's Gramps is the male version of Grandma Mazur.

Lizzy is also a moron for wanting to publish a book but does zero research and signs the first thing put in front of her – despite knowing the guy is a scumbag and possible sociopath.

Oh, and Carl the monkey is still there grinning his monkey smile, mooning people, and giving them the finger. *sigh*

Ok. So I complain about the dumbness. A lot. And there's plenty of it. So why am I still reading these? Enough time goes by that I'm able to brace myself for the ridiculous antics because I'm in it for two things – Wulf and the overarching storyline. I'm curious to see what happens when the last stone is found (either a lot of shit will go down or it will be like all the other books and no big deal), and I like Wulf's character. Probably because he's actually got some meat to him and isn't absurd like everyone else in the book. So I'm interested to see how he does over the next four or so books. And if Janet Evanovich is now working with another writer, maybe things will change up a bit in the future.

Here's hoping.

NT

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams - Not As Good As Watership Down


Pros: An interesting and unique story
Cons: Difficult dialect to wade through; Adam's ramblings

The Bottom Line: If you want to read Richard Adams, go with Watership Down. This book is...eh...not bad, but not as good.

I first read Watership Down when I was in 7th grade. I thoroughly enjoyed it. When the library gave it away for free, I took it. I'd say with the exception of maybe 5 years (maybe a few more), I've read it every year.

I eventually discovered The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams, but as much as I was curious about it, I was reluctant to read it. The description and the cover kept me away. I mean, heck, the poor little terrier dog on the front has his little head all bandaged up from being a lab experiment. I loved Watership Down, but I was worried that A.) The Plague Dogs wouldn't live up to its counterpart and B.) it was going to be a sad make-me-want-to-cry story.

Turns out I was right on both counts.

Snitter, the little terrier, and Rowf, a big setter-like dog, are both experimentees at Animal Research, Scientific and Experimental (A.R.S.E. for short - and you can't tell me Adams didn't do that on purpose). Rowf is systematically drowned and revived, and has a terrible fear of the water. Snitter's had his brain operated on in order to confuse the objective and subjective mind. But both manage to escape one night and head out into the wild - the rough world of England's harsh crags and hardscrabble ground. They're forced to kill sheep and chickens to live, but even then without the help of the tod (a fox) they wouldn't make it. Meanwhile, rumors spiral out of control about them throughout the town and England - the dogs might be carrying the plague. Now not just the whitecoats are out to get them - it seems that the whole world just wants them dead.

I don't have any doubts that Adams was pushing some social commentary into this story. There's a lot of talk about men and how they're screwing up the world, a lot of comments are directed at animal research, a few at the government, and so forth. And while I don't mind social commentary, sometimes it's just an eensy bit heavy-handed and can get tiresome - especially if your reader already agrees with you.

While Watership Down had plenty of dialogue, action, adventure, and so forth, this book had a lot less of...all that. The tod's speech was very difficult to wade through, even if Adams does give American readers a little glossary in the front of words we'd never guess in a million years. I'm willing to bet that even some English readers had trouble with it though. The tod wasn't the only one with tough dialect - several of the humans that popped up who lived in the region also spoke that way.

The other downside was Adams's tendency to ramble and go off on tangents where I literally sat there thinking, "What the heck does this have to do with the story?" I'd start flipping ahead pages to see where he stopped and the actual story began again. This happened at least three times that I can remember because they went on for a decent sized chunk, though I know there were a few others that were paragraph or two sized. It was weird and I honestly don't know why those were there or what the point was. One of those moments where you wonder what the heck his editor was doing at that moment. Or his agent (if Adams had one) for that matter.

Another thing Adams does is sort of inject himself into the story in a weird way. Overall the book is done in third person in the view of Snitter, Rowf, or one of the many humans that pops up. Other times it's almost more omniscient. Still other times (particularly when he rambles), Adams includes "I" and speaks directly to the reader with "you" phrases. It jars you out of the story (if his tangent hasn't already) and is generally just odd and random.

The best parts about this book were Snitter and Rowf's story and the illustrations about their travels. I was never quite sure where they were going from and to - there were a lot, a lot of place names - but the illustrations were good all the same because it really helped me to visualize the kind of terrain these poor dogs were trekking over.

Snitter and Rowf each had their own distinct personalities, and I frequently found myself sad over their predicaments - particularly little Snitter because he used to have a master and was then sold (long story) to the lab guys. So he used to be happy and he still imagined he saw his master from time to time and it was just...sad. I don't often cry at books. I think in all the books I've ever read I've cried a grand total of three times. While I never actually cried at this book, I did get a bit teary from time to time just out of sheer empathy. I think I was probably more affected now because I actually own a little dog instead of a big one so somehow that translated over as well.

It does have a happy ending at least, so there's no worry there. The ending felt just a bit abrupt, but because of how it ended, I'm willing to let it go and be on its way. It's a good story, but with some cleaning up, could have been even better. It's worth a shot if you want something totally different from what you're used to. But I do have to recommend Watership Down over this one.

NT

*I eventually learned that the original edition of the book did not end happily and an addendum was added to make a new ending. Good thing too, otherwise I would have been severely ticked off and felt my time had been wasted. I know life isn't fair and all that, but I read books to get away from real life, so I want happy endings dang it! (also the reason I'm not so sure I want to see the film adaptation anymore)

Originally posted on Epinions.com

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg - Good Times With Goof-Ups


Pros: A fun interactive book with plenty of silliness
Cons: Needs a companion book!

The Bottom Line: Get kids' imaginations and creative minds going with this little nugget of joy.

Usually I’m not impressed with pop-up books. Sure, they look nifty, and I can appreciate the effort that’s gone into making them (I sure can’t do it!), but the more elaborate they are, the more prone to damage they can be. You look through them, admire them, and then move on. Other books similar to pop-ups, like lift-the-flap books, are more fun because kids are encouraged to pull things, push things, lift flaps, twist circles, and more. Interactive books are more fun.

Beautiful Oops is by Barney Saltzberg, the same author of Peekaboo Kisses. It’s a different sort of interactive pop-up type book. Instead of teaching kids about animals or telling stories, it inspires them to use their imaginations even when goof-ups happen. It’s kind of like the children’s version of Wreck This Journal.

Inside, there are flaps to lift and little things to peek at. The idea in this book is that little moments of “Oops!” can still be turned into something nifty. A torn piece of paper. Spilled paint. A crumpled paper ball. Even a coffee stain from a mug can become something else. All of them are transformed into something else – elephants, alligators, and more. These goof-ups can be turned into works of art – or just some silly scribbles. Kids are encouraged to use their imaginations and see beyond the oops itself. Sort of like how we spot shapes in clouds. The text in the book points all these things out.

I think my favorite thing about this book is the color. It’s a bright, colorful book with all sorts of mixes and mediums. It’s a small party in a book, and my other favorite part is the stretch out spiral that you pull out of the book and then put your eye to in order to look down. It’s a really nifty effect, and there’s a bit of text down in the center to read. There are plenty of colors and patterns that dance their way down the spiral as well.

The book is rather small in size, but that’s good because for young children that makes it easier to handle as opposed to some of the massive pop-ups on the shelves. I think it’s compact size may also help it to last a little bit longer in kids’ hands (but if they’re keen on pulling out the spiral or tearing off the flaps, then it really doesn’t matter what it’s size is).

The only way I think this could be even better is if there were some kind of companion book to go with it. While that’s not really necessary (what with the current number of activity books out there), I think it would be fun for kids to have an empty book where they were encouraged to let some kind of oops happen and then make something of it. As it stands right now, the best you could do is snap up something by Keri Smith.

Still, it’s a fun little book and definitely worth taking a look at the next time you’re in the bookstore and thinking of buying something cute for your child.

NT

Originally posted on Epinions.com

Notes from the playlist: "Upright Piano" by Without Directive

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Last Coloring Book List You'll Ever Need (Part 3 - Single Books)

Part 1 of this list featured coloring books that had gargantuan (or not so gargantuan) series or multiple books by an author. Part 2 featured the universe-chilling mandala, some with authors that had more than one book under his/her belt. Now we're into the single digits. These are coloring books that are one-hit wonders. Books all by their lonesome either published a while ago before the craze hit, or that will be published very soon in order to give people even more variety than before. So, any of these suit your fancy?


The Mindfulness Coloring Book will be out June 2nd and we already have some on order. It looks fun and simple, but I can't promise anything yet since I clearly haven't seen it.



A simple book of basic designs, I'm guessing Alexander Girard is some kind of designer given that the book is named after him - Alexander Girard Coloring Book. You can take a peek inside of this book online. If you're a little exhausted of all the super-intricate designs, despite how pretty they are, this book can provide a great escape for just adding in swaths of color. Of course, who says you can't do a bit of doodling while you're at it? There's plenty of whitespace and the images themselves almost invite a few extra fun lines. Or hey, just color. Whatever floats your boat.



I won't lie to you - this is straight up a children's coloring book. Back when we were still scrambling to fill customers' desire to color, I went to the Children's section and dug up anything I thought wasn't too kid-like. This one, I think, works out. It's lighthearted, whimsical, and full of fun little things that you can color as you see fit. Pretty Fashions isn't the only book of it's kind back there - so if the adult coloring section isn't working for you and your store hasn't brought out everything from the kid's section yet, by all means head back there and poke around. Remember, Dover is coded as children's as well.



This one has been a wee bit of a chore to keep in stock, but it's still out there and available. It's exactly what it sounds like - The Celtic Colouring Book. Full of celtic designs for you to fill in as you see fit. If you're tired of animals, cityscapes, and mandalas, this could be a good change of pace. Or just something fun and different to try. It's also not super-crazy intricate, adding to the joy of de-stressing while coloring for those times when you just want to go nuts with a particular color and forget about the tiny lines.



Simple flowers here, nothing more in the Flowers Coloring Book. Quite popular for this very reason, I've seen this one end up out of stock and then back in stock a few times now. If you see it in the store, you might as well snatch one up because you never know when they'll run out again. Perfect for coloring outside near a garden - make the flowers colors you'd expect or something you'd find in a fantasy world. A fairly large book, you'll have plenty of pages to fill up.



As with some other books, I found this one in a separate list online. While B&N can't get this book, it may be possible for you to find it elsewhere through secondhand stores online using the ISBN number, 9781780551098. So why do I bring this book up? Because it looks really cool, that's why. This is the sort of coloring book I'd buy because I like things that are different and fun. This one is similar to the Dover Stained Glass books in that you color on white bits while the background is all black - just without the see-through-ish stained glass aspect.



Another one discovered in a separate online list, this book is perfect if you're looking for something outside the box - in case the name didn't give it away. Outside the Lines is weird, unexpected, and just what you're looking for if mandalas, pretty lines, nature, and animals aren't your thing. And it's actually a collection of various drawings rather than something done by one person, which means you'll get a lot of varying designs throughout the book - and it's quite a sizable book, so you'll be coloring for a while.



I've been waiting for this one to come back in stock for quite some time. I hesitate to recommend it, but while I may not have any more in my store, that doesn't mean other stores don't still have a few hanging around. I do hope they make more, though, because this is a really nice coloring book. The illustrations are excellent - nice and lifelike. All you have to do (of course) is add in the color. While they do offer little images on what the bird actually looks like, obviously you can color them any way you like. I'm not sure what the publisher is up to, but given that they're making other coloring books as well, I'd like to think that they're working on giving Coloring Birds some more printing runs.



Similar to the birds above, the Butterflies Art Pad shows up as unavailable online, but even our store still has a few hanging out, so you might check your local B&N to see if they have any. (Again, best bet - give them the ISBN number.) It's quite pretty with a lot of nifty butterflies to color in with markers, colored pencils, or crayons. Hooray!



Tricky to find, but potentially possible, there's all sorts of plants, flowers, and more in here to color. Glorious Gardens is put out by a publisher that, if I remember right, is sort of scrambling to put out more - including a few new titles. How long it's going to take them, I can't say. If you enjoy these sort of designs, then see about getting a copy from a secondhand store or seeing if your local B&N still has some in stock.



The Indie Rock Coloring Book is a fun little book that brings something different to the table. A little bit of peace, love, and coloring. But more than that, you also get pages that feature entertaining activities such as mazes and dot-to-dots. So when you're tired of coloring, but still want something to do, scribble, dot, and doodle your way to indie-styled zen. It's tiny, cute, and all the royalties go to charity.



If you're truly interested in something different, then The Tattoo Coloring Book is a really cool one to go with. This one has been flying off the display to the point that we are now out. Full of intricate and unique tattoo designs, who knows? Maybe it will give you a few ideas for a tattoo once you're done.




This Tattoo Coloring Book has even more designs for you to choose from, though I can't say how easy it will be to get this book either. The tattoo books really went out the doors in quick fashion. I guess coloring birds and flowers (...which, amusingly enough, are included here too) can only entertain one for so long. Skulls and fire always liven up a party, don't they?



Now The Art of Nature Coloring Book is pretty nifty, but I will admit that I'm on the fence about this one. The illustrations are very cool and more realistic than almost any other coloring book featuring animals that you'll come across (except the bird one above), yet at the same time there's an awful lot of shading. But hey, I guess if you get it to turn out like Mr. Octopus up there, then it all works out. I'll let you decide. Take a look at this one yourself and get your true nature coloring self on.


Ok, look - I'm just going to be a smartass and throw this one out there. While The Anatomy Coloring Book is basically meant for people actively learning about anatomical structures, if you really want something that strays off the beaten path, then this hits the nail on the head. Not only do you color in all manner body parts and specific areas based upon information given, but you also learn in the process. And it's also not much more expensive than some of the other coloring books out there. So de-stress and learn at the same time!


This next batch of coloring books are all made by the same publisher, but there was no good way for me to craft a search string that would collect them all in one place. So since I work hard for you folks, I went ahead and pulled up each one individually to check out if you'd like. A solid selection to work with, they come neatly wrapped in a fun little package for you.

 


 










Thus ends The Last Coloring Book List You'll Ever Need. After all these books, I'm sure you'll have plenty for the year to come. It's a good idea to take into account how some of these books are published and who they're with. It can make all the difference into why your local store doesn't carry them or potentially can't get them. For example, anything under the publisher CreateSpace is actually something that the author published him/herself and the books are only printed as they are ordered. They cannot be returned in any fashion (because there's nowhere to send them - there is no warehouse for them to hang out at like with other publishing houses). Best bet? Write down the ISBNs and see what's available and where you can get it. If I discover any others as we continue to build our lovely coloring book table, I'll be sure to add them on. And of course - happy coloring!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Last Coloring Book List You'll Ever Need (Part 2 - Mandalas)

Mandala coloring books have been around for a long time. They actually hang out in a few different places of the store depending upon a few factors, from spots in New Age to Meditation. The goal is what coloring books' current goal is - to relax. But more than that, mandalas are spiritual in nature that can be found in many cultures and religions. So it shouldn't really come as much of a surprise to learn that more coloring books are appearing that feature mandalas, while others that were previously out have ramped up production. Even better, not all of them stick with geometric designs and can get rather interesting. I'm leaving out any coloring books mentioned previously (i.e. Dover), so these will be all new for you!



 

Wendy Piersall was featured online - so her books didn't last long in the warehouse...of which I am partly to blame. Anyway, they've been put into production more, so if your store doesn't have them, you can order them online. She only has two books out right now, with a third on the way. The books are small and a bit thin, but the illustrations are very nice. I personally like Coloring Animal Mandalas more, but either one should be enjoyable and a pretty good replacement if you can't get your colored pencils on Johanna Basford's books.



Power Mandalas is more rectangular in shape, which is interesting, and it's also been around for quite some time. I actually now realize I haven't opened this one up to see inside, but like other mandala books it features the concept of circular designs that give you the chance to relax while becoming one with the universe.


 

Monique Mandali has three mandala-based coloring books for you to enjoy. They're actually rather large and more square in shape, which is handy for anyone looking for something a bit more sizable. They're also not as crazy-intricate as a lot of other coloring books, so if you're in the mood for a book with less lines but still has fun shapes and de-stressing power, these could work nicely.



Because of the shape of mandalas, you'll find that a lot of them are square in shape. This one offers up dozens of mandalas to color - it's a pretty fat book. The author, Jim Gogarty, even runs a website called iHeartMandalas.com where it looks like he offers a few more items through Etsy. But why wait for shipping when you can own a copy of The Mandala Coloring Book now?



Like the above, these books are square as well as nice and fat. Here we have Volume 1 and Volume 2 of mandalas - and these sell nicely. Funny enough, I just discovered the first volume yesterday in our coloring section - I promptly dragged it up to the front of the store where the table is. The coloring section is empty - but hey, it's in the back of the store anyway and at this point, there's no room for all the books we have on the table. These are good quality books and great for anyone looking to add to their mandala coloring book collection.



Coming soon via Barrons Educational (which seems weird to me, but hey, whatever), Color Yourself Calm, featuring mandalas! Available June 1st, it looks rather promising if I were to do what the old proverb says not to do and judge it by its cover. One has automatically been ordered to the store, so I guess we'll see how it turns out.


 

I realize it seems a bit ridiculous to offer up coloring books that you can't get yet. The Mindful Mandala Coloring Book won't be available until September. Until then, you can get in on some of the other Lisa Tenzin-Dolma mandala books. They're quite nice and do have some variety to choose from if you prefer something more themed. The list I dug up includes some non-coloring books, but it was the best way to show everything under her name HERE.

If mandalas aren't your thing, don't worry - there are plenty more coloring books on the way that feature a grand variety of designs and concepts for you to color in!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Last Coloring Book List You'll Ever Need (Part 1 - So Many Choices...)

Coloring books are all the rage, and with their popularity you'll find dozens of lists out on the internet showcasing various books. Some you can get, others have been so popular entire warehouses have run out and publishers scramble to print more. At my store, we've put together a massive table full of nothing but coloring books and coloring utensils. We know our books - it's what we do. Yes, we've had help from the internet and friends as well. But in the end, here's the list of all the books we've chucked onto the table. So save yourself some Googling time and check it out. I am not exaggerating about this list - I have 9 printed pages of books, so buckle up. (And unlike other sites, I actually provide you with links.)


 

I suppose I should start with the obvious - the famed Johanna Basford coloring books. She only has two, but apparently two is enough. They are indeed very beautiful inside. Oh yes, I've seen the fabled Enchanted Forest and Secret Garden with my very own eyes before they vanished out the doors of the store. She's the one who made us say, "What is happening?" When you have 4 people in one day come looking for her work, you know something is up. Both of these are now on backorder. I won't bother to give the date since it's changed a few times already. I will say, however, that the publisher is busting ass because I've seen Enchanted Forest trickle into the store for customer orders. Secret Garden is still nowhere to be found, but if you want a Johanna Basford book, go to your local B&N and put in an order for Enchanted Forest to be sent to the store. There's a chance it might work. I've even been a sneaky little fox and ordered five just to put on our table - and by gollly-gosh, it worked. (and if you do order it and it comes it, be sure to pick it up! Once your order expires, that sucker will go straight to the floor and be gone that very same day, I guarantee it.)



These are Dover Coloring Books. They've been around for many, many years. In fact, they used to have a display in the Children's section of Barnes & Noble. Most of them are still available. In fact, at this point smart stores are ordering them in any way they can. They've always been excellent coloring books. Most of them are nicely detailed and the variety you can choose from is great. In fact, we often sold them to adults as much - if not more so - than kids. I'm only showcasing two of them here because there are dozens upon dozens to choose from. How can you find them all? There's always the Dover website, of course, or you can simply search "dover coloring books" in order to get a massive listing of them HERE. Oh, and did I mention that a lot of Dover books are cheap? I'm talking $3.99 cheap, kids.


 

 These are more Dover Coloring Books. However, these are different. How? Besides the black border, if you were to open one up you'd discover something special about the pages. These are Stained Glass Coloring Books. Do you remember those old drawing books with the tracing paper? That's sort of what they use for you to color on, only thicker, while black parts make up the rest - just like stained glass. They're pretty cool, and just like the classic coloring books, there are dozens of these to choose from. Instead of hanging them on your fridge, hang them in your windows instead for a really nifty effect. You'll see them show up in the "dover coloring book" search, but "dover stained glass books" will help you narrow it down. Skip right ahead to them HERE.


 

Meet the Creative Haven coloring books. Like Dover, there are dozens of them to choose from. You'll find everything from fanciful animals to intricate designs, simple wildflowers to art deco. These can be tricky for us to get into the store as many of them are pre-paid in their design (meaning we have to send them directly to you and not the store if you ask). But that also means you can mosey around online for the full lineup of these books and go nuts on how many you want. They're very nice and offer more pages than the Dover books. If your B&N doesn't have a coloring table set up by now, you can go to the Activity/Coloring section of the store, or the Bargain section. If anything just ask the bookseller to search for "creative haven coloring books" to see what's in store. The full list of results can be found HERE.


 

You may have already encountered the Colour Me Good Ryan Gosling book, but did you know about the Benedict Cumberbatch one? Or that this series makes some really weird shit? These books are actually all housed in the Humor section of the store, but nevertheless, they are coloring books. They'll most likely give you a laugh - and there's nothing wrong with that when you're working on de-stressing via coloring. Think of it as an added bonus. Some of these may be hard to find, given that we're ordering everything out of the warehouse, but trust me when I say (at the time of creating this list) that at least there were tons of Benedict Cumberbatch books available. Check out the full line of these books HERE.


 

I will absolutely thank BuzzFeed (and my coloring book dealer Megan and her friend) for this one. Or rather, this author. Christina Rose is an excellent alternative for those struggling to deal with the wait on Johanna Basford's books. They're very pretty and nicely intricate - and they're also print-on-demand. That means the publisher is going to make them as ordered...which may be good or bad depending upon how well they can handle the influx I'm sure they're going to get. I put in an order for five each of her books - because she actually has seven. If you want one of these, I suggest getting your name in early on the off chance that her publisher gets overwhelmed. Choose from one or all HERE.


 

As of right now, the only book actually orderable through B&N is the Adult Coloring Book on the right. But the other three put out by this creator are just as interesting looking - you'll just have to get them through secondary dealers either at the B&N Marketplace or elsewhere. Admittedly, at the time of writing this I haven't been able to look inside one yet, so I can't vouch for how good they are. However, if the cover is any indication, they look promising. If you are interested, however, tackle it soon - we're throwing out orders left at right to our warehouse so I'm not sure how long they'll be available. There are only four total, so choose from them HERE.


 

These two books are illustrated by Cindy Wilde. The one on the left is meant for adults, while the one on the left is actually in the Children's section. If you want the second book, you may still be able to find it in a store as the website lists that currently they're out of stock. I know this because we still have one or two in our store. Though truth be told, who wants to color copycat style? That's no fun. We're here to be creative, and I think it would be far more interesting to have two similar pictures with completely different colors on them. But that's just me.


 

The Pocket Posh line has been doing games for a while - opening with Sudoku and adding more from there. They already had several coloring books by the time the craze hit, but it didn't take long for them to be sold out. But their publisher is a big one, so I don't doubt they've double-timed their work in order to make more of these (in fact, we now have more on the way!). They've got some fun things to choose from and the books are nice - they even come with a little elastic band to keep your book closed and all neat and tidy. Everything they make is cute, so take your pick HERE.


 

The Just Add Color books are pretty nifty. They have a lot to choose from in terms of themes, and their slightly smaller size might make them more appealing to some. The series is crafted by a number of artists who also put their work out on other things from journals to puzzles. But wait - there's more!

 

These are the other Just Add Color books you can choose from. These are larger in both overall size as well as thickness - which means larger pages and more of them. They're pretty cool and not all that expensive, either, which is always a plus. Some of them might be out in terms of warehouse stock, but you can always contact your local store to see if they have any lingering. See the full list of these books HERE.


 

This is Lacy Mucklow. She is currently on backorder because, like Johanna Basford, she ended up with the spotlight on her. My coloring book dealer led me to her, I ordered a bunch, but not enough. She was soon gone from the store and the warehouse. However, the backorder date is coming up very soon - so here's hoping she doesn't get pushed back like Johanna. You may also notice that Lacy has three books in her list. However, Color Me Stress Free won't be available until September 15th. Honestly, what her publishers are on, I have no idea. If they were smart and Lacy's actually done, they would push that book out now rather than wait. Still, if you want a leg up on it, I recommend putting a pre-order in for it now so you are certain to get a copy. If coloring is still popular come September, it's possible they won't make enough and then you'll be stuck waiting for the backorder date. (Hey, if they're dumb enough to wait until September, it's possible they'd be dumb enough not to print a sustainable number of books.)


 

Created by Pepin Van Roojen, these aren't very typical in that they're not books. These are unbound sheets that you can color with a variety of mediums, from colored pencils to watercolors. You can't exactly flip through them since they're shrink wrapped, but you can get a pretty good idea of what you're going to see from the covers alone. They're also much larger in terms of size than the average coloring book. The unbound style can also be rather handy since you don't have to worry about a book spine or crease ever getting in the way. Pick a sheet, start coloring. I've done the best I could to bring up his coloring goodies first HERE, as he is a designer of items as well, so make sure what you're looking at is an actual coloring item before making a purchase.


 

Very bright and very fun, Design Originals coloring books feature a unique selection of themes and designs. Dapper animals, groovy abstracts, Day of the Dead, and more, these are what you want if you're into something perhaps slightly more on the kid side. That's not to say that these are children's coloring books, but they're a little more fun and carefree in their concepts while still maintaining a bit of a challenge in terms of staying inside all the tiny lines. I think these have been the easiest for us to get, but who knows what will happen once word of their existence gets out. See what they have to offer HERE. (some weird results have sneaked in...)


 

Meet the pretty, slightly sparkly, books that everyone kept mistaking for Johanna Basford books. I think, amusingly enough, these are still listed as being in our Children's coloring section, but they've since migrated out to our table, and there they stay. The best part? While they're fun and cute, the creators have gotten smart fast and are about to put out even more books with release dates starting at June 1st. In looking these up I discovered that fact, and now I have even more books to order in to the store. See what they'll have in store soon HERE.


 

Again, I have the internet to thank for these. These are the Rosie Flo books (er, with the exception of the one Johnny Joe book) by Roz Streeten. They remind me of something you might find in the 1950s, which gives them a unique sort of appeal. The books are relatively small which can make them easy to carry from place to  place. You can do as the book says and draw actual people into the clothes - or heck, you can just let the clothes do everything themselves. Why add humans into the mix? They're cute and fun and there are several to choose from HERE. (although admittedly, I absolutely grabbed the only Johnny Joe from the warehouse. Sorry.)


 

I stumbled upon these when the coloring craze first gathered steam and we needed more books on our table. Sitting back in the section, I discovered there were more than the few we owned and basically went nuts on ordering them into the store. The Pictura Series features different artists, each one with something different to bring to the table. The interesting thing about these books is that they don't follow typical book format - instead of being bound to a spine, they actually fold out into one long panoramic image. And they're pretty cool, too. The dragon one pulls straight from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, while other books like New York feature really cool cityscapes. Fanciful to realistic, take your pick from their list HERE.


 

I found these by pure accident while sorting through the mandala section of my coloring book listings. And when I say that, I mean while combing through books online. I haven't seen these in physical form, but given that I'm familiar with their publisher and the other books they make, I immediately wrote down their ISBN numbers to order once I get to work later on. So if you like what you see then I recommend ordering them or getting your local store to do so because I'm about to empty the warehouse, kiddies. Choose between Stress Less Mosaic or Stress Less Paisley - or get both!


 

The Color Your Way to Calm Series isn't out - yet. The first few will be available June 9th whereas the others won't be available until October. Why they're waiting that long is beyond me, unless they're waiting for the illustrator to actually finish the drawings, but I doubt that's the case. Two more will be due out (tentatively) in December. Given this information, I don't know what these will look like on the inside or how big they'll be page-wise. But they're being produced by a big-time publisher, so I'm quite optimistic. Put your pre-orders in now. They've seen/heard the sales numbers, so theoretically they should make enough, but hey, at this point who knows?


 

These are very pretty coloring books chock-a-block full of, well, patterns. Heh. Jenean Morrison only has three books to choose from, but seems to do some designing work for other items. They seem to still be orderable, though I think we're waiting for our replenishment...except it feels like we've been waiting for a while. But that's beside the point. And anyway, a lot of times customer orders get pushed through while we're stuck sitting on our hands. I recommend taking a peek inside one of these to see what you think.


 

Ok, so if you haven't been to a Barnes & Noble yet to look at Animal Kingdom, let me just say this - it's pretty. Not just the inside, but the outside as well. Myself and even some of my co-workers have been eyeing it. With some shiny foil and all the fun designs, it's a really great next choice if you're stuck waiting for Johanna Basford. I know that Sterling, the publisher, is busting ass to produce these books - because B&N owns Sterling (Lark is actually the imprint these are under, but it doesn't matter). The second they saw what was happening, they jumped at it and got Millie Marotta to create a second book (if she wasn't already), Tropical World. The only downside is that it won't be available until September, so here's hoping that the date gets pushed up. We can always set one aside, though - give your store a jingle and request a reservation or pre-order for it.


Thus ends the first part of the coloring book list. Trust me, there is much more to come. These were the most numerous in terms of books, whether by publisher or by author, and will no doubt take you some time to sift through. If you decide to head to the store and ask about a specific book, I highly recommend you copy down the book's ISBN number. You can find this in the Product Details area and will either be 10 or 13 digits (it doesn't matter which you use). This is like a book's fingerprint. Likewise, if B&N doesn't have it, you can use it to find the books elsewhere. Happy coloring, and I'll be back with more books soon!

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