Book Review: Woolbuddies

Woolbuddies: 20 Irresistibly Simple Needle Felting Projects

You can see how cute these Woolbuddies are. You’re not going to believe how easy it is to make them! Tired of searching for special toys that weren’t mass-produced, former Lucasfilm animator Jackie Huang created the beloved Woolbuddy, a collection of all-natural stuffed animals that reflect his unique imaginative vision. He went on to capture fans at craft fairs, Comic-Con, and specialty boutiques. Here Huang teaches readers, using just some wool and a needle, how to needle felt a wide-eyed owl, a toothy shark, a fuzzy sheep, a towering giraffe, and more. With step-by-step instructions and helpful how-to photographs, crafters can create clutchable keepsakes to be instantly enjoyed and forever cherished.
Review:
I wanted to learn needle felting and was lucky enough to come across this book — I absolutely love it.
It starts with instructions for the basic techniques and tools, something I found invaluable and easy to follow. Then there are 20 projects divided by skill level. There are photos clearly showing how to do each step. I also love the Woolbuddy projects — they are fun and interesting, and kind of cartoonish. Both kids and adults really like them and there is lots of room for variation and personal touches.
I highly recommend this book for beginners, especially if you are not looking for realistic looking projects. The techniques are all clearly laid out and there are a good variety of projects to choose from. This is now my go-to book when I’m looking for inspiration for needle felting.

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Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant #1)

by Derek Landy, Tom Percival (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator)

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant. Sure, he may lose his head now and again (in fact, he won his current skull in a poker match), but he is much more than he appears to be—which is good, considering that he is, basically, a skeleton. Skulduggery may be long dead, but he is also a mage who dodged the grave so that he could save the world from an ancient evil. But to defeat it, he’ll need the help of a new partner: a not so innocent twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie. That’s right, they’re the heroes.

Stephanie and Skulduggery are quickly caught up in a battle to stop evil forces from acquiring her recently deceased uncle’s most prized possession—the Sceptre of the Ancients. The Ancients were the good guys, an extinct race of uber-magicians from the early days of the earth, and the scepter is their most dangerous weapon, one capable of killing anyone and destroying anything. Back in the day, they used it to banish the bad guys, the evil Faceless Ones. Unfortunately, in the way of bad guys everywhere, the Faceless Ones are staging a comeback and no one besides our two heroes believes in the Faceless Ones, or even that the Sceptre is real.

So Stephanie and Skulduggery set off to find the Sceptre, fend off the minions of the bad guys, beat down vampires and the undead, prove the existence of the Ancients and the Faceless Ones, all while trading snappy, snippy banter worthy of the best screwball comedies.

Review:
This is a really fun book, full of interesting characters, adventure, and action. I was engaged right from the first page.
Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton detective with a dry wit and a quick mind and full of snappy quips. You know right away when he appears at the fringes of his friend’s funeral that he is going to be interesting and full of character. He teams up with twelve year old Stephanie to find the Sceptre of the Ancients after her uncle’s death. There is mystery and intrigue right away, pulling both Stephanie and the reader into a magical world hidden in just below the surface of the everyday world.
I liked Stephanie — she is feisty and fearless, willing to fight for what is right. She is sensitive and thoughtful, but also determined, is able to stand up for herself, and is up for adventure.
Landy has created a fantastic magical world in this book, filled with interesting characters and menacing villains. Many of the characters are stereotypes, however, with the evil ones having no redeeming qualities and the good ones very sympathetic.
This is a great start to the series and I can see kids racing through these books.

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Book Review: Writing the Natural Way

Writing the Natural Way: Turn the Task of Writing into the Joy of Writing

For those who yearn to write but falter at the sight of a blank page, the unique, student-proven techniques in Writing the Natural Way will help unlock natural writing style and storytelling abilities. First published in 1983, this popular classic has been revised with five completely new chapters and a wealth of field-tested exercises. Since 1973, Dr. Gabriele Rico has pioneered a dramatically different approach to writing that releases creative potential by tapping a rarely accessed part of the brain. Writing easily, meaningfully, and spontaneously is a simple matter of flowing with, rather than resisting, the mind’s natural cooperative rhythms. By abolishing formal rules and quelling the painful inner critic, Writing the Natural Way helps writers of all levels acquire the spontaneity and ease of uninhibited self-expression.
Review:
I absolutely love this book. I’ve actually had it for years and have dabbled with it off and on, always finding the exercises useful, but recently decided to read it cover to cover and do the exercises at the same time. I really enjoyed it and found something useful in every chapter, and even ended up with some decent work. More importantly, I kept my creative juices flowing.
Rico bases her work on right and left brain differences, what she calls Sign and Design mind. She uses a process called clustering to access that part of the brain that sees patterns and to (temporarily) bypass the internal editor in order to get ideas down on paper. She is a proponent of playing while writing and trying to re-discover that child-like wonder that many of us have forgotten.
For me, this is a wonderful approach, as I like to get my ideas down, get the words on the paper, play with words, and then edit it later. I found myself often coming full circle and making interesting, just like she said natural writing often does. And most of the exercises take 5 minutes or less.
I highly recommend this book for new and experienced writers. Rico’s approach is fun and easy — deceptively so, teaching us to trust ourselves and our brains to make connections and write from a natural place. As she illustrates in her book, this method works for both children and adults. If you are a writer and have ever experienced writer’s block, don’t know where to begin, or are looking to explore your creativity, I highly recommend checking out this book.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Recently I have been having a hard time getting into reading due to some health issues. Finally, I decided to re-read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I first found this book in high school and instantly fell in love with it. I’ve read it a couple of times since and still find it funny, compelling, and a great read.

Synopsis:

Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together, this dynamic pair began a journey through space aided by a galaxyful of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed, ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), Zaphod’s girlfriend, whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he’s bought over the years.

Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? For all the answers, stick your thumb to the stars!

Review:

It’s hard for me even to consider writing a review of this book — it was one of those pivotal books I discovered in high school that opened up whole new worlds of writing to me. I hadn’t read much fantasy or sci-fi before I discovered Hitchhiker. I remember racing through it, soaking up the humour, the adventure, the sheer quirkiness of the book. No one else I knew had read it, so I couldn’t talk to anyone else about it and I would have loved that. Instead, I devoured everything else written by Adams, then started on some other fantasy books.

Re-reading Hitchhiker recently was a lot of fun, reminding me of why I loved the book so much. It’s become iconic — so many people know the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything now, they know the importance of carrying a towel, or the tragedy of a bowl of petunia’s falling from the sky.

All as I can say is that I love this book and will continue to love it, re-reading it every so often when I need a light-hearted laugh. I love the simple, outrageous, hilarious brilliance of Adams’ work and how it’s still current, all of these years later. In fact, what’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide but an e-reader with Wikipedia?

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