Book Review: Equal Rites

Equal Rites (Discworld #3)

On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University–and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!
Review:
I have become totally enchanted with Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series. I really don’t know why I wasn’t reading this series earlier.
Equal Rites is the third installment of this series, and the first in the Witches part of the  series. You don’t need to read these in order, which is great in such a large series (41 books long!). I have read the first two books and loved them, but Equal Rites is even better.
The story follows a young witch named Esk as she figures out her wizarding powers — girls aren’t allowed to be wizards, but the wizarding staff given to Esk at her birth doesn’t know that. In the Discworld, women can be witches and men can be wizards and their magic is separate.
Esk is a great character and it was easy to root for her in her quest. Granny, the witch who trains her, is fantastic. She’s got an eccentric practicality and worldview that had me hooked right from the start. I could just picture her on her faulty boomstick, too set in her ways to fly too high or too fast, and, for some reason, I love how much she loves her goats. Both Esk and Granny drew me into this magical world in their own way, and I hope they crop up in another book because I am anxious to see them  again.
I love how Pratchett creates worlds and uses irreverent humour and witty observations to explore what’s going on. He has a way with juxtaposition and pointing out the small details that paint a rich picture. There are so many times when I stopped to reread a sentence or paragraph just because it was so well written or summed up a “truth” in an eloquent few words.

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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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