All posts by estyree

I am a mother, an author, a musician, a crafter, a teacher and a seer of dragons! This blog will be focused on sharing my experiences and, hopefully, helping you through book reviews, short articles on family and home life, crafting, and writing, and the occasional off topic ramble just for funsies. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and lurk! Welcome to the Whimsical World of ESTyree!

The Snow Queen – Cloth Bound and Beautiful

Here there Be Dragons!

This cloth bound, silver foiled, illustrated edition of Hans Christian Anderson’s timeless tale is even more beautiful than I expected it to be. The tall, skinny hardback feels gorgeous in your hand and the illustrations by Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka create an atmosphere that combines with the beloved words into something that will stick with you. 41zbzfrlyul-_sx282_bo1204203200_

Published by Ten Speed Press, translated by Odense City Museums, this book brings to life the classic story of The Snow Queen with imagery that makes me feel a part of the story, and reminds me of the ancient picture book edition my mother no longer allows me to play with. Five out of five Dragons to this gorgeous book.

*I received the book in exchange for an honest review from blogging for books*

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BatDad: A Parody | Review by ESTyree

I enjoy the BatDad vines and was excited to be sent this book for review. This book is a funny and very quick read.  However, I am highly disappointed with what I received. This is little more than a high quality scrapbook. There was no story, no comic panels, just snap shots that looked almost like polaroid pictures tossed in with sarcastic comments. While the book is made of high quality workmanship, the contents are not up to that standard. Something was lost in the change of format from vine to page.
I wish the book had been comprised of comic panels depicting the moments around those snapshots, a solid look at what was meant to be a humorous outtake on life as a parent.
I would recommend watching the vines and forgetting about the book. I rated this 2.5 stars because of the quality and the 2 pages I found funny.

 

 

Interview | MG Author Chris Grabenstein

Middle Grade Author Chris Grabenstein was kind enough to answer a few questions for me (and here they are!)

Here there Be Dragons!

In the past few months I’ve discovered an author that’s been around awhile, but that I’ve only just discovered. Since then, I’ve read multiple books by this middle grade author and can honestly say that he is my new favorite author.

Chris Grabenstein is a funny, interesting, and intelligent author from Buffalo, New York. He co-writes the I FUNNY, HOUSE OF ROBOTS, TREASURE HUNTERS, and JACKY HA-HA books with James Patterson, as well as writing many of his own, fabulous, works. My current favorite is a three way tie between Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, and Dr. Libris Library. You can find Mr. Grabenstein at Goodreads and at chrisgrabenstein.com.

I caught up with Chris this past week and he very kindly answered a few questions for me to pass along to you. So, without further ado, here is Author Chris Grabensteins Interview.

1) I stalked your…

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Hope Unfolding – A Review by ESTyree

Hope Unfolding:
Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart
By: Becky Thompson (Of Scissortail Silk)
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I have a few issues with the writing style, which brought me out of the narrative with the interruptions every few paragraphs. While I appreciate that she is drawing in the readers with a chat type narrative, I honestly do not believe that she sits in her living room with her friends and interrupts herself in the middle of a story to say, “Now friend, have you ever had this…?” I would have much preferred the entire short story, then the “Dear friend, this is the point…” and then the next narrative in order to keep the flow a bit more smooth.
Also, while this book is definitely geared toward mothers, it speaks a lot about husbands and a bit about in-laws as well. As a woman who is a single mother those parts felt a bit grating to me. They were interesting tid-bits about her life, but didn’t have much for me laced through them. (I’m sure married women will get much more out of them!)
There are some really difficult discussions housed within this short book. In 204 pages she discusses marriage, plans that never work out, insecurities, fears, miscarriages, and faith. The idea of motherhood and faith ties everything together. This little book definitely packs a big wallop.
This book has earned a 3.73 stars from me, the narration interruptus having knocked the score down considerably for me. However, if you are a Mother of young children  (or any age, really) and any sort of Christian, I think you might enjoy this.

Raven Cycle

The Raven Cycle

 

There are some stories that you just know are going to irrevocably change you. Stories that you get into and realize, belatedly, that they are unmaking and remaking parts of your sense of self, your reader’s soul, and you will never be the same. I was about 1/3 of the way through listening to The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater when I was blasted with the realization that this was to be one of those books. I thought lightening probably wouldn’t strike twice, or at least not so sharply, and listened to Dream Thieves. Then I thought surely 3 times is too much to ask…Blue Lily, Lily Blue proved that thought a lie. So I bought the entire set. It wasn’t enough to listen to them, I had to have them in physical form on my shelf, within easy reach when I needed them… And Then The Raven King happened.

I don’t have the words or the emotional fortitude left to explain how it all worked on me. I can piece bits together…like the fact that when a certain someone speaks of being fully of the white fuzzy light, I felt it right along with them. When the fear and terrible hope for and because of a best friend lit through them all, I was there. Maggie’s writing drew me, a 31-year-old author and teacher, into the world of magic and high school so completely that I had to wrench myself back into reality with much more effort than it should ever have to take. At page 416, Chapter 65, of The Raven King I had to stop. I literally couldn’t take it anymore (in the best of ways) and HAD to go refill my coffee, take a potty break, check the laundry, and allow myself to sob uncontrollably for exactly 45 seconds. The things that we always knew would happen. That we learned of in the first chapter of the first book before any of us knew the characters that now inhabit our hearts and minds and souls…they hurt more for the fact that we can’t do anything but watch and ache with them. Like being the helpless bystander of a horrendous accident.

This book, this finale to a series much beloved, destroyed me, remade me, and then kicked my ass before telling me it loved me and stroking my hair as a cried and giggled. This devastated me in the best possible of ways. Maggie Stiefvater has said she may revisit this world when she’s lived another 20 or so years…I beg of you Maggie, don’t leave it that long.

Overarching Storyline for the Series – Is one of love, friendship, growth, discovery, and magic…always magic.

We spend 4 books in suspense, waiting to see if the first thing we’re told about two main characters will culminate into a truth that will destroy the lot of us, ripping our hearts out and stomping all over our emotions. We are not disappointed in any way. From the first book we are drawn in to Blue’s psychic family, we feel her frustration and distress at being an ‘amplifier’ with a terrible destiny…if she wants to ever date anyone, that is, and we are bowled over by her extremely intense beliefs. One such strong held belief is that the Raven Boys of Aglionby Academy are the worst sort…which is, of course, why her future revolves around and intertwines with that of 4 such boys. The different personalities, backstories, and paths of each character take the reader on a roller coaster across the The Raven Cycle and it is unlike any other, and well worth with the price of the ride.

I give this series 5 out of 5 dragons, 5 out of 5 stars, and all 4 sections of my heart…one for each of them.

Picture Book Reviews

Here there Be Dragons!

Hello everyone! I thought that I would do a quick post today and give you some short reviews on Picture Books that we’ve been reading lately. I hope you enjoy them!

 moonflute One of the first things we noticed was that there are no illustrations on the end pages (my daughter is keen on them!) However, the book was beautiful enough that she now forgives them. Though this book is an older picture book, both in publication date (1980) and intended audience (probably k-2) we had a lot of fun looking at the illustrations and reading the story together. The story line is a bit of nonsense, but very well written and beautifully dreamlike. I definitely suggest this to anyone Moonflute

Written by Audrey Wood and Illustrates by Don Wood

One of the first things we noticed was that there are no illustrations on the end pages (my daughter is…

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Artsy Animals

Here there Be Dragons!

Do you like random facts? Do you enjoy animal artwork? Do you love tiny little books that can conveniently be carried with you virtually anywhere???

THEN I HAVE JUST THE BOOK FOR YOU!!

9781607748328*Slightly smaller than actual size*

Maja Safstrom is an architect and illustrator from Stockholm who has worked with Ten Speed Press to bring us a small book with a big impact. Coming at a mere 6.3×0.7×7.8 inches in dimension, The illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts combines pen and ink/black and white drawings with facts about several different animals, all seemingly hand lettered. This book gives us not only  peek aat nature, but  look at the author’s nature journal (of sorts).

The book is very well made, the cover binding feels nice and fits very well into a hand, the interior pages have the look and feel of thicker art paper, and the entire piece feels like…

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Dancing on Dewdrops – A Review

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The summary on Amazon.com reads:

Dancing on Dewdrops is an entrancing collection of poems, prayers, and short stories that capture the utter joy of youth, wrestle with the inherent elements of change, offering strength and solace—all while celebrating life across several generations. The rustic poetry, prayers, humor and short stories for children will appeal to all ages. Dancing on Dewdrops provides inspiration, delivering the lasting imagery that leaves an indelible imprint on the heart and human spirit.

I honestly wish that I could agree with this summary, or with the one other review that loved the book and gave it a 4 out of 5 stars. Unfortunately, this books is (as far as I know) my very first 1 star review.

This book of “rustic poems, prayers, and elegant short stories…” was not at all what I expected, and not at all up to my standards for any of the sections.

In the first section the author has provided us with several poems of varying lengths that mostly either deal with boyhood or death/loss. However, the poems read as though he couldn’t decide between traditional rhyming schemes and ‘free form’ poetry and so got caught in a bad in-between. On top of that, many of these poems do not portray what the descriptions say they are about. Poetry is very subjective, but in my opinion these could have used more work.

In the second section we are given a few prayers, mostly short and mostly not rhyming (though a few fall back into the couplet trap here and there). However, they all sound very bland and typical of prayers I’ve been hearing weekly for my entire life. I was really hoping for more elegant writing and more eloquent prayers.

The third section is labeled as ‘short stories’ but they are really a few short tales of the author’s childhood. While these are mildly interesting, the writing is, again, not as well refined as I believe that it should be and each tale needed a bit more editing and polishing.

Finally, they fourth section contains a duology of children’s stories, labeled as having ‘morals’ these tales are long winded, written in language too advanced for most still reading ‘children’s’ stories, and needed much more polishing before being put out for show. I believe with another revise and edit session (or two) this book could really pop, but right now everything is metered, rhymed, and written in a way that makes it feel off and grating to my nerves in a very bad way.

The cover, however, is GORGEOUS!

Quick Review: So, Anyway…

John Cleese, the almost legendary co-creator, author, and actor for Monty Python, has written an autobiography. Despite the extreme lack of slap-stick, poorly done french accents, and lumberjacks this book is absolutely delightful. I highly suggest that you go and pick this up if you are a fan of John Cleese, of British humor, or of autobiographies in general.

While the book might not be quite as hilarious as people were expecting it to be, John Cleese is a wonderful writer and the stories give great insight into a man who has been center stage for most of his life. I didn’t even have to average out the rating for this book, everything is 4.5 stars from me!

Here he is talking about the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-p44-9S4O0

You can check out So, Anyway… by John Cleese on Amazon and Goodreads.

Beth’s Book Reviews: Forgotten Things

Forgotten Things

Written By: Stephen Mullaney-Westwood

A little about the author (taken from his Amazon.com author profile):

Stephen has tasted the earth from the depths of his soul, grown anew and stretched his branches towards the sun, with roots firm and strong in their darkness…

Born in Hertfordshire, England, he had a hard time adjusting and finding his place in the world. His sensitive and artistic nature outcast him somewhat, and his mental health suffered throughout those teenage and young adult years.
But, ultimately, it was a journey and writing has always accompanied him along the way.
Now more positive, older, and wiser at the grand age of 40 he writes with a potent message which comes from a deep love of the natural world.
To write, and to breathe the words of nature is the place where Stephen belongs, doing something he truly loves.
The faeries and spirits of the woods have always asked to be heard, and Stephen has offered to be their voice.

His first release is ‘Unforgotten Tales’ a collection of thirteen short folktale style stories, modern fables and fairy tales, written in a method now often forgotten. Intentionally allegorical, darkly twisting while yet enlightening and inspirational.

Fairy tales are one thing…faeries, are another.

Find Stephen at:

http://mullaneywestwood.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR2K7T5hgh5L6E9ux979OZQ

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephen-Mullaney-Westwood/1452647591654264?fref=ts

 

Product Details

 

Book Synopsis: ‘Forgotten Things’ is a novel of nature in contrast; sinister, beautiful, wise and innocent. With an otherworldly twist it explores the importance of influences; of growing up, whilst still looking backwards.
We see through the eyes of one man recounting the bitter sweet memories and adventures of his childhood. His love for the woods… his draw to them… but also his fear.
Similar to a classic ghost story the ‘horror’ is subtle and unnerving, while the ‘fantasy’ is simply a glimpse into another reality.
The little people are our antagonists, spoken of in whispers and presented in their true form; age old beings which transpose boundaries- taken seriously and sitting in mysterious juxtaposition with the secular world.

 

Review:

 I’m not going to lie to you, I had a difficult time with the beginning of the book. Mr. Mullaney-Westwood’s writing style is not typical of anything I had previously enjoyed reading and it took me three tries to get past page two. I even messaged the author at one point and asked him about his choice of voice and use of incredibly in-depth descriptive passage. There are several places that tell us the showing instead of showing us the setting (did that sentence make sense? I know what I meant so if you don’t, ask…I may or may not be able to remember).  However, I’m glad that I pushed on and got into the meat of the book.

 

Our narrator and main character are both named Adam Briggs. In fact, they are both the same Adam, approximately a lifetime of adulthood apart. The narrator, a grown Adam, is remembering the year he turned twelve and moved with his family to Grandfather’s little cottage near the wood. We follow his twelve year old self as Adam meets Grandpa for the first time, navigates a new place and his same old parents…and learns a bit more than he expected to about things that aren’t supposed to be real.

 

The personification of natural elements, the conversations between Adam and his Grandfather, and the peeks into the world behind the ‘veil of reality’ are all beautifully rendered.

 

 

Life becomes very surreal when a dream becomes reality.

 

The dream here is both that of country life and Adam’s new knowledge of the Little People that is being fed by his newly adored Grandpa. Coming into this new life as a sort-of brow beaten, mother run twelve year old city boy, Adam is discovering all sorts of new things coming into his world. Let’s talk about the other characters for a moment:

 

Mother – Adam’s mother, Annie Briggs, is Grandpa Finn’s daughter and seems to be his direct opposite. While Adam wishes to explore and use his imagination fueled new country knowledge, Annie is begrudging in her approach to living again in Cornwall. Having moved to her childhood home in order to help her ailing, aging father, Ann is cold and reserved throughout the story as she lectures, begs, and hopes that her child will not be pulled in to her father’s world.

Father – Thom Briggs, the enigmatic, whipped husband to Annie. He is very work centric and distracted for most of the scenes in which we find him.

Grandpa Finn Penrose – Ann Briggs’ father, Grandpa is an aged dreamer and firm believer in the Little People. His illnesses may keep him from wandering the wood with his Grandson now, but he is a veritable treasure trove of information and support as Adam embarks down this new path.

Martin – The first boy from his new school that Adam meets, Martin is sensitive, shy, and as fond of the coastline as Adam is of the wood.

Josh – Large framed boy, sporty and protective. Martin’s best friend and, soon enough, Adam’s as well. The three boys are incredibly close and adventure together throughout the story.

 

“Old Bob’s Wood” – The local name for the woods behind Grandpa’s home. Adam becomes intimately acquainted with the woods, and their inhabitants, throughout the book.

 

There are animals, there are ghosts, there are mysteries, and there are hard lessons to learn. Friendships, family dynamic, and growing up are all part of life and, unfortunately, sometimes twists and turns make us get banged up a bit. Forgotten Things weaves it all beautifully together. This book combines old world charm, the ‘truth’ on the Fey world, and a coming of age story that will keep you entranced and pushing forward to learn more. Do not let the density of the story, the deep well of truths hidden in what some will call ‘fairy stories’ stop you from picking this up. Mullaney-Westwood has put together a story in which the characters are real and you forget that you’re just an audience member.

 

Character Believability: 4
Flow and Pace: 3.8

Reader Engagement: 3.5

Reader Enrichment: 4
Reader Enjoyment: 3.8
Overall Rate: 3.82

Review:A Rake’s Reward By Meredith Bond

A Rake’s Reward

Merry Men Quartet Book Two

By: Meredith Bond

Published by Anessa Books

Published October 2, 2015

Genre: Historical, Regency, and Romance

 

Back Copy:

A treasure lost…

American Sara Whately came to England with a single goal: recover a long-lost family treasure. Her father had long ago renounced his title and abandoned his country, but desperate financial straits call for desperate measures. Gaining access won’t be easy. The jewels are hidden on an estate Sara’s grandfather lost long go in an unlucky turn of the cards. And then there’s the vexing, villainous, valiant Viscount Reath… 

A jewel of a woman…

Sinclair Stratton, Lord Reath has always gotten everything he wants—money, privilege, and women. But after ten years in India, he’s returned to England, ready to make amends for his youthful follies. He plans to return his ill-gotten estate to its rightful owner but the man is impossible to find. And despite still being one of the most sought after rake’s in town, the bold American beauty he keeps encountering seems to be immune to his charms and dashing good looks.

While Sara has promised to not just search for her grandfather’s jewels, but make an attempt at fitting into society, it might just be that Viscount Reath is the treasure she actually needs.

 

Review:

Meredith Bond has created a meeting of strength, sass, sweetness, and smarts that somehow combine into a female lead that captures the reader almost immediately. When paired with an aristocratic male lead that is the epitome of reformed, stubborn, and chivalrous and friends that are well rounded and fun, readers can’t help but enjoy the play between characters.

While the story is easy to read and sweet, I found that the feel of the story was just perfect when combined with the plotline. Sarah reminds me of my own friends and the Viscount…I wish I had one of him! Honestly, when I started reading this book I was afraid it would be another book in which the romance took center stage while rest of the promised story took a back seat. However, that was not the case at all! I got a full plotline with sweet bits of caring thrown in like adding marshmallows to hot chocolate to round out the flavor.

While I did enjoy this book immensely, there were a few things that brought the rating down for me. First, there are several areas in which words began to feel a little repetitive. When the same words are repeated too closely to each other, reader eyes tend to skip lines unintentionally and I noticed myself doing that at least seven times. The words are great words but repetition becomes boring for the brain.

Secondly, there are a very few typos and phrase repeats (i.e. he did he did not…) that caused my reading to stutter momentarily.

Lastly, the final three chapters seemed a little rushed to me. The story suddenly moved more quickly, rolled up nicely, and suddenly came to a halt with a pretty little bow wrapped around it. I do love the way the book ended; however, I felt that a few extra pages might have added to my overall enjoyment of the ending.

Ratings:

Character Believability: 4

Flow and Pace: 4

Reader Engagement: 4

Reader Enrichment: 3

Reader Enjoyment: 4.5

Overall Rating: (3.9) 4 out of 5 Stars

If you enjoy sassy characters, snappy actions, and great dialogue along with your romance novel, I highly suggest that you check this book out!

*I received this book in return for an honest review. All opinions stated here are my own.*

To learn more about Meredith Bond, connect with her on social media, or purchase her books, please go to:

Website: http://www.meredithbond.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meredithbondauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/merrybond

Google: https://plus.google.com/+MeredithBond/posts

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/merrybond

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/autho/show/847484.Meredith_Bond

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Meredith-Bond/e/B001KI1SNE/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1