Knee Deep by Karol Ann Hoeffner

Book cover

Knee Deep gave me a taste of the history and culture of New Orleans in the most enjoyable way possible. Through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Camille, we experience a world with racism, heartache, dangerous people and natural disasters, but also a world full of magic, hope, friendship, support and community. A mix of romance, mystery, voodoo magic, tragedy but also redemption.

This book was a great read. The story is fast-paced, but also the way it’s written makes it immersive and easy to finish in one sitting. The characters felt so real, so full of flaws and imperfections, that I found myself mentally shouting at them countless times. I didn’t relate to any, but they managed to irritate and annoy me as much as feel love or pity for them at all the right moments. It feels great to read a story where you forget the characters are actually fictional. The fact that Hurricane Katrina is huge part of the story events, contributes to the feeling of reading a memoir rather than a fictional love story. There’s also good amount of paranormal events that bring balance to the mix.

This book is definitely worth reading even if you are not a fan of YA genre. The romance was my least favorite part compared to everything else in the book, never felt the connection between them, but I appreciate that it wasn’t your stereotypical love story. I’m looking forward to more books by Karol Ann Hoeffner, her writing style is just wonderful.

*The expected publication of this book is: September 25th 2020 by Regal House Publishing. I was just lucky enough to read an ARC woop woop! but you can pre-order it here.

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About the author

Karol Hoeffner is the Chair of Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She has fourteen film credits including several Danielle Steel adaptations, a television mini-series Harem, movies-of-the-week based on true stories –TheMaking of a Hollywood Madam and Miss America: Behind the Crown. Among her other credits are the original movies, Voices from Within and Burning Rage. She has penned two young adult novels, All You’ve Got and Surf Ed.

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Comeback: A K-pop Novel by Lyn Ashwood & Rachel Rose

Goodreads synopsis:

Emery Jung is living his dream. Known by his stage name M, he is loved by millions of fans around the world as a member of the rising K-pop group NEON, but all fame comes with a cost, especially when one slip up can have viral consequences.

Alana Kim is trying to forget. After a tragic loss sends her spiraling, she escapes to her family in Korea, abandoning her love of music along the way. However, her plans are derailed when she literally runs into M, the famous K-pop idol.

When their paths collide, Emery and Alana must work together to prevent a scandal from ruining NEON’s success, sparking a journey of friendship, love, and healing. Unfortunately, fame and love aren’t easily compatible, especially in the world of K-pop.

This was a sweet book, great for anyone who wants to dream about Kpop stars and a fantasy love life with one of their idols. The story is very predictable, which is good when all you want to do is lose yourself in a sweet teenage romance. If you take it too seriously you might not enjoy it, as it is more of a fan daydream than a depiction of reality.

While the story is nice and entertaining, I wish it was arranged in a different way. At first, we have no clear idea why Alana is in Korea and why she is avoiding Emery (the Kpop idol). They already have some history but we are not told about it which, for two thirds of the book, made me feel like I was missing something.

It was hard to connect with the main characters and their relationship at the beginning. It is until we are told about their full back stories and internal conflicts that I could care about them (around second half of the book). I’m guessing that the authors wanted to add some mystery and make a dramatic reveal later on, but it didn’t have that impact. It would have worked perfectly fine to put things in chronological order and make it possible to develop an emotional bond with the main characters from the very beginning.

From the things that I really enjoyed about this book, there’s the addition of Korean / Konglish words which makes the story more immersive. I also liked that each chapter’s title is a hashtag which relates to the story. It reminds me of the style used for some webtoons. Lastly, I really liked the ending, it was sweet, happy and perfect for you to imagine the continuation of their love story.

*ARC review with my honest opinion

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First line Friday~

“Emery had figured wearing all white for today’s comeback stage would be tempting fate, but he certainly hadn’t expected fate to show up like this”

~ First Line Friday is hosted by Hoarding Books

Oooooh a K-pop novel!. Contemporary romance to be precise. It sounds promising and I’m ready to dive in!. What are you planning to read or watch this weekend? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Heir of Fury by Jina S. Bazzar

I’m lucky I got an ARC for the third and last book of The Roxanne Fosch Files. This is an urban fantasy / sci-fi story where shapeshifters, magic and even planets and dimensions are involved. Roxanne is at the center of it all. She is an independent (sort of a lone-wolf), strong-willed woman who has gone through A LOT in the first two books.

Her personality makes sense, considering all the pain and betrayal she has suffered. To recap, she is not a normal human. Scientists and other creatures are interested in her as a tool or experiment subject. Even among preternaturals, she is still a weird creature. Without anyone to fully trust or identify with, she needs to keep searching for answers about her past. While doing so, she is also unraveling a bigger story that involves people on earth as well as beings from other dimensions.

That brings us to the third book, after Roxanne became Remo’s familiar. I think most details could be spoilers, so I won’t go into details. What I most enjoyed about this final part is that you can’t tell what is going to happen next. I love playing detective and guessing, from early on, what character might die, who might betray them and how is it going to play out in the end. I was so immersed in the story, that it kept hitting me on the face with surprise after surprise and I just took the unfolding events as they came, unable to even formulate predictions.

Like with the previous books, there’s a lot of action-packed scenes, gory fights, not suitable for blood and violence sensible readers, and lots of surprises that add up to the bigger puzzle. Romance picks up from where we left off in the previous book and intensifies as we move forward in the story. Unlike the previous books, I was emotionally invested. After following along the adventures of these well fleshed-out characters, I started to despise, love and grieve for and with them.

This series is a great choice if you enjoy losing yourself in fantasy worlds. Jina S. Bazzar does a great job at describing so many characters, scenarios and little actions that make everything more believable and enjoyable. However, if you prefer fast-paced stories with less worldbuilding, you might find it too wordy at times, but I believe the story is good enough to keep you going despite its slow development.

A satisfying ending, with unpredictable bits to keep you surprised until the very end and some bits left unsolved. I’m just sad I won’t get to read more about these characters. Or who knows. Maybe a side story? One can hope!.

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First Line Friday!

“There’s a vast place between black and white, good an evil.”

Ohhhh, we are venturing into the gray zone in this book. I’ll give you some more sentences to get you hooked:

“It’s a distinct line, easily recognizable. But in the vast of the gray, where the edges are often blurred, there are no lines. Good can be found in evil, the same time evil can be found in good.”

Time to reveal the book!:

Heir of Fury by Jina S. Bazzar

This is the third and final book of The Roxanne Fosch Files. I have no clue whatsoever what might happen here. How things will end?. Will it be a happy ending? only for some? Will sacrifices be made? ahhhhh!! I’m excited to find out!. In the meanwhile, you can check my reviews of the first and second book of the series.

~ First Line Friday is hosted by Hoarding Books

Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting by Virginia Lloyd-Davies

Sumi-E is a great way to practice mindful, meditative art through brush strokes and different dilutions of ink. Virginia Lloyd-Davies’ book is educational but even more so, inspirational.

This book starts with a brief introduction about the origin and purpose of sumi-e. It has basic explanations about materials needed and how to use them. Most of the book focuses on teaching you how to paint different popular motives: bamboo, orchid, plum, chrysanthemum, iris, peony, insects, wisteria, grapes, lotus, kingfisher, birds, rocks and waterfalls.

It has big and wonderful photos and step-by-step instructions. However, it does feel like you need to have prior experience in order to take full advantage of this book. What helps for those who are absolute beginners, is that video links are provided. You can see how Virginia Lloyd-Davies actually performs those beautiful strokes. A video can sometimes say more than a thousand words.

I would recommend this book if you are familiar with the very basics of Sumi-E, if you want motivation and inspiration for your art, or if you have your ink and brush ready and want to relax while trying one or more beautiful motives from the book.

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I have had Sumi-e in my “dream list” for a long time, I had the materials but never made time for it. This is my first attempt and I love how useful it is to keep me focused and relaxed! I can’t make fluid, dream strokes if I’m tense or my mind is wandering. Once the ink hits the paper, there’s no undo or erase and it feels like a unfiltered reflection of my mood.

I haven’t enjoyed “art therapy” exercises where you do things like: -choose a color that represents your mood- or -paint your worries-. They don’t feel like art to me and I don’t get any self-help benefit. On the other hand, this brushwork practice makes me feel connected to my art and mindful about my current mood. Love it. Here are my first expressions:

The Urban Sketching Handbook: 101 Sketching Tips by Stephanie Bower

This is one of my favorite books from The Urban Sketching Handbook series. 101 tips for all level artists, from the very beginner (lucky you, take advantage of all these wonderful tips gathered in one single book) to the more experienced one.

From and intermediate watercolor artist, let me tell you, these tips are gold. Some of them I already knew, gathered from courses, books and interactions with other artists. Many others were new to me or little explored. All of them felt simple enough to understand and extremely useful. From basics (yet important and many times ignored by beginners) like “start with a simple subject”, to more refined tips for the intermediate or advanced like “Shade vs. Shadow in color”.

Each tip has concise but very well drafted explanations and images illustrating the concept. Well organized book, divided in different “keys” (chapters) with themes that progressively advance in complexity.

If you want to give a try to this series, I would recommend to get at least this one. I loved it.

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Following tip 8 : “Draw where you are” and tip 9: “Don’t wait to start until you are food enough”, I gave it a try!. This is a loose sketch of my working desk. I used watercolors, blue color pencil and sepia fine liner:

The Autoimmune Protocol Meal Prep Cookbook by Sophie Van Tiggelen

It feels so good when non-fiction books can tell you exactly what they’re all about by just paying attention to their cover. This is one of them. I requested an eArc last year, before I knew how handy it would be to plan meals for a week and avoid extra trips to the grocery store.

This is a great book for our current times, for those on the autoimmune protocol diet (AIP) or simply craving for yummy recipes that avoid carbs, dairy and other inflammatory ingredients, while embracing fruits, vegetables, meats, healthy fats, etc.

For those who don’t know what AIP is, the first chapter explains how it works, its benefits and methodology. It’s actually very simple. A couple of chapters are dedicated to guide your through your new journey of meal batch making: containers, ingredients, how to store, reheat or even defrost your meals successfully (not necessary but possible!).

There are 10 different meal plans in this book, each one designed to feed an adult for 5 days (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack). They also have themes like “comfort food meal plan”, “one-pot meal plan”, “flavors of the world meal plan”, etc. Each plan will give you a full shopping list, instructions for batch cooking and, of course, delicious recipes. I only wish it had even more recipes to choose from and perhaps a 7-day meal plan version.

I really like the idea of cooking all meals needed for a week in one go and then forget about it for the rest of the week. Also, the possibility of freezing them could mean you can create batches for 10, 15 or more days!. This is specially appealing when you have an autoimmune disease that can leave you out of energy all of a sudden. Having your meals ready can give you one less thing to worry about, while making sure you are still eating healthy.

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Observational Sketching by Mariko Higaki

I loved the cover of this book the moment I saw it on NetGalley. I have a thing for drawing or doodling objects and this felt like my thing, of course I requested it right away. What this book had to offer was not what I thought it would be, my biggest surprise came at the end of it tho, but lets go back to the beginning.

The book has four chapters. First one is called “The Appeal of Observational Sketching” and it shows 5 examples of sketches by different artists. Chapter two, “Fundamentals of Sketching You Can Use Right Away” has a lot of useful drawing instruction from how your body position can help you create straight lines, all the way to render shapes and materials. It gives just what you need to get started. Chapter 3, “How to Observe” uses different objects as case examples to understand plastic, glass, wood and fabric. Chapter 4, “Let’s Do Some Observational Sketching!” takes you step by step of the process and then shows you tons of different sketches to provide you with inspiration and ideas you can apply to your own drawings.

So this wasn’t a “how to draw” book per se, even if it does have a lot of useful instructions, specially about perspective and materials. This is all about observing the objects around you, those everyday gizmos we don’t even notice anymore, and look at them with curiosity and renewed appreciation. That’s the forte of this book. It inspires you and entices you to observe and truly get to know the object you have in front of you.

I had no idea that “Observational sketching” was a thing!. While searching the tag in english didn’t bring me with many results, searching in japanese: #観察スケッチ showed me a lot of wonderful drawings. People sharing part of their everyday life, their everyday objects, from a new perspective. It’s somehow like Urban Sketching, but instead of a scene, you focus on a single object.

Mariko Higaki is a product designer, so it makes sense that this book appears to be more like something meant for an industrial design student rather than the art hobbyist. This couldn’t be more wrong. I believe the objective of this book is not to create precise or beautiful sketches, but to teach us a different, more mindful way to see the world around us.

If we pretend to be Sherlock Holmes and observe these objects diligently, we start to understand the thoughts and intentions that went into them, and we can imagine the various steps involved in their creation. We start to notice special things about them for the first time. I hope this book will help you communicate the joys you find in your everyday surroundings

– Mariko Higaki, Observational Sketching

I really loved the inspirational examples given in the first chapter, however, I would have liked to see different styles, some loose sketching perhaps. Showing different approaches, techniques and styles could make it more appealing and less daunting to beginners. In the conclusion section of this book, Mariko Higaki confirms that this is just one way to approach observational sketching and invites us to find our own style and share our sketches with others.

What a wonderful idea this is. Would be happy to see this trend grow and reach people all over the world!. Now, even more than ever, we need this kind of mindset. Sharing bits of our world and becoming mindful about the ecological impact objects have as well as showing appreciation for those who created them, seems very fitting during these times of quarantine.

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From my corner of the world, here’s an observational sketch in watercolors and ink!

Dracopedia Field Guide by William O’Connor

This is my second review for a book by the late William O’connor, his Dracopedia books are a door to a vast and fantastical land full of all types of dragons from around the world.

The book is divided into 13 chapters, each one focusing on individuals from a specific genre of dragons: Amphiptere, Asian Dragon, Sea Orcs, Feydragon, Great Dragons, Drake, Hydra, Basilisk, Artic Dragon, Wyrm, Coatyl, Dragonette and Wyvern. Each specie has a scientific name and detailed information on its anatomy, habitat, distribution, diet, behavior, history, etc.

It was so much fun to read this book! I got so inspired to create my own original dragon species. It’s like watching discovery channel, but about dragons! a real field guide. You get all the facts and numbers plus gorgeous illustrations and dragon lore. William O’connor makes them feel so real, so part of this world, that I almost felt the urge to fly to the Tibetan mountains and get a glimpse of the majestic -and critically endangered- Cathaidaus jingshenlongus, which measures around 3m and lives in snow-covered mountainous areas.

If you like dragons, drawing, painting, creating original characters or just enjoying the lore and fantasy about it, I would highly recommend this and the rest of Dracopedia books. Absolutely inspiring for all ages.

**As some of you might know, Impact books was part of F+W Media which is no longer. Such a pity, I loved their books so much! What that means is that you might not find this book anymore unless you get a used copy. This book is worth the hunt tho. You can also get kindle version. **

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