studiomikarts's reviews
33 reviews

A Man and His Cat, Volume 1, by Umi Sakurai

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emotional funny hopeful lighthearted relaxing fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Loveable characters? Yes

5.0

This was such a touching, heartwarming manga! It's very reminiscent of Chi's Sweet Home, both being cute tales told mainly from the point of view of cats who find new homes with loving humans. If you enjoyed Chi's story, I'm sure you'd love this. A Man and His Cat is a bit more bittersweet, with hints of past tragedy and more moments of sadness, but it's also full of humor and cuddly scenes that make you smile. The artwork is well done: pretty and easy to digest. When I finished this first volume, which I waited a long time to purchase so that I could save money by buying used, I immediately ordered all the following volumes--used if I could get them, but new if that was the only option--because that's how much I wanted to continue the story! If you're in the mood for something uplifting and fluffy, and especially if you were already considering reading this manga, I encourage you to give A Man and His Cat a try~ 
The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity, by Louise DeSalvo

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hopeful informative inspiring reflective slow-paced

5.0

It's hard to decide where to begin or what to include in my review. I have so many glowing remarks swirling inside me, I think I may end up saying less than I could, just because remarking upon all the individual points that make this book so informative and valuable would take too long! I think every writer should read this book, and just as is recommended in the book itself, they should read it slowly, while engaging in their writing practice. When I read that part, it convinced me to finally settle into a purposeful writing routine, with this book as my daily warmup. It is no exaggeration to say that the thousands of words I've added to my manuscript this year are hugely due to the constant, gentle encouragement this book provided. It didn't matter if the advice was relevant to what I was writing at the time. I absolutely filled the book with written sticky notes, marking things I want to remember later, things that I'll need when I finally get to that point in the process, things to be reminded of when I'm starting my next project, and things that are just good advice for any creative professional engaging in long-term projects.

I just happened to come across this book when shopping at Barnes & Noble one day, looking to use a coupon. The title caught my eye because it had already been years since I started my current novel and I still hadn't finished chapter one of my first draft. Who knew it would become my favorite book on writing, a paper teacher, encouraging and informing, and a magic talisman, spurring me on through darkness and doubt? It may sound overdramatic, but that's really the feeling I have toward this book. You can bet I will be reading it again and again throughout my writing career.
Olivia, by Ian Falconer

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funny lighthearted relaxing fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Loveable characters? Yes

5.0

What a charming book! I am so lucky to have snagged it from a Little Free Library 😊 It's no wonder it is a Caldecott honor book, what with how beautiful, elegant, and skillfully reserved the illustrations are. The character designs for Olivia and her family are so lovable. My favorite parts are the truly pig-like legs, the huge mouths, and the tiny eyes. So expressive! Seeing these characters engaging in all kinds of activities, from dress-up to art-making, is mesmerizing. The writing is spot on, as well. I laughed out loud a couple times! I added the Olivia box set to my wishlist; I want to read all of her adventures!
Small in the City, by Sydney Smith

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emotional hopeful sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes

4.75

Looking at the cover alone, there was nothing that drew me to this book. I had glanced at it for a split second while browsing the SCBWI summer conference faculty bookstore and didn't give it a second thought. But after having it read to me during the illustrators intensive by the author-illustrator himself, I was moved nearly to tears by its powerful storytelling. I ordered it the same day and it reached me less than a week later. Reading it again, this time from my own personal copy, and even knowing the surprise twist, I was still a tad choked up by the end. I took a measly .25 of a star away from my rating because 1) the art style, though award-winning, is not always to my taste (overall I enjoyed it; I especially admire the treatment of reflections in glass and the depiction of snow falling more and more heavily), 2) the font choice just doesn't appeal to me, and 3) the portrait format of the book, while I can see its use in conveying the idea of tall buildings and cramped city spaces, made the book physically hard to read (hard to keep the pages down so that I could see the illustrations properly). Other than those tiny dings, which would not prevent me from buying the book again if I could go back in time, I loved everything about this picturebook and I'm proud to have it in my collection, both as a student of storytelling technique, and as a simple reader who loves moving tales.

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His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik

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adventurous challenging emotional funny fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes

5.0

It's been over a decade since I last read this book. I remembered loving it at the time, so much so that I preordered all the sequels as they came available, but after the fourth book, life got busy and I never finished reading the series, even though I owned it. Well, this year, with many recent disappointments while trying to discover new fantasy books, and after hearing about the rerelease of the Temeraire series in a set of beautiful, matching trade paperback covers, I was inspired to read His Majesty's Dragon again.

I was afraid my memories of loving the book (I remembered nothing but my feelings about it; everything else had completely evaporated from my mind) might end up being rose-tinted relics of the past. That actually happened to me with a gryphon book series earlier this year; in an odd way, being disappointed by an old favorite is heartbreaking. So I was half expecting to be let down when I flipped to the first page of His Majesty's Dragon this time. Imagine, then, my elation when I was desperately taken by the story from the very first line! And how much pleasure I experienced when, every time I opened the book to continue reading, I felt just as excited by the plot and as enamored with the characters, as I had the last time I set the book down ❤️

Naomi Novik's storytelling has done nothing less than restore my faith in fantasy. My entire life, this genre has been my absolute favorite, but for many years now, I just haven't encountered anything satisfying outside my frequent rereads of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series. I was legitimately questioning, when I picked up His Majesty's Dragon again, whether my tastes had actually changed as I've aged, and that the only fantasy I still liked were my childhood favorites. I am so grateful to feel completely reassured that I do indeed love fantasy books! I just need to be a little more selective when I give new books a try; from now on, if I don't feel gripped after reading the first page, I'll move on. I've spent too much time in recent years, trying to force myself to like a book, slogging through page after page, chapter after chapter, telling myself that I just need to give it more of a chance, perhaps reminding myself of how much other people have said they love it. As odd as it may sound, Temeraire has given me the confidence to respect my own tastes and opinions.

To get at last to talking about the contents of His Majesty's Dragon, I think my favorite part of the book is the deep, loving relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. There were so many moments that just touched my heart, and reminded me of my own feelings toward my non-human companions. I think, perhaps, the only reason I can write this review right now, is because of this heartwarming friendship. The reason being, just hours after I finished reading the book, my dog of 15 years passed away. I am still in the throes of grief as I write this, but rather than feeling like writing a book review is at odds with my feelings of loss and loneliness, instead I feel glad to finally have the motivation to put my ideas into words. The relationship between the principle captain and dragon in this story is so similar to those of us humans and our non-human friends, full of understanding, loyalty, love, comfort, and camaraderie that spans the boundaries of species (and confuses those who have not the pleasure of such a relationship).

But the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire isn't the only thing carrying this book. There is so much depth in the characters, different captains who have different relationships with their dragons (even entering the painful, heartbreaking realm of abuse and neglect), complex relationships between humans (mothers, fathers, daughters, lovers, commanders, subordinates, etc.), and of course the myriad of dragons who have varying levels of intelligence, sizes, features, desires, personalities, etc. The writing itself is so good that all of these things are very well presented, so that I was never confused about which dragon can do what, or why something was happening, or where the story was going next. I will say, however, that my love for late 19th and early 20th century British and French writing is probably a boon for me; if you're not good with the original Sherlock Holmes stories or the English translation of The Count of Monte Cristo, for example, you might find this writing style challenging. It is so akin to older such writing (at least that which I'm familiar with) I actually took a moment to see whether the author was British herself (nope, she's a fellow American 😊). After the characters and writing, the plot is the next feature I'd like to highlight. I remember when I first read this book, I had no interest in history whatsoever. The idea of Napoleonic Wars-era dragons was wacky and wild, which is why I gave it a shot, but I didn't expect to actually enjoy the historical aspects, which I did, both then and again this time! Just goes to show that well-written fantasy can make everything it's associated with awesome 😄

Something I liked about the end of this book is the excerpts from the "sketchbook of Sir Edward Howe". It's a very fun addition to the world of Temeraire and a nice way to ease the reader off the high of the final, exciting chapters of the story. The inclusion, as well, of an excerpt from the next volume in the series was also a great way to get readers excited about continuing their adventures with Temeraire. Well, for this reader, it's not just exciting but worrying! I want Laurence and Temeraire to be happy! I need to get reading Throne of Jade right away, so that the versions of that pair who live in my mind can overcome the challenge that has been set before them by this final teaser!

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Among the Beasts & Briars, by Ashley Poston

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 23%.
I just can't continue reading. The book is in desperate need of a good copy editor and a decent developmental editor. The silly typos and repetitive wording are amateurish (most recent example, on page 78, a knot forms in the protagonist's throat and a couple lines later, she feels anxiety "like a knot in my throat" as if the first knot didn't exist? or it disappeared immediately? or there's a double knot?) and the protagonist's unbelievable obliviousness is unendearing (
Spoilerin a world where magic is the norm, and in a forest where supposedly no human lives, she doesn't put two and two together when her fox suddenly disappears and a naked man stands before her with the same colored eyes and hair as that fox?
). I'm going to move on; life is too short to read bad books. 

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Green Tea Living: A Japan-Inspired Guide to Eco-Friendly Habits, Health, and Happiness, by Toshimi A. Kayaki

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informative inspiring lighthearted fast-paced

3.0

This is a solid three-star book for me. A little good, a little meh, but not mind-blowing or super terrible, either. A bit too much of the advice was overly specific (like saving green tea leaves to detail one's bathroom) or sensational (claims about beauty improvements were way too good to be true) and left a morning talk-show aftertaste, but there were a few gems I picked out, too. Using vinegar as fabric softener blew my mind (seems to depend on the type of fabric; some items were the same as with no softener, but others ended up delightfully plushy!) and the idea of using orange peels in bath water is definitely something I'm going to try. The book was a quick and easy read too, so even though it's not the kind of thing I'd read again, I don't feel like my time was much wasted.
Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962-1966, by Thích Nhất Hạnh

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dark emotional hopeful informative inspiring mysterious reflective tense fast-paced

5.0

While I can't say I began reading this book with any specific expectations, I still felt blown away by how much I enjoyed it. It's a memoir written in journal format and offers glimpses of the author's life in Vietnam & New England during the 1960s, and his world view born of those experiences and the framework that his Buddhist training provided. I can see now why Thich Nhat Hanh is credited with bringing Buddhism to the West. That said, many of the progressive ideas he shared here are far more secular than anything else, pulling out the bits of Buddhism that can serve everyone without the need for religious belief. I highlighted many passages like that. Ultimately, however, the most gripping parts of the book were the author's personal experiences, which were described so vividly and fluidly that I felt hooked on the story, almost desperate to know what happened next, as if I was reading a contrived plot instead of a personal account. The end of the book was very satisfying, even exciting, but the one question it left me with is, "What, if anything, happened with his friend Steve once he returned to America?" Obviously not within the scope of this book, but something I'm very interested to know! 
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase, by Jane Horrocks, Eoin Colfer, Geoffrey McGivern, Sandra Dickinson, Douglas Adams, Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey, Ed Byrne, Lenny Henry

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adventurous challenging emotional funny fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated

5.0

I could not have asked for more from the conclusion to this radio series 🥰✨ To anyone who may be hesitant due to the posthumous nature of it, I say Don't Panic. Just click play! The involvement of so much of the original cast and crew has ensured continuity, as well as proper respect to the late Douglas Adams. This final installment wraps things up nicely, gives homage to all the events that had transpired during the series until this point, and it may even bring a bittersweet tear to your eye by the end!
The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

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challenging dark funny hopeful informative inspiring reflective tense medium-paced

5.0

There's so much I could say about The God Delusion that it feels overwhelming trying to think of how to fit it in without my review becoming a book in itself. I'll let my star rating (and my reading status updates) do most of the talking. I LOVED this book. I'm so grateful someone put it in the Little Free Library where I found it! If you're already an atheist, this book can still be an eye-opener, as it was for me. If you're a secret atheist, it could give you the courage you need to stand tall and face the far horizon (paraphrased from one of the most powerful passages in the book). If you're unsure about your beliefs, I also recommend this book to you, as it could give you knowledge and direction that will help you make an intelligent decision. As for religious believers, while I personally don't expect those possessed of blind faith to be persuaded by this book (or any other argument born of reason), why not give it a try anyway? You might be surprised at what you learn, or how you feel after you're done!