Saturday, December 20, 2014

Art Book Review of SKETCH! by France Belleville-Van Stone

SKETCH! The Non-Artist's Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life by France Belleville-Van Stone

Age range: Teen and adult

Genre: Arts and crafts

Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill (November 4, 2014)

Source: From Blogging for Books for review

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

About the Book:

An inspirational manual for integrating sketching into daily life for artists and non-artists alike.
Urban sketching--the process of sketching on the go as a regular practice--is a hot trend in the drawing world. In this aspirational guide, French artist France Belleville-Van Stone offers motivation to move beyond the comfort zone, as well as instruction on turning rough sketches into finished work. By sharing her own creative process, which includes sketching by hand and digitally, Belleville-Van Stone emboldens readers to craft a method of their own and devote more time to art, even if it's just 10 minutes a day. Sketch will inspire artists both established and aspiring to rethink their daily practice, sketch for the pure joy of it, and document their lives and the world around them.

My Thoughts:

This was an interesting book for several reasons.  The first being that it didn't explore life as an artist (selling, business, etc), but focused on sketching and drawing simply for the love of it.  The book was precisely what it claimed to be — a non-artist's guide to drawing.  Another reason it was interesting is because the author is self-taught. It was fun to read an art book aimed at people who like drawing but don't count on it for their livelihood. 

The other things I liked about this book were the sections on supplies and digital art.  The author uses very few supplies, and I've never seen digital art explored in a traditional art book before. The author talks about the benefits and drawbacks of drawing digitally, different styluses, and the various art apps available.

The downside to this book is that it tends to ramble.  I got impatient often, but found that if I stuck with it, it had great advice to offer.  The other thing I wasn't fond of was the inspiration section, mostly because I'm not interested in drawing bags, glasses, and shoes unless there's some larger reason to.

This is a good book for a teen or adult that are just starting out in art or just like to draw and want to improve their skills. 

Source: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Filling Buckets: 6 Books About Happiness for Children

One of the things I want for my kids more than anything else is happiness.  But how do you teach a child to be happy?  Happiness is a choice, but there are things that will help make that choice easier.

My daughter came home from her first week of kindergarten with a bucket made out of construction paper and the encouragement to "fill a bucket".  When I asked her about it, she told me about a book that her teacher read to the class about kindness toward others.  The book was called Have You Filled a Bucket Today? and I've noticed that she's made a conscious effort since then to be kind.

Since I was already a fan of the books, it was no work to convince me to review them.  I'm really excited to share them with you!

For more information on bucket filling and free downloadables and resources, visit bucketfillers101.com. 

For Babies (Board Book):

Baby's Bucket Book by Carol McCloud, illustrated by Glenn Zimmer

This colorful, rhyming board book starts the process of teaching infants and toddlers that they each have their very own invisible bucket. The book illustrates how happy a little one is with a bucket full of love and light and how sad when something causes that love and light to disappear. You'll quickly see that the love and light in a baby's bucket is the joyous result of simple, caring interactions that fulfill a baby's essential needs for security, love, belonging, independence and fun.

My Thoughts:
Your child is never too young to start learning the importance of being kind to others and the benefits that come from it.  This rhyming board book starts children on the concept of bucket filling and helps them understand that as they love and laugh, everyone's bucket gets filled.

The illustrations are bright and colorful and there are just a few words on each page, so babies will remain interested all the way through.  It's a great start for baby's library!


For Toddlers/Preschoolers:

Fill a Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children

This award-winning prequel to Have You Filled a Bucket Today? is the perfect gift for anyone with little ones they love.  When children have their buckets filled and learn how they can fill other people's buckets too, they understand how special, valuable, and capable they are.

Winner of Four Awards:

2008 - Top 10 Children's Books, Best You Can Be Foundation
2009 - Gold Medal, Children's Picture Books, Developing Social Skills, Mom's Choice Awards
2013 - Honorable Mention, Family Matters Books, Purple Dragonfly Book Awards
2013 - Honorable Mention, Picture Books - 5 & Younger, Purple Dragonfly Book Awards

My Thoughts:
This is a short introduction to the concept of bucket filling and a prequel to the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  It talks about how everyone carries an invisible bucket and how children can fill them up.  It mentions things like hugs, smiles, sharing toys, and saying "please" and "thank you".  When your bucket is full, you feel happy, but you feel sad when it's empty.

This is a good primer on the concept of bucket filling and helps young children understand that when you do something nice for someone else, it makes both of you happy.


For Preschoolers and Lower Elementary:

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing

Through simple prose and vivid illustrations, this heartwarming book encourages positive behavior as children see how rewarding it is to express daily kindness, appreciation, and love. Bucket filling and dipping are effective metaphors for understanding the effects of our actions and words on the well being of others and ourselves.

My Thoughts:
This is the original bucket book and my personal favorite.  Quite a few kindergarten teachers in this area are using this book in their classrooms.  I also took it to church and read it to my class of six year olds.  It explains the concept of bucket filling and tells kids the importance of having a full bucket.  It gives them ideas on how to fill other people's buckets and keep their own bucket full as well.  It also goes into bucket dipping, or trying to steal someone else's happiness.  Bucket dipping never works because when you empty someone else's happiness bucket, yours empties too.

This is a fantastic book for young children and it teaches a valuable life lesson about kindness.  The kinder we are to others, the happier everyone will be.  This is a great book for the classroom or at home.


Bucket Filling from A to Z: The Key to Being Happy by Carol McCloud and Caryn Butzke, illustrated by Glenn Zimmer

Bucket Filling from A to Z uses the letters of the alphabet to help young and old see the many, simple ways that they can fill buckets and fill their own buckets in return. When you help children become bucket fillers, you give them the key to happiness...for it is in friendship, love, and good will to others that we are truly happy. Yes, bucket filling is the moment by moment choice to be kind and caring. Teaching and encouraging children to be bucket fillers is one of the greatest gifts you can give to them.

My Thoughts:
This is the ABCs of kindness.  Each letter is dedicated to a different way you can fill a bucket and be happy.  G is for give, R is for respect, and so on.  I really liked the things the authors came up with to fill the alphabet.  It works well with the theme and teaches kids good qualities and positive traits.  It's a wonderful companion book to the other bucket books.


Will You Fill My Bucket? Daily Acts of Love Around the World by Carol McCloud and Karen Wells, illustrated by Penny Weber

A simple question, Will You Fill My Bucket?, is fervently asked by children from twelve different countries. In this award-winning, 32-page picture book, sweet rhyming prose, repetition, and vividly captivating illustrations delight the senses and express the deep joy and love we hope for all children.

Will You Fill My Bucket? and the responses given will touch the heartstrings of people young and old around the world.  Bucket filling, the essence of being loved and loving others, occurs in those little moments in a day when you stop and just listen, cuddle, play, or spend time with a child.

My Thoughts:
This book is written in rhyme and has some of my favorite illustrations out of the series.  There is just one line per page, so it's quick to read. Each line is very similar, so reading it out loud gets repetitive.  I liked how each picture featured a different part of the world.  This book is mostly about acts of love within the family, specifically between parents and children.  It's a nice addition to the series and a good companion to the other bucket books.


For Middle Grade Kids (ages 8 and up):

Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life by Carol McCloud, illustrated by Penny Weber

Do you know you have an invisible bucket which is filled with all of your good thoughts and feelings?  If you're new to the concepts of bucket filling and bucket dipping, then this award-winning book is for you.  This award-winning sequel to Have You Filled a Bucket Today? features easy-to-read chapters, colorful illustrations, and daily questions to help readers become better bucket fillers and give them the tools to live a life filled with happiness.

My Thoughts:
This book is for older children in upper elementary and middle school.  It delves deeper into the concept of bucket filling and dipping.  It talks about things like bullying, accidental or thoughtless bucket dipping, and when having an empty bucket isn't your fault.  It discusses ways for kids to keep their buckets full and avoid things that will empty their buckets (like cheating and cyberbullying).  It also talks about developing talents, working hard, and standing up for others.

I love the concept of an invisible bucket that everyone carries with them.  It's a great lesson for kids of all ages to learn.  This book helps kids understand the basic concepts of kindness and honesty and how they will help increase their happiness. 


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blog Tour and Review of I Know My Savior Lives

Welcome to my stop on the I Know My Savior Lives blog tour!  I was really excited to get this book in the mail, and I'm happy to share it with you today.

About the Book:

I Know My Savior Lives by Kimiko Christensen Hammari

Age range: Family

Genre: Activity/religion

Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc. (October 1, 2009)

Source: From publisher for tour

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Put the fun back in your family home evenings! With this exciting new resource, you ll never spend more than a few minutes preparing a meaningful night for your family to enjoy. This book and accompanying resource CD provide a year s worth of lessons and activities to reinforce the gospel principles your children are learning at Church. Each lesson includes a thought that draws directly from the scriptures; discussion questions; a list of songs, hymns, pictures, and scriptures that fit each topic; activities tailored for both younger and older children; and a weekly challenge and reminder card. There s even a recipe section with yummy treats the whole family can make together. Stop dreading Monday nights, and start spending more quality time together as you all draw nearer to the Savior.

My Thoughts:

This is a family home evening resource, focused on bringing your family closer to Christ and is intended for LDS families. There are almost enough lessons for every week in the year, leaving a few weeks for you to do something else if you want.

I used this book for my family nights and found it extremely helpful. The lessons are short and sweet, and the CD-ROM included had extras and printable activities. Each lessons also contains song suggestions and different activities for young children and older children. My kids are young, so the short lessons and the fun activities were a major plus.

I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for an easy way to make your family nights more meaningful and fun.

Content: Clean

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

YA Review of Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Age range: 15 and up

Grade level: 9 and up

Series: His Fair Assassin Trilogy (Book 3)

Hardcover: 464 pages

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (November 4, 2014)

Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Library

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About the Book:

In the powerful conclusion to Robin LaFever's New York Times bestselling His Fair Assassins trilogy, Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.
She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind, doesn’t mean she has.

My Thoughts:

I have loved this series from the beginning. I love how each girl and their experiences are so different from the others. No two stories are the same. In Mortal Heart, we get Annith's story. When she's told of her future as seeress for the convent, she can't imagine a more horrifying sentence. So she strikes out on her own to find her path and serve her god the way she was trained to. But Annith isn't like Ismae or Sybella. She doesn't enjoy taking life, and she has a softer heart than her sisters.

Once again, Robin LaFevers pulled me into the rich tapestry of ancient Brittany and their struggle for independence. The characters are vibrant and fairly pulse with life of their own. I loved the way the author created such different heroines for each of these books. While they are all damaged in one way or another, their backgrounds and stories vary greatly, as do the men they fall in love with. Balthazar was a wonderful hero and I loved the new perspective we got of Mortain in this book.

This series is definitely for older YA, although this book was the cleanest of the series.

Content: Some violence, non-descriptive sex. 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

YA Review of Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Age Range: 12 and up

Grade Level: 7 and up

Paperback: 270 pages

Publisher: Razorbill (June 11, 2009)

Series: None

Genre: Time travel/romance/humor

Source: Bought

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the Book:

To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips?conks her head?and wakes up in the year 1815!

There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily?s family, Callie warms to them?particularly to Emily?s cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant.

But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex?s heart, before her time in the past is up?

More Cabot than Ibbotson, Prada and Prejudice is a high-concept romantic comedy about finding friendship and love in the past in order to have happiness in the present.

My Thoughts:

Desperate to gain acceptance from the popular girls, Callie buys a pair of Prada heels, but after two steps in the shoes, she trips and falls face first into the pavement. She comes to in regency England where she meets Emily and her handsome but moody cousin Alex, who mistake her for a family friend. Callie gets pulled into their family troubles, all while dealing with the biggest trial of all — how she is going to get home.

This is a light, funny young adult romance. It's very clean and sweet, too. While it didn't blow me away, I really enjoyed reading it and would gladly recommend this book to teens of any age that like Jane Austen, romance, and humor.

Content: Some taking of the Lord's name in vain. Clean otherwise.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekly Update (12/5/14): What I'm Reading + Other Goals for December

My time to read went out the window last week!  I had a LOT of other things going on and I didn't get much squeezed in.  Want to know what I was doing?  I made a list!

  1. I made an illustration for a new children's store opening on Etsy. 
  2. I started working on a new set of articles for Read Brightly.
  3. I started the new Review Services feature here on my blog.
  4. I finished up my homemade Christmas stockings.  I still have to put our names on them, but the sewing is all done!
Two of my three goals for December are complete.  Now I need to work on my painting!  I'll squeeze some reading in there too (hopefully).

Here's what I've been reading.

What I read last week:

The only book I finished this week was Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This was a reread for me and I read it for one of my projects over at Read Brightly. It's a fun project and I'm excited to keep going with it! I'll be reading more bestsellers in the coming weeks, too.

What I'm currently reading:

I've barely made progress on these books.  I just haven't had the time to read very much, but hopefully I'll make a little progress this week.

What I'm Reading Next:
I'm still looking forward to The Witch's Daughter!. 

Other Books I Want to Read in December:

At the rate I'm going I won't get any of these read, but I like having a list to look at and hope for.  Have you read any of these books? 

Giveaways to Enter:

Tommy Black and the Staff of Light (Win a paperback!)
Rebels by Accident (Win a paperback)
The Best of 2014 Giveaway Hop (Win Forbiden by Kimberley Griffiths Little!)

Online Art Exhibit About the Birth of Christ Features My Painting!

If you want to get into the true spirit of Christmas, take a look at this online art exhibit about the birth of Christ.  The very first painting is one that I did a few years ago.  The Church History museum contacted me a few weeks ago to ask permission to use it in the exhibit, and of course I said yes! 

Want to see the exhibit?  Click HERE.

Here's my painting:

by Dena McMurdie
20 x 16 - oil on canvas

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