Book Review: David Bowie Retrospective and Coloring Book, Mel Elliott (2016)

Friday, December 16th, 2016

A little on the plain side.

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

Like many ’80s kids, my first encounter with David Bowie was the 1986 film Labyrinth. Along with Heathers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I devoured it over and over on a loop; one year, I even dressed as Jareth for Halloween. (Or tried to, anyway. My makeup game wasn’t exactly on point.) Whereas the vast majority of my childhood favorites haven’t held up so well over the years, Labyrinth is one of the notable exceptions.

As I grew older, I also became immersed in Bowie’s music, thanks to my dad. It wasn’t until I became an adult, though, that I began to fully appreciate Bowie’s influence on pop culture, whether by challenging gender norms, offering a more fluid vision of sexuality, or confronting racism in the music industry. Bowie’s death at the beginning of the year is just one of many catastrophes that would make 2016 one of the worst years in recent memory.

Mel Elliott’s David Bowie Retrospective and Coloring Book celebrates Bowie’s life, in all its weird glam glory. Though I’m not totally sold on the adult coloring book phenomenon – who’s got the time? – I decided to give it a try because, hey, David Bowie!

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While I love the idea, the execution is rather so-so. Each layout features a scene from Bowie’s life on the right, accompanied by a brief summary on the left. So far so good, except: the lettering on the text is quite large and hollowed out, so that you can color it in. While this works for maybe one layout or two, the design starts to feel repetitive after awhile. Additionally, there’s very rarely a background design – either on the text-side or the portrait-side – giving the book a rather plain and un-Bowie-like feel.

I would’ve liked to have seen more variation in the presentation of the text; for example, using a regular, solid, twelve-point font in some areas would have allowed the author to go into greater biographical detail. Or just expand on the artwork. Coloring in block letters gets pretty boring after awhile. Compared to previous coloring books I’ve tried, this one’s definitely on the simple and uncomplicated side.

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As for the retrospective, I’d assumed that it would focus primarily on Bowie’s music – but this is mostly overshadowed by his fashion. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it really just depends on your expectations and preferences.

Bottom line: the overall design isn’t really my bag, but that doesn’t mean that other Bowie fans won’t like it.

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(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: The Night Voyage: A Magical Adventure and Coloring Book, Daria Song (2016)

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

A Whimsical & Kindhearted Premise, Coupled With Intricate & Stunning Artwork

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Blogging for Books.)

This is only the second adult coloring book I’ve owned, and I had no idea what to expect from a book billed as an “adventure and coloring book.” As it turns out, The Night Voyage is primarily a coloring book, but with several pages of introductory text to provide some background to the story and fuel your imagination.

It’s the eve of the little girl’s birthday, but sadly she will spend it alone (save for her cat, Phoebe): mom and dad will be away on a business trip. But they left her a huge stack of presents to unwrap, almost by way of apology. Feeling understandably lonely, she fantasizes about sharing her gifts with other kids her age, meeting new people and maybe even making a few friends in the process. Before she knows it, she’s drifted off. That night, with the help of her toy train set (now life-sized), a flock of paper cranes, and her trusty friend Phoebe, the little girl goes on a night voyage, making her daydreams a reality. (Spoiler alert: she wakes up to a giant stack of pancakes. Mom and dad either never left, or just completed the ‘verse’s shortest business trip ever.)

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Daria Song’s artwork is sumptuous: whimsical and imaginative, and packed with lots of surreal and fun scenes. The drawings are intricate and highly detailed; most likely you’d categorize this as an intermediate to advanced coloring book. There are quite a few tiny little lines and shapes, and a steady hand is a must for some of the scenes.

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The book is a near-perfect 10″x10″ square, and many of the drawings stretch across two pages, lending them an even grander air.

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There’s even a Visual Index at the end – each layout has a name – as well as a cut-out greeting card that you can decorate yourself. I also love the few blank frames scattered throughout the book; you can either sketch in your own favorite people, or cut a photo to fit and paste it in there.

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The pages are thick and sturdy; you’d really have to use some elbow grease to press through to the other side. The paperback book comes with a dust jacket (look underneath! there’s printing on both sides!), and the naked cover is quite lovely on its own.

The Night Voyage would make a wonderful Secret Santa gift or stocking stuffer, especially for book lovers: You’ve got to love a coloring book that features drawings of book piles inside!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Pop Manga Coloring Book: A Surreal Journey Through a Cute, Curious, Bizarre, and Beautiful World, Camilla d’Errico (2016)

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Not just for manga fans and adult coloring book aficionados!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

Confession time: I’ve never really gotten into the whole adult coloring book fad. I mean, who has the time, right? Not to mention, I have a fat stack of kid’s coloring books gathering dust in my library. Rather, when this title popped up on Blogging for Books, it was the artwork that caught my eye and compelled me to request a copy.

And Camilla d’Errico’s illustrations are indeed lovely. Beautiful. Dazzling, even. Stunning and surreal. The sort of thing I could stare at for hours on end. Honestly, there’s just no overselling it. If nothing else, Pop Manga Coloring Book would make a wonderful coffee table book.

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The book’s synopsis describes portraits and patterns, but the majority of the pages are filled with the former, sometimes superimposed on the latter for an extra-challenging coloring experience. Portraits of wide-eyed girls and women, some fully human, others only partially so: mermaids, steampunk mechanics, dragon wranglers, and kraken-girls. Here you’ll find androids and wolves, clockwork fishes and chariots pulled by ginormous butterflies. The world that d’Errico has created is weird and whimsical and hecka fun.

In fact, some of the artwork is reminiscent of my favorite kid’s movies from the ’80s – most notably Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. d’Errico’s wooly mammoth-type creature calls to mind Ludo,

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while the armored lizard immediately conjured images of SkekSil (his sharp and pointy face, anyway).

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It seems like the bulk of the illustrations fall into one of three broad categories: steampunk, under the sea, and goth girl, interrupted. Whatever the case, all are brimming with creativity and artistry.

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Part of me doesn’t even want to color in any of the pictures, lest I ruin them! Though I’m pretty sure this would offend/depress Ayako, the cute little blob-with-eyes who serves as our guide. She encourages us to bend the rules, exercise our creativity and, above all, have fun. Ayako pops up throughout the book to offer tips and dish gossip about her boss/creator. That’s the kind of book we’re talking about here.

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Whether you’re a manga fan or simply appreciate funky art; are skilled in the ways of coloring with pencils, or new to the adult coloring book scene – d’Errico’s Pop Manga Coloring Book is guaranteed to amaze. Seriously, SF/F nerds – you need this book now.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)