Book Review: Forever in My Heart: A Grief Journal, Tanya Carroll Richardson (2016)

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Probably fair to categorize this grief journal as “nondenominational Christian with a New Age vibe.”

three out of five stars

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

In a little over three years, I lost four rescue dogs (out of seven) and a grandmother (just two!). Needless to say, this decade is not getting off to the greatest start. When I saw a copy of Tanya Carroll Richardson’s Forever in My Heart: A Grief Journal up for grabs on Goodreads, I threw my name in the hat. I’m addicted to guided journals, and this one seemed especially timely for me. Even though it’s clearly meant for humans, I thought that maybe – with a few tweaks and a generous amount of creative interpretation – I could adapt it for use it for my forever dog/soul mate/daemon Kaylee.

Forever in My Heart is very thorough and detailed, which I didn’t entirely expect; so many of the guided journals I’ve tried are vague bordering on terse. Each page is packed with several (between two and four) prompts; some sentences have multiple fill-in-the-blanks, so it’s hard to give an accurate count. You’re provided with a few lines to answer; the exact number kind of depends on the nature of the prompt.

2016-10-06 - Forever in My Heart - 0004 [flickr]

A few of my favorite prompts:

– A funny memory of you I recently laughed about with someone
– I think of you especially during this time of day because
– I had this really crazy, silly dream about you since you passed on
– Your passing inspired me to make some positive changes in my life, like
– A book I read or a TV show I saw since you died that reminded me of you
– My favorite way you used to show me you love me

The journal is a good size, 8 3/4″ x 5 3/4″. Anything smaller and it can be difficult to write in. (Think: the thick, mass market paperback-sized design preferred by PotterStyle.) The lines are maybe a tick larger than college ruled; big enough to work with, but not large enough that they waste space. The paper isn’t super-thick, but it’s substantial enough that a standard ballpoint pen isn’t likely to bleed through.

2016-10-06 - Forever in My Heart - 0007 [flickr]

The journal is a little more religious than I anticipated, given the book’s synopsis on Goodreads. I think it’d be fair to call it nondenominational Christian with a New Age vibe; there are lots of references to heaven, prayer, spirits, and angels. I’m an atheist, so this isn’t really my jam, but I’m used to overlooking and compartmentalizing. Books on death and dying tend to have some degree of religiosity built in, so.

Even so, this one really gave me a workout: There’s a whole chapter called “You are forever in my heart…but you are also in Heaven, and I am trusting that’s where you’re meant to be.” Contrast this with the previous chapter, “You are forever in my heart…and that’s why I can still feel you here with me,” which I vastly prefer. (Also, all the angel talk? Totally caught me off guard.)

More bothersome is that some of the prompts sound an awful lot like the well-meaning but insensitive platitudes so often directed at the recently bereaved: “She’s in a better place.” “At least he isn’t suffering anymore.” “She’s with God in Heaven now.” All the mindless sayings that minimize, dismiss, and erase the pain, grief, and loss you’re all but drowning under. (A better opening? “Tell me about him.” Listen, don’t lecture.)

2016-10-06 - Forever in My Heart - 0001 [flickr]

2016-10-06 - Forever in My Heart - 0003 [flickr]

Overall I think the journal’s okay; it’s not what I would have chosen for myself, if I’d been shopping around for one, but it’s not the worst. More religious folks will probably warm up to it more than I did. Probably not the best choice for a beloved nonhuman friend, but I’m gonna make it work.

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

Mini-Review: Extraordinary Ordinary Moments: A Journal, Jorey Hurley (2016)

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Versatile & Very Cute!

five out of five stars

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

— 4.5 stars —

If I had to choose just one word to describe Extraordinary Ordinary Moments: A Journal, it would be “adorable.” Jorey Hurley’s artwork is simple and understated – yet cute as all get out. Her previous titles include four picture books for kids – Nest, Fetch, Hop, and Ribbit – and the illustrations in Extraordinary Ordinary Moments are similar in style to what you see on the covers. (Of course I can’t speak to the interior artwork, seeing as I don’t own any of the books!)

Each page in this thick, 368-page journal features a different image or scene, along with a prompt. The general theme is “extraordinary ordinary moments”: an event, chore, object, person, or experience that’s so mundane that maybe you often take it for granted, or don’t even register it at all.

2016-09-23 - Extraordinary Ordinary Moments - 0006 [flickr]

Some of my favorite examples include:
– something nerdy
– comfort food
– something with nice curves
– something that puts you in a good mood (yeah, because there’s an illustration of a dog! you got me!)
– something silly (^ditto!)
– a good walk (definitely should include a dog, okay.)
– something eternal
– something you carry with you
– a good excuse to order a pizza

2016-09-23 - Extraordinary Ordinary Moments - 0007 [flickr]

You can take the prompts literally, interpret them loosely, or ignore them altogether; that’s what makes this journal so versatile. The prompts are written in a smallish font and are rather unobtrusive so, if you’re not especially partial to one (or all), just use that page for regular journaling. I guess the lack of lines might make this difficult, though all the white space is conducive to drawing, sketching, or scrapbooking, so there’s a tradeoff.

2016-09-23 - Extraordinary Ordinary Moments - 0009 [flickr]

The pages are made of a thick paper stock, and the book has a pliable but bendy cover; it’s softcover, but not quite paperback. There’s an image of an orange peel embossed on the cover, which might sound a little boring, except you can actually feel the texture of the peel when you run your fingers across it.

2016-09-23 - Extraordinary Ordinary Moments - 0004 [flickr]

Many of Potter Style’s journals are tiny, about the size of a mass market paperback; the small size of the paper, coupled with the thickness of the book, makes them very difficult to write in. Extraordinary Ordinary Moments is a little more generously sized, at six by eight inches. New rule: all journals should be these dimensions at the very least!

Though I enjoyed most of the artwork, there are a few pictures of animal-based foods that didn’t come as a surprise, but turned me off just the same. I can pretend that the sizzling bacon strips are Lightlife Smart Bacon (delish!), but the whole roasted turkey is a little harder to rationalize away. I know not everyone’s a vegan like me – I’m not delusional, okay – but it’s still tedious to see images of animal suffering everywhere I look. Even in seemingly neutral places, like guided journals. (I guess maybe I can use that page for all my favorite AR quotes?)

I feel a little weird deducting a full star for this, though, so let’s call it 4.5 stars, rounded up to five where necessary.

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

Mini-Review: Me: A Compendium: A Fill-in Journal for Kids, Wee Society (2016)

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

A Fun & Very Do-Able Journal for Kids Aged 4-8

five out of five stars

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

When it comes to journals, I thought I’d seen it all: Mindfulness journals. Journals for book lovers to track their reading progress. Gratitude journals. Journals with prompts. Collage journals. Journals shaped like ice cream sandwiches. Enter: journals for the preschool set.

Even though, at thirty-eight, I’m well past the target audience, I decided to give Me: A Compendium a try. After all, I love unconventional journals, journals with a heavy graphic element that don’t require so much writing (because who has the time? And also the handwriting skills? Mine jumped the shark shortly after college graduation.) And if it wasn’t for me, I could always give it away.

As it turns out, when the publisher says that it’s intended for preschool through third grade, they are not kidding. And that’s a good thing!

2016-09-14 - Me-A Compendium - 0009 [flickr]

With its simple style; bold, bright colors; blocky artwork; and age-appropriate prompts/activities, this is a journal that’s both fun and very do-able for younger kids. The layouts are silly yet engaging, with plenty of space to write, draw, or even paste on your response. The paper is nice and thick, which is great for less than perfectly coordinated hands.

2016-09-14 - Me-A Compendium - 0007 [flickr]

The prompts run the gamut, from “If I were an underwater sea creature, this is what I would be” to “My favorite holiday” and “These are my top three ice cream flavors.”

Okay, on second thought, maybe this book is just my speed.

There are even some goodies hidden under the dust jacket, including a blank cover for the journaler to personalize herself.

2016-09-14 - Me-A Compendium - 0003 [flickr]

2016-09-14 - Me-A Compendium - 0008 [flickr]

This would make a great gift for a creative or introspective kid, especially one who loves assisting with mom or dad’s scrapbooking (but maybe can’t be trusted with the glue and glitter quite yet!).

(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: Brain Freeze Journal, Potterstyle (2016)

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Makes me crave a Tofutti Cutie every time I journal!

four out of five stars

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

So here’s the deal: I kind of love this journal in spite of myself.

Like many of Potterstyle’s journals, Brain Freeze is small: 4.1″ wide by 6.1″ tall, and a whopping 1.4″ thick. The teeny tiny pages + the thickness of the book makes it quite difficult to write in: my hand starts to fall off the bottom of the page a mere 1/3 of the way down, and it’s such a long drop that it’s a struggle to continue. My handwriting’s bad enough without the extra help, thanks!

It’s a mystery why they design the books this way. So they can easily fit in your pocket or a purse? But who wants to carry their journal into the world, where it can get lost or stolen? I’d much rather have a journal that’s comfortable to use, you know?

2016-05-10 - Brain Freeze Journal - 0001 [flickr]

2016-05-10 - Brain Freeze Journal - 0007 [flickr]

2016-05-10 - Brain Freeze Journal - 0002 [flickr]

Even though I knew I’d end up loathing the dimensions, I just had to have this journal. Ice cream is literally my favorite, and this book looks so much like a Neapolitan ice cream sammie that I salivate a little every time I look at it. The outer edges of the pages are colored chocolate, white, and pink. While the pages themselves are white (obvs), the lines inside are dyed to match the theme. Weirdly, this means that the middle section is one huge blank space (white on white = all-white). I guess you could use it to highlight much-loved quotes or important thoughts? Either way, the lines are spaced 1/4″ apart (similar to college ruled), with a 2″ gap in the middle white area.

2016-05-10 - Brain Freeze Journal - 0008 [flickr]

The brown cover is stamped with dots, similar to the cookies in an ice cream sandwich, to complete the look. Before ordering I worried that it might be made of leather – I’m a vegan – but now that I have it in my ends, I’m pretty sure it’s a high-end, fancy-pants cardboard. It has a luxurious, smooth feel. The journal’s title is also embossed on the cover in a yellow-gold, all-caps font. The whole thing feels quite rich, much like a sundae, or maybe some homemade cookie butter ice cream.

(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: Collage This Journal, Eleanor Shakespeare (2016)

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Generously sized, with soothing earth tones and inventive prompts.

four out of five stars

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

I’ve reviewed several of Potter Style’s journals in the past, and more often than not have been disappointed by their small sizes. (The Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal, for example, is roughly the size of a mass market paperback.) So I was pretty stoked when Eleanor Shakespeare’s Collage This Journal showed up on my doorstep. At 6.5″ wide by 9.25″ high (going by the cover; the pages are just a tick smaller), it’s generously sized and gives you plenty of room to work with.

2016-03-04 - Collage This Journal - 0002 [flickr]

2016-03-04 - Collage This Journal - 0004 [flickr]

As you’ve no doubt gathered from the title, this is an unusual little journal in that it has more of a visual arts focus. Though you can certainly write in it if you’d like, the emphasis is on scrapbooking and collages. Each two-page spread features a prompt of some sort; e.g., “Create footprints using photos of places you’ve been”; “What hand have you been dealt?”; “Fill the lamp with wishes” – with lots of room to record your response. Shakespeare utilizes soothing earth tones to set the mood and provide an attractive yet low-key backdrop for your photos and artwork.

2016-03-04 - Collage This Journal - 0006 [flickr]

2016-03-04 - Collage This Journal - 0005 [flickr]

2016-03-04 - Collage This Journal - 0007 [flickr]

My main concern is that all the added material will make the book too bulky for its bindings. However, the library binding does provide some flexibility here. And while the book is a decent size, more is always better! This journal would be extra-rad if it was scrapbook-sized (8″x10″).

Even so, I think it’s pretty shiny and can’t wait to start filling it with my own goodies.

(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: Life-Changing Magic: A Journal, Marie Kondo (2015)

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

The small size makes it difficult to write in!

three out of five stars

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

I’ve never read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, so I can’t say how well Marie Kondō’s companion journal embodies its principles or otherwise relates to the book. Nevertheless, I expected there to be some writing prompts taken from or otherwise inspired by the book, but … not so much. While the journal does include some choice quotes from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, these receive their own dedicated pages and aren’t really crafted in such a way that they can be used as a jumping-off point for a journal entry. The only real “prompt,” if you can call it that, is the mantra “Does it spark joy?,” which is repeated every fourth calendar page. Kind of disappointing.

2016-01-16 - Life-Changing Magic - 0006 [flickr]

2016-01-16 - Life-Changing Magic - 0004 [flickr]

The layout for this three-year journal is pretty simple. Each page is dedicated to one date; you get six lines per year with enough space for three years (or fewer if you go over). There’s not a whole lot of space here, which is why I thought prompts would be helpful – to focus my writing and keep me on-track.

2016-01-16 - Life-Changing Magic - 0002 [flickr]

The lines are college ruled, which is cool with me. On the downside, the pages are rather small, about 5 1/2″ wide x 6 1/2″ tall; the journal isn’t much larger than my Kindle, but it is a full inch thick. This makes it terribly difficult to write in: just halfway down the page, my hand begins to fall of the bottom edge. This is a pretty common annoyance I have with paperback-sized journals: sure, they’re a little more portable, but what good does that do if you can’t write (or write legibly) in the darned thing?

Otherwise the journal is lovely, with a clean, calming color scheme and layout. Aside from the scattered quotes, though, I can’t see how it differs from any generic, angel- or dog-themed, lined journal that you might find at Michael’s or whatnot.

(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: Q&A a Day for Creatives: A 4-Year Journal, Potter Style (2015)

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Unique and Imaginative; Not Just for Illustrators and Sketch Artists

five out of five stars

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

Q&A a Day for Creatives: A 4-Year Journal is the latest in a series of guided journals produced by Potter Style, a “lifestyle gift” imprint of The Crown Publishing Group. Other specialized titles are aimed at moms, teenagers, book lovers, college students, and list-makers.

My first foray into Potter Style’s Q&A a Day journals was the Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal, which features 365 writing prompts – one for each day of the year, with enough space to record five years worth of entries. It’s a pretty rad idea, but the design of the book makes it difficult to use. At nearly 1 1/4″ thick and 6 1/4″ tall by 4 1/4″ wide, it’s a little smaller than a mass market paperback – but just as thick. Since my hand starts dropping off the end of the page about halfway down, I find it terribly difficult to write in. Plus the lines are tiny! I used it for about a month before personal issues proved too much of a distraction; looking back, I’m not surprised to see that many of my entries are borderline illegible thanks to the ill-devised layout.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Go Ahead & Like It, Jacqueline Suskin (2015)

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Not Terribly Interactive

two out of five stars

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

Go Ahead & Like It is not at all what I expected. Granted, based on the book’s vague and weirdly broad Amazon description, it’s difficult to pin down precisely; in one breath, it purports to be a scrapbook, art book, self-help book, how-to guide, etc., etc., etc. So perhaps it’s unfair to dislike it for failing to meet my already hazy expectations. But. When the description says that it features “writing prompts,” I don’t think it unreasonable to assume that the book will also include blank space for me to work on said prompts. Not so much.

Go Ahead & Like It isn’t an interactive journal or workbook, with space for the reader to formulate her own lists, but rather an instructional guide, the bulk of which highlights Suskin’s own lists, photographs, and ephemera. The end result feels remarkably self-indulgent: Suskin fans aside, who wants to shell out seventeen bucks to read an assortment of a stranger’s random lists?

What we have here is a case of good idea, poor execution: this book would have been 100% better had Suskin complemented her writing tips with one or two of her own lists (and perhaps a plethora of artwork with liberal white space), and then given her readers ample space to record their own. There’s one blank list at the very back of the book, but that’s it.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: The Daily Vegan: A Guided Journal, adapted from Vegan’s Daily Companion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (2015)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

A Guided Journal for Joyful (and Occasionally Not!) Vegans

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Journaling can help you to organize your thoughts, sort through powerful emotions, even relieve stress and anxiety. Specialty journals run the gamut, from question-a-day mini-journals to those started – but never finished – by your favorite Amazon princess. (Eep, how cool is that?)

In this vein, The Daily Vegan is a (semi-)guided journal for vegans. Based on Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Vegan’s Daily Companion – which features 365 days of vegan inspiration, trivia, recipes, cooking tips, rescue stories, and more – and featuring artwork by Dayna Safferstein, The Daily Vegan offers vegans a safe and compassionate space to share their innermost thoughts and feelings. The journal includes a nice balance of writing prompts and blank pages for more free form journaling, and the drawings and quotations help set the mood.

2015-03-12 - The Daily Vegan - 0004 [flickr]

As you might expect, the prompts are written with vegans in mind: activism, nutrition, compassion, burnout, and gratitude are just a few of the issues addressed. If you’re read Vegan’s Daily Companion, you might recognize some of the topics from the “Optimum Health” and “Compassionate Communication” sections. Should you find yourself stuck and not knowing what to write about, the prompts can help to nudge you in the right direction.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal, Potter Style (2011)

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

An Awesome Idea Marred by Lackluster Execution

three out of five stars

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

When I was younger, I kept a diary and wrote in it fastidiously, especially during my tumultuous teenage years. College was predictably hectic and I soon fell out of the habit, never to return – but not for lack of effort. As an adult, I’ve tried to resurrect my journaling several times, with little luck; mostly I don’t have the time, or don’t know what to write about. Also it doesn’t help that my handwriting sucks, thanks to the ubiquity of computers. (My third grade teacher would be horrified!) So when I spotted Q&A a Day on Blogging for Books, I thought I might give it a try.

It’s a cool idea that seems to surmount many of the obstacles I’ve encountered when journaling as an adult. Laid out kind of like a day planner, the book features a question or prompt for each day, with enough spaces to cycle through five years. Due to both the pointedness of each question, and the limited space provided per response, each question should take only a minute or two to answer. Maybe five if you really want to think on it. With such a small time commitment per day, it should be easy for even the most harried among us to keep up.

(More below the fold…)