Review: The Magic of Trees by Tess Whitehurst

Title: The Magic of Trees
Author: Tess Whitehurst
Publication Date: January 8th, 2017
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Genre: Spirituality
Pages: 384
ISBN: 073874803X
Source: ARC from Publisher

Synopsis (from Publisher):
Connect with the deep wisdom and power of trees in order to create positive change in your body, mind, and spirit. Featuring detailed descriptions of the magical and energetic properties of more than one hundred trees, The Magic of Trees shows you how to work with them―physically and spiritually―through rituals, spells, and much more.

Trees are symbols of the interconnectedness of life and represent the interwoven web of everything on which magic draws power. This comprehensive guide helps you tap into that web and enrich your life in the spiritual energy it provides.

Tess Whitehurst is an intuitive counselor, energy worker, feng shui consultant, and speaker, and the author of Magical Housekeeping. She has appeared on the Bravo TV show Flipping Out and her writing has been featured in Writers Digest, Whole Life Times Magazine, and online at Lemondrop.com. 

First, I would just like to comment on what a lovely person Tess Whitehurst is. I had the pleasure of joining her New Moon Ritual on her Facebook page for this November new moon, and she just glows with light, joy, and love. I am honored to have the opportunity to be introduced to her work, and as this is my first (or really second) impression of her, I feel like I've been kissed with magic.

I've always found trees to be magical and necessary elements to life. If you saw my apartment, one of the first things you may notice is how much of it is embellished with different forms of the Tree of Life, or the World Tree. They are older than man, and are, in many ways, the essence of what set us apart from the other known planets. As a lover of nature and science enthusiast, there isn't a day that passes where I am not fascinated or curious about the brilliance of the raw world that surrounds us. There is an entire universe they dwell in beyond the state in which we interact with them from day to day through furniture, paper, medicines, and salads.

Whitehurst goes through a myriad of trees and describes each one from various perspectives of faith, culture, agriculture, medicine, and magical correspondence. The detail is very impressive, and Whitehurst clearly did her research. I love all the different aspects she pulls from to enrich every single one so carefully and delicately. In the back, you will find a useful Appendix that lists each tree that fits under different uses and intentions. Then you have each tree that fits beneath a particular element and planetary correspondences.

This is not a scientific encounter with the plants that give us breath, it delves into the spirituality and cultural uses that connect us with them. If you're looking for a comprehensive overview of different tree species, this is definitely not for you. As one who believes that "anything is possible unless proven impossible," I was able to read this book with an open mind. From an outsider, this might look like the Hippie's Bible, but there is a lot that can be learned from such a deep and intimate study. There are paths and cultures that have a reason for finding a connection with nature important, and that does not necessarily mean they are wrong simply because one may not understand. I, however, find my grounding in nature, as it is the one thing that stays consistent as the sun and moon.

I read a digital version of this book which, although wasn't the final draft, was a bit difficult to go through. It's possible that if there is a future ebook available, it will be more user friendly than my version. However, as this is more of a resource that can be used for reference, having a physical copy would likely suit best. I would prefer it!

Whitehurst's love and soul poured out in this book is beautiful and enlightening. For my own application, there was a lot I was able to take from it. It is very well organized and filled with endless amounts of information. If you study the metaphysical at all, this is a wonderful addition to your collection.


Spotlight: As Cold As Thorns by Isis Sousa

Title: As Cold As Thorns by Isis Sousa
Series: As Cold As Thorns #1
Author: Isis Sousa
Publication Date: November 28th, 2016
Publisher: Tragic Books
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy, Gothic
Pages: 346
ISBN: 1533467692

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The solace and contentment of Henrique’s simple life as a small-town tailor’s apprentice vanish when his ambitions turn him overnight into one of the most powerful and influential personalities in early-1800s Europe. His quick ascension to the upper echelons of the leading Iberian Empire reveals a man torn between the pure heart he once was, and the grim shade of what he has now become: a spirit obsessed with expensive material possessions and the urge to acquire the unattainable.

Henrique succumbs to the ever-growing desires and beguiling passions tormenting his mind, causing a rupture between reason and a desolate world of ice and snow where pain is the key to salvation.

Will he survive his encounter with the colossal emptiness and find the righteous path to lead him out of his agony?

I am an artist; illustrator and graphic designer who writes on my free time. But with all the imagination I have running lose, there came some stories… And there came some books!

I am born and grown up in Brazil, however I live in Mid-Norway with my beloved husband, in a tiny valley surrounded by mountains and with very few neighbours.

When I’m not doing artwork and illustration for clients, I’m doing woodcarving, painting ornaments, painting artworks for myself, and so on. Love Arts, History, Heavy Metal and Dark things.

Review: The Unbound Soul: A Spiritual Memoir for Personal Transformation by Richard L. Haight

Title: The Unbound Soul: A Spiritual Memoir of Personal Transformation
Author: Richard L. Haight
Publication Date: May 18, 2016
Publisher: Createspace
Genre: Religion & Spirituality 
Pages: 202
ISBN: 1533380463
Source: ARC from Author

Synopsis (from Publisher):
The true story of a young boy's mystical vision and his subsequent study of meditation, healing and martial arts in search of enlightenment. Tormented by visions mass-corruption and coming worldwide economic, social and ecological collapse, he presses ever onward in his search and eventually realizes the elusive truth of spiritual awakening. Through The Unbound Soul, Richard L. Haight reveals the understanding that will transform your life and he provides a unique meditation method and set of powerful awareness tools to assist you on your personal path towards practical spirituality in everyday life.

Richard L. Haight instructs martial, meditation and healing arts. He spent 15 years living in Japan training in the ancient martial arts ultimately receiving the menkyo-kaiden (certificate of total mastery), which is the equivalent of a 10th degree black belt in modern ranking. Throughout his life, Richard has had a series of profound visions that have ultimately guided him to the realization of the Oneness that the ancient spiritual teachers often spoke of. Through his new book The Unbound Soul, his meditation and martial arts seminar, Richard Haight is spreading a practical method of spiritual unfoldment that is free of all constraints. Richard Haight now lives and teaches in southern Oregon, U.S.A..

Richard has a free online course at his website www.richardhaight.net to help expedite the spiritual unfoldment process.

Richard L. Haight's The Unbound Soul is quite an interesting read for those who are curious about spirituality. Haight takes us through the journey of his own spirituality, beginning with a childhood many others may relate to. At a young age, he was told to believe who God was in an unbiblical light, but fortunately was encouraged by his parents to seek truth. Not long after, he began to experience spirituality in an unexpected form that aided him in his quest for answers. One instance in which he dreamed that Jesus told him to find his bones, as they are the core of his teaching. 

Be prepared to soak in information like a sponge, because there are many layers to Haight's writings. The further you delve into the book, the further you immerse yourself into the ideology that humanity and everything that surrounds it is one essence with what could be considered the "Presence." We are consciousness with infinite potential, but are ignorant of our identity within the context of universal dimension. He also states that it isn't that there are "spiritual" and "non-spiritual" people, the absolute is that we are all spiritual beings, but not all realize the level of spirituality within their being.

Some of the concepts and practices outlined throughout the book are, at times, difficult to follow. However, if you expand your reading to the resources on his website, you may gain better understanding and application. I would recommend at least giving the Observation Meditation and/or Dance of Self a try, as you may find them helpful in re-grounding yourself for the day. There are well detailed outlines in the book on how to perform these meditations.

Haight is also a coach in Shinkaido, which is a practice that works to achieve 4 primary goals (as stated at richardhaight.net):
  1. Martial Arts: dealing with fear and violence through relaxed movement and awareness.
  2. Dynamic Meditation: discovering what is innate yet beyond the mind, while realizing and resolving the barriers that have served to block that realization. 
  3. Autonomic Stretching: Creating a balance between strength, flexibility and relaxation while resetting nerve organs throughout the body, you will realize the most efficient, silent, aware body possible.
  4. Autonomic Therapy: Using reverse innervation and healing touch to resolve disharmony and disease.
I am very impressed that Haight struggled with a learning disorder growing up and was able to make so much progress as an adult to not only pen a book, but one with this much depth. It was definitely an interesting read. As with any book on spirituality, the only real way to take any of it literally is by applying it and seeing if it works for yourself. If it doesn't, that could mean it just isn't for you, but it doesn't hurt to try.


Review & GIVEAWAY: Piccadilly and the Waltzing Wind by Lisa Anne Novelline

Title: Piccadilly and the Waltzing Wind
Series: Piccadilly's Magical World #2
Author: Lisa Anne Novelline
Illustrator: Nicola Hwang
Publication Date: October 1, 2016
Publisher: Lisa Novelline
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Pages: 44
ISBN: 0983531145
Source: Hardcover from Author

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In the award winning, Piccadilly and the Waltzing Wind (ages 4-8), the second installment in the "Piccadilly's Magical World" series, Piccadilly seeks to answer the question: “May one dance with the wind?” Readers are invited to soar with Piccadilly, friends, and the mischievous autumn breeze through an irresistible journey of what may be, and then spiral back to the extra special magic awaiting Piccadilly in her own backyard. About Piccadilly’s Magical World: The Piccadilly universe is one wherein children can imagine possibilities, experiment with ideas, and dream solutions as rich and diverse as they are. The first installment in this series is Piccadilly and the Fairy Polka.


Lisa Anne Novelline is a former mathematics teacher and problem-solving coach. She has written several children’s books including Piccadilly and the Fairy Polka and is currently working on a novel for young adults as well as authoring the blog HolidayAndHearth.com dedicated to helping families and friends rekindle or deepen their personal and collective connections to the seasons of nature. All of her projects are inspired by her profound commitment to the cultivation of critical-thinking and creativity. 

She holds a Master of Education degree in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Northeastern University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Lesley University. 

She is a mother of four and lives with her family in Massachusetts.

About the Illustrator:
Nicola Hwang is an Illustrator, Character Designer and Concept Artist who's loved working in everything from Animation series for television, to ebooks for kids, comics and games. She also has a talent for memorising cartoon dialogues, conversing with animals and talking about herself in the third person.

"Oh, bubbles! If only you'd last a bit longer, I could fill the sky, with rainbows!"
-Lisa Anne Novelline, Piccadilly and the Waltzing Wind

Another adventure in Piccadilly's magical world! I had been wishing and hoping for this day to come, and I am not disappointed! In this sequel to Piccadilly and the Fairy Polka, readers are allured through sparkling illustrations to an enchanting universe filled with curiosity and wonder.

Piccadilly's inquiring mind is drawing her to the autumn wind this time, as the colors of the dancing leaves fill the sky with jewel-toned rainbows. In the spirit we know and love, she decides her next adventure, "I want to dance with the wind!" And she sets out to discover how to make it happen. In the process, we meet a new furry friend who gives the impression that he's from another time, adding to the enchantment of the story.

As seen in the first book, Piccadilly receives support from her father and brother who encourage her eagerness to learn and explore. It depicts a lyrical beauty and movement within nature that sparks the reader's own curiosity, and simply makes you want to go outside! There is endless appeal to children and adult readers alike, as there is a special magic to the Piccadilly universe that reaches deep into the soul of the reader and awakens the child within.

I read this book at my Fall themed storytime last week, and I had a wonderful response from both parents and children. There were several compliments on the illustrations, especially! From an educational aspect, we were able to talk about what fall is in terms of what happens to the leaves and why they change colors. We also talked about how the weather changes (chilly and windy like in the book). It's also a great opportunity to talk about fall colors. As a craft, I made a tree on the wall and children traced their hands and wrote their names, then placed them as falling leaves on the tree. It gave us another opportunity to talk about colors and work on motor skills.

These books are some of my most favorite children's books I've ever come across. Lisa Anne Novelline is apparently very attuned to nature and the magic of the universe. As a fellow Quantum Physics enthusiast, I think she adds a special and unique flair to the children's literary world. I hope to continue seeing more from her, and I expect they will only become more magical with each adventure!

Here's your chance to win signed copies of BOTH Piccadilly books! 

GRAND PRIZE: Signed copies of Piccadilly and the Fairy Polka & Piccadilly and the Waltzing Wind

Second Prize: A copy of Piccadilly and the Waltzing Wind


Cover Reveal: The Romeo Catchers by Alys Arden

The Romeo Catchers
Alys Arden
(The Casquette Girls #2)
Published by: Skyscape
Publication date: May 23rd 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Tormented by the fate she condemned her mother to, and by the lies she’s forced to tell to cover it up, Adele scours Storm-ravaged New Orleans for the truth about her family’s magical past. But every turn leads her back to the one person she’s determined to forget: Niccolò Medici. Not even the multitude of enchanted locks on the attic door trapping Nicco within can break their connection.
Sensing Nicco calling to Adele, Isaac tries relentlessly to keep her from exploring paths too dark that would endanger them all. But a new threat is rising: the Medici’s presence has attracted something else to New Orleans…an older enemy, one that will bring Isaac’s haunted past to life, test the witches’ friendships, and jeopardize Adele and Isaac’s blossoming relationship.
In this spellbinding continuation of The Casquette Girls saga, Adele must draw on the past—from seventeenth-century Florence, a time bubbling with alchemy and fraternal betrayal—and sort history from fantasy if she is to have any chance of saving her mother, her coven, and her magic.
Sequel to:

Author Bio:
Alys Arden was raised by the street performers, tea leaf-readers, and glittering drag queens of the New Orleans French Quarter. She cut her teeth on the streets of New York and has worked all around the world since. She either talks too much or not at all. She obsessively documents things. Her hair ranges from eggplant to cotton-candy colored. One dreary day in London, she missed home and started writing The Casquette Girls.
Her debut novel garnered over one million reads online before it was acquired by Skyscape in a two book deal. Her second book is due out winter 2016.
Alys is represented by ICM. And she still plans to run away with the circus one star swept night.



Review: #BabyLove: My Social Life by Corine Dehghanpisheh

Title: #BabyLove: My Social Life
Author: Corine Dehghanpisheh
Publication Date: June 22nd, 2016
Publisher: My Art to Inspire
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Pages: 36
ISBN: 9780985193058
Source: ARC from Publisher

Synopsis (from Publisher):
"Click." "Tap." Tag and Post. An adored baby tells a modern tale about life in today's digital world. #BabyLove: My Social Life highlights the social phenomena of sharing daily activities using technology and social networks.

Corine Dehghanpisheh is a children’s book author and illustrator. Her inspirations for writing and illustrating come from everyday life.

She was a Mom's Choice Awards® Silver Recipient and a Next Generation Indie Author Finalist for her debut children's book Can We Play Again?, which was published in March 2012. Her inspiration for this book came from her work as a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist in NYC.

Corine published her second children’s book, Buddy’s Dream, in November 2013, and her third children's book, #BabyLove: My Social Life, in July 2015.

When Corine is not busy being creative, she is most likely having fun taking pictures of her family. Corine lives in Manhattan, NY with her husband and new baby. 

In this time-relevant children's book, Corine Dehghanpisheh unveils the infant's perspective in a digital world where phones are constantly out snapping photos and taking videos to capture memories and share them on social media. 

Although the theme of #BabyLove is pretty obvious, Dehghanpisheh keeps a fairly neutral platform through out the book. Her message is tastefully executed in a way that opens the reader's eyes to the extremity of social media and families, but also how it's an outlet to share with friends and families. I didn't get the impression that she was leaning in only one direction, but more-so was being informative within the broad spectrum.

I love the format of the book. The illustrations are simplistic and consistent. Almost to a point where you could discuss shapes with your child as a side activity while reading this book. She also integrated social media symbols and interactions such as different ways to "like" a video on Facebook, hashtags, comments, and statuses. At first, I didn't understand these symbols as they were underneath the image of the page, but after a couple pages of seeing it, I understood. How clever! 

I thought this was a well-written and highly relevant book that our culture can relate to. It documents the different emotions and activities often captured through a baby's day. It helps the reader keep in mind that although social media can be a great way to connect our friends and loved ones, it is good to keep in mind not to overdo it and miss out on extra cuddles!

As I live 3 states away from my nieces and nephews, it is the social media interaction I get with them that definitely makes me feel more connected. I know my siblings spend plenty of time loving on them, it's just ensuring that balance is present, and I believe that's the message Dehghanpisheh was trying to communicate.


Review & GIVEAWAY: Fairhaven Forest Series by Sheila Robertson

Title: The Adventure Begins
Series: Fairhaven Forest
Author: Sheila Robertson
Illustrator: Liz Holt
Publication Date: October 1st, 2013
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Genre: Children's
Pages: 28
ISBN: 1625102992
Source: Purchased from Author

Lost in the woods after dark, kittens Fuzz and Spatz don't know which way to turn to get back to their big white house. Many of the animals that live in the woods try to give them directions, but the kittens don't listen very well. Cold, hungry, and scared, they wait out the long, dark night. Soon they realize that they would already be home if they had just listened to older and wiser animals. Come join Fuzz & Spatz as they learn a valuable lesson on their big adventure.
Title: Monster
Series: Fairhaven Forest
Author: Sheila Robertson
Illustrator: Liz Holt
Publication Date: October 27th, 2015
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Genre: Children's
Pages: 34
ISBN: 1625102992
Source: Author

Fuzz and Spatz let their imaginations run away with them when they see evidence of something living under the backyard deck. Their human pets don't seem concerned that all their orange things are disappearing, but the two small kittens are very worried. Will the orange thing-eating monster find them all the way around on the front porch? Come join Fuzz and Spatz as they learn a valuable lesson about fear and run-away imaginations.
Title: Sugar Baby
Series: Fairhaven Forest
Author: Sheila Robertson
Illustrator: Liz Holt
Publication Date: November 10th, 2015
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Genre: Children's
Pages: 34
ISBN: 1681872234
Source: Purchased from Author

When Fuzz and Spatz find a baby kitten in the woods, they think their dreams have come true. They always wanted a baby sister! They soon discover that taking care of a baby is a lot more work than they expected. When the mother arrives looking for her lost baby, Fuzz and Spatz get an even bigger surprise!
Join Fuzz and Spatz on their newest adventure while they learn a valuable lesson about responsibility.

Sheila Robertson first started writing stories to entertain her younger cousins while spending time at their grandparents in the country. Her child-like imagination and love of writing has produced the new juvenile chapter book series June Bug & Kat.
Her first series, Fairhaven Forest, is for younger audiences with 3 books released with the 4th one in production right now.
Sheila lives in Fairhaven Forest in rural southern middle Tennessee and daily enjoys all her woodland friends. She has written many children’s stories, skits, plays, and Vacation Bible School Programs.
Sheila also has a book entitled Alzheimer’s…There Is Hope available online.

Her favorite past times include: reading Christian Fiction, developing new products to accompany her books, and sitting on the front porch watching the squirrels play.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sheila Robertson and her husband at a book signing in a local coffee shop. This was my first time being introduced to the adorable, playful world of Fuzz and Spatz. If you or your child is an animal lover, these books are a fun and playful way to teach simple life lessons through words and pictures.

The Adventure Begins - In this introduction, Fuzz and Spatz learn a valuable lesson in active listening when they get lost in the woods. As night falls, they only seem to go around in circles before giving up for the night. Had they listened to those who tried to guide them, they would've found themselves in their cozy big white house with their bellies full.

The first thing that caught my eye was the illustrations. Vibrant and fun, the art is something that draws the eye instantly. And how can you resist how adorable Fuzz and Spatz are? If you aren't a cat lover before reading these books, you may change your mind.

Although this may seem like a simple element, I appreciate the dynamic in graphic around the text. I see several picture books come across my table where it's difficult to read because the text overlays directly on top of the illustrations, causing the reader to strain their eyes to read it. The text in The Adventure Begins is set on top of a soft-transparent white box that creates a more pleasing aesthetic.

After reading this book, I had wished for a little bit more. The story is very adorable, but I think it could have used a little more plot element to really push off the series. However, comparatively I liked the way the illustrations were done in The Adventure Begins the best out of the three.

Monster - One time when I was little and my family lived out in the country, I went downstairs to our big box freezer to get something. I heard a strange noise coming from the ceiling above me and I looked up to see what it was. It was hard to tell, but something was definitely moving. I ran upstairs screaming and my brother went and got whatever that thing was out of the house. He claimed it was a bird, and I claimed it was a bat. Considering he's 8 years older than me, he was probably right. But nonetheless, that thing scared the bajeebies out of me and I was too afraid to go into the basement by myself after that!

This book reminded me of that experience. Fuzz and Spatz return with another adventure that will leave you laughing, and perhaps reminiscent of a similar time in your life when you allowed your imagination to run away with you. This time, there's a mysterious creature lurking beneath the deck, and it's causing the questionable orange things their human pets keep setting out to disappear. What could it be? Better keep watch through the night just in case...

In my opinion, this story had a bit more depth to it than the first one. Fuzz and Spatz are hilarious as they try to solve the mystery of the "orange-thing-eating monster." You will also be introduced to a new character (in addition to the "monster"), Mrs. Squirrel, who you will see reappear later. I'm also hoping that we will see her babies when they get a little older as well.

The illustrations were just as wonderful in this second installment as the first, but we seem to see a little less of them on some pages. The format is more like an Early Reader rather than a picture book, which I think serves the story well. It took me a moment to decide which section I wanted to catalog it as when I added it to our library, but I decided on identifying it as an Early Reader. Nonetheless, this is another sweet and fun story from Fairhaven Forest!

Sugar Baby - Oh, the joys of learning responsibility. This time, Fuzz and Spatz are trying to fight their boredom by searching for new playmates. However, all of their neighbors have responsibilities calling their attention. As the two retreat to their favorite spot, they stumble upon a lost kitten. Instead of searching for its home, they clean it off and adopt it as their new baby sister. It's not all they had hoped for, as they discover that taking care of a kitten is a lot of responsibility. Eventually, the kitten's mother makes an entrance and we find their new baby sister is no sister at all, but a baby brother! And it already has a family. The girls aren't too upset about it, because now they can get back to napping without the interruption.

Very much like Monster, Sugar Baby is presented in the format of an Early Reader. I have also cataloged it as such, and it has circulated well there. There are some differences between this book and the previous one, and I almost like those changes more. There were a lot more borders added to the pages, and we came back to the white background behind the text like in the first book, but instead of having the scenery illustrated beneath, the entire page has its own template. The bordering then transitions to the image page. I think this is the most flawless of the three, however, I like the full illustrations in the first book the most.

I enjoyed the plot of Sugar Baby, and felt like it had the clearest message out of the three books. Responsibility is a very important issue to tackle, and this was a fun and creative way of approaching it. The twist at the end was also very well done, and it definitely shocked me! Robertson did a wonderful job of weaving her message in a way that both children and adults can learn something.

*   *   *

Fuzz and Spatz are two of the most adorable little kittens! In the back of each book, you will find discussion questions that will help tie in the lesson of the book. I always love discussion questions with books, because you never know when you need it for a storytime or book club. Also, don't miss the special code on the final page of each book to download the audio versions for free! It has been generously provided as a bonus to your experience.

The light-hearted innocence of these two curious kitties is one to be enjoyed for all ages.
About the Prizes
GRAND PRIZE: All 3 Fairhaven Forest books (1 Signed by Fuzz & Spatz) + a T-Shirt!
Second Prize: A Fairhaven Forest Crazy Scramble Puzzle
Third Prize: A Fairhaven Forest Activity & Coloring Book