28. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: How To's, Humor, Inspirational, Marsha, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags: ,

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, read by Marsha, on 05/27/2014

birdLamott gives us an inside peek at her writing processes and the advice she gives to her workshop students.  Hilariously written, as one reviewer notes, the book is “a warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps.”  Lamott is not shy about telling her students and readers that writing is hard work and what we think of as reward, publication, may not ever happen.  And yet, we should keep on writing about ourselves, our lives, our very ups and downs.  She encourages us all to just keep writing day by day.  A good dose of humor is thrown in to keep us from getting too despondent.  Lamott tackles libel, beginning writing, taking classes, and finding writing partners with a good dose of reality and fun in her text.  I highly recommend it for any creative person who needs a good laugh.

 

21. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, History, Informational Book, Marsha, NonFiction, Science · Tags: ,

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny, read by Marsha, on 05/19/2014

livesThis most excellent book is both sad and fascinating at the same time.  I could hardly put it down.  In fact, I have started writing stories about each of the people featured in the book, using fiction to fill in the gaps that nonfiction couldn’t find answers for.  The authors do a wonderful job of painting ten portraits of people who spent decades of their lives in a state hospital for the mentally ill.  Using the items found in their long abandoned suitcases along with interviews from a few staff members and medical records, the authors try to piece together the life of each person before and during their stay at Willard State Hospital in New York.  Along with the chapters on the individuals, the authors provide interesting factual information about what it took to admit someone to such a place, how they were treated during their stay, and what the diagnoses were at the time.  The book focuses on the early part of the 20th century, before deinstitutionalization became a way of doing business.  The ease with which an individual could be locked away for decades of his or her life is staggering.  I hope that by writing more about these individuals I can do some justice to their lives, which would have been forgotten had it not been for Penney and Stastny.

bibliocraftThis book is excellent for anyone who wants to learn more about the different types of libraries and how to use them.  Even if the reader is not a crafter, there is much information to be gleaned from this book about how to make the most out of library resources and how to find what you are looking for.  The author gives a lot of tips and websites for various types of collections that might interest crafters, as well as sites for digitized collections.  Tips are also given for what to expect when viewing rare books and what some of the policies may be for libraries who hold them.  The second half of the book has a lot of information about projects and how the creators for each project used their libraries as inspiration.  Inspiration can come from images from books or even from the architecture of the library itself.  While many of the projects are not to my personal taste, I did think the explanations for making something similar were clear enough.  The projects had information about the original images that inspired each piece so that the reader could see just how the designers’ minds worked.  Very interesting book.  Even if the reader doesn’t craft, the first half is a must read for any library patron.

 

showThis book, a follow-up to Steal Like an Artist, continues Kleon’s advice on creativity by encouraging artists everywhere to show their work.  This particular volume discusses the value of sharing work in online communities through blogs and other social media.  Not only does the artist make work public in this way, but he or she also shares with others a bit about process and how the work is made.  I found this book to be just as valuable a resource as the first and have already read it twice.  It is inspirational and will have artists everywhere wanting to get up and share what they do with others.  As Kleon notes, the world owes us nothing.  We have to give selflessly in order to get and this book will show the reader how.  I highly recommend Kleon’s work to artists of all kinds.  Create–share.  What a fun cycle to be in!

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Marsha, NonFiction

The Repurposed Library: 33 Craft Projects That Give Old Books New Life by Lisa Occhipinti, read by Marsha, on 04/30/2014

libraryThe projects in this book are fantastic!  This might be another one I order for my personal collection.  This book is all about altering books and making them into something new.  The projects include lamps, lampshades, ornaments, mobiles and wall hangings.  Like Playing With Books, which I reviewed earlier this month, the instructions are written clearly.  The one thing that has me on the fence about purchasing this particular book is that the accompanying images for the directions for each project are drawn diagrams rather than photos.  Still, the diagrams seem fairly clear.  I am looking forward to delving into the projects in this book.

 

studioThis book has some nice projects in it with different types of bindings.  However, it is not meant to be a book for beginners.  Some of the instructions assume the reader has made at least a couple of books before and therefore glosses over certain steps.  The instructions use photography rather than drawn diagrams, which is nice.  This would be a great book for someone who has already done a little bit of book binding before.  It might be something I add to my library at a later date.

 

blueprintA Blueprint for Your Castle in the Clouds is full of delightful ideas for escaping into one’s own imagination.  However, it also provides lots of useful tips for dealing with negative emotions you might come across.  Take the negative emotions into various rooms of the castle to deal with them.  That is the essential meat of the book.  There are rooms to express love, creativity, happiness and other positive emotions.  The reader is encouraged to have fun building these mental rooms and is given some great starter questions for building each room.  The author also encourages physical manifestations such as drawings of the rooms and conversations with different aspects of the reader’s personality.  Very enjoyable and lots of great ideas.

 

24. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Marsha, NonFiction

Playing With Books: The Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book by Jason Thompson, read by Marsha, on 04/24/2014

playingPlaying With Books is a book about altering other books.  This a terrific source of ideas for the reader who wants to take old books and make them into something new.  There are project ideas packed onto every page. The projects range from simple to more complex with an artists’ gallery for further inspiration if the projects aren’t enough.  Most of the projects use tools that the reader might already have at home or can easily find in craft and hardware stores.  The steps are explained fairly well, but the reader might need other books to explain some of the sewing or other skills used in making the projects.  The photography is wonderful and shows the projects at their best while demonstrating the techniques being taught in the written instructions.  There are even ideas for sources of free books the reader can use for the projects.  This was an exciting book to read and I have already put it on my wish list to add to my library at home.  I can’t wait to get started!

 

24. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Marsha, NonFiction

Making Books by Hand: A Step-By-Step Guide by Mary McCarthy and Phillip Manna, read by Marsha, on 04/23/2014

Making Books by hand takes the time to show the reader steps not often shown in other books, such as how to fold the corners of bookcloth on a cover.  This is a nice little reference book to keep nearby for that reason. The text contains instructions for several different types of books including accordion books, journals and scrapbooks, photo albums, and box books.  Some instructions are more detailed than others and some of the photos really need to have been taken closer up so that the reader can see the details of what the author is referring to.  But many of the instructions are well-written and the photography does not interfere with the reader getting a grasp on the content.  There is even a chapter titled, “New Directions: Trends and Traditions” that has a more uncommon accordion book and a scroll.  Included is also an artists’ gallery, which is sure to generate lots of new ideas.  While this is not necessarily a book I plan to add to my library, it is one that I will probably check out and peruse again once I start making my own books.

 

23. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Marsha, NonFiction

Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon, read by Marsha, on 04/23/2014

stealKleon has written a fantastic little book that may be a quick read, but should be read again and again as it is jam-packed with content.  The book lists 10 things the writer wishes he had known when he started creating and they are fairly universal no matter what the reader makes (and everyone should be making something).  Kleon is a writer and artist but this advice applies to anyone who has the least bit of a creative streak, which is EVERYONE.  Don’t miss out on this little gem because of it’s size.  There are many things the reader can learn from reading and re-reading Steal Like An Artist.  This book is now on my Kindle!

23. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, Marsha, NonFiction

Expressive Handmade Books by Alisa Golden, read by Marsha, on 04/21/2014

handmadeIf the reader is looking for a new way to express oneself, look no further!  Golden has written a wonderful guide that not only gives some bindings to consider, but also has many different forms of accordion folds to experiment with.  In addition, the author presents a preparation section for most projects that includes a prompt for doing a book similar to the one featured in the project.  The steps are easy to walk through and the diagrams are fairly clear.  The prompts give a detailed look at the author’s processes as she developed her idea.  Overall, this is a great book and one I am thinking of adding to my personal collection.

17. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, Informational Book, Marsha, NonFiction

Bookworks by Sue Dogget, read by Marsha, on 04/17/2014

bookworksBookworks is a text about bookbinding and gives a lot of information about different methods of putting books together.  To begin, I should mention this may not be the best book for a complete beginner.  Some of the diagrams are rather unclear as are the instructions.  The author seems to assume the reader has done some bookbinding prior to picking up her text.  This is not to say the book is all bad, however.  There is a marvelous section accordion folding that I have not seen in other texts of this nature.  It has a lot of different ideas for using the said folds for various applications.  Dogget also keeps the number of bindings she tries to teach to a minimum, thus not overwhelming the reader with all the different ways available to bind a book.  The areas I feel could be improved include embossing covers and cutting recesses.  These features were glossed over and I feel she could have spent more time with them.  There are lots of great ideas in here, including a method for making a clasp for a diary you won’t want to miss.  It is worth picking up Bookworks and giving it a look.

Spirit AnimalsThe Secret Power of Spirit Animals gives some information on not only learning which animal is the reader’s totem, but also what characteristics those with that totem possess.  Part I is about connecting with a spirit animal and exploring to find out which animal is the reader’s totem.  It also describes topics such as familiars and techniques for working with spirit animals.  In Part II, 200 spirit creatures are described more in depth.  The information given includes characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, how to use the creature’s power, and symbolic meanings of seeing that creature either in a dream or the real world.  Part II makes up the bulk of the book.  As a reader, I myself was hoping to see more information in Part I.  Though some history and mythology is touched on from around the world, it would be nice if the author had gone more in depth with the human-animal connection through time.  Regardless, this is a nice book for those of us who are just curious about the subject matter and want a taste of what spirit animals are all about.  Part II reads much like a dictionary and would be better used as a resource than as something read from beginning to end, but it is still interesting if the reader decides to dive in and read it from cover to cover.  There is a lot of information crammed into each entry and some of the entries made me want to research those animals more thoroughly.  A good book for basic information, but wish it included some resources for further discovery.

09. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Marsha, NonFiction

Real Life Journals by Gwen Diehm, read by Marsha, on 04/09/2014

JournalsThis is a great book for learning more about the craft of bookbinding.  There is a lot of terrific material in here for beginners with thorough instructions for each step, as well as lists of materials and where to find those materials.  Diehm even includes a couple of websites to check out in case the readers’ local craft stores do not carry bookbinding materials.  The book is a wonderful resource and has a pamphlet for creating your own “bookbinding adventure,” which allows the reader to answer a series of questions and, depending on the answer, flip through to the appropriate binding for the project the reader has in mind.  Diehm even walks the reader through this process using nine examples of real journal-keepers as they made decisions about what kind of book they wanted for their journal.  Diehm followed up with each reader to find out what they liked about their journal and what they would improve for next time. The final chapter of this book contains background information about journals, including famous journal-keepers such as da Vinci.  I highly recommend this text to anyone looking into creating their own journals.  I am even planning to add this volume to my own personal craft library.