vampyreThis tremendous volume tells the full stories surrounding the night Lord Byron challenged his companions to write ghost stories during a foggy, stormy night in Geneva, Switzerland.  That now famous night led to the creation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and The Vampyre by John Polidori.  Reading much like a good novel, the book dives right in, explaining why Byron was exiling himself to Switzerland, how he came to hire Polidori as his physician, as well as why Claire Claremont, Mary Godwin (Shelley), and Percy Shelley were also travelling that way.  The book also details the aftermath of that night, ending with an epilogue that explains each of their deaths.  It is a long and very twisted story, the facts of which seem hard to believe at times.  However, the author has faithfully documented each of his facts, once again proving that the truth is stranger than fiction.  It is nice to see a nonfiction book turn out to be such a page turner.  It was difficult to put down.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Romantic period, poetry, or Gothic fiction.

01. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Inspirational, Marsha, NonFiction

Mixed Media Self-Portraits: Inspiration and Techniques by Cate Coulacos Prato, read by Marsha, on 09/30/2014

self-portraitsThis is a wonderful book for anyone who works in mixed-media.  The idea of doing a self-portrait may make many people put the book down before they even crack it.  This book is something you should at least flip through as it gives you clues of what to look for when trying to define yourself and how you are unique.  This is useful study for any type of portraiture as it makes the artist pay attention to things like eye placement and lip shape in comparison to other portraits.  The portrait does not have to be an exact image of the artist.  It can also be a representation or it can be a portrait of the person the artist wants to be.  The main thing for artists to keep in mind when creating a portrait of the self is to be introspective.  The book walks the artist through the importance of a self-portrait, knowing yourself, and revealing yourself.  A lot of the things talked about in the book are good for artists regardless of the medium they choose.  I highly recommend this book to anyone more curious about discovering what makes them unique.

25. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Marsha, NonFiction

Artist's Journal Workshop: creating your life in words and pictures by Cathy Johnson, read by Marsha, on 09/24/2014

downloadThis is a nice book for anyone wanting to get started in creating an artist’s journal.  While a bit different from art journaling, there are still some fundamentals here that could be used for that craft.  This book focuses more on the types of journals an artist can create, such as travel.  The book discusses multiple media; however, many pages shown only combine a couple such as ink and watercolor.  If you are wanting to complete multimedia pages, this is probably not the book for you.  However, if you want to create pages that document your daily life or certain parts of it, in an artistic way with illustrations, Cathy Johnson provides a great starting point.  This book asks questions such as, “What do you want from an artist’s journal?” to help the reader get started in finding the type of journal that is right for him/her.  There are also chapters on test driving different media and the journaling lifestyle, just to name a couple.  Great book to start with!

journalThis is a wonderful book for anyone wanting to dive into the world of mixed-media art journaling.  There are lots of techniques to try out, particularly with watercolors.  If watercolors are a medium you wish to learn more about, this is the book for you.  The instructions are clear without being overbearing.  They still allow for a lot of experimentation on the part of the reader.  The author tells you which tools you will need for each exercise, specifying which are optional.  She also discusses some brand names to try out.  I found this book to be very useful, especially when combined with other books and magazines on mixed-media art.  There are also prompts at the end of the book for continued thought and fun with art journaling.  The author encourages the reader to make a mess and try things out for fun.  While the book gives some of the basics, there is still room for the artistic reader to soar.

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Informational Book, Marsha, NonFiction

Evolution of a Missouri Asylum: Fulton State Hospital, 1851-2006 by Richard L. Lael, read by Marsha, on 08/27/2014

downloadThis text provides a lot of basic information about the formation of the asylum in Fulton as well as present day status and everything in between.  Very informative if the reader is interested in some of the politics surrounding the state hospital throughout history.  Lael gives a lot of factual information, including patient statistics.  However, I feel that the book is lacking in one very important aspect: the lives of the patients who lived/live there.  In order to give an accurate history, this reviewer feels that conditions within the asylum should have been included, not just what was happening on the outside.  Though the author makes note of three patients who lived there, this is a very small and seemingly insignificant portion of the book.  An interesting read, but not what this reviewer was looking for.  So many of the treatments used were just glossed over or barely mentioned.  This is, then, truly only a PARTIAL history of this facility.

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Marsha, Memoirs, NonFiction, True Crime · Tags: ,

Last Day On Earth: a portrait of the NIU school shooter by David Vann, read by Marsha, on 08/21/2014

Hard to read, but absolutely fascinating, this book not only tells the story of a school shooter, but also is written by someone who considered it before his life got turned around.  The parallels between Vann and Kazmierczak’s early lives are staggering.  The line between mass murder and living a normal life is surprisingly easy to cross, a point brought up by the author.  Anyone interested in true crime, psychology, sociology and related fields will find this book difficult to put down.  It brings a very human element to a seemingly otherworldly type of crime.  Very informative.

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Marsha, NonFiction · Tags:

Dreamscapes: creating magical angel, fairy, and mermaid worlds in watercolor by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, read by Marsha, on 08/19/2014

download (1)This is a fantastic book for the beginning fantasy watercolorist with information on faces, hands, feet, and everything in between.  It also has beginning watercolor instruction for those not well-versed in it already.  I absolutely loved this book and plan to add it to my personal collection soon.  It was exactly what I was looking for!

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Marsha, NonFiction · Tags:

Fantasy Art for Beginners: create fantasy beings step-by-step by Jon Hodgson, read by Marsha, on 08/12/2014

indexThis is a great book especially for those wanting to begin with oils, acrylics, or digital media.  Watercolorists would have to adapt the shades of the washes from lightest to darkest.  Hodgson lays it all out step-by-step as the title implies, instructing the artist on drawing out and painting fantasy characters and backgrounds.  He walks the artist through six different paintings, all using various methods, creatures, and poses.  A good reference to keep on hand as well.  Just wished it was geared a little more for watercolor too.

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, Marsha, NonFiction · Tags: ,

10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters by Vicki Stiefel and Lisz Souza, read by Marsha, on 08/03/2014

downloadA fun read for knitters everywhere.  While the secrets are not necessarily new revelations to those of us knitting for awhile, the book brings humor and good-hearted advice to the craft.  Some of the patterns are truly delightful and I can’t wait to knit them up.  I ended up adding this book to my personal collection because I just enjoyed it that much.  Sit back with a cuppa and read Stiefel and Souza.  You won’t regret it.

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, Marsha, NonFiction · Tags:

Joy of Scrapbooking by Lisa Bearnson and Gayle Humpherys, read by Marsha, on 08/02/2014

This is nice for beginning scrapbookers as it gives a list of essential tools one needs to begin this craft.  It is also good for intermediate scrappers because the book contains a refresher course on some of the techniques for scrapping as well as pages and pages of inspiration.  This is the updated and expanded edition that came out a decade after the original and it has so much more as well as updated pages for inspiration since tools and techniques have changed somewhat.  A great reference for anyone to have on hand!

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!