All books but the phonebook are worth reading

“Awakening Your Creative Soul” by Sandra Duran Wilson

Awakening Your Creative Soul: A 52-Week Journey to Artistic Discovery Book Cover Awakening Your Creative Soul: A 52-Week Journey to Artistic Discovery
Sandra Duran Wilson
Arts, Crafts & Hobbies
North Light Books
October 17, 2018
paperback
624



"Awakening Your Creative Soul: A 52-Week Journey to Artistic Discovery" by Sandra Duran Wilson is partially an inspiration, partially step by step mixed media book. Sometimes it is hard for me to distinguish where you should follow your own concepts when even the paint colors are names in the details section, and when you should go on your own, exploring own creativity and values.

Beautifully illustrated with the author's example arts, the book is deeply personal and encourages travel down your soul while working on the visual art projects. In fact, one of the projects evolves around a piece of the music, and how you do respond to it. The book is also a very spiritual one, although drawing equally from Native American as from India or other Eastern cultures. Its organization, weekly chapters grouped by the seasons, reflect concepts of Easter philosophy itself.

What I did not appreciate at first, but later realized is a part of the mix media art, is how many different suppliers are required to finish any of the projects. Papers, glues, paints, and this is just a beginning. And after you came back from the visit to the local art supplies store, you can also incorporate a number of items found around the house to create three-dimensional construction. At the same time, I recall at least one sculpture project.

I would recommend "Awakening Your Creative Soul to people wanting to explore visual arts on the more intimate, spiritual level.

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate code.

Entrepreneur Voices on Emotional Intelligence

Entrepreneur Voices on Emotional Intelligence Book Cover Entrepreneur Voices on Emotional Intelligence
The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc.
Self-help, Productivity
Entrepreneur Press
October 30, 2018
paperback
254



"Entrepreneur Voices on Emotional Intelligence" turned out totally not what I expected. Being a middle manager in a corporation, emotional intelligence is something I want to learn.

However, as the series title implies, the book is more geared towards the entrepreneurs, owners of small businesses, which gives the book a slightly different focus. Sure, basic concepts remain the same... I ultimately decided to read the whole book.

"Entrepreneur Voices on Emotional Intelligence" is written as a series of short chapters, almost like a collection of blog posts, each written by a different author. They are easy to digest and full of bulleted lists for quick reference. My favorite chapter? The one on recognizing emotions, taking cues from body language. Also, using emotions to market yourself or your product was very interesting.

Even if you are not a sole proprietor of a small company, you are going to learn a thing or two - and if you are, you will be able to put instantly in practice the lessons on surviving difficulties with clients and employees.

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate code.

“Painted Botanical Collage” by Tracey English

Painted Botanical Collage: Transforming Mixed-Media Papers into Cut Paper Blooms Book Cover Painted Botanical Collage: Transforming Mixed-Media Papers into Cut Paper Blooms
Tracey English
Arts, Crafts & Hobbies
Quarry Books
October 16, 2018
paperback
96



"Painted Botanical Collage: Transforming Mixed-Media Papers into Cut Paper Blooms" by Tracey English is a small, colorful and fun to-do visual arts books. It encourages you to look at the plants around - and see how you can turn what you see into an evening project. Its sole purpose is to give you step by step instructions to build 33 collages representing single flower arrangements. The detailed tutorials are proceeded by a section on preparing the materials, most importantly the papers from which you then make the collage elements. While it feels a little bit like painting by the numbers at first, I appreciated the art when I actually tried to make one of the projects myself. And the projects shown in detail in the book are just a beginning, an inspiration to get out and find your own ideas to execute.

"Painted Botanical Collage" is beautifully illustrated, full of color and interesting shapes and forms. It is a really fun gift book for somebody who wants to do some simple, but rewarding art projects. Even if just wants to browse through.

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate code.

“Watcher in the Woods” by Kelley Armstrong

Watcher in the Woods Book Cover Watcher in the Woods
A Rockton Novel (Casey Duncan Novels Book 4)
Kelley Armstrong
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Minotaur Books
February 5, 2019
hardcover
368



Kelly Armstrong is a Canadian writer, known for her series of fantasy and paranormal books.
"Watcher in the woods" is, however, not one of those. The Rocton series, with "Watcher in the woods" being fourth in the series, is a more reality-based suspense novel. No werewolves here.

The story happens in a small village in the middle of Canadian nowhere. There is an eerie atmosphere in the book, with hostiles and overall feeling of isolation, albeit on purpose. The story shows a couple serving as a police force for the outlaws' community pulled me in. The appearance and murder of US Marshall reveal plenty of secrets hidden by the community members, even if each one of them had to undergo careful screening before being brought to Rockton. The main characters have to sort it all out, meantime dealing with other communal issues and personal lives.

"Watcher in the woods" is a page turner, although at times I was getting lost among all the characters used to build the story. I enjoyed the unexpected bursts of humor in characters dialogs, a big plus for me. I was happy I reached for the book, even of the author outside my usual reading list.

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate code.

“Conscious Creativity: Look. Connect. Create.” by Philippa Stanton

Conscious Creativity: Look. Connect. Create. Book Cover Conscious Creativity: Look. Connect. Create.
Philippa Stanton
Leaping Hare Press
December 4, 2018
paperback
160



In a very short time, I read ""Conscious Creativity: Look. Connect. Create." by Philippa Stanton and "Awakening Your Creative Soul: A 52-Week Journey to Artistic Discovery" by Sandra Duran Wilson. The two books, while on surface talk about the same thing, could not be any more different.

"Conscious Creativity" is far more general in terms of the target art you want to develop and practice. In fact, it does not talk about the act of artistic creation at all - it is what you do in your "other time". And while many exercises use photography to document (and the book is full of great photography), I would not necessarily limit the book audience just to photographers. The exercises are designed to make you look, see and make sense of the world around. There is no step by step instructions, just ideas, and assignments. There are simple observation tasks, doing, like collage or photography, or even hearing - making it applicable to all arts, is it music or writing or visual arts.

I myself started to incorporate the exercises into my daily life. For example, instead of picking up a phone the moment I have nothing to do, I select the first color I lay my eyes on and then scan my surroundings for other objects of the color. Surprisingly, if I go around a few more times, each time I discover more and more! Clearly, I have a long way to go to get my observation skills up to speed.

"Conscious Creativity" is beautifully illustrated book with color photographs and could serve as a coffee table book (if it was not published as the paperback). And some of the photos were clearly taken with an iPhone, showing you that you do not need any special tools to do the assignments in the book, just set out to follow the instruction.

"Conscious Creativity" is simply a great gift ideas for a creative (or aspiring to be a creative) person in your life.

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate code.

Bob Langrish’s World of Horses by Jane Holderness-Roddam

Bob Langrish’s World of Horses Book Cover Bob Langrish’s World of Horses
Jane Holderness-Roddam & Bob Langrish
Photography
Storey Publishing, LLC
02 Oct 2018
hardcover
208


Bob Langrish is a well known British equine photographer. His website mentions numerous books, one notable for me was the "Smithsonian Handbook: Horses" by Elwyn Hartley Edwards. So when I reached for "Bob Langrish’s World of Horses" by Jane Holderness-Roddam, I expected a coffee table book, double-page spreads, and variety of shots from tight close ups to sweeping environmental protraits.

The book met only some of those expectations. First, it is for sure not a coffee table book. It is also not purely a photography book. Coming as a result of long, 40 years lasting career as an equine photographer, "Bob Langrish’s World of Horses", the book is full of stories - of horses, travel to take pictures of those beautiful animals or anecdotes behind the photographs themselves. However, the words were not written by a photographer himself, they were relayed by another person. It is fairly unusual nowadays, for modern photographers, and takes away from the book experience for me.

The images are organized, interestingly, around environments in which the photograph was taken (chapters like rivers, forests or savannas). It shows wild and domesticated animals alike. There are also maps on each page showing the locations where the photographs were taken, and while they indeed seem to be encompassing the whole globe, the majority is taken in UK, USA, and France.

While the photographs are amazing, I was extremely disappointed by the size of them. The book is more like a family trip photo book, with many smaller pictures crammed on pages. Another huge disappointment, the pre-print digital version I received had not been color corrected. I am attaching a couple of example pages from the book, with a disclaimer - hope the final version has real colors!

I wish the "Bob Langrish’s World of Horses" was designed to do the justice to the photographs it presents. But perhaps the images are enough for true horse lovers.

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate code.


Click on any example book spread to see a larger version.

“Your Year in Art” by Chelsea Ward

Your Year in Art: A project for every week of the year to overcome blank-page anxiety and inspire creative exploration Book Cover Your Year in Art: A project for every week of the year to overcome blank-page anxiety and inspire creative exploration
Chelsea Ward
Arts, Crafts & Hobbies
Walter Foster Publishing
November 27, 2018
paperback
112 pages


"Your Year in Art: A project for every week of the year to overcome blank-page anxiety and inspire creative exploration" by Chelsea Ward has a broad title, but really is focused just on drawing techniques. Which is not at all a bad thing! The book has a very short list of art supplies, making it easily accessible for everybody to get started.

While "Your Year in Art was primarily designed as inspiration, providing weekly prompts and ideas, you do not need to be an expert in drawing to get going. In fact, it starts really easy, with decorating words or coloring your own doodles. There are weeks devoted to getting used to drawing techniques- simplifying shapes, mixing, colors, mark making or contour drawing. Later things get more interesting, with projects like recipe illustrating and various lists. Assignments also get far more challenging later in the year, with exercises like drawing hands. There are intimidating assignments that make you draw outside your house, in public spaces or fun, like making a map - it really is a mixture of easy and challenging from week to week. To purpose- to keep you drawing, systematically and for simple pleasure.

"Your Year in Art has a very modern design and informal feel. Pages are consistently organized, with the week project idea description, assignment, and additional challenge "Try this".

I really enjoyed reading "Your Year in Art, and I plan to go back to the 52 projects often. Perhaps even finish most if not all of them, eventually. So let me go and but my watercolor pen brushes now...

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate code.

Life Admin: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More by Elizabeth F. Emens

Life Admin: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More Book Cover Life Admin: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More
Elizabeth F. Emens
Productivity
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
January 1, 2019
hardcover
304


I reached for "Life Admin: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More" by Elizabeth F. Emens not really knowing what to expect. After all, each one of us has some subconscious idea what admin is, but it can be sometimes difficult to define. For me, it is running errands, paying bills, getting things done. Crossing off items from the to-do list. Busy work, really, when you get to the bottom of it. That's essentially what the book is about - figuring out how to manage your life admin in more efficient way.

In the beginning, I was not even sure I will be able to get through the book. It starts almost like a dissertation in sociology. I was close to giving up, bored and irritated by all the thoughts on ‘gender roles’ and stuff like that. Luckily, if you last long enough, practical advice, tips, and real people stories will follow. The pages are filled with great advice about the division of work within the household, brilliant ideas like creating and participating in admin support or sharing groups, and even more obvious suggestions as to which shared apps to consider. Discussions on when you need (or not need) to use of personal assistants, cleaning help and babysitters can also be found.

One of my favorite chapters was an in-depth analysis of how different people approach their life admin. All people, according to the author, can be divided into four groups, each one handling their admin differently. It was really interesting to read what types of strategies each group employs to deal with their life admin, and you can actually learn a lot to help you just by studying other types of personalities.

The last chapter is a bit out there. It is "imagine life" type of list. It does its job of making you think and dream of what could be done differently in the world to make life admin less of a burden. It's a combination of imagined and real-life stories about how the outside forces (government, companies etc.) could operate in a way that would simplify the admin they imposing on people.

I would suggest "Life Admin" to anybody struggling to keep up with their life admin, is it for a first time in your life having to handle it alone, or just hoping to keep on top of all the things you need to take care, once and for all.

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate code.

Nature Art Workshop: Tips, techniques, and step-by-step projects for creating nature-inspired art

Nature Art Workshop: Tips, techniques, and step-by-step projects for creating nature-inspired art Book Cover Nature Art Workshop: Tips, techniques, and step-by-step projects for creating nature-inspired art
by Katie Brooks, Sarah Lorraine Edwards, Allison Hetzell, Mikko Sumulong
Arts, Crafts & Hobbies
Walter Foster Publishing
September 18, 2018
paperback
128

I spend a lot of time outdoors - it is my favorite way of relaxing. I simply go for a walk, perhaps take my camera and do some photography on my way. When I picked up "Nature Art Workshop", I got excited about a possibility of finding another creative outlet relating to my time outdoors, allowing me to preserve some of my experiences for the days when the weather or other activities keep me indoors.

The projects in "Nature Art Workshop" are of great variety. They are either based on collected items: stones, feathers, petals etc. or are only nature-inspired. Or are a combination of both. They vary in their difficulty. Some consist of simply arranging objects like shells or flowers, on the surface to create a display or a unique centerpiece. More elaborate involve painting on small surfaces like shells or wood slices. Although the step-by-step instruction allows following almost as paint-by-the-numbers.

Although wood carving is a more elaborate technique and not broadly known, the related projects take the disproportional amount of space in the book. The technique, tools, and other materials are described in detail. It caused a few of other projects not make it into the final book- but no worries, they can be downloaded separately, for free, on the book website.

The one thing I found missing from the book was some kind of Resources section. I could use a list of numerous art supplies used in proposed projects, like brushes, palettes, paint (what kind of paint? is there only one kind?). For beginners, who do not have the most basic art supplies at home, going to the art store can be a daunting and discouraging task. Another thing I found useful in similar books was a template section, allowing the more involved shapes to be copied, preferably at the correct scale. After all, not everybody can sketch even such a simple thing as a bunch of herbs.

While I can not wait for spring flowers to try some of the easy projects in "Nature Art Workshop", I am excited that I was reminded of simple roses made of colorful fallen leaves. I suppose many people are familiar with this one from their Social Media streams. I still cannot wait to do it again this year, following the steps in the book. Perhaps I will do another project with remaining leaves?

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate code.

New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living

New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living Book Cover New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living
Cary Telander Fortin & Kyle Louise Quilici
Sasquatch Books
January 2, 2018
hardcover
208

I reached for "New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living" looking more for how to do decor in newly rearranged living room than decluttering. I had read at least 5 decluttering books in the last few months, and I did not think there is any more to say on the subject. And perhaps the authors did not intend to say more, but they succeed in doing it their own way. Sure, almost any book on the subject will encourage you to figure out your "why", why do you want to start living minimally and declutter your house. In "New Minimalism", however, you will also find the generalistic, but nevertheless useful analysis of four types, or archetypes of how we interact with our belongings - and how to address each one when it comes up.

Another way the authors manage to put their own spin on decluttering craze are their environmental concerns and tips to do things in the Earth-friendly way. Some of the things I never thought about was, for example, to donate your items, thus allowing others to use them rather than end on landfill, but then pack your donations in paper bags that can be recycled.

On that note, however, the authors go a bit too far in their criticism of the cleaning supplies as "toxic chemicals". I am sure there are compounds not good for us in some of the cleaners, but just because acetic acid is called vinegar and you use lemon as a source of citric acid does not mean you avoided chemistry altogether. And while many chemicals are indeed toxic, there are also so-called natural sources of toxins. Cyanide with your almonds, anybody?

While I was disappointed the authors did not spend all that much time talking about the decor overall, the few tips they provided were quite useful. Enough to distinguish it from all other decluttering books out there, starting from the Marie Kondo "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" to "Unf*ck Your Habitat" by Rachel Hoffman. And if you never read any of those, "New Minimalism" is definitely a good start.

I have received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review from NetGalley. The links in this post contain affiliate codes.