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Review of The Acrylic Painter: Tools and Techniques for the Most Versatile Medium


theacrylicpainter

 

James Van Patten, a local to Seattle, Washington, graduated from the University of Washington in 1965 with a BA in art education. When I first picked up Patten’s book ‘the Acrylic Painter’ I didn’t know I’d be learning from such an amazing teacher, as well as one who once lived only a couple hours from myself. It’s no wonder Patten eventually became inspired by water and wetlands, as there is an abundance of that here in Oregon/Washington! Of course, I didn’t find out I was learning from a local until the end of his book. The reason I chose Patten’s book is all in the name, “the Acrylic Painter: Tools and techniques for the most versatile medium”. Acrylic paint was the first paint I ever touched, mostly due to it being the most commonly used paint for beginning painters. Unfortunately, without doing the research yourself, you won’t realize just how complex this paint can be. Looking back now, I don’t see how I could have gone any further into my career as an artist without this book.

 
I first thought of acrylics as the easy option for artists. I mean, you look at the price alone and you’re going to get more bang for your buck with acrylics. So that is where I started, before I began to learn the many frustrations that comes with working with acrylics. As a self-taught artist, I didn’t have the schooling and teachers to grow me in the art of working with acrylics. No one was there tell me that acrylics dry so fast, or that you shouldn’t pour more then you need to work with at that time, or that there are additives you can mix into it to slow the drying process. Books soon became my teachers, and believe me, I’ve read a lot. Up until Patten’s book, almost every book I picked up felt like a really boring art class. Reading through these books just wasn’t an option as much as I tried. Patten’s book was one of two books on acrylic’s that I fell in love with from the moment I turned the first page. For an entire summer it became my life source. His book answered so many questions about acrylics that I’ve had over the years, and taught me so many tricks of the trade that have opened new doors for me as a painter.

 
What I loved first about his book was how Patten doesn’t just speak about acrylic paints generically. As an artist, the first question that runs through my mind when I meet another artist is, “What brand of paint do you use?”. I get kinda nosy and want to learn which brand, body, and consistency they prefer. Patten touches on this subject from the get go. I was soon pleasantly surprised to find my paints of choice are right up there with Patten’s. Through his teachings I have become so much more familiar and comfortable working with my paints. I no longer look at paint additives like their foreign objects, or look at the more expensive brands of paint like they’re too far out of my league. Learning to use your paint right makes a difference in whether or not you will become a successful artist in both product and profit. (Better product and less waste.) With the proper palette and formula, my paint has come to last so much longer.

 
My second biggest curiosity when I meet an artist is their brushes. A brush to an artist is like an extension of their own hand. As a beginner, your standing in the paint isle at Michael’s and you’re staring at the brushes thinking, “What does it all mean!?!” The fibers, the shapes, the angles, and the brands! Even to this day, I mostly make my decision using my own imagination and observation. I basically run the brush across my hand and watch the movement of the fibers and say, “Yup! Looks about right…” Patten dedicates an entire chapter to palettes and brushes, and it’s just beautiful! The same benefit that comes from choosing a proper brand of paint comes when choosing a proper brush. Better product and a longer lifespan. You aren’t replacing brushes every couple weeks, or finding fibers glued to your canvas. You’re getting finer, straighter lines, and less unwanted lines.

 

Just the same, I could go on and on about each chapter following, but I think you get the gist. From painting surfaces, to learning what gesso really is and what it’s used for, to color theory and finding out that the color wheel doesn’t just consist of primary and secondary colors, and finally the proper way to finish and present your art, he literally touches on everything. James Van Patten makes the world of acrylics so much bigger, especially for a small artist like myself. I honestly can’t thank him enough for what this book did for me this summer. I have a lot more confidence in my knowledge and the choices I make as an artist, and it’s already showing in my work. I’ve ventured out to Michael’s (to my husbands dismay, ha!) and have slowly started adding products to my studio. I would honestly suggest this book to any artist, even if it’s just for the purpose of a great reference book. James Patten’s advice and experience alone makes it worth the read.

 

-I received this book for free through blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.

Review of “Pop Painting” by Camilla d’Errico


Pop Painting-Inspiration and Techniques from the Pop Surrealism Art Phenomenon
PopPainting
       Camilla d’Errico is a Pop Surrealist Artist who, in her book Pop Painting, has opened the door to her studio, and her mind, and given us all an up close look at the makings of her beautiful paintings. When you pick up this book, you aren’t just getting a step by step guide to painting, you are getting a personal one on one look at the process and techniques used by a wonderfully talented artist, Camilla d’Errico. You are getting a look at her studio environments, what inspires her, what started her with painting, her journey into the Pop Surrealism Art world, and how through it all she stayed true to herself as an artist.
         An artist myself, this book was so much more then I could have imagined it would be. It was as if Camilla herself was a close personal friend or mentor, her book is so laid back, and funny, as we as inspiring and encouraging. I’ve bought, borrowed, and checked out so many art books in my lifetime, looking for the one that would help me better myself as an artist. All had tips and tricks, the typical walk through/study guide, and how to’s. It’s easy to read a book that tells you how to paint with acrylics, but it’s not the same as actually seeing it done. Camilla gets down deep and personal, and delivers a complete step by step of her paintings.
        When I chose to review Camilla’s book, I hadn’t really spent the time to look into it, and upon receiving it I instantly became a huge fan of her work. I grew up a manga fan, and actually spent much of my childhood drawing manga, so there was no question I loved Camilla’s style. Within the first couple chapters you get to know Camilla more. Being an artist myself made it so easy to connect with her personality, and I literally found myself laughing and agreeing with every silly habit and artistic quirk she has. Again, it was like hanging with a good friend, she made reading her book so easy and so much fun.
      Camilla introduces you to Pop Surrealism, which was a first for me, as I knew art had it’s classifications, but I had never really read far into what art classified as what. Next you get to know Camilla a little more, and what it is to be an artist. Part of what I loved about her book, was amidst introducing herself, she manages to turn the focus on you, yourself, the reader. Next she starts walking you through inspiration, choosing color, creating titles for your work, and little tips and tricks to being a better artist.
       Her book is set up in two parts, Part 1, Chapter three is where she introduces you to the tools of the trade, her materials, or weapons of choice, when creating her masterpieces. Whenever I walk through a studios, fairs, or any place where I can get a up-close look at another artists work, the first thing that goes through my mind is; what brand of paint do they use? What brushes are their favorites? What surface is their canvas of choice? Do they free sketch their work first, or just put brush to canvas and hope for the best? Do they use water or a mixing medium? Literally, a million questions go through my mind. When I got to chapter three, my face was glued to her book like it was my bible. I was taking in every bit of detail I possibly could.
      When I got to the photos of her work station, or studio, I was all smiles. I love getting to see the work place of other artists. My dream is to one day have a real studio of my own, one I don’t have to clean off my living room or kitchen table when we have guests over, ha ha. Next, and I know this might sound silly, but I love studying another artists paint pallet. They way they arrange their pallet and mix their colors speaks to me in a sense. Art is just a beautiful process, and getting to read/see another artists process is just beautiful.
Camilla pretty much answered every question I would ask, all in a few chapters. She graciously opened up her studio to those silly, curious young artists like myself to admire. She covers everything from painting surfaces, to setting up and organizing your studio, to choosing the right place and/or lighting for your studio. Chapter five covers sketching, from sketching your inspirations into a book to getting it onto canvas. From there, chapter by chapter, Camilla walks you through building your work of art. Using her own paintings as a guide, she covers things such as, Composition, Blending, Light and Shadows, Depth, and So much more!
      Part 2 starts with Top Ten Questions people ask her, followed by Tips and Tricks, and then goes into Step-by-step examples. Now, I loved this part, of course. It really is the next best thing to watching an artist paint on You Tube. She goes through the entire process of painting her girls. She starts with their eyes, then the lips, their hair, and their skin, which, if you’ve ever tried it, is not as easy as it looks. Next she walks you through painting some of the animals you can find in her work, some special effects she uses, and some of her black and white work. Her book then finishes with her journey from Passion to Profession. She touches on how she learned to love painting, how she found a home in Pop Surrealism, and how she dealt with becoming a professional artist (as well as dealing with rejection).
      Camilla’s book now sits on my studio table at all times. It is definitely one of my favorite reads as of late. Most might think of artists as a special breed of human who can just put a brush to canvas and like the fairy stepmother’s wand just Bibbidi-Bobbidy-Boo, create a masterpiece. But it truly is hard work that takes loads of time and dedication. Painting is my passion, but some days I will find myself grumbling and pouting as I drag my feet, coffee in hand, and make myself sit down and work a piece. I have been up into the wee hours of the night, eyes held open by toothpicks, and my hand  barely able to hold a brush without cramping up.
     Then comes the nerves of delivering a piece you just spent hours upon hours pouring yourself into. Your heart is pounding, your palms are sweating, and part of you, a very delicate part of you, could break into tears any second as you wait to see what people will think of your work. Art is an emotional mess from beginning to end, a rollercoaster that takes you through inspiration, excitement, and ambition, to artist block, then frustration, want to throw your canvas out into the rain, or punch a hole through it, to I love it, it’s mine, it’s my baby, I could just stare at it for hours, followed by heartbreak, letting go, hoping, praying, trusting that those who adopt your work will love it, treasure it, and put as much care into it as you have. It’s a crazy ride, but we love it!
Thank you Camilla, for opening your heart, mind, and studio to an artist like myself, who has barely got her foot at the door, just waiting for an opportunity to open up so I might make a home in the art world for myself. You are an inspiration, and I am elated to have gotten the opportunity to review your book.
-I received this book for free through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Your best Destiny by Wintley Phipps


Your Best Destiny

Your Best Destiny by Wintley Phipps

Your Best Destiny, by Wintley Phipps, is a book on helping you become the person you were created to be. Based on the description on the back cover, this book is designed to help you find what you may feel you are missing in life. In this book, Phipps is to take you on a journey through eight secrets that are to help reveal your unique character and lead you into the most amazing life you could experience. Why did I pick up this book? I guess you could say, when I first set my eyes on this book it spoke to me. For a long time I felt I was lacking something in my life, a guidance of sorts. I felt a little lost, and I hoped this book could help me discover my true calling in life.

 

In the introduction, Phipps talks about how true greatness has nothing to do with wealth, power, position, or fame, and that greatness is not through what we do, but who we are. Something I have said my whole life, but struggle daily to believe. Phipps goes on to ‘Discovering Your Best Destiny’, where, in his first chapter, he discusses the big questions. Is this all there is?, Is this truly all you were destined to do?, Were you made for something more?, Does God have a bigger plan for you?, Is your picture for your life what God wants? All questions I’m sure we’ve all asked at point or another.

 

Phipps books strives to define the true meaning behind not only success, but how to achieve it by perfecting ourselves. He does so by focusing on what he calls our ‘Ethos’. He defines our Ethos as our personality, character, emotions, guiding beliefs, habits, ideals, attitudes fundamental values, and lifestyle. Our Ethos, he says, is our soul fingerprint, and what ultimately shapes our destiny. He helps us fine tune our Ethos through his next eight chapters; Belief, Virtue, Self-Control, Perserverance, Sacredness, Kindness, and Love. In closing, he walks you through the ‘Prescription for Transformation’, and finally ‘Your Supreme Destiny’. Following the end of this book is said to be an online Your Best Destiny Personal Assessment Tool (Which I had not been able to access at the time). If you don’t have the time for the personal assessment, at the end of each chapter he does provide questions to help you apply his teachings to your own life.

 

My first impression upon starting this book was that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be. I had a vision on the impact this book would have on me personally, and in the end found myself looking for a bigger connection with it then I had. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, or that I didn’t take anything from it, but that I just didn’t follow along with his teachings like I would have liked to. Phipp’s definitely touched on good topics, made good points, and gave great advice. I was very encouraged by Phipps’s words, but I don’t feel I walked away with much more then that. There were a few things that may have come into play. Some of his chapters seemed a little jumpy, going from one topic to another quickly. There was less then a page per topic, which made it hard to pull yourself into what he is saying when you were having to change your focus so quickly. I think i’m just drawn to more deeper studies, and this book may have just been too light of a read for me.

 

I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in reading this book, to take your time to really absorb each chapter, answer each question to the fullest, and really dig deep into each of Phipp’s chapters, and how you can apply his teachings to your own life. I do feel there is a lot to be learned from this book, and it will speak to many of it’s readers, and touch many lives. There is a reason I picked up this book and I want to do right by it. For that reason I will be rereading it, and hopefully by taking more time I will find what I was seeking for when I first picked it up.

 

-I received this book for free through Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and reflect only my personal feelings.

A review of- Doodletopia Cartoons by Christopher Hart


 

DoodletopiaCartoons

Review of Doodletopia Cartoons, by Christopher Hart

When I came across Doodletopia I knew I would get this book, but not just for myself, but for the purpose of drawing more with my kids. Since my kids could first pick up a pencil, they have desired to draw and paint just like mom. I do what I can to encourage them, but often find it hard to create the time to sit and draw with them. I was so excited to review this book, for I recalled my younger artistic self always with a pencil and paper in hand, ready to draw, but not always knowing what to draw. Sometimes I would skip out on drawing all together, for lack of ideas. What I lack in my ability to draw as well as I paint, I blame on my lack of practice when I was younger. I now know, you don’t always need a purpose or reason to draw, you just need to do it. Any form of drawing will better your skill. This book will will be a fun way to get my hands and brain moving when I’m having one of my blank spells, or just need something to doodle.

 
Christopher Hart has many, many books on drawing, from books on Doodling, to books on the Human Figure, all ranging in skill from beginner to expert. When I got the opportunity to review this book, I jumped on it, with pure curiosity, to see how one can create a book purely on doodles. Christopher Hart starts his book with the basic guidelines to drawing a cartoon face. The center line and eye line are the most common way to start the layout of a face. He then moves on to warm ups, building easy character out of basic shapes. His step-by-step examples make it easy to learn the basic form used for drawing cartoon characters and people. The last step he leaves you to draw your own character or person following his example. This page also comes with a witty tip to enhance your drawing skills. I must say, one of the things I liked about this book was the casual yet humorous narration given by Christopher Hart. He practically gives each of his characters a life and personality of their own. Some of his phrases, I feel, are more directed at teens or young adults, so I wouldn’t consider this book for young kids outside of the drawing aspect.

 
The chapters following this each give you practice in drawing, from copying the other half of a character or scene, to drawing different expressions, a section where you can choose and design a different animal from the same outline, or play dress up by drawing the clothes on characters already drawn out for you, and even a calligraphy portion, which we can all admit was probably the most common form of doodling during your school years. Who hasn’t written in bubble letters before? My son’s favorite section of this book, of course, was the “Draw your own Inventions” chapter. My son aspires to be an inventor of sorts, and he already spends his days drawing up inventions. In this section, Christopher gives you a part of an invention, and leaves you to come up with the rest. I feel it will be a great way to inspire my son to draw more, and help encourage his creativity. Altogether, I’d say Christopher Hart did a good job creating a book that will inspire creativity in people of many ages.

 

 

-I Received this book for free through Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions given are strictly my own.

Learning To See Creatively -review


Find it on Amazon

 

Review of Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson

LEARNING TO SEE CREATIVELY (Third Edition)- Design, Color, and Composition in Photography, by Bryan Peterson, was first published in 1988. His newly revised edition was the first of Bryan Peterson’s books I’ve read. Being an amateur photographer, and an artist, I found his book to be a breath of fresh air compared to the many other photography books I’ve come across. With me not being a pro in any way, his simplistic layout, and his step-by-step explanations that walked me through his book made it not only easy to comprehend, but gave me a personal look into the mind of what I can tell, from my own opinion as well as other reviewers, is a great photographer and teacher. Not everyone can afford a one on one photography class with such a teacher, but most anyone looking to learn, or become better at, photography can afford a great lesson in just under 20 dollars.

I personally took an interest in this book for it’s title, although for me, it would read “Learning to see MORE creatively”. I’ve always had the eye, but not always the skill, and this book brings those two things together beautifully. Bryan Peterson answers all the questions a self-taught photographer like myself would have. He first breaks you into the book by focusing on, what else, but, “What Do We See?”. This first chapter is a perfect example of what the rest of the book looks like. You open up the chapter to see an array of images, the same image, just different perspectives. Each image is of a different view, depth, or lens. What Bryan does, is he shows you the different options a photographer might have in taking a photo, and then shows you ways you might make it better. He does this using his own point of view, explaining how he might go about taking such photo, and does this with a walk through of what he uses as far as camera, lens, shutter speed, exposure, and so on. It’s like being in the mind of a master.

Following through the first chapter, Bryan takes you on a walk through different lens, each lens he provides you with a photographic example, and another step-by-step walk through. Next chapter, he introduces you to the more creative side of things, the “Elements of Design”. Here, he covers Line, Shape, Form, Texture, Pattern, and Color. This is where the artist in me exploded with excitement. For so long I had thought photography was supposed to be about subjects, particularly people or animals. My eye, on the other hand, was always drawn to the more abstract side of life. It’s where my most favored photos came from. The book really opened my mind to see, just like with art, there is no limit with photography. There is just finding a way to build on the gift you’ve been given, in a way that all the world can see it and enjoy it.

Chapter by chapter Bryan goes on to explain the basics in photography, such as composition, contrast, light, editing, and Photoshop. Each and every chapter of his he provides an exercise, a chance for you to pull out your camera, and put your own skill to work, as well as to help you learn what your own vision and color composition is. Bryan does a wonderful job reaching out to you, the student, and helping you build your skill. Even the more skilled photographer has a chance to open their eyes a little more and learn a thing or two. It’s a great refresher book all around, and one I was very pleased to review.

-I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and views are my own.

Flash, The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second Chances- Author Rachel Anne Ridge


My review of Flash-

Flash

So I have a handful of books to choose from to review and I’m instantly drawn to this book with the cover of an adorable donkey holding a daisy. Part of me sat there and thought, “hmmm, could I really read an entire book about a donkey??” And so I go on to read the back cover, “Meet Flash: a quirky, unconventional hero with gigantic ears, a deafening bray, a personality as big as Texas, and a story you’ll never forget. It’s the heartwarming true tale of an irrepressible donkey who needed a home – and forever changed a family.” And so, being a foster mom of my own rescues, this book had already pulled at my heartstrings. Then being about an adorable donkey, of whom I’d take into my own home in a heartbeat, I answered my question, “Yes, I could totally read an entire book about a donkey!”

From the first chapter in, Rachel Anne Ridge, and her wonderful gift of storytelling, had me hooked to her story of this poor donkey who came wandering onto their property in the dead of night, and had both her and her husband (though really just her husband) doing anything and everything to get this stubborn animal up their driveway and into the safety of their pasture, where it would stay ‘ONLY’ until they could find it’s owner. Little did Rachel and her husband know, this donkey would make that pasture his home, and from that point on he would then carry them through one hardship after another.

Day by day, week by week, Rachel and her husband are doing everything to keep their family business afloat, as well as their home and kids. Morning after morning, Rachel looks out over the pasture and their mystery guest, who has by now become a beloved member of the family, and she ponders life. As she does this, she starts to realize there is more to this donkey then just some plain, grey, lazy animal, with little purpose in life but to cause problems, and pave dirt paths through their pasture. She starts to see the animal God created, who may have been plain and grey, but who was also a blessing in disguise. From the moment she decided to give Flash his name, and claim Flash as her own, she found God slowly speaking to her through him.

“…somehow, He was using a donkey to lead me to a simple truth.”
We are all going through things of our own in life, and often life tends to look plain and grey. We find ourselves desperately trying to “Live the Dream!” or reaching for that next “Exciting Chapter in Life!” but life is never that easy, and not always that colorful. So we sit back and think, “what am I doing wrong?” or “what is wrong with me?” or “what can I change about my life”. We allow the enemy to feed us lies, and we allow life to beat us down, and we become so blinded by life’s’ expectations that sometimes we even beat our own selves down. In doing so we overlook the small blessings in life, because we are so busy trying to fix the “donkey problems” as Rachel puts it.

In her book she says, “I wondered about all the “donkey problems” I faced in life. The times I thought, “If I can just figure out what I’m good at, or, If I could just change this relationship, or, If I could make a whole gob of money.” Then she goes on to say, ” I realized how often I made the mistake of thinking that ‘fixing’ things was what the journey was all about.” And Flash teaches you a great lesson about that, and many other things. You’ll just have to read it for yourselves! 😉

This book came at the perfect time in my life. It was like God gave me a Flash of my own, just when I needed him the most, and all thanks to Rachel Anne Ridge for sharing Flash with us through this absolutely wonderful read! I can not thank her enough, as an aspiring artist, mother, wife, and animal lover and foster mom , I was able to relate to her story in so many ways. Her story touched my heart, and it is one I know I will revisit again and again. Anytime I feel my heart get heavy, or life’s stresses pulling me down, I just look at this cover and smile. Thank you God, for this donkey who has given me a reason to smile, and the many smiles he will share with all those who choose to read this book, and share in his story.

Thank you Tyndale House Publishers for this review copy that I received in exchange for an honest review! 🙂


AnniesStories“Annie’s Stories” by author Cindy Thomson

Annie’s Stories is the second book in Cindy Thomson’s “Ellis Island” series, the first book being “Grace’s Pictures”, which I had not had the opportunity to start with. I believe stepping into Annie’s story, and not having got the feel for Cindy’s stories beforehand, caused me to take a little longer then most to get the feel for the story. It was a bit of a process clasping onto the diversity in her book, from the German to Irish accents, and the the many back stories you come to learn. A couple chapters in though I was warmed up and really getting into the era I had dove head first into.

It is quite interesting getting to feel for New York during the 1900’s, while it is still building it’s foundation around the many immigrants who came to make it their home. Annie Gallagher was such an immigrant, having moved from Ireland after the tragic death of her father, and storyteller, Marty Gallagher. Shortly following her death Annie was tossed aside by her uncle under cruel circumstances, and left to dwell in the most horrible of places, Magdaline’s Laundries house, a place for abandoned girls. By the grace of Father Weldon, she was sent to America where she would make a new home in Mrs. Hawkin’s boarding house.

Annie hopes to have an opportunity to live out her dream, in America, of opening a library of her own, in honor of her father, but finds herself facing doubt and adversity as she doesn’t have the means to make it happen. Dreams set aside, Annie soon finds life in the boarding home disrupted when challenge after challenge piles itself on Annie’s shoulders. First her cousin, whom she holds responsible for her misfortunes, follows her footsteps and lands herself in the same boarding house with Annie. Shortly following an accusation is made of one of the boarding house girls, putting the entire boarding house at risk of shutting down. Even with Mrs. Hawkin’s steadfast faith to reassure her, Annie can’t help but wonder where God has been all this time.

In the meantime, Stephen Adams, the local postman, can’t help but lay eyes on the beautiful Irish lass from Mrs. Hawkin’s boarding house. Day after Day Stephen tries his hardest to find a time and a way to make conversation with Annie, but it seems Annie can never manage to give him enough time in the day. This doesn’t discourage the man who struggles himself to find time and money, and is doing all he can himself to get by. That is until Stephen finds a way to link the two of them together, through their shared passion of books and reading, and he does so using The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. During one of his visits, Stephen is invited in for a cup of tea and to discuss their current read, and Annie finds the time to share with him where her love of reading comes from. When Stephen discovers Annie’s father’s collection of children’s tales he finds a treasure far more valuable within them, and a way to possibly solve both their problems.

I am so glad I got to know this book and it’s characters. I’ve always had a love for historical novels, but this one was definitely set apart from the rest. I loved Annie’s story, and do hope to get a chance to read Grace’s, now that I’ve gotten to know her more too. Cindy Thomson did a wonderful job in her research and her attention to detail. It takes a great talent to do so, and for anyone interested in history and a great fiction read, I’d say this is a book you will come to love.

I was provided this book for free through Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way required to give a positive review, and provided my own honest opinions.


DancingontheHeadofaPenDancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life, by Robert Benson-

Over the last couple years that I’ve been reviewing books, I’ve come across the same piece of advice, over and over again, “The best way to learn to write, is to read, Read, READ!” I’ve learned that it is not only important to sit down and write, Write, WRITE, but that it is just as important to pick up a book and read. With my nose page deep in books most nights, I’ve not only felt my love for reading resurface, but I’ve felt a little piece of me come back to life, a piece of me that used to stay up late at night dreaming up my own make believe tales. That storyteller inside me lived behind the scenes for many, many years, resurfacing every now and then, sometimes long enough to get five thousand words deep into a story, or just long enough to log an idea or two into a notebook, and months long enough to even finish a short tale for a writing contest. No matter, that flame always seemed to burn out for one reason or another. I had the passion, and the dream, but I just wasn’t sure I was good enough to really reach for such a distant star.

When I first saw Robert Benson’s book, Dancing on the Head of a Pen, I was excited because this book was about the life of writing, and when you are a writer at heart, there’s nothing more exciting then getting a glimpse into the heart of another writer. I always wondered what I would do if I ever came face to face with a successful author, and the questions I’d long to ask them. First chapter into Robert Benson’s book, I learned it would be just like that. His book was exactly what I dreamed a conversation with a real author would be like. In his book, he is here not just to tell you what it would be like to live the life of a successful writer, but he is here to give you a glimpse into Robert Benson’s personal life as an aspiring writer. Unlike a book that gives you impersonal step by step advice or ideas, Robert Benson’s book gives you a play by play into his daily routines, habits, thoughts, and writing process, with hopes that you will find something to take from it.

“If you are not sure whether or not you can write a book, this one will not answer the question. You will have to write a book before you will know. I do hope these pages will give you a way to begin to make dark marks on pages of your own. . .if they remind you to practice more faithfully, more rigorously, more diligently, I will count the dark marks on these pages worthwhile.” -Robert Benson, Dancing on the Head of a Pen

Robert Benson starts each chapter with a quote from a well known author or artist. I will admit, I am one who sometimes looks over the quotes in most books, but this one I found I loved. Each quote left me reading it carefully and pondering it for a moment. Each related to the chapter that followed, for instance, On the Discipline of Being a Writer, it started with a quote from Vincent Van Gogh, “In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.” I absolutely loved this quote, as I did the inspiration that came from Robert’s chapter on disciplining yourself. What I found great about his writing process, is his habits are just as messy and undisciplined as the rest of us. He reflects on his many days of procrastination, on struggling with “writers pause”, on feeling inadequate compared to the more talented, successful writers. For a young, unpublished writer as myself, it was a breath of fresh air. I wasn’t alone.

I have to say, in conclusion to my two nights I spent reading, cause I couldn’t put down, this simple, but funny, amusing, and very inspiring treasure, I found this book to be one of the best books on writing I have ever come across. It has become one of my favorite books in my now “inspirational” collection, and although it may not be full of the “how to’s” on writing, it has pages full of inspiration that will surely ignite the storyteller inside of you. When I read it I felt myself ignite with the realization that I am a writer at heart, and always will be. I related to Robert in so many ways, ways I thought were just quirks and habits of my own, but that I realized are those of a struggling writer just as he was. I appreciate Robert for taking his time to share his words, and am glad to have been a part in reviewing his work.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way required to give a positive review, and gladly accept these opinions as my own.

Review of “A Moment In Time” by Tracie Peterson


AMomentInTime

Review of A Moment In Time-
Tracie Peterson had me captivated with her story A Moment In Time. Although I was coming in on her second book in the series, I didn’t feel lost or wondering in this story. Alice Chesterfield, her main character, is a broken girl with a traumatizing past that continues to haunt her. Marty Wythe and her husband Jake had taken Alice under their wing, but unfortunate circumstances has forced the family from their home in Denver. With talk of moving back to Marty’s home state in Texas, Alice finds hope that she might finally get to escape the man who is responsible for the scar on her face, and the death of her father. Being a damaged woman, she knows she may never find love, but at least she can find a place where she can be safe.
Robert Barnett has always called Texas home, and could never imagine a life outside ranching, but even as he nears his thirties, he has yet to actually build a life of his own. Settling down isn’t the problem Robert faces though, the problem is settling down with the right woman. It would be far easier to make this decision if his family and friends weren’t always pressuring him to marry, especially when the woman they have in mind is far more interested in fashion then ranching. Robert is happy when the focus of his marrying is replaced by the news of his Aunt Marty who has returned home to Texas.
Alice is pleasantly surprised to find life in Texas far greater then anything she could imagine, especially with the company of Robert Barnett who had more then willingly volunteered to help break her in to ranching life. More importantly, Robert doesn’t seem to notice the scars of Alice’s past. For once Alice feels safe, but even more important, she feels more like she belongs. All seemed right in the world, until one of the ghosts of Alice’s past resurfaces, forcing Alice to question her place among the Wythe’s and their family. With nowhere to go, Alice is forced to face the truth of her past, and trust that God can bring her peace in all the ciaos.
What captivated me most about this book was the blend of struggles and good times, along with a dash of fear, and a pinch of humor that actually had me grinning and giggling. (You know a book is good when you get weird looks from your spouse while you read.) Throughout this book you can feel God’s place in each of the character’s hearts, but you can also feel their struggle to let go and trust in Him. There was a great blend of characters, each with their own stories, and each with their own lesson to take from it. They all came together nicely, never once making you feel lacking or left hanging. I thought all together Tracie did a wonderful job as I set this book down with a smile on my face and a great desire to recommend it to my sister. 😉

I received this book for free from Bethany House publishers, in exchange for an honest review

Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall


Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall

Christmas in Apple Ridge, by Cindy Woodsmall, is probably by far one of the most adorable set of stories I have read in a while. It was my first time picking up a set of Amish fiction, and I’m not afraid to admit that I wasn’t quite sure what kind of story to expect from it. Of course I have heard of the Amish, but never really spent enough time learning of their lifestyle. I didn’t really get what the draw was to Amish fiction and because of this I unintentionally brushed off the desire to read it. Then life happened, and it was the holidays, and my reading kind of got away from me. It is a big part of why I’m finally finishing this book in April rather then December, Christmas time, when I intended to finish it. I finally made my way back to Christmas in Apple Ridge. I am so glad I did because once I got past the first chapter I found myself in a world that pulled me in faster then any historical fiction (which I LOVE). I found a place of ‘old world’ lifestyle and modern day setting, and suddenly realized why so many have fallen in love with it. I can’t say enough of how adoring the simple Amish life is, and how it really takes you back to a time I think most of us women love reading, and dreaming, about. Then you mix in it’s characters who, most, were caught between both worlds. Sprinkle a little bit of romance, and a dash of drama, and you got a book that is almost impossible to put down.
The Sound of Sleigh Bells‘ is book one, with main character Beth Hertzler, an Amish woman who is frozen in time by a horrible tragedy that has ensnared her heart and soul. The thought of her never finding love again weighs on her family, especially her aunt Lizzy who has spent most of her life alone, and does not wish that life for her Beth. Beth just can’t trust another soul to see that which she keeps so hidden deep inside her heart. She does her best to keep everyone out, but doesn’t expect that the one thing that would penetrate that icy center of hers to be not a person, but a carving. When her aunt discovers this secret ability the carving has in touching Beth’s heart, she wonders if the artist himself might have the same effect. Jonah, the artist, soon finds that maybe God has a much bigger plan for his gift of carving new life into things. The problem is, can he get Beth to see that sometimes we need those God puts in our life in order to overcome our tragedies, and then again, can he himself get past his own scars, and give them both the chance at finding love.
The Christmas Singing‘ is book two, with main character Mattie Lane, an Amish woman who decides to leave the Amish life, and a broken heart, behind in Apple Ridge in order to find healing in Berlin, Ohio. She manages to not only open her own shop ‘Mattie Cakes’ but also manages to find a trustworthy place to keep her heart, in the hands of a man named Sol. Everything is going according to plan and Mattie couldn’t be more comfortable in life. That comfort doesn’t last long though, and after being gone three years Mattie finds herself forced back to Apple Ridge, and having to face Gideon, the man who was responsible for her never wanting to return. Sadly Mattie could not avoid finding herself alone with Gideon, and she knew she was bound to ask why Gideon left her all those years ago. Gideon felt he was doing right by Mattie, but seeing her again made it harder for him to ignore his feelings, and he wondered how much longer he could go without telling her the truth. Will telling Mattie the truth heal the hurt he’d caused her years ago, or will it damage the relationship they’ve managed to revive during her short time home?
“The Dawn of Christmas” is book three, with main character Sadie Yoder, an Amish woman who finds a love, and escape, in living outside her Old Order Amish life, and dreaming of her mission trips to Peru. After years of her family insisting she come home and settle down, Sadie decides she can’t escape them forever, and decides to pay her family a visit. During her visit, and while escaping her family’s scoldings, Sadie finds herself stumbling upon an Amish man with her same problems. Levi is a bachelor who distrusts women after witnessing his brother’s heartbreak, and struggles to follow his brother and parents advice to settle down and find a good woman. Him and Sadie soon find their friendship has a benefit, and decide to use their time together to keep their families at bay. As Sadie’s mission trip draws near, Sadie soon finds she’s having trouble choosing between her mission trip, and the man who has brought her life more joy then she had ever thought possible. That is until an old heartbreak of Sadie’s finds it’s way between them, forcing Sadie and Levi to face their pasts, and problems of trust. Can they learn to trust love again, and in the process find faith in each other?
What I love most about series like this is how the stories intertwine with one another, and the characters are all connected in one way or another. It’s so great when you move on to the next book and you can catch up with the characters from the previous book, as well as get to know the new ones. Each story is similar in struggles, but unique in it’s own way, and all tell a wonderful message of love, faith, trust, and God’s ability to turn even the worst of struggles into wonderful blessings. Well worth the read, and am so glad I got the opportunity to review them. 🙂

 

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.