Book Review: Foundations of Drawing by Al Gury

As an artist I am always on the lookout for comprehensive guides to drawing and painting. I love learning from the experts and Al Gury, chairman of the painting department at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia is just the man to get this kind of advice from. His newest book is Foundations of Drawing: A practical guide to art history, tools, techniques and styles. 

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The book is probably the most comprehensive guide I have come across so far. It is split into five sections. First section talks in depth about history of drawing. Part two reviews materials, I greatly appreciated the meticulousness here, some materials I was really curious about, but found hardly mentioned in my previous studies. Part three discusses essential drawing skills with a large discussion on composition, which was probably my most favorite part of the book – so clear and valuable it was to me. Part 4 discussed the esthetics and various styles. Part five focused on a few drawing demonstrations- still life, interior and human form, again with some interesting bits of art history.

Overall impression: Wonderful addition to my collection, tons of valuable information to go through and ponder. I think this book will be most interesting for someone who is serious about drawing and art history, there are no immediate instructions and how tos, I see it more as a very detailed drawing encyclopedia. Probably best suited for adult artists due to the amount of information. 5 stars.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

BOOK REVIEW: The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

The Midnight Queen is a debut novel by Sylvia Izzo Hunter. I confess I picked this book initially because of the beautiful cover. The plot seemed interesting too, and reminded me of Suzanna Clarke Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norell.

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The story revolves around Gray, a young magick scholar, who got into a terrible predicament involving a murder and had to go spend the vacation in the house of his Professor. He gets to know the Professor’s daughters and together with them tries to untangle the situation he found himself in. The style of the writing imitates that of the Regency period novels. And although I think it was a nice touch and added to the atmosphere, I also found it was “trying too hard” at times and soon grew tired of it. The plot moves slowly, and language unfortunately doesn’t help to speed it up. First 100 pages were especially trying, it started to move a little bit faster after that, but not by much. The story was  entertaining and I still think the plot sounded really interesting,  but it ended up just ok.

Overall impression: Not bad, but not great either. Goodreads marks it as a first book of the series, I am not sure if I am looking forward to the next one. 3 stars.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

BOOK REVIEW: The New York Times : Footsteps

Literary travels are incredibly attractive to me. What was the author looking at, how did a place influence his vision and story development? I was always curious about this story-place connection. A  new book called The New York Times: Footsteps explore this in a delightful collection of essays that were originally featured in The New York Times travel section.

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The essays touch almost every corner of the world-  Americas, Europe, Middle East and South East Asia. Some places I would never associated with a particular author (such as Mark Twain and Hawaii, probably for me having a limited knowledge of his works). I loved essay on Mary Oliver, exploring Prince Edward Island with L.M. Montgomery was another favorite. Those two I went after first.  It was fascinating to read about Rimbaud in Ethiopia and I particularly enjoyed a peak at Carroll/Dodgson’s  Oxford. I am slowly working through this book, savoring each little essay and possibly making travel plans of my own. I am not reading it in any particular order, focusing for now on beloved works and making a list of those I haven’t got a chance to read yet.

I enjoy this book so far, it is very interesting to see the place through a personal connection of an essay’s author and still imagining what it must have looked like to a book author at the time. I wonder if I can make at least few of these trips myself. Interestingly enough I imagined this book as a sort of a tourist guide originally, but I am glad it turned out to be almost diary-like experience. 5 stars.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. 

BOOK REVIEW: DINNER by MELISSA CLARK

I don’t often see a cookbook that deals with specific meal of the day, or rather when I do, it’s focusing either on breakfasts or special occasion. It’s the first time I came across a book that is dedicated specifically to dinners. Melissa Clark, a writer for a number of cooking publications offers an astonishing collection of recipes that are meant to “change the game” of typical dinners by adding new flavors and giving new options to a home cook.

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The recipes are organized by main ingredient, which is helpful (although I’d prefer to have all the poultry in one section, rather than chicken separate). There is a good number of light dishes and a plenty of vegetarian choices. The author uses lots of ethnic flavors too. Most of the recipes are kid friendly. We tried a few simpler ones, and they turned out pretty yummy. Most of the ingredients look easily attainable.

Overall impressions: With over 200 recipes to choose from this book looks like a delight. It will take me a while to cook through it, which means lots and lots of new dishes for my family to enjoy. The recipes are easy enough to put together and directions are fairly straightforward. Gorgeous photography.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

BOOK REVIEW: 32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

Memoirs are so fascinating to me. The beginnings are always the most interesting -how do people even start, how do they decide this is it and embark on the journey. Culinary memoirs are a whole special category. This time I read Eric Ripert’s 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line. Eric Ripert is a French-born chef, who owns the famous Le Bernardin in New York. He is also the author of numerous cookbooks and a TV personality.

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In his memoir Eric talks about his early years- the childhood in Antibes and Andorra, dealing with his parents’ divorce and brutal treatment from his stepfather, challenges he had to overcome on his journey of learning the art of fine cuisine. The book is laced with Eric’s love for food, it almost seems that his future as a top chef was predestined from his earliest years. I loved his descriptions of the warm atmosphere of family gatherings and important people and mentors in his life. The story of his time in cooking school and apprenticeship made me appreciate the hard work that goes into creating a meal worthy of a Michelin-star even more.

Overall impression: I enjoyed this book. My version was the audiobook and the narrator Peter Ganim has a very pleasing and soothing voice. It was an interesting read. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in fine cuisine and the process of becoming a chef. I will have my children listen to it when they’re older (there are some topics that they’re not quite ready for just yet, plus some strong language here and there).

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

Book Review: Spaceman by Mike Massimino

In his autobiography “Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe” Mike Massimino, a NASA astronaut and Columbia University professor describes his journey from a childhood dream of being an astronaut to actual walking in space (of which he and his team set records). As soon as I started reading this book, I was absolutely captivated by Mike’s tale.

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His manner of writing is very frank and straightforward. He just tells his story like it is, and it’s impossible to put down. His journey wasn’t always smooth, neither was it always aimed for the space. I admired his determination when he made a decision to get into space program. How he overcame stumbling blocks on his path, his personal ethics – everything is admirable. His story is full of the most important lessons in life -the value of education, the value of public service, deep desire to be a better person, true friendship.

Overall impression: Loved this book to pieces. My 11 y.o. son is reading it now, and I am sure it will make a difference in his world perception, and no doubt will inspire him . Absolute must read.

 

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

A Holiday Read: A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

I am always on a lookout for good holiday-time reads as my family has a tradition of reading special holiday stories every December. The newest addition to our “Book Advent” library is “A Boy Called Christmas” by Matt Haig. We opted for an audiobook this time, read by Stephen Fry.

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The book is a take on a story of Santa Claus, who he was and where he lived before he became, well, what he is now. It is a story of a small boy Nikolas, nicknamed Christmas for being born on Christmas Day. He lives in Finland with his father, until his father goesaway in search of evidence of an elf village. Nikolas heads in search of his father and goes through plenty of trouble before he reaches elf village. He has to deal with his awful aunt Carlotta, help a stray wounded reindeer and fight a murderous troll and a crazy elf. There are cute sidekicks such as tame mouse, a kidnapped elf-child and little Nush (another elf) and her grandpa. The story was exciting and kind, there were moments that almost brought my kids to tears, and those that made them roar with laughter (i.e. a reindeer getting a sweet revenge on a dreadful aunt).

Overall impression in my son’s words: “I enjoyed the story, except the part with Aunt Carlotta. It taught me that people are not what they seem and that things that you believe can actually be real.” My daughter says: ” I loved this book because it was full of wonderful adventures.” They are listening to it again as I type it, so it’s definitely a favorite for this holiday season.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.