Monday, March 30, 2015

Experiencing Rome by Steven L. Tuck

book cover
Experiencing Rome:
A Visual Exploration of Antiquity's Greatest Empire
by Professor Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.

DVD & Paperback book
36 lectures
30 minutes per lecture
Publisher: The Great Courses

Source: Bought through the publisher catalog. (The DVD format can drop under $100 when on sale.)

DVD Description, Modified from Website:
Rome spanned three continents, ruled over millions of people, lasted more than a thousand years, and left an enduring legacy. Yet, in an empire in which perhaps only one person in ten was literate, how was Rome able to so successfully communicate its civic and cultural values or project a knowledge of Roman power to every corner of the realm?

In Experiencing Rome, Professor Steven L. Tuck offers a unique way to understand the relationships that connected Rome, its citizens, and its subjects, and to see the visual and experiential ways in which Rome made and kept those relationships clear. By learning how Rome communicated in so many visually symbolic ways, you also gain insight into how similar tools are still used today.

Featuring more than 1,000 visuals, Experiencing Rome draws on computer animations of Roman villas, actual artifacts, and maps, along with photography of Rome's statuary, mosaics, sculptural reliefs, buildings, public spaces, and monuments. Many of those photographs were taken by Professor Tuck on the numerous study trips he has led to Italy and England. His discussions of the details behind many of the photos add immensely to their impact. Similarly, his exceptionally well-rounded background in history, classics, classical art, archaeology, and even epigraphy—the study of ancient inscriptions—adds an extra dimension of richness to every discussion.

My Review:
Experiencing Rome is a set of DVD lectures on Roman values and social structures as understood through the architecture, art, and written records that have been left behind. The DVD set also came with a course book that summarized and covered the highlights of each lecture. The professor clearly conveyed the information and covered a lot of information without leaving me feeling overwhelmed.

This course is about the culture, not a history of politics and wars. Each lecture was focused around a structure, like houses, temples, forums, theaters, amphitheaters, baths, or harbors. He takes you through a triumphal procession or a gladiatorial combat or a day at the races while explaining the cultural significance of the statues you saw while entering, where you'd sit, etc. If you're interested in Roman culture and how they were so successful at spreading that culture, then you'll probably enjoy these lectures.

The professor used a good number of photographs, short videos, reconstructive drawings, and animations to help illustrate his points. He did a good job of explaining how he came to various conclusions. I'd highly recommend this DVD lecture series.

If you've seen this lecture series, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion in the comments.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Belles of Williamsburg by Mary Maillard

book cover
The Belles of Williamsburg:
The Courtship Correspondence of Eliza Fisk Harwood and Tristrim Lowther Skinner, 1839-1849
edited by Mary Maillard

ISBN-13: 9780991789313
ebook: 460 pages
Publisher: Independent Book Publishers Association
Released: January 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through

Book Description from Goodreads:
After the Twelfth Night Party in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1841 – thirteen years old and brimming with hopeful exuberance – Eliza Fisk Harwood wrote her close friend, “Trim” Skinner of Edenton, North Carolina, that she had danced so long she wore holes into her new satin shoes and hose. Their subsequent correspondence charts Eliza’s education, coming of age, courtships and engagement, and Tristrim’s practical education in the management of the Skinner family’s farms. At the age of twenty-one – ten years after Trim had made her a secret promise and sealed it with a ring – Eliza married him and left her childhood home to become a Carolina plantation mistress.

Eliza Harwood's detailed letters are a popular masterpiece of social commentary– perhaps the only such record of Williamsburg college life during the 1840s. More importantly, the Harwood-Skinner correspondence sheds new light on the complex social, familial, and romantic elements of antebellum courtship in a decade not well represented among available primary sources. Eloquent and considered, the letters are a pleasure to read and would appeal to students, historians, and non-academics interested in the South and its history.

My Review:
The Belles of Williamsburg is a collection of courtship letters between Eliza Fisk Harwood and Tristrim Lowther Skinner dating from 1839-1849. An introduction gives the reader an overall idea of what is going on during the correspondence and an epilogue gives an overview their lives after they were married. The initial letters were mainly about what college students are boarding at the Williamsburg house, who is marrying, and who is dying. As Eliza gets older and especially as the courtship becomes serious, the letters talk more about Eliza's and Tristrim's own lives.

I appreciate that the editor included excerpts from the novel that Eliza thought mimicked her own courtship. Having these excerpts helped me to better understand what Eliza and Tristrim were referring to and going through in their own courtship. There were also about 100 pages of end notes and such to give further information about the people and events mentioned in the letters. The editor's notes certainly help to tie the "story" together.

I think these letters will be of most interest to people who are interested in courtship letters of the time, those interested in Williamsburg at this time period, or those who are somehow related to these families. If you're interested in a sense of what everyday life was like, it's there but generally only in passing. They were catching up on family news or asking "please write more frequently," not (usually) describing what they did that day. Overall, I'd recommend this book, but it's probably going to be of interest to only a limited audience.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

book cover
Rejection Proof
by Jia Jiang

ISBN-13: 9780804141383
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Harmony
Released: April 14, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Jia Jiang came to the United States with the dream of being the next Bill Gates. But despite early success in the corporate world, his first attempt to pursue his entrepreneurial dream ended in rejection. Jia was crushed, and spiraled into a period of deep self doubt. But he realized that his fear of rejection was a bigger obstacle than any single rejection would ever be, and he needed to find a way to cope with being told no without letting it destroy him.

Thus was born his "100 days of rejection" experiment, during which he willfully sought rejection on a daily basis--from requesting a lesson in sales from a car salesman (no) to asking a flight attendant if he could make an announcement on the loud speaker (yes) to his famous request to get Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the shape of Olympic rings (yes, with a viral video to prove it).

Jia learned that even the most preposterous wish may be granted if you ask in the right way, and shares the secret of successful asking, how to pick targets, and how to tell when an initial no can be converted into something positive. But more important, he learned techniques for steeling himself against rejection and ways to develop his own confidence--a plan that can't be derailed by a single setback. Filled with great stories and valuable insight, Rejection Proof is a fun and thoughtful examination of how to overcome fear and dare to live more boldly.

My Review:
My review on Amazon.

As a member of Amazon Vine, I'm able to review books through them, but--as I understand the terms--I'm only allowed to post my review on Amazon. Because I liked this book, I'm posting a description of the book here with a direct link to my review on Amazon.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Death at the Priory by James Ruddick

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Death at the Priory
by James Ruddick

ISBN-13: 9780871138323
Hardcover: 209 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Released: 2001; January 1, 2002

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description from Goodreads:
In 1875, the beautiful widow Florence Ricardo married the handsome and successful young attorney Charles Bravo and made her home at the Priory, a Gothic mansion in London, hoping to escape the scandals of her past. But Bravo proved to be a brutal and conniving man, and the marriage was far from happy. Then one night he suddenly collapsed, and three days later died an agonizing death. His doctors immediately determined that he had been poisoned.

The graphic and sensational details of the case captured the public imagination of Victorian England. The investigation dominated the press for weeks, and the list of suspects grew to include Florence; her secret lover, the eminent doctor James Gully; her longtime companion and housekeeper, Mrs. Cox; and the recently dismissed stableman, George Griffiths. But ultimately no murderer could be determined, and despite the efforts of numerous historians, criminologists, and other writers since (including Agatha Christie), the case has never been definitively solved.

Now James Ruddick retells this gripping story of love, greed, brutality, and betrayal among the elite, offering an intimate portrait of Victorian culture and of one woman's struggle to live in this repressive society -- and unmasking the true murderer for the first time. Simultaneously a murder mystery, a colorful social history, and a modern-day detective tale, Death at the Priory is a thrilling read and a window into a fascinating time.

My Review:
Death at the Priory is a true crime book about an unsolved murder that occurred in 1876 in England. The book described Florence's life leading up to her husband's murder and gave social and historical details to help the reader understand what her life was like. He then described the murder using the information that was publicly available at the time of the murder. He then eliminated suspects using his research into crime records that weren't publicly available and into what happened to the various suspects afterwards.

The author came up with a scenario for the murder that might be correct, but a lot depended on people not acting very logically (which leaves room for doubt). So the author didn't convince me that the murder had finally been solved. I didn't like how the author acted like certain conclusions were obvious and then pull out information we hadn't heard yet so we could catch up. I felt like he simply pulled out what supported his ideas. I was left wondering if there were potential clues that he also uncovered that he never told us.

I found the historical and social context interesting. Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and would recommend the book to readers who like true crime and history.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pigments of Your Imagination by Cathy Taylor

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Pigments of Your Imagination: Creating with Alcohol Inks
by Cathy Taylor

ISBN-13: 9780764347535
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Released: March 28, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Mercurial, versatile, inexpensive, and wildly colorful, alcohol inks are one of the newest mediums to hit the art community. Pigments of Your Imagination is your essential guide for working with alcohol inks, from choosing which inks to use for each project to learning how to maximize your artistic potential with a wide variety of fascinating techniques.

Using an assortment of materials and tools, learn how to work on a variety of surfaces, including paper, glass, metal, fabric, and plastic. Find inspiration for your own masterpieces in the step-by-step demos and guest artist gallery. From the beginning craftsperson to the professional artist, Pigments of Your Imagination offers a broad insight into the expansive world of alcohol inks.

My Review:
Pigments of Your Imagination is an art technique book on how to use alcohol inks. This book clearly explained how to make your own unique art by getting to know how the ink can be used and manipulated. The step-by-step pictures were clear, and the captions contained enough information that even a beginner can understand what to do. The author favors a "loose, playful" art style, but one of the guest artists did explain how you can do more detailed, realistic flowers.

The book covered what alcohol inks are and the supplies you'll need. In terms of specialized equipment, you could get away with just the inks though she did suggest some special paper. She also used common art supplies like a round brush, masking fluid, and acrylic gloss medium. She provided a series of step-by-step projects that have you try out different ways to apply the inks and different tools (like a drinking straw) that you can use to get certain effects. She continued with projects using wax paper, stencils, glues and pastes, laminate, masking fluid, and more to create raised textures or reserve white areas.

She then had projects on how to apply the techniques we've learned to create specific types of art: landscapes, seascapes, dreamscapes, and cityscapes; and then detailed to abstract flowers and some animals. She had projects on how to create batik, madras, marbled, and swirl effects for paper and fabric, as well as a "tie-dye" pattern and stamping patterns for fabric. It ended with projects involving acrylic skins, aluminum, ceramic tiles, mixed media collage, marbled papers, and simple monoprinting. She also included a gallery showing a variety of ink art.

This book make me feel confident that I could do the projects and that it'll be fun, too. Most art books don't leave me feeling that way, so I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in learning the basic techniques for using alcohol inks.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Link to the book on the publisher's website which includes a Look Inside feature.