Sunday, August 28, 2016

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

book cover
Story Genius
by Lisa Cron

ISBN-13: 9781607748892
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Released: Aug. 9, 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Story Genius is a foolproof program that saves writers from penning hundreds of pages only to realize that something's not working and they have to start again. Informed by story consultant Lisa Cron's science-based insights into how story structure is built into the architecture of the brain, this guide shows writers how to plumb the nitty-gritty details of their raw idea to organically generate a story scene by scene. Once writers reach the end of Cron's program, they will have both a blueprint that works and plenty of compelling writing suitable for their finished novel--allowing them to write forward with confidence.

My Review:
Story Genius is a guide on how to create powerful, character-driven stories using the Story Genius writing system. If you expect a lot of brain science, you'll be disappointed. The author only referred to a couple of studies. Instead, she resorted to speculative stuff, saying, "Evolutionarily speaking, our brain is wired..." followed by a story about what advantage we might have gotten from telling stories.

She believes that all powerful stories are ultimately character-driven, so she has you start your story creation with the character rather than a plot. She takes you step-by-step through deciding what the story is about, what your main character desires, and the misbelief that prevents him/her from gaining that desire. From there, you come up with what happens scene by scene to force the character to re-evaluate that misbelief. She described each step, then she had a fiction author--who is coming up with her next story--write that step to demonstrate it.

This system will prevent your book from wandering around aimlessly, full of filler scenes. Overall, I think a person could successfully follow this Story Genius system. It seems best suited for literary writing. She didn't really show how it might be used in genre fiction, where some genres are expected to contain very specific plot elements (which runs counter to her purely character-driven system). However, she does give some good advice on how to come up with a strong story and this can be used in any case.

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.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Healthy Herbs by Linda Woolven

book cover
Healthy Herbs
by Linda Woolven

ISBN-13: 9781550413298
Trade Paperback: 245 pages
Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Released: Sept. 26, 2006

Source: Bought as a used book.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Master herbalist Linda Woolven and Natural Path publisher Ted Snider have assembled a completely up-to-date guide to medicinal herbs that is comprehensive and immensely practical. Healthy Herbs brings a refreshing simplicity to an enormous body of medicinal herbal knowledge. The book identifies which herb is best for what condition while providing:

*Clear instruction on the safe and effective use of each herb
*Only herbs that are readily available in North America
*Up-to-date information on herbal science in straightforward, jargon-free language
*Authoritative home-use instruction
*Teas, tinctures, infusions, decoctions, pills, and liquids

My Review:
Healthy Herbs is a reference book for the use of medicinal herbs. Most of the herbs are easily available at health food stores, and the rest can be found online. The authors assume you're going to buy these herbs at a store, so they gear their information that way even if it's a plant that you can find growing wild.

The herbs are listed by name, so you can look them up or just read through the whole book like I did. For each herb, we're told the scientific research involving the herb--what it's good for and how to use it. This often matches the traditional uses for the herb. They included dosing information for taking the herb as a tea, extract, tincture, or pill and any safety information about using it with other medications or during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

I've repeatedly read how whole herbs have few to no side effects (unlike the "active ingredient only" drugs that are based on them), so I'm interested in using herbs medicinally. I found this book to be very helpful, informative, and interesting.

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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lessons in Classical Painting by Juliette Aristides

book cover
Lessons in Classical Painting
by Juliette Aristides

ISBN-13: 9781607747895
Hardback: 248 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptil
Released: July 26th 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
With a direct, easy-to-follow approach, Juliette Aristides presents aspiring artists with the fundamental skills and tools needed to master painting in the atelier style.

With more than 25 years of experience in ateliers and as an art instructor, Aristides pairs personal examples and insights with theory, assignments and demonstrations for readers, discussions of technical issues, and inspirational quotes. After taking a bird's eye look at painting as a whole, Aristides breaks down painting into big picture topics like grisaille, temperature, and color, demonstrating how these key subjects can be applied by all painters.

My Review:
Lessons in Classical Painting contained foundational lessons for painting "in the atelier style." This isn't for absolute beginners since the author assumed you have done some painting and doesn't cover equipment basics. Rather, it's a series of lessons that build on each other to improve your painting.

The author talked about a topic then provided a lesson or two to help you learn and apply that principle. She'd tell you the goal of the lesson and how to choose a subject rather than assume you'll do the exact same painting that's in the demonstration. This allows you to practice the lesson more than once (if you wish) and to pick a topic you'll enjoy painting. I really appreciated this. This is the only painting book I've ever read where I decided to do every single lesson in the book.

The paintings used as illustrations ranged from the old masters to works by the author and many other current artists. Nearly every painting was a lesson in itself or illustrated a point in the text. The topics that she covered included really looking, basic shapes and the values that create an object, how to organize a scene, under-painting, monotone paintings, light as a way to reveal form and create a mood, working with a limited palette, color temperature, color theory, color mixing, and more. You can apply these lessons to any type of oil painting (still life, portraits, landscapes, etc.).

The author clearly defined her terms. She was easy to understand, and I felt no confusion when following her directions. I'm probably an advanced beginner, and I think her lessons have really helped to improve my painting. I'd recommend this book to oil painters who aim for some level of realism in their paintings.

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.