ARCs Art Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Graphic Historical Nonfiction

Tolkien’s Worlds: The Places That Inspired the Writer’s Imagination by John Garth

A lavishly illustrated look at the locales familiar to J. R. R. Tolkien, the creator of Middle-earth.

This book takes you to the places that inspired J. R. R. Tolkien to create his fictional locations in The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and other classic works. Written by renowned Tolkien expert John Garth and prepared with the full cooperation of the Tolkien estate, Tolkien’s Worlds features a wealth of breathtaking illustrations, including Tolkien’s own drawings, contributions from other artists, rare archival images, and spectacular color photos of contemporary locations across Britain and beyond, from the battlefields of World War I to Africa.

Garth identifies the locales that served as the basis for Hobbiton, the elven valley of Rivendell, the Glittering Caves of Helm’s Deep, and many other settings in Middle-earth, from mountains and forests to rivers, lakes, and shorelands. He reveals the rich interplay between Tolkien’s personal travels, his wide reading, and his deep scholarship as an Oxford don. Garth draws on his own profound knowledge of Tolkien’s life and work to shed light on the extraordinary processes of invention behind Tolkien’s works of fantasy. He also debunks popular misconceptions about the inspirations for Middle-earth and puts forward strong new claims of his own.

An illustrated journey into the life and imagination of one of the world’s best-loved authors, Tolkien’s Worlds provides a unique exploration of the relationship between the real and the fantastical and is an essential companion for anyone who wants to follow in Tolkien’s footsteps.

The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The places that inspired the writer's imaginationThe Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The places that inspired the writer’s imagination by John Garth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Quarto Publishing Group – White Lion for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This book was awesome.

From gorgeous illustrations to the impressive amount of research, it’s a must have book for any Tolkien collector out there. It will make a beautiful coffee table book in my home and one I’d also recommend as a companion piece to anyone reading one of his pieces or for those just being introduced to the world of Tolkien.

I loved the organization, the range and amount of photos and illustrations, and the amount of detailed discussion of the origin and inspiration that Tolkien depicted in his writing style and world-building mega feat of what I think is the epitome of writing genius.

This book packed so much punch, I admired every bit of information covering the incredibly detailed influences of his work such as geographical processes, ancient architecture, even his recurring nightmares of a wave engulfing the land, bereavements to shipwrecks, and the Elvish language creation which ranged from onomatopoeic words and his studies of Latin.

His imagination was incredible. Some of which also being rooted in a multi-cultural, Gothic atmosphere incorporating unusual caricature from backgrounds of Celtic, Welsh, English, South Africa, and Icelandic tradition, folklore, and wartime events. This book covered it all.

I’ve been a fan of Tolkien since first picking up my first read, The Hobbit, in the 5th grade, and this gave me an even greater appreciation for the creativity that went into his writing.

It was also compelling in the way it made me want to visit all the glorious places, exhilarating locations as some of the foundations for settings in his books, a Tolkien tour.

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ARCs Art Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

You Are an Artist by Sarah Urist Green

A few years ago curator Sarah Urist Green left her office in the basement of an art museum to travel and visit a diverse range of artists, asking them to share prompts that relate to their own ways of working. The result is You Are an Artist, a journey of creation through which you’ll invent imaginary friends, sort books, declare a cause, construct a landscape, find your band, and become someone else (or at least try). Your challenge is to filter these assignments through the lens of your own experience and make art that reflects the world as you see it.

You don’t have to know how to draw well, stretch a canvas, or mix a paint colour that perfectly matches that of a mountain stream. This book is for anyone who wants to make art, regardless of experience level. The only materials you’ll need are what you already have on hand or can source for free.

You Are an Artist brings together more than 50 assignments gathered from some of the most innovative creators working today, including Sonya Clark, Michelle Grabner, The Guerrilla Girls, Fritz Haeg, Pablo Helguera, Nina Katchadourian, Toyin Ojih Odutola, J. Morgan Puett, Dread Scott, Alec Soth, Gillian Wearing, and many others.

You Are an ArtistYou Are an Artist by Sarah Urist Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Press UK for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This was such a fantastic book! I’d recommend it to anyone, any age. It would make a great gift.

Especially during these times of staying at home, for homeschool parents, teachers, as well any individual experiencing creative blocks within any type of media, anyone looking to exercise their artistic mind and skills, really anyone who wants to tap into an expression of themselves through art, whether you’re feeling super creative or going through a creative block, even a dry spell.

As far as content was concerned, it was out of the box, almost quirky, sometimes the bizarre, the peculiar, the types of art and art exercises I wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to make or decorate my house with or be typically drawn to. With that said; however, the art exercises focused on the actual doing of challenges, rather than an in-depth review of art interpretation which I think was unique to the world of art books and one that I definitely could use more time learning to appreciate and enjoy. And I had a blast doing them!

I found the projects in this book bringing out my imagination, much more hidden and less explored areas of my art perspective and a great creative outlet for my life in general.

I should also mention, and it was a real plus to the projects contained in this book, that you wouldn’t have to go out and buy tons of art supplies to complete the projects. You can pretty much use any items you’d typically find in any junk drawer in the kitchen. Paper, scissors, pen/pencil, and also easily use your phone for any of the photo activities.

The activities brought out ideas, rich sentiment, variations of emotion, which would otherwise be unexpressed. Some of the more unconventional projects contained in this book, combined with the background of select artists, made each exercise thoroughly enjoyable, insightful, and stimulated my mind.

I enjoyed the facts about each artist who was mentioned. Somewhat of an encyclopedia-type approach, such as demographical data, like when and where they were born, but it did not discuss their influences, accomplishments, or personal/artistic challenges in-depth. Which was fine. Perhaps we will see some of this in a subsequent book, which would be awesome, along with some of the psychology behind the routes toward finding self-creativity/reflection for those who may want to explore personal style and what types of media may express or suit an artist’s voice in the way they’d like to achieve. Or which ones would be the best exercises for them to do on more than one occasions and how to vary them to bring out even more of the elements behind the reasoning of including them in the book.

I hope you get to check out this wonderfully fun book! You can see some of the exercises I did on my website and I will be adding more over time. Be sure to share which ones you did in the comments, I’d love to see your project creations!

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A select few exercises from the book.

Blindfolding myself and drawing my home. This, my childhood bedroom.

I had several decorative phases and I rearranged my furniture a lot as a child. Taking out drawers of clothes to lighten the load, lying on my back, and pushing everything around with the strength of my legs and feet.

I had a heavy furniture set. A 4-post Oak wood twin bed with matching dressers. One tall, one shorter with a huge mirror. The black, metal pulls were a decorative, almost whimsical, paisley type shape, hanging down like an elaborate door knocker. They rattled ridiculously every time a drawer was opened.

During my purple phase, I had lavender carpet. The bedspread, the pillows, the curtains, all matching flowy, almost sheer, lightweight, white background with tiny lavender heart print. It was my dream bedroom decor, one I had picked out from the Sears magazine. Barbie and Popples wall decals. The 80s were great years to be a child. My drawings haven’t changed much since then.

Blindfolded left, open-eyed right.

Which one is more expressive?

Perspective exercise.

These are photos of my mother’s purple irises in a few different perspectives.

Raiding the fridge.

Jalapeño poppers, need I say more? Oh my goodness these things are the best. My recipe for Stuffed Jalapeños (otherwise known as Jalapeño poppers, though this version is not battered and fried), can be found here.

So for the artistic exercise, I’d say the dramatic potential to everyday surroundings is captured in the photograph of which I took of two of them (I ate the 3rd early, leaving an oily rainbow glistening in its absence) and cooked them in the oven using a shallow variation of the classic cast iron dish.


Let’s take a moment to talk about cast iron pans.

If you’ve ever had a set of well-seasoned cast iron pans, you’ll know how they speak for themselves. Passed down from generations. From grandparents or a good yard sale. Shiny, the dark color of iron, consistently uniform and smooth. Distributing heat so evenly for cooking through and better browning which is the mastery of cooking. Fried fish, chicken, sautéed asparagus, pancakes, cornbread, anything tempura. Stove to oven, oven to stove. The best ones you can fry an egg on, flipping it over with ease. No catching, no broken yolks, no messy unintentional mix of crispy edges and mushy scramble.

They are the embodiment of a sincere human quality.

Well-loved, they’ve seen a lot. As individuals, they get better with time and their true contribution to this age’s wisdom is that as a whole, they also have collective longevity, having been in production since the 5th century B.C.

The context is the yummiest thing one could ever eat. The aroma of peppers and sharp, richness of baked cheese. Opening the oven door with a whoosh, a hot puff toward my face. The best comfort food on the planet. Golden tops of filled depressions, surrounded by slightly shriveled edges. Backlit by the jarring oven light, carefully sliding them out from the center rack. Oh the anticipated heaviness of iron, I gently tip the pan to let them settle on my plate.

“So unbelievably scrumptious” I say.

The heat from the ribs and seeds I left in each half. Tender roasted pepper flesh and more bite effort into the tougher, almost earthen skin. Such a contrast with the mingling creaminess, the tanginess of cream cheese, bits of fresh, pungent garlic, a sprinkle of parmesan, the perfect delicate balance of saltiness.

A path I’ve never been on before.

Here is a photo of a nearby pond from an edge I had never been on before. The quietest place possible. Absorbing the silence.

In the center of the flower, farthest back, crouches a metallic-turquiose fly. It flew away before I could get it in focus. I love the beautiful sheen of these common green bottle flies.


And just for fun, a photograph of a winged-insect I saw in my mother’s yard.

I just love morning light and the shapes I was seeing.


Art Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Mastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for Photographers by Richard Garvey-Williams

What makes a great photo? Flicking through the pages of most popular photography magazines you might get the impression that there’s only one rule of importance – ‘the rule of thirds’. Indeed it appears that some will judge the merit of a photograph based almost solely on this. Rarely do you hear discussion about ‘visual weight’, ‘balance’, ‘negative space’, ‘depth’ and so on.

Author and professional photographer Richard Garvey-Williams argues that success lies in a combination of four elements: an impactful subject; dynamic composition; effective use of lighting; and, perhaps the most crucial, ability to invoke an emotional response in the viewer.

Citing examples gleaned from a study of history – the Ancient Greeks’ Golden Rule; Fibonacci’s mathematical ratio; and the principles known as the Gestalt theory – the author analyses the concepts, rules and guidelines that define successful composition in photography and offers practical guidance to achieving great results.

Mastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for PhotographersMastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for Photographers by Richard Garvey-Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent book on photography. I read this one for The Bite Shot Bookclub and really gleaned a lot from it.

It was super comprehensive which I devoured every morsel of, especially since it included vocabulary such as emergence, reification, multistability, amongst others, which I had no idea how to construct certain elements to make them come together to tell such a meaningful story.

I like how it showed side-by-side examples of cropped and uncropped images. The theoretical concepts were well explained. I really liked how it pointed out that in some instances, neither style was wrong but may be dependent on whether the photographer wanted to convey sense of space or sense of depth.

I enjoyed the bits about image manipulation and how to relate them to the interesting concepts of right and left, balance, and overall shape.

I think I would like to try photographing more shadows. The ideas explored about them in this book was great.

There is a lot packed into this book and I’d say this would be a foundational read for every photographer.

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ARCs Art Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Photography Rules Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers by Paul Lowe

Over 150 essential mantras for anyone interested in taking good pictures. 

In Photography Rules, Paul Lowe (expert photographer and lecturer) guides you through over 150 bite-sized dos and don’ts from the likes of Dorothea Lange, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Rankin and Richard Avedon. Whether you’re a complete beginner using your iPhone, looking to improve your DSLR skills or are already a professional, this book will give you insider tips inspired by the greatest photographers from history as well as original pieces of advice from some of the most well-respected living photographers.

Each of the pithy entries will combine a specific rule and a supporting photograph or quote with commentary from the author on how best to put the advice into practice. Chapters include:

Making Photographs: Practical tips for taking great photographs, covering genre, composition, operational function, working with your subject, lighting, post-production and printBeing a Photographer: Insider guidance on attitude, creativity, understanding photography and finding your purposeProfessional Practice: Dos and don’ts about being a professional, working with clients, marketing yourself, developing your career, making money and collaborations With succinct, accessible and engaging entries, expert advice from the author, and original quotes from the some of the greatest living photographers – readers can either dip in at random or read religiously for lessons in how to produce photographs they’re proud of. This is the perfect book for students, amateurs or professional photographers looking to improve their skills and find inspiration. 

Photography Rules: Essential Dos and Don'ts from Great PhotographersPhotography Rules: Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers by Paul Lowe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Quarto Publishing Group – White Lion Publishing for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This was the perfect book for me. It met me right where I was at. I’d recommend it to any photographer with similar sentiments to me as it provided a unique, thoughtful compilation of the great advice and a well-tailored focus of image examples out there.

It was refreshing to read and brought a distinguished and inspirational element to the photography section of my bookshelf.

It wasn’t a sell on equipment branding and specs, or a historical timeline of photography through the ages, an exhaustive technical how to, a recycled rearrangement of seen all, heard photography aspects, nor was it just exclusive insight into one author’s personal experiences.

Those things certainly all have their place in photography but I found this particular book to be an insightful, accessible compilation piece, having taken the main rules of photography (both creative and technical) and concisely honing in on the main driving points, taking the best of each concept as it displayed advice and an image example of each.

From that standpoint, the author’s foreword discussed the meaning and principles behind the rules as incorporated into the title and content which I really appreciated since it clarified questions that I had. I think it was excellent advice to recommend integrating rules into your practice and break them one at a time to see what new things you can create.

So from that, each rule was thoughtfully curated, showing how they may or may not be broken to create compelling images.

I myself, feel I haven’t taken the time to be able to admire and understand the works by photographers. So I really enjoyed the quotes, the discussions, the theoretical concepts explained by each as they showcased some of their most powerful and iconic photos.

Perhaps it may be easier for readers to decide if this book is for them by telling about me.

To give some perspective, I have been taking photographs on and off for the better part of my life, mostly at my own amusement. I’m familiar with film and digital. Shooting mostly scenes of landscapes, wildlife, flowers, books, and recipes.

I have had limited formal training and never really kept up with the digital era and post processing achievements of today. I also haven’t kept up with the notoriety and skillset of photographers in recognition of their most famous works and the artistry/techniques they bring to the table.

However for the past year and a half I’ve sought to better my photography and challenge myself.

Concepts I really took away: not shying away from motion blur and better celebrating the movement to show the energy of a scene, choosing a subject regardless of figures, and definitely paying attention to lines and lighting more.

Also to break some terrible habits I’ve developed. Since not having been on social media for 6 months, especially not having been on Instagram, I feel more compelled not to tailor images to the constraints of the platform anymore. I guess I didn’t realize how much I catered my images to it with its square tiling, cutting off of margins, leaving me to frame images with an extra bumper of a gap and dead centering.

Techniques I’d like to try as a result of reading this book include: using the tripod more, practicing more slow shutter techniques, and trying a hand at photo composites.

I also liked the vast overview of concepts especially from a journalistic point of view since my knowledge and experience with that is minimal. I also liked how this book was organized and was easy to understand. Tidbits on referential connection, work submissions, publishing, ethics, captioning, working with models, even working in traumatic situations and image management were wonderful bonuses in this book.

Very enjoyable, I learned a lot!

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Art Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World’s First Artists by Gregory Curtis

In his new book, Gregory Curtis introduces us to the spectacular cave paintings of France and Spain—to the men and women who rediscovered them, to the varied theories about their origins, to their remarkable beauty and their continuing fascination.

The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World's First ArtistsThe Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World’s First Artists by Gregory Curtis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book featured everything from the first excavations of the first expressions of art through paint as we know them. It included how people of the past depicted the celebrations of everyday life and culture as well as dispelling errors in perception, interpretation, and preservation.

I learned an incredible amount from the book and it was consistently intriguing. I feel I can appreciate art with a much more greater understanding as to how the paintings were accomplished with hard work and respect and perceive art in more depth in a more general way as well.

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Art Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Porcelain Artist

A great little booklet that was originally made for teaching student artists how to paint on porcelain. I used it for learning to paint flowers with watercolor, acrylic, and oil media.

It contained a variety of flower types including various colors of roses and lilies which was both inspiring and fascinating to study the color, values, and texture of each brush stroke technique to create flower heads, leaves, stems, and backgrounds.

Unfortunately this one is out of print

Art Book Reviews Educational Featured Nonfiction

How Claude Parsons Paints Flowers (Walter Foster # 75) by Claude Parsons, Walter Foster

How to paint flowers, Claude Parsons style…

How Claude Parsons Paints Flowers (Walter Foster # 75)How Claude Parsons Paints Flowers by Claude Parsons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book! Inspirational and fun! It contains many flower varietals and compositions. The technique is insightful and interesting to learn!

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ARCs Art Book Reviews Books Featured Nonfiction

A Field Guide to Color: Watercolor Explorations in Hues, Tints, Shades, and Everything in Between by Lisa Solomon

Play with paint, get creative with color, and discover your personal palette–a joyful, interactive workbook for creativity, self-expression, and deepening your understanding of how color works.

Color is one of the most profound ways we have to express ourselves. In this lively workbook for artists, graphic designers, hobbyists, and creators of all types, you will journal your way through fresh and enriching ways to develop a more personal connection to color in your art and life. Using watercolors, gouache, or any other water-based medium, dive into color theory and explore your personal style while playing with a balanced blend of experiments and color meditations. Discover a personal color wheel while exploring tints and shades. Experiment with color mixing while you make as many of one color as you can – and then name them all (honeydew green, avocado green, mint ice cream…). Through playful prompts and inspiring examples, and with lots of room for painting, this book will guide you to a new or expanded relationship with color and deepen your understanding of what color can do for you.

A Field Guide to Color: Watercolor Explorations in Hues, Tints, Shades, and Everything in BetweenA Field Guide to Color: Watercolor Explorations in Hues, Tints, Shades, and Everything in Between by Lisa Solomon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Roost Books for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

Such a fun, hands-on way to learn about watercolor from a book! I’d recommend this to anyone, whether you’re new to watercolor painting or a seasoned artist. It would make a great gift and an excellent time at a paint party, family time, and small group crafting clubs.

I have only recently started to pick up painting about a year ago, something I hadn’t done since probably high school. I’d classify myself as more of a novice, especially when it comes to watercolor and understanding color specifically. I learned a lot going through all the color exercises.

This book is well organized with fun activities and clear instruction. The overall content of the book as far as communication of color concept and application was intriguing and easy to follow.

I enjoyed the author’s methods, pacing, and personality that she brought into the book. It was wonderful to experience learning from art book from someone who conveys as much enthusiasm as she did. It really felt like I was taking a class in person, built on solid theory with personal experiences and touches on topics such as color meditation exercises which I had never heard of before. It was really good practice for me, especially the color matching and graduated color exercises which also incorporated learning shapes and lines.

There were a lot of amazing resources in the back including additional book recommendations, tools, supplies, and shops. I am excited to check out the classes offered as recommended by the book which can be found at Creativebug.

Because it’s set up like a workbook and I received a digital ARC, I was not able to try painting on the pages that are included in the published book, so I used my own watercolor paper and therefore, I cannot comment on that neat feature of the book other than it’s a really wonderful idea!

Check out my and my sister’s watercolor art from our paint party below.


“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.”

~My Heart Leaps Up, a poem by William Wordsworth

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My watercolor art.

Self Portrait (watercolor) | Erica Robbin
Self Portrait (watercolor) | Erica Robbin

Hibiscus (watercolor) | Erica Robbin
Hibiscus (watercolor) | Erica Robbin

My sister’s watercolor work from our paint party.

Piano Room (watercolor) | SillySallyMoon
Piano Room (watercolor) | SillySallyMoon

Sleeping in the Lily Pond (watercolor) | SillySallyMoon
Sleeping in the Lily Pond (watercolor) | SillySallyMoon

Morning Coffee (watercolor) | SillySallySomething
Morning Coffee (watercolor) | SillySallySomething

Evening Tea (watercolor) | SillySallySomething
Evening Tea (watercolor) | SillySallySomething

My sister is amazing at watercolor, you can see more of her artwork here. I hope to paint like her someday!

Do you paint or want to try learning watercolor painting?

Art Book Reviews Books Childrens Featured

At The Zoo by Clever Publishing

With panoramic illustrations on each spread and appealing recurring characters, our classic Look & Find format is now available to the youngest readers. These imaginative books welcome curious toddlers to experience adventures in familiar places – the park, the zoo, and the city. Short texts with stimulating questions are expertly designed for young readers, making this series a great introduction to animals, objects, situations, and everyday events. The colorful illustrations are large enough for a curious toddler to find. Kids will find 4 hidden objects on each spread and learn many new words. The format is the perfect size for toddlers!

At The ZooAt The Zoo by Clever Publishing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an adorable book! I’d recommend it to any preschool age children, whether English is their primary language or any child working on additional language acquisition. I’d also recommend it for parents/caregivers/teachers looking for a book that will encourage interaction, dialogue, education, and bonding.

The tour of the zoo and all its festivities was a fun aspect. The illustrations were bright, clean, colorful, and creative with enough detail to hold true to character identification for purposes of the book, hold attention and interest, and have distinctive artistic style and facial expression.

The pacing of the book is just perfect and can be tailored for intended audiences (ranging from 0-3) and beyond with interactive activities for age appropriate developmental milestones. The quality of the book itself makes all the difference, that being board book, which I presume is a glossy, stain-resistant finish, in which the pages can be easily turned and can also lay flat.

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Clever Publishing for providing me with this copy for free through the Goodreads giveaway program.

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Art Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Graphic Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

Face Paint: The Story of Makeup by Lisa Eldridge

Makeup, as we know it, has only been commercially available in the last 100 years, but applying decoration to the face and body may be one of the oldest global social practices. In Face Paint, Lisa Eldridge reveals the entire history of the art form, from Egyptian and Classical times up through the Victorian age and golden era of Hollywood, and also surveys the cutting-edge makeup science of today and tomorrow. Face Paint explores the practical and idiosyncratic reasons behind makeup’s use, the actual materials employed over generations, and the glamorous icons that people emulate and how they achieved their effects. An engaging history of style, it is also a social history of women and the ways in which we can understand their lives through the prism and impact of makeup.

Face Paint: The Story of MakeupFace Paint: The Story of Makeup by Lisa Eldridge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely love this book! I read it through and through upon its initial release and continue to reference it for makeup looks and inspiration. It is an excellent addition to any literary makeup collection. I would highly recommend it to anyone with a passion for makeup.

Written as story about makeup, it’s not a how to makeup application book per se but will certainly give anyone inspiration especially to makeup enthusiasts interested in reading a well-researched historical timeline of the origin of pigments and formulations, cultural views, trends, business and industry aspects, and muses. It also contains a lovely curation of photos and illustrations and provides excellent visual appeal with its page construction, layouts, and high quality images and printing. I really appreciated the author, Lisa Eldridge’s proper writing skills, organization of topics, and how references were provided. In fact I think it deserves additional stars for including proper reference citations and formal photo credits, not only for academic completeness which I find is actually incredibly rare for this type of book genre, but also for my personal desire to look up original articles and more information about historical figures, photographers, brands, and additional interests of mine.


“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.” -Miss Piggy

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Art Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

How To Write and Publish a Best Selling Craft Book by Mark Montano

If you’ve ever wanted to write your own best selling craft book, this is the guide for you. Mark Montano is the #1 selling craft book author of all time and in How To Write and Publish a Best Selling Craft Book, he teaches you his process from book concept to publication. Included are instructions on how to write a book proposal specifically for a craft book and two of his personal book proposals that were picked up for publication by Simon and Schuster. Mark lets you in on all of the secrets that make his books best sellers including how to create a style that is uniquely yours, how to get a book agent or find a publisher and how to promote your book once it’s been published.

How To Write and Publish a Best Selling Craft BookHow To Write and Publish a Best Selling Craft Book by Mark Montano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked how Mark Montano combined personal publishing experience, industry standards, and put a different spin on common sense tips that are specific to writing and publishing a craft book. It’s well-organized and I was able to read it in one sitting without rushing through or getting bored. I highly recommend it!

It has a conversational writing style, which I quite enjoyed because of the energy he maintains. His passions are obvious and I like that he’s willing to share them in a step-wise fashion.

There was a bit of self-promotion which was excellent to include, but I did wish it was a edited more thoroughly, especially having written a book about writing and publishing. I was semi-distracted by the use of mixed quote integration, overuse of commas, overuse of caps for emphasis, em dashes, and do I dare mention inconsistency of the Oxford comma. I’m honestly a fan of it, but there is a need to choose one or the other and stick with it.


“Create your projects so that other people can create them, too.”

“Those steps need to be included, too!”

MACRO lens.

“The book editor can always whittle down the photos that are most important when the book is being edited.” I felt this was akin to something like the scissors can always cut the paper when they are cutting.

I enjoyed reading about the sample proposals but I wasn’t as keen on the inclusion of his own critique of competing titles in his sample proposal without more of the details I thought it needed. In my opinion, including them in this book creates a bit of a conflict of interest especially since I didn’t feel it was judged with as much scrutiny as the others. This was sort of unavoidable but it maybe it was because I didn’t like the messages they conveyed or maybe that’s just the overlying tone I interpreted them as. They were a bit ranty, negative edged, and criticized other books in the field without expressing how his ideas set him apart in a positive way. I felt this was a lost opportunity to sell his own incredible body of work which was odd because he clearly does this in all other sections of his proposal and is really good at it and has so much to offer that wasn’t highlighted like in other parts of the book.

I would really like to see a part 2 that goes into more detail about creating aesthetic appeal related to craft photography and page layout.


“Many people have creative fear. They are afraid to jump off of the creative cliff and take the plunge and they will find many excuses not to do it. Letting them know that ‘any kind of white school glue will do’ will help them along the way.” -Mark Montano

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