Tag Archive | non fiction

Drawing: Horses, Walter Foster

Drawing: Horses, Walter Foster

Genre: , Arts & Photography, crafts and hobbies

This is a fabulous book BUT its not for beginners, whatever the blurb says. Each illustration has just 3-4 “steps” although the shading and rendering of individual parts of the horse is covered in more detail separately.
I know when I first started painting I needed the more detailed step by step books, those with about ten steps. I found with less my paintings would go from looking like the illustrations more or less in the early stage, to nothing like. I’d be thinking “but how did they do that bit?” and found it frustrating.
I could follow this book easily now but as a beginner I know I’d have struggled and been discouraged.

I think focusing on specific parts of the horse, and the tips on shaping and shading really useful. I liked that the book covers different breeds, as a horse lover and former owner I know just how different a Shetland is to a Shire or an Arab, and if you want your horses to look real, not a generic blend of horse shape this is essential.

Overall its a brilliant book IMO for those with some drawing skills and a little confidence but it is NOT one for beginners. If you do buy it and don’t have that experience I think you need to practice drawing the parts of the horse, hooves, muzzles etc before tackling the whole horse.

Stars: Four, its a fabulous book, full of tips to help draw realistic equines, but I’ve dropped a star because I just don’t feel this is suitable for beginners despite the description.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers


One Million followers, How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days, Brendan Kane.

One Million followers, How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days, Brendan Kane.

One Million Followers: How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days by [Kane, Brendan]

Genre: Business and Investing,  Nonfiction (Adult)

Like many of the (cough) slightly older generation I’m not altogether au fait with how the internet works. I use social media, blog about art and books, but actual publicity? Nope, my growth is just something that happens, I’ve little idea on how to influence it, so the title of this book intrigued me. 30 days – I could do that…couldn’t I?

Well, the answer is no. I could if pushed spend 30 days promoting my site but without substantial financial input that wouldn’t get me too far. Its not really clear from the title but this book is aimed at growing followers by spending money. Admittedly there’s lots of info on how best to do that, where to place it for maximum use, but I suspect most folk like me just don’t have a spare few thousand lying around to use on promotion.

I was expecting advice on how to make sites more relevant, how to make them attractive to visitors, pull then in that way and thus followers would be ones to stick around, but most of this appears to be about Getting the followers, not keeping them. A kind of Blunderbuss effect, throw a site in front of millions of folk and hope some click Follow. TBH one million people who don’t read books or are not interested in art, wouldn’t help me even if I spend money I haven’t got on getting them.

Its interesting reading in parts, bogged down in others, and I found myself skipping fairly huge chunks of it. It didn’t really tell me much I didn’t already know, and wasn’t really relevant to me as a small blogger.
If you’ve a biggish company with a promotional budget, I suspect you’ll find lots of helpful information here, but my little blogs don’t really compare to the sites of Taylor Swift, Rhianna, MTV et al, and without substantial inputs of money most folk aren’t going to achieve anything like one million followers.

Stars: Three, some parts were interesting to read but most just not relevant to the average small site owner.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Old English Medical Remedies, Mandrake, Wormwood and Raven’s Eye, Sinead Spearing

Old English Medical Remedies, Mandrake, Wormwood and Raven’s Eye,  Sinead Spearing

Genre:  Health, Mind & Body , History

I’m kind of conflicted about this review. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, which was actual historical remedies and then a discussion on individual issues from them in the light of today’s knowledge.
I’m fascinated by old ways, remedies that were surprisingly effective, gained from acute observation of patient, remedy and effects mixed in with what seems to us much weirdness, gathering herbs on certain days, standing in certain position, using different coloured materials and of course the ever present evils of the day….What I got was an intensely interesting read, but which was much more like an academic treatise, at times pretty hard going for a hobby historian like myself.
I think that really needs to be made clearer in the description as I can see from reviews several others felt the same.

I really enjoyed the remedies and discussions when they cropped up, learning about how many are finding their way into modern medicine. The discussion too on why practices that seem so irrelevant to us now, with our science knows all outlook, things like times, days, colours, that are all set down so precisely were so important and not the side dressing they appear.
It reminded me of the way I read years back that so many recipes called for “the water of a man-child” and that seems sexist. Did they really think male urine was somehow stronger, more special? No, but the penis naturally allows urine to remain sterile longer while female urine can get skin contamination more easily as its gathered. Simple but important stuff. They may not have know why, but observation and records will have shown them that male urine was more effective.
Then too we now have a whole school of theory based around bio-dynamics, incorporating moon schedules for planting etc.

I found fascinating the research now done on intention of thought, where research was done on stands of human DNA, one group were asked to hold the vial while maintaining a heightened state of emotional positivity, the second asked to mentally intend to unwind the strand of DNA and the third group asked to do both. There was a marked difference in the first two groups compared with the third, with that one showing material change. It lead to a conclusion that focused intention could produce a material change, a small study but certainly food for thought, and one that could explain why intention was regarded as so important.
We’re so quick to dismiss what doesn’t fit our current science theories that we often dismiss old words, and yet as shown on the MRSA antibiotic, we could be losing valuable cures. Just because there seems no science base, no logic doesn’t mean a theory or remedy in invalid. I remember my shock years back when my PC/IT son told me about water being research for computer chips as water has a memory…I still find that hard to take 😉

Its a fascinating read, but so intense and academic that I found it hard at times, and I’ve skimmed through, reading sections that catch my eye. Its certainly a read I’ll dip back into for sheer interest, and its very clear the author has a real knowledge and passion for the subject. I had convinced that what she wrote had been thoroughly researched and checked, and wasn’t just an opinion of hers, but something gleaned from thorough analysis of the texts available.
For me though a read that was a bit lighter, or a better description so I knew what to expect would have made me happier.

Stars: 4, a great read for anyone interested in old remedies and the history of why they were so used.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers


A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind, Shoukei Matsumoto

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind, Shoukei Matsumoto

A Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind by [Matsumoto, Shoukei]

Genre: Health, Mind & Body , Religion & Spirituality

I like to read books about other cultures and religions, and thought this sounded interesting. Its a quick and easy read, very slanted towards monks and temple life but with some parallels that apply to everybody.

I do find when I’ve had a mammoth blitz on the house that I feel better, that I get pleasure from seeing a clean room so I can understand the ethos about taking pride in cleaning, in doing a job well. I think the message I got from it was that and also give a task your full attention, don’t let your mind wander but focus and appreciate what you are doing as an important task. Its not just cleaning a floor, but making the home smell good, appealing to visitors, a place you can take pride in and focusing your mind while doing so lets some of the other clutter in there go, relaxes us. Well, that’s the way I read it 😉 and it does make sense to me.

I made a note about this part that resonated with me. “Adherence to the past and misgivings about the future will fill your head, wresting your mind from the present. That is why we monks pour ourselves heart and soil into the polishing of floors. Cleaning is training for staying in the now. Therein lies the reason for being particular about cleanliness.” Sometimes we’re so busy looking ahead, to whats yet to come but which can change and looking to the past which we can’t change that we don’t appreciate today. Its time we’ll never get back so enjoy it.
When early in the book he is talking about Buddhism, and not harming other creatures he explains by keeping the temples clean they avoid insect and other infestations which they would then need to deal with, so its easier to keep to their beliefs by preventing it happening in the first place. My agnostic cockney gran used to say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so clearly that transcends countries and religions.

I am going to try to take on some of the things I’ve read, make cleaning a regular schedule instead of my current ad-hoc when-I-feel-like-it one…and to focus on what I’m doing wholly instead of letting my mind wander. Like most of us I could do with some calm so its well worth trying.

Stars: 5. a short but very interesting book. Mostly centred around monks and temples it never the less has an ethos we can bring into our own cleaning regime.


ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and publishers


Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood by Chris Yarrow

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood
by Chris Yarrow

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood by [Yarrow, Chris]

Genre: Biographies and memoirs, Outdoors and Nature

Its taken me a while to review this as its not a kindle ARC, but an Epub, and I have issues reading on a PC, but finally got through it.
Its a really interesting read, detailing a family’s progress from first idea, searching for the right wood, purchasing and of course building a home and business from it.
I enjoyed reading about their day to day struggles, with not just Nature but Those (nominally) In Charge. The Officials who make the rules, but don’t always realise the one size doesn’t fit all, and things like soil type can vary within a few hundred yards, therefore growing some kinds of trees, while it may be in Local Plans, just won’t work.

I think in the UK we can get OTT over planning, obsessional almost over control, and Chris and Anne find this again and again. They want what ostensibly the planners want, to return a woodland to a working woods, to look after, to protect, to encourage healthy trees, but sometimes – as I’ve found myself – officials are too ready to land Tree Protection Orders on trees that just don’t need it. Rules and regulations get in the way of practicality and doing whats right for that woodland, not necessarily whats right on paper or proscribed in Local Plans.
I really felt for them when they came up against officials and locals determined not to listen to their plans, convinced they were out to ruin the land. Somehow though they work through, and I loved the successes and the descriptions of the working wood, and that gorgeous house.

It gave me lots to think about, opened my eyes to the many things that can be done with woodlands. I wish I’d been able to do something along these lines when younger.
I’ve always had a love of nature, enjoying growing things and seeing them mature, and trees of course can take a very long time to reach maturity, but there are ways of making money from younger trees while encouraging mature ones for future generations.
It’s not just wood that’s harvested, but leaf mulch, charcoal making, school trips and education, cafes and woodland walks, basket and hurdle making, so many things not just planks and logs from trees.
Of course we also get the benefit of plants and fungi that flourish in healthy woodland, the animals, birds and insects that depend on the trees in all states from young to rotten, and of course they way trees clean the air.
I love the keeping of old crafts, of the way woods were used in the past, I feel we do let so much old knowledge go in the quest for modernisation. The UK has a centuries long forestry heritage, and I’d like to play a part in keeping that.

Its not all fun and games though, trees take a lot of work, and though I’ve only four acres of land it seems there’s always tree limbs need pruning, sapling thinned out to encourage strong growth and dead trees to be felled – only yesterday, 30th December, we had to remove two silver birches in danger of falling into the road. It natural progression that trees age and need to be managed, but its expensive if like me you can’t do it yourself. Its been entertaining read of Chris and Anne’s struggles and successes, and anyone interested in doing something along these lines will learn much for the book.

Stars: five, a practical and entertaining read, with careful dollops of gentle humour to balance.
Arc supplied for review by Netgalley and Publishers


My Journey, A Victory Over Cancer Through Alternative Methods, A Book That May Save Your Life, Valarie Hendriks

My Journey, A Victory Over Cancer Through Alternative Methods,
A Book That May Save Your Life, Valarie Hendriks

My Journey: A Victory Over Cancer Through Alternative Methods by [Hendriks, Valarie ]

Genre: self-help, health, mind and body

Having had cancer myself 22 years ago, stories like this interest me and I’ve always had an interest on complemetary and alternative medicine.
I think its a very long time though since a book has made me as angry as this one.

Its a dangerous book IMO, that suggests conventional treatment kills, that  current treatment is basically a stitch up between doctors getting paid by treatment, drug companies wanting to make money, that the medical profession as a whole are ignoring these simple and inexpensive cures. She posits that alternative treatment cures, and the book is full of sweeping statements that have no data or available research to back them up, though plenty of info from the makers of each. No bias there then.
Its presenting these statements, opinions and speculations as fact that angers me, and I feel its very dangerous for those who are desperately hoping for a cure.
I know I searched hard when I was undergoing treatment, to see what I could be doing to help myself, and back then its was all Sharks Cartilage, Apricot Kernels and coffee enemas that were the holy grail of alternative remedies. ( Coffee enemas feature here too…)

There were times when we agree, she promotes healthy eating and looking after your body and I feel that’s very true, we need to ensure our bodies can cope with what we want, give them the tools to fight off abnormalities. Its a common sense approach that a physically strong body should respond better to whatever treatment, whatever illness were dealing with.
She’s a strong promoter of God and Prayer, for me its Positive thinking – I’m not a non believer, but I’m not sure if its god that’s who I believe in, but it helps to think there’s someone, something greater than us who can push our health in the right direction.
I did find the religious pushing, the constant cheeriness, exhortations to Smile, group hugs, the use of Lots Of Capitals and Exclamation Marks were trying after a while!!!!
Its a tone that didn’t work for me though, but it’s just a personal thing and will be fine for others.

What made me cross too was her constant pushing of certain manufacturers, her constant stating of her opinions and online finds as facts – ie Citing a case quoted by the inventor of the hot sandwich, how within one week of eating a “hot sandwich” every day – that’s basically habanero peppers, garlic and organic butter on organic bread -the tumours in both his (patients) colon and liver had disappeared. (loc 2670)
Kelley Eidem, inventor of this sandwich also has a hub page – “how I cured stage 4 cancer in two weeks for less than the cost of a night at the movies.”
Hmnn now – do I think that’s true? Is there details of the person who was cured? Is there any form of backing data, facts, real people coming forward who have been cured by this method? Is there really a huge conspiracy against this and similar treatments by the whole medical profession and drug companies, ensuring we still get ill just to keep them in jobs? They’re not perfect, they’re human and make mistakes but to take things that far is something I can’t feel is right.
Then she goes on about how awful chemo is, ( true – but sadly necessary for lots of us), how more people die from the chemo than the cancer – again no backing data, and a quick sentence sneaked in among the heavy pushed alternative remedies tells us she had treatment of Rituxan – but that’s OK because “Rituxan is not chemotherapy. Rituxan is a type of antibody therapy….”
Well, that’s true to an extent, its what the makers say, but its certainly conventional treatment for certain cancers, and not one of the natural vitamin supplement or coffee enemas she’s so fond of. Chemotherapy is just that to me, therapy made from chemicals, from research of all kinds, some of which are man made and some found in nature. Rituxan is certainly that, so to suggest her cancer was cured solely by alternative methods is a little stretching things. Rituxan is actually made by fusing part of a mouse body with part of a human antibody, not quite a simple therapy.  There are deadly remeies in nature too, arsenic, cyanide, lead, so many things that are “natural2 can also kill. Its not nature good – man-made bad. Both have points for and against

Maybe the treatment in US is very different to UK, but when I underwent chemo some 22 years back I had a battery of tests, x-rays, CT and MRI scans, blood tests, urine tests both before, during and after to ensure that my body was able to cope with the chemo, that it would help, not hinder recovery. My chemo was tailored to me, not a blunderbuss of “might help” chemicals. She kind of suggests in US they throw that sort of treatment at a patient without all that monitoring, thus the many that she says die from the treatment not the disease, and I find it hard to believe it would vary so much from UK/rest of the world in US.
I’m just so angry that she derides conventional treatment, makes these sweeping statements about how her research has shown that more people die of chemo effects after they’ve been cleared of cancer, that having chemo is akin to a death sentence, that with the right combo of vitamins, coffee enemas, using Bentonite clay inside and outside the body, massages, special saunas, fasting on juices for up to 14 days at a time etc you can be cured ( and the power or Prayer, she’s a great fan of God’s help – and that’s good for her but not for everyone.)
When people are diagnosed, especially when the chances of living are minimal, then its natural to look for something we can do ourselves, and this book just takes me back to those sharks cartilage days. I worry that people will only see the alternative remedies as the cure, and not the very real conventional treatment she had.
Spurning data backed, tested and verified results of conventional treatment in favour of those alternatives could mean the difference between life of death. If anyone is going to do that don’t just rely on one person’s words, check facts, look up some of the science, look for results, for real people that have undergone what your doing.
I’m not saying blindly accept what is offered conventionally, you should ask questions there too, what, how, why am I having….Its your body, you are the one taking the risk so look very carefully.

What I can say is don’t be disheartened by this book, don’t feel its all one way or the other, that if you don’t follow this regime, if you go with conventional treatment you are going to die.
I have been cancer free for 22 years now, after an amputation and two rounds of experimental chemotherapy. By the time my tumour was diagnosed it was very big, very advanced, I was lucky it hadn’t spread. My chances of surviving were assessed at just 15%.
Ididn’t have lots of alternative therapies, I did put my trust in the doctors who treated me having asked them and received answers to my questions. I didn’t go for healthy eating all the while – I tried as much as I could but didn’t always feel like eating anything, never mind swallowing a battalion of supplements. I couldn’t have afforded them in all likelihood anyway, nor the special saunas and as for coffee enemas, well, I’d have to be very convinced they work.

I’m glad that whatever worked for her did, but whether it was the conventional treatment or the alternative that worked who knows?
I’m all in favour of complementary therapy, something many cancer hospitals offer, all in for helping ourselves, of trying to wrest some form of control of our illness, not let it take over our lives, but Cancer is unpredictable – we can do a lot to help ourselves by way of avoiding unhealthy lifestyles, by ensuring we eat and drink sensibly, look after our bodies, and sometimes it regresses for no known reason. It just isn’t as simple as she makes out and I worry she’s putting out a dangerous message.

Stars: One, sorry, I’m sure Valarie put her heart and soul into writing this book, I’m sure she strongly believes what she’s written but that doesn’t mean alternative is best or that conventional kills.
If you want to go the alternative route talk to your doctors, research for yourself what actual results have been verified, not just someone saying “xyz people have been cured by….” Don’t get fooled by smoke and mirrors

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Taste of Persia, A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan. Naomi Duguid

Taste of Persia, A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan.  Naomi Duguid

Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by [Duguid, Naomi]

Genre:  non-fiction

I adore cookery books, and when they’re combined with real stories about the food in its natural setting, grow locally and eaten how the natives of that country eat it – well, its a wonderful treat.

I loved the recipes, beautifully illustrated and described so as to make me drool….While I’m reading I’m mentally going through my cupboards thinking “do I have that spice? This herb? Shall I try that recipe next time the family are all here?”
The little anecdotes that accompany the recipes are great, made me feel there with Naomi, made me want to shut my eyes and dream, feel the heat and dust, smell the fragrance of a myriad of spices and herbs, hear the babble of voices selling food on the markets.

I love books like this that set food where it should be, don’t take a recipe and present it in isolation. A strawberry picked straight off the plant on a warm summer morning tastes very different to one presented in the sterility of a supermarket. They’re both strawberries but we taste with our eyes and ears, use our senses to feels what’s around us, and that creates something more than just “taste” to me.

I’m an artist and when I see a painting I like I love to try to see who it was constructed, know the story behind the inspiration – that adds to my enjoyment as much as seeing the work does.In the same way when its food I want to think of where a recipe originated and how, why that cheese was used, why this spice was chosen to add flavour. Its how a recipe is built up what is so fascinating to me, and when we know the stories of the locals, know what food grows best where, and can see how those recipes developed over time that makes me best appreciate them. Sometimes its a simple as the UK tradition of roasts, casseroles, long slow cooking which developed over centuries where we were a heavily wooded isle so fuel was plentiful, and food could be left simmering all day while other tasks completed, but in countries where fuel was scarce, cutting food into small pieces or shreds and then quickly stir frying became the norm.
Then of course there are the things that grow best in each place, and the lack of refrigeration that led to highly spiced foods and curries developing in some countries, possibly to help disguise some flavours and to add an element of preservation. Herbs and spices can do so much more than just add flavour.

Food isn’t just fuel, but a time for people to gather and share experiences, and that comes over so strongly here and makes this book not only a visual feast but a whole learning experience too.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read, a cook book that appeals to the brain as well as the taste-buds.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

The Book Blogger Platform, Barb Drozdowich



Genre:  Computers & Internet, Professional & Technical

Well, like many people I fell into to blogging by accident a couple of years back. I love to read, added reviews on amazon of books I’d read and started getting authors requesting I read their books. From there I joined a site aimed at reviewers and saw they prefer those with a blog. I didn’t really understand the whole blog thing but had subscribed to a few art and novel blogs and saw that for me wordpress is easier than Blogger to use, so started a WordPress blog. From there it grew and I now have a product review blog too.


Blogging demands time though, its not a quick and easy route to free stuff, what you get out is determined by what you put in. To start I was confused, so many things to choose, to learn, different styles, themes, colours, fonts…I was guided there by my experience as a reader/user of blogs, but that’s where this book is useful. I’ve changed bits overtime, but I’m still reluctant to make too many changes in case I get it wrong. I still open a new window to make changes, so I can revert back to the old one if I mess up…and I do!

Barb has a series of YouTube videos – ironic really – linked to the book, and with the help of those I plan to make more radical changes when I’ve time. If you’re just starting its easier I feel to focus on the videos than try to make sense of what the book says. Much of the text is quite complex, and its not exactly riveting reading anyway is it ? These kind of books are always somewhat dry to read. I tend to do them in stages, give time to absorb new info.

There are things I’ve learned from this book, that I could incorporate, how to get more subscribers, how to encourage comments etc. Blogging really is second to me to reading, and is there to support my addiction to new books! That doesn’t mean I ignore it though or can treat it as inferior. I try to have a new book or product review each day, and its a personal choice what kind of content and how often you blog. Barb helps there – you need to focus on your aims, and mine is to get good books to read, and useful  products to review. For others is about trying to make money from the site, to attract adverts, get commissions from amazon etc. Each demands a different approach, and books like this help you see where to go, what to do.

I’d love to make money from my blogs – who wouldn’t? That demands even more time though and I feel my life is pretty full as it is, so currently I’m not going that route. In the future though who knows? Books like this do help take away the mythology surrounding how to make money from blogging.


In a way I did feel Barb let personal preference override her advice at times, often there was little to choose but she’d come down on one side without really explaining why. That doesn’t help readers work out how to choose for themselves.

There’s some interesting stats re blogs, but for me and I suspect many bloggers, that side doesn’t really get made the most of. What many really want to know is what makes the most effective blog for a good user experience. I’m not convinced this book really covers that, but it does offer lots of advice on where to go to find out things, and of course the YouTube videos which are excellent.


If you’re thinking about starting a blog don’t let the technical side put you off, in this book it sounds quite scary at times! Just start one up and learn as you go, using books like this to guide you but not rule your choices. Its Your blog You choose, having explored different options first. I call it the Suck It and See approach!

It is easier if you get it right to start – I’d like to change the “theme “ of mine but not sure if that’s going to involve a lot of work or be a simple job. If I’d chosen more carefully to begin that would have been better, but I was just swamped, overawed with all the choices. Looking at them with a book like this to hand would have helped me weigh up pros and cons.

I have the free wordpress blog but am thinking about changing to the paid one, really just because I like to be in control. I did fall foul of their policies by accident about two month into my venture and my blog was locked, but they were great at advising where I’d gone wrong and soon unlocked it. Having now made over 1600 book reviews I really don’t want to risk that again, but am still not sure what else I need to do if I change, what WordPress does – such as back ups – that I would need to build in. I suspect that’s true of many of us though.


Use this book for reference, use the YouTube videos, but don’t get put off by the jargon, the tech side. You can learn as you go – many of us have and TBH I think you never stop learning. Its a great hobby, whether you’re talking about books, products, hobbies or just using it as a kind of daily diary.


Stars: Four, a great reference but a little dry and hard going at times.

ARC received from Netgalley and publishers for review purposes.

The Flower Workshop, Lessons in Arranging Blooms Branches Fruit, and Foraged Materials, Ariella Chezar, Julie Michaels

The Flower Workshop, Lessons in Arranging Blooms Branches Fruit, and Foraged Materials,  Ariella Chezar, Julie Michaels

amazon UK buy link   Amazon com link

Genre:  non fiction, crafts and hobbies

I adore flowers, and even as a child I loved to forage in the garden making posies all year round and pick wildflowers on the way home from school, buttercups, milk meadow, kingcups and ferns from the commons and ponds, queen anne’s lace, pink clover, campions, wild scabious from the roadsides, bluebells and primroses from the woods, and of course tree branches with blosson or new leaves, and honeysuckle, wild roses etc. so when I saw this I had to have it!

Its a fabulous read for those who love flowers, not just for arranging but for themselves. There’s advice on growing them if you have space, buying wholesale at flower markets if you need large quantities, choosing best blooms from flower shops, or as I  did scavenging and using what’s seasonal. ( Of course conservation and legislation need to be kept in mind when doing that too, something that bever occurred to me as a child, though even then I only picked what was plentiful).

It also covers how best to make arrangements last, what containers to use to show flowers to their full beauty, how to match colours avoiding those awful clashing arrangements we see. Why on earth do people want vividly dyed artificial colours when there are so many beautiful natural ones. My heart drops when presented with a bunch of lurid fluorescent pink, bright unnatural blue and acid yellow chrysanthemums. Its lovely to get flowers – and for me they’re a present always welcome – but the first thing I have to do when given these is separate the colours and try to tone them down with pastels in complementary colours and lots of soft greenery….I swear the garden cringes when it sees me approaching with the secateurs yet again. Now I’ve read this book I’ve lots more ideas too 😉

The illustrations are drool worthy, gorgeous lush towering arrangements down to showing the beauty of flowers as individuals. I found it so great to see more unusual flowers used, along with tree branches and strands of ivy and other trailing plants. There really is an arrangement for every occasion here – from a simple get well posy for a friend, to lavish wedding or party full scale arrangements.

I read this on my kindle fire so could see the photos in full colour, but like most non fiction books I really think this would be best appreciated as a traditional print book, where the pages can be flicked through and the photos in much larger size show the details better.


Stars: Five, a great gift for any flower lover or buy as a treat for yourself!

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Writing the Bestseller II: Romance and Commercial Fiction, Jane Porter

Writing the Bestseller II: Romance and Commercial Fiction,  Jane Porter
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre: Non-Fiction, Adult
I love to read, always have, and always have my kindle with me – everywhere and anywhere, even took it to the dentist this morning. Loving stories though and writing them…well, its a whole different ball game.
How many people say “ I’m going to write a book” and it’;s always One Day or When there’s time etc…Many years ago when my kids were toddlers I tried writing short stories – and found making them interesting was a real problem for me..it’s one of those things I reckon where the simpler it looks the harder it is ;- ) and I felt I just hadn’t got it.
After reading my way through this though, advice from real authors on everything from where to start, how to plan characters and plots, how to hook the reader early on, ( and as a reader I know if a story doesn’t get me quickly I’ll drop it)  how to balance writing time with the other things in your life, how to deal with editors and a host of other incredibly useful advice from people who have done all this themselves I feel inspired to give it another shot. Some people have a kind of compulsion to write, they sacrifice other things in their life to do it, and to me those are natural authors but there’s others for whom it’s a way of making money more than an inbuilt compulsion that can’t be left alone. Does it matter which you are? who knows. for me I think its more a personal challenge, can I really do this, make something others would want to read? I know as an artist how good it feels when someone buys something I’ve created…though I hate marketing and I suspect writing successfully needs just as much time spent on that as selling artwork does. there’s a chapter devoted to building an online presence, something in todays media savvy generation that’s so important. whereas we’d go to a book shop or ,library before now it’s the web and big sellers such as amazon that’s first port of call. Social media helps spread the word about your work to reach those readers who look online for books. I read blogs, look at what they recommend and as a (small time ) blogger myself I search out new and upcoming release to read and review.
Something covered that I feel is incredibly important is editing, the Writer/Editor relationship. I’ve started and abandoned books that just don’t have a free flow of words, have bad grammar, spelling issues etc Not just a few typos but an error ridden novel, no one wants to read that, and even if you make it free then reader time is precious – never forget that. In the early eBook/self-publishing days I abandoned probably at least ten per cent of free novels as too difficult to read. I’d see disclaimers – this book is free so…I’m dyslexic so…I can’t afford an editor so…Well, to me if you’re putting work out there with the hope someone wants to read it you have to do all you can to make it as good as you can. Get beta readers to look at plot issues, friends to critique – though they need to be honest and you must take it if you want to remain friends!! Then there’s spellcheck and grammar software if you really really don’t want the expense of an editor but really, its an essential expense IMO.
Its a fascinating read, from the how to of plotting and characterisation, to the nuts and blots of editing and finally  marketing. When I look at a painting the artist part of me wants to look at how its actually done, how the paint layers were set out, whether what looks like detail from a distance is the same close up, how the artist has worked out getting the viewers eye to drift round, taking in the story told by the image. With a book is the same kind of thing – I want to know How its constructed, how to set out the plots and make them work, how to make characters realistic, even if they’re vampires and werewolves! After reading this I feel I’ve been given a huge insight into the practicalities of writing and I’ve really enjoyed it….now to put some of that into practice…maybe :- )
Stars: Five. It’s a great read, full of helpful situations and uncovering so much useful, but not necessarily known, advice.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

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