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Lessons in Classical Painting by Juliette Aristides

In “Lessons in Classical Painting: Essential Techniques from Inside the Atelier,” artist Juliette Aristedes provides a solid book on foundational painting skills with principle, step-by-step instructions, and hands-on lessons as well as a plethora of essays on topics of being an artist. The book follows a progression from flat, abstracted painting to developing form and then finally full color painting. This is much more than a simple step-by-step book to learning to paint. Rather it is also an exploration of what it means to be an artist, how they see the world, and how to develop your inner creativity. This book is a solid introduction to classical painting and though I have not had the opportunity to practice the lessons and activities, I think that this would be a good book for anyone looking to take up classical painting. It is filled with gorgeous full color photographs and examples. If you’re wanting to go beyond just learning to paint to understand the importance of art, I highly recommend this book.

***I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review from Bloggingforbooks.com***

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A Game With Potential

“Punderdome” is a game that allows you to channel your inner youth pastor. A prompter draws two prompt cards from the deck and then players have to create a single pun that combines the two prompts. The prompter then awards the prompt cards to the player whose pun he or she likes best. I brought this game with me to a gathering of friends wholly believing that they would love it. They’re a pretty intelligent and witty bunch but upon reading the rules, they all waived off the game as “too complicated” and something which required “too much thinking.” Therein lies the problem with this game: those who are naturally witty or quick on their feet will probably love Punderdome. However, those who are less so will often be too intimated to play. Though this game has immense potential to be fun, the problem will be getting your friends to play. After all, for most people, games are like tv: it’s all about mentally checking out.

***A review copy of this game was provided by Blogging for Books. The review is wholly mine and I was not compensated in any way.***

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An Essential Guide for Every Graduate Student

In Karen Kelsky’s book “The Professor is In,” the author guides graduate students and first year professors/adjuncts through the maze of the modern academic job market. From the tenure track job search through how to write job documents through the academic interview and into the final negotiations, Kelsky provides a broad and sobering overview of how to go from a lowly graduate student to a tenure track position. The advice that she offers is not esoteric, but rather succinct and concrete. Broken into dozens of smaller chapters, Kelsky provides a desperately needed resource that not only offers advice but gives solid examples. In a day and age when the academic job market has shrunk to possibly its worst state in history, and when advisors are increasingly trying to save their own skins at the expense of their students, “The Professor Is In” is an important book that should become standard fare for anyone in graduate school. Well-written, thoroughly researched, and engaging, Kelsky’s book should become the gold standard for all of those aspiring to enter academia.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

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A Wonderful Surprise

I have to admit that when I received Susie Davis’ book “Unafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe World,” I did not really have high expectations. There is a growing trend among the evangelical book market to publish books made primarily by bloggers such as Mrs. Davis. Generally, the books tend to be poorly written and rarely substantive. Therefore, I had low expectations for “Unafraid.” I was wrong. Dead wrong. In “Unafraid” Susie writes about her own struggle with fear from the time that she witnessed the murder of her teacher in Middle School into her adult life. Along the way, she provides a wonderfully perceptive understanding of the nature of fear and how God can release us from it. Her prose is beautiful, her stories are engaging, and more importantly, her treatment of the nature and cure for fear is powerful and realistic. I highly recommend this book!

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Review of “I’m Happy For You” by Kay Wills Wyma

In “I’m Happy for You (Sort Of…Not Really),” blogger and writer Kay Wills Wyma examines the deleterious effects of America’s obsession with “yardstick living”–i.e. living in the midst of a culture of comparison. Wyma argues that this hyperfocus on what others have as compared with our own situation leaves us feeling as if life is both unfair and empty. “I’m Happy for You” succeeds handily at unpacking not only the underlying causes of this comparison but also does so in a rather whimsical and down to earth way. However, where “I’m Happy for You” falls short is in the area of solutions for surviving in a culture of comparison and breaking free of this penchant for defining our worth by other’s standards. Nonetheless, this is a solid book that really gets you thinking about the culture of comparison and your own life. I highly recommend it.

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Review of “Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When it Matters Most”

Performing Under Pressure by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry pushes back against the myth that some people thrive under pressure. They argue, in fact, that pressure has deleterious effects on the individual’s ability to think, process information, and perform the tasks needed to accomplish a given goal. This applies to everyone across the board, regardless of their education, athletic ability, or mindset. The book utilizes scientific studies and modern psychology to demonstrate short-term methods of overcoming the feelings of pressure as well as by utilizing the COTE (Confidence, Optimism, Tenacity, and Enthusiasm) method which takes a long term approach to learning to deal properly with stress and pressure. I found this to be a thoroughly engaging book even as I found myself disagreeing with some aspects of the material. Overall, the tips offered here are very valuable and the dissection of the nature and role of stress and pressure is invaluable to anyone who deals with pressure on a consistent basis.

***A review copy of this book was provided to me by Bloggingforbooks for my unbiased review.***

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Review of “Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top” by Dorothea Johnson and Liv Tyler

In “Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top,” founder of the Protocol School of Washington, Dorothea Johnson, and Liv Tyler (yes, Steven Tyler’s daughter) offer a well-crafted overview of basic social and professional manners. Topics include protocol for meeting people, professionalism on the job, using electronic communication correctly, dining skills, and being a savvy host. Initially, I thought that this would be just an interesting book to gain a little bit of knowledge that I may not have had (I am from the South, so manners are ingrained in us!). I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by “Modern Manners.” Not only is the information well-written, but there are plenty of well-done graphics and anecdotes to keep the reader’s interest all the way through the book. Strangely enough, though much of what I encountered was already common knowledge, the book’s prose and style made it a fascinating read. Not only was the book well-written, concise, clear, and interesting, but it was also well crafted—a beautiful hardcover book with superior binding. This is a book that is not only elegant in content but also in presentation that lends the book an air of refinement, but not pretentiousness. I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone looking to teach themselves or their kids proper manners without coming off as stodgy or boring.

**This book was provided to me by the Blogging for Books program at no charge. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.**

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