Litercurious Book Review

TitleYour Year In Art: Watercolor
AuthorKristin Van Leuven
PublisherWalter Foster Publishing (May 5, 2020)
Pages112 pages
ISBN# 10/131633228266 / 978-1633228269


Find out about Kristin Van Leuven by clicking her name.


Anyone wishing to enhance their skillset in watercolor would find this work invaluable.


Your Year In Art: Watercolor hales from the temple of art instruction from Walter Foster Publishing and follows their easy to use layout. The guide begins with explanations for the beginner. It starts with the basics and is accompanied by simple assignments for the aspiring artist. There is advice on how to control the intensity of color, color complements, mark making and an introduction to a range of brush designs. Each page has its compliment of assignments and practical examples of the method being employed. In addition, there are helpful hints and tips to further enhance the knowledge of the self-taught student. The pages have large full color, illustrations and photographs.

Kristin walks the reader through the diverse watercolor methods such as: blending, layering color, controlling saturation, how to use resists, the importance of leaving white space and the joy of monochrome painting. Also included are more challenging techniques such as: the use of negative space, the fun of playing with patterns, the use of black and white pigments, as well as examples of calligraphy.

The mid-portion of the book focuses upon the commonly known problem of “artist’s block.” Eventually every artist has a time when creativity seems like a distant dream and motivation lacks inspiration. This section contains a selection of inspiration re-starting exercises, or as she refers to it “jump-starting” creativity.

Inspiration can be found in many places. In Chapter 3, Kristin provides examples on how to wet your artistic appetite. Going outside provides a myriad of inspirational sources for any art project. Everything from botanical subjects, to animals or other creatures can provide inspiration. For landscapes, the aspiring artist could paint beautiful serene country scenes, urban scenes or any element of those scenes. Essentially, the world is your oyster.

Adding a personal touch to any work to make it more intimate is covered in the 4th Chapter.

Last but not least, the 5th and final chapter covers the importance of basic perspective to improve your art work. It demonstrates the numerous ways to include movement to your art piece and how to depict water in your painting.


Your Year In Art: Watercolor by Kristin Van Leuven has distilled years of art experience into a highly accessible, clearly described fun and colorful format. I found myself fingering through the pages again and again to merely enjoy the illustrations and to check out the assignments. Walter Foster Publishing produces some of the very best books for artists and Your Year In Art: Watercolor is among the best of that unique stable.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


I would like to thank Kristin Van Leuven, NetGalley, and Walter Foster Publishing for affording me the opportunity to review Your Year In Art: Watercolor.


Litercurious Book Review

TitleThe End of The River
AuthorSimon Winchester OBE
PublisherScribd (Scribd Original)
ISBN #9781094404424


Simon Winchester was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE), find out more about him here.


Anyone interested in the Mississippi river and the attempts to control it.


The End of The River centers upon the hydrological and historic ebb and flow of the greatest river in America’s South, the Mississippi. It focuses on a short stretch of the river near the Louisiana border. It describes the importance and influence of the varied control mechanisms that line the course of the river’s flow. It further explains the factors that over time have adversely affected the river’s natural meandering patters and the problems arising out of those changes.

Winchester calls into question the human influences, particularly those of the United States Corps of Engineers who are the guardians of the river. He challenges the effectiveness of every attempt to control the river citing the Great Flood of the Mississippi in 1927 and the futile attempts to prevent the following flood.

Of particular concern to Winchester are the actions of Captain Shreve and his hubris in carving a canal from the Mississippi across to Atchafalaya. Whilst it made the Atchafalaya easier to navigate, it raises concerns over the sheer volume of water ‘stolen’ from the Mississippi. He questions the ability of the Mississippi to continue its flow to the New Orleans delta due to the Atchafalaya diversion. More concerning is the potential and dire consequences of creating an interruption in the river’s ability to distribute the valuable life giving sedimentary elements from Nebraska to the deep South.

Winchester also identifies the increasing impact upon areas immediately abutting the Mississippi. He explains how human development around the river is impeding the ability of the land to siphon off excess water. This consecutively leads to increased water volume flowing directly into the river which results in greater levels of chaotic surges in the Mississippi. The combination of these influences leads to a never-ending war between the river seeking the path of least resistance and the United States Corps of Engineers trying to control it.

Winchester also briefly observes the huge cost of fighting this inevitable losing battle. He leaves us in no doubt that human geoengineering does not come cheap and its failure can cost lives and livelihoods.


The End of The River by Simon Winchester is a novelette created for Scribd. It is a substantial departure from Winchester’s other work and is closer to an in-depth magazine piece than a booklet. The work holds true to the high standard we have come to expect from Simon Winchester.

I wanted to love it, however the subject was neither compelling nor memorable. It lost something in its brevity. I felt it just wasn’t as satisfying as I had come to expect from Winchester’s written work. It wasn’t so detrimental that I would avoid reading any more Simon Winchester books, however I would think twice if they were in this format.

Rating: 2 out of 5.


I would like to thank Simon Winchester, NetGalley, and Scribd Originals for affording me the opportunity to review The End of The River.


Litercurious Book Review

Title50 Successful Harvard Medical School Essays
Author(s)Staff of the Harvard Crimson
PublisherSt. Martin’s Griffin (8 June, 2020
FormatKindle, Paperback
ISBN# 10/131250244471 / 978-1250244475


The Harvard Crimson is a non-profit student run newspaper at Harvard University. You can find out more about it here.


Applicants for pre-eminent Medical School Universities.


The “Personal Statement” has been an intrinsic part of the British Ivy league universities since the late 1980s. Their purpose was to separate the hard empirical scores presented in examination results from the candidates soft character traits. Those traits form an important part of the selection process for medical school. These soft characteristics include the candidates experiences, motivations, and suitability to train in the medical field.

The Medical Profession requires particular requirements. The prospective student must have a combination of technical and scientific knowledge; as well as being personable, approachable, compassionate and have fine interpersonal communication skills.

Admission boards use the personal statement in addition to the applicants grade point averages to asses their level of maturity, communication skills and their critical thinking ability.

Prospective applicants often make the critical mistake of misunderstanding the importance of their personal statement. It is part of the wider selection metrics; such as their past academic performance, reference letter or personal interview. Yet the personal statement forms arguably their best opportunity to make a winning impression. This is where 50 Successful Harvard Medical School Essays becomes an excellent resource for those wishing to create effective applications that could give them the key to acceptance into the hallowed halls of medical school academia.

50 Successful Harvard Medical School Essays can enhance the likelihood of success through improvements to your personal statement preparation. The Staff of the Harvard Crimson provides the reader with 50 real-world examples of previously successful applicants. They highlight the myriad of key traits that the medical school selection committee will be looking for, such as:









Emotional Stability

Each of the 50 essays has an analysis with helpful recommendations and explanations of the qualities that hold the greatest value to the selection committee. 50 Successful Harvard Medical School Essays will provide an advantage in your application process. I was happy to see that the editors made it clear that the process gives students with lower MCAT grades access to top medical schools. 50 Successful Harvard Medical School Essays does this by alerting the prospective applicant to the importance of a well-rounded character; educationally, socially, emotionally and psychologically. These traits are required to face the rigors of the medical school assault course.


50 Successful Harvard Medical School Essays is filled with important advice for anyone wishing to enhance their probability of receiving a placement offer at a leading medical institution. It provides practical guidance on how to approach a personal statement in order to make the best impression and showcase the desired characteristics universities are looking for.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


I would like to thank The Staff of the Harvard Crimson, NetGalley, and St. Martin’s Griffin for affording me the opportunity to review 50 Successful Harvard Medical School Essays.

Mastering Perspective – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleMastering Perspective: Techniques for Mastering
One-, Two-, and Three-Point Perspective in Pencil
AuthorAndy Fish
PublisherWalter Foster Publishing (June 2, 2020)
ISBN# 10/131633228584 / 978-1633228580


Andy Fish is the author of Mastering Perspective as well as an illustrator of many graphic novel books. If you would like to learn more about him and see some of his works, click here.


If you wish to improve the reality in your finished art work Mastering Perspective is definitely a self-help guide for you, regardless of your age.


Proper perspective is a key goal of any artist who wishes to properly render an image in two dimensions. For many, this particular aspect of art and design proves somewhat confusing. Mastering Perspective aims to reduce the confusion and increase the knowledge and skill of the artist. 

Fish utilizes a step-by-step guide to clarify the importance of vanishing points in a single, dual, and three point perspective.

As with all of the Success in Art series of books, you will discover a magnificent manual from which to enhance your current skills or discover a new one. The large color plates are clear and accompanied by all the information needed to create accurately rendered perspective drawings at home. Learning to apply the basics of perspective drawing is without a doubt the quickest way to up your art game.

Fish’s guide is clear and loquacious with hints and methods to improve your architectural illustrations.

Mastering Perspective included an element missed in most other publications. This book includes how to portray shadows that conform to your perspective. By its very nature, perspective is complex and precise, but it doesn’t have to be confusing. If the methods described in this work are applied by the student, then they should encounter no problems mastering this arduous task.

Wether you are a complete beginner or an intermediate artist there is something here for you.

It is immensely satisfying to learn a new application of any skill. To learn that technique through your own endeavor is the greatest joy of all. With Mastering Perspective you can enjoy that pleasant sensation for yourself.


Mastering Perspective is a short study in perspective application. The author uses a chronological process to guide the reader through the proper application of multiple point perspectives. Although this book is packed with good information and illustrations, I found his explanations a bit verbose. The authors grandiloquent explanations detracted from the books objective. Overall, a decent work that will help improve your drawing skills.

Increase your competence, improve the realism in your work and scale new heights in your technical abilities though the Success in Art: Mastering Perspective by Andy Fish.

Rating: 2 out of 5.


I would like to thank Andy Fish, NetGalley, and Walter Foster Publishing for affording me the opportunity to review Mastering Perspective: Techniques for Mastering One-, Two-, and Three-Point Perspective in Pencil.


Litercurious Book Review

TitleCatastrophes & Heroes
AuthorJerry Borrowman
PublisherShadow Mountain (May 5, 2020)
FormatAudiobook, Hardcover
ISBN # 10/131629727393 / 978-1629727394


Learn about Jerry Borrowman, his books, speaking engagements and his life here.


This book is best suited for people who enjoy historic architecture and engineering. Anyone who likes suspense, death defying incidents and tragedy will find this book enjoyable.  


Catastrophes & Heroes is a chronological record of eight historic disasters and ends with the authors “Final Thoughts.” Each story is broken down for the reader into subsections such as: The Human Cost of Tragedy, an Overview, Fateful Choices, Victims and First Responder Heroes, and Professional Heroes.

This is a pre-release and therefore had no pictures or diagrams but the author will include period images in the final release. That being said, this copy had a notation in the proper location for each image that will eventually be included. I appreciated this concept as I could easily look online at images that would bring into focus the events described.

The subjects vary from Civil War paddle boat disasters, to train wrecks, to bridge collapses, to hurricanes and to damn failures. Each disaster tells the stories of individuals that were killed, maimed, who survived, the rescuers, the villains and the ramifications. Whether the cause of the disaster was an Act of God, greed, ignorance, or malice Jerry brings the stories to life before your eyes.

Although the stories are intriguing in their own right, I think the after effects are the most interesting. Because of these disasters, we of today are safer. Procedures have been scrutinized, and corrections emplaced to prevent these types of disasters from happening again.


Catastrophes & Heroes is an extensively researched look into a few of the world’s greatest historic disasters. The first-person monologues add to the stories and lets the reader feel as if they are really there viewing the incident in real time. Some personal stories are tragic, some are exhilarating, many are depressing, and while others are joyful.

Even though the book is superbly authored and researched, I found some of the stories more obscure. I would have liked reading about some more widely known disasters and their stories. I did learn a lot about the incidents recorded in this book and definitely found the Civil War paddle boat disaster the most interesting.

The authors “Final Thoughts” are just a rehash of what was previously covered. That section could have easily been left out of the book entirely. On balance, this book is an informative and enjoyable read, but not rememberable.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


I would like to thank Jerry Borrowman, NetGalley, and Shadow Mountain for affording me the opportunity to review Catastrophes & Heroes.


Litercurious Book Review

TitleBloody London
AuthorDavid Fathers
PublisherConway; 1 edition (April 2, 2020)
Format Kindle, Paperback


David Fathers is the author of Bloody London and several other publications on Great Britain’s capital city. You can find more about him here:

Who is the target audience?

Those who want a crime magazine experience may consider this title.


Bloody London is sort of a travel-log of London locations where true crimes took place. Included are suggested routes to aid the reader on any self guided tour.

I was excited to get a copy of Bloody London, by David Fathers and when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it. What started as anticipation filled joy quickly turned into a serious disappointment. It’s instantly apparent that the books concept was poorly executed. The illustrations were ill matched to the body of the text. The maps were less than useless. In addition, the narrative was simple to the point of being insulting to the reader. Rather than a roundly described crime with context and characters, almost all the crimes were a sentence or two long. It’s frustrating how little information there was to get my teeth into. This lack of substance continued for page after page and quickly became tedious.

I rarely receive my favorite type of subject – true crime. Writing about true crime is a time consuming task due to the twists and turns of the average investigation. Books on this subject require long and arduous research, extensive lists of citations, endnotes, and a bibliography. Fact checking an actual investigation or story is an essential prerequisite. Bloody London by David Fathers was found wanting.


Bloody London did not live up to my expectations. The book felt as though it had been cut and pasted rather than being well researched and thought through. The whole work felt weak, as though it was not even first draft ready. Usually when an author reference a specific item used in an actual crime or a location they will include photographs. This work used cartoon drawings. Overall, I felt there was potential had the author done his own research rather than relying on the limited list in his bibliography. I wanted this book to be great, but sadly I was disappointed. I sincerely hope that the author or the publisher consider a rewrite prior to public release.

My recommendation is: if you want a compelling read on London’s crime locations read Bloody London: Shocking Tales from London’s Gruesome Past and Present, by Declan McHugh.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.


I would like to thank David Fathers, NetGalley, and Conway for affording me the opportunity to review Bloody London.


Litercurious Book Review

Voyage of Mercy Stephen Puleo
TitleVoyage of Mercy: The USS Jamestown,
the Irish Famine, and the Remarkable Story
of America’s First Humanitarian Mission 
AuthorStephen Paleo
PublisherSt. Martin’s Press (March 3, 2020)
FormateTextbook, Audiobook, Hardcover
ISBN# 10/131250200474 / 978-1250200471

Quote “God created the blight, but the English created the famine.”


Stephen Puleo is the esteemed author of Voyage of Mercy. You can find out more about him here.


If you hold an interest in any of the following: reading about Irish history, maritime travel, disaster relief or history in general then you will definitely be interested in Voyage of Mercy.


In the Voyage of Mercy, Puleo chronicles the multitude of factors that combined to create the nationwide Irish famine. Puleo details the first time in history that humanitarian aid was sent from one nation to another in a complete act of altruism.

The date is 1847; the place is Ireland, and the occurrence is the Irish Famine known as the “Black 47.” It was a time of great tribulation for Ireland and its population. Puleo’s research details the starvation of millions in a country that was exporting food while its people suffered. He sets the stage leading up to, during and post famine including the effects, causes and the dire consequences. His work includes a cast of millions but focuses upon 3 main characters. In short, it is a horrifyingly unflinching examination of one of the worst cases of starvations in Ireland to that date.

The three key characters include:

The Reverend Theobold Mathew moreover known as the “Temperance Priest” was a controversial religious leader who undertook Herculean efforts to avert the growing crisis.  He sent regular written reports to Assistant Secretary to the British Treasury detailing the crisis. When Father Mathews repeated warnings failed to solicit any assistance he took matters upon himself by providing extraordinary levels of support, comfort, sustenance and shelter to those starving. He went so far as to house them and feed them in his own parochial house.

If Reverend Mathew’s is one of the heroes of the tale, then Charles Trevelyn is definitely the villain. Charles Trevelyn was the Assistant Secretary to the British Treasury at that time and was tasked with overseeing the situation in Ireland. Puleo opinioned that Trevelyan exhibited a severe lack of humanity, immense indifference and gross incompetence. Those character flaws combined together with other extraneous events increased the suffering from an arguably avoidable situation into an unintended genocide and created a colossal Irish diaspora.

The third character is Captain Robert Bennet Forbes who volunteered to command the decommissioned Naval vessel Jamestown. A self-made man of considerable talents he sailed the Jamestown across the Atlantic stocked with produce, clothing and other commodities that were desperately needed in Ireland. Upon his return to America, he championed the Irish relief cause to drum up more support and aid for the suffering people.

Perhaps the saddest part of this story is that even as the victims of the famine were fleeing in the tens of thousands to America, the horrors followed them. The Atlantic crossing proved so dangerous that thousands ended up paying the ultimate cost. Worse still, once in America they were often the subject of a myriad of crimes which just continued their misery on a new continent.


I considered myself well educated in the history of the Irish famine. However, I now realize that I only had a minimal understanding of the grievous nature of those events.

There is too much information contained within the Voyage of Mercy to adequately describe in this brief review. The book covers the complete collection of emotions. It is a true-life tale of horror, adventure, human suffering, compassion, political incompetence and much more.

The author harrowingly relates the horrors that occurred when a confluence of factors came together creating a famine that changed thousands of lives on both sides of the Atlantic. Voyage of Mercy is skillfully written, engaging and thought provoking in equal measure. This tome dissipates the fog of history to reveal the victims, heroes and villains of the Irish Famine.

Please be aware that this book is not for the faint of heart. The subject matter discussed is heartbreaking, intense, and worst of all a true account of real people and real events. It was a time that literally changed the lives of millions of people forever. If you are looking for a light read, this definitely is not it. If you want to appreciate how dire the situation was during this milestone in world history then I encourage you to read this book.

I want to acknowledge the aid provided by the American Indians, slaves as well as those barely subsisting in America. They dug deep and gave of their own basic food supplies to assist a nation of people they would never meet but who’s struggle they completely understood.

I have to issue this book a rare 5 star review. You know a book is good when you can’t stop thinking about it days or weeks after you’ve finish reading it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press (March 3, 2020), NetGalley, and Stephen Puleo for affording me the opportunity to review Voyage of Mercy.


Litercurious Book Review

TitleThe Grown-Up’s Guide to Crafting with Kids: 25+
Fun and Easy Craft Projects to Inspire You and
the Little Ones in Your Life
AuthorVicki Manning
PublisherWalter Foster Publishing (June 2, 2020)
ISBN# 10/131633228606 / 978-1633228603


Vicki Manning has a love of crafting and creating original ideas for children friendly craft projects. She currently lives in Oxfordshire with her family. Vicki posts regular activities on her Instagram account @howweplayandlearn, where she posts daily crafting activities for kids and adults to do together.


This book is for parents, care givers, teachers, extended family members or anyone who wishes to entertain, educate or just have fun with crafts and kids.


The Grown-Up’s Guide to Crafting with Kids is the debut work of Vicki Manning. The initial impression from the book cover is this is an exciting craft guide. The colorful exterior with bright hues and interesting projects grabs the viewer immediately and provides for a pleasant experience. I couldn’t wait to open the book and view the 25 craft ideas.

Manning’s craft guide is intended for young children and their caregivers or educators and it shows. The images are colorful and interesting. It isn’t hard to image a child excitedly anticipating creating one of the many crafting ideas.

The book begins with a brief introduction followed by a getting started section. There is a dual page spread that explains the necessary items required for creating the enclosed craft ideas. All of the required items are kid friendly and safe to use with proper supervision.

Manning provides us with a wide range of original and unique suggestions for art creation, such as:


Around the home

Clay robots

Pom-pom ice-cream cones

Sun printing

Treasure boxes

Wax-resist bookmarks

And much more

The pages are laid out in window style accompanied by brief extracts describing methods and helpful advice. Manning has been careful to suggest ideas that use easily accessible tools and materials. My favorite craft was the paper mache rocket. Although I have to admit, I love the home made bookmarks. The bookmarks are quick, cute, practical, and even young children can make them.


Vicki Manning has created 25 fun ideas for you and your child to make crafting memories together. With many families currently staying at home, this book will provide some useful ideas to entertain and bond with your children. The memories created by this joint effort will last a lifetime.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


I would like to thank Vicki Manning, NetGalley, and Walter Foster Publishing for affording me the opportunity to review The Grown-Up’s Guide to Crafting with Kids: 25+ Fun and Easy Craft Projects to Inspire You and the Little Ones in Your Life.


The Grown-up’s Guide to
Making Art with Kids
ISBN-10: 1633227391
ISBN-13: 978-1633227392
The Grown-up’s Guide to
Painting with Kids
ISBN-10: 1633228541
ISBN-13: 978-1633228542


Litercurious Book Review

TitleTigers: Stunning Photographs of the World’s
Biggest Cats (Animals) 
AuthorPaula Hammond
PublisherAmber Books Ltd (14 Mar. 2020)
ISBN# 10/131782749659 / 978-1782749653


Paula Hammond has worked as a publisher, copy-writer, ghost-writer, author, and journalist. She has written over 50 fiction and non-fiction books as well as sponsored resources, comics, poetry and scripts for DVDs and CD-ROMS. Clients include Harper Collins, Marshall Cavendish, Scholastic, World Book, Disney, Betty Crocker, and the BBC. She also contributes to a wide variety of news-stand magazines and journals. A selection of her publications can be viewed on Amazon and Pinterest (WriterPaula).


This work has broad appeal for all those who are interested by the wildest of wildlife.


Tigers is more of a photographic folio of the Tiger species than a scientific examination of that big cat. That said, it does not detract from the sheer beauty of this hardcover. It might be more accurate to call it a gallery book.

This monograph is an extravaganza of large, oversized, full color, high quality, photographs. Some of the plates are accompanied by tracts describing aspects of this most noble of the cat species. I was so taken with the subject that I found myself repeatedly flicking through the pages again and again.

The presentation was concise consisting of the following:


Tiger Species

Tiger Habitats

Hunting for Food

Tiger Cubs



Paula Hammond has produced a delightful work of photographic art. It is woven together with interesting tidbits of relevant and related information about the deadliest, most intelligent and magnificent animal that we share the planet with. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” describes Hammond’s book perfectly. If you love big cats, appreciate beautiful pictures or find the Tiger species interesting, then this is a must have book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


I would like to thank Paula Hammond, NetGalley, and Amber Books Ltd for affording me the opportunity to review Tigers: Stunning Photographs of the World’s Biggest Cats (Animals) .


Litercurious Book Review

TitleDrawing and Painting Expressive Little Faces:
Step-by-Step Techniques for Creating People and
Portraits with Personality–Explore Watercolors,
Inks, Markers, and More
AuthorAmarilys Henderson
PublisherQuarry Books (February 18, 2020)
FormatKindle, Paperback


Amarilys Henderson is the author of Drawing and Painting Expressive Little Faces you can learn more about her here or visit her web page here.


This book is directed towards those novice artists who want to gain a fundamental understanding of how to draw facial structure.


Drawing and Painting Expressive Little Faces is a concise yet comprehensive introduction to painting and drawing faces.

The guide is resplendent with striking, bright, and colorful portrayals of human face interpretations. The informal and lively images are a mix of color and monochrome. The format is in the traditional style with six subdivided chapters.

1. Essential Supplies

2. Simplifying the Face

3. Building A Face

4. Putting it All Together

5. Pumping up the Personality

6. Not just Doodles

Amarilys Henderson included specific sections on how to draw a range of ages, face types, face shapes and skin colors. It is important to note that the faces are not in the style of fine art but are far more immature poster paint style of illustrations. Happily, this book is not comporting itself as fine art. It is most definitely centered in the use of a stylized facial images, surreal and assessable for the novice artist rather than the advanced practitioner. This doesn’t detract in any way from this useful guide. However, I want to ensure that the reader understands that this is for the novice, student or hobby artist.


Henderson has managed to cram a world of knowledge in a 144 pages. The presentation is truly exciting with original alternative interpretations of the human face.

I particularly was taken with the subsection on how to add personality to a face. I have reviewed a dozen or so art and design publications recently and none of them included this crucial method.

I was immensely happy to see that she included some Urban Sketching however, I wish this section had been more comprehensive.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


I would like to thank Quarry Books, NetGalley, and Amarilys Henderson for affording me the opportunity to review Drawing and Painting Expressive Little Faces .