how-to books

Review of ‘Quilting for Beginners’

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If you’re looking for a new hobby, you might consider quilting. I know it’s old school, but it can be relaxing and does allow creative expression. Quilting for beginners by Kevin Durant, which I received a complimentary copy of in exchange for an unbiased review, purports to be the ultimate step-by-step guide to this retro art. While it does provide some interesting historical information about quilting, and introduces the craft (art?), the title is a bit over the top. In addition, the book is sorely in need of a good copy editor.

If you’ve never done quilting, you’ll at least pick up a few good tips. I sense, though, that not all the information in this book is accurate. The advice on cutting fabric, for instance, is impractical. If you only cut on the bias of a fabric, how do you cut the squares used in quilting. That piece of advice alone blew my mind.

I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Watercolor Made Easy: 30-Minute Landscapes’

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Watercolor Made Easy: 30-Minute Landscapes by Paul Talbot-Greaves is a comprehensive guide to painting landscapes in watercolor, compositions that can be completed in 30 minutes or less. This handy how-to book is useful for beginners and experienced painters alike, and will add new life to your art.

I purchased this book from Amazon several years ago, and have read it several times. I finally decided to post a review to let other artists know of this valuable book.

I give it five stars.

Review of “Learning my Drawing’

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Learning My Drawing by Piaras O. Cionnaoith is a short drawing tutorial for children that shows how to draw some not-so-simple things, such as birds, flowers, etc. Beginning with the basic shapes and showing the step-by-step process of adding detail, this tutorial can be used alone by children with a basic reading ability, but with adult help, even non-readers should be able to make adequate drawings. A great way to introduce your youngster to art.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘5 Easy Steps to Financial Freedom’

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Lots of books are penned that purport to tell you the secret to financial independence or getting rich. Some are written by authors whose objective is to get rich themselves from the poor schmucks who buy their books looking for the keys to the kingdom of wealth, while others come from writers who actually provide a few helpful, practical hints that can be useful in your efforts to gain financial security and independence. Duane Harden’s 5 Easy Steps to Financial Freedom: Do What You Love & Get Rich Doing It, which I received a free copy of in return for an unbiased review, is fortunately one of the latter. It offers a few very helpful hints for anyone seeking to establish a financial status that enables him to do the things he wants to do.

Harden starts by enjoining the reader to rewrite his or her history and create a future. He outlines the five steps he took to gain his own financial independence, with helpful advice such as ‘be careful who you listen to,’ ‘avoid negative people,’ ‘don’t be afraid to take risks,’ and ‘spend less than you make.’ While this might seem like no-brainer advice, it’s amazing the number of people who ignore it.

I found the book helpful, to a degree, and quite easy to read, but I took issue with the author early on. He maintains, for instance, that it’s easier to say ‘yes’ than to say ‘no.’ My fifty years in the bureaucracy taught me the exact opposite – it’s easier to say ‘no,’ but the consequences are often more severe than if you say ‘yes.’  While I don’t disagree that passive income is a good wealth generator, I’m not of the belief that this is the only route as the author seems to be. Most troubling to me in this book, though, is the statement, both implied and explicit in more than one place that business ownership, real estate and investment are the best ways to become wealthy.

The author describes the steps that he took in these areas, and seems to imply that anyone who follows them will experience the same results. If you read the entire book, though, including the front matter, you will notice that the publisher includes a disclaimer,


“Limits of Liability & Disclaimer of Warranty: The publisher and author have made every attempt in preparing this book for educational purposes only, however, they make no representations or warranties with respect to its accuracy or the completeness of the contents of this book. The advice and strategies contained in this book may not be suitable for your situation and results may vary. Any statements about profits or income, expressed or implied, does not represent a guarantee. You accept full responsibility for your actions, profit or loss, and agree to hold the publisher and author and any authorized distributor harmless in any and all ways. The use of this book constitutes your acceptance.”


And, rightly so, because what works for one does not necessarily work for all, and not all of us are cut out to be business owners or real estate magnates. Even investment is different for different people.

Now, while I disagree with the author’s premise on ‘what’ fields to follow to ensure financial independence, I don’t disagree with most of the ‘methods’ he describes. Knowing where you come from, where you wish to go, and what you’re willing to do to get there, is valuable regardless of the path you take. There are nuggets of wisdom here, and if the author had been just a bit more forthcoming, this would rank in my top tier of books on ‘how to become independent.’ Unfortunately, it misses the four-star category, but the clear writing and practical manner gives it a three (two and a half actually, but there are no provisions for partial stars, so I’ll go ahead and give that other half).

Review of ‘Happy Every Day’ by Bryan Hutchinson

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I doubt that there’s a normal, rational person who doesn’t want to be happy. There is certainly no shortage of books by self-styled gurus telling us how to be happy, successful, rich, you name it. The problem with most of these books is, THEY DON’T REALLY WORK.

If you think I’m skeptical about books that offer the secret to (fill in the blanks), you’d be right on the money. It was, therefore, with just that skeptical, ‘I’m from Missouri, so show me’ mindset that I began reading Bryan Hutchinson’s Happy Every Day: Simple, Effective Ways to Better Days. From page one I challenged Hutchinson to ‘show me.’

Well, guess what folks, he did. This is not one of those, ‘here’s the great secret to happiness, and if you’ll only follow these 5 simple steps, you’ll never be unhappy again’ books. This is a practical, no-nonsense book that dissects happiness and, using the author’s own experience, shows that true happiness is within the reach of each of us, but that it is up to us to chart the path to achieve it.

Hutchinson makes no grandiose claims. He just outlines in simple language how an individual can have a life that is, on balance, more happy than unhappy – and moreover, more fulfilling. There are no real surprises here – just plain old common sense. But, it’s pulled together in an easy-to-read, easy-to-comprehend format, complete with end of chapter exercises to help chart your path to happiness.

I’m still not a fan of most how-to books, but Hutchinson has me hooked on his brand of ‘you can.’ Maybe he’s started a new category here, and we just have find a name for it.

Four and a half stars. I took a half star off for a few grammatical missteps. Can’t have him thinking he’s one of the best motivational authors around, now can we?

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