Review: Scratch by Steve Himmer

scratchReview: Scratch by Steve Himmer (Dark House Press, 200 pages)

Goodreads synopsis: Martin Blaskett moves to a small town to oversee construction of a housing development, where he encounters a shape-shifting figure from local legend—Scratch. He is taken under the wing of his new neighbor, a retired hunting guide named Gil Rose, and befriends a local woman named Alison. Along the way, trouble ensues as Scratch feels threatened by changes to the landscape, luring locals out into the woods, including Alison’s son. As the blame for a range of events falls at Martin’s feet, he is beset by increasingly inhuman dreams, and comes to doubt his own innocence. A literary novel of wilderness noir that engages the supernatural elements of folklore in the manner of magical realism, Scratch explores the overlapping layers of history, ecology, and storytelling that make up a place.

Recommended for: Nature lovers, readers of creepy, surreal, horror, or mysterious books, books perfect for October.

This enchanting book follows main character Martin via a mysterious, unknown and unreliable narrator. The reader meets Martin just as he’s come to a small town to build a housing complex in the woods nearby, and he lives in a trailer next to Gil, a retired hunting guide. He learns of the legend of Scratch, a strange, shape-shifting creature in the forest whose presence many blame for people’s disappearances, until someone actually goes missing. What happens next as Martin’s dreams become more and more surreal and indistinguishable from reality is dark, philosophical, and completely unexpected.

Himmer does a lot with the legend of Scratch and expertly so, weaving magical realism, supernatural wilderness, and the thrill of a nature horror novel together to create this captivating story. He sets up the story well, and though at moments it gets slow and may disappoint readers more accustomed to traditional horror, the imagery captures expertly the psychological darkness Martin experiences in the forest at night. Though Martin is not particularly the most likeable character, through Himmer’s stunning prose the reader is transported to the forest too, experiencing all the uncomfortable sensations Martin is going through right along with him.

This is an intriguing, beautiful tale of the mysteries of natureparticularly the forestand mankind’s role amongst the creatures who make the woods their home. Part literary, part noir, part horror, Scratch is gripping tale of perfection that will thin the line between man and beast and leave you wanting more.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy from the publisher Curbside Splendor via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees

The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees (Ten Speed Press, 272 pages)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Many women don’t know what their personal style is, don’t have a wardrobe that actually matches their style or life, and don’t know how to shop for a structured wardrobe of all pieces that can be worn easily and confidently. Style and minimalism blogger Anuschka Rees presents a fascinatingly strategic, prescriptive approach to identifying, refining, and expressing personal style and building the ideal wardrobe to match it, with style and shopping strategies that women can use every day. Including beautiful full-color fashion photography, infographics, and activities, The Curated Closet is a useful guide covering everything women need to know to fully realize their individual style and create their perfect functional and beautiful wardrobe.

Recommended for: fashion enthusiasts or bloggers, anyone interested in changing up their closet, shoppers, big spenders, people who are suckers for sales, minimalists.

The Curated Closet was an easy, down to earth read giving practical advice for the person who wants to find their personal style or live with fewer, but more high quality and tailored-to-you pieces of clothing in their closet.

It reads like a fashion blog carefully tailored (haha, sorry, couldn’t help myself) into a book that progresses from figuring out what you want in a wardrobe to teaching you how to select high quality clothing. Some other subjects she covers is information about capsule wardrobes, minimalist living, how to clean out your closet, how to stop impulse sale buying, how to shop mindfully, and much more. I’ll admit I learned a lot and as a baby minimalist, I’ve been trying to figure out how to live by many of the principles in this book such as only buying pieces that fit right, that I love, and that go with everything else in my wardrobe.

The cons were that I don’t have time for all the fun exercises she includes towards the beginning of the book, like taking a picture of your outfit every day for two weeks and then creating an inspiration board to figure out what you want and how to change your closet to reflect that. As other reviewers have stated, teenage me would have been all over that but adult me has to just get by on some of the more practical and less time-consuming advice in the book. Luckily there’s a lot of that! It’s a little long, but there were only small stuff here and there that I wasn’t interested in.

Unfortunately the Kindle edition was very annoying to read: it had formatting problems up the wazoo and the pictures here and there didn’t help. However, I did use my bookmark feature a lot as there’s a lot I want to revisit when I have the time or recall something I learned in this book. Another con is that the book is very female-centric (as stated in the synopsis, but still!). I would have liked to see more inclusivity towards men’s wardrobes and clothes, but I guess I can see why all her examples were from either her closet or the “typical” woman shopper since that’s the primary audience of the book (and it was long enough as is!). Some people will feel left out, though, or if you don’t struggle with sales and impulse buying, take the advice with a grain of salt. In all, pretending I read the book in print and not on the Kindle, 5 stars.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

review: Simply Calligraphy by Judy Detrick

Though I started this book before posting my summer reading goals, so it doesn’t count, it is a book I opted to review to go outside my normal genre of reading and explore a craft. I was not disappointed! This book is a great book for people who know nothing about calligraphy—like me—and want to learn more. Check it out!

9781607748564Simply Calligraphy by Judy Detrick (find it here!)

In high school, I was obsessed with my own handwriting. Journaling daily, I grew to perfect it and be able to change it at will, but I was always jealous of others’ handwriting and wanted to be able to make mine more beautiful. I never invested in calligraphy because by the time it drew my attention, Etsy was filled with people selling cute cards where—suddenly—calligraphy is a household skill it seemed, and I didn’t want to do something everyone else was doing. Were people simply blessed with this talent, or did they learn it somewhere? Who even knows. I may never try handlettering or calligraphy for profit, but at least now I can say that I tried learning it myself!

Simply Calligraphy is a beautiful, short book at first glance. It’s a good size and width for propping open with a few weights and being able to reference the pages while practicing lettering yourself. The book is paced nicely with simple exercises beginning with the most basic concepts and letters and gradually adding more advice to different ways and skills to practice. She uses technical terms to describe the strokes with illustrations on the opposite pages, and I was happy to find the book isn’t too technical for a true beginner to understand. A glossary of terms may have been helpful to reference, but yet it doesn’t seem that serious of a book. There is an index at the back, though, for being able to find the concepts you learned.

Some of the details she provides are lovely. I appreciated the simple history of how, for example, the capital forms of the letters developed over time in Italy, without going into depth at all. I also had no idea of the history of numerals, so I appreciated that bit of info as well, and am glad they are included! The illustrations also paired nicely with the simple text for each page and concept. Nothing is too hard to understand, especially with the examples.

One con I would point out is that this book is about learning and practicing only one simple form of calligraphy—as if the title wasn’t enough for me to realize that though! I expected a little more advanced concepts and perhaps other methods, and she briefly mentions them before the end. However, in the beginning Detrick does state that this is the form of calligraphy that has been passed down since the Italian Renaissance. It’s very much the beautiful script you would see in an old monastery, which I loved. She points out that this book is to be only a reference point for beginners and lists helpful resources in the back for supplies and further learning to those who desire it. Her bio indicates she is very knowledgeable about the subject and is the perfect person to write this book. 

In all, this book is as advertised—a beautiful, simple book for beginners to learn and practice the ages-old art of calligraphy. If you’re at all interested in learning even what makes calligraphy so unique, I would encourage you to take a look! I’ll definitely be referencing this in the future when I want to try my hand at making cards, etc. So watch out, pen pals! 😉 
I received this book free from Blogging For Books as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Blogging for Books review can be found here