Monday, January 25, 2021

Mrs. Jeffries Demands Justice (Mrs. Jeffries #39)


 Mrs. Jeffries Demands Justice is the 39th Victorian mystery by Emily Brightwell. Due out 26th Jan 2021 from Penguin Random House on their Berkley imprint, it's 304 pages and will be available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

These books are always a sure bet for an enjoyable and engaging story with an ensemble cast of comfortable well written characters. It's like a visit with an old and trusted friend. You know what to expect and it's always a fun and satisfying time.  

In this installment an ice delivery man is shot at close range and Inspector Witherspoon and his faithful retainers are searching for clues to his secret background, his murder, and the criminal underground of Victorian East London. Things start looking grim for Witherspoon's old adversary Nigel Nivens and Mrs. Jeffries and co. are soon on the case.

This is a comfortable and enjoyable read. The language is clean, the plot is easy to follow, the pacing is gentle, and the denouement is satisfying. It works reasonably well as a standalone. The author is adept at providing back info without spoon feeding or info dumping.

Four stars. Recommended to fans of historical cozies, Victorian procedurals and general cozy mystery series.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

1000 Vegan and Vegetarian Meals: Everyday Recipes to Make Healthy Eating Easy


1000 Vegan and Vegetarian Meals is a new veg*n recipe collection with recipes curated and presented by the Chartwell editors. Due out 23rd Feb 2021 from Quarto on their Chartwell imprint, it's 256 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

This is a graphically appealing, well written, and accessible cookbook with an array of vegetarian and some vegan recipes to appeal to most tastes. I really liked the layout and formatting of this cookbook. There is no introduction or basic techniques or tool info. The book hops right into the recipe selections. The recipes which are included are arranged roughly thematically: breakfast & brunch, super salads, healthy soups, grazing dishes, quick & tasty, hearty comfort food, feed a crowd, and sweet treats. There are a huge number of recipes, though many are not very complex at all, and they represent a broad number of different world cuisines. I noticed some variations in the way the recipes were actually written and the way the ingredients were measured. According to the editorial information, there are three main recipe developers: Susannah Blake, Deborah Gray, and Michael Keogh, which could possibly explain variations. It's not a deal-breaker, there isn't that much difference really, but it is noticeable.

Ingredient measurements are supplied in American standard measurements with some metric measures included (yay!).  The nutritional information is not included.  Each recipe includes a header with a short description of the recipe and approximate servings. Extra tips or recipe alternatives are listed in text boxes in the recipes. The recipes themselves are fairly straightforward and are made for the most part with easily sourced ingredients. Many are very simple, none of them are overly complex. The photography is abundant and clear and the recipes are illustrated simply and clearly. Nearly all of the recipes also include a highlighted text box offering tips and alternative presentations and variations.

This is a large collection of recipes and even allowing for the fact that some of them are very similar to others in the same category, this will keep meat-free cooking fans going for ages. There are many simple "everyday" recipes which are anything but boring alongside fancier "special" dinner recipes. We tried several dishes and all of them were tasty and well written.

We're definitely going to try more of these recipes.

Five stars. This is a massive cookbook which will be used. It would make a superlative housewarming gift to a friend or family member living on their own - college student, new graduate, newlyweds, kids flying the nest, etc or a friend trying to eat more health consciously with better quality ingredients as well as a nice acquisition for the home library.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

The Book of Tiny Creatures

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The Book of Tiny Creatures is a science based book on invertebrates for all ages. Originally published in French in 2018, this English language edition is due out 16th Feb 2021 from Princeton Architectural Press. It's 72 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

I've always loved inverts. Even as a kid, I was fascinated and would sit and watch ants or snails go about their business for hours. I had freshwater and reef tanks as an adult and they were full of snails and other inverts. Nine-year-old me would have *loved* this book.

The book moves from a general introduction of what invertebrates are, their biology and anatomy, how they reproduce, how they grow, and where they live. The language is simple and accessible, but scientifically accurate. The following chapters cover different environments - flying creatures, crawling creatures, and ones which live (at least part of the time) in the water. 

There are short multiple-choice quizzes scattered throughout to challenge readers' comprehension and retention as well as small question and answer sidebars. Answers are provided in answer keys in the back of the book. The illustrations are beautifully expressive and full of small eye-catching details. The eARC I received for review doesn't contain specific information about the art or artist's process, but it appears to be a mixture of different media - pen & ink, colored pencil, watercolor. The illustrations are beautiful and easily recognizable down to tiny realistic details of anatomy and environment.  The species represented in the book are not labeled with their proper taxonomic names, so facilitators/teachers/parents may have to make some more effort to help young readers with precise names if they're drawing or filling out observation journals. The book also has a slight European emphasis on the animals which are included (European hedgehogs, admiral butterflies, and the European garden snail are included in some form in the text, not so much opossums, skunks, and North American indigenous inverts). There is a major overlap of course, and North American readers will find plenty of species which are ubiquitous and are included.

Five stars. This would make a wonderful choice for school or public library, activity group, scouting or science activity, home library, or gifting. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Kaleidoscope of Creatures: The colors of nature explained

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Kaleidoscope of Creatures is a new science based children's book on the biology behind colors and patterns of animals in nature. Due out 16th Feb 2021 from Quarto on their Wide Eyed Editions imprint, it's 64 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

Although aimed at young readers, there is a lot of information here which will probably be new to most of the audience, whatever their age. The text is accessible, accurate, and precise and the information is explained well and logically. The book divides the animal kingdom by following the Linnaean classification system into vertebrates and invertebrates and then further by phyla, family, etc. The *types* of coloration and the reasons behind them are covered in two-page spreads with explanatory text and examples: mimicry, camouflage, warning, juvenile to adult coloration, sexual dimorphism (different colors for male and female of the same species), the biomechanics behind color changing cells, and more. Each particular color gets its own section with drawn examples.

The entire book is beautifully illustrated with bright colors and clear pictures. Even the e-book version has high resolution images and good contrast easy-to-read text. The drawings are very simple, but clear enough to recognize and enjoy. It would also provide a good resource for budding scientists to practice drawing for their field journals by copying the drawings in this volume.

Five stars. This would be a superlative selection for school or public library acquisition, youth nature/garden groups, scouts, library activity groups (when we're allowed to gather again), gifting, or for the home or homeschooling library. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Cozy Case Files, A Cozy Mystery Sampler, Volume 11

Cozy Case Files is the 11th promo chapter preview for upcoming releases. Due out 26th Jan 2021, from Macmillan on their St. Martin's Press imprint, it's 180 pages and will be available in ebook format. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. This (and the 10 other promotional previews with chapter samples) are free to download and read.

This is a nicely curated selection of upcoming big-name cozies from a major publisher. I love using these collections to (try to) plan my TBR pile. At any rate, the generous previews give a good feel for the books and allow readers to find the ones which pique their interest. There are 6 series cozies included in this volume with both modern and historical timelines as well as American and European settings.

I have read and reviewed 3 of the 6 included books and the ones I've read have worked very well as standalone reads. High quality engaging cozies from a big name publisher. Release dates for all 6 are between December 2020 and April 2021.

Five stars. I do also enjoy small indie publisher offerings, but it's very nice to pick up a book from a larger publisher and know that what the reader is getting is well edited, well written, polished, and professionally finished.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

One for the Money (Cat Caliban #1)

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One for the Money is the first Cat Caliban cozy mystery by D. B. Borton. Originally published in 1993, this reformat and re-release from Boomerang Books is 226 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. This, the first book in the series, is also currently available at reduced cost (or free in some places).

This is a well written, genuinely funny murder cozy set in Cincinnati with a feisty protagonist who's survived raising a family and isn't inclined to put up with anyone's crap. She's salty, down-to-earth, and kind and loyal to her friends. The mystery itself, the plotting, and the pacing are very well done. The author definitely has a solid handle on her craft. I found myself engaged in the story and never felt it dragged or raced. The dialogue is superlative. It flows naturally and believably. It has a delightful retro vibe being set in the 1980s and the author's references to cultural icons of the time ("Cagney & Lacey" for example) will make those of us who remember the 1980s smile, or maybe wince. Writing humor is challenging. This one actually surprised a bark of laughter out of me a couple times. That happens very very rarely. There are also positive (admittedly stereotypical) depictions of people who are LGBTQIA+ in the book, as well as a warm fuzzy theme of "found family". Slight warning for rough language (sort of Bea Arthur Golden Girls level snark here).

I was previously unfamiliar with the author and have added her to my "update regularly" list. Looking forward to more.

Five stars. Tone perfect, very entertaining. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

David Bowie


David Bowie is a new bio about the iconic entertainer/artist . Due out 9th Feb 2021 from Laurence King publishing, it's 156 pages and will be available in hardcover format. 

The biography follows Bowie's life and career chronologically from his childhood through his chameleon-like stylistic reinventions and the personas he created. The biographer does a good job of avoiding info-dumping dry facts and provides a lot of back-story anecdotes and behind-the-scenes glimpses of Bowie's interactions and friendships and collaborations. 

It's difficult to overestimate the cultural impact Bowie had on modern music and art. The author spends a fair bit of content delineating his artistic periods and documenting them, but the book doesn't only talk about Bowie in a creative vacuum. I also enjoyed very much the stories behind his amazing collaborations with other musicians, actors, and visual artists, and the massive body of work he left behind with so very many talented people.

There isn't much here about his personal life, marriages, or family life with his children. For readers looking for the TMZ version of Bowie's life or conquests, this book will be something of a disappointment. For readers looking for a concise and succinct music history of Bowie and how he shaped modern music through his collaborations, this will be much more appealing. 

There are some useful appendices included in the book: a chronological discography, abbreviated bibliography, and cross referenced index. There are also a number of publicity and press photos included, but very little personal photography. 

Four stars. This would also be a good support text for classroom instruction on modern music history, culture, and allied subjects. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Out of Hounds ("Sister" Jane #13)


Out of Hounds is the 13th "Sister" Jane mystery by Rita Mae Brown. Released 19th Jan 2020 by Penguin Random House on their Ballantine imprint, it's 320 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

Like nearly all of Ms. Brown's oeuvre, this is a capably written, well told story that is character driven, neatly plotted, and finely paced. I've long been a fan of the author, and enjoyed her cozy Mrs. Murphy series as well as her more serious writing.  The Sister Jane books are cozies and full of the American foxhunting traditions and culture.  If you don't know anything about riding to hounds, you will after reading this book.

The dialogue and writing are pitch perfect.  Typically for Ms. Brown, the writing is solidly comfortable and engaging.  Reading her books is almost like visiting with an old friend you haven't seen for a while; you just pick up where you left off the last time, even if you haven't seen them for ages.

I personally love anthropomorphic mysteries, but fair warning, if talking animals bug you, this probably isn't the series for you.  The book also does a superlative job of giving a glimpse into Virginia hospitality and etiquette and the riding subculture.

Four stars (mostly because even though American fox hunters just chase the foxes and don't kill them, it still distresses me and I'm always rooting for the foxes - the books are also *full* of upper class extremely wealthy people who often rub my proletariat heart the wrong way). Bonus points for the author's managing to make her characters ethnically diverse, and not just pasted on, either. Many of the characters have faced and worked through part of their tragic shared traumatic past, from slave times onward and at this point there seems to be more good natured camaraderie than any festering resentment.

The art theft and murder plots felt secondary to the fox hunting in this one, but still overall quite a solidly entertaining read. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology

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A Universe of Wishes is an attractive and well curated anthology of YA/NA fantasy edited by Dhonielle Clayton. Released 8th Dec 2020 by Penguin Random House on their Crown Books Young Readers imprint, it's 416 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

One reason I prefer collections and anthologies is that short fiction is really challenging.  It's spare and the author doesn't have a wealth of wordage to develop characters or the plotting.  Well written short fiction is a delight. I also love collections because if one story doesn't really grab me, there's another story just a few pages away. This is a nice diverse sampling and I believe the included stories are all previously unpublished.

There are 15 stories by authors both familiar and new to me. This is another big reason I love anthologies - they often introduce me to new authors to follow and read. This collection has the additional benefit of providing some much needed representation and diversity to a beloved (but traditionally overwhelmingly caucasian, usually male) genre. That's changing and in part it's because of the incredible endurance and fortitude of the groups of writers inviting *all* young readers to have a seat at the table. It fills me with hope and happiness that I truly believe we're starting to really understand that our diversity is our fundamental strength. 

These are well written stories. There are some standouts (Habibi, Unmoor, and the titular A Universe of Wishes were all beautifully written and powerfully moving). There are a number of stories included from series authors with tie-in stories which will certainly appeal to fans (A Royal Affair was charming and will have V. E. Schwab fans dancing in the bookstore). 

The stories as they affected me personally were all in the higher 3-5 star range. Fiction is so subjective  it's pointless to rate, but I will say that nearly all of the stories contained in this anthology were engaging, well crafted, readable, and high quality. There were a couple which were outside my personal taste range and/or failed to hold my interest, but they were few and far between. 

Four and a half stars for the overall collection - rounded up because thematically, representation is monumentally important. I'm writing this the day after I watched a strong young poet giving all of us wings, reciting her work at the inauguration of the 46th president of the USA and knowing that somewhere out there, there might be another young artist/poet/writer/philosopher being inspired by the characters being written here. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship


The Black Civil War Soldier is a well researched and thoroughly annotated study of the black men who served (on both sides) in the American Civil War. Due out 21st Jan 2021 from the NYU Press, it's 240 pages and will be available in hardcover format. 

The author, Dr Deborah Willis, is a historian and film/ephemera researcher as well as a photographer in her own right. This book, while academically rigorous and prodigiously annotated throughout is refreshingly accessible to non-academics. The language is understandable and readable and most often, she allows the subjects to speak eloquently for themselves, through their photos and the ephemera (letters, diaries, family oral history, and archival evidence) they left behind. 

I found myself often moved emotionally during reading this book and affected deeply by the plight of the young men and their families depicted here. There are epigraphs aplenty from luminaries (Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, Dr. Alexander T. Augusta, and many others who will be familiar to many readers), but it's the unknowns, lesser knowns, the family men, the wives and mothers whose histories are preserved here who affected me the most. I grew up in West Virginia and am intimately familiar with many of the cities and towns described.

Seeing the resilience and bravery and honor and mettle of the men here against the backdrop of the nauseating prejudiced mishandling by everyone *including their comrades at arms and commanding officers* was often difficult to read and process.

The chapters are laid out chronologically: 1860-61, 1861-62, 1863, 1864, and 1865-66. The text is liberally annotated and illustrated with line drawings, facsimiles of period documents, and an impressive number of photos. Although the treatment is admittedly academic, there's enough annotation and chapter notation and bibliography to satisfy the staunchest pedant - at the same time, there's a clear and compelling biographical narrative. I'm amazed that there's enough period record to reconstruct the stories of these families after more than 150 years. 

Five stars. I would recommend this book to readers of American history, war history, American culture, classroom instruction in the Civil War period or allied subjects, ephemera, etc. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Toaster Oven Takeover: Easy and Delicious Recipes to Make in Your Toaster Oven


Toaster Oven Takeover is a beautifully presented niche cookbook with recipes developed by Roxanne Wyss & Kathy Moore. Due out 21st Jan 2021 from Simon & Schuster on their Tiller Press imprint, it's 192 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

Toaster ovens (and most other appliances) have come a long long long way since I was a university student in the 80s. My dorm room toaster oven could just about be relied on to process a pre-made pot pie (remember those?) or toast a couple of slices of bread. I don't remember ever cooking anything in mine other than the aforementioned or possibly some frozen pizza rolls or a baguette. Today's versions come with multiple functions, convection cooking, adjustable trays, exact temperature controls and lots more bells and whistles. 

This cookbook does a great job of providing recipes which exploit the benefits and minimize the drawbacks of the modern toaster oven. Toaster ovens heat up faster, are more energy efficient, are the perfect size for smaller quantities of food, and are more convenient. The introduction covers the different types of ovens, tips for using convection settings, tools and supplies, related safety (no parchment paper!), pantry ingredients, and some other general considerations. 

The recipe chapters are arranged thematically: breakfast & brunch, pizza & flatbreads, toasts crostini & sandwiches, appetizers & snacks, side dishes, sheet pan dinners, casseroles & one pan dinners, meats & mains, desserts, and breads. It really is a surprisingly comprehensive and varied selection. Recipes are arranged with an introduction and yields in a header, ingredients in a sidebar bullet point list, with step-by-step directions. Ingredient measures are given in American standard measures, no metric conversions provided. Most of the ingredients are easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store (some few items might need a co-op or world-food/specialist grocery). Nutritional information is not included.  Cook's notes and variations for each recipe are also included in a footer at the end.The recipes all fit on a single page (which is super convenient for reading from a tablet when your hands are full).

The layout is clear and easy to read with a sort of retro vibe. The photography is clear and well done. It's not apparent from the publishing info, but the pre-publication ARC I received had greyscale black and white photography throughout (that could well change to color for the publication version). At any rate, the photography is top notch and serving suggestions are appetizing and appropriate.

This would make a superlative addition to a 'moving out' care package for newly independent youngsters/singles/newlyweds, etc. I was impressed enough with the book that I am planning on buying one for each of my kids who are moving (or have moved) out on their own.

Four and a half stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes  

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Shadow Drawing: How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint


The Shadow Drawing is an academically rigorous look at Leonardo da Vinci's development as a polymath and especially how his understanding of mathematical principles and physics informed and helped develop his visual art (as opposed to most traditional historical interpretations which have daVinci moving from visual art to more engineering, design, and invention in the later years of his life). Released 17th Nov 2020 by Macmillan on their Farrar Strauss & Giroux imprint, it's 384 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

Despite being an academic, Dr. Francesca Fiorani writes accessibly and authoritatively on the subject and I found myself often so fascinated and caught up in the story that I forgot the amount of time I'd spent reading. Despite being partially an expository work, it is exhaustively annotated and defended with period and contemporary references. The language is precise, but certainly accessible to the average layman reader. 

The book is full of facsimile drawings and artwork reproduced in grayscale and in the electronic format, in high definition. The chapter notes and annotations are thorough and provide rich resources for further learning.

I would recommend this one to students of art and history, science, the Italian renaissance, mathematics in art, and lovers of well written nonfiction. This would also make a superlative selection for library acquisition as well as a good supplemental text for classroom study in allied subjects.

Five stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast

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Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast is a tutorial and gardening guide to making gardens less irresistible to deer and similar ruminants. Due out 16th Feb 2021 from Workman Publishing on their Timber Press imprint, it's 220 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

Timber Press is well known for solidly usable gardening and nature tutorial guides and this is another winner. The information is logical, solid, up-to-date, and well arranged in an accessible and logical form. Everyone who has gardened in the northeastern parts of the USA has experienced losses to deer. I haven't met many gardeners who haven't looked forward to a dream harvest and come out to find that the eagerly awaited blooms and veggies have disappeared. 

The native plants and flowers in this volume are not only unpalatable and resistant to depredation by deer but also fill important ecological roles in the garden, providing food, nectar, and habitat to important native species. The selections are all well acclimated to the climate in the northeast and most are indigenous. 

The plant selections are arranged thematically: annuals & biennials, perennials, ferns, grasses, sedges, and shrubs. Each entry contains the name, botanical name, some of the common names, and family in the header. The header info also contains a "deer resistance" rating and some general culture info, zones, native areas, height, and spread. The following descriptions are well written and understandable in plain language. The entries also include companion planting suggestions as well as specific culture info. All the entries also contain a clear close-up photo. 

The book could have included some plant propagation info as well as some more seasonal photographs showing dormant phases but in general the info included in the book is sufficient to make good decisions about choice and siting. There is also a useful cross referenced index included to make information easy to find.

This is a really useful and information dense collection. It would make a superlative choice for library acquisition, garden club library, community garden, smallholding, or similar. Very well done. Four and a half stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Megan Rapinoe

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Megan Rapinoe is a new biography for young readers in the Little People, Big Dreams series. I've reviewed a number of these titles and all of them are delightful and exuberant little books which cover the lives of famous cultural, science, arts, and innovation icons while maintaining an age-appropriate level of detail. Due out 2nd Feb 2021 from Quarto on their Frances Lincoln imprint, it's 32 pages and will be available in hardcover, and ebook formats.

Written by Isabel S├ínchez Vegara it's well written in clear accessible language.  The whimsical and energetic illustrations were well done. The art by Paulina Morgan is full of fun - appealing and colorful, they just bounce off the page. The illustrations are bold and full of bright contrasting colors and simple lines and lots and lots of energy.

Well written and appealing, I am really enjoying all of these little books. This one is a worthy addition. The author has included a timeline at the back of the book with some photos and highlights from Ms. Rapinoe's life, as well as a very short bibliography including books to explore further.

Five stars. This would make a superlative reading circle book, classroom library book, or gift.  I like that these books cover arts, sports, science, historical, and entertainment icons. There's something for everyone.  

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

Absence of Mercy (Lightner and Law Mystery #1)


Absence of Mercy is the first book in a new historical mystery series by S.M. Goodwin. Released 10th Nov 2020 by Crooked Lane Books, it's 320 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is an intricately crafted and well engineered mystery wrapped around an accurate historical framework. The characters are well established with realistic and believable internal motivations and agendas. The setting, pre-civil war New York is gritty and believable, with palpable desperation side by side with almost unimaginable wealth and privilege. The author is skilled enough that it's sometimes difficult to distinguish where history ends and the fiction begins.

There are a number of potentially distressing themes included in the narrative including child prostitution, slavery, rampant sexism, abuse (and murder) of vulnerable people, drug abuse, rape, graphic depictions of war, and a few others. They are used in context, but I found it tough going in some places. 

The writing itself is very good and the author can certainly tell a compelling story. I would recommend this ones to readers of the historical mystery genre. I think that fans of C. S. Harris (and I am one such) will find a lot to enjoy here. Four and a half stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine

The Doctors Blackwell is an interesting and well written biography of the Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, pioneering female physicians in the USA. Due out 19th Jan 2021 from W.W. Norton, it's 352 pages (ebook), and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

As a healthcare professional who works in a teaching hospital, I'm regularly involved in interacting with students in labwork exercises and orientation to labwork and histology coursework. I was interested to see a few years ago that the gender distribution of incoming students has continued to be weighted more and more toward women choosing to pursue medical degrees and today, the balance has shifted to about 80% female and 20% male for the upcoming class. It's because of pioneering women like the Blackwell sisters in STEM careers that young women today have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals. 

At the time the Blackwell sisters were pursuing their educations, being a physician was an outlandish, almost shocking goal for females. Author Janice Nimura does a good job of conjuring the historical context and readers get a real feeling for what a monumental uphill climb they faced and how much strength, stubbornness, and grit they displayed.

The book is arranged roughly chronologically with their early childhood and upbringing through their educations, travels, setbacks and successes. The author has a rather unflinching style, not covering over their rougher edges to make for a more palatable story. They were both complex women and this biography reflects that. 

The author has included a good bibliography (divided into primary and secondary source material), abbreviated chapter notes, and an index. 

Four stars. Recommended for readers who enjoy biographies, history, women's health studies, medicine, gender studies, American history, etc. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Amigurumi Crochet: Farm and Forest Animals

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Farm and Forest Animals is an adorable tutorial collection with 26 patterns for crochet animals by Kristen Rask. Due out 16th Feb 2021 from Quarto on their becker&mayer! imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in paperback format (earlier edition available in other format). 

These designs are adorable and very appealing. The book contains 26 different forest and farm animals including the expected monkey, cow, pig, tortoise, and mouse... and also some rather more unexpected ones including a pilot duck, alpaca, skunk, and a wonderful hedgehog. The projects are from a number of different designers scattered all over the world and the book gives links to their design websites in the appendix. 

The book does include a *very* general basic how-to-crochet tutorial, but I imagine that readers unfamiliar with the basic processes of crochet will need some extra help from youtube or a friend/mentor to be able to complete the tutorials in the book. 

Each of the tutorial chapters include tools and supplies, basic descriptions, step by step construction tutorial along with multiple clear color photos. All of the animals are very cute and would make perfect gifts. Many of the tutorials also have accessories (the trash cans and fish bones which accompany the cat-gurumi tutorial made me giggle out loud). Templates for sewn/felt details are provided in the back of the book.

Five stars. Really cute patterns. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Keith Haring


 Keith Haring is a very short and accessible biography of the artist/icon written by Simon Doonan. Due out 23rd Feb 2021 from Laurence King, it's 128 pages and will be available in a pocket sized hardcover edition. 

This is a volume in the Lives of the Artists series of short biographies. Written in chatty and exuberant language, the style suits Haring's ebullient life and work. It's a small book, and as such doesn't go into much detail, but it provides a nice intro to Haring's world, his meteoric rise to influence, and his all too short life and career. The book isn't illustrated, but there are a number of well annotated photographs of Haring himself, collaborators, friends, and tantalizing glimpses of the rarefied world he inhabited. 

This was a very short but informative read. It's stuffed full of name-dropping celebrities and famous (infamous) parties from the 80s. I had a great deal of nostalgia reading this one, and well remember how much I loved his art and style the first time around (saving for months to afford a Haring Swatch watch). 

The book includes a very short bibliography for further reading and an index. 

Four stars. This would make a good classroom/library selection, gift, or home library acquisition. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Woodwork Step by Step: Carpentry Techniques Made Easy

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Woodwork Step by Step is a tutorial guide to carpentry techniques from the DIY experts at DK. Originally published as Woodwork: a Step-by-Step Photographic Guide to Successful Woodworking, this reformat and re-release is due out 9th Feb 2021 from Penguin Random House on their DK imprint. It's 224 pages and will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats.

DK are well known for accessible, very well written and illustrated technique guides covering a plethora of subjects. This is another solid guide containing tutorials for a variety of woodworking basics. The tutorials do utilize both hand and (some) power tools. The introduction covers tools, selection, supplies, and some workshop safety and setup. 

The tutorials themselves are arranged thematically: technique tutorials first, followed by a primer on wood and materials selection, ending with 8 complete project tutorials using the techniques covered in the earlier parts of the book. The tutorials are attractive and suitable for advanced beginners to intermediate level (with access to a woodworking shop).

Each tutorial has a description in a header bar followed by materials and cutting lists, project dimensions, isometric (exploded) line drawings, and full color process pictures with the tutorial directions. Sidebars contain important info such as key techniques and finishing info. The pictures are clear and easy to understand. Tools are shown in cutting/action positions. 

The book also includes an abbreviated glossary and index.

This would be a great selection for library use, maker's group, scouts/activity groups, possibly school use, or the home/shop library. Five stars. It's a solid resource. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Mend It, Wear It, Love It!: Stitch Your Way to a Sustainable Wardrobe


Mend It, Wear It, Love It! is a tutorial and style guide to re-imagining, mending, and re-purposing materials to support a more sustainable lifestyle. Due out 9th Feb 2021 from Penguin Random House on their DK imprint, it's 144 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

The pandemic and subsequent economic collapse have shown us what people have known for ages. Our current treadmill of ever faster and more frenetic consumption isn't sustainable for us or for the planet we share. We need to find another way to do better and we're really on the knife-edge of passing the point of no return.

This guide provides good and sensible tutorials for fixing and mending clothing. Most of the info was taught earlier in schools or by family members, but much of it has fallen to the wayside in an era of  fast fashion and disposable clothing. The tutorials are arranged thematically: basics (sewing, tools and supplies), mending clothing, wearing (hemming, adding patch pockets, and other alterations), and taking care of clothing with proper storage and cleaning. 

The book isn't exhaustively full of photos... but the tutorial photos which are included are sufficient, clear, and understandable. Many of the tutorials are also accompanied by colorful line drawn illustrations. 

This would make a superlative selection for library acquisition, maker's/activity groups, home library, or gift for a newly flown-the-coop child or friend. There's a lot of good usable information here.

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.