Thursday, October 6, 2022

Indian for Everyone: 100 Easy, Healthy Dishes the Whole Family Will Love


Indian for Everyone is a collection of healthy Indian inspired dishes collected and developed by Hari Ghotra. Released 4th Oct 2022 by Quarto on their Fair Winds Press imprint, it's 176 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

The introduction contains some basic info about tools, supplies, ingredients, and tips for serving/entertaining. The following chapters contain the recipes, arranged thematically:  drinks & snacks, finger foods, sharing platters, family dinners, curries, sides, condiments, and desserts.

Ingredient measurements are supplied in imperial (American) measurements, with metric/SI measures in parentheses (yay!).  Nutritional information is not included.  Extra tips or recipe alternatives are listed in sidebars with the recipes. The recipes themselves are fairly straightforward and are mostly made with easily sourced ingredients. The author has included a handy cross referenced index which includes ingredients indexed with their recipes.

The photography is clear but not overly abundant; roughly 20% of the recipes are accompanied by one or more illustrations. The serving suggestions are attractive and appropriate. 

This is a nice basic collection of recipes and will keep Indian cooking fans going for a long time. Many of these are simple "everyday" recipes which are anything but boring. We tried several dishes and all of them were tasty and well written, without discernible errors. Whilst most of the ingredients will be found at any well stocked grocery store, some spices and vegetables will be more easily sourced at a specialist/international food store.  

Well written book, tasty recipes.

Four stars. This is a solid recipe book and will be used. It would make a superlative housewarming gift to a friend or family member - college student, new graduate, newlyweds, kids flying the nest, or anyone who loves Indian food. 

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

Crochet Magical Creatures: 20 Easy Amigurumi Patterns


Crochet Magical Creatures is an appealing and all-skill-levels friendly collection of 20 crocheted mythical creatures by Drew Hill. Released 22 Sept 2022 by Callisto on their Rockridge Press imprint, it's 166 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. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. 

The book has a short introductory chapter covering some basic techniques and materials, and moves directly into the tutorials. The introduction does have a how-to-crochet tutorial with clear line drawings illustrating the steps. I think that even a complete beginner could learn the basics from the intro (plus some patience and possibly a little side help from youtube... but not impossible anyhow). 

The projects are -adorable- and include a little dragon, "caticorn" (both shown on the cover), jackalope, kitsune, garden fairy, gnome, and 14 more. All of them are really cute and recognizable, and will make welcome gifts or for readers to keep for themselves. I like that the author doesn't mention brand names, but does a good job explaining yarn weights and how to choose in the mini-tutorial introduction. 

Five stars. This is a wonderful collection. 

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Washed Ashore: Making Art from Ocean Plastic


Washed Ashore: Making Art from Ocean Plastic is an exhibition in book form featuring 14 sculptures from the Washed Ashore Project perfectly photographed by Kelly Crull. Released 1st March 2022 by Lerner on their Millbrook Press imprint, it's 36 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

The project and sculptures are part of a traveling exhibition to promote awareness of the crisis of plastic pollution and its effect on the environment, the ocean, and the creatures who live in ocean habitats. The book is written in very simple accessible language which will be easy to read and understand for primary grade readers (ca. 6-10 years). 

The photography is full color, crisp and quite compelling. It's easy to get lost in the pictures; deciphering the construction and the found objects which make up the sculptures. Each of the feature pages also contains photos of specific objects for readers to find as an extra activity.  The artist and publisher have also included links and online resources for further reading.

This would be a good tie-in for a classroom unit on ecology as well as art, and a superlative choice for public or school library acquisition or home use. 

Five stars. It's very short but quite captivating.

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


Treachery Times Two

 

Treachery Times Two is a modern murder/corruption procedural set in Hawaii and the fourth book in the Koa Kāne series by Robert McCaw. Released 4th January 2022 by Oceanview, it's 352 pages and available in audio and ebook formats.

This is a procedural with a well established ensemble cast and the added contrast of what should be an idyllic paradise setting with the investigation into the murder and mutilation of an unidentified woman who is discovered in an abandoned graveyard after a volcanic earthquake. The titular protagonist has a conflicted and flawed past himself along with being forced to navigate problems with his immediate family (his brother's incarcerated). There are some scenes which might be too graphic for some readers. It's a modern procedural and some descriptions are gritty.

The writing is competent but struck me as choppy and abrupt in some places. It reads more like a military thriller (a la Tom Clancy) than a police procedural for a small town police force. I also had a few difficulties with the liberal use of the Hawaiian language throughout the book. It added verisimilitude, but where it wasn't explained in context, it left me a bit confused.

I suspect that my issues with the book were due more to my preconceptions than the author's stylistic intentions (i.e., my fault). I went into the book expecting Hawaii Five-0 and got Jack Reacher. Definitely readable, and enjoyable, just not what I was expecting. Four stars.

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

Murder at the Castle

 

Murder at the Castle is the second Belinda Penshurst village cozy Lisa Cutts. Released 8th Dec 2021, it's 274 pages and is 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 throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free along with the other books in the series.

This was a very good second-book and a solid small village cozy. The author is a technically adept writer and provides necessary backstory without info-dumping. The narrative is lighthearted, including an ensemble cast of oddball small-town characters. The "over the top" characters and dialogue were always on the right side of charming and didn't shade over into annoying or yank me out of my suspension of disbelief, so it was a fun read.  Amateur sleuth Belinda, castle-dwelling, clever, and single minded, is determined to save "her" village (she's upper class and quite to the manner born). Poisonings at a wine tasting she'd arranged are simply not on and she's determined to get to the bottom of things tout de suite.

Charming, diverting, and well written. I intend to seek out future volumes in the series. A strong four star read. The mystery, plot, and denouement are self contained, so reading the series out of order wouldn't be problematic. There are now three books extant, so it would be a good candidate for a mini-binge read for a cozy weekend. The series will appeal to fans of M.C. Beaton, and Diane Mott Davidson.

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

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Silent Conversation


The Silent Conversation is the 13th Anderson & Costello modern police procedural thriller by Caro Ramsay. Released 7th Dec 2021 by Canongate on their Severn House imprint, it's 256 pages and is 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. 

This is a modern procedural with a returning ensemble cast set in Glasgow. It's gritty and realistic with a complex dynamic which is very well written. Although the mystery is self contained in this book, readers who are already familiar with the returning characters and their interrelationships will have an advantage. Like many police procedurals, there are lots of disparate plot threads which wind together more tightly as the book goes on. The author is quite gifted with immersive atmospheric ambience and the Glasgow setting was believable and encompassing. There are some graphic descriptions of violence and death. It's not egregious, and it's central to the plot, but some of it was quite realistically written.

The denouement (especially the epilogue) was top notch, well written, fraught, and effective. It was a satisfying end to a well written book. I'll go back and pick up the earlier books in the series, though there are major spoilers in this book which will color earlier installments. If readers are planning to read this one, I would recommend picking up the backlist first.

Four stars. This is a really well written modern murder mystery with interesting, intelligent, and believable characters.. 

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

A Cornish Christmas Murder


A Cornish Christmas Murder is the fourth Nosey Parker mystery by Fiona Leitch. Released 9th Dec 2021 by Harper Collins on their One More Chapter imprint, it's 368 pages and is 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 is a very well written, whimsical, and appealing cozy mystery with a caterer as a former-police-inspector protagonist along with her ragtag catering assistants/family and geriatric Pomeranian, Germaine. This installment is a nice closed circle mystery with a group of snowed in guests in an isolated abbey-turned-mansion setting. The mystery is well constructed and the characters are well rendered and believable. It's a cozy, with lots of silly dialogue and was an enjoyable, diverting read. 

Although it's the fourth book in the series, all necessary back-story is deftly provided, and the mystery and denouement are self contained and satisfying. There are 5 books extant in the series now, so it would make a good candidate for a weekend binge read. There's a whole subgenre with caterers-as-sleuths and this is one of the better ones.

Four stars. 

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

Friday, September 30, 2022

A Pain in the Tuchis, a Mrs. Kaplan Mystery

 

A Pain in the Tuchis is the second cozy mystery by Mark Reutlinger featuring octogenarian sleuth Mrs. Kaplan and her own Dr. Watson, Ida Berkowitz. Released in this edition 12th Jan 2022, it's 217 pages and is 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. 

The Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors is once again the site of a murder. This time it's the demise of the universally disliked "pain in the tuchis" Vera Gold who is hastened to the hereafter. The list of people who couldn't get along with Vera was extensive. Mrs. Kaplan and her friend Ida are on the scene and are determined to get to the bottom of things. There is warm and compassionate humor throughout, the language is squeaky clean, and there's no graphic violence involved. 

The author manages a pitch perfect tone and vernacular with the characters. It would have been -very- easy for him to fall on the wrong side of caricature and/or respectfulness. Throughout most of the book I could literally *hear* my grandfather and aunties' voices. For readers who are unfamiliar with Jewish and Yiddish slang, there's quite a lot of both sprinkled throughout. The author is diligent about explaining potentially unfamiliar language in context or quickly translating in the text. It adds a lot of atmosphere to the read.

The scene descriptions verge on slapstick sometimes but even those bring a nostalgia more reminiscent of an episode of "I Love Lucy" or "The Golden Girls". I really loved most everything about the book. It was a comfort read - but it did leave me with a serious craving for my grandmother's chicken matzo soup. 

Four stars. There are three books in the series currently, so it would make a good choice for a mini-binge read.

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

 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden


The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden is an appealing and very well written mystery and the third of the Laetitia Rodd mysteries by Kate Saunders. Released 7th Dec 2021 by Bloomsbury, it's 336 pages and is 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. 

This is an extremely well written period mystery featuring the middle-aged widow of a cleric as the protagonist, an *extremely* discreet private enquiry agent. She's sensible, intelligent, and (luckily) quite aware of the world and its foibles. She assists the official police (to an unusual/anachronistic degree). She's eminently respectable and can talk to people who are otherwise inaccessible to the official police forces. 

All of the mysteries in the series are self contained and work perfectly well as standalone reads. There are three books extant at this point which might make them suitable for a mini-binge read. I found some of the plot twists felt unreasonable and challenged my suspension of disbelief, but overall I have really enjoyed the series and look forward to future installments. 

This book revolves around the death of a thespian, so many of the characters are from that sphere and the interconnections and personal drama are sometimes a bit over the top.

Four stars. Quite well written and diverting.

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

Shadow of the Knife


Shadow of the Knife is a very well written dark and atmospheric historical mystery by Richard Ayre. Released 12th Oct 2021 by Burning Chair, it's 304 pages and is 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. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. 

The story drew me in and kept me engaged from the first few pages. I'm still impressed over the attention to historical detail and the realistic descriptions, especially those that existed in the East End of London at the time. The author provides a hard look at the way the unfortunate locals lived (and died, early and too often to violence and disease). There are scenes of graphic violence described unflinchingly in the book, which I found myself skimming over. It's well written and very well researched.

Fans of Victorian English mysteries (not cozies) will find a lot to appeal, and the writing is very well rendered and engaging. Spelling and vernacular are British English, but that shouldn't pose any problems to American readers. The author has helpfully included a short glossary of period colloquialisms for reference.

Four stars. Very well done.

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

A Dangerous Riddle of Chance


A Dangerous Riddle of Chance is a whimsical, well written adventure story aimed at middle grade readers by the pseudonymous F.L.Ying (snicker). Released 28th Oct 2021 by The Book Guild, it's a substantial 448 pages and is 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. 

Even though I'm not a huge fan of clowns (looking at you, Stephen King), this book's titular protagonist, Chance, is an appealing and sympathetic everyman. He and his ragtag entourage have 99 days to save the world before he disappears and everyone's doom is sealed. 

The world building is solid, including a magical circus, truly despicable bad guys, and a mostly appealing group of friends out to try to save the world. There is a Lemony Snickett vibe here and readers who are fond of that franchise will find much to engage them. The length is potentially problematic, at 448 pages, and frankly the book could've done with a ruthless editor shaving off about 30% of the word count.  There is a surprising amount of relatively graphic violence/murder which surprised me, but again with a sort of Roald Dahl/Lemony Snicket sensibility which will appeal to fans of those authors.

The spelling and vernacular are British English, but shouldn't pose any problems for American readers. 

Three and a half stars. 

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


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Children's Mathematics: Cognitively Guided Instruction


Children's Mathematics: Cognitively Guided Instruction is a clearly written supportive and accessible guide for facilitators and teachers to help children succeed with learning mathematical concepts with minimal frustration. Released in this edition in 2014 by Heinemann, it's 240 pages and is available in paperback format. It's unclear from the publisher's info, but the book is full of links and support videos which would be more accessible in ebook format, if it's available in electronic format. The electronic ARC provided for review contains hyperlinked table of contents and links to online resources, so if possible, I recommend at least one copy of the ebook for ease of navigation.

I've been an advocate for STE(A)M for decades. Our capacity for innovation and probably future survival are dependent on the critical reasoning skills we foster in the next generation(s). They're literally our future. When I find books which support learning styles and techniques which actually work and are logical and have practice based data to back them up, I am thrilled. This is a sensible and very accessible guide to using children's natural developmental understanding to build math skills in the classroom.

This book is aimed at professional educators although it will also be appropriate for some homeschooling/hybrid resource people. The book is based on CGI techniques (Cognitively Guided Instruction) and uses the differing ways children's cognitive development occurs to creatively support their learning styles to foster *understanding* of concepts as opposed to rote learning (which gives no firm basis to build on). 

The introductory chapters explain the ways children formulate mathematical problems differently than adults, and how teachers can utilize those differences to help them succeed at problem solving. The book contains concrete techniques for tool building and retention.

The book contains the methodology and techniques for classroom practice as well as appendices containing research data and resource links.

This is a well written and practical guide to using natural psychological development to enhance students' understanding and facility with math.

Four and a half stars. 

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

 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Angelbound Enhanced


Angelbound Enhanced is a partially illustrated edition with additional chapter samples of the first book of the Angelbound Origins series by Christina Bauer. Originally released in 2013, this reformat and enhanced re-release is 388 pages and is available in paperback format. Other editions available in most formats. 

This is a YA/NA fantasy romance series with lots of angst and drama. Protagonist Myla is a kickass fighter whose day job is to fight opponents who seek redemption in the arena in Purgatory. She's a human demon hybrid (and she's got a tail, which is pretty cool). She's good at her job, undefeated in fact, but that doesn't stop her from having to get through her senior year of Purgatory High School. 

The world building and story set up are competent, although I struggled to really build a rapport with Myla. I freely admit that I'm several decades outside the target audience, but the first third of the book dragged for me. The pacing  does get better toward the middle, so I would encourage readers to stick around past the first parts of the book. 

The language is surprisingly rough for a YA book, although again, I'm certain that no high schooler would blink an eye at the f-bombs and physical descriptions. 

The ebook format contains hyperlinks and searchable text (I really enjoy this feature). The audiobook format has a run time of 14 hours 48 minutes and is capably narrated by the author herself. 

Three and a half stars for this entry, rounded up for the competent writing and plotting. I would imagine it will likely be higher for the target audience. 

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


Sunday, September 18, 2022

Classic Cocktails Done Well: Tried-And-True Recipes for the Home Bartender

 

Classic Cocktails Done Well is a nicely curated easy to understand bar book by Faith Hingey. Due out 18th Oct 2022 from Penguin Random House on their Zeitgeist imprint, it's 192 pages and will be available in hardcover 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. 

This is a well organized and accessible bar book. All the recipes are photographed and serving suggestions are attractive and appropriate.

The recipes are arranged by main liquor ingredient: gin, whiskey, brandy, rum, and other liquors; individual cocktails are arranged alphabetically in each chapter. Each recipe includes an introductory description and yields, ingredients in imperial standard (oz) measurements, and step by step instructions. Barware and tools are also listed. Variations and alternatives are provided at the end of the recipes. The book also includes a useful links list and resources for further reading as well as a cross referenced index. 

Many of the ingredients should be available at any well stocked grocery/liquor store although some might need to be sourced at specialists. Cocktails are such a civilized interlude and this book includes a solid cross section of classics to build mixology skills and impress one's friends at the next gathering.
 
Five stars. A good resource for the home mixologist.

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

Friday, September 16, 2022

Pump: A Natural History of the Heart

 

Pump: A Natural History of the Heart is a well written, layman accessible, information rich look at the heart by Dr. Bill Schutt. Originally released in 2021, this reformat and re-release to coincide with the papaerback release from Algonquin is 288 pages. The book is also available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

I liked so many things about this book. It's well written and laid out logically. The author moves from the actual physiology and function, to a comprehensive (and very entertaining) history of scientific understanding about the organ, and our gradual understanding and exciting future prospects including regenerative medicine (fix it! make it better!). Graphically, it's typeset in a high contrast easy to read typeface with illustrations and drawings scattered throughout. I really loved the drawing of the immense blue whale heart preserved in plastic absolutely *looming* over the author. 

Although it's written with the layperson in mind, it's well annotated throughout. The chapter notes will make for engaging further reading. It is, admittedly, a niche book and will appeal especially to readers interested in biology, physiology, and natural history. The language is accessible and informal. The author has a gift at distilling difficult and complex concepts into smaller digestible bits and I can imagine he would be an engaging and worthwhile lecturer.

Five stars. 

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

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Bloodless Boy Hunt & Hooke #1

 

The Bloodless Boy is the first Hunt & Hooke historical mystery by Robert J. Lloyd. Originally published in 2013, this reformat and re-release by Melville House is 416 pages and is available in hardcover format. Other editions available in other 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 is an exceptionally well written and researched thriller/mystery set in the latter part of the 17th century in and around London. The descriptions and dialogue are precisely rendered and believable. The story follows the renowned scientist Robert Hooke and his assistant Harry Hunt as they investigate the appalling exsanguination deaths in the area. 

The author does a good job bringing the simmering religious persecution of the era to life. The fictional narrative is skillfully woven around a framework of actual historical people and incidents and it's done so seamlessly that it's not always apparent where history shades into fiction. He does a great job with the characters and even the secondary characters are three dimensional and believable. 

Some parts of the book quite brutal and include descriptions of religious intolerance and the stark realities of life at a time when the average lifespan was only 35 years. I personally found it difficult to read in places due to the victim being a child of 2-3 years who had been completely exsanguinated (drained of blood), which gave me literal shudders of revulsion (which was clearly the author's intention).

Very well written and crafted. The pacing is not slow, but it's steady and worth the build-up. The denouement and resolution were satisfying. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, due out 25th Oct 2022 from the same publisher. 

Four and a half stars. Highly recommended for fans of cerebral mysteries in the style of The Name of the Rose and Father Cadfael. It's not derivative, but there's something about the descriptive prose and very clever construction which reminds me of both of them.

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


Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Archer

 

The Archer is a beautifully lyrical and gently written coming of age story set in the 1960s and '70s in Bombay/Mumbai. Originally released in 2021, this reformat which coincides with the paperback release, is 320 pages, and is also available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats from the Algonquin Press

The author, Shruti Swamy, is a gifted wordsmith. There's a precise and conscious use of language which sometimes felt a tiny bit overwrought. She also has something worthwhile to say, so the writing is absolutely not window dressing in this case; there's a substantial story conveyed in the prose. 

There was a pervasive sense of sadness and wistfulness about the limits imposed on the main character by her family situation and to a larger degree, her culture. The metaphor of a type of dance with a still center and wildly whirling and kinetic outside movement are aptly used to mirror the realities of Vidya's existence. 

I enjoyed the descriptions of the settings as well as the minutiae of the dance included in the story. Highly recommended for fans of slice-of-life stories and family sagas. Competently written.

Four stars.

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


Death on a Winter's Day A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery #8


Death on a Winter's Day is the 8th Lady Eleanor Swift cozy mystery by pseudonymous writing duo Verity Bright. Released 24th Nov. 2021, it's 288 pages and is 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. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book (and the rest of the series) are currently included in the KU library to borrow and read for free.

This is such a lightly humorous and honestly fun read. The entire series is just perfect for lifting the spirits and a reading escape to a simpler time. The style is reminiscent of earlier golden age inter-war mysteries. It's irreverent, with an appealing ensemble cast of amateur society sleuth Lady Eleanor and her butler/dogsbody Clifford whom she inherited along with her title from her late uncle as well as assorted society friends and servants. Gladstone the elderly bulldog also brings his unique support efforts to bear, helping untangle this holiday mystery set in Scotland.

It's a fast and undemanding cozy; the language is clean, the crimes are not written violently or explicitly and the denouement is satisfyingly twisty and well written. For readers looking for verisimilitude in dialogue and action, be warned, this series is full of modern vernacular and sensibilities. Eleanor fraternizes with the servants and has shockingly bohemian attitudes and fraternizes with the servants.

Four stars, a decidedly exuberant and whimsical romp. There are now 11 extant books in the series, with the 12th due out in Nov 2022. This series is a prime candidate for binge reading. Although each of the books is self contained, I recommend reading them in order (though it's not absolutely necessary).

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

Pump A Natural History of the Heart

To coincide with the release of the paperback format, Algonquin is supporting a blog tour. Review to appear here in mid-September 2022.


 “Pump is an entertaining survey of the evolution of the circulatory system…this brisk and engaging history of hearts of all forms and sizes packs a punch.”
—Foreword Reviews, starred review

“This is an easy-to-read and fascinating look into the complexity and wonder of the heart in its many forms.”
—Booklist

“Fascinating… surprising entertainment combining deep learning with dad jokes… [Schutt] is a natural teacher with an easy way with metaphor.”
—The Wall Street Journal


For centuries, humans have been fascinated by the heart. Aristotle believed it was the seat of consciousness; the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz mused about how his life would change if only he had one; and poets and musicians from Shakespeare to Tom Petty to Stevie Nicks have written countless words about hearts being cold, broken, and lonely. Now, the critically acclaimed author of Cannibalism and American Museum of Natural History zoologist Bill Schutt turns his attention to this vital organ in PUMP: A Natural History of the Heart (Publication Date: September 21, 2021; $26.95), which explores the mysteries and wonders of the literal heartbeat of life on earth. The first book to present in-depth natural histories of both the human heart and the hearts of dozens of diverse animal species ranging from worms to alligators to bats to sea squirts, PUMP is an illuminating journey that shows how the heart has become the core of not only the circulatory system, but also the natural world.
From a Canadian museum where Schutt examines a rare, preserved blue whale heart the size of a golf cart to New England beaches where horseshoe crabs are being harvested for their life-saving blood to labs where he encounters frozen hibernating wood frogs, PUMP takes readers on a fantastic trip around the world, telling an incredible story of evolution and scientific process. Readers journey with Schutt through human history, too, as philosophers and scientists hypothesize, often wrongly, about what makes our ticker tick. The book traces humanity’s cardiac fascination from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, who believed that the heart contains the soul, all the way up to modern-day laboratories, where scientists use animal hearts and even plants as the basis for many of today’s cutting-edge therapies. Schutt interviews notable doctors, researchers, and animal experts, revealing unexpected anecdotes and studies including:   
⦁    the science behind the survival of the Antarctic icefish, whose blood contains a natural antifreeze;
⦁    the use of tropical Zebrafish, an organism that shares more than 70 percent of its genes with humans, to study the regrowth of functional heart muscle in humans;
⦁    the heart of the Burmese python, which can grow 40 percent after eating a meal, and how this invasive species can help researchers better understand physiological human heart growth;
⦁    the scientific background on why doctors made the switch from therapeutic bloodletting including the use of leeches to blood transfusions as a way to restore health;
⦁    the strange science behind the giraffe circulatory system – which includes a massive high-pressure heart that can pump blood to heights of eighteen feet and unique adaptations that prevent blood from rushing to their lowered heads when they drink;
⦁    the 150-year-old mystery behind the ailments that plagued Charles Darwin for the last forty years of his life, which may be traced to a rare bloodborne disease he contracted during his voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle; 
⦁    the experiments showing the direct relationship between bereavement and Takotsubo syndrome, better known as “broken heart syndrome”;
⦁    the brand-new technologies utilized by various labs to grow and regenerate the human heart from stem cells, animal hearts, and plants.

“Pump is a story about hearts – big hearts, small hearts, cold hearts and even nonexistent hearts,” Schutt, professor emeritus at Long Island University - Post, explains. “The history of our attempts to understand the function of the heart and circulatory system is long, and until relatively recently, riddled with errors. From a hollow cluster of cells with a unique ability to shorten its length to beliefs about the origin of love and the soul to early cardiac medicine, futuristic therapies, and beyond, my hope is that readers will gain appreciation for the degree to which the heart plays a vital role, and will never think about these topics in quite the same way again.” The author of five books of fiction and nonfiction, Schutt received his PhD in zoology from Cornell University and did his post-doctoral work at the American Museum of Natural History (where he was a recipient of a Theodore Roosevelt Grant). His most recent book, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and an Amazon Best Book of the Month as well as a Scientific American Recommended Read. He lives with his family on Long Island.

Written with verve and Schutt’s signature wit, weaving evolutionary perspectives with cultural history, Pump shows us this magical and mysterious organ in a completely new light.

Bill Schutt is a vertebrate zoologist and author of five nonfiction and fiction books, including the New York Times Editor’s Choice, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. Recently retired from his post as professor of biology at LIU Post, he is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, where he has studied bats all over the world. His research has been featured in Natural History magazine as well as in the New York Times, Newsday, the Economist, and Discover.


Pump: A Natural History of the Heart
By Bill Schutt
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Paperback / 288 pages / $17.99
Instagram and Twitter: @algonquinbooks

Sourdough: How to Make Artisan Fermented Bread , Rustic Pizza Recipes and Homemade Yeast


Sourdough is a tutorial guide with recipes for fermented grain and homemade yeast products written by Mary Lo Caso. Released in 2021, it's 200 pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

This is a well written and thorough guide to creating a starter, maintaining it, and utilizing it to create a surprising number of fermented bread foods. The book has a very spare layout with easy to read text and good formatting (bullet points, page design etc).The ARC provided for review doesn't contain any photography or diagrams, but the descriptions are comprehensive and easy to understand. The author writes clearly and encouragingly. 

The recipes are surprisingly varied. It naturally includes all the steps for creating and maintaining several different starter cultures, but in addition to the basic loaves, the author provides appealing recipes for pizzas and pie-crusts, breadsticks, buns, biscuits, crackers, and more. We've tried out the basic (no-frills) starter, which is bubbling away happily. There are numerous recipes included which we intend to try. I like the "no waste" philosophy and her recipes for discard dough which would otherwise go to waste. 

Recipes include a description, prep and baking times, ingredients in a bullet list, and step by step directions. Ingredient measurements are provided in imperial (American) standard measurements only. Optional ingredients and alternate preps are listed in parentheses in each recipe. 

Four stars. This would make a good beginning guide for folks who want to make high quality grain based fermented breads from scratch. I would also recommend it as an instruction text for workshops, activity groups, library acquisition, and similar uses. It would have been enhanced if it included photos, but even without, it's a solidly useful basic manual for sourdough.

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