Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Homestead Gardening

 

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Homestead Gardening is an interesting monograph on planning and beginning gardening to lessen readers' carbon footprint and improve food security and self sufficiency. Due out 11th July 2022, it's 117 pages and the review materials provided for review included no retail/acquisition information or author links. 

This is a very simply written and accessible guide to planning and getting started with gardening. The information included in the book is very general and widely available online, but the author (the publicity info received for review does not specify or give author name or credits and there's no Library of Congress info available) does a good job of collating the information in one manual. There are no annotations provided and the book (in the ARC supplied for review) doesn't include an index or bibliography. 

The chapters are arranged thematically, starting with basic concepts (where, how, what, when, why), small space gardening, beginning vegetable gardening, layouts (there are no plans given here), tools, easiest vegetables to grow, companion gardening, soil prep, seaonality, seed sowing and propagation, watering, weeding, fertilizing, harvesting, storage, crop rotation, some pitfalls to avoid, general self-sufficiency, and making money from your "homestead hustle". 

This is a guide for dreamers and people who are trying to get started with planning. There is no real concrete information contained in this book which cannot be found easily online elsewhere. Graphically it's a very simple layout, devoid of photos or illustrations. There are no graphics in the ARC at all.

Three stars. It might make an appropriate support text alongside other more traditional guides, but as a solo work, it doesn't go into enough detail on any of the subjects to be a sufficient resource on its own.

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

Hatchet Island (Mike Bowditch #13)

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Hatchet Island is the 13th Mike Bowditch mystery by Paul Doiron. Released 28th June by Macmillan on their Minotaur imprint, it's 320 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 wonderfully written series with an intelligent and honorable protagonist who works as an investigator for the Maine Warden Service (game warden). Although it has more thriller elements than my usual shopfront cozy selections, it's so well written, so redolent of the area and the outdoors, that it was an immersive and enjoyable read. Readers who are already fans of procedural thrillers will be right at home. 

The plotting moves along at a good pace and the whole setup is so steeped in a pervasive sense of menace that the tension is ratcheted up continually til the first catastrophic crimes and it doesn't slow down after that. The examination and detection on the part of the protagonist and his colleagues (and girlfriend Stacey) is meticulously written and very cleverly constructed. The final climax, denouement, and resolution were tense and satisfying. Although the mystery is self contained, the entire series is highly recommended and would be a great candidate for a long weekend binge read. 

Four and a half stars. This series will appeal very much to fans of Stabenow's Kate Shugak and Box's Joe Pickett mysteries. 

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

Whittling Workbook: 14 Simple Projects to Carve

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Whittling Workbook: 14 Simple Projects to Carve is a beginner friendly whittling guide with tutorials by James Ray Miller. Released 26th April 2022 by Fox Chapel, it's 112 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a sensible, accessible, and well written practical guide to whittling. The introduction covers the basics, types of wood, grain, tools and supplies, safety guidelines, and the skills which build up successively. The first section of the book also contains tips on painting, finishing, and finding a woodcarving community to network and share the joy of the hobby with. 

The second half of the book contains the projects, arranged roughly in order of difficulty. All the pattern templates are included (in both vertical and horizontal rough outlines). All of the tutorials are accompanied by copious color photos which are clear and easy to understand. Carving action shots are taken without tools or hands obscuring the relevant areas (which I can imagine was not a trivial task). They include a finished project photo, tools and supplies in a bullet list in a highlighted text box, followed by step-by-step concise instructions for completing the objects. The projects are all appealingly folksy and whimsical.

I liked the casual style of the writing; the author's very encouraging and it's a friendly book. It reads like a one-on-one workshop with an experienced instructor. 

Four and a half stars. This would be a superlative choice for public and school library acquisition, scouting, activity, and makers' groups, and for the home hobbyist. 

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

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Super Easy Origami for Beginners: Learn to Fold Origami with Easy Illustrated Instuctions and Fun Projects

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Super Easy Origami for Beginners is a beginner friendly origami guide with tutorials by Carri Hammett. First released in 2011 as Origami 101, this reformat and re-release from Quarto on their New Shoe Press  is due out 2nd Aug 2022. It's 160 pages and will be available in paperback format.

This is a very basic beginner manual. I liked the graphics and layout. Information is presented in straightforward easy to understand language and the format makes it easy to locate the info needed quickly. The sections are arranged around basic classic folds (kite, collapsed square, basic form, and collapsed triangle. Each tutorial builds on the information in the prior tutorials and by working through the book systematically, readers will build up enough of a skill set to move on to intermediate folding guides.

The book is lavishly illustrated throughout and the drawings & photos are clear and in color. There is an included explanation key for the folding diagrams at the back of the book. New symbols and folds are introduced in highlighted text boxes throughout with clear and easy to understand captions.

It also includes a glossary list of symbols. There are no supplies links or lists, but the necessary materials will be easily available at any big box store, stationery store, or online.

This is a nice addition to the crafter's library. It would also make a good choice for public or school library acquisition, makers' spaces, activity groups and the like. 

Four and a half stars.

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

Super Easy Quilting for Beginners: Patterns, Projects, and Tons of Tips to Get Started in Quilting

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Super Easy Quilting for Beginners is a new beginner quilting tutorial and pattern guide edited by Quarry. First released in 2011 as Quilting 101, this reformat and re-release from Quarto on their New Shoe Press  is due out 2nd Aug 2022. It's 160 pages and will be available in paperback format.

I liked the layout of this book. Information is presented directly in easy to understand language and the format makes it easy to find info. This is a very basic beginner manual. The introduction includes general instructions for machine usage, tools & supplies, fabric & batting choice, rotary tools & how to use them safely, and everything else readers would need to get started with quilting safely and with a minimum of frustration. 

The second two thirds of the book contains the project tutorials and patterns. Each of the projects contains one or more good technique lessons such as piecing, applique, quilt as you go, and paper piecing. The projects are well designed and attractive. Many of them would make lovely gifts and bazaar/donation items for charitable use. The book is lavishly illustrated throughout and the photos are clear and in color. Some few of the color choices are a bit retro (the book was originally from 2011), but a change in fabrics will make them more modern, or left as is for a more classic look. 

The pattern templates are included. Tutorials include a tools & supplies list with required fabrics in a bullet list in a highlighted text box, followed by step by step instructions. Required materials are listed with both imperial (American) and metric measurements (yay!). The photos are clear and in color, without hands or tools obscuring construction details. The book also includes a glossary and abbreviated index. There is no supplies links or list, but the necessary materials will be easily available at any big box store, fabric store, or online.

This is a nice addition to the quilter's library and especially for those of us who have generous stash baskets, will provide a very satisfying way to use up some of those scraps. It would also make a good choice for public or school library acquisition, makers' spaces, church auxiliary and the like.

Four stars.

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

A Murder of Crows (Nell Ward Mystery #1)

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A Murder of Crows is the first book in a new modern cozy(ish) mystery series by Dr. Sarah Yarwood-Lovett. Released 1st July 2022 by Bonnier on their imprint Embla Books, it's 368 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 is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

This is a diverting series starter with an academically experienced female ecologist who finds herself in a dangerous and difficult situation when an ecological impact survey for a potential construction project lands her as the chief suspect in a homicide which occurred on the site at the same time she was present. Although it has the bones of a cozy mystery, there are elements of procedural and some slightly more graphic violence and descriptions than are usually present in cozies. The usual romantic plot elements are present in abundance and for readers who don't like any romance in their cozies, proceed with caution - there's an unresolved dramatic triangle here which saw me raising my eyes heavenward on a couple occasions.

The main protagonist is a conservation ecologist and it's a profession which she shares with the author. It's an oft-said proverb that authors should write what they know, and Dr. Yarwood-Lovett has done just that; describing the realities of crawling through brambles to map badger setts and collecting and analyzing bat poop with gleeful abandon. Did you know bat droppings are (logically enough) full of insects and they crumble, whilst rodent poo *squishes*? I didn't, and now we both do. It's relevant to the story. 

The book is full of science tidbits and trivia and for me, that was the highlight. Without being pedantic or lecturing, the author pulls back the curtain on a tantalizing bit of nature most never see. There are technical terms bandied about, and there are some places (courtroom expert testimony) which require a little more attention on the part of the reader - but they're relatively few and far between and I think most readers will have no problem understanding the jargon from context. 

The plot is overshadowed by the attraction triangle of the MC and a male colleague and (of course) the handsome detective investigating the crimes. There is so much drama and ridiculous convoluted *unnecessary* sighing and angst which could be resolved with a one sentence explanation that I had to just power through. There are many readers who enjoy that in their books and they'll be in raptures.

Four stars. It does move slowly in places, but the author does a thorough job of building up the characters' back-stories and settings. Definitely looking forward to finding out what comes next.

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

Friday, July 1, 2022

Stealing Infinity (Stolen Beauty #1)

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Stealing Infinity is an atmospheric YA/NA fantasy/romance, and the first in a series, by Alyson Noël. Released 28th June 2022, it's 497 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 engaging and well written romance/fantasy with time travel. It's a sort of treasure hunt (in time) with coming-of-age elements. It's not derivative, and the author does a good job with the world building, but it reminded me in a way of Da Vinci Code meets Novik's Scholomance. Protagonist Natasha winds up in a special academy after a events in her life get a bit out of control and she's suddenly surrounded by people who want to exploit her, control her, or just frustrate her. Oh, and she can travel in time, if nobody kills her first.

The character development and plotting were a bit two dimensional and linear in most places. There weren't a lot of deviations or alternative subplot stories to explore. The antagonists were -completely- irredeemable and the protagonists were paragons. The dialogue was often overwrought (not cringe-worthy, but definitely stilted) and I found myself being yanked out of my suspension of disbelief not infrequently. On the other hand, I'm not the target audience (I found my way in via the "time travel-fantasy" door, not the clearly marked romance one). Readers who appreciate fresh, well written YA/NA romance will find a lot to like here; especially readers who really enjoy a healthy dose of draaama and don't mind enemies-to-lovers plots in their stories. I, on the other hand, found myself wanting to shake some of the characters. 

Three and a half stars, rounded up for technically adept writing and an engaging premise.

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

The Lost (Mace Reid K-9 Mystery #3)

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The Lost is the third Mace Reid K-9 mystery by by Jeffery B. Burton. Released 28th June 2022 by Macmillan on their Minotaur imprint, it's 288 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 a solid installment in a very strong series in the animal mystery subgenre. The series started strong and has gone from strength to strength. The characterizations and descriptions are well rendered and distinct. Protagonist Mace Reid is a dog trainer who specializes in training human remains dogs (cadaver dogs). His "pack" includes ('Vira - short for Elvira), a golden retriever who is a natural wonder as a cadaver dog, and just might be a canine Einstein in addition. The plot arc is full of action and the author is adept at moving the narrative along without info dumping.

There is some anthropomorphism, but it's not out of control. Honestly for some readers who love animal mysteries, it will be a plus. I think there are relatively few readers who will be yanked out of the story by that facet of the writing. The dialogue is well done and flowed smoothly. Mace is sarcastic but eminently likeable, kind, and honest to a fault. Some of the secondary antagonists are caricatures, but that's more or less to be expected with cozy mysteries. There are some disturbing descriptions of violence and ruthless killers included, but it's in character and not egregious. The language is rough (R-rated) in places.

This is a strong addition to the series and I am eagerly looking forward to more. Four strong stars for me, certainly 5 for fans of mysteries featuring dogs. 

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

Farewell Blues (Lady Adelaide Mystery #4)

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Farewell Blues is the fourth and final book in the Lady Adelaide historical cozy mystery series by Maggie Robinson. Released 14th Sept 2021 by Sourcebooks on their Poisoned Pen Press imprint, it's 272 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. 

This is a well written 1920's drawing room cozy with the requisite upper-crust British minor landed gentry, inconvenient murder, with a generous side helping of romance and some assistance from the paranormal realm. It wasn't derivative, but reminded me a great deal of Topper, and fans of the franchise will find a lot to love here. It's pure escapist fun, and doesn't take itself at all seriously.

This installment sees all of the overarching plot threads wrapped up to a satisfying denouement and resolution. I especially liked the epilogues which will almost certainly leave readers happy and satisfied. I've enjoyed the series and this was a good ending. The language is relatively clean (a few instances of bloody and damn and nothing worse). This is the end of the series and although the mystery is self contained in this volume, there are huge spoilers for earlier books in the series.

Four stars. For fans of the author's other series, this one is also written to a satisfyingly readable degree. 

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

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries

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Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries is an anthology of American crime fiction from the first half of the 20th century (1930 - 1949) collected and curated by crime fiction historian Otto Penzler. Due out 19th July by Penzler on the American Mystery Classics imprint, it's 508 pages and will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats.

This is a selection of 14 short works from very well known golden age authors from Craig Rice to Anthony Boucher, John Dickson Carr, Cornell Woolrich et.al. All the authors are relatively well known and will be familiar to most readers. Of the stories selected, only half were previously familiar to me (and provided a welcome re-read, I had forgotten most of the denouements). The detectives are selected from the authors' best known, and all of the stories are of a very high quality. Especially considering the addition of the information rich story notes, it's a very satisfying read overall. 

In the introduction and story notes, we are gifted a multitude of plum trivia and factoids which are delightfully obscure and lift the whole to another level of wonderfully nerdy and edifying. Background such as Mr. Penzler provides really enhances the overall enjoyment of the stories themselves and I always (always!) look forward to reading his insightful commentary. This volume also provides guided reading notes for classroom or bookclub discussion which will come in handy for more formal discussion (or solo rumination). 

Along with the classic and engaging stories, the background info and notes, and the discussion content, this is one of a series with coordinated cover art and layouts which provide a worthy service by protecting these early stories and presenting them to newer generations of readers. 

Five stars. The stories themselves are solidly 3.5 - 5 stars, weighted toward the higher end of the scale. Despite being pretty firmly an e-reader prejudiced reader at this point (sorry, not sorry), I have acquired these in physical copies as well, and I love the way they look on my bookshelves. This would make a good selection for library acquisition, book club & classroom use, or plain reading enjoyment. I recommend the series (and its editor) very highly.

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Mysteries of the Norman Conquest: Unravelling the Truth of the Battle of Hastings and the Events of 1066

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Mysteries of the Norman Conquest is a well annotated and layman accessible monograph on deciphering the extant sources (and later interpretations) from the Battle of Hastings and the events of 1066. Due out 14th July 2022 from Pen & Sword on their Frontline imprint, it's 248 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

I was fascinated reading the author's presentation of both the primary historical sources on the Norman incursions into England and events of the period which have been muddled or partially lost to the passage of time. The author begins with a helpful recap of the undisputed events of the period, and on to the salient battles (Fulford, Stamford Bridge, and finally Hastings). He also examines the composition of the warring forces, their technology, and the relevant physical terrain, then and now. 

It's annotated well throughout, and the chapter notes and bibliography will give rich scope for further reading for keen students of the period. Probably the highlight for me was the author's riveting (really!) discussion of the Bayeux Tapestry and its inception and known history. I'm a keen embroiderer (it's not a tapestry, as most people know by now) and reading about the work and the history and disposition of the piece, as well as the missing/lost panel of William's coronation, was fascinating. The sheer scope of the tapestry has always amazed me and although not lavishly illustrated, the text was fascinating.

The final release version will also include a number of photographs and maps of relevant locations described in the text.

Four and a half stars. 

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

Locklands (The Founders Trilogy #3)

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Locklands is the third and final book in the Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett. Released in the US 28th June 2022 by Penguin Random House on their Del Rey Books imprint, it's 560 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

This is a sweeping campaign fantasy rich in detail and world building. It provides political action, campaigning, skulduggery, questing, magic, a seriously nasty and powerful antagonist, and everything for the 'doorstop fantasy' fan. I have followed the progress of the series and world building since the beginning, and will say right away that I believe that this final book will suffer greatly by attempting to read it as a standalone. There's way too much backstory and context necessary to be read by itself. 

This is such a beautifully written book. The prose flows, the dialogue is realistic and the characters are distinctly individual and despite containing a large cast of secondary characters, I didn't have any troubles keeping them separate. The many disparate plot threads wind together throughout into a satisfying climax, denouement, and conclusion. I gasped out loud at the epilogue. 

The unabridged audiobook has a run-time of 21 hours and 35 minutes and is capably narrated by Tara Sands. Sound and production quality are high throughout the read.

Five stars. Perfect for fans of campaign fantasy. It would also be a good choice for library acquisition.

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

Contemporary Color Theory: Watercolor Flowers: A modern exploration of the color wheel and watercolor to create beautiful floral artwork

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Contemporary Color Theory: Watercolor Flowers is a well written watercolor tutorial for botanical subjects by Manushree Mishra. Due out 5th July 2022 from Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in paperback format. 

The layout follows the familiar Walter Foster tutorial format. An introduction covers tools and supplies and is followed by a short and easily accessible general watercolor tutorial and an introduction to necessary techniques and info about value, water control, pigment saturation, etc.  The author expends a lot of effort to impart lessons on color harmony and palettes as they relate specifically to watercolor. She has a competent, friendly, and encouraging style of writing. It reads more like a one-on-one class with a friendly and talented teacher.

Roughly half of the book is technique and color theory and half is specific project tutorials. The tutorials are all professional and beautiful looking and they utilize the techniques and color theory from the beginning chapters. Each tutorial includes a palette in color alongside a photo of the finished painting followed by step by step directions for achieving similar results. Each of the tutorial steps is captioned with simple and easy to understand direction.

This is a basic book but it's full of good techniques and will provide some useful takeaways for the majority of readers/artists.This would be a good choice for the artist's home studio, as well as for public and school library acquisition.

Four and a half stars.

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

Classic Calligraphy for Beginners: Essential Step-by-Step Techniques for Copperplate and Spencerian Scripts

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Classic Calligraphy for Beginners is a well written tutorial guide for Spencerian and copperplate calligraphy by Younghae Chung. Due out 12th July 2022 from Quarto on their Quarry imprint, it's 144 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats (ebook currently available). 

I love calligraphy books. There is something very relaxing and meditative about sitting quietly and finding a thoughtful zone and seeing a piece come together on the paper. Even (maybe even especially?) the practice that goes before getting comfortable with a new technique is a meditative process and valuable for the quiet time and sense of mastery it provides. 

This is a well and logically formatted book which is beginner friendly and not intimidating at all, but which will also provide challenges and learning opportunities for more advanced beginner and intermediate calligraphers. The book is accessible. The introduction covers tools and supplies and is followed by the two main tutorial chapters covering copperplate and Spencerian script. The chapters are built up in practice lessons from introduction and overview through basic strokes, lower and uppercase letters, connections, and negative spaces/spacing. 

The final half of the book contains specific tutorials for projects using nib, brush, and pen work. The projects are appealing and beautiful. The book includes a number of reproducible/copyable guide sheets with a link to her website for more practice sheets, a short links and resource guide, and an abbreviated index. 

Five stars. This would make a good choice for public or school library acquisitions, makers' space studio library, and for the artist's home reference shelf. 

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


Brilliant Inks: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating in Vivid Color - Draw, Paint, Print, and More!

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Brilliant Inks is a colorful well written tutorial guide for artists by Anna Sokolova in the Art for Modern Makers series. Due out 5th July 2022 from Quarto on their Quarry imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in paperback format. 

This is such a colorfully inspiring and useful book. All of the pages are enhanced with gorgeously rendered botanicals, butterflies, and nature scenes. The author has an informal writing style that is encouraging and never intimidating. It reads like a well written masterclass one-on-one. The books chapters are arranged thematically with later techniques building on earlier lessons. She begins with the absolute basics; introducing tools and supplies, inks, paper, etc. I liked that she doesn't push one particular brand or specific equipment (brand labels are figleafed in the photos). She's fairly specific about which *types* of inks give specific results, but she also encourages readers to experiment and discover and innovate on their own as well. 

The tutorial chapters are full of clear color step-by-step photos. I appreciate that the photography stylist was clearly good at their job and the photos are easy to decipher, without hands or other items in the way of the action. The range of the tutorials is impressive and the author has included some really beautiful portraiture here which will keep artists of -all- levels of expertise challenged and learning. Her use of negative space, shading, and light effects is masterful. 

Five stars. This is one for the artist's home studio library reference shelf. It would also make a superlative choice for public or school library acquisition, makers' spaces, and similar. 

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Everyday Celebrations From Scratch

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Everyday Celebrations From Scratch is a DIY guide with cooking and crafts written and curated by Maria Provenzano. Released 28th June 2022 by Harper Collins on their HarperHorizon imprint, it's 368 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats.  

The book is written around the idea that celebrations don't have to only occur on big occasions. It's enough to celebrate the everyday things as well. To that end, the chapters' recipes and crafts are grouped thematically: weeknight meals, family, friendship, sports, and seasonal celebrations with entries for each season. 

Recipes are appealing and the book is styled to within an inch of its life. In fact, it reminds me more than a little bit of the Martha Stewart style/aesthetic with a bit more American Italian casual and a little less New England WASP. Recipes are written with an introduction, ingredients in a bullet list in a sidebar, and followed by step-by-step instructions. Measurements are provided with imperial (American) units only. There is no nutritional information included. Most of the ingredients for food and crafts will be relatively easy to source at any moderately large grocery store or big box crafts supplier. 

The production values are top notch, but fair warning: the book seems to be a photo album of a hyper-imagined "instagram perfect" family (as I look around at my messy kitchen countertops and wash my 3rd load of laundry for the day). They're almost all blonde, beautiful, thin, with straight teeth and full heads of beautifully styled hair (even the older generation). There are abundant photos of the author's beautiful family, but not so many of the food or crafts. 

The crafts are mostly kid-friendly, and I never really thought I would review a book which intentionally included pasta picture art, but here we are. 

Three and a half stars. A careful read-through showed no glaring errors in the recipes or crafts tutorials. 

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

101 Super Cute Cat Things to Draw: Draw, doodle, and color a plethora of purrfectly pawsome felines and quirky cat mash-ups

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101 Super Cute Cat Things to Draw is an adorable beginner drawing guide with tutorials by Lulu Mayo. Released 14th June 2022 by Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 128 pages and available in paperback format. 

This is a how-to book. The sections and tutorials are grouped thematically and start with the very basic tools & supplies, and tips for getting started. Further chapters build on the skills from the earlier parts and include using color, and step-by-step tutorials.

The author has a very friendly and encouraging style of writing and the drawing lessons are not intimidating or difficult in any way. She also includes some tips and tricks to get the shy artist in motion.

The book seems to be slanted to a mostly younger audience, but frankly I see kawaii scientist cats with lab coats and syringes and microscopes in the margins of my "meeting notes".  

Well worth a look, especially if you have a young artist (or wannabe) on your hands. It would also make a lovely gift, perhaps bundled with some art supplies. Highly recommended for folks who regularly interact with small children as well to learn to draw something which will delight and impress the smalls.

Four and a half stars

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

Risen (Alex Verus #12)

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Risen is the 12th Alex Verus urban fantasy novel by Benedict Jacka. Released 7th Dec 2021 by Penguin Random House on their Berkley Ace imprint, it's 334 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. 

This is a consistently solid series, well written, skillfully plotted, and precisely engineered. Titular protagonist Alex Verus is world-weary, cynical, and generally fed up with everyone's crap. This installment sees him yet again navigating the self-created crises the council have managed to create in their jockeying for power whilst (hopefully) staying alive and preventing minor catastrophes like the end of the universe and all life in it. 

I've seen Verus and the series as a whole compared to Butcher's Dresden. They're both seat of their pants mages and reactive and sarcastic, but Dresden is indelibly American in tone, language, and impulse - he's a hot tempered cowboy. Verus seems more considered and tactical - he usually has a backup plan or two (and usually needs them). 

The plotting throughout is tight and the plotline is beautifully fluid, leading to a satisfying climax, denouement, and conclusion. For all the readers who enjoy binge reading from start to finish and aren't already huge fans, this is a good candidate. It's top notch well written urban fantasy with well rendered characters and settings. 

Four and a half stars. Sad to see the end of the series, but it's very very well done. 

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

Welding for Beginners: Learn Everything You Need to Know to Weld, Cut, and Shape Metal

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Welding for Beginners is a reformat and re-release based on Stephen Blake Christena's earlier introductory welding manual titled Learn to Weld. Due out in this edition 2nd Aug 2022 from Quarto on their New Shoe Press imprint, it's 160 pages and will be available in paperback format. 

This is a very basic beginner-friendly manual on MIG welding. The author does give a very short overview over other types of welding, but the focus of this book and the bulk of the instruction concerns MIG. The book's intro is thorough and step-by-step. The author has an accessible and easy to understand style of writing. In fact much of the book reads like a one-on-one tutorial workshop. Safety is paramount and the author emphasizes safety, attention to detail, and a good and well organized workspace at every step. 

Equipment is explained in detail along with abundant photography of both the necessary gear and the processes. I really liked that the action tutorial photos are taken without hands or other tools obscuring the shot (not a trivial detail - as most of the action in welding occurs with hands and tools in the way). Special tips and tricks for processes are located throughout the book in highlighted text boxes. These provide short and digestible tips for getting the best (and safest) results.

This is a very good short but comprehensive manual which will get the absolute beginning welder some competence and familiarity with the basic processes. 

Five stars. This would be a good choice for public and school library acquisition, as well as for the home DIYer, activity groups and makers' spaces, and smallholders. The tasks and tutorials in this manual aren't specifically slanted toward smallholders, but there is a wealth of relevant info here. 

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

Smorgasbowl

59898504

Smorgasbowl is a fun and convenient collection of tutorials and recipes for customizable one-bowl meals written and curated by Caryn Carruthers. Released 10th Dec 2021, it's 130 pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. 

The general idea is a simple one: provide ingredients for DIY bowl meals, and allow people to build their own bowl based on taste, preference, and/or dietary restrictions. The bowls themselves are beautifully colourful and appealing. The author makes an effort to make recipes which combine a variety of textures, tastes, and temperatures. I'm a huge fan of "grazing" type dining and love the casual twist this book brings to the table (sorry, not sorry). 

The bowls are arranged thematically: an introduction with examples of how-to-build selections & tutorials, followed by breakfast, soup & salad, entree, and sauces. Recipes are formatted with a title and introduction in the header along with yields and coded labels (gluten free, dairy free, paleo, vegan, etc), followed by ingredients in a bullet list. Measurements are in imperial (American) only. Instructions are easy to read and understand. Recipe ingredients will be generally easy to find at any medium to large grocery store in North America. Some few fresh ingredients (jicama for example) might require a trip to a farmers' market or whole foods type store.

The book is beautifully illustrated throughout. Photographs are abundant and "instagram-worthy", with well styled, attractive, appetizing food. All of the recipes are accompanied by one or more photographs. The book is, admittedly, full of diet/culture advice. It's clear that the author is well-meaning and earnest in her exhortations against sugar, processed ingredients, and grains, but for most people, unnecessary. The recipes can, of course, be easily adapted to fit a more mainstream diet. 

It would be a 5 star read without the grain-phobia, and as it is, a 4+ star read even with it. Lots of interesting and appetizing recipes here.

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