Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Best of New Orleans Cookbook: 50 Classic Cajun and Creole Recipes from the Big Easy

The Best of New Orleans Cookbook is a new recipe collection from Ryan Boudreaux. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Callisto on their Rockridge Press imprint, it's 130 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats (ebook available now). 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.

An introductory chapter gives a good introduction to the author's background and the philosophy of the food culture in and around New Orleans. The following chapters contain tutorials and recipes arranged roughly thematically: breakfast and lunch, cocktails and appetizers, rice dishes, main courses, and desserts. The book includes some conversion charts and resource links as well (but no ingredient index).

Ingredients for the individual recipes are listed in a bullet sidebar with American standard measures only. Info and tips about the ingredients or the recipes themselves are given below the preparation information. Prep time, yields, and cooking time are given in the header info. Nutritional information and special diet concerns/allergens (nuts, celery, wheat, etc) are not given.

These are yummy and (mostly) made from easily sourced ingredients.

I am very much a visual learner and one of my concerns with several cookbooks I've reviewed recently has been the lack of photography and serving suggestions. I know that photography can increase the cost of a published book significantly but it enhances the end result so much that in my case at least, it's a necessary part of any cookbook which I buy and use. This book is somewhere in the middle. There aren't many photos, but the ones which are included are clear and appealing.

Four stars. This is a good niche cookbook with a wide variety of goodies included.

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

Drawing: Landscapes with William F. Powell: Learn to draw outdoor scenes step by step

Drawing Landscapes with William F. Powell Learn to Draw Step by Step series. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 40 pages and available in paperback format. This appears to be a reformat and re-release of material first released in 1997 with the same title by the same author.

The titles in this series are all formatted in a similar manner and this one is no exception.

A short general introduction (10%) covers tools and materials including pencils, paper, blending tools, etc. The intro is followed by a group of non-specific tutorials on graphite techniques, shading, light, shapes and perspective. The following tutorial chapters are specific for different subjects (landscapes) and include specific tutorials: clouds, rocks, trees & branches, etc, leading to some full studies. There is also a very abbreviated tutorial on rendering some surfaces and finishes. It should be noted that the style of these renderings is very retro/traditional in a style which was popular in the early to mid 20th century, much of that popularity springing from the art of Mr. Powell himself.

I like these tutorial booklets, they're inexpensive and full of useful info for artists looking for improvement in their own work. It's nice to see them getting a re-release for a new audience of artists and learners.

Four stars - for what it covers and for a very short tutorial guide, it does the job admirably well.

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

My First Maria Montessori

My First Maria Montessori is a new entry in the Little People, Big Dreams series of historical biographies of the childhoods and lives of notable people. I've reviewed a number of the books in this charming series on my blog. This one, about Maria Montessori, introduced me to some facts of which I was previously unaware.

Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Frances Lincoln imprint, it's 24 pages and available in boardbook format.

This is a lovely tribute to a woman who was educated as a medical doctor (the first woman doctor educated in modern times in Italy) and who used her abilities and observational skills to serve some of the most vulnerable children in her society. Considered disposable by her society at the time, she recognized that everyone could be educated and used her skills to make learning fun for the marginalized and institutionalized children of Italy, and later the world.

The text by Isabel Vegara is simple enough to be understood by very young children. The art, by Raquel Martin is colorful and appealing and illustrates the text very well.

Very well done book and a lovely and worthwhile series. It would make a great bedtime read or a reading circle or classroom read for the very youngest "readers".

Four stars.

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

Brushstrokes: Acrylic: Effortless painting with minimal tools and materials

Brushstrokes: Acrylic is a tutorial and technique guide by Angela Moulton aimed at beginning artists. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in paperback format.
Walter Foster are familiar and loved by readers everywhere for their specialized technique tutorial books and this one follows the same format. The introductory chapters (~15% of the content) include tools, supplies, brush anatomy, a little color theory, some technique basics, palettes and choosing colors. The rest of the book contains 11 step by step tutorials for specific subjects. These really are projects which almost anyone can complete. The author has a calm and positive teaching 'voice' and the projects are simple but appealing (see cover).

There are no links or bibliography included and no index. In fact the book ends so abruptly I wasn't sure that I had gotten a full review copy. (I had). The artist author is adept and certainly talented with the medium she uses and her instructions are clear and easy to follow.

Four stars.

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

Vivienne Westwood: My First Vivienne Westwood (Pequeña & GRANDE)

My First Vivienne Westwood is a new book in the Little People, Big Dreams series. Written by Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara and illustrated by Laura Callaghan, it's due out 5th March, 2020 by Quarto on their Frances Lincoln imprint.  Aimed at the youngest 'readers', it's 24 pages, perfect for a storytime or bedtime read.  It'll be available in ebook and boardbook formats. I've reviewed a number of the books in this charming series on my blog. This one, about fashion rebel icon Vivienne Westwood, takes the often turbulent life of the originator of 'punk style' and handles it in a charmingly age-appropriate manner.

I really liked that the author and illustrator have managed to write an engaging book for children as well as including cultural events and bands which will appeal to adults.

I don't know what criteria they use for selecting the subjects of their biographies, but the varied and interesting people in this series have all been winners in my opinion.

Well worth a read. Would make a good library selection or gift.

Four stars.

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

The Burglar in Short Order

The Burglar in Short Order is a new collection of short pieces and chapter excerpts from both new and previously published work by Lawrence Block. Due out 29th Feb 2020 from Subterranean Press, it's 144 pages and will be available in a hardcover limited edition from the publisher.

I've loved Bernie Rhodenbarr since he first debuted 40+ years ago. It's a series I revisit regularly whenever I need a short and humorous uplifting read. They're wonderfully undemanding hugely entertaining reads. This collection, although admittedly short on new material, is filled with 15 selections perfect for a short interlude or commute read.

The pieces included are varied in point of view and narration. There's also a teaser at the end of the book which takes the form of a short dialogue between the author, Mr. Block, and Bernie, the fictional character, on what the future holds for Bernie's adventures since time has stood more or less still for Bernie while it's marched on for the rest of us. I also liked being able to read a very early story with a recognizable 'seed' of a story which later germinated into the Bernie/Burglar series. He's not named in the story, but it's proto-Bernie for sure.

This is a bittersweet collection and generally of a quality which compares well with the rest of the books. I definitely recommend it highly to fans of the canonical series as well as mystery lovers who were previously unfamiliar with Mrs. Rhodenbarr's son Bernie.

Five stars for Block fans like me, four for everyone else.

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


Undertow (Undertow #1)

Undertow is a YA fantasy by K.R. Conway. Released in 2014, it's 390 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. The ebook version is available on most platforms for free to download and read as an introduction to the series which is up to 4 books (plus a prequel) currently.

This was a readable and entertaining YA fantasy with a strong romance subplot and female protagonist. It's full of the type of high school drama and cars/boys/homework/cheerleader/potential world changing apocalypse drama endemic to the genre. There's quite a lot of snarky dialogue which caused me to roll my eyes now and again, but overall it's well written and perfectly readable. (Note: the things I found less-than-stellar about the book will likely be a positive for the intended audience; it's been decades since I was young, and I don't think I've ever been an adult).

I liked the world building, the author has provided a rich background history and captivating world building. The plotting was a little slow in the first half of the book but picked up and accelerated around the 45% mark.

I'm intrigued enough to pick up the next couple books in the series to see how it develops.

Four stars, it'll be interesting to read what comes next. As a bonus, readers don't have to wait for the author to finish the follow-up books

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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Never Forget (Victor Lessard #3)

Never Forget is the third Lessard procedural thriller by Martin Michaud. Originally published in French in 2012, this is the first of the series to be translated into English.  Released 18th Jan 2020 by Dundurn, it's 576 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a well written but often disturbing procedural thriller. The narrative is choppy and jagged for the first third of the book, switching abruptly between disparate elements both current and retrospective which circle and interweave ever more tightly until they become a single story including shadow politics, shockingly unethical medical research, cover-ups at the very highest level, corruption, dirty money and torture. It's a fairly hefty book (nearly 600 pages) and the author makes good use of the word count to develop the characters and move the story to its inevitable denouement.

The protagonist is flawed: depressed, a recovering alcoholic, physically and emotionally wrecked, suffering from PTSD and trying to have some semblance of a normal relationship with his adult kids (also troubled) and his lover (much younger, but a sane spot of happiness in his very messed up orbit).

The author writes convincingly and very well. This book is quite gritty and includes graphic depictions of torture/murder, rape/involuntary BDSM, graphic consensual sex, rough language, suicide, mental torture, domestic violence. Also, almost everyone smokes. Despite this, it's an engaging and intriguing read.

The translation work is seamless. It doesn't read like a book in translation. I hope Dundurn go back and release the earlier books in English.

Four stars. Worth a read for fans of gritty procedurals.

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Cozy Case Files, A Cozy Mystery Sampler, Volume 8

Cozy Case Files is a sneak-preview collection of 5 new cozy mystery novels. Released 7th Jan 2020 from Macmillan on their St. Martin's imprint, it's 180 pages and can be accessed on most ebook retailers (Amazon, Rakuten/Kobo etc) to download and read for free. This is the 8th cozy mystery sampler from St. Martin's.  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.

The collection includes a few chapters from each of 5 upcoming (or recently released) cozy mysteries by M.C. Beaton, Vivien Chien, Diane Kelly, Elizabeth Penney, and Paige Shelton. It was especially poignant for me because Marion Chesney (M.C. Beaton) passed away fairly recently.

All of them are appealing, and all of the included mysteries are reviewed (or scheduled) on my blog.  The full mysteries themselves are all in the 4 star range, all are entertaining and well crafted.

Definitely worth downloading the collection to test sample the upcoming books. Four stars for the collection. 

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

Sunday, February 16, 2020

30-Second Literature: The 50 most important forms, genres and styles, each explained in half a minute

30-Second Literature is a short style guide to the most common literary forms, with short explanations for each. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Ivy Press imprint, it's 160 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

This is a collection and collaboration, well curated and edited by Ella Berthoud and compiled of essays and examples by a number of other authors.  It delves into 50 different forms arranged roughly thematically: historical forms, the novel, literary prose, poetry, drama, literary devices, and styles. Each of the categories includes several notable forms such as early modern fiction, epistolary writing, tragedy, comedy, narrative voice, realism, etc. Each of the archetype chapters also contains an illustrative profile: Dostoevsky, Hafez, Aristophanes, and so on. Each of the chapters also includes a handy glossary with good layman accessible definitions.

Each of the entries also includes a definition, some deeper interpretation and related topics for further reading, along with a bibliography and (very) short text.

Graphically this book is beautifully appealing as well, with lots of varied paintings, drawings, relevant illustrations and tie-ins, cartoons and artistic work both original and reprinted.

This would make a superlative choice as a support text for literature/classroom/instruction use or as a personal reference work for the keen reader. The index is brief but satisfactory to its purpose.

Five stars.

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




The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1)

The Unspoken Name is the first book in a debut series by A.K. Larkwood. Released 11th Feb 2020 by Macmillan on their Tor imprint, it's 464 pages and available in hardcover, 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. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

Occasionally (but distressingly rarely) a new (to me) author comes along in one of my favorite genres and really blows me away. This is one such happy occasion. This combines epic fantasy, incredibly detailed world building that feels real down to details of social convention and interaction, elements of the best SF, a female protagonist who isn't supergirl and too utterly perfect, overarching themes of honor, building a life which defies external expectations, and does so without feeling like a mash of a million unrelated threads trying to be everything to everyone. I also appreciate that this book didn't devolve into a romance, that Csorwe (the young female orc protagonist) was more realistically rendered (apart from being a badass assassin) than a lot of super-protagonists. Early on in the book, she's being taught languages by a succession of tutors and really does grumble like a kid being forced to do unwanted homework.

The plot is wonderfully rich and detailed, the narrative arc is beautifully engineered and for a book of nearly 500 pages, it moves along at a good clip. I never felt that the story dragged or lost my interest. In fact, I stayed up way too late on a couple occasions reading and almost missed my bus stop on my morning commute because I was so absorbed in the story.

I heartily recommend this author and this debut unreservedly. Five stars.

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



Drawing: Faces: Learn to draw step by step

Drawing: Faces: Learn to draw step by step is a book in the Learn to Draw Step by Step series. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 40 pages and available in paperback format. This appears to be a reformat and re-release of material first released in 1997 with the same title by the same author.

The titles in this series are all formatted in a similar manner and this one is no exception.

A short general introduction (10%) covers tools and materials including pencils, paper, blending tools, etc. The intro is followed by a group of non-specific tutorials on graphite techniques, shading, light, shapes and perspective. The following tutorial chapters are specific for different subjects (mostly faces) and include specific anatomy: eyes, noses, etc, leading to some full studies. There is also a very abbreviated tutorial on rendering some surfaces and finishes. It should be noted that the style of these renderings is very retro/traditional in a style which was popular in the early to mid 20th century, much of that popularity springing from the art of Mr. Foster himself.

I like these tutorial booklets, they're inexpensive and full of useful info for artists looking for improvement in their own work. It's nice to see them getting a re-release for a new audience of artists and learners.

Four stars - for what it covers and for a very short tutorial guide, it does the job admirably well.

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

What If Bunny's NOT a Bully?

What If Bunny's NOT a Bully? is a picture book with sweetly rhyming text for the youngest readers. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Kids Can Press, it's 32 pages and will be available in hardback and ebook formats.

This book has a good message about inclusivity and giving people another chance as well as being aware that everyone can do things which they regret. The text by Lana Button is short and simple and scans well. The typeset is easy to read and the formatting gives a good and readable contrast. The illustrations, by Christine Battuz are done in an appealingly whimsical collage with hand drawn elements and include a surprising amount of detail which encourages a lingering look (or hunt and find side game when reading).

Four stars. This would make a superlative reading circle book, classroom library book, read-to-me, or gift.

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

Beautiful Pigs: Portraits of champion breeds

Beautiful Pigs: Portraits of champion breeds is an introduction with a short history and a gallery showing the variation and beauty of different breeds of pigs. Originally published in the UK in 2009 this re-format and re-release is due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Ivy Press imprint, it's 112 pages and will be available in paperback format. All of the books in this series follow the same format and are all well done and attractive.

The authors have an accessible and informative style. The book has a good introduction with some historic breeds, champion breeds, and exotic breeds, development of breed standards, and a very short capsule intro to shows. The intros are followed by a gallery listing of 40 swine, with a full color detail photo, breed intro with features, uses, related breeds, size/weight, and range/origin. The picture content also helpfully includes the sex of the subject. The end of the book contains some sepia-tone photos from specific show entry winners, along with an index and solid links lists for further reading. 

Honestly the completeness of the bibliography and links are probably worth the cost of the book by themselves. Very well done. This would be a very good choice for a 4H or FFA intro to selecting and showing or at least starting the necessary pre-purchase research. There is no animal husbandry content included here, this is a compendium of show quality healthy beautiful swine in show condition.

A useful and appealing book and a good introduction to the conformation and looks of standard purebred pigs.

Four stars.

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

Drawing: Faces & Expressions: Learn to draw step by step

Drawing: Faces & Expressions is a book in the Learn to Draw Step by Step series. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 40 pages and available in paperback format. This appears to be a reformat and re-release of material first released in 2015 with the same title by the same author.

The titles in this series are all formatted in a similar manner and this one is no exception.

A short general introduction (10%) covers tools and materials including pencils, paper, blending tools, etc. The intro is followed by a group of non-specific tutorials on graphite techniques, shading, light, shapes and perspective. The following tutorial chapters are specific for different subjects (mostly faces) and include specific anatomy: eyes, noses, etc, leading to some full studies (aging beauty, at ease, deep in thought, all smiles). There is also a very abbreviated tutorial on rendering some surfaces and finishes in the form of accessories like earrings, ties, scarves, and hats.

I like these tutorial booklets, they're inexpensive and full of useful info for artists looking for improvement in their own work. It's nice to see them getting a re-release for a new audience of artists and learners.

Four stars - for what it covers and for a very short tutorial guide, it does the job admirably well.

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

Drawing: Manga: Learn to draw step by step

Drawing: Manga is a new book in the Learn to Draw Step by Step series. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 40 pages and available in paperback format. This appears to be a reformat and re-release of material first released in 2010 with the same title by the same author.

A short general introduction briefly covers tools and materials. The intro is followed by a group of non-specific tutorials on shapes, shading, and composition. The following tutorial chapters are specific for different human  subjects and include specific anatomy: heads, hair, facial features, etc, leading to some full body specific studies (ninja, hero, schoolgirl) followed by some narrative themes, drawing from life, telling a story with drawings and a little otaku DIY quiz for the younger set.

I like these tutorial booklets, they're inexpensive and full of useful info for artists looking for improvement in their own work.

Three and a half stars - for what it covers and for a very short tutorial guide, it does the job admirably well.

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

Drawing: Birds: Learn to draw step by step

Drawing: Birds is a new book in the Learn to Draw Step by Step series. Released 7th May 2019 by Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 40 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

The titles in this series are all formatted in a similar manner and this one is no exception.

A short general introduction (10%) covers tools and materials including pencils, paper, blending tools, etc. The intro is followed by a group of non-specific tutorials on graphite techniques, shading, light, shapes and perspective. The following tutorial chapters are specific for different bird subjects and include specific anatomy: eyes, claws, beaks, etc, leading to some full body specific studies (hummingbird, owl, heron, woodpecker, chickadee).

I like these tutorial booklets, they're inexpensive and full of useful info for artists looking for improvement in their own work.

Four stars - for what it covers and for a very short tutorial guide, it does the job admirably well.

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

Home Is Where You Make It: DIY Ideas Styling Secrets to Create a Home You Love, Whether You Rent or Own

Home Is Where You Make It is a tutorial, decorating, and ideas book for home decor by Geneva Vanderzeil. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Simon & Schuster on their Tiller Press imprint, it's 224 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is an upbeat DIY volume aimed at modern cottage style re-do's. There is a fair bit of content devoted to surface updates which would be particularly relevant to renters or would-be decorators on a strict budget. I liked the emphasis on upcycling and repurpose/repair.  The author uses a room by room tutorial format which allows the reader to pick and choose menu style, or browse through the book cover to cover.

The chapter tutorials are interspersed with Q&A type sidebars with good short takes on particular decorating problems (what to do if others who share the space don't agree with design choices, how to redecorate on a severely anemic budget (or zero budget), how to pick small pieces (baskets, mirrors, framed art), and more.

I enjoyed reading the book and paging through the beautifully done photographs (seriously, the photos are wonderful). I found a few particularly good tips for my own use. The vibe of the book is younger and somewhat feminine and 'shabby chic/cottage'. There were some decidedly quirky and whimsical features (a half painted, half raw wood front door), but the whole book has a kind of bouncy upbeat vibe that it never degenerates into pretentiousness or stuffiness.

Four stars. Some good stuff here.

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

You Can Draw Manga Chibis: A step-by-step guide for learning to draw basic manga chibis

You Can Draw Manga Chibis is a fun and very accessible tutorial art guide for drawing basic manga figures. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Walter Foster Jr imprint, it's 96 pages and will be available in paperback format.
I love to draw and doodle. Despite not being super advanced and skillful yet, I find drawing very relaxing most of the time. This is an accessible guide full of techniques and cheerful upbeat advice. The drawing style itself is completely adorable (chibi ちび translates to 'little'). They're big eyed and round faced with tiny hands.

This guide has an accessible and appealing format. A short introduction is followed by tools and supplies, basic techniques, some color theory, and then the individual drawing tutorials. The authors do a good job of explaining (and showing) proportions for different ages, positions, action and movement, etc.

Great selection for a gift for a young artist, perhaps with some added sketch pads and pencils. This would also make a superlative classroom or library book.I would also recommend this book to babysitters, grandparents, parents, and basically anyone who spends a fair bit of time with small kids in order to up their 'draw with me' game. I really enjoyed this.  I will use these to decorate journals and notes for friends. I see some chibi style science stuff in my future (chibi microscope, chibi lab, chibi test tubes)!

Four stars. Fun collection.

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

Beautiful Sheep: Portraits of champion breeds

Beautiful Sheep is an introduction with a short history and a gallery showing the variation and beauty of different breeds of sheep. Originally published in the UK in 2008 this re-format and re-release is due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Ivy Press imprint, it's 112 pages and will be available in paperback format. All of the books in this series follow the same format and are all well done and attractive.

The authors have an accessible and informative style. The book has a good introduction with some history, uses, rare breeds, development of breed standards, and a very short capsule intro to shows. The intros are followed by a gallery listing of 40 sheep (some duplicate breeds, such as the Border Leicester), with a full color detail photo, breed intro with features, uses, related breeds, size/weight, and range/origin. The picture content also helpfully includes the age and sex of the subject (including reproductive status/castration). The end of the book contains some sepia-tone photos from specific show entry winners, along with an index and solid links lists for further reading. 

Honestly the completeness of the bibliography and links are probably worth the cost of the book by themselves. Very well done. This would be a very good choice for a 4H or FFA intro to selecting and showing sheep or at least starting the necessary pre-purchase research. There is no animal husbandry content included here, this is a compendium of show quality healthy beautiful sheep in show condition.

A useful and appealing book and a good introduction to the conformation and looks of standard purebred sheep.

Four stars.

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

Butchering Chickens: A Guide to Humane, Small-Scale Processing

Butchering Chickens is a practical guide to processing and safe handling of chickens especially aimed at the smallholder interested in being more self-sufficient. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Storey Publishing, it's 176 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

Self sufficiency and food security are important themes today. Additionally, many people are choosing to take more active responsibility for the quality and management of the food they raise themselves. I remember being a youngster and hearing my grandmother say that store-bought chickens had no taste and frankly the situation hasn't improved in the intervening 40+ years since I was a kid.

This is an accessible and responsibly written guide to safely butcher and process chickens for home use. The introduction and first chapter cover safety, accessibility, tools, handling, maintenance (very important!), tool selection, etc. The following chapters provide step by step tutorials for food safety, setups for processing, actual slaughtering, butchering (preparing the slaughtered chickens safely and efficiently), and packaging and freezing.

The author does an admirable job of not pushing one brand of equipment over another. There is no obvious product placement involved and there are a wide variety of brands included. The photography is superlative and very clear and illustrates each step in the tutorials. There is no doubt that a determined reader, using only the illustrated tutorials in this book could successfully and safely process and butcher a chicken. I always recommend getting help (especially for beginners), but failing that, this book would provide sufficient instruction to perform the task humanely and well. 

There's also a glossary, pretty solid resource links list, and good bibliography for further reading.

Five stars. This is a good book for the smallholder's library and will undoubtedly become a classic. It's short enough to be accessible and not overwhelming, and thorough enough to be safe and responsible.

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

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Evonne Goolagong (Little People, Big Dreams)

Evonne Goolagong is a short age appropriate illustrated biography of the famous tennis player and a new addition to the Little People, Big Dreams series. I've reviewed a number of these titles and all of them are delightful and exuberant books which cover the lives of famous cultural, science, arts, and sports icons while maintaining an age-appropriate level of detail.

Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Frances Lincoln imprint, it'll be 32 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

Written by Isabel Sánchez Vegara it's well written in clear accessible language.  The gentle and sweetly whimsical illustrations are well done. The art by Lisa Koesterke is appealing and colorful and supports the text very well. The art is rich in small subtle details which bear a closer look (like the animals, multicultural children, and more which appear throughout the book). There was a small typo in the timeline in the early eARC I received - Goolagong was picked up and trained by Vic Edwards in 1965, not 1956 (when she would've been 5 years old), but otherwise it's factually correct and engaging.

Well written and appealing, I am really enjoying all of these little books. This one is a worthy addition.

Five stars. This would make a superlative reading circle book, classroom library book, or gift.  Evonne Goolagong has used her fame as a platform to encourage and help others and this little book is a nice introduction to her life and work for the youngest generation.

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

The Measure of Malice: Scientific Detection Stories

The Measure of Malice is a well curated anthology of forensic detective fiction. Released 4th Feb 2020 by Poisoned Pen Press, it's 336 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 me, one of the biggest draws of these anthologies is the erudite and always interesting introductions by editor Martin Edwards, both to the anthology itself and to each of the individual stories. Mr. Edwards has a prodigious knowledge of the genre and writes engagingly and well.

Well written, this entry and the series as a whole are well worth seeking out. This would make a superlative selection for readers of the genre as well as an introduction to classic crime fiction from early  . I love that these collections have some titans of the genre (Sayers, Doyle, Crispin) alongside lesser known but worthy authors. The stories are arranged in roughly chronological order from the Victorian through the modern era.

This would make a superlative choice for commute reading or short interludes.

Four stars.

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

The Art of Paint Pouring: Swipe, Swirl & Spin: 50+ tips, techniques, and step-by-step exercises for creating colorful fluid art

The Art of Paint Pouring is a new tutorial technique guide to painting with fluid media written by Amanda VanEver. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in paperback format.

This is the second book by this author which I've reviewed (fairly) recently.  Although this one includes some new techniques and themes and builds on the techniques from the other book, it still includes a solid introduction and beginning technique tutorial so can certainly be used as a standalone.

The book is accessible and upbeat (and very colorful). The book begins with an introduction and background including materials and tools, a little bit of color theory, some specifics on creating texture ("cells") with resist media, finishing techniques, and saving unused materials. The introductory chapters represent roughly half of the page content.  These chapters are followed by 14 (by my count) individual tutorials on techniques, surfaces, and decorative projects along with extra techniques and alternative finishes.

The book includes a really lovely gallery collection of pieces for inspiration and study. There is no index, bibliography, or resource lists (but the supplies are very easily sourced in person or online).

Four stars.

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



A Good Meal Is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from the Deep South (Southern Cookbook, Soul Food Cookbook)

A Good Meal Is Hard to Find is a wonderful retro-quirky painting, narrative, and recipe collection by Amy C. Evans & Martha Hall Foose. Due out 28th April 2020 from Chronicle Books, it's 160 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

This is a wonderfully curated collection of southern (USA) homestyle recipes. Each of the recipes has a short anecdotal story as introduction. They are arranged roughly thematically: breakfast, lunch, afternoon, dinner, and sweets. Each recipe includes an introduction with other info such as portion control and yields followed by bullet list ingredients in sidebars with prep-time estimates. The recipes' ingredients lists are provided with American standard measurements only. Special prep tips and info are provided in colored sidebars in the recipes.

The book does include a list of illustrations and a good cross referenced index. The effect of the whole book with combined recipes, stories, and artwork is quirky and charming. The recipes themselves are appealing and retro. There are no photographs included with the book, but the instructions are very clear and the lack wasn't a minus.

Four stars.

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

Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things, Revised Edition

Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things is a collection of ideas, projects, and tutorials for nifty STEM-based activities using easily acquired household items. Originally published in 2003, this reformat and re-release, due out 3rd March 2020 from Andrews McMeel has 192 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a fun and layman accessible book with lots of science based tips and tricks. The projects are arranged roughly thematically, from making batteries from spare wire and plastic/glue from milk casein, lots of gadgets and gizmos, some survival techniques and tips (fire-making, water-gathering and more), and magnets and motor projects galore.

The author does a pretty good job of explaining at least some of the basic scientific theory behind the projects along with providing entertaining tidbits and factoids in the tutorials themselves. Each of the tutorials is written in an appealing and somewhat free-form manner. There are line drawn illustrations showing tools, ingredients, and some assembly diagrams. I loved the penny-into-a-radio tutorial, which sadly is on the way out, since most places are moving to digital transmission, but at least the tutorial was very fun (and it worked).

Although it's an all-ages appropriate book, this would be a superlative choice for a library activity day, makers group, or family friendly weekend activity book. There are a lot of really cool tutorials made (mostly) with easily accessible household items.

Five stars. I really liked this one. The lack of photographs with the tutorials could've been a minus, but the line drawings were charming and illustrative, so the lack of photography wasn't a minus.

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

Friday, February 14, 2020

Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace (Felicity Carrol Mystery #2)

Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace is the second book in a cozy mystery series by Patricia Marcantonio. Released 11th Feb 2020 by Crooked Lane Books, it's 324 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats.

Despite being the second book in the series, it works well as a standalone. The author is adept at interweaving back-story and previous character development into the narrative fairly seamlessly. It is a period Victorian cozy with a young wealthy brilliant protagonist who flouts social convention throughout the book and never seems to suffer any repercussions for her one woman campaign to recreate the social fabric of England and solve crime at the same time.

I never felt one time during reading that there was any actual danger to Felicity, the plot wouldn't dare not go her way in all things, all the time. She's never thwarted and never corrected for what would have been completely scandalous behavior (for the time). The subject material (Jack the Ripper) is quite dark for a period cozy, but it is admittedly well written (apart from some clunky and anachronistic dialogue). The book simply didn't feel like a historical cozy (except for the Jack the Ripper plotline).

General thoughts: the author is adept and writes well and it's an entertaining read but it felt so smug and self satisfied most of the time.

Three and a half stars.

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

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Oil & Acrylic: Flowers: Learn to paint step by step


Oil & Acrylic: Flowers: Learn to paint step by step is a tutorial and technique guide for botanicals in the Learn to Paint Step by Step series. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 40 pages and will be available in paperback format.

Walter Foster are familiar and loved by readers everywhere for their specialized technique tutorial books and this one follows the same format. The introductory chapter (~12% of the content) includes beginning to intermediate techniques and information about form, composition, brush strokes, preparing surfaces, as well as tools (brushes, media, paper) and supplies and how to use them.

The following chapters provide a really immersive and engaging group of specific subject tutorials including working from photos, sketches, underpainting surfaces, artistic license, textures, and backgrounds.

There are no links or bibliography included and no index. In fact the book ends so abruptly I wasn't sure that I had gotten a full review copy. (I had).
The artist author is adept and certainly talented with the medium she uses and her instructions are clear and easy to follow. I wish there had been more in-depth instruction.

Three stars.

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

Shadow Weave Simply

Shadow Weave Simply is a tutorial and technique guide for overshot/twill structured weaving. Due out 1st March 2020 from Stackpole Books, it's 144 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is an intermediate (or keen beginner with help) level book. The layout is logical and accessible, but it presupposes a fair bit of technical knowledge on the part of the reader (terms like drawdown, draft, ascending/descending twill, treadling, etc are not defined in the text). The text is meticulous and the drafts are error free (as much as I could see) and the photography is lush and clear.

The book starts with a theory chapter on breaking down the twill patterns and figuring out the light and dark threading patterns. Using the examples given in the first chapter, the reader can certainly break down and draft original designs. The next four chapters cover threading and treadling for both 4 and 8 harness looms. Following chapters build on the previous material and include balancing a design, adding borders and more.

The balance of the book includes 25 really gorgeous project tutorials. All of them are wonderful (see cover). The projects are shown in a full color photo gallery list in the table of contents for easy access. All of the projects include an introduction, dimensions (in American and metric measurements *yay*!), sett, suggested tools and fibres, warp and weft info and put-up (necessary yardage of each color). All of the drafts are included (in beautifully clear machine printed format, NOT hand-written which looks like it was photocopied off the back of a paper napkin - we all have those books at home, admit it).

The earliest tutorials as well the introductory chapters include step by step instructions. The later projects presuppose a fair bit of independence and there's not a lot of hand holding on the part of the author.  Threading and treadling info is provided with the drafts.

This would make a superlative selection for guild library, makers group, workshop or retreat text, or personal library. This is such a good and clear instructional book, I would recommend it even for weavers or fibre artists who aren't quite at the necessary level (yet) as a source of inspiration and growth.

Five stars. Very very well done book.

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

A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas

A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas is an illustrated short biography of the pair aimed at younger readers. Due out 3rd March 2020 from Hachette on their Kids Can Press imprint, it's 48 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

This is an age appropriate charmingly illustrated biography of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and their salon and some of their art collection. Author Evie Robillard's freestyle verse is well partnered with Rachel Katstaller's whimsical and naive pastels. The whole is a short and engaging introduction to Stein and her circle.

The book includes a timeline as well as bibliography and an interesting (and short) discussion of WWII (and why Stein's paintings weren't looted by the occupying forces).

This would be a good selection for classroom use, library, or gifting to a young writing inspired reader. Four stars.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Eat Something: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews

Eat Something is a whimsical look at Jewish American food culture along with a number of collected recipes. Due out 3rd March from Chronicle Books, it's 240 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

While this book does indeed contain recipes and cooking instructions, it is primarily (and charmingly) a running commentary on Jewishness, identity, food, and family. It is celebratory in a way, in that it emphasizes the things we have in common and our mutual humanity. There are a number of tongue in cheek comments about the prevalence of ordering way too much Chinese takeaway every Sunday night (my mixed family did that too), but they're said warmly and kindly. This book is humor filled, maybe trying a little too hard for some easy laughs, but there's not a mean-spirited word to be found. This is a comforting and friendly book, and I have no doubts whatever that I would enjoy sitting down to an overloaded brunch buffet with the authors.

The book has an interesting arrangement. The recipes are arranged around a fictitious lifetime: The Early Years (bris, Hanukkah, visiting the grandparents in Florida, sick days), Awkward Years (Mitzvah, Last Supper (before summer camp), Christmas Dinner, Sunday Chinese takeaway), Young Adult Years, Grownup, etc etc.

The recipes are arranged thematically around different lifetime milestones or holidays. The book includes both a recipe list with the table of contents and a cross referenced index at the back.

Recipe ingredients are listed in a bullet sidebar with both metric and American standard measures given (yay!). Info and tips about the ingredients or the recipes themselves are given in sidebars below the preparation information. Yields are stated in the header info. Nutritional information and special diet concerns/allergens (nuts, celery, wheat, etc) are not given.

These are yummy and (mostly) made from easily sourced ingredients.

I am very much a visual learner and one of my concerns with several cookbooks I've reviewed recently has been the lack of photography and serving suggestions. I know that photography can increase the cost of a published book significantly but it enhances the end result so much that in my case at least, it's a necessary part of any cookbook which I buy and use. This book is somewhere in the middle. There aren't many photos, but the ones which are included are clear and appealing.

Four stars. This is a good niche cookbook with a wide variety of goodies included.

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

Daughter from the Dark

Daughter from the Dark is a dark modern urban fantasy with a touch of horror by Marina & Sergey Duachenko. First released in 2006 in Russian, this translation 11th Feb 2020 from Harper Collins is 304 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 difficult read to categorize. It slips between urban fantasy and horror with a weird nightmare quality that feels tense and unsettling at the same time. None of the main characters are wholly likeable including the 10 year old changeling, Alyona. She's creepy, manipulative, mad bad and dangerous. Her reluctant "rescuer" (?) DJ Aspirin is a slick ladies man, perfectly willing to use his position as a popular radio and club DJ to acquire and discard women in a series of meaningless one-night-stands and he doesn't rate his friends much higher. His entanglement with Alyona he reacts to only as it relates to him and his inconvenience. There are several scenes of physical and emotional abuse which would be more tragic except for the fact that Alyona isn't human (probably) and she doesn't seem to -have- any emotional range except inasmuch as it will get her what she wants (which is pretty diffuse from the information given in the book...she's either in this realm to find and save her brother, or kill everyone, or herself, or all of the above). There's a lot of narrative wrapped around music and a creepy vodyanoy(ish) secondary male character who is threatening and weird all at the same time.

The book is translated from the original Russian and it -really- reads like literature in translation. It feels like a -very- direct translation (and furthermore it feels like the jaggedness of the translation was entirely intentional).

I found this an odd and unsettling read. I think it would appeal to readers of edgy urban fantasy/light horror. I'm not familiar enough with Russian folklore to know if this is a modern reinterpretation of a traditional fable, but it didn't ring any specific bells for me.

Weird, disjointed, discordant, disturbing, but well written. Four stars. I am glad it's a standalone. It was a little too creepy for my taste but I did enjoy reading it.

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



Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology

The Closing Circle is a classic and sobering examination of the root causes of climate change, potential solutions (a window of opportunity which is closing or possibly closed), and a clarion call to action. Written by Barry Commoner and originally released in 1971, this reformat and re-release Dover has 352 pages and will be available in paperback format. Other editions available in other formats.

This is a sobering retrospective look at human induced climate change and the dystopian course our society has been hurtling along. Almost every one of the predictions he made and meticulously built up (in 1971) have come true (as bad as or worse than predicted). The book is layman accessible, the author has a clear and readable style which connect the lines and show the undeniable science based conclusions which are playing out in our world today.  I found it very interesting that the author didn't just predicate the climate and ecology problem on people/population, but also shows the direct connections between greed and exploitation of uncontrolled capitalist systems as a primary driving force of the ecological crises facing us. His emphasis on compassionate and fair economic systems make so much sense.

This is an important book, and Dover's decision to re-release this book and others, many of which were mostly forgotten for a generation (or more) does them credit and is to our benefit. This book belongs beside Muir, Carson, Colbert and others. I was unfamiliar with Commoner's work prior to this.

Five stars.

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



Sunday, February 9, 2020

Celiac Disease Cookbook for the Newly Diagnosed- Guidance and Recipes for an Easy Transition to the Gluten-Free Diet

Celiac Disease Cookbook for the Newly Diagnosed is a theory based guide and recipe collection for helping readers to transition to a gluten-free diet. Due out 18th Feb 2020 from Callisto on their Rockridge Press imprint, it's 166 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats (ebook available now). 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 an accessible, logical format. An introductory chapter gives a good overview of celiac disease, treatment, outcomes, etc. There are specific lists of acceptable foods and ones to avoid. The second section includes the recipes, arranged thematically: breakfast (including smoothies), salads and soups, seafood and meats, sides and snacks, and desserts. Ingredients are listed in a bullet sidebar with only American standard measures given. Info and tips about the ingredients or the recipes themselves are given in sidebars below the preparation information. Prep time, yields, and cooking time are given in the header info. Nutritional information and special diet concerns/allergens (nuts, celery, wheat, etc) are stated in the header and footer for each recipe.


The book does include an interactive links list for further reading but there's no index.

These are yummy and (mostly) made from easily sourced ingredients.

I am very much a visual learner and one of my concerns with several cookbooks I've reviewed recently has been the lack of photography and serving suggestions. I know that photography can increase the cost of a published book significantly but it enhances the end result so much that in my case at least, it's a necessary part of any cookbook which I buy and use. This book is somewhere in the middle. There aren't many photos, but the ones which are included are clear and appealing.

Four stars. This is a good niche cookbook with a wide variety of goodies included.

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



Saturday, February 8, 2020

Unleashing the Artist Within: Breaking through Blocks and Restoring Creative Purpose

Unleashing the Artist Within is a fact and practice based examination of the anxiety which can be associated with the creative process and the 'block' which all artists fear (and all, or nearly all, experience). Due out 12th Feb 2020 from Dover on their Ixia Press imprint, it's 224 pages and will be available in paperback format.

Dr. Maisel is a psychotherapist and creative coach and has written extensively on creative process and related subjects. This book follows on previous work but I read it as a standalone and found it clear, well written, and layman accessible. He writes persuasively and comprehensively about the challenges inherent in the creative process: getting through the 'grind' of daily expression, healing trauma, getting through unproductive periods (and ameliorating them where possible), finishing projects, performance anxiety and more.

The chapters are each arranged around a central theme: the realities of process, recovering from dashed hopes, creating and relating, creating and protecting the creative space, meeting the marketplace, reducing internal drama, and several other subjects. There isn't a specific progression or narrative. Each of the chapters does a pretty good job of defining the inherent problems as they relate to the creative process and providing some tools and coping mechanisms for mastering (and troubleshooting) them. I found some ideas to try out myself to get me beyond my own procrastination in my writing and creative life.

The down sides for me were that there was a lot of what felt like diffuse cheerleading and positive thinking (a little on the 'woo woo' side of the philosophical divide). I also felt the lack of a cross referenced index or bibliography/links list for further reading.  This isn't a 'one size fits everyone' book, but there are a surprising number of good and practical takeaways here for creative artists.

Four stars, with the bonus that it costs a fraction of a face-to-face workshop or course.

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