Monday, May 23, 2022

The Rugged Life: The Modern Guide to Self-Reliance

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The Rugged Life is an interesting and worthwhile collection of self-suffiency and survival tips collected by Clint Emerson. Released 10 May 2022 by Rodale Books, it's 272 pages and is available in paperback, spiral bound, 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.

The chapters are arranged thematically: building, power, farmer, butcher, hunter, homemaker, protector, RTO (news & communication), first responder, and handyman. Each of these sections are standalone and can be read in any order.  There is no required cohesiveness to the content and it can be read and accessed as needed. To that end, the book does not include an index. I therefore recommend the electronic format for ease of finding specific info more easily.

This is a very broad and general book.  It's a good 'starting off' guide, a 'dreaming' guide; it's emphatically not a specific how-to guide. If it errs, it does so by trying to be everything to everyone.  Anyone actually going into homesteading will hopefully have a solid workable plan for getting from lifestyle A to whatever level of self-sufficiency is desirable. The author has a competent but stern voice and I found the emphasis on protecting property and fighting and weapon making a bit macho for my taste.

It's very tempting to see pictures of healthy gardens and adorable lambs and healthy beehives and want to be a part of that lifestyle. (I did & do!) The guides rarely show pictures of neighbor's pet-dog ravaged lambs, nosema infested empty beehives, or flattened gardens with more weeds than produce and production that wouldn't feed a toddler. This book could bridge the gap between dreams and reality. He definitely doesn't sugar coat things.

The emphasis here was more on protection and basic survival than smallholding but there is a fair bit of useful info in capsule form. The graphics are simple with line drawn illustrations and text boxes with tips and very short info bites throughout. 

Four stars. This would be a good choice for the smallholder's library, people who want to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle and are at the planning stage, and for people who are interested in building a survival skill set.

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

 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama

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Honeybee Rescue is a well photographed and written story for young readers about honeybees, their behavior, and biodiversity by Loree Griffin Burns. Due out 31st May 2022 from Charlesbridge, it's 40 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

This is an engaging true story of honeybee rescue and some basic beekeeping info. It's told in simple language which everyone can understand and shows bees as helpful and important and not scary (as long as they're treated gently with respect). The author has done a superlative job of explaining swarming behavior and how beekeepers rescue bee colonies which have set up housekeeping in unwanted places. 

The book is lavishly and clearly photographed in color throughout. I especially liked seeing Mr. Nelson's bee vacuum with which he gently gathers all the lost bees to move them safely into their new home. 

Five stars. This would make a great selection for public or school library acquisition as well as for young science and nature interested readers. The author has also included an abbreviated bibliography for further reading.

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

Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Secret of the Jade Bangle (The Nguyen Kids #1)

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The Secret of the Jade Bangle is an engaging and empowering illustrated chapter book for grade school age readers by Linda Trinh and the first book in the Nguyen Kids series. Due out 18th Oct 2022 from Annick Press, it's 128 pages and will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. 

This is such a fun and respectfully written book which will engage, entertain, and inform young readers. Despite the action filled plot (Anne really loves ballet but just wants to not be treated differently by her ballet teacher and the other students), the author manages to delve into deeper and meaningful themes such as integration and isolation, respect for culture, honesty, integrity, dealing constructively with racism, activism, and family in an age-appropriate manner.

The art by Clayton Nguyen is expressive and colorful and is full of small details which invite readers to take a closer look and really think about the concepts being expressed.

Five stars. Representation is important for *everyone*. Highly recommended for public and school library acquisition, home library use, reading circles and similar. This is a great kids book for -all- kids whatever their ethnicity, background, or sex.

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

Murder at St Anne's (Yorkshire Murder Mysteries #7)

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Murder at St Anne's is the 7th Yorkshire mystery featuring DCI Oldroyd by J. R. Ellis. Released 7th Dec 2021 on Amazon's Thomas & Mercer imprint, it's 284 pages and 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. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book and the rest of the series are currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

This series, along with the ensemble cast of Oldroyd, his colleagues, and family as well as the countryside and settings in Yorkshire and environs are always solidly, dependably, engaging reads. In addition to the well constructed puzzles of the actual mysteries, the author has salient points to make about the nature of humanity (with all our foibles). Lead character Oldroyd himself is quietly intelligent and competent. I enjoy seeing his interactions with his colleagues and his family. His sister Alison features prominently in this installment, and it's always enlightening to see the interplay between the detective and his sister. 

There's a convoluted and technical puzzle to the "locked room" aspect of the first murder since there are massive injuries not consistent with a hand-held blunt instrument and Oldroyd has to figure out the physics involved in the crime. Some of the descriptions were difficult for me to envision and I had to re-read the salient passages a couple times to sort of understand what was going on. I'm still not sure I buy it entirely, but fair play on the author, it is cleverly done and I'd never have thought of it in a million years.

Although this is the 7th book in the series, all of the individual mysteries are self contained and can reasonably be read in any order. 

Four stars. Well written and worthwhile. Definitely a series for fans of modern British procedurals. This is also a good weekend-binge-worthy series with solid plotting, good characterizations, and satisfying denouements and resolutions. 

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

Friday, May 20, 2022

Better Than New: A Recycle Tale


Better Than New: A Recycle Tale is a beautifully illustrated fully bilingual story about recycling and stewardship by Rob Broder. Due out 24th May 2022 from Patagonia, it's 44 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

This is such an engaging story for young readers (~4-8 years of age). The theme of protecting our Earth and taking care of our oceans and our fellow creatures is told in age appropriate words and pictures in both Spanish and English on each page. 

Well written and beautifully illustrated, this would be a good choice for public or school library acquisition. It would make a nice bedtime read as well and the pictures are full of small details which invite readers to take a closer look.

Five stars. Charming and worthwhile.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Fan Fiction

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Fan Fiction is a funny, often punny, fannish modern mystery with memoir overtones by Brent Spiner. Released 5th Oct 2021 by Macmillan on their St. Martin's Press imprint, it's 256 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook format (paperback out in Oct 2022). 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 such a trippy blend of fictionalized memoir and could-have-happened and is genuinely funny a lot of the time. There's a mystery subplot alongside the general reminiscence and interaction and dialogue between the cast of Star Trek: TNG (for people who stumbled into the book without much introduction, the author is also the actor who brought the android Data to the series, movies, video games, and spinoffs).  

The unabridged enhanced audiobook has a run time of 6 hours and 53 minutes and is capably narrated by the author himself alongside many of his fellow former cast members voicing themselves. I particularly adored hearing many of my old "friends" including Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, and of course, LeVar Burton (I admit I squealed like the middle-aged fangirl I am). The sound and production quality was very high throughout. I highly recommend the audiobook.

It's often genuinely funny and well written. Mr. Spiner has a talent for comedic timing. 

Four stars, Five for the audiobook. 

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Make Your Own Party: 20 Plans from Chef Kelli to Make Your Own Party

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Make Your Own Party is a fun guide to party planning and reducing the associated stress by Chef Kelli Lewton. Released 10th May 2022, it's 240 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

This is a very well organized and accessible guide to event planning and DIY themed parties from graduation and baby showers to boards/charcuterie and holidays. Everything is well explained and *doable*. The author has a reassuring and encouraging voice and she gives readers tips and advice throughout. 

The guides and tutorials are well photographed in color throughout the book. Tutorial recipes contain an  introduction and descriptions, ingredients in a bullet list, followed by step-by-step instructions. Measurements are given in imperial (American) units only. Serving suggestions are attractive and appropriate and yield estimates are reasonable. 

Personally, I felt some of the tableware and serving equipment estimates were excessive for my -personal- needs, but it's easy to adjust downward for smaller occasions and I think it's a real danger to underestimate equipment needs (and seating, and supplies, and venues) when one isn't used to entertaining large crowds. The tips and recommendations for venues and rentals were spot on.

Four stars. This would be an excellent selection for public library acquisition as well as for the home cook's resource library.

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

The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions: The ultimate Miss Phryne Fisher collection (Phryne Fisher)

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The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions is a beautifully curated selection of Phryne Fisher short fiction by Kerry Greenwood. Released 17th May 2022 by the Poisoned Pen Press, it's 272 pages and is 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 and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

The book contains 17 stories; 13 previously released and 4 new stories from 2019-2020, along with an informative and really enjoyable introduction by the author on Phryne, how she came about, and some behind the scenes glimpses into her (Greenwood's) working processes. 

This is top shelf Phryne at her irrepressible best. One of the reasons I like anthologies and collections is that they're full of authors being allowed to test new techniques and plotting and story devices without the commitment of a full novel.  I've always had a particular fondness for collections/anthologies because short fiction is spare and technically challenging, so you get a better feel for an author's expertise with the form. Short fiction is less of a time commitment as well, so if one story is not working for you, there's another piece readily available in a few pages. This is all of that and definitely a must-read for current fans of Ms. Fisher. Much of the info in the author's introductory essay was known to me, but I had somehow previously missed out on her background and genesis. 

I loved that Ms. Greenwood says that:  

"She blossomed from the moment I wrote the first line of Cocaine Blues, and after the first five chapters, I had no further control over her. I feel like I discovered Phryne, rather than invented her".

Four stars. Good stories, well written. This would make a super introduction to the characters and settings for new fans as well as a nostalgic read with bonus new content for current fans of the series. The stories and novels are really solid and there are 21 extant novels plus various shorter stories/novellas; a great candidate for binge reading. Phryne herself is refreshingly uninhibited and there are occasionally frank discussions of physical and carnal appetites in the canon. 

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

The Power of the Pearl Earrings (The Nguyen Kids #2)

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The Power of the Pearl Earrings is an engaging and empowering illustrated chapter book for grade school age readers by Linda Trinh and the second book in the Nguyen Kids series. Due out 18th Oct 2022 from Annick Press, it's 128 pages and will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. 

This is such a fun and respectfully written book which will engage, entertain, and inform young readers. Despite the action filled plot (protagonist Liz really wants to do martial arts instead of ballet), the author manages to delve into deeper and meaningful themes such as integration and isolation, respect for culture, honesty, integrity, dealing constructively with potentially unwitting racism, activism, and family in an age-appropriate manner.

The art by Clayton Nguyen is expressive and colorful and is full of small details which invite a closer look.

Five stars. Representation is important for *everyone*. Highly recommended for public and school library acquisition, home library use, reading circles and similar.

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

Brew Your Own Big Book of Homebrewing, Updated Edition: All-Grain and Extract Brewing * Kegging * 50+ Craft Beer Recipes * Tips and Tricks from the Pros

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Brew Your Own Big Book of Homebrewing is a re-formatted and updated 2nd edition of the classic homebrew encyclopedia (with recipes) from the editors of Brew Your Own magazine. Originally published in 2017, this edition was released 10th May 2022 by Quarto on their Harvard Common Press imprint. It's 240 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a very good, comprehensive, accessible, plainly written guide with recipes for the homebrewer. It covers everything from beginning information through equipment gathering. Using only this guide, a beginning brewer could successfully gather the necessary tools, equipment, and ingredients to make a safe, drinkable, and potable beer. The introductory sections contain a thorough overview on the process including a necessary emphasis on cleaning and sanitation. The authors do a good job of explaining safety procedures, ingredients, and the basic general procedure. Tutorial photos are abundant, in color, and clear, without hands or tools blocking the action.

The second section contains a good cross section of recipes and clones (some very famous brews to copy here) as well as enough information and instruction that adventurous readers will be encouraged to spread their wings and develop their own brews. Recipes include an introduction, ingredients in bullet lists with measurements in both imperial (American) and metric measurements, and step-by-step instructions. The book also includes a resource/links list and abbreviate bibliography for further reading.

This is a very good basic guide which has enough scope and information to satisfy both beginners and advanced zymurgists, and which will become a staple reference in the homebrewer's library. Highly recommended to hobby brewers, smallholders, general DIYers, and beer lovers. Note that this is a *beer* brewing book and does a good job of different profile beers, but doesn't include hard ciders, meads, metheglins, or anything but beer. The clone recipes include lots of ales, porters, pilsners, a few stouts, IPA, red-ales, and more or less all the beer types I could imagine. There are craft beer recipes here to keep even the most dedicated hobbyist going for a long while. 

Five stars. I didn't have the first edition for comparison, but this is a comprehensive guide.


Murder Most Fair (Verity Kent Mysteries #5)

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Murder Most Fair is the 5th Verity Kent mystery by Anna Lee Huber. Released 31st Aug 2021 by Kensington, it's 384 pages and is available in library bound 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 and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book (and the others in the series) are currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

This is a sophisticated romance / mystery set in the very early interwar period in England with espionage and drama and short forays into mainland Europe. The series protagonist is a part time spy who, along with her husband and occasionally the home office, chase down murderers and powerful bad guys including powerful government officials who are supposedly on the same side. In between, they sip cocktails, dance, and try to maintain a work - life balance. 

There is less international intrigue and more family and interpersonal relationship exploration in this installment, as Verity's German Aunt Ilsa comes into her life again in England and for safety reasons, Verity and husband Sidney return to Verity's family estate with their entire entourage after a long estrangement. Mystery and intrigue follow the couple no matter where they are and they're soon on the trail of skullduggery and an overarching multi-book political mystery with international implications. 

The mystery is self contained, but this is a series book with spoilers for earlier installments in the series if read out of order. There are now 6 books available, so it's a good candidate for a binge read. The language is slightly anachronistic with shades of "drawing room stage plays" of the time. It's full of period cocktails and flannel pants and indoor cigarette smoking and casual sexism. The author does have quite a lot of facility with the fashions and mores of the time and place, and I can only imagine the prodigious amount of background research which goes into writing these books. 

The unabridged audiobook has a run time of 11 hours and 47 minutes and is narrated by Heather Wilds. I found her voice almost unbearably plummy, very much like a modern rendition of a period drawing-room stage production of The Importance of Being Earnest. She does, however, do a wonderful job of various other accents, such as German and Afrikaaner South African and characters of a broad range of ages and both sexes. I admittedly stopped wincing over her accent for Verity about a third of the way through the read. 

Four stars for both the print and audiobook versions. Definitely one for interwar British historical mystery readers who enjoy romance and political intrigue. The language is clean and there's light implied consensual physical contact (between married people) as well as references to past relations.

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

Monday, May 16, 2022

Fen, Bog and Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis

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Fen, Bog and Swamp is an impassioned exposition about peatland destruction and its impact on the climate crisis by Annie Proulx. Due out 27th Sept 2022 from Macmillan on their Scribner imprint, it's 208 pages and will be 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 memoir/essay/rumination on wetlands in the larger sphere of habitat and climate destruction and loss of species diversity is pervasively tinged with melancholy. The writing is, as expected, brilliant and lyrical, sometimes sublime, but it's just so very sad. 

The author does, in fact, turn her prodigious intellect toward history, anthropology, earth and climate sciences, and allied subjects. The takeaway I was left with, however, was a dystopian "the planet's on fire, so DO something"! The problem with that is of course, that individuals, even collectively can't make a substantive difference and the corporations, politicians, and industrial concerns either dither or (worse) are actively trying to dig faster to suck up the very last resources. 

Four stars. Beautifully written but overwhelmingly distressing. 

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

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Grain and Fire: A History of Baking in the American South

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Grain and Fire: A History of Baking in the American South is a well written, layman accessible, historical survey of the culture and baking heritage in the southern USA by Dr. Rebecca Sharpless. Due out 28th June 2022 from the University of North Carolina Press, it's 344 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

Dr. Sharpless has taken what could've been the tweediest, driest, most academic treatise and made it both accessible and human. The subject matter is admittedly academic, there are enough annotations and chapter notes and bibliography entries to satisfy the staunchest pedant but at the same time, there's a clear and compelling cultural narrative. The chapters are arranged thematically with around different types of baking, the societal and economic ties to the different baking traditions from prehistoric indigenous people through to the modern day in a shrouded but mostly unbroken line from one woman's hand down through her children's hands to us. 

This would be a good choice for public or school library acquisition. It would also make a good choice for more formal classroom instruction as a support resource for women's studies, cultural studies, sociology, etc. I found the entire book quite interesting. It is, admittedly, a niche book. The language and format are rigorous and formal. It's definitely not inaccessible for the average reader, but it will take some effort (and I think that's a good thing).

Five stars. This is well and deeply researched and engaging.

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

The Natural Genius of Ants

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The Natural Genius of Ants is a well illustrated and engaging coming of age novel aimed at middle grade readers written by Betty Culley. Released 10th May 2022 from Penguin Random House on their Children's imprint, it's 240 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.  

Despite the heavy nature of the subject matter (death of an infant, medical malpractice, family grief, depression, forgiveness, and friendship) this is a very well written and ultimately uplifting book written from a child's perspective and with age-appropriate content.  It's a chapter book and written in an unadorned direct first person point of view in the voice of young Harvard, a precocious ten year old, son of a medical doctor whose loss of an infant patient has led to a professional and personal crisis of faith. 

There's a lot of humor in the writing and from the protagonist, Harvard, and his younger brother Roger. They're often genuinely funny and the story has a lot of honesty and compassion. It's not a central theme of the book, but I liked that Harvard and Roger are multicultural, with their mom's family hailing from the Dominican Republic. Representation is important. 

Four stars, this would make a good selection for public or school library acquisition and for home use. Recommended for ages 8-12. 

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

Modern Asian Baking at Home: Essential Sweet and Savory Recipes for Milk Bread, Mooncakes, Mochi, and More; Inspired by the Subtle Asian Baking Community

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Modern Asian Baking at Home is a detailed guide with recipes for Asian baked goods curated from the @subtleasian.baking community and curated and presented by Kat Lieu. Due out 28th June 2022 from Quarto on their Quarry imprint, it's 176 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

Despite being red haired, freckly, and mostly Irish, I remember very fondly being "adopted" by the family who owned of our local Chinese bakeries. My family were customers for many (many) years and I was happy to find out recently that they're still in business and under the management of the original owners' grandchildren at this point. This book is *full* of recipes for those Chinese bakery goodies which I remember so fondly and never thought I could ever recreate at home, such as mooncakes, mochi, and milk bread. There are also a slew of recipes which are Asian inspired but with western fusion influence such as cookies, cakes, curds, and waffles.

The introduction includes a good overview over ingredients, tools, and sourcing specialty items; the actual recipes are arranged thematically: confections, cookies & pastries, not-too-sweet cakes, breads & yeast bakes, holiday bakes, custards & frozen, and drinks. 

Recipes contain a title and description, yields, ingredients in a bullet list in a sidebar, and step by step directions. Ingredients are listed with imperial (American) standard measures with metric equivalents in parentheses (yay!). Nutritional information is not included. There are so many gorgeous and clear color photos included. Most (but not all) of the dishes are accompanied by one or more photos. This helped me to know how to arrange and prepare the dishes with which I wasn't already familiar.

Five stars. Wonderfully comprehensive and versatile.

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

The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress [A Cookbook]

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The Cook You Want to Be is an interesting and inspirational guide with recipes by Andy Baraghani. Due out 24th May 2022 from Crown Publishing on their Loreena Jones imprint, it's a substantial 336 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

The author has such a chatty, engaging, and friendly style of writing that I found myself reading this cookbook/memoir/masterclass cover to cover, more like a novel than a cookbook. He has worthwhile things to say about cooking and food, about the nature of hospitality and culture, and about eating and how our lives and experiences inform our growth as cooks. 

The recipes are arranged thematically and built up systematically - from partial recipes, sauces, ingredients, breadcrumbs, etc through eggs, snacks, salad, veg, grains, soup, fish, meat, and sweets. Throughout the text, between and in the recipes, Mr. Baraghani gives tips, observations (buy new ingredients, explore, try), and encourages readers to stretch their own boundaries. 

The recipes are written with an introduction and tips for serving, followed by ingredients in a bullet list (measurements are given in imperial - US measures), and step by step cooking instructions. Nutritional information is not provided. Many of the recipes contain photos. The photography is clear and many photos are in color. Serving suggestions are attractive and appropriate. Most of the recipe ingredients will be familiar to North American cooks. Some few will require access to a larger metropolitan area or a well stocked international market. 

Five stars. This would be a good choice for public library acquisition, and for the home cook's library. 

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

Freeze fresh: The Ultimate Guide to Preserving 55 Fruits and Vegetables for Maximum Flavor and Versatility

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Freeze Fresh is an accessibly and clearly written resource guide to freezing fresh produce along with some recipes curated and written by Crystal Schmidt. Due out 19th July 2022 from Storey, it's 208 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

The included tutorials and recipes show how to select, prepare, and pack produce for preservation by freezing to maximize taste and quality. Essential and helpful equipment lists are included and explained very well. When I first started processing our garden produce, my tendency was to process -every- single fruit/vegetable no matter how misshapen, overripe, squishy, or blemished. I hated to 'waste' (compost) -anything- unnecessarily.The author makes a good case for selecting the best fruits and vegetables to freeze and shows how.

The following chapters include processing and recipes grouped alphabetically from apples to zucchini.

The recipes themselves are easy to read and understand. They include a header bar along with yields and a description. Ingredients are listed bullet point in a sidebar. Measurements are given in imperial (US standard) units only. Preparation instructions are enumerated step by step. Substitutions and alternative preparation or serving information are given in highlighted text boxes throughout.

Photography and food styling are very well done and prep and serving pictures are appealing and appropriate.

Five stars. This is a good addition to the home gardener's and smallholder's resource libraries. It's not a replacement for canning encyclopedias like Ball's Blue Book, but it's very good for specifics and tips for freezing produce with a collection of varied and useful recipes for using frozen fruits and veggies.

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

100 Plants to Feed the Birds: Turn Your Home Garden into a Healthy Bird Habitat

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100 Plants to Feed the Birds is a well written and beautifully photographed manual full of practical tips and information on building and maintaining welcoming habitats for birds aimed at readers in North America written and curated by Laura Erickson. Due out 20th Dec 2022 from Storey, it's 256 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a well organized pictorial guide and plant encyclopedia. The first section covers the need for homeowners to help support and build habitat to mitigate the damage of habitat loss due to large scale farming, forestry, and urban sprawl. The bulk of the book contains 100 detailed plant profiles with range maps, sourcing information, habit, and uses. Each of the profiles contain descriptions, uses, culture info, specific species information, and photos of each plant which include wildlife nesting, using, and interacting with target plant species. Botanical nomenclature (Latin name) is used alongside some common/layman names to help with specific sourcing and remove confusion about which specific plant is being discussed.

The photography (mostly stock) is clear, illustrative, and in color. 

Five stars. This is a useful guide and will make a good selection for public and school library acquisition, for homeowners, gardening groups, smallholders, activity groups, and similar.

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

Nonna Maria and the Case of the Missing Bride

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Nonna Maria and the Case of the Missing Bride is a delightfully rustic island cozy mystery with a wonderful octogenarian protagonist, a whimsical cast of secondary characters and a very well constructed story by Lorenzo Carcaterra. Released 3rd May 2022 by Penguin Random House on their Bantam imprint, it's 272 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

This was such a relaxing and enjoyable read. It's redolent of the setting, with the local cuisine and lifestyle pace and rhythms of the island of Ischia off the coast of Naples and the charming and intelligent chief protagonist, Nonna Maria. Everyone knows her and she knows everyone and their extended family histories and interrelationships, so she's naturally sought out for advice and help when the locals don't need or want to go to the carbinieri. 

In some ways this reminded me of the pacing and atmosphere of the Bruno, Chief of Police, novels or Guido Bernetti, or even Bannalec's excellent Georges Dupin novels. The pacing is similar, the storytelling unhurried, but it's not at all derivative. The mysteries small and large entwine closer to a surprisingly tense climax and denouement. 

Nonna Maria herself, though age and craftiness comparisons will surely be made to Miss Marple, strikes me as tough, resilient, and resourceful and more compassionate than Christie's inimitable sleuth who could be cold as ice and brilliantly calculating. I found Nonna Maria thoroughly likeable and wonderfully warm and really enjoyed the denouement and resolution. I'm looking forward to more from this capable author featuring this island setting and these appealing characters.

Four and a half stars. Very well done.

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

Butterflies: Beautiful Flying Insects

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Butterflies: Beautiful Flying Insects is a lushly photographed and scientifically accurate look at order Lepidoptera curated and written by Julianna Photopoulis. Due out 12th July 2022 from Amber Books, it's 224 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

This is chiefly a photographic coffee table book with concise (and well written) text captions throughout. The photography is *stunning*. It's full of full colour, often macro, photography with breathtaking detail and clarity. I have always loved butterflies and moths for their beauty and fascinating life cycles, but until relatively recently, I was unaware of their importance as pollinators and indicators of biodiversity and their critical role as an early warning system for loss of habitat and wildlife. 

This would make a superlative choice for public or school library acquisition, as well as good choice for the home collection. Definitely a good one for readers of natural history. Proper nomenclature (Latin classification) is used throughout.

Five stars with the understanding that there's limited written content to go with the beautiful photography.

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