Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Ink

Ink: Do More Art is an inspiration and technique guide to several art techniques with special emphasis on ink and ink techniques. Released 24th June 2019 by Laurence King, it's 128 pages and available in hardcover format.

Author Bridget Davies has a matter of fact and encouraging writing style and the book is lavishly illustrated with clear photographs of the different techniques and side by side comparison pics of alternative media and tools and how they interact with one another.

Roughly 10% of the page content is used in the introduction which covers tools, materials, some definitions and materials selection. Techniques including blotting, washes, bleeding, lifting, and others alone and in combination, use up another 30%. There are a broad range of techniques and readers of different levels will likely find some useful information here. 

The next chapters are refinements of the techniques covered and include using salt, household products, bleach, surface resists, collage, pen and ink on surface paintings, and more.

This is a useful book and would make a lovely addition to the artist's library. The graphics are appealing and got my fingers itching to try several of the included exercises.

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Learn to Draw Disney/Pixar Toy Story Collector's Edition

Learn to Draw Toy Story is a new step-by-step tutorial drawing guide for artists who want to learn to draw Toy Story characters. Released 4th June 2019 by Quarto on their Walter Foster Jr. imprint, it's 128 pages and available in paperback format.

The subjects are such a part of our cultural fabric at this point that they're universally recognizable and beloved. It's really cool to get a good step by step set of tutorials for drawing them which result in recognizable finished pictures. I was amazed to realize that the Toy Story franchise is 25 years old this year. This tutorial guide includes all the originals and newer characters such as Gabby Gabby, Forky, Duke Caboom, and Ducky & Bunny.

There is a very abbreviated introduction with some basic drawing exercises (not many). Very basic drawing instructions and information on tools and materials should be learned elsewhere. What this book does well are the step-by-step line drawn character tutorials. Each of them is 6-8 pages long with each subsequent drawing step highlighted in blue lines. 

The typesetting and page layout are upbeat and appealing with a 'storyboard' feel to them and light vibrant colors which highlight the simple line drawings so they feel dynamic and attractive.

This is a cute book which would make for nice gift giving for a budding young artist, especially if it were bundled with a roll of drawing paper and some pencils/markers, etc.

Five stars.

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


Painting School

Painting School is a new tutorial and technique guide aimed at younger artists and their adults. Released 4th June 2019 by Quarto on their Walter Foster Jr. imprint, it's an impressive 240 pages and available in flexibound format.

Roughly 10% of the page content is taken up with an accessible, well written introduction covering materials, color theory, tools, and other how-to's. As an aside, the text is well illustrated and so very appealing and upbeat. The small color wheels, for example, are liberally illustrated with cute smiling faces. I enjoyed just paging through this vibrantly colorful book. There's no dry and dull explanatory text here.

The introduction is followed by step by step tutorial pages starting with very simple fingerprint painting where a finger/thumbprint is enhanced with drawn in details after the paint is dry. There are so many cute ideas, from animals to plants and even a submarine. All of them can be successfully completed by even beginning artists (yes, even me!).  The end of the chapter has a nice full page illustration in color of a landscape done by fingerprint painting and is a good example of composition and placement.

The next chapters use simple geometric shapes built up into recognizable subjects. There are chapters for animals, people, fantasy subjects, nature, edible things, vehicles, space, and dinosaurs. There are enough subjects to keep kids of all ages busy and engaged for a long while.

Beautifully done.

This would make a superlative addition to the classroom library. It would also be a great selection for camp/kid art time at a public library as well as a go-to book for summer vacation fun.

Five stars.

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

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Undead Client

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Undead Client is a horror Holmes and Watson homage with zombies. Released 1st June 2019 it's the first in a new series by M. J. Downing, is 289 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is supernatural horror with loads of zombies, bloodsoaked and stomach turning in a lot of places. The violence is unrelenting and graphic. There are several disparate plot threads (zombies, shady British government goings-on, Jack the Ripper killings, voodoo, etc) and it's not surprising that in some ways, the central plot gets lost in the details.

The author has a strong and deft touch with characterization and detailed flowing period dialogue. I felt, however, that the central characters weren't quite Holmes & Watson. There was much less cerebrating than braining zombies with blunt instruments, or beheading with swords.  I felt that most of the plot was action and reaction, fight and retreat.   Actually, I was curious enough to search online about the kukri sword which features prominently in the book. Hats off to the author for the quality of historical detail in his background research. (Kukri can, indeed, reportedly decapitate in one stroke (a goat, at least, which is probably more muscular than a zombie).

There are elements of sexual tension in the book, but nothing graphic. In fact, the attraction subplot was well written and added an element of melancholy to the work.

This is a shade more grisly horror fare than I am strictly a fan of, but it's well written and I'll be looking for the next book(s) in the series.  For fans of strictly canonical Conan Doyle this will no doubt be a shade beyond the pale. For the rest of us, it's a ripping yarn (with zombies).

Worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is included in the KU subscription to download and read for free.

Four stars.

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


The Old Man's Request: Book One of the Utgarda Trilogy




The Old Man's Request is the first book in the Utgarda series by Joab Stieglitz. Released 3rd Nov. 2018, it's 113 pages and available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats. The author is an experienced gamer and it shows in the narrative. This is a very plot driven horror novel set in a very Lovecraftian/pulp type universe.

It's a group mission plot with several specialist adventurers and lots of encounters with nasty supernatural creatures and malign human agents. The author has a deft touch with atmospheric horror and there are a number of well done jump scares scattered throughout the book (not easy to do on the written page).

There are some rough spots with the dialogue, it's stiff in some places, but not egregiously so. The plotting is uneven, but again, not substantially and doesn't destroy the flow of the book. It reminded me in a lot of ways of my old regular tabletop gaming group. For readers who enjoy that gamer 'vibe' this book will likely be a hit.

It is horror and there's a fair bit of graphic violence, along with demonic/infernal content. For readers who are sensitive to the subject matter, blood, gore, etc, it might be a tough read.

Three and a half stars.

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

Friday, July 5, 2019

Celestial Watercolor

Celestial Watercolor is a tutorial technique guide for watercolor and gouache using a constellation theme. Released 2nd April 2019 by Quarto on their Rock Point imprint, it's 128 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats. The ebook version includes a handy interactive table of contents and hyperlinks throughout.

The book's introductory section includes a short artist's statement and background from the author followed by  a chapter on techniques and tools (circa 27% of the page content). The rest of the book is broken into chapters with earth/air/fire/water signs and a short astrological description of each. The constellation drawings for each (see cover) are provided in a skyscape painting. There is -very- little step by step tutorial or technique advice in these sections beyond what's provided in the first chapter. The art is inspiring and undeniably beautiful, but unless the reader has a good grasp of technique previous to using this book, it'll be a challenge to produce any painting similar to the provided artwork.

The final chapters are seasonal paintings of skies with constellations along with moons and some landscapes.

The author is generous with advice about which specific tools and supplies she uses to achieve her paintings, which is nice. Definitely inspiring to look at, and it would make a superlative gift, I just don't really think that 'learn to paint' is part of the remit for this particular book.

The text is sparse, but encouraging and accessible.

Three stars.

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






The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is the first book in the Marquess House trilogy by Alexandra Walsh. Released 28th March 2019 by Sapere books, it's 464 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a dual time line with a parallel narrative. The plots intertwine between 1539-1542 and 2018. The stories are well demarcated and aren't confusing to keep track of. The writing is consistent and the additional historical details are interesting. I'm a huge fan of the period, so it was exciting to see the stories intertwine with historical occurrences resonating profoundly down to the present day.

In some ways it reminded me a lot of The Da Vinci Code. Shadowy conspiracy history thugs and a lone academic (with sidekicks) foiling all their nefarious plans. I have to admit that I really did enjoy the book most when I just silenced my suspension of disbelief's annoying whine and tossed it into to the closet. For readers who are looking for meticulous verisimilitude and realistic plot devices, this one might not fit the bill. On the other hand, for readers who (even secretly) love Dan Brown, and movies like National Treasure (with a dash of Indiana Jones on the side), this one could be a good selection.

Some of the descriptions (especially of Henry and his sexual conquests) may possibly be triggering for some readers. I found the portrayal of HenryVIII pretty over the top. He -was- apparently a harsh guy with a prodigious potential for violence, but his portrayal in the book is fairly extreme. The language is moderately strong (one 'F-bomb' in context), but not over the top.

Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This title is available in the KU subscription to borrow and download for free.

I enjoyed the book, it's a nice historical thriller. I'll be reading (and reviewing) the second book in the series soon.

Four stars.

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

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Storm & Fury: A Storm & Fury Adventures Collection

Storm & Fury is a collection of shorter fiction in the Storm & Fury world by creators Gail & Larry Martin. Released 23rd Feb 2019 it's 410 pages and available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.

There are 10 short-to-novella length pieces included in the collection. Several were previously published in other anthologies, but are collected here with additional material for the first time.  They're built around an alternate steampunk timeline in and around Pittsburgh (PA). The two lead characters Mitch and Jacob are partners and agents of the Department of Supernatural Investigation. This gives the authors very broad scope for a range of 'things which go bump (or whizzzz) in the night'.

The stories are well written, genuinely entertaining steampunk fantasy. Some of them (Airship Down) end without a real denouement. I'm not sure if the plotline is taken up in other longer works or not, but I found myself wondering what happened.

Worth mentioning, the electronic ARC I was given for review purposes has a nifty interactive table of contents and hyperlinked resources.  Presumably the ebook version does as well.

One of the things I love about collections and anthologies is tjat they usually include extra author/editor information about the stories themselves or the writers. This is completely missing here.  The stories are very well written however and it's not a crippling deficiency. The authors do include an afterword about their alt-steampunk Pittsburgh.

I grew up in the area and these stories are obviously written by authors who are intimately familiar with P'burgh and environs.

Strong stories, well written, with mostly appealing protagonists.  They are worth a read, definitely.

Four stars.

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Lucifer Vol. 1: The Infernal Comedy (The Sandman Universe)

Lucifer Vol. 1: The Infernal Comedy is a graphic novel collection of  The Sandman Universe Special #1 and the first 6 issues of Lucifer. Published 25th June 2019 from Vertigo, it's 200 pages and available in paperback and ebook (comiXology) formats. All four of the graphic novel collections in this 30th anniversary story montage in the Sandman universe include the Sandman Universe Special issue #1 (so there's approximately 20% page overlap in the graphic novels- I was confused at first).

The pencils by Max and Sebastian Fiumara are dark, gritty, and bleak, and fit the story very well.  It's always a little bit nerve-wracking when other people are writing storylines in worlds which are dear to me, but in this case, Dan Watters shows once again that he is a masterful storyteller. These issues felt seamless and I loved the tie-in cameos. I don't know how much direct input Neil Gaiman had on the story arc (apart from curating the 4 books which make up these tie-ins), but they fit so well in the Sandman universe.  I continue to be very impressed.

As most (all?) of the Vertigo titles are for more mature readers, there is a large amount of violence, supernatural themes, gore, etc etc.

The graphic novel includes extra content such as alternate cover art and tantalizing sketchbook glimpses. I really loved the perspective character pencil sketches at the back of the book. Lightly colored. Beautiful work.

I literally grew up in a comic/fandom family and Sandman was the comic 'soundtrack' of my early adulthood. I've loved it deeply for decades and this series is a worthy bearer of the franchise name.

Four and a half stars.

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

Home: Interstellar

Home: Interstellar (Hope Awakens) is a re-release of an SF thriller by Ray Strong. Originally released in 2015, this reformat/re-release from the author is 354 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This title is available in the KU subscription to borrow and download for free.

This is epic space adventure. The world building and setup are compelling and the beginning of the book introduces the reader to protagonist 12 year old Meriel Hope who is sympathetic and believable. 10 years later Meriel's still trying to heal her childhood trauma and solve her family's mystery.

In a lot of ways, this is a standard SF quest narrative. The main character is searching for Home (literally) and her struggles make for a compelling story. This is a debut novel (as far as I can tell from publishing info), but it's a good one. There are some rough spots, but in general it's well polished and finished and a good read.

It did seem as though there was maybe some overreach with the scale of the novel. This is a -huge- plot with fights and philosophy and personal growth and possibly some of that could have been foreshadowed and saved for a sequel. On the other hand, -everything- about publishing these days turns on having a franchise with dozens of 'products/units' plotted out and ready for marketing. It's exceedingly refreshing to see an author write a solid standalone book without planning for the next book in the series.

I enjoyed this book very much. Four stars. Hoping for more from this author.

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

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Duckett & Dyer: Dicks For Hire

Duckett & Dyer: Dicks For Hire is a humor/SF/mystery/multiverse novel which explores and explodes a lot of the standard tropes without being ridiculing or mean. Released 1st April 2019, it's 300 pages and available in hardback, paperback, and ebook formats.

This is a debut novel which honestly doesn't feel like the author's first published work. It could be that he's found a perfect editor and a gang of proofreaders, but the book is well written and polished, but not too slick.  It's exceedingly challenging to write humor. Pacing is everything, and this book (and this author), manage it very well. The voice is sure and the humor is deftly handled. The dialogue is sometimes silly, but also poignant, strong, and never clunky. The narrative literally starts at a heart-stopping climax and moves at breakneck speed onward. It took me a while to figure out what was happening after the grand opening, but once I found a footing, it was a really enjoyable read. This is SF/fantasy by someone who seems to be a fan of the genre.

While I think direct comparisons with Pratchett's Dirk Gently (and Douglas Adams, et.al.) are maybe a trifle premature, there are real glimmers of something seriously nice here and I sincerely hope and pray that the author continues. I am eagerly awaiting more and can't wait to find out "What Comes Next"?!

Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This title is available in the KU subscription to borrow and download for free.

Four and a half stars. (Rounded up on my part because I grew up on a diet of Indiana Jones, Gor, Barsoom, Conan, etc etc). Good humor full on.

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


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Draw 62 Magical Creatures and Make Them Cute

Draw 62 Magical Creatures and Make Them Cute is a step by step drawing tutorial guide for fantasy creatures by Heegyum Kim.

Due out 25th June 2019 by Quarto on their Quarry imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in paperback format.

This appealing book is full of simple tutorials for drawing magical creatures such as dragons, harpies, sirens, sphinxes, trolls, and some Asian inspired creatures such as dokkaebi, tengu, and kumiho. 
The tutorials and techniques are suited to beginning artists. There are step by step tutorials for 62 creatures with different variations and poses for each one. There is a 'you try it' balloon on each page for reader drawings.

This would make a great gift for would-be artists of all ages. The included tutorials are varied and eclectic with origins from many different mythologies. There is no introductory technique or materials instruction; the book just includes the 62 tutorials. There is a complete table of contents, so locating individual ones shouldn't be problematic. They're slanted toward line drawings, though colored pens, crayons, and watercolors could certainly be used to enhance the drawings.

Cute book, accessible for everyone.

Five stars.

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


Whiskers in the Dark

Whiskers in the Dark is the 28th (!!!) book in the Mrs. Murphy mystery series by Rita Mae Brown (& Sneaky Pie). Released 4th June 2019 by Random House on the Bantam imprint, it's 288 pages and available in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats.

This is another one of those anthropomorphic animal cozy mystery series which is like a visit with an old friend for me. I'm always glad to see a new installment being released and happily the series quality has always been good in my opinion. This one sees the animal and human crew preparing for a hounds competition at a historical hunting lodge.

The narrative story arc is broken into two parallel timelines in the same location, one in 1787, one in present day Virginia. The bridge that ties the two together is the discovery of an unrecorded death (a murdered woman) from 1787 discovered in the churchyard wearing a fortune in jewels. The chapter timeline jumps are well demarcated with timestamps on the chapter headings, so they're not confusing. The plotting is variable. For me it moved along at a good clip and then got somewhat bogged down in relating a lot of historical information. I found the historical minutiae interesting, it might be less so for other readers.

The language is clean, the murders are (relatively) bloodless. There is a plot element and description of sexual assault in the 1787 plotline which might bother some readers, but there's nothing extremely graphic. There's a lot of social commentary, including views on gender roles in early American history along with slavery. The modern day plot denouement was a surprise for me, even though I had guessed 'whodunit'.  There's also a paranormal (ghost) subplot which was quite melancholy to me.

The monochrome illustrations by Michael Gellatly give a sweetly nostalgic feel to the book. This is the same artist who illustrated earlier books in the series.

Four stars, I love Ms. Brown's work, and I am always in awe of her ability to combine deep social commentary with humor and wit.

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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Plotting for Murder

Plotting for Murder is the first book in a new cozy bookshop mystery series by Tamra Baumann. Released 14th March 2019 it's 228 pages and available in ebook and paperback formats.

I'm a huge sucker for bookshop cozies. Bonus points for pets (cats or dogs, or in one notable example, a pet armadillo), baked goods, knitting, book clubs, and I don't mind the occasional obligatory hunky sheriff/detective love interest. This book ticked a lot of boxes for me. Underdog heroine lead character fighting against an unfair trust, (her uncle's a piece of poo), complicated history with the local hunky sheriff, an unexpected puppy (awww), and a few other appealing plot features which might be a little standard, but that's why we devour cozy mysteries.

This one is pretty well written, with good characterizations and pacing. The book's written in first person point of view which can be a little distracting, but it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment. There are a scant few places where the dialogue was a bit rough, but again, nothing that killed my suspension of disbelief or lessened my enjoyment.

The language is clean, the crimes are bloodless, and there's a romance subplot but nothing sexually graphic. There are some minor plot elements leading to the next book, but no major cliffhangers.  It's a safe and fun read.

Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This title is available in the KU subscription to borrow and download for free.
 

Three and a half stars.

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook

Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook is a tutorial how-to cookbook specifically aimed at getting kids from toddler age up to help prepare food and gain skills with cooking.  Due out 25th June 2019 from Rockridge press, it's 156 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats (ebook available now).

When my own kids were small, I was often so busy and tired that they didn't get very many chances to help me cook. Though they're young adults now, happily one of them has discovered that she enjoys cooking, the other two definitely don't. I have lingering regrets over us not having much time together in the kitchen when they were small. It might not have made any difference to their enjoyment, but now that they're moving on to the adult phases of their lives, I wish we'd had more time together making memories and good food. That's what this book aims to facilitate.

It's arranged in chapters  with a good solid introduction and discussions about kitchen safety and food prep techniques. The author has a lot of experience teaching kids to cook and it shows. I liked the helpful tips on knife safety and use, as well as the food safety tips (hygiene, egg safety, food storage, etc).

The following chapters are arranged around mealtimes with breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts each getting their own chapter with recipes.

I really liked that all of the recipes have a space for making notes at the end. There's room for adding a date when the dish was made,  what the readers enjoyed, a star rating, and personal notes about the recipe. I also love the author's encouraging and upbeat philosophy about messes. She provides good tips for minimizing safety risks, but has a very down-to-earth attitude about messes in the kitchen.

The electronic version of the book has a handy interactive table of contents including hyperlinks in the text.
Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This title is available in the KU subscription to borrow and download for free.

There aren't a lot of books aimed at getting the youngest kids (2-4 years) actively involved in cooking, and this is a really good one. 

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

Breaking the Lore (Inspector Paris Mystery Book 1)

Breaking the Lore is the first book in a new urban fantasy cozy mystery series by Andy Redsmith. Released 15th April 2019 from Canelo, it's 321 pages and available in ebook format.

This is an urban fantasy police procedural by a new-to-me author and it's a good one. The book literally grabbed me by the hair from the first line and didn't let go. Check out the first two lines:
Discovering fairies at the bottom of the garden is supposed to be good luck. Except when the fairy has been crucified. 
The book opens with Paris standing over the corpse of the aforementioned fairy. He's surprised as anyone to find out that fairies and other supernatural beings (dwarves, trolls, demons, etc) are real, and potentially much more genetically similar to humans than anyone thought.

The plotting is taut but not too fast and the dramatic tension is perfectly tuned throughout. There is little actual gore and the language is mild (a few bloody hells, and that's about it). I have to say a bit about the author's command of dialogue driven plot. The dialogue is bloody brilliant. The characters live and breathe and I was not yanked out of the story one single time by any of the characters delivering a clunky bit of dialogue.  There were several encounters which actually really made me laugh.

I can certainly understand the comparisons to Aaronovitch's Rivers of London though to me they're very different books. I would say Kadrey's Sandman Slim series would be a nearer comparison, though I think if this series lives up to its potential, it'll edge Sandman Slim out of my top 5 urban fantasy favourite series. (and Kadrey's books have a lot more gore). It's probably worth noting for readers from North America, the slang and spelling and idiom are British English. It shouldn't be a problem, just remember fag = cigarette, torch = flashlight and you're good to go.

I am ashamed to admit that I missed the publication date on this book (I try very very hard not to do that) and it languished in my TBR/review pile for a lot longer than it should have. The only upside is that now I hopefully have a shorter wait to queue up for the next books in the series.

Five stars. Really well done.

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

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fatechanger

Fatechanger is a new timeslip novel for teens/YA/adults by L. M. Poplin. Released 30th May 2019 by Black Rose, it's 225 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a very well written and engaging book. I was previously unfamiliar with the author, but will definitely be on the lookout for future books. The narrative is clear and the voice is strong. The protagonist, Penn, is a likeable character with a strong sense of loyalty making the best of a difficult situation.  I loved the reveal halfway through the book about the world and her place in it.

Quite looking forward to continuing the story later.

Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This title is available in the KU subscription to borrow and download for free.

Five stars. Very enjoyable.

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

Rat Race

Rat Race is a mystery/thriller written around the horse racing community in Britain. Originally published in 1970, this reformat and re-release out 2nd May 2019 from Canelo is 170 pages and  available in ebook format (earlier editions available in other formats).

This is an enjoyable and fairly typical Dick Francis thriller. Former commercial pilot Matt Shore has been demoted to flying 'puddle jumper' commuter flights for racing personnel to the race days. On the return flight from the trip up, he makes an emergency landing just minutes before the plane explodes. The protagonist is a flawed good guy dealing with some tough breaks in his life (through no fault of his own). There's a light potential romantic subplot and the bad guys get their comeuppance in the end. Pure Francis. Still enjoyable for all that.

I love the author's oeuvre (even the ones supposedly ghost written by his wife and the ones his son helped finish). This was a very enjoyable short read for me. For non-fans or new fans, this is a standalone and if it's maybe not at the apex of his large body of work, it's certainly not near the nadir.

Four stars. It's really nice to see classic works by popular authors being released in ebook format for new generations of readers.

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

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Animal Habitats

Animal Habitats is a search and find activity book aimed at young people (and their caregivers).  Due out 27th Aug 2019 from Princeton Architectural Press, it's 32 pages and will be available in hardback format.

Each of the habitat sections (coral reef, desert, mountain, polar, rain forest, savannah, woodland) has an introductory basic info page with a short fact sidebar, silhouette papercut of different flora and fauna, color coded food chains for each biome, and other facts.

The information in the book is factually correct (as far as I could check) and the interrelationships of the plants and animals in each system are graphically interconnected. The paper-cutout monochromatic illustrations were an interesting choice, but provide a clear and easy to follow link between the species who produce food and which are predated in turn by higher level organisms.

The graphics in the early eARC I received for review purposes were pixelated, but this will clearly not be a problem in the physical copy of the book.

This would make a good support book for a classroom unit on different biomes, a homeschooling resource book, a fine library book, or a gift for a youngster.

Four stars (the graphics issues will not be a factor in the finished book).

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


The Art of Love

The Art of Love is an interesting look at how artistic endeavor and relations affect and define creative work. Author Kate Bryan uses short biographic backgrounds to give a glimpse into how (or if) the artists' art and lives intersected one another.

Due out 2nd July 2019 from Quarto on their White Lion imprint, it's 184 pages and will be available in ebook and hardcover formats.  It's unclear from the publishing info, but the eARC I received for review includes an interactive table of contents with direct links to each of the 34 couples included as well as a hyperlinked index. (Very handy).

There's an erudite well written introduction by the author which represents about 6% of the page content. She includes some of the philosophy behind her treatment of the subject, along with some very interesting observations about the interactions and dynamics of personal and professional interactions in artistic partnerships. How did they relate to one another, how they traversed the different levels of fame in their art, etc. Reading the foreword enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of the biographies. Each of the section headings is nicely illustrated by Asli Yazan. There are no interior photos with any of the included artists' works, but Yazan's line drawings represent some of the artists' works. I'm not sure how I feel about that, it might be almost imitative, on the other hand, there were several places I thought to myself  "Ah, that's who originally did this piece of artwork".

I was not familiar with all of the included artists, and there were some couples with whose work I was only familiar with one and not the other.  The couples in the book are all drawn from the last 140 years; starting with Camille Claudel&Auguste Rodin to the present day. The couples are a mixed bunch, from married heterosexual couples, gay men, gay women, and one passionate but unconsummated platonic relationship. There are artists represented from many different cultures and ethnicities.

This would make a good selection for art interested readers, fans of the included artists, and a good library book or gift.

Four stars.

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