Friday, January 21, 2022

The Essentials of Aroma: Olfactory, Flavor and Fragrance (All Natural Perfumery, # 2) Lancôme

59384098. sy475

The Essentials of Aroma is the second volume of perfumery information by Abigail Houston. Released 15th Dec 2021, it's 48 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

The author has compiled information about olfactory sense and function from a fair number of other sources, with source credits and links throughout and at the back of the book. This is much less a tutorial how-to than an overview over general information and philosophy of scent and function. This volume has a "foody" slant and includes some tips and tricks for combining odors which are associated with taste.

The blurb states that the author has included "40 plus blends to practice your skills". The blends listed for well known perfumes are just a list of the top, middle, and base notes of each perfume (which you can get from an online search) without any ingredients or ratios listed. The parfumiers listed are also an odd assortment. I can see including Chanel, Schiaparelli, and Lancôme, but am bemused by the authors inclusion of Axe Dark Temptation and Avon's Elite Gentleman Reserve into that lofty company. 

Nevertheless, this is a readable, accessible, and friendly overview. I could see it being a useful starting point for crafters who are interested in learning to recognize and blend scents. There are some odd inclusions and substitutions on the author's part, for example she suggests marjoram as a substitute for oakmoss (which is an allergen and generally not used in modern perfumery due to concerns about safety and sustainability), and only mentions ambergris once and orris root not at all.

Three and a half stars. There are quite a lot of good links included at the back of the book for further reading. Probably worth a look for KU subscribers.

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


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Hattie + Olaf


Hattie + Olaf  is an endearingly and warmly written tale of an 8 year old girl and an irascible donkey she gets instead of the horse she's been dreaming of. Originally published in Swedish in 2006, this English language translation was released 5th Oct 2021. It's 182 pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats.

This is the second English language translation book featuring Frida Nilsson's mischievous and rebellious 8 year old, Hattie. She begs for a horse and winds up with grumpy Olaf, a broken down maltreated donkey with a fearful and angry attitude instead. She finds it impossible to tell the truth to her classmates and her fabrications become more and more fantastic as the days pass. Inevitably, it all comes crashing down and Hattie has to try to clean up the mess. 

The book deals with quite a number of somber issues and has central plot themes revolving around bullying, friendship, family, death, relationships, trust, and the meaning of home. The book is set in Sweden and the relationships and settings in the book are very much Scandinavian in flavor. English language readers will probably find it curious that catechism is taught in secular schools, leading up to confirmation around age 15. This is normal for Scandinavia and is still the standard, however now the focus is comparative religion and students learn about other faiths and beliefs, not just Lutheranism (and not just with the intention to lead to confirmation at age 15). There's also mention of snuff use which was rampant among young people of both sexes in Scandinavia.

The simple pen and ink drawings by Stina Wirsén are whimsical and fluid, and add a lot to the story. The book is generously illustrated and there are numerous small drawings throughout. Despite being very simply rendered, many of them are full of small subtle details which invite a closer look. 

Four stars. This is a well done young reader chapter book and would make a good choice for public or school library acquisition, gift giving, school reading circle, or home library use.

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

The Riverwoman's Dragon (Owen Archer #13)

57895068

The Riverwoman's Dragon is a beautifully written medieval historical mystery and the 13th book in the Owen Archer series by Candace Robb. Released 2nd Nov 2021 by Severn House, it's 256 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats (paperback due out in June 2022).  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. 

I'm always impressed by well constructed technically adept mysteries. They're well constructed puzzles and it's definitely not a trivial exercise to fasten all the disparate pieces together into a cohesive working whole. Adding another layer of complexity to the task is setting the mystery and resolution in a historical setting. Eagle eyed readers are guaranteed to notice any mistakes, however minor. 

This is a mystery series which is consistently solid; quite well written and with a protagonist who is intelligent (but not TOO intelligent) and compassionate (but not TOO soppy). The dialogue is believable, but not incomprehensible given the time period, and the plot is woven around a framework of real historical events so skillfully that it's not always apparent what's fiction and what is real history.

This will be a good choice for library acquisition, and for fans of medieval historical mysteries. The writing and plotting are superlative and fans of mystery in general will find a lot to like here.

Five stars. Very strong series. This book works as a standalone, but I recommend the series as a whole.

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

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Robert B. Parker's Bye Bye Baby (Spenser #49)

57238524

Robert B. Parker's Bye Bye Baby is the 49th Spenser novel, and the 10th (by my count) written by Ace Atkins after Mr. Parker's death. Released 18th Jan 2022 by Penguin Random House on their G.P. Putnam's Sons imprint, it's 320 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

I've been in love with this series since book 1 (The Godwulf Manuscript) and I was really sad when the author passed, thinking that I would have to confine myself to re-reads to get my Spenser/Hawk fix. I was nervous about someone else taking over the writing, but have been really impressed and happy with all the newest books in the series. This has been a pillar series for me, especially in the last couple of years of madness with the pandemic and all of the misery and unhappiness and stress in the world, this series has been a treasured escape.

I have been revisiting the original books (by Parker himself) as well as the posthumous books and they keep growing on me. I love the banter and the way the established characters really live and breathe. Yes, they're popular fiction, but I'll stand up in any graduate English lecture class and rebut the sneering label "light popular fiction" with the fact that they're really superbly well written. They go to the same shelf in the internal library in my brain as John D. MacDonald and Rex Stout - popular fiction, yes, but also satisfyingly rendered and worthwhile.

It's a solidly written PI murder mystery with an indelible American flavor. Boston's local atmosphere and settings are a vital part of the book. I love Spenser's relationship with Susan (smart, funny, capable, and real) and the interplay between Spenser and his compatriots. I loved the sarcastic wit and real humor and repartee in the dialogue. I'm obviously a solid fan of this series, and my opinion wasn't dented one tiny bit by this latest adventure. Ace Atkins isn't Robert B. Parker, but he's pretty darned close. 

Five stars for fans of the series. Probably four to five for new readers who enjoy gritty American PI adventures. For readers unfamiliar with the series, grab them as you can find them. They all work perfectly well as standalones.

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

Savory Dinner Pies: More than 80 Delicious Recipes from Around the World

57941284. sx318

Savory Dinner Pies is a well written and appealing collection of one-dish savory pies by Ken Haedrich. Released 18th Jan 2022 by Quarto on their Harvard Common Press imprint, it's a comprehensive 224 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

I loved this book's layout and the spare well written no-nonsense text. The author is *very* competent, he knows what he's doing, and he is generous enough to want to share that experience with the world. The entire book felt to me like a worthwhile and rewarding masterclass. The introduction contains the nuts and bolts of techniques, equipment, and ingredients. Whilst the author presupposes no previous knowledge on the reader's part, it will be useful to know one's way around a kitchen. (But if not, no despair, a keen beginner could follow the recipes here and achieve good results). 

The following chapters contain the recipes, arranged roughly thematically: pie doughs & pastries, hand pies turnovers & pizza, little pies tarts & galettes, quiches & their cousins, pot pies (MUCH love to this chapter), shepherd's pie & other meat pies, and cobblers streudels & wrapped entrees. The recipes are inspired by world cuisine and their origins are delicious and diverse.  

The recipes have their ingredients listed bullet style in a sidebar. Measurements are given in US standard only; there's an abbreviated conversion chart in the back of the book. Special tools and ingredients are also listed, along with yields and cooking directions.  Most of the ingredients are easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store. Special dietary needs recipes are blended in without specific commentary (there aren't a lot of vegan friendly recipes included, for example). Nutritional information is not included.

It's beautifully illustrated throughout with color photos. Serving suggestions are attractive and appetizing. I'm a visual learner, especially with cooking, and having the photos really helped me. The food styling is very well done. 

Five stars. It is, admittedly, a niche cookbook, but the recipes are so varied and so tasty that this would be a great choice for library acquisition, or for "everyday" cooks looking for some variation on meat & potatoes.  

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

The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries (Bad-Ass Faeries)

34197263

The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries is a well curated collection from the Bad-Ass Faeries collection curated and edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Released in 2017, it's 326 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

One reason I prefer collections and anthologies is that short fiction is really challenging.  It's spare and authors don't have a wealth of wordage to develop characters or plotting.  Well written short fiction is a delight. I also love collections because if one story doesn't really grab me, there's another story just a few pages away. This is a varied bunch of well written faerie-fiction. It's unapologetically gritty and Tinkerbell's nowhere to be found. The stories (as with all anthologies) are a mixed bunch. There are westerns, mysteries, time travel, and always always badass faeries doing faerie stuff. I sincerely enjoyed this collection and a couple of the stories surprised a chuckle out of me and at the end of the day, that's worth the price of admission.

There are 20 stories here by my count: 5 from each previously released anthology, and they're all quite entertaining. A couple of them are sublime. I intend to acquire some of the new-to-me authors' longer fiction for comparison.

Four stars. It's a solid collection. 

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

Monday, January 17, 2022

Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control

57941274. sx318

Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden is an accessible and logical guide to natural pest control for gardeners written by Jessica Walliser. Due out 1st Feb 2022 from Quarto on their Cool Springs Press imprint, it's 208 pages and will be available in paperback format.

This is the second/revised edition of the book which was first published in 2013. I don't own a copy of the first edition for comparison, so the review covers only the second. The layout is inviting and logically arranged. The introduction covers the basics of entomology and concepts: what are beneficial insects, how they work and what they eat (harmful bugs, mostly). The intro is followed by a bestiary with some of the most common groups of insectivorous and parasitoid bugs. 

The book is lavishly illustrated with clear color photos throughout. The photos show featured insects in various life stages including eggs, pupa, and adults which make identification easier. Tips and extra info is included in highlighted text boxes throughout. Photo captions are well written and easy to understand. The chapter on useful plants for native pollinators and parasitoids has been written with a good eye toward garden design and diversity. There are a lot of plants which are beautiful and useful and which people will want to plant in their gardens (instead of hiding the weedy looking ones). There's a lot of info about companion planting and I was interested to see that the author covers purchasable controls and predator species.

There's an abbreviated resource and links list in the back of the book which is mostly slanted toward readers in the USA but will also provide relevant info for readers living in other parts of the world. The book also includes a cross referenced index.

No single book is going to be the holy grail of gardening information; this one does a good job of deep diving into an important (and often overlooked) aspect of natural controls and organic methods. 

Five stars. This would make a good selection for public or school library acquisition, makers groups, gardening and activity groups, home and community gardeners, smallholders, and the like. 

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

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Seven Games: A Human History

58085257

Seven Games: A Human History is an engaging history of human development through our (probably) unique ability to enjoy games (not just play) capably examined by Dr. Oliver Roeder. Due out 25th Jan 2022 from W. W. Norton, it's 320 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

I've long been interested in games, gaming, history, psychology, and I'm a professional bionerd in my day job. This book really does represent the confluence of all those interests and is like some sort of Venn diagram bullseye for me. I was fascinated from the first chapter. That being said, the author writes very accessibly and well and this is a book for laypeople interested in games and how they have shaped and sometimes defined human history.

There are plenty of anecdotal stories relayed here: a devoutly religious mathematician who dominated at checkers for decades (with a mysterious Fisher-esque abrupt hiatus in the middle), computer programs and the theorists behind them, a Kiwi ascetic hermit who lives in Malaysia and who, after memorizing the French dictionary, won the French national scrabble championship without the benefit of speaking French. Dr. Roeder relays these stories (and more) with wit and warmth and I really enjoyed reading this book. 

The unabridged audiobook version has a run time of 9 hours and 11 minutes and is capably narrated by William Sarris. He has a warm and nuanced voice with a non-intrusive (midwestern?) accent which is perfect for this nonfiction selection. The sound and recording quality and production values are high throughout the recording.

This is an interesting book, full of fun and engaging trivia and actual history and would be a good selection for public or school library acquisition, gift giving, or for games-interested general readers. No previous mathematics knowledge required and no "heavy lifting" involved.

Five stars.

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

 

Judge Dredd: Blaze of Glory

58438201

Judge Dredd: Blaze of Glory is a well curated collection of Al Ewing Judge Dredd stories from 2000AD, Judge Dredd, and the 2000AD special, between 2008 and 2020. This collection, due out 1st March 2022 from Rebellion, is 148 pages and will be available in paperback format. The info provided with the early ARC for review is scant on format info, but many of the other Rebellion/2000AD collaborations are available in paperback graphic novel -and- ebook format, so this could be one of them which will be available as an ebook/comiXology format release. 

Al Ewing is one of the few writers who consistently hits the right mix of absurd black sarcastic humour and biting social commentary along with a healthy dash of over the top (gratuitous) violence. This makes him an absolute perfect matchup for JD, and this collection is pretty darned good. 

The artists in this collection weren't all familiar to me previously, but they're all top shelf and there were no stories which were badly illustrated. The book also includes a bonus gallery with a few bonus pages.

The stories are varied, there were (as always) some which didn't grab me personally, but all were well written and competently plotted. They were mostly in the 4+ star range(ish) with a couple of really standout stories. 

This is a good choice for fans of 2000AD and/or JD who don't have all the stories in other formats. For readers unfamiliar with the franchise, it's *full* of extremely graphic violence and sexual content (usually in combination with irreverent, and occasionally profane humour). 

Four and a half stars. NSFW.  

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

Mystery at the Church (Eve Mallow Mystery #6)

57579425. sy475

Mystery at the Church is the 6th book in the Eve Mallow village cozy series by Clare Chase. Released 4th Aug 2021, it's 265 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library (along with the rest of the series) to borrow and read for free.

This is a technically adept and well written book. The characters are distinct enough to keep them clear in readers' minds, and the dialogue flows fairly well. There's maybe a trifle too much emphasis on hearsay and gossip (and many of the central characters are middle aged and female and a trifle trope-y), but it's not egregious and I didn't find myself being irritated over it whilst reading. Main protagonist Eve's love/hate relationship with the local constabulary, and her secret relationship with a former detective who is lying low in the district for his own protection after a high profile case in London, add some interest and conflict. The book is peppered with actors and amateur dramatics characters who provide eccentric and light drama.

There were several seemingly disparate plot threads which intertwined into a satisfying denouement and resolution. Despite being the sixth book in the series, it worked well enough as a standalone, though there are some minor spoilers for earlier books if read out of order. I was engaged enough with the writing and the mystery, that I intend to pick up the previous books in the series. This would be a good one for readers who enjoy binge-reading series.

Four stars. This is definitely one for British village cozy readers. Very well written and constructed. Clean language and mostly off-page violence. 

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

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Lost Stories Collection (Lost Stories from the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1-9)

57005212

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel is a collection of 9 short stories in the same universe and with the same/adjunct characters as Michel Scott's main series which begins with The Alchemyst, The Magician, etc. Released 2nd Nov 2021 by Penguin Random House on their Delacorte imprint, it's 512 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. 

These are engaging grand stories, beautifully written. For fans of the main series, these stories are side trips, with more thorough explorations into the background of many of the characters who are secondary in the books (Aiofe, Scathach, Billy the Kid, Machiavelli, and Virginia Dare). This collection induced a deep and heartfelt "aaaah" from me because I found myself in the novels really -wanting- to know more about them, and this collection does just that. 

The author has a rare gift with characterization and descriptive prose and all of the stories flow very well. Ostensibly marketed as YA, fans of speculative fiction will be enthralled whatever their age. I'd recommend that readers be at the higher age end of YA; there's some fairly hefty action contained here which might not be entirely appropriate for younger readers. Nothing egregious, but a couple descriptions scared my socks off. 

Top shelf fiction, wonderfully written and transporting. For readers who only know the name Nicholas Flamel from Harry Potter - this is not even tangentially related. For readers who seek out this collection because of Scott's main series, you're in for a treat. I also loved the generous length of these stories. The author isn't afraid to give them the length and development they need. A couple of the stories could probably be more precisely described as novella length. 

Five stars. I can only think of a couple times I've rated story collections or anthologies 5 stars, and this collection richly deserves the distinction.

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Grow More Food: A Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Getting the Biggest Harvest Possible from a Space of Any Size

56271412

Grow More Food is a tutorial and technique guide to maximizing yields for vegetable gardeners no matter what size garden they have. Due out 1st Feb 2022 from Storey, it's 304 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is such a well written and understandable guide to choosing the right varieties, planning for the seasons, succession plantings, and most of all maximizing production. The layout is logical and easy to follow and so much of what the authors say is so sensible. The chapters cover planning and record keeping, soil building, choosing the right varieties for the intended purpose (including a good subsection on hand pollination for max yields), setup propagation & irrigation, season extenders & storage.

The authors write knowledgeably and authoritatively. The chapters flow well into one another and I found it unnecessary to constantly flip back and forth, which was appreciated. The book is beautifully illustrated and photographed throughout. This book is full of lists, charts, worksheets, and notes for readers to customize and use in their unique situations. The authors do a good job of giving general advice which readers can pick and adjust. They've included a brief but useful resource list (aimed at readers in the USA/North America, but also usable by readers outside NA), as well as a short metric conversion chart and cross referenced index (not available in the pre-release ARC provided for review). 

Five stars. This is a solidly reliable and beautiful guide which will certainly become a classic. I would recommend this one for public and school library acquisition, gardening and maker's groups, community garden/allotment libraries, or possibly as a nice gift for a young gardener bundled with some seeds and supplies and the promise of a few hours of help/mentoring. Many of the worksheets and charts will also be useful for smallholders and self-sufficiency gardeners.

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

Tiny Space Gardening: Growing Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs in Small Outdoor Spaces (with Recipes)

57927117. sx318

Tiny Space Gardening is a tutorial and planning guide to gardening in small spaces by Amy Pennington. Due out 1st March 2022 from Sasquatch Books, it's 208 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This book is full of creative ideas for maximizing space and light access along with highlighting creative ways to grow food, flowers, and herbs in very small (urban) spaces. The book's presentation is full of fun and serious at the same time in an honest intention to help readers become even a little more self sufficient and food secure. 

The layout is accessible and easy to read. The introduction and basic info chapters presuppose zero forehand knowledge and concepts, containers, planning, what to grow, and how to grow it, are all covered well and understandably. The book is not abundantly illustrated (for example, in the seed starting and propagation chapter there are no photos except for the chapter facing). The photos which are included are in color and clear, however.

The author has also included a useful abbreviated resource list for more info, a short gardener's glossary, as well as an index. There are a number of recipes included which are tasty and utilize the harvest from readers' gardens. I feel that the book suffers a bit by trying to be everything-in-one, with recipes, basic gardening advice, troubleshooting tips, container gardening, vegetable herbs & flower advice, etc etc. It doesn't manage to cover much in depth, but it is very broad in scope. That being said, the thyme roasted chicken with charred onions was absolutely delicious and worth a try.

I would recommend this one for public and school library acquisition, gardening and maker's groups, community garden/allotment libraries, or possibly as a nice gift for a young gardener bundled with some seeds and supplies and the promise of a few hours of help/mentoring.

Four stars.

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

Monday, January 10, 2022

There Is Life After the Nobel Prize

 58080179

There Is Life After the Nobel Prize are some of the ideas and intellectual ruminations of Nobel laureate Dr. Eric R. Kandel. Released 7th Dec 2021 by Columbia University Press, it's 112 pages and is available in paperback format. 

It's widely said that scientists don't produce much after they've been awarded the Nobel and this is Dr. Kandel's rebuttal. It's an accessible and interesting collection of short essays on various subjects in and around neurology and brain biology and he delivers salient points with a surprising amount of wit and warmth. 

It's a short read, only 112 pages and the chapter notes and references alone are likely worth the price of admission just for the hours of further reading they will provide. I was quite surprised how much I understood, and how well he explains the complex concepts. He's an engaging writer and I can well imagine that he's the rarest of birds, a truly gifted mind with a facility for teaching, and a willingness to do so. 

Four stars. 

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

Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Changed the Science of Prehistoric Life

55959451

Fossil Hunter is a beautifully illustrated and well written biography of Mary Anning for young readers written by Cheryl Blackford. Due out 25th Jan 2022 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on their Clarion Books imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

I love children's nonfiction. This is a well written, factually based biography aimed at younger readers (~7-10 years of age) which manages to provide a kid-friendly version of Anning's often frustrating and impoverished life. She was rejected by the scientific establishment at the same time they were acknowledging her as an expert in her field. The book gleefully provides the information that she correctly identified coprolites as fossilized feces as well as identifying many other fosselized remains including early cephalopods (squids).

The text is age appropriate and engaging. The art by Ellen Duda is beautifully rendered and supports the text very well. This is definitely a book which would grab the interest of most kids. I found it interesting and learned quite a lot of information of which I was previously unaware.

The book includes a glossary, abbreviated chapter notes, some resources for viewing some of Anning's fossils in collections, a solid bibliography for further reading, and a cross referenced index (not included in the ARC provided for review).

Five stars. This would make a great selection for a classroom or public library, as well as a child's home library or gift.

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

The Art of Betrayal (Kate Hamilton Mysteries #3)

55405972

The Art of Betrayal is the third Kate Hamilton village cozy by Connie Berry. Released 8th June 2021 by Crooked Lane Books, it's 336 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

Readers who enjoy British village cozy murder shopfront mysteries are in for a treat with this series. Series protagonist Kate is an American expat antiques expert who involved with local Detective Inspector Tom Mallory. She's just trying to enjoy her month long trip to England to help out in the high end antiques store of her friend Ivor whilst he's recovering from surgery, (and enjoy Tom's company) but bodies simply won't stop turning up. 

I liked the characterizations here; the characters live and breathe and the dialogue was never clunky. There were several seemingly disparate plot threads which intertwined into a satisfying denouement and resolution. Despite being the third book in the series, it worked well as a standalone, though there are some minor spoilers for earlier books if read out of order. I was engaged enough with the writing and the mystery, that I've picked up the previous two books in the series. 

Four stars. This is definitely one for British village cozy readers. Very well written and constructed. Clean language and mostly off-page violence (though the first murder was fairly gory). 

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

Everything Cute Cuddly: Learn to draw using basic shapes--step by step!

 57653437

 

I Can Draw! Everything Cute & Cuddly is a delightfully useful line drawing activity book for youngsters. Due out 8th Feb 2022 from Quarto on their Walter Foster Jr imprint, it's 32 pages and will be available in paperback format.

The drawings are encouragingly simple and the step by step tutorials are accessible and easy to follow and replicate. Each of the 15 drawings has a tutorial series with steps to follow and some simple tips for adding color. All of the tutorials included are popular and fun. They're all cute and recognizable and it will be easy for anyone to follow. The subjects include a plush bunny, unicorn, koala, yeti, robot, kitten, snowman and several others. This book is part of a series with lots of how-to books with the same format.

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 (and managed to recreate a credible robot myself - very very cute (but not really cuddly)).

Five stars. This is a fun activity book and will provide hours of quiet play.

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

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Urban Sketching Handbook Understanding Light: Portraying Light Effects in On-Location Drawing and Painting

 57355900

The Urban Sketching Handbook Understanding Light is a volume in the Urban Sketching Handbook series, this volume on light treatments and techniques by Katie Woodward. Released 28th Dec 2021 by Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 112 pages and is available in flexibound paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a well written, accessible, and useful book for intermediate to advanced artists who are looking for guidance to improve their technique, especially with regard to painting light and reflection. The book begins with a very short introduction. Specific tools and very basic techniques are not covered, but can certainly be found easily elsewhere. The author instead concentrates on six key concepts in depth: value, color, skies & atmosphere, reflections, foliage, and night scenes. Each chapter contains multiple examples by several different artists to illustrate key points. There are checklists to prompt students to better observations and technique development.

The author's entire process is well documented with photo and drawn illustrations. The book also contains a useful tutorial and tips collection in highlighted text boxes as well as a resource list and artists' links for artists whose work is featured in the book. There is a short list of challenge/learning prompts also: sketch a body of water, sketch a shiny object, sketch backlit translucent bottles, and others which will provide students with many hours of enrichment practice.  

Five stars. Definitely a worthwhile addition to the artist's reference library.  This would also be a superlative selection for public and school library acquisition, classroom instruction, and group studio use.

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

Favorite Pets: Learn to draw using basic shapes--step by step!

57653435

I Can Draw! Favorite pets is a delightfully useful line drawing activity book for youngsters. Due out 8th Feb 2022 from Quarto on their Walter Foster Jr imprint, it's 32 pages and will be available in paperback format.

The drawings are encouragingly simple and the step by step tutorials are accessible and easy to follow and replicate. Each of the 15 drawings has a tutorial series with steps to follow and some simple tips for adding color. All of the pets included in the tutorials are popular and well known and happily some are outside the ordinary cats and dogs (though they're included too of course). There are tutorials for fish, frogs, and ferrets, and they're all delightful.They're all cute and recognizable and it will be easy for anyone to follow. This book is part of a series with lots of how-to books with similar formats.

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 (and managed to recreate a credible bulldog myself).

Five stars. This is a fun activity book and will provide hours of quiet play.

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

 

Sticker

57335346

Sticker is a collection of short vignettes and reminiscences by Henry Hoke of growing up in Charlottesville Va in the 90s related through the lens of 20 different stickers. Due out 13th Jan 2022 from Bloomsbury Academic, it's 164 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is one of a series of books on everyday items called "Object Lessons" which team writers' observations and experiences with material foci: stickers, bookshelves, bulletproof vest, traffic, TVs, and trees to give a few examples. 

There were some a-ha moments in the course of reading. I was previously unaware where Mr. Hoke grew up (Charlottesville) and he ties in the recent infamy and cultural upheaval through his own observations and the responses he's garnered from folks who find out that he's from Charlottesville. He's arranged the responses chronologically from 1998-2018 with grim results. 

I have enjoyed a number of the books in this series. It's erudite and thought provoking. This one was a worthwhile addition. 

Four stars.

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