Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Creature Garden: An Illustrator's Guide to Beautiful Beasts & Fictional Fauna

The Creature Garden: An Illustrator's Guide to Beautiful Beasts & Fictional Fauna is a tutorial art book from husband & wife team Zanna and Harry Goldhawk. Published by Quarto - Rock Point with a release date of 29 May, 2018, it's full colour 120 pages and available in hardbound format.

One thing that struck me straightaway about the book is its exuberance.  Both prose and illustrations are humour filled and supportive, encouraging shy artists to try different techniques and challenge the way they see things in order to improve their art.

The authors also show different basic techniques and materials for following their tutorials (including digital painting).  The emphasis is on not following the lessons slavishly but finding methods which work for the individual.  I also really loved that Zanna (who apparently wrote the text) talks honestly and encouragingly about her own learning process and growth as an artist.

The book starts by introducing materials and techniques and the different effects they can produce. The intro and tutorial chapters take up about 8% of the page content.

The lion's share of the book (~85%) is taken up with the illustrated drawing pages and tutorials for specific animals.  I like that a lot of them are painted in gouache/chalk on a black background.  The contrast makes it easier to see the techniques and provides a good counterpoint to the pages done in  colour on a white background.  There's even a comprehensive chapter for fantastic creatures including mermaids, griffons, dragons, hippogriffs and pegasi.

There are also detailed botanical drawings throughout the book to provide scale and setting to the animal drawings.  Toward the back of the book, botanical and plant subjects get their own chapter with a good explanation selecting and drawing plants to provide mood and environmental context. 

Really lively and fun book, accessible and encouragingly written. Four stars.

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

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2)

The Girl in the Tower is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden. Published by Random House - Ballantine in ebook, hardback and paperbound formats, it was released 5th December, 2017.

I had devoured the first book in the series, The Bear and the Nightingale, and looked forward to the next book(s).  This one certainly lived up to the promise of the first book.  The author's facility with plotting and characterization are flawless.  The prose is ethereal and powerful at the same time.  These books have a sense of timelessness and almost dreamlike fairy-tale feeling. I loved the gravitas with occasional glimpses of Puckishness of ageless Morozko and especially the interactions between them and between Solovey and Vasya. I also LOVED it that Vasya is strong and brave (and it sometimes costs her dearly).  She is honorable and kind and a wonderful role model.  

There is an aching beauty in the writing and the book was just a completely enchanting read from first to last. I could not imagine enjoying it more.

Five stars, wonderful wonderful book.  Can't wait for the third book, The Winter of the Witch, due out in 2019.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Somebody at the Door

Somebody at the Door is a re-release of a 1943 mystery by golden age classic author Raymond Postgate. Published in the new reformatted edition by Poisoned Pen press 5th December, 2017, it's available in ebook and paperback formats.

I've really enjoyed all of the British Library Crime Classics I've read, and this one is no exception.  The characters are well written and though the dialogue does show its age somewhat (it's almost 75 years old), it suits its period perfectly well.  The plotting is a bit uneven in places and I found my interest wandering a little bit occasionally.  There was copious backstory provided for each of the suspects and I was never entirely sure it was necessary.  On the other hand, there's a lot of pleasure in golden age mystery which develops slowly to a satisfying denouement. 

I read this book immediately after Postgate's earlier book also in the crime classics series, Verdict of Twelve, and for me, at least, it suffers technically by comparison to the earlier work.  The writing in Somebody at the Door is good, but Verdict of Twelve was masterful. 

There is light cursing ('damn' and a few 'bloody' type curses), but nothing to dismay or offend the average reader.  There is also one scene with a description of a female breast, but nothing to scandalize there, either.

Worth a read.  I really enjoyed it.  It's rare to find a good solid standalone these days, and that's a shame.  I'm finding it more and more necessary to go back to the classics for standalone mystery entertainment. 

Four and a half stars.

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mood Indigo

This is a new (fictional) mystery featuring Edna Ferber and Noel Coward set in depression era New York. Written by Ed Ifkovic and published by Poisoned Pen Press, it's 264 pages and available in ebook, hardcover and paperback formats.

I had some trepidation going into this book.  Writing even fictionalized versions of Edna Ferber and Noel Coward takes some serious chutzpah.  They were known for being sharply intelligently witty.  Ferber was a long-time member of the Algonquin Round Table... I needn't have worried.  The dialogue is very well written and stylish.  The plotting is engaging and well paced.  If some of the plot twists are telegraphed, it doesn't detract from the beautiful writing and meticulous period research.  The descriptions (and there are many) of depression era heartbreak and weariness are starkly written and compelling.

To me, the actual mystery was secondary to the writing and descriptions.  I read this one as a standalone and was impressed enough to go back and hunt down the earlier books in the series.  I really hope he continues with Edna and Noël, this was a very good book.  There are a bunch of books with real historical people fictionalized into amateur sleuths (including royals, criminals and other literary figures), and this is a very good one.

Five stars

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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The God Game

The God Game is Jeffrey Round's 5th mystery featuring Canadian P.I. Dan Sharp.  This series is a little more gritty and modern than the bulk of the series I read and review, but the Dan Sharp books are consistent winners and great reads, so I make an exception. 

I have enjoyed the characters' development over the course of the series and the author has a deft hand with foreshadowing and planning.  In the forward, Jeffrey Round says that as he wrote the book, he feared it would be too over the top and unbelievable but that as time went on, the political landscape in the USA and Canada made it more of a realistically cautionary tale than pure fiction. 

Although the book is brutal and gritty in places, the violence is never gratuitous and always serves to move the plot along and provide a counterpoint to the more personal and emotional side of the narrative.

It's a fairly substantial (335 page) book and is very well written.  It could definitely be read as a standalone, all the necessary background info is provided without feeling forced or unnatural. Published by Dundurn and released on Feb, 2018 in ebook and paperback formats.

Four stars, I think this one is my favorite in the series thus far.

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

How to Grow Mushrooms from Scratch: A Practical Guide to Cultivating Portobellos, Shiitakes, Truffles, and Other Edible Mushrooms

How to Grow Mushrooms from Scratch is a new look at a niche gardening topic which has become more popular recently.  I am a huge fan of sustainability and local production and consumption of foods and goods.  I remember when I was a kid, my dad ordered a 'grow your own mushroom' kit with a glass vial of spawn and some compost and a transparent plastic box.  This must have been 40+ years ago. 

I remember we got a couple of decent flushes of button mushrooms which we chopped up and almost ceremonially topped our Saturday night pizzas for a few weeks. :)
This is not your dad's mushroom growing book and boy, things have changed in the past 40 years with regard to techniques and availability of products for mushroom growing and use.

Authors Magdalena & Herbert Wurth have teamed up with The Experiment publishing to present this 144 page book, available in ebook and hardback and expected to be released 4th September, 2018.

This is an English language translation and re-release in the US from the original German Pilze selbst anbauen from Löwenzahn in der Studienverlag published in 2015.  The book is very well written and practical, easy to understand and if English isn't their first language, they're certainly 100% fluent and the book does not suffer from that fact.  The translator did a good job of making the translation seamless.

It's a short book, but very well illustrated and packed full of information.  The information presented is mycologically/botanically correct and accessible to laypeople.  There's a fine line with technical how to books and this one does a great job of presenting 'enough but not TOO much' info.

The book starts with an introduction of the authors' backgrounds and a presentation of what fungi are and what the life cycle of a typical fungus involves. The text is accompanied by clear line drawings and color photos.

The book continues with an explanation of the methods and cultural requirements for raising and safely harvesting several types of edible fungi along with very good color photos of the authors' setups and methodology.

The book presents several different options for cultivation including outdoor, indoor and woodland/wild cultivation.  Each of these environments presents challenges and benefits and the authors explain them clearly.

There is also a small chapter dedicated to introducing methods of propagation aimed at experimenters, folks with more advanced enthusiasm or experience and the die-hard hands on garden fans.

Following the culture part of the book (roughly 75% of the content by my count), there's an interesting chapter on the uses of mushroom for medicine and culinary applications. There are many appealing recipes with mouthwatering pictures.

Finally there's a short chapter about the marketing potential for farming and selling fresh mushrooms.

The book also includes  appendices, sources, bibliography and a fairly comprehensive recommended reading list and closes with an index.

Really well done, and I've read and reviewed a 'crop' of mycology books lately. This is a very good one.

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

Murder at Half Moon Gate (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery #2)

Murder at Half Moon Gate is the second mystery featuring Wrexford & Sloane. Written by Andrea Penrose, published by Kensington books, it was released 27 March, 2018.  This is a well written and researched Regency era mystery featuring an unlikely partnership between a nobleman and a widow who is secretly carrying on her late husband's career as a political satirist.

The mystery itself is well paced and plotted with fleshed out characters. There is a lot of chemistry built up between the two titular characters and I appreciated that the author resisted the impulse to just fling them together romantically.

I enjoyed reading this book, and have since gone back to read the first book in the series as well.  It would definitely appeal to fans of Kate Ross' Julian Kestrel, Barbara Hambly's Dr. Benjamin January (though he's American), or C.S. Ross' Sebastian St. Cyr. This series can stand shoulder to shoulder with those series quite well.

Enjoyable read. 

Four stars.

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

200 Embroidered Flowers: Hand Embroidery Stitches and Projects for Flowers, Leaves and Foliage

200 Embroidered Flowers is a lushly illustrated freehand surface embroidery tutorial book from first time author Kristen Gula, published by F+W Media and due out 5th June, 2018.

Aimed at beginners, she spends a fair bit of time introducing materials and includes a good basic compilation of stitches with photos and descriptions.  Roughly 14% of the page content is devoted to thoroughly explaining the basics and techniques as well as material selection.

The majority of the content is devoted to the individual flowers, ~60%.  The sections are arranged by seasons and further subdivided into flowers and foliage sections.   Each of the individual entries is accompanied by a basic pattern line drawing, suggested colors and stitches, and a picture of the potential finished project.

It's a very systematic and organized book and fun to look at.

The individual flowers and plants are followed by suggested projects, including some surface embroidered clothing (jeans, blouse, hat), a nifty canvas tote,  and some really appealing and colorful espadrilles.

The author's style is chatty and encouraging and very informal.  I also really liked it that many of the individual flower entries included botanically accurate names for further research and reference photo hunting.

The book ends with a short author bio and artist statement, along with a no-nonsense basic index.

Very good, very basic, very appealing, embroidery book.  144 pages, ebook and softbound formats.

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

The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger

The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger is the second book in the Dr. Ribero series by author Lucy Banks.  Published by Amberjack publishing and released 6 February, 2018, the series is a NA paranormal mystery.  This entry clocks in at an impressive 328 pages and is available in ebook and paperback formats.

There's a popular sub-genre of paranormal mysteries these days which rely on snappy and sarcastic dialogue and ensemble casts.  I can think of a half dozen off the top of my head: The Laundry Files, Bryant & May, Peter Grant, Sandman Slim, Dr. Siri Paiboun, The Garrett Files, and there are so many more.  It's a sub-genre of which I'm very fond.  I was excited to find this example on NetGalley and requested it at once, despite not having read the first book in the series.

Dr. Ribero's Agency is a group of paranormal investigators who deal with hauntings, paranormal activity and other crises which fall outside the purview of normal government agencies.  They're about as low budget and ragtag as it's possible to imagine and largely hapless into the bargain.  Under normal circumstances, the 'underdog' vibe is a good comedic plot device, but in this particular case I found it more sad and annoying than funny.  

The characters (lead protagonist Kester included, unfortunately) are universally whiny, irritating and crude.  There are more jokes about bodily functions in this book than I really wanted to count.  There's so much mean sniping and crankiness in this book between the characters (who seem to act like 6 year olds with critically low blood sugar than functional adults) that I just found it exhausting.
My other disgruntlement with the book comes from the 2 dimensional cardboard cutout character stereotypes: the chubby nerd, the b*tchy barbie, the dark inscrutable Russian, the passionate oily Argentinian, the stern schoolmistress-y spinster with a heart of gold, the flakey new-age hippie, the androgynous cowgirl (?!).  The author manages to hit almost all, racial, ethnic and physical.  

Given the incredibly enthusiastic reviews this book has gotten (4.1 Goodreads average) my experience of the book seems to be in the minority.  Your experience will likely vary from mine.

The book does read quite well as a standalone entry.  I had no trouble following the plot at all or keeping the characters straight.  It would probably be a good light read, undemanding and somewhat humorous.

Two and a half stars.

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

Friday, May 25, 2018

Real Quanta: Simplifying Quantum Physics for Einstein and Bohr

Real Quanta: Simplifying Quantum Physics for Einstein and Bohr is a translation and re-release of the original 2015 Dutch edition: Echt quantum by Martijn van Calmthout. Translated and released in English by Tessera translations and published by Dundurn press, it clocks in at 192 pages and is available in ebook and paperback formats.

There were a lot of things to like about this book.  It's a physics book aimed firmly at laymen, not physicists. There's a lot of history and background here and the author has a deft hand at making potentially dry history both interesting and relevant. There are many many quotes and anecdotes from Richard Feynman (and other physicists and learned folks) and that's wonderful.  I liked the author's take on the fantasy conversation which could happen if you could listen in on Bohr and Einstein chatting at lunch with updated information which hadn't been discovered when they were alive.
There are quaintly appealing line drawings and chapter headers by Wietse Bakker

That being said, this book is clearly translated and the English version is somewhat awkward in places.  It's not overpoweringly annoying or unreadable by any stretch of the imagination, but it is noticeable. Additionally, science books aimed at laymen often have a tough job being 'enough but not too much'.  I found myself wanting somewhat more concrete information out of this book.  Deciding what to include is a necessarily difficult and limiting job for any technical author and I think he did a good job, I just personally found myself wanting more.  I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in science and especially science history.

Enjoyable and easy to read in translation.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Bats in the Belfry

Bats in the Belfry is a re-release of a classic golden age mystery by E.C.R. Lorac published in the British Library Crime Classics series by Poisoned Pen Press.

I must admit I was unfamiliar with this gem of an author going into this book.  I had taken a chance on poisoned pen titles before and I hadn't got a 'stinker' yet in the crime classics series, so I requested it and I'm so glad I did.

For fans of classic British golden age mysteries this one has it all.  The characters are charming and well written with a touch of wry humour.  I absolutely love interwar mysteries.  There's a sort of lack of cynicism and guile which is missing from later periods.  This isn't gritty.  It isn't even particularly realistic... there's a LOT of is he/isn't he... with red herrings and potentially fake beards galore.  I found myself giving up trying to figure out 'whodunnit' and just really enjoying the read.

I enjoyed the diverting plot, somewhat silly characters and mixed up clues.  The pacing was a trifle slow compared to 'modern' procedurals and gritty crime novels, but perfectly within acceptable parameters considering the time period.  It's a book to be enjoyed and, yes, savored a bit.

The place setting (London and environs) was a tangible part of the book and very well written.

Just a wonderful undiscovered (for me) gem.  Enjoyed it very very much!

Available in ebook and paperback in this edition (also hardbound originals, apparently).

Four and a half stars.  Enjoyed it enough that I'm making an effort to locate and read her other works- high praise indeed from me since my TBR pile is neverending.

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Red Range

I've been a huge fan of basically everyone involved in this project for years, so when I got the chance to receive a review copy, I jumped unhesitatingly at the chance.

Red Range is a reprint/reformatting/re-release of an original graphic novel from 1999.  Combining completely over the top violence, horror, camp and humour, it explores (explodes) racism and societal violence.  If the new cover weren't enough warning, this is not for the faint of heart.  In the introduction, Richard Klaw talks about his shock and disgust reading the work for the first time.  He describes his reaction as visceral, and I think that's a very apt word choice.  I literally recoiled reading the first page.  I have absolutely no doubt that that was the author's and artist's intention.

The intro and afterword are well written and historically interesting.  The main body of the work is also well done, but very difficult to read in places. It is shocking and graphic and ugly.

The narrative pace is unrelenting and fast.  There were places when I read something and thought 'Wait, what?!'.  The last quarter of the book is weirdly violent or possibly violently weird.  I could definitely see this as a pilot issue for a series.  I would pay good money to read it. :)  I've dinged a half a star for the fact that it just sputters to a halt at the 'end'. 

Emphatically not for the squeamish or easily offended.  The book is every kind of violent there is (including implied bestiality, sexual and racial violence, etc etc).

Available in hardcover, electronic, and paperback formats, published by IDW Publishing and released 20 June, 2017.

Four and a half stars for what it is.

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

Improper Cross-Stitch

Improper Cross-Stitch is an irreverent slightly snarky take on cross stitch patterns and books.  Haley Pierson-Cox has a humorous, nerdy, tongue in cheek style that is definitely not 'grandma's cross stitch'.

I received an ARC preview which included 60 pages of content with a really good introductory tutorial.  This would be a good starting book or gift for someone who was interested in learning the basics of cross stitch and finishing some fun gifts for themselves or friends.  The first chapter provides a thorough introduction to materials and supplies.  She discusses needles, fabrics, thread counts, embroidery floss, hoops, etc. The photos are full colour and clear and the instructions are easy to follow.

The full published edition contains 128 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats. Published by St. Martin's Press and due out 7th August 2018.

Four stars, some fun projects here.

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

English Arts & Crafts Furniture Projects & Techniques for the Modern Maker

English Arts & Crafts Furniture is a powerhouse of a new project book from author Nancy R. Hiller and publisher F+W Media.  I'm a collector of woodworking project books.  Most project books tend to be straight to the point with pictures, materials lists and some tutorial info.  This book is quite different.

The included projects are presented with comprehensive historical background on the creators and designers along with templates and rough isometric sketches. There are good clear tutorial photos showing construction details to fill out the accompanying instructions.  Materials lists are complete and detailed.  The historical and biographical information is what really sets this book apart.  I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed reading it cover to cover and devouring the history and lore behind the pieces.  I loved the old photos and seeing the furniture in its natural environment.

This is emphatically not a beginner's book.  There is no hand-holding here. The instructions and tutorials presuppose a good working knowledge of woodworking along with access to a variety of tools.  The projects are complex and quite demanding (but oh so gorgeous).  The aesthetic of these pieces appeals to me on a visceral level. 

The projects are interwoven with background information for each one and they get their own complete chapters in the book. By my rough count, a little less than 50% of the content is actually devoted to the projects; the rest is history, philosophy and biographical information.   There are three projects included: Voysey Two Heart Chair, Harris Lebus Sideboard, and the Gimson Hayrake Table. They are all three beautifully made inspiring pieces and worthy of the effort.

One thing which is absolutely vital in design is understanding context and the philosophy behind the things we create.  If the only criterion for making something on which to sit were functionality, we could chop a slice out of a tree trunk and call it a day.  The furniture we use and love most on a daily basis didn't just spring fully blown into existence.  It evolved and were designed (hopefully) with functionality and some philosophy and design.  This book does a stellar job of speaking to that 'soul' of creativity and philosophy.

The author's writing style is somewhat academic but gently humorous and easy to read.  The research and the historical notes are uniformly good.  I'm very impressed.

The book is 144 pages, hardcover format. 

Five stars

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under is the 4th Kenni Lowry mystery by Tonya Kappes. There are returning characters galore (including Kenni's grandfather, Poppa, who hasn't let being in the afterlife stop him from showing up and helping her solve crime in her constabulary).

For fans of light cozies, this one is cute and full of quirky characters.  They're full of southern charm and witticisms. The author is astoundingly prolific and if cozies are your cup of tea, you could spend a long while reading her 83 books in 14+ series.

Definitely a cute, light, and undemanding read.  I read it as a standalone and had no trouble following the narrative or keeping track of the characters.

Three and a half stars. 

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

The Woman in the Water

Part of the reason I really like series is that I get to see the development of the recurring characters.  Especially with mysteries (which are my favorite genre), the continuity and the characters' development over time are very satisfying to me.

The Woman in the Water is a prequel to the Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch.  The entire series are classic mysteries.  This one is no exception.  I enjoyed reading about his family, his complex and bittersweet relationship with Lady Jane, as well as his early collaboration with Graham.  There was precisely the right amount of humor (Mrs. Huggins, his housekeeper for example) to balance the murders and investigation.

Period mysteries (especially those set in Victorian England) seem to have become something of a flavor-of-the-moment, so it's unusual for one to stand out amongst the flood of offerings.  This series is genuinely well written and entertaining.  Relatively clean mysteries, without a lot of overt blood or violence.    There is occasional light cursing (never gratuitous) with a few scattered 'hell, damn, blast and/or bloody'.  There's nothing which could conceivably shock or offend most readers.

Incidentally, though age is certainly not indicative of writing skill, I admit I was shocked to learn that the author, Charles Finch, is quite young (b. 1980).  He's a masterful writer, and I'm inordinately pleased at the likelihood of having new mysteries from him for decades to come.

The Woman in the Water was published by St. Martin's Press - Minotaur and was released 20th February, 2018.  Available in hardcover, softcover and ebook formats.

Five stars, top shelf mystery.  This one made me want to go and revisit the series.

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

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Sewing Knits from Fit to Finish

Sewing Knits from Fit to Finish is a comprehensive guide to handling and sewing knit and interlock fabrics. Author Linda Lee has teamed up with how-to publishers Quarto - Creative Publishing International to produce this well photographed and comprehensive tutorial guide.

The book is 144 pages and comes in softbound and ebook versions. It includes chapters on identifying and exploiting the characteristics of different types of knitted fabrics, choosing and purchasing knits for the correct project and progresses through finishing techniques etc.

The second chapter is the best single tutorial I've seen (in 45+ years of sewing) on taking accurate measurements, tissue fitting and adjusting patterns for custom fit.  Really exemplary and accessibly written.  The author is clearly a gifted teacher.

She has an informal and reassuring writing style.  Though the tutorials aren't really aimed at the complete beginner, this book will serve as a valuable resource and reference to use and come back to as one progresses. The step-by-step photos are a plus and are accompanied by descriptive text to make the process as clear as possible.

I couldn't find any errors with the progression or the content.

Five stars.  Really well written. Don't be afraid of knits!

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

The Judith Hayle Samplers

The Judith Hayle Samplers is an exhaustively researched but eminently readable treatise on the needlework school run by Judith Hayle in Ipswich in the late 17th century. There are 11 extant samplers from Judith Hayle's school.  7 which were made directly under Judith's tutelage and 4 more directed by her daughter, Rebecca Thomson. This book describes and illustrates each of them along with as much historical info about the makers as is possible along with a wonderful provenance for each of them.   I found the biographical background info almost as fascinating as the illustrations themselves.

I'm a huge needlework/embroidery nerd and spend a lot of my time recreating samplers from the past with materials as close to the original period ones as possible. I enjoy samplers especially since they played a vital central role to the education and position of young women in times past.

Edwina Ehrman is a textile historian and curator at the London Museum and was previously associated with the Victoria and Albert museum.  This makes her pretty much a rock star in the historical embroidery nerd universe.

The book itself, published by Needleprint (now sadly out of business), is 108 pages, high quality softbound with color photos.  It was published in 2007 and can still be found occasionally on ebay, betterworldbooks, or the amazon secondary market.  The price can vary hugely, but bargains can still occasionally be found.

It's worth noting that this book does NOT include the patterns for the samplers, they're available elsewhere.

Definitely an important book for an admittedly niche audience.  It's worth tracking down a copy.
Five stars.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Blunt Force Magic

I'm a huge urban fantasy fan.  Despite having become something of the 'flavor of the month', there are a lot of really high quality books and series from which to choose. 

This series reminds me in a lot of ways of a lot of other scruffy, slightly disreputable, out of their depths, mages and wizards like Dresden, Atticus (iron druid), and the Sandman Slim books in all their sarcastic glory.

I love the original take on the main character.  He's an artificer which I find cool as hell.  He's well and truly out of his depth and more or less just has a bag of tricks to keep ancient evil creatures from snacking on him.

There's a nice mystery subplot which keeps the narrative moving along.  The book is capably written and eminently readable

It provided everything I look for in an urban fantasy: escapism, engaging characters, a great 'hook', a compelling story, humor, and a plot that kept me interested.  Well played! I enjoyed it very very much and look forward to the rest of the series.

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

The Knowledge

There are a handful of authors whose mysteries are almost guaranteed to be wonderfully crafted, entertaining and beautifully written.  Martha Grimes is one author on my list of 'auto-buys'.  The Knowledge is the 24th Richard Jury novel and he returns with a cast of familiar characters and an ensemble group of new ones.

Like the previous books in the series, the title comes from the name of a pub.  In this case it's a mythical pub known only to the cab drivers of London. Along with a ragtag bunch of incredibly savvy street kids, there are cab drivers, gem smugglers, and a healthy helping of murder, jealousy and corruption.

I have been with this series since the first book and look forward to each and every one.  The Knowledge might suffer a bit by comparison with the others, though it's still absolutely top notch.  I also wouldn't recommend this book as an entry point into the series.  There are an awful lot of casual in-jokes and assumed background knowledge of the characters.  I continue to adore Jury and Plant and co.  Wonderful, even if it's a bit more whimsical than the usual Richard Jury mystery.

368 pages, available from Grove Atlantic in  hardcover, paperback and ebook formats.

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