Friday, August 31, 2018

In a Badger Way (Honey Badger Chronicles #2)

 In a Badger Way  is the second book in the Honey Badger Chronicles by Shelly Laurentson. Published by Kensington Books and with an anticipated release date in late March, 2019  this teaser chapter is a sample of the novel to come. 

Paranormal humour/romance readers, especially those familiar with the author's other works will be in raptures.  This is fun, full of drama and some whimsy and will please its target audience.  The action sequences are completely over-the-top, but it's ecapist and undemanding.

For readers unfamiliar with the earlier stories in this series or with the related characters, this might not be the best entry point; there's not a lot of background information.  It would probably be better to hunt down some of the background stories before diving into this one.  There are a lot of very badly written wince-worthy paranormal romances out there.  This one is well written and not cringe-worthy at all. 

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ground Rules: 100 Easy Lessons for Growing a More Glorious Garden

Ground Rules: 100 Easy Lessons for Growing a More Glorious Garden is a new gardening theory book by Kate Frey. It's 216 pages, available in hardback and ebook formats and due out 13th Nov, 2018.

This book does include 100 short 1-2 page tips to increase the reader's gardening enjoyment.  To me, they read a lot like those page-a-day calendars.  The entries are short and pithy and easy to read and digest.  Most of the 'rules' are accompanied by lush garden photographs and it's the photography that really carries this book.

The photographs help illustrate the rules and I found a fair bit of inspiration.  I've never been a blind follower or a really habitual planner.  This often leads me to wander around my garden with irresistible impulse plant purchase in hand, trying to find a place to set it out.  I've been saying for a long time that I really need more planning and structure in my garden and this book provides a number of delicious photographs of the potential benefits of careful planning.

Lovely book, bite size lessons.

Three and a half stars.

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

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Emergence (Foreigner #19)

Emergence is the 19th book in the Foreigner series by master SF/fantasy author C. J. Cherryh.  Published 2 Jan, 2018 by DAW books it's 336 pages and available in ebook, hard- and soft-cover, and audiobook formats.

There are a huge number of fandoms in the speculative fiction genre.  Think about meeting someone who is really into Star Trek or Babylon 5 or even Game of Thrones (the book fans, not necessarily fans of the TV show). Sometimes it's hard to decipher exactly what they're talking about, but their enthusiasm is obvious. This series is grand space opera and is sort of like an episode of a long running series. For fans of Foreigner, it's an eagerly anticipated addition to a much loved universe.  As such, for readers new to this author, there's a learning curve involved.  The effort to do a little background research or keep a handy guide available is well rewarded because this is a worthwhile, engaging, and immersive book (and series).

There are a lot of really good reviewer précises of this book, so I'll just add that this entry does move the narrative along in a lot of ways and it was great to see the development of the characters, especially Cajeiri.

This series is huge and overarching and complex.  There's a rich abundance of detail along with a great deal of subtlety and wry political commentary.  It's a very cultured book (and by that I mean refined and structured and not raw or strident).

I really enjoyed this book (and the series) and recommend it highly to readers who are prepared to put in the effort.

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

The Body in the Dales (Yorkshire Murder Mysteries #1)

 The Body in the Dales is the first book in a procedural series set in Yorkshire.  It's an ensemble cast featuring a methodical and cerebral lead character DCI Jim Oldroyd and co.  Originally published as The Body in Jingling Pot (a better title in my opinion) and released in 2017, this re-release is published by Amazon UK's crime imprint Thomas & Mercer and came out 9th August, 2018.  This version is available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats and clocks in at 320 pages. 

The pacing is very sedate and there is a large cast of secondary characters who aren't always clearly delineated.  I did enjoy this book once I was a bit more invested in the characters, though that honestly took a while. The dialogue was competent and readable from the beginning, and though there wasn't much of a hook at the start, the book really did reward the effort to keep reading.

A little side info:  When I was a kid, my best friend's family were keen spelunking enthusiasts.  I have always been a very bookish kid (big surprise there), but well, best friend and all, I tried my very best to get into caving along with her family.  It never took with me at least, the breathtaking glittering caves full of secret beauty never outweighed the squishy muddy stodgy cold drippy reality of squeezing along in the near-darkness and hearing my own breathing interspersed with the occasional grunt and *dammit* of something whacking against a cave wall or low hanging hard surface.

This book is about that.  Lots and lots of that. It is pretty well written and entirely readable.  It has a very 'English crime' feel and in a lot of ways reminds me of Deborah Crombie's Duncan and Gemma series.

Obvious trigger warning, extreme claustrophobes need not apply.

Four stars, I'll be reading the next books in the series.

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

Tilda Hot Chocolate Sewing

Tilda Hot Chocolate Sewing is a new quilting and decor book by Tone Finnanger published by F+W Media.  Due out 11 Sept, 2018, it's 144 pages packed full of small and large sewing and quilting projects.  I have loved Tilda's coordinated fabrics and whimsical design aesthetic for a long time, but one thing that struck me about this book in particular was the attention to detail and exquisite finishing and quilting.  The projects are all beautiful, and the coordinating fabrics and well curated room photography show them off at their best, but I can really see most of these being usable and well loved in almost all homes.

The book is set up as a tutorial book, with coordinating projects grouped together. There are small soft furnishing projects (fabric bowls, decor, pillows), along with coordinating large projects (table runners, full sized- and lap-quilts, wall hangings).

One of the really nifty things about the Tilda books is that they showcase a coordinating fabric collection along with well designed and curated items which fit together well and produce beautiful results.  If one wishes to have exactly what's pictured in the book, it's possible by acquiring the pictured fabrics, but it's not a requirement of course, and the tutorials serve very well as a 'jumping off' point to whet the reader's creativity.

One other super nice feature in this book particularly is the quilting on the projects.  Really perfect and top notch, the quilting enhances and supports the designs without completely stealing the show.  Gorgeous!

Patterns are included.

Five stars, lovely and highly recommended.

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

Saturday, August 11, 2018


Penned is the fourth book in the Kate Turner mystery series.  Written by real life veterinarian Eileen Brady, this entry has an anticipated release date of 9th Oct, 2018.  Published by Poisoned Pen Press, it's available in hardback, paperback and ebook format.

I had read the previous books in the series and had really enjoyed the gentle pace of these cozies along with the quirky secondary characters (and their pets).  I honestly enjoy that the author slips in the occasional good suggestion for responsible pet ownership without being strident or snarky. 

The plot develops gradually, the dialogue is solidly readable.  The slow-burn romantic tension between Kate and Luke adds a little extra frisson (though I think they're both kind of being jerks to their respective romantic interests).  The denouement was a bit over the top, but that's why most of us are reading cozies with amateur sleuths anyhow.  (and *OUCH*,Kate's quite a b@d@ss!). I really like that she can take care of herself and I was cheering and *high fiving* at the end. 

This book (and the series) are well written and comfortably fun cozy reads.  I'm looking forward to continuing the series and seeing what Oak Falls has in store for Dr. Kate next.

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

The Last Netherworld of the Apocalypse (Kelly Driscoll #4)

The Last Netherworld of the Apocalypse is the 4th book in the Kelly Driscoll urban fantasy series by Nina Post. Published 14th Nov, 2017 by Curiosity Quills Press, it's 234 pages and available in ebook format.

I was unfamiliar with the artist or the series when I started reading, so I read it as a standalone.  The plot moves along at whiplash speed, so it took a while to (mostly) keep track of the players. Once I got on top of the main characters it was a lot easier to stay up to speed. 

As stated, this book is frenetic and moves along at a fierce, almost speed-of-thought pace. It is quite humorous and surprised a few giggles out of me on my daily bus commute (not easy to do).  There were a couple of times I felt that some of the sight gags were slightly indulgent on the author's part, but she is certainly adept at driving the wildly careening out of control bus with no brakes that is this book.

If I had to try to categorize the 'feel' of the book, I'd compare it to Charles Stross' Laundry Files or Larry Correia's Monster Hunter books (though this book is less testosterone driven and not as full of obscure geekery).  There's not a whole lot of super-snarky dialogue in this book which is a distinct relief.  Brain candy, fun to read, undemanding and well written.  Can't ask for much more!

Four stars

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

Her Mother's Grave (Detective Josie Quinn Book 3)

Her Mother's Grave is the third book in the Detective Josie Quinn series by Lisa Regan.  Published by Bookouture, and released 19th July, 2018, it's 346 pages and available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats.

This is a graphically brutal novel.  Every possible trigger warning is appropriate; there's explicit psychological torture and abuse, drug abuse, sexual abuse, trauma, sexual abuse of a child, etc.  I read this book as a standalone, and wondered (no spoiler warning) if the book might actually be using the unreliable narrator trope (it isn't).  I was sort of impressed wondering about that since it's the third book in the series using this main character. 

All that being said, it wasn't an easy book to read, though it is a well written book.  I do like police procedurals and mysteries especially with ensemble casts and I'm more than willing to stick with an author for a long while in a series until they find their footing.  The plotting in this particular entry is taut and suspensful, it just felt like slow torture to read about all the horrible things which happened to main character Josie as a child and as an adult.  It was (for my taste) just over the top.

I do know there are huge numbers of fans of procedurals/thrillers who really love nonstop action and suspense.  The ratings for this book and others in the series are proof of that.  I will add that the language is quite brutal throughout with a fair bit of strong cursing, so for readers for whom that's problematic, it's something to be aware of going into the book.

I will stick around to see how the characters develop, though the violence may cause me to bail on the series eventually.

Three and a half stars.

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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

DIY Hydroponic Gardens

There has been a resurgence lately on more effective use of our gardening resources and much more emphasis on self reliance skills for 'regular' people who don't have a lot of land or the background (or desire) to be full time farmers.  Hydroponics, though it's not a new idea, has really come into its own as a method for increasing productivity and there are a plethora of books from which to choose.

Tyler Baras has written a practical how-to book aimed at introducing several different kinds of hydroponic systems along with the pros and cons of each type of system. Most hydroponics books I've seen are impractical because they're either aimed at the professional grower with a lot of money for setup and equipment or they've been entirely too simple and impractical because they don't give any real solid how-to or steps for actually getting from the idea of growing crops or flowers hydroponically to doing it.

DIY Hydroponic Gardens spans the middle ground in providing entirely realizable practical systems which have the potential to produce food without being huge, prohibitively expensive, or impractical.

The book is 192 pages, available in ebook and paperback formats and was published by Quarto - Cool Springs Press. It's laid out in a logical format, beginning with and introduction which includes concept definitions, advantages of hydroponic growing and a good overview of the parts of a successful working hydroponic system.

Chapter two covers specific equipment including hardware, substrates, lights, and more, along with some maintenance info and how to take care of problems (like pests) before they become debilitating.

There is a large chapter on specific system setups.  Each of these includes a tutorial section which includes tools and supplies for the DIY setup.  Each setup includes a recommended plant list and a realistic discussion of the limitations and potential drawbacks.

Propagation, nutrition, maintenance, and troubleshooting, all have chapters including a good (realistic!) photography section showing some of the less desirable outcomes.  I really liked that the author showed some of the problems which occurred in his own systems.  Most books only show strawberry and lettuce plants bursting with health growing vigorously and apparently trouble-free, so that when bugs or algae pop up, new gardeners feel discouraged and incompetent.

The book has a good glossary and appendix with crop selection charts, conversion tables, a short bibliography and a no-frills index.

All in all a very useful and practical book with usable plans utilizing easily sourced hardware. 

Four stars

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

Kumihimo Wirework Made Easy

Kumihimo Wirework Made Easy is a new and refreshing look at traditional kumihimo worked with metal and mixed media threads instead of the traditional cords.  Author Christina Larsen is a self taught jewelry artist with an active YouTube following.  Published by F+W Media (partnering with Interweave Press) with an anticipated release date 11th September 2018, it's 146 pages and available in paperback format.

This is a tutorial book and includes clear full-color photographs to support and enhance the clear step-by-step instructions.  The book is laid out in a logical progression, beginning with a general introduction followed by a chapter of tools and materials.  The following chapters develop techniques, braid structures, and finishing and make up approximately 30% of the page content.

The individual project tutorials progress from simpler projects to more complex, but all of them are really beautiful and none of them look like beginner projects. Each project has its own chapter starting with a chapter heading listing measurements, all materials, and tools necessary for project completion. 

I was really surprised by the breadth of the included tutorials.  Bracelets are what spring to mind for me when I think of kumihimo but this book includes earrings, necklaces (and not just torcs), and even rings.  All of them are rich looking and lovely.

My only (small) quibble with the book was the lack of any supplier links or recommendations. In the age of e-tailers and internet supplies, that's certainly not a big hurdle.

This is a genuinely useful addition to the wireworker's library.

Four stars

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

The Pendulum: A Granddaughter's Search for Her Family's Forbidden Nazi Past

The Pendulum is a personally recounted story of a historian's search for the truth about her family's history during and after WWII.  She was born in Brazil where her grandparents had emigrated after the war. The family history was forbidden or glossed over or simply reinvented.  She decided as an adult to confront the ghosts of the past in order to try and understand her family and herself more fully.

Author Julie Lindahl is a storyteller and historian and does a meticulous job of describing and documenting her journey to unearth her grandparents' personal involvement in the war as enthusiastic National Socialist German Workers' Party members (i.e., Nazis).  As a former Fulbright scholar and graduate of Oxford University, she's a well trained academic with impressive credentials, but what struck me about this book was not the academic precision, but the basic humanity.  All families have 'skeletons' lying buried.  There are always things which are no-go zones, whether it's a distant relative's drinking problems or their great-great-grandmother's transportation to Australia. Few of those skeletons leave such long shadows as the ones resonating down to the present day from the second world war, at least in the west.

I personally grew up in a family where questions about WWII weren't really allowed (or at least emphatically not encouraged) and it wasn't until I was an adult that I really understood that my paternal grandfather's entire family perished and that he was the only survivor.  The trauma and survivor's guilt left him with lifelong depression which also colored my father's childhood and upbringing.  Despite the problems, he was my grandfather and I adored him.  I can very easily understand the same dichotomy Ms. Lindahl describes in her book.  How do you even begin to try to reconcile the person you knew as a loving family member with the history which you objectively know to have happened?

I look around at the political climate and the horribly unthinkable things which are happening in the full light of day today, which would simply not have happened even ten years ago and I shiver.  There have been wounds festering for the better part of eighty years which really should have been acknowledged and dealt with long ago.  There's a metastasis occurring now, today, in many places in the USA and Europe and if we don't do something, we're destined to go down the same road.  It's absolutely chilling.

Anyhow, this book is very well written.  It doesn't provide much that will thrill actual historians, it's not a history book.  It's emphatically not dry or academic.  It's more of a journal.  It's not a long book, 256 pages, and I devoured it in a couple of sittings.  There is an interestingly eclectic further suggested reading list appended to the end of the book, many of which were previously unknown to me.

This would make a really superlative group or bookclub read.

Five stars, meticulously written, gripping, sad but occasionally humorous as well.

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

Friday, August 3, 2018

Time for Bed, Miyuki

Time for Bed, Miyuki is a lovely book aimed at younger children (and their caregivers).  I was enchanted from page one.  The story is familiar to everyone who has ever interacted with a young child.  ... "Just one more thing before bed"!  Luckily Miyuki's grandfather is the epitome of patience.

There is a concept called 'iterative contextual repetition' (or similar formulations), which basically says that the human brain learns by hearing and repeating the same things over and over and learning things by gradually building lists is a very effective way to learn.  There are many examples of cumulative songs/poems/stories such as The 12 Days of Christmas, The Rattlin' Bog, The House that Jack Built, and others.  This book uses that format very effectively for the narrative text.

Miyuki's whimsically imaginative before-bedtime to-do list includes a pavilion for the coming visit of the Dragonfly Queen (and her court), taking her snails for a walk, knitting a sweater for her cat, and more.  Each activity is accompanied by full page illustrations which are breathtakingly lovely, crisp, and beautifully rendered. This is a wonderful book for children and adults alike and would make a super read-together for bedtime (or library read-along).

Superlative book. Five stars

30 pages, release date 18 September, 2018, available in hardback format.
Author: Roxane Marie Galliez
Illustrator: Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Published by Princeton Architectural Press

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