Sunday, November 25, 2018

Illustration Studio: Inking Animals

Illustration Studio: Inking Animals is a new tutorial guide for visual artists by Sova Huova. Released 25th Sept 2018 by Quarto's Walter Foster imprint, it's 144 pages and available in paperback format.

I think there are many would-be artists who believe that they're not capable of 'real' art because they've spent their non-childhood lives in a negative feedback cycle.  Children (as regards art) are mostly fearless. As Picasso said,  “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”  Anyhow, though I often feel the desire to be visually creative, to paint and draw... my efforts generally don't live up to my expectations and I get discouraged.  

This book does a very good job of trying to counteract that negative feedback loop.  The author is encouraging and positive, always upbeat.

For a relatively short book, there is a lot of content and many techniques.  I especially loved the tutorial guide for collage.  There how-to sections include prepping paper for collage, lino cutting, some digital work, drawing, drybrushing, wet inking and more.

The author spends about 25% of the book's content introducing and showing the materials and methods used in the book.  The next chapters show different types of animals and in different media.  There's even a chapter on imaginary/fantastic creatures which has a nifty mix-and-match creativity exercise included.

There is a fair bit of 'note' space and doodle space included in the page count which could have been given over to more content, since most readers will not be marking up the physical book.  Otherwise, it was a really encouraging, fun, and very useful book.

Four stars! I had a lot of fun with this one; in fact, enough fun that I am encouraged to continue.

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

Painting Imaginary Flowers: Beautiful Blooms and Abstract Patterns in Mixed Media

Painting Imaginary Flowers is a tutorial and technique guide by visual artist Sandrine Pelissier. Released 18th Sept 2018 by F + W Media, it's 144 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

The techniques she describes and the resultant artwork are very organic and flowing.  This is not a slavish how-to manual.  There's quite a lot of artist philosophy and the author spends a lot of time encouraging the reader to actively feel and experience the process.

Creating in a vacuum can be intimidating and stressful all by itself.. and the author suggests quite early on in the book that there's a facebook community dedicated to her students to share experiences and get feedback.

The book is full of rich photography and gallery shots of finished artworks for inspiration.  There are also a number of 'action' shots of the artist at work.

She spends roughly 20% of the content on introduction and materials. There are a number of unusual combinations of materials used in this technique, and she spends a good amount of time explaining where and how they're used.

The following chapter includes a little bit of artistic philosophy. I liked the encouraging tone of the writing and the reassuring message: "Making Art Is Fun, So Enjoy the Process".  It -should- be fun and time used without finished results isn't wasted; it's practice! (Everyone needs to hear that).

Roughly the next 10% of the book covers which materials to choose and picking a color scheme. This section also introduces the methods of building up the base (color) layers.

This book is lavishly photographed. The author shows her own work at every stage from beginning color layers to processing, covering the base layers, embellishing, and finishing.

I really think this would make a lovely addition to the painter's library or for would-be artists who are having trouble getting over their intimidation.  She's a very exuberant and colorful teacher.

Four stars.

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

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Tom Cotter's Best Barn-Find Collector Car Tales

Tom Cotter's Best Barn-Find Collector Car Tales is a new collection (his 10th book) of barn-hunting adventures from restoration guru and vlogger Tom Cotter.  He's leveraged his passion for restoring and preserving historic autos and motorcycles into a career spanning more than 5 decades and thousands of vehicles. Released 4th Sept 2018 by Quarto's Motorbooks imprint, it's 256 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats.

While I don't restore antique autos (or planes or trains or motorcycles), I well understand the thrill of the chase.  I collect needlework tools and especially love early sewing and knitting machines.  I've restored drum carders and more old sewing machine cabinets than most people would think entirely prudent.  I definitely 'get' what keeps people looking in barns, attics, and basements for the next hidden gem.

Anyhow, this is an entertaining and readable collection of restoration hunts which span decades and thousands of miles across the globe.  The stories are full of character and humor and warmth and all are satisfying to read.  The entries are collected from numerous friends and acquaintances in the hobby and are arranged thematically.  Some of them were quite exciting to read (collecting in the former Soviet bloc whilst dodging murderous criminals, really)! 

Since the collection is broken up into bit size stories, it would make a good 'commuter' read.  I had intended to read it on my morning bus commute, but wound up devouring it in one sitting. The stories are accompanied by well photographed illustrations which support the narratives.

There's a cross-referenced index at the end and a lot of warmth and appealingly quirky characters between the covers.

This would make a superlative gift for fans of the youtube channel or restoration hobbyists or professionals.

Four stars, I enjoyed it very much.

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

Treacherous Is the Night (Verity Kent #2)

 Treacherous Is the Night is the second book in the Verity Kent mystery series by Anna Lee Huber.  Released 25th Sept by Kensington books, it's 304 pages and available in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats.

Although this is the second book in the series, it reads very well as a standalone.  I do recommend searching out the first book in the series because it's beautifully written and plotted; a really superlative period mystery; but it's not necessary to have read it first to understand what's going on in this one. 

Interwar mysteries are my favorites.  I love the period, the style and panache, the sophistication and grit.  Though I adore authentic classic golden age authors, there won't be any more produced. This, on the other hand, is a modern author who writes beautifully and cleverly with sophisticated three dimensional characters and dialogue which is never clunky or awkward.

Main character Verity is capable, intelligent, sophisticated and a little bit vulnerable.  She worked in the resistance (bad*ss!) in WWI when she thought she was a widow, and even though her husband turned out to be alive, she feels compelled by a debt of honor to try to help a former comrade in arms. Her search for her former contact and fellow agent leads her and her husband into direct danger and she doesn't know whom she can trust.

This book has elements of a mystery espionage novel, but it's the mystery aspects which gave me the most enjoyment. The book's language is very clean with only a few scattered uses of the word 'bloody'. There is not any overt sexual content, although there are a few passing discussions of some of the harder realities of life for women in occupied areas during wartime (rape, etc).  These discussions are fleeting and not at all graphic. 

I often find unintentional anachronisms in most of the books I review and I have to say, Ms. Huber's period research is impressive.  The story is interwoven around real life events and history and I couldn't find any obvious inaccuracies.  Well played!

Four and a half stars.  I recommend this book (and series) very highly to anyone who loves classic mysteries.  I look forward eagerly to read more for these characters (even though her husband's sort of a cad).

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

Friday, November 23, 2018

Book Reviews for Author Success

Book Reviews for Author Success is author Barb Drozdowich's guide to indie authors on how to reach reviewers and increase exposure for their works.  The book is aimed at creators who do not have a publishing marketing apparatus providing exposure

Released 9th October 2018 by Amazon publishing, it's 92 pages and available in electronic format.

The publishing industry has changed immensely over the last decades.  Self publishing has made it possible for authors to produce and list their work directly on electronic media (i.e. Amazon, B&N, etc) and potentially reach millions of buyers, but without a significant online presence or active marketing plan, their would-be bestseller languishes, drowned in a sea of competition.

Ms. Drozdowich has written several guides and how-to books for new/indie authors on other aspects of the jobs of being a successful indie author, but this one deals mostly with several methods of 1)getting your book in the hands of reviewers, 2)getting those reviewers to successfully carry through in providing a review for your work and 3)leveraging those reviews into successful book 'buzz' which in turn generates sales.

This guide is written directly to its audience (other writers) and as such, it's not very slick or polished.  What it does, and does well, is to gather online resources and sites together in one place.  It's a great collection of website resources and how to utilize them to increase exposure.  The book's chapters are arranged logically starting with the most basic (what is a review) through marketing and exposure, how to find bloggers and ask for (and recieve) reviews, and what reviews entail and what you can expect from reviewers.

This is a good resource, well written and accessible.  I imagine it could be quite invaluable for a struggling author.

Four stars.

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

Countertop Gardens: Easily Grow Kitchen Edibles Indoors for Year-Round Enjoyment

Countertop Gardens is a new niche gardening book by Shelley Levis. Released 19th June 2018 by Quarto's Cool Springs imprint, it's 160 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

Humans benefit from contact with natural spaces and growing things. One of the real dangers of living in smaller spaces without any green access is the detrimental effect on our mental health.  Horticultural therapy is a long recognized effective and enjoyable method for engaging with our natural environment and improving mental health.  This author presents a compelling case for no-excuses access to gardening indoors year round and with limited (or nonexistent) outdoor spaces.

The book is full color and includes a number of recipes. The author's style is breezy, confident, and encouraging.  The writing is easy to read and accessible. This is mostly a general introduction to various methods of indoor container growing and how to adapt the reader's efforts into getting the best possible results. The chapters are arranged logically and introduce concepts along with expanded information as chapters progress. This book had value for me personally as a resource guide with good online information web resources.

I think as long as readers have realistic expectations about yields and look at indoor growing as a fun experiment rather than a method of providing a significant amount of food (in virtually all cases), this book will provide a fun and useful introduction to the alternatives out there for the would-be indoor gardener.

Four stars, appealingly written and well photographed.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Sofia and the Pornographic Penguin

Sofia and the Pornographic Penguin is a genre defying new release from Richard Harrington.  Released 12 July 2018 by Amazon, it's 274 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is ostensibly the first novel in a series (Sofia and the Manor House Saga).  There are some mystery elements but the author seems to mostly be aiming for farcical comedy.  It struck me as a cross between a Benny Hill sketch and Steven Moffat's series 'Coupling' (anyone else remember that one?). I spent about 80% of my time reading this book rolling my eyes.

There are a number of problems with the narrative.  The dialogue is often truly cringe-worthy.  The characters are strictly two dimensional and largely cringe-worthy themselves.  As an exercise, I started trying to edit this in my head as I was reading.  I gave that up after a few pages, but it really convinced me that the book is in dire need of a major rewrite. The entire book is a sort of stream of consciousness fart and sex joke.  The book seems to not have been rewritten or polished and suffers for it.  There's a point at which *nudge nudge* *wink wink* stop being funny.  Despite its modern slang connotations, the word "cum" is just Latin for "with".  The author apparently found the entendre endlessly amusing and the first chapter reads as though he was being paid for every use of the word.  Every possible double use of the words "cum, pussy, cock, balls", etc is thrust before the reader (*har har*).  The characters spend most of their time screaming at one another and/or trying to have sex, or both at the same time.

I'm not offended by language or sexual content.  For readers who want their narratives clean and tidy, move along.  The book is absolutely full of raunchy double entendres and inappropriate language.  There are many raunchy stand up comedians who leave me doubled over gasping from laughing.  This book missed by a mile for me.

For me, two stars.  Reading the reviews and ratings from other readers, I appear to be in the minority.  It's possibly worth noting that the book is available to download and read for free for Kindle Unlimited readers. For readers who wish to try an excerpt, you can find a readable excerpt on Amazon on the book's page.

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

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Delicate Crochet: 23 Light and Pretty Designs for Shawls, Tops and More

Delicate Crochet is a new tutorial crochet guide collected by Sharon Hernes Silverman. Due out 1st Dec 2018 from  Rowman & Littlefield, it's 176 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.  This book includes 23 crochet designs from numerous designers, collected by Ms. Silverman, which include apparel and accessories designed to showcase the openwork patterns of the crochet.  The book includes several patterns worked with tunisian and broomstick lace.  There's also a project included which uses the crocheted fabric as a ground for further embellishment, guaranteed to serve as a good jumping off point for really making the item one's own.

The breadth of patterns included impressed me.  There are structured garments (including a cardigan) as well as very loose and flowing wraps (see cover illustration). Each project tutorial chapter includes both written pattern instructions as well as drawn diagrams. The projects are well photographed and each one includes yarn suggestions and materials.  There is a wealth of inspiration for gift ideas as well as must-haves for the crafter.

There are any number of luscious variegated yarns out now and many of these projects utilize those yarns with wonderful results.  This is a book with a fair bit of 'ooh' factor.  There were several projects which definitely went on my list.

I didn't complete any of the projects, but I did do several swatch tests and found the pattern diagrams easy to follow and mistake free.  The recommended yarn weights seem appropriate.  Delicate crochet also includes a few patterns for the more adventurous crafter.. I am not entirely sure about crocheting a skirt (at least not for myself), but there's one included here.

Many of the designs showcase crochet fabric's natural draping tendencies to an impressive degree.  The Ziggy Vest designed by Vashti Braha is a really lovely project with a surprising amount of structure and detail.

Lovely projects, luscious yarns, good detail photography, and well written instructions.

Five stars.

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

Working Reclaimed Wood: A Guide for Woodworkers, Makers & Designers

Working Reclaimed Wood is a new gallery guide curated by architect trained wood wizard Yoav Liberman. Released 4th Sept 2018 by Popular Woodworking, via F+W Media, it's 160 pages, full color and available in hardcover and ebook formats.

Most of us live, indisputably, in a throwaway culture.  Mass marketing and consumer driven 'replace-don't-repair' are pervasive and destructive.  The need to curb and reverse this 'trash culture' is global and if we're to survive, we're going to have to do everything we can as individuals and society to step up and find creative solutions.  There are a small (but growing) number of designers, artists, recyclers and businesses who are contributing to the reclamation and reuse of raw materials.

As stated before, this is not really a tutorial book.  There are a few tutorials included with isometric drawings at the end of each chapter; but it functions much better as a really gorgeous inspirational catalog for the advanced woodworker.  It is exactly what the title states, a guide for ethically sourcing, reclaiming and using reclaimed wood in the woodworking studio. Individual artists are featured along with their work and some of their design philosophies.

The book is beautifully photographed and illustrated.  It's arranged in chapter format with the illustrated items collected to support a central theme: restoring sourced materials, including hardware, designing pieces and developing artistic vision.  There's a useful (basic) index at the back of the book.  There are a few resource vendors mentioned in the book, but there's not a comprehensive vendor list anywhere.

One of the book quotes really resonated with me:
Reducing consumption, increasing product quality and
longevity, taming down the irresponsible chase for new
fashions and fads, reclaiming the discarded and rehabilitating
the old and worthy, will pave our way for a sustainable future.

This would make a really lovely gift for the artistically sensible reading woodworker.  I got a lot out of reading the artists' statements and design philosophy and creator stories included in this book. I enjoyed it very much and can recommend it highly.

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

Beehive Alchemy: Projects and recipes

Beehive Alchemy: Projects and recipes is a new recipe/DIY/how-to book from Petra Ahnert. Released 21st August 2018 by Quarto publishing group's Quarry imprint, it's 160 pages and available in flexibind paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a good basic how-to guide for beecrafting.  The book is well photographed in color and arranged logically in chapters with recipes grouped around the area of use- bodycare, candles, home use (including a solid recipe for furniture polish, a classic - you never forget that smell), studio projects (batik, multimedia), foods, etc.  This book has a short intro, a usable index at the back, and some useful appendices which provide conversions for baking, info on various oils used in the bodycare recipes and their properties, some safety info with links to online lye calculators for the soap projects, along with a short bio.  There are links to online resources scattered throughout the book; most are aimed at North American readers.

There's nothing truly groundbreaking here, but it's always nice to add to the apiary and crafting libraries and this particular book fills a niche (crafting with bee products) which isn't overcrowded.  The skincare products are wholesome and down to earth and safe. The crafting projects are fun and appealing.  Bonus points for being the first bee book in my experience to include batik projects.  The cooking recipes are tasty and versatile and trend toward the high end (pistachio & honey chevre is simple but just about guaranteed to impress). 

The author's writing style is friendly and acccessible.

Three and a half stars.

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

This Old Gal's Pressure Cooker Cookbook

Food in many cultures is more than just nutrition.  Cooking and feeding our friends and loved ones, the whole idea of hospitality and eating is cultural identity and a way to strengthen bonds of friendship and love. Philosophy aside, comfort food is probably a part of most of our lives and the author of this cookbook 'gets it'.

This Old Gal's Pressure Cooker Cookbook is packed full of recipes for new and old comfort food favorites.  With the addition of pressure cooker preparation, these recipes are tasty and convenient.

One thing I really liked about this cookbook was the addition of a large number of ethnic favorites. Hot and sour soup is one of the things I always order in a new-to-me Chinese restaurant.  This version of the standard ubiquitous spicy soup was a perfect blend of spicy and succulent.  It's -definitely- on the standard family recipe list now.  This version is vegetarian friendly and nicely spicy but not overly so.

Beef and broccoli is another one of those Chinese restaurant standards that very few people bother to make at home.  The recipe in this collection is a nice substitute.  We honestly didn't find it exactly like the restaurant version, but it was certainly a wholesome (and cost effective) substitute.

The third tryout from this collection in our case was another ethnic recipe... in this case sweet and sour stuffed cabbage.  I hail from a very 'mixed' family and this eastern European/Jewish dish was a staple comfort food from my childhood and my wonderful stepmom.  I have such fond memories of this dish growing up and this version is wonderful.

I review a fair number of cookbooks and this one was really great.  Well prepared flavorful dishes made from easily sourced raw materials. There is a really wide variety of cultural cuisine covered, from Jewish to Asian to fusion to good ol' American. The photography is well done and the dishes themselves are superlative.

I find nothing at all to detract from this being a useful staple cookbook in the kitchen. 

Five stars.  I'm going to try all of these.

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

Playful Painting: People: Whimsical projects and clever techniques for painting any likeness

Playful Painting: People is a new inspiration and tutorial book from Sarah Walsh. Released 7th August 2018 by Quarto publishing's Walter Foster imprint, it's 144 pages and available in softbound/paperback format.

I love crafting and painting, drawing, fibrecrafts and creative hobbies in general.  I am not a gifted representational painter and this has bothered me a fair bit over the years.  I am completely convinced that generally people (me!) who learn the right techniques can draw and paint to a satisfying level.  I've been told that it's a matter of seeing and visualizing and for some reason between my optic nerves and the peripheral nerves controlling my fingers something vital gets lost.

Anyhow, this book is a lovely, lighthearted look at recognizable representational painting with people as the subject.  In other words, how to get a likeness on the paper which other people can recognize as the person you intended to paint.

This tutorial book gives step by step instructions (with illustrations) for 18 portraits including Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, Frida Kahlo, Louis Armstrong and more, along with more generic subjects like 'ad man', 'hipster guy', and 'girl with flowers in her hair'.

The author has a penchant for gouache, but gives general tips on the use of color and shading, and the techniques can easily be adapted for other media. The emphasis here is on lightening up and having fun with the process (see the cover art). There is no hyperrealism here.

This book is a fun antidote for the would-be artist who is afraid to put pen to paper.  There is a lot of info and encouragement here.  I could see this being a good support resource for a classroom art module for middle grades and older.

Five stars.

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

Nature Art Workshop: Tips, techniques, and step-by-step projects for creating nature-inspired art

Nature Art Workshop is a collaborative project tutorial book from Quarto publishing's Walter Foster imprint. Released 18th Sept 2018, it's 128 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.   The projects are eclectic and varied and include pyrography (woodburning), painting, mindfulness, crafting with found objects (leaves, shells, rocks), candles and more.

Unusually for me, there were a number of projects included which I really wanted to recreate as closely as I could to the pictured tutorials. For me, there's often a very fine line between oh wow! and no way!  Each of these tutorials includes step by step materials lists, full color photographs and a picture of the finished project.

The book is a collaboration by 11 listed artists (most with links to their online portfolio sites) and each one provides tutorials for specific projects.  There are 32 separate projects grouped into 4 main chapters: Flowers, Stones&Shells, Wood, and Other Natural Elements.  There's also a final chapter on Nature-Inspired art which includes some shorter one-page tutorials including screen printing and painting (see the cover).  The e-book version includes an interactive table of contents for convenience.

There have been a crop of really high quality art tutorial books from Walter Foster lately.  This one is no exception.  These would also make a really good supervised art module in a classroom setting for middle/high school students.  Some of them could be modified for younger students as well.

Just a really well made, well photographed volume full of really appealing projects.

Five stars, I really enjoyed this one.

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

Mud, Muck and Dead Things

Mud, Muck and Dead Things  is a re-release of the 1st book in the Campbell and Carter mystery series by Ann Granger. Originally published in 2009, this reformatted version was released 14th May 2018 by Canelo and is available in ebook format.

I read pretty much anything and everything, however, if forced at hypothetical gunpoint to choose only one genre, I'd have to say English crime, the more 'golden age' in feel, the better.  This series is set in more or less modern rural England and even though it's a modern series, it has a light nostalgic feel.

Some of the characters in this series are a tie in to one of the author's other series and have a similar vibe. This book is well written with readable dialogue and the plot moves along at a good pace. There is a small element of magical realism/ghost stuff in the plot, but it's not vital to the story and doesn't detract. The book is very clean in language and sexual content, and apart from an occasional 'damn' or 'shit' won't offend any readers.  There is some discussion -of- sex, but no sexual content per se.

All in all this is a good start to a well written and entertaining mystery series.  It's nice that these are being made available again in electronic format at a very attractive price point ($2.50-$3 USD).

Four stars; readable, entertaining, well written, well plotted.

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

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Fly Tying Artist

The Fly Tying Artist is a how-to tutorial guide for fly-tying enthusiasts. Released 1st Nov, 2018 by Stackpole Books, it's 256 pages and available in hardback and ebook formats.  The author, Rick Takahashi, is well known in the fly fishing world and has over 60 years of experience creating and tying flies (and fishing).

My background with fly tying is fairly unusual, I think.  I've never met a fibrecraft I didn't enjoy, and when I was teaching a class in tatting a couple decades ago, there was a man in my class who was also an avid fly tier.  We traded instruction and though I'm not sure if he's still tatting, I am still tying the occasional fly. I'm not an avid fisherman and I don't really even like to eat fish (blasphemy, I know).  I have heard over and over from other fly tiers that it's meditative and I've found it to be true. It can be very relaxing to spend time tying flies and it's always a bonus to wind up with something functional at the end.

This book is laid out very logically.  It does follow on from Mr. Takahashi's earlier books with in-depth step by step tutorials for many of the flies he developed earlier. Each chapter starts with a generic body form and provides several alternatives for producing specific insects/nymphs. The ties are progressively more detailed as they go on.

There are 12 chapters dealing with different flies for different applications (and a good solid explanation of where and when to use each).  These 12 chapters are followed by 2 chapters with different techniques for different environments. The book ends with a functional index.  There are probably a couple hundred flies altogether including variations of each main archetype (That's an estimate, I didn't count them).

The tutorials are well photographed and the book is enhanced by the addition of really beautiful photos out in the field with a lot of gorgeous healthy trophy fish and action shots.

One thing I really liked was that, although the author does write which specific supplies he uses, there is no 'shilling' in this book and he isn't trying to push only his own products.  He says what he personally uses and leaves it at that.

Beautiful book, well photographed, well written, very useful.  Would make a lovely gift for an angler or fly tying hobbyist.  Don't discount the possibility that someone in your life who knits, sews, tats, or does other fibrecrafts would also enjoy a try at tying flies.

Five stars.

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

A Tiding of Magpies

A Tiding of Magpies is the 5th book in the Birder Murder mystery series by Steve Burrows. Released 6 Sept. 2018 by Oneworld,  it's 384 pages and available in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

This book, and the series in general, are built up gradually.  There's a lot of nuance with the returning characters and the setting and plot.  There's a fair bit of background which isn't really reviewed, but isn't absolutely necessary to enjoy the book.  The 'hook' of the series is that the main character, an expat Canadian police inspector living and working in rural(ish) England is an enthusiastic birder and environmentalist and it's fascinating how the author manages to entertwine all the disparate threads into a cohesive whole.  I also appreciated the fact that the book wasn't strident or preachy. 

This series is definitely not a thrill a minute roller coaster.  It's sedate.  I didn't find it slow at all, just steady.  It is on the long side for a procedural, but that allowed the author some leeway with development and plotting.

The entry point in this book for Jejune and co. is a call to investigate a grisly burned corpse.  I didn't find the descriptions overly graphic.  They are somewhat clinical, but there's not anything objectionable that would offend the average modern murder mystery/procedural reader.

All in all this is a methodically and thoughtfully well written series and I enjoyed this book as well as the previous ones. I wouldn't recommend reading this particular entry as a standalone, though it certainly is understandable by itself and the characters are well drawn and understandable enough that readers won't miss much of the plot if they've not read the earlier books.

Definitely would recommend this one to English procedural lovers.

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

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fire in the Thatch

Fire in the Thatch is a re-release of a mystery originally published in 1946 and re-released in the British Crime Classics series.  Published 5th June 2018 by Poisoned Pen Press, it's 240 pages and available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook versions.  This reformat and release includes a new introduction and historical notes by Martin Edwards.

This particular book is one of a series set in Devon by E.C.R. Lorac (Edith Caroline Rivett) featuring Chief Inspector Robert MacDonald. This is classic golden age mystery and the gems which have been selected for inclusion in this series are all well deserving of being dusted off and presented to a new audience of mystery lovers. I was unfamiliar with this author before reading another book in this series, but these are top shelf, well written and satisfying mysteries.  The writing is solid and the plotting moves the story along at a good pace.

I will say that this was a melancholy read for me. I was sad that there wasn't really any 'happily ever after' aspect of the plotting or for the characters.  On the other hand, the writing, plotting, characters, and mystery were thoroughly enjoyable, and I highly recommend the book and this author.

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

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Woman in the Woods

The Woman in the Woods is the 16th (!!!) Charlie Parker mystery by John Connolly. Released June 12th 2018 on Simon & Schuster's Atria imprint, it's a hefty 497 pages and available in hardback, paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.

There are very few authors whose stamina is up to the gargantuan task of maintaining quality in every aspect of writing and presenting stories with continuing characters.  I am always worried that the next installment of my favorite series will be the one where the author's commitment flags.  I needn't have worried in this case.

Mr. Connolly is in top form. This is a taut, superbly written, perfectly plotted, mystery thriller with a strong paranormal vibe. This is one series which is genre defying.  I am not a huge horror fan, and though there are horror elements in this book, it didn't detract in any way from the read or overpower the mystery plot elements.

Each of the stories is self contained and can be read as a standalone, but to get a true sense of the juggernaut that is this series, I recommend reading them at least mostly in order.

This book will appeal to core fans of Mr. Connolly's work and should attract a stable of new ones to the fold. 

Five stars. Superlative book and series.

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