Friday, November 29, 2019

The Body in the Dumb River: A Yorkshire Mystery (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #35)

The Body in the Dumb River is a well crafted murder mystery by George Bellairs. Originally published in 1961, this reprint and reformat in the British Library Crime Classics series includes an introduction by Martin Edwards. Due out 1st Dec 2019 by Poisoned Pen Press, it's 224 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a well written mystery, the 35th in the series to feature Inspector Littlejohn. I've really enjoyed these new (beautifully presented) classic British mysteries, many of which have been long out of print. This particular volume was well plotted and written with a satisfyingly twisty denouement which managed to surprise me on a couple of points. The epilogue was especially ironic and well played on the author's part. This is a solidly entertaining mystery and it wears its age (58+ years) surprisingly well.

Mr. Edwards' introductions are always erudite, full of interesting tidbits, and worth the price of admission. I enjoyed the commentary and the mystery itself very much.

Four stars.

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

The Celery Juice Book: And Other Plant-Powered, Cold-Pressed, Nutrition Packed Recipes

The Celery Juice Book is a recipe collection for using celery and its juice in diverse ways from straight juice to smoothies and more traditional soups and stews. Due out 24th Dec 2019 from Quarto on their Chartwell imprint, it's 160 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

There is undoubtedly a lot of good advice in upping our intake of raw and unprocessed foods. More solid nutrients, fewer empty calories, fewer bad choices ... all of those are good for us. This book (and author) are very enthusiastic, zealous even, proponents of every kind of green smoothie you can think of. This book concentrates on celery of course, but it doesn't just have a feature role in the recipes here. There are smoothies including fruit, other vegetables, nut milks and other interesting ingredients. The recipes run the gamut from straight juices to more complex main dishes and there's even a recipe for dog treats included.

The recipes we tried all tasted 'healthy and good for you'. There weren't any gooey, cheesy, comfort food type recipes. For readers looking for those, this book won't be a good fit. On the other hand, there really were a lot of recipes which will appeal to readers already following a plant based diet who are really making an earnest effort to improve their food choices and who are maybe following a special diet (like anti-inflammatory, gluten free, etc). Not -all- of the recipes will fit into a special diet, but there are a number which are potentially useful, but none of them are marked as AIP or other diet compliant, so readers will have to be aware and check their protocol lists.

Each of the recipes includes an introductory description, ingredients listed in a bullet point sidebar (US measurements given, with metric in parentheses), and step by step instructions. There is no nutritional info provided. The recipes are all photographed very well and clearly. Serving suggestions are attractive and appropriate.

The recipe ingredients themselves are easily sourced and will be available at most well stocked grocery stores. I was amused to see a whole chapter dedicated to cocktails including celery in one form or another. I'm not sure how easily dirty celery martinis and celery juice mojitos will catch on, but solid points for trying.

Four stars for the celery fans out there.

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

The Pursuit of William Abbey

The Pursuit of William Abbey is an interesting morality play about indifference, the costs of inaction, privilege, and the human condition. Released 12 Nov 2019 from Orbit, it's 464 pages and available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

Claire North is an extremely gifted writer. Her pseudonymously published SF/urban fantasies knocked my socks off.  This book combines magical realism, dark morality, colonialism, and a dizzying amount of meticulous historical research into a mostly cohesive whole.

Whilst reading, I really felt like I should be thinking that it was an important book. It is undoubtedly a very well written book. North's prose is descriptive and lyrical. The dialogue rings true and the descriptions of the places and social systems and wars are top notch. It's difficult for me to analyze what I didn't connect with about the book and I think it's the characters themselves. Especially main protagonist Abbey himself was not a very charismatic or sympathetic character. Honestly that's probably the whole point the author was trying to convey by letting the reader wrestle with the problem.

I found the pacing slow and the ending left me dissatisfied (again, back to the onus being on the reader to fill in the blanks and draw judgement (or turn the mirror on ourselves)). I'm not judging; this is an exceptionally well written book.

I would recommend it to philosophical readers who are up for a challenge. Despite the entirely disparate plots (seriously, not related in the least), the feelings this book engendered in me personally remind me a lot of the way I felt after reading Eco's iconic The Name of the Rose.

Four stars for me, probably five for most everyone who loves literary historical fiction.

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

The Art of Being Bill: The Many Faces of Awesome

The Art of Being Bill is an exhibition catalog and anthology of commentary about Bill Murray and his long career as a cultural icon. Released 9 Oct 2018 by Quarto on their Race Point imprint, it's 176 pages and available in hardcover format.

I can't think of a more versatile actor than Bill Murray. He's been a significant part of movies which run the gamut from poignant drama to utterly silly slapstick and everything in between. He's a gifted actor with an incredibly mobile and expressive face. Combined with the many graphic arts interpretations included in the book, this is a smorgasbord of everything Bill. The varied artist interpretations are as distinct as the artists themselves. There is also a lot of commentary and background information about his movies which was new to me.

I really wish I could've seen the exhibition when it was live.

Four stars, definitely a good choice for film fans, catalogue fans, or Bill Murray fans.

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


Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Very Scalzi Christmas

A Very Scalzi Christmas is a collection of 15 short pieces by John Scalzi. Due out 30th Nov 2019 from Subterranean Press, it's 144 pages and will be available in a signed limited hardback format. According to the author's website, there -will- be ebook and audio versions for sale at some point.

This is a mixed box. There are 3 short stories, a number of conversational blog type entries (some collected here from his online blog or other outlet), some freeform commentary, a couple of 'interviews' with important seasonal people (Santa's reindeed wrangler, and lawyer, specifically), and assorted other pieces. The book is pure Scalzi: snarky, humorous, surprising, poignant.

This would be an excellent selection for Scalzi fans. I personally am a fan of Scalzi's work, and more than half the book left me satisfied and entertained. What I enjoyed almost as much as the written content was the wonderful artwork by Natalie Metzger. She has a clean and whimsically wonky style which suits the writing very well. It reminds me a little bit of Rick Geary in some ways. Anyhow, it really works in the context of this book.

Four stars; an entertaining short read with lots of illustrations.

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

The Fool Card (The Tarot Mysteries Book 1)

The Fool Card is the first book in the The Tarot Mysteries by Bevan Atkinson. Originally released in 2008, this reformat is 244 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is an entertaining and well written series debut. Protagonist Xana is intelligent strong and likeable. The book is written in 1st person PoV, so hearing her internal monologue was a big part of the appeal for me. Her foil/partner is Thorne, an intelligent behemoth who literally crashes into her solitary life. Together, they sort out the mystery of how Thorne's recently deceased employer died.

This is a murder mystery with Greek-tragedy level family intrigue, betrayal, murder, abuse, money, and fraud. The plot gallops along, the tension arc is well controlled, and the technical aspects of the writing are seamless and enjoyable. This is an author who can really write. The secondary characters are well and sensitively drawn. The denouement was satisfyingly twisty. The language is G-rated, there's no sexual content, and it's an enjoyable and humorous ride from start to finish. I was captivated from the first page.

I appreciated that the author didn't throw the main protagonists together in an unfortunate and unbelievable insta-love romance. In fact the author didn't abuse my suspension of disbelief one time in this book.

Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. It's always fun to find a new to me author and series to read. I would definitely recommend this one to fans of modern American mysteries. I'm looking forward to more from this author.

Five stars.

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Draw Any Animal Book: Over 150 Simple Step-by-Step Drawing Sequences for Every Kind of Creature

The Draw Any Animal Book is a book full of step by step tutorials for line drawing a number of animals. Originally published in a weekly children's newspaper in the 1920s-30s, this collection, released 15th Oct 2019 by Quarto on their Quarry imprint, is 176 pages and available in paperback format.

The format of these tutorials will be familiar to most readers. They start with simple shapes or geometric line drawings, add simple shapes and refine the outline to wind up with a recognizable finished drawing. Some of the drawings were whimsical, some were very stylized.Each tutorial page has a 'now you have a go' blank facing page for practice.

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.

Four stars. Fun collection.

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

Laid In Earth (Josef Slonský Investigations #6) Josef Slonský

Laid In Earth is the 6th mystery in the Josef Slonský procedural series by Graham Brack. Released 25th Nov 2019 from Sapere books, it's 217 pages and available in ebook format.

This is an exceptionally well written and engaging read. I was previously unfamiliar with the author and hadn't read any of the earlier books in the series and had no trouble following the story or keeping the characters straight. I admit I struggled with some of the names (they're Czech), but the author is very adept at making the more important primary characters distinct enough that it wasn't a problem. The plot is intricate and very well constructed. I found the discussion of the cold war era really interesting and it seemed to be very well researched and believable. For a book written around a sometimes brutal and dark political period, I was surprised and delighted with the amount of humor. There were several places in the dialogue which surprised a giggle out of me (not easy to do). Captain Slonský himself is likable, loyal, honest, and intelligent. It was engaging to watch him and his team follow the disparate fragile threads to the resolution.

The language is relatively clean (PG rated, a few damns and bloodies, nothing worse). There is no graphic violence.

The ebook version includes an interactive table of contents. I've grown very fond of books with interactive content lately. Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book (and the others in the series) are included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. It's always fun to find a new to me author and series to read. I would recommend this one to fans of procedurals. I'm looking forward to more from this author.

One of the better reads I've enjoyed this year. Five stars. I shall read the earlier books very soon.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Nightmare City (Nightmare City, #1)

Nightmare City is the first book in a new series by P.S. Newman. Released 26th Nov 2019, it's 359 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is an interesting urban fantasy series with a little post-apocalypse dystopian flavor world building. 20 years after a fundamental reality shift allowed some people to summon beings from their subconscious dreaming minds (wreaking havoc and destruction quite often), there are shade hunters equipped to hunt down and destroy the summoned shades.

The world building is the standout feature here. The different situations and types of shades which are summoned and how they're dealt with is creatively and very well written. The characters are distinct from one another; I had no trouble keeping them straight. They obey internal motivations and I didn't find myself yanked out of the story at all by badly written dialogue or characters acting completely out of character to advance the plot. The plotting is well controlled and the denouement was satisfyingly twisty, leaving the story open ended for 'what comes next'.

The ebook version includes an interactive table of contents Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. It's always fun to find a new to me author and series to read. I would recommend this one to fans of urban fantasies. I'm looking forward to more from this author.


Four stars.


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

The Devil’s Due

The Devil’s Due is the third Sherlock Holmes adventure by Bonnie MacBird. Released 22nd Oct 2019 by HarperCollins, it's 384 pages and available in hardcover, 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. Presumably that feature will carry through to the release version of the ebook.

There are so many (SO many) Holmes and Watson pastiches/homages/alternate worlds, timelines, alternate interpretations, that it is difficult to sort the good stuff from the dross. I am a die-hard canon fan and have read the originals so many times I've worn out copies. That being said, there is a fair bit of good fiction being written today, and this series (and author) are consistently excellent, verging on superlative.

The writing, plotting, tension arc, characterizations, and descriptions are all well done; the author is adept at her craft. The tone of the book and the dialogue manage to feel like it could have been written contemporaneously with the canon; no mean feat. I was a little disappointed with the foreshadowing; it seemed a little heavy handed. I read the book thinking that the major plot twist which I expected couldn't be so obvious. Honestly, the book was so well written and entertaining otherwise that I didn't really mind much.

Holmes & Watson's foil, Billings, is suitably dense, objectionably racist, and obstructive enough to engender heartfelt boos and hisses whenever he shows up. Holmes' encounters and abuse at the hands of the media are evident in this adventure as well, so he and Watson find themselves up against an array of more or less active foes.

I enjoyed this story and I suspect that most Holmesians will find enough here to keep them entertained. The story is also written around a framework of real historical occurrences and the author provides a link in the book to annotations and historical notes which are well worth a read.

Five stars. Delightful to see Holmes and Watson in fighting form.

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



Monday, November 25, 2019

The Lobsters' Night Before Christmas

The Lobsters' Night Before Christmas is a sweetly illustrated homage/retelling of Rev. Clement Clark Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas". Released 28th Oct 2019 by Schiffer, it's 32 pages and available in hardcover format.

The story and poem will be familiar to virtually all readers. This retelling has the undersea Sea Claws driving a sleigh pulled by 8 little minnows. Elizabeth Moisan's beautiful watercolor illustrations invite readers to pause on each page to take a closer look and find more details. The text by poet Christina Laurie follows the same scansion (more or less) as the original poem (anapestic tetrameter in case my 10th grade English teacher is reading) and really is quite charming and humorous.

There is a neat glossary and informational page at the end of the book with biological info about lobsters and some ecological facts for further reading and discussion.

This would be a superlative choice for a read-along or library circle/activity read (maybe with more info available on climate and conservation issues). It would also be a great choice for a read-to-me adult/child bedtime story. There is also wide scope for some silly voices and sound effects.

Five stars. Charming, original, well written and beautifully illustrated.

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



A Pilgrimage of Swords

A Pilgrimage of Swords is a stunning novella by Anthony Ryan. Released 30th Sept 2019 by Subterranean Press, it's 128 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats (hardcover limited edition format may be sold out). 

This is a beautifully spare story which reminds me of a doorstop fantasy (complete with a map at the front, demons, battles, curses, bandits, an epic quest and the rest) condensed down to 128 incredibly compact pages.  I've always had a particular fondness for short fiction because it is spare and technically challenging, so you get a better feel for an author's expertise with the form.

I would love to read another couple thousand pages in this world with (some of) these characters and reading this novella left me desperately hungry for the 'what-comes-next'. I sincerely hope the author writes more (much more) in this world-time setting. 

Five stars. Just wonderful epic fantasy in a short format.

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

Death in Trout Fork (Ryn Lowell Colorado Mysteries #1)

Death in Trout Fork is the first mystery in a new series by D.M. O'Byrne. Released 13th Oct 2018 by Black Opal Books, it's 210 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a cozy murder mystery with a travel reporter as amateur sleuth (+ her cat). The story is set in a small Colorado town populated with interesting eccentrics with lots of seething tensions and connections under the surface. The author was quite adept at getting into the story without info-dumping all of the backstories in one go.  The technical aspects of the story are very well handled and the plot, tension, dialogue, setting, and structure are competently presented and I never found myself being yanked out of my suspension of disbelief by clunky writing.

There is some moderate language (PG rated) and kidnapping and torture of a minor. There is also some familial abuse and self-harm in the book which could be potentially triggering. Lovers of the cozy mystery genre will be happy to note that the requisite hunky policeman love interest is included in the book.

Four stars. Well written and entertaining. I'll be keeping an eye out for the next couple of books in the series which are already published.

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

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Creating Wooden Jewelry: 24 Skill-Building Projects and Techniques

Creating Wooden Jewelry by Sarah King is a tutorial and gallery guide for exploring wood alone and in combination with other materials as a medium for jewelry. Due out 10th Dec 2019 from Fox Chapel, it's 176 pages and will be available in paperback format.

Wood is certainly not a new medium for ornamental jewelry. It's warm, it's easy to work manually and shape, it provides a palette of colors, textures, and densities, it is relatively inexpensive, it combines perfectly with other media, and it's attractive. This is a tutorial book as well as a gallery aimed (mostly) at jewelry artists by other artists.

The 20 project tutorials included in the book are skill-building exercises and provide practice in shaping, choosing materials, connections for assembly, combining other media and objects with wood, and tools and materials. The entire book has clear and complete photography including the step-by-step tutorials. It also includes a solid links/bibliography/resources list as well as a cross referenced index.

This is a solidly written guide for jewelers and crafters who are interested in expanding their repertoire to include wood as a medium in their work. The projects included run the gamut from beginner to advanced and there are takeaways here for a broad range of artists and crafters, not just jewelers.

Five stars. Admittedly something of a niche book, but very well done and accessible.  This would make a superlative selection for an artist/designer's home library, or for a maker's space library, guild loaning library, art class/school or the like.

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


The Ultimate Guide to Preserving and Canning: Foolproof Techniques, Expert Guidance, and 125 Recipes from Traditional to Modern

The Ultimate Guide to Preserving and Canning is a recipe and tutorial guide for preserving food using traditional canning techniques. Due out 10th Dec 2019 from Quarto on their Harvard Common Press imprint, it's 224 pages and will be available in paperback format. This book is a distillation/compilation of info from these earlier titles: The Farmer’s Wife Canning & Preserving Cookbook, Lela Nargi, editor (Harvard Common Press 2009); The Fresh Girl’s Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving by Ana Micka (Harvard Common Press 2010); Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin by Allison Carroll Duffy and the Partners at Pomona’s Universal Pectin® (Fair Winds Press 2013); Modern Pressure Canning by Amelia Jeanroy (Harvard Common Press 2018). The material is compiled here for the first time together, though, so readers who are missing the above titles will find a lot of useful material gathered here in one book.

The included tutorials and recipes use both pressure canning and water bath methods for preservation. Most readers will be familiar with both methods. For readers who are beginning or intending to explore pressure canning, this book provides a very good explanation of which to choose, when to use each method, what items are best suited to pressure canning, the items which (for safety reasons) need pressure processing, safety considerations and more. Essential and helpful equipment lists are included and explained very well. The first chapter also explains the choice of food ingredients. When I first started processing our garden produce, my tendency was to process -every- single fruit/vegetable no matter how misshapen, overripe, squishy, or blemished. I hated to 'waste' (compost) -anything- unnecessarily. The authors have a good explanation for why this isn't desirable (you wind up with potentially spoiled food of a much lower quality, potentially wasting the entire batch -talk about serious waste)!

The following chapters include processing and recipes grouped thematically: tomatoes and sauces, veggies, preserves and conserves, jams and jellies, meats, sauces and condiments, stocks broths soups and stews.The recipes are mostly traditional family friendly recipes which would not have been unrecognizable to our great grandmothers. It's nice to have them collected and standardized in one place.

The recipes themselves are easy to read and understand. They include a header bar along with prep/cooking time, yields and a description. Ingredients are listed bullet point in a sidebar. Measurements are given in US standard measures with metric measures in parentheses. Preparation instructions are enumerated step by step. Substitutions and alternative preparation or serving information are given in a footer bar at the end of the recipe.

The book includes a cross referenced index which includes individual ingredients. There is not much photography or illustration included in the book, however those which are included are clear and easy to follow.


I will just say that the included recipe for tom yum gai (Thai chicken coconut soup) is worth the entire price of the book for me and my family. This went straight to the top of the list.


Five stars for all readers who don't already own the above books.

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

Cast Iron: You can run but you can't hide... (Julia McAllister Victorian Mysteries Book 2)

Cast Iron is the second Julia McAllister period mystery by Marilyn Todd. Released 20th Oct 2019 by Sapere, it's 234 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a very well written period murder mystery with a strong, intelligent, and sympathetic female protagonist. This is the second book in the series, but I had no trouble following the plot or keeping the characters straight. It works perfectly well as a standalone; the author is adept at giving enough backstory to bring readers up to speed (without feeling like one is being force fed). The plotting is spare and tightly controlled. The technical aspects of the writing are well done (dialogue, characterization, etc) and unobtrusive. It's an engrossing read. It's not a cozy, it's serious and in some places gritty. The first crime scene Julia photographs was so well described it gave me chills.

The ebook version includes an interactive table of contents Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book (and the first book in the series) are included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. It's always fun to find a new to me author and series to read. I would recommend this one to fans of period mysteries. I'm looking forward to more from this author.

Five stars. I really enjoyed this book.

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

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Build-It-Yourself Birdhouses: 25+ DIY Birdhouses and Bird Feeders

Build-It-Yourself Birdhouses is a tutorial woodworking DIY guide by Chris Peterson. Due out 10th Dec 2019 from Quarto on their Cool Springs Press imprint, it's 160 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

These are creative, attractive, and functional houses and feeders. The projects range from the purely practical, to the whimsical, to the architectural and artistic. There are projects for all levels of DIYer and several of them would make great weekend family projects to do with kids.

The projects are arranged thematically, an archetypal birdhouse tutorial covers all the basics. The following chapters provide refinements on the basic look with different sizes, materials, and finishes. There are shelters for small to large birds as well as feeder projects. Definitely enough to keep a weekend DIYer busy all winter. The book includes all templates as well as materials and supplies lists for each project. Materials and templates are given in US standard measurements. The book closes with a links and resources list and a cross-referenced index.

These are attractive and classic and there is wide scope for varying the details to make the projects fit into a home or garden's aesthetic and house (and feed) the local birds at the same time.

Four stars.

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



War and Peas

War and Peas: Funny Comics for Dirty Lovers is a collection of webcomics produced by Jonathan Kunz and Elizabeth Pich. Originally published on their webcomic War and Peas, this collection, due out 3rd March 2020 is 160 pages and will be available in paperback format.

The art is deceptively simple. The single page comics are in 4 panel format, with many recurring characters (Death shows up quite often, for example). The humor is ever so slightly off-kilter and is surreal with elements of magical realism, nerd culture, absurdism, and irony. About half of them elicited a smile or giggle from me.

This would be a good selection for current fans of the authors' work online, or for fans of webcomic style 4 panel art in general. It's a very fast read with appealing quirky art with a modern (somewhat nihilist) aesthetic.

Three and a half stars.

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

What's Killing My Chickens?: The Poultry Predator Detective Manual

What's Killing My Chickens? is a useful tutorial and advice guide for smallholders and poultry-keepers by Gail Damerow. Due out 10th Dec 2019 from Storey, it's 272 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

There are an absolute plethora of smallholder books out and nearly all of them have something to say about keeping poultry. Additionally, there are poultry specific books and all of them show happy, healthy, trouble free chickens running around being entertaining and not being killed and/or eaten by everything from hawks to human neighbors. This is an in-depth troubleshooting guide for figuring out what has gone wrong and how to avoid it in future.

This is from the author's introduction:
This book will help you determine which predators are likely to appear in your area (and, just as important, which are not), give you insights into their behavior, and use the information to devise effective ways to keep your poultry safe.
The book is arranged in two main sections. First is a list of criteria to figure out what conditions led to the loss of stock and how to avoid losses in future. The second half of the book is a chapter by chapter list of common (and less common) poultry predators by families (weasels, raptors, cats, dogs, bears, rodents, corvids and others) along with their ranges, habits, tracks, scat, and more. 

This is an extremely useful book, full of illustrations and photographs. The typeface is easy to read and with good contrast. It's aimed at readers in North America, but will be at least partially applicable to species with a larger range.

This would be a good selection for a smallholder's personal reference library, a cooperative extension lending library, public library, or the like. It could be potentially useful as a support text for a number of other vocational/agriculture classes such as animal husbandry, veterinary subjects, or similar.

Five stars.

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

Epic Air Fryer Cookbook: 100 Inspired Recipes That Take Air-Frying in Deliciously Exciting New Directions

Epic Air Fryer Cookbook is a tutorial and recipe collection aimed at using air frying written and curated by Emily Paster. Due out 10th Dec 2019 from Quarto on their Harvard Common Press imprint, it's 176 pages and will be available in paperback format.

The book follows a logical format with good contrast on the pages and a readable typeset. The photography is clear and easy to follow. I would estimate roughly half of the recipes are pictured.  The introduction and background (~8% of the page content) are followed by the recipes which are grouped by type into chapters: breakfast/brunch, snacks/appetizers, vegetarian mains, meat based mains separated by protein type, veggies and sides, desserts.

The recipes have the ingredients listed bullet style in a sidebar. Measurements are given in US standard with metric measures in parentheses. Special tools and ingredients are also listed, along with yields and cooking directions. The ingredients are all easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store. Yields are given in servings; serving sizes and nutritional info are not given. There is a cross referenced index including ingredients given in the back of the book.

This is an appealing, well written cookbook guide with a generous selection of wide ranging tastes from world cuisine. The recipes aren't difficult. The ingredients aren't difficult to source or 'bizarre' and they really will appeal to a family aesthetic. I like the humor and fun of this one. The author has an inviting and fun style of writing without being cutesy or unnecessarily wordy.

Five stars.

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


Debt Cleanse

Debt Cleanse is a informational guide for reducing or eliminating debt and avoiding abusive debt collection. Released in 2016, it's 418 pages and available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

This is an exhaustive, well annotated guide to the legal ins and outs of the debt collection industry, and how to ameliorate or eliminate consumer debt. I am conflicted about this guide. It is absolutely 100% true that student, medical, and usurious consumer debts are crippling Americans and in some cases driving them to desperation (and in extreme cases, losing their lives from stress related illnesses and suicide). On the other hand, this guide's 'stick it to the man and refuse to pay debts' vibe doesn't resonate well with me. There is a lot of advice about exploiting loopholes and sloppy record-keeping on the part of debt collection agencies in order to avoid having to pay debts. The author jokes about making bad credit scores sexy, and advises consumers to just stop paying bills and stockpile cash in order to avoid having assets seized. He also advises shifting jobs multiple times to avoid garnishment of wages. The author also seems a little jolly about his own harrowing experiences after a natural disaster wiped out his own business and left him over 25 million dollars in debt.

On the other hand, predatory lending practices and the abuse of the vulnerable lower and middle classes have resulted in a latter day medieval serf slave class who are unlikely to escape literal financial servitude in their lifetimes (and indeed are selling their descendants into the same awful perils).

This book provides a number of form letters that readers can use to require proof of debts, as delaying tactics, and possibly get some debt freedom since lenders generally concentrate on the vast majority of debtors who don't/can't fight back.

Four stars.

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

Dogs Don't Lie (A Kallie Collins Cozy Mystery)

Dogs Don't Lie is the first book in a new cozy series by debut author Lisa Shay. Released 11th Sept 2019 it's 189 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a nice cozy with a very slight magical realism facet (the communication with animals / Dr. Doolittle aspect). It's written in the first person, which is a challenge, but I didn't find it especially grating. The author is adept with the more technical aspects of writing.

Protagonist Kallie is a veterinarian working in a group practice. She can communicate with animals, but it's presented as something she learned at a workshop and can be taught to anyone. Other than that, though it plays a fairly central role to the plot progression, it's not discussed or analyzed in any meaningful degree. Other than requiring a healthy suspension of disbelief, I found the rest of the book well written and charming.

There's a slowly developing romance between Kallie and a hunky detective of course. There are numerous animals (though none talk or cast spells, thankfully). The denouement is satisfying and the book is a short and undemanding read. The language is very clean (G-rated) and there's no trigger-warning-worthy violence in the book at all.

The ebook version includes an interactive table of contents Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. It's always fun to find a new author and series to read. I would recommend this one to fans of cozies with romantic subplots. I'm looking forward to more from this debut author.

Four stars.

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



Penny for Your Secrets (Verity Kent #3)

Penny for Your Secrets is the third Verity Kent mystery by Anna Lee Huber. Released 29th Oct 2019 by Kensington, it's 336 pages and available in a library edition, paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

This is a really enjoyable period (interwar England, 1919) cozy murder mystery series and this book in particular highlighted the difficulties of communication and trust building between main characters Verity and Sidney. The author is adept at character building and uses story to develop and deepen her returning characters' personalities and motivations. The secondary characters are also well developed and believable.

The story is skillfully built around real life occurrences and rivalries and the author weaves these background tidbits into the story seamlessly. These undoubtedly represent a large investment in research time on the author's part, but it pays off in verisimilitude in the narrative.

The plotting and pacing were variable. There were some parts of the book which dragged a bit for me. I did like it that the author intentionally leaves large plot elements unresolved and I'll be looking forward to the next books in the series. The denouement was exciting and it's nice that Verity is strong and intelligent and can take care of herself, more or less. The author does give Sidney some latitude for heroic swoon worthy rescues occasionally, which I admit that I like. For readers who insist that their fictional heroines never need rescuing, there might be some slight eye-rolling involved in this one.

This is a period cozy with solid storytelling, good plot, very strong characterizations and dialogue. The language is clean; there's a nice romance element between the main characters. There is some strongly implied sexual content, used in context, but nothing graphic at all.

Four stars.

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

Friday, November 22, 2019

Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting: Master the meditative art of Japanese brush painting






Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting is a tutorial technique and project guide for Japanese & Chinese calligraphy brush painting by Virginia Lloyd-Davies. Due out 3rd Dec 2019 from Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in ebook and paperback formats.

Walter Foster are familiar and loved by readers everywhere for their specialized technique tutorial books and this one follows the same format. The introductory chapter (~12% of the content) includes beginning to intermediate techniques and information about form, composition, brush strokes, preparing ink, as well as tools (brushes, inks, paper) and supplies and how to use them.

The following chapters provide a really immersive and engaging group of specific subjects including classic stylized bamboo, orchid, plum, and chrysanthemum (the four gentlemen), iris, peony, insects, birds, and all in the instantly recognizable classic sumi-e style.  The text is accessible and the author's voice is positive, encouraging, and meditative. I intend to work my way through the included studies and projects, but I am pleased with the progress I've already made beginning with this book.

There is a nice links and bibliography included with suggestions for books and videos for further exploration.  Well done!
Five stars.

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

Death Has Deep Roots: A Second World War Mystery

Death Has Deep Roots is the 5th book by Michael Gilbert with Inspector Hazlerigg (who has a cameo here). Originally published in 1951, this reformat and re-release, out 5th Nov 2019 is part of the British Library Crime Classics series by Poisoned Pen Press. The new edition is 288 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. (Other editions available in other formats).

This is a classic courtroom drama/mystery with locked room overtones. This is a really enjoyable and well written legal procedural from an author who wasn't well known to me. I haven't yet read a single clunker from the British Library Classics. This one, as the others in the series, is introduced with background from the ever erudite mystery maven Martin Edwards. These intros are frankly worth the price of admission by themselves and include background info on the authors, the history, and (in this case) the film adaptation. Good stuff.

The language is precise and the book is very well written if ever so slightly dated (it's almost 70 years old). The mystery is cerebral with a very interesting back history about WW2 and the French resistance and WW2. I would definitely recommend it to fans of legal and classic mysteries of the period. Four stars.

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

Witchnapped in Westerham

Witchnapped in Westerham is the first book in the Paranormal Investigation Bureau series (currently up to book 9) by Dionne Lister. Released 16th July 2018, it's 218 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a cute, undemanding, paranormal cozy. Main character Lily is a photographer and *surprise* a witch. She finds out more about her own and other's powers when a strange Englishwoman appears on her doorstep and drags her off to England to help find her kidnapped brother who, it turns out, is a colleague of the aforementioned woman, exploring crimes with a paranormal angle.

The plotting is simple, undemanding, and the plot twists are unlikely to surprise many readers. The dialogue is often silly and/or snarky. There's also a hunky antagonistic detective who provides the necessary slow burn romantic element. I liked reading about the magical elements and the limits of the various characters' talents (they vary).  The denouement was a little surprising; the 'whodunnit' aspect won't come as a shock for many (any?) readers.

One quibble from me... It made my eye twitch on page 163 to see the author use "infer" when she clearly meant "imply". The book is self published and likely self-edited, but it did make me wince.

This is a nice easy entertaining paranormal cozy. I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops.

Three and a half stars.

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

The Vanishing Season

The Vanishing Season is the first book in a new mystery/thriller series by Joanna Schaffhausen. Originally published in 2017, this reformat and re-release from Macmillan on their Minotaur imprint it's 274 pages and available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

This is a well written and atmospheric thriller with a serial killer theme and a main protagonist who is an adult survivor of an abduction as a teenager. The plotting is tense and controlled and ramps up through the book to a satisfying (and admittedly somewhat surprising) denouement. The characters are clearly drawn, distinct, and believable. The dialogue is intelligent and never clunky.

I read this book alone in my house during a snow/hailstorm in the middle of the night and scared the pants off myself. It really is well written and parts are very creepy. The language is rough (R-rated), and there are potentially traumatic themes (obviously), abduction, body horror, murder, etc. I would recommend this series to fans of the gritty procedural serial killer genre. The author has a strong voice and a surprisingly sure command of plotting and tension elements in her writing for a debut novel. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Four stars.

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

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The New Voices of Science Fiction

The New Voices of Science Fiction is an anthology of new SF short fiction expertly curated and introduced by Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman. Released 13th Nov 2019 by Tachyon, it's 432 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. These stories (20 by my count), were originally published between 2015 and 2019 and are gathered here for the first time.

This is top shelf fiction. One of the reasons I like anthologies and collections is that they're often full of new-to-me authors for further reading.  I've always had a particular fondness for collections/anthologies because short fiction is spare and technically challenging, so you get a better feel for an author's expertise with the form. Short fiction is less of a time commitment as well, so if one story is not working for you, there's another piece readily available in a few pages.This is a showcase of up and coming authors; it's a sister volume to The New Voices of Fantasy from 2017.  The short introductions for each story are interesting and well written and add a lot of interest.

The quality of the stories is very high.  They are well written, varied, well curated stories.  Of the 20 included stories, only a few were from authors familiar to me.

It's unclear from the publishing info available online, but the eARC I received has a handy interactive table of contents. I hope the ebook release version does also. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. Presumably that feature will carry through to the final release version.

I think  this might be the first time I've given an anthology 5 stars. These stories are varied in tone, execution, length, subject matter, but they're all really good.

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

A Spell of Murder (A Lost Maidens Loch Mystery #1)

A Spell of Murder is the first book in a new paranormal mystery series by Kennedy Kerr. Released 3rd Oct 2019, it's 165 pages and available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. The ebook version includes an interactive table of contents Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

This is a nicely written engaging cozy murder mystery with a paranormal twist, the main character does psychometry (occasionally for the police and more often for antiques authenticators) and her sister deals in antique books and scrying. When a local schoolteacher dies from poisoning, main character Temerity helps the local law enforcement (complete with dishy new constable Angus) sort out the less logical aspects of the case.

The plotting is well managed, the characterizations are distinct and obey their internal motivations. I had no trouble keeping track of who was who. Since it's a paranormal cozy, it requires a healthy suspension of disbelief, but the author doesn't abuse that trust. I found it charming and entertaining. The accents for some of the characters  (especially Inspector Hyland and Muriel, the local tea-shop owner and gossip) are distracting, but after a while I got used to them and didn't find them so distracting as written.

It's always fun to find a new author and series to read. I would recommend this one to fans of paranormal cozies with romantic subplots.

Three and a half stars.

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

Grasshopper Eye and the Lost Vial (Hollows on the Bayou Book 1)

Grasshopper Eye and the Lost Vial is the first book of a new series for children (Hollows on the Bayou Book 1) by Michelle Jester. Released 21st Nov 2019, it's 44 pages and available in ebook format.

This is a very short and simple book for youngsters about kindness, inclusivity, expressing emotions, community, and what it means to belong. The text is simple and accessible and would suit young readers up to 7+ (or any age as a read-to-me book). The art is simple and colorful and heartfelt, but not particularly polished. The art is a combination of photography inset into drawn illustrations. The typography has good contrast and is easy to read. It's a comic sans variant typeface.

Worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this title is available in the KU subscription to borrow and download for free.

This might make a good tie-in for a library activity day where participants could decorate a container, talk about the themes in the book, and listen to the story.

Three stars. Heartfelt but not polished. Great themes and a good message overall.

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

Yeast Fermentation Handbook: Essential Guide and Recipes for Beer and Bread Makers

The Yeast Fermentation Handbook is an interesting niche guide for people interested in the mechanics and uses for yeast in daily life (especially bread and brewing). Released 5th Nov 2019 by Callisto on their Rockridge Press imprint, it's 154 pages and available in paperback and ebook format.

The book follows a logical progression:  what yeast is, what it does (and doesn't), how to handle yeast optimally and control as many variables as possible to ensure the best outcomes, beer specific info and recipes, bread specific info and recipes, and my absolute favorite chapter - experimenting with yeasts. Honestly the experiments from the last chapter are well worth the price of admission - the author has an engaging and layman accessible way of making the potentially complex chemistry processes fun and understandable. The illustrations throughout are simple, but clear and easy to follow.

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.  The book also includes a nice (interactive) links and resources list, a bibliography, glossary, and short author bio.

This would make a superlative resource book for the home baker or brewer as well as homesteaders, wildcrafters, and the like. It would also be a really cool support text for a science unit in a classroom or library activity setting. There is a super nifty and relevant experiment for catching and isolating strains of wild/feral yeast which is both cool and useful.

Five stars. This is an amazing book and will become a reference for homesteaders, brewers, bakers, and crafters.

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

Meal Prep for Weight Loss: Weekly Plans and Recipes to Lose Weight the Healthy Way

Meal Prep for Weight Loss is a tutorial and recipe guide for weight loss written and curated by Kelli Shallal. Released 15th Oct 2019 by Callisto on their Rockridge Press imprint, it's 265 pages and available in paperback and ebook format.

The book has a logical format. Chapter 1-2 covers the background of weight loss and benefits of meal-prep and planning as well as a very general layman-accessible discussion of the mechanics of weight loss itself. Chapter 3-6 cover meal prep and planning, making lists, batch cooking, food safety and storage. There is a lot of good advice in these chapters which are applicable to any meal prep and planning sessions, not just for the AIP. The author also includes some logical pointers about containers, ingredients, and supplies. Chapters 7+ include a number of batch-friendly recipes arranged thematically: carbs, veggies, proteins, snacks.

The meal plan chapters include a surprisingly varied selection of multiple day to weekly meal plans with different tastes and representing different world cuisines: Italian, American, Asian fusion, and more.

The recipes have their ingredients listed bullet style in a sidebar. Measurements are given in US standard only. Special tools and ingredients are also listed, along with yields and cooking directions. The ingredients are all easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store.
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. The book also includes a short author bio, and a metric conversion chart, but lacks any index or ingredients lists.

My one small quibble with the book is that the recipes are mostly not photographed. There are some photos, and they're clear and attractive, but they only represent about 5% of the recipes.

Well done. This book would make a great gift/housewarming for someone looking for sensible weight loss recipes as well as fans of food prep planning / batch cooking.

Four stars.

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