Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Winner, Winner! Chicken Dinner: 50 Winning Ways to Cook it Up!

Winner, Winner! Chicken Dinner is a well curated recipe collection for chicken in a variety of creative and delicious ways. Released 28th April 2020 by Storey, it's 160 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is a beautifully presented book, well written and photographed. The recipes are appetizing and made with easily sourced ingredients. It also includes one of the best and most accessible (and least intimidating) tutorials for cutting up a whole chicken at home. The pictures are *clear* and *large* and understandable. Buying whole chickens is much much less expensive than buying already cut up chicken and will give you different cuts of meat for different dishes. It's also quite possible to source farm raised birds locally increasing the quality and freshness of the meat. The book doesn't include any instruction for butchering live birds. There are other cutting and prep tutorials included such as butterflying chicken breasts, filleting, and carving. The equipment chapter also gives a good overview on equipment and supplies which will make life a lot easier.

The recipes are arranged by cooking type: oven, pan, pot, grill. There are numerous recipes in each category. The recipes have their ingredients listed bullet style in a sidebar. The headers include a description and introduction. Measurements are given in US standard only (there is a metric conversion chart at the end of the book). Special tools and ingredients are also listed, along with yields and cooking directions. Most of the ingredients are easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store (some items will need a specialist co-op or world-food/specialist grocery). Nutritional information is not included.  Cook's notes and variations for each recipe are also included in a footer at the end.The recipes all fit on a single page (which is super convenient for reading from a tablet when your hands are full of flour). The book also includes a recipe list and index.  The chapter on using leftovers is full of good tips on reducing waste.

Well written, very well presented, full of tasty family-friendly recipes.

Five stars.

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

Simply Living Well: A Guide to Creating a Natural, Low-Waste Home

Simply Living Well is a resource guide to a low/no-waste lifestyle by Julia Watkins. Released 7th April 2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, it's 288 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

 This is a very logically arranged and accessible book full of short tutorials and tips gathered by category: low-waste kitchen, natural cleaning, natural wellness, natural bath and body, and kitchen gardening. The author has also included a useful resources and links list for further reading. Each of the larger categories is split into dozens of mini-tutorials and ideas. The photography throughout is clear and clean and harmoniously pleasant.

This book would make a superlative gift for an ecology minded friend/neighbor or a solid addition to the home reference library. It's full of sensible ideas for reducing the family's carbon footprint.

Five stars, a really well made book.

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Origami Boxes

Origami Boxes is a collection of tutorials for containers bundled with 200 sheets of origami paper. Released 15th April 2020 by Dover, it's 256 pages and available in paperback format.

The tutorials are all accessible and the drawings are very clear and well illustrated and concise. The difficulty of the projects range from beginner level to more advanced. This is an anthology collection of 8 tutorials representing 7 origami artists. It should be noted that the actual instruction book is 56 pages, the 256 page count includes the 200 sheets of bundled origami paper.

At the very beginning of the book are the symbol explanations and the short tutorials for the traditional folds.  This will help complete newbies to be able to follow the later tutorials.  There are (in my opinion) none of the pieces in this book which would be beyond a keen beginner's abilities with a generous dose of patience and practice. 

 Dover publications has long been a standard bearer for beautifully illustrated well made crafts books.  This one is no exception.  Everything is top notch. This would make a perfect gift for both enthusiasts and origami-curious beginners.

In fact, though I received a free e-book copy of this book for review purposes; I've already purchased a copy for my origami mad daughter.

Four stars

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

Monday, April 27, 2020

Clean Paleo Family Cookbook: 100 Delicious Squeaky Clean Paleo and Keto Recipes to Please Everyone at the Table

Clean Paleo Family Cookbook is a tutorial and recipe collection for paleo and keto compliant food. Released 21st April 2020 by Quarto on their Fair Winds Press imprint, it's 192 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

The introduction includes a very good overview over the paleo diet, what it includes (and doesn't) and some theory behind the food selections. There's also an introduction to basic cooking equipment and ingredients.

The recipes are grouped by category: sauces & appetizers, breakfasts, salads, sides, mains, electric pressure cooker (Instant Pot) and slow cooker recipes, kid-approved recipes, sweet treats & drinks.

The recipes have their ingredients listed bullet style in a sidebar. Measurements are given in US standard with metric measures in parentheses (yay!). Special tools and ingredients are also listed, along with yields and cooking directions. Most of the ingredients are easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store. Nutritional information is not included.  Tips and variations on each recipe are included in a text box at the end. Special dietary comments (squeaky clean paleo, keto paleo, traditional paleo, etc) are included in the headers.

The book also includes a short heartfelt and interesting author bio, and a general ingredients index.

The recipes are attractively and very well photographed. I really liked being able to see finished dishes and serving suggestions. It is also a very well written book for anyone who needs a good introduction to paleo eating and lifestyle. I liked that the author seems very reasonable and that the book lacks that tinge of fanaticism present in a lot of keto/paleo lifestyle and cooking books. (Admit it, you know what I'm talking about). 

Four and a half stars. This would make a superlative selection for busy family cooks wanting a simplified way to test the paleo diet and make a real effort to give it a genuine try in an accessible and logical manner.

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

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Gaming Mind: A New Psychology of Videogames and the Power of Play

The Gaming Mind is a well presented layman accessible discussion of videogames and the effects of play on development and psychology. Released 31st March 2020 by The Experiment, it's 288 pages and available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

I've been a gamer since (long) before the internet (or computers - in a meaningful way) existed. I went from chess and backgammon to tabletop strategy wargames, to warhammer and D&D, and eventually to MU*s, and thereafter to various MMOrpgs and other video games (including arcade ones). Being a gamer (and bibliophile) is so integral to my personality that it has shaped me profoundly and colored most aspects of my life. I was excited to read this book and explore the clinical aspects of that portion of my life. I wasn't disappointed.

This is such a well written and invitingly warm and compassionate discussion of how gaming affects players and how they can also shape and inform our interpersonal relationships. My experiences paralleled the author's own in a lot of ways (I'm about 15 years older than he is). The chapters are arranged thematically by subject and include a lot of profound insights on the positive aspects of gaming as well as the inevitable discussions of violence and addiction as they relate to video games.

I was surprised at how honestly and frankly he speaks of his real life experiences growing up, and his narrative is so open and compelling that I really felt a connection and a desire to know how his trauma had been resolved and see if his own insights had applicability to my own life.  

This would make a superlative read for gamers, of course, but even more for gamers' families, students of clinical psychology, school learners, pretty much everyone, honestly. This is a really well made book. It's an interesting and enlightening read, beautifully and exhaustively annotated and footnoted, with a solid cross referenced index included.

Five stars.

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



SUPER Science Experiments: Build It: Build rockets and racers and test energy forces!

SUPER Science Experiments: Build It: Build rockets and racers and test energy forces! is a new STEAM activity guide for young readers (and their resource adults/caregivers) by Elizabeth Snoke Harris. Released 14th April 2020 by Quarto on their MoonDance Press imprint, it's 64 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is one volume of a series of simple and practical science experiments aimed at middle school aged learners (ages 8+). This one contains over 75 tutorials (I didn't count carefully) covering concepts in mechanics, fluid dynamics, engineering, and more. This is full of fun maker activities for things that fly, go, zoom, and whiz.

Everyone needs fun learning ideas for youngsters (and adults) in these bizarre days. Science and learning have always been my go-to stress and boredom busters whenever I have to stay home and can't go out. This collection is simple, full of easy to follow experiments and activities, and uses easy to find ingredients which most readers already have available around the house.

There are a number of activities which can be done by kids themselves without supervision. All safety information and tips are clearly delineated in the text. The tutorials themselves are accessible and written simply in easy to understand language.

The illustrations are simple and well done. They support and enhance the experiments. Each of the exercises has a list of ingredients, step by step instructions, and a "What's Happening" explanation of the relevant concepts at the end of each one. The tutorial measurements are given in American standard measures (pounds, cups, and so forth). There is also a very abbreviated index at the back of the book. It should be noted that these are *simple* experiments, and that some of the explanations might be somewhat oversimplified and not very complete (in my opinion). It would be a good additional exercise to research a little deeper about the concepts covered in the chapters to get more complete understanding and deeper learning.

This would make a super book for science homeschooling units, makers groups (when we can go out again), or even online school instruction sessions.

Four stars.

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

Survival Tips 150 Essential Life-saving Skills

Survival Tips 150 Essential Life-saving Skills is a tutorial guide by Clive Johnson. Originally published in 2002 this reformatted second edition released 14th April 2020 from Amber Books is 322 pages and available in paperback format (1st edition available in other formats).

The book contains a collection of survival tips arranged thematically by terrain: mountains, desert, polar climate, sea, tropics, natural disasters. The author has also provided some ancillary information about situations and psychological stress factors which can affect the reader's chances of survival (anxiety, depression, hopelessness, etc and how to minimize their effects).

The introductory chapters include useful equipment and preparation lists as well as some general first aid and signaling and navigation to increase the chances for rescue.

The book is illustrated with black and white line drawings which support and supplement the text very well.

It should be noted that the book is written with non-American terminology and spellings (torch, flannel, colour, etc). It is not confusing or unclear in any way from context, and shouldn't detract at all from the usefulness of the volume. This isn't a book which will lend itself to being read cover to cover, but for short interludes or as a reference, it's useful.

Four stars.

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





Saturday, April 25, 2020

Feminist Stitches Cross Stitch Kit with 12 Fierce Designs

Feminist Stitches Cross Stitch Kit with 12 Fierce Designs is a bundled kit + instruction book with 12 feminist friendly embroidery projects. Released 21st April by Quarto on their becker&mayer! imprint, it's 64 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. I received the electronic galley proof of the book without any kit materials, so I can't review those, but the included designs are easily usable on most fabrics with the reader's choice of floss. I'm also not sure how the fabric and floss (and needle) is bundled with the electronic version of the book.

The book has a nice layout with clear and easy to follow basic stitching diagrams. The introductory chapters include a basic tools and techniques section with photo illustrations of needles, fabric, cutting tools, hoops, and some simple finishing techniques. Each of the projects include a color key with DMC floss numbers and color names.

The projects themselves are simple counted thread (cross stitch). They're cheerful and colorful, on point and fun. The designs vary slightly in size, but all of them fit into an 80x80 grid. I adore the RBG silhouette collar which spells RESIST.

This would make a superlative gift for a cross stitch interested young person (or for oneself).
Four stars. Several of these are very nice quick projects.

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



SUPER Science Experiments: Cool Creations: Make slime, crystals, invisible ink, and more!

SUPER Science Experiments: Cool Creations: Make slime, crystals, invisible ink, and more! is a new STEAM activity guide for young readers (and their resource adults/caregivers) by Elizabeth Snoke Harris. Released 14th April 2020 by Quarto on their MoonDance Press imprint, it's 64 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is one volume of a series of simple and practical science experiments aimed at middle school aged learners (ages 8+). This one contains over 75 tutorials (I didn't count carefully) covering concepts in statics, fluid dynamics (Bernoulli! <3), engineering, forensics, and more. There isn't a kid or adult alive who isn't fascinated by dusting for fingerprints.

Everyone needs fun learning ideas for youngsters (and adults) in these bizarre days. Science and learning have always been my go-to stress and boredom busters whenever I have to stay home and can't go out. This collection is simple, full of easy to follow experiments and activities, and uses easy to find ingredients which most readers already have available around the house.

There are a number of activities which can be done by kids themselves without supervision. All safety information and tips are clearly delineated in the text. The tutorials themselves are accessible and written simply in easy to understand language.

The illustrations are simple and well done. They support and enhance the experiments. Each of the exercises has a list of ingredients, step by step instructions, and a "What's Happening" explanation of the relevant concepts at the end of each one. The tutorial measurements are given in American standard measures (pounds, cups, and so forth). There is also a very abbreviated index at the back of the book. It should be noted that these are *simple* experiments, and that some of the explanations might be somewhat oversimplified (in my opinion).

This would make a super book for science homeschooling units or even online school instruction sessions.

Four stars.

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

SUPER Science Experiments: Outdoor Fun: Get dirty outdoors, test your brain, and more!

SUPER Science Experiments: Outdoor Fun is a new STEAM activity guide for young readers (and their resource adults/caregivers) by Elizabeth Snoke Harris. Released 14th April 2020 by Quarto on their MoonDance Press imprint, it's 64 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is one volume of a series of simple and practical science experiments aimed at middle school aged learners. This one contains over 75 tutorials (I didn't count carefully) covering concepts in earth science, biology (entomology) and microbiology, physiology, wave physics, and more.

Everyone needs fun learning ideas for youngsters (and adults) in these bizarre days. Science and learning have always been my go-to stress and boredom busters whenever I have to stay home and can't go out. This collection is simple, full of easy to follow experiments and activities, and uses easy to find ingredients which most readers already have available around the house.

There are a number of activities which can be done by kids themselves without supervision. All safety information and tips are clearly delineated in the text. The tutorials themselves are accessible and written simply in easy to understand language.

The illustrations are simple and well done. They don't detract from the experiments. Each of the exercises has a list of ingredients, step by step instructions, and a "What's Happening" explanation of the relevant concepts at the end of each one. I didn't count how many were included in this book, but there must be close to 100. The tutorial measurements are given in American standard measures (pounds, cups, and so forth). There is also a very abbreviated index at the back of the book. It should be noted that these are *simple* experiments, and that some of them might contain processes to which some readers object (this volume includes a lab on how to make and use a kill jar for collecting insects).

This would make a super book for science homeschooling units or even online school instruction sessions.

Four stars.

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

SUPER Science Experiments: At Home: Try these in the kitchen, bathroom, and all over your home!

SUPER Science Experiments: At Home is a new STEAM activity guide for young readers (and their resource adults/caregivers) by Elizabeth Snoke Harris. Released 14th April 2020 by Quarto on their MoonDance Press imprint, it's 64 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

Everyone needs fun learning ideas for youngsters (and adults) in these bizarre days. Science and learning have always been my go-to stress and boredom busters whenever I have to stay home and can't go out. This collection is simple, full of easy to follow experiments and activities, and uses easy to find ingredients which most readers already have available around the house.

There are a number of activities which can be done by kids themselves without supervision. All safety information and tips are clearly delineated in the text. The tutorials themselves are accessible and written simply in easy to understand language. They're varied in scope and concepts including learning in physics, chemistry, cell biology (with a truly spiffy DNA isolation exercise), and interdisciplinary experiments.

The illustrations are simple and well done. They don't detract from the experiments. Each of the exercises has a list of ingredients, step by step instructions, and a "What's Happening" explanation of the relevant concepts at the end of each one. I didn't count how many were included in this book, but there must be close to 100. The tutorial measurements are given in American standard measures (pounds, cups, and so forth). There is also a very abbreviated index at the back of the book. It should be noted that these are *simple* experiments, and that some of them use quite a lot of easily sourced materials (several pounds of salt for one exercise).

This would make a super book for science homeschooling units or even online school instruction sessions.

Four stars.

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


Rise of ZomBert

Rise of ZomBert is a middle grade reader level series setup and backstory for the  titular character (an escaped lab cat who may or may not have special powers) and the young girl (Mellie) and her friend (Danny) who encounter and sort-of-adopt the scruffy half dead feline. Due out 14th July 2020 from Candlewick Press, it's 144 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

The narrative is at turns slightly creepy, but doesn't actually edge over into horror or supernatural goings-on. The characters are well rendered and the whole is quite readable and fun. It will be interesting to see how the story develops because, fair warning, it ends *very* abruptly. The art is wornderfully atmospheric and slightly gritty and suits the story very well.

I'll be looking forward to the following books. This would suit readers who have enjoyed Spiderwick, Lemony Snicket's books, or even E. Nesbitt. It's not derivative of any of those in any way, but it has a similar vibe.

Well written, perfect (non-intrusive) art. Four stars.

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

Friday, April 24, 2020

I Can Draw! Farm Fun

I Can Draw! Farm Fun is a delightfully useful line drawing activity book for youngsters. Released 15th April 2020 from Dover, it's 32 pages and available in paperback booklet form.

The drawings are encouragingly simple and the step by step tutorials are accessible and easy to follow and replicate. Each of the 17 drawings has a coloring page, a tutorial series, and a blue line grid for reproducing the picture. This book is part of a series with lots of how-to books with similar formats.The included tutorial drawings are farm scenes with animals such as a goose, bee, cow, frog, ladybug, deer, and familiar farm objects like a house, tractor, etc.

Great selection for a gift for a young artist, perhaps with some added sketch pads and pencils. This would also make a superlative classroom or library book. I would also recommend this book to babysitters, grandparents, parents, and basically anyone who spends a fair bit of time with small kids in order to up their 'draw with me' game. I really enjoyed this (and managed to recreate a recognizable horse).

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

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



Keto Cleanse: 14-Day Plans to Reset with a Clean Ketogenic Diet

Keto Cleanse is a cookbook with meal plans for a reset/dietary cleanse by Karissa Long. Released 14th April 2020 by Callisto on their Rockridge Press imprint, it's 210 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is an appealing and accessible keto cookbook for readers looking for entry-level recipes. The layout is sensible and easy to follow. An introduction (what ketosis is, the benefits of eating a keto diet, myths and facts about ketosis), is followed by a potential healing results, preparation (including tools and supplies), and a description of the different types of meal plans included by the author. There are complete pantry and shopping lists as well as a schedule type listing (with active links for easily flipping back and forth in the electronic version).

The next section includes the recipes which are grouped by category: breakfast & smoothies, soups & salads, vegetables & side dishes, seafood, poultry, beef pork & lamb, beverages & treats, and staple recipes and ingredients recipes.

The recipes have their ingredients listed bullet style in a sidebar. The headers include a description, including special info such as elimination friendly, super quick, and vegetarian. Measurements are given in US standard only. Special tools and ingredients are also listed, along with yields and cooking directions. Most of the ingredients are easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store (some items will need a specialist co-op or health-food grocery). Nutritional information is included in a footer at the end of each entry.  Tips and variations on each recipe are also included in a text box at the end. Extra info: the dressing recipes in the staples chapter are *really* well put together and tasty. I've been dipping everything into the vinaigrette, it's fantastic.

The book also includes a short author bio but lacks any index or general ingredients index (there are however, complete ingredients lists in the meal plan chapters). There is a metric conversion chart included in the book. The author also includes some interesting web resource links for further reading.

My quibbles with the book: first, 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 included in the book. Second, I cringe whenever I see the word "cleanse" used in any food/diet context. The author herself covers that issue pretty well and provides a decent layman accessible explanation why tea and juice "cleanses" are generally a bad idea.  (So I haven't subtracted anything for the use in the title, but it did make me wince).

Four stars. This would make a good choice for readers looking for a quick-start keto diet with diet friendly meal plans.

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

 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Eating Vegan: A Plant-Based Cookbook for Beginners

Eating Vegan is a new tutorial and recipe collection for vegan cuisine by Dianne Wenz. Released 14th April 2020 by Callisto on their Rockridge Press imprint, it's 150 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

This is a very appealing and accessible cookbook mostly aimed at beginning cooks and readers looking for entry-level recipes which aren't too 'way out there' for transitioning to a plant based diet. The layout is sensible and easy to follow. An introduction (what vegan food is, the benefits of plant based nutrition, myths and facts about veganism), is followed by a pantry list of vegan staples, some cooking and food handling information and tools and supplies.

The recipes are grouped by category: breakfast, salads soups & stews, snacks & sides, handhelds (sandwiches, wraps, etc), mains, deserts, and staple recipes and ingredients.

The recipes have their ingredients listed bullet style in a sidebar. The headers include a description, including special info such as leftover friendly, nut free, and plan ahead. Measurements are given in US standard only. Special tools and ingredients are also listed, along with yields and cooking directions. Most of the ingredients are easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store (some items will need a specialist co-op or vegetarian grocery). Nutritional information is included in a footer at the end of each entry.  Tips and variations on each recipe are also included in a text box at the end.

The book also includes a short author bio but lacks any index or general ingredients index. There is also no metric conversion chart included in the book. The author includes some interesting web resource links for further reading.

My main 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 included in the book. It is, however, a very well written book for anyone who is looking for a solid introduction to vegan cooking and lifestyle. 

Four stars. This would make a nice choice for a housewarming gift for a newly-fledged first apartment dweller or beginning cook exploring vegan food.

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


The Mindfulness in Knitting:Meditations on Craft and Calm

The Mindfulness in Knitting is an interesting look at the intersection of knitting and its effects on our mental and physical being. Released 14th April 2020 by Quarto on their Leaping Hare imprint, it's 144 pages and available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. This is one of a series of books examining mindful habits, with titles including birdwatching, traveling, compassion, music, reading, silence, singing, and many others.

This is a surprisingly intimate conversation between the author and the reader. There are musings and stories about knitting and how it can be used as a method of self discovery and actualization. There are anecdotes about learning to knit and how knitting can be a solace and sometimes even a barrier between the knitter and their peers.

The chapters provide observational and practical guidance for self discovery through knitting. Each topic (structured learning, textiles and other basic needs, creativity and the concept of sacred space, activism and creativity, the complex and nuanced consequences of giving our creativity) is accompanied by varied and interesting discussions of the author's experiences as well as sidebars with interactive questions for the reader to explore alone.

This would make a brilliant read for a fibrearts friendly journaler. There are quite a surprising number of deep concepts and takeaways. I admit I came for the knitting discussion and found myself touched and affected by the philosophy. Quite a lot of the material was relevant and fascinating for me. As a lifelong knitter, I have given knitted gifts to others and been bewildered when they were 'hit or miss' without me being able to predict with any degree of accuracy whether the recipient would love or hate the item. This book gave me some good insights as to why (and how to potentially navigate future gifts to increase the odds in my favor).

All in all a surprisingly dense but useful read. This is one for contemplative reading interspersed with knitting and tea and chocolate. (Or wine, wine's good). It would also make a great buddy read or bookclub selection for fibrearts friendly groups. It's full of good discussion starters.

Five stars.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Expressive Sketchbooks: Developing Creative Skills, Courage, and Confidence

Expressive Sketchbooks is a tutorial and technique guide for developing artistic skills and confidence by Helen Wells. Released 14th April 2020 by Quarto on their Quarry imprint, it's 144 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

I enjoy writing and journaling. I like putting into words what I've been experiencing and processing in my day-to-day existence. I am a huge list-maker and find that for me, prioritizing different goals and dividing large projects into smaller tasks increases my productivity greatly. On the other hand, probably half of the gorgeous notebooks, sketchbooks, journals, and other paper books I bought with the best intentions sit still wrapped in plastic, unused, in my bookshelves. I am intimidated and sad/frustrated by my 'lack' of artistic talent. That's where this book helps.

The author has an accessible and encouraging style of instruction. It's a restful book to read and quite appealing graphically. Through guided instruction, she provides help with motivation, getting over starting difficulties, actual artistic techniques, finding inspiration, choosing subjects,  and more practical lessons for getting over the intimidation of the blank page staring at you. (This was the most valuable takeaway for me personally).

This is a good book for bullet journals, sketchbooks, art diaries, building up a sketchbook library, art practice, mindfulness, etc.

I really loved the author/artist's wise words and advice about self kindness and avoiding being cruel with ourselves with regard to assessment.

Four stars. Lots of useful advice and accessible information.

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

The Art of Spiral Drawing: Learn to create spiral art and geometric drawings using pencil, pen, and more

The Art of Spiral Drawing is a tutorial and technique guide for drawing/doodling geometric illusions by Jonathan Stephen Harris. Released 14th April 2020 by Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 128 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

The layout follows the familiar Walter Foster book format. An introduction covers tools and supplies and is followed by a short and easily accessible general technique tutorial and an introduction to perspective.  There's a good subchapter on techniques for different geometric shapes as well as a short intro on how to compose a drawing and developing forms from simple line drawings (sailboat, tree, cupcake, butterfly, etc).

This is a very basic book but full of good techniques and will provide some useful takeaways for the majority of readers/artists.The techniques here would be great for bullet journals, notebooks, wall art, fabric drawing, painting canvas for needlepoint, counted thread/canvas embroidery, leatherworking, and more. This would also be a great resource book for anyone wanting to up their drawing-with-young-family-members game.

Four stars.

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

Running Out of Road (Buck Schatz #3)

Running Out of Road is the third Buck Schatz mystery by Daniel Friedman. Released 24th March by Macmillan on their Minotaur imprint, it's 288 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.

This was the first book in the series for me and I was blown away. Main character Buck is almost 90, irascible, plagued with physical problems and losing his mental acuity after nearly half a century of being a sharp, feared, pragmatic detective in the Memphis Police Dept. The writing is simply top notch; the characterizations are incredibly adept, the dialogue is so well written and rings true. The author is a gifted wordsmith. He manages to keep the technical aspects of the disparate time lines clearly delineated and easy to follow despite there being changes in scene, flashbacks to different occurrences over several decades and all of these are interwoven with a fictive NPR radio broadcast transcript. Technically, the writing is simply flawless. The author has such a sure hand with the narrative. I really felt for the characters (almost in spite of myself).

There is quite a lot of discussion of the ethics of the death penalty in the USA which is relevant to the plotline and which was simultaneously enlightening and sad. There are also some graphic descriptions of the actual execution process and physiological responses which might be distressing or traumatic for some readers.

Despite the heavy plot elements, there are genuinely funny and warmly humorous moments. I will absolutely seek out the other books in the series. The author is a fine writer.

Five stars. It's really that well written.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Stormsong (The Kingston Cycle #2)

Stormsong is the second book in the Kingston Cycle by C. L. Polk. Released 11th Feb 2020 by Macmillan on their Tor imprint, it's 344 pages and available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

This is well written grand YA fantasy. The world building and magical components are engaging and enjoyable, but it's the corresponding applicability to the world we live in which gives it a poignant relevance. There is scathing political commentary along with the "forbidden magic" trope. The romance plot elements include a great deal of sighing and longing, but nothing explicit.

The technical aspects of the writing, characterization, and plotting are well executed; the author is a gifted storyteller. Fans of YA fantasy with a romance subplot will likely enjoy it a lot. I found it a diverting read, charming and escapist.

Four stars.

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




A Death in Chelsea (A Mayfair 100 Murder Mystery #2)

 A Death in Chelsea is the second book in the Mayfair 100 series by Lynn Brittney. Released 10th March 2020 by Crooked Lane Books (original release in Great Britain in 2019), it's 326 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

Despite being the second book in the series, the author is adept at providing backstory information, the plot development is easy to follow, and the characters are distinct enough that it works well as a standalone. It's a fun cozy set in WW1 London with a motley crew of mostly female amateur sleuths investigating the suspicious apparent suicide death of a society gossip monger who's also a member of the minor nobility. There are suspects aplenty, the victim was widely loathed and reviled.

The plot is straightforward and easy to follow. The characterization felt slightly pandering and too archetypal to be very engaging to me (the smart and acerbic female doctor, the surprisingly intelligent salt-of-the-earth charlady from the lower classes, the patroness from the noble class, the honest copper, the special branch career investigator who secures them their cases, etc).  For readers in search of meticulously researched verisimilitude, this one will likely engender teeth gnashing. Bring a hefty suspension of disbelief. It is, at the end of the day, a diverting read with a mostly satisfying denouement, pure escapism with a good ending. Frankly that's what this reader needed at the moment, escapism.  The language content is very clean (an occasional "bloody h*ll", nothing worse. There is some dark content, drug abuse, discussion of suicide, moralistic reflection on societal attitudes about birth outside wedlock during the Edwardian/Georgian era, and such. 

Four stars for fans of historical cozies with female ensembles who aren't sticklers for period dialogue or forms of address for the nobility.

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


Monday, April 20, 2020

Canadian Women Now and Then: More than 100 Stories of Fearless Trailblazers

Canadian Women Now + Then is a collection of illustrated biographical vignettes of over 100 Canadian women from the past and present. Released 7th April 2020 by Kids Can Press, it's 80 pages and available in hardcover format.

This would make a superlative classroom/library resource, homeschool aid, or a fun and interesting entertaining read. The biographies are as varied as the subjects and are grouped thematically: engineers, mathematicians, cultural icons, musicians, athletes and many more. Each of the categories is represented with two short biographies; one who is currently active and one from the past.  The biographies include birthdates, active years, awards and recognitions, as well as a short biographical write-up and an illustration. There are no photographs but the illustrations are quite well done and appealing.  There are also mentions of other noteworthy women in each category for further reading. The book includes a useful index as well as resources for further reading.

It's aimed at middle school readers (ages 9-12) and the information provided in the biographies is relayed honestly and in an age-appropriate manner.

Four stars. Well written and appealing, I learnt quite a lot from this short collection.

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

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Modern Scandinavian Baking: A Cookbook of Sweet Treats and Savory Bakes

Modern Scandinavian Baking is a well researched and curated collection of tips and recipes from the Scandinavian culture countries by Daytona Strong. Released 14th April 2020 by Callisto on their Rockridge Press imprint, it's 150 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

The introduction includes a very good overview over the integral links between Scandinavian culture & hygge and their food traditions, and what those traditions include (and don't). I liked that the author (an American) doesn't just lump Denmark, Norway, and Sweden together in a ScandiPile. She also includes a good introduction to basic cooking equipment and ingredients.

The recipes are grouped by category: breads & savory bakes, coffee breads & pastries, cakes, and cookies, .

The recipes have their ingredients listed bullet style in a sidebar. The headers include a description, a national flag for locality. Measurements are given in US standard only. Special tools and ingredients are also listed, along with yields and cooking directions. Most of the ingredients are easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store. Nutritional information is not included.  Tips and variations on each recipe are included in a text box at the end. Special dietary comments (egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free, etc) are included in the headers.

The book also includes a short author bio, and a metric conversion chart, but lacks any index or general ingredients index. The author includes a holiday recipe list with basic meny for snacks and drinks as well as some interesting web resource links for further reading.

My main 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 included in the book. It is, however, a very well written book for anyone who is looking for a good specialist baking book. The Scandinavians *love* their baked goods and since moving to Norway, I've become very spoiled by the quality of readily available baked goods and breads here.

Four stars. This would make a superlative selection for cooks wanting a good traditional but very accessible introduction to Scandinavian baking with lots of good cozy recipes.

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


Alan Turing

Alan Turing is a new biography for young readers in the Little People, Big Dreams series. I've reviewed a number of these titles and all of them are delightful and exuberant little books which cover the lives of famous cultural, science, arts, and innovative icons while maintaining an age-appropriate level of detail.

Released 7th April 2020 by Quarto on their Frances Lincoln imprint, it's 32 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats.

Written by Isabel S├ínchez Vegara it's well written in clear accessible language.  The gentle and sweetly whimsical illustrations are well done. The art by Linzie Hunter is appealing and colorful and supports the text very well. The art is rich in small subtle details which bear a closer look (like the books, birds, and more which appear throughout the book).  I love to see so many kids and adults reading in the illustrations! I also appreciated the paraphrased Turing quotes in the text.

Well written and appealing, I am really enjoying all of these little books. This one is a worthy addition.

Five stars. This would make a superlative reading circle book, classroom library book, or gift.  Alan Turing was and a brilliant and unique man with a prodigious intellect and this little book is a nice introduction to his life and work for the youngest generation.

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

Note: I received an early eARC and in my copy of the material, there was a formatting error which caused the timeline biography and artist credits to be switched with an earlier book in the series (Astrid Lindgren). This will presumably be corrected in the final published version.  

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Why Do We Cry?

Why Do We Cry? is an sweetly illustrated and sensitively written book for young readers. Originally published in Spanish in 2018, this English translation released 7th April 2020 from Kids Can Press is 34 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats.

The book takes the form of a dialogue between a mother and son about why people cry and why it's good to examine and experience negative emotions so we can process them and what function tears (and crying) actually serve physiologically and emotionally. The text by Fran Pintadera (weblink in Spanish) is supported and enhanced beautifully by the nuanced illustrations by Ana Sender.

This would make a superlative reading circle, library group, or classroom read for youngsters. There's a short discussion resource at the back of the book which includes some science based information on tears and the physiological functions they perform.

Learning to process strong emotion in a positive and constructive manner is -vital- for development. I appreciated that the dialogue was sensitively handled and that the author chose to make the child male was a nice touch. I think that this could be a very valuable book *especially* given our current pandemic world situation. 

Five stars. Beautiful little book with universal relevance.

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

Dewdrop

Dewdrop is a beautifully presented and engaging picture book for all ages. Released 7th April 2020 by Oni Press, it's 40 pages and available in ebook (comiXology) and hardcover formats.

This is such a gentle affirming book for all ages and the art by Katie O'Neill is just beautiful. Dewdrop and friends have different skills and strengths and the book has such a fun and wholesome vibe that I found it irresistible and have re-read it a couple times since the initial read and have found small rich artistic details which I missed on the first read-through.

Although the story is aimed at younger readers, this will make a superlative read-to-me or library/classroom circle read for all ages, even the youngest.

Beautifully done. I really love the artist author's work. Five enthusiastic stars.

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



Alien Nate

Alien Nate is a cute graphic adventure story for kids by Dave Whamond. Released 7th April 2020 by Kids Can Press, it's a compact 64 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats.

This is a delightfully cute book covering some of the adventures of a kid-sized purple extraterrestrial called Nate who's been sent by his leaders to Earth in search of pizza. After a crash landing, he meets up with Fazel who helps him blend in and experience school, daily earth-life, and lots of earth cuisine in addition to pizza. Along the way, they have to outwit the evil vaguely governmental men-in-beige who just want to capture little Nate for their nefarious experiments.

This is a short book which can be read and enjoyed in one session and will appeal to kids of all ages (including grown-up kids who are still on speaking terms with their sense of fun). I also liked the subtle lessons of friendship and inclusivity.

Four stars, love the art and the positive (if slightly silly) message.

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

A Conspiracy of Bones (Temperance Brennan #19)

A Conspiracy of Bones is the 19th Temperance Brennan novel by Kathy Reichs. Released 17th March by Simon & Schuster on their Scribner imprint, it's 352 pages and available in all formats.

This has been, and continues to be, one of my favorite modern series. Despite the 'Hollywood-ization' of many other series, Dr. Brennan remains scrappy, dispassionate, intelligent, non-glamorous, and (mostly) ethical. The author is capable, delivering a tightly wrought and technically masterful book. This installment is excitingly twisty and revolves around the main characters sorting out conspiracy theory, shady governmental programs, cold case missing kids, and a faceless corpse, along with office politics and academia.

Although there's a lot of history and backstory covered in the last 18 books, the author is adept enough that this one could be read as a standalone for readers who are not already fans. The entire series is well worth a read, and I recommend them highly especially to fans of modern police/medical procedurals.

Four stars. Consistently top notch books.

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

Friday, April 17, 2020

Shelter from the Machine: Homesteaders in the Age of Capitalism

Shelter from the Machine is a historical and philosophical overview of the spectrum (mostly split into "hippies" vs. "hicks") of people living a subsistence off-grid existence in modern day Appalachia. Released 23rd March 2020 by University of Illinois Press, it's 304 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is an interesting ethical and philosophical treatise written as a composite story composed of interviews, notes, anecdotes, and first person sources. The author, Dr. Jason Strange, is an academic and on the faculty of Berea College. Despite the potential for impenetrable academic rigidity (about which the author has some opinions) the narrative is simple, accessible, and compassionate, resulting in a genuinely captivating read.

This is *not* a how-to. There are no lists or tips on how to transition to an off-grid lifestyle. What it is is a compelling read and a fascinating glimpse into a group of people most of us rarely (if ever) encounter. Though it's a substantial book, the author's style reminded me a lot of the shorter interview style entries from the famous Foxfire books. The bibliography is comprehensive and the index usefully cross referenced. The footnotes are meticulous and plentiful.

This would make a superlative resource for a classroom setting. I usually have 4 or 5(+) books going at any given time and I personally found this one compelling enough that it took over my reading time and I finished it in one sitting.

Five stars. This is an important academic sociological study of an underrepresented group of people.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The One-Pot Paleo Cookbook: 100 + Effortless Meals for Your Slow Cooker, Skillet, Sheet Pan, and More

The One-Pot Paleo Cookbook is a well curated collection of tips and recipes by Shelby Ruttan. Released 14th April 2020 by Callisto on their Rockridge Press imprint, it's 184 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

The introduction includes a very good overview over the paleo diet, what it includes (and doesn't) and some theory behind the food selections. There's also an introduction to basic cooking equipment and ingredients. 

The recipes are grouped by category: eggs & breakfast, soups & stews, vegetable mains, seafood & shellfish, poultry, and beef & pork.

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. Most of the ingredients are easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store. Nutritional information is included in the footer at the end of the recipes and includes macronutrients, calories, fat, protein,carbs, fibre, and cholesterol.  Tips and variations on each recipe are included in a text box at the end. Special dietary comments (egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free, etc) are included in the headers.

The book also includes a short author bio, and a metric conversion chart, but lacks any index or general ingredients index.

My main 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 included in the book. It is, however, a very well written book for anyone who needs

Four stars. This would make a superlative selection for busy cooks wanting a simplified way to test the paleo diet and make a real effort to give it a genuine try in an accessible and logical manner.

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