Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Swans of Harlem: Five Black Ballerinas, Fifty Years of Sisterhood, and Their Reclamation of a Groundbreaking History


The Swans of Harlem is a beautifully written retrospective histo-biography of Lydia Abarca and the Dance Theatre of Harlem chronicled by Karen Valby. Released 30th April 2024 by Knopf Doubleday on their Pantheon imprint, it's 304 pages and is 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. 

This is a meticulously researched and appelaingly accessible tribute to the beauty and resilience of these 5 ballerinas and the Harlem dance theatre.  Ms. Abarca was an international success and celebrated as the "dreaming soul of dance" during the height of the civil rights movement. She was the first ballerina of color to be featured on the cover of Dance Magazine. 50 years later, her stories and successes were largely forgotten. This book is a tribute to her and other classical dancers' beauty and strength. 

There is poignancy and sadness, but awe-inspiring spirit and (although overused) resiliency. For any readers who are interested in classical dance and ballet, there is fascinating background and behind-the-scenes history to be found here. That the principals are also women of color is impressive. 

Well written, thorough, and balanced history very much focused on the individual dancers involved. In the ARC and materials provided for review, there are no illustrations or photographs, but there is a very well researched bibliography and chapter notes which include many links for further reading. 

Five stars. A good choice for public or school library acquisition, home use, and gift giving to culture/dance/dance history interested readers.

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

Monday, April 29, 2024

Death at Larch Bridge - Daisy Moore Mysteries #2


Death at Larch Bridge is the second Daisy Moore historical cozy mystery by Gretta Mulrooney. Released 6th July 2023 by Joffe Books, it's 263 pages and is 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 and references throughout. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. The first book in the series, as well as much of the author's backlist are also currently available on KU.

This is a exceptionally well written modern golden age style Christie-esque cozy mystery with an appealingly intelligent and honest female protagonist. Set in the very early interwar period (1946), the war is still very much in the picture, with the privations and colossal sadness which affected daily life for decades after in much of the world. 

It's a classic whodunnit and does credit to the genre. Although it's the second book in the series, it works perfectly well as a standalone. The prolific author sadly passed away suddenly in 2023, so there presumably won't be any more to come for this, or her other, series works.

Four and a half stars. Very well wrought and eminently readable. It would make a good choice for public library acquisition, home reading, or a good short binge/buddy read.

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

The Incredible Octopus: Meet the Eight-Armed Wonder of the Sea

 

The Incredible Octopus is a nonfiction look at octopuses aimed at ~7-10 year old readers by Erin Spencer. Released 16th April 2024 by Hachette on their Storey imprint, it's 72 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats.

This is a vibrantly illustrated book *full* of fascinating information about octopuses and their environments. There are short chapters also showing scientists who study them, from their neurology and development through their habitats and behaviors. It's illustrated in color throughout, and information is written in accessible language which is easy to understand.

Five stars. Aimed at 7-10 year olds (grades 2-5), it would be a superlative choice for public or school library acquisition, home use, or gift giving. There are fascinating takeaways for all ages to be found here. 

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

100 Words for Rain


100 Words for Rain is equally quirky and interesting and full of trivia about weather curated by Alex Johnson. Released 11th April 2024 in the UK and due out elsewhere 16th July from HarperCollins on their National Trust Books imprint, it's 176 pages and is/will be available in hardcover format.

Everyone talks about the weather but nobody seems to *do* anything about it. The great British obsession with meteorology is very well known and the subject of a lot of gentle humor. The author has gathered an impressive array of weather related observations, trivia, science, and wit together in one volume. 

An introduction about weather discussions is followed by more specific chapters on: wind, forecasting, rain, folklore, fog & mist, regional weather, snow & ice, talking points, storm, weather & behaviour, thunder & lightning, war, and sun. Each of the chapters contains a collection of observations and quotes in short bite-sized bits. Definitely full of fun and interesting items perfect to be read in spare moments. 

Four stars. It would be an excellent choice for public library acquisition, gift giving, waiting room bookshelves, etc. 

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

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Crow Helps a Friend - Coast Salish Tales


Crow Helps a Friend is a beautifully illustrated Coast Salish tale written and illustrated by Andrea Fritz. Released 16th April 2023 by Orca Books, it's 32 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

This is an original story told in a traditional style. Wood duck Qwiwilh and crow Q'uleeq'e' are playing when an accident robs the duck of his nest. The friends figure out how to solve the problem together. Although it's a modern story, the parallels in style and form to traditional oral stories are striking (and respectfully rendered).

This is a book aimed at younger readers (6-8 years, Lexile 670L) with simple text and appealing stylized illustrations full of details. The book has a number of traditional Hul’q’umi’num’ words, but the author has included a glossary and pronunciation guide. 

Five stars. This would be an excellent choice for public or school library acquisition, for home use, and for gift giving. It's a good story about friendship and responsibility, and it's also a respectful and loving introduction to Indigenous culture and storytelling.

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

Searching for Seashells: An Artist's Guide to Treasures on the Beach


Searching for Seashells is an attractive, engaging, and well written book about seashells by artist/illustrator Jessie King Regunberg. Released 23rd April 2024 by Hachette on their Workman Publishing imprint, it's 128 pages and is available in hardcover format. 

The author is adept at portraying mollusks (and their shells) realistically and identifiably, and at the same time the illustrations are colorful and slightly whimsical. They're not hyper-realistic, like a lot of natural science drawings, but they are full of detail and color. The illustrations are arranged thematically from a general overview of the different classes of molluscs, through to the more specific genera, from top shelled species through deep sea snails (and literally everything in between).

The author has also included a short chapter on collecting, crafting, and storing shells. This is not a tutorial guide for drawing or painting shells; it's a book full of beautifully rendered artist paintings of different shells (and to a lesser degree how to collect, display, and use them). 

There is some amount of information on the biology of the different types of molluscs and where they live and their life cycles, but it's easy to understand and read (not difficult biology and no binomial Latin species names). 

Four stars. Attractive and well written. It's *not* a book for artists to copy or paint from. 

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

The First-Time Forager: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Britain’s Edible Plants

 

The First-Time Forager is a very well written, precise, illustrated guide to foraging by Andy Hamilton. Released 11th April 2024 by the National Trust, it's 176 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats.

This guide is divided into sections. First, an A-Z herbal with illustrated entries for plants from Apple to Wood avens (Geum urbanum). Note that this guide is aimed at common plants in Britain, but many of them are ubiquitous to temperate regions the world over because of human introduction and natural occurrence. Each of the entries contains a common and botanical binomial (Latin name) followed by a description. The entries are accompanied by multiple photos of the various component plant parts. Pictures are clear and in color. The herbal also includes one or more recipe featuring the plants in question. 

The second section of the book is a useful field guide to poisonous plants and lookalikes, with good advice on proper identification and safety. The author has included clear photos as well as what plants each of the dangerous plants looks like and with which they can potentially be confused. These poisonous plants are important in their habitats, often as host plants for species of insect and as food sources for wildlife. The author takes pains to show them for the important, useful plants they are whilst stressing that foragers should generally leave them well alone.

Although it's aimed mostly at readers in the British Isles, it's a useful resource for North America and Europe as well. The author/publisher have also included an abbreviate links list for further reading.

Four and a half stars. This would be an excellent choice for public library acquisition, home use, for smallholders and self sufficiency folks, and for gift giving. It's lovely to see a burgeoning appreciation for foraging and using local fresh ingredients (safely).

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

Just Add Nature: How to Boost Your Health and Happiness, Wherever You Live

 Book cover for Nature Prescriptions

Just Add Nature is an engaging and uplifting monograph on the positive benefits of nature and the outdoors by Rebecca Frank. Released 11th April 2024 in the UK and due out elsewhere 18th June from National Trust Books, it's 176 pages and is/will be available in hardcover format.

There are many proven benefits to being outdoors, from stress relief to boosted immune system and mental and physical health. The author does a really good job of showing readers how to incorporate more contact with nature wherever they are and in do-able degrees.

The author makes no presuppositions about readers' lifestyles or situations. There are chapters covering urban and suburban areas, so readers who don't live in a nature preserve will still be able to glean benefits from their local surroundings. The author has a positive, calm, upbeat style of writing and is never hectoring or strident.

Four and a half stars. It's a very calming and gently written book. Highly recommended to readers looking to incorporate more nature into their lives as well as enjoying some stress relief.

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

The Official Morgana and Oz Coloring Book: 46 original illustrations to color and enjoy

 

The Official Morgana and Oz Coloring Book is a coloring book featuring the very popular webcomic characters in their familiar style. Released 9th April 2024 by Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 96 pages and is available in paperback format.

The layout has a fresh and unusual (for Walter Foster) format. It's set up very much like a webcomic, with breakaway panels and a comics layout and flow. The introduction shows characters in colored panels side by side to color and/or embellish.  There's also a QR code which links to online content/the latest episode of the webtoon.

This is a beginner to advanced book but full of good technique to copy and color for anime style art/cartooning and will provide some useful takeaways for the majority of readers/artists who are interested in copying and learning the style. The pages (and there are many) dealing with positioning, emotional expressions, and facial features are especially detailed and useful (not just for drawing these particular characters). 

Five stars. This would be an excellent choice for public or school library acquisition, home use, activity/makers' groups libraries, home studio, or gift giving, maybe with a sketch pad and markers/pens.

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

Modern Asian Kitchen: Essential and Easy Recipes for Ramen, Dumplings, Dim Sum, Stir-Fries, Rice Bowls, Pho, Bibimbaps, and More


Modern Asian Kitchen is a very well written and curated list of a wide range of recipes collected and developed by Kat Lieu. Released 9th April 2024 by Quarto on their Harvard Common Press imprint, it's 208 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

This is a warm and welcoming cookbook with so many stories and memories to accompany. The author is gifted at relaying the background and community contained in the recipes she shares and it really feels like a warm visit with a dear friend (alongside great food). The book has a practical layout with a really good table of contents and index, so information is easy to find.

The introduction includes a good overview over ingredients, tools, and sourcing specialty items; the actual recipes are arranged thematically: vegetable salads and starters, dim sum & street food, one-pan-dishes, sharing dishes, rice (the bibimbap recipe is *perfect*), noodles (so.many.noodles), sauces/dips, and sweets. 

Recipes contain a title and description, yields, ingredients in a bullet list in a sidebar, and step by step directions. Ingredients are listed with imperial (American) standard measures with metric equivalents in parentheses (yay!). Nutritional information is not included. There are so many gorgeous and clear color photos included. Most (but not all) of the dishes are accompanied by one or more photos. This will help readers to know how to arrange and prepare the dishes with which they aren't already familiar.

Five stars. Wonderfully comprehensive and versatile. Perfect choice for public library acquisition, home use, or gifting to a food adventurous friend.

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

Addie Ant Goes on an Adventure


Addie Ant Goes on an Adventure is an adorable illustrated adventure for the youngest readers by Maren Morris & Karina Argow. Released 9th April 2024 by Chronicle Books on their Chroma imprint, it's 40 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

This is a sweet adventure picture book for the smallest readers (2-5 years) with such a retro vibe. Young Addie has always wanted to travel across the garden to see where the watermelons and sunflowers grow. She plans her trip, packs her backpack, straightens her shoulders, and off she goes. She meets lots of friends along the way to her destination. Characters have alliterative names (Addie Ant, Lewis Ladybug, Beatrix Butterfly, etc) and are appealingly rendered.

The free verse is simple and will become a fast favorite with the small family members for bedtime or storytime reading. The illustrations by Kelly Anne Dalton are wonderfully retro and luminous. They are full of small details which draw the eye and will also be fun for the littles to find details like flowers, bugs, etc. The nostalgic art will remind adults "of a certain age" of the vanished Little Golden Books of their own childhood years. 

Five stars. It would be a superb choice for public or school library acquisition, home use, and gift-giving purposes.

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

A Killing at Smugglers Cove - Iris Woodmore Mysteries #4


A Killing at Smugglers Cove is the 4th book in a pleasantly engaging and well written historical cozy series by Michelle Salter. Released 10th July 2023 by Boldwood books, it's 216 pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook, 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. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free, along with the other books in the series. A fifth book, A Corpse in Christmas Close, is due out in third quarter 2024 from the same publisher.

For cozy mystery fans there are (happily) a wealth of series which fit the bill. There aren't as many which also combine modern day relevance and sensibility with a period setting and well constructed mystery plot. Iris Woodmore is intelligent, sensible, and likeable. Additionally, she has a good relationship with her friends (one is a "perennial bachelor", the other is a primary school teacher). 

With the discovery of skeletal remains on a summer holiday, they're soon drawn into investigating the circumstances around the unfortunate man's demise when it's clear the local constabulary has no intentions of doing so. There are several disparate subplot threads which entwine into a very well crafted denouement and resolution.

All in all, a satisfying and well written cozy interwar mystery very much in the classic style, with the addition of sympathetically written non-traditional male supporting character (and his private life is *not* central to the plot, which is a welcome change), and a healthy friend relationship between the two female characters. 

There are 4 books currently in the series, but it works perfectly well as a standalone, with the codicil that some of the names were easily confused for the first couple of chapters. Being able to do a quick search with the ebook version is a benefit to keep the names straight until they're fixed in the reader's head. 

Four stars. A good choice for public library acquisition, or home use. 

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

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Every Living Thing: The Great and Deadly Race to Know All Life


Every Living Thing is a vibrantly told narrative of the early race for classification of the natural world related by Jason Robers. Released 9th April 2024 by Penguin Random House, it's 432 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. 

Acadmic rivalries are certainly nothing new. Here, the author provides parallel biographies of two very well known natural historians/scientists whose compulsion to categorize life on planet earth still resonate down to the present: Georges-Louis de Buffon and Carl Linnaeus. 

The book is sparsely but well illustrated throughout, with numerous monochrome facsimile documents, paintings, and photos. The book is also very well annotated throughout, and the chapter notes and bibliography will provide readers with many hours of further reading. 

Four and a half stars. This is not a rigorous academic monograph, but quite accessible and entertaining for the layman. It would be an excellent choice for public library, home use, or gift giving to fans of natural history and nonfiction. 

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

Forage & Feast: Recipes for Bringing Mushrooms & Wild Plants to Your Table


Forage & Feast is an accessible and beautifully photographed tutorial and recipe guide by Chrissy Tracey. Released 9th April 2024 by Penguin Random House on their Ten Speed Press imprint, it's 272 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats.

This guide is divided into seasonal sections. Each season includes foraging and plant lists with photos and info for IDing and foraging plants and fungi alongside recipes using nature's bounty.

Foraging guides include lots of different types of mushrooms, greens, berries, fruits, and flowers.

Recipes include an introduction, bullet list of ingredients, and step by step preparation instructions. Ingredient measures are provided in imperial (American) units only. Many of the ingredients will require both foraged items and access to a well stocked specialist grocer. 

Many (but not all) of the recipes are accompanied by full color photos, including preparation pictures. The photos are a high point of the book, and serving suggestions are very attractive and well styled. The author/publisher have also included an abbreviated resources and links lists for more information on foraging, as well as a cross-referenced index to the book's content.

Four stars. This would be an excellent choice for public library acquisition, home use, for smallholders and self sufficiency folks, and for gift giving. It's lovely to see a burgeoning appreciation for foraging and using local fresh ingredients.

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

 

Teddy vs. the Fuzzy Doom - Secrets of Ravensbarrow


Teddy vs. the Fuzzy Doom is the first volume of a genuinely funny illustrated middle grade series by Braden Hallett. Released 2nd April 2024 by Annick Press, it's 288 pages and is available in hardcover and paperback formats. 

This is such a quirky and compassionately written book- Teddy has a lot of anxiety issues. His mind runs away with potentially catastrophic scenarios. It turns out, when he's really faced with a crisis on his first day at a new school, he's pretty good at figuring out what to do. 

The plot is silly and over the top. It's not quite horror, but there's a lot of dramatic tension (mind control hamsters!!!). It's a bit dark in places, but nothing *really* scary. Teddy is appealing and sympathetically written.

The illustrations are excellent and abundant. There are maps and diagrams, some quite detailed, along with character studies and incidental art. Appealing and well rendered in grayscale pen and ink sketches throughout.

Four and a half stars. This would be a good choice for public or school library acquisition, home library, or gifting to a young reader of Goosebumps, or similar.

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

Friday, April 26, 2024

Murder in the Bookshop - Miss Merrill and Aunt Violet Mystery Series

 

Murder in the Bookshop is the first book in a historical cozy series by Anita Davison. Released 22nd Aug 2023 by Boldwood Books, it's 274 pages and is 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. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. The second book in the series, Murder in the Library, is also currently available on KU. 

This is an engaging and well written historical cozy set in 1915. Protagonist Hannah is working in her Aunt Violet's bookstore when her friend is found dead. Because of the unwavering incompetence of the constabulary, she's drawn into trying to figure out what happened herself to clear her name and find justice for Lily-Anne. 

The plotting is tight and well engineered and without obvious holes. The author does a good job with the period dialogue and characterization. The writing is clean and there is no bad language or on-page objectionable content. There are several threads, including espionage

The denouement and resolution were twisty and satisfying with some unexpected surprises. 

Four stars. This is definitely one for historical cozy fans. There are 2 books extant in the series with a third out in 3rd quarter 2024, and a fourth in first quarter 2025. 

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Forage. Gather. Feast.: 100+ Recipes from West Coast Forests, Shores, and Urban Spaces

 

Forage. Gather. Feast. is an accessible and beautifully photographed tutorial and recipe guide by Maria Finn. Released 9th April 2024 by Sasquatch Books, it's 304 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This guide is divided into two main sections. The first, a thorough primer aimed at the western areas of the USA including the coast, gives readers a capsule survey of identifying and responsible and safe foraging wild foods from the coast, forests, and other areas including suburban and urban. The second part of the book includes numerous recipes featuring the wild foods gathered.

Foraging guides include seafood items, seaweed, mushrooms, pine items, fiddleheads, greens, berries, and flowes. The recipes are varied and quite fancy with artistic presentation and aesthetic. It's not a strictly plant based cookbook, there are seafood items like clams, prawns, and other seafood included. 

Recipes include an introduction, bullet list of ingredients, and step by step preparation instructions. Ingredient measures are provided in imperial (American) units only. Many of the ingredients will require both foraged items and access to a well stocked specialist grocer. 

Many (but not all) of the recipes are accompanied by full color photos, including preparation pictures. The photos are a high point of the book, and serving suggestions are very attractive and well styled. 

Four stars. This would be an excellent choice for public library acquisition, home use, for smallholders and self sufficiency folks, and for gift giving.

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

Foul Play at Seal Bay - Morwenna Mutton Mystery #1


Foul Play at Seal Bay is the first book in a shopfront cozy series by Judy Leigh. Released 7th Aug 2023 by Boldwood Books, it's 298 pages and is 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. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. The second book in the series, Bloodshed on the Boards, is also currently available on KU.

This is a nice, well written cozy set in Cornwall, featuring an eccentric 61 year old amateur sleuth and her friends and family. The untimely death of a local almost entirely unlamented businessman from London has the close knit community aghast, and it soon becomes clear that the local inspector is not up to the task. 

The language is entirely clean (there are a few colloquial uses of "bleddy" but nothing worse), there are no graphic descriptions on-page, and the resolution, and denouement are mostly satisfying, if heavily foreshadowed. The writing is competent and the dialogue not clunky or awkward.

There are currently 2 books in the series. It would make a good choice for a short binge or buddy read. Although reviewers have compared it to Osman's Thursday Murder Club, it compares better (and more favorably) to Peter Boland's Charity Shop Mysteries. 

Four stars. It would be a good choice for readers who enjoy light amateur sleuth cozies featuring eccentric mature female sleuths. Morwenna is charming and refreshingly intelligent.

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The "I Love My Air Fryer" Easy Recipes Book: From Pancake Muffins to Honey Balsamic Chicken Wings, 175 Quick and Easy Recipes

 

The "I Love My Air Fryer" Easy Recipes Book is a very well written and curated recipe collection by Robin Fields. Released 23rd April 2024 by Simon & Schuster on their Adams Media imprint, it's 224 pages and is 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 and references throughout.

This is part of the "I love my" cookbook series and shares a format with the other volumes. For readers already familiar with the format, the information and recipes here are arranged the same way (making it easy to find and access the info).

A short introduction covers techniques for using and getting the most from the air fryer. The recipes are arranged thematically: breakfasts, appetizers & snacks, side dishes, chicken main dishes, beef & pork, fish & seafood, vegetarian, and desserts. 

The recipes are varied and appetizing and are not fancy, fussy, or difficult. They're everyday comfort family food and will find a welcome place in the family kitchen. The recipes are provided with an introduction and information/background followed by an ingredients list in bullet form. Ingredients are listed with imperial (American) standard measurements only. There is a conversion chart in the back of the book. None of the ingredients will be difficult to source at a moderately well stocked grocery store anywhere in North America. 

Nutritional info: calories, fat, sodium, carbs, fiber, sugar, and proteins are listed in the recipes. Some convenience/premade ingredients are used in the recipes such as worcestershire sauce,  premade pie crust, and puff pastry sheets. 

The book is not abundantly photographed; roughly 20-25% of the recipes are accompanied by a photograph. Serving suggestions are appetizing and appropriate. The food which is photographed is professionally styled. This is a well written cookbook with tasty recipes and fits into its niche in the series very well.

Four stars. It would be an excellent choice for public library acquisition, home kitchen use, or gift giving (a housewarming gift bundled with some kitchen tools, perhaps).

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

 

Beer-Can Chicken: Foolproof Recipes


Beer-Can Chicken is a tutorial guide with recipes by Steven Raichlen. Originally published in 2002, this reformatted, revised second edition is out 23rd April 2024 from Hachette on their Workman Publishing imprint. It's 208 pages and is available in paperback format. 

The basic idea is that supporting chicken on a beer can while cooking will end up with a bird which is crispy on the outside, well moistened and tender and flavorful on the inside. A simple internet search will turn up thousands of recipes. It's become a favorite all around recipe from the jaunty presentation to the no-fail tenderness and flavor.

The book's introduction covers basics such as grill options, tools, supplies, ingredient choices, and general instructions. The following chapters contain the recipes, arranged thematically: beer-can chicken (multiple recipes), beerless birds (coke and other canned drinks), other bird options (surprisingly many), non-can chicken prep methods, sides (lots of options), and desserts.

Recipes contain a description and background introduction, ingredients in a bullet list, and step-by-step cooking instructions. Ingredient measurements are supplied in imperial (American) measurements.  The nutritional information is not included. Extra tips or recipe alternatives are listed in text boxes in the recipes. The recipes themselves are fairly straightforward and are made for the most part with easily sourced ingredients.

The photography is well done and abundant; many, but not all, of the recipes are illustrated with photographs which are clear easy to understand.

This is a nice collection of recipes and even allowing for the fact that some of them are very similar to others in the same category, this will keep grilling fans going for ages. These are simple "everyday" recipes which are anything but boring.

Four stars. This is a solid recipe book which will be used. It would make a superlative housewarming gift to a friend or family member who enjoys grilling.

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

Monday, April 22, 2024

Vegan Candles: 21 Soy and Plant-based Candles for Beginners


Vegan Candles is a tutorial/crafting guide with recipes for vegan friendly candles by Delphine Reposeur. First published in French as Bougies vegan: Recettes à faire soi-même, this English language translation from Rowman & Littlefield on their Stackpole Books imprint is 80 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a beginner-accessible tutorial book with step-by-step guides to 21 different projects and recipes for vegan friendly soy-based candles with lots of scents and uses. It has a logical and easy to follow layout, with a very short history of candles and uses, an introduction with a survey over the available plant based materials options and necessary tools, and the general tutorials and specific project tutorials (including candles of course, but also wax melts and other projects).

Each tutorial has an introduction, bullet list of ingredients, step by step instructions and multiple color photos. Ingredient measures are provided in imperial (American) measurements with metric in parentheses (yay!). Small background info tidbits and tips and tricks are provided in highlighted text boxes throughout the book. 

The book includes a short FAQ section for some troubleshooting help, but no index or links/reference lists. The ingredients will likely be obtainable from any large retail crafting outlet in North America, or from the internet. 

The translation work is not 100% seamless; there are a couple awkwardly translated lines, but nothing egregious and it doesn't interfere with comprehension at all. 

The book has an honest emphasis on non-GMO, vegan friendly, earth friendly ingredients and a sustainable aesthetic which will appeal to the target reading audience. 

Four and a half stars. It would be a good choice for public or school library acquisition, for the home crafter's library, maker's groups and similar.

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

Greatest Hits


Greatest Hits is a retrospective collection of 19 shorts by Harlan Ellison. Released 12th March 2024 by Union Square & co, it's 496 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. 

There are respectable scholars whose special field of research is speculative fiction. Harlan Ellison was a titan of SF, and not just SF, but a master of the short form. He was, simply, a fantastically gifted writer whose sometimes incandescent prose changed people. Scratch any middle-age+ SF fan and there will be a story about sitting thunderstruck by something Ellison wrote. 

He won more awards than anyone really has managed to enumerate. There were Hugos, Locus (Loci?), Nebulas, Lifetime Achievement awards, grandmaster awards... he won for short fiction, essays, novelettes, screenplays, scripts, novels, anthologies, and the list is almost neverending. Everyone who knew him in any capacity knew he could be irascible, difficult, reclusive, and volatile. He changed the world and he changed the people around him.

This collection is a wonderful primer of some of the better known and a few lesser known short works. “Repent, Harlequin,” Said the Ticktockman is there as is I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. Most of the selections are from his early/middle years of production, though How Interesting:
A Tiny Man (which won the Nebula 2010 in the short story category) is included as well.

Fabulous collection of stupendous fiction. Much of it is *challenging* and all of it is wonderfully well crafted. 

The foreword and introductions are touching, expect to sniffle. 

Five stars. This is an important collection. Well worth acquisition for public or secondary school libraries, home reference, and for science fiction fans. 

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

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Where Should We Camp Next?: Budget Camping: A 50-State Guide to Budget-Friendly Campgrounds and Free and Low-Cost Outdoor Activities


Where Should We Camp Next?: Budget Camping is a super resource for readers looking for budget friendly camping and activities in every US state, written and curated by Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi. Released 2nd April 2024 by Sourcebooks, it's a solid 464 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats.

The profiles for camping and outdoor activity locations in all 50 states are arranged geographically from the New England to the West. Each area is further divided into specific campgrounds and attractions both inside and outside the boundaries. Most of the profiles include contact links and online resources and a short description. Tips and extra info are provided in highlighted text boxes throughout, such as places to boondock (park RVs for free overnight), source budget gear, and much more. 

Graphics are spare, monochrome, and mostly simply drawn. There's no photography.

The info provided is pithy, correct (as far as info available at time of publication), and has a welcome family friendly vibe. My fondest memories of my childhood are of RV travels with my paternal grandparents, and this book brought so many good memories back to me from campgrounds and parks we visited. I was delighted to see some of the actual campgrounds I visited as a kid are still there and in operation *decades* later. 

Five stars. Invaluable resource for travelers in and to the USA. It would make a good choice for public library acquisition and home use.

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

Investigating the Mary Celeste


Investigating the Mary Celeste is an interesting partly fictionalized account of possible solutions to the perennial mystery of what happened to the unlucky crew of the Mary Celeste, written by D. Lawrence-Young. Released 26th March 2024 by Cranthorpe Millner, it's 290 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

The author has written an interesting mix of fiction alongside the factual recreations and recorded historical information which is extant from records of the time. It's possibly not as effective as if he'd stuck to one or the other, facts or fiction, and not presented them as a blended story. It's not a dry historical record; it's not annotated and there are no chapter notes. 

Readers looking for a deeply researched historical record won't find it here. Likewise, readers looking for a fictional story won't be satisfied either. The concluding chapter with the different scenarios and their likelyhood was logically laid out and accessible to laymen. 

The author/publisher have included a bibliography for further reading.

Three stars. This would be a good choice for public or school library acquisition, as well as for readers interested in naval history and nonfiction.

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

Rhythm and Clues - Record Shop Mystery #3

 

Rhythm and Clues is the third book in Olivia Blacke's record shop storefront cozy series.  Released 26th March 2024 by Macmillan on their St. Martin's Press imprint, it's 304 pages and is available in mass market 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 throughout. The first two books in the series are also currently available for subscribers to borrow and read for free on Kindle Unlimited.

This series features a trio of sisters who are running their family's vinyl record store with collectible records along with a cafe and coffee shop on the same premises. The dialogue is witty and sometimes snarky (they're sisters, and it's in Texas) but generally good humored and supportive. Their family vibe is close and functional and despite the occasional spats, they really do care for and protect one another. It's also nice to see a cozy series featuring protagonists of color who are intelligent, well spoken, and female and not tangential to the plot. Representation is important.

The writing is engaging and the author has a solid feel for plotting and dialogue. Some of the eccentric small-town secondary characters were a bit archetypal and "trope-y" but they weren't overly intrusive or only there as window-dressing, and readers won't be yanked out of their suspension of disbelief by their overdone quirkiness. The climax, denouement and resolution are satisfying. 

This story has a cool closed circle of suspects setup (the town is isolated by a storm, and there's a murderer on the loose). It's a neat classic trope and the author does a good job with the story progression and resolution.

The unabridged audiobook has a run time of 8 hours 54 minutes and is well narrated by series narrator Nicol Zanzarella. She has a well modulated alto voice and does a good job with a large cast of characters and manages to differentiate all of them well enough that they're easy to distinguish and never monotonous or confusing. Sound and production quality were high throughout.

Four stars. Readers will enjoy the musical trivia and word play throughout. There was some repetition but all in all, it's a fun shopfront cozy. With three books published, it would be a good choice for a short weekend binge or buddy read.

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

Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Elemental Dragons


Magical Elements of the Periodic Table is an engaging, whimsical, and beautifully illustrated introduction to some of the real-life elements from the periodic table written by Sybrina Durant. Released 9th March 2024, it's 44 pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. The first book in the series, The Metal Horn Unicorns (same idea, with unicorns presenting the metallic elements), is also currently available on KU. 

Each of the pages has info about the conductibility, ductility, physical properties, weight, name, number, and other "real life" physical info for the included elements as well as "magical" dragon info about their special powers and abilities (which are cleverly related to their element's actual physical properties). All the pages are colorfully illustrated in cartoon style, and for clever producers out there, talks should get underway for the unicorns and dragons to make their debuts on cartoon Saturdays (is that still a thing?). 

This would make an excellent tie-in for classroom units on physical chemistry, nature science, etc. The target audience is 9-12 years, but all ages will enjoy the cute illustrations and creativity. It would make an excellent choice for public and school library acquisition, home use, and gift giving. The author has included an info/reference online page for background and further reading. 

Five stars. Very fun.

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

Off the Air


Off the Air is a standalone mystery (first volume in a series?) featuring a local reporter in the main role by real-life reporter Christina Estes. Released 26th March 2024 by Macmillan on their Minotaur imprint, it's 320 pages and is available in hardcover, 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. 

The longstanding advice to authors to "write what you know" is certainly applied here. The author is an Emmy award-winning journalist in real life, and the depth of background and verisimilitude are impressive. At some points, there might be a bit too much nuts-and-bolts description of getting the news to viewers, but overall it's interesting and engaging (mostly). There's a *lot* of backstabbing, competition, and elbow jabbing taking place between competing reporters for exclusives and sources which is exhausting to read (and undoubtedly to live as a day job also). 

Most of the main character's colleagues are whiny, superficial, catty, and unpleasant. She's not a whole lot better in some ways, and her main police background source was an unpleasant rude boor (and should be punched in the face). The constant mistakes and frustrating coincidences were distracting and largely unnecessary.

The length is surprising for a modern mystery, and immersion isn't overall even throughout. The writing and dialogue are very good, the author can definitely write. Her descriptive prose is spare and smooth; her characterizations are well rounded and believable, and the dialogue is rapid fire and not clunky. 

The unabridged audiobook has a run time of 8 hours 30 minutes and is capably narrated by Marcella Black. She does a good job of delineating the large cast of characters which span a range of ages, both male and female.

Three and a half stars. Worth a look for fans of journo-mysteries.  

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


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Batcat, Vol. 2: Sink or Swim!


Batcat Sink or Swim is the second graphic novel featuring everyone's favorite BatCat hybrid by Meggie Ramm. Released 16th April 2024 by Abrams on their AbramsKids imprint, it's 96 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

This is a delightful mystery adventure appropriate for all ages. When Batcat visits the Mermaid Lagoon, he finds the residents very upset. Their tails are losing their shiny rainbow colors and turning grey! They promise to give Batcat their world-famous fish tacos if he can get to the bottom of the mystery.

Batcat's adventures continue through an exciting and satisfying denouement. 

The format is a modified 4 panel comic/graphic novel page setup with clear and *very* colorful and appealing art and easy to read dialogue bubbles. For such simple characters, the author/artist does an amazing job with expressive facial and body emotions. 

Although it's the second book in a series, it works perfectly well as a standalone and doesn't need to be read in order.

Four and a half stars. Really wonderful. This would be a great choice for public or school library acquisition, home use, and gift giving. 

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

Container Gardening―The Permaculture Way: Sustainably Grow Vegetables and More in Your Small Space


Container Gardening―The Permaculture Way is a tutorial and informational guide to sustainable and restorative gardening in small areas by Valéry Tsimba. Originally published in French in 2021 as Mon balcon nourricier en permaculture, this reformat and re-release in English translation from The Experiment is 160 pages and is available in flexibound and ebook formats. 

This is a well photographed and accessible record of the author's tiny (2 x 22 feet!) balcony garden and her experiences and challenges utilizing the space with permaculture techniques to provide edible fruits and vegetables in her very urban (Paris) area. 

The book has a logical and easy-to-follow format. She covers permaculture and restorative agriculture in the introduction, gives a good how-to overview of container gardening including setup and planting, followed by a short almanac of examples of what to plant and when to plant it, and a nice chapter on community and sharing the information and love of gardening with others. 

The author/publisher have included an abbreviated links list and bibliography for further reading, and a cross referenced index. 

The translation work is seamless, and it doesn't read like a book which was translated.

Four and a half stars. The author's philosophy of restorative gardening and "do what you can with what you have where you are" resonate very deeply. This would be an excellent choice for public or school library acquisiton, for makers' groups, gardening/allotment/community garden libraries, for suburban and urban gardeners, and for gift giving (maybe bundled with some seeds and simple tools).

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Fermented Vegetables, 10th Anniversary Edition: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 72 Vegetables, Fruits, & Herbs in Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Kimchis, Krauts, Pastes & Relishes


Fermented Vegetables, 10th Anniversary Edition is an updated and reformatted 2nd edition of the classic volume by Kirsten & Christopher Shockey. Released 16th April 2024 by Hachette on their Storey imprint, it's an encyclopedic 440 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a truly encyclopedic volume. Everything from arugula to zucchini is covered. The authors have included a deep dive into microbes and fermentation which can be pored over -or- skipped straight to the recipes (and they are legion). The layout is logical and easy to use. Information is arranged with page numbers by type of vegetable in the frontspiece, as well as by thematic chapter: introduction (brines, tools, etc), basics (kraut, condiments, tsukemono, pickles, and kimchi), an A to Z listing of vegetables to pickle and ferment, and sample meal ideas to use the ferments (including breakfast to dessert (!! yes, really)). 

The volume is beautifully photographed throughout and the photos are clear and easy to understand. Recipe ingredients are mostly relatively easy to source at any well stocked grocery store in North America. The recipes are written with an introduction and description, ingredients in a bullet list, and followed by step-by-step preparation instructions. Measurements are given in imperial (American) units, with metric units in parentheses (yay!). 

This is an encyclopedia and reference and belongs on every kitchen shelf. It's also a very *useful* volume full of delicious healthy recipes. 

Five stars. This would be an excellent choice for public library, homesteader/smallholder, home cook, as well as for gift giving. It's a definitive reference classic.

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

Feline Fatale: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery - Mrs. Murphy #32


Feline Fatale  is the 32nd book in the Mrs. Murphy mystery series by Rita Mae Brown (& Sneaky Pie Brown). Released 16th April 2024 by Random House on the Bantam imprint, it's 304 pages and is available in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout.

This is another one of those anthropomorphic animal cozy mystery series which is like a visit with an old friend. It's a perennial, long running series (since 1990), and always like a beloved sweater; comfortable and warm. Happily the series quality has always been good, and unlike most decades long series, it's never felt "phoned in" or stale. There certainly is a soothing quality to the plotting and the returning characters; it's safe and escapist reading, something that is therapeutic and necessary given the current state of the world. This one sees the animal and human crew delving into politics to solve the death of a page/assistant to the state delegates.

The language is clean, the murders are bloodless, the denouement and resolution are satisfying and well done. Everything that readers could want from a cozy mystery. Yes, it's a known quantity, and that is a positive benefit.

The monochrome illustrations by Michael Gellatly give a sweetly nostalgic feel to the book. This is the same artist who illustrated earlier books in the series.

Four stars, I love Ms. Brown's work, and her ability to combine deep social commentary with humor and wit is always a joy to read. For readers who are new to the series, nearly all of them work very well as standalone reads, with the codicil that the characters develop over the series and their relationships change, so there may be spoilers if read out of order.

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

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Art of Morgana and Oz: Learn to draw your favorite characters from the popular webcomic series with behind-the-scenes and insider tips exclusively revealed inside!

 

The Art of Morgana and Oz is a tutorial technique guide for drawing the characters from the very popular webcomic in their familiar style. Released 9th April 2024 by Quarto on their Walter Foster imprint, it's 96 pages and is available in paperback format.

The layout has a fresh and unusual (for Walter Foster) format. It's set up very much like a webcomic, with breakaway panels and a comics layout and flow. An beginning chapter introducing the characters in colored panels is followed by a surprisingly thorough step-by-step tutorial section.  There's also a QR code which links to online content/the latest episode of the webtoon.

The author/publisher have included colored full page panels with the hexadecimal values for the shades used in the pictures to help with color selection. The tutorials are moderately advanced, but do-able for a determined beginner, and will give artists enough accomplishment to keep going, which is the most important part.

This is a beginner to advanced booklet but full of good technique for anime style art/cartooning and will provide some useful takeaways for the majority of readers/artists who are interested in the style. The pages (and there are many) dealing with positioning, emotional expressions, and facial features are especially detailed and useful (not just for drawing these particular characters). 

Five stars. This would be an excellent choice for public or school library acquisition, home use, activity/makers' groups libraries, home studio, or gift giving, maybe with a sketch pad and markers/pens.

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

The Mystery of the Hidden Fortune

 

The Mystery of the Hidden Fortune is the first book in a cozy series by Christine McHaines. Released 3rd July 2023 by The Book Folks, it's 245 pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, 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. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. The followup books in the series, are also currently available on KU. 

This is a lightly humorous cozy featuring a hapless, honestly unlikely and rather unlikable anti-hero. He's a bit shiftless, a huge underachiever, not terribly honest, and lazy into the bargain. His parents decamped Britain for the Antipodes (at his father's insistence) to try to force him to grow up and stand on his own two feet. He inhabits his late great aunt's house (rent free) and when he almost literally trips over a hidden treasure, his immediate response is to dip into the unexpected windfall for his own benefit. His natural antipathy to animals (especially a cat) didn't make him more appealing, either; not precisely -cruel- but not nice, either.

The mystery itself is competently plotted and the action was reasonably well paced, but the dialogue and characterisation are often hard going. The language is clean, there are a few instances of "bloody" and nothing worse. There are also a few lightly described consensual sex scenes. 

Three stars.

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

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Making Fairy Garden Accessories: 22 Enchanting Projects for Your Backyard

Book cover for Making Fairy Garden Accessories

Making Fairy Garden Accessories is a well written and appealing tutorial guide to creating whimsical fairy garden pieces written by Anna-Marie and Andrew Fahmy. Released 19th March 2024 by Fox Chapel, it's 128 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

Well written tutorials with step by step instructions and lots of clear color photos. The general vibe is very whimsical, fun, and full of nature-themed small pieces which will have all the local fairies clamoring to move in. 

The introduction covers tools, materials, and techniques as well as some style advice. The tutorial chapters are further divided thematically into: doors, houses, furniture, and accessories. Each of the tutorials tools and materials in a bullet list (measurements are given in imperial (American) units with metric in parentheses) followed by step by step clear instructions. Every tutorial contains multiple clear color photos of the finished projects along with some process shots. 

The authors have included tips and tricks for customization and construction in highlighted text boxes throughout the book.There's also a color photo gallery for inspiration included as well (the projects in the gallery are not in the book, they're just for ideas and inspiration). 

The project tutorials are written in a manner which doesn't require template use, so templates are not included in the volume.

Four stars. This would be a good choice for public or school library acquisition, makers' groups, activity/scouting groups, home use, and similar.

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

Once Upon a Murder - A Lady Librarian Mystery #2

 

Once Upon a Murder is the second book in the Lady Librarian historical cozy mystery series by Samantha Larsen. Released 20th Feb 2024 by Crooked Lane, it's 304 pages and is available in hardcover, 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.

This is a charming historical cozy with an appealing protagonist who employs creative and intelligent solutions to counteract some of the harsher realities of Regency history (women often lived lives of tenuous and terrifying insecurity). She's smart and generally honest and clever as well, and easy to relate to. Although she's sworn off murder and investigation after the last time, she's now stumbled over the frozen body of a former footman of the estate of her patroness and employer, The Duchess of Beaufort, and must use her abilities and intelligence to clear her name and her love interest Samir.

The book is well written and the author has a firm grasp on the nuts and bolts of plot, setting, and characterization. It's a light cozy with a strong romance subplot and a surprising amount of effective humor. It's a bookish book, and there are book titles and period book/library trivia and title-dropping throughout. 

Happily, the author mostly ignores the more rigid realities of race, parentage, and class which would have precluded many of the interactions and relationships in the book.

Four stars. This would make an appealing short binge/buddy read, as well as a good choice for public library acquisition.

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

 

 

Lola Meets the Bees


Lola Meets the Bees is an adorable and information packed picture book for the youngest readers by Anna McQuinn. Released 9th April 2024 by Charlesbridge, it's 32 pages and is available in hardcover format. 

Little Lola goes with her mom to visit a family friend who has beehives. Lola is fascinated to learn about bees and how they gather nectar and pollen. The whole adventure is illustrated very well by Rosalind Beardshaw. The pictures are colorful and detailed and show the life-cycle of the bees and a simplified explanation of what beekeepers do and how they help the bees. 

The text is written in simple and understandable free verse and will be understood by even very young kids. Lexile measure is AD560L (2-5 years). 

Five stars. This would be an excellent choice for public or school library acquisition, reading circles, or bedtime reading.

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

Norway: Land of Mountains and Fjords

 

Norway: Land of Mountains and Fjords is a well written and beautifully photographed pictorial tour of Norway by Claudia Martin. Originally released in 2020, this reformat and re-release by Amber Books out 14th April is  224 pages and is available in hardcover format. An earlier edition of the book was published in flexi-bound format. This is book 15 of the Visual Explorer Guide series. 

Norway is full of awe inspiring "pinch me" scenery and this book highlights the vast expanses of mountainous terrain, glaciers, fjords, wilderness, and urban areas beautifully contrasting austere ice-fields, charming small fishing villages, and big city night life side by side. 

Five stars. This would be a good choice for public or school library acquisition, home use/display, or gift giving. 

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

 

Abandoned Towns


Abandoned Towns is a fascinating pictorial record of abandoned places documented by Chris McNab as part of a series of books with similar themes. Released 14th April 2024 in the UK and due out 11th June outside the UK from publisher Amber Books, it's 224 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

This is a gorgeous coffee table book full of color photos and descriptions of international destinations which were once thriving and are now abandoned. Many of them are being slowly (or quickly) taken back by nature, and the dichotomy is striking. 

Four stars. A beautiful book. It would be a good choice for public or school library acquisition, home use, and gift giving purposes. 

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

The First Bright Thing


The First Bright Thing is an alt-time fantasy full of found family and good vs. evil, imagined and written by J.R. Dawson. Released 13th June 2023 by Macmillan on their Tor imprint, it's 352 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. Paperback format due out June 11th 2024 from the same publisher. t's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. 

Based around a traveling circus setting, the performers are all magical savants with different talents. The circus is a haven for a collection of special folks; they're a steely resolute band of psychics, mutants, and savants, who collect people like them, and help change the lives of people at crossroads who need guidance. 

Their forces for good are hampered at every turn by darker forces who want to (literally) own them and control them for their own malign purposes. There is a sense of creeping dread throughout with foreshadowing of an ultimate good vs. evil Armageddon type war coming in the future.

It's very well written and engaging with three dimensional characters. It's not at all derivative in plot or characters, but readers who enjoyed The Night Circus and Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore will likely enjoy this one as well.

Four stars. It would be a good choice for fans of alt-history fantasy, timeslip, and queer-friendly found family books. 

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

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Otis & Peanut Forever and Ever


Otis & Peanut Forever and Ever is the second outing for the best friends (a guinea pig and a naked mole rat) by Naseem Hrab. Due out 16th April 2024 from Owlkids Books, it's 80 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

This is a sweetly appealing, poignant, and sensitively written early chapter book (three stories) about friendship with themes of loss, remembering, holding on to memories, and making new ones. The stories are gentle and can be read without particular emphasis on the loss of Peanut's sister Pearl (it's never explicitly stated in this book). The friends remember Pearl by making (and eventually eating) Pearl's favorite cake recipe, learning to make the jam she always made, and when Peanut plants a garden with seeds she left for him. 

They also go on some adventures and make new memories together. The art by Kelly Collier is simple and fun with lots of small details which invite readers to take a closer look. The illustrations are in color throughout the book. 

Four and a half stars. Surprisingly deep, but never maudlin. Although one of the themes is the loss of Peanut's sibling, it's never directly stated in this book and could be glossed over if reading in a group. This would be an excellent choice for public or school library acquisition, for home library, or gift purposes.

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

Kids' Sewing Workshop: 26 Projects for Young Makers (Landauer) Learn-to-Sew Projects Kids Ages 7-12 Will Love to Make, Wear, and Use - Clothes, Bracelets, Bags, and More


Kids' Sewing Workshop is a tutorial and technique guide by Karine Thiboult-Demessence. Released 5th March 2024 by Fox Chapel on their Landauer imprint, it's 96 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is an accessible and fun book aimed at tweens/beginning sewists filled with cool tutorial projects. There are 26 projects in the book, including personal clothing items, crafts pieces like a change purse, and soft furnishings.

The projects are attractive and fun, but some will either need an advanced beginner who has some experience with the techniques or access to a teacher/guide/facilitator. 

The photography throughout is clear and high quality.

Four stars. It would be a good choice for public or school library acquisition, home use, makers/activity groups, scouting, etc. 

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

Logical Fantasy: The Many Worlds of John Wyndham


Logical Fantasy: The Many Worlds of John Wyndham is a restrospective and homage collection dedicated to one of the unmatched architects of the Golden Age of speculative fiction. Due out in second quarter 2024 from Subterranean Press, it's 424 pages and will be available in hardcover format in this edition. 

Included are 18 stories from the author's oeuvre mainly from the late 30s to the 60s. The stories are varied in tone, length, and style, but all are very clearly written with precision, and classic prose which is a nostalgic pleasure to read. 

Most long time fans of science fiction will have already read some of the author's work, but for the happy ones who are unfamiliar with him, this is a real treat. and a good survey course in some of the most solid speculative fiction out there. 

The stories hail from the pages of the vanished pulps and periodicals such as Amazing Stories, Wonder Stories, and Fantasy magazine. The new cover art by Bob Eggleton is classic and nostalgic and beautifully complements this edition.

Four stars. This would make a great choice for public library acquisition, home use, or gift giving. 

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