Monday, 30 December 2013

Review: 'Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey' by Alison Gernsheim

Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey by Alison Gernsheim, 1981, Dover Publications, $6.00, softbound, 104 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: cool. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


A commentary on the fashion of the period, this book contains not only the author's opinion, but that of critics during the Victorian and Edwardian period. 

The photographs are naturally in black and white, and not of the best quality, but they're interesting, nonetheless. There is a Bibliography and Study List, which the author says contains 'certain books more concerned with the philosophy of dress, or social conditions, than with fashion.' These books have been included in order to afford the reader a chance to study the subject in more detail. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?  

Friday, 27 December 2013

Review: 'The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800's' by Marc McCutcheon

The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800's by Marc McCutcheon, 1993, Writer's Digest, $18.95, hardbound, 308 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: pink. Ugh. But the pictures on it are cool. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble.


We got this book due to our interest in writing steampunk, but there are various other genres to which the information lends itself, including historical fiction and westerns. Historians would probably like this book, too. 

This book covers a multitude of handy topics: slang, dating and courtship customs, hair styles, house furniture, currency, food preservation, and amusements, plus it touches on slavery and black plantation culture, the Civil War, the range, and crime. 

McCutcheon also includes chronologies of events, noted books and novels of the period, selected magazines, innovations, and popular songs. 

An excellent reference book. 

If you like this one, try: The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901, by Kristine Hughes. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Review: 'Mylo' by Sheila Jaxland

Mylo by Sheila Jaxland, 2013, Outskirts Press, $12.95, softbound, 32 pages. Category/Genre: religion. Cover: very nice, except that Jesus is a little cross-eyed. Where we got it: author. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


An endearing tale of a donkey who saw Jesus through birth, adulthood, death, and resurrection. In this story, Mylo takes the virgin Mary to Bethlehem and, upon seeing the Christ child, vows never to leave Jesus's side. 

Quotes from the Bible punctuate the story, and the illustrations are vivid and colourful. It is, of course, a touching tale, and it's also a neat take on why donkeys have a cross on their backs. 

If you want to introduce youngsters to the Bible, this may be the way to do it. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?  

Monday, 23 December 2013

Review: 'Santa's Eleven Months Off' by Mike Reiss

Santa's Eleven Months Off by Mike Reiss, Illustrated by Michael G Montgomery, 2007, Peachtree, $16.95, hardbound, 24 pages. Category/Genre: mainstream. Cover: good. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Apparently, Santa Claus and his elves have a lot of free time. At least, that's the idea in this book, which explores the many funny ways Santa spends his time when he's not working on making toys. 

Told in rhyme and accompanied by equally humourous pictures, Reiss' book shows Santa incognito, at the Summer Reindeer Games, sumo wrestling, and photographing documents for the government as a super-spy, among other things. Always with him are Rudolph and a smiling, unnamed elf.

If you like this one, try: The Santa Trap, by Jonathan Emmett.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Review: 'Writing Steampunk!' by Beth Daniels

Writing Steampunk! by Beth Daniels, 2011, 3 Media Press, $13.06, softbound, pages. Category/Genre: writing how-to. Cover: pretty good; really like the typewriter, but it could be more Steampunky. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 


One of the best things about this book is that the appendices give examples of historical events and technology in the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the most frustrating things is that the Table of Contents does not list page numbers. In addition, the Appendices list events and technology by the decades, rather than the year, with the exception of Appendix II, '19th Century Technology.' 

Other high points include chapters on world-building, human and mechanical characters, and magical elements. 

There are research aids given on wardrobes and coinage, weapons, slang, and entertainment. 

If you like this one, try: The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901, by Kristine Hughes. 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Review: 'Britain's Day-Flying Moths' by David Newland, Robert Still, and Andy Swash

Britain's Day-Flying Moths: A Field Guide to the Day-Flying Moths of Britain and Ireland by David Newland, Robert Still, and Andy Swash, 2013, Princeton University Press, $19.62, softbound, 224 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: beautiful. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.  


This book goes over lots of interesting information about moths, such as the difference between butterflies and moths, what a day-flying moth is, moth biology, the naming of moths, and where to look for day-flying moths. There's also a nice section on gardening for moths: what food plants are good to have in your garden in order to attract specific species, and tips such as the fact that ' "old-fashioned" varieties of plants are often better for moths than modern cultivars because their nectar is more easily extracted.' 

Then come the species accounts, in which you will find a detailed description of families and species, whether or not the species in question is scarce or widespread, where it is found, when it flies, forewing length, larval food plants, and similar species. Close-up colour photographs accompany each species account. 

There's also information on conservation and legislation.

If you like this one, try: Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern America, by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Review: 'The Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette' by Professor Thomas E Hill

The Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette by Professor Thomas E Hill, Illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson, 1994, Bluewood Books, $8.95, softbound, 127 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: well done. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Ideal for enthusiasts and researchers of the Victorian era, this handy little book gives advice on etiquette from introductions to traveling, to love letters and the wife's and husband's duties in marriage. 

For example, a man may leave his brolly and cane in the hall when calling, but must not leave his hat and gloves. When hosting a get-together, the man will sit at the side of the table in the center, ready to serve the guests; his wife will sit opposite him and preside over tea, sauces, etc. There are even examples given of love letters. 

If you like this one, try: Manners and Morals of Victorian America, by Wayne Erbsen; and The Essential Handbook of Victorian Entertaining, by Autumn Stephens. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Review: 'The Steampunk Bible' by Jeff VanderMeer with SJ Chambers

The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer with SJ Chambers, 2011, Abrams Image, $24.95, hardbound, 224 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: a little garish. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


This informative book includes contributions from such steampunk notables as Jake von Slatt, Catherynne M Valente, GD Falksen, and Libby Bulloff. It explores steampunk past and present, from the speculative fiction of Jules Verne and HG Wells to KW Jeter's 2011 Morlock Night and the works of Cherie Priest and Gail Carriger, as well as taking a gander at some steampunk films. 

Along the way, the authors provide helpful information, such as a guide to steampunk subgenres and a look at four styles of steampunk fashion. 

At the end of the book there is a look at the future of steampunk. There's also a little blurb about each of the authors, steampunk-style. 

If you like this one, try: International Steampunk Fashions, by Victoriana Lady Lisa; and  The Art of Steampunk, by Art Donovan.  

Monday, 9 December 2013

Review: 'International Steampunk Fashions' by Victoriana Lady Lisa

International Steampunk Fashions by Victoriana Lady Lisa, 2012, Schiffer Publishing, $39.99, hardbound, 192 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: cool. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


In case you're unfamiliar with steampunk, there's an article in this book called 'Steampunk 101.' The rest of the book showcases steampunk fashion from Europe, New Zealand, and North and South America, plus worldwide jewellery, hats, and accessories.

Then there are biographies of many of the people in the book which include websites and Facebook pages where you can find more information on them. Plus there's a chapter on steampunk fashion resources and organisations. 

If you're interested in steampunk (or think you might be), you'll want to check out this book.

If you like this one, try: Steampunk Accessories, by Nicola Tedman and Sarah Skeate. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Review: 'Mammals of Britain and Europe' by FH Van Den Brink

Mammals of Britain and Europe by FH Van Den Brink, Translated and Edited by Hans Kruuk and HN Southern, Illustrated by Paul Barruel, 1986, The Easton Press, $17.94, hardbound, 221 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: elegant. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble.


This guide showcases 177 species, some of whom are quite rare. Some species who are extinct in the wild have also been included, either because some specimens still exist in captivity, or because domesticated races are being bred to recreate the species, or because the species still exist elsewhere, and it is desirable that they be reintroduced. 

Barruel's handsome illustrations accompany the text and help the reader in identifying the many species included. The guide is divided into ten main parts: Insectivores; Bats; Apes; Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas; Rodents; Carnivores; Odd-Toed Ungulates (Horses); Even-Toed Ungulates (Pigs, Deer, and Bovines); Toothed Whales; and Baleen or Whale-Bone Whales. There are 20 coloured plates and 12 black- and-white plates. 

A brief description is given on each Order, and then details are listed for each species, including measurements, physical description, habitat, range, habits, and similar species. There are maps, notes on how to take measurements, a word on the study and protection of mammals, and an explanation of the symbols used in the book. 

Also included are taxonomic notes and dental formulae. 

If you like this one, try: Mammals of Britain and Europe (Collins Field Guide), by David McDonald and Priscilla Barrett. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Review: 'Across the Universe' by Beth Revis

Across the Universe by Beth Revis, 2012, Razorbill, $9.99, softbound, 417 pages. Category/Genre: science fiction. Cover: pretty cool. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Told from the points of view of two different characters, this book takes place in the future, when cryogenics is a reality. Seventeen-year-old Amy gets cryogenically frozen along with her parents in order to reach a planet 300 years away. 

There are a number of people awake during the journey, including those known as 'Shippers'; they run the ship and have training in how to operate Godspeed during an emergency.  

Elder is the leader in training under Eldest on board Godspeed and wants to prove himself worthy of becoming the next leader. His leadership skills are tested when Amy wakes up early and is unable to be re-frozen. Everyone on Godspeed is the same: no religion, the same ethnicity, and the same language -- until Amy wakes up. One of the causes of discord, according to Eldest, is difference; and Amy is definitely different. 

This is a story about flawed leadership, learning to stand up for yourself, and why our differences should be celebrated rather than feared. 

If you like this one, try: A Million Suns, by Beth Revis.  

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Review: 'Unleashed' by Lisa Wogan

Unleashed: Climbing Canines, Hiking Hounds, Fishing Fidos, and Other Daring Dogs by Lisa Wogan, 2007, Skipstone, $16.95, hardbound, 79 pages. Category/Genre: animals. Cover: cool. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


A celebration of sporting canines, this book has profiles of a number of dogs who find joy in action. With each profile are some colour photographs, the name of the dog or dogs, and the sport involved. 

Sports include 'Extreme Sprinkler' (jumping around chasing the water from a sprinkler), 'Skijorers' (a Scandanavian sport that combines mushing with cross-country skiing), 'Hiker,' and 'Innertuber' (hanging about in an innertube). 

Whether in groups or by themselves, these dogs know how to have a good time, and it's fun for the reader to learn how they do it. The text is clever and canine-friendly; anyone who loves animals will get a kick out of this book. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Review: 'The Front Yard Forager' by Melany Vorass Herrera

The Front Yard Forager by Melany Vorass Herrera, 2013, Skipstone, $18.95, softbound, 191 pages. Category/Genre: cooking/reference. Cover: pleasant. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


It must first be noted that foragers must take extreme caution when collecting weeds for consumption, as there can be deadly look-alikes and even the 'safe' ones can sometimes be harmful. 

To aid the novice in identifying harmful plants, this book contains a section on poisonous weeds common in urban areas. There are also photographs and descriptions of edible weeds (although the photos are black-and-white, and there could ideally be more), as well as information on where to find the weed in question, when to harvest it and how, what parts of it to eat, and poisonous look-alikes to avoid. 

Recipes for each weed are included, as well as a description of the taste, how to store and cook the weed, benefits to eating the weed, and who should avoid the weed altogether. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?  

Friday, 29 November 2013

Review: 'Backyard Roots' by Lori Eanes

Backyard Roots: Lessons on Living Local from 35 Urban Farmers by Lori Eanes, 2013, Skipstone, $21.95, softbound, 190 pages. Category/Genre: how-to. Cover: appropriate. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.  


Advice from 35 urban farmers is found here, from how to legalise chickens to starting a home business. Each of the farmers has a story to tell, and topics range from duck keeping to city foraging, cob ovens to giving up the grocery store. 

Urban farmers also give back to their community. Laura Allen helped change the code governing greywater systems in Oakland, CA. Joan Engelmeyer teaches art class to local kids using her urban farm, which includes a pair of Pygora (pygmy Angora) goats. 

Where possible, book and web resources are given, and the book is filled with lush, full-colour photographs. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Review: 'Cool Season Gardener' by Bill Thorness

Cool Season Gardener by Bill Thorness, Illustrated by Susie Thorness, 2013, Skipstone, $18.95, softbound, 182 pages. Category/Genre: how-to. Cover: good. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


This book attempts to teach enthusiastic gardeners how to cultivate a garden of edible plants year-round. 

Understanding the weather is of utmost importance in growing vegetables throughout the autumn and winter. So, also, is siting your cool season garden, and Thorness gives advice on both. 

There are ways, Thorness says, to extend your growing season, some of them easy and some advanced. Warming the garden is of prime importance, and there are a variety of ways explored in this book. 

Thorness suggests you choose from a wide number of cool season vegetables, including Asian greens, beets, broccoli raab, celeriac, collards, Europea greens, garlic, kale, and onions. 

Advice on troubleshooting is also given, as well as some building projects you can make. Resources are included. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Review: 'The Best Rocky Mountain National Park Hikes' by Ward Luthi

The Best Rocky Mountain National Park Hikes by The Shining Mountains Group of The Colorado Mountain Club with Ward Luthi, 2013, The Colorado Mountain Club Press, $12.95, softbound, 108 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: nice. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.  


This book begins by going over the ten essentials systems -- principles the authors say will benefit every hiker. These include hydration, nutrition, sun protection, insulation, navigation, illumination, first aid, fire, a repair kit and emergency tools, and emergency shelter.

Other useful safety measures are also given, along with information on Colorado weather. 

There are twenty trails considered here. Maps are included, as well as comments on the trails, colour photographs, how to get to the trail in question, the route you will take once on the trail, the round-trip distance in miles, the round-trip time in minutes, and the nearest landmark. There is also a rating given, ranging from easy to difficult. 

The authors suggest deciding which kinds of hikes will work best for you, such as easier ones for families or those with disabilities, and narrowing your choices by considering variables like how far away trail heads are from one another and how long it would take you to get to each. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?  

Monday, 18 November 2013

Review: 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creative Writing' by Laurie E Rozakis, PhD

The Complete Idiot's guide to Creative Writing, Second Edition: Expert Tips on Crafting Essays, Short Stories, Memoirs, and More by Laurie E Rozakis, PhD, 2004, Alpha Books, $18.95, softbound, 358 pages. Category/Genre: writing how-to. Cover: meh. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Part One of this book aims to aid the reader in tapping his creative potential by offering writing activities. 

Part Two teaches how to develop plot, characters, structure, settings, and dialogue, as well as finding your own narrative voice. 

Part Three goes over nonfiction, such as poetry, memoirs, essays, and magazine articles. You will find here an overview of poetry (figurative language, rhythm, poetic technique, and rhyme). 

Part Four covers drama, scripts, and screenplays, and teaches the different types of screenplays you can write. Also included is how to write a premise and a treatment. 

Part Five talks about additional resources, such as contests and grants, creative writing classes, and editors. Also explored is publication, including online publication and self-publication. Writer's block is also addressed. 

There are many tips and hints along the way. The book is thorough and informative. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Review: 'The Art of Steampunk' by Art Donovan

The Art of Steampunk: Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement, Art Donovan, 2011, Fox Chapel, $19.95, softbound, 127 pages. Category/Genre: art. Cover: cool. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Filled with tons of full-colour photographs, this book introduces the reader to a world of steampunk art by some of the most innovative steampunk artists out there. There's an article on what steampunk is, in case you're unfamiliar.

There are some truly beautiful pieces depicted here, as well as bizarre ones. In the book is everything from lanterns and laptops to jewellery, clocks, and sculptures.

Artists include Daniel Proulx from Canada, Richard Nagy (Datamancer) from the United States, Haruo Suekichi from Japan, Vianney Halter from Switzerland, and Jos de Vink from the Netherlands. Information on each artist is included. 

If you like this one, try: The Steampunk Bible, by Jeff VanderMeer with S.J. Chambers, and International Steampunk Fashions, by Victoriana Lady Lisa.  

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Review: 'Steampunk Accessories' by Nicola Tedman and Sarah Skeate

Steampunk Acccessories: 20 Projects to Help You Nail the Style, from Goggles to Cell Phone Cases, Gauntlets, and Jewelry, by Nicola Tedman and Sarah Skeate, 2012, Barron's, $18.99, softbound, 128 pages. Category/Genre: how-to/crafts. Cover: cool. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.  


If, like many steampunks out there, you have a bit of DIY in you, this book may be just what you're looking for to add a little steampunk to your everyday life. 

There is a section on materials and techniques, and the authors go over where to find the materials you'll be using for these accessories. For example, you can peruse your local hardware shop for brass or bronze nuts, bolts, chains, and washers, and local craft or art supply shops will yield beads, jewellery findings and chains; online shops will also provide ample selections of the same items, as well as raw (natural) and antique gold, silver, or brass charms, chains, and pendants. The authors also mention that many online shops now have steampunk sections. 

There's also a handy section on working with leather, which includes choosing leather, aging the surface of your piece, dyeing your leather, and sewing leather. 

In this book, you will find projects such as a vintage billfold, a wrist corsage, an adventurer's belt, bracelets for men and women, a canister case, an eyeglass case, boot liveries, a hat cockade, oculus goggles, and more. 

Templates are included, and the projects are illustrated, though perhaps not in as much detail as the newbie DIY-er would prefer. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?  

Monday, 11 November 2013

Review: 'The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook' by Emily Ansara Baines

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook: From Lamb Stew to 'Groosling' -- More Than 150 Recipes Inspired by The Hunger Games Trilogy, Emily Ansara Baines, 2006, Adams Media, $19.95, hardbound, 240 pages. Category/Genre: cooking. Cover: fitting. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


As Baines says in her introduction, food in The Hunger Games 'represents a variety of conflicts that the characters, regardless of background, must struggle against.' It's a weapon the Capitol wields against the poor. It's also a form of communication, as we learn when Haymitch uses bread to communicate with Katniss during her first Hunger Games. 

Each recipe comes with 'Tips from Your Sponsor' and a brief explanation of which book and chapter inspired that particular recipe. 

The first chapter is all about breakfast and includes such recipes as 'Mrs Everdeen's Breakfast of Mush' and 'Porridge for the Poor.' Chapter 2 is called 'Breaking Bread' and includes dishes like 'Katniss-Approved Puffy Buttermilk Biscuits' and 'District 4's Seaweed Bread.' There are nine chapters in all, and you'll get recipes for soups, stews, and salads, seafood, poultry dishes, wild game, desserts, and more. Wild dog optional. 

The appendix is titled 'Katniss's Family Book of Herbs' and describes various herbs you can scrounge yourself (if you know what you're doing). Unfortunately, no pictures are included, so you're left to figure out for yourself what the plants look like. 

A very intriguing book.

If you like this one, try: The Unofficial Catching Fire Cookbook, by Rockridge Press, and The Unofficial Recipes of The Hunger Games, by Rockridge University Press.   





Friday, 8 November 2013

Review: 'The World's Rarest Birds' by Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash, and Robert Still

The World's Rarest Birds, by Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash, and Robert Still, 2013, Princeton University Press, $45.00, hardbound, 360 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: cool. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


The purpose of this book is to feature as many photographs of Endangered and Critically Endangered bird species as possible, along with enlightening readers as to the current status of each of these birds and the reasons for their being threatened, as well as giving some information about their distribution and ecology. 

The book begins with a world map of diversity and distribution, in which the reader may find the number of bird species in each of the world's countries. 

The section on the threats birds face is a long one, and includes fishing, hunting and trapping, logging, human disturbance, pollution, geological events, and much more. 

The section titled 'Going or Gone?' brings to light some alarming facts. For example, at least 130 bird species have gone Extinct since 1500. Another four species now only exist in captivity. 

By far the largest section in the book is the Regional Directories, in which one may find maps, a summarisation of conservation issues, key hot spots for threatened birdds, species accounts, and more. 

the book is filled with lavish colour photographs, and more conservation related information than you will find in most books. 

There's also a glossary of technical terms used in the book (although every effort was made to keep the text as non-technical as possible). 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Review: 'The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors' by Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori, and Brian Sullivan

The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, by Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori, and Brian Sullivan, 2013, Princeton University Press, $29.95, softbound, 285 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: interesting. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


This book starts out with a look at raptors in flight, then moves on to 'raptor topography,' which is the tracts of feathers and the anatomy of birds. This part is fascinating for anyone interested in the science of birds, and -- like the rest of the book -- is illustrated with clear colour photographs. If you don't know already, some of the things you will learn here are that the colour of the iris often changes with age, the nape is the back of the neck, and the uppertail coverts are the rump. 

After that are species accounts, and then mystery photo images. These are pictures of various raptors who the authors encourage you to identify and age; the answers are included later in the book. The species accounts include range maps, an overview, comments on flight style, the size and shape of the bird, plumage, and more. 

A terrific book for anyone interested in raptors. 

If you like this one, try: Hawks of North America, by William S. Clark and Brian K. Wheeler.  


Monday, 4 November 2013

Review: 'The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901' by Kristine Hughes

The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901, by Kristine Hughes, 1998, Writer's Digest Books, $18.99, softbound, 248 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: interesting, though the colours are a bit lacking. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


A must-have for any writer looking for a reference book on England in this time period. The book is quite thorough; Part One, 'Everyday Life,' examines such topics as lighting, heating, and plumbing, home furnishings, domestic servants, and fashion. 


Part Two, 'Government, War, and the Economy,' goes over the courts, the military, economics, banking, and the labouring classes. 

Part Three, 'Society,' deals with shopping, etiquette, travel, mourning, and more. 

There are a few black-and-white pieces of artwork and a number of bibliographies. In this book, you will find interesting tidbits, such as a list of major London newspapers in circulation from 1837-1850. Details such as this can really help a book along, and if you decide to write about characters during this time period, this book will surely be an asset. 

If you like this one, try: The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West from 1840-1900, by Candy Moulton. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Review: 'Collins Complete Guide to British Garden Wildlife' by Paul Sterry

Collins Complete Guide to British Garden Wildlife by Paul Sterry, 2010, Collins, $22.14, softbound, 383 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: excellent. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble.   


A wonderful book in a wonderful series, British Garden Wildlife lets the reader in on the many secrets of gardens across the pond. Not only does this book cover the various species of animals, plants, and fungi apt to be found in a British garden, it also covers such topics as bird food and feeding, nesting and nest boxes, eggs, garden plants for birds, mammal tracks, trails, and signs, and the life cycles of butterflies and moths. 

In addition to the usual birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and spiders, this book also goes over non-insect invertebrates. And on the plant front, there are trees, shrubs, wild flowers, non-flowering plants, and water plants. One could scarcely ask for more. 

Filled with rich, full colour photographs, this book is one for anyone who loves gardens.

If you like this one, try: Collins Complete Guide to British Birds, by Paul Sterry.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Review: 'If Hooks Could Kill' by Betty Hechtman

If Hooks Could Kill by Betty Hechtman, 2012, Berkley Prime Crime, $24.95, hardbound, 327 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: not bad; like the dog. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Tarzana resident and crocheter Molly Pink gets into another murder mystery in this, the seventh installment of the Crochet Mysteries by Betty Hechtman. 

Molly's crochet group, the Tarzana Hookers, have a booth at the Jungle Days Fair and have been waiting for Hooker Kelly Donahue to provide the crocheted items she's been promising. Then Kelly is murdered, and Molly takes it upon herself to solve the crime. 

Competing with Molly for the title of sleuth is fellow crocheter Adele Abrams, who makes it her job to point out how clever she herself is at solving mysteries. 

Molly's love life is also complicated, most notably by the fact that she's allowing her ex, Barry Greenberg, to live with her whilst he recovers from a gunshot wound. 

There are some problems with this book, including several grammatical errors and the fact that Molly considers Adele's going behind her boyfriend's back to investigate 'standing up for herself.' Worse still is Adele and her boyfriend's insistence on calling each other such dreadful terms as 'Cutchykins.' But the mystery is interesting and the characters memorable. Be forewarned, though: the book ends with a cliffhanger. 

If you like this one, try: Skirting the Grave, by Annette Blair.  

Friday, 25 October 2013

Review: 'The Genius of Dogs' by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods

The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, 2013, Plume, $17.00, softbound, 367 pages. Category/Genre: science. Cover: appropriate. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


This is a book that will appeal both to scientists and dog lovers alike. Written by Brian Hare, founder of Duke University's dog cognition lab and his wife, this book explores the scientific research in the area of dog intelligence. 

Human contact, say the authors, has increased the intelligence of dogs, and it has given them a special kind of social intelligence unique in the animal kingdom. 

The intelligence of dogs is not measured by what tricks a dog can learn, but by how they approach problems and make inferences. Therefore, no one breed is more intelligent than another, say the authors; it's a matter of how individually intelligent each dog is and how all dogs, as a species, compare with other animals related to them. 

In addition to better understanding dogs as a species, this book may help you understand your own dog and, perhaps, yourself. 

If you like this one, try: Dogs Can Sign, Too, by Sean Senechal. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Review: 'The Art of Illumination' by Patricia Carter

The Art of Illumination by Patricia Carter, 2008, Search Press, $19.95, softbound, 159 pages. Category/Genre: how-to. Cover: artistic. where we got it: publisher. where you can get it: Amazon, Books-A-Million. 

In this thorough book, Carter not only goes over the basics of materials and colour used in illumination, but also teaches the reader about page layout, gilding, developing a design, shadowing, stippling, and more. 

Next, there is a large section on putting your illuminated designs to use. Carter covers a variety of borders, such as simple borders, floral borders, a maple leaf border, and so on. 

She teaches the reader about illuminated texts, themed borders, and illuminated alphabets. She also offers design ideas for both beginners and the advanced. 

All in all, this is a great book for anybody interested in design. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Review: 'Scottish Gaelic-English/English-Scottish Gaelic Dictionary' by R.W. Renton and J.A. MacDonald

Scottish Gaelic-English/English-Scottish Gaelic Dictionary by R.W. Renton and J.A. MacDonald, 2010, Hippocrene Books, $9.95, softbound, 162 pages. Category/Genre: language. Cover: attractive. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Books-A-Million.


We have a very large Scottish dictionary we inherited from our father, and we cherish it. However, it's only Scottish to English; you must know the Scottish word and look up the English, and we wanted a dictionary that would allow us to look up an English word and find out the Scottish translation.

So we got this book, and so far we're fairly satisfied with it. For nouns, four forms and its gender are generally given. Two forms of each verb are given, and two forms of adjectives are usually given. And, as Gaelic idiom demands that certain verbs and adjectives be followed by a particular preposition, these are indicated in brackets after the word. Also, the many forms of the definite article ('the') are included in italics with each noun to reinforce the rules and aid in recall.

A short listing of irregular verbs is also included at the back of the book. There are 8,500 modern entries, so you've got a good start with this dictionary, and the English-Gaelic section is expanded to make conversations and composition easier. There is a small grammar guide, as well.

Sadly, this book does not include a pronunciation guide. 

If you like this one, try: Dwelly's Illustrated Gaelic to English Dictionary, by Edward Dwelly. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Review: 'Chestnut' by Constance W. McGeorge

Chestnut, by Constance W. McGeorge, Illustrated by Mary Whyte, 2004, Peachtree, $16.95, hardbound, 30 pages. Category/Genre: mainstream. Cover: very nice. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


Chestnut is a horse who lives in a city by the sea. Every day he and Mr Decker (along with an unnamed cat) make deliveries about town. 

One day, the mayor and his daughter, Jenny, stop by Mr Decker's to see if he and Chestnut will be able to make all their deliveries in time for Jenny's birthday party. Mr Decker assures them they will -- but on that special day, Mr Decker falls asleep before setting out on the delivery run, and he won't wake up to make the deliveries. 

You will have to read the book to find out how Chestnut saves the day; be sure to keep an eye on the ever-present cat whilst you're reading. The prose is simple and straightforward, and the watercolour paintings of Whyte's hometown of Charleston, SC are realistic and beautiful. This is a pleasant tale, quietly told. 

For ages four and up.

If you like this one, try: McGeorge and Whyte have collaborated before, and readers who enjoy Chestnut would probably enjoy the Boomer books, which were inspired by Whyte's golden retriever.  

Don't forget to check out the other sites on the tour!


Contest on Peachtree's blog (www.peachtreepub.blogspot.com).

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Blog Tour

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Blog Tour

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Gidget's Bookworms (http://gidgetsbookworms.wordpress.com). 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Blog Tour Autumn 2013

Don't forget to check out the other sites on the tour!

Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf (http://maestra-amanda.blogspot.com)
Boys to Books (www.boystobooks.blogspot.com).

Author Interview: Alison Hart'

Here are some questions we asked Alison Hart, author of Darling, Mercy Dog of WWI.



How long does it take for you to write a book?
 I do extensive research, especially for historical fiction, so the actual writing can take only several months while the research may take up to a year.

What inspired you to write Darling?
  
 I am a dog lover as well as a horse lover. The majority of my books such as the Gabriel’s Horses trilogy have been written with a focus on horses, so I decided to take a break and write about dogs and their many contributions to society and their partnerships with humans.  Other authors had written about dogs in war, but there were few books about mercy dogs, a fascinating subject.

Apart from Darling, who would you want by your side in a war?
 I would never want to go to war. I have written about the Civil War and World War I. Both were horrible to man and beast.

What were your favourite books when you were ten?
 Ten years old was a long time ago. Interestingly, I was a fan of Jim Kjelgaard’s dog books  like Big Red, which are still out in paperback. I loved Black Beauty and Black Stallion books  
as well as Nancy Drew mysteries.

What kinds of writing quirks do you have?
 I am busy with teaching and antiquing and I love researching, so deadlines  are a must or I will never get to the actual writing part.

Are you able to make a living as a writer? If so, how long did it take you to get to that point?
 I have written over sixty books, yet I have never made a living as a writer. Advances have not changed much since I started, and only a handful of my books earn royalties. Beginning writers see J.K. Rowling fame, but most writers—even those who have great careers—don’t make it to the top.
You did a lot of research for 'Darling' -- how long did it take you to do all that research?
 Research is time-consuming but fascinating. I do it hit and miss, so it’s hard to pinpoint an amount of time. First, I research before I write the initial book proposal, which can be extensive since I want to capture the excitement and history of the era I am writing about.
 Next I have to research to flesh out characters, setting and plot. I am a very sensory writer, so I want to know smells and sounds as well as sights. I also want to know the tiny details such as how soldiers cooked their meals in the trenches. Online sources and photos as well as museums are invaluable to writers.

Who is your favourite author, and why?
    
 I do not have one.

How did you come up with Darling's personality?
 I wanted Darling to ‘grow’ and change in the story (just like a human character would grow). I know the quirks of dogs bred for herding, so I started her out as a slightly hyper, mischievous sheep dog (think Australian Shepherd) with lots of smarts but no direction.  Once she discovers her purpose, she uses her brains, agility and ability as a mercy dog to save lives.

What was the most challenging part about writing Darling?
 I knew nothing about World War I, so my initial research focused on understanding the big picture – the whos, whats, whys etc. Then I had to narrow down an actual battle (I chose the Battle of Messines out of thousands) and concentrate on understanding that particular battle from beginning to end. It was daunting and I am sure WWI buffs and historians will find fault. There was also little on mercy dogs and none on their use in specific battles though they were used extensively in WWI.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Review: 'A Place for Frogs' by Melissa Stewart

A Place for Frogs, by Melissa Stewart, Illustrated by Higgins Bond, 2009, Peachtree, $16.95, hardbound, 30 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: quite good. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Another of the wonderful A Place for . . . series, A Place for Frogs explains how frogs are beneficial to humans as well as other animals. It also tells us what humans are doing to harm frogs and how we can help. 

For example, the introduction of new plants to a natural habitat can be hard on frog populations. Oregon spotted frogs have trouble finding places to lay their eggs when too much reed canary grass is planted. Removing the reed canary grass and replacing it with native plants can help the Oregon spotted frogs live and thrive.  

A number of frogs are introduced in this book, and maps are given at the beginning and end so you can see where each species lives. There's a nifty section on frog facts, as well as a list of books and websites for further information. 

Note: some readers may be disturbed by the depiction of a snake eating a frog; you may want to peruse the book before handing it over to sensitive readers. 

For ages six and up. 

If you liked this one, try: A Place for Bats, by Melissa Stewart. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Blog Tour

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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Blog Tour

Don't forget to check out the other sites on the tour!


Kid Lit Reviews (www.kid-lit-reviews.com)
Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf (http://maestra-amanda.blogspot.com).

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Blog Tour

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Monday, 7 October 2013

Review: 'Where Is Baby?' by Kathryn O Galbraith

Where Is Baby? by Kathryn Galbraith, Illustrated by John Butler, 2013, Peachtree, $16.95, 27 pages. Category/Genre: animals. Cover: Terrific. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Where Is Baby? is an exploration of different types of babies and the ways they hide. Among the kinds of babies mentioned are fawns, leopard cubs, prairie dog pups, wolf pups, bat pups, and elephant calves. 

John Butler's excellent artwork accompanies the text and gives readers even more to look at than the irresistible wild babies. In every picture there is wonderful detail, like butterflies and daisies, snails, spiders, and birds. 

At the back of the book is a section called 'More About Babies.' Here Galbraith explains more about each of the babies depicted in the book, including the proper word for each one. Baby ostriches, for example, are called either 'chicks' or 'whelps.' 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Review: 'You've Got Dragons' by Kathryn Cave

You've got Dragons, by Kathryn Cave, Illustrated by Kick Maland, 2003, Peachtree, $16.95, hardbound, 29 pages. Category/Genre: mainstream. Cover: cool. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


The dragons in this book aren't really dragons, they're problems, and everyone gets them sometimes. Ignoring them won't make them go away. And sometimes, when you think the dragon isn't there anymore . . . it still is. 

Dragons are big, and they make you make silly mistakes. Dragons make everything complicated. And if you tell anyone about them, they might think you're weird. 

But there are some things you can do when you have dragons, and this book tells you what. 

This is a very clever, creative story that can get kids and parents talking. Plus the dragons look cool. 

For ages five and up. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Don't forget to check out the other sites on the tour!

Good Reads with Ronna! (www.goodreadswithronna.com).
   

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Blog Tour

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Kid Lit Reviews - www.kid-lit-reviews.com.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Blog Tour

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There'll be a post up on the Peachtree blog with a giveaway contest today!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Blog Tour

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Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf - http://maestra-amanda.blogspot.com.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Review: 'Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I' by Alison Hart

Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I, by Alison Hart, Illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery, 2013, Peachtree, $12.95, hardbound, 162 pages. Category/Genre: adventure. Cover: engaging. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


This book is written from the point of view of a dog named Darling, who lives in Cosham, England during World War I. Darling is a mischievous dog, and gets into all sorts of trouble with her friend Rags, the terrier next door. She doesn't care about the war or hard times, or anything except running free. 

But Darling's family can't afford to keep her any more, and one day they give her away to become a war dog, helping the troops. Because the British army can't afford to keep dogs who don't give them anything in return, any dogs who don't do well in training must be put down. All Darling wants to do is escape and run home. 

Things have changed drastically for the fun-loving Darling, and things change even more when her trainer is injured and it's up to her to find help. Soon she becomes a mercy dog: a dog trained to seek out the injured soldiers on the battlefield and bring the medics to them. 

This is a true adventure story, with lots of angst and dramatic action. It's interesting to see history through the eyes of a dog, and to learn how dogs actually served during war time.   

Written for ages seven through ten.  

If you like this one, try: the forthcoming Murphy, Gold Rush Dog.

Don't forget to check out the other sites on the tour!


Sally's Bookshelf - www.sallysbookshelf.blogspot.com.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Call for Recommended Reading

If you've got a book you're wanting to tell everyone about, tell us; we'll post your recommendation at the end of the month.  

Friday, 27 September 2013

Review: 'I Am Tama, Lucky Cat: A Japanese Legend' by Wendy Henrichs

I Am Tama, Lucky Cat: A Japanese Legend, by Wendy Henrichs, Illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi, 2011, Peachtree, $16.95, hardbound, 29 pages. Category/Genre: legend. Cover: beautiful. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


This book is a re-telling of the Japanese legend of Maneki Neko, the Beckoning Cat, or Lucky Cat. 

In this book, Tama makes a long journey in search of food and shelter. His search brings him to a poor monk in a run-down temple. The monk takes Tama in and takes care of him even though he has little food even for himself. In return, Tama catches mice and gives the monk his warmth and friendship. 

Then one day Tama finds a way to give the monk he loves even more. 

This is a lovely and touching story, well told and with beautiful artwork that suits the Japanese-style prose. Kids and adults alike will fall in love with this tale. 

For ages five and up. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Don't forget to check out the other sites on the tour!


Contest on PTP blog (www.peachtreepub.blogspot.com) (I'll also be debuting our historical fiction pinterest board on this day).