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.  

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Thursday, 17 October 2013

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Blog Tour Autumn 2013

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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

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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

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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? 

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

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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 -