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.