Friday, 26 June 2015

Review: 'Knit Your Own Dog: The Second Litter' by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne

Knit Your Own Dog: The Second Litter by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne, 2012, Black Dog and Leventhal, $14.95, softbound, 176 pages. Cover: good. Category/Genre: How-to, Crafts. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

The follow-up to Muir and Osborne's Knit Your Own Dog and Knit Your Own Cat, this book includes the knitting patterns for 25 more pedigree dogs. 

The authors suggest a number of uses for these crafted canines: you can stage your own miniature dog show; comfort someone who's lost a beloved pet; give one to someone who's longing for a dog of their own; or pay tribute to an old furry pal. 

The authors also include helpful hints and tips on how to make your creation unique. Categories include toy, utility, terriers, sporting, and working dogs.

If you like this one, try: Knit Your Own Pet, by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne (for knitters of all levels). 

You may find the authors on Facebook and Twitter, or buy their knitwear, books, and stationery at Muir and Osborne

Friday, 19 June 2015

Review: 'The Weird World of Words' by Mitchell Symons

The Weird World of Words: A Guided Tour by Mitchell Symons, 2015, Zest books, $11.99, softbound, 192 pages. Cover: like it. Category/Genre: Trivia, Reference. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

For wordsmiths and trivia fans, The Weird World of Worlds opens up all manner of peculiarities and quirks in the English language. From palindromes to oxymorons and pangrams, acronyms, mnemonics, and the origins of words, this book has it all. There's a list of the most beautiful words in the English language (according to a poll of 7,000 people in 2004), Scrabble facts, the meaning behind the days of the week, words invented by Shakespeare, a note on proper word use (valuable for any sort of writer), and 'kangaroo' and 'anti-kangaroo' words. (Kangaroo words contain synonyms for that word; for instance, the word masculine has in it the words male and man. Anti-kangaroo words contain antonyms.)

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?

Mitchell Symons can be found at TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads

Friday, 12 June 2015

Review: 'Mind F**k' by Manna Francis

Mind F**k by Manna Francis, 2007, Casperian Books, softbound, 261 pages. Cover: all right. Category/Genre: Mystery, Erotica. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

This book, the start of a series, follows torturer Val Toreth as he struggles to discover the murderer in a series of deaths involving fully immersive computer simulations. 

The simulations, owned by SimTech, are the baby of Dr Keir Warrick, Toreth's new lover. Since Warrick is a suspect, Toreth shouldn't be seeing him; but keeping his hands off Warrick is something that's growing harder and harder for Toreth to do. 

Those offended by graphic sex and language shouldn't open this book. There's plenty of BDSM as well as oral sex. The main characters are bisexual, but the sex scenes are always between men; so if that offends you, don't buy this book.

If you're looking for clean-cut characters, that's another reason not to buy this book. Toreth is a reprehensible sort surrounded by other morally-challenged people. But if 'grey' characters are something you're interested in, this book has them in spades. 

If you like this one, try: Quid Pro Quo, by Manna Francis.

Manna Francis can be found at Mannazone (where you'll also find an original story not related to the Administration series) and Goodreads

Friday, 5 June 2015

Review: 'Fox Tracks' by Rita Mae Brown

Fox Tracks by Rita Mae Brown, 2013, Ballantine Books, $15.00, softbound, 293 pages. Cover: good. Category/Genre: Mystery. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

'Sister' Jane Arnold becomes embroiled in another murder mystery when she befriends a man who is later shot; the man, a tobacco shop owner, is found by Sister and her friend Tootie, with a pack of American Smokes on his chest. The shooting repeats itself in Boston, sparking Sister's curiosity and causing her to investigate the matter. 

Meanwhile, Sister's nemesis, Crawford, is making even more of a nuisance of himself than usual. He's luring landowners to his side by offering them much-needed services they could not otherwise pay for. If this keeps up, Sister and the rest of the Jefferson Hunt foxhunters will have nowhere they are allowed to hunt. 

An intriguing mystery with well-loved characters and a surprising ending. Fans of Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown's Mrs Murphy mysteries will enjoy the dialogue among the animals in this series.

If you like this one, try: Outfoxed, by Rita Mae Brown; and Wish You Were Here, by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown.

Rita Mae Brown can be found at Rita Mae Brown BooksFacebook, and in this Time article. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Review: 'Nine Lives to Die' by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Nine Lives to Die by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown, 2014, Bantam Books, $26.00, hardbound, 253 pages. Cover: like it. Category/Genre: Mystery. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

Combine mystery with Virginia flavour and add likable characters (both human and animal), and you have a Mrs Murphy story. 

This particular tale has the intrepid tabby trying to help solve an old murder. When Mrs Murphy, Pewter, and Tee Tucker come across a gold bracelet, they don't think much about the fact that it was recently wrapped around the wrist of a skeleton. But before long, the animals find out their human, Harry Haristeen, has a stake in solving the mystery of just how that skeleton came to be on her property. 

There's also a fresh murder, with the victim missing two fingers. Until the fingers show up in a pencil holder at Harry's church . . . 

The barbs between Tee Tucker, a corgi, and Pewter, a grey cat, do get a bit rough -- so if you want to read about animals who get on, this may not be the series for you. 

Note: strong language.

If you like this one, try: Sneaky Pie for President, by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown.

Rita Mae Brown can be found at Rita Mae Brown BooksBrainyQuote, and Facebook

Sneaky Pie Brown can be found at CatPrez.comTwitter, and Facebook

Friday, 22 May 2015

Review: 'Police Procedure and Investigation' by Lee Lofland

Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland, 2007, Writer's Digest Books, $19.99, softbound, 368 pages. Cover: pretty cool. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

This is a guide for crime writers, and it's excellent. There's all sorts of information, from an overview of law enforcement in America, to courts and the legal process, to autopsy, to arrest and search procedures. 

Lofland lists courses recruits have to take in the police academy, gives diagrams of different law enforcement hierarchies (police department, sheriff's office, and so on), gives readers an idea of what it's like to be a detective (he was one himself), and tells what prisons and jails are like. 

If you're at all interested in writing about law enforcement, this is the book to have. 

If you like this one, try: Armed and Dangerous: A Writer's Guide to Weapons, by Michael Newton; Code Blue: A Writer's Guide to Hospitals, including the ER, OR, and ICU; and Private Eyes: A Writer's Guide to Private Investigators, by Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet, and John Landreth. 

You can find Lee Lofland online here: The Graveyard, and

Friday, 15 May 2015

Review: 'The Ultimate Handbook for Paper Crafters' by Paper Crafts Magazine

The Ultimate Handbook for Paper Crafters by Paper Crafts Magazine, 2012, Leisure Arts, $24.95, softbound, 192 pages. Cover: good. Category/Genre: Crafts. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

If you want to try a variety of paper crafts, this book isn't for you. If, however, you're interested in card making, you might do well to add this book to your library. 

Highlights include the rules of colour (and how to break them); finding your style; and the basics of stamping. This latter includes heat embossing, mists and sprays, spectrum inking, using markers, and more. 

An 'essential tool kit' is listed at the front of the book, and items in the index are listed by occasion; so if you're looking for how to create just the right birthday card, you can look under 'birthday' and find what you need. An abundance of tips help make this book one you'll return to again and again.

Overall impression: short on instruction, long on ideas. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?

Friday, 8 May 2015

Review: 'Love the Home You Have' by Melissa Michaels

Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels, 2015, Harvest House, $14.99, softbound, 213 pages. Cover: meh. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

Melissa Michaels, author of The Inspired Room blog, offers simple ways to embrace your style, get organised, and love the home you're in rather than coveting that other house down the street. 

Michaels offers lots of advice on how to change the way you view your home and your life. She has tips on decorating, organising, and decluttering; she suggests practical and affordable solutions for a variety of home and decor challenges; and she illustrates how to rejuvenate the mood of your home through engaging the senses and highlighting the seasons and holidays. 

There's humour in this book, and it's told largely through excerpts of personal experience, which make the reader feel as if they know and can trust Michaels. And there's plenty of good advice. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

You can find Melissa Michaels online at: The Inspired Room Blog and Twitter.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Review: 'The Art and Craft of Storytelling' by Nancy Lamb

The Art and Craft of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide to Classic Writing Techniques by Nancy Lamb, 2008, Writer's Digest Books, $16.99, softbound, 264 pages. Cover: good. Category/Genre: Reference; Writing How-to. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

From the three approaches to storytelling to the fundamentals of endings, this is a book chock-full of lists about writing. Lamb goes over ways to structure your story, strategies for creating your opening paragraph, types of conflict, point of view, voice and tone, setting, and much more. She also defines a number of genres and categories within those genres, then supplies a list of books to read, all of which are listed by genre. 

Lamb does have a tendency to repeat herself; the book is perhaps a third to a half comprised of repetition. But if this doesn't annoy you (or if you simply need that much repetition to absorb new information), you might want to try this book. Lamb makes a lot of good points, and even seasoned pros might do well to review some of her ideas. 

If you like this one, try: On Writing, by Stephen King. 

You can find Nancy Lamb at nancylamb.comTwitter, and Goodreads

Friday, 24 April 2015

Review: 'The Wolf: Ghost Hunter' by Daniel Leboeuf

The Wolf: Ghost Hunter by Daniel Leboeuf, Photos by Thomas Kitchin and Victoria Hurst, 1996, Firefly Books, $19.95, softbound, 142 pages. Cover: cool. Where we got it: Borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This book contains some particularly interesting facts about an already intriguing predator. For example, Francis I in France organised a wolf hunt in the Middle Ages that took place three times a year; this official hunt was not dismantled until 1971. And in England in 1500, entire forests were burnt to get rid of wolves.

Wolves can hear the ultrasonic vocalisations of rodents, as well as their scurrying sounds. It's likely that a wolf's jaw can exert 200 pounds of pressure per square inch, and they use their jaws like a vise, grabbing and not letting go despite the prey's attempts to throw them off. It's also been said that if the wind is in their favour, wolves can smell three deer from 1.5 miles away; they're also able to hear and interpret sounds from several kilometres away.

A pack averages in size from five to eight members, with 20 or more members in an Alaskan pack. Wolves' diets change with the seasons: ungulates (moose, deer, elk, caribou, muskoxen, and the like) in winter, and small mammals like muskrats, marmots, hares, beavers, birds who nest on the ground, and fish in summer.

The photos alone make this book worthwhile. Great for a wolf lover's library.

If you like this one, try: Of Wolves and Men, by Barry Holstun Lopez.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Review: 'Yoga Chick' by Bess Gallanis

Yoga Chick: A Hip Guide to Every Om by Bess Gallanis, Illustrated by Sheila MacDiarmid, 2006, Warner Books, $12.95, softbound, 123 pages. Cover: pretty good. Category/Genre: exercise. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

Filled with wellness tips, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, healthy recipes, and self-reflection exercises, this book -- despite its name -- is good for both sexes.

There are techniques for morning stretches to help you get started; getting the kinks out after a hard day; and more. Overall self-care is a big part of the book: tips are given for foot treatments, hair conditioning, and eye soothers; and while most men may not go for those ideas, there are other helpful suggestions, such as creating a private retreat for yourself, tips on how to combat insomnia, and ways to get protein without eating meat.

Self-reflection exercises include keeping a journal, and Gallanis gives suggestions for breaking through writer's block. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?

Bess Gallanis can be found on TwitterGoodreads, and Facebook

Friday, 10 April 2015

Review: 'Behind Every Great Man' by Marlene Wagman-Geller

Behind Every Great Man: The Forgotten Women Behind the World's Famous and Infamous by Marlene Wagman-Geller, 2015, Sourcebooks, $16.99, softbound, 356 pages. Cover: good. Category/Genre: history, reference. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and NobleBooks-A-Million.  

'First I thought of a colorful famous man,' writes Wagman-Geller, 'and if his wife dwelled in the shadows, I investigated. If her life was an intriguing one and shone light on a hitherto unknown aspect of her husband, she merited a chapter.' 

You'll find forty such women in this book: the wives and companions of Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler, Richard Wagner, Gertrude Stein, Jim Henson, Sting, and more. 

There's considerable sadness in these pages as we read about women who endured their husband's relentless affairs, or lost their spouse and were left alone. Alice Babette Toklas, wife of Gertrude Stein, felt she was 'but a memory' of her beloved when Gertrude died. Other women felt the same way; Cosima Liszt, wife of Richard Wagner, stopped writing in her million-word diary when Wagner died. She even flung herself into his open grave at the funeral. 

A book that lets you look at the famous (and infamous) a bit differently.

If you like this one, try: Women Heroes of the American Revolution, by Susan Casey.  

You can find Marlene Wagman-Geller on GoodReads or Facebook, or you may contact her at her website here.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Revew: 'Women Heroes of the American Revolution' by Susan Casey

Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue by Susan Casey, 2015, Chicago Review Press, $19.95, hardbound, 226 pages. Cover: not bad. Category/Genre: history. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

This is a good book if you like history. It's put together from diaries, journals, letters, historians, writers of the time, and accounts by soldiers or families; some of the letters and other documents are included in the book along with Casey's narrative.

It isn't entirely clear whether all the stories are true or not – Casey says that separating fact from fiction or exaggeration was one of the hardest parts about writing the book – but she does tell you if the story is in question, and she offers information at the end of each tale as to where to go if you want to learn more.

There are some interesting stories in here: that of Phillis Wheatley, a slave who published a book of her own poetry that was about and for America; Lydia Darragh's spy ring (although her husband and sons played as big a role as she did); and Grace and Rachel Martin, who prevented papers from being delivered to British officers by pretending to be militiamen, are a few.

This book is part of the Women of Action series, a biography series that 'introduces young adults to women and girls of courage and conviction throughout the ages.'
If you like this one, try: Behind Every Great Man, by Marlene Wagman-Geller.

Susan Casey is an author, teacher, public speaker, and journalist. You can find out more about her and her books at: She has two Facebook pages for her books: Kids Inventing! and Women Invent!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Review: 'The Whartons' Strength Book' by Jim and Phil Wharton

The Whartons' Strength Book by Jim and Phil Wharton, 1999, Three Rivers Press, $15.00, softbound, 258 pages. Cover: okay. Category/Genre: exercise/health. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble.

This book uses the Wharton father and son team's Active-Isolated Strength Training to help you get the most out of your workout, whether you want to tone up, lose weight, regain lost vitality, or build muscles. 

The book is designed to help you create a workout tailored to your needs. Part I offers tips, cautions, clothing and equipment advice, terminology, and encouragement. 

Part II catalogs 35 exercises, which have been organised to coordinate with five body zones. 

Part III allows you to select your sports/occupation and plug that into your workout. For example, you'll want a different workout if you regularly play cricket or rock climb than if you're stuck behind a desk all day. 

Diet, performance, incentives, and rewards are tackled in Part IV, and there's even a special section on older athletes. 

The Whartons say that a good general-base strengthening programme has three distinct phases (they refer to it as BAMMING an athlete): 

B. Building muscular strength (at least a month to get started). 
A. Attaining proficiency and musculoskeletal balance (at least six months, although they say you'll see results more quickly than that). 
M. Maintaining structural integrity (for life). 

They explain how to slim down and tone up, and how to sculpt and bulk up. They explain how to properly manage a weight, a rep, and a set, and offer a word on training for a specific sport. 

There's a lot more to this book, and it all looks pretty handy. If you're looking to make your workout a better one, or if you're looking to incorporate workouts into your schedule, you might want to check out this book. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

For more information about the Whartons' method, go to: Wharton Health.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Review: 'Almost Everyone's Guide to Science' by John Gribbin with Mary Gribbin

Almost Everyone's Guide to Science by John Gribbin with Mary Gribbin, 1999, Yale University Press, $11.40, hardbound, 232 pages. Cover: pretty good. Category/Genre: reference. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

If you're interested in the various aspects of science but are intimidated by technical detail, this might be the book for you. It covers physics, chemistry, earth sciences, and biology, but it's an overview for the layman.

You'll get a look at some of the major contributors of scientific research and development, and you'll learn not only how atoms are put together and how gravity is actually a rather weak force, but also how the great and the small are interconnected. Gribbins touches on particles and fields, DNA, evolution, the Earth, the Sun, and the lives of stars.

You have to really enjoy science to get through this book, not just have a passing interest.

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

You can find John Gribbin's Home Page here. You can find him on Goodreads, and he and Mary Gibbin have written children's books which can be found here.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Review: 'Almost Astronauts' by Tanya Lee Stone

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone, 2009, Candlewick Press, $24.99, hardbound, 133 pages. Cover: pretty cool. Category/Genre: reference/history. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

This is the true and inspiring story of the Mercury 13 women, who were the first women ever to be trained as astronauts.

Without Randolph Lovelace, the doctor who put the Mercury 7 men through their testing, this likely would not have happened, at least not for a while. But Lovelace believed women are as capable as men, and he had a desire to prove it.

The first was Jerrie Cobb, a pilot who'd broken world records; she fared so well in the testing that it was thought she'd not only do well in space, she would excell there. After her came 18 other women, all pilots and go-getters, all fit. Including Cobb, 13 of the women passed the tests with flying colors.

In this book, you'll learn about some of the grueling tests all astronauts go through, and you'll learn how it was particularly hard for these women – not because they were weaker, but because of the negativity they had to face. One of them was filed divorce papers after testing, and another's boss demoted her.

If you want to read about real bravery and perseverence, try this book.

If you like this one, try: Women of the Wind: Early Women Aviators, by Wanda Langley.

For more about Tanya Lee Stone and her many books, check out her website at: She writes non-fiction (often about women or African-Americans), teen fiction, and picture books. 

You can follow Tanya Lee Stone at: or Like her on Facebook

You can buy Tanya's books via her website, on AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Review: 'A Career as an Auto Mechanic' by Tamra B Orr

A Career as an Auto Mechanic by Tamra B Orr, 2011, Rosen Publishing, $35.51, hardbound, 80 pages. Cover: good. Category/Genre: how-to. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Aimed at high school students, this book is an invaluable resource for teens (or anyone, really) who want to pursue a career as an auto mechanic.

Orr lists the kinds of classes you'll need to take while still in high school – math, English, and science (including electronics, computer technology, and physics), plus any classes or workshops on car maintenance and repair or small engine work – and gives you an idea of how to get a head start on your career.

There are certification tests you can take, which will help you become a more skilled mechanic, and which will help you find a better job. After high school, Orr suggests either community college or a post-secondary vocational school.

It's also a good idea to check out the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence online ( for lots of great information about your chosen career. Orr has a number of other resources at the end of the book, plus a handy glossary.

This is a great book for any guy or girl interested in auto mechanics.

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Tamra Orr's books may be purchased at AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million.

Review: 'Women of the Wind' by Wanda Langley

Women of the Wind: Early Women Aviators by Wanda Langley, 2006, Morgan Reynolds Publishing, $26.95, hardbound, 160 pages. Cover: good. Category/Genre: Reference/History. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Between the historic first flights of Orville and Wilbur Wright and the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager, there were many pilots willing to risk their lives flying the rickety, open-cockpit planes of the time. Some of those pilots were women; this book reveals the stories of nine of those women, some of whom set more than one record, some of whom died in flight, and all of whom serve as an inspiration, not only to women and young girls, but to the men and young boys who are interested in aviation.

Naturally, Amelia Earhart is in this book; but here you'll also find Harriet Quimby, the first woman to receive her pilot's license in the U.S.; Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to fly a plane; Ruth Nichols, who used aviation to help people; and others.

Black-and-white photographs accompany the text, and each aviator gets her own timeline. 

If you like this one, try: Almost Astronauts, by Tanya Lee Stone.

Find Wanda Langley's books on Goodreads and PaperBack Swap; there's also a biography on

Friday, 27 February 2015

Review: 'Coping with Teen Suicide' by James M Murphy, MD

Coping with Teen Suicide by James M Murphy, MD, 1999, The Rosen Publishing Group, $2.57, hardbound, 125 pages. Cover: not bad. Category/Genre: reference. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

This book is a must-have for teens. (It wouldn't hurt to be in an adult's library, either.) Murphy walks the reader through various reasons for teen suicide, the primary one being stress. Murphy gives several ways teens can cope with stress, including speaking up (don't hold your feelings inside), negotiating (try to compromise to get what you want), and changing tactics if what you're doing isn't working. He also offers ideas on how to cope if you can't alter your situation.

Various ways to get help are described, and there's a handy list at the back of the book should you need to get in touch with any of these places. 

Murphy describes the stages of grief, goes over how you can help prevent suicide, and talks about the reasons you shouldn't commit suicide. He also includes scenarios based on real-life situations. 

This is a helpful book, and the subject matter is treated with respect. Teens are likely to respond to Murphy's easy writing style and compassion. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Review: 'Wildflower Folklore' by Laura C Martin

Wildflower Folklore by Laura C Martin, 1984, Fast and McMillan, $16.95, hardbound, 256 pages. Cover: colourful, but not as good as the artwork on the inside. Category/Genre: reference. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: AmazonBarnes and Noble

105 of the world's best-known wildflowers are collected here, grouped according to their most frequently-occurring flower colour. Full-page black-and-white line drawings accompany each flower, along with the plant's common name, scientific name, habitat, and blooming period. A brief description is included. 

But this book isn't just scientific facts; it includes the history of the wildflower (how people used to use it and what powers -- magical, medicinal, or otherwise -- they believed it had), its culinary uses, how it got its name, and legends, myths, and stories about the wildflower. 

For example, there are many beliefs about dandelion clocks: it is commonly held that if you blow off all the seeds at once, your wish will come true; it's also said that the number of seeds left after a hard puff is the number of children you'll have. And if you whisper words of love, then blow the seeds gently towards your loved one, the seeds will carry your words to him. 

An interesting book for anyone interested in folklore or flowers. 

If you like this one, try: Folklore of Birds, by Laura C Martin; and Wildlife Folklore, by Laura C Martin. 

You can find Laura C Martin's author page here. She can also be found on GoodReads and The Creative Connection

Friday, 13 February 2015

Review: 'Historical Heartthrobs' by Kelly Murphy with Hallie Fryd

Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes – from Cleopatra to Camus by Kelly Murphy with Hallie Fryd, $17.99, hardbound, 223 pages. Cover: pretty good. Category/Genre: Reference. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

From artists to rulers to scientists and civil rights activists, this book offers a glimpse at what made people fall for certain celebrities of the day – and whether or not we would find them just as appealing today.

It isn't just physical attributes that are measured here. Charisma goes a long way, as does intellect, bravery, and wit. Factors that may dampen the sex appeal of those found in this book include narcissism, rudeness, and homicidal tendencies.

You'll find a whole host of hotties to choose from: Cleopatra, Annie Oakley, Jane Goodall, Jim Thorpe, and Frederick Douglass to start; and not all of them were good guys. You'll find Mata Hari, John Wilkes Booth, and Bugsy Siegel in these pages, as well.

Vital stats are given: date of birth and death; country of origin; area of influence; and style of seduction. There are quotes about each celebrity, as well as a brief life story, information on his or her sex life, and a blurb on why that person matters today. The “Heat Factor” is measured from one to five (five being the hottest). There are also pictures (photographs or portraits) of each of the hotties.

An unusual, interesting way to learn a bit of history.

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Review: 'Nightmares Can Be Murder' by Mary Kennedy

Nightmares Can Be Murder by Mary Kennedy, 2014, Berkley Prime Crime, $7.99, softbound, 292 pages. Cover: like it. Category/Genre: cosy mystery. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Freelance business consultant Taylor Blake is in Savannah to help her sister Ali cope with her struggling business. What she doesn't expect is that Ali will rope her into attending the Dream Club, a group of women dedicated to helping each other analyse their dreams.

She also doesn't expect to become embroiled in a murder; but that's exactly what happens when a local dance instructor and ladies' man is killed in his studio. Ali becomes a suspect, and Taylor is determined to solve the case and clear her sister's name.

To do this, she enlists the help of an old friend, Sara Rutledge, a freelance reporter for the local paper, and Taylor's ex, Noah Chandler, a former FBI agent-turned-private enquiry agent. But Taylor isn't over Noah, and she's unclear as to how he feels about her.

We had a couple of issues with this book: there are too many women in it; it's unrealistic. Plus we take great umbrage at the use of 'womans's' – which anyone interested in grammar can tell you is incorrect. Still, it was an enjoyable read, and we recommend it.

This is an unusual mystery, not only for the matter of the dream interpretations, but also because, refreshingly, it doesn't tend to follow the usual formula for cosy mysteries.

If you like this one, try: The Missing Ink, by Karen E Olson.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Review: 'Cold Press Juice Bible' by Lisa Sussman

Cold Press Juice Bible: 300 Delicious, Nutritious, All-Natural Recipes for Your Masticating Juicer by Lisa Sussman, 2014, Ulysses Press, $14.95, softbound, 192 pages. Cover: colourful. Genre: cookbook. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

This is a cookery book, but it also has loads of information on why and how one should juice. There are lots of useful tips on buying a juicer, as well.

The ideal four parts vegetable, one part fruit ratio of your juices may be unpalatable at first, so Sussman suggests counteracting the strong flavour with lemon, salt, carrots, ginger, apples, or cucumbers (among other things). She has a section on how to mesh flavours, too. And you might want to add watery fruits and veg or a splash of liquid to prevent your juice looking and tasting like so much green sludge.

Sussman also has a section dedicated to keeping your juice safe (some veg can be eaten raw, but some need to be cooked first).

The recipes are divided into seven 'mealtimes,' and there are four categories of juices (green, root vegetable, fruit, and milky juices). Each recipe lists the ingredients and three other ways to try it. For example, 'Peanut Butter Cup' is made with spinach, chia seeds, chocolate protein powder, peanut butter, and honey – but you can make it rooty by adding a sweet potato; or milky by adding banilla-infused almond milk; or fruity by adding fresh cherries.

If you like this one, try: The Green Teen Cookbook, edited by Laurane Marchive and Pam McElroy.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Review: 'A Grave Matter' by Anna Lee Huber

A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber, 2014, Berkley Prime Crime, $16.00, softbound, 421 pages. Cover: excellent. But we thought she was supposed to have dark hair. Category/Genre: historical mystery. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

The third in the Lady Darby mysteries, this book takes place two months after the events of the previous book. Lady Kiera Darby is still reeling from the loss of a dear friend and finds herself attending – rather unwillingly – the annual Hogmany Ball with her older brother, Trevor.

The festivities are ended when news of a murder comes: the family caretaker, Dodd, was shot and killed, and a body is missing from the family plot at the abby. Because the town doctor is inebriated, Kiera – who has experience with dead bodies and investigations – is asked to view Dodd's body and shed whatever light she can.

She is also soon asked to contact Sebastian Gage, a gentleman investigator, and ask that he come to solve the mystery and retrieve the missing bones. Kiera agrees to this somewhat reluctantly; she and Gage have a past, and she's still not certain of her feelings on the matter – or of his feelings for her, for that matter.

Nonetheless, the investigation and Gage's company combine to draw her out of her dark mood. Soon she is painting again, a talent which has of late eluded her. And sooner than she expects, she has an answer to how Gage feels about her.

The mystery of the body snatching, however, is not so easy. Though the team gather clues, nothing seems to lead them anywhere. Could it be that these body snatchers are just too clever to be caught?

Once again, Anna Lee Huber has woven together an intriguing plot and Scottish history and culture.

Note: mild language.

If you like this one, try: The Anatomist's Wife, by Anna Lee Huber; Mortal Arts, by Anna Lee Huber; Some Danger Involved, by Will Thomas. 

Friday, 16 January 2015

Review: 'The Hollow Hills' by Mary Stewart

The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart, 1973, Eos, $15.99, softbound, 475 pages. Cover: good, but Arthur looks a bit too much like a model. Category/genre: fantasy. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

This, the second installment in Stewart's Arthurian saga, takes place the morning after the events in The Crystal Cave. Merlin returns to his cave and discovers his magic is gone. But he is still needed in Arthur's life even this early on: the queen, Ygraine, wants Merlin to take the child and raise him once he is born. 

But it's decided that until the boy is weaned, he will be cared for by Moravik, Merlin's old nurse, and Ralf, Merlin's assistant. Then he will be raised in secret by Count Ector, a friend of the king. Merlin will meet Arthur when it is time. 

When it's time for Arthur to come into his own, Merlin will have to face an old enemy and see that Arthur is declared king before it's too late. 

Stewart's imagining of the Arthurian legend is one of the best you'll ever come across. Her historical accuracy and rich characters, coupled with a rather mundane take on Merlin's skills as a magician make this an unusual read. 

If you like this one, try: The Last Enchantment, by Mary Stewart. 

Friday, 9 January 2015

Review: '7G' by Debbie Kump

7G, by Debbie Kump, 2011, World Castle Publishing, $10.99, softbound, 244 pages. Category/Genre: science fiction. Cover: good but not great; the woman's expression is kind of irritating. Where we got it: the author's cousin. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

The premise of 7G is technology gone awry. Very awry. Everyone wears DOTS -- Digital Optic/Opthalmic Transmitters -- which are like contact lenses and ear pieces, and which connect them to everything and everyone all the time. Soon 7G will be here, and it will upgrade DOTS to a previously unimagined level. 

There are several characters in the book, but the main two are Alyssa Kensington and Erik Weber. Alyssa is a seaman apprentice aboard a submarine in the Navy, and Eric is a student at Southern Florida State University. Both have tumultuous love lives: Alyssa is in love with an officer, which is prohibited in the Navy, and Erik has just seen his girlfriend with another guy. 

Also on Alyssa's plate is the fact that she suspects the secret sonar tests the sub has been conducting have had a detrimental effect on local marine life. Her concerns are overlooked by her superior, and the officer she's been seeing doesn't even stick up for her. 

Then 7G arrives and changes everything. People and animals are dead, and it's up to the survivors to pick up the pieces of a dystopian world. 

This was a good book, overall. There were some grammatical errors, but the main problem was that most of the story was about the anticipation of 7G, rather than what happened after it arrived. We would have preferred it if there was more to the ending. 

Note: mild language. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

Friday, 2 January 2015

Review: 'Foreigner' by C.J. Cherryh

Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh, 1994, DAW, $7.99, softbound, 428 pages. Category/Genre: science fiction. Cover: brilliant. Where we got it: prezzie. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

The first in a long-running series about Bren Cameron, a human translator on an alien world, Foreigner hits the ground running. It begins with an assassination attempt on Bren, and only gets more interesting from there as Bren is shuffled off to a remote and quite ancient dwelling where no human has ever set foot. 

In this book, we are introduced to several key characters who will return again and again throughout the series, among them Tabini, Bren's superiour and the leader of the Western Association of the atevi; Banichi and Jago, Bren and Tabini's security (read: trained assassins); and wily Ilisidi, Tabini's grandmother. 

The action is paralleled by rich characterisation and a well-developed alien culture and world. Few writers can create the vivid sorts of universes C.J. Cherryh is capable of creating, and her work truly shines in this novel. The angle of seeing the atevi through the eyes of the only human allowed on that side of the strait is a clever one, and added to that is the unusual job Bren has as translator between the atevi and the human population on the island of Mospheira. 

Note: mild language. 

If you like this one, try: Invader, by C.J. Cherryh; The Chanur Saga, by C.J. Cherryh; and Downbelow Station, by C.J. Cherryh.