Monday, December 28, 2015

Breakthrough! by Jim Murphy

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Breakthrough!
by Jim Murphy


ISBN-13: 978-0547821832
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Clarion Books
Released: Dec. 8, 2015

Source: ARC review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description from Amazon:
In 1944 a groundbreaking operation repaired the congenital heart defect known as blue baby syndrome. The operation's success brought the surgeon Alfred Blalock international fame and paved the way for open-heart surgery. But the technique had been painstakingly developed by Vivien Thomas, Blalock's African American lab assistant, who stood behind Blalock in the operating room to give him step-by-step instructions.

The stories of this medical and social breakthrough and the lives of Thomas, Blalock, and their colleague Dr. Helen Taussig are intertwined in this compelling nonfiction narrative.


My Review:
Breakthrough! is a history/biography about how the "Blue Baby" surgery was developed in 1944. It's targeted at tweens (ages 9-14).

This is the type of historical biography I enjoyed as a kid and still enjoy as an adult. The author did a good job of explaining how life was different at this time, like how women and blacks were treated, how medical studies were done, operating conditions, and so on. He didn't gloss over more technical parts but explained them so younger readers could understand what the problems were and how they were overcome. He included quotes from the actual people involved so the reader could see what the situation looked like from their viewpoint.

There were some nice photographs of the people involved and other related photographs. The text flowed well and focused on interesting things. Overall, I'd recommend this book to tweens and teens who think the topic sounds interesting.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Friday, December 18, 2015

The Super Awesome Coloring Book by Mark Cesarik

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The Super Awesome Coloring Book
by Mark Cesarik


ISBN-13: 9780692525791
Paperback: 106 pages
Publisher: Test Pattern Press
Released: Sept. 11, 2015

Source: Review copy from the author.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Designed by popular NYC illustrator Mark Cesarik, The Super Awesome Coloring Book features 50 original coloring pages containing polar bears, penguins, astronauts, fighter pilots, bulldogs, fishing lures, butterflies, modern chairs, other super stuff. The designs are intricate and challenging, yet relaxing, too. Designs are printed on one side of the page only so you don't have to worry about bleed-through when using markers. Also perfect for other media, like colored pencils and even crayons. Edited by best-selling coloring book artist Jenean Morrison.


My Review:
I accepted this book for review, then promptly injured my wrist in a way that prevents me from drawing. I only got one page completely done and another started. I'll describe what's in the book, though.

The Super Awesome Coloring Book is a coloring book for older children or adults. There are 50 pages of line drawings to color. Most take up the full page. The sheets of paper are thick enough for colored pencils (unless you push really hard), but my markers bleed through the back. They recommend that you use a scrape sheet of paper underneath to prevent bleed-through from marring the pages underneath.

Working on the pages near the end of the book was tiring because I needed to hold the book flat. I decided that, in the future, I'd just remove the page I'm working on from the book.

There is a wide variety of designs: Geometric, Curvy, or Flower designs (35 pages), Dogs (2), Penguins (1), Elephants (2), Bear (1), Sea Themes (3), Butterflies (1), Birds (1), Humans (2), and Man-made objects (2). Some have a lot of lines and small spaces between them, while others are fairly simple designs with large spaces to fill. The complex designs can take hours, but you don't necessarily have to color in every space unless you want to.

If you're looking for a adult coloring book with variety of themes and complexity, then this is a nice selection.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Pullman Porter by Vanita Oelschlager

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The Pullman Porter
by Vanita Oelschlager


ISBN-13: 9781938164002
Hardcover: 44 pages
Publisher: Vanita Books
Released: May 1, 2014

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Children and adults under the age of 40 are forgetting about the Pullman Porter. They were very important figures in the history of American. This book will teach children and adults, who the porters were and why they were so important in our history. Porters worked in early train cars, they would look, listen and learn from their predominantly white passengers. They would read the newspapers passengers left behind, listen to conversations and begin to talk to one another. The porter learned how important education was for children and how important it was to take this message home to his children. He eventually landed at the forefront of the civil rights movement.


My Review:
The Pullman Porter is a non-fiction picture book about the Pullman porters. A lovely, full-color illustration covered each page. Each page also contained a paragraph with some facts about the working conditions of a porter and how these porters impacted history in a unique way. The text provided some good, basic information. It left me interested in knowing more, and the author listed several sources of further information at the end.

It's a lovely, educational book. Due to the lack of a narrative thread to tie the facts together, I doubt it'll become a favorite re-read book for most children. However, it would be an excellent book for a library collection.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Physics by J. L. Heilbron

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Physics: a short history
from quintessence to quarks
by J. L. Heilbron


ISBN-13: 9780198746850
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
J. L. Heilbron introduces us to Islamic astronomers and mathematicians, calculating the size of the earth whilst their caliphs conquered much of it; to medieval scholar-theologians investigating light; to Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton, measuring, and trying to explain, the universe. We visit the 'House of Wisdom' in 9th-century Baghdad; Europe's first universities; the courts of the Renaissance; the Scientific Revolution and the academies of the 18th century; the increasingly specialised world of 20th and 21st century science.

Highlighting the shifting relationship between physics, philosophy, mathematics, and technology -- and the implications for humankind's self-understanding -- Heilbron explores the changing place and purpose of physics in the cultures and societies that have nurtured it over the centuries.


My Review:
Physics is a brief history of metaphysics and physics in Europe, the Middle East, and the USA. It's not really about the ideas or how they built on each other, but rather what people thought of these ideas and how ideas competed with each other. The first third of the book mainly focused on what various people thought about Aristotle's physica & metaphysical writings. After that, mathematics were mentioned more often. The last half covered changing ideas through experimentation.

The author would name a person, when he lived, and give an extremely brief description of how they applied, preserved, debated, or modified previous people's ideas or what new idea they had. He assumed the reader had a level of knowledge about physics that I haven't retained from my high school physics course. He'd refer to a Rule, formula, or discovery and assume the reader knew what he was talking about, so he didn't explain further. For example, we're told Descartes wrote "on how to improve telescope lenses and how the lenses and muscles of the eye works" and that's all we get on that.

The author also used a formal tone and technical language, which didn't make for easy reading. For someone already familiar with these ideas, this book might help show how these ideas were debated over time. But since I was mostly unfamiliar with the ideas, I had a hard time grasping why these ideas even mattered since their impact on society wasn't usually explained.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Let Food Be Your Medicine by Don Colbert

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Let Food Be Your Medicine
by Don Colbert


ISBN-13: 9781617955884
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Released: December 15, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Based on current research, Don Colbert, M.D., provides proven tools for good health, an alert mind, and a longer life. He explains his anti-inflammatory, modified Mediterranean diet. This life-long diet resolves a broad spectrum of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cancer, and osteoarthritis. Just imagine - understanding how food alone can produce mental clarity, balanced weight, and longevity. Includes meal plans and recipes.


My Review:
Let Food Be Your Medicine explains how a Mediterranean diet modified to be further anti-inflammatory can prevent or help resolve many health issues. After telling his story, the author presented the basic Mediterranean diet and explained the modifications he made to remove inflammatory foods. This is the basic diet that he suggests for everyone. It's very similar to what I eat based on the nutritional advice I've heard lately for cancer and heart disease prevention.

He tackles more diseases than that, though: cardiovascular disease, arthritis and autoimmune disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer (both early and late stages), early stages of dementia & Alzheimer's, ADAH and autism, and mental illness. He further modified his diet for each disease as certain foods seem to aggravate certain conditions. He provided several suggestions for what a breakfast, lunch, and dinner might look like. He also suggested things like correcting lies with truth, getting enough exercise, and so on. He also told stories about people who were helped by his diet and suggestions.

His philosophy is that drugs can help treat symptoms, but the ideal is to change your lifestyle to a sustainable, healthier one so that you can be weaned off of or at least greatly reduce the drugs you need. He maintained an encouraging tone, and his advice was easy to understand and felt do-able. Overall, I think his advice is generally quite good and helpful.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse

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The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy
by Hannah Glasse


ISBN-13: 9780486795768
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Dover Publications
Released: Aug. 19, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Revised and republished many times since its 1747 debut, this cookbook was a bestseller in England and the United States for more than 100 years. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned copies, and Benjamin Franklin even translated some of its recipes into French in hopes of attaining a taste of home while abroad.

Author Hannah Glasse dismisses French cookery, the leading cuisine of her day, as inefficient for servants and middle- to lower-class cooks, citing its fussiness, expense, and waste. Instead, Mrs. Glasse focuses on standard Anglo-American fare, from soups and gravies to cakes and jellies, all simple dishes, prepared in a straightforward manner.

In addition to practical advice on meat selection, carving, and basic cooking skills, this historically fascinating document offers tips on preparing food for the ill, cooking and food storage on ships, and making soaps and scents for the home. Historians, cooks, and all lovers of gastronomy will appreciate this glimpse into the kitchens of a bygone era.


My Review:
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy is a cookbook with recipes, but it requires some cooking experience and the willingness to do a bit of experimenting. I had hoped it might give hints on how to cook over a hearth fire, but the author assumed the reader already knew these tricks. She says to cook "over a slow fire" or "a quick, clear fire," but not how to achieve this. You're to cook the food until "it's enough." She described what seasonings to add ("season it with nutmeg, ....") but left it up to the user as to how much. At best, she gave measurements like "2 spoonfuls" or "a pound."

The author covered various ways to cook a wide variety of meats (various birds, fish, livestock, and game) and how to identify if the meat is fresh when buying it at the butchers. She also covered various ways to prepare vegetables, make soups, broths, gravy, puddings, dumplings, pies, tarts, sausages, cakes, creams, jellies, custards, preserves, conserves, marmalades, ice cream, cure meat, pickle, jar, do cold distilling, wines and brewing, and more. She also gave tips on carving meat, raising turkeys and mushrooms, and making soap and a lip salve.

The meat recipes reminded me of Thanksgiving turkey dinners (just cooked over a fire). For the section on cooking the "American way," she used ingredients that were more widely available in America. She also included "cooking the Spanish way, French way" and so on. For fun, I tried a dumpling and a pudding recipe. Since I've made "modern" versions of these, I was able to fill in the details she didn't provide and they turned out fine. It was interesting to look through the recipes to see what ingredients they had and how they cooked things.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Making of Home by Judith Flanders

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The Making of Home
by Judith Flanders


ISBN-13: 9781250067357
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Released: September 8, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In The Making of Home, Flanders traces changes in the house from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century across northern Europe and America, and shows how the 'homes' we know today bear only a faint resemblance to 'homes' through history. Along the way she investigates the development of ordinary household items - from cutlery, chairs and curtains, to the fitted kitchen, plumbing and windows - while also dismantling many domestic myths.


My Review:
The Making of Home examines how houses and people's attitudes towards them have changed over the last 500 years in northern Europe and the USA. She started by describing what houses used to look like for the majority of people. She examined how ideas and ideals about houses changed as some countries began to value private spaces in homes. House layouts changed and rooms became specialized instead of general purpose. Gender roles and ideals changed as industrialization meant men went to work rather than worked out of their house.

She talked about developments in heating (hearth to stove to central heating), windows (open to glazed and/or screened), lighting (fire to gas to electric), and plumbing and sewer systems. These developments changed house layouts and people's attitudes toward privacy and cleanliness. This desire for privacy and "healthy country living" led to the creation of suburbs as transportation technologies allowed commuting longer distances. She also touched on a multitude of other topics, like how nostalgia and the availability of servants affected building styles.

I've always enjoyed this author's books, and I learned a lot from this one. However, I wonder how many of her conclusions would hold up under a deeper look. For example, she pointed out that London didn't have enough pew space to accommodate London's full population on Sundays. While I agree that not everyone went to church, she apparently assumes each church held only one service, which would be inaccurate. Overall, though, it was a good survey of how changing technologies and attitudes in industrial countries influenced house designs, how they were furnished, and even where they were located.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Super Genes by Chopra & Tanzi

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Super Genes
by Deepak Chopra, M.D.,
Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.


ISBN-13: 9780804140133
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Harmony
Released: November 10, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
For decades medical science has believed that genes determined our biological destiny. Now the new genetics has changed that assumption forever. You will always have the genes you were born with, but gene expression is dynamic. When you make lifestyle choices that optimize how your genes behave, you can reach for a state of health and fulfillment undreamed of even a decade ago.


My Review:
Super Genes is a self-help book. The underlying belief system is that evolution is certain and that Vedic and Ayurveda traditions are correct. The authors interpreted various studies and experiences in a way that conformed to their belief system. This is a natural thing to do, but much of Part 1 and Part 3 was speculative. If you don't share their base assumptions, these sections may hold little interest for you.

Part 1. Scientists have gathered a lot of data on epigenetics, but epigenetics is so complex that they're only beginning to understand how it might work. Basically, having a 'breast cancer' gene doesn't necessarily mean you will get that disease. Factors like nutrition, exercise, and stress can determine whether a gene is "switched on" or "switched off."

The rest was confusing, but apparently adaptation can happen through epigenetic markers on our DNA which can be rapidly changed as outside stressors change. These markers can be passed on to offspring but also changed back by those offspring. I suspect most of this section will become outdated as we learn more. They also discussed the microbiome and how the bacteria living in our gut and elsewhere affect our bodies through the compounds they produce.

In Part 2, they discussed some basic changes you can make relating to diet, stress, exercise, meditation, sleep, happiness and fulfillment which will improve your health. I've heard much of this advice before. The authors understood that people resist change, so they gave advice on how to make lasting changes. They also presented their proposed changes in terms of small, easy steps. You make one easy change each week.

In Part 3, the authors proposed a new mechanism for evolution that isn't based on random chance but on "mindful evolution." They made it clear they don't believe in Intelligent Design (which suggests an outside intelligence source), but rather the organism helps to guide its own evolution. They don't explain how adaptation based on epigenetic markers somehow resulted in useful, new DNA (especially considering how complex DNA expression is turning out to be). But their main point seems to be a hope that someday we'll be able to purposefully direct our own evolution.

Frankly, I think the book would have been better as two separate books: one on their speculative ideas from Part 1 & 3 and one with their practical advice from Part 2.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Armstrong Girl by Cathy Le Feuvre

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The Armstrong Girl
by Cathy Le Feuvre


ISBN-13: 9780745956992
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Lion Books
Released: July 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In November, 1885, Victorian England was scandalized by a court case which lifted the veil on prostitution and the sex trade. In the Old Bailey dock was the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, which had recently published a series of articles on the sex trade; a reformed brothel keeper; and the second-in-command of The Salvation Army, Bramwell Booth. The group was accused of abducting a 13 year old girl, Eliza Armstrong.

They had, in fact, set up the scheme to expose the trade in young women. The resulting scandal triggered the raising of the Age of Consent in Britain from age 13 to 16. Many MPs and other men in positions of power were furious, and the campaigners were indicted under the 1861 Abduction Act. William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, would later be acquitted, but others went to prison, martyrs for justice. The Armstrong Girl is the story of that scandal, and of those who fought for this essential change in the law.


My Review:
The Armstrong Girl tells how the practice of buying young girls for prostitution was exposed in 1885 in Britain. The author explained how a series of newspaper articles exposed this human trafficking, how this helped push through legislation that raised the age of consent from 13 to 16, and the resulting court case. There's also some background on the major players. The author quoted from the newspaper articles, the transcripts from the court cases, and from personal letters.

William Stead wanted to expose a topic that was considered too obscene to talk about and not something that women and child should ever hear about. To do this, he felt he had to prove that a 13-year-old could be bought. He got a reformed former brothel-keeper to help him buy such a girl. They did everything that would have happened to someone bought for the sex trade, only she wasn't violated.

Stead's resulting newspaper articles launched a public outcry that brought about a change in the age of consent, but a lot of people weren't happy about it. Some of them convinced the girl's parents to take legal action against William Stead, his helpers, and some members of the Salvation Army who had taken care of the girl after she had been bought. William Stead had, technically, abducted the girl under the current laws. The transcripts from the court cases show just how one went about obtaining a girl and why those involved went to this extreme.

The book was interesting, easy to follow, and should appeal to a general audience. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Buffalo Bill, Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers by Kellen Cutsforth

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Buffalo Bill, Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers:
An Englishman's Journal of Adventure in America
by Kellen Cutsforth


ISBN-13: 9781442246591
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Two Dot Books
Released: Nov. 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
The travel journal of the wealthy young Englishman, Evelyn Booth, weaves a factual, enthralling, and entertaining narrative that follows his escapades throughout the United States of the late nineteenth century.

Transcribed and edited (with relevant commentary for contemporary audiences) by Kellen Cutsforth, Booth’s journal reveals his career as a young care-free “frat boy” with unlimited funds, gives first-hand accounts that involve drunken nights, fist fights, illicit sex with prostitutes, sporting events, and full-blown adventures with the most well-known celebrities of the day, including encounters with famous scout and showman William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody and the Wild West Cowboys; bare knuckled world champions John L. Sullivan and Jack “Nonpareil” Dempsey; Fred Archer, the most famous horse jockey of the day, and prostitutes, gamblers, and infamous houses.


My Review:
Buffalo Bill, Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers is a journal by wealthy, young Englishmen recording their travels in America from Oct. 1884 to April 1885. They traveled to New York City, then to Niagara Falls, Chicago, Arkansas, Texas, New Orleans, and Florida. Much of the trip was spent hunting and fishing, so much of the journal is a record of what game they killed and their living conditions while thus occupied. When in town, much of their time was spent drunk while gambling, getting into fights, or with prostitutes. They got arrested a number of times. The fact that even a lowly baggage checker could call for their arrest bothered Evelyn more than any consequences of being arrested.

They also described Central Park (mainly the animals seen there) and Niagara Falls in winter. They viewed several boxing matches and commented on the boxing style of several famous boxers. They also commented on the food and drink, the travel conditions and costs, horse racing, and baseball. They mentioned various people they encountered, which included some famous people like Buffalo Bill Cody. The author included end notes that explained the slang and gave more information on the people encountered and places mentioned. There were some black and white pictures of people, places, and events mentioned.

I was curious what a traveler would think of America and my home state of Arkansas. We do get their impressions, but that isn't the journal's focus. I'd recommend this book to those who enjoy historical journals, especially people interested in hunting.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fashion Victims by Alison Matthews David

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Fashion Victims:
The Dangers of Dress Past and Present
by Alison Matthews David


ISBN-13: 9781845204495
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Released: Sept. 24, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Clothing is designed to protect, shield and comfort us, yet lurking amongst seemingly innocuous garments we find hats laced with mercury, frocks laden with arsenic and literally 'drop-dead gorgeous' gowns.

Fashion Victims takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the lethal history of women's, men's and children's dress. Drawing upon surviving fashion objects and numerous visual and textual sources, encompassing louse-ridden military uniforms, accounts of the fiery deaths of Oscar Wilde's half-sisters and dancer Isadora Duncan's accidental strangulation by entangled scarf; the book explores how garments have tormented those who made and wore them, and harmed animals and the environment in the process.

Fashion Victims is lavishly illustrated with over 125 images and is a remarkable resource for everyone from scholars and students to fashion enthusiasts.


My Review:
Fashion Victims is a fashion history about some health dangers associated with clothing. It mainly focused on the 1800's to early 1900's, but it also talked about some older and some current dangers. The book was full of interesting photographs of the clothing under discussion. It also had drawings from the time showing the work conditions of those making the items and illustrating the dangers to the wearer.

The author discussed how clothing could pass diseases between people, the toxic process of making men's rabbit-fur felt hats, deadly chemical dyes like arsenic green used in dresses and hair wreaths or shoe blacking that could kill, and long silk scarves that strangled and hobble skirts that tripped wearers. Some fabrics were especially prone to catching fire like tulle in tutus, cotton muslin, and flanette cotton. She also talked about how crinolines increased danger of the wearer catching fire or getting entangled in machinery. She described the efforts to come up with an acceptable fire retardant, the use of highly flammable celluloid in combs and other accessories, and various dangers from artificial silks. She also briefly discussed modern dangers from things like chemical dyes, sand-basting denim, strangulation, flame retardants, and chemicals used in screen-printed garments.

I found the book to be easy to follow and very interesting (though a little depressing). I'd recommend this book to those who are interested in the details of fashion dangers of the last 200 years.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Tears of Re by Gene Kritsky

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The Tears of Re:
Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt
by Gene Kritsky


ISBN-13: 9780199361380
Hardcover: 114 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Released: Nov. 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
According to Egyptian mythology, when the ancient Egyptian sun god Re cried, his tears turned into honey bees upon touching the ground. For this reason, the honey bee was sacrosanct in ancient Egyptian culture. From the art depicting bees on temple walls to the usage of beeswax as a healing ointment, the honey bee was a pervasive cultural motif in ancient Egypt because of its connection to the sun god Re.

Gene Kritsky delivers the first book to examine the relationship between the honey bee and ancient Egyptian culture, through the lenses of linguistics, archeology, religion, health, and economics. Kritsky delves into ancient Egypt's multifaceted society, and traces the importance of the honey bee in everything from death rituals to trade. In doing so, Kritsky brings new evidence to light of how advanced and fascinating the ancient Egyptians were.

This richly illustrated work appeals to a broad range of interests. For archeology lovers, Kritsky delves into the archeological evidence of Egyptian beekeeping and discusses newly discovered tombs, as well as evidence of manmade hives. Linguists will be fascinated by Kritsky's discussion of the first documented written evidence of the honeybee hieroglyph. And anyone interested in ancient Egypt or ancient cultures in general will be intrigued by Kritsky's treatment of the first documented beekeepers.


My Review:
The Tears of Re described the currently available information about bees, honey, and beekeeping in ancient Egypt. Apparently, we know very little about ancient beekeeping practices, though we know they did it and they even had an administrative structure based around it. The author gave detailed descriptions of the existing visual evidence in tombs and temples related to bees, honey, and beekeeping. He described what can still be seen, what parts have been destroyed, and the different theories about what, exactly, the scenes depict.

He also included what ancient written sources say about beekeeping, the worth of honey, how honey was used in food and medicine, how beeswax was used, and the various myths about the origin and purpose of bees. He provided several translations of various texts that he quoted so we could get a good feel for what was meant. He also talked about beekeeping practices that were used in Egypt until recently which look very similar to the ancient visual record.

It's a short book, but it did a nice job of presenting the available information about beekeeping practices and bee products used in ancient Egypt. I'd recommend it to those seriously interested in the topic.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dirty Old London by Lee Jackson

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Dirty Old London
by Lee Jackson


ISBN-13: 9780300216110
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Released: Oct. 15, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
In Victorian London, filth was everywhere: horse traffic filled the streets with dung, household rubbish went uncollected, cesspools brimmed with "night soil," graveyards teemed with rotting corpses, the air itself was choked with smoke. In this intimately visceral book, Lee Jackson guides us through the underbelly of the Victorian metropolis, introducing us to the men and women who struggled to stem a rising tide of pollution and dirt, and the forces that opposed them.

Through thematic chapters, Jackson describes how Victorian reformers met with both triumph and disaster. Full of individual stories and overlooked details--from the dustmen who grew rich from recycling, to the peculiar history of the public toilet--this riveting book gives us a fresh insight into the minutiae of daily life and the wider challenges posed by the unprecedented growth of the Victorian capital.


My Review:
Dirty Old London is a history of the sanitary movement in London in the 1800's. The author covered household refuse (trash/garbage), street mud (a mix of dirt, ash, dung, trash), night soil (from cesspools to sewers), corpses (changes in graveyards), bathing and laundry (how can the poor get clean?), public toilets (what to do when you just have to go!), soot (from boy sweeps to mechanical brushes), and attempts to clean up the slums including model housing for the poor.

The author talked about what had been done in the past, what people proposed should be changed and why, and what was actually done and where (since it didn't happen everywhere at once). We're given dates for when the idea was proposed and for the various tries that people made, so we see how long it took to make these changes--including changes in people's attitudes. There were quotes from government and association reports, newspapers and magazines, and even court cases.

I found the information easy to follow and extremely interesting. I'd recommend this book to people who are interested in how we "got to now" in terms of city and personal cleanliness in London and who want the details rather than a brief overview.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge

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Face Paint:
The Story of Makeup
by Lisa Eldridge


ISBN-13: 9781419717963
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Abrams Image
Released: Oct. 13, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Makeup, as we know it, has only been commercially available in the last 100 years, but applying decoration to the face and body may be one of the oldest global social practices. In Face Paint, Lisa Eldridge reveals the entire history of the art form, from Egyptian and Classical times up through the Victorian age and golden era of Hollywood, and also surveys the cutting-edge makeup science of today and tomorrow.

Face Paint explores the practical and idiosyncratic reasons behind makeup’s use, the actual materials employed over generations, and the glamorous icons that people emulate and how they achieved their effects. An engaging history of style, it is also a social history of women and the ways in which we can understand their lives through the prism and impact of makeup.


My Review:
Face Paint is an overview of the use of makeup throughout history. The author mainly focused on the last 120 years, but she included a brief survey of the use of makeup throughout history in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.

The first section focused on makeup in ancient to recent history and included what types of ingredients were used as pigments, what tools were used to apply makeup, and trends in what part of the face was painted. But she didn't include details like actual historical recipes with directions. The rest of the book focused on the rise of mass-produced makeup. She described the origins of the first makeup brands, how trends were made, and changes that were made to improve products. She covered the history of commercial mascara, eye shadow, nail polish, lip stick, blush, powder & foundation, and bronzer.

The book contained many full-color photographs, including pictures of different products and historical ads. She also included many pictures of trend-setting women throughout history paired with short biographies. I'd recommend this book to people interested in trends in wearing makeup throughout history and how its use became so common in the last 120 years.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Adventures On The Queen Mary by Dave Wooders

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Adventures on the Queen Mary
by Dave Wooders,
James Radford


ISBN-13: 0998877665544
Paperback: 274 pages
Publisher: The Perfect Page
Released: January 14, 2015

Source: ebook review copy through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Take an exciting trip back in time to the Golden Age of Ocean Travel on board the world's favorite liner -- the RMS Queen Mary. Enjoy a visual feast of new and archival photographs, many never before published. At 16 years of age, in 1957, Dave Wooders worked as a bellboy and, later, as a commus waiter on the Queen Mary!


My Review:
Adventures On The Queen Mary is a memoir about working on the RMS Queen Mary as a teenager. Dave Wooders joined the crew in June 1957 and worked on board her until 1959. This book is a collection of stories written down by Dave Wooders and loosely organized by James Radford. It reads like an older relative reminiscing about his fondest memories at a family gathering.

We're told about his various jobs (mostly as bellboy and commus waiter) and about the Queen Mary itself but also about the famous people he met and what the crew did in their free time. We're told about the things they did on board and on shore leave for entertainment, the clothing they bought, the things they brought back home to England from America, dating while being gone from his girlfriend so often, and what storms at sea were like. There were many interesting photographs of the RMS Queen Mary (inside and out) and of Dave Wooders (when on the crew and more recently).

He also talked about his other sea-going jobs and briefly about his life after he quit in Oct. 1961. He also made some trips to visit the Queen Mary after she was retired and made into a hotel. There was a reunion held on board, then he took his wife to see it, and then his sons. Some of the stories told earlier were retold in full here as he showed people the spot where the story happened. Dave Wooders' fondness for the ship and excitement of being at sea shine through in the stories. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in what working on the RMS Queen Mary (and other ocean liners) was like.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, October 5, 2015

The Watercolor Course You've Always Wanted by Leslie Frontz

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The Watercolor Course You've Always Wanted
by Leslie Frontz


ISBN-13: 9780770435295
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: August 18, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
This straightforward handbook offers a fresh approach to watercolor mastery that bridges the gap between theory and practice. Through discussion and demonstrations, Leslie Frontz shows readers how to eliminate common barriers to achieve beautiful, captivating watercolor paintings. Beginning with learning to see with an artist's eye, Frontz then establishes how watercolor painters build on this skill by making timely decisions throughout the creation process.


My Review:
The Watercolor Course You've Always Wanted is a watercolor instruction book. The author assumed that you have a basic understanding of how to paint with watercolor. However, this book is unlikely to contain much new for people who have read several books on the topic.

She covered information like: seeing with an artist's eye by finding the major chunks of light, dark, and medium color in a potential painting; using a full range of value in a painting; mixing color to get the desired results; using bright against dull color or light against dark color to draw attention; how to hold the brush for a "loose" look; choosing a horizontal or vertical format; what type of watercolor paper to use; suggesting texture through paper choice, spattering, scraping, stamping, or sprinkling (salt); and creating mood through light and subject matter.

Much of the book is demonstration rather than explanation. The finished demonstration paintings are so "loose" that a beginner has a good chance at attaining a similar result. However, if you like to know exactly what pigments were mixed to get what specific color and how that was brushed on the paper, then you'll be frustrated with the vague instructions. Before she even covered color mixing, she talked about mixing pigments--for example, ultramarine, phthalo blue, and alizarin crimson for a wash across the lower sky area--with little more instruction than that.

Some of the demonstrations were decent at showing the principle she was teaching. Others were less so, like the demonstration where she used spattering, scraping, stamping, and sprinkling. She used all of these techniques at the final stage of the demonstration, but I couldn't find some of them, like marks from sprinkling, and I was uncertain what parts were sponged. Basically, I've read other watercolor books that cover the same topics (and more) in a way that I found easier to understand and apply on my own.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Part of Our Lives by Wayne A. Wiegand

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Part of Our Lives
A People's History of the American Public Library
by Wayne A. Wiegand


ISBN-13: 9780190248000
Hardcover: 317 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Released: September 29, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In Part of Our Lives, Wayne A. Wiegand traces the history of the public library by looking at the words of everyday patrons. He features records and testimonies drawn from newspaper articles, memoirs, and biographies. Libraries have continuously adapted to better serve the needs of their communities. Though there have been many controversies about what books should be carried in libraries and who should be allowed to use them, they have also had a transformative effect for many, including people like Ronald Reagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Oprah Winfrey.


My Review:
Part of Our Lives looks at how social issues throughout American history have affected how public libraries are used and what books they carry. The author spent a chapter describing the first public-use libraries in America (including social libraries and circulating libraries) and what prompted people to switch from that to public libraries supported by taxes. The rest of the book was about changes at and the spread of those libraries.

The author focused on what the library users of the time wrote about the libraries, so much of the book recounted controversies about what reading materials should be put in the libraries and what materials or activities should be banned (usually based on the major social issues of that period). He also quoted people explaining about how libraries and books impacted their lives.

He also talked about how libraries changed over time: closed stacks to open stacks; the various programs they hosted; allowing women, children, and blacks to use the library, and so on. I enjoyed learning how library use changed over time, but I didn't realize how much of the content would be recounting heated debates. I don't enjoy controversial debates. If that's what you're interested in, though, then you might find this book really interesting.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Activate Your Brain by Scott G Halford

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Activate Your Brain
by Scott G Halford


ISBN-13: 9781626341975
Hardcover: 248 pages
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
Released: May 5, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Our brain is an incredible organ and is still full of mystery, but we know enough to harness its power better than ever before. We just have to recognize how the brain works and understand the actions we can take to help it perform at its best. Combining research, anecdote, and inspiration, Activate Your Brain shows you how small choices can lead to better brain function and management.


My Review:
Activate Your Brain contains advice for managers on how to get the most out of themselves and their team at work. I've read this advice in relationship books for years. The author found brain studies that back this advice up then applied it to business-related situations. It's good advice and will work, but it's not new just because they put a brain on the cover.

The first two chapters were heavy on jargon with references to "mammalian brain, "reptilian brain," "human brain," and the names of hormones connected with certain behaviors. His related advice was very basic, like think about the consequences before you say something, or don't make big decisions while tired, or break difficult tasks into easier steps and then do the first step. If you haven't heard this advice before, then you'll probably find the whole book very useful.

The rest of the book focused more on real life situations and applications than on brain studies, though he'd still refer to how the brain works. He covered things you can do to keep yourself at top performance, like exercise (both mental and physical), nutrition, sleep, and relaxing activities. He covered effective ways to motivate workers (especially during stressful times), the benefits of cooperation & collaboration, and building trust in relationships. He also talked about things like control, confidence, and focus.

The author did a good job at encouraging the reader, and he suggested practical ways to apply his advice. Since the application was usually specific to an office/business environment, I'd recommend this book to managers or those who want to be managers who would like some basic advice.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel

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Out on the Wire
by Jessica Abel


ISBN-13: 9780385348430
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Broadway Books
Released: August 25, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
A graphic book that takes readers behind-the-scenes of five of today's most popular narrative radio shows, including "This American Life," "The Moth," "Radiolab," "Planet Money," and "Snap Judgment." Each of these shows has a distinct style, but every one delivers stories that are brilliantly told and produced. Out on the Wire offers a look into this new kind of storytelling--one that literally illustrates the making of a purely auditory medium.

Jessica Abel, a cartoonist and devotee of narrative radio, uncovers just how radio producers construct a narrative. Jad Abumrad of RadioLab talks about chasing moments of awe with scientists, while Planet Money's Robert Smith speaks candidly about his slightly goofy strategy for putting interviewees at ease. And Abel reveals how mad Ira Glass becomes when he receives edits from his colleagues.


My Review:
Out on the Wire is a graphic book that looks at how narrative nonfiction radio shows are created. The author assumed the reader has a certain familiarity with narrative nonfiction radio, and she used examples from shows that have aired. Narrative nonfiction is basically taking a series of interviews and/or narration by an individual and piecing bits together to tell a story--like how a T-shirt is made.

The author interviewed various people involved in producing the five radio shows. She drew this book like she was piecing together bits of video interviews. The person's clothing, hairstyle, and background would change since she mixed together interviews done at different times. Unfortunately, many of the people looked very similar as drawn characters and she'd jump back and forth between people as well as in time. I found it difficult to keep track of who was from what show and what they did. Also, without audio clues, the frequent "ha ha" text sometimes felt out of place as it's not clear why they are laughing.

The book mainly focused on storytelling aspects like coming up with the idea and the focus, getting engaging interviews, how to put the interviews together to form a story, and edits/critiquing. It also talked about sound cues (music, sound effects, ambient sounds) and editing the actual audio of the interviews. But it's not a how-to on the technical aspects of radio shows; it's a collection of useful tips about forming an engaging story.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Lost Detective by Nathan Ward

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The Lost Detective
by Nathan Ward


ISBN-13: 9780802776402
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Released: September 15, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Dashiell Hammett was born in 1894, left school at thirteen, and joined the Pinkerton National Detective Agency as an operative in 1915. He periodically worked for the agency until, in 1922, the tuberculosis he contracted during WWI forced him to retire—prompting one of America’s most acclaimed writing careers.

His childhood, his life in San Francisco, and especially his years as a detective deeply informed his writing and characters, from the nameless Continental Op—hero of his stories and early novels—to Sam Spade and Nick Charles. He would write five novels between 1929 and 1934, two of them (The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man) becoming American classics.


My Review:
The Lost Detective is a biography of Dashiell Hammett. The first half of the book talked about Hammett's life before his writing career. The author searched for documents or first hand information about Hammett. However, apparently there is little known about this time except the stories that Hammett told about himself.

Hammett periodically worked for the Pinkerton's, but none of his case reports still remain and Pinkerton's strongly discouraged their employees from telling accurate stories about their work. Nathan Ward related stories that Hammett told about his detective work, compared them to known facts, and generally concluded that they were changed or embellished rather than accurate stories. But Ward describes how the Pinkerton detective methods and case report writing style influenced Hammett's detective fiction.

The second half of the book talked about how Hammett's poor health changed his life and how he got into writing detective fiction. We get details about his health, where he lived, his affairs, his writing, and what was sold to whom. It was interesting how Hammett's gritty, hard-boiled style started a new sub-genre in detective fiction. Again, Ward searched for the facts rather than settling for the legend about Hammett's life, and there was more information available for this time period.

I'd recommend this biography to fans of Dashiell Hammett who want to know more about his life.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup

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A is for Arsenic
by Kathryn Harkup


ISBN-13: 9781472911308
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Released: September 8, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Agatha Christie used poison to kill her characters more often than any other crime fiction writer. The poison was a central part of the novel, and her choice of deadly substances was far from random; the chemical and physiological characteristics of each poison provide vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. Christie demonstrated her extensive chemical knowledge (much of it gleaned by working in a pharmacy during both world wars) in many of her novels, but this is rarely appreciated by the reader.

Written by former research chemist Kathryn Harkup, each chapter takes a different novel and investigates the poison used by the murderer. A is for Arsenic looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering, and detecting these poisons, both when Christie was writing and today.


My Review:
A is for Arsenic examines the poisons used to kill in Agatha Christie's mystery novels. The author talked about the use of the poison in Christie's novels (usually without giving away who the murderer is, but with a warning if she does). She described real life cases involving the poison, from murder to accidents or suicide. She talked about cases that might have inspired Agatha Christie. She also described in depth how the poison kills, its symptoms, any antidotes (now and back when Christie wrote), and how it can be detected in the victim. She also explored how difficult or easy it would have been for a murderer to obtain the poison and get the lethal dose into the victim.

The poisons covered are Arsenic, Belladonna, Cyanide, Digitalis, Eserine, Hemlock, Monkshood, Nicotine, Opium, Phosphorus, Ricin, Strychnine, Thallium, and Veronal. This would be a great resource for mystery authors. The sections involving science may be more detailed than the average reader would care about, but fans of Christie and true crime fans may find this book interesting.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Your Daily Brain by The Minds Behind Marbles

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Your Daily Brain
by The Minds Behind Marbles


ISBN-13: 9780804140119
Paperback: 194 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Released: Aug. 18, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
In Your Daily Brain, the team behind Marbles: The Brain Store, a chain devoted to building better brains, shows you all the weird and wonderful ways your brain works throughout the day—even when you think it’s not working at all, like when you’re on the treadmill or picking the kids up from school.

Consider this book a wake-up call, a chance to take a closer look at and jump start your brain. From the minute your alarm clock buzzes in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night, your daily activities—everything from doing a crossword puzzle to parallel parking—are part of a process for how you evaluate the world, make choices and decisions, and reach short-term goals while keeping your eyes on the bigger ones. In each, you have the opportunity to use your brain for better or worse, whether it’s what to listen to you on your morning commute or avoiding mental traps at the grocery store.

Packed with information as well as useful tips and tricks, Your Daily Brain is the brain hack you’ve been looking for!


My Review:
Your Daily Brain is a collection of various studies about the brain which the authors summarize and explain in plain English in a casual, humorous tone. The authors also suggested things you can do to make use of these insights into your brain. It was more fun facts than life-changing insights, but I found it interesting from start to finish. Their suggestions were all do-able with minimal effort, so it's likely I'll apply what I learned in this book.

Each study was given a time-of-day heading though most also applied to other times of day. The "morning time" studies had more to do with getting your brain engaged and plans made for the day. Mid-day covered relating to people and tasks on the job. Evening times covered things like interacting with your family and how your brain knows it's time to sleep. We learn things like should you hit the snooze button? Eat breakfast and, if so, what types of foods? Aim for optimism or positive thinking? Multi-task? And what types of things help with creativity and problem solving? How does anger--or distraction--affect your judgment?

If you like brain studies, you may have heard some of this information before. Or you might have heard things that aren't actually backed up by studies (like different learning styles--using your preferred learning style won't necessarily help you learn better). But if you like learning about how your brain works and prefer the summary version of the studies, you'll likely to find something new and interesting in this book.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Georgian Menagerie by Christopher Plumb

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The Georgian Menagerie:
Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century London
by Christopher Plumb


ISBN-13: 9781784530846
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: I.B.Tauris
Released: June 30, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
As the British Empire expanded and seaborne trade flooded into London's ports, the menagerists gained access to animals from the most far-flung corners of the globe, and these strange creatures became the objects of fascination and wonder. Many aristocratic families sought to create their own private menageries with which to entertain their guests, while for the less well-heeled, touring exhibitions of exotic creatures both alive and dead satisfied their curiosity for the animal world.

While many exotic creatures were treasured as a form of spectacle, others fared less well: turtles went into soups and civet cats were sought after for ingredients for perfume.

In The Georgian Menagerie, Christopher Plumb brings us face to face with these exotic animals. Scandals were caused by ‘erotic electric eels’ and decades of jokes spawned by the rudely named ‘Queen’s Ass’, the resident zebra at Buckingham Palace. An enlightening and entertaining series of tales reveal how the exotic creatures of the menagerie that was Georgian London captured the imagination of the age, and influenced society in a surprising number of ways.


My Review:
The Georgian Menagerie is a history of exotic animals in England, mainly from 1700 to 1832. The author used diaries, letters, ads and handbills, court cases, wills, insurance policies, and poems to get a first hand account of exotic animals in England, especially those in London. This provided a wonderful sense of what life was like at the time and people's attitudes towards exotic animals. He followed the trade from the importers and sellers to the private owners and menageries.

He covered exotic animals like canaries, parrots, cranes, tigers, leopards, lions, bears, monkeys, snakes, seals, llamas, zebras, hyenas, camels, and rhinoceros. He talked about how they were feed, their living conditions (and how that changed), how much it cost to see them, traveling exhibits, what happened to the animals after they died (which usually meant being studied then stuffed and displayed), how people treated and interacted with the animals, and what associations were made with various animals (especially electric eels, the Queen's zebra, and parrots). He also talked about uses of exotic animal parts, like bear grease for hair styling, civet in perfume, and turtle meat for soup.

The information was presented in an interesting way using the stories of those involved with exotic animals in some way. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in 18th century London or in how zoos developed from private and commercial menageries.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators by David H. Ross

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Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators
by David H. Ross


ISBN-13: 9780385346238
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: July 28, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
For comic creators, animators, video game artists, and concept designers, being able to quickly draw the human figure in a variety of action-packed poses is a requirement. But what do you do if you don’t have models or photographic reference readily available? In Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators, artist and instructor David H. Ross shows how to block out actions and poses using a basic or advanced mannequin form. He illustrates basic poses (standing, running, jumping) to extreme motions (throwing punches, high kicking).


My Review:
Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators would be better titled "Mannequin Figures from Any Angle." The book mostly provided reference illustrations rather than detailed instructions on drawing a figure without any reference. If you don't have a live model or photo reference, you can use this book to look up a variety of poses from a wide variety of angles (front, back, 3/4, high, low, etc.).

The author provided many reference illustrations: mannequins and parts of mannequins from different angles and anatomy labels for the ear, hand, foot, a full skeleton, and major muscles. He described in step-by-step detail how to draw a head, hand, and foot. He also described in a generalized, "it'll be about here" way how different angles affect the apparent placement or size of various features.

The author assumed a certain amount of previous experience in drawing figures. For example: in his first section, he explained perspective and how to draw a box in perspective. He then gave a two-step lesson: (1) a rotated box viewed from low perspective (2) a fully rendered figure in that box. I was hoping for help in drawing a mannequin correctly into that perspective box or through using perspective lines. That help is never provided beyond a few, brief tips.

The mannequins were all super-hero types (skinny women or muscled men) and many of the references were from extreme angles or of exaggerated movements. From this, I assume the book is really targeted at superhero comic illustrators. I'm more interested in drawing normal humans in natural poses. I got some useful tips, but it's not really geared toward my interests.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Noah Webster by Catherine Reef

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Noah Webster:
Man of Many Words
by Catherine Reef


ISBN-13: 9780544129832
Hardback: 224 pages
Publisher: Clarion Books
Released: August 25, 2015

Source: ARC from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description from Amazon:
Noah Webster may be best remembered the enormous and ambitious task of writing his famous dictionary, but for him, this accomplishment was a means to an end. His true goal was to streamline the language spoken in our newly formed country so that it could be used as a force to bring people together and be a source of national pride. Though people laughed at his ideas, Webster never doubted himself. In the end, his so-called foolish notions achieved just what he had hoped.

Here, in the only account of Noah Webster for teens, the seasoned biographer Catherine Reef guides us through Webster's remarkable life, from boyhood on a Connecticut farm through the fight for American independence to his days as a writer and political activist who greatly influenced our Founding Fathers and the direction of the young United States.


My Review:
Noah Webster is a biography of Noah Webster for teenagers. The author told about Noah Webster's life, but she also explained enough about what was going on at the time that someone unfamiliar with it can understand how Webster's actions met a need and impacted the country.

Webster had political opinions and tried to influence people to support a strong Federal government through his writings. But he also loved words, and he wrote educational material (a speller, reader, etc.) before he wrote a dictionary. It was interesting to learn the political and social backdrop behind things we take for granted today, like how spellings differ between American and British English.

There were some illustrations of people, events, and books mentioned in the text. The book moved quickly and kept things interesting, which should appeal to teens. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting biography to those interested in history and words.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting by Suzanne Brooker

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The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting
by Suzanne Brooker


ISBN-13: 9780804137553
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: August 18, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.com.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
Noted instructor/painter Suzanne Brooker presents the fundamentals necessary for mastering landscape oil painting, breaking landscapes down into component parts: sky, terrain, trees, and water. Each featured element builds off the previous, with additional lessons on the latest brushes, paints, and other tools used by artists. Key methods like observation, rendering, and color mixing are supported by demonstration paintings and samples from a variety of the best landscape oil painters of all time. Oil painters looking to break into landscape painting or enhance their work will find all the necessary ingredients for success.


My Review:
The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting is a "how-to" instruction book for oil painters who want to improve their landscape painting. The author broke the process down into the most basic steps, like closely looking at the subject, the different types of brush strokes used to make different textures, and choosing toned grounds that enhance the colors used over it. Since she went into detail before the demonstrations, I found them more useful than art books where it's more the artist vaguely explaining the colors and order that he used. Her demonstrations show how to put all the previous information together.

She started the book with the typical materials section. She assumed the reader has a certain familiarity with oil painting. For example, she did describe how to apply a toned ground but didn't provide a picture of the process. She gets basic with the landscape painting sections, and she devoted a chapter each to sky, terrain, trees, water, and then putting it all together. Within each section, she discussed observation, brush strokes, and colors, and then did demonstration paintings showing step-by-step how to put this information to work.

I felt like the author was both a good painter and good instructor. I'm still a beginner at landscape oil painting, and information in this book has helped me to improve my landscapes. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those--like me--who are trying to learn landscape oil painting without an instructor.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Classic Human Anatomy in Motion by Valerie L. Winslow

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Classic Human Anatomy in Motion
by Valerie L. Winslow


ISBN-13: 9780770434144
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: August 4, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Cover:
Fine-art instruction books do not usually focus on anatomy as it relates to movement, despite its great artistic significance. Written by a long-time expert on drawing and painting human anatomy, Classic Human Anatomy in Motion offers artists everything they need to realistically draw the human figure as it is affected by movement.

Written in a friendly style, the book is illustrated with hundreds of life drawing studies (both quick poses and long studies), along with charts and diagrams showing the various anatomical and structural components.

This comprehensive manual features five distinct sections, each focusing on a different aspect of the human figure: bones and joint movement, muscle groups, surface form and soft tissue characteristics, structure, and movement. Each chapter builds an artistic understanding of how motion transforms the human figure and can create a sense of expressive vibrancy in one's art.


My Review:
Classic Human Anatomy in Motion is an anatomy book for artists who draw, paint, or sculpt human nudes. Much of the information can be applied to clothed figures, too, which is how I intend to use it. I appreciated that the nude figures were treated respectfully (rather than shown in sexually suggestive poses) and really were anatomically accurate.

This book contained many high-quality illustrations. Many of the illustrations showed the bones and muscles of the human body as you'd find them in an anatomy book. The author also pointed out which features can be seen on the surface and to look for them as reference points when drawing. She described the motions that each joint can do and how muscles work, so you can more realistically render the human body when it's in motion. To quote the book description, "each chapter builds an artistic understanding of how motion transforms the human figure."

Rather than having the reader repeat her drawings as exercises, the author described how to draw the figure you are interested in (from models, everyday life, pictures, or video). She suggested warm-up exercises and ways to suggest an active (rather than passive) figure. She gave some advice about working from your imagination, but she generally assumed that you'll have some reference to draw from as you work.

I'm familiar with human anatomy from my college days. I was impressed with the quality of this work, and it was a good refresher course for me. It has helped me understand how to apply that knowledge to my art. Overall, I'd recommend this book to artists who want to improve their depictions of human figures.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using a Look Inside feature.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Industrial Revolution by Laura L. Frader

book cover
The Industrial Revolution:
A History in Documents
by Laura L. Frader


ISBN-13: 9780195128178
Hardcover: 158 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Released: April 6, 2006

Source: Bought used online.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The Industrial Revolution: A History in Documents uses a wide variety of primary source documents to chronicle a period of great international social and technological change that began in England in the 18th century.

Improvements were made to the steam engine that meant that many tasks that had been done by hand in the past could be mechanized. With locomotives and steamships, goods could now be transported very quickly and within a reasonably predictable time. Other changes included the use of iron and steel, invention of new machines that increased production (including the spinning jenny), development of the factory system, and important developments in transportation and communication (including the telegraph). This all led to agricultural improvements, a wider distribution of wealth, political changes reflecting the shift in economic power, and sweeping social changes.

This book relies on primary sources such as personal diaries, advice books, poems, business reports, letters, photos, and essays to tell the story behind this rapidly changing period and its far-reaching effects.


My Review:
The Industrial Revolution is a historical nonfiction book about the Industrial Revolution and is based on documents from the time period. These documents allow the reader to see different views of the changes at the time they were occurring.

The focus started out in England and, as time moved on, to America and parts of Europe. The book started by describing what life was like before the Industrial Revolution and then showed how things changed. It included excerpts from essays, diaries, books, business reports, letters, and even a few poems. It also included black and white photographs and illustrations from the time period. The editors provided some information before the text of each document to help the reader to understand the context of the document.

I found this book to be easy to understand and very informative. I'd highly recommend it to those who want to better understand the social changes--especially those in England--at the time of the Industrial Revolution.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

book cover
The Jane Austen Handbook
by Margaret C. Sullivan


ISBN-13: 9781594741715
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Released: May 1, 2007

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Every young lady dreams of a life spent exchanging witty asides with a dashing Mr. Darcy, but how should you let him know your intentions? This charming guide provides step-by-step instructions for proper comportment in the early nineteenth century. You'll discover:

How to behave at your first ball.
How to ride sidesaddle.
How to decline an unwanted marriage proposal.
How to improve your estate.
How to throw a dinner party.

--and much more! It offers readers a glimpse into day-to-day life in Jane Austen's time and includes information on the English class system, currency, dress, and the nuances of graceful living.


My Review:
The Jane Austen Handbook described manners and aspects of daily life in Regency England, which is the time period of Jane Austen's novels. Some of it is information that you pick up just from reading her novels or watching the movies. However, there was a fair amount of other information that helps to fill out what life was like for the landed folk in England.

It included information like what the different servants do, correct behavior at a ball, how children were educated, how much someone's income was worth in modern terms, and so on. She included things that will help you to better understand the novels and things you simply might be curious about.

The author didn't go into great detail, but she covered a wide variety of subjects. The light tone makes it very readable and enjoyable. Overall, I'd recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen who want to know a little more about what life was like in the Regency Period.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Victorian People in Life and Literature by Gillian Avery

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Victorian People in Life and Literature
by Gillian Avery


ISBN-13: 9780030666551
Hardcover: 255 pages
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Released: 1970

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description:
Gillian Avery describes what life was like for the different social classes, what visitors thought of Victorian society, and rural and city/industrial life. She comments on some literature (novels and nonfiction sources) that accurately portray life and on some that didn't. Chapter headings: Victorian times, French and American Visitors, The Aristocracy, Society Life, Squire and Cottager, The Middle Classes, The Church, Cities and Industry, Life in Mean Streets, Poverty and Destitution, and Criminals. Illustrated from contemporary sources.


My Review:
Victorian People in Life and Literature explores life in England during Victorian times. It started with the rich and worked on down to the very poor, including information on workhouses and the prison system. It looked at farm life and at life in industrial cities. It quoted comments by foreign visitors, magazines of the time period, and bits from novels that accurately portray the times.

The illustrations were cartoons and line drawings taken from magazines from that time period. The book was very readable and interesting, and it came across as well-researched. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in learning more about what the living conditions and social attitudes were like during this time period.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Brilliant History of Color in Art by Victoria Finlay

book cover
The Brilliant History of Color
by Victoria Finlay


ISBN-13: 9781606064290
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum
Released: November 1, 2014

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.com.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Victoria Finlay takes readers across the globe and over the centuries on an unforgettable tour through the brilliant history of color in art. Readers will revel in a treasure trove of fun-filled facts and anecdotes.

Were it not for Cleopatra, for instance, purple might not have become the royal color of the Western world. Without Napoleon, the black graphite pencil might never have found its way into the hands of C├ęzanne. Without mango-eating cows, the sunsets of Turner might have lost their shimmering glow. And were it not for the pigment cobalt blue, the halls of museums worldwide might still be filled with forged Vermeers.

The book is written for newcomers to the subject and aspiring young artists and is illustrated with 166 major works of art—most from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum.


My Review:
The Brilliant History of Color explores the origins of pigments and dyes that were popular for painting, glazes, wallpapers, and clothing. For each pigment or dye, she told the story of how it was found or who made it popular or of a famous person who loved to use it. She often gave dates of when the color was first known to be in use and if it was removed from use due to safety concerns. She also talked about things like the move from wood panels to linen canvas for painting.

The author started with some of the oldest pigments and dyes used, like manganese black, red ocher, Egyptian Blue, yellow ocher, Tyrian Purple, cinnabar, black ink, gold leaf, green earth, ultramarine, cochineal, logwood black, cobalt, lead white, indigo, Indian yellow, madder red, graphite, and mummy brown. She then discussed the modern (1850s until now) explosion in color possibilities with colors like mauve, Prussian blue, manganese violet, chrome yellow, and cadmium yellow.

The stories were entertaining, informative, and contained interesting trivia. The book is targeted at tween or teens, and it's more a story of ongoing developments in color and their uses than a who-what-when-where-why history focused on the pigments. Overall, I'd recommend this entertaining and informative book to those looking for a quick look at color history.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.