Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Container Gardens by Southern Living Magazine

book cover
Container Gardens
by The Editors of Southern Living Magazine

ISBN-13: 978-0848745813
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Oxmoor House
Released: March 7, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description from Cover:
Over 200 Fresh Ideas for Indoor and Outdoor Inspired Plantings. Lack of space? Lack of time? No gardening experience? Need inspiration? Is it the doldrums of winter? No matter the issue, Southern Living magazine has the answer to make sure everyone has a beautiful garden year-round with the brand's newest book on container gardening. Container Gardening is a smart and sensible guide that covers the basics for the beginner as well as inspirational ideas for the experienced gardener. There are step-by-step techniques and tips on planting and care for indoor and outdoor container gardens.

My Review:
Container Gardens discussed indoor and outdoor container gardening, though the focus was mainly on outdoors. It's written for people in the South, zones 6-10, though much of the advice would be relevant anywhere. The book covered how to select containers, using potting soil, and choosing and arranging the plants. There were many pictures showing various arrangements along with the information about which plants were used. This would be a great book if you want advice or ideas on how to arrange the plants and the containers to best effect.

For outdoors, they talked about hanging pots, window boxes, on porches and such, on pedestals, on walls, and using a trellis. They talked about annual and perennial plants (including bulbs), small woody plants, and (briefly) succulents. For indoors, they mainly told you what plants might do well indoors and how to arrange these plants to look pretty. They very briefly talked about terrariums, air plants, and topiaries. Indoor ideas took up 32 pages, edible plants took up 42 pages (mainly listing information you'd find on a seed package), and outdoor plants took up 107 pages.

The book made container gardening sound like a breeze, but I already know it isn't that easy. I was disappointed that I didn't glean much to help with the problems I've had with growing perennial herbs in containers. Part of the problem is that I'm aiming for the long-term and this book focused on arrangements intended only for a season (like Fall) or, at most, Spring to Fall.

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, February 23, 2017

The History of Newgate Prison by Caroline Jowett

book cover
The History of Newgate Prison
by Caroline Jowett

ISBN-13: 9781473876408
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Released: Feb. 28, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
As the place where prisoners, male and female, awaited trial, execution or transportation, Newgate was Britains most feared gaol for over 700 years. It probably best known today from the novels of Charles Dickens including Barnaby Rudge and Great Expectations.

But there is much is more to Newgate than nineteenth-century notoriety. In the seventeenth century it saw the exploits of legendary escaper and thief Jack Sheppard. Author Daniel Defoe who was imprisoned there for seditious libel, playwright Ben Jonson for murder, the Captain Kidd for piracy were among its most famous inmates.

This book takes you from the gaols twelfth-century beginnings to its final closure in 1904 and looks at daily life, developments in the treatment of prisoners from the use of torture to penal reform as well as major events in its history.

My Review:
The History of Newgate Prison covers the history of Newgate from its initial building to its closure. The author broke the history down into chunks of time: 1188-1499, 1500-1699, 1700-1769, 1770-1779, and 1800-1902.

She described how Newgate was run (administrative structure, fees for provisions and such, etc.), what life was like for the inmates, what crimes would result in a stay at Newgate, the punishments for those crimes, and how all of these things changed over the years. She described the attempted and accepted reforms to the system (including some changes to the legal system) as well as some famous or typical cases from each period.

I found the book to be a very interesting and informative without getting dry or academic in tone. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in learning more about the goal/prison system in England 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.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor by Gregory S. Aldrete

book cover
Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor
by Gregory S. Aldrete

ISBN-13: 9781421408194
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Released: March 1, 2013

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Alexander the Great led one of the most successful armies in history and conquered nearly the entirety of the known world while wearing armor made of cloth.

An extensive multiyear project in experimental archaeology, this pioneering study presents a thorough investigation of the linothorax, linen armor worn by the Greeks, Macedonians, and other ancient Mediterranean warriors. Because the linothorax was made of cloth, no examples of it have survived. As a result, even though there are dozens of references to the linothorax in ancient literature and nearly a thousand images of it in ancient art, this linen armor remains relatively ignored and misunderstood by scholars.

Combining traditional textual and archaeological analysis with hands-on reconstruction and experimentation, the authors unravel the mysteries surrounding the linothorax. They have collected and examined all of the literary, visual, historical, and archaeological evidence for the armor and detail their efforts to replicate the armor using materials and techniques that are as close as possible to those employed in antiquity. By reconstructing actual examples using authentic materials, the authors were able to scientifically assess the true qualities of linen armor for the first time in 1,500 years. The tests reveal that the linothorax provided surprisingly effective protection for ancient warriors, that it had several advantages over bronze armor, and that it even shared qualities with modern-day Kevlar.

My Review:
Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor is a detailed study the authors did on linen corselets using ancient written and visual sources, and what they learned from their reconstructive archaeology efforts. The writing style was formal, yet the information was not difficult to understand or process. The authors realized that their audience was not solely academics, so they wrote in a manner accessible to everyone. They stated that they realized not all of the chapters in the book would equally interest all of their readers since this book would likely have a varied audience: academics, history buffs, reenactors, and others. I was initially interested in the reconstructive archaeology chapters, so I was surprised by how interesting I found the initial chapters.

There were a number of black and white photos and 6 color photos, mainly of ancient art showing this type of armor and of their experiments. The photos did an excellent job of showing what the text was describing. The main text was 168 pages long and used a somewhat denser, smaller-font text than "popular history" books. The next 38 pages were text description of the hundreds of images of linen body armor in ancient art that were used as the basis for this study so others who wish to can find them. The next 44 pages contained the "footnote" information. The biography and index each took 12 pages.

Chapter 1 discussed the mentions of linen armor in ancient texts and the images of Type IV/linen body armor in ancient art. It also described how flax was grown and processed in the ancient world. Chapter 2 discussed common elements seen in the visual sources and the different variations seen--things like how the shoulder straps were secured down, decorative elements, etc. Chapter 3 talked about what type of material was used to make this Type IV armor--only linen, only leather, a combination, metal inserts or scales? And if it was only linen, was it many layers of linen sewn together or many layers of linen glued together or stuffed and quilted linen?

Chapter 4 talked about their reconstructive archaeology efforts to make both sewn and laminated (glued layers of) linen armor. There was enough detail that I felt like I could do the process myself if I wished to. Chapter 5 talked about how they tested the armor, and chapter 6 gave the results (including both charts of numbers and a summary of the data in the text). They mainly tested with ancient arrows, but they also tried other weapons (swords, mace, spear, etc.). They also compared the linen results to tests on the effectiveness of bronze armor. Chapter 7 talked about the practical usability of the armor--mobility, ease of construction and repair, effectiveness of the repair, ability to withstand rain and river crossings, if it got hot when worn in full sun, the weight compared to bronze armor, etc. Chapter 8 talked about who might have made the linen for the armor and the cost in labor or money to produce a linen corselet.

It was interesting to learn how effective and usable linen body armor turned out to be. I felt that the authors gave a fair/balanced analysis of linen body armor and of the possibilities about its manufacture and use. I'd recommend this book to those who think it 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.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Disobeying Hitler by Randall Hansen

book cover
Disobeying Hitler
by Randall Hansen

ISBN-13: 9780385664639
Hardback: 480 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Released: May 20, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Anyone with even a passing interest in the Second World War knows about the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. But the story of the great wave of resistance that arose in the year that followed--with far-reaching consequences--has never been told before.

Drawing on newly opened archives, acclaimed historian Randall Hansen shows that many high-ranking Nazis, and average German citizens in far greater numbers than previously recognized, reacted defiantly to the Fuhrer's by then manifest insanity. Together they spared cities from being razed, and prevented the needless obliteration of industry and infrastructure. Disobeying Hitler presents new evidence on three direct violations of orders made personally by Adolf Hitler: The refusal by the commander of Paris to destroy the city; Albert Speer's refusal to implement a scorched earth policy in Germany; and the failure to defend Hamburg against invading British forces.

Disobeying Hitler shows how the brave resistance of soldiers and civilians, under constant threat of death, was crucial for the outcome of the war. Their bravery saved countless lives and helped lay the foundations for European economic recovery--and continued peace

My Review:
Disobeying Hitler covered the fate of civilians and German troops in German-occupied territory from July 20, 1944 to May 9, 1945. From the title and description, I was expecting a focus on "human interest" stories...individual's stories and what made them disobey. Instead, much of the book was a series of "this person did this action at this place and this time" overviews of various military battles and related actions. If you're familiar with the battles of the war, this listing of military actions might help tie the other events together in your mind. However, I'm not a WWII buff. I'd have found the book more interesting if the battle movements were even more briefly summarized as they usually added little to the "disobeying Hitler" aspects of the story.

The tone of the writing was scholarly and attempted to set the record straight--based on actual evidence--on some claims of heroic disobedience by German leaders. The author pointed out what they did and didn't do, and what others (civilians) contributed to the outcome.

The first 72 (of 332) pages covered a brief summary of WWII events that lead up to Valkyrie and a description of the events of the July 20, 1944 assassination and coup attempt against Hitler. After that, we're told stories--connected by battle reports--of various cities being saved. Hitler had commanded that the cities would be essentially left in rubble as the German army died in heroic last stands. Not everyone thought this was a good idea (especially the civilians living in these cities). They risked their lives to save the civilian populations and the city itself, and this often also involved the surrender of German troops. We're also told of cities that were destroyed. The stories were often described as an overview of the action rather than going in-depth into the details, personalities, and motives. Perhaps these details do not exist in many of the cases.

I thought that the more civilian-focused view of the defeat of Germany was interesting, but the viewpoint was more distant and action-focused than I expected. It was interesting, but not as interesting as I expected it to be.

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.