Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Pug Who Bit Napoleon by Mimi Matthews

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The Pug Who Bit Napoleon
by Mimi Matthews

ISBN-13: 9781526705006
Paperback: 152 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Released: Nov. 30, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
From elaborate Victorian cat funerals to a Regency era pony who took a ride in a hot air balloon, Mimi Matthews shares some of the quirkiest—and most poignant—animal tales of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Meet Fortune, the Pug who bit Napoleon on his wedding night, and Looty, the Pekingese sleeve dog who was presented to Queen Victoria after the 1860 sacking of the Summer Palace in Peking. The four-legged friends of Lord Byron, Emily Brontë, and Prince Albert also make an appearance, as do the treasured pets of Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Charles Dickens.

Less famous, but no less fascinating, are the animals that were the subject of historical lawsuits, scandals, and public curiosity. There’s Tuppy, the purloined pet donkey; Biddy, the regimental chicken; and Barnaby and Burgho, the bloodhounds hired to hunt Jack the Ripper. Wild animals also get a mention in tales that encompass everything from field mice and foxes to alligators and sharks lurking in the Thames.

Using research from eighteenth and nineteenth century books, letters, and newspapers, Mimi Matthews brings each animal’s unique history to vivid life. The details are sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but the stories are never anything less than fascinating reading for animal lovers of all ages.

My Review:
The Pug Who Bit Napoleon is a collection of animal stories from the 1700s & 1800s. The author went back to the original sources of the stories (letters, newspaper and magazine articles, and poems) and included quotes from those sources. Many of the stories were about favorite pets owned by famous people.

There were 9 dog stories (including stories about animals grieving the death of their person), 4 cat chapters (including information about the first cat show in England and pet funerals), a chapter each on horses, a pony, a donkey, a famous goat, a monkey and a parrot, two ravens, two military hens, an inspiring wild field mouse, pet rabbits, several shark sightings in the Thames, an "alligator" in the Thames, two foxes as pets (bad idea), and flea circuses. There were also pictures of the animal (in the case of famous pets) or of animals like the one described. The book is a quick, fun read. I'd recommend this enjoyable book to fans of animal stories.

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, November 24, 2017

Life on the Victorian Stage by Nell Darby

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Life on the Victorian Stage
by Nell Darby

ISBN-13: 9781473882430
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Released: Nov. 19, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The expansion of the press in Victorian Britain meant more pages to be filled, and more stories to be found. Life on the Victorian Stage: Theatrical Gossip looks at how the everyday lives of Victorian performers and managers were used for such a purpose during the nineteenth century. Viewed through the prism of Victorian newspapers, and in particular through their gossip columns, this book looks at the perils facing actors from financial disasters or insecurity to stalking, from libel cases to criminal trials.

The book looks at how technological developments enabled the press to expose the behaviour of actors overseas, such as when actor Fred Solomon's' bigamy in America was revealed. It looks at the pressures facing actors, which could lead to suicide, and the impact of the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act on what the newspapers covered, with theatrical divorce cases coming to form a significant part of their coverage in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Other major events, from theatre disasters to the murder of actor William Terriss, are explored within the context of press reportage and its impact.

My Review:
Life on the Victorian Stage looked at newspaper coverage and court case records regarding actors, actresses, and theatre-related disputes in Victorian (1837-1902) England. Many of the cases were from the 1880s and 90s, partly because of better communication about incidents that happened outside of Britain. The author also talked about changes in newspaper coverage, communication technology, and laws that impacted what was reported.

The book initially looked at court cases involving things like licensing theatres, libel against actors/actresses, bankruptcy, and breach of (acting) contracts. The author then relayed stories involving fan letters, stalkers, threats by audience members to make noise and ruin a performance, violence or theft in and outside of the theatre, charges of prostitution occurring at a theatre, and murder of or by actors. He then talked about the personal lives of the actors and actresses: sex, seduction, breach of promise (to marry) cases, child support cases, marriages, divorce, bigamy, deaths, and theatre disasters (like fire).

I found some of these sections a little repetitive as the cases cited were rather similar. Other sections were more varied or contained more information, which made them more interesting to read. Overall, though, it was an interesting 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, November 10, 2017

The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn by Margaret Willes

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The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn
by Margaret Willes

ISBN-13: 9780300221398
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Released: Sept. 19, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
An intimate portrait of two pivotal Restoration figures during one of the most dramatic periods of English history. Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn are two of the most celebrated English diarists. They were also extraordinary men and close friends. Through the richly documented lives of two remarkable men, Willes revisits the history of London and of England in an age of regicide, revolution, fire, and plague to reveal it also as a time of enthralling possibility.

Pepys was earthy and shrewd, while Evelyn was a genteel aesthete, but both were drawn to intellectual pursuits. Brought together by their work to alleviate the plight of sailors caught up in the Dutch wars, they shared an inexhaustible curiosity for life and for the exotic. Willes explores their mutual interests—diary-keeping, science, travel, and a love of books—and their divergent enthusiasms, Pepys for theater and music, Evelyn for horticulture and garden design.

My Review:
The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn is a biography of both Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. The author quoted from their diaries and personal correspondence, but she generally summarized what was said (probably because that's easier to read and understand).

She divided their lives into several themes: public careers and wider context of what was going on, descriptions of their family and major friends, their involvement in the Royal Society and interest in science, Pepys' interest in the theatre and music, Evelyn's interest in gardens and gardening and his books on horticulture, and their libraries (books, ballads, prints, etc.). The author also threw in some information about tea, coffee, and chocolate along with other imported consumer goods (including flowers and other plants).

These men lived through the Restoration of Charles II, the plague, and the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was interesting to see their views on what was going on and to get a sense of what life was like at that time. It's a quick look at what was happening and what some people's attitudes and interests were like. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in this time period in England.

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 8, 2017

An Herbalist's Guide to Formulary by Holly Bellebuono

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An Herbalist's Guide to Formulary
by Holly Bellebuono

ISBN-13: 9780738753034
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
Released: Nov. 8, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Explore the ancient art of formulary. Organized by body systems, this essential guide provides an easy understanding of physiology and explains how herbs function, helping you design a holistic treatment for acute and chronic conditions. Bellebuono shares her step-by-step method of formulary with examples to illustrate the art of combining plants for specific illnesses, preventative care, and overall wellness.

My Review:
An Herbalist's Guide to Formulary is not a book you can use by itself unless you have an extensive knowledge of herbs. The author provided only very brief information about the herbs, focusing mainly on how the human body works (digestive, cardiovascular, brain & nervous, immune, hormones, etc.) and her formulas. By which I mean, use 2 parts tonic (supportive, long-term usage herb) to 1 part tier 2 herb to 1 part tier 3 herb to 1 part tier 4 herb.

So she'd talk about the respiratory system, for instance, and then list some herbs (tier 1, tier 2, etc.) that would be helpful for various problems with the respiratory system. She'd even suggest specific formulas (2 parts yarrow, 1 part sage, 1 part....taken as tincture). However, she didn't suggest how much of the herb to use (or even say how much was safe). The closest she got to giving amounts was "a small amount." As in, use kelp only in "small amounts due to high sodium content." (And she didn't mention the high iodine content here, which is a greater concern.) She didn't suggest how often or long one might take the formula. She didn't explain how to mix the herbs or make pills, tinctures, etc. She assumed you already know all this about herbs.

Also, I found enough basic errors that I stopped trusting her information. While she generally had good information, she'd say things like constipation is caused by too much fiber (but the opposite is true). She suggested eating yogurt when you have an ulcer, but the current medical advice is to avoid all dairy when you have an ulcer. In one spot, she said to avoid dairy for that condition, then a few sentences later she suggested eating yogurt. She also said some things that were confusing due to not fully explaining what she meant. So she said several times that you shouldn't take garlic long-term, only much later explaining that she was referring to raw garlic. I believe I was reading an advanced reader copy, so maybe the errors will be fixed in the final copy.

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, November 6, 2017

Dickens and Christmas by Lucinda Hawksley

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Dickens and Christmas
by Lucinda Hawksley

ISBN-13: 9781526712264
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Released: Oct. 31, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Charles Dickens survived childhood poverty to become the most adored and influential man of his time. Written by one of his direct descendants, this book explores not only Dickens’s most famous work, A Christmas Carol, but also his all-too-often overlooked other Christmas novellas. It takes the readers through the seasonal short stories he wrote, for both adults and children, includes much-loved festive excerpts from his novels, uses contemporary newspaper clippings, and looks at Christmas writings by Dickens’ contemporaries.

To give an even more personal insight, readers can discover how the Dickens family itself celebrated Christmas, through the eyes of Dickens’s unfinished autobiography, family letters, and his children’s memoirs. Readers will journey through the Christmases Dickens enjoyed as a child and a young adult, through to the ways in which he and his family celebrated the festive season at the height of his fame. It also explores the ways in which his works have gone on to influence how the festive season is celebrated around the globe.

My Review:
Dickens and Christmas is a biography of Dicken's life with a focus on Christmastime--how his family celebrated Christmas at various times in his life, what books he released, and even changes during his lifetime in how people celebrated Christmas (partly due to the influence of his Christmas stories). The author quoted from books, articles, and Dicken's personal letters to show what Christmas was like for his family and in general.

The main focus was on Dicken's life and included details about his writing. We get summaries and extensive quoting from his first five Christmas releases (A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain) and excerpts of the Christmas scenes from his other novels and short stories. Mixed in with the biographical details were tidbits about traditional Christmas foods, decorations, presents, and activities. You couldn't create your own Dicken's-style Christmas from this book, but you can get an idea of what it 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.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Everyday Watercolor by Jenna Rainey

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Everyday Watercolor
by Jenna Rainey

ISBN-13: 9780399579721
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: Oct. 10, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
This guided watercolor-a-day book is perfect for beginning watercolor artists. From strokes to shapes, this book covers the basics and helps painters gain confidence in themselves along with inspiration to develop their own style over the course of 30 days. Featuring colorful contemporary art from Mon Voir design agency founder and Instagram trendsetter Jenna Rainey.

My Review:
Everyday Watercolor is a how-to for those who want to learn Rainey's bleed-painting watercolor style. In this technique, you paint in the darkest part, then use clean water to wet the lighter areas, and a final stroke joins the two to create a bleed of the dark into the wet areas. She claims you can control the process, but I found her hints about this so vague it was just a matter of trying different things until I liked what I was getting.

Each lesson lasted between 30-90 minutes, with the first few lessons being shortest. In the lessons, you learn how to paint various leaves, flowers (roses, paradise flower), plants (trees, cacti), fruit (papaya, dragon fruit), animals (chickens, hummingbird, toucan, elephant, macaw), and several landscape or collage-like paintings using these objects.

The book is aimed at complete beginners to watercolor, but she wants you to buy expensive, professional-quality watercolor paper, paints, and brushes. I really liked the idea of teaching the basics (color theory, basic strokes for round brushes, etc.) during actual painting practice, but I think a complete beginner would find the book confusing and frustrating at times.

Some examples: On page 13, she tells you to include both warm and cool colors without explaining these new terms (until a later lesson). The illustrations often had confusing subtitles, like two swatches of green paint with "Winsor Green + Lemon Yellow Deep" under them. The way the text was placed, I initially thought one swatch was supposed to be the green and the other the yellow rather than two greens that you can make using those two paints. She frequently urged "add lots of water," leaving it mostly up to the reader to figure out how to keep the paint from escaping the desired bounds. As her technique requires "lots of water" yet "not too much," more advise on this from the very beginning would have been useful to a complete beginner. However, artists who are more used to the runaway tenancy of watercolor will probably turn out some nice finished lessons.

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.