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ARCs Art Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Photography Rules Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers by Paul Lowe

Over 150 essential mantras for anyone interested in taking good pictures. 

In Photography Rules, Paul Lowe (expert photographer and lecturer) guides you through over 150 bite-sized dos and don’ts from the likes of Dorothea Lange, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Rankin and Richard Avedon. Whether you’re a complete beginner using your iPhone, looking to improve your DSLR skills or are already a professional, this book will give you insider tips inspired by the greatest photographers from history as well as original pieces of advice from some of the most well-respected living photographers.

Each of the pithy entries will combine a specific rule and a supporting photograph or quote with commentary from the author on how best to put the advice into practice. Chapters include:

Making Photographs: Practical tips for taking great photographs, covering genre, composition, operational function, working with your subject, lighting, post-production and printBeing a Photographer: Insider guidance on attitude, creativity, understanding photography and finding your purposeProfessional Practice: Dos and don’ts about being a professional, working with clients, marketing yourself, developing your career, making money and collaborations With succinct, accessible and engaging entries, expert advice from the author, and original quotes from the some of the greatest living photographers – readers can either dip in at random or read religiously for lessons in how to produce photographs they’re proud of. This is the perfect book for students, amateurs or professional photographers looking to improve their skills and find inspiration. 

Photography Rules: Essential Dos and Don'ts from Great PhotographersPhotography Rules: Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers by Paul Lowe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Quarto Publishing Group – White Lion Publishing for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This was the perfect book for me. It met me right where I was at. I’d recommend it to any photographer with similar sentiments to me as it provided a unique, thoughtful compilation of the great advice and a well-tailored focus of image examples out there.

It was refreshing to read and brought a distinguished and inspirational element to the photography section of my bookshelf.

It wasn’t a sell on equipment branding and specs, or a historical timeline of photography through the ages, an exhaustive technical how to, a recycled rearrangement of seen all, heard photography aspects, nor was it just exclusive insight into one author’s personal experiences.

Those things certainly all have their place in photography but I found this particular book to be an insightful, accessible compilation piece, having taken the main rules of photography (both creative and technical) and concisely honing in on the main driving points, taking the best of each concept as it displayed advice and an image example of each.

From that standpoint, the author’s foreword discussed the meaning and principles behind the rules as incorporated into the title and content which I really appreciated since it clarified questions that I had. I think it was excellent advice to recommend integrating rules into your practice and break them one at a time to see what new things you can create.

So from that, each rule was thoughtfully curated, showing how they may or may not be broken to create compelling images.

I myself, feel I haven’t taken the time to be able to admire and understand the works by photographers. So I really enjoyed the quotes, the discussions, the theoretical concepts explained by each as they showcased some of their most powerful and iconic photos.

Perhaps it may be easier for readers to decide if this book is for them by telling about me.

To give some perspective, I have been taking photographs on and off for the better part of my life, mostly at my own amusement. I’m familiar with film and digital. Shooting mostly scenes of landscapes, wildlife, flowers, books, and recipes.

I have had limited formal training and never really kept up with the digital era and post processing achievements of today. I also haven’t kept up with the notoriety and skillset of photographers in recognition of their most famous works and the artistry/techniques they bring to the table.

However for the past year and a half I’ve sought to better my photography and challenge myself.

Concepts I really took away: not shying away from motion blur and better celebrating the movement to show the energy of a scene, choosing a subject regardless of figures, and definitely paying attention to lines and lighting more.

Also to break some terrible habits I’ve developed. Since not having been on social media for 6 months, especially not having been on Instagram, I feel more compelled not to tailor images to the constraints of the platform anymore. I guess I didn’t realize how much I catered my images to it with its square tiling, cutting off of margins, leaving me to frame images with an extra bumper of a gap and dead centering.

Techniques I’d like to try as a result of reading this book include: using the tripod more, practicing more slow shutter techniques, and trying a hand at photo composites.

I also liked the vast overview of concepts especially from a journalistic point of view since my knowledge and experience with that is minimal. I also liked how this book was organized and was easy to understand. Tidbits on referential connection, work submissions, publishing, ethics, captioning, working with models, even working in traumatic situations and image management were wonderful bonuses in this book.

Very enjoyable, I learned a lot!

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

The Peasants’ Revolting Lives by Terry Deary

‘Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.’ – Benjamin Disraeli

Today we are aware of the habits, thoughts and feelings of the rich, because historians write about them endlessly. The poor are largely ignored and, as a result, their contributions to our modern world are forgotten.

Here, skilled raconteur TERRY DEARY takes us back through the centuries with a poignant but humorous look at how life treated the ordinary people who scratched out a living at the very bottom of society. Born into poverty, their world was one of foul food, terrible toilets, danger, disease and death – the last usually premature.

Wryly told tales of deprivation, exploitation, sickness, mortality, warfare and religious oppression all fill these pages. Discover the story of the teacher turned child-catcher who rounded up local waifs and strays before putting them to work. Read all about the agricultural workers who escaped the clutches of the Black Death only to be thwarted by lordly landowners. Follow as hundreds of children descend into the inky depths of hazardous coal mines.

On the flip side of this darkness, discover how cash-strapped citizens used animal droppings for house building, how sparrow’s brains were incorporated into aphrodisiacal brews, and how extra money was made by mixing tea with dried elder leaves. Courtship, marriage, sport, entertainment, education and, occasionally, achievement briefly illuminated the drudgery; these were the milestones that brought meaning to ordinary lives.

The oppressed and disempowered have lived on the very outskirts of recorded history, suffering, sacrificing and struggling to survive. The greatest insult is that they are forgotten; buried often with no gravestone to mark their passing and no history book to celebrate their efforts. Until now. The Peasants’ Revolting Lives explores and celebrates the lives of those who endured against the odds. From medieval miseries to the idiosyncrasies of being a twenty-first-century peasant, tragedy and comedy sit side by side in these tales of survival and endurance in the face of hardship.

The Peasants' Revolting LivesThe Peasants’ Revolting Lives by Terry Deary

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Pen & Sword for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This book was fascinating! I’d recommend it to anyone. After reading this book I feel especially well prepared for a night of trivia. It was incredibly perceptive as it explored daily life and personal practices, living situations, origins of certain folklore, and social implications of peasantry, leading up to their revolt.

I loved the beginning question about choosing to live in any time in history and the answers that followed.

In referencing the Golden Age, comparing its perils to today, it was an enlightening exploration of how the impoverished experienced a certain way of life that only illuminated today’s strides in addressing social injustice, occupational hazards, sanitation, animal cruelty, entertainment, death, marriage, childbirth, child labor, legislation, literacy, technology, educational systems, captivity, and even sports.

Occupations themselves, such as matchstick girls, stood out to be one of the most shocking to me as far as risk for safety is concerned especially because of how far we have come in this world. It really gave a lot of perspective, respect, and value to our advancement in civilization.

The writing style was upfront clear and honest which I liked and further emphasized the very matter of fact tone and subject matter. The content showed a stark contrast as far as how humanity and social norms in general have come, which also lended itself to some humor since some of the concepts back in the day were quite absurd. There were bits of personal interjections that were lighthearted and confirming to my feelings which made this an amusing book to read.

I won’t comment too much on the writing in more detail or the organization itself because I did receive an ARC that was more in somewhat of an outline form than a final, cohesive piece. I do think from that standpoint the final form will likely be supportive enough to deliver such great content.

The quotes from historical figures and summarizations of points in time brought so much enrichment and credibility. References to classic literature, various philosophers, and playwrights such as Shakespeare was incredibly satisfying to me.

I think that each topic could also be expanded to provide further historical context and rationales of the time in a series type form, so I will be looking forward to reading more from this author.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Historical Nonfiction

Earth Almanac: A Year of Witnessing the Wild, from the Call of the Loon to the Journey of the Gray Whale by Ted Williams

From winter candy and spring quackers to summer’s scarlet farewell and autumn reveilles, noted nature writer Ted Williams invites readers along on a year-long immersion in the wild and fleeting moments of the natural world. This beautifully crafted collection of short, seasonal essays combines in-depth information with evocative descriptions of nature’s marvels and mysteries.

Williams explains the weather conditions that bring out the brightest reds in autumn leaves, how hungry wolf spiders catch their prey, and why American goldfinches wait until late July or August to build their nests.

In the tradition of Thoreau, Carson, and Leopold, Ted Williams’s writing stands as a testament to the delicate balance of nature’s resilience and fragility, and inspires readers to experience the natural world for themselves and to become advocates for protecting and preserving the amazing diversity and activity found there.

Earth Almanac: A Year of Witnessing the Wild, from the Call of the Loon to the Journey of the Gray WhaleEarth Almanac: A Year of Witnessing the Wild, from the Call of the Loon to the Journey of the Gray Whale by Ted Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Storey Publishing for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This was such a relaxing read that gave me a sort of feeling of gratitude and peace. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially nature lovers and anyone looking to unwind and learn a bit about plants, insects, and animals in the process.

The cover and title drew me in, piquing my interest by bringing back memories of reading the Farmer’s Almanac on my grandparents coffee table. I loved learning about the life cycle of species and their contribution to the circle of life, even folklore, superstitions, the rationales behind them, and it was all well-suited to bring such awesome wonder contained in this book.

The writing was steady, poetic at times. It read like I was a nature observer on the ideal expedition where time was not pressed, allowing me to take it all in. With the organizational divide into seasons, the descriptions of critters, plant life, and their habitats allowed the content to really highlight the most interesting and sometimes humorous attributes that made each one stand out in the environment.

And I really appreciated that the author did not dwell on perilous, doomsday, global warming issues, but rather pointed out species that have since dwindled in number and celebrated ones that have made a comeback.

Loved the delicate sketches. I would have loved even more, even just simple schematics.

I would like to see another one like this, even a series, perhaps specific to region.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Childrens Educational Featured Nonfiction

Ocean Anatomy The Curious Parts & Pieces of the World under the Sea by Julia Rothman

Julia Rothman’s best-selling illustrated Anatomy series takes a deep dive into the wonders of the sea with Ocean Anatomy. Follow Rothman’s inquisitive mind and engaging artwork along shorelines, across the open ocean, and below the waves to explore the hows and whys of the watery universe, from how the world’s oceans formed to why the sea is salty. Oceanic phenomena such as rogue waves, anatomical profiles of sea creatures from crustacean to cetacean, surveys of seafaring vessels and lighthouses, and the impact of plastic and warming water temperatures are just part of this compendium of curiosities that will entertain and educate readers of all ages. 

Ocean Anatomy: The Curious Parts  and Pieces of the World under the SeaOcean Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the World under the Sea by Julia Rothman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Storey Publishing for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This was a fantastic book! With beautiful illustrations, easy to read, yet adorably stylistic fonts, and organization/layout that was on spot on with fascinating facts about all the various ocean animals, terrain, types of sand, waves, and the anatomy of the beach. It even included interesting tid bits about differences and impact of fishing methodology, types of lighthouses, and ocean vessels.

It was very well-thought out. And just when I thought the book and all the comprehensiveness it covers was over, there were well-worded ocean statistics, cute little surprise “in the news” newspaper clipping illustrations, and recommended reading at the end!

I’d highly recommend it for personal and public libraries and for all ages, children through adult! I am looking forward to sharing this one during story time!

*UPDATE: The children absolutely loved it!

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

The Warship Tyger: The Master Shipwright’s Secrets Behind a Restoration Warship by Richard Endsor

A magnificent illustrated history of HMS Tyger, a fourth-rate ship of the Navy of Charles II.

Inspired by the recent discovery of mathematically calculated digital plans for a fourth-rate ship, written by the Deptford master shipwright, John Shish, The Warship Tyger is an illustrated history of the HMS Tyger, one of the smaller warships of the Restoration period.

Tyger was originally built in the middle of the 17th century and served in the Anglo-Dutch Wars. It was sent to Deptford for rebuilding at the end of the wars in 1674, but the ship was left to deteriorate over the next few years and ended up as a sunken wreck at the bottom of the great double dock. Eventually, the yard officers at Deptford wrote that there was “no such thing as the Tyger” and wanted to pay off the last warrant officers belonging to her. However, King Charles II decided otherwise and kept her on the books to eventually reappear as a “rebuilt” but in fact, entirely new ship in 1681.

This book is replete with beautiful and detailed illustrations of the construction of the Tyger and explores both its complicated history and its complex rebuilding, complete with deck plans, internal sections, and large scale external shaded drawings. The title also explores associated ships including another fourth-rate ship, the Mordaunt, which was purchased into the navy and had a dimensional survey made of her at the time by John Shish. A rare contemporary section drawing of another fourth-rate English ship and constructional drawings of Shish’s later fourth-rate ship, St Albans are also included.

The Warship Tyger: The master shipwright's secrets behind a Restoration warshipThe Warship Tyger: The master shipwright’s secrets behind a Restoration warship by Richard Endsor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Osprey Publishing for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This book was outstanding both in content and narrative! I love anything maritime so this one was like candy for me.

It was filled with interesting details of ship building, particularly centered around those built in the 1600s, portraying the star of the show, Tyger.

The ins and outs of what it took to acquire materials, calculate, design, and build a ship that was seaworthy at that time was just incredible.

Woven into the organizational and technical feats were personal diary entries, old documents with their characteristically fine penmanship of elegant swoops of Ws, Ys, and Cs, inventory lists, maps, and beautiful illustrations showing ornate designs such as cherubim and lion faces carved at the bow. The pictures were pretty to look at and the addition of people characters to show scale was a nice touch and I liked that the illustrative style was consistent with the paintings of the day.

I really appreciated the extensive research put into this, it was super comprehensive!

This book would make a great study reference and conversational piece as both a coffee table book and for any private or public library.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Nonfiction

Canoeing in the Wilderness by Henry David Thoreau

Essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) ranks among America’s foremost nature writers. The Concord, Massachusetts, native spent most of his life observing the natural world of New England. His thoughts on leading a simple, independent life remain a foundation of modern environmentalism, as captured in Walden, his best-known work.Canoeing in the Wilderness, the 1857 diary of a two-week sojourn in Maine, chronicles the author’s travels with a friend and a Native American guide.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Maine woodlands were still in pristine condition, inhabited by a handful of Native Americans, pioneer farmers, the occasional lumberjack, and a rich and diverse wildlife population. Thoreau’s poetic yet realistic observations of the landscape are accompanied by his accounts of day-to-day events. From camping by the waterside and waking to birdsong to enduring mosquitoes and cloudbursts, he writes with grace and clarity that bring the American wilderness to vivid life.

Canoeing in the WildernessCanoeing in the Wilderness by Henry David Thoreau

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Dover Publications for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

Loved it.

I’d recommend this to anyone. I found it to be an incredibly relaxing read especially during these moments in time, the perfect novella, palette cleanser, reflective, a great way to gain perspective and become grounded and mindful of the lovely things in life.

I loved how soothing the writing rhythm was, both poetic and philosophical, yet easily attainable and enjoyable without being overly complicated. It read with ease as if I was sitting around a campfire listening to the master tell stories of great adventure and oral tradition.

Stories centered on depicting appreciation for and observations of the natural world including adventure trails to canoe running, surrounding forest environment, woodland animals, and relationships with the Indians.

Thoreau’s stylistically simple, yet deeply personal and thought-provoking journal entries never fail to refresh my mind.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins by Ariane Thomas, Timothy Potts

Mesopotamia, in modern-day Iraq, was home to the remarkable ancient civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia, and Assyria. From the rise of the first cities around 3500 BCE, through the mighty empires of Nineveh and Babylon, to the demise of its native culture around 100 CE, Mesopotamia produced some of the most powerful and captivating art of antiquity and led the world in astronomy, mathematics, and other sciences—a legacy that lives on today.

Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins presents a rich panorama of ancient Mesopotamia’s history, from its earliest prehistoric cultures to its conquest by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE. This catalogue records the beauty and variety of the objects on display, on loan from the Louvre’s unparalleled collection of ancient Near Eastern antiquities: cylinder seals, monumental sculptures, cuneiform tablets, jewelry, glazed bricks, paintings, figurines, and more. Essays by international experts explore a range of topics, from the earliest French excavations to Mesopotamia’s economy, religion, cities, cuneiform writing, rulers, and history—as well as its enduring presence in the contemporary imagination.

This volume is published to accompany an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa March 18 to July 27, 2020.

Mesopotamia: Civilization BeginsMesopotamia: Civilization Begins by Ariane Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Getty Publications for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

Fascinating! This book captured the fascinating work, with all the exciting elements of discovery adventure of many of the world’s firsts in both documentation of earliest civilization and supportive artifacts.

I think most people would say that they have wanted to be an archeologist or paleontologist at one point in their childhood and the discovery of Mesopotamia is ultimate. As an adult I get a bit of that recurring excitement when gardening, wondering what I will dig up, year after year. Wondering what it would be like to happen upon evidence of a lost civilization, to find buried treasure, pottery, dinosaur bones. This book took me there.

I love how it was organized, opening up with beautiful geographical maps, followed by timelines of settlement and people group chronology. More history books should model this just to set the stage for easing the reader in.

It felt like I was stepping into a museum. Everything was well-curated and flowed in ways that made sense with respect to both the timeline and subject matter. Occasionally some of the writing was a little bit dry, but I didn’t mind too much. I don’t know much about the behind the scenes/interworking of museums and how artifacts gets acquired and curated. So when this book covered how items have been strategically placed to form full-fledged museums and as featured pieces in others, I felt my interest becoming much more immersive into this type of content as I read on.

The catalogue of exhibitions and mentions of modern and futuristic contributions such as 3-D printing at the end of the book was stellar. I will look forward to visiting the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa and this will make a great conversational/coffee table book!

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Butchering Chickens: A Guide to Humane, Small-Scale Processing by Adam Danforth

The space, setup, and equipment required to raise and process poultry are minimal when compared to other types of livestock, which is part of what makes chickens such an appealing choice for small-scale meat producers. Expert butcher and teacher Adam Danforth covers the entire slaughtering and butchering process in this photographic guide specifically geared toward backyard chicken keepers and small-farm operations invested in raising meat responsibly.

With step-by-step photos, detailed instructions, and chapters dedicated to necessary tools and equipment, essential food safety measures, how to prepare for slaughter and process the birds quickly and humanely, how to break down the carcasses into cuts, and how to package and freeze the cuts to ensure freshness, this comprehensive handbook gives poultry raisers the information they need to make the most of their meat.

Butchering Chickens: A Guide to Humane, Small-Scale ProcessingButchering Chickens: A Guide to Humane, Small-Scale Processing by Adam Danforth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Storey Publishing for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

An excellent resource! Whether you’re a farmer, rancher, processor, butcher, chef, culinary student, home cook, educator, or perhaps a humanitarian navigating your way through local customs and yearning to make some yummy chicken enchiladas like myself, there is much insight to glean from this book. It contains everything you wanted to know about how to butcher a chicken in the most safe and humane way with as little waste as possible. It would make a great gift!

I appreciated that this book was well-written, well-organized, and well-researched for both presentation style and content. The step-by-step guides, balance of both technical terminology and ease of reading, as well as scientific rationales were appealing for the complete range of those who identify themselves anywhere on the spectrum from novice to expert.

Supplies, safety with emphasis on proper sanitation, alternatives to steps in the butchering process, cuts for ideal presentation and culinary purposes, different cooking methods, as well as pros and cons of each storage method were discussed in satisfying detail. The glossary and resource section was a thoughtful bonus. I really enjoyed the tips on obtaining a better flavor profile and maintaining desired textures which explored interesting aspects of the bird’s diet and product preservation.

Also the photography was outstanding and the carved whole boneless chicken was impressive!

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Horror Mystery Thriller

She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker

A haunting tale of suspense, rendered with the masterful skill only Barker could muster.

After the loss of his parents, young Jack Thatch first met Stella as a child—this cryptic little girl of eight with dark hair and darker eyes, sitting alone on a bench in the cemetery clutching her favorite book. Gone moments later, the brief encounter would spark an obsession. She’d creep into his thoughts, his every waking moment, until he finally finds her again exactly one year later, sitting upon the same bench, only to disappear again soon after…

SHE HAS A BROKEN THING WHERE HER HEART SHOULD BE conjures thoughts of early King and Koontz. A heart-pounding ride that creeps under your skin and will have you turning pages long into the night.

She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should BeShe Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Hampton Creek Press for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

An excellent book, one I couldn’t put down!

I could stop there and just make a recommendation to read it, but I can’t help myself to explain as to why when it comes to critiquing and there were a lot of things I loved about this book.

Starting with the overall premise and writing. There was a uniqueness both in original idea and writing style. I saw similarities to other namely authors, perhaps with some influence, but this author writes with a certain distinguished, intriguing sentiment that is all his own. It was like having a weird dream that only makes sense in your mind, materialized, taking risks in writing style, and then the retelling of such a story done right.

To begin with, it had all the essentials of what makes a good opener for a book. It sucked me in within the first few lines and chapter. I got a feel for the context, personality, setting, time frame, all with a taste of mystery, built as a nice set up with all the elements that readers crave when starting and continuing to enjoy a book like this, especially since it crossed into many types of genres. It was the seamless delivery that was carefully constructed.

Within each scene there was an ease to reading. Perhaps it was the way that each sentence was crafted. They were not so rule-hugging and rigid, formulaic, or formal, but appropriately written to enhance both personality, character growth, and the flow of the story. The writing pushed the boundaries, embracing the realm of creative thought and feeding it right back into the story.

I really appreciated the story because the detective work didn’t overtake it. Terminology wasn’t constantly being defined and explained, but instead jumped right into an occupation with use of the norms and lingo in conversation as they are understood among the people that use them. If you’ve ever read more than one mystery or crime novel, you will understand this and know that it is not uncommon to see stories get interrupted and cluttered with a bunch of backstories, rationales of behavior, or an over-explanation of job duties, procedures, and protocols that can so easily take you out of the story rather than be a natural progression of it.

I appreciated that there was not grab a thesaurus, word substitutions for adjectives, action verbs, words for said, and transitionals just thrown in, but actual descriptions told in unconventional ways which was both refreshing and compelling. Breaking of traditional rules by leaving in run-ons and fragments only added to the story, keeping the logical flow, the pace, the conversation, the thought-process, to speak for itself.

Even brand names, literary remarks, and historical references were mentioned without excessive descriptions or nouns to follow which made for an even smoother read. It just worked. Perhaps because the author knows his audience and can take liberty in allowing the reader to connect with the time and place, and feel like the story was just written for them.

With each character, the narrator voice was spot on consistent and distinguishable with actions, thoughts, and feelings, even through growth. The reminiscent parts were not only accurate to events but also perspective, really true to the time. The voice of internal conflict and insight was appropriate for each character age group. For example school-age memories and dialogue was told from a child’s mind, reflecting the safe, carefree life of youth, and also included the irrational fears and immature actions that resulted. I appreciated the attention to detail, even the accuracy of a growing boy’s height according to growth charts, which made it all the more believable even within the domain of nonfiction, paranormal, and fantasy.

I liked that it took me back to childhood memories of required reading, riding bikes to Circle K, skid-marks in gravel, and the fear of tetany. It made me want to reread Great Expectations, even though I haven’t had an inkling to ever read it again since its requirement in grade school. The desire to read another book as stirred up by a book you’re currently reading is always a success in my mind.

There were also comedic references that were sometimes overt, sometimes subtle, and so very funny.

Lastly I loved the internal dialogue referencing deeper meanings in life.

All-in-all, it reminded me of the momentum, thrill, and excitement of choose your own adventure books, the joy in anticipation and satisfaction of what comes next.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces by Tara Nolan

Gardening Your Front Yard is an active, inspiring resource that shows you how to treat your front yard like a backyard without sacrificing beauty, from choosing the right plants to building front patios and walkways

Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small SpacesGardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces by Tara Nolan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Quart Publishing Group- Cool Springs Press for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

I love looking through gardening magazines and this book was like a lovely indulgence for me!

There were step-by-step project ideas and designs that I will look forward to creating for my garden. The instructions were clear and thorough.

I enjoyed the many ideas that were presented. It was more of a diary-style, experience-based look at front yards rather than a strict how to, which I appreciated. I was also left with wanting just a bit more.

With that said I hope to see a part 2 follow up. Perhaps it was the teaser (according to my interpretation) I found myself becoming fixated on. I would have loved to have read more about the author’s own adventures in gardening from a design perspective. Which I’m sure is the case for all of our gardens though, as projects are always under completion, but I would relish in seeing before and afters, and the rationale behind them.

I would love to see an extension about what would differentiate the front from the back a little more. It did touch on curb appeal and being mindful of HOA observances which was excellent. I would enjoy a bit more detail on layering and mimicking nature within the confines of integrating non-native plant life as well as working with different woods, metals, stones, and plastics… and more information about design principles, color options, matching or not matching housing structure, how to convey mood, etc… which are typically so important when showcasing the front yard because everyone sees it and there is less creative control when you want to be whimsical but not have it looking like an every day yardsale which I could totally see myself doing. I thought the hedge piece was the most complete at illustrating the how to concepts I was looking for as they relate to choosing a design for privacy, height, and aesthetic goals. I’d like to see more of that in the way it was presented.

All the photos and ideas were beautiful and inspiring nonetheless! And it was thoughtful to include shoutouts to wonderful resources. It introduced me to new concepts such as thriller, filler, and spiller.

This was a unique book with a lot to offer as putting edibles in the front yard is a rare find in and of itself! I am looking forward to implementing some of the designs and making some of the projects contained in this book. It would be a great resource guide for any gardener or a great house-warming gift and I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Educational Nonfiction

Garden Alchemy by Stephanie Rose

Garden Alchemy is a hands-on guide for do-it-yourself gardeners who want to turn their garden into gold using natural recipes and herbal concoctions (while saving both time and money!).

This gardening recipe and project book is packed with over 80 ideas to naturally beautify your garden, using organic methods that regenerate your soil and revitalize your plants. By following the processes that are closest to nature, it brings the gardener in sync with the garden, allowing plants to thrive with less effort and less cost.

Garden Alchemy: 80 Recipes and concoctions for organic fertilizers, plant elixirs, potting mixes, pest deterrents, and moreGarden Alchemy: 80 Recipes and concoctions for organic fertilizers, plant elixirs, potting mixes, pest deterrents, and more by Stephanie Rose

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Quart Publishing Group- Cool Springs Press for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

I gleaned so much gardening knowledge from this book! I’d highly recommend it for any gardener’s library from novice to expert and anyone just looking for a leisurely book about starting and maintaining a garden.

I am more of a beginner to intermediate gardener myself and I’m always wanting to gain more insight into the how to of assessing and amending soil, growing a plant, and maintaining it for the long haul.

This was the perfect and most timely book for me. The information I’ve read online has been somewhat conflicting to me and this book does an excellent job at dispelling myths as well as reviewing personal and environmental safety concerns by employing homemade alternatives that are actually tried and true.

I loved the enthusiasm brought forth in the book along with the colorful displays, schematics, and step-by-step recipes that are easy to follow and complete, even if you begin with nothing or are in an area where resources are limited.

I will look forward to adding this one to my own gardening library and see myself referring to it time and time again, especially for the fun project ideas!

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Humor

The Second Worst Restaurant in France (Paul Stuart #2) by Alexander McCall Smith

In a delightful sequel to the best-selling comedic novel My Italian Bulldozer , we are in a French village where the local restaurant’s haute cuisine leaves a lot to be desired–and two books into an astounding ninth series from one of our most beloved authors.

Renowned cookbook writer Paul Stuart, renewed and refreshed from his time in Tuscany, has returned to Scotland to work on his new book, The Philosophy of Food in Six Easy Chapters. Writing, though, is complicated by Paul’s changed domestic circumstances. His editor and new girlfriend, Gloria, has moved in with him despite not being specifically invited, and she’s brought her two rather demanding Siamese cats. When Paul’s cousin, Chloe, suggests Paul visit her in the French countryside, Paul jumps at the chance. However, once he arrives, he finds his fortunes tangled up with the infamous local restaurant that gives the book its title. In this story about a man who prides himself on his taste finding delight in the most unexpected places, we have Alexander McCall Smith at his most witty and charming.

The Second Worst Restaurant in France (Paul Stuart, #2)The Second Worst Restaurant in France by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

A fun story. Loved the setting, the description of food, the research it must have required to get the details just right, the tension between characters… I wanted a bit more though from the actual story.

There was a lot going on but there was sort of a lack of depth. I didn’t feel like it was really taking me anywhere, at least somewhere and to an extent I was hoping it would, especially given all of the other lovely factors that built the story to be something of more grandeur in nature and theme.

I must say I adore the covers of Alexander McCall Smith’s books and will be looking forward to checking out more by this author!

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