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ARCs Art Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

You Are an Artist by Sarah Urist Green

A few years ago curator Sarah Urist Green left her office in the basement of an art museum to travel and visit a diverse range of artists, asking them to share prompts that relate to their own ways of working. The result is You Are an Artist, a journey of creation through which you’ll invent imaginary friends, sort books, declare a cause, construct a landscape, find your band, and become someone else (or at least try). Your challenge is to filter these assignments through the lens of your own experience and make art that reflects the world as you see it.

You don’t have to know how to draw well, stretch a canvas, or mix a paint colour that perfectly matches that of a mountain stream. This book is for anyone who wants to make art, regardless of experience level. The only materials you’ll need are what you already have on hand or can source for free.

You Are an Artist brings together more than 50 assignments gathered from some of the most innovative creators working today, including Sonya Clark, Michelle Grabner, The Guerrilla Girls, Fritz Haeg, Pablo Helguera, Nina Katchadourian, Toyin Ojih Odutola, J. Morgan Puett, Dread Scott, Alec Soth, Gillian Wearing, and many others.

You Are an ArtistYou Are an Artist by Sarah Urist Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

This was such a fantastic book! I’d recommend it to anyone, any age. It would make a great gift.

Especially during these times of staying at home, for homeschool parents, teachers, as well any individual experiencing creative blocks within any type of media, anyone looking to exercise their artistic mind and skills, really anyone who wants to tap into an expression of themselves through art, whether you’re feeling super creative or going through a creative block, even a dry spell.

As far as content was concerned, it was out of the box, almost quirky, sometimes the bizarre, the peculiar, the types of art and art exercises I wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to make or decorate my house with or be typically drawn to. With that said; however, the art exercises focused on the actual doing of challenges, rather than an in-depth review of art interpretation which I think was unique to the world of art books and one that I definitely could use more time learning to appreciate and enjoy. And I had a blast doing them!

I found the projects in this book bringing out my imagination, much more hidden and less explored areas of my art perspective and a great creative outlet for my life in general.

I should also mention, and it was a real plus to the projects contained in this book, that you wouldn’t have to go out and buy tons of art supplies to complete the projects. You can pretty much use any items you’d typically find in any junk drawer in the kitchen. Paper, scissors, pen/pencil, and also easily use your phone for any of the photo activities.

The activities brought out ideas, rich sentiment, variations of emotion, which would otherwise be unexpressed. Some of the more unconventional projects contained in this book, combined with the background of select artists, made each exercise thoroughly enjoyable, insightful, and stimulated my mind.

I enjoyed the facts about each artist who was mentioned. Somewhat of an encyclopedia-type approach, such as demographical data, like when and where they were born, but it did not discuss their influences, accomplishments, or personal/artistic challenges in-depth. Which was fine. Perhaps we will see some of this in a subsequent book, which would be awesome, along with some of the psychology behind the routes toward finding self-creativity/reflection for those who may want to explore personal style and what types of media may express or suit an artist’s voice in the way they’d like to achieve. Or which ones would be the best exercises for them to do on more than one occasions and how to vary them to bring out even more of the elements behind the reasoning of including them in the book.

I hope you get to check out this wonderfully fun book! You can see some of the exercises I did on my website and I will be adding more over time. Be sure to share which ones you did in the comments, I’d love to see your project creations!

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A select few exercises from the book.

Blindfolding myself and drawing my home. This, my childhood bedroom.

I had several decorative phases and I rearranged my furniture a lot as a child. Taking out drawers of clothes to lighten the load, lying on my back, and pushing everything around with the strength of my legs and feet.

I had a heavy furniture set. A 4-post Oak wood twin bed with matching dressers. One tall, one shorter with a huge mirror. The black, metal pulls were a decorative, almost whimsical, paisley type shape, hanging down like an elaborate door knocker. They rattled ridiculously every time a drawer was opened.

During my purple phase, I had lavender carpet. The bedspread, the pillows, the curtains, all matching flowy, almost sheer, lightweight, white background with tiny lavender heart print. It was my dream bedroom decor, one I had picked out from the Sears magazine. Barbie and Popples wall decals. The 80s were great years to be a child. My drawings haven’t changed much since then.

Blindfolded left, open-eyed right.

Which one is more expressive?

Perspective exercise.

These are photos of my mother’s purple irises in a few different perspectives.

Raiding the fridge.

Jalapeño poppers, need I say more? Oh my goodness these things are the best. My recipe for Stuffed Jalapeños (otherwise known as Jalapeño poppers, though this version is not battered and fried), can be found here.

So for the artistic exercise, I’d say the dramatic potential to everyday surroundings is captured in the photograph of which I took of two of them (I ate the 3rd early, leaving an oily rainbow glistening in its absence) and cooked them in the oven using a shallow variation of the classic cast iron dish.

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Let’s take a moment to talk about cast iron pans.

If you’ve ever had a set of well-seasoned cast iron pans, you’ll know how they speak for themselves. Passed down from generations. From grandparents or a good yard sale. Shiny, the dark color of iron, consistently uniform and smooth. Distributing heat so evenly for cooking through and better browning which is the mastery of cooking. Fried fish, chicken, sautéed asparagus, pancakes, cornbread, anything tempura. Stove to oven, oven to stove. The best ones you can fry an egg on, flipping it over with ease. No catching, no broken yolks, no messy unintentional mix of crispy edges and mushy scramble.

They are the embodiment of a sincere human quality.

Well-loved, they’ve seen a lot. As individuals, they get better with time and their true contribution to this age’s wisdom is that as a whole, they also have collective longevity, having been in production since the 5th century B.C.

The context is the yummiest thing one could ever eat. The aroma of peppers and sharp, richness of baked cheese. Opening the oven door with a whoosh, a hot puff toward my face. The best comfort food on the planet. Golden tops of filled depressions, surrounded by slightly shriveled edges. Backlit by the jarring oven light, carefully sliding them out from the center rack. Oh the anticipated heaviness of iron, I gently tip the pan to let them settle on my plate.

“So unbelievably scrumptious” I say.

The heat from the ribs and seeds I left in each half. Tender roasted pepper flesh and more bite effort into the tougher, almost earthen skin. Such a contrast with the mingling creaminess, the tanginess of cream cheese, bits of fresh, pungent garlic, a sprinkle of parmesan, the perfect delicate balance of saltiness.

A path I’ve never been on before.

Here is a photo of a nearby pond from an edge I had never been on before. The quietest place possible. Absorbing the silence.

In the center of the flower, farthest back, crouches a metallic-turquiose fly. It flew away before I could get it in focus. I love the beautiful sheen of these common green bottle flies.

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And just for fun, a photograph of a winged-insect I saw in my mother’s yard.

I just love morning light and the shapes I was seeing.

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Art Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Mastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for Photographers by Richard Garvey-Williams

What makes a great photo? Flicking through the pages of most popular photography magazines you might get the impression that there’s only one rule of importance – ‘the rule of thirds’. Indeed it appears that some will judge the merit of a photograph based almost solely on this. Rarely do you hear discussion about ‘visual weight’, ‘balance’, ‘negative space’, ‘depth’ and so on.

Author and professional photographer Richard Garvey-Williams argues that success lies in a combination of four elements: an impactful subject; dynamic composition; effective use of lighting; and, perhaps the most crucial, ability to invoke an emotional response in the viewer.

Citing examples gleaned from a study of history – the Ancient Greeks’ Golden Rule; Fibonacci’s mathematical ratio; and the principles known as the Gestalt theory – the author analyses the concepts, rules and guidelines that define successful composition in photography and offers practical guidance to achieving great results.

Mastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for PhotographersMastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for Photographers by Richard Garvey-Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent book on photography. I read this one for The Bite Shot Bookclub and really gleaned a lot from it.

It was super comprehensive which I devoured every morsel of, especially since it included vocabulary such as emergence, reification, multistability, amongst others, which I had no idea how to construct certain elements to make them come together to tell such a meaningful story.

I like how it showed side-by-side examples of cropped and uncropped images. The theoretical concepts were well explained. I really liked how it pointed out that in some instances, neither style was wrong but may be dependent on whether the photographer wanted to convey sense of space or sense of depth.

I enjoyed the bits about image manipulation and how to relate them to the interesting concepts of right and left, balance, and overall shape.

I think I would like to try photographing more shadows. The ideas explored about them in this book was great.

There is a lot packed into this book and I’d say this would be a foundational read for every photographer.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Cookbooks Featured Nonfiction

Brunch the Sunday Way by Alan Turner; Terence Williamson

For the first time London’s legendary champions of brunch share the recipes that have made Islington’s Sunday Café a runaway success. Covering everything from quick and easy staples to fabulous feasts, and taking inspiration from a global list of ingredients, this book will take you all the way from cracking an egg to flipping pancakes and roasting pork – all with spectacularly Instagrammable results!

Brunch the Sunday WayBrunch the Sunday Way by Alan Turner

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.

The recipes in this cookbook were just superb! Whether you are cooking for yourself, a duet, or entertaining for a crowd, beginner or chef, I think you’ll be inspired and satisfied.

I have yet to try every single one of the recipes, but I started with the ones leaning more toward the later brunch hours and they were so delicious! Be sure to check back on this post for continual updates as I continue to embark on the others I have yet to try out.

Many of the components of the meals worked like what I akin to a capsule wardrobe, being very versatile within a collection of recipes. The elements in each dish were easily carried over to other dishes, lending to a lot of additional flavor or varietal change.

I liked the spin on tradition and the decadence in each dish because they were layered in flexibility, making it easy to substitute an ingredient or pair down and still ending great final result.

With that said, it was somewhat challenging to gauge the quantity of both the components and the final dishes themselves. The elements and serving size results varied between each recipe as well, ranging from 2-12, which I wasn’t sure were always accurate either. I bake/cook a lot so it wasn’t horribly out of the way for me to figure out, but glancing ahead required additional planning/shopping/prepping as I found myself doubling and halving to meet the final specificity. Conversions were okay though because the balance of the flavor profiles were spot on, so even multiplying the recipes by a factor of 10 would still maintain the desired achievement in taste. And it all worked out fine though, because again, any leftovers and even the remnants themselves were easily repurposed in another dish, ie… the Mustard Aioli (my most favorite and latest sauce to put on everything so far!) goes well on anything and the whey for another recipe was specified for use in the Lacto-fermented Raspberry Soda so I liked that there was attention to minimizing waste.

I was so grateful to see that metric and imperial measurements were provided. Instructions were easy to follow. Photos were great with a moody, bistro type vibe. I really have enjoyed the selection of recipes and I enjoyed reading about the story behind the restaurant which inspired this cookbook. I must say I would have liked a little backstory of some of the recipes just to add a little more personality and to convey inspiration and additional interest.

Everything that I have tried so far has turned out with stellar results, whether original or with the substitutions I had to make. I’d highly recommend this cookbook for anyone. It would make a great gift!

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The best carrot cake! I got so many kudos for this cake! Gluten-free and doesn’t call for much sugar, in fact, I think if you even left sugar out it would still be just as spectacular. I’d recommend the cookbook just for this recipe!

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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 earrangement 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 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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Audiobooks Biography Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus is that rare thing: a bona fide visionary. His dream is the total eradication of poverty from the world. In 1983, against the advice of banking and government officials, Yunus established Grameen, a bank devoted to providing the poorest of Bangladesh with minuscule loans. Grameen Bank, based on the belief that credit is a basic human right, not the privilege of a fortunate few, now provides over 2.5 billion dollars of micro-loans to more than two million families in rural Bangladesh. Ninety-four percent of Yunus’s clients are women, and repayment rates are near 100 percent. Around the world, micro-lending programs inspired by Grameen are blossoming, with more than three hundred programs established in the United States alone.

Banker to the Poor is Muhammad Yunus’s memoir of how he decided to change his life in order to help the world’s poor. In it he traces the intellectual and spiritual journey that led him to fundamentally rethink the economic relationship between rich and poor, and the challenges he and his colleagues faced in founding Grameen. He also provides wise, hopeful guidance for anyone who would like to join him in “putting homelessness and destitution in a museum so that one day our children will visit it and ask how we could have allowed such a terrible thing to go on for so long.” The definitive history of micro-credit direct from the man that conceived of it, Banker to the Poor is necessary and inspirational reading for anyone interested in economics, public policy, philanthropy, social history, and business.

Muhammad Yunus was born in Bangladesh and earned his Ph.D. in economics in the United States at Vanderbilt University, where he was deeply influenced by the civil rights movement. He still lives in Bangladesh, and travels widely around the world on behalf of Grameen Bank and the concept of micro-credit.

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World PovertyBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Ray Porter which I’d highly recommend to anyone.

Super eye-opening!

This book is all about context and I loved that the author shared his life experiences and perspective with us. The entrepreneurial spirit portrayed in this book was amazing as it expanded on the ideas of seeing a need, having vision, satisfying personal curiosity, navigation of a unique academic/career path, all in the historical context of the country of Bangladesh gaining independence, human progress, and solving issues of poverty.

I really sought out to increase my social conscience with this one. It went into detail on topics that the people of Bangladesh have faced including famine, genocide, people-centered problems, misguided development, exploitation, suppressed creativity, human trust, personal relationships, behavioral change, women borrowers, how women and men differ in the socioeconomic realm, women’s issues related to hunger and poverty, the historic insecure social standing of Bengali women, and even their resiliency in natural disasters as a country.

Issues with foreign aid, the balance of economic and social power, and discussions about the quality of life were probably my most information-gaining aspects brought forth in this book.

I found points made on addressing population issues to curtail birth rates with a fear mongering approach incredibly insightful. I liked the display of supportive statistics showing how population rates doubled yet did not reflect twice as poor, but actually much more self-sufficient trends than in past times. Efforts focusing on improving economic status and quality of life became even more interesting concepts to me given that birthrates naturally fall as women gain equality and he goes into the underlying reasons for this.

It was the type of book that puts your own thoughts into words, ones I’ve pondered while serving in the developing world. Just the phrasing made about management and not lack of resources spoke volumes to me. Even if as a reader you don’t agree with some of the political perspectives, the common point problems remain, and he points out how the consequences of poverty are the same whether the poor of Chicago or the poor of Bangladesh.

Of course with the cheering on for the Grameen Bank and concept of micro-lending that it offers, it lacked a deep critical analysis of micro-lending. The personal anecdotes and struggles against opposition were there but I would have liked to have seen an expanded chapter on opposing viewpoints from a more objective point of view. Like a discussion of limitations or integration of a counter discussion just for the sake of it. This would have helped me avoid the sales pitchy vibe I got at times, especially toward the end. There also was a tendency to be narrowly-focused on the structures of society as the reason for poverty, neglecting to mention the role of personal responsibility and accountability, which I thought would have been a great subject to bring up for completion purposes.

And all-in-all, I don’t know if some of the ideas are as black-and-white or polarizing as they seem to be either. As a result it tended to be a tad over-idealistic.

I would have also liked to have had a different approach to the organization of the book. Example, what constitutes as poor criteria was not fully defined until the end. Other parts jumped around a bit, another example, phone/internet communication issues.

This would make an excellent discussion/book club book.

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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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Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Nonfiction

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.

Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

Lab GirlLab Girl by Hope Jahren

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness did I enjoy this book!

It was filled with fascinating facts about nature told in parallel with the author’s life story which included both personal and professional achievements.

It was told in a casual, conversation-like manner, touching on topics that a science nerd like myself can be easily entertained by all while alluding to deeper connections to life. The chapter organization was according to plant anatomy which I thought was unique take on a book about life circumstances and personal growth.

The philosophical and literary references gave way to giving a type of relatable persona to plants and trees which lingered in my mind. And the quirky stories about best friends and lab partners, so funny. They definitely added a lot of context and personality to the book and made me think of life’s most treasured moments.

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