Monday, October 10, 2016

Natural Color Is Amazing

As someone who loves working with fiber via spinning and knitting, I was really excited to get my hands on a copy of Sasha Duerr's Natural Color. What an invaluable resource for anyone who loves natural products, color, and care of the environment!

Duerr provides readers with a great introduction to the world of natural dying. The book is structured around the seasons, which makes sense since the plants used to make the dye come into their prime at different times throughout the growing season. I find it interesting also that natural dye colors will vary depending on the specific soil and climate so that different regions and areas will have different color pallets.

I learned several things from reading this book. I really had very little sense of just how many natural plant sources provide such an array of color! I did not realize that one could, in several cases, alter the color outcome of the dye pot by adding different ingredients into the pot. I found it amazing that there are several sources of natural color that don't need anything added to the dye pot to make them colorfast. Nature is amazing!

Along with the various plants to gather seasonally, Duerr offers readers preparation instructions for getting your fabrics and fibers ready to be dyed. In each seasonal section of the book, there are a handful of "recipes"--hands on projects with instructions for dying anything from place mats and napkins to curtains, shirts and even a hat! Duerr provides tips within the recipes and in the introduction to each section's natural dye materials as to which will work the best for dying plant based fibers (cotton, linen, etc.) versus animal fibers (wool, alpaca, silk, etc.).

As someone who plans to keep this book and reference it often for upcoming fun with natural dying of yarns for truly unique projects, the one thing I recognize I am going to need by way of additional reading material to make the best use of Natural Color, is a field guide to plants in my area. Duerr's book does not offer a lot of help in identifying the specific plants by sight if you want to go out and gather some materials. It is important to have said guide so that you can avoid any "look alike" plants which may be poisonous. (For instance, where I live there is a plant which resembles Queen Anne's Lace which can leave blisters where it comes into contact with skin.)

If you are interested in natural dying and the colors produced by nature's pallet, you will definitely want to get a copy of Natural Color. My thanks to Blogging For Books for the free copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

A beautiful book of seasonal projects for using the brilliant spectrum of colors derived from plants to naturally dye your clothing and home textiles.

Organized by season, Natural Color is a beautifully photographed guide to the full range of plant dyes available, drawn from commonly found fruits, flowers, trees, and herbs, with accompanying projects. Using sustainable methods and artisanal techniques, designer, artist, and professor Sasha Duerr details achievable ways to apply these limitless color possibilties to your home and wardrobe. Whether you are new to dyeing or more practiced, Duerr’s clear and simple ingredients lists, step-by-step instructions, and detailed breakouts on techniques such as shibori, dip-dye, and block printing will ensure beautiful results. With recipes to dye everything from dresses and sweaters to rugs and napkins, Natural Color will inspire fashion enthusiasts, home decorators, textile lovers, and everyone else who wants to bring more color into their life.

About the Author . . .

SASHA DUERR is an artist, designer, and advocate for the slow fashion movement who works with organic dyes, alternative fibers, and the creative reuse of materials. She is a professor at the California College of the Arts with a joint appointment in textiles and fine arts. Her work has been shown in galleries and museums across the United States and abroad. In 2007 Duerr founded the Permacouture Institute with the Trust for Conservation Innovation to encourage the exploration of fashion and textiles from the ground up. Her extensive work with plant-based dyes and ecological principles through local land-based sources and community has been featured in the New York Times, American Craft Magazine, Selvedge, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper

I loved this charming, intimate story of life in the wake of the loss of a spouse and coming to terms with memories of your loved one versus new-found facts of the life lived before you. Wonderful!

You can find a bit more details about the plot of this delightful tome below in the "From the Publisher" section. I found it to be a fresh and surprising tale which was surprisingly easy to identify with. You live with an intimate partner for all of your adult life, but may never know fully who that person was before they met you. You may have inklings, snapshots, and traces...but not having been a part of that time/place, you will always have only the perspective of an outsider looking in.

The writing is so well done, I had complete visions of each character drawn in detail in my mind's eye. How I chuckled when Arthur was dodging his neighbor's knock on the door! And the sight of him stuffed into the back of the neighbor kid's car zooming along on a trip he's not sure he really wanted to be on! These genuinely funny moments are matched by more serious, contemplative, even poignant moments of reflection, grief, and personal growth which are all a part of Arthur's journey in the book. It is truly excellent!

From the Publisher . . .

Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same grey slacks and mustard tank top, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.

But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the story behind each of the charms – and the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met. It’s a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

About the Author . . .

Phaedra qualified firstly as a stained glass artist before gaining her professional Marketing qualifications. She has worked as a waitress, stained glass designer, film festival organiser and communications manager.

She enjoyed her first real writing success when she entered and won several short story competitions, and she now writes full time.

Phaedra lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son, where she enjoys walking, eating chocolate, and arts and crafts. Her idea for The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper emerged as she showed her own childhood charm bracelet to her young son and told him the stories behind each of the charms.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Women In Science Is Awesome!

This book is awesome! For all those who are working to get girls into STEM, this is a valuable aid. Women In Science contains concise yet thorough introductions to 50 women who made a difference in a variety of scientific fields gathered together in one, fun and funky book.

Younger readers will be amazed at the rich and diverse history of women who have been at the forefront in various scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematics fields. Heck, this 50 year old reader was astounded to learn of some of these ladies! This will undoubtedly push these readers to dive in deeper either to specific types of science that will pique their curiosity or to learn more about the lives and times of these fascinating pioneers.

For older readers, this book is an invaluable reference tool which provides quick and concise overviews of the woman and her accomplishments....a perfect jumping off point sure to instigate further research.

Let me add that I love the layouts, the font, and really EVERYTHING about this book!! It should be a part of every elementary and middle school library and every teacher's classroom collection. If you have a daughter, granddaughter, niece or other girl in your life, please get her a copy of this book! If you are raising boys to celebrate the girls and women in their lives, get them a copy of this book!

My thanks to Blogging For Books for the free copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

A charmingly illustrated and educational book, Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more!

About the Author . . .

Rachel Ignotofsky is an illustrator and author based in beautiful Kansas City, MO. She grew up in New Jersey on a healthy diet of cartoons and pudding. She graduated with honors from Tyler School of Art's graphic design program in 2011. Now Rachel works for herself and spends all day and night drawing, writing and learning as much as she can. Her work is inspired by history and science. She believes that illustration is a powerful tool that can make learning exciting. Rachel hopes to use her work to spread her message about education, gender equality and scientific literacy.

Rachel is always available to answer questions or comments. email her at:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Two-fer: Super Heroes & Strange Bedfellows

Wouldn'the it be great to have a super power? What would you pick? Superhuman strength? Invisibility? X-ray vision?

Now just imagine your whole family has super powers! And they fight crimes! And you somehow get the lamest super power EVER!

Kids will easily slip into the fantasy of the story and will, undoubtedly, identify with Peter in his dilemma of feeling awkward and inadequate. I think they will also soak up the positive message this book offers!

From the Publisher . . .

Everyone in Peter Powers' family has super awesome superpowers. His dad controls fire with his mind, and his mom can fly. His big brother makes copies of himself, and his little sister is super-strong. And his baby brother even turns invisible! But all Peter can do is--this is really embarrassing--make ice cubes with his fingertips.

When Captain Tornado comes to town and begins robbing banks, will Peter Powers and his totally lame abilities step up to save the day--or will he get cold feet? Join Peter Powers and his fantastic family for their first action-packed and fun-filled adventure to find out!

Peter Powers and His Not-So-Super Powers is the first in a new chapter book series of exciting stories about a young boy who has the worst superpower ever. Each story is full of humor, action, and fun, but the charm can be found in the heartfelt message about the power of family, friends, and having confidence.

About the Authors . . .

KENT CLARK is a superhero by day, and a writer by night. When he's not getting cats out of trees or saving the world from monstrous alien supervillains, he's reading a book. He also has a terrible weakness-he can't say no to tacos, comic books, or video games.

BRANDON T. SNIDER writes books about Transformers, Minions and even Batman! When he's not writing superhero stories, he's either on TV or eating as much cheese as possible in order to unlock cheese-related superpowers-which is not working.

DAVE BARDIN is an illustrator by day and, well, night too. When he's not drawing in his Stronghold of Seclusion he patrols the streets, protecting the innocent and vanquishing evil. Strangely, the source of his powers is also his one weakness-MASHED POTATOES!

This book was hard to put down!

Unfortunately, instances of child abductions make big news and most everyone is familiar with at least one case....and for many people and communities, the familiarity hits much too close to home. Too often the news stories end in tragedy (the discovery of a body) or leave everyone in heartbreaking limbo. But what happens when the child is found, whether in days, weeks, or years?

Mathieu takes readers on the journey of recovery from such trauma through the eyes of Ethan, who was kidnapped at age 11, four years ago,--and Caroline, who's brother Dylan, was taken several days ago by the same man. The questions, the experiences, the conversations, and the visceral reactions triggered by PTSD are heartbreakingly real and so well written!

Written for a YA audience, I believe the book appeals to a wider audience as I found it quite compelling!

From the Publisher . . .

A tragic kidnapping leads to an unlikely friendship in this novel about finding light in the midst of darkness from the author of The Truth About Alice.

When eleven-year-old Dylan Anderson is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of fifteen-year-old Ethan Jorgensen, who had gone on a bike ride four years earlier and had never been seen again. Dylan's older sister, Caroline, can't help but wonder what happened to her brother, who has nonverbal autism and is not adjusting well to life back home. There's only one person who knows the truth: Ethan. But Ethan isn't sure how he can help Caroline when he is fighting traumatic memories of his own captivity. Both Caroline and Ethan need a friend, however, and their best option just might be each other.

About the Author . . .

Hi! I’m young adult author Jennifer Mathieu (pronounced Muh-two, but if you speak French you can pronounce it better than that. Sadly, I don’t speak French.) I’m a writer and English teacher who lives in Texas with my family. A native of the East Coast and a former journalist, I enjoy writing contemporary young adult fiction that treats teenagers like real people. I love to eat and hate to cook.

My thanks to the publishers for the complimentary copies I received in exchange for honest reviews.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mixing Up Drinks & Danger

It seems appropriate that Quirk books publishes this novel with a plot like nothing else with which I am familiar with. Imagine: the real guardians of your neighborhood are the local bartenders who use their special talents of mixology to keep the supernatural beasts and demons at bay, thus protecting humanity and those particularly vulnerable folks who imbibe, make merry or drown their sorrows.

The idea was so novel, it drew me right in. Paul Krueger's book, Last Call At the Nightshade Lounge, has been deemed "a novel for new adults"--which is to say it is intended to bridge the gap between YA readers and "adult" readers. Think millennials I guess.

You can read the plot synopsis form the publisher below. As a work of paranormal fantasy, I enjoyed Kruger's lot as something new and fresh. The bar scene is not, and never really has been, a part of my life, so I had to rely on the pop culture images of neighborhood pubs and local watering holes one gathers from television and movies to imagine many of the settings in the book.

I tried to figure out how I would feel about the characters if I were the 20-something age of Bailey, Zane, and their fellow barkeeps. From the perspective of a 50 year old, they seem like the worst cliches attributed to their generation: at best, not ambitious, at worst, lazy; unsure of what to do with their education yet having some sense of entitlement; unable to leave behind their college or even high school days and meet the adult expectations of society (so looking a bit spoiled).

I really enjoyed the bartender notes and drink recipes interspersed throughout. It was fun information and added to the sense that different liquors provide different magical properties. The inclusion of this material added depth to the plot that this magical know-how could perhaps be the ancient knowledge of a secret fellowship passed down through the centuries.

My thanks to the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

In this sharp and funny urban fantasy novel, booze is magic, demons are real, and millennial Bailey Chen joins a band of monster-fighting Chicago bartenders instead of finding a “real” post-college job.

Bailey Chen is fresh out of college with all the usual new-adult demons: no cash, no job offers, and an awkward relationship with Zane, the old friend she kinda-sorta hooked up with during high school.

But when Zane introduces Bailey to his monster-fighting bartender friends, her demons become a lot more literal. It turns out that evil creatures stalk the city streets after hours, and they can be hunted only with the help of magically mixed cocktails: vodka grants super-strength, whiskey offers the power of telekinesis, and rum lets its drinker fire blasts of elemental energy. But will all these powers be enough for Bailey to halt a mysterious rash of gruesome deaths? And what will she do when the safety of a “real world” job beckons?

This sharp and funny urban fantasy is perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and grown-up readers of Harry Potter. Includes 14 recipes from a book of ancient cocktail lore.

About the Author . . .

Paul Krueger is, down to the very bottom of his black little heart, a city rat. Raised in and around Chicago, he got his learning on in New York before scuttling off to Los Angeles, where he lives now.

His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies SWORD & LASER and NOIR RIOT. His debut novel, LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTSHADE LOUNGE, is due out in June of 2016 from Quirk Books. It’s about a secret society of bartenders who fight demons with alcohol-magic, and yes, it’s very much autobiographical.*

His non-writing hobbies include cooking, playing ukulele, Pathfinder, and boring strangers with long, involved stories about his cat. He’s also a musician, singing lead for the Adventure Time-themed punk band Lemonbadd.

If found, Paul should be returned to Ms. Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary, who is very patient with him.

*for a very loose/nonexistent value of “autobiographical”

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tales From the Scaremaster

If your middle grade reader likes a mystery or books with a frightful edge, they are going to enjoy the latest from B. A. Frade (great pen name, no?). Werewolf Weekend introduces readers to Emma and Sam, twelve year old besties. Sam is about to have the best weekend ever with her parents away and her 16 year old cousin, Cassie, in charge. Emma, on the other hand, is about to have the worst weekend ever, staying with her elderly neighbor while her mom is away for work.

When a mysterious librarian gives Emma a new journal, however, things magically fall into place for a weekend like none other!

Werewolf Weekend is a quick read. Middle grade readers will likely find the characters easy to relate to. The plot moves right along, keeping interest levels high. I felt there was good resolution to the various story lines too. The epilogue was, I assume, standard protocol for the series and a great teaser. I will be happy to recommend this book to the younger readers I know!

My thanks to the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

Twelve-year-old Emma is excited to spend a weekend away at best friend Samantha's house for an epic sleepover with Sam and her out-of-town cousins. But things take a turn for the spooky when Emma's peculiar new book, Tales from the Scaremaster, shows it has a mind of its own-and weaves a story starring Emma and some cousins hiding a very creepy secret!

When the story from the book starts coming to life, and with only hours before the full moon rises, it's up to Emma to figure out the secrets of the Scaremaster. Can she solve this wolfish mystery, find a way to outwit the Scaremaster, and stop a werewolf in its tracks...or will she end up as wolf bait?

Frightfully funny tales come to life in this thrilling new series, perfect for fans of Goosebumps.

About the Author . . .

Growing up on the edge of a graveyard, in a house rumored to be haunted, B.A. Frade seemed destined to write spooky stories. B.A. spent years investigating haunted attics, mysterious creatures, and things that go "boo" in the night to become an authority on all things creepy and scary. B.A. lives and writes in a location we promised to keep a secret (in case any ghouls come asking with mischief in mind).

New York Times bestselling author Stacia Deutsch has written more than a hundred children's books. In addition to her award-winning chapter book series Blast to the Past, Stacia ghostwrites stories in many popular series and has written junior movie novels for blockbusters such as Batman and Ghostbusters. She has an MFA from Western State Colorado University, where she currently teaches fiction writing. Stacia promises that no werewolves or books were harmed (or caused harm) in the writing of this book.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Solve the Mystery Alongside The Nocturnals

A fox, a sugar glider, and a pangolin are "The Brigade"--a group of friends pledged to stick together through thick and thin in order to protect and defend the animals of the valley in which they live. Younger readers will be enthralled by the story of friendship, bravery, and determination when the gang is called into action at the sign and mention of a great beast who's movements shake the earth and spread ash on everything. Older readers will be challenged to make inferences and piece the puzzle together as the three friends sniff out and unearth clues about the true identity of the mysterious beast terrifying the animals all around them.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I found myself coming up with all sorts of discussion questions and I think this book would make a great resource for reading groups or classroom use. Dawn, the fox, shows many examples of restraint which are worthy of further examination. Polyphema's so-called visions and proclamations (and Dawn's skepticism of them) could lead to some interesting discussion. The book asks readers to consider what makes them afraid, why someone might descriminate, the nature of loyalty and friendship, why it is important to get all the facts before jumping to conclusions, etc.

My thanks to the publisher, Fabled Films, for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

When a violent jolt fractures the earth, the Nocturnal Brigade sets out to investigate its source. Along their journey, Dawn, Bismark, and Tobin meet an unfamiliar reptile—a tuatara—who reveals that a giant beast caused the destruction and will soon strike again. The tuatara, with her special insights, is the only one who can help them stop this fearsome predator… but can she be trusted? With help from an owl, the jerboas and a few kiwis, a trap is set since surrender is not an option against this relentless beast.

Lexile Level 580L — Fountas & Pinnell Level T

About the Author . . .

Tracey Hecht is a writer and entrepreneur who has written, directed and produced for film. When she isn’t writing she can be found hiking, reading or spending time with her family. Tracey currently splits her time between New York City and Oquossoc, Maine with her husband, four children and three pets—none of which are a sugar glider.