Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts

Friday, July 5, 2019

101 More Mixed Media Techniques by Cherril Doty, Heather Greenwood, Monica Moody, Marsh Scott


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I'm not the kind fo reviewer who gets a print version to review, which is fine, but it does mean I get some slightly-askew perspectives on a lot of books, and the thing that caught my eye immediately with this one was the table of content. It told me that this book is designed as a print book with no thought given to electronic format readers because there is no click option to go to a specific part of the book from the content nor to return to the content, unfortunately, although I guess you can always use the search function if you know what you're searching for. That aside it was well laid out and organized.

The book opens with a word or two on materials and supplies, and then quickly launches into the various sections, which cover borders and edges; embossing and casting; drips, drops, and sprays; aging and antiquing; pens, pencils and Pastels; yarn and string; fabric and fibers; using metals; resists and masking; alcohol inks; watercolor monotypes, pyrography; washi tape; alternative surfaces; spray inks; ephemera; and finally gelatos - and I'm guessing that's not desert!

As you might guess from this, I'm not a professional artist or any kind of artist really, but I love to learn, and I learned a lot from this, including some new terms/techniques I'd never encountered before despite reading a lot of art books! Each of the above sections is broken-down into actual techniques for achieving the required effects. For example, borders and edges covers such techniques as cut, torn, and colored edges; burned edges and sharp borders; colored border effects; and applied borders.

Each section is subdivided this way with a simple, but detailed path working towards the desired outcome with step-by-step instructions augmented by photographs. For example, the section on embossing covers not only embossing by hand, but also by vehicle - yes, setting up your materials in front of the vehicle tire and driving over it to create the emboss. This section also includes making your own pulp paper, creating molds and using found objects. The section on aging and antiquing employs several methods, including recycling teabags. This is something soccer player Arrogant Alex would not be able to appreciate, I suspect!

This isn't just about method and technique - it's fundamentally about art, and some of the art work including as examples here is quite remarkable regardless of what technique was used to produce it. The picture on the tea bag antiquing page is really quite outstanding, for example, as is the ocean and beach in the section on pastels, the rose in the 3D fabric effects section, the bird and the butterfly in the candy foil accents section, the chicken in the wax-resists section, the two pictures in the cling-wrap effects, the amazing image in the using yupo section (plus now I know what yupo is!). The stag and the butterfly in the pyrography section are noteworthy. I'm not a big fan of 'day of the dead' style art, but if you are, you'll no doubt love the decorated 'coffin' in the 'burn outside the box' section.

And on that score, if this book does nothing else for you, it will unquestionably get you out of any rut you might be in, inspiring you to try something new and experiment more. Washi tape, for example, is something I learned of only very recently, and the section here on it is short, but it contains four different items on the uses of this tape. Alternative surfaces is another out-of-box experience section, covering the ABC's: acrylic, burlap, clay as well as fabric, styrofoam, wood, muslin, and glass - always a fun medium to explore in art. A word about the flammability (especially in a paint environment) and non-biodegradability of styrofoam would have been appreciated. It's a nasty material.

So overall, the book is comprehensive and really helpful. It covers a lot of ground in relatively simple steps, and will no doubt make a major contribution to any artist who wants to stretch themselves or improve on techniques they may already possess. I commend it as a worthy and education read.


Show Me Cool Magic by Jake Banfield


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a fun book in the end. it got off to a bit of a slow start for me when I realized that almost half of the book was taken up with information about staging a magic act rather than magic tricks. I started to wonder how many tricks there could be in the remaining few pages at this rate, but in the end there was a bunch of them, and while many of them are really for a young performer, and one of them was the same card trick twice, just done in a slightly different way, some of them are quite sneaky and sophisticated, so overall, I think this is a winner.

The tricks are varied and are explained by means of written instructions augmented by photographs, so in general it's clear what's happening. The trick section of the book opens with a discussion of basics covering card, coin, and 'mind reading' as well as magician's tools and troubleshooting - always good to have handy! It then lays out the tricks in three sections: openers, middles, and finales. Good to be organized!

The tricks themselves are fun. The openers include producing four aces out of a shuffled pack, reading your subject's pulse (not really - that's the illusion!), a body illusion, a vanishing pen - a neat and simple trick which is relatively easy to do with little practice. Once you've mastered that, you can also master the cut and restored shoelace trick! There is a total of ten tricks in the 'openers' section.

In the 'middles' are eleven more tricks, including the lie detector(!), jumping rings, stacked kings, pencil through a banknote, and how to make a coin appear to enter a sealed drink can! Yes, it can be done with some practice and trickery! 'Finales' brings a further nine tricks, including prediction and the always amazing cup-and-ball trick, with a surprise! In short, there is some thirty tricks here, ranging from simple, but effective, to rather more complex, but nothing that a willing child cannot do with some dedication and lots of practice. That's the real secret here: practice until you're confident, and once you master one trick, others will come a lot easier.

It doesn't matter whether you're planning on putting on a 'professional show' or you just want to learn some neat tricks to impress your friends and family, there is something here for all occasions. It's all about misdirection and illusion, and with some reading and practice, you can emulate the professionals. I commend this as a fun, worthy, and education read!


Play, Make, Create, A Process-Art Handbook by Meri Cherry


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

It's very rare for me to be disappointed by a crafts or arts book from Quarto Publishing Group, and this one is yet another winner, full of fun, color, adventure and exploration. And all this from simple ingredients. The book covers painting and crafts projects as well as out-and-out fun projects such as making your own play dough, and your own slime!

An author with the most amazing of names - Meri Cherry - brings over forty projects - she calls them invitations, because really that's what they are: invitations for younger children (and likely older ones as well) to indulge in process art. What is that exactly? The author explains, but in short it really means the point of these projects isn't the destination; it's the journey - the learning of self-sufficiency, the growing of confidence, the freedom of exploration, and the joy of creativity.

The projects include collage, salt painting, self portraits int he mirror, covering a picture with clear plastic and paining on top of that to augment the original image, drawing with eyes closed, creating 'artist trading cards', and oobleck. Yeah, that one caught me by surprise because I'd never heard it called that before and I'm not a fan of Dr Seuss. The technical term for it is a non-Newtonian fluid, which is how I know it, but oobleck works better with kids! The thing is this term was introduced before it was defined (with a recipe!) on page 40, so I was lost for a while on that one!

That aside, the book was amazing, fun, and inventive, with internal links to things that are referenced in the text. These links never have a link back to where you were, unfortunately, but my app has a feature which allows you to return to the original page after a jump like that. The problem is that Bluefire reader - an app I normally swear by for reading ebooks, got into trouble when I reached page forty - I think it was.

It wouldn't swipe past there for love or money (I tried both!) and even when I slid the little bar at the bottom of the screen, the image wouldn't switch to the next page. I don't know what that was all about. I was able to download the ARC to Adobe Digital Editions and finish reading it in there, fortunately. Just FYI! I'm not the kind of reviewer who merits a print book, which is fine with me, but it does occasionally lead to technical difficulties!

The book covers a large variety of projects, including ice sculpture (after a fashion - no chain saws involved!), volcanic eruptions, potions, and crazy contraptions in addition to a bunch of regular art ideas, so no matter what your charge is into, this book doubtlessly has a bunch of things that will interest them. I commend it as fun, educational, and confidence-building. The book even includes tips about clean up (or avoiding it by staying clean, which is even better), so what's not to like?!


Thursday, July 4, 2019

When We Became Humans by Michael Bright, Hannah Bailey


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Erratum:
On the introductory page What's a Human?' - in the section on hominins, the text reads, "Humans and are closest relatives are called hominins" I suspect it should read, 'our' closest relatives.

Written well by Bright and illustrated nicely by Bailey, this book tells of the evolution of humans over 65 million years - and yes, that's when the first mammals date back to! People often say that it was only the destruction of the dinosaurs in the penultimate extinction event (we're going through the ultimate one right now) that 'allowed' mammals to evolve to become today's dominant class of living things (aside from bacteria and viruses, that is. And beetles! LOL!).

I'm not sure I buy that. Dinosaurs, in one form or another date back to some quarter billion years ago, and they didn't start to become dominant themselves until a major extinction event from which they profited, in much the same way we profited. But could mammals have become dominant if Dinosaurs had not died out? I think they could, but there isn't any way to really know! perhaps a more interesting questions is: would humans ever have evolved if dinosaurs had not died out?

This books isn't about speculation though - it's about what actually happened as testified to by the abundant evidence we have for primate and human evolution from fossils, from genetics, and from other sources. This books starts tracing that lineage from the earliest mammals such as Purgatorius (sounds like a Roman gladiator, right?!) to Archicebus, to Aegyptopithecus. Here's a tip - any complicated fossil name like that which ends in 'pithecus' - that means it was some sort of ape or monkey. This one - the fossil of it, that is, was first found in Egypt, hence the start of the name.

A couple of others were Proconsul and Pierolapithecus. Yeah - not all names follow the same rules! Proconsul was a monkey but it cheated a bit because there was an ape in London zoo when it was discovered, that was named Consul, so this was named to indicate it came earlier than modern apes. Duhh!

In language suitable for younger children, the book explains clearly not only what we know, but how we know what we know. Evidence from anatomy, from old DNA, from comparing skeletons, and even from studying modern DNA and how modern organisms are related, can reveal a lot, when you know what you're looking for and have a competent scientific understanding. Those without such an education will draw false conclusions and even make things up. Those people are not scientists, and don't know what they're talking about. Stick with a solid 150 or so years of evolutionary science, a steadily mounting trail of reliable evidence, and a solid track record, and you won't go wrong!

Next up comes the earliest precursors of modern humans such as Australopithecus - there it is again. You now know the pithecus part, but what of the Australo-? Well, what sounds like that? Australia! That doesn't mean it was found in Australia, but that word - that prefix, means of the south. Australia's in the south and this specimen was found in the south - but of Africa. Ah you ask, so why isn't it called Africanus? Well, there is actually one called Africanus! Can't use the same name twice!

The names kept on coming. At one point there was almost no fossil evidence for human evolution; now, scientists are finding it regularly as they learn more about where to look. The book discusses these findings, including what these primitive people ate (and yes, by this point they were more like people than like apes), where they lived, and how they worked with tools.

The scientist sho study these things have found evidence of rock shelters where primitive humans lived the fires they made, and the tools they created. They even named one species 'handyman' - Homo for 'human' and 'habilis' for handy - that is, they were good with their hands. The name is often shortened to H. habilis - the first part always with a capital letter, the second part always lower case. They weren't handy because they lived close by and could come over and fix something for you at short notice! Once the 'H's started showing up, many more were found and this book does a great job of laying out the story, and illustrating how they might have looked - remember we have only the skeletons, so we have to kind of guess how they looked, and one guess is as good as another!

H. heildebergensis and the Neanderthals are discussed next, the mysterious Denisovans, and even the 'hobbit' people - H. floresiensis! But you know what? All of these have disappeared, leaving humans: H. sapiens, as the sole surviving member of our genus (the genus is the first bit, the H, the species is the second bit, the sapiens. If there's a third bit, its a sub-species. All modern humans, no matter whether they look exactly like you or a bit different, no matter what country they live in or what they wear or believe, or eat or do everyday, are this same species. There's a chart toward the end of the book laying out all of these human and near-human species.

The book discusses how this all began in Africa, how the giant mammals of the world died out, and how humans spread from Africa to occupy every content on the planet - the most wide-spread single species there is. Maybe apart from rats. And mice. And bacteria. And viruses! I guess that's quite a few of us, huh?! There's a nice map showing how humans spread across the globe near the end of the book.

We went on - as the book makes clear, to refine our tools, to invent the wheel, to invent glue to hold weapons together to go hunting and to protect ourselves, to beginning agriculture, to domesticating animals - including the wolf which we now keep as dogs - and to inventing video games. Wow! Actually the book doesn't say that last bit - I added it myself. Bu we learned how to make things and then trade them with other communities to get other stuff that we couldn't find or make. Then came trade tariffs. Actually, I added that bit as well!

We went far beyond that over time to grow into and create the complicated world humans inhabit now. The book discusses healthcare, jewelry, art, and monument building, and then writing came along, of course, so we could record everything we did in order to benefit future generations - and this book is one of those results! I commend it as a fun, interesting, educational, and very worthy read.


Bad Machinery Volume 4 The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

Another outing for Charlotte, Linton, Jack, Mildred, Shauna, and Sonny, who are now in the second year at Griswold Grammar school and marveling at how tiny and young the new first years look. One new kid, Lem, is decidedly strange. He eats onions like they're apples and suddenly, everyone starts thinking he's a cool guy - including Shauna's previously disparaging friends.

But where are Shauna's compatriots? Why do they all seem utterly preoccupied with other things and uncaring about a "mystery"? Shauna, it seems, will have to go it alone, or recruit new people onto her team, because one by one, it seems, even her closest friends are being won over to Lem's onion-eating circle. What the heck is going on? One way or another, Shauna's going to find out.

After a weird start to this series several years back, and a hiccup several years back minus two, I finally got really into it over the last few days, and now I intend to check out the remaining three volumes.


Bad Machinery Volume 3 The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This is volume one of the graphic novel series for which I reviewed volume six yesterday. The volumes are, in order: The Case of the Team Spirit, The Case of the Good Boy, The Case of the Simple Soul, The Case of the Lonely One, The Case of the Fire Inside, The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor, and The Case of the Forked Road. The publication as print volumes, of the collected web comics began in 2013, and at least one was published every year through 2017. Since that was over two years ago, I'm thinking this series is done now.

When I posted the review of volume six yesterday, I couldn't get away from the idea that Bad Machinery was something I'd tangled with before - and I'm not talking about an old motor vehicle! So I looked back in my reviews and discovered that I'd reviewed two of these, one back in 2014 and the other in 2016, the first negative, the second positive, but I'd never got back with any volumes after that.

When I'd read it for the first time, volume 3 (which is this volume) I hadn't rated it very highly and I forgot about it, but now having read it again, I'm forced to change my view. I think maybe I've warmed to the characters and the story-telling in the meantime - or maybe before was a mean time and now isn't? I dunno! But no! This doesn't mean I'm going to return to previously negatively-rated books for the purpose of re-reading and re-rating all of them! Yuk!

When I initially read it, I was trading the thing back and forth with my son (and the format of these books is unwieldy!), each of us reading a section, and neither of us had been very impressed with it. This time I read it on my own and as part of these three volumes I'm reviewing today, so I think maybe I was on a roll.

In this volume, the usual crew, Linton Baxter, Sonny Craven, Jack Finch, Charlotte Grote, Mildred Haversham, and Shauna Wickle come at the same problem - a fire-starter - from different angles, and end-up solving the problem. One issue is a real live troll - who looks like a brawny, neckless human, is living under a bridge. The other issue is that empty barns are being burned down. Of course there are many other issues!

The gang get by with their usual wry and dry take on life, their usual weird situations, and their usual humor. Unlike in late 2014, this amused me this time around and I commend it as a worthy read.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Bad Machinery Volume 6 The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This graphic novel amused me from the outset, even more than I had hoped it would from a quick scan of it in the library. This is volume 6, which happened to be the first (and only one) I saw there, so now I've requested the first couple of volumes to start this from the beginning and see if I still like it when I don't arrive at it ass-backwards (or is it arse-backwards, since this is a Brit publication?).

This volume is centered on The Night Creeper, a grinning ghoul who seems to prey on the townsfolk of Tackleford leaving them gaga (in the old fashioned sense - they're not singing "Sh-sh-sha-a-low" or anything like that, understand...). All they're left with is vacant looks and a grin worthy of the amusing 1961 "horror" movie Mr Sardonicus.

This whole thing began as a web comic in 2009, and blossomed from there into over half-a-dozen hefty volumes now. I loved the sly humor - and being British-born, understood most of it despite also being a long-term ex-pat. It was very much my kind of humor though. The only thing I didn't like was the large format of the comic!

It was not only oversized as compared with most graphic novels, it was quite thick and in landscape format to boot, being more akin to a large place mat than a graphic novel, and it had the same lack of rigidity to it, meaning it was quite tiresome to try to hold while reading. You really need a table, a lap, or even a lectern to read one of these things. The struggle was worth it for the humor, though. I commend this as a worthy read.


Primates : the fearless science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani, Maris Wicks


Rating: WORTHY!

Louise Leakey, the renowned, if controversial Kenyan paleoanthropologist, got three things unquestionably right - he talked Jane Goodall into studying chimpanzees, recruited Dian Fossey to study gorillas, and Biruté Galdikas to study orangutans. Each of these three were each self-starting groundbreakers in their respective fields: hard-workers who contributed immensely to our understanding of these three major primates, which in turn helped us to understand both ourselves and the primitive hominids that Leakey himself was studying.

I've read and enjoyed books written by each of these three "Trimates" as Leakey referred to them, and so it might seem strange to then go on and read a necessarily limited graphic novel about them, but I admire them immensely and I found this book amusing, educational, and well-worth reading as an introduction. It's suitable for young and old alike, and so serves its purpose well. It's divided into three sections, one for each of them, beginning with Goodall, then moving on to Fossey and Galdikas in turn, including sections in between where all three meet, albeit on very rare occasions. You can find photos online of these encounters along with much material about their research.

Only Galdikas, the youngest of the three, still remains in the field so to speak, having married a "local" and taken up residence down there, and she continues her research. Fossey was murdered brutally on St Stephen's day in 1985, and Goodall is in her mid-eighties, but still an energetic advocate for chimpanzees. I enjoyed this book and commend it as a worthy read.


Bird's Eye View The Natural World by John Farndon, Paul Boston


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Erratum:
"Pampas deer grass" should be ‘pampas deer graze' I suspect on the South American page.

This colorful and educational book is quite literally what it says: a bird's eye view of various places of beauty and fascination in the world, starting in the Florida Everglades and going down over South America, out to a Pacific atoll, then across the Pacific to Uluru Rock in central Australia, up over the Guilin Hills in China, across the Asian Steppes, down over the Himalayas, through East Africa, across to Wales, on to Northern Scandinavia, back to the Irish coast, and then to France.

At each stop we learn about the animals and plants that live there, and a little about the ecology and how the land got to be that way at that location. It was unusual, fun, and very interesting, and hopefully it will lure readers into learning more. I don't think anyone who has read this book or anything like it can fail to see what horrible things we're doing to our planet and how urgent it is that we stop doing those things and rectify the evil we've already perpetrated. I commend this fully as a very worthy read.


The Classroom Mystery by Tracy Packiam Alloway, Ana Sanfelippo


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

In what's looking like a series here, I got the welcome chance to review a second young children's book from the same writer (Alloway) and illustrator (Sanfelippo) team who brought us The Map Challenge which I positively reviewed yesterday. Who says Britain and Argentina can't get along? Okay, you got me. No one says that. I just made it up to get attention!

Seriously, this book explores ADHD in the same way the other book took a look at dyslexia. In this book, the main character is Izzy, who can't forget that someone stole the classroom rabbit's food. She has a form of ADHD and cannot focus on the math lesson. Eventually she gets everyone involved in the crucial effort to find that poor rabbit's crunchy snacks.

The nice thing about these books is that they don't pick on the one with the condition, nor do they put him or her in a negative light. Instead, they emphasize the positive, and it's because of her 'super powers' that come as part and parcel of ADHD that Izzy is able to recall things and make connections that others do not - so, yes, you got it - she solves the mystery!

As usual (so it seems!) in the back of these books are teacher and parent resource pages, advising on certain aspects of (in this case) ADHD, and discussing events in the story and ways to improve on some of the deficits of attention that may hamper an individual at times (and no, it doesn't involve medication!). I liked this book as much as I liked the first one. Izzy was actually rather endearing, and I commend this as a worthy read.


Kitchen Science Lab for Kids by Liz Lee Heinecke


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

You can't have a poetical name like 'Liz Lee Heinecke' - and that last name redolent of my favorite Dutch lager, without a certain confidence that whatever she cooks up in the kitchen will be worth followinbg. Not that I've cooked up any yet, but I have my list of ingredients prepared so I can try at least a couple of them over the July 4th weekend. I;ve made jelly rolls before, but never a tie-dyed one, so that's on the list. Plus I need the food coloring for another project related to my 'The Little Rattuses' series!

This book here is dubbed the 'Edible Edition' but I'm not sure why - unless the print version is printed with vegetable ink on rice paper or something! I suspect it's because there are other labs, and this is the one working with actual food. Overall I found it enjoyable. It is full of great ideas for fun foods and drinks, but more than this, it offers some science tips on why foods bake, cook, ferment, rise, and otherwise behave the way they do when manipulated in our kitchens. This was a fun twist that I really enjoyed because knowing some science is never a bad thing.

This book covers simple projects like 'mere' decoration (that's not 'decoration of meres' but decoration of foods, BTW), to tastier treats like desserts, as well as drinks, main courses, snacks and sauces (again with the poetry!), so there ought to be something for everyone. All of these recipes are nut-free and other potential allergens are identified, so those fears are also addressed. The preparations are aimed at being child-friendly too, so there are advisories about potential problem areas where an adult might be needed or is required.

The recipes begin not only with a complete list of ingredients, but also any other items needed to complete it successfully, and each step is laid out with a photograph so you can make sure you're staying on track - assuming you can keep your mind off sampling those ingredients along the way! There's a richness of recipes and no frugality of finished foods to enjoy when you're done. It's fun, easy to follow, great to look at, and it's educational! Who could ask for a more useful book than this? I commend this one as a worthy read followed by a worthy eat!


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Papa Put a Man on the Moon by Kristy Dempsey, Sarah Green


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a charming book for kids that runs along the lines of 'every little helps'. Papa had nothing to do with the Moonshot or with landing anyone anywhere, except in that he worked at a clothing factory and it happened to be one that produced a part of the lining for the Apollo space suit, so in the end, something he had touched in the course of his work went to the Moon and helped keep the astronauts safe while on the surface.

Sadly the book doesn't touch on the complexity of the Apollo Moon suit - or extra vehicular mobility unit in such typically tedious governmental jargon labeling that it was known as the EMU. Seriously. The suit was so complex that it took three years to design it and then another several years of modifications to reach the suit that was worn for the later Apollo missions. The one worn to the Moon debuted in early 1969 with Apollo nine. They were produced by ILC Dover which believe it or not was a subsidiary of Playtex, of bra fame, back then. The total weight of the suit all told was 200 pounds, but out in space and in the Moon's low gravity, it wasn't that much to carry.

The suit consisted of thirteen layers of materials designed to insulate, protect, and prevent air escaping, including rubber coated nylon, aluminized Mylar, Dacron, Kapton film, and Teflon-coated 'Beta filament cloth' to provide protection from fire after the horrible Apollo One fire in 1967. Naturally a children's book isn't the place to go into all that technical detail, but a word or two about the complexity would have been a good move. That aside, I liked this book for the unusual approach it took and for encouraging children to believe they can make a difference no matter what they feel is their lot in life.


The Face of War by Martha Gellhorn


Rating: WORTHY!

Martha Gellhorn is most often referred to, I have no doubt, as an ex-wife of Ernest Hemingway, like she has no existence apart from him, but she was a reporter who was in Madrid when the rebels were bombing it in the Spanish civil war; she went into Europe on D-Day or shortly thereafter, and was on the beach helping bring the wounded back to the hospital ship she was on while it was still being shelled. She reported on that war right to the end, and was present shortly after Dachau was liberated. After that, she had had enough of war and death, so she did not want to go to Korea, but she felt drawn back into things when the Vietnam war began. Her career spanned six decades and she died in '98 at 89. The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism is named after her.

This book consists of a series of reports she sent back from her experiences, which were varied and often dangerous, and some of the stories are commented on in hindsight by the author. Her experience with Hemingway was a tiny part of this expanse of time. She met him in 1937 and they went to Spain together, and lived together on an off until marrying in 1940 after his divorce from Pauline Pfeiffer. They divorced in 1945, evidently because he could not stand that she also had a career. According to Wikipedia he once wrote to her asking, "Are you a war correspondent, or wife in my bed?" evidently convinced she couldn't be both, though he could. She apparently asked, "Why should I be merely a footnote in his life?" and refused to discuss her relationship with that dick whenever she was interviewed about her work. Good for her.

The stories she told were typically personal interest stories, although not typically about only one person, but about many - sharing the same experiences under fire or impoverished by war. She wrote well and was a very descriptive and evocative author. The book contains three of her reports on the civil war in Spain, two on the Russian attacks on Finland, one on the war in China fending off the Japanese, twelve on World War Two, including one on the Nuremberg trials and one on Dachau. She covers ongoing conflicts which everyone who faced World War Two hoped would have been over for good, and includes nine reports on Vietnam, three on the Six Day War involving Israel's fight for sovereignty, and two on war in Central America.

I highly commend this book.


Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell


Rating: WORTHY!

This is something of a Cinderella story and it was also another of those audiobooks I seem to have been listening to lately which gets off to a great start, falls flat in the middle, but picks up again towards the end, so overall I consider it a worthy listen, but it had an issue or two here and there along the way. It was read by Bianca Amato who did a good job.

Wilhelmina Silver has had an amazing childhood in Zimbabwe, despite losing her mother at an early age. Her father was still around and she was allowed to run wild, learning all she needed to from her daily adventures and from the extensive library her father had in their ranch. But when he dies unexpectedly and his nurse movies in on the family and starts taking over, Wil suddenly finds herself on the outs and is eventually and summarily packed-off alone to an English boarding school while her home is sold.

To Wil, the people in her school are as cold as the weather and her spirits as dampened as the climate. Wil runs away from school and lives on her own on the streets (and in a zoo!) for a while before finally returning to the school and finding a place there. The novel tells a good and interesting story when it finds its pace, but there are times when it rather drags and you're wanting something to happen which doesn't. I'm not a big fan of school bully and cruelty stories, so I disliked that part. It wasn't so bad, but it was a bit overdone and too black and white for my taste. I found it hard to believe that girls of breeding who attended this school would have been so relentlessly, uniformly, and openly cruel as depicted here. It didn't seem realistic to me.

The worst part about this story is that Wil is presented in the early chapters as fearless, feisty, and indomitable, but in England she seems completely the opposite. Yes, she has some grit and some inventiveness, but she seems like a different character from the one we'd been introduced to earlier, and while I get that being torn from a comfortable and happy home and dropped unkindly into a new life for which they're completely unprepared can knock the stuffing out of a person, it felt a bit like a betrayal of Wil that she was so consistently and so interminably presented as weak and lost. It felt wrong and inauthentic, and did the character a disservice.

That said, she took charge and bounced back and that's where the story improved for me, so while it has its faults, it's not too bad of a story for an age-appropriate audience.


Frida & Diego by Catherine Reef


Rating: WORTHY!

I've long been interested in Frida Kahlo and the life she was forced to live, so when I happened upon this larger format print book I saw in the library, I grabbed it up without thinking twice. It tells the individual stories of the childhood and youth of the two artists separately, and then of their life together, problematic as it was at times. It discusses their work and how events in their lives influenced it, and of Frida's struggle with health issues, beginning with polio, and then with a tramcar accident which resulted in a metal hand rail piercing her hip - a major and life-threatening injury from which she never fully-recovered and for which she was still having surgeries long after the accident.

As if that wasn't bad enough, she ended up falling for a serial philanderer which led to a codependent relationship that neither party could move on from, not even after they divorced. The book covers a lot of ground and contains a wealth of fascinating detail. The author has done her work without question.

The only thing about this book which bothered me was that so little of their art was depicted. There is a lot of imagery and quite a few of their paintings are included, but most of the pictures are photographs of them and their friends, so for me, too little of the art was on show. That aside though, I enjoyed reading this, and I commend it as a worthy read for anyone who is a fan of either artist, or even of art in general. Both the over-used phrases 'struggling artist' and 'tortured artist' apply quite literally to Frida Kahlo and she's always worth reading about.


Travels With Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a record of the author's adventures (mostly) when not reporting on war, the most entertaining of which, for me, was her trip to Africa on a whim, with little forethought and no planning. This woman was fearless and went wherever whimsy took her, reporting with an astute and amusing eye on everything she sees and experiences. She was a woman ahead of her time and an exemplar for feminism. She covers not only adventures in Africa, but also in China, in Eilat in Israel, and in Moscow.

She was not only a journalist, but also wrote novels. She's observant and witty, smart and insightful, adventurous and unstoppable. I commend this as a fascinating travelogue.


Regifters by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, Marc Hempel


Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Carey, and illustrated by Liew and Hempel, this middle-grade graphic novel was cute, fun and entertaining, with an interesting story, and a twist here and there.

Dik-Seong Jen, or Jen Dickson if you want to be a dik about it, goes by Dixie to avoid all of that. She's an American of Korean ancestry and is a fine student not so much at school, but at the Hapkido Dojang (Dojo, but for Korean martial arts), where her sensei tells her she could be great, but her Ki (qi, ch'i) is all screwed-up.

Jen knows exactly what's screwing it up, too: this guy Adam at school, that she's crushing on to a self-destructive level. This ongoing cringe-worthy embarrassment is offset by Jen's easy-going narration style where she pretty much breaks the fourth wall all the time, including one point where she urges readers not to read the next section because it's too embarrassing for her.

Jen is supposed to be focused on the upcoming martial arts tournament in which she's competing. Her entry fee is a hundred dollars which she has, but she blows that and a further hundred dollars she's saved on a small statue of a warrior, to give to Adam, also a martial artist, but who is interested in a different girl at school. Adam then thinks he can impress this other girl by re-gifting the statue to her.

After that Dixie is forced to compete in preliminary knock-out competition to get one of the free entry tickets to the competition because she daren't tell her dad she blew her money - especially not when he's trying to impress the Korean president of the bank from whom he's hoping to borrow money. The president is looking forward to seeing Dixie compete in the tournament while displaying her love of Korean traditions! And so it goes around and around, especially when Dixie fails to win a free ticket. What now?!

Enter Dillinger, a street punk who is a shaker and mover in town and who looks to be a thug to begin with, but he saves Dixie from a couple of bullies and the two of them end up forging a grudging acquaintanceship. When her best friend gives up her own ticket to the tournament, after spraining her leg badly, Dixie realizes she can still enter, and she begins training with Dillinger, who has money bet on her. The problem is that she's going to have to fight the guy who beat her when she tried to get a free ticket, and then also fight Adam!

This was a fun graphic novel - more fun than a lot of stuff I've read lately, and I loved it! It was entertaining, well drawn, adventurous, lacking in stereotypes, inventive, and with some nice twists and turns. I commend it as a worthy read.


Jessica Jones Blind Spot by Kelly Thompson, Mattia de Iulis, Marcio Takara, Rachelle Rosenberg


Rating: WORTHY!

I've been almost, but not quite, universally disappointed when I've back-tracked from a movie or TV show to the graphic novel version. The last disappointment was Captain Marvel which I took a look at before I went to see the movie. The movie turned out to be probably my favorite movie of all time. The graphic novels far from it. So you can see how I might honestly fear taking that step this time, but having watched season three (and probably the last - at least on Netflix) of Jessica Jones, and really enjoying the whole show - far more than the other three in the defenders quartet, what can I say? I was jonesing for more (yes, I went there!).

So I pulled this edition out of the library and gave it a chance. I'm glad I did because when I took a look at it, I was pleasantly surprised for once. This was a good solid story - very much a murder mystery (with a few twists along the way) and though I figured out what was going on before it was revealed, which is unusual for me in this kind of story, I really enjoyed reading it, so Kudos to writer Thompson for restoring my faith in comic book writers! Kudos also to artists and colorists Iulis, Takara, and Rosenberg.

It's nice to read a graphic novel which doesn't sexualize the female characters (except for in this one scene, but I decided to let that slide). Jessica Jones needs no sexualization because she is sexy as hell from her can-do attitude, her smarts, her never-say-die approach (which was severely tested here - LOL!), and her sharp wits. All of that was on display this story, and it beats any improbably pneumatic super hero "girl" any time in my book - and evidently in this crew's book too, I'm happy to report. That said I could have done without the ridiculous birthday party garbage added as a short story filler in back of this graphic novel. It sucked and was painfully stupid. And no, it wasn't about Iron Fist.

The main story begins with Jessica finding a corpse in her office, and it turns out to be a woman who came to Jessica for help some time before, and then who disappeared, leaving Jessica with a 'pebble in her shoe' feeling of failure. She resolves - after being arrested for the murder, and then freed by Matt Murdoch - that she will solve the woman's murder as a professional curtesy to try and alleviate her failure in the Dia Sloane case to begin with. Just like in season three of the TV show, Jessica finds herself on the trail of a serial killer, but this one is targeting supers - good or bad, but all female. His first target is Jessica. You'll have to read this to see how that goes.

One thing I don't like about too many Marvel comics I've read recently is the inexplicable need writers seem to feel to drag in every single Marvel name they can find. It's pathetic and I was sorry to see that Thompson failed to skip that. This brings me to a pet beef about Marvel - particularly with New York City. I don't get why every super in the Marvel pantheon lives in New York City. Stan Lee said it was because you write what you know. I don't buy that as an excuse, but given that, the logical outcome is that NYC ought to be the most crime-free city on the entire planet - and clearly it isn't.

Worse than this, Jessica seems to get zero help from any of these supers in solving this case - a case where she herself came close to death. She has visits from Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Captain America, Misty Knight, Doctor Strange, who is more like my parodied Doctor Deranged in this book, Elsa Bloodstone and others, and not a one of them lifts a finger to help her. What's up with that? So while this came clsoe to failing me, it held up well enough and for long enough that I consider it a rare worthy comic-book read.


Kick Kennedy by Barbara Leaming


Rating: WORTHY!

Kathleen Kennedy was nicknamed "Kick" which sounds stupid to us today, but which was right in line with kids for the era in which she grew up. She was a part of a very large Catholic family, sister to John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Edward Kennedy. This audiobook tells of her time from her first trip to Britain in the late 1930's and her eventual marriage to the Marquess of Hartington, heir apparent to the 10th Duke of Devonshire. She lost her husband to the war in Belgium in 1944, not long after the marriage, and died in Europe herself just a few years later, at the age of 28 in a plane crash.

This book which sports, I have to say, some rather fanciful story-telling here and there it seems to me, recounts her life and death, surround by Lords and Dukes and Grand Dukes and Viscounts, and Marquises. It's really quite shameful how spoiled-rotten these people were, and how easy their life was, drifting from one event to another, from one function to another, from one party to another, never doing a lick of work because they were so rich, they didn't have to. Now that doesn't make it right that she died so young, but it does make it hard to sympathize with her when she lived a life most people who live into their eighties can't even imagine.

That said it makes for an interesting read, even if parts of it are so far from one's personal experience that it seems like reading fiction even when it's true. Having started to fall for the guy, she found herself torn away from him by her father's insistence that his entire family return to the USA as hostilities between Britain and Germany, via France and Czechoslovakia's travails. The Kennedys had been welcomed and even somewhat revered in Britain, and Kick was very popular with her own set, but when Joe Kennedy started talking, back in the USA, about leaving Britain to it when it came to fighting this war, his popularity plummeted in the UK and he saw this starkly on his return.

Meanwhile all Kick wanted to do was return to see Billy. She eventually got her wish and they married to opposition from her Catholic, but far from catholic parents, and this was despite her not giving up on Catholicism herself. All she had to do was agree to the children being raised Protestant, and she didn't protest about that at all. The thing was that her husband stuck his head up, either unaware that he was being fired on by a German machinegun, or not realizing it was dangerous, and was shot in that same head. It was a whole week before Kick learned her husband of only four months had died - only one month after Kick's own brother, Joe Kennedy Junior, also died in a plane crash.

The book moves a lot more quickly after this and it would seem that Kick had changed her view of life by then, so instead of seeking out someone she truly loved, now she was little more than a gold digger. Having lost her status since her husband's death and seeing the dukedom go then to his younger brother (who was married to one of the feisty Mitford sisters), it wasn't so very long before she began chasing after the married 8th Earl Fitzwilliam, who was even richer and had higher status than her late husband had.

Prior to reading this I had little idea of Kick Kennedy other than being intrigued that she was JFK's sister and had died young and was tied to the area of Britain where I had grown up (she's buried in my home county). Now I've read this (listened to it, more accurately) and learned plenty about her, and while I commend this book as a worthy read, I can't imagine I would ever have actually liked Kick Kennedy had I been alive in the era which she lived. In fact, our social circles would have been so divorced from one another that I would never have even met her at all, and that would have been fine with me because she disgusts me.


Gidget, the Little Girl with Big Ideas by Frederick Kohner


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a 1957 novel written by Kohner based on the experiences of his daughter who got in with a bunch of surfer dudes and learned to surf herself. The story isn't a biography, but is extrapolated from her experiences and turned into a fictional adventure in its own right.

Gidget's actual name is Franzie - we do not learn her last name in this novel although I understand it's revealed in a sequel as Hofer. She becomes Gidget when she starts hanging with the surfer guys, having run into them after being rescued from an undertow by a mocking surfer. None of these guys use their real name. Like super heroes, they go by supposedly cool titles like Kahuna and Moondoggie. Since Franzie is a female of diminutive stature, a girl midget, she's dubbed with the portmanteau monica: Gidget.

Initially she's not welcomed - this is a guys' club after all, but not everyone is hostile to her, and she ingratiates herself by delivering lots of food to them, purloined from the larder at home. The surfing guys appreciate this and gobble it down, and slowly she becomes assimilated into their group. She especially raises the hackles of the self-absorbed Moondoggie, so you know he's the one she's going to get hitched to. The one who takes her under his wing initially though, is Kahuna, an expert surfer who travels the globe catching the waves wherever they lure him. The other guys are typically college students down for the summer.

Gidget, who at fifteen, can't afford a board of her own, sometimes manages to get rides doubling-up on a surfboard with one of the surfers, starting with Kahuna, and after she stays overnight (after a party gone wrong), in Kahuna's beach hut, Moondoggie gets the wrong idea and starts a fight which Kahuna wins. Losing patience with both of them, Gidget grabs one of their surfboards and goes out to ride a huge wave - something she's never done alone before. With some concentration and supreme effort, she nails it, and that seems to break some tension. She and Moondoogie start seeing each other romantically.

This was a sweet, innocent and slightly scary story given how much freedom Gidget is allowed by her parents and what a potentially risky alliance hers is, but times were in general far more innocent back then and Kahuna proves himself to be a real gentleman - more so than Moondoggie initially is. So this was a fun and interesting story, well-written, if a little clichéd, but worth the read.