review: The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook

The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook

The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook: Fresh and foolproof recipes for your electric pressure cooker by Coco Morante

Instant Pots are all the rage these days! We don’t have one (yet) but since K does virtually all the cooking in our household, it’s up to him to want one enough to actually get one. So I haven’t actually tried these recipes myself, but they look pretty good. The recipes cover a wide variety of things: breakfast dishes, bean and grain-based recipes, soups, meat-specific meals (poultry, pork, and beef), veggies and side dishes, and desserts. It also includes basic info on operating this piece of equipment, troubleshooting for common problems, a list for stocking your pantry for cooking with it, and how the pressure system works. There’s also a chapter on converting other recipes to work with an Instant Pot. The book is divided into chapters by type of dish and is indexed for easy reference.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Color Squared

Color Squared

Color Squared: Color, Dot, Dash, or Stamp Your Way to Pixel Art by Lee Meredith

Coloring books for grown-ups are super popular these days. This is a take on those, but each image is a grid with a number or letter in each square. You fill those squares in using your tool of choice and, gradually, a pixelated image will appear. Instructions are included for using different ways of filling in the squares, such as drawing circles, lines, or dots. A basic monotone image is included for each coloring page, showing what it would look like if you filled each square fully using greyscale.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Perspective in Action

Perspective in Action

Perspective in Action: Creative exercises for depicting spatial representation from the Renaissance to the Digital Age by David Chelsea

Do you remember sitting in a school hallway drawing lockers to learn how to capture perspective? I can totally recall the big brown drawing surface balanced on my knees and the quiet concentration of a class of middle graders focused on something that seemed like a Very Important Life Skill. This book takes a practical approach and uses sequential art (it looks like a comic book/graphic novel) to take the reader step by step. Many of the panels show not just what’s being drawn but the artist or artist’s hand as well, giving a really easy to follow demonstration of the technique being described. It even has a chapter on motion perspective, so you can draw your own animated gif!

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Colored Pencil Painting Portraits

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits by Alyona Nickelsen

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life by Alonya Nickelsen

I have not done much in the way of colored pencil art myself, but I am a fan of picture books and some of my favorites use colored pencil (among other media). This book focuses on realistically rendered portraits, though, so it’s quite different from those picture books. Nickelsen focuses on using colored pencils to achieve the look of painting and starts with a discussion of some of the other tools that can be used (solvents, blenders, fixatives, and such). She then moves on to discuss portraiture techniques while integrating specific tips related to using colored pencils throughout. The book closes with a focus on five portraits she created, detailing the tools she used and steps she took to create them. An appendix rates various brands of colored pencils when used with different types of papers.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Manga Art

Manga Art

Manga Art: Inspiration and techniques from an expert illustrator by Mark Crilley

I’m familiar with Mark Crilley from way back – he was a speaker at several youth librarian conferences back when I was heavily involved in planning said conferences (he lives in Michigan, so he was easier to book than some out-of-state folks) and his books became popular in my library (place of work) pretty quickly after he started releasing them. He’s known for his manga illustrations and in this book, he shares information about drawing in the manga style with lots and lots of examples. Lest you think it’s all one thing, these examples are created using a variety of techniques and variations within the manga style, so the illustrations aren’t monotonous – you might not necessarily guess right off the bat that they’re all created by the same person. For each example, Crilley offers a personal story about how, why, and when he created it, all with the purpose of celebrating the process of making art. Appealing for young folks and adults.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Foundations of Drawing

Foundations of Drawing

Foundations of Drawing: A practical guide to art history, tools, techniques, and styles by Al Gury

Looking for a book to use as a text while teaching yourself to draw (or to improve your drawing skills)? This one is designed for that purpose. Starting off with a history of drawing, Gury moves through prehistory, ancient, medieval, renaissance, baroque, nineteenth century, modern, and contemporary eras of how drawing has been used in art. From there, things move to the practical, with chapters on materials, skills, aesthetics, and demonstrations (still life, portraits, the human figure, etc.). Works of art by the author and other artists of varying degrees of fame are used as examples throughout, tying directly to the points made in the text. Includes index.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Of Cats and Men

Of Cats and Men

Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen by Sam Kalda

Ever wondered about the love of cats held by some famous dudes? This book showcases 30 guys who love (or loved, as some are no longer living) cats. Lots of writers and artists are included, and for each a few paragraphs describe the part that cats played in their lives. Some cat-related quotes are highlighted, and portraits of each man also feature at least one cat. The illustrations are attractive, modern compositions that depict the subject in their milieu. All of these fellows are very well-known, most are white, and most are American, and I’m not sure that the world needs more books focused on this pretty narrow range of humanity, but the art is appealing.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Portrait Revolution

Portrait Revolution

Portrait Revolution: Inspiration from around the world for creating art in multiple mediums and style (with 450 portraits from the artists of Julia Kay’s portrait party) by Julia L. Kay

Author Julia Kay challenged herself to do a three-year project in which she made a self-portrait every day. At the close of those three years (in 2010), she started JKPP: Julia Kay’s Portrait Party, which she defines as “an international collaborative project in which artists all over the world make portraits of each other.” She created a flickr group (which now includes around 1000 members) and participants began making portraits of one another and the discussion and interaction became quite lively (this project started on flickr at a time when it was much easier to form communities there and in the years since, changes to the site have made it more difficult in my experience). Between 2010 and the creation of this book, artists from over 50 countries created and shared over 50,000 portraits, highlights of which are included here. Chapters arrange the portraits by media, by style, and by theme, and each portrait includes the title (first name and country of the subject), artist, media (physical and digital techniques are both included), original size, and a brief statement from the artist about the piece. The portraits are reproduced here in varying sizes, from just a couple inches square to an entire page (~9×7″). In some cases, a variety of portraits based on the same photograph are included, offering half a dozen or so interpretations. A separate chapter features a few portraits created by each of 15 artists with a paragraph or two of information each shared about their own style and process. The final chapter discusses things to think about and choices to make when creating portraits. A directory of artists, general index, and index of subjects are included.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Road Food

Road Food

Road Food: An eater’s guide to more than 1,000 of the best local hot spots & hidden gems across America by Jane & Michael Stern (10th edition)

Fans of The Splendid Table will recognize these authors as regular guest experts in finding and reviewing food across the United States. This book divides the country into regions and focuses on a dozen or so eateries in each state in each region. Michigan’s entries include some of the most famous places you’ve already heard of such as Lafayette Coney Island, Northside Grill, and Zingerman’s Deli. Most of the Michigan restaurants are either up north or in Southeast Michigan, with a few exceptions on the west side – disappointingly nothing at all inland between Ann Arbor and Traverse City. Still, it’s a good guide for someone traveling and I have no doubt that the food at all of these places is excellent.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: How to Pack

How to Pack

How to Pack: Travel smart for any trip by Hitha Palepu

As a habitual overpacker, I am always looking for insight on how to do that less. My biggest issue is that I always want a bunch of extra of any given item just in case, so I’m not sure that any plan is going to help me get rid of that impulse. But I’m interested in learning regardless. This cute little book’s cover is designed to resemble an old-fashioned suitcase and is divided into sections addressing pre-packing, choosing clothing, selecting accessories, figuring out what toiletries to bring, how to maximize space in your luggage, and tips for dealing with airports and such. It also includes a number of checklists for various types of travel and destinations. Appealing hand-created illustrations are included throughout.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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