Review: What Color is your Parachute?

What Color is Your Parachute 2017

What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers By Richard N. Bolles

Readers will find what they expect in this updated version of the long-popular career book. It has been updated and includes information on now-standard practices such as managing web results featuring your name. It has the usual Christian bent which is especially apparent in sections such as Finding Your Mission in Life, but the bulk of the book remains focused primarily on how to figure out what you want your career to be.

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


review: The Secret Language of Dogs

The Secret Language of Dogs

The Secret Language of Dogs: Unlocking the Canine Mind for a Happier Pet by Victoria Stilwell

First up: I haven’t seen any episodes of the author’s TV show, so I don’t have any previous experience with her or her style. She takes the approach that we should try to understand our dogs and where they’re coming from and maintains that punishment isn’t effective (because dogs’ brains don’t work the same way humans’ do), both of which I think make sense. She also notes that if a person tries to be the dominant “pack leader” (as espoused by some other TV dog trainers), they end up as the “socially incompetent bully” rather than fostering a healthy environment within their house. This also makes sense! She also encourages each person to figure out what works with their dog and go with that type of training. Not every dog will respond equally well to clicker training, problem-solving exercises, shaping, or any other type of training; it makes sense to figure out what works in each case and go with that. Above all, “no matter how we choose to humanely and effectively change our dog’s behavior and teach necessary life skills, we should always respect the dog’s autonomy.” I heartily agree!

Stilwell covers some history and gives a brief overview of the basics of dog behavior, body language, emotions, motivation, sensory learning, aging, and more. A few tips are included here or there, though this book is primarily informational rather than overtly instructional. Plenty of references are provided at the end of the book and though I don’t feel qualified to judge the science included here based on my own (lack of) knowledge, the sources cited seem to be legit. If nothing else, dog-lovers will enjoy the super adorbs dog photos throughout this book.

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


review: Rad Women Worldwide

Rad Women Worldwide

Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

This follow-up to Rad American Women A-Z includes short biographical sketches of about forty women who have achieved in a wide variety of areas: science, sports, art, social justice, music, politics, and lots more. I was pleased to see women from many cultures and backgrounds included – there are still plenty of white women here, but not as uneven a balance as most of the history books I’ve seen. This book is written at about a middle school level but the design is appealing to this adult and the papercut illustrations work very effectively at conveying a timeless feel while not seeming dated (so many books that try to “make history cool!” are designed to current trends and seem outdated almost immediately). It definitely has a bit of a zine-y feel, which I am admittedly predisposed to. Each of the entries is only a page or two long and it’s easy to dip in and out or read straight through, whichever suits you.

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


Review: The Curated Closet

Curated Closet

The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees

A simple system for discovering your personal style and building your dream wardrobe

This book starts from the assumption that you look in your closet and think, “I have nothing to wear.” This will likely resonate with many readers and the author encourages us to rethink how we choose the clothing we buy. Much like the Kon-Mari method, we are directed to only add/own items that we “love 100 percent.” Folks who are looking for A Project (including paperwork) will find their needs met here – Rees suggests taking a photo of every outfit you wear for a two week period and then answer a series of several dozen questions leading to the formulation of goals. There are many other activities recommended throughout the process of determining one’s personal style and what is important to have in the corresponding wardrobe. Provided that one has a budget for clothing that allows for purchasing quality (read: not cheap) pieces and the time to search them out (along with doing all the activities), this method appears to have thought through all the possibilities. A few references are made to women of different shapes, but disappointingly all the models pictured appear to be tall and rail thin.

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


review: Photographs from the Edge

Photographs from the Edge photo photographs from the edge_zpscn9kirew.jpg

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe with Rob Sheppard

Each of the photos contained in this book was shot by Wolfe and is described in a few paragraphs. The camera and lens used is also detailed and a photo tip is offered related to the way that shot was taken. Each also includes a sentence or two in a section called the nature of the photo, many of which relate to the specific content of the photo, be it the location, an animal or person featured in the photo, or some other aspect. These are very much the type of photos you’d expect to see in National Geographic magazine and many seek to enlighten the reader about an environmental or other conservation-related issue. When I see photos like this that include people, I always wonder what permission the (Western, white, male) photographer had to be there, to be taking photos, and to publish those photos in a book that they will be making money from. Are the people being exploited? Some photos are taken in what appear to be very remote and in some cases environmentally fragile areas and I wonder what care was taken not to exploit the land. I didn’t find any answers to those questions here. Maybe it’s fine, but it would be nice to see more information about how those arrangements were made, or at least to know what protocols were followed. The book takes a more artistic approach so it’s not surprising that these details aren’t included, and it’s undeniable that the photos are stunning and expertly executed.

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


review: Natural Color

Natural Color

Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe by Sasha Duerr

The concept of making one’s own dyes from plants is as appealing as ever (at least to those so inclined) and Duerr likens the process to the slow food movement – she gathers dye sources seasonally as they’re available and finds comfort in the changing palette throughout the year (of course, she lives in California where plants are more plentiful/alive during the winter months). As such, the book is organized by season with projects and recipes that utilize commonly available plants (again, at least commonly available in some places). A section on mordants and other modifiers (some plants will produce different colors if another element is added) is followed by a guide to the techniques used in the recipes. Most of the recipes seem pretty doable, though collecting the proper equipment might take a while (you need to use stainless steel vessels to avoid any interactions with the vessel material itself) and I definitely wouldn’t be able to find some of the plant ingredients locally at any time of year. It is a gorgeous book, though, and just looking through it is inspirational even if not wholly achievable.

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


review: Lessons in Classical Painting

Lessons in Classical Painting

Lessons in Classical Painting: Essential techniques from inside the atelier by Juliette Aristides

This book is outside the realm of my expertise, but it appears to be a thorough guide to the elements of painting in the classical style. Throughout the book, concepts are tied to specific examples, and the print quality is excellent so it’s a treat to flip through just for the sake of admiring the art. Each chapter is supplemented with several step-by-step lessons. The book assumes that you know how to paint already but are looking to develop your skills in this specific genre of painting.

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


review: Punderdome


Punderdome: A Card Game for Pun Lovers by Jo Firestone and Fred Firestone

It’s a game! Not a book! I’ll start by saying that I LOVE PUNS. I am a fan of dad jokes, groaners, and knee slappers, so I was really looking forward to this game being super fun.

This game gives you two stacks of cards – you choose one from each pile and then everyone tries to make a pun that connects the two concepts/things featured on each of those cards. For example, your two cards might have the words ‘cats’ and ‘laundry’ on them, and each player has to write down their best pun related to both cats and laundry in 90 seconds. We played this game with seven people earlier this week and while it was a fun time and we had some good lols, it was definitely not a game that I will pick to play on a regular basis. Making puns is the bread and butter of pretty much everyone who was playing, but making them in conversation is a different thing than trying to come up with them totally out of context and possibly about topics that you have no knowledge of/interest in. There were many rounds where one or more of us did not come up with anything within the 90 second time limit and had to pass for that turn. We also found that the examples provided were often super long and seemed almost impossible that you’d be able to actually write it all down in 90 seconds, let alone have time to come up with it. Our answers were much more likely to be one short sentence or even just a phrase.

The physical game is attractive, but there are some design choices that we questioned. The two stacks of cards have a different color on one side (and thus need to stay separate), but that side needs to remain hidden as the keywords are on the face. Easy, except that on the reverse of the card is the warm-up question for each round, which theoretically also needs to remain hidden until the start of each round. How do you hide both sides of both stacks? Not impossible but kind of annoying. It would have been easy to put both the warm-up and the key word on the same side of the card, or make a third stack of cards containing the warm-ups (which were not related to the key words on the flip side, at least that we could tell). Another weird choice is to require a 90 second timer but not to include it. We ended up using the timer on a smartphone, but it was kind of irritating to have to keep waking the phone up throughout the game, and would it have been that difficult to include a timer in the game itself? It just feels odd to have a required element of the game not included. The box claims that this game will replace Cards Against Humanity, but none of us felt that this was likely. It was entertaining but the flaws make it one that we probably won’t pick up again anytime soon.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this game from Blogging for Books


Review: Home Sewn

Home Sewn photo homesewn_zpsngqxasj2.jpg

Home Sewn: Projects and Inspiration for Every Room by Cassandra Ellis

This is a book that you can totally judge by its cover – what you see is a solid representation of what you’ll find inside. That is to say, a lot of linen, cotton, and other organic undyed fabrics; plenty of unfinished rustic fabric edges; and a healthy serving of billowing material in neutral-heavy rooms. Solidly inspired by Martha Stewart but with a more limited palette, these projects all fit into the trendy look that relies on light earth tones and a pride in doing it yourself (with materials you carefully purchased from curated sources). You’ll find brief instructions for each project, but none include in-depth detail – the joy here is in doing it yourself and in figuring out how to make it work for you. The tone suggests that whatever result you end up with is what you are supposed to have and that you can appreciate the beauty of your own unique creation (the degree to which it matches the photos may vary). I can definitely appreciate this aesthetic (being a relatively privileged white woman, I am its target market) but it is a bit too neutral for my own taste. That said, one could easily make any of these projects using a more colorful range of fabrics.

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


Review: Doodletopia Manga

Doodletopia Manga.jpg

Doodletopia Manga by Christopher Hart

Manga is super popular, as are cute things in general, and the drawing instructions contained here definitely qualify. Specific details are provided for aspects of each drawing, so the reader will notice the small details that make each picture work. A few specific character types (girl in a sun hat, goofy boy, funny girl with swirls) are outlined as well as cute creatures such as pandas and bunnies. The author encourages the reader to engage with the drawings in the book, leaving some incomplete and ready for the reader to fill in. Blank space is also provided for practice. The drawings definitely play into gender stereotypes inherent in manga style, but fans of manga looking to learn to or practice their drawing will not be disappointed with the lessons and activities.

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