Friday, May 23, 2014

Knit Your Own Moustache

Knit Your Own Moustache:

Create 20 knit and crochet disguises

By Vicky Eames

Published by Pavilion Books, April 2014

My youngest daughter loves the current fashion for items decorated with moustaches and I initially asked to review this book thinking it would give me ideas on how to whip up a few very basic knitted moustaches for her to stick on folders etc. I did not expect to find that there was so much more in this excellent little book!

Full and easy instructions are given on how to create classic, handlebar and walrus moustaches, the Sven, the Dali and even a Groucho Marx disguise on a stick, complete with glasses,  a colourful Rasta hat, an eye patch, a loopy long sailor's beard, a knitted brown paper bag to put on your head and a blue rinse wig.

Whether you want to crochet your own bandit mask, knit your own animal ears, create a bald head type wig or look like Pippi Longstocking with pigtails, this book is priceless and will show you how :-)

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A Tale Dark And Grimm

A Tale Dark & Grimm

By Adam Gidwitz

Published by a variety of publishers depending on edition, from 2010 onwards.

The title alone should give you a clue what sort of book this is. It is not a cute and fluffy, heavily edited and sanitised version of fairy stories suitable for reading to little children....oh no, indeed NOT.
This is filled with acerbic asides and commentaries which sound exactly as if they had come out of the mouth of an intelligent and sassy kid, and had me chuckling from the very first page.

The first story is "Faithful Johannes", which tells us about the ugly but faithful servant Johannes, who had served the old king who was grandfather to Hansel and Gretel, and how the new king came to meet and marry his beautiful wife. This is essential scene-setting for the bloodthirsty adventures which will befall the intrepid Hansel and Gretel as they rampage through the kingdom and the pages of this brilliantly clever book, the first in a trilogy.

The author, Adam Gidwitz, is an experienced former teacher and it shows. From the length of the stories, the clever asides and their suitably appealingly gruesome  yet child-suitable content, this is a book older children will love reading themselves and which parents will enjoy reading out loud to slightly younger children who are made of stern stuff. It won't appeal or be suitable for all children, but mine would have loved this when they were younger. Ideal for children around ten years old.

There is an extensive website, complete with videos, here.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Obesity Paradox

The Obesity Paradox: When Thinner Means Sicker and Heavier Means Healthier

By Carl J. Lavie, MD with Kristin Loberg

Published by Hudson Street Press, April 2014

The author of this book, Dr. Carl Lavie, is an eminent cardiologist and educator, well-known and respected in his field, and also a keen runner.

 When he noticed some unusual patterns about health and obesity were being revealed by well-conducted medical research, even though these patterns were diametrically opposed to the prevailing medical orthodoxy, he felt compelled to investigate them and make them more widely-known, knowing full well that he was setting himself against mainstream medical opinion. Further research, by himself and many others from all over the world, has continued to prove him right.

Having a low or "normal" BMI is certainly not guaranteed to  protect you from major ill-health or premature death, and those who may be carrying some excess weight, although statistically more likely to develop diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, are actually likely to cope better with these illnesses and less likely to die prematurely from them. The most at-risk group of experiencing serious illness and premature death are those who are thin, but also physically inactive, contrary to what the media would have us believe! 

Those at either of the extreme ends of the weight spectrum are at significant risk of ill-health; this book will not only tell you why, but also show you *how* to protect yourself as much as possible, whether you are currently well or have been diagnosed with a health problem. Improving our physical fitness and levels of daily activity is by far the easiest and most protective thing we can do for our long-term health, although interestingly, excessive exercise can  also be as bad for our health as being extremely obese. Dr Lavie explains that it is enough to concentrate on developing cardio-respiratory fitness through very moderate amounts of exercise, amounting to 20 -30 minutes of brisk walking, swimming or gentle running four or five times a week and avoiding prolonged periods of time sitting down.

Rather a medical detective story, I found this book engaging, absorbing and truly fascinating. It has earned a permanent place on my book shelves.....

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Zombie Film: From White Zombie to World War Z

The Zombie Film: From White Zombie to World War Z

By Alain Silver & James Ursini

Published by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books

April 17th, 2014

This is an absolute "must have" book for anyone who has an interest in the history and production of films in general or of zombie films in particular.

The authors are well-known for their many collaborative works about a variety of genres, especially film noir, vampire, horror and gangster movies, and despite its ghoulish topic, this book is a revelation from start to finish.  The role of the zombie in folklore, culture, literature and history is examined from its roots in West Africa and Haiti, before starting to assess the place of zombie films in cinematography. I knew about the 1932 film "The Mummy", starring the mummified Egyptian King Imhotep, which was a precursor to the zombie genre, but the first true zombie film was called "White Zombie" and was also produced in 1932 - much, much earlier than I would have ever guessed.

Fully illustrated throughout, including movie stills, cinema posters, paintings, drawings and sketches from a variety of sources including manga, anime and comic books, zombie operas, video games and mash-ups, this book pulls together a wide-ranging history of zombie portrayals to produce a superb resource for media students, cinema students and film fans alike.  I was particularly interested in the way that women zombies and women zombie-fighters are both portrayed; there has been a distinct culture shift from women being simply helpless victims to active protagonists and heroines as the genre developed.

 From black and white trail-blazers to the shoestring budget films of the seventies and eighties, covering foreign language movies and the most modern Hollywood blockbuster movies with immense budgets and the full extent of digital technology/ CGI special effects, from vegan zombies to Nazi zombies and just about everything else one could imagine in between, ending with a comprehensive "filmography", there is something for everybody to with an interest in the genre to enjoy in this comprehensive book.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

501 Amazing Uses for Salt, Vinegar, Baking Soda, Olive Oil and Lemons

501 Amazing Uses for Salt, Vinegar, Baking Soda, Olive Oil and Lemons

By Laura M. Westdale

Published by Thunder Bay Press, May 1st, 2014

This is a book which is a little difficult to review fairly.

 There was certainly much information which I did not know, such as the fact that baking soda/bicarbonate of soda is actually a naturally occurring substance which can be mined, although it is generally manufactured these days instead. Some of the hints and tips were new to me, but equally, there were some which are well-known to anyone who comes from a practically-minded or thrift-minded family, or who follows such topics on Pinterest or Tumblr, for instance.

Having said that, it is an interesting collection of ideas; chapter one relates to general household cleaning, chapter two covers recipes and tips for cooking and the subsequent clean-up of the kitchen and cooking utensils,  chapter three deals with personal hygiene, health and beauty topics. Chapter five is possibly my favourite and is all about art, craft and science uses of the four staple ingredients, including growing salt crystals, making salt dough, dissolving eggshells, making natural plastic from milk and white vinegar and much more.

I was a little disappointed that Hints 272 through 294 are all single sentences telling you to add lemon zest to a food to enhance flavour, and there is a degree of repetition where the topics overlap, but all in all, this is a useful compendium which will certainly be useful in our house.

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Friday, May 02, 2014

Don't Dangle Your Participle

Don't Dangle Your Participle

By Vanita Oelschlager

Illustrated by Mike DeSantis

Published by Vanita Books

May 1st, 2014

Grammar lessons can be hard going for teachers, children and parents alike; anything which makes grammar  more understandable and more enjoyable has to be a good thing in my opinion.

Participles and their correct usage are featured in this short but fun book, crammed with humorous colour illustrations depicting how a dangling or wrongly placed participle can completely change the meaning of a sentence, with some very funny results indeed.....

I enjoyed every page of this book and hope that other grammatical constructs will get their own titles in due course :-)

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Adaptogens In Medical Herbalism

Adaptogens In Medical Herbalism

By Donald R. Yance

Published by Healing Arts Press

September 15th, 2013

The author's extensive experience as a master medical herbalist has refined and honed his techniques and expertise, and this book is the fruit of his twenty five years of work and study.  He uses four main techniques to optimise healing: herbal formulations, carefully selected nutritional supplements, improved diet and encouraging a generally healthier lifestyle, including reducing stress.

The first part of the book covers metabolism and its effect on aging, the healing response, food and weight management, exercise, the role of the mind-body-spirit relationship  and specific body systems: bone health, the endocrine system, cardiovascular health, maintaining a healthy brain and the possible use of adaptogens in cancer treatments. 

Some herbs/supplements/foodstuffs are particularly suited to helping the  body to re-balance itself and these are known as adaptogens; they form the keystone of the book and just over sixty are extensively explored in individual monographs, along with their specific uses and dosages, in the second half of the book.

It is a large book, with 675 pages in the PDF version I reviewed, and there is a *lot* of science as well as many, many references to medical journal articles and studies. The book is clear and well-written but is probably not really suitable for the faint-hearted or total novice in this field unless he/she is prepared to do some serious study. Such study would be well worth the time and effort, however, and I will certainly be buying a hard copy for my own home library. 

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