Monday, December 28, 2015

Breakthrough! by Jim Murphy

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by Jim Murphy

ISBN-13: 978-0547821832
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Clarion Books
Released: Dec. 8, 2015

Source: ARC review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description from Amazon:
In 1944 a groundbreaking operation repaired the congenital heart defect known as blue baby syndrome. The operation's success brought the surgeon Alfred Blalock international fame and paved the way for open-heart surgery. But the technique had been painstakingly developed by Vivien Thomas, Blalock's African American lab assistant, who stood behind Blalock in the operating room to give him step-by-step instructions.

The stories of this medical and social breakthrough and the lives of Thomas, Blalock, and their colleague Dr. Helen Taussig are intertwined in this compelling nonfiction narrative.

My Review:
Breakthrough! is a history/biography about how the "Blue Baby" surgery was developed in 1944. It's targeted at tweens (ages 9-14).

This is the type of historical biography I enjoyed as a kid and still enjoy as an adult. The author did a good job of explaining how life was different at this time, like how women and blacks were treated, how medical studies were done, operating conditions, and so on. He didn't gloss over more technical parts but explained them so younger readers could understand what the problems were and how they were overcome. He included quotes from the actual people involved so the reader could see what the situation looked like from their viewpoint.

There were some nice photographs of the people involved and other related photographs. The text flowed well and focused on interesting things. Overall, I'd recommend this book to tweens and teens who think the topic sounds interesting.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Super Awesome Coloring Book by Mark Cesarik

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The Super Awesome Coloring Book
by Mark Cesarik

ISBN-13: 9780692525791
Paperback: 106 pages
Publisher: Test Pattern Press
Released: Sept. 11, 2015

Source: Review copy from the author.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Designed by popular NYC illustrator Mark Cesarik, The Super Awesome Coloring Book features 50 original coloring pages containing polar bears, penguins, astronauts, fighter pilots, bulldogs, fishing lures, butterflies, modern chairs, other super stuff. The designs are intricate and challenging, yet relaxing, too. Designs are printed on one side of the page only so you don't have to worry about bleed-through when using markers. Also perfect for other media, like colored pencils and even crayons. Edited by best-selling coloring book artist Jenean Morrison.

My Review:
I accepted this book for review, then promptly injured my wrist in a way that prevents me from drawing. I only got one page completely done and another started. I'll describe what's in the book, though.

The Super Awesome Coloring Book is a coloring book for older children or adults. There are 50 pages of line drawings to color. Most take up the full page. The sheets of paper are thick enough for colored pencils (unless you push really hard), but my markers bleed through the back. They recommend that you use a scrape sheet of paper underneath to prevent bleed-through from marring the pages underneath.

Working on the pages near the end of the book was tiring because I needed to hold the book flat. I decided that, in the future, I'd just remove the page I'm working on from the book.

There is a wide variety of designs: Geometric, Curvy, or Flower designs (35 pages), Dogs (2), Penguins (1), Elephants (2), Bear (1), Sea Themes (3), Butterflies (1), Birds (1), Humans (2), and Man-made objects (2). Some have a lot of lines and small spaces between them, while others are fairly simple designs with large spaces to fill. The complex designs can take hours, but you don't necessarily have to color in every space unless you want to.

If you're looking for a adult coloring book with variety of themes and complexity, then this is a nice selection.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Pullman Porter by Vanita Oelschlager

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The Pullman Porter
by Vanita Oelschlager

ISBN-13: 9781938164002
Hardcover: 44 pages
Publisher: Vanita Books
Released: May 1, 2014

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Children and adults under the age of 40 are forgetting about the Pullman Porter. They were very important figures in the history of American. This book will teach children and adults, who the porters were and why they were so important in our history. Porters worked in early train cars, they would look, listen and learn from their predominantly white passengers. They would read the newspapers passengers left behind, listen to conversations and begin to talk to one another. The porter learned how important education was for children and how important it was to take this message home to his children. He eventually landed at the forefront of the civil rights movement.

My Review:
The Pullman Porter is a non-fiction picture book about the Pullman porters. A lovely, full-color illustration covered each page. Each page also contained a paragraph with some facts about the working conditions of a porter and how these porters impacted history in a unique way. The text provided some good, basic information. It left me interested in knowing more, and the author listed several sources of further information at the end.

It's a lovely, educational book. Due to the lack of a narrative thread to tie the facts together, I doubt it'll become a favorite re-read book for most children. However, it would be an excellent book for a library collection.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Physics by J. L. Heilbron

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Physics: a short history
from quintessence to quarks
by J. L. Heilbron

ISBN-13: 9780198746850
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
J. L. Heilbron introduces us to Islamic astronomers and mathematicians, calculating the size of the earth whilst their caliphs conquered much of it; to medieval scholar-theologians investigating light; to Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton, measuring, and trying to explain, the universe. We visit the 'House of Wisdom' in 9th-century Baghdad; Europe's first universities; the courts of the Renaissance; the Scientific Revolution and the academies of the 18th century; the increasingly specialised world of 20th and 21st century science.

Highlighting the shifting relationship between physics, philosophy, mathematics, and technology -- and the implications for humankind's self-understanding -- Heilbron explores the changing place and purpose of physics in the cultures and societies that have nurtured it over the centuries.

My Review:
Physics is a brief history of metaphysics and physics in Europe, the Middle East, and the USA. It's not really about the ideas or how they built on each other, but rather what people thought of these ideas and how ideas competed with each other. The first third of the book mainly focused on what various people thought about Aristotle's physica & metaphysical writings. After that, mathematics were mentioned more often. The last half covered changing ideas through experimentation.

The author would name a person, when he lived, and give an extremely brief description of how they applied, preserved, debated, or modified previous people's ideas or what new idea they had. He assumed the reader had a level of knowledge about physics that I haven't retained from my high school physics course. He'd refer to a Rule, formula, or discovery and assume the reader knew what he was talking about, so he didn't explain further. For example, we're told Descartes wrote "on how to improve telescope lenses and how the lenses and muscles of the eye works" and that's all we get on that.

The author also used a formal tone and technical language, which didn't make for easy reading. For someone already familiar with these ideas, this book might help show how these ideas were debated over time. But since I was mostly unfamiliar with the ideas, I had a hard time grasping why these ideas even mattered since their impact on society wasn't usually explained.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Let Food Be Your Medicine by Don Colbert

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Let Food Be Your Medicine
by Don Colbert

ISBN-13: 9781617955884
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Released: December 15, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Based on current research, Don Colbert, M.D., provides proven tools for good health, an alert mind, and a longer life. He explains his anti-inflammatory, modified Mediterranean diet. This life-long diet resolves a broad spectrum of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cancer, and osteoarthritis. Just imagine - understanding how food alone can produce mental clarity, balanced weight, and longevity. Includes meal plans and recipes.

My Review:
Let Food Be Your Medicine explains how a Mediterranean diet modified to be further anti-inflammatory can prevent or help resolve many health issues. After telling his story, the author presented the basic Mediterranean diet and explained the modifications he made to remove inflammatory foods. This is the basic diet that he suggests for everyone. It's very similar to what I eat based on the nutritional advice I've heard lately for cancer and heart disease prevention.

He tackles more diseases than that, though: cardiovascular disease, arthritis and autoimmune disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer (both early and late stages), early stages of dementia & Alzheimer's, ADAH and autism, and mental illness. He further modified his diet for each disease as certain foods seem to aggravate certain conditions. He provided several suggestions for what a breakfast, lunch, and dinner might look like. He also suggested things like correcting lies with truth, getting enough exercise, and so on. He also told stories about people who were helped by his diet and suggestions.

His philosophy is that drugs can help treat symptoms, but the ideal is to change your lifestyle to a sustainable, healthier one so that you can be weaned off of or at least greatly reduce the drugs you need. He maintained an encouraging tone, and his advice was easy to understand and felt do-able. Overall, I think his advice is generally quite good and helpful.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse

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The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy
by Hannah Glasse

ISBN-13: 9780486795768
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Dover Publications
Released: Aug. 19, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Revised and republished many times since its 1747 debut, this cookbook was a bestseller in England and the United States for more than 100 years. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned copies, and Benjamin Franklin even translated some of its recipes into French in hopes of attaining a taste of home while abroad.

Author Hannah Glasse dismisses French cookery, the leading cuisine of her day, as inefficient for servants and middle- to lower-class cooks, citing its fussiness, expense, and waste. Instead, Mrs. Glasse focuses on standard Anglo-American fare, from soups and gravies to cakes and jellies, all simple dishes, prepared in a straightforward manner.

In addition to practical advice on meat selection, carving, and basic cooking skills, this historically fascinating document offers tips on preparing food for the ill, cooking and food storage on ships, and making soaps and scents for the home. Historians, cooks, and all lovers of gastronomy will appreciate this glimpse into the kitchens of a bygone era.

My Review:
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy is a cookbook with recipes, but it requires some cooking experience and the willingness to do a bit of experimenting. I had hoped it might give hints on how to cook over a hearth fire, but the author assumed the reader already knew these tricks. She says to cook "over a slow fire" or "a quick, clear fire," but not how to achieve this. You're to cook the food until "it's enough." She described what seasonings to add ("season it with nutmeg, ....") but left it up to the user as to how much. At best, she gave measurements like "2 spoonfuls" or "a pound."

The author covered various ways to cook a wide variety of meats (various birds, fish, livestock, and game) and how to identify if the meat is fresh when buying it at the butchers. She also covered various ways to prepare vegetables, make soups, broths, gravy, puddings, dumplings, pies, tarts, sausages, cakes, creams, jellies, custards, preserves, conserves, marmalades, ice cream, cure meat, pickle, jar, do cold distilling, wines and brewing, and more. She also gave tips on carving meat, raising turkeys and mushrooms, and making soap and a lip salve.

The meat recipes reminded me of Thanksgiving turkey dinners (just cooked over a fire). For the section on cooking the "American way," she used ingredients that were more widely available in America. She also included "cooking the Spanish way, French way" and so on. For fun, I tried a dumpling and a pudding recipe. Since I've made "modern" versions of these, I was able to fill in the details she didn't provide and they turned out fine. It was interesting to look through the recipes to see what ingredients they had and how they cooked things.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Making of Home by Judith Flanders

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The Making of Home
by Judith Flanders

ISBN-13: 9781250067357
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Released: September 8, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In The Making of Home, Flanders traces changes in the house from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century across northern Europe and America, and shows how the 'homes' we know today bear only a faint resemblance to 'homes' through history. Along the way she investigates the development of ordinary household items - from cutlery, chairs and curtains, to the fitted kitchen, plumbing and windows - while also dismantling many domestic myths.

My Review:
The Making of Home examines how houses and people's attitudes towards them have changed over the last 500 years in northern Europe and the USA. She started by describing what houses used to look like for the majority of people. She examined how ideas and ideals about houses changed as some countries began to value private spaces in homes. House layouts changed and rooms became specialized instead of general purpose. Gender roles and ideals changed as industrialization meant men went to work rather than worked out of their house.

She talked about developments in heating (hearth to stove to central heating), windows (open to glazed and/or screened), lighting (fire to gas to electric), and plumbing and sewer systems. These developments changed house layouts and people's attitudes toward privacy and cleanliness. This desire for privacy and "healthy country living" led to the creation of suburbs as transportation technologies allowed commuting longer distances. She also touched on a multitude of other topics, like how nostalgia and the availability of servants affected building styles.

I've always enjoyed this author's books, and I learned a lot from this one. However, I wonder how many of her conclusions would hold up under a deeper look. For example, she pointed out that London didn't have enough pew space to accommodate London's full population on Sundays. While I agree that not everyone went to church, she apparently assumes each church held only one service, which would be inaccurate. Overall, though, it was a good survey of how changing technologies and attitudes in industrial countries influenced house designs, how they were furnished, and even where they were located.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.