Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth

book cover
The Midnight Assassin
by Skip Hollandsworth

ISBN-13: 9780805097672
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Released: April 5, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
A sweeping narrative history of a terrifying serial killer--America's first--who stalked Austin, Texas in 1885. The city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London's infamous Jack the Ripper. For a year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the city, striking on moonlit nights using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women of every race and class. The citizens' panic reached a fever pitch.

Before it was all over, at least a dozen men would be arrested (and released) in connection with the murders, and the crimes would expose what a newspaper described as "the most extensive and profound scandal ever known in Austin." And when Jack the Ripper began his attacks in 1888, London police investigators did wonder if the killer from Austin had crossed the ocean to terrorize their own city.

My Review:
The Midnight Assassin is a true crime book about a series of gruesome murders from December 1884 to December 1885 in Austin, TX. The police had minimal forensic methods at that time and didn't know how to investigate a series of seemingly motiveless murders. There was very little evidence gathered. A number of men were arrested but released or acquitted due to lack of evidence. The case was never solved.

The book explored the social structure of the city and how these crimes changed Austin, Texas. The first women to be killed were black servants, but it ended with the deaths of several higher class white women. It was interesting to see how the citizens reacted to the various crimes. I'm impressed that those in charge managed to prevent lynchings and that innocent men weren't convicted.

The author vividly described Austin before, during, and after the murders, including details about notable events leading up to the murders. He described the murders and the steps taken to track down the killer(s). He provided clinical descriptions of the bodies and how people reacted to the sight. He didn't play up the gore, but these were very grisly, chilling murders. I'd recommend this book to people interested in the first American serial killer.

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, March 25, 2016

The Life and Times of Mary Vaux Walcott by Marjorie G. Jones

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The Life and Times of Mary Vaux Walcott
by Marjorie G. Jones

ISBN-13: 9780764349720
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Released: March 18, 2016
Book page on publisher's website

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Known as the Audubon of Botany, Philadelphia Quaker Mary Morris Vaux Walcott (1860-1940) was a gifted artist whose stunning watercolors comprise a catalog of North American wildflowers. Walcott was catapulted to the highest levels of society and national politics by a late and bold marriage to the secretary of the Smithsonian.

Along with an early (1887) transcontinental travelogue, never-before published correspondence with fellow Quaker and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover, and Commissioner Mary Walcott's reports for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, this biography reveals rich intersections of history, religion, politics, women's studies, science, and art during the transformative times in which she lived.

My Review:
The Life and Times of Mary Vaux Walcott is a collection of letters, journal entries, and newspaper reports that provide insight into Mary's life and times (1860-1940). Apparently there wasn't much material for her childhood and early adulthood, so we're told about the Quakers and where she lived along with people she might have come in contact. Throughout the book, we're told about some other women explorers and naturalists (some of whom she knew) and challenges that they faced.

Mary frequently traveled in the USA and Canada, so we're provided with some letters about her travels and mountain climbing. Late in life, she defied her father's expectations that she'd remain single to care for him. We're provided with letters of her father complaining to friends and excerpts from her husband's diary about their life together. There's a chapter about how her wildflower watercolors gained fame. Another was of her letters to Lou Hoover, and they talked about the politics of the time. Another focused on her comments relating to her work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The book included some black and white photos of various people, a couple sketches, and about 15 of the wildflower watercolor paintings. It read more like a journal than a typical biography. Also, Mary's life was presented by themes (1887 travelogue, correspondence with Lou Hoover, etc.), so some aspects of her life weren't described. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in women explorers and naturalists from this time period.

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, March 24, 2016

Classic Human Anatomy in Motion by Valerie L. Winslow

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Classic Human Anatomy in Motion
by Valerie L. Winslow

ISBN-13: 9780770434144
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: August 4, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description from Cover:
Fine-art instruction books do not usually focus on anatomy as it relates to movement, despite its great artistic significance. Written by a long-time expert on drawing and painting human anatomy, Classic Human Anatomy in Motion offers artists everything they need to realistically draw the human figure as it is affected by movement.

Written in a friendly style, the book is illustrated with hundreds of life drawing studies (both quick poses and long studies), along with charts and diagrams showing the various anatomical and structural components.

This comprehensive manual features five distinct sections, each focusing on a different aspect of the human figure: bones and joint movement, muscle groups, surface form and soft tissue characteristics, structure, and movement. Each chapter builds an artistic understanding of how motion transforms the human figure and can create a sense of expressive vibrancy in one's art.

My Review:
Classic Human Anatomy in Motion is an anatomy book for artists who draw, paint, or sculpt human nudes. Much of the information can be applied to clothed figures, too. The nude figures were posed respectfully rather than shown in sexually suggestive poses.

This book contained high-quality illustrations. There were illustrations showing the bones and muscles of the human body like you'd find in an anatomy book, and the author described the motions that each joint can do and how muscles work. This helps you to realistically render the human body when it's in motion. The author pointed out which features can be seen on the surface and to look for them as reference points when drawing.

The author described how to draw a figure from models, everyday life, pictures, or video. She suggested warm-up exercises and ways to suggest an active (rather than passive) figure. She gave advice about working from your imagination, but she assumed that you'll usually have some reference to draw from as you work. Overall, I'd recommend this book to artists who want to improve their depictions of human figures.

If this review looks familiar, that's because I previously reviewed the NetGalley ebook version of this book. When I requested this book through Blogging for Books, 7 months and about 140 books had passed by. I assumed it was a new book by this author, and I was so excited to have a chance at a hardback version. The hardback version is an oversized book, so it's easier to work from than the ebook I was viewing on my computer screen.

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: My photos of the book don't do it justice, but they show some of the things taught in the book.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Working Writer's Guide to Comics and Graphic Novels by Nick Macari

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The Working Writer's Guide to Comics and Graphic Novels
by Nick Macari

ISBN-13: 978-0692577103
Paperback: 90 pages
Publisher: Panel by Panel
Released: Dec. 21, 2015

Source: Review copy from the author.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
A writing guide for the comic writer. This is the book I needed when I first started writing comics twenty years ago. Everything you need to know to take your existing story and outline to a completed, professional-level comic script. It covers the ten major rules to comic script writing and the four core considerations of every comic panel. It provides an easy to read, in-depth look at script format, process and story mechanics.

Whether you're an aspiring comic writer or a seasoned professional, the tips and techniques revealed in this book will hone your storytelling.

From page 12, "This guide is aimed at the working writer with a solid grasp of story structure, basic writing comprehension and a comprehensive outline in hand....While I may speak generally of premise, plot and structure throughout this guide, the intention isn't to walk you through the process of discovering or creating your story, but rather to help you apply your existing story to the comic medium."

My Review:
The Working Writer's Guide to Comics and Graphic Novels is a guide to taking an existing story and making it into a professional-level comic script. The author assumes you already know how to write and have a story but don't know how to tell the story in the unique format of graphic novels and comics.

He covered the basic rules of the comic/graphic format and explained how to write your story in script format. He talked about avoiding mundane panels and writing visually in your script. He discussed beats, pacing, tension, dialogue, and characters. He listed things to have and to avoid and provided three pages of question and answers. He finished by taking part of an existing story idea through all of the steps of story to script.

The author was concise, and I found the whole book easy to understand. The black and white illustrations provided clear examples of what he was pointing out. I think this book would be a good resource for writers who want to work in the comic or graphic novel format.

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, March 2, 2016

President Lincoln by Demi

book cover
President Lincoln:
by Demi

ISBN-13: 9781937786502
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Wisdom Tales
Released: Feb. 7, 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
From a small log cabin in Kentucky to the steps of the White House, Abraham Lincoln rose from humble beginnings to the very height of prominence and prestige. Leading America through the momentous events of the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the abolition of slavery, the story of "Honest Abe" is one that all children should know.

Now award-winning author and illustrator, Demi, recounts Lincoln s incredible life story of courage, wisdom, and compassion as only she can. Filled with stunning illustrations, this book contains an appendix of fascinating facts and famous quotes from Lincoln s life, as well as a timeline and map.

My Review:
President Lincoln is a biography about Lincoln for ages 4 and up. The main part of the book contained quotes from Lincoln along with details about his life. The author described some of what life was like in Lincoln's childhood and told about important events from his life. At the end of the book, the author included the Gettysburg Address, a timeline of Lincoln's life, and a collection of quotes from and facts about Lincoln.

The cover art gives you some idea of what the interior art looks like. The people, animals, and objects looked flat, like paper cut-out dolls. There were no shadows, so the figures appear stuck on to the backgrounds. I didn't really care for the illustrations, but they may appeal to others.

If you're looking for a biography about Lincoln suitable for young children, this book did a good job of describing the highlights of his life.

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.

book interior
book interior