Friday, December 8, 2017

Lucky Peach presents Power Vegetables!

Also known as "the missing blog post." Long ago, Blogging for Books graciously acquiesced to sending me a free copy of Power Vegetables! in exchange for a fair and honest review. I purposely chose this book because it's a cookbook. "How hard could it be to review this?" I thought to myself. Difficult enough, apparently, since it's been about a year since I received it. I know. Shame on me.

Shaaaaaaaaame.... Shamed enough?
Probably not, but I need to get this show on the road.

Available HERE from Amazon!
Power Vegetables! In addition to thinking this would be an easy review, I also seriously thought I could use more vegetable recipes. I had this insane idea that reducing the amount of meat I eat in a week would be good for me and the planet. Salads get tiresome, after all. And again, "How hard could it be?" Clearly I underestimated my love of meat.

I thought you were just kidding when you said "no meat."
No land-beasties were harmed in the cooking of these recipes, or at least none of their meat was used. However, as author Peter Meehan wrote in his introduction, "Fish and dairy are okay with us." So if you are interested in a vegan, meatless diet: this book is not for you. Anyway, let's start with the easy stuff, shall we?

This hardcover book is well-bound, and dynamically illustrated. Power Vegetables are photographed as though they were super heroes about to save your diet. The recipes provide a range of cultural flavors: Mexican, Indian, and Japanese to name a few. Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach also included a small section in which they detail what supplies they keep stocked in their own kitchen to whip up tasty, meat-free meals at a moment. The writing is also entertaining, so even if you never make a recipe from it (as yours truly has not), at least you'll still get enjoyment from reading it. Overall, I think Power Vegetables! is worth your time. Give it a shot! And for goodness sake, eat your damn vegetables.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Master Guide to Drawing Anime: Mostly Adorable

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The Master Guide to Drawing Anime is more than just a pretty picture book. It is a good introduction for the beginner artist on how to draw in the manga/anime art style!

I'm always surprised when I read "how to draw" books and find useful tips in them to improve my drawing skills. You may find this silly, but I rarely read these books. I tend to use only half of the reference— the visual half— to add details to my own work. But the written half is incredibly useful as well. It tells you what you might not have picked up from the pictures alone: how and why the image works.

Christopher Hart delivered a good guide. In this book, Hart demonstrates "how to draw original characters from simple templates." The text accompanying the images is concise, but pertinent. He points out how small changes can make a big impact on your image. And all throughout, these changes will have a bearing on the character you create. That was probably my favorite part. Redrawing a character to look the same through a series of poses, actions, and outfits is difficult, so I'll take any help I can get with that. This focus on creating characters and keeping their looks consistent through multiple images makes this guide a wonderful reference for fledgling comic book artists. However, I wouldn't refer to this as a "master" guide. The book is split into six parts: schoolgirls, schoolboys, preteens, charming villains, humor in anime, and fantasy characters. Of these six, the bulk of the content is in drawing schoolgirls.

I guess drawing girls is more fun than drawing boys?
Maybe? I have a lot of fun drawing girls and women in a manga style, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to include boys and men in my drawings. I just found it odd how many more examples were available on how you could radically change a character type/personality (with a quick-change of hair, clothes, or expression) for girls than there were for the boys. And the schoolgirl section was the best illustrated and most informative section of the book also, with the preteens chapter being a close second. Perhaps Christopher Hart just loves drawing schoolgirls and preteens more than anything.

Are you saying—?!
Nothing pervy, you perv! All I'm saying is that those sections of the book received the most amount of love.

When you say love...
I'm saying detailed descriptions, variations, and full-color images for certain chapters and not others. If you do anything creative, there are certain things that you prefer to do over others. Given the attention to detail on these, I would say that "charming villains" are not on Hart's list of favorite things to draw. There were only two types: both male, based on the same body type, and they weren't even done in color. They were boring. The fantasy section of the book was a little longer and contained color images, but little variation. Furthermore, those drawings were all female and they all had essentially the same facial expression.

Overall, I feel as though Hart's enthusiasm and passion extended to only the first half of the book— a little like my enthusiasm for this review. The second half was "serviceable," at best. With the exception of the villains section, I enjoyed the artwork, and the tips on keeping character consistency. Depending on where you're at in your drawing skills, you might find this useful. But it isn't a "master" guide, or anything close to a definitive one.

One last thing to note before I go: After puzzling (loudly and repeatedly to my husband) over why the style of the art varied as much as it did from one section to the next, he pointed something out to me. This was not all drawn by the same artist. There were multiple contributing artists, and I don't think Christopher Hart was even one of them, though he did write the book.
So there you have it! My opinion hasn't changed much, but my jokes make less sense now.
Thanks a lot, Christopher Hart.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Magnificent Mosaics: Stained Glass Coloring Book

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I'm going to stop pretending that eventually I'll stop reviewing coloring books. A while back, I think it was reasonable to assume that I could stop reviewing coloring books because I generally don't buy them! This, however, was a special circumstance!— it was on sale, and I'd never seen a stained glass coloring book before!

So what's so cool about it?
This book is all intricate mosaic patterns on transparent coloring paper that allows light to filter through it, mimicking stained glass. There are fifteen images included in Magnificent Mosaics: Stained Glass Coloring Book, and the pages are perforated so that you can stick your finished artwork on your windows and enjoy the pretty colors!

If you are as hopelessly addicted to coloring books as I am, you've likely noticed that most adult coloring books have faith that you will:

  1. Finish coloring an entire image or five before you die.
  2. Color it well enough to want to frame it.
  3. Frame it.
I don't know about you guys, but for all the coloring books I now own— more than one, but fewer than all of them— I've yet to completely finish coloring even a single image. Furthermore, even if I did finish an image, I don't know that I would like my work well enough to consider framing it. So while I appreciate that books have that level of confidence in me, framing will probably never happen. Meanwhile, Magnificent Mosaics: Stained Glass Coloring Book says: "Stick this in your window! Enjoy the light show!" And I can completely get behind that! So I think I have a better chance at actually finishing some of these images, since all they require of me when I'm done is a window and some tape.

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If there is one thing that I am not entirely pleased with in regards to this book, it is that there are only fifteen images. For a $7.99 coloring book, I would have liked to get more images. Of course, if this were a normal coloring book and not a stained glass coloring book, I probably would have. So keep that in mind: what you lose in images to color, you gain in a different kind of paper and a different coloring experience. If you're not a fan of stained glass, but you like mosaics, I encourage you to try Magnificent Mosaics instead! This older coloring book is less expensive than its newer, stained glass version and contains 30 images for you to zen out with. The stained glass coloring book actually consists of excerpts from this older Magnificent Mosaics, but on that transparent paper. Or get both of them! Either way, I recommend them: I liked the artwork, the transparent paper is fun, and if you never finish an image you will still have fun trying.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Celtic Spirit Coloring Book

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You have to ask yourself just one question before you decide to get this book. Do you like intricate, Celtic knotwork? Well, do you? I know I don't! (Or at least, I don't care about it.) But I knew that going in, and I'm certainly not holding it against Celtic Spirit Coloring Book that knotwork just isn't my thing. That being said, if it's your thing, then congratulations: I found you a cool coloring book!

Maybe, like me, knotwork isn't really your thing either. That's okay. There are still some neat things for you in Celtic Spirit. There are 78 intricate images in this book, including some that are two-page spreads. Each image is a labyrinth for your colored pencils to get lost in. At times, I've found the images overwhelming! I have a tendency to try shading every little thing in the images I color. Almost nothing gets a flat color in my coloring books. But with this, I find it difficult to imagine coloring it any other way. How could I possibly keep up with my color scheme unless I pick my way from one end of the knot through its many loops, swirls, and tucks until I've completed it through to the other side? Again: not really my thing— but I can see how that could appeal to some people. If you're willing to get lost in that maze, I can see how this might be meditative for you. My favorite images have a nice balance between tiny, tight knots and the bigger, looser knots. These happen to include some excellent animal imagery, including dragons. (I know, what a shock: I like dragons! GASP!)

Finally, let me tell you about the paper itself: looks standard. The pages are thick enough that I think they may hold up to markers, but not to too many passes. Unfortunately, I can't test it, since this is a gift for someone. I'd stick to my colored pencils for it if this were my copy. The introduction also suggests that if you're particularly pleased with your work, you can frame and display it— or even gift it to someone! Of course, you could do this with any of the pages you color in any coloring books, but other books make it easy to do. This one does not. The pages are double-sided, and they are not perforated. Get ready for some book surgery if you decide to excise any of the images.

Overall, I would say Celtic Spirit is a decent coloring book, and you have better than even odds of liking it. Enjoy!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Ghosts from Our Past A.K.A The Ghostbusters Movie Tie-In

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There's just one question you gotta ask yourself before you read this book... Are you a HUGE Ghostbusters nerd? Seriously. Do you live, eat, and breathe for the new Ghostbusters movie? Because I get a sneaking suspicion that having merely "liked" the new movie will not be enough to get you through this.
As you may have already surmised, I am not a HUGE Ghostbusters nerd. I am a fan of the original movies, but was unable to see the new one. But then I saw that Blogging for Books had this available, and since I couldn't convince my significant other to go see the movie with me, I figured I would read this instead. Blogging for Books graciously acquiesced to sending me a free copy (in exchange for a fair and honest review, of course), and here we are now— about 3 or 4 months after I received it.

Okay, here's the thing: This is not a bad book. I've certainly read much worse. But I've also read much better. I guess that, once again, this falls under the category of books that just weren't meant for me. Since I did not see the movie, I'm not sure if this book actually shows up in it. However, the basic premise of Ghosts from Our Past is that ghostbusters Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates (the characters in the movie) wrote it together while they were undergraduates in college. The book is split into three basic parts: Ghostbuster backstories (or how Erin and Abby got into spooks), their research, and their methods. I made it as far as the methods section before I gave up. Honestly, I think the biggest issue I had with this book was its length. It isn't nearly as bloated as Les Miserables, but I would've been happier with fewer pages in their research and methods section. But I'll explain that further soon.

Let's move on to the fun stuff in Ghosts of Our Past. A lot of the humor in this book works because it's meta. This is written as though Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates are real people who legitimately believe in and hunt ghosts. They are "real," and their research is "real," and they passionately try to explain it to you. As a reader, I wasn't just reading a fictional book based on a movie. I was handling an artifact from another dimension, and my guides to that dimension were a couple of passionate, kooky, spook hunters who love the X-files and have no clue how to write a scientific report. The very first page made me laugh with the included praise from diverse sources like New York City's mayor ("An imaginative work of fiction, written by two women I have most definitely never met. Are you recording this? Turn that off."), and an Amazon review that simply read, "5 stars. Arrived on time. Good condition." If you read this book, don't skip the captions. They are funny.

And now that I've had a little bit of time to explain to you what's good about the book, let me go back to what isn't: the pacing. I know earlier I said it was the length, but this isn't that long of a book. The pacing is what's really off. It starts out pretty funny, keeps that momentum through the back stories, and starts losing steam around the middle. That's why it took me so long to get to the third portion. It really slowed down toward the middle, and I just never felt it pick up that pace again toward the end. Then I gave up. Chances are that I will eventually finish reading this book. My bookmark is still where I left it. Overall, I'd say this is good bathroom reading material, but that's about as good as it will ever get.