Book Review – House and Garden

Book Review – Backyard Chickens: How to keep Happy Hens by Dave Ingham.

backyard-chickens_cvr4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Murdoch Books for providing me with a paper copy of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

And what a book it is too. As corny as it sounds, it really is something my whole family can enjoy. This was proved many times when I went to read it to find my children had “borrowed” it and were either reading it themselves, or outside reading it to our chickens.

backyard chickens feathers

Our children (or chooks) have been book marking the book!

Though I will state here and now I don’t think you need to have chickens (or book stealing children for that matter) to find this book enjoyable and useful.

It covers all the needed basics of setting up some backyard chooks for yourself – shelter, feeding, watering, common ailments, etc. It’s all there and all written about in a manner I loved as it was factual, but enjoyable and entertaining all at the same time.

And, as much as my kids loved reading it and using it to ensure our chooks were being looked after appropriately, that does not make this a childish or immature book. It’s something young and old interested in sharing their yard with some feathered girls will love.

Oh and Mr Fox came a calling for the first time ever while I was reading this book…. No, not blaming ‘Backyard Chickens’ or Mr Ingham for that. We have just been very lucky in the years we’ve had chickens to not meet him until now. What was most shocking – despite the demise of Pepper the Australorp – was Mr Fox came for a visit at about 11am! Following guidance from Mr Ingham’s fine book we have done our best to improve security on the yard. The pen they are put in at night still has not failed us… but obviously when they are free ranging the yard during the day, we had left gaps in our yard, despite it being surrounded by a 5 foot, concrete embedded metal fence. We know that fence was good at keeping foxes at bay as, when we were chasing the critter around the yard  – after penning the remaining girls in cat carriers – it couldn’t jump over our fences to escape! But we followed it to the gap at the front – bushman’s gate of wire and lumber – and have since sealed it tighter.

So, you could say ‘Backyard Chickens’ was here at the right time! We are now down to 6 chooks, but it could have been worse! And come next spring the useful guide in the back as to the different sorts of chickens that make the best backyard buddies, will be used to get more girls. We will then follow the wise words in the ‘Flock Management’ section and go from there.

Can you see this book is very relevant to us? And such an essential addition to ensuring our feather babies have the best life they can and keep giving us those giant, golden yolk eggies!

Finally, I will also say that, despite growing up with chickens in my life and knowing most of their ins and outs and foibles, I still found ‘Backyard Chickens’ a good read as it did cover some stuff I didn’t know. Backed up some the stuff I already did and helped share my love of chooks with my children.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. And not just to people who already own chickens in their yards, but people who care about where their eggs come from and are considering getting their own chooks to ensure their egg providers are getting the best treatment. Mind you, pasture eggs are also a good option… but that doesn’t give you a chook to chat while you hang out the washing.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I may have to if my kids keep stealing my current copy! 😉 If I lost it or had to replace it (after too many chickens were taught to read it) then yes, yes I would buy it. For now I am very happy and feel very honoured to have been gifted a paper copy.  If my kid’s school ever gets chickens again, I might just need to buy a copy and donate it to them as it’s really a book for adults and children alike to read, learn from and enjoy.

In summary – an excellent, very comprehensive book aimed at Australian’s learning to raise their own backyard chooks.

Until next time,


Book Review – Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants by Stefani Bittner, Alethea Harampolis.


3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Ten Speed Press for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Wow, what an interesting book! I really wasn’t too sure what to expect from it… but I did indeed love what I got. I was thinking it was going to be a cook book on how to grow, harvest and eat in season… but no. It was that and then some! Cooking, decorating, healthcare, cleaning – all in season and from locally sourced materials. Wonderful.

And, being a Ten Speed Press book it was simply filled with gorgeous images of the materials to use and the things they can be made into. I do love their photographic imagery as it just adds to the glorious indulgence of the books they produce.

But I have to admit, being the open and honest gal that I am, that there was just something that didn’t click with me and ‘Harvest’. I’m not too sure if it was because it was a bit of a book of everything so – to me – gave it more of a coffee table/ waiting room read than a useful book. Or it might have been the fact I am the wrong audience, locationally, for this book. As in, I am in Australia where Ten Speed Press caters to a North American audience. This is totally my fault and something I accept and expect when asking to review their books… But I do love the things they produce and so I find myself drawn again and again to their work.

Both these faults lay with me the reader and not the book. I just didn’t click to it liked I had hoped to, but it is a simply amazing, fact filled, creatively delicious tome. Okay? Blame me, not ‘Harvest’!

Would I recommend this book to others?

Actually, this is a hard one to answer simply due to the feeling of “coffee table book” I got from ‘Harvest’. As in, a book that is displayed on your coffee table and occasionally thumbed through for mild entertainment but not actually a book you would read to use and replicate the recipes and ideas within the pages. BUT! As I have said, this is just my opinion and, seriously, what the heck would I know, right?

Still, I would tell people this feeling of mine but then tell them to go check it out for themselves as my failure to connect with it doesn’t make it a bad book. It makes me a bad choice of audience.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Sadly no. I mean, I can see myself borrowing it from the library again and again when I want help with something in season… if it is covered, might not be due to my location… but I can’t see myself owning it. I mean, I don’t even own a coffee table… I don’t drink coffee! 😉

In summary: a factually and visually stunning book to help you use what grows around you and in season. Just not a book for me.

Until next time,


Book Review – The Chinese Kitchen Garden by Wendy Kiang-Spray.

Chinese kitchen garden

4 out of 5

I would like to thank Timber Press for providing me with a free ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

What a gorgeous book and so well constructed too. You not only get the history and justified passion of Ms Kiang-Spray for cooking and gardening, but you get a bounty of helpful information on how to grow and use these products for yourself.

I loved the mixture of ‘Old World’ and ‘New World’ within the pages too. Generations of a family passing on their gardening and cooking passions showing how key they can be to raising happy, healthy people. Wonderful.

I grew up in the city of Darwin, where the Chinese culture had played a strong role in its history and creation (well, that’s how I remembered it) and so I grew up with mostly Cantonese style foods as a common thing. So to learn how easy to grow, cultivate, harvest, use and cook some of those ingredients of my childhood – talk about a comfort food cook book!

As to the formatting side of things – which I always talk about – the layout of this book is perfect. Well-constructed, easy to read from cover to cover as well as to spot reference as needed. It includes clear and precise instructions on both gardening and cooking.

Would I recommend this cook to others?

I would and I wouldn’t. I mean, I do feel you need to have a passion or connection to authentic Chinese/ Asian foods to get the most out of this book. Please don’t get me wrong, there are many “common” foods also explored within this book, but the overall theme is what the title says it is.

So, yes I would recommend it… but only to those who I know would appreciate it for what it is. A book on growing and cooking your own food and a family keeping in touch with all aspects of the cultures that created it through food.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I’m honestly not too sure. I mean, I loved reading it and found quite a few tips, tricks and recipes in it I would love to refer back to again and again… but this is the type of book I would want in paper format and I just don’t think I loved it enough to give up any of my precious physical bookshelf space for it. Oh I am a horrible person, we all know that! I loved this book and feel it has just so much goodness to give and share… but I am being stingy with my shelf space. Sorry.

In summary: It is not just a book on family, or on how to grow things or even how to cook. What makes it special is it is a lot of all three. Loved it.

Until next time,


Book Review – Crystal Mindfulness by Judy Hall.


3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Watkins Publishing for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay… I find it really hard writing this review – I’ve actually been putting it off for a couple of weeks. Why? Well, I want to say good things about ‘Crystal Mindfulness’ but I just didn’t fully connect to it as much as I had hoped.

I’m someone who believes in both Mindfulness and the focal point of energy from within you that can come from crystals – yes, I’m a hippy dippy weirdo, I thought we established that years ago! 😀

And I did find some of the mindfulness side of this book good… but I also felt I was only getting half the information sometimes. I really can’t place my finger on exactly what it was… but something just seemed to be lacking. And that sucks as the book is not to fault as it contains some very comprehensive and useful information. The sucky part is me and my failure to connect like I had hoped.

I also don’t agree with the fact that just looking at pictures of the crystals has the same effect as holding one. That just doesn’t sit well with me at all sorry.

Finally, the list of crystals wasn’t in alphabetical order or even, from memory, grouped into specifics – energy, heart, healing, etc. And, well, Ms Pedantic Me likes her reference material to be grouped and categorised in an organised manner before I am comfortable in using a book again and again. Yes there is an index, but I would much rather be able to thumb through to the right point that have to look things up each time.

Honestly, I really do feel all the issues I had with ‘Crystal Mindfulness’ come from me the reader and not the book itself. I feel it was just a failure to connect situation.

Would I recommend this book for others?

Probably not. I mean, this was the first crystal book I have read that also focusses on Mindfulness, but it just didn’t sit well with me as being a good book for people to reference. But this is solely down to my failure to connect and not the book. Don’t hate me, but I just can’t recommend something I couldn’t get into when it comes to crystals.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Pretty sure we all know the answer to that one. For me personally, there are better books on crystals (both metaphysical and scientific) and on Mindfulness out there. This book just wasn’t for me.

In summary: A lot of good and helpful information is covered in ‘Crystal Mindfulness’ but I just couldn’t connect… there was something about the layout that put me off. Reader error, not book error.

Until next time,


Book Review – 100 Plants to Feed the Bees by The Xerces Society.


4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Storey Publishing for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, I will come out and say first that I love this book, feel we need this book and that all countries of the world need a version of this book adapted to their own native and introduced pollinators and plants.

I wanted to make that clear before I say the following as I fear some may take it as more negative than it is meant. I mean it as just an FYI, not as a bad thing, so PLEASE don’t take it as a negative…

Okay, here goes. I did have an issue with this book and it is totally the fault of the reader and has NOTHING to do with the book. Storey Publishing is a publisher based in the USA and caters for USA readers. And I knew this when requesting the book from all the way over here in Australia.

And so, my disappointment at it being a book focussed on looking at how to help save/feed bees and other pollinators in the USA was all my own fault. BUT! It did mean I couldn’t connect or get as enthusiastic about this book as I wanted to because the first series of plants listed aren’t available here, and if they are they are often classified as weeds and can’t be grown. But there were some plants listed that we can have in ornamental gardens and the last lot of plants listed are herbs and fruits trees… so all was not lost. And, as I’ve said the fault is totally with the reader – aka ME and not the book or listed plants.

That aside, the introduction about the need for pollinators, what they do, what they collect, what sorts of flowers they are attracted to, why we need flowers to attracted them even if the flowers seem to serve no other function – all great information that can be used worldwide!

The formatting of the book is excellent. It is set out to be easy to read and a great reference book. It shows the reader which pollinators are attracted to the plant, where the plant comes from (if native to America) or where it can be grown. Good quality colour pictures of each plant is used, the book gives a description of the plant and its uses for the pollinator and all in all some excellent, easy to read details suited for all levels of people interested in looking after the bees and pollinators more.

Would I recommend this book to others?

If they were located in the USA, then yes. Absolutely! If someone there wants to help save the bees and other pollinators; they need to get themselves this book.

If the reader is located in another location outside of North America, I would advise them of the location specific audience this book is aimed for. I mean, it still has some great information there that can be used globally, but I can’t see it as being as attractive to purchase for those not located in the USA. If that makes sense?

Would I buy this book for myself?

No I wouldn’t. And I think we all know by now that this is simply because I am not located in the right part of the world to get the best benefits from this book. Yes I picked up some good tips and advice from it, but this isn’t something I would own. Not unless they did an Australia specific one and then yes, it would be MINE! 🙂

In summary: A really good, easy to read reference book to help people of the USA help to feed and save bees and other pollinators.

Until next time,


Book Review – A Very Vintage Christmas by Bob Richter – Foreword by Christopher Radko

Very vintage christmas

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Rowman & Littlefield for providing me with a free ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, I will admit here and now I am going to be biased about this book as I LOVE vintage Christmas decorations! Much, much harder to get here in Australia – and they look so out of place in the height of summer – and so knew I was going to absolutely love this book! From the history of the pieces, where to look for them to buy, how to display them, how to restore – if needed – and how to store in the off season… it had it all. Love, love, LOVED this book.

I also found the array of simply gorgeous pictures throughout, along with notes of specific items – perfect. Sets you up into the right frame of mind to really get into the Christmas spirit of bygone years.

Being half German myself I have very fond memories of the Christmas ornaments that made it over to Australia from there and are still somewhere amongst my family. They are from around the 1920’s/ 1930’s glass baubles and figurines and so seeing very similar images within the book brought back a lot of fond childhood memories. I mean, we used to decorate my Opa’s Christmas tree with tarnished silver streamers that were actually ‘chaff’ dropped by planes during air raids in World War 2 to scramble RADAR. A girl in Australia, during summer, decorating an ancient synthetic tree with very old glass baubles and air raid chaff in the 1990’s… seriously, how could you get a better Christmas memory? 😉

So, yes, you could honestly say I was indeed the right target audience for this book and loved reading it from “cover to cover” electronically.

Would I recommend this book to others?

 Yes I would. Anyone curious about the history of commercial Christmas ornaments – within the United States – or who is addicted to making their house look simply amazing by filling each room with vintage Christmas ornaments and decorations – this book is for you.

Would I buy this book for myself?

It’s already on my wish list! I would indeed own it. My house is never going to look that amazing. I am never going to amass that amount of decent, gorgeous Christmas ornaments… but a girl can dream and this book will help me do just that.

In summary: If you are a lover of bygone Christmas memories shared through decorations and ornaments. This book is or you. Loved it, loved the memories it brought back, wish I could make my house look that fabulous at Christmas time!

Until next time,


Book Review -Ten Spices: for Health and Longevity by Valerie Lull.

3 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank the author Valerie Lull for approaching me to review this book. I was provided a free copy in exchange for an open and honest review.

This was an interesting little eBook. I would actually call it more an eBooklet… if there is such a thing? I held some very good information and covered the basics of these ten spices very well.

Though I do question the comments on ginger not being good while pregnant as I – and many women I know – have found it a TREMENDOUS help towards morning sickness and my Doctor was the one who suggested it. Maybe ginger isn’t deemed as safe in the USA as it is here in Australia? Not too sure.

But, all in all, a very helpful little booklet for those starting out on learning about spices and seeking ten of the best to assist with better health.

I do have some very minor constructive criticism to share – as I do with all my open and honest reviews. This is not a slur against the author or her skills, merely me trying to offer hopefully helpful feedback. Being an author myself, I may not always agree with it, but constructive criticism can make us better writers.

Okay, so those who have read other reviews of mine will know I am a bit of a diva when it comes to the layout and formatting of books. It comes from my years of technical document writing. And, sadly, the formatting of this little booklet was not the best. I found the font size too large and chunky, found the layout a little sloppy with how a new segment’s title would be at the bottom of one page and the rest of the segment begin on the next page and so on. This is seriously minor stuff and a quick layout edit could fix this up in less than a day. And me, being SUPER picky, also didn’t like how dates were written long hand and short. Meaning sometimes it was written as sixteenth century and sometimes as 16th century. Choose a format and stick to it. Same goes for Vitamin A, C, and etc. vs vitamin A, C, etc. Ensure the formatting is consistent as it gives a more professional look.

The tone of the book kept changing too. Sometimes it was passive with the spices “may”, “have been known to”, etc. While at other times it was positive with what the spices can cure, deter and assist with. Again, consistency in this area would help improve it. It’s not bad the way it is, but it can be even better with some further proofing and editing.

I would have also liked pictures of the spices in question as well as maybe some pictures of the remedies and recipes. That I do feel this is me asking a lot. The booklet is what it is and it is good… but a quick tidy up of the formatting could make it even better.

Would I recommend this book to others?

UPDATE —  No I would not recommend this review as it appears the author has taken a dislike to my reviews published on both Amazon and Goodreads and tried to have them blocked as inappropriate or offensive. The review I have published on both sites is the same one you see here. And so, to have them blocked as they don’t show the book in a perfect, full of praise light, I would not recommend it. The actions are unprofessional and rather disappointing.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Probably not. And that is simply because I have a lot of books that cover this information – and more – already. I do not feel I am the right audience for this book as I am more an advanced spice student than a novice. The fault is with the reader and not the book as to why I wouldn’t buy it!

In Summary: An interesting and informative little booklet that gives a sound introduction to ten top spices beneficial for health. I have to say they would be my top ten spices too! A little more work on the proofing, layout and format could make this booklet into quite an exceptional little reference book.

Until next time,