Book Review – House and Garden

Book Review – Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics by Pam Freeman.

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Quarto Publishing Group – Voyageur Press for providing me with a free electronic RC, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

When I first started reading this book I was a little worried it was going to be too location specific to be of much help to me… As in, it is very obviously written for an American audience and that can sometimes make a book not that useful to me – an Australian reader…

BUT! I was totally wrong. I mean, yes there are areas of ‘Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics’ that were indeed location specific – like the predator section – but to be honest, that didn’t detract from the overall usefulness of this book.

For those who have not read my previous reviews, I am a chookie owner. I have six right now but spring is just kicking off here in the Adelaide Hills and so I hope to fix up the coop and figure out how to get me some more. Just don’t tell my husband. 😀

And so I am indeed qualified to give judgement on the usefulness of this book. And useful I did indeed find it. Yes there were sections I did skim a little as it was either something I already knew/ did or felt not relevant, due to my location – see how to deal with racoons. Goannas, snakes and red back spiders in the coop… would have been helpful (though I am pretty on to fixing those) but I can’t say racoons have even been a bother. Foxes on the other hand… hmmm, I best not tell my son the urine deterrent or he’ll be all over that… or have it all over everything. :-/

Oh, what? You suddenly realise I am a TMI reviewer?

So anyway, back to ‘Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics’. I found the majority of the book very interesting and extremely useful. Especially the ideas on how to increase your flock and what to do with egg eaters.

I have other backyard chicken books that go more into diseases, illnesses and natural remedies than this book did… but that is not saying it is lacking as it did cover a lot of the basics and important issues too.

All in all I found it a great little resource for those wanting to have some chooks in their family as ‘Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics’ will help guide them through to first few hurdles and then some.

As it is a resource book I will go into the layout, format, etc. It was okay, but please bear in mind that I was reading an electronic version and so any issues I had were mostly due to that format. The paper format will not have these issues… BUT! I did find it rather clunky and hard to read at times. Plus the pictures and little blurbs throughout the book did detract from what I was trying to read more than I wish they had. Again, if I had been reading it as a paper book these issues would not have existed.

Other than that it was a clear, concise, easy to read and easy to follow format and layout. Nice, clean, open pages and relevant pictures throughout made it into why I feel it would be an excellent resource book for those just starting out as being chicken parents.

Although I do feel ‘Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics’ is mostly aimed at new chicken owners or potential chicken owners, I did find it useful myself and I’ve own chickens on and off my whole life. I wouldn’t call myself a chicken expert, more someone who knows how to be owned by chickens. 😉 So I honestly do feel like it justifies the “beyond the basics” part of its title.

Would I recommend this book to others?

I think I would, you know? Despite the minor location specific issues, I loved the personal stories and touches Ms Freeman added to the book and feel it makes it a good chook reference book to have. It’s not just a “how to” book, it’s written by a fellow chook addict who is there to help. So, yes, a book I can see myself recommending.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I would be sorely tempted to you know… For the same reasons as above. The personal touches help the reader connect to the book and the passion for chooks. I also found the blog style “how to” writing style easy to follow and learn from so could honestly see myself buying this as a reference book to go with my others.

 

In summary – a good, easy to follow guide to helping you raise backyard chickens.

 

Until next time,

Janis.

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,

Janis.

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

Harvest

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,

Janis.

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,

Janis.

Book Review – Crystal Mindfulness by Judy Hall.

crystal-mindfulness

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,

Janis.

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

100-plants-to-feed-the-bees

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,

Janis.

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,

Janis.