Wednesday, November 29, 2023

THE LEAGUE OF LADY POISONERS: Illustrated True Stories of Dangerous Women, your budding teen feminist needs this gift

THE LEAGUE OF LADY POISONERS: Illustrated True Stories of Dangerous Women
(written and illustrated; Forewords by Holly Frey and Maria Trimarchi)
Chronicle Books
$29.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: A feast for the senses, this sumptuously illustrated book will introduce you to some of the most infamous women throughout world history, united by their shared taste for poison. Welcome to the League of Lady Poisoners.

This riveting and well-researched volume by Lisa Perrin weaves together the stories of more than twenty-five accused women poisoners, exploring the circumstances and skill sets that led them to lives of crime.

You might find yourself rooting for some of them—like Sally Bassett, who helped poison her granddaughter’s enslavers in Bermuda, or Giulia Tofana, who sold her name-brand concoction to women wanting to be rid of their abusive (or otherwise undesirable) husbands. Other stories, though—including that of Yiya Murano, one of Argentina’s most notorious swindlers and serial killers, or the terrifying Nurse Jane Toppan—may prove less palatable.

Organized into thematic chapters based on the women’s motives, the book also includes an illustrated primer that delves into the origins and effects of common poisons throughout history, as well as a foreword by Holly Frey and Maria Trimarchi, creators and hosts of the podcast Criminalia. It is a treat for true crime fans, feminist history buffs, and any curious readers fascinated by the more macabre side of human nature.

TRUE CRIME Women can do anything—even commit murder. This thoughtfully researched and insightful survey into the lives of the poisoners explores the toxic events that put these women in the spotlight, the deceptive methods and substances they used, and their legacies today. The League of Lady Poisoners is a thrilling deep dive for fans of true crime podcasts, docuseries, and books.

EYE-CATCHING Illustrator and author Lisa Perrin’s beautiful and distinctive art style blends the romantic allure of these pop culture legends with the disturbing and twisted facts of their lives. The hardcover is decorated with shining foil, and the interior contains clever Victorian-inspired lettering, borders, and diagrams that complement the text. Readers and illustrated book collectors will love all the details honoring the Golden Age of Poison.

FASCINATING, DIVERSE STORIES OF WOMEN WHO KILLED These women lived in different time periods and had varying cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds that influenced their motives. Some acted out of defiance—like the Angel Makers of Nagyrév, who taught women how to dispose of their abusive husbands in Hungary. Others schemed their way to power and money, including Empress Wu Zetian of China and Belle Gunness, who killed more than 14 people in the American Midwest. Discover all their stories in this engaging collection . . . if you have the stomach for them.

Perfect for: • Lovers of true crime podcasts like My Favorite Murder, Morbid, and Criminalia
• Readers who enjoy historical biographies, especially of women
• Readers who love a good villain, antihero, or underdog story
• Murder mystery fans
• Art lovers and illustrated book collectors
• Fans of Lisa Perrin's beautiful illustration
• Shoppers looking for a unique feminist gift book
• Fans of period dramas like The Serpent Queen and The Borgias
• Readers who enjoy books like Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History and The Trial of Lizzie Borden


My Review
: This book has gorgeous artwork:

...and a clear, unfussy yet decorative design.

I loved reading the stories of these murderous women...the vast majority killed men, but most of those men needed killing...taking power into their own hands when there were few avenues for them to get or exercise power.

I would rate this a full five stars but for one thing...I found the author wrote in a flippant tone about what, in the end, is the taking of human life. It would not have been bothersome to me had it not been about real, living, breathing human beings, not fictional characters. This likely is a crotchet unique to me, but it was as time went by, clearer and clearer to me that I did not enjoy the flippancy.

I am still recommending it as a gift for your teenaged budding feminist because the underlying message...when you are backed into a corner by the world, you use what you have to exert your one I fully agree that young women need to learn. As these crimes are not lauded, or held out as good solutions to the problems the murderers faced, I think a mid-teen woman will be able to navigate the subject matter with her own moral compass.

Besides, a little bloodthirstiness in the women of the world will do everyone a power of good. Plus this stuff is just flat-out fun!
Look at this! It is beautifully designed to echo classical art, and it is graphically reminiscent of the period's Roman mortuary sculpture...witty, lovely, in fine taste, and informative.
Paracelsus wrote centuries ago, and the truth of his observation is eternal. Let's not shy away from teaching morally gray lessons about Power and how it is wielded to young women who need countermessaging to helplessness, powerlessness, and eternal victimhood that are ubiquitous in entertainment and social structures surrounding them.

If it takes learning about the horrors of Belle Gunness and Empress Cixi to prevent more women from becoming E. Jean Carroll and Anita Hill, so be it.

MAHAHAA, Inuit-English retelling of Mahahaa the Tickler and her evil ways

(illus. Babah Kalluk)
Inhabit Media
$17.95 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: A bilingual retelling of a traditional Inuit story from the North Baffin region, and illustrated by celebrated Inuit artist Babah Kalluk.

Aulaja must stay alone in camp with only her dog to protect her. She has heard about dangerous land spirits from her father, but she has no idea she will soon encounter one—Mahahaa the Tickler, a being from Inuit mythology who can tickle you to death.


My Review
: Short for a graphic novel, but far too intense for a reader under 10 to read alone so definitely not a picture book. This Inuit myth is actually quite disturbing, but does not contain violence but rather unease and menace...the last illustration I've put on the page is Mahahaa herself, in all her maleficent glory.

The artwork is stunningly beautiful:

I trust that last image shows you why I think it's best for this to stay out of hands younger than ten years. By fifth grade, I would expect that level of uneasiness with such a deliberately wrong-looking humanoid figure to be established as fantastical and exaggerated for effect in the reader's mind. The artwork suits the deep unease of the young girl left alone to face the possibility of confronting Bad Things.

This is one I would, if I planned to gift it to a kid, read first and discuss with the parents. The fascinating writing system, so different from our alphabet, could be a very big draw for a fifth grade reader. I would've been enchanted by it, maybe even inspired to look into the Inuit language. It seems to me like something that challenges the juvenile reader to make a fictional context for the fear of being left alone.

It's a worthy aim, and a wonderful story for a young person interested in other cultures to safely explore, and create, and expand their own storyverse.

LEGENDS OF NORSE MYTHOLOGY, best-loved tales and characters for juvenile readers

(illus. Isabella Mazzanti)
Wide Eyed Editions
$24.99 hardcover, available now

Rating: 5* of five

The Publisher Says: Legends of Norse Mythology is a fully illustrated anthology of Norse gods, giants, monsters, and heroes retold anew.

Featuring beautiful and otherworldly portraits of mythological characters from Isabella Mazzanti and enchanting text from Old English scholar and Norse mythology expert Dr Thomas Birkett, this collection of timeless tales is the perfect gift for lovers of Viking myths as well as readers looking for an introduction to this epic world of mystical power, battles, quests and intrigue.

With this book, readers can take an adventure through time to a realm of ice and fire, magic and mischief. They’ll meet a cast of characters from Norse folklore and be swept up in their epic deeds and fates.

Inside, there are more than 30 profiles of Norse figures—from gods and goddesses, to giants, elves, monsters and other mythical beings. Each profile introduces the figure, including their defining attributes and a new retelling of their story, along with sidelights of extra facts and details. Figures include familiar gods like Thor to lesser-known legends such as giant sisters Gjálp and Greip.

A captivating visual portrayal of each figure helps crystallize these beings in readers’ imaginations. Isabella Mazzanti’s evocative artwork perfectly express the fantastic traits and powers of the mythical figures within.

Interspersed with the profiles are summaries of four famous Norse tales and events:
  • The story of Ymir and the Nine Worlds
  • How Thor’s Hammer Was Made
  • The Mead of Poetry
  • The Tale of Ragnarök
  • A visual feast and a journey to another world this book is perfect for the whole family to explore and enjoy. From the trickster god Loki and his mischievous ways to the powerful Norns—the three women who weaved the destinies of all living beings—discover why these incredible stories are still a part of our culture today.


    My Review
    : Written by a scholar for non-scholarly readers, this is a terrific overview of the pantheon and mythos of the Norse peoples. I know I was a mythology hound starting at about six years old, and would've loved this book had it been around in the 1960s! I won't recommend that you hand it to anyone under eight, or a very mature seven-year-old, but rather read it to/with them. Norse mythology contains ideas and events that, even made age-appropriate, are permaybehaps just a bit too much for the very young. By fourth grade, they should be hardy enough to process this level of conflict without it causing issues. The illustrations are gorgeous to my eye:

    Lovely object, packed with well-told myths from a culture Westerners owe a lot to, and just right for Yule gifting to your elementary-school aged giftee.

    TREE SPIRITS (2nd edition) is a great gift for your youngest, lap-sitting reader

    (illus. April Tatiana Jackson)
    True Roses Books
    $24.95 trade paper, available now

    Rating: 5* of five

    The Publisher Says: Tree Spirits is an interactive picture book that encourages creativity, social emotional intelligence, and seeing the world with fresh eyes. Encouraging children to develop their imagination, creativity and emotional intelligence.

    With 25 color photographs of trees, the rhyming text asks, “What do you see when you look up at this tree?” inviting a child to use their imagination. Turning the page reveals an illustrated overlay of a charming animal inspired by the lines and shapes of the tree bark. Each animal introduces a different emotion helping children to understand their own inner spirit and feelings.

    For parents and grandparents and friends and family it is a fun book to read with the children in their lives. The book includes 4 sheets of tracing paper to invite them to begin drawing what they see and ends with encouraging children to go out and look at the trees in their neighborhood and keep noticing, “What do I see?”

    LOUISE WANNIER “Safta”—“Safta” is Hebrew for grandmother and, as of this printing, she is very lucky to have five grandchildren. As an artist, Louise is fascinated by observing patterns and loves the discovery of how the camera shifts the focus and emphasis from what our eyes natively see. Beautiful illustrations by talented Graphic Artist April Tatiana Jackson.


    My Review
    : Cool little book for very, very young readers, and pre-readers with grandparental help. Accustoms kids to observing, and interpreting their observations, not just staring at things in their worlds. It's got beautiful images of trees, which is always a good thing to expose a child to; it's got drawn overlays to point up the author's intended images to be found when looking at the tree photograph...and because it's an overlay it is a separate experience from just looking at how beautiful the trees are.

    This is an absolutely delightful lap-book for your smallest family member. Start at about two or three, it seems to me.

    Enjoy the first pages of the book.

    It's beautiful, it's got a great message all our descendants need to hear, process, and internalize, and it's exactly right for Yule gifting.

    DAVID ATHERTON'S BAKING BOOK for Kids: Delicious Recipes for Budding Bakers, for the kid who loves the kitchen

    DAVID ATHERTON'S BAKING BOOK for Kids: Delicious Recipes for Budding Bakers
    (illus. Harry Woodgate)
    Candlewick Press
    $17.99 hardcover, available now

    Rating: 5* of five

    The Publisher Says: Winner of The Great British Baking Show David Atherton delivers his eagerly anticipated next baking book, jam-packed with kid-friendly recipes for budding young bakers.

    Preheat the oven and get cracking—there are bakes to make! This third serving from Great British Baking Show winner David Atherton guides readers through a veritable feast of sweet and savory baked treats. From snacky samosas to hot cross hedgehogs, from loaves baked in flowerpots to an ombre cake (your friends will think it came from a fancy bakery), these recipes are so delicious and easy to follow, they’ll have the reader named star baker in no time!

    Featuring oven-hot tips, a review of a baker’s cupboard, an equipment list, step-by-step instructions, and delightful illustrations by award-winning illustrator Harry Woodgate, this collection of mouthwatering recipes from David Atherton will bring little bakers and their loved ones together in the kitchen again and again.


    My Review
    : I'll assume you know what GBBO is, and who 2019's brilliant winner of same is. Having written for The Guardian on healthy cuisine and eating, he's been dedicating time and energy to starting the young people of the world out on a healthful and sustainable, as well as fun, lifetime of food habits. This is his third book for young bakers and, well, as badly as it's needed it's also presented with the clarity of a professional explainer. Candlewick Press has done its part by making sure the design and the illustrations are clear, readable, easy to scan and comprehend for the target audience, and completely adorable:

    Nothing outrageous, nothing too complicated, but always challenging enough to keep the usual eight- or nine-year-old from feeling babied. Even younger bakers still won't find it impossible to succeed at these tasks. I expect a lot of us have grandkids or nephews who will groove on the chance to do a whole kitchen project by themselves! (with all the usual layers of supervision you, or their parents, know is appropriate, of course)

    Monday, November 27, 2023

    IN THE GROOVE: The Vinyl Record and Turntable Revolution, for your collector giftee

    IN THE GROOVE: The Vinyl Record and Turntable Revolution
    (listed below)
    Motorbooks International
    $40.00 hardcover, available now

    Rating: 5* of five

    The Publisher Says: Celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first commercial LP with this authoritative, highly illustrated, and multi-faceted look at the history and culture of vinyl record collecting and turntables.

    Vinyl records continue to be hot commodities among everyone from obsessive audiophiles to newbie collectors getting their toes wet. In the Groove: The Vinyl Record and Turntable Revolution is the book for both—and everyone in between. Published to mark the 75th year since the introduction of the commercial LP, In the Groove is written by a roster of well-known music journalists, vinyl junkies, and stereophiles teaming up to present a gorgeous tribute to the vinyl LP and the culture it has spawned:

    Richie Unterberger explores the history of the 33 1/3 LP, including its predecessor, the 78rpm record, the first commercial LPs, the pressing process, stereo vs. mono, and formats like the 7-inch/45rpm record.

    Gillian Gaar tackles those temples to the turntable: record stores. Inside, she examines the history of LP merchandising everywhere from department stores to headshops, Record Store Day, the artist in-store appearance, and swap meets and record shows.

    Martin Popoff pens a paean to the physical object itself, discussing the advent of the sleeve, the great LP covers, famous sleeve designers, liner notes and packaging, colored vinyl, and more.

    Matt Anniss looks at the collecting hobby and topics like obsessive collectors, what makes a great listening space, playing and caring for vinyl, collecting and vinyl in DJ and hip-hop cultures, and the mixtape phenomenon.

    Ken Micallef, a top hifi journalist, has the gearheads covered with explanations of turntables from portables to audiophile-quality units, the workings and parts of a turntable from motors and tonearms to plinths and cartridges, and the components of a system.

    In the Groove is illustrated throughout with images of gear, listening spaces, record stores, sleeve art, and celebrities and musicians enjoying the vinyl hobby through the decades. Brief, entertaining sidebars cover topics like famous labels from Stax to Sub Pop, famous EPs, well-known record stores, milestone LP covers, a beginner’s guide to grading, and formats that have challenged the supremacy of the LP, including 8-track, reel-to-reel, and cassette.

    Feel the groove with this effervescent ode to vinyl.


    My Review
    : Collecting vinyl records was about listening to the recordings to me, back when they were ubiquitous, and had mass-market stores dedicated to their sale. There have always been people who collected the objects as objects but, back in the 1970s when I worked in a record store, I was even then not tempted to join their ranks.
    Foley's records looked a lot like this in 1979
    All that said, I was not the most likely person to read this book cover to cover, or drool over the photos in it. It seemed to me to be one of those love-it-or-leave-it things. I was surprised at how piercingly sweet the nostalgia for that wonderful feeling of being surrounded by things I had no idea what they were about, and having the chance to discover whole new-to-me areas of music, would be. The infrastructure of turntables, speakers, speaker wires, amplifiers, needles! many needles...came rushing back. It was a lovely, immersive experience.

    The record stores the authors discuss were mostly familiar as names to me. I loved my time in the world of vinyl because I wanted the music in my ears. The vinyl collectors will, I feel sure, be just as transported just for other reasons.

    Enjoy some lovely page spreads below.

    The collector, the older relative, the nostalgic Boomer are all likely to enjoy the read, and the look, of this book.

    THE WHO & QUADROPHENIA, how is it even possible that this album was released FIFTY YEARS AGO?!


    Motorbooks International
    $50.00 slipcased hardcover, available now

    Rating: 5* of five

    The Publisher Says: The Who & Quadrophenia offers a generously illustrated deep dive into all aspects of one of the most popular rock albums of all time. Take a deep dive into one of the best-selling albums ever on the 50th anniversary of its release with this beautifully produced and authoritatively written slipcased edition.

    Veteran rock critic Martin Popoff leaves no stone unturned in taking apart The Who’s generation-spanning masterpiece, Quadrophenia, while exploring each of the album’s 17 tracks and their themes of identity, anxiety, and mental health. Chapters cover:

    The state of The Who as of 1973, including their role in Mod culture The recording sessions at famed Olympic Studios and the band’s own Battersea location, including techniques used Song-by-song studies of each album side, including analyses of lyrics and the guitars, drums, keyboards, and synthesizers employed by members Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon The 1979 motion picture based on the album’s song cycle The continent-hopping tours that supported the album The rock group’s trajectory post-Quadrophenia, including notable albums and tours

    Popoff also takes you on side journeys examining each band member, mod vs. rocker culture, the album’s famous graphic design, manager/producers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, Quadrophenia collectibles, and more. There’s even a brief discography and complete LP tour dates.

    Presented in a 10" × 10" slipcased book, The Who & Quadrophenia is illustrated with stunning performance and candid off-stage photography as well as rare memorabilia.

    The result is a richly presented celebration and your ultimate tribute to the rock opera masterpiece.


    My Review
    : They're rising 80, Daltrey and Townshend, and yet The Who are still touring. People are still buying the album discussed here FIFTY YEARS LATER.

    Getting old is as simple as just not dying, but nothing can prepare you for the weirdness of your youth being History to most of the world's population. My parents remembered the 1930s vividly and felt that the Second World War was a recent event my whole life. To me, of course, they were History. I knew somewhere in my logic circuits that, if I just didn't die (not a sure thing as a gay man in the early 1980s) it would happen to me, too.

    But one of my most coveted albums, one I begged for all during 1973 (didn't get it), is now historically important enough to warrant an expensive, lavishly produced, slipcased hardcover book. That feels...weird, unsettling, a little shocking. Millions upon millions of us Boomers are left in the world sitting atop a vast pile of pilf to plonk down for gift items like this. We can afford, most of us, to give it to ourselves as well as to other old people.

    Old People! Books about ROCK MUSIC for Old People!

    The book itself is on-brand for Author Popoff, he of Rush: The Illustrated History and Queen: Album by Album and Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motörhead among others. He does an admirable job of delving into the songs, the ideas in, the people behind, and the legacy of this astoundingly influential and important album, treating it with the historian/fan's eye that it as a concept and as an item can easily support. The photographic documentation of the Who began before this album was released, but it definitely makrked a sea change in the intensity and the completeness of that documentation.
    The table of contents, as you see above, is a beautiful design. It's also demonstrating Author Popoff's characteristic completeness of view. His analyses, and takes on the events of the day, his credibility as a rock writer with publication credits in the likes of Revolver, Guitar World, Goldmine, and Record Collector assures the fussy reader of an informed, well-presented opinion. Let me end with a few page spreads, which (let's be honest when it's just us here) is the real reason you'll buy the book whether for yourself or someone you really, really want to spoil:

    Perfect for Yule giving.