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Dressmaking: The Indispensable Guide

Jules Fallon. Firefly, $35 (256p) ISBN 978-1-77085-938-8

This beautifully designed guide by designer and entrepreneur Fallon will be a handy reference for anyone who wants to learn how to sew. It begins with detailed discussions of the anatomy of a sewing machine, thread types, and notions. Fallon explains how to choose among different fabrics and prepare for a project. Then she moves into how to decode pattern symbols, take measurements, create pleats and tucks, and other matters of technique. By the end of the book, Fallon moves on to more complex techniques for cuffs, collars and yokes, linings, facings, and edge stitching. Each page has multiple helpful images. Fallon’s descriptions are clear, and her goal is to cover almost everything readers need to know from the first time they sit down at machines to the moment they start advanced projects. The book does not include patterns or sewing projects; it’s intended as a resource to accompany them. Fallon is clearly passionate about sewing and conveys her love of the craft, always cautioning new sewers to pay meticulous attention to detail in order to achieve the best results. The book is destined to be a well-worn companion for many creations. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Turning Parliament Inside Out: Practical Ideas for Reforming Canada’s Democracy

Edited by Michael Chong, Scott Simms, and Kennedy Stewart. Douglas & McIntyre (PGW, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $22.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-77162-137-3

In this stiff collection of eight rather technical essays, current and former parliamentarians from four different parties offer ideas for reforming the Canadian parliamentary system. Green Party leader Elizabeth May complains of the undue influence of larger political parties, arguing that changing the voting system to a more consensus-based system with some form of proportional representation of political parties would “enhance cross-party cooperation, and reduce the excesses of prime ministerial power.” Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld explores how to increase the numbers of women in Parliament, and New Democratic Party MP Niki Ashton writes about engaging young voters. The other essays focus more narrowly on the inner workings of parliament. Conservative MP Michael Cooper proposes reforming the time allotted for MPs to question the government but offers few concrete suggestions. NDP MP Kennedy Stewart looks at opportunities for rank-and-file backbench MPs to gain more control over the parliamentary agenda. Perhaps the boldest article, by Liberal MP Scott Simms, promotes the concept of a new Assembly of the Federation as a third Chamber alongside the House of Commons and the Senate. The book’s heavy focus on the plight of disempowered backbenchers and parliamentary machinery will limit its readership even among Canadian voters. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Math Behind... Discover the Mathematics of Everyday Events

Colin Beveridge. Firefly, $24.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-77085-998-2

Mathematician, teacher and author Beveridge (Basic Maths for Dummies) does what he sets out to and shows that numbers can be fun and friendly in this entertaining book. Math lovers and the math-averse alike will be fascinated by Beveridge’s explanations of how the digits of pi can and have been used to write poetry, how the Alhambra Palace in Spain employs geometry and patterns to create optical illusions, and how computer programs scan for plagiarism in college assignments and Shakespeare. The writing is light and amusing, and Beveridge presents the material in a deceptively simple fashion despite the complex principles often involved. The topics are organized into broad categories: the human world, the natural world, technology, sports, entertainment, getting around, and the everyday. Within each chapter, Beveridge explains the math involved in diverse subjects, such as the stock market, elections, tennis, Monopoly, and car crashes. Charts, diagrams, graphs, and other illustrations proliferate and are helpful in breaking down potentially difficult concepts. Whether readers are math geeks looking for new ways of applying mathematics principles or just curious to see how math might actually be applicable in everyday life, this fun, enlightening book will not disappoint. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame: A Life of Louise Arner Boyd

Joanna Kafarowski. Dundurn (IPS, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $24.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-4597-3970-3

Scholar and geographer Kafarowski’s debut is an exhaustively researched account of the remarkable life of Louise Arner Boyd, a socialite and daring Arctic explorer. Born in 1887 to a wealthy family in San Rafael, Calif., Boyd became the sole heir of her father’s fortune when she was 32. Fascinated by the Arctic, she led six expeditions there between 1926 and 1941 and was part of the 1928 search party for Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Boyd was also one of the first women to cross the North Pole, in a flight arranged in her late 60s. Though she encountered many obstacles, including a few men for whom female leadership was anathema, her spirit was indomitable and her contributions to Arctic studies, including data she provided to scientists developing radio weather forecasting and to the U.S. military to revise its maps and charts, are indisputable. The book does not dwell on the hardships of its protagonist any more than Boyd herself seems to have done. Instead, it paints a portrait of a brilliant, eccentric woman who was well ahead of her time. Kafarowski vividly transports readers into her subject’s northern expeditions. Arctic aficionados, history buffs, and feminists will all be intrigued by this story of an adventurous life. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose

Joe Biden. Flatiron, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-17167-2

America’s 47th vice president revisits his son Beaus’s 2015 death from cancer while burnishing his own political capital in this heartfelt but not uncalculated memoir. Biden (Promises to Keep) begins in late 2014, when his son Beau fought a harrowing battle with brain cancer through deepening disability, fleeting rallies, and experimental treatments. Biden tells this tragic story with genuine pathos, but in between the family gatherings and hospital vigils, he spotlights his central role in coping with public crises, including Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, ISIS’s rise, and domestic flare-ups of racial violence. Biden emerges as a statesman both steely-eyed (“I don’t think you have a soul,” he tells Vladimir Putin) and dependable (“ ‘Joe,’ said the new prime minister of Iraq, ‘I need your help’ ”) while he expresses sympathy for ordinary folks; he even gives a policeman’s widow his private phone number to call when she feels sad. Threaded throughout is Biden’s agonized vacillation over a 2016 presidential run, complete with encomiums to his fitness for the presidency and an outline of the platform he would have run on had he not decided against it. This sincere recollection of loss intermittently feels like a 2020 campaign biography. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Vegan Weight Loss Manifesto: An 8-Week Plan to Change Your Mindset, Lose Weight and Thrive

Zuzana Fajkusova and Nikki Lefler. Page Street, $21.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-62414-380-9

Fajkusova and Lefler of the Active Vegetarian blog debut with this solid beginner’s guide to veganism and weight loss. This manifesto urges readers to make a complete kitchen overhaul and presents an eight-week plan focused on developing healthy habits. Fajkusova and Lefler divide each week into three achievable assignments in fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle. Recipes include, for breakfast, overnight maple walnut oats as well as scrambled tempeh and greens; mains include African stew with lentils, kale, and yams, and a slow cooker chickpea ratatouille. While there are some standout recipes (hummus soup, chickpea salad sandwich, and Mamma J’s Lazy Cabbage Rolls), some are simply average, such as a portobello burger. One recipe repurposes a lime carrot salad from earlier in the book by wrapping it in collard greens. Fajkusova and Lefler’s eight-week plan is worth the read,and their recipes are a perfect entry point for those eager to start new eating habits. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Coastline: The Food of Mediterranean Italy, France, and Spain

Lucio Galletto and David Dale, photos by Bree Hutchins. Interlink, $35 (288p) ISBN 978-1-56656-026-9

The latest collaboration from Ligurian chef Galletto and food journalist Dale (Soffritto: A Delicious Ligurian Memoir) serves up a sumptuous culinary tour through three Mediterranean cooking cultures in what the authors call the Domain of Oil: Liguria, Provence, and Catalunya (also known as Catalonia). Northwest Italy, southern France, and northeast Spain, connected by a contiguous coastline, share foodstuffs and foodways brought by Greeks, Romans, and Arabs, such as olives, saffron, figs, chickpeas, and anchovies as well as eggplant, rice, and pasta. The authors skillfully present the culinary links, observing that Liguria’s pesto alla genovese is Catalunya’s salsa verde and Provencal’s pistou. Fish-based fare abounds with stews such as Marseille-style bouillabaisse and baccala (dried salt cod) recipes across the cuisines. Quail and figs with farro is a mash-up of Provençal and Ligurian classics. Regional salads, soups, breads, rice and pasta, and dessert recipes are plentiful, using ingredients accessible to American home cooks. Photographs showcase kindred plates and sun-drenched Mediterranean landscapes. This cookbook-cum-travelogue also highlights favorite taverns and restaurants along the culinary corridor and the spectacular markets of Barcelona and Nice. Galletto and Dale’s culinary tour and definitive recipe collection is at once personal, enlightening, and mouthwatering. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Immigrant Cookbook: Recipes That Make America Great

Edited by Leyla Moushabeck. Interlink, $35 (224p) ISBN 978-1-56656-038-2

In her introduction, Moushabeck (Soup for Syria) references “these troubling times of anti-immigrant rhetoric” and counters that rhetoric by extolling the culinary gifts 42 million American immigrants have given the country, which are the inspiration for this excellent collection of recipes provided by immigrants and their descendants. Each recipe includes a personal, often touching headnote and brief bio. The diversity of recipes is staggering: Armenian yogurt soup, roasted whole fish from Senegal with a bracing spice rub, colorful Singapore stir-fry. Some are innovative twists on classics; others are tried-and-true favorites. Author and blogger Nadia Hassani combines her German and Tunisian heritage by braiding challah dough around a rhubarb filling. Chef Reem Assil discovered muhammara while visiting her father’s family in Syria. Ivan Garcia’s pozole is eaten in Mexico to celebrate Mother’s Day, birthdays, and “sometimes a divorce.” Moushabeck strikes a balance between big-name chefs (Michelin-starred chef and humanitarian José Andrés checks in with his wife’s gazpacho) and figures such as Tunde Wey, who emigrated from Nigeria at 16 and runs a dinner series exploring race. Wey’s contribution is a recipe for smoky jollof rice, made with turmeric, coriander, and chili pepper. Affection for these dishes is palpable: writer Samantha Seneviratne says that her cashew semolina cake from Sri Lanka is so fragrant that it “doubles as aromatherapy” while baking. This is an outstanding melting pot of recipes. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Nutritious Delicious: Turbocharge Your Favorite Recipes with 50 Everyday Superfoods

Editors at America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, $29.99 (328p) ISBN 978-1-945256-11-0

This worthy collection of recipes made with superfoods is full of flavorful, healthy dishes. A well-researched primer includes such headings as “Nutrient-Dense Eating in a Nutshell” and “Six Simple Swaps,” as well as a detailed vitamin chart and a thorough “Decoding Phytonutrients” section (regarding beta-carotene, lycopene, etc.). From there, the authors move on to a visual guide to 50 superfoods (including apples, spinach, and sweet potatoes), and information on how to stock a pantry. Breakfast options include blueberry-oat pancakes, pumpkin spice waffles, and a fluffy omelet with smoked salmon and asparagus. Toast with avocado and mashed black beans is a quick, protein-packed workday morning option. For lunch there’s a chicken and arugula salad with figs and warm spices, and a soothing garlic, chicken, and wild rice soup for cold days. Mains are hearty and substantial, with options such as black rice bowls with salmon and grilled flank steak with tomatoes, orange, and avocado. Dinner party–worthy options include baked stuffed trout with red pepper and preserved lemon, and a spice-rubbed turkey breast with sour orange sauce. Headnotes are thoughtful and begin with “Why this recipe works” and nutritional information for each recipe. This is a wonderful, useful guide to healthy eating. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

Francisco Cantú. Riverhead, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1771-3

An ex–Border Patrol agent finds himself on both sides of the battle over illegal immigration in this fraught memoir of his time patrolling the Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas borders from 2008 to 2012, an experience that roiled his emotions and shook his sense of his own part-Mexican identity. He discovers at the border a zone of heartbreaking absurdity: agents arrest a parade of undocumented migrants who want nothing but a job; to do so, they employ tactics such as emptying water bottles and urinating on food caches hidden along commonly used routes to deny border crossers sustenance, then rescue them when they are dying of thirst in the desert. After Cantú quits because of teeth-grinding stress and guilt, he’s forced to further reexamine the border when an undocumented friend, José, goes to see his dying mother in Oaxaca and is arrested trying to return. Through José’s story, Cantú comes to see the border crossers’ fierce resolve in the face of border police and brutal smuggling gangs as a defense of family and civilized values. Cantú’s rich prose (“For one brief moment, I forgot in which country I stood. All around me the landscape trembled and breathed as one”) and deep empathy make this an indispensable look at one of America’s most divisive issues. Agent: Rebecca Gradinger, Fletcher & Co. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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