Saturday, March 22, 2014

Crochet: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide by DK Publishing

Crochet: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide features more than 80 crocheting projects for both beginners and more advanced crocheters. It starts off with some basic techniques and mini projects to get beginners off to a good start before launching into some more complicated patterns.

I love this book!!! I think I learned some crochet stitches many years ago, but I didn't learn enough to make anything. Because this book has both techniques and patterns, it's perfect for me.

Many years ago (30+), I really wasn't that interested in pursuing crocheting further because at the time it seemed like a "granny" craft to me. That image was further enhanced by all of the "granny square" projects, which I'm not fond of. This book changed all of that! These patterns are modern as well as fashionable. Even the "granny square" ones looks like they've been updated, to a point.

The book is divided into two sections: tools and techniques; and project patterns. The first section features information on yarn types, choosing colours, caring for your work, hooks and other equipment, and basic stitches, as well as more complex stitches and techniques. It also shows the reader how to read patterns as well as charts. I'm particularly interested in learning how to read the charts because they are very new to me. It looks hard, but I'm willing to go it a go.

I like how the book shows the reader a few basics then launches into a mini-project so that they can use what they just learned. I also like that the stitches are shown in a logical this case, by height. So, the single crochet comes before the half-double crochet, which is followed by the double crochet. It's a little thing, but to me it makes sense and builds upon previous lessons.

The project patterns section is broken down into categories: blankets and pillows; home and gifts; hats and scarves; gloves, socks and slippers; what to wear; toys; and bags.

I really like the variety of patterns, even though I most likely won't use a number of them, especially the garlands, toys and kids/baby wear. There's enough of the others one, though, to keep me interested and crocheting for quite a while.

Each of the projects in the book specifies which yarn (by brand name) was used for the project. It also specifies which type of yarn to use in general. However, even though I knit quite a bit, I still don't know enough about yarns to pick them out for a specific project. I'll probably just end up taking the book with me to the yarn store and getting help there.

Notes at the beginning of some of the projects point to similar projects or projects using the same stitch. I really like this idea as it encourages me to look at patterns other than the first ones that caught my eye. There's also additional advice, labelled "Top Tip", scattered throughout the book.

I love the patterns in this book. Several of them immediately caught my eye. I've already made the striped washcloth (page 34-35).
The pattern was very easy to follow and I appreciated the photographs of the edging technique as well as the large one featuring the finished project. I had a problem changing colours (I somehow lost a stitch), but I'll figure it out eventually. I hope to make a few other patterns once I learn some more stitches and get better at the craft. These include: filigree bookmark (page 178), shell mesh scarf (page 116), men's beanie hat (page 194), men's chunky scarf (page 206), cropped sweater (page 250), straw beach bag (page 290), everyday bag (page 295), and the change purse (page 306).

Highly recommended. I'll definitely be using this book a lot.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Crochet: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2014. ISBN 9781465415912(Hardcover), 320p.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Strength Training: Exercises for Women by Joan Pagano

Strength Training: Exercises for Women has over 200 step-by-step exercises "to burn calories, boost metabolism, build muscle and tone your body".

I mostly enjoyed this book, but I did find parts of it a little confusing. I haven't done a lot of weight training in the past, but just recently I've been interested in incorporating some into my overall weight loss/fitness plan.

The book starts out with the "getting started" advice. It discusses why you'd want to lift weights before launching into the training program explanations. It talks about muscles, equipment, and other topics including how to use this book. There's also a number of warm-up and cool down exercises and stretches. While this section had lots of good information, it wasn't as clear and concise as it could have been. I kept returning to it and must have reread it several times. I still wanted more information before starting any of the exercises.

While the book did explain how to start, I wasn't quite sure on which exercises to pick. There were so many. I really wanted a sample program or two with exercises listed so I'd know I was getting off on the right foot and not doing exercises that were too hard for a beginner. I found out much later by flipping through the book, that a few general programs with selected exercises are listed, but they are at the back of the book. Other than a brief entry in the table of contents, I didn't see them referenced anywhere else.

The main part of the book focuses on the exercises. They are divided into sections for the lower body, upper body, and the core. Each of the exercises features a large, labelled photograph(s) and a pretty good explanation. The side bar lists 3 levels, which get progressively harder by adding more weights or more repetitions. There are also some trainer tips with some additional advice scattered throughout this section. I love the way the exercises are presented. Even though some of the exercises use machines or other equipment, I think there are enough exercises to pick from that I can still get a good workout without having to join a gym.

As I mentioned earlier, there are three general programs near the back of the book. They are: building strength (for beginners), getting stronger (for those looking to progress), and strength training plus (for something more challenging). Basically, they draw exercises from the main part of the book and together they form a total body workout.

Also closer to the back of the book, the author has included 4-15 minute total body workouts that progress in difficulty. All of these include warm-up and cool down exercises and are perfect for when you have a limited amount of time. I like that these workouts are self-contained, so you don't have to flip back and forth in the book to see how the exercises should be performed. I haven't tried them out yet, but these workouts look fun.

There are several Q+As with the author scattered throughout the book. These were great. The questions were relevant and the answers were clear and informational.

The book has a table of contents and an index.


For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Strength Training: Exercises for Women by Joan Pagano, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2014. ISBN 9781465415806(Soft cover), 335p.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Complete Running & Marathon Book by DK Publishing

The Complete Running & Marathon Book goes through the biomechanics of running, a variety of training plans, as well as programs to build strength and speed. It also covers typical injuries, ways to prevent them, what to wear, nutrition, hydration, training, what to do before and after race day as well as the day itself, as well as lots more. Basically, it offers advice on all things to do with the sport. It's geared towards all levels; those just starting to run and those wanting to take it further.

Overall, I liked reading this book. I'm not a runner nor do I expect to be. I wanted to read this book because I've been using my treadmill a lot more for walking and I wanted to get more out of it. I was hoping that some of the advice would be transferrable to my situation. It was pretty much what I expected and I wasn't disappointed.

The first part of the book deals with the body and how it works, concentrating on the lower body. It also covers running styles and ways to assess your running fitness. I didn't find the last bit all that helpful as I found them too hard for a "walker" like me.

The "Get Ready to Run" section covers: goal setting, shoes, clothing, nutrition in general and in regards to training, and hydration. It also features sample programs with descriptions and large photos for the exercises and stretches for proper a warm-up and cool down. My favourite part of working out is the stretching so I loved this part of the book.

The "Plan Your Training" section starts with the good training principles, which includes advice on a variety of runs, crossing training, and overtraining, before launching into the actual planning and log keeping. It then goes into the different training programs: foundation, 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon. It also has additional programs to help with strength and endurance, increasing speed, and post-race recovery. While the programs are nicely laid out and should be fairly easy to follow, I found the suggested speeds much too fast for me. Therefore, they aren't going to be as helpful as I would have liked. They do give me some ideas, though, on how I should be training.

The "Build Your Strength" section focuses on a selection of strength and resistance training exercises tailored for runners. It starts with core training then moves onto resistance training. Both of these parts features programs for beginners as well as more advanced athletes. The photographs of the exercises are large, labelled, and well explained. There are also side bars that have a list of the targeted muscles as well as an illustration that pin points the muscles that are being worked. I didn't realize that runners have to do so much strength training so I appreciated all of this information. What I didn't like was that some of the exercises used machines and/or equipment that might not be accessible or readily available in a home gym. Not everyone has a desire to join a gym.

Now that the athlete has trained and exercised, the book moves onto a section for race day. This part has advice on tapering your training, mental preparedness, eating and drinking, strategies, and recovery. I loved the advice in this section and found most of it accessible and relevant.

Finally, the book has tons of advice on maintenance. Topics include: avoiding injury, caring for your feet, self-massage with foam rollers, common complaints (with prevention and first aid), and injuries with descriptions, symptoms, treatment and training advice. Since I've experienced a number of sports-related injuries, this is the first section I turned to. The advice is invaluable.

Overall, I got a lot out of this book. I may not use all of the advice, but there was enough in it for me as a walker to recommended it to others.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

The Complete Running & Marathon Book by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2014. ISBN 9781465415769(Soft cover), 192p.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

100 People Who Made History by Ben Gilliland

100 People Who Made History features people who helped shape the world. They come from many different walks of life and includes explorers, inventors, leaders, artists, and much more.

I loved this book! It's filled with so many fascinating people. There were many that I recognized: Marco Polo, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Aristotle, Joan of Arc, Walt Disney, and Elvis Presley, to name a few. Even though these names were familiar I didn't know everything the book had to say about them. There were also many people that I didn't recognize: Dmitri Mendeleev (created the first version of the Periodic Table), Cai Lun (invented paper), Mary Seacole (pioneering nurse), Saladin (Muslim leader who retook the Holy Land), David Ogilvy (the father of modern advertising). I found each and every one of them interesting.

The book is divided into categories: Daring Discoverers, Inspirational Inventors, Thoughtful Thinkers, Leading Leaders, and Clued-up Creatives. The author presented the information in a couple of different formats. Some people took up one page, some 2 pages, while others were condensed so that several appeared on one page.

One of my favourite parts if the "All About Me" section, which features year of birth and death, nationality, interesting factoid (claim to fame), and a brief summary. I liked it because it gave me a brief snapshot of the person before I read more about them. This was particularly helpful for those I was unfamiliar with. I would have liked it if the author included this information for each of the figures in the book. Unfortunately, that didn't happened.

The other two parts that I enjoyed were "He couldn't have done it without...", which showed the person's forefathers and their contributions, and "He paved the way for...", which showed those who came after him in his field. These people benefitted from the work that had already been done. I liked these two sections because it gave me some perspective on the person's work and put it into context.

I also liked that the book contained some more modern figures like, Jobs and Wozniak, Zuckerberg, and Nelson Mandela. Having said that, I enjoyed reading about all of the figures in the book, both historical and more contemporary.

Two pages at the back of the book are dedicated to more people who have made contributions, but didn't quite make the top 100 list. These include: Noah Webster, Sacajawea, Helen Keller, Tommy Douglas, Gloria Steinem, Terry Fox, and many others.

The book also includes a table of contents, a glossary, and an index.

Highly recommended. It's written for younger readers (7-12 year olds), but older readers might also enjoyed this one provided they don't need a lot of information on each person.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

100 People Who Made History by Ben Gulliland, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2012. ISBN 9780756690038(Hardcover), 128p.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Incredible Pop-Up Body Book by Richard Walker

The Incredible Pop-Up Body Book features a full-size pop-up poster of the human body. It also covers a variety of subjects all dealing with the human body.

I like this book. Besides the poster, the book tackles a few interesting topics: the cells, the heart, respiration, digestion (appropriately called "From Taste to Waste"), reproduction, seeing and hearing, bones and muscles, and disease defenses. All of these are beautifully illustrated and annotated with labels and side bars.

The back of the book features a full-size pop-up body poster. Several of the items "pop-up" when the poster is unfolded. These include:
• rib cage with the lungs, heart, and diaphragm underneath
• moveable arms that reveal bones
• moveable lower leg that shows muscular details and flips up to reveal bones
• foldable intestines that reveal kidneys and pelvic bones, arteries, and veins

The poster itself is well labelled and contains lots of additional information about the body and the featured parts. It's relatively pretty well made with heavy-weight poster stock and should last quite a long time providing that extra care is taken when folding and unfolding the sections.

The back of the poster is loaded with additional information on the main body systems: respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal.

Although I enjoyed the book, I admit I was a little disappointed with it. Instead of one large pop-up, I expected (and probably would have preferred) several smaller ones. While the poster is amazing, it is a little hard, actually make that impossible, to unfold it while sitting in a chair reading. It's just too large and unwieldy. You actually have to put the book on a large hard surface (a table or the floor) to unfold the poster. Additionally, I think it might be too cumbersome for younger readers and or those who are refolding-challenged. I still think it's pretty cool, though.

The book has an adequate table of contents, a pretty good glossary, and an extensive index for a book this size.

Recommended. All and all there's a lot of information packed into this relatively short book.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

The Incredible Pop-Up Body Book by Richard Walker, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2011. ISBN 9780756686963(Hardcover), 28p.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tangled Thursday - Weaving

Tangled Thursday is an occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week Tami challenged us to use Zentangle patterns that resembled weaving. Since W2 is one of my favourite patterns, I immediately knew what I was going to do. I had hoped to do a couple of tiles this week (and perhaps try a few of the other patterns), but I only had time to complete one.

I can see where I missed some shading spots, but overall I'm happy with it.  It's a little different than I had first imagined.  I was thinking that the smallest hole was going to be another layer, but in the end I decided to do a "hole" instead.  

Be sure to check out the other "weaving" creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tangled Thursday - Winter

Tangled Thursday is an occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week I've challenged others to create Zentangle inspired drawings based on the word "winter". It's March already and it doesn't look like this winter is ever going to end. Our temperatures have just started to warm up in the last couple of days, but last night we got a big dump of snow. At least it's not too terribly cold for shoveling.

Anyway, this week I've created two tiles. The first one sort of looks like a snowflake.
Pattern: Paradox

For the second one, I used tangle patterns that "looked" like things I'd see in winter. To me, Bales looks like a patch work quilt, Tipple, like snowballs, Blink looks like my rain chain iced over, Ahh, like snowflakes, Candleglow is obviously fire, Nzeppel reminds me of a frosted window pane, and Chard looks like my boot tread print in the snow.   Sorry, they are out of order.

Patterns: Bales, Tipple, Blink, Ahh, Candleglow, Nzeppel, Chard

Be sure to check out the other "winter" creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.