Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Using Your Camera Creatively

Familiarity with your camera and lenses to the point where you don't have to think constantly about the technical details, leads to more creative photos. This is what Peterson suggests. Play with you camera and lenses. Lie on your back and look up, climb a tree and look down, use different lenses to capture the same scene and evaluate the differences. He includes an exercise that while time consuming is designed to accomplish this.

In addition to his suggestions for developing an intimacy with your camera, Peterson covers the basics for taking outstanding photos: design, composition, light, and a short section on Photoshop. The text in each section is easily within the scope of beginners as well as more advanced photographers. I found the use of several examples of the same scene taken from different perspectives the most useful part. Peterson discuss each example: what's good, what's lacking, and why he chose to experiment with another perspective. Necessarily, this leads to a certain amount of autobiography, but I found it fascinating. It's instructive to see how a professional thinks about his compositions.

Whether you're a seasoned photographer, or more importantly, a beginner, this book gives you something to think about. Most seasoned photographers should know the contents of the text very well, but the glimpse of how another photographer constructs his shots is illuminating.

I highly recommend this book. I enjoyed it and felt that I learned a great deal. I'm not a professional, rather an enthusiastic amateur, but I plan to try all
his exercises. I'm sure they will help me to feel more at ease with my equipment.

I reviewed this book for Blogging for Books

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Forensic Artist Stalked by a Serial Killer

Gwen Marcey, a forensic artist, spots her dog, Winston, digging in her yard. She races from the house to make him stop. When he relinquishes his prize, she's shocked to discover that it's a human skull with a bullet hole in it. Relying on her artistic sense and forensic skill, she decides it's the skull of a young girl. The local sheriff isn't sure, but when Gwen and Winston find the rest of the body, he knows he has a problem on his hands.

Finding the first body leads to the recovery of the bodies of more young girls on the farms through the rural Montana county. Eerily, the first body reminds Gwen of her teenage daughter Aynslee. The more bodies that are uncovered, it becomes clear that the resemblance is no accident and Gwen and her daughter are in the cross hairs
of a serial killer.

This is a fast paced novel. Although the author includes a considerable amount of forensic detail, it's done in short sections that don't slow the story. The descriptions of rural Montana enhance the feeling of menace, but also show the beauty of the area.

Gwen and Aynslee are strong characters. Although Gwen is experiencing all the maternal trials of teenage rebellion, when it counts, the two are able to rely on each other in life-threatening situations. Beth, Gwen's assistant, and best friend is another strong character. Beth is the source of Christian faith in the book. She isn't preachy, but she tries to help Gwen deal with the need for forgiveness in her divorce.

The ending is a twist, but not all that surprising if you've been following the clues carefully. The author is good at planting her clues.

If you like fast paced thrillers, this is a good one. I recommend it.

I reviewed this book for BookLook Bloggers.  

Monday, August 31, 2015

An Unusual Take on the Story of Creation

A shipping container filled with the bodies of young women washes up on the shore of an island between worlds. John the Collector is called to see what's in the container. Surprisingly, he finds one of the young women alive, badly broken, but alive.

During the healing process, the young woman experiences the story of creation in the presence of Mother Eve. It's beautifully told and although the young woman feels unworthy to be a witness, she loves the experience.

The question that hangs over the early part of the story is the identity of the young woman, and why she feels so unworthy. It's a question that will keep you reading as she gradually recovers her identity.

I have mixed feelings about the book. The story of creation is beautifully written, but it you're a biblical purist shifting the blame for the fall from Eve to Adam may be unsettling. The description of the island and the healing of the girl are fascinating. I wish we had more than a few glimpses of this unusual place. The other problem I had with the story stems from the blurb that made me select the book. It said the girl was special because her DNA connects her to every human. I was disappointed that this was not pursued in the book.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Noteworthy View of the Political and Social Background of the Holocaust

Many books have been written about the political factors leading up to WWII and the Holocaust, but The Black Earth is remarkable in the way it pulls history, social conditions, and political theory together to create a picture of the factors allowing the Holocaust to happen. 

One factor was Hitler's severe racial hatred. His plan was always to exterminate the Jews. Another was the destruction of the identity of the state in areas like Poland and Eastern Europe. When the state was dissolved, citizens lost their identity as members of the larger group, and there was no organization to protect them. Snyder recounts the history of how this came about as part of Hitler's plan and the devastating consequences.

However, the book also has a hopeful section. The author recounts numerous stories of non-Jews hiding Jews, or helping them escape. It reinforces the idea that people to people contact is important in enabling people of all political and religious groups to show compassion to those in need.

The final chapter is something I believe everyone should read. We like to think we have put the Holocaust behind us, but there are factors in the world today which could tip the balance and return the world to something resembling that terrible time. When people fear global catastrophe, they can become rapacious trying to secure their own survival with radical action and become less amenable to political solutions. It's something for all of us to think about.

I highly recommend this book. It puts into perspective much of what led to the Holocaust and cautions us against complacency.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hurricane Katrina Changed Lives Forever

The devastation and heartbreak caused by Hurricane Katrina are in the past, but the people affected by the tragic events are still living with the aftermath. The Zimmer's house was gutted by the storm. They were forced to move in with their daughter and her son, Teddy, in Chicago. The hurricane changed their lives, but being forced to live together changed them even more.

The Zimmers are only one of the families whose stories are told in this collection of short stories. However, their's is the thread that holds the collection together. It's a story of bravery, and growing, and giving in. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting this family.

The collection of stories captures the triumphs and tragedies that resulted from this terrible event. The author does an excellent job of making the people come alive. Although I'm not familiar with the Gulf Coast. I felt that I came to know the area and the people.

I usually prefer novels to short stories, but the combination of short stories with a continuing set of characters made the book very satisfying. I think the vignettes showing how lives were affected at various positions on the socio-economic spectrum was a very effective way to bring the story of what happened to people after Katrina to life.

I highly recommend this book. If you're a survivor of the hurricane, it's a must read. If you love well done glimpses of people's lives, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

An Action Packed Thriller Involving Illegal Arms Trafficking and a Deadly Conspiracy

When Jackie Burlingame, arrives at Wyatt Storme's cabin in the Colorado Rockies, Storme isn't pleased. He doesn't like Jackie and being offered a thousand dollars to make a simple delivery smells. Storme wants nothing to do with it until he realizes that his good friend, Matt Jenkins, may be involved and in trouble.

Storme enlists his buddy, Chick Easton, to keep the delivery under surveillance and assist if necessary. It becomes necessary and Chick and Wyatt find themselves involved with crooked politicians, mobsters, and a deadly conspiracy.

If you like a book with plenty of action, this is it. Storme and Chick are in it up to their necks from the first page. There is no let up in the action, and it keeps you turning the pages.

However, the book isn't just action, the characters are well done. There are sassy, humorous exchanges between Chick and Storme and between Storme and his sexy, newscaster girlfriend that are fun to read. The plot is very complex and with all the twists it's hard to figure out what's happening until it all comes together at the end.

I recommend this book if you like hulking heroes, a little sex and plenty of action.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Victorian Mystery

Veronica Speedwell is an unusual young woman for Victorian times. She collects butterflies, going on extended expeditions to strange places to find her specimens and collecting romances along the way. She has never known her parents being brought up by two spinsters to whom she is not related.

Veronica attends the funeral of her last adopted aunt. Now she's on her own and eager to get started with her life, but when she returns to the cottage she shared with her aunt, she finds a man rummaging through her things. Undeterred, she plans to pursue her journey, but narrowly escapes being kidnapped. A mysterious German baron befriends her and takes her to stay with his reclusive, naturalist friend, Stoker. Stoker and Veronica immediately begin a verbal sparring match that is rather delightful to listen to.

Before the baron can tell Veronica what is going on, he's murdered. Now Stoker is stuck with his difficult roommate and together they decide to try to solve the mystery.

The characters in this book, Veronica and Stoker, are very well done. I loved their verbal sparring and the fact that both were extremely independent. Veronica was quite unusual for a Victorian lady. The plot is full of twists that keep you guessing and the conclusion is quite unexpected. The Victorian setting is well done and makes a perfect backdrop for the action.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you like historical mysteries with a bit of romance, you may enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.