Friday, March 13, 2015

Rockin' the Boat

Rockin' the Boat: 50 Iconic Revolutionaries - From Joan of Arc to Malcom X Jeff Fleischer

Woo-hoo! I'm back on Zest's Rockin' Blog Tour.

Much like Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults Exposed! this new offering by Zest is a little more text-y than previous similar titles, and is a more YA-friendly trim size.

In this one, Fleischer looks at 50 iconic revolutionaries (in case you couldn't figure that out from the subtitle) with a brief introduction to their life, any context you need to know about what they were rebelling against, and what their revolution was. Most also have a pull-out box or two about the lasting legacy of their rebellion or how history and/or pop culture has changed their story (such as the real story of William Wallace vs. Braveheart)

Arranged in chronological order, the first part is pretty heavy on the anti-Romans (Hannibal! Boudica! Cleopatra!) Sam Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson are here, as are Metacom, Tecumseh, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, and Liliukalani. Other Americans include Daniel Shays, John Brown, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emma Goldman, Cesar Chavez, Malcom X and Marting Luter King, Jr. (If I counted correctly, 19 are Americans or were rebelling against something in the US, or doing it in what would become the US.)

It's not all white guys, and it's not all winners, which is a serious win. I also like while they are all certainly political revolutionaries, it's a nice blend between reformers and those who went to war. I would have liked to see more outside of the Americas and Europe, especially some less-known names. I mean some of these Americans are a bit obscure (Mary Harris Jones), and some of the early European ones definitely are (Vercingetroix, Arminus, Owain Glyndwr) but most of the ones south of the US aren't (Che, Castro, Simon Bolivar, Pancho Villa) And the ones that are further afield are pretty well known (Mao Zedong, Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Ataturk, Nelson Mandela). The one exception is New Zealand, where we get Hone Heke and Kate Sheppard.

It's a great introduction to some serious empire building and tearing down (as much as there is a lot of focus on the anti-Romans--8 out of 50, it also really shows the sweep of the Roman Empire, as well as its definite limits.) As well as major political movements, which still very much shape our world today.

While it's an easy one to dip in and out of, I recommend reading it in order, as many of the revolutions build on each other, or reference each other, so the context from a previous chapter is often useful, which is why the chronological order works so well here. Everything's only 3-5 pages, but it covers enough so people know what went down and why. IT's also short enough you think "oh, I can read just one more" and then you end up finishing the book in one session. (NOT THAT DID THAT. *whistles while looking innocent*) This is a great one for a wide range of readers and I really really really wish it had been around in 2012 when the National History Day theme was "Revolution, Reaction, and Reform". So many teens didn't know where to even start picking one-- I would have loved to be able to have them leaf through this book for inspiration!

Another fun and engaging, but still wildly informative, one from Zest.

Book Provided by... Zest, for blog tour inclusion

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cybils Scarf Knitting

As you know, I was a second-round Cybils judge this year in YA Nonfiction. To help me prepare, and to have fun arm-chairing the first-round panelists, I read several of the nominations when the first-round was reading them, too.

And, while I was reading, I knit a scarf.

It is warm and cozy and can also be worn as a loose hood to keep my ears warm while not messing up my hair.

It also can cover large portions of my face when the weather requires!

The pattern isn't 100% exact, but if you want to knit one too, here's the general recipe. The actual knitting is pretty easy, but you have to be able to do it while reading. (Knitting while reading is my superpower. It got me through college--the knitting kept me awake while reading boring articles, and if that wasn't enough, I could randomly stab myself with a needle to help me perk up.)

Gather a few colors of yarn in a similar weight.
For this scarf, I used a KnitPicks lace sampler that had been sitting in my stash forever. It's a mix of their various lace-weight yarns, a total of 5 colors.

Find a gauge that gives a nice drape, but is tight enough to still be warm
For me, that was 5 stitches/inch on a size 3 needle.

Cast on 60 inches worth of stitches
So... 300 for me. BUT I did not take into account that, when worn, the weight would stretch it, so it's a lot longer than I intended, so I can loop it 3 times instead of 2.

Join round, being careful not to twist stitches, mark beginning of round
I totally twisted my stitches. :(

Knit in the round while reading your first book
Yes, you have to read and knit at the same time.

When you finish your book, break yarn, join next color
Don't worry about finishing the round. I used a split splice so I wouldn't have to weave in any ends. As you're striping, you can't really tell where the yarns overlap in the finished project.

Purl in the round (reverse stockinette stitch) in the round while reading your next book

Repeat in this way until you've read all your books or are running out of yarn.
I ran out of yarn. Some books were read more than once (especially on the short list) so they have multiple stripes.

Finish final round, bind off in pattern

Lightly steam block
One of the things that makes it so cozy is that the changing between stockinette and reverse stockinette make it bunch up, so it's even more extra warm!

Here's a close up of my striping pattern:

One stripe is not a full round long. Nonfiction lends itself to this, as the books tend to be a size where they stay open nicely on their own. A stapler across the top of the pages also works well to hold it open. If you're working with longer books, you can also switch every chapter or reading/knitting session. I kinda want to do one that is smaller (so it'll just be a cowl, no looping) in shades of dark gray/black with the stories in one of the City Noir books.

Also, just to brag, here's the vintage WWI poster you can see in the edge of the frame:

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What I've Been Reading: City Noir

Istanbul Noir edited by Mustafa Ziyalan and Amy Spangler

Ok, do you all know about Akashic Books City Noir series? So far there are sixty-nine titles (I think I counted that correctly)-- each is an anthology of noir short stories, taking place in a specific location, with the stories written by authors who are from there or live there, or write about the city a lot. Many of the volumes are international--if I counted correctly, 24 of the currently-out titles are international, with locations ranging from Paris to Manila, Kingston to St. Petersburg, Tehran to Copenhagen. (There are also 3 titles coming out this summer-- Providence, Beirut, and Marseille-- and another 21 that have been announced. Of the 24 that aren't out yet, 16 are international.)

I love this series so hard. It's the best of armchair travel, because you're going into neighborhoods and situations you don't usually get (because, well, noir). As the authors are mostly local, or write like a local, the city is the setting, and it's a character that links the stories, but there's no expositional tour guide voice that can run through books that take place in a location the readership might not know very well. There's just the city and culture in the background and part of the story, which in a way is more enlightening. Between all the stories, you usually get a wide range of neighborhoods, people, and economic status--and not a lot of the touristy stuff we usually see. While the concept itself is diverse, there's also tremendous diversity within each volume. Also, with the international ones, you get to read a lot of authors that haven't published in English before, or that you might not otherwise have come across.

So, as much as I read and love this series, I haven't reviewed it yet because, well, Istanbul Noir is the only one I've actually finished. Not because the others aren't good, but they're short stories! So I tend to dip in and out of the collections, and then they're due back at the library, and so I'll return it and pick up a new city. I've found short stories are the best bus reading, because that's usually how long I have. I haven't really gotten into short stories before, but I think my friend and co-worker Megan put a finger on it when she explained why she doesn't like them--they're too short for her to really connect to and like a character. That's the best part about noir--you're not really supposed to like most of these people.

So! If you're looking for some great short stories by authors you may not know, or want a new look at a city you love, or a very different introduction to one you've never been to, this series is for you.

Also, what cities do you wish they covered? Personally, I'm crossing my fingers for Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong (and maybe a separate Kowloon volume, like they split up the boroughs of New York City?), Cape Town, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Karachi.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults--Exposed

I'm super excited that Zest asked me to be part of their Rockin' Blog Tour and let me have 2 dates and 2 books to talk about! As frequent readers, and anyone who's heard me present about nonfiction knows, I love Zest's work.

Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults Exposed! Julie Tibbott

So, I was expecting this to be along the lines of previous Zest titles such as Scandalous!: 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends), Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes-From Cleopatra to Camus, and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It's Too Late, but about secret societies and shady groups.

In essence, it is, but it's a little more text-y and has a different trim size-- 9 by 6 inches instead of 6 inches square. I'm a big fan of YA nonfiction having a more standard trim size, so YAY for trim size.

Tibbott introduces us to 22 different secret or exclusive groups, giving their history, what they do, and what's secret about them (if anything). (And here's where I mean it's a bit more texty--it's slightly longer, but covers fewer things than the previous books, with bigger pages. Also, the design has fewer pull-out boxes.) It's a great introduction to groups--some of which teens will have heard of, some of which they'll probably hear of at some point, and some of which they may never come across again.

The format is a great one for browsing, or just dipping in and out of. They're arranged in alphabetical order, which makes for a few jarring transitions-- Branch Davidians go to Club 33 (a super exclusive dining room club at Disneyland) or the Society for Creative Anachronism leading into the Symbionese Liberation Army (which also just gives a good sense of the wide range of groups covered.) After each group, there's also a few pages of further information--usually a brief introduction to several other similar groups, or an interview with someone involved in the group (including a young Freemason.) I also appreciate that, when appropriate, she offers hotlines and other places for help if you or someone you know is effected by a similar group or related issues (such as hazing or cult membership.)

Now, I'm an educated adult, so I knew about several of the groups (Skull and Bones, Freemasons, Know-Nothings, SCA, SLA) and there were more that I had heard of, but didn't know a lot about (La Santa Muerte--Shapeshifted now makes more sense--Thuggees, The Hellfire Club) and some I had never heard of before (The Bilderberg Group, Club 33, The Machine). So, something for everyone.

Like Zest's other titles, it's a great introduction to some really big movements or ideas, done in a way that will appeal to a wide range of readers. It's a perfect book for extremely reluctant readers, and your more hardcore readers will also love it--and then come back wanting to know more about certain groups.

Also, bonus for Arrested Development fans-- The Magic Castle is covered, which gives some great background to Gob and the Gothic Castle and Magician's Alliance. So we all have "Final Countdown" in our heads now, right? Good.

Come back on Friday for my review of Rockin' the Boat: 50 Iconic Revolutionaries - From Joan of Arc to Malcom X and in the meantime, check out the rest of the tour.

Book Provided by... the publisher, for Blog Tour inclusion.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.