Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

A Dog in the Cave: Coevolution and the Wolves Who Made Us Human - Kay Frydenborg

This is a beautifully written book that describes the current research on dog and human co-evolution.  "A Dog in a Cave" covers such interesting topics as paleontology, dog evolution, genetics and social behaviour and interactions of dogs, wolves and humans.  This book is meant for intelligent younger readers but can also be enjoyed by adults.  The author assumes her readers are intelligent and doesn't insult them by simplifying everything into baby language.  This book doesn't go into a great deal of scientific detail but is well-written and concepts superbly explained (better than most science writer/journalists for adults).  The block sections explaining important concepts are also a nice idea.  The colour photographs make this a lovely book to look at too.  This book includes a glossary, notes, selected bibliography, internet resources and an index for anyone wanting more information on specific topics.

This book would make a lovely gift for a dog-loving child, teenager or adult that isn't a zoologist.

Recommended related book:

Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World by Richard C. Francis



Make Your Own Lunch by Ryan Porter

Make Your Own Lunch: How to Live an Epically Epic Life Through Work, Travel, Wonder, and (Maybe) College - Ryan Porter

This is one of those books you give to high school students or beginning college students.  The author provides motivational stories on making your own decisions about what you want to do with your life aka "make your own lunch".  The book is amusing and well written.  It's not a bad book, but I wonder how realistic some of the advice is.

Jackalope Wives And Other Stories by T. Kingfisher

Jackalope Wives And Other Stories - T. Kingfisher

A wonderfully entertaining collection of original stories and poems.





To Catch a Stolen Soul by R.L. Naquin

To Catch a Stolen Soul - R.L. Naquin

This is a shot, light, entertaining urban fantasy novel following Kam the Djinn as she tries to find missing reaper Pete and his soul stone.  This is the first book in a new series, but the story stands on it's own (no cliff-hangers).



Recommended books: 

Monster Haven Series by R.L. Naquin

The Secret Library by Oliver Tearle

The Secret Library - Oliver Tearle

The author states that the aim of this book is to "bring to light the lesser-know aspects of well-known books, and to show how obscure and little-known books have surprising links with the familiar world around us".  The book has generally managed to accomplish the stated aims.  This book is a collection of bits of information and commentary (with toilet humour attached) about the best-known and the least-known books ever written in English, European and American literature.  At first I found this book amusing and interesting, after a while it got rather tedious.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus - Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood is a retelling parts of the Odyssey myth from the perspective of Odysseus's wife, Penelope.  The author's aim is to answer two questions she had while reading the Odyssey:  what led to the handing of Penelope's 12 maids and what was Penelope really up to?

This book reminds me of the prescribed fiction we had to "dissect" in school - a teachers wet dream with all those "how do you feel about xyz" or "what did the author think" questions.  In short, I found the book boring and the interludes with the chanting maids chorus and other commentary annoying.  Penelope's story would have made an ok, if somewhat insipid, alternative retelling on it's own.  The characters are flat and I found no reason to care about Penelope or her associates at all.  The Odyssey manages to make its readers care with less information and page time.  The commentaries would have made a mediocre, and not too well researched college essay on the subject..  Together, they were just annoying.  As for providing a new perspective, this is only valid if you know nothing about Greek history or mythological tales.


Thank Dionysus that the book was so short!


Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Retribution Falls - Chris Wooding

An entertaining, swashbuckling fantasy/light steam-punk adventure tale involving daemonists, golems, airships, pirates, guns, loot, political plots and the motley crew of the Ketty Jay.  The book starts off slowly, but picks up pace nicely.


This book would be suitable for teenagers.  There isn't anything particularly graphic in terms of sex or violence.



NOTE:  This is book 1 of 4 of the Tales of the Ketty Jay (complete series).  This book can be read as a standalone novel (i.e. it has a beginning, middle and end).

Vampires: From Dracula to Twilight: The Complete Guide to Vampire Mythology by Charlotte Montague

Vampires - Charlotte Montague

A rather short, basic, introductory text to vampire mythology and literature.  This is most certainly not a complete guide to vampire mythology and tends to be rather repetitive.  The physical book is apparently very pretty, but the e-book is just a regular run-of-the-mill ebook.  This may be a book for teenage Twilight fans and the like, but for a serious researcher or just the curious, other books will be more useful.

Better books on the subject include:

  • Anything written by Claude Lecouteux, but specifically "The Secret History of Vampires" and "The Return of the Dead".  Lecouteux writes scholarly books.  

  • For a more informal style, Mark Collins Jenkins has written an informative book titled Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend.

Dying Games by Steve Robinson

Dying Games (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery) - Steve Robinson

This is a well-written, fast paced mystery thriller involving genealogist Jefferson Tayte.  Dying Games makes use of the business of genealogical research in an novel concept that is different from the previous Jefferson Tayte mystery novels.  This book deals more with Jefferson Tayte personal history than that of his clients.  I found this book more enjoyable than the last one in the series, and different from the first 4, which I also enjoyed.

NOTE:  This is the sixth book in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery series but can be read as a stand-alone novel.

A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons by Geoffrey Hindley

A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons: The Beginnings of the English Nation - Geoffrey Hindley

A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons covers the Anglo-Saxon history from A.D. 400 (around the time of their invasion of England) through to the 1100s (the ‘Aftermath' of the Norman invasion).  Geoffrey Hindley not only includes the Anglo-Saxon influence on the British Isles but also how they influenced mainland Europe.  Despite being a "brief" history, this book covers a wealth of information, including culture, religion, and literature as well as military aspects.  Geoffrey Hindley has a scholarly writing style that none the less manages to convey the history of the Anglo-Saxons in an interesting and informative manner.  Maps, photographs and genealogical tables are included in this book.

I much preferred this book by Geoffrey Hindley in comparison to The Anglo-Saxon Age by Martin Wall, which has a more informal writing style, but leaves out mainland Europe completely and ignores the Anglo-Saxon cultural history in favour of a simplified military history.  



Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future by Peter D. Ward

Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future - Peter D. Ward

An interesting and informative book in which the author investigates the mystery of what caused the various great extinctions in the past, and how this relates to the current environmental situation today. This scientific mystery story involves everything from squabbling scientist, volcanoes, "evil" bacteria, poisonous gases and asteroids to oceanic convection currents and ice core data. The book was published in 2007. I'm not certain how outdated and thus accurate the data is in light of any new evidence. However, I found the book to be an interesting and entertaining reading experience, with food for thought and things to look up.



Other, Related Recommended Books:


  • The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed History by David Beerling
  • Out of Thin Air: Dinosaurs, Birds, and Earth's Ancient Atmosphere by Peter D. Ward
  • Oxygen: The Molecule That Made the World by Nick Lane
How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do (Science for Gardeners) - Linda Chalker-Scott

This is a good beginner book for any gardener (no matter how inexperienced or experienced) to read.  The author discusses the science behind plant growth and gardening techniques in an accessible manner that does not require a biology degree.  She also explains the workings (or lack thereof) behind some gardening myths.  This book explains how plants work - it is NOT a plant identification guide.


A more detailed book that explains how plants work is: Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon (third edition).

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative - Florence Williams

An interesting book that takes a look at why getting into nature is so essential for our health and well being.  She takes a look at how nature, or the lack thereof, impacts our lives, as well as specific topics like PTSD and ADHD, which can be improved by spending time outdoors.  The book contains interesting information, but lacks focus and I found the authors overly chatty narrative style annoying.

Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy by Robert M. Hazen, James S. Trefil

Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy - Robert M. Hazen, James Trefil

The authors state that the aim of this book is to provide the fundamental background knowledge that we need to cope with the complex scientific and technological world of today.  The aim of this book is to provide the information you need to become scientifically literate.  The book achieves this aim quite nicely, but I can't say the book is particularly exciting to read, especially if you have a science background.  This is perhaps something that should be read by someone who isn't too familiar with the different branches of science or someone who wishes to brush up on what they should have learned at school and might have forgotten.  This edition has been updated from the first addition.

Monsters Among Us: An Exploration of Otherworldly Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms, and Odd Phenomena by Linda S. Godfrey

Monsters Among Us: An Exploration of Otherworldly Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms, and Odd Phenomena - Linda S. Godfrey

A rather boring collection of supposedly monster eye-witness accounts. There is limited analysis or hypotheses regarding the sightings.

Babylon Confidential: A Memoir of Love, Sex, and Addiction by Claudia Christian

Babylon Confidential: A Memoir of Love, Sex, and Addiction - Morgan Grant Buchanan, Claudia Hall Christian