Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

Man the Hunted by Donna Hart &Robert W. Sussman

Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution, Expanded Edition -  Robert W. Sussman, Donna Hart, Ian Tattersall

TITLE:  Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution


AUTHOR:  Donna Hart, Robert W. Sussman


PUBLICATION DATE:  2008 (Expanded Edition)


FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780813344034




"Man the Hunted argues that primates, including the earliest members of the human family, have evolved as the prey of any number of predators, including wild cats and dogs, hyenas, snakes, crocodiles, and even birds. The authors’ studies of predators on monkeys and apes are supplemented here with the observations of naturalists in the field and revealing interpretations of the fossil record. Eyewitness accounts of the “man the hunted” drama being played out even now give vivid evidence of its prehistoric significance.This provocative view of human evolution suggests that countless adaptations that have allowed our species to survive—from larger brains to speech—stem from a considerably more vulnerable position on the food chain than we might like to imagine. The myth of early humans as fearless hunters dominating the earth obscures our origins as just one of many species that had to be cautious, depend on other group members, communicate danger, and come to terms with being merely one cog in the complex cycle of life.

The expanded edition includes a new chapter that describes the ever-increasing evidence of predation on humans and other primates and claims that the earliest humans were neither hunters nor even the accomplished scavengers that many authorities have claimed."




Man the Hunted is an anthropology book written in a plain and easy to read manner.  The authors make use of the fossil record and studies on modern day primate predation on primates (including humans), to argue that man as prey rather man as predator drove human evolution.  The majority of the book takes a look at the variety of past and present predators that ate/eat primates, including large cats, wolves, hyenas, raptors, snakes, crocodiles etc.  An interesting and informative read.



Creation Poem

When God had made the earth and sky,

The flowers and the trees,

He then made all the animals,

The fish, the birds and bees.

And when at last He'd finished,

Not one was quite the same,

God said, "I'll walk this earth of mine,

And give each one a name."

And so He traveled far and wide,

And everywhere He went,

A little creature followed Him,

Until its strength was spent.

When all were named upon the earth,

And in the sky and sea,

The little creature said, "Dear Lord,

There's not one left for me."

Kindly the Father said to him,

"I've left you to the end,

I've turned my own name back to front,

And call you DOG, my friend."



Author Unknown


The Second Summoning by Tanya Huff

The Second Summoning - Tanya Huff

TITLE:  The Second Summoning


SERIES:  The Keeper Chronicles #2


AUTHOR:  Tanya Huff



"After closing the portal to hell, Claire and her talking cat, Austin, acquired a new companion--Dean, who was a Bystander and should not have remembered Keepers existed. But with Dean around, and a little of her sister Diana's meddling--the world is heading for Chaos, and Claire is about to face a challenge beyond her wildest imagination."




An entertaining and amusing urban fantasy.  This one has an anatomically correct angel and a demon, not to mention the geriatric cat who is rather hilarious.


Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff

Summon the Keeper - Tanya Huff

TITLE:  Summon the Keeper


SERIES:  Keeper Chronicles #1


AUTHOR:  Tanya Huff



"Claire Hansen, the Keeper, is summoned to the Elysian Fields Guest House to reseal a hole in the basement, which is literally an opening to Hell. The owner and monitor of the site disappears, leaving Claire stuck managing the place until the problem is solved. Her new employee, Dean McIssac, is a gorgeous Newfie who cooks, cleans, and lives the Boy Scout oath. Then there's Jacques Labaet: very French Canadian, very sexy, very dead. Jacques is a ghost who wants to be the man in Claire's life. Oh yeah, and there's Austin, a talking cat with attitude: "I barely know you, but I'm assuming you're human. I'm not saying this is a good thing, it's just the way it is.""




An entertaining, funny and light-hearted urban fantasy novel.  The anthropomorphic hole to Hell is hilarious!




The Waterside Ape by Peter H. Rhys-Evans

The Waterside Ape: An Alternative Account of Human Evolution - Peter H Rhys Evans

TITLE:   The Waterside Ape: An Alternative Account of Human Evolution


AUTHOR:  Peter H. Rhys-Evans




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780367145484



"Why are humans so fond of water?

Why is our skin colour so variable?

Why aren't we hairy like our close ape relatives?

A savannah scenario of human evolution has been widely accepted primarily due to fossil evidence; and fossils do not offer insight into these questions. Other alternative evolutionary scenarios might, but these models have been rejected. This book explores a controversial idea - that human evolution was intimately associated with watery habitats as much or more than typical savannahs. Written from a medical point of view, the author presents evidence supporting a credible alternative explanation for how humans diverged from our primate ancestors. Anatomical and physiological evidence offer insight into hairlessness, different coloured skin, subcutaneous fat, large brains, a marine-type kidney, a unique heat regulation system and speech. This evidence suggests that humans may well have evolved, not just as savannah mammals, as is generally believed, but with more affinity for aquatic habitats - rivers, streams, lakes and coasts.

Key Features:

Presents the evidence for a close association between riparian habitats and the origin of humans Reviews the "savannah ape" hypothesis for human origins Describes various anatomical adaptations that are associated with hypotheses of human evolution Explores characteristics from the head and neck such as skull and sinus structures, the larynx and ear structures and functions

Corroborates a novel scenario for the origin of human kind

'... a counterpoint to the textbooks or other books which deal with human evolution. I think readers will see it as a clearly written, well-supported discussion of an alternativeperspective on human origins'. --Kathlyn Stewart, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

'There is a pressing need to expand discussions of human evolution to includenon-anthropocentric narratives that use comparative data. Dr Rhys-Evans' specific expertise and experience with the human head, neck, ears, throat, mouth and sinuses, provides him with a distinct perspective from which to approach the subject of human evolution. Moreover, his understanding of non-anthropocentric views of human evolution (water-based models), allow him to apply a biological approach to the subject, missing in more traditional (savannah-based) models'. --Stephen Munro, National Museum of Australia





Rhys-Evans provides an up-to-date account of all the paleontological, environmental and medical evidence for the aquatic ape hypothesis.  The information is interesting, makes use of well-referenced scientific articles, and applies logic where gaps need to be filled in.  A variety of human "attributes" are compared with similar attributes in terrestrial, semi-aquatic and aquatic animals.  Any speculation on the author's part is noted as such.  This is not a popular science book as such, since there are no interviews, anecdotal or fashion commentaries (thank you!).  The information is presented in a straight-forward manner, with the use of the correct technical terms for anatomical organs/structures, which may require some effort on the part of non-medical readers.  Illustrations are provided where relevant. My only issues are with the some-what erratic organization of the sections;  a failure on the author's part to fully explain why something mentioned is relevant (sometimes it is obvious, sometimes not); and the lack of flow and cohesion between sections.  This book really could have used an editor to make the narrative flow more smoothly.  Regardless of its faults, the information contained in this book is fascinating and really should be read by anyone even vaguely interested in human evolution.



NOTE:  This book has absolutely nothing to do with mermaids.


The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill - Abbi Waxman

TITLE:  The Bookish Life of Nina Hill


AUTHOR:  Abbi Waxman



"The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They're all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She'll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It's a disaster! And as if that wasn't enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn't he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It's going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.




Somewhat predictable but entertaining, cute and pleasant. 


Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

Come Tumbling Down - Seanan McGuire

TITLE:  Come Tumbling Down


SERIES:  Wayward Children #5


AUTHOR:  Seanan McGuire


An entertaining addition to the series.



Completed:  10 January 2020

Amadeus by Peter Shaffer

Amadeus - Peter Shaffer

TITLE: Amadeus


AUTHOR:  Peter Shaffer


ISBN-13:  978-0-141-18889-8



"Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a genius, the most brilliant musician the world will ever see. But the court of eighteenth-century Vienna doesn’t recognize his talents - only Antonio Salieri, the Court Composer, does, and he is tortured by what he hears. Seething with rage at the genius of this flippant buffoon and suddenly aware of his own mediocrity, Salieri declares war and sets out to destroy the man he sees as God’s instrument on earth. Peter Shaffer’s award-winning play is a rich, exuberant portrayal of a God-like man among mortals, and lives destroyed by envy. "




Entertaining psychological drama.


Finished 11 January 2020


A Mapmakerā€™s Dream by James Cowan

A Mapmaker's Dream: The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice - James Cowan

TITLE:  A Mapmaker’s Dream: The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice


AUTHOR:  James Cowan



"In sixteenth-century Venice, in an island monastery, a cloistered monk experiences the adventure of a lifetime—all within the confines of his cell.

Part historical fiction, part philosophical mystery, A Mapmaker’s Dream tells the story of Fra Mauro and his struggle to realize his life’s work: to make a perfect map—one that represents the full breadth of Creation.

News of Mauro’s projects attracts explorers, pilgrims, travelers, and merchants, all eager to contribute their accounts of faraway people and places. As he listens to the tales of the strange and fantastic things they’ve seen, Mauro comes to regard the world as much more than continents and kingdoms: that it is also made up of a vast and equally real interior landscape of beliefs, aspirations, and dreams. Mauro’s map grows and takes shape, becoming both more complete and incomprehensible. In the process, the boundaries of Mauro’s world are pushed to the extreme, raising questions about the relationship between representation, imagination, and the nature of reality itself.




Interesting but a bit bland.



DATE FINISHED:  5 January 2020



Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Lost Lake - Sarah Addison Allen

Cute story.



NOTE / HELP:  None of the dates are sticking in my 2020 reviews.  They keep disappearing.  Can anyone fix this?


Ok - Nevermind.  See:



The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach Keeper - Sarah Addison Allen

TITLE:  The Peach Keeper


AUTHOR:  Sarah Addison Allen



"The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.




Lovely writing, intriguing story.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

The Girl Who Chased the Moon - Sarah Addison Allen

TITLE:  The Girl Who Chased the Moon


AUTHOR:  Sarah Addison Allen




"In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world--no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew--a reclusive, real-life gentle giant--she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes--which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past? 

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.




Cute, feel good, story.

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen

TITLE:  The Sugar Queen


AUTHOR:  Sarah Addison Allen



"Twenty-seven-year-old Josey is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season; she's a sorry excuse for a Southern belle; and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother's house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night ...Until she finds her closet harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tender-hearted woman who is one part nemesis - and two parts fairy godmother ..."




An enchanting and magical novel.

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings - Charles Dickens, Michael Slater

TITLE:  A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings


AUTHOR:  Charles Dickens


ISBN-13:  9780141195858


EDITION:  Penguin Classics Clothbound Series



"After reading Christmas Carol, the notoriously reclusive Thomas Carlyle was "seized with a perfect convulsion of hospitality" and threw not one but two Christmas dinner parties. The impact of the story may not always have been so dramatic but, along with Dickens other Christmas writings, it has had a lasting and significant influence upon our ideas about the Christmas spirit, and about the season as a time for celebration, charity, and memory.

Dickens's classic A Christmas Carol has had significant influence on our ideas about the Christmas spirit, and the season as a time for celebration, charity, and memory. This handsome edition features appendices on A Christmas Carol and The Haunted Man, an essay on Dickens and The Arabian Nights, and Dickens's prefaces to the collected editions of the Christmas books.

This edition is part of the Penguin Classics Clothbound series designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.




This is a collection of Christmas stories written by Charles Dickens, including the famous "A Christmas Carol", as well as other stories (The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain) and writings that come across as more reflective musings than actual stories (A Christmas Tree and Christmas Festivities).  All very sentimental and "feel-good" Christmas stories that attempt to remind the reader to be especially kind to those less fortunate at this time of year.  As is usual with a collection like this, some stories are better than others.  I especially enjoyed "A Christmas Carol" and "The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton".  The rest were either too vague in terms of plot or too long.  Original black and white illustrations are included in this book, along with notes, introduction and appendices.



Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen

TITLE:  Garden Spells


AUTHOR:  Sarah Addison Allen



"The women of the Waverley family -- whether they like it or not -- are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business -- and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life -- upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories.

Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future."




A beautifully told, nice, fluffy re-read for those end-of-year fried brains.


How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls by David Hu

How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future - David Baldacci

TITLE:  How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future


AUTHOR:  David Hu




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9780691169866



"Insects walk on water, snakes slither, and fish swim. Animals move with astounding grace, speed, and versatility: how do they do it, and what can we learn from them? In How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls, David Hu takes readers on an accessible, wondrous journey into the world of animal motion. From basement labs at MIT to the rain forests of Panama, Hu shows how animals have adapted and evolved to traverse their environments, taking advantage of physical laws with results that are startling and ingenious. In turn, the latest discoveries about animal mechanics are inspiring scientists to invent robots and devices that move with similar elegance and efficiency.

Hu follows scientists as they investigate a multitude of animal movements, from the undulations of sandfish and the way that dogs shake off water in fractions of a second to the seemingly crash-resistant characteristics of insect flight. Not limiting his exploration to individual organisms, Hu describes the ways animals enact swarm intelligence, such as when army ants cooperate and link their bodies to create bridges that span ravines. He also looks at what scientists learn from nature's unexpected feats--such as snakes that fly, mosquitoes that survive rainstorms, and dead fish that swim upstream. As researchers better understand such issues as energy, flexibility, and water repellency in animal movement, they are applying this knowledge to the development of cutting-edge technology.

Integrating biology, engineering, physics, and robotics, How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls demystifies the remarkable mechanics behind animal locomotion.




This is an accessible (not too technical) and interesting survey of the study of animal movement influences robot design and construction, and the uses of these studies and robots.  However, after a few chapters the format of animal studied and then robot constructed gets a bit tedious and repetitive (especially if the reader has come across these studies/topics before).  The title is also misleading as there is no "climbing up walls" involved in this book.



Currently reading

How Invention Begins: Echoes of Old Voices in the Rise of New Machines by John H. Leinhard
Progress: 35/277pages