Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

When Life Nearly Died by Michael J Benton

When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time - Michael J. Benton

This is a nicely written book that investigates the Permian mass extinction event approximately 250 million years ago that wiped out 90% of all species on Planet Earth.  The author starts with the history of geology and paleontology, and describes the various historical means of approaching geological problems.  The author also takes a look at the Cretaceous mass extinction which killed the dinosaurs.  This is an up-to-date (2015) edition of the book that includes new information on what caused the Permian mass extinction and how life recovered afterwards.  There is a fair amount of technical terminology at the beginning of the book, but this doesn't detract from the beautiful writing and fascinating information.


A Brief History of Roman Britain - Conquest and Civilization by Joan P. Alcock

A Brief History of Roman Britain. by J.P. Alcock - Joan P. Alcock

This is an adequate, brief and basic overview of the Roman occupation of Britain. The book serves as an uninspiring introductory text to the subject. The narrative follows events in a chronological order, with additional chapters dedicated to army life, town life, the countryside, religion and belief, food and diet, industry and society.

TRILOBITE! Eyewitness to Evolution by Richard Fortey

Trilobite!: Eyewitness to Evolution - Richard Fortey

Trilobite! (with the exclamation mark) is Richard Fortey's passionate account of trilobites - their physiology, their crystal eyes, legs, development, evolution and history.  This book grew out of the author's love of trilobites.  His stated aim is to invest the trilobites with all the glamour of the dinosaur and to see the world through the eyes of a trilobites.

This enthusiastic account of trilobites is written in a colourful narrative style that mixes science with personal anecdotes and historical stories.  The chapter on trilobite eyes was especially fascinating.  There are a few technical terms to be learned, but nothing excessive that would be difficult for the lay reader.  The book also includes numerous black/white photographs and diagrams.

Trilobites are interesting creatures, but I wanted more focus on the trilobites and fewer anecdotes. I would also have like more information on what may have caused their extinction.  However, this book is still fascinating and a joy to read.


Terra Preta: How the World’s Most Fertile Soil Can Help Reverse Climate Change and Reduce World Hunger by Ute Scheub, Haiko Pieplow, Hans-Peter Schmidt, Kathleen Draper

Terra Preta: How the World's Most Fertile Soil Can Help Reverse Climate Change and Reduce World Hunger - Ute Scheub, Haiko Pieplow, Hans-Peter Schmidt, Kathleen Draper, Tim Flannery

Terra preta is the Portuguese name of a type of man-made soil which is thought to have almost miraculous properties.  This soil is made from a variety  of  kitchen or garden wastes, charcoal and earthworms, so it can be produced on every balcony or on the smallest of garden plots.  This soil is able to absorb soil contaminants, retain moisture and provide nutrients for the plants, as well as replace top soil lost through erosion.  This is an interesting, but somewhat long-winded and simplistic book that discusses the importance of soil and how to produce your own humus/compost/black soil or terra preta.  



Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Silence Fallen - Patricia Briggs

A nicely written, entertaining and amusing addition to the Mercy Thompson series.  I love that this author can take old-stuff like vampires, werewolves and fae; and give them a fresh and original makeover.  I also love that each character in the story actually has a character - they are their own person.

The Hidden Half of Nature by David R. Montgomery & Anne Bikle

The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health - David R. Montgomery, Anne Biklé

I first read this book in December 2015.  I like it so much that I purchased my own copy. 


This is a beautifully written book that blends clearly described, scientific discoveries with the compelling personal insight of a husband and wife author/biologist/geologist team.  The book explores the importance of microbes in the soil and in people.  The authors discuss both the history of various scientific discoveries and the functioning of these microbes, as well as how these microbes relate to gardening/farming, plant growth, the immune system, the gut, auto-immune diseases,  and general health of both humans and the environment.  I found this book to be both fascinating and educational, without being condescending or oversimplified.


Other Recommended Books:


~March of the Microbes:  Sighting the Unseen by John L. Ingraham

~The Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn

~Why We Get Sick:  The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M Nesse & George C. Williams

~Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer








The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne

The Purloined Poodle - Kevin Hearne, Galen Dara

A cute detective story involving a druid; a sometimes telepathic, food obsessed, over active Irish Wolfhound; and a collection of missing dogs.  The story did too much "tell" instead of "show" and everything tied together too neatly so the story didn't really grab my attention.  I also couldn't help thinking "Nancy Drew novel" while I was reading the story.

History of Ancient Britain by Neil Oliver

A History of Ancient Britain - Neil Oliver

A well-written, easy-going, entertaining book that covers the history of Ancient Britain from the earliest humans, the Ice Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and to the Roman occupation in broad strokes. There is not a great deal of technical language. The author discusses significant archaeological finds with passing mentions of such things as genetics and linguistics. I would have liked to read more about the languages, technological developments (other than the arrival of bronze and iron), changes in farming techniques, changes in human physiology over time etc. But, I suppose this type of information is rather difficult to glean from a small collection of bones and artifacts. The book includes two sections of colour photo inserts. It would have been helpful if the author had also included a map indicating the sites he discusses. None the less, I found the book to be interesting and informative.

WARNING! Fairy Tales by Robert Thier

WARNING! Fairy Tales - Robert Thier

A modern, unsanitized, politically correct retelling of a selection of fairy tales.  Some of the stories were entertaining and amusing, some just fell flat.  This is NOT a children's book.

Jobs for People Who Hate People by Danielle Dixon

Jobs for People Who Hate People: The Ultimate Career Guide for Introverts - Danielle Dixon

This book describes the different types of introverts and then lists job descriptions that might be of interest to the different types of introverts.  The contents of this book may be useful for people just leaving school and needing career guidance, but not so useful for people looking to change careers.  It is deceiving in that the author does not mention that every job/career listed requires social interaction with people. The people you work with can make or break even the best jobs.  The author does not appear to have a good grasp of what the various science orientated careers entail, so I wonder how accurate the information on all the other careers is?  Working in a laboratory does not automatically make that career suitable for introverts!

The Age of Genomes: Tales from the front Lines of Genetic Medicine by Steven Lipkin and Jon Luoma

The Age of Genomes: Tales from the Front Lines of Genetic Medicine - Steven M. Lipkin, Jon Luoma

This book is a collection of "tales from the front lines of genetic medicine".  The author discusses what is possible and not possible with current genetic technology.  He also discusses some of the ethical issues of this technology.  This book is set out in a conversational tone describing case studies, with limited science or technical discussion.  In short, interesting if you haven't read much on genetics, nothing new if you have.




~Junk DNA by Nessa Carey

~The Epigentics Revolution by Nessa Carey

~ Mutants:  On Genetic Variety and the Human Body by Armand Marie Leroi


Ancient Geography: The Discovery of the World in Classical Greece and Rome by Duane W. Roller

Ancient Geography: The Discovery of the World in Classical Greece and Rome (Library of Classical Studies) - Duane W. Roller

This book provides a summary and brief analysis of what the Classical Greeks and Romans knew or thought about the world around them in terms of geography and exploratory journeys.  The book basically does what it says on the cover, so there isn't much to comment  on.  This book would make a useful addition for someone researching geography during the Classical Greek & Roman age.  For the non-researcher this book may eventually get a bit tedious, even though it is interesting in parts.





*  The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek by Barry Cunliffe.

*  Europe Before Rome:  A Site-By-Wite Tour of the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages by T. Douglas Price.

*  In Search of the Immortals:  Discovering the World's Mummy Cultures by Howard Reid.

*  The Voyage of the Argo:  The Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes

*  The Vinland Sagas




The End of Food: The Coming Crisis in the World Food Industry by Paul Roberts

The End Of Food - Paul Roberts

An interesting, and some-what worrying look at the emergence, ultimate costs and short-term benefits of large-scale food production over the world and the coming crisis in the world food industry.  A bit USA-centric.  This isn't a "fun' book to read, but it is informative and fairly well-written.






~  Food in History by Reay Tannahill

~  Against the Grain:  How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization by Richard Manning.~  Dirt:  The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery.


~ Excitotoxins: The Tast that Kills by Russell L. Blaylock.

~ The Killers Within:  The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria by Michael Shnayerson & Mark J. Plotkin.

~ Our Stolen Future:  Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival?  A Scientific Detective Story. by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski & John Peterson Myers.

~ Salt:  A World History by Mark Kurlansky.

~ Banana:  The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel.~  Tomatoland:  How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Out Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook.

~ The Untold History of the Potato by John Reader.


~  Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?:  The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization by Andrew Lawler.

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


~  Papyrus:  The Plant that Changed the World:  From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars by John Gaudet.

~  Water:  the Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization by Steven Solomon.


~  U.N. Agenda 21:  Environmental Piracy by Ileana Johnson Paugh



Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World by Nick Lane

Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World (Popular Science) - Nick Lane

This is an extremely interesting and well written book about oxygen - how oxygen spurred the evolution of life, the functioning of oxygen in biological systems, aging, how oxygen relates to everyday life (besides breathing), amongst others. The nice thing about this book is that the author assumes his readers are intelligent and so doesn't simplify his writing or the concepts so much that it practically turns into gibberish.



The author's view of junk DNA is a bit dated - the book was published in 2002 and research on junk DNA has advanced since then. Some other information might also be dated, but that is simply how science and science writing work.  If you are intelligent enough to read this book, you should also be intelligent enough not to swallow everything you read - hook, line and sinker.



* The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History by David Beerling

* Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M. Nesse, George C. Williams

* 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


Collection of Short Urban Fantasy and SF Short Stories by C.H. Aalberry

The Origami Dragon And Other Tales - C. H. Aalberry

This is one of the better collection of short stories I have read in a long time. These urban fantasy and science fiction stories are original, enjoyable and beautifully written.


Emergency Cupid by R. L. Naquin

Dallas Fire & Rescue: Emergency Cupid  - R.L. Naquin

Cute short story.