Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

Resurrecting the Shark by Susan Ewing

Resurrecting the Shark: A Scientific Obsession and the Mavericks Who Solved the Mystery of a 270-Million-Year-Old Fossil - Susan Ewing

TITLE:  Resurrecting the Shark: A Scientific Obsession and the Mavericks Who Solved the Mystery of a 270-Million-Year-Old Fossil

AUTHOR:  Susan Ewing

 

Helicoprion was an unusual looking Paleozoic shark-type creature, with a circular saw of teeth centered in its lower jaw—a feature unseen in the shark world before or since.  For about ten million years this creature swam the shallow seas around the supercontinent Pangaea as the apex predator of its time.  Susan Ewing describes the journey of discovery of this fascinating creature, from the first fossil finds to the revolutionary insights into the appearance and eating habits of  Helicoprion and how the tooth whorl functioned.

This book was interesting, however all the scientific findings and information relating to Helicoprion was overwhelmed with excessive biographical detail of everybody (and their acquaintances) that had even vague connections with with the Helicoprion fossils.  In addition, the narrative was somewhat disjointed with explanatory sections being inserted into the biography sections.  The first half of the book was slow, with the story of Helicoprion picking up in the second half.  This is where most of the science, fossil analysis and results are discussed, with the description of the scientists' mystery solving escapades positively enlivening.

The book includes many pretty colour illustrations, however these are all dumped at the end of the book with no reference to their relevant place in the text and no indication in the text that there is a useful diagram that fits in that spot.  I don't know if this is applicable to the e-book only or also to the hardcover edition.  References are supplied in the end notes in that horrible format so common these days.

In short:  too much biography, too little science.

 

NOTE:  The book states that there are four augmented reality models, viewable with the "Resurrecting the Shark" app, available on Google Play.  However, this app is apparently not compatible with any of the android tablets/phones that various family members possess, at least one of which is brand new.

 

Final Girls by Mira Grant

Final Girls - Mira Grant

This is an enjoyable and somewhat creepy psychological novella with an interesting idea, and twisted ended.  I can't really say more than what the blurb provides without giving away the plot. 

 

From the blurb:  "Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented proprietary virtual reality technology that purports to heal psychological wounds by running clients through scenarios straight out of horror movies and nightmares. In a carefully controlled environment, with a medical cocktail running through their veins, sisters might develop a bond they’ve been missing their whole lives—while running from the bogeyman through a simulated forest. But…can real change come so easily?

Esther Hoffman doubts it. Esther has spent her entire journalism career debunking pseudoscience, after phony regression therapy ruined her father’s life. She’s determined to unearth the truth about Dr. Webb’s budding company. Dr. Webb’s willing to let her, of course, for reasons of her own. What better advertisement could she get than that of a convinced skeptic? But Esther’s not the only one curious about how this technology works. Enter real-world threats just as frightening as those created in the lab. Dr. Webb and Esther are at odds, but they may also be each other’s only hope of survival."

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

Rolling in the Deep - Mira Grant

This is a rather short, nicely written novel that explores the story of the ship Atargatis, lost at sea with all hands.  "Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy. Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the bathypelagic zone in the Mariana Trench…and the depths are very good at keeping secrets".  This is a mix between mythological/urban fantasy, horror and mystery.  I found the story to be an original take on an old myth.  There is apparently a sequel to this story out later this year.

Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness by Nathanael Johnson

Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness - Nathanael Johnson

I enjoyed this book a great deal.  No matter where we live, there are wonders that we walk past every day. Unseen City widens our perspective by allowing us to view the world from the high-altitude eyes of a turkey vulture and the distinctly low-altitude eyes of a snail.  The blurb describes the book fairly accurately so there isn't much to write in that department.  However, all the additional little tidbits about city animals (pigeons, crows, squirrels, snails, ants, trees etc) was interesting and provides a new perspective on nature and our immediate environment.  The writing is beautiful and the personal anecdotes don't detract (they add) to the experience of the book.  

This isn't a popular science book as such, this is a get in touch with the world around you and see what is really there type of book.  While this book isn't meant for children, I think parents with young children could benefit from reading it and exploring the world (garden/suburb/city) with their children the way the author has with his daughter.  The author has also provided a useful bibliography so you can find more information on the specific topics he covers.

 

QUOTE:

"We tend to think of nature and civilization as being irreconcilably opposed:  Civilization's gain is nature's loss.  but in fact, cities have become prime habitat for speciation, hybridization, and in short, rebirth.  Certainly, civilization has upended the status quo in nature, but it is also proving to be a vehicle for a natural renaissance."

 

 

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire

This is an enjoyable stand-alone prequel (of sorts) to Every Heart a Doorway.  In  this book we learn more about Jack and Jill and why they ended up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. The writing is beautiful, the characters are fleshed out (even the Vampire has a personality) and the world-building original.

Uninspired Muse (Mt. Olympus Employment Agency: Muse, #3) by R.L. Naquin

Uninspired Muse (Mt. Olympus Employment Agency) (Volume 3) - R.L. Naquin

This is a lovely, light-hearted, fun and enjoyable urban fantasy novel that closes out the story of the muse Wynter Greene.  The Mt. Olympus Employment Agency world building is original and adds a nice twist to the old Greek mythological figures.

Undercover Gorgon Episode 2: Lost & Found by R.L. Naquin

Undercover Gorgon: Episode #2 — Lost & Found (Undercover Gorgon: A Mt. Olympus Employment Agency Miniseries) - R.L. Naquin

A cute and entertaining episode that continues the tale of Patrice the "Undercover Gorgon". This episode deals with Circe's missing daughter.

 

Restless Creatures by Matt Wilkinson

Restless Creatures - Matt Wilkinson

Matt Wilkinsons takes a fascinating look at movement.  This is a rather novel perspective of the now commonly boring subject of evolution that injects new life and ideas into the subject.  The author manages to discuss topics and provide examples that I haven't come across before in other popular science books.  As a bonus, the author also assumes his readers have some intelligence and doesn't insult us by simplifying things too much.  Restless Creatures covers all sorts of creatures, from the large to the smallest, and also includes plants which one wouldn't expect to be included in a book on movement.  The writing is beautiful, descriptive, non-biographical (thank you!!) and the author has a way with words that adds humorous twists to old perspectives.  I found this book enjoyable to read and I learned new things!

 

Bookburners: Season One Volume One (Bookburners #1.1-1.8) by Max Gladstone

Bookburners The Complete Season One - Mur Lafferty, Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Francis Slattery

An original and entertaining urban-fantasy series combined into one volume.  The characters each have a unique and well rounded personality with several unusual quirks.  The story telling is engaging, fun and nail-biting as required.  This novel serialization should be be made into a TV series.

Bookburners: Season One Volume Two (Bookburners #1.9-1.16) by Max Gladstone

Bookburners: The Complete Season 2: The Complete Season 2 (Bookburners Season 2) - Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Francis Slattery, Andrea Phillips, Mur Lafferty, Amal El-Mohtar

This is a continuation of the Bookburners Season One Volume One serialization, that is just as original and entertaining as the first 9 "episodes".  The characters each have a unique and well rounded personality with several unusual quirks.  The story telling is engaging, fun and nail-biting as required.  This novel serialization should be be made into a TV series.

The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are by Paul Bogard

The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are - Paul Bogard

This book was disappointing. This book is 95% biographical anecdote (which got boring after a while) and 5% science, environmentalism and politics explained in the most vague manner possible. I also found the book somewhat disjointed.  The message this author wishes to convey is important, he just doesn't do the subject justice.

Other recommended books:


- Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery
- Earth Matters: How Soil Underlies Civilization by Richard D. Bardgett
- Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization by Richard Manning
- Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, John Peterson Myers
- What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?: How Money Really Does Grow on Trees by Tony Juniper

Were- by Patricia Bray, Joshua Palmatier (Editors),

Were- - Seanan McGuire, Phyllis Ames, Susan Jett, Eliora Smith, April Steenburgh, Mike Barretta, Elizabeth Kite, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, Sarah Brand, Anneliese Belmond, Gini Koch, Faith Hunter, Ashley McConnell, David B Coe, Katharine Kerr, Patricia Bray, Patric

An entertaining, enjoyable and original collection of short stories involving a variety of unusual were-creatures.

Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon)

Summer in Orcus - T. Kingfisher

This is a wonderful, entertaining, beautifully written book about portals, adventures and some of the most original world building and characters I've come across (I've never come across migrating houses before or half the stuff this author comes up with). Summer in Orcus is a book for teenagers that can be read and enjoyed by adults.

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong

I Contain Multitudes - Ed Yong

I Contain Multitudes is an enjoyable and informative book that takes a look at how microbes live, where microbes live and their interactions with other species, including humans.  This book contains many interesting scientific findings and microbial interactions - such as worms that don't have a mouth and don't need to eat; parasitic wasps with antibiotic antennae goo; viruses inside bacteria inside a bug; bacteria that influence which bugs get to breed; the effects of your microbial ecosystem in sickness and in health; as well as a whole lot of other fascinating stuff.

The author has a personable writing style without turning into a semi-biography.  He manages to explain scientific concepts without simplifying them too much or bogging the reader down with technical terminology.  The beginning of the book is a bit disjointed in terms of story telling, but then gets better as the author goes along.  I do wish Ed Yong had included more details about some of the topics discussed, but that was probably out of the scope for a popular science book like this.


Other Recommended Books about Microbes:

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


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


- Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer


- The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today by Rob Dunn


- This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society by Kathleen McAuliffe


- Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry by Christie Wilcox


- The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise Of Drug-Resistant Bacteria by Michael Shnayerson, Mark J. Plotkin


- Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA by Maryn McKenna


- Spillover: Emerging Diseases, Animal Hosts, and the Future of Human Health by David Quammen

Earth Matters: How Soil Underlies Civilization by Richard D. Bardgett

Earth Matters: How soil underlies civilization - Richard Bardgett

Soil plays an important part in our daily lives. Entire societies have risen, and collapsed, through the management and mismanagement of soil. This book is for those who know little about soil and want to know more about soil and the ways that humans depend on it and transform it. The author takes a look at the diversity of life within the soil and the vast range of roles that life plays in maintaining the health and fertility of soil. The author also takes a look at how humans have modified the soil (agriculture, cities, war) and looks at the future, exploring ways to sustainably manage soils.

This is a short, interesting, basic introduction on how soil affects us and has been affected by us. I would have liked more diagrams would have been useful, as well as more details about the individual subjects, but this is specifically an introductory text so that is perhaps asking for too much. There are also too many long, run-on sentences that could use an editor. There is minimal technical language in this book, making it ideal for non-scientists.

The author states that his goal is to "awaken awareness of the many ways that soil has, and continues to affect, our lives." I believe he may have accomplished this goal provided this book gains a wide readership - maybe part of a high school or collage recommended reading list?

 

Other Recommended Book:

 

  • Dirt:  The Erosion of Civilizations by David R Montgomery
  • 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.

 

 

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers

A very entertaining, light, character driven science-fiction novel.  This book focuses on the misfit crew of The Wayfarer and their trip to a "small, angry planet".  The world-building is interesting, but the characters could have used more development or growth.  This book covers some social and science/technology issue topics, but that will no doubt make this a good book for English literature classes, and a great deal more entertaining and relevant for teenagers to read than the classics.

NOTE:  Novel reads as a standalone, complete story.