Book reviews and other interesting goodies.
"For war hero Caitlin Taggart, mining work on the Moon is dirty, low pay, and high risk. But no risk seems too extreme if it helps her return to Earth and the daughter she loves more than life itself. Offered a dangerous, long-shot chance to realize that dream, Caitlin will gamble with more than just her life.
By leading a ragtag crew of miners on a perilous assignment to harvest an asteroid, Caitlin could earn a small fortune. More importantly, it would give her clearance to return to Earth. But when an unexpected disaster strikes the mission, Caitlin is plunged into a race to save not only herself, but every human being on Earth."
Zero Limit is an entertaining, though not particularly original, space-disaster story. The beginning starts slowly and contains too much info-dumping, the secondary characters came across as flat and things just worked out too conveniently. But if you just want to be entertained then you might like this book.
TITLE: Still Waters: The Secret World of Lakes
AUTHOR: Curt Stager
DATE PUBLISHED: 2018
More than a century and a half have passed since Walden was first published, and the world is now a very different place. Lakes are changing rapidly, not because we are separate from nature but because we are so much a part of it. While many of our effects on the natural world today are new, from climate change to nuclear fallout, our connections to it are ancient, as core samples from lake beds reveal. In Still Waters, Curt Stager introduces us to the secret worlds hidden beneath the surfaces of our most remarkable lakes, leading us on a journey from the pristine waters of the Adirondack Mountains to the wilds of Siberia, from Thoreau’s cherished pond to the Sea of Galilee.
Through decades of firsthand investigations, Stager examines the significance of our impacts on some of the world’s most iconic inland waters. Along the way he discovers the stories these lakes contain about us, including our loftiest philosophical ambitions and our deepest myths. For him, lakes are not only mirrors reflecting our place in the natural world but also windows into our history, culture, and the primal connections we share with all life.
Beautifully observed and eloquently written, Stager’s narrative is filled with strange and enchanting details about these submerged worlds—diving insects chirping underwater like crickets, African crater lakes that explode, and the growing threats to some of our most precious bodies of water. Modern science has demonstrated that humanity is an integral part of nature on this planet, so intertwined with it that we have also become an increasingly powerful force of nature in our own right. Still Waters reminds us how beautiful, complex, and vulnerable our lakes are, and how, more than ever, it is essential to protect them."
In "Still Waters: The Secret World of Lakes", the world of lakes still remains a secret while the authors field trips to various lakes does not. There were simply too many biographical anecdotes and too little information on lakes in general. The author focuses on a handful of lakes to discuss various concepts in the most rudimentary manner. The language is beautiful but I wanted to know more about lakes and less about Stager.
Unsheltered is the story of two families, separated by two centuries, living in the same neighbourhood, during turbulent times. Each family's story is told in alternating chapters. The style of writing is decent enough, but the main character (Willa) tends to whine a geat deal, the main characters are uninteresting (not to mention shallow and stereotypical), the plot is rather vague, and the author has a fondness for monotonously preaching her socio-political agenda in vast quantities. Also the comparison between the 1870s socio-political climate with the current USA socio-political climate just fell flat with me.
TITLE: Plight of the Living Dead: What Real-Life Zombies Reveal about Our World --And Ourselves.
AUTHOR: Matt Simon
DATE PUBLISHED: 2018
"A brain-bending exploration of real-life zombies and mind controllers, and what they reveal to us about nature--and ourselves.
Zombieism isn't just the stuff of movies and TV shows like The Walking Dead. It's real, and it's happening in the world around us, from wasps and worms to dogs and moose--and even humans.
In Plight of the Living Dead, science journalist Matt Simon documents his journey through the bizarre evolutionary history of mind control. Along the way, he visits a lab where scientists infect ants with zombifying fungi, joins the search for kamikaze crickets in the hills of New Mexico, and travels to Israel to meet the wasp that stings cockroaches in the brain before leading them to their doom.
Nothing Hollywood dreams up can match the brilliant, horrific zombies that natural selection has produced time and time again. Plight of the Living Dead is a surreal dive into a world that would be totally unbelievable if very smart scientists didn't happen to be proving it's real, and most troublingly--or maybe intriguingly--of all: how even we humans are affected."
An entertaining and fascinating pop-science book that takes a look at a variety of parasites that take over or otherwise "zombify" their hosts. This book has more meat than the author's previous book (The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar), but it did miss the opportunity to add colour photographs of some of the more visual parasitic phenomena.
The continuing adventures of "Little Red" in Melanie Karsak's steampunk fairytale world. These stories are entertaining and fun to read, the characters are delightful and the world building imaginative. And there are non-sparkling warewolves and other critters.
Steampunk Red Riding Hood Series by Melanie Karsak
1. Wolves and Daggers
2. Alphas and Airships
3. Peppermint and Pentacles
4. Bitches and Brawlers
5. Howls and Hallows.
TITLE: The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization
AUTHOR: Vince Beiser
DATE PUBLISHED: 2018
"The gripping story of the most important overlooked commodity in the world--sand--and the crucial role it plays in our lives.
After water and air, sand is the natural resource that we consume more than any other--even more than oil. Every concrete building and paved road on Earth, every computer screen and silicon chip, is made from sand. From Egypt's pyramids to the Hubble telescope, from the world's tallest skyscraper to the sidewalk below it, from Chartres' stained-glass windows to your iPhone, sand shelters us, empowers us, engages us, and inspires us. It's the ingredient that makes possible our cities, our science, our lives--and our future.
And, incredibly, we're running out of it.
The World in a Grain is the compelling true story of the hugely important and diminishing natural resource that grows more essential every day, and of the people who mine it, sell it, build with it--and sometimes, even kill for it. It's also a provocative examination of the serious human and environmental costs incurred by our dependence on sand, which has received little public attention. Not all sand is created equal: Some of the easiest sand to get to is the least useful. Award-winning journalist Vince Beiser delves deep into this world, taking readers on a journey across the globe, from the United States to remote corners of India, China, and Dubai to explain why sand is so crucial to modern life. Along the way, readers encounter world-changing innovators, island-building entrepreneurs, desert fighters, and murderous sand pirates. The result is an entertaining and eye-opening work, one that is both unexpected and involving, rippling with fascinating detail and filled with surprising characters. "
This book provides an interesting overview of how sand transformed civilization, especially the 20th and 21st centuries. This book consists of various mostly self-contained chapters that deals with a specific aspects and uses of sand: from sand mining (legal and illegal); concrete and cement development; the construction of roads, skyscrapers, artificial islands, land reclamation, glass bottles and lense developmet. I found this book to be interesting with many fascinating nuggets of information, with an informal writing style. However, I would have like more detailed information.
Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World's Most Common Man-Made Material by Robert Couland
Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World by Les Johnson & Joseph E. Meany
Salt by Mark Kurlansky
TITLE: Seriously Curious: The Facts and Figures that Turn Our World Upside Down
AUTHOR: Tom Standage (Ed.)
DATE PUBLISHED: 2018
"Smart, savvy answers to universal questions, from the highly popular The Economist Explains and Daily Chart blogs-a treat for the knowing, the uninitiated, and the downright curious.
Seriously Curious: The Facts and Figures that Turn Our World Upside Down brings together the very best explainers and charts, written and created by top journalists to help us understand such brain-bending conundrums as why Swedes overpay their taxes, why America still allows child marriage, and what the link is between avocados and crime. Subjects both topical and timeless, profound and peculiar, are explained with The Economist's trademark wit and verve.
The Economist Explains and its online sister, the Daily Chart, are the two most popular blogs on The Economist's website. Together, these online giants provide answers to the kinds of questions, quirky and serious, that may be puzzling anyone interested in the world around them. Want to know why exorcisms are on the rise in France or how porn consumption changed during a false alarm missile strike warning in Hawaii? We have the answers They are sometimes surprising, often intriguing, and always enlightening."
This book is a collection of very short, but (sometimes) interesting chapters on a hodge-podge of different subjects. Good for filling in a few minutes here and there, but not particularly spectacular.
TITLE: The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life
AUTHOR: Jonathan F.P. Rose
DATE PUBLISHED: 2016
"In the vein of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City, Jonathan F. P. Rose—a visionary in urban development and renewal—champions the role of cities in addressing the environmental, economic, and social challenges of the twenty-first century.
Cities are birthplaces of civilization; centers of culture, trade, and progress; cauldrons of opportunity—and the home of eighty percent of the world’s population by 2050. As the 21st century progresses, metropolitan areas will bear the brunt of global megatrends such as climate change, natural resource depletion, population growth, income inequality, mass migrations, education and health disparities, among many others.
In The Well-Tempered City, Jonathan F. P. Rose—the man who “repairs the fabric of cities”—distills a lifetime of interdisciplinary research and firsthand experience into a five-pronged model for how to design and reshape our cities with the goal of equalizing their landscape of opportunity. Drawing from the musical concept of “temperament” as a way to achieve harmony, Rose argues that well-tempered cities can be infused with systems that bend the arc of their development toward equality, resilience, adaptability, well-being, and the ever-unfolding harmony between civilization and nature. These goals may never be fully achieved, but our cities will be richer and happier if we aspire to them, and if we infuse our every plan and constructive step with this intention.
A celebration of the city and an impassioned argument for its role in addressing the important issues in these volatile times, The Well-Tempered City is a reasoned, hopeful blueprint for a thriving metropolis—and the future. "
This is an interesting introductory text to what townplanners and city management should be aiming for in dealing with city planning and management. However, I found the book too superficial and would have liked more detailed information, especially in terms of engineering specifics where some examples were used. The author also has a rather simplistic view of politics and human nature.
The Light Fantastic is a direct sequal to The Colour of Magic. The Discworld needs saving and only Rincewind can do it - something to do with one of the 8 Great Spells slinking around in his head. The adventures of Two Flower, Rincewind and The Luggage continues in this entertaining romp through the Discworld. DEATH is also just starting out as what will one day be a main character. This is an early novel by Pratchett, and also an early Discworld novel. It is quite evident that the author is still trying to find his voice and take his tour around the Disc. The first two novels come across as something of a tour through the Discword, but I still found them enjoyable and the seeing how the Discworld novels develop as a concept is very interesting.
The art on my paperback copy is by Josh Kirby. I love his wild illustrations of the Discworld!
TITLE: The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language
AUTHOR: Mark Forsyth
DATE PUBLISHED: 2011
"The Etymologicon springs from Mark Forsyth's Inky Fool blog on the strange connections between words. It's an occasionally ribald, frequently witty and unerringly erudite guided tour of the secret labyrinth that lurks beneath the English language, taking in monks and monkeys, film buffs and buffaloes, and explaining precisely what the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening."
I have no idea what I just read, but whatever it was, it was entertaining, amusing, irreverant and fairly interesting. ;) If you have an interest in the origin of words, this book might just be for you.