Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

Seriously Curious by Tom Standage (Ed.)

Seriously Curious: 109 facts and figures to turn your world upside down - Tom Standage

TITLE:    Seriously Curious: The Facts and Figures that Turn Our World Upside Down

 

AUTHOR:  Tom Standage (Ed.)

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2018

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13: 9781610399937

_____________________

DESCRIPTION:

 

"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.

The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan F.P. Rose

The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life - Jonathan Rose

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

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780062234728

 

_______________________

DESCRIPTION:

"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.

Beauty and Beastly by Melanie Karsak

Beauty and Beastly: Steampunk Beauty and the Beast (Steampunk Fairy Tales) - Melanie Karsak

A beautifully written steampunk retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

SPOILER ALERT!

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

The Light Fantastic  - Terry Pratchett

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!

 

The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth

The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language - Mark Forsyth

TITLE:  The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language

 

AUTHOR:  Mark Forsyth

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2011

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9781848313071

____________________________

DESCRIPTION:

 

"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.

 

 

 

Frostbitten Fairy Tales by Melanie Karsak

Frostbitten Fairy Tales: A Christmas Fairy Tale Collection - Melanie Karsak

TITLE:   Frostbitten Fairy Tales: A Christmas Fairy Tale Collection

 

AUTHOR:  Melanie Karsak

_____________________________

 

This is a lovely collection of beautifuly written short stories that involve the Christmas season in the author's steampunk London universe.  These fairy tale re-tellings are fun to read and aren't so dark and grimy as many other urban fantasy stories.

 

 

______________________________

DETAILS:

 

"** SPECIAL HOLIDAY COLLECTION **

This Christmas season, dive into New York Times bestselling author Melanie Karsak's fairy tale world. In this magical holiday collection, fight Yuletide monsters, take on a jealous Snow Queen, ride the skies in an airship, and tinker some magical gnomes. Join Clemeny, Elyse, Lily, and Scarlette in these winter wonderlands.

This collection includes re-imagined classic fairytales such as Red Riding Hood, the Snow Queen, the Elves and the Shoemaker, and a new classic from Melanie Karsak's award-winning steampunk universe.

INCLUDED IN THIS COLLECTION
Peppermint and Pentacles: A Red Riding Hood Retelling
Ice and Embers: A Snow Queen Retelling
Chasing Christmas Past: A Steampunk Christmas Novella
Goblins and Snowflakes: An Elves and the Shoemaker Retelling"

 

The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe by Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson

The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe - Hilda Ellis Davidson

TITLE:  The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe

 

AUTHOR:  Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  1993

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780415049375

______________________

 

Interesting, but somewhat disorganized.  Unfortunately the lost beliefs of Northern Europe still remain lost. I prefer the texts by Claude Lecouteaux.

Goblins and Snowflakes by Melanie Karsak

Goblins and Snowflakes - Melanie Karsak

An entertaining, sweet and fun to read fairy tale retelling.

__________________________

 

DESCRIPTION:

"Never bargain with goblin men.

Scarlette Rossetti thought her stay at Strawberry Hill Castle during the Christmas holiday would pass by uneventfully. She couldn't have been more wrong. Enticed by the delights of the nearby village of Twickenham, Scarlette's life would change in unimaginable ways.

She never expected to be drawn magnetically to The Two Sisters Doll Shop and Toy Emporium.

Scarlette didn't guess that tinkering clockwork gnomes could have supernatural consequences.

And she didn't know that one should never, ever, bargain with goblin men.

But during the Christmas season, magic is always brewing.

Charles Dickens meets Supernatural in this enchanting retelling of The Elves and The Shoemaker. Dive into New York Times bestselling author Melanie Karsak's award-winning fairy tale world set in gaslamp England
"

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera - Gaston Leroux, David Coward

TITLE:  The Phantom of the Opera

 

AUTHOR:  Gaston Leroux

 

TRANSLATOR:  David Coward

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780199694570

 

EDITION:  Oxford World's Classics

_________________________________

DESCRIPTION:

"First published in French as a serial in 1909, "The Phantom of the Opera" is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine's childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous 'ghost' of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster. Leroux's work, with characters ranging from the spoiled prima donna Carlotta to the mysterious Persian from Erik's past, has been immortalized by memorable adaptations. Despite this, it remains a remarkable piece of Gothic horror literature in and of itself, deeper and darker than any version that follows."

___________________________________

 

This is another one of those foreign language (French) novels that has a dozen awful translations with omissions and additions.  The new translation by David Coward is supposed to be true to the original.  I found no complaints with the style of the translation and the notes to be quite helpful.  The story itself is a love story/Gothic horror that differs a fair amount from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical production.  Interesting and entertaining.

Star Trek: Invasion Series

First Strike - Diane Carey The Soldiers of Fear (Star Trek: The Next Generation, #41) - Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch Time's Enemy - L.A. Graf The Final Fury (Star Trek: Voyager, No 9: Invasion Book No 4) - Dafydd ab Hugh

I found this cross-series collection of novels all dealing with the same enemy but in different ways, in different times and sections of space to be an interesting concept.  The separate novels were entertaining and fairly well-written for this type of novel.

The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch - Thomas Thwaites

TITLE:  The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch

 

AUTHOR:  Thomas Thwaites

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2011

 

FORMAT:  paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9781568989976

______________________

DESCRIPTION:

"Where do our things really come from? China is the most common answer, but Thomas Thwaites decided he wanted to know more. In The Toaster Project, Thwaites asks what lies behind the smooth buttons on a mobile phone or the cushioned soles of running sneakers. What is involved in extracting and processing materials? To answer these questions, Thwaites set out to construct, from scratch, one of the most commonplace appliances in our kitchens today: a toaster.

The Toaster Project takes the reader on Thwaites s journey from dismantling the cheapest toaster he can find in London to researching how to smelt metal in a fifteenth-century treatise. His incisive restrictions all parts of the toaster must be made from scratch and Thwaites had to make the toaster himself made his task difficult, but not impossible. It took nine months and cost 250 times more than the toaster he bought at the store. In the end, Thwaites reveals the true ingredients in the products we use every day. Most interesting is not the final creation but the lesson learned.

The Toaster Project helps us reflect on the costs and perils of our cheap consumer culture and the ridiculousness of churning out millions of toasters and other products at the expense of the environment. If products were designed more efficiently, with fewer parts that are easier to recycle, we would end up with objects that last longer and we would generate less waste altogether.
"

_________________________

REVIEW:

 

The Toaster Project was an attempt by Thwaites to build a modern appliance, in this case a toaster, from scratch.  Starting with digging up the required ores and fabricating plastic and electrical cables etc from the raw materials.  The concept of this book is incredibly interesting, but the author failed in his attempt to build a toaster from scratch, without making use of modern equipment such as a leaf blower instead of the usual old-fashioned bellows, a microwave instead of a furnace etc.  I also got the impression that the author got bored with his project halfway through and lost interest.  The writing isn't all that eloquent or explanatory either, with a half-hearted attempt at reflecting on the cheap consumer culture.  The book is amusing and does make a valid point, but this was a missed opportunity to write a great book to explore modern consumer culture, the advance of technology and the creation of the modern age.

 

 

 

A Christmas Cornucopia by Mark Forsyth

A Christmas Cornucopia: The hidden stories behind our Yuletide traditions - Mark Forsyth

TITLE:  A Christmas Cornucopia: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Yuletide Traditions

 

AUTHOR:  Mark Forsyth

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2016

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9780241977552

_____________________

 

DESCRIPTION:

"The unpredictable origins and etymologies of our cracking Christmas customs

For something that happens every year of our lives, we really don't know much about Christmas.

We don't know that the date we celebrate was chosen by a madman, or that Christmas, etymologically speaking, means 'Go away, Christ'. Nor do we know that Christmas was first celebrated in 243 AD on 28 March - and only moved to 25 December in 354 AD. We're oblivious to the fact that the advent calendar was actually invented by a Munich housewife to stop her children pestering her for a Christmas countdown. And we would never have guessed that the invention of crackers was merely a way of popularizing sweet wrappers.

Luckily, like a gift from Santa himself, Mark Forsyth is here to unwrap this fundamentally funny gallimaufry of traditions and oddities, making it all finally make sense - in his wonderfully entertaining wordy way.
"

_____________________________

 

Entertaining, informative, interesting, irreverant, amusing and fun reading about the Christmas.  I would have liked more indepth research though.  But this book is short and fun to read.

 

The Hidden History of Elves and Dwarfs by Claude Lecouteux

The Hidden History of Elves and Dwarfs: Avatars of Invisible Realms - Claude Lecouteux

TITLE:   The Hidden History of Elves and Dwarfs:  Avatars of Invisible Realms

 

AUTHOR: Claude Lecouteux

 

DATE PUBLISHED: October 2018

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13: 9781620557150

________________________

DESCRIPTION:

 

"A comprehensive examination of the intertwined mythology, folklore, and literary history of the little people

• Explores the pagan roots of dwarfs and elves and their evolution in myth and literature

• Reveals the role the church played in changing them from fearless, shape-shifting warriors with magical powers into cheerful helpmates and cute garden gnomes

• Traces their history from ancient Celtic and Germanic lore through their emergence in the literature of the Middle Ages to their modern popularization by the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney

Most people are familiar with the popular image of elves as Santa’s helpers and dwarfs as little bearded men wearing red caps, who are mischievous and playful, helpful and sly, industrious and dexterous. But their roots go far deeper than their appearance in fairy tales and popular stories. Elves and dwarfs are survivors of a much older belief system that predates Christianity and was widespread throughout Western Europe.

Sharing his extensive analysis of Germanic and Norse legends, as well as Roman, Celtic, and medieval literature, Claude Lecouteux explores the ancient, intertwined history of dwarfs and elves. He reveals how both were once peoples who lived in wild regions as keepers of the secrets of nature. They were able to change their size at will and had superhuman strength and healing powers. They were excellent smiths, crafting swords that nothing could dull as well as magical jewelry, and often entered into the service of lords or heroes. They were a part of the everyday life of our ancestors before they were transformed by fairy tales and church texts into the mythical creatures we know today.

Lecouteux shows how, in earlier folklore, elves and dwarfs were interchangeable, gradually evolving over time to express very different kinds of beings. “Dwarf,” “giant,” and even “elf” did not necessarily connote size but referred to races with different skills. Elves were more ethereal, offering protection and kindness, while dwarfs reflected a more corporeal form of spirit, often appearing as messengers from the underworld. Yet dwarfs and elves could be bargained with, and our ancestors would leave a broken object outside the door at night with the hope that a dwarf or elf (or other local spirit) would repair it.

Revealing the true roots of these helpful and powerful beings, including an in-depth exploration of one of the most famous dwarf/elf/fairy beings of the Middle Ages, Auberon or Oberon, also known as Alberich, Lecouteux shows how the magic of dwarfs and elves can be rekindled if we recognize their signs and invite them back into our world.
"

______________________________

 

The Hidden History of Elves and Dwarves takes a scholarly look at the changing nature of elves and dwarves in NEurope.  The book is informative and interesting, making a nice addition to the Ancestral Lore and Practices collection by the same author.

 

 

The Lost World and Other Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Lost World and Other Stories -  Arthur Conan Doyle

An entertianing collection of all the Professor Challenger stories. The Lost World was the best story in the collection.

 

DESCRIPTION:

"These lively, varied and thought-provoking science-fiction stories (from the era of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells) are linked by their imposing central character, the pugnaciously adventurous and outrageous Professor Challenger.

The Lost World (forebear of Jurassic Park) vividly depicts a perilous region in which the explorers confront creatures from the prehistoric era. The Poison Belt presents an eerie doomsday scenario, while 'The Disintegration Machine' satirically comments on scientific cynicism. In 'When the World Screamed', the planet responds violently to an experimental incursion. The strangest item is The Land of Mist, which seeks to reconcile science with spiritualism.
"

The Magic Cottage by James Herbert

The Magic Cottage - James Herbert

An entertaining novel.  The squirrel takes the cake!

Toxicology in Antiquity Volume I by Philip Wexler

History of Toxicology and Environmental Health: Toxicology in Antiquity Volume I - Philip Wexler

TITLE:  History of Toxicology and Environmental Health: Toxicology in Antiquity Volume I

 

AUTHOR:  Various.  Philip Wexler (ed)

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2014

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9781306820622

________________________

 

DESCRIPTION:

"Toxicology in Antiquity" is the first in a series of short format works covering key accomplishments, scientists, and events in the broad field of toxicology, including environmental health and chemical safety. This first volume sets the tone for the series and starts at the very beginning, historically speaking, with a look at toxicology in ancient times. The book explains that before scientific research methods were developed, toxicology thrived as a very practical discipline. People living in ancient civilizations readily learned to distinguish safe substances from hazardous ones, how to avoid these hazardous substances, and how to use them to inflict harm on enemies.It also describes scholars who compiled compendia of toxic agents.
Provides the historical background for understanding modern toxicologyIllustrates the ways ancient civilizations learned to distinguish safe from hazardous substances, how to avoid the hazardous substances and how to use them against enemies
"

___________________________

 

An interesting, but somewhat superficial examination of toxicology in antiquity, each chapter covering a different topic and written by a different expert.  Topics include toxicology in Ancient Egypt, the Death of Cleopatra, Mithridates and his universal antidote, venoms and poisons in ancient Greek literature, the Death of Alexander the Great, the execution of Socrates, the Oracle at Delphi, Lead poisoning in Ancient Rome, as well as poisons, poisoners and poisoning in Ancient Rome.  Some chapters where better than others in terms of detail in covering the chapter topic.  Overall, interesting, but topics were of mixed quality.

Currently reading

The World in a Grain , The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization by Vince Beiser
Progress: 50/304pages