Review – The Statues That Walked

Posted 1 January, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Statues That Walked by Terry Hunt and Carl LipoThe Statues That Walked, Terry Hunt, Carl Lipo

I didn’t actually know much about Rapa Nui before I read this book, apart from knowing of the existence of the moai and a vague idea that their civilisation committed “ecocide”, stripping their island of too many resources for it to recover and impoverishing their local environment for good. Hunt and Lipo strongly suggest otherwise, talking about the evidence of clever farming techniques designed to get the best out of the soil, and discussing the actual culprit for the devastation (invasive species brought by boat). I didn’t know about lithic mulching before, for instance, a method of covering soil with broken-up rock in order to allow the elements to leach minerals out of it and into the soil.

Hunt and Lipo discuss the moai as well, of course, discussing their purpose and how they were moved into place, but as part of the bigger context of the society on Rapa Nui and the challenges they had to deal with. I found it an enjoyable and evidence-based approach to a topic I didn’t know much about before — bravo.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Imagining Head-Smashed-In

Posted 31 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Imagining Head-Smashed-In by Jack BrinkImagining Head-Smashed-In, Jack W. Brink

I picked this up after visiting the Head-Smashed-In interpretive centre; I rather thought it would be interesting to read about the First Nations people of Canada, considering my parents-in-law live there and I’ve visited a few times, and it’s a definite gap in my knowledge. Brink might not be Blackfoot himself, but he’s worked with Blackfoot people, he’s worked on the site for a long time, and he’s received praise from several First Nations people for this book.

It’s obvious that he respects everything that went into a buffalo jump. He’s careful to note that they didn’t always work, that they weren’t always done for the same purposes, etc, etc, but where he can he discusses the generalities from the seasonal differences in buffalo and the nutrition they offer, and the understanding the people had of their prey. Brink does a great job of showing how specialised their methods were and how refined the whole process was, and respecting the knowledge and skill they put into it and into modifying their landscape to make it work.

Sometimes, the information is a bit too exhaustive — I know more than I’d like about the fat deposits in bison now, honestly. But it makes sense as a thorough examination of the subject, and I think it’s mostly pretty interesting. I especially appreciated the part about the development of the interpretive centre, though; Brink acknowledges where and why that didn’t go as well as it could, and acknowledges mistakes that are on his shoulders. It’s also pretty fascinating to read about the development of a place you’ve actually been to! It’s probably a three-star book in terms of personal interest and enjoyment, but for scholarship it deserves higher.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Prime Meridian

Posted 30 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Prime Meridian by Sylvia Moreno-GarciaPrime Meridian, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 10th July 2018

Prime Meridian is a rather quiet novella, following the low-key struggle of life in Mexico City for its protagonist, Amelia, while she dreams of life in the colonies on Mars. There’s no intense action, just an emotional undercurrent of bitterness and the fear that she’ll never escape Mexico City and her life there. There’s an honesty about Amelia’s character — not always likeable, for the reader or for the people around her — but always truthful, doing what she can to live her life and not kidding herself about it.

To say too much about this book wouldn’t spoil it, but I don’t think I can go too deeply into it. It’s wrenching in a way that has nothing to do with big worldwide events or apocalyptic calamities. It’s just about people, and the hope of getting out.

Rating: 4/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 30 December, 2017 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

Good morning, all! I hope you had a good festive season, whatever you celebrate — or a nice week, if you don’t celebrate! I certainly did, and I’ve got a heck of a haul to share with you guys.

New fiction

Cover of The End of the Day by Claire North Cover of The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman Cover of Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler

Cover of The Seafarer's Kiss by Julia Ember Cover of Jade City by Fonda Lee Cover of Ars Historica by Marie Brennan

I’ve been looking forward to some of these for quite a while, so I’m excited!

New non-fiction

Cover of Power, Sex, Suicide by Nick Lane Cover of The Story of Pain by Joanna Bourke Cover of A History of Ancient Egypt Volume 2 by John Romer Cover of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are by Frans de Waal

Cover of Fossils by Richard Fortey Cover of Kin by John Ingraham Cover of Improbable Destinies by Jonathan Losos Cover of How Language Began by Daniel Everett

Cover of Into the Grey Zone by Adrian Owen Cover of The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English Cover of Almost Human by Lee Berger Cover of The Sutton Hoo Story by Martin Carver

Quite a stack, on all kinds of topics — but that’s me all over.

Comics

Cover of Captain Marvel: Alien Nation Cover of Spider-Gwen: Weapon of Choice Cover of The Unbelievable Gwenpool: Believe It Cover of Lumberjanes Vol 1

I’m interested to see what the new run of Captain Marvel is like! I did not like the direction they went with her for Civil War II etc, but this is a new volume one…

Books read this week:

Cover of How The Zebra Got Its Stripes by Leo Grasset Cover of Cro-Magnon by Brian Fagan Cover of The Sutton Hoo Story by Martin Carver Cover of Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers

Yeesh, I need to fit in some more fiction sometime soon!

Reviews posted: 

Three Stones Make A Wall, by Eric H. Cline. This was a really fascinating survey of a lot of different archaeological sites, which mostly pointed me at things I want to read more about. 5/5 stars
The Intimate Bond, by Brian Fagan. An interesting account of how human lives have been entwined with those of animals, for a long time. 3/5 stars
Murder in Montparnasse, by Kerry Greenwood. Better on a second reading, with a lot going on. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. Updates from the TBR pile this week.

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Review – Murder in Montparnasse

Posted 29 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Murder in Montparnasse by Kerry GreenwoodMurder in Montparnasse, Kerry Greenwood

Reading this a second time, I liked it more; I think my theory the first time I read it that it’d lost some of its freshness because I’d been reading too many Phryne books in a row was probably true. It gives us a glimpse of a different Phryne, and the experiences that made her the person she was, covering her life in Paris just after the war, and that’s pretty interesting — you can see it informing the way she chooses her lovers in the present-day of the books, and how she really became tough as nails.

It’s also nice because the book gives us a little more focus on Bert and Cec — a little more of a glimpse at their history and their bond, and some of their friends.

Against that, the plot with the girl who was going to marry a chef feels very light, almost inconsequential. It does help keep the book moving along when there’s a lot of other emotions that could make it heavy-going, but it’s not memorable or especially interesting in itself.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Intimate Bond

Posted 28 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Intimate Bond by Brian FaganThe Intimate Bond, Brian Fagan

This isn’t a bad book in terms of examining the relationship between humans and animals, and their impact on us… as long as you’re talking about the positive impact. The impact on health of close contact with animals leading to zoonotic illnesses is skipped entirely, though, and domestication/farming is generally painted as an unambiguously good thing. Not that Fagan is wrong in saying that animals have impacted us for the better in many ways, but it felt one-sided — especially given that there are various animal diseases that have become endemic in humans which we’d be rather better off without, and which probably wouldn’t have adapted so well to humans if we hadn’t given them such excellent opportunities.

Still, it’s an interesting book and Fagan works with archaeological and genetic evidence to give as complete a picture as he can.

Rating: 3/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 27 December, 2017 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Cro-Magnon by Brian FaganI’m still halfway through Kushiel’s Dart, and I’m most of the way through Brian Fagan’s book on Cro-Magnon peoples. It’s interesting in itself, but a lot of the info isn’t new to me at all, and some of it is a little out of date. Also, it might not be the best choice while in the middle of some species of flu-like virus, though luckily that seems to be pretty much over now.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of How The Zebra Got Its Stripes by Leo GrassetNot much, regrettably. I just finished How the Zebra Got Its Stripes by Léo Grasset, though; it’s entertaining and sometimes informative, but pretty light and very short. And now I know more than I wanted to know about the sex lives of hyenas.

What will you be reading next?

I’m not sure, but I’m tempted to reread The Goblin Emperor to see out the year after my sister bet me that I’d read it at least twice this year and in fact, I proved that I haven’t even read it once in 2017. Oddly though, I’m not sure if I quite feel like it…

What are you reading? Get anything interesting for Christmas that you had to dive straight into?

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Review – Three Stones Make A Wall

Posted 23 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Three Stones Make a Wall by Eric H. ClineThree Stones Make A Wall, Eric H. Cline

Three Stones Make a Wall is an overview of a lot of different archaeological sites and how archaeology is actually done there, and how it has been done in the past. It only glancingly deals with sites about which whole books can or should be written, but it does so by highlighting everything that’s so fascinating about them, and it definitely whetted my appetite for more. It’s easy to read and not technical at all, and if you have read specialist books on any of the digs mentioned — Schliemann’s dig at Troy, for instance — then it won’t be new to you, but Cline’s enthusiasm makes it worth reading anyway.

His choice of sites is reasonably diverse, too, including Greek and Roman sites, Native American sites, Biblical sites and more. Honestly, if you’re looking for a general book to give you a survey of archaeology, or give you some ideas for sites you want to learn more about, I recommend this whole-heartedly. It’s the pop-archaeology book I was longing for, after a childhood raised on Channel 4’s Time Team. It includes a list of sources, so you can look things up for yourself, and contextualises each dig and discovery beautifully. In retrospect, I’m giving it five stars for being exactly what I wanted at exactly the right moment.

If you’re looking for something substantial, it probably won’t be for you, but if you’re grasshopper minded like me and enjoy the idea of getting a tour of half the globe in archaeology, it’s great.

Rating: 5/5

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 23 December, 2017 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

It’s nearly Christmas! I’m so excited to give my family their presents, I might explode! I’ve done a better job of keeping secrets than I normally do, at least… How’s everyone doing? Are you celebrating Christmas or an equivalent holiday, or is it just an ordinary day/week/month for you? Whatever it is, I wish you safe, happy and warm.

Like our bunnies, safely at the bunny hotel without us. But since we’re apart, here’s a picture of the two of them cuddling, last week.

New books

Cover of The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie Cover of The Picts by Tim Clarkson Cover of In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan Cover of The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Cover of Artemis by Andy Weir Cover of Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas Cover of The Written World by Martin Puchner

Perhaps a slightly odd combination… but I’m looking forward to all three.

Books read this week:

Cover of Maps to Nowhere by Marie Brennan Cover of No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin Cover of Prime Meridian by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia Cover of The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente

Cover of Winterwood by Dorothy Eden Cover of Priam's Gold by Caroline Moorhead Cover of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Cover of Bones of Contention by Paul Chambers

Reviewed this week:

Zika: The Emerging Epidemic, by Donald G. McNeil. A good overview of what we know about Zika, at least as of the publication date. 4/5 stars
Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee. I stayed up all night to finish it, ’nuff said. 4/5 stars
Locust, Jeffrey A. Lockwood. A little long-winded, but some interesting stuff. 3/5 stars
Herding Cats, by Sarah Andersen. Fun, as with the rest of Andersen’s work. 4/5 stars
Dark Sky, by Mike Brooks. This is still really really reminiscent of Firefly, but it’s fun. 3/5 stars
The Viral Storm, by Nathan Wolfe. Not particularly stunning or new if you’ve read other pop-science on the topic, but well-expressed. 3/5 stars
Maps to Nowhere, by Marie Brennan. A good collection, with one or two really great stories. 5/5 stars

Other posts:

Project More Joy. Making my blog more about me again.
WWW Wednesday. What I’m reading lately.

How’s everyone?

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Review – Maps to Nowhere

Posted 22 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Maps to Nowhere by Marie BrennanMaps to Nowhere, Marie Brennan

Almost all of these short stories worked for me, which is a wonder (I can be picky!). Each of them had some really fascinating ideas, and the only one that left me cold was ‘Love, Caycee’ (and even then, I liked the idea, it’s just I don’t think it quite came together into a story I found fun to read). Of course, one of my favourites is the one featuring Isabella Trent, particularly for the last letter in the narrative. Of course Isabella would get herself arrested over a matter of science!

But the others are all worth the time too, and I particularly liked ‘Once a Goddess’, the first story of the collection. Brennan is really great at atmosphere, as these stories show; each of them evoked its own landscape in my head.

Rating: 5/5

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