DNF Review: Far From Land

Far from Land: The Mysterious Life of Seabirds

DNF at about 15%.

I love birds, and the tagline of this–“The Mysterious Life of Seabirds”–sounded right up my alley. However, I just wasn’t able to get into the subject. It’s not that I’m not interested in it, it’s just the way it was written seemed too haphazard to me. it constantly jumped from talking about one species of bird to another and then another all within a two page span. While I understood the set-up of the chapters, it didn’t jive with the way my brain comprehends this type of info.

This is not to say this is a bad book–it just didn’t work for me, personally. If you are a more number and/or tech oriented birder, then definitely give this one a try!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

Far From Land: The Mysterious Lives of Seabirds will be available March 6, 2018 from Princeton University Press.
Author: Michael Brooke


Review: AlterKnit Stitch Dictionary

Alterknit Stitch Dictionary: 200 Modern Knitting Motifs

Goodreads Rating: n/a–would be 4 stars.
NetGalley Rating: 5 stars

A whimsical and modern colorwork stitch dictionary! This is perfect for knitters of any colorwork skill level. Not only does this contain tons of fun stitch patterns for you to incorporate into patterns, but it also has a wealth of succinct information about colorwork knitting, including sections on color theory, color dominance, how to hold multiple colors, and how to work steeks. Five patterns are included at the end of the book, each highlighting how to incorporate the stitch patterns into full garments and accessories.

The stitches are sort of random, sort of broken up into sections–there’s a definitive whimsical section with animals and other fun motifs–but most everything else is randomly included. There are lots of adaptations of traditional motifs that you might find in many other colorwork dictionaries, but there are many other patterns, most of the larger ones, that are unique to this dictionary (at least I haven’t seen them in any other patterns or books), so it’s definitely worth at least a thorough flip through for ideas!

(Please note this is not to be confused with Leigh Radford’s Alterknits books. However, this does complement the subtle pop/mod whimsy of Radford’s patterns!)

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

AlterKnit Stitch Dictionary: 200 Modern Knitting Motifs is available now from Interweave Press.
Author: Andrea Rangel

Review: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer

4 stars.

Much nerd, very fun!! Even though I still have no clue about any of the mathematical stuff discussed, it’s still an amazingly awesome romp through alternate history. Lovelace and Babbage’s friendship is YAS, and PUNCHYCARD KITTIES xD, and Minion is amazing, and FOOTNOTES OMG, and overall just… YAAAASSSS.

I’m not giving this 4.5 stars, even though it easily could be, due to the footnotes. While I adore footnotes, gleaned lots of interesting info from them, and appreciate the satirical homage paid to Lovelace (her footnotes are famously longer than papers themselves), they distracted a bit too much from the comics the way they were presented. However, fear not! The comics are just as enjoyable if you ignore the footnotes (although you certainly won’t get explanation for much of the historical tidbits that are worked into the comics). I conducted highly involved experiments…. heh, not really. I read through each story a first time, in full, reading the footnotes along with the comics, then did a second read-through of just the comics with no notes. I found it to be immensely educational the first time, and immensely amusing the second time ’round.

Go read it peoples, it’s the definition of adorkables. Even if you have no mathematical inclination at all, it’s highly readable and AWESOME. And if you are mathematically inclined… well, then get ready to be blown away by the nerdiness of it all.

You can read Padua’s other comics on 2D Goggles.

Review: Delightful Secrets of the Nutcracker

Delightful Secrets of the Nutcracker

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars
NetGalley Rating: 3 stars

This was a pretty retelling of the Nutcracker story. It  focuses on Marie and her family, who are descendents of Clara, from the original story. A Christmas time reading of the Hard Nut backstory, Clara’s favorite, sets into motion some very similar events from the original tale. The illustrations focus on ballet retellings of the Fairyland scenes and events and convey the colors and textures of a cozy winter time story perfectly.

While I love the original Hoffmann version, this version is definitely a bit more on par with today’s kids lit (not that I don’t think the Hoffmann version shouldn’t also be a kids book), and is definitely an edition that dancers would enjoy.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

Delightful Secrets of the Nutcracker is available now from Concierge Marketing Inc.
Author: Julian Adair|Illustrator: Emily Baum

Review: The First Fossil Hunters

The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology In Greek And Roman Times

4.5 stars.

Mayor writes an incredibly easy to read, well-researched, and very convincing thesis in this book. I was already passively interested in this subject, but now that I’ve read this, I’m very much interested in learning about how other ancient and indigenous cultures interpreted the fossils and other prehistoric evidence.

Greeks and Romans were excavating fossil remains of prehistoric creatures long before archaeology and paleontology as sciences ever existed. However, modern archaeology has discarded or ignored many of these ancient findings because they were framed in an unscientific way–through myths and legends. The fossils of mega-fauna that these people were finding were interpreted as the bones of legendary heros and monsters from an age before the then-present day. And while this may seem like an absurd conclusion to scientists, the ancient’s conclusion was actually quite accurate. At the core, the bones that were uncovered were understood to be those from various creatures that had existed much earlier in time, and had gone extinct before the current race of humans ever existed on Earth.

It can be easy to discard these observations as being shaped by beliefs. But even when that is the case, there must be substantial credit given, as these beliefs helped people to pay attention to the natural world around them and not simply ignore the giant fossils they came across. Rather, they dug them up and displayed them as relics in temples and museums, or gave them ceremonial reburials, treating them as ancient ancestors (or curiosities in the case of “monsters”). Regardless of the context they were displayed in, they were understood to have important significance in the history of human beings. Archaeologists have only recently started paying this much attention to bones and remains of non-humans in sites–for years they ignored these finds or simply wrote them off as waste, rather than recognizing them as important paleontological finds.

I was also excited to read this in hopes it would break down some of the preconceived views that some archaeologists sometimes have of cultures, and it did so perfectly, without bad mouthing the discipline altogether. Rather, Mayor encourages more cross-discipline workings, where archaeologists, paleontologists, and historians and mythographers work to analyze all aspects of a site being excavated or studied. Rather than archaeologists just discarding “useless” fossils and bones and discounting myths, legends, and cultural beliefs, a more varied team could provide more analysis of all aspects of site, and give a better understanding of the science, the history, AND the culture of the site in question, through multiple lenses of focus.

While I had been hoping this focused more on the griffin thesis (this is the first chapter, which is used more as a jumping off thesis for the rest of the book), it’s still an excellent read for anyone interested in such a niche subject, and I’d very highly recommend it.

Review: The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6)

The Trespasser by Tana French

3.5 stars.

This was a much more enjoyable installment in the DMS series than the previous two. Steven and Antoinette worked so well together and the amount of snark and witty comments there were made the entire thing a fun read.

However, this is was SO. SLOW. AND. PLODDING. Which typically I wouldn’t mind–I do like myself a good slow novel every once in awhile and I’m all for more accurate depictions of police and detective work in fiction, and this met both criteria–it was too heavy on the telling vs. showing and the case quickly became one I didn’t care too much about. Every interview seemed unnecessarily long and half the time was only revealing things that had already been confirmed, whether by obvious suspicions or previous evidence. Nothing was really surprising when revealed/confirmed. And, as with I think all of the previous DMS books, the ending was anticlimactic as heck and made the entire thing feel pointless. Which I suppose is accurate, but when it doesn’t even end with a cliffhanger or surprising decision, it just makes it feel like a wasted two weeks of reading.

The characterizations were the strongest part for me, as they have been in prior installments. Conway can come across as paranoid and whiney, yes, but I also don’t blame her for being paranoid in the situation she’s in–plus, it adds a very valid and believable flaw to her character. The entire side plot with her father, though, seemed pointless and only vaguely tied to the case.

Overall, I really enjoyed this, but also found it too tedious to really enjoy properly.

Review: Success with Succulents

Success with Succulents: Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Cactuses and Other Succulents

Goodreads Rating: n/a; would be 4 stars.
NetGalley Rating: 4 stars

Succulents have always fascinated me, and I’ve always thought it would be fun to cultivate a succulent garden. This books is the perfect introduction to this subject, and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone who is seriously thinking about bring succulents into their garden or home.

Despite their hardiness, succulents can be quite fragile if the proper water and light conditions aren’t adhered to; the light requirement is especially important to take into account when growing succulents inside your house rather than out in the garden. The authors provide many useful tips for optimizing your succulent selection to fit the hardiness and location(s) that you are planning to plant in.

The book starts off with an introduction to succulents in general, going over the basic families of succulents and their differences, then it delves into methods and tips for growing these plants both outside and inside, and it ends with an extensive mini-encyclopedia of common succulents, complete with frost tolerance, watering recommendations, and a brief history of the species. Vibrant photos throughout create a book that’s not only informative but lovely to look at. The only thing that I felt was “missing” that could have been helpful for beginning succulent growers were some sample garden plots, optimized for different climates. However, the information contained within would likely be enough for a reader to figure out their own selection of plants.

Again, definitely recommended for those who are thinking about succulent gardening for the first time!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

Success with Succulents: Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Cactuses and Other Succulents will be available December 5, 2017 from cool Spring Press.
Authors:  John Bagnasco & Robert Reidmuller Jr.