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review 2017-03-16 00:38
I didn't get this PhD for nuthin
The Silver Skull (The Elemental Web Chro... The Silver Skull (The Elemental Web Chronicles Book 2) - Anne Renwick
The Golden Spider (The Elemental Web Series) (Volume 1) - Anne Renwick

The Golden Spider and The Silver Skull are both fairly paint-by-numbers steampunk: it's vaguely Victorian-ish, with the ton & the peerage and all that, but there are Babbage cards and steam mechanicals and such too. 

 

The Golden Spider is probably the better novel, following a girl scientist trying to stop a killer and cure her brother and also there are spies.The Silver Skull relies on one of those "we have to pretend to be married so we might as well bang" scenarios, which I find tedious, and I didn't buy the reasons for the lovers to be apart anyway. But bonus points for pteranodons that the evil lady saddles up so she can have sky battles with airships. That was fresh. 

 

What I really wanted to say about this series, the thing I found utterly charming, was the epically nerdy science behind both of these plots. A science that was lovingly detailed with so much legit scientific terminology that I would just start skimming at points as the principals breathlessly talked chemistry at each other. The author's bio states that Renwick has a PhD in chemistry, and it shows: she loves this shit; she's not going to dumb it down; and she's going to work out the science plausibly, even if it's fictional. 

 

Hard science is very rarely my thing. I simply do not care about verisimilitude, unless you wrap it up with some actual characters, which doesn't happen as often as I'd prefer. And generally I'm not reading steampunk for the articles, but because I like the dash-punk pulp aspects: I want to see me a fucking kraken, or an airship battle that crashes, burning, into the sea, or some automata struggling with sentience. But here, in books where the steampunkery was wan and drab, I lived for the nerdy stuff, in a weird reversal. It just goes to show that the enthusiasm of the writer towards the subject, be it chemistry or krakens, goes a long way toward my enjoyment of a novel. 

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review 2017-02-25 18:28
I may be in the minority here but...
Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles

Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles 

 

I amy be in the minority here, but I thought this was sweet and engrossing YA novel. I didn't mean to read it in a few hours, but once Brittany almost ran Alex over with her car, I just couldn't seem to put it down.

It was cheesy at times and very predictable, but it still didn't stop me from enjoying every minute of it. I really loved the Fuentes family and Brittany's sister, Shelley. I'm not sure how accurate the portrayal of gang life was since I've never been in a gang or known anyone in a gang, but it certainly seemed to have a grain of truth in it to me. Especially, when dealing with burying the people you care about due to gang violence. 

I thought that the intimacy between Brittany and Alex was handled well overall, nothing too detailed but it wasn't overly innocent either. And I was happy to see that epilogue. Very cute way to give us a glimpse into their future. 

I'm definitely going to pick up the next book in the series. I'd love to see more of the characters from this story. 

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review 2017-02-17 06:25
Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World by Nick Lane
Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World (Popular Science) - Nick Lane

This is an extremely interesting and well written book about oxygen - how oxygen spurred the evolution of life, the functioning of oxygen in biological systems, aging, how oxygen relates to everyday life (besides breathing), amongst others. The nice thing about this book is that the author assumes his readers are intelligent and so doesn't simplify his writing or the concepts so much that it practically turns into gibberish.

 

NOTE:

The author's view of junk DNA is a bit dated - the book was published in 2002 and research on junk DNA has advanced since then. Some other information might also be dated, but that is simply how science and science writing work.  If you are intelligent enough to read this book, you should also be intelligent enough not to swallow everything you read - hook, line and sinker.

 

OTHER RELATED RECOMMENDED BOOKS:

* The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History by David Beerling

* Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M. Nesse, George C. Williams

* Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future by Peter D. Ward

 

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review 2016-12-24 15:55
Angst Central
Volatile (Treacherous Chemistry) (Volume 1) - Avylinn Winter

This is going to be a hard review for me to write. Volatile is a wonderful book and flawlessly written, it just wasn’t a book for me. But, I have absolutely no doubt that my reasons for finding this a harder story to read will be the main reasons others are going to adore it.

 

But, let me start with everything that was wonderful about this book before I get to my very personal reasons for having a hard time with it. This is a very well written story. The words and descriptions hooked me from the moment I started reading. I really felt as if I was in Chris’s head, I could feel his gloom, I shared his fears and excitement, and his pain tore through me.

 

Because we experience everything that happens through Chris’s eyes and thoughts, and Chris is ‘only’ twenty years old and therefore not yet very world wise, Dante remained almost as much of an enigma to me as he was for Chris. But, and this was done very well, I did have a better understanding of what might be going on with the talented violinist than Chris had. But, to be fair, Chris was still fighting a few demons of his own, which made it harder for him to recognise Dante’s.

 

That’s what this story is about; two troubled and fragile young men trying to find and keep their footing in a world that appears to expect them to live, act, and perform in a manner well beyond their age. I think my heart started breaking about two paragraphs into the story, and it didn’t stop until I had almost finished the book.

 

And that, in a nutshell, is my personal issue with this book. I don’t do angst. I don’t deal with it very well and avoid it in my reading when I can. And there’s angst a plenty inVolatile and it is very well done. While a lot of the angst is the result of Chris and Dante just not communicating with each other—one of my pet peeves— it made perfect sense in this story. In fact, if they had talked about all their issues with each other, it would have been completely out of character. Given who they are, their ages, and individual histories, their relationship couldn’t have developed in any other way. But, knowing all of that, did not make it easier for me to read.

 

Long story short; if you enjoy very well written stories, featuring two fascinating young men building a troubled relationship, and a liberal dose of angst, this is THE book for you. Go read it and enjoy while I try to figure out whether or not I want to read the next book when it comes out. Because on the one hand, Avylinn Winter is a wonderful writer and storyteller, but on the other hand, my heart can only take so much angst.

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review 2016-09-22 15:24
Venomous by Christie Wilcox
Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry - Christie Wilcox

To paraphrase the author, this book is Dr. Christie Wilcox's ode to the fearsome power of venomous creatures and her tribute to their incredible scientific potential.  This is a beautifully written book on the little discussed and known subject of venom.   The book is an investigation into venom and some of the weird and wonderful creatures that use them.  The author takes a look at how venomous creatures interact with other species and ecosystems, how these interactions have effected the evolutionary path of these species (including humans).  Dr. Wilcox reveals how the different types of venom work, what they do to the human (and prey) body, adaptation and immunity to venom, and how these substances can revolutionize biochemistry and the medical field.  

 


The author is a molecular biologist writing for an intelligent public (of any age - teenagers might enjoy this book too).  The author manages to balance all the interesting science with amusing or illustrative anecdotes without making these personal stories seem like useless filler.  Who could find stories about Komodo Dragons, venomous mammals, carnivorous snails, bullet ants which inflict one of the most painful sting in the world, bees, spiders, snakes, wasps that turn cockroaches into zombies, and spikey caterpillars that turn your insides into mush, boring? 

She includes enough well-explained biochemical detail to show how different venom functions, without bogging the reader down with excruciating detail, and she does not "dumb-down" the science either (THANK YOU!).   There are numerous photographs and illustrations which would probably be more legible (or at least larger) in the paper version of the book than the Kindle version I read.  

This book is both informative and entertaining to read.  I learned a great deal of new stuff (which is the point to reading science books) and had fun while doing all this learning.  This is an author who I hope writes more science books in the future.

 

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