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text 2018-11-20 15:56
Reading progress update: I've read 269 out of 416 pages.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte

 

On page 242, the author briefly mentions a Centrosaurus bone-bed in Alberta.  I've been there multiple times and it is a great place to visit.

 

It is in Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located close to the town of Brooks, Alberta.  It's a popular camping site, although because of the paleontological value of the landscape, campers are somewhat restricted in where they can go.

 

The site also holds the cabin of John Ware, the best known Black cowboy & rancher in Alberta's history. 

 

 

It's also a fabulous birding location.  The look-out at the park entrance is one of the best places that I know locally to see Lark Sparrow.

 

 

There is a field station of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology and there used to be guided tours of some of the dig sites.  The last one I went on was over 20 years ago, so I'm not sure if they still run those, but I wouldn't be surprised if they do.  The tours were ultra-popular.

 

There is an exposed portion of the bone-bed along a public hiking/driving path--the bones are coated in preservative and have a shelter over them to protect them from the worst of the Albertan weather.

 

All in all, it is a wonderful location to visit.  I haven't been out there for a year or two and this is making me want to go back.  I must plan a trip for next spring.

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-11-19 20:00
SuperMutant Magic Academy / Jillian Tamaki
SuperMutant Magic Academy - Jillian Tamaki

The New York Times and New Yorker illustrator Jillian Tamaki is best known for co-creating the award-winning young adult graphic novels Skim and This One Summer—moody and atmospheric bestsellers. SuperMutant Magic Academy, which she has been serializing online for the past four years, paints a teenaged world filled with just as much ennui and uncertainty, but also with a sharp dose of humor and irreverence. Tamaki deftly plays superhero and high-school Hollywood tropes against what adolescence is really like: The SuperMutant Magic Academy is a prep school for mutants and witches, but their paranormal abilities take a backseat to everyday teen concerns.

 

My first thought on this is that I am wayyyy too old to truly appreciate this graphic novel! I liked the idea of a school for mutants and witches and I’m pretty sure that this would have totally been my jam when I was in junior high school. Because, let’s face it, we all feel like mutants when we’re in junior high.

It was definitely a creative way to illustrate all the problems that we have at that age: where do we fit in? What are our talents? What will be do after graduation? Or even today after school? Do our marks matter? Does that cute boy/girl know that we exist?

I can still relate to some of it—don’t we all still feel like mutants some days? But those days are fewer and farther between the older that I get. I know that I can support myself and run my life successfully on the majority of days. If I could talk to my teenage self that would be my message: you’re going to be okay. Loosen up and enjoy things more. Too bad that wisdom only comes to us once we’re short on the energy to appreciate it fully.

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review 2018-11-19 19:46
A Fatal Inversion / Barbara Vine
A Fatal Inversion - Barbara Vine

In the long, hot summer of 1976, a group of young people is camping in Wyvis Hall. Adam, Rufus, Shiva, Vivien and Zosie hardly ask why they are there or how they are to live; they scavenge, steal and sell the family heirlooms.

 

Ten years later, the bodies of a woman and child are discovered in the Hall's animal cemetery. Which woman? And whose child?

 

Probably not the best Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell book to get started with. For me, it didn’t flow as well as I could have hoped. Plus, although I certainly don’t require likeable characters to keep me engaged, I have to care about who did what and why. I found all of the characters in this novel to be unpleasant (to say the least) and I couldn’t care much about how they ended up.

It was odd—gathering the details gradually and making assumptions about who the woman and the child found in the pet cemetery could be and how they got there. I’ve read books where I’ve known the perpetrator from the beginning, but still was intrigued by the story, but this book didn’t grab me the same way. It wasn’t until the very last pages that I found myself engaged. That’s a long time to wait.

I was reading AFI largely on my work coffee breaks. It helped to have no alternative reading available, as I found myself reluctant to pick up the book and yet anxious to get finished and move on to something more rewarding. Truly, cognitive dissonance.

Perhaps I was just in the wrong mood for this mystery—I’m a bit off of mysteries right now, I think perhaps I’ve read a few too many of them in the last while. But it was one of the books that I chose for my 2018 reading list and so I forged ahead with it. Your mileage may vary.

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review 2018-11-19 16:41
When Darkness Comes / Alexandra Ivey
When Darkness Comes - Alexandra Ivy

It’s been a hell of a day for Abby Barlow. In just a few hours, she’s survived an explosion, watched her employer die, had a startling dream, and now she finds herself in a seedy Chicago hotel with the sexy, unearthly Dante, a vampire she both desires and fears.

For 341 years, Dante has stood as guardian to The Chalice, a mortal woman chosen to hold back the darkness. A terrible twist of fate has now made Abby that woman. Three hours ago. Dante would have used all his charms to seduce her. Now she is his to protect. And he will do so until his very death.

A terrifying plan has been set in motion, one that will plunge Dante and Abby into an epic battle between good and evil – and a desperate race to save their love…

 

Put my reading experience in the 2 to 2.5 star range.

I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy the writing of Christine Feehan, J.R. Ward, or Jeaniene Frost.

Obviously, this book didn’t appeal to me, nor did the works of the writers listed above, but they are still very highly rated books. So, not my jam but very appealing to others. I’m not a big fan of the damsel in distress, so that’s part of my problem here. Abby seems desperately passive to me, staying in a job that she hates and putting up with harassment from Dante (although she’s a bit conflicted about that, seemingly wishing that she was in his league so to speak). Now, I’ve been stuck in some jobs that I loathed too, but I’ve found my way out of them and into a way of supporting myself that I find quite enjoyable, so I know it can be done. And the whole “Me Too” movement tells the story of systemic harassment, I think the vast majority of women have their Me Too moments that they could tell you about.

Abby is stubborn—Ivy goes out of her way to prove this to the reader. I’m stubborn too. If you could ask my (non-Danish) mother about the stubbornness of her Danish-Canadian husband and daughters she would tell you that we are champions at it. However, I think all of us realize that being stubborn does not equal being independent. If you want me to believe that your main character is strong and independent, you can’t just rely on her sense of stubborn.

Add to this some editing issues: for example, using beaconing rather than beckoning, flaying rather than flailing and a few other words that were close but not quite right. A quote: “While Selena pampered and preened…” You can’t just pamper. You have to pamper something. So the sentence should read “While Selena pampered herself and preened….” Finally, stop reading right now and trying to wrap your own arms around your waist. Perhaps I’m not very flexible, but I can’t seem to find a way to do that. But Abby does it repeatedly—annoying me more that I would have thought possible.

I chose this book for my Women A-Z reading project for this year. I had hoped to find another enjoyable urban fantasy series for future reading, but I will leave this to others who enjoy this style far more than I do.

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text 2018-11-19 16:03
Reading progress update: I've read 229 out of 416 pages.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte

 

So, I used to volunteer as a docent (education volunteer) at the Calgary Zoo.  The zoo has a Prehistoric Park, containing a number of life-size dinosaur models and a sculptured back-drop with plants as appropriate to the time period as possible.  While I was a volunteer, the dinosaur section was one of my favourites and I spent a lot of time keeping up with the latest research.  Since I stopped being a volunteer there, I have let my research slip.

 

As a result, I was really interested in the research on T. rex ancestors.  It's fascinating to me that they were there, just small and not very noticeable, right from the break-up of Pangaea.  I can see where I'm going to be reading a few academic papers to get myself caught up to speed.

 

OK, now my complaint:  how can you write a whole section on Tyrannosaurs and only mention Phil Currie once?  The man is a theropod expert, especially Tyrannosauridae.  Don't take my (admittedly biased) word for it.  Talk to Wikipedia:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_J._Currie

 

Having bitched about that, now I can at least say that Brusatte & I agree that Phil is one of the nicest human beings on the planet (p. 215).

 

I remember when the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology was digging at Dry Island Buffalo Jump (one of the digs mentioned on page 215).  Dry Island is just north of my home town and my family often used to picnic there, after church on Sundays.  I even remember seeing the dig site, covered with tarps.

 

Phil Currie was trying to retrace Barnum Brown's footsteps and find his Albertosaur quarry.  Phil took photos from BB's expedition and starting rafting down the Red Deer River, comparing the photos to the environment all the way along.  They would frequently stop and scramble up to look-out spots, trying to match skylines & objects.  In this painstaking way, he rediscovered the Albertosaur dig site and was able to excavate lots of Albertosaur remains.

 

I get that Brusatte is the next generation of researchers, but I resent that he gives such short shrift to Bob Bakker, Jack Horner, and Phil Currie.  It's their research and hard work that has given him the platform that he's using to base his own research on.

 

Okay, rant over.

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