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review 2017-03-15 17:17
Survivors / Richard Fortey
Survivors: The Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind. Richard Fortey - Richard Fortey

Evolution does not simply obliterate its tracks as more advanced organisms evolve. Scattered across the globe, organisms and ecosystems that survive from far earlier times can speak to us of seminal events in the history of life. It is these animals and plants that Richard Fortey visits in the field, taking the reader on a voyage to the exotic, and sometimes everyday, places in which they live. Landscapes are evoked, boulders are turned over, seas are paddled as he explains the importance of understanding plants and animals as pivotal points in evolutionary history itself. Survivors: The Animals and Plants that Time Has left Behind is a journey across the globe and across time that weaves a rich and brilliantly delineated tapestry of how life and our planet have evolved together.

 

I love Richard Fortey’s science writing. Two of his books are among my absolute favourites (Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth and Dry Storeroom No. 1). Perhaps because there’s an awful lot of stuff happening in my life right now, I didn’t get into this book in quite the same way as those two.

Still, it’s an extremely enjoyable book if you are a fan of paleontology and natural history. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of a “living fossil” and Fortey explores it thoroughly in this book (while explaining that the whole idea of a living fossil is a bit off-base—they may look the same, but many things will still have changed over the millennia). I am more than a little envious of Mr. Fortey, as I would dearly love to travel to see some of the creatures that he visited for this book. I mean, Horseshoe Crabs? Sign me up to go see them at spawning time! Wouldn’t you like to hold a Lungfish in Northern Australia? Or is it just me?

What I truly appreciate about Fortey’s writing is the enormous depth and breadth of knowledge of paleontology. Now, he does shine brightest when talking about invertebrates, as you would expect of a trilobite specialist, but he’s a dab hand at fish too and obviously an enthusiastic naturalist when it comes to plants and birds. I am amazed how much natural history knowledge resides in one person’s skull.

Add to that the charm of quoting poetry and literature in meaningful ways, making allusions to dance and art, and one has to admit that this is a well-rounded scholar.

Recommended for those who are fascinated with paleontology in all its glory.

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review 2017-02-27 17:19
Seven Skeltons / Lydia Pyne
Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World's Most Famous Human Fossils - Lydia V. Pyne

An interesting exploration of the reasons that certain paleo-human fossils achieve the status of icons in popular culture. What makes a fossil catch the interest of everyday people? Firsts are always attention grabbing, as are remains which include skulls or very complete skeletons. A good nickname or discover story helps too (see Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis). And you can’t beat good old-fashioned controversy either!

When controversy is one of the requirements, it becomes obvious why the author chose Piltdown Man, the English fake, as one of her iconic fossils! Talk about controversial—and people continue to speculate today about who all was in on the hoax and who got fooled. Humans are attracted to good stories, especially mysteries, so I guess Piltdown deserves this position.

Also interesting was the choice of Peking Man, where the actual fossils were lost in the swirling turmoil of WW2 in China. Only casts of the major fossils remain, but once again there is a very noir mystery surrounding the fate of the real McCoy. The mystery is like catnip to puzzle-solving people and the search for the original fossils continues.

I was most interested in the final two chapters, concerning the Flores Island “Hobbit” and Australopithecus sediba. The first I was only familiar with through the original news announcements and the second was unknown to me. I’m not sure that we could label either of them “iconic” just yet, but there is certainly potential.

Interestingly absent were any of the Leakey family’s discoveries, as was any discussion of the personal rivalries between Richard Leakey and Donald Johanson (Lucy’s discoverer). Hearteningly present was the open attitude of the paleoanthropologists who are sharing their data on Australopithecus sediba—instead of hoarding the fossil and the data, they are opening the doors to any researcher with an interest and showing a new, inclusive way of doing paleoanthropological research which gives me great hope for the future.

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review 2016-10-25 06:44
Finding Fossils, Finding (Insta)Love...
Every Hidden Thing - Kenneth Oppel

Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in centuries-buried rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the late nineteenth-century world has ever seen. Some legends call it the Black Beauty, with its bones as black as ebony, but to seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt, it’s the “rex,” the king dinosaur that could put him and his struggling, temperamental archaeologist father in the history books (and conveniently make his father forget he’s been kicked out of school), if they can just quarry it out.

 

But Samuel and his father aren’t the only ones after the rex. For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where her loves of science and adventure aren’t just relegated to books and sitting rooms. And if she can’t prove herself on this expedition with her professor father, the only adventures she may have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood.

 

As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. Their flourishing romance is one that will never be allowed. And with both eyeing the same prize, it’s a romance that seems destined for failure. As their attraction deepens, danger looms on the other side of the hills, causing everyone’s secrets to come to light and forcing Samuel and Rachel to make a decision. Can they join forces to find their quarry, and with it a new life together, or will old enmities and prejudices keep them from both the rex and each other? 

 

 

If you're not a big fan of "insta-love" then you'll probably be doing some major face palms while reading this book. Two of the main characters, Rachel & Sam, don't just 'think' they're in love, they go from full fledged bumbling innocents 

 

to married business partners,

 

(spoiler show)

in record time- with ALL details included unfortunately! 

 

I liked how the characters deviated from the norm though and didn't follow their strict society rules. I wasn't expecting their bold, rash moves which I have to give them credit for. It made for a nice change and was hilariously entertaining! 

 

The rivalry and fighting between their two fathers though felt too contrived and became a little irritating after a while. There was just too much of it I think. 

 

Anyone who has an interest in paleontology or fossil hunting or even if you just enjoy a grand adventure, you'll especially like this one! Don't take it too seriously though and just have fun with it and you'll enjoy it a lot more!

 

*I received this ARC from NetGalley & Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

 

Professional Reader Reviews Published 2016 NetGalley Challenge

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review 2015-07-23 13:31
Dinosaurs Without Bones: Dinosaur Lives Revealed by Their Trace Fossils - Anthony J Martin

Written by a paleontologist who specializes in traces of dinosaur behaviors--footprints, teeth marks, nests, burrows, gastroliths, and more--this book paints a far more vivid picture of dinosaur life and habits than mere skeletons could provide. It is also chock full of dad jokes. Seriously, this book is teeming with puns and one-off references to geek culture. That doesn't make it a faster read--it's a dense book packed with scientific information and it'll take you awhile to get through it--but that does help make the experience extremely enjoyable. Also a plus: numerous anecdotes of the author's fieldwork and class trips and detailed explanations of paleontological practices that are accessible in part because they assume the reader is smart enough to understand them. I really enjoyed delving into the science of how we know what we know about dinosaurs, and what as-yet-unmade discoveries could advance our knowledge or turn it all on its head.

 

A+ read immediately after watching Jurassic World, for sure.

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text 2013-11-08 15:29
For Some Things, There is Only One Appropriate Reaction
Fifty Shades of Paleontology (Billionaire Dinosaur Erotica) - Lucy Sparks

noooooope

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