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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-08-24 06:33
Virusphere by Frank Ryan
Virusphere: From common colds to Ebola epidemics – why we need the viruses that plague us - Frank Ryan

TITLE:  Virusphere: From common colds to Ebola epidemics – why we need the viruses that plague us


AUTHOR: Frank Ryan




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780008296704



"A fascinating and long overdue examination of viruses – from what they are and what they do, to the vital role they have played in human history.

What are viruses? Do they rely on genes, like all other forms of life? Do they follow the same patterns of evolution as plants and animals?
Frank Ryan answers these questions and many more in a sweeping tour of illnesses caused by viruses. For example, the common cold, measles, chicken pox, herpes and mumps, rubella, as well as less familiar examples, such as rabies, ‘breakbone’ fever, haemorrhagic fevers like Ebola, and virus-induced cancers. Along the way, readers will learn about the behaviours and ultimate goals of viruses, gaining a deeper understanding of their importance in relation to the origins and the evolution of life, as well as they ways viruses have changed us at the most intimate level, to help make us quintessentially human."




Rating:  Not quite 4 stars but more than 3.5 stars

Virusphere is an introductory text to viruses - the diseases they cause and how they cause these diseases, their evolution, how they "live", how they influence the evolution of other species by messing around with other genomes, and how viruses form part of the Earth's ecosystem.  This book starts off by providing a broad survey of a variety of the more common viral diseases ( e.g. measles, flu, cancer viruses etc), as well as the ones generally covered in other disease books such as insect-borne viruses, small pox and HIV/AIDS.  I found the second half of the book more interesting as it covers giant viruses (mimiviruses), viral abundance everywhere including Antarctica, how viruses prey on bacteria, virus-wasp symbiosis, and how viruses alter the genomes of other species and influence that species evolution (e.g. retroviral genes in mammal genomes make it possible for placentas to develop properly - no virus, no mammals!).  The chapter on the various hypotheses of viral evolution was also particularly interesting.  

This is an interesting, informative and short overview of nearly everything virus, written in an engaging and intelligible manner.  


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review 2020-08-21 13:25
Talon by Theresa Hissong YUK
Talon (Rise of the Pride, Book 1) - Ther... Talon (Rise of the Pride, Book 1) - Theresa Hissong,Heidi Ryan

take a pass on this one. Yuk

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review 2020-08-18 05:20
Penthouse Prince by: Kendall Ryan
Penthouse Prince - Kendall Ryan





Penthouse Prince by Kendall Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ryan has a way of opening your eyes to the real world, while putting a smile in your heart. Penthouse Prince steps out of cheesy, childhood fantasy and into the emotions that make us into who we are. Lex and Corrigan dare to be beautiful by facing the ugliest heartache head on. Hold on to your hearts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

View all my reviews

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review 2020-08-04 18:34
'Kitchens Of The Great Midwest' by J. Ryan Stradal - highly recommended.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest - J. Ryan Stradal,Caitlin Thorburn

I fell in love with the cover and the title and the conceit that the book is built around but I half expected to be disappointed, so many books don't live up to their covers and so many clever conceits turn into pedestrian prose, but instead, I was deeply impressed by 'The Kitchens Of The Great Midwest'. So much so that I immediately bought Stradal's second novel 'The Lager Queen Of Minnesota' (another great cover and catchy title but this time my expectations are high).


The life of Eva Thorvald, from her conception onwards, is le fil rouge that stitches together 'The Kitchens Of The Great Midwest'. Eva's life provides a sense of connection and continuity but, except for one chapter, when she is ten turning elven, Eva's is not the main focus of the book. Each chapter of the book is focused on and told from the point of view of someone whose life has touched Eva's. Each chapter also involves a dish that Eva will use by the end of the book. 


It's easy to imagine how disjointed and burdensome a story structure like that could become but Stradal makes it work brilliantly. He never lets the structure distract from the narrative, like seeing a puppet's strings. He uses it as a trellis, helping the story climb higher. 


I think it works so well because each new character is at the centre of their own world, is fully and empathetically imagined and has their own distinctive voice. As each person's story is told, we get only the most indirect view of Eva, filtered through the passions and problems of the person the chapter is about but we get a deeply personal account of a key moment in each person's life and what it means to them. Each character's story is also linked to a dish which acts as a kind of emoji for the mood of the chapter, With each new dish we taste a new life and build up a sort of scent trail of intense flavours wrapped around memories of important moments.


Yet 'The Kitchens Of The Great Midwest' comes together as something more than a set of thematically linked short stories. The novel has a shape of its own. The effect reminds me of how Hockney amalgamated polaroids for his self-portrait.


Food and food culture are central to the story. Eva has a once-in-a-generation palet and an extreme tolerance for hot spices. Her obsession with sourcing and making perfect dishes coincides with the rise of Foodie culture in the US. I enjoyed watching her lead the charge in sourcing fresh food and getting perfect flavours by having perfect ingredients. I also enjoyed the chapter where we were shown the Foodie culture grown into a pretentious, intolerant cult that was unable to recognise the love in traditional home cooking. 


One of the things that I loved about 'The Kitchens Of The Great Midwest' was how accessible the book is. The writing is engaging, honest, compassionate and deceptively simple. It made me smile and it made me cry but it never made me feel manipulated. 


Here's an example. When we meet the man who will be Eva's father, he is a chef who, after an extended period of involuntary celibacy, caused mainly by spending his teens stinking of cod from making Lutefisk, finally falls for a waitress with 'strong erroneous food opinions.' His reaction to his good fortune made me smile:


'He couldn't help it. He was in love by the time she left the kitchen but love made him feel sad and doomed as usual.'


I recommend the audiobook version of 'Kitchens Of The Great Midwest' which was perfectly narrated by Caitlin Thorburn. Go here to hear a sample of Audible.

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review 2020-07-17 03:23
Consider the Platypus
Consider the Platypus: Evolution through Biology's Most Baffling Beasts - Rodica Prato,Maggie Ryan Sandford

I had this book on my list to buy long before it was published, so when I did buy it a few months ago, I was surprised:  I was expecting the book to be about the platypus.  Silly me.


It is, instead, a book about the animals that display aspects of evolution in its most baffling forms, or animals through whom are knowledge of evolution and homo sapiens has been advanced.  It's cheekily written, and could almost be used as a supplemental text for introductory classes in high-school, though it's nowhere near comprehensive enough.  Each animal gets between 2-4 pages, with a generous, though not excessive, illustrations.


I learned a bit about just about everything, and learned about a few creatures I'd never really heard of before.  Light, enjoyable to read, and something that is easily picked up and digested in small bits.

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