Bruce’s Shelfies: DNFs with Potential…

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A while ago I decided to take on a DNF (Did not finish) default policy for all books that came across my path, inspired by this post by Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings blog.  As a result, I no longer push myself to finish books when my interest is waning or I’m just not feeling the story….

…but…

…that doesn’t necessarily mean that because I decide to DNF a book, it’s because the book is bad.  Sometimes I DNF because I can’t push through fast enough, or I started off enjoying the book but then lost interest.  So it is for today’s two titles.  Read on to find out why I made the decision to put them down…and why you might like to pick them up.


 

built on bones

 

I received Built on Bones:15000 Years of Urban Life and Death by Brenna Hassett from Bloomsbury Australia for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Humans and their immediate ancestors were successful hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, but in the last fifteen thousand years humans have gone from finding food to farming it, from seasonal camps to sprawling cities, from a few people to hordes. Drawing on her own fieldwork in the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, and beyond, archeologist Brenna Hassett explores the long history of urbanization through revolutionary changes written into the bones of the people who lived it.

For every major new lifestyle, another way of dying appeared. From the “cradle of civilization” in the ancient Near East to the dawn of agriculture on the American plains, skeletal remains and fossil teeth show evidence of shorter lives, rotten teeth, and growth interrupted. The scarring on human skeletons reveals that getting too close to animals had some terrible consequences, but so did getting too close to too many other people.

Each chapter of Built on Bones moves forward in time, discussing in depth humanity’s great urban experiment. Hassett explains the diseases, plagues, epidemics, and physical dangers we have unwittingly unleashed upon ourselves throughout the urban past–and, as the world becomes increasingly urbanized, what the future holds for us. In a time when “Paleo” lifestyles are trendy and so many of us feel the pain of the city daily grind, this book asks the critical question: Was it worth it?

Built on Bones is a nonfiction look at how our species evolved from roaming nomad hunter-gatherers, through a settled farming lifestyle to our current incarnation as urban couch potatoes and asks whether the trendy “paleo” way of living really is based on the actual way that hunter-gatherer societies functioned.  Hassett begins at the beginning, with the oldest remains of settled societies before moving on chapter by chapter toward our present-day urban living.  I put this one down after 109 pages – about halfway through chapter five – in the middle of an interesting discussion on equality and ways in which social power structures (in early societies as well as more modern ones) tend to shape who gets access to which food resources and how this then affects our understanding of historical societies when we dig up their bones.

This was a completely fascinating read, and one to use against that annoying “clean-eating, whole-food” aficionado that we all have in our social circle.  Hassett injects lots of humour into what is essentially an academic work, as well as plenty of footnotes that I came to think of as snide asides, and the only reason I have DNFed this as a review book is that it is taking me far too long to get through.  If you look at my Goodreads challenge you can see I’ve been reading it for over a month and I’m still only a third of the way through.  Seeing as the book is released this month, I really couldn’t see how I could possibly get through it all in order to give it a proper review in a timely fashion.

So this was a DNF for me review-wise, but I am certain that I will keep reading it until the end, although I can’t imagine how long that will take.  Definitely give it a go if you are interested in anthropology and how our access to and methods of making and consuming food impacts on our lifespan and general health.

carmer and grit

We received Carmer and Grit #1: The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.

In this story perfect for readers of the Lockwood & Co and Wildwood series, Sarah Jean Horwitz takes readers on a thrilling journey through a magical wooded fairyland and steampunk streets where terrifying automata cats lurk in the shadows and a mad scientist’s newest mechanical invention might be more menace than miracle.

This story is a complex steampunk/fantasy tale aimed at middle graders.  I enjoyed the initial chapters immensely, as they featured solid world building and a clean introduction to the problems that the characters were going to face later on, but I ended up putting this one down at 33%.  I have a hit and miss relationship with steampunk stories generally, but it was the magic elements of the story that put me off. I found that I was much more fascinated with the automatons that Carmer had dreams of building (and the mysterious, sinister automaton cat that appears early on) than with Grit, the fairy princess with a chip (and only one wing) on her shoulder.

While the mystery and the danger that the main characters would face was set up nicely, I just found my interest waning after a little while.  I can see this series gaining plenty of fans though, so if you enjoy your fantasy stories blended with another genre I would definitely give this one a go.


So what do you think?  Have either of these titles sparked your interest?  Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Haiku Review: The Feral Child…

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Morning all! Before Mad Martha takes you on a haiku holiday,  I feel obligated to let you know that as of right now, my current giveaway, in which you can score yourself any book of your choice from the Book Depository up to the value of $12 AUD, will be closing in just over 14 hours.  Go here to find the rafflecopter link – and entries are fairly low at the moment, so your odds will be good!  Now on to today’s business – Brucey out!

Good morning poppets, it’s Mad Martha with you this fine weekend morning – one day later than expected due to the extreme lack of motivation that springs from returning from a beachside holiday.  But more on that later in the week.  I received today’s offering, The Feral Child by Che Golden from the publisher via Edelweiss, in return for an honest review – thanks!

The Feral Child is a celtic middle-grade fantasy adventure featuring Maddy, who, after her parents pass away, finds herself moving from London to Blarney in Ireland, to live with her elderly grandparents and be tormented by her annoying cousins.  One rainy afternoon, Maddy is confronted and nearly kidnapped by a strange red-haired boy, who later turns up at her bedroom window in a strange and terrifying form.  After the boy kidnaps Maddy’s young neighbour Stephen and leaves a changeling in his place, nobody seems to take Maddy’s story seriously and she takes matters into her own hands. With her cousins Danny and Roisin, Maddy sets off to steal Stephen back from the Fey.  Cue adventure!

feral child

Scary faeries, wolves,

carnivore horses, oh my !

Must I save the child?

In some ways, The Feral Child is a fairly formulaic example of its kind.  Moody, damaged adolescent scorned by family and friends finds a secret power and goes on a heroic quest to right a wrong when no one else will step forward, finding redemption and friendship along the way.  I can think of a number of books for this age-group straight away that follow this plot line almost to the letter.  Where this one stands apart is in the characterisation – Maddy, Danny and Roisin are really believable kids.  There’s no cliched or stereotypical dialogue here, and the characters stay true to their personalities, taking on changes slowly throughout the story.  This is refreshing because often in middle grade fiction the reader will be treated to, for example, an annoying, bullying character for most of the story, who miraculously changes into a caring, heroic sort of a kid after one significant event.  In Golden’s story, the children’s perosnalities evolve in a much more natural way – at the end of the story, they’re still recognisable as the same people they were at the beginning, albeit with a slightly more mature outlook on their situation.

Another strong point of the story is the tense atmosphere that emerges when the sinister faeries come into the plot.  The villains in this book are genuinely creepy – particularly the elven mounts *shudder* – and really add to the sense of danger the characters are facing.

This is a solid pick for middle graders who enjoy fantasy and mythology in their reading. This new edition is due for publication in June this year, but is already available for purchase around the place if you want to get your paws on it now.   Oh, and it’s a perfect choice Bruce’s Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge in category one (a book with something related to safari in the title) or category seven (a book with something unsightly in the title). Just sayin’!

Adios until we meet again, cherubs, and don’t forget the giveaway – time is ticking!

Mad Martha

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