Review: The Child Finder – Rene Denfeld

the child finderThree years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Rating: 4/5

Ghosts are just dead people we haven’t found.

Rene Denfeld proves in her follow up novel to ‘The Enchanted’ that she is certainly adept at tackling dark subject matter in a manner that, while sensitive, accurately portrays the sense of quiet horror.

As the title suggests, the novel focuses on a private investigator, Naomi, who specialises in missing children. As a former missing child herself, she is continually working on piecing together fragmented memories of her own past. Due to trauma-related amnesia, she doesn’t have much to go on, but we do gain insight into her recovery in the home of her foster mother, a wonderful specimen of humanity who loves and cherishes her.

Naomi’s latest case is that of Madison, a young girl who went missing three years prior in a desolate snowy landscape, making the likelihood of finding her alive particularly slim. She has a particular gift, however, and the novel traces her methodical search for the child, involving cases of years past, suspicious neighbours and hostile terrain.

Naomi always began by learning to love the world where the child went missing. It was like carefully unravelling a twisted ball of yarn. A bus stop that led to a driver that led to a basement room, carefully carpeted in soundproofing. A ditch in full flood that led to a river, where sadness awaited on the shore.

The perspectives alternate with those of the kidnapped Madison, as well as her captor, who remains a shadowy figure for most of the novel. Please be aware that there are depictions of child abuse. While they are not overly graphic, they are almost more horrifying in their subtlety, in the aftermath rather than the actual act.

There’s something magical about Denfeld’s writing. It’s sorrowful and relentless, pushing you forward to the conclusion – and you are powerless to resist. This book is ideal for those who prefer what I like to call ‘quiet’ mysteries – it’s not action-packed, but there is certainly a palpable sense of dread, and a focus just as much on the personal as the procedural.

Review copy received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication. 

Review: Words in Deep Blue – Cath Crowley

words in deep blueThis is a love story. It’s the story of a second-hand bookshop called Howling Books where people leave letters to strangers, or those they love, or want to love, between the pages of books in the Letter Library.

Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie are best friends. Or they were. Before Rachel moved away to the sea. Now, she’s back, grieving for her brother Cal who drowned in the sea that he loved.

Rachel loves Henry. Henry loves Amy. Amy loves Amy but is happy for Henry to love her too.

This is a book about books. About the power of literature to cradle our past, present and future selves. It’s about how we leave ourselves behind when we die. How we leave our histories in the things we love – like books.

Rating: 4/5

Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon is one of my all time favourite books, so I was eagerly anticipating her next offering. Words in Deep Blue was a worthy installment, characterised by the author’s exquisite writing. It did lack some of the glorious humour of Graffiti Moon, but considering the subject matter dealt with in this book, this fact is entirely understandable. There was just one major problem I had with Words in Deep Blue, which I’ll tackle later on in this review.

But firstly, the setting. Books involving bookstores or libraries are always kryptonite for me – I suppose its something to do with seeing our love of books represented in a story, viewed through the lens of characters who appreciate them as much as we the readers do. And Howling Books sounds like a pretty fantastic book-lovers paradise – couches and mysterious letter-leavings and all.

“You start at ten, tomorrow morning. Sophia said she was looking for someone with people and computer skills, and that describes you perfectly.”

“I no longer have people skills.”

“This is true, but I chose not to share that with her.”

The book is a thoughtful exploration of grief, of having to rebuild your life after you’ve simply stopped living it. Rachel failed her last year of school, will not be heading to uni like her peers, and her family have virtually become islands unto their own sadness. So she returns to the city where she and her brother grew up, keeping the secret of her brother’s death and slowly beginning to take the steps back to a new kind of normalcy.

Of course, this also means she ends up encountering former (one-sided) love and ex-best friend, Henry of the Howling Books establishment. And what can I say about Henry? His naivety certainly grated on my nerves. He was so blinded by love that he allowed himself to be continuously treated like shit by his on-and-off again girlfriend, Amy. However, that’s also understandable, if annoying to witness. People do indeed put up with awful behavior when besotted.

But herein lies my issue with the book that I mentioned initially. Amy is a completely one-dimensional character. It would be different if we at least saw some redeeming qualities in her to explain Henry’s devotion, but she’s nothing more than a vapid prop, and a foil for Rachel.

“Do you mind? I’m having a private moment here, Rachel.”

I crouch on the floor beside him. “Here’s a tip for a private moment: don’t have it on the floor of the girls’ toilets.”

“The girls?” he asks.

“The added extras didn’t give it away?”

He lifts his head and squints at the unit in the opposite corner. “Not a mailbox?”

“Not a mailbox, Henry,”

I am, however, a sucker for second-chance romance, despite my complaints. Although the romancing really does only feature near the end of the book. I am, however, completely okay with this. The journey is Rachel’s, and grief is not cured by a man-love. Henry is just a nice, supportive added extra.

“I forget. Do you stand under a pole in a lightning storm?” Henry asks, moving faster up High Street.

“Sure, and it helps if you can find a puddle too,” I tell him.

“We don’t stand under a pole,” he says.

“We don’t stand under a pole,” I confirm.

The side character of George and her hopeful romance were also delightful and heartbreaking to witness. I also appreciated the depiction of imperfect families – who sometimes have to rally and make-do despite the circumstances – but there will not be a happy ending, just a new normal.

Overall, another gem from Crowley.  Her work is certainly worth the wait.

It has something to do with Cal being in a library along with other people who no longer exist in the world. The traces of them are hidden, small lines in books. In a library from which no one can borrow. 

Review: White Hot & Wildfire (Hidden Legacy 2 & 3) – Ilona Andrews

ilona andrews hidden legacyBook 2:

Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she’s used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family’s detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor “Mad” Rogan.

Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice.

&

Book 3:

Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…

Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.

As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke.

Rating: 4/5

This is a combined review for books 2 and 3, since I read them one after the other in a matter of days, so it’s hard to disentangle my thoughts of one from the other.

Ilona Andrews are one of my go-to authors. They’re reliable, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I know I’m set for a good time – action, romance, some smut, interesting worldbuilding, humour… it’s the whole package!

I finally understood why he was called Mad Rogan. It wasn’t because he was insane. It was because he drove you nuts with sheer frustration.

I have to say though – the covers for this series are utterly cringeworthy. I know the authors have no control over them, but hot damn. I would be embarrassed to whip them out in public. (Yes, I’m a cover snob. Working on it.)

It was a rather long wait for the continuation of the series, but I truly did enjoy the next two installments, and dare I say it, the epilogue of book 3 certainly left room for more.

“Don’t be mean. He had one social network account.”
“Oh?”
“Pinterest.”
“Tell me it’s porn. Please.”
“He saved pictures of mushrooms to it,” Cornelius said helpfully from the backseat. 

So what did I like about Hidden Legacy?

  • The worldbuilding. Finding out about the different powers, the hierarchies and the houses. How they work, the limitations, and the society in which they navigate.
  • The family dynamics. This is something the duo are consistently good at, across all their work. I really enjoyed the relationship Nevada has with her various relatives (barring one grandmother, for reasons which will become obvious when you read the books!)
  • The characters. You know it’s good when you want to know more about all the supporting cast as well. Nevada’s siblings/cousins reveal their own abilities,  which is interesting to witness, and there are a couple of major players who also have me intrigued.
  • Le romance. Because I like me some UST (which soon became very, uh, resolved) and happy endings (pun oh so absolutely intended). I love the push-pull between Nevada and Rogan, along with their glorious banter. I also like that Nevada pushes back, and refuses to be coddled.
  • The plot. Having to unravel mystery after mystery, while avoiding death, dealing with shady characters and unlikely bedfellows, and keeping friends and family safe.

“I can’t believe I have to say this. You there, dashing male secretary! Drop the frying pan.”

Some of the conspiracies felt a little weak, especially since we don’t get a resolution as to the real mastermind behind the plot that began all the way in book 1. Also, the romance/smut did get a bit cheesy at times. But that wasn’t enough to dampen my, uh, enjoyment (terrible pun entirely UNINTENDED!).

I’m going to stop now before this gets any worse.

ARC of Wildlife received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication. 

June book releases I’m looking forward to

Holy hell, how is it June already? (In the past 5 months, my family has experienced the following: death, wedding, pregnancy, injury, selling a business and moving to the country, and preparations for an upcoming emigration (me!). *wipes brow*

I live in slight fear/awe of what the next 7 months will throw in my direction.

But back to the world of books, yes? What a nice distraction.

our dark duetOur Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) – Victoria Schwab

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

I thought the first book was a really impressive foray into YA urban fantasy, and I’m interested to see how Schwab concludes this duology. She has such interesting takes on the standard fantasy fare, and has been writing like a machine of late!

the ministry of utmost happinessThe Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness transports us across a subcontinent on a journey of many years. It takes us deep into the lives of its gloriously rendered characters, each of them in search of a place of safety – in search of meaning, and of love.

In a graveyard outside the walls of Old Delhi, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet. On a concrete sidewalk, a baby suddenly appears, just after midnight. In a snowy valley, a bereaved father writes a letter to his five-year-old daughter about the people who came to her funeral. In a second-floor apartment, a lone woman chain-smokes as she reads through her old notebooks. At the Jannat Guest House, two people who have known each other all their lives sleep with their arms wrapped around each other, as though they have just met.

A braided narrative of astonishing force and originality, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is at once a love story and a provocation-a novel as inventive as it is emotionally engaging. It is told with a whisper, in a shout, through joyous tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Its heroes, both present and departed, have been broken by the world we live in-and then mended by love. For this reason, they will never surrender.

How to tell a shattered story?
By slowly becoming everybody.
No.
By slowly becoming everything.

Humane and sensuous, beautifully told, this extraordinary novel demonstrates on every page the miracle of Arundhati Roy’s storytelling gifts.

No pressure, it’s only been 20 years since her last book, and The God of Small Things is one of my all-time favourites. Oh, the anticipation.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2)Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) – Seanan McGuire

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

While I felt the first book needed a little something more, I am still in awe of the incredible scope of Seanan’s imagination and originality. Can’t wait to discover the journey of the twins!

bad romanceBad Romance – Heather Demetrios

Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape.

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.

I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous contemporaries, and this looks like it’s going to be a much needed addition to the YA genre – tackling abusive relationships, of which there are far too many books depicting these as ‘romantic’ instead of ‘problematic’.

here lies daniel tateHere Lies Daniel Tate – Cristin Terrill

A young, street-savvy runaway looking for a place to call home realized he might have conned his way into the wrong family in this fast-paced and thrilling novel from award-winning author Cristin Terrill.

When ten-year-old Daniel Tate went missing from one of California’s most elite communities, he left no trace. He simply vanished.

Six years later, when he resurfaces on a snowy street in Vancouver, he’s no longer the same boy. His sandy hair is darker, the freckles are gone, and he’s initially too traumatized to speak, but he’s alive. His overjoyed family brings him home to a world of luxury and comfort he can barely remember. In time, they assure him, he’ll recover his memories; all that matters now is they’re together again.

It’s perfect. A miracle. Except for one thing.

He isn’t Daniel Tate.

He’s a petty con artist who accidentally stumbled into the scam of a lifetime, and he soon learns he’s not the only one in the Tate household with something to hide. The family has as many secrets as they have millions in the bank, and one of them might be ready to kill to keep the worst one buried.

The author’s debut, All Our Yesterdays, was a fantastically suspenseful read, so I have faith that her next work will be just as impressive. And this synopsis has me chomping at the bit.

shattered mindsShattered Minds (Pacifica) – Laura Lam

She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.

While this book is set in the same universe as False Hearts, they are both standalones and can be read in any order. This one sounds creepy as hell, and I’m here for it!

***

So, my lovelies, what are you most looking forward to reading this June? Any of these on your list?

Review: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay

hungerFrom the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself

“I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

Rating: 5/5

This is such a powerful, raw memoir, that I don’t think I have the words to do it justice. I had previously heard of the author, and have always been meaning to get around to reading ‘Bad Feminist’, but ‘Hunger’ is my first proper encounter with Gay’s writing. And I think, on the most part, I will let her words do the talking for me.

Something terrible happened, and I wish I could leave it at that because as a writer who is also a woman, I don’t want to be defined by the worst thing that has happened to me.

She has such incredible talent – the writing is introspective, honest and thought-provoking. One gets the sense that this memoir is as much of a journey for her as it is for us, the reader. The fairly short chapters also make it a slightly ‘easier’ read, in terms of having a moment to catch one’s breath amidst the distressing subject matter.

I began eating to change my body. I was wilful in this. Some boys had destroyed me, and I barely survived it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to ensure another such violation, and so I ate because I thought that if my body became repulsive, I could keep men away. Even at that young age, I understood that to be fat was to be undesirable to mean, to be beneath their contempt, and I already knew too much about their contempt.

The main focus of the memoir is on the author’s weight and her evolving relationship with her body, using food as a defence mechanism after a horrific sexual assault when she was 12 years old. The sheer pain, suffering, and self-loathing are palpable; they pour off the page and it will make you want to punch and weep and scream.

I made myself bigger. I made myself safer. I created a distinct boundary between myself and anyone who dared approach me.

While the author may be self-depracating, and avoids praise of her strength of character, I have to disagree. I think she is an incredibly brave, insightful, wonderful woman, and I salute her.

But when people use the word ‘obese’, they aren’t merely being literal. They are offering forth an accusation.

Apart from her journey from childhood to where she is now, the book also contains commentary on the manner in which society treats overweight bodies, and the ways in which they are forced to navigate the world. Rounding it all off are some thoughts on feminism, race and class. It’s a frank, unflinching memoir that we can all learn from, empathise with and marvel at the national treasure that is Roxane Gay.

This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not.

***

ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.

Review: Etched in Bone (The Others #5) – Anne Bishop

etched in boneAfter a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…

As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.

Rating 3/5

This series started out as one of my favourites, but Etched in Bone was a let down for me. My first complaint is similar to that of many other reviewers who read this book – this final installment feels more like a long, drawn out epilogue, where the plot really had nothing much to do with the arc of books 1-4. There was very little action, and it felt more like a character study of sorts. In short, it felt disconnected from the rest of the series, seeing as the great defeat, as it was, occurred in book 4.

I could, however, have put up with that – since I really do enjoy the characters and this particular urban fantasy world – if it wasn’t for the whole ‘traditional gender roles’ thing. I mentioned it in my review for book 4, when it finally came to my attention, but it was really prominent, front and centre in book 5, and grated on my nerves no end.

Of course, it’s the author’s book and she can do what she damn well pleases. But when you are creating an amazing urban fantasy world, where you don’t have to conform to the conventions of our current society…and you bring in the same old tired gender dynamics? Quite frankly, that’ s just bad craft.

Of the ‘powerful’ characters, we have an entire cast of men, and only two women – Nyx and Tess. (On my review of the previous book, a Goodreads commenter tried to refute my issue with the lack of representation of strong women by pointing out these two – congratulations for pointing out the exceptions THAT PROVE THE RULE?!)

And of course, ‘strong’ doesn’t necessarily mean physically strong. Plenty of the human women display qualities of mental strength, for instance. But when they are all cardboard cutouts of the other, in need of protection, squeaky and shrieky  and constantly chattering, with one lone soul going against the grain…well, I’m less than impressed. I did think I was reading too much into it, but the author makes it explicit in this book that her world conforms to the ‘women’s work and men’s work’ paradigm. And there’s really no reason for this? When you’re in a world with beings who could crush you with a breath of air, and we’re still saying women should do the cooking?

It may have been cute and funny in the beginning to have Meg’s crew of female companions described as ‘exploding fluffballs’ or whatever, but 5 books in and it’s a tad insulting. There are just so many examples here:

  • When Officer Debany finds out his sister may be living with a guy, and he freaks out, asking Simon and co to investigate
  • The men being the only ones who are capable of offering protection
  • “Twenty-four men to work on the ranges and deal with the horses and cattle, and five women who will tent the ranch houses and cook”;
  • “Simon breathed in her scent and thought she might be in season. That would explain the snappishness.” Because haha, women are cranky on their periods, get it? We can’t have any rational reason for our bad moods.

Also, “This could be nothing more than a somewhat introverted child wanting to feel settled. Or she could be in real danger of being pimped by her own brother.” But yes, we’re totally going to wait for a child to be sexually assaulted before we intervene because the higher powers want to observe dodgy human behavior. I can’t even.

So yes. My issues with this book detracted from my enjoyment. I thought this series had so much potential, and I was really invested in the supporting characters, the fantasy elements and the relationship between Meg and Simon, but we got very little of any of those.

Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

A Short History of Nearly EverythingIn Bryson’s biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand—and, if possible, answer—the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

Rating: 4/5

Glance at the night sky and what you see is history and lots of it – not the stars as they are now but as they were when their light left them. 

I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately, and A Short History of Nearly Everything was an excellent addition to my repertoire. Bryson is skilled at explaining difficult or very technical concepts in a manner that is accessible and easy to understand – no mean feat indeed.

It’s the kind of book you can’t really read in one sitting, considering the really dense subject matter. It’s pretty impressive that he managed to fit as much as he did – namely the history of the earth – into 550 or so pages. Of course, it’s not the entire history, naturally – he had to pick and choose the elements he considered relevant. Still, it’s an incredibly fascinating read.

“One of the hardest ideas for humans to accept is that we are not the culmination of anything. There is nothing inevitable about our being here. It is part of our vanity as humans that we tend to think of evolution as a process that, in effect, was programmed to produce us.”

It’s books like these that have really gotten me interested in all things science again – why don’t they make us read things like this in school? It would have livened up my physics and chemistry lessons considerably. There are so many fascinating facts contained in this volume. Ones that particularly tickled me:

When you sit in a chair, you are not actually sitting there, but levitating above it at a height of one angstrom (a hundred millionth of a centimetre), you electrons and its electrons implacably opposed to any closer intimacy. 

&

Your skin cells are all dead. It’s a somewhat galling notion to reflect that every inch of your surface is deceased. 

One aspect that impressed me was the fact that Bryson included mention of the wives and female colleagues of the male scientists who got all the fame and glory. Since the contributions of women have been written out of history for so long, it was excellent that their efforts here were acknowledged.

Finally,  amongst all the science-ing and anecdotes, the subject matter is surprisingly profound and astoundingly beautiful at times.

So we are all reincarnations – thought short-lived ones. When we die, our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere – as part of a leaf or another human being or drop of dew.