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Wildlife Bookworm "WB"

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Endangered: Wildlife on the Brink of Extinction
Endangered: Wildlife on the Brink of Extinction
by George C. Mcgavin
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Vital For Any Conservation Enthusiast, 8 Aug. 2008
The aim of 'Endangered' is to produce a comprehensive and fact-based account of the state of the world's biodiversity and a format accessible to you an I. It achieves this brilliantly.

The A4 book begins with a section on extinction and humanity, and ends with another on conservation efforts and the future. However the majority (160 pages) concerns the species themselves and the threats they face.

This section is split into many subchapters each taking up a double page spread, featuring a particular group of animals (e.g. great apes, sharks). A review of the features of the group is given, followed by the threats they face and extra detail about particular species.

The spread consists of one main photo fading out into the text, with the words moulded round the focal point. This makes for a beautiful layout and ensures the page space is fully utilised. The text is in 3 columns per page, interjected with smaller photographs and their captions.

You could say the amphibians and invertebrates are underrepresented and plants only figure in relation to animal species. However this is nit-picking and I really can't praise this book enough. A pleasure to read despite its somewhat depressing subject matter.

The Law Of Dreams
The Law Of Dreams
by Peter Behrens
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brutal Tale of Hardship and Endurance, 5 Aug. 2008
This review is from: The Law Of Dreams (Paperback)
Set in 1846 'The Law of Dreams' is a tragic and moving account of a young boy's journey from the starvation of Ireland, through a false dawn in Liverpool, to a brave new world in America. Suffering tragedy and betrayal this is ultimately a boy-to-man story under the worst possible circumstances.

One of the best things about this book is the way Behrens avoids making a hero out of Fergus. Creating a character who acts perfectly according to modern morality is one of the main stumbling blocks in many similar books. Behrems character is embroiled in a constant fight to survive in a world bereft of innocence and its this sense of reality that gives the book its substance.

Behrems research is impeccable and brings to life worlds that were merely dates and places before I read this book. Although a fiction book 'The Law of Dreams' really gives you a sobering insight into scenes such as the reality of life and death during the potato famine and the squalor of an Atlantic crossing below decks.

This is a brilliant book and should be read by fiction lovers and amateur historians alike. Both a fascinating read and an eye opening account. I can't wait for Behrems next novel.

Life: A Journey Through Time
Life: A Journey Through Time
by Christine Eckstrom
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Photography You Will Ever See, 1 Aug. 2008
'Life' is a photographical history of life on Earth from its formation to the present day. Representation of the distant past is achieved using present day equivalence to provide images equating to scenes of billions of years ago. Later in the book Lanting uses museum specimens, animal collections and wildlife photography to provide the images from more modern times.

The photography is awe-inspiring, fully exposing the beauty of the natural world to its full. The book is large in all dimensions and the huge double page spreads allow for spectacular panoramas or exquisite detail depending on the subject. Lanting uses all the resources available to the modern photographer to maximise the effects.

This does bring a couple of drawbacks. Firstly its size and weight make it hard to read away from a table. Secondly, to avoid detracting from the photographs, the captions are placed at the end of the book, so you have to constantly refer back from each photograph, which is awkward, annoying, and frankly exhausting.

The book has virtually no text and for me this detracts from its value. You don't really learn much, and even with proper appreciation of the photography it only takes 2 or 3 hours to read cover to cover. Therefore if your only planning to read it once it's probably not worth the £20.

Overall this is wildlife photography at its finest and if your likely to appreciate it and refer back to it time and again then it is certainly worth buying. If not you should still experience it and borrow it from a library.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2009 9:17 AM BST

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World
Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World
by Paul D. Stewart
Edition: Paperback

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Basic Review of the Islands, 31 July 2008
This book was designed to accompany the brilliant TV series Galapagos [2006] and is structured in the same way. It begins with chapters on the geology of the area, the discovery of the islands, and Charles Darwin. Three chapters follow on the flora and fauna, and a final two on the conservation and future of the archipelago.

Very few plants are covered in any detail and only the more famous animal inhabitants get any real coverage. The rest are covered in a basic description of the habitat. You just don't get a feel for the vibrancy and the struggle for life that you do from the TV series.

The photography is good, with some impressive full-page spreads. But it is not spectacular and they could have done better with such fascinating and apparantly 'tame' subject matter.

The book concludes with a 45-page `gazetteer', which includes species profiles, all the information you could need for a great trip to the Galapagos, and extensive further reading. This is an excellent resource if you're planning a trip, but is a shame for those who aren't as it takes up a 20% chunk of the book.

Overall this book is a decent representation of the Galapagos Islands, and will be an inspiration for many to go and visit. However if you've seen the series this will add nothing new, and if you haven't it's cheaper to buy the DVD than this book.

by Sebastian Beaumont
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 13 - Unlucky for Beaumont, 25 July 2008
This review is from: Thirteen (Paperback)
Thirteen revolves around the mental state of Stephen Bardot, a nighttime taxi driver. Through a combination of exhaustion and depression he finds himself involved in a world where reality and fantasy are inter-twined and indistinguishable. At first attracted to this world, he quickly becomes fearful and looks for ways to escape.

It came as a surprise to find that thirteen was rated with 5 stars because really, its not that good. There is a tendency to believe that because something is unexplained it is therefore deep and meaningful. In truth if a book gives you no insight into the subject matter it is a waste of time, and thirteen is a classic example.

The plot only really picks up in the last 50 pages, where it finally becomes intriguing. The first 200 pages repeat the same thing in different ways, as Bardot alternates between mindsets with no progress to the plot.

One positive aspect is the series of anecdotes of various passengers in the cab which are interspersed throughout the book. These give a little light relief from the burden of the plot and save this from a 1 star review.

Ultimately thirteen commits the ultimate sin - it leaves an ambiguous and totally unsatisfying non-ending, and you finish with a feeling of 'what's the point?'. Some people obviously enjoy this but they are a very select few.

Life on the Wing: Remarkable Birds and their Extraordinary Lives
Life on the Wing: Remarkable Birds and their Extraordinary Lives
by Brutus ÷stling
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A High Flier, 19 July 2008
'Life on the Wing' has an original format. Except for a single page at the start of each chapter, there is no 'text' in the normal sense. Instead each photograph is followed by an extensive caption of between 100 and 250 words. This is a novel approach and may well be adopted more often in the future as it is appealing on the eye and may be an easier read for some.

There are two big drawbacks to this book however. The first is that with the text being restricted to photo captions, you lose a lot of the fluidity and structure that you get in standard text. The author starts again with each caption causing many things to be repeated and some things never discussed. It ultimately makes for a rather fragmented and incomplete read.

Secondly the photos are almost exclusively from Scandinavia and North America, with a smattering from Spain and Tanzania. This leaves areas of the world (such as the Tropics and Australasia) totally unrepresented. In fairness however it must be said that very few birds are featured more than once so there is a great variety of species albeit they all come from similar regions.

The photography itself is flawless. Consistently superb and sometimes spectacular the photographs manage to convey a sense of action and behaviour without detracting from a clear profile of the bird with which to illustrate the points made in the caption.

If you want to learn about birds there are better books out there. However 'Life on the Wing' is a terrific portfolio of avian photography in temperate environments and is well worth a read.

Wild Borneo: The Wildlife and Scenery of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan
Wild Borneo: The Wildlife and Scenery of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan
by Nick Garbutt
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Comprehensive Guide To Borneo's Wildlife, 16 July 2008
Essentially 'Wild Borneo' equates to an illustrated list of the plants and animals of the island and in which regions they are found. Although it is of course impossible to mention every species, the book does a good job of covering most groups in reasonable detail.

The book begins with a section on the various habitats on the island and the main floral components of each. The second section is by far the largest and features extensive chapters on all the animal groups in varying amounts of detail. The book concludes with several small sections on human impact and conservation.

The big disappointment of this book is in fact the photographs. Although they show good profiles of the animals, they rarely feature any behaviour or character so can end up being a bit dull. Furthermore most of the really unusual or interesting species are not featured and we have to make do with closely related species which are no doubt commoner and easier to photograph.

Although it can sometimes appear to be a cross between a tourist guide and a conservationists hymn sheet, it is well written and gives detailed info on a wide range of species. While it gives particular focus to high profile species such as the orangutan, it also does a great job of covering all forms of life on Borneo and is a great ambassador for rainforest conservation.

Overall I would say that this is a great book with which to learn about Borneo's natural world. However if you want mind-blowing photography look elsewhere.

Secret Lives of British Birds (Rspb)
Secret Lives of British Birds (Rspb)
by Dominic Couzens
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blows Hot and Cold, 7 July 2008
This is the second book in a series which also includes 'Secret Lives of Garden Birds' and 'Secret Lives of Garden Wildlife', and is a difficult a book to review for the simple reason that it frequently alternates between the good and the bad.

There are 12 sections each featuring particular habitats for birds. The first half of each concerns a basic overview of the habitat and the animals that live therein. This bit is frankly quite boring and is basically a glorified list of the birds found in the area.

The second half of the sections are far more interesting. Three or four birds are chosen from each habitat, each having their own chapter focusing on an aspect of their lives unique to that species. This usually takes the form of migration, breeding or feeding behaviour and delivers detailed info in a light-hearted, enthusiastic and humorous fashion.

The layout of the text is not overly appealing and the photography is not of a particularly high standard. However these drawbacks are made up for by the artistry. Peter Partington is by far Britain's best avian artist and these drawings add more for the appreciation of the birds and understanding of their behaviour than any of the photos.

Overall this is a frustrating book. When it focuses on what it is supposed to be about it is fascinating and enjoyable, and the pages fly by. However the long habitat descriptions at the start of each section are hard-going and I found myself struggling to finish the book, which shouldn't have been the case.

No Nettles Required: The Reassuring Truth About Wildlife Gardening
No Nettles Required: The Reassuring Truth About Wildlife Gardening
by Ken Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dispells Many Myths, 27 Jun. 2008
When I first picked up this book I was expecting a repeat of most wildlife gardening literature. In fact there are few things that Thompson and the WG establishment agree on. It may seem a little dangerous to accept this 'loan voice' as fact, until you discover that unlike many publications this book is based on scientific studies.

Thompson studied 60 Sheffield gardens and investigated their invertebrate life in relation to the garden features. Based on these findings he has provided a book that disputes many WG preconceptions, and gives tips on how it can be improved with minimum expense and effort.

For this reason the book should be read if you are planning a WG, however there are some negatives. Firstly, the book is short. At only 173 pages it is unable to provide a comprehensive guide to WG, especially as some sections of the book are concerned with what you don't need to do.

Secondly it's a little dull. There are no photos or diagrams and the writing is small, the only change being italic text which features the practical tips.

Thirdly it is largely concerned with invertebrates with vertebrates only mentioned in relation to these. When carrying out his experiments Thompson killed and preserved upwards of 100,000 insects including rare species. Half of these were not even identified. This may have ethical implications for some potential buyers.

Overall this is an important book on WG if you don't want to waste your time and money. However there is significant room for improvement.

I Predict a Riot
I Predict a Riot
by Bateman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - A Masterpiece of Comedy Drama, 23 Jun. 2008
This review is from: I Predict a Riot (Paperback)
There is a lot to be said for experience when it comes to writing fiction. The market is full of 'stunning debuts' most of which are followed up by not very much - the writing equivalent of the adult career of a child star. Therefore it is reassuring to pick up a Bateman book and know that that you are in for a terrific read. And this book is no exception.

From the start 'Riot' dazzles the reader with a wonderfully crafted combination of humour and drama, neither contaminating the purity of the other. The comedy is not dark, but neither is the drama insincere or superficial. A blend of this type is typical of Bateman and very rare in modern authors.

The story involves a varied cast of individuals. The characterisation is excellent, while not swamping the reader with countless life histories. The chapters are short (4 - 8 pages) and alternate between several storylines all of which are connected and overlap at various points throughout the book. All the storylines are neatly tied up at the end, avoiding unanswered questions which are irritatingly popular in modern fiction.

The length (664 pages) may put some people off, but the book is so gripping and the plot so pacy that you wont notice the pages go racing by. With the chapters so short there are many half-blank pages so the book is in fact shorter than it first appears.

This is a fun and gripping read. Hilarious and ironic, while at the same time touching on issues of human nature such as cowardice, bravery and bereavement. I also recomend Bateman's 'Dan Starkey' series.

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