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algo41 "algo41" (philadelphia, pa United States)

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Human Evolutionary Biology: Human Anatomy and Physiology from an Evolutionary Perspective
Human Evolutionary Biology: Human Anatomy and Physiology from an Evolutionary Perspective
by Arndt Von Hippel
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 33.39
23 used & new from CDN$ 3.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable., July 19 2004
This is a remarkable book, despite some flaws. In a fast paced, informal, conversational voice, von Hippel presents an incredible amount of information, most of it very interesting. The emphasis is on physiology, not anatomy, and it is grounded in evolutionary concepts. Thus, while things work remarkably well, designs are certainly not what you would get starting from scratch - although Hippel sometimes shows that there are so many conflicting constraints that many apparently simpler designs would not work. Hippel, a doctor, is interested in clinical problems and treatments, as well as evolution and how things work in other life forms. He is also the type of scientist who draws scientific lessons from the most mundane phenomenon of everyday life. I personally enjoyed his sense of humor and crusty manner, although you might not if you are a lawyer or politician. The problem with the book is that while Hippel explains things clearly enough, there is a limit to how well you can convey material without the graphical aids found in good textbooks, nor is Hippel that clear in his own mind about just what kind of background he expects his readers to have. I tended to enjoy most of the sections I was not fully following: I would read quickly and pick up interesting nuggets. Still, readers without any background in molecular biology are likely to miss a lot and may have difficulty with the first few chapters.

The Sand-Reckoner
The Sand-Reckoner
by Gillian Bradshaw
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.70

2.0 out of 5 stars Ordinary., July 16 2004
This review is from: The Sand-Reckoner (Hardcover)
This is a fictionalized account of Archimedes, at the time he first gained employment building war machines for his native Syracuse. As a self absorbed, yet benevolent genius, he is kind of fun. His slave/companion is an interesting, even credible character, and Sand Reckoner provides insights into the politics as well as the science of the day - in particular what it meant to be a neighbor of Rome. On the other hand the romance is juvenile, and most of the characters are stick figures, to the extent that I could not enjoy the novel sufficiently as even light fiction. Sand Reckoner is a very ordinary example of historical fiction. By way of comparison, I am currently reading Jackson by Max Byrd, which actually has literary merit.

Foe
Foe
by J Coetzee
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.64
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.05

2.0 out of 5 stars An exercise., July 13 2004
This review is from: Foe (Paperback)
One of those books which is more fun and rewarding to discuss than to read.

The Truth About Celia: A novel
The Truth About Celia: A novel
by Kevin Brockmeier
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.40
16 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A light touch for a devastating story., June 23 2004
What do you say about the devastating disappearance of a beloved young daughter? Brockmeier imagines a fictional writer who eventually recovers sufficiently to write this book, a wonderful combination of narrative, stories, and musings. You feel the pain and sadness without being overwhelmed by it. The writer's wife is not as completely devastated, perhaps because she was not as involved with the disappearance. Her life, and their marriage, is sketched with a light touch which yet manages to capture so much. If John Irving had a lighter touch, and had lost a child, I could imagine him writing this book. For those readers who found the book at all confusing, I suggest they reread, carefully, the forward by the fictional novelist (this helped me).

Blue Shoe
Blue Shoe
by Anne Lamott
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.51
87 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A sense of humor would have helped., June 22 2004
This review is from: Blue Shoe (Paperback)
Matte is a recently divorced woman with two young children who slowly recreates a fulfilling life. While told in the 3rd person, Blue Shoe is written entirely from Matte's viewpoint: I suspect this is simpler than using the first person, but perhaps not as effective. To my taste, had Matte had more of a sense of humor, it need not have been inconsistent with the rest of her character, and it would certainly have made Blue Shoe more enjoyable. On the other hand, the evolving relationship between Matte and her declining mother is superbly done, one of the highlights which makes this book worthwhile. In general, the secondary characters and Matte's relationships to them are the strength of Blue Shoe. Lamott frequently employs paragraphs of short sentences, which sometimes works, and sometimes gets tiresome, but perhaps that is Lamott's objective. While other readers have been impressed with Lamott's use and description of skies and weather, and certainly they add to the book, I don't think Lamott is particularly sharp at metaphor and language.

The War at Home
The War at Home
by Nora Eisenberg
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing, rewarding., June 8 2004
This review is from: The War at Home (Paperback)
This is a coming of age story of a girl and her brother living in a dysfunctional home. There were definitely times when I wanted to shout, "enough!". Still, the novel rings true, emotionally, and the protagonist is exceptionally well drawn, slowly maturing before your eyes. Thankfully, Eisenberg has a great sense of humor and there are some wonderfully lyrical passages. When the characters are briefly happy, so most definitely is the reader.

The Calligrapher: A Novel
The Calligrapher: A Novel
by Edward Docx
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.30

2.0 out of 5 stars No charm., May 1 2004
The characters in this novel lack both charm and warmth, and it is after all a comedy. Obviously, most readers (14 of 14 reviewers) felt this was a small price to pay for the wit and literary by-play, and occasional funny scenes. For me, the main character, Jasper, was a one-dimensional bore.

Gazelle
Gazelle
by Rikki Ducornet
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.38

4.0 out of 5 stars Psychologically true, atmospheric., April 25 2004
This review is from: Gazelle (Hardcover)
Gazelle is a first person account by a 13 year old of the summer in which her mother finally decides to leave her father, and herself. The novel is psychologically true, and one can observe the change in the girl as this event, and puberty alter her, but that is not the primary reason for reading Gazelle. The book is set in Egypt in the early 1950's, but it is a timeless Egypt that is evoked, the days of ancient Egypt as well as the bazaars of the 1950's.. The writing captures the impressions on all the senses, and has as a major character a seller/producer of perfumes whose ambition it is to rediscover some of the perfumes of the ancients. I recommend Gazelle especially to those readers, like myself, who have struggled with any of the novels of the Alexandria Quartet and found it mostly inaccessible. Where I feel Gazelle fails is in the character of the father. He just doesn't add enough to the novel for a character who is on stage so much.

War Before Civilization
War Before Civilization
by Lawrence H. Keeley
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 41.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, but requires some skimming, April 25 2004
The thesis of this book is that warfare has always been an aspect of the human condition, and that it was as frequent and as deadly in Pre-historic times as in recorded history. The book relies on two types of evidence: archeological, and ethnographic. Archeological evidence can attest to the existence of warfare, not the frequency, but the distinction is lost. Another distinction not properly made is between peoples who fight defensive wars and aggressive wars. Keeley devotes entirely too much time to arguing with early 20th century scholars, and the tendency of more recent scholars to ignore evidence in order to maintain that war was primarily a function of civilization. Ironically, Keeley frequently cites a study of Yanomomo Indians, discredited by Kenneth Good's wonderful book ("Into the Heart ...."): Good did not find the aggression his mentor had declared existed. Having said all this, if the reader is willing to skim at times, this is a very interesting book It provides insight into how war was waged, the causes of war, psychology of the peoples involved, and what warfare implies as regards the human animal. It adds to the discussion on wars between primitives and Europeans found in Jared Diamond's Pulitzer prize winning book ("Guns, Germs and Steel"). Keeley makes a fascinating contrast between Indian/White conflicts in the US west vs. the Canadian west, and the causes of this difference.

Into the Heart: One Man's Pursuit of Love and Knowledge Among the Yanomama
Into the Heart: One Man's Pursuit of Love and Knowledge Among the Yanomama
by Kenneth Good
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.16

5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, informative and fascinating., April 18 2004
An anthropologist spends many years (multiple trips) amongst the Yanomamo Indians of the Amazon, who had had very little contact with civilization, and only a limited amount of its goods (e.g. some matches, a few better axes). He eventually marries one of the tribe, who returns to the United States with him. Anthropologist's faculty advisor is a real villain. The account is personal, rather than scholarly, although Good did write scholarly papers, and he refrains from much abstract analysis or generalization. The Indians have strong human emotional attachments for children, and family, and are not very violent, but the society is very sexist, tribes are prone to get mad at other tribes, and there isn't much concept of an abstract morality. It is a utilitarian morality, and tribe members are not likely to stick their necks out to protest unfair treatment to others. Disapproval does carry weight.

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