Archive | April 2016

Review: ‘The Invention of Nature’ by Andrea Wulf

cover78814-mediumPublished by: John  Murrey Press

Publication date: 22nd October 2015

Edition: Hardback

Price: £25.00 (although it is available for as little as £6.99 from some online retailers)

ISBN: 9781848548985

Another one from Netgalley in return for a review

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Review: Modern Poisons: A Brief Introduction to Contemporary Toxicology’ by Alan Kolok

Published by: Island Press

Publication Date: 5th May 2016

ISBN: 9781610913812

Price: Hardback £27.00, Paperback 14.00 (from amazon.co.uk)

I received a review copy from Netgalley.com in return for a review – as per usual.

Blurb

Traditional toxicology textbooks tend to be doorstops: tomes filled with important but seemingly abstract chemistry and biology. Meanwhile, magazine and journal articles introduce students to timely topics such as BPA and endocrine disruption or the carcinogenic effects of pesticides, but don’t provide the fundamentals needed to understand the science of toxicity. Written by a longtime professor of toxicology, Modern Poisons bridges this gap.
This accessible book explains basic principles in plain language while illuminating the most important issues in contemporary toxicology. Kolok begins by exploring age-old precepts of the field such as the dose-response relationship and the concept, first introduced by Ambroise Paré in the sixteenth century, that a chemical’s particular action depends on its inherent chemical nature. The author goes on to show exactly how chemicals enter the body and elicit their toxic effect, as well as the body’s methods of defense.
With the fundamentals established, Kolok digs into advances in toxicology, tracing the field’s development from World War II to the present day. The book examines both technical discoveries and their impacts on public policy. Highlights include studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in toiletries and prescriptions, the emerging science on prions, and our growing understanding of epigenetics.
Readers learn not only how toxic exposure affects people and wildlife, but about the long-term social and environmental consequences of our chemicals. Whether studying toxicology itself, public health, or environmental science, readers will develop a core understanding of—and curiosity about—this fast-changing field

 

My Review

It does what it says on the tin in providing an introduction to toxicology that is accessible. If you got through GCSE Biology you’ll be ably to understand the explanations in this book. The range of material, and examples, covered is an excellent illustration of the wide variety of areas covered by modern toxicology, from naturally occurring toxins, like snake venom, to the concentrations of pharmaceuticals in surface water and bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

The language used was generally jargon free, and where technical words were necessary an excellent explanation was provided. The explanation of biological and chemical processes was clear and concise. Later chapters, concerning antibiotic resistance for example, steered clear of the sensationalism often associated with anthropogenic chemicals and their environmental effects, while illustrating those effects. The explanation of epigentics was especially interesting, especially as regards to multigenerational and transgenerational effects.

There’s a lot in this book and it is all interesting. I recommend it to anyone interested in the applied sciences, or if you just what to know how poisons work. It is a good bridge between a textbook and popular science.

5/5

 

16th April 2016

In January I lost my job, the managers cited ‘concern for my health’ but their attitude said they didn’t want someone with mental health conditions working for them. It’s not the first time I’ve dealt with that attitude and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Officially, employers aren’t allowed to discriminate on the grounds of mental health conditions, but if you have a zero-hours contract all they have to do is say they don’t need you any more. Continue reading

Review: ‘A Front Page Affair’ by Radha Vatsal

cover76241-medium

ISBN: 9781492632665

Published By: Sourcebooks Landmark

Publication date: 1st May 3016

Binding: Paperback

Price: $14.99 (I can’t find a price in £)

Provided to me by Netgalley.com

Blurb

With the Lusitania under water and the United States on the verge of war, Capability “Kitty” Weeks’s dream of becoming a journalist has finally come true—if only she were covering the tragedy instead of writing about society gossip for the Ladies’ Page of the New York Sentinel. But Kitty is closer to the real story than she thought. After a society ne’er-do-well turns up dead at a party on her beat, Kitty stumbles onto schemes that threaten to derail the United States’s attempt to remain neutral. Suddenly, the privileged life Kitty knows, full of easy certainties, is about to change forever.

My Review

I really enjoyed this book. I like historical fiction but often find good historical fiction is hard to come by. This is good historical fiction and utterly refreshing. Set during the early years of the first world war and not a country house drama (for which I am truly grateful), this novel is fast-paced and intriguing. The revelation of the murderer at the end was a surprise and Capability Weeks is a well developed character. Her determination and curiosity keep the reader hooked as they and she learn of each new circumstance. I love her character development from a rather naive young woman to confidence and self-knowledge. I enjoyed the mystery and the changing relationships between the characters as the story develops.

The writing style is very easy to read and flows quickly as the story progresses, the description of life for a well-off woman in the 1910’s in Manhatten is clear, little details like women changing from electric cars – quite, clean and slow – to almost everyone driving internal combustion engines, for example, make it come to life. The author uses the little details to bring the story to life.

5/5 definitely recommended for fans of historical novels and mysteries.

Review: ‘Abortion in the Early Middle Ages, c. 500-900’ by Zubim Mistry

 

9781903153574

Published: 17 Sep 2015
ISBN: 9781903153574
Pages: 356
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: York Medieval Press                                                                                                                                   RRP £60

Blurb

When a Spanish monk struggled to find the right words to convey his unjust expulsion from a monastery in a desperate petition to a sixth-century king, he likened himself to an aborted fetus. Centuries later, a ninth-century queen found herself accused of abortion in an altogether more fleshly sense. Abortion haunts the written record across the early middle ages. Yet, the centuries after the fall of Rome remain very much the “dark ages” in the broader history of abortion.

This book, the first to treat the subject in this period, tells the story of how individuals and communities, ecclesiastical and secular authorities, construed abortion as a social and moral problem across a number of post-Roman societies, including Visigothic Spain, Merovingian Gaul, early Ireland, Anglo-Saxon England and the Carolingian empire. It argues early medieval authors and readers actively deliberated on abortion and a cluster of related questions, and that church tradition on abortion was an evolving practice. It sheds light on the neglected variety of responses to abortion generated by different social and intellectual practices, including church discipline, dispute settlement and strategies of political legitimation, and brings the history of abortion into conversation with key questions about gender, sexuality, Christianization, penance and law. Ranging across abortion miracles in hagiography, polemical letters in which churchmen likened rivals to fetuses flung from the womb of the church and uncomfortable imaginings of resurrected fetuses in theological speculation, this volume also illuminates the complex cultural significance of abortion in early medieval societies.

As ever, I requested and received this e-book from Netgalley.com

My Review

The relentless emphasis on early sources can be hard work to get through, especially with the copious footnoting and the multiple pages of the bibliography. It made me so happy.

Mistry uses a wide variety of sources, some which have been heavily mined by previous works on the subject and some which are lesser known, if Mistry’s comments are to be believed. They give us a fragmentary but interesting look in to early mediaeval religious and secular thoughts on discussion. Many of the sources themselves relied on earlier sources for their authority, the pronouncements of church fathers and councils passed on in legal codes and penitentials. Much of the discussion arose around the point at which  foetus achieves personhood and this the point at which murder is committed. If abortion was murder a different punishment was inflicted.

Even though it was hard going and I sometimes had to re-read a page I found this book very enlightening, and would recommend it for those interested in the European early middle ages, a study of one of the many aspects of the intricacies of life.