MixedThe Wall Street JournalOne of the frustrations for Ms. Thompson, and inevitably for her readers, is that \'until the nineteenth century, everything Polynesians knew—or, indeed, had ever known—had to be transmitted by word of mouth.\' There were no written Polynesian accounts to quote ... Ms. Thompson is at her best in two scenes of this trafficking in separate systems of knowledge ... Ms. Thompson writes well ... Her story lags occasionally during the academic infighting about different theories of Polynesian origin, though Ms. Thompson works hard to explain the contending ideas fairly, even the ones she may disagree with. At times, I also found myself adrift in descriptions of potential routes among some of the more obscure Pacific islands.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMs. Williams’s writing is often concise and evocative ... But those characters also leave Ms. Williams’s narrative feeling padded, even at 278 pages ... it’s not clear how another potted biography here advances the story. Ms. Williams’s 89 pages of endnotes, including a lengthy account of the death of Pliny the Elder in A.D. 79, are also symptomatic of runaway research. But the story, when she sticks to it, is gripping and cinematic.
PositiveWall Street Journal...a lively account of [Conniff\'s] own transformation from bar owner in Spain to Kew horticulturalist in training ... For anyone who might have considered plants dull stuff, Mr. Magdalena delivers a thrilling and inspirational account of adventures in the botanical world.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThankfully, Mr. Fortey doesn’t pretend to be treading virgin territory either in literature or in his forest. But he makes the genre a fine playground for his characteristic blend of wide-ranging curiosity, deft observation and deep research. His heart is in the intimate examination of nature, but he pursues this passion without sentimentality ... The writing is wryly erudite ... The book is less successful, though, in its supposition-heavy attempts to fit Grim’s Dyke Wood into the larger scheme of history ... Even so, the book sets an excellent model for people wondering whether there should not be more to life than the necessary round of getting and spending followed by endless click time in front of the television set.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. Hone does a good job of explaining the long odds against a carcass becoming fossilized in the first place and the astronomical odds against the skin and other soft tissues being preserved. For paleontologists to rediscover and make sense of an entire superfamily of extinct species across tens of millions of years seems nearly miraculous ... At times, Mr. Hone becomes too focused on the details and neglects to bring aspects of the story to life. It’s intriguing to know that tyrannosaurs had hollow, pneumatic bones. But his explanation of how the hollow spaces in the bones functioned as part of the respiratory tract left me baffled ... this book is a useful introduction to some of the most wonderfully terrifying animals ever to walk the Earth.