I saw this book reviewed by Anjana from Superfluous Reading and requested it from NetGalley right away and was lucky enough to be approved for it (thank you to the publishers, Timber Press). I had to read it via NetGalley’s Shelf app on my tablet – the app still won’t, as far as I can tell, allow you to highlight specific bits of text you want to refer back to, just bookmark the page it’s on, so I hope I remember what I was bookmarking when I go through it again for this review!

Jess Phoenix – “Ms. Adventure: My Wild Explorations in Science, Lava, and Life”

(29 April 2021)

Jess Phoenix is a geologist and specifically a vulcanologist. In this exciting and well-written book we first meet her going into the Explorers Club in New York, where only the best explorers and scientists in the world are admitted, needing the back-up of two members before they can join. Not only is she a renowned expert in her field, but she runs an organisation called Blueprint Earth which helps people to get experience in fieldwork who might not be able otherwise to afford to do it- especially people from non-traditional backgrounds in the earth sciences. I do wish there had been more on her foundation of this organisation with her husband.

We go on her first camping field trip to Death Valley and see how she copes with it all (not prepared hugely well, alarmed by toilets) and gaining experience and confidence around Hawaii’an volcanoes, on a sea voyage and in Mexico (there’s a great scene where she chases down some cartel members to return her rock hammer – including exchanges written out in Spanish that I was pleased I managed to understand!). The descriptions are great, from picking up stretchy toffee-like lava samples with her hammer to living on a ship full of scientists for a month. She has a good ability to explain concepts and science, although I did have a previous yearning for a career in geology myself, so was aware of some of the ideas beforehand.

She writes well and accessibly, a chapter per expedition, and I enjoyed the one at the end where she takes part in filming a TV programme, having to stand firm about what she will and will not do and refusing to wear the clothes they try to put her into. That part was also interesting for the fact that someone I’ve come across elsewhere, who does the ropes for stunts, etc., popped up, and for the support she got from her male colleagues. An uncompromising woman in a pretty male world who is also trying to make that world more inclusive in several different ways: great reading.