Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tiger's Curse, Colleen Houck

This book fit into the category of a "book that takes place over the summer". It also takes place partially in Oregon in places I've been (since I grew up in WA on the OR border) and it's always fun to hear places I've been to being described in a book :-)

A neighbor loaned me this book and it's gotten really great reviews and a lot of people I know really liked it. That being said, I really struggled with this book. It was clean, the plot was interesting, I enjoyed learning more about Indian myths, but Kelsey was just not very believable for me. The way she talked, the way she described things, just didn't jive with my idea of a typical 18 year old. Have you heard your average 18 year old use the word "diaphanous"? Kelsey does. I kept trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, I mean, maybe she really WAS just that nerdy. But we don't have enough backstory, she doesn't have any friends, and it was hard for me to connect with her. So it took me MUCH longer to finish this book than it should have. It also took me awhile to get used to the author's writing style. I appreciated the wordy descriptions of scenery, but felt they went overboard when describing details of surroundings and clothing. I think there's a magic level of imagery to be used where the reader has just enough to form a picture, but not quite down to every detail. I feel like I need to go back and read Harry Potter to get a feel for what that perfect level is, because my imagination was going crazy reading those books creating pictures! Now I'm curious to see just how much information my brain was supplied with to begin with. The other thing that got in the way of authenticity for me is that there was only one instance where I felt suspenseful, but I KNEW she wasn't going to kill off a main character because it's a SERIES. So it was a little predictable. I just realized another thing-there needs to be more minor, supporting characters. The other part that bothered me was that when Kelsey returns to Oregon from the summer adventure that her foster family thinks was a summer internship job for an archeologist, her payment includes: a HOUSE, a PORSCHE, her school PAID for, her BOOKS paid for, and a continued summer job each year. And her foster parents think it's super cool! They don't bat an eye. If MY daughter was "paid" in that fashion, I'd be hiring investigators to look into the legitimacy of this employer. Mr. Kadim was very careful to call her foster parents every few days to update them on what Kelsey was "doing" to keep the cover story going, but shouldn't they have been more careful about being a little more discreet or sensible with her "payment"?? Like a honda civic for a car and say that the home belongs to the business and they are allowing her to live there while she goes to school?

I'm not usually very critical of writing because I am *not* a writer. However, in all the reading I've been doing, I've come to expect certain things, I guess. In some ways, it was reminiscent of Percy Jackson, because he has yet to kill off a main character, just a few of the minor supporting cast and you know they are going to get out of every impossible-to-get-out-of situation (however, he builds a lot of suspense into those scenes that make you wonder if just maybe, this one time, he's actually going to off one of the mains). But with Percy Jackson, it made more sense to me, because the original intent of the stories was to be an epic bedtime story told by a dad, and it's exactly that.

I give this a 2.5 star rating (rounding up to be generous on Goodreads because it did pick up and get more interesting towards the end). There are more books in this series and I haven't decided if I want to read them or not....Tiger's Curse was the debut novel for the author, so it is possible that her writing will evolve to something that's more to my taste as she goes.

I just don't understand how a book like this can be a debut novel and make the NY Times Best Seller's list and my friend Renee Collins' book "Until We Meet Again" which was WAY more readable and WAY more authentic characters didn't. Oh well, she just sold another book, so there's another shot!

Apparently, it is becoming a movie as well, and I'm going to be honest that I think I'm going to enjoy it on the screen far more than I did the book.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Mary Roach

I listened to this as an audio book and is part of the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. I couldn't find a way to fit it into the 2016 Reading Challenge, but oh well....

I think I give this book a 3 star rating. Morbidly fascinating. There were definitely times when it made me squirm and feel sick. I could have done without the chapter on cannibalism entirely. I felt like it was just thrown in for shock value and didn't really add to the material in the rest of the book. But I couldn't stop listening. I learned a LOT. There was quite a bit of history about medicine and surgery and all sorts of things. I learned a new alternative to burial vs. cremation, for which I would definitely be inclined to, were my religious beliefs different. So this "new" method (as of early 2000's) is to have the body dipped in liquid nitrogen, completely eliminated of all water content, the bones broken down into smaller pieces (nearly ash-like), and placed in a bio-degradable cornstarch box that can be planted with a memorial tree or shrubbery and will provide nourishment (in a compost like manner) to the memorial plant. I like that idea much better than liquifying inside a coffin, or being cremated. The pros to this newer method are that it's cheaper and more environmentally friendly in numerous ways: no air pollutants (including mercury from the deceased's dental fillings) did you know that crematoriums are not regulated like any other factory that releases pollutants and regulated by the EPA? They release really harmful chemicals, but to be regulated by the EPA, they'd have to be classified as solid waste disposal plants, and no one wants human remains be classified (and thus undignified) as solid waste. I did not know this. It's more cost effective ($20 vs $80) when you cost analyze the main ingredient for disposal. And then the idea is to have a memorial park instead of graveyard, which puts more plants on the earth. I'm not an environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination. But I do kind of like the slightly romanticized notion of returning to the dust of the earth in such a literal way. I'm pretty sure I don't want to donate my remains for science. Mostly because you cannot specify what you want to be used for. You could be used as a cadaver crash test dummy, or anatomy labs, or something entirely different. I am certainly an organ donor, and up to now, I have excluded my eyes from this, however I'm starting to wonder if I ought to reconsider since nothing-even embalming-lasts close to forever.

Anyhow, it was quite enlightening and made me think. Which I do like. The narrator's voice was just sardonic enough to make it really work. However, I think I might have been more comfortable with a written copy so I could gloss over certain sections that I didn't really care to know about in such detail.