Review: Stiff by Mary Roach

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Title: Stiff
Subtitle: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Author: Mary Roach
Pages: 304
Genre: Non-Fiction; Science
Publisher: W. W. Norton and Co.
Pub. Date: January 28, 2003
Audio Publisher: Tantor Media
Audio Narrator: Shelly Frasier
Audio Time: 7 hours, 59 minutes

The only other book I've read by Mary Roach I enjoyed but didn't actually finish. My reaction to what I had read was interesting, interesting, I never thought there could be so much to discuss about this topic or that I would be interested in it, but I am, okay now I feel a little bored, wait now it's interesting again. So, that was pretty much my exact reaction to this one!

Stiff is all about the things that human cadavers are used for. You'd never know there is actually enough material to fill an entire book! (ack, no pun intended!) I listened to this book on audio after reading a recommendation from another blogger and because I was able to get it through my library. Plus, I had seen Mary Roach talk in person at BEA in 2010 and I knew I liked her. She's funny, and I like the way she thinks. Well, I almost turned this audio off for good after I first started listening because I didn't think I could stomach it. It was gross. The first chapter talks about the use of practicing medicine on human heads. .  .  .

But I continued listening and was amazed. I had never even considered that human corpses were used in science at all. But apparently that is a common thing done in medical school. Seriously!? (Actually I read a medical book not long after this where the author mentioned it as well). I seriously had no idea and also didn't know that was a thing that people can choose to donate their bodies to after death. It was interesting to read about the students' reactions to dealing with this. Another interesting concept was the crimes of body snatching and digging up graves back in the day before these things were regulated and people did this to give the bodies to science and make money. Another thing I had never considered was the use of human bodies as crash test dummies. An actual dummy can only reflect so much what actually happens to someone in a crash because of the make up of an actual human body.

All in all, this was a book presented fascinating information about a topic I never knew to think about or that I would have thought would be interesting. The author is witty as I guess you'd have to be to make this topic interesting. I laughed out loud at some of the little, subtle things she said such as her interactions with the doctors who teach using human corpses. However, I don't think it would have ultimately kept my interest if I hadn't listened on audio. (It just seems to take more work to focus on a book than play an audio while you're driving).

Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Monday, February 16, 2015

Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Pages: 292
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: The Penguin Press (Penguin Random House)
Pub. Date: June 26, 2014

Everything I Never Told You tells about the Lee family after the middle, favored, daughter, Lydia, dies. It goes back and forth a little with what happens to the family afterward and back to things that happened in the past including what led up to the day of Lydia's death. There are also things the the Lee family struggle with, as the family consists of a Chinese father and Caucasian mother with three biracial children in 1970's Ohio.

Some of my thoughts:

*I really related to the struggle felt by some of the characters of not fitting in due to their ethnicity or where even the kids who were half-Asian were looked at differently. I hated that they kept being referred to as "oriental", but that was the time they were living in.

*The author did a great job of showing the pressure the daughter experienced when each parent tried to mold her into a person based on their unrealized wishes for themselves. It was a good study of family psychology and the subtle dysfunctions they perpetuate.

*It was also a good study on the dynamics of marriage and how things were easily misconstrued and acted upon because of a very simple lack of communication.

*This is one of those books that is sad, but not the completely break your heart and have a good cry kind that ironically makes me love a book because now I feel so emotionally wrapped up in it. This doesn't necessarily leave you with any hope either. So, while a good story and greatly written, I felt very down while reading this. This could be because it was Christmas time when I read it and I should have picked something a little more cheery.

*Despite that, I really loved Ng's writing, and it kept me turning the pages. 

*There is sort of a mystery as to how exactly Lynda dies... I guess that part was sort of heart wrenching now that I think about it, in what happened and what it signified. 

*I have waffled between three and four stars for this one. When I analyze the things the author did well with this book, I lean towards four; but in terms of reading entertainment alone I am leaning towards 3. It could just be, though, that it was the wrong time of year for me to read this.

The Duff Book Giveaway Winners

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Okay, the drawing was done a little later than planned because of a last minute appointment yesterday.

The two winners are Sophia and Lindsay! E-mails have been sent. If I do not receive a response from them I will choose new winners.

The movie tie-in cover is super cute!

The Duff by Kody Keplinger: Book Giveaway AND Free Advance Movie Screening Tickets!!!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Hi Everyone! I have exciting news! But first a funny story.

So, almost five years ago, I was able to attend BEA in New York City (Book Expo America, the biggest publishing event held every year). I got tons of advanced copies of books that came out that year and the next, but there were just TWO that I was the most excited about. I've mentioned it before here, but the young adult book that I was so excited to read was The Duff by Kody Keplinger. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I never did read it and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since, saved there every time I purged through my books for donations. Anyway, I recently saw that the movie was coming out and again thought "I need to read that!!" (I am still determined to do so before I see the movie!) Anyway, The movie looks fun, and I really like Mae Whitman who plays "The DUFF". (She was Michael's girlfriend in Arrested Development and Amber on Parenthood).

So I am super excited to have a giveaway of TWO copies of The Duff as well as TEN admit-two complimentary tickets to the advanced screening of the movie which will be held at Regal Cinemas at Winter Park Village on February 17, 2015 @ 7:00 pm!! The movie is officially released on February 20th. Here is a trailer for the movie below:

Now, to grab one of the TEN admit-two tickets go here:

Leave me a comment to let me know you got your tickets, and of course, let me know if there are any problems. Also, the screening is first come first served once you have tickets, so make sure to get there early for good seats. :)

To enter for a copy of the BOOK, fill out the form below.
I will randomize all the entries on Friday, February 13, 2015 @ 2:00 pm and then e-mail winners for their address.

Mini-Mini Reviews #2

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I decided to go back and do a bunch of mini reviews for all the books I read but failed to review over the past two years. This will make me feel sort of caught up and refreshed and maybe will help me be motivated to keep up with reviewing what I've read this year! Some of these will be very mini since I can't remember them that well. This is batch #2.


Title: This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage
Author: Ann Patchett
Genre: Non-fiction; Essays
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: November 5, 2013

I read this in April of last year and really wish I had written a review then. I enjoyed this one but, ugh, I'm sorry, again I don't remember too much about this. I remember really enjoying some of the essays. What I liked was how Patchett emphasized the difficulty of being a writer and said, no, not every can do it. If I remember correctly, she sort of mocked the concept of characters just having a life of their own and was big on, no, they do exactly what you say and create them to do which I thought was funny and so true. I feel like she contradicted some other writers in what she said but, to me, she was more realistic and truthful in that she really focused on the skill and hard work that goes into being an author. I have read and enjoyed her books in the past, especially Bel Canto and State of Wonder (this being one of my favorites!), and reading her essays made me want to go back and read them again. And also it made me interested in reading the book she wrote about her friend, Truth and Beauty, which I never had any desire to read before. She almost, but not quite, made me feel interested in opera (in talking about how she grew to love it), but it did make me want to re-invest in some of my interests. I've been enjoying essays lately, and I will probably go back and read this one again someday.

Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 331
Genre: Fiction; Young Adult
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: February 26, 2013

I found this cute and, at times, laugh out loud. I don't necessarily know if I thought it was that realistic, but I did feel like my teen self
would have related well to the teens in this book.

Titles: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth
Pages: 487; 525; 539
Genre: Fiction; Young Adult; Dystopian
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins)
Pub. Dates: May 3, 2011
                     May 2, 2012
                      October 22, 2013

This was an interesting series, and I did enjoy reading Divergent, but overall I felt sort of "meh" about this series. I know this is an unpopular opinion. I feel like everyone I know who read this is gaga over Four, but I just didn't care that much. I sort of felt these books were a little repetitive. I've heard this referred to as a mix between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, and I have to say I like those two series significantly more than this one.


Title: Unsung Lullabies
Subtitle: Understanding and Coping with Infertility
Authors: Martha & David Diamond, Janet Jaffe
Pages: 229
Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychological; Self-help
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: June 28, 2005

This was written by three psychologists who had experienced infertility themselves, two of them who are married to each other. I, personally, didn't find anything new or amazingly helpful and thought it was pretty general, but it is entirely possible that I already think in the way they talked about because I am a counselor for a living, maybe? I will say, if I remember correctly, they all had success eventually and I have been so tired (for a long time now) of reading books fiction and non that always have a successful ending. My husband and I have reached the end of our journey, unfortunately unsuccessfully after even the most invasive treatments, and this makes it even harder for me to relate to these books now. *I will say I have read that many women did find this book immensely helpful*.

Title: The Things They Carried
Author: Tim O'Brien
Pages: 246
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Broadway (Random House)
Pub. Date: March 28, 1990

This is a modern classic about the Vietnam War. I have been super into books about war lately, so I was glad I read this. It is a bunch of short stories that are connected. I read this for book club a while ago so I don't remember details, but I do remember thinking the writing was different -- not so different that it was difficult to read, but just almost unique. The first chapter was interesting and then annoyingly repetitive (detailing, literally, the things they carried), but overall I enjoyed the book and can see why it's a classic.