Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Dose of Suspense

Death du Jour (Temperance Brennan, #2)Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a pretty fantastic read, right up with the first book. Reichs really knows how to keep up the suspense. I love how she keeps multiple story lines going and then weaves them all together in the end. It's not just about one murder; the whole world doesn't stop just because one person got killed and they have to investigate. And yet despite the mounding casework, midterm exams still need to be graded, students need help, and family problems persist. The fact that they still find new cases while current ones are open, as well as the fact that regular life continues outside the LML helps to put it in better perspective. People really do this.



*SPOILER ALERT*



I'm really glad she didn't kill off Harry in this one. The formula seemed very similar to her first book, so I thought that might happen. I think that was better. Maybe it would have been poetic - Brennan can figure out what happened to people, yet she can't save the living or protect her family from the carnage that surrounds her life - but if new traumatic experiences of lost loved ones continued to compound throughout the series, Brennan would become an emotional wreak, or else unbelievable as a character. I think her cat scare (which I'm SO glad was false!) and the cult encounter, along with Ryan's near-death brush was enough for this time around.



*END OF SPOILERS*



The discussion of cults really presents an opportunity for contemplation and introspection. It calls to attention the way we think and interact with the world. Are we being diluted and blinded by those around us, or are we making our own decisions? I always appreciate the opportunity for evaluation and this fit flawlessly into the plot. Very well written in that regard.



There was a bit of scandalous-ness that could have been done without. I think the attempt was to humanize Brennan more, but I think there is plenty of that. She really does ache for the victims she sees and she is not immune to fear or injury.



As far as the murders themselves, I always like seeing the description of the lab work and her interactions with the Qu├ębecois. I wish there would have been more elaboration on the reason for the disembowelment as well as the ring symbol on the skin. I also missed an explanation of where the Rohypnol came from, but I suppose those are minor details.



The imagery is superb; I love the way she uses the weather to heighten the suspense as well as to reflect the moods. Overall it was a fantastically thrilling read. I'd pick it up again anytime.



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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Leaf, Meet other Leaf


This was the gorgeous fall day I reveled in a few weeks ago.




 
As I was raking, a little girl came riding up on her scooter and after a quick "HI!" proudly announced, "I'm 4." I tried to smother a giggle at the seemingly out of place exclamation that was my initial reaction. So what if we had never seen each other before, what's to prevent us from forging connections and sharing? That's what the human experience is about, right? She proceeded to inform me that her birthday was coming up and that then she would be 5. I returned with an encouraging, "Oh, cool!" Then she said after she was 5 she would be 6. The simplicity of our conversation made me really happy. Talking to people doesn't have to be hard. Yet I always make it out to be this huge thing. Just as I was really warming up to our conversation, her dad came behind her and bustled her along, apologizing in an embarrassed manner. It made me sad for him. I don't think we should ever be embarrassed by the examples of the children around us. It was an unexpected profundity I did not expect to encounter among the leaves that day.

True connection
Not to make this melodramatic, but I thought about that a lot as I finished my task. We are a lot like the leaves, all tossed together, but very rarely making true contact, soul to soul as it were.

There were a lot of leaves...

There you have it. Beauty and a thought brought to you by autumn.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Time for a Review

Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1)Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I thought it was pretty well written and moved at a good pace. I didn't see the end coming at all, which was fun, but frustrating at the same time. I wanted to see more of Miss Marple, but I thought her character was very well developed - not too pushy or nosy, but with a sort of mystery about her own person that lent credibility to her skills of observation. Lettice was really irksome to me, but I couldn't help feeling for her at the end. I liked seeing it from the Vicar's point of view as opposed to an omniscient one; I could try to figure it out along with him, as opposed to just being told what to think. You also get his biases and mortal weaknesses, which are valuable in realizing that it is truly difficult to obtain a purely factual view and which also leads credence to him as a character. Christie was wise to take this path I feel, because as a writer who knows how it will end, it would be extremely difficult to achieve that unbiased anonymity. Coming from seeing the movies first, I thought I would want to read it from Miss Marple's viewpoint, but on reflection, I think that would be just as unsatisfying as an omniscient voice. All in all, an enjoyable read.



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The Reason For Pitstops


To guarantee at least two minutes to think in this hectic world. ~Samantha

Monday, November 21, 2011

You may have noticed...

I decided to change the name of my blog. I've wanted to for a while, I just haven't found the right one until now. Those close to me will tell you that I am terrible at making decisions and this further proves it. I think this is more appropriate. I live in the same world as everyone else. I just have different stories to tell. Maybe it should be "Novellas of a Girl..." I do seem to ramble on at times.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Great and Terrible Day



Last Friday was a doozy.

I had an eight page research paper for my Tissue Biology class due at midnight. I'd been researching like a fiend since...Monday. Now don't start wagging your I-told-you-so fingers because I've got that under control. Anyway, Wednesday rolls around and I have yet to structure any sentences. On my way home, I check my phone as per ritual, not expecting to find any missed alerts, as there never are any. But I had 2! A missed call and a message. Inquiries to my voicemail revealed that a nice young man wanted to reserve my Friday evening for a social outing. But this wasn't just any date; he wanted to go to the BYU hockey game. I want to go. Really. Badly. But I have that wonderful paper to slave over. The game starts at 7:30; the paper's due at midnight. Oh, the drama. Luckily, this young man knows this, as we are in the same class, and is very understanding of the fact that I may not be able to accept due to this assignment. So kind, no pressure. I want to go even more now. Besides, what more could I accomplish in those three hours (no way I was going to bed late just for some paper)? After pouring out the whole story plus my minute-to-minute time commitments to my mom via Tabitha (mom was driving), I came up with a plan. It was fairly simple: finish the paper! Tonight! Easier said than done. I barricaded myself in my room, which Samantha was nice enough to vacate, and worked my tail off for 3 hours straight (punctuated with food provided by my kind, loving sister/roommate) and converted all my two days of research into four or five solid pages of prose. Not too shabby. I decided that this was definitely do-able and would call to confirm the next morning, as I had another 3 hour block to finish it then.

I felt a little like this after that session, but hey! It was getting done.

I called the nice young man at 8 and left a really scattered message, hoping that the main message of acceptance was conveyed. He texted back a confirmation of my assent shortly after, accompanied by another reassuring message that he would understand if I needed to cancel. I was determined to make that unnecessary and set to work. Unfortunately, I had used up all my research and was now required to fly through research articles (not the easiest literature to peruse at high speeds) and compose my findings simultaneously, which slowed my production rate quite a bit. I only added 1 or 2 pages in those 3 hours before I had to go to work. Now, the other wrench in this system I didn't tell you about is that I also had an anatomy lab final on Friday which I had not begun studying for. So the next five free hours would have to incorporate some studying as well as research/writing. Talk about butterflies! I had cortisol coursing through my system all the rest of Thursday. I wanted to do well on these things, but I really wanted to go on that date! Thursday night I didn't make any headway length-wise because I took out an entire section and replaced it with something else. Better paper, but still not done. I felt like the clock was running my life.


Friday dawned. Judgement Day. I saw the gentleman in lab and assured him that I should be able to finish the three last pages on time (internally biting my fingernails and crossing everything I could think of). The marathon of classes whirled by and then it was two hours until the final. The final is administered to us TAs during our regularly scheduled Friday meetings which go for two hours. We as lecture TAs convinced Rachel (the professor) to let us study together and take it the second hour since lab is a little out of our element. So I had at least one hour of devoted study time. But I also had these two hours of free time before that devoted hour. I decided to write for an hour & study for the other. But as the second hour drew near, I was on a roll and decided to keep writing. The count was 6 pages when TA meeting/study time started. I could do this, right?


That hour studying was more a frazzled panic, as I flipped frantically through my old lab manual and strained to recall the difference between all those arteries/veins/nerves. It was like I'd never heard these words before in my life. I didn't know what to focus on because I hadn't gone over anything so that time wasn't terribly productive. I entered the lab in a subdued panic. What if I failed? I couldn't even remember bony structures, which are my favorite. I mentally slapped myself back to my senses and told myself to just pray really hard and take it one term at a time. The mental dialog went something like this:

No, you may not push the panic button!
#1-...I DON'T KNOW!!
Calm down. Is it a brain structure?
No.
Is it a muscle?
 No. I think it's this term. Is that right?
Does it make sense?
 I think so. Did I spell it right?
Does it look right?
 Yes, I think. Ok. *exhale*
#2-...I DON'T KNOW!!
Calm down. Is it...


And so on for about 10 terms. Then I happened to glance over to the other side of the room where coincidentally the nice young gentleman was also poring over a specimen. He spotted me and smiled; naturally, I had to grin back. The rest of the exam was a lot smoother.


Task completed.  Back to the paper. Two more pages! Just as I set to work to write right there outside the cadaver lab, I realize I have almost no battery and have left my cord at home. Why did I have to decide today of all days to lose the bag-lady persona? I race home and tether myself in the den as the last stretch of the race begins. I am on th