When I learned that Caitlin Doughty (author of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and YouTube channel host extraordinaire) was writing a second book (From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death), I jumped on that bandwagon. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was a breeze to read that provided a glimpse into the world of the crematory. With From Here to Eternity (let's call it FHTE from here on out), Doughty now takes a global look at death customs...and the result was pretty intriguing.
In case you are curious, here's the blurb from the back of the book:
Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette- smoking, wish- granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved- ones’ bones from cremation ashes. With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning— including a glowing- Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre— and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.
In FHTE we travel from Indonesia to Bolivia to Japan...and a few places in between...to learn about the various ways different cultures treat their dead and conduct their funerary rituals. This book was a fascinating glimpse into various traditions and cultures that handle their deceased loved ones in a manner that many Americans may find foreign.
FHTE was engrossing to read (just like her previous book) and educational without being too "stuffy". Doughty's personal worldview does come through very strongly as she does not agree with Christian practices superseding native culture/tradition when it comes to how the dead are handled. Her career bias also shines through as she does not hold to the "industry of death" that currently reigns supreme in America but would rather see a return to natural burial across the country.
I would have preferred to see less of a bias presented in the book as it seemed as though Doughty took a few opportunities to take an aside and present her own opinion on religion, feminism/patriarchy, and modern funeral practices. Whether or not I agree with her worldview, I think the book would have been better served to present the cultures' death traditions on their own without a running dialogue of her opinions about how Western religion and the patriarchy have destroyed death culture in various countries. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think there's a way to present that information academically for a publication, but I fear Doughty veered into the "opinions for a blog" territory (...kind of like I'm doing now?).
If you have any interest in death culture/traditions or in the mortuary world I would definitely recommend Caitlin Doughty's books. They are easy to read, entertaining, and provide a fascinating glimpse into a world that is often considered to be taboo.
Hunter's claim by S.E. Smith
Meet Hunter -- an overly large, cat-humanoid-alien dude who is a warrior for his alien species (aka the Trivators) who have recently occupied Earth. Unfortunately, he and his friends (like Dagger and Razor) are really crappy warriors and they fail at just about every mission they go on. It's through one of these failed missions that Hunter is captured and it's up to scrappy, survivalist Jesse to rescue him from his captors.
As thanks (?) for rescuing him, Hunter takes Jesse as Amate (note that it's not as "a mate"...but as "Amate". Original, yes?) which bonds him to her for the rest of his life. He can't seek relief from anyone else...not even from himself (in a so-called "relief room")...except from her. Nice to know that he asked her if she even wanted to be rescued and bonded to him forever before he did it, eh? Oh wait...he didn't ask. He just claimed her as his own and then started walking around naked.
But wait...there's more, folks. Hunter and crew take Jesse and her two sisters (convenient that Hunter has two friends and Jesse has two sisters, isn't it?) to the Trivators' home world...which is pretty much the USA. But in space. At least it seems to be...sadly, not much worldbuilding is done to really set up the Trivators' home world. So we are left to assume it's pretty much like Earth...just with big cat-humanoids and a male-centric society. But good thing everybody speaks English! And good thing there's no culture-shock after being essentially abducted and plopped down in an alien world!
I could go on...but I shan't...just in case you want to read the story. There are a few plot points that I could spoil, so I shall refrain. It's a bad book. It's so bad that it might be entertaining if you are in the mood for a campy read.
It seems as though the Kindle edition wasn't proofed at all. Spelling errors and awkward sentences abound...
I'm definitely disappointed...I was in the mood for a fun "Alien Meets Human" book. Not sure what I got instead...
Unwept by Tracy & Laura hickman
If i could sum up Unwept in two words, it would have to be:
I've read plenty of books where the author(s) do not do an adequate job with character development/world building/magic system/etc and I am left with an overall question mark about what the book was even about.
I'll be honest - when I started Unwept I was worried that scenario was going to happen again. I hated that...I have fond, fond memories of Tracy Hickman's participation in the Dragonlance series and I have read and enjoyed a few of the books he has written in concert with his wife, Laura. So, when I started Unwept with absolutely no clue what was happening...well, it was worrisome.
But I kept reading.
And I am glad that I did! Unwept turned out to be a fun, surreal ride. In this novel we meet Ellis who has no recollection of her past. She comes to consciousness, waking from a horrific nightmare, finding herself on a train bound for a small, seaside town in Maine. Everybody she meets seems to have knowledge of her and her past...but the can't (or won't?) give her the answers she is desperately seeking. To make matters even more disorienting, Ellis is visited in the dark of night by a mysterious suitor who keeps trying to take her away from the small Maine town. Unsure of what is going on, Ellis embarks on a journey to discover her past...but is she ready for the answers she may find?
The reader is definitely in the same boat as Ellis. You discover Ellis' backstory along with Ellis. At times this can be frustrating...I would have enjoyed a little bit of insider knowledge at the start of the story. I think it would have made the book more enjoyable? But, really...I don't know. Maybe it really is best to be on the same page as Ellis. *shrug*
I think this book requires a little bit of patience to wait and discover the story along with Ellis. And the fact that Unwept starts a series should tell you that you're in for the long haul on this one. I devoured this story and am looking forward to seeing how the next chapter unfolds.
inquisitor by R.J. Blain
Ok, maybe my title is misleading...obviously I am not talking about the Spanish Inquisition. In R.J. Blain's new urban fantasy, Inquisitor, we are looking at a completely different brand of inquisition....one that's coming after the supernatural creatures living among us.
If you missed this feature on The Weekly Newbie post a while back, here's the back cover blurb:
When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fiancée at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder on the same night. She has to find the killer or she'll be put to death for the crimes she didn't commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.
On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.
There's only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison's desire for self-preservation may transform into a quest for vengeance...
Ok, so I liked this book! While I always enjoy a good werewolf book, it's definitely a sub-genre that's been tackled a lot and it's hard to avoid covering territory that's already been done. I think Blain does a great job of setting up a story/world that's a little different than some of the other werewolf novels out there. While there are some similarities, there is enough to make itself stand out in the genre. While the existence of fae beings are hinted at, Inquisitor, focuses on witches and werewolves (hence the series title....) which is a combination I haven't read before.
The main character, Allison, was an interesting one as well. I found myself intrigued by her. I wanted to know more about her backstory and her plight. Allison definitely carries this novel...and she does so pretty well. You are introduced to several side characters (I hesitate to call them "background characters" because some of them play pretty big roles) throughout the story and I do wish that we had learned more about them. Now, I believe this is book number one in a series (at least, with that ending it had, it had better be part of a series!) and it could be that we learn more about the side characters in later installments. Even with that possibility, I do wish we had learned a bit more about them in this go-around.
To go hand-in-hand with the side-character development, I did find myself wanting a little more worldbuilding. Worldbuilding can make-it or break-it for me and I think setting up a supernatural side-world in the midst of reality can be challenging. You don't want to have too much worldbuilding because you want to read an urban fantasy. Too much focus on the fae/supernatural side can sometimes turn the story into pure fantasy. Plus, in an attempt to worldbuild, some authors tend to info dump rather than gradually set up their world. Blain doesn't info dump (no worries) and I definitely could see the structure of an interesting world (what with the Inquisition itself, werewolf pack structure, the interesting relationship between witch and wolf, etc...) forming throughout the story. I found myself, however, wanting more established world building toward the beginning of the story so it could then, in turn, frame the rest of the plot.
As far as the story itself...holy plot twists, Batman! I thought I had the book figured out about a quarter of the way through...then Blain threw the first curveball at me. Then the twists and turns kept coming and I didn't know what to expect anymore. Which is good. I hate being able to telegraph the plot of a book. The story is quite interesting and there are some plot elements that are very intriguing (yes, I'm being vague so as to avoid spoilerage). Inquisitor held my attention to the very last page.
All in all - Inquisitor is a fun, four-star read! Definitely a fun read for fans of urban fantasy featuring strong, female leads!
The one by Kiera Cass
And....this season of The (Dystopian-ish) Bachelor is now concluded.
I finally have my answer...Aspen or Maxon? Maxon or Aspen? Which dude does America end up with? And now I know. But you shall find no spoilers here...and don't go peeking at the end of the book to find out, either - it will definitely take a lot out of the story ('cause let's face it...the decision between the two is pretty much the whole story).
So, other than finally knowing who America ends up with...this was an ok book. Not my favorite of the three...I think I enjoyed the first book the best. I enjoyed the different characters floating in and out of the first installment. This final installment is (obviously) focused on wrapping things up and bringing the story to its conclusion. As it should. But there were parts that seemed flatter than I would have liked...lots of talking and whining (if I had a nickel for every time Maxon whined/wavered/wimpered, I would be a rich lady. Or I'd have a few bucks at any rate...enough for a frappucino at least...). Not as much plot movement in my opinion. Oh, a lot happens...it just wasn't as layered as maybe the first one was.
The One is still immensely readable and absorbing, just as the first two were. I enjoy Cass's writing style - it makes for a quick, fun read. I found myself wanting to know a little bit more about the conclusion than was written. The conclusion was satisfying, but I think it could have been fleshed out a bit more (especially with certain characters) to where the ending seemed all the more complete than it already was...and maybe tie up a loose end or two. I really can't go into detail lest I let something slip.
One thing I wish was tackled more in the trilogy as a whole (and definitely in the final installment) was the issue with the Northern and Southern Rebels. The potential was there to really delve into the worldbuilding and the politics, but we were given just enough to make it a plot point and then we moved back to the Selection. I understand...the trilogy is about the Selection, not the Rebels...but I think it could have added more depth to the story and given it an actual dystopian feel. As it stands, it's categorized as dystopian fiction, but without an emphasis on building the dystopian world it really just turns into a literary version of the Bachelor.
Which I am obviously ok with...because I devoured these three books. But still...the world building could have been more structured and detailed.
So, four stars for this one.
The right wife by Beverly Barton
Expected Publication Date: June 5, 2014
Just received approval for this arc - so excited! I love the cover...I do love a pretty dress.
Anyway, here's the Back Cover Blurb:
In a sweeping and vibrant novel set in the post-war South, New York Times bestselling author Beverly Barton follows one young woman's journey to love and independence. . .
1885. All of Margaret Campbell's hopes for the future lie in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Since the death of her sharecropper father, eighteen-year-old Maggie has no resources and few allies, aside from the relatives who've agreed to take her in. With luck, she might yet make an upright gentleman of her brother, and a real lady of her rebellious little sister. And perhaps, once her siblings are settled, she'll find a decent, hardworking man to marry. But those plans are jeopardized the moment she meets Aaron Stone.
Effortlessly charming, Aaron is building an empire in the South. Maggie knows he wants the right kind of wife to overcome the shadows surrounding his birth--someone like the well-connected widow he's been courting. Someone a million miles from a penniless, outspoken sharecropper's daughter. But neither jealousy, family secrets, nor long-held prejudices will keep Maggie from following her heart. . .
Most of the historical romances I read tend to be Regency Romances. I am looking forward to an American historical romance! Can't wait to get started on this one!
Felt like picking up some graphic novels...here are two of them I just finished.
Chew & morning glories
Life. Sometimes it just gets in the way...you know? I hate that I didn't manage to get a TBT review up this week. From an awful week at work to some big life changes starting to evolve...it's been an eventful week. Every time I crack open a book (or turn my e-reader on), my eyes would just drift closed and...whelp...that's all she wrote. Hope to get back to the routine this week - including the Weekly Newbie and TBT. In the meantime, started working on an ARC copy of Mary Balogh's latest Regency-era romance.
So how about I do a "bonus" Weekly Newbie post since I didn't manage a TBT post? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, I'm going to do it anyway.
The Weekly Newbie - The Escape by Mary Balogh
Expected Release Date: July 1, 2014
Back Cover Blurb:
In this poignant novel of longing and salvation, a hopeful widow and a resilient war hero discover the promise of love’s magic and new beginnings.
After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering. After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws—until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey.
Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.
I'm about 20% through the ARC copy of this latest installment of Balogh's Regency romance landscape. I think it's considered number three in "The Survivor's Club" and I was slightly worried I would be lost since I have not read one or two. So far, however, it reads as a standalone that you know fits into a larger picture but reads perfectly fine by itself. I'm not sure if it will have anything that will make it stand out from a lot of her other novels...but I'm only 20% through which means anything can really happen. Oh, and I receive the arc from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Hope to post said honest review within the next few days so keep an eye out.
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your heart by J. D. Greear
Short. Sweet. To the point.
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart is a great resource for young Christians and/or Christians who have fallen into the "trap" of doubting their salvation.
J.D. Greear walks us through his own personal experiences with doubting his conversion/salvation. His testimony will especially resonate with those who have grown up in an evangelical church (even more so with those from Southern Baptist churches). Greear draws your attention to the (over?)use of Christian lingo in churches like: "walk the aisle", "ask Jesus into your heart", "pray the prayer", etc... It's the consistent use of this kind of lingo that, Greear argues, can not only create a sense of doubt later on down the road, but also lead to "false conversions" where someone "prayed the prayer" or "walked the aisle", but didn't actually become a Christian.
Greear's journey from a state of constant fear to discovering peace in Christ is a great read for anyone at any stage of their Christian walk. I think Greear's journey is something almost every Christian will experience and/or need to go through at some point in their lives - especially those who accepted Christ at a young age. Greear presents the gospel and references Scripture liberally throughout the book as well, giving it a strong and legitimate foundation.
Definitely check this book out.