Lex has been having trouble at school and at home lately. In fact, she is trouble, with the uncontrollable rage and beatings she doles out. For that r...moreLex has been having trouble at school and at home lately. In fact, she is trouble, with the uncontrollable rage and beatings she doles out. For that reason, her parents decide to send her away for the summer to work on her Uncle Mort's farm. However, when she arrives at the town of Croak, she finds out that there is no farm. Instead, this is a town of reapers who cull the souls of the dead, and Lex is the newbie. Everything's going great until the mysterious deaths begin, which just happen to align with Lex's appearance in Croak. She's determined to solve the case, before even more are killed.
Overall, Croak is a good time. The writing is lighthearted for a book about grim reapers, and it was fun to imagine a town like Croak. From the funny titles of stores, to the silly drink called Yorricks they have instead of alcohol, served in a skull mug, you can tell that Damico had a ball thinking about this place. I also loved getting to know all of the characters. Lex meets a diverse group of friends, and the friendship dynamic is great to read. My favorite part was the huge board game they invented by mixing a ton of other board games together.
While the plot moves fairly quickly, the mechanics of the culling and the world got in the way of the mystery for me. I kept getting lost on exactly what was going on. Why were jellyfish important again? And what was it that they milked from black widow spiders? I felt like I should have been taking notes on these details, since they got in the way of my enjoyment of the story. It didn't help that I was reading it on my Nook, which made it harder to flip back and forth. It might have made more sense if I'd have been reading a paper copy.
Even if I had a hard time following the plot at times, I did enjoy Croak. Although, sometimes with the massive amount of puns it might have been better titled Groan.(less)
I generally find the thought of the zombie apocalypse to be terrifying. The idea that for almost every person who dies, a zombie is born, until you ca...moreI generally find the thought of the zombie apocalypse to be terrifying. The idea that for almost every person who dies, a zombie is born, until you can no longer escape the zombie hoard is nearly too much to conceive. I guess this fear comes largely from my desire to keep living, in my own conscious state, rather than to become part of the animated undead, hungry for brains. However, the main character of This is Not a Test, Sloane, has no such qualms. Sloane is already dead inside. She planned her suicide, wrote a note, and no longer wanted any part of life when the zombies happened. For her it was a relief. But then a funny thing occurred: Sloane can’t seem to die. There’s always somebody there urging her on, protecting her, keeping her safe, when the one thing she wants is to let herself go to suicide by zombie.
Zombie fans be warned: there are not a lot of zombies in this book. Sure, they make a grizzly appearance here and there, but for the most part the zombies are a threat that lurks in the background, like a white noise of impending doom. The story largely takes place in a high school gym, where Sloane is trapped with five classmates. To them, she appears fearless. Sloane just desires to find a way out without compromising the others.
This is Not a Test is fairly intense as far as Sloane’s life and inner psyche is concerned, and not so much with the zombies. Sloane’s dad is abusive and her sister, the only person who could protect her, ran out on her. Sloane contemplates suicide throughout the book because her dad seems to have broken her so completely that even the threat of zombies is better than the thought of living with him again.
Overall, I enjoyed reading This is Not a Test, although I could have done with a little bit more zombie mayhem. Still, the point of view of a suicidal protagonist gives a fairly fresh zombie apocalypse experience, and deals with larger issues through genre fiction, which is the mark of a good zombie book.(less)
A few days ago, I had to put my cat to sleep. She meant a lot to me, and after it was done I couldn’t help but think about that instant where she was...moreA few days ago, I had to put my cat to sleep. She meant a lot to me, and after it was done I couldn’t help but think about that instant where she was a breathing, sentient lady, and the next, when she was just a shell of organic compounds, laying there with eyes that no longer could see. It’s so hard to wrap my head around the death of another, but in Mortality, Hitchens takes it a step further by mediating at length on his own impending end, due to stage four esophageal cancer. Not that I can really compare the death of my cat with the death of Christopher Hitchens, but reading this book right now seemed appropriate.
This is a very short book, but with a subject as dark and universal as our own mortality, I don’t think it is necessary to linger longer. If we focus only on our impending deaths, we forget to enjoy our current lives. However, I do think it is important to approach the subject from time to time because a) death comes for us all and better to know your enemy, and b) it makes living that much more valuable to know that someday it will be taken from us. Hitchens’ voice in this is clear as a bell, until the last chapter, which remained unfinished and fragmentary due to his death. And as much as he knew he was going to die, reading this makes me wonder if he ever truly could wrap his mind around it until the final moment.
As grim as it was, reading Mortality actually helped. Hitchens brings forth the irony and humor of the horrors he went through, and even though he no longer believed that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the strength of his final writings show that he continued to live, even while dying.(less)
Know what's more fun than a bunch of ghost stories? A bunch of ghost stories that take place in a funeral home! This book is completely about the ofte...moreKnow what's more fun than a bunch of ghost stories? A bunch of ghost stories that take place in a funeral home! This book is completely about the often creepy, but sometimes touching, encounters with the spirits of the dead in the place where most of us will eventually wind up.
A part of me really wishes that this book had been written and marketed as fiction rather than as a true encounters kind of book. I love hearing the stories, but if somebody is trying to convince me that all of these things really happened to her, my inner skeptic is going to speak up. I've heard de la Croix interviewed a few times before, and she really does maintain that she is a psychic. It's the kind of thing you just can't argue, but I also have a really hard time believing. It seems too convenient to have ghostly encounter after ghostly encounter when so many of us have had no experiences. Granted, a funeral home might ratchet up the spook-factor.
De la Croix's writing voice didn't always work for me. It can be overly saccharine at times. I think this is a problem with the chemistry between my own personal tastes and her way of expressing herself, so others may not share this viewpoint. Subjectively, I would have preferred a bit less of calling people "dear" or the way she spoke to the spirits to get them to stop what they were doing.
What I enjoyed most about this read were the ins and outs of working in a funeral home. De la Croix shares some of the practicalities of embalming and cremation, but she also gives us an idea of the many little things that come with the job, like bringing in more tissues for mourners, or setting alarms and turning off lights at the end of the day. This provided a nice grounding and insight into this as an actual career, rather than simply a setting for the stories.
Restless in Peace is a fairly quick read full of plenty of ghostly encounters, and is a fair choice for those who are curious about funeral homes and want some creepy stories.(less)
I think one of the things that would keep me from ever being a doctor is the thought of dissecting a corpse. I just can’t fathom being that close to a...moreI think one of the things that would keep me from ever being a doctor is the thought of dissecting a corpse. I just can’t fathom being that close to a dead body, let alone cutting it open. I would keep expecting it to lurch up and go for my brains. Keeping in line with my habit of reading about the exact thing I am afraid of, I couldn’t put Working Stiff down.
Dr. Melinek cuts open dead bodies for a living. Each day, she makes the Y-shaped incision into the torso, opens up the head when she needs to, breaks ribs, rummages around, and figures out why people die. Even better, she seems to genuinely enjoy her job. Dead bodies are fascinating, and she recounts the various ways that you might kick the bucket. Sometimes the body comes to her in a bucket, or in a mail container. Sometimes she has to go to the scene where the person is decomposing.
I couldn’t believe some of the amazing things the body can do when it dies. For example, one body was a suicide on the subway. There was no blood in the body or on the scene because it was completely absorbed into the marrow. Melinek also describes her time on the front line as a medical examiner during 9-11. It was a very striking chapter and really showed what first responders went through.
This was exactly the kind of book I like to read. The writing was engaging, the topic fascinating, and it didn’t pander or get cute with the subject matter. If you have an interest in death, forensics, true crime, or taboo topics, you’ll want to pre-order this one.
Book received courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley(less)