Post-Mortem: Book Reviews

A little warning: if you’re extremely squeamish or rabidly pro-animal-rights, the first paragraph or so may offend.

When I was in graduate school, I killed a lot of mice. Like, hundreds, if not thousands. At the time it didn’t bother me too much, except when I had to cull the colony and euthanize entire families. This later led to a minor case of neurosis and paranoia regarding mice. But the necropsies weren’t as bad, somehow. They had a purpose. We were investigating a virus and attempting to grow tiny human-ish organs inside the mice, implanted just under the kidney capsule. It was pretty cool. Once upon a time I could find the review on which I’m listed as a co-author, but it’s not online, alas. Suffice to say, it was good work, noble work. The ultimate goal was saving human lives, after all.

But the thing I loved about the necropsies was teasing open the layers of tissue, investigating why the animal passed away. Was it an overgrown thymus? Spotted and enlarged liver? So many mysteries revealed just by taking apart the pieces. OK, I’m a science geek at heart, I admit it. This was why I had such a hard time as a kid, deciding what to do with my life when I grew up. I loved reading and writing and all things literary, but I adored science, too: how things worked. I made a decision, and it was the right decision at the time for me. And now it’s time to go the other way.

The great thing about writing is I never have to give up anything else. I can research various topics I still find interesting, and maybe use them in a book. At last, there is an outlet for the many hours of random research I’ve done over the years on a multitude of unrelated topics.

Also still in use is my natural curiosity, my desire to dissect. I read a book, and whether I liked it or no, have to immediately sit back and discern the appeal–or lack thereof. Often, it’s apparent as I read. A lovable heroine, maybe a lot like me. A hero who reminds me of my husband. A bromance–I don’t know why, but I love a good bromance and Jill Shalvis writes some great ones. So do my favorites, Jennifer Bernard and Candis Terry. Humor, or crazy suspense, or a paranormal with fabulous new world-building (if you’re a vampire fan and haven’t read Pamela Palmer’s Vamp City series, you’re missing out. And I hear her shifter series Feral Warriors is excellent).

In the non-romance genre, and I do read those, I love very traditional vampire novels like The Historian, epic historical fantasies like Game of Thrones and Outlander, and urban fantasy (I’m currently reading a new Tad Williams series that I’ll review when I finish the first book. Yes, I read many books at one time and it drives my husband crazy). The same talents appeal in those as well. Because what it comes down to is a good story. Even if it’s not executed perfectly, if it draws me in, if I think about it when I’m not reading– it’s a win.

Every now and then, though, I’m stymied. Have you ever hate-read a book? You begin reading the book, and it takes a bit to get into it but you keep going. And by the time you realize there’s something you don’t like about it, there’s also something drawing you in, so you have to keep reading, even though you don’t want to. Maybe you’re thinking you should really put it down, but there’s an answer you need, a resolution you’re waiting for. Then, when you finish, you’re furious with the author, the characters, everyone who ever recommended the book.

Perhaps you even reconsider your friendship with people who adored this book, made you read it, and wasted your time.

I finished a book today that was a little like that. It’s one that people have raved about, quite big with the populace who love their Grisham and Sparks and Picoult. There’s even a movie coming out. So many people adore this book that it gave me enough reason to avoid it. I’m just that contrary. Contrary enough that no, I won’t tell you what the book is.

But it was a hate-read. I was browsing my local library’s available e-books, and since it was a popular one but available immediately, I grabbed it, thinking “Why not?” The first part took a bit of work getting into, but something drew me in. And then there was this huge mind-blowing twist, so I couldn’t put it down at that point. Leaving me this morning, with a ton of stuff to do, trapped on my bed reading this book until it was finished. And then I was furious. I hated the ending, I hated the people, I couldn’t figure out why the book had me so thoroughly engrossed. I think it came down to the suspense. I had to find out what happened next, even when I didn’t like it.

Food for thought, especially since I write it. Another “master” to study and learn from. I cobble them together, taking tips from this one and techniques from that one, creating a Frankenstein’s monster of creative muse, hoping and praying I can make it cohesive.



About Kerrie Strong

Years ago, I chose to suppress my creative side in favor of a career (or two, or three) in science. This blog is filled with exercises intended to reverse the atrophy of my right brain. I hope you enjoy my ramblings.
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3 Responses to Post-Mortem: Book Reviews

  1. sandradan1 says:

    Great post, Kerri. I find your blog via Rachel Stirling and Twitter. 🙂 SD

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