Tag: 0/5- Abandoned

The Curious Science of Humans at War

by Mary Roach

I made it through three out of the seven discs, and then started to wonder why I was spending my time on this. I did want to give Mary Roach another try- the minutiae of the obscure facts do interest me, but the delivery is so very off-putting. For a while I could stomach this better as it was about people, not animals– but finally I got to a nope point. The book is about all the ingenious ways scientists have devised to keep soldiers alive in spite of environmental extremes, deprivation, injury, shock, you name it. And how that research sometimes ties into the ordinary. But it is a headache to listen to. Not only the voice of this audiobook version I had- which imbues the snarky asides and humorous remarks (which usually rubbed me the wrong way) with an odd tone of smugness. And the facts are all crammed in there so tight it bounces you from one idea to the next without much pause or chance to settle what you’re thinking about. I just couldn’t do it. I might make one more attempt- but with a real paper version this time, my own voice inside my own head- and if that’s also a nope for this reader, I’m just going to cross all the Mary Roach books off my TBR. Surely the facts she digs up are available to readers in other places, if I really want to take them in.

I do realize this was probably a poor choice for my second attempt. I ought to have gone with a subject matter a bit closer to home, perhaps- but found this one browsing the shelves, so I picked it up since it was immediately available.

Borrowed from the library as an audiobook- 8 hours of listening time read aloud by Abby Elvidge.

Rating: Abandoned
288 pages, 2016

Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher

by Ingrid King

Disappointing. Although for a self-published book it really was well done- I didn’t notice any typos, the writing itself was okay, and it only occcasionally got repetitive- as far as I could tell. Because honestly, I started skimming after just a few chapters and didn’t really read the whole thing. Here’s why.

This little memoir is about a cat. The author worked in a veterinary hospital and when cats were up for adoption at the hospital, she’d usually take one in as her office cat. She was so enamoured of Buckley- a small tortishell female- that she wanted to adopt the cat permanently and take her home. But fretted about how Buckley would get along with her resident cat, who’d been solo feline in the house for many years. Cats always require quite an adjustment period to new arrivals, but this was done so abruptly. Convinced that the two cats were destined to be good friends because she felt they had a spiritual connection, the author pretty much put them together from day one, then got upset because there was lots of hissing and posturing, and took Buckley back to her office three times before finally keeping her at home for good. Must have been very stressful for the cat, to say the least.

The story continues to tell how the cats did finally get along and to effusively exclaim over the peace and joy this cat’s presence brought into the author’s life. She tells how she changed jobs, started her own business, and then had to deal with Buckley’s ongoing health issues- made more difficult because the cat (and her owner) got very stressed when receiving medical treatments. The end, when Buckley’s health finally begins to fail, is very sad as you see the cat go through her last moments, cared for very tenderly.

I just- couldn’t connect to this story. I felt iffy about it from the very beginning when the author goes on and on about how admirable animals are because they simply live in the moment and don’t let their past affect them, but then talks about how this cat had always dreamed of having a forever home (back when Buckley was a stray). So the cat doesn’t remember it’s past, but can feel hope for a projected future it imagines? I don’t get that. Then pretty soon in the narrative it’s apparent the author believes she has telepathic communication with her cats, in mental pictures and feelings- sometimes via a medium from afar. A lot about feelings in this book. She’s an “energy healer” too. Not trying to be too critical- this was unquestionable a very sweet cat, who meant a lot to her owner, and her story is quite heartwarming. Too much of it was just too far out there for me.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: Abandoned
120 pages, 2009

When Nature Breaks the Law

by Mary Roach

Well. I always wanted to read some Mary Roach. Saw my library had this one as an audiobook (9 hours) and thought that would be a great start. I got nowhere. The book- about human and animal conflicts- jumps immediately into describing a conference the author attended to learn how forensics experts identify what killed a person: wild animal (bear or cougar) human, or accident. The many close details on wounds, how they were inflicted, what that says about the animal, etc just were too much. I’m not sure why. Normally I would be okay reading this kind of stuff? Perhaps it was the deadpan delivery, such a matter-of-fact, clipped tone of voice (the author herself). I realize the subject matter varies, so I skipped ahead and put in the third CD, which has an account of the author’s visit to India, to see how people deal with leopards. I had the same kind of reaction, my mind drifting away from the narrative, and then when I focused in again, wondering after a few sentences: why am I listening to this? I’m not enjoying it. Sigh. I might try it again in actual book format. Or maybe this author’s style is just not for me.

Rating: Abandoned
320 pages, 2021

More opinions:
A Bookish Type
Dear Author

A Very Natural Childhood

by John Lister- Kaye

This author worked in conservation, restoring habitats and saving endangered British species like the Scottish wildcat. His memoir tells about his childhood in a manor house on a huge estate, where he roamed at will looking for bird’s eggs, tracking foxes and so on. I really wanted to like this one, but just couldn’t get into it. There seemed to be a lot of description about everything except the animals in the first few chapters, and then a lot about the grand house of his childhood and while it was interesting and well-written, it just wasn’t what I’d expected. One chapter is mostly about his mother’s poor health. I am sure it all ties together showing how everything led up to his passion with nature and working for wildlife, but I was just loosing attention fast. I’ve put this one back on my shelf to try again later. Perhaps if I’d do better to read one of his other books first.

Rating: Abandoned
336 pages, 2017

by Karen Russell

I was looking forward to this one, but ended up disappointed. Read the last story (which gave the book its title) first. It’s about a group of girls from a werewolf pack who are being assimilated into human society by a bunch of nuns. It was a great comparative read to Into That Forest, especially the girls’ wolflike behavior- pushing their ears into positions to communicate, lifting their hair up with hands to be like bristling fur. Made me think of Julie. It had interesting conflicts (one girl refuses to follow the nuns’ teachings and becomes outcast by the other girls, who are all in their way trying to adjust), and a satisfying enough ending. The rest of the stories in this book, well they just didn’t work for me. They were like urban fantasy gone feral, weird and twisted in a unique way. Something about them all reminded me of Geek Love (which personally, is not really a good thing). Just did not appeal here.

I tried, though. But in the end I only read two stories all the way through: the titular one about the wolf-girls, and one in the middle called “from Children’s Reminisces of the Westward Migration” about a pioneer family traveling in a wagon train- and the father was a minotaur, pulling his own wagon. I actually liked that one, strange as it was. The rest, couldn’t get more than a few pages in. There’s a family living in a Florida swamp with two sisters who wrestle alligators, an overnight camp for people with odd sleep disturbances, a community of retired people who live in decrepit houseboats and sign up with a program to receive visits from delinquent teenagers, among other strange settings. Just too strange and dark for me.

Rating: Abandoned
242 pages, 2006

More opinions:
Shelf Love
Vulpes Libris
The Reading Life
anyone else?

by Steven Vogel

This book is all about how leaves function, down to the nitty gritty science in the individual cells. I really wanted to like it, and learn from it, but I couldn’t stay focused. The author has a friendly voice, good examples and I appreciate that he often gives simple experiments you can do at home to test or prove to yourself what he’s explaining. He sticks the mathematical equations in the footnotes, so you can skip those- but still, the science was a bit too much for my brain. I could only read a few pages at a time and then I’d have to go back and re-read to make sure I understood it. I got through the chapters on diffusion and osmosis, stuck halfway through the one on flow, and didn’t feel like picking it up again. It’s definitely a book I want to try again someday though.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: Abandoned
320 pages, 2012

by Laura Zigman

This book is about a middle aged woman whose writing career has taken a nosedive. She and her husband are estranged but still living in the same house (they can’t afford to divorce yet), her teenage son barely talks to her anymore, her finances are in trouble, she’s still recovering from the loss of her parents while her best friend is battling cancer. It’s a lot. Fraught with a sense of loss and unease, she starts carrying around the family dog in a baby sling, finding comfort and reassurance in its constant presence. People comment on this- when they find out the dog isn’t injured or suffering itself from anxiety, they turn judgmental (one group at a dog park even accuses her of animal abuse). It’s all written in a very lighthearted, wry style. I read the first few chapters with interest and amusement, but then found I didn’t care much to pick it up again. Skipped and skimmed through several more chapters before giving up. I just didn’t find the characters relatable, although their circumstances certainly could happen to anyone. The strangeness of the Montessori school (surely it’s exaggerated?) and the weird houseguests who dress up as large puppets all the time, baffled me. I also puzzled over conversations constantly: do people actually talk like this to each other? Am I the one struggling to make a connection here? Feels like it, but I have to shrug and move on. This one’s obviously not for me. Not sure why, as it certainly resonated with plenty other readers.

Rating: Abandoned
288 pages, 2020

More opinions: Sam Still Reading
anyone else?

Keeper of the Lost Cities

by Shannon Messenger

Sorry (to my ten-year-old) I really tried, but this series is just not for me. My daughter said the sequel was even better than the first book, so I agreed to read it, even though I wasn’t terrible keen. All the things that make this more exciting for her- the continual uncovering of new secrets, cryptic messages, threats from kidnappers, mysteries to solve that lead to more mysteries- just bore me. I don’t know how to explain it, but mysteries and exciting action-packed crime films usually bore me in the same way. In this book, Sophie finds out more about her past, but it’s also disturbing. She’s discovered (spoilers if you haven’t read the first book) that she has so many special talents and exceptional abilities because basically she was genetically engineered by some secret entity, for an unknown purpose, but they’re obviously manipulating her life. She’s starting to resent this, and also has reactions to things that don’t bother others- bright lights, intense headaches (not related to her telepathic abilities), passes out a lot- starts to think there’s something flawed in her makeup because she thinks ought to be able to solve all these problems and heal people from mental breakdowns caused by a kind of telepathic interrogation- urgh, it gets so complicated and I don’t even care.

What got to me was the inane way people talk to each other in these books. The kids act like kids- though full of self-importance and Sophie in particular keeps leaping into dangerous situations to save the day even when adults repeatedly warn her not to- which is fine, but the adults all talk in this immature, snarky way too. There’s so much eye-rolling and biting remarks and then buckets of tears over things nobody can even bear to say out loud I just got tired of it. Around page three hundred I started seriously skimming. Was able to glean enough of the storyline to have a brief conversation with my kid (who was thrilled to repeat jokes from the book to me) about it, without letting her know I hadn’t actually finished. I did force myself to read the last two chapters in their entirely.

One original idea that stood out to me, was the special trees planted on the elf graves- that each manifest a unique characteristic of the deceased. Really liked that. Except creepy that Sophie and one of her friends have their own trees already planted, because after the kidnapping in previous book everyone actually thought they were dead and had a funeral. I keep wondering if something will happen with her special tree later on in the series. A lot of the other ideas in these books seem repetitive from other fantasy worlds already out there, but this was different.

I really wanted to like the winged unicorn (excuse me, alicorn) better. Nice that the alicorn, in spite of being beautiful and majestic, didn’t smell like roses and speak wisdom to Sophie’s mind (they have a telepathic connection). Instead, the alicorn can only use a few words and mostly puts images or feelings into Sophie’s head. And she’s stubborn, has bad breath and splatters sparkly manure on people. Which made me laugh. But Sophie was supposed to be training the alicorn (to accept captivity, mostly) and there was really very little of that. So even that aspect of the story was boring.

Don’t get me started on the disturbing trends in the elves’ society that nobody comments on, or how many secrets everybody is hiding, or how the teachers in the school torture their students (as part of a lesson?) and nobody cares, or how many times Sophie nearly dies but then bounces right back ready to fight the next bad guy who might actually be on her side after all, or how annoyingly Sophie’s three friends who are boys glare daggers at each other and vie for her attention all the time- sigh. My ten-year-old found the “romance” (feeling heart-throbs and holding hands) in the story thrilling. It’s just the right kind of book for her- and I’m glad she’s enjoying them- but I’m just too old and this isn’t my type of adventure fantasy anyway.

Borrowed from my kid.

Rating: Abandoned
568 pages, 2013

More opinions: Pages Unbound
anyone else?

by James Fenimore Cooper

Once again a classic that utterly failed me. Or I failed it? I thought that after making my way through the archaic doorstopper that was Tom Jones, I’d have an easier time reading this one. Not so. It’s high adventure, with romance and battles in a trek through the wilderness- the party includes two young English women, several Native American guides and a frontiersman. The area is rife with conflict between the British and the French, which have varied allies among the native tribes. There’s lots of danger to navigate. I just could not navigate the writing style. It is so flowery and obtuse I would make my way through dense descriptions only to reach the end of a page and have no idea what was going on. The conversations were no better. Did people actually talk like this, or was it written so expressively to be impressive? It’s really a case of getting lost in the forest for the trees. I tried several times to stick with it, reading a chapter now and then between other books for the past week and a half, but I just could not follow. Made such an effort because the 1992 film version is my husband’s absolute favorite move. Gave up after eighty pages. Well, another one to clear off my shelf!

Rating: Abandoned
372 pages, 1826

by Ernest Hemingway

Set in World War I, narrated by an ambulance driver on the Italian front who gets injured and falls in love with a nurse. I did not get very far- just past the part where he was wounded and in the hospital, about sixty pages. Then started to wonder why am I using up my time reading this? I thought I could see what the author was doing- showing how casual people kept their attachments when anyone might die senselessly at any moment, how pointless the war was, how inane their conversations- but I found nothing artful in the way he did it. The dialog particularly felt very stiff. I suppose the style was intended to be the way things were, but it was hard to stay interested in the words. So brief and matter-of-fact and unemotional. I couldn’t find it in me to care about any of the characters, and I wasn’t drawn into the surroundings or events either. Another case where a classic falls totally flat for me. I think I just really do not like Hemingway. I am baffled why he is considered a great writer- honestly. Even more baffled why this edition contains not only visual reproductions of his handwritten manuscript with crossed out lines and rewritten passages- so readers can admire how he crafted the novel- but also a myraid of alternate endings in the appendix (like movie outtakes, haha). I do like studying preliminary sketches by artists- sometimes I feel like I can see how their mind was thinking to lay down certain lines- and often I even like the sketches better than the finished paintings! but reading how phrases were different before the writer committed to his final draft, I get nothing from that. Probably because I didn’t care for the final product, here.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: Abandoned
330 pages, 1927


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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