Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: The Scorpio Races

There are books you read and think to yourself, "That was pretty good." Then there are books you read that you wish you could crawl inside and live.

Such was Maggie Stiefvater's bestseller, THE SCORPIO RACES, for me. The premise: Every November, wild horses emerge from the sea onto the shores of a tiny island. Many of them are captured for the annual Scorpio Races, whose winning purse is enough to move off the island. The main character, Puck, needs the money to save her family's house, and is the first girl to ever enter the races.

Oh, and the horses--kelpies, actually--like to eat people.

My mother is rolling her eyes right now that she knew there'd be some violent aspect to it if I liked it. But really, it's so much more than that. The man-eating perspective adds to the stakes and the suspense, but Maggie has a thousand other hooks in you before you've finished the first chapter.

First: phenomenal voice. You follow two characters through the book, Puck Connolly (who I'd consider the main main character) and Sean Kendrick, the returning champion and mysterious stable hand for the island's biggest stable. Maggie really lets you get to know these two, holding back no thought as the characters deal with the problems handed to them. Good things, bad things, things in between - you know it all.

Second: I-want-to-visit setting. Maggie brings the fictional island of Thisby alive in every way possible, from the hard-working locals to the colorful, out-of-place tourists, to the damp, cold ocean air and the whispering sea. You can smell the hay and dust in the stables. You can feel the salt on your skin by the shore.

Third: girl knows her horses. As someone who rode for years, I would be incredibly surprised to learn if Maggie has never been on a horse. The way the horses are handled, and the scenes where Puck or Sean are riding, are so expertly done that I know she's writing from experience*. The bond between animal and human is also very authentic, with nothing over or underdone.

Fourth: emotion, emotion, emotion. I felt for these characters as I rarely have in other books. I cried at the end over a horse. Only one other author, in all of history, has been able to make me cry tears down my face (twice, in two different books) and that is Mr. Patrick Ness.

I could gush for hours, so I'll just tell you now to go out and get the book. Even if you're not a horse lover, this is a fantastic read.

*If anyone can find an article to support or disprove this, can you comment? I'm very curious!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Emotion: Not Just For Movies

The Husband and I had lived in Massachusetts for a year and a half when I got the dreaded JURY DUTY notice in the mail. My initial reaction was typical: a groan, a statement that I'd act as crazy as I needed to, and going off about how new residents always get targeted for jury duty. The Husband said not to worry - I'd be free and clear from any criminal cases since he was a DNA Analyst at the MA crime lab, and that would certainly be a conflict of interest. So, I had a strategy. I'd be back at work the next day, no problem.

There were three problems.
  1. The case was a civil trial.
  2. After 8 hours of questioning, they still hadn't picked enough members for the jury, so we had to come back the next day if we hadn't been called yet.
  3. Once I got called that second day, I couldn't think of anything crazy enough to sound crazy, and got selected.
Four problems, if you count that they'd assured us most trials last one to three days, but this trial would last three weeks.

I thought I would hate it, to be honest. I thought there would be a couple interesting pieces, and the other fourteen days would be an exercise in staying awake. Then we learned the premise of the case: a Harvard professor's wife was suing two very esteemed doctors, an oncologist from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a radiologist from Brigham and Women's Hospital, for malpractice in the death of her husband. She claimed the lesion that took his life was visible in an X-ray taken 10 weeks prior to his death.

I thought I could deal with that for three weeks.

What I wasn't prepared for was the sheer amount of emotion packed into the end of the trial. While we deliberated, everything was pure fact - could we see the lesion on the X-ray, did we have any evidence of malpractice, etc. Then we went into the court room, and when the judge read the verdict of "Not Guilty," the first defendant let out a gasp so loud you couldn't help but feel it inside you; all her relief and her joy and her gratefulness as she sank down in her seat, that this trial--that she'd no doubt worried over for five years--was finally over. It took me three weeks to get there, but I finally realized jury duty is so much more than a trial. It's real people's futures. It's closure for the past. It's moving on.

Have you ever served on a jury? What was the case and what are your lasting impressions of it?

[For full details on the case, click here!]

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