Friday, May 31, 2013

FREE BOOKS: The Cuckoos of Batch Magna by Peter Maughan

In April I spotlighted the book The Cuckoos of Batch Magna by Peter Maughan. Well beginning today, and for the next four days, you can download The Cuckoos of Batch Magna for free from Amazon, or gift it to your friends and family!

Get your copy now!

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon

Synopsis

For readers of Rules of Civility and The Marriage Plot, this engrossing, very smart novel about passion, betrayal, class and friendship delves deeply into the lives of two generations, against backgrounds as diverse as Dar es Salaam, Boston, Shenzhen and Fisher's Island. It is the most accomplished book-by far-of this prominent young author's career.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1963: two students meet one autumn evening during their senior year at Harvard-Ed, a Jewish kid on scholarship, and Hugh, a Boston Brahmin with the world at his feet. Ed is unapologetically ambitious and girl-crazy, while Hugh is ambivalent about everything aside from his dedicated pining for the one girl he's ever loved. An immediate, intense friendship is sparked that night between these two opposites, which ends just as abruptly, several years later, although only one of them understands why. A Dual Inheritance follows the lives of Ed and Hugh for next several decades, as their paths-in spite of their rift, in spite of their wildly different social classes, personalities and choices-remain strangely and compellingly connected.


Hardcover, 496 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Ballantine Books (first published April 30th 2013)
ISBN  0345468473 (ISBN13: 9780345468475)



About the Author

Joanna Hershon is the author of three previous novels, The German Bride, The Outside of August and Swimming. She has received fellowships from Breadloaf and from the Edward Albee Foundation. An adjunct professor at Columbia, where she teaches creative writing, she lives with her husband, the painter Derek Buckner, and their twin sons.

Check out the author's website


My Thoughts
Had he described Hugh Shipley at all over the past three years, approachable would not have been a word he'd ever have used.
This book spans nearly five decades, traverses several countries and follows two generations. The first two-thirds follow Hugh, Ed and Helen-- their years through college, and the years following graduation as they learn to navigate adulthood and marriage and family. The last third mostly follows their daughters' as they begin their own lives.

Two young men meet while attending Harvard. Hugh Shipley comes from money, which really means nothing to him, and he's driven by a need to change the world somehow-- to make a difference. Ed Cantowitz was raised Jewish by a father who was an ex-boxer and a tough character. Ed covets what he doesn't have, and he desires money. On the surface, these two men couldn't seem more different. And yet they develop a relationship as close as brothers.

I think this is probably one of my favorite books ever! The characters were so richly drawn, you truly felt you knew them, understanding their motives and the baggage they carry through life. The story was realistic, and I don't think there was a single moment when I had to suspend disbelief, thinking "Yeah, right."

This story starts in 1962, and runs through 2010. It was fascinating to watch their lives progress over the years, to see how they changed, and yet how they remained the same. To see them through the eyes of their daughters. To view their parallel and yet opposing lives. 

Wonderful writing, straight-forward content, rich characters. A simply brilliant novel!

My final word: This book was a full, rich story. Unadorned and engrossing, it gives a realistic portrayal of the lives of two men. I was constantly amazed at the details thrown in for the character development. Little twists and turns. Even things left out that leave you filling the blanks with little bits that you imagine happened-- things alluded to but never clarified. (There's a nice twist that my mind has decided to fill in, even though it was never even really alluded to.) What can I say? I just loved this book!

My thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be part of this book tour.
Check out the master schedule on their website:

Monday, May 6th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, May 8th:  Book Addict Katie
Thursday, May 9th:  Literally Jen
Monday, May 13th:  Life, Love, & Books
Wednesday, May 15th:  A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, May 16th:  BookNAround
Monday, May 20th:  Becca’s Byline
Tuesday, May 21st:  Luxury Reading
Thursday, May 23rd:  Regular Rumination
Tuesday, May 28th:  My Bookshelf
Wednesday, May 30th:  Love at First Book
Wednesday, May 30th:  Unabridged Chick
Thursday, May 31st:  Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World


Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon


Cover: n/a
Writing Style:
A
Characters:
A+
Storyline/Plot:
A-
Interest/Uniqueness:
A- 


My Rating:

 




Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

AUTHOR Q&A: Bailey J. Thompson, author of Yellow Socks and Blood Spots

Author Bailey J. Thompson has stopped by today to promote her new book Yellow Socks and Blood Spots, just released May 15th. See the bottom of this post for more information on the book, but first a few words from Bailey:





Why was Yellow Socks and Blood Spots written?

It’s a constant battle; heated political abortion debates, religious questions, controversial opinions. The young people faced with the situation and decision every day are seen as victimizers, and are often unable to accurately express themselves for fear that they will be judged, or will cross a line.  Yellow Socks and Blood Spots was written to give such a taboo topic some perspective, and a reason for discussion. I don’t think that we will ever come to a concrete agreement when it comes to the abortion debate, but I do think that we owe it to ourselves to start a conversation.


What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced with this novel?

Telling people what it’s about. I find that when it comes to pro-life and pro-choice, most people already have their minds made up as to which side they’re on... So when you tell them you’ve written such a book, the reactions can be really varied; and sometimes quite extreme.


Originally, Yellow Socks and Blood Spots was to be published under a penname... What made you decide to publish it under your own name afterall?

There is something about publishing controversial novels under pennames first – just to see the reaction. Not only was I nervous about how people; friends and family especially would react to my writing such a novel, I’m also the owner of a children’s book publishing company, Gerbil Meets Mouse Publishing. I don’t have to tell you that this book and kids books don’t exactly go hand-in-hand! But at the end of the day (and a year’s worth of a publishing journey) I decided to just go with it. If I was writing a novel with the  hope that abortion would become less taboo and easier to talk about it, it would be hypocritical to hide behind someone else’s name... right?


If someone approaches you for support on a similar situation as Isabelle, what do you tell them?

Usually, I tell them to go with their heart. I’m not judgemental - in the end, the decision  up to them and I will support them with whichever route they take. I tell them to educate themselves with every option and do not make a decision blindly - this can only hurt you. In the end, you have to disregard what your friends, family, baby’s father says and do what feels right.


You’re a writer, what does that mean to you?

It took me a long time to accept that I was, indeed, a writer. There’s a lot of honour to that title... For the longest time, I would admit that I wrote... but not that I was a writer. So eventually, I had to decide what it meant to be a writer, and ask myself if I was enough of that to let that word define me. So what does it mean to be a writer? I think it’s someone who is obsessed with metaphors, discovers some element of plot or foreshadowing in just about every moment of life... Being a writer means you have to enjoy your own company and look forward to spending an entire day with just yourself and your keyboard. It’s not getting enough sleep because an idea came to you in the middle of the night, and starting to notice the little things; the way your footsteps sound, the way certain things smell, or taste and being able to pinpoint certain emotions and the elements that surround them. All that said, I think the defining moment for me, aside from seeing my first novel in print, was finally admitting just how essential coffee was. 


You’re a young author, what advice do you have for other young authors?

Run with it! Being a writer isn’t all rewards and there are a ton of roadblocks and letdowns. But DREAM BIG and don’t let anything stop you from reaching your goals. A lot of people quit just as they are about to succeed... so if you feel like giving up, sometimes putting in that extra mile will get you to where you’re dreaming of. For the most part, follow your heart, trust your instincts and be passionate about what you do. 


What are your next steps?

I’ve been working on another novel for the past five years. It’s taken a long time for me to understand the story myself, but I think once the excitement from Yellow Socks and Blood Spots has passed, that will be my next big project.

That, and my publishing company, Gerbil Meets Mouse Publishing. I currently have one kid’s book out and two on the way!  2013 promises to be an exciting year



Thanks to Bailey for stopping by today! Be sure to check out her new book, a wonderful accomplishment for anyone of any age, but especially so for someone so young!

Synopsis

Two lines means pregnant, and pregnant is the very last thing seventeen-year-old Isabelle wanted to be. She’s just beginning her senior year, she’s rekindling the respectable relationship she once had with her family and she has finally fallen in love.

Her boyfriend, Jason wants an abortion, while Isabelle wants to give her baby a chance at life, whether that means adoption or raising her baby herself. Her situation raises a question of values, beliefs, rights, societal expectations and personal opinions, and as Isabelle’s friends and family discover the news, they seem to think they know what’s best for her and her baby. Within two weeks of finding out about their beautiful disaster, Isabelle and Jason have to come to a mutual agreement and make a life and death decision.

Release Date: May 15, 2013
Author: Bailey J. Thompson
Publisher: Yellow Iris Press
Website: www.yellowsocksandbloodspots.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/YellowSocksAndBloodSpots


About Bailey

Bailey J Thompson
is a teenage author that resides in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. She has been storytelling since the moment she could talk, and has since developed passions for creative writing, photography, nature and the environment. Yellow Socks and Blood Spots is her debut novel.

Website: www.baileyjthompson.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BaileyJThompson

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Introducing... Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

The dying actress arrived in his village the only way one could come directly-- in a boat that motored into the cove, lurched past the rock jetty, and bumped against the end of the pier. She wavered a moment in the boat's stern, then extended a slender hand to grip the mahogany railing; with the other, she pressed a wide-brimmed hat against her head. All around her, shards of sunlight broke on the flickering waves.

-- Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: A Far Piece to Canaan by Sam Halpern

Synopsis

A warm and nostalgic debut novel from an unexpected source: Sam Halpern, whose salty paternal wisdom made Justin Halpern's Sh*t My Dad Says a phenomenal bestseller.

Inspired by Sam Halpern's childhood in rural Kentucky, A Far Piece to Canaan tells the story of Samuel Zelinsky, a celebrated but troubled retired professor who reluctantly returns after his wife's death to visit a farm in the Kentucky hills where he lived as a child. The son of sharecroppers, Samuel has long since left that life behind-yet now must reconnect with long-buried memories in order to achieve peace.

Delving into the events of 1945, Sam recalls Fred Mulligan, the hired hand's bright and spirited ten-year-old son. Together with two neighbor boys, Samuel and Fred visit the Blue Hole, a legendary pool on the Kentucky River where the hill people believe an evil force lurks. The boys find the body of a dog, surrounded by twisted human footprints, and later discover a cave that offers other evidence that something terrible has transpired. Fearing that they'll be punished for their trespasses, the boys initiate a series of cover-ups and lies that eventually lead to a community disaster.

When the Zelinskys move from the farm, the two boys promise each other that if either of them ever needs help, the other will come to his aid, but after he moves to Indiana and is ridiculed because of his "hillbilly" background, Sam rejects his past.

Now, decades later, Sam is devastated to learn from a fellow classmate about Fred's tragic life story in the years that followed-and manages to make contact with his troubled granddaughter, Lisa June. Though at first she rejects his attempts to reach out to her, through persistence and patience Samuel finally manages to establish a connection, becoming a kind of surrogate grandfather to Lisa June-and finally achieving peace through his late return to Canaan land.

A tale of superstition, secrets, and heroism in the postwar South, A Far Piece to Canaan is the surprising and moving debut of a gifted storyteller.


Paperback, 400 pages
Expected publication: May 28th 2013 by Harper Perennial
ISBN 0062233165 (ISBN13: 9780062233165)


About the Author

I was unable to locate much info on him, other than the back of the book:

Sam Halpern is the legendary father of Justin Halpern, author of the phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller Sh*t My Dad Says. A professor of nuclear medicine, he lives in southern California.


Friend the author on Facebook



My Thoughts
I was exhausted, and the monotonous sound of the commuter plane's engines irritated my already frayed nerves. My subconscious had been tracking the time and I knew I was nearing my destination.
Town/Environment:

This story takes place outside of Lexington on the Kentucky River, in bluegrass country.

Samuel, now a retired professor and widower, returns to the home of his youth in search of redemption and the best friend he's ever had. Raised the son of a sharecropper in Kentucky, this story follows Samuel's time in Harper's Corner, Kentucky. As a young boy, Samuel finds himself entrenched in a dangerous mystery that threatens the entire village, while he and his friends wonder whether they may be able to stop it. As a man, Samuel must come to terms with having abandoned his best friend, and with whether or not he could have made a difference.

I found this book to be a surprisingly sentimental read. Considering the author is also the originator of such hysterically crass and brutally honest statements as those shared by his son via Sh*t My Dad Says, I am amazed at how sweet and touching this story was, especially when being written by a self-described curmudgeon. If you are unfamiliar with the author, he is known for saying things like this to his son...
Engagement rings are pointless. Indians gave cows...Oh sorry, congrats on proposing. We good now? Can I finish my indian story?
I didn't say you were ugly. I said your girlfriend is better looking than you, and standing next to her, you look ugly.
A parent's only as good as their dumbest kid. If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you failed.
...only these are the cleanest quotes that I could find, since he is known for being pretty vulgar and crass (but hysterical and astute)!

The author created a cast of very likable characters. The main character, Samuel Zelinsky, is a sweet boy-- conscientious, respectful and thoughtful. His best friend Fred is likewise a good boy, but shoulders the weight of the world and often has a difficult time managing his depression. But he's a very brave and spirited boy. Likewise I became very fond of their friend Lonnie, who comes from an abusive home and therefore has become tough as nails on the surface (although underneath it all, he is just as sweet as Samuel and Fred).

The speech pattern used among the boys can be difficult to adjust to. The characters speak in the dialect of the Kentucky hills, saying things like "wudn't" (wasn't), "hit's" (it is), and "bob warr'll cut ye" (barbed wire will cut you), which I was able to sort out. But I found myself at a loss with "hun'ney". It looks like "honey", but the one boy Fred would use it often with Samuel, and it seems odd that young Kentucky boys would refer to one another as "Honey". So that one has me stumped!

I have discovered over the last year that I am quite fond of southern literature. There is a richness and depth to the characters that is captivating, and having grown up in the south, a certain familiarity. This book did not disappoint!

I absolutely love the cover! It was what first caught my eye, and then the title, and then the author’s name and claim to fame was the final clincher that sold me. The cover is a little reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Unfortunately my ARC copy began to fall apart within the first 10 pages, shedding pages like a winter coat, but stopped after 40-50 pages in. I’m hoping that this was just the binding used for the ARC, and not the binding used for the actual released edition. I’m sure they’ll figure out the issue before the paperback is released.

My final word: This story continually reminded me of Stephen King's Stand By Me. The friendships that exist amongst a group of boys, the setting, the sense of innocence lost. I love Stand By Me, so I mean the comparison in the best way possible. Samuel, Fred and Lonnie all became characters that I truly cared about. The storyline kept me guessing, there were lots of other colorful characters on the periphery, and ultimately the story was just plain charming.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be part of this book tour.
Check out the master schedule on their website:

Tuesday, May 28th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, May 29th: A Patchwork of Books
Thursday, May 30th: SusieBookworm
Monday, June 3rd: bookchickdi
Tuesday, June 4th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Wednesday, June 5th: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, June 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, June 11th: BookNAround
Monday, June 17th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Friday, June 28th: As I turn the pages


Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon


Cover: A+
Writing Style:
B+
Characters:
A
Storyline/Plot:
A-
Interest/Uniqueness:
A-

My Rating:





Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mailbox Monday (05/27/13 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Abi at 4 the LOVE of BOOKS. I've received a few new books recently:

The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne
Received through LibraryThing
 
In this stylish, haunting novel, journalist and novelist Lawrence Osborne explores the reverberations of a random accident on the lives of Moroccan Muslims and Western visitors who converge on a luxurious desert villa for a decadent weekend-long party. 

David and Jo Henniger, a doctor and children's book author, in search of an escape from their less than happy lives in London, accept the invitation of their old friends Richard and Dally to attend their annual bacchanal at their home deep in the Moroccan desert – a ksar they have acquired and renovated into a luxurious retreat.  On the way, the Hennigers stop for lunch, and the bad-tempered David can't resist consuming most of a bottle of wine.  Back on the road, darkness has descended, David is groggy, and the directions to the ksar are vague.  Suddenly, two young men spring from the roadside, apparently attempting to interest passing drivers in the fossils they have for sale.  Panicked, David swerves toward the two, leaving one dead on the road and the other running into the hills.

At the ksar, the festivities have begun: Richard and Dally’s international friends sit down to a lavish dinner prepared and served by a large staff of Moroccans.  As the night progresses and the debauchery escalates, the Moroccans increasingly view the revelers as the godless "infidels" they are.  When David and Jo show up late with the dead body of the young man in their car, word spreads among the locals that David has committed an unforgivable act.

Thus the stage is set for a weekend during which David and Jo must come to terms with David's misdeed, Jo's longings, and their own deteriorating relationship, and the flamboyant Richard and Dally must attempt to keep their revelers entertained despite growing tension from their staff and the Moroccan Berber father who comes to claim his son's body.

With spare, evocative prose, searing eroticism, and a gift for the unexpected, Osborne memorably portrays the privileged guests wrestling with their secrets amidst the remoteness and beauty of the desert landscape.  He also gradually reveals the jolting back-story of the young man who was killed and leaves David’s fate in the balance as the novel builds to a shattering conclusion.



City of Women by David R. Gillham
Received through Shelf Awareness and publisher

Whom do you trust, whom do you love, and who can be saved? 

It is 1943 — the height of the Second World War — and Berlin has essentially become a city of women. 


Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime. But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. Her lover is a Jew.

But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets.

A high ranking SS officer and his family move down the hall and Sigrid finds herself pulled into their orbit.  A young woman doing her duty-year is out of excuses before Sigrid can even ask her any questions.  And then there’s the blind man selling pencils on the corner, whose eyes Sigrid can feel following her from behind the darkness of his goggles.

Soon Sigrid is embroiled in a world she knew nothing about, and as her eyes open to the reality around her, the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse. She must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two.

In this page-turning novel, David Gillham explores what happens to ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times, and how the choices they make can be the difference between life and death.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

TLC BOOK TOUR and REVIEW: Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende

Synopsis

Isabel Allende’s latest novel, set in the present day (a new departure for the author), tells the story of a 19-year-old American girl who finds refuge on a remote island off the coast of Chile after falling into a life of drugs, crime, and prostitution. There, in the company of a torture survivor, a lame dog, and other unforgettable characters, Maya Vidal writes her story, which includes pursuit by a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. In the process, she unveils a terrible family secret, comes to understand the meaning of love and loyalty, and initiates the greatest adventure of her life: the journey into her own soul.

Hardcover, 387 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Harper (first published 2011)
ISBN 0062105620 (ISBN13: 9780062105622)



About the Author

Isabel Allende Llona is a Chilean-American novelist. Allende, who writes in the "magic realism" tradition, is considered one of the first successful women novelists in Latin America. She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together. She has lectured and done extensive book tours and has taught literature at several US colleges. She currently resides in California with her husband. Allende adopted U.S. citizenship in 2003.

Check out the author's website
Friend the author on Facebook
Follow the author on Twitter


My Thoughts
A week ago my grandmother gave me a dry-eyed hug at the San Francisco airport and told me again that if I valued my life at all, I should not get in touch with anyone I knew until we could be sure  my enemies were no longer looking for me.
Town/Environment:

The "present day" portion of this story takes place in the archipelago islands of Chiloe, a part of Chile. 
By Alastair Rae from London, United Kingdom (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A young woman finds herself hidden away on a remote island in Chile, on the run from...I'm not sure she even knew just who she was running from. After months as a runaway, living on the streets of Vegas, immersed in a life of drugs and prostitution, she is now sober and hiding out on this island, surrounded with odd individuals and misfits who become her family, as she reminisces and slowly leads us through the story of her past, revealing herself to us.

Maya is a feisty girl and a bit of a rebel, but good at heart. She's just damaged by her past. She loved her grandfather more than anyone, and when she lost him, she lost her bearings and began a downward spiral.

We find Maya living on an island in Chiloe, and her story flips back and forth between past and present, helping to break up the suspense, which builds and builds in her backstory.

The island is a superstitious area...
...if I’m walking at night, I’m supposed to carry a clean knife and salt, because if I cross paths with a black dog with one ear lopped off, that’s a brujo, and in order to get away I have to trace a cross in the air with the knife and scatter salt. (page 47)
...and filled with people who, while generally positive and living with an exuberance for life, tend to expect bad things to happen...
People have a resigned philosophy toward these-- trials sent by God, they call them-- but they get nervous if time goes by without a misfortune. My Nina’s like that, always expecting the sky to fall on her head. (page 111)
And while a bit "backward" at times, Chiloe grows on Maya...
"When I arrived, I described Chiloe as the ass end of the world, Daniel, but now I know it’s the eye of the galaxy,” I told him. (page 215-6)
This was my first introduction to the author Isabel Allende, although she has been on my Wish List for quite awhile now (and my book club is preparing to read her book Island Beneath the Sea), and I found she has a very easy-to-read writing style, but can be appropriately lyrical at moments.
My body is a ripe peach, ready to be savored or to fall from the branch and smash into pulp on the ground among the ants. (page 295)
My final word: This suspenseful story is told in a muted tone. Maya is at times an abrasive and spunky protagonist, coming to terms with her adulthood and the need to let go of the past in order to move forward in life. At times gritty and hard-hitting, other times sentimental and moving, the story is always intriguing and pulls you along to the very end. My only real complaint is that a couple of areas just sort of petered out. There were characters introduced who just disappeared, and I had a hard time understanding the part they played in the story, or I actually really grew to like them and wanted to know what happened to them, only to find they quietly disappeared into the night. And the ending fell just a bit flat for me. But it's okay. I was ultimately satisfied with the story.
 
My thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be part of this book tour.
Check out the master schedule on their website:

Wednesday, April 24th: Twisting the Lens
Thursday, April 25th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, April 29th: A Dream Within a Dream
Tuesday, April 30th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Thursday, May 2nd: A Bookish Affair
Monday, May 6th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, May 7th: Drey’s Library
Wednesday, May 8th: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, May 9th: Speaking of Books
Monday, May 13th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, May 14th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, May 15th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Thursday, May 16th: What She Read … - joint review
Monday, May 20th: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, May 21st: Man of La Book
Wednesday, May 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, May 23rd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, May 30th: Peppermint PhD

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon


Cover: A
Writing Style:
A-
Characters:
B+
Storyline/Plot:
A-
Interest/Uniqueness:
A-

My Rating:




Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes may differ from the actual published release.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mailbox Monday (5/13/13 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Abi at 4 the LOVE of BOOKS. I've received a few new books recently:

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer
Won from No More Grumpy Bookseller

Queenie Wake, a country girl from North Star, Texas, has just been fired from her job as a chef for not allowing a customer to use ketchup. Again. Now the only place she has to go is home to North Star. She can hope, maybe things will be different. Maybe her family's reputation as those Wake women will have been forgotten. It's been years since her mother-notorious for stealing your man, your car, and your rent money-was killed. And her sister, who as a teenager was branded as a gold-digging harlot after having a baby with local golden boy Wes McKay, is now the mother of the captain of the high school football team. It can't be that bad…

Who knew that people in small town Texas had such long memories? And of course Queenie wishes that her memory were a little spottier when feelings for her high school love, Everett Coburn, resurface. He broke her heart and made her leave town-can she risk her heart again?

At least she has a new job-sure it's cooking last meals for death row inmates but at least they don't complain!

But when secrets from the past emerge, will Queenie be able to stick by her family or will she leave home again? A fun-filled, touching story of food, football, and fooling around.


A Far Piece to Canaan by Sam Halpern
Received through TLC Book Tours

A warm and nostalgic debut novel from an unexpected source: Sam Halpern, whose salty paternal wisdom made Justin Halpern's Sh*t My Dad Says a phenomenal bestseller.

Inspired by Sam Halpern's childhood in rural Kentucky, A Far Piece to Canaan tells the story of Samuel Zelinsky, a celebrated but troubled retired professor who reluctantly returns after his wife's death to visit a farm in the Kentucky hills where he lived as a child. The son of sharecroppers, Samuel has long since left that life behind-yet now must reconnect with long-buried memories in order to achieve peace.

Delving into the events of 1945, Sam recalls Fred Mulligan, the hired hand's bright and spirited ten-year-old son. Together with two neighbor boys, Samuel and Fred visit the Blue Hole, a legendary pool on the Kentucky River where the hill people believe an evil force lurks. The boys find the body of a dog, surrounded by twisted human footprints, and later discover a cave that offers other evidence that something terrible has transpired. Fearing that they'll be punished for their trespasses, the boys initiate a series of cover-ups and lies that eventually lead to a community disaster.

When the Zelinskys move from the farm, the two boys promise each other that if either of them ever needs help, the other will come to his aid, but after he moves to Indiana and is ridiculed because of his "hillbilly" background, Sam rejects his past.

Now, decades later, Sam is devastated to learn from a fellow classmate about Fred's tragic life story in the years that followed-and manages to make contact with his troubled granddaughter, Lisa June. Though at first she rejects his attempts to reach out to her, through persistence and patience Samuel finally manages to establish a connection, becoming a kind of surrogate grandfather to Lisa June-and finally achieving peace through his late return to Canaan land.

A tale of superstition, secrets, and heroism in the postwar South, A Far Piece to Canaan is the surprising and moving debut of a gifted storyteller.


Elders by Ryan McIlvain
Received through Read It Forward

Elder McLeod—outspoken, surly, a brash American—is nearing the end of his mission in Brazil. For nearly two years he has spent his days studying the Bible and the Book of Mormon, knocking on doors, teaching missionary lessons—“experimenting on the word.” His new partner is Elder Passos, a devout, ambitious Brazilian who found salvation and solace in the church after his mother’s early death. The two men are at first suspicious of each other, and their work together is frustrating, fruitless. That changes when a beautiful woman and her husband offer the missionaries a chance to be heard, to put all of their practice to good use, to test the mettle of their faith.  But before they can bring the couple to baptism, they must confront their own long-held beliefs and doubts, and the simmering tensions at the heart of their friendship. 

A novel of unsparing honesty and beauty, Elders announces Ryan McIlvain as a writer of enormous talent.


Books purchased from Barnes and Noble:

The Return Man by V.M. Zito

The outbreak tore the USA in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who - or what - is watching you.


The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

The Worm Ouroboros weaves strands from Norse saga, Greek myth, and Elizabethan drama together with magical adventure to produce one of the most eccentric masterpieces of English literature. Anticipating J. R. R. Tolkien by a few decades, E. R. Eddison imagined an Other World full of wonders and a huge cast of warriors, witches, and monsters. He also invented one of the truly distinctive styles in English prose. Its language is densely ornamented and deliberately archaic, but also precise, vigorous, and flexible enough to convey wistful tenderness one minute and violent action the next. In the decades since its first publication in 1922, The Worm Ouroboros has become a touchstone for lovers of fantasy literature, influencing several generations of writers and treasured by readers who fall under its spell.

(This book caught my eye, because I have a tattoo of an ouroboros, although mine is in a figure 8 rather than a circle.)

 
  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

REVIEW: Ten White Geese (The Detour) by Gerbrand Bakker

Synopsis

The eagerly anticipated, internationally bestselling new novel by the winner of the world’s richest literary prize for a single work of fiction

A woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. An Emily Dickinson scholar, she has fled Amsterdam, having just confessed to an affair. On the farm she finds ten geese. One by one they disappear. Who is this woman? Will her husband manage to find her? The young man who stays the night: why won’t he leave? And the vanishing geese?

Set against a stark and pristine landscape, and with a seductive blend of solace and menace, this novel of stealth intrigue summons from a woman’s silent longing fugitive moments of profound beauty and compassion.



About the Author
(being Dutch, it's hard to find info on him that is in English)

Gerbrand Bakker is a Dutch writer. In 2010, he won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for the English translation of his novel, The Twin (Boven is het stil).

Check out his website (it's in Dutch)
Check out the author on Wikipedia


My Thoughts
Early one morning she saw the badgers. They were near the stone circle she had discovered a few days earlier and wanted to see at dawn. She had always thought of them as peaceful, shy and somehow lumbering animals, but they were fighting and hissing.
Town/Environment:

This story takes place in Wales.
By User:Gdr (Photograph by en user User:Gdr) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
NOTE: My ARC was called Ten White Geese, but it seems the title may have been changed to The Detour.

The woman appears almost mysteriously, renting the little cottage recently left empty after the previous owner died. She keeps to herself and spends her time fixing up the place. Enter the young man on a journey with his dog, and they all find a quiet existence together. 

This was a very quiet, slow-moving story. It sort of reminded me of a little known Sean Connery movie called Five Days One Summer. Just slow and meandering, light on the dialogue, picturesque.

The setting for this story is a very idyllic place, with things like “the kissing gate”, the stone circle,  geese, pond, and charming bakers in town.
Never before had she seen so many stars. Never before had she looked up at them naked on her knees in late November. (page 72)
I had no idea how much of a "mystery" this story would be. The character Emily is mysterious. You don't know why she is at this cottage, and are given glimpses into her other life. You don't know who this boy is that shows up with his dog, or what his intentions are. What about the other characters? Who was the woman who lived in the cottage before Emily? And what about those darn geese and sheep? Who do they belong to?
It was just those geese; they were peculiar. Had she rented the geese too? And one morning a large flock of black sheep suddenly appeared in the field beside the road, every one with a white blaze and a long white-tipped tail. On her land. Who did they belong to? (page 10)
There are allusions early on to Emily's failing health, but this isn't clarified until later on. Perhaps this is the reason she is so impersonal and nondescript. The boy is generally referred to as “the boy” and the dog as “the dog”. Names are rarely used. She doesn’t want to be personally involved, and wants to be alone.
The dog had slipped away from his warm spot in front of the cooker and when she quietly climbed the first half of the staircase she saw him lying in front of the closed bathroom door. He raised his head and watched her attentively. She shook her head and went downstairs again and the dog followed her. (page 82)
The boy and the dog had their own smells, especially the dog, and she hadn’t put the lid back on the soup pan. (page 84)
My final word: This story was well-written, and beautifully descriptive, making it easy for me to see the green hills, stone walls, quaint cottage, elusive geese. I didn't realize just how much of a mysterious bent the story would carry, but I enjoyed it. And it really sparked an interest in Emily Dickenson, with little blurbs of Dickenson poetry throughout. My one complaint is that there were a few dangling plotlines that left me hanging. Characters and ideas would be introduced only to fade away, questions arose and were left unanswered. But overall I enjoyed it. If you enjoy a quiet story with beautiful scenery, give this one a shot.

And I'll leave you with a Dickenson poem that I was introduced to, thanks to this book:

TWO butterflies went out at noon   
And waltzed above a stream,   
Then stepped straight through the firmament   
And rested on a beam;   

And then together bore away
Upon a shining sea,—   
Though never yet, in any port,   
Their coming mentioned be.   

If spoken by the distant bird,   
If met in ether sea
By frigate or by merchantman,   
Report was not to me.


Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon

Cover: A-
Writing Style: A-
Characters: B+
Storyline/Plot: B+
Interest/Uniqueness: B


My Rating:




Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Introducing... A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Herson

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Had he described Hugh Shipley at all over the past three years, approachable would not have been a word he'd ever have used. But one warm autumn night during his senior year, Ed Catowitz found himself grabbing Hugh Shipley's arm in front of Lamont Library the way he might otherwise grab a Budweiser at Cronin's. They were not friends; they'd spoken only in passing this year, and mostly after the Shakespeare seminar in which they were both enrolled, but Ed Cantowitz was not thinking of how Hugh Shipley might find him off-putting or offensive, because, as usual, Ed Cantowitz was thinking about himself.

-- A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mailbox Monday (5/6/13)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted by MariReads. I've received a few new books recently:

Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison
Won from Confessions of an Avid Reader

St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin’s body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family—including the headstrong Prince Alyosha. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s miraculous healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to Aloysha, who suffers from hemophilia, a blood disease that keeps the boy confined to his sickbed, lest a simple scrape or bump prove fatal.

Two months after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha grieve the loss of their former lives, finding solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, they tell stories—some embellished and some entirely imagined—about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s many exploits, and the wild and wonderful country on the brink of an irrevocable transformation. In the worlds of their imagination, the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close at hand.

Mesmerizing, haunting, and told in Kathryn Harrison’s signature crystalline prose, Enchantments is a love story about two people who come together as everything around them is falling apart.


All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg
Won through Book Trib

Three women are about to find their lives intertwined in ways none of them could ever have imagined. . . .

Brooke has been happily married to her college sweetheart for fifteen years. Even after the C-section, the dog poop, the stomach viruses, and the coffee breath, Scott still always winks at her at just the right moments. That is why, for her beloved, romantic, successful husband's fortieth birthday, she is giving him pictures. Of her. Naked.

Samantha's newlywed bliss is steamrolled when she finds shocking evidence of infidelity on her husband's computer. She has been married for two days. She won't be for much longer.

Katherine works eighteen hours a day for the man who irreparably shattered her heart fifteen years ago. She has a duplex on Park Avenue, a driver, a chef, and a stunning house in Southampton, and she bought it all herself. So what if she has to see Phillip every single workday for the rest of her natural life? Brooke, Samantha, and Katherine don't know one another, but all three are about to discover the conquering power of friendship--and that they have all they could ask for, as long as they have one another.



Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Received through TLC Book Tours

Flight Behavior transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman's narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire. In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel's inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence. Characters and reader alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

Flight Behavior takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.



Books I purchased from Barnes and Noble:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.


The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.

3 books in one volume: The Thieving Magpie, Bird as Prophet, The Birdcatcher. This translation by Jay Rubin is in collaboration with the author.


Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation—the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart - and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed - a dark subculture flourishing in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city - a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known... 

Martha's American Food by Martha Stewart

 In this beautiful volume, a love letter to American food, Martha Stewart, who has so significantly influenced the American table, collects her most favorite national dishes, as well as the stories and traditions behind them. These are recipes that will delight you with nostalgia, inspire you, and teach you about our nation by way of its regions and their distinctive flavors. Above all, these are time-honored recipes that you will turn to again and again.

Organized geographically, the 200 recipes in Martha’s American Food include main dishes such as comforting Chicken Pot Pies, easy Grilled Fish Tacos, irresistible Barbecued Ribs, and hearty New England Clam Chowder. Here, too, are thoroughly modern starters, sides, and one-dish meals that harness the bounty of each region’s seasons and landscape: Hot Crab Dip, Tequila-Grilled Shrimp, Indiana Succotash, Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Whitefish, and Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Meyer Lemon, Arugula, and Pistachios. And you will want to leave room for dessert, with dozens of treats such as Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Pie, New York Cheesecake, and Peach and Berry Cobbler.

Through sidebars about the flavors that define each region and stunning photography that brings the foods—and the places with which we identify them—to life, Martha celebrates the unique character of each part of the country. With all the dishes that inspire pride in our national cuisine, Martha’s American Food gathers, in one place, the recipes that will surely please your family and friends for generations to come.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bookcase Door

Okay! I want a bookcase closet door in place of every doorway in my house!
Shared from Gizmodo

REVIEW: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Synopsis

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?
  
Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.


Hardcover, 370 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by Crown Publishing Group
ISBN 1400052173 (ISBN13: 9781400052172)



About the Author

Rebecca Skloot is an award winning science writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many other publications. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She has worked as a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW. She and her father, Floyd Skloot, are co-editors of The Best American Science Writing 2011 . You can read a selection of Rebecca Skloot's magazine writing on the Articles page of this site.

Check out the author's website
Follow the author on Twitter
Friend the author on Facebook
Fan the author on Goodreads


My Thoughts
There's a photo on my wall of a woman I've never met, its left corner torn and patched together with tape. She looks straight into the camera and smiles, hands on hips, dress suit neatly pressed, lips painted red. It's the late 1940s and she hasn't yet reached the age of thirty. Her light brown skin is smooth, her eyes still young and playful, oblivious to the tumor growing inside her-- a tumor that would leave her five children motherless and change the future of medicine. Beneath the photo, a caption says her name is "Henrietta Lacks, Helen Lane or Helen Larson."
Back in the '50s, a poor young black mother and wife by the name of Henrietta Lacks found herself in John Hopkins hospital dying from cervical cancer. While treating her and in the course of taking samples and running tests,the doctors took a little extra tissue to do some private testing, without her knowledge, only to discover that her cancerous cells were unique and would go on to help countless scientific studies and lead to breakthroughs in research and medicine. And all of this happened without her knowledge, and with no benefit to her surviving family.

Author Rebecca Skloot spent years researching this story, patiently gaining the trust of surviving family members, becoming friends with many of them and even becoming like family to at least one. She grew to care about the characters involved in her story, and wanted to bring some humanity to Henrietta and her descendants.

While the tissue samples were used for private laboratory experimentation without Henrietta's knowledge, you get the feeling that if she'd known about it, she would have agreed to it. She was by all appearances a kind, generous, giving woman, and probably would have readily agreed to donating her tissue if she thought it could help anyone. But the way they were taken is indicative of the tmes. They didn't need permission to obtain or retain tissue or organs from you during surgery or procedures, if obtaining such wasn't harmful to the patient. And a time when there were rumors of white doctors kidnapping blacks on the streets around John Hopkins and doing research and experiments on them. This was not a totally preposterous idea:
Black scientists and technicians, many of them women, used cells from a black woman to help save the lives of millions of Americans, most of them white. And they did so on the same campus-- and at the very same time-- that state officials were conducting the infamous Tuskegee syphilis studies. (page 106)
The idea was revolutionary. The Hippocratic Oath, written in the fourth century BC, didn’t require patient consent. And though the American Medical Association had issued rules protecting laboratory animals in 1910, no such rules existed for humans until Nuremberg. (page 137)
And with the way that the Lacks family was misled and even lied to, who can blame them for their mistrust of the medical and scientific community?

Perhaps the most indelible character in the book, aside from Henrietta herself, is that of Henrietta's daughter Deborah, who is the toughest for Rebecca to win over, and yet their relationship grows to be the deepest and most significant. On a personal level, one of the things that I loved most about Deborah were her attempts to do what was best for her kids, and her desire to educate herself and to understand more of what happened to her mother's cells and what they meant to science and medicine.

Another character that made an impression on me, though not really in a good way, was Dr. Alexis Carrel. He made history with his immortal chicken heart. Unfortunately he wasn’t concerned with his landmarks in science and research benefiting mankind at large.
He was a eugenicist: organ transplantation and life extension were ways to preserve what he saw as the superior white race, which he believed was being polluted by less intelligent and inferior stock, namely the poor, uneducated, and nonwhite. He dreamed of never-ending life for those he deemed worthy, and death or forced sterilization for everyone else. He’d later praise Hitler for the “energetic measures” he took in that direction. (page 71)
The feebleminded and the man of genius should not be equal before the law,” he wrote. “The stupid, the unintelligent, those who are dispersed, incapable of attention, of effort, have no right to a higher education. (page 72)
I think his research is probably the basis for the spooky Chicken Heart “ghost story” that my friend used to tell when we were kids, a story which I think she got from Bill Cosby. The book alludes to a 1930s radio horror show that fictionalized Carrel’s research.
But the fear of tissue culture truly found its way into American living rooms in an episode of Lights Out, a 1930s radio horror show that told the story of a fictional Dr. Alberts who’d created an immortal chicken heart in his lab. It grew out of control, filling the city streets like The Blob, consuming everyone and everything in its path. In only two weeks it destroyed the entire country. (page 73)
I loved the names of the family members that made up this story and I noted at one point “Who needs fiction with colorful characters like these?”
Young Day was what the Lacks family called a sneak baby: a man named Johnny Coleman had passed through town; nine months later Day arrived. A twelve-year-old cousin and midwife name Munchie delivered him, blue as a stormy sky and not breathing. (page 32)

My final word: This book brings to life a woman who died over 60 years ago, and tells Henrietta's story and that of her family with compassion and respect. The book is easy to follow, and isn't muddied with complicated scientific principles or language. The author is a layman, and she writes this story as a layman. This book is great for a controversial book club read, as there are so many ethical questions in regards to what the doctors did and how the scientific community has benefited from Henrietta's cells, while her family can't even get medical care.

And to shine a final light on the far-reaching arms of HeLa cells...
There’s no way of knowing exactly how many of Henrietta’s cells are alive today. One scientist estimates that if you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons-- an inconceivable number, given that an individual cell weighs almost nothing. Another scientist calculated that if you could lay all HeLa cells ever grown end-to-end, they’d wrap around the Earth at least three times, spanning more than 350 million feet. In her prime, Henrietta herself stood only a bit over five feet tall. (page 17)

Buy Now:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble


My Rating:


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Introducing... Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

A week ago my grandmother gave me a dry-eyed hug at the San Francisco airport and told me again that if I valued my life at all, I should not get in touch with anyone I knew until we could be sure  my enemies were no longer looking for me. My Nini is paranoid, as the residents of the People's Independent Republic of Berkeley tend to be, persecuted as they are by the government and extraterrestrials, but in my case she wasn't exaggerating: no amount of precaution could ever be enough. She handed me a hundred-page notebook so I could keep a diary, as I did from the age of eight until I was fifteen, when my life went off the rails.

-- Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende