Thursday, June 23, 2011

We'll have us a little book barbecue in the yard.

Ahh summer. How do I love thee?

Probably not really the way to answer the question, but I love summer by reading books. And here are my reviews.

(Side note: I went to a new book club on Tuesday, and one of the women there was talking about how she keeps a notebook and one of the others said that she was inspired and has started doing it too. I asked what she wrote in the notebook, and she said, oh when I read the book, who recommended it, passages that I liked, and a review. And then I almost said, oh yeah, I just keep that on my blog. But before I said it I realized it might make me sound a little crazy. So glad I caught myself.)


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks -- Rebecca Skloot
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The story: This is a non-fiction book about a woman named Henrietta Lacks. She was an African-American woman in the fifties who died of cervical cancer. Before she died, the doctors harvested some of her cells. They tried to get her cells to grow in a petri dish. Amazingly her cancerous cells did. Because they kept growing, they have been used in all kinds of experiments and have been used to further science and medical breakthroughs.

The review: This was excellent. Skloot writes really clearly and explains some very complicated science very easily. Her focus is on Henrietta Lacks' family and what has happened to them since their mother's cells have been growing all over the world. It becomes a deeply personal human interest story.

My only disappointment was that Skloot kept saying different things that the HeLa cells had been used for and didn't explain the results. So for example, the cells were taken to the moon. And I'm dying of curiosity, what happened to them on the moon? But there was no answer to that.


My Name is Mary Sutter -- Robin Oliveira
My Name Is Mary Sutter: A Novel

The story: Set during the Civil War, Mary Sutter is a young midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon. She is denied admission to all the medical schools because she is a woman, and so she takes the chance of going to war. Her first hope is to become a nurse, and so the novel follows her time at war.

The review: This was good. The character of Mary was very likable, and Oliveira did a good job with the historical information. It was an entertaining read.

My one disappointment was the ending. And I won't explain that because I don't want to spoil it, but I finished the book feeling rather dissatisfied.


Bossypants -- Tina Fey

Jamie gave me this book for my birthday.

The story: Tina Fey writes about her life.

The review: It was hilarious. I totally laughed out loud while reading different parts. Seriously, when was the last time you laughed out loud at a book? (Ok, if it was yesterday, then clearly we aren't reading the same kinds of books). And there were also parts that I was like, "Preach it! Amen!"

A funny part:
Fey talks about going to the doctor and passing out. So she passed out the first time, and they wake her up and try to do the procedure again, and she passes out again. She says, "I'm amazed I didn't wake up in Spanish mode!"
Toy Story Buzz Lightyear

A "Preach it" part:
After describing a time when she was really skinny and a time when she was fat. "We should leave people alone about their weight. Being chubby for a while (provided you don't give yourself diabetes) is a natural phase of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Like puberty or slowly turning into a Republican."


Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
The Forever Queen

The story: A historical fiction novel about a queen in ancient England (like viking times).

The review: Ok, here we should call the review "The honest truth." I have not finished this book. I think I am 30% through.

And I have no intention of finishing this book. (Unless Heather reads it and tells me it suddenly gets amazing and I absolutely have to finish it).

I can't get in to the characters. Because this is supposed to be historical fiction, there are things going on that Hollick seems to expect her reader to know about, because it is really not explained. But I know next to nothing about the vikings and England during that time period, so I am spending most of the reading being frustrated and confused. And why does every character have the same name!

Some books that I am reading for school -- which doesn't make them bad books or boring in any way

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn -- Mark Twain
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (The Ignatius Critical Editions)

Do these really need reviews? If you haven't read Huck Finn, go read it. It's actually very entertaining and a quicker read than I remembered.


The Great Gatsby -- F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby

I remember reading the Great Gatsby in high school and really feeling like I didn't get it at all. But it is a really good read as an adult. It is very short -- I read it in an afternoon -- and a good story. Although, you really have to wonder about Nick Carraway.


Writing as a Way of Healing -- Louise DeSalvo

Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives

I picked this based on a suggestion I read in one of my textbooks or higher ed reviews. I thought it might give me some ideas for how to help some really struggling students that I have.

It did.

DeSalvo does an excellent job of compiling research and explaining how writing can really help you recover from a trauma. She still emphasizes the need for trained professional therapists. But a lot of this book is focused on how a normal non-writing person can use writing to help them. Then she takes that and talks about how a normal person can then use all of this writing to become a writer. That part was less helpful, but if you are looking for some tips, this was a good book.

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