A story of family and friends coming to grips with who they are and redefining their lives in the process.
These have to be some of the most real, viviA story of family and friends coming to grips with who they are and redefining their lives in the process.
These have to be some of the most real, vivid characters I've ever encountered in a novel. Really incredible. So why didn't I give the book 5-stars? I just wasn't compelled or all that interested in the story until about 2/3 of the way through the book.
If you love great, interesting, complex and evolving characters, this is the book for you. If you need a bit more plot, maybe not.
I also wonder if some of my inability to latch-on to the story was that it was set in Manhattan? I've always found the ways of New York life to be foreign, and I never quite 'get' it.
I really loved how the book captured the mid-eighties, like a little time-capsule. There were quite a few pop-culture references, which was nostalgic. I was also fascinated by the discussions of AIDS and how it was impacting the gay community in those early days....more
I'm wavering between 4 and 5 stars. I really, really enjoyed the story and the writing, and I was totally absorbed. So, even though the book has flawsI'm wavering between 4 and 5 stars. I really, really enjoyed the story and the writing, and I was totally absorbed. So, even though the book has flaws, I rounded up to 5.
An alternate-history detective story. The novel is set in 1949 in an England that negotiated a peace agreement with the Third Reich just 9 years previAn alternate-history detective story. The novel is set in 1949 in an England that negotiated a peace agreement with the Third Reich just 9 years previously. An aristocrat is murdered at the Farthing estate on the eve of an election and in the midst of social change in democratic Britain.
This was feeling like a 3-star book until the last handful of chapters. Also, this excellent review from BunWat gives me much more respect for the book and the setting.
My first Banana! Yoshimoto! The book contains both a novelette and a short story that meditate on how the living cope and survive after losing loved oMy first Banana! Yoshimoto! The book contains both a novelette and a short story that meditate on how the living cope and survive after losing loved ones. Other themes in the book: transgender folks, the kitchen as the heart of the home, cooking to meditate and medicate, and reaching out to other people.
Sparse but evocative writing. The stories are quite non-linear - the reader has to put the pieces together to get the whole story. I love playing that game, but you may not.
The descriptions of Japanese food made me very hungry. I might have to head down to Little Tokyo soon for some Katsudon....more
I'm afraid to admit that I'm abandoning this anthology. I seem to be in the wrong demographic. All the stories appear to be fantasy, and very squarelyI'm afraid to admit that I'm abandoning this anthology. I seem to be in the wrong demographic. All the stories appear to be fantasy, and very squarely in YA territory. A couple were sort-of interesting, but most just fizzled. The recall notice from the library sealed its fate. Too bad....more
A fun, fantastical YA story about standing your ground especially when you are at a crossroads, and a strong analytical girl who needs to be brave enoA fun, fantastical YA story about standing your ground especially when you are at a crossroads, and a strong analytical girl who needs to be brave enough to help the people she loves. _________________
Thirteen year old Natalie Minks loves bicycles, clockwork gadgets, solving puzzles and listening to her mother's endless stories about their town. Growing up in rural Missouri in 1913, she lives near a major crossroads with the ruins of the former town left perplexingly in-tact down the road. One day a travelling medicine show arrives and Natalie is both fascinated and perplexed. She senses that something just isn't right at the Doctor Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show. Can she work it out in time to save the town and her family?
One of the best things about The Boneshaker is Milford's detailed descriptions of the settings:
A Nostrum Fair, it turned out, was very similar to a Technological Medicine Show: frying foods, syrupy sugar smells, penny amusements. Bursts of odd, discordant music from the One-Man Band. Sudden appearances and disappearances of the harlequin in its costume of velvet triangles and bells, capering and somersaulting and then vanishing in a flash of tarnish and motley.
A quick note about the genre: Most of The Boneshaker is historical fiction with supernatural elements with a big helping of mystery and tiny dash of scary ghost story. What's even more fun is that Milford has included lots of steampunk details in the various clockwork machines that pepper the story. It's really fun to imagine the old-fashioned gadgetry.
There are several mysteries happening simultaneously in the story, which makes this an unexpectedly fun, complex read for a young-adult book. (The official recommendation is ages 10 and up, but a book-nerd might do okay with this at 8 or 9 as long as they don't mind slightly scary stories.) The mystery doesn't end with the perplexing charlaitans at the Nostrum Fair. There are also strange happenings in her town, unusual old residents and travelers, Natalie's weird visions, and difficulties in her own family. What's very clever is that Milford gives you just enough clues to solve a few mysteries on your own before they are revealed while others are left as little twists. As a reader, you feel clever while being entertained with surprises.
Each character has unusual quirks. Natalie's mother is absentminded and burning food in the kitchen while her dad is clumsy but mechanically gifted. Doctor Limberleg has fascinating red-peppered-with-gray hair that sticks up and appears to move about on it's own. Natalie herself is simultaneously afraid and brave while she works out how best to confront difficult situations.
My only little nit-pick is that a few characters that were important at the beginning of the story disappear by the end. A couple of those are ancillary characters, but without spoiling anything, one is a fairly major character.
Finally, the line-drawing art in the book is lovely. Make sure you look at a large version of the cover. I could imagine my child-like self examining and re-examining all the details looking for clues. Oh wait, my adult-like self already did that! The handful of full-page images that pepper the book are as rich and detailed as Milford's prose. It's a lovely accompaniment....more
I heard Rebecca Skloot do a reading at Vroman's and it was fracking awesome! I can't wait to dig into the book. It's clear the story is not just aboutI heard Rebecca Skloot do a reading at Vroman's and it was fracking awesome! I can't wait to dig into the book. It's clear the story is not just about the never-ending amazing HeLa cells, but also about Skloot's personal relationship with Henrietta's daughter and family. Remarkable. Everytime I read something about HeLa, I'm always shaking my head thinking "what a wild story!"
It took me way too long to finally get to reading this, and I really regret not reading it sooner. It's that awesome. Skloot mentions in her acknowledgments that she consulted with a small independent bookstore about non-linear storytelling. How cool is that?
Skloot really expanded on the themes at the reading I went to in April, and gave a lot more background information and personal stories behind the scenes. I took a bunch of notes, so I thought those might make a good review.
The reading was awesome - a huge, very diverse crowd. Skloot (which is pronounced as 2 syllables!) is an engaging, thoughtful speaker.
A few interesting bits:
*She has started a foundation to help fund schooling for Henrietta Lack's descendants. She was/is hoping that some of the mega corporations that were founded on the HeLa cell line will donate, but haven't done so yet. Lots of scientists who use the HeLa cells have donated, however. All but one of the family's lawsuits have been denied - the last one is still ongoing.
*Her publisher doesn't "do" book tours, so she had to arrange the tour herself. She hasn't been home since January. Based on the publicity and turnout, her publishers are dunderheads.
*The amount of research that went into the book is staggering. No wonder it took her 10 years to finish the book.
*She first became interested in the HeLa story when she was 16. Her high-school biology teacher mentioned them in class. She asked "who was she, what do her kids think of all this" to which he didn't have an answer, but offered extra credit. Being a teenager, she never did the extra credit assignment. When she got the first copies of the book, she sent him a copy saying "Can I have my extra credit now?" Turns out he didn't even remember her. Haha!
Finally, one of the most curious aspects about the book is that it's not just a science-y story about the amazing HeLa cells, but also about the personal relationship Skloot develops with Deborah Lacks, one of Henrietta's daughters. When she realized the family had been misinformed and mistreated by other scientists and journalists, she offered to take Deborah quite literally on the research with her. Their open friendship meant that the family let her see Henrietta's medical records and Deborah's journals. It's clear that Skloot transformed how the family saw their Mother's cell lines. Today, they are convinced that Henrietta is an angel, helping to cure cancer and advance science. Pretty amazing!
She said over and over the deal with both corporations and Johns Hopkins (who took the cells in the first place) not giving money to the family is that it sets a precedent. When this happened, it was well, well before informed consent laws, private medical record laws etc. Skloot thought that they might feel more legally able to give to a non-profit with a board of governors.
Skuh-loot also mentioned that when the book was first published Johns Hopkins issued a short official response. A few weeks later she was on campus giving a talk to undergrads, and afterwards, a long line of official medical center staff came to tell her that they were very unhappy with the official response and want to try to make things right. Some of those officials have helped the Lacks family apply for free medical care at the hospitals. Also, they now have a requirement that all incoming freshman are to read this book to open up a dialogue about the issues.
The other thing I forgot to mention was why Skloot was interested in HeLa cells in the first place. That story when she was 16, at the time her dad (who had been an author) was in a drug trial - he had had a virus that left him severely brain damaged. She was frequently responsible for taking him to the treatments. The idea of cell-experimentation led her to naturally ask the questions "what about the family."
Seriously, this was one of the best readings I've attended. :)...more