I was amazed to hear about the HeLa cells and how they came to be. Henrietta Lacks was just another poor, black non-paying patient dying of cervical cI was amazed to hear about the HeLa cells and how they came to be. Henrietta Lacks was just another poor, black non-paying patient dying of cervical cancer and the medical community profited (financially) from her till this day. No informed consent, family through the generations did not even know about her special cells and how they radically changed medicine, nor did the family get monies from the use of her cells. And they needed it.
The book is an eye-opener in that way but the book definitely needed a good editor. The focus was on the author's trip to find out more about HeLa and Henrietta and not really on Henrietta. There was a bit too much repetition and needless information or comments....more
A book for this current era where a New York couple struggle to mix both family and work into a satisfying life. Alice and Nicholas Bauer seem to haveA book for this current era where a New York couple struggle to mix both family and work into a satisfying life. Alice and Nicholas Bauer seem to have all they need. Nicholas is at Sutherland Courtfield law firm working towards partnership. Alice is a part-time book editor for a glamour magazine. There three children, Margot, Oliver and Georgie, plus dog Cornelius have moved from the city to a suburban house they hope to renovate to their tastes. While the parents work the children are watched over by long-time babysitter Jessie. And just down the road is friend Susanna's local bookstore Blue Owl Books. But not is all it seems.
Nicholas one day is told by a partner that he will not make partnership and Nicholas throws a fit and is dismissed from the firm. So he decides he will just make it on his own. But that means facing financial crisis so Alice has to find a better paying and full-time job that her magazine just can't give her. Genevieve Andrews approaches Alice about a job with Scroll -- a company that is owned by the Rockwell brothers who hope to start up bookstores called MainStreet that will allow customers to sit and read surrounded by both rare and regular books (with fancy cafes too). Alice jumps at the chance which leaves her family in a crisis.
Jessie plans to move on so who will watch the children? Nicholas struggles with starting up his own firm plus the problem with drink and inaction. Alice's parents are faced with the possibility that her father's throat cancer has returned (the first time the lawyer lost his vocal chords and ended up losing his profession). Her brother William quits his well paying job and becomes an instructor for outward bound.
And to finish it off Genevieve and Mainstreet may not be all that it has promised. As Alice struggles with continuous changes at MainStreet and her effort to control the constant work interruptions all day and night long (here we have the smartphone predicament of how to not be working 24-7) her family begins to implode. It doesn't help that her great friend Susanna's bookstore may not be long for this world ...
Chick lit with a bit of the current problems facing many families in a world where computers, smartphones, and businesses that become omnipotent are a fact of life. ...more
Based on the true family of John Brown the story starts at Brown's imminent death after the Harper's Ferry revolt. Sarah is a middle girl of many siblBased on the true family of John Brown the story starts at Brown's imminent death after the Harper's Ferry revolt. Sarah is a middle girl of many siblings (most of the sons also perished at Harper's Ferry with their father) and was the "map-maker" for her father's Underground Railroad group. Older sister Annie and mother Mary are the other Browns to make up the 1850-60 story that mostly focuses on Sarah in a time before and during the Civil War. Seeing her father one last time before he is hung she meets Preacher George Hill and his son Freddie. George and Freddie offer the Brown family a place to stay for a few days and Sarah meets Alice, the simple minded daughter of George and Priscilla plus Siby Fisher, a freed slave who works for them. Sparks fly between Sarah and Freddie but both history and her inability to bear children due to a childhood illness stands between them. Other historical names pop up in Sarah's life including Louisa May Alcott (a very good friend), Nan Santi and Mary Artemisia Lathbury who cultivates Sarah's artistic abilities.
But there is more to just the Brown story as another current family story is also told in alternating chapters. Eden and Jack have moved to New Charleston WV to Apple Hill Farm. Eden has faced several miscarriages and this has caused a serious rift between husband and wife who both have tried hard and many avenues to have children. Jack comes home one day with a small dog, Cricket, and after a terrible start Eden begins to fall for the animal. It is helped by an 11-year old orphaned child, Cleo, who lives next door with her banker Grandfather. Slowly Eden begins to soften from the harsh angry nag she had become to one who begins to care for others. And that includes her wayward brother Denny who has a surprise -- his pregnant girlfriend Jessica. And Mrs. Silverdash who owns a bookstore that allows Eden to be with children. Lastly is the Miltons -- especially Morris Milton and Matthew Milton (Milton's Market). All come together to start Original CricKet BisKets.
The connection to both stories the Apple Hill Farm and a very strange doll head that Eden accidentally discovers in a hidden root cellar.
A great historical novel based on a few historical characters that gives you a perspective of life in that time. While there are a few sad moments (characters die during the Civil War) and of course there is Cricket -- the feel good ending just is a bit to pat....more
Fans of the Hunger Games will love the new trilogy (Divergent being the first book) by Veronica Roth. In a future dystopian Chicago there are five difFans of the Hunger Games will love the new trilogy (Divergent being the first book) by Veronica Roth. In a future dystopian Chicago there are five different factions that were created to highlight the strength of those who live in them. Each faction is a specific “virtue” that would make sure what happened in the past (not said what it was but one would guess a terrible war) would not happen again. The five are Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peacefulness) and Erudite (intelligence). At the age of 16 all children must choose the faction that they will be a part of for the rest of their lives. To help them choose students take a special test that lets them explore their strengths (or weaknesses) in their mind with a mind-altering drug.
The main character is Beatrice Prior, a 16-year old who lives with her parents and brother in Abnegation. Her father is one of the highest Councilmen in the faction that rules over all other factions. But Beatrice and her brother, also having to choose a faction, struggle to decide between staying with their family in Abnegation or going to another faction which is closer to their skills. Beatrice chooses Dauntless, the militaristic arm of the city. Her brother chooses Erudite, the ones who choose intelligence over all else.
After choosing Dauntless Beatrice decides to rename herself Tris and she begins the very competitive initiation to win a spot in the Dauntless faction – if she fails she will become a Factionless person living hand to mouth on the outskirts of the city. But Tris has a secret that is even more deadly – both to herself to those she loves. She is a Divergent meaning she has the strengths of several or all of the factions. And there are those out there who are so threatened by such people that they are searching to destroy them.
Lots of heart pounding action (and some gore and deaths) but also moments of tension as alliances are made and destroyed as the initiates fight to be accepted into the final group of 10. And there are moments of romance as Tris and her new friends begin their new militaristic life. At times the competition is almost unbelievable but the action is what makes the story. But not is all well in the five factions as the Erudites begin to campaign against the Abnegation faction which starts to draw in the Dauntless people. If you like Divergent the series continues with Insurgent and then Allegiant.
There are many stories about WWII and about the holocaust but in this story the devastation is from the point of view of two children who grew up duriThere are many stories about WWII and about the holocaust but in this story the devastation is from the point of view of two children who grew up during this era. One child is Marie-Laure, a blind French girl living with her father who works in the Paris Museum of Natural History. The other child, Werner, is a German boy living in an orphanage with his younger sister, Jutta.
Marie-Laure goes blind when she is 6 years old and her father dotes on her. But when the Germans enter Paris the two flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast with a special diamond labeled the Sea of Flames from the museum. It is said to have a curse that states the keeper of the stone would live forever, but so long as he kept it, misfortunes would fall on all those he loved one after another in unending rain. In Saint-Malo they stay with Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle, Etienne, who lives in a tall narrow house with his housekeeper Madame Manec. Worried that Marie-Laure will need to be self sufficient as the war progresses her father builds her a model of their neighborhood in such detail she can memorize her surroundings with her fingers to allow her mobility around town. It also holds a secret only Marie-Laure can find. Etienne came back from WWI damaged and the only connection he makes to the outside world is to broadcast old phonographs of stories he told long ago from the top of his home at night.
Werner and Jutta actually are able to hear the stories Etienne broadcasts on some nights with the secret radio receiver Werner has built. It is his skill with radios that draws the attention of some powerful German officials and he is offered the chance to go to an elite military academy. While Jutta wants him to remain in their orphanage and not go into the military Werner sees this as a chance to do what he loves with radios and to stay out of the deadly coal mines that took their father’s life. While it is a somewhat brutal life Werner loves the military academy and is feted by Dr. Hauptmann who gives him special training in directional radio transceivers. Hauptmann is assisted by a giant of a student, Volkheimer. Werner also makes friends with another student, Frederick, who is more interested in birding than in the military. But life in the academy ends as the war kicks in.
As the war continues Marie Laure and Etienne become close and both start to assist the underground in sending out secret messages through Etienne’s broadcasts. Werner, with Volkheimer’s assistance, begins to hunt the partisans and their broadcast equipment and he discovers what he is doing is exactly what his sister had feared. And thrown into the mix is German Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel who was a gemologist before the war but now finds he is dying of cancer. He believes he can be saved by the Sea of Flames diamond. And he will try to get it at all costs.
Chapters go back and forth in time though most of them are focused on Marie-Laure and Werner’s lives in the last year or so of the war. A side note: according to a talk with the author the title speaks about the radio wave lengths that one cannot see. This was the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and a finalist for the National Book Award.
Gone Girl meets psychiatry and the aftermath is a psychological thriller of a “union” gone wrong. Jodi and Todd have lived an existence full of lies.Gone Girl meets psychiatry and the aftermath is a psychological thriller of a “union” gone wrong. Jodi and Todd have lived an existence full of lies. Jodi and Todd met while she was still a student and he was starting his budding building career by renovating an old house. After falling madly in love they ended up living together. Todd continuously proposes marriage but Jodi keeps refusing. She just likes it as they are and so over the years the two find their careers growing and their lives becoming naturally connected as if they are husband and wife.
But their lives are not what they seem to be. As a psychiatrist Jodi keeps her life on a steady keel both professionally and personally. She will let nothing rattle her perfect life in their beautiful waterfront Chicago. Todd is the opposite – he is ruled by his feelings and his needs. While Jodi loves to have everything in its place and everything organized Todd has the roving eye. But to keep her life balanced and in harmony Jodi turns a blind eye to Todd’s dalliances and denies anything is wrong with their union.
But Todd has one fling too many when he meets Natasha, the daughter of a long-time childhood friend. Natasha, half the age of Todd and a student at a nearby University, aims to have him for herself. Her scheming is helped by Todd’s inability to understand what is happening to his life until it is too late. As Natasha worms her way into Todd’s life he tries to live in dual worlds – with Natasha and with Jodi. But when finally forced to make a decision Todd reluctantly chooses Natasha and Jodi finds she has nothing left to lose and so starts her own scheme that ends in violence.
Most of the book is told in alternating voices you can hear the characters thoughts and see their actions from their own perspectives. While the story moves forward and the book is hard to put down the characters are just a bit unlikeable. Todd comes across as weak willed. Jodi, who has a back story that comes out slowly toward the end, needs to wake her up to what is happening to their lives and stop denying she is living a lie. The story’s ending is not expected. This is a first novel by this Canadian author and I hope to see another one coming out soon.
Stories told from just one view or in one voice will give you the perspective of events from that person only. When it is a child’s view you have theStories told from just one view or in one voice will give you the perspective of events from that person only. When it is a child’s view you have the added difficulty of handling the wording and actions to correspond to the age of the child. In *The Bear* the story is told through the point of view of 5-year old Anna and it works due to the author’s use of wording.
Based on a true story (a couple is killed by a black bear in 1991 at Canada’s Algonquin Park) we first meet Anna and her 2-year old brother Stick (Alex) as they try to sleep in a tent on an island. Their father and mother are outside cooking and talking. Suddenly a commotion wakes the children and they find themselves thrown into a huge Coleman cooler for safekeeping. Later a “black dog” finds the cooler and tries to break in without success. In the morning the children leave the cooler to find their campsite destroyed, their father “gone” and their mother “sleeping” in the grass. Anna wakes her mother who won’t move but she does plead for Anna to take her brother, get into the canoe and leave the island till help arrives.
Throughout the next few days Anna and Stick wander by canoe and by walking, all the while wondering why their father and mother won’t come for them. They live minute to minute as their attention span is that of young children. They sleep and eat as they can. They deal with the dark, rain, cold, heat, and even the aftermaths of poison ivy as it happens.
Anna isn’t a precocious child – her words and thoughts are very much from a youngster point of view. The two children act as they would for their ages, and even fight and care for each other as young siblings would (including fighting over Anna’s teddy bear Gwen). The events of that night and the following days are handled in a way that is only possible through the perspective of a young child who tries to follow her mother’s last instructions and tries to be brave for her annoying brother. Death is incomprehensible – Anna simply did what she was told to do and now she expects her mother and father should find them. Why won’t they come?
The last few chapters are after their rescue. Anna’s experiences at a hospital and especially with a child psychologist may leave one cringing. Anna’s return home without her mother or father, only her loved grandfather to watch over the children, is at times emotionally intense. The Epilogue has a grown up Alex and Anna canoeing back to the camp site to honor their parents and to come to some sort of emotional conclusion to the events of that night. ...more
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
The late 1920’s into the 1930’s waThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
The late 1920’s into the 1930’s was a period of economic and political changes. Between the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl millions of lives were changed for the worse. In Europe Hitler and his Nazi party began to grow in strength and cunning which, for this story, would culminate in the political relations coup of the 1936 Olympics. And into this picture walked eight USA Olympic rowers, their coach and their coxswain.
The story starts at Seattle’s 1933 University of Washington fall freshmen tryouts for rowing. Many students looked at rowing as either an easy sporting activity or fun activity. Quickly most found it was a truly rigorous sport and those that were left standing on the dock were all but the most die-hard of men. Author Brown focuses the story on one of these few men – Joe Rantz, a boy who lost his mother at an early age, was rejected by his stepmother, and at age 15 was literally left to survive on his own on a decrepit farm when his father and family left him behind to look for a better life elsewhere. This life gave him the strength to be one of the few rowers but also left him with much self-doubt and discouragement.
While Joe is the focus of the story there are other lives that are a part of the history making 1936 rowing team. Brown tells the stories of Al Ulbrickson, head coach of the varsity rowing team, Tom Bolles, freshman coach, George Pocock, master builder of the rowing shells, and also the rowers themselves including Bobby Moch, Roger Morris, Stub McMillin, Chuck Day, Don Hume and Shorty Hunt. Simultaneously we are shown the public relations work of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, minister of public enlightenment and propaganda and Leni Riefenstahl, German filmmaker. Both were determined to hide the real Germany and fool the world. They ended up changing Germany to resemble a vast movie set -- “a place where illusion could be perfected, where the unreal could be made to seem real and the real could be hidden away.”
The working class group of rowers faced extreme odds to become a team that first beat arch-rival University of California and then traveled to the east coast to go against the top privileged teams of the Ivy League to win a chance to face the world of rowing, including England, Germany and Italy. Unlike rowing today this sport was very popular and was hugely followed (both by radio and newspaper) during the 1930’s. The victories of the team reminded a country that the impossible actually was possible for the poor and working class. And throughout the story Brown shows how hard and how exacting rowing was – it wasn’t just a boat with some oars. It was teamwork of specific types of rowers, true grit and even mind games.
Brown used the diaries, journals, photos and even interviews with Joe and family members to bring the story to life. This book, using one person’s life to tell the greater story of an era and event in American history, is in the same vein as Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit) and Eric Larson (Devil and the White City). You don’t have to love rowing to love this book – though I probably have had enough rowing to last me through the rest of my life now. ...more
The 1989 Children Act made a child's welfare the top priority of English courts. This is the premise of Ian McEThe Children Act: A Novel by Ian McEwan
The 1989 Children Act made a child's welfare the top priority of English courts. This is the premise of Ian McEwan’s latest story that focuses on the question of religion and rights of family and children. Fifty-nine year old Fiona Maye, a High Court judge sitting in London (and partly on circuit) presides over civil matters, more specifically the Family division. Fiona is “praised for crisp prose, almost ironic, almost warm, and for the compact terms in which she laid out a dispute” and “Godly distance, devilish understanding, and still beautiful.” Her personal life is as structured as her court rulings. But her world suddenly is upended when Jack, her husband of thirty-five years, walks in one evening and states he needs (not wants) an open marriage. Unable to accept this change in their quiet childless marriage she tells him to leave their home and her life.
At the same time Fiona she is pondering the issue of a divorced Jewish family where the father is determined to keep a strict Haredi household and the mother has been sending the two girls to a coeducational Jewish secondary school (allowing for modern amenities and mixing with non-Jewish children). Fiona must determine what is best for the girls future – a structure religious life or a life of education and outside world. Fiona also must decide on the case of Siamese twins sharing a single torso. One of the two boys may be able to live on his own but not so for the second boy who is slowly killing them both. The parents, strict Catholics, believe it is the will of their God that both will die while the doctors wish to separate the boys (with one dying to let the other live).
But the case that leaves her totally questioning her judgment concerns Adam, a 17-year old Jehovah’s Witness who has leukemia. The hospital is treating Adam for the disease but one of the drawbacks of treatment is the patient’s body can’t make blood cells so normally there are blood transfusions. But Jehovah’s Witnesses do not allow for blood transfusions and the hospital asks Fiona to order the treatment to save him. Fiona is faced with the question of whether a 17-year old juvenile, almost to majority, can refuse medical treatment for religious reasons or should he be treated as a mere child and forced to take treatment to save his life.
Uncharacteristically Fiona decides to visit Adam in the hospital where she finds a very beautiful, intelligent, well spoken boy who insists his religion is paramount to all other needs, including his life. The two debate life and love and before she leaves Adam begins to play on an old guitar a song that stirs Fiona to sing with him. Afterward Fiona returns to court to rule on the emergency medical order, a ruling that will affect both of their lives in ways that they did not perceive would happen.
Throughout the story Fiona comes across as both too perfect (both in her court and in her life activities) and too self-absorbed in her respectability. And that is why it is hard to care for Fiona and her passionless marriage woes plus her guilt over her interaction with Adam. The legal discussions on religious exemptions are balanced and interesting. Every decision impacts the lives of those who depend on the courts to be fair – but what is fair when religion based on the past is balanced with contemporary life?
This story is for those looking to read about social and contemporary issues, family interactions and psychological fiction. The writing and prose is similar to Margaret Atwood and Philip Roth. ...more
All good things come to an end and sadly we must say the same for this Odd Thomas series. After 6 books, plus graphic novels and ebooks Odd Thomas’ unAll good things come to an end and sadly we must say the same for this Odd Thomas series. After 6 books, plus graphic novels and ebooks Odd Thomas’ unusual odyssey is ending where it started – in the small town of Pico Mundo located in California. And with this final novel we visit many of the characters of previous stories either in person or in flashbacks to remind us of how far his travels and experiences have gone.
It is now almost two years after the terrible events in the Pico Mundo mall that set this simple fry cook named Odd Thomas off to find his purpose in life. And also to try to forget his one true love he lost during the horrific actions in the mall – Stormy Llewellyn. At the beginning and through Odd’s travels he has picked up other unusual characters like spirits (Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Alfred Hitchcock), people with special energy (Annamaria and Mrs. Fischer) and those who just care for him in “odd” ways (Chief Wyatt Porter and Little Ozzie).
All have a role in his final battle with a terrible evil that has returned to Pico Mundo. And so has the carnival that was there two years ago with the “gypsy mummy.” Through Odd Thomas’ dreams and past experiences with both good and evil he is certain that an ancient evil cult is going to doom the whole town, and even maybe all of humanity, to a horrible end. But how and why? That is what Odd Thomas is determined to find out knowing that this will be such a great battle, that this is the true purpose for his life, that his earthly end is in sight. And he almost welcomes it knowing that Stormy Llewellyn will be waiting for him on the other side.
Count on lots of action and the body count is high. And the story just propels one from one desperate action to another as Odd Thomas tries to thwart the cult with his psychic powers, courage, devotion and quick thinking. I had trouble even putting this book down and it seems the true disappointment is the ending. Not that what happened wasn’t expected but how author Dean Koontz actually ended both the plot and what I consider a sort of “epilogue.” Not wanting to give away the ending I can just say that I felt it was a bit of a let down.
This series brings together so much: the supernatural, the thriller, cultural humor, a love story and spiritual mediation that there is a bit of something for most people. Not recommended for those who are easily scared of things that go bump in the night – but otherwise this series is fabulous. ...more
Can money buy happiness? Can love trump all? Will Traynor had it all – family with money, a great career buying and selling businesses, a world travelCan money buy happiness? Can love trump all? Will Traynor had it all – family with money, a great career buying and selling businesses, a world traveler and thrill seeker. Until one rainy morning a speeding crashed into his life. Up until recently twenty-six year old Louisa “Lou” Clark spent her days serving in a coffee shop in a small English castle village. Now out of a job she searches for something to help her family pay their bills. Moyes brings the two together in a heart warming and heart breaking way.
Two years has passed since the accident. Will is confined to a wheel chair unable to do anything for himself. He lives with his parents in an annex of their mansion Granta House near the village castle which his retired father manages. His mother Camilla is a magistrate. Since Will needs 24-hour care Camilla hires Lou to sit and be with Will each day. Nathan, a New Zealander, is Will’s nursing assistant. Lou quickly learns she is there to cheer up Will and keep him interested in life, literally.
While Will is sour while prickly Lou is plainspoken. After a very rocky start the two slowly adjust to each other. But then Lou accidentally learns the family secret: that Will has asked the family to take him to Switzerland to end his life. He is in constant pain and continuously battles infections. But most important Will feels life is not worth living when he can’t even do anything himself. Camilla has agreed to take him to Switzerland if he waits six months. Lou takes it upon herself to do everything possible (which is easy with the Traynor money) to make Will see the possibilities of life even as a quadriplegic. And during the six months the two begin to care for each other more than they expected. Is their love enough to change Will’s mind?
A side story deals with Lou’s family. Lou’s sister Katrina (Treena) works at a flower shop as their mum watches her out-of-wedlock toddler Thomas. Her dad has a job in a furniture factory that ends up clsoing. Treena announces one day she wants to go back to school (which was interrupted by the pregnancy) to become something more than a village worker. Lou’s long-time boyfriend Patrick manages an athletics club while training for extreme running. Patrick becomes unhappy with Lou carrying for Will.
The book handles the assisted suicide question very evenly – the reader sees it from Lou’s point of view versus Will’s point of view. While cheering for Lou and Will’s budding romance we are also shown the heartbreaking life of a quadriplegic. The ending is handled quite well – though you might want to be sure to have some Kleenex nearby. Those who like this book might want to read You’re Not You by Michelle Wildgen or The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison ...more