Sunday, February 19, 2012
I think I first heard about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot on a podcast. If I had to guess I'd say it was Radio Lab. It sounded really interesting but fell to the back of my mind. When Shauna visited me last year she was reading it and enjoying it. Again I thought that I should pick it up, and again I forgot. So yeah, it's been on my "To Read" list for a few years. Fortunately it arrived in my Christmas package from my dad this year!
Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in the 1950s. Without her consent, doctors removed a slice of her tumor and began using her cells in medical research. Her cells, named HeLa, reproduced so quickly and easily that they soon became widespread in the scientific community. HeLa cells were used in research relating to cancer, polio, AIDs, and so on. Unfortunately, Henrietta's family wasn't told about the medical research until a few decades later. In this book, Skloot tells the story of Henrietta's cells as well as the story of Henrietta and the Lacks family.
Recommendation: Superb. Even if you're not a fan of non-fiction, Skloot tells a fascinating story.
Friday, February 10, 2012
It would be pretty difficult for me to pass up a book with a title like Swamplandia! You just know there are good things between the pages. So naturally when I saw Swamplandia! by Karen Russell recommended by staff members at Powell's, I put it on my Christmas list.
Ava Bigtree grew up in Swamplandia!, an alligator themed amusement park in Florida. When Ava's mother, the "Swamp Centaur", dies of cancer it seems like the family won't be able to go on without the star of the show. As Swamplandia! begins to decline, so does the livelihood of the family. Ava's brother runs away, her father leaves for the mainland, her sister starts to communicate with ghosts, and Ava is left to try to save the park on her own. Turns out, that's not going to be very easy.
The blurb on the back cover states that Russell "takes us to the shimmering edge of reality." So true.
Recommendation: Sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, Swamplandia! is worth your time. I enjoyed it much more than Russell's other work St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I noticed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs when it was recommended by Powell's. It was one of those books that I judged by its cover because the picture was just so eerie. How intriguing. I was even more interested when I received the book for Christmas and cracked it open. The end papers are beautifully designed and old photographs are spread throughout the entire book.
The story of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children begins when Jacob's grandfather dies. Jacob is left with his grandfather's fanciful stories from childhood and begins to have nightmares he can't shake. Something isn't right. With hopes of quelling their sons anxiety, Jacobs parents agree to let him visit a tiny island off the coast of Wales to see the boarding house where his grandfather grew up. It doesn't take Jacob long to discover that something very peculiar is happening on the island.
Riggs used an interesting technique to illustrate his book. Remember those old photographs I mentioned before? They are all "authentic, vintage found photographs" that Riggs discovered via various collectors. The process of using photographs to shape a story is really interesting to me. It also adds to the delightful eeriness of the book.
Recommendation: Check it out, even if you're only planning on perusing the vintage photographs.