Archive for August, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In books read on August 31, 2011

I really liked this book. It's the story of how a sample of cervical cancer cells were taken from Henrietta, who was being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and those cells turned out to be really good at reproducing where all other cells had failed before, so they were reproduced widely as human cells for researchers to use and are still around in massive quantities today even though she died in 1951.

But, more importantly, it's the story of Henrietta herself and her family, and how they didn't know anything about this. And about how her family are still mostly living a poor life despite there being a huge industry based around Henrietta's HeLa cells.

The book is written in a very "meta" manner, with the author chronicling how she came to write the book and the difficulties she encountered in getting the Lacks family to agree to participate when they had been victims of some bad reporting and con-men before. I thought this approach worked. If the book had been written in a more detached manner it would have been a different story and probably not as emotionally engaging as this one was.

It's a good absorbing read, it works as a science book but it's heart is a human interest story that makes you think a lot about ethics.

This was a paperback.

Derby Day

Derby Day by D.J. Taylor

In books read on August 28, 2011

I enjoyed reading this but am not quite sure what to make of it. It's billed as a "Victorian mystery" but didn't really seem to contain many elements of a mystery to me as it's a fairly straightforward story of misdoings in the horse racing world. It's written in some kind of Victorian style which I don't know enough about to talk about - I don't know whether it's a pastiche or satire or something else like that. It's an entertaining enough story on the surface but I suspect I am missing the depths. In short I think the author is probably quite clever but rather than showing me that I feel like he's made me feel quite stupid, which isn't really how I like to feel as a reader! Although I liked the book on the whole I wouldn't be inclined to recommend it to others really.

This was a kindle eBook.

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Tea, Saturday Morning

Flickr Pics 27th August 2011

on August 27, 2011 by kirsty

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The Air OutsideHalf the air in a given space

Flickr Pics 26th August 2011

on August 26, 2011 by kirsty

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Multipurpose Parasol

Flickr Pics 25th August 2011

on August 25, 2011 by kirsty

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St Ives Pirate WalkPorthmeor Beach

Flickr Pics 24th August 2011

on August 24, 2011 by kirsty

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Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War

Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War by Virginia Nicholson

In books read on August 23, 2011

Full of interesting stories about the 'surplus women' left without husbands in the aftermath the first world war. For some of them this was a great freedom to pursue career paths, for others it was a lifelong despair at not having families of their own. But it's interesting to think about how different the world might be today if these women hadn't beaten out paths for women's lives in the twentieth century that didn't revolve around being a wife and a mother. I'm grateful that I live in a world where I have pretty much all the choices available to me. A good read.

This was a kindle eBook.

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

In books read on August 22, 2011

I've heard so much about this book that I was expecting to hate it. I knew it was about a woman who wakes up the every day not knowing who she is or where she is. Some kind of amnesiac condition causes her to forget the recent past. I really didn't think that this would make a good read for me - I guess it just sounded too gimmicky to be enjoyable.

So, surprise, I really enjoyed the book.... The gimmick turned out to be something that the author turned to their advantage and made it work for me and the inherent unreliability of the narrator made for a pretty good thriller like read.

This was a kindle eBook.

On Canaan's Side

On Canaans Side by Sebastian Barry

In books read on August 21, 2011

I liked this but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed The Secret Scripture. It was well written from a sentence and paragraph point of view but didn't really hang together as a book for me. The plot seemed to stumble from one thing to another and never quite came together. I'd have preferred the book without the 'twist' at the end which just seemed silly. All the same I'd be surprised if it's not on the Booker Prize shortlist, but I wouldn't back it to win myself.

This was a kindle eBook.

That Summer in Ischia

That Summer in Ischia by Penny Feeny

In books read on August 21, 2011

This was an enjoyable piece of easy reading. Less than a day to read, interesting cast of characters, nice locations, a story with some depth to it and I'd certainly pick up another book by Feeny in future. But there were parts where I felt the book could have been much better. The characters seemed half heartedly realised at times and some things that ought to have been totally shocking were more or less skated over. And I felt like the book didn't quite know how to end. On the whole though it was a good read and a good story.

This was a kindle eBook.