Month: December 2011

What I’m Reading Now: The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber

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It is 1917 in the South Dakota Badlands, and summer has been hard. Fourteen years have passed since Rachel and Isaac DuPree left Chicago to stake a claim in this unforgiving land. Isaac, a former Buffalo Soldier, is fiercely proud: black families are rare in the West, and black ranchers even rarer. But it hasn’t rained in months, the cattle bellow with thirst, and supplies are dwindling.

Pregnant, and struggling to feed her family, Rachel is isolated by more than just geography.She is determined to give her surviving children the life they deserve, but she knows that her husband will never leave his ranch: land means a measure of equality with the white man, and Isaac DuPree is not about to give it up just because times are hard.

Somehow Rachel must find the strength to do what is right – for her children, for her husband, and for herself.

Moving and majestic, “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree” is an unforgettable novel about love and loyalty, homeland and belonging. Above all, it is the story of one woman’s courage in the face of the most punishing adversity.

My Thoughts on They Did It With Love by Kate Morgenroth

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In order to read this book I set my alarm an hour early so I could get some quiet time to just read and enjoy this book. I love this book more than sleep. A higher compliment I cannot bestow upon anything.

It was an easy read. Short chapters. Little glimpses into each character’s life. I thought that the stereotypes of the charcters were a little overdone — the frumpy, trusting housewife, the controlling, vindictive neighbor, the trampy, young, dumb second wife — they are all in this story of a mystery bookclub who discovers a member hanging from the tree and are determined to help the police find out whodunit.

There are two surprise twists at the very end. I think that you will either find the ending to be a type of poetic justice or to be a little disturbed by how everything worked out. I was a little disturbed but amused all at the same time. And I hated the loose, very loose, moral character of nearly each and every character. But maybe that’s how life is — affairs are no big deal and are to be expected. I still thought it was a little disturbing.

A fun, easy read. Pick it up!

What I’m Reading Now: They Did It With Love by Kate Morgenroth

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Sofie and her husband have left Manhattan in search of a more tranquil life in the suburbs. But when a member of Sofie’s new neighborhood book club turns up dead, things get messy.

She discovers that everybody has something to hide, including her own husband.

Her neighbor Priscilla has been married to Gordon for fifteen years, but the love left their marriage a long time ago.

Susan is Priscilla’s biggest supporter until she has to choose between loyalty to her friend and telling the truth.

Ashley is eager to fit in, but her youth and status as a second wife keep her on the outside. She may know more than they think she does, though.

Julia seems to have it all—the perfect house, job and husband. But her untimely death has people questioning how perfect her life really was.

Through this swamp of suburban secrets, Sofie must wade to find the truth behind Julia’s murder and the state of her own marriage.

They Did It with Loveis a delightful, twisty, and twisted exploration of the things we’ll do for love.

My Thoughts on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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I have to admit that this is one of those books that I read because everyone else was reading it.  I certainly would not seek it out on my own as I tend to stay away from the sciences.  That said, I am glad that I read it.  It raised a lot of important issues and made me realize that when I am in a doctor’s office I might want to read all of those forms I usually just carelessly sign.

Henrietta Lacks was being treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins when they discovered that her cells did not die — they kept multiplying.  This gave scientists an everlasting source of cells to study.  Using the cells from Henrietta, they were able to do great things and develop life-changing drugs and medicines.

But no one ever told the family.  It took 20 years for the family to find out that her cells had become a multi-billion dollar industry, and her kids were so poor they could not afford to go to a doctor or get health insurance.

It’s an amazing story.  I am glad that I read the book.  I feel smarter for reading it.  But it is so sad at the same time, and since it is a true story, you cannot wave off the sadness with the assurance that it’s “just fiction”.  This actually happened/ is happening to this family, and I hope that the author is keeping her word to the family and putting proceeds from the book into education accounts for Henrietta’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.

What I’m Reading Now: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

My Thoughts On Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber

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I was a big fan of Truly, Madly by Heather Webber — another Lucy Valentine mystery. I liked the humor in the book, the clean love story, the mystery, and so I was excited to find Deeply, Desperately at the library last week.

It did not disappoint. Everyone now knows about Lucy’s gift for finding “lost” items, and they do not doubt her ability so that whole storyline is gone. She still has a love interest, Sean, but in this book his ex-fiance is back in the picture. This book is not as clean as the first one as their romance has, um, well, advanced onward. But it is still a clean romance.

There are a lot of storylines in this one. Who is sending Lucy threatening letters? Where is the missing mother? Why is her father acting funny? What is wrong with Sean’s ex-fiance? Where is her clients lost love?

Everything gets wrapped up nicely at the end, and I enjoyed the journey!

What I’m Reading Now: Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber

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The irrepressible star of Truly, Madly, is back in business. This time, Lucy Valentine will go to the ends of the earth to find true love for her clients…and maybe even herself.

Lucy wants to breathe new life into her family’s Boston-based matchmaking company. But how? Even though she comes from a long line of ancestors blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, a freak accident left Lucy with only one special skill: finding things. Car keys, socks in the dryer, needles in haystacks…and now, in a stroke of professional genius, lost loves!

It’s not long before Lucy’s on a winning streak, helping old flames reunite and create new sparks. Business is booming. But when Lucy finds herself involved in a possible case of murder, she realizes she’s in too deep. Enter Sean Donahue. Lucy’s handsome fire-fighter turned private-eye neighbor, Sean is just the man she needs to help her on the job. Could he also be the man she’s been looking for all along? When it comes to Valentine, Inc., falling in love is always serious business.

My Thoughts on Room by Emma Donoghue

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This book is the kind that gets in your head and stays awhile. I was anxious to finish it — not necessarily because it was an excellent book and I could not put it down but because I wanted this family to get to a ‘safe’ place and a ‘normal’ existence, if only in my head.

This book is told through the narration of a five year old boy. I have to say, that is my main complaint. I hang around small kids all day long — I kind of wanted to be in the head of an adult.

When the book opens, we find the boy, Jack, in an 11 by 11 room where he has been his whole life. Two years before he was born, his mother was kidnapped and has been kept in this 11 by 11 foot shed ever since.

She has tried to escape. She tried knocking her captor over the head with the toilet lid (the heaviest thing in the room). She tried holding a butter knife to his throat. Nothing has worked and things are getting serious as their captor, who Jack calls ‘Old Nick’ because he comes in the middle of the night and sometimes leaves food, has lost his job. Jack’s Mom is terrified that he will lose the house, be evicted, and they will be left to starve and die before anyone decides to check the shed in the backyard.

They do escape (I’ll let you read to find out how) and after Jack’s Mom suffers an emotional setback (and who can blame her) Jack is left to figure things out on his own. Like grass, playgrounds, shoes, ever being in a room by himself, and even the sun — he’s never been outside in his whole life and has a hard time with the brightness of the sun.

It’s an interesting and thought-provoking book. I did not love it because parts were so difficult to think about, but at least this book makes you think.

What I’m Reading Now: Room by Emma Donoghue

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To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating–a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

My Thoughs on Sweet Misfortune by Kevin Milne

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This book has reminded me why men should stay out of romance novels. They just do not understand the way that women think, the way that they would respond, the way things would happen in a girl’s mind. Which is fine if the book was from a male perspective. But the main character in this book was female, and the author just did not get it right.

Now, the premise of this book is great. An orphaned girl, abandoned by her finance, still heartbroken, tells her fiance, who desperately wants another chance, that they can have a date if he can help her locate ‘true happiness’. He places an ad in the paper, it gets the attention of the press, it could have been okay. . .

The thing is, it could never happen. And the author did not even follow through with the original premise.

I liked the characters. I really liked the beginning — it had me in tears! But the rest of the book was just so-so. It seems like men are as good at writing romance than they are in actual romance situations. Which is not very good.