Saturday, January 14, 2012

LOTS of Books to Review!

I love to read.  Love love love.  In fact, today I spent a long time getting a bit dirty and having stacks of books fall on top of me when I visited my favorite used book store.

Anyway, I've been sick so had a lot of time to read, so this is a mega-review post!

Five out of Five Stars

First up is "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot.  Skloot spent almost ten years researching Henrietta's family -- why, you ask?  Henrietta, while being treated for terminal cancer at Johns Hopkins in the '50s, had her cells taken and cultured by doctors, all unbeknownst to her.  Her cells ended up being unique in that they were "immortal" cells -- they didn't die in culture and could be traded and eventually sold to doctors and companies worldwide.  Named HeLa cells, they've been responsible for helping create the polio vaccine, develop in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping.  They've been shot up with atom bombs and sent into space.

However, Henrietta's family didn't even know about it until years later, and have never received a dime for the miracles her cells created.  Her family couldn't afford health care while the HeLa cells made millions for other people.  

Something I found strikingly, unbelievably sad -- Henrietta is buried in a family plot, but her grave is unmarked.  They didn't have the money for a tomb stone.

Even if you don't have interest in biology or cell science, the book is fabulous.  I highly recommend it.

3 out of 5 Stars

Disclaimer:  Giving Three Stars to this book does NOT mean 
I don't like it and does NOT mean it's not important.

I've read many, many books on WWII history and Holocaust memoirs.  This particular book had a unique story, but to me, it seemed to drag and I found myself scanning.  I feel so very much for the author -- finding her father not to be the person she thought him to be has to have been devastating.  I did like when she talked about her relationship with her mother.  So I liked the book, but it was just harder for me to read than others.

 Five out of Five Stars

A friend recommended this gothic Victorian horror thriller.  "Horror thriller" might seem a little slow for modern-day thriller readers, but this particular book was written in 1864.  

The premise -- a young girl/teenager's father dies, leaving her a fortune.  Her uncle, Uncle Silas, is the black sheep of the family, yet the girl's father sends Maud to live with Uncle Silas, in part to try to prove to high society that no, Uncle Silas was NOT involved in a murder later deemed a suicide in his home.  Fun times.

Enter a nefarious French governess, a well-meaning relative who just never seems to get there in time, and the "did he or didn't he?" bit, and an ending that really races into the last pages, and you have a really good Victorian read.  And it's free on Kindle!

4 out of 5 Stars

This was actually written for the older child/teen market.  It covers true stories of children who survived the Holocaust against all odds, using ingenuity, skill, and often, sheer luck.  It's a very interesting read, but I'd read it first before letting your child read it.  There are some pretty intense scenes in there, but I do think it's important that everyone not forget this part of history.

Five out of Five Stars

Oh boy.  This is a truly sobering read.  Twins were Mengele's favorite subject, and his experiments were truly horrific.  What's interesting about this book is through the words of the surviving twins, we learn how some of them grew to trust Mengele, in large part because he kept them from the crematoriums.  It's also an interesting insight into Mengele himself, how he grew up, and how he handled himself at the camps.  The point of a finger, and he rules lives.

On to more books!


Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.


  1. Are you sure you're not "part-Librarian?" I think we should make you an honorary one! (And being one myself, though not particularly great at Reader's Advisory, I mean that only as a compliment, of course!)

  2. I'm buying "The Immortal Life..." right now! I always wondered why HeLa cells were named as such - this book sounds fantastic! They are so important in research, I know so many people who rely on them.

  3. I enjoyed learning about HeLa cells in "The Immortal Life...". Mrs. Lacks had an amazing life filled with lots of challenges and hardships. Being familiar with the Baltimore area made parts of the book including Crownsville Hospital made the book come alive in my mind. It is a sad state of affairs that this woman who left us such a legacy is buried without a marker and her family still struggles while others have made so much money from her. I hope that this book is able to turn this around.


Thanks so much for commenting! It always makes my day!