Saturday, August 29, 2020

Review: Legendborn

Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for approving an ARC copy of this for me!

This comes out on September the 15th, so check it out if you are interested!


I had a *lot* of fun reading this book and I recommend that people give it a shot :D

I will be honest and say that at first this book got off to a rough start for me, mostly because we’re thrown right into the story with a grieving Bree and we’re learning at the same time that she does. An author has to be careful to introduce this the right way, and there were times when I was a bit confused as to what was going on or trying to wrap my head around things.

However in spite of this rocky beginning, the book really builds upon itself and constructs a fascinating world that’s based on famous legends but brings its own unique twist to it. What I really loved about this book is that this take is truly interesting on its own merit, it’s not just relying on the strength of the legend to carry the book and capture our attention and keep it. Retellings abound in fantasy and I love it when we get one that is well constructed and the author truly has their own voice and breathes new life into it. The familiar is there, but so is new stuff to be intrigued by!

Bree as a character is someone who I could instantly sympathize with. She’s lost her mother and she has so much rage and pain inside her, and a desire to do something that will somehow make up for her mother’s death. This sometimes means that her choices aren’t the best, but they’re still understandable and relatable. She's human and she's a teenager who has lost her mother, who happens to be dealing with some pretty crazy and weird stuff going on. She has her faults but she is also strong in a lot of ways and well rounded, which I really enjoyed.

This book also takes racism by the horns and I appreciated that. It’s not the forefront of the story but it is woven through it because it reflects how things actually are here and now for girls like Bree and POC in general. There may be all sorts of supernatural things in this book but she still lives in our world, and deals with our reality. And oh, I loved how strong Bree was and how she didn’t take shit from anyone. She’s not afraid to speak up for herself, and that bravery extends from calling out racist behaviour to fighting off creatures trying to kill her.

Some of the other characters fell a lot short for me (the best friend is kind of shitty, and we have the usual trope of 'all the guys are gorgeous', but nothing too bad. The cast is diverse and I'm looking forward to learning more!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Review: Educated

EducatedEducated by Tara Westover
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I find it so difficult when non-fiction that's an autobiography doesn't really connect with me, because it's someone's story, you know?

I didn't dislike this book, I think it's just a case of me expecting it to hit harder than it did for me, personally. I also feel that this book is more-so a tale of an escape from physical and mental abuse than it is about Tara's escape or her 'education' as a child.

I think the novel would have benefited from more about her continuing education after she left home, too, because the ending seemed rather abrupt, but perhaps the nature of Tara's own story itself - that there is no satisfactory ending, no wrapping endings up. It just is, without the neatness that we instinctively want and expect.

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Review: The Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a fun read!

First of all, it starts off with a startling and intriguing first line, and the beginning of it does a good job at drawing you in with the action keeping you turning the pages.

This is a good way to do it, because after the breathlessness of the first bit, it does slow down just a tad, but not enough that my interest lagged. Alternative history can be tricky because it can be difficult to make it compelling and not just leave the reader going 'no, this doesn't make sense', but I didn't really find myself struggling to believe the historical events and how things were taking place.

I struggled a little bit with the acceptance presented in the books, both in terms of Elma's relationship with her husband on a feminist slant, and also the look at racial relations at the time. I *so* appreciate the feminist take and the attempt to make Elma a character who was more aware of the wrongs at the time - I'm just not sure how believable it is, and I can see how it might bother some people. To me it doesn't really tarnish the overall thrust or accomplishment of the book, but I'm just one person.

I would have liked to see more development of some of the background characters other than the antagonist, but by and large Elena is interesting enough and the plot fascinating enough that I was willing to overlook this. The book did remind me a little of a couple of disaster movies, but given the unique take presented here, it makes for some intriguing evaluations of the 'happy ending' presented in some and how accurate they were.

The thing that I liked most about this book, though, is that it's *smart*. It's about smart women and smart men working really hard to save our planet, and I really enjoyed that! I'm eager to pick up the next one.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

July Recap!

Hello August!! insane is that? I'm not sure I'm ready for it to be August, to be honest. This year seems to be both flying by and dragging, and whole years seem to pass in the span of a month with everything that happens. Our world is pretty crazy right now and over the last month I really turned to books as a sanctuary and distraction.

So what does that mean?

Well, it means that I did the following:

1. Finished 'Blueprint for Armageddon', Dan Carlin's awesome series on WWI.
2. Read two short stories
3. Read sixteen(!) books

The two short stories I read were Juice Like Wounds  by Seanan McGuire, and The Haunting Of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark.

I'll just quickly note here that 'The Golden Road' shouldn't really be in this picture. 'IT' I also finished yesterday, so I'm not counting it (ha) in July.

Highlights of the month were The Library Of The Unwritten by A. J Hackwith, The Monster Of Florence by Douglas Preston, The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben and Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker. So fantasy, non-fiction, mystery and non-fiction. A nice mix, I'd say!

Overall it was a pretty strong month, I'd say, if also fairly eclectic.

Going into August, I'm hoping to read more fantasy novels, though currently I'm reading The Outsider by Stephen King and well, not so sure that counts! But there's still a lot of August left.

I hope all of you had a great reading month in July and hope you have great books ahead of you for August!

Review: IT by Stephen King

ItIt by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars.

I remember reading this years ago, as a teenager, and occasionally I've thought of it - IT - again.

Of course, in part that's because Pennywise has become embedded in society's subconscious, in a way - a lot of people's fear of clowns would trace back to this book, I'm sure.

I decided to listen to the audiobook for this one because it was so highly rated, and I can see why. Derry really comes *alive* in listening to this, in a way that I don't think it would have had I just reread it plainly. Steven Weber did an absolutely phenomenal job and really added to the experience.

For me, this book really transcended the 'horror' genre. It's not 'just' horror, and I don't say that to denigrate horror, as it's one of my favourite genres and I think so much can be done within it. King has obviously built a work of art within the horror genre, here, but he's also done more than that. I say that because it really encompassed so much more than that. 'IT' is an examination of bullying, of 1950's American society, of racism and sexism and domestic violence, of relationships, of what it's like to grow up with parental abuse that isn't physical but is abuse nonetheless. And the monsters on these pages aren't always 'IT' - instead they're people just like you and me, people with evil within them.

'IT' is a book that is downright horrifying at times and creepy, but also - for me - incredibly moving, too. Towards the end I found myself on the verge of tears, because the book isn't just about horror and gore and that terror that wakes you in the middle of the night in sweaty and tangled bedsheets, it's also about friendship and bravery and love, a very powerful love. It's about the magic of childhood and why all of us love those movies so much, movies like Stand By Me and Now and Then and so many others. There's power in the magic of childhood, the memories that have a soft haze over them.

This probably would have been a five star book for me if not for the one scene towards the end. Even on a reread as an adult I'm not quite sure why King included it, though 'desire' seems to be a very important theme for him in this book. I have a ton of respect for King, but it still doesn't really work for me and detracted a bit from the story arc, imo. Perhaps he intended it to be a scene where Beverly reclaims her power and agency, but it still felt unnecessary.

All the same, this book has lodged itself on the list of favourites, for me. I can tell because there's part of me that wants to start reading it all over again.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Reading Rush Recap

I just realized that I never did update on how The Reading Rush went for me!

So, basically I succeeded in reading two books:

1. The Secret Garden (this was a reread, and was for the challenge of reading a book set on a different continent)
2. The Book Thief (this was not a reread, and was for the challenge of reading a book with 'the' in the title).

Actually, I may have the challenges flipped, but you get the idea!

Reading The Secret Garden was really quite a nostalgic feeling, I was reminded quite strongly of why I enjoyed the book so much. It's not without its issues - racism is pretty blatant - but not unexpected for the time period that it was written in.

I also just really enjoyed the childlike wonder that was communicated through the pages, the joy and the appreciation of nature and the world in general.

The Book Thief was sadly not as good an experience. I kept waiting to be swept away by it (I posted the review earlier) and just wasn't. This was particularly disappointing for me because so many people gave this book glowing reviews, including a good friend of mine, and then my reaction was just 'meh'.

Ah well. There are always more books waiting to be read! I look forward to the next Reading Rush and hope it'll be sometime when I have more time to read.

Review: The Haunting Of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm. This is one of those books where I find myself wondering what it would have been like to read it in 1959, before the advent of modern horror in both books and film.

I enjoyed this book, but I can't help but think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't seen the movie based on it (which gave me an idea of where the story was going) and didn't have that experience with other horror books.

All the same, though, the writing is quite enjoyable and I do appreciate seeing the roots of the horror genre as it stands today.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Review: The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was... ok, I guess? Not a great start for the Reading Rush :(

So first thing about this book, I've tried to read it two, maybe three times? And I've always struggled to get into it. When I switched to the audiobook I was able to finish it, but I have to say that I'm finding myself wondering if I should have taken that as a sign it wasn't going to be an exceptional book for me.

I really wanted to love this book but the truth is, it was just okay. I kept waiting to be struck by all the emotion and revelations that other people apparently had it but it just didn't happen. Maybe it's because I've read some great books like Code Name Verity and Winter Garden and The Alice Network and so I just wasn't blown away by this particular book.

I also didn't connect to the characters as much as I would have liked, other than Max. Max = <3 Yeah. Unfortunately not enough of that here. It's odd because when I sit and think about it, I can pinpoint moments in the book that would strike one as quite moving, and yet I just wasn't really feeling it. I'd been hoping that listening to the book as an audiobook would help me engage with the book more but it seems it didn't.

Part of it was due to some things that just sort of...threw me. Like the way the characters casually insulted and swore at each other all the time. It made me think of modern day Australia and tbh I really have no idea if that was common in the 1940's? Maybe it was, I don't know, but it didn't really do anything for me and didn't add anything to the story as far as I can tell. And I'm not some prude about swearing, it just got to be too much after awhile. It made me wonder if to the author this is some sort of way of expressing affection.

The book also felt way too long. Like at one point I looked at how much of the book I had left and I found myself wondering how it could possibly go on that long! Never a good sign when you think that... To be honest I feel as though a good chunk of the book could have been cut out in favour of focusing on the actual events of the plot and it would have been much tighter, would have given the book a sense of urgency and action, and probably would have been more compelling, too. I think the author was focusing on the development of the characters and development of the atmosphere, but when it's not working for you, it ends up feeling like an eternity.

Perhaps I'll watch the movie at some point because I feel as though it might lend itself quite well to that sort of format.

I'm really disappointed that I didn't love this one as much as other people, but that's just the way it is sometimes, I suppose. Perhaps it's a sign that I need to take a break from WWII literature for awhile.

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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Review: The Boy From The Woods

The Boy from the WoodsThe Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars for this one.

Wow. Just imagine me whistling, here, because this one kept me guessing up until the last minute.

I see some complaints and comparisons to Coben's other books, but this is the first book that I've read by him so I have nothing to compare it to! I'm a bit glad if it means that I would enjoy this one less.

Take a bit of romance, add a dash of political intrigue, some good ol' 'whodunnit' and mystery and you have 'The Boy From The Woods'.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book is that what you think you're getting into when you start the book is not at all the case. The plot takes many twists and turns along the way and builds on itself, and one thing I liked about it is that just when you *think* it's all wrapped up, it turns out that it isn't. There's a good dash of reflection on our society as it is today and American politics, and I enjoyed that without it being too ham-handed or condescending.

I will say that there was a point in the book where I rolled my eyes a bit at a touch of exposition, which is why this isn't a five star read to me. I know it's partly because Coben wanted to keep us guessing, but I think the book would have benefited if he'd taken his time to think of a way to do that without having certain things that one of the main characters did concealed from us.

I quite enjoyed the characters, here. You could probably say that Wilde is a bit of a cliché, and I'd agree with that, but sometimes clichés are loveable and enjoyable anyway, and I found that to be the case here. Give me a moody boy with a bit of a tortured past and I'm definitely there, I guess you could say! I'm invested, now, and definitely open if it turns out that this book will have a sequel. The 'tropeish' parts were ones that I could overlook as they didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the book, and I found myself invested in him.

I also found myself invested in Hester, the irascible lawyer. She's all prickles and snark and wit, which I love, but she's also got a past and a history, which I also love.

Beyond these two there's also a cast of characters that are interested and nuanced in and of themselves. What the reader thinks of any one person throughout the book isn't necessarily the case, and it's interesting to see the hidden motives (dark ulterior ones and otherwise) put on display as the book comes to a close.

I just thoroughly enjoyed this, really. Definitely going to check out more of Coben's books!

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Reading Rush? Hmm...

I follow Zoe (Read by Zoe) on Youtube today and she caught my attention when she was talking about the Reading Rush!

Oh, I can't help but wish that this was last week! I had some time off and it was a great time to catch up on some of my reading (I'm not quite as far behind on my reading goals as I was). However, now I'm back to a normal schedule and so I'm not sure how much I'll be able to participate.

The Reading Rush Book Club will be reading the following!

I've heard a lot about this book this year and I am interested to read it, I am going to set a reminder for myself to try and dip into it next week!

In addition there are challenges:

1/ Read a book with a cover that matches the colour of your birth stone.
2/ Read a book that starts with the word “The”.
3/ Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seen.
4/ Read the first book you touch.
5/ Read a book completely outside of your house.
6/ Read a book in a genre that you’ve always wanted to read more of.
7/ Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live.

To be honest I don't think I'll be able to get to many (if any!) of these, but I might try to do these before the end of the year... We will see!

At any rate, it's such a fun idea so if you can participate you should! I would be stoked to dive in if I didn't have to work during the day.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Review: Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are books that sear you with the story they weave, with the characters within them that are almost altogether real in pleasant ways. This is one of those books. It's a book that had characters that made me frustrated and disgusted and angry, but also made me cry with the depth of pain express on the pages.

This is an examination of quite a few things. Feminism. Family. Expectations. Racism. Grief. I could probably find more, but these five alone are so incredibly powerful in the story that has been built, here. I felt as though if I closed my eyes, I could see Lydia before me, or little Hannah, or even their parents.

The plot is intensely character driven, so if that's not the type of book that you'll enjoy then I'd say that you likely won't enjoy this. The dialogue is sparse, the story told through the eyes of each of the Lee family members, and by the last page it's managed to be aggravating but romantic, incredibly painful and hopeful all at the same time. It isn't a sweet, fluffy story, it is a story that touches on what it means to be human, with all the bumps and bruises and triumphs and joys that come along with it.

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review: The Library Of The Unwritten

The Library of the Unwritten (Hell's Library #1)The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Oh, it *pains* me that this book does not have more reviews and attention! This is one of those books I want to shout about from the rafters.

I've always been a sucker for books about books, I'm going to admit that right off the bat. But authors still have to be careful when deciding to write this sort of story - have to watch their step, tread carefully to make sure they're not just indulging themselves and playing into familiar tropes that don't require much creativity or effort on the part of the author.

This book is not like that in the slightest and it is so good.

Right from the beginning, we're tipped into a fascinating world. Claire is our main character, the Librarian of the Library of the Unwritten - books that never came to pass, books that wait for the potential to be. It's a fascinating concept, one that tugged at my gut because, well, are there many voracious readers out there who *haven't* imagined writing a book one day themselves?

The world building here is so intriguing, I loved it. It has a dab of Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch and a splash of The Archived but it is its own unique and compelling story and I loved so much of it.

The characters in this book are lovely, never quite what they seem. I love when that's the case, especially when the author is writing from different perspectives, but still keeping secrets, still keeping the reader guessing. There are heroes and villains but they're never quite the archetype, and though there are some things I guessed at, there were still quite a few surprises among these pages.

Claire is a fascinating and layered character - arrogant but with vulnerabilities, reserved but with much beneath the surface. She has made mistakes and lost, but she still is still a character that is eminently endearing in spite of it all, even if she frustrates you at times.

And the plot? The plot is a whole lot of fun. We get to dip in and out of other realms, each interesting and with their own merits. Nothing is as straightforward as it might seem, and there's a lot of personal growth for the characters as we go around. Leto is my baby and I'm prepared to fight for him, I'm just saying!

Ugh, just an altogether satisfying read for the weekend and this is a book where I definitely want a physical copy on my shelves. I've been approved for an ARC of the next book on Netgalley and I can't wait to read it!

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Friday, July 10, 2020

Review: A Girl Made Of Air

A Girl Made of AirA Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My first dnf of 2020, unfortunately.

I was so drawn in by the description of this book, but unfortunately the stylistic tone of the writing just did not grab me. I got about a third of the way in and have decided against plugging on because I just have so many other books to read and I feel like I gave it a fair shot.

My problems started right from the beginning, namely that the author had two characters speaking and the dialogue did not sound realistic at all. There are certain ways that people speak, from the haughty to the commonplace, but generally they don't sound as though they are writing descriptions in a novel while doing so.

From there the format switched to the main character speaking themselves in their own writing, and that was a bit better. But again, it didn't sound like something that a person would actually *write*. I suppose there could be some argument that if you're telling a tale you would add certain embellishments, but even then, it just didn't quite work for me. You have to sell that sort of style choice and I don't feel the author did (for my particular tastes, at least).

Beyond that, the plot just didn't draw me in the way that I wanted to, and I struggled to hold my interest in what I was reading. I may try again later as I see some positive reviews from others.

This book will be released in September, 2020. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for this advance copy! View all my reviews

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Review: The Monster Of Florence

The Monster of FlorenceThe Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was absolutely gripping.

I'm a fan of true crime books. Of course these days one can most likely read a wikipedia article about crimes and serial killers, etc, but there's a certain sort of enjoyment that comes from cracking open a book that takes the cold facts and presents them in a compelling way.

This book is one of those books. It tells the story of how the author comes to find that the peaceful little area of Italy he's moved to is actually the site of a vicious spate of crimes, a discovery that plunges him into an investigation that is both thrilling and dangerous. Over the span of seventeen years eight different couples had been brutally murdered during nighttime trysts, the violence so shocking that it left locals in a state of shock, dreading when the Monster of Florence would strike yet again.

The book doesn't just tell us about the murders, though. It's about much more than that. It delves into the Italian justice system, touching on corruption, power, and tendency of human nature to seize upon any explanation that tells us what we want to hear. The book covers a dizzying array of possible suspects and a convoluted trail of wild stories and accusations, and also touches on the importance of the freedom of the press.

This story isn't for those who are seeking a tidy, wrapped up story of a criminal and their comeuppance. But it is worth a read for anyone with a fascination for unresolved mysteries and the trials and tribulations of the justice system.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Review: Death's Acre by William M Bass

Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell TalesDeath's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by William M. Bass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is not for everyone, but oh, I enjoyed it!

I'm well aware that I have a bit of a fascination when it comes to death and the macabre. I remember as a teenager checking out a book on Fred and Rosemary West, the infamous serial killers. True crime interests me, as does the nature of death and how people relate to it.

The descriptions in this book are sure to turn some stomachs, I would definitely say that if you're not prepared to read honest - and in some case, graphic - descriptions of corpses and decomposition, then you may want to give this book a miss. The stories Bass has to tell are intriguing and fascinating, though, and are well balanced against the details of the author. Intertwined with these are highlights of students and colleagues, which I appreciated.

It's interesting - while I stand by my warning up above, I did find myself thinking just now that it's possible that people could benefit from reading books like this. Not necessarily this book, but books on death, and dying. We are so removed from the process, now.

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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Review: Hidden Valley Road

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American FamilyHidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a combination of heartbreaking and fascinating, and it weaves a compelling, if tragic story as the author tells the story of a family beset by schizophrenia.

It definitely reminded me of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in many ways. One thing I enjoyed about this book was a closer look at the subjects of the book, though due to the nature of the illness it's limited to the family members who aren't mentally ill.

The story of the family is by turns frustrating, shocking and saddening. As I read I couldn't help but wonder if the story would have turned out differently if the six sick boys had been born just a few decades later - if their parents had been products of different backgrounds, more able to reach out for help. The parents undeniably bear a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, but at the same time the era they were born into or grew up in was so ill-prepared for this sort of illness, especially on this scale, that I found myself having a lot of empathy for them. It's easy to have criticisms of them but I wonder how many could stand in Mimi or Don's shoes and survive what they did.

Intertwined with the story of the family is the story of the advancements of our understanding of schizophrenia - I'd lke to be able to say 'treatment', but I'm not sure if that would really be accurate. One thing the book makes clear is that we are only now truly starting to develop an idea of how the disorder works and what it encompasses. Hopefully that work will help us as we move into the future, so that one day other people won't have to go through what Don, Jim, Brian, Matthew, Joseph, Peter and the rest of their family did.

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Review: Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest DisasterInto Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Much like Into the Wild, this book has convinced me that the world takes all kinds, and some do things that seem insane to many of the rest of us.

However, while there was a certain air of romanticism to the idea of just walking off into the wilderness to live for awhile, there's little romanticism in this book. It's interesting that the two books were written only a few years apart, yet the tone in this one is much grimmer. Krakauer had recounted another climbing adventure in 'Into The Wild', but the feeling I got from that one was much lighter than this book. It speaks to just how shaken Krakauer was by what took place on Everest, I think.

This book is not here to wrap things up in a tidy bow - 24 years later, there are still many unanswered questions about this expedition. This is just Krakauer's story of his experience and the role he may or may not have played in what transpired.

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

Review: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, this book.

This is one of those few books where as I've closed it I've found myself thinking 'this should be required reading'.

This book has just about everything that I love in non-fiction - intriguing facts, insight into history, and a compelling human element that really makes you think. Oh, and for this book the science is absolutely fascinating, getting more insight into just how research has progressed over the last seventy years.

This book is honestly just gutting in a lot of ways. It's a glimpse into a family that in a lot of ways has been taken horrific advantage of by the scientific community, to an extent that there's really no way to make it up to them. It starts with the lack of consent when her tissues are taken, but remains a constant theme throughout throughout the next fifty years. The Lacks' family never had any true chance to have any understanding at a time when it would have given them any control - not Henrietta, not her husband or siblings, not her children.

That element of tragedy adds a taint to all the scientific progress that's described and laid out throughout the book. Clearly the HeLa cells are a tribute to humanity's ingenuity, they've enabled an incredible amount of research and advancement. But the cost to the Lacks' family can't be ignored and my heart ached for them as I read their story. The idea of companies making fortunes off of research that never could have existed without Henrietta while her family suffers, unable to pay their medical bills, just makes one want to weep at the state of affairs.

The writing here cannot be ignored - there's much here that could have been dry and boring, and other elements that could have been overly emotional or viewed as a blatant ploy for sympathy. For me personally, I found that Rebecca Skloot did a perfect job of weaving her story together, telling us the story of Henrietta and those she cared about, and giving us insights into the doctors, nurses and scientists who worked with the HeLa cells.

Not to be overlooked is the searing insight into the racism that was - and is many ways still is so prevalent in American society at the time that this happened. The fact that Henrietta's children are still alive - that theoretically *she* could have been alive had she not been struck down so young by this vicious mutation of her own body - is a reminder that the past is not so far behind us as we sometimes like to think.

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Review: Do No Harm

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain SurgeryDo No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I quite liked this one.

You know how a lot of people think that doctors or surgeons, etc, can be pompous jerks? Well, this author comes across as one, but he also knows that that is how he sometimes comes across, and that lends a certain humour to this book.

The book takes us through a variety of different experiences of Henry Marsh's life, from when he was a young student and still 'wet behind the ears', to towards the end of his career when he is a respected and esteemed neurosurgeon. Throughout he tackles difficult cases, patients who try his patience (pun intended), and patients who tug at his heartstrings in spite of his efforts to be detached. Patients he remembers, standing out against a sea of faces and conditions.

He also grapples with the medical system and the politics and bureaucracy, something that even highly respected and important doctors still have to deal with (much to his dismay, of course)!

The book skips around a bit, but in spite of this I found that it was well balanced. On one page I would be rolling my eyes at the impatience and arrogance of the author, but then on the next I would find myself sympathetic to him and what he had to deal with. It's not as personal as Unnatural Causes was, but that's because it's a different book, and in ways it benefits from that focus on medicine instead of the personal life of the doctor. A little bit more might have been nice, but isn't necessary.

Definitely worth a read for those who enjoy these types of books where we get a glimpse into these professions that we'll never have an intimate understanding of.

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Friday, June 19, 2020

Review: You Should See Me In A Crown

You Should See Me in a CrownYou Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*sighs contentedly* See, the advantage of working from home is being able to just sit down and read through a book like this!

Sometimes you come across a book that just makes you happy, and this is one of those books. It's one of those books where just for a moment, everything is right with the world and it makes you believe that stories like this can happen outside of the pages of a book, too.

Liz Lighty has a dream, a dream she's held tight to her chest ever since she was a little girl. She's going to go to the school of her dreams and then go to med school, and be the person that it seems society expects her not to be.

That dream shatters when she finds out that she hasn't won the scholarship that she was counting on. Now she has to come up with a plan... And what a plan it is!

With her friends by her side, she ignores that she is dead last in the race for prom queen and decides to take her school by storm. Along the way she meets Mack, the cute new girl who distracts her more than she should - and also runs into Jordan, former friend turned into someone she actually resents. It's a story of a queer black girl finding her voice and growing into who she is.

This book has all of the drama and hijinks that you would expect from a story about a bunch of teenagers on the cusp of going off into the world, and with that comes conflict and more than a few clashes between Liz - who she really is - and what those around her expect. There are also a few turns that may surprise you!

I enjoyed the fact that the people in this book were allowed to be real - fully rounded with faults and fears, not just fill in the blank tropes for the main character to bounce off of. It gives our character room to be imperfect and grow herself, and I appreciated that. Sometimes you finish a book and you're left with the impression that it's just fluff, but that wasn't the feeling I got here.

Just a really fun and sweet book and definitely one I'd recommend.

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Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What an odd little book. I got about a quarter of the way in and was rather bored and baffled with the route that it was taking, so I ended up skipping to read the last little bit.

I found it difficult to empathize with the main character, perhaps because of her immaturity even at the age of seventeen. I can see the kernels of a character I could sympathize with in there somewhere, but they're covered up with rather shallow writing and the rather fantastical ideas that just left me sort of cold. Some of her thoughts and feelings would have made more sense for a sixth or seventh grader, not someone who is seventeen. The obsessive behaviour I'm fine with, because I can be a tad obsessive myself, but the rest just didn't do it for me.

'Meh' is probably the best descriptor I can think of for it, which is handy since I already have a shelf named that. I'm not sure how I'd even categorize this book, I can't help thinking that it's a pity that the author didn't age down the characters.

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Review: Unnatural Causes

Unnatural CausesUnnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, both for the cases the author delves into but also the exploration of his life and the impact that varying incidents had on him. I imagine that pathologists find at times that others don’t understand them - it’s a profession that many would not be able to do, of course. I have to admit that some of the descriptions gave me pause, mostly due to the beauty the author seems to find in the dead body itself. However I think that’s exactly what I would want in a forensic pathologist finding cause of death, even if it makes me a tad uncomfortable.

I also found some of the book incredibly relevant to the current protests going on against police brutality. It’s clear that the author feels that the police are not properly trained on how to safely restrain people, and that black people suffer from this especially.

Overall an enjoyable read, with insight into a taxing profession with high expectations.

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