Monday, August 22, 2011

Loss of love and sight

The Blind Contessa's New MachineThe Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A beautifully descriptive first novel from a young author. A love story about the loss of sight and how to make up for that in imagination. This book is elegant and lovely, although the ending broke my heart in its abrupt apathy. The "machine" doesn't make its appearance until three-quarters through the book, and really, doesn't have much to do with the story. The love between Carolina and her scientist is what draws the reader gently through the Italian countryside in this story. Great read, disappointing ending.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very interesting book about a black woman who, in 1951, unknowingly donated some of her cancer cell tissue which provided limitless groundbreaking for science and technology ever since. Henrietta Lacks was a poor woman from slavery ancestry who provided for her husband and children as best she could until she got sick and went to Johns Hopkins for treatment. While there, she received radiation therapy to cure the cancer which eventually took her life. Her cells were taken for research and found to multiply unlike any cells ever seen to that point in history. Her cells do not die. To date, there are enough cells from Henrietta to circle the Earth three times. This fascinating story tells about the ethics concerning tissue donation when the donor is not aware of the donation nor of the ramifications of donating, as well as the multi-billion dollar industry surrounding the use of donated tissue. It is a sad tale because the Lacks family was cheated out of their share of the profits made from the use of Henrietta's cells, in fact they can't even afford health insurance for their family. The argument for and against informed consent is dissected, does consent help or hinder scientific research? Really great read and lots of questions to answer about tissue research.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Smashed: Story of a Drunken GirlhoodSmashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Both shockingly honest and also too familiar. The difference I could tell between the author and me is I couldn't feel her overwhelming shame or guilt or remorse in these pages. I have lived through many of the same alcohol induced experiences and, in fact quite a few more since she was in her twenties before she had sex and apparently was never caught drinking and driving. She also quit drinking by 23, whereas I have over 10 years on her by now. Even in my most innocent alcoholic encounters, I felt guilty. She talks about her stomach being pumped and who knows possibly being raped and waking up in strager's houses with the air of a documentary, but never seems afraid of her choices or worried about what other people thought of her. She's much more of a puker than I ever was but, again, she didn't seem embarrassed by it, just saw it as part of being young and drunk. I am impressed with her candor and writing, even if it felt like she was a little removed from it all.

She ends her book with a passionate rage against the alcohol industry in the media.  Most eye catching to me was this:

"Drinking, like all forms of self-destruction, isn't a valid art form - because it allows the world to rejoice in our weakness..."

She also says:  "I've had it with a world that has created a generation of women who are emotionally dependent on alcohol, and then demonized us for our lack of feminine control."

And finally:  "I see alcohol like a man who courted us all.  Alcohol has been the first love of so many of us; it had us believing we were desirable and challenging in its presence alone.  It let us think it would take us away from small towns, stressful studies, tedious jobs, or unproductive relationships.  We have been terrifyingly devoted to it, and it's left too many of us heart sore."


View all my reviews