Alternating from biography to science, Rebecca Skloot in writing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks avoids sentimentality and making judgments.
Skloot, a science journalist, tells the story of Henrietta and her DNA. The subject was born Loretta Pleasant—nobody knows how her name became Henrietta—Lacks, in a family known to marry their first cousins in the now-razed town of slave cabins and tobacco farms named Clover near Roanoke, Virginia. She married her first cousin, David ‘Day’ Lacks, moved to Baltimore to work in a plant riddled with asbestos. Her husband's unfaithfulness gave her both neurosyphilis and gonorrhea. Her environment, poverty and lack of education made her the tragic heroine of a great scientific experiment. Henrietta Lack's deadly cervical cancer cells—taken without her consent—were the first to be grown and then thrive in a lab. HeLa cells, still growing today sixty years after her death, would weigh in total more than 50 metric tons.
Alexander McCall Smith’s Corduroy Mansions is about Family. The group of tenants in the genteel but slightly shabby house in the Pimlico neighborhood in London cares about each other and finds joy in the simple things in life.
This is an ensemble piece with a simple plot and many eccentric and likable characters. There is William French, a widower and wine merchant, who cannot get his 24-year-old son to move out. He “borrows’ Freddy de la Hay, a terrier with human behavior and thoughts, to get the dog-hating Eddie to move out. Instead, William’s ersatz girlfriend moves in. On the floor below live four young women: Dee works in a health food shop; Caroline is studying art history at Sotheby’s; Jenny is MP Oedipus Snark’s assistant; Jo, an Australian, is assistant manager at a local wine bar. Below them lives a quiet accountant in his mid-forties called Basil Wickramsinghe. The characters touch each other’s lives and have moral dilemmas to solve.
The Chateau Marmont is an opulent hotel in Hollywood where the rich and famous go to misbehave. In Last Night at the Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger, Brooke is dressing for the Grammys with her newly famous husband, wearing her first Valentino gown, her own plain gold wedding band replaced by a diamond the size of a macaroon when she finds out her “Rock Star” husband was at the Chateau Marmont with another woman—there are pictures just published in the tabloids—and then her boss calls from the hospital where she works as a nutritionist and fires her for missing too much time for following her husband to his gigs. Her Cinderella moment turns into a nightmare.
Amy Butler designs fabrics, home accessories, sewing patterns, and stationery goods. She was a contributing editor to Country Living Magazine. Her bag designs in Amy Butler’s Style Stitches include 12 full-size patterns in a bound pocket in the back of the book with 26 simple variations. The bags have fresh color schemes such as her sea foam blue, apricot and her fun pink.
I can’t decide which bag I love the most: the Teardrop Bag, the Cosmo Bag or the Perfectly Pleated Clutch. She rates her designs from easy to the experienced sewer so with basic sewing you can try the easier projects with her complete step-by-step directions and easy-to-follow diagrams.
Jane Austen fans rejoice—the comedy of manners is still alive. In her debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson’s plot is wry, witty, and charming, yet her gentle and sometimes hilarious satire catches human foibles perfectly.
Noreen Kelly worked at Balancing Act Shoes for 18 years as a senior manager, but she did not start walking in The Wildwater Walking Club until she takes a Voluntary Reduction in Force package—or maybe not so voluntary--as she finds out her so-called boyfriend, who has now fallen off the face of the earth, has engineered her buyout. She is unemployed—redundant—and hits rock bottom.
With the help of a quirky set of friends and family, Noreen starts taking steps to reclaim her life. In these days of double-digit unemployment, Claire Cook writes with humor and romance and the plot resonates with our time.
Noreen finds out she is not her resume. She reconnects with her mother, finds new friends in her neighbors Tess and Rosie, helps parent and child, improves her taste in men, gets involved in her community, and gets herself and her life back in shape.
And what about her career? She attends a career coaching group and does find a “Fresh Horizon.”
This book was a fun read, and I got off my couch and took a walk after finishing it!
I am a loving (and interfering) mother of a 20-year-old son so I thought I would read What I Wish I Knew When I was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World and pass it on to him. I admit to sending him emails about Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development and what he should be doing as a young adult: intimacy versus isolation (Son, pick the correct side of the equation!) so I thought this book would give him a head’s up.
I loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dark Shadows on TV when I was a kid, Anne’s Rice’s rock’n’roll vampires, and I even discussed what team I would join in the ‘tween Twilight Saga. I also devour vampire novels with “punny” titles such as Undead and Unappreciated by Mary-Janice Davidson, but I put The Passage on request at the library because of an article I read in Time Magazine that stated that vampires are scary again, and I do love a character that bites.