Wednesday, August 31, 2011

25 Days: San Francisco and The Canyon

25 Days: San Francisco and The Canyon: Joyce in The Canyon.
It is a beautiful sunny day and I am going to meet Joyce outside the Glen Park BART station without a clue as to ...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By: Rebecca Skloot 4.5/5

WOW what a story, what an unbelievable turn of events! First and foremost, I feel that in my days as a student I have heard about HeLa, but never, like many thought anything about it. No one tells you what these cells are, no one questions anything that professors tell you to take for granted – except Rebecca Skloot.

Ms. Skloot works for years - after first hearing about HeLa cells in her class – to get to the bottom of the story.  She explores the story of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman in the 1950s whose cervical cancerous cells were taken (the norm at the time). She explores the roles proprietary laws of one’s own from the 1950s to today.

I learned all sorts of information, including the horribleness of medical life for African Americans in the 1950s.


I found Deborah, no matter what tragedies she had, to be selfish and self pitying, the same with the rest of the family.  They are not the only ones with problems, and issues and it happened. To be rude and to stay uneducated about a subject is LAZY. If the family felt wronged, they should have worked themselves to be better educated on the subject. Yes  there are circumstances, lack of money, but even in the 90s there are non-profits and government agencies that can help.

I found family to be unappreciative of anyone who is trying to do something good, like the ladies group and their ignorance and lack of desire to get past that disgusting. This is not to take away from the fact that the family was wronged – due to practices of the time. This is not to ignore the fact of lack of information and miscommunication on the cells, or the fact the story is truly phenomenal and changed the science world completely.

I loved learning how HIPPA came into play, and how different government agencies came about. I love to know where we are today with science and the role that we, all individuals play. How do I feel about a database of my blood somewhere that they might or might not test diseases on me? I don’t know.

Great book for a discussion group.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Four to Score

By: Janet Evanovich 4.5/5

Finding Maxine has proved to be difficult. First she sends very cryptic silly clues that lead from one Clue to the other, and I am working with her arrogant, but not bad looking, ex boyfriend of hers. Things of course turn deadly as one of my points of contact is found dead, her friend lost a finger and her mother was scalped.  Stephanie Plum has a new car, which she manages to get blown up along with another car, her apartment gets torched and has the sexiest scene we have seen in books with Joe Morelli!

We are introduced to Sally, the sexy cross dresser and code de-coder extraordinaire, with the help of Granda Mazur, Sally, Lula and of course Ranger and Joe Morelli can Stephanie find Maxine before it is too late?

The Hunger Games

By: Suzzane Collins 5/5

The distopia future of the United States, after an uprising against the government control, cities where closed off and forced under a strict regime. There were 13 separate “Districts” though the 13th was over taken by the government as a show to the other 12 to instill fear in the people.  This is the story of a world where youth between the ages of 10 – 18 in each of those 12 districts get chosen to fight to the death in the Capitol city as a show that is broadcast nationally.

Thus is the story of Katniss, the girl who is running her family of her mother and her younger and fragile sister. Katniss is a hunter, more specifically a bow and arrow hunter that she learned from her dad. Katniss chooses to go, which is a rarity on its own, instead of her young and fragile sister. From her district the boy that is chosen is Peeta a boy that Katniss knew from her class.

They go to the State of Panem and are given an entourage that makes them ready for opening ceremonies, and they are a hit. They are paired together, given interviews and given coaching by the District 11 town drunk.  They are entered into the staging area of the games that is controlled by a board, and it is every man for himself… or is it?

Surviving is the name of the game, and it is truly based on what human race can do to live.  There are bonds that are made that are meant to be broken… and what can Katniss do… killing a human is much different than killing an animal? Or is it?

These games push people to their brink, those that have been training their whole lives from Districts 1, 2, 3, and 4 as Careers to those that had no other choice… like Rue. There are friendships that get formed and lies, and struggle.

This books makes us question what we are capable of doing when your life is on the line… it makes us question how much power can the government have, and will this be the end of society that we know. The society that is so based on multi media they can not function. The society of different levels…. Follow Katniss in her struggle for survival and what she does in The Hunger Games.

Three to Get Deadly

By: Janet Evanovich 4.5/5

This time Stephanie is out to get the local “Uncle Mo” who owns a candy shop. Turns out it is not so easy as she almost gets kill while breaking and entering in said candy shop.  As it turns out, much like her life, she gets involved in another serious case!

Grandma Mazur is there to help, and Stephanie decides she needs a make over.  Stephanie is establishing herself and her name as a bounty hunter especially after catching Kenny Mancuso and Joe Morelli. This time she has more friends and has new tactics under her belt, but no loaded gun.

Two for the Dough

By: Janet Evanovich 4.5/5

Stephanie is off on another adventure, this time to capture Kenny Mancuso who skipped bail after shooting his co-worker in the leg. In the meantime more people show up dead and missing. Stephanie gets herself mixed up again in a larger case that the Police Department and the Feds had been trying to track down. There is an investigation on stolen weapons from an Army Base that Kenny Mancuso used to be stationed at.

With the help of ex-prostitute Lula, now sidekick to Stephanie, crazy Grandma Mazur who has a fascination for dead people and funeral parlors,  and of course the two leading men in Stephanie’s life Ranger and Morelli, can Stephanie keep herself alive.

One for the Money

By: Janet Evanovich 4.5/5

Set in the smoggy backdrop of New Jersey we meet, Stephanie Plum, a late 20s, early 30s honest, haphazzard, and ecclectic girl with a hamster. We meet Stephanie's crazy family, including Grandma Mazur who is by far the best comedic relief since the nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Stephanie used to be a buyer in women’s lingerie and the job went kaput… so she blackmails herself a job with cousin Vinny. Cousin Vinny owns the Vinny Plum Bonds Company and she is working on the biggest case yet, capturing Joe Morelli the cop. Stephanie wants Morelli for multiple reasons, not just the $10,000 bond that he is worth, but he is the guy who took her virginity and was “the one that got away”.

Through many turn of events, and funny accolades we learn how Stephanie Plum does on her first FTA that jumped bail… and she goes on to uncover a larger crime than just a cop that is running away from the law.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Help

Kathryn Stockette 4.7/5

Well I have to say best character is Cecila! I really did enjoy this book. I didn’t know what it was about, and had I read the back cover I would have been a little more aware. Taking place in 1962, during the “separate but equal” era, it was in a southern voice and from the perspective of the black female. Great perspective on the views of what it must have been like to be a maid in Mississippi during that time.
There are of course many colorful characters, from the doughty Elizabeth Leefolt, to the haughty Hilly Holbrook, to the smart and ingenious Eugena “Skeeter” Phelan, and of course the two main voices Abileen Bates, and Minny!

It is very moving to see the relationships between women and then the relationships between white women and women of color. There were many funny parts, including the pie, the toilet scenes (toilets take on a huge them in this book), and of course the whole Ceclia mess!

I would 100% recommend this book. I bet this would be a great high school reading book.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Oh No We're Going to Die


Typical Alaskan Book, where a true blooded Alaskan, Bob Bell, gives you his stories of the great outdoors of Alaska. No one can doubt how much Bob Bell loves this state, and how much he appreciates nature. He is the rough and tough kind of guy, the Cessna flying, shot gun carrying, quirky and funny guy!

I really enjoyed reading this book, even if the book is written in the story telling way, where you feel like you are reading his mind, verse a book. Once you get past the style of writing, you enjoy the beauty of his stories. From being surrounded by 8 bears in the woods at night with his shot gun in the tent, to doing water skiing off a canoe with a salmon (my favorite)!

It also is a reality of how harsh Alaska can be, no one seams to believe that just beyond the boarders of Anchorage is a vast wilderness that will KILL you. Alaska the almighty state has taken many and is always trying to add more to her list. Bob Bell had many close encounters and he shares those with funny anecdotes and a serious underlining warning of the Alaskan Outdoors.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

By: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 4/5

On the Story:
Interesting story, unexpected in the nature of the topic (I would have known if I read the back -YES). I give this book the 4 stars because maybe I am tired of the WWII stories. For a while in the late1990s there was a huge move to put out many books and movies with the same topic. I am not dismissing the importance of the topic and the gruesome things that happened.

This book has many interesting characters, and unexpectedly is written in letters back and forth.  Juliet and her alter ego Izzy are the main writers of the story, focusing on her friendship with the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.  The main draw is Juliet's stay on the island to write a book on reading during the Nazi occupation of the British Guernsey Islands. Here she meets fantastic characters: Isola - the looney postion maker, Dawsey- the silent brooding guy, Ameilia - the older motherly figure, Kit, and most importantly Elizabeth.

There are other characters, such as Sydney and Sophie and Mark, and they all play an integral part of the story at large. So why place the story on the island? Yes historical fiction, and learning about an occupation that you don't hear very much of. This I appreciated than stories in Berlin or the French occupation. I also think that the book setting made the war feel differently, and it was a different war for those people - or at least I can assume. There were different interactions between the islanders and Nazis. Can anyone truly imagine the isolation of that island and the unrest of not knowing? Is that any different than any other country and their lack of communication during the war.

This book is unlike other books, because maybe it is not as harsh, it certainly has humor in it, including the pig roast and the two drinking buddies story.

So what is the author trying to say?!?!!? Was it easier to write the story in letter form so that you can get a better sense of each individual's belief and background? Maybe.... I feel like I know Juliet better because it is from her own hand that I am reading. I feel like understand Elizabeth's character because  of how everyone viewed her. What if in the truth, Elizabeth was a conniving person that wanted to use everyone and it was her appearance that the islanders really knew. We never know. 

The ending... yes it was like many fictional books and I wished it had more more real.


I wish she didn't get with Dawsey and have Kit as her own kid. It would have been more real if she and Mark got married and he whisked her off to America. I feel like life is harsh and it shouldn't not have ended as such a happy fairy tale.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Water for Elephants

Sara Gruen 4.5/5

Yes a truly amazing book just like everyone says. The beautiful story of life on the road, of a smart elephant (and they are), of a toothless lion, a boy that becomes a man, a Romanian acrobat, and the harsh realities of the circus during The Great Depression.

Marlena, the delicate; Jacob the boy and Rosie the wonderful pachyderm. This book is harsh, and at the same time I think it romanticizes the life of the circus. It was a hard life, that people didn’t see behind the curtains. I learned that the circus also had a prostitution ring.

I did know the ending but you became very close to the characters, so much so that you can feel what they were feeling. I guess that is what a great book is considered. I do have so say “Modoc: The World’s Greatest Elephant” was significantly better because I am a non-fiction reader.

A Piece of Cake

By: Cupcake Brown 4.5/5

The not so sweet story of La’Vette to those she hated, Cupcake to those she loved.
Taking place in the 1970s, Cup was forced into foster care that age of 11 due to the death of her mother. At the age of 11, Cupcake lost her child hood and became part of the system.

While this book really is reminiscent of “White Oleander”, there are comparisons that would never happen. There is a racial undertone to the book, as well as unbelievable positive ending with a great message of loving yourself.

Cup endures every hardship there is out there, gang violence, drug abuse, rape, prostitution, racism, battery and more.

This is a not a book for the feign of heart!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wicked... Again

By: Gregory Maguire.... 5++++

I was a little apprehensive to reread this book again, having enjoyed it so much the first time. What if this time, I found flaws in it that would make me not like it? What if I had a different state of mind and didn't enjoy it as much? And most importantly, what if I misread all those things on evil and religion as the sub-connotation of the book?

Well guess what, it was even better this time around... I feel I even understood all those foreshadowing events. It opened my eyes to better understanding the characters, and the links between them, because I wasn't rushing to finish to see the ending of the book.

I absolutely adore Elphie, Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West! I feel that she is easily understood especially in our society today. She can be viewed as anyone of the people that we see in today's world. Upset by racial injustice of her skin color, being reprimanded because of her choice on religious beliefs, scorned by love, a politico, and finally rejected by friendship, made her into the antisocial hardened female that she became.

Do I think Elphie is evil, obviously not, as I like to use the endearing terms. I think life kicked her down, and she kept fighting. I found her strong to her beliefs, I found her amazing to fight for the Animals, when they were to 'lower" race... I wish I could be as strong to fight for something that I can 100% believe in. Was she a terrorist? I don't know if Elphie did anything that was considered a terrorist act, and she never went through with the presumed bombing of Madam Morrible. Had she... I believe it would be a completely different story. Though in light of the terrorist attacks in AZ, it is hard to put Elphie in the same category as a hero, one to admire for her strong political beliefs against Animal cruelty.

The Wicked Witch of the West has always had a stigma, one of evil, that in our fairy tales made us fear her. This books changes that perspective and makes you wonder what is the true meaning of evil? Was Elphaba born evil? The first questions has been debated upon for many years in our world. What is the root of evil? Is it always based on religion and the devil? I can't start to begin where does evil lie and where it comes from, but I don't think the Elphie was born evil, she was born different and that doesn't mean evil. She "became" the WITCH so that she can create a self protection bubble against the cruel outside world. Why shouldn't she go with the gossip of evil. Nessarose was significantly harsher of a person and dictator than Elphaba and for that matter Galinda/Glinda with all the pretending of being better than most.

 So why do people after reading this book still hate Elphaba? She loved her sister, even if it was tainted with a hint of jealousy of the love Frex had for her? She truly loved Fiyero, not her fault he is cheating on her; she loved her Nanny, especially when Nanny showed up at Kiamo Ko; she learned to care for Sarima, even if Sarima would not listen to her; and these qualities really humanized her.

The world is truly magical, from talking Animals vs animals, to magic shoes, and spells and flying monkeys. There are many mirror images of Oz to today's America. Where do we draw the line of cruelty between Animals and animals? Is it because one can talk vs the other who can't? How about the parallels between the social classes of Oz; Munchkin Land Middle Class, Lower class Glikkun, the Outcasts of Vinkus, and the Nomads the Scrow; Compared to: Racial separations in America? Can that still not be seen even in 2011? The religious strife of the Unnamed God vs the Lurlainists vs the pleasure faith; Compared to: Christianity; Judaism and the Muslim faith. Can't the Muslims see Christians as pleasure faithfuls drinking and yes sex before marriage? Can't Christians looks at Jews and say they are crazy waiting for their Lurlina to come out?

This books brings about astounding resemblance between Emerald City and Nazism, as it was. The Gale Force and the saluting and how Elphaba fought against taking that control of her hometown of Cowlen grounds. And even furthur back with sexism in the schools and keeping it seperate, the difference of materials that were available to the girls as Shiz vs the guys at the school.
And lastly and most obvious the blatant racism of Animals and colored people like Fiyero, Elphaba and Turtle Heart.

I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this book the second time around. This makes me curious if Son of a Witch will be better the second time around as I didn't think it was very good.