Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Finally, I finished a series! It's been quite some time that I have finished a series and have enjoyed the books as much as I did this series.

Mockingjay is the final installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins and I was so upset to see them end.  I don't want to give too much away so I can't really talk about the plot, except to say that it is the culmination of Katniss' struggles in the country of Panem.

Go out and buy it NOW!!!

Book 11/100

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeLa I heard about this book on NPR, which reviewed it and praised it to no end.  And that praise was well deserved.

In this book, Rebecca Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cells are now famously known as the HeLa cells. We learn quite quickly that the cell line was derived from Ms. Lacks' cervical cancer cells and what made them unique is that scientists were easily able to grow them indpendently of anything, thereby allowing an infinite number of cells upon which to perform research.  Henrietta's cells were used to develop things like the polio vaccine and were sent to space.  Rebecca learned about them initially in one of her science classes and was immediately hooked upon finding out more about the biography of the woman whose cells had this huge impact on our world. I mean, in essence, Henrietta's cells were used to eradicate polio and may one day be credited for having sponsored the cure for things like cancer. Rebecca learned quite quickly that there was very little to  be found out about Henrietta so she decided to find Henrietta's family and write a book about it.

I loved this book - it's part science (in that Skloot explains the cells etc), part biography and part social commentary.  She tells the story of the Lacks family and how they were treated unjustly by scientists - they were never told that Henrietta's cells were taken and cultued and people have made money off of them, while her children and grandchildren couldn't afford medical care. Her research and her passion were admirable and impressive - Ms. Skloot spent ten years of her life researching this masterful piece and she was able to become trusted by the family. Without that trust there is no doubt this book would have been a much less book than it is.

I highly recommend this book!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

So I picked this novel up in the airport as I was waiting to get on my flight to Orlando, mostly because it is coming out as a movie and I wanted to read it before seeing the movie.  That's my general rule after all.  And I was sorely disappointed.

In this historical novel, Jacob Jankowski, the protagonist, has left Vetrinary school at Cornell after suffering the loss of his parents, who have died in a tragic car accident.  He learns fairly quickly that his father, also a vet, was heavily in debt and actually died owing money.  So Jacob leaves school and his home and literally joins the circus. He travels cross country with the circus, acting as the show's vetrinarian and working under August, the head trainer and Uncle Al, the show's ringleader.  August is an interesting man, alternately charming and brutal.  He's also married to the beautiful Marlena, a performer, that Jacob forms a special bond with. This novel is about Jacob's relationship with Marlena, with the new elephant, Rosie and with Uncle Al.

There are definitely several themes that are prevalent in this novel, which are super easy to pick out.  Water is for cleansing, for instance and the train tracks are for choosing a life path. 

I was not impressed by this book at all.  The themes were easy to spot and the ending was just as easy to spot.  The characters were shallow and one dimensional and I found myself annoyed with them more often than I was intrigued by them.  I just didn't really like it - I kept expecting it to get better and it didn't. It was a complete and utter failure.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I'm so woefully behind in my reviews!

This is the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. It continues the story of Katniss Everdeen and the futuristic, post apocalyptic world of Panem. After winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and her co-victor/lover Peeta return to their home District - District 12 - located in Appalachia and the poorest of the Districts (with the exception of 13, which has been obliterated). There are rumors of rebellion among the other districts, which hold Katniss up as their leader/figurehead. As a result of her, rebellion has been sparked and President Snow threatens to kill Katniss' family if she doesn't comply with his orders. After going through the districts on their victory tour and having Peeta propose, the two victors learn that the 75th hunger games will pit past victors against one another. The balance of the book is about the 75th Hunger Games.

I loved this novel as much as I loved The Hunger Games.  It is unique, has un anticipated twists and turns and I love the characters, even the ones that you're supposed to hate.  They are all so deep and their motivations multi-layered. Collins had done what many authors have tried, unsuccessfully, to do: write a deeply powerful sequel that rivals the depth and power of the first.  I can't wait to read the third!

Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud by Anne Helen Peterson

I've always bee interested in gender studies. When I was in college, the study of gender was called women's studies and I'm hap...