Tag Archive | Book Review

A Book Review: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was written by Rebecca Skloot. I found this book at our little neighborhood library. The cover reads, “Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multi-dollar industry. More than twenty years later, her children found out. Their lives would never be the same.” I had to find out more, so I went home, and immediately devoured 60 pages. Lucky for me, it reads like a novel.

When Ms. Skloot was in a community education class at the age of 16, trying to earn high school credit, she learned about HeLa cells. Her instructor “pointed to two diagrams that appeared on the wall behind him. They were schematics of the cell reproduction cycle…” The cells didn’t mean too much to the author at the time. To her they looked like a “neon-colored mess of arrows, squares, and circles with words.” She worried because she’d have to memorize everything on the diagrams. The instructor explained how the cells divide and how important they are. If one little cell misfires, they could start growing out of control. The instructor talked about how scientists learn about cancer by studying cancer cells in culture. He wrote Henrietta Lacks’s name (code name “HeLa”) in capital letters on the board and said “HeLa cells were one of the most important things that happened to medicine in the last hundred years.” The instructor explained how HeLa cells helped develop drugs for treating many ailments and diseases and for also creating vaccines.

HeLa cells were first studied in 1951 when a doctor removed them from Henrietta Lacks and gave them to a lab. It was the first time human cells reproduced in a Petri dish. Scientists had been trying to reproduce human cells for decades, and it never worked. Ms. Skloot asked her instructor if he knew more about the lady who donated her cells, and he said no one really knows anything about her. Ms. Skloot could not believe it.

Ms. Skloot went on with her life and education, where she continued to learn about HeLa cells but learned nothing more about the actual person. Henrietta Lacks stayed in her mind and she was determined to find out more about her life and family. After ten years of research and interviews, her first book was published in 2010 and was instantly a New York Times best seller. Before publication, the author created the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, and some of the proceeds from the sale of the book have been donated by the author to the Foundation.

If you like to read human interest stories that have a controversial theme, you would enjoy this book. I’m not one to read scientific books, but this story held my interest. I wanted to find out what happened to Henrietta Lacks, her family, and her cells. If you don’t have time to read the book, there’s a movie by the same title, but I haven’t seen it yet.

I’m going to return the book to the little neighborhood library, so someone else can learn the story. Did you know about Henrietta Lacks or HeLa before reading this post? 🐢


A Book Review: “The Magnolia Story”

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

The Magnolia Story is written by Joanna Gaines in one font, with Chip Gaines chiming-in in another font and co-authored with Mark Dagostino. Chip and Joanna tell the story of how they met and take the reader along on their journey together through dating, their engagement story, wedding day, and family life. It was interesting to learn the ups and downs of their businesses and how they work together.

In the beginning of the book, Joanna describes herself as being introverted, and she talks about how she thinks she could have been happy with the way things were going in her life, before she met Chip. She didn’t mind being on her own and enjoyed working at her father’s tire company. Right before she met Chip, she was trying to decide if she should go back to New York City to pursue her career in communications.

One day at work, the guys Joanna worked with, egged her on to go talk to one of the customers. Her co-workers thought this guy would be a good match for Joanna. Joanna refused but after a while gave in and embarrassed herself by trying to talk to this cute guy. She leaves the building to go outside where she finds Chip sitting on a bench. She sits beside him, and they talk for a while. She doesn’t really think much about the conversation after it’s over. She just thought about how Chip was blessed with the gift of gab and how she didn’t really get a good look at him because he was wearing a baseball cap. Chip calls Joanna soon after they met, and Joanna often wonders why she was so agreeable to being with Chip. She usually had doubts before dating someone and didn’t really have much experience with dating.

Chip is always on the go and working to advance his businesses. When they’re first married, they move into one of Chip’s rental properties, and Joanna comes up with some designs, and they fix it up together. Joanna ends up loving what they’ve done to the place. Just when Joanna is ready to settle in, Chip buys a new property for them to flip. The house flipping is a common theme throughout the book, of course! I personally felt bad for Joanna when they had to move out of their beautiful Victorian home, with four kids, because Chip bought a new place for them to flip. It turned out to be a good decision in the long run, even though Joanna had a hard time accepting it at first.

The story also tells readers how they got discovered for their series Fixer Upper. Chip and Joanna didn’t even know about reality TV, because they didn’t own a TV. They asked friends what it was all about. Things that happened in their lives seemed to have worked out for the best. Joanna shares some of the obstacles she’s had to face and how she overcame them, with regard to her experiences with balancing work and raising a family. They both share their trust and faith in God, which they talk about in snippets throughout the book, in a down-to-earth way. Their goal of bringing attention to and supporting their community in Waco, Texas has definitely blossomed.

I rarely watch shows on HGTV, but I liked learning about Chip and Joanna’s lives. If you like inspirational, humorous, and uplifting stories, give The Magnolia Story a try. 🙂

A Book Review: “Unbroken”

Say you are going about your busy day, and you start to think about the character in the book you are reading, and you wonder what’s going to happen next. When that happens to me I know that I have found a treasure in that book. The best thing an author can do is enchant the reader into caring about one of the characters. This is what happened to me while I was reading Unbroken, a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand. I found that I instantly liked Louis Zamperini, the hero of this story. When I was not reading the book, I felt like I should be because I didn’t want to leave Louie stuck in an awful place. Even though the story was in my mind, I had to keep it moving so that I could find some peace for Louie.

When Louie was younger, he was a little trouble maker, but his brother helped him channel his energy into being a runner. Louie worked hard through high school and became a star athlete by breaking records when he ran the mile. Soon he was off to the 1936 Olympics. I believe that all the stamina that Louie developed as an athlete helped him continue on his journey to survive his trials during World War II and beyond.

I try not to read books that are about war because as Bird, Louie’s arch enemy said after the war was done, “War is a crime against humanity.” It was difficult to read how people treated others during the war. There are very graphic scenes in the book, but since I now had gotten to know Louie, I kept rooting for him and hoping that his situation would get better. I also got to see how compassionate people can be, how they can learn to forgive and move on with their lives.

As you can tell by the title of the book, Louie did not get broken. Louie found a way to save himself, and witnessing his strong spirit could strengthen anyone’s resolve. The life he led is truly inspirational. It’s no wonder this book has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 114 weeks.

If you can, try to read the book before it becomes a movie. The movie is going to be produced this year. Louie, at 96, will hopefully be able to be a part of the production.

You can find details about the movie here:  http://www.deadline.com/2012/12/angelina-jolie-director-unbroken-olympian-lou-zamerini-universal.

Now I look forward to see which will be better, the book or the movie?