Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review: Golden Grove

Golden Grove
By Francine Prose

Golden Grove, is a story about a family tragedy and how each one deals with it.

In the first chapter tragedy strikes one summer. Margaret is the eldest daughter, she is the free spirit. Then there is Nico, the youngest and takes life serious.

Both sisters go to the lake one summer day. Margaret drowns in the lake while Nico is helpless and watches.

Nico narrates the story.  The mother drowns herself in medication.  The father slips away, at the book store.   Both the parents are self absorbed in their own sorrow they are unable to be there for her.  She has to learn on her own how to deal with the loss of her sister.  

Margaret had a boyfriend Aaron, Margaret's parents never liked. They both thought he had a screw loose. After Margaret's death, Nico and Aaron hang out together. Nico lies to her parents that she is going somewhere.  But she is really hanging out with Aaron.  They both like to be together to talk about Margaret.

One weekend the parents go away to Boston. The two hang out with each other. Nico start to feel there is something strange about their friendship. Because he wants her to put on Margaret's favorite fragrance, her shirt, etc.  Things start to become bizzare. She realizes it, and then decides she can't do this any longer.

The end of book wraps up from the time she is a adolescent to the present time.

My comments:The story was not just about dealing with her sister's death. It was growing up as a adolescent. Dealing with the yearning and desires of adolescents.  But it dealt with growing up with the loss of her sister Margaret.  I personally did not like the book.   But, I did enjoy the writing but not the story.

The one problem I had was the parents were really not involved in Nico's life after her sister died.. They left her on her own devices. I had a problem with that. I don't think any parent would do this to their child. Leave her alone to let her deal with her pain.  I was thinking of my child and I would let my child know I was there for him if he needed to talk. I did not feel this was happening.  The parents had enough pain, and they did not want to get close to Nico. Maybe afraid their other daughter died they were afraid it  would happen again.

I did feel like I was reading a young adult novel.  I could see this book on a YA book shelf.

I would like to thank, Gayle from Everyday I Write the Book, for hosting the online book club.
I would like to thank Book Club Girl, for sending this book several months ago.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

She Ain't Heavy She's My Mother: Book Review

She Ain't Heavy She's My Mother
By Bryan Batt
Bryan Batt, has written a memoir about growing up gay with his mother in New Orleans.  It is funny, serious and everything in between as well. He talks about his time preparing in a pagent and wearimng a  pink hoop skirt.  The rudolph the red nose reindeer light bulb that burns his nose.  The story about coming out of the closet, his mother's antics " His relationship with his father, the ups and downs with his mother's illness. Through it all Gayle has inner strength to not quit and keep on going.  Bryan talks about the beautiful inner strength that each one gives to each other.

I could keep on going. He recalls the antics of his mother Gayle. She is the great strength in their lives..   She is beautiful, and charming, and has hard as nails strength.

The book is very funny, especially the part when he's father tells Bryan. Bryan, you can't leave the house without three things.  One of the things is his testicles.  I couldn't stop laughing. Tears starting rolling down my face.

If you are looking for a quick and funny read this book is for you.

Bryan, is a actor. Most recently he plays a character, Sal in Mad Men.   A closet gay art director in the ad agency.  He has done broadway shows such as CATS, Beauty and the Beast. He is a activist in many organizations that he supports.  Bryan and his partner of twenty years both own Hazelnut.   A accessory and fine gift boutique.

 I have been wanting to see the show Mad Men. This gave me a excuse to finally see the show. I finished watching the first season and starting to watch the second. I hope to finish all three before the fourth season starts. If you have not seen Mad Men on AMC you should check it out.  The new season starts in July. Unfortunately Salvatore is not on the show. But who nows like everything else in the show.  They may surprise you and bring him back.

This is the character of Salvatore Romono. He looks like a mafiosa. I was so surprised by the transformation of Bryan Batt to Salvatore.  Me personally, I think he is handsome.  How gorgeous with a beautiful chiselled bone structure.


Thank you for allowing me to review. My review copy is from Bryan Batt.  This was a great read.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tell Me When It Is Over!! Public Speaking

I am back in school. I am taking only three classes, but it is intense. I am taking Advanced Anatomy and Physiology, Public Speaking, and Math.

This may not seem so intimidating to you. But, I don't like speaking in front of the class, period. We have to prepare for a class for speech.

For those of you that like to be front and center. This is just the class for you.
But for me to speak in front of 20 young students. It is hard for someone that is middle age. Making a fool of myself with people that are mainly my son's age.

We have to do four types of delivery of speech. For one minute, I have to memorize something. For 30 seconds have to read a piece. Then the 3rd is prepare something and allowed to use notes. The last is something that is spontenous that the teacher knows. I am terrified.

It would not be so terrible if I was not taking the classses I am taking A/P and Math. Have not been in a math class for over 20 years. I just have to get over my jitters and stop stressing. It is easier said then done.

Wish me luck!!

Mailbox Monday

This post was found in my draft box, it is from several months ago.  Sorry about the very late post.

Thank you Marcia for hosting Mailbox Monday. Each week we anticipate what we receive in our mailbox each week. This past week I needed a dumptruck to get all the books through the door. This is what I recieved this week.

The Post Mistress by Sarah Blake
This one is a first time selection by Barnes and Noble

Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart
Thank you FSB Associates for a review copy

The Real Wizard of Oz by Rebecca LongCraine
I can't wait for this one. Since this is the anniversay of The Wizard of Oz movie this is great timing to read this biograpy to the great man himself.

Cost by Roxana Robinson

Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace
This one we are to find a recruitee and hope she becomes a fan of these books. This is sponsered by Book Club Girl. We don't get to read these but it did come in my mailbox. I hope it counts.

The books I bought for myself are:

Trial by James Patterson
I don't ususally buy these kind of books. But we decided to read this for our book club in December. I have never read a James Patterson, but it does sound interesting.

The Day The Fall Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
I saw this book as a recommendation by BN.
Anything that has a historical bend to it interests me. This one about Niagra falls and the turn of the century.

So do you think I recieved enough books this week. I finally did it at least for now. I have reluctanly told publicists at least for the time being that I can not accept any more books at this time. At least until December.

I started back to school. I am taking Anatomy and Physiology and I just don't have anytime right now. I am taking part time. But still it is alot of work in A/P, and the other two courses I am taking. Please forgive me at this time.

I am trying to get to review book in between study time. What books came to your mailbox today? What books are you enjoying??

Book Review: 31 Hours

31 Hours
By Masha Hamilton

Thank you, to Caitlin at Unbridled books for the ARC copy.

I have been wanted to read this author for quite awhile. I have all of her books and have not been able to get to her books. I have been putting it off.

My brother is a photojournalist for the Army Times where he has been on assignment at the start of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, as well as the start of Iraqian resistance. He has been back in Iraq a few times to cover assignments. I have worried about my brother on several occassions. When I heard of Masha Hamilton before her most recent book. I thought her books would give me a feel of what the middle east was like. What my brother had experienced as well. But I just could not open the book until now.

I am letting you know there are spoilers.

The book was not what I expected. I can't say I enjoyed reading it. Because it is not that kind of book. But it kept my interest.

31 Hours is about a mother's intuition. At the middle of the night, Carol wakes up in a panic. Where is Jonas?? I have not heard from him in quite awhile.

Carol contacts Vic, Jonas's girlfriend to see if she may have heard from him and she has not either. Jonas's father Jake is divorced from Carol for years.

Carol contacts Jake and asks him to go to his apartment to see if Jonas is there. Jake thinks she is over reacting as a mother. Jonas and his mother have been very close until now. She notices he is very distant and detached.

Carol tells Jake, If he is there, she worried for nothing. She promises not to bother him again. Jake agrees to go to his apartment.

Jake goes to the apartment and does not find Jonas but finds out that Jonas has lied about a few things. One thing he went to Pakistan without anyone's knowledge. The other he was telling his mother that he enrolled at NYU, but in actuallity he never did. Then Carol realized that there is something suspicious.

" He has been strange, distant, Oh I know it's normal for a young man to pull away from their mothers. But this feels bigger than that. I mean I can't reach him."

Carol questions herself as a mother. She thinks maybe she raised him too liberal. He is always questioning and arguing and debating.

Vic, also has been worried about him she can not get a hold of him either. She realizes something is wrong. During the 31 hours his family and friends are trying to find him. But, he does not want to be found.

Jonas has become involved with Islam and has been training in Pakistan without his mother's knowledge.

When he comes back to the U.S. he is in a hideout in Brooklyn. The inedible is about to happen. Mossoud is the leader of the Islam movement. He wants Jonas to become a marytr. He wonders can this American be trusted. Jonas prepares for his assignment and gets ready by the rituals he performs.

There is the New York Subway, as a character in the book. With the musicians, dancers, and New Yorkers coming and going on the subway and watching the entertainers in the subway system.

In the meantime there is a panhandler, named Sonny. He basically lives in the subway he calls "his church". He feels something is wrong but he can not pinpoint what is the matter.

"A sudden breath of silence seems to fall over the subway. It is a hush more than snowfall but not as peaceful. More like the overpowering silence of those moments of staring at a doctor right before he tells you the bad news. You already quessed.

Sonny warns them something is wrong. He feels better that at least he has done something and not nothing.

In the meantime Carol is with the police officers in her home. She excuses herself and goes to the bathroom for some meditation. She is praying as only a mother does. She wants her son to come home safe. She rocks back and forth with a towel in her arms, crying please bring him home, safe.

In the meantime Jonas puts on his vest. In his apartment he looks for the nails. The nails are a significence. He walks to the subway in all the clothing. He is thinking about his father he never wrote. Through this whole thing he wants everyone to understand why he did this. Not for extremism but for the world's injustices.

My reactions:I personally had a hard time reading this. Number one as a mother of a grown child and the other as terrorism and suicide bombers has become noticed after 9/11. It was chilling and heart wrenching. How could you as a American do this and how could you do this to your parents and friends. What drove him to become involved in this violent act?

As a mother of a nineteen year old I can connect to Carol. There is a time to let go. But how much do we let go? and let them live their own life? When do you get involved and interfere if he or she is a adult when you know something is wrong? This is a hard question.

You hope as a mother you raised your adult child right with the right morals and values. Carol worried she raised her son too liberal, too insulated. As parents did we allow them to trust their own judgements. Are they right or wrong?

We as parents are always questioning, the guilt, the sleepless nights. Because at this age you wonder.

Right now, my son is still home but he has given me some sleepless nights. Sometimes there are things that come out of his mouth that I wonder and hope this is just nonsense and he is just trying to get a reaction out of me.

In a few months I will be having to let go and hope for the best. He will be spreading his wings. Because he will be with the Navy where he can not turn to me for answers he will have to make his own decisions and hopefully he makes the right ones.

The author, Masha Hamilton was a photojournalist in the middle east. She did her research well. She sounds like she has to have grown children or at least knows someone who has.

I related when she talked about the subway. There were parts of the book that was very poetic. How she described the New York subway system and the feel of the city with the music and entertainers. I used to live in NYC for a few years and traveled on the subway. There is a rythm of the city I can not describe. It is the feeling you have when you have lived there.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: Stiltsville

The novel, Stiltsville by Susanna Daniels is a novel that takes place in Miami, off Key Biscayne in a place called Stiltsville.
The novel is about a young woman, Frances from Georgia. She is visting for the first time in Miami with her friend Marse. Marse and her have befriended each other just the day before at a wedding.  Marse asks her if she wants to spend the day in Stiltsville.

When the two get to Stiltsville Frances is captivated and the magic of the tropics, of the sight, smell, and sounds of the Miami Keys.

Frances and Marse meet Dennis, and Kyle at Stiltsville. Frances and Dennis get involved.  It takes Frances quite awhile to feel connectied with the family. Frances decides to move from Georgia to Miami.  They eventually marry and have a child, Margo.  The novel spans for about thirty years from 1969 to 1993. 

The marriage is rocky at first. With a unstable job Dennis can't seem to find. Frances finds a job that does not pay well.  Young love matures become stable and matures and grows. The current events of  the City of Miami, from the Muriel boat lift to  hurricane Andrew. The story seems to parallel each other to the current events. 

Their daughter Margo decides she wants to go off to college. Their daughter decides to live off campus.  There is a series of murders at a apartment where college students are raped and murdered. Margo meets a young man, a protector that she eventually marries. But her parents are not too happy about the relationship.

Frances and Dennis have met their final challenge. I don't want to give anymore away.

The writing is beautiful and very fluid. It is like you melt away into the mysticm of Miami. The story melts away in your mouth like M&M's. You just want to savour it and you don't want it to end.

 I was captivated by the story and cared so much what happened to each and every one of them.  I was so touched by the last two sentences I cried.

I held my husband in my arms and pressed my face to his face. I kissed his lips. I told him I loved him, Thank you, over and over. I told him, Thank you for my life.

I just loved the writing. I recalled and revisited these places in my mind.  I miss living there. Especially going on to Rickenbacker causeway, the palm trees when they sway to the wind. The coconuts on the ground and the smell of the beach. 
 I felt like Miami was the character in the book. To find out information about Stiltsville you can visit here.
Below is a video on Stiltsville.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Must Have Had Head in the Sand

I am reading, and so far enjoying reading Stiltsville by Susana Daniels.
But I am not writing my post as yet. I am writing on my blog, because of a interesting piece of history I did not know about.

I just found out about a place or if you want to call location on Key Biscayne. I am just amazed. Because I lived in Miami Beach, and Miami and Kendall area. I never realized that there was homes scattered off Key Biscayne on the ocean.  I wish I was aware of this. Because I never noticed this. I used to go to the beach all the time in that area.

I asked a friend of mine if she knew of it. She told me yes. She told me you could see it with a naked eye. How in the heck, did I not see it if I went to the beach often.  My girl friend told me it is possible that you were not aware unless you took charter boats, or went fishing, or owned a boat and possibly passed by it.  I feel so ridiculous, I feel like where was I.  Did I have my head in the sand all those years. I am surprised that it is not well known. Even at the public beach, I am surprised that there is not a plaque with  information about Stiltsville.

 I am just amazed that it is not well known. When I went to the beach in the 80's and till the mid 90's there wasn't any mention of this at the beaches at Key Biscayne.  I must not be the only one that did not know about Stiltsville. You can find out more information about Stiltsville on wikpedia, as well as Susanna Daniels the author. I will be posting my comments on her novel.

Look out for my post on Stiltsville in a few days.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
By Rebecca  Skloot

The author fills this book with emotion, medical ethics, family issues, poverty, and  medical science.  At times I felt like I was in Twilight Zone, or one of the sci-fi adventures.

The book is the true story and account of Henrietta Lacks. She was a poor, black tabacco farmer. A woman descended by a American black slave.
She was married to a close cousin. Henrietta, had five children.  Four months after delivery of her fifth child she arrived at John Hopkins Hospital doubling over with pain. She had a biopsy, and unknowing to her, the doctor took out tissue from her cervix without her permission.  This was going on all the time during the 50's, there wasn't any regulation.

 Her doctor went down the hall and gave the tissue to Dr. Guy. He started growing the cells and discovered it was becoming immortal and very strong No one knows exactly why the cells re-produced. Dr. Guy would pass on the cells to other collegues( no cost to them). This is the start of the HeLa line.  Henrietta became very sick.She was treated with radium, the radium eventually burned her. Her skin became dark as coal.  When she died she was covered with tumors. The tumors looked like pearls all over her body. The worst was her bladder. I assume because it was the closest to the cervix.

I am not quoting the book but there is a reference, the wife of the scientist noticed her red toe nails was chipping away. It was the first reference that she was human.

The above statement hits you with emotion. You realize when you are working in the lab where is the human element. There is not one. I am a nursing student. I just finished taking Anatomy and Physiology. This is fresh in my mind when we are disecting. It is easy to not realize the human element. Where did this cat, or dog come from. Or if you are a medical student and you have to dissect human cadavers. Where did they come from.

Most cells have a time when they shut off called telemeres.  But, HeLa cells don't stop they continue indefinately.

 He La cells were used for polio vaccines, going up in space, invitro fertilization, genetic mapping, etc.  Amazing isn't this in a short time how cells developed and changed and advanced in a short time period of 20 years, I did not realize how much medical science had advanced in part of He La cellls. 

During this time there was so much controversy about the HeLa cell contamination. No wonder there were lots of movies based off science fiction The Blob, Godzilla and others( part human, part mad science).

The Lacks family were dirt poor, uneducated with many medical and emotional problems. They had no idea that Henrietta's cells were cultured and re-cultured and contaminating other cells all over the world.  Henrietta's husband recieved a call from a scientist in the 1970's. They wanted to take blood and samples from the family. The scientists wanted to compare the samples to the HeLa cells to determine which cells in the lab were contaminated from the one's that weren't. 

The way that Henrietta's husband heard it was that Henrietta was still alive in a cell.  With someone that thought his wife was dead I am sure this was a shock.  But, this is not how the scientist said it, but how Henrietta's husband heard it.

For years the family was dealing with this uncertainty.  The family was taken advantage of because of the racial injustice, and the poor education, etc.  Until Rebecca Skloot the author, started calling the family and investigating and becoming persistant and knocking on their door.

On another website someone brought up, that the author seemed to be too pushy and barracuda. That perhaps she too was taking advantage of the family.  That is a good point, at times I wondered about that in back of my head.  Who, is to say.

 It took Debra, the youngest daughter a year to trust her. But there were many times that she did not trust the medical science establishment and told Rebecca to leave. But some reason she would always ask her, lets get to it.

The book is full of question for medical ethics, and profit, do you ask the patient for consent or not. Do you tell the patient what you may do with the tissue sample. Is it right that the Lacks don't have medical insurance. Isn't it ironic that their mother helped medical science in millions of ways and they are in poor health.
 This raises plenty of questions.

Henrietta's family at the end when it is said and done. Wanted her mother to get the recognition she deserved.  They were happy their mother's cells did advance the medical world. They were not looking for profit.

There is a good side to this and a bad side. Is it right for scientist to take tissues from your body without your knowledge? Is it right that someone is making a profit off the tissue? You can look at this at both sides.
Don't forget it takes large amounts of funding for medical research. 

My big thought is, that there is alot of research being done but there is secrecy around it. It is about recognition and profit. A scientist discovers a great medical finding and doesn't share it until he finishes he's research. What happens?  He keeps it secret till he finishes by that time many people could have benefitted many years ago, instead of keeping it hidden until he's research is done.

I remember a movie, called The Band Played On, it was about the discovery of the HIV virus. The story about the discovery of the AIDS virus, the politics, rivalry between two scientists discoveries. Now that bothers me.

I enjoyed reading this book. Because it has alot to make you think about and discuss with your friends and your fellow book club members. It is not just the science side. It gives you more of the human side of , who was Henrietta Lacks. If any of you are science majors or in the medical field taking some science classes. The next time you are in lab, think of the subject you are dissecting. There is always the human side.  Who's tissue is this???

The book has alot for you to think about and discuss.

Below is a clip of the HeLa cells in action.  Look how far we have come.
It feels like a "blast from the past". It is just how amazing how far science and genetics have come.
I am sure there is more to explore.

HeLa Cells from Radiolab on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Review: Swimming Pool By Holly LeCrew

The Swimming Pool
By Holly LeCrew

The novel is about two families with many family secrets.  When you see the cover at first glance. I thought to myself a great beach read. This is definately not a beach read.  It starts out like that but believe me, when you get to the meat of the story. It is not what you expected.

There is a affair, a murder a sister having post partum depression and many more secrets than you can imagine.

There are two families, the Atkinson family and the McClatchey family.  It takes place in Cape Cod.  The McClatchey family are married Betsy, the wife, and Cecil the husband. Their two children, Jedd and Callie.  Then on the other side of the bedpost there is the Atkinson family, the wife Marcella, and husband Tony, with one offspring Toni.

Marcella and Cecil have a affair 7 years previous.  Marcella is self centered and has no care in the world except her self. She is sophistocated and foreign born.  Marcella and Cecil meet at a party and begin a affair.  Betsy, Cecil's wife seems like the " Betty Crocker" type. I can't figure why he had a affair with his perfect life, Why mess with a good thing.  Then when Marcella is ready to talk about her affair. They find out that Betsy is killed, possibly murdered.  Cecill feel's guilty and shortly after is killed in a automobile accident.

Now, it is present day. The family goes back to Cape Cod to their summer home. Jedd discovers a old bathing suit and wonders who's it is.  There is plenty of romping around. Jedd falls for Marcella.  But, Toni the daughter also has feelings for him.  There is plenty of secrets, lies, and sex and drugs to go around.

I am not going to go any further to spoil the book. But if you like to watch Dynasty JR kind of shows this is up your alley. I would not have picked up this book. But because it was reccomended I did.  This is not light reading. The cover is decieving.

The writing was literal not like a beach read.  I personally had a hard time following what was going on. I had a hard time understanding if this was happening 7 years ago, or was it happening in present day.   The pieces came together little by little at the end of the book. I thought it was a interesting way to present the story but I had a hard time following it.

Don't go into the water unless you are ready for family secrets.

One Thousand White Women: Book Review

One Thousand White Women By Jim Fergus I have been looking forward to reading, One Thousand White Women. S...