Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot



Image via Goodreads
Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot

Release Date: February 4th, 2011
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Source: Bought
Genre: Non-fiction, biography, science


Blurb:

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons. 

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.

The journey starts in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, her small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo. Today are stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, East Baltimore children and grandchildren live in obscurity, see no profits, and feel violated. The dark history of experimentation on African Americans helped lead to the birth of bioethics, and legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is not really about Henrietta Lacks, rather, it's about the issue of tissue rights.

I am not a fan of the book. I think it's great that Skloot could bring about a public awareness to bioethics and that the world now know the existence of a woman behind the HeLa cells. However, I did not appreciate how Skloot uses Lack's family as a tool to achieve such a goal. Also, in doing so, Skloot established a negative image of the Lack's family as a stereotypical black family.

The sons of Henrietta Lacks are often portrayed as violent and simply wanting money. Deborah Lacks, who was also Skloot's main source for information, was portrayed as ignorant and at times, frivolous.

This book is a required reading for my literature unit in uni. Through that unit, I was introduced to the "nice white lady" trope. That is, there is always a "nice white lady" to help guide the helpless, ignorant people of colour and 'save' them from their dilemmas. This trope is actually quite common in today's literature and film. I do feel that this trope is quite present in this book.

Perhaps Skloot's intention was noble. Perhaps Skloot does intend to seek justice for the Lack's family. However, her techniques used in executing their story often cast the Lack's as ignorant, naive and helpless. There were also a lot of personal details on the Lacks's family that do not have any relevance to the subject of the story.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab by Fergus Hume



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Title: The Mystery of a Hansom Cab
Author: Fergus Hume

Release Date: 1886
Source: Project Gutenberg
Genre: Classics, Mystery, Crime


Blurb:

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, the best selling mystery of the nineteenth century. When a man is found dead in a hansom cab one of Melbourne’s leading citizens is accused of the murder. He pleads his innocence, yet refuses to give an alibi. It falls to a determined lawyer and an intrepid detective to find the truth, revealing long kept secrets along the way. Fergus Hume’s first and perhaps most famous mystery... The Mystery Of A Hansom Cab.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two men got into a cab in the dead of night, one of whom asked to be dropped off first whilst the other was later found dead by the driver. As the story progresses, the detective who was assigned to this case, Mr. Gorby went around Melbourne looking for clues of the identities of the passengers, particularly that of the supposed murderer.

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab transported me to 19th century Melbourne. Amidst the mystery of the murder in a hansom cab, it showed me glimpses of the lifestyles of the rich and the poor Melbournians at the time.

I was particularly fascinated with the use of the Melbourne landscape in the story.  According to my literature professor, the city shapes the story. In the case of this book, I definitely see his point. The clues are part of the landscape and for some clues, they are part of the landscape as well.

The suspense kept me guessing at the identity of the murderer. I had heaps of fun playing detective throughout my read that I finished the story in one sitting.

If you're interested in the story, you can actually read it for free at Project Gutenberg, which I shall link it here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dark Dreams and Dead Things Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway

Thank you to YA Bound Book Tours for letting me take part in this tour. You can check out the full blog tour schedule here :)


Title: Dark Dream and Dead Things (Dead Things #2)
Author: Martina McAtee
Release Date: July 15th, 2016
Publisher: Self published
Source: YA Bound
Genre: YA Paranormal / Urban Fantasy
Purchase Links: Amazon

Blurb:

17-year-old November Lonergan spent her whole life feeling like an outsider. She was right. She’s a reaper like her mother; like her two cousins, Kai and Tristin. The supernatural world believes they are part of a prophecy to save them from an evil known as the Grove. Ember just wants to survive high school and fix the fallout from bringing back her friend. 

Old enemies are lurking; waiting for their opportunity to strike but the pack has a new problem. A group of legendary hunters has resurfaced, threatening the reapers and anybody who stands with them. They are making good on their threats too; attacking those closest to the pack.

Their only hope of defeating the Legionaries involves trusting a stranger to perform a dangerous spell to advance Ember and her cousin’s powers. But Ember has a secret; a secret she can’t tell the pack. One that leaves the pack vulnerable.

An attack on pack allies, leaves one member of the group injured and another missing, along with a mysterious girl named Evangeline who may play a bigger part in this than any of them realize. As the Legionaries are closing in, the pack must trust their enemies, enter hostile territories, and play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a psychopath. Their entire plan lynches on a dangerous bargain, but rescuing one member of the pack could mean losing another in their place…possibly forever. 

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


In the sequel to the Dead Things series, Dark Dreams and Dead Things picked up where the first book left off. What I find most interesting is the world where the story took place in- a world where witches, werewolves, reapers, banshee exist. That is what has first drawn me to this series. This world is filled with so much possibilities in the direction which the future plot may progress and I found that really exciting as a reader.

Quinn’s character development is probably what I enjoyed the most in this sequel. It’s entertaining to watch his character evolve and attempt to embrace his new identity. Quinn is slowly becoming my favourite character. I really feel for Quinn and the struggle he had to deal with because of a decision made for him.

What I didn’t like about the book could be summed up into one word: Tristin. She really annoyed me throughout my read. If I could reach out and just strangle some sense into that banshee, believe me I would. I just can’t accept the way she treats Quinn, especially after what she’d done. And she was so horrible to Ember even when her anger towards Ember was often times uncalled for. I do hope there would be some character growth for Tristin as this series continue, at least so that she doesn’t get on my nerve as much.


I am pleased with how ‘Dark Dreams and Dead Things’ ended. The final scene was great and it left me curious of what’s to come. There’s still so much story to uncover. I, for one, would love to know more of Neoma’s past. I am also intrigued by Donovan and would love to see more of him in the next book.





About the Author:


Martina McAtee lives in Jupiter, Florida with her teenage daughters, her best friend, two attack Chihuahua’s and two shady looking cats. By day she is a registered nurse but by night she writes young adult books about reapers, zombies, werewolves and other supernatural creatures. She wrote her first story when she was five with an orange crayon on a legal pad she stole from her mom’s office. She’s been writing ever since. Her influences include Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Joss Whedon, L.J. Smith and even J.K. Rowling. Living in South Florida provides her with plenty of material for the weird worlds she writes about. When she isn’t working, teaching or writing she’s reading or watching shows involving reapers, zombies, werewolves and other supernatural creatures.

Author Links:

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Giveaway:


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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hopeless by Colleen Hoover


Image via Goodreads
Title: Hopeless (Hopeless #1)
Author: Colleen Hoover

Release Date: May 7th, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: Borrowed
Genre: New Adult, Romance
Purchase links: Book Depository


Blurb:

Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…

That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of just one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried.

Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever.
 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Okay, so here's the deal. I have put off reading this book ever since forever. I thought it was just another depressing story about abuse. Late last night, I decided to just read a few pages to get a feel of the tone of the book. And I ended up staying up all night reading. 

This book is so much more. 

Sure, it deals with issues such as abuse, but it also shows the role family and friends play in getting someone through such an ordeal. And all without having the book being depressing to read.

Sky is a very likeable character. She's strong, or stubborn as she calls herself. Even though she has to deal with the devils of her past, which was slowly unveiled to us as she lets herself remember, I thought she handled it quite well.

I wasn't so sure about Holder at first. His personality and mood seem a bit volatile at the beginning but he's okay. Not book boyfriend material for me, but he's okay.

I didn't expect much from it but I did enjoy my read. And I guess you could say that I live the book, just as Holder and Sky lived for each other.



Monday, July 11, 2016

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things by Martina McAtee


Image via Goodreads

Title: Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (Dead Things #1)
Author: Martina McAtee
Release Date: November 29th, 2015
Publisher: Self-published
Source: Author
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Purchase link: Book Depository

Blurb:

 17 year old Ember Denning has made an art of isolating herself. She prefers the dead. She spends her days skipping school in old cemeteries and her nights hiding from her alcoholic father at the funeral home where she works. When her own father dies, Ember learns her whole life is a lie. Standing in the cemetery that's been her sanctuary, she's threatened by the most beautiful boy she's ever seen and rescued by two people who claim to be her family. They say she's special, that she has a supernatural gift like them...they just don't know exactly what it is. They take her to a small Florida town, where Ember's life takes a turn for the weird. She's living with her reaper cousins, an orphaned werewolf pack, a faery and a human genius. Ember's powers are growing stronger, morphing into something bigger than anything anybody anticipated. Ember has questions but nobody has answers. Nobody knows what she is. They only know her mysterious magical gift is trying to kill them and that beautiful dangerous boy from the cemetery may be the only thing standing between her and death. As Ember's talents are revealed so are the secrets her father hid and those in power who would seek to destroy her. What's worse, saving Ember has put her cousins in danger and turned her friend's lives upside down. Ember must learn to embrace her magic or risk losing the family she's pieced together.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was first drawn to the story based on the blurb. The story opened its first scene at a funeral home and before the end of that first chapter, I was completely hooked.

In the world which McAtee has created, humans could be born into families of shifters, vampires and witches. There are four main characters in this book- Ember, Mace, Tristin and Kai- all of them have their own paranormal abilities. Ember, Tristin and Kai all had reaper abilities but of different varieties. Tristin is a banshee, which I find really cool. Ember, on the other hand, had only just found out that she came from a paranormal background and is learning to control her power.

I like that we get to read from the point of view of different characters. Firstly, this keeps me on the edge of my seat, eager to pry out more details of their backstory. Secondly, there's not a dull moment throughout the plot. Something is always happening and plot twists kept me very much invested in the story.

Reading Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things felt so much like watching a movie. I enjoyed every minute of it.



*Copy of the book is provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

" Hold fast to dreams,
  For if dreams die,
  Life is a broken-winged bird
  That cannot fly.

  Hold fast to dreams.
  For if dreams go,
  Life is a barren field
  Covered with snow."

        ~ Langston Hughes, "Dreams"

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Wrong way home

I'm cold. I'm hungry. And it looks like I'm on the wrong bus.

I stared at the GPS spot on my phone. Instead of the route that would get me back to campus, Bus 737 is going in a completely different route. It's okay, I tell myself. It's probably a little detour the bus is taking.

It was when I noticed that we were passing by a forest that I really started to panic. Random thoughts started popping into my head. I scoured my brain for any recent crimes I've heard that took place in a forest. Or any kidnapping that started because someone took the wrong bus. That did not help my situation at all.

I contemplated whether to ask the bus driver for assistance or just get off at the next stop. I chose the latter when the bus stopped at a bus loop of a shopping mall.

This is the story of how I ended up on the other side of town, in a place called Westfield- somewhere I didn't even knew existed before this event. Usually, discovering new places is a fun thing to do, but not when it's getting dark and certainly not when my only means of transportation to get me home is the public transport.

Lost at Westfield
Before the bus that took me here left, I checked and saw that yes, it was Bus 737, but it wasn't en-route to my campus. I've learnt my lesson-- ALWAYS check the bus number and the name of the route. Same number same route.

It was around 6 p.m. when I got off the bus. Most of the shops were already closed then. So, I had to wait for half an hour at the bus loop for the right bus to take me home. A half hour time-out for me to think about what I did, how it could all be prevented had I been more careful.

This incident happened to me a month ago. And today is actually the first time I've headed into the city since the incident. The main reason for not going to the city is to save up some money for other forms of entertainment during the holidays; but I suppose the fear of this happening again plays a teeny tiny role in it as well. But hey, the important thing is that I made it home safe and sound.





Saturday, April 30, 2016

DormLife: What it's like, so far

I've been living on-campus for nearly 3 months now. So, I reckon I should write a post on what living in a dorm (on-campus) is like for me. But before that, I just wanna point out that my experience living in a dorm would probably differ from others'. The dormitory I'm living in only has single bedrooms. That means all tenants still have a little privacy. We do need to share bathrooms, laundry rooms and a kitchen though.

Here's what dorm life is like for me:

Distance to class
There is a short distance from my dorm to class, approximately 15 minutes' walk (I timed myself). The close proximity to class is definitely the main perk of living on-campus for me. Also, another perk is that I'm more 'in-touch' with the going-ons on campus. When you're living on-campus, you just can't help but notice all the flyers pasted at notice boards or different stalls set up on the lawn. This is something I personally wouldn't pay attention to if I didn't live on-campus.

Sharing Bathrooms
When I arrived here, I expected that I'd need to wait a long line before I could take a shower. Thank goodness that wasn't the case at all. On average, a bathroom is shared among a maximum of three persons in my dorm. So far, I haven't even needed to wait to get into the shower. Also, the bathrooms being cleaned on a regular basis added to my satisfaction. But a downside to sharing bathrooms is the awkward moment(s) when it became the only place you meet people. It seems like most of my neighbours meet me only when I look the least presentable. It seems as if they thought the perfect time to carry on a conversation with me was when I'm brushing my teeth. I had to then awkwardly attempt to talk with a mouth full of toothpaste if I didn't think it'd be a long conversation...

Noise
Technically, having a room of your own means that you have some privacy. But, since the walls are quite thin, sound can travel through them. That means that I could hear snippets of the conversation my neighbour is having on the phone even from my room. And if I were to stand in the hallway, the sound could be clearly heard. Since being aware of that, I have to be conscious not to talk too loud when I'm on the phone.

The other thing is that since my room is close to the stairs, I could hear the sound of footsteps going up and down the stairs. This doesn't bother me, as long as it doesn't wake me up after midnight.... and that has happened before.

There were also a few occasions where I'd been woken up by noise from other tenants. So yeah, this is a big downside to living in a dorm.

Kitchen
There are 22 students living on my floor. And there is only a small kitchen for us. Also, the refrigerator's door could not be shut properly at the moment because it's just too packed. Personally, I don't really think that storing my food in that fridge is a particularly hygienic option. Another thing is the constant mess in the kitchen. That's a pretty big downside for me.




Friday, February 19, 2016

A New Chapter Begins...

I've landed in Melbourne for almost a week now and in about two weeks' time, my uni classes would officially start.

A part of me still haven't fully compute the fact that I'm finally doing this.. I have taken that scary leap to try out something new, something totally different from what I did. It's scary and even exciting at the same time. 

A few years ago, when I first started this blog, I was studying accounting in college. It wasn't what I truly wanted but at this point, I can't say that I regret it. I mean, I did gain some knowledge and learn a lot about myself in terms of my interests.

Currently, I'm living on campus, in a single room dormitory. Even though each of us get our own room, living here just reminds me of the dorms I stayed in during National Service in Malaysia. It's just the feeling I get when I have to bump into a lot of faces on my way to the bathroom or kitchen.