Monday, 25 August 2014

Read, Reading, Want to Read {2}

The Philip K. Dick Megapack: 15 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Philip K. Dick | 3/5

This is a very good selection of Dick short stories, perfect for someone who wasn't sure if they liked Philip K. Dick (like me!). I enjoyed and found fascinating a lot of the concepts, but out of the fifteen stories probably 13 or 14 were about futuristic warfare, exemplifying the Cold War mindset many of these writers were working within. Also, he falls into the trap of considering the straight white male the default, unmarked perspective from which to tell stories, but I found the lack of variation uninspiring. Do women exist to Dick outside of wives and mothers? Are we permitted to be important?
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot | 5/5
A fascinating account of the history of the HeLa line, a type of immortal human cell used in scientific research. This book was especially interesting to me because both of my parents have themselves used the line in their work, and my mother was the one who insisted I finally read this. This is a story of scientific progress, but also of Henrietta Lacks, the poor Black woman whose cervical cancer created these cells, and who was never treated with the respect she was deserved - neither by the hospital nor the scientists who distributed and later sold her cells without any recognition or compensation. It also tells the story of the Lacks family from the 1800s to the modern day, and how the more recent recognition of Henrietta's contribution has lead to a great amount of upheaval and stress in their lives. This book is an important read, especially for those interested in science or the shady history of how American medicine treated Black individuals.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton | 3/5
Deep sigh. I wanted to like this book, I really did! I always want to support young female authors, and the description of the book as a mystery-cum-ghost story seemed right up my alley. Plot-wise, the book excells, with Catton intricately weaving together the past and future of all members of a large cast of characters, revealing more information piece by piece, until it all comes together at the very last moment of the book. It's a very satisfying and intriguing story and I was enthralled as it progressed. However. As I said, the massive cast of characters means things move forward at a glacial pace, where we have to hear about everything every man was doing at every point - it's a good 360 pages into the book before we even reach the 'present day'. Notice also I said every man: there are a total of three speaking women in the book: the prostitute, the evil and conniving widow, and the cowed and timid wife; and not to go on about it too much, but the way they are treated by the author makes me uncomfortable. Let's just say that I think they could have been used better.

The Moomins series by Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson's Moomin books have delighted generations of children. These magical stories take readers into the fantasy world of Moominvalley, and introduce the Moomins, a family of friendly white trolls, as well as charming characters like Sniff, Snufkin, and Fillyjonk. The series includes novels for middle-grade readers, as well as picture books for younger children. [I've wanted to read this for the longest time because the art is so delightful!]

Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary life until Sheba Hart, the new art teacher at St. George's, befriends her. But even as their relationship develops, so too does another: Sheba has begun an illicit affair with an underage male student. When the scandal turns into a media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend's defense—and ends up revealing not only Sheba's secrets, but also her own.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

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