Saturday, July 23, 2011

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (non-fiction)

Shhh... another Sneak-In Saturday. This book zoomed and leaped onto award and bestseller lists before I could get it here, but you really must read it.

The idea of "informed medical consent" was rather different sixty years ago, as were medical research techniques.

Henrietta Lacks thought that she was only being treated for cervical cancer.
She had no idea that doctors had taken cell samples for later use.
And the rest is medical history...

Book info: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks / Rebecca Skloot. Random House, 2010 (hardback), 2011 (paperback) [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: When Henrietta Lacks was treated for cancer in the “colored” ward of the hospital in 1951, doctors took cell samples for research without telling her. In the laboratory, those cells became the first self-sustaining (“immortal”) human cells, enabling countless experiments with medicines and therapies.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital researchers shared those HeLa cells with other scientists, who used them to develop vaccines against polio, catalog the effects of radiation on humans, and make advances toward in vitro fertilization and gene mapping. Eventually, HeLa cells were grown in medical factories, becoming a multimillion dollar industry as researchers worldwide used them.

Yet Henrietta’s family didn’t know that her cells were being used for anything; they could only grieve at her death, as she left behind a large African American family, moved not so long before from their small tobacco farm in Virginia to work in Baltimore for better wages.

More than 20 years after HeLa began growing in the lab, Henrietta’s children learned that some part of their mother was still alive. Poorly educated, they thought perhaps that scientists could bring their mother back to life or that the HeLa cells sent on lunar missions meant that she was now living on the Moon. After those first, confusing interviews in the 1970s, the Lacks family refused to talk to any reporters or researchers.

Finally in the late 1990s, the writer of this book and Henrietta’s youngest daughter began investigating the family’s history and the amazing tale of how HeLa cells enabled so many discoveries in medicine and science.

Did her family ever receive any benefit from Henrietta’s cells? No. Can her descendants afford health insurance today? No. Have the laws changed so that patients have more control over what their cells and tissues are used for? Yes, but…

A fascinating science detective tale threaded with questions of medical ethics and wrapped up in family history, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks reminds us of the human side of scientific advancement – an award-winning story, well-told.

(One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, July 22, 2011

At Home With Handmade Books (nonfiction)

Craving a new journal in your favorite colors? Easy.
Need an itsy-bitsy notebook to slip a secret pocket? Simple.
Want to use that single unique sheet of patterned paper in a special way? Can do!

With this Fun Friday find, you can make your very own books from a wide range of materials.

Go green as you use old postcards as covers for a travel journal!
Be ready for a new school year with fabulous keepsake-gathering book featuring ziptop bags as pages.
Make all your holiday gifts with your own two hands, the paper and cover stock that you find, and some very simple tools.

Erin gives very understandable step-by-step instructions for each binding method, and you're sure to go beyond her examples to create one-of-a-kind books that you'll be proud to show off, share, or even sell. Of course, some will be so special that you'll just hide them away so you can enjoy them all by yourself.

Your local independent bookstore would love to order this for you if not in stock. And ask for it at your local library so they know it's a book that their patrons would use again and again.

Book info: At Home With Handmade Books: 28 Extraordinary Bookbinding Projects Made from Ordinary and Repurposed Materials / Erin Zamrzla. Shambhala Publications, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [Video one and two - make a tag notebook!]

Recommendation: Recycle everyday materials into amazing personalized books as you create a Pillowcase Dream Journal or a Peek-a-Book with these clear instructions and step-by-step photos. Turn a favorite bookmark into an accordion book with space to write notes or make your travel pix into a fanfolded Travel Photo Album. Charming flutter books include a Sketch/Jot Journal, just right-sized for your jeans pocket.

Learn simple four-hole binding to make a Cut, Keep, Collage Storage Book with ziptop plastic bag pages for corralling photos and ticket stubs or use a sponge as the cover of your favorite Cleaning Hints Book. Take the outside cover of an old children’s book and rebind it with journal pages inside – ultimate recycling! The Yamato binding technique is preferred for the perfumed “Sweet Secrets Sachet Book,” while Ledger binding transforms leftover papers into a “Recycle Bin Memo Pad.”

Zamzrla explains tools, techniques, and papers as she guides you through each project and makes suggestions for variations and tweaks. Learn how to make these 28 handmade books, and you’ll always have great ideas for gifts and beautiful journals at your fingertips! (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Crosswire (fiction)

It's seriously hot and dry in Texas right now, but not quite as bad as the drought that Jesse and his family are suffering through in 1880s West Texas.

It's a tough time for all cattlemen, but worse for those without access to windmills pumping well water into storage tanks, as the creeks and ponds dry up. So dishonest cattle drovers are cutting barbed wire fences to get at the stored water, leaving little for their family's cattle.

Mysterious strangers, mutterings at the saloon, his brother's sudden love of gambling, and having to repair the fences every single blistering-hot day - how can Jesse keep doing all this when he just can't bring himself to even carry a gun any more? Jesse's not enjoying how life is treating him in this quick read with a surprise ending.

For a longer story about the too-similar 1950s drought in West Texas, try Elmer Kelton's well-crafted The Time It Never Rained.

Book info: Crosswire / Dotti Enderle. Calkins Creek Books, 2010. [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Drought is the cattleman’s enemy, so renegade drovers are cutting the fences to get to ranchers’ ponds and watering holes. Jesse works with his pa and older brother to repair the barbed-wire fences day after day in the scorching heat, worrying that his family’s food crops will dry up, too.

Big brother Ethan is another worry, spending his nights gambling at the saloon in town – where did the 16-year-old get money to gamble with, anyway? Their stern pa won’t put up with such nonsense, throwing Ethan out of the house and breaking Ma’s heart.

And 13-year-old Jesse just can’t fire a gun any more – not after his accident, not at an attacking rattlesnake, not for anything. What good is a kid who won’t shoot, out on the 1880s Texas frontier? The fence-cutters are getting bolder, making terrible threats against Jesse’s family and dog and their cattle.

Who’s this Jackson guy that Pa hires to help out? Where is he headed every night after dark? What does Jackson know about the fence-cutters?

Barbed-wire sharp and prairie wind fast, Crosswire is an exciting western tale based on true events of Texas history.(One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

For the Win (fiction)

Quick! Which of these is fictional (not real):
a) Online game playing as prison punishment?
b) online gamers forming a trade union?
c) Gold farming?

If you said (b), then you win! Cory Doctorow's newest book delves into the world of gold farming, where some teens play online games to make a tiny bit of money to survive, not for fun. When they try to form a union so they can keep part of the "gold" that they win online instead of turning it all over to their bosses, both big business and their governments get angrily and mightily involved to protect their economic interests.

Make no mistake - in places where labor is cheaper than technology, real people are being forced into gold farming yet earning hardly anything, right this minute (like the Chinese prisoners noted above). And now scripted 'bots can be set loose to play a low-level character on auto-pilot, earning a little gold, then repeating - lots of bots can equal a fair amount of pocket change, along with the risk of being discovered and banned from the game.

If you want to read the WHOLE book online, go here with Cory's blessing. Yes, the author wants you to read his book online for FREE. That's because Cory knows you'll want to buy a copy so you can reread it, share it, and even remix it - yep, Creative Commons License. The guy is a genius! (seriously! I've read all his short stories and books online, then gone on to get the print books)

On World Wednesday, this fast-moving story takes you to China, India, Singapore, and the United States - who will really win?

Book info: For the Win / Cory Doctorow. Tor Teen, 2010. [author's website] [author interview] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Playing games online all day, every day sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But for young people packed into smoky internet cafes in Singapore, Shenzen, and Mumbai, it’s a matter of survival.

People have discovered how to turn online “gold coins” and “magic gems” into real money, so the biggest online game worlds have larger economies than many nations, and youngsters in less-developed countries are recruited as “gold farmers,” playing online in teams and turning over their winnings to the bosses who hold their return-home tickets.

But what if the gold farmers organized, banded together for better working conditions? How does a kid from LA wind up in China to help the gold farmers unionize? And what happens when the big businesses who own the big online worlds strike back?

Meet young teens in China, India, and Malaysia who work as gold farmers to feed their families, who face violence from police and rival bosses when they’d rather go to school, who risk their lives to make a difference. This page-turner looks big, but reads fast, a techno-thriller that could happen tomorrow or might be happening today! 480 pages (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Clockwork Three, by Matthew Kirby (fiction) - automated man, secret music, hidden clues

book cover of The Clockwork Three by Matthew J Kirby, published by Scholastic
Mysterious doings, nefarious plots, and a green violin! Three young people from widely different backgrounds become friends as they seek the links between strange items, even stranger events, and villainous strangers in a seaside city with a wild parkland at its heart.

A woodcarver's long-stilled hands left behind clues in the hotel doors and banisters. Secret knowledge hidden by the Guild of Clockmakers could be key. A mechanical man has more heart than the city's businessmen, and the treasure hidden in the park holds the city together.

Debut author Kirby said that a old newspaper article about a young boy kidnapped and forced to fiddle on the streets for his masters was his inspiration for the opening events of this wondrous tale. Share the city and its mysteries with Guiseppe, Hannah, and Frederick.

Book info: The Clockwork Three / Matthew J. Kirby. Scholastic, 2010. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: A shipwrecked violin whose music is magical… 62 holly leaves carved into the hotel woodwork (or is it 63?)… a mechanical man with no head and a clockwork head with no heart…

In a seaport city, the paths of an orphaned street musician, a young hotel maid, and an apprentice clockmaker cross and recross as they struggle with missing pieces of memory and money and mystery. Who is the lovely lady that selects Hannah as her personal attendant from the hotel staff? Will Guiseppe be able to hide enough coins from the gangboss for a ship ticket back to his homeland? And what of the sinister crates which Frederick sees unloaded at the museum, but are quickly hidden from the Guild of Clockmakers?

When the green park at the heart of the city is threatened by greedy developers, the three young people rush to solve the mystery before the treasure hidden there is lost forever!

Is there really a clockwork man running out of control in the city? Is the park an escape or a trap? And what do the holly leaves mean? Realistic details of an exotic place bring readers deep into this exciting tale’s many twists and turns with Guiseppe, Hannah, and Frederick. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Plain Kate (fiction)

When your family is all you have, what can you do when they are gone?
How do you decide who you can trust?
What happens if you make the wrong decision?

On this Mysterious Metaphysical Monday, we find young Kate orphaned and alone in a superstitious world. Her fine woodcarving skills are ignored by the Guild, yet sought-after by the townsfolk who want charms against evil. But being different is more than just a bit dangerous here - it could be deadly.

Desperate to escape, Kate bargains with a mysterious stranger and finds herself on a perilous journey with a talking cat, a dwindling shadow, and frightening glimpses of the past that might be the future.

A haunting book that will have you checking your shadow now and again, it's recently been released as Wood Angel in the United Kingdom.

Book info: Plain Kate / Erin Bow. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Skilled as a woodcarver, Plain Kate lost her place at the workshop when her father died, and the guild gave it to another. No mother, no kin, Kate was alone in the world at age 12, a world of superstitions and talismans and witches burned.

When mysterious Linay appears in the village, few trust the albino minstrel. He promises Kate “the wish of her heart” in exchange for her shadow, and when rumors swirl that her carving skills are witchcraft, she takes up Linay on his offer. Suddenly, Kate has a talking cat as she travels up the river to escape the village. She and Taggle meet up with a clan of performing Roamers, with their bright wagons and acrobatic graces, and are allowed to travel with them until danger comes near and all are threatened.

As Kate’s shadow slowly disappears day by day, the fever which struck down her father and many others begins to make its way up the river, too. Why did Linay need her shadow? How can a talking cat be Kate’s dearest wish? Will the Roamer clan and her friend Drina survive the fever and the witchburnings? Are real witches darkening the daytime sky and sending frost across the summer day?

An exciting and suspenseful tale of yearnings and journeys, of superstitions and the supernatural! 336 pages (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Beneath the Mask (fiction)

How far would you go to protect your friends? Would you learn to fight, learn to kill, learn the secrets of those who enslaved you?

Once again we travel back to Grassland, the ancient place that evokes pre-Roman Britain and seafaring raiders.

Koriko, Bran, and Thief suddenly must decide if they'll become as tough and brutal as the Spears who kidnapped them from their families - or be separated from Pippa, Feelah, and Tia forever.

Adventure, peril, and visions - these strong young men and women must face them together or risk losing the family ties that they've created.

This second volume of Ward's Grassland Trilogy answers some questions raised in Escape the Mask , but the young people will face invaders, mysteries and concerns aplenty in Beyond the Mask (#3).

Book info: Beneath the Mask / David Ward. (Grassland Trilogy #2) Amulet, 2009. [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: After escaping from the cave-prison of Grassland, Coriko and his friends plan for a new life, away from the Spears who guarded them. Tia is oldest and a strong leader, Pippa has visions and a healing touch.

The group works to secretly repair a small sailboat near the shore without alerting the remaining Spears who spy on them from the mountain. But avoiding the Strays who had left the group to raid the burned Spear villages leads them into a trap. Now the Spears separate the girls from the boys, forcing the boys to learn to fight with shields and knives…or to die trying.

If Coriko, Thief, and Bran ever want to see Pippa, Feelah, and Tia again, they must become ferocious fighters. They must wear the iron masks of the Spears. They must learn to sail and row the large ships. They must help kidnap small children, just like the Spears stole them from their families and their villages when they were young.

Will the boys become Spears in their hearts as well? What is happening to the girls while the boys are training, training, training? Will the group ever escape from the Spears?

This is the second book in The Grassland Trilogy and promises an exciting conclusion in book 3: Beyond the Mask! (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

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