Thursday, February 2, 2012

Books Reviews - Catching Up

Looking back over my Books Read list for 2011, I realized that I was a little lax in providing reviews of the books I completed toward the end of the year, so I thought today I'd share my thoughts on a few of those that I would definitely recommend as great reading.

The fictional story of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson was an easy read about a widowed English gentleman (Major Pettigrew), his rather snobby son (Roger), and a widowed Pakistani shopkeeper (Mrs. Ali). There are several story lines in the book - Major Pettigrew is trying to get his recently deceased brother's firearm from his sister-in-law; Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali begin to have feelings for each other, which causes lots of turned up noses and questions due to her nationality; Roger and his girlfriend have a very different relationship than what Major Pettigrew believes is appropriate. The plot takes several comical twists & turns that made this an enjoyable read.

Lysa Terkeurst's Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl is a Christian non-fiction book written to help us move from being someone who goes to church and Bible study because these are things on our to-do list to someone who has a deep relationship with the Lord. The real life examples and lessons learned along the way were well written and easy to relate to. An encouraging book for anyone wanting to move from going through the motions of being a Christian to walking closer with the Lord.

I have to admit that I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this book because of the content, basically the life of a Japanese prostitute. However, I found Memoirs of a Geisha to be extremely well-written and very interesting reading. The story follows a young girl from a small fishing village through her life with its many twists and turns as she becomes the well-known geisha of a wealthy businessman. I was a little disappointed in the ending to the book (you'll have to read it for yourself), however I understand that this book was based on the experience of a real-life geisha . . . and often real life does not turn out like we expect from the foreshadowing in a book.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks produced some very interesting and controversial book club discussion at our meeting last month. This is a non-fiction book about how cancerous cells that were taken from a poor black women in the early 1950s have been used in research for the past 60+ years. Henrietta Lacks did not know that her cells were being taken and used in research when she went to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment, and she never knew, because she died in 1951. Her cells, however, are still alive today and have been used in research that resulted in development of the polio vaccine and many other medical advances. The controversy lies in the fact that she nor her family were aware of the cells for many years, even as they grew into a multi-billion dollar industry. The Lacks family (including Henrietta's five children) continued to live in poverty, without health insurance, while her cells (known as HeLa) were sold for research around the world. The book goes back and forth between two stories - the story of the cells and the story of the Lacks family. I was fascinated with the information presented; the book was well researched, although I was occasionally frustrated with the author's style of inserting herself into the Lacks' story.

If you've read any of these books, please share your opinions in the comments. If not, are there any that you'll be adding to your to-read list?


  1. My response to the HeLa book was very similar to yours. Fascinating story, but the author drove me nuts! Plus, it needed a good edit; I thought it would have been better at about 50 pages shorter.
    I think my book group considered the Pettigrew book. Maybe I'll pick it up. I think I tried Memoirs of a Geisha but couldn't get into it.
    Thanks for the reviews. I always like to hear what others think of books.

  2. I've been meaning to read Memoirs of a Geisha for a while now. One to put on my Kindle, methinks

  3. The story of Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa cells was very thought provoking but sometimes the author went into too much scientific rambling and our book club consensus was that she was repetitive and too much in the story. On the other hand some of the things we liked were seeing her and Deborah's relationship evolve. I think I told you a few weeks ago but next weekend I'm going to be with Lysa Terkeurst Friday and Saturday .... can't wait to be stretched and challenged!!

  4. I've read the Major Pettigrew one - over here it was published by Persephone who produce those pretty grey covered paperbacks, one of which turned up in Pass The Book last year. I enjoyed it very much.

    I read a long article about the Henrietta Lacks book in a Sunday newspaper, and thought it maybe sounded a bit scientific for me, so I was interested to read your review

  5. Read Memoirs of a Geisha years ago and really enjoyed it - a fascinating insight into a totally different culture.

  6. I liked Memoirs of a Geisha very much, as did the rest of my book group (four couples). Major Pettigrew and Henrietta Lacks have both been on my to-read list for some time, but after reading your review and the comments, I think I'll pass on the Henrietta Lacks book. Thanks.


Thanks so much for your comment - it's like a ray of sunshine in my day!