Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When She Woke by Hilary Jordan

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

Hannah Payne's life has been devoted to church and family. But after she's convicted of murder, she awakens in a new body to a nightmarish new life. She finds herself lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red for the crime of murder. The victim, says the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love.
A powerful reimagining of The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a timely fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated, and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love.

My thoughts:
I didn't know a lot about this book before I started it.  I borrowed the Kindle edition from the library so I didn't have a back cover to read a synopsis.  The first thing it reminded me of was The Scarlet Letter.  Except this time, instead of having the child out of wedlock, Hannah has chosen to have an illegal abortion and been caught.  She refuses to reveal the name of the father of her child and suffers the consequences of her actions alone.  She becomes a Chrome, someones whose skin has been altered, the color of which is dictated by the crime the person has been convicted of.  Only the most violent criminals are put into prisons, the rest are Chromed, held for a month in a room with a camera on them to be viewed by the public, and then released with a small amount of money.  They are on their own when they leave, if they  have family or friends willing to help them they may be okay, on their own they are subject to the whims of society which treats them very poorly.  A Chrome alone, especially one of certain colors such as the one for being a convicted pedophile, often meet their death very shortly after their release.  There is a group that reminds me of the KKK who goes around targeting Chromes and there are many who wish to exploit the Chromes. 

Within this whole framework Hannah is also finding out more about who she is on the inside, underneath the genetically altered skin color.  She always thought she would live within her church, marry and have children, and go on with her seamstress job.  She fell in love with a married man and committed to a physical relationship with him.  She never even told him she was pregnant, but made the plans on her own.  As she grows and changes over the course of the book she finds her true self underneath all the layers and mantles society has put upon her and discovers who she is destined to be.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616201937
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 9/18/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368

Meet the Author

Hillary Jordan
Hillary Jordan’s first novel, Mudbound, was the winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for fiction and an Alex Award from the American Library Association. It was named the NAIBA Fiction Book of the Year and one of the Top Ten Debut Novels of the Decade by Paste magazine. Jordan grew up in Dallas, Texas, and Muskogee, Oklahoma. She lives in New York City. Find her online at

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

"Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells - taken without her knowledge - became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons - as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. 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." Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the "colored" ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, from Henrietta's small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia - a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo - to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

My thoughts:
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and looked forward to listening to it.  Hearing not only the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family but of the author as well and how she became interested in researching a woman whose cells have been so important to science.  It was like three stories or more in one book.  First there was Henrietta Lacks who had such strong cancer cells that they have been kept alive to this day in labs all over the world, then there is her family and most specifically her daughter Debra who never had a chance to get to know her mother since she died so young, who had her trust broken by so many people that she doesn't know who to trust but still wants answers, and then there is Rebecca Skloot who had questions about a woman in a science textbook that couldn't be answered by the sources she went to for help so decided to go further.

Henrietta came from a poor, African American background.  She started having her children very early and was the mother of five when she died at the age of 21 from cervical cancer,  Her first daughter suffered from her own health issues, never talking and having a poor sense of balance and the mind of a child.  Elsie was put into an institution before her mother's death and then suffered from poor treatment while there.  Henrietta also had three sons who have since had their share of hardships from one who who served time in prison, one with health issues and all of them with a great deal of mistrust, and then her youngest daughter Debra who lost her mother and had no one to rely on.  The whole family was very confused when they got word that Henrietta's cells were still alive and being used to find cures for other diseases.  They ran the gamut of thinking that Henrietta herself was still alive, since her cells were, and that the doctors were keeping her from them to also thinking that if these cells sold for so much money, then they deserved to have a share of it seeing as they had been living without health insurance and in poverty or close to poverty their whole lives.

As fascinating as the story to uncover all she could about Henrietta and her family, were all the issues about cell samples taken by hospitals and doctors from patients every day.  What happens to them, who has the right to them, can people profit from their cells and is it okay for doctors and medical institution to keep these and use them without consent.

I can see why this book stayed on the best seller list for so long and I am glad that I made the time to listen to it!

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400052189
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/8/2011
  • Pages: 381

Meet the Author

Rebecca Skloot
REBECCA SKLOOT is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; Columbia Journalism Review; and elsewhere. She has worked as a correspondent for NPR's RadioLab and PBS's Nova ScienceNOW, and blogs about science, life, and writing at Culture Dish, hosted by Seed magazine. She also teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Memphis. Visit her website at

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's Monday, What are you reading?

So this month just flew by.  I ran out of scheduled posts and then my time for both reading and writing really dwindled!  This month I ran my first marathon, celebrated my birthday(by running a marathon and by having a smallish backyard party), ran a hat trick race weekend( a 5K,10K and Half Marathon in two days), celebrated my youngest son's birthday, prepared for a hurricane, went to two pumpkin patches, spent time at Boo at the Zoo, went Trick-or-Treating, watched a parade my son was in, went to a home show and built things with my kids at the Home Depot Booth, and went to the local amusement park for their festive weekend twice.  So, I have barely read anything, but did manage to finish a few things, and I still have books from before the craziness that was October to review.  I have to admit that when Blogger changed their format I wasn't even sure how to schedule posts, but as I was writing this I noticed the option on the right side of the screen, honestly that was part of the problem because I would want to post for a particular day and I didn't know how to do it, silly but true.  So now to comb my mind and try to remember what I did read this month...

Finished reading:
Torment by Lauren Kate

Still reading:
Passion by Lauren Kate
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (audio)

Awaiting review:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
When She Woke by Hilary Jordan
You Don't Know Me by Susan May Warren
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Nate the Great and the Boring Beach Bag
by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Go the F*ck to Sleep
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Across the Miles by Jill Buck
All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
Nate the Great and the The Lost List by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat (audio)
Nate the Great and the Sticky Case by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat (audio)

Part of the problem with my slowness isn't just how busy the month was, but I usually depend on audio books to keep my rate up.  Jane Eyre has been really slow for me.  I do not care for the voice of the person reading it and it is going so slowly as I often don't feel like listening to it.  I plan to download something new today and go back and forth between the two books.  Also, in the car we have been listening to radio, not books, so I have lost another reading avenue lately.  If we do lose power as predicted I may have a chance to get some reading time in while we are stuck.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Life with Lily by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher

About the Book: Book 1 in the ‘Adventures of Lily Lapp’ series.

Lily is six in this story, just starting first grade in a one-room schoolhouse in upstate New York. Her parents are busy building a farm, and soon animals join the family—Jenny the cow and Chubby the miniature horse. A baby brother arrives, too, which Lily has mixed feelings about. (She wanted a sister!) Aside from a mischievous friend like Mandy Mast, Lily is happy at school and even happier at home.

Trouble is brewing at the schoolhouse and change is on the horizon for Lily and her family
My thoughts:
I had the opportunity to review this book as part of a Litfuse Blog tour.  I have really enjoyed the Amish fiction that I have read recently and I was excited to get a book to read that I would be able to share with my daughter.  Last month we drove to Lancaster, PA and we saw Amish people in buggies all over the place and she and her brother all had a lot of question about why they rode in buggies and more.  This seemed like such a good idea for a way to answer some of those questions in a fun way and to help children (not just mine but others as well) understand a group of people they may see and interact with, but not quite understand.
I think this book did a really good job of portraying what life is like in an Amish community for both parents and children.  It especially did a good job of showing how children are treated and what they think about the ways things are.  I loved how much Lily appreciated her one rag doll, how she played with her and dressed her in clothes and how she didn't seem to think that she needed more.  So many people are always looking to have more and more, when we can not ever possibly use all that we have, that it was refreshing to see a different view point on possessions.
Another aspect I really liked about the story was how it showed that just being Amish does not mean that everyone is perfect.  When Lily first goes to school she has a teacher she loves who makes learning fun for all the children in the school house (which covers all children up to eighth grade).  When that teacher is in an accident and has to leave the new teacher is nothing like her.  School is no longer as much fun as it had been before. 
It will be interesting to see what happens in the second book and to see how long this series goes on for as Lily ages a year or two over the course of this one.
Link to buy the book: 

Meet Suzanne: Suzanne Woods Fisher lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has one husband, four children, one son-in-law, a brand new grand-baby, and a couple of dogs. She graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.

Suzanne has contracts with Revell for six more books about the Amish, both fiction and non-fiction. She is also the host of “Amish Wisdom·” on, a weekly radio program featuring guests who are connected to Simple Living.

Find out more about Suzanne at

Monday, October 15, 2012

Marathon News!

I know it looks like I disappeared, but I have a good reason for having been absent for so long. On October 7th I ran in my first marathon!  I spent a lot of time training for it and it took away time from a lot of other areas in my life, including reading and writing.  After I ran I had a lot of catch up to do with things at home so I am now ready to ease back into writing and reading a bit more.  Yesterday I actually finished a book!  It never takes me this long to read.  Luckily I have a nice backlog of books that I have already finished that still need to be reviewed.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

You Don't Know Me by Susan May Warren

About the Book:
A Deep Haven Novel

Sometimes the secrets we keep to protect ourselves can be our undoing.

To all who know her, Annalise Decker is a model wife and mother. She’s a permanent member of the PTA, never misses a sporting event, and is constantly campaigning for her husband’s mayoral race.

No one knows that Annalise was once Deidre O’Reilly, a troubled young woman whose testimony put a dangerous criminal behind bars. Relocated through the Witness Security Program to the quaint harbor town of Deep Haven, Deidre received a new identity and a fresh start, which began when she fell in love with local real estate agent Nathan Decker.

Twenty years later, Annalise couldn’t be more unprepared for her past to catch up with her. When Agent Frank Harrison arrives with news that the man she testified against is out on parole and out for revenge, Annalise is forced to face the consequences of her secrets. Will she run again, or will she finally find the courage to trust those she loves most with both her past and her future?

My thoughts:
I read this book as part of a Litfuse Blog tour.  I had read one of Susan May Warren's previous books and really enjoyed it.  I have another one or two on my Kindle to read soon.  I loved getting a chance to go back to Deep Haven, a small town that anyone might like to call home.  This time around we meet Annalise Decker and her husband, Nathan, as well as their three children.  Everything looks fine on the surface, until we find out that both Annalise and Nathan are hiding secrets from each other that have the potential to change their lives.

Annalise moved to town twenty years ago as part of the Witness Protection Program and has had no contact with her parents or siblings in all that time.  She became a new person and thoroughly enjoys her new life, but the past continues to haunt her.  When her handler walks in to the local coffee shop to talk to her, she knows things are about to change.

Frank has been working as a handler for the Witness Protection Program for close to forty years.  He sees Annalise as his daughter and is very troubled to have to let her know that the drug dealer she put behind bars is now out and looking for revenge.  He wants to move her again, with her whole family if necessary, to keep them all safe but she is afraid to fess up to her past and make them all go through such big changes.

I was left wondering why she wouldn't have spoken up and revealed her past when her husband started a very personal mayoral campaign that put the whole family in the media, knowing that she was supposed to be keeping a low profile.  How many secrets do we keep from one another, either because we think it will keep someone safe or because they are hard to reveal?  Annalise and Nathan have to continually relied on God for guidance as they navigate these uncharted waters of finding out about a troubling past and possible present danger.  They see that even though it can be easier not to face things, if you are working together you owe it to one another to be honest.

I am going to have to make some time in my reading schedule so I can catch up with some of the Deep Haven books I have missed.

Meet Susan:
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.

A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!.

Find out more about Susan May at
Blog tour page:

Link to buy the book: