Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years by Michael J. Collins (review by Simar B. '20)

Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First YearsHot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years by Michael J. Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hot Lights, Cold Steel tells the story of Dr. Collins while he was a resident at the Mayo Clinic. Specifically, it is a medical memoir about his life; Dr. Collins went from a lowly junior resident to the chief resident of orthopedics at one of the most renowned hospitals in the world. He did this by working his way up and working tirelessly, trying to learn all he could. Moreover, he worked extremely hard to support his family, moonlighting in Mankato Hospital 90 miles away from his home just to make ends meet. The story is centered on the theme of choices and making the right one for the patient in the hardest of circumstances. For example, a young teenager came to him with a severely damaged leg, and he had to make the choice of whether to amputate the leg or try to save the leg and risk the boy's life. Dr. Collins' story is absolutely riveting and a great read for anyone interested in becoming a doctor. - Simar B. '20

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (review by Saloni S. '21)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From start to finish, I was thoroughly captivated by Rebecca Skloot’s biography, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Skloot masterfully conveys the heartbreaking story of Henrietta Lacks, a thirty-one year old African-American woman suffering from cervical cancer whose cells were taken for research without her consent. With a magical sensation, I learned that Henrietta Lacks’ cells, dubbed HeLa by scientists, reproduced rapidly and continuously unlike any cells before, resulting in a scientific miracle; however, Skloot stresses the fact that Lacks’ family was not informed about the mystifying HeLa cells as they struggled to survive in poverty, while commercial ventures profited from her cells.

Skloot effectively describes the high racial tensions during the 1950s, with only John Hopkins Hospital available for African-Americans for miles; she also narrates harrowing stories of research conducted on unsuspecting patients, especially African-Americans. She was able to warm the Lacks family’s heart, despite their profound distrust of reporters, by promising to reveal the face behind the name HeLa. With ten years of devotion to writing this book, Skloot not only described the ethical issues behind HeLa cells and scientific cell research, but also emotionally articulated the frustration and story of the Lacks family. Overall, I was amazed at how Skloot evokes so many different emotions from the reader throughout this detailed and interesting 381 page book. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who would like to read a breathtaking, informative book about the science and ethics behind cell research. - Saloni S. '21


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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (review by Sachi B. '21)

The Sun Is Also a StarThe Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written by Nicola Yoon, The Sun is Also a Star is a novel revolving around two young adults Natasha and Daniel, who fall in love despite the numerous obstacles that come their way. First, Daniel is Korean and Natasha is African-American, which is a racial difference they believe their families would not approve of. Moreover, Natasha is an undocumented immigrant and is to be deported the exact day they meet, forcing the two lovers to separate. Despite the challenges they face, both Natasha and Daniel attempt to make the best of their bad situations. They focus on the present and on each other, cherishing the time they have left together, instead of constantly worrying when they will have to leave each other.

This book is unique and showcases the perspective and thoughts of each character by labeling their names at the top of every page rather than being narrated from only one perspective. This allowed the reader to really feel what the lovers are feeling, and anticipate and fear what will happen to the protagonists. I would definitely recommend this book due to its beautiful concept of how living in the moment is such an important concept that everyone needs to implement in their own lives. - Sachi B. '21

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Origin by Jessica Khoury (review by Anya W. '20)

Origin (Corpus, #1)Origin by Jessica Khoury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pia is perfect. The result of five generations of careful breeding and genetic manipulation she is a girl with unbreakable skin, destined to be untouched by the hands of time. For now, however, she’s just a teenager, studying and working towards her lifelong dream of being part of the team of scientists and creating more immortals… starting with her very own Mr. Perfect. For now. However Pia is a teenager. And teenagers rebel. It is what they do. A few catalysts, a fated meeting in the woods, a visit or two from certain invested parties—and she is set on a whole new path, one that will expose the what is hidden in the light.

Origin by Jessica Khoury is a well written YA novel that pulls you into the story until the very end, even if most plot points can be predicted light-years away by an experienced reader. The romance is sweet, the protagonists’ motivations more complex than is typically found in YA novels, and everything wraps up in a finale as bittersweet as nestle chips. It is a good way to spend a lazy summer morning, especially for YA fans sick of love triangles and unintelligent, flighty female protagonists motivated only by the whims of whatever set of sensations and emotions they ascribe to love. Pia’s actions are driven by logic, reasoning that could realistically come from her life experiences, plain old curiosity and teenaged rebellion. For that, I truly wish I had the ability to give a 3.5 star review. However, once you put the book down or have to slog through a particularly wearisome passage, the spell is broken, and while the book is good, it is missing a little something.
- Anya W. '20

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Heller's Tale by David Pablo Cohn (review by Amelia H. '19)

Heller's Tale: an Antarctic NovellaHeller's Tale: an Antarctic Novella by David Pablo Cohn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heller’s Tale is a novella that follows Andrew Heller, a welder working at the South Pole, as an intended adventure with his friends goes, well, south. The details of the setting are based off Cohn’s own experience working in Antarctica and give a fantastical feeling to the story, particularly for those of us who have never actually been to Antarctica. Multiple timelines are also used to great effect by interspersing events so that they continuously build up the plot, instead of by chronology. The novella format keeps the story from dragging, while still allowing for complexity. I would recommend Heller’s Tale to anyone looking for an immersive, setting-driven story. - Amelia H. '19

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