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February 2018 Book Reviews

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By Gini Rainey

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

In a New York Times bestseller, Rebecca Skloot tells the story of a black American’s struggle with cervical cancer, whose cells were taken from her without her knowledge or permission, were named HeLa, reproduced by the billions in labs, and have been used over the years since her death in 1951 as vital tools for the development of the polio vaccine, cancer research, cloning, gene mapping, and much more.  

That being said, Skloot also faithfully recorded how the family of Henrietta Lacks, an indigent recipient of state-of-the-art cancer treatment, believes that Lacks was horribly exploited by the physicians/scientists whose training and skill were able to extract value from her excised tumor.  And while Skloot succeeds in establishing that they (the family) are terribly aggrieved, she fails to make sense of the high degree of distress they experienced as a result of the scientists’ having studied and used what otherwise would have been thrown into the hospital’s waste bin.

With so much medical advancement made possible by the “harvesting” of Henrietta Lacks’ it would be fitting to remember that the goal of her treatment was to save her life, not to harvest her cells for experimentation.

Rating: 3 of 5

Copyright 2011 – Broadway Books

“Cover of Snow” by Jenny Milchman

Put on a sweater and grab a cup/glass of your favorite beverage because, if you’re like me, you won’t be able to put this one down and there’s plenty of snow flying around in this book.  Setting her story in the Adirondaks in the fictitious village of Wedeskyull (which I must admit drove me crazy every time I mentally tried to pronounce it!), which must be the coldest, iciest, snowiest place around, Milchman tells a tale full of family and village secrets.

Definitely a page turner, Milchman does such a superior job of character-building you will be able to visualize everyone from the autistic Dugger to the smarmy chief of police Vern to the heroine Nora and everyone in between.  Beginning with the inexplicable suicide of Nora’s husband, Brendan, this book is one emotionally suspenseful roller coaster ride right up to the very last page.  

With plot twist after plot twist, romantic intrigue, and characters you both love and want to smack up aside the head, what’s not to like about this book!  Another nice thing about this book is that by being a member of web sites such as bookbub.com, with daily email offerings, I was able to purchase the ebook version and enjoy it for only $1.99.

Rating: 5 of 5

Copyright 2013 – Ballentine Books

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Around East Texas

And the Summer Fun Continues at Tyler Public Library!!


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More than 1,000 people have participated in the Tyler Public Library’s summer reading challenge and more than 4,200 people have attended various programs. The Library says, “Thanks for being a part of a super, rocking summer!”

Any year-round weekly programs, like story times, will be temporarily suspended during movies week, but will return on Monday Aug. 6. These programs include:

  • Mondays at 10:30 a.m. Léeme Un Cuento, Spanish preschool story time
  • Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Panera story time, only Aug. 7 and 14 at Panera Bread on S. Broadway
  • Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. Lap and Play time for Babies
  • Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Toddler Time
  • Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. Read Aloud Crowd for Preschoolers

Maker Space events will continue throughout the coming months on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month.  Upcoming events can be found on the Library’s website under Maker Space.

  • Saturday Aug. 11 2 p.m. Anime and Manga Drawing
  • Saturday Aug. 21 2 p.m. Hydraulics 101

For more information on any of these programs, please contact the Library at (903) 593-7323, or find us on the web at TylerLibrary.com. The Library is located at 201 S. College Ave. in Downtown Tyler.


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Books

Wasn’t That Just Yesterday?

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By Gini Rainey

It seems like just yesterday that my daughter Beth came home from middle school and announced that one of her classes was going to put together a booklet of favorite recipes of the students’ families.  Interestingly enough, she just celebrated another year around the sun yesterday, and as her older sister reminded her, she is on the downhill slide to 50!  At least she included a laughing emoji.  

So, there I am, cooking dinner, with her sitting across the bar from me asking where the recipe for what I was making (I think it might have been pepper steak) was so she could copy it down and take it with her to school.  Imagine her dismay when I tapped my head!  I could tell she felt like that was never going to work.  But I told her get a piece of paper and a pencil and we would figure it out together.  She may not even remember that moment in time, but seeing what a good and experimental cook she has become, perhaps what she learned that afternoon stuck with her.  Things like always, always taste what you are cooking, less is better when it comes to salt/pepper, your cupped palm will hold about a teaspoon, rub dry herbs between your palms as you sprinkle them into what you are cooking, and never be afraid to try something new.  

So, believe it or not, this memory was jogged by a cookbook, Top Secret Recipes Unlocked, written by Todd Wilbur and published in 2009 by Plume Books/Penguin Books.  As I was flipping through it, it occurred to me that even though there are some pretty good recipes in it, I found it interesting that it also included recipes for Jimmy Dean® Breakfast Sausage, Kraft® Miracle Whip, Hidden Valley® The Original Ranch® Dressing, Fritos® Hot Bean Dip, and Lipton® Brisk® Iced Tea.  Just reading the Dressing recipe made me hyper-ventilate over the list of ingredients it called for.  I mean, if I‘m going to the store to pick up all of that, why not just grab a packet of the mix? 

But, I will say the recipes included for things like Panera Bread® Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Popeyes® Red Beans & Rice, Boston Market® Butternut Squash, and Carnegie Deli® Classic New York Cheesecake sound pretty darn yummy and the ingredient lists aren’t terribly daunting.  The cool thing about this book, and the others out there that have copycat recipes, is someone took the time to taste – really taste – the original foods and experiment in their kitchen to come up with the end product that is a pretty darn good second to the original.  That’s turning cooking and your kitchen into a food lab – and I’m for that! 

One of the recipes that Beth and I saved for posterity was for my version of Pepper Steak.  First trim about 1 ½ pounds of round steak and slice paper thin (this is easier to do if the meat is slighty frozen) making the strips about 3 inches in length.  Dredge the strips in flour and brown in hot oil in a Dutch oven or a 4 quart pan. Mix 1 ½ teaspoon of garlic powder with 4 tablespoons of corn starch and blend with ½ cup soy sauce (I prefer Kikoman®) and 3 ½ cups water and pour over the beef strips.  Stir until well mixed and beginning to thicken.  Cover and reduce heat. Cut 1 large, white onion and 2 large bell peppers into eighths and add to the beef mixture.  You can also add a small can of drained sliced mushrooms and a small can of sliced water chestnuts.  Continue to simmer until the onions and peppers are cooked, but still a bit crunchy.  Serve over steamed rice.  This is some might good eating and so relatively easy to make, you might want to have the kids help cook it. 

 

 

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Jump Into Something Interesting

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By Gini Rainey 

“Checking Out of The Hotel Euthanasia” by Gerard Graham 

Here is a very interesting read that reveals a lot about human nature in a very satirical format.  Graham proves he is a wizard at subtlety and irony as he spins a tale about a fictitious hotel in the fictitious kingdom of Villadedino that had pretty much fallen to ruin when Zeca, a hotel manager, was appointed to the most prestigious hotel management spot in the world by King Eugene III.  Because of Zeca’s capable management, the once decaying hotel, rose from the ashes to become a mecca for those seeking assisted dying. 

On the other side of this coin is Rab and a small group of cohorts who are on a Pope-funded mission to destroy the hotel because of the Catholic anti-assisted death platform.  Rab, who once supported assisted-suicide with a great passion, now has turned those passions against the Hotel Euthanasia and all that it represents and assumes his leadership role with great vigor. 

Along the way, we are introduced to a group of people from various walks of like who are guests at the Hotel and are seeking release from their earthly bodies in one of the various ways offered by the Hotel.  The back stories of these people could be novels in and of themselves but, bound together they comprise a very interesting read filled with different ways to look at euthanasia.  And while some readers might find the whole concept exceptionally macabre, the idea behind it certainly carries merit for those facing a lifetime of pain (however long) and an eventual death. 

 5 of 5 – Copyright 2017 – Ringwood Publishing  

 “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn 

Told from various character’s points of view, this book is Gillian Flynn’s (Gone Girl and Sharp Objects) second novel that was published in 2009 and made into a movie in 2015 and starring Charlize Theron.  Based on the fictious satanic murder of a family in Kinnakee, Kansas, “Dark Places” follows the investigation that Libby Day, who was 7 at the time her family was murdered, undertakes to find out who actually killed 3 members of her family.  If she can find the real murderer, her brother Ben will be freed from prison where he has been held for 25 years, mostly because of her coached testimony during his trial. 

Funded and aided by the Kill Club members who believe in her brother’s innocence, Libby finally opens the boxes that hold a lot of family secrets and provide her with leads to the various people who wandered in and out of the Day’s lives 25 ago, prior to their grizzly murders. 

As usual, Gillian Flynn has written a page-turning, spell-binder that keeps you guessing till the very end about “who dun it!”  Flynn has filled this novel with characters as raw and real as possible, so real that you will find yourself drawn into their hard lives and perhaps even develop compassion for what they have face.  As with Flynn’s other books, this one is definitely worth the read and will keep you turning the pages until the very end. 

5 of 5 – Copyright 2009 – Broadway Books 

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