First Book of the Year 2014 - Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh & The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - 01/01/2014

1/01/2014 03:27:00 PM

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journey, (and a link from Pat at Posting for Now's page), here is a look at my First Book(s) of the year.  Yes, there are two .. because someone else was using my Nook Color (where Shovel Ready is waiting for me) when the mood to read hit me yesterday.  So I pulled a long-waiting book from my TBR pile to scratch that reading itch!

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh Goodreads description:

An addictive genre-blend of a thriller: the immersive sci-fi of Ernest Cline; the hard-boiled rhythms of Don Winslow; the fearless bravado of Chuck Palahniuk; and the classic noir of James M. Cain

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a bombed-out shell of its former self. Now he's a hitman.

In a New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to "tap into" a sophisticated virtual reality for months at a time and those left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. His clients like that he doesn't ask questions, that he works quickly, and that he's handy with a box cutter. He finds that killing people for money is not that different from collecting trash, and the pay is better. His latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist. Finding her is easy, but the job quickly gets complicated: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has an agenda far beyond a simple kill. Now Spademan must navigate the dual levels of his world-the gritty reality and the slick fantasy-to finish the job, to keep his conscience clean, and to stay alive.

Adam Sternbergh has written a dynamite debut: gritty, violent, funny, riveting, tender, and brilliant
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootGoodreads description:
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.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now 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.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?
Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences
Two totally different kinds of reads - both thoroughly enjoyable so far! How about you? What is YOUR first book of 2014? Please feel free to leave a link in the comments if you've made a post on it or simply leave the title of your book(s) and your impressions so far.


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  1. Both your books sound interesting and like they would have you on the edge of your seat. Nice to know you are enjoying them and hope you have your Nook back!

  2. I loved Hennrietta Lacks is great! Enjoy your first read of the year!

    The Things You Can Read

  3. The second book sounds fascinating! Enjoy your first books of the year.

  4. Julie I loved Immortal Life - I hope you do too! Happy New Year!

  5. These both sound compelling...especially The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Enjoy your journey through these books, and Happy New Year. Here's MY FIRST BOOK OF THE YEAR POST

  6. Shovel Ready looks intriguing. I don't normally read sci fi but this one might break that trend.
    Book Dilettante

    1. Harvee: I know that it's considered sci-fi, but it's really sort of cross-genre. A dystopia that only affects one city, a semi-moralistic play, with some intrigue and suspense and surprise. I like the spare prose; it's deceptively simple, but really pulls the reader in.

  7. I have never read The Henrietta book, but friends have, and they enjoyed it.

    I hope you like it.

    THANKS for sharing.

    Happy New Year!!

    Stop by my blog from January 2 to January 11 for an international giveaway of Jubilee's Journey.

    Silver’s Reviews
    My First Book of The Year

  8. Looks like your off to a great start. happy New year!

  9. Henrietta Lacks was fantastic. I felt like I learned so much! Shovel Ready sounds great too. It reminds me a bit of In The Country of Last Things by Paul Auster.


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