Reading wrap-up #92: life, death and lesbian love

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it, won’t shut up about it for the foreseeable future
  • (★★★★): Really liked it, enjoyable experience
  • (★★★): Liked it enough, no strong opinions
  • (★★): Didn’t care for it, would actively discourage people reading it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — FAES Bookstore & Gift Shops @ NIHRating: ★★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, science, biography

GoodReads rating: 4.10 / 5 (674,800 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from the library)

PopSugar prompt: A book with a board game in the title.

Summary: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but for decades the world just knew her for her cells: HeLa. The cells that were taken without her knowledge or permission “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.” The family did not find out about Henrietta’s cells until decades after her death when they wanted to study the descendants’ cells without their informed consent. While HeLa cells launched an industry of biological products, the family has not seen profit and doesn’t even have reliable health insurance. The author takes great care to answer questions, get to know the family and explore medical ethics.

Warning: This book contains mention of animal testing and themes of incest, child abuse, sexual abuse and racism throughout.

Thoughts: Wow, this book was incredible. So many elements of other books I like rolled into one: part biography, part science, part racial justice/ethics. I love those books that sit with you for weeks or month after you finish. The author really did take good care to do justice to Henrietta and her family, including the disclaimer in the introduction about the use of AAVE and how the audiobook used a black narrator for the parts spoken by Henrietta’s family. Sadly, my alma matter (ASU) got dishonorable mentions in this book for using Havasupai tissue samples in ways they did not consent to. My favorite part was the relationship with author cultivated with Henrietta’s daughter Deborah and the conversations around consent and ethics in medicine. A Booktuber I like a lot, Olive, has recently also reviewed this book and had a lot of the same thoughts I did, but brought up something I’d like to address: she didn’t like the misconception of her cells literally being “immortal” and I agree to some extent. I think the book did a good job breaking down that the cells just multiply well and thrive like never seen before, I think the “immortal” is used figuratively to illustrate the kind of legacy Henrietta left behind.

Other adaptations: The 2017 movie starring Oprah fared okay.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie HarperCollins: Death on the NileRating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, mystery, classics

GoodReads rating: 4.12 / 5 (214,200 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from the library)

PopSugar prompt: A book becoming a movie or series in 2022.

Summary: “The tranquility of a lovely cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything – until she lost her life. Who is also on board? Christie’s great detective Hercule Poirot is on holiday. He recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Despite the exotic setting, nothing is ever quite what it seems…”

Warning: This book contains mention of suicide.

Thoughts: This was a real page-turner. I love how it seemed like everyone on board had some kind of relationship with each other, not to mention the setting was beautiful. The end was quite the twist.

Other adaptations: I watched the 2022 movie on Hulu and it was okay. Armie Hammer gives me the ick after everything about him that came out this year so that was hard to get passed. They changed a few things in the movie but stuck to the same plot and twists more or less. But it was great to see Emma Mackey in a movie role, my muse.

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes

The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School: 9780063060234: Reyes, Sonora: Books - Amazon.comRating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, young adult, LGBTQIA+

GoodReads rating: 4.40 / 5 (5,900 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from the library)

PopSugar prompt: A book featuring another language.

Summary: “Sixteen-year-old Yamilet Flores prefers to be known for her killer eyeliner, not for being one of the only Mexican kids at her new, mostly white, very rich Catholic school. But at least here no one knows she’s gay, and Yami intends to keep it that way. After being outed by her crush and ex-best friend before transferring to Slayton Catholic, Yami has new priorities: keep her brother out of trouble, make her mom proud, and, most importantly, don’t fall in love. Granted, she’s never been great at any of those things, but that’s a problem for Future Yami. The thing is, it’s hard to fake being straight when Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, is so annoyingly perfect. And smart. And talented. And cute. So cute. Either way, Yami isn’t going to make the same mistake again. If word got back to her mom, she could face a lot worse than rejection.”

Warning: This book contains themes of homophobia, racism and suicide.

Thoughts: I thought this was a cute read where the characters felt very real and the atmosphere was spot-on. I could picture what the inside of these characters’ houses looked like and what they were like in school. The use of another language in here was some Mexican slang that I recognized growing up in the Southwest. It was great to see how different characters related to their culture and sexuality and although it wasn’t a completely happy ending, it felt realistic without being a total bummer.

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

Ugly Love: A Novel: Hoover, Colleen: 9781476753188: BooksRating: ★★

Genre: Fiction, romance

GoodReads rating: 4.20 (nice) / 5 (999,800 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from the library)

Summary: “When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her: Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.”

Warning: This book contains mention of incest.

Thoughts: Ugh. This book was completely awful. Colleen Hoover has been blowing up on the Internet (mainly TikTok) so naturally I had to see what all the fuss is about. I don’t even know how this made it to print, it’s so bad. I’ve made this disclaimer before but I did go in with an open mind and I don’t bash books like these for my own health, this opinion is as objective as possible, even if I do get bitchy.

First: the characters. There are none. Well, except for our main couple Tate and Miles and Tate’s brother Corbin. I’m not exaggerating when I sat 90% of the present timeline takes place in their apartment building with a few inconsequential side characters introduced just to cause a stir with the couple. Neither of them have friends or lives to speak of. Tate broke up with her last boyfriend because she wanted to focus on her career and education, but it’s hardly brought up in the story. The time Miles spends away at work could be used for Tate’s character development, but it just skips time to when he comes back. One last thing: why is it mentioned that Tate has a huge, hideous scar like it’s supposed to add mystery or be off-putting? Ever since I read Disfigured, I’ve started to see how deformities = bad even if authors don’t always intend it to be.

Next, the writing. The “artsy” style CoHo chose to write in for Miles’s point of view was obnoxious. I don’t understand the reason for this other than to perhaps make the incest more palatable. I understand wanting to be edgy and break taboos, but the possible step-sibling thing was so gross to me. Also, a few other bad lines worth mentioning: when Tate was talking a bout Miles’s eyes… “I’d say they were as blue as the waters of the Caribbean, but I’ve never actually been to the Caribbean, so I wouldn’t know.” You know, you are allowed to leave things out. What was the point of that line? And the infamous baby balls line is in this book: when talking about their newborn, the father remarks, “The only thing he got from me is his balls,” the mother replies, “Yes, he does have quite big balls” and they both laugh at their infant son’s balls together (paraphrasing). I literally gasped when I read that, how can people seriously call this a good book when that’s in there?

Finally, the relationships and sex. Some people say CoHo glamorizes abusive relationships and I’m not so sure about that, at least in this book. Miles was a controlling and distant with Tate, but that was just his flawed character. And then there was a whole thing with his step-sister, so make of that what you will. Miles’s first romance was extremely rushed (he basically declared his love for her before he knew the first thing about her) and didn’t give me the depth I wanted to merit his bad attitude, even if they were bound by a tragic event. I would rather have a shorter time since the tragedy and a longer, more meaningful relationship. The sex scenes were nothing special, what is it about books like these that think mentioning how much it hurts for the girl is hot or noble or something? I hate it.

I wouldn’t even say these are good for a quick read, there are plenty of authors out there that have steamier books with better plots and less baby balls. Now, excuse me while I go read Talia Hibbert, the only CoHo in my life from now on is the salmon.

Have you read any of these?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.


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