The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – a review

In light of my blog post about being more chill with my book blog, this is going to be my first post where I don’t sit and write an academic article about my thoughts on a book! Ironic that I’m doing this with a science based book but here we go, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

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This books is a biography written by a white woman, Rebecca Skloot. With this being about a Black woman who was exploited I was concerned about this going in, but she actually addresses this within the book itself. Of course as a white woman I can’t speak on this properly, but it did seem like she really cared for the wellbeing of the Lacks family and wanted to truly tell Henrietta’s story to the world. But I would look for own voices reviews of this to get a view on that part.

I liked that there was science mixed in with the personal, it wasn’t all just about her life and it wasn’t all just about the science, the two intertwined. It shows the impact that the HeLa cells have had on society, saving so many lives, as well as the impact the treatment of Henrietta had both on her and on her family around her. And that difference is pretty stark.

I like that Skloot chose to write about how she got in contact with the family. It shows the exploitation that they’ve been subject to before, as well as hopefully keeping her accountable for how she was getting in contact with them. Given that they’re able to pick this up and read it.

Overall I gave this 4*s. On my CAWPILE spreadsheet I rated it:

  • 10 for characters
  • 7 for atmosphere
  • 7 for writing
  • 8 for plot
  • 9 for intrigue
  • 8 for logic
  • 8 for enjoyment

The CAWPILE rating isn’t designed for non-fiction books so I’ve had to just make this fit for the book the best that I can. And my rating came out at 8.14, so a solid 4 stars!

Highlight for trigger warnings: mention of sexual abuse, cancer, racism, classism, medial procedures, death

Honestly I really recommend picking this one up. It’s a really interesting book that focuses primarily on the human impacts of the work carried out, both on Henrietta and on what the HeLa cells have been able to achieve and it’s really important to remember and honour the woman who’s cells were stolen, who has enabled so many scientific advancements.

Vesuvius: History of the Volcano – a review

This is going to be a review on the shorter side today, because I know a lot fewer people will be interested in this book compared to my usual reviews. Not only is this book non-fiction, which the online bookish world isn’t as keen on (which breaks my little heart) but it’s also in the style of a kids textbook and covers the topic of Mount Vesuvius. See? Told you this wouldn’t be up your alley. But I still want to talk about why I loved this book.

Vesuvius: History of the volcano and it’s eruptions

This book doesn’t even have a listed author, because it’s just a little touristy book to pick up when you’re visiting Naples, Sorrento or Vesuvius itself. That’s where I picked this up! At the shop just before you start upon the trail up the volcano to the summit. I’ve been up this volcano a number of times, and I picked this up when I was 19 (so back in 2016) and last visited the site with my parents. It’s taken me a fair bit of time to get around to it, but I’m kinda glad about that, because it’s allowed me to have a pretty different viewpoint on this.

Since I bought this book I started and finished an MSc in GeoHazards where my thesis focus was actually on Vesuvius, and reading this after I had carried out my studies meant I could really appreciate the accuracy of the information and how scientific and detailed it was without being too complex. It reminded me of the non-fiction books I would read as a child because I was so so interested and whilst some of the information was even new to me (you tend to hyperfocus for a thesis, don’t @ me) at no point does it overwhelm the reader, nor does it talk down to them. Instead it states the facts in a clear and understandable manner whilst also being engaging for a non-fiction reader.

In essence, I was quite surprised by this book. I had expected it to be fluff, or to be boring. But no. I judged it!! Literally the only fault I had with this book was that it had been translated from Italian and clearly hadn’t been done by a native speaker because some sections were a little weird. But nothing that wasn’t understandable and it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. If you’ve somehow made it to the end of this review and are vaguely interested, I really do recommend this little book!

A Unique Memoir


Without You, There Is No Us is the title of a song the citizens of North Korea sing about their beloved leader. It is also the title of Suki Kim’s book, which is a memoir about her time volunteering at a school for the male children of North Korea’s elite. She was undercover as a missionary, but really there as a journalist, and her time there was filled with many surprises and also many harsh realities.


I won’t go into any depth about what happens throughout her time in North Korea, because as this is a non-fiction work it is too easy to spoil. However, Kim’s writing style is engaging and this book is very informative. I rushed through it in one day, not wanting to put it down, and enjoyed it. As much as you can enjoy a book with this subject matter.

If you are at all interested in reading about North Korea I really recommend this book, not only is it well written but it is a unique perspective on the life of people in the country. Many other published works are from citizens who have escaped or non-fiction books from professors etc, this viewpoint has a lot to offer and really gives great insight into this school and how North Korea treats not only its students but also those who teach them

Correspondence with Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife is a well known BBC TV series in the UK, well known enough that a few people from other countries might recognise it too! The first series followed the real life events of Jenny Lee as a midwife working from a nunnery in the slums of post-WWII Britain. Heart-wrenching and memory-inducing for those who had lived through these times, she received many letters from readers.

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It was quite interesting to read these letters, to learn little tit-bits more about life during this time. However, I didn’t enjoy this book overall. It felt like I was invading people’s privacy, to be reading their letters to an author. I’m not sure whether the publishing house tried to track each individual down to get their permission.

I also had been expecting to fall into the book like I have with Worth’s memoirs and was sadly disappointed. This was an interesting but slow read and at many points I did consider DNFing it and just putting it on my read shelf. But I wanted to push through, and so I did.

If you’d like a complete collection of the Call the Midwife books then this is obviously one to pick up, and it is relatively interesting, however, it’s not a book I would recommend because of reading enjoyment and I won’t be picking it up again. I have one more of Worth’s memoirs to read and I’m far more anticipatory for that.

Learning about the Buried City

Pompei. Something I have been interested in for as long as I can remember. I have a bit of history with Vesuvius myself, hence why I pick up so many books about the area. This one is a little different though.

Despite everything I’ve read over the years, I did actually learn a decent amount of new stuff in this book, so unless you’re an academic who studies/d Pompei then I’d recommend it for new info! Even if you do know all the facts, the illustrations are really unique.

Over the top of various pictures from the current sites excavated at Pompei there are plastic sheets within this spiral bound book. These have printed on them computer generated reconstructive drawings of how the location would have looked prior to the eruption. These images are fascinating. They are done so well and really do breath life into each of the ruins which seem so desolate and long abandoned.

This is a book I am so glad that I finally read and that I’m very glad I picked up all those years ago!

Do you read about Pompei? Do you enjoy learning about Ancient Rome?

101 Facts You “Need to Know”!

This was my first book in Kayla’s Buzzword Readathon. It’s a nice and short non-fiction and as I predicted it was an easy speed through and a good way to start a readathon. Simply stated, this is a mini magazine which has short “articles” on 101 interesting facts. Totally my thing and a little gift from my mum many years ago.

None of the facts really gives you all of the information you would need to be knowledgeable about the subject, however, it does give you enough to whet your appetite and give you the desire to go and research more. Or at least it did for me! Maybe it’ll just give you more random facts to whip out and sound impressive at social events!

Overall this is a short review because this is a short book. It won’t teach you a lot of detail but it will be interesting and a quick read. Great for when you’re waiting at the Dr’s office etc.

Keeping it Sciency!

My first read after finishing up my thesis! Seeing as my masters degree is a science one, I decided to keep it in the family and go for a science non-fiction read for my first delve back into the bookish world. I picked this bad boy up randomly whilst in a charity shop, I grabbed a Stephen King book (11/22/63) and it was 2 for £1 (or £1 each) so I grabbed this as the cover is bright and it looked kinda interesting. I’m so glad that I did because I really enjoyed this delve into a variety of different areas of science, with Ben Miller explaining everything in simplistic detail and keeping it amusing as well.

We start off sticking quite closely to the topic of aliens, but as the book progress there are minor deviations made. Alien life is still the primary focus, but Miller pulls you back down to Earth to make you aware of what we can accomplish here which will help us when looking out towards the stars.

This was a really interesting read and one that I’m going to make my science loving boyfriend pick up, as I know he’ll really enjoy it. There was a lot of research put into this book and it really shows. If you’re at all interested in the search for alien life out in space, or just in a cool non-fiction sciency book, then I recommend picking this one up.