Non-Fiction

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

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I greatly enjoyed this book. Reminding me a little bit of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and John Grisham’s novels all rolled into one. “The Radium Girls” chronicles the true account of the Radium poisoning the dial painters, working throughout the United States, contracted by working with luminous paint.

The story begins by introducing the reader to all of the young ladies who worked at the New Jersey radium plant. The author gives a short description of each woman including their general personality and looks. While this part did get a little tedious to read, it only lasts for about a chapter and helps to paint a picture of each lady in the reader’s head. This also is a nice tribute to the women as each one receives a short description, even if they weren’t major players in the events that unfolded. The book also chronicles the women in Illinois who were working for another company using luminous paint. Later in the book there is a chapter introducing these women, but as there weren’t as many of them the descriptions aren’t as tedious.

The story then follows the women as they paint the luminous watch faces in the factories. The author talks about how the pay was fantastic, the work was glamorous (I mean, the women glowed after spending the day painting with radium), and they worked in close proximity to their friends. It sounds like the ideal job; until years later when the women became ill with radium poisoning and started dying off in droves. This is by far the saddest part of the book- reading about what happened to the women and the horrors they faced as their bodies decayed around them. Yet, although extremely sad and disturbing, there is a somewhat upbeat swing to the story as the women begin to realize the connection and fight back against the companies.

At this point in the story (about halfway through) I really started to be reminded of John Grisham novels. The trials the girls (and their lawyers) faced, the way all representatives of the companies behaved, and the constant up and down action all felt more like a novel than real life. Throughout reading you will continually find yourself appalled that this actually happened, let alone happened so recently. You will also find yourself unable to stop reading, caring so much for the characters that you feel you need to know how they all came out of this ordeal.

The writing in this book is straightforward, descriptive, and polished. Moore obviously understands the fundamentals of writing good nonfiction and includes the perfect balance of emotion and cold, hard facts. I will definitely be looking for more works by this author because I greatly enjoyed her writing style.

If you enjoyed “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” then you will certainly enjoy this book. “The Radium Girls” is a disturbing and upsetting, yet deeply powerful book that will leave the reader admiring the young women and thinking about the story for days after finishing. Highly recommend.
I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Watersheds of World History: Review

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I set out to read Watersheds of World History very enthusiastically, but have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the overall book. While I still enjoyed reading the book, I was left wanting more.

John L. Taylor starts out by introducing the reader to the Fertile Crescent and the start of civilization. The story then continues all the way up through the Second World War, touching on the most important world events throughout history. Honestly, this book is a good overview of things of historical importance, but I was left wanting more.

The author states in the preface that: “There are no footnotes in this book, no maps, no references, no images, and no dates to memorize. The text is simply a clear summary of basic information available to everyone in hardcover and internet encyclopedias.”… Now, I can see how some readers might enjoy that aspect of this book as world history reads just like a story, but as an avid nonfiction reader I found that style of book to be unfit for my tastes. I was uncomfortable reading a book without any references, footnotes, or maps and because the majority of information in this book was information I already knew, I didn’t find myself wanting/needing to look up any further details.

On the back of the book the author states “to be enjoyed by everyone but especially by those who have little or no background in world history”, which definitely is a demographic I would recommend this book to. Watersheds of World Historyis a literally just a summary of basic world history information, talked about briefly and simply. I would definitely say that this book will not be appreciated as greatly by those with a solid background in world history, although they might be able to appreciate the storytelling aspects.

Alright, enough with the information bashing and onto the author’s writing itself. I found that Taylor did a really nice job of conveying information to the reader in an easy to understand manner. He does a good job of portraying the information in a logical format and one that would be easy to follow for readers of many ages and backgrounds. The information in this book does read just like a story, allowing the information to be absorbed by the reader without them having to focus on learning all of the facts.

The other point that I feel I should note is the formatting of this book. Some of the paragraphs in this book were bolded while others were just normal text. I found myself confused as to what the bolding of certain paragraphs was for, as I couldn’t find any noticeable pattern between the bolded paragraphs. Maybe that was just a fluke with my review copy though.

Although I found myself disappointed with the amount and quality of information in this book, it wasn’t altogether a bad book to read. I would have been happier reading this book before I’d read monstrous accounts of world history as this would be the perfect introduction book to get people interested in world history. I would recommend this book to younger audiences or those that haven’t read much about world history.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Inside The Criminal Mind: Review

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Inside the Criminal Mind provides a fascinating and insightful look into the inner workings of the criminal. This book touches on the mentalities that apply in a general way to all criminals and then explains in more depth in relation to each criminal type (whether it’s burglars or pedophiles).

Samenow’s main point is that the criminal has a “criminal personality” which has been present to the relations of the criminal since they were young. Thus, one can potentially identify criminals as youths or can justify finding a criminal guilty (even if they plead temporary insanity) by using their past history to demonstrate that they have a criminal personality. This book does a fantastic job of explaining and using examples to demonstrate exactly what classifies as a criminal mind. Samenow illustrates, using quotes from criminals and those with a criminal mind, exactly what goes on in the minds of most criminals and how they feel about things.

While it’s obvious that the author stands behind his idea of a criminal personality, he recognizes that it doesn’t apply to all cases. Near the end of the book Samenow recognizes that there are actually people who commit crimes of insanity, who didn’t really have control over their actions due to their mental state. He points out that although that can happen, it’s extremely uncommon and is usually very easy to tell whether the person was actually in control of their actions. I appreciated that the author recognized other types of criminals, versus just focusing on those with a criminal personality, because there are always exceptions to the rule which needs to be recognized.

Samenow writes in a style that is very pleasurable to read. He writes in a manner that, while academic sounding, is still easy to follow and understand. There wasn’t a moment in this book where I was confused as to the point that the author was trying to get across as he is very clear in his message and intent. Samenow also brings examples of the criminal personality to life through actual stories and quotes from the criminals, bringing the message home to the reader.

I would recommend this book for those interested in psychology or understanding the criminal mind. This is a highly informative book that really makes me think about what shapes the criminal.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Stolen World: Review

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I’m not a huge reptile fanatic (in fact, I stay far away from reptiles) so this was a fascinating look into an area I am not very familiar with.

The story of reptile smuggling is a fascinating one. The history of reptile smuggling goes way back, with no sign of slowing down. It was fascinating to read about the ways that the smuggling has advanced and regressed throughout the years and the way that the government tries to stop the smuggling. It was also interesting to get some of the information straight from the guys who were bringing the reptiles into the United States from other countries and hearing their perspectives on the trade.

The writing in this book was pleasant to read. Smith does a really good job of illustrating the events to the reader in a way that allows them to feel as if they were actually there. The author also does a really good job of describing the characters in the story in ways that allow the reader to visualize the characters and feel as if they actually know the character. The author also writes in a good, journalistic style that is easy and pleasing to read.

I would recommend this book for those interested in reptiles, conservation, or smuggling. This is definitely one of those books that is a quick and informative read that can be enjoyed by many.

Race Unmasked: Review

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A fascinating look into race and more specifically, the eugenics movement of the 1920’s and the idea of genetics behind racial differences. When I first started reading Race Unmasked I really struggled to get involved in the topic. The information seemed dull and the writing wasn’t pulling me into the book. Yet by about 30% of the way through the book, I found myself unable to put it down. 

There is a lot of really interesting information presented throughout this book. I have previous knowledge of a few things relating to eugenics, mainly what they teach in history class, but I really had no idea of the pure scope of the movement and how prominent scientists were reinforcing the movement with shifty research. Along with eugenics, I also learned a lot about the concept of race itself throughout that era. I had no idea how loose the definition and idea of race was within the scientific community and notable speakers during that time, and throughout history. By the time I finished Race Unmasked, I really felt that I had learned a lot about the concepts of race.

The writing in this book, while extremely academic, was relatively easy to read. The author relies heavily on quotes to bring the points across, which could be a challenge to read for some. I personally liked the heavy reliance on quotes. It really gave me an idea of exactly the scope of the information in the words of those who were for the eugenics movement and those who were against it. The authors comments in between each quote aided in connecting the information and making the book flow smoothly from piece to piece.

I would highly recommend this book to those interested in race studies and the eugenics movement. While I don’t think this book is for everyone, for someone with an interest in the topic this book is a great read.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Seven Modern Plagues: Review

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I don’t read very many books about sickness, so when a new one comes on the market I’m quick to grab it up and read it. Seven Modern Plagues is definitely one of the better books I’ve read about sickness in recent years and one that I will definitely be purchasing for myself when it is published.

Seven Modern Plagues focuses on seven major issues that have been afflicting the modern world, such as Salmonella, Lyme Disease, and West Nile Virus, amongst others. This book offers a comprehensive overview of each of the “modern plagues”, the ways in which humans have caused them and what we can do, if anything, to prevent ourselves from forming other, similar plagues. 

The information in this book is solid and really taught me a lot about the plagues and how we have caused them. I had never actually considered the possibility that certain serious health concerns could be caused by the actions of humans in such things as deforestation. This book will definitely make me look at any new plagues with a critical eye, wondering whether the actions of humans were responsible for the outbreak. Along with containing unique information, this book also contains strong scientific information. The author does a fantastic job of citing scientific studies and health information. I definitely appreciate it when nonfiction books contain strong scientific facts to back up the points being made in the book.

The author in this book is a clear and concise writer. Walters does a wonderful job of getting the point across in an easy to understand way. The author definitely understands how to write in a way that can be understood by a wide variety of people, regardless of their previous knowledge of the information. The author also does a good job of telling stories throughout the book. The way the author gave personal stories of the people who were impacted by the diseases definitely aided in driving the points in the book home. 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in books about sickness, especially the ways that sickness is caused by human actions. I would also recommend this book to just a general reader, this is an important book to read so that we can (hopefully) stop anymore plagues before the infect us.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

The Secret World of Oil: Review

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The Secret World of Oil provides a comprehensive look into the lesser talked about aspects of a corrupt, global oil industry. Even if you follow current events relating to oil, this book will give you information on aspects of the industry you likely have heard hardly anything about.

This book was fascinating. I had no idea that the oil industry was so corrupt and that it was just a fact of life that the corruption occurs, no one is really set to stop it. I also learned a lot about the environmental aspects of the oil industry, which was fascinating. I know the basics of how oil drilling can hurt the environment but I never really understood the specifics. This book gave me all the specifics, as well as detailing other information about the tensions surrounding the environment and oil companies that really portrayed the environmental issues in a stronger light.

The format of this book was very easy to follow. Each chapter revolves around a specific topic, from the fixers to the environment, and each chapter flows smoothly into the next. Each chapter was also comprehensive, with small subtopics of information for the reader to understand the bigger picture of the issue in the chapter. This book is easy to follow and understand, for even the most novice non-fiction reader.

Silverstein writes in a style that is informative, yet still easy and pleasurable to read. The author writes in a smooth style that flows along the pages nicely. He also does a fantastic job of painting a picture in the readers head of the things that he saw while out researching the information and interviewing officials for the book. 

I would definitely recommend this book to all whom are interested in learning more about the oil industry, especially the corrupt side. I would also recommend this book to those who are interested in books about the environment. Oil is a huge part of our everyday lives and thus has a big impact on the environment, this book does a fantastic job of illustrating the issues the oil industry brings to the environment.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.