books

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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Bless the Skies: Review

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Although “Bless the Skies” by Julie Elise Landry took me quite a few pages to really get into, it turned out to be a marvelous book and one that I couldn’t stop reading. Although the writing wasn’t as polished, the story and characters really put me in the mind of Scott Lynch’s “Lies of Locke Lamora”. The words in this book, the characters, and story just had the same taste as Lies, which kept me wanting to read more long after the story was finished.

“Bless the Skies” follows the lives of 3 young ladies- the Tavens Sisters, Elaina and Laeli, and their friend, Sophie. Although they lead a rough life as prostitues and thieves, it is a relatively safe one. At least it was until they botched a robbery and Elaina was kidnapped as bait by Lord Anderton, an absolutely horrendous villain. I won’t give away any more details, because all of this happens in the beginning of the book, but I will say that there is a lot more going on than just that. There’s a war brewing, a mysterious man called the “fog”, and a unique world just waiting to be explored.

The characters in this book are all very solid. At the beginning of the story I found myself not really liking any of the women and I couldn’t understand how this Lord Anderton character was supposed to be the villain. By the end of the book, all of the women had really grown as characters and I found myself rooting for them. As for Lord Anderton… well let’s just say that he turned out to be an incredibly disturbing man, portrayed in a way that was so realistic and rational it left me too disturbed to go to sleep.

The writing in this book, while not perfectly polished, is easily readable and fits smoothly within the genre. The only true gripes I had with the writing itself were that the author changes perspective too frequently and suddenly to suit me, although I did get used to this by the end of the book, and the author throws the reader right into the middle of the story without much explanation or introduction. I was rather confused at the beginning, this story takes place in a slightly different world and contains complex characters and a fast moving plot, but the author provides the reader with a glimpse into the past about halfway through the book that worked wonders at clearing up all my questions and keeping me glued to the pages. The writing style itself reminded me of Scott Lynch and left a really pleasing taste in my head after reading. If the author continues to write at this caliber in her later works, with only a little more organization, I will definitely be reading more.

“Bless the Skies” is a fantasy novel that represents the genre well. There’s a unique world within the pages that is just begging to be explored- one populated with diverse characters and just enough horrors to keep you reading long into the night.

I would recommend this book for lovers of fantasy, especially those looking for a dark and disturbing story. If you get confused easily by multiple perspective switches then you might want to pass on this book, but if you’re confident in your ability to keep characters straight then definitely give this book a shot. It’s a delightful glimpse into a fantasy world that’s realistic but dreadful. I look forward to reading more by this author.
I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Safe Room: Review

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I was invited to read and review this book by the publisher. Needless to say, when I got the email inviting me to read The Safe Room I was super excited. I had read The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and really enjoyed it, the opportunity to read her newest book (or so I thought) was thrilling. I was a little dismayed when I logged onto goodreads and noticed that the original publication date was 2002, hmmm must be a reprint. But that does not change the fact that The Safe Room was a really good read and a book I would highly recommend.

This story starts out following the life of Lee, an idealistic 27 year old who lives with her grandmother in an old house in Lexington that was a pivotal point in the underground railroad many generations prior. This book also tells the story of Sarah, the daughter of an abolitionist, through her diary entries. The two women’s stories begin to intersect part way through the book with the introduction of a (possible) ghost in Harden House; that of Silas- a runaway slave living in Harden house and awaiting the fate of his two brothers (also runaway slaves).

It took me until about 26% of the way through this book before I was really into it. But once more of the plot was introduced, I was hooked. I read the rest of the book in a day because it was so difficult to put down. I still can’t decide if this was a truly masterful work, as it wasn’t quite as polished as The Art Forger but it is still a book I would highly recommend.

The Safe Room deals with issues of race throughout the story, but does so in a way more unique than that of the typical pre-civil war era story. The race issues dealt with in this book were also that of modern day. There are parallel race issues going on throughout the story between Lee, in the present day, and Sarah, in the 1850’s and 60’s- whether all white people are the same in their racism towards blacks. I won’t reveal anything more about the race issues in the story, as they are truly what make the story beautiful, but just know that there is a lot more than meets the eye in terms of race in this book.

The characters in this book were really quite wonderful. I felt by the end of the book as if I truly knew the characters, especially Sarah and Lee. Although there were times when I thought the characters reactions were not exactly realistic or that they were not acting the way I expected them to, I realize now that is what made the characters all the more dynamic. The relationships between the characters were also quite beautiful and there were a few relationships (I won’t give anything way), that I wish could have ended differently.

The writing in The Safe Room was consistent with the Shapiro’s style, although not quite as polished. There were a few times where the perspective would shift from Lee to Trina in the middle of a chapter and I would find myself confused as to who’s perspective it was. This occurred more at the beginning of the story as once I was able to recognize the character’s style of thinking, shifts were easier to follow.

In the end, The Safe Room by B.A. Shapiro is a truly beautiful take on a ghost story that deals with serious issues and portrays characters that are extremely likable and easy to relate to. I would highly recommend this book for those with an interest in the underground railroad, tasteful ghost stories, or just beautiful stories.

I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Circle of Stones: Review

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When I first finished this book I thought to myself, “what a good book”. Yet, the more I really thought about the book, the more faults I found in the book.

This story follows Nik and Jennifer, along with a barrage of other characters who interact with the main characters or are in some way related to Nik and Jennifer’s story. While Nik, an extremely talented art student, is in Vancouver visiting his grandmother, a heavy drinker with Parkinson’s disease, he receives an urgent message from the love of his life, Jennifer. Nik is forced to cut his visit short and fly back to see Jennifer, but when he arrives home he finds Jennifer, a beautiful and talented dancer, missing leaving no trace of where she went. Thus begins the story of Nik, searching across Canada for the love of his life.

As the reader follows Nik and Jessica’s story, they meet a host of other characters, big and small. Each chapter is from a different characters perspective, whether it’s Nick’s grandmother or a misunderstood teenage artist. While I thought that the array of characters was really interesting and unique, I also found it very frustrating. It’s not often that authors choose to have the story of the main character told through the eyes of someone they met on the street or through brief glimpse and incomplete story lines, so I thought that was incredibly interesting. I loved being able to glimpse the actions of the main characters through the eyes of other, minor characters who would only portray their view for the chapter. The part that I found so incredibly frustrating about that style was that not enough closure within the minor characters’ stories. I would have liked to have read more about each minor characters story, or had less of their personal stories to begin with so that I was not left wanting more.

The main reason that I wanted more from each minor characters’ chapter was because Suzanne Andrew did such an amazing job of creating relatable characters. Many of the characters within the story are facing real life challenges that impact many real life people throughout the world and they react to the situations in ways that I would expect most people to act. I loved reading about the struggles the characters were facing and how they overcame or coped with those struggles.

This is one of those books that reads like a Hallmark movie, so Hallmark take note, this would make a fabulous movie for your channel. And please have it end the same way because (not giving anything away) the ending was lovely.

In the end, if the author writes another book that continues the stories of the minor characters, I will gladly pick it up and read it, but if the authors next books are similar in style to this one with no closure for the minor characters, I will be staying well away.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Dead Until Dark: Review

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Since Dead Until Dark is technically a romance it’s not exactly my cup of tea. But since it was cheap on Audible and I was in the mood for something different, I decided to give the Sookie Stackhouse series a whirl. And I’m glad that I did as Dead Until Dark provided a very entertaining listen while folding laundry.

First I’ll talk about the story itself before delving into the audiobook aspects. The first story in the Sookie Stackhouse series provides drama, mystery, romance, and a touch of humor to create a cute little book. The story follows Sookie as she is seduced by a vampire at work, gets tangled up with a killer, and deals with her own “disability” (she can read minds). Sookie deals with everything thrown her way like a champ, dishing out her southern wit/sass at anyone who stands in her way.

I really enjoyed Sookie as a character. For a romanced lady in a romance novel, I thought that she had pretty good principals. I didn’t feel like she was a slut during most of the book and I thought that she acted realistically. I also really enjoyed her sass and southern witt, both of which added good entertainment factor to the book.

Charlaine Harris writes in a style that makes a perfect audiobook. I can’t exactly vouch for how well the book reads when you’re reading it to yourself, but her writing style definitely suits an audiobook format. I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with what was going on or how the characters were feeling/acting.

Now- onto the audiobook portion. I thought that the audible narrator did a fantastic job reading this book. She had a southern accent that was perfectly suited for this story. She did a really good job of reading the book, but because of her accent I could only listen to the book for so long at a time before it began to get cloying.

The only thing that would have made this book better for me is if there had been no sex in it at all, but I understand that this is technically a romance and thus must have sex scenes in it. In the end, I would recommend this book for those looking for a classic southern romance, with some fantasy, humor, and a little bit of a mystery thrown in for good measure.

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.

Sorrow Bound: Review

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While Sorrow Bound by David Mark is the third book in a series, it certainly proves itself as a standalone book. This story had me hooked right from the get-go, with palpable characters, frantic plot, and marvelous storytelling.

The story follows Detective Aector McAvoy as he discovers the slain bodies of some young women. Originally attributing the killings to drug dealers, the police department quickly changes their minds as more details of the killings (and more killings) shed new light on the case. McAvoy sets out to stop the killer, all the while dealing with his own problems at home.

The characters in this book are absolutely tangible. I felt as if I was living right there with them, throughout the pages of the book. The love and loyalty that the characters expressed for each other was easily identifiable throughout the story. I felt as if the characters were all real people, people that I knew in real life. Throughout the story I enjoyed reading more about the lives of the characters because of how real they felt.

The plot of Sorrow Bound was fantastic. Fast moving and deep, the plot carried me away like a swift river, not letting me go until the final pages. There are plenty of plot twists throughout the book and many parts that will leave you guessing, glued to the pages until you find out what happened. This book definitely contains a masterfully woven plot.

Mark certainly understands how to write a good police procedural or thriller. There wasn’t a part of the story where I was confused or unsure as to what was going on as Mark smoothly conveyed information to the reader in a clear manner. I will definitely be looking for more works written by David Mark.

I would highly recommend this book for those looking for a good police procedural or thriller. I wouldn’t go with this book if you’re squeamish about dark and depressing topics, although it’s a highly good read.