The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya

I rarely ever read nonfiction books. But this one … well, it wasn’t one I could pass. An autobiography, the author explores her harrowing childhood journey in war-torn Rwanda. Thank you to the First to Read program for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

36076501.jpgSummary (Goodreads): Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were “thunder.” In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries, searching for safety–perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were dead or alive.

When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted asylum in the United States, where she embarked on another journey–to excavate her past and, after years of being made to feel less than human, claim her individuality.

My Rating: 5 star

Review: This book was extremely powerful and riveting, to say the least. For someone who doesn’t know a great deal about the Rwandan genocide, this memoir was an eye-opener.

The book has alternating chapters, with one taking place in the past and the other taking place in the present. Through this, we piece together how Clemantine gets to her present point in life. We also see how she struggles to form an identity, how she struggles to live with her past and the way it stripped her of a “normal” childhood.

Not only do we see Clemantine grow up and struggle, her thoughts and feelings change the reader’s own perspective. Her ideas and emotions really resonated with me and it made me rethink my own opinions on genocide, on politics, on humanitarian efforts, and how the world works. I don’t want to say more without ruining anything, but this memoir is an impactful read and well worth the effort. It is powerful, it is thought-provoking, it is heart-wrenching. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~



The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

I decided to give another poetry collection a shot. I’ve been seeing this one everywhere, and I’ve always been tempted to pick it up and go through it. I mean, it’s quite short and it’s been getting a lot of attention…. so I finally did. Here is my review:

This is a poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. The first 3 sections detail the life of the author, expressing love, loss, grief, healing, and empowerment. The section titled you serves as a note of encourage to the reader and all of humankind, to inspire us all to live life kindly.

Let me begin by saying that I liked this collection of poetry better than Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. I thought that this one discussed a lot of themes like suicide, eating disorders, self-harm, abuse, and of course, being brokenhearted and picking yourself up. The raw emotion was easier to feel and connect with in this collection and I really liked that there was a positive note at the very end. However, the same issue as with Milk and Honey was present here: meaningless lines that told nothing, and a great deal of wasted space. For every really good poem/entry, there were 3 that I barely glanced at. While I don’t require poems to rhyme, I do have a problem when it is literally just one sentence separated by spaces. That’s not a poem, that’s a sentence. Breaking it up that way doesn’t really do anything. And while I liked the first 3 sections, the last one, in which the author seems to be trying to encourage the reader to be brave and stand up for themselves …. well, it was lackluster. The content wasn’t anything that I hadn’t heard of, and that was expected, but I thought it would be presented in a more unique way. After having poured so much raw emotion into this poetry collection, I would have hoped some of that would be in the last section, too. Instead, you was very bland and frankly, could have been omitted. I think that, while the content was intense and the emotions poured into this collection should not be dismissed, I am not a fan of this form of poetry. There isn’t really any depth to it and it has no proper flow or form. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I have been very excited to read this poetry collection. I rarely, if ever, read poetry; I think the last poetry collection I ever read was by Shel Silverstein – and it was when I was in grade 3! Needless to say, my forays into the poetic scene have been long overdue and I decided to get into it with this book by Rupi Kaur, as it has been receiving so much praise… so here is my review:

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose that speaks about surviving. It is about surviving violence, abuse, love, and loss. It is about femininity and the ways one can be ashamed of it – and be proud of it. The collection is split into 4 chatpers, with each serving a different purpose, exploring a different pain. As we journey through the most bitter moments in life, the author shows us how we can still find sweetness hidden … if you are just willing to look.

My first thought was: this is a very short collection. Seriously, I read through it all in half an hour, and that is not a testament to my reading speed. I don’t know how long poetry collections usually are but this seemed unusually small in length. But as we all know, length doesn’t matter; it’s the content that counts! What I liked was that the author was unafraid to tackle difficult material like rape and abuse. There is a strong feminist voice in these poems, one that makes you proud to be a woman. I liked that the author talked about being comfortable in one’s own skin, because it is rare to find people who are. I also liked the hand-drawn pictures in the book. However, I don’t think that there was anything really special about this collection. Of course, the more voices that preach about loving-yourself-the-way-you-are, the better. But with all the raving reviews, I expected there to be something unique about Rupi Kaur’s interpretation and message. And there really wasn’t. There was nothing that made me connect with the poems, and while I could appreciate the sentiment, it just became too repetitive. I understand: love yourself. But how many times are you going to tell me that?! Out of all of the poems, only a handful really hit hard; the others were just underwhelming. In general, I just felt disappointed, which is really a shame because I hate being mean about someone’s art. Maybe I’m just too simple for poetry? Oh well, better luck next time!

Happy reading ~

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I haven’t read a nonfiction novel in a long time and I don’t think I have ever blogged about it. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to broaden my reading range. I’m so glad that I chose to read this book because it was such a fantastic experience. Here is my review:

As World War I took its tool, hundreds of young women were employed at radium-dial factories to paint clock faces with a new miracle substance: radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was completely safe, the women used the “lip-painting” technique to do their job, happily surprised to find themselves glowing from head to toe by the dust that collected after a day’s work. With such a coveted job, these girls were considered to be the luckiest of all – until they all began to fall ill. As the radium poisoned their bodies, they found themselves battling not just their physical ailments but the working industry themselves in one of America’s biggest scandals.

I never expected a nonfiction novel to be so moving and gripping. I could not read this novel in one sitting; I had to take multiple pauses because it was just so emotional. I didn’t know much about this topic before I began reading. I had just thought that this was an interesting event that involved radium, a substance I’m familiar with through my course work. I got so much more than that through this book. The author creates a vivid story that looks at the lives of all of these women, full of their hopes and dreams and despairs. It shows all of the different people involved that either hindered or aided in justice being meted out. There was so much courage and strength portrayed here and the author made the reader care about every single woman mentioned in the story; they weren’t just names but real people that I could connect with. While the novel was definitely more in favor of the women than the radium companies (which totally makes sense!), I was happy to see that the author did take into account the reasons why the companies did what they did; it didn’t make me sympathetic to them on any account but it did make an attempt to give a more well-rounded picture of the scandal. This was a gripping story where I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how the women would get past each obstacle thrown in their way. The best thing about this story was the message of perseverance and hope and bravery that these women showed in every facet of their lives; they may have been dying but they wouldn’t give up on living and fighting. It made me feel so proud to see all that they accomplished even after facing such adversity. I can honestly say that I have never felt this emotionally invested in a novel before. What an amazing story and the author did such a brilliant job of making it relevant and appealing to the masses. This is definitely a nonfiction book you don’t want to miss out on!

Happy reading ~