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 ~

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale

So far, I’ve only had one experience with true crime through NetGalley. It piqued my interest enough for me to explore other novels that fit into this genre. I thought this one was quite unique because not only is it true crime, it is from an incident that took place in the Victorian era in London. History was always one of my favorite subjects so I was excited to read this novel and see how the author would portray this iconic crime.

Early morning on Monday 8 July 1895, 13-year-old Robert Coombes and his 12-year-old brother Nattie left their house in East London to attend a cricket match at Lord’s. Upon questioning, they told their neighbours that their father was away on a sea voyage and their mother was visiting her family in Liverpool. Over the course of 10 days, these 2 brothers spend money extravagantly and begin to pawn valuables to fund their excursions. But eventually, people began to get suspicious of this scenario. When the police were finally called to investigate, the discovery something that sends the city – and the press – into a mad frenzy, sweeping Robert and Nattie along into a criminal trial for a crime that seems straight out of the ‘penny dreadful’ novels that Robert loved to read.

The premise pretty much tells you everything about the story. On that note, I should probably warn you that this story isn’t going to be suspenseful; everything is pretty much told by the synopsis and becomes obvious as you continue to read the facts presented (and you could always Google it). The author has clearly done her research when it came to this story. She had a lot of transcripts from the court and included detailed accounts of witnesses to create a cohesive story. There were times when I felt as if the author was giving me too much detail; there were some facts that I really could not care about, but because there were so many instances of this, I felt like I was plodding through this novel. The case itself was interesting and the author did an excellent job of portraying the sensation through all of the different lenses; there was no bias or partiality that I could detect, which was so good to see because it allowed me to form my own assumptions. I was also happy to see that the author ventured beyond the case and described the aftermath and the changes this crime presented to the lives of the boys. The book is dry, I’ll admit. It reads like a textbook full of inane details, hiding those little nuggets of gold that actually hold your interest. Unfortunately, that’s not my style of book so it made it feel a bit like a chore to get through. Overall, I think the author chose a fascinating case to explore and she did a great job in covering all of the bases and portraying a cohesive story that looks at every angle. However, the overwhelming amount of (sometimes useless) detail combined with the factual writing style made it a slow read to get through.

Happy reading ~

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry – The Lace Reader #2

I have always been slightly obsessed with the Salem witch trials and the mass hysteria associated with that time. In fact, one of my thesis papers in my undergrad talked about this event and the way that mental illness was viewed during that time period. I’m always on the lookout for good books on this topic. When I heard about this one, I knew I had to get my hands on it ASAP!

Living in Salem means you are surrounded by witchcraft; everywhere you go, there are people claiming they are seers, witches, or descendants of someone from the Salem with trials. John Rafferty, chief of police, has gotten used to it by now, especially since he himself is married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney. But things take a turn for the unusual when he has to investigate a 25-year-old triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders”, where 3 women who were all descended from accused Salem witches were killed on Halloween. With the help of Callie Cahill, daughter of one of the victims – and a survivor of this event, Rafferty begins to uncover a dark period in Salem’s past. Callie finds herself struggling with visions that she can’t quite understand, as her gift with premonitions kicks into overdrive. Neither Rafferty nor Callie believe that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But exonerating Rose comes at a price, one that could put everyone in danger. Who – or what – killed those women? And if they can’t discover the answer to that, will evil rise again?

This novel is by far one of my favorite novels on the Salem witch trials! What a masterfully told story!

From the very beginning, this story was compelling in the way it set the scene. The graphic nature of it all shook me and kept me reading further. This book takes place 25 years after the incident, and it shows how the townspeople and those directly involved in the case have been affected by it. The author went into great detail about the mythological and historical aspects of witchcraft, and it was really fascinating to read about. All of the facts were incorporated beautifully to create this deep and layered novel. The characters were amazing in that they were each unique and fully developed. There were certain interactions and connections between characters that seemed lacking, and I think that may have been because there was a prequel (which I neither knew about nor had read). The plot was intriguing and I liked how the author entertained the possibility of supernatural causes as well as the more human-related cause. Overall, this novel had me spellbound with its intrigue, prose, and its references to witchcraft and the Salem witch trials. A must-read for anyone interested in those topics!

I received this novel from Blogging for Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs – Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #3

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I spent a wonderful evening with a group of family and friends for New Years Eve and today, I’m having a quiet evening to myself, making plans on how I’m going to stick to all of my new years resolutions … and trust me, I’ve got a lot of them! I can’t believe that a year has already gone by but it’s been a crazy one, with lots of ups and downs – and a lot of reading! I hope to read even more books in the coming year and write even more reviews! And with this review, I would like to announce that I have won my competition in finishing off this series! While I enjoyed the competition aspect, this truly was an amazing trilogy! I watched the movie that Tim Burton released, and now that I’ve read the REAL conclusion, I’ve got to say that the movie does the series no justice. For those of you who only watched the movie, please take the time to read this trilogy because it is so much more fascinating!

Jacob Portman has just discovered that he has a unique and powerful ability, one that could shift the odds in favor of the peculiars. But time is not on his side, and he must go to the heart of the wights holdout in order to save those he loves. With only Emma and Addison along for the ride, they dive through history to rescue their peculiar friends from a heavily guarded – and extremely dangerous – fortress. As they travel from modern-day London to the labryinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England, the fate of every peculiar on Earth will be decided once and for all.

I definitely liked this concluding novel a lot more than the second book! All of the adventure and fantasy aspects that I had been looking for were here, and the story’s conclusion was very satisfying. This novel had all of the quirkiness that made me love the series in the first place! ¬†Emma and Jacob really grew up in this story. The reader was able to see chinks in Emma’s veneer and Jacob really stepped up to the plate and cultivated his own inner strength. I liked the pacing of this novel very much; it gave you the opportunity to experience the surroundings while also not being bogged down by dreary details. It had just enough of a quick pace to keep you excited, but it wasn’t overwhelming and didn’t have crazy events being thrown at you. I liked the different themes that were explored in this story – but I’m not going to speak too much on that since I want you to experience it yourself! And the pictures were definitely on point! Overall, this novel was a satisfying conclusion to a YA series that was as peculiar as its host of characters!

Happy reading ~

An Unsuitable Job For A Woman by P.D. James

I feel terrible for not having written in so long. There has been so much going on that I’ve barely had the time to think about reading let alone pick up a book. If I’m to be honest, this novel itself is one that was assigned to me in a course. But I truly loved it and I want to read more by this author so I thought it would be wise to write about it here!

When private detective Cordelia Gray arrives to work, she doesn’t expect to find her mentor and business partner, Bernie Pryde, dead in his office. Although he has bequeathed her his business, Cordelia knows that she must hurry to find a means to support herself. When Cambridge dropout Mark Callender is found dead by hanging, the police are quick to dismiss it as a suicide. But Mark’s wealthy father isn’t satisfied with this verdict and calls upon Cordelia to investigate into Mark’s death. What she soon discovers is a world of secrets and lies – with the potential for murder.

I loved that the main detective in this novel was a young female woman. Cordelia is close to my own age, making it easy to relate to her ideas and behaviour. The storyline itself was intriguing and full of depth; I enjoyed reading it immensely. P.D.James is definitely a force to be reckoned with and has published many novels, which I cannot wait to read. If you are looking for a good mystery novel to start, I definitely recommend this one! I also recently discovered that there is a TV show based on this book and I’m looking forward to finding it and watching it. If anyone has read this book or watched the show, do comment below and let me know what you thought of it!

Happy reading ~

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Cline

I’ve been waiting so eagerly to read this book. The storyline just seemed so intriguing and I’ve been wanting to read a historical fiction book for a while now. Most of the ones I’ve read in this genre were on topics I was familiar with like WWII. This was my first step away from that into a topic that I really didn’t know much about.

Vivian Daly was a young Irish immigrant who had moved to New York City with her family. A tragic fire led to Vivian becoming an orphan overnight. Now, she is being sent on a train with many other orphaned children across the country in the hopes of getting adopted by a family.

Back to the present, Molly Ayer is a troubled teen with yet another foster family. After getting caught for stealing, she is given the task of completing 50 community service hours. Mercifully, she gets a chance to volunteer at an old woman’s house cleaning up the attic.

The two stories merge into one as Molly begins to sift through the memories and secrets found in the attic of none other than Vivian Daly…

I really liked this book. It was a very nice story with just the right amount of heartache. It has a wonderful happy ending and I liked the joining of the past with the present. Did I absolutely adore and love this novel? No. I have read better books. But this was an interesting topic and the novel itself was written quite well. Anyone looking for an interesting read in this genre should definitely check this book out!

Happy reading ~

Half a Crown by Jo Walton

This is the final book in the trilogy and I must admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey of “the world that could have been”.

Carmichael is now the head of the Watch, an elite organization meant to ensure that the Prime Minister’s bidding is done. However, Carmichael has plans of his own. Unbeknownst to others, the Watch has been secretly rescuing Jews in England from the concentration camps.

When news of a global peace conference between Britain, Germany, and Japan is announced, Carmichael finds himself busier than ever as the Watch is given the task of ensuring proper security precautions are taken. But when opposition to the conference arises and Carmichael’s niece gets involved, he will have to risk everything to stop the government from destroying everything he loves.

Okay, so this may not be my best review. But it is really hard to write one up without giving away what has transpired in the previous novels in the series. This novel made me emotional at the end and I couldn’t put it down because it was so fast-paced. One thing I will recommend for this series is that you should read them all in quick succession. Because it is about a world that could have been, when you take long breaks between the books, you forget what had happened and can be confused with real events. Either way, this is a book I would recommend to anyone who loves historical fiction!

Happy reading ~

Outlander by Diane Gabaldon

So at first I saw the trailers for the TV show and really wanted to watch it. When I found out it was based on a book series, then I knew I had to read it! After being on the wait list for a couple of months, I’ve finally managed to get myself a copy and have read it. Here is my review:

Claire and her husband are finally spending time together. The year is 1945 and the war is over, giving them the opportunity they need to really grow together. While visiting Inverness, they hear of some rituals practiced by the local women near a Stonehenge-like stone circle. But when Claire touches the stones, she is transported back in time to 1743. The first person she meets is a Jack Randall who bears an uncanny physical resemblance to her husband and is in fact Frank’s six-times-great-grandfather. However, he turns out to be quite twisted and perverted. When Claire tries to escape from him, she is caught by a group of Highland Scots who have their own reason to avoid Jack Randall and his English men.  One of these Scots happens to be Jamie Fraser, a handsome and kind man who has some secrets of his own. As Claire tries to navigate in this new (or rather, old) world, she finds herself having to make important decision. Should she help the Scots in their fight with the English? Should she go back to Frank, her devoted husband, or should she let herself fall for the sweet and charming Jamie Fraser?

I have mixed feelings on this book. It has something for everyone and I loved the intrigue and the historical parts and the fighting scenes. I even liked the philosophical and religious aspects. What I did not enjoy so much was the sexual part. To some degree, I know it is necessary. And I’ve read a lot more explicit books in the past. But it felt overly dramatic and at times unnecessary. Sometimes it read almost like one of those tabloids about sex scandals. And the emotional sex parts seemed very very immature and unbelievable. However, the story line was worth it and I pushed through. I don’t know if I plan on reading any more books in the series. I am tempted to but I also don’t know if it is worth it. If someone does end up reading this book and continuing on with the next one, do let me know what you thought about the second one!

Happy reading ~

The Sisters Brothers

When I first heard of this book, I really wasn’t too keen to read it. It just didn’t seem like my cup of tea. But after continually seeing it on reading lists, I decided to give it a go.

Charlie and Eli Sisters are henchmen that are good at their job. Charlie enjoys killing and Eli has a wild temper that, when unleashed, gets the job done. Hired by The Commodore, they are sent out to California to kill a man and get a “formula”. The journey is told from Eli’s point of view and as they travel and meet new people, Eli starts to wonder if this is the life he wants for himself and whether this is the person he wants to be.

This book took me a while to read but it was enjoyable. Eli is a very likeable character and the way his views of the world changes is interesting to read. The way the events and the fighting scenes were told was so matter-of-fact that it was comical. However, that worked out well in this book. All in all, it was a good read. It was a change from my usual style and a welcome one at that. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a light and easy read!

Happy reading ~

Girl with a Pearl Earring

This novel by Tracy Chevalier is inspired by a painting done by Johannes Vermeer, a much-acclaimed Dutch painter.

The story is about 16 year old Griet, who is sent to work as a maid in the house of Vermeer when her family goes through tough times. As she struggles to find her place in the household, she finds herself drawn more and more to her master’s creations. She begins to fall in love with his artistic vision – and perhaps the master himself. But things become dangerous when Vermeer begins to pay attention to Griet and she finds her life changed forever.

This book has a captivating story. The way that the author ties in fictional events to Vermeer’s painting showcases the author’s talent wonderfully. The story itself is powerful in the way that it shows Griet’s growth as a character. She struggles quite a bit in the book and it is up to the reader to judge whether she truly had a happy ending or not. It is not some tantalizing romance and there are times when I’ve cringed when reading some scenes. But the realism of it is what is so appealing. This is a very feminine book; I don’t mean to be sexist in any way but I feel like women may be able to connect to the emotions of the characters more. Maybe it is because it is written through the perspective of a girl or maybe it is because there are many complex female characters in it. Either way, give it a shot.

I heard that a movie was made of this book so I am going to try to get my hands on it. Who knows, maybe I will write a post on my thoughts about the movie adaptation!

Happy reading ~