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 ~

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

I was drawn to this novel not only for its content but also because of the praise it was garnering from the literary community. I like to keep an eye out for books that receive acclaim, even if I don’t always find myself enjoying those novels. I do this because it gets me out of my comfort zone of thrillers or fantasy fiction. This story was definitely out of the ordinary for me but it was a riveting tale and I am glad I took the chance to read it!

A political move results in the Atlanta police department’s hiring of its first black officers in 1948. Just because they have been hired doesn’t mean they are accepted; the new policemen are met with deep hostility by their white counterparts and their authority is limited. They aren’t allowed to wear their uniforms when entering the court house, they aren’t allowed to drive a squad car or be a part of any investigation, and they can’t even use the police headquarters as their base. When a black woman who was last seen in a car with a white man turns up dead, no one cares except Boggs and Smith, two black cops. With pressure from all sides, they decide to risk their jobs and their safety to investigate into her death.

A fantastic novel, and my only regret is not having read it sooner! It was a compelling book that accurately portrays the tension between the white and black communities in Atlanta. While the novel uses the murder to further the plot, the story delves deep into the racist culture during this time period. I absolutely loved the writing style employed here; I could feel every emotion described in the book. This is a dark, gripping novel that leaves no stone unturned as it follows the secret investigation of Boggs and Smith. I’ve read many mysteries and thrillers, many crime fiction stories, but this one was a whole new experience. Beautifully written and thought-provoking, I look forward to reading more by this author. This is a novel you don’t want to miss out on.

Happy reading ~

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

When I read the premise of this novel, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if it was going to be humorous or dark, if it was going to be steeped in mythology or more of an urban fantasy. Either way, it was too intriguing to not pick up. So here I am, having read the book in one sitting, completely ignoring all of my other work because I was just that engrossed in the story. And here is my review:

Ferryman Charlie Dawson is the best among them in his role of convincing the newly dead to move on to the afterlife. In 250 years, he hasn’t failed a single assignment. But Charlie is tired of this existence, and all he wants to do is let go – something the Ferryman Institute would never allow. But then he receives a secret assignment from the elusive President, who gives him the choice to either act like a ferryman or save the life of Alice Spiegel, who is just about to commit suicide. And in a split instant, he makes the choice to save her – and it feels like the best decision he has made in more than 200 years. When word of this incident reaches Inspector Javrouche, Charlie finds himself in a world of trouble. But Charlie isn’t going to give up without a fight; he’s ready to save Alice – and himself – no matter the cost.

This novel can be best described as an action-comedy. I love Charlie’s personality, with his dry sarcasm and his genuine concern for others. His interactions with friends, and especially Alice, are so much fun to read! The story itself takes you through car chases and hidden tunnels, betrayals and elaborate secrets…. I was entertained throughout the entire story. I thought Alice was also really spunky but her behaviour seemed strange for someone who is 26; she acted more like a teenager than anything else. The author touched on sensitive topics like depression and anorexia, but still kept the novel light. I kind of wish the author had spent a little bit more time developing that, rather than just making Charlie the “savior” of Alice’s depression but it wasn’t too much of an issue for me. It has been a long time since I’ve read a lighthearted novel but it was long overdue. I’m really glad I got the chance to read this novel, because it is definitely one of my favorite quirky books of this year!

Happy reading ~

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – Ember in the Ashes #1

This is a novel that I have been eagerly anticipating from the moment I had heard of it. It had such an interesting premise, and I’ve been looking for a good YA fiction series to get into. So let me not babble on, here is my review:

The Martial Empire rules supreme, and all those who oppose the Emperor meet with death. In a world like this, being a Scholar is equated to being a slave. And that is exactly what Laia is. She lives with her grandparents and her older brother, somehow trying to make ends meet, without risking the ire of the Empire. But when Laia’s brother is taken in for treason, Laia is determined to save him, and she reaches out to the Resistance, the only group of people she believes are in any position to help her. In exchange for her brother’s rescue, she must risk her life and spy for them at the Empire’s greatest military academy. And this is where Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier – and its most unwilling. Elias hates being under the control of the Empire and does not believe in their philosophy or their tyranny. All he wants to do is escape and live a life free of violence. Neither one of them could ever imagine how their destinies would be linked – and how their choices will change the future of the Empire.

What a gripping novel! I had a really great time reading this story and found myself enthralled by the setting, the characters, and the overall plot of the novel.

This story is told from two perspectives: Laia’s and Elias’s. If I had to choose which one I preferred, hands-down it would be Elias. His story was by far the most interesting, and his character was strong and easy to feel sympathy for. He was so unlike Laia, and I found that so refreshing, especially since I didn’t really like Laia that much. She was so gullible, so cowardly, so dependent on others to make her task easier. I would find myself getting through her chapters as quick as possible so that I could read what was happening to Elias. That was one of the major complaints I had with this story. I’m not saying that Laia should have been exactly like Elias, but she shouldn’t have been completely useless. If she had been even slightly intelligent or a little bit more brave, then that would have made the story a lot better.

Another thing that bothered me about this novel was how mythical creatures were introduced almost at random but had no real backstory and weren’t really connected well with the events. I was very intrigued with the mythical aspects and I hope that this gets integrated into the story better in the sequel!

I loved the way the Empire was described. Just like in A Wizard’s Forge by A.M. Justice, the Empire is a gritty evil place. It has terrible people who are trained to torture and kill and hurt innocent people. It also shows that just because you may be an innocent now does not mean you have not done harm to others in the past. The society that is depicted in this story is very well-constructed and extremely believable. I really have to commend the author on her ability to portray this depraved society and make it unique from all other novels that fit into this genre.

So there was the classic love triangle. But unlike other times, I actually have no complaints about it. I liked the way the author made it work between the main characters. Perhaps it was because the interactions happened in a very natural way, and the moments where it showed the growing attraction were fleeting amidst the chaos – which makes complete sense! The author made it work in all aspects, which is a rare occurrence.

Overall, this novel was exciting, with action-packed scenes, gruesome torture acts, and a plot that keeps getting more thrilling with every second. I’m excited to see what happens in the sequel, so stay tuned for my review on it!

Happy reading ~

Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag

Before this novel, I had never heard of Tami Hoag. I had no idea that she was a bestselling author or that she had published more than 30 books. All I knew was that this novel was on many recommendation lists and that I had to make some time to read it. In all honesty, I hadn’t been anticipating it or been looking forward to it. I thought it would be a bit like some of Joy Fielding’s work (and I really do love her stuff!) so it wouldn’t be anything unexpected. All I can say is, I’m glad I gave it a shot!

Dana Nolan was a promising news reporter on TV before she was kidnapped, raped, and almost murdered by a serial killer. Nearly a year after her miraculous escape, Dana has moved back home to Shelby Mills. But the torment of post-traumatic stress disorder and the severe brain damage she endured has changed her forever. Returning to her hometown was supposed to be a reprieve; instead, it leads to more trauma as both the police and media take interest in an unresolved case – the disappearance of Dana’s childhood friend, Casey. Terrified of the secrets from her past, Dana tentatively begins to search for the truth. But it may be more than she can handle.

One of the reasons why I enjoyed this novel so much was because of the attention it gave to PTSD and head trauma injuries. Most of the time, novels don’t depict this accurately; somehow the victim or protagonist mysteriously “gets better” and “goes back to normal”. Having a novel disprove that and show what it really is like was quite refreshing. I really liked Dana Nolan; her plight as a victim was depicted very skillfully but there was also more to her personality than just her ordeal. The story line was very good, too, and I liked how the story was told in the voices of other characters. The ending was a bit predictable, especially as the clues came through but I think that was the point; the reader, who presumably does not suffer from any brain injuries, should be able to solve this case faster than Dana, who doesn’t have all the resources she needs to reach the same conclusions. All in all, this story was gripping and well-written and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good murder mystery/thriller!

Happy reading ~

The Woods by Harlan Coben

So I loves this author so much that I rushed to get my hands on another book of his. And this was just as good as the last one!

One summer camp night, Paul Copeland’s sister and 3 other teenagers went into the forest and disappeared. Twenty years later, he is still grieving for his sister. Paul is now a country prosecutor who has a young daughter that he is trying to raise on his own now that his wife has passed away. Clearly, life hasn’t been the best for him. But when evidence turns up about that fateful camp night, Paul is once again forced to relive the events and find out the truth behind what really happened. Who killed those teenagers? And why bring the evidence up now? The more Paul searches, the more he realizes that there is a lot more to this mystery than what meets the eye…

Another fabulous mystery book! I literally sat on my bed in the same position and kept reading without realizing that a few hours had gone by. I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t have guessed the ending at all! Every single part of it was packed with action and the characters were all so wonderfully portrayed! I am definitely keeping my eye on this author and I would encourage anyone who likes a good mystery to look him up, too!

Happy reading ~