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 Last Girl by Joe Hart – Dominion Trilogy #1

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

I try to vary the content of my novels. I don’t want to read too many novels from the same genre in succession because it makes me bored, and I feel like I’m unable to judge each book based on its merits. That’s why I waited some time before I read this dystopian fiction. Anyways, here is my review:

A mysterious virus reduces the birthrate of female infants to less than 1 percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but even after 25 years, there is no cure. An entire generation grows up with a population of less than a 1000 women. Zoey and the surviving young women are housed in a research compound that is dedicated towards finding a cure. For 2 decades, she’s been kept away from her family, treated as a test subject. All she knows is that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population. But Zoey is determined to escape before the next set of tests, a program from which no woman has ever returned. Finding her way to freedom will take brutality, strength, and cunning —but Zoey is ready for war.

If I have to describe this novel with only one word, it would be ordinary. I didn’t hate this novel. There was nothing terribly wrong with it. Did it have some holes in its logic? Yes, but I’ve read other dystopian novels that also raised some questions. Did it have action? Yes, more so towards the middle and end of the novel. What this novel didn’t have is a unique component, something that makes it stand out in mind from everything else in the genre. I didn’t really care much about the characters because there just wasn’t anything to draw me to them. The beginning of the book sounded like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – only not as well-written. Right now, I’m trying to come up with something interesting to write about this novel but I’ve got nothing. It’s not a terrible novel by any means but it has nothing new to offer and for that reason, it is unmemorable. Maybe it’s my own boredom from reading about the same crisis of not-enough-women-to-populate-the-planet, but I struggled to get through this book. It just didn’t work for me.

Happy reading ~

Stranger by David Bergen

I’ve never read anything by David Bergen but apparently, he’s a big deal. He’s won the Giller Prize, as well as numerous awards for his novels, all of which have been heavily praised. After reading this novel, I can definitely see why he is so acclaimed!

Íso is a young Guatemalan woman who works at a fertility clinic at Ixchel. Many rich northern women visit the clinic in the hopes that the waters of the nearby lake will make them more fertile. It is Íso’s task to take care of them and help them through this process, regardless of the outcome. When she meets the resident American doctor, Eric Mann, she cannot help but fall for his charm. Soon Íso is his secret lover, and she enjoys the stolen moments they spend together. However, their tryst cannot last. Dr. Mann has to return to the US. When a freak accident befalls Dr. Mann, the couple’s time is cut even shorter. Before Íso can tell Dr. Mann that she is pregnant, he is gone. After she gives birth, Íso’s baby is taken away from her. All she knows is that her child has been taken to America. Determined to get her child back,  Íso makes the journey to illegally cross into the United States, which has been divided into military zones. Now, Íso must descend into a dangerous world, with the possibility that she will lose her daughter forever.

This was such a mesmerizing story, told with such simple and delicate language. I think that is what really captured my attention and kept me interested in this story. We read this story through Íso, and we watch how she simply, yet aptly, portrays the world around her. She makes no excuses, she doesn’t blame the world for her problems. She simply is. And as such, she enjoys what time she has, and assumes responsibility for the risks that come along with it. When she makes the decision to go for her daughter, it is with that same simple strength that she has kept with her throughout the story. That is what entranced me and left me in awe. How did this author manage to create such a simple character, and yet bring all of this complexity to the forefront? Somehow, he did, and the story is better for it. The summary that is provided here, as well as any summary you find of this novel, will tell you everything about the plot of the story; there are no surprises here. It is more about the journey that Íso (and you, as the reader) will go through in this quest. I was surprised that the author decided to make America a military environment, and I really don’t think it added much to the story, but that is really my only criticism here. This novel introduces many complex issues, things like infidelity and the bond between a mother and her child, as well as the desperation that comes with infertility. Everything was given its due importance and it was all seen through a unique perspective. The situation that Íso finds herself in is not a unique one; it happens to women from poor countries all the time. Reading about this situation from the perspective of someone like Íso was fascinating; I always knew that losing a child in this way is terrible but actually reading about it with this depth of emotion brought a whole new meaning to it all. As you can probably tell from this review, I loved this book. It was insightful, powerful, and mesmerizing. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a story that revolves around an emotionally-charged journey that will change how you think and feel.

Happy reading ~

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

I love Ami McKay. Pretty much every book I have read by her has been thought-provoking, and intense. I expected no less of this novel of hers. I was especially excited by the magic angle; I’m going through a fantasy/supernatural phase right now so this was perfect timing for me!

1880 is a dangerous time for women. In Manhattan, there are many on the lookout for witches, and any intelligent woman (witch or no) who speaks her mind is in danger of being accused of witchcraft. During times like these, Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair set up their tea shop, where they cater to the elite ladies of Manhattan, in the form of tea… as well as through palmistry and potions. Their shop is heavily frequented as both Adelaide and Eleanor are known for their discretion. All is well until one bright September day when a young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at the shop looking for employment. Beatrice soon wins over Eleanor and becomes a valuable apprentice, but Beatrice’s new life is filled with strange occurrences, especially once it becomes clear that she can see and hear things that no one else can. Has she somehow gained magical skills or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to air on the side of caution but Adelaide sees this as a wonderful new business venture. However, things go awry quickly and Beatrice is put in danger. In a time when being a woman is the most dangerous thing in the world, will these three witches survive?

As usual, the story was spell-binding and filled with wonderful intricate details. I really liked how the author had newspaper articles and pamphlets inserted into the story to help build the setting up. This is a very feminist-oriented novel that sheds light on the plight of women in the 1800s, during a time when being forthright and asserting one’s rights were frowned upon. The blend of history with magic was masterfully done and quite enjoyable to read. I did find that the story moved at a slower pace than what I am used to by this author, but the tension was palpable throughout and it kept me going all the way until the end. There were certain story plots that I felt could have been explored in greater depth, but overall this story was very good, and I was pleased with my experience! Here’s to more novels by Ami McKay!

Happy reading ~

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison – Road to Nowhere #1

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

I love apocalyptic novels. I even have a separate category for them here on this website, instead of classifying them under science fiction. However, the more I read in this genre, the more I find that all of the books end up being pretty much the same. This means that I’m always looking for the newest book in this genre to see if it will be the same old or if it will be the one to excite me. Let’s just say that this one …. IT DEFINITELY EXCITED ME!

After a horrendous fever with no cure, the earth’s population is decimated. The most targeted population was that of women and children – almost none survived. In this new world, she wakes up, and finds that her whole life has changed. As she travels through America, she struggles to find her place. There is no more civilization. Men roam in packs, hunting for weapons and food – and any women remaining. In order to survive, she must pretend to be a man and avoid as many people as possible. But as the world continues to struggle in its newfound circumstances, she will discover that she has a role to play in it… whether she wants to or not.

From the very first page of this novel, I was hooked. The premise, the prose, the characters … everything was so gritty and raw and perfect. Reading about the struggles of the main protagonist (who remains nameless throughout this story) gave me an adrenaline rush while also horrifying me at the same time. The events that transpire are both gruesome and completely realistic … which makes it scarier than any horror movie. The emotions and scenarios that are people are thrust into really make you think about how well you know a person. This novel is more than just a dystopian fiction; it is a novel that explores the realm of sexuality, independence, women’s rights, and the value of life. I cannot state enough how much of a fantastic novel this is, so please do yourself a favour and check it out! I promise it will not disappoint. I’ve just discovered that this novel is actually part of a series and the next installment will be released some time in 2017 so stay tuned for my blog review on the sequel!

Happy reading ~