Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt.

The book is being released by Dutton on March 5, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: The money is old, the problems are new.

A wry and addictive debut about a modern-day American dynasty and its unexpected upheaval when the patriarch wills his dwindling fortune to his youngest, adopted son—setting off a chain of events that unearth family secrets and test long-held definitions of love and family.

The Whitbys: a dynasty akin to the Astors, once enormously wealthy real-estate magnates who were considered “the landlords of New York.”

There was a time when the death of a Whitby would have made national news, but when the family patriarch, Roger, dies, he is alone. Word of his death travels from the longtime family lawyer to his clan of children (from four separate marriages) and the news isn't good. Roger has left everything to his twenty-one-year-old son Nick, a Whitby only in name, including the houses currently occupied by Shelley and Brooke—two of Roger’s daughters from different marriages. And Nick is nowhere to be found.

Brooke, the oldest of the children, who is unexpectedly pregnant, leads the search for Nick, hoping to convince him to let her keep her Boston home and her fragile composure. Shelley hasn’t told anyone she’s dropped out of college just months before graduating, and is living in her childhood apartment while working as an amanuensis for a blind architect, with whom she develops a rather complicated relationship. And when Nick, on the run from the law after a misguided and dramatic act of political activism, finally shows up at Shelley’s New York home, worlds officially collide as Nick and the architect's daughter fall in love. Soon, all three siblings are faced with the question they have been running from their whole lives: What do they want their future to look like, if they can finally escape their past?

Weaving together multiple perspectives to create a portrait of an American family, and an American dream gone awry, Baby of the Family is a book about family secrets—how they define us, bind us together, and threaten to blow us (and more) apart—as well as an amusing and heartwarming look at the various ways in which a family can be created.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Familiars by Stacy Halls.

The book is being released by MIRA on February 19, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: IN 1612 IN LANCASTER, ENGLAND, THE HUNT FOR WITCHES IS RAMPANT…

BUT IN A TIME OF SUSPICION AND ACCUSATION, TO BE A WOMAN IS THE GREATEST RISK OF ALL

1612 Pendle Hill

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth is with child again. As the mistress of Gawthorpe Hall, she is anxious to provide her husband with an heir. But none of her previous pregnancies have come to term. Then she discovers a hidden letter from her physician that warns her husband that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Distraught over the frightening revelation, Fleetwood wanders the woods of Pendle Hill, where she meets a young local woman named Alice Gray. A midwife, Alice promises Fleetwood she can help her deliver a healthy baby. But soon Alice is drawn into the frenzied accusations of witchcraft sweeping the countryside. Even the woodland creatures, the “familiars,” are suspected of practicing the dark arts. Can Fleetwood trust that Alice is really who she says she is?

As the two women’s lives become intertwined, Fleetwood must risk everything to prove Alice’s innocence in order to save her own unborn child. The hunt for witches reaches fever pitch. Time is running out. The trials are about to begin. Both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Set against the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, this rich and compelling novel draws its characters from historical figures as it explores the lives and rights of seventeenth-century women, ultimately raising the question: Is witch-hunting really just women-hunting?

Monday, February 4, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Golden Child by Claire Adam
Rules of Surrender by Christina Dodd

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

Reviews posted this week:

Golden Child by Claire Adam
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore


Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

The Forgotten Guide to Happiness by Sophie Jenkins
Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
An Elderly Lady Is Up To No Good by Helene Tursten
The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Rules of Surrender by Christina Dodd

Monday Mailbox

This past two week's mailbox arrivals:

The Long Accomplishment by Rick Moody came from Macmillan.

Marriage is hard, even without outside forces having an impact, so I am looking forward to this memoir of a second marriage. Also, Rick Moody is a magnificent writer so I can't wait to see how he handles this very personal story.

Midnight at the Bluebird Cafe by Heather Webber came from Macmillan.

Could you resist this cover? I mean seriously! Also, magical realism, romance, and a small Southern town? Oh yes, please!

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston came from Macmillan.

The US First Son falls in love with the second son of the British Crown? So much potential, right? I have already read and thoroughly enjoyed this romance. (Review to come.)

Hunters Moon by Philip Caputo came from Macmillan.

I read his A Rumor of War decades ago and liked it so much I was thrilled to see this one coming out. Plus it's a collection of interconnected short stories set in the place of my heart, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I can never get enough of the UP in life and in books.

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair came from Macmillan.

When two women found a marriage bureau in post WWII London and their first client turns up murdered, a romping sort of mystery must ensue, right? Sounds great to me!

In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow came from Macmillan.

How can you not want to read a book about a woman living life on her own terms but reaching out for a little bit of help from a neighbor in North Carolina in a rural African American community? I am looking forward to this a lot.

A Nice Cup of Tea by Allison Celia Imrie came from Macmillan.

A cozy mystery set in Nice with ex-pats, a restaurant, and family secrets sounds right up my alley.

Honestly, We Meant We by Grant Ginder came from Macmillan.

When a classics professor's life implodes, she takes her family to a Greek island to try and put them all back together again. This sounds comedic and dramatic both and I can't wait!

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake came from Macmillan.

I thoroughly enjoyed Blake's Grange House so I am looking forward to this one about three generations of a family and their summer home.

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly came from Macmillan.

Look at this gorgeous cover! And that it's a family drama about two families in Bethlehem, PA during the height of the steel industry there makes it practically irresistible.

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse came from Macmillan.

Historical fiction, Huguenots, an anonymous letter, and danger, this should prove completely thrilling.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary came from Macmillan.

With the kooky premise of two people who work opposite schedules and share a flat but who have never met, this is intriguing.

The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith came from Macmillan.

There's something so appealing about historical fiction about the beginning of the film industry, isn't there?

Carnegie Hill by Jonathan Vatner came from Macmillan.

How much fun to follow a young, wealthy woman who looks to her married, but in crisis, neighbors to help her determine if she should marry her fiance.

The History of Living Forever by Jake Wolff came from Macmillan.

A gifted chemistry student who falls in love with his teacher follows the journals of this teacher to try and find the Elixir of Life in time to cure his terminal father. With such an interesting premise, how can you not be interested?

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess came from Macmillan.

I do love books set in the publishing world so this one about a young woman being invited to the book party of the year is guaranteed to captivate me.

Golden Child by Claire Adam came from TLC Book Tours and SJP for Hogarth for a book tour.

I've already reviewed this one here.

Nobody's Sweetheart Now by Maggie Robinson came from me for myself.

I don't usually like ghost stories but I am curious about this 1920s mystery with a ghost helping in the detecting after a murder interrupts his wife's dinner party.

Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter came from me for myself.

I'm curious about what happens to our recycling so I'm interested in reading this book about it.

The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler came from Hub City Press.

About a girl who can control the thoughts of those around her briefly and goes to vaudeville, conducting energy by touch, this sounds unusual and captivating.

Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Heger came from me for myself.

This romance between a woman descended from Eros and her mentor in the family's Cupid for Hire shop sounds like a fun and kicky read.

Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp came from me for myself.

I've heard wonderful things about Margery Sharp, a sort of forgotten author, who writes about domestic England just before the war and I am very excited to delve into this novel about a maid who doesn't seem to know or care about her place in society.

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen came from me for myself.

About a time traveling secret agent who has to break rules and travel through time to save his daughter, this is the sort of sci-fi/fantasy that I am attracted to.

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Review: The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

There are a lot of things we take for granted today, never questioning how we got to where we are now, especially if we know history shows us a picture of the way things were that is completely different. Some of the advancements are clear and taught in schools, like the fight for civil rights or the fight for women's rights. But what about changes in the workplace?  How did we end up with OSHA?  Do we focus on what inspired those laws and guidelines? If we're lucky, we're taught about the outlawing of child labor and catastrophic disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in NY in 1911. But what about longer lasting, more systemic tragedies like that documented in Kate Moore's The Radium Girls? Stories like that have long been buried despite the major role they played in changing laws and protecting the safety of vulnerable workers.

This narrative history tells the story of the girls as young as eleven and young women who in the early years of the twentieth century, worked at the glamorous and reasonably well-paying job of dial painting. The women were hired on to work on the luminous dials that the government wanted for war time troops and that civilians wanted on their watch faces.  Glow in the dark was all the rage and in high demand.  The job was a sought after one, with the women themselves glowing in the dark from the radium that shimmered all around them. They were very precise painters, instructed to "lip, dip, paint," to moisten the fine hairs of the paintbrush in their mouths before dipping them into the radium infused paint and then carefully painting the dial. Although the radium was all around them, no one was worried what inhaling or ingesting it, as when they lipped their paintbrushes, might mean for the young women down the road, at least not until they started getting sick with inexplicable illnesses, cancers, and bone and tissue deterioration. Even then the companies involved refused to admit that there was anything wrong, willfully ignoring mounting evidence of radium poisoning, treating the women as disposable, and shirking their responsibility to the slowly and painfully dying women. Only a lawsuit would begin to make any of it right and change workplace health and safety responsibilities for future generations.

Moore focuses on the human cost and corporate greed that underpins this dark story. She tells the personal stories of many of the women who were afflicted, those who died, and those who fought the companies even under terminal diagnoses. The girls were from working class families, many of whom depended on the paychecks these young women brought home. They were happy, social, and so very young. Initially the girls were delighted by the "shine" of the job, enjoying the cache of their positions and the very real glow in the dark effect of being around radium all day. But then strange symptoms started to plague the dial painters and Moore describes their illnesses in horrific detail. She also detailed the emotional cost to the families and to the young women, even years after they had ceased working in the factory. Certainly no reader can remain unmoved by what these women suffered and yet because Moore chooses to tell the tales of so many, it does lessen the impact a bit. There are simply too many girls for the reader to keep straight. While this shows the breadth of the problem, it also makes for too much repetition in the book. Also, there are points where the book veered from good narrative writing to invented inner thoughts, the sort of (unacknowledged) speculation better served by a fictionalization than a straight history. After the early repetition ceases for the most part, the narrative gets bogged down and slows to a crawl with the lawsuit and court appearances feeling like a dry recitation of facts. After the personal engagement of the first two thirds of the book, this is a huge tonal disconnect. The story is an important one of workers' rights and it puts a face on these forgotten women, ravaged by radium poisoning, maligned and abandoned by the companies who hired them, but there were problems with the writing and it wasn't nearly as engaging as I would have hoped although I remain glad that we read it for book club as we did have a good and in depth discussion about the subject.

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