mini reviews

Recent Reads: 3 Mini Reviews

SealskinSealskin by Su Bristow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sealskin is set in Scotland, at an undisclosed time but likely the 19th century, and features one of my favorite myths – selkies. Selkies, for those who don’t know, are mythological creatures who live as seals in the sea but are able to shed their pelts and become human on land. Donald, our protagonist, stumbles upon a group of selkie females and ends up taking one home, hiding her pelt so that she cannot return to the sea. They end up having a family and Mairhi’s presence influences Donald into becoming a better man – but their dark beginning underlies everything.

Su Bristow’s writing is evocative, and perfectly captures the harsh landscape of Scotland and its people. I also enjoyed the fishing culture in this village, and how sea myths were interwoven throughout the story. However, that’s unfortunately where my praise for this book ends. The very first interaction between Donald and Mairhi is one of extreme violence and violation – he steals her pelt, rendering her helpless to return to the sea with the others, and then rapes her. This first moment tainted the entire book for me, and I felt completely unable to grow to like Donald. If Mairhi ever did feel fondness or love for him, it was likely out of Stockholm syndrome instead of genuine affection. I found it impossible to actually connect with any of the characters, and ultimately didn’t find the story very compelling. I wanted to like this because it’s so rare to find a good selkie story, but this fell very short for me.

Rating: 2.5 stars

I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

The Other Half of Happiness (Sofia Khan, #2)The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I need to start this review by saying that I loved Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged, and fully expected to love this sequel. Sadly, The Other Half of Happiness fell somewhere between disappointing and infuriating. Everything that I loved about Sophia and her story (and her family/friends) was gone in this second book. I didn’t like anyone or their choices, and I realized that I should stay away from marriage novels in the future because I find them boring at best. I did, however, really enjoy Sophia’s mom and her storyline.

The central conflict in this novel was frustrating, because every character I fell in love with in the first book continued to make completely out of character choices and NO ONE USES THEIR WORDS. Throw in some unnecessarily new characters as potential romantic interests and I was done. The constant conversations about whether a certain character was becoming a “fundo” were relentless and irritating, since it made no sense. So much of this book, for that matter, made no sense.

The Other Half of Happiness ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, or at least is far too open ended, and there is currently no third book in sight. I was so excited for this sequel, and now I wish Ayisha Malik hadn’t bothered. This was just so completely disappointing.

Rating: 2 stars

I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining WomenThe Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Radium Girls chronicles the forgotten tale of the women who worked as dial painters for three different watch companies, and how their work killed them. These women worked directly with radium, which at the time was heralded as a wonder drug. While painting, the women would put their radium-soaked brushes into their mouths to smooth the brush hairs, and they would leave work every day covered in radium dust, giving them the nickname “the shining girls.” The luminous effect of the paint caused them to glow in the dark. But the women were completely unaware of the dangers of their occupation.

These women all fell sick and died of radium poisoning, many of them incredibly young. Kate Moore’s study details their illnesses as well as the cases they eventually brought against their employers. These cases were important for labor rights, and establishing the occupational disease labor law. I can’t underscore how much I learned from this book, both about these women and labor rights/corporations in America at the time.

I did find the length and narrative style of The Radium Girls hard to enjoy. It’s a rather long book (496 pages), and Moore jumps around constantly in her narration. I couldn’t keep it all straight: which women worked at which company in which town, the timeline, the cases. There is a constant barrage of information, and at times it was all too jumbled to keep up. However, I would highly recommend reading this book because it is so – pardon the pun – illuminating.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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