Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Radium Girls

So. Ordinarily I don't make New Year's resolutions. But. I'm going to break with tradition and make one. Ready?

My New Year's resolution is to read at least 3 books a month and post a review. I was going to do 4 a month, which would be a book a week, but since I want to be successful I reduced it to 3. Surely I can read 3 books a month, right?

Anyway. To start the year off, I'm reviewing The Radium Girls, which I read on my kindle.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, and I can't say why I chose this out of all the other non-fiction books. Maybe it was on sale...But regardless of the reason, I'm glad I read it. I new nothing of these poor woman who suffered immeasurably due to the hazards at their work and (big surprise) the greed of their employers.

The Radium Girls is the story of these girls, most of them young, in their teens and early twenties. They worked at the Radium Dial Plant in Orange NJ painting the dials on clocks with luminous paint made with radium powder. As the girls painted these dials, they were taught to wet the brushes with their mouths in order to keep a fine point on the brush, ingesting radium every time they did. They didn't get sick right away; sometimes it would be years later, even after they'd stopped working for the company. And they didn't all get sick. But those that did were almost all doomed to die a very horrible death. The girl's teeth fell out and wouldn't heal, parts of their jaws fell into their mouth (can you imagine???!!!), they developed sarcomas, had miscarriages, and were in constant, awful pain. Because some of the girls became ill after leaving the plant, it took a long time to prove that the radium in the paint was the cause of the girls' illness. And even after it was shown that the radium was the cause, the company continued the same practice of having the girls dip the brushes into the paint and then smooth the brush tips with their mouths.

Many girls died young after long debilitating illnesses. Others were disfigured or lived in pain. One had her arm amputated which likely saved her. The suffering these girls endured was truly horrible. More horrible was the response of the plant and its owners. They lied to their employees even after it was shown that the radium paint was to blame for the girls' illnesses and deaths, they kept secret medical records they refused to share with the families or the girls themselves, and they continued to operate as they had before, with little to no regard for the safety of the girls in their employ.

I do recommend this book but be prepared for some pretty horrific descriptions of how the radium affected the different girls.

Meanwhile, here in Maine it is so bloody effing cold I could scream. Even my dog, who normally loves winter, does not enjoy going out into the sub-zero temps we're having here. And, to add to my already overabundant joy, a big snow is coming. Yay. Now mind you, I don't dislike snow, but this one is coming with winds which could cause power outages. I didn't like the power outage we had in the fall, and I liked even less the two hour outage we had the other night, coming right in the middle of watching Westworld. But if we lose power during the storm, it will not be coming back on right away and the temps are supposed to plunge back into the single digits so I am a little worried. I hate being cold. Just hate it.

There is, however, one saving grace, a very warm, bright spot on the horizon. In March I am going back to Sanibel Island, this time with my son for our first ever vaca together. Two months and ten days. Then I'll be warm again.

So. How's your winter so far? Is it horrifically cold where you are or do you live somewhere reasonable, like California (my personal favorite warm state)? Read any good books? Looking forward to something? Do tell. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Hate U Give and Year End Round Up

So. Where have I been? What have I been doing? Well...not much, admittedly. I totally missed posting for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse on Friday for which I did have a book I was supposed to finish but didn't quite. Being annoyed with myself for not finishing the book I sat down on Friday night and did so.

The title of this book is a reference to Tupac who said that Thug Life stood for 'The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.' According to Khalil, what this means is that "what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out."

I really liked this book a lot and I recommend it to everyone, but especially to white people. In it you will meet Starr, the unlikely hero of the story, a black girl who lives in two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. Then Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer, and soon after his death is big news. Some call him a thug and a drug dealer. Others protest yet another case of an unarmed black man being gunned down by the police. But everyone wants to know what really happened that night and the only person who knows that is Starr. The problem is that telling the truth could endanger her life and the lives of her family.

I loved Starr and the way she tries to balance her two worlds. I adored her family, her two brothers Sekani and Seven, her most awesome parents, and Black Jesus. At the beginning of the book Starr's daddy, an ex-con gone good, says a morning prayer to Black Jesus, asking him to "watch over my babies today. Keep them safe, steer them from wrong, and help them recognize snakes from friends...Thank you for Sekani's miraculous, sudden healing that just so happened to come after he found out they're having pizza at school today..." Afterward, Sekani says, "Daddy, why you put me on the spot like that with Black Jesus?"

Yep. There's a lot of humor like that, and a lot of wisdom that comes from both Starr's parents, her Uncle Carlos, and her boyfriend, Chris, who happens to be white. This makes for lots of good conversations, like at the end when Starr and Chris and her brother Seven and friend DeVante are hanging out and Chris says "Okay. Why do some black people give their kids odd names? I mean look at you guys' names. They're not normal."

"My name normal," DeVante says, all puffed-up sounding. "I don't know what you talking about."

"Man, you named after some dude from Jodeci," Seven says.

"And you named after a number! What's your middle name? Eight?"

"Anyway, Chris," Seven says, "DeVante's got a point. What makes his name or our names any less normal than yours? Who or what defines 'normal' to you? If my pops were here, he'd say you've fallen into the trap of the white standard."

I believe I've fallen into that trap myself. But now that I know about it, be sure I'll be avoiding that shit, as Starr might say.

I highly recommend this book to everyone!

Now for my year end stats.

This year I doubled the number of books I read. I still didn't read a lot, but it was waay better than 2016

Books read in 2017

  1. We were Liars by E. Lockhart
  2. Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin
  3. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
  4. Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  5. Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson
  6. Pretty Girls by Karen Slaughter
  7. What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
  8. Armada by Ernest Cline
  9. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
  10. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  11. The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August by Claire North
  12. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  13. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
  14. Seed by Ania Ahlborn
  15. Meddling Kids by Edgar Canter
  16. The Kept Woman by Karen Slaughter
  17. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  18. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

If I had to pick a favorite it would be #11 but I also have to give a shout out to #18. You will never think of Christmas quite the same.

Next year I hope to get into the 20s, and here are The Books on my TBR list:

The Immortality Game by Ted Cross
The Raven Cycle #3 Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The First Salute by Barbara Tuchman
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Book of Dust Volume One La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
After Life by Marcus Sakey
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

I've also watched a few Season Two of Stranger Things (awesome), Dark (also awesome), Jessica Jones (wicked awesome, especially David Tenant as the villain. He's sooo good), Criminal Minds, Longmire, and, just started Westworld. Desperately awaiting the next season of Supernatural to come to Netflix.

Lastly, I leave you with a pic of some of my stocking stuffers.

Note the Buffy Mad Libs? I might've squealed a little when I pulled that out of my stocking...

Happy New Year all!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's good to be Skyrim

Some of you might remember me posting about my adventures in Skyrim (the most awesome game ever courtesy of Bethesda Game Studios who also brought us the other Elder Scroll games as well as Fallout). I had gained the title of Archmage of Winterhold, possessed the Guldar Amulet, and attained level 24. That was when I used to go over my brother's house and play. But. He kept modding (mods/modifications are programs fans of the game make which add content to the game like livelier inns, additional companions, prettier towns, etc), forcing me to start over numerous times and eventually I gave up.

Fast forward to last summer when I finally bought an Alienware Laptop capable of playing Skyrim and then ahead to a week ago when said brother helped me finish installing the mods I wanted for my game. That was last Saturday and to show you just how beautiful Skyrim is modded out a bit (and I do mean a bit; my brother has a ridiculous number of mods on his game), I took some screen shots to share. You can click on them to get the full effect.

This is Whiterun at night, often the second large town you come to. My house is just up the street...

This is Breezehome. The place cost 5000 gold pieces and the furnishings are extra. I had to kill a lot of bandits to get the place looking so nice ; )

Bleak Falls Barrow in the distance.This is one of the first quests you get, and let me tell you it's cold up there. You can freeze before you arrive, especially if you have the Frostfall mod. Thankfully, I also have the Campfire mod.

A view from the road outside Riverwood (which I often want to call Rivendell even though the two places look nothing alike).

Approaching Riverwood late in the day.

And finally, the bridge at Riverwood, watching the sun come up. Yes. I do that.

As of last night, I've reached level 10 and just enrolled in the college at Winterhold. I have a companion, Lydia, given to me by the Jarl of Whiterun after I helped kill a dragon, I've met with the Greybeards (another cold place), been attacked by Cultists, and got my ass kicked by a Hagraven. I can't even begin to tell you how much fun I've been having, and how good it is, to be back, in Skyrim.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - NOS4A2

Welcome to another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:

Sadly, I failed this month to finish the book I started. However, I'm still going to tell you something about it. The book is NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.

This is the second book by Joe Hill I've (almost) read. The first was Horns, which I enjoyed. I'm about half way through this one, which I have to say is very Stephen Kingish. Not that Joe doesn't have his own style but there's definitely a similarity between the work of father and son.

NOS4A2 starts off with an interesting premise. What if your bicycle could help you find things, no matter where they were? For Vic McQueen, her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike does just that. For Charles Manx it's his 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith. But while Vic likes to find things, Manx likes to take things, namely children, who he brings to "Christmasland," via his Rolls Royce.

Since I haven't finsihed the book, I can't offer up a complete review. For all I know the ending will suck and a sucky ending can ruin a book. But as it stands, I'm very much enjoying the book and looking forward to Vic and Charles' next meeting, which should be soon since things are just starting to get better for Vic, and you know that's when things are about to take an unpleasant turn for the worse.

Have you read this book or any others by Joe Hill? Did you know he was Stephen King's son?

Friday, November 3, 2017


I'll admit it. I am accustomed to the comforts of the modern age and as much as I love history and dystopian fiction I have no interest in doing without said modern comforts. I was reminded of this fact after losing power during the windstorm (I know, it was a windstorm for Pete's sake! Not even a hurricane!) we had here in Maine Sunday night. Supposedly more people lost power during this windstorm than during the ice storm of '97 and I'm curious as to why. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was very windy! But I recall other windstorms with less severe results. And trying to get power back on a fall day is a lot easier than in the dead of winter when a sheet of ice coats everything. I feel very fortunate that I got my power back Tuesday night. Lots of people are still without, including some of my family members, and there are still lots of trees and wires down.

 But honestly? My two days without power was a breeze compared to what some people have had to go through and what some people are still going through. I was never too far away from a store or restaurant, we never ran out of water, our propane stove still worked, and I had my cell phone, kindle, and laptop, not to mention gas in my car. One could hardly call that suffering. Nevertheless, I'm glad it's over so I can get back to my usual routine.

Meanwhile, I did finish another book, The Kept Woman, by Karen Slaughter, and my current WIP, TROUBLE, stands at 26K, which is piss poor progress considering I started it in August. To steal a quote from Inception (one of my all time favorite movies), "Disappointed."

How would you fare if the power went out for good? What do you do when you lose it? What's the longest you went without?

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - Meddling Kids


Today I'm going to tell you about my favorite book of the month, Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero.

But first I want to mention the other books I read this past month...

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden - This was my second favorite. If you like fairy Tales, I recommend it.
The Last One by Alexandra Oliva - I think I would've liked this more if I liked reality television. But alas, I don't.
Seed by Ania Ahlborn - Horror written well, but not like Stephen King. I didn't love any of the characters.

This book, however,

was totally awesome.

Meddling kids re-imagines the Scooby Doo Gang as the Blyton Summer Detective Club, of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon's Zoinx River Valley. In their last case in 1977, the gang exposed the Sleepy Lake Monster. Thirteen years years later the gang is all grown up but not doing so well. Peter is dead, Nate is in an institution (where he sometimes talks to Peter), Kerri is a biologist without a job who drinks too much (owner of Tim, the weimaraner, a direct descendant of the original canine member of the club), and Andy the tomboy, wanted in two states, decides to get the gang back together. Because only by revisiting the past - and their last case - will any of them have a future.

One of the things I loved about this book was the way Edgar Cantero describes things. It's different and beautiful. For example, one character is a little obsessed with Kerri's hair, which is described in one of the opening chapters thus:

"..Kerri turning to serve the beers, her curls swinging around and cheering gleefully like kids on a carousel.It was a minor entry in the list of Kerri's innumerable talents. Her hair had this joyful quality about it, the way it trailed after her as she rode her bike downhill or dove off a rope breathed and moved like it had a life of its own, or many."

I won't go on, except to say this book deserves all the nice things that have been said about it, like this from Rob Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Year Zero.

"Meddling Kids is an utterly charming paean to a squad of animated teen detectives who fought down the crime wave of early-70's America. Amidst the homages and playfulness, it then transforms into a rip-roaring page turner. Throughout, Cantero plays with form and language in ways that are both mischievous and delightful. This would be impressive enough coming from a native of the country, decade, and language that the book operates in. As Cantero is none of the above, it's flat-out masterful.”

 In other bookish news I recently bought A Man Called Ove, which I had been hearing too many good things about to resist, and the first volume of The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman.

What are you reading and who's on your TBR list?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Since I've been gone...

A lot has happened since I last posted. I had to make an unexpected trip to Florida to help my mom (who has NO WiFi!!!) who had surgery. It was very good to see her though I wish it had been under better circumstances. Usually we go out and do stuff and I take lots of pics. But there wasn't much of that since she wasn't up to it. I did however manage to take two pics I will share.

I saw this guy on one of my mom's plants. He was LARGE. Way bigger than the grasshoppers we have in Maine. She wanted me to kill it because he would eat an entire plant in no time. I couldn't. I did have a talk with him and didn't see him again.

 This is a wild flower growing on my mom's porch. We tried to identify it but couldn't. Anyone out there know what this flower is?

I also saw a rainbow on my way back from seeing Blade Runner 2049 a few weeks previous.

 Blade Runner was awesome, by the way, and I highly recommend it though you do really need to see the first one.

Finally, I completed this, a 'copy' of a work done by Edward Gorey.  

It took me a while but I'm fairly pleased with the way it came out.

The weather is still nice here, thankfully, though very very dry. We've had almost no rain in months it seems. It rained more in Florida in the week I was there so I have to hope we'll get some soon though it will be dreary.

Still working on my new WIP, 23K, and I read three books, one of which I will be telling you about on Friday for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse.

Now, tell me what's up with you. Something interesting must've happened in the last few weeks.