I did a book thing!
As part of Goodreads’ Ten-Year Anniversary Celebration, (I think I’ve been a member for 9 of those 10) they teamed up with The Book Fairies to hide books for people to find, read, and pass on. The decreed day was Monday, September 18th.
I first heard of The Book Fairies through the GR book club I’m a part of, Our Shared Shelf, started by Emma Watson, who has been seen hiding books around public places when she travels. As one might suppose, putting people in touch with books is largely what I do, only I’m usually not so sneaky about it.
‘Tis a simple idea behind Hide a Book Day: grab a copy of your favorite book or books, the ones you are passionate about and would recommend in a heartbeat, scout your hiding spots, label and conceal, take a picture and share it with other Goodreads members and Book Fairies on social media to spread the word.
I chose three books, beloved for different reasons. Goodreads designed labels for downloading, Book Fairy stickers were also for sale from their site. I made sure to bag ’em up to protect them from the elements as I hid books around parks in my and neighboring towns. I enjoyed hiding these books for others to find and hopefully enjoy too, I plan to do it again next year.
A summer edition update to the reading challenge I’m participating in, hosted by The Redolent Mermaid. Only 3 books finished in as many months is disappointing, but I’ve come to accept that I just don’t get through the amount I used to.
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
by Kate Moore (A book to learn from)A detailed non-fiction account of some of the hundreds of young women who were affected by the use of radium in their work as watch dial-painters during the 1910s and 20s. An absorbing story, especially for a non-fiction book. The writing moves swiftly as the reader follows the tragic path of these very young ladies, teenagers in most cases, as they entered the dial-painting workforce in droves to assist with the war effort.
The story takes an investigative approach while giving a bit of a micro-history of the US Radium Companies that both extracted and sold the dangerous substance. Some knowledge of radium and the Curies’ research would be helpful going in, though I learned a lot, including the limits of medicine at the time. It was shocking to read the girls used radium daily without any safety precautions and were in fact told it was full of health benefits, while studies and evidence of harmful effects were ignored. Set in a time before workplace whistle-blowers, these women were silenced and betrayed as their situation became increasingly desperate. Provoking horror and outrage, but ultimately a sense of delayed justice as their sacrifice is finally acknowledged.
With a snappy informal writing style, I recommend this brief seamless account. Moore takes an intimate look at the women’s lives, making it all the more chilling when the scope of the greed used by USRC/Radium Dial to guard it’s profits and exploit the legal system is exposed. There is a play about this story, The Shining Girls, and I’m certain a movie will be forthcoming. If you read or eventually watch, prepare to be heartbroken, but also galvanized. Certainly, neither I, nor other readers will ever forget the dial-painters.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley (Judge a book based on its cover)This debut author borrows from Conan Doyle with a Holmesian mystery set in Victorian London. Our lead characters become embroiled in the British-Irish-Japanese conflict through low level government jobs, foreign friends and the mysterious watches which come into their possession. As Thaniel, a government clerk, gets pulled deeper into the plot behind a Scotland Yard bombing, he must choose a side. Proceed with his lukewarm relationship to Grace, a head-strong scientist he barely knows, or remain loyal to the kind, lonely immigrant, Mr. Mori who offered him shelter when he was in need. Like Thaniel, the reader can’t help being drawn to Mori, who is definitely more than meets the eye.
From the streets of London, to the land of Japanese noblemen, it was an unpredictable read, my first of the so-called steam punk genre. Automatons and clockwork technology form an almost futuristic plot device to this historical fiction. I enjoyed the deliberate pace and enigmatic side characters, especially the creepy automated octopus named Katsu.
Natasha Pulley just released her 2nd steam punk novel, which I’ll be reading. I recommend Watchmaker more for the strange and beautiful prose than the story, which left me slightly befuddled and unsatisfied in the end.
Scent pairings: A blend of Japanese green and Earl Grey teas, lemon soap, and smoke.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
(A book that’s been in my TBR pile for a long time) Ha, that’s an understatement! My husband and I started reading this to each other at least 9 years ago, we loved creating voices for the different rabbits, but only got partway in before setting it aside. It was hard to find time to commit to reading aloud. This summer, we picked up the audio book for a trip and I finally learned the fate of this band of lovable creatures.Watership Down is the tale of a group of rabbits who must leave the only home they’ve known in search of a safer one. I believe it’s also an allegory for the innate struggle for freedom and man’s role in nature, but that hardly matters as it’s one of the greatest adventure stories of all time.
The characters are heart-warming and amusing. Fiver, the gifted prophet, Hazel, wise visionary chief, clever Blackberry, tough and courageous Bigwig, Bluebell, the jester, hilarious bird-scout Kehaar and loyal Pipkin are able to express the sometimes inexpressible; all beings want and deserve to feel safe, free and loved.
An English literature read in schools for a reason, this story is a classic. Catching up with it again did make me wish it was shorter, however. There were one too many foreshadowing side stories of El-Hararah the rabbit legend. The only other criticism I have is the female does were treated as expendable due to the perspective being mostly a band of rabbit brotherhood.
The names of the rabbits provide plenty of scent inspiration: Blackberry, Buckthorn, Dandelion, Holly, Clover and the sweet scent of Honeycomb.
Since I’m only halfway through the challenge with 3 months left, I’ll finish as many as I can and provide an end of year update rather than lengthy reviews for my remaining picks. Wish me luck and quick reads.
Have you found any hidden book gems lately? Do you believe in book fairies? Which unforgettable reads would you want others to come upon?