Year 13, Book 20

20. Managing Copyright in Higher Education: A Guidebook by Donna L. Ferullo

This book looks at the work of copyright officers in higher educational institutions from how their positions are created, the credentials of those working in these positions, and how they work with various groups in their institution. It of course does weave copyright law into the scenarios, but the book is more focused on what a copyright officer does than in teaching people specifically about copyright law. It would definitely be helpful for anyone thinking of setting up a copyright position at their institution, but may be less helpful for people wanting information about applying copyright law higher education. I give it a 6 out of 10.

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Year 13, Book 19

19. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

I’ve read several of Ruth Ware’s other books and found them all lacking in various ways such that when I picked this book up I questioned why I was doing it. I’m glad I didn’t let that thought stop me from reading it because with The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ware has finally written a book that I really liked and I felt held together all the way through.

Hal is a young girl living on her own after her mother’s passing a few years before. She’s barely keeping her head above water telling tarot fortunes at the carnival pier and owes some not-so-nice people money that they are now determined to collect on. Then Hal receives a mysterious letter telling her of her grandmother’s passing and an inheritance she needs to attend the funeral to receive. As Hal’s grandmother is long dead she knows this must be a case of mistaken identity, but it could also be the answer to her problems if she can fake her way through the funeral and take the money and run. But once she’s with the family she determines that there is possibly much more to the mystery than her mistaken identity.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were well written and the mystery worked and didn’t seem full of holes like I felt about some of Ware’s other books. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 18

18. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

Radium was once viewed as a miracle substance that could promote health and was used in paint on dials because of its luminous properties. Young girls were employed to paint these dials, but then they started experiencing mysterious illnesses sometimes years after they had left their employment.

Radium Girls is the true story of the girls working at radium dial companies in New Jersey and Illinois who fell ill due to their work with radium leading to their fight to uncover the truth about what had caused their sicknesses and get the companies trying to hide it to reveal what they knew about the dangers of working with radium and compensate all the women who worked there.

It’s a harrowing tale of women experiencing insane levels of pain and suffering while putting in the fight of their lives against companies who are more worried about their bottom line than their employees. The women were inspiring and their fight led to many regulations we have today, but reading the book was somewhat disheartening because the cruelty of capitalism is a tale as old as time and things we still see over and over again today.

The book was also of special interest to me because one of the companies featured in the book was based in Ottawa, Illinois a small town about 90 miles outside of Chicago where most of my father’s family is from. I had no idea about this history in this little town I’ve been to any number of times in my life and I still have a lot of family.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 17

17. Bimini Twist by Linda Greenlaw

I have really enjoyed Greenlaw’s non-fiction books in the past, so I figured I would give one of her fiction books a try. I gather this is the fourth in a series of mystery books featuring the character of Jane Bunker who works in a small town in Maine as a deputy sheriff and insurance investigator. In this particular book she is called in to help when a young girl in the country on a work exchange visa for the summer goes missing. At first she suspects that the girl has just run off with a lover, a local naval cadet, but when he goes missing too everything changes.

This was not a good book. For someone whose non-fiction writing I enjoyed Greenlaw does not seem to be a very good fiction writer. The plot development was weak. The characters are not developed at all. Greenlaw basically just tells you who they are and what their thing is. Instead of writing so that you as a reader can see that this quirky town character is like this because you see them act like that she pretty much tells you this town character is quirky because they do this thing. I guess if she’s written four of these books someone must be enjoying them, but it’s not me. I hope she writes some more non-fiction. I give it a 3 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 16

16. The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan

Teenage girl Mattie is obsessed with escape artists. When her best friend goes off to camp, Mattie decides to seek out Miyu the reclusive daughter of one of the world’s most famous escape artists in order to get trained by her. With Miyu’s help Mattie becomes part of an act a club while trying to keep her life secret from all of her family and friends. Then one night a popular athlete from her school shows up at the club and Mattie fears her secret is blown for good until Will reveals to her that he too has a secret.

If you can’t tell from the description this is a YA book. I really enjoyed it. It has a lot of your typical YA things with teenagers trying to figure out who they are in the world and finding ways to be themselves with of course some romance thrown in. Framing all this around the idea of being an escape artist gives it an interesting twist. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 15

15. The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips

Set in rural Georgia in the 1950s, this book is told by teenage girl Tangy Mae who is the sixth of ten children all fathered by different men. As the darkest child born to a mother who values light skin, Tangy Mae is treated even more cruelly than her siblings. Somehow she is on the verge of being able to be the first of her siblings to be able to continue on to high school being chosen to attend the first integrated high school in her area but will her family drag her back down or provide her the opportunity to get out?

I didn’t love reading this book and had I written this review immediately after reading it I think I would have rated it lower. But having some time to sit with it I can see that it was a well written work that does a good job of showing how these siblings both look out for each other but also resent each other for believing for they have received the worst of what their extremely cruel mother has to dish out. It is an unrelentingly awful story though and as such a very difficult read.

I got a review copy of this book, so assumed it was written recently but it turns out it was written over a decade ago. The fact that the copy I had ended with a few chapters of a sequel makes me suspect that it is being promoted ahead of the release of a forthcoming book continuing the story, although I can find no evidence of that. At any rate I won’t be reading the sequel if it does in fact ever come into existence. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 14

14. Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins

Tom Worthington is returning to campus completely broke after his father is arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. After being caught up in the spotlight of the scandal he wants to come back to school, keep his head down, avoid everyone, and just finish out his degree if he can cobble together enough money to keep paying for school. In order to avoid his old life he’s managed to get assigned to a special dorm for older returning students, but when he gets there his roommate Reese Anders is not an older student and is not expecting to have a roommate. Reese tries to use his overt gayness to drive away his new jock roommate, but Tom refuses to budge and finds himself determined to find out what has created the fear Reese obviously has of him especially when he finds himself attracted to his new roommate. I give it a 6 out of 10.