Book Reviews: The Alter Girl and The Boy From Reactor Four

Two on Tuesday–     Good Morning!   I am really excited to bring you the following Book Reviews mainly because I loved this series.  I read all four books in a row back to back in May, and my husband will tell you I lost a lot of sleep because I could not put these down at night.  I started reading The Altar Girl by Orest Stemach after Amazon Prime gave me a choice of four books to read for free.  I had never heard of this author, but each month I get a first look at new books coming out and get to pick one of four to read for free.  I knew very little about the Ukraine other than the incident at Cherynobyl, so this series immediately peaked my interest, especially considering everything that had been going on with Crimea over the last few years.  Technically, I read these books out of order.  The Alter Girl was actually the last of the four books published, but it is the prequel to the other books.  I am glad I read them this way because Nadia Tesla is such a strong character and The Altar Girl gave me a foundation to begin the other books from the series:  The Boy from Reactor Four.

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“There’s an old Ukrainian proverb: He who licks knives will soon cut his tongue.”
Orest Stelmach, The Alter Girl: A Prequel

      The daughter of uncompromising Ukrainian immigrants, Nadia was raised to respect guts, grit, and tradition. When the events around the seemingly accidental death of her estranged godfather don’t add up, Nadia is determined to discover the truth—even if she attracts the attention of dangerous men intent on finding out what she knows through any means possible.

Her investigation leads her to her hometown and to the people least likely to welcome her back: her family.

In this thrilling prequel to the Nadia Tesla series, Nadia must try to solve the mystery surrounding her godfather’s death—and his life. The answers to her questions are buried with the secrets of her youth and in post–World War II refugee camps. What Nadia learns will change her life forever.

–     Other than good writing and character development there are three main reasons I recommend this book.  First, the historical richness.  I am a history/government/law teacher so when I come across a book that teaches me about an area in history that I know little about I get pretty excited.  My students and I had been closely monitoring the Crimea situation over the last few years and this book gave me context.  I had very little knowledge about Displaced Persons during and after WWII.  I also had no idea about Americas involvement with those individuals and Stalin’s policies.  Although I know this is a work of fiction, it led me to research several topics in the book.

–    Second, it is a very suspenseful mystery.  I worried for Nadia, she is kidnapped in the beginning of the book showing present danger, but the book also flashes back to her upbringing and all that she was taught as a child, sometimes at the cost of her own safety. At the beginning of the book you get the sense that Nadia, now a New Yorker has done much to distance herself from her upbringing and failed marriage.  It is her heritage that leads me to my last reason for you to purchase this book, it is fascinating.  You can see the remnants of a past time and how it impacted all the adults in Nadia’s life as they try to teach her as a kid what it really means to survive and be Ukrainian.  From the amazing sour cherry dumpling recipe that her mom cooks, to the way she knows how to communicate properly with others from her homeland, reading this book becomes a lesson in cultural competency and opens a huge doorway to the rest of Orest Stelmach’s series.

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–     Once I became obsessed with everything that is Nadia Tesla, I immediately moved on to The Boy From Reactor 4 and the books that followed.  I was thrilled to see that all of these books were free to Kindle Unlimited Subscribers. 

“May I ask you a question?” “Of course.” “If I offered you ten million dollars or a clear conscience, which would you take?” He considered the question. “Both,” Victor said. “I am a thief.”
Orest Stelmach, The Boy From Reactor Four

     Nadia’s memories of her father are not happy ones. An angry, secretive man, he died when she was thirteen, leaving his past shrouded in mystery. When a stranger claims to have known her father during his early years in Eastern Europe, she agrees to meet—only to watch the man shot dead on a city sidewalk. With his last breath, he whispers a cryptic clue, one that will propel Nadia on a high-stakes treasure hunt from New York to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine. There she meets an unlikely ally: Adam, a teenage hockey prodigy who honed his skills on the abandoned cooling ponds of Chernobyl. Physically and emotionally scarred by radiation syndrome, Adam possesses a secret that could change the world—if she can keep him alive long enough to do it. A twisting tale of greed, secrets, and lies, The Boy from Reactor 4 will keep readers guessing until the final heart-stopping page

–     The first book in the series centers on Nadia’s nephew “Adam”, a survivor, not without scars, of the Chernobyl disaster.  The book takes you on a thrilling ride as the pair tries to bring Adam safely to the United States, while protecting a secret formula that can revolutionize the world’s treatment of those with radiation poisoning.   Stelmach’s haunting depictions of the exclusion zone that surrounds the ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor give readers an intimate glimpse into a part of the world that has endured far too much suffering. His portrayal of Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev, and the way he skillfully weaves the history and culture of Ukraine into the story, is magnificent. As the novel circumnavigates the globe, his insights into Siberia and the people that live there spark even more interest and depth to the story.  This is one series you do not want to miss.

Once finished check out the other two books in the series:

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