On a family farm surrounded by corporate farms run by machines lives an artist, her daughter and son and three very spoiled sheep. Mom gets by because her teen daughter manages not only her mom's business but also takes charge of the household and care of her little brother. It is a life that she can handle until mom brings home a crane and declares him her husband and their new father. Powerless to change her mother's mind she sees the steady decline of her mom's attention for anything except the crane. On the farm the farmers want daughters because the moms fly away. A unique fairy tale that only Kelly Barnhill could tell with a feminist coming of age message - be strong, be independent and don't trust a crane to make you complete. 4 1/2 stars
Set sail on a new trilogy with a possibly reformed pirate and her loyal crew of diverse ethnicities and skill sets. Amina is done with sea adventures keeping her and her daughter safe on land until she is lured back to the sea to rescue a kidnapped girl. Getting back her ship and crew is easier than the voyage will be and now she is once again dealing with her unusual ex-spouse and a power hungry Frank who will give her more trouble than she bargained for. Shannon Chakraborty's skill at world building was apparent from her recent Daevabad stories but this one will set her prowess in stone forever. A touch of Sinbad the Sailor mixed with One Thousand and One Arabian Nights this is a female driven high-octane adventure with as much sarcastic wit as there are unusual creatures and a dose of heartfelt emotion. Can't wait for the next one!
The Angel Maker by Alex North
A truly frightening read that centers around a book that foretells the future and the deaths that occur that seem to be pre ordained. Katie is searching for her brother after her mother request that she is worried even though his addiction split them wide open years earlier. Her quilt over her brother's near death as a child and the nagging feeling that she is being watched leads her to search. Police detectives are looking for clues as to the mysterious murder of a man who seemingly knew of his death and the only connection they have is Katie's brother. Spider web strands made over generations and this mysterious book are the only thing they have to go on. The only question is whether Katie or the police will solve the mystery and save the one innocent person. Creepy with a capital C this is an intense audiobook. 3 1/2 stars
Madame Restell by Jennifer Wright
Love her or hate her, Madame Restell was the name on everyone's lips in mid 1800's New York. This in-depth biography about a self made millionaire is not about one of the robbers barons but about a female abortionist who rallied for women's rights and her own right to offer these services. She proudly stood up to politicians , journalists , the church, the law and her own competition to provide birth control to women of all social classes and walks of life. It is also a look at society's views on women at the time and the suppression of basic freedoms not afforded to women at that time. Jennifer Wright makes a clear case for reform and presents a plethora of information told in humorous and jaw dropping bits concerning society norms, journalists and the appalling healthcare practices of the day. A frightening parallel to today's headlines regarding women's rights and one heck of an interesting read. The audiobook was first rate. 4 stars
This is a prequel to THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE but can happily be devoured as a standalone.
The Priory has supplied the realm with fierce female warriors for generations but they have been idle til now. A great disturbance has awakened and with it comes wyrms and terrible monsters that slaughter the helpless villages leaving nothing in their wake. It will be up to the Queendoms and warriors of the Priory to stop the violence and send the Dreadmount back into hiding. This is a fantastic world where women are at the forefront of Queendoms, where women are free to love and marry the women they love and men the same. A world where women bear children and hand them off to men to care for them so they can go into battle, this unique female-centric fantasy has all the violence , adventure and political upheaval of GAME OF THRONES but with a lot of tenderness. Samantha Shannon has continued the world building and deep characters of the first book masterfully. 4 stars
Marvelous by Molly Greeley
A historical blending of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and the true accounts of a boy given to Henri II's court and dubbed "Monsieur Sauvage" due to his being covered in hair from head to toe. Stolen from his home and renamed Petrus ,he had a position in the court but was considered by many to be little more than an exotic pet. Catherine De Medici married him to a destitute young woman hoping to breed more hairy children which actually happened. What no one expected was that Petrus's wife grew to love him and the children. While they lived under the protection of the court they were also considered property and could be disposed of at will or made to leave with no where to go. Through the passing of monarchs and religious upheaval Petrus and family did escape to live out their days in a bit more peace but with the overhanging fear of strangers. Another fine example of the cruelty and barbarism of people (in power and not) who fear and condemn what they don't understand. A solid choice for readers of French courts and Early Renaissance life as well as A YEAR OF WONDER and THE MARRIAGE PORTRAIT.
The Exceptions by Kate Zernike
MIT was a place of great possibility producing some of this countries finest scientific minds yet when we picture an MIT grad up until recently most of us picture a white man with heavy glasses and a pocket protector in his white shirt and you wouldn't be far off. It wasn't until 1999 that MIT formally admitted to long term discrimination against women wanting to get into the science program and those who became professors. 16 women fought long and hard for that admission of guilt but also for the recognition of their considerable contributions. The author focuses on one of the 16 - Nancy Hopkins as an example and her life and career. Nancy was one of the brainstormers unlocking the secrets of DNA and later in Cancer research yet she was overlooked, not given credit in professional papers or forums as well as denied space in programs and tenure as a professor unlike her male peers.
In the 1960's women who did not want to get married and have a family were considered odd and those that did knew they would be forced to give up a career and lab chair. This no win situation prevented some great minds from gaining any ground. It should not shock us that they were discriminated against but what does shock the reader is how long it went on unchecked. Another fine example of the scientific contributions of unseen and unheard women. 3 1/2 stars
A love of books, a fight against injustice and a yearning to help end the war led three women in three cities to band together and take on book banning. In New York Viv has just become a war widow and is fighting political roadblocks to save the program she has worked on tirelessly. She is fighting censorship of books that are sent to servicemen in Europe as a way of escaping the horrors of war. In Paris Hannah runs a bookshop that houses banned books that have been burned in Germany for being against new German principles. In Berlin Althea came from the U.S. at the beginning of the war enamored with the city and one of the new Chancellor Hitler's officers in particular. Soon enough her eyes are opened to the atrocities and injustice and her heart opened up to Hannah. They fought book censorship both in Europe and in the states. They fought the loss of great literature and against the loss of freedom of religion, love and ideas. On a sad note this is historical fiction that takes place in WWII but you will see many parallels to the censorship issues we are facing today. 4 stars
Nocturne by Alyssa Wees
This magical mix of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and Gaiman's THE SANDMAN takes us to 1930's Chicago where a gifted ballerina on her own finds love and support in a patron with much to hide. Grace's dream of becoming not only a dancer but prima ballerina becomes reality when a mysterious patron helps her achieve all her dreams. She becomes obsessed with discovering who he is and his reasons for always remaining in the shadows and soon finds out there is many more secrets to unfold. Like a moth to the flame she wants his world but not at the cost of losing her own. Lyrical prose that pulls us in from the minute the curtain rises immersing the reader in a misty magical world that hovers between life and death. 4 stars
A podcaster/professor comes back to her old boarding school to teach a short course only to get pulled back into solving the murder of her roommate years ago. Bodie has doubts about the man who was sent to prison for her roommate's murder but she chooses to let her students to prove or disprove them. Thalia will still be dead but Bodie might be able to vanquish the ghosts that still haunt her.
The reader is given just enough information to keep us interested and on the same playing field as the podcast students and helps us develop a theory just as they do. Our past haunts us but is it worth following that nagging little voice of doubt? Perfectly paced and just like all those murder/true crime podcasts - impossible to put down. 4 1/2 stars
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