Saturday, January 23, 2021

Book Reviews - Book Clubs and Time Travel!

For this round, I've got two books I read for book club and two advanced copies. Quite the array of reads in this quartet, but all had me in my feels in one way or the other!

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the Women Code by Liza Mundy was the fascinating story of a part of World War II that isn't well-known, and y'all, IT SHOULD BE. This is the story of the women who were code breakers during the war. That's right, women were doing this work. Recruited primarily on college campuses and because they were single (they definitely unpack this strategy), THOUSANDS of women did this work for the Army and Navy. This book is interesting to hear about the work they were doing, and it's even more interesting to hear the stories of who these women were. The book did interviews with the women who were still living, as well as archival research to share this story with the world. After the war, these women were told they had to keep this work a secret which is an interesting dynamic that is also explored. This was the first read for my sorority book club, and honestly, I'm not sure I would have picked this one on my own. However, I'm so glad I now know these stories, and the critical role women played in this war! There was also a recent PBS documentary that I'm excited to check out to continue learning these important stories.

Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis was a wonderful pageturner! It's told in two timelines (and y'all know I love a dual timeline/narrator set-up) revolving around the New York Public Library. In 1913, it's about Laura, a woman trying to figure out her place in the world. Her husband is the superintendent of the NYPL (where they live y'all!), and they are raising their two kids. She is also in journalism school, and she loves exploring her love of writing. Part of this writing brings her to the Heterodoxy Club, a world of women and way of thinking that draws her in. Meanwhile in 1993, there is Sadie, a curator of the NYPL. Also, Laura is her grandmother who is known as an esteemed essayist. Then, things start disappearing from Laura's collection. For one, Sadie hasn't shared her connection, and for two, she isn't sure what is happening. In both timelines, there is suspense about some curious happenings in the library, and the way each woman grows through her story is just wonderfully done. This is one that swept me up into its world, and I didn't want to leave. I loved the suspense and depth of the stories of these two women and loved how the mysteries were revealed!

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li was another one of those middle grade books that had me all up in my feels. The story was about Ro who has tragically lost her father and remains connected to him/his memory through their shared love of rockets. Ro finds friendship with Ben, who has realized his estranged father is the creator of his favorite space-based comic. Ro and Ben join up as science fair partners, and they start to navigate their school/life together as friends. Part of this means working through bullying, and this is some tough stuff. They are both also grieving for their fathers in different ways. What I appreciated about this one was that the emotions were so real. It really explored each of their challenges, as well as the rocky road that middle school can bring. It didn't hold back on those feels, and it wasn't always happy, but also these characters found joy in their connection. Thanks to Quill Tree Books for the early look at this recent release!

Muted by Tami Charles was a heavy read. I knew that was going to be case going on, so not a surprise, but a notation. Told in verse, it is the story of Denver. She and her best friends Dali and Shak have aspirations of being the next big R&B girl group. Then, in a dream come true, they are connected with Sean "Mercury" Ellis, a big name R&B artist. They really want to make their dream happen, so they agree to work with Mercury as much as possible. They soon realize this is far from a dream, and they are stuck in a world where this man has all these power and control. Denver wants to keep her dream alive, but she wonders if is worth these sacrifices and isolation. This was a hard and emotional read, but it's also important to know these stories are real. Thanks to Scholastic for the early look at this February 2021 release!

Onto the next ones!