sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

April 15, 2019

into the stacks 2019: february, part 2
posted by soe 1:54 am

As usual, I fell off my review plan, which was to give updates twice a month. However, there’s no time like the present to start getting back on track. Therefore, here are the remaining books I read in February (see the book I read in the first half of the month here):

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor
Twelve-year-old Sunny is American by birth, but Nigerian by residence and ancestry. She also is albino by birth and, it turns out, magic, one of the Leopard Society, a trait she learns she has inherited from her grandmother.

When we first meet Sunny, she is lonely, shunned by classmates who don’t understand her biological disorder or her foreignness or who want to spend time outside, where Sunny cannot follow. One boy, Orlu, however, reaches out to her and befriends her, and then subsequently introduces her to Chichi, a homeschooled girl who lives near them. The pair of them awaken the magic within her, which leads to her being inducted into the Leopard Society, the West African magical world, where she also meets Sasha, an American boy who has been sent to Nigeria by his parents who worry his magical abilities and his anger over racial injustices in the U.S. will get him into serious trouble.

The four of them form an alliance that will help them toward self-betterment, improved magical abilities (everyone has their particular strengths), and true friendship. And while they’re working on that, in the real world of Aba, there’s a serial child murderer about, which makes Sunny’s sneaking out at night that much more challenging. Plus, Sunny has to contend with her family — two brothers who have gotten used to overlooking their “disabled” sister, a mother who doesn’t want to talk about Sunny’s grandmother, and a father who has never gotten over the fact that Sunny was neither a boy nor a pretty girl.

If you like middle-grade fantasy or if you’re interested in West African folklore, I think you’ll like this series, the first in a trilogy.

Pages: 349. Library copy on paper.

Advanced Love, by Ari Seth Cohen

This coffee table book tells, through forty profiles and 200 photos, the story of senior citizens in love — and their sartorial sense. This is not a book of my parents (sorry, Mum and Dad), nor probably of yours, but is full of quirky characters sporting bow ties and crinolines and matching outfits. There are how-we-met stories (of both old and recent vintage) and things-we’ve-learned-over-the-years stories and what-is-love stories. The couples are all older, but otherwise vary in gender (and gender identity), marital status, and race. There’s a love story for everyone to identify with.

This was a bit of a departure for me, but I visited the library one sunny buy chilly day and this was sitting on top of the new book shelf and a sunbeam was dancing through the windows, inviting me to sit and read for a bit. It was a quick read — just over an hour, if I recall, but it was sweet to read all the interviews and see everyone’s dapper styles.

This book would probably be enjoyed by those who like fashion columns, those who want proof love endures, and anyone who wants to finish a book in a short period of time while flipping through short blurbs and pretty pictures.

Pages: 240. Library copy on paper.

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel, by Mariah Marsden, Brenna Thummler (illustrator), and L.M. Montgomery

I picked this up because I read a positive review of it somewhere. I don’t remember where and that’s probably just as well.

I have not read an adapted classic graphic novel before, although I’ve been open to doing so. And I sort of understood that this meant that scenes were going to be translated to picture and I was okay with that idea. What I maybe didn’t get was that it was going to chop out whole sequences with Paul Bunyan’s axe, rather than a surgeon’s scalpel.

So, I guess what I’ll say here is that this is not for someone who already knows and loves Anne and the Avonlea world. It would probably be a good introduction for a kid who has to be convinced that they want to read a whole book about a girl from another century. It includes all the major scenes — the ones you’d mention if someone asked you what the book was about — and some of Anne’s flowery language — but I’m not sure that it conveys the book’s — or characters’ — soul. However, I will add that the expressions on the illustrated characters are excellent — Thummler really captures Marilla’s exasperation and Matthew’s adoration and Anne’s … Anne-ness — but I’m not sure that it’s worth more of an Anne-lover’s time than a quick flip-through at your library.

Pages: 232. Library copy on paper.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies, by Jason Fagone

In this historical account, Jason Fagone resurrects a forgotten American hero: Elizebeth Smith Friedman, a codebreaker who helped bring down the Nazis in the Western hemisphere during World War II and who is one of the foremothers of modern cryptology.

The book is divided into three sections — Elizebeth’s early adult years, which she spent at Riverbank, a commune of sorts, part of a midwestern industry of scholars brought together by an eccentric textile tycoon who was one part P.T. Barnum and one part Thomas Edison. It was there that this Shakespearean scholar met a geneticist and fell in love with both him and codes, not necessarily in that order. The two of them began developing codes and figuring out how to solve others’ codes and soon became two of the foremost experts in the nascent field.

The second section deals with the Friedmans’ lives after World War I, when they were finally able to free themselves from the long and sticky grasp of their early benefactor and move themselves to Washington, D.C. William ended up working with the army on cryptanalysis and Elizebeth, after a period of domesticity, was brought out of retirement by the Coast Guard, who sought her help in combatting rumrunners and other criminals.

The final section deals with World War II, in which Elizebeth was crucial in deciphering Nazi radio communication in Mexico and South America, and the years afterwards, when huge swaths of both Friedmans’ work was deemed classified and their work swept under the rug by both J. Edgar Hoover and the NSA. William’s work remained in people’s memory and he was honored during his lifetime, but Elizebeth was lost to history for many years. In fact, the Senate has only just this month voted to honor her accomplishments and contributions.

If you’re at all interested in women’s history, World War II, spies, or cryptology, you should read this book. I assume the print version would speed along a little faster, but Cassandra Campbell, who reads the audio version, does an excellent job, and I really recommend the listen if you’re so inclined. Either way, read it now, because the producers behind The Good Wife and The Good Fight have optioned it for tv adaptation.

Pages: 444. Library copy on audio.

February stats:

Total number of books read: 5.
Total pages read: 1,403
Intended audience: 3 adults; 2 middle-grade.
Source: all from the library.
Format: 4 in paper, 1 in audiobook.
Classification: 3 fiction, 2 nonfiction.
Diversity of authors: 4 Americans, 1 Japanese. 2 authors of color (Asian and African American)

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