08 November 2021

What I Read in October: Part 2

Happy Monday -- long time, no linking up. I know. In any case, here's part 2 of what I read in October. If you're interested, I posted part 1 on Friday (click through to see my thoughts).

As on Friday, the books here are presented in no particular order. Note that my brief thoughts are also available on Goodreads. Thanks to the publishers and to Libro.fm for the print, digital, and/or audiobook review copies.

Book cover of The Taking of Jemima Boone by Matthew PearlThe Taking of Jemima Boone: The True Story of the Kidnap and Rescue That Shaped America by Matthew Pearl (Harper; Sept.): This is an interesting examination of the far-reaching effects of the capture of Daniel Boone's daughter and her friends by Native Americans. The book starts with the kidnapping of the girls by a group of Shawnee and Cherokee men. Boone and other men from the Boonesboro settlement tracked the girls (who tried to leave clues) and eventually rescued them, but not before one of the White men killed the son of a Shawnee chief. The remainder of the book ties this event into the general settlement of Kentucky, the Revolutionary War, and indigenous-settler conflicts. Though I knew of Jemima's capture and rescue, I didn't know the many later events surrounding Boonesboro, the Boone family, and other prominent settlers. This is a very readable account, though it is less about Jemima's capture than it is about the aftermath.

Audiobook: I partially read and partially listened to this book (as I often do with nonfiction). The audiobook comes with a PDF of the footnotes and a chart showing the major players. Jeremy Arthur performed the text in an engaging style.

Book cover of Shards of Earth by Adrian TchaikovskyShards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit; Aug.): This is a complex and very well-received space opera. Unfortunately, this is my only DNF of the month. I need to point out that I do not think it was the fault of the book or the narrator. I think I had trouble getting into the story because I started the audiobook on vacation and then had to put it down for a almost a week. By the time I picked it back up, I needed to start from the beginning again. By then, I realized I should have waited because my mind wandered during the re-listen. SO this was totally a me issue and not a reflection on the story or on narrator Sophie Aldred's performance. I do plan on listening again sometime this coming winter.

Book cover of Nanny Needed by Georgina CrossNanny Needed by Georgina Cross (Bantam; Oct.): This thriller is set in New York. A deeply in debt young woman accepts a job with an uber-rich, uber-private family to be the nanny for their toddler. The penthouse apartment is everything Sarah has ever imagined, and at first she's in awe of how the one-percenters live. All, however, is not normal in her employer's household, but once Sarah starts to get really uncomfortable, it's way too late. She has signed a contract, a NDA, and other papers that lock her into her job for at least three months. And if that weren't enough, she's been not-so-subtly threatened with lawsuits (or worse) if she tries to leave early. There are some twists and turns, but the novel fell short in building the tension and making me root for Sarah. I found a few plot points beyond my ability to suspend disbelief.

Audiobook: The audiobook was read by Emma Ashton, who did an okay job, though her delivery was a little too earnest during tense moments.

Book cover of The Woman All Spies Fear by Amy Butler GreenfieldThe Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life by Amy Butler Greenfield (Random House; Oct.): I'm not quite sure why this biography is tagged for a young adult audience. The biography is well documented and solidly written. In any case, this is the story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman who spent decades in the cypher business. As a young woman in the early 1900s, she worked for a man who wanted to know if it was true that Shakespeare's original folios included cyphers. Later she broke codes for the government during both World Wars, helped break a ring of rum runners during Prohibition, and figured out how to read encrypted messages from enemy countries and spies. She was called as an expert witness in court and was a formidable force when it came to deciphering codes.

Greenfield also talks about Friedman's struggles with being a working woman, especially after she got married and then after she had children. Her husband was also a well-respected code breaker, and the public often gave him credit for her work, even when the couple worked for completely different government agencies and were under strict nondisclosure and security orders (which they both obeyed).

The book is amply illustrated with examples of codes, photographs, and even a page from Friedman's diary. A bibliography and footnotes round out the biography. Don't let the YA rating put you off. This account of Elizebeth Smith Friedman's life is readable, serious, and in no way simplified for a teen audience.

Audiobook:The unabridged audiobook is read by Samantha Desz, who did a great job keeping my attention and subtly distinguishing between quoted material and running text. Note that I both listened to and read this book. The audiobook comes with a PDF, though I haven't seen it.

Book Cover of A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. HarrowA Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom; Oct.): I really enjoyed this short retelling of the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty," especially with its feminist and LGBTQ+ aspects. The good news is that this is the first in Harrow's new Fractured Fables series.

Ohioan Zin Gray celebrates her 21st birthday a little differently from most because she was born with a rare disease that, statistically speaking, should kill her before the year is out. Still, her BFF Charm hosts a small Disney-inspired Sleeping Beauty party. When Zin pricks her finger on the spinning wheel meant for decoration, she is transported to an alternate world where she meets Prim, another Sleeping Beauty, also cursed at birth. The story is full of pop culture references and tongue-in-cheek fairy tale dialogue and shows how Zin, Prim, Charm, and other surprise feminist heroes find a way to give everyone their happy ending. Fun!

Book cover of The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book by Gord HillThe 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book: Revised and Expanded by Gord Hill (Arsenal Pulp; Oct.): Just in time for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims' original Thanksgiving feast (I'll leave it you to research Indigenous peoples' view on that day and the contemporary federal holiday). This revised and expanded graphic look at Indigenous history after contact with Europeans focuses on resistance and activism and provides a perspective that most of us throughout the Western Hemisphere aren't taught in school or in popular culture. From Columbus's several voyages and settlements through to very current protests against development of Native lands and the destruction of the environment, the stories are heartbreaking and introduce readers to Indigenous groups throughout the Americas.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in learning a different view of history and perfect for homeschooling or the classroom.


Kathy Martin 11/8/21, 8:34 AM  

Nice assortment of books. I really need to try Alix Harrow. I do love fairy tale inspired stories. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Laurel-Rain Snow 11/8/21, 9:47 AM  

Nanny Needed is going on my list! I love this kind of story.

Thanks for sharing, and enjoy your week...and thanks for visiting my blog.

Yvonne 11/8/21, 2:44 PM  

Interesting looking books. I hope you have a great week and a great November!

Jen at Introverted Reader 11/8/21, 6:35 PM  

I added most of these books as well. I read Code Girls earlier this year so The Woman All Spies Fear particularly caught my eye.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 11/8/21, 6:41 PM  

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow sounds fantastic. A series of fractured tales sounds even more fantastic.

Greg 11/8/21, 8:33 PM  

The Taking of Jemima and 500 Years both sound fabulous- and oh so timely. I want to read both now after reading this.

thecuecard 11/9/21, 7:53 AM  

I'm particularly thankful for your review of the Jemima Boone book which I gather is just out now ... I guess I didn't know about this episode in history ... but it sounds quite fascinating. Was she kidnapped for a long time or short? I will add this to my list. thanks.

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