Tag Archives: Heather

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Phenomenal book! Full of brilliant brave, strong women! It’s Charlie’s Angels as if written by Mary Shelley! I can’t use enough exclamation points!

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter includes all of the gothic horror of Moreau, Hyde/Jekyll, Holmes and Watson, Dracula and Van Helsing. I didn’t think it was possible to put all of my favorite things in one story but Goss did it.

The story begins with Mary Jekyll, who has just buried her mother and is orphaned and broke and desperate for a way to make money. She’s also very interested in the secrets of her father’s shadowy past…one clue leads her to believe that if she could locate her father’s former friend, Edward Hyde, there is a reward for his capture and this could solve some of her urgent money troubles.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a wild, untamed and hilarious young girl suddenly shoved into Mary’s care. With the help of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary becomes involved in a spectacular adventure and mystery and befriends more remarkable women, all of whom have been created through frightening experiments.
The women uncover a secret society of wicked scientists and they band together to fight the forces of evil and take back their identities.

It’s such a fun read, I highly recommend reading it as I did with the windows open and rain falling outside, crisp fall air and a large ginger cat at your feet. Or another colored cat, doesn’t have to be a ginger. Or a dog. Whatever your preference. But it’s the perfect book to curl up with during the autumn season.

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

 

For all the troublesome women out there…

Danielle Abbott has always been obsessed with the Drowning Pool. An area of her town’s river that has taken numerous women’s lives, including now, her own. Was it an accident? Suicide? Or something more?

Danielle had many enemies and she has left behind an angry teenage daughter who is harboring dark secrets from her best friend’s earlier drowning. Hawkins weaves together the secrets of the town and deaths as each chapter takes the voice of a different character and their viewpoint and involvement. Into the Water had me hypnotized and kept me guessing until the very end and even then I didn’t get it right! Hawkins is quickly becoming a master of psychological suspense.

I felt notes of magical realism peppered throughout the mystery. The way the Drowning Pool pulls you in and swept away so many women’s lives is eerie and otherworldly. Hawkins is particularly adept at capturing the way the past holds on to us and just how deceiving and destructive memories can be.

Just as addicting as Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins has a diehard fan in this librarian.

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Dorothea Lange

I was recently introduced to the photography of Dorothea Lange and I became instantly intrigued and immediately reserved several books on her. The first being a new children’s non-fiction book called Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Boston Weatherford. In this picture book biography I learned Lange had polio as a child and although she survived, it left her with a limp. A limp that caused her classmates to bully and avoid her. This later would influence Lange’s empathy toward people’s “otherness” and apartness.

When the Great Depression struck Lange took her camera to the streets. She photographed men waiting in bread lines and sleeping on sidewalks. The Depression had stolen their livelihoods and they had nowhere to go. Lange took their photos for the world to truly see them. This becomes a recurring theme in Lange’s work; seeking the downtrodden and showing the world their stories.

Weatherford’s book also includes beautiful illustrations about this inspiring and motivated woman.

Next I chose an adult non-fiction title, The Photographs of Dorothea Lange, where again I learned her most significant body of work was in the 30’s and 40’s documenting the Depression years. But my favorite work of Lange’s stems from her experiences working for the government photographing starving migrant workers in California. She also has some incredibly heartrending photographs of Japanese Americans interned on the West Coast during World War II. Lange managed to capture some of the darkest episodes of America’s history and her black and white photos evoke such emotion and empathy.

 

Finally, I chose a teen non-fiction title, Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge (Lange’s goddaughter), which is a more personal portrait of a woman who struggled to balance her passion for her career and her love for her family. Dorothea Lange was way ahead of her time. She existed during a period in America when women mainly stayed home with their children and husbands. Lange basically farmed out her children to others to be on the road pursuing her dreams. It’s easy to see and hear her frustration in her writings and photos of her love for her children but her desire and need to pursue her art.

All three books give a wide view of Lange’s intimate triumphs and failures. She was a complex and driven woman. I think she should be required reading and viewing for all Americans to understand our history.

Anyone interested in photography, American history or humanity will find her work exceedingly powerful and compelling.

Formats Available: Regular Print

Reviewed by Heather, St. Matthews

Graphic Novel Round-up – Strong, incredible, daring females!

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1: BFF by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare

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Imagine having a colossal T-Rex as pet in the modern day Marvel Universe.

And on the other end, imagine having a plucky and fearless teenage girl as a pet.

 

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On a Feline by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams

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Patsy has been to hell and back (literally) but nothing compares with having to find a job in New York City.

 

Spider-Woman, Vol. 2: New Duds by Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez

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Reporter Ben Urich joins Jessica Drew as she attempts to make a new life for herself separate from the Avengers.

A surprise Silver Age character joins their motley crew as they set out on a comical road trip across America.

 

Lumberjanes, Vol. 4: Out of Time by Shannon Waters and Noelle Stevenson

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Jen and the Lumberjanes find a way to save the day, again!

If you haven’t been introduced to Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley you are seriously missing out.

A hilariously entertaining ragtag band of brave and wondrous girls.

 

In the Sounds and Seas by Marnie Galloway

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A deep and thought-provoking wordless graphic novel.

If I had to make a pile of nice things to leave for a house guest to look at during a visit, this would be in it.

A positively beautiful book, check it out.

 

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

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A fantastic graphic for kids and teens (and adults!) about the Day of the Dead and letting go of the things that scare you.

Telgemeier magically and subtly conveys how at the end of the day, love transcends life and death.

I adore Raina’s books, I think this one is my very favorite of hers.

 

DC Comics: Bombshells, Vol. 2: Allies by Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage

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Wonder Woman!  Batgirls!  Supergirl!  Stargirl!  Batwoman!  Mera!  Zatanna!  Catwoman!  Amanda Waller!  Big Barda!

Need I say more?

As World War II storms across Europe some of the most extraordinary women in the DC universe band together to fight an old villain rising from the grave.

 

Ms. Marvel Vol. 4.: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

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In my opinion the very best of the Ms. Marvel volumes so far.

When the world is ending do you keep fighting or give up?

Or…dance it out!

Jersey City and Kamala are just the best.

Not to mention a cameo from Carol Danvers herself!

Formats Available: Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Heather, St. Matthews

Wicked Plants, Wicked Bugs

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocitieswickedplantssm

To be honest, I don’t do very well with adult nonfiction.  I just can’t seem to get as engrossed with it as I do fiction.  However, I am hooked on Amy Stewart’s books.  Her books are strange and wonderful and riveting.

Wicked Plants is a fascinating collection of nature’s most dangerous and toxic plants.  Mother Nature does not play y’all.  I am pretty much allergic to everything on Earth so this just confirmed my healthy fear of plants.

Bet you didn’t know most common house plants are surprisingly noxious.  That peace lily in your house could cause nausea and skin irritation and the ficus tree can incite severe allergic reactions.  Kudzu has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in the United States and even battle tanks couldn’t penetrate their rampant growth on a military base in Virginia.  Oleander, mandrake, killer algae and the stinging tree of Australia were a few of my favorite chapters as well.  The nightshade family is a very interesting genus.   I did not know tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant belong in the nightshade family along with belladonna and the poisonous jimsonweed.  Crazy sauce!

The illustrated etchings of the plants by Briony Morrow-Cribbs are an enchanting and lovely addition. If you love gardening, camping, being outdoors or you’re just like me and are captivated by the plant kingdom’s criminal element check out Amy Stewart.  She also has a book called The Drunken Botanist  I plan on starting soon.  Or keep going with Wicked Bugs!

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Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects

Now this one freaked me out.  You may be aware but humans are seriously outnumbered.  It is estimated that there are ten quintillion insects alive on the planet right now.  I didn’t even know quintillion was a word.  If insects decided to take over we would not stand a chance.

As much as they freak me out I can’t stand to squish a bug, I always feel so guilty.  They are pretty amazing creatures.  Except silverfish….I can’t stand silverfish.  ICK.

Amy Stewart explores the creepy crawly world of devilish and destructive bugs.  Bookworms were of particular interest to me as I am a librarian.  But the bullet ant (causes excruciating pain), the rat flea (did you know flea vomit is the true culprit in a plague epidemic?), Japanese beetles (deeply feared and loathed in the eastern U.S.) and the death watch beetle (Edgar Allan Poe refers to this one in his story “The Tell-Tale Heart”) were particularly intriguing.

Don’t get me started on the bed bug chapter…I just can’t…

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Also, it’s quite remarkable how many insects there are where the female eats the male after or during mating. The insect world is a bizarre and fantastical place to read about and Amy Stewart does a wonderful job in exploring their dark side.

Formats Available: Book, e-Book, Downloadable Audiobook, Playaway

Reviewed by Heather, St. Matthews

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

In Real Life is a book about gaming, economics, politics, and labor. Sounds like a tall order for a graphic novel, right? Not for Cory Doctorow!

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Anda discovers a new online game when a guest speaker comes to her tech class. Miss Liza McCombs, a gamer herself, introduces Anda and her classmates to one of the fastest growing multiplayer role playing games, Coarsegold Online. Anda begins to spend most of her free time on Coarsegold. It’s a place where she can be different than her real life self; strong, independent, a fighter, a leader and a hero. She also gets to meet people from all over the world and make new friends. And for Anda gaming is fun and a good thing.

However, things become problematic when she befriends a gold farmer, who turns out to be a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game collects valuable objects illegally and sells them to players from developed countries. This kind of behavior is against the rules in Coarsegold and Anda discovers the line between right and wrong is not black and white, especially when it comes to someone’s livelihood. Anda finds herself learning about the consequences of your actions and the courage to stand up to bullies.

Doctorow explores heavy topics such as poverty, culture clash, and the addictive nature of gaming. Yet he also delves into the advantages of gaming, including the self-confidence and cross-cultural benefits Anda gains throughout her online experience.

In Real Life is a timely read for adults and teens in an age of online gaming, digital addiction, and ever increasing dependence on technology. Doctorow and Wang have created an immensely fun, engaging and fast paced graphic novel for gamer girls and guys of all ages. Here’s hoping for more adventures with Anda!

Formats Available: Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Heather, St. Matthews

Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

darksparklerDark Sparkler is a stunning look into the dark and alluring world of Hollywood and the toll it claims. It is a haunting glimpse into how Hollywood and the world fixate on actresses/women/icons; then discards them.

Just to warn you it’s a book of poems all inspired by dead actresses. You know, thought I’d throw some light reading at you for the New Year.  🙂   But if you enjoy poetry and/or unsettling, provocative prose like I do give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

Tamblyn’s poetry is exquisite and the short glimpse of each of these women was an intense and emotional experience. Tamblyn explores over 25 different Hollywood actresses with poetic sway and truth. It’s enough to knock the wind out of you.  Some pages are a punch to the gut. Check out Lindsay Lohan, Taruni Sachdev and Sharon Tate to name a few (I know, Lohan isn’t dead. Take a look at her “poem” though).

Some of the names I had heard of and others I had to look up. Each one is equally fascinating and evocative. Tamblyn, (an actress herself) often inserts herself into the narrative, particularly in the epilogue, which is superb in itself. Possibly facing her own demons? Regardless, Tamblyn is a legit poet that I highly recommend checking out.

Formats Available: Book

Review by Heather, St. Matthews