The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist
This delightful illustrated biography is designed to introduce curious young minds to the life and work of Mary Anning, a girl from England who turned shell collecting and exploring the coast into a science, pioneering the field of paleontology. Uncover fossils and never-before-seen skeletons with Mary as she ventures through rough terrain, weather, and the Geological Society’s antiquated notions of gender equality, all while looking lovely in Austen era gowns and bonnets.
PALLAS GATES MCCORQUODALE (June 27, 2020)
In Heather Bell Adams’s novel The Good Luck Stone, wartime memories haunt a ninety-year-old woman, who also struggles to maintain her personal independence.
During World War II, Audrey ventured beyond her genteel Southern upbringing to volunteer as a combat nurse in the Philippines. While in training, Audrey became close friends with two fellow recruits, Kat and Penny. At first, the young women spent off-duty hours at the beach or dancing with soldiers; they wore similar jade brooches as expressions of sisterhood, noting the green stone’s reputation for luck, healing, and protection.
But beyond the trauma of treating injured men, Audrey and the other nurses soon endured near starvation, bombings by Japanese forces, and eventual enemy occupation. Audrey’s idealism upon arriving at Manila’s military hospital is contrasted with these grim nightmares.
For decades, Audrey tries to suppress her wartime experiences, including a romance with an army doctor, Kat’s death, and her anguished choice to return to the US, leaving Penny in the hellish South Pacific. Now a respected resident of Savannah, Audrey has cultivated a calm persona. The novel links her past and present with surety. In the present, Audrey is monitored for signs of mental and physical deterioration by her overbearing granddaughter, and she fights to maintain her dignity while managing her various health conditions.
When Audrey learns that Penny is dying, she drives to North Carolina to visit her. After years of silence, Audrey is compelled to reunite and explain why she had to leave Manila before the war ended. Along the way, though, Audrey becomes disoriented and neglects to take her medications. Her vulnerability and desperate need to get back on course are poignant and unnerving.
The Good Luck Stone is a riveting and intimate novel about singular friendships, courage, sacrifice, and the remarkable lives of the Greatest Generation.
MEG NOLA (June 27, 2020)
Inside the Fight for a Feminist Future
Energetic from the first, Kylie Cheung’s A Woman’s Place is blunt as it narrates the current political and social landscape with regard to women’s interests.
Each chapter tackles a different aspect of women’s existences, and many of the examined occurrences are fresh from intense public speculation and ridicule. From society’s gendered assignments of birth control responsibility, to the vexing quick halt of male birth control development due to side effects similar to ones experienced by women, the inequities pile up.
Cheung’s extensive response to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony at Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing suggests differences in acceptable public emotions between genders. She concludes that strong emotions from women in public places are more likely to be perceived as hysterical, and that such perceptions have the potential to cross over into life-threatening circumstances. Sobering data reveals women’s uphill battles in hospitals and doctor’s offices to have their claims of physical pain taken seriously.
The book’s chapter on social hierarchies is captivating as it highlights men’s perceived challenges within the #MeToo movement. Also touched on are the swept-under-the-rug divisions in feminist ideals according to ethnicity—the book criticizes white feminists who are less vocal and less seen when black women organize to speak out against police brutality and other race-based discrimination.
Written with authority and passion, A Woman’s Place is a packed tour through what it means to be a feminist and a rallying cry for women of all ethnicities. Though Cheung acknowledges that she is privileged, she also details the circumstances that led her to rise above comforts to speak up on behalf of all women.
A Woman’s Place is a hard-hitting, academic presentation of women’s struggles not just for equality, but to be seen, heard, and believed.
TANISHA RULE (June 27, 2020)
In Martha Hunt Handler’s young adult mystery Winter of the Wolf, a girl recovering from her brother’s death searches for answers.
Bean is devastated when her brother, Sam, is found dead after an apparent suicide. As her family falls apart, Bean questions everything. Sam was one of the gentlest, most alive people she knew. He also had a deep interest in Inuit culture and beliefs. To deal with her grief, Bean investigates her brother’s death, hoping to find out what really happened that snowy night.
With the help of her best friend, Julie, Bean questions her family and Sam’s friends. The one missing piece is Sam’s friend Skip, who disappeared the day after Sam’s death and has not been in touch since. As she discovers more about Inuit culture, Bean decides to conduct a shamanic ritual to connect with Sam’s spirit and find out what happened.
The book blends spiritual elements with its mystery, colored by the emotions of Bean’s family. When it comes to what others think of her, Bean is mature beyond her years, but in other respects, she’s a typical teenager, talking in slang, crushing on a boy from school, and hanging out with her best friend. Still, she channels spirits and goes deep when it comes to loss and acceptance, and her perspective shifts as she realizes how much she doesn’t know about her own family.
Clues regarding Sam’s death come through Bean’s dreams, family revelations, and the Inuit ritual that ties it all together. As Bean learns more about Sam, she learns about herself, too, and her place in her family and in the world.
Winter of the Wolf is an emotional novel in which discovering the truth sets a mourning teenager free.
ANGELA MCQUAY (June 27, 2020)
Collecting Lars Brown’s three-part web comic series in color, The Complete Penultimate Quest uses a fantasy setting to probe deep existential questions.
On a remote island, Harald prepares to go adventuring in a dungeon with his two friends, as he does every day. They’ve all been killed and resurrected many times, but while the others are content to continue this pattern, Harald wants out. Convinced his life must have a larger purpose, he embarks on a new quest—a search for meaning.
After encounters with monsters, strangers, and alternate versions of his friends, Harald remembers that he once aspired to build a cathedral. But even this goal will not satisfy him. In a final confrontation, he faces off against the wizard who created the island.
Though the story is couched in the traditions of swords and sorcery, there’s much more to it. At one point, Harald encounters a group of archaeologists in the future, at a dig; among other discoveries, they are attempting to translate early twenty-first-century text messages (“The words of a lost culture! Incredible!”). The moment doubles as an opportunity for levity and a quick dose of incisive social commentary.
Throughout the book, characters utter quotes from George Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare, George Meredith, and seventh-century Japanese poet Basho. With the book’s appealing mix of highbrow philosophizing with lowbrow humor, the silly paves the way for the profound.
The art is character-focused, with enough telling background details to make the settings clear. Harald and the others “restart” in not just medieval, but also modern-day settings, like an office and nightclub. A unique spin on the typical dungeon crawl, The Complete Penultimate Quest is a thoughtful—and thought-provoking—fantasy adventure.
PETER DABBENE (June 27, 2020)