Frog Music – Emma Donoghue

Frog Music - Emma Donoghue.This is a very different book from Room. Frog music is set in 1896 San Francisco, a time of small pox and rampant racism towards Chinese immigrants. There are two compelling women characters: Blanche is a dancer/prostitute and Jenny is a cross-dressing free spirit. Essentially, the book is a murder mystery and is very entertaining.

The Beekeeper’s Pupil – Sara George

The Beekeeper’s Pupil - Sara GeorgeThis is a story of two men: one is blind but has “vision”, to study the biology of bees; the other has sight, his manservant/assistant. The context is fascinating, an estate outside Geneva in the 1780-90s. So, like Darwin, the book describes painstaking research undertaken by amateurs. Experiments proceed by careful observation, by trial-and-error, but there is no documentation of course. Their bee research has another context, the French Revolution. This is a very fine book.  (thanks Erin).

The Wondrous Woo – Carrianne KY Leung

he Wondrous Woo - Carrianne KY LeungThis is a really excellent coming-of-age story of a Chinese-Canadian family in the late 1980s-early 90s. It is essentially a story of sibling relationships with strong emotions like alienation and grief with some magic was well. An intriguing story line: after the death of their father, two of the children acquire special gifts/abilities, but the third sibling does not. This “magic” is accepted without explanation or even much discussion: it is what it is, and this is very satisfying to the reader. (thanks Steph, for this recommendation).

Nobody Is Ever Missing – Catherine Lacey

Nobody Is Ever Missing - Catherine LaceyA brilliant story about a 28 year-old woman who flees her husband and her NY life, to go to New Zealand. She continues to be lost. The writing is amazing, long disjointed sentences to mirror her aimless thoughts. And the ending is intriguing.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca SklootHenrietta is a black woman who develops cervical cancer in 1951. Without her knowledge or consent, some cancerous tissue is removed during radium treatments of her cancer, and this tissue become the first immortal cell line (cells maintained in culture forever). The cells were named HeLa cells after the first two letters of her first and last name. The book meticulously details the subsequent exploitation of Henrietta and her family, at a time when the ethics of human experimentation was not considered. An excellent historical story of exploitation and racism.

Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier.jpegThis is the story of two women in the early 1800s in Lyme Regis England. They are both fossil hunters and remarkable finders, but this is in the era before extinction is proposed, and the issues of taking women seriously is paramount.  A very good read.  (thanks Thea).