Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles.

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets and astronauts into space.

Among these problem solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly these overlooked math whizzes had shots at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia, and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black West Computing group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the civil rights movement, and the space race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades as they faced challenges, forged alliances, and used their intellects to change their own lives – and their country’s future.

 

I bought the audiobook after seeing the movie in 2017 and wanted to listen to it now for Women’s History Month.

I am so torn about what to say. I think these stories are so important – the unsung heroes, especially women, who didn’t get the credit they deserved. The brains behind the achievements and discoveries much be known. Especially when it is centered around women in STEM.

However, listening to this book was a real struggle. I would tune out, or leave the room and let it run. Half way through I started skipping ahead so I could “skim” it. It was filled with too many facts. It was like listening to a text book. I especially would tune out when it explained anything about engineering, aerodynamics, mathematics, or computing. There were also so many facts about the history of segregation and the space race. I understand the importance of telling it, but the delivery – just rambling facts was so boring.

I often struggle with non-fiction books. I want to be shown facts, not told facts. In the end what I really wanted was the movie in novel form.

2 out of 5 Rockets.

Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie

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A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend–the man he trusts most and might even love–only to learn that he’s secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.

Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres–his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.

But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?

I got this ARC from the Book Wizard at New York Comic Con 2019.

They story starts off with a lot of action and interesting characters. The middle lags a bit and it wasn’t until the last hundred pages or so that it became a page turner. Also, with the coronavirus quarantine happening I had a whole day to finish the last 100 pages.

The story is packed with tropes (star-crossed lovers, fake dating, there’s only one bed,etc.) but even so, it was all fun. I really liked that it wasn’t instant-love between Ettian and Gal. They have known each other from 2.5 years, so we already in the middle of them pinning for one another.

 

The rest of the review has some spoilers. So beware.

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The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson, Narrated by Kate Mulgrew & Francesca Faridany

In 1912, scientist Marie Curie spent two months on the British seaside at the home of Hertha Ayrton, an accomplished mathematician, inventor, and suffragette. At the time, Curie was in the throes of a scandal in France over her affair with Paul Langevin, which threatened to overshadow the accomplishment of her second Nobel Prize.

Performed by Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany, this play by Lauren Gunderson is an ode to two remarkable women who, despite tremendous personal and professional obstacles, continued to devote their lives to scientific innovation and social change.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson was awarded a commission through the Audible Emerging Playwrights Fund, an initiative dedicated to developing innovative original plays driven by language and voice. As an Audible commissioned playwright, she received funding and creative support to develop The Half-Life of Marie Curie.

I finally decided to listen to this Audible Original for Women’s History Month. I really loved it.

First – I never knew that Marie Curie had an affair with a married man and there was a whole scandal. So, wherever she is now she should be happy to know that is not her legacy. I only knew of her scientific achievements.

Second – I am embarrassed to say I never heard of Hertha Ayrton. But that is what Women’s History Month and audiobooks are for, learning new things. She sounds badass.

The performances were fantastic. Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany had great chemistry. There were some sad moments:

Hertha Ayrton: It’s love’s destiny to wound us. That’s how you know it mattered at all.

But also it was incredibly funny. This cracked me up:

Hertha Ayrton: Men get to have sex all the time. They don’t mind what Einstein does with his evenings. Einstein gets to keep his lab.

Marie Curie: Einstein doesn’t have a lab. He just wanders the halls looking a bit off.

Also, it being a short audio drama, it is so easy to listen to again anytime.

5 out of 5 Nobel Prizes.

Top Ten Tuesday March 10: Authors Who Have a Fun Social Media Presence

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Updates are now at That Artsy Reader Girl.

March 10: Authors Who Have a Fun Social Media Presence

These are the authors I follow on SM. Some I only follow on Twitter, some I also follow on Instagram/Facebook.

1) Pierce Brown.
2) Deborah Harkness.
3) Katherine Arden.
4) Erin Morgenstern.
5) E.K. Johnston.
6) Stephen Chbosky.
7) Claudia Gray.
8) Nicola Yoon.
9) Ruta Sepetys.

Top Ten Tuesday March 3: Books With Single-Word Titles

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Updates are now at That Artsy Reader Girl.

March 3: Books With Single-Word Titles (submitted by Kitty from Kitty Marie’s Reading Corner)


1) Lightless by C.A. Higgins
2) Supernova by C.A. Higgins
3) Radiate by C.A. Higgins
4) Horns by Joe Hill
5) Proxy by Alex London
6) Guardian by Alex London
7) Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
8) Nemesis by Brendan Reichs
9) Divergent by Veronica Roth
10) Carrie by Stephen King,
11) Dracula by Bram Stoker
12) Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
13) Jackpot by Nic Stone
14) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
15) Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
16) Alight by Scott Sigler

Romeo and Juliet: A Novel by David Hewson, narrated by Richard Armitage

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Exclusively written for Audible, only available in audio

“I think Romeo and Juliet is the greatest, most tragic love story ever told. What David Hewson did with this script is so exciting to me. I really love the fact that he followed avenues that Shakespeare suggested but didn’t necessarily detail in depth. If you want to immerse yourself in a warm bath of Garganega and the heat of Verona and hear a brilliant story about a young woman who is challenging the restraints of her time, listen to this audiobook, which has romance, poetry, politics, and humor to spare.”(Narrator Richard Armitage)

It’s a story you think you know: the age-old tale of “star-cross’d lovers”; two families at war; a romance, so pure and absolute, fated for a tragic end. It’s a story so thoroughly embedded in our culture, and so frequently retold. Yet, nothing captures the spark, the possibility, and the surprise of Shakespeare’s work quite like this….

In Romeo and Juliet: A Novel, author David Hewson reworks and expands on the classic story so that it becomes something richer, something new and entirely its own. Much more than a simple love story, it is a brilliant examination of young versus old, hope against despair, and, for Juliet, the search for individual identity at a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel.

An original production commissioned by Audible, Romeo and Juliet: A Novel marks the second pairing of David Hewson and actor Richard Armitage, whose previous partnership resulted in Audible’s 2014 Audiobook of the Year, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel. Hewson’s talent for writing for audio is undeniable, and he finds his perfect vocal foil in Armitage, an actor of immense range and absorbing intensity. Together, they bring you a familiar story told in a surprising way – with an ending you might not expect.

Bonus: Audiobook includes an afterword written and narrated by David Hewson.

I am not a big fan of Romeo and Juliet. I got this audiobook because Richard Armitage is the narrator. Since Valentine’s Day is in February I made this my V-month listen.

It took a while for me to get into the story because I am not a fan of this classic tale, but once I did get into it I really enjoyed it.

Something I learned in the Author’s Note at the end is that Shakespeare didn’t come up with the story originally . The tale of Romeo and Juliet already existed in the form of a few Italian romances that were an inspiration for Shakespeare. I liked this new take on the story. I really loved the time setting and the little hints thrown in about the Renaissance, like Da Vinci. I also really liked the modern, intelligent and independent version of Juliet in this new version.

I had forgotten how many famous lines came from R&J. It was much easier to understand in novel form. The prose is very pretty.

Richard’s narration is excellent. He has a great range of different voices for the characters, and his voice is just downright sexy. Oh my goodness gracious, the wedding night scene. With the honey and that verse…that was steamy. *Unfolds a fan.*

In the end I’m glad I pushed through and gave this a chance. It turned out to be a version of Romeo and Juliet that I enjoyed.

Overall: 3 out of 5 Poisons
Performance: 5 out of 5 Poisons
Story: 4 out of 5 Poisons

Some of my favorite quotes:

Chapter 9: A husband betrayed was a cuckold. A woman treated the same way was a wife.

Chapter 31: Rash acts may spur rash consequences.

Chapter 49: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.

 

Top Ten Tuesday February 18: The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Updates are now at That Artsy Reader Girl.

February 18: The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover (submitted by Deanna @ A Novel Glimpse)

These books left me with a hangover either because they were intense, thought-provoking, or heart-wrenching.

1) Dark Age by Pierce Brown
2) The Color Purple by Alice Walker
3) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
4) The Fountains of Silence  by Ruta Sepetys
5) The Starless Sea by  Erin Morgenstern
6) The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
7) The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
8) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
9) NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
10) The Shining by Stephen King
11) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver