Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

May 26, 2022 by

[Tricia]

This book was recommended to me by Veronique, who is always right. So of course I loved it. It tells the story of Elizabeth Zott, a chemist in the late 1950s/early1960s, who is unusual in many ways. A highly principled, dedicated scientist, she is utterly uninterested in fulfilling the gender norms and expectations of her time, and incapable of being anything other than herself. When she finds herself a single mother in need of a job, she becomes the host of a daytime television cooking show. She approaches the show much as she approaches everything else – as chemistry. I was completely absorbed in this book from start to finish. It is at times funny, sad, smart, and moving. It unsparingly highlights the indignities and abuse that women were subject to, particularly in the workplace. It also shows the many ways in which people manage to survive and grow and support each other, despite their pain and their circumstances. A really interesting and fully engaging read.

You can find Lessons in Chemistry here.

Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

May 25, 2022 by

[Tricia]

Every once in a while I get into a reading slump. Whether it is because I just can’t seem to focus well enough, or because the last book I read was so good that nothing else seems to measure up, or just for general life reasons, having a hard time reading is frustrating, particularly if books are a big part of your life (and job). Sometimes the thing that can bring me back is to read outside of my usual favorite genres. I’m not a frequent mystery reader, but every once in a while a murder mystery, particularly in the classic Agatha Christie tradition, is just what I need. So as a way out of this most recent reading slump I tried Anthony Horowitz’s Susan Ryeland series.

I had previously read and enjoyed Horowitz’s The Word is Murder, the first in the Hawthorne and Horowitz series in which the author himself is a character in the book, sort of the Watson to Hawthorne’s Holmes. This newer series revolves around book editor Susan Ryeland, whose most famous client, Alan Conway, writes the popular Atticus Pund detective series. In the first book, Magpie Murders, when Alan Conway is murdered, Ryeland tries to piece together what happened using the unfinished manuscript of his final book. In the second book, Moonflower Murders, Ryeland is called in to help investigate a murder and a disappearance that seem to be linked to one of Alan Conway’s earlier books. Both novels use a book-within-a-book format, where Ryeland (and the reader) are reading one of the Atticus Pund books, looking for clues to solve the case at hand. That gives you two cases to puzzle out (the one in the Atticus Pund book, and the actual case being investigated) through the course of each novel. The books are instantly engaging and absorbing, and appeal to a different part of my brain than much of what I usually read- the part that loves to do crossword and acrostic puzzles. These books were just the thing to pull me out of my reading slump. A very entertaining, enjoyable series.

Fix it with food: every meal easy by Michael Symon

May 20, 2022 by

[Cindy]

I am so excited by the new cookbook by Michael Symon!  I love cookbooks – the best (for me) are the cookbooks that draw you in with personal stories, colorful photos of completed dishes and easy to source ingredients (i.e. you have many of them all ready in your pantry or fridge or you can find them in your favorite supermarket).

I’ve followed Chef Symon for some time.  He’s a popular chef on the Food Network, has multiple restaurants (Lola, Mabel’s BBQ in Cleveland and others).  In 2020 and this year, he was the host at the “Steel Chef” challenge here in NH, which benefits the NH Food Bank.  A wonderful event for a very good cause.

This cookbook has become my latest “go-to” book.  I’ve made 5 of the recipes so far and have as many checked off to do in the future.  The book is intended to help find the foods that trigger autoimmune issues and inflammation and how to create simple, tasteful dishes to help you avoid your “triggers”. But, really, it is a great book with wonderful recipes that are easy to create and very tasty.

Most recipes in the book are designed for 1 or 2 servings.  However, he has a handy chart on how to increase those servings if necessary.  Another great feature is his “Master Substitution List”.  Let’s say the recipe calls for beets and you can’t stand beets, he lists 5 other root vegetables you can substitute.

I can’t say enough about this book.  It’s a keeper!

A picture of my actual, well-used copy:

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

May 7, 2022 by

[Tricia]

I’ve read only a few books about the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II, including the lovely novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, and most recently, the excellent, heart wrenching nonfiction book Facing the Mountain: The True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II by Daniel James Brown. Having just finished Facing the Mountain, I was drawn to read George Takei’s wonderful graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy, not just because I’m a fan from his Star Trek days, but because I was interested in the perspective of someone who had experienced first hand the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Takei was a young child when he and his family were incarcerated in one of the Camps, and the graphic format works so beautifully for telling this story from a child’s perspective. The book powerfully juxtaposes images of George and his brother playing games and exploring, with the pain and determination on his parents’ faces as they struggle to create a sense of normalcy for their children, and build a life and a community in this unthinkable situation. I was also really moved by the way that he managed to channel this horrific experience and all that he witnessed into a lifetime of activism, informed by his father’s strong belief in the ideals of democracy despite everything. A powerful and deeply relevant story. Highly recommended.

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

April 29, 2022 by

[Tricia]

This was such an unexpected book for me. I had read and liked another book by this author – Sorcerer to the Crown – which is kind of a Regency-era historical fantasy. Having read that I was not at all expecting this kind of edgy, contemporary urban fantasy, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jess Teoh grew up in the U.S. but after graduating from college, she moves to Malaysia with her parents when her father becomes sick. She is at loose ends, trying to adjust to life in this unfamiliar country, navigating tricky family dynamics with an extended family she hardly knows, and struggling to keep the fact of her long-distance girlfriend a secret from her parents. As if this weren’t enough, she wakes up one day possessed by the spirit of her dead grandmother. Her grandmother has some scores to settle with the world of the living, and she wants Jess to do the settling. Both Jess and Ah Ma, her grandmother, are kind of prickly, complicated characters and their dynamic is fascinating. I loved learning about Malaysian culture and religion. I also really liked the juxtaposition of the deep explorations of family obligations, identity, and survival within a plot that feels at times almost like an action movie. This was a surprising read, in a good way.

You can find Black Water Sister here.

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom

April 12, 2022 by

[Veronique]

What a powerful, heart wrenching but necessary memoir. It is estimated that about 55 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease/dementia, a number that is expected to double every 20 years. It is an epidemic of unbelievable proportions, and yet no cure, effective treatment or even prevention is available. Amy Bloom’s memoir not only highlights the ravaging effects for the patients, but also for all the entourage. And raises the question of why we can’t decide on our own peaceful death in America and have to travel overseas and spend a lot of money to make it happen. Everyone should read this book.

You can find In Love here.

Still Life by Sarah Winman

April 6, 2022 by

[Tricia]

This lovely, atmospheric, heartfelt book tells the story of a found family of English expats who, for a variety of reasons, are drawn to Florence, Italy to re-start their lives in the years following World War II. If you’re drawn to more plot-driven stories, this isn’t the book for you. While there are big events that happen, including World War II and the 1966 flood of Florence, the book focuses more on the ripple effects of these events on people’s lives. The book feels like a series of snapshots – glimpses into moments in time. It is also about art and survival and love and friendship. I’m woefully ignorant about art, and it made me want to know more. It also made me want to read A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, as Forster is a peripheral character in the book. There is just a touch of magic in the book, and your mileage may vary on that aspect of it, but I absolutely loved the central characters, particularly Evelyn and Ulysses and their lovely, life-long friendship. I already miss spending time in Florence with this group of interesting, complicated, lovely people [I just realized how many times I used the word “lovely” in this review – but it’s true].

You can find Still Life here.

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

April 1, 2022 by

[Tricia]

This can be a tough time of year, stuck between winter and spring, and sometimes you just need a nice book to help see you through it. I listened to this audiobook on Libby, read by the wonderful actor Mae Whitman, and it was just the thing – good company on cold, rainy walks. Greta James is an indie rocker whose career has stalled after the sudden death of her mother – her biggest fan. She ends up joining her father, with whom she has a rocky relationship, on the Alaskan cruise her parents had planned for their 40th anniversary. While the book certainly deals with grief and pain, it does so in a gentle way and with a light touch. Just a nice, enjoyable book.

You can find The Unsinkable Greta James here.

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson

March 28, 2022 by

[Cindy]

I have to start this review by saying that I’ve enjoyed all of the Peter Swanson’s books that I have read (especially Eight Perfect Murders), so expectations were high going in.

Nine strangers receive a list with their names on it in the mail. Nothing else, just a list of names on a single sheet of paper. None of the nine people know or have ever met the others on the list. They dismiss it as junk mail, a fluke—until very, very bad things begin happening to the people on the list.  I had no idea who was responsible until the end. This book could be compared to “And Then There Were None” or “The ABC Murders” but this book, while telling a similar story, really stands alone. I was kept guessing all the way through and found the ending a surprise and a well-plotted one. This was incredibly suspenseful with characters I really liked (except for one) and they were all believable and so was the dialog. This was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down.

You can find Nine Lives at the Library.

Storm of Echoes, by Christelle Dabos

March 20, 2022 by

[Lesley]
This is the final book in the Mirror Visitor Quartet and I loved it just as much as the first three. The fantastical world isn’t quite like anything else I’ve seen in a book even though it includes some nods to other books. All of the characters we’ve met over the previous three books come back in one way or another in this one and it’s nice to see them again… mostly. From the very beginning, the story is speeding down a funnel into a dark center — like one of those funnel things that you start spinning a coin down and it goes around a million times before inexorably disappearing out of sight. Had to wait years for this to get translated and published in English but it was totally worth the wait!
Find the Mirror Visitor Quartet in the library catalog here.