American Eclipse by David Baron

americaneclipse

With the eclipse coming up on August 21, I wanted to be sure to read this book before then, and I’m glad I did.  Now I just wish I had planned ahead to go to a great viewing spot on August 21.  This engaging and well-researched book is full of information about the scientists and astronomers James Craig Watson, Maria Mitchell, and Thomas Edison during the total solar eclipse of 1878. Watson was trying to prove that a planet, Vulcan, did exist; Mitchell was proving that women could be outstanding scientists and forged ahead for women’s rights; and Edison was eager to test his new invention, the tasimeter, a device that measured heat.   The book primarily focuses on those three, but many other well-known and lesser-known figures of the day are also well-presented. It highlights an interesting time period for America where our country gained a lot of respect throughout the world for the astronomical and scientific endeavors.  Baron does a great job of developing and bringing to life the three main characters as well as the other characters, too, showcasing their struggles and triumphs.   As a female, I found it interesting that there was a widely held theory that women couldn’t be scientists because it would make them sick and barren.  “Fortunately, Mitchell and her success helped spur a study that dispelled that theory.  I would encourage you to rush out and read this before (or after if you can’t do it before) August 21.

Thank you to Edelweiss for providing me a copy of the book to read for an honest review.

 

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Book Covers That Look Alike

During my days working at the library. I see a lot of book covers.  As a result, I started to notice that I thought a lot of them looked alike, so I started a fun little project of keeping a file of books I think look alike.  Naturally. a lot of the ones that look alike are because they are for books written by the same author, but often that is not the case. I’m sure it is often the same person creating them, but I still find it interesting. I thought it would be fun to occasionally post those to this blog.  I’d love to have some interaction going with this, so if you have some that you think are similar as well, please feel free to share.  Here is my first set of book covers to start this off:

 

 

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

anything is possible

One of my book groups decided to read this for the August meeting after reading This is Lucy Barton last year.  This book is a follow-up to that book since it contains short stories about some of the characters mentioned in the earlier book.  Although Elizabeth Strout is a Pulitzer Prize winner, I’m not a big fan.  In her last book I found a stylistic element she used infuriating, and as a result it really distracted from my enjoyment of the book.  Surprisingly, I found that I did enjoy this one much more than the other two books I’ve read written by her. She didn’t use that annoying stylistic element, and I found the various stories enjoyable and characters interesting.  I also liked the  small town setting for the stories.  I think I might have enjoyed this even more if I remembered more from the earlier book, or if I had just read it.  Kimberly Farr who is an eight-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award for narration read this audiobook and was enjoyable to listen to.  If you’ve enjoyed her other books, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one as well.

 

 

 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

trulymadlyguilty

Although I received a copy of this from NetGalley before it came out, unfortunately I didn’t get to this one until my book group decided to discuss it.  Liane Moriarty writes character driven books well with great insight into human behavior.  This is the third book of hers that I have read and enjoyed.  The story line revolves around three couples: one has a marriage on the rocks, another is struggling with fertility issues unbeknownst to their best friends, and the last couple leads the high life in an extravagant house, and the wife has a secret past.  In her typical style, Moriarty skillfully unfolds the story in alternating chapters about the characters, and the book also alternates back and forth in time.  She lets the reader know that something horrible happened at a BBQ all three couples attended along with the children, but she keeps you in suspense for a large portion of the book.  Woven throughout is a concert cellist stressed out about an upcoming audition of a lifetime, the death of a cranky difficult neighbor, a resentful friendship on one end and a clingy one on the other end, a mother with hoarding issues, several secrets,  struggles raising a family, and, of course, guilt.  My one issue with the book (and it’s a minor one) is that it took way too long to find out what happened at the BBQ.  At first it was suspenseful, but then it turned frustrating.  I will say it didn’t go the way I thought it would, and the book does have some unexpected twists that keep it interesting.  Her books are easy reading yet have a lot of substance to them.  My book group had a lively time discussing this one. Although it wasn’t my favorite book of hers, I would still definitely recommend it.

 

Malice by Keigo Higashino

Malice

This is the second book I’ve read by Keigo Higashino and both of the books have been creative and original.  His mysteries are set in Japan, and he is the most widely read novelist there.  I previously read and adored his first book, The Devotion of Suspect X which won several awards. I would review it as well, but it’s been a while since I read it.  I would highly recommend it,too, though.

The storyline for this book features 2 authors who are friends. Kunihiko Hidaka is a very successful author who is found dead in his home.  He was planning to move the next day with his new wife from Japan to Vancouver, but when his childrens’ author, best friend, Osamu Nonoguchi, goes to visit him before he leaves, the famous author is found dead.  When Detective Kaga is called in to the scene, he recognizes Nonoguchi because they were once colleagues at a public school.  It appears to be a locked room mystery since the office where Hidaka was found was locked.  Soon Kaga has his suspect but cannot determine a motive.  He digs deeper, and when you think everything is figured out, there is another twist.

For a while it seemed like all the mysteries I was reading were dark and had protagonists drenched in problems like dysfunctional relationships, addictions, anger, etc.  What I liked about this book is that Malice has none of that.  Higashino writes well with great plotting and a good puzzle to try to figure out.  His detective is smart, and I liked the way he kept digging to find out the “why” even though he had a confession.  I also like his setting in Japan.

 

 

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

the second mrs. hockaday

This is an interesting historical fiction novel set during the Civil War that chronicles the difficult life of Placidia Finchler who is raised in privilege and then is thrown into hardship at age 17 when her new husband is sent away to rejoin the war after their brief honeymoon.  The story is told through letters, diaries, and court records, revealing how she came to be married to Major Hockaday, a recent widower.  When he returns to the war, Placidia suddenly finds herself in an unfamiliar place, alone, and in charge of his farm and young son.  When he returns after 2 years, he finds that Placidia had been pregnant and is accused of murdering the child. She will not reveal what happened because she wants to protect someone who had protected her. The truth of what happens eventually unfolds over the course of the book. This is a relatively short book, but I didn’t find it to be a fast pace or quick read.  I usually love most books published by Algonquin; however, I wasn’t over the moon about this one like I expected, although I did enjoy it.  The story was good, but I didn’t feel as attached to the characters as I felt I should be.  I was enticed to find out what happened, but felt that took a little too long to unfold.  In addition, although usually stories going back and forth in time aren’t a problem for me, I think this time it contributed to my lack of a strong connection.  If you are a fan of epistolary books, historical fiction (especially the Civil War period), and books with strong female characters or a bit of a mystery, I would still recommend this book.

 

 

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

chilburyladieschoir

I absolutely adored this novel.  It is set in a small English village during World War II. The church choir is disbanded because most of the men have gone off to war, but with the help from a new music professor at the nearby university, a new ladies choir is formed.  The story of the villagers is told through letters and diaries, and using this method to tell the story allows the reader to get to know these delightful characters intimately and to learn what is going on in their minds.  The story lines for the various villagers are interesting with stories including love affairs, grief over lives lost, worries over men fighting, a baby swap by a midwife, scandal, a suspected spy,  friendships formed, personal growth, and strong women who come together in a difficult time.

I listened to this book and highly recommend that you listen to the audio.  It was fabulous and really brought this charming book to life.  If you liked the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, you’ll like this book.

 

 

 

The Life She Was Given by Ellie Marie Wiseman

The Life She Was Given

This book begins with the story of Lilly, a nine-year-old who has been held prisoner in the attic of her home, Blackwood Manor, supposedly for her own protection.  Her parents have told her people would think she’s a monster if they saw her.  One night, looking out her window, she sees the lights of the traveling circus that has stopped on their property. Her life soon changes when her mother whisks her away in the night and sells her to the freak show at the traveling circus. Another story is introduced set twenty years later about nineteen-year-old Julia who had run away from home at the age of 15 because of her strict, overbearing religious mother and father.  She is barely making a living when she finds out that Blackwood Manor and its farm have been left to her following her mother’s death.  A stipulation of the will is that to inherit it, she must live on the property, so she returns to Blackwood Manor.  The book goes back and forth between the two stories where eventually the story lines cross.  I especially liked Lilly’s story as she grew and became a stronger person.  The circus story was interesting although it did have some brutal scenes both with humans and animals that were difficult.  I was pulled in from the beginning and had trouble putting the book down throughout the entire book.  All the right elements were there for me – good writing, great characters, a compelling story line, women finding their inner strength, secrets revealed, and a vivid sense of place.  I received an ARC from Edelweiss, and this book will be coming out in July of 2017.

Growing Up White by Dwight Ritter

Growin' Up White

I recently read this for one of the book groups I am in.  The author grew up in Indianapolis and discussed this book last fall at the library where I work in Carmel.  He is a white man who grew up in a black neighborhood in Indianapolis during the fifties, and this book was the result of his experiences growing up during a racially charged time.  The book is told through Ricky Stoner’s eyes as he grows up.  His dad is a doctor who treats many in the black community and his mom is a prodigy classical pianist. When his dad brings Georgey in to help take care of the family, she becomes part of their family. Ricky also becomes attached to her black community, Frog Island, making many friends and becoming best friends with another boy there.  The characters are extremely well-developed, and through his writing I felt like I was right there alongside them throughout the book.  I also enjoyed learning some of the history of the area I now live in. The topic of race relations is timely, and unfortunately there are still many of those tensions today.  It’s a terrific story and is told in a fair, non-preachy manner.  At the end of the book I couldn’t believe how attached I had become to the characters and story.

 

 

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

i liked my life

This book sucked me in from the very first sentence, “I found the perfect wife for my husband”. Maddy is dead but stuck in transition after an apparent suicide.  She leaves behind a husband, Brady, and a teenage daughter, Eve.  She is still trying to direct their lives from beyond by putting thoughts in their heads.  I don’t believe a person can direct what happens on earth after they die, but that didn’t take away from the story for me.  I found it to be compelling  and moving as you journey with Brady and Eve as they struggle with trying to understand why she committed suicide and the fallout afterward.  This debut is beautifully written in alternating chapters giving points of view from from the major characters which provided a lot of insight.  The woman she has chosen, Rory, becomes involved in their life and helps them in dealing with their grief.  For a depressing topic of dealing with suicide, it was more uplifting than I expected, and I found this book to be well done .  The character development is excellent, and I can’t describe adequately how touched I was by this book.