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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

    Sad but also enlightening Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is dramatic narrative of one girls life following the sudden death of her older sister. Here is my book review Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach.

    It’s a parents nightmare, to lose a child. But it’s also a nightmare for a sibling. This is a story told in a unique voice, about the coping mechanisms, the grief, the guilt, and the hope of the people who loved Kathy.

    Kathy’s sister Sally survives the car accident that takes Kathy’s life. But the reality is it takes Sally’s life too…as the world will never be the same. Espach writes this novel in Sally’s voice, as she talks to her sister beyond the grave about everything and everyone and how Kathy’s death affects each one. Especially what it does to Sally’s parents, and the young man Billy who was driving the car.

    Sometimes funny, a bit quirky in the writing style, but believable and heartfelt. A tragedy that changes a sister, a family and a community forever.

    ****Four stars for Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach. Thank you for reading my book review Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach.

    See last week’s book review Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

    I loved this book. Super fun, inspirational and engaging. Even though I totally think they blew it on the cover…it looks like a YA novel. Don’t let the cover fool you. It is a wonderful grown up novel. Here is my book review Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

    Elizabeth Zott is an incredible chemist. She is smarter than everyone she works with. She is brilliant and could change the world. Except for the fact it is early 1960’s and she is a woman. Relegated to sexual harassment, stereotyping and zero opportunities. There are so few women in science.

    All the men Elizabeth works with ignore her or abuse her until she meets Calvin…a noble prize nominated, brilliant chemist who falls in love with her for her mind.

    They have a brief and amazing affair, but fate intervenes. Calvin’s sudden death will change the trajectory of Elizabeth’s life in hundreds of ways, most importantly through the birth of a daughter.

    The real story begins here…when Elizabeth finds both friend and foe due to her illegitimate daughter. Her career takes a sharp right hand turn, she becomes a famous TV celebrity and begins to unravel the complicated history of Calvin. And all of this as so many wonderfully developed and flawed characters in this novel come in and out of her life…including one amazing dog named 6:30.

    This was an amusing, entertaining and gratifying read. Easy and enjoyable. A must read. Thank you for reading my book review Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

    *****Five Stars for Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

    See last week’s book review This is Happiness by Niall Williams

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review This is Happiness by Niall Williams

    Sweet, heartfelt and identifiable. This is a story about that one great love. This is a story about life. It will make you smile, cry and remember your first love and past regrets. Here is my book review This is Happiness by Niall Williams.

    Electricity is coming in the 1950’s to the small Irish village of Faha…a tiny hamlet where nothing ever changes. But change is in the air; electricity is being brought to the village, the rain has inexplicitly stopped, and a young boy is becoming a man.

    This beautifully written novel is told through the eyes of young Noel Crowe. Noel has been raised by his grandparents after the death of his mother. Noel is no longer a boy, but not quit a man in this funny little town full of interesting characters with a wild array of idiosyncrasies.

    When sixty-something year old Christy arrives to assist with the new electricity coming to the village, Noel’s life will change, and the entire town will change…in a place that has stayed the same for centuries.

    Young Noel and Christy will embark on some adventures, while Christy tries to make amends with the love of his life, who he left at the alter nearly fifty years before. Noel will mitigate this for Christy while also finding his own way through love, regret and religious questioning.

    This beautiful coming of age story will captivate you through the charming writing of Williams and the sentimental, tough and compassionate community of Faha.

    ****Four Stars for This is Happiness by Niall Williams

    Thank you for reading my book review This is Happiness by Niall Williams.

    See last week’s review The Girl With the Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

    We love it when you pin, comment and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    See this week’s top performing book review pin here Remarkably Bright Creatures

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson

    Jennifer Doudna is The Codebreaker. Walter Isaacson is the renowned author who can take her story and put it in lay terms we all can understand. Here is my book review The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson.

    The full title of this book is The Code Breaker Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing and the Future of the Human Race. My friend who is a librarian recommended this book to me. I listened to it on audible on a road trip. Though I might have gotten lost if I had been reading instead of listening to this book, which takes the reader through a fascinating history of gene editing. But I loved it as an audible book. Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Prize winner, along with a wide cast of other characters, are the brilliant and captivating scientists whose work has thrown open the door to gene editing.

    The decades of research and discoveries Doudna and her team, and many more teams around the world have done leading up to the current pandemic, were instrumental in developing tests for Covid. Their work will continue to impact the human race forever.

    Isaacon, whose list of books about intriguing people includes Steve Jobs, Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, da Vinci and others, is a talented and compelling writer. His knack for taking a difficult and deep subject and creating words and voices that are understandable and engrossing for the average person is remarkable. Everyone can learn something from The Code Breaker while realizing the human side of beguiling and competitive scientific developments.

    I learned so much from this book.

    *****Five stars for The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Code Breaker by Walter Issacson.

    Read last week’s book review Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt.

    Check out our Reading Year In Review here for 15 of my favorite books of the past year.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday Year In Review

    As you likely know if you have been following all these years, I track my reading year from July to July. Nothing fancy, just keep a little tally in my notebook of all the books I read. This year I read 80 books, and today I will share with you some of my favorites, once again, for Reading Wednesday Year In Review.

    Over the past year I have written 52 book reviews, pulling into reviews my favorites of the 80 books. Sixty of the 80 were read on my kindle, five were traditional books, while 13 were audible books we listened to on road trips. Some of my top books of the year were on Audible…a fantastic way to enjoy a book while driving.

    My Top Fifteen

    So today I will share with you my top 15 of my Reading Wedensday Year in Review, beginning with my top five in order;

    1. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doer – This remarkable book is either loved or hated, but for me, it was one of the most beautifully written, uniquely plotted, and astonishingly creative books of the past several years. I admit, if you can’t spend the time really digging deep to understand the complicated plot, (which jumps from medieval times to the distant future) you might not like it. It is not for the faint of heart. But it took my breath away and it is my favorite book of this year. This is a story of how life goes on.
    2. Trust by Hernan Diaz – Like Cuckoo Land, Diaz is brilliant in plot development of Trust taking multiple complicated storylines and weaving them beautifully into a book I could not put down. The story of early 19th century Wall Street is written in several different styles, and it adds to the fun and intrigue of this great book. This is a story of things aren’t always what they seem.
    3. Project Hail Mary by Anthony Weir – to be honest I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Generally I’m not a Science Fiction reader, but Weir’s story of a space mission to save the Earth had me falling in love with the characters (both human and not) and enjoying every aspect of this fun and exciting adventure story. This is a story of friendship and heroes.
    4. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabelle Wilkerson – last year one of my top books was Caste by Isabelle Wilkerson. When I learned she had an earlier book, I really wanted to read it. In this story Wilkerson’s vast research and interviews bring to life in the pages what it was like for the black population in the American South in the years after the Civil War. She follows a handful of real people as they make the life changing decision to leave the racially toxic southern states for points north and west. It’s a brilliant book that every American should read. This is a story of America’s racial tension then and now.
    5. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel – Mandel’s Station Eleven was one of my favorite reads of 2018, and once again she captivated me with Sea of Tranquility. It’s another story of alternate realities, looking both forward and back and ultimately leaving the reader wondering about their own daily reality. Is what we do and see each day real? Or is it all an illusion. This is a story about time and place and the human experience.

    And Ten More I Loved

    In no particular order, these ten more I recommend very highly;

    1. The Bonesetters Daughter by Amy Tan – This is a story of family and how cultural misunderstanding can lead to a life of sorrow. Sweet.

    2. The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton – This is a story of what some people will do for fame. Intense.

    3. So Brave Young and Handsome by Leif Enger – This is story about the early 1900’s in the United States and coming to terms with aging and choices we have made. Sentimental.

    4. The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn – This is a story of WWII and brave females who changed the course of the war. Exciting.

    5. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – This is a story about writers, plots and psychotic people in our midst. Jaw Dropping.

    And these too…

    6. Playing With Myself by Randy Rainbow – This book is about more than a comedian and satirist – it’s about growing up, coming out and love that binds through thick and thin. Heartfelt.

    7. The Candy House by Jennifer Eagan – This book is about a near future life where the internet rules our thoughts and memories. Creepy.

    8. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrel – This book is about the power men (husbands, fathers, lovers) had to make women disappear in the early 20th century. Horrifying.

    9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – This book is a classic American novel about a young girl coming of age in tenement in Brooklyn in the early 1900’s. Wonderful.

    10. The Maid by Nita Prose – This is a book about a quirky and lonely young women who finds adventure as a maid in a swanky hotel. Hilarious.

    Go Read a Book and Explore a New World

    Thanks for reading my Reading Wednesday Year in Review. I always welcome book suggestions, and I hope some of these make their way onto your reading list. Reading, like travel, is a door to understanding the world. Go read a book.

    See all our book reviews from the past year on our Reading Wednesday list here.

    Some more suggestions for you here from Goodreads.

    Next Wednesday we will be back to our weekly book reviews.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Trust by Hernan Diaz

    I loved the writing and clever plot presentation in this enthralling book. By the time I got it from the library wait-list I couldn’t remember what it was about or who had recommended it. But I dove in, and barely came up for breath. Here is my book review Trust by Hernan Diaz.

    The novel opens with a story about a 1930’s Wall Street Tycoon Benjamin Rask, with uncanny ability to know what the market will do, before it does it. The story also opens with the wife of this tycoon, Helen, who is slowly going mad.

    Next we jump to another story, but gosh the characters seem so familiar…but not exactly. Another wealthy Wall Street speculator Andrew Bevel, and his wife Mildred. Living in a world of wealth and philanthropy in the 1920’s in New York City, but the wife is slowly dying of cancer…I begin to wonder if this book is a collection of novellas pulled together about Wall Street?

    But no. Diaz has a exceptional writing style and he eloquently pulls these narratives into each other. The reader is not quit sure if you are reading an autobiography, a fictional tale, a diary or a manuscript. And you honestly are reading all of the above. What is going on here?

    Enter Ida Partenza. This young woman, will be the one who pulls all of these storylines together. But we first meet her as a 70-year-old women, looking back at her remarkable time with Andrew Bevel. A brief and strange employment that ended abruptly and left so many unanswered questions. Through her memory, and Diaz’s brilliant plot development, all of the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. And you will wonder…who can you ever really Trust?

    *****Five Stars for Trust by Hernan Diaz.

    Thank you for reading my book review Trust by Hernan Diaz.

    Read last week’s book review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

    This is a timeless and beautiful book, that for whatever reason, I have failed to read until now. And despite it being written nearly 80 years ago, the story remains captivating, graceful and engaging. Here is my book review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

    This coming of age story is largely autobiographical as the protagonist, a young girl named Francie and her family, are based on the author herself. We meet Francie in 1912 when she is eleven years old. Living in Williamsburg, a tenement neighborhood in Brooklyn. Life is very difficult for Francie and her family; Mother Katie a house cleaner is the family breadwinner; father Johnny sings in a restaurant but drinks away most of his earnings; and ten-year-old brother Neely is one of Francie’s only friends.

    Francie is intelligent but shy and her families circumstances make it difficult for her to make friends or do well in school. Francie escapes through books and reads everything she can. She also releases much of her pent up imagination through writing.

    Smith writes the family story jumping between present day (starting in 1912) and back to the early days of courtship of Johnny and Katie. Francie loves her father dearly, and senses her mother loves her brother more than her. But Katie realizes how smart and independent Francie is, and so leans more love Neely’s way.

    Francie and Neely both leave school to help support the family. Alcoholism eventually takes the life of Johnny, just before Katie learns she is pregnant with a third child.

    Francie wants to finish high school and go to college and have a boyfriend, but life is so hard for her and her family and leaving Brooklyn seems like an impossible dream.

    Throughout the book the reader will be drawn effortlessly into the deep feelings and emotions of these characters, and particularly the young girl Francie who goes from age 11 to age 17 – from a child to a young woman. Francie represents an entire generation of young girls like herself, whose 2nd generation immigrant parents give them everything the can for a better life.

    Betty Smith should have had a Pulitzer for this exquisite book. I loved it. It’s not too late to read this American masterpiece. Thanks for reading my book review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

    See last week’s review The Candy House by Jennifer Eagan.

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