Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry
Bonnie Garmus

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I waited a long time to be first on the library holds list for Lessons in Chemistry and it was worth it! What a delightful, amusing, heart-wrenching and lovable book. With over 93,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.5-star average rating, Garmus’s debut novel was named Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Elle, Oprah Daily, Newsweek, GoodReads, Bookpage and Kirkus.  I am not one to always jump on the bandwagon (though I do pay attention), but guess what? Everyone’s right IMO.

Set in southern California, the story begins in 1961 as Elizabeth Zott starts her day. She’s thirty-one, single mother to precocious five-year-old Madeline, and host of a wildly popular afternoon television show, Supper at Six. Although Elizabeth is an excellent cook, she’s also an unjustly unemployed chemist. Through her show, she opens the eyes of millions of American unappreciated and discounted housewives.

Elizabeth knows about not being taken seriously. As a chemist in a male-dominated field, she fought to be recognized for her work in chemistry, and lost. The irony of being a cooking show host to housewives depresses her. She also lost her soulmate, the brilliant chemist and Nobel nominee Calvin Evans. Calvin was the one person who took her work seriously. Supper at Six pays the bills, but she must find a way back to the world of science.

Supper at Six is an unusual show. Elizabeth offers no-nonsense cooking advice and teaches chemistry while she cooks. And she always offers a message to her rapt female audience: demand to be taken seriously, pursue your goals, you can do anything. “Cooking is chemistry,” she tells her audience. “And chemistry is life. Your ability to change everything—including yourself—starts here.” Elizabeth breaks all the established television rules and drives her producer crazy. Their boss threatens to cancel the show if she doesn’t toe the line.

I don’t want to say anything more about the plot because it’s just too good to relate second-hand. I love how Elizabeth says exactly what she thinks and doesn’t worry about the consequences. I love the dialogue and the POVs of Garmus’s main characters, including Elizabeth’s soulful dog, Six-Thirty. I love how Garmus tempers heartache with humor and depicts the 1960s when women began to demand recognition. Additional themes include love, family, loss, religion, secrets, fame and the accepted practice of going along to get along.

While Lessons in Chemistry may appeal mostly to women, this is a feel-good book for all readers.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Mary Anne Edwards

Mary Anne Edwards

Name: Mary Anne Edwards       

Books: The Charlie McClung Mystery Series

Genre: Clean Traditional Mystery (not cozies)

Background: Mary Anne and her husband live in Canton, GA with an ill-tempered Tuxedo cat named Gertrude. Mary Anne volunteers at MUST Ministries and is a library liaison for her local chapter of Friends of the Library.

When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer: In 2009, my sister was involved in a shooting. That was how the Charlie McClung Mystery Series began.

Do you write full-time? If not, do you have an outside job or other responsibilities? Yes, I write full-time, sort of. Once a week, I volunteer for a non-profit who help those who are financially and food insecure.

If you write fiction, where do you get your ideas for characters and plots? The first idea for my fiction series began with the tragic shooting of sister, fortunately she lived. The other plots originate from a combination of music lyrics, news stories, and the devious side of my brain. My characters are like Frankenstein, bits and pieces from people I observe.

For fiction writers, have you ever written yourself into a story? Some people who know my husband me and have read my books asks if the two main protagonists are us. Yes, they are, well, the wish-we-were versions.

If you write nonfiction, tell me about your projects. What subjects motivate you? I’m writing a cookbook inspired the Charlie McClung Mysteries. My fans wanted it.

What kind of research and preparation do you do before you write? The series is set during the 1980s, so I do a lot of research to ensure things did or didn’t exist during that time period. I have a team of subject matter experts, a forensic pathologist, FBI agent, retired chief of police, a doctor specializing in poisons, a nurse practitioner, and the internet. I want my stories as accurate as possible down to the weather and what the crime scene would look like.

What is your editing process? Do you hire an outside editor? I cannot self-edit. My husband does two edits. Then I send it to an outside editor.

How do you decide on your book covers? Do you outsource? I outsource my book covers. I give them the short description of the book, genre, and a few ideas, then they work their magic.

How did you come up with the title of your latest book? From song lyrics, mainly Tom Petty

What route did you take to get published? Describe your experience.: I spoke with indie/trad writers who steered me toward indie. It’s been an eye-opening adventure.

Have you ever tried to get an agent? If so, what steps did you take? Nope!

What kinds of things do you do to promote your book? Amazon ads, social media, paid promotions, blogs, and word of mouth

Have you ever had a book-signing event? Tell us about your experience. I’ve had successful ones and some embarrassingly duds.

Have you taken writing courses? Yes, lots of them

Do you belong to a writer’s group? If so, is it in-person or online? Tell us about your experience. I used to be a member of Sisters in Crime, in person group, which I enjoyed.

Are you in a book club? If so, tell us about it. Is it in-person or online? Friends or acquaintances? I’m a member of an in-person mystery book club with friends and neighbors.

Do you ask friends/family to read your WIP? Friends and fans

Name three unread books on your bookshelf. Dark Tide Rising, Evil Never Dies, and Tidewater Inn

What is the last book you read? Defending Jacob

How many pages do you think a book of fiction/nonfiction should be? I don’t care if the book holds my interest.

What is the riskiest or wildest thing you’ve ever done? I went sliding down the side of a dam like all the other kids were doing.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? Having to plan my mother’s funeral

What advice can you give to new writers entering the writing and publishing arena? Save a lot of money for your writing expenses. Don’t worry about writing every day. Family comes first.

Website and social media links:

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email for a bio template and other details.

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On YouTube: Blind Date with a Book – review of The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

Hi Everyone,

I’m on YouTube today, talking about The Breakdown by B. A. Paris. This was the Blind Date with a Book I chose from the library and it was A WINNER! I hope you’ll pop over and hear what it’s about.

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Book Club Mom’s Short Reviews of Recommended Reads

I’m kicking off the new year with a new feature: Short Reviews of Recommended Reads. Take a look!

A Girl Named Truth by Alethea Kehas – I learned a lot about my blogging friend Alethea in this engrossing and beautifully written memoir about her unconventional upbringing, and more importantly, her struggle to know how truth (her namesake) fits into the narrative of her life. From her early days of rustic camping in Oregon, to life on the run with her mother and older sister in various Hare Krishna compounds, to a new chapters in New Hampshire, Alethea adapts, yet yearns to understand where she fits in. Particularly troubling is her father’s distance, a man who had once searched for his daughters, but gave up. For Alethea, truth and understanding come full circle as she enters marriage and motherhood. There’s lots more in this book. Stay tuned for a special author interview in February!

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben – Nap Dumas is a rogue detective in North Jersey, haunted by the deaths fifteen years earlier of his twin brother, Leo, his brother’s girlfriend, Diana Styles, and the disappearance of Nap’s girlfriend, Maura, When Maura’s fingerprints turn up on a car, Nap becomes obsessed with discovering what really happened during the fall of their senior year in high school. In question are his brother’s Conspiracy Club and the government’s Nike missile base in their town during the 1970s. Now it seems that someone is killing off the other Conspiracy Club members. Captain Augie Styles still mourns the death of his only child and feels particularly vulnerable with these new developments. I’m always drawn to books set in New Jersey and knew nothing about the Nike missile bases planted in the area, so learning about that was interesting to me. Overall, however, a typical fast troubled-detective story.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara – Jai is a nine-year-old boy living with his family in the crowded slums of a large Indian city. When one of his classmates disappears, Jai and his friends form a detective club to solve the mystery, only to discover a series of terrible crimes. This mystery portrays a vivid and sobering look at the desperate lives of many poor people living in metropolitan India. Despite their impoverishment, Jai and his family cling to their beliefs and traditions. The author also shows the conflicts between Hindus and their Muslim neighbors, who are quickly blamed for the crimes. A multitude of terms and references make this a bit of a slow read, but very moving and informative.

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

Book Review: The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks

The Lindbergh Nanny
Mariah Fredericks

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s hard for me to resist a story about the Lindbergh kidnapping and I enjoyed reading this historical fiction account of Betty Goss, the nanny who took care of the Lindbergh baby and was the last person to see him alive. If you’re not familiar with the kidnapping, here’s a quick summary.

On March 1, 1932, in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, Charlie Lindbergh, toddler son of the famous aviator Charles and his wife Anne, was asleep in his crib when someone climbed a ladder, came through the window to his nursery and kidnapped him. Two months later, a trucker discovered his partially buried body on the side of a nearby road. In September 1934, police arrested a German immigrant carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann and charged him with murder. Hauptman insisted he was innocent, but a jury found him guilty and he was electrocuted in 1936.

Betty came under a great deal of scrutiny because she had left the window to Charlie’s room open on the night of the kidnapping. Police and investigators felt strongly that it was an inside job, that someone had told the kidnapper that the Lindberghs would be home that night and suggested that Betty left the window open to allow access to the room. But Betty wasn’t the only person under suspicion. Police questioned and requestioned many members of the staff who worked for the Lindberghs as well as the Morrows, Anne’s family. Police also investigated Betty’s past, suggested she was connected to the Chicago mafia and were suspicious of her relationship with a young Norwegian sailor.

Fredericks does a good job describing the lives of the super-wealthy Morrows and Lindberghs and the lively, sometimes scandalous relationships between the Morrows’ butler, chauffeur, maids and servers, as well as the Lindbergh’s cook and caretaker. Readers also get a look at what Charles and Anne were like as new parents. Charles insisted on a strict hands-off parenting style and felt that too much affection and attention was a bad thing.

I liked how the author described their lives before the kidnapping, during the investigation and at the trial where Betty was called to testify. I also liked how the author tells the story through Betty’s point of view. In her closing notes about the book, Fredericks talks about her fascination with the Lindbergh kidnapping and her interest in writing about Betty Goss. “When I first started exploring the identity of the actual Lindbergh nurse (the term then preferred over ‘nanny’), I was amazed no one had written her story since it first appeared in the headlines nearly a century ago.”

I was going to give this a 3.5 star rating because at times, I had trouble following parts that described Betty’s movements and thoughts. But the story picked up a great deal during the trial and totally surprised me with a possible explanation of how the kidnapping occurred and who was responsible. Definitely speculative, but we will never know the true story.

There is plenty of information about the kidnapping online and you can start with this Wikipedia account. In addition, if you’d like to read more, check out these two books, the first reviewed by my sister, K (thanks K!).

Their Fifteen Minutes: Biographical Sketches of the Lindbergh Case by Mark W. Falzini

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

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Who’s That Indie Author? Paula Light

Paula Light

Name: Paula Light

Books: Ghosted (latest), various poetry and short story compilations

Genre: general fiction, romance, poetry

Background: I’m a writer in Orange County, California. My interests include fiction, poetry, movies, painting, and cupcakes. I enjoy reading and writing about a variety of topics.

When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer? I have always written, even as a very young child.

Do you write full-time? If not, do you have an outside job or other responsibilities? I have a “real job” and write in my free time.

Where do you get your ideas for characters and plots? Everywhere. Real life, fiction, movies, songs, etc.

Have you ever written yourself into a story? Most of my protagonists have an aspect or two of me built in, but I have not appeared as me.

What kind of research and preparation do you do before you write? Whatever is necessary, such as researching a city online, checking major events of the past, organizing dates/timelines, etc.

What is your editing process? Do you hire an outside editor? I do my own.

How do you decide on your book covers? Do you outsource? I do them myself on Amazon KDP with free photos.

How did you come up with the title of your latest book? I was literally ghosted in a dating experience and it went from there.

What route did you take to get published? Describe your experience. I self-publish on Amazon KDP after spending a few years chasing romance publishers.

Have you ever tried to get an agent? If so, what steps did you take? I briefly attempted this in the early 2000’s. It’s too time-consuming and energy-draining to chase agents and publishers. I just want to write!

What kinds of things do you do to promote your book? Not much. Mostly I just mention my books on my blog.

Have you ever had a book-signing event? Tell us about your experience. No. My books are all in electronic format.

Have you taken writing courses? Way back in college I took poetry and writing workshops.

Do you belong to a writer’s group? If so, is it in-person or online? Tell us about your experience. I am not currently participating in writing groups, though I have in the past.

Are you in a book club? If so, tell us about it. Is it in-person or online? Friends or acquaintances? I belong to several book clubs ~ romance, general fiction, philosophy. I don’t always want to read the assigned books, but when I do it’s enjoyable to meet up and discuss them.

Do you ask friends/family to read your WIP? One of my daughters will read a portion of a WIP if I ask for her opinion. She helped quite a bit with Ghosted.

Name three unread books on your bookshelf. This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub. The Last Lie Told by Debra Webb. Marley & Me by John Grogan

What is the last book you read? Philosophy of Nature by Paul Feyerabend

How many pages do you think a book of fiction/nonfiction should be? However many it takes to tell the story in an entertaining way

What is the riskiest or wildest thing you’ve ever done? Online dating

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? Getting divorced at age 50

What advice can you give to new writers entering the writing and publishing arena? Make sure your father owns a publishing house.

Website and social media links:

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email for a bio template and other details.

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

I have new interview questions and I’m looking for indie, self-published and hybrid authors – is that you?

Are you an indie, self-published or hybrid author looking for a way to tell the world about your books? Who’s That Indie Author is a great way to introduce yourself to readers. It’s also an opportunity to connect with bloggers and expand your network through connections on WordPress and social media. I have a new set of Who’s That Indie Author interview questions and I’m looking for you!

Take advantage of a chance to show your talents. Submit an author profile and see your name travel from blog to blog and tweet to tweet!

Check out these Who’s That Indie Author profiles from 2022 and imagine yourself in the spotlight:

Jacqueline Church Simonds
Jacqui Murray
J.Q. Rose
Heather J. Bennett
Priscilla Bettis

Email Book Club Mom at for more information.

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A small eBook haul

This fall, my family signed up (temporarily) for Amazon Prime, for the main reason of watching NFL on Thursday nights. The Thursday night games are over, so we’re back to regular TV, but while we were Prime members, I got to download these free eBooks! I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to read them, but it’s a nice feeling to have book options waiting on my Kindle. All descriptions are from Amazon.

A Castle in Brooklyn by Shirley Russak Wachtel

Spanning decades, an unforgettable novel about reckoning with the past, the true nature of friendship, and the dream of finding home.

1944, Poland. Jacob Stein and Zalman Mendelson meet as boys under terrifying circumstances. They survive by miraculously escaping, but their shared past haunts and shapes their lives forever.

Years later, Zalman plows a future on a Minnesota farm. In Brooklyn, Jacob has a new life with his wife, Esther. When Zalman travels to New York City to reconnect, Jacob’s hopes for the future are becoming a reality. With Zalman’s help, they build a house for Jacob’s family and for Zalman, who decides to stay. Modest and light filled, inviting and warm with acceptance—for all of them, it’s a castle to call home.

Then an unforeseeable tragedy—and the grief, betrayals, and revelations in its wake—threatens to destroy what was once an unbreakable bond, and Esther finds herself at a crossroads. A Castle in Brooklyn is a moving and heartfelt immigration story about finding love and building a home and family while being haunted by a traumatic past.

Hidden in Snow by Viveca Sten

The splendor of the Swedish mountains becomes the backdrop for a bone-chilling crime.

On the day Stockholm police officer Hanna Ahlander’s personal and professional lives crash, she takes refuge at her sister’s lodge in the Swedish ski resort paradise of Åre. But it’s a brief comfort. The entire village is shaken by the sudden vanishing of a local teenage girl. Hanna can’t help but investigate, and while searching for the missing person, she lands a job with the local police department. There she joins forces with Detective Inspector Daniel Lindskog, who has been tasked with finding the girl. Their only lead: a scarf in the snow.

As subzero temperatures drop even further, a treacherous blizzard sweeps toward Åre. Hanna and Daniel’s investigation is getting more desperate by the hour. Lost or abducted, either way time is running out for the missing girl. Each new clue closes in on something far more sinister than either Hanna or Daniel imagined. In this devious novel by the bestselling author of the Sandhamn Murders series, discover what it will take to solve a case when the truth can be so easily hidden in the coming storm.

The Hike by Susi Holliday

Four hikers enter the mountains. Only two return. But is it tragedy? Or treachery?

When sisters Cat and Ginny travel with their husbands to the idyllic Swiss Alps for a hiking holiday, it’s not just a chance to take in the stunning scenery. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with each other after years of drifting apart—and patch up marriages that are straining at the seams.

As they head into the mountains, morale is high, but as the terrain turns treacherous, cracks in the relationships start to show. With worrying signs that someone might be following them, the sun begins to set and exhaustion kicks in. Suddenly, lost high on a terrifying ridge, tensions spill over—with disastrous consequences.

When only two of the four hikers make it down from the mountain, the police press them for their story—but soon become suspicious when their accounts just don’t add up.

What really happened up on that ridge? Who are the survivors? And what secrets are they trying to hide?

The Hive by Gregg Olsen

Glamorous messiah or charlatan? A mask of beauty hides deadly secrets in #1 New York Times and Amazon Charts bestselling author Gregg Olsen’s mesmerizing novel of suspense.

In the Pacific Northwest, detective Lindsay Jackman is investigating the murder of a young journalist found at the bottom of a ravine. Lindsay soon learns that the victim was writing an exposé. Her subject: a charismatic wellness guru who’s pulled millions into her euphoric orbit…

To hear Marnie Spellman tell it, when she was a child, a swarm of bees lifted her off the ground and toward the sunlight, illuming her spiritual connection with nature—an uncanny event on which Marnie built a cosmetics empire and became a legend, a healer, and the queen of holistic health and eternal beauty. In her inner circle is an intimate band of devotees called the Hive. They share Marnie’s secrets of success—including one cloaked in darkness for twenty years.

Determined to uncover the possibly deadly mysteries of the group, Lindsay focuses her investigation on Marnie and the former members of the Hive, who are just as determined to keep Lindsay from their secrets as they are to maintain their status.

Night Angels by Weina Dai Randel

From the author of The Last Rose of Shanghai comes a profoundly moving novel about a diplomatic couple who risked their lives to help Viennese Jews escape the Nazis, based on the true story of Dr. Ho Fengshan, Righteous Among the Nations.

1938. Dr. Ho Fengshan, consul general of China, is posted in Vienna with his American wife, Grace. Shy and ill at ease with the societal obligations of diplomats’ wives, Grace is an outsider in a city beginning to feel the sweep of the Nazi dragnet. When Grace forms a friendship with her Jewish tutor, Lola Schnitzler, Dr. Ho requests that Grace keep her distance. His instructions are to maintain amicable relations with the Third Reich, and he and Grace are already under their vigilant eye.

But when Lola’s family is subjugated to a brutal pogrom, Dr. Ho decides to issue them visas to Shanghai. As violence against the Jews escalates after Kristallnacht and threats mount, Dr. Ho must issue thousands more to help Jews escape Vienna before World War II explodes.

Based on a remarkable true story, Night Angels explores the risks brave souls took and the love and friendship they built and lost while fighting against incalculable evil.

Have you read any of these? Do any of them sound interesting to you? Leave a comment!

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The Martian playlist on Spotify!

Hi Everyone,

I enjoyed reading The Martian by Andy Weir and I especially enjoyed the movie starring Matt Damon! Today I’m sharing a Spotify playlist of songs I selected to complement your reading experience! Even if you’re not on Spotify, you can still see the songs I selected. I had fun putting it together and hope you’ll check it out!

When I create a playlist, I try to only include songs I know and that are in my music library. Can you think of any others?

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Books We Love – NPR’s interactive list of recommended books

Today I came across NPR’s Books We Love, a helpful and fun-to-use interactive list of recommended books. They’ve been doing this every year going back to 2013, so there is a lot to look at. Want more information? Here’s an explanation of how they select books.

There’s never a shortage of books to read these days and this list helps you sort things out according to your reading tastes. I’m often frustrated by book recommendations because they aren’t always in line with what I want to read. I haven’t gone through the whole list for 2022 (there are more than 3200 books!), but I was pleased to see that I’ve already read and enjoyed several of these. That’s a good sign to me.

Books I thought were great:

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

French Braid by Anne Tyler

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

Books I want to read:

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel       

Scenes from My Life by Michael K. Williams

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

I don’t like to make a long list of books to read for the new year because I find that overwhelming, so I like that I can go back to this and look when I’m ready for something new.

Do you know what your next read will be? Do you like referring to lists like these? Have you read any of the books I picked? Leave a comment!

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