Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Thank you so much to Alison Barrow for gifting me this proof, what an absolute triumph! Definitely a strong contender for book of the year 2022!

Synopsis

‘Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here’ – Elizabeth Zott.

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Meet the unconventional, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott.

Review

“What I love about rowing […] is that it’s always done backwards. It’s almost as if the sport itself is trying to teach us to not get ahead of ourselves.”

What an absolute gem and a strong contender for debut novel of the year!

Meet Elizabeth Zott. Scientist, mother, lover, rower, she never settles for anything.

Whilst navigating through Elizabeth’s challenges, Bonnie Garmus very wittily paint a portrait of what it was like to be a woman in the 60s, through the eyes of different generations, from Elizabeth to her daughter Madeline, from her dog Six-Thirty to Dr Mason or Father Wakely. 

Each character is a window to different ways of thinking; to prejudices that Elizabeth is intent on fighting. 

Strong, uncompromising, inspirational, you are bound to fall in love with this force of nature. If I’d been one of her contemporary, I would definitely have wanted to be like her, to share her values. 

Teaching hundreds of words to her dog, encouraging free speech and thinking for her daughter, sky is the limit for Elizabeth Zott. She thrives to use science to fix humanity, she simply cannot accept the established order of civilisation. She can’t accept those archaic, outrageous and misogynistic ways of life, stereotypes and biases that society keeps on perpetuating.

“When a boat succeeds, it’s because the people in the boat have managed to set aside their petty differences and physical discrepancies and row as one. Perfect harmony”.

Whether it’s at work, in her love life with Calvin, or with her few friends, she simply is implacable and uncompromising. It all comes down to chemistry. As a result, men fear and despise her, women envy and resent her, but she simply can’t let anyone dictate how to go about her life. 

“People need to believe in something bigger than themselves”

When you don’t fit in, you either comply and compromise, or you stand your ground. When she gets her own cooking show on TV, revolutionising the « Afternoon Depression Zone », her fierceness and intransigent nature will, in spite of herself, empower thousands of women to believe in themselves, to understand their worth, to take back some control. 

This book is a triumph! So compelling, thought provoking, it will challenge you to question subjects you didn’t even know you had to! Philosophical at times, full of clever and subtle thoughts on tough subjects, it will make your brain and your soul sense so many emotions: anger, rage, happiness, sadness, you laugh, you cry but love so much. It is pure joy!

I can’t stop thinking about it, this book is powerful, gripping, endearing, you have got to get yourself a copy. 

With Love,
AGJ

Out now in hardback, audio and e-format.

About Bonnie Garmus

Bonnie Garmus. Photography: Serena Bolton

Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked for a wide range of clients, in the US and abroad, focusing primarily on technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

The Book of Sand by Theo Clare – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Isabelle and Century Books for inviting me to take part in this tour. What a fascinating and gripping read!

I was quite moved to discover that Theo Clare (aka Mo Hayder) died from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in July 2021, as it is unfortunately a subject very close to home, with someone in my family affected by the very same disease, and degrading slowly everyday, making it sometimes quite unbearable to watch, and forever heartbreaking.

As the book is dedicated to this cause, I am inviting you to look up what this atrocious illness is here: https://www.mndassociation.org/. It isn’t as known as it should be and for the time being, no cure has been found and many people are suffering every day.

Now, onto this fabulous book, which deserves to be read and re-read, and I cannot wait for the publication of the next installment. We were lucky that the author managed to write it before passing away and it shouldn’t be in vain.

Synopsis

Enter a world of simmering heat and shifting sands.

Where danger lies around every corner.

Where death lurks as night falls,

And you will kill – just to stay alive …

Outlines of several once-busy cities shimmer on the horizon. Now empty of inhabitants, their buildings lie in ruins.

In the distance a group of people – a family – walk towards us.

Ahead lies shelter: a ‘shuck’ the family call home and which they know they must reach before the light fails, as to be out after dark is to invite danger and almost certain death.

To survive in this alien world of shifting sand, they must find an object hidden in or near water. But other families want it too. And they are willing to fight to the death to make it theirs.

It is beginning to rain in Fairfax County, Virginia when McKenzie Strathie wakes up. An ordinary teenage girl living an ordinary life – except that the previous night she found a sand-lizard in her bed, and now she’s beginning to question everything around her, especially who she really is …

Two very different worlds featuring a group of extraordinary characters driven to the very limit of their endurance in a place where only the strongest will survive.

Review

Everything about this story is a test, about pushing the limits and the boundaries.

Meet the Dormilones, Spider, Elk, Amasha, Splendour, Noor and the others, a peculiar family not related by blood. All so distinct, from different part of the worlds, alternative backgrounds and upbringings, having nothing in common but the fact that they were chosen. But by whom? And why? 

Sent to this hostile desert, this “Cirque” and its invisible borders, to find a mysterious object known as “The Sarkpont“, they’ll have to be fierce and relentless in their search. They’ll have to dig deep into their past, their previous lives, their individual skillsets. Time is of the essence and unity is key, their survival depends on it. 

Within this terrifying and ever evolving world, heat and sun are as much a friend as an enemy. The rules are brutal, no space for self doubt or pity. Children won’t be soothed if they cry, injured won’t get a rest if they need to. They have to keep going, never stop, for they’ll face terrible peril if they do. Dangers can arise from anywhere, and the vile “Djinni“, creatures of the night, will keep coming for them. 

Meanwhile, back in Virginia, when she is visited at night by a lizard, McKenzie starts questioning her sanity and who she really is. Junior in high school, with exceptional abilities and dreaming of Caltech, she’s never felt quite right, never thought that she belonged. 

Always at odds with her brothers and the other students, she is obsessed with sand, dunes, the world around her. She has always been at one with the weather, read clouds, always the outsider, bullied, mocked, but also feared. 

More strange events keep happening and her whole world starts to unravel when presenting her science project, she uses her lizard that no one else can see… no one except for Newt… Can he really see it too? Or does she have skyzophrenia or a brain tumor as the doctors seem to think? 

As those parallel worlds and lives unfold, all the characters are put to the test, questioning their purpose, their raison d’être. What are they supposed to do? Can they make it to the end? Can they find what they’re looking for? 

This book is so cleverly crafted, and the twists and turns totally unexpected. So well rounded that I guarantee you’ll get addicted from the very first page. It’s a fantastic start to the series and I cannot wait to read what comes next as this first installment very wittily offered us the premises of a fabulous saga. 

With Love
AGJ

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Out now with Century Books

About Theo Clare

Mo Hayder in Bath, 2010. Her books about the troubled detective Jack Caffery earned her legions of fans. Photograph: Christopher Jones/Rex/Shutterstock

THEO CLARE left school at fifteen. She worked as a barmaid, security guard, filmmaker, hostess in a Tokyo club, educational administrator and teacher of English as a foreign language in Asia. She had an MA in film from The American University in Washington, DC and an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University, UK. She wrote crime novels under the name Mo Hayder, and her fifth novel Ritual was nominated for the Barry Award for Best Crime 2009 and was voted Best Book of 2008 by Publishers Weekly. Gone, her seventh novel, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and her novel Wolf was nominated for Best Novel in the 2015 Edgar Awards and is currently being adapted for the BBC. Theo Clare was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in December 2020 and passed away in July 2021.

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers are saying!

THE PROPHETS, by Robert Jones, Jr.

I am in awe… in awe of this incredible and magnificent book by Robert Jones, Jr. His quill is pure poetry and, even though his prose is heartbreaking, it is also breathtaking. I could not put it down. I was transported right there and then, mesmerised by it all.

The story takes place in Mississippi, at the Halifax’s family cotton plantation, whereby you meet different, complex and multi faceted characters; from master and enslaver Paul Halifax, his wife Ruth and their son Tim, through James the overseer, to the enslaved Maggie, Sarah, Puah, Essie, Amos, Adam, Beulah, and their memory: the Ancestors. Each of them sharing with you their point of view regarding life (and lack of) on the plantation, but more importantly deep, private, and painful secrets, and opening up a window through which you get to discover “The Two of Them”.

Samuel and Isaiah.

Two slaves. Two children. Grown into men by force, surviving the hell that is slavery in this place referred to as “Empty”, by loving each other in the secret of the night and the stars.

Their relationship and “forbidden” love brings out mixed emotions in all the characters, from indifference, to anger, to love. Some see them as the best tool for toil, others as a threat to the community’s survival. Despite it all, they choose freedom. The freedom to decide who they love and how.

Through the Ancestors, the words reach out of the page and cradle your head with their strong but invisible hands and your eyes are forced wide open: you are compelled to bear witness to the atrocities of the past, and reflect upon it all. They share their memory and try and instill hope and will that it shall never happen again. They open your heart up to love.

Robert Jones, Jr. transports you with brio to the deep recesses of the protagonists’ souls, “The Prophets”, where he depicts so brilliantly the power of love, the power of freedom; you get engulfed, slapped and submerged with emotions; sharing the enslaved’s innate secrets, what makes them hold on to life, that piece that is theirs and theirs alone, that no one knows about and therefore cannot be stolen away from them, that secret power that fuels their desire to survive, amongst the horrors they all had to endure.

Robert Jones, Jr.’s writing is pure genius, it makes you feel like someone reached down your throat with their bare hand, grabbed your guts and twisted them. You feel it all. Everything in its entirety. The joys, the pains, the disgust, the horrors, the love… everything. This book swallows you whole and spits you out feeling oh so fragile, weak, torn apart but enriched.

Humanity is depicted at its purest and at its worst, recounting how fear makes some of us behave like monsters, trying to bend those who are different to us to fit our established beliefs and expectations of conformity.

Lyrical and powerful, this book is truly a masterpiece, approaching themes so relevant in today’s society, but which won’t prevent it standing the test of time and becoming a classic.

I can only humble myself and say: thank you Mr Jones, Jr. you have shaken me to my core.

Anne.G.J

Book published on 5th January 2021 by Riverrun, an imprint of Quercus Edition Limited, an Hachette UK Company.

Disclaimer: these opinions are my own – this books touches upon difficult subject and will get the reader faced with depiction of sex, rape, slavery, murder, death, torture.

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