Lessons in Chemistry had stiff competition for featured book today. But it also had stiff competition for my book of the year last year, and it pretty well won that, along with a Goodreads Book of the Year (debut author) award. And most of the other Ls were candidates for my BOTY in their years. Yes, from Lessons in Chemistry to Lord of the Rings, we’ve reached L in the A to Z Challenge.

The plan for the month is to feature daily a book I’ve reviewed in the past (or review it that day), and also highlight others: not all are included each day.

  • review/featured
  • spacetime challenge (I host this reading challenge – you can join here)
  • middle grade (childrens) choice
  • series (love a good series – there’s a challenge for finishing those, too)
  • ‘notable’ reads
  • ‘outstanding’ books
  • my books!

Featured Book: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

lessons in chemistry bonnie garmus

I liked everything about Lessons in Chemistry. The time (50s/60s), the place (small college town in California), the situation… The protagonist, Elizabeth Zott, is a slightly geeky woman, who works hard to become a graduate, a post-graduate, and then a researcher in chemistry and biochemistry. This is the age where women were barely allowed to leave school with any qualifications, although we had moved on from when they were actually barred from universities. And we meet her at the point where she is struggling for research funds, while her not-so-bright colleague has a shiny new lab, with up to date equipment, and ample research students. He does not have any ideas. So he steals hers.

How she recovers from this situation, finds love with an equally geeky and equally brilliant guy in a related field, and then has to earn enough to get by as a single mother when nobody will employ her….is brilliant. This is the story of one woman who singlehandedly revises the views of women about themselves, let alone the views of their men.

I can’t help loving this woman. I would never have had the courage to do this. I’m so glad I was born a decade or two later.

Lessons in Chemistry… is as original and vibrant as its protagonist. For once, the blurb does not lie. Luminescent. The only reason to put it down is to make it last longer.

From my review (April 22)

Spacetime Challenge

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. To my mind Becky Chambers is the most interesting and exciting science fiction/spec fiction author of our age. This first in the Wayfarers series is probably the best for traditionalists, with a space ship and a bit of a fight over something like wormholes going on. Others in the series give a nod to mapping alien cultures, to the problem of AIs who become sentient, and of closed communities travelling from a doomed earth whose journey is so long that a whole new culture evolves. And there are more series already out…. If you prefer your scifi in space, start here. If you prefer people, then try Record of a Space-Born Few. Or just read them all.

The Long Way Home by Sabrina Chase. I was so taken with this novel that I’ve bought the rest of the Sequoyah series and aim to read them this year. Maybe. Brilliant world-building and engaging inventions.

Middle Grade choice

Lionel’s Grand Adventures by Paul R Hewlett. Lionel and the Golden Rule is the first in this lovely series for younger middle grade readers, although I didnt review it as such (that link is to an interview with the author). Lionel is always getting things wrong. But he has a lucky rabbit’s foot he carries with him at all times. The four books in the series are treasures. I have reviewed Lionel Turns the Other Cheek, and Lionel Goes to Camp. Finally Lionel’s Christmas Adventure may be predictable, but it’s gorgeous.

Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir. For older middle grade, this starts as a ‘we’ve been sent to a boring seaside holiday place’ and turns into a beautifully crafted mystery adventure. Great pace, great characters, and a little delving into the past.

Series choice

The Lanternfish series by C S Boyack was out for a while before I got a deal on book 1, Voyage of the Lanternfish. I didn’t get around to reading it until Sally Cronin featured it on her Smorgasbord blog, and I realised what gem was hiding in my Kindle. So I read it in September, and wanted more… finished number two in December and the last in January! It’s a pirating naval command adventure with added fantasy elements and great alternative geography. Oh, and my favourite vegetable characters in the universe. How does that sound?

Notable books

Leaves of Fall by Patricia Lynne is a novella length dystopia, with sentient trees. If you’ve been here before and know about my Viridian System series, you’ll know I have a weakness for sentient trees. Hers are particularly good, and so is the rest of the story.

The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock. Perhaps mostly for lovers of space history (but has a good line in the reality of being a pilot’s wife), this takes a look at one of the ace test pilots, after the Chuck Yeager era, and the changes that affect him as NASA cranks up the space programme. It’s full of atmosphere and tensions, and that’s without even leaving the ground (which we do, never fear). I couldn’t remember exactly who the early astronauts in the space programme were, which was a bonus for the tension. It all seemed familiar, but it wasn’t–at all.

And I haven’t even got room to mention The Last Remains, the last in the Dr Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths (for now, she says).

Outstanding Books

A Life on our Planet by David Attenborough; a fascinating view of a man’s career — the man who practically invented wildlife documentaries. He is world-renowned for his gentle style and incisive analysis of our effects on our world. The book has an extra section with examples of things that we in the ‘west’ think unthinkable, but other countries are doing very well. We should copy them. Please read it.

Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien. I love everything about this book except for Gollum. He is perfect, but I don’t like him and I often skip him. Some of the Shire nonsense ditto. Too cute. And I love most things about the full length films (not the cinema versions which were cut to pieces). Except the character assassination of Faramir, who is one of my favourite characters, and the replacement of Glorfindel by Arwen. But then again, in this day and age it makes sense for the hobbit to be rescued by an elven princess roaming the countryside instead of sitting at home weaving spells. And Strider–he was perfect <3 (Just don’t mention the Hobbit to me – I can’t stand the book, and three films is two and a half too many.)

I’ve not reviewed this book on my blog. You can see why. The link is to my T for Tolkien the year I did world-building as a topic. [in case you wondered about the covers, these are the ones I own. They are the same colour as each other! Revised 2nd Edition 1966]

That’s all for today, so come back tomorrow for more. I’m hoping to meet more people who like the same kinds of book, so feel free to recommend something you’ve read beginning with the letter of the day!

Lessons in Chemistry | #A2ZChallenge23

8 thoughts on “Lessons in Chemistry | #A2ZChallenge23

  • 14 April, 2023 at 6:35 am

    Another great post Jemima full of new treasure and old favourites 💜

    • 14 April, 2023 at 7:09 pm

      Too many new treasures coming through this month. I’ve just added another to my list that someone else recommended 😀

  • 14 April, 2023 at 1:47 pm

    More fabulous books. I read Lessons in Chemistry not long ago and could really empathize with certain situations, since they had happened to me (not the unexpected pregnancy though!)

    • 14 April, 2023 at 7:06 pm

      Yes, from what you’ve said of your career, I’d imagined you’d empathise. Did it hurt…bring up past regrets?

  • 14 April, 2023 at 7:05 pm

    I had seen Lessons in Chemistry recommended so many times but had not got round to reading it until just recently – it’s this month’s book group choice! We discuss it next week and I’m sure everyone will have loved it. I did, for all the reasons you give.

    • 14 April, 2023 at 7:08 pm

      Feel free to share my comments with your book group. I have to say, the one I belonged to in Norfolk never read anything as good as this (apart from the Crossing Places!)

  • 15 April, 2023 at 9:58 am

    Hi Jemima – I know I picked up Lessons in Chemistry having read about it elsewhere in the blogging community – it’s to be read … so thanks for this review. So many books to read … cheers Hilary

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