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Lessons in Chemistry

Quirky – Character Driven- Feminist

Elizabeth Zott is not your typical woman in the 1960s. She is a chemist, doesn’t want to marry and turns her kitchen into a lab. When she is driven out of her job for being pregnant after the death of her partner and fellow chemist, she becomes a tv cooking sensation, beloved by the audience for her dry humor and delicious recipes based in science.

The cast of characters in Lessons in Chemistry are so delightful, including Elizabeth, her daughter, Mad and the dog, called Six Thirty due to a misunderstanding.

While this book deals with serious issues around sexism and child abuse, you can’t take it too seriously or it will just make you mad. It’s fiction, so yes, some parts of the character behavior is over dramatized. Like most books published today, it does try a little too hard to make a political statement and its not just a fun, beach read. But it is a quirky story that moves by pretty fast.

When I sing, Mountains Dance

Lyrical – Translation – Misty

I picked this one up at the library after hearing about it on a Strong Sense of Place episode about Spain. Almost every chapter is narrated by someone or something different, like a storm cloud, or a child, or a dog. Which was a beautiful idea and it is very lyrical, but also extremely hard to follow. I think there was a story about a family and how some of them died, but that could just be what the trees thought happened. The setting is beautiful, in a small farming community in Spain, and the perspectives are different. But unless you are just in the mood for something poetic and misty, I would give this one a pass.

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

Historical – Sisterhood – Sweet

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers opens just after Pearl Harbor in a Hawaiian village populated by mostly Japanese. The war has intensified and the nearby army base is bustling with soldiers. The story centers on Violet and her daughter Ella, who has been acting odd since her father went missing a year earlier.

While Ella struggles with what she knows about her father’s disappearance, Violet refuses to give up searching for him whole continuing to care for her daughter and her friends. The found family support running through the book makes the story appear hopeful even during a dark period of war.

The story is as gentle as story about war and loss can be. The soldiers from the nearby base keep the tone lighter than a lot of war books, they even have a lion as a pet!