Retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts offers an entertaining and informative look at what it’s like to be an astronaut. Colonel Virts first flew to the International Space Station on the shuttle Endeavor, helping install the cupola module. Later he spent 200 days on the space station in 2014 and 2015, launching on a Soyuz spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Italian astronaut Samantha Christoforetti. Humorous anecdotes abound, including the difficulties of getting his extra-large head into a helmet, and learning to cut Christoforetti’s hair. The failure of three cargo ships to reach the space station postponed their return date, but Virts still gives a thumbs up for the quality of food they ate. He slept better in zero gravity than on Earth; verified by one of the many science experiments he worked on. Three spacewalks and filming an IMAX documentary were highlights. If you’ve ever wondered what life in space is like, Virts covers everything I could think of, from adapting to zero gravity to what he missed most on Earth. The most sobering chapter is when he served as family support for the crew of Columbia, and was with the family members when the shuttle exploded. An Air Force Academy graduate, Colonel Virts was a test and fighter pilot with the Air Force before he joined NASA. Virts thoroughly prepared for his spacewalks in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (a huge pool) before his spaceflights. What if scenarios are also described, as well as the wonder of being in space and looking back at Earth. This memoir is a great read for space buffs. Virts is also the author and photographer of View From Above : An Astronaut Photographs the World.
On November 24 at 7:00 pm, please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group on Zoom as we discuss The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman. This is a witty and heartwarming novel about an introvert who suddenly learns she’s part of a big, complicated family. Please register online. My earlier review is here. Copies of the book are available now at the Circulation Desk; visit MediaonDemand/Libby for eBook and eAudiobook copies.
Workaholic Londoner Leena Cotton has a panic attack at work, and takes two months off. She ends up switching places with her grandmother Eileen, and moves to her cottage in a small Yorkshire village. The Cotton women even exchange phones and laptops so Leena won’t be tempted to work. Eileen, 79, is pretty happy but is having trouble finding romance in her small town. At Leena’s London flat, with two quirky roommates, she organizes a social club for seniors and has a fling or two, while also spying on Leena’s London boyfriend. Back in Hamleigh-in-Harksdale, Leena ends up on the May festival committee, befriending her grandmother’s grumpy neighbor Arnold, and plays Easter Bunny with the help of former classmate Jackson’s little girl. Both women have challenges adjusting to their new environments and neighbors, but relish their new projects and Leena learns to re-connect with her mother Marian, and start dealing with her grief over her sister’s recent death. Mixed grief and humor, with a strong sense of place and appealing, quirky characters. Grandmother Eileen is especially appealing, embracing life and love in London at 79. A light feel-good story that makes for an absorbing, enjoyable read.
The day Lexie Lincoln is laid off from her job as a newspaper reporter, she’s invited to interview for a job as a reporter and assistant editor for a small town newspaper. Unfortunately, she finds the editor’s body before she even gets to interview. An ice storm strands her in town, and police officer Wes Mosby is having trouble confirming her alibi. I enjoyed the small town Texas setting with good food and quirky characters, including a ghost. The cozy mystery with a paranormal twist was well-plotted, and Lexie is pleasant company with a plausible reason to investigate a suspicious death. If she can clear her name, Lexie just might be interested in moving to Stirling Mills, especially as the job includes a cozy Art Deco apartment. I’m looking forward to the second Lucky Lexie mystery, Case of the Curious Crystals. Readalikes include books by Sophie Kelly, Joanne Fluke, Donna Andrews, as they are cozy mysteries with appealing characters, some humor, and small town settings. Shanna is the author of the Enchanted, Inc. series. This ebook is available from Libby/Overdrive/MediaonDemand.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group is discussing this award-winning psychological suspense novel set at a dark sky park near Mackinaw City, Michigan on October 27, on Zoom. Copies of the book are still available at the Circulation Desk, and downloadable audiobooks are available from Hoopla or Overdrive/Libby. Eden Wallace, 34, has been a widow for 9 months. She found the reservation for a suite at the park her husband Bix had made, for their anniversary weekend. She needs a getaway, but Eden is afraid of the dark. At the park, she learns there’s been a mistake; the rest of the cabin has been booked by a group of six 20-somethings. One of the six is killed in the night, and they’re all suspects, even Eden. Then there are more accidents. Readers who enjoy psychological suspense novels will race through this tense tale as Eden uncovers secrets and wonders who she can trust among the five remaining friends and police officers Warren Hoyt and Bridget Cooley. Full of surprises, this is not a book to start after dark.
The Crystal Cave Trilogy by Susan Wittig Albert
Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson
15 Minutes of Flame by Christin Brecher
Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen Byron
Fudge Bites by Nancy Coco
Dressed to Kill by Kathleen Delaney
Death of a Wicked Witch and Haunted House Murder by Lee Hollis
Shatter the Night by Emily Littlejohn
Murder in the Corn Maze by G. A. McKevett
McPherson, Catriona. Scot & Soda by Catriona McPherson
Halloween Murder by Leslie Meier
Mrs. Morris and the Witch by Traci Wilton
Lady Cecily Kay, a botanist, is in London in 1703, studying Sir Barnaby Mayne’s collection of botanical illustrations. The amazing collections filling the mansion are a source of fascination for many other collectors, and Lady Cecily joins them on a tour. She is surprised to meet Meacan, a childhood friend who is doing some illustrations for the eccentric Mayne. When Sir Barnaby is found dead in his study at the end of the tour, an unlikely suspect confesses, then flees. Lady Cecily and Meacan investigate, learning more about the society of obsessive collectors. The early 18th century London setting is fascinating, and the mystery is intricately plotted. Readalikes include The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. Historical fiction readers looking for an unusual setting will also be interested in this intriguing, absorbing read. I don’t see a connection to Hart’s other historical mysteries, beginning with Jade Dragon Mountain, but I enjoyed them as well.
Another enjoyable popular science book that is part memoir. Planetary scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson describes human interest in Mars, from just seeing a bright spot in the sky to Lowell imagining canals and civilizations to William Pickering reporting the weather on Mars from Jamaica, with incredible descriptions. Then disappointments, with failed missions and bleak, lifeless images interspersed with joys, such as finding that there is water on Mars, and not all of it is acidic.
The summer after her freshman year in college, Sarah got to travel to the Mojave Desert to help test early versions of Mars rovers. She grew up in Kentucky, where her father was interested in astronomy and geology. In the book, Sarah describes a trip to Arizona with her father where she got to look through medium range telescopes, and it made a more personal connection with the solar system than with huge telescopes where she views images on a computer screen.
Sarah has worked on Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers, looking for the signatures of chemical compounds that might indicate life or the possibility of life, in the past or present. Her writing is accessible, enthusiastic, and lyrical. Clearly, including the Perseverance rover due to land on Mars next February, there are many more observations to make, and more discoveries to come. The author dreams of finding microscopic signs of life on Mars, or on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, including Titan, Enceladus, and Europa.
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