The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

Meridian Wallace is a brilliant student studying to be an ornithologist when she meets a physics professor and falls in love. Early in their relationship, he moves to the remote southwest to work on a top secret project. Putting her dreams on hold, she follows him and takes on the traditional role of wife, not scientist. As she feels her dreams slipping away and herself fading into the background, she meets a young hippie, a Vietnam veteran who changes her life.

Spanning decades, The Atomic Weight of Love is the tale of one woman’s both ordinary and extraordinary life. From atomic bombs to a failing marriage to the lives of crows, Meridian’s story is a pleasure to read.  Comparable to The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth J. Church’s debut novel is a moving, science-minded tale of the roles women were relegated to in midcentury America, yet it doesn’t get bogged down in it.

I struggled with some aspects of the novel, mainly Meridian’s early relationship with the professor, but it didn’t deter my experience. The marriage itself wasn’t the focus for me, instead it was Meridian’s life and how she coped with it. The development of the not quite believable relationship became secondary. To be specific, I did not understand her motives for marrying him. She didn’t seem to be particularly in love with him, she found his dispassionate nature could be irritating.

The single careful gesture – the controlled placement of his pants. It told me something I refused to acknowledge: Alden would always be too careful. There would be no transport for me, not with a man who was that precise in the face of impending passion.

I do understand love makes us do crazy things, but for me, given she was as intense as she was about her studies, for her to abandon them was surprising. At the same time, given the time and place, maybe it’s not. Overall, The Atomic Weight of Love is a fascinating read. Don’t let my few mild reservations deter you, I did enjoy it. I will certainly look for what the author does next, especially if in incorporates science and women.

Atomic Weight of Love, With Chocolate ShareMeridian, upon seeing Alden off, buys herself a medicinal chocolate malt shake at Fred Harvey’s. I happen to agree, chocolate has amazingly restorative powers. Head over to Love from the Oven to find out how to make this delicious (three ingredient!) shake.

Beyond the Books & Beyond the Blog: #ArmchairBEA

ArmchairBEABeyond the traditional form of the novel, what are your favorite alternative forms (graphic novels, audiobooks, webcomics, etc)? Do you have any favorite works within these alternate forms? How do you think the changing format affects the reading experience?

I’m a pretty traditional reader, strongly preferring printed books. I do enjoy my kindle for the ease of reading on it, but still read mostly physical copies. I also stick mostly to novels and non-fiction. I do read graphic novels on occasion, and have been reading them more lately since my son has taken a strong interest in them. I also love that my library now has borrowable, downloadable audiobooks. It makes listening from my phone a nice option.

I do think the format changes the experience. I’ve tried to read illustrated books and graphic novels on my kindle/iPad and I honestly believe it diminishes the experience. Otherwise I think reading is best enjoyed however an individual prefers.

Our secondary topic, beyond the blog could focus on the ways you engage in talking about books outside of your blog. Do you participate in book clubs, take classes, meticulously maintain your goodreads profile? Let the world know!

I am in a book club as part of my job (librarian). I am the facilitator for a non-fiction book club that focuses on the natural world – think botany, ornithology, farming, etc.  I wish I belonged to a fiction book club! As a librarian, I fairly regularly take continuing education classes, so I stay involved in the bookish community in a professional capacity. Unfortunately I am not as involved in social media as I’d like to be. I don’t participate in goodreads, I’m rarely on twitter, though I do love instagram. I tend to be a reserved person and that very much extends to my online persona as well. Luckily I’ve still made some great friendships and found some fantastic books. When blogging gets stressful, I just remember those things and it puts it in perspective, even when I can’t make twitter chats and book conventions!

How do you express your bookish love outside of blogging and books?

The Aesthetics of Books and Blogs: #ArmchairBEA

ArmchairBEA

The Books:

It’s one of the things I don’t like to admit about myself, but I absolutely do judge a book by its cover. I prefer to read books that are also pretty, but I will read something that sounds appealing, even if the cover art is terrible. Sometimes, anyway. I don’t want to be a cover snob, but it is something that absolutely extends into the other areas of my life. Aesthetics matter for me, in my clothes, books, and home decor. I feel better when things are neat and pretty, with a limited color palette. I don’t care too much for whimsy, I hate kitsch (“kitsch is the absolute denial of shit”), and I deeply appreciate a good sense of design.

Goodness, I sound like such a grump.

The Blog:

I’d like to point out that the things I appreciate above, I only apply to myself. I’m not particularly judgmental of someone else’s blog layout. If you have good content, I’ll read.

Branding. Branding as a term also sounds so silly to me, because I do this for fun (and branding seems so business/serious), but at the same time, my blog definitely has a specific aesthetic.  I prefer to keep mine minimal and organized, without gifs (even though I find them funny), but still recognizable as something I wrote/created/thought/etc. I love black and white as a color scheme, with a hint of color from time to time. I enjoy good photography and properly scaled images. I’m actually due for a bit of an update soon, and have been in the midst of planning behind the scenes. Quite honestly, and oddly, my blog is quite representative of my home, which is quite representative of personal style, and so on down the line…

At least I’m consistent?

How do you feel about blog design? Does it matter to you? What about book covers?

#ArmchairBEA 2016: An Introduction

ArmchairBEA

What is the name you prefer to use? I go by Rory, there really isn’t a way to turn that into a nickname thankfully.

How long have you been a book blogger? I’ve been blogging, mostly consistently, since 2012, which seems insane now that I look at it.

Have you participated in ABEA before? I have not. I usually have a lot of life stuff going on this time of year and I thought this year would be a little slower, but life said “Ha!” and made it busier than usual.

What is your favorite genre and why? It varies based on my mood, but I am a sucker for gothic fiction (both modern and classic) and good, gritty literature. Grit-lit is fairly new as a named genre, if you can call it that, but I am hopelessly devoted.

How do you arrange your bookshelves? Is there a rhyme or reason? Or not at all? My shelves are loosely organized by genre, though I do break out some authors (i.e. my Stephen King and John Sandford collections are pretty massive and are grouped together). Within the loose organization, they are organized as to how they best aesthetically please me. Fancy, I know. I’ve always wanted to try by color, but it seems too much of an undertaking, especially if I don’t like the results. I like things to look pretty!

LibraryUpstairs LibraryWhat book are you most excited for on your TBR? What are you most intimidated by? I am most excited for The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock. He hasn’t published anything since The Devil All the Time – one of my favorites – and I’ve been impatiently waiting for his next once since I closed the back cover in 2012.

What is the most interesting thing that you have learned through your reading this year so far? I learned about how truly fascinating (and large!) an albatross is while reading The Thing With Feathers by Noah Strycker.

Diversity.

Diversity in books is a tough topic, because often mainstream publishing isn’t diverse at all. Considering the current political climate oin the United States, it can be hard to be optimistic (when a leading presidential candidate is legitimately comparable to Voldemort, it’s frankly quite scary). But I think we need to continue to be aware of voices that are underrepresented (there are too many to name) and continue to talk about good books we read, books that break stereotypes and break negative representations. Poverty, cultural differences, unique, real world voices and settings are all very real, worthwhile topics to explore in literature (this is not to say there isn’t a place for fantasy, because there absolutely is). And there are authors doing just this, but we need to make sure people know about it, and that’s where the book blogging community can help.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind // Six Degrees of Separation

The idea behind this exercise is to connect books in any way that’s meaningful to use, from the profound to the inane. Although Kevin Bacon is typically behind the six degrees came, books are just a bit more fun.Six Degrees PerfumeSo for a while, books and music were totally my thing. They still are, but feature less prominently on my languishing blog.  BUT.

And that is an excited and important but! This month’s six degrees of separation begins with Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind. Why am I so excited? Because this book was one of Kurt Cobain’s favorites and inspired “Scentless Apprentice” from In Utero. In case you’ve missed my billion references to the ‘90s, grunge, flannel, Daria, and Jordan Catalano, I love Nirvana and that particular decade. Fiercely.

Similarly, rumor has it (popular, chart topping music pun for you) that Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower was inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. While Dylan may have drawn inspiration from the gothic classic, Stephen King drew inspiration from a Dylan classic when he named his supernatural novel From a Buick 8 (referencing From a Buick 6).

Another novel I recently read that was chock-full of music references, including the title, is Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington (a Neil Young reference, for those who like their music a little more modern). A coming of age novel that’s part southern gothic and part mystery, Tarkington’s debut has been flying under the radar, but I promise you it is very good.

While love can break a heart, a heart is also a lonely hunter. At least according to her Carson McCuller’s aptly titled The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.  Also a debut, it’s a remarkable novel filled with a yearning to escape small town life and incredible compassion and irony.

My favorite writer of small town heroes (of a sort) is Richard Russo. One of his funniest novels, Straight Man, features reluctant English department chairman Henry Devereaux Jr. His reluctance is partly rooted in his character–he is a born anarchist– and partly in the fact that his department is more savagely divided than the Balkans. While Russo’s novel might be my favorite campus novel, another close contender – and my final link in the chain – is Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, which is set on a small campus on the shore of Lake Michigan, where a baseball star seems destined for the big leagues, until…

From Kurt Cobain to Bob Dylan to Stephen King to baseball, I think I’ve finally achieved my perfect six degrees chain. Visit Books Are My Favourite and Best to join in, and the rules are listed here. What would your chain look like?