How To Read The Solar System by Chris North and Paul Abel 

Science. It’s actually really interesting, but it’s also much more enjoyable to learn more about science when you choose to learn more rather than when you are compelled to learn more.

I have recently started reading more science books, namely astronomy, and I find the subject matter absolutely fascinating!

I just finished this book:

I read the first few chapters of this book while simultaneously reading other books, but, from Mars on, I focused exclusively on this book. 🙂  And, if your going to read this book you should definitely focus, take your time and enjoy learning more about the subject matter. By the time I finished reading this book I almost forgot what I had learned about the Aurora Borealis!

The book is written by Chris North and Paul Abel, who, as stated on the cover, are hosts of a BBC series called “The Sky at Night”.  However, since I am unfamiliar with both the series and these authors, I came to this book with fresh eyes which, at least for me,  turned out to be a good thing because I feel like I discovered a great gem of a book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It’s an introductory book to our Solar System, and it’s 304 pages are filled with lots of good information about each of the planets and their respective moons. It also focuses on the Sun, comets, asteroids, minor planets and life in the Kuiper Belt. A nice added feature is that these authors provide helpful tips for the “amateur astronomer”to aid them in their observations of the planets. They briefly explain how using an optical filter or adjusting the size of the telescope will affect what you see. They also suggest when to view the planets and what you may see at that time.  This book also has a helpful glossary at the end, so if your not quite sure you understood what cryovolcanism meant, you can flip to the back for clarification. 🙂

I learned a lot from reading this book, not just about the planets, but also about the moons that orbit the planets in our Solar System. Many of these satellites are just as diverse and interesting as the planets they orbit-and some planets have an astonishingly large number of moons in their orbit! If you want to learn more about them, then this book will be a wonderful resource. I also learned that comets seem to be made of the same substance as the Sun and that other solar systems are not just like ours. Are we special? One of a kind? I guess this is why we spend so much time and money studying the Universe to try and answer this question.

I appreciated the detailed information these authors provided in this book. It wasn’t too much so as to overwhelm a newbie with its science, but it also went beyond mere basics. There was so much that I learned from this book that if I shared all that I learned, then this post would go on for quite a while. But, suffice it to say, each chapter gave me an opportunity to learn and consider something new. I enjoyed learning more about the chemical make up of the planets and how this affected their atmosphere and weather patterns. Jupiter has had a storm raging for hundreds of years now! I learned from this book that it’s famous  Great Red Spot is an “anticyclone” so “it spins anticlockwise”(P 190) and over time it has decreased in size. This is definitely one interesting planet!  It’s fascinating how life in space evolved from chemical reactions which, over time, led to the creation of our Sun and ultimately to our Solar System.

I enjoyed learning about comets and asteroids and I really enjoyed learning more about the Kuiper Belt. To me, this is deep space, and, not only do we know about it, but we have discovered dwarf planets out there! What will we discover next? And, what will we learn about our origins?

How To Read The Solar System is aimed at those who already have some knowledge and interest in astronomy and want to learn more. After reading Dava Sobel’s The Planets  I wanted to read something a little more in depth, and this book fit the bill. The writing isn’t as creative as Dava Sobel’s, and, I’m sad to say that this book has some typos which was distracting, but this book was incredibly informative and interesting. This book is a great introduction to astronomy for those who want to learn more and grow in their knowledge and understanding of the subject. I, for one, am very glad I took the time to read it!

Bookish Time Travel Tag

Thank you Ms. Arachne at A Canon of one’s own for the tag! I love historical fiction, so this will be fun! Also check out The Library Lizard’s blog too see where this tag began.

What is your favourite historical setting for a book?

Probably early America, but also anytime in English history and I also love reading about ancient Egypt.

What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

Henry David Thoreau and maybe Emily Dickinson  (if she would talk to me) and also Edith Wharton. I feel like I recently met Edith Wharton when I read The Age Of Innocence and I would like to get to know her more.

What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is such a beautiful story of friendship and transformation.

 What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self? Weird question, I know. But what I meant by it was more along the lines of – what book do you want to remind your older self of because it was really important to you?

For this question I would have to say it would be a book of poetry: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. There was a time when I read her poems, in this volume of poetry, all the time! It would remind me of that period in my life.

What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?

I can’t think of a “favorite futuristic setting” but the most memorable would be A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. If you have read this book, can you forget this society of order and control that restricts and punishes individual choice?

What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?

I loved Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. It was about the plague in 17th century England and a village who took drastic steps not to spread contagion. It is also about a young woman’s journey to her own personal freedom and it has an ending that will completely surprise you.

 Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

Sometimes I do, but not very often. I want to enjoy getting to the end.

If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

I would love to be part of the transcendental movement of early 19th century America. 

Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

I love dual narratives and The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro has a dual narrative story that I loved. It is the story of two women, both on their own individual journey, of loss and heartache for one woman and of self discovery for the other, and how their lives intersect in an, albeit not surprising, but still very interesting way.

What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

This answer will be a repeat. It would have to be The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is one of my favorite books and it would be sweet to read it again for the first time.

This tag helped me to think about some books that I haven’t read in a while and it was fun to remember them. 🙂

So, I tag the following bloggers if this sounds interesting to them:

Laurie at Relevant Obscurity

Sally at Books by the Window

And anyone else who thinks this looks fun!

One year Blogiversary!

Wow, I have been blogging for a whole year now!

This has definitely been a great experience for me! I started this blog last October because I wanted a place to share some of my thoughts about the books that I was reading. This blog has given me a place to do just this, but, for me, the real bonus has been interacting with other book bloggers. I appreciate the variety of voices and opinions in the book blogging community! I have discovered new authors and genres and I have been encouraged to read more widely and to step out of my reading comfort zone. I may find myself reading a few more YA and dystopian novels in the near future and to consider the unique perspective they offer. And, for me, this will be broadening my horizons because I typically read mostly historical fiction…which I love and will continue to read! 🙂  

I am currently trying to read more Classic Literature written by women by participating in the Womens-classic-literature-event and, more recently, I have started to read more about science. I think Dava Sobel is to blame…and I thank her for it! 🙂 

It has been a wonderful reading journey so far. Thank you to everyone who has followed my blog and who has commented on it this past year.  I appreciate your comments, feedback and book suggestions! And, I look forward to more book reviews and ‘bookish’ discussions along the way.

Happy reading!

‘The Age Of Innocence’ by Edith Wharton

 ‘She was the lady in ‘blue’ when everyone else was wearing tan’… This slight play on the words from the theme song of The Nanny  came to mind while reading this story. There was just ‘something about Ellen’ that separated her from everyone else in the room.

And Wharton does a wonderful job of drawing me into this story from the very beginning. I was interested in Ellen as soon as I met her, mostly because she was known as “poor Ellen Olenska”; I wanted to know why she was referred to this way…I would find out, but first, we are given a closer look at the New York social society of the 1870’s.

The story takes place in New York during the 1870’s and follows the relationship between Newland Archer and Madame Olenska, his wife’s cousin. The novel provides great insight into the customs and conventions of the time and illustrates how these traditions affected not only their relationship with each other, but also, the impact they had in the lives of those around them as well.

This book reflects a chapter in American History that is now gone; a world where “taste” and “good form” reigned. A few times Madame Olenska sarcastically refers to New York society as “Heaven”. On the outside everything appears to be going well, but only because problems and pain were not openly shared with others; Madame Olenska was discouraged from talking about what happened with her husband. In this society of the rich and privileged, maybe not all, but many relationships were merely superficial.

The novel provides a glimpse of the world of the wealthy, to really see the standards-and glaring double standards- that were the rule of the day. It depicts a society where every relationship, social and personal, is, if not determined by, at least heavily influenced by convention. 

Madame Olenska, “poor Ellen Olenska”, is running away from a husband and a life that she wants to be free from (I will try very hard to keep this as much a spoiler-free post as I can). Newland wants to help her, but his society expects and demands adherence to certain standards. As he tries to help her his eyes are opened to the reality of the world he inhabits and he has to decide what, if anything, he is going to do about it. 

Madame Olenska may not be perfect, but she cares about her family and she cares about people; I’m only sorry we do not get into her head more, but we do get a good sense of what and how she feels. She wants to live her life among friends and family without having to submit to someone else’s expectations. She enjoys art, beauty and conversation; she enjoys the company of artistic people even in that ultra conservative  New York society!  She is also willing to reach out to someone in need when the “deity of “Good Form”” has forbidden it. However, this society has standards, strict standards for women which must be followed, and she is expected to conform.

In contrast, there is May, Madame Olenska’s cousin and Newland’s wife. She has been raised to live a certain way and she adheres to these social conventions. Throughout the novel I alternated between a certain amount of pity  for May and disappointment in her uncaring attitude towards her cousin’s pain. But then again, May would have her own, very personal, reasons for wanting her cousin to remain married. 

The story is engaging; the characters are not all likeable, but some, like Madame Olenska’s aunts are very interesting! I also liked how we were given glimpses of Ellen’s unconventional upbringing to see how that shaped the woman she became. Her relationship with her cousin May was complicated by her relationship with Newland, but then, how could it not be? My feelings about Newland are mixed. On the one hand, he supported Madame Olenska’s right to divorce her husband and he saw the double standards of his day and was willing to speak up about it. On the other hand, he used his marriage to May to maintain respectability. 

For me, the novel ended in both a surprising (which was good) and a sad way. First, the ending completely surprised me because I thought I knew what was going to happen…then surprise! Not what I expected.  Second, I was saddened to see how Newland’s life played out with his wife. It was not a bad life, but it could have been different…it could have been so much more.

What is it that we want out of life and what are we willing to sacrifice to live life on our own terms? These are very important questions to ask ourselves so that we dont look back at a life full of regrets.

Let me end this post by saying that this book was so good! It was more than a story about a relationship though, society was key in this story. It really was a look back in history, at a time now past, to see how people in  that society lived life. I say ‘that society’ because it illustrates the way of life for the wealthy, not the everyman, but it really is a fascinating read! If you haven’t read this book yet, you definitely should! You won’t be disappointed.

Reading update

Hello, Book Lovers!

It’s been a little bit since I’ve posted anything so I thought a quick ‘reading’ check in would be a good idea.

I am currently reading The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, but, during the last month, I have also been reading other books.

I recently read both Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran. I enjoyed Nefertiti very much and The Heretic Queen was a fun and enjoyable read, but I didn’t have that much to say about it so I didn’t blog about it. Have any of you out there in the book blogging community  ever read a book and then not blogged about it? If so, which book and why?

I also picked up a science book: How to Read the Solar System by Chris North and Paul Abel. I haven’t finished it yet-I’m trying to finish Wharton first- and this is also a book that I will most likely not blog about; it is just so interesting to me to learn more about our solar system. It is such a harsh and brutal world out there, yet it’s  filled with such amazing diversity and a ‘life’ of its own.  We may not have found life as we understand it on another planet yet, but what we have learned so far is pretty amazing. Each planet is so unique with its own individual chemical make up and atmosphere, combined with the force of gravity and the role of nuclear fusion in creating life…it’s all pretty fascinating!

In addition to reading, I also recently watched The Pillars of the  Earth miniseries. It was a “Sunday Recommendation” from Clemi @ Clemireads  who recommended it for fans of Game of Thrones. A few interesting takeaways from the series are just how significant a role the Catholic Church played in the lives of people during the Middle Ages and also the skill, labor and craftsmanship that went into building a cathedral. Many worked for the glory of God and others to create something that would stand the test of time. Either way, these cathedrals are a beautiful testimony to their labor of love. Also, there is some good history about the Plantagenots, it may not all be exactly true to history, but the main points are there. I found this out today at the bookstore. I picked up The Plantagenots by Dan Jones and I read a similar story to the one I just watched…so I bought the book to learn more about that time and the people involved!

Now, I really do have more books than time to read them. I may need to take some time off at work just to catch up on my reading :).

How about you? What have you been reading, watching and learning about recently? Tell me in the comments below.

‘The Planets’ by Dava Sobel


I don’t typically read science books-something I plan to change- but I must say that I thought that this was an interesting and enjoyable book to read.

After reading Galileo’s Daughter , I found myself wanting to learn more about astronomy and to also read more from Dava Sobel. This book satisfied both.

What is this book about, exactly? It is a science book about the planets in our Solar System, but it’s also so much more. It’s a mix of science blended with history, held together by strong creative writing skills (the chapter on Mars is told from the POV of a rock!), with beautiful writing and poetic portrayals of the planets . I don’t think this is a typical science book.

Once again, Sobel does a wonderful job of weaving science and history, but this time she adds mythology, astrology and geology into the story. I thought that this made the far-away planets easier to understand and definitely a whole lot more interesting!

It’s a short book of only 231 pages. Each chapter focuses on a different planet, with a chapter also dedicated to the Sun and to the Moon. In each of these chapters, Dava Sobel highlights an aspect of each planet that she then discusses in greater detail.

My favorite chapter has to be “Sci-Fi” , which is about Mars, and is told from the POV of “Allan Hills 84001” who is a Martian meteorite! Our narrator, the meteorite, is over 4 billion years old and was discovered in the Antarctic in 1984. Not only was it interesting to learn more about Mars, but this format was just plain fun to read!

Did you know that there is only one other rock as old as this meteorite in the hands of scientists today? It’s the “Genesis Rock” from the Moon. Again, were not talking millions of years, but rather, billions of years old. It’s crazy and fascinating that we have anything that old!

My next favorite chapter would have to be “Night Air” which is about the discovery of Uranus and Neptune. The reason I liked this chapter so much is because the author uses an epistolary format and I liked how this personalized the story of these two discoveries. In this chapter, Caroline Herschel, the sister of Sir William Herschel, who discovered Uranus, provides us with the historical details. And the events surrounding the discovery of these two planets is also really interesting!

Did you know that Neptune was discovered because there was something ‘off’ mathematically with the orbit of Uranus? It’s an interesting story!

This book may not be to everyone’s liking; however, if you would like an introduction to our Solar System that is told in a creative and original way, then pick up a copy and enjoy the trip through space! 🙂

Third Check-In: Women’s Classic Literature Event 2016

Looking back at what I have read this year, even I questioned if I was still participating in this event. My answer: absolutely!
Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen, Zora Neale Hurson, George Eliot, Rose Wilder Lane, Louisa May Alcott, & Virginia Woolf.

I signed up to participate in The Women’s Classic Literature Event starting in January 2016, but, sadly, I realized that I have only read one book on my list: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. How did this happen? It happened because I picked up a few books for the sheer enjoyment of reading them or to learn something new. After all, this is what makes reading so much fun!

The books I’ve read this year have given me a richer understanding of the people and places I have read about. In The Traitors Wife,  I learned more about Martha Carrier who would later tragically get caught up in the Salem Witch trials in Colonial New England.  In Galileo’s Daughter, I learned about this great man of science who faced the Roman Inquisition in 17th century Italy. These were individuals who lived and struggled to be themselves and to make their own contributions in a society that expected conformity.

Earlier this year, I blogged through The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck who vividly portrayed yet another society in pre-revolutionary China. It depicted a harsh and often brutal society where land was life sustaining for some, while others struggled to survive and daughters were born into slavery.

After my last book, I had planned to return to the classics, but I had science on the brain and took a detour. So, once I finish my current book, The Planets by Dava Sobel, I will be returning to the wonderful world of Classic Literature. I’m thinking about reading The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton next. I haven’t read any of her books yet and I am looking forward to learning more about her and reading about her New York society life and the people who were part of the culture of The Gilded Age. It promises to be a great read!

Until next time, Happy Reading, Everyone !!