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Fire and Ice

November 9, 2023

You know that I love me some natural disaster books. But I am also a fan of the frozen liquid called ice. When were traveling in Europe, where they do not believe in my favorite chilling beverage additive, I asked for ice and I got a glass. Sigh. So today I offer you Fire and Ice - some captivating books about fire in a natural setting and then a couple to cool you off.

Yes please and then some. This is my favorite kind of natural disaster fiction. There is an excellent balance between the actual natural disaster part - in this case a very active series of Icelandic volcanoes - and the main character’s life. Dr. Anna is a leading volcanologist in Iceland and when the volcanoes in her area of the country become active, everyone turns to her for what to do. Unfortunately, her life is a mess. Her son can’t find a good job, her mother is sick, and she’s questioning her marriage. Then everything blows up. Literally. (Sorry, no spoiler alert. You knew that was coming.) This book was apparently huge in Iceland and I can see why. I did wish I understand the Icelandic language better, but the translator does a good job. If you want to read this, get your ILL request in today!

I love ice. Maybe more so in drinks than say, on the roads in the winter. But I want my drinks cold like the arctic tundra. So anyway, I put ice in everything, and when I saw this book, I was in. I think ice has become so ubiquitous, in the US at least, that sometimes we take it for granted. It’s hard to believe that we just haven’t always had access to ice, especially here in the south. Brady talks about how popular, and rare, ice cream was for folks like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Fun fact, my great-great grandfather used to be an ice man - one of those guys who carried the 50 lb. blocks and put them in people’s ice boxes before manual refrigeration. Once refrigerators became a thing, someone also figured out how to make ice rinks, which provide us with figure skating (yes, please), speed skating (ok) and hockey (why not?). There’s even a section on curling. Good times. Think about all the ways that ice makes life better. If you need some suggestions, check this one out. It’s an excellent read.

Everything I said in the first review - except this time it’s nonfiction instead of fiction. I remember hearing about the devastating Fort McMurray fires when they were happening, but I had no idea where they were (my geography skills are not the best). Recently I also read a graphic novel about working in the oil industry called Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands. So to bring you up to speed, in Alberta, Canada (think Calgary) the northern portion of the province is home to the oil sands that companies like Sunco mine for bituminous sand that they can refine into oil. In 2017, one of the hottest forest fires on record burned (basically vaporized) a large portion of the town of Fort McMurray. This fire was so hot and so big that it burned for the better part of 17 months. This book was equal parts fascinating (the fire) and terrifying (the data about climate change). I highly recommend this one.

So apparently, hockey romances are kind of a thing at the moment. Who knew, right? And this is the one I’ve heard the most buzz about, so I jumped right in. Anastasia is a fabulous pairs skater whose partner is a bit of a dink. Good thing she bumps into hot hockey guy Nate, so he can step in and help out when her original partner gets hurt. I enjoyed this one, even though I know basically nothing about hockey. I liked both Stas and Nate, but I must admit they made some different choices in college than I did. Also, it took me about 100 pages to get into the book, so give it some time if you don’t immediately love it. The back half is more than worth the effort. Check out your copy today before the Zamboni machine comes to sweep it away.

Growing up in northern Indiana, Chicago was my city until I moved to Nashville. This means I am always fascinated with books about the Windy City. In October 1871, over half the city burned in a massive fire that may or may not have been started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow (read the book for more on the truth of this legend). This fire is also the reason that Chicago exists in its current form. When all the individual houses burned down, that gave the city architects a blank canvas on which to rebuild. I have to say that I enjoyed the first half of this book about the fire more than the second half about the politics. A great companion to this would be the book below about the firestorm that hit Peshtigo, WI the same night that Chicago burned. 

So hopefully you learned something, and if not, maybe at least your drinks were cold. 

Happy hot and cold…
:) Amanda

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Amanda is a classically-trained pianist who loves to read. Like any good librarian, she also has two cats named after Italian cities. Amanda spends her free time sitting in Nashville traffic, baking, and running the Interlibrary Loan office at the Nashville Public Library.