How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer: Book Review

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4 Stars

Okay, this was weird. But it was a weird that I liked.

Astronomer Irene Sparks decides to move back to Toledo on the day that she almost simultaneously creates a mini black hole in her lab and learns that her alcoholic mother has died. She’s always wanted to go back home and work for the world-famous Toledo Institute of Astronomy, so when she’s offered a job there, she jumps at it.

George Dermont is also an astronomer working at The Institute. While Irene’s approach to the night sky is grounded firmly in reality, science, and math, George is fusing religion and science. In fact, the Goddess of Love is the one who gave him the secret to a Gateway that would explain a lot of astronomy’s inexplicable problems. Seriously.

George and Irene are instantly drawn to each other, in ways they don’t understand and can’t explain. What they can’t know is that their mothers used to be best friends and made a pact as teenagers to raise their children to be perfect soul mates for each other.

We all know by now that I’m that reader who is upset if I don’t like any characters in a book. But you know what? I didn’t really like any of these characters and I still liked this book. I must be growing as a reader! They had elements that I liked, and I definitely liked some more than others, but there’s not one character here that I would want to spend time with in real life. Irene is so serious and career-driven and resentful of her mother (with reason) that I truly don’t know what George sees in her. She has a boyfriend at the beginning of the book (Beallyon? Weird names are the downfall of audio books) and she’s using him. I don’t really know for what. Company? It’s weird. Speaking of Beallyon, I actually kind of like him. He gets his own little subplot that didn’t really resolve but that I did like. George is better than Irene but he’s a spoiled playboy. His interactions with gods and goddesses definitely caught my attention. But Irene and George’s mothers, Bernice and Sally, were really the force behind this whole story. The story of their friendship is shared in a series of flashbacks. It was painful to read. It was obvious what was going to happen between them pretty early on, so watching it unfold just hurt my heart. Bernice should have been the sympathetic character, but knowing how she ends up kills a little of that. Sally is just an insensitive bully. I’m not sure how Bernice puts up with her at all.

I liked George’s gods and goddesses. I wish I could remember them all. The Goddess of Love has become more of a Goddess of Lust in modern-day America. We’ve also added a Goddess of Speed to the pantheon. Fitting, isn’t it? She’s always urging George to go faster and think less, to keep up before he gets left behind. There’s also a very creepy encounter with Death. Holy moly.

I’ve seen Joshilyn Jackson speak several times and she always cracks me up. When I was searching for a new audiobook, I finally remembered to search for something she had narrated, so that’s how I found this book. Her reading didn’t disappoint. Empathetic and funny, she definitely kept my attention.

This is not going to be for every reader. It defies description and genre, and follows unexpected paths. But if your normal reading choices have gotten a little stale, go ahead and give this one a try.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Lydia Netzer on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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