It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 16.0

Happy Monday everyone! This week I am participating in the “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

My thoughts on books I recently finished:

astronaut-wives-club

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

As America’s Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons.

Annie Glenn, with her picture-perfect marriage, was the envy of the other wives; platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was proclaimed JFK’s favorite; and licensed pilot Trudy Cooper arrived on base with a secret. Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, meeting regularly to provide support and friendship. Many became next-door neighbors and helped to raise each other’s children by day, while going to glam parties at night as the country raced to land a man on the Moon.

As their celebrity rose-and as divorce and tragic death began to touch their lives-they continued to rally together, and the wives have now been friends for more than fifty years. THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history.

As someone who grew up fascinated by the space program, dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and actually worked at NASA for about two years I was REALLY excited when I saw this book was coming out. So excited that I actually purchased a copy (as opposed to checking out from the library), which is becoming a rarer occurrence these days. I’ve read many (many) books on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, and always wanted to know more about what happened behind the scenes on the home front. Needless to say, I was definitely the target audience for this book and I really, really wanted to love it…except I didn’t.

For starters, for a book that aims to tell the stories of wives from all 3 programs, it focuses predominately on the Mercury wives. Since I probably know the least about this era of NASA history I didn’t mind this too much at first. However, as the book continued on and I realized that Koppel was going to cram the Gemini and Apollo wives (which were much bigger groups then the original seven) into the remaining half of the (already slender) volume I found my tolerance waning. Having had about a month and a half to decompress and put this book in perspective, I realize now that a narrower focus would have done MUCH to improve the narrative. In addition to relieving the constant blitzkrieg of names and dates thrown around (which would be VERY confusing if you weren’t already familiar with astronauts and their missions), it would have allowed Koppel to give more depth (and life) to each woman.

Speaking of superficial details and flat characters…Koppel does not do a good job of distinguishing the wives from one another or even making them seem like real people. Instead of focusing on individual achievements and life stories, Koppel provides light chatter on their wardrobes, cleaning rituals, and social routines. Even when she does hit on hard issues like infidelity and divorce, it still feels like gossip from a neighbor and not an accurate, thoroughly researched biography. One reviewer on Goodreads commented that this book sounds as though she (Koppel) cobbled together Life magazine articles, and sadly I must agree.

I realize this is probably one of the harshest reviews I’ve posted on this blog, and I know much of this stems from my deep and very genuine love of the space program. This is not a great book, but the story of these women’s lives is definitely worth telling and reading. Overall, I was sorely disappointed, but recommend reading this book if you are looking for a quick overview of the astronaut wives.  3/5 stars.

Books I recently read:

Frozen in Time by Michell Zuckoff

frozen in time


This Week I am reading:

Beloved

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.

This Week I am listening to:

orangeisnewblack

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424—one of the millions of women who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules, where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Orange Is the New Black offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison, why it is we lock so many away, and what happens to them when they’re there.

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What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

Thursday Thoughts 28.0

Happy Thursday everyone! Here are some things on my mind today:

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[1]

O.k. I know it’s November now, but I still want to post a few pictures from a fun Halloween party I went to on November 1st (see it still applies for this month :P). The party was held by someone in the department, and as usual everyone showed up in great costumes! I wore a flight suit and aviator sunglasses I got a flight show several years ago, and went as a “pilot” or “hey! Top Gun!” depending on who was guessing…

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Harry Potter, Grunge Girl, and Pilot/”Top Gun”

Of course, I had to get a picture with my Tuesday’s With Morrie/Wine Riot buddies:

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[2]

In honor of my 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs, I have been rocking this Chief’s themed manicure for about a week. Added bonus: I have been trying to get rid of these polishes for awhile (mostly because they are getting old), and this manicure went a long way toward that goal!

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[3]

Last Friday night, Tuesday’s with Morrie had a big, blowout occasion to celebrate (and use) our trivia winnings from last season. We had decided early on last trivia season to save up the gift cards we won each week and use them all at once. It took awhile to find a date that worked for everyone, but we finally did. In honor of this momentous occasion, we all dressed up and enjoyed a nice dinner at Farmhouse first. Afterwards, we headed to good ole JT’s to use the giftcards:

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We had a good time chatting and catching up, and of course I took pictures. Two of my favorites are shown below. Since there are only two ladies in the trivia group, I always like to get pictures of us. So when I asked to have our picture taken, I was instead rewarded with this lovely picture of Alex and Dan:

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But they did eventually comply, and we got our picture.

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[4]

On Tuesday I was FINALLY handed the book for which I wrote a chapter about a year ago this time. It was really nice to finally see it published, especially since I had to write the whole thing in 3 weeks RIGHT after my Ph.D. qualification exam. Now all I have to do is keep publishing things and they might let me out of here some day…har har har

[5]

There is a big game that will be holding my attention this weekend–the 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs vs the 8-1 Denver Broncos. It’s sure to be a good game, and will probably be a nail biter for me. Go Chiefs!

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Have a great weekend everyone!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 15.0

Happy Monday everyone! This week I am participating in the “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

My thoughts on books I recently finished:

i-am-forbidden

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Sweeping from the Central European countryside just before World War II to Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I Am Forbidden brings to life four generations of one Satmar family.

Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Gentile maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live.

When the two girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters makes force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known.

Before reading this book I knew nothing about Hasidic Judaism, much less the Satmar sect. Admittedly, there were several times at the beginning of the story where I was a bit confused (and was forced to re-listen to whole passages) due to this lack of context, but as I grew more acclimated to the story and the language I was enthralled and quickly finished this sweeping and sometimes very sad novel.

This story is populated with a rich cast of characters, but the two sisters, Mila and Atara, are the heart of the story. Despite being very close as young girls, they grow apart as their differing views of faith begin to affect their life choices. After things come to head and Atara leaves the family, the story revolves almost solely around Mila. Mila is a complex and very admirable character, but there is a large hole throughout much of the rest of the narrative where Atara should be. Both of these women, their experiences and emotions, felt very real to me which is probably due in large part to the fact that Markovits herself grew up in a Satmar family and left when she was 19. In centering the story around Mila and not Atara (whose life choices mirror the author’s), it seems like Markovits could be exploring the path she choose not to take.

Despite some pacing problems and my constant wondering about Atara’s life, I really enjoyed this novel. I was fascinated by the descriptions of the culture and the traditions of the Satmar sect, and also by the true life story of the Satmar Rebbe who escaped the Holocaust while his followers remained behind (which had drastic consequences for the fictional Mila and her family). Additionally, I think Markovits does a beautiful job exploring the boundaries between faith, personal freedom, and family responsibility through Mila and Atara. This is a great read and I definitely recommend it! 4/5 stars.

Books I recently read:

The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

the smartest guys in the room

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

27mantel"Bringing Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel

This Week I am reading:

Beloved

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.

This Week I am listening to:

frozen in timeSynopsis adapted from Goodreads:

On November 5, 1942, a U.S. cargo plane on a routine flight slammed into the Greenland ice cap. Four days later, a B-17 on the search-and-rescue mission became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on the B-17 survived. The U.S. military launched a second daring rescue operation, but the Grumman Duck amphibious plane sent to find the men flew into a severe storm and vanished.

In this thrilling adventure, Mitchell Zuckoff offers a spellbinding account of these harrowing disasters and the fate of the survivors and their would-be saviors. Frozen in Time places us at the center of a group of valiant airmen fighting to stay alive through 148 days of a brutal Arctic winter by sheltering from subzero temperatures and vicious blizzards in the tail section of the broken B-17 until an expedition headed by famed Arctic explorer Bernt Balchen attempts to bring them to safety.

But that is only part of the story that unfolds in Frozen in Time. In present-day Greenland, Zuckoff joins the U.S. Coast Guard and North South Polar—a company led by the indefatigable dreamer Lou Sapienza, who worked for years to solve the mystery of the Duck’s last flight—on a dangerous expedition to recover the remains of the lost plane’s crew.

Drawing on intensive research and Zuckoff ’s firsthand account of the dramatic 2012 expedition, Frozen in Time is a breathtaking blend of mystery, adventure, heroism, and survival. It is also a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of our military personnel and their families—and a tribute to the important, perilous, and often-overlooked work of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

Slow Cooker Chicken Dinner

Happy Friday Y’all! It’s been a busy week of work, so I’m sorry about the lack of posting. Today, I’m sharing a super easy slow cooker recipe. Seriously, this is one of the easiest I’ve made yet AND it’s pretty tasty. Enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Chicken Dinner

Adapted from: Real Mom Kitchen

Slower Cooker Chicken Dinner

Ingredients:

6 medium yukon gold potatoes, cut into chunks

4 medium carrots, cut into ½-inch pieces

4 boneless skinless chicken breast

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup

⅛ teaspoon garlic salt

Dash of pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Place carrots and potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot.

Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables.

In a bowl, combine the soups, garlic salt, and pepper. Spread the mixture over the chicken.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender.

Notes:

This recipe reheats well!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 14.0

Happy Monday everyone! This week I am participating in the “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Book reviews from last week:

None! I’ve been busy/am just generally lazy when it comes to posting book reviews.

My thoughts on books I recently finished:

crazy-rich-asians

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry.

Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

Although I have never been to Singapore and am neither Asian or “crazy rich,” I found much to relate to in this funny and very entertaining novel. First of all, anyone who has ever traveled somewhere far away from where they grew up (especially somewhere overseas) can relate to the culture shock Rachel experiences when she first steps off the plane in Singapore. The sights, smells, and language of a new place can be disorienting and overwhelming. For Rachel, this culture shock is compounded by the fact that she has no idea of her boyfriend Nick’s past or family life in Singapore.

As Rachel learns more about Nick’s past and bumps up against his very opinionated family, she starts to question how well she really knows Nick and (based off of some things that happen late in the book) herself. These issues of family and the complications and baggage they bring to your life is the part of the book I think most people would easily identify with. Even though we may move away from our childhood homes, the baggage we left behind will still be there waiting for us when we return, as both Nick and Rachel learn by the end of the book.

Overall I very much enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it! If I have any complaints, it would be the somewhat abrupt ending…but that alone isn’t enough to diminish my overall enjoyment of it. 4/5 stars.

Books I recently read:

 The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling

jk-rowling-the-cuckoos-calling

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The-rook

This Week I am reading:

the smartest guys in the room

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Remarkably, it was just a few years ago that Enron was thought to epitomize a great New Economy company, with its skyrocketing profits and share price. But that was before Fortune published an article by McLean that asked a seemingly innocent question: How exactly does Enron make money? From that point on, Enron’s house of cards began to crumble. Now, McLean and Elkind have investigated much deeper, to offer the definitive book about the Enron scandal and the fascinating people behind it.

Meticulously researched and character driven, Smartest Guys in the Room takes the reader deep into Enron’s past—and behind the closed doors of private meetings. Drawing on a wide range of unique sources, the book follows Enron’s rise from obscurity to the top of the business world to its disastrous demise. It reveals as never before major characters such as Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow, as well as lesser known players like Cliff Baxter and Rebecca Mark. Smartest Guys in the Room is a story of greed, arrogance, and deceit—a microcosm of all that is wrong with American business today. Above all, it’s a fascinating human drama that will prove to be the authoritative account of the Enron scandal.

This Week I am listening to:

27mantel"Bringing Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and “New York Times” bestseller, “Wolf Hall” delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies” follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?

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What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!