It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 17.0

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

***

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Bookish posts from last week:

1) 2013: A Year in Reading

2) My 2014 Reading Challenges

My thoughts on books I recently finished:

jk-rowling-the-cuckoos-calling

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Confession: I didn’t find out about this book until after the news had already leaked that it was J.K. Rowling who had written it, and I also have not yet read The Casual Vacancy (although it is sitting on my shelf). I think the thought of reading another J.K. Rowling after Harry Potter was too intimidating–what if I didn’t like it (especially after the mixed reviews I’ve read of CV)? None of these thoughts were in my head though when I heard about The Cuckoo’s Calling since it sounded exactly like something I would love. However, now that I’ve read it, I can safety say that I liked this book but didn’t love it.

I think my biggest complaint about the book (and a quick perusal of Goodreads tells me I’m not alone here) is that the first half moves way, way too slow. Some books have a slow build-up to the action, but usually there is a good hook to keep you reading. Since this book is billed as a mystery/thriller I would have expected it to hook me more in the beginning then it did. Basically, the only thing that kept me reading for about the first hundred pages was that I knew J.K. Rowling had written this book and that if I waited long enough she probably wouldn’t let me down (luckily I was right).

Eventually I did get invested in the story, and the pace did pick up for about the second half of the book. I figured out the mystery pretty quickly, but still enjoyed reading through the end. The best part of the book in my opinion are the characters Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin, and I look forward to learning more about them in the sequel (set to be published this year???). In the end, I’m glad I had faith and stuck it out. 3/5 stars.

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.

When the Enron scandal broke I was a freshman in high school, so although I remember hearing about it I didn’t really know much about it. Several years later, when I was a senior in college working in Houston for an internship, the Enron saga was brought to my attention again when a friend said “those are the old Enron towers” as we were driving through downtown Houston. I made a mental note to learn the details of what happened, and then promptly forgot until this book was called to my attention last year. And boy am I glad it was.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that this book is a bit long. It comes in at a whopping 480 pages and is pretty technical at parts (especially for us non-finance majors).  However, it is exhaustively researched, incredibly interesting, and very readable. McLean and Elkind do a great job of turning this very complex story into an understandable and frankly page turning narrative. In addition to the telling the technical side of the story, I think the authors also do a nice job of looking at the human aspect of it–the hubris, the ignorance, the greed. The corporate executives at the center of the scandal weren’t necessarily inherently bad people, and I think this book does a nice job of separating the facts from the gossip.

Overall, I thought this was a really great book and a must read for anybody with an interest in business (apparently it’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite books). It was informative without being too dry, and is written at a level that even non-finance people (such as myself) can easily comprehend. If I could wish for anything different, it would be an updated edition. This book was published in 2004 (almost 10 years ago now) and I’d be curious to see the authors’ thoughts and comments ten years after the fact. 4.5/5 stars.

Books I recently read:

MissPeregrineCover

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

A horrific family tragedy sends Jacob 16 to a remote island off Wales, to the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, where he finds unusual old photographs. The children, one his grandfather, were more than peculiar, perhaps dangerous, quarantined for good reason – and maybe still alive.

robinson crusoe

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Who has not dreamed of life on an exotic isle, far away from civilization? Here is the novel which has inspired countless imitations by lesser writers, none of which equal the power and originality of Defoe’s famous book. Robinson Crusoe, set ashore on an island after a terrible storm at sea, is forced to make do with only a knife, some tobacco, and a pipe. He learns how to build a canoe, make bread, and endure endless solitude. That is, until, twenty-four years later, when he confronts another human being.

Enemies

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Enemies is the first definitive history of the FBI’s secret intelligence operations, from an author whose work on the Pentagon and the CIA won him the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

We think of the FBI as America’s police force. But secret intelligence is the Bureau’s first and foremost mission. Enemies is the story of how presidents have used the FBI as the most formidable intelligence force in American history.

Here is the hidden history of America’s hundred-year war on terror. The FBI has fought against terrorists, spies, anyone it deemed subversive—and sometimes American presidents. The FBI’s secret intelligence and surveillance techniques have created a tug-of-war between protecting national security and infringing upon civil liberties. It is a tension that strains the very fabric of a free republic.

This Week I am reading:

call of the wild

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is regarded as Jack London’s masterpiece. Based on London’s experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence, The Call of the Wild is a tale about unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen Alaskan Klondike.

This Week I am listening to:

sisterland

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.

***

What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

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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.

***

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.

***

What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

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.

***

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.

***

What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

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.

***

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?

***

What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

Thursday Thoughts 27.0: October Recap

Happy Halloween everyone! In addition to eating some delicious treats today (well currently my delicious treat is an oat and honey bar…but whatcha gonna do?), I also want to recap my October.

***

[1]

Oh say it ain’t so!!!! I only finished two books this past month. In my defense they were sort of longish, and the books I began reading after them are also pretty long. Regardless, those two books bring my total up to 39 books for the year. I’m really going to have to “book it” (he he) if I want to hit my goal of 52 books for the year.

Books Read in October:

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

2) The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

[2]

I did A LOT of cooking in October. As usual though, only a few recipes actually made it to the blog.

Recipes Posted:

1) Penne Pasta in a Tomato Cream Sauce

2) Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

[3]

After a poor showing in September, I rallied in October to put in a much more impressive 92 miles of cardio.

October

For the year I’m logged about 777 miles. Obviously my 1000 mile goal is still doable, but I am going to have to pick up the pace even more these last few months (which could be difficult with the holidays approaching). If I don’t make the goal at the end of the year I will be obviously disappointed. Even if I don’t make it I know that this project has accomplished what I hoped it would: it has ensured I am more consistently active.

[4]

Fun things I did in October:

1) Went to a football tailgate:

IMG_0957

2) Enjoyed a visit with my parents (GO CHIEFS!!!):

IMG_0974

3) Took a trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan:

IMG_1031

3) Played Trivia (but only once 😦 ). Nothing says “big winner” like a giant bag of microwaved popcorn:

Bonus Prize

***

October you were pretty good to me. I’m excited to see what November has in store! Have a great weekend everyone!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 13.0

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

***

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Book reviews from last week:

None! It was a busy week and I had/have a cold. 😦

Books I recently read:

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.

A beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping story of what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law, and centuries of tradition collide, I Am Forbidden announces the arrival of an extraordinarily gifted new voice and opens a startling window on a world long closed to most of us, until now.

This Week I am reading:

jk-rowling-the-cuckoos-calling

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

This Week I am listening to:

The-rook

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Myfanwy Thomas awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, her only hope of survival is to trust the instructions left in her pocket by her former self. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization and this person wants her dead.

As Myfanwy battles to save herself, she encounters a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and an unimaginably vast conspiracy. Suspenseful and hilarious, THE ROOK is an outrageously inventive debut for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.

***

What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

Thursday Thoughts 15.0

Whew! It’s been a busy week over here at Ex Libris. Here is what’s on my mind today…

***

[1]

It’s fellowship renewal season!!!! The due date for my fellowship renewal package is March 12, but I found out yesterday through a chance conversation with one of my lab mates (who has the same fellowship as me) that my advisor wants the student input portion by Friday. That’s tomorrow. Yikes. I should be able to get it done by then, but it really derailed my plans for the rest of this week.

[2]

Last week I got pulled into a new project. This one was sold to me by my advisor as a “two-week diversion.” Basically, we are trying to gather a lot of data and write a paper fast so that we don’t get scooped (i.e. we don’t want someone else to publish before us). We started out with a simple (and I thought reasonable) plan, but the plan quickly grew more complicated and convoluted. First, I unexpectedly had to make a batch of new samples (which takes the better part of a week). Then, a series of longer and more complicated experiments, which would have extended the project and likely resulted in us getting scooped, were proposed by a group member. We met with our advisor earlier in the week, and I think we are finally back to the simple (and reasonable) plan. So far, it looks like my new samples are working and that we are getting good data. Keep your fingers crossed that nothing catastrophic happens in the next week or so.

[3]

Today is the last day of February, and thus it’s time for a training update!

February results

If you recall from my last training update, my goal is to complete about 85 miles of cardio each month, which should total up to about 1000 miles at the end of the year. It was definitely more difficult to get the miles in this month. For starters, the weather was really uncooperative which made doing anything outside nearly impossible. Also, February is a short month so it is just harder to get them all in anyway (or at least that is what I’m telling myself). As you can see, I’m about 8 miles short of my goal this month. Luckily I did 9 extra miles in January, so technically I’m still ahead 1 mile for the year.

I’m really starting to notice improvements in my physical fitness this month. There were weeks where I couldn’t make it to the gym as much, but my mileage didn’t lack because I’m running and biking farther in the same amount of time. That was a really nice realization to have in the middle of the month. I’ve always been on the leaner side, but I’ve never been particularly “fit.” I’m starting to see muscle definition in places I’ve never had it before, and that is great motivation to keep going! So far, I’m liking that my goal is focused on total miles and not things like number of days worked out, calories burned, etc. The focus is on being active, and it really seems to be working for me!

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Have you ever found that a bad experience reading one book and can kind of turn you off from the whole genre for awhile? Recently, I read (listened to) Robert Goolrick’s Heading Out to Wonderful and I really didn’t like it. I’ll try to post a review soon (soon = sometime this year), but this one really just did not resonate with me. It was well written but it was slowwwww and led to an anticlimatic (and frankly reprehensible) conclusion. Honestly, I only stayed with it on the hope that it would be worth it in the end. It wasn’t. Anyway, a few days ago I was ready to start a new audiobook. I have quite a few in my queue right now so I randomly selected a book which happened to fall under the same genre as Heading Out to Wonderful, aka southern historical fiction, and I didn’t make it past 10 minutes. Logically, I know in my head that this is a different book, but the memory of Heading Out to Wonderful was so strong that I just had no desire to listen after those 10 minutes. I’m keeping this new (southern historical fiction) book in my queue, but I’ve moved onto a different audiobook for now.

[5]

Tuesday’s With Morrie, my trivia team, has competed the last few weeks and fallen just short of the victory every time. We are nearly always in first or second place before the final question of the round, and then we blow it or don’t bet enough points at the end. Oh well. We are having a good time with it anyway! In fact, we are registering our team in the local trivia league, which requires us to make a group poster and write a short blurb. We’ve been sending around draft versions this week, so maybe I’ll have a completed poster to show y’all next week.

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Guess what I’m doing this weekend? LASER TAG!!!!!!! Yes, you read that correctly. Our graduate student association has arranged this outing for us and I’m very excited for it. I haven’t played laser tag since late elementary school or early junior high.

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Well that’s it for now. Have a great weekend everyone!

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