2013: A Year in Reading

As 2014 draws closer and all of those “end-of-the-year” lists start making their appearance, I also have begun to review the events of my life from the past year. From both a personal and professional standpoint it was certainly a year of change and growth, but overall was a vast improvement over 2012. Despite all of the changes life has brought, I still have not lost my passion for reading. My reading tastes have changed over the years and the format in which I read has also changed, but my excitement at cracking the cover on a new book (or pressing play for the first time on an audiobook) has never waned.

Last year, I did a 2012 reading stats post and I thought it would be fun to repeat again this year. Compared to 2012, I read two more books this year but listened to 11 more audiobooks (than 2012). Clearly the active and busy schedule of graduate school has affected my reading habits!  It will be interesting to see if this trend (of listening to more books) continues in 2014.

Reading Stats for 2013:

Number of books read: 47

Number of paperback/hardcover: 17 (4,983 pages)

Number of e-books: 3 (2,556 e-book pages)

Number of audiobooks: 27 (479 hours and 20 minutes)

Number of fiction: 37

Number of non-fiction: 10

Average Rating (out of 5 points): 3.79

Most books read in one month: 6 books in January

Longest book read: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin at 992 e-book pages (1216 paperback)

Longest audio book listened to: The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe at 31 parts

Number of books from BBC Challenge list: 3

Overall I’m pretty pleased with my 2013 stats. I wish I would have found more time to physically read a book (as opposed to listening) and to read more classic literature, but think I did pretty good overall considering my crazy grad school schedule.

Finally, as I did in 2012, I thought I’d list my favorite books of the year. As usual, I had a hard time picking an absolute favorite so I listed runner(s) up as well.

Best Fiction Book: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca

I loved this book from start to finish, and plan to try to read another Daphene Du Maurier in 2014!

Runners up: Persuasion by Jane Austen and The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Best Non-Fiction Book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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What to say about this awesome book that hasn’t already been said? It was sad, thought-provoking, and finally gives well-deserved recognition to the woman whose cells helped shape modern science.

Runner up: The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

Best Audio Book: The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

orphanmastersson

This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2013 and it was well deserved in my opinion. Before listening to this fantastic audio book, I knew little about North Korea other than bits I’d read in the news headlines. This book opened up a window into this infamously secretive country, and I walked away with a much better understanding than I anticipated. In addition to gaining some understanding of the country, I really enjoyed the story of Jun Do. It was sad, sometimes funny, but most of all deeply interesting.  I also highly recommend the audio version of this book–it certainly enhanced my reading experience!

Runners up: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman, and Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

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What were your favorite reads from 2013?

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Thursday Thoughts 30.0: December Recap

It seems like every time I turn around another month has gone by…December in particular was CRAZY. The first two-ish weeks were overtaken by work, work, and more work. Also, (as you’ll see) I went to a few holiday parties :P. Overall it’s been a great December (even though it went by too fast) and generally a fantastic year. 2013 TOTALLY made up for the rough patch I had in 2012. I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for me…but before I get too ahead of myself I’ll take a look back at December ’13.

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[1]

Books read:

1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

2. Animal Farm by George Orwell

3. Enemies: A History of the FBI  by Tim Weiner

4. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (almost finished)

I’m going to fall short of the 52 book goal I set for myself this year, but at 47 I’d still say I came awful close!

[2]

Well I’m going to fall short of the 1000 mile goal this year:

December

Obviously it’s a little disappointing to not meet this goal, but honestly I’m not that upset about it. This was the first year I’ve really stuck with any fitness goals I set for myself, and know that I was MUCH more active than I’ve been in previous years. So even though I didn’t meet the goal, I still feel like I accomplished what I set out to do (which was to be more active). I plan to set the same goal for myself next year…we’ll see how I do!

[3]

Fun things I did in December (and oh boy there were a lot of them!):

1) Attended The Graduate School Holiday Party

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Appetizers, live music, and socializing with good friends

2) Attended a holiday wine tasting

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Lovely ladies with Alex photobombing in the background

3) Played one last game of Battlestar Galactica in 2013

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4) Enjoyed a holiday party with my labmates

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I’m lucky to work with a good group of people!

4) Traveled to my college town for a visit and got to enjoy tea OUTSIDE in December

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Beautiful Day in the ‘Ville

5) Enjoyed catching up with some lovely ladies I went to high school with

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6) Had Christmas with my family at home

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7) Went cross country skiing for the first time ever (and I didn’t die!)

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8) Enjoyed some quality time with this guy

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Oh hiiiiiiiiii

9) Saw lots and lots (and lots) of snow in the UP

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***

Hope you had a very happy holiday season and a great new year!

My 2013 Reading Challenges: How Did I Do?

Well it’s that time of year again–the time to tally up the results and see if I completed all my reading challenges or not!

This was my first year participating in any kind of reading challenge, so I wasn’t sure how I would do or if I would like it. On the whole, I really enjoyed trying to complete the variety of challenges I signed myself up for. Five challenges was definitely a reasonable number of challenges to start with, and also provided good diversity in my reading. Most of the challenges I choose were pretty open-ended (like the New Authors Challenge or the Audiobook challenge), and I think this really helped keep me going when I was feeling discouraged about my progress in other challenges (i.e. Back To The Classics). For 2014 I will sign up for a few more challenges than I did in 2013, but I will still participate in the majority of these because I enjoyed them so much.

So without further ado…

My 2013 Reading Challenges: How did I do?

Challenge #1 (Incomplete)Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Sarah Reads Too Much

BackToTheClassics2013

Requirements to complete the challenge:

1. A 19th Century Classic: Persuasion by Jane Austen

2. A 20th Century Classic: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

3. A Pre-18th or 18th Century Classic: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

4. A Classic that relates to the African-American Experience: Beloved by Toni Morrison

5. A Classic Adventure

6. A Classic that prominently features an Animal: Animal Farm by George Orwell

I got really close to finishing this challenge and know that if I had a few more weeks I would have finished it. Regardless, participating in this challenge exposed me to some great classic literature I might not have read otherwise…well this year at least. Honestly I loved every book I read for this challenge and don’t think I could pick a favorite!

Challenge #2 (Complete!)What’s in a Name, hosted by Beth Fish Reads

What'sInAName2013

Requirements to complete this challenge:

1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title–Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

2. A book with something you’d find in your kitchen in the title–Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

3. A book with a party or celebration in the title–Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot

4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title–The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

5. A book with an emotion in the title–The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title–Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

This was so unique and was actually a bit of a challenge to complete. I enjoyed all of the books I read in pursuit of this challenge, but would probably pick either Bring up the Bodies or The House of Mirth as my favorites.

Challenge #3 (Complete!)Audio Book Challenge, hosted by Teresa’s Reading Corner

2013-Audio-Book-Challenge

To complete this challenge, you must choose your “level” and read/listen to the specified number of Audio Books. I am signing up for Lover, or I hope to listen to 25 Audio Books.

1. Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

2. A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan

3. Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

4. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

5. Matched by Ally Condie

6. Crossed by Ally Condie

7. The Twelve by Justin Cronin

8. The Sisters by Nancy Jensen

9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

10. The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

11. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

12. The Expats by Chris Pavone

13. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

14. Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

15. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

16. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

17. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley

18. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

19. The 500 by Matthew Quirk

20. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

21. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

22. I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

23. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

24. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

25. Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff

26. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

27. Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner

I completed this challenge and then some! Audiobooks have quickly become one of my favorite things to listen to, and they certainly help to up my reading numbers!

Challenge #4 (Complete!)New Authors Challenge, hosted by Literary Escapism

NewAuthorsChallenge2013

I am signing up to read books from 25 new authors.

1. Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

2. A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan

3. Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

4. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

5. Matched by Ally Condie

6. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

9. The Sisters by Nancy Jensen

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

11. The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

12. Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick

13. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

14. The Expats by Chris Pavone

15. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

16. Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

17. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

18. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley

19. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

20. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

21. The 500 by Matthew Quirk

22. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

23. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

24. The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

25. I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

26. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

27. The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

28. Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff

29. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

30. Beloved by Toni Morrison

31. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

32. Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner

I like this challenge because it allowed me to track the diversity in my reading. Clearly, the majority of the books I read this year were from authors I was reading for the first time!

Challenge #5 (Complete!)This Isn’t Fiction, hosted by The Book Garden

This isn't Fiction Reading Challenge Button

Qualifying books for this challenge include any non-fiction book that is over 100 pages. I am signing up for the elementary school level, or I hope to read 10 books.

1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

3. Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick

4. Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

5. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

6. The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

7. The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

8. Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff

9. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

10. Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner

I really enjoyed this challenge! This is by far the largest number of non-fiction books I’ve ever read in one year. I was nervous initially that I wouldn’t be able to complete this challenge, but I actually found it surprisingly easy.

Personal Reading Goals:

My goal for 2013 was to read 52 books, and I will fall just short of that with a total of 47 books. Although I didn’t meet my goal, I still read two more books than I read in 2012! Additionally, I wanted to read 8 more books off of the  The Big Read List. Again I fell a bit short of this goal by only reading 3, but the books that I did read (Rebecca, Animal Farm, and Persuasion) were great books!

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Overall I had a lot of fun tracking my reading habits and trying to complete these challenges (and in most cases I did pretty good). I’m already excited to begin tackling the challenges that I’ve selected for 2014 (more on that soon)!

Thursday Thoughts 29.0: November Recap

Oh my goodness it’s December already!!!!! Where has this year gone?!?!?!

Please excuse the short blogging break–I had the flu and went home for Thanksgiving. Luckily, my fever broke THE day I had to fly home…so hopefully I didn’t give it to anyone there (fingers crossed). Since it’s Thursday and the beginning of a new month, I thought I’d recap my November. Have a great weekend everyone!

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[1]

After a poor showing in October, I read four books in November. It’s doubtful at this point that I’ll make my goal of reading 52 books this year since I’m currently at 44, but I’ve had fun trying reach this goal!

1. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

2. The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

3. Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff

4. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

[2]

Well folks, it looks like I’m not going to make the 1000 mile goal this year either. Am I disappointed? Sure. Am I just going to throw in the towel and quit working out? No way! I realize it probably seems too early to declare defeat, but thus far I have only accumulated 862 miles. With a crazy work schedule and holiday travel, it is highly unlikely I will find the time required to get in the 100+ miles of cardio needed to reach this goal. Regardless, I did pretty good in November, especially considering the bout of flu and holiday travel. You have to take the small victories where they come.

November

[3]

As per October, I did a fair amount of cooking in November but was terrible at posting recipes. I’ll try to do better this month, but no promises! 🙂

Recipes Posted:

Slow Cooker Chicken Dinner

[4]

I did a few fun manicures in November, including an especially time consuming argyle manicure:

1) Chiefs Manicure (I love them even if they keep breaking my heart)

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2) Argyle Manicure

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[5]

Fun things I did in November:

1) Went to a Halloween Party (on November 1):

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2) Celebrated last season’s trivia winnings:

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3) Celebrated my sister’s birthday at home on Thanksgiving

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4) Took a failed trip to the Kansas History Museum, which turned into a nice afternoon walk instead

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***

November you were pretty good to me (minus the whole having the flu for a week thing) and I’m excited to see what December brings!

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!

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!

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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