66books Wrap Up

Whoa, whoa, whoa you may be thinking. What is this onesteelesister chick trying to pull? She said she was going to keep summarizing and reviewing these books she read in 2016 so why is there one giant post here?

Well, because it’s 2018.

I was looking over the list of books still to go and realized¬†I’m never going to finish catching up on this. So rather than just abandon the project, I’m giving you a wrap-up post that will include everything I hadn’t written about yet. Each book is clearly identified and given a very brief reaction.

I hope you enjoy and have your own reading goals for the coming year! Mine is to read more female authors because looking over this list… yeah. I mean, women aren’t completely unrepresented, but definitely outnumbered. If I could read half female authors in 2018 I would be pretty happy with that. I’ll try to hold myself accountable on Twitter (@OneSteeleSister) if you’re curious.

The rest of the list:

The Paper Chase by John Jay Osborn Jr. – If you liked the movie, you’ll probably like the book; the screenplay was very faithful. I’m mostly in it for laughing at the finals scene.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – This is another one: if you like Hemingway, this is great, and if you don’t, this won’t change your mind.

1984 by George Orwell – I FINALLY read this–somehow it slipped through in my education. Very interesting but incredibly depressing given what was going on in the world.

Wonder Woman Volumes 1-5 by Brian Azzarello – I now have all 6 but this was my “catch up” before the next volume was released. I don’t have any other Wonder Woman I’ve read to compare it to, but I loved the characterizations.

Looking for Alaska by John Green – It was a good quick read but not my favorite John Green. I think I spent too much of the time overthinking how it had become such a Young Adult classic.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – Shockingly I LOVED this. It is L-O-N-G but moves along very well. Gets a bit repetitive plot-wise in the middle but worth it. Also, no mention of the sandwiches. So disappointing. ūüėõ

Star Wars: A New Hope by “George Lucas” – Actually ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster and fascinating for the changes from what actually ended up going on film. One of my favorites.

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster – The first of the Star Wars “EU” novels, written before The Empire Strikes Back existed. An “eh, it’s fine” story overall but incredibly entertaining for the budding romance between Luke and Leia (whoops there George).

Love Story by Erich Segal – Another book to which the movie was very faithful. I think I read this and The Paper Chase looking for more insight than I got from the films and so was a little disappointed. That said, it wasn’t a bad read or anything–I just felt like I could just go watch the movie I love and enjoy coveting Ali McGraw’s clothes instead.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin – I decided to go with some horror for October and this was on the Rory Gilmore reading challenge I was working on. Another classic if you like analyzing women’s rights in the 20th century and scaring the pants off yourself from being so creeped out.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Hello female author! This is another book where I have known the story for years but never read the original material. The time jumps threw me off a bit but every so often there would be a passage that was just so dang good it made it worth it.

Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud by Elizabeth Greenwood – We read this for book club and it was another book that clearly started as a series of essays or articles and then was expanded into a book. Some chapters were fascinating, others I just skimmed over.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville – I made it through this book! Even my American Lit class only had us read specific chapters. My eyes did glaze over a bit in the middle there but it was much more engaging than I expected from its reputation. It really didn’t feel like it was taking long at all to read.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri – I needed a quick palate cleanser after so much heaviness, so I went back to a childhood classic. Maybe it’s having reread The Secret Garden recently too, but I had never put together how many of these books revolved *spoilers* around kids relearning to walk through the power of nature.

Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid – Amazing story of Captain America’s initial reaction to finding himself in the modern era (as opposed to the 1940s).

Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises by Lesley M.M. Blume – I meant to read this much closer to rereading The Sun Also Rises but it took a while for my turn on the library holds list. Although it made me SO ANGRY AT STUPID MEN at several points in the book, as a writer myself I found it fascinating to see how he twisted his real life into the fiction that he wrote.

The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw – I was debating weeding this book from my collection and decided to read it again–and couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. Although the fawning over the Greatest Generation which this inspired can be a bit much it was still so wonderful to read these stories.

Cold War:A New History by John Lewis Gaddis – Look this is a nonfiction history classic and about one of my favorite eras of history and I read it and I wrote down that I read it and now I sit here and I can’t tell you a thing about it. *sigh* I guess it didn’t make much of an impression on me!

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? by Henry Farrell – So creepy. So good. Another book I’m happy to be able to say I’ve read rather than just knowing the story from cultural osmosis. I read it SO FAST because I couldn’t put it down.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling – I could critique this play all day but I think it says more that once I hit somewhere around the second half of the printed book I had trouble putting it down. I remember sitting up with the light on so much later than I should have because I just had to know what happened next. Isn’t that the best sign of a good story? I would LOVE to see it performed; the stage directions in the book I’m sure don’t do a good theater justice.

The History Boys by Alan Bennett – One British play led to another. I absolutely adore The History Boys and probably reread it every year.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray – I really wanted to be pleasantly surprised by how quickly I read this because I got caught up in the story, like what had happened with so many long tomes I read earlier this year. It didn’t happen. I didn’t hate this book but I was so bored and really had to force myself to keep going until I finished.

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings) by J.R.R. Tolkien – You may be wondering why just this one volume from The Lord of the Rings. Well, I actually read this because I started having panic attacks towards the end of 2016. I ended up seeing a therapist and starting medication in 2017, but before I could reach that point what calmed me down when I literally couldn’t breathe was reading Tolkien. I picked The Two Towers because Eowyn is my favorite, but it was Tolkien’s prose that helped me. Every paragraph, heck, every sentence is so dense that you’re forced to focus on it word by word, and that’s what I did.

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher – I hadn’t read any of her books before and everyone was freaking out over The Princess Diarist, so I grabbed this one from the library. I really liked her writing style, although you can get a little whiplash between the chapters since they rarely flow into each other. I learned so much I’d never known about her and of course had to add all her other books to my “To Be Read” list for the coming year.

Madeline Kahn: Being the Music, A Life by William V. Madison – While I was finding Fisher’s book I passed about twenty biographies/autobiographies that looked fascinating. I managed to restrain myself to just this and the next book on this list. I have adored Madeline Kahn’s acting as long as I can remember but I realized reading this that I knew NOTHING about her life.

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise by Chris Taylor – After all the Star Wars books I’d read this year this seemed like a no-brainer. I was reading this when Carrie Fisher passed away and everything hurt, so it was nice to lose myself in something related but not focused on that. While it’s not written/organized how I would have done it, I enjoyed many of the stories especially about his hunt for someone who didn’t know about Star Wars which he opens the book with. A little bit of hope for the new year.

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Our Minimalist Christmas

Hello! It’s been a long time since I wrote and I have missed it. That being said, I had a really good excuse: I’m expecting my first child early next year! This all happened right as I started hosting TWO daily podcasts. And while working full-time… and my husband changed jobs… and we had just moved… it was quite a summer and fall, ok?

Anyway, enough excuses. I know I promised more book reviews but I wanted to quickly check in with how my family decorated for the holidays this year. Between setting up the nursery and all the employment changes this year, we knew we wanted to take things easy.

I read several minimalism blogs and have had a lot of fun trying various experiments (I firmly believe “Kon-Mari-ing” the old apartment is the only reason I survived moving on short notice and “Project 333” was the best preparation for maternity clothes ever) but we don’t live in a white empty space. So here’s what we did to make the apartment feel festive without overwhelming our space or buying anything new.

The front door:

IMG_1865

We aren’t supposed to hang anything on the outside of our apartment, so we very trickily hung our wreath on the inside of the door. I actually really like this as it’s the only seasonal decor in our hallway.

Bedroom:

I hung a homemade banner and artfully arranged some Christmas crackers on our “Cookies for Santa” plate. Ok, that plate is super cheesy; I blame the nesting hormones. Anyway, these were left over from last year and are marked to be popped this year so that by 2018 when we have a little baby(!) we can actually put out cookies Christmas Eve.

Kitchen:

IMG_1864This is another room where it’s clear that I just opened our box of decorations and picked something. Literally the only thing here is the holder for Christmas cards. Let’s pretend our red oven mitts are also feeling the holiday spirit, shall we?

Living Room:

IMG_1872IMG_1869IMG_1868Since this is the main room, it got the most effort. Putting up the tree is my favorite part of getting ready for the holidays and this one is the perfect size for apartments. I swore I wouldn’t spend money on decor this year (gotta save for more important things!) but I may look at the post-holiday sales for a tree skirt because this looks a little sad until it gets some presents underneath. The Rudolph tray will be called into action when we start getting together with friends but until then it seems happy chilling by the desk. And of course I can’t make it through December without my music! I know all these songs are on my iPod but there’s something about pulling out the Christmas CDs that makes it official. Last but not least, I adore our little Nativity scene. We inherited a beautiful white ceramic creche… but there’s something about the little one-piece an aunt gave me when I moved away for grad school and the animal friends that have gathered around it over the years that just makes me smile every time I look at it.

And that’s it!

It’s just enough to truly feel that we decorated for the holidays without going overboard. You know those decorated spaces that may be beautiful but give you a claustrophobic feeling? Like plastic knickknacks and scented candles are looming over your shoulder no matter where you turn? I’ve been guilty of it myself, but I much prefer this year.

Update from the accidental hiatus

Hello! It’s been so long since I wrote–and I’ve even been plugging this blog on multiple podcasts over the past month, so if you’re a new reader from those, welcome! And I’m sorry? Haha

So you may be wondering what happened. It’s a long story that involves a lot of trips to the doctor(s) and a sudden job change in our family, but also good stuff like co-hosting two podcasts as well as guesting on others. It just added up to A LOT. If you think the state of this blog is bad you should see my bathroom sink. Well, you won’t, because no one is seeing that until I attack our bathroom and clean it.

But I digress! I am hoping to get back to regular updates and I can tell you that I will at least make sure all the books I read last year are covered. There have been some great ones that I just wasn’t up to writing about that I can’t wait to work on–and I have some really fun book recommendations for my “currently reading” sections.

If you just can’t wait, you can hear me babble on at:

The NeverEnding Minute

Return to Oz Minute

And while I’m fond of MY guest episodes, you should check out the whole podcasts of:

Spider-Man Minute

The Cosmic Gepetto Podcast

And keep an eye out for me soon on:

TMNT Minute

Die Hard Minute

If those whet your appetite, you can find all the current or finished “Movies by Minute” podcasts here.

That should keep you busy until the next installment of #66books!

66books: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The book: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Summary: From her own website: “Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly declutter your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Whereas most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, the KonMari Method’s category-by-category, all-at-once prescription leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have been repeat customers (and she still has a three-month waiting list of new customers!). With detailed guidance for every type of item in the household, this quirky little manual from Japan’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help readers clear their clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home–and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire. ”

What I remember: Wow I waited a long time to borrow this from the library, but it was totally worth it. I actually read this book twice (it’s not long). First, I read it straight through, just letting the words and ideas read as a normal book. Then I read it through again taking notes. Yes, I’m a nerd. I took three pages of notes, then “konmaried” my own apartment. For the book itself: it’s a quick read and I think there’s a lot of good ideas in it. No one person is going to use every idea, and some are more “out there” than others, but it really helped me focus to go through my own belongings. I followed the general categories she advocated and mostly did it in a big go-through… but I did not fully use her method or worry about doing anything “wrong”. It was more a way to organize my own decluttering instincts. Also I have to say: I 100% did not think I would fold my clothes so that they stood up in the drawer. That sounded completely silly to me. I tried folding one t-shirt just to see if I could do it–and it was weirdly soothing! I mean, I actually felt relaxed after doing it. So my t-shirt drawer got the full Konmari treatment! I’m extremely glad I did this last summer because the past year has been incredibly stressful and unexpectedly busy. This also included moving with only about a month’s notice. I don’t think I would have survived if I hadn’t already pared down our belongings. The minimalism experiments I did in 2016 are absolutely helping me survive 2017 so far! I don’t understand the huge backlash against Marie Kondo: can’t you just be happy for her success? No one is saying you have to live like her. She herself says (multiple times in the book) that you need to design the life that works for¬†you…¬†and here are some suggestions on how to do that.

What I’m reading now:¬†A Rift Between Cities¬†by Liz Delton (I’m finally finishing the Arcera trilogy!)

66books: The Towers of Trebizond

The books: The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay

Summary: I had to pick one that referenced the opening line, so here’s its Wikipedia entry: “The book is partly autobiographical. It follows the adventures of a group of people ‚Äď the narrator Laurie, the eccentric… Aunt Dot, her High Anglican clergyman friend Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg (who keeps his collection of sacred relics in his pockets), travelling from Istanbul… to Trebizond. A Turkish feminist doctor attracted to Anglicanism acts as a foil to the main characters. On the way, they meet magicians, Turkish policemen and juvenile British travel-writers, and observe the BBC and Billy Graham on tour. Aunt Dot proposes to emancipate the women of Turkey by converting them to Anglicanism and popularising the bathing hat, while Laurie has more worldly preoccupations. Historical references (British Christianity since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, nineteenth-century travellers to the Ottoman Empire, the First World War, the Fourth Crusade, St. Paul’s third missionary journey, Troy) abound. The geographical canvas is enlarged with the two senior characters eloping to the Soviet Union and the heroine meeting her lover in Turkey, and then her semi-estranged mother in Jerusalem… The famous opening sentence is,

“Take my camel, dear”, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

What I remember: By far the most delightful thing to come out of reading this for book club was sitting down with everyone and realizing half of us had read the narrator as a male and half as a female. It’s not our fault: the protagonist is named Laurie. And look at the book cover! I grabbed this image because it is the exact one I was looking at when I started reading the copy I’d gotten out from the library. There are the 3 main characters, you might think. But no: Laurie is a woman. Now obviously all the drug-taking and gallivanting around the Middle East and being in love with a man takes on very different connotations depending on which gender you were thinking of while reading! Looking over its summary, I feel like I need to reread this book. I remember spending quite a few pages having absolutely no idea what was going on. Not that that wasn’t enjoyable in its own way; it kind of fit with the crazy-trip feeling of the narrative. But now that I see all the details laid out I think “I don’t recall that” or “Oh THAT’S what that was supposed to mean?!” and it’s making me feel like a bad historian. The book is from 1956, but mentally I was picturing Aunt Dot much earlier, and again, I kept going back and forth on what gender Laurie was, so the entire thing feels a bit like a fever dream. I’d like to think Rose Macaulay would have approved of having invoked that feeling only to bring it all into sharp, sudden focus at the end.

What I’m reading now:¬†The NeverEnding Story¬†by Michael Ende. Reading this one for research! If you loved the 1984 movie, the podcast I co-host analyzing the film will start releasing episodes in July.

66books: Rise of the Rocket Girls

The book: Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

Summary:¬†So I’ve¬†got¬†to use this review from space.com (so appropriate) by Sarah Lewin: “Missile and rocket technology from the California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory¬†(JPL) has propelled American spaceflight for decades, and from the beginning that technology’s success rested on a corps of expert mathematicians ‚ÄĒ women who crunched the numbers, plotted rocket trajectories and tested rocket designs, all on paper. Drawing from extensive interviews, Nathalia Holt’s “Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars” (Little, Brown and Co., 2016) traces the history of spaceflight through those women’s eyes, highlighting the fledgling lab’s rocket tests in the 1940s; the United States’ first orbiting satellite, Explorer 1; and the many craft flung outward to first explore our solar system. At the same time, it shows the rise and evolution of female mathematicians and, eventually, engineers ‚ÄĒ and the changing cultures that working women had to navigate at that time.”

What I remember:¬†I am about to geek out REAL bad guys. ūüôā I had this book on my To Be Read list for so long before getting it from the library. I am a complete nerd when it comes to NASA, the Apollo program, early computing, etc. Ask me how many times I’ve seen every episode of¬†HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon; wait, no, don’t, I’ve lost track. If you enjoyed¬†Hidden Figures this book will be right in your wheelhouse as well. Very similar feel though obviously focusing on a different company who had a different (though related) history. One caveat is that it was published in 2016, which seems really recent, but¬†some of the information on Jupiter exploration is already outdated (obviously her interviews happened in the years before publication). This doesn’t take anything away from the wonderful stories of these women but it was so strange, for example, to be reading about their hopes for Voyager at the very same time¬†it was dominating the¬†news!

What I’m reading now:¬†I’m rereading The Fifth City by Liz Delton (reviewed earlier this year)

66books: The Stepford Wives

I know, I said this would be up on Saturday and it’s Monday. I’m a terrible person–but it’s a long weekend! My world is topsy-turvy! And I finally got caught up on sleep, so I regret nothing! Ok, back to normal: thank you so much for your patience this month.

The book: The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

Summary:¬†Ha! This is the first time I’ve been able to pull a book summary from the Urban Dictionary:

Stepford Wife

1.) Used to describe a servile, compliant, submissive, spineless wife who happily does her husband’s bidding and serves his every whim dutifully.

2.) Can also be used to describe a wife who is cookie-cutter & bland in appearance and behavior. Subscribes to a popular look and dares not deviate from that look.

This term is borrowed from the fictional suburb of Stepford, Connecticut in Ira Levin’s 1972 novel, The Stepford Wives, later made into movies (in 1975 and 2004). In the story, men of this seemingly ideal town have replaced their wives with attractive robotic dolls devoid of emotion or thought.

What I remember:¬†I’m still in shock that it took me this long to read this book. I grew up in the Connecticut suburbs. Literally in Stepford. Ok, Norwalk. Close enough, trust me. Both movie adaptations did filming in the Lockwood Matthews Mansion in my hometown, where my mother and aunts volunteered as tour guides and which I’ve been to more times in my life than I can count. (The infamous closet is technically off limits now, though the grown-ups have plenty of stories of falling out of it into their friends’ arms.) And I practically swooned when I got the book from the library: it was a first edition! I love surprises like that. Support your local library and it will reward you! As for the actual story, I am happy to report that I very much enjoyed reading it. I went on a bit of a scary-feminist-mid-century kick that this book started off, and it was very entertaining to read into the story all the socio-political subtext about women in America in the 20th century. It’s always great when you already know a story but the book is just different enough to keep you on your toes. I was genuinely creeped out for most of the book and especially as the end approached. I tried to read as fast as I could so I wouldn’t need to put the book down. I’m not sure how the story would hold up in this day and age on its own: would someone coming to the idea of the Stepford Wives fresh enjoy this telling or find it dated and unrealistic? I can’t answer that, having known that term my entire life. I am just grateful that the original source material held up for me.

What I’m reading now:¬†I stopped by Comicopia on Comm Ave earlier this weekend and loaded up on many “Free Comic Book Day” issues which I have been slowly reading through. Feels weird to say I enjoyed Archie more than Buffy but I’m a total sucker for the melodrama of Riverdale!