Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 - The Good Stuff

It will come as no surprise to you that the last few months of 2016 have been tough for me (largely for the same reason that they've been tough for a lot of you). As the year comes to a close, I'm trying hard to focus on what was good this year. And for my family, there was so much to be happy about! I'm taking this time to look back and remember what was great about 2016.

Favorite Podcasts

* Reading Women: a bi-weekly show hosted by two women I "met" through Litsy who discuss books by or about women. They are so passionate about the books they talk about!

* Happier with Gretchen Rubin: filled with suggestions and plans to bring more happy into your life. I'm especially found of the quick tips in each episode. 

* Radiolab: Jan Abumrad and Robert Krulwich tackle one big idea every week, ideas no one else is covering. For instance, did you know that there was not even a word for the color blue until, relatively speaking, not that long ago? There was an entire show about color and it was fascinating. 

* Best of the Left: feeding the beast, to be sure, but the podcast really looks deeply into a wide variety of issues. I always feel so much smarter after I listen!

* Nerdette: how I missed these ladies while they were on hiatus. Sure they are nerds but the great thing is that they are female nerds interested in so many things that are traditionally thought of as more "guy" things.

Sports Highlights

* Attending the U. S. Swim Trials. Omaha has hosted the trials three times and we love going to see the future of the U.S. Olympic swim team.

* Watching those same swimmers succeed in the Olympics. Oh heck, watching all of the Olympics coverage. I'm an addict!

* Attending the College World Series. Oh lordy, was it ever hot but so much fun to watch the games and see the enthusiasm those young men bring to the sport.

* Watching my beloved Oakland Raiders clinch a spot in the NFL playoffs for the first time in 14 years. I've been a fan since the 1960's, the glory years. It's been a long time since we had something to really cheer about.

* All of the wonderful tributes to Nebraska punter Sam Foltz, who was killed in a car accident over the summer. From the opening game missing player formation, to the tribute on Senior Day, to all of the wonderful things competing teams have done in his memory, Sam has never been far from our minds.

Best Books of the Year
A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles
Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleve
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson
And The Moutains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
The Absolutist by John Boyne
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Personal Highlights

* Watching our greater family grow: one niece got married, one nephew got engaged, and another nephew and his wife welcomed The Princess, my parents' first great-grandchild.

* Our trip to Milwaukee, especially all of the time we spent on the shore of Lake Michigan.

* Miss H returning to college, finding her calling and making the Dean's List.

* Mini-me's terrific thesis art project and graduation with honors, as well as Miss S's hooding and graduation with her doctorate. So proud of both of them!

* THE highlight of the year was the engagement of Mini-me and Miss S. We couldn't be happier that they found each other and can't wait for their wedding in 2017.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The List: Books I'm Looking Forward To In 2017

On the assumption that I'm also reading my own damn books and clearing off my Nook and iPad as well, these are some of the book being published in 2017 that I'm looking forward to reading. Of course, you know me by now and know that I'm more likely to finally get around to most of these in 2018!

Books By Authors I've Read Before (and the books I've previously read by them):

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian and The Swan Thieves)

South and West by Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking)

Selection Day by Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger)

Manderley Forever by Tatiana De Rosnay (Sarah's Key)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia and The Reluctant Fundamentalist)

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge, The Burgess Boys, My Name Is Lucy Barton)

Books By Authors I've Been Wanting To Read:

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates

Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders

The One Inside by Sam Shepard

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird

So this is a start anyway. You KNOW I'll be adding a lot more to the list as the year goes on. What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Month of Faves: Challenges

Today's prompt is Challenges: The Year End Update on Reading Challenges, Personal Goals, and Resolutions. Let's kick this off with the reading challenges, where I was more successful than usual.

In 2016, I signed up for just four reading challenges (because I know myself and know that the 13 I signed up for one year was never going to happen), the Nonfiction Reading Challenge, Diversity On The Shelf, Women Challenge #4, and #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks.

My goal for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge was to read 11-15 nonfiction books in 2016. Despite feeling like I had read as many nonfiction books as I wanted to read, I did end up reading 13, which is more than I usually read so I'm pleased. As usual, though, I'm fairly certain that I didn't once link any of the books I'd read back to the challenge page. It's my biggest drawback as a challenge participant! I'll likely participate in this challenge again in 2017, likely with the same goal just to make sure I'm at least reading a nonfiction book a month on average.

For the Diversity On The Shelf challenge, my goad was to read 1-6 books by and/or about persons of color in 2016. Which is a pretty lame goal, I must admit so I'm pleased to report that I ended up reading 11 books that qualified. Although, also slightly embarrassed to admit that I only read that number. I will definitely be signing up for this challenge again but I will not be letting myself off so easily in 2017.

I really don't need a challenge to remind myself to read books written by women, I tend to read a lot of books written by women anyway. But, just in case, I did join the Women Challenge #4 to make sure I pushed that number high. I set my goal to read 20+ books written by women in 2016 and stopped counting months ago when I reaching 25 books. In the end, well more than half of the books I read in 2016 will have been written by women. In 2017, even though this doesn't seem like much of a challenge for me, I'll probably sign up again, this year with the idea that I will really push myself to read books by women that address feminist issues.

Finally, the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge, where I challenged myself to read 40 books in 2016 that I already owned at the beginning of the year. You know, to clear off shelves. To reduce the number of books I bought. Picture me hanging my head in shame when I admit that I only read 21 of my own damn books in 2016. And that includes three plays. Which I read on the Serial app, not even from the books I already owned. Although most of the new books I actually bought in 2016 were ebooks or audiobooks, I still didn't read enough books off my shelves to make up for the new ones I put on them. My husband says this is a clear sign I own too many books. Which, as we all know, is not a thing. Still, it's a good idea to try to at least keep up so this will be a perpetual challenge for me. Maybe I need to keep that little icon at the top of my blog page to remind myself not to get carried away with shiny new books for review?

As for personal goals, let's just say I was more successful with the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge. To be fair to myself, I didn't really set a long list of personal goals for myself in 2016 but I had a list of things in my head that I wanted to work on, largely tied to my one word for 2016, happier.

Topping that list was to eat healthier and become more fit. Yeah, that did not happen. But, with just six months until my son's wedding, it absolutely IS happening in 2017.

The second goal was to become more organized. In working toward that goal, I started a bullet journal. It's still a work in progress but after four months, I'm ready to commit to a real journal book, not just a makeshift one. I know what I want out of the journal now and what I can do without. I'd liked to have had only one book for everything but think I will likely use three, one for life, one for blogging, and one for the wedding. In the coming year, I'd also like to "schedule" a time every week that is solely devoted to staying organized - shredding, filing, keeping the fridge cleaned out. Surely I have an hour a week to do that, right?

As for resolutions, I didn't set resolutions for 2016. They never work. Instead, I chose my one word with the idea to pursue the things that would make that word happen in 2016. My word was "happier." I joined an online challenge to help with that, which I neglected to realize lasted only 90 days so that was a failure. BUT...I did listen to Gretchen Rubin's podcast, Happier, on a fairly regular basis to help me find little ways to make my life easier and happier. I read her book, The Happiness Project, which may yet result in me setting up my own happiness project in 2017. I put little notes on my refrigerator, my desk at home, my desk at work that said, simply, "happier." A lot of what I do at work is talk to customer's on the phone. It's easy to let that really get me agitated. I'm not going to say that little note stopped that from happening entirely, but it helped. It helped remind me that I was not going to let someone else's anger make me angry or ruin my day. At home, it helped remind me that it was okay to sit and read if that made me happier but also to reorganize the pantry when it was starting to get out of control because I know that opening the doors to that and finding it all neat and tidy will make me happier. Lots of great things happened in my family in 2016; in that way, it was easier to be happier in 2016. It's certainly a word I could use again in 2017. It's never a bad thing to work to be happier.

The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest of Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
Published June 2013 by Penguin Books
Source: purchased for my Nook

Publisher's Summary:
It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

My Thoughts:
The title of this book may be a little misleading. This book is about far more than just the nine young men who rowed to victory in 1936; it's also about the coaches who made them ready for that shot (and one competing coach who pushed their coaches) and the guru who made their shells and who probably knew more about rowing than all of the rest of them put together. But it's also, at its heart, the story of just one young man whose life had been anything but the stereotypical life of a rower. By focusing on Joe Rantz, Brown almost gives the story a David versus the Goliath German war and propaganda machine feel.

This book's been getting great reviews since it came out but I kept putting it off, partly because I  clearly wasn't reading reviews (or, for that matter, the title) closely enough. For some reason, I kept thinking it was a survival story and as it came to my attention so soon after I read Unbroken, I just couldn't make myself read another survival story. Just as I finally realized what the book was really about, one of my book club members suggested the club read it, just the push I needed.

While I have some issues with the book, I'm glad I finally got that push. The story of those young men is as much their story as it is the story of the United States during the worst of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, events that you have to understand to really grasp what life was like for the young men competing for the University of Washington's crew teams.

The story wouldn't be complete unless readers also understood what the boys were up against when they finally made it to Germany. I keep thinking there's nothing new for me to read about World War II (well, at least anything I'm interested in reading about) but then I find there is, in fact, something new to learn. Sure, I knew that the 1936 Olympics were a major bit of Nazi propaganda, ruined to some extent by the incredible performances turned in by the United States track and field team. But I wasn't fully aware of how deep that effort had gone or how much emphasis they had put on their dominance in the rowing events.

Likewise, I had no idea how big rowing had been in parts of the United States at the time. It's long been overshadowed by other sports; certainly it's never been a major sport in my lifetime. In the 1930's, rowing was big news, especially considering how few teams even competed. This was the chance for a group of boys who'd led tough lives to really become somebodies. Making that varsity boat, winning those races, getting to the Olympics - Brown really makes readers understand why it was so important to all involved.

Sometimes the book dragged for me. I could have done with fewer details about each individual race and about how the shells were made. Although, I understand, too, that knowing the strategy of races was important to understanding how the Americans were able to prevail in the end. The good news for readers like me, is that it's easy enough to skim those parts and get back to the parts that keep you turning pages. I could also have used a who's-who list - there are a lot of names of and I sometimes  lost track of who was who.

The Boys In The Boat gave me everything I hoped to get out of a book about little guys defeating the big, bad guy and then some. It's a well-researched nonfiction work that tells its story with real heart.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope you are able to spend it with people you love! 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hamlet, A Doll's House, and The Importance of Being Ernest: Three Play Mini-Reviews

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

You all know the play: father dies, mother marries the uncle almost as soon as the father is dead and declares himself king, dead father appears as a ghost and asks son to avenge his death, son (who should have been king) comes to believe uncle murdered father and the result is madness and murder galore. Sounds simple(ish), right?

Not so fast. First of all, do not ever try to read this quickly. Because Shakespeare. And because it's really not simple. Hence, I made ample use of the internet resources to make sure I understood exactly what was going on. I've seen this performed several times but there were definitely things I had never wised up to while watching. I'm looking forward to seeing it again (perhaps a viewing of Laurence Olivier as Hamlet?). It's well worth the read, if only for all of the famous lines you've heard many time didn't necessarily know where they came from.

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

Of the three plays I read, this is the only one I knew nothing about going in. Which is sort of shameful. Like Kate Chopin's The Awakening, I feel that A Doll's House should be required reading for all young women. It may have been written by a man, but Ibsen was clearly a man who understood women and their place in society.

As so much of my reading does, this play had me looking for more information. How did a man of that time come to have that understanding? The play, as it turns out, was inspired by a real person's experiences, a person who's experience was directly impacted by Ibsen's refusal to help her. She wasn't as fortunate as Ibsen's Nora, who grew from a woman terrified of losing her husband to a woman brave enough to walk away from him and the life she'd known.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The only other thing I've ever read by Oscar Wilde is The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is most decidedly not a comedy. This, on the other hand, is ridiculously, snarky fun.

I adore the movie adaptation (starring Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Judy Dench and Reese Witherspoon) but I wondered if the play would read as funny as it is when performed. I was not, as you can tell, disappointed. The cover to the left says this is a "trivial comedy for serious people." Very true; nothing highbrow about this comedy but Wilde does go after women, men, literary types, high society, intellectuals, religion, morality.

All of those funny things you've read that Wilde said? This is the play that he seems to have poured all of that wit into.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Life: It Goes On - December 21

Oh holy night! Where did the week go? Every year, at the end of the Christmas season, I vow to be more organized the next year. And every year the same thing happens. A craft projects that took longer than I anticipated. Having to get packages ready to ship this year for the first time. Terrible weather. Luckily, I'm off work until next Tuesday and things are falling rapidly into place. I may even have a few hours to sit down with a book in the next couple of days, or try to catch up with blogs!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: In the car, I'm mostly audio booking it (really enjoying Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings). I've listened to some Christmas music but the stations seem to play the same things over and over. Instead I'm listening to Christmas music on Spotify where I can choose what I want to listen to and to my own CD's. Because the radio NEVER plays the Kingston Trio's Christmas album or Handel's Messiah!

Watching: A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart, volleyball (sad end to a great season for my Huskers), basketball (The Big Guy's alma mater, Creighton, is killing it so far this year!) and football (my Raiders made the playoffs!). Mostly it's been another one of those weeks where the television was on but I can't recall much in particular.

Reading: Ugh. Struggling big time and it's not even because I'm not enjoying my reading.

Making: Hawaiian pizza, taco soup, tomato soup, grilled cheese, and all of the Christmas goodies.

Planning: Christmas travels but mostly I'm looking forward to getting back home so that we can FaceTime celebrate with Mini-me and Miss S who can't make it home for Christmas. Technology helps (we FaceTime'd with them while we decorated cookies and it was almost as good as having them with us) but it's not the same!

Thinking About: How much cheaper it would have been for me to drive to Milwaukee to deliver presents than it was to ship them too close to Christmas. Holy heart attack! Now I just hope no one steals the damn box off their porch!

Enjoying: Shenanigans. Because when a girl cannot get warmed up, why not curl up on the dryer? We might have too much fun together.

Feeling: Eager to be with family but finally relaxed and ready to enjoy the holidays.

Looking forward to: Oh, sure, I'm eager to see everyone BUT I'm most eager to get to see my baby great-niece who's just two months old!

Question of the week: What's your favorite holiday celebration tradition?

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
Read By: Christina Traister
Published April 2013 by Scribner
Source: my audiobook copy purchased at my local library bookclub sale

Publisher's Summary:
The year is 1975 and Reno—so-called because of the place of her birth—has come to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity in the art world—artists have colonized a deserted and industrial SoHo, are staging actions in the East Village, and are blurring the line between life and art. Reno meets a group of dreamers and raconteurs who submit her to a sentimental education of sorts. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, she begins an affair with an artist named Sandro Valera, the semi-estranged scion of an Italian tire and motorcycle empire. When they visit Sandro’s family home in Italy, Reno falls in with members of the radical movement that overtook Italy in the seventies. Betrayal sends her reeling into a clandestine undertow.

My Thoughts:
I finished this last week and as I started to write this review, I struggled to remember how the book ended. Which should tell you something about how I felt about this book. It also makes me wonder, not for the first time, what kind of reader I am and if I'm smart enough to read the "smart" books, the ones that are up for awards.

The Flamethrowers was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2013 and made the Top Ten Books of the Year list for several major publications. Perhaps I would have gotten more out of it if I had read, rather than listened to, it, although this is no fault of Christina Traister who does an excellent job of performing the book. Since I "read" audio books, for the most part, while I'm driving, I'm certain that I just am not giving them my full attention. If I were walking, or folding laundry, or scrubbing toilets while I listened, for example, I would better be able to turn my full attention to a book.

There was a lot I really liked about this book and I often felt really attached to the story. There were other times, though, when Kushner took readers down a side road, that I felt myself losing interest. I enjoyed revisiting the history of the 1970's, a time when people in both the U.S. and Italy were fighting authority and the business culture to try to make better lives. I liked Reno, who was both a tough girl fighting to make her way in a man's world and a naive, young woman used by the men in her life. She is surrounded by an interesting cast of characters none of whom is a particularly good person but several of whom I was drawn to nevertheless.

I did come away from the book interested in reading more by Kushner. Next time, though, I'll read rather than listen to her book. An approach I may need to take going forward with any so-called "smart book."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Published November 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours

Publisher's Summary:
The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities.

Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever.

My Thoughts:
Confession: I have not finished this book yet. In fact, I'm not even close. December has gotten away from me and I took more on than I could chew reading-wise. Which is not to say that I'm giving up on the book (I'm certainly not!), but my actual review will not be posted until next week.

Two things made me say "yes" to this book when it was offered to me: my book club read Gowda's The Secret Daughter earlier this year and I enjoyed it a lot AND, of course, India. You know how I love to immerse myself in India and its very different culture. In The Golden Son, Anil is forced to face the many differences in lives and cultures, from farm life to life in the city and from the life of a doctor in the U.S. back to a life in an Indian small village making entirely different kinds of decisions.

Gowda has this to say about her inspiration for The Golden Son:
In India, there is a long tradition of settling disputes between individuals and families within a community. In its original form, the panchayat — the assembly (ayat) of five (panch) respected elders — was the inspiration for the name of the fictional village in this novel, Panchanagar. In less formal ways, I have witnessed the same practice of navigating disputes, in my own and other families, usually by an elder male in the family. As a child, I was not often privy to these conversations, so my imagination took over. 
When I was young, I was fascinated by this practice of sorting out troubles at the kitchen table rather than the courtroom or by a formal authority figure. I became further intrigued as an adult, once I realized that grown-ups don’t have all the answers and in fact, often there is no clear answer to be had. I began to consider the burden of that responsibility on an individual, and how different people might react to the role of being the arbiter. 
For the purpose of this narrative, I chose a single person, the eldest son of the clan, to be the arbiter; in reality, the practice of informal dispute resolution can happen in as many different ways as there are families. While historical experience provided the inspiration for my story, all the details of specific cases in this book are purely fictional, as are the village of Dharmala, India and the town of Ashwood, Texas. 
This novel follows a young man through the three years of his internal medicine residency program at an urban American hospital in the early 2000’s. During my research process, I had the generous help of many people, including patients, hospital staff, physicians, nurses, current and former interns and residents at several medical centers across the country. 
The fictional Parkview Hospital in this book is not modeled after any one hospital, nor is Anil’s experience a perfect representation of any single residency program. Rather, it is a composite based on my research. While I have tried to remain true to the spirit of the medical residency experience, which has changed over the past two decades, I have also taken creative license to change some of the details and compress timelines to suit the narrative. There are undoubtedly errors in this kind of interpretation, and those belong solely to me. I am humbled by the nobility of the medical profession; I only hope I did it justice.

To read actual reviews of the book (you know, by people who made sure they got the book read on time!), check out the full tour here. To purchase a copy of the book, check out the Harper Collins website.

About Shilpi Somaya Gowda 

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. She lives in California with her husband and children. Find out more about Shilpi at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Published September 2016 by William Morrow
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

My Thoughts:
I vividly remember sitting in the basement of our family friends' home, well past our usual bedtime, sitting around their television to watch the first moon landing. I remember the news stories about it, the magazine articles, and, in the intervening years, I've watched plenty of movies that told the story of the space race. Never once, in all of these years, in all of those stories, were women a part of the story, let alone black women.

Shetterly was raised with an entirely different view of that world. She grew up knowing that there were black women who worked for NASA and its predecessor, NACA. She was also aware it was not a reality that most of the world knew about. It was not, she discovered once she started her research, a story she was fully aware of either. This a story that is so much bigger than Shetterly anticipated and a story that hits on so many of today's hot topics, so many topics that I'm interesting in reading more about, science, racism, and feminism.

Shetterly focuses on a few of women to tell the story of all of the women who worked at Langley in Hampton, Virginia. In doing so, she also explores how that institute broke barriers in hiring women and blacks, in advancing them, and in breaking down literal barriers. To put it all into context, Shetterly delves in the Jim Crow south, the move to desegregate the south, and the way racism played into the Cold War.

While I sometimes had trouble keeping track of who was who and how they fit in (an appendix listing characters and where they fit in might have been helpful), it is a small complaint which a book I found fascinating. This book is full of information that was new to me or presented to me from an entirely new point of view. Just the other night, I was able to definitely confirm the date that John Glenn first orbited the earth because I had just read this book (and then I might just have gone on at some length about how, before he got into the spacecraft, Glenn specifically requested that Katherine Johnson, not a computer, rerun the numbers for reentry so that he felt comfortable that the prior calculations were correct).

This book is staying on my shelves as a reference book. And now I can't wait to see the movie adaptation.

Thanks to the ladies of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour; for other opinions of the book, check out the full tour.

Purchase link: HarperCollins

 Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Find out more about Margot at her website and connect with her on Twitter.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Life: It Goes On - December 11

That cold I was whining about last week? Yeah, it knocked me out for several more days this week as well. I don't know about you but I sure can't afford to get nothing done for an entire week. Finally back on my feet and working hard to make up ground. Lots of online shopping is helping tremendously but I hate not to be giving my local businesses the dollars.

The great light fiasco yesterday didn't help - pulled out the lights for the tree and the longest strand wasn't working. The Big Guy headed off for all new lights while I took off what was already on. Got the new lights all up, plugged them in and...a good part of one of the strands wasn't working! Poor BG had to make yet another trip out for yet more lights. I finally got the tree decorated but not with the new ornaments I spent part of Thursday trying to find. Can't you just buy packages with one color of ornaments that are all the same any more, for Pete's sake? Isn't this supposed to be more fun?!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Book-wise, I started Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings Friday and I'm enjoying it early on. Music-wise, I'm full on Christmas music. I've listened to most of our Christmas CD's this weekend as well as quite a lot of Spotify Christmas music. It's definitely helping me keep in the spirit even when things aren't working quite as planned.

Watching: Volleyball (our Nebraska Huskers are in the Final Four and local Creighton made it to the Elite Eight), football, and The Voice, of course. Also, Christmas movies - White Christmas, Love Actually, The Family Stone, and Elf.

Reading: Ugh, this is going so slowly lately and I have so much I need to get read for this week! I don't even want to talk about it!

Making: Sugar cookie dough to roll out later this week, dipped pretzels, grilled cheese sandwiches and Rueben sandwiches, homemade mac and cheese, chili mac, lobster and pasta. Damn! I didn't realize how much pasta we'd had this week until I wrote that!

Planning: On getting Christmas cards out in the next couple of days, finishing shopping this week, and getting presents under the tree. In my dreams, I'd have most of the "things that must be done" done by the time I write to you next week. We'll see.

Thinking About: Making a kilt for Mini-me for his wedding. For Christmas he'll get a muslin "first draft" to check fit and then I'm taking the plunge into the real deal. Have I mentioned that I don't really sew? I may have completely lost my mind.

Enjoying: Watching our great-nephew play high school hoops. He transferred high schools this year so can't play with the varsity until January. Can't wait to see what he can do then!

Feeling: There's a bit of melancholy underlying everything this season as it's the first year we've gone into the holidays without one of our kids with us. No Mini-me to drop in for a Sunday today with the rest of us, no Mini-me to dip pretzels as a family, getting presents together to get in the mail instead of having the kids here with us. Missing those two Wisconsinites every day!

Looking forward to: Book club this week. I need a girls night!

Question of the week: If you could only carry on one of your holiday traditions, what is the one thing you absolutely have to have/do to make the holidays complete?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Month of Faves: This Is How We Read

Join hosts Girlxoxo, Traveling with T and Estella’s Revenge for the 3rd annual #AMonthofFaves blog event – a fun way to recap the year that was. They have everyday planned out, so we can join in anytime. There will also be a link-up on all of their blogs – put a link to your post so that they can stop by each and every post to leave comments, high fives, good vibes and well wishes.

Yesterday the hosts are asking us to share "how" we read - number of books read, fave genre, genre we wish we read more of, fave book of the year, where we read...that type of thing. I'm still playing catch up (and since I don't have a whole lot to say about today's topic), here's yesterday's topic today.

Books Read In 2016: By year's end, I will likely have finished 75 books and 3 plays. Of those, 12 will have been nonfiction (made my goal, although I'd still like to be reading more nonfiction), 11 were about or written by persons of color (again, I'd like to up this number next year), and more than half were written by women (for this years Women In Fiction challenge, I stopped recording at 25 but that was months ago).

Favorite Place To Read: Curled up in a corner of the sofa in my family room. It's not the easiest place to read but it's the most comfortable and I'm still surrounded by my family.

Most Read Author: Most years, if I'd read two books by the same author, that would be unusual. This year, I read two books each by three different authors: Fredrik Backman (Britt Marie Was Here and A Man Called Ove), two by Melanie Benjamin (The Aviator's Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue) and two  by Greg Iles (Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree).

Favorite Book of the Year: I'm only supposed to give you a hint. If I'd figured out the answer, I would. But I've read so many books this year that really impressed me, I'm torn as to which was my very favorite.

Favorite Genre: Literary fiction remains my favorite genre but I've done a better job this year, I think, of mixing things up, if only just a little. Although, I must admit to having read no sci-fi at all. I would really like to up my game on this genre but I seriously need recommendations of books that aren't too "out there."

Month I Read The Most/Month I Read The Least: Surprisingly, May was the month I read the most, at least the month I reviewed the most books and generally I'm reviewing in the same month I'm reading a book. I read 9 books in May which was also the month I was the busiest. Go figure. There were several months I only read five books; these must have been the months I felt like I was in a reading slump although, compared to average Americans, this is still quite a lot of books in a month so I don't feel as bad.

Favorite Format: I read more books in paperback than any other format with ebooks coming in second (most of those on the iPad, thanks to Netgalley but I've now - finally - figured out that I can get them on my Nook now that it's a Samsung device. Duh). Next is audiobook, which I almost exclusively listen to in my car. I do love the idea and look of hardcover books but for toting around or reading in bed, they just aren't as practical so only about a half dozen or so of those got read.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Month of Faves - These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

A Month of Faves is once again hosted by GirlXOXO and I am, once again, playing catchup. The month was meant to kick off last Thursday with a few of my favorite things. As I'm going to have to pick and choose topics to get caught up, I'm picking this one because it should be easy, right?

1. Dolce and Gabana's Light Blue - it's my year-round scent. It's light enough for everyday but nice enough for special occasions.

2. Bailey's Irish Creme - as soon as the temps start to fall, I start thinking that a small glass of Bailey's is just the perfect way to end a day.

3. Simply Cheetos Puffs White Cheddar - they cost more than the other Cheetos but since I can only find them at Target, I always buy two bags at a time. And they don't turn your fingers orange!

4. The U. S. Swim Trials were my favorite sports event this year. The races were exciting to watch and it was great to be part of all of the fun.

5. Favorite proud mama moment - watching Mini-me graduate from college. He made the most of every opportunity he had while he was there and graduated with honors.

6. Milwaukee might be my new favorite city. It has a river that runs right through town, it has all of the cheeses, it has art and beer and parks, it has Lake Michigan. Best of all, it has two of my favorite people.

7. My new favorite cream for my feet (a never ending search for the thing that will finally make putting panty hose of my heels not quite so dangerous) is Gold Bond Ultimate Softening Foot Cream. Miss H included some in a pampering jar she gave me for my birthday. I hope Santa puts some more in my stocking!

8. My favorite new television show this year is This Is Us. It's giving me everything I missed when Parenthood ended with some really great themes.

9.  Favorite friend moments are a two-way tie. This summer I reconnected with a woman who was my best friend for nearly all of my teen years. We spent four hours over lunch catching up. It's one of the few things I thank Facebook for. The fall I got to meet a fellow blogger I've "known" for six (?) years. We met for lunch and it was immediately easy conversation. Love this blogging community!

10. My favorite squee moment this year? Mini-me's engagement, of course! We adore Miss S, she is perfect for him, and her mother will be a lovely mother-in-law. Next year's favorite squee moment is a foregone conclusion!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Life: It Goes On - December 4

What a waste this week has been! I caught a cold Wednesday and have hardly left the house except to go to work since then. I haven't even really felt like reading (insert sad face emoji here). Thank heavens for online shopping - at least I'm getting some Christmas shopping done. With gifts to ship to Milwaukee this year, I need to get their shopping off in the next week. I may, or may not have, ordered a jacket for their dog for his walks. Online shopping may be a little too easy!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: One more week of The Flamethrowers - the jury's still out on this one but now that it's taking fewer side trips, I'm enjoying it more. I'm also dipping my toes into Christmas music but the radio stations who play it this time of year tend to play the same things over and over so it gets old. Also, they tend to forget the reason for the season and I want my religious Christmas music.

Watching: Volleyball, football, The Voice...the usual. But I'm also watching Christmas shows - Rudolph and It's A Wonderful Life. Today I'm finally bringing up the Christmas decorations so I'll likely put on a Christmas movie while I'm decorating.

Sookie's been getting more
reading done than I have
Reading: See above. Which is bad because I've got a lot of commitments, reading-wise, in the coming weeks. I did finish the three plays I was reading and will review those this week. I'm thoroughly enjoying Hidden Figures and when I'm done with that I'll jump into Boys In The Boat for book club. Love that I'm finishing the year strong on nonfiction.

Making: Again, see above. I've largely relied on The Big Guy to feed me this week. I did make some chicken noodle soup last night (and even froze a container) last night and this morning I made cinnamon rolls. If I'm cookin', I must be getting better.

Planning: It's all about Christmas this week. Lots of shopping to get done, Christmas cards to get ready to mail, decorating to do and I need to start baking so I can ship some of that to Milwaukee as well.

Thinking About: How much I miss Mini-me's Sunday visits. I just finished off a pot of coffee. If he were here, we'd be firing up another pot. I know he's very happy where he's at, with Miss S, which helps. But still...

Which brings up something else I've been thinking about: it's now less than seven months until they are married. I can't believe it! And then what do I call her? Mrs. S? Mrs. Mini-me?

Enjoying: Watching the first snow fall of the year. Although it did ruin plans for the day. Now it just needs to hurry up and melt today, as forecast.

Feeling: Frustrated. I don't know about you, but this time of year, I can't afford to not feel up to accomplishing anything for four or five days.

Looking forward to: Hopefully getting to go shopping for my mom with my dad and my sister this week. That's what we were supposed to be doing yesterday but my folks didn't get to come to Omaha thanks to the snow. My dad used to need help shopping for my mom; he doesn't really need the help any more but none of us is ready to do away with that tradition.

Question of the week: Do you still send Christmas cards? A lot of our friends have stopped sending them, now that we are all so in touch with each other throughout the year. I miss them, though!