Thursday, May 28, 2015

Halfway to 100 Books

Good Reads entices you to set a reading goal at the start of the year. I chose 100 books, With today's update I have exactly 50 and it's only May. So I may be able to pull this out by December. It does not really matter one way or the other --- I don't get a prize for reading 100 books after all --- but it's a nice round number and a good goal.

Here we go:


  • The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo
    • The gist of this book is spelled out in the title. Mary Shelley lived in a time when the only way to study human physiology was to use corpses. Around this same time men were using primitive forms of electricity (called "galvanism") to "animate" corpses. The assumption was that if electricity was applied in just the right way then the dead might return to life.
    • We know that this isn't the case because the brain suffers irreversible damage after only minutes but they didn't know that then. In the midst of that era Mary Shelley set her famous book. 
    • I did not know very much about Mary before I read this book. I knew this much: She was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and married poet Percy Shelley, who died young in a drowning accident. She wrote Frankenstein.
    • Some things I didn't know: She got together with Shelley while he was still legally married to another woman. Mary and Shelley had a child before they were married (after his first wife committed suicide). They were disowned by their families and moved around Europe a bit, staying ahead of their creditors. Shelley died when Mary was only 25. She then raised their only surviving child (out of 4 born) and continued to write until she died at age 53 of a brain tumor.
    • The book spends as much time on the practitioners of galvanism and the grave robbers. Galvanism was named for an Italian scientist Luigi Galvani. His name lives on in modern English because people still use the term "galvanize": to galvanize into action, for example.
  • Infographic Guide to the Movies by Karen Krizanovich
  • Infographic Guide to Literature by Joanna Eliot
    • There are a series of these types of books. They include graphs and charts based on different things, in this case movies and books.
    • The movie book was awful. The graphs were confusing and the colors were too hard on the eyes. You cannot have a legend with several shades of red and pink and expect to discern them on the graphic.
    • The literature book was much better: easier to read and easier graphs to understand. You can look at many examples if you do an images search on Google.
  • The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen's Novel to Film by Emma Thompson
    • I think many people would like to have Emma Thompson as their celebrity best friend. She's funny and witty and seems like she'd be a hoot to hang out with.
    • This anecdote from during the filming of the movie made me laugh the hardest:
      • "We were trying to find an extra line for Margaret as she picks up Willoughby's gear in the rain. Lindsey suggests, 'I'll get the stuff,' which makes me laugh immoderately. I counter with Willoughby saying, 'Pray get the stuff.' 'It's in the book!' we keep screaming."
      • Maybe only Jane Austen readers will find this funny so some of you are shrugging but oh well.
    • I first read Sense and Sensibility in my 20s and didn't care for it at all. I reread it about 20 years ago, after I had seen this movie version and then I loved it. (I also adore Pride and Prejudice). I can only think that in my 20s I was too impatient with the style of books written in the 1800s. Long descriptions of everything and everyone spoke in paragraphs! But I matured as a reader and came to enjoy the "old fashioned" books too.
  • The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwistle
    • The year 1995 was huge for Jane Austen. We got Emma Thompson's film version of "Sense and Sensibility" and the TV miniseries of "Pride and Prejudice". This book goes into great detail covering casting, locations, costumes, props and other specifics of television production. 
  • The Making of The African Queen, or: How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind by Katharine Hepburn
    • You probably sense a theme here in that I read three books about the "making of" three productions. I am going through my bookcases to clear out books I don't really need to keep. I am one of those type of people who, when they love something popular in culture, try to find out every bit of information about it. Now, with the Internet, I just don't need to hang on to every tome. I had not read any of these three books in 20 years. I don't anticipate needing to read them again a third time so they are in the giveaway pile.
    • This is Katharine Hepburn's memories of filming "The African Queen", a movie I love. She had a rambling style, not quite stream of consciousness, but quirky with sentence fragments and short paragraphs.
  • Got Milked?: The Great Dairy Deception and Why You'll Thrive Without Milk by Alissa Hamilton
    • Many people in the world cannot process cow's milk because of lactose intolerance. Many Europeans can process lactose so many Americans descended from those Europeans can too. So obviously many people on the planet live without fluid milk and do just fine. (Cheese-making, yogurt-making and butter, for example, change the structure of milk so people who cannot drink fluid milk can easily eat cow's milk products.)
    • The premise of this book is that the need for milk we are drilled in from birth is faulty. Yes, milk is a source of calcium. But there are far better sources of calcium out there (lots of different veggies like kale, broccoli, spinach, greens, tomatoes, etc...) And it is probable that the Vitamin D doesn't let the body get as much benefit from milk's calcium anyway.
    • The author takes issue with the USDA Choose My Plate recommendations that advocate men, women and most children to include 3 cups of dairy per day. The 3 cups can include fluid milk, cheese, yogurt and "milk-based desserts" (aka ice cream). That's a LOT of dairy. Even though the USDA site recommends choosing fat-free or low-fat options we're talking many daily calories.
      • Low-fat cheese? What's the point? Eat smaller portions of regular cheese or do without, I say.
    • Some of the emphasis on milk consumption grew out of the era of World War I and plows on courtesy of the various dairy interests.
    • I think the book could have been better organized in it's presentation of information. Seriously, the gist of the book could fit in a pamphlet: "Fluid milk is unnecessary for anyone."
    • The author placed herself in the text far too much. Still, the topic was very interesting but the book was somewhat redundant in its presentation.
  • Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
  • Winter of the World by Ken Follett
  • Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett
    • These three books comprise "The Century Trilogy". The first takes place during World War I, the second during the 1930s and World War II and the last in the 1960s. Families in America, Russia, England and Germany comprise the main characters. We follow them and their offspring through the major upheavals of the 20th Century.
    • I enjoyed the books, which I read on the Kindle, but I didn't love them nearly as much as the other Follett books I read (Pillars of the Earth, about the building of a cathedral in medieval England, is great).
  • The Black Reckoning by John Stephens
    • The final book in The Books of Beginning children's fantasy series. I liked all three books and the series ending did not disappoint.
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
    • Rereads of old favorites. This series of books, which comprises 7 books so far, takes place in an alternate world where people can move in and out of books. The books feature lots of wordplay and I greatly enjoy them. The first four books in the series are my favorites so I still have at least two more to get through this summer.
  • Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
    • The first book in a three book series, the main character, a fifteen-year-old boy, has a deformed hand. He briefly becomes king of his realm before being betrayed, sending him on a voyage of hardship. Then he tries to take back his kingdom. Book two is on my library list and the final book comes out in July so I won't have long to wait to finish the series. Very entertaining if a little cliche.
  • Beauty's Kingdom by Anne Rice (writing as A. N. Roquelaure)
    • I am not a fan of erotica, having only read Anne Rice's earlier books in this genre. I am a big fan of the vampire and witch sagas Rice writes so I read all her early books eagerly.
    • The three other books about Beauty were written in the 1980s and I read them when they came out, over 30 years ago. This sequel was just published last month.
    • Lots of sex scenes in explicit detail, lots of spankings, lots of naked pleasure slaves. I ultimately I didn't like it. I'd rather reread the vampire and witch books of Anne Rice. I'm at the point in my life where sex scenes in movies and TV shows bore me (I'm totally taken out of the scene and start thinking about how these are actors and actresses and how the makeup people need to work on naked people, ugh) and now I can add sex scenes in books to the boring list.
And on that note....we end the latest book list. Until next time....


  1. Have you read "Tracy and Hepburn" by Garson Kanin? It's one of my favorite movie-related books of all time -- I think you would love it. In any event, he and Ruth Gordon go to visit Katharine right after The African Queen, and she reads aloud her diary, which he describes as FABULOUS. (She then proceeds to lose it for decades.) So, when it got published, I was so excited to read it!!! . . . and wow, I didn't like it at all. (It's not clear from your review whether you like it or not. Do you?) Garson Kanin and I may not have the same taste in books, but I love his wife -- and dang me, he wrote a great Hollywood book!! And that is something.

    As usual, we have 99 percent of no overlap! (I liked the Emma Thompson book too.)


    1. I am sure I read the Garson Kanin book at some point. I would appreciate it more now I think. I probably loved KH's book more on the first read 30 years ago as I adored her at the time (I am a bit cooler on her since I have had more exposure to other actresses now). On this second read I didn't love it --- a little too much whining overall. I really enjoyed her autobiography but I haven't read that in decades either so it might annoy me now too!

      There are SO many books and we are both such big readers it seems we should overlap more! Obviously our tastes aren't exactly the same but I do try to pick books off your list that look interesting to me. I read so much history and non-fiction which you rarely do. We both read tons of YA but I veer towards one part and you to another. Too funny.

  2. I love a person that reads so much.