End of 2020 Roundup: December 6 – January 2

My gingerbread house – modeled off of a 1920s movie theater.

Welcome to the weekly roundup on Ink in the Archives! Every week (or so) I will share what I’ve been up to and interested in and ask you to fill me in on your week too.

Eventful Events and Happening Happenings

Finishing the semester came with a profound sense of relief, but as we prepared for the holidays, my Nana got sick with Covid, leading to a very strange holiday season. Luckily her health is much improved now, but it was a very scary December. It was very quiet at our house, but we still managed to do plenty of baking–including a round of gingerbread houses. Then we packed up and came home after the new year. It’s nice to be back, but I do miss being so close to everyone.

Books Read

2020 by the numbers:

  • 150 books read
  • 100 written by women
  • 9 books with numbers in the title
  • 14 books with one word titles
  • 1 thriller
  • 1 novella
  • 2 graphic novels
  • 3 children’s books
  • 6 memoir
  • 4 poetry
  • 7 romance
  • 7 short story books
  • 14 contemporary fiction
  • 15 books for school/papers
  • 17 historical fiction
  • 19 literary fiction/classics
  • 20 speculative fiction (horror/sci fi/fantasy)
  • 34 nonfiction

The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny This was a book recommended by one of Paul’s coworkers, and he read it years ago, but I finally got around to reading it after I was done with classes. This is a historical fiction book about a real explorer in the 1800s, and it deals a lot with the idea that we all experience life at our own pace and that this pace lets different kinds of abilities shine. Definitely an interesting read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman I didn’t read this in time to include it in my paper, but it was still interesting enough to finish. This book talks about 8 major flavors of American cuisine: black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, Sriracha, garlic, MSG, and soy sauce. By emphasizing the role of spices in American cuisine, Lohman tells a story of intermixing flavors and cultures in the United States. She also includes a number of recipes.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory I enjoyed this romance novel (although it did stretch credulity a bit) featuring an older protagonist. I think that romance novels often seem to think that after 30 or so people don’t have a romantic life anymore, so it was refreshing to have a romance novel where the protagonist was in her 50s with a grown up daughter in a committed relationship. A fun holiday escape.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson This children’s book has been on my TBR for a long time because I really liked the illustrations. This book is fun because the pictures and the illustrations don’t always match, creating an interesting commentary on how our perspectives influence our perceptions.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain I’ve largely avoided books about the Holocaust this year because the tragedy has been a bit hard to bear in light of the tragedies that are happening all around us. However, I am glad that I picked up this lovely, quiet novel set around that time period, which revolves around the friendship between two boys and their families. There is a lot to unravel in this book, and it ebbs and flows beautifully. Still pretty sad though, but definitely not as sad as it could have been, so I guess that’s something.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

At Briarwood School for Girls by Michael Knight Based (very loosely) on the true story of Disney’s attempts to create a historical theme park, the story revolves less around a particular character and more around the Briarwood boarding school and its inhabitants (including its ghosts). I don’t know why I found this book a little nostalgic, since it definitely did not reflect my own experiences, but I did. Maybe because it was set in the 90s?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd I don’t tend to read a lot of books that could be considered religious, but Sue Monk Kidd is a great author, and I was really intrigued by a book written from the point of view of Jesus’s wife. This book manages to be both respectful and feminist, which is a feat. I like that it concentrates on the humanity of these characters, their virtues and flaws, as well as the power that comes from expressing yourself. If you’re interested in historical fiction, I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Changeless by Gail Carriger The comedy of manners in this series is just too much fun.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart This is more of a reference book, but I still read it cover to cover because it was so fascinating. So many interesting facts to learn! We sometimes conflate “natural” with good for you, but this book might make you reconsider that association.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins Thrillers are not normally my thing, but who can resist a Jane Eyre retelling? I certainly can’t. This one has a few twists and some really great, complex characters.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us About Buddhism and Relationships by Ethan Nichtern Although I’m not a Buddhist, I have always been fascinated by this religion and its philosophies. It’s so rich and complex. Pair that with one of my favorite films and it was bound to be a good match. This book gave me plenty to think about, and it was funny and good-natured.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Blameless by Gail Carriger The third book in this supernatural steampunk series continues to be a fun escape. Plus I really like the narrator for the audiobooks.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg An epistolary novel told mostly through diary entries and interviews about the life of an interesting woman who owned a movie theater and opened it up to the homeless during the great depression. I loved the rich, complex characters and the way different stories about her unfolded through both her own words and the interviews.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Heartless by Gail Carriger Book number 4, still good fun.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Movies Watched

After I finished classes this term, there was a lot more time to watch movies. Mom and I tried to catch up on some movies we’d missed the past year(s).

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) I’d never seen this movie before, and while I don’t think it made top billing in my favorite Christmas movies of all time, it definitely beats out It’s a Wonderful Life. Natalie Wood is pretty adorable in this film about the real Santa Claus. Streaming on Disney+.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Emma (2020) Emma is my favorite Jane Austen book, and I love Austen adaptations, so I was really eager to see this film, but for some reason hadn’t gotten around to it. It was really fun to watch it with Mom, and we had fun comparing it the to Gwyneth Paltrow version. This version is sharper, full of angles where the other version is much softer and gentler. I like both of them for different reasons. This film has great costuming, casting, and delivers a lot of commentary on the novel which is sometimes lost in the manners of the books. One interesting decision made by the director is to heighten the drama of each individual look by lingering on it longer and giving each expression more drama which has the effect of bringing home the significance of these looks to the characters and how they’re being interpreted and misinterpreted. Streaming on HBO Max.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Behind the Curve (2018) Paul has become really interested in the Flat Earth movement recently because it’s so inexplicable and illogical. It really is quite fascinating how, if the world doesn’t fit someone’s ideology, they’re willing to remake the whole world in the image of that ideology rather than changing their mind. It was an interesting look down the conspiracy rabbit hole. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eurovision (2020) I had planned on skipping this one (since the trailer didn’t make it look all that great), but Mom said that this movie was really cute and she’d seen it several times, so we watched it together. And I had to admit that she was absolutely right. This film is absurd, but it’s also really sweet and a great break from the harsh realities of, well, reality. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

WW84 (2020) Oh lord this movie. I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s bizarre, it perpetuates negative concepts about women (which is kind of bs, since it’s a WONDER WOMAN film), it has nothing really interesting or even humorous to say, and did I mention it makes no sense? The only thing that redeems this movie even the tiniest bit are Diana’s costumes, which are very pretty. Streaming on HBO Max.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) We wanted to watch the new film, and we’d never seen the sequel. I still really like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but this film was just 10 shades of bizarre.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Soul (2020) So this was not my favorite Pixar film, but it was still pretty enjoyable and I really liked the music. I thought it was a little too monotheistic for my taste, and it was a wee bit morbid, but it was still quite fun and I really enjoyed watching it with my family. Streaming on Disney+.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Death to 2020 (2020) My brother had us all watch this mockumentary about this year, and I have to admit I had kind of forgotten (or blocked out) all the things that had happened this year. It was both hilarious and cathartic. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Little Chaos (2014) Set in the time of the Sun King, Louis XIV, Kate Winslet plays Madame de Barra a landscape designer who is hired to design one part of the gardens at Versailles. This is a lovely costume drama with a great cast including Alan Rickman and Stanley Tucci. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb (2020) As a kid, I was fascinated by ancient Egypt and even though I fell out of love with the idea of being an archaeologist (spending a day outside, overheated, digging in the dirt cured me of that), I am still in love with all things ancient Egypt, and I was really interested to watch this documentary. This film focuses on a single season in the burial grounds of Saqqara being excavated by an Egyptian team. And I won’t spoil it, but they found so much cool stuff! Oh, Egypt. You never cease to amaze me. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I hope that your New Year is filled with health and peace and time for reflection.

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