Hillbilly Elegy

I had heard a lot about this book earlier this year.  Written by J.D. Vance, many have pointed to it as a good explanation on why the election turned out the way it did.  It is a memoir of a young man growing up in Appalachia and the struggles he faced to try to rise above the adversity.  J.D. eventually enrolls in the Marines, finished colleges and graduates from Yale Law School.  He never forgets his background and the people that shaped his childhood, in both good and bad ways.  He credits his grandmother for her care of him and eventually comes to terms with his relationship with his addict mother.  This was an interesting read about a geographic area that seems so foreign to me, but it is actually the stark reality of a significant portion of our country’s population.

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The Founder

My husband and I watched The Founder, the new movie about Ray Kroc, who expanded the McDonald’s fast food train.  Michael Keaton plays Kroc, who meets the McDonald’s brothers and strikes a deal with them to franchise their restaurant.  He eventually finds a loophole in the contract to completely cut them out and becomes a wealthy tycoon in the industry.

Keaton played the role really well and it turns out Kroc was not a very likable man, either in his business ethics or in his loyalty to his wife.  My husband, who loves anything related to business, called this his favorite movie ever.  There were certainly important business lessons to learn, especially from the perspective of the McDonald’s brothers and their inability to protect their business.  Overall, this was a good biopic and a good choice to watch together.

The Hopefuls

I just blew through my most recent read, The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close.  It came out last year and is about Beth, who moves to Washington DC to support her husband, Matt, in his new government position.  Having lived in DC for several years, I generally like books set in this scene.  The first part of the book takes place there, but then Beth and Matt move to Texas where he runs a friend’s campaign.

Jimmy and Ashleigh are the two other main characters, and all four of them are hard to like.  I hate the way that Matt treats Beth through most of the story and the ending really isn’t very satisfying.  I wanted to keep reading to see what happened, which I guess is good, but nothing really exciting ended up happening.

Hidden Figures

I checked another Oscar Best Picture nominee off the list with Hidden Figures.  It is the true story of three African-American women working in the NASA program in the 1960s.  It follows all three of them as they try to break barriers in the organization through their work in the calculations, engineering and computer departments.

I enjoyed it, although it wasn’t my favorite of the nominees I’ve seen so far.  My husband made it through half and then decided he got the general idea.  Overall, it was interesting to see this part of little-known history.

Moonlight

My husband and I watched Moonlight last night.  This movie came out last year and is now nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  It is about a young African-American boy, Chiron, growing up in Miami.  The movie is divided into three parts, following him from a young boy, to a teenager and to a young adult.

A first Chiron is withdrawn and is bullied.  He is befriended by a kind drug dealer and his girlfriend and tries to escape the wrath of his drug addicted mother.  As a teen, Chiron struggles with his emerging feelings of being gay and toward his childhood friend, Kevin.  He also finally sticks up for himself against a bully.  As an adult, Kevin calls him out of the blue and they meet up after years apart.

I think I preferred the first and second parts of the movie, but overall, it was a really powerful story. Especially heartbreaking was Chiron’s relationship with his mother and how that affected the rest of his life.

Devil’s Advocate

Okay, I just finished the second X-Files Origin’s book, Devil’s Advocate, which focused on a teenage Dana Scully.  Agent of Chaos was the first book, where a young Fox Mulder solved a mystery in his town with his friends.

Devil’s Advocate starts with introducing Dana Scully as somewhere of an outsider in her new town.  She has been having strange dreams and visions.  The plot begins slowly, but eventually picks up and becomes a very exciting thriller.  Scully becomes a key witness when several high schoolers are killed and she starts having visions of them.  She doesn’t know where the visions are coming from – are they from an angel or something more sinister?

It was fun to read about the characters from the show, including Melissa, her sister, her parents and her high school boyfriend, Ethan, who was mentioned in passing in one of the episodes.  Like I wrote about Agent of Chaos, this book will definitely be entertaining to fans of the show.