Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Showin' My Books - May '16

Hola, book lovers! It's time again for Show Us Your Books with Steph and Jana. I think last month they had over 50 bloggers link up, which is amazing, and I think I had a book hangover after reading all the posts. But that's a much better hangover than the other kind.

Life According to Steph

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - This is by the author of Saving Francesca, which was on my best of 2015 list. This book is not a sequel but it includes the same characters. It's five years after Francesca and we're focusing on Thomas Mackee. On the Goodreads star scale, which I'm not a huge fan of but what can you do, I gave both books 5 stars. The Piper's Son is told from the perspective of both Tom and his aunt Georgie (early 40s, single, pregnant). At times I wanted to both shake some sense into these two and give them hugs.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (Audiobook) - This is my first Kristin Hannah book and it won't be my last. It's the story of two grown sisters whose beloved father dies and they are left to take care of their mother, who has been nothing but cold toward them their entire lives. But then they find out much more. We're told a story of WWII-era Russia, and it's one that I've not heard. There were times that I thought "wrap this up, we know what's going to happen," except that I didn't really know and I realized that the long build-up was all necessary. This is a heartbreaking, yet heartwarming book.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton - I read this for Erin's book challenge as the "written in the year I was born" book. I'm sure I read this book in high school, but I remember the movie, which came out when I was in high school. So I couldn't help but think of Patrick Swayze and Matt Dillon and Rob Lowe, et al, while reading this. I enjoyed revisiting these characters. Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Maestra by L.S. Hilton (Audiobook) - I found out about this through the All the Books podcast. It starts out with Judith who works in an auction house and ends up moonlighting as a "hostess" in a champagne bar, where she's known as Lauren. She discovers art fraud shenanigans at work and ends up getting sacked (oh yeah, she's British and since I listened to this I find myself using British terms). But let's be clear, she is no innocent lamb. This book was kind of all over the place. There were a lot of characters and I had trouble keeping track of them, and then I just didn't care. Also, warning, there is a lot of NASTY sex going on in this book. I mean, I enjoy some sexy times reading, but this is beyond. (The main character regularly refers to her naughty bits as the "c" word, so there you go.) Admittedly, the podcast recommendation mentioned that there were X-rated parts of the book so I had fair warning, but... wow. At the end of the epilogue she says "to be continued..." but she'll have to continue without me, not just because of the raunchiness but I just don't feel like there's any more to the story.

Funny how I wrote more about the book I hated more than the ones I loved.

Currently reading: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. I'm doing some traveling this week so I hope to get through some books.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday Six Pack #1

Last week I couldn't come up with a title for my Friday post but then Jana decided to start the Friday Six Pack and I told her I was going to tag along. So here are six highlights from my week.

1.  Disregarding the fact that I have plenty of shows to watch on the DVR, Aaron and I started rewatching The West Wing on Netflix. We both loved that show and it's a nice distraction from the bullshit going on in politics right now. Jed Bartlett for President!

2.  After my binge-listen to Jana and Steph's Armchair Librarians podcast, I also subscribed to two more book nerd podcasts, All the Books, which focuses on new releases for the week, and Get Booked, which gives personalized book recommendations to listeners. I swear, on Tuesday I was constantly checking my podcast feed for a new episode of All the Books.

3.  In other reading news, I'm currently in the middle of not one, not two, but THREE books. One is an audiobook, one is on the Kindle and the third is from the library. My reading mojo is back! Check back on Tuesday to find out what I've been reading.

4.  In the last week, I've been to the gym 5 times. And I even did exercise stuff! I forgot though that working out regularly increases the laundry loads.

5.  The response to yesterday's post about Mother's Day. A lot of people dread this holiday (and Father's Day, for that matter) and for many different reasons. It's OK. And it doesn't mean that I'm not grateful for the life I have. But my blog is not going to be full of rainbows and unicorns, because that's not me. 

6.  This:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

I can't wait until Monday

That's not a phrase I say often, if ever. But I can't wait until Mother's Day is over.

We've never made a huge deal about Mother's Day - a phone call, a card, that's about it. And I don't begrudge anyone who does celebrate and enjoy MD (I'm just going to abbreviate it for the rest of this post). But I'm ready to be done with all the ads and especially all the emails telling me what I should buy for my mom. Just stop.

Let's count all the reasons I'm over MD:

  • My mom is dead. Last year was my first MD after my mom died and Aaron and I did everything we could to avoid all the MD trappings.
  • Aaron's mom is dead. For those who don't know, Aaron's mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on January 21 and died on March 30. She was just shy of turning 68.
  • My grandmother, while still alive, pretty much doesn't remember me. Both of her children are dead, and she doesn't really remember that either.
  • Our church traditionally does baptisms on MD. Two years ago, Aaron and I became godparents to a beautiful baby girl, knowing that she likely wouldn't live to see her first birthday. And she didn't.
  • I'm not a mother. While eventually this was our choice, and 99% of the time I'm very happy with our childfree life, every so often there's that nagging "what if" and "why couldn't I get pregnant when I wanted to." And frankly, now that all of the above has happened, this one has been sneaking up on me a little more than it used to.

I'm not putting all this out there for sympathy, and I hesitated with waiting until Monday to post this. And I do have nieces and nephews and godchildren, both real and honorary. But I'm willing to bet that there are others out there who have similar feelings about MD, and I want YOU to know that I get it. And you're not alone.

Having said all that, for those of you who DO celebrate, I hope you have a lovely day and that you're honored all year long, not just the second Sunday in May.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Highlights of the week

This week it was my turn to host Yahtzee. My theme, if you can call it that, was "shit I found on the internet." I was running around like a crazy person trying to get everything done at the last minute but it all turned out great and it was lovely having time with my girls.

Left: Brownie Batter Dip (yes, those are Lorna Doone cookies on that tray and they were fantastic with this dip)
Right: Tasty's Meatball Sub Bake - next time I might use more sauce but this was super easy!
Not pictured: Warm Bacon Blue Cheese Dip - take a tip from me and double this recipe, Black Bean Hummus with veggies and pita chips, Shrimp Cocktail, beer and wine.

A couple weeks ago Aaron and I joined a different gym. I haven't worked out in well over two years, due to surgeries and whatnot and then just plain laziness. Gwensday morning I got up early and did a proper weights workout at the gym before work. I'm feeling it but it's a good feeling. Of course there's still always this obstacle:

All week I've been thinking about this whole bathroom law bullshit and I knew I wanted to address it here but had a really hard time putting the words together. Fortunately my real-life and blog friend Steph hit it hard in her post yesterday. Some of my favorite parts from the post include:

  • "We've all been going to the bathroom with transgender people for years, we just didn't know it because no one is required to flash their private parts to go to the bathroom in a public restroom." This is what blows my mind. If I'm in the restroom with a trans woman, guess what? I'm not going to actually see her genitals.
  • "Women and children get attacked and raped all across this country every day and no one gives a fuck until now, when people want to pee with people they look like instead of where the genitals they were born with say they should pee." 

The only thing a bathroom law does is allow more hatred and bigotry toward not only transgender people, but also anyone who looks androgynous or just doesn't look like what someone thinks they should (remember SNL's "It's Pat?"). If only the Target protesters would focus their anger and energy on real sexual predators instead of people who just want to pee, now THAT would be productive.


Speaking of Steph, she and Jana not only host the monthly Show Us Your Books link up, but they've also started a podcast about books called The Armchair Librarians. There are now 8 episodes and I totally binge-listened to all of them yesterday. My personal favorite is the one with Jana's 9-year-old daughter, who chastises Jana because she "only" reads violent books. Plus I couldn't help wondering how hard it was for them to not curse in that particular episode.

Happy Weekend!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Weekend of the arts

It's been a while since we've had a weekend full of (fun) plans. Last weekend was full of cultural events!

Friday night we saw The Full Monty at the Garden Theater, presented by Short North Stage. Eight of us from the neighborhood walked the few blocks to the theater. It was fantastic! The sets, the cast, the music... so well done! It's just amazing to be able to walk to see such great entertainment. I also ran into a sorority sister there (her sister was in the show). I haven't seen her since college, but we we're Facebook friends and she recognized me while we were in line for the restroom.

After the show we went back to our house for a Prince dance party. Sorry to any neighbors who may have heard the blaring music until the wee hours...

Saturday we recovered with brunch at The Market and naps (we did make it to the gym for a brief cardio workout). Then we took the free bus to The Ohio Theatre to see The Book of Mormon. Lots of our friends saw it two years ago when it came to town but we missed out. Hilarious! Irreverent! So much fun!

Sunday we did our usual singing at two church services. I got in another nap (Saturday was a late night by the time we had after-show drinks, not that I really need a reason for a weekend nap). Then we went back to the church for a vocal recital. A woman in our choir who had a long nursing career and then fulfilled a life-long dream of going back to school for a vocal performance degree gave her senior recital. Some of our choir members backed her up on a couple songs. It was a lovely event, and here we are in our concert attire.

We ended the weekend at our local bar, Little Rock, to say good-bye to one of the bartenders who is moving away. Sundays are "Mix Tape" nights in which all of the music is from one year. Last night was 1983, so that was fun. Of course, that was the year chosen because it's the year the bartender was born which makes me feel old. Sort of.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Showin' My Books - April '16

OK peeps, it's that time again!

Life According to Steph

Interestingly (to me) most of my selections are audio books this time around.

She Can Run by Melinda Leigh - I chose this as my "freebie book" for Erin's challenge. In this case, freebie had multiple meanings. The challenge category was "any book at least 200 pages." I got the Kindle version for free through Kindle Unlimited and little did I know that included an audio version as well! I had a day in February in which I was in the car for 8 hours and sat in a waiting room for 2 hours so I knocked this book out in one day since I was able to listen and read. ANYWAY, the book was predictable in many ways but still entertaining for me. This is the first of a series, but it looks like with each succeeding book the main character was a peripheral from the book before. I like that idea.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari - This was for my IRL book club. It's not a memoir, but an actual study of what it's like to date in the age of technology. As someone who's been in a monogamous relationship for going-on-29 years, I couldn't relate to a lot of this but it was fun listening to Aziz read it himself (even though he constantly teased the audio book listeners for being too "lazy" to actually read the book).

Driving with the Top Down by Beth Harbison - This was my one non-audio book. It's about a woman, her niece, and her college best friend who are all going through difficult times but end up on a road trip together and discover that it's OK to rely on others for support (and that people will actually be there for you). Also, I love the cover. (This was my "starts with the letter D" choice for Erin's challenge.)


Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner - Rachel and Andy meet as kids and even though they live hundreds of miles apart, their paths continue to cross over the years. There were times when I wanted to throttle these two, but I also understood them in different ways. I wish there had been an epilogue. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt, but overall I enjoyed this one.

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon - I'm pretty impressed that this is a debut novel. I was pretty sure I knew whodunit but I was still intrigued by the story. Teenage Amy disappeared 15 years ago and was found a few days later beaten and unconscious and has never woken up.  Alex is a journalist with a lot of baggage who becomes obsessed with Amy's story and is determined to find justice for her. I loved this as an audio book; the narrator was very good and although the story is told from different points of view, only Amy's side was read by a different person. For some reason I felt that was important.

What's on your bookshelf?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

February Books

Hello, friends! It's time for...

Life According to Steph

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart - This book killed three birds with one stone. 1. It was January's book for my IRL book club. 2. I chose it as part of Erin's reading challenge. 3. I just knew I wanted to read it. I really knew nothing about this book except that all the cool kids were reading it so of course I wanted to as well. I didn't know until much later that, while the book is fiction, most of the characters and events really happened, and the the main character, Constance, became the first female sheriff. Highly recommend.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - December's book club book, but I didn't finish it in time and I didn't want anyone to spoil it for me so I didn't go to book club. I mean, we may meet in a bar, but we really do discuss the books, too. There's a murder mystery and it kept me guessing until the end. I didn't totally love it, but it was a good enough read. What I found interesting were some of the reviews on Goodreads in which people went OFF on the main character and I wondered why someone would keep reading while feeling such hatred toward the book.

And then I read The One You Love by Paul Pilkington - I don't think I've ever truly "hate read" a book until this one. Emma's fiance disappears a week before her wedding and the book focuses on her trying to figure out what happened. In getting to the answers, there are lots of twists and turns, and frankly, there are too many. And Emma had so many people completely obsessed with her I thought she was some kind of snake charmer. I finished it because I wanted to know whodunit but it was an annoying ride. This is the first of a trilogy. I won't be reading the next two.

What have you been reading?