Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Gila's Favorite Books of 2015

It's a bonus "best of" edition of Steph and Jana's Show Us Your Books, in which we highlight our favorite books of 2015. Note that these are books I read in 2015, but that's not necessarily when they were published.

Life According to Steph

I thought about listing these in some sort of order, but they don't deserve to be ranked; they're all so different. So, in no particular order:

You by Caroline Kepnes - This book is crazy. It takes the reader inside the mind of a stalker/serial killer and somehow makes him likable. (My blog post about this book was in August.)

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta - A YA novel that is truly a coming-of-age book. I loved the characters and the story. There's a follow up book (focusing on one of the other characters five years later) and I'm planning to read that one in 2016. (Also August)

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - 2015 was the year I finally read Liane Moriarty and I read three of her books. I enjoyed all of them, but if I have to choose, this is my favorite. Moriarty does a great job of weaving different stories together and I like to call her books "chick lit with a purpose." (November)

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - This seemed to be the "It" book in early 2015 and in my opinion, it lived up to the hype. The characters are unlikable but I didn't even care. This really kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat. (May)

The Martian by Andy Weir - This book made the list because I resisted it for months, thinking there was no way I'd like it, and then I was proven wrong. There's a lot of math and science that went right over my head but it didn't even matter. The story itself was gripping and the narrator was sarcastic and funny. (October)

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult - I've always been a fan of Picoult. Many people talk about how formulaic her books are and that's somewhat true, but it's never turned me off. But this one is a bit different and had a twist that I wasn't prepared for. This book came to me at just the right time and while I know I said I didn't want to rank them, this would probably be my personal number one book of 2015. (June)

Are any of your favorites on this list? What books did you love this year?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

HA! Today I made sure that Steph also did Thursday Thoughts before posting my own.

This week in cat antics: If you follow me on Instagram, you saw this picture from last night

"But Mommm, if you're in the kitchen 
that can only mean it's time for ME to eat!" #idontcookoften

(That cupboard is where the food is kept.)

Then he recruited reinforcements:

Speaking of pets, did you hear about the first litter of in-vitro puppies born at Cornell University? I was baffled by this until I read that it's not about puppies; it's about potentially saving other animal species. Still, if Michael Crichton were alive, he could write some scary book about it a la Jurassic Park

Last Sunday at church, our children's choirs presented their annual Christmas musical. Every year I intend to go and don't, but this year I dragged my lazy self out of the house, and I'm so glad I did! The director of children's music, Sally Beske, writes the words and music and this is the 20th year of these original productions. The theme was finding peace, and the lesson was that we all need to allow ourselves time to rest and to play, in order to make peaceful decisions. I can think of quite a few people who could stand to learn that lesson. We all received permission slips with an affirmation on the opposite side (written by the children). This may have been the best Christmas gift! I don't know that video will do it justice, but you can watch it here.

(borrowed from a friend's Facebook post)

I’m refraining from talking politics (at least for today) because I'm trying to keep this post happy, but I do love this meme:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Trio of Books

I contemplated skipping this month's book post as I only have three books to talk about, but (obviously) I decided to go ahead and do it. Plus, I'm likely to forget these if I wait another month and I certainly won't be writing blog posts ahead of time!

Life According to Steph

This month Steph and Jana are giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and a $25 donation to Project Night Night, which provides homeless children with a security blanket, a book and a stuffed animal. I'd not heard of this organization, but I absolutely love this idea.

On to the books:

Burning Down George Orwell's House by Andrew Ervin - I read this for my real-life book club. It's about a guy from Chicago who is burnt out on life and work and decides to go off the grid so he travels to Scotland and rents the house in which George Orwell wrote 1984 (this guy is obsessed with 1984).  The book itself was good, but I don't know how great it was for a book club read. There wasn't a lot to talk about. My friend Lisa and I usually walk to book club together and talk nonstop about the books before we even get there, and this time neither of us said anything about it. But it was still entertaining and I gave it 3 stars.

The Truth About Him by Molly O'Keefe - This is the sequel to Everything I Left Unsaid, which I talked about last month. I downloaded this book almost as soon as it was released because of the cliffhanger in the first book. I'm still giving this one 3 stars, but it was kind of all over the place. I couldn't really get on board with the "dangerous situation" this time around.  Still lots of steamy sex, and also more of the standard "he/she deserves better than me," which gets pretty annoying. But Annie and Dylan's story finishes up, and apparently there's going to be a third book which focuses on a couple of minor characters whom we met in the first two books.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (audiobook) - This one gets 4 stars. I listened to the majority of this while driving back and forth to Pennsylvania around Thanksgiving. The road trips themselves didn't get me through the whole book, so I was listening to bits and pieces until last Friday when I couldn't stop listening until it was over. It's not hard to figure out the "secret," and it's revealed fairly early on, so there are parts in the middle that didn't seem necessary, but the ending was quite unexpected. I very much enjoyed the reader; she did a good job of varying her voice for the characters.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Two twenty-one year-olds and a first grader

That's how old I am today. And I suppose depending on the first grader, you might not know exactly how old that is: I'm 48. It's funny how that age seemed so old at one time, and now it doesn't seem old at all.

First official photo. Resting bitch face, squinty eye
and possible gang symbol in full force.

We had a great weekend, full of friends but not photos. Friday night we had date night at one of our favorite restaurants, Trattoria Roma. We were there nearly three hours and it was as fabulous as ever.

Saturday was spent watching football with friends. Both of our teams lost, but it was a fun day nonetheless.

Sunday was church, rehearsal, lunch, baby shower and drinks with friends.

Just to make this post worth your while, here's another awesome baby picture:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Once again, I'm borrowing from Steph for Thursday Thoughts and just like last time, she didn't do them today. Ah, well...

I’m late posting because we currently don't have internet at home. There are houses under construction next to us and last week the builders cut our cable. For TV watching, that's OK because we have satellite (believe me, if I were without TV you'd hear me yelling no matter how far away you are). However, it does affect our internet service, and it seems that now the earliest it will be fixed is next Gwensday. This seriously blows. So I've had to go to the office to work instead of being able to work from home, and blogging gets squeezed in as time allows.

I saw this meme awhile ago and sent it to Aaron. The note says "I've already fed him, don't fall for his bullshit." Our cats pull this all the time and last night they totally punked me. I started to feed them and Aaron stopped me just in time because he had already fed them. Bastards.

I can’t believe I'm about to talk about Justin Bieber, but his song "What Do You Mean" is all over pop radio. Does anyone else think this is date rape about to happen? "What do you mean / when you nod your head yes / but you wanna say no..." Memo to the Biebs: No means no.

Damn you, Days of Our Lives, for sucking me back into your vortex. I had heard that Peter Reckell (Bo Brady, for those who don't know) was coming back to the show and I tuned in one day and now I'm hooked again. #boandhope4ever My new obsession probably won't last long because ... well, if you could see everything on my DVR just waiting for me to watch it ... But in the meantime I need to find out if Abigail escapes from Ben and has her baby. Don't judge.

Do you watch The Voice? If not, may I suggest you watch this video from Monday night's show. This guy Jordan is amazing and his performance is so moving. After last week's events in Paris and all the hatred being spewed on social media, I really needed this.

I can't really follow that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reading is Sexy

It's book linkup time!! I'm not sure why I keep trying to come up with unique titles for these monthly posts. I should just pick one and stick with it.

Life According to Steph

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - This is the second Moriarty book I've read and I can't wait to read more. There's something about the way she unfolds the story that really appeals to me. This one is about three women whose children are in the same class at school but they bond over much more than that. I didn't guess the twist. I call this "chick lit with a purpose." 5 stars

Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (Audiobook) - 4.5 stars, but I rounded up because I listened to this all in one day while driving home from vacation and it pretty much got me through the drive. Going in, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about Kathleen Wilhoite as the reader, but I thought she did a fabulous job. This book is either told from the perspective of Bernadette's 15-year-old daughter Bee or through various emails, notes and letters, and Wilhoite was so good at changing her voice accordingly. And, she sings at one point and I had no idea she could sing, but after a Google search I learned that she's released two albums. The ending was pretty fantastical, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story as well as Bee's teenage attitude and exuberance.

Everything I Left Unsaid by Molly O'Keefe -  I received a free copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway. This is the kind of book that my mom would have said to me "there's a lot of sex in there," and she would have loved it! So, fair warning, there's of lot of sex - phone sex and actual sex. There's also a good plot. I'm positive that when I got to the cliffhanger I actually said out loud "are you KIDDING me?" But of course that means I'll be jumping on the next book. 3 stars

Family Pictures by Jane Green - The first part of this book was very frustrating to me. I thought it was so obvious where it was going, but as it turns out, the book is about much more than the thing the two women have in common. It's really about the two women trying to keep their families together while also finding themselves in the wake of a terrible betrayal. I ended up liking it better than I thought I would but I like a lot of Green's other books better. 3 stars

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg - This book is the first of a series involving a female FBI agent and the con man she's been trying to capture for years but is now forced to work with. This was a fun, easy read (I finished it in one day while flying across the country) and I'm looking forward to more of the books in the series. 4 stars

Phew! 5 books this month and none of them were awful! What have you been reading? And be sure to check out other bloggers' book recommendations with our hosts, Steph and Jana.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Shit Aaron Says, The Birthday Edition

In honor of his birthday today, it's time for more Shit Aaron Says!

Aaron: I lost my jeans
Me: How do you lose a pair of jeans?
Our friend Amy: This is why you don't have children.
(Note that he did eventually find said jeans.)

Me: I have something in my teeth.
Aaron: Well, we know it's not floss.
(Truth. I don't floss; Aaron does. A bit judgy, I'd say.)

Aaron (as the weather switches from summer to fall and he realizes he can wear his favorite combo of shorts and a sweatshirt): I like it. It keeps me warm and cool in all the right places.

After a choir rehearsal, it's nearly 10:00 and we haven't eaten dinner so we decide to go out to eat somewhere close to home.
Aaron (when we leave rehearsal): Where do you want to go?
Me: I don't know.
Aaron (5 minutes later, in the car): So where are we going?
Me: I don't know.
Aaron (after we get home and park the car): So where are we going?
Me: The Rossi
Aaron: I was thinking Haiku.

Happy Birthday, Aaron! I love you!

You can read the previous Shit Aaron Says here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

If you've never stared off into the distance then your life is a shame

Normally I'm NOT the person who is going to judge others on how they spend their time. But...two things:

  1. The title of this post is a lyric to the song "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby" by Counting Crows. Love the song, love the album (This Desert Life).

  2. I know there are people out there who just can't sit still and have to always be moving. I don't understand those people. And I feel sorry for them.

Last week I went to Myrtle Beach for a solo vacation. My parents had a timeshare there and I took it over after they died. Aaron wasn't able to go with me due to a trade show in Dallas so I ended up going by myself.

I drove and was a little nervous about that, only because I tend to get sleepy when I drive longer than, say, 20 minutes. Columbus to Myrtle Beach is 9 1/2 hours if you don't stop but of course you stop because... 9 1/2 hours. On the way down I split up the trip and spent the night in a hotel, but coming home I did it all in one day. Those last two hours were torture, but other than that what totally saved me were audiobooks. They kept me sane and awake.

I arrived Sunday afternoon and stayed until Saturday morning. The weather couldn't have been better - sunny and 70s every. single. day.

I slept in, I watched cheesy Lifetime movies, including the one about Aaliyah which was super disappointing because I later found out that her family wasn't on board and didn't allow Lifetime to use any of her music. I went shopping. I ate dinner several nights with friends of my parents who were also there. I read. On the beach. I sat on my balcony and "stared off into the distance."

Two of my purchases. I also got another ring, earrings,
a pair of boots and two dresses/tunics.
I don't have a shopping problem. Really.

I desperately needed this. Work has been insane and I have a lot of personal shit going on as well. And while those things don't just go away, a change of scenery and some serious "me" time allows a new perspective. I highly recommend it.

The last morning I got up before sunrise and walked on the beach.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Books, Books, Baby

I'm currently on vacation, but I couldn't miss Steph and Jana's linkup, especially since it's the one-year anniversary of Show Us Your Books!

Life According to Steph

The Martian by Andy Weir - Man, did I resist this book. Even though SO many bloggers raved about it, I really didn't think I'd even finish it, let alone actually enjoy it. Then my IRL book club selected it for September and I didn't read it before the scheduled meeting, which was then rescheduled so I decided it was a sign that I needed to read this book. I'm so glad I did! Yes, there's a lot of technical/scientific/mathematical shit that I eventually skimmed over, but there's also a lot of suspense/humor/sarcasm and that's what drew me in. I'm excited to see the movie, and knowing that Matt Damon is the star, I could hear him in the narrative. I definitely recommend this one.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (Audiobook) - Last weekend I took a really long roadtrip by myself, and I knew I'd need something to occupy my mind and pass the time. I listened to this book and it definitely served its purpose. There were times during the book when I wanted more, but by the end I realized I didn't need more. I'd probably give this 3 1/2 stars if I could, but I rounded up because it kept me entertained while driving. I need to pick out another audiobook for the reverse trip.

Next up: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, and the bonus is that I'm reading it on the beach!

What have you been reading?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Gila Reads

Hello, fellow book nerds! It's the best day of the month, in which a bunch of us bloggers link up and find out what others are reading and inevitably lengthen our lists of books to be read.

Life According to Steph

This month I only read three books. I blame Angry Birds 2. Don't judge. It appeals to my violent side and it's much better for me to be taking that out on those stupid pigs than on, well, people.

The Divers Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida - I read this for an In Real Life book club. I've never been part of one before but this one meets at a bar so it blows away the "let's pretend we're talking about books when we're really drinking" facade. The book is a quick read. It's about a woman who leaves behind her screwed up family life and travels to Morocco, where she immediately loses her passport, money and credit cards when someone steals her backpack. The narrative is second person, which was a little tough for me because I had JUST finished reading You. We never find out the main character's name, but she uses about five aliases. It seriously annoys me to not know a protagonist's name. I will admit, though, that initially I gave this book two stars but after the book club discussion I bumped it to three.

Bossypants by Tina Fey - I really enjoyed this lighthearted, easy read. While I didn't listen to the audiobook, it was almost like I was listening to Tina because I could hear her voice in the writing. If your a Fey fan, it's a safe bet that you'll like this, too.

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton - I've read every single book in the alphabet series, although I think my first one was G and then I went back to the beginning. Kinsey Millhone is never a disappointment to me. I love that she's still stuck in the 80s with no cell phone and limited computer assistance. Her PI business relies on her Smith-Corona typewriter and her index card system. The only reason I gave this four stars instead of five is the length of it. In fact, I've owned this book probably since it first came out and only just got around to reading it because of how long it is. The first handful of books in this series are pretty short and then Grafton seemed to hit her stride, but with W I felt like there was a lot of unnecessary narrative. Nevertheless, I'm still a fan and I'll stick it out till the end. (X just came out and I won't wait as long to read it.)

What have you been reading?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Batting My Lashes

In case you're new around here, I'm pretty much a girly girl (who hates the color pink and loves football and movies like Die Hard). I love clothes, shoes, makeup, jewelry... I get my nails done every three weeks and my hair colored every five weeks.

My color may not be natural, but my curls are!

Recently I've become super annoyed with my eyelashes. I was sick to death of mascara ending up all over my face. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration. I've tried expensive mascara, I've tried cheap mascara. I've done false eyelashes for special occasions, but I don't want to do that everyday. Plus I suck at putting them on.

About a month ago I took the plunge and got eyelash extensions, and I can't tell you how thrilled I am with them! I'm going to attempt to show you the difference, but I feel like pictures (or at least pictures that *I* take) don't do it justice. So prepare yourself for big grainy photos of my eye.

This is a before pic, with mascara.

My initial appointment lasted about two hours. It was kind of weird at first - she kind of taped around my eyes and most of the time I could feel my eyeballs moving around and I just hoped that my eyes wouldn't open. But eventually I relaxed and I may have dozed off. Her goal is to make the lashes look natural so they're not going to be super long. She did ask "do you want them straight like yours or curled?" Um, curled, of course!

After. NO mascara!

The closed eye view. Duh.

I am in love with my lashes. No mascara, no eyelash curler. And honestly, I've hardly worn makeup at all since I had them done, which is nice in the summer. I had a total stranger comment that my eyelashes were beautiful, and last week my hairstylist asked me what kind of mascara I use.

It took a little getting used to at first. For the first couple days you're supposed to keep them dry (or as dry as possible). And I had to keep reminding myself to not rub my eyes, especially when I first woke up, but that's just a good practice anyway so ... bonus.

It's not cheap, but for me it was totally worth it, and when you get them touched up it's less expensive. I got mine touched up yesterday after 4 weeks and I probably could have gone longer (she praised me for how well I took care of them).

Four weeks old.

Have you ever had eyelash extensions? Tell me about it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Books, Books Everywhere!

I'm even more excited than usual for this month's linkup with Steph and Jana because I have 5, count 'em, FIVE books to talk about and none of them were losers.

Life According to Steph

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta - This is a YA novel set in Australia and focuses on a teenage girl who is trying to fit in at a nearly all-boys high school while also dealing with some serious issues at home. I often feel like the phrase "coming of age" is overused, but I think the description is warranted here. Something about this book really spoke to me, and I was majorly rooting for Francesca. 5 stars

Dirty Rush by Taylor Bell - I gave this 4 stars on Goodreads but I should have given it 5 stars because this is the book that got me going full steam ahead again on reading. It's about a girl who has no intention of joining a sorority but ends up pledging and forges lifelong friendships. Wait, that sounds like me. It's true that I was in a sorority (Gamma Phi Beta) but let me tell you, my experience was nothing like the one portrayed in this book. I mean, the hardest thing we had to as pledges was memorize all the sisters' hometowns and majors. The scavenger hunt these girls had to do was completely disgusting. Also, fair warning, there's some hardcore language in this book. If you're offended by "fuck" and all its uses or by the "c" word, I would not recommend reading it. I, however, really enjoyed it.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - This is my first Moriarty book, and I only heard of her because of this linkup and the multitude of bloggers who have read her books. Let's just say this won't be my last. The premise here is a woman who wakes up after a bump on the head with no memory of the last ten years. Her three children? No clue who they are. I loved the way the story unfolded and I couldn't put it down. 5 stars

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen - I read this for the Literary Ladies Book Club. It's another YA book and generally speaking, the one-sentence description of it is very similar to "Saving Francesca:" teenage girl with difficult family life switches schools and makes new friends. Overall I loved the story and the characters but it only gets 4 stars because there were some plot points that were introduced and never explored further. But the little annoyances didn't affect my enjoyment that much, and I'm looking forward to reading more Dessen (this was my first, but she has lots of books out).

You by Caroline Kepnes - This book is fucked up. (And if you cringed at that sentence, definitely do not read the book.) It takes the reader inside the mind of a stalker and as horrified as I was by his actions, I also sorta liked the guy, which then horrified me about myself. There's a sequel coming out in early 2016 and I'll be jumping on it immediately. 4 stars, mostly because I would have questioned my sanity if I gave it 5 stars.

That's it for this month! What have you been reading lately?