Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Showin' My Books - October '19

I've been hit and miss with my book posts, but I couldn't miss the 5th anniversary of Show Us Your Books with Steph and Jana! I'm excited to find out what everyone else has been reading as well.

Life According to Steph

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane - I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads, but it's really more like 3 1/2 stars. The first 100 pages were kind of slow but then "the event" happened and I couldn't stop reading. I liked the multiple points of view which, for the most part, didn't overlap but kept the story moving over 30+ years.

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way - I really enjoyed this. There were quite a few twists that I did not predict. It's also set up like there could be a sequel, which I don't know if I'd be into, but this book on its own was a fast, intense read. 4 stars

Normal People by Sally Rooney - This was my IRL book club's September read and if it weren't for that I may not have finished it, but I ended up liking it better than I thought I would. That said, I did skim through some parts, but we had some good discussion about it. 3 stars

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips - Very intense, fast-paced book that takes place over three hours. I couldn't put it down. I would have given it five stars but there were too many unanswered questions for me so I knocked it down to four. Also, I'm not a parent, but I don't know that I'd recommend this to anyone with small children.

Next up for me: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (October's book club pick)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Showin' My Books - August '19

It's been a while but Gila got her groove back - her reading groove, that is! Linking up as always with Jana and Steph. Here are some books I read since the last time I posted about books.

Life According to Steph

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah - I listened to this and I highly recommend the audiobook. It's read by Noah, and it's so so good. It's also a reminder of the way oppressed people have to live. 5 stars

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite - This is a quick read, and a different perspective of a murder mystery. It's not a whodunit mystery, but more of a why did she do it, and even more, why does the sister keep cleaning up the messes? 4 stars

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides - A psychological mystery with a twist I never saw coming, which I always love. I might have given this 5 stars but what annoyed me was the diary parts. Who writes full-blown dialogue in their diary? 4 stars

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - I finally read a TJR book! Actually, I listened to this one and I loved it on audio. There's an entire cast of voices and it was just wonderful. 5 stars

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult - I love most all of Jodi Picoult's books. I was hesitant to start this because of the subject matter, and at times it was really hard to read, but that's also one of the things I love about Picoult. 4 stars

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser - I got this from Book of the Month over a year ago and finally read it. It takes place in Yellow Springs, Ohio, which is close to me and one of the main characters is from Springfield, where I went to college. So that alone is cool. It's also a neighborhood mystery and I had not predicted the ending. 4 stars

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen - Read for Erin's book challenge (book with an article of clothing in the title). This was a super fast and easy read, which I needed. There are multiple points of view (and I do mean multiple!) and it's just a feel good book. 4 stars

That's it for now. I'm currently reading Ask Again, Yes and really enjoying it. I can't wait to see what everyone else has been reading!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Draw me safely to Thy side

Apologies in advance, because this is going to be a heavy post for a Friday. But for those in the Christian faith, it's Good Friday, and where I am right now it's gloomy and rainy, so heavy seems appropriate.

In the past several years, death has visited my family far too many times. My dad died of lung cancer in 2011. A couple months later my aunt Linda died at age 61 of a brain aneurysm. My mom died in her sleep of an apparent heart attack in 2014, and then three days later our goddaughter Lauren died at just nine months old. Aaron's mom died of pancreatic cancer three years ago. My grandmother died at age 99 eighteen months ago. My aunt Jean died last fall after years of various health issues.

Last night we sang at a Maundy Thursday service. For as long as I can remember, one of the anthems for the night is "Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me." The words are by Paul Gerhart, and this particular arrangement is by Craig Courtney. It begins with men's unaccompanied voices, then the organ comes in. The second verse is sung by the full choir but it's still somewhat subdued. The third verse builds to a powerful crescendo. Then the fourth verse is a cappella and quite soft. Here are the words to that last verse:

In suffering be Thy love my peace;
In weakness be Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
O Jesus, in that final hour,
Be Thou my rod and staff and guide,
And draw me safely to Thy side.

For the past four years, every time we sing those words all I can think is that I hope that is what death is like.

I hope it for my dad and Aaron's mom, who both suffered from that horrible disease, cancer.

I hope it for Linda, who was here one minute and gone the next.

I hope it for my mom, who wasn't ill when she died but had so much stress on her at the time.

I hope it for Lauren, who lived such a short life but touched us all so much.

I hope it for my grandmother who outlived her husband and both of her daughters.

I hope it for Jean who, once she made the decision to move to hospice care, was finally at peace.

Read the words again. If you're not Christian, replace "Jesus" with whatever higher power you believe in.

I hope.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Showin' my books - April '19

Hola, friends! I just returned from Florida, where I spent four days with 20+ sorority sisters. It was glorious. I also managed to read a little so I'm linking up with Jana and Steph.

Life According to Steph

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris - Somehow, I did not know until after I finished the book that it was based on a true story. I seriously thought it was fiction until I read the Afterword and Author's Note. That changed my whole opinion of the book, which I can't quite explain but when I thought it was fiction, I felt like it was missing something. Anyway, I gave this 4 stars.

Educated by Tara Westover - This one I definitely knew was a memoir. I don't know that I would have read this on my own, but my real life book club read it and I was interested in the story. It is stunning to realize that people really do grow up the way she did. I gave this one 4 stars as well, because while it was uncomfortable to read at times, I felt that it was important (for me) to read.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory - I needed some "junk food" reading after the previous two, and this fit the bill. What I really enjoyed about this was that it involved an interracial romance but the conflict has nothing to do with race. The characters are all diverse - black, Latino, Asian, gay... I loved that. This is the second book in The Wedding Date series, and I have not yet read The Wedding Date, but I will! 4 stars

That's it for now. I stayed up late to finish The Proposal, so I'm between books right now, but the next book club book is My Sister, the Serial Killer, so I should get on that.

Friday, March 29, 2019

This week, on Grey's Anatomy

Hi, my name is Gwen and I'm a TV-aholic.

"Hi, Gwen."

Mostly my dramatic tastes run with police procedurals (I've seen every single episode of the original Law & Order and SVU), and the legal/medical/firefighter melodramas. I stuck with ER until the very end; LA Law and The Practice were appointment television; more recently I'm digging 9-1-1.

So as you might imagine, Shondaland is my jam. If you don't know what that means, keep reading anyway.

Grey's Anatomy is in its 15th season. I've watched from the beginning. I suffered through Izzie and Denny Duquette, I've watched Bailey mellow with age while still maintaining her badass-ness, I've witnessed Alex's transformation into a pediatric surgeon with a heart, and on and on. Personally, I was ready for Grey's to wrap it up at the end of season 11. If you watch, you know what I'm talking about.

But I just can't quit it.

And last night's episode reminded me why.

Before I go any further, two things:

If you haven't yet watched this episode and you're planning to, come back later. And, trigger warning for sexual assault. I'm not the kind of person who needs trigger warnings, but I can appreciate that some people do.

The March 28th episode of Grey's Anatomy, titled "Silent All These Years," focused on a female patient who arrives at the hospital with a cut on her cheek. Dr. Jo Karev offers to take her to the emergency department and soon realizes that there's much more going on. Jo is herself a survivor of domestic abuse and suspects the same with the patient, Abby. As it turns out, Abby's husband is out of town and she was violently raped by a stranger the night before.

Abby feels safe with Jo and begs her not to leave her side. She also gets terribly upset when she sees any male staff. Eventually she allows Jo and two other female doctors to do a rape kit because she needs surgery and once they sterilize her, any evidence will be destroyed.

As Jo talks to Abby, she tells her over and over that the rape wasn't her fault. She also talks about her own past and how she felt that it was her fault when her husband would beat her. And of course Abby says to her, "it wasn't your fault." How easy it is for us to tell someone else that but not be able to see it for ourselves.

Juxtaposed with this, we see Jo in the near past, knocking on the door of her birth mother's house. Jo was left at a fire station as a baby and bounced around foster homes. She wanted to know where she came from, and she discovers that she was the result of a rape. Her birth mother blamed herself because she had said yes to a date. And in another subplot, Bailey and Ben are faced with their teenage son dating and Ben gives him the talk about consent. (Thank you for showing this very important piece of prevention.)

The most powerful scene is when Abby needs to be taken to an operating room. She's terrified to leave the safety of the exam room she's been in, so Jo arranges for all of the female staff, without knowing why, to line the hallway while Abby is wheeled to surgery. (Music has always been an important part of Grey's Anatomy and in this episode in particular the music is so fitting.)

Here's my reason for writing this post: it is infuriating to me that in 2019 women still blame themselves for being assaulted. And the reason they do is because in many cases they ARE blamed. "What were you wearing?" "How much had you had to drink?" "Were you flirting?" This way of thinking is such bullshit and for real makes me want to burn down the patriarchy.

I've written about this before (see: Standing with the Stanford Survivor, among others) and it makes me angry and sad that I'll probably have to write about it again.

Rape is never ever ever the victim's fault. Ever.

So no, I can't quit Grey's, and I won't. Shonda Rimes, you have a fan for life. Camilla Luddington (Jo) and Khaililah Joi (Abby), I am in awe of you. And a special shout out to Debbie Allen who directed the episode, whom I have adored since Fame. As difficult as it is, I'll be watching "Silent All These Years" again.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Most Unpredictable Oscars

Longtime readers might remember that in the past I've done some predicting of Oscar winners. This year I managed to see all eight of the Best Picture nominees and while I've said many times before that it's kinda silly to award a "best" picture, this year I'm having a really hard time figuring out which one I think will win. And I don't think I'm alone. Entertainment Weekly had six anonymous industry experts make their predictions/pick their favorites, and all six chose a different winner for Best Picture.

But still...

Best Picture (in the order in which I saw them):

Green Book - When I saw this movie, I really liked it. Then I read more about it and now I'm just not so sure. In fact, there are a few of these "based on true events" nominees that I wish I had never found out just how much dramatic license (or lack thereof) is taken. I love me some Viggo Mortensen, but this is no Blouse Man (shout out to my HOM girls). But Mahershala Ali is pretty fantastic, as he is in pretty much everything.

BlacKkKlansman - The premise of this film falls under "you couldn't possibly make it up so it must be true." I've never watched "Ballers," so I haven't seen John David Washington but damn, if I closed my eyes, I'd swear it was Denzel. It seems weird to say that I really enjoyed this movie, given the subject matter, but I did like it, and I'm glad to see Spike Lee back in the mix.

Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen's music is part of the soundtrack of my life. I really did love this movie for the entertainment, but as a biopic it felt pretty sanitized and safe. I mean, I'll probably watch it again. I just don't know that it's a "Best Picture."

Vice - Christian Bale is good, no doubt. This movie just did not knock my socks off.

Black Panther - I did not get to see this in the theater, and I wish I had because visually, it's stunning. I'm also not a comics/superhero aficionado but I enjoyed this movie, especially the strong female characters.

Roma - Black and white, in Spanish with subtitles, not much action. But it's a beautiful film.

The Favourite - Spectacular costumes and fantastic acting. I know a lot of critics love this movie. I didn't hate it, but it felt like it was longer than it actually was and I totally get why it's nominated, but I'm probably not voting for it.

A Star is Born - This movie made me ugly cry. I loved it a lot. I think Bradley Cooper should have at least been nominated for best director. If Shallow doesn't win for original song there's something wrong, especially because that's probably the only award the film will win.

My picks:

Picture: I would vote for A Star is Born, but I think Roma will win.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron, though I'd love to see Spike Lee win.
Actor: Rami Malek will win. I would vote for Bradley Cooper (and if the Academy wants to reward him for the directing snub, they might vote for him too).
Actress: Glenn Close. Hers is the only movie in this category that I didn't see. My vote would probably go to Melissa McCarthy.
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, but Richard E. Grant was pretty great.
Supporting Actress: Regina King. I also haven't seen her movie (damn streaming platforms) but I love her and she seems like a shoo in. The Favourite ladies were both fantastic but they'll probably split the vote.

As in prior years, we also watched the shorts so my predictions for those are:

Animated Short: Bao
Documentary Short: Period. End of Sentence.
Live Action Short: Skin

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Showin' My Books: February 2019

It's been a super long time since I've linked up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books, so I'm going to a quick take of some of my favorites from the past month several months ... OK, YEAR.

Life According to Steph

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty - I've read several Moriarty books and, while this wasn't my favorite of hers, it did not disappoint. I do have one nitpick - the "nine perfect strangers" who are all at a health spa are not completely strangers to each other. There's a married couple and a family of three in there. But anyway, I did enjoy it. Holy multiple POVs, Batman!

We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union - I used to have an Audible membership. Like most auto-subscribe things, I fell behind and realized I needed to cancel it but I had 6 credits and had to use those before I canceled. I ended up with all memoirs. One was Judy Greer's (I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star) and it was fine but not much stayed with me. Gabrielle Union's memoir felt very open and honest. She talks about some serious shit, including colorism, infertility, and her own sexual assault. There are also absolutely some lighthearted moments and I loved listening to her.

Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer - At times a tough read about a woman who has always had to bail out her sister who is a drug addict and now shows up pregnant. I gave this 5 stars on Goodreads because it made me cry and pretty much any book that can do that will get 5 stars from me.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton - Fun fact: in the UK this book was The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle but had to be changed for US distribution to avoid confusion with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (which is also on my TBR). This book is quite a mind fuck, but (and?) I loved it. I can't imagine what it took to write this, and it's the author's debut!

Currently reading: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

What's on your nightstand? (Strictly speaking of books; I don't care what else is there).

Monday, January 21, 2019

Ten Year Challenge

If you're on social media at all, no doubt you've seen the "ten year challenge," in which you post your profile picture from ten years ago and your most recent one. It's also described as "how hard has aging hit you," which ... whatever. We all age. We all age differently. I know for myself, the last ten years have been tougher than any other ten year period in my life.

Over the last few days I've been struck by a different thought regarding the last ten years. Ten years ago this past weekend I was in Baltimore with my friends Steph, Mimi, and Gena. This year I was in Washington, DC with the same friends, plus Debbie and Melissa.

I made sure that the 2009 picture is from the start of the evening, as the later pictures are quite, shall we say, boozy.

In 2009 our routine was heavy drinking and karaoke on Friday night, napping and movie watching on Saturday, and a steak dinner Saturday night. In 2019, we mostly stuck to our Airbnb, binge-watched The Great British Baking Show, did facial sheet masks, and enjoyed catching up in person.

Ten years ago, after a great girls' weekend, I met up with Aaron and our friends Steve and Dwayne to go to the first inauguration of Barack Obama. (We didn't have tickets; we were among the throngs of people watching on jumbotrons from the Washington Memorial.)

This year I went to the Women's March.

It was extremely cold in 2009. In 2019, it was chilly but not bad, and we got lucky because the forecast called for rain and the rain held off until we were snugly back in front of the TV.

This was my first Women's March but I felt pretty strongly about attending this year. I wanted to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

In 2009 we were excited to be part of history, witnessing the first person of color become President of the United States.

In 2019 I'm angry and I'm tired and I'm frustrated. But being surrounded by people with their kids and their signs and their commitment gave me hope. And being with my girls (old and new friends) filled my soul.

The change in the buttons I wore.

Sometimes a ten year change is more than the grey in your hair or the wrinkles on your face.