Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Showin' My Books October 2020

I haven't posted in a few months, so I have quite a few books to list, though not as many as I'd like, because back in September I broke my wrist which required surgery and I haven't been able to focus on books. (Also, if there are typos in this post, sorry - typing isn't super easy either.) 

This month is the sixth anniversary of Show Us Your Books with Steph and Jana! Be sure to check out other bloggers who linked up if you're looking for reading recommendations.

Life According to Steph 

The Guest List by Lucy Foley - Kept me guessing the whole time. Really liked this one! (Erin's challenge - set in a different country; own hard cover from Book of the Month)

The Holdout by Graham Moore - A lot happens at the end in a short amount of pages and it was a little hard to keep up, but overall I liked it. (Erin's challenge - freebie; own hard cover from Book of the Month)

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones - I've never read any of Jones' poetry, but this is his memoir and I saw a lot of buzz about it. Then I found out that he had moved to Columbus. I started following him on Twitter and lo and behold, he lives very close to me! (I haven't stalked him or anything but keep hoping that maybe I'll run into him someday when he's walking his dog.) I listened to this, as it's read by the author, and it was just beautifully written and read. (read just because; purchased audio from libro.fm)

The Last Flight by Julie Clark - Really liked this one. The alternating POV worked well and the ending left me wanting more, but not in a bad way. (read for book club; own hard cover from Book of the Month)

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum - There were times when I felt like I was hate-reading, but that’s because the subject matter was infuriating. It makes me crazy to know that women all over actually have to live like this. But there was hope as well, which ultimately allowed me to like this book. (Erin's challenge - immigrant main character; own hard cover from Book of the Month)

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James - I loved this book. Read it in one day. I felt like it combined two former favorites of mine: the TV show "Cold Case" and ghost story books from when I was growing up (I used to devour John Saul books). (Erin's challenge - starts with "S;" own hard cover from Book of the Month)

Loved this quote: "...folding the corner of a page - even in a thirty-year-old book - is sacrilege."

One quibble - it's mentioned multiple times in the book that the motel sign is blue and yellow, but as you can see, on the cover it's red and yellow.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart - The second book in the Kopp sisters series. I liked the end of the book better than the journey to get there (I wanted more of the sisters). I really enjoyed the author's notes detailing which parts of the book actually happened. (Erin's challenge - female police officer or detective; read on Kindle)

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett - This book. Wonderful characters, differing POV, lots to digest. I have to admit that I had tried reading Bennett's first novel, The Mothers, but couldn't quite get into it. Now I think I might try it again. (read for book club; own hard cover from Book of the Month)

Here's hoping I can settle back into a book soon. I have about four started!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Showin' My Books July 2020

It's that time again! Be sure to check out the link up with Steph and Jana for more book recommendations. Happily, I enjoyed all four of my books this month.

Life According to Steph 

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley - I read this for book club and it was a lovely breath of fresh air, especially after the more heavy books we've had this year. It's multiple POV and some characters are certainly more likable than others, and there are a couple surprises. 4 stars

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz - This is Connie Schultz's first novel, though she has written a couple memoirs. I follow her on social media (her husband is Sherrod Brown, a US Senator from Ohio) and I pre-ordered this book and got it in hardback even (from my local, independently-owned bookstore). I loved this book. It's not quite perfection, but I found myself thinking about the characters after I finished, and to me, that's a good reason to give a book 5 stars.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson - I don't read a lot of fantasy, and I'm not sure this qualifies as fantasy, but it does have some magical realism which was just enough for me. It's a quirky, fun book that also has some serious sections. Read for Erin's book challenge - Read a book with one of these words in the title: thing/things, everything, something, nothing or anything4 stars

Writers & Lovers by Lily King - This is one of those books that doesn't have a lot going on, and sometimes I'm not a fan of that, but this book spoke to me somehow. I might not have read it if not for book club. I made notes of many lines, like this one which I could have used to describe Writers & Lovers:

"I don't know why it's so moving to me and I could never explain.
There's a madness to beauty when you stumble on it like that."

That's all for now. Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Showin' My Books - June 2020

I'm super late posting this and I thought about skipping this month, but I don't want to so here we go.

As always, linking up with Steph and Jana, and I suggest checking out their posts as well as the 40+ other bloggers who have linked up this month.

Life According to Steph

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell - I read this for book club and apparently I didn't write down my thoughts so I'm kind of winging it here. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, which I think I rounded up. This was disturbing and complicated and hard to read at times because of the subject matter.

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore - I really had to sit on this for a while before giving it a rating. I pre-ordered this on Kindle and forgot that I had until it just showed up. I think this is a Very Important Book, and I liked the idea of it and the stories. But I had a hard time reading it for a couple reasons. While the writing was super descriptive and lovely, there were a lot of gaps and vagueness to the plots. And I have come to understand that I cannot handle reading books without quotation marks. Ultimately I'm glad I read it but if I hadn't pre-ordered it I might have given up. 3 stars

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner - I've read most of Jennifer Weiner's books; some I like better than others. This one ranks fairly high. It's the third book I've read this year that dealt with estranged sisters and with how one traumatic childhood event can shape your entire life. It was also very timely in that it dealt with protests and feminism and racial issues and homosexuality and, and, and... 4 stars

This month in Romance

It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - This was a bit problematic for me. It’s over 25 years old and it shows. The “hero” is misogynistic and just wrong on many levels. About halfway through I found myself skimming. But I liked Phoebe and her sister Molly and the growth of their relationship. 2 stars

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie - I know I've read Jennifer Crusie before but I can't remember which title(s). I got this as a bundle with Welcome to Temptation (haven't read yet) and I really enjoyed this book! I loved that it was set in Ohio, I loved Min and her framily - really almost all the secondary characters were fantastic. 4 stars

Currently reading: The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Showin' My Books - May '20

Um, how is it already almost halfway through May?! I have a handful of books this month, mostly because I was trying to finish Erin's book challenge (which I finally did for the first time ever!) and I had a book club book (which I read in a single day). But I've had a hard time choosing books to start. I have a ton of books on my Kindle, and on my nightstand, and on other tables and shelves and ... And I want to read them all, but I can't manage to get started.

Anyway, here we go.

Life According to Steph

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke - I enjoyed this. The main character is flawed but not unreliable or hateful. The ending isn't neat and tidy, but also isn't necessarily a cliffhanger. There's a second book out now. 4 stars

The Dutch House - by Ann Patchett - I pretty much read this in one sitting (which may or may not be because of my book club deadline combined with quarantine). I really liked it. My only quibble is with the vagueness of the time jumping, but that's a minor issue. 4 stars

Two Girls Down (Alice Vega #1) by Louisa Luna - I've had this book for over two years and now I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read it. Such a good mystery, and the characters are written so well. I'm glad to know that there's another Vega and Cap book out! 5 stars

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones - I was late to the party with this one, too. It was definitely worthy of the hype. I loved the way the story was told, even though it was a sad, hard story to tell. 5 stars

Mirror Image by Sandra Brown - This was a re-read - I first read it back when it came out THIRTY YEARS AGO. This was my introduction to Sandra Brown and I used to read all of her books, but at some point strayed away. I think I'll start picking up some new ones (or new-to-me). Surprisingly, I felt like this held up. The most dated part of it was the use of VHS and the lack of condom use. 4 stars (maybe 4.5)

Currently reading My Dark Vanessa for book club. I'm actually ahead on this; book club is still a week away!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

If Not For Coronavirus, Part Deux

In Part One of this unintentional series, I talked about a cancelled Columbus Symphony Chorus concert. Since then, I also should have sung in a Columbus Symphony concert which included Verdi's Stabat Mater (which I've never performed) and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (which I've performed many times, but is still always a joy - see what I did there?).

Immediately after that, I was to travel to San Antonio for the national Craft Brewers Conference. And upon return, I would have gone to see Wicked with a friend.

But also, if not for coronavirus, I would not have experienced this curbside concert a couple weeks ago (or maybe it was just a week ago, I have no idea anymore):

If you're local, check these out here. There are many local artists covering a range of musical tastes.

I also wouldn't have enjoyed the pop-up concert that happened this week in my neighborhood with several local musicians. It was definitely a highlight of this quarantine.

Let's check in on my hair, shall we? I'm now more than three weeks past my appointment date. Ohio doesn't yet have a plan for reopening salons and barbershops, but it's safe to say that I'll be missing my May appointment as well.

I put on some makeup for this photo. Curly hair disguises
roots to an extent, but things are getting rough around here.

And, the short side view.
I will not color my own hair.
I will not color my own hair.
I will not....

At least my nails are fun:

Color Street - the flowered pattern is called Daisy Me Rolling, which I love!
The other two fingers are Oslo and Steady, topped by Dripping in Diamonds.

Until next time, I leave you with this meme that couldn't be more appropriate.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Getting Fit During Quarantine

If you didn't know, last December I fell while crossing a street near my house and broke my humerus (upper arm) into four pieces. This led to a two night hospital stay and surgery, and I am now the proud owner of a plate and 10 screws in my arm. (At the end of this post, I'll have a picture of my most recent x-ray, so if you're squeamish about that kind of thing, just be aware.)

So as you might imagine, fitness wasn't really happening for a while. Just before the great coronavirus shut down, I had returned to my local gym and got back to work with my trainer. I think I had gone about twice. And then the gyms were closed.

Luckily, my gym offered virtual training sessions, so I now meet with my trainer once a week for an hour using whatever equipment I have in my house.

That's all well and good, but what about cardio? I've never been a runner, and I don't even really like to walk. And the fact is that since my fall, Aaron is very nervous about me walking. Like, anywhere.

About a year ago, we purchased a Peloton bike. We used it a little, but not nearly like we had intended. With being at home all the time I figured it was a good time to get reacquainted with my Peloton.

Hello, bike!

At first, this was just to keep me moving in some way. Then it kind of became a necessity because thanks to various friends and family members, I'm eating more sweet stuff than usual. But I'm not complaining about that!

Pie for breakfast? Yes, please!

Be careful what you wish for! But also, yummmmm.

Now it's becoming a bit of an obsession, to the point that Aaron looks at me and says "who ARE you?" (Stay tuned for the post in which I bake bread when he REALLY wonders who took over my body.)

The week of the 6th I had to take a few days off
due to major leg work with my trainer which left me s-o-r-e.

If you have a Peloton, follow me - I'm GilaTick! I do mostly low impact rides, although I'm starting to get into Power Zone Training (!!!). Christine is my favorite trainer - she's inspirational and she drops f-bombs, which is a great combination in my book!

I have not been compensated in any way for this post, I'm just a fan. And now, I'm off to ride.

Now for the x-ray:

I was actually disappointed that I didn't set off
any metal detectors at airports.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Showin' My Books - April '20

Settle in, friends. The last time I wrote about books was three months ago, and even before Coronaquarantine I was reading more than I have in a long time, so I have plenty to talk about today. As always, linking up with my girls Steph and Jana.

Life According to Steph

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O'Neal - You guys, this book. I can't recommend it enough, and if you don't like it, sorry in advance, but I loved it so much. I guess I'd call it a family drama. It's not a romance, though there are some romantic elements. It's not a mystery, but there are secrets to unravel. The writing is incredible; the characters are complex and tragic in the best possible way. This book just spoke to me.

Two places in particular that I won't forget - not spoilers. 

Kit and Javier are in a bookstore and he pays for her book.
"At the counter, he sets his book down and hold his hand out for mine. I think about arguing that I have the money, but it's a small kindness, and I don't have to push it away. 'Thank you.'"
I loved that. Why do we so often push back on someone who just wants to do something nice for us?

And then when Kit is remembering a time in her life when she watched the soap opera Santa Barbara.
"My life and family had exploded, but everything was the same in the soap, where Eden and Cruz were still living their up-and-down life."
I watched that show every day that I could, and I ADORED Eden and Cruz (or maybe just Cruz). So it was a lovely shout out to my own teenage years.

If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can get this book for free right now. 5 stars, obviously.

I promise the rest of my reviews won't be nearly as long...

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware - For much of this book, while I enjoyed the story, I wondered why it was written the way it was. And then I knew why and totally understood. 4 stars 

No Exit by Taylor Adams - It’s been a long time since I started and finished a book in the same day. Full disclosure: I was on vacation so had nothing else I had to do, but this was a quick read and I couldn’t put it down. 4 stars

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith - This was a delightful palate cleanser. I don’t know if I’ll read all 20 in the series but I would definitely pick up another when I need something lighter. 3 stars

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman - I could almost give this book four stars but at times it was so frustrating! I was so angry with Jess for much of the book but then wept for ten-year-old Jess. Still, how about some communication, people?! And Lily’s husband was such a cliche - who didn’t see that coming? But I loved Mia and Phoebe, and I’d love to follow Audrey’s lead of “you’re never too old to pursue your dream.” 3 stars

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen - I liked their first book, The Wife Between Us, better but I liked this one well enough and I'll read more of their books. 3 stars

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett - Handmaid’s Tale meets Hunger Games with some Lord of the Flies mixed in. There were some infuriating things about this book, yet I couldn’t put it down. 4 stars

If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelan - I liked the plot of this book, but it was a little "twist-heavy," and a couple side stories were left hanging and I wasn't sure why they were even introduced. I received a copy of this book for free from Book Sirens in exchange for an honest review. 3 stars

Everyday Lies by Louise Guy - I really enjoyed this book. It has hints of Liane Moriarty (and not just because it's set in Australia). The ending was pretty tidy, and it worked for me, but I wanted to know more about how Lucie's relationship with her in-laws turned out. I loved the found family aspect of the book, and I cried (happy tears) at the end. Also available from Kindle Unlimited. 4 stars

Did Not Finish - The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern - I know this book was on a lot of people's "best of" lists from 2019, and my real life book club chose it for January (but let it be known that it was not MY first choice). This book just didn't do it for me and I couldn't get into it.

This month in Romance

I've recently gotten back into romance reading. Here are a few of those.

The Perfect Dress by Carolyn Brown - I found this book from the link up, but I can't remember who recommended it. A really sweet book - romantic but not steamy. This easily could have turned into a series featuring each of the three best friends, but I actually loved that it didn't. I would, however, read a book about the twin daughters. Another Kindle Unlimited. 4 stars

Idol (#1 in the VIP series) by Kristen Callihan - Now this book is steamy. A rock star meets small town girl romance. And it's written in alternating points of view of the two main characters. 3 stars

Managed (#2 in the VIP series) by Kristen Callihan - So this book focuses on the manager of the band from the first book. Who would have thought that a book about the manager could be even hotter than the book about the lead singer? But it is. 4 stars

If you made it all the way through this, thanks! Also, Steph and Jana are having a Show Us Your Books Readathon this weekend on Instagram. I'll be there - hope to see you too!

Monday, April 13, 2020

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

A week ago, I declared to Aaron that I intended to dress up on Easter. I bought a new dress a couple months ago and I wanted to wear it. And it happens to go well with a hat that I bought in New Orleans last fall. So Easter morning I got all dressed up, which shamed Aaron into putting on a coat and tie. We had a friend take pictures outside between rain sessions.

I spent a lot on that hat and brought it back in a big hat box as a carry on. (I did not, however spend as much as the price of a ring I tried on in NOLA that ended up costing -- no lie -- $10,000.)

This week's nails:

We had a virtual gathering with our friends with whom we would normally spend Easter, then changed back into comfy clothes and binge watched "Brockmire." Because nothing says Easter like an incredibly crass half hour comedy.

I braved the grocery store on Friday, while wearing a make-shift mask. I had quite a big list and one of my personal priorities was Reese's peanut butter eggs. Peanut butter isn't my favorite, but the eggs are the bomb. I was devastated when I couldn't find any. De.va.sta.ted. Apparently I should have bought them in February. So I went to the cookie aisle thinking that maybe there would be some carrot cake Oreos. Alas, no. But I did find this delightful surprise:

"Family Size" -- oh, that's so cute

It was strange to not go to church on Easter, although my hat wouldn't really have gone with a choir robe.

I hope you all had a good weekend (though, what ARE weekends anymore?) and I hope you're all staying safe from coronavirus and tornadoes and whatnot.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Hair and other thoughts on this week in quarantine

I know I'm not telling you anything you're not all feeling as well, but DAMN, is time dragging or what? Here in Ohio, we have at least another three weeks of staying at home and honestly, while I love my home and I even love alone time, March was the neverending month so April will probably be infinity. But shout out to Ohio's governor Mike DeWine, who actually listens to his director of health, the amazing Dr. Amy Acton, when making decisions about what to do during a pandemic. What a concept!

Just to be clear (Treehouse sisters, you know what to do), I can't complain. People are still allowed to buy beer, and they are buying beer, so I'm still working - from home. Aaron's business is also still able to operate, and he goes to his office every workday, which is good for all involved.

But while I can't complain, if you know me, you know that I'll find something to complain about, and it will be silly and vain. So let's start with hair.

Many years ago, I did a post about my hair evolution as an adult (you can also find links in there to posts with pictures of my growing-up years *shudder*).

I follow a pretty strict schedule of getting my hair cut and colored every 5 weeks. My last appointment was March 2nd. So when the salons were shut down in Ohio on March 18th, I was still in good shape. I should have had an appointment last Monday, April 6th. And so begins the documentation of "just how grey will my hair get."

This is Wednesday (or Gwensday):

I made this my new profile pic on the Facebook. I like it. There's a hint of grey that is visible at my forehead. But the real test will be on the other side:

This is where the grey will eventually get really noticeable. It's certainly not bad just yet. And I can't wait to see how the asymmetrical cut will grow out. Stay tuned. (Also, as I was writing this post Aaron took the clippers to his hair because I told him I wouldn't do it. Hmmmmm...)

I'm super happy that I quit acrylics a while back so I don't have to worry about that. I'm now obsessed with Color Street nail strips (and if you're interested, I got a guy -- well, girl). And since pretty much no one will see my nails in person but I'm still going to do them, here you go:

Other stuff this week:

Fox Sports Ohio has been re-airing last year's first round of the NHL playoffs, in which the 8 seed Columbus Blue Jackets swept the 1 seed Tampa Bay Lightning. We've watched every game, and on Gwensday for game 1 we donned our CBJ gear.

We've been doing well making some yummy meals. Friday night Aaron made these chorizo and potato tacos (and he made the chorizo himself because we already had ground pork). Delish!

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Happy Easter / Passover / Saturday ... It's been so strange this week to not be singing at church every day and twice on Sunday.

Friday, April 3, 2020


Hello friends!

Long time, no see. How's everyone hanging in during Coronavirus? I plan to post more to allow myself that creative outlet, regardless of whether anyone else reads the blog. But tonight I'm asking the question:

What would you be doing right now if not for Coronavirus?

I would be getting ready to sing a concert with the Columbus Symphony Chorus Chamber Choir. It would have been so good, y'all. The program was called Songs of Hope, Comfort, and Love, and here's just some of what we were to sing:

Maurice Duruflé Requiem
Stephen Paulus "The Road Home"
Eric Whitacre "Home"
Jean Berger "My True Love Hath My Heart"
Bernstein/Sondheim "Somewhere"

As an encore, we were planning to sing an arrangement of "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the musical Carousel. One of our chorus members took on the task of asking us to record ourselves singing, and then he synced it all together. A link to that is here.

So that's what I'd be doing #ifnotforcoronavirus.

Stay safe,

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Showin' My Books - January '20

I have a lot of books to talk about this month ... because I haven't written about books in several months. While I don't make resolutions, I am determined to get back to reading more this year.

But even though I haven't posted lately, when I DO post about books, I link up with Steph and Jana.

Life According to Steph

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris - The good: This is a short book that I devoured in about 24 hours (and I work full time and had a 2 1/2 hour chorus rehearsal during that time period). Also good: Grace's sister Millie (who has Down Syndrome and is the smartest character in this whole book). The bad: I know a lot of people found it unbelievable that Grace could have been so snowed by Jack, but I did not. However, when he finally did show his true colors, it was so over the top that it was almost laughable. The ugly: animal harm (not graphic, but also not good); and the thought that someone like Jack probably exists. 3 stars

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead - A very difficult book to read, but so well done. My heart broke for Elwood and for the knowledge that the Nickel School was based on an actual place. 4 stars

Becoming by Michelle Obama - I listened to this as read by Michelle Obama and I never wanted it to end. I miss the Obamas more than I thought possible. I loved every bit of this book. ALL. THE. STARS.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager - I think I liked Final Girls better than this one. I had a hard time suspending my disbelief, but I didn't have a hard time ripping through it. The main character is also super annoying. 3 stars

She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey - This was another audio book for me and I really liked it. I liked the way it was told. It's not read by the authors, although they each talk during the prologue and epilogue. It's also infuriating to hear about all of these incidents and to know that there are so many more that will never see the light of day. Fun fact: last week I won a trivia question because I had listened to this book. 4 stars

On the flip side, I've since been listening to Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow, read by the author. This may end up being a DNF, or I may finish it by reading it traditionally. There's something about the way Farrow reads it that bugs the shit out of me, especially when he's speaking dialogue and trying to sound like the person who's speaking. But I am interested in the subject matter and in comparing this book to She Said.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid - My first read of 2020 and it set a high bar. I loved this book and the way it was written. I flew through it, both desperate to know what happened and not wanting it to end. This is only my second TJR (I listened to Daisy Jones and the Six) but I can't wait to read more! 5 stars

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher - For a good chunk of this book I just kept hating the main character, thinking "how stupid ARE you?" And then everything got turned around and after I finished it I kept trying to piece it together. If I didn't have a ton of other books to read I might read it again to pick up on the clues. Really good psychological suspense! 4 stars

Currently reading: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware