What I Read in April 2016

Fellside

fellsideI adore Mike Carey. Well…I adore his Felix Castor series and have been waiting for what seriously feels like eons for the next book to be released. I have a calendar item that pops up every few months and reminds me to do a Google search to see what the current status is. In case you’re wondering, it’s still a bit up in the air. In the meantime though he’s published The Girl with All the Gifts, which was a phenomenal and extremely unique take on zombies (sort of) and will soon be released as a movie. Then, last month, his new book Fellside made it’s way into my life. The premise is utterly bizarre but I think you should seriously consider giving it a go. It’s billed as a haunted prison story but really it’s so much more than that. At any rate it should tide you over a bit more until we can find out Felix Castor’s fate.

Hidden Bodies

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This is the second book in an utterly insane (aka amazing) series by Caroline Kepnes. Caroline’s narrator “Joe” is unlike anyone you’ve ever read before. Being deep inside his head while he rationalizes yet again who is authentic or fake, whether you’ve wronged him or if you’re on his side, and finally who lives or dies, is not a fun place to be but it’s certainly very entertaining – in a Dexter Morgan, meets Holden Caulfield, with a big dose of Patrick Bateman way. Fair warning: when you start either of the books you will not be able to put them down and you’ll find yourself saying things aloud like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Seriously!?” and “Leave him alone, Joe!” So maybe don’t read it on the subway.

Ashley Bell

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I’m not even sure what to say about this Dean Koontz novel. I really hated it at first, but then something switched (ok a whole bunch of very weird events began happening in the book including something called scrabblemancy) and I read frantically trying to figure out what was really going on with Bibi. Hang in there. Eventually even the surfer lingo will grow on you. Really. The payoff is pretty unique — especially if you were an English major. In the end you’ll want to call up some friends and have an impromptu book club session ASAP.

The Passenger

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I read this book like it was my job. I couldn’t put it down. The writing is fast-paced and the action is non-stop. There’s a nice thread interwoven that hints at the main character’s troubled past, but the craziest part is that I’m pretty sure we now have a great work of fiction that walks you through how to successfully disappear yourself, steal a new identify, and keep-on-keeping-on. It’s a bit like Jason Bourne lite but with a lot more hair dye. Tanya/Amelia/fill in the blank here is a compelling narrator and I wish that there was something left unfinished so we could have a sequel. Also, I can’t wait to see this as a film as there’s no way this isn’t getting optioned.

A Study in Charlotte

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I was absolutely dying to read A Study in Charlotte as soon as I found out about it and promptly placed myself on the waitlists at all my libraries. When I finally had my turn with it I was definitely not let down. If you have Sherlock and Benedict Cumberbatch withdrawal then this is a great stopgap. Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson are the modern day teenage descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. In this world the famous mystery solving duo were actually real people. Charlotte and Jamie meet at boarding school (how perfect!) and almost instantly have a murder on their hands. Both Charlotte and Jamie are extremely well constructed characters. The book has excellent dialogue, more than a few unique twists and turns, and even delves into some pretty heavy stuff, including rape and drug abuse, with a deft hand. Just this once I’m actually glad that a novel is part of a Trilogy!

What I Read in March 2016

This blog hasn’t been updated since 2013 (!) so in the interest of just getting something up I’m going to recap what books I read or listened to last month. The first thing you should know is that I always have at least two books queued up. Generally this means I’ll have one book on my Kindle and one audiobook either from Audible or, if it’s something I’ve pulled from a library, I use Overdrive. On a side note, if you aren’t taking advantage of your local library’s eBook and audiobook lending services then you’re really missing out. I’m a bit spoiled and have access to the library sites from the various places I’ve lived over the past decade. I also have a weekly recurring time scheduled on my calendar to check each of the sites for new listings so I can get on hold lists. This is especially great for audiobooks as I tend to get through those much faster.

I didn’t start listening to audiobook regularly until the spring of 2014. Initially I used to just listen to them while I was walking or running but then I realized that I could listen while I was cooking, cleaning, sorting the recycling, doing my hair — you get the picture. Audiobooks are a fabulous distraction for me, although all the mindfulness books I’ve read are probably giving me the evil eyeball for admitting it. Sorry, mindfulness, I’m just not ready to be one with my thoughts right now.

Anyway, in March I consumed the following:

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The Martian
I so wish I had read this before I saw the movie. In the end I think it was really excellent though. It’s not often you can say that about a film and a book. I can’t believe it was originally a self-published novel. That’s just nuts. The narrator of the audiobook kind of sounds like Matt Damon too which was nice.

Try Not to Breathe
I’m so glad Gone Girl was written and became super popular so that zillions of writers now churn out lots of twisty, topsy-turvy, weird, suspenseful books for me to read. If I had my way I’d only read this type of novel. I love, love, love them. Of course, some are better than others. This one, thankfully, is one of the well done ones. The main narrator, Alex, is so painfully self-destructive that my discomfort level while reading some of her scenes would best be compared to how I feel watching The Real Housewives have yet another high heeled, cocktail fueled, brawl on national TV. Total train wreck. The girl in a coma mystery was actually intriguing and nuanced, and I ended up very entertained.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story
Liane Moriarty is my new favorite author and this novel was the last one I had left to read so I was “keeping it” until I just couldn’t stop myself. Now I want to be or go to or befriend a hypnotist. The other thing that really stood out for me was the main character’s ability to actually use and apply things like thought stopping techniques and really pointed self-observation (why am I acting like this right now…what is the real problem) whenever she was uncomfortable or flipping out about something. I also feel an overwhelming need to move to Australia and I’m happy to report that just as I finished this last novel Liane announced her new book. This means I have just a few more months until I can fall back into this fantastic writer’s extremely well plotted and uniquely populated world.

Black Eyed Susans
I really didn’t see the twist coming in this one. Really. It was also very atmospheric and creepy. Read it. You’ll like it. You’ll probably never trust anyone in your life ever again but it’s a great book.

The Duchess
When I was growing up, I read way too much Jude Deveraux. This is one of my favorites in her very large catalog of romance novels. I didn’t read the Outlander books until recently so this is how I learned about how sexy Scotland, the highlands, kilts, and whiskey were. The dashing gentleman in the book is a bit of a departure from the usual hunk and there’s a household full of quirky and bizarre family members. Even revisiting it now, many years later, I still think it’s one of the more creative and unique romance novels I’ve ever read.

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The Last Coyote
I loved the show Bosch on Amazon so much that I started reading the books. They’re great hardboiled detective stuff. There are also 21 books in the series and this is book 4. Book 4, as you can imagine, was published awhile ago so I am endlessly amused by people using fax machines and ancient computers. In case you’re wondering, yes the tv show and the novels differ enough so that you can enjoy both. They aren’t just a repeat of one another.

The Widow
OK. A lot of people loved this book. Stephen King even tweeted about it. That’s great. However, I don’t understand why this is being marketed as a book to read if you liked Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train (both of which I loved) when it’s absolutely not a psychological thriller. If it hadn’t been promoted in that manner I’d feel like it was a perfectly fine novel. It’s very well written, but there is nothing truly twisty in it and because I kept waiting for one of those “you’ve got to be kidding me” moments to appear I just ended up being a little let down.

A Madness So Discrete
This is historical YA that revolves around a very wealthy young woman, Grace, who has been confined to an insane asylum by her father. The asylum is horrifying (remember those scenes with Eva Green in Penny Dreadful) and eventually she begins to assist a doctor with a series of serial killings. The secondary characters are very well fleshed out. We even have an ex-prostitute who is treating her Syphilis with mercury. Fun. I bet the book banning nuts will be all over that. I feel like this is going to be a series? If it happens to become one I’d read the next book. I think there’s a lot of promise here.

The Light of the Fireflies
Oh. You thought your family was dysfunctional? Well wait until you get to know these people. They live in an underground bunker, everyone except the youngest child has horrible disfiguring burns, and the daughter (who wears a mask) just had a baby. Guess who the dad is?! This was so disturbing and not in the way I like. I was hoping for an apocalypse but what I got was very different and unfortunately almost as emotionally awful. The book is very well written but I never want to read it or frankly think about it again. I suppose that makes it a success?

The Walls Around Us
This is a gorgeously written book with unreliable narrators galore. I just loved reading it. It’s a little supernatural, a lot twisty, there are ballerinas, and a juvenile detention center. Wait. Is this a show on the CW? I kid…but it is really atmospheric and it’s also one of those books that you can finish and just feel tremendously satisfied.

My Top-Eleven Favorite Festive Christmas Episodes

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Truth! This post has been in draft since December 1, 2011. As soon as all of those Hallmark movies started playing round the clock on November 1st the holiday bug bit me hard and it probably won’t let go until sometime in January when CK forces me to finally toss out our badly shedding Christmas tree while I kick and scream and protest loudly.

Anyway, you may or may not have noticed that I haven’t posted on either of my blogs since last December. To make a long story short I’ll simply provide you with two words: burnt out. But after my year long hiatus I feel like I may be able to string 4 or 5 sentences together from time to time and at the request of Sara Rosso I now present to you my personal Top 11 Must Watch Christmas TV Episodes. Also, No. That Seinfeld episode and the O.C. Christmukka series are not included. Neither is the episode where Ross dresses up like an armadillo.

PS: If there’s a legal way to watch an episode online I’ve done my best to link to it otherwise you’re probably going to have to do some sort of TiVo search or buy/rent the DVDs.

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Beverly Hills, 90210: A Walsh Family Christmas (1991)

The spray painted tree. Tori Spelling’s plaid shorteralls. Brenda and the stray Santa. Not to mention, that Emily Valentine finally gets the shirt off Brandon’s back. Then snow and a sing-a-long with a Casio keyboard. I miss the 90s.

How Can You Watch It? Looks like DVD only

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Sisters: Egg Nog (1991)

How Can You Watch It? You can’t. (I know. I’m such a jerk). Unless you have a VHS copy lying around somewhere. Which I used to have with the words “CHRISTMAS” in red marker written on the side. I’ve enlisted my little sister with the task of scouring the family basement to see if she can find it. Otherwise, we’ll just have to wait until the DVDs are released. Trust me. This one is great. Needless to say everyone gets sick from egg nog, Teddy is visited by Charles Dickens and Frankie punches out Mitch. Total dysfunction junction. Love it!

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Veronica Mars: An Echolls Family Christmas (2004)

A poker game gone awry makes Veronica put her Nancy Drew cap back on. Not that she ever takes it off…The Echolls house is decked to the nines and Aaron gets what he deserves. God bless us, everyone!

How Can You Watch It? Amazon Streaming

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Supernatural: A Very Supernatural Christmas (2007)

A freaky pagan God drags holiday revelers up the chimney never to be seen again. Don’t worry Dean and Sam are on the case! Bonus: little Winchester kid flashback scene. Don’t you love those?

How Can You Watch It? Netflix or Amazon Streaming

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My So-Called Life: So-Called Angels (1994)

It’s not just Claire Danes’s making an ugly cry face. You’ll be joining her. Tears. Tears. Tears. OMG. More Tears. Ricky is homeless! Juliana Hatfield is a guitar playing street urchin. More tissues please.

How Can You Watch It? Hulu or Amazon Streaming

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Gilmore Girls: Forgiveness and Stuff (2000)

Gilmore family drama at its finest. Mom is still mad about Rory shacking up with that Winchester kid (OK Dean — whatever) in Miss Patty’s Dance studio and not coming home until the wee hours of the morning. Are we sure she wasn’t hanging out with the other Dean? Also, admit it, who else isn’t weirdly satisfied when Lorelai and Rory fight? No one is that perfect, ladies. Come on.

How Can You Watch It? Amazon Streaming

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Ugly Betty: Fake Plastic Snow (2006)
How Can You Watch It? Hulu or Netflix or Amazon Streaming

I just really miss Becki Newton. Like. A lot. And she’s such a pretty, pretty, princess snow angel in this special. I heart her so much. Betty has a nice storyline too. But Becky/Amanda is really where it’s at. Also, Mode is flush with sparkly things. So much eye candy!

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Arthur’s Perfect Christmas (2000)

Thanks to my little sister and I being 14 years apart in age I can recite this entire movie as she watched it approximately 300 times. Also, I wish Muffy was my best friend. I know that makes me a bad person.

How Can You Watch It? Amazon Streaming or YouTube and probably on PBS at Christmas time.

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Community: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas (2010)

One word: CLAYMATION!!!!!

How Can You Watch It? Hulu or Amazon Streaming

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The Office: Christmas Party (2005)

*Sigh* Remember when you used to love Jim and Pam and you wanted them to get together so much? This will give you serious nostalgia for the brilliance of Office episodes from the past. Also, Michael buys like 15 bottle of vodka for the office party. Guess what happens next?!

How Can You Watch It? Netflix or Amazon Streaming

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Being Erica: Fa-La Erica (2010)

How Can You Watch It? DVD only. Unless you live in Canada. I’m pretty devastated that they took Being Erica down from Hulu. I’m hoping that Santa will bring me the DVDs. It’s seriously one of my all-time favorite TV shows ever and I’m obsessed with Erin Karpluk. Amazon Streaming does offer seasons 1 & 2 but it doesn’t include this episode. Bummer.

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Bonus: (Since I do realize that we need to get through “Turkey Day” first) you should definitely queue up New Girl: Thanksgiving (2011). There’s a turkey banging around in the dryer. Cece touching all of the food and grossed out Schmidt and the gang even takes a seasonally appropriate trip to Best Buy. How Can You Watch It? Amazon Streaming or Netflix.

Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

To Buy Curtains or Not to Buy Curtains – That is the Question

So…we moved back to Massachusetts. And everyone is very relieved to be home. Even the cats are ecstatic about having sunshine spots on the floor and oodles of room to run about. Take it from me, if anyone ever tries to convince you to live in 680 square feet with another human and two furry devils run the other way. Which brings me now to my new apartment issue.

Let’s politely say we live in a “garden level” apartment. That’s the kind way of essentially saying that we live in what would be, in a normal home, probably the equivalent of a basement. However, unlike the basement we have oodles of windows. Too many actually. I’m generally a fairly terrible homemaker in that I don’t usually care if I have curtains or not. Most of my apartments have had really nice blinds in the living room and I pretty much call that good enough, but I’m getting a little tired of blinds. Unfortunately this dislike has coincided with our moving into an apartment that has six silly, oddly shaped windows as well as a patio door in the living room.

Do I invest in hardware and curtains for all of these bizarre half windows? And if so, what would look best? I should point out that puffy window valances are not my style at all and I would never have them in my home, but would long so-called “normal” curtains look weird? Or perhaps make things too dark? And then I’d also have to figure out what color curtains to buy. I should probably just leave well enough alone but I’m curious to see if anyone has some hot interior decorating tips.

The Christmas Ornament of 2011


Every year I buy one new ornament for our hodgepodge Christmas tree. Well this year we moved across the country so I figured the glass bauble probably should have something to do with San Francisco, but I was having a hard time finding that perfect something something. And no, I definitely didn’t want a Giants ornament.

Then I happened to find this ornament online and it was very shiny and featured multiple big important landmarks and the Golden Gate Bridge. Score one for me! But then it arrived and it was absolutely enormous. Minus one for not reading the dimensions on the site. So yes, this Christmas ornament is the biggest thing on the tree by far (aside from the star). It looks ridiculous but at least I’ll obviously remember the back story behind that one without having to rack my brain from year to year.

In addition, here are the bonus 2011 ornaments that my mom mailed to us. Aren’t CK and I cute as snowmen?

Below you’ll find the fantastic Christmas Crackers that I impulse shopped and CAN’T WAIT TO PULL OPEN ON CHRISTMAS! Yes, all in caps definitely illustrates my level of excitement over these nutcracker themed tchotchkes. Pop!

The Palace

If you’re feeling a bit royally lost post wedding and Kate and Will do North America then I have the perfect guilty pleasure to tide you over until the next made for TV movie and/or delicious scandal hits.

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Apparently back in 2008 ITV aired an 8 episode series called The Palace that presented a fictionalized version of the royal family doing their best Dynasty impression. I happened upon the show while scrolling through Hulu willy-nilly one night and had a serious eureka[!] moment. I’ve since been dolling the episodes out to myself as “treats” to watch at the gym. I’m on episode 5 right now and it’s so bad it’s good. Here are my top five reasons to ride this crazy train all the way to Tower Bridge:

  1. Prince Harry…I mean Prince George is seriously channeling Chuck Bass. I keep waiting for Blair to pop-up in one of the scenes sporting a headband and tights.
  2. Princess Eleanor is literally seething her perfectly coiffed head-off over the fact that her brother is crowned king after their father’s death. She dresses just like Kate Middleton and has a creepy “Cruel Intentions” like relationship with her personal secretary. She rocks the pastels hard. She’s evil and I dig her.
  3. The servants are all bumbling caricatures that I’m certain really pissed off anyone who actually has or does work at the palace in real life. They drink like fishes too, although I doubt they could drink Queen Charlotte under the table. She’s into the gin, you know….
  4. The king is the kid from Hellboy!
  5. The sets seem really authentic, or at least they do to me — a mere American mortal.

All in all it’s spectacular. If you’ve seen the episodes what’s your favorite part or nutty character? And more importantly, what else have I been missing on British television? The trashier the better!

The Sixes by Kate White

I loved this book! I stayed up late two nights in a row, absolutely freaking myself out to the point that even though CK was asleep next to me I still had to get out of bed and go in the living room to watch TV so my mind would stop racing with thoughts of serial killers. I couldn’t get enough of the take charge main character, the college setting, the Fall season, and the bitchy co-eds. I’m so glad that I’m taking a trip home to Maine in October because this novel (while taking place in Pennsylvania) made me seriously want to go sit under a tree in a wool sweater letting bright red leaves fall on my head and then go have four beers at a townie bar. Afterwards I’d have to check to see that all of the windows and doors were locked at my house and that nothing had crawled under the bed but that’s the fun part, right?

The Sixes takes place at Lyle College and opens with the murder of a perky young female student. Author Phoebe Hall is hiding out at the Lyle post professional scandal and teaching a few sections of non-fiction writing at the urging of her old boarding school roomie who is now the president of the college. Having worked with faculty for many years I definitely got a huge kick out of the descriptions of some of the more colorful members of the community.

Anyway, Phoebe puts her stellar research skills to good use when her old school chum asks her to look into the possibility that there’s a secret society on campus and the members might have something to do with the mounting local body count. And then all hell breaks lose and the super creepy rains down hence my lack of aforementioned sleep. Definitely pick-up or download this book to your Kindle. It is the perfect end of summer read. No beach required but you might want to invest in a nightlight…just in case.

Pretty: A Novel

A drug and boozed soaked evening leads to an inevitable tragedy and just like that we’re following Bebe’s adventures in post-rehab halfway house land with a side of beauty school fumes. I really didn’t want to like Bebe Baker but she made it impossible for me to stay angry with her. Besides I’m a sucker for a good “I’ve hit rock bottom” story and the inevitable feelings that tag along with a read like this which are generally of the “my life is looking pretty good right now” variety.

The characters Bebe befriends in Serenity house are fantastically unconscious about flying their freak flags. There’s Jake, the schizophrenic who believes he’s Jesus, Buck, real name Becky and self-defined “Republican Dyke from Alabama” and all-around super sweetheart (honestly I kept picturing Toni Colette’s character from The United States of Tara) and Violet, goth girl and self-mutilator who is known to sport her mother’s official Snow White Disneyland costume on occasion. Group therapy never gets old with this crew.

When Bebe isn’t stealing her house-mate’s peanut butter by the spoonful in midnight snack binges (a girl after my own heart) she’s listing her diagnosed initials in a litany like manner: ADD, MDD, CD, PTSD (aka Attention Deficit Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Chemical Dependency, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder respectively). If that isn’t enough she’s also coasting on fumes towards beauty school graduation (528 hours down. 72 hours left to go) and still has fifteen wet sets to create before she completes the required two-hundred hairdos.

Bebe is a mess but somehow Jillian Lauren makes you love her, root for her to succeed and grip the book just a bit more tightly when she starts to slip.  At times I wished that I could physically drag Bebe towards the right path — the one that would finally get her to San Francisco and the fresh start she wished for and frankly deserved. In my imagination I frantically stood on the sideline waving her toward the Yellow Brick road, but honestly I felt a little guilty for not warning her that it’s always 66 degrees here and at least in LA you can be ADD, MDD, SD, and PTSD with a tan.

680 Square Feet in San Francisco


Last week we finally unpacked, with the exception of one small box which is full of pieces of mail that need to be shredded. Yes, we packed a box of junk mail and paid to have it moved across the country. Don’t ask…

It definitely feels good to be settled in, however, even after giving away half of our things we still have too much. I honestly can’t buy a single additional item. There is literally no where to put anything at this point. There’s barely room for us. For the last 4 years we’ve lived in at least 1200 square feet of space and at one time (that horrible loft) we even had as much as 1700 square feet. We now reside in 680 square feet with two cats and have tiny paths to walk through. I suppose I’ll get used to it. In the interest of remaining positive here are the top 10 good things (in no particular order) about our small abode:

1. It takes no time at all to clean and I don’t even have to unplug the vacuum. Yes, you can reach all of the rooms via one outlet.
2. The trash shoot is down the hall as opposed to across the community. No need to get wet, cold, or even get out of your pajamas to take out the garbage.
3. There are zip cars right downstairs.
4. The grocery store is across the street
5. The mani-pedi place on my block is pretty good and when you get a mani/pedi two people work on you at once. It makes me uncomfortable but you get out of there a lot faster. They also have a no cell phone policy which rocks my world. Everyone has to be quiet. Mwha ha ha ha
6. It’s quiet. Knock on wood but I don’t hear my neighbors at all and therefore this is the quietest apartment I’ve ever lived in.
7. We get free Giants tickets.
8. Four words: Mint-Mojito-Iced-Coffee
9. The concierge emails me when I get a package. I love those emails.
10. The gym. We have two gyms. They are clean, bright, and I go almost every day.

BluePrint Cleanse: Mission Complete


Mission accomplished! I somehow managed to complete my 3-day cleanse without cheating. I broke the cleanse officially this morning. You’re supposed to eat fruit but I was seriously starving so I asked CK to pick me up an Egg white, spinach, and feta wrap from Starbucks. You cannot even begin to imagine how amazing it tasted. Everything is enhanced and supercharged. It’s wild.

Participating in the BluePrint cleanse really identified how bad my cravings get in the evenings so hopefully I can be a bit more mindful about that effect. In the end I lost 5 pounds, not a particularly big deal considering how much I actually need to lose but it was a great reminder that I really do have the ability to exercise some semblance of self-control over my abundant love of food.