The Lineup: Parker

Parker’s Lineup

TV Show: The Nanny

The Nanny is a reliable old favorite, perfect for relaxing after a day of non-stop social interaction. Fran Drescher is charming in the title role. The stories get convoluted, often, but you watch it for the humor; and who doesn’t love Niles and C. C.?

I have the DVD, but it is now available on HBO Max and Prime Video.

Movie: Almost Christmas

I saw Almost Christmas for the first time. Gabrielle Union, one of my favorite actresses, portrays perfectly the awkward girl-next-door we all know, Mo’Nique shines in anything, and Danny Glover is substantial as the family patriarch. It’s a good family comedy with some high-key dramatic moments.

Available for streaming on Prime Video and for checkout as a DVD through KanShare Libraries.

Book: You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

I recently read Gabrielle Union’s second memoir You got anything stronger?: Stories. She’s intimate and self-aware, sharing her journey in self-development and overcoming adversity as a black actress in Hollywood, as a mother, and as a woman. I believe it will inspire others to share their stories.

It’s available here at Derby Public Library.

Music: Demon Days by Gorillaz

Demon Days is Gorillaz’ second album and one of my all-time favorites. When it came out, I was in college, going through early-adulthood growing pains, and it spoke to me. “Feel Good Inc.” was the big single, played a lots of nightclubs, but I also like “Dare”, “Dirty Harry”, and “Demon Days. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. I only recently learned that Damon Albarn from Blur co-created the Gorillaz, with comic book creator Jamie Hewlett, as a satire of the music industry.

Available on iTunes and for checkout as a CD through KanShare Libraries.

Video Game: Sumikko Gurashi

I started playing Sumikko GurashiGonna Make a Garden because I wanted something to do when I need a break from Pokémon Go. Perfect for Kawaii fans and Farmville nostalgics, it combines crop and product management with set-building, as you gain plots of land, facilities, decorations, and increased productivity as you progress. You can also make friends in-game and send them gifts.

Available on the App Store and Google Play.

The Lineup: Chelsea

Chelsea’s Lineup

Music: Spotify playlist: ConfiDANCE (Song spotlight: Not 20 Anymore by Bebe Rexha; Okay Okay by Alessia Cara)

We all have our struggles. Two at the top of my list are mornings, and confidence. In an attempt to kill two birds with one stone, I created a Spotify playlist to start my mornings with a little pep. As soon as I turn off my alarm in the morning, I try to queue up this playlist, and keep it playing during my morning routine & trip to drop my oldest off at school. I sought out about half of the songs, knowing they already help me improve my mood on bad days. The other half Spotify suggested to me! A couple of my *new* favorites include Not 20 Anymore by Bebe Rexha, and Okay Okay by Alessia Cara.

  • Available on Spotify

Movies: He’s All That

I suppose I’m a shameless millennial. I was scrolling through the Netflix “coming soon” tab when I found this. She’s All That was one of my favorite movies for the years after it came out. I mean, Paul Walker you guys. Even as the jerk bad guy, he’s dreamy. Anyhow, it gave me all the teenage angst lovey-dovey vibes that I wanted. I had such high hopes for this movie. I watched it the day it launched onto Netflix. A little overzealous, I know. Anyway, they did a great job of giving the story line an update and making it current to today’s youth. The characters have the same personalities and attributes of attraction that the original actors did. Matthew Lillard and Rachel Leigh Cook even make an appearance! It didn’t live up to the original’s hype, for me, unfortunately. Perhaps that is just because those were my people, and I suppose that makes these ones my kids’ people. Whatever. Worth the watch—but maybe just once.

  • Available on Netflix

Television Show: Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

Some might say I’m a bit of an oddball. I would say I just really love Halloween, and spooky stuff, and all things weird. This Netflix series is all of those things and more. Christine is kind of a Martha Stewart of the…spooky variety. She shows the audience how to make beautifully creepy creations like cakes, tea services, and edible tree ornaments. She also has a host of strange Jim Henson-like creature friends who are always getting into mischief while she tries to teach us about her creations. It’s a strange show, but I suppose I’m a strange person.

  • Available on Netflix

Kid’s Television Show: Dug Days

My son is two, and I stay home with him during the daytime. It’s a fun age riding the line between constantly having to tell him, “no”, and staring at him with a big goofy grin on my face because he’s just SO wonderful. Watching him watch Dug Days does that second one to me. He just loves Dug. I’m not sure what it is—he’s not very verbal just yet—but the grin on his face when I turn it on just melts my heart. There’s only five or six shorts in the series, and they are short, but they are adorable and definitely worth the watch.

  • Available on Disney+

Audiobook: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, narrated by Amanda Leigh Cobb

I read this series a couple of years ago and truly enjoyed it. I must have talked about it quite a bit, because when my husband decided to start an audiobook series (and the book he was hoping to read was checked out), he started listening to this series. I became very excited to enjoy the story with him—a tiny book club for two. The story was just as good the second time around! I’m not a huge fan of the narration of this series, but I am glad they got the same narrator for all of the books (so far); it made it a consistent read. I’m a sucker for a few specific things in stories, and this series seems to check all of those boxes.*sigh*

Apps: Chirp Books

Are you a fan of free and inexpensive? I am a fan of free and inexpensive. Chirp is an audiobook application I learned about through their sister (e-book) company Bookbub (which you should also check out if you haven’t heard of them). After creating your account, you can select favorite genres, authors, and narrators. Based on these favorites, you will receive a daily e-mail with a list of books you can purchase at discounted prices! The only disadvantage is you have to listen to it through their app. It’s a free app and subscription, though, so I’d call that a win! All books suggested to me so far are $5 or less. You can also put audiobooks on a wish list, and the app will alert you if they ever go on sale! I, um, I’ve purchased more $5 audiobooks than I care to admit so far.

Hobbies: Spare Room Remodel

*NOT* my office but what it aspires to become

About two years ago we moved into a new place to make room for a new little addition to our family. It had everything we were searching for, if it was a little higher in the price range than we were hoping for. Anyhow, the basement was unfinished. This might be daunting for some (read me), but the benefit was worth it. I aspire to write– and when I’m not writing, I’m usually reading—so, one of the unfinished rooms in the basement has been reserved as an office/writing space for me sometime in the distant future. I guess I decided I wanted less distance, because I moved all my books back into storage and started working.

Man I underestimated the work that goes into a project like this. I was excited to paint, but forgot about the dry walling and mudding that had to occur first. I did a decent amount before deciding a garage sale to fund a professional to finish the work was probably the best idea. Now that is done, and I’m in the painting process. I love the gothic library look I’ve chosen, and I’m excited to decorate now. Again, I forgot how much work has to occur before that step can be taken, though. Baseboards, crown molding, door trim, window trim, carpeting, and installation of shelves ALL have to occur before I can decorate. Picking those items out is enjoyable, and the installation isn’t unenjoyable—but the bill that accompanies it? That’s is for the birds. So, my project is somewhere in the in-between now. Not exactly the distant future anymore, but further away from the now I was eager for. These things take time, I suppose.

ON MY RADAR: books on my “TBR” shelf, movies and television shows on my “Queue”, podcasts I’ve been eyeing but haven’t had the time to listen to yet. Things I haven’t bit the bullet and purchased, but really hope to sometime soon.

  • Books: Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul
  • Podcasts: The GIST of it; Ologies
  • TV Shows: Sexy Beasts; Tattoo Redo
  • Movies: The Fundamentals of Caring

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Only Woman in the Room

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

First line: My lids fluttered open, but the floodlights blinded me for a moment.

Summary: Hedy Kiesler was a young actress in Austria in 1933 when she meets Fritz Mandl, a munitions manufacturer. Her parents urge her to marry him in order to keep her safe with the threat of Nazi Germany looming over much of Europe. However, married life is not what she imagined. After fleeing her husband and the coming war, she travels to Hollywood and becomes the famously beautiful, Hedy Lamarr. As the path to war progresses, Hedy is determined to help save as many people as she can, even with very unconventional ways.

Highlights: Going into this novel I knew next to nothing about Hedy Lamarr. The one interaction with her was on the show, Timeless. I think this is one reason that I devoured this book. I did not know what to expect. Many authors have been taking readers back to the golden days of Hollywood but this is by far my favorite! Marie Benedict does a fantastic job of blending truth and fiction.

Hedy is not the normal Hollywood actress. She had other interests and was very intelligent. Her work on the guidance systems for torpedoes was leagues ahead of anyone else. It took months of work but she was not taken seriously by the men of the time. The technology is still used today in cell phones! Even though she has been called the most beautiful woman in the movies she wanted to be defined by more than that.

“Let me understand.  You are turning down our invention—which would have made your fleet unsurpassed in ocean warfare—because I’m a woman?  A famous one that you’d rather have shilling war bonds than helping build effective systems?  I can do both, you know—sell bonds and assist with your torpedoes, if that’s what it takes.”

After finishing her story I picked up the documentary, Bombshell, which goes past Benedict’s narrative but is a great companion to it. As with all the other Hollywood stories, I had to interlibrary loan several of Hedy’s movies. I cannot wait to watch them!

Lowlights: At first I was irritated that we spent such a long time in Austria and centering around her life with her husband as I read though the pacing made more sense. When Hedy arrives in the United States, she feels the guilt of leaving behind her loved ones. In addition, the knowledge she gains from her time with her husband help inform her for her inventions. I was sad that it ended so soon when there was still so much of her life to live but I think that now I have had time to reflect that the author made a good choice of ending it where she did.

FYI: If you enjoyed this than try books by Susan Meissner and Melanie Benjamin.

**Release date: January 8, 2019**

Book Review: The Girls in the Picture

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

First line: Lately, the line between real life and the movies has begun to blur.

Summary: Hollywood was not always the glamorous place it is today. At the dawn of the motion pictures were Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. Their friendship and collaboration created many of the earliest movies. Each took their careers in hand and made a name for themselves. Marion as a screenwriter and Mary as “America’s Sweetheart”. Through a duel narration, we see the changes of the movies, their lives and the nation.

Mary Pickford and Frances Marion

Highlights: Melanie Benjamin is becoming one of my favorite authors. She writes amazing stories of strong women. I am completely enamored with Mary Pickford and Frances Marion after reading this novel.  I really liked both characters. Each woman is independent but they have a strong friendship that they rely on as well. The history behind the beginning of the motion picture was fascinating to see through the eyes of women who actually experienced it when women were barely working outside the home.

I have inter-library loaned several of their movies as I read in order to watch the movies discussed in the story. Having never watched a silent film, it will be a fun experience. My first one will be Sparrows starring Mary Pickford.

Sparrows starring Mary Pickford

Lowlights: The middle of the plot was a little slow. Especially when Frances was in Europe during the First World War. It is an important point in her life but when the rest of the story is centered around Hollywood and the movies it was not as interesting.

FYI: If you like The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty then read this!

Release date: January 16, 2018

Book Review: The Hollywood Daughter

The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott

First Line: Dropped something.

Summary: Jesse is the daughter of a Hollywood publicist in the 1940s. She attends a prestigious school where she gets to see the biggest star of the time, Ingrid Bergman. As she watches the stunning young actress in real life and on screen she comes to idolize her. After her mother believes that Jesse is becoming too involved with the Hollywood lifestyle her parents decide to send her to a Catholic school. She believes that her life has come to an end but it really is only the beginning. She learns more about herself and the world around her.

Highlights: Ingrid! The description of her is beautiful. I immediately had to place her movies on hold to see more of her work. The author does a wonderful job of making you feel the injustice that was thrown at Ingrid after her scandalous affair that ostracized her from her American fans. I was so mad at the public, the media and the Catholic Church but at the time it was normal.

Lowlights: There were little pieces in the story that seemed to be thrown in as fillers but didn’t seem to have much relevance to the overall story. Her friend seemed like a side story. She seemed like she should be more important but it was more in the background.

FYI: Place The Bells of St. Mary’s on hold! Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman are stunning.

Ingrid Bergman

Have you ever read a book about a historical figure and then had to jump on Wikipedia to learn more about the person? I have. All the time. My most recent historical obsession is Ingrid Bergman.   

I have been reading the newest book by Kate Alcott, The Hollywood Daughter, which is about a young girl who lives in L.A. and idolizes Ingrid.  She meets the famous actress and follows her career through its ups and downs.

The movie, Anastasia, with Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner was my first introduction to this iconic actress.  She was beautiful and talented.  As I am reading the main character talks about the movies that Ingrid has starred in and I immediately started adding them to my library hold list.

This week I have delved into The Bells of St. Mary’s and Notorious.  Both were great but I was particularly taken with the chemistry between Bing Crosby and Ingrid in the Bells of St. Mary’s.  I searched IMDb.com for trivia on the movie Notorious and found that Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock became lifelong friends with Ingrid after filming ended.

I still have For Whom the Bell Tolls and Murder on the Orient Express to watch and I am greatly looking forward to them. This enchanting Swedish actress that took America by storm in the 1940s has put me under her spell.

Check back soon for my review of The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott.