Friday, September 26, 2014

Scandal Season 4, Ep1: Randy, Red, Superfreak, and Julia. AKA: "It's 1976 down there!"

Where on earth is Olivia Pope? Well’ she’s not OP anymore. She’s hiding as Julia Baker. Jules.Well, now we know. She’s on a beach on a tropical island. Reading Gone Girl. Because, you get it, right? She’s GONE. 

Who’s the hottie with the fab abs, wearing sunglasses, and givin’ smooches? Holy hell – it’s Jake with a beard! As he snuggles up to her, he says they have 15 minutes until the boat arrives. Well…Jules. What are you waiting for? Use those 15 minutes and get some beard rash, girl!!! Um, you can tell they use those 15 minutes wisely. 

So, the castaways get their rations from a boat, along with a letter.
“You’ve got mail”

No return address? Who is it from? Who knows where they are? Someone does. Despite being 100 miles off the coast of Zanzibar, someone who knows how to track down people that don’t want to found has found the people that didn’t want to be found. The letter? Announces that Harrison is dead. DEAD! So THAT’s how he’s being written out. At the end of last season, he was MIA. Now, he’s Gone, girl. He’s GONE! 

After reading about Harrison, they hop a plane back to DC for “only a few days, in and out.” Liar, Liar, Liaaaaaaarrrr! Olivia walks back into OPA headquarters, only to find it all shuttered for the winter. Old newspapers thrown about. Tables and furniture covered with sheets. The only one around is Quinn. Of course, it’s Quinn. Rare, complex red wine is Olivia’s vice. Quinn found her, via the tracking the wine. Q sent the clipping. Julia….er, Olivia goes to see Huck. He takes one look at her and fires off:
Are you back for now or back for good? Are you back for now, or back for good? 

Huck dismisses her and takes his next geek squad customer. Huck you, Olivia! Later, she returns with some technology to get her to talk to him. As she calls him Huck, he snaps that Huck is dead. He’s now Randy.
“Randy the smart guy. That is who I am. Randy doesn’t hope. He goes home, plays video games, wakes up and does it all over again.”
WOW. OP broke Huck. That’s harsh, Liv. 

Abby? She’s the new White House Press Secretary. Quinn finally gets Abby to take her call and meet her, only to have Olivia come out of hiding to tell her she’s there to bury Harrison. Abby isn’t having any of it and tells her in no uncertain terms, you let down Harrison. They’re quick talkin’ and I can’t keep up! OMG. Angry girls stomp off, Quinn is dismissed, and “son of a bitch!” pretty much sums it up. 

Mellie is the drunken housewife. Bowling, Pajama pants, eating cereal out of the box. No more coiffed  haired southern belle. The death of her son has ended the Mellie we know. She’s a schlub now.  What do you expect? She lost her son, her husband is a cheater, and she’s used as a pawn. I’d drink and wear pajamas too. Oh, wait, I already do that. Back to Olivia! 

Papa Pope is enjoying his dinner when Olivia comes in and he bribes her with a vintage wine at the table. She sent her away, and wonders why she’s back. When she tells him Harrison is dead, he actually seems remorseful. He challenges her
“Ask me”
“Do you have anything to do with it? Did you have Harrison killed?”
Papa replies no, he didn’t have Harrison killed, but he did “take care” of her mother. A direct order from the President. Mother seems to have died from an illness. Olivia surprises him by saying he (Fitz) did the right thing – she was a terrorist and killed his child. While dad talks about the tremendous loss, Olivia responds “you lose people. Whatever.”

Lizzy (played Ellen’s main squeeze Portia deRossi), is arguing with Cyrus. Later, Cyrus finds out Olivia is back in town, and Abby is confronted as to why she didn’t tell Cyrus about it. How dangerous is Olivia’s return to the White House? Cyrus goes to Mr. President and tells him the news. Ms. Pope, you know, you’re former mistress, is back in town. Grant is stunned, and speechless. Asking how long she’s in town, he orders Cyrus to find out.

Back in Olivia’s apartment, she’s trying to make funeral arrangements for Harrison and is having a hard time making a decision. As the phone rings, Jake says “you’re not home”. Don’t answer it…then there’s a knock on the door and it’s someone looking for her. A woman hands her a phone, saying her boss needs to talk to her. Senator Sterling is dead, and Vaughn is on the phone. 

Cyrus goes to David Rosen and asks him to be the next attorney general. He then goes to Abby and they fight. She tells him that B613 and those damn files were more important than her, more important than them. 

Olivia Pope goes into mode to find the senator isn’t dead. Call an ambulance, and she’s off to save Senator Vaughn. 

Back at the house….it’s Jake’s turn. His turn involves kissing. Heading South. SOUTH. He tells her,  Olivia’s turn involves no talking. His turn is worshiping her. Until she can’t shut up. She just can’t shut up! Ugh. She goes on her Olivia rant about the senator’s rape, the whole he said/she said debate, the injustice. The whole you don’t work here anymore is going right out the window, and he gives her a lecture! 

“I’m the one you like to ride. I’m the one that makes you moan. I’m the one that reaches you in places HE (Fitz) can’t touch.” 

wow! WOW! Go Jake! I need a cold shower!! Did he just throw the smack down against Fitz saying he’s bigger and better and can make Liv scream louder? Me thinks he did. Jake. Badass Alpha.

He said/she said debate back at OPA. Olivia goes to the senator and finds – she’s lying. When Vaughn has trouble answering mock questions, Olivia calls her on her lies and says “When a man grabs you, and puts his hands on you, you do not forget it.”  She’s giving her a moment, and then coming back in to hear the truth. Quinn notices that all the women who look for Sterling look the same. Brown hair/brown eyes. Nothing like Senator Vaugh, but exactly like her secretary. So who really hurt the senator…nope, not Vaughn. She takes the blame for her assistant as she thinks that she would be more believable. Vaughn’s secretary overhears her stating out that she knew what Sterling might do, but used her to get the equal pay bill that she wanted passed. 

Cyrus tells Fitz that he knows how things are going to end – they’ve seen the movie a hundred times. Olivia and Fitz get into the same room, and what happens. They combust. Except, they don’t see each other. 

Olivia goes to Harrison’s funeral. Quinn is there, and so is Jake. Olivia tells Quinn that he just had us. As in the OPA “us”. Abby and Huck join in, and the gang’s all back. Huck looks across at them and says “we say goodbye now” and you know he’s not just talking about farewell to Harrison. Huck is the first to turn and go, then Quinn, then Abby. And it’s just Olivia and Jake. He’s her support as she breaks down and mourns the loss of her friend. Papa Pope, always in the shadows, looks on and Jake sees him.  

Mellie is seen in a bathrobe and Uggs, visiting her son’s grave. Gotta feel for her. Later, Mellie is on the balcony of their bedroom, drinking and pondering what would happen if she went over the railing. Break an ankle? Die? She’s not going to try to kill herself. Tells Fitz she’s not him. He admits he had a bad night. One bad night. Don’t bring it up, bring it up again. Millie spouts off the multiple bad nights: Dead kid, missing mistress, her rape, Fitz’s attempted suicide. He admits that Olivia is not missing. Mellie pushes that he needs to tell her when she sees him. Monitoring him is not something that she’s going to do anymore. When he comes home all hot and bothered pretending that he’s a family man, she’s not going to be there for him. “When you see her, you will tell me.” She needs some warning. She’s not turned on by him, and oh yah, one of the other things she doesn’t do any more is wax. 

“It’s 1976 down there!”

Damn Mellie -  you’ rock. That has to be one of the best lines ever.

David Rosen is officially announced as Attorney General. Lizzy and Cyrus chat again. Senator Sterling and Vaughn square off about that equal pay bill. Kate Warner – Vaughn’s assistant, takes Olivia’s advice and talks about the incident that lead to her hospitalization. As their spokesperson, Olivia states that Kate chose to stand up to be a hero to the next girl who thinks that she doesn’t have a chance to stand up for her in the workplace. Mentions equal pay. And just like that, Olivia Pope has sealed the deal on that equal pay bill. 

Annnnnd. See’s Fitz while walking out of the courthouse. Keep walking. Keep walking. Ignore him. Keep walking. And we’re clear! 

Whew. OP is back. 

This season:
Booty call Jake.
Huck and Quinn and some sexy times
Abby “red” has a new do and it’s awesome!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

After I Do, a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What happens when the person you’ve married and vowed to spend the rest of your life with, is the one person that you can no longer stand to be in the same room? 

Lauren Spencer goes off to UCLA and during her second year, meets Ryan Cooper. They’ve both noticed each other in their “normal places” when Ryan waits for Lauren in the dining hall stating “Are you following me or what?” They joke with each other over dinner that night, go out with each other the next, and become a couple – young, happy, and inseparable.  They meet each other's families, and two years after graduation, they marry. The author tells the story starting with an event that occurs in present day, then goes back to retell of their meeting, courtship, and early years in marriage. By the time you get to the present, you can feel the tension and the impending doom of their relationship. 

“We can’t drop it. I’m not going to drop it. We’ve been dropping it for months now”

Constant bickering, resentment, a lack of communication, and the stress of realizing that they are no longer in love with each other has caused them to collapse. 

“We aren’t fighting about the hot water or the Dodger Stadium parking lot. We aren’t fighting bout money or jealousy or communication skills. We are fighting because we don’t know how to be happy. We are fighting because we no longer make each other happy.” 

They realize that they need to do something. They decide to live apart for one year, and during that time, try to move forward and see where they go. They agree that they can both date other people, but should keep contact between them minimal. After custody of the house and dog are decided, Ryan moves out. 

Lauren realizes two things immediately – she’s incredibly lonely, and she doesn’t know how to be an individual without Ryan. The story really follows Lauren throughout the year, reconnecting with her sister, her mother, her brother, and other friends from work. She is forced to grow and learn how to survive on her own. While she understands that she can live on her own, the question is, does she want to? While I don’t want to go too far into the rest of the story line, I can tell you that there is a resolution at the end of the year.  

The underlying message of this book is a good one: you need to communicate with your partner. You need to be an individual and learn to be independent in order to be happy in a relationship. You need to ask for what you want and need, and compromise on what the other person wants and needs. Through the story, you hear wisdom and bits of insight into how others make it work. 

“Raising kids is hard. Taking care of a family is hard. And I think sometimes it gets to one or the other of us. Right now, it’s getting to both of us at the same time, which is not good”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to get over it, that’s what I’m going to do…I’m going to find a way to be nice to my partner, and I’m going to bed. That’s what I’m going to do.” 

Sometimes, you just need to get to the end of the day, and get over it. Period.

Grandma's presence in the book is amazing, and has some sage advice: 
“Marriage is about commitment. It’s about loyalty. It’s not always about happiness. Happiness is secondary.”

And this:

“If you had a cocktail party, and you had left him to his own devices, and you had flirted with other men and he’s seen it, or he had flirted with other women and you’d see it, if you had spent a few weekends apart from each other sometimes, given each other some space now and then, maybe you wouldn’t need a whole year apart now. That’s all I’m saying.”

Gramma’s always have the best words of wisdom, don’t they?

Having just been married, I can tell you – all of the underlying messages are true. We’ve had our “bumps” because we lived sin for eternity before finally getting hitched. What really works? Being an individual while being a couple. Talking. Fighting. Making-up. Sticking with it. Always. Remembering why you fell in love with the first place, and not the irritating things that make you want to scream. Compromise.

This is the second book I’ve ready by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and let me tell you, she can tell a good relationship story. They’re not the things that fairytales are made of – they’re real, honest, sometimes painful, and yet, endearing. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, married or single, go read this book. It’s worth it. 

Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other retailers! 

Black Lies, by Alessandra Torre

Black Lies follows the story of Layana Fairmount, a 30-year old socialite trying to break free from the expectations of her parents, and the constraints that come from living in a high-class, excessively rich society. After graduating and inheriting her trust fund on her 25th birthday, she tries to find a way to live life by her own rules. She is headstrong, opinionated, and yet, has a heart and wants a family filled with the kind of unconditional love that she didn’t receive growing up. 

Still struggling to find her happily ever after, Layana attends a fundraising gala and is back in the life she has tried so hard to leave. While there, Layana meets Brant Sharp at a , a high-tech/computer genius/billionaire/philanthropist that has been the main contributor to the organization she volunteers at twice a week – the Homeless Youth of America (HYA). After spending a passionate night together, Layana (Lana) finds herself visited by Brant’s aunt Jillian, who offers her a million dollars to stay away from him.  Threatening to pull funding for the organization, Jillian leaves Lana with a difficult decision – continue to see Brant and pursue a relationship with a man that she finds attractive, attentive, and intriguing, or continue to receive funding for the HYA. Knowing that the HYA is the one link she has found to the “real world” and not the superficial life she’s grown up with, she stays away – just until the donation for the next year has cleared. Jillian again tries to remove Lana from Brant’s life, but Lana pushes back. Jillian relents and tells her to call when she discovers the truth. 

After seeing each other for a few months, they go on a trip and Lana discovers Brant’s “secret”. While trying to cope with this knowledge, she continues to see him, but refuses his marriage proposal. Soon after, she meets and begins to sleep with Lee. Lana fights to keep Lee and Brant in her life, despite the realization of Brant’s true demons, and learning of Jillian’s role in keeping Brant under her control. 

If you read the reviews, you’ll know there is a “twist.” Readers have called it a mind blowing experience, I guess I’m in the minority as I realized what the big secret was something that I discovered fairly early on. It wasn’t a total bombshell, so I guess I didn’t have the reaction that others are having to the discovery. While the author takes some liberties with the description and behaviors surrounding this secret, I can see that she did this for the literary effect. Otherwise, in the real world, some of the events just don’t add up. Of course, I’m a professional that deals with these kinds of “secrets” so I recognize the inconsistencies that others may not be aware exist.  

Having said that, it’s a good book. The underlying theme is one that is common: how far to you go to hold on to what is  yours? Each character in the book had their own reasons for their behavior, and while it’s not always the appropriate choice, their reasoning is evident. Some readers may want to shy away because they are uncomfortable with the content of cheating and morality. I say, read it anyway. You’ll be surprised.

*Advance copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**
From the book: 

Brant: Became a tech billionaire by his twentieth birthday. Has been in a relationship with me for 3 years. Has proposed 4 times. Been rejected 4 times.

Lee: Cuts grass when he's not banging housewives. Good with his hands, his mouth, and his body. Has been pursued relentlessly by me for almost 2 years, whether he knows it or not.

Go ahead. Judge me. You have no idea what my love entails.

If you think you've heard this story before, trust me - you haven't.

**This is a STANDALONE full-length novel. It is not part of a series, and does not contain a cliffhanger.**