Friday, April 27, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are in fact the ones that define us. In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor.

There's a method to reading and enjoying this book.  First, read Jenny's blog ( - we recommend starting with this post.  It had us all rolling on the floor.)  Then follow her on Twitter (@thebloggess) and get to know her (as much as you can know an author you've never actually seen).  Once you "get" Jenny a bit, and love her as I guarantee you will, then you are ready to read her "Mostly True Memoir".  If you read the reviews written by professional reviewers, they discount the book as being too over the top, exaggerated, and random.  Obviously they have not followed the steps, or else they are stuffy men who have never laughed at themselves.

Jenny suffers from an anxiety disorder which alternately (a.) forces her to hide in the bathroom or (b.) shuts off her self-filter and leaves her spewing a non-stop stream of consciousness (usually about inappropriate subjects) to total strangers.  She also has a bizarre fixation on taxidermied animals and the ability to spin every situation as her husband, Victor's, fault.  All of which she retells with a caustic sense of humor.

But underneath all that is a vulernable woman with a heart as big and open as West Texas.  You can see it in the Traveling Red Dress project that began with her donating one red dress to be passed around and turned into hundreds of people donating and sharing dresses to help other women feel better about themselves.  You can see it in the money she raised (by what started as a joke) to give Night Night Packages for homeless children.

Jenny's willingness to share all this makes her feel like a friend telling you these stories over a glass of wine, rather than a distant, unknown author.  THIS is the crucial information those reviewers missed.  Because if you have that info, this book is hilarious!  I feel obliged to mention that Jenny is well-versed in profanity and uses it frequently, so if that's an issue, you might want to skip this one (and her blog).  But if you can look past it, then her "mostly true memoir" is touching, encouraging and just freakin' funny!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Made to Crave by Lisa TerKeurst

Has food become your source of comfort? After a hard day at work, or a long day with the kids, don't you deserve that big piece of chocolate cake? Lysa TerKeurst used to think so, but that was before God showed her that what she really needed was more of Himself. In Made to Crave, Lysa won't tell you what to eat or how much to exercise, rather she explores why we make unhealthy food choices. She'll help you discover what it is you're really seeking, and how that need can only be met in our faithful Heavenly Father. And when your cravings are satisfied with His love, a healthy body will follow  (Focus on the Family Review)

Made to Crave is the missing link between a woman's desire to be healthy and the spiritual empowerment necessary to make that happen. The reality is we were made to crave. Craving isn't a bad thing. But we must realize God created us to crave more of him. Many of us have misplaced that craving by overindulging in physical pleasures instead of lasting spiritual satisfaction.  This is not a how-to book. This is not the latest and greatest dieting plan. This book is the necessary companion for you to use alongside whatever healthy lifestyle plan you choose. This is a book and Bible study to help you find the 'want to' in making healthy lifestyle choices. (Publisher description)

I have written sporadically about my Nutrisystem journey (3 months and 36 lbs. so far), but haven't mentioned much about motivation.  Honestly, I can't tell you what made me decide to start this.  Not that it's a big secret, I just don't know.  Weight has been an issue for me my entire adult life. I was a 115 lb. little-bit-of-nothing when I graduated high school, but the number has crawled upward for 30 years. I've "tried" a few other weight-loss methods - but not seriously. The thought of giving Nutrisystem a shot has been festering in the back of my mind for ages, but always "when the kids leave home".  Well, they left - nearly two years ago.  I saw a commercial one afternoon and picked up the phone and ordered before I had time to back out.  My incredibly supportive husband, who has never complained or nagged about my weight at any point, agreed to eat the evening meals along with me so that I wouldn't have to cook for him.  He takes care of himself for breakfast and lunch.

My sister mentioned Lysa TerKeurst's book to me about six-weeks in, so I downloaded it to Nook and loved it!  It gave me some much-needed insight into why I eat what I eat, and the reality of "will-power".  There is a big difference between a woman who has a few extra pounds after childbirth or a touch of middle-age spread, and a woman who is a food addict.  It is a proven fact (I saw it on TV, it must be so) that, when seen on an MRI, the brain of a food addict presented with food lights up similarly to the brain of a drug addict receiving a fix. 

A person who views food in a healthy manner - as a necessity to sustain life - can not understand the cravings and irrational behavior of an emotional eater, just as I can not understand a smoker's need for a cigarette.  But Lysa gets it.  Her book is like having a best friend who says "I know! I do the same thing. Here's how I handled it."  And she backs it up with scripture.

I'm not saying that reading Made to Crave has made this change easy, but it certainly has made it easier.  This is not a book for the casual dieter or the latest fad to take off pounds for swim-suit season, but I recommend it - even offer it as a lifeline - to every woman who struggles with her weight, her attitude toward food and her self-esteem.  Lysa showed me I am "made for more".  

Reality Wrap-Up

Dancing With The Stars:  Motown Week was a hoot - loved the performances by Smokey Robinson and The Temptations.

As if you couldn't guess, Jaleel White's cha-cha was my favorite this week.  The boy's got rhythm!  Katherine Jenkins was also phenomenol.  Mark's original choreography, which has been both a blessing and a curse to past contestants, has been only a plus for her this season.

On the lower end of the spectrum, Gladys Knight and Roshon Fegan (better known as "Disney Boy" at our house) ended up in the dance off.  I expected Roshon to be an easy winner, but some off-beat kicks and frantic arm-waving made it a close decision.  Although they say they only consider that one dance, the judges can't help but take the entire season into consideration, and I think they made the right choice.

American Idol:  Breaking news - - - I don't agree with the judges!  At one point last night, JLo took Hollie down (politely, of course) for getting emotional, then told her she needs to let her emotions show.  I don't know where they get these judges, but they should find some who know something about music!  (*sarcasm*)

As is becoming a tradition, I ranked Joshua Ledet at the top!  I'm running out of words - Wow, Awesome and Amazing just aren't cutting it any more.  So how about "Perfection"?

There were a couple of surprises, however.  Here's my  "leader board":

Joshua - 10 out of 10

Hollie - 9 out of 10.  Her first song had some beautiful tender moments and emotion, but no "wow" moment.  Song #2, "The Climb", earned her a Joshua-style "perfection" mark.

Jessica - 8 out of 10.  That little, bitty girl has such an unbelievable voice - but she edited "Bohemian Rhapsody" down to the easy parts.  It may have been sung beautifully, but points off for no challenge.  Song #2 - FINALLY!  Finally, she used all that talent and emotion.  She even gave Dave "goosies".

Elise - 6 out of 10.  I was excited for her to get to show her rock side again, and she did the song well technically, but again, no "wow" moment.  Song #2 was, evidently, a Jimmy Hendrix song, but unfamiliar to me.  Technically complex, but I couldn't understand one single word she sang.  Just didn't trip my trigger.

Phillip - 4 out of 10.  His version of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" was sooooo far out of his element that I actually felt bad for him.  He tried, but it was too slow and he didn't stand out from the band.  One of the judges called his second song "too artsy".  I just called it "ugly"!

And a special note about Skylar.  I gave Skylar 2 out of 10 possible points - 1 per song.  I'm not denying she can sing and knock it out of the park, but it's time to move on or go home.  For her Queen song she chose an obscure song and sang it exactly like she sings every song - start loud, get louder until she's screaming.  I take notes as I watch, and this is what I wrote for Skylar's second song:  "Guess what? Skylar can sing a country song, sing it loudly and scream at the end!  Blah, blah, blah!"  Do I know that, technically she deserved more than 2 points? Yes. But she's going to have to do something else to earn them from me.  Cause it's my blog and I can judge if I want to, judge if I want to....

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Flower Movie Puzzle: The Answers

Top row, Left to right:  Driving Miss Daisy; Cactus Flower (Not actually the name of a flower, but close); Please Don't Eat the Daisies; 

2nd row: Steel Magnolias; Lilies of the Field; War of the Roses

3rd row: The Buddy Holly Story (I know, also not actually a flower. So sue me.); Black Dahlia; Yellow Rose of Texas; Honeysuckle Rose

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Read-A-Thon Wrap Up

There's not a lot to wrap up from this read-a-thon.  My sister was here visiting and we did a lot of "rabbit trailing" - wandering off to chat or what have you.  We took a five hour break to prepare for and attend a show, then another couple hours catching up on mini-challenges and reading blogs when we returned.  Just when I was nicely settled back in, my Restless Leg Syndrome kicked into overdrive (2:00 a.m.). I read from bed for another hour, but called it quits at 3:00.  I completed most of Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (40 pages left) and read some of The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKeon.  I also read a lot of blogs, Twittered, entered mini-challenges and hosted one.  My TBR pile may not be any smaller, but I had a lot of fun!  Can't wait for October!

Literary Companion

For hour 19, we're asked to share a thought or picture of our favorite furball that curls up with us for a good read.  Here's Dave and his "literary companion", Gabby, sharing an exciting moment in Gabby's favorite book, The Call of the Wild.

Read-A-Thon: The Second Act

Oh...My...Gosh, you guys!  We took a break from reading to attend the cabaret "Gershwin - Here to Stay" at a local theater.  It was incredible!  More details on that in day or two, for now - back to the books.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Picturific Challenge

My read-a-thon book is Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (Yes, I'm STILL reading it - I took a concert break this evening).  Jenny suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and her father is a taxidermist so she has a somewhat strange fixation with real "stuffed" animals.  These two images, when combined, summarize at least two of the major themes of the book.  Ok, I know my photoshopping abilities are minimal, but you get the idea.

Images found here and here

Rereading Mini-Challenge

When it comes to rereads, my first pick is always the entire Cat Who... series by Lilian Jackson Braun - familiar comfort reads.  ...And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer is a huge book (over 1000 pages) so I don't reread very often, but when I do, it's always a totally immersing read.  The third reread favorite is The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch by Marsha Moyer - a simple story filled with beautiful word-pictures.

The Weird Sisters Challenge

The Weird Sisters Challenge is now closed.
Congratulations to Judith @ Leeswammes' Blog
You are the winner!                      
Image from the cover of
 the book by Eleanor Brown

My sister, Teri, and I have lived in different towns, and often different states, our entire adult lives. Our homes are currently 194 miles apart.  Teri is joining me at my house for the Read-A-Thon, so together we're sponsoring the Weird Sisters Challenge. 

We've spent many hours on the road and phone keeping in touch, but there was always so many family-related topics to discuss during our precious time together that books often got left out.  So, in 1998, we began the "TandT Bookclub" (for Teri and Tami, because we're incredibly creative women).  The format has changed through the years, but the basic idea is that we take turns selecting a book to be read within a specific time period.  The person who chooses the book is responsible for planning some sort of activity to go along with the reading - making a recipe from the book, lunch at a location inspired by the story, a craft, or just discussion questions.  (We confess, we don't always get this part accomplished - distance is an issue there, too, but that's the general concept.)  

The Challenge is to tell us how you share your love of books with family or friends who live at a distance. You can submit a picture, humorous anecdote, or just a description of how you keep that reading connection going. 

The challenge will be open for two hours (till 5:00 CT).  Winner will receive a copy of The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown and a "family" photo frame.  This challenge is open to all countries.  

Read-A-Thon: Part II

Not the most productive morning :) - a little too much dozing and talking and tweeting and . . .  But it's time to start the second half of my reading day, so here's to fresh starts.

Still reading Let's Pretend This Never Happen by Jenny Lawson, and The Secret Life of Dresses by Erin McKean.

P.S.  51 degrees outside and I still feel like a popsicle. May have to wash dishes just get the circulation to return to my fingers.

Hour 8 Update: I have been reading aloud to Dave from Let's Pretend This Never Happened. It's sort of like Junie B. Jones with F-bombs. :)  

Read-A-Thon: Opening Meme

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  I'm at my home - also known as "Green Acres" - in  southeast Nebraska, USA.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?  Loving Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.  Looking forward to Mariana by Suzanna Kearsley

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? My sister, who's reading with me, and I are both on Nutrisystem.  We will be munching on Herb Roasted Garbonzo Beans and other healthy options.  No bag of half-stale cheese puffs this year. :(

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!  My usual phrase to describe myself is "Ex-librarian in search of a library", which is still true, but I'm also a wife, mother, grandmother, newbie gardner, crafter, and champion procratinator

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?  This is my 4th read-a-thon and the first one to include following along on Twitter.  I'm trying to limit myself to 5 minutes/hour - but we'll see. :)

And I would just like to add that it is incredibly COLD in my house this morning, but I'm refusing to start the furnace cause it's April and we shouldn't have to be running the furnace and later I'll be complaining because it's too hot, but for the moment I'm freeeeeeeezing! so if I fail to check in later, someone come thaw me with a hairdryer.  Thanks! I know I can count on you!

Hour 3 Update:  Still reading Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.  Awesome!  Having difficulty staying awake, so more coffee, a brisk walk around the house, and back to the books. 

Hour 4 Update:  Not much reading this hour.  Kept getting distracted.  So, I'm going to switch books for the next hour.  Hilarious mini-challenge going at Reflections of a Bookaholic.  You should check it out.

The Read-A-Thon Begins

Good morning!  The spring Read-A-Thon is here.  I've got the coffee on and my stack of books ready to go.  My sister, Teri, is visiting me for the weekend to join in, so I hope we can avoid too much chatting and get some reading done.  Later this afternoon, we will be co-sponsoring a mini-challenge, so keep an eye out for that.  Our read-a-thon will end at 6:00 p.m. because we have concert tickets for this evening, but I'm pumped for a day of reading and blogging.

My TBR pile is way beyond what can be read in a day, but here's the top picks that I'll most likely be choosing from:

Already started:  Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
                         The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKeon
                         The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark

Next up:  The Bird House by Kelly Simmons
               Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
               The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
               The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas (Book Club Pick)
Hope you're wide awake - wherever you are - and ready to start a day devoted to books!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Calico Joe by John Grisham

At long last, America's favorite storyteller takes on America's favorite pastime. In this surprising and moving novel, the careers of a golden boy rookie hitter for the Cubs and a hard-hitting Mets pitcher take very different paths. The baseball is thrilling, but it's what happens off the field that makes Calico Joe a classic.

Definitely not your typical Grisham book, but variety is spicy or whatever. This book was satisfying both for sports enthusiasts and lovers of an emotional story.  Calico Joe is the story of a career cut short by one moment of anger, pride and jealousy. But it's more about a man trying to help his abusive father make peace before he dies.

Joe Castle and Calico Rock, Arkansas reminded me of Doc Graham and Chisholm, Minnesota in Field of Dreams - the hometown hero.  In fact, the whole thing had a bit of Field of Dreams flavor - and that's a good thing!  There is a lot of sports jargon and game details in the story that might be tricky for non-baseball enthusiasts, but the story behind the games is the focus.

The book is, of course, well-written - it's Grisham, after all - but the ending was a bit of a dribbling grounder.  Everything gets wrapped up and it's even a "good" ending - but it could have been better.  I'll explain why in the next paragraph, but it contains some spoilers, so be warned.

*SPOILER ALERT* If you read between the lines, you catch that Warren's biggest beef with Joe was that Paul idolized Joe rather than his father.  Warren found the scrapbook on Joe and he was jealous.   Paul's guilt for his unintentional contribution to Joe's injury is at least part of what drove him to make the trip.  Warren and Paul touch on it briefly in their final showdown but I felt the ending would have been better if the scrapbook had been addressed openly.  

I gave Calico Joe four out of 5 stars.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Puzzling Post: Spring Flowers

In honor of the arrival of spring and the flowers that are blooming (way ahead of season) in our yard, I have collected pieces of movie posters from 10 films whose titles include the name of a flower.  How many can you name?

Click to enlarge

American Idol/Dancing With the Stars

Interesting week on American Idol.  Glad each contestant sang two songs because the first round certainly showed my age.  Talent is talent, no matter what song they're singing, but it's hard to judge originality and style when I've never heard the songs before.  Round two was much more my cup of tea - or Diet Coke, as the case may be.

I judged it as a three-way tie.  Joshua, Colton and Skylar each received 9 out of 10 points on my personal rating scale.  After Joshua's first song, Dave said, "He just set the standard for every other contestant to try to reach."  His second song, Change is Gonna Come, didn't quite hit his own high mark.

Colton started with a Lady Ga-Ga song that I've heard but wasn't terribly familiar with.  The low notes in the verses were a little off pitch, but the rest was great.  For his second number he chose Earth Wind and Fire's September.  Wow!  Just, WOW!!  The judges, didn't like it, but what do they know?  It was original, it was beautiful, it was Colton.  The consensus at our house - the judges are certifiable, Tom Cruise NUTS!!

I have consistently berated Skylar because she sings basically the same song every week.  While I would still like to hear her try something slower and quieter (even Alice Cooper sings a ballad on occasion), her two choices last night were "different".  Different from what she usually sings, and different from the original.  A reviewer for the New York Times said Skylar sang Lady Ga-ga's Born This Way "in a way that made it sound like her own personal anthem".

Jessica was close behind the leaders, with 8 points.  Hollie held her own, though she may have proven that R&B is not her thing.  My prediction for the bottom two would be Phillip (every song sounds the same and he never makes eye contact) and Elise...poor Elise.  I really WANT to like her, she has great technical skill, but every song leaves me flat.  Oh, except her rendition of Let's Get it On.  Marvin Gaye's version is smooth as butter - hers was vinegar!

Dancing With the Stars held Latin Week.  At the risk of sounding 15, Katherine Jenkins was awesome!  She has a second career as a dancer if that opera thing doesn't pan out.  Also loved Donald, William and Jaleel.  No one, Gavin included, was surprised that he went home.  He's a talented singer and enjoyable, but rhythm escapes him.

But the biggest news?  Little Laura Ingalls got bleeped! :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Snow Child

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone—but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

Frequent readers know that I have no problem with expressing why I dislike a book, and even the good-but-not-great ones are easy enough to discuss.  But when I run across those rare books that are something more, I struggle.  I want so badly to tell every one of you why this book is one of "those" - the books that you don't want to end; the books that change how you think; the books that ring a bell somewhere in your memory; the books that are now part of those memories.  I want to shout, "I love this book and you should, too."  But I have found - usually after I bought up a dozen copies and distributed them to everyone on my Christmas list, even non-readers - that what I love isn't always what everyone else loves. So I'm trying to temper myself.

This story "resonates" (to use the current catch-phrase) with me for several reasons.  First, and foremost, it's about a woman who couldn't have a child.  (If you aren't aware of our battle with infertility, you can read about it here.)  Of course Mabel touches my heart, I know her pain.  Secondly, it has a magical element to it, without going over the top.  And third, it's set in Alaska (it's on my bucket list).

I was especially touched by Mabel's change of attitude about her surroundings and her lot in life.  The Alaskan wilderness changes from a place of fear and loneliness to a place of beauty and comfort - and spot where she belongs.  She learns to accept people as they are, whether it's a brash, overall-wearing woman who doesn't suit Mabel's genteel ideas, or a wisp of a girl who dances through the snow.  She learns to allow people to make their own place in her life, rather than trying to fit them into assigned slots.

The story of Faina is based on a fairy tale and left me with the same sense of enchantment as Cinderella or Snow White, but without the singing mice and dwarfs.  It left me wondering what really happened.  Can it be rationalized and proven?  Or is it a bit of the unexplainable?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Movie Reviews

Our movie viewing has dropped drastically in the last year since we moved to a town without a theater.  The nearest theater is 28 miles from our house; to get more than two options we have to travel to St. Joe, MO, which is about 50 miles.  Not a big deal - we can make it a date night and eat out, or make a Wal-Mart or Home Depot run while we're at it - but still not as convenient as having a theater three blocks away like we did before.  However, we've gone twice recently - and here's what we thought:

The Hunger Games - We have both read all three books and loved them, which actually made us a little concerned about the movie living up to the books.  Although we would have to agree that the books are still better, this movie came as close as possible.  Naturally there were some things that had to be left out or glossed over so that the movie didn't last 6 hours.  The biggest of these being Katniss's relationship with Gale.  Honestly, as it was done, there was no reason to even have Gale in the movie.  They didn't capture the Gale/Katniss connection or the conflict she felt over having to pretend to love Peeta, knowing that Gale was watching on TV.  

The flashback scenes were fine for those who already knew the story, but otherwise confusing (I confirmed this by asking several viewers who had not read the books).  I also didn't care for the jumpy camera style.  I know it's the new fad on TV and movies, but I find it annoying - but that's a personal thing.

Other than those small things, the movie was a success.  The violence was as gore-less as possible while still conveying how savage the "game" was.  The set design was gorgeous and the casting was excellent.  Wish there had been more of Woody Harrelson, just because he was fun to watch, and because that part of the plot was largely untold.  

We give it the old Siskel and Ebert Thumbs Up for both readers and non-readers.

Titanic: 3D - We didn't see this movie the first time around and selected it this time mostly for the novelty of 3D than for any attraction to the story.  However, it being the 100th anniversary of the voyage of the Titanic, I'm glad we saw it.  Amanda saw it with us and I'm sure it made a historic event much more real for her.  

For me, at least, the love story took a back seat to the greater story of the ship itself, and the ways people react in a crisis - from the vanity and self-preservation of the "upper class" to the total generosity and selflessness of the band who continued to play and try to calm passengers as the ship sank.  

As for the "new" technology of 3D movies - It looked a lot like something I saw in a ViewMaster in 1967.  It was more of a distraction than an enhancement.  Over all it was a thumbs up for the historical value, but so-so otherwise.

The Read-A-Thon is Coming . . .

It's time for another Read-A-Thon.  Stack up the books, put snacks on the grocery list, get a sitter, banish the hubby to the garage . . . whatever you need to do to prepare for 24 hours of reading.  The fun begins at 7:00 a.m. Central Time, Saturday, April 21st.

My sister, Teri, will be joining me and we are co-sponsoring the "Weird Sisters" mini-challenge.

I learned after my first read-a-thon, that I'm too old for all-nighters, so my plan is to read from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  I usually try to read a ways into the night, but we have tickets to "Gershwin - Here to Stay" and I don't want to miss it - even for reading.

Sign up here if you want to read along.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dancin' and Singin' - A Little Behind the Beat

I'm way behind on blogging.  As a matter of fact, I'm behind on most things, but I take that "better late than never" thing pretty seriously, so here's what I thought about last week's Reality TV:

American Idol: 

Once again, Joshua left me speechless.  Loved the song choice, loved the interpretation, loved the showmanship, I probably love the way this kid ties his shoes. Joshua is my pick to win it all!

Colton has more genuine musical talent that most on this show in any year.  Didn't care for this song, but loved the way he performed it.  Jessica has more talent than she realizes, yet her songs just seem to fall flat.  This is a recording:  Amazing voice, needs more personality and expression.  Hollie had her best performance of the year and the judges can just bite me.

Elise - ok; Skylar - same song, different week; Phillip - blah

I was shocked at the voting results and totally agreed with the judges to save Jessica.

Dancing With the Stars:  Most of the salient details escape me at the moment (should really write posts as soon as the show's over) but I do remember that Sherri Shepherd went home, which is sad because she's so likeable, but probably still the right choice.  In other news, Donald Driver did an awesome Paso; Jaleel White continues to amaze me; And Melissa Gilbert is a drama queen.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hallelujah! He is Risen!

He is not here; He has risen, just as He said
- Matthew 28:6
We wish a joyous Easter to each of you!

Image chosen in memory of Wanda Ballenger 1949-2004

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Yeah, They Were Dancin' and Singin' and Movin' to the Groovin' . . .

My American Idol review is starting to sound like a broken record - but a really good one:  

Joshua - Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  He chose a good song, his voice is amazing, enough said! 

Colton - Equally awesome! 

Skylar, Hollie and Jessica - All "nearly" perfect in my opinion, but each with a slight flaw that kept them just below Joshua and Colton. (Did anyone else want to get Skylar a decongestant?  The nasal twang on the "wind" in Wind Beneath My Wings was too much for me.) 

That leaves Deandre, Elise and Phillip - also known as boring, blah and off key.   

There was no middle ground for me - It was a love 'em or not so much kinda night.

DWTS:  I was sad that Jack Wagner got sent home, but I'm hoping it means he has free time to return to General Hospital. 

But oh, the tears, to nearly every dance and emotional story behind it.  Katherine Jenkins blew me away.  The heartbreak of her story was so evident and her dance was amazing!

William Levy's dance (one of the Latin ones) was also excellent, but I'm still miffed that he's not an actual "star".  But, just because he's the token guy-who-looks-good-without-a-shirt doesn't mean he can't dance.  And his story about his early life in Cuba was shocking and (what else) made me cry.  

I've been a Jaleel White fan the first few weeks but the rumors of his "hissy fit" put me off a bit.  I'm going to assume that the truth lies somewhere between the tabloid stories and total innocence.  

So do you totally agree with me?  No?  Who did you pick?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

Chris Lowndes built a comfortable career composing scores for films in Hollywood. But after twenty-five years abroad, and still quietly reeling from the death of his beloved wife, he decides to return to the Yorkshire dales of his youth. He buys Kilnsgate House, a rambling old mansion deep in the country.
Although Chris finds Kilnsgate charming, something about the house disturbs him — feelings made ever stronger when he learns that the house was the scene of a murder more than fifty years before. The former owner was supposedly poisoned by his beautiful and much younger wife, Grace. Grace was found guilty and hanged for the crime.
His curiosity piqued, Chris talks to the locals and searches through archives for information about the case. But the more he discovers, the more convinced he becomes that Grace may have been innocent. Ignoring warnings to leave it alone, he sets out to discover what really happened over half a century ago—a quest that takes him deep into the past and into a web of secrets that lie all too close to the present.

The best phrase to describe this book is "not quite".  It combines a murder mystery and a gothic ghost story, with a bit of romance, but I'm still undecided on the success of the result. It's not quite what it could have been, or not quite what I expected, or....just not quite.

I loved the setting - English country house, dreary weather, local pubs - very Phyllis Whitney, only with internet.  The protagonist is equally gloomy - recently widowed, bit of a hermit, haunted by a convicted killer - but likable and easy to sympathize with.  The story moves between Chris's present-day story, and Grace's story from the 1940's and 50's - but they don't quite join convincingly.  Living in her home, using her desk and piano, Chris's fascination with Grace is understandable, even expected, but the connection never feels quite complete.  The plot edges towards "ghost story" but doesn't quite get there - the sightings are few, vague and never really explored.

The sections taken from Grace's war-time diary are especially haunting - and proof that you can read, cry and walk on a treadmill simultaneously - but their impact on the present-day story is not quite what it could be.  By the end of the book, it felt as though even the author had grown tired and was merely revealing things that happened "off camera" instead of letting them unfold on the pages.  

I enjoyed this story, always looked forward to the next chapter, but it just wasn't quite . . .  I give it a 4 out of 5.