4.29.2016

After You by Jojo Moyes

After You (Me Before You, #2)After You by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


2.5 stars.

I read this immediately following Me Before You, and couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed. It's still a quick read and I enjoyed parts of it, but I didn't connect with it like the first one.

***SPOILER***

I don't usually comment on (or even pick up on) these kinds of things, but it really bothered me that when Sam got shot, it was done by someone with an "Afro-Carribean appearance." Of course, a black guy did it. My feelings about the book took a turn there and I found myself really annoyed by it and that whole story line. It was too contrived. 

***END SPOILER***

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4.21.2016

Prince - RIP

Prince died today.

This one really hurts.  Just this past Tuesday, I listened to Prince all day long.  So many songs bring back so many memories.

When "Do Me Baby" came on, it reminded me of the time I was in junior high and singing the song while at home, minding my own business.  My mom came in and said, "You better not sing that at school, or someone just might 'do you,'" as if I went around singing through the halls at school.

When "Diamonds and Pearls" came on, it reminded me of one of my favorite days ever--the day my college roommates and I took a one-day bus trip to NYC.  I bought the Diamonds and Pearls CD at Tower Records and listened to it for three hours straight on the way back to school.

Anything from Purple Rain just makes me happy.  Any time I come across the movie, I stop to watch it.  I own it, but I watch it on TV anyway.  The acting is so bad, but it's so good.  My uncle's girlfriend at the time, had three sons who were in the audience during the Let's Go Crazy scene.  We always tried to pick them out, but were never really sure.

There was a headbanger that lived down the street from me in junior high and high school--he was all about the hair bands and had big and long hair himself, and often wore black eyeliner to school.  We were hanging at his house one time and he pulled out the Purple Rain album.  It was so cool to discover we had that in common.  I'll never forget when he put on "Let's Go Crazy" and when Prince sang, "Called my old lady, for a friendly word, she picked up the phone, dropped it on the floor-- 'Ah, ah,' is all I heard," Eric raised his arms above his head and did two pelvic thrusts in time to the "ah, ah," just like Prince did in the movie.  I cracked up--it was such a surprise!

As I listened all day, I alternated between whether "Purple Rain" or "Adore" is my favorite.  But then I realize I have to say favorite slow, or favorite fast song.  Other favorites are "Pop Life," "Gett Off," "Erotic City," "7."

I sometimes cry through the song "Purple Rain"--if it catches me in a certain mood.  Today was definitely one of those days.  I put the movie on this evening just to watch that performance and the finale with "I Would Die 4 U" and "Baby I'm a Star," which definitely helped lift my spirits.

What about all the times we heard "1999" the year before the year 2000 rolled in?

The best concert I ever saw was Prince when he was touring for Musiscology.  We paid $60/ticket for nosebleed seats--those were the only seats left ten minutes after tickets went on sale.  The CD came with the tickets too.  My coworker sold his $60 tickets and bought $150 tickets on the floor from a scalper.  After seeing the amazing show, I vowed to pay whatever it cost to get floor tickets the next time I saw Prince in concert.  Unfortunately, I never had that opportunity.

And there's this...my favorite performance of his.



I will really miss those sexy eyes and that sly smile he had that always suggested some mischievous.



The world lost such a talent today.  I'm devastated.

4.18.2016

Thanks for the surprise, iPod!

I have a LOT of music on my iPod touch.  I'm not at home right now so I can't check the exact numbers, but I have a vague memory of seeing at some point I had more than 2500 songs on the iPod.

There are plenty of albums on there that I rarely listen to.  How could I get to them all?!  As a result, when I use iTunes' "Genius Lists," I often find myself surprised by what comes up.  (For those who don't know, iTunes has a feature where you pick a song, and then it will create a playlist of similar songs from the rest of your music library.)

This morning, I created a Genius List from The Commodores' song "Oh No*."



I then settled in to my seat on the Metro (subway), closed my eyes, and listened.  After a few songs, I was completely surprised to hear, "Islands in the Stream."  But it wasn't Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.  I was thinking, "I have this song on my iPod?!" and "Who's singing?!"  I opened my eyes, pulled out the iPod and discovered it was the BEE GEES!  The Bee Gees?!?!  And it was an album cover I didn't even recognize:



When did I buy that? I don't even remember. And apparently I had never listened to the whole thing, or just forgot that they did "Islands in the Stream." I had no idea. (I have to admit, I've always liked Kenny and Dolly's version of the song.) This was a pleasant surprise.

*For what it's worth, I remember the song "Oh No" from the movie "The Last American Virgin."  As I was listening to that song this morning, I was also reminiscing about seeing that movie with my best friend when we were about 13 or 14 years old.  We had rented it on VHS from Erol's video store, which was our store long before Blockbuster arrived.  Then I started wondering, how did we slip that movie past my mom?!  She would've had to be the one renting it.  It seems totally inappropriate for two 13/14-year-olds to be watching a movie about a geeky kid trying to lose his virginity.  Hmmm....I'm going to have to ask my mom about this!  Anyway, I remember the kid being upset, driving in the car, and listening to "Oh No."  I think he had tears streaming down his face. And I, meanwhile, fell in love with the song.

4.15.2016

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

Breakfast of ChampionsBreakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I gave this 3 out of 5 stars...for now. I finished reading it four days ago and it's been on my mind ever since. I don't know if I liked it or not, but I figure the fact that it stayed on my mind has to count for something. It's such a weird book. Parts were outlandish...I was worried that someone might be looking over my shoulder when I was reading on the subway and came to one of his many drawings. I laughed at times. And I was confused and/or confounded at others.

Prior to reading this, my only experience with Vonnegut's writing was Slaughterhouse Five, which I did enjoy. I didn't walk away from that book feeling so conflicted.

I wish I had read this as part of an English class or book club, because it's the kind of thing that requires discussion. I insisted that a coworker read it so we can have a mini book club at work. If any big epiphanies come from that discussion, I reserve the right to change my rating.


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P.S.  I just noticed that my previous post, saying goodbye to American Idol, was my 1000th post.  Wow!  That seems fitting since so much of what I blogged about was Idol. 

4.07.2016

Goodbye American Idol

The President opens the show saying that people have learned how to vote on American Idol and they should spend as much time and effort doing so for the government officials.  "Go to vote.gov and register to vote today."  I like that he also said that American Idol taught us what "pitchy" means.

The show opens with everyone wearing white, and it's contestants from this season as well as from previous seasons including Kat McPhee, Reuben, Daughtry, Kelly Pickler and plenty of others whose names I can't think of right now.  Oh, there's Constantine.  They're singing "One Voice."  It sounds like a Broadway production.

It's going to be difficult to blog this show because I have some work to do, but I'll do what I can.

Oh!  Ryan was about to announce the show and they introduce Brian Dunkleman, who hosted the original season with Ryan.  He cracked some bad jokes, but then in all seriousness congratulated Ryan for all of his success with the show.

La'Porsha and Trent sing the "very first Idol finale duet" that Kelly and Justin sang:  "It Takes Two" by Marivn Gaye.  They sound great together.  I stick by my wish that they tour together and become best friends.

Got some memories from Steven Tyler..."and that's the way it was..." before the commercial break.

Ok, gotta work.  I'll check back with highlights as I see them.

Medley of former contestants:
  • Justin Guarini looks great--loved him singing No Air with Jordan Sparks
  • If they didn't tell me that was Tamyra Gray, I wouldn't have figured it out on my own.  She still sounds great though.
  • Pants on the Ground!  HA!
  • Bo Bice?!  He looks SO good!!  Where did his hair go?
  • I liked the Rockers segment a lot!  That's not my go-to genre, but those guys were great.  I still love Caleb.   I guess the earlier medley was the pop divas?
  • Loved Keith & Carrie's duet.  Carrie looks amazing.  I wasn't always a big fan of hers, but I gotta giver her credit where credit is due.
  • What is happening to me?  I'm even loving the country section!
  • I guess after Harry sang with the little girl, we moved into the Crooner's section.  I will never tire of seeing and hearing Reuben Studdard sing.
  • After so much great singing, here's J-Lo lip-syncing.  She looks good though, as always.  (I confess to taking a little dance break for "Let's Get Loud.")
  • We're in the R&B section now.  Danny Gokey looks good!  Elliott Yamin!  Love him!
Note:  I've gotten no work done.  Tomorrow's going to be a bear.

Okay, back to the show!
  •  Joshua Ledet - this is a man's world!  Oh yes!  He was so awesome!!!!!!
  • Another dance break for the gospel/Christmas section ("Joy to the World") -- Melinda Doolittle!  
Wow--what a great show tonight!  Best finale they've had, as I guess it should be.

The "white boys with guitars" are doing a tribute to David Bowie.  (David Cook, Lee Dewyze, Phillip Phillips, Nick Fradiani (that's a season I didn't watch), and Kris Allen.)

OF COURSE Simon had to be there.  He looks great!  I like the salt & pepper scruff.  Why is his shirt unbuttoned down to his belly button though?!

OMG.  "For the last time, dim the lights....here we go!"

I can't believe it's happening.

The winner is TRENT!  HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!!  I really thought La'Porsha had that, but I'm so happy for Trent.  I really am!  WOWWWWWWWWWW.

I'm glad we get to hear his sexy "Falling" song again.  He had the best song.  Aww...he's all choked up.  Awww...all the contestants are singing with him.  And so is Keith Urban. 

What a great finale!  They have the most confetti they've ever had!  That was fantastic!!

It was sweet to see Ryan choke up.  Seacrest out!

Did everyone catch Sanjaya thorughout?  Each time with different hair?  Great bit!



4.06.2016

Close to the end...

It's the 2nd to last night of American Idol.  I haven't blogged about the show in a LONG time, but I'm gonna get it done for this week's finale.

The show starts off with a group performance, the group being Dalton, La'Porsha, and Trent.  I thought we'd gotten away from group performances, but at least these three sound good together. 

There are three rounds happening tonight before we find out who the final two are.  First, the three will sing their first single should they win, then they'll sing a choice by Simon Fuller (the show's producer), and then they'll sing the song of their choice. 

Trent's up first with his potential winning single called "Falling."  It's a soulful slow R&B song.  I love it.  This is something I'd buy.  That always plays into how I view contestants...would I buy their music.  For Trent, absolutely yes.  I like that the song isn't all treacly about being among the stars, etc. like the Idol songs used to be. 

By the way, I revived the pool for this final season, and as of last week, I'm in the lead.  In my list of how I'd like this to go, I've Dalton at #3, Trent at #2, and La'Porsha at #1.  For what it's worth, I also had MacKenzie going at #4, so my list was pretty good.  For my list of how I thought America would vote, I had MacKenzie to win it, so no points for me there.

Dalton's singing his song, and right off the bat, I don't like it.  He also doesn't sound great.  Last week I realized that he sometimes struggles to hit low notes, but I think people overlook it because of his story and because he does sing passionately.  I don't like this song though.  "Strike a Match."  His lyrics fit the usual Idol fare, "

La'Porsha sings "Battles."  She looks FABULOUS with her big black 'fro.  I always love her eye makeup.  She has beautiful eyes.  And I love the shots of her baby girl in the audience wearing her little flower, and her headphones.  She's such a darling with those cheeks!  I don't love LP's song, but she sounds fantastic singing it.

After the commercial break, Ryan's back to announce the Top Two.  It HAS to be Trent and La'Porsha.  I think Dalton thinks so too, because he said he's just happy that America cared to listen for so long...seems like he knows this is the end.

The first person to go through is.....

La'Porsha!  (OF COURSE)

And competing against her is...

TRENT!!!  Whoo!!!!

Now, honestly, I'll be happy whoever wins.  I wish Dalton well though.

Both Trent and LP are from Mississippi.  Trent's up first with a song chosen by Simon Fuller:  "If You Don't Know Me By Now."  Great choice.  Perfect song choice for Trent.  Whoo!  I love his tone when he sings low and then he breaks out the falsetto.  Fantastic!

That Simon knows how to pick songs. For LP he picked "A House Is Not a Home."  Again, perfect.  I got chills when she was singing this one.  Keith Urban said, "I don't even smoke and I feel like I need a cigarette right now."  A friend of mine said that she wants to have LP's babies.  Quite sultry!  And again, she just looks so beautiful tonight!

For Trent's pick, he's doing Sia's "Chandelier" again.  I love this song, and I love Trent's version.   He was fantastic!  There's just nothing else to say. 

La'Porsha chose "Diamonds" and gave another great performance.  The crowd can't calm down and LP has tears flowing down her face.  So beautiful. 

I want the two of them to tie.  I also want them to duet.  I want them to be lifelong friends.  Go on tours together.  They are both so great--I think this might be the best finale performance show ever.  Way to go out, American Idol!  Looking forward to tomorrow's finale and whatever surprises they have in store.  As they say, it's the end of an era!

4.04.2016

On meeting an old friend for the VERY. FIRST. TIME

I don't do a whole lot of blogging any more, but this is a MUST-BLOG situation.

Many years ago (I thought it was 10+, plus recently figured out it was actually 9), I wrote a blog post recapping American Idol.  This was when everyone was aghast at the fact that Sanjaya was still in the competition.


I wrote the post on March 7, 2007, and on March 9, someone named Kerri commented on it.  She, too, was incredulous that Sanjaya was still there.  Kerri continued to comment on my Idol posts.  I started reading her blog too and on March 21, I made my first comment over there.

Over the years, we read and commented each other's blogs on a regular basis.  At some point we exchanged email addresses and started to communicate that way.  We had a lot in common--we're both left-handed intoverts, we tend to like the same TV shows, movies and books, and we have the same sense of humor.   Her BFF shares my last name AND my birthday.  We got along really well in words and it felt like we were meant to know each other.  She's so talented and I bought some of her CDs.  She started making jewelry and I bought some of that too. At some point, Facebook came along, and then last year we exchanged cell phone numbers--we didn't talk, but we started communicating even more often via text.

(A couple of years ago, there was a chance that her husband's job was going to be relocated to my area--I was so excited at the opportunity to meet her and get to hang out.  Unfortunately, that fell through, but it was in my mind that one of these days we would meet.)

Well, that day came on Thursday, March 31, 2016!

It was almost exactly nine years after our friendship started.  In January, I had come across some cheap flights to Dallas, and jumped on it and told Kerri I was coming to see her.

After refreshing at my hotel, I drove to her house.  I was so excited, and could tell she was too because when I pulled into the driveway, she came out right away and gave me a huge hug.  (An aside:  I was a little slow on the uptake because my rental car was a Prius and I was trying to figure out how to turn the damn thing off.  You have to push a button to park, and another button to turn the car off.  Each and every time I drove that car, I said, "this car is so weird." But, for what it's worth, when I went to fill it up back to full, it only took $3.50!)

ANYWAY, it was so good to FINALLY meet each other in person!  It was just like seeing an old friend after a long time.  We never had any awkward silences and we got along great right from the start.  I met her husband, Fermin, and her dogs, Lucy and Ricky, also known as "The Ricardos."  We chatted for a while at her house and then we went to the Dallas Arboretum, which was nearby. It was a beautiful day and we walked and talked (and talked).  Kerri showed me where her wedding had been.  We were off to a great start.  Kerri also pointed out that my first comment on her blog was a post about one of her visits to the Arboretum so it was fitting that we were there.





After the gardens, Kerri had some family business to tend to, so I headed to the grocery store for some snacks for my room (which had a fridge and kitchenette) and then we met up later for dinner at  a Mexican restaurant called Meso Maya, which was delicious.  Her brother joined us, and it was great to meet him as well.  I had seen him Shark Tank a few years ago and it was fun to meet him in person.

On Friday we went to a cute little crepe restaurant called Whisk.  Delicious.  We then went to downtown Dallas to go to Dealey Plaza with the intention of going to the Sixth Floor Museum.  Well, those plans were squashed when we saw how many people were there.  There was a 90-120 minute wait to get in, and then the tour was 90 minutes.  I didn't have time because I was meeting another friend for dinner that night, so we just checked out the "grassy knoll."  See?  I have proof.  (That sign cracks me up.)  I'll definitely be back to Dallas in the future to visit, so we'll plan better for this tour.




There's a small X in the middle of the street that shows where President Kennedy was first shot.  It's a little strange that it's not more prominently marked, but maybe that would draw more people into the middle of street/traffic than that little X already does.

We then went to the Dallas Museum of Art and did more walking and talking (and art watching).  We stopped by the Northpark Mall (which is a beautiful mall) on the way back before going back to my hotel.  (The mall was right near where I was staying.)

On Friday night, I met my friend Allyssa who also lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and whom I also met years ago through the internet.  (When I told Kerri that I was meeting another friend that I had met online, she said, "You've done this before?!"  It is kind of crazy, really.  Meeting men and online dating hasn't worked at all for me, but I've made some great female friendships via the interwebs.)  Allyssa and I went to Mudhen Meats and Greens, which was also delicious.  We shut the place down after talking for 3-1/2 hours.  It was great to see her, and I look forward to seeing her again in August when she's up my way in DC.



(Note:  I haven't mentioned here on the blog that I was recently diagnosed with Celiac's disease and have to eat a gluten-free diet.  It was great to find so many GF options in Dallas.  Even Whisk had GF crepes, which was great.)

On Saturday, Kerri and I met for lunch at Spin Pizza (GF crust!).  Another great meal.  After lunch, I headed back to my hotel to await the arrival of my aunt and her husband, who live in Ft. Worth.  She is my mom's half sister, and I had only met her once before many years ago.  After she and her husband arrived, she told me that her sister (another aunt) was coming too.  And then, her husband's son and fiance also joined us.  It was great to meet "new" family and we had a good two-hour visit in my hotel lobby.



That afternoon, I went to Kerri's where she worked on designing some new jewelry for me that will re-purpose some of my grandma's jewelry.  I can't wait to see how it comes out.  We then went to visit White Rock Lake, which is a huge man-made lake with a 10-mile circumference with a bike path and trails all around it.  It was beautiful.  And, we finally decided to take our cameras out for some selfies!  I wish we had thought of that all along.  Duh.  (Doesn't it feel like you've been part of a cliffhanger?  You've probably been wondering, well, where are the pictures?!  What does Kerri look like for crying out loud?!)






There she is...so pretty, inside and out!  And I love that photo!  Photo credit to Kerri--hers came out the best!


After the lake, Kerri, Fermin, and I went to meet some of their friends (Kevin and Allyson) for dinner at a neighborhood restaurant called Thai Opal.  This was a place where everyone knows Kerri and Fermin's names.  Again, the food was delicious and the company was fun.  I already mentioned that I'm an introvert, but I'm also usually rather shy when meeting new people.  On this trip, I never felt shy at all.  I think it's because I've been hearing about them for years, so it's like I already knew them anyway.  After dinner, we went to a neighborhood dive called One Nostalgia Place.  I just found this article about it, which cracks me up:  "One Nostalgia Place Is the Shitty Bar of My Dreams."  When Kerri and friends were talking about going for cocktails and dancing, I thought they meant the activity of going for drinks and dancing until I saw the sign (check out the link to the article) and realized that Cocktails Dancing was the destination.  We had a couple of bad drinks, did the Wobble, and watched Kevin do some karaoke.  We weren't there long, but it was fun.





More photos credit to Kerri!

After Cocktails Dancing, we parted ways with Kevin and Allyson and then headed back to Kerri's to watch American Idol.  (How could we not?  This all started with American Idol!)  After the show ended, we made plans for me to come by in the morning for breakfast before my 1pm flight out of Dallas.

Well, on Sunday morning, just as I was getting ready to head to their house, I checked the American Airlines website to see if everything was on time, and oh jeez!  I just about had a heart attack because my flight didn't leave at 1pm--it was leaving at NOON!  YIKES!  How did I mess that up so badly?  I had 1pm in my head the whole trip.  Anyway, I ended up driving to Kerri's just to give her a goodbye hug and then was on my way to the airport.  It was sad saying goodbye and I became emotional and teary.  (Kerri said we're even because she had the same thing happen when I first got there.  She said it was a good bookend to our visit.)  I got to the airport with no issues and got home safely.

It was a fantastic trip and I had so much fun.  I know more visits will happen in the future and I can't wait.  I'm so happy to have actually met my longtime dear friend! She's one of the best people I know.



p.s.  Kerri also convinced me to get back to blogging more regularly--I'll try to give it a go.


2.01.2016

Team of Rivals: The Poliitical Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham LincolnTeam of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I listened to the unabridged audiobook, which was a time commitment (41 hours and 32 minutes) and it took me about 8 months all together, but it was well worth it. (It was really almost 18 months because I'd started, and then stopped for a while. When I got back to it, I realized I needed to start from the beginning again.) I really enjoyed listening to the narrator's aristocratic tone, which reminded me of Katharine Hepburn in Philadelphia. Before I started the book, I had a general understanding of Abraham Lincoln and what he did for this country, but now I have such a deep appreciation for what a great man he was. The stories of his humor were charming, and you could really feel how difficult decisions heavily weighed on him. I learned a lot and would recommend this to anyone.

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12.25.2015

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As soon as Olly and Madeline started communicating, I was charmed. I loved this book. It's beautifully written, quirky, insightful. I didn't want it to end.



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12.22.2015

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial FitnessThe Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As others have said, there's some useful information here, but too much preaching and proselytizing. He warned about that in the beginning, but I was still put off by how many Bible quotes there were in the book. There were also too many success stories and lots of build up to his actual plan. I kept thinking, "get to the point already!"

I'm already debt-free except for my mortgage. That's one of the main goals that Dave Ramsey suggests you achieve, so to me, this book was more about getting out of debt. He also suggests cutting up all your credit cards and paying for things with cash. If you save money and make big purchases in cash, then your FICO score doesn't really matter much, and it's okay if your credit score takes a hit. I don't buy that. I worked hard to pay off my debt and get a high credit score and now I'm disciplined in how I spend my money and I pay my one credit card off each month.

I'm looking more for more information on investing and how to make your money work for you, and although it's discussed in this book, in my opinion, he too quickly glossed over that aspect of personal money management.

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