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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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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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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The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

The Weary BluesThe Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I selected this to read as part of a reading challenge for 2015...one of the challenges was to read a book of poetry. I don't know much about poetry, and because there wasn't much diversity among the authors for the challenge, I decided to read Langston Hughes. I'm glad I did. Like I said, I don't know much about poetry, but so many of the words in these poems moved me. And it's striking (and sad) how many of the same words published in 1926 could still be written by a young Black man in today's day and age.

As I was reading, I came across this video on YouTube of Langston Hughes reciting "The Weary Blues" while accompanied by a jazz band. Very nice--I wish I could hear all the poems performed this way.

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As If! by Jen Chaney

As If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and CrewAs If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew by Jen Chaney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of the movie Clueless and also a big fan of Jen Chaney from her writing for the Washington Post. This was a fun read all about the making of Clueless from start to finish, with tidbits from everyone's perspective including the producers, director, actors, set designer, casting directors, bands on the soundtrack, etc. It also discusses the impact the movie had on culture with regards to how teens talked and fashion. Now I'm ready to watch the movie again for probably the 20th time.

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The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

The Story of the Lost Child (Neapolitan Novels, #4)The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Of the four books in the series, this was my least favorite. It dragged in parts and I found myself skimming quite a bit toward the end. Still, I enjoyed reading the finale to the story even though the ending left me wanting to know even more. I never wrote reviews of the previous three books because I had such mixed feelings about them and couldn't put my thoughts into words. I loved the writing, I loved seeing how the friendship between Lina and Lenu evolved over time, and how the author demonstrated so distinctly how these two brought out the best AND worst in each other. I also learned a lot about Naples and about Italian politics, which I found interesting. What I didn't like is that there really wasn't a single character (of the oh-so-many characters in the book) that was likable. I liked Lenu's husband, Pietro, but was really just pulling for him to get away from her. I typically like to have someone to root for in a book, but here, I just read to see what happened next. Elena Ferrante is very good at keeping the reader wanting more.

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Music Monday - Here by Alessia Cara

My friend Kerri has been doing Music Mondays for quite a while now.  I figured I'd jump on her bandwagon--at least for this week--to mention this song, Here by Alessia Cara.  (Thanks for the idea, Kerri!)

My sister sent me a link to the video the other day and said she could imagine me writing the lyrics.  She's completely right.  You see, I'm an introvert.  A strong introvert.  And I pretty much hate parties and gatherings with a bunch of people that I don't know.  And this song gets right to how I feel when I'm at one.  It really reminded me of going to high school parties with my boyfriend at the time.  He was an extreme extrovert and knew EVERYONE.  I'd go for various reasons--mainly so I wouldn't always be a spoil sport, or sometimes because I knew a few other people who would be there, but for the most part, this song describes how I felt.  Most people don't understand these feelings at all, so it's nice to hear them described so perfectly in a song. 

I was invited to a birthday celebration the other night for one of my very good friends, but because it was going to be a larger group than I usually prefer, I told my sister that I had a feeling I'd be singing this song in my head.  Coincidentally, when I got in the car that night to drive to the bar, this song was on the radio!  (Despite my initial misgivings, I ended up having a great time, but still, it felt good to come home.)


Eh, it's Fall TV Season

Usually, this is one of my most favorite times of year.  I love TV and I love finding new shows to watch and trying to decide my schedule.  I know I watch too much of TV, and I watch a lot of it that just isn't good.  But it's a guilty pleasure and I enjoy it.

This year though, I'm not so enthused.  For one thing, I started a new job in June that increased my one-way commute time by 40-45 minutes, and at the same time, has seriously cut into my TV-watching time because I have to get to bed earlier, and I'm missing out on at least 2 hours of time during which I used to watch TV in the evenings.  In addition, a lot of shows that I previously watched ended last season (Mad Men, Revenge, Nurse Jackie, Cougar Town, Parks &Recreation, Boardwalk Empire...), so that automatically (and thankfully) decreased my viewing schedule by quite a lot.  And finally, since I wasn't all too thrilled about any of the new shows starting this season, I've only added 4 new shows to my schedule, shown in bold italics:

Now, for someone who doesn't know me, or who might be new to my blog, I realize this still looks like a lot of TV to watch, but compare that to last year's Fall schedule. There's a lot more white space this year.  And honestly, these shows, old and new, better be good, because I will drop them if they're not.  I just don't have time for all of this any more.  (In the next year or so, I might put my house on the market and move closer to my job.  If that happens, maybe next year will be different and things can get back to normal!)

A few comments about the new shows:

Grandfathered with John Stamos looks cute, but I'm not expecting a lot.  Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.  I guess I actually am a bit excited to see Fred Savage on TV again in The Grinder.  The Washington Post gave it a pretty good review, so there's hope there.  Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has a musical element to it, which reminds me of a show I used to love, Eli Stone, so I decided to give it a try.  And finally, I started watching Jane the Virgin on Hulu over the summer and really like it. so I'm adding it to the schedule.  That one is just new•ish.

Other comments:  I'm on the fence about Amazing Race.  I recorded all of last season, but never watched it.  When I realized I didn't miss it, I deleted them all.  I think sometimes I just need a break.  I'll watch the first few shows this season to see if there's anyone I want to root for.  I've given up on American Horror Story.  I enjoyed the 1st and 3rd seasons, but it's just too hit or miss for me, and I don't have the time to waste on it.  Major Crimes is another one I'm on the fence about.  I was ready to give it up last time, but the mini summer season was pretty good, so we'll try again.  The Wednesday night ABC line up got off to a great start with all the comedies, especially black•ish which is just so cleverly written and full of talent  Nashville, though.  Not so much.  I may end up dropping that one pretty soon.  I considered watching The Voice, but again, I haven't missed it, AND it's too much of a time hog.  If anyone IS watching and a guy named Dijon (like the mustard--those were his words) makes it, please let me know.  We saw him singing on the High Line in NYC over the summer, and chatted with him for a few minutes before he was on his way to audition for the show.  Oh, and the Mindy Project moved to HuluPlus.  My friend and I watched the first episode.  I wasn't impressed, so I'm done with that one.  (I wasn't too thrilled with it last season anyway.)

That's it!  I wish I could be more enthusiastic about all this, but I'm just not feeling it.  We'll see how it goes.


Butterfly by Kathryn Harvey

Butterfly (Butterfly Trilogy, #1)Butterfly by Kathryn Harvey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished reading Butterfly for, I think, the 3rd time. I first read it in the early 90s and again a few years later. It became my favorite "trashy" novel. I started recommending it to friends after all the hubbub over Fifty Shades of Grey (which I loathed) because this book is SO much better--it's actually well written, and it has a great revenge plot line as well as some good sex scenes. I decided to pick it up again now in 2015 to see if it still holds up, and it does! There are a lot of references from the 1980s that might be a little outdated, but they don't affect enjoyment of the story. And now that I'm 20+ years older than the first time I read it, I wouldn't even call it "trashy" anymore. It's just a good, fun read.

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Dope (the movie)

I saw Dope yesterday...I wanted to see it strictly based on a poster I'd seen for it:

I had no idea what it was about. Before I went into the theater, I sent a text to my sister to let her know I'd be out of touch for a while. She asked "Which movie is that?" and I wrote, "I don't know what happens exactly, but it's about black kids in the 80s."

Well, I was WAY off on that.

First of all, not all of the kids are Black. Second, it actually takes place in current times. However, the three characters in the poster define themselves as 90s (not 80s) "hip-hop geeks," hence the main character's high-top fade and the kids' style of dress. There's a lot going on, but essentially, the kids get into some shenanigans after a drug deal gone wrong. It's clever and a fun movie to watch. Zoe Kravitz is in it and looks JUST like her mom, Lisa Bonet. Little too much use of the N-word in this movie. (It's used in the familiar way ending with -a versus -er, the way they do in hip-hop culture, but it was still too much. I'm also possibly just a little sensitive about it right now in the wake of all that's going on after Charleston.) Still, it's an enjoyable movie that I do recommend. Stay for the dance moves during the credits.