4.20.2014

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver SparrowSilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This story starts off with, "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." It's told in two parts, first by Dana, who is the daughter in James' secret/illegal marriage. The second part is told by his other daugheter, Chaurisse, from his first marriage. Dana and her mother know the situation, Chaurisse and her mother do not. James is the only character that I didn't care for. I cared about, and pulled for all the others.

Tayari Jones is a wonderful writer who really draws you in to each character's life. It got to a point where I really didn't want to put the book down. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is because the final chapter felt rushed and the story left a lot of questions unanswered. I would love to know more about what happened to these characters' lives.

I also enjoyed reading the interview with the author at the end of the book.  Knowing why she wrote the book the way she did and how she was influenced, made me appreciate the story all the more.

I do look forward to reading other works by Ms. Jones.


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4.18.2014

Random Idol post


I haven't posted much about American Idol this season, other than to say I was watching it again thanks to Mr. Harry Connick, Jr.  I don't watch the show religiously and tend to let several episodes build up before I watch, so I'm always a bit behind.  After seeing last week's show (the theme was The 80's) and this week's show, I have a few comments and some advice for some of the contestants.

I like Jessica and Jena's voices, but I don't like their personalities.  When you see them in group shots where they're sitting on the couch with other contestants, both of them are always scowling and looking like they hate the world.  I could be competely wrong, but I think they resent it when other contestants get great comments from the judges.  They never seem happy for any other contestant that does well.

My advice is for Jessica and Sam.  LOOSEN UP.  Sam's too young, but maybe Jessica can use this advice that I saw on Facebook recently:


Last week's performance when she did Blondie's "Call Me," just made me uncomfortable.  It was very clear that she was trying desperately to use the advice given by David Cook (it was great to see him back!) to use the cameras, but it was just so awkward and you could tell she was uncomfortable and thinking too hard.  Okay, maybe alcohol isn't the answer, but she needs something to loosen up. Oh wait, as I'm watching this week's show, Harry just told her to put on some funk or hip-hop music and just dance and watch herself in the mirror.  He's getting at the same point I'm making.  She needs to find the groove and find the beat.

Same goes for Sam.  During Caleb's performance this week, they showed a shot of the other contestants on the couch and most were clapping and dancing.  But poor Sam had his hands shoved in his pockets and he looked extremely awkward.  He reminded me of myself when we first used to go to clubs to go dancing.  I was awkward and uncomfortable for sure, but hey, after a drink or two, I did loosen up and went for it.  Vodka told me I could do it.

And speaking of Caleb.  WOW.  He hasn't had a bad performance yet, and I LOVED last week's performance of Journey's "Faithfully."  He's not the type of performer I'd typically be interested in with the whole ROCK thing, but he just knocks it out every week.  I think he's got the best voice on the show. 

Just a few more weeks to go...it'll be interesting to see how the voting goes.

4.13.2014

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


After reading two pretty heavy books, I needed something fun, and Where'd You Go, Bernadette fit the bill. The story is told through emails, faxes, and other correspondence as young Bee tries to figure out why her mother disappeared. I laughed out loud several times, and zipped through the book in a couple of days. I wished for more with the ending, but overall, I enjoyed this book a lot.


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4.07.2014

Misheard lyrics -- say what?!

When I'm with my sister and she happens to be singing a song, 7 times out of 10, I'll have to correct her on some of the lyrics.  This is a running joke between us--she gets lyrics wrong all the time, and couldn't care less.

Tonight on the radio they were talking about misheard lyrcis.  The host raised the question (I'm paraphrasing): What song did you butcher for years before you realized what the real lyrics were?

The first guy that called in said that he always had to correct his friend when he was singing Tupac's California Love.  The caller said: "Yeah, you know how in California Love he says, 'California...knows how to party?'  Well, my friend always sings, 'California....no doubt about it.'  And I'm like, what are doing, man?  It's "knows how to party"! 

So, I was sitting there in the car thinking, IT IS?!!  Because, well, I've been singing "no doubt about it" FOR YEARSSSSSSSS.  I checked the lyrics online and sure enough, "knows how to party."  Then I played the song, and I could hear it clear as day.  How did I miss that all this time?!  Oops.

My sister's going to get a kick out of this.

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Twelve Years a SlaveTwelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A difficult but important read. There were so many times where I found myself just shaking my head at the injustice and cruelty of slavery. What else could I do? It's just astonishing that human beings were treated this way. This personal account of the slavery system was truly disturbing, but also enlightening.

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3.31.2014

Haaaaaaave you met Ted?

I've complained a lot over the last couple of years about How I Met Your Mother, but I made the decision to stick with it and see it through to the end.  Even though I was annoyed that this final season took place over one weekend, the last 2-3 episodes made up for it.  And, tonight's finale was satisfying.  I enjoyed it, and I actually will miss those five friends every Monday night. 

3.27.2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I felt like this story started off really strong. For the first portion that took place in New York City, I was all in. But then when it moved to Las Vegas, it really meandered and went on too long. It took me a while to get through it and when the plot finally took the main character to Amsterdam, I found myself skimming a lot. The last 20 pages or so were so disjointed and too philosophical for my taste--there were long ramblings trying to make sense of the whole story. I felt disappointed by the end because I really wanted to love this book, and didn't. I think Donna Tartt is a strong writer, but sometimes she takes it too far with way too many adjectives and flowery description. Sometimes its on point and really helps you get a feel for the characters and the scene, but more often it just seems like she's showing off with her 20-cent words.

Update: After thinking about this all day, I'm dropping my rating from 3 to 2 stars. Overall, it was really just okay for me. I don't think the excellent 4-star beginning is enough to balance out the 1-star rest-of-the-book.

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3.24.2014

Excuse me a sec, what are you babbling about?

Holy crap!  I just saw somewhere that 30 years ago today, The Breakfast Club happened.  Say what?!

THIRTY YEARS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Jesus.

Okay, after that initial shock, I started thinking about how much I love that movie.  How I still quote it to this day, even when my 27-year-old coworkers have no idea what I'm talking about.  ("Will milk be made available to us?"  "The door's WAY too heavy, sir."  "Excuse me a sec, what are you babbling about?"  "Does Barry Manilow know you that you raid his wardrobe?"  "Hey, how come Andrew gets to get up?  If he gets up, we'll all get up--it'll be anarchy!") How it was the first R-rated movie I saw in a theater where there were no parents to be found.  I saw it with my friend Kelly--gosh, I was 13, and she had just turned 14.  Her mom took us to the theater and bought us the tickets.  I don't think parents are allowed to do that anymore--don't underage kids have to be accompanied by adults?  Ah, the good ole days.  Anyway, we felt so grown up and had a fabulous time.  That movie brings back such good memories.  I'll have to put it on this weekend...it's been a while.

3.03.2014

And the winners are...

BEST PICTURE
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena - SHOULD
  • 12 Years a Slave - WILL / WON
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
Afterthought:  Enough Said and Fruitvale Station should have been nominated here.  I'd take out Her and  The Wolf of Wall Street. 

BEST ACTOR
  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) - WILL / SHOULD / WON

BEST ACTRESS
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) - WILL / SHOULD / WON
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
  BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) - WILL / SHOULD / WON

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) - WILL / SHOULD / WON
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

BEST DIRECTOR
  • American Hustle (David O. Russell)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón) - WILL / WON
  • Nebraska (Alexander Payne) - SHOULD
  • 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) -
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
  • Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
  • Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)
  • 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley) - WILL / SHOULD / WON
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell) - WILL
  • Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)
  • Her (Spike Jonze) - WON
  • Nebraska (Bob Nelson) - SHOULD
 I didn't do too badly, if I do say so myself.  Too bad I didn't have any money on it.

Few thoughts:

  • Did you see:  Jamie Foxx and Kate Hudson do the "Bump" in Pharrell's performance?
  • Best speech:  Lupita Nyong'o
  • Worst bit:  Pizza for the audience
  • What the?:  I don't know what John Travolta said when he introduced this performer, but it wasn't "Idina Menzel."  
  • Ellen:  overall, she did a good job, but honestly, I think all hosting jobs should go to Neil Patrick Harris.

3.02.2014

My quick Oscar predictions

The Red Carpet preview is on and I realized I hadn't done my predictions yet.  I managed to see everything on the list below, and I'm sad to say that I didn't LOVE any of these movies.  I liked them plenty, some better than others, but there was nothing that left me wanting more.  (The only one I didn't care for at all was August: Osage County.  In fact, the biggest revelation for me is that Julia Louis-Dreyfus should've been nominated for Enough Said, over both Julia Roberts AND Meryl Streep for August: Osage County.)

So, here's a quick round up of who I think WILL win, and who I think SHOULD win.  We'll see how I do.

BEST PICTURE
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena - SHOULD
  • 12 Years a Slave - WILL
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
This category is tough.  I'm really not sure who SHOULD win.  I went with Philomena because I enjoyed it most, meaning, I came away from it feeling pretty good.

BEST ACTOR
  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) - WILL / SHOULD
I wish this category could have six nominees.  Tom Hanks really should here, even if just for the last 10 minutes of Captain Phillips, but all of these performances were great, so you couldn't take away any of these to put Tom Hanks in.  Tough call, that one.

BEST ACTRESS
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) - WILL / SHOULD
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Blue Jasmine was a strange movie, but man, Cate Blanchett's performance was mesmerizing.
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) - WILL / SHOULD

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) - WILL / SHOULD
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

BEST DIRECTOR
  • American Hustle (David O. Russell)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón) - WILL
  • Nebraska (Alexander Payne) - SHOULD
  • 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) -
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
  • Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
  • Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)
  • 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley) - WILL / SHOULD
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell) - WILL
  • Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)
  • Her (Spike Jonze)
  • Nebraska (Bob Nelson) - SHOULD