Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

Not My Father's SonNot My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Alan Cumming and looked forward to listening to the audio version of his book since he is the narrator. I wasn't disappointed. The story moves back and forth between "Then" and "Now." THEN, Alan struggles to survive his childhood under the control of an abusive father. NOW, he has signed up to appear on the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are" where they track your family history. At the same time, his father drops a bombshell on him that he has to struggle through. In doing the show, he strived to find out what happened to his maternal grandfather, who left his family to go to war and never returned, and also died under mysterious circumstances. Alan's story is heartbreaking and some of his tales of his father's abuse were difficult to listen to, but he was able to tell them with dignity, charm, insight, and sometimes even humor. The story of his grandfather's history was interesting, and I enjoyed how Alan was able to put together the similarities between himself and the grandfather he never knew. I think through his journey he did gain a bigger understanding of who he is. For what it's worth, I'm also a fan of "Who Do You Think You Are" and enjoyed learning about how that show is done. This was a great listen.

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Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. Amy reads the book herself and has guest voices in the booth with her including Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner, and Mike Schur, plus her parents. My favorite chapters were the ones about tidbits from Saturday Night Live, and the one about the various cast members of Parks & Recreation. Amy just seems like the kind of person you want to be friends with, and after listening to this, it's even more true. She's also quite insightful and I was often touched by her words. I think I'll have to get a copy of the hardcopy too, because it also looks like a lot of fun with photos and handwritten pages. If you like Amy Poehler, I definitely recommend this book.

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So much to say...

I didn't come here with the intention of posting this song, but as soon as I wrote that title, I had to hear it.

Anyway, I've been mulling over things to write about for weeks now, but when it comes time to actually sit down and type something out, I get distracted by other things I want to do and I never make it.  Tonight I'm watching The Voice and wanted to comment on that, so I figured I'd do a quick round up of what I've been thinking about.  Here goes:


Ok, I'm shaking it

My friend Kerri posted Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" video for her Music Monday post.  It reminded me that I saw the video the other day and caught two dancers from So You Think You Can Dance backing up Taylor.  One is Fik-shun, the winner from two (maybe 3?) seasons ago, and the other is the guy with the squiggly arms, Phillip Chbeeb. I love watching videos and catching former contestants doing their thing. I'm always so happy for them that they've found work doing what they love to do.

As I mentioned over on Kerri's blog, I've never been a big fan of Taylor Swift's, but I have to admit that I really do like this song and the video. I'm *this* close to downloading the song. (This has happened to me before--I was proud not to have a Katy Perry song on my iPod but then she went and came out with Roar and Dark Horse. Darn her. Who knows. Maybe Taylor will join her.)

Anyway, Kerri, thanks for the reminder that I wanted to write this post!



Fik-shun doing his thing. (Man, I love that smile!)

And here's Squiggly Arms (aka Phillip Chbeeb, aka Pacman):


Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the WorldLost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is such a lovely and charming little book filled with words from around the world that don't exactly have an English translation.

Some are quite beautiful, like my favorite in the book: komorebi, which is a Japanese word for the sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees.

Some just make me think, "Yes! I needed a word for that!" like, trepverter which is a Yiddish word for a witty riposte or comeback you think of only when it is too late to use. Literally, "staircase words."

And the word that completely describes my life: tsundoku, Japanese for leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books.

I recommend this one for everyone.

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My author crush

I can't believe I forgot to mention that my sister and I had the chance to see Rainbow Rowell recently, in Arlington, VA. I already loved her, but now love her even more. She's so charming, quirky, and funny. She's one of those people that make me feel like I'd want to know them in real life. If you get a chance to see her in your town, please do. You won't be disappointed. 

At the talk, someone asked about a sequel to Eleanor & Park. Rainbow said she'd originally intended to write a sequel and had written an outline for it when she wrote the first book. It would follow E&P in their thirties. Her editor suggested waiting to see if people liked E&P.  Well they did, but now, because people liked those characters SO much, she feels enormous pressure to write them again and is afraid she wouldn't meet expectations. 

She compared it to her experience with the Star Wars prequels.  She had such anticipation for them, but then when she saw The Phantom Menace, she was disappointed. So, about an E&P sequel, she said, "I don't want to Jar Jar Binks 'Eleanor & Park.'"  

When I got home that night, I tweeted about that, and guess what?  She favorited my tweet. So cool!

More musings on TV and movies

As a friend mentioned in the comments on my previous post, it was well worth it to watch the second episode of black-ish, which was so funny, better than the first episode, and worth the wait.  I look forward to more with this show.

Mysteries of Laura is still fun too.  I don't expect it to win any awards, but it's enjoyable.

 I loved the premiere of A to Z which I was really looking forward to.  I think it's charming and sweet, and I just love the actors.

I wasn't planning to watch, but a coworker recommended I check out Selfie, another show with an unfortunate title.  It was better than I expected.  I really like John Cho, and I'm giving this one a season pass.

I also checked out Manhattan Love Story, and eh.  While I think it's fun to hear the inner thoughts of the main characters as they related to the same experience, the majority of the show was done in voice over and I think it was just too much.  I'll give it another try, but this one is iffy.

Looking forward to Homeland tonight, and American Horror Story: Freak Show later in the week.  I think for AHS, I might have to record it and watch over the weekend during daylight hours. I really don't like being scared, but I love Jessica Lange and the performances on the show.  Speaking of being scared--the commercials for Annabelle freak me the hell out and I would never purposely see that movie.  I find dolls creepy anyway, and those ads aren't helping!

In the movie world, I saw Gone Girl on Friday.  As I expected, it was better than the book.  I still didn't care for the ending, but it played better on screen than it did in the book, in my opinion.  I thought Ben Affleck was great. I went to a 10:30am showing (AMC charges only $6 for shows before noon) and was surprised by how many people were there.  It was mostly women in their 50s and 60s who looked like teachers or librarians...how's that for a stereotype?  Anyway, I thought it was interesting that they all looked the same.  There were a few guys thrown in as well.

Ciao for now!


Quick reviews

Here are just a few quick thoughts on things I've seen recently:

  •  This Is Where I Leave You - After reading the book, I was looking forward to seeing this movie.  I thought it was cast well and I enjoyed it a lot.  I was perplexed when my dad told me that the Washington Post only gave it 1.5 stars out of 4.  The only thing I can think of is that by having read the book first, I knew the back story and knew the motivations of the characters that perhaps someone unfamiliar with the story might not pick up on.  Anyway, I'd give it 3 stars.
  • Skeleton Twins - This was a good one too.  Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are perfect together.  Bill Hader's performance was particularly good. 
  • Red Band Society - After two episodes, I don't think I'm going to continue with this one.  I think the kids are all great actors, but I just don't "buy" the whole premise and can't get with the boy in the coma narrating the story. It's bad enough that he knows all that's going on inside the hospital, but how does he also know everything happening outside the hospital?  It'd be better without his narration, OR to have voice-overs from multiple characters the same way Glee does.  I'm dropping this one from the lineup.
  • Gotham - in which I was pleasantly surprised.  I wasn't expecting to like this, but I really did.  I'll keep it.
  • Mysteries of Laura - I've seen two episodes of this too.  I like Debra Messing in this, but there's not really anything special about the show.  I've watch another episode or two and then decide whether to keep it.
  • black-ish - It was enjoyable, but not bust your gut funny.  Instead of laughing, I often found myself thinking, "that's a good point", or "that's so true. " I wish everyone of all races would watch it, but fear they'll be put off by that damn title.
  • Madam Secretary - I've only seen the first show and enjoyed it well enough.  Critics kept talking about this being about Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but this show has the added element of Tea Leoni's character having worked for the CIA in the past.  That's adds a different dimension when she's dealing with foreign relations.  I really like Tea Leoni, as well as Tim Daly who plays her husband, and will keep watching. 
  • How To Get Away with Murder - one word:  Intriguing.  I definitely want to see how this one plays out.
  • The Voice - I've only seen about 30 minutes of the first show, but already love the addition of Gwen Stefani and Pharrell.   
Until next time...


It's time for Fall TV!

Yep!  It's September, and it's time for the new Fall TV shows.  As usual, I've gone through my Entertainment Weekly to pick out what I'm going to watch, and ta-da!  Below, is my proposed TV watching schedule, subject to change depending how good or bad these shows are (premiere dates are in parentheses):

So, here are a few notes on the 2014 Fall TV Season:

New Show(s) I'm Most Looking Forward To:  Top of the list is Marry Me, followed closely by A to Z.  The same folks involved with Happy Endings are responsible for Marry Me, so I just have a feeling it will be great.  A to Z has two actors that I really like... the Mom from How I Met Your Mother (aka Cristin Milioti) and Fred the Guardian Angel from Drop Dead Diva (aka Ben Feldman).  I also loved him on Mad Men.  

Returning Show I'm Most Looking Forward To:  Parenthood.  So sad this is the final season.

New Shows I'm Skeptical About:  Just about everything else, but especially: 
  • Gotham - not my usual fare, but I told my coworker I'd give it a try
  • Mysteries of Laura - only watching for Debra Messing, but it doesn't look great.  I haven't seen the premiere yet.
  • Red Band Society - I've read mixed reviews on this, from those that name it the best new show of the season to those that pan it as manipulative and treacly.  After watching the season premiere, I'm leaning toward the latter, however, I'll watch another episode or two before I make a final decision.
  • Madame Secretary - eh.  We'll see.
  • State of Affairs - I'll watch for Alfre Woodard.
  • black-ish - I love Anthony Anderson, however, I HATE the title of this show.
Returning Shows I'm Most Skeptical About:
  • American Horror Story: Freak Show - I'm worried this one will freak me out too much this season, but I look forward to great performances from everyone.
  • Major Crimes - I don't know why I still watch this show, but alas, here it is.  Same for Revenge.
  • New Girl - it's just not as funny nor charming as it once was.  Now it often just makes me groan.  I'll give it another episode or two. My sister dropped it last season and hasn't looked back.
  • Amazing Race - I'll watch the first episode and see if there are any teams I'd want to route for.  Lately, the annoying folks outnumber the folks I like. 
Returning Shows That I've Already DroppedPerson of Interest.  This season took a real turn for the worse (worst? This always trips me up.) last season with a plot line I hated.  When I read that this season would continue to follow that plot line in earnest, I decided to drop it.

So, what will you be watching?  If you watch something that's not on my list that you'd recommend, please let me know!


The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

The Next Best ThingThe Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was just "eh" for me. I was a huge fan of Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, but it seems like the magic ended with those two books. I've started and stopped Certain Girls several times but could never get into it, and never finished. And now, I started and wanted to stop The Next Best Thing too, but the behind-the-scenes look at how a TV sitcom is made kept me going. I think it would have been more interesting if Ms. Weiner had written a memoir about her experience in the TV world rather than this dull fictionalized version.

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