Unbelievable by Katy Tur

Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American HistoryUnbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. I listened to the audio version and shook my head in disbelief more times than I can count as Katy was describing the various stages of the campaign. It's like I relived the whole thing, which isn't really a good thing. However, I like Katy Tur and it was interesting to see behind the curtain of a journalist following a presidential candidate.

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Wonder by R. J. Palacio

WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this story about Auggie--a young boy born with severe facial disfigurement who enters school for the first time as a 5th grader. (He'd been home schooled previously.) There's a good message for everyone, no matter the age. My only issue with the book is that it seemed sometimes the author forgot she was writing about 10-year-olds. It often felt like I was reading about high school freshmen or sophomores rather than 5th graders, and I'd stop and ask myself, wait, aren't they only 10?! Overall though, this was a very enjoyable book and I look forward to seeing the movie.

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The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing WorldThe Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With all of the negative emotions I've had over the past year, and after seeing the Dalai Lama and his joyful belly laugh during his interview on 60 Minutes, I really wanted to read this to try to have a better outlook with what's going on in the world. There is a lot of good information in the book and good advice from these great men, but I fear that the people who most need the message about being compassionate towards one another, wouldn't seek out a book like this in the first place. I LOVED the exchanges between Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama, but could have done without the author/interviewer's explanations. It would have been sufficient for him to ask his question, and provide their responses without further summarizing and interpreting what they said. That's the explanation for 3 stars instead of 5.

If there's a movie of this, I would love to see it.

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Back by Popular Demand - My Fall TV Schedule

Yes!  You heard that right.  Back by popular demand!  What that translates to is, my mom asked me when I'm going to do my list.  So, here it is.  What I'm watching this fall.

I'm more excited about this season than I have been the last couple of years.  I'm adding 13 new shows, but two of them don't count because they've been on before:  Will and Grace and Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Looking forward to the return of both of those.  

Last season I added 10 new shows, and five of them lasted.  Insecure aired this summer and was great and Atlanta is coming back at some point.  For the fall, the others include This is Us, Speechless, and Better Things (love!).

The show I was most looking forward to (and just finished watching) is This Is Us.  It's such a good show.  

The show I'm most dubious about is Ghosted.  I'm watching because I love Adam Scott, but I read a really bad review of the show.  I'll give it a couple of rounds and then decide.  

Other new shows include Ten Days in the Valley, which I'll watch because, Kyra Sedgwick.  I'll be watching 9JKL to 1) figure out what the title means, and 2) Mark Feuerstein.  White Famous looks funny.  Law & Order - Menendez Murders is on my list because of Edie Falco.  I just saw a few minutes of it and see that Joel from Parenthood is in it too, so, BONUS!  Kevin (Probably) Saves the World has Jason Ritter--I really like him too.  The actors and actresses are really what is drawing me in this year.  Star power!

I'm disappointed that black•ish is no longer on Wednesdays and that they moved American Housewife to Wednesdays.  That was one of my new shows last season, and though I like the lead actress, I didn't care for the show.  BUT, it looks like black•ish will be a good lead-in for The Mayor which is about a rapper who runs for office to promote his album but then actually wins. It's gotten good reviews, so here's hoping it works out.  

The biggest surprise on my list is Young Sheldon.  I watched the first couple episodes of The Big Bang Theory when it first started, and it just wasn't my thing.  Something about Young Sheldon intrigues me though--a lot of it is 80s/90s nostalgia, and aslo, I like the little kid who was in Big Little Lies.

So, that's the scoop.  If there's anything else I should be watching, please let me know!


My Top 25 on iTunes - September 2017

I just revisited my Top 25 Most Played list on my iPod recently.  I created a Spotify list of those songs.  Some of the list isn't surprising to me at all because a lot of these are my favorite songs, but some of the songs are quite surprising.

Here are the Top 25--note that there are only 24 songs on it.  That's because "Rock with You" by Michael Jackson is on their twice, from two different albums.

The biggest surprise is Trent Harmon's "Falling" -- he was a contestant on Amercian Idol and this was his final song and I love it, but I haven't listened to it in a long time.  I clearly listened a LOT when I first downloaded it.  Another surprise is Madonna's "Keep It Together," because again, although I love the song, I didn't think I listened to it that frequently.  Most of the other songs are on a playlist I created called "Makes Me Happy" which I do listen to all the time--it includes "Mercy," "Love on Top," "Outstanding," "Love Never Felt So Good," and others.

I don't remember the last time I reset the count, but the range of "listens" on this list is from 137 times ("Drink You Away") to 285 times ("Can't Feel My Face").  "Love on Top" is second at 241.  That surprises me too, because based on how I listen to music, I would expect "Love on Top" to be #1.  I often listen to that song 3-4 times in a row when I hear it.

I'm going to reset the count on my iPod now and see how it looks after six months, just out of curiosity.  (I'm going to have to put this on my calendar, because otherwise I'll forget!)


Summer TV is ending

I'm looking forward to the new fall TV season, but until it starts, here a few things I've been watching.

Ozark - great show!  The finale was crazy.  I heard it was renewed for a second season, so I look forward to that.  It's in the show's description that Jason Bateman is playing a financial adviser who launders money for a drug cartel.  Things go awry and he moves his family to the Ozarks.  Besides starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney--both of whom I love--what I really liked about this show (and I don't think this is a spoiler, but maybe it is, so if you don't want to read it, skip to the next section) is that Jason was always completely honest with his wife about what was going on, so there was no part of the plot where he was trying to hide secrets from his family.  I feel like we have enough shows like that, so this one was a bit original.

World of Dance vs. So You Think You Can Dance

So a while back, I mentioned that I kind of liked World of Dance better than SYTYCD.  Now that SYTYCD is getting close to the finale, I can say that at least for this season, I like them both equally.  What I liked about World of Dance is that each week, the participants danced in their own style and were judged numerically, highest score wins.  It moved quickly, the judges were likable and the performances were great.  Last season of SYTYCD is the first season I didn't watch, and that was because it focused on young dancers, and I just wasn't interested.  I also get a little creeped out at young kids dancing ballroom--they remind of of Jon Benet Ramsey with the makeup and costumes.

Anyway, I digress.  What I've liked about this season is that they brought back 10 All Stars from previous seasons and during the audition process, they each select a partner to dance with.  So you get to see the new talent, and you get to see old faves.  Once they got down to the Top 6, I think, the contestants were paired with each other, but we still got to see them perform with the All Star.  It's been really good and there are so many great dancers this season.  My favorite personality of the group, Mark, was unfortunately voted off last week, but everyone remaining is so good, I'm rooting for all of them.  I think that Lex is in the running to win.

Dave Chappelle 

I had some friends over last weekend and because our weather was so crappy, we scrapped our plans to visit a few neighborhood haunts and instead ordered in Italian food and watched Dave Chappelle's two specials on Netflix.  We laughed SOOOO hard.  He is just a funny guy.  We thought the first special was funnier (The Age of Spin), but they both had us cracking up with tears streaming down our faces.  (The second special is called Deep in the Heart of Texas.)  I just called my dad and told him to watch, but also warned him that it's not appropriate for my mom.

My mom asked when my fall TV schedule will be posted.  I'm hoping my Fall TV Entertainment Weekly arrives tomorrow and then I'll be able to pull my list together.  Stay tuned!


Blown away

This week on World of Dance, they selected the top two performers from the teen group.  These two young ladies have stood out from the very start, and wow, did they bring it this week.

In case you're wondering, their final scores were separated by 1/2 a point. Diana (11 years old!) in the first video got 92, Eva (age 13) got 92.5. Next time they compete head to head. How do you choose a winner from these two?! Amazing.


Quick TV Review

I've said it once, and I'll say it again--there's too much TV!  There are so many shows to watch and it's getting harder and harder to keep up with what everyone's watching.  I've watched a lot of TV over the last few weekends and just wanted to give a quick review.  (And keep this as a reminder for myself of what I've watched!)

Orange is the New Black, Season 5 - did I already write about this?  I liked some of it, I hated some of it.  I hated the sadistic nature of the whole season.  It was really kind of gross.  I also hated that the whole season covered maybe 5 days.  The riot storyline got old.  But then it had some great moments like Tastee fighting for the memory of Poussey.  It did end with a good cliff hanger leaving me wanting to know what happens next.

House of Cards, Season 5 - this season left a lot to be desired.  I don't find it as clever and smart as I used to.  However, the last line of the finale will keep me watching.

Veep - Same thing.  Selena was particularly mean this season.  She's always mean, but this season I didn't find it as funny.  I kind of think it's because of all the mean-spritedness in real-life politics.  Watching Veep is no longer an escape.  It's too real.  This was my least favorite season.

Suits - Suits is back on.  It's not the same without Jessica, but it'll do.  As I was watching the season opener, I was thinking about the cast and wondering if working with Meghan Markle is any different now that she's close to being royalty.

Glow - I liked this Netflix series a lot.  It's about the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, which was apparently a show in the 80s that provided a lady version.  In the series, Marc Maron casts a bunch of down and out actresses to create his show.  I read that some of the writers came from OITNB, and that's why this show has a similar feel.  All the ladies have their own back stories.  I've never had any interest in wrestling, but the show isn't really about that.  It's about the characters.  I liked it.

Friends from College - I really wanted to love this Netflix show, but in the end, I kind of hated it.  The first episode was promising, but then it just got icky.  There's no one to root for.  Well, I like Fred Savage's character, but he's not the main focus.  If this gets renewed for a second season, I'd be surprised.  I also don't plan to watch.

Playing House - I thought I had written about this before, but apparently I hadn't.  I LOVE this show.  It's about two best friends--one of them quits her job and moves home to help the other through a divorce to raise a new baby.  I love the women on this show.  Season 3 is out, but I decided to go back and watch the first two before I start 3.  I read that one of the actresses, Jessica St. Clair, had cancer in real life and they wrote that in to Season 3.  I'm sure it will be bittersweet, but also well done.

Handmaid's Tale - whoa!  I'd read that the show is better than the book, and it is!  They added a lot more dimension to the story and created storylines that I wondered about when I read the book.  It's very well done and Elizabeth Moss is great, as always.  Can't wait for season 2.

I think that's everything.  If I think of anything else, I'll come back later in the week.


The unexpected juxtaposition of two books

The last book I read was The Handmaid's Tale.  I enjoyed it, but decided not to write a review because as I read through the reviews on Goodreads, I didn't think there was anything else I could add.

The day after I finished that book, I started listening to the audio version of Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, which is read by Trevor, and which I am thoroughly enjoying.  What keeps hitting me, though, are the similarities between the two books.

The Handmaid's Tale is a fictional account about the subjugation of women by white men (this was true in the book--I've seen the first two episodes of the Hulu show and they seem to have taken race out of the equation).  In Born a Crime, Trevor describes the real-life subjugation of black and colored (mixed-race) people by white people under apartheid in South Africa.  A true story that's not too distant in our past.  (Trevor was born under apartheid in 1984.)  That just blows my mind.

There's a lot of discussion in both books about how the men in power separate groups and maintain control over them.  In The Handmaid's Tale, the women were not allowed to read or talk with each other for fear of the women spreading ideas of uprising.  In South Africa under apartheid, black people weren't supposed to learn languages outside of their own tribe's.  Those in power had to keep the various tribes separate and apart.  It's strange to read these things back to back and it's  disheartening to think of how badly those in power can treat people in order to maintain that power.  And of all of these thoughts are happening in my head in the midst of today's political landscape where they're trying to kick millions and millions of people of health insurance.  

Sigh.  So, that's what been on my mind for a few days.  I'll do a proper review of Trevor's book when I'm done.  For now I can say it's quite educational and thankfully, also quite funny.  I can use the laughs.


It all started with an alligator

Are you ever in a conversation with someone and then you say something out loud and the other person has no idea what made you say that? You may have been talking with your friend about mashed potatoes and then all of a sudden you mention something about having to take the car to the shop. The friend is wondering where that came from and then you have to explain that mashed potatoes reminded you of your trip to the grocery store to buy potatoes and how when you came out of the store, you discovered your check engine light was on in the car and therefore you have to take your car to the shop.

This happens to me a lot. Sometimes I'm not sure what the connection is so I try to solve it like a mystery and then when I realize the connection, I feel so excited.

Maybe it's just me.