The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins

The Crooked BranchThe Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Crooked Branch is the story of two mothers: one is Majella, a new mother in current-day New York, who is finding motherhood much more difficult than she expected. The other is Ginny, a mother living in Ireland during the potato famine in the 1840s who is doing all she can to help her family survive.

Jeanine Cummins, once again, shows off her fine skills for storytelling. Her descriptive words have a way of transporting the reader so they are there. During the famine scenes, I felt like I could actually smell the rot. I cared for both struggling mothers in this story that is ultimately about a mother's love.

Here's a great interview that Jeanine did on NPR about her book. Without spoiling the book, you'll get a good idea of what she was thinking as she wrote the stories of Majella and Ginny. I think it's interesting to hear where the stories came from. (Note:  there's some language in the interview that might not be safe for work.)

Jeanine's previous book, The Outside Boy, completely stole my heart (my review).  While I truly enjoyed The Crooked Branch, it'd be difficult for a book to affect me like The Outside Boy did.  I do think the new book will resonate strongly with mothers, especially new moms.  I don't have kids, so I couldn't go all the way "there," but I've heard stories from friends about postpartum depression and can only imagine how your life would change after bringing a baby into the world.  Jeanine does a great job describing those feelings and experiences.

Also, full disclosure, Jeanine is a friend of mine. I'm happy to recommend her work because it's damn good. (Wouldn't it be awkward if I didn't like her stuff? I would just stay silent about it if that were the case...)


*Gulp* That was 30 years ago?!

Thirty years ago today, this happened:

And, as my friend posted on Facebook, the game changed.

I was talking with my mom about this--she asked what grade I was in when the show aired. I was in 8th grade. And then we realized my mom was 41 at the time. And guess what? Now I'M 42! When did that happen???

I wish that Barry Gordy and the powers that be at Motown would put Motown 25 on DVD and re-release it. Right now, you can buy it on VHS for anywhere from $40 to $117 according to Amazon.com. Motown could release it on DVD for their 55th anniversary...they would make a killing, I'm sure. It was SUCH a great show.


There's just something about that song

After all the news over the summer about the shenanigans being pulled by Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj during the American Idol tryouts, I decided once and for all that I would not watch this season of AI.  (I was already leaning that way when they announced Mariah was a judge.  The girl can sannng, but man, she no personality.)

Anyway, my sister and my friend Amy are still watching and are trying to convince me to join in.  I told them that if there is anyone really, really, really good on the show when they get to the Top 10 to let me know and maybe I'd tune in.

This week, my sister posted the following in our Facebook conversation:  

Watching last night's show now. They had a sing-off between 2 contestants who didn't make it into the top 10. Whoever wins the sing-off gets to join the tour. Aubrey should so make it! I wish she had made the top 10. She's awesome! And so beautiful!

So, I watched it, and here's how I responded:  

She was a'ight. Actually, I'm surprised we don't hear this song more on AI...it's a good song to show your range. I just can't compare Aubrey's version to Irene Cara though. Anytime I hear Irene Cara's version, my eyes get teary when she sings, "When I'm down and FEEEEEEELINNNGGG blue..."

Every time. (I just tested it.) Aubrey didn't make me cry.

(Deb's right though...she is beautiful.)

Now here's Irene Cara (tears come around 1:10 and 2:06):

I was only 10 when Fame came out, so I didn't see it in the movie theater (it was rated R), but I had the soundtrack, and even when I was young, "Out Here on My Own" made me cry. Why is that? There's something in Irene's tone, I think, that just gets me right....there.

(I'm definitely going to be watching Fame again this weekend.)

Meanwhile, the following conversation also took place in our FB conversation about American Idol:

AMY (in reference to Nicki Minaj showing up late to a live show): As far as Nicki is concerned..it was unprofessional of her. Did you notice how Ryan made jokes at the beginning, but after she slipped in, nothing else was said about it? I wonder why. I actually like to hear what Nicki says about the singers but sometimes she can be really inappropriate. I want to have your baby, you woke up my sexual appetite ?? a little too crazy for me. And children are watching this show. I think she should tone it down.

AMY: Oh Debbie-I don't know what you've seen yet so I won't be specific, but did you see when Nicki got up and almost walked out? Seriously?!

DEB: haha! i have not seen that part yet. but agree, she's acting like a total diva. and also agree that some of the things she says is inappropriate. i also hate when she praises a couple of folks for losing weight - what kind of message is that for kids? i did notice that she didn't like a joke ryan made which i think referred to her lateness. and there was another part when they were teasing mariah about not standing up and she was saying it was too hard in her dress and laughing it up. nicki DID NOT like that attention on mariah and totally did the "i'm going to do an extreme straight face to show you all that i'm completely ignoring this woman." then there was another part i think before nicki got there and they made a joke about nicki, and mariah did a funny face like "i couldn't care less." you can tell they don't like each other but i still can't figure out who has the right to be annoyed with whom. i guess at the end of the day they are both immature divas.

ME: umm....you're not exactly making a great case for me to watch the show with these stories of nicki & mariah. ugh.


Why, oh why, do I still watch Glee?!

This was on this week's episode.  Jane Lynch doing Nicki Minaj.

One word:  Disturbing


Bruno and the Bob Marley tribute

The Grammys were on several weeks ago and I'm still watching and re-watching the tribute they did for Bob Marley.  It featured Bruno Mars (and his beautiful band...how can everyone in a big band be so good looking?), Sting, Rhianna, Ziggy Marley & Damian Marley.  This was my favorite part of the show and I haven't tired of it yet.  I must've watched it 50 times by now.
After this performance, I downloaded Bruno Mars' album, "Unorthodox Jukebox." I love it. With one little caveat. There are two songs on the CD marked as "explicit." The first one is a song called "Gorilla," which is about wild sex...doing it like gorillas, etc. The lyrics are crazy...he mentions being high on cocaine and at one point, his girl tells him "give it to me mother f***er!" My ears! My ears! It shocks me every time I hear it! Bruno reminds me of Prince on the song (the song actually reminds me of "Beautiful Ones"). I just didn't see why those lyrics were necessary, though. The next "explicit" song is called "Treasure"--I ADORE this song. He reminds me of Michael Jackson on this one...it has a "Rock with You" feel to it, and its lyrics are really not explicit at all. But, there's this tiny intro where a computer voice says, "Baby Squirrel, you's a sexy mother f***er." What's the point of that, except it does bring to mind Prince's "Sexy M.F."? Anyway, after listening to the album non-stop for two weeks, I finally decided to download the clean versions of those two songs so that I can play the whole CD while I'm at work or in the company of my parents, for example. "Treasure" is fine without the explicit intro, but I find that "Gorilla" is just missing something without the raw nastiness of the lyrics! And now I miss them! (This revelation is kind of a relief because I was feeling like a prude before.) I'll just have to remember to play the clean version when other people might be listening. And now, for your viewing (and dancing) pleasure, here's "Treasure." Check out that good-looking band again. Especially Mr. Trombone Man!


The Book of JoeThe Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A friend of mine recommended Jonathan Tropper to me. It wasn't until after I bought "The Book of Joe" that I realized she only rated this particular one with two stars. She didn't feel it lived up to his other work. Since I didn't have anything else to compare it to, I liked this book.

It's the story of Joe, who left his home town and became a famous author after writing a scathing fictional account of his childhood and teen years that pissed off the whole town. He then has to face everyone 17 years after he left town, after his father suffers a stroke. The story is pretty predictable, but I enjoyed it and enjoyed the writing. I look forward to reading more from Jonathan Tropper.

The ONE thing that really bothered me is that there were excerpts from Joe's "book" throughout the book, and although Joe's book was published as fiction, it seems that he used the townspeople's real names and then exaggerated their worst flaws. OF COURSE they were pissed off!

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