12.25.2015

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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12.22.2015

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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12.18.2015

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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12.05.2015

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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11.27.2015

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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11.16.2015

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.)


9.29.2015

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.

7.24.2015

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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6.27.2015

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.

6.07.2015

The LItigators by John Grisham

The LitigatorsThe Litigators by John Grisham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn't read John Grisham in a long, long time, but had this on my shelf and decided to give it a go.  I really enjoyed it.  There's a lot of humor in it that I don't recall from anything I'd read previously (The Firm, A Time to Kill, Runaway Jury, The Client, etc.).  Though it wasn't a quick-paced thriller, like the others, it was a fun read and I found that I still enjoy Grisham's writing.

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5.29.2015

Lose Yourself

I posted this on Facebook earlier today and have watched it 4 times now.  I love it.




I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before how much I love the musical, "Rent." One of my favorite performances--besides the first one we saw on Broadway with the original cast--was the one we saw at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA.  There were sign language interpreters, one male, one female, and they were just so mesmerizing and fluid and beautiful.  I'll always remember that, and this video of "Lose Yourself" reminded me of that performance.


5.28.2015

Tooting my own horn, a bit.

I was searching for something on my blog and came across this post I wrote in 2010.  It was fun to re-read and I must say, I'm kind of proud of it.

http://leisurepursuit.blogspot.com/2010/09/books-books-and-more-books.html

That was five years ago and not much has changed in my reading habits.  I just told my friend Kerri about Butterfly earlier today.  At the time I wrote the post, it had a 5-star rating with 97 reviews on Amazon.com.  Today it still has a 5-star rating with 210 reviews!  I need to read it again soon.

5.26.2015

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang

Fresh Off the Boat: A MemoirFresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I'd really give this a 2.5 stars if I could.

I enjoy the ABC TV show based on this book, and decided to read it after seeing Eddie Huang in an interview and hearing about his disdain for the show. He was likeable enough on TV, and I was curious.

He should stick to the TV interviews because in the book, he's not really likeable at all and he definitely has a huge chip on his shoulder. His writing and the organization of the memoir is choppy and disjointed. He goes back and forth between passages heavily laden with street slang (much of which I didn't understand but didn't necessarily mind), to some really thoughtful and philosophical writing about his observations on being a minority in America. I admired those moments, but they seemed out of place with the rest of the text. He should have picked one tone and stuck with it.

P.S. I'm not sure what Eddie Huang thought would happen when he sold the rights to his story to ABC, which is owned by Disney. Of course the show isn't the same as his book. He needed to hold out for HBO or Netflix if he wanted to see his true story reflected.


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5.20.2015

Marley (A World Premiere Musical)

On Saturday, my family and I headed to Center Stage in Baltimore to see Marley (A World Premiere Musical). It was so good. This was my 3rd time at the theater and they do such a nice job of setting the scene for the show. In this case, they transformed the lobby into a Jamaican village, complete with a sand floor. From the Center Stage website:
After surviving an assassination attempt in 1976, Marley left Jamaica for London, where he spent nearly two years in self-imposed exile. Chronicling the events surrounding this earth-shaking moment, Marley tells the story of a man transformed into one of the 20th Century’s most important cultural figures. Set in the soundscape of an era, this new musical weaves together the life and music of a man who, to heal himself, first healed his homeland.

5.17.2015

Mad Men Finale

This is a quick post.

Although I'm so sad to see Mad Men go, I was completely satisfied with tonight's finale.  Perfect, clever ending.  I wonder how anyone born after the 70s will react though. 


5.11.2015

It finally happened

Last weekend I saw Cinderella and While We're Young.  I really enjoyed both.  Both have been out for a while, and I saw them at odd times.  (Cinderella was on Friday at 11:30am, and While We're Young was at 10:30am on Saturday.) 

When I was waiting for Cinderella to start, I thought I might have the whole theater to myself, but nooooo...some guy came in right after the previews.  That always happens! 

BUT, on Saturday, I was alone in the theater, the previews ended, and no one came in.  After all this time, I saw a movie with the WHOLE theater to myself.  It's a little creepy, I admit, but it was also pretty cool.  And it was a good movie to boot!


4.29.2015

Give a girl a hint!

If I had known that Boris Kodjoe would eventually show up on Last Man on Earth, I would've kept watching.  I gave up after the 3rd episode or so because 1) it wasn't all that funny once the man was no longer alone and 2) even though I like her as a commentator on The Daily Show, Kristen Schaal is a lot to take--her voice is grating, and her character on the show was so annoying.  I couldn't take it.  But tonight, I'm watching New Girl on Fox, and see a commercial for Last Man on Earth, and I see this gorgeous face....



Yeah, I would've kept watching for that if someone told me what was up.

In other news, I saw this headline today: 

Revenge Cancelled by ABC

One word:  FINALLY.

4.21.2015

Quick catch up

One of my two loyal readers made note of the fact that I haven't posted anything since the Oscars and demanded, (demanded, I tell you!) that I post something new. This is for you -- you know who you are! ;o)

Okay let's see...what's going on?

Let's start with books--I'm way behind in my reading challenges, but I'm working on them.  I just finished and really enjoyed The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  It was a quick read that everyone keeps comparing to Gone Girl, but it was so much better.  I personally couldn't predict all the twists and turns, which always makes things fun.  

I'm currently reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  I'm only about 50 pages in, but so far, so good.

2.22.2015

My Oscar Predictions (and WINNERS)

Update (12:11am):  I voted the wrong way when it came down to Birdman vs. Boyhood.  Otherwise, I did pretty well, methinks.  A few quick thoughts:

1.  The show ran WAY too long.  It's after midnight here on the east coast.  Why didn't they start at 8pm instead of 8:30?

2.  NPH should stick to the Tonys.  That's his wheelhouse.  I'd like to see Ellen or Ricky Gervais host again.

3.  That being said, NPH's best joke was about Benedict Cumberbatch being what you hear when John Travolta introduces Ben Affleck.

4.  Apparently I'm in the minority over the Lady Gaga performance.  People on Twitter seemed to have loved it.  She sounded great, but I just didn't get why it happened in the first place.  Also, her gyrations made me uncomfortable, just as they did when she did the duet with Tony Bennett a couple weeks ago.

5.  Yay Common and John Legend - I was moved by how many in the audience were moved to tears by their performance of "Glory."

Alright...time for bed.   Let's do it again next year.
 ~~~
The Oscars are tonight!  I'm looking forward to this year's show, especially with Neil Patrick Harris hosting.  Here are my quick Oscar predictions of who I think should win, and who I think will win.  Let's see how it goes.  For what it's worth, I also italicized the movies that I just didn't have a chance to see.  I wanted to see Still Alice this weekend, but our 3-5 inches of predicted snow turned into 9-10 inches and I'm in the house for the weekend.

Ok, here we go:

1.22.2015

Oscars 2015 To-Do-List - Updated 2/11/15!

Hi folks!  Here's an update since my original post on Jan. 22.  Here's what I've knocked off from my list of movies to see:
  • American Sniper
  • Selma
  • Whiplash
  • Foxcatcher
  • Two Days, One Night
  • Still Alice
  • Inherent Vice
  • Nightcrawler
So, I've now seen all of the best picture nominees.  Honestly, the movie I liked the best, which literally left me saying "Wow," at the end was Whiplash.  After that, my next pick is The Theory of Everything.  I didn't really care for Birdman much, though the acting was fantastic.  Boyhood was excellent in concept and deserves all the awards for movie-making.  Selma and The Imitation Game were both good, interesting, and educational, but I didn't love them. And I also didn't care much for The Grand Budapest Hotel, although it is a gorgeous movie to look at with all the costumes, makeup, and rich colors.  So, my pick for Best Picture is Whiplash, but I don't think it will win.  I think with all the hype surrounding them, either American Sniper, Birdman, or Boyhood will get it.  I'll make a more definitive prediction closer to Oscar night.

Other thoughts at this time:  

  • The director for Whiplash should have been nominated over the director for Foxcatcher.  
  • All the nominees for Best Actor deserve the award.  I think it'll go to Michael Keaton though.
  • J.K. Simmons should definitely get the award for Best Supporting Actor.


Wow people. It's Oscar time AGAIN! Where does the time go? So, it's time to figure out what movies I need to see in my quest to see the Oscar nominees from the major categories. Here are the nominees, and I've bolded the movies I need to see by the Oscars ceremony on February 22:

BEST PICTURE
  • American Sniper
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
  • Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
  • Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
  • Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

BEST ACTOR
  • Steve Carell  (Foxcatcher)
  • Bradley Cooper  (American Sniper)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
  • Michael Keaton  (Birdman)
  • Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Robert Duvall  (The Judge)
  • Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
  • Edward Norton (Birdman)
  • Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
  • J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

BEST ACTRESS
  • Marion Cotillard  (Two Days, One Night)
  • Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
  • Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
  • Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
  • Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
  • Laura Dern (Wild)
  • Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
  • Emma Stone (Birdman)
  • Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • American Sniper (Jason Hall)
  • The Imitation Game (Graham Moore)
  • Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  • The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten)
  • Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • Birdman (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo)
  • Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
  • Foxcatcher (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness)
  • Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

This year's to-do list isn't too bad.  I need to see:
  • American Sniper
  • Selma
  • Whiplash
  • Foxcatcher
  • Two Days, One Night
  • Still Alice
  • Inherent Vice
  • Nightcrawler
I think all but "Two Days, One Night" and "Nightcrawler" are in the theaters near me.  I got this.  I'll start work on these this weekend. 


1.11.2015

Not-so-deep thoughts by Valerie

I'm watching the Golden Globes and what's on my mind this second is "The Affair"?! Really? Over "The Good Wife?" Over "Downton Abbey"? I don't think so.

Anyway, I'll carry on.

I did a double header today (with lunch in between)...and saw Big Eyes and then Into the Woods. I enjoyed both, but am confused as to why Big Eyes is in the "Comedy or Musical" category for the Golden Globes. (Into the Woods is where it belongs...) I laughed out loud once during that movie and it was in the last 15 minutes.

In other news, I watched the pilot episode of "Empire" and am intrigued. Some of the acting leaves a little to be desired, but I love Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. And the music has been great so far. If you don't know, the show is about a music mogul (Terrence) who's about to go public with his company when his ex-wife gets out of jail and comes back wanting to claim half. On top of that, Terrence has been diagnosed with ALS....no one else knows that, but he is looking for one of his three sons to take over the company. The main thing that bothered me about this show though, is that Terrence & Taraji are MY age and they're playing parents of kids who are well into their twenties. I'm having a hard time with that. I'm sure I'll get over it.

Watching George Clooney's speech now. Swoon. He's a fantastic human being.

1.04.2015

Year in review (bookwise)

Here's what I read in 2014.  Overall, it was a good reading year.