Friday, January 30, 2015


Last night was the series finale of the television show Parenthood. I haven't watched this final episode yet...part of me wanted to hold off because I'm sad that there won't be any more episodes but to be honest, part of me was just too tired to stay up. ;-)

If you've never watched Parenthood, you're missing out. The show follows  the lives of the Braverman family -- Zeke and Camille, their grown children Adam, Sarah, Crosby, and Julia, and various spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, and children. It's a show about messy lives, love, careers, illness, the joys of middle school and high school, about starting over, growing up, making mistakes, forgiving and being forgiven. And ultimately, it's about family. The joy and heartache and loyalty of family.

The Braverman's aren't everybody's family, that's for sure. Their loud and obnoxious at times, and I can't count the number of scenes with everyone talking (ok, yelling, let's be honest) at once. I once read a reviewer comment during the first or second season, that there's no problem in the Braverman world that can't be fixed with a meal and some physical activity. Snarky, but true, especially those first couple of seasons. And you know, they're fairly solidly upper middle class, so sometimes the stakes don't seem quite as high in certain situations. As with any show that's on more than a year or two, there are some missteps along the way -- a storyline that goes on to long, a drama that turns into melodrama. I may have wanted to smack every character at least once at some point -- but to me, that's good storytelling, and good acting. The Bravermans and their cohorts seem real and their emotions genuine. I've cried and laughed and cheered and rolled my eyes and yes, even yelled at the television a time or two.

The characters have also grown and evolved throughout the show -- and to me that's one of the highest praises one can bestow on a long story. These people are living life -- experiencing and winning and losing and growing and changing and adapting.

It's not been perfect, but I've enjoyed (almost) every minute. Grab a friend (because it's a show that is even better when shared) and get some good use out of your Netflix or Amazon Prime membership.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blast from the past

One of my all-time favorite fantasy series is The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. In the first book, The Thief, King Sounis's most powerful advisor releases a young thief from prison to help him find and steal a great treasure. Eugenides -- Gen -- is cocky, brash, whiny, surprisingly clever, a genuinely amazing thief, and much more than meets the eye. (confession: throughout this series, I may or may not have developed a wicked book-crush on Gen) Although the first book in the series starts out as simply Gen's story, what opens up is the story of a corner of the world, reminiscent of the Classical period. There are several countries in play, each with their own rulers, gods, political schemes, and agendas. The books are smart and intricate. Loyalty, love, ambition, duty, desire, sacrifice. There is intrigue and plot twists.

Bottom line: if you're in a reading slump or burnt out on "new" books...reach for this excellent series.

p.s. because I'm not feeling very verbose today, if you're interested but not convinced, here's a longer review of the series at The Book Smugglers. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five for Fairwil

1. Special Council of Life and Success

"Do you both want to be on, like, my Special Council of Life and Success? I just invented it right now. It can be for women to discuss ideas like binary thinking and work choices and getting out of ruts."

2. Prior Yates

"Everyone, everyone!" clapped Prior Yates. "Everyone have me!"
"What?" the bar called back, vaguely disturbed.
"Prior Yates for all!" clarified the star, who was pleased to see his offer to buy a round of himselves met with a bevy of back-pats.

3. Tuxedos, nice jerks, New Year's Eve, and a bell cart.

"Remember when we pushed the car that one time? The body spray?"
"Remember when we helped the nice jerks look for their keys?"
The tuxedo kid overheard him. "Are you calling us 'nice jerks'? No fooling? That's what we called you all night, after you told us to behave!"
Everyone awww'd

4. Family: the ones you pick and the ones you don't. All shapes, all sizes.

"You all come with. The true hearts of true companions! Silly friends for good-time having."
"Deus ex Sutton," clapped Monty. "There's a twist at the end of your movie, Suts. The lucky Redwoodian drink drip isn't just about sexy fun but friendship."
"Duh!" She gave warm hello hugs to all the citizens of Tight Town. "You didn't get that carmel teddy bear sprinkles plot point? Completely obvious. And don't call me Suts."

5. Fair + Gomery = 4 Ever

"Guys! Guys! Do you think we're permanently in the middle of our happy ending?"

And because I can't keep it to just five -- but it is a beautiful alliteration -- here's five more!

1. Bursting out of your own bubble and opening your arms wide.
2. Hotels, motels, and movie studios.
3. Swimming
4. Begnnings and endings
5. Sequins and staircases and buttons

So much love, y'all! Get a copy of Fairwil in March. Mysteries are explained, much is resolved, and the future remains bright and wide open for our friends in this corner of L.A.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I love airplane travel. I like that flying means I can visit family in Missouri after a two hour flight instead of a 16 hour car ride. I like that flying means more opportunity to visit far away places. And I really like airports. I like that they are distinct, yet exactly the same. I like people watching -- who are you? where are you going? why? are you excited to reach your destination? Airports are like little countries where time has stopped, a unique civilization with no permanent citizens. Perhaps an alternate dimension. Of course sometimes the best things about airplane travel become the most jarring. I can leave the Midwest where it's 11 degrees and sleeting outside, and find myself in North Carolina where it's a balmy 75 degrees. There's less time to process the change from one environment to another, and sometimes the arrival to your final destination is a bit like whiplash. I'm on vacation! BAM! Okay, back to the real world. No adjustment period. But ultimately, I wouldn't give it up (unless scientists invent transport devices ala Star Trek...then I'm all about that).

Here are a few books for when you're in the mood to travel the airways, or get stuck in an airport (descriptions from Goodreads);

Book of Blood and Shadow, by Robin Wasserman

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.  When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love.  When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark. 

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith

Four minutes changes everything. Hadley Sullivan 17 misses her flight at JFK airport, is late to her father's second wedding in London with never-met stepmother. Hadley meets the perfect boy. Oliver is British, sits in her row. A long night on the plane passes in a blink, but the two lose track in arrival chaos. Can fate bring them together again

Friday, January 16, 2015

Reading...Cemetery Girl

Cemetery Girl As I mentioned a few days ago, I picked up Cemetery Girl by David J. Bell as part of an online book discussion group I'm recently a part of. It was an interesting book (such an apt description from my friend Amanda), but not necessarily one I liked. 
Tom and Abby's  daughter Caitlin disappeared when she was 12 years old. Four years later, the two are attempting -- to varying degrees of success -- to come to grips with the reality that their daughter is lost forever. As is sadly very common, the stress of the trauma has taken its toll on Tom and Abby's relationship, and they finally decide to separate. Tom blames Abby for trying to move on with her life and for her belief that Caitlin is dead. He scorns her faith and church, from which she has found comfort. Abby resents Tom's condescension, and struggles against his mindset that is firmly stuck in Caitlin's disappearance, and his refusal to acknowledge any other reality than the one in which she is just one step away from returning. 
It's into this picture that 16 year-old Caitlin is picked up on the side of the road, days after a stripper told Tom she'd seen a girl who looked like Caitlin and a much older man in a strip club 6 months earlier. Tom and Abby are thrilled and shocked, and to make the situation even more odd to them, Caitlin refuses to talk about what happened or where she's been. And as they begin to try and put their life back together again, Tom becomes obsessed with finding out what happened, with finding someone to blame. Perhaps to the detriment of his newly reformed family.
And here's where my thoughts get a little warned...

Cemetery Girl  is basically the story of how a 12-year-old girl was kidnapped and manipulated by a gross pervert into a 4-year "relationship," and the aftermath of that situation. It's about obsession, Stockholm's syndrome, and family trauma. The writing itself was fairly unremarkable. The kind of writing that fades into the background, which can serve to help the story itself stand out. This can be a good thing, especially when you have a story so full of possibility as Cemetery Girl. Unfortunately, I just don't think the author delivered. I wanted a little more depth and nuance. There were a lot of things that just kind of fizzled in my mind, such as the background story of Tom and his dysfunctional relationship with his family.

The story was definitely told from Tom's perspective, and I do think the author does a good job of giving Tom a voice and a real presence. I think I missed getting a fuller view of the other characters who are all seen through his arrogant, self-absorbed eyes. We are in Tom's head to be sure, and as the story progresses he mentally unravels a little more each day. Tom himself just really pissed me off, primarily because he clearly need PROFESSIONAL help, and just refused to acknowledge that for himself OR for his daughter. I mean...some things are just not DIY. And for whatever her faults or the possibly (or not -- again, all Tom's perspective here) inappropriate relationship with Pastor Chris, at least Abby realized she needed some help to get through the mess and heartache. In the end, Tom's obsession with "finding out" almost backfires in a big way, and certainly leads him to act like a crazy person -- nearly jeopardizing the safety of his daughter in his search for "the truth." Of course, it all works out in the end, so he can continue to feel justified being an arrogant a**. On the up side, the Epilogue does provide a little hope for this broken family, and does show Caitlin getting much needed professional counseling. I'm usually okay with epilogues in books, although in this case it felt a little lazy. That said, the epilogue gives the reader closure on Caitlin's story, it let's us believe that Caitlin will be okay. And that part of the ending didn't belong to the bulk of the book because that story is all Tom's -- it's the obsessed, traumatized, grieving, angry parent's story.

Bottom line: Not great, but not terrible. If you need a book for a book club, and don't mind your books a little dark, this would certainly prompt discussion.

Monday, January 12, 2015

On Deck

So, right now I'm still reading the Fairwil arc, and while part of me wants to devour it whole, I'm kind of enjoying savoring this last installment of the Wilfair series right now. 

Queued up in Audible right now is Ruin and Rising, by Leigh Bardugo, another last-in-series book. Russian-flavored fantasy coming right up! A good winter time read.

An online book group that I've joined recently (as a not-super-active member...sorry, online friends!) is reading Cemetery Girl, by David Bell in January. I still need to pick up a copy at the library (you know...since January's about half over now), and hope that the book isn't too creepy or dark...hard to tell from the blurb (which reminds me...I'm about due for a ranty post on book blurbs and how most of them are utter crap).

And then the next book (okay, novella) staring at me and begging to be picked up is Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss. I'm curious to see if I'll fall in the love it or hate it camp. The hubby read it and liked it, despite it's distinct departure from the style and tone of Rothfuss's other books. 

And that's what I'm up to reading-wise! You know, that and multiple re-reads of The Little Blue Truck and Go, Dog, Go.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


This year...

May your goal-setting be without pressure

May you have days of joy and laughter

May you find comfort and strength when the days get hard

May you find space to breathe and be present

May you find energy for any adventure, challenge, or opportunity that comes your way

May you have plenty of conversations with friends, old and new

May you have good books to read, games to play, movies to watch, and music to listen to

May you have a season of rest if the past months have been tough ones. Because sometimes we all need a break.

May you have a season of work if you need one, because sometimes good things are hard.

May you have friends to share your journey.

"The Lord bless you and keep you. The lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26