Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Fave: Breathless on PBS Mystery - Masterpiece Theatre

Happy Friday!

My Friday Fave this week is Breathless on PBS Mystery (Masterpiece Theatre).  This is a three episode series set in 1961 London.  The central character a brilliant, charming surgeon in a gynecology ward (Jack Davenport from Smash).  He is in a loveless marriage with a beautiful wife, and he becomes interested in a mysterious new nurse at the hospital. 

Other characters include a vivacious nurse who marries a socially prominent doctor.  The nurse is played by Zoe Boyle ("Lavinia Swire" from Downton Abbey).  Another Downton Abbey actor (Iain Glen, who played Sir Richard Carlisle) is a brooding inspector.

So far the show is more about Mad Men era period detail and soap opera intrigue than mystery ... but it is a wonderfully entertaining program, and one I highly recommend.  The show airs Sunday evenings on PBS.

If you've seen Breathless, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance: Top 4


This week's So You Think You Can Dance was the penultimate episode.  The finale is next Wednesday night.

The show began with a beautiful group dance to "Wind Beneath My Wings" (Ryan Dan Travis) choreographed by Travis Wall.  The leaps and pairings in this number were just lovely.  (Photo above.)

Jesse Tyler Ferguson sat in as a judge.  He is one of my favorite SYTYCD judges.  I love the good natured humor he brings to his comments.

On this episode all the dancers partnered with each other, danced a solo, and danced with an All Star in their chosen dance genre.

Valerie and Ricky did a Sean Cheesman African jazz number to "Voices of Savannah" (D.J. Chus).  It had an animal theme and was a lot of fun.

Jessica and Zack performed a Broadway routine choreographed by Spencer Liff.  It was about an underground rendezvous spot, and it was danced to "Hernando's Hideaway" (Ella Fitzgerald).  I could really picture this number in a Broadway show.  Spencer Liff is one of my favorite show choreographers.

Valerie and Zack performed a contemporary dance choreographed by Tyce Diorio.  It was about a couple in love, and Valerie portrayed a blind woman.  The number was danced to "Pearls" (Sade) and it was really lovely.

Jessica and Ricky danced a Ray Leeper number to "F for You" (Disclosure with Mary J. Blige).  It was full of drama, but not one of my favorite numbers.

Jason Mraz performed his new song, "Love Someone."  I like it - really like his voice!  

Valerie and Jessica performed a Bollywood number by Nakul Dev Mahajan to "Ghagra" (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani).   I almost always enjoy the Bollywood numbers of SYTYCD, and this number was no exception.  The girls looked like they really enjoyed this dance.

Zack and Ricky performed a Phoenix and Pharside hip hop number about the king of diamonds and king of clubs to "The Antidote" (District 78).  It was hard hitting and athletic and I thought both dancers really did an amazing job working so far out of their genre.  

Valerie and Aaron performed a Broadway style tap number choreographed by Anthony Morigerato to "Love Me or Leave Me" (Sammy Davis, Jr.).  It was a show stopper!   This was another number that would be great in a Broadway show. 

Some clips of Ricky's first audition aired, and then Ricky danced an amazing solo to "Skin and Bones" (David J. Roch).

Ricky and Kathryn danced a Stacey Tookey contemporary number about a man who hit rock bottom and a woman who is an angel helping him.  It was performed to "Not About Angels" (Birdy).

Valerie's audition aired, and then she danced a tap solo to "Valerie" (Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse).

Zack and Aaron danced a Broadway tap number to "Piano Man" (Billy Joel).  This number was choreographed by Anthony Morigerato, and it was about a bartender and customer sharing stories.  The conversation actually took the form of tap.  What an incredible number!  

Jessica's audition played, and then she danced a solo to "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" (Juliet Sims).

Jessica and Robert danced a very moving contemporary number to "When I Go" (Over the Rhine).  It was choreographed by Travis Wall.

Zack closed the show with a tape of his audition and a tap routine to "Superstition" (Adam Rafferty).

I really enjoyed this show.  It was probably my favorite episode this season.  I thought the two tap duets (Valerie and Aaron, Zack and Aaron) were real standouts.  I also loved Ricky's solo.

I actually voted tonight - 10 times for Valerie and 10 times for Ricky.  I have to say I also like Zack a lot, and would not be unhappy if he won.

I think this will actually be a very close vote.  I usually watch the show with a group of friends and the four of us had four different opinions about who should win.

Did you enjoy the show this week?  What guy and what girl do you want to win?

Book Spotlight and Author Interview - What Counts Most is How You Finish by Shelia Payton

What Counts Most is How You Finish is a book of short essays that shares ideas for addressing life's challenges. The book (which uses experiences from the author's life and the lives of others) is written with two ideas in mind:
• Each person has to find his or her own way in life
• We can learn worthwhile things from each other

To make it easier to find an essay that can help the reader address life situations in real time, What Counts Most is How You Finish is divided into seven topic areas: Being You, Taking Care of You, Dealing with People, Overcoming Challenges, Staying Focused, Achieving Success and Making a Difference.

While the primary audience for What Counts Most is How You Finish is people between the ages of 16-25, the book has received positive feedback from many older than that who say it’s a good reminder for them.


Where to buy the book:

Xlibris Book Store



Author's Bio:

Shelia Payton is an entrepreneur, former newspaper reporter, corporate manager and educator who spent all of her early life and much of her career in a time when people of color and women in this country were pushing for greater inclusion at all levels of society, and seeking greater opportunities to live life to the fullest. Like others in her generation, Shelia had to face and overcome barriers to entering and succeeding in non-traditional jobs, and create a place in civic and leadership settings. Also like others in her generation, Shelia’s motivation has not just been about what she can accomplish for herself, but also how she can open up opportunities for future generations. Shelia’s current focus is on creating books, plays and music that build human connections by breaking down barriers and stereotypes.




I enjoyed interviewing Ms. Payton about this book:

What inspired you to write this book?



My oldest niece, Joi Michelle Payton, lived in another state. As she was growing up we didn’t have a lot of face time where I could take advantage of “teachable moments” to share some of my experiences in a way that was relevant to things she was experiencing or had questions about. This fact hit me when Joi turned 13. I decided to write about life lessons I’d learned and the situations that taught me those lessons. What started out as “Letters to My Niece” became a book after I showed some of the letters to others who had or worked with teens and young adults to get their feedback. They told me to expand my audience. I took their advice and also decided to include stories from other people’s lives in the book.



What did you most enjoy about writing this book?



The opportunity to share ideas about facing and overcoming life’s challenges. Life is not one big problem, but it’s not a smooth road either. This has always been true. But there are differences between growing up today and growing up when I was a teen and young adult: everything happens faster today, and there’s information overload that creates an environment in which multiple things are constantly vying for attention or a response. As a result it’s harder to find a quiet place to think, reflect and weigh the pros and cons before making decisions. While it’s true each person has to find his or her own way in life, it’s also true we all can learn worthwhile things from each other. By using real world examples, dividing the book into seven subject categories and making the essays short, my goal for What Counts Most is How You Finish is to provide a real time reference guide that can serve as that “quiet place” for readers as they make decisions and navigate toward a wonderful life.



Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured?



Although I don’t have a special time of day to write, late morning and early afternoon tend to work best for me. I have tried to set a specific time to write but, because I work part time and have other commitments, that is not always possible. What I do, however, is try to have quiet periods during the day to allow my brain to work on ideas in the background. During that time I might be doing something else that doesn’t require close attention—washing dishes, clothes, cooking, walking. These quiet times help me start writing immediately when I sit down at the computer because I’ve had a chance to think through ideas.



This sounds like a great, inspiring book for young adults.  What is one of your favorite tips or advice for young readers?



If I were to choose one tip it would be to set and write down goals for yourself, make a list of things you need to do to move toward your goals, do something each week (or better still each day) that moves you closer to your goals, and check off what you’ve done from your list so you can see the progress you’re making. This may sound complicated and time consuming, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. The investment of time made to set goals and list the steps needed to achieve them will help you successfully navigate life’s rough patches. How? By helping you keep your eye on the prize—what you want to accomplish. For example: when you have to make choices in life you can evaluate those choices in terms of whether they hurt, improve or have no effect on achieving your goals. This can help you avoid decisions that could derail your plans. When people put you down or try to discourage you, instead of letting their negativity bring you down you can look at your goals, decide what you need to do next to get where you want to be, and then focus your energy on doing that. Having goals and a plan for reaching them can keep you on track for living the type of life you want to. Put another way, having goals and plans for achieving them is like turning the corner when you’re lost on a dark road and seeing a light off in the distance. Like that light, your goals and plans can take you to a better place.



What is a tip from this book that would also be useful for older readers?



That no matter how old you are you can still grow and learn. Put another way, don’t stop living and learning until they stick you in the ground. Generally speaking, when you’re younger you see the world as interesting and a place to explore. As we get older there’s a tendency to set unnecessary limits—I can’t learn to play an instrument or paint or write or go back to school to become a teacher because I’m too old. If I were to pick two essays from the book that summarize this point they would be “There’s No Such Thing as Can’t” and “Pivot.” The first essay’s title is self-explanatory. The second essay uses three people’s lives to illustrate how anyone can change their life’s direction.



What books have influenced your life the most?



As a teen the Trixie Belden “girl detective” books showed me average girls could be smart and brave. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird introduced me to the power of storytelling based on real life. Langston Hughes’ poetry (in book form) focused a spotlight on beauty and cultural richness that had not been acknowledged in the past, and spoke truth to power. Michael Shaara’s book The Killer Angels showed me how to make history a lived experience. While it is not a book, Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun (whose title is taken from a line in a Langston Hughes poem) showed me the power of stories about everyday people who refuse to accept limits others try to put on their lives.



What are your hobbies and interests outside of writing?



I’m a sports fan and a culture vulture. I enjoy watching sports (especially basketball, football, tennis, track and field and gymnastics.) I downhill ski. I love the arts—theatre, music, dance, visual arts, books. And, I love to travel. Most times I pick a destination I haven’t been to before. I like learning about the area, its culture and history, trying new foods, and doing and seeing things I hadn’t experienced before.



What is your next writing project?



I have several in mind, but the most likely is a young adult fantasy book series in which the main characters’ lives are transformed by their experiences in another world and time. I also will likely start doing research on my next play—one that, again, is based on a moment in history.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Music Monday - "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" - The Four Freshmen (1960)

I heard "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" by The Four Freshmen on the radio over the weekend and found it charming.  This song was on the 1960 album First Affair.  The Four Freshmen were a vocal jazz group that had wonderful harmonies.  They have an old fashioned sound and remind me of some of the great Big Band era vocalists.  This song was originally recorded by Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey band, and there was even a Polka Dots and Moonbeams fabric pattern promoted to go along with the song.  I love everything about this song ... it sounds like something that would have played at a dance on Father Knows Best.  Can't you just picture Betty Anderson slow dancing with a prom date to this number?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance - Top 6

It's already the penultimate episode of the season.  How is that possible?  The summer has gone so fast!

The show opened with a hip hop number to "Hide" (N.A.S.A.).  It involved glow-rings, half-masks, and a lot of fast movement.  The choreographer was Nick Demoura.

Cat Deeley announced that the dancers would perform three numbers tonight:  one with a fellow contestant, one with an All-Star, and one solo. 

The guest judge this week was Christina Applegate ... always a great addition to the judging panel.

Ricky and Valerie danced a Broadway number choreographed by Spencer Liff.  The song was "I've Got the World on a String" (Frank Sinatra), and the dance involved a swing, with retro Broadway style costuming (flowing dress for Valerie).  It was fabulous -- and my favorite number of the night.

Jessica and Casey danced a disco number by Doriana Sanchez to "Dim All the Lights" (Donna Summer).  It was fast and fun with lots of lifts.  They did a great job.

Ricky performed a solo to "My Tears Are Becoming a Sea" (M83).

Zack and Jacque danced a foxtrot choreographed by Jean-Marc Generaux to "Anything Goes" (Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga).  It was not great - sort of a flat number without a lot of connection.

Jessica danced a solo to "I Was Here" (Beyonce).

Valerie and Twitch danced a wedding theme hip hop number choreographed by WilldaBeast.  The song was "Yeah" by Usher.  It was very sharp hip hop including some crumping.  I prefer lyrical hip hop (i.e. Tabitha and Napoleon), but thought Valerie did a good job.  (Twitch, of course, is a superstar!)

Casey danced a solo to "Lay Me Down" (Sam Smith).

Valerie danced a solo to "What I Like About You" (The Romantics).  (One of my favorite 1980's songs, which predisposes me to like the dance.)

Jacque and Will danced a Sean Cheesman contemporary number to "99 Red Balloons."  I really like Will, but was not a great fan of this number.  (I also prefer the original version of "99 Luftballoons.")

Zack danced a solo to "Butterfly" (Jason Mraz).

Jessica and Ade danced a Ray Leeper number about a club in Tokyo.  The song was "Boneless" (Steve Aoki, Chris Lake, and Tujamo).  Ray Leeper is not one of my favorite choreographers, and this dance was no exception for me ... it was very busy but didn't have a lot of substance.

Jacque danced a solo to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (The Andrews Sisters).  Good for her, doing a dance out of her usual classical ballet style.  I enjoyed it!

Ricky and Anya danced a foxtrot choreographed by Jean-Marc Generaux.  He remarked that the foxtrot is originally from Cuba, which interested Ricky (he is Cuban-American).  That is neat - I had no idea.  The song was "Dare (La La La)" by Shakira.  Ricky just excels in every style of dance.

Casey and McKenzie danced a contemporary number by Stacy Tookey.  The dance was about having just one day left with the person you love.  The song was "Over You" by Ingrid Michaelson.  I think this was one of Casey's best performances - well danced and very emotive.

Zack and Fik-Shun danced a hip hop number choreographed by Phillip Chbeeb.  It was inspired by an ink blot test and danced to "Sail" (Awolnation).  The choreography was very striking and unique.  

Finally it was time for the results.  Cat said that the following dancers were safe and will dance in the finale next week:

Jessica
Ricky
Valerie
Zack

This means that Casey and Jacque went home tonight.  I am a bit surprised that Zack made the final 4 over Casey, but I am glad he did.  It is great to have two tappers (Jessica and Zack) in the final 4.   

Next week the guest judge will be Jesse Tyler Ferguson (yay!) and the all-stars will be Robert, Kathryn and Aaron.  Jason Mraz will also sing.

This was a very dance-packed show.  I am happy with the final 4.  What do you think?

Wordless Wednesday: Abby Loves to Sleep on My Clothes


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Maybelline Kissing Potion: A 1970's Fave

Do you remember Maybelline Kissing Potion?   It was a roll-on shiny lip gloss from the 1970's.   The ad above (1975) features a young Kim Basinger.  The gloss originally included the following flavors:  Strawberry Swirl, Mighty Mint, Krazy Kola, Cherry Smash, Cinnamon Stick, and Fruit Flip. Later other flavors were added, like Candy Cane (pictured below).
I loved this lip gloss as a 1970's teen!  I recall it was sometimes a little gift in a Christmas stocking, or at birthday parties.  My favorite flavors were Mighty Mint, Candy Cane, and Cinnamon Stick.  It tasted sweet and it was very shiny.  I used this for a long time until one time a bottle of it leaked in my purse while I was at school.  That ended my love of Kissing Potion!  After that I moved on to Bonne Belle Lipsmackers.

If you enjoy retro topics like this, come join my 1950's - 1970's retro pop culture group on Facebook, Do You Remember (just click the link).  Do you remember Kissing Potion or Lipsmackers?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Music Monday - "Here It Comes Again" by The Fortunes (1965)

Happy Monday!  My Music Monday selection this week is "Here It Comes Again" by The Fortunes.  This British Invasion tune was a hit in 1965, and it features five singers and some great harmonies.  I found a neat old video of the song -- it is a bit grainy but fun to watch (and to listen to).  Enjoy!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Fave: All in the Family

My Friday Fave is an old tv show -- All in the Family.  I was too young to get this show when it originally ran, 1971 - 1979.  It is airing this summer on Antenna-TV  and I am really enjoying catching up and watching it from the beginning.  

The show is about the Bunker family in Queens, New York.  Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) is a World War II veteran who is a working class guy with a lot of very traditional (and often bigoted) opinions.  His wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) is kind and long suffering.  She comes across as naive, but often offers homespun wisdom.  They have one grown child, Gloria (Sally Struthers), who combines her mother's good nature and her father's stubbornness.  Gloria is married to Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner), who is a politically liberal grad student.  They all live together in the same house, and Archie and Mike find much to disagree about.  It is a thought provoking show, and a very funny one.   I can't believe I've never seen it before!

If you like All the Family, I would love to hear your thoughts on the characters, favorite episodes, etc. in the comments section.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance: Top 8

This was Michael Jackson week on So You Think You Can Dance.  There was some great music showcased, and it was a lot of fun.  The Top 8 also became the Top 6, and that was not as much fun.  But more on that later!

The show opened with the Top 8 performing a futuristic dance choreographed by Travis Payne to "A Place With No Name."

The judges were introduced, and this week Jenna Dewan Tatum sat in with Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe.  Jenna's critiques are not as detailed as some of the other judges, but she is pleasant and thoughtful, and what she says is always constructive.

Tanisha danced a solo to "Warrior" by Havana Brown.

Ricky and Jaimie danced a Travis Wall number about best friends.  It was beautiful, and Ricky was, as always, superb.  The song was danced to Michael Jackson's "Smile."  (All the pairs performances were danced to Michael Jackson songs.)  Ricky learned he was safe, and he will dance with Anya next week.

Valerie and Ryan danced a samba battle choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereux.  It was danced to "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'."  It had a nice energy, but Valerie's movements were not as sharp and crisp as one might wish.  Valerie found out that she was safe, and will be dancing with Twitch next week.

Casey performed a solo to "Outre" by M83.  This was followed by Rudy's solo to "Warrior" by Drehz.

Casey and Comfort performed a hip hop routine choreographed by Pharside and Phoenix.  The number, set to "Xscape," was about a spider (Comfort) who had the kiss of death.  It was danced against a giant spiderweb.  Nigel said that Casey is growing as a dancer - and I agree.  Casey learned he was in the bottom 2 guys.  I was surprised to see him in the bottom 2.

Jacque danced a solo to "Nocturne in C Sharp Minor" by Lento (Lazic and Wispelwey).

Tanisha and Nick danced a Stacey Tookey number about love lost and regrets to "She's Out of My Life."  It was a lovely number.  The judges praised Tanisha's strong core but Nigel said she needs to show more vulnerability.  Tanisha learned that she is in the bottom 2 girls.

Jessica danced a solo to "Taking Chances" by Celine Dion.

Rudy and Allison danced a Ray Leeper number to "Dirty Diana."  Allison stole the show!  Rudy learned he was in the bottom 2 guys.

Valerie did a solo to "Dance With Me Tonight" by Olly Murs.

Zack and Makenzie did a Spencer Liff choreographed Broadway number about a new girl in town. (They are pictured in the photo above.)  It was danced to "The Way You Make Me Feel."  The costuming was retro, with a 1940's look, and the dance was reminiscent of old time Broadway.  I loved it, and have to say that Zack is becoming my favorite dancer who is not Ricky in this competition.  Broadway is a good genre for him.  Zack learned he was safe and will dance with Fik-shun next week.

Ricky danced a solo to "Haegt, Kemur Ljosio" (Olafur Arnalds).  There is such an ease to his dance!

Jacque and Twitch danced a Dave Scott hip hop number to "Slave to the Rhythm."  The stage was littered with trash and a street setting;  it was distracting and drab.  One of my friends commented that Jacque looks a lot like Lea Michelle, and I agree.  (I had not noticed that before.)  Jacque learned that she was in the bottom 2.

Jessica and Will danced a Mandy Moore number and earth and mankind to "Earth Song."  The judges praised her growth.  While I think she is a good dancer, the judges are much more enthusiastic about her than I am.  Jessica learned she was safe and will be dancing next week with Ade.

Tanisha and Rudy learned they will be going home.  I was really shocked that Tanisha is leaving, as she has seemed like the most consistent of the girls, and she is very versatile.

Casey learned he will dance with Makenzie next week, and Jacque learned she will dance with Will.  Next week Christina Applegate will be returning as a judge.

What did you think of last night's show?  Were you surprised who went home?  I would love to read your thoughts in the comments section, below.

Book Review and Giveaway: The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

 
The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani is the third book in the Valentine trilogy.  This book tells the story of Valentine Roncalli, a 36 year old shoemaker working in her family business, and Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner from Italy.  The book begins with their engagement and announcement to her family at Christmas time.  It continues with their wedding and marriage.   Valentine wants to continue running her family business in New York, while Gianluca wants to move back to Italy.  Valentine also wants to become a first-time mother, while Gianluca has a grown daughter.  The book is a lovely exploration of how they work to merge their dreams and lives together.  When tragedy strikes, Valentine reevaluates what really matters.

A line that really stuck with me in this book -- and I think a big part of the book's message -- is Valentine's description of a sign in her childhood teacher's office.  Sister Theresa's sign read: "Everything is a grace" (p. 89).

Valentine's large and colorful family is featured in this book, and I loved all the scenes where they appeared.  The interplay between characters was a pleasure to read.

The characterizations were well drawn and the dialogue moved quickly.  There were some great lines, like Gabriel's "Women end up two ways by the age of seventy.  If you're thin, you wind up looking like Granny Clampitt from The Beverly Hillbillies, and if you're heavyset, you end up like Aunt Bee on Mayberry"  (p. 28).

Adriana Trigiani excels at description.  As a foodie, I loved some of her food descriptions in the book, like the list of homemade cookies at Valentine's family home in the Christmas engagement announcement scene.

I have not read the first two books in the Valentine series, although I loved the Big Stone Gap series and especially loved The Shoemaker's Wife. (I have recommended that book many times over to friends.)  This book worked fine for me as a standalone book.  There was plenty of back story on the characters.  (I will admit that I now want to read the first two Valentine novels as well!)

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to other readers.


About the author:

Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. Her books include the New York Times bestseller The Shoemaker's Wife; the Big Stone Gap series; Very Valentine; Brava, Valentine; Lucia, Lucia; and the bestselling memoir Don't Sing at the Table, as well as the young adult novels Viola in Reel Life and Viola in the Spotlight. She wrote the screenplay for Big Stone Gap, which she also directed. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.



Connect with Adriana here: adrianatrigiani.com
Twitter: @adrianatrigiani
Facebook: facebook.com/adrianatrigiani
 
I received a copy of this book from Italy Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. 
The publisher has generously offered an autographed copy of The Supreme Macaroni Company to one lucky reader.  Entry is easy with the Rafflecopter form, below.  The winner will be randomly drawn on Friday, August 22, notified and requested to send their mailing address within 2 days.  The publisher will then send a copy of the book to the winner. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What Makes a Good Book Discussion Group?

I've been in several book discussion groups over the years, both locally and online.  I've enjoyed all of them.   In early 2013 I started an online book discussion group called Curl Up and Read.   We've enjoyed discussing books and growing as a group.

Our group is friendly and casual.  We have chosen (by vote) upcoming themes.  Each month members nominate a book for the upcoming theme.  We then vote in an online poll.  The person who nominated the book leads the discussion.  

I asked group members for some input about book discussion groups.  They gave some great answers, and (with their permission) I am sharing them here.

What do you enjoy about being part of an online book discussion group?

"I like the camaraderie, the book recommendations, the discussions and the structure." (Gayla)
  
 "Hearing other people's perspectives of the books we read. I often learn about something I missed or hear an insight that makes me appreciate the book more." (Arlene)

"Several things. One is being able to talk to people about the book. For me, reading is half of the enjoyment and talking about a book I just read is the other half. A number of my friends are readers also, but we seldom read the same type of books or read the same book at the same time. I enjoy hearing what others think and in return expressing my ideas, and getting feedback from others about my ideas.   A second reason is that I hear about books and authors that I am unfamiliar with. " (Fred)

"I'm a librarian in a public library, so my primary reason for joining online book groups was the exposure to lots of books, reviews and recommendations. I can only personally read about 4 books a month, if that, so this is a way for me to become familiar with books that I haven't necessarily read, and that helps me help patrons find books that fit their interests. Being a good reader's advisor doesn't mean that I have read a lot of books, but it does mean that I have read ABOUT a lot of books." (Laurel)

"I love it when there’s a lively discussion either about the book or some aspect of the book. I am also curious to see if other people respond to the book the same way I did, and if not, why not." (Pam)

I especially enjoy talking about books.  I was an English major and of course I loved literature classes.   A book discussion group provides some of the lively dialogue that I found in college.  I also love learning about new books!  (my response)

What types of books do you most enjoy discussing?


"I am getting better at reading all forms of book except for Dystopian and Horror Novels. Also not crazy as a rule of non-fiction unless it is an interesting biography of a person." (Gayla)

"Apart from books that are specific to a group like my Dickens group, I like a variety, and I like to discuss lesser known books, often indies, because those are the gems we are all less likely to find on our own." (Arlene)

"Fiction, non-fiction (usually science or essays on a variety of topics), mysteries, SF/F, poetry." (Fred)

"Books that I've actually read! Ha ha. My interests are pretty wide, but in particular I like 'literary' fiction, classics, historical fiction, and mysteries. I usually have some book challenges that I have set for myself each year and I am in a face-to-face bookclub that reads things that are outside of my usual comfort zone. This summer, for instance, I am reading as many titles as I can that fit The [fill-in-the-blank] Wife. Just finished The Crane Wife and am now reading The Anatomist's Wife." (Laurel) 

"I think probably mysteries. They’re usually ‘safe’, meaning they don’t contain content that might offend some group members. But a good one is always fun to read, and will generate interesting discussions on which clues different readers picked up on and why. I personally love science fiction, but I think I would need to be in a group of other people who also love it to have a fun discussion." (Pam)

I like discussing a wide variety of books, but especially classics, mysteries, historical fiction, children's fiction (especially classics/vintage), and literary fiction.  (my response)

What are a few books that you consider ideal for book group discussions?


"We Are All Called to Rise by Laura McBride, The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood, Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Dodd, The Blessings by Elisa Jurka, just for some suggestions."  (Gayla)

"From my most recent reading, Time Shifters by Shanna Lauffey is a good choice because there is an interesting writing style and it deals with time travel which is a popular interest, plus she's one of those indie authors I referred to in the second question and a lot of people may not know about this series.

Also some of the spin-offs from Classics like Jack Dawkins by Charlton Daines which I suggested in a group recently. These can be compared to the source material and assessed for literary quality.

I tend to like genre fiction, especially Fantasy and science fiction which isn't to everyone's taste, but I've found some really good ones over time that fans of these genres would enjoy."  (Arlene)


"That's hard to say. I frequently am wrong when I try to predict how a particular book will go over in the group. But, I will list some of my favorite authors, anyway:
Jane Austen--novels
Lawrence Durrell--novels
Hawthorne, Poe, Melville--novels and short stories
Kim Stanley Robinson--novels, SF
Gene Wolfe--novels, SF
Ray Bradbury, Ted Sturgeon,--short stories, SF
Loren Eiseley--essays, science and personal issues? (I have a number of posts by him on my blog)
Konrad Lorenz--essays
Russell Hoban--Riddley Walker and other works
Ingrid Black--mysteries
Batya Gur--mysteries
Eliot Pattison--mysteries"  (Fred)


"The books that most lend themselves to discussions tend to be books with multiple layers/ themes/ or even flaws. These tend to NOT be books that I have rated the highest. Books that deal with ethical issues are always good, like many of Jodi Picoult's books. They might have something that invites people to talk about their own experiences. You want to get different points of view in a discussion. Not everyone has to LIKE the book. A few titles that had good discussions in my face-to-face group: 
The Room by Emma Donoghue

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee"  (Laurel)

"Our group recently discussed The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) and it got a lot of people interested in participating. I would personally love to discuss Cloud Atlas because I not only enjoyed the story, I was very impressed with the structure of the book and the overall premise." (Pam)

"On a basic level, I always ask that nominated books be in print and available in a number of formats (print, Kindle, used books,  readily available at libraries).  I have particularly enjoyed book group discussions of The Great Gatsby and The Cuckoo's Calling (Robert Galbraith).  Those books stimulated a lot of talk and ideas, and we had a high percentage of group members participating.    I have really enjoyed several books we've read.  A few that come to mind:  The Mercy of Thin Air (Ronlyn Domingue), A Redbird Christmas (Fannie Flagg), and Maisie Dobbs  (Jacqueline Winspear)."  (my response)

Are you a member of a book discussion group?  What do you most enjoy about your reading group - types of books, specific reads, etc.?  I would love to hear from you in the comments, below.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Positively 4th Street by David Hajdu - Book Review and Discussion Questions

Last weekend I enjoyed re-reading Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina.  Author David Hajdu takes readers back to the 1960's Greenwich Village folk scene, where these rising folk singers met, sang, wrote, fought, fell in love, and lived.

My online book group, Curl Up and Read, is discussing Positively 4th Street this week.  I read the book when it first came out, and enjoyed experiencing it again.  I love books that take the reader to another time and place, as this nonfiction book does.

Readers will meet sisters Joan and Mimi Baez.  They developed an interest in folk music early and often sang together as young girls.  Joan, who was older, made a splash in the early folk music scene with her beautiful, soaring voice.  Mimi, who was younger, was a very pretty girl with a strong presence;  several of Joan's boyfriends fell in love with her.  Joan met the younger "vagabond" Bob Dylan, and they developed a complex romantic relationship that lasted, off and on, for several years.  Dylan is not portrayed very sympathetically in this book.  He is seen as a brilliant writer but a difficult personality.  

Mimi fell in love with the older, rakish singer/writer Richard Farina.  They met when she was only 16 years old.  He was married at the time to singer Carolyn Hester, although their relationship was quickly unraveling.  Mimi and Richard married two years later.   They worked together to become a folk duo.  (Photo of the Farinas from the book, above.)

As Joan Baez got more involved in the peace movement, Bob Dylan became interested in growing as a musician and becoming a rock singer.  His first live electric set was met with boos during the Newport Folk Festival of 1965.

Richard Farina, former college roommate of Thomas Pynchon, wrote a novel that would become a contemporary classic, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.  Mimi worked very much as a helpmate to him and she also focused on their music career, mastering several instruments.  Richard died tragically on Mimi's 21st birthday, when he was killed driving a friend's motorcycle.

We bring our own experiences to some books more than others.  This is one of those books for me.  I was born in the 1960's and as a little girl experienced folk music just as something my father sometimes listened to.  I really only sought out folk music in the early 2000's, after I originally read this book.  I love Joan's voice, Dylan's songwriting, and especially love the beautiful sound of Richard and Mimi's voices blending together.

I have always loved Joan Baez's beautiful song about her relationship with Bob Dylan, "Diamonds and Rust."   Some time ago, I dated a man who was a sort of Dylan type and I know that this made me a bit impatient with Bob Dylan as we meet him in this book.

I have recommended this book to many friends, and I would love to hear from you in the comments (below) if you read it.

In researching this book, I found some interesting videos that I think you might enjoy as well.  This longer video (9 minutes) features Bob Dylan and Joan Baez singing at the March on Washington, 1963.




Richard and Mimi Farina perform "Bold Marauder" on Rainbow Quest hosted by Pete Seeger.  This was originally broadcast on February 26, 1966 about two months before Richard's tragic death.


 
Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust," with lyrics and photos of her life with Bob Dylan.


I was not able to find discussion questions for the book online, so I made a list of 10 questions for our book group.  I am sharing them here, in case you are interested in a group discussion of this book as well.

1. What do you think of the title of this book?  Do you think the song "Positively 4th Street" (lyrics here) suited the book?

2. How familiar were you with folk music and Baez, Dylan, and the Farinas before reading this book?   Will you seek out more of their music now?

3. Which singer stands out most for you?  Which is most sympathetic?

4. What was your opinion of the characters?  Did your opinion change during your read?

5. David Kelly wrote in The New York Times (1/6/10):  "You know the story:  Bob uses the enormously popular Joan so he can enhance his career prospects, while Joan uses the enormously gifted Bob so she can sing songs that weren't written by Public Domain;  Richard uses Mimi and her family connections so he can become a folk star, while Mimi uses Richard so she can escape her family connections."  Do you agree with this conjecture?  Why or why not?

6. Why did Bob Dylan and Richard Farina both fancifully reinvent themselves, with elaborate stories about their histories?

7. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performed at the 1963 rally for freedom march in Washington, D.C.  Hajdu writes, "Were they taking advantage of the movement?  Or was the movement taking advantage of them?" (p. 183).  What do you think?

8. In 1965 Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Fest.  Why do you think he moved away from the folk music movement?  And why did he choose the folk fest as a venue to unveil his new sound?

9. If Richard Farina had lived, what do you think would have happened with his career, and with his relationship with Mimi?

10. Would you recommend this book to a friend?  Why or why not?

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Unplugged Weekend

Last week just seemed endless.  I ended up working long hours and spending way too much time online.  By Friday night, I wanted a break . . . and so I took one.  I unplugged from the Internet for the weekend (computer, phone, and iPad).   I thought this would be difficult, but it wasn't.  It felt great!

During my time offline, I went yard saling, had lunch with a friend, re-read Positively 4th Street (David Hajdu), spent time reading The Supreme Macaroni Company (Adriana Trigiani), watched a great old movie, Cactus Flower (Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn), went antiquing with a friend, cooked, listened to music, watched an episode of Columbo, walked my dogs, wrote poetry, got up on a ladder to find a book of Pablo Neruda poetry, and generally enjoyed living the way I did 20 years or so ago . . . pre-Internet.

I was eager to read emails and Facebook updates from friends this morning, so I missed the immediacy of keeping in touch.  I also missed Google!   I have a beautiful 1950's set of Childcraft encyclopedias here -- not quite the same thing, unless you want to read about the life cycle of bees.

That said, I loved the way that being unplugged forced me to do some different things.  This is something I will do again.  (And I want to find new ways to spend less time online outside of work hours.)

I wanted to share a few antiquing photos with you.  We went to Broad Street Antique Mall in Chamblee.  This is my favorite antique shop in Atlanta.  It is huge!
 I love this hand beaded basket.  It is just amazing!
Look at all this fun vintage dollhouse furniture.  The detailing on these is wonderful.  They look like Renwal.  (Renwal dollhouse furniture has more detail than the more popular Marx, with little doors and drawers that open, etc.).
Exactly my kind of Christmas tree!  So pretty.  This is a vintage tree, and I love the glass ornaments.
This was my favorite item at the mall.  It's an older wood/paste board dollhouse.  I would date it as 1940's (pre-1950's, when dollhouses were tin litho). 
A 1940's Hershey bar dispenser!

New to me -- Frosty Caboose, with icy treats.  We had Raspberry Sorbet, and it was delicious!
So ... how about you?  Have you tried unplugging from the Internet?  If so, what was your experience?  I would love to hear from you in the comments section, below.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Fave: Vintage Road Maps

My Friday Fave this week is vintage road maps.  I love vintage road maps!  I haven't had them in my shop in a long time, but yesterday I spent a little time scanning and researching these old maps.  I had forgotten how much I enjoy them.  The Florida map, above, is from 1966, and it looks so much like road maps that I remember from Florida vacations during my early childhood.   I loved to look at maps on road trips.   I love the picture of the old Sinclair gas station from the front of this map, too.  And the Sinclair dinosaur is pictured as well!
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This road map is from Atlanta.  It was given by DeKalb County Federal Savings and Loan in 1962.  The bank pictured is at 116 Clairemont Avenue, Decatur.   I love anything vintage Atlanta, so I researched this location.  I believe it is about where the Courtyard by Marriot (was Holiday Inn) is located in Decatur.  Pretty neat!

I hope to find more maps soon ... they are such a pleasure to work with and they bring back a lot of fun memories, too.  You'll find these maps at Birdhouse Books:  vintage road maps at Birdhouse Books.