Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wordsmithonia Radio: Christmas Music


Most of you know I'm a huge Christmas fanatic.  I'm one of those that will listen to Christmas music in the middle of the summer, especially in the car.  It seems to trick my brain into thinking it's not so damn hot outside.

But just because I love Christmas music, doesn't mean I love it all.  I'm actually pretty damn picky.  I tend to only like one or two versions of a particular song.  So, from now til Christmas, I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.






Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge


I know I'm late signing up, the challenge started yesterday, but better late than never.  This is the fifth year my good friend Michelle has done this challenge on her Christmas blog, The Christmas Spirit.  You guys know I'm a sucker for Christmas, and I've participated in this every year, except for last year when I disappeared.  

I'll be doing the Mistletoe level, 2-4 books.  I'll also be doing the Fa La La La Films challenge.  I have no shortage of Christmas movies to watch.

If you guys are interested in the details, here they are from Michelle's announcement post: 

Like last year, there are multiple levels for participation, like children's books and watching Christmas movies AND theChristmas Spirit Read-a-Thon is back again this year. Keep reading for details!
Details and sign up:
  • challenge will run from Monday, November 24, 2014 through Tuesday, January 6, 2014 (Twelfth Night or Epiphany).
  • cross over with other challenges is totally permitted AND encouraged!
  • These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, and for the first time...a children's Christmas books level!
  • Levels:
            --Candy Cane:  read 1 book
            --Mistletoe:  read 2-4 books
            --Christmas Tree:  read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level...LOL!)
          Additional levels:
            --Fa La La La Films:  watch a bunch or a few Christmas movies...it's up to you!
            --Visions of Sugar Plums:  read books with your children this season and share what you read
          *the additional levels are optional, you still must complete one of the main reading levels above

  • the most important rule?  Have fun!!!
  • I will have a review linky posted as a page the day the challenge starts.  You will find it at the top of the right sidebar.
  • Sign up in the linky below (link to your post with your reading list...you can change up your list during the challenge...I just want to be able to stop by to welcome you and see what you plan to read).
One final note:  The giveaway this year will be a first prize of a $10 digital Amazon gift card and a second prize of a $5 digital Amazon gift card. This giveaway is open internationally.
I hope you will join me!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead - 1991


Synopsis From Back Cover:

It's a summer full of unexpected fun and foul play when mom takes a trip to Australia leaving Sue Ellen and the kids behind.  What they didn't expect was the babysitter mom left to take care of them - an elderly tyrant who's ready to make their lives miserable - until she keels over dead on the first night.  Now the kids figure they can have the summer of their dreams, only they don't have any money for the basics - like movies, dates and pizza.  It's up to Sue Ellen to find a job, but to make it in the adult world she has to fake it from the top her resume to the tip of her nail polish.  If she succeeds, Sue Ellen and the kids are going to have a summer they'll never forget... so long as they don't tell mom the babysitter's dead. 

This is the one movie that has me laughing out loud, and staring at Christina Applegate's eyebrows.  If you have seen this movie, you know what I'm talking about.  Those eyebrows are there, front and center, and they are sure proud of themselves. They almost become a character in and of themselves.  But I'm digressing here, this post is about the movie, not the eyebrows.

I actually adore this movie, the huge gaps in logic included.  Let's not even go into the moral implications of dumping the dead body of an elderly woman at a funeral home, or the idea of a mother leaving her give children with a complete stranger for an entire summer.  I really don't want to even think how a teenager with no work history, can fool an entire company into thinking she is a college educated adult, with both talent and experience.  It's a movie with a ton of story line issues, but it's one that I love all the same.

In the end, it's a movie about a family coming together, overcoming obstacles, and finding mutual respect and love.  In the beginning, the kids aren't all that close, they have different agendas, and don't seem all that intent on spending time with each other.  By the end of the movie, they are pitching in to help each other, turning their lives around, and dong what's best for them as a whole.

Of course it's a little hard for me to not love a movie with Joanna Cassidy.  I absolutely love her, and never understood why didn't become a bigger star.  It also has a young Josh Charles, pre The Good Wife.  He's not as hot then as he is now, but he's still adorable as Sue Ellen's love interest.  Which I guess is a good way to describe the movie, adorable.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In Her Kitchen by Gabriele Galimberti


Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

On the eve of a photography trip around the world, Gabriele Galimberti sat down to dinner with his grandmother Marisa.  As she had done so many times before, she prepared his favorite ravioli - a gesture of love and an expression of the traditions by which he had come to know her as a child.  The care with which she prepared this meal, and the evident pride she took in her dish, led Gabriele to seek out grandmothers and their signature dishes in the sixty countries he visited.  The kitchens he photographed illustrate both the diversity of world cuisine and the universal nature of a dish served up with generosity and love.  At each woman's table, Gabriele became a curious and hungry grandson, exploring new ingredients and gathering stories.  These vibrant and intimate profiles and photographs pay homage to grandmothers and their cooking everywhere.  From a Swedish housewife and her homemade lox and vegetables to a Zambian villager and her Roasted Spiced Chicken, this collection features a global palate: included are hand-stuffed empanadas from Argentina, twice-fried pork and vegetables from China, slow-roasted ratatouille from France, and a decadent toffee trifle from the United States.  Taken together or bite by bite, In Her Kitchen taps into our collective affection for these cherished family members and the ways they return that affection.

I have an obsessive need to collect cook books, the more varied they are, the better. And when the break the normal mode, go beyond the role of a normal cookbook, I love them even more.  In Her Kitchen mixes food, family history, and gorgeous photography.

When I first cracked open the cover, like I do with every other cookbook I get, I read it cover to cover.  I took in the small little snippets of these grandmother's lives, and I enjoyed reading the love behind the food.   The pictures are stunning, simple in their construction, they are impactful and profound.

Of the food itself, I would love about half of it, be willing to try quite a bit more, and I would run away from one or two of them as fast as my feet would carry me.  I'm intrigued by the Tuscan wild boar stew from Italy.  I know I would love the Khinkali, a pork and beef dumpling from Georgia.  The Spanako-Tiropita, a spinach and cheese pie from Greece looks down right yummy.   Golabki z Ryzem i Miesem, a cabbage with rice and meat roll from Poland is a dish that I'm used to, but this one is a bit different.

I'm not sure I would love the Honduran iguana, but if I didn't know what it was, I may be willing to try it.  The one dish, even I would not be willing to try, is Finkubala.  It's a dish from Malawi, it's a pretty simple one actually, only 5 ingredients.  The problem for me is that the main ingredient is 4 1/2 pounds of dried caterpillars.  Actually they are more like maggots.  They are sauteed with onion and tomatoes, and the picture is enough to have me running for the hills.

I'm really looking forward to try a few of these out, when I do, I promise that pictures will be forthcoming.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Ianto Jones


If there is a theme going on this month, it appears to be scifi characters, which is odd since I don't enjoy scifi all that much.  I think the fact that the first two characters this month, Steve Jinks and Ianto Jones. are gay or bisexual, happens to be more of a coincidence than anything else.  I think what the two of them really have in common is that while they aren't the main characters of the shows they were in, they tend to act as the heart of the show.  They are the truly good guys, the ones that can be counted on to be there when they are needed, in any capacity.


When we first met Ianto, he was the quiet guy in the shadows of Torchwood.  He was the public face, and the guy who brought the tea, but that's about it.  After a while his presence starts to push further and further into the forefront.  He is there when he is needed, and in any capacity that he is required to fulfill.  The fact that he has a huge secret, involving an ex-girlfriend, comes out later.  And even though Ianto made a huge mistake in that regard, he is quickly forgiven, and sets out to prove himself all over again.  But even in that mistake, his reasoning and his emotions make him all that much more relatable, identifiably human.

As the show progresses, so does his involvement in the field, and the danger he is placed in.  The other development, the one I did not see coming, was his growing relationship with Captain Jack Harkness.  At first, it appears to be more about the sex, as far as Jack is concerned anyway.  I think Ianto had his heart in in from the beginning, he just doesn't seem to be that much of a casual relationship kind of guy.  But over the course of their relationship, I think it got to be more about love on both of their parts.  You could see the emotions in the way they talked, interacted, and touched each other. And I know by the end, when Ianto is killed, that Jack really did love him, even if he never said it.  

Watching their relationship grow, was akin to watching Ianto's role in Torchwood grown.  It seemed that as his relationship with Jack solidified and grew more certain, that his confidence grew as well.  He became more assertive, and more willing to put himself out their, not just for the team, but for his own benefit as well.  He was a fascinating character to watch, and one that was killed off to soon.  I'm not ashamed to admit it, but when he died, I felt real emotion, and some of my love for the show died with him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Auntie Mame - 1958


When Patrick Dennis's father has a heart attack at his club, a day after writing his will, Patrick is shipped off to New York to live with his Auntie Mame.  To say Mame Dennis is eccentric is an understatement.  She lives life to the fullest and is bound and determined to make sure young Patrick does the same.  When her definition of living gets in the way of the trustee of Patrick's estate, all bets are off, and good times will be had by all.

I can't tell you how many times I have seen this movie.  I know that it's at least twenty, and I'm pretty sure I'll watch it at least twenty times more.  I was in high school the first time I saw it.  I happened to be flipping through the stations, and for whatever reason I landed on A&E.  Believe it or not, A&E used to be a channel that played movies, before it became just another source of "reality" TV.  Regardless of how I first came across it, I was in love within a few minutes.  I could not take my eyes of the over-the-top greatness that was Rosalind Russel as Auntie Mame.

Here is a character that lives life to the fullest, doesn't care what others think of her, and has the biggest heart of anyone I've seen on the big screen.  She takes to little Patrick like a duck to water.  She brings him into her home, and tries to instill in him all the values she holds dear to her own heart; a caring heart, an open mind, a curious nature, and a love for life.  They get into a lot of little adventures, including naked education, and they enjoy every little moment of it.

It's not all fun and games though.  Patrick's trustee forces him into a boarding school, and Mame loses all her money in the stock market crash.  Mame is forced back to work, first in a disastrous return to the stage with her best friend, Vera Charles.  I can't hear a bell ring and not think of that scene.  She goes through various other jobs before ending up at the roller skate counter at Macy's, during a rather bleak, broke Christmas.

But that Christmas starts a turning point in there lives.  Mame meets a new man, travels the world, and Patrick grows up and meets a girl of his own. I don't want to go into every plot point and twist, but there are laughs, tears, and a whole lot of fun to be had by all.  Through it all Mame and Patrick tackle life together, face down bullies and snobs, write a book, reunite with old friends, make new ones, and they live life to the fullest.  As Mame says, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!"


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wordsmithonia Radio --- It's a "Crazy" Singoff


I've been listening to a lot of country music lately, and it seems like Patsy Cline's "Crazy" has been covered more than a few times.  Granted the song was written by Willie Nelson, but it's Patsy Cline that most of us associate with the song.  Some of the covers are better than others, so I thought I would share a few and see what you guys think.

Personally, I adore Patsy's version of it, but then I also have a weak spot for Kay Starr's as well.

Here is Pasty Cline's:


Kay Starr has her shot at the song: 


Linda Ronstadt takes a turn:


Even Julio Iglesias took a stab:


Chaka Khan goes for it:


Friday, November 7, 2014

Vingtage Mystery Bingo 2015



The wonderfully talented Bev of My Readers Block is rolling out next year's edition of her vintage mystery challenge.  I did not participate this year because of my blogging hiatus, but I'm looking forward to it next year.  I will be using the Gold card, and I'm planning on filling all the squares.

Here are the details:

The Vintage Mystery Bingo Hall will be open for gaming again in 2015, so get out your daubers and be prepared to shout "Bingo!" I have scrambled the cards and switched out a few of the categories for brand new square challenges in the hopes of keeping it interesting. Categories with an asterisk in the square are explained a little more fully in the rules.

Here are the rules: 
* All books must be from the mystery category (crime fiction, detective fiction, espionage, etc.).  The mystery/crime must be the primaryfeature of the book--ghost stories, paranormal, romance, humor, etc are all welcome as ingredients, but must not be the primary category under which these books would be labeled at the library or bookstore.


*Challengers may play either the Silver Age or Golden Age Card—or both.  For the purposes of this challenge, the Golden Age Vintage Mysteries must have been first published before 1960. Golden Age short story collections (whether published pre-1960 or not) are permissible provided all of the stories included in the collection were originally written pre-1960.  Please remember that some of our Golden Age Vintage authors wrote well after 1959--so keep an eye on the original publication date and apply them to the appropriate card.  Silver Age Vintage Mysteries may be first published any time from 1960 to 1989 (inclusive).  Again, Silver Age short story collections published later than 1989 are permissible as long as they include no stories first published later than 1989.  Yes, I admit my dates are arbitrary and may not exactly meet standard definitions of Golden or Silver Age. 

*Challenge runs from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. Sign up any time between now and November 4, 2015.  Any books read from January 1 on may count regardless of your sign-up date. If you have a blog, please post about the challenge and a little bit about your commitment—if you’re going Silver or Gold…or maybe some of each. Then sign up via one of the linkys found below. And please make the url link to your Challenge post and not your home page.(Links that do not follow this rule will be removed.)  If you decide to go for broke and try to score on both cards, you only need sign up once--pick a card, any card for your link. 

*One Free Space per card—you may use your Free Space to cover any spot on the board.  The Free Space book must fulfill one of the categories from the card, but it may fulfill ANY space you like—even a category you have already fulfilled.   For example…if you are having trouble finding a book to meet the “mode of transportation” category, but you really need that space to complete a BINGO then you may read a book that meets any other category on the board and use your Free Space to claim the “mode of transportation” space.

*No double-counting.  A book may not count for both the original category (say, "Woman in the Title") and as the Free Space to replace "mode of transportation."  A second "Woman in the Title" would need to be read to complete the Free Space and replace "mode of transportation."

*BINGOS may be claimed by completing all spaces in a row--horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.  You may also claim a “Four Corner” BINGO by reading a book for each of the four corners plus two more spaces—any two.  A valid BINGO must have six complete spaces.

*PRIZES! Any challenger who completes one BINGO will be eligible for a drawing at the end of the year for a book from the prize list.  Any challenger who completes two or more BINGOs (either from the same card or BINGOs from each card) will automatically be offered a book from the prize list.  Any challenger who covers a card by completing all categories will automatically be offered a book from the prize list (as referred to in the "two or more BINGOs" section) PLUS will be eligible for a bonus prize drawing at the end of the year. Two complete cards will earn two entries in the drawing.

*The categories are open for interpretation—within reason.  Many of these categories were featured in the 2013 version of the challenge and it may help to refer to the 2013 Challenge List.  If you have doubts whether a potential book will meet a category or have a somewhat unusual interpretation, please email me at phryne1969 AT gmail DOT com. 
—The “Out of Your Comfort Zone” is absolutely up to you.  For me—that will most likely mean hard-boiled or spy/thriller—but if that’s what you prefer, then you might go for a nice cozy mystery.
—Borrow = from the library, from a friend, using free electronic downloads. In my world “own” means that you have purchased the book or received it as a present.
—Historical = the bulk of the story must take place at least 15 years prior to the date the book was written. Flashback storytelling is fine as long as modern events either frame the historical tale OR the historical events are absolutely vital to the modern portion of the story. Example: The Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Date of publication will determine Silver or Golden status.
—TBR First Lines = randomly select four books from your TBR stacks. Read only the first sentence of each one and choose which book to read for this square based on that sentence.

*You are welcome to count these books towards any other challenges as well.

*I would love to see reviews of your challenge books, but it is not necessary to participate. If you do not have a blog, post to the comments that you intend to join and then post again at the progress site (see below) when you have completed your challenge (include a list of books read and which categories you have completed).  If you use a Free Space, please indicate what category the book read is actually from and which space is being claimed.

*You are welcome to change your mind about what square a book qualifies for until you have claimed a Bingo using that book in a certain square.  Once books are used to claim a Bingo, they are tied to those spaces.



Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Slice of Love by Andrew Grey


Synopsis From Publisher:

To make a small fortune, start with a large fortune and open a bakery.  That's the advice Marcus Wilson has heard.  Unfortunately, Marcus doesn't have a large fortune - just a bakery, A Slice of Heaven, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and the determination to make it successful.  He needs more help than he can afford, so when he hires accountant Gregory Southland, it's for hours in the shop as well as on the books. 

Gregory takes a second job at the bakery to help pay the bills now that his health is improving.  Soon he's looking forward to spending time with Marcus, but as business - and their relationship - grows, so do the complications.  First Marcus's stepmother involves him in a cause that could give the bakery a reputation it doesn't need.  Then Marcus and Gregory disagree over whether to involve A Slice of Heaven in a civil rights dispute.  To top if off, Gregory's ex-boyfriend makes an appearance just when he is at his most vulnerable.  But the greatest complication by far is Marcus and Gregory's struggle to learn to trust each other and themselves, especially when it comes to baking up matters of the heart.

This time around it's Gregory's turn at love everlasting.  We first met Gregory in A Serving of Love, he was the heart breaking ex of that books hero, Sebastian.  By now Gregory is in a better place, both emotionally and physically.  He has his HIV status under control and is on his way to living a full and long life, if only he can get his fiances in order and maybe even find love along the way.

Then we have Marcus, a young man determined to find his own way, away from his father's rather large and imposing shadow.  He's on his way to having the successful business he has always wanted, and dreamed about with a former lover, one that lost his own fight with HIV.  He is in sort of a personal limbo, just waiting for the right guy to come along and grab his attention once again.

Like every other couple in this series, I love these two on their own, but I love them even more once they are together.  They compliment each other, both in their strengths, and in their weaknesses.  They fit together, and even when the inevitable tension is introduced into the relationship, they support each other without really needing to think about it.

What I really loved about the story is how the author doesn't shy away from an HIV negative man, dating a HIV positive man.  I've been there, I'm HIV negative and I've dated two different guys who were positive.  I'm not going to lie and say the relationships didn't provide unique challenges and a little extra angst on both our parts, Obviously neither relationship worked out in the end, but I learned from both of them, and I consider both of the to be friends.  I think there is this misconception that if you find yourself HIV positive, that any chance at love or a healthy sex life is gone.  That you are supposed to just crawl up into a ball and wave any chance at a happy life goodbye.  I know many guys who are HIV positive will only date others that are as well, scared to pass the virus on to someone else.  I understand the fear, but it's one that can be overcome with communication and trust.  The way I've always approached the subject is that you can't help who you fall in love with, and that there is almost no obstacle too large to overcome.

So here we are, the last book in the Taste of Love series, though I'm holding out for at least one or two more.  I've grown rather fond of Carlisle, PA, and the men who live there.  I just hope the author feels the same way.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Steve Jinks


So I'm really not sure that there will be any sort of theme for this month's Favorite Fictional Character posts, but then again, maybe one will develop down the road.  Maybe there will be a theme for two weeks, and then another theme for the final two weeks.  Today's post is about one of my favorite characters from my favorite, cheesy scifi show, Warehouse 13.


When we first meet Steve Jinks, he is an ATF agent with an uncanny ability to know when someone is lying to him.  It doesn't take long for him to get wrapped up in the crazy shenanigans of the other Warehouse 13 agents though, and once he is part of the team, it feels as if he has always been there.  

He quickly becomes a big brother to Claudia, the straight man to Pete's craziness, and the heart of the show. It seems as if he wears his heart of his sleeve, at least more than the others do, and the other aren't exactly shy of their emotions.  Now I'm not sure if that has to do with the fact that he is Buddhist, can tell when someone is lying, or because he's gay.  I'd be willing to put money on the fact that it's because of all three of those things.

Steve has sacrificed his life, literally, in the name of the Warehouse, and when he is brought back to life through the use of an artifact, he is more concerned about the effect on others, rather than on himself.  He is a true good guy, I just hope he finds his happy ending.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution by Keith R. A. DeCandido


Synopsis From Back Cover:

It's a cold day in Sleepy Hollow, and Ichabod visits Patriots Park for a moment of peace.  Instead, he receives a disturbing vision from his wife, Katrina, in which she delivers a cryptic but urgent message: he must retrieve the Congressional Cross that he was awarded by the Second Continental Congress for bravery in action.  There's just one problem: Ichabod was killed before he ever received the medal, and he is not sure where it might be.  Together, Ichabod and Abbie set out to uncover the mystery of the cross and it's connection to George Washington and his secret war against the demon hordes.  They soon learn that a coven of witches is also seeking the cross in order to resurrect their leader, Serilda, who was burned at the stake during the Revolutionary War.  Now they must locate the cross before the coven can bring back Serilda to exact her fatal revenge on Sleepy Hollow.

It's not often that I even take an interest in reading a television tie-in.  Most of you know that I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I own all seven seasons on DVD, and I watch them all at least once a year.  For a while, I was devouring the tie in books as well, especially those written by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder.  For the most part I loved them, though there were a few misses.  I've, in the past, even been able to get into a few Torchwood books, and have reviewed a few of them on the blog; The House that Jack Built by Guy Adams, Bay of the Dead by Mark Morris, and Something in the Water by Trevor Baxendale.  Now I've been in love with the show Sleepy Hollow since it debuted last year, so when I was given a chance to review a tie-in book, I was on board.

I was expecting to fall in love with the book as well, and while I can't say I disliked it, I'm pretty sure I didn't love it either.  I'm not sure what the show has that didn't translate into book form, at least not this particular book, but there was something missing for me.  I think part of it was trying to take Ichabod's accent and speech patterns, and putting it on paper.  They just don't come across the same way they do if you are hearing them.  It's all well and good for an author to point out that a character is being sarcastic or if they are being a little slow on understanding modern vernacular, those things just work better when you can actually hear what is going on.  I think another part of it may be that the chemistry between Ichabod and Abbie works better on screen.

The other issue I tend to have, and it was the same problem I had with the Buffy books that didn't work for me, is when an author tries to work the book around certain episodes of the show.  It makes the whole thing feel a bit disjointed and odd, and is an extra story is being forced in there, where it really doesn't belong.  Television tie-ins, at least for me, work best when they take the basic structure of the show, and go from there.  They don't try to force the book into a certain timeline dictated by the parent show.  Yeah they are in the same universe, but they tend to be separate from what's going on on screen  I want to be able to truly get into the books, even if I've never seen the show.  I'm just hoping that if I pick up another Sleepy Hollow tie-in, that it will work for me, better than this one did.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Wordsmithonia Radio --- Random 80s

There is no theme, no real connection, except that these are all songs that have been swimming around in my head lately.  I guess I'm just stuck in the 80s right now.