Friday, May 01, 2015

Best Books of April

April was cuh-razy, with the A to Z Challenge and moving. We closed on a house this week and as you're reading this, we're surrounded by moving boxes. But I still managed to read five books this month. It will probably be no surprise that two of those books were read via audiobook while I was packing and cleaning. Thanks to Lauren Myracle and Paula Hawkins for making moving so much more entertaining. 

And now...the best books I read in April.

My first book is by two authors I consider friends even though I haven't met them in person yet. This book is pure awesomeness! You must pre-order it now. It's on sale May 19.

You're Invited by Jen Malone and Gail Nall is the first in a two-part series about tween girls who run their very own party-planning business. The concept of a group of girls running a party-planning business is so fun, but these mega-talented authors make it about so much more than that. The themes of friendship and parental acceptance are something every reader can relate to.

My second book is another one for young girls that readers of all ages will enjoy. In Jo Whittemore's Colonial Madness, a tween and her mom are challenged to spend two weeks living in colonial times.

This book is a fun learning experience, especially for young girls, who don't realize how lucky they are to wear clean clothes every day and get milk from the refrigerator rather than the barn. But the overall message is even more important: family comes first, especially the bond between mother and child.

Next up is Defying Reason by Elizabeth Seckman. I'm sure I've already gushed about this author a million times, but I'll gush some more.

This is a new adult-ish romance, with characters in their early 20s. I haven't read the other books in the series, but this book stands completely on its own. Tanner and Jo leap off the page as incredibly realistic, likable characters. Best of all, the story is completely unpredictable, which I love in a romance!

The first book I read on audio was Lauren Myracle's The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life.

I loved her book TTYL, so I was excited to see this on the list of books Audible recommended to me. Lauren has a knack for capturing the voice of her intended age group, usually in a unique format. TTYL was a story told in instant messages. The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life is told through diary entries. Lauren perfectly captures the strains of peer pressure while also showing young girls that it's possible to find your own way in life.

My last book of the month is one that I've wanted to read since January. I always try to read the most-talked-about book of the year. This year, that book is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Let me just say, this book isn't what you expect. It's been compared to Hitchcock and in premise, I'd agree. Like Gone Girl, however, this book delves deep into unlikeable characters and makes you somehow like them despite their many (many) flaws. People said this one started off "slow," but I don't think so. If you're expecting a thrill-a-minute mystery, though, you might be disappointed. If you're just ready to settle in and enjoy the ride, I highly recommend this one. Catch it before they cast the movie. It's always more fun when you aren't picturing Hollywood faces on the characters, I've found!

Have you read any good books lately?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zapped!

Well, folks, we've reached the end of yet another A to Z Challenge. I'm so glad to have made a few new friends. I hope we're still reading each other's blogs by the time this rolls around next year!

My theme is the 80s. The final letter is:

In 1982, a really bad movie came out. 

Did it matter that it was bad? Not really. At the time, people would have paid for movie tickets to see a soup commercial starring this guy.

In the 80s, teen heartthrobs were everything to young girls. They filled magazines like this, giving tweens pull-out full-color posters we could hang on our walls.

Of course, teen heartthrobs go way back. But the 70s and 80s were different because many of them came from TV sitcoms.

And soap operas.

They became TV stars first, then rock stars.

Rick Springfield on General Hospital
Or they became rock stars, then starred in a movie.

They (sadly) died too young...

Andy Gibb
Or spent the majority of their post-fame years drinking and drugging.

Leif Garrett

Or they just proved all our male friends right and revealed they weren't really all that into us, after all.

George Michael

As the 80s moved into the 90s, the torch was passed to a new generation. That generation had these guys.

Luke Perry and Jason Priestley
And a slew of boy bands to enjoy.

What teen heartthrob did you love growing up?

Here's a little Andy Gibb to end the challenge.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for Yuppies

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:

In 1980, Chicago magazine published an article by writer Dan Rottenberg titled About That Urban Renaissance. In the article, Rottenberg referred to an emerging group of young urban professionals, nicknaming them "yuppies." The term stuck. By 1984, the media was dissecting yuppies as though they were specimens in a lab.

Movies like Wall Street epitomize the excesses of the 80s. They wore expensive clothing and worked in plush offices with windows.

They were the first people to have cell phones. Big cell phones.

And sporty, ultra-expensive cars.

While it may have epitomized wealth and success in the 80s, when the stock market crashed in 1987, it took on an all new meaning. To put it in terms today's younger generations would understand, yuppie=douchebag.

Alex P. Keaton epitomized yuppies when they were cool. He went on to star in The Secret of My Success, which was essentially the end of "yuppie" having any positive connotation whatsoever. 

It was okay, though, because he worked his way up from the mailroom to become a yuppie.

Do yuppies exist today? Of course they do. They're "young urban professionals," after all. It's a little more challenging to spot them, though, since they dress a little more casually.

And they work from home.

Or from Starbucks.

But we have to appreciate the yuppies of the 1980s. They had to go to nine-to-five jobs, sit in cubicles, and work on computers that looked like these:

Do you think yuppies still exist?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for Xanadu

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:

X is a tough letter. So tough that I'm repeating last year's X for 2015!

Can I just tell you how awesome Olivia Newton-John was (is)? In 1980 when Xanadu hit theaters, ONJ was a major phenomenon. Every boy was in love with her. Every girl wanted to be her. I got to be her briefly during my MySpace blogging days (long story).

As a kid, I had no idea Olivia Newton-John had made such an impression on my entire generation until our high school drama club did a production of Grease. The line to audition wrapped all the way around the school. (It was a round school--another long story.) As I spoke to my classmates about my childhood adoration for ONJ, they all pretty much laughed and said, "Yeah. Join the club."

Xanadu may have been a really, really, really bad movie but it didn't matter. It had Olivia Newton-John on roller skates, wearing long flowing skirts and ribbon barrettes in her hair.

Plus it had Gene Kelly, a Hollywood legend. It was his last feature film. He apparently took the job because it was filming close to his house. But his scenes with ONJ make this movie a true classic.

While the movie was a massive bomb when it came out, it has become a cult favorite. It's even an award-winning Broadway musical.

Some things grow better with time. The movie still seems cheesy, but I'm sure the story makes a great play. I think this scene toward the end of the movie is all you ever really need to see of Xanadu.

Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for Walk This Way

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:

In 1986, hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. teamed up with rockers Aerosmith to record a remake of Aerosmith's song Walk This Way.

The video was the perfect illustration of the gradual transition from metal rock to the rap and hip-hop scene that would dominate music for...well...the rest of time, apparently.

The first use of the word "rap" to discuss rhythmic speaking in music was in 1971, with Isaac Hayes' album Black Moses.

But the style of music can be traced even further back--most notably to James Brown's funk music of the 60s. The first official rap song (as we know rap today) is considered Rapper's Delight by The Sugarhill Gang.

It was also a quick introduction into copyright laws for the rap industry. You see, The Sugarhill Gang liked the song Good Times so much, they decided to use its music for their song. After hearing Rapper's Delight, the songwriters for Good Times threatened to sue, at which point they were listed as songwriters. Many other groups (rap and otherwise) have learned that lesson the hard way over the years.

Soon after The Sugarhill Gang's song became a hit, mega rock star Blondie released her own rap song which was...a little weird. But it pushed rap/hip hop a little further into mainstream (she starts rapping at 1:54 and doesn't stop).

Like Rapture and Walk This Way, today's rap is usually incorporated into songs with sung lyrics, often to take a little of the edge off of what would normally be cutesy and girly:

Maybe Debbie Gibson should have given that a try.