Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just FYI: I Will Be Spending December At The Movie Theater

I am not wishing my life away, I swear. But, seriously? I am getting kind of pumped about movies coming out in December.

Yes, there are still some summer movies I'm excited about - "Prometheus," "Brave," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and "Magic Mike," mostly.

But instead of writing about those, I'm going to fast-forward six months, because December is going to be glorious! Take a trip forward through time with me ...

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" - Dec. 14. I am a huge Tolkein fan (ask anybody who knew me in high school - they have embarrassing stories to tell), and "The Hobbit" started that fangirl love. It's a great story, and I'm thrilled that it's going to get on the big screen. In fact, I think it's actually more film-able than the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - the story is smaller in scope and therefore more understandable. Plus, they're doing the cool-kid thing and splitting it into two movies like "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" did, which, let's face it, is really smart - even though "The Hobbit" is a much smaller book than any of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy books, it still has a lot going on. It's just about impossible to make a book into just one movie and keep things in, so "The Hobbit" should have a slightly more leisurely pace that should serve the story well. Plus, is there an actor better suited to play Bilbo than Martin Freeman? I've liked him in movies here and there, but he really proved himself on "Sherlock," especially on the latest episode, where he broke my heart into a zillion tiny pieces. You'd better believe that I've been doing the fangirl arm flail every time I see a trailer, see a picture or think about "The Hobbit."
  • "Les Miserables" - Dec. 14. A trailer was just released today showing Anne Hathaway as Fantine singing "I Dreamed a Dream" and I realized that I'm really pumped about this movie, even though there are many musicals I like more than "Les Mis." (It got overhyped before I saw a touring company perform it when I was in college, so it was a slight letdown.) I just really love movie musicals, and in addition to being happy about getting to watch a movie musical, I am holding out hope that this musical will revive the entire movie musical genre so I can go see lots of movies featuring singing and dancing! Also, Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean, and Hugh Jackman is gorgeous and a fantastic singer. I would watch him sing the phone book, so you'd better believe I'd watch him in "Les Miserables."
  • Untitled Katherine Bigelow Project - Dec. 19. I loved "The Hurt Locker," so I'm excited and interested to see Bigelow's story about SEAL Team 6 hunting down Osama bin Laden. There's hardly any information about it yet - in fact, most of what I've heard has been controversy about how much information she's gotten from the CIA and Department of Defense while working on the movie - but I'm interested to see what she does with the story.
  • Django Unchained - Dec. 25. Merry Christmas to me! A new Quentin Tarantino movie! The movie follows a slave-turned-bounty-hunter (Jamie Foxx) who wants to free his wife from a plantation. In addition to Foxx, the movie also has Christoph Waltz (who I love from Tarantino's previous movie, "Inglorious Basterds") and Leonardo DiCaprio! I'm already trying to convince my parents that "Django Unchained" would be a perfect movie for the family to see on Christmas, but Mom is not convinced. I don't know how a Quentin Tarantino-directed Western could be anything but a perfect holiday film. I think I might be able to convince Dad ...
  • The Great Gatsby - Dec. 25. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't read "The Great Gatsby" (yet - it's on my list), but I am already kind of thrilled by the trailer for Baz Luhrmann's big-screen adaptation of the book. Again, we have Leonardo DiCaprio - always a good thing - and Carey Mulligan, who looks right at home in the '20s. We also have crazy '20s decadence and eye-popping visuals and other crazy Baz Luhrmann-esque things, and since I like Luhrmann's previous work, I'm pumped. We'll see how I feel after reading the novel ...
What do you think of December's offerings? Are you as pumped as me?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book(s) Review: "A Song of Ice & Fire" (Spoiler Free!)

I finally finished "A Dance With Dragons!"

I say finally because it took me an epically long time to read it. And before that, it was the four books before it: "A Game of Thrones," "A Clash of Kings," "A Storm of Swords" and "A Feast for Crows."

It was a long journey, reading five long epic fantasy books, but I'm glad I did. In fact, I'm already anxiously awaiting the next book in the series!

"A Song of Ice & Fire," the series by George R.R. Martin, tells the epic tale of the lands of Westeros and Essos. It's a tale many people are familiar with because the novels are being turned into a really great HBO series, "Game of Thrones." In fact, the show is why I decided to read the books in the first place.

Martin's books are fantasy books, but it's very different from what might come to mind when you think of a fantasy novel. It kind of has a Tolkien feel in some ways - there's a lot of world-building, a lot of politics and, of course, it's a medieval fantasy setting. Martin's books are heavy on political intrigue, though, and that makes it very different from a lot of the post-Tolkien fantasy. There is magic in Westeros and Essos, but it's scarce, and most characters have no experience with it. It's really like a medieval political thriller a lot of the time. The most magical thing as the story opens is that the seasons last for an undetermined length of time, and that there's a giant wall at the northern border of Westeros.

But don't worry, there are battles and violence and thrills, and they're gritty. In fact, "gritty" is probably an excellent word for "A Song of Ice & Fire." It's not over-the-top, but when people get their heads chopped off, you're going to get some detail. This is not a fantasy fluff piece. It actually has a realistic feel.

What's really kept me going back to the "Song of Ice & Fire" books, though, is the wonderful crop of characters. There are people I absolutely LOVE and people I absolutely LOATHE and people I love to hate and people who intrigue me. The book is made up of third-person chapters, and each chapter is from the perspective of a different character. (According to Wikipedia, there are chapters featuring 31 different characters within the five books.) They grow and change and learn things and make horribly stupid decisions that make me want to strangle them.

You'll also hear from people who have read these books that Martin likes to kill his characters. Let me tell you, he does, and sometimes it's been a BIG surprise when it happens. There have been deaths throughout the course of the series that I have really felt. It makes for a great read when you care that much.

"A Song of Ice & Fire" is not always easy to read. The characters, even the likeable ones, can be pretty brutal at times, and there is a lot of moral ambiguity. There are very few characters I would classify as traditionally "noble" or "honorable," and bad things tend to happen when people try to act honorable. However, one of the great thought exercises during the books is asking yourself what "honor" truly means. That theme has sparked a lot of conversations between me and my husband, who has also read (and loved) the books.

"A Song of Ice & Fire" is a tough epic fantasy read, but it's also rewarding. I am so glad that I decided to read them, even though it took a long time, and, like I said, I'm anxiously awaiting the next book in the series, "The Winds of Winter." It's definitely not going to be a book for everyone, and it's not light reading, but if you really jump into it, it's a lot of fun to read!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dancing With the Stars: It's Almost Over!!!!

We're down to the end of the line on "Dancing With the Stars" and, let's face it, it's time for this shit show to be over. On one hand, it's been a season with great dancing. On the other hand, does anybody watch "Dancing With the Stars" for good dancing? If you want good ballroom dancing, watch ballroom dance competitions on PBS. I watch "Dancing With the Stars" for wacky celebrities embarrassing themselves. Not enough of that this year at all!

Alas, it was a pretty decent night, mainly because it was only an hour long. Although, you are all going to be sad because you won't get any expert dancing analysis because Kel, who actually knows what the hell she's talking about, ditched me, and, by extension, you, our dear readers, so she could watch last night's "Sherlock." I can't blame her - it was a bitchin' episode. I didn't even complain (much) when she told me she wasn't watch "Dancing With the Stars" tonight, because I wanted her to watch "Sherlock" so we could talk about it.

ANYWAY, "Dancing With the Stars!"

Cheryl Burke & William Levy, Chacha to "Raise Your Glass"
Jen's Take: Cheryl just beats the heck out of William on energy, and, to me, that's all I can see. My eyes are constantly on Cheryl, and William just fades into the background. He's like a piece of furniture that can shake its hips well, if furniture had hips. I also felt like his feet were messy and ploddy throughout the dance. However ...
Judges' Take: Nothing but praise. Len said it was as good as any chacha he's seen in 14 seasons of "Dancing With the Stars." WTF, old man?
Score: A perfect 30.

Mark Ballas & Katherine Jenkins, Paso Doble
Jen's Take: LOVE. Just love. It was a strong, passionate dance, and I could feel the emotion and the strength in it. I kind of love good paso doble anyway, and this was great paso doble!
Judges' Take:  They agree with me! Bruno said it was "lush." Pretty much sums it up, and uses the word that I suspect Kel would have used, if she weren't a "Sherlock"-watching slacker.
Score: A perfect 30.

Peta Murgatroyd & Donald Driver, Argentine Tango
Jen's Take: I'll admit it: I had trouble keeping my eyes off Peta's super-skimpy, sparkly dress with no sides. When I finally actually watched, I really liked their precision, but I felt like they were leaning on tricks just a bit, rather than having Donald actually dance. However, he exuded strength, which is important in a tango.
Judges' Take: Carrie Ann and Bruno loved it, but Len, who has never given Donald a 10, thought it was a little too careful. (He is right, by the way.)
Score: 29, with Len still keeping Donald away from a perfect score with his score of 9.

Cheryl & William, Freestyle
Jen's Take: William's freestyle was very Latin, which was good for him, since he dances Latin will. It felt a little frenzied, though - like they were trying to compensate for William's lack of energy by making him dance frantically. I still think they used a combinations of lifts and hip wiggles too much, but it was better than the first dance.
Judges' Take: You'll be shocked - SHOCKED - to know that Carrie Ann and Bruno loved it. Len thought it was too much like a salsa dance, and he wanted more.
Score: 29, with Old Man Len giving William "only" a 9.

Mark & Katherine, Freestyle, "Sing, Sing, Sing"
Jen's Take: LOVE! I love swing music, and swing-style dance, and so this song and dance was right up my alley. It was fun, super cute and very high-energy. I've run a little hot-and-cold on Katherine this season, but this dance really clinched it for me. It was an absolutely great dance.
Judges' Take: LOVE! Bruno was right when he said it was "on the money."
Score: A perfect 30, meaning Katherine had a perfect night!

Peta & Donald, Freestyle, featuring Cowboy Troy on vocals singing a song about a train that I think was "I Play Chicken With the Train" (I don't listen to country music much)
Jen's Take: A PERFECT end to the show. It was a super country song (I actually really liked it!) and they really kept that country feel with the dance and the costumes. There was a TON of energy, and it was just a super cute, fun, awesome dance. No other way to describe it.
Judges' Take: They all loved it! Will Len give Donald that elusive 10?
Score: YES! A perfect 30! Vindication!

As long as William doesn't win, I'm really OK with whoever wins "Dancing With the Stars." All of my people I loved are long-gone. *le sigh* Really, as long as it's not William, give either Donald or Katherine the precious Mirrorball Trophy. They've both earned it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Bachelorette: The Guys

Jen already recapped the show (read it here), but I am here to give a breakdown of all the (bland) guys. And provide a bit of commentary all my own.

The guys
Kalon, Houston, Luxury Sales, Modern Southern Gentlemen, used to be a womanizer, has adorable glasses, plays tennis in lime green, came in on a helicopter automatically pissing off all the other guys, has confidence

Ryan, Georgia, was a pro football player, now owns a sports center and works with kids, has an adorable dog, runs, wrote a cute note that just said that he is nervous and she is beautiful

Tony, Oregon, buys lumber, bit of a meathead, has a 5 year old son, divorced, seems nice until he does the "who has two thumbs" thing, brought a glass slipper a la Cinderella, is a dork

Larone, LA, full service real estate guy, has a tiny dog, wants a family, is slightly too into the single mom thing

David, NYC, Singer/songwriter, bit of a pretentious asshole, has written a song about Emily before meeting her, changing "bit of a pretentious asshole" to "is a total pretentious asshole"

Charlie, Nashville, Recruiter, was a normal dude until he got in an accident, falling 15 feet after a balcony he was on broke, made him reevaluate his life, has an adorable dog, is adorable, came across very natural in his intro

Jeff, Salt Lake City, entrepreneur, skateboarder, runs a bottled water company that gives money to charity, very soft spoken, rides his skateboard behind the limo, has fantastic hair

Arie, Arizona, Indy car and Formula 1 driver, drove in the Indy 500, is aware that his career could bring back painful memories

Sean, Dallas, Insurance Agent, has a pocket square, is awkward

Doug, Seattle, Charity Director, asked before he hugs her therefore my favorite so far, has an 11 year old son

Jackson, Illinois, Fitness model, goes down on his knee first and gives a nerdy poemy intro, comes off slightly douchy

Joe, LA, Field energy adviser, is too energetic, bit douchy, bit awkward

Kyle, Long Beach, Financial Adviser, the 156th guy to say he is stunning, which while possibly true in normal circumstances, is completely untrue in that hideous dress

Chris, Chicago, Corporate Sales Director, asked his family for advice, is nervous, but sweet

Aaron, Long Beach, Biology Teacher, super adorable glasses, super dorky pun

Alessandro, Minnesota, Grain Merchant, starts with "you're real", does a double kiss because he's from Brazil

Stevie, New Jersey, Party MC, is actually a fairly good dancer, can't tell if he's nice or douchy yet

Randy, Califiornia, market manager, pretends to be a grandmother a la the grandma last season, wearing a great shade of green

Nate, LA, Accountant, apparently smells good

Brent, Frenso, Technology Salesman, doesn't hug her until she offers, brought a name tag to wear so she would know his name

John "Wolf", St. Louis, Data Destruction Specialist, made no impression on me except for the douchy nickname

Travis, Mississippi, Advertising Sales Rep, brought an Ostrich egg to care for like he will care for Emily and Ricky, looks super super nervous and is sweating a lot

Michael, Austin, Rehab Counselor, has long vampire hair, brought her a guitar pic to help her remember "Music Mike"

Jean-Paul, Seattle, Marine Biologist, waits to hug her until she offers, doesn't know about Emily, therefore proving he has better taste in tv than I

Alejandro, San Francisco, Mushroom Farmer, speaks all Spanish, from Columbia, him speaking Spanish is super hot

Commentary and cocktail party highlights:
Emily's dress makes me want to vomit. It is awful and hideous and why would you wear that on tv, let alone in life?
Will the guy who gets chosen be expected to move to Charlotte?
If you want to protect your kid, don't put them on tv.
Emily has an awkward giggle.
I super love Charlie.
Emily likes being pulled around by the guys. I would have to hit them. That doesn't sound fun at all.
Chris brought bobble heads of himself and Emily. I'm...creeped out.
Jeff only has one "f" in his name? He makes Emily feel like a nerd because he is so cool.
Doug's son wrote a note to Emily. I think Emily and Doug will get along well, but where would they live if they got married?
The guys keep talking about Kalon. But totally admit it when he catches them at it.
Doug got the first impression rose.

Rose Ceremony
Received Roses: Doug, Chris, Ryan, Kalon, Arie, Charlie, Jef, Nate, Sean, Joe, Kyle, Aaron, Alejandro, John, Alessandro, Michael, Stevie, Tony, Travis

Going home: Jean-Paul, Brent, Randy, Lamone, David, Jackson

So far, the guys that I like are Jef, Charlie, and Aaron (The Professor). I can also identify Kalon, Alessandro, and Alejandro.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Trashelorette: Isn't It Sweeeeeeeet?

It's time for a new season of "The Trashelorette," and if you listen to every other word that comes out of Emily's mouth, it's apparently going to be just the sweetest season ever. Seriously, once she met the guys, they were all "sweet!" Can't a producer run out, hit her in the back of the head and yell "RESET!"?

Anyway, this year's Bachelorette is Emily, the sweet single mom who lost her race-car-driving fiance in a plane crash on the way to a race. Then, she lost love again after things didn't work out with Bachelor Brad - something, by the way, we completely forgot about, even though we watched the season. Give us a break, though - it's hard to keep all the lovelorn, blandly attractive white people straight, OK?

Anyway, the first episode was, as usual, full of all the 279,000 guys who compete the first night for Emily's affections. Some of them did interesting things, like the skateboarder dude who is also the CEO of a bottled water company that gives money to charity; some of them had tragic backstories, like the guy who was in an accident and had a traumatic brain injury. One was a divorced single dad, who was likeable until he uttered the line, "Who has two thumbs and is going to marry Emily? This guy!" There was even a race car driver who had been in the Indy 500.

Anyway, not that every season of "The Bachelorette" isn't totally unique, but this year is super duper unique, because they're going to be based out of Charlotte, where Emily lives, to keep her daughter's schedule as normal as possible. I mean, except all those times when they go to exotic locales, as the preview at the end of the episode shows. But, you know, normalcy for the kid whose mom is trying to find love on reality TV! Hooray!

Emily shows up at the Bachelor Mansion: Charlotte Edition wearing an incredibly ugly dress. Seriously, it looks like her daughter got bored and glued glitter to an old, beige dress. Emily's nervous - about more than just appearing on TV wearing the ugliest dress in the history of mankind - but before she knows it, Chris Harrison utters those magic words - "Let the journey begin" - and it's time to meet the menfolk.

This is where everything got "sweet." The guy who hopped around like a tool? Sweet. The guy who uttered the incredibly cheesy line, "I am a high school biology teacher, but I am here to have chemistry with you."? Sweet. The guy who dances around with a boombox? Sweet. The Prince Charming who, creepily enough, has a glass slipper that fits her? Sweet. A guy who carries an ostrich egg that he will take care of like he would take care of her? Sweet.

The guy who made the most impact was Kalon, a rich douchenozzle who came in a helicopter. Emily was suitably impressed - he did, after all, appear in a helicopter! - so, immediately, the guys feel threatened. Is he this season's villain!? The preview at the end made it sound like there was somebody who was shady!

Anyway, it's too hard to keep up with which blandly attractive guy got the first impression rose and who got to stay or go, but suffice it to say it was a very tough decision for poor Emily. And it was very tough to watch without throwing up and/or falling asleep.

The most interesting thing, actually, was the season preview, where we not only found out that little Emily Jr. is going to come with them on their trips to exotic places, but we also saw tears flowing, rain falling, Dolly Parton and LOTS of making out. Turns out, Emily is a kissing whore, just like Wino last season!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dancing With The Stars: Snoozefest Top 4

No more Gavin, no more Gladys, no more Tristan, no more Val, no more Maks. Why, exactly, are we still watching this show? Oh, yeah, because when we make a commitment to recapping/snarking about pop culture, WE FOLLOW THROUGH! Unless something better comes up, which doesn't happen to us very often. We lead sad lives.

Anyway, "Dancing With the Stars!" The final four dance two dances each, and the majority of them were boring. Come, let us explore the dullness of "Dancing With the D-List" and its top four dancers.

Cheryl Burke & William Levy: Tango to "Sweet Dreams." 
Kel's thoughts: William is still a bitchy little whiner and I still don't like him. And I don't find him hot. So there. This will never not remind me of Neil Haskell on So You Think You Can Dance. William needs to stop dropping his left arm. It makes him look not very strong. Cheryl totally owned that tango and completely out-danced him (obviously), but also out acted him. He felt flat and boring.
Jen's thoughts: William had messy feet and he is boring. Cheryl, however, is bringing it! It's just too bad she got a dull-as-dishwater, whiny, annoying partner.
Judges' thoughts: Len thought it was good, but his hold needed to be tighter and he was slightly flat footed. Bruno loved it (because he wants to sleep with William, natch). Carrie Anne liked it a lot, but had some quibbles.
Score: 10s from Carrie Ann and Bruno, and a 9 from Len, for a total of 29.

Mark Ballas & Katherine Jenkins: Quickstep to "Dirty Boogie."
Kel's thoughts: Katherine has one of the best frames of a "star" ever on the show. However, in her quickstep here she has missed a few steps. The whole dance isn't as smooth as it should be. She didn't seem as confident and it looked like Mark had way more energy than her, which hasn't seemed to be a problem this season like it has in past seasons.
Jen's thoughts: Until about halfway through the dance, I wasn't getting any personality from her at all. She had a fake smile just plastered on her face. However, when she loosened up she finally started to look like she was genuinely enjoying herself, and it was very cute. They move extremely well, but I was just waiting to be "wowed."
Judges' thoughts: They fell all over themselves loving it. They found it "incredible," "fantastic" and "amazing."
Score: 10s from Carrie Ann and Bruno, and a 9 from Len, for a total of 29.

Peta Murgatroyd & Donald Driver: Waltz to "Kissing You."
Kel's thoughts: I hate when guys complain about their hips. It isn't girly to move your hips if you are a guy. It is hot. Stop whining about it. Dancing to an actual waltz! But besides that I really can't tell you anything about it because I totally didn't pay any attention. I was trying to count that song because it totally kept trying to change time signatures. Also, that song is in the Baz Luhrmann version of "Romeo & Juliet." Mmmmm Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh, sorry. Dancing. Yeah. No. Don't care.
Jen's thoughts: It was a good dance, but nothing special at all. It just didn't thrill me, because I didn't feel much of a connection between Peta and Donald. In the words of slutty vampire Willow from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer:" Bored now.
Judges' thoughts: Carrie Ann felt the love story, but I think she was actually just feeling the looooove from Donald's nicely sculpted bod. Len thought it was charming and Bruno thought it was gentle.
Score: 9s from Carrie Ann and Len, and a 10 from Bruno, for a total of 28.

Derek Hough & Maria Menounous: Argentine Tango to a classical piece.
Kel's thoughts:  Maria's feet don't seem quite as sharp as they should be for an Argentine Tango, but the attitude and passion of the dance is there. And there is definitely a connection between Maria and Derek. And Derek's choreo is fierce. That was the first dance I enjoyed today. And I like how intense Maria is about it. Even after the dance you can tell that she is still feeling it. Either that or she hurt herself.
Jen's thoughts: FINALLY! SOME PASSION! And oh, what great passion it is. Derek and Maria have wonderful chemistry, and that's what makes their dances the most fun to watch. Yes, the cool lifts and stuff they did were great, but it was all about the chemistry for me!
Judges' thoughts: They all LOVED it!
Score: A perfect 30!!

Cheryl & William: Samba to "Hey Magdalena."
Kel's thoughts: There is no snap to his Samba. It seems very squishy to me. Listen. I love Samba. It is probably my favorite dance to do. It is a party dance, but it needs tons of precision. And William just didn't have it. That style with Salsa would be fine. But I didn't really like it. Also, I didn't feel much energy at all. Meh! Though fun fact: when the song started (one of my favorite Samba songs) I stood up and did the little bum shake right before Cheryl and William did them. Yay me!
Jen's thoughts: William is more into Samba, and it shows. He has more energy than he did for his first dance, but he was still a little sloppy and boring, and Cheryl overshadowed the hell out of him. He does have a nice butt, though. That's about all he has going for it.
Judges' thoughts: Let's just put it this way - little pools of pee appeared under all their seats, they were so thrilled.
Score: A perfect 30.

Mark & Katherine: Salsa to "Belly Dancer."
Kel's thoughts: Wow, she really doesn't look comfortable doing this dance. I like the concept and she is dancing it well enough, but she just doesn't have that ease in dancing that she usually has. And the ending went wrong. Oh snap. Not sure what happened there besides her tripping. She definitely hurt herself. Something about her back? I'm rewatched and I'm still not sure. I think Mark may have pulled her off balance slightly at the end, which made her twist and almost fall backwards. All I know is that Mark, like any good ballroom partner, totally had her and was not letting her hit the floor.
Jen's thoughts: I love the feel of this dance, and I think she's really trying to have the sassy, sexy personality that she needs. However, it was clear that she was kind of nervous and uncomfortable, so it fell a little flat overall.
Judges' thoughts: Carrie Ann was thrilled that she pushed her boundaries, and they all thought it was a good dance, but probably not her absolute best.
Score: Three nines for a 27.

Peta & Donald: Samba to "Mr. Big Stuff."
Kel's thoughts: The best way to describe his dancing is cheeky. He had quite a bit of snap to his dancing and he acted the hell out of that number. My only complaint is his heel steps. No! Latin! Latin has toe leads. Always. Gah! However, I really enjoyed the entire atmosphere of the dance and I thought the energy worked well. Definitely the most fun of the dances so far tonight.
Jen's thoughts: Donald had lots of energy in this dance, though I felt like Peta was overshadowing him at times. I really think he's light on his feet, although I did think a few of his steps looked heavy, which I'm assuming are when he was doing heels steps. Anyway, it was a cute, fun little dance.
Judges' thoughts: Does anyone even listen to the judges, anyway?
Score: 10s from Carrie Ann and Bruno, and a 9 from Len for a total of 29.

Derek & Maria: Jive to "Tightrope."
Kel's thoughts: Super cute choreography and Maria definitely had all her steps. But her steps lacked snap and energy. She looks like she is dragging a lot. There is a difference between Derek's smoothness with energy and Maria's lack of energy. However, the entire look and theming of the dance was good.
Jen's thoughts: I think I've become an unrepentant Derek & Maria fan, because I loved this dance too. Again, it's the chemistry! Her dancing was a little less strong than before, but it was still very good, and I liked it! It was one of the most fun to watch.
Judges' thoughts: Carrie Ann said Maria is a "stunner," and Len thought it "felt great."
Score: 10s from Carrie Ann and Bruno, and a 9 from Len for a total of 29.

Final thoughts.
Kel's thoughts: Overall, I'm not terribly impressed with much of anyone tonight. I thought Donald's Samba was the best overall dance of the night, followed by Maria's Tango and then Maria's Jive. I think Katherine is in serious trouble tonight. Which is unfortunate. I would send William home if it were up to me.
Jen's thoughts: I concur that I would send William home if it were up to me. He is not welcome on my TV screen any longer! However, my favorite dance was Maria's Argentine Tango. I loved the passion of the dance, and it was technically great! I agree that Katherine is in serious trouble, but I kind of hope not. She had an off night. I also hope her back is OK. Really, as long as Maria stays, I'm OK!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mom is one badass Mother

Mother's Day is coming up this weekend. And even though we will not be seeing Mom for it (she and dad went to Florida ... bitches!) we want to take a few minutes to talk about why Mom is awesome. And just for the record, Dad is awesome, too. It would just be weird to write a blog about him for Mother's Day ... he'll get his blog in June.

This is why Mom is awesome:
  • Her nickname is Patty Pissypants. And it is a self-assigned nickname. Mom is a genuinely nice person and most everyone likes her. However, she tends to get pissy about things. And when she does, she turns into Patty Pissypants. And yes, we all refer to her as such when she is being pissy. Related: Jen's nickname is Jenny Sassypants. Kel does not have a ***pants nickname, though I'm sure Jen could come up with a few choice names.
  • She will watch most any movie (except for scary movies). She watched "Dogma" with Kel when Kel was in high school. She was the one who first made Kel watch "Total Recall" and was overly excited about the scene of gratuitous shooting. She loves awesome movies like "Die Hard" and "Blazing Saddles." And most of all, Mom went to see "Snakes on a Plane" with us. In theaters. And loved it. Mom's favorite movies involve Nicholas Cage, The Rock, or Samuel L. Jackson, but she and Jen go see a movie almost every week (except when she does something silly, like goes to Florida the week "Dark Shadows" comes out!).
  • She is always glad to give great life advice. Even though we do not always take said advice. And Kel tends to get annoyed because Mom never seems to want to give advice when asked for it. (Example...Kel: "Should I buy this awesome, yet expensive jacket?" Mom: "I don't know. Do you think you should buy it?" Kel: "I am just asking for your opinion. If you were me, would you buy it?" Mom: "You need to decide that for yourself." Kel: "I will. I just want a second opinion." Mom: "It is up to you".) But in general, she gives good advice.
  • Her favorite place to go is Disney World. And she has fun Disney shirts, like her Perry the Platypus shirt. And she quotes Disney attractions ("Maybe BEAN could set off the fireworks!"). And sends us pictures when she goes to Disney World. And sometimes she even lets us tag along.
  • She has a really great sense of humor. And not in a joke telling sort of way (that's dad's territory). Just in a way that when mom comes to visit, we will be laughing until we cry at least once. Mom and Kel have numerous ridiculous inside jokes that very few people understand, but make them laugh (the frog croak, the angry goat).
  • She lets us do our own thing. We are both really independent and Mom is OK with that. In fact, she's happy about it. She's never been a helicopter parent, she encouraged us to do what we wanted to do in college, and now we both have a great relationship with her because we don't have to worry about her nagging us to get married or give her grandchildren or anything like that.
  • She stays up on pop culture, because she's awesome like that. And it makes it even easier for us to communicate with her because she understands whatever obscure movie or TV show we're quoting. (A skill we learned from her.)
  • She has excellent taste in books, and was the person who discovered the Sookie Stackhouse books and got us started on reading them. 
  • She is a darn good Kitty Grandma. Not only does she go on kitty feeding/litterbox/petting duty when Jen goes on vacation, but she was also a great help when Jen had to put one of her cats to sleep a couple of months ago.
  • Mom owns a Honey Badger shirt. Because Honey Badger don't care.
Mom ... you rock!
 "Why yes. Yes I do."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Libraries banning 50 Shades of Grey...again

Do we really have to go over this again? I mean...really?

First argument out of the isn't porn. IT IS NOT PORN. 50 Shades of Grey is not porn. Erotica does not equal porn. See: and . Any argument for 50 Shades of Grey being kept out of a library that includes the word "porn" is an invalid argument. If your argument is "it is porn" or "what is next? porn?" or "children shouldn't be exposed to porn", it is an invalid argument and you are an idiot. Porn is porn. Erotica is not porn. Clear? Good? Ok, let's move on.

I am a librarian and I am going to be controversial for a moment. Not every library needs to own 50 Shades of Grey. Not every library should own it. A public library is not a repository for every book every written. Disregarding all the other aspects of libraries and focusing only on books, a library is to provide reading material for the community that it serves. Every library has a different collection because every community has different needs. A small library in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire will have a very different collection from the public libraries in Indianapolis.

Libraries have collection development guidelines that they follow. When a book comes out, the librarian reads what the book is about, reads reviews, takes a look to see if similar books get checked out currently, looks to see what books are requested from other libraries, etc. Than they decide if that book falls within the guidelines that the library has set for what books to buy. If a library has a policy in place that says that they do not buy books with explicit sexual material that could be categorized as erotica, than they probably should not buy 50 Shades of Grey as that would go against their policy. Now, the policy may be outdated and a discussion needs to happen about that, but that is not the issue at hand right now.

Now let's say that the library doesn't have a policy that says they don't buy erotica. So they buy 50 Shades of Grey. And some 200 people put a hold on it. And then someone gets offended and pulls the book. That is a problem. A librarians job is not to tell people what to read or not to read. A librarians job (in regards to collection development) is to provide books that the community they serve want to read. Obviously, people want to read 50 Shades of Grey. And not 20 people. Hundreds upon hundreds of people want to read it. Libraries are doing a real disservice to themselves by pulling or not stocking Grey. Pretty much on a daily basis you hear that libraries are outdated and dying, no one goes to the library, funding is being cut, etc. etc. etc. Here is a way to pull people in and get people using the library and librarians are worried that the sex might be too much for people and not letting them check it out. That is going to alienate their audience and further the perception that libraries are an outdated institution and are full of old maid librarians who are prudes.

And as for the arguments about "won't someone think of the children! They go to that library and could see that book"...are you shitting me? First of all, it isn't being shelved in the children's section. It is in the adult fiction section. And secondly, if a kid sees the cover, I'm fairly sure they won't be scarred for life as the cover has a tie on it. And that is it. If a kid goes and picks it up and flips through the find the good parts...well, their parent should probably keep a better eye on them. However, that is also not going to happen because all copies of the book are obviously out as there are hundreds of holds on it.

There are two libraries near me that I am a member of (because one public library is not enough!) and one of them owns a copy of 50 Shades of Grey and the other does not. Know why? Because one tends to buy a few romance novels and the other really doesn't. 50 Shades of Grey apparently has not been requested at one of the libraries. Not a big deal. It isn't like they are banning it or censoring. It just isn't the right book for that library.

So, let's all take a breather and summarize. First, erotica is not porn. Second, not every library needs to own 50 Shades of Grey. Third, not every library should own 50 Shades of Grey. Fourth, owning 50 Shades of Grey will not hurt anyone, including the children. Fifth, banning or censoring books because it has content that someone finds inappropriate is bad.

Now, can we move on to other topics and discuss books that are actually good and The Grave series by Darynda Jones... fabulous books that are fun, exciting, funny, and contain enough sexual content to make prudish people blush! Exactly my favorite kind of book.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Midweek Mancandy: A Conversation about "The Avengers"

We here at Pop Tarts Central are big fans of awesome superhero movies and hot guys, so the release of "The Avengers" was like Christmas and our birthdays put together, with the addition of a bunch of extremely hot guys.

We had an online chat conversation about the guys one night, and we decided it would be a perfect format for this week's Mancandy offering. So here it is ... A Conversation about "The Avengers" Mancandy (edited for grammar, spelling and weird tangents).

Jen: So, there are so many hot guys in "The Avengers," though mom wanted to know why the girls had to wear skintight pants but the guys didn't.
Kel: The guys should wear skintight pants, or no pants.
Jen: Mark Ruffallo does not wear pants briefly, but you don't see anything vital.
Kel: Remember when we saw "The Hulk," the one with Eric Bana, and there was Eric Bana butt in it? Good times.
Jen: Dude, ok, the pants Chris Evans wore when he was not in his Captain America suit made his butt look amazing.
Kel: He just has a really great butt.
Photo here.

Jen: Who do you think is the hottest guy in "The Avengers?"
Kel: Thor. Chris Hemsworth. He's beefy.
Jen: I really have a soft spot for Jeremy Renner.
Kel: Oh, well, yeah, but he always looks like shit on the red carpet. This is weird. I like the super beefy big guy, and you like the thinner, prettier guy.
Jen: He's not pretty! Who are you looking at? He has an interesting face, and pretty large arms, at least in "The Avengers!"
Kel: Renner is a bit pretty. He looks like James McAvoy.
Jen: He's not pretty! You are weird. Chris Hemsworth is more pretty than Jeremy Renner.
Kel: Chris Hemsworth is built like a god.
Jen: He has pretty hair.
Kel: Yeah, but ... built like a tank.
Jen: True. Jeremy Renner is no lightweight though. He looks like it would hurt if he punched you in the face ... which he would do if you called him pretty.
Kel: I'm not saying he isn't hot. I love Renner. He is why i'm so excited about "The Bourne Legacy."

Photo here.

Photo here.

Jen: You know who was awesome in "The Avengers?" Mark Ruffalo. Best Bruce Banner yet.
Kel:  Ooo yay! I love Ruffalo. He shouldn't be as hot as I find him.
Jen: Right?
Kel: I think it is something about him being in "13 Going On 30."
Jen:  I'm always like, objectively, meh, but then you take it all together and it's like, yay! And "13 Going On 30" didn't hurt!
Kel: I think it is because he seems really nice. He is normal guy hot. As an actor ... bit meh. But if you saw him in line at Starbucks, you'd be like ... yeah.
Jen: Yep. I just really liked his mannerisms and stuff as Bruce Banner. It was believable. You can see that he's trying to hold in The Hulk.
 Photo here.

Jen: Can we just talk for a moment about how great Robert Downey Jr. is?
Kel: He is fantastic. He is fantasty. His swagger makes him hot. He's got attitude.
Jen: He's funny and sarcastic. What I love about Iron Man is how he's really jaunty and funny and sarcastic, but he's got a really dark side. He's very biting. And Captain America also has a bit of a dark side, but rather than joking, he just keeps doing what he's always done. They're both sort of sad and lonely but they play it out totally differently. And they're also both hot and have nice asses.
Kel: I was going to say, I haven't ever thought about them that hard. Mostly I go "Ooooo hot!"
Jen: I am a deep individual, dammit!
Photo here.

So that's our conversation ... the Mancandyish Men of "The Avengers." What do you think? Who is the hottest Avenger, and why? And is "The Avengers" possibly the most Mancandy-filled movie of all time?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

High School Reading List: Swear Words and Sex

I haven't read Looking for Alaska by John Green (nor anything by John Green which really seems like a big oversight) so I can't outright comment on if there is a scene in it that is so inappropriate as to scar Sophomores in high school. Somehow, I doubt it. Sumner and Knox Counties in Tennessee have both pulled Looking for Alaska from required reading lists.

I'm not going to go into a long rant about why censorship is bad or why parents who try to police all kids and not just their own are out of line. What I'd like to discuss is a line from The Tennessean's report about the Sumner County removal. The school spokesman made a comment that a book by a "classic" author like Steinbeck or Hemingway is less likely to make parents uncomfortable if there is bad language and/or sexual descriptions, which is apparently what is so scarring about John Green (apparently Looking for Alaska has 281 inappropriate words in its 216 pages, which is 1.3 times per page...which really sounds about average for high schoolers).

I can't remember all of the books that were required reading in high school (fairly sure I blocked some out on purpose), but there are some that I do remember: Romeo & Juliet, Lord of the Flies, Invisible Man, Great Expectations, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Streetcar Named Desire, Huckleberry Finn, The Sound and the Fury, Beloved, The Odyssey, The Yellow Wallpaper, Death of a Salesman, The Catcher in the Rye, The Crucible, The Grapes of Wrath, Our Town. And then there were books that were on a reading list that I did for some sort of project: Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, Cold Sassy Tree, Treasure Island, Candide, The Magnificent Ambersons, Animal Farm.

I'm fairly sure that is not a comprehensive list because I'm sure we read more than 2 things Freshman year, but I have no idea what. And Sophomore and Junior year run together because I had the same teacher and sat in the same seat. However...the required readings...the trends I see are 1) "classics" and 2) pretty heavy stuff. Let's take something like Adventures of Huck Finn. That is not a particularly hard book to get through as it is fairly exciting what with all the action as it involves an escaped slave. However, it does use inappropriate language. Often. And to great effect. The N word is used to show the time but also to highlight the fact that it is inappropriate. We read parts of Huck Finn outloud in class. We were not allowed to skip words. My teacher used it as a teaching opportunity. Which is what a teacher does. Catcher in the Rye involves a scene with a prostitute. How is that more appropriate for teenagers to be reading than some bad language and an awkward oral sex scene? Or What about Streetcar Named Desire. The main character had an affair with a 17-year-old student of hers oh and also there is that whole rape thing. So rape is appropriate for teenagers to read but a consensual sex act isn't because the author is still alive? It doesn't make sense.

Part of growing up is learning what makes you uncomfortable and why. I tend to not get uncomfortable reading any sort of sex scene or anything with bad language. But reading about hateful violence really bothers me. Invisible Man really bothered me in parts. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't have been required to read it. In fact, it means that I definitely should have had to read it. You can never grow if you only stay in your comfort zone. And when you are in high school and figuring out what you are is the prefect chance to explore things that are inappropriate and make you uncomfortable in a safe and structured environment. I very distinctly remember discussing Huck Finn in class in a very frank discussion. Because my teacher was awesome and understood the importance of Sophomores being able to discuss why the N word is bad and why slavery was wrong and why such violence happened.

I don't know what lessons Looking for Alaska is teaching. If the inappropriate sex scene is really that bad that it makes people uncomfortable...good! As I understand it, it is supposed to be awkward and unsexy. So why can't a teacher use that to open up a discussion on the subject? Maybe I lucked out with having an amazing English teacher for two years in a row (Mrs. totally rocked!) but I always felt challenged and free to discuss anything in a book, no matter how "inappropriate". So can we stop with the "high schoolers can't read about sex without having it" and the "swear words are evil" and the "sex is only ok to read about once the book is a classic" because it is all bullshit. To paraphrase a quote I read by Maurice Sendak don't break that easily. They can handle a lot of grim stuff. so let's assume high schoolers can, too.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dancing with the Stars: The Overly-Complicated-So-We-Can-Fill-Two-Hours-Instead-Of-Just-Making-The-Show-Shorter Edition

Jen and Kel are both blogging tonight. Double the snark, double the fun. The couples are dancing twice tonight, once in a single dance with their partner, and once with a third pro...which is hot if done right (see: Take the Lead ending tango here.)

Peta Murgatroyd and Donald Driver, Tango to "Higher Ground"
Kel's Take: Have we discussed that Peta tends to not wear makeup when she rehearses? That makes me so unbelievably happy because who wears makeup to work that hard? You go girl. You look hot when you are natural!

Dance: She is wearing a pleather skirt! And they are dancing to that song that is in Center Stage when they do the jazz class (see it here). Donald's frame is not great. He looks a bit slouchy to me. Also, I feel like I'm not really getting any real energy or passion. But that may have been because I was thinking too much about how much I love Center Stage instead of really focusing on the dance. Also...pleather skirt thing!

Jen's Take: I love their energy, not to mention Peta's pleather-and-gold skirt ensemble, but it's not a terribly flashy, exciting dance and I never really felt like it was fantastic.

Judges' Take: They loved it. Len called it a "knockout." They gave it 9s across the board. Total score: 27.

Derek Hough and Maria Menounos, Viennese Waltz to "A Thousand Years"
Kel's Take: I like Maria. I like that no matter how upset she gets, she tries to not let it all out. She doesn't whine or cry about it. There is no crying in ballroom.

Dance: Fog machine of death! I love this song! Her frame is lovely. A lot of the time in Viennese, the girl's job is to just hold frame and hold on. Or at least, that is how I usually dance Viennese. That dance didn't seem to have a lot to it. Or I was distracted again. I may be ADD tonight. But yeah, sure. It was fine. I definitely agree with Len that it should have had more content! I would have liked more hold. What up! Old school ballroom!

Jen's Take: Their best thing about watching Derek & Maria dance is their excellent chemistry. I feel like they want to be in each other's arms. The dance wasn't super flashy, but it was very fluid and flowing, and I appreciate that.

Judges' Take: Bruno and Carrie Ann really liked it, and responded to their fluidity and passion. They both gave them 10s. Len, however, thought she should be in hold a lot more, and scored them only an 8. Total score: 28.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Melissa Gilbert, Foxtrot to Maggie May
Kel's Take: And...Maks freakout! It has to happen every season. I like when Maks freaks out. He really puts everything into his dancing and is so passionate. And I feel like he comes across bad on camera sometimes. He gets along best with women who give him shit Kirstie and Mel B.

Dance: Oh! I was too busy writing about Maks to watch. He has nerd glasses on. He is like superman...fooling no one! Melissa is awfully sloppy. However the story is good. And her dress is two parts trashy and two parts awesome. Melissa has been improving every week and really seems to have relaxed so much since the first few weeks. I feel like in judging, Maks is still mad about last week. And probably the video package. Do you think he gets tired of the "Maks is a dick" edit every season. Why is it ok when Derek swears at Maria, but it isn't ok when Maks swears at Melissa?

Jen's Take: I just think Maks is so darn cute in his nerd glasses. I really am an unrepentant Maksim fangirl. He has a lot of personality. Anyway, the dance. Melissa had some glitches with her feet, and I still fee like she's holding on to Maks when they're dancing because it's too much for her, but she seemed to embrace that this week. It's a bit of a sloppy dance, but Melissa keeps improving.

Judges' Take: All three judges agreed it was her best dance so far, even with the mistakes. Carrie Ann also praised her for keeping her shoulders down. They all gave her 8s. Total score: 24.

Mark Ballas and Katherine Jenkins, Viennese Waltz to a generic slow song.

Kel's Take: I like that Katherine has no quit in her! Smacks her head on the floor, does the trick again.

Dance: She isn't really doing the footwork. She seems to be just sliding her feed on the floor during a good part of this dance. And you really have to pick up your feet in Viennese. Also, Mark looks like he just stepped off a production of Newsies. It was a fine dance. But again, nothing exciting. I just feel like Viennese and Quickstep don't translate on TV as well. Because I love Viennese Waltz. And I really love Quickstep. And of course Tango is great, but nothing has been exciting tonight.

Jen's Take: Again, it wasn't a thrilling dance! She is very in control and they're a cute couple, but they also suffer a bit because they're going right after Derek and Maria, who dance so well together. I did love the cool spinning trick, too - I'm impressed by things like that!

Judges' Take: They were all very impressed with her technique, and Len was thrilled that she actually danced Viennese Waltz in hold. Carrie Ann did point out some footing problems, and she gave them an 8. The guys gave them 9s. Total score: 26.

Chelsie Hightower and Roshon Fagen, Foxtrot to "Sweet Pea"
Kel's Take: Oh my gosh! Roshon's grandmothers are the most adorable things ever. They are so tiny! And they are giving him critiques! Oh come on! How can you not vote for that!

Dance: That is the look for him. Nerd adorable. I feel like he is slightly on top of the beat. Foxtrot needs to have some stretch to the slow steps. He seems to be rushing a bit. Again, it is like his energy just cannot be contained. And it just kinda spills out in the wrong place. And today instead of being flingy it was slightly rushed. However, it was cute and my favorite dance of the night so far.

Jen's Take: I am not a ballroom dance expert, so I'm not sure that the dance was actually Foxtrot all the time, but it was very cute and SO Broadway! Roshon should be in a Broadway show for sure! I loved this dance, and I agree with Kel that his grandmothers are adorable.

Judges' Take: They loved it. Len called them "two little dancing Munchkins" (in a good way), and Bruno said Roshon was like a young Mickey Rooney. Carrie Ann and Bruno gave them 10s, but Len spoiled the party with a 9. Total score: 29.

Cheryl Burke and William Levy, Foxtrot to "Stray Cat Strut"
Kel's Take: Dear William...I will never like you if you keep complaining about the rules of ballroom when you signed up for a ballroom show. Stop whining.

Dance: That is the best backdrop ever! Was it animated with people in a window? Or was that a shadow? Ok. So, this isn't bad. It is actually pretty fun and cute. But Foxtrot is a smooth dance. Which means it should be smooth. And William isn't smooth at all. Cheryl's dress is bananas! A fucking perfect score? Really? I think not.

Jen's Take: I still think William is boring and an asshole, but he danced pretty well. Part of it was just because I really love the song "Stray Cat Strut," actually. However, yes, decent dance with a pretty good strut to it, but I think William looked uncomfortable in his face.

Judges' Take: They piddled all over the ballroom in delight. Perfect 10s across the board. Total score: 30.

The Threesome Rounds!

Peta Murgatroyd and Donald Driver, with Karina, Jive to a 50s kind of song
Kel's Take: I have danced in a trio before. Not for competition, but I've done it. I think with ChaCha and Rhumba. I look forward to the craziness!

Dance: Donald brought the guns out! His arms are delicious. He isn't pointing his toes at all in his flicks and kicks. However, he has tons of energy and really looks like he is enjoying the hell out of himself. And that jump at the end made me give snaps up from my couch. You go Donald Driver! Technique problems aside, he brought it.

Jen's Take: Donald is hot. OK, sorry, I wasn't really paying attention - I was on the phone for most of this song - but what I saw had a lot of energy. And, I was thrilled to see Donald being light on his feet.

Judges' Take: I think they loved it, because the guys gave them 9s and Carrie Ann voted with her libido and gave them a 10. Total score: 28.

Derek Hough and Maria Menounos, with Henry, Samba to "Mama Do The Hump"
 Kel's Take: I approve of the choice of Henry. OMG accent. Mmmmm hot Australia. I'm concerned about the Bollywood thing.

Dance: OH MY GOD! They are using a Rizzle Kicks song! Best thing ever! I really really love this song. much did I space out that dance. It was cute and energetic. But I didn't watch it really. I was distracted by the song. But it didn't seem to have much Samba in it. That seemed more like a finale freestyle round dance. Using Rizzle Kicks is almost as great as in the first week when someone danced to an Olly Murs song. UK Invasion! One last shoutout to Henry's abs!

Jen's Take: It definitely wasn't very samba, but it sure as hell was cute! I loved the Bollywood feel to it, and I loved the song, and I loved the energy, and I loved Maria's hips. What a cute dance!

Judges' Take: Bruno and Carrie Ann really liked it, although they commented that she lost the timing a couple of times. They gave them 9s. Len grumpily informed her that it had "no connection to samba," and threw up a 7. Total score: 25.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Melissa Gilbert, with Val, Samba to "Hard to Handle"
Kel's Take: Not to be inappropriate, but omg dream. Chmerkovskiy sandwich. And the boys doing samba adorable.

Dance: Ok. I will tell you why that worked. First, it was a real Samba. It used all samba moves. It also utilized the two men. They really choreographed something that highlighted both men along with featuring Melissa. It also worked because Maks and Val learned from the same person so they have very similar style to their dance. So they worked really well together. And lastly it worked because Melissa went "yeah, I am dancing with Maks and Val, let's have some fun."

Jen's Take: OMG, Chmerkovskiy sandwich. As Melissa said, "There is nothing hotter than dancing with two Chmerkovskiys." Her dancing is pretty sassy, because I think she was just plain enjoying dancing with Maks and Val. I also just really enjoyed watching those two guys dance together.

Judges' Take: They loved it! 9s across the board! Total score: 27.

Mark Ballas and Katherine Jenkins, with Tristan, Chacha to "She's a Lady"
Kel's Take: I love Tristan! And I really really love that Katherine made fun of Mark's bizarre semi-British accent. Ha!

Dance: I love the theming. And the reveal of the outfit was nice. Even though it not going smoothly definitely threw Katherine off. I also feel like that worked more in theory than in practice. It seemed a bit hit or miss. It had some fun energy but then some simple basic. I think that she would have looked better had she not come right after Melissa and the Chmerkovskiys. But quit in that girl!

Jen's Take: I really enjoyed the story of this dance. It was very cute. I wasn't blown away by the dancing, but I was happy that she didn't quit when the one leg of her pants stuck on her foot. Good on her! Overall, it wasn't super thrilling because she looked a little lame after the Chmerkovskiy awesomeness. Still, gotta love a fringe dress.

Judges' Take: Len thought it was clean and clear, and gave them a 9. Bruno found the dance sexy and cool, and Carrie Ann loved it, too. They both gave 10s. Total score: 29.

Chelsie Hightower and Roshon Fagen, with Sasha, Paso Doble to "Come On"
Kel's Take: Sasha is tiny! And adorable. Though is the entire troupe Australian?

Dance: Here is why this didn't work as a group dance. Because Sasha wasn't in it very much. You can't really have the contestant sit out part of the dance, but I feel like they didn't really utilize the concept. It was fine, but I just don't understand the point of it. However, Roshon definitely looked stronger this week.

Jen's Take: I loved the beginning of the dance, when Sasha and Roshon were circling each other, but then Sasha disappeared for too long. I liked Roshon's intensity, though, and he has really gotten his flingy arm craziness under control, which is a wonderful thing. He's still a little too wild, though.

Judges' Take: They all really enjoyed the dance, but remarked that Roshon did lose it just a little bit. Len said they were "like 2 skinny fries chasing the ketchup." Either our hearing is going, or Len is going insane. Or both. They all gave them 9s. Total score: 27.

Cheryl Burke and William Levy, with Tony, Paso Doble to a classical song
Kel's Take: Dance: It takes strong men to make magenta capes strong. I'm concerned about some of William's steps. He is a bit sloppy. He also had a bit of an issue staying with the music. Tony definitely won that dance. However, they did a better job with the three person Paso than Chelsie/Sasha/Roshon did. I liked the dance, but I'm still a bit meh on it. Also, I find William a bit boring.

Jen's Take: I love the whole dance fight concept, but I did think there wasn't enough Tony in the middle. It was a good dance with a great feel - I love classical music with paso - but it didn't totally trip my trigger.

Judges' Take: They loved it quite a bit, although Carrie Ann wanted William to have more arch and carry himself better. They all gave them 9s. Total score: 27.

Final Thoughts
Kel's Opinion: My favorite dance of the night by far was Melissa/Maks/Val. It was the best choreographed trio and was the most fun to watch. My second favorite was Donald/Peta/Karina. Also super fun and high energy. Third is a tie between Roshon and William's Foxtrots. 

Jen's Opinion: I really enjoyed both of Melissa and Maks' dances. Even though Melissa is still a smidge shaky, she's gotten better, and with her wonderfully hot partner(s), I think she's safe this week. However, two couples are going home this week, and I just really don't know who it will be. I am hoping for William, but the judges were so enthralled with him. I worry a bit about Roshon - even though he was adorable and danced really well, he hasn't been doing terribly well. In the end, it's going to be a tight race!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Find me Sci-Fi/Fantasy to read

Hi. I'm Kel. I'm a librarian, a nerd, and a geek. I enjoy nothing more than laying out in the sun with a good book to read. Really. I read all the time. Usually to the detriment of getting TV watched (No, Jen, I haven't watched Game of Thrones yet). I most enjoy reading genre fiction. Stuff that you would find as a paperback book. Nothing that would hit the Oprah book club. However, the one genre that I avoid like the plague is Sci-Fi/Fantasy (possibly two genres, but lumped together in the library therefore lumped together in my mind).

Now, to be fair, I haven't read much in the way of Sci-Fi or Fantasy. I really enjoyed Jumper/Reflex/Griffin's Story by Steven Gould. And I read and enjoyed the Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring. But besides that, I can't really recall reading any SF/F. Like, at all. It isn't that I don't enjoy SF/F altogether. Because I love movies and tv shows that fall squarely into that category. But books...meh.

So...I have a task for you, dear reader. I want you to recommend to me a Sci-Fi or Fantasy book that I will enjoy. I have some criteria for what I enjoy in a book that I would like your recommendation to have if possible.

1) Strong female character(s). I prefer to read books where the main character is a strong, kick-ass, funny/sarcastic chick. It isn't a deal breaker if the main character is a guy or anything (I actually tend to really enjoy books that have two main characters: a guy and a girl), but there has to be at least one really awesome female character.

2) Nothing that will hurt to carry around in my purse. Not to be as whiny about it, but if I book is over, say, 700 pages I'm probably not going to finish it. And really, if the book is over 400 pages, it needs to be something on the level of Harry Potter in readability. I'm a slow enough reader that if a book is too long I forget what happened at the beginning (like when I read IT and had to keep flipping through the front of the book to remember who certain characters were).

3) Nothing super serious or depressing. Why do I read mostly romance novels and mysteries? Because they always have a happy ending. It stressed me out too much to have to worry about if my favorite character is going to die. And trust me...if one character dies in a book, it was probably my favorite character. I like happy endings. Though I am ok with dark books. Have you read Ted Dekker books? I like those! And Stephen King with his no one will live happily at all, if they do in fact live...I'm cool with those. I just don't want a book that is going to make me fall in love with a great character and then kill them *cough*gameofthrones*cough*.

4) Must have some humor. It doesn't have to be a comedy (do they make Sci-Fi comedy books?), but it needs to have something funny in it. A snarky side character. A cute dog that gets into trouble. A sarcastic narrator. Something to make me giggle out loud at least one.

5) I would prefer names that are not ridiculous. I get that for SF/F usually makes up names because it is set in some other world, but seriously. If the names and places are too ridiculous or I have to keep figuring out how to pronounce them, it really pulls me out of the story.

Now...tell me what to read. I'll take any suggestions and if I can find them in one of my libraries, I will give it a go (except Game of Thrones because...I really just don't want to and it annoys Jen that I won't read it). So...Sci-Fi/Fantasy nerds of the internet...tell me what to read!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Love at First Read

Do you ever have that feeling? You know the one. Where you just know that this is love. No, I'm not talking about love at first sight (What? Are you living in a romance novel?); I'm talking about love at first read. That most magical of experiences where you took a chance on a book and start reading it and just know that this is the book for you.

I was walking through the public library the other day not really looking to check out any fiction books (I have approximately 18000 books in my TBR pile) when I saw a new arrival that struck me. The cover had a woman (sans head [not like her head cut off...just the picture didn't go all the way to her head]) in a flowy red dress, red Chuck Taylors, and holding a scythe. Hello, perfect book cover for me! Also, the book was called "Third Grave Dead Ahead". So far we have a woman in a dress and Converse shoes, holding a weapon and the words grave and dead are in the title. We are right up my alley. So I take a closer look and alas, it is the third book of a series.

I ran back to the mystery section and low and behold, the library had books 1 and 2 (which is surprising as my library tends to have say...books 2-18, but not book 1, or books 1, 2, and 5). I grabbed book 1, First Grave on the Right (by Darynda Jones, who has the most amazing first name ever), which has a women's foot with the most amazing skull sandals that I hope are real, affordable, and at a store near me. The cover grabbed me, so I took a look at the inside cover, which I don't especially like to do with mysteries (part of the fun is trying to figure out who is going to get killed!). The book is about a woman who is the grim reaper, sees dead people, tries to get said dead people to go into the light, has erotic dreams that may or may not be completely dreams, and is being followed by some dark...thing. Yeah. Sold. I'm checking this book out.

Now, I've had the book sitting in my house since Saturday. I was not feeling any great pull to start reading it and was slightly hesitant to think I would actually like it since the blurb on the cover includes the word "heartfelt" which is one of the buzzwords that turns me off. However, I finished what I was reading last night and have been swinging slightly more toward mysteries instead of romance again, so I figured why not. I started reading it at lunch. From paragraph 1, I was in love. Dark stranger infiltrating dreams? Earth shattering orgasms mentioned in the 2nd sentence? Paragraph 2 including "creative employment of lederhosen"? Yes OMG YES PLEASE! This is my love. Love at first sight! Oh my gosh LOVE!

Now, to be fair, I have only read three chapters. Everything could fall apart after this. But at the moment, this is my book. It is so right up my alley. First, you have a strong, feisty, fun, funny protagonist who is a grim reaper. You have her uncle, who is a police detective who gets his "anonymous tips" for solving murders from her, who gets them from the victims themselves. You have the PI who has been told about her "gift" to see dead people but really doesn't believe her and as such, acts like a bit of an asshole. Which she accepts and just kind of deals with. I'm figuring there is going to be some love triangle type thing between hottie PI guy (Garrett), the grim reaper (Charley Davidson), and her nighttime dream dude, who is probably someone from her past who isn't quite human, but not dead either. And then on top of all that she is trying to solve the murder of three people who are following her around. And there is the intrigue of the blurry dark thing that she keeps seeing out of the corner of her eye. And to make everything better, the dialogue is like a Joss Whedon show...not really how people talk, but how everyone wishes they talk. So far, I am reminded of a mix between Dead Like Me and Stephanie Plum, but with a bit of Buffy thrown in, too. My biggest problem now is what I'm going to do in a week when I have finished all three books and have to wait until the Fall for the newest one to come out.