Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Review: Avra's God by Ann Lee Miller

Forgiveness.  Each character in this story has to learn to forgive.  Avra needs to forgive Cisco.  Cisco needs to forgive his father.  Jesse and Kallie need to forgive each other.

This story revolves around four friends attending Daytona State University.  Cisco comes from a broken home and loves the atmosphere of family he finds at Avra's.  Avra has had a crush on Cisco but has always felt she wasn't worthy.

Jesse is in a band and has grabbed the attention of squealing fangirls.  One of them is not Kallie.  She's just a friend...a friend he wants to make something more.  Holding Kallie back are the girls and the band atmosphere.  Is Jesse the right one for her?

I don't know.  I didn't really connect with this book.  I can't really explain what it was, but I never really felt like I knew the characters.  Too much was going on and I was trying to keep characters straight in my mind.  I don't know.  It wasn't a bad story.  I just couldn't connect to it.

I read this book as a review request.  All opinions are my own.  I was not compensated for this review in any way.

This is my last book review.  I have found over the course of doing book reviews that I really don't enjoy writing them.  I love reading, but writing book reviews takes joy away from that.  It even has me dreading finishing a book!  I love to write as well, but book reviews are not something I enjoy writing.  I'm going to miss getting free books, but it is for the best.  I'll find some use for this blog, yet!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dancing With Stars 2014

I didn’t always watch this show.  When it first came out, I rolled my eyes at it (as I do most things).  I think I took it as like lonely housewives watching soap stars.  I can’t remember what season it was that I came across it because nothing was on (no baseball).  I enjoyed it.  It wasn’t until a few seasons ago that I really paid attention and watched it full time.

I have social anxiety.  That is a majorly crippling psychological disease.  It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  If you don’t have it or know someone who suffers from it you don’t understand.  Basically, I’m stuck inside my shell wanting to come out, even knowing how to come, but not being able to do it.  I know how to act in social situations.  I know what I should be saying and doing.  That does not mean when the time comes I will be able to do that.  I lost out on a great guy because I was too shy to form at the very least a friendship with him.  I do take medication and it has helped tremendously but it won’t make it go away.

I’m 31 years old and yes, I do think of myself as too old for this stuff, but I watch Degrassi on Teennick.  I’ve been watching it since season 2 so I think it’s okay for me to be sitting here watching it at season 13.  There were a few seasons in the middle that I missed out due to such things as moving, but I came back.  I’m a Christian and you think I shouldn’t like this show, but I do. 

That show is what brought me to Big Time Rush.  I don’t watch Nickelodeon.  I’m 31 years old and have no kids so I have no reason.  I had heard of BTR when they first came out.  I thought it was a cool idea for a TV show (hey I am a fan of The Monkees and boy bands, I will admit).  I did support BTR in that I wanted them to make it in the industry.   But, I didn’t watch the show or buy their music.

I was actually mad when Teennick (a channel I deem myself too old for but Degrassi) brought Big Time Rush and Victorious reruns to the channel.  They were still in original run on Nick and they were taking away space for Degrassi!  I don’t know if it was because I record Degrassi at night (yes, I still use an old-school VCR) or because I was turning Degrassi on during the day, but I did come across a BTR rerun on Teennick.  It reminded me a lot of The Monkees.  I thought it was cute, clever, and goofy, so I stuck around for more reruns.  I became hooked.  Scott Fellows and his team are amazing.  I love everything put into this show.  It’s unique and detailed. 

So, that’s how I became a fan of BTR.  If you know me you know I have to pick a favorite out of anything I like, but I couldn’t do that with BTR.  I like the guys all the same.  Season 4 came along and I actually watched that in original run on Nick (shh, no one’s supposed to know I’m watching a children’s network).  Episodes like Big Time Tour Bus and Big Time Tests had me falling in love with James’s talent.  I’m a sucker for eyebrows.  I don’t mean big bushy things (sorry, Kendall), but show much expression via the eyebrows (like Kevin Arnold of The Wonder Years).  James is cute, but aside from that, being able to act via his face, I loved it.  There are many other reasons I think James is talented (acting, singing, dancing…), but the eyebrows did it.

BTR ended as all good things do.  I was terribly upset that we may never get to see the wonderful talents of Mr. James Maslow again.  As I am a fan of Dancing with the Stars my first thought was “Hey, he could be on Dancing with the Stars.”  I knew it wasn’t going to be season 17 being that he just ended a summer long tour and a four season show.  He needed a break (plus I don’t think BTR had officially gone on break until October).

Without regularity, I visited the official Dancing with the Stars message board during season 17.  Towards the end there was a post (I think it was official) asking who we’d like to see on the show.  I was nervous (as my social anxiety does extend to the internet) but I simply typed in James Maslow and gave it no more thought.  I mean I gave the thread no more thought.  But, I did constantly keep thinking that I wanted James on the show.  I even asked God!  

I’m not a big Twitter user (except when something excites me like James on DWTS) so I missed out on all of James’s hints.  One day I was checking my email and found it was Grammar Day.  I was going to tweet “Happy Grammar Day!” (I have a degree in English, we like things like this), but I got completely sidetracked when I signed on and saw Logan’s tweet about James being on this season of Dancing with the Stars.  My wish had come true.

I could not believe it!  James is a Nick star so that really had me thinking that Disney owned ABC would never put him on this show.  The next thought was I didn’t know how big or strong the Rushers are so I was afraid he would go home very early.  I kept contemplating in my head we’d get such and such many episodes out of him.  I knew he had the talent.  I wouldn’t have suggested him if I didn’t think he could do it.
James is a member of a boy band and I was afraid that would get major backlash on this show. I know, I know they’ve had Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, Drew Lachey, and Aaron Carter (not a boy band member, but he is a teen pop star and brother of a boy band member), but they aren’t current boy band members.  I didn’t know how people would react to someone whose fans are of the kiddie crowd (more of the teenager/young 20 something crowd, I think).  James isn’t 17, though.  He’s 23.  I think that makes a difference.  Looking back, I think it compares to Corbin Bleu.  He is of High School Musical Fame and that’s sort of recent (but not that recent) teen-pop fangirlishness as well, but everyone respected him because he’s not a teenager and he can dance.

Every week James came out and brought it.  He showed who he was.  He danced.  He listened to the judges and took their advice to get better.  He worked.  He rehearsed.  He didn’t complain.  He didn’t cry.  He didn’t whine.  He worked.  He showed who he was—an incredibly hard working, respectful young adult with great abs who has the ability to put together a great dance.  Every week he was safe!  He outlasted Cody Simpson (the person deemed his rival) and NeNe Leaks.  He outlasted Drew Carey and Danica McKellar.  He outlasted Mr. Olympic Gold Medalist Ice Dancer Charlie White to be the last man standing.

Except for one package that showed him frustrated to the point of cussing there was nothing bad in his packages.  No fighting.  No struggling.  No I-Can’t-Do-This.  No injuries (even though he claims he was suffering from a slight hamstring injury NOT a strain).  Aside from the Peta Showmance they tried thrusting on them thanks to one date back before the summer tour (I have come to decide that platonic is James’s new favorite word), there was completely no drama for this guy.  This is something I really appreciate.  We need more stars like this.  Every day we see a new Disney or Nick star go off the deep end.  It’s refreshing to see one that’s not.

James accomplished so much on this show.  He got the first perfect score!  He outlasted every other male and all but three females.  He’s made friends.  He’s gained fans.  He’s shown the world that he’s more than just a Nickelodeon Boy Band Star.  He’s shown that he’s not just talented on the outside, but on the inside as well.  He’s shown the world what a fantastic muscular body he has and that with a bit of hard work and dedication the chubby kid can become the hot guy.  If you want it go out and get it.  Who you are in middle school does not have to define who you are for the rest of your life (which is good because I had rabbit teeth in middle school and thanks to braces I won’t be defined by that the rest of my life).

I had no reason to be worried.  James Maslow was a part of every episode this season.  He showed he can do it and the fans showed they want him to do it.  When he brought out his salsa dance week two jaws dropped, not just from his abs, but from his dancing.  I loved seeing the message board light up with surprise at his talent (he was known as the dark horse and the underdog early on).  He had my dad asking between him and Peta who was the star and who was the pro.  Heck, my dad’s favorite freestyle was James’s (I think his freestyle was manlier, but I liked seeing him flip).  My dad has no idea who James is.  He knows who Meryl and Charlie are thanks to the Olympics and he calls Candace “the Christian girl from that TV show” (among other things—he’s never had a great memory).  It is cool to see him liking what James does.

Let me make this longer because I love to write. :p  It’s already three pages according to Word.  I could keep waxing poetic about this for days and days.  I may not be wordy when I talk but I make up for it when I write.

James was refreshing on the show.  To quote Paula Abdul, he’s a “breath of fresh air.” I’ve already talked about the no drama, but also he’s a rising star.  He’s young (but not that young) and introducing himself to the world rather than being an outdated, over-the-hill, has-been (OK, no offense to anyone who’s been on the show.  I’ve loved the “has-beens” like Jennifer Grey, Ralph Macchio, and others I can’t remember at the moment.  Also, not every older contestant is a has-been.  They’re just a “not that busy right now so I can take time to do this time consuming show for three months).

I absolutely love the fans.  I write fanfic, but aside from reviews I’ve never really had much contact with the Rushers.  It has been something else.  The @team_jeta account was something else.  It kept us all connected.  It was (and still is) a gathering place for those of us supporting James and Peta..  Seeing every other fan inspired me more.  Without Team Jeta I would not have gotten the courage to try to stay up all night and vote (I didn’t last though—my body telling me I had to go bed somewhere around 2AM).  I would have stuck with my 10+ accounts and let that be.  It was really fun rallying together in support of the pair.  Also, the updates were great.  The pictures, the interviews, the articles…fun, fun, fun.  Thank you, team_jeta!

2014 hasn’t exactly been the greatest year for me.  I’m stuck in a rut I feel like I can’t get out of (won’t go into details on that but it does have to do with my social anxiety).  My uncle had been sick with lung cancer for a long time (he’s a smoker—lesson learned DO NOT SMOKE) and was on his deathbed come March.  He died the weekend before the premiere of Dancing with the Stars season 18.  I will admit, I was really afraid I was going to miss the season premiere (no, I need to see James dance for the first time!).  My grandmother, his mother, my mom’s mom, has been suffering from dementia for a while (she’s 97 years old) and it’s gotten worse lately.  In the course of the season she was admitted into the hospital.  And then this past weekend, the end of DWTS, she was admitted back in the hospital (it’s all blood pressure related).  It makes me think the end might be near for her.  This season has been bookended for me by all that drama (and there was a point when we thought we’d have to put one of our dogs down, but it’s like the minute we told her that she made sure to get better).  Every week has been full of family emotion.  Also, I live and die by my baseball team (Atlanta Braves) and the last month or so they’ve been stinking it up to high heaven.  Dancing with the Stars has been a great distraction from all of that.  It’s given me something to look forward to every week. 

Thank you, James Maslow.  Thank you, Peta Murgatroyd.  Thank you, @team_jeta.  Thank you, fans.  Thank you, Dancing with the Stars.  Season 18 will not be topped (though it would have been better if Harold Wheeler had been there).

P.S. Did you know “fangirl” has just been accepted into the Merriam-Webster dictionary?

P.P.S. I must also add during the season I had the drama of my laptop dying, buying a new one only to find out it’s a major lemon, getting a refund on that, and buying another new laptop.  That is one frustrating process (especially when the delivery guy delivers the laptop to the wrong address!).