Monday, November 26, 2012

Everyone Needs a Little Romance / Judy

Today I'm going to let you in on my favorite romance authors and some of their books. Frankly, if you choose carefully, they are some of the best stories around. Also I'm telling you about these with the caution that they often contain steamy love scenes. I sure wish the authors would have the decency to let the curtain down in strategic places and let these poor people have their privacy. But they don't, so I suggest you do what I do--skip those parts. 

So here they are in alphabetical order:

Mary Balogh

She was the first romance novelist I read, and her first book I read, Slightly Dangerous, is still one of my favorites. In fact, I bought it, which is unusual. She writes historical fiction about Regency England. The really great thing about her stories is how much you care about the people. The books always start out sort of frothy, but have much more depth as you go along, with the characters becoming more and more complex. There are some of her scenes that I like to read over and over either because they are so much fun or because they are so satisfying. She has several series that are all distantly connected, meaning the author often uses a main character from one book peripherally in another -- a familiar and beloved face.

Catherine Coulter

She is a prolific writer with several different series, from modern thrillers to historical fiction, but the only ones I've read are the Viking series: Lord of Hawkfell Island, Lord of Raven's Peak, and Lord of Falcon Ridge. I think these are more historical and adventure than romance, but whatever, they are fun to read.

Jude Deveraux

Another writer with several series. Mostly I've read her modern-day novels about Edilean, a small town in Virginia close to Williamsburg. There are a bunch of those. But my very favorite of hers is Wild Orchid. It has a supernatural, or fantasy aspect to it but very modern at the same time.

Diana Gabaldon

She has a series of very long books about one family in Scotland. The series begins with Outlander, which is my favorite. It's about a nurse just after World War II who accidentally goes back in time (I'm a sucker for time-travel stories) to Scotland around the time of the Uprising. As much as I liked the book as a whole, I did not like the ending, which was a shame after putting in so much time with this very long book. But I'll let you reserve judgement.

Amanda Quick

This author goes by at least three names: Amanda Quick - Jayne Ann Krentz - Jayne Castle. The Krentz books are modern romances while the Quick books are historical romances, set in either Regency England or Victorian England. Some of them are also slightly supernatural. Although the Krentz books are good, I like the Quick books the best. In fact, one of hers called Scandal I liked so much that I did something I've never done before. The minute I finished it, I started over at the beginning and read it all through again. I've never read any of her Castle books but I understand they are "futuristic/ paranormal romantic - suspense writing."

And those are my current favorites. I did not mention the most famous ones like Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele since everybody knows about them; and although they're okay, they're not as good as some of these others -- in my opinion.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Reading is a Great Way to Escape / Judy

I was surprised how bad I felt when I saw the election figures and knew Romney had lost. I was so sad! (I wonder if the Democrats would have been sad or angry if Romney had won? Somehow I can hear screams of "election fraud!") Anyway, after a day of mourning, I did what I always do when I feel down--I read a book. Reading is a great way to escape, better than TV or movies in my opinion. In a good book you really can transport yourself to another time or place or become another person.

The main genres I like are Mystery, Science Fiction, Romance (no judging), and General/Family Dramas. In another blog I'll list my favorite authors and their series in each of these genres. But for now, in case anyone else needs such an escape, here are a few individual books that I highly recommend.

1.  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand 
by Helen Simonson

This book is just fun to read. The writing is wonderful and I found myself quoting to Lloyd some of the funnier lines. This is a feel-good book which might be important right now. It's about a retired British major who lives in a small English village and who becomes interested in the Pakistani widow of the grocer. Absolutely delightful.

2. The Guernsey Literary and 
Potato Peel Pie Society 
by Mary Ann Shaffer

Another entry in the "delightful" category. It's the story, told in letters, of Guernsey Island, in the English Channel, that was occupied by Germans during WWII. It begins about 1946-7 and starts out quite funny, then becomes more serious as the protagonist learns more about what happened during the war. Again, the writing is amazing and it's one book you really don't want to end. Although it does have a very satisfactory ending.

3. Dawn by Olivia Butler

For a change of pace, this is good science fiction, which is hard to find. It's about a group of humans who are rescued from the ravages of nuclear war by a race of aliens.I consider a book to be outstanding when I can't predict what will happen next and at the same time I am anxious to find out. And that describes this book.

4. A Discovery of Witches
 & Shadow of Night
 by Deborah Harkness

These are the first two of a planned trilogy and the best way to describe them is to say they are like the Twilight series but for grown-ups. They have a romance between a vampire and a human, but that is not the main part of the story. There is a lot of history and even science, which made them even more fun. 

5. Miss Buncle's Book
 by D.E. Stephenson

This is an older one that takes place in England probably in the 50's. It's another fun read, not serious, but very well-done, about a spinster who needs money and decides to write a book about the people she knows in her village. Chaos ensues.

In each of these books, as great as the story-line is, the really wonderful aspect is the characterization. They all have people you like a lot and want to spend time with. I find I won't read a book about someone I wouldn't want around for whatever reason. It's better to be with people who make you laugh or inspire you somehow, or are just plain interesting to listen to. And all these books have those kinds of people.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Enough Politics, Now Movies & Books / Judy

In my last post, "When Lloyd& I Started this Blog," I recommended 4 lesser-known films that both Lloyd & I watched. I don't know about your lives, but it's rare that we have time together. So besides those movies that I enjoy, I'm also on the lookout for ones we'll both like. The themes and pace are more for adults than children. "The Big Miracle" from the last post would be one for the whole family.

 Here are five more films that I recommend with shared popcorn 

1. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

This is a quirky British movie ("quirky" and "British" are often synonymous). Although it's not as funny as the trailer promises, it has more heart. It's about a visionary sheik from Yemen who wants to establish salmon fishing in his country and goes to Britain's Academy of Fisheries, or something, for help. It stars two of my favorite actors: Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. No subtitles of course.  Netflix DVD, not instant.

2. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Another British entry. This one is longish (2 hrs 5 min) and leisurely, but it builds and by the end has exerted a compelling charm. It's about several British retirees who travel to India to live in an exotic hotel that is not nearly as wonderful as the brochures describe. All their stories are interwoven around the hotel manager and you really care about these people, at least I did. Again, Netflix DVD, not instant.

3. Queen to Play

This one is French and has subtitles. It's unrated, but again it's okay. It's about a motel maid on the island of Corsica who one day sees an American couple playing chess on the balcony of their room. She becomes intrigued with the game and asks an American (Kevin Kline) to teach her the game. She becomes very good at it. In fact, she becomes so good that it changes her life and everything around her. It is available on Netflix instant.

4.  The Women on the 6th Floor (Subtitles)

A French comedy, but bear in mind their comedies are not like our comedies. You never know what's going to happen next. It's about a Parisian couple in 1960 who hire a Spanish maid. All the maids live on the 6th floor, and the husband finds he likes being up there more than in his own apartment. It's unrated, but okay. I have to warn you about one scene where the husband sees the bare back of the maid as she takes a bath in their apartment, but that's it. It is available on Netflix instant.

5. Take Me Home

This is a little gem I discovered under the Watch Instantly column on Netflix. It's obviously an indie film because I've never heard of any of the actors, but they are really good. It's a fun story about a woman in New York who hears her father is in a hospital in California, and she hires a cabby to drive her there. Turns out to be quite a road trip. Also available on Netflix instant.

And that's it, unless I see another intriguing movie I have to talk about. The next blog will be about some books I've recently enjoyed. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

When Lloyd & I Started this Blog / Judy

She Says, He Says

When Lloyd and I started this blog several years ago, we named it "He said, She said," because we thought we could take an issue and state our different views on it. But we found that not only did we have different views, we had entirely different issues. For instance, I find the current elections somewhat interesting, but I certainly don't feel consumed by them. 

Now on to the interesting stuff -- movies and books. For this blog I'll talk about recent movies we've seen and that I recommend. I'll do books the next time.

I've chosen movies that you may not have seen or heard of (I assume everyone knows about the big, more popular ones). I'll mention a little about them, provide a trailer, and give their availability on Netflix.

Domestic Movies

1. The Big Miracle

It's a true story starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski about a village in Alaska that tries to rescue a family of whales. The whales are trapped beneath the ice and not only does the whole town get involved, but the media learns about it and it becomes a huge media event all over the world. Netflix DVD, not instant.

Enjoyable Foreign Films with Subtitles

2.  Heartbreaker

It's a French movie and unrated, but okay. It's the story of a man and his sister and her husband who own a business where someone pays them to "save our loved one from the wrong boyfriend." So they go to great lengths to break up a bad relationship. The problem is that the guy falls in love with their unknowing client while trying to get her to leave her fiancee. Caveat--the one scene you have to fast-forward is where her crude friend comes into the protagonist's room and tries to seduce him. It doesn't last very long because he's saved by his brother-in-law, but while it lasts it's not good. (I was reminded about the crude friend in the move Fifty First Dates and how every time he was in a scene it was ruined.) Netflix instant/DVD.

3. Romantic's Anonymous

Another French movie, also unrated but okay, from 2010. Delightful movie about two VERY, even pathologically shy people who finally get together. He owns a chocolate factory on the verge of bankruptcy and she is some sort of genius chocolate maker. Netflix instant/DVD.

4. Where Do We Go From Here?

I've saved the best for last. If you don't see any of the others, see this one from Lebanon. It's about a village surrounded by land mines. Day to day, the Christian and Muslim neighbors are sociable. But when something negative happens, the men blame "the others" and get all stirred up, while the women try to calm them down. The women go to great lengths to keep the men distracted from the greater "war outside" and are sustained by deep friendship  and a poignant humor. The ending is incredible, but you have to experience the entire movie to fully appreciate it. Netflix DVD not instant.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Invited to Pray & Fast for Both Pres. Obama & Mitt Romney / Judy & Lloyd

Thirty-five years ago in Bern, Switzerland, President Immo Luschin von Ebengreuth taught us it was our sacred responsibility and opportunity to pray for the leaders of our country not only in our homes but in our congregations and temples.  We are to pray to God to bless our national leaders wherever we are living.  This was in the midst of the Cold War, and we were stationed in Germany with the US Army.

During this 2012 Presidential Election, when I have felt the weight of the issues debated more personally than ever before, this responsibility to pray for our leaders keeps coming to mind over and over. 

President Luschin acknowledged that some forms of government may be more effective than others in securing peace, safety, and prosperity for their citizens, but he focused on the importance and duty of invoking the blessings of God upon the nations’ leaders  to strengthen them in their heavy burdens of government.

Judy and I have children, other family members, and close friends all within our faith who feel strongly for either Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama.  As a registered Democrat and previous office holder in our County’s Democratic Central Committee, I may be acquainted with more men and women who support President Obama’s election than most others who share my Mormon faith.

But beyond partisan politics, we each seek to elect men and women who are best able to govern this diverse and dynamic nation during confusing and clearly dangerous times.  And we especially seek to honestly discern the strengths and hearts and relative merits of Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.  We not only want this discernment for ourselves but for all American voters.  

The Presidential debates begin next Wednesday, October 3rd.  And historically, it’s not unusual for political debates to significantly influence an election’s outcome.  For that reason Judy and I have set aside this Sunday, September 30th as a day of fasting and prayer on behalf of both candidates and the American electorate. We pray that God will bless both President Obama and Mitt Romney to be able to present themselves at their very best and in such a way that voters can clearly discern which one would best serve the country at this time. 

Recently we were greatly surprised to find ourselves voting for a candidate we had written off early in the campaign because of his politics. Sometimes the overriding question is not whether an individual‘s political views coincide with ours, but whether a candidate can actually manage the ship of state in rough seas. Can he govern this entire nation and keep us in one piece amid pounding and battering waves and gale force winds?  In the end the discernment to know which candidate to vote for may only be available from God himself.

We invite all to join us this Sunday in seeking the blessings of God for ourselves and for our Presidential candidates.

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