My Playlist (Part 2)

3-2 more snow

I know I said no more snow pictures, but it snowed all day yesterday. Thanks, March: the little bit of hope I felt when I knew February was coming to an end has fizzled. Where’s my funky patio? Where’s my garden?

Okay. Let’s go back to my playlist. I love reading all of your comments. I have recordings by so many of the people you have mentioned – many of them should be copied to my computer and put on the playlist, but that has yet to be done.

Here we go. Let’s hit Shuffle.

My Playlist

The Look of Love – Dusty Springfield
This has to be one of the sexiest songs ever written. Ever. Written by the great Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the movie Casino Royale, it has been recorded by a whole host of artists. I have it on the playlist in three different incarnations; Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, Diana Krall and this one by Dusty Springfield, which I think might be the best. Springfield’s husky voice brings just the right sound to this song.

The look of love
is saying so much more
than just words could ever say
and what my heart has heard
well, it takes my breath away

•  All Around the World – Lisa Stansfield
I love this song, written in 1989 and performed by British pop singer Lisa Stansfield. She’s got a powerhouse of a voice and this song has an infectious arrangement that has me singing along every time I hear it.

Been around the world and I, I, I
I can’t find my baby
I don’t know when, I don’t know why
Why he’s gone away
And I don’t know where he can be, my baby
But I’m gonna find him

 Traces – Classics IV
I loved the smooth voice of Dennis Yost, the lead singer of the Classics IV. They had a series of hits, Spooky, Stormy and this one, Traces. It brings back memories of being in my bedroom, listening to records when I was a teenager. Love lost, young love….what better subject for a teenager?

Traces of love long ago
that didn’t work out right
Traces of love
with me tonight

•  This is the Life – Matt Monro
Matt Monro was British singer who sang in the smooth style of Jack Jones (who will make an appearance on the playlist) and Johnny Mathis. My mom always had the radio on when I was a kid and I heard Monro frequently. I loved his vocal quality. So, eventually, I bought a CD of his music. This song is very sixties to me, almost Rat Pack-y. Written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse (who wrote Bye, Bye Birdie.)

House at the beach
Dinners at 21
Head waiters smile when you walk in.
Hand tailored suits, shirts with your monogram

•  There is a Time (Le Temps) – Charles Aznavour
Charles Aznavour, the quintessential French singer – I’ve always loved his passionate singing. This song is so amazing when sung by Aznavour. The tempo quickens throughout the song, so that by the end you feel as if you’re whirling on a carousel that’s gone out of control. It’s fabulous.

This time, this time, this time there’s no time to waste
We know the time we have cannot be replaced
This time, this time, this time let’s not hesitate
We know our time is brief, and it cannot wait

•  Belle of the Ball – Leroy Anderson
Don’t get me started on how much I love Leroy Anderson. He wrote light concert pieces, many of which you’ve heard over the years. The Syncopated Clock, Bugler’s Holiday, The Typewriter, and his most famous piece, Sleigh Ride. They were recorded by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Belle of the Ball is one of my favorites. I dare you to listen to this and not feel filled with joy. And I bet you’ll start to waltz. It’s that wonderful. It makes me happy.

•  It’s Gonna Take a Miracle – Deniece Williams
I wrote about Williams recently on the blog. I have three of her recordings on this playlist. She has an extraordinary range – it’s truly amazing. An incredible singer. It’s Gonna Take a Miracle might be her biggest hit. It’s been recorded by Laura Nyro, the Manhattan Transfer, and was originally recorded by The Royalettes. This version is my favorite.

Loving you so
I was too blind to see
You letting me go
But now that you’ve set me free
It’s gonna take a miracle
Yes, it’s gonna take a miracle
To make me love someone new
Cause I’m crazy for you

•  Speak Low – Sammy Davis, Jr. and Laurindo Almeida
Davis recorded a series of songs with Brazilian guitarist Almeida. Just the guitar and Davis’ voice. I love these recordings, which I think show Davis at his best. Speak Low was written by Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash for the musical, One Touch of Venus. (Sung, by the way, by Mary Martin in the original Broadway cast.) Sexy, sexy song.

Speak low, darling, speak low
Love is a spark, lost in the dark, too soon, too soon
I feel wherever I go
That tomorrow is near, tomorrow is here and always too soon.

•  Just to See Her – Smokey Robinson
Written by the great Smokey Robinson, this song is one of my favorites. His voice is beyond compare, his storied history as a Motown singer with the Miracles and then later as a solo act is well known. His voice is a smooth as silk. This arrangement is fabulous. I think it’s Robinson at his best.

Just to see her
Just to touch her
Just to hold her in my arms one more time

•  Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me) – Anthony Newley
This is one of the great, gut-wrenching songs, written by Newley and Bricusse for the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd. I listened to the original cast album over and over when I was a teenager. Newley had a voice that was incredibly powerful, filled with passion – some might even say over the top – but I say he was one of the best.  This rendition breaks my heart, every time I hear it. I once listened to it on my iPod repeatedly for two hours while commuting to the city.

Who can I turn to
When nobody needs me
My heart wants to know
And so I must go
Where destiny leads me

•  Boogie Wonderland – Earth, Wind & Fire (with the Emotions)
I make no bones about how much I love Earth, Wind & Fire. Love, love, love them. They make me happy. They fill me with joy. I start to dance and sing when I hear them. Great arrangements, great voices, one of the greatest groups of all time. The lyrics don’t matter so much – the sound is everything.

•  Dancing in the Dark – Diana Krall
This the track that first introduced me to Diana Krall and I’ve since purchased several of her CDs. This, though, is probably my favorite. Produced by the legendary Claus Ogerman, who produced my favorite Frank Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim albums, the arrangement is sexy and bossa-nova in flavor. It’s simply gorgeous. I first heard it on the Jonathan Schwartz show that airs on WNYC every Saturday and Sunday. I’ll write more about Schwartz at another time but I will say that if I have a dream of having a radio show, the dream is based on his show, his knowledge of music, his incredible taste. Incidentally, Schwartz is the son of Arthur Schwartz, who wrote Dancing in the Dark for the movie musical, The Band Wagon. Sexy, sexy, sexy.

Dancing in the dark ’til the tune ends
We’re dancing in the dark and it soon ends
We’re waltzing in the wonder of why we’re here
Time hurries by, we’re here and we’re gone

 A Sleepin’ Bee – Bill Henderson
Composed by Harold Arlen and Truman Capote for the musical House of Flowers, I was first introduced to this song by Barbra Streisand. This version, with Bill Henderson singing, was discovered on a CD I have called Closer Than a Kiss: Crooner Classics, which has turned out to be one of my favorite CDs. Bill Henderson, is a jazz singer – also an actor – who has performed with Ramsey Lewis, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson. I love his style and I love this arrangement.

When a bee lies sleepin’
In the palm of your hand
You’re bewitched and deep in
love’s long looked after land

•  Bugler’s Holiday – Leroy Anderson
For the same reasons I love Belle of the Ball. This piece, written for three buglers, is joyous and fantastic and it makes me happy. End of story.

•  Can’t Get Used to Losing You – Andy Williams
Love Andy Williams, especially when he sings the great Henry Mancini. This wasn’t written by Mancini, but I love the arrangement. His voice is overdubbed, so we can hear Andy singing along with himself. The strings that are plucked in the opening may be my favorite part of the song.

Guess there’s no use in hangin’ round
Guess I’ll get dressed and do the town
I’ll find some crowded avenue
Though it will be empty without you

•  I’ve Got a Love – Don Sparks
I have a few of Don’s songs on this playlist. This is one of my favorites. Don’s a romantic – lucky for me – and this song is all about a love found after many years of waiting.

It wasn’t what you said
Or how the sunlight played around you
Not your kisses red
Left on the face that finally found you

With my back against the wind
I knew it when I told a friend
I’ve got a love, I’ve got a love,
I’ve got a love, I’ve got a love.

More tomorrow my friends.

There is a new post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page  today.

Happy Monday.

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My Playlist (Part 1)

I’ve had this secret wish, as long as I can remember – to host a radio show where I can play all sorts of music. I would introduce songs, compositions, and pieces that touch my heart to my listening audience. I’d talk about each selection and give some background on the artist or the piece itself. I love sharing my discoveries.

If someone asked me to do this tomorrow, I’d sign on immediately.

Anyway, my life has always been greatly influenced by all kinds of music. I studied piano. I sang in the choir. I sang in quartets. I sang professionally. I sang onstage in countless musicals. Along the way, I bought albums (hundreds of them) and listened to music all of the time. A researcher by nature, I now know a heck of a lot about popular song, music for the theater and film, pop music (of a certain era,) classical music, more and more about jazz and folk and a wee bit about country. Add to that the fact that I have a lot of friends who are musicians, as well as a husband who is one, and you can see that I’ve been able to learn a great deal from them. They’ve enriched my musical life.

None of this is being said to toot my own horn, but rather to let you in on a big part of my life – past and present. Music, as we all know, is powerful. It can change your day in an instant. It can immediately take you back to another time and place. It can overwhelm you with emotion. It can make you laugh and dance and sing.

I have a playlist that I’ve put together over the past few years. It takes me to what I call my Happy Place. Yesterday, as I sat here with ear buds in listening to music, I thought I might share some of the pieces on my playlist with you over the course of the next few days. I’ll add some information about each selection – just as I would if I was hosting a show on air. Maybe they’ll spark some memories for you…maybe you’ll share some memories with me. I’m going to do this all week long.

I’m going to put the playlist on Shuffle. Let’s see what comes up.

My playlist

How Can I Be Sure – The Young Rascals
Recorded when the group was still the ‘Young’ Rascals, this romantic, plaintive melody sung by Eddie Brigati, brings back memories of my youth.  Brigati’s voice is full of the emotion of young love. I remember it well.

How do I know?
Maybe you’re trying to use me,
Flying too high can confuse me,
Touch me but don’t take me down.

•  Witchcraft – Sung by Frank Sinatra
Written by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh. I’m a big fan of Cy Coleman’s work and Frank Sinatra recorded several of his songs. There’s nothing better than Frank singing this song with an arrangement by the great Nelson Riddle. I can’t help but start snapping my fingers.

Those fingers in my hair,
That sly come-hither stare,
That strips my conscience bare
It’s witchcraft.

•  Let’s Hang On – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
The big, twanging guitar riff right at the beginning, right before they launch into “Let’s hang on to what we got” gets me every time. I have to start dancing. The sound of the Four Seasons is so distinctive – not another sound like it. This song makes me happy.

•  Spellbound – Joe Sample
The late, great Joe Sample (he died last year) was an amazing musician. Pianist, composer, arranger, jazz musician. He was one of the founding members of the Jazz Crusaders which eventually morphed into the Crusaders. Spellbound  is beautiful, haunting, and it gets me every time. I first heard it on the radio, became obsessed by it, and had to buy it. I have two versions of this piece on my playlist: the original version and another version. The later version is a slower, even more hauntingly beautiful rendition and the only instrument heard is the piano as played by Sample. He will be missed.

•  Wheels of Life – Gino Vannelli
Love, love Gino Vannelli’s over-the-top, gorgeous voice. I have a few of his albums and this piece is one of my favorites. He has the kind of voice that gets to you, full of emotion, capable of vocal pyrotechnics. Love this song. Love this arrangement. It takes me right back to the late seventies, early eighties. My friend Joe and I used to listen to Vannelli all the time.

And if I should have only one tomorrow,
It’s a lifetime if I knew,
I could spend it all with you

Sigh. Can you tell I’m a romantic?

•  This Nearly Was Mine – Barbara Cook
Quite simply, to my mind, one of the most beautiful songs ever written. From South Pacific, words and music by the great Rodgers and Hammerstein. This song of love almost found, then lost, is heartbreakingly beautiful. Written for the opera star Ezio Pinza, its soaring, operatic melody is gorgeous. Barbara Cook, one of my favorite singers ever, sings it simply, from the heart. And toward the end, she holds a note so long, so beautifully, you think she’ll run out of breath. But she doesn’t. It just fades away.

Close to my heart she came
Only to fly away
Only to fly as day flies to moonlight.

Now, now I’m alone
Still dreaming of paradise
Still saying that paradise
Once nearly was mine.

I have another version of this song on my playlist – just guitar, by the great Pat Metheny.

•  Pretty World – Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66
I love bossa nova, love the words and music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, love the sound of that music. Love Brazil ’66. This is from their quintessential album, Classics, Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. They had such a great sound – very sexy music.

•  Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
This is the more recent arrangement (although I have the original, too.) This one has Joni singing the words of her much-loved song from an older, wiser point-of view. The arrangement is gorgeous, her smoky, older voice deeply powerful. I cry every time I hear it. Every time. Give it a listen.

•  On the 4th of July – James Taylor
From his album, October Road. I was introduced to this song last year by a friend who posted it on Facebook in honor of the anniversary of the day Don and I met. I’d never heard it before. It’s so beautiful, and the words so echo our own story that I couldn’t stop playing it. It makes me cry, too.

And the smell of the smoke and the lay of the land
And the feeling of finding one’s heart in one’s hand
And the tiny tin voice of the radio band singing ‘love must stand’
Love forever and ever must stand.

•  Lyin’ Eyes – The Eagles
I’m a big fan of The Eagles. I love their music – especially their songs that tell a story, as this one does. Great singing, great arrangements, incredible guitar work and a haunting story. What’s not to love?

•  You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) – sung by Dionne Warwick
Written by the great Burt Bacharach and Hal David, this song is sung beautifully by the very young Dionne Warwick. What a voice. As with all Bacharach/David tunes, you can’t help but sing along. Might I add that there’s a haunting quality to it? (Can you tell I like that sort of thing?)

I’ve been hearing rumors about how you play around
Though I don’t believe what I hear, still it gets me down
If you ever should say goodbye
I’d feel so awful, the angels would cry

•  What Kind of Fool am I? – sung by Sammy Davis, Jr.
I’m a huge fan of the voice of Sammy Davis, Jr., the sheer quality of which is often lost in the Rat Pack image of Davis. He could sing like nobody’s business. Crystal clear, deeply resonant, his voice could make your heart break in two, it was so beautiful. This song, written by the great Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, is from the musical, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.”

What kind of lips are these
That lied with every kiss
That whispered empty words of love
That left me alone like this

Gut wrenching. I also have a version sung by Anthony Newley on my playlist.

•  Husbands And Wives – sung by Brooks & Dunn
Written and originally recorded by the late Roger Miller, this is one of my favorites. Though I’m not a big fan of country music, Don and I heard this arrangement on the radio when we were living in San Diego and we bought the CD immediately. Gorgeous. Beautifully executed by Brooks & Dunn.

The angry words spoken in haste
Such a waste of two lives
It’s my belief pride is the chief cause in the decline
Of the number of husbands and wives.

•  Along Comes Mary – The Association
I loved The Association. I saw them live in concert. This, one of their first big hits, still gets me. Perfect arrangement with the lead vocal sung by Jim Yester.

Every time I think that I’m the only one who’s lonely
Someone calls on me
And every now and then I spend some time at rhyme and verse
And curse those faults in me.

Yes, I know it’s about marijuana. I don’t care. I love it.

•  Our Day Will Come – Ruby and the Romantics
Such a great oldie, sung by Ruby, I imagine, who has a great, deep, resonant voice.

Our day will come
And we’ll have everything
We’ll share the joy
Falling in love can bring

•  Calling You – sung by Jane Mortifee
This song is from the movie Bagdad Café. It’s so beautiful. I’ve loved it since I first heard it. This particular rendition, sung by Canadian artist Jane Mortifee, came to my attention via the late, lamented CBC radio show, Disc Drive. Oh, how I miss that show. The host, Jurgen Gothe, had my dream job, sharing all kinds of music every day with his loyal listening audience. He played this piece one day and I went a little crazy trying to find the recording. I did and it’s now on my playlist. Mortifee sings it beautifully.

That’s the first edition of My Playlist. Tomorrow, I’ll share more with you. Any questions about any of the selections? Let me know in the comments.

The winner of a copy of The Long and Faraway Gone  is Annie Graham. Congratulations, Annie. I’ve sent you an email.

Happy Sunday.

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I Can’t Take Another Picture of Snow

2-28 riley dish garden

Here’s the challenge of the blogger in the throes of winter.

Photos.

I stand here in the morning after I’ve had my coffee, holding my camera, searching for something, anything  to capture with my lens. Something that you haven’t seen before? Almost impossible after seven years of blogging. A new view of the inside of the cottage? Equally impossible. (Unless I do something like hang upside down while photographing the kitchen…)

For example, you’ve seen Riley’s Dish Garden before. Many times. The plants have changed a bit, but I’d bet money that this particular configuration is the same as the last time I took a photo of it. The morning light makes it look interesting, however, so I’m going with it.

It’s friggin’ cold out there. Unless there’s a great sunset, I’m basically looking at snow. I’ve taken hundreds of photos of snow over the years. It’s white, there’s a lot of it out there and, quite frankly, unless I tromp through the woods, I’m not going to come up with anything new. And maybe not even then. I’m sick of the snow at this point. Don is sick of the snow. Scout is sick of the snow. End of snow story.

And I’m not tromping through the woods.

We’re suffering from cabin fever here. I’d love to take some photos of little green things emerging from the ground, but I don’t think that will be happening for another month, at least.

2-28 Riley Dish Garden 2

I think I need to dust this plant. See the little cobwebs? That’s something that a camera lens can do for you – help you to see tiny details that you might miss otherwise. I cropped this photo into a close-up of the plant and there, right before my eyes…little cobwebs. Edited to add: And dog hair. No mites, don’t worry.

Maybe I should do this with all the areas in my house. It would bring a whole new level of dirt and dust awareness to my cleaning regimen.

Don has a gig tonight. I’m staying home with Miss Scout, who cannot be without either Mom or Dad for any length of time these days. I’ll treat myself to a long soak in the tub, bubble bath included.

We watched the first two episodes of House of Cards  last night. We’re wondering if this season will bring the same excitement, brazen behavior and ruthless actions as the first two seasons. So far it doesn’t seem that way, but it’s early on in the 13 episode season, so we are refraining from any conclusions until we see more.

I call the Underwoods (the characters played by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) the Macbeths of Washington D.C. Very Shakespearean, this series.

An Octoroon  received a rave review from the New York Times. Huzzah! (Don’t look for my name in the credits in the review. I didn’t come on board until the last moments in the process. I am  in the program, never fear.) I’m so honored to have been a small part of this incredible production. This play is an important, powerful work. It’s heartbreaking, wildly funny, and tragic. It’s daring and beautifully written. You can read about it in the review, if you’re interested.

Happy Saturday.

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When Favorite Bookshops Go Out of Business

2-27 morning view

Thank goodness for the sunlight that creeps in and fills the house with light. Gray winter mornings are not nearly as welcome. But bright winter sun, bouncing off the white of the snow on the ground, is very welcome indeed.

I was looking at some books that I’ve had for a long time the other day and these bookmarks were buried among the pages:

2-27 bookmarks

Sigh. A blast from the past, a past that included more independent bookshops. These bookmarks represent two of my favorite bookshops, one in Philadelphia, one in Cambridge.

On the left: Sessler’s. Oh, how I loved this bookshop. It was on Walnut Street in Philadelphia and in the early to mid-eighties, when I was living in Philadelphia while attending graduate school at Temple University, I stopped in there several times a week. It was what you would like a bookshop to be – lots of floor to ceiling bookshelves. Cozy. Books of all kinds, on all subjects. Classical music playing in the background. And the manager, Hayes Hibberd, was the quintessential bookseller. He knew books. They were like family members to him. There wasn’t much he didn’t know about books past and present. He would often put books aside for his customers, books that he knew they would like, books to expand their reading horizons.

And his voice! Obviously, in my line of work, I am very aware of the sound of the human voice and I have my preferences. Mellifluous, rich, resonant? Yes and yes and yes. Hayes had that kind of voice. It’s been over 30 years since I lived there and I can still  hear his voice in my head.

Sessler’s started to go out of business while I was still living there – in 1986  – one of the early deaths which came about because of competition from chain bookstores. It broke my heart. I was a very poor graduate student at the time, but when I heard the news that they were closing, I went into the shop and bought a large copy of an atlas, which had been marked down. I needed something to commemorate the occasion.

I still mourn the passing of Sessler’s.

On the right: WordsWorth Books. Oh, my heart. WordsWorth was situated in Harvard Square. I lived just about 5 blocks from Harvard Square, so as you can imagine, I made sure I visited that bookstore often. It had everything. The Boston area loves bookstores, and in those days there were a lot of them. WordsWorth was my favorite. It had a knowledgeable staff, large windows, sunny corners in which to peruse a book or two. You can read their tag line on the bookmark: “For the voracious reader.” And I was, and am, a voracious reader. “More than 100,000 titles in stock in 95  subject categories.”

Sigh.

WordsWorth went out of business in 2004. By the time I had a chance to revisit Cambridge and Boston a few years back, it was long gone. I didn’t know that at the time and I went to Cambridge to see my old haunts, the apartment building I used to live in, and WordsWorth.

It wasn’t there. I remember thinking, “Am I remembering the location correctly?”

But I was. And it wasn’t.

Favorite bookshops are like beloved friends. When they go out of business, due to the economy, due to competition from juggernauts like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, we mourn their passing. Our hearts break a little. And just like the big box store or chain restaurant makes every town  look like every other town, the loss of the mom and pop store version of the bookstore eliminates the unique and quirky. They fade out of sight.

Thankfully, independent bookstores are still going strong, in spite of the competition. Many have been lost, but many have also survived. Let’s make sure we help them along the way by buying books from them when we can. Yes, I use Amazon at times. I definitely use my local library. I buy used books. But last year, I made a vow to buy books from independent booksellers when I can. And I’ve done very well with that vow, I’m proud to say.

Oh, almost forgot. I sometimes get friend requests on Facebook from people whose names I don’t recognize. Some of those requests I dismiss immediately. If you send a friend request to me, please let me know who you are. I might not recognize your full name. Thanks.

Happy Friday.

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What We’ve Been Up To (Not a Whole Lot)

Not a whole lot to report from our little igloo. February is almost at an end and it’s been a doozy. We broke out yesterday for a short time to do exciting things like buy stamps and mail bills. Whoo hoo! And then we ran to the grocery store to stock up on a few things.

Then we drove up the driveway that has become a tunnel surrounded by snow, and nosed the car into its increasingly smaller parking space.

We watched Arthur on TCM last night. I love that movie. Just what we needed – a lovely, laugh-out-loud, beautifully acted movie. Dudley Moore is brilliant. John Gielgud is also brilliant. Liza Minelli is wonderful, as is all of the supporting cast. What’s not to love?

And this weekend? Oh, boy. Netflix releases the new season of House of Cards. I’ve told Don that we cannot binge watch…we have to limit our viewing to two episodes a night, so that we can stretch out the pleasure of watching that amazing series.

What else are we into lately?

2-26 meyer's soap

We love this soap. We have an ongoing bath soap dilemma here. One of us likes one kind of soap, the other doesn’t. So we keep switching brands. But I think we’ve hit on something we both like. The scent of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day soap is herbal and light. It’s not too perfumey, just clean and subtle.

I use the lavender. Don likes and uses the lemon verbena. That way, we’re both happy. Order has been restored in the bathroom.

I like to use scented candles when I’m away from home, especially when I’m staying in a small apartment. Candles are not only comforting, they also help to eliminate cooking smells. (I have a very sensitive nose!) So, though a bit pricey, I bought this candle from a neighborhood shop in Brooklyn.

2-26 meyer's candle

I’m glad I did. It came home with me.

No, this isn’t a sponsored post. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day has no idea who I am. I just like their products. I use their liquid soap in the kitchen, as well. Have any of you tried this line? I ask this knowing that each of us has our own personal preference as to scents and soaps and scented candles. What do you use?

Oh, don’t forget! Today is the last day to leave a comment on the book review post. I’ll draw a winner tonight, so you have until about 6 pm EST.

Happy Thursday.

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On Books and Snow and Mini Books

2-25 christopher fowler

Happily, I was right. I did  have the first book in this series, Full Dark House, on my bookshelves in the bedroom. I knew I had a book by Fowler, but wasn’t completely sure it was the first. Don’t you love the font that is used for the title and author’s name?

They are now on the To Be Read stack on the very top shelf, as opposed to the To Be Read stack on the second shelf from the bottom. If by reading that sentence you have sensed an implication that I have far too many books ‘to be read’ – you are right. Or in the words of Ed McMahon, “You are correct, sir!”

Gosh I miss the Tonight Show of the Johnny Carson era. I love Jimmy Fallon, don’t get me wrong, I think he is a wonderful host and wildly funny. I just miss the days when Bob Hope might appear one night, or Gregory Peck, or George Burns, or Dean Martin. Ah, well.

The snow is piled so high around here that it feels like we are in prison. The shoveled/snow blown area where the car is parked is getting narrower and narrower. Pretty soon, we’ll be squeezed out!

We are yearning for Spring. At this point, the advent of Spring seems to be an impossibility, but we know it will come. When? That’s another story.

In all of our discussion on this blog and on Just Let Me Finish This Page about the ‘new’ Harper Lee book (and I have another link about that on JLMFTP today), we neglected to ask Caroline what she thinks about it.

2-25 dollhouseTKAM

There it is, on her coffee table; always on display, well-thumbed, read and reread. Caroline, by the way, is a Professor of Literature. She specializes in Twentieth Century Literature, so her opinion on all of this would be interesting, to say the least. I did hear some mumblings and grumblings emanating from Hummingbird Cottage on the day the news of Lee’s lost manuscript was announced. I was too busy to stop and chat with her. Besides, Caroline is rather private and I respect that. When she wants to talk about it, she’ll let me know.

New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page today.

Happy Wednesday.

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Back Home, Plus a Little Rant

2-23 little paws

Sweet little paws; photo taken just this minute as my girl sleeps deeply in Mom’s “tunnel.’

I missed her so much. And her dad, too. I got home around 2:00 yesterday afternoon. Within an hour or so, I was vacuuming. Don did a great job around the house, but he doesn’t see what I see, you know? He made a wonderful dinner and we cuddled on the sofa.

Sigh of happiness.

What a lovely experience working on An Octoroon  was. It was such a gift, out of the blue, and I’m very, very grateful. Yes, it’s nice to earn some money, but even more, I was exposed to a powerful new play that is simply stunning. I wouldn’t have seen it, otherwise. Every night, I looked forward to watching it again. The actors are very talented and perfect in their roles; in the case of some actors, multiple roles. The director is amazingly inventive. This play was mounted last year at Soho Rep, which is a well-known off-Broadway theater with a house that seats maybe 40 people. Theater for a New Audience is remounting it in their new theater, which is about 10 times the size of Soho Rep, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for the play to be seen by more people. It won the Obie Award for Best New Play of 2014. The director of the play is also the Artistic Director of Soho Rep.

As always, I leave one place and leave a part of myself there, while I sit here at home wondering how the Press Night tonight will go and how rehearsals will go this afternoon and tomorrow, ahead of Opening Night on Thursday. Such a lovely group of people – starting with Jeffrey, the Artistic Director of Theater for a New Audience.

Grateful.

And now, a little bit of a rant about the Oscars. First, let’s just agree that there can’t really be a “Best” anything. It’s all subjective. It’s all a matter of taste. Every year, I find myself feeling the push-pull to watch the ceremony, all the while knowing that this kind of competition is flawed and, in the end, unfair. That’s a given.

Sunday’s telecast brought some familiar complaints, along with a few new ones.

1. The tendency to play music and cut off an award winner’s acceptance speech. This is nothing new, it’s been happening for years. But it’s insensitive. This is an award show, after all, and for the winners, a dream come true. It well may be the greatest moment of their professional lives. They deserve to be heard. Is an inane joke from Neil Patrick Harris more important than 30 more seconds of an acceptance speech? It shouldn’t be. Pawel Pawlikowski, director of Best Foreign Film winner, Ida, was interrupted twice by ‘play-off’ music from the orchestra – fortunately for us, he ignored it. The winners of the award for Short Documentary, in this case, a film about suicide hotlines, were interrupted by play-off music as one of the winners was speaking about losing her own son to suicide.

Could the producers be any more insensitive?

2. And, in that same vein, right after that winner was interrupted in the middle of her heartfelt words about her son’s suicide, Neil Patrick Harris made what he thought was a humorous comment about her dress. Totally inappropriate – was he even listening to the speech? In a night full of not-very-funny jokes and in some cases, insensitive ones, this one really ticked me off. Listen, I know Neil Patrick Harris, I’ve worked with him. I’ve coached him. He is a lovely guy. So I’m not saying anything about his character. I’m speaking to the whole Oscar Show mentality – where gimmicks and jokes and not-very-good production numbers and constant hype about Lady Gaga or Neil’s Oscar predictions seem to take precedence over the the actual awards.

3. Yes, Lady Gaga sang beautifully. I wasn’t at all surprised because I know she’s a trained singer. Good for her- she did a great job. It’s lovely to see her show her quite impressive chops. But, it says something about the show itself when the appearance of Julie Andrews brought a sigh of relief. She is a true multi-talented movie and theater star, gracious, elegant, and as classy as they come.

4. In Memoriam. I don’t even want to go there. So many artists were omitted. I advise you to go to tcm.com and watch their In Memoriam tribute, which is much, much better and heartbreakingly beautiful.

Okay, I’ve ranted long enough. I’m happy for the winners, all of whom are immensely talented. But the Oscars are getting to be just another awards show: all glitz, ratings-driven, badly written and misdirected.

Just some thoughts from a movie lover.

Happy Tuesday.

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Book Review: The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

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Today I am reviewing The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney for TLC Book Tours. As always, I am provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

About the book (from the publisher): In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were brutally killed in an armed robbery. Then a teenage girl vanished from the annual state fair. Neither crime was ever solved.

Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases continue to echo through the lives of those devastated by the crimes. Wyatt, the one teenage employee who inexplicably survived the movie-theater massacre, is now a private investigator in Las Vegas. A case unexpectedly brings him back to a hometown and a past he’s tried to escape – and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead.

Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past – specifically, the day her beautiful older sister, Genevieve, disappeared at the fair. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.

As Wyatt’s case becomes more complicated and dangerous, and Julianna seeks answers from a ghost, their obsessive quests not only stir memories of youth and first love, but also begin to illuminate dark secrets of the past. Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened and why they were left behind that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free – or ultimately destroy them?

My review: I had the pleasure of reviewing an earlier book written by Lou Berney – Whiplash River – for TLC Book Tours. I liked it enormously and became a fan. So when the opportunity to review his latest book was presented to me, I jumped on it.

The premise – two people haunted by the past, with a desperate need to find out the truth – is haunting. After heartbreaking loss, life somehow goes on, and both Wyatt and Julianna have careers and lives. But they are damaged. The past is never far from the present. It is this struggle with the past that fuels the story.

Berney writes characters beautifully, with great detail and a dash of humor thrown in the mix. He weaves together the individual story lines with ease. Wyatt, brought to Oklahoma City to investigate a case of harassment, pursues that case while also searching for answers to the murder of his fellow movie-theater employees – always with the question, “Why was I spared?” At the same time, Berney tells us Julianna’s story. There is a thread here that connects both stories, happening at the same time: the need to know the truth. And, perhaps, to find healing.

Berney’s depiction of Oklahoma City is richly detailed. I really got a strong sense of that city and its environs. He’s a wonderful writer. With a rich cast of supporting characters, Berney’s story of Wyatt and Julianna and those loved and lost is a great read. I don’t think you’ll be able to put it down.

When I was at The Mysterious Bookshop the other day, this book was sitting right by the cash register. The man writing up my order hadn’t read it yet and I happily gave it a huge thumbs up and urged him to read it.

I finished it a couple of weeks ago, yet the characters remain with me. What more could you ask for?

If you haven’t read Lou Berney yet, I urge you to. This man knows how to write and you will be caught up in the story immediately, as I was.

Lou Berney

About the author: Lou Berney is an accomplished writer, teacher, and liar who has written feature screenplays and created TV pilots for Warner Brothers, Paramount, Focus Features, ABC, and Fox, among others. His short fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Ploughshares, the Pushcart Prize anthology, and other publications. His first novel, Gunshot Straight, was named one of the ten best debut crime novels of the year by Booklist and nominated for a Barry Award.

One of you will win a copy of The Long and Faraway Gone. Just leave a comment on this post – it has to be on the post, not via email – and I will pick a winner on Thursday evening. Good luck!

Happy Monday.

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More

Lots of snow, sleet and rain here in the city. I do love watching it fall outside my window, knowing that I don’t have to shovel. Apologies, Don! But really, it’s so nice to know I can enjoy it, without wondering how I’m going to clear everything out and drive on the slushy and/or icy roads. Reminds me of my apartment days in Philadelphia and Boston, both of which accumulate a lot of snow in the wintertime. Yes, I have to walk in it, but hey, that’s nothing!

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I went back to The Mysterious Bookshop and then, as if my feet had a GPS of their own, found myself at Billy’s Bakery. It wasn’t open. Oh no, I thought. Not open on Saturday? Then I saw someone inside and looked more closely at the posted hours. They didn’t open until noon and it was about 11:50. So I contented myself with finding the address for Whole Foods in Tribeca. I wanted a good lunch from their food bar – I’ve not been eating as well as I usually do – it’s a  problem with being on the road for a relatively short time on a budget and with no per diem. Then the door to Billy’s magically opened and I bought three more cupcakes. Yellow daisy. I had one yesterday, will have one today, and – you guessed it – will have one tomorrow. Ummm-mmmm good!

Back to the bookshop. I want to work there. Wouldn’t it be heavenly to order books, sort them, put them on the shelves, and have lovely chats with customers about what books to buy, about recommendations, about the authors? All in that wonderful shop with tall bookshelves made of darkly finished wood? With a glass case full of rare books? With a leather sofa to sink into?

The only drawback: a three hour commute every day. That does put a damper on things.

I bought three more books:

2-22 more books

The books by Christopher Fowler are part of a series about two men, Arthur Bryant and John May, called the Peculiar Crimes Unit Mysteries. I believe I have the first one in the series at home – still unread. They are supposed to be wonderful and the man I spoke to yesterday confirmed that. He said he loves them.

The Last Detective  by Peter Lovesey has an introduction by Louise Penny where she says that this book “changed to the face of detective fiction when it was released in 1991. It broke every template, every tradition, every ‘rule’ of the genre.” She’s a huge fan of the series. So, of course, I bought the book.

When I’m going to get the time to read all of these with my list of “To be Reviewed” books quite lengthy, I don’t know. But they will be there, on my bookshelves, waiting for me. Meanwhile, I finished the Olen Steinhauer book yesterday. I think I’ll start Cara Black’s Murder in Belleville. Not sure yet.

I’ve sent off a note to the director to find out if I can leave tomorrow. Fingers crossed. My family needs me. I need them. I need to nuzzle my nose into the hair on Scoutie’s head. I love her scent. I need to hug my husband. I’m grateful for this job and the opportunity to spend some time in Brooklyn, but I need my sunny little cottage.

You understand.

A review of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry  on Just Let Me Finish This Page today.

Happy Sunday.

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On the Road: Coffee, Reading & Snow

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I posted this photo on Instagram yesterday. Isn’t this the best diner-like mug? I couldn’t resist. It’s very heavy and solid. Why is it that coffee just seems to taste better when it’s in a mug like this?

Don’t know. But it does. And it’s helped by that gorgeous shade of pale aqua on the logo.

I’ve read two books since I’ve been here: The Swimmer  by Joakim Zander, which I’ll be reviewing in a few weeks for TLC Book Tours, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  by Gabrielle Zevin, which I’ll talk about on the book blog. Now, I’ve moved on to All the Old Knives  by Olen Steinhauer. Being out of town with a certain amount of free time on one’s hands and frigid temps outside that make walking more than 100 feet painful seems to be conducive for reading. Now, if I only had a fireplace…

I am going to venture out today as I don’t have a rehearsal to attend.  I hope I can swing a visit to The Mysterious Bookshop again. The shop isn’t open on Sundays, so this may be my last chance to spend some time in that little slice of heaven. We’re also due for some snow this afternoon, so I’m going to try to get going early before it really starts coming down. Poor Don – 4 to 8 inches due in our neck of the woods. Where the heck is he going to put it? Really. I’m serious. I don’t think there’s anywhere else to put it. (This reminds me of last winter, when I felt actual panic about how I was going to lift the shovel high enough to dump the freshly shoveled snow.)

I’m assuming that I’ll go home on Monday, but I have to confer with the director to get her take on how it’s all sounding. I believe I only have the apartment through Tuesday and Monday is the day off. I’m homesick and really need to see my husband and doggie again, but if I have to stay one more day, I will, of course.

That, my friends, is it. I’ve arranged to see the matinee tomorrow, so I can watch the Oscars in the evening. I suppose Mr. Sparks and I will be watching it together via an ongoing conversation on the phone. We’ve done that sort of thing before.

Happy Saturday.

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