What I’m Into :: May 2015

What I'm Into :: May 2015

Whew! May was a busy, busy month! I’m sure it was for you, too. May seems to be nearly as hectic as December for most people, what with graduations and showers and weddings and Mother’s Day and end-of-school-year craziness. So much going on!

For us, the big events were Annalyn’s first piano recital (she was incredibly nervous but played her song very well), my mom’s book signing (she wrote a children’s book, if you didn’t know), the end of the school year (much to Annalyn’s sadness, as she loved her teacher so much she was bawling when I picked her up on the last day), my 16th wedding anniversary, and a road trip to visit cousins (do you know how much fun it is to jump on a trampoline with a sprinkler underneath it? Annalyn and her cousins do!).

Oh, and Adrienne finally began walking and also turned into a complete toddler (read: unreasonable and demanding while also maddeningly cute)!

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Beginning today, we’re diving into summer. Not literally, of course. It hasn’t been warm enough to go to the pool yet. (Not that I’m complaining. I’ll take the girls swimming and wear a swimsuit to do it, but I can’t say I’ll like it.)

In an unusual turn of events, I read less than usual in May and saw three movies in the theater. Much as I do enjoy watching movies, I do prefer reading good books. And spending several weeks slogging through dull book after dull book was just so disappointing! (In related news, I’ve added even more books to my To-Read list to prevent this from happening again.)

I do hope you’ll share what you’ve been up to and into this past month. That’s my favorite part of participating in “What I’m Into” each month!

What I'm Reading :: May 2015

What I’m Reading

Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani: Let’s just get this out of the way. I read a book by Trigiani several years ago and LOVED it. I’ve been meaning to read more of her books but haven’t – until now. This one is a YA novel, and I’ve decided not to hold it against her. Because it was dreadfully dull. I could barely finish it. I don’t normally review books if I don’t like them, but since many of us discussed the merits (or lack of) finishing books we don’t like, I felt like I owed you an answer to, “WHAT BOOK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?”

Of Beast & Beauty by Stacey Jay: I read a post recently about which terms or genres or other descriptors of books, TV shows and movies automatically make us say, “Shut up and take my money.” Fairytale retellings and YA fantasy are typically on my list, so reading this one was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it was only okay. Not my favorite but still interesting-ish. (I know. Faint praise. I told you it was a rough month for books.)

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge: When I read Hodge’s first book last year, an amazingly creative retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I was blown away. It was one of my favorite books of the year – so obviously I was anxious to get my hands on this second book. In a world of trilogies and series, Hodge’s books are, so far, standalone. And this one is based on Little Red Riding Hood. It was certainly creative and had nearly as many layers to its world and plot as Cruel Beauty. And I liked it nearly – but not quite – as much.

The Nightmare Affair & The Nightmare Dilemma by Mindee Arnett: Boarding school and special powers and family secrets (oh my)! It’s not Harry Potter by a long shot, but this series is cute and I’m looking forward to the final book in the trilogy [of course it's a trilogy, right?].

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier: Finally! This is the part where I can happily tell you I finally found a book I love! You know how I love time travel, and this is that. And at least thus far, this is what I was hoping The Chronos Files series by Rysa Walker would be (but the second book in that series got crazy complicated and kind of lost my interest). As I told Leigh, who recommended Ruby Red, I really wanted to begin reading the next book in the series instead of write this post!

Also, in case you’re wondering, I do – on occasion – read books written for grown-ups. I have several on my nightstand right now. I’ll tell you about them next month!

What I'm Watching :: May 2015

What I’m Watching

Three movies, IN THE THEATER, in one month?! Who do I think I am?? I don’t know, but I’ve definitely been excited to finally have something good to watch – and grateful to find babysitters so I could go. For months Mark and I had been wanting to spend date night at the movies but there hadn’t been anything playing that we wanted to see. Having so many choices in May made me almost giddy.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Loved it! Superheroes are good, but funny superheroes with heart are awesome. I don’t read comic books, so I don’t know if the movie is loyal to the canon or however the kids say it. And the whole business about the people who make the movies and promote the movies and merchandise the movies only caring about male consumers? Do not get me started. But in the end, the only thing I care about is that this movie was super fun. I loved it.

Pitch Perfect 2 – When a couple friends from church invited me to go to this movie with them, I almost jumped up and down. I mean, I would have, if I were the type to jump up and down. I don’t get to spend time with friends often, so I was a little out of my mind for this girls night. So worth it – because I laughed so hard, both at the movie and over appetizers later, that I cried. As I told my brother, the movie is hilarious. So wrong. But hilarious.

Aloha – I was so excited to see a trailer for a romantic comedy rated PG-13. Seems like that’s a dying movie breed – and one of my favorites! So of course this is what I planned for Mark’s and my anniversary date. It has Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, and Bill Murray – and Hawaii. It’s about love and family and the military and Hawaii mythology and nuclear weapons. As you might guess from that description, the movie was a bit of a mess with lots of unexplained and unfinished things, but you know what? I really enjoyed it anyway.

As for TV, I have re-watched the complete series of My Boys and started on season one of Chuck. And just last night, Mark and I finished the third season of Sherlock. That fact makes me much sadder than I’d anticipated. How long until season four?!

Lots of new shows begin this week. So . . . stay tuned on that!

What I’m Eating: Unfortunately for tomorrow’s weigh-in, I may have eaten a brownie in a mug. Or two. I’ve made several attempts at new recipes, but nothing worth writing home – or blog posts – about. Maybe next month.

What I’m Listening to: When we traded cars three months ago, the Kia Sorento we settled on came with a three-month trial of satellite radio. For the first month I barely listened to it at all. I didn’t program any stations or anything. But then I programmed just a few stations. And then I listened a little more. And then a little more after that. And then I got totally hooked and am super sad my trial is ending! 80s on 8, people! Well played, satellite radio. Well played.

My Favorite Instagram

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Your Favorite GUOP Posts in May:
When You Realize How Small Baby Steps Are
The Magical Marriage Fixer-Upper

My Favorite GUOP Posts in May:
If I Could Turn Back Time
The Soundtrack of My Marriage

That’s it for me. How was your May? What were you into? I can’t wait to hear!

I’m linking up with Leigh’s What I’m Into.

16 Songs in the Soundtrack of My Marriage

16 Songs in the Soundtrack of My Marriage | via givinguponperfect.com

Mark and I both love music. We may not always love the same kind of music, and more than one road trip may have ended in silence due to car stereo battles. But we have enough musical preferences in common to share Pandora and iTunes accounts, so that’s something.

Today is our wedding anniversary. And like most parts of my life, when I think about the last two decades (16 years of marriage after four years of dating) most of my memories come with a soundtrack. The song I had stuck in my head when we met, the first songs we danced to, the songs we quoted in mushy love notes, the songs that helped me get through our long-distance phase, the songs played at our wedding – and so many more!

When I thought about writing a post today to celebrate our anniversary, I skipped right over the lists of things I’ve learned (because, REALLY. what on earth do I know?) and what I’d tell my 20-year-old newlywed self today (because, WHERE WOULD I START?) — and landed on a soundtrack for our marriage. These songs describe many parts of the first 16 years of our marriage, though they certainly don’t encompass everything. Still, I figured 16 songs for 16 years was a good place to start!

Dear Future Husband (Meghan Trainor)
Okay, this actually IS a terrible place to start. But it’s definitely the song I was singing as I headed into marriage. Expectations? Oh, I had plenty. And they were so wrong. “Dear Future Husband” might seem like a catchy, shoo-bop kind of pop song I’ve come to love Meghan Trainor for, but it’s a lot more dangerous than that.

“After every fight just apologize and maybe then I’ll let you try and rock my body right. Even if I was wrong (you know I’m never wrong), why disagree? Why, why disagree?” SIGH. I totally believed this – and I was totally wrong. Look. Buying into this song’s philosophy of “I’ll be nice to you if you do what I want” will cost you way more than the sexy outfit Meghan wears to clean house in the video. It can cost you years of a happy marriage. Ask me how I know…

Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)
Still, despite expectations and baggage and ignorance, we were truly in love when we got married. We may not have known how to love each other well, but that did not stop us from loving each other a lot. And this song? Well, even if the words don’t all fit, the feel of it is a perfect depiction of that early kind of love.

Our House (Crosby Stills Nash & Young)
“Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard…” Check and check! We bought our first house, and it was so cute! And we had two cats, and they were so cute! Yay! Life is good!

Love is War (American Young) “Sometimes love is a white flag; sometimes love is standing tall. Sometimes love is a feather; sometimes a cannon ball. But it’s worth fighting for (it’s worth fighting for). Baby, sometimes love is war.”

Learning when to stick to our guns and when to compromise has been huge in our marriage. Figuring out that we are on the same team and fighting FOR each other instead of WITH each other has been life-changing. Sometimes love IS war, but not in the way we thought during so many of our early years.

Hard to Love (Lee Brice)
A man sings this song, so when it first came out it was easy for me to assign its words to Mark. Yeah! I thought. He IS hard to love! So lucky to have me, putting up with him and his hard-to-love self!

Except…um…it turns out we’re BOTH human. And hard to love. SO human.

Taking responsibility for my role in our struggles was a turning point in my heart and our marriage. Realizing that I can only change myself – and maybe that’s a big enough project for now, anyway – is something I wish I’d learned so much earlier. We’re ALL hard to love, really. Choosing to love each other anyway is the miracle of marriage (and any lasting, loving relationship).

Love is a Battlefield (Pat Benatar)
Before I figured out that I can be hard to love and before we realized that we were actually on the same team, well, the Carver house was full of fighting. So many fights. So many tears. So many crying hangovers and headaches and hugs and then doing it all over again. Those years were hard.

Say Something (A Great Big World)
Harder still was the season when we both just felt worn down. After years of fighting the same fights, shouting the same words at each other and watching them fall empty to the floor, we were tired. We were battle-weary and desperately afraid it would never get better.

“Say something, I’m giving up on you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you. Anywhere I would’ve followed you. Say something, I’m giving up on you”

I’m so incredibly grateful that we didn’t give up. It was a close call, honestly. There were days…well, there were days when all I wanted to do was give up. Marriage is HARD, you guys! But through the grace of God (because my strength gave out long before things ever improved), we were able to cling to the last string of our marriage, the smallest memory of why we made those vows in the first place.
We didn’t give up.

Just Give Me a Reason (Pink & Nate Reuss)
“We’re not broken, just bent.” As it turns out, we were never completely broken – though my heart might have argued differently during a particularly difficult season. In even the most hurtful and most challenging times of our marriage, God reminded us of at least one reason. One reason to keep fighting, to keep praying, to keep coming back to each other. We weren’t broken, and we did learn to love again.

16th anniversary

I Hold On (Dierks Bentley)
Just like superheroes, Mark and I have had to learn to use our powers for good and not evil. Well, not our powers exactly. But our stubborn natures? Those we’re working hard to harness for the good of our marriage these days. Sometimes being stubborn and refusing to let go can be a good thing.

Let’s Stay Together (Al Green)
Staying together doesn’t happen by accident, and neither does a happy marriage. We’ve had to make the conscious decision that THIS – loving each other, respecting each other, fighting for each other, holding on to each other – is what we will do. We will not give up, we will not walk away. We will stay together.

And, hopefully, in an Al Green way more often than a “I’m stuck with you” way.

Remind Me (Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood)
“Now we keep saying that we’re okay, but I don’t want to settle for good not great.” Just like staying together doesn’t happen by accident, neither does staying in love. Mark and I know couples who have been together for decades – but they don’t even seem to like each other. And we agree wholeheartedly that we don’t want to grow into that. We want to like each other, to enjoy spending time together, to remember even if we don’t always feel how we couldn’t get enough of each other so many years ago.

Don’t You Wanna Stay (Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson)
Mark has worked nights for several years now. We still have days where we can’t figure out how to make that work for our lives and our relationship. But for the most part we’ve adjusted. Still, watching him leave every night after dinner is hard (and, hard for him as he has to leave every night).

Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads)
“Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.” The daily grind of kids and house and bills and chores is annoying. Over and over again, we do the same darn things – just to turn around and realize it’s time to do them one more time. What? You need dinner tonight, too? Bills are due every month? The floor is dirty again? It can be numbing to face the monotony at times – so I’m glad I have a partner in this. This may not be my beautiful house, but this sometimes-boring, often-chaotic life is our beautiful life.

You’re Gonna Miss This (Trace Adkins)
I’m not much for sappy songs, believe it or not. But I know our current stage as a family with little kids is a special one. It’s hard, but it’s good. And whenever we can, Mark and I try to remind ourselves and each other to take a good look around (as the song says) and recognize these as good times.

You’re the Reason I Come Home (Ron Pope)
This is the song that gave me the idea for this post. Not a week goes by these days that Mark and I don’t joke about running away from home – but we are always running away together. We are each other’s shelter, each other’s safe place. We fit together and are stronger together. And even when I escape to the grocery store or he plugs in his iPod for a little peace and quiet while mowing the lawn, we always, always come back to each other.

One Friend (Dan Seals)
“One Friend” was an old song even 16 years ago when I asked my cousin to sing it during our wedding. But the words are even more true today. Mark is my best friend. And if I had to pick only one person, I’d pick my favorite one – him.

“I always thought you were the best; I guess I always will. I always thought that we were blessed, and I feel that way still. Sometimes we took the hard road, but we always saw it through. If I had only one friend left I’d want it to be you.”

What songs are in your soundtrack?

 
Oh, and just in case you’d like to listen to this eclectic mix of songs, I’ve created a playlist for you. Enjoy!

photo source

Mama Still Loves Her Shows, vol. 1

Mama Still Loves Her Shows

The seasons are clearly changing. Temps are rising, lawns are growing, and all my favorite TV shows are winding down. I mean, I found myself watching Mr. & Mrs. Smith on TV the other night rather than this week’s episodes. (In order to prolong the Season Is Over Sadness, you know.)

So for this very first installment of the “Mama Still Loves Her Shows” series, we’re going to talk about our summer TV options. I’ll also answer a reader question and give you a list of shows that YOU all recommended. Let’s dive in!

(But first, if you don’t know the fate of your favorite show, you can read about all the cancellations here. *sniff*)

Summer TV Premieres

Disclosure: These are only the shows I want to watch. You can find a list of all the other shows premiering this summer here.

So You Think You Can Dance: (FOX, Monday, June 1) Once again, SYTYCD is mixing things up, this year dividing the competitors into stage dancers and street dancers. They’ve also given Mary “Screamer” Murphy the boot and replaced her (and possibly the rotating judge position) with Paula Abdul and Jason Derulo. I don’t know about that, you guys. A whole season without Adam Shankman, Jenna Elfman, Christina Applegate, Debbie Allen or Jesse Tyler Ferguson? I’m just not sure what kind of season that will be.

Stitchers: (ABC Family, Tuesdays, June 2) This is a new show, and I have no idea if it will be good. But the commercials for it are maddeningly vague – or, as my crazy brain has interpreted them, intriguing. One description I read said this: “A new mystery drama about a young woman hired to “stitch” the memories of the recently deceased, so they can be used to solve crimes. Sounds a little like iZombie, only without a bowl of brains at every meal.” I’m in for at least the first episode.

Suits: (USA, Wednesdays, June 24) Do you guys watch Suits? It is INTENSE with the drama and the drama and the more drama. But, at least for me, it’s so far removed from my reality that it’s not stressful at all (as opposed to Parenthood, which is just TOO MUCH REAL for me). And even though I admit to letting six episodes pile up on my DVR last season, it really is one of my favorites.

Mr. Robot: (USA, Wednesdays, June 24) Hackers take down the corrupt rich people running the world? Starring Christian Slater? Say no more. I’m in until it gets cancelled. And, based on Christian Slater’s track record with TV shows (all of which I watched loyally, thank you very much), will be soon.

Hollywood Game Night: (NBC, Tuesdays, July 7) Sadly, Lip Sync Battle has been a sore disappointment. THIS is the celebrity game show to watch. Bring on the charades and word games and Jane Lynch in her pantsuits!

Playing House: (USA, Tuesdays, August 4) I was so excited this show – about a woman moving back to her hometown and helping her best friend raise her baby – got renewed for a second season! The two lead characters are played by real-life friends – and it shows. Their chemistry and banter is hilarious and realistic, and I have been hounding Smitty to watch it for an entire year now. You should watch it, too. The whole season is on Amazon and the last few episodes are available for free on USA’s site.

What’s your favorite summer show?

 
Mama Loves Her Shows, vol. 1 {summer television}

Just in case the summer doesn’t have much to offer you in the way of shows, here’s a list of the shows you all said you’re loving right now:

  • Madam Secretary (CBS drama and one of my favorites)
  • The Musketeers (BBC drama that I currently have reserved at the library!)
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (hilarious Netflix show you really should watch)
  • When Calls the Heart (Hallmark Channel show I haven’t watched but hear is great)
  • The Blacklist (NBC drama that EV-ER-Y-ONE has told me to watch.)
  • iZombie (new CW show that seems funny but, well, zombies. Ew.)
  • Forever (cancelled ABC drama that ended well, so you could still watch and not feel sad)

And my two recommendations are Benched, a one-season USA comedy that’s available on Amazon, and Greek, an ABC Family show you can watch for free on the ABC Family website. Two good options right there – short and funny or long (four seasons of an hour-long show) and dramatic (and funny).

Now, onto that reader question. Last month, Angela asked:

“If you could revive one cancelled show which one would you choose?

Good question! (Especially in these days of reboots, from Full House and Coach to X-Files and Heroes.) And easy, too. If I could revive one show, it would be Ed.

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Why, you ask?

Because a) It was a great show, and b) It cannot be found anywhere! I read one time that it’s something about the music rights keeping Ed from being released on DVD. I suppose that – or whatever the real reason is – explains why the gang from Stuckeyville can’t be found on Hulu, Netflix or Amazon either. No matter the explanation, it’s a sad situation.

A review by Entertainment Weekly basically said Ed was goofy and sentimental – but clever enough to get away with it. “But rather than settle for … whimsicality, Ed possesses all the bright romantic magic and tart humor of a first-rate screwball film comedy. This series is a perfect example of why you should never judge a TV show by its premise.”

Now that I think about it, the concept of Ed isn’t that different from Playing House. It’s about a guy whose life in the city falls apart, so he spontaneously moves back to his small hometown, picks up with his old best friend, and resumes his crush on The Girl from high school. The group of friends also has great chemistry and witty banter – and Mark and I still quote the show today.

What show would you revive?

 
Don’t forget: This is a monthly TV post now, and I need your questions!

WFMW: Finding Podcasts & Fringe Hours

Finding the Best Podcasts for my Fringe Hours | givinguponperfect.com

After I drop Annalyn off at school each morning, I turn up the radio and flip back and forth between my two favorite stations. I’m not searching for music, though; I’m hoping to find the morning show DJs talking.

I’ve loved listening to the silly banter of morning shows since I first began working full-time (and, therefore, began driving every morning). But ever since I left my full-time job to work from home, I haven’t really listened to a lot of talk radio or podcasts. My commute is the three minutes between my house and the elementary school, and that’s not really enough time to tune into someone else’s conversation. And during my longer drives, I often have a baby along for the ride who masquerades as a baby pterodactyl.

(I’m saying she screeches. Loudly. A lot.)

Then when I’m home, I either have that baby dinosaur around and we’re listening to children’s music or watching “Melmo” or other Muppets. Or she’s taking a nap and I’m working COMPLETELY SILENTLY. (She’s a light sleeper. Sigh.)

But lately I’ve remembered how much I love listening to podcasts or talk radio. When I was grossly underemployed in my last full-time office job, I kept sane by listening to various podcasts about working moms, pop culture and entertainment. And sanity wasn’t the only benefit; I also spent that time highly entertained and often left it informed or educated about a topic that mattered to me.

So I’ve decided it’s time I got on board the podcast train.

I’ve been using the methods Jessica Turner talks about in her book, The Fringe Hours, to figure out when and where I can listen to podcasts. I don’t struggle with making time for myself the way a lot of women she quotes in her book do. I don’t feel guilty doing something for myself or taking time for my own interests.

But I’m also not exactly rich with quality me time.

I’m not truly enjoying myself when I try to do four things at once, including something I like to do for fun. I’m not truly relaxing or refreshing my spirit when I cram my “me time” into the cracks and crevices of the chaotic everyday. And I realized that I’m actually doing myself a disservice by spending all my “me time” on my easy, go-to, fall-back hobbies of reading and TV when I’d probably find more enjoyment out of a new hobby or something I haven’t done in a while.

Like listen to a podcast while sitting in the carpool line after school, instead of scrolling through Facebook for 15 minutes or reading another couple of chapters of a mediocre book.

And while I periodically examine where I’m using my time, it’s always in an attempt to be more productive and to accomplish more. It’s certainly not a practice I’ve designed to find more time for fun! The Fringe Hours points out something I knew but needed to be reminded: there’s a time for work and there’s a time for play, and we simply must find a balance.

So I’m figuring out the when and where of this new [fun] thing I’m going to [intentionally] do – but I need your help figuring out the WHAT. Do you know how many podcasts are out there? SO MANY! {Sidenote: I have talked with a couple friends for YEARS now about starting a podcast of my own. One day, friends…one day.} I’ve started a list of podcasts to subscribe to, and I already listen to a few on a semi-regular basis anyway. But I’d love to make a good list of The Best Podcasts to listen to during my currently misused but soon-to-be better used fringe hours.

Will you help me make that list of The Best Podcasts?

Leave your recommendations in the comments, and I’ll compile a final list and share it in a few weeks!

Do you listen to podcasts? What’s your favorite?

 
If you haven’t read The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner, I’d recommend it! It’s NOT about doing more and trying harder. It’s about making room in your life for the things that matter most – including yourself – and then letting go of the rest. It’s about choosing joy and making the most of your moments, and it’s on sale at DaySpring.

Evaluating my fringe hours and finding great podcasts to listen to work for me!

Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

It’s time for Works for Me Wednesday. I’m looking forward to your tips, tricks, ideas and inspiration! If this is your first time linking up with WFMW here, PLEASE read the guidelines I shared in this post. Highlights include linking your specific post, not the front page of your blog, and making sure to include a link back to this site in your WFMW. Thank you!!

What I’m Into :: April 2015

What I'm Into - April 2015

How cute are they in their matchy-matchy dresses?! We took that on Easter. All four of us were color-coordinated in our Royals gear a couple weeks ago, but I didn’t get a picture. I figure we can always put those outfits back on another day. After all, baseball season does go on FOR-EV-ER. (Please, PLEASE hear that in my best Sandlot voice!)

Is it possible the months are going faster? Like the earth is turning more quickly as every month passes? (Or whatever the earth does. Science is not my thing.) I mean, every single month I’m saying the same thing! “Time goes so fast, blah, blah, blah!” It’s true, though. Earlier this week I talked to someone about starting a project in May, and she had to point out that May was literally two days away.

Oh.
Huh.
Okay then!

April was full but not overly busy. And aside from some annoying rainstorms, the weather was beautiful. I had a few stressful work days, a few surprisingly pleasant family days, and even an afternoon or two where I realized I didn’t have any pressing deadlines for the moment.

Shoot, you guys. As soon as I wrote that I remembered a deadline I have FOR TODAY. Yikes!

Anyway. April brought two major milestones for my family. Annalyn was baptized at church, and Adrienne finally started walking. Big, big deals!! I love those girls so stinking much! They are both so awesome, and I am crazy proud of them. So, April was a good month here. How about you? I’m going to share what I was into over the past few weeks, and I’d love to hear what you were into, too!

What I'm Into :: April 2015

What I’m Reading

I didn’t read as much as normal this month. I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier (you know, LIKE A GROWN-UP). And I’ve also had a hard time finding something I really want to read. Luckily, I found a few that I loved.

A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano: Set in the 1880s, this is the first in a series of Christian romantic suspense novels. It was full of spunky, progressive women and men who are amused by them. It was not particularly realistic, but the snappy dialogue read like a Regency romance, and I’m a fan of that. If you need something light and funny, try this series.

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas: I’ve got a serious beef with Mr. Rob Thomas. I was doing just fine all these years without anything new in the Veronica Mars world. JUST FINE! But then he has to go and write a movie and two books that are PERFECTION – and then NOTHING ELSE. I do not accept this, Mr. Thomas! Do you hear me? You can’t stop now! Your marshmallows need more, and they need it now. (Translation: This book was great, written in a flawless Veronica Mars voice. I didn’t love the vibe between Veronica and Logan, which stinks. But I have confidence they can get it back in the next book. Or movie. Either one, I’m not picky!)

Time’s Edge by Rysa Walker: I had to re-read the first book in this series before reading this one, because I originally read it last year when Adrienne was a newborn. I remembered loving the YA time travel story but couldn’t remember the details. Which is good because this plot? It is convoluted and full of details. I didn’t love it quite as much the second time around (and I’m including the second book in that description), but it ended on a crazy cliffhanger, so I’ll definitely be back for the next one. Well played, author. Well played.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: I read The Curse Workers trilogy by Black a few years ago when I had the flu. I literally laid in bed devouring the books while I coughed and sneezed and sweated. I was blown away by the creativity of the stories. Still, when I read the description for this new book I wasn’t excited. I was wrong. This is a story about a girl and her brother and a fairy prince and evil fairy kings and much, much more. It was so creative – characters and story I haven’t read before. And I read a lot of fantasy books! This is a good one – and a standalone, which is a nice change from EVERY OTHER BOOK EVER.

From the Start by Melissa Tagg: Okay, look. I do not like that cover. It’s cheesy, I know. But this book – and all the others I’ve read by Tagg – are great. If you like straightforward Christian romance novels, read this one. (And the others by the author.) It was charming and sweet and not predictable in the normal ways. Also, it had likable characters and good dialogue. I wish the next book was out already!

And now for something totally different! Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me About Life, Faith & Second Chances by Rachel Ridge is being released today, and you’re going to want to get a copy.

I was just talking to someone about how so many books feel…similar…these days. Not so with Flash! “Some people get angels; I got a donkey.” Heh. I love the way Rachel learned so many life lessons from something as unusual as a donkey basically adopting her family. And she’s such a great storyteller, too. Flash is a keeper – both the donkey and the book.

undeclared cast

What I’m Watching

A couple weeks ago we got new cable service, so now I have Netflix on my TV. (Before this, we either watched on my laptop or connected a cord from the computer to the TV. Either way, it made it hard to multitask so I didn’t watch a ton of Netflix.) I was clicking around, just looking at what’s there – and I found Undeclared.

I knew it was a show many people have on their lists of beloved short-lived shows, and I’ve heard it called, “Freaks & Geeks Go to College.” Based on that, I gave it a try – and I loved it. It was EXACTLY like Freaks & Geeks Go to College, and a whole lot more like my college experience than Greek (which I loved anyway). When one of the characters attempted the sorority life and later told her friend, “We’re dorm people!” I totally identified with that.

Mark and I are still watching and enjoying West Wing and Sherlock (although The Hounds of Baskerville was my least favorite episode by far). And NCIS and Castle are basically the same old, same old. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They just aren’t terribly exciting to me right now.

The rest of the shows I watch are all in full-blown season finale ramp-up mode, getting more and more DIRE and SUSPENSEFUL and SERIOUS and MYSTERIOUS with each scene. I’m sure I’ll have lots of feelings to share about them in a few weeks.

I was so excited when I first heard about Jimmy Fallon and John Krasinski turning Lip Sync Battle into an actual TV show. Now that it’s here, I kind of wish it had stayed in late night. Bummer.

Not a bummer is my plan to see the new Avengers movie tomorrow. Mark and I have had several less-than-successful date nights over the past few months. A few times we had plans but couldn’t find a babysitter, but other times we actually went out but couldn’t find a movie to watch! (Not that every date must be to a movie, but we like going to movies.) So the fact that we have a babysitter lined up for tomorrow, when a big superhero movie is coming out? IS SUPER EXCITING AND I CAN’T WAIT!

What I’m Listening to: I told you about a lot of the songs I’m listening to in my post about what I’ve Shazam-ed lately. My friend Angela reminded me of another one I’m loving: Shut Up & Dance by Walk the Moon. Have you seen this video? YOU GUYS. It is totally retro and a very literal interpretation of the lyrics AND ADORABLE. I love it. I’m going to go watch it again right now. You watch it, too.

What I’m Eating: In case you missed the memo (I’m KIDDING; there was no memo. How embarrassing!), I re-joined Weight Watchers. So I’m eating grapes and bagel thins and chickenchickenchicken. And Fiber One fudge brownies, because a girl needs chocolate. (And then I’m dreaming about these Oreo Magic Brownies. Mmmmm…)

That’s me and my April. Now I want to hear about YOURS!

What were YOU into this month?

 
I’m linking up with Leigh today. Join me at her place for some of the best book, TV, movie and music recommendations!