Sunday, June 19, 2016

15 Reasons to Watch Leverage

Because this show is my jam and it's very widely under-appreciated.  As in, it seems like nobody knows about it.  And that's just SAD, dontcha know :P  Also, seeing as it's Fathers' Day, and my dad likes to watch this with me sometimes, it seemed like a very appropriate time to do this post that I'd been planning for a while :)  So, without further ado and in no particular order, I give you fifteen little reasons to watch the TV show Leverage!  *confetti and general fanfare*

#1.  It's a modern-day Robin Hood.  Yep.  Nate is a wannabe Robin Hood (he's actually called that in the show), and the rest are basically the Merry Men.  Er, Men and Women.  'Cause, you know, there are also two girls on the team.  

#2.  Sophie Devereaux  She is, like the above collage indicates, the heart of the organization.  She's a grifter, so her job is to put on an act, yet her real theatric dreams are slow-coming because, unless it's part of a con, she can't act worth anything.  It's cute :)  Without Sophie's grasp of human nature and gentling presence, the team would be a slightly dysfunctional mess.  Her mentorship of Parker in particular is so adorable, as is Parker's helplessness and reliance on her:  "I will not be fine!  I stabbed that guy with a fork!"  Sophie is a mom figure to the younger three, and she keeps Nate's head above water when he's sinking.  She really anchors the team, probably because she's basically the only one, at the beginning at least, who actually knows how to interact with other people on a normal level.  (I think the cheesiness of the show is rubbing off on me.)  

#3.  Speaking of the cheesiness…  It's so gloriously cheesy!  Seriously.  I mean, parts of it are meant to be silly, and parts of it aim for (and achieve) legitimate feels, but other parts are just too overdone.  To steal borrow a phrase, "Do I care?  Heck no."  Most of the cheesiness is Nate's fault, anyway, and Nate is my least favorite character, so it doesn't really bother me.

#4.  The bromance between Elliot and Hardison.  Honestly, the dynamic between Elliot and Hardison.  They drive each other absolutely berserk, yet you can tell that they really do (grudgingly) care about each other.  They basically become true brothers by the end *beams proudly at them*  

#5.  The last episode.  LIKE.  WUUUUUUT.  

#6.  Despite how corny and overdone it can be at times, there are also moments of surprisingly real, emotional drama.  In my opinion, at least.  I mean, from the very beginning, you've got Nate struggling with the death of his son, which could have been prevented.  Other than that, there's the bio-terrorism episode when Elliot, Parker and Hardison are on their own, the job when every fan ever is freaking out for the entirety of the episode Hardison gets buried alive for a bit, the time when the team didn't get there in time to save that mountain climber, and the time when Nate is calling Sophie and is losing it completely, right before the S2 finale, when she was still on her sabbatical and he couldn't take it anymore.  And that's just a start.  

#7.  Nate Ford.  Yeah, he bothers me (probably because he's kind of a self-satisfied know-it-all at times), but he's a good scout for the most part.  His heart is more or less in the right place, as it were.

#8.  Parker.  Parker is bae.  She's probably my favorite :)  I've talked more about her in this post, if you're interested. 

#9.  Alec Hardison.  Age o' the geek, baby; stay strong ;-P  Hardison is my second favorite, I believe.  He's hilarious.  And sweet.  And I wuvs him.  

#10.  PARDISON.  MAH BABIES.  Oh, how I love these two.  

#11.  For the type of show it is, it's fairly clean.  It's definitely got regular amounts of relatively mild language (for instance, I don't think I ever ran into the s-word or the f-word, or the gd-word, though I could have missed something).  And though, sadly, there are the beginnings of some scenes between Nate and Sophie in the later seasons, they never become graphic and they are relatively few and far between.  Oh, and spoiler alert, nobody ever dies in this show.  (Well, that's not strictly true.  But it's rare.)  Blood and gore are also virtually nonexistent.  

#12.  The plot is pretty basic and repetitive, but on the flip side, that leaves a lot of room for character development.  You get to know these five eccentrics, people.  You get to know their strengths and weaknesses, their humorous quirks and their pet peeves, how they alienate people and how they love them.  You can watch them grow, the precious little bundles of crazy.  

#13.  It's funny.  Have I emphasized that enough?  Each character has their own signature brand of humor, because they're all ever-so-slightly dysfunctional, and it's really darn amusing.  

#14.  Elliot Spencer.  He's got the most proverbial blood on his hands, due to his past, and that's something that he struggles with throughout the whole show.  He worked for some sick people and did some sick things, and he's fighting every day to redeem himself from that.  Plus, how he adores kids but tries not to let anybody know about it is SO STINKING ADORABLE.  

#15.  It's just a dang fine show, flaws and all.  It involves five main characters, with some secondaries weaving in and out, and like I said before, they truly become real people to you.  It's got humor, it's got heart, it's got laughs, it's got tears, and bottom line?  I think you should watch it…especially with your dad ;)

So, have I persuaded you to give this show a try yet? ;D  
What would you all say to another "15 Reasons to Watch" post for something else sometime?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Fading Starlight {by Kathryn Cushman}

[I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.]

Lauren Summers is in hiding.  Her fashion house internship was supposed to launch her career, but a red carpet accident has left her blackballed.  The only job she can find comes with little pay, but at least it offers a free place to live--a rundown cottage in the shadow of a cliff-side mansion.  Planning to live on savings until she figures out what's next, she's unprepared to be contacted by a reporter.

Kendall Joiner is researching Charlotte Montgomery, a former Hollywood ingĂ©nue who lives a reclusive life in the cliff-side mansion.  Rumors have swirled for decades about Charlotte, and now Kendall wants to find the real story.  In return, she may just have the key to getting Lauren back into the fashion world.  Desperate to restore her dreams, Lauren's not sure she can turn down the offer--but as she and Miss Montgomery get to know more about each other, Lauren realizes nothing is quite as it seems.  ~ synopsis from the back cover

The same phenomenon has occurred twice within a year's time.  I actually really enjoyed a CFR book from the blogger review program!

Yes!  It has happened!  I actually have virtually nothing negative to say (the only thing I can really think of is that there were a couple punctuation errors which got a leetle distracting, and even that is definitely splitting hairs) about this book…which is majorly weirding me out.  

First up, CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE COVAH.  It's very Olivia-approved.  Especially in person, seeing the physical copy, the minimalism and softness of the palette and design bring joy to my geeky soul.  Now, on to business.  Beware of unmarked, moderate spoilers!

Fading Starlight is different from most CFR I've read in that a) it's contemporary and b) the romance is very, very slight.  *nods head*  Yes, that's right--Lauren does have a love interest, but for the vast portion of the story, he's just there in the background, a sort of "Hey, we're not going to focus on it, but this girl will eventually find love."  (And he's nice.)

The plot is unique, too, in that it delves into the world of modern-day fashion and journalism.  I liked the beginning scenes at the red carpet and everything.  It brought Project Runway to mind, as practically anything fashion-related is prone to do ;D  

Since Lauren is a big fan of vintage clothing, and of vintage movies, there are a lot of classic references that pop up throughout the book, and it's awesome!  In fact, while we're here, how's about getting the particularly-good-bits part of the review done? 

The dust was indeed thick on everything…Lime scale ran down the back of the sink, grime of an indeterminate nature stuck to the floors, and every bit of the upholstery looked as if it had gone through a dust storm that would have taken down John Wayne.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Another of Rhonda's quotes came to mind.  "A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are built for."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Frances Brown looked to be about sixty and had short, curly brown hair with just a hint of gray mixed in.  She was quite lovely, with a square jaw and a full chin, reminding Lauren very much of Bette Davis in the movie she'd watched recently.  Smaller eyes, but whose eyes weren't smaller than Bette Davis's?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

[Lauren] sat on the steps to her front porch and looked toward the mansion next door, silhouetted against the starlit sky.  Did a woman live there who needed her help?  Or was it a murderer who needed to be exposed?

Neither seemed all that likely to Lauren.  She thought of Miss Montgomery as a grumpy old lady who had too much money and not enough kindness.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This was the point where the gifts of the heart were separated from the gifts of convenience.  Where what she professed she believed collided head on with what she felt like doing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"She's a great reader.  Loves all kinds of books.  I think that is her way of at least staying partially in touch with the world she has mostly left behind.  She can read a book and feel that she has experienced a little of it."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The setting of FS is interesting to me as well--a private subdivision community, including both slightly run-down cottages and impressive mansions.  Aforementioned private subdivision by the seaside.  It's calming--imagining the private boardwalk, the salt smell, and the sandy beach.  Actually, the story rather jumps around in terms of setting, because Lauren is living in this reclusive cottage, as I said, and she is working for a high school's production of Camelot in a not-too-distant city, AND she has to head back to…it's either Los Angeles or Las Vegas (I think it's Los Angeles)…for her friend Chloe's wedding shenanigans.  

Oh, and speaking of Chloe, Chloe is a doll.  I liked Chloe.  The characters all felt legitimately authentic to me--which is rather rare.  I actually caught myself, one day, about to pray for Lauren in one of her predicaments!  She was apparently that real to me.  

The Christian element of the book is a breath of fresh air as well.  There are a number of verses from a wide range of the Bible, and Lauren takes time regularly to be alone with the Lord.  She seeks His face and His will for her life.  One thing I found particularly convicting was how Ms. Cushman emphasized the importance of accepting God's forgiveness and redeeming grace for your mistakes, but also the importance of accepting the consequences you sometimes have to endure as a result of those mistakes.  I also loved that there was that one specific verse that kept running through Lauren's brain, warning her, even though it seemed random, out of place, and strangely persistent.  So often in life, God will use similar methods to warn us of mistakes we are about to make, so it was neat to see that played out in the story.  Lauren herself was pretty inspiring, really, in that she had gone through a lot in her past, yet she didn't let it define her in any way.  It wasn't even a big part of the story--not much mention of it was made, and when it was, it always pointed back to Lauren's gratefulness at having been taken in by Rhonda.  She was human and vulnerable throughout the difficulties she undergoes in the story, yet she casts herself on God's sustaining grace with no melodrama and a lot of trust.  The more I think about Lauren, the more I really like and even admire her.  

While Catherine Marshall's Christy (and, to a lesser degree, her Julie) remains a paragon of what Christian fiction romance ought to be, and one of which almost every other CFR book I've read falls somewhat short, I've got to say that Fading Starlight came pretty close to fulfilling my ideal :D  Now, the comparison is kind of unfair, because FS is not a deep and gritty story like Christy.  Howevah, its very simplicity, relaxation and refreshment are the things which make it so successful in my book (ha).  I think one of the biggest draws for me is that Ms. Cushman doesn't try to make the story something it's not.  She knows the tale she's telling, and she tells it simply and in a straightforward manner--"with no highfaluting mumbo-jumbo," to coin a phrase.  That's not to say the writing isn't good--because it is. It just means that the book was so refreshingly free of the cheesiness and overdone drama so prevalent in a good bit of CFR.  Well done, Ms. Cushman!  I really, really liked this one, and I want to try more Cushman books now!  *huzzahs and confetti*

Thursday, June 2, 2016

I was there at Calvary.

(Hello, beauties!  I wanted to preface this poem real quick.  I believe that  the Lord gave me this poem idea, and that He wants me to post it.  However, I really, at the risk of defeating the purpose, want to say that I am NOT trying to do this simply to garner complimentary comments--though y'all are always so kind in giving them.  I guess that's always a struggle, 'cause who doesn't love comments, but…I'm not really sure where I'm going with this; I know it doesn't make much sense.  I suppose just to say that, I'm sharing this in the hope that it can be of some help to someone in their walk with the Lord today--not because I'm trying to "show off" or tout myself as an amazing poet or anything.  Yeah.  Anywho.  Any goodness or worth you might see in this poem is solely the work of God, not me.  Just wanted to clarify that, if only to remind myself whenever bad motives try to sneak in, dontcha know :P  Thanks for reading my odd little spiel; I shall importune you no further!)

I was there at Calvary --
My mortal body yet to be born --
I was there the day the veil was torn;
I was there at Calvary. 

I was there at Calvary:
I was there when nails were driven,                                               
I was there when side was riven;
I was there at Calvary.  

I was there at Calvary.
Did I join the ingrate, insane crowd
In mocking Him Who made no sound?
I was there at Calvary.  

I was there at Calvary.
Was I one of the faithful few,
Who, fumbling, loved the Love we slew?
Oh, who was I at Calvary?

I was there at Calvary,
Where a war with hell was fought,
Where my future joy was bought --
I was there at Calvary.  

I was there at Calvary:
I saw those hands which were yet to make
My body, awash with all my reckless hate.
I was there at Calvary.

I was there at Calvary:
Those anguished eyes looked straight at me,                 
And now their grace is breaking me,
For I was there at Calvary.

I was there at Calvary.
You, my Brother, died for me,                                 
So that Your sister I could be,
Though I was there at Calvary?

You lead me here to Calvary
And let me touch the hands that formed my heart,
Though they hold my burning, sin-nail scars,
And we stay awhile at Calvary.

I was there at Calvary --
Your glorious grace, a thing I cannot reason --
So I will praise You in and out of season, 
For You forgave me my share in Calvary.