lately in entertainment - february/march 2016
Elton John at John Paul Jones Arena - I think one of the greatest privileges of being an adult is being able to do wonderful things for my mom, since she has basically devoted half of her life to me. I've been on a quest for the past couple of years to make sure that my mom gets to see every single artist and band on her concert "bucket list." When my mom was my age she worked in a bank and she and her best work friend had Elton John posters on the inside of their office, so it was a no-brainer that I had to get tickets when I heard Elton and his band were coming to Roanoke. I knew I wanted to include my cousin who's like a sister to me, too, since she and I had so much fun at the Fleetwood Mac concert we went to last year. Unfortunately I forgot that tickets went on sale until about halfway through my planning period on the day they were released, and Roanoke had sold out really, really fast. Google to the rescue - I knew the next show would probably be close, and it was - it's hard to beat JPJ as a concert venue, and this way we got to have a little family girls' trip! It turned out that Sir Elton had the flu, and he explained when he welcomed the audience that we "might hear some strange notes," but that he didn't want to cancel the show. Despite the fact that there was probably less interaction with the audience than there would have been had he felt better, Elton and the band put on an amazing show. They played all of our favorites: Leslie's = "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding," mine = "Bennie and the Jets," "Tiny Dancer," and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and Mom's = "I'm Still Standing" and "Daniel," as well as some new songs ("Looking Up" and "A Good Heart" are both great).
Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas - After Throne of Glass, I had to have more Calaena Sardothien in my life. Crown of Midnight builds on the dark intrigue of the first book - now that Calaena is Champion to an evil king, she has to keep up the premise that she is assassinating his enemies while actually investigating the conspiracy surrounding him. When she is asked to target a former ally, she puts everyone she loves and the happiness she has found in danger as she delays completing her assignment. Meanwhile, Chaol, the Captain of the Guard, tries to protect Celaena by not sharing information that would hurt her. Both of their choices have devastating consequences. In Heir of Fire, Celaena travels away from the glass castle and her friends to seek answers about her past. The focus in point of view shifts much more frequently, and Maas introduces a new main character, Manon, a ruthless witch. I read a lot of the third book out of sequence because I would get caught up in one thread of the story - Celaena's training with a brooding Fae warrior, Dorian falling in love with the castle apothecary, or Manon training a wyvern to be her new mount for flying. Whereas Throne of Glass was mainly historical-flavored adventure with a whisper of magic, Heir of Fire is full-blown high fantasy. I'm looking forward to reading Queen of Shadows soon.
A Girl's Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber - All I knew about Debbie Macomber before reading this book, which I received from NetGalley, was that several of her books have been made into Hallmark movies. A Girl's Guide to Moving On follows two "girls" as they take back their lives. Leanne and her daughter-in-law, Nichole, seemed to have picture perfect, country-club lives in Portland - except for the fact that Leanne's husband, Sean, has been unfaithful to her for years and her son Jake followed suit. When Nichole files for divorce, Leanne finds the courage to do the same, and they find apartments in the same building. Serving as each others' support system, they make a list of survival strategies that include getting involved in their community, cultivating new friendships, and letting go in order to receive. They forge such a close and true mother-daughter relationship that I couldn't help being reminded of Naomi and Ruth. Both find themselves opening their hearts again, much to the chagrin of their ex-husbands - Nichole to a down-to-earth tow-truck driver Jake views with contempt, and Leanne with a charming baker from the ESL class she teaches, which of course makes Sean's blood boil. I was rooting for each of these women to find freedom and happiness.
Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan - I originally fell in love with Sarah Rees Brennan through her Livejournal years ago (I'm showing my age here), and enjoyed reading her Demon's Lexicon series (back then there was this weird sense of hipster "I liked this author before she was cool" pride when authors you followed on LJ finally got published). Tell the Wind and Fire is a standalone, rather than a series. Tell the Wind and Fire was inspired by A Tale of Two Cities (which I'll admit I haven't read, #Englishmajorfail), and this book's two cities are divided by the light and dark sides of the magic which powers their world. The main character, Lucie, is a folk hero raised in the Dark who "made the decision long ago: better to be safe than good." After her mother's terrible death in the dark city, she and her father were able to find a home with friends in the Light, and Lucie fell in love with a boy who happens to be a son from the most powerful Light family in the city. Her boyfriend, Ethan, has a dark secret of his own, and his family is all too happy to use his connection to Lucie to boost their reputation in the public eye. When her decision to trust a stranger from the Dark puts Ethan's life in danger, Lucie has to rely on her wits to save him, and as revolution takes hold in the Light city, Lucie has to decide where she stands. This was a quick, addicting read filled with beautiful prose, but I'd recommending starting with The Demon's Lexicon if you want a real taste of what Sarah Rees Brennan is capable of writing.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received ARCs of A Girl's Guide to Moving on and Tell The Wind and Fire free from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”