So have you finished your holiday shopping yet? I sure haven’t. Maybe I can get around to that on Tuesday, because, you know, hope springs eternal.
You know, if you’re stuck trying to figure out what to get for someone, Finis. just went on super-sale today. No idea how many days that will last, but it won’t be very long. You can find it at the various links below for just 99 cents, for a limited time.
And in honor of the shopping frenzy — but also very much because I’m thrilled that some of my cousins arrive from out of town tomorrow — I’m giving you a Straight No Chaser song today, “Christmas Can-Can.” What’s the family connection, you might ask? One of the guys in Straight No Chaser is my cousin-in-law.
Enjoy! And get that consumerism on. Time’s a-wasting!
And speaking of cousins, where can you buy Finis.?* So glad you asked! Be sure to spread the word. (It’s just about the only way to sell books these days.)
* Did you see what I did there? Yep, those of you who’ve already read Finis. will understand.
P.S. — It appears that the music videos aren’t showing up in the emails when these posts go out to my blog subscribers. Don’t know why that’s happening, but the videos are showing up nicely when you click on the link in the email to go to the blog directly. Thanks for subscribing, and thanks for clicking in!
If you’re wondering why I’m posting two a day this weekend, go back and see the opening of Day 4 for an explanation. (Another benefit is this allows me to reach both the morning and evening readers.)
A whole lot of really entertaining song parodies have come across my desktop this year. Weird Al’s latest album — a real award winner this time! — just about made my August, and the entertainment has continued. One of the holiday-themed parodies a friend sent me recently has to do with Hanukkah — which I KNOW is not Christmas, thanks, but the two seasons are often celebrated concurrently. My family celebrates both most years.
Because of our home renovation woes, we had to very unfortunately miss a “Merry Christmanukkah” party tonight, and so I’m going to post instead this parody of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” by Six13. (This is also in honor of the dreidel game’s being my kids’ favorite pasttime this time of year, and a favorite of mine when I was their age, too.)
Happy Happy Whatever You’re Celebrating This Month, if you are.
Dear readers, I apologize. If you follow me on Facebook, you already know that I’ve been without a lot of reliable computer access for most of this week because of some home renovations we have going on. Oh, and it was finals week. Great timing, but that’s another story.
Anyway, I haven’t been able to post to my blog the last several days, which meant my 12 Days series got interrupted. Never fear, though; I’ll make it all up by Monday.
A few years ago, I heard this song on the radio and absolutely fell in love with it. It was played — and still is — on Houston’s Official Christmas Music Station, which is proof that their station’s programming director has at least some taste and a few brain cells to rub together. When I first heard it, I recognized the voices immediately as being the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah MacLachlan (two musical acts I rather like, especially the first), and it’s a clever blending of two very cool songs: “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” (which always reminds me pleasantly of Charles Dickens for some inexplicable reason) and “We Three Kings” (a song I loved when I was a kid).
So the last couple of days I’ve brought you some fun and goofy fare, but today we’re getting a little more serene, a little more toward the heart of the holiday — which has its roots in religious celebration. (And I’ll leave you to argue, if you must, over which religion or religions I’m talking about.)
Although I was raised a devout Catholic, that didn’t end up being my true path. But spirituality is very important to me as a feature of the Human Condition and as something which matters deeply in my own life. And so while I don’t necessarily share the same beliefs or faith of some Christmas carols, I can certainly appreciate them, either in a function of nostalgia or simply because they are beautiful. One of my favorite religious songs is “O Come, Emmanuel.” Some might accuse me of loving any song in a minor key, and that might be true. This particular song is one I used to sing regularly when I was a child, and it always made me feel peaceful, calm, centered. This version of it by ThePianoGuys is lovely, and the setting of the video is quite pretty, even if some could suggest the video feels mildly bombastic in tone.
When today’s song came out in the 1980s, I was nonplussed. I was a fan of the band who sang it, but I didn’t love them as much as I loved Duran Duran. And this song was…okay. But it has persisted. And in very recent years, several covers of it have been recorded which just are not very good. They’re faithful enough to the original not to be clever or interesting in themselves, and they don’t have the unabashed panache and chutzpah of the original, either. But these milquetoast covers have accomplished one surprising thing: they’ve made the original better by comparison.
So today I bring you “Last Christmas” by Wham! Even though I grew up watching MTV in the 80’s, somehow I’d missed this little cinematic gem, and I just saw it for the first time last week. It celebrates everything you’d expect from an 80’s-era pop music video: ambiguous storyline, big hair and bigger shoulder pads, extravagant socializing, late-night ennui, melodrama. Good times, good times. Enjoy.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. “Houston’s Official Christmas Music Station” — which has been broadcasting Christmas and winter-themed songs since the Friday night before Thanksgiving — has once more conformed to the belief that they must play the same dozen tired crap songs over and over again, with only an occasional good one thrown into the mix.
Thank goodness for my iPod.
Since this series on my blog was such a hit last year (click here to see the first post and then follow the “next post” links to see the rest), I’m doing it again! And while I’ll be sharing a lot of different stuff with you this time around, I’m going to kick things off with what is still one of my all-time favorites, “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. Perhaps there will come a time when my life isn’t insanely busy, and then I won’t be able to relate to this song as well or enjoy it as much, but honestly, I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen.
This week’s review comes to us from Terri Nixon, who has chosen to respond to Saskia Sarginson’s novel The Twins.
Terri’s bio and more information about the Women Writers Wednesday series can be found at the end of this post.
I won a copy of this book in a Twitter contest. I had no knowledge of the writer or her work, so went into the story with no expectations whatsoever, and emerged some considerable time later blinking and, it’s fair to say, a little bit not-of-this-world, for a while.
It’s hard to describe, or to pare down, what it was about The Twins that had such an impact on me, especially without giving away any spoilers. The writing itself is first-class, so we can dispense with that question, and I was reading it, as I tend to do these days, as a writer rather than as a reader, so I was being annoyingly picky – still couldn’t fault it.
We know these girls share a terrible secret from their childhood, and all the way through it seems to point one way … until it suddenly doesn’t. It’s either a master-class in misdirection, or I just went right up to the wrong tree and started barking. Either way, it’s not in any way predictable; it’s pacy, complex, dark and satisfying.
I think what really struck me in the beginning was the depth of detail. I’ve recently read some reviews for this book on Amazon, and I was astonished by the number of people who not only didn’t enjoy it, but also found the level of detail an irritant rather than an anchor to the story and the characters. For me it was these touches that brought my own childhood so vividly back to life; these girls, brought up in almost feral conditions by their flighty but well-meaning mother, running wild in the countryside during the 1970s and ’80s, taking their enjoyment where they found it. I grew up at the same time, in the same era, and spent an awful lot of time running around the moors in Cornwall, doing exactly the same kind of things (to a point!). I usually have little patience and tend to skip paragraphs that are description-heavy, but there was something about the way it was done in this book that kept me there. It was probably the senses that Sarginson uses to describe: some of it visual, but more to do with smell and touch. It awakens the memories of youth and connects you to the girls in a way nothing else could do.
The characters themselves are introduced in the present day; problems and conflicts are hinted at, their two vastly different lives highlighted, and then we are taken back to find the sources of those conflicts. We meet their mother; we quickly come to understand that she is not a bad person, she just lives her life in a kind of haze, still happily locked into the Hippie era, where she herself had flourished, and wanting the same for her daughters. It would have been easy to paint the mother as the villain, and the twins as victims, but that is not the case here; none of the characters can be labelled as wholly good or wholly wicked.
The girls are not unloved or mis-treated, but as they’re left to their own devices we see them begin to take on the personalities we’ve seen hinted at from the present-day segments. The storyline starts to smooth out, and we learn the secret that they have kept and begin to understand why they dealt with it in different ways.
As far as the ending goes, it seems to be quite a divisive topic, but I come down firmly on the ‘perfect’ side. I don’t want to give anything away, but having raced, breathless, through the final pages, I was left thinking, “Well, that was the only way it could have ended.” Many readers were left unsatisfied, but I closed the book with a real sense of inevitability realised.
This is a book I would recommend without hesitation, and I would recommend the paperback version as there do seem (from the reviews) to be some formatting errors in the Kindle edition. Not the author’s fault, and not in her control to correct, but it does seem that some of the lower-starred reviews have taken these errors into consideration, which is a shame.
Terri Nixon was born in Plymouth in 1965. At the age of nine she moved with her family to Cornwall, to a small village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one’s ever offered to pay her for doing those.
To see more kinds of reviews like the ones in this series, check out these blogs by Melanie Page and Lynn Kanter. And of course go to the Sappho’s Torque Books page here to see other reviews by me and by other contributors to the Women Writers Wednesday series.
The Women Writers Wednesday series seeks to highlight the contributions of women in literature by featuring excellent literature written by women authors via reviews/responses written by other women authors. If you’d like to be a contributor, wonderful! Leave a comment below or send me an email, tweet, or Facebook message with your idea.