My Sympathies to Anthony Weiner’s Mom

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Update from Weiner World: Anthony Weiner is at it again.

And Anthony Weiner’s mom is on my mind.

Now in his third public exposure, so to speak, Anthony Weiner’s peccadillos have again brought shame to his family and ridicule from around the world.

Who would have thought that this schmuck would still be sexting his private parts to random women online?

I feel very sorry for Huma. I can’t imagine the agony she’s had to endure, trying to keep her head high and her personal life out of the spotlight.

I also feel sorry for Anthony Weiner’s mom, who never in her wildest dreams imagined her baby boy would grow up to be a sexting addict.

So this post first published three years ago feels very deja vu.

And once again the message to Anthony Weiner’s mom is heartfelt.

Dear Anthony Weiner’s Mom,

We don’t know each other, but I’ve been thinking about you lately. Wondering how you’re holding up.

Yes, you. Anthony Weiner’s mom. I’m concerned about you.

Can we talk, mother to mother?

You see, I have adult children, as you do, although none of mine has been involved in a sexting scandal, as far as I know. Nor have they embarrassed the hell out of me on an international stage. Not yet, anyway.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying my children are perfect, not at all. Are they wonderful human beings? Yes. Have they made poor choices in the past, mostly involving liquor consumption and sky diving? Yes.

But here’s the thing. We are meant to fall deeply in love with our children from the day they are born. I did, and I bet you did, too. Unconditional love. From their first uncertain steps to making the soccer team to graduating from college, our kids made us kvell over accomplishments both big and small.

Whether we should take credit for any of that is debatable, but admit it, every success made us glow knowing that we nailed the parenting gig.

Because we adore them unconditionally, we forgive them for their shortcomings. Kids are kids and make errors in judgment.

As parents, we hope they learn from their mistakes. It’s called growing up.

That’s why my heart goes out to you, Mrs. Weiner. Your son hasn’t grown up. He doesn’t get that it’s not all about him. That beautiful wife and son of his do not deserve the suffering that he has inflicted. But this is not your fault.

I know you love and support your son. Just between the two of us, though, be honest. Has he tested every last nerve? Do you really want to just smack him upside the head? Do you wish you could send him to “Time Out” for a long, long time?

If he were my son, that’s how I would feel.

My point is that whatever emotional roller coaster you’re on right now, please don’t allow parental guilt to be part of the ride. It is not your fault. There were many times when he made you proud.

But he screwed up, big time. Many times.

He did. Not you.

So continue to stand by your son, as any mother would do. But don’t tear your hair out wondering what you did wrong. Maternal guilt can be a killer. Just don’t even go there.

Between you and me, I think there is a lot of sympathy out there for you, especially from other moms. Moms who can’t fully relate, but know what it feels like to suffer in the wings while a child is in free fall. To agonize when your child has let you down, really hard.
Most moms I know would give you a hug, Mrs. Weiner, and tell you to hang in there.

And I am one of those moms.

 

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Book Buzz: The Couple Next Door

You’ve heard of chick lit, but did you know that there is a new literary genre called “grip lit?”

Grip lit refers to the smoldering, tension-driven, dark crime novels written by women and featuring morally questionable female narrators.

Gone Girl comes to mind, of course. Its huge success spawned others in short order  — The Girl on the Train, for example.

Grip lit is a trend that is on the fast track, and understandably so. Who doesn’t love a dark, spine tingling domestic drama that keeps you on edge until the last page?

The Couple Next Door fits this bill, beautifully.

Book Buzz: The Couple Next Door

So, first, a warning. Do not read this book if:

You are on the beach or by the pool and low on sunscreen.

It is late at night and you have to get up early the next day.

You can’t handle suspense.

Written by the talented debut author Shari Lapena, the premise is one that will resonate with anyone, parent or not.

Anne and Marco are a young married couple whose life seems just about perfect: a loving relationship, a swanky townhouse, fancy cars, and a beautiful new baby girl.

One evening they are getting ready to go to a party next door. At the last minute, their sitter cancels. What should they do? The hostess (childless and clueless about parenting) has discouraged them from bringing the baby. Marco persuades Anne to go and she reluctantly agrees, provided they take along the baby monitor and return to check on the baby every 30 minutes.

When they return home at the end of the evening, they discover to their shock that the baby has been abducted. Snatched her from her crib in the middle of the night just minutes after the last time she was checked. The distraught parents can’t imagine who could have done such an evil thing. They are desperate to get her back.

As the police get involved, fingers are pointed and alibis are suspected. Whodunit?

And … I am not going to tell you anymore, because you should enjoy every twist and turn in this page-turner. In true grip lit fashion, author Lapena’s razor sharp writing will lead you to suspect one character, then another, then back to the first, and you’ll probably be wrong about all of them.

It is also a contemporary story that involves several provocative issues, such as the moral responsibility of parents, the pressure on new mothers to be perfect, the role of technology in solving a mystery.

If you are like me and love diving into a heart-pounding frenzy of a psychological thriller, you will love The Couple Next Door.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Couple Next Door. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Couple Next Door from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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Eight Great Books About Dogs

 

Eight Great Books About DogsHere it is, late August. Hazy hot and humid seesaws with crisp and cool, a sign that summer is tapping fall on the shoulder, the annual game of tag you’re it.

The dog days of summer, they are. Nightfall comes earlier now. The evening performance of the cicada orchestra is unfailingly on time. Local blueberries are no longer in season; once plump and juicy, they are now unpleasantly sour and soon will be gone until next year.

If it sounds like I’m in an end-of-summer funk, it’s true.

But dog days remind me of dogs, and that cheers me up. If you love dogs, and even if you think you don’t and might be persuaded to, here are some really good books about canines you might want to try.

Warning: weeping may happen.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

In a flashback, Enzo the dog reflects upon the ten years of his life with Denny, a semi-professional race car driver, Denny’s wife Eve, and their baby daughter Zoe. Since Enzo believes he will come back in his next life at a human, he is a keen observer of the human condition. No lie, you will be a soggy mess at the end.

The Dogs of Babel, Carolyn Parkhurst

How many times I’ve wondered what my dog would say if it could talk. When Paul’s wife Lexy dies in an accident, Lorelei, a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, is the only witness. Grief-stricken and haunted with questions, Paul attempts to teach Lorelei to talk so that she can communicate what happened. You will tear up for humans and dogs alike.

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, John Grogan

The subtitle clues you in about Marley, a big galumph of a dog whose antics and foibles take over the lives of John and Jenny. Equal parts humor and pathos, this book will delight anyone who has seen both the worst and the best in their dogs and loves them just the same. On a scale of 1 to 10 on the Cry-o-meter: off the scale.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski

Hamlet is retold with tail-wagging canines as the characters. Edgar is the mute son of a family that breeds a special variety of dogs, Sawtelle dogs. Edgar has an uncanny sense of communication with these dogs and is able to get to the bottom of a murder mystery with their help. Have tissues at the ready.

A Dog’s Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron

Buddy the existential dog is the narrator in this novel as he tries to understand why he is here. Author Cameron totally gets the essence of dogs and Buddy’s voice is genuine. As if I haven’t showered my dogs with endless affection, now I religiously tack on a “good dog” several times a day. This book will soon be released by Dreamworks as a movie and I can not wait. Expect a cascade of tears.

A Dog’s Journey, W. Bruce Cameron

Thank God Cameron wrote a sequel, because I could not bear to think that Buddy’s story was over. More smiles and tears with this book, just as wonderful as the first. I kid you not, the sobs started in the first chapter.

Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself, Julie Barton

When her life came crashing down on her at age 22, Julie could not find a way out of her depression. Not therapy, not medication, not moving back into her parents’ home. But when she and the Golden Retriever puppy Bunker found each other, her world became brighter. Sniffles throughout for Julie and Bunker.

Good Dog. Stay., Anna Quindlen

A sweet, funny, poignant tribute to her big old Black Labrador Beau, this memoir can be read in a single, joyful sitting. Among the words of wisdom is this: “Occasionally someone will tell me that they won’t have pets because they are messy … the truth is that we were far messier without dogs than with them.” I love that. Tears and hiccups.

Have you read these? What other books about dogs have you read and loved?

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Book Buzz: With Love From the Inside

Words fail me, except for OMG, WTF and whatever other net-centric acronyms exist to express shock.

Book Buzz: With Love From the Inside

If I could insert a shocked face emoticon, I would, flummoxed as I am by With Love From the Inside, the page-turning debut novel written by Angela Pisel.

With Love From the Inside

This novel, about the relationship between a mother on death row and her estranged daughter, packs a punch.

Grace Bradshaw was convicted of killing her infant son William. The charge was murder by Munchausen by proxy. With traces of poison found in his formula bottles, it appeared to be an open and shut case. Despite Grace’s protests of innocence, the evidence was irrefutable and she was sentenced to death.

It was a horrific case, to say the least. Understandably, her daughter Sophie, 12 years old at the time of the trial, was traumatized. The death of her brother had been tragic enough, but now her mother, from whom she had only known love, was apparently a monster.

Sophie continued to live with her father but after he died she moved away and tried to erase her family history forever. When asked, she said that her mother died of cancer years ago.

She never wanted to see her mother again.

When the story begins, Sophie is now in her late twenties and married. Her husband and his family know nothing about her background. She has managed to keep her secrets so far, but she is tormented by thoughts of her mother in prison.

With Love From the Inside is recounted from two points of view. As Sophie tells her story from the outside, Grace tells hers from her prison cell. With all appeals exhausted, there is seemingly nothing that can save her. She keeps a journal which allows her to “talk” to Sophie because she despairs of ever seeing her again. She wants to make sure that once she is gone Sophie will have this journal and will finally know how she felt about her daughter, the baby who died, and her experiences in jail.

In researching this book, author Pisel interviewed many women on death row, and her sensitivity to their plight illuminates the story. The descriptions of life in jail are stark and real: prison guards both sympathetic and cruel, rigidity of rules, tensions between inmates, the constant dehumanization.

Grace clings to hope for a reconciliation with her daughter as the clock ticks closer to the date of her execution. She begs her defender to find Sophie. And eventually he does.

But will Sophie want to see her mother?

Sophie struggles with two conflicting thoughts. Is her mother the personification of evil, as she has believed all this time? Or was something overlooked, something that could exonerate her mother and end this nightmare? Memories from childhood, repressed for so long, now reemerge, reminding her of the loving mother and happy family she once had.

This is an emotional and intense read, and the pace quickens in the last few chapters. It is also an indictment of our flawed justice system, in which too many innocent people have fallen through the cracks.

Will that happen to Grace? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of With Love From the Inside. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of With Love From the Inside from Putnam for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Leaving Lucy Pear

I love historical literary fiction, especially when it teaches me something new. The luminous Leaving Lucy Pear is a novel so rich in sensory images that I found myself transported to a time and place I knew little about and felt instantly connected.

Book Buzz: Leaving Lucy Pear

Leaving Lucy Pear

Author Anna Solomon takes us to 1920s Prohibition-era Gloucester, New England, eschewing the glamor of that period for the dark side: the rampant racism and bigotry. The economic instability, political turmoil, the poverty, the violence.

Against this backdrop lives the eponymous Lucy Pear, the daughter of two women. Born to Beatrice, the unwed teenage daughter of a wealthy Jewish family, Lucy Pear is abandoned by her mother in the family’s pear orchard. It is the season when Irish trespassers steal the ripening pears to make bootleg moonshine.

Ashamed to keep the baby, and unwilling to surrender her to an orphanage, Beatrice sneaks out late one night clutching the blanket-wrapped baby and sets her under a tree. The plan works as the thieves discover the baby and whisk her away. Emma, an Irish Catholic immigrant already the mother of a large brood, becomes Lucy’s new mother.

For the next 10 years, the two families intersect in various ways, but the truth of Lucy’s parentage remains hidden. Lucy, a bold and instinctive child, senses there is information being withheld from her. At the same time, she holds on to disturbing secrets of her own.

Solomon uses two historical events that speak volumes in illustrating the bigotry of the time. There was the infamous case of Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian-American anarchists who were arrested, imprisoned for seven years, and finally executed for a murder in spite of any solid evidence implicating them.

There was also the “secret court” at Harvard, a witch hunt to expose and then expel homosexual students.

The contrasts in the novel are many:  Jewish and Irish, the haves and the have nots, the fecund and the barren, heterosexual and homosexual, yet implicit in all of them are restrictions of the freedom we often take for granted today.

But the most heartrending contrast is between two women from different classes and places in society, of different temperaments and beliefs, who are bound together forever through their love for a child.

Bookended by the turn-of-the-century influx of European immigrants and the rumblings of World War II, the setting of Leaving Lucy Pear is one of the most absorbing features of the novel.

Solomon is an exquisite writer and skillfully weaves together multi-dimensional characters with a plot that is never predictable. You know when you can’t stop thinking about the characters?

That’s the sign of a great book.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Leaving Lucy Pear. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of Leaving Lucy Pear from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Harmony

Harmony is that rare novel that hits my trifecta of an amazing read: compelling family drama, dark humor and heart pounding suspense.

Book Buzz: Harmony

Harmony

Written with storytelling skill and compassion by Carolyn Parkhurst, whose The Dogs of Babel was a huge favorite of mine, Harmony is about modern day parenting and the lengths we will go to in order to do right by our children.

It is about the pressure we put on ourselves as parents, the struggle to succeed at parenting and the scrutiny from society, the disapproval, that makes us doubt ourselves.

Alexandra and Josh Hammond, a middle-class couple living in Washington, DC, have two daughters. Tilly, age 12, is a precocious, creative child who happens to be on the autism spectrum. Iris, age 10, is the “normal” one.

The parents agonize over Tilly’s special needs. Her behavioral issues get her kicked out of every school. People stare at her. Children point fingers. Desperate to find the right school, the right therapy, Alexandra doggedly pursues every option, only to come up short. As Tilly’s extreme behavior dominates their lives, Alexandra despairs that Tilly’s issues will only get worse and it will be her fault, her failing as a parent.

My heart sank for this couple. I felt their frustration, their searing anger when other “normal” children made fun of their daughter. Wouldn’t I search everywhere for help as they did?

And if I were at the end of my rope with no stone left unturned, would I also surrender myself to an alternative therapy endorsed by a self-proclaimed parenting expert named Scott Bean whom I am convinced understands my child like no one else? Would I also persuade my husband to sell our house and possessions to follow this cult-like messiah into the wilderness, to a place called Camp Harmony, with just us, our children and a carload of belongings?

Recounted alternately by Alexandra and Iris, the plot thickens as the Hammonds become one of three families, each having a special needs child, to inhabit this experimental society in a rustic setting where communication to the outside world is cut off.

Will Scott Bean’s parenting theories put into action make a difference in the lives of these children? Will the parents of these children finally get the answers they have searched for, the answers that will lead to their children’s happiness and growth?

As the experiment slowly takes on a sinister shadowing, the tension builds  and … well, I’m not going to tell you any more. Let’s just say it elicited more than one OMG from me.

I don’t have a child on the spectrum. But after reading Harmony, I am more enlightened about what it means to live with a child who relates to the world differently but is no less of a person, whose potential can be discovered with love and patience, whose families deserve our respect and support.

Harmony captivated me from page one. I loved it.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Harmony. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of Harmony from Viking for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Land of Enchantment

Book Buzz: Land of Enchantment

If you have ever been in an unhealthy relationship, one that you knew in your bones was wrong but couldn’t get out of, Leigh Stein’s unflinchingly honest memoir about obsessive love, Land of Enchantment, will take you right back to that dark place.

And if you’ve never been there, this will be an eye opener for you.

Land of Enchantment

The story begins with a jolt. Leigh gets a call that her ex-boyfriend Jason has died in a motorcycle accident. He was 23.

While preparing to fly across the country for the funeral, she flashes back to the course of their torrid and toxic love affair, and from there the narrative alternates between the younger, inexperienced Leigh and the older one with the perspective that time and distance affords.

Leigh was in her early twenties when she met Jason, several years her junior. With the rugged looks and bad boy rough edges of James Dean, he instantly cast a spell over her. Smitten, she accepted his offer to take off for New Mexico on a romantic adventure, and in doing so leave the safety of her parents’ Chicago home. They agreed to stay six months. He would get a job and earn some money and she would devote the time to finishing her novel. Then they would move to LA where he would get an acting job.

That was the plan.

From the beginning, though, the signs of impending doom were there. Jason was magnetic, yes, but also critical and manipulative.

In beautiful, bleak New Mexico, the land of enchantment, Jason’s behavior became cruel and disturbingly erratic. Leigh was unhappy, isolated with no friends and no car. Jason seemed to care little about her feelings. Stung when he announced he was going to a party without her, Leigh decided that was the final straw. She scraped together the cash to fly back to Chicago.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, or the end of her relationship with Jason. She flew back to New Mexico to be with him the next day.

The cycle of fighting and breaking up and getting back together, a textbook case of an addictive relationship, continued when they were both back in Chicago. Leigh, in denial, made excuses for Jason’s bad behavior, even the instances of violence. Drugs and alcohol provided a means of self-medicating to get through the depression.

And then …

A friend in New York shared a tip about a job opening in New York. Leigh was terrified at the thought of applying. There were days when she couldn’t even get out of bed.

Did she leave? Could she leave? Did she go back?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

My hope is that this deeply affecting, coming of age story will have a wide reach, especially to girls and young women in troubled relationships whose sense of worth is in the hands of an abuser. Whether physical or psychological, abuse will erode your self-esteem and steal your life. It never ends well.

And I wish I could reach back in time and share this book with 20 year-old me.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Land of Enchantment. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of Land of Enchantment from Plume for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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The Democratic National Convention I Will Never Forget

The Democratic National Convention I Will Never Forget

This week at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton is making history by shattering the glass ceiling. Along with millions of other Americans, I am watching the convention every night.

This week I am also remembering a DNC a long, long time ago.

The Democratic National Convention

The year was 1968. My days were languid and lazy, as self-indulgent as a 15 year-old’s summer can be. I would sleep until mid-morning, yawn through a bowl of cereal, and get into my bathing suit and flip flops in preparation for the day’s activity: meeting up with my friends at the community swimming pool.

Slathering baby oil on each other’s backs, we baked for hours with intermittent conversation and the crackle of transistor radios in our ears. Sooner or later we would amble over to the concession stand to buy a frozen Snicker’s bar or a bag of chips, flirting with the cute lifeguards as we flounced by.

One day I lay on my beach towel, unable to find a comfortable position. Every muscle ached and my throat was sore. “Walk on my back,” I implored the friend lying next to me. It felt good, like a deep tissue massage. But the relief was temporary.

By the next day I was headachy and running a fever and my mother took me to the doctor. The diagnosis was mononucleosis, and the doctor’s orders were to stay in bed.

Stay in bed? But, summer! Friends! My tan! The fun would go on without me! I cried tears of self-pity.

Every week the doctor made a house call – imagine that – to draw blood. If the blood count remained elevated, I was doomed to another week at home missing my friends. I held my breath each time the telephone call came with the results, but week after week there was no change.

I begged my mother to drive me to the pool where I could at least wave to my friends from behind the rolled up car window. She wasn’t crazy about that idea, and I didn’t push it. I was truly too exhausted to get out of bed. I had little patience for reading; even flipping through issues of Teen and Tiger Beat wore me out.

We had a small black and white TV that I was allowed to have in my room because I was sick. With the antennae adjusted just right, we were able to get three channels. Day after day I watched game shows and General Hospital.

The end of August arrived and the daytime shows were pre-empted for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.The tension leading up to the convention had been palpable. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy just months before, the mounting anti-war fever, cities set afire and burning … there was an electricity coursing through the nation.

I watched the Democratic National Convention every day. Some of the images became indelibly imprinted on my brain. The shouting matches on the floor between delegates and party leaders. The violence that erupted outside, the police clubbing protesters, the tear gas canisters hurled into the crowd. It was terrifying.

The Yippies, the hippies. Dan Rather getting roughed up on the convention floor. Eugene McCarthy, the anti-war candidate, failing to garner enough support. A young Julian Bond who, upon being nominated, withdrawing his name from contention because he was not old enough to run.

Hubert Humphrey, the party’s nominee, would lose the election to Richard Nixon, who branded himself the law and order candidate.

Sound familiar?

Glued to the TV, I was both fascinated and repulsed. It was a history lesson in real time. The year 1968, proved to be one of the most tumultuous years in our history, and the Democratic National Convention unlike any before or since.

This week there have been protests, but no violence. I hope that this convention will be remembered for Hillary Clinton’s nomination, with shards of glass exploding only metaphorically.

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Book Buzz: We Are All Made of Stars

Live each day as if it were your last. You never know what tomorrow may bring. Life is short, seize the day. Hold your loved ones close.

We’ve all heard these phrases throughout our lives. But when we were young and felt immortal, who paid attention? The older we get, though, the more meaningful the message. Have you said what needs to be said to those who matter in your life?

We Are All Made of Stars

This is the premise in Rowan Coleman’s poignant new novel, We Are All Made of Stars. Through the eyes of several characters, we get a glimpse of how love and loss, missed opportunities and second chances have shaped their lives. Although the subject matter sounds grim, do not be deterred; this thought-provoking and often uplifting story will tug at your heartstrings.

We Are All Made of Stars

Stella is married to an army veteran whose leg was blown off in battle. Suffering from PTSD and guilt over not being able to save his buddy, Vincent has withdrawn emotionally and won’t let anyone in, especially Stella.

Frustrated by his rebuffs, Stella throws herself into her work as a hospice nurse on the night shift. She is loved and trusted by her patients, some of whom have made their peace while others express regrets about things left unsaid. After helping a patient write a final letter to a loved one, she becomes known as the conduit for relaying final messages through sealed letters that will be opened only after the patient’s demise.

The other main characters are Hope, a young woman with cystic fibrosis who yearns to experience love, and Hugh, a man who lives alone except for the cat that his erstwhile girlfriend left him with. Their chance meeting with Stella turns into a transformative experience for both.

The minor characters in Stella’s con-stella-tion are also well drawn and factor prominently into the plot. But what enchanted me most were the letters, the letters that Stella ghost wrote for her patients. In turn tender, funny, sad, and heart wrenching, they are written to first loves, faithful spouses, longtime friends, children and even cranky neighbors. Replete with honesty, humor, untold secrets, hopes for the future once they’re gone, they are a delight.

The art of letter writing is fading just as surely as texting is thriving, and that is sad. There is something about the permanence of a letter that texting can’t hold a candle to. Letters are a lasting treasure. You can imagine the recipient holding this last piece of their loved one, reading it with brimming eyes, folding it carefully and putting it in a safe place.

That is truly the essence of this life-affirming book. We Are All Made of Stars might inspire you to pause for a moment and think about the people that are closest to you. What would happen if they were gone tomorrow?  Is there unfinished business?

Say what needs to be said now, because you just never know.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of We Are All Made of Stars. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of We Are All Made of Stars from Ballantine Books for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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The Old TV Game Shows are Back This Summer

I am a longtime fan of game shows.

I was so excited to hear that some of my favorite game shows – to Tell the Truth, Match Game and 100,00 Dollar Pyramid – were back this summer, all new and updated.

The Old TV Game Shows Are Back This Summer

I couldn’t wait to see these new versions.

Well.

You know how the movie is rarely as good as the book? In this case, the new versions of these game shows just don’t have the fun and charm of the originals. Two out of three, anyway.

To Tell the Truth

Running on CBS from 1956-1968, this version starred Peggy Cass, Tom Poston, Kitty Carlisle, Orson Bean, Bill Cullen, Arlene Francis, and others. At the beginning of each show the curtain goes up revealing three contestants  in silhouette, with the announcer Johnny Olsen booming, “What is your name, please?’

My name is … the first one says.

My name is … the second one says.

My name is … the third one says.

Then the host, originally Budd Collyer and then Garry Moore, reads the “sworn affidavit.”

“I, so-and-so,” for example, “am the actual love child of x and y.”

The panelists are charged with correctly identifying this contestant with an unusual occupation or bizarre experience or skill.

In the original version, the panelists would try to squeeze in as many questions as they could in the allotted time. Inquisitive Peggy Cass was often frustrated when her time ran out. Tom Poston was befuddled. Kitty’s elegance was mesmerizing.

With the credits running at the end, the panelists and contestants mingled. It seemed incongruous to see glamorous Kitty Carlisle in her evening gown gamely chatting it up with a porn star.

I miss these iconic celebrities. In the new version, no one has the magnetism of Kitty or the sincerity of Peggy. No one draws funny figures on the answer card like Orson Bean did. This version is  lowbrow. Kitty would be appalled.

It was great to see Betty White on the new panel, but even she seemed embarrassed by the dumbing down of the show. The other panelists seemed clueless.

My rating: D

Match Game

The object of this game is for two contestants to match the answers given by a six-member celebrity panel. The host was Gene Rayburn from 1962-1982 and the announcer was again the incomparable Johnny Olsen. The panelists were Charles Nelson Reilly. Brett Somers, Richard Dawson, Fanny Flagg, Nipsey Russell, Elaine Joyce, Scoey Mitchell, Gary Burghoff, and many more.

Nipsey Russell wrote funny poems that he recited at the end of the show.Brett and Charles Nelson were a hilarious comedy team.  Gene Rayburn often played straight man to their wise cracks. Risqué answers and double entendres were not only allowed, they were encouraged.

For example.

Weird Sylvester was thrown out of the department store when they caught him _____-ing the mannequins.

The zookeeper’s wife was getting worried that her husband was around wild animals too much. After he came home from work one day, she said hello and he _____-ed her.

The new version is more risqué but less funny. Back in the day, risqué was de rigeur, but now it just seems jaded. I love Alec Baldwin but why he chose to do this gig is baffling to me. His body language screams boredom. Rosie O’Donnell is an excellent replacement for Brett Somers but without a sparring partner she is left on her own.

My grade: C

The $100,000 Pyramid

When the show debuted in 1973  it was The $10,000 Pyramid, but with inflation, it had to raise its stakes. 🙂 The host was the fabulous and very missed Dick Clark.

The game features two contestants, each paired with a celebrity. Contestants attempt to guess a series of words or phrases based on descriptions given to them by their teammates.

The winner goes on to vie for the big prize by identifying the category as their partner feeds them clues, within 60 seconds.

This show is perhaps the least dated of the three. Competitors do require some skill with words and phrases. Throw in smart and savvy celebrities and contestants and it is still a fast-paced, fun show to watch. Michael Strahan is the host and does a creditable job. What can’t this man do?

My grade: A

What do you think of these shows?

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