Monday, 16 October 2017

Strictly Come Dancing 2017 - Week 4

WOW! What an amazing week of dancing.  Our remaining thirteen celebs have really upped their game this week, well most of them anyway.  For me, Week Four is always a bit of a comedown after Movie Week but this year, OMG! Sorry about all the capital letters but seriously folks, this week saw some outstanding performances and some real surprises and our first 10s of the series.

First of all, I am really taking a dislike to Shirley Ballas.  When she first joined as head judge, I thought she wasn't too bad but as the weeks have gone on, she is overly harsh to the dancers she clearly doesn't like and she is definitely biased.  She also needs to learn the names of the celebs she is talking to.  In the first week, she called Chizzy 'Lizzie' and had to be corrected by Darcey.  This week when criticising Charlotte, she called her 'Mollie'.  No-one bothered to correct her, they probably didn't think it was worth the effort, given her attitude.

Anyway, onto the dances.  First up was Debbie and I have to say the last two weeks have seen a drop in standards from her.  This week her Cha Cha Cha wasn't as good as we would expect, given how lithe and supple she has shown herself to be.  I had previously thought she was heading straight for the finals but now she may have some competition on her hands.   She did do an amazing standing split though. Next up was Brian.  Brian never fails to deliver the entertainment factor even if the technique isn't always spot on.  He was dancing the Paso Doble and was dressed as a rock star.  He really amuses me and he is genuinely delighted with the scores he gets and is always so thrilled with any positive comments he gets. Next up was Mollie doing the Salsa.  Mollie is slowly improving but she needs to loosen up a little, although this week wasn't too bad.  Again, like in last week's American Smooth, AJ put in some amazing lifts and apart from the final one where she hit the floor slightly, they were impressive.

Davood was next and he had been previously criticised for the routines being overly sexy and not enough dance content.  This week he had the Viennese Waltz and all the spinning and turning left him physically ill.  In fact, it was touch and go if he would be able to perform after the dress rehearsal on Saturday afternoon.  He suffers from motion sickness so he resorted to wearing anti sickness bands on his wrists and he got through it. Not only did he get through but he scored his highest mark yet and gave a beautiful performance, not sexy but romantic. Next, we had Charlotte.  I do like Charlotte, she is such a sweet girl, it's just a shame she can't dance.  She did the Jive this week and she did show some improvement from the last two weeks.  She is heading in the right direction, she just isn't in the same league as some of the others and won't last much longer.

Following Charlotte was Joe.  Now Joe is this year's Greg Rutherford for me.  If you recall last years blog, I had a real soft spot for Greg and was gutted when he left, even though I knew he wasn't going to make it to the final.  Joe is the same for me this year.  I adore him, he's such a cheeky chappie and he really tries hard.  The problem is that he isn't consistent enough.  He had two great weeks in week 1 and week 3.  Unfortunate, y he then dipped in Week 2 and again this week.  His Cha Cha Cha was too wooden and stilted and not his best routine.  Knowing Joe, he'll be back next week with a great performance. Ruth was doing the Tango this week.  Now I have never been a big fan of Ruth but this week I was actually quite impressed.  She had a good hold, good frame and never missed a beat.  You could tell she really worked hard at this routine and clearly, the Tango is her dance.  She actually deserves to stay this week, which is not something I have previously thought of her.

Aston was up doing the Quickstep next.  Now you all know I am not an Aston fan, but I have not been able to criticise him much.  UNTIL NOW!  He was still good, compared to a lot of the others, but the Quickstep was not his dance.  He's definitely a Latin man, the ballroom is not his forte.  He just seemed to struggle to keep up with the pace of the dance and didn't look comfortable at all, although he still continued to play to the cameras with his cockiness.  At the other end of the spectrum, Simon was dancing the Samba and it was bad.  He hasn't got the natural sway needed for this dance and it was awkward to watch.

Up next was Gemma dancing the Paso Doble.  Oh my word, this girl has come on leaps and bounds since week one and has steadily improved week after week.  This was an amazing Paso and her whole performance was smooth, polished and fierce.  Oh boy was she fierce.  She scored a whopping 35 points and has impressed the judges.   However, she was followed by Alexandra and if I thought gemma's performance was impressive, Alexandra just blew everyone away.  It was almost like deja vu from Ore last year.  Ore scored 39 for his jive last year in week four.  This year Alexandra performed the Jive in week Four and also scored an incredible 39 points.  She got 3 10s, the first of the series, with only Craig scoring her 9.  The poor girl was just so overcome she burst into tears. (She lost her mum just after joining the Strictly line up and she was just overcome with the whole result.)

Next up we had the lovely Jonnie, or should that be the sexy, sultry Jonnie.  Oooooh, his American Smooth was incredibly smooth.  He's also one getting better and better and moving up that leaderboard.  Of course, he has the incredible Oti as a partner, her routines and choreography are just outstanding, as we saw last year with her partnership with Danny Mac so she knows exactly how to get the best out of her partners and knows how to show them off to the best of their abilities.
Our final dance came from Susan and she was also dancing the Quickstep.  She was absolutely brilliant and so light on her feet which I didn't really expect from her.  The routine was lively and fun and a fantastic tribute to Morecambe & Wise at the end.  What a way to end the show.

At the end of the night, the leaderboard looked like this

Alexandra & Gorka39
Gemma & Alijaz35
Aston & Janette32
Jonnie & Oti31
Susan & Kevin30
Davood & Nadiya29
Debbie & Giovanni27
Mollie & AJ27
Joe & Katya24
Ruth & Anton24
Brian & Amy21
Charlotte & Brendan19
Simon & Karen19

On to Sunday night and the results.  The first couple into the dance-off was Davood! I don't think anyone expected this, there were a few gasps and stunned faces all around.  He took it well, although I don't think he relished having to spin round so much again.  He was joined in the dance-off by Charlotte which wasn't wholly unexpected.

Davood actually performed even better in the dance-off, correcting a mistake from Saturday night (he actually lifted his partner off the ground slightly which is illegal in the Viennese Waltz). This time he left her lower to the ground so her feet remained on it.  Charlotte still performed badly so it was inevitable that she would be the one to leave.  As I said, lovely girl but she just can't dance so in the end, it was the right result.  It was unanimous with the judges as all four votes went to Davood.

So, a great week and the bar has been raised.  Let's see what week five will bring us.

Until then, keep dancing.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Strictly Come Dancing 2017 Week 3 - MOVIE WEEK

Da da da da da da da, da da da da da!

It's time for Strictly to hit the red carpet as it's Week 3 which can mean only one thing.  It's MOVIE WEEK!!  No prizes here for guessing this is my favourite week, with Musicals Week being a close 2nd.  There were some Oscar-winning performances and some Razzies too but it was a Spectacular Week!

A huge shout out to the make-up and wardrobe departments.  I mean, the dancers look great every week but themed weeks are always outstanding when it comes to the costumes and the whole look in general.  Strictly really does go to town for Movie Week (Hollywood or La La Land).

So after an opening number from the celebs and pros, which paid homage to La La Land but wasn't my cup of tea at all, we move onto the celebs third dance.  14 remaining contestants are hoping to avoid the dreaded dance-off and elimination but which were Best Heroes and which were best Villians?

Another outstanding dance from Aston Merrygold this week.  He and Janette were dressed as Trolls and dancing the Cha Cha Cha and to quote Craig 'You are good aren't you darling?'  He is good, but he knows it too which is what puts me off him.  I think unless something goes drastically wrong, he's going to make the final.  He's another Danny Mac, but whereas Danny Mac and Aston both had prior dance experience and from week one they led the field, Danny was likeable and genuinely modest about his abilities whereas Aston just comes across as cocky.  It may be just me but something about him annoys me.  My favourite routine this week came from Gemma Atkinson and Alijaz.  They were doing the Charleston and the music was 'The Bare Necessities' from The Jungle Book.  Disney and Charleston.  My favourite movie genre and my favourite dance.  I was either going to love this or hate this.  Fortunately, I loved it!  It was playful, well danced and even Alijaz losing an ear didn't change how much I enjoyed this routine.  Gemma is improving week after week and she's having so much fun with it.

Also improving each week is Molly King.  Her American Smooth was just that.  Smooth, outstanding lifts and a fantastic connection with her partner AJ.  I said from the start I wanted her to do well and after an iffy jive in week one, she's really started to show promise now and her performances are getting stronger.

Another one of my favourites was Joe McFadden. He had a bad week last week with his Tango after a great first week Jive.  He was certainly the comeback kid this week as he danced a Doctor Zhivago themed Viennese Waltz and the difference was amazing.  It looked almost flawless to an untrained eye.  What gets me is the fact he can't stop smiling. It will make his Paso Doble interesting if he gets to dance that, he can't be smiley and happy during that.

Speaking of Pasos, we had two very different ones this week.  We had a halfway decent one from Jonnie Peacock and a truly dreadful one from Rev Richard.  Also struggling were Simon Rimmer (another Disney routine but awful), Ruth Langsford (as a Bond girl, please no!) and Charlotte Hawkins (Top Gun, more like a loaded gun at her head).  Debbie McGee didn't perform well this week although I think she was penalised unfairly with an unknown rule from Craig.  I've never heard the 10-second rule mentioned before when judging a Quickstep and I'm sure Simon and Karen had the same but it wasn't brought up.  Much improved was Brian Conley who's Wizard of Oz themed American Smooth was fun and entertaining, if not entirely technically correct. He certainly had a lot of fun with it and he was so overjoyed at getting a 5 from Craig, it was so sweet.

So at the end of Saturday night, the leaderboard looked like this:-

Aston & Janette35
Alexandra & Gorka33
Joe & Katya32
Gemma & Alijaz31
Mollile & AJ30
Debbie & Giovanni29
Jonnie & Oti26
Davood & Nadiya25
Brian & Amy22
Susan & Kevin20
Simon & Karen19
Charlotte & Brendan17
Ruth & Anton15
Rev Richard & Dianne14

So onto Sunday night and the votes are cast.  First off was an AMAZING Disney themed dance by the pros.  As a Disney fan (have I mentioned this before?), again I was going to love or hate it and I LOVED IT!  It was a spectacular sight.  Thumbs up to the pros for this.  There was also a midway performance by Sheridan Smith which I wasn't expecting to like but I did.  She can sing and create a performance and combine well with the pro dancers, a lot of guest performers on Strictly are either poor mimers or you can't hear them.  This was actually very very good.
Onto the eliminations and the two couples into the dance off are Simon and Karen up against Rev Richard and Dianne.

Neither couple performed well, however, the right decision was made to save Simon and we say farewell and Hallelujah to the Rev Richard as he leaves the show.  He was entertaining but cannot dance so it is right that he departs now and doesn't become another Ed Balls and linger longer than he deserves.  Without the technique, there is only so far entertainment can take you (Brian and Susan take note).

So the remaining 13 couples continue to Week 4.  Let's see what drama unfolds next week (unless Brendan can keep his mouth shut).

Until then, keep dancing

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Strictly Come Dancing 2017 Week Two

It’s week 2 and there has to be an elimination this week.  It seems too soon to lose one of the dancers but that’s the way this competition goes.  Last week saw great performances from Joe, Aston and Debbie. However Rev Richard, Brian and Ruth all need to improve dramatically in order to stay in.

So what happened next? First of all, two illegal lifts this week. Come on pros, your partners only do what you tell them to do, don't punish them for your mistakes. AJ had an illegal lift in his Tango and Nadiya had one in her Quickstep. Sort it out, you are meant to be professionals.

This week saw some great performances from Gemma Atkinson, Molly King and Jonnie Peacock, all of whom were much improved from week one.  Gemma danced the waltz and looked elegant and graceful, Molly did the Tango and channelled her inner mean girl whilst Jonnie replaced his prosthetic leg with his blade and pulled off a fabulous jive.

Alexandra Burke performed a Paso Doble and scored the highest score of the series, getting 4 9s in only week 2.  She will certainly be one to watch. Another beautiful waltz, this time from Debbie McGee who has all the makings of a finalist already and an energetic salsa from Aston Merrygold.  I don’t want to like him but I can’t deny it was impressive.  If it had gone wrong, Janette would have been in traction, but he pulled it off impressively.

However, on the other side of the scale, things are looking a bit nervy for Brian Conley.  Last week his Tango failed to impress and this week his Cha Cha Cha was cringeworthy, with more disco than Cha Cha.  Chizzy Akudolu also had a bad week and Charlotte Hawkins, god bless her, was appalling.  Her Cha Cha Cha was worse than Brian’s with many mistakes and tumbles. I do however think Bruno needs to watch his comments when judging and Brendan was quite right to step in and defend Charlotte.  I hope she stays, I really like her.  There’s something just so sweet about her but after her dance this week she could well be going home.

Another poor effort from Rev Richard with his American Smooth.  Joe McFadden didn’t perform well this week with his Tango, which is a shame after his wonderful Jive last week.  Simon Rimmer and Ruth Langsford both continue to be poor and I’m not sure how long Susan Calman can use comedy to compensate for lack of technique in her dances.

So by the end of Saturday evening, week 1 and week 2 scores combined to leave the leaderboard looking like this, with the public able to vote for the first time in this year's competition.

W1 W2 Total

Debbie McGee & Giovanni Pernice 30 34 64
Aston Merrygold & Janette Manrara 31 32 63
Alexandra Burke & Gorka Marquez 24 36 60
Davood Ghadami & Nadiya Bychkova 27 27 54
Joe McFadden & Katya Jones 29 22 51
Jonnie  Peacock & Oti Mabuse 20 29 49
Molly King & AJ Pritchard           23 25 48
Gemma Atkinson & Aljaz Skorjanec 20 26 46
Susan Calman & Kevin Clifton    20 22 42
Chizzy Akudolu & Pasha Kovalev 21 16 37
Ruth Langsford & Anton Du Beke            16 20 36
Simon Rimmer & Karen Clifton 17 19 36
Brian Conley & Amy Dowden                   16 19 35
Charlotte Hawkins & Brendan Cole 22 12 34
Rev Richard Coles & Dianne Buswell      17 17 34

So onto Sunday evening and a great pro dance to The Blues Brothers number ‘Everybody, Needs Somebody’ set in a bowling alley, could easily have come out of Grease, it was fun and energetic.

So onto the scores and the first couple to enter the dance-off is Chizzy and Pasha.  It’s such a shame because she is so much fun but her Foxtrot lacked technical elements and relied too much on theatrics.   A brief pause with a performance from Emilie Sande (I muted this as I don’t like her.  If you recall she performed in the final show last year and I went and made dinner) and a brief technical close up with the judges.  Previously this was called Len’s Lens which was down to head judge Len Goodman but since his retirement, it’s been given the new lacklustre name of ‘Dance Debrief’.  Hmmmmm!

So back to the scores and yes, Charlotte is safe and it’s Brian into the dance-off with Chizzy. I don’t think either couple performed any better the second time around.  The judges voted 3-1 in favour of keeping Brian, with only Craig choosing to save Chizzy. So we have to bid farewell to Chizzy, the first casualty (Holby City, geddit?) of Strictly 2017.  It was emotional, it was tearful, it was not the best decision in my opinion but hey, I’m not a judge, just an armchair dancer.

Movie Week next week, my favourite week.  There has to be a Disney song in there somewhere, there usually is!

So until Saturday, keep dancing!

Calendar Girls - Oct 2017 - best paranormal novel - #CalendarGirlsBooks

Calendar Girls is hosted by bloggers, Flavia the Bibliophile and Melanie Noell Bernard – both have amazing blogs full of fun, bookish posts. Calendar Girls is a brand new monthly blog event inspired by Neil Sedaka’s 1961 song Calendar Girl. Just like in the song, we decided to use a specific theme for each month and choose a book based on these themes! The event is meant to incite discussions with other bloggers about books we’ve read and loved, is meant to help bloggers meet other bloggers, and also for bloggers and readers to find out about blogs which they normally may not have come across! Want to know more? Click on the links above! And it’s not too late to jump on the Calendar Girl train! Join now!

Best Paranormal Novel

I have been super jazzed for this month's category ever since it was announced!! A VERY large portion of what I read/own falls under the vast umbrella of paranormal/supernatural. I can't remember exactly when, how, or why my fascination with supernatural and paranormal creatures and phenomena started but it has never gone away. Ghostbusters to this day is still one of my favourite films. If you look at my top 10 favourite authors list (in no particular order after J.K.): J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Kelley Armstrong, Gena Showalter, G.A. Aiken, Eoin Colfer, Patricia C. Wrede, L.J. Smith, Scott Westerfeld, and George R.R. Martin you'll notice, if you're familiar with all these names, that 4 out of the 10 regularly deal in paranormal elements characters, 5 if you consider some/most of the magic done in Harry Potter to be a paranormal ability.

So what's the exact definition of paranormal and does it differ from supernatural? Is it one of those all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares arguments?  Anyway, the OED has this to say about paranormal as a term:

Designating supposed psychical events and phenomena such as clairvoyance or telekinesis whose operation is outside the scope of the known laws of nature or of normal scientific understanding; of or relating to such phenomena. Cf. supernormal adj. and n.
While it has this to say about the term supernatural:

Belonging to a realm or system that transcends nature, as that of divine, magical, or ghostly beings; attributed to or thought to reveal some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature; occult, paranormal.
Seems to me what they're saying then is all things paranormal are also supernatural, and the see also references in the Oxford Essential Quotations support that, because under paranormal there's a see reference for supernatural, and vice versa.

Now that we've got the definition business taken care of, which paranormal novel did I chose as the best one then? Let's see:

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Musing Mondays - #WhyIReadRomance days 7-9 | #30DaysofReadathon days 29-27 | thoughts on book clubs

Musing Monday, September 11, 2017

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

I'm super excited to tell you about Parajunkee's #whyIreadromance event & the 24 hours of Dewey #readathon #30daysofreadathon event

I decided to nix daily posts in favour of grouping a couple of days together at a time so this is going to be a slightly longer Musing Monday post than normal.

Day 7 - Best Happily Ever After

The Darkest Seduction (Lords of the Underworld #9) by Gena Showalter

At long last, New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter unveils the story of Paris, the darkest and most tormented Lord of the Underworld.

Possessed by the demon of Promiscuity, immortal warrior Paris is irresistibly seductive — but his potent allure comes at a terrible price. Every night he must bed someone new, or weaken and die. And the woman he craves above all others is the one woman he'd thought was forever beyond his reach... until now.

Newly possessed by the demon of Wrath, Sienna Blackstone is racked by a ruthless need to punish those around her. Yet in Paris's arms, the vulnerable beauty finds soul-searing passion and incredible peace. Until a blood feud between ancient enemies heats up.

Will the battle against gods, angels and creatures of the night bind them eternally — or tear them apart?
After eight, EIGHT, books of build up Gena Showalter FINALLY resolved Paris's storyline in 2012, 4 years after introducing him in The Darkest Night in 2008. The reason that Paris's story out of all of the Lords (and out of all the happy endings I've read) is, in my opinion, the best happily ever after is partly because of how long he had to suffer. Paris is the Keeper of Promiscuity so he starts off as a sex fiend ladies man, but then he meets Sienna and everything changes for him. She's taken from him too soon and he devolves into a books long depression that has all of his friends concerned for his immortal existence. He becomes addicted to drugs and danger and everything sets his anger off. So the fact that he manages to actually get a happily ever after with Sienna in this book is soooooooo incredibly satisfying.

Day 8 - Most Kickbutt Females

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Claire doesn't necessarily do a whole lot of physical ass-kicking, there is a little bit of that, but that's not what makes her the most kick-butt female. She's tough, resilient, adaptable, resourceful and clever. She doesn't lose her head in emergency situations. Claire actually saves Jamie almost, if not just as often, as she saves him. Jamie does acknowledge her as an equal mainly because of her cleverness and resourcefulness. She kicks butt because she manages to not only survive travelling back in time 200 years but because she begins to thrive in her new time.

Day 9 - Best Thrills...

Betrayals by Kelley Armstrong
When Olivia's life exploded--after she found out she was not the adopted child of a privileged Chicago family but of a notorious pair of convicted serial killers--she found a refuge in the secluded but oddly welcoming town of Cainsville, Illinois. Working with Gabriel Walsh, a fiendishly successful criminal lawyer with links to the town, she discovered the truth about her parents' crimes in an investigation that also revealed the darker forces at work in the place that had offered her a haven. As if that wasn't enough, she also found out that she, Gabriel and her biker boyfriend Ricky were not caught in an ordinary sort of love triangle, but were hereditary actors in an ancient drama in which the elders of Cainsville and the mysterious Huntsmen who opposed them had a huge stake.
     Now someone is killing street kids in the city, and the police have tied Ricky to the crimes. Setting out with Gabriel's help to clear Ricky's name, Olivia once again finds her own life at risk. Soon the three are tangled in a web of betrayals that threatens their uneasy equilibrium and is pushing them toward a hard choice: either they fulfill their destinies by trusting each other and staying true to their real bonds, or they succumb to the extraordinary forces trying to win an eternal war by tearing them apart.

This entire series is full of thrills, but as we get further into the series the stakes get higher and the stories get even more thrilling. Betrayals is the most recent entry having been released in August of last year. It definitely delivered on the thrills front. With her boyfriend wanted for murder and her bost/best-friend/potential-3rd-side-of-a-love-triangle is a little bit tempted to let him take the fall so he can have Olivia all to himself again Olivia's life is clearly complicated and she's caught right in the middle of everything. The mysteries that swirl around this whole series deepen and simultaneously get more revealed in this book. It's very exciting.

I'm dropping a cut because this post is getting super long...