Friday Favorite – James McAvoy

penelope-movie-posterI figured that today I’d offer you two Friday Favorites for the price of one. I was first introduced to Scottish actor James McAvoy playing Tom Lefroy, Jane Austen’s love interest in Becoming Jane. I rather enjoyed the film, even though it has quite the sad ending, but the truth was that I couldn’t take my eyes off the very handsome James.

He’s a ridiculously wonderful actor, so I started searching out his other movies, and soon realized that I had actually already seen him as Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I was suitibly surprised by this realization, but I went back and watched it again and promptly decided I might have a small crush on a fawn. Mom says I’m strange.

Anyway, shortly thereafter I discovered he was going to be in another movie Penelope–my second Friday Favorite of the day. It came out the end of February 2008, and I knew that I was heading out of town for a business trip, so I talked my friends into joining me for a Friday night showing–which is pretty strange for me, as I never pay full-price for a flick. It was better than I hoped it might be. An adorable, modern-day fairy tale about learning to love yourself before you can ever love someone else. James plays opposite Christina Ricci, and they have fantastic on-screen chemistry. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t miss out!

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James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus

James has been in a wide variety of flicks including The Last King of Scotland, playing opposite Forest Whitaker’s Oscar Award-winning performance and Idi Amin. He plays Robbie Turner in Atonement with Keira Knightley. He’s also done a slew of TV and movies from the UK.

While I have seen some of his movies that I didn’t like, I’ve never thought he did a poor job in any of them.

And strangely enough, I was talking with my newest roommate Leslie one day, and she mentioned that her fiance Rob  loves this actor … James McAvoy. Turns out Rob and I have a lot in common in the favorite actor category, and I knew he was a quality guy on the spot. 🙂 Good pick, Leslie.

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So Jess B. happens to be another James McAvoy fan. One day we were both having hard days at work, so we were hanging out in my office over our lunch hour. Somehow we stumbled onto the funniest interview with James and Craig Ferguson. It’s really one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and it began the battle cry, “I need horse pants!” Watch on, good reader, watch on. (Sorry, I can’t embed this video for some reason, but just follow the link. It’s a hoot!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcxiYqVvkD0

Confession: I’ve been trying to make one of my book heroes look like James, but he’s just not big enough to “play” a hero in a romance book. Hmmm … I’ll noodle on it until I come up with a good idea.

Noodling on the idea of James on the pages of my book until next time. -LJ

The Patented “Last Page Skim”

Amy and Stephanie think that Katie and I are crazy! See Katie and I both like to read or skim or in some way figure out a taste of what’s happening at the end of a book to make sure it ends well. Amy thinks I’m insane for doing it, but I have a theory.

I invest a lot of time in a book. At least one night’s worth of sleep, usually. 🙂 And there are a lot of other worthy books that I could be reading. So why would I want to waste several perfectly good hours on a book that doesn’t end how I want it to? Hence, I generally employ– sometimes even before I buy the book–the patented “last page skim.”

This process actually begins with a thorough reading of the back cover, acknowledgements, and any other potentially useful pages before the story actually begins. I lay the groundwork for the characters in my mind, and then I carefully flip to the last page. I give it a good once over, checking for relevant names and overall tone of the situation and asking several important questions.

* Is our heroine lonely and sad? Probably not worth my evening.
* Is she kissing anyone? Generally equals a happy ending, which makes me happy. Extra points if the hero isn’t noted by name so he’s still a surprise.
* Is she alone but generally happy? Just might be a good lesson in the story.

Of course, there are several scenarios where these questions don’t work. Like if our book doesn’t have a heroine. I recently read a YA about a high school football player told from said boy’s perspective, thus, no heroine. But I still enjoyed the book.

Another exception–anything generally referred to as “literary.” Jess B. and my friend Kelly B. are fans of recommending really deep and thought-provoking books, which rarely have happy endings. But that’s not why you read them. You read them because they’re beautifully written and well … thought-provoking. Take for example Atonement by Ian McEwan (which I can’t freely recommend on the basis of the pretty pervasive foul language and somewhat graphic scenes). But I did read it because Jess lent it to me, and the movie, starring one of my favorite actors James McAvoy (maybe he deserves a Friday Favorite … hmmm), was about to release. That book more than any other mainstream book I’ve ever read kept me up night after night thinking through the plot and the story and the message. It made me think about truth in a new way. About the lies that so easily slip past our lips. About forgiveness and how it frees us and how lack of forgiveness enslaves us. Worth my read, but would never have passed the “last page skim.”

Mysteries, of course, don’t apply.

Any book by a tried and true author doesn’t require the technique either. Take Meg Cabot for example. Of all the YA I’ve read from her, I’ve only been disappointed by one of them. Or Tamara Leigh. I can count on loving her stuff.

All that is to say, I don’t think that I’m overly crazy. I just happen to over-analyze the way that I choose to read a book. But I find that I’m very rarely disappointed. Amy might be right about me, but I’m okay with that.

Still a little crazy, until next time. -LJ

Monday Movies – Fireproof

fireproof-movie-posterSo this week I’ve decided to feature a fantastic movie that I didn’t see this weekend. Instead I’m featuring a movie that will be available on dvd tomorrow.

FIREPROOF

From Sherwood Baptist Church, the creators of Facing the Giants and Flywheel, comes a story of a marriage on the rocks, a man who doesn’t know what it is to love, and a woman who’s given up hope. And encompassing it all is a story of God’s restoring love.

Kirk Cameron stars as Caleb Holt, a fire captain, whose motto is “never leave your partner behind.” He receives the respect of the men at his station and everyone in town, except his wife Catherine. Their home is a battlefield over money, jobs, and housework, and Catherine wonders when she stopped being “good enough” for her husband.

And then Caleb’s dad challenges him to take the Love Dare, a 40-day daily choice to act in love toward Catherine. At first Caleb is hesitant, only doing the bare minimum and barely biting his tongue when angry words jump to mind. And when he’s met by Catherine’s skepticism and cold shoulder, he longs to give up on the Love Dare and on his marriage. But the more frustrated he becomes, the more his father prays for him and encourages Caleb to keep to keep at.

This movie is a beautiful illustration of God’s continuing love for us, even when we turn our backs on Him and refuse to receive His love.

As a big fan of Facing the Giants, I was thrilled to go see this movie in the theater during its opening weekend, and I wasn’t disappointed. The production, acting, and story quality from the Kendrick brothers’ films just continue getting better and better.

I saw this twice in the theater and will definitely get it on dvd. It’s a fantastic film, and I highly recommend it. I eagerly await the next movie from Sherwood Baptist. Until next time. -LJ

Friday Favorite – The West Wing

Where does one begin to explain her addiction to Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing? I think I can start this post and answer that question in one word: Amy.

The Cast of The West Wing
The Cast of The West Wing

My extraordinary initiation into this TV show began with Amy’s badgering. It was a lovely Thanksgiving weekend, and I was quite full from lots of turkey, cranberry compote, and yes, even Amy’s frog eye salad. I was in a helpless coma from the day, and Amy twisted my arm and threatened never to pay rent again if I didn’t watch WW with her. I was already a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s other shows SportsNight and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip–both very smartly written dramedies (drama/comedies, not to be confused with camels), so I decided that being forced to watch WW couldn’t be any worse than Amy not paying rent.

In a matter of three days we watched the first season and half of the second on the greatest invention known to man–TV on dvd. And my inauguration into this witty, behind-the-scenes look at life in the White House was completed. I was hooked.

Here we are nearly two months later, and I’m chugging my way through season 5. Turns out maybe Amy was on to something. Hmmm … Maybe she knew that I’d love the show and she wasn’t really threatening me. Hey! Amy, it’s uncool to trick your roommate.

Anyway, I love-love-love this show! It’s brilliantly written (especially the first 4 seasons, after which creator Aaron Sorkin moved on to other projects and stopped writing for it). And the casting is genius.

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Sam Seaborn from the The West Wing

– Rob Lowe, as the brilliant deputy communications director Sam Seaborn, is stunning–both very handsome and a fantastic actor. (Amy says he’s pretty good in Brothers and Sisters, which I also haven’t seen. Maybe that’ll be the next show she gets me hooked on.)

The West Wing's Josh and Donna
The West Wing's Josh and Donna

– Bradley Whitford, as the subtle-yet-still-makes-me-laugh-out-loud deputy chief of staff, Josh Lyman, is superb. His humor is absolutely spot-on, and his teasing/sarcastic relationship with his assistant Donna Moss (played by Janel Moloney) is pitch-perfect and a delight to watch. His politcal and social faux paus make him probably one of my favorite characters.

– Dule Hill plays Charlie Young, personal assistant to the President, played by Martin Sheen. I love Dule in the current show Psych, but his relationship with the President is so funny and completely unexpected.

– Richard Schiff, as the brooding communications director Toby Ziegler, starts off a little too serious for me, but by the end of the 4th season, he becomes a dad and his personality shifts. He’s got a great line about his newborn kids, “I’ve only known them for 45 minutes, and I’d drop napalm on Yellowstone for them.”

I could go on about the amazing cast including Allison Janney, Stockard Channing, Joshua Molina, and John Spencer, but suffice it to say, this is a top-notch show. Every piece fits into place. I can’t wait to get to the 7th and final season … but Amy says we can’t finish 2 and a half seasons this weekend.

As Hannah (and now her 1-year-old) would say: Booooooo!

If you haven’t seen The West Wing, you’re missing out. 🙂 It’s well-worth your time, and since it’s available on dvd, it’s super-convenient. Happy West Wing-ing until next time. -LJ

One Book in One Night

Everytime I start reading a new book, I tell myself that sleep is overrated. As I crawl into bed with a new book and before I start reading, I give myself a little pep-talk.

I don’t need sleep tonight.

Then a little voice pipes up, “But you have work in the morning.”

I’ll be fine.

“You can’t stay up until after 1a.m.”

I’ll be fine. I don’t need more than 6 hours of sleep. It’s no big deal. This book is totally worth it.

Every night that I start a new book, I have that same conversation with myself. Recently I was reading a YA by one of my favorite authors Tina Ferraro, and I knew that I should put the book down. It was starting to get late, and my eyes were starting to droop. But I only had 50 pages to go, and I wasn’t sure that our heroine would end up with the right guy. I couldn’t put the book down yet.

So I kept going. Kept reading. Kept my eyes open.

And then it was done, and the last page ended. I closed the book, turned to flick of my bedside lamp, and glance a my clock.

It was 1:30am!

I had to be at work in 6 and a half hours. “Oy! What have you done?” says that little voice. “Why must you always end up reading one book in one night? You’ve got to learn how to put a book down.”

Or I should start at a more reasonable hour so I can finish a book by 11 and still get a good night of sleep.

Until next time. -A very sleepy LJ

The Curse of the Common Name?

It occurs to me that I have a rather common name. Of course, this occurred to me when I was deciding how my name would read on my book cover, but today it really hit home for me, so I decided to google myself. I even went a step further, and decided to google liz johnson books–in a vain attempt to see if my website would appear. It did not.

But what I did discover is that there are a plethora of other Elizabeth Johnsons out there. I mean, I should know this since my brother married another Elizabeth and within our family we have 2 of the world’s many Elizabeth Johnsons. We even share a middle initial.

And many of them are, in fact, authors.

All that is simply to say, thanks for finding my website. You could have been lost somewhere in cyber-space looking for another Elizabeth or Liz Johnson, but somehow you found me. Thanks! Glad you’re here. -LJ

Monday Movies – Defiance

I’d been looking forward to seeing Defiance all week. Jess B. and I decided to make it our last horrah–at least until she gets back from Australia in February. I don’t know what I’ll do without my writing buddy for more than 2 weeks … but that’s another story all in itself.

So Jess and I met up at the Cinemark Carefree (so I could use one of the passes I won in the Gazette Holiday Fiction Contest–more details to come on that on my Short Story page) on Sunday afternoon. Now it should be noted that I’m generally not a Sunday-afternoon movie fan, but since we were celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and his amazing accomplishments and contributions to our country with a day off on Monday, I took the plunge for a Sunday movie.

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And I couldn’t have been more thrilled! This is the true story of four Jewish brothers in Eastern Europe who stand against the Nazis. In 1941 Tuvia (played by the very talented–and if I may be so bold, handsome–Daniel Craig) and his brother Zus (portrayed by Liev Schreiber) take their other brothers into the forrest to escape the SS after their parents are killed.

The story is one of compassion as the brothers tell each other they will not welcome anyone else into their community, yet at every turn, their numbers are growing, as they can’t turn anyone away. And when one of the women breaks the rule of pregnancy, Tuvia is faced with a difficult choice. Should he turn her out of the community or offer her grace?

The brothers’ story made me want to call Micah and tell him how much I love him and how proud I am of him. And at the end, I was crying, but not really out of sadness. More out of the joy of seeing such a group of people triumph in the hardest circumstances. I think I was also crying out of anger. How on earth did the world let Hitler get to that point? Why did no one stand up for Jews? And it made me ask myself some difficult questions, for which I don’t think I have an answer. What attrocities are happening now that no one is standing up against? Can one person stand up and make a difference?

I’m glad I went to see Defiance, but I must recommend it with reservations. The language is fairly coarse, especially at the beginning, and as it is a war movie, there’s quite a bit of violence. But all-in-all, I thought it was a well-told, very high quality production. I’ll probably see it again at some point down the road. -LJ

Boggles My Mind

So my family is big into games–of the table variety. We love ’em, and don’t get to play as often anymore, as I live 1100 miles from the rest of the family, and when I’m home, there are 4 little ones needing attention. (The kiddos are totally worth it, btw.)

When I was back in AZ over the Christmas and New Year holidays, somehow we managed to eek in several rounds of our favorite game: Boggle!

The source of my demise.
the source of my demise

If you’re unfamiliar with Boggle, what rock have you been hiding under? Just kidding. It’s a timed word-search game, the object being to find as many words as possible in 3 minutes–and here’s the clincher–that no one else finds. Sounds simple enough,especially for a writer, right?

Wrong!

I have NEVER won a single round, let alone a game. It’s like I can’t get enough of being beaten by my big brother Micah, who I don’t think has read a book since Lord of the Rings in junior high. He definitely hasn’t read my book. But that’s a post for another day. 🙂

Somehow my computer genius of a brother always seems to wallop the rest of the family. And he even does it without some of our more creative words, ie: gnu: a wildebeest, or nug: one of Pauly Shore’s favorite words. (I, myself, prefer stretching the limits of the English language when playing Boggle. After all, I do it to the rules of spelling and grammar in my writing.) No, Micah simply sees things on the Boggle board that I don’t. I’ll proudly announce my “money-maker” at 5 letters long and worth 2 points-“sweet.” Micah will then calmly say that he has that one too, and he also has “sweeten”, “sweeter”, and “sweetener.”

So I decided that I was tired of losing to Micah, and I was going to make some changes to the game so that even if I didn’t win, at least I wouldn’t lose to Micah. Enter Jacob, also known as J-dawg or JJ. He may have only been two-months-old at our last match, but I had a solid plan to use him to bring down his dad. It was fool-proof. All I had to do was suggest we break out the game when Jacob was awake and needy and then get Micah to hold him.

And J-dawg did his job perfectly. He was the cutest handicap ever!

My plan had only one error. I miscalculated the margin by which Micah usually wins. Turns out that the couple of points J-dawg possibly cost him didn’t even come close to making him even with the rest of us. Micah still beat me by at least 3 points a round.

I’ll need a new plan of sabotage for my next trip home. Until then … -LJ

Concert Trip? Yes or No

So I’ve come to a quandry. As we all know by now, Brandon Heath is one of my favorites. And Third Day is also near the top of my list. (Hmmm … I should nominate them for a Friday Favorite slot.) I’ve had the opportunity to see both Brandon and Third Day in concert on seperate occassions this past year. Both were delightful shows.

Imagine my delight when I learned that they’re going on tour together this spring for the Revelation Tour. What could be better? I scurried to see the tour schedule to see when they’d be arriving in Colorado. But with each date in the list, my heart sank a little lower. Each date a disappointment. The east coast. The Midwest. Texas. California. Canada.

No Colorado. Not even a date in New Mexico.

But there … off in the distance … a glimmer of hope. The tour is coming to Phoenix, Arizona, a mere 15 hour drive. To the little Celebrity Theater with the spinning stage. The site of my first post-college concert–Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio.

Okay, so I wouldn’t really drive it, but I have been seriously thinking about flying down for a long weekend and spending a couple days with my family, who live only about a 3 hour drive away. But is it worth it? To plop down $175 for a plane ticket and another $35ish for a concert ticket?

My mom laughed at me when I suggested it. But I haven’t written off the idea yet.

Want to weigh in on if I should make the plunge and go see the show? Leave me a comment. -LJ

Friday Favorites – Brandon Heath

I have lots of favorite things: movies, music, BOOKS, friends, memories. You name it, I’ve probably got multiple favorites–which I’m completely aware makes them not a “favorite.” But I’ve decided to ignore that for the moment and will share my current favorites with you every Friday. Hence … Friday Favorites!

I debated with myself over what my very first favorite would be. My nieces and nephew? They’re so far above favorites, I don’t think they qualify for the category. (Cutest kids ever to grace my family!) The West Wing? I do love the TV show, and will definitely offer it a Friday Favorite slot, but the first? Hmm …brandon-heath-what-if-we

Well, I finally landed on grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Brandon Heath. If you haven’t heard Brandon, then you’re missing out–big time! I got hooked on him in the summer of 2008, when I stumbled on his first cd at the Family Christian Store (remarkably, the one that’s right next to the dollar theater mentioned in this week’s Monday Movie).

You might know his song Give Me Your Eyes from his second album What If We. It’s gotten a lot of play on Christian radio, and has an awesome message of seeing those around us through God’s eyes. He’s a way-talented guy. Amy and I went to see him in concert in Denver in early December at free concert hosted by KLOVE at a church on the north side of town. We had a great time, and Brandon sounded as wonderful live as he does on his cds.

I just discovered that he’s also on tour this spring with Third Day, who I saw live in Denver earlier this last fall. It’s bound to be a fantastic show.

If you haven’t discovered Brandon Heath yet, do it! You won’t regret it.