Sunday, August 31, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
The Quick by Lauren Owen is “an astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London.” (cover blurb)
It’s 1892 and James Norbury, newly graduated from Oxford and ready to try his hand at poetry, follows a friend into high society, encounters trouble in a private club, and vanishes after a brawl and bite from a stranger. His best friend is dead. There is a supernatural city of evil, and James is caught in the middle. A chilling character, Doctor Knife, is researching all manner of creatures. James’ sister Charlotte arrives in London to find and save her brother. She’s drawn into the gothic mystery and soon must fear for her life too. The Quick – folks who are not undead, but do shed blood for answers walk a fine line in underground London.
Ultimately, Charlotte finds her brother within “the doors of the exclusive Aegolius Club, whose predatory members include the most ambitious, and most bloodthirsty, men in England.” (cover blurb)
This book is well written and well-paced. It’s eerie and creepy in a good way. This is not a Twilight vampire book, nor is it Anne Rice’s Lestat and crew. It’s more highbrow and energetic. It fleshes out the characters and describes the underbelly of London. Kudos to Lauren Owen for her debut novel – The Quick. I’d read it with the lights on and perhaps a fire in the fireplace. Easy to feel chilled, and a bit thirsty too.
A brief note on Lauren Owen’s bio – I’m jealous. She was born in 1985, studied at Oxford and the University of East Anglia. She received the 2009 Curtis Brown Prize for best fiction dissertation. The Quick is her first and no doubt, not last novel.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Emotional Water Shed
by Joanne Faries
We brush by the lush rainforest ferns, trying to reach the waterfall. I ignore the sweat dripping from my brow, and try to avoid swiping my leg every two seconds for imagined insects.
Trey and I are at a crossroads – on this trip, in our relationship, in our work. We are overheated, seething undertones of rage in our terse answers. His focus on water conservation and my botany thesis united us for one trip to the rainforest. Seemed perfect until he yawned at every photo I snapped, every tweezers of moss I gathered. And seriously how many waterfalls does he need to time? I’m ready to throw the stopwatch into the briny deep.
Yet here I am, trudging to another waterfall. I contemplate my biggest dilemma. Shall I give Trey back his ring? He proposed as we packed, tossing me the box, casually saying, “I think you’ll need this to wear.” I did not hesitate and agreed to marry him.
Now. This trip. Oh so many flaws in our life plan. He’s selfish. Hogs the towels in the hostels. Obviously we both faked interest in each other’s work.
We arrive at the waterfall, pay our admission, and ask the girl why she’s crying. “Princess Diana was killed in a car crash.” This took me aback. Here, in the rainforest on the other side of the world in 1997, Princess Diana news brings tears. I gulp and sigh.
“Life’s too short, Trey,” I said as I hand him the ring.
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Saturday, August 23, 2014
The Giver is another take on a post-apocalyptic world. This one is very non-war oriented, and yet disturbing. After “the ruin”, the elders constructed a world of black and white – cookie cutter communities, no lying, all happiness, work, play, and family. It’s all very subdued and controlled. At age eighteen, kids learn their fate – their job future. Jonas is the last kid chosen and he’s given the job of receiver. He shall meet with Jeff Bridges - “The Giver” - and shall learn the history, the emotions, the feelings, and everything that’s been controlled and contained to maintain a new society.
It’s a rather tortured job. Jonas can’t tell anyone the secrets, but he’s feeling so many things and seeing his new world in color. He learns about music, love, so many other things that can be good or bad and yet have been part of humanity. He sees war and sadness. In bits and pieces he offers suggestions to his favorite girl about how the world could be. He shares things inadvertently with his younger sister. He knows that the old folks who are “released” aren’t really off to retirement playing golf. And little babies who don’t grow at the rate subscribed, are not designated for families.
Jonas is dangerous. Meryl Streep, as the elder, gives orders for his removal. But Jonas has a mission – to reach beyond the boundaries on the map – and perhaps then the memories of all can be reinstated.
I really liked the ideas in The Giver. It's well acted and interesting. I did not read the book, and from what I understand they changed some stuff that could annoy readers. I give this a thumbs up. The kids in it are good and Jeff Bridges is always a gem. Sometimes we have to take the good with the bad. A society that controls everything misses out on the little things that make us human.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Daniel Silva knows how to write a thriller and The Heist does not disappoint. If you are a fan of Gabriel Allon – super Israeli spy/art restorer – then get set for quite a ride. Our favorite art dealer, Julian Isherwood, stumbled upon a dead body in Lake Como. He thought he was working an art deal, but the dead man is a fallen British spy. Uh-oh – he’s been trafficking stolen art for a collector. The most famous “lost” piece is Caravaggio’s Nativity with St.Francis and St.Lawrence.
Gabriel tries to recover the Nativity. His forays to Paris, London, Corsica, and Austria dig deep into the underworld. The wealth of a brutal dictator (Syria) lead him and his crew (the best spies ever from Israeli intelligence) give him a chance to amass millions from this evil dynasty. But there’s a young woman’s life at stake. She works for the banker who moves the big bucks. She helps Gabriel, but through no fault of her own, is put in jeopardy. What is the resolution?
The Heist is a page turner – art history guide, current events commentary, and just plain exciting. Gabriel’s wife, Chiara, is pregnant with twins so he has so many reasons to live. Daniel Silva’s writing is smooth, exciting, and exhilarating. You can pick up with Gabriel Allon on The Heist or start at the beginning. No matter what, you’ll be rooting for the good guys to win in a crazy world.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Guardians of the Galaxy is beyond awesome silly fun. This is a Marvel misfit movie. What could go wrong in outer space will and it will be very amusing. Peter Quill as a young boy loses his mother. He runs out of the hospital and is sucked into space. Twenty six years later we see him, played by an awesome Chris Pratt, stealing an orb, living by a mixtape, and trying to get a nickname Starlord to stick. He’s a charming rascal. In this chase for the orb, he encounters a green girl – Zoe Saldana – totally badass and her sister Nebula is worse. Rocket the raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is the brains behind any operation but he’s a creature with no scruples. Groot (Vin Diesel’s voice) is a walking tree. Dave Bautista voices a serious Drax who takes everything literally. Altogether they are a mess and yet they slowly conquer the fight against Ronin.
In the early stages of the movie, don’t worry too much about all of the planets and leaders, etc. Concentrate on our self-proclaimed Guardians. They bicker and they are a mess and it works. This movie is hysterical as it kicks into high gear. Stay conscious of the winning oldie soundtrack – that’s the charm of this flick. Entertaining – this is a full bucket of popcorn and a large soda movie. Truly joyous – Ooh Ooh Child will never be the same.
We are Groot. That’s the motto. Watch the movie and join the club. Stay after the credits for a blip of an old joke. Guardians of the Galaxy is summer movie magic.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Les Voyageurs, Marseilles, France
battered luggage by Joanne Faries
strap caught in
errant side trips
ten year adventure
hauled to attic
make room for ultra-lite
Thursday, August 14, 2014
The previews to Lucy looked rather intriguing and you can’t go wrong with Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. Right? Well…let’s just say they were fine but the movie was different. As in, we walked out after final credits and said, “That was weird.” I can’t put my finger on what went wrong, but I was never fully engaged in the flick. The director, Luc Besson, does great action sequences, and this wasn’t a cheap film. But….it was just okay.
My husband said that maybe it had too many big ideas. Lucy was trying to make us think about human capability and our use of brain cells and also the concept of time. That’s a lot of material to cover.
The movie starts with a sequence showing cells splitting and leads to the ape named Lucy – one of our ancestors. Then we leap to Scarlett’s Lucy hanging out in Asia. She gets coerced into carrying a brief case into a fancy high rise to give to a man. Well, this goes horribly wrong. The case has some drug that accelerates brain capacity. Lucy is injected with a baggie of this for smuggling. The bag leaks and she’s going crazy with intense ability to hear, see, absorb, and comprehend everything in the world.
She looks up Morgan Freeman (playing a professor/researcher/doctor) who is the specialist in the brain cell field. He’s fascinated by her story and she shows up to meet him and be studied. However, she only has 24 hours to live because everything in her has sped up to warp speed. Meanwhile, the Asian men are after her to reclaim their prize. So, it’s a race against time. It’s Lucy explaining how she’s thinking and trying to understand what this means. The researchers stand around befuddled as they try to figure out what questions to ask. Are you confused yet? And/or do you care about Lucy?
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
American Brides: Inspiration and Ingenuity is a lovely (free!) exhibit at the Greater Denton Arts Council Gallery. Over thirty dresses are shown. Examine some elaborate beadwork. Marvel at the lace. Or turn up your nose at some ghastly peasant dresses - the brides must have had to go work the fields after the ceremony.
This exhibit is well done and worthy of a stroll through. An added bonus is lunch next door at Captain Nemo's - the steak sub sandwich is yummy.
Saturday, August 9, 2014
The emcee, David Ahearn, got the show rolling with quick patter and observations about the audience and life. After that, the troupe - Frank Ford, Zachary Muhn, Ray Sharp, David Wilk, Anthony Bowling, Andrew Hamer, and Josh Roberts - alternated on sketches and bits. If the word given was "unicycle", they were weaving about in a hilarious circus sketch. A few lines fell flat, but all in all, their talent was astounding.
Ray and I agreed we'd go back - after all with a new audience, it's a new show every time.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Sometimes it's the little things that brighten a day.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
A Most Wanted Man is based on a John Le Carre book. I should know by now – it’s going to be slow, ploddingly methodical, and well-acted. Did I mention slow? I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a whole Le Carre book. He’s a famous author and they keep converting his books into movies, but they are rather boring, in my humble opinion. Hamburg, Germany is the setting and the sun never seems to shine. A secret group of German spies are following a rich Muslim man – they are convinced he’s moving money from legitimate charities and businesses to a sea freight company that is a front for terrorist work.
Then a Russian/Chechnya man named Karpov shows up in Hamburg. His history is one of prison and possible terrorism. Somehow Rachel McAdam as a lawyer takes him as a client. Her goal for the social service she represents is to get him asylum. He wants to give away his late father’s money that’s housed in a German bank – Bruhe Brothers. Willem Dafoe as Thomas Bruhe is approached by the spy group to manipulate Karpov and ultimately get the goods on the Muslim man. Sound convoluted? It is.
And the whole time, the head spy, Gunther (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman) sighs deeply, lights cigarettes, pours whiskey into his breakfast coffee, and tries to stay ten steps ahead of the Americans (an always sharp Robin Wright) and the regular German authorities. Gunther, so disheveled, plays the spy game well and wants to work a legitimate deal. He learns to believe in McAdam’s work and is convinced that the young Karpov is not seeking trouble. He wants to be free to begin his life anew. But it takes a long time to establish the cross, double cross, and WTF climax.
That’s the problem with A Most Wanted Man. You want to know what’s going to happen. You enjoy the acting (the late Hoffman is just so good and you feel sorry he’s gone), and yet you look at your watch, waiting…..and waiting…and then, poof, it’s over. Spy work is slow, plodding methodical, and sloooooooooow.
Monday, August 4, 2014
Ray enjoyed the Swedish massage at the spa. I enjoyed the yoga and even did the treadmill at the fitness center. Just sitting in the lobby at 6:30 pm Saturday eve was entertainment. We watched folks roll in for a black tie wedding. Some stunning dresses. Some women were trying to NOT fall off their shoes. It was amusing to hang out and drink beer - we were clean and classy in our jeans.
Friday, August 1, 2014
Rundle Mall Pigs - Adelaide, Australia
To Birthday Boy Ray
rooted around for your birthday present
snuffled out bargains
not a truffle to be found
but I bet a few surprises this weekend
Happy Birthday, darling!