Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! Silver Linings Playbook

Well, it's New Year's Eve and you can tell what I've done most of the Christmas/New Year holiday - movies. I love seeing films on the big screen, and fortunately my favorite theater, Cinemark Tinseltown, has matinees for $4.25. Sssh - don't them that is really inexpensive. I don't want them to enter the 21st century. So, here's the last review for 2012 and then no doubt it's onward into 2013 with Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, and more.

Silver Linings Playbook is humorous angst, if that's possible. We meet Pat (Bradley Cooper, spreading his wings as an actor) as he's released from a psychiatric hospital. Now he's back living with Mom ( a fretful Jacki Weaver) and Dad (uptight Robert DeNiro) and trying to cope with the world again. His goal is to get back his wife, and he has to prove to everyone that he has his act together. That's tough to do when the song "My Cherie Amour" triggers rage at the doctor's office, when he jogs wearing a garbage bag over his track suit, and when he meets another unhinged person and sparks fly.

Jennifer Lawrence shines as Tiffany. Her husband died, she slept with everyone at her office and got fired, and she's a loose cannon training for a dance competition. She convinces Pat to be her partner and in turn she'll smuggle his letters to the separated wife (by restraining order). As they practice dance, the friendship grows and yet Pat is fixated on the wife.

Meanwhile, the father is running a bookie business and is obsessed with the Eagles. He tries to bond with Pat and even blames himself for Pat's issues. There is a lot of shouting in this movie, and plenty of tension. Pat has no social filter on his mouth, and with Bradley Cooper's excellent acting we can watch the conflicting emotions cross his face. Or we can feel his confusion.

Ultimately it is an evolving love story and also a family in crisis movie. And Silver Linings Playbook is funny. Amidst all the angst and crazy, you will like these people and root for them to win. It is R rated for good reason and is for grown-ups looking for a movie with a solid cast and story. Oscar buzz alert. You'll want to place your bet on this one.

Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie Review: Jack Reacher

Author Lee Child's created Jack Reacher, over six feet tall, two hundred pounds, blond hair, blue eyes, brains and brawn in a magnificent package. Now who shall we cast in that role? Hmmm. Thinking, thinking. Did you think of Tom Cruise - all five foot seven or so, less than two hundred pounds, brown hair and dark eyes? Well, that's the cinematic Jack Reacher in the movie of the same name, and it turned out okay.

The key to any Lee Child's book is the action, and the movie brings his book, One Shot, to life with crazy violence, plenty of intrigue, government rogue operators, and lots of twists and turns. Tom Cruise has always played smart, so he's perfect in that regards. Snappy dialogue raises the stakes of what could be a regular action thriller movie. Instead, this is sharp with plenty of give and take. Throw in Robert DuVall at the end and you've got cinematic gold. Nothing like an old coot who can shoot a gun, and out act anyone in the room.

The key to Jack Reacher is he can't be found unless he wants to be found. He shows up at the CIA HQ just when a sniper gives Reacher's name. Why did this guy snap and shoot five civilians? Leave it to Jack to start figuring out if it was random or if there was a connection between the victims. And then the whole thing goes international with some nasty characters in the mix.

This is a very hard R with over the top violence. But I call it movie violence - just a barrage of bad guys shooting bad guys and good guys shooting better. I don't condone violence, but I can handle this because it's non-malicious cinema shooting. Great car chases abound, and of course Jack Reacher can fight and win over five guys. He's quick, clever, and has Special Forces super duper secret moves.

If you haven't read the books, you'll enjoy Jack Reacher for sheer action. If you have read the books, just give it up and go with Tom Cruise. If it's okay with Lee Child, then it's okay for you and me. Not a mission impossible to grasp.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie Review: This is 40

This is 40 - sheer laugh out loud funny. It's R - overuse of the "F" word, but other than that, if you are indeed forty or beyond, you will laugh yourself silly. Judd Apatow struck movie gold with Knocked Up and returns with a spin off using the Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann characters that we met before. Leslie Mann is Judd's real life wife and the girls playing the daughters - yep, their real daughters. Consequently, so many scenes feel like real life on the screen. The girls squabbling, the dad wondering what's going on, the wife frustrated at her life, the girls realizing the parents are fighting too much.
The movie has angst, but it gets resolved in comedy and doesn't suck you into depression. And it is just plain funny. Albert Brooks is Rudd's father. He's been mooching money forever and Rudd really needs to cut him off. But the man now has triplets that are around five years old and he uses that card on Rudd, the half brother. Mann's been distant from her father, John Lithgow, a very rich surgeon with a second family that he spends time with. Thus both Paul and Leslie have parent issues. They have money issues. They have communication issues.

And they have love. That's what it boils down to in a successful comedic way. They said, "Til death do us part," and yep, even on days they don't like each other and could be plotting the other's death (trust me, it's funny), they love each other and the girls. And yep, that sums up This is 40.

Stay through the credits for an outtake with Melissa McCarthy. The ad libs are hysterical as her scene escalates and she has everyone cracking up.

You'll walk out of the theater smiling.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day Snow

 It is NOT officially a white Christmas because we did not awaken to this. It rained 1-1/2 inches, then turned to sleet, and then snow. Ray and I wore our new matching Jockey Blue Plaid loungewear all day. No need to change. Forget going to a friend's party - we were snow/iced in for the day and night.
 Snow adds an added dimension to the light reflection. Yes, I froze my ass off for this picture
 Snow covered outer patio chairs
Forget logs for the fire. Kinda snowy wet and soggy now...................Sorry, your job Ray - my firestarter.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas Weekend

 A Texas Santa ornament given by a Pennsylvania friend, Joan.
 Cowboy hatted snowman.
 Fond memories of Australia. We actually went there in February,2005. The 2004 ornaments were on sale and I wanted a kangaroo.
Yes, this is a Christmas filler post. Rudolph and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Cheers and good health to all.  Peace on earth.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kids and Christmas

 Looking at this ornament we received from Kevin, age 6, in first grade (he's now 31) makes me reflect on how fortunate we (my family) are in good health, good cheer, memories, and in life. For too many families in Newtown, CT, that ended. I've reflected on the horrible shootings, cried at the news stories, and feel at a loss for words.
 Our daughter-in-law, Maria, crocheted this lovely snowflake. Think about how those first graders with the snub-nosed safety scissors were hacking away at homemade snowflakes for their trees or windows.
 Yes, I love snowflakes. We don't see too many in Texas
Ray's pepper plant has gone crazy. I liked this little garden angel peeking out from behind the bush. That's all I can present in memory of those kids and their teachers for now.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Poem: One Flasher

One Flasher
by Joanne Faries

blows the circuit

start over again

meticulous doublecheck

finds offending unit

tweak, twist, sizzle

bulb strands designed

for joy bring angst

start over again

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Poem: Layers of Tape

Layers of Tape
by Joanne Faries

like tree rings

reveal holiday years

attic haul down the ladder

knife slash to open

treasured memories

happy new year return to the faded box

screech of tape wheel adds new layer

but I can still make out my late mother's writing

wishing me a Merry Christmas

long ago

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Movie Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi - hmm. I didn't read the book, but I'm guessing it was confusing and full of symbolism. I chose to see the film in super HD/3D and paid the $10 price. The filmmaking and cinematography were eye candy wonderful and no doubt shall get Oscar nominations for director Ang Lee. But, when I talk about that stuff first, well it means the movie wasn't my favorite. It was okayish, but I can't recommend it for everybody. It was slow and I did check my watch at times.

An Indian family has a zoo, but it must be sold and the family is moving to Canada. They own the animals and so board a freighter to cross the Pacific. A violent storm sinks the ship. These scenes are really good and I almost needed Dramamine to survive. When the sun finally shines, a teenaged Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with a zebra, a vicious hyena, an orangutan, and the Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Life and nature are cruel. Ultimately it's Pi and the tiger who must try to survive.

The story is told in flashback by the grownup Pi, and I don't know that I liked the narration. As far as the young man Pi out in the Pacific - his efforts to survive and his communion with the tiger are quite good, as is the acting. Time Magazine in the 12/3/12 issue says, "Life of Pi is a giant leap forward in expanding the resources of cinema. Magical realism was rarely so magical and never before so real." I'll agree with that, but is that enough to make you see the movie? It's a tale of survival and faith, but is it worthy of full price and a tub of popcorn. My guess is too much holiday competition. The boy and his tiger will sadly sink.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Poem: Gift

by Joanne Faries

take time to say thanks

thanks to all loved ones

remember your past

shed tears of joy, not sorrow

breathe deep and look around

no phone, no electronics, no gadgets

breathe deep and look around

let your brain take the snapshot

of the moments

of love

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Snow Poem

 by Joanne Faries

crisp snap in the air

white flakes swirl

stick out a tongue

feather light wisp

fleeting chill dot

Hey - I can dream can't I?  This picture is from 2008.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bountiful Season

I've been a bit bah humbug, but I'm slowly building up some Christmas spirit. I think it's the weather - hard to be into hot chocolate and sweaters when it's eighty degrees. I'm wearing shorts and raking leaves. Nonetheless, I visited two friends this past weekend and their houses were quite cheery with decorations. The pop of reds and greens warmed the cockles of my heart. Maybe I won't be a Grinch after all.

So here's a poem to kick off December and the Christmas season:

Bountiful Season
by Joanne Faries

Christmas cheer and goodwill

from mountains to prairie to sea

rooms glow festive with candles

bells chime to bless you and me

pray for soldiers' safe return

full stomachs and treats

peace in all hearts

delightful friends shall meet

family hugs all around

laughs and stories galore

let this spirit prevail

holiday season and more

Friday, November 30, 2012

Movie Review: Lincoln

A movie about the sixteenth President of the United States, Lincoln, couldn't be more timely. Director Steven Spielberg looks at January 1865 in great depth and from it we get a portrait of a caring man, a concilliator, a smart politician, a family man, a compromise, and a key to American history. The Civil War was winding down and the Union would prove victorious. Lincoln (played by a genius actor, Daniel Day-Lewis) wants an amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery. He feels this is very important for closure to this long bloody mess.

Thus we see the behind the scenes meetings in the House of Representatives - the arm twisting, the cajoling, and yes, compromises. Much like today, there has to be some wheeling and dealing to get things done. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens is excellent. James Spader provides some comic relief, as he visits members and takes count. Sally Field is haunting as Mary Todd Lincoln - still mourning the death of son Willie, still dealing with other young son Tad, and worrying about eldest son Robert who wants to enlist.

Lincoln is quite enthralling. Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Lincoln as we imagine - his walk is perfect for a very tall man (rather gangly), his eyes twinkle as he tells a story with a meaning, his pauses and gestures reflect a man who speaks with purpose. It is an amazing performance. Lincoln gives depth to the holiday movie season.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall

Bond, James Bond. Aaah - we've celebrated those words for fifty years and over twenty plus movies in the franchise. Classics for the ages. Best ever was Sean Connery and Goldfinger - that's this critic's opinion. You may write in your favorites. But let's discuss the latest, Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig. Superb, exciting, and ranks high in the pantheon.

James Bond has been buried and is mourned. MI6 is moving on, but comes under attack. Cyber terrorism outs a multitude of agents and they are being killed. MI6 itself is blown to bits and has to relocate. And who shows up, but a very much alive James Bond. Daniel Craig's eyes gleam a steely blue, his face reflects weariness, and yes he was wounded and has to rehab. M herself, the great Judi Dench, greets him in her clipped tone and expects him to get to work. Can he pass the tests? Is he ready for the field? The new Q is a flop-haired youngster (Ben Whitshaw) with a few new gadgets in the arsenal.

It's all typical Bond movie, and yet raised to a higher level. Skyfall gives us a glimpse into James's history. We see the slightest of vulnerability, but also the dashing guts and glory too. Top notch goodies, plus a Scottish estate and an old Aston Martin. Cheers!

As for the villain - oh, Javier Bardem as Silva (an ex-agent) is a slippery snake oozing enough psycho charm to keep us interested. He matches wits and charm and then explosion for explosion. He's definitely up there in the list of great Bond villains. (Again, argue and write in your favorites - that's what makes 007 movies so fabulous).

I won't give away anymore. Skyfall is pretty girls, sexy intro, an Adele sung theme (rah), chases, explosions, and Daniel Craig doing it up right as Bond, James Bond. Go see this movie and come away shaken, not stirred, by the stunning camera work and slick pacing. Skyfall is a reason to go to the big screen movies.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving/Black Friday - Small Moments

Quick post to continue my small moments Thanksgiving theme. Enjoyed Thursday at my husband's folks. Fourteen adults and four kids made for a packed house. Plenty of delicious food and reasons to give thanks. Cousins teased cousins and now their children played together. The eight year old corralled the four year olds. I remember following my older cousin anywhere. Savored the memories.

Black Friday at Kohl's around 10 AM. We were lined up, armed with our newfound goodies and checking our coupons. Everyone behaved and the line moved pretty quickly. They have a good system with one traffic controller directing people to the next available checkout line. Then there was the man who kept trying to dodge into the line and acting surprised that people pointed him to the back. "What? You mean the line goes all the way back there?"  I chuckled to myself. He's the kind that dives into traffic or tries to bar you from entering the freeway. There's always one in the crowd.

Chatted with the lady in front of me. She had tried out a new jalapeno cheese spread recipe for an appetizer. Said it was a hit. We discussed our respective thanksgivings and then the husbands off to hunt. We agreed we were happier at Kohl's. We bade each other a happy weekend as we left the checkout. I was headed home and then to a movie. She was off to the Apple store with a friend (good luck to her on that)

People held doors for each other. I saw folks waiting to let parking spaces clear. There was no point rushing around. I enjoyed the small moments on a blustery day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving - Soak in the Small Moments

 First, in regards to Thanksgiving, there's no better place to be (besides home) than New York City. My friends Linda and Cecil are visting there this week and thus, here's a behind the scenes shot as the huge parade balloons are aired up. SpiderMan will float high above crowds in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The final float signals the official arrival of Santa Claus and the Christmas season.
Now, a Thanksgiving reflection. Last week as I strolled around the arboretum, I stopped and actually studied the nature around me. I was orignally focused on the babbling brook, but then realized that this tree was fantastic. I don't know how many times I've probably walked by this tree, glanced at it, and didn't think about it. This time I focused on this majestic, gnarled bark, character of a tree.

With Thanksgiving, I usually post my gratitude for family, friends, good health, and general life. And I am grateful for so much bounty - I'm truly fortunate. But this Thanksgiving, in the holiday rush, I want to make a special point of truly looking around me, and savoring the small moments.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book Review: Gold by Chris Cleave

Tenths of a second have separated Zoe and Kate for years as they began to battle at age nineteen for cycling supremacy. Now at age 32, they aim for the 2012 Olympics. Each wants desperately to win gold, and each has more than a medal to lose. (book jacket blurb)

Gold by Chris Cleave is well written fiction that delves into the psychology of sport, the intensity of training, and the difficulty in coping with real life. Kate is married to an Olympic level cyclist, Jack, and together they have a daughter Sophie who is battling leukemia. As parents they are torn as they juggle her care and their workouts.

Meanwhile, Zoe is compulsive in her need to win, and at various points in her career has jeopardized her only friendship with Kate. Obsession never looked so ugly.

p. 224 You got up to the speed where the bike started humming beneath you, where the vibration through the handlebars and the saddle drew you into a trance of concentration. You noticed everything. ...Time had the quality of indecisiveness. Everything was unusually quick and unusually slow.

I enjoyed Gold and the characters are well drawn. You cheer and jeer at them along the way. As a non-athlete myself, I found Gold riveting in regards to this level of sport - what it takes to get there and stay at Olympic level. Saddle up and start pedaling. Once you start reading, you won't want to stop.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Movie Review: Flight

Flight starring Denzel Washington is fiction. Yet it's a hot subject that has some sponsors asking to have their names blocked from the movie trailers. Denzel's Whip is a senior hot shot pilot for a large airline. We first meet him as an alarm goes off. He's in bed with a hottie flight attendant. The room is strewn with beer bottles and evidence of some hard partying. And the two need to prepare for a return flight. Uh-oh. A drink here, a sniff there, and Whip is ready to take the controls, just needs coffee and aspirin from the senior flight attendant on board, who obviously knows the drill. The co-pilot has concerns but doesn't officially state them. It's stormy, with nasty winds. Time for take-off. It's a rough one, but we can see that Whip knows his stuff and expertly skirts between thunderheads to get to smoother flying.

Then, things go wrong mechanically. Losing engines, lack of control. Whip is focused, intent on slowing the plane down. He'd been chugging orange juice laced with vodka (yes, we saw him open the two little bottles and pour them into his mug) and yet when he inverts the plane, then re-inverts and lands it, albeit in a controlled crash, he is a hero. Out of 102 people, he saved 96. BUT, and this is a big BUT, did he endanger the lives of those 102 people? Is he really a hero, or just darn lucky?

That first quarter of the movie is gripping excitement. The next three quarters is the telling tale of a man who's spun out of control and lost his way, but his ego won't let him ask for help.

Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Kelly Reilly, and Melissa Leo are part of an all star cast that takes Flight along with Denzel. His is an Oscar worthy performance. The movie see-saws between admiration for the man and his crisis abilities, and repulsion at his weaknesses and flaws. It is intense and has you, the audience, alternating in taking sides, and wondering if Whip will ultimately make the right decision. Buy a ticket and climb aboard. But strap on your seatbelt - Flight is a bumpy ride.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Here's a quirky (in a good way) read - Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple - that had me chuckling out loud. Bernadette Fox chose to move from L.A. to Seattle with her genius husband, Elgie, who's a god at Microsoft. Now she hates Seattle, the stay-at-home moms she calls gnats, the vibe, and the weather. The feud with a neighbor is very entertaining and results in a mudslide.

She loves and adores her daughter, Bee, her one connection to the real world, and yet she's encouraging Bee to go to boarding school.

A mass of contradictions, Bernadette Fox is a unique character, and after she disappears on a trip to Antarctica we find out she was a MacArthur grant genius in architecture. Her daughter is sure her mother is still alive and pours through various emails, correspondence, and goes on a trip with her Dad to Antarctica. Ultimately, the family discovers a great deal about themselves, family dynamics, and stifled creativity.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Movie Review: Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a nice little indie film with good acting and a poignant storyline. We meet Charlie (Logan Lerman) as he trods off on his first day as a high school freshman. It's mid-late 1990s. He's back from a summer at an institution and as he observes his fellow students, you can see him folding inward, trying to be invisible. He's smart and observant and desperately wants a friend, to belong somewhere.

Fortunately, he meets Patrick, a flamboyant young man. Patrick (Ezra Miller)and his stepsister, Sam (played by the lovely Emma Watson - all grownup from Harry Potter days), run a little renegade group and welcome Charlie to the land of the misfits. He indeed fits right in. Smart, witty - these kids all have secrets as they try to grow up and figure out life. Charlie falls head over heels for Sam, but another girl in the group really likes him. Sadly and typically that causes a rift in the dynamics. The problem is that Charlie keeps remembering things from when he was a little boy, and as these memories emerge he has more reasons to be depressed.

So, that paragraph sounded dark and dreary. The movie does have deep issues and is serious, and yet while watching it, I laughed at a lot of the clever lines and enjoyed hanging with these kids. The movie time going by did not drag or seem pathetic or dreary at all. The nineties vibe is captured well and the soundtrack gives a great atmosphere. Charlie watches as his friends prepare to graduate, and his time with these kids gives him more confidence. An English teacher, played by Paul Rudd, is also an anchor for Charlie, a mentor who encourages Charlie's reading and writing.

As a wallflower, you get to step back and watch the world. But sooner or later, you have to plunge into living. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a nifty little film highlighting teen life in general. Worth plucking out of the current movie choices.

I also recommend the book by Stephen Chbosky. He wrote it and then directed the film.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Friends Across the Pond and More

Thanks to Rosalind Adam  for giving me a shout out on her blog. She's in the UK, I'm in Texas but we enjoy our reads and comments on the writing world and more. I can't say I'm an addict, but I enjoy my blog. It started as a "well to be a writer, you need a platform, and a blog, and a website, and etc, etc, etc." At this point, I don't know that many people stumble upon my blog nor do I promote it. It's noise amongst the zillion other writers in this world.

However, I delight in putting together a post once or twice a week. It's not a chore. I like to share book reviews, movie, reviews, and my poetry. I try to promote the arts - museums, plays, and musicals; and a variety of nature pics.

In turn I look forward to reading posts from newfound friends with a variety of interests, perspectives, and a grander scope of the world. So, thanks Rosalind and cheers to you and these worthy bloggers:   Annalisa Crawford    Sherry Ellis    Kate O'Mara   Charlotte Bailey   Roni Loren

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Silly Deer Poem

Hunters’ Delight

(by Joanne Faries for her mighty hunter, Ray Faries, who is in a deer stand now in Bronte TX
 for her father (non-hunter) in PA who sees deer in his front yard)

deer wander suburbs

hoof prints embedded

poop piles on lawns

bucks could ring doorbells

like a Far Side cartoon

deer forced from wooded

protection by

developer buildings

the same men who lease land

sit in camouflage blinds

aimed to shoot deer that

meander backyard America

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Movie Review: Argo

Argo is a fast paced fact based movie. It's 1980 and Iran is seething. Finally the embassy is overrun and hostages are taken. However, six Americans manage to slip out the back door and land at the Canadian ambassador's home. Now what?

The embassy scenes of shredding, hostility, panic, and fear sets the pace for this film. As it zooms back and forth from Washington to Tehran, we feel the frustration and helplessness. What will the US do? The option discussion is hilarious, despite its serious nature. How can you get six Americans out of Iran - by bicycle across snowy mountainous landscape? Ludicrous. Or how about as a Canadian film crew scouting locations? Insane? Yes, but that's what Tony Mendez, a State Dept. super spy suggests. Phone calls and trips to Hollywood help set up a fake company for a fake movie with fake staff - it's going to be a science fantasty film named Argo.

All systems go. By this time, your heart is pounding and we haven't even started an escape scene yet. When Tony alias Kevin shows up with full packets of documentation, the six Americans have only two days to memorize new identities and knowledge on movie making. They are summoned to the Grand Bazaar, tested amidst swarms of protesters. Iranians are snapping photos, trying to match up pictures with shredded material. They are figuring out from body counts that Americans are missing. Will they tie it to this Canadian film crew?
Nerves are frayed. Chances of being killed are off the chart. Can they make it to the airport, get through three security checks, and board a Swissair plane to Toronto?

Argo is a super exciting, sweaty palms, increased heartbeat thriller. Ben Affleck has directed a probable Academy Award nominee - it is that good. Great performances by him, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and more. Go see it. Pay full price. And Argo...________ self (fill in the blank). When you see the movie, you'll laugh at that tag line. Argo is a winner.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oak Tree Poem

Necessary murder
by Joanne Faries

ninety-two feet tall

massive oak tree

shed gnarled limbs

huge suicidal branches


through the roof

family reclined on the couch

clicked between football

and Discovery

reality lumberjack show

oak shadow loomed

until slain by an arborist

firewood stacked

by back door

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn has had good buzz since the beginning of 2012 and this book is worthy of praise. It was on my library wait list forever. I  finally got the call, and read it in three days (could have been quicker if work didn't get in the way).
The book jacket tag line is Marriage can be a real killer.

Nick and Amy. Amy and Nick. Oh they seem like the perfect, beautiful couple as they prepare to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. However, a neighbor calls Nick at his work to say that the front door of the house is open and it just looks weird. Nick comes home to find Amy gone - blood, an overturned ottoman, signs of struggle.

As we alternate chapters -Nick deals with police, his in-laws, his twin sister, and his anniversary treasure hunt (Amy always leaves clues). Then we read excerpts from Amy's diary. Appearances are deceiving and we learn more and more about their life in New York, then moving back to Nick's old home town in Missouri, along the Mississippi River.

I'm not going to tell more. You need to read and discover on your own. Twists and turns galore - lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. The golden couple is tarnished.

p.73  And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as soul mate, because we don't have genuine souls. 
    It had gotten to the point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I'm not a real person and neither is anyone else.   I would have done anything to feel real again.

p. 353  I am a thornbush, bristling from the overattention of my parents, and he is a man of a million little fatherly stab wounds, and my thorns fit perfectly into them.

Excellent writing. Intriguing characters and plot line. Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is a gem.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October Peak Poem

October Peak

by Joanne Faries
dedicated to my husband, Ray

Muscles twitch


eyes dart

narrow focus

follow the ball

adjustments made

perceptible shift

hunch forward

lean back

hushed whisper

inhale, exhale

fingers clench, relax

ignore cheers


senses heighten

ready, ready, wait


in the zone, he weaves

blocks commercials

juggles remote

answers phone

trained all summer

he’s peaked

it’s October

Pro football, World Series,

hockey, basketball, golf



Note - as this time Ice hockey is on hold due to lockout - but he's poised for any return

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Harvest Heat Poem

Harvest Heat
by Joanne Faries

burning leaf memory

inhaled, nose tingled

deep in my blood,

smoke oozed from pores

seeped into hair

airy ash wisps encircled my head

erie figures drifted in haze

rakes in hand swooshed

crimson, orange, yellow leaves

southwestern fall

air-conditioner whir at six

wheezes until midnight

dollars fly about the room

distills humidity, cools tepid air

I sweat

grass crunches

wind chimes silent

slack flag droops oppressed

scurry indoors

soul compresses

yearn for fire reds, golden hues

drab leaves herald October

pumpkins will explode

melt into pumpkin pie

not glow with Halloween candles

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Big Tex Sees All

 State Fair of Texas time in Dallas. This is a truly monumental event held on permanent grounds, complete with lovely Art Deco buildings. For sixty years, Big Tex surveys the land and updates folks on events
 Ray and I enjoyed the Marine Corps Drum & Bugle show. Here they are marching off the parade grounds. But for forty five minutes they regaled the crowd with patriotic and popular tunes. Snappy uniforms, crisp timing, and snare drums can't be beat.
 Ray's resting before the BMX Stunt Bike show. We walked from 12:30 to 8:30 PM - saw Chinese acrobats, Frisbee Jump Dogs, Car and Truck show, Creative Arts, the Midway, and more. Forty dollars worth of coupons bought us probably forty thousand calories of junk food. Yes, I tried the Fried Bacon Cinnamon Bun - rather obnoxiously tasty covered in powdered sugar. Only in Texas folks, only in Texas.
 Windy, warm humid day. Shorts weather. Good day for some of the best fresh squeezed lemonade we've ever tasted.
Night time along the Esplanade. Art Deco buildings are lit and and then the fireworks/laster light show adds to the beauty of this area. Whew! Another State Fair goes in the record books. We enjoy the tradition.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


 I forget how many trees surround my father's home. Living in Texas, my eye is always shocked when I go home - the world is enclosed in greenery, a bower of branches. Huge oaks soar The house is fifty-two years old. The trees are ancient Pennsylvania - hundreds of years
 These trees have witnessed a lot of history.
 Of all man's works of art, a cathedral is greatest. A vast and majestic tree is greater than that.  Henry Ward Beecher
We rake and rake and sweep the front porch, but soon the leaves rain down again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French

Tana French is Irish and her books are set in Dublin and surrounding environs. That adds a unique style and feel. In the Woods and Faithful Place were superb and now her latest, Broken Harbor, features our favorite brash cop - Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy
Opening paragraph hooks the reader, trust me -  Here's what I'm trying to tell you: this case should have gone like clockwork. It should have ended up in the textbooks as a shining example of how to get everything right. By every rule in the book, this should have been a dream case.

Mick's a top detective with a great closing record, but he's coming off a problem case, been cooling his heels, and now this case should redeem him. He and his rookie partner, Richie, investigate the murder of Patrick Spain and his two young children. Wife, Jenny Spain, is in intensive care. They live in a half built, half-abandoned Irish development with suspicious neighbors, traces of life in empty homes, baby monitors, cameras, and too many small things that aren't explained. Files are erased from the family home computer, and Jenny's sister shares some past history that's problematic.

Police politics and procedures flow and this psychological thriller keeps the pages turning, the clues popping, and you, the reader, guessing. Tana French keeps the dialogue snappy and the plot lines taut. Great pacing and writing in the thriller genre.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Simple Post

The picture is apropos of nothing - It's fall, it's pumpkin season.

I'm reading a Poetry Anthology book and two pieces struck me so far:

Poetry - Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

                                    I, too, dislike it.

Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it,
one discovers in it, after all,
a place for the genuine

And from Ars Poetica by Archibal Macleish - I liked this line:

A poem should not mean ...but be

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mini-Movie Reviews - After Everything Else is Done

No - the movies aren't mini, just these reviews. These are Netflix picks and tend to be not serious, throwaway fun. Brain candy - after work, after writing, after reading, after DVR'd shows. But there are a few gems and the first film listed here is well worth renting ... seriously ....

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a quirky really fun treat of a movie. Ewan McGregor is a grumpy/then charming professor who specializes in fishing. Emily Blunt is the assistant to a rich sheik who loves fly fishing and wishes to bring the sport to the Yemen. Kristin Scott-Thomas is the publicity person for the Prime Minister and is all over this as a "feel good" story. She's hilarious. Ewan and Emily are charmingly cute, and what transpires is interesting, typical, and then awesome. Put on your wading boots and go fishing for this movie. You'll chuckle a lot.

The Change-Up - I was pleasantly surprised by how much I laughed and enjoyed this movie. Yes, I picked it, but I thought it could end up being stupid. Instead Jason Bateman (married with kids guy) and Ryan Reynolds (hot single guy) are really good in this movie about "be careful what you wish for". Swapping bodies after a drunken evening proves eye-opening for both guys. Responsibility can bite and yet sooner or later you have to grow up. Check out this buddy flick and be amused.

Unknown - Liam Neeson stars in this mindboggling thriller. He regains consciousness after a problematic car accident and finds out a man is impersonating him, his wife is denying him, and folks are getting killed because of him. Suspend belief and just roll with the premise. Liam is always great and believable as a doctor, no wait -he's a trained killer, no wait - he's lost an identity and Diane Kruger helps him find it and love. It's a silly time waster and yet, stuff blows up, Liam drives fast, and I was entertained.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: Age of Miracles

It still amazes me how little we really knew ... Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It's possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.

Those opening lines to The Age of Miracles introduce you to Julia, a sixth grader, who narrates for us and let's us see the new world through her eyes. What was once a twenty-four hour day is no more. The earth is slowing and the news people go crazy. Julia's mother is in a frenzy, her father isn't fazed. It's interesting to learn how various people, teachers, the school, neighbors,etc. react. Amidst the new trauma, Julia, at age eleven, is trying to survive pre-teen stuff, puberty, boys, and life.

The book blurb uses the words haunting and luminous. I agree. I loved this book and read it in one weekend, with a Wow as it ended. This portrait of a family against a backdrop of uncertainty, an altered world, is gripping. Folks decide if they are going to live by the twenty four hour clock, or go off time - just live with the sun rise and set and that changes daily. Sometimes there's darkness right in the middle of a day. It's unsettling and does make one think about the future, our planet, and life in general.

The Age of Miracles is well written and engaging with a light touch, humor, and drama. It's a quick engaging read - written with a deft touch. I'm jealous of the writer's skill.

Here's another excerpt (p. 29):  Later I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: the hole in the ozone layers, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flu. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different - unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Drama Review: War Horse

Harrowing, riveting, and incredibly well done - War Horse at the Winspear Theater in Dallas was a superb drama. I generally go to musicals, but this show captured my attention after watching a Making of War Horse documentary. The National Theater of Great Britain created the show from the novel by Michael Morpurgo. The creative vision from book to stage stopped me in awe.

Prior to WWI, a colt is born and bought with the mortgage money by a poor English farmer. Albert, the sixteen year old son, bonds with this horse. He trains it, raises it, and vows he'll find the horse when it's conscripted into the British Army (the dad sold it for one hundred pounds - much of it will sadly go toward alcohol).

We see how the war affects the small village, the soldiers over in France at the Somme, and we root for Joey, the horse and for Albert (joins the Army) to reunite in peace some day.

The Handspring Puppet Company created magic - those were horses on that stage, done in an illusion of timing and skill. I had to shake my head in one scene to make sure I could believe my eyes. Then the illustrations of war along with strobe lights and explosive sounds had the audience ducking for cover, and cringing at the barbed wire scene.

War is hell, but the love of a boy/man and his horse know no bounds. Triumph of spirit trumps evil any day. The play War Horse is memorable and striking. If you can catch it on Broadway or a touring production, I highly recommend an evening of serious stage magic storytelling.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Contemplating Autumn

Fall officially begins this Saturday 9/22/12. Oh, the Texas mornings are crisper. We are in the sixties, but still rapidly heating up during the day, soaring toward ninety degrees. That's too hot. I yearn for jacket weather. Browns, crimsons, and golds. This postcard represents fall perfection
I realize that on the other side of fall winter looms. Nonetheless, I'm ready for mums in bloom, pumpkins on the stoop, and a harvest moon. Here's a poem I wrote in contemplation of autumn.

Meditation Walk

leaves crunch underfoot

acorns plunk, squirrels rustle

wrestle nuts to hide as

mockingbirds cackle

German shepherds behind fences

growl warnings as I pass

calm, tranquil, I stride the

neighborhood route

mindful of peace

aware of nature’s din

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Water Like a Stone

Jacket blurb: Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James return to solve a chilling mystery that bridges past and present and threatens their happiness.

I'd seen Deborah Crombie's name and books in the library, read reviews that always sounded enticing, and yet hadn't picked up a book until now. Wow - I'm hooked. She spins a fun tale of intrigue against small town English countryside.

Christmas Eve should be calm, but not when a baby's body is found interred in an old barn. Family tensions rise, and life along the Shropshire Union Canal is far from idyllic. Recent drownings, troubled boating families, and a social worker's past all intertwine for quite a mystery.

Water Like a Stone is a page turner. Deborah Crombie's smooth style is worth a cup of tea and a long sit as you follow Kincaid and James' discoveries, clues, and final solution.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Place

 I entered the Bedford Library Short Story Contest. Deadline was September 1st.
 Saturday, September 15th - Bedford Library Evening with the Authors. My shiny face was on the poster and I did get to read an excerpt from My Zoo World. The other authors represented fantasy, poetry, romance, and suspense. Nice variety and fun reads.
 Here I'm chatting with Rebecca Balcarcel  - excellent poet
And then Amanda Green (VP of Friends of the Library) announced the winner of the short story contest - Whoa! That's my name. I accepted a check from Jim Davidson - a Bedford council member and Friend of the Library.  Very exciting. My tale is called "Bumper Car Life", and I am working on compiling my shorts stories for a collection.