Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review: Never Go Back

"Never go back...but Jack Reacher does, and the past finally catches up with him." (cover blurb). Author Lee Child has another Jack Reacher hit with Never Go Back.

Former military cop, Jack Reacher, travels once again with his toothbrush and his wits. Brawny and over six foot tall, this military machine is prepared for almost anything except the thought of fatherhood. However, he's come from South Dakota to Washington DC to meet with Major Susan Turner at his old 110th MP HQ. But Turner's now imprisoned, and he's on his way due to criminal charges of murder. Plus another case has risen - paternity.

Nothing is as it seems. Reacher breaks himself and Turner out of jail and heads west to meet his alleged 15 year old daughter. Along the way, he discovers two American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan under Turner's watch. Here at home, four soldiers stationed out of Ft.Bragg seem determined to stop Reacher and Turner from drawing conclusions about those deaths, money, trades, and a network of intrigue out of Afghanistan.

p. 177 "You're like a predator. Cold, and hard. Like this whole thing. You have it all mapped out," said Turner. "You're swimming toward them, and there's going to be blood in the water. Your or theirs, but there's going to be blood."

Jack Reacher moves at a quick pace, not to mention he's involved in car chases, fights, ambush on an airplane, a little love in the afternoon, and plenty of dining at greasy spoons. In Never Go Back, "Jack Reacher questions who he is, what he's done, and the very future of his untethered life on the open road." (cover blurb). This is a fun book in a great series - page turning intrigue at its best.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert is an impressive story of "desire, adventure, and a thirst for knowledge." (cover blurb). The book covers the late 1700s and into the 1800s following the Whittaker family. Henry Whittaker, a poor English boy, makes his fortune in South America and turns his vast botanical knowledge and connections into a broad business based in Philadelphia. His daughter, Alma, born into a now wealthy household, is brilliant but not beautiful. Her research takes "her into the central mysteries of evolution. But she falls for a man who draws her in the opposite direction - the realm of spiritual, divine, and magical. "

From London, Peru, Philadelphia, Tahiti, and Amsterdam - "The Signature of All Things" is a sweeping panorama of life. Its unforgettable characters - missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, geniuses, and the mad - all tell a tale of life's ups and downs. New ideas, new discoveries are exciting. Then there's heartache and heartbreak - nothing new there. Elizabeth Gilbert's rich writing kept me mesmerized. This is a dense read, but fantastic in its details, emotions, and plot lines.

p. 447 Alma writes "Anything less than a fight for endurance is cowardly. Anything less than a fight for endurance is a refusal of the great covenant of life."

"The Signature of All Things" will stick with you - the characters, nature, and you'll find yourself looking at moss growing on a tree in a whole new light.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Almost Time

Almost Time is a sweet quirky love story directed by Richard Curtiss who gave us "Love, Actually" and a personal fave "Four Weddings and a Funeral." Set in England, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21 and learns from his father (Bill Nighy) that he has the ability to travel in time. Nothing that can change huge bits of history (like Hitler,etc). But the time travel can change a silly meeting to a perfect night of love. All Tim has to do is find a closet, clench his fists, and go back to the moment needed. Tim's a lawyer, but he's a redheaded dorky fellow who desperately wants a girlfriend.

Now in London, he encounters the most spectacular girl played by Rachel McAdams. They meet cute, he messes up some timing, they meet again and it's on to love, marriage, and babies. Through it all, you're engaged with his odd family, you realize the love and respect Tim has for his father, and you learn how he copes and manages the time travel. It's a bit of a stretch, so you have to suspend reality at times. Nonetheless, the actors make it work and they are so sweet and kind and rather twinkly.

Almost Time is a pleasant way to spend two hours. These are likeable characters. The dialogue is humorous and light. And the message - enjoy your moments, marry someone kind, and appreciate life - is a good one to review for one's own life.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A New Poem: Fall Fancy

 Fall Fancy

feathery clouds
layered afternoon sky
dusk loomed as sun's final rays
streamed. Highlighted
autumn glory. Golden leaves,
burnt orange, and rust reds
glowed. Wind rustled.
created rippled shadows
apple crisp breeze
teased hot cocoa nights

              Joanne Faries

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Thor:The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World allows us to revisit Chris Hemsworth in all his glory. Wow, he is a Marvel. As the second film, it lacks the originality and freshness of the first Thor flick but this is still a lot of fun. Thor has brought a peace to all realms and life is beautiful. But there's one thing missing - Jane. Yep, Natalie Portman's on earth and Thor keeps an eye on her from his faraway land. Fortunately there are some weird disturbances that cause her team to find a portal. Soon she's yanked into another realm. A real bad creature comes back to life. And the party/battle is on.

As an added bonus, Thor needs to release Loki from prison. His knowledge and hidden places are needed, plus Loki (Tom Hiddleston) adds tension to the whole dynamics. The best scenes are when the brothers are on screen exchanging barbs. All in all, the filmmaking is rich, the battles are glorious, and a bare-armed Thor shines as he wields his hammer.

This is fall eye candy at its best. So round up the family, buy that tub of popcorn, and zoom to another realm for adventure. Thor brings light to a Dark World.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pink: Truth About Love Tour

 Pink is a tiny dynamo with a great voice, a ton of energy, and a lot of material to present. I've been wanting to see her and Ray heard my hints (honey, I don't care how much it costs. I want to see Pink). He had to go scalper and this covered 2013/2014 birthday/Christmas, etc., but it was worth it.
 Great seats for The Truth About Love Tour.  Full house and the place was rocking. When she began by bouncing from a bungee cord and singing "Raise Your Glass", we knew this was going to be a crazy night. Lights, videos, dancers, and Pink bouncing everywhere. Wow!  Ray was not as up on her music, but he was impressed.  I loved the song "Try". Like the video, it was Pink with one male dancer. The song and dance were steamy. I also enjoyed her songs with the acoustic guitar player - "Who Knew?" is poignant.
"Blow Me One Last Kiss" was a winner. And with "So What" she was singing and flying all over the arena. She swooped down so low, I thought we could graze her hands. The whole Pink crew looked like they were having a blast. Pink chatted at times, smiled a lot, and sang her heart out.

We left pumped up and enthusiastic. Thanks, Ray for our Saturday night date to see Pink.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Epic NaNo Fail

Epic NaNo Fail.  I have written a page or two and I hated my characters, hated my alleged plot, and I question if I am a fiction novel writer.  So - I confess to failure. But my month of November has been fun. Lovely fall stroll at the arboretum.  See, I'm distracting you with pretty pictures
 And I caught up with a friend for lunch at the Kimbell Art Museum. Saw great art and also walked to the Amon Carter Museum for awesome photography exhibits.  And yes, I've been to movies, I've downloaded Netflix, and I've been reading a good book - "The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
I did write a poem to submit to Baseball Bard (have not been rejected yet). And I submitted Christmas material to Trinity Writers' Workshop for their annual childrens giveaway book.  (Charity, folks, charity!!)

So - I sorta began a NaNo but was never truly vested in the enterprise. I admit failure and I'm okay with it.

Are you distracted by the pretty pictures?  ...............yeah, me too.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Movie Madness: 12 Years a Slave

Solomon Northup wrote his book "12 Years a Slave" in 1853. Wow. Here was a black man in Saratoga, NY - free, educated, cultured (violinist), and happy with a wife and two kids. Life was great until he was lured by two men to go on tour with his violin and he ended up in Washington DC (south of the Mason Dixon line). Oops. After a night of wining and dining, he awakened shackled, alone, and without papers.

The film "12 Years a Slave" chronicles Northup's journey to hell and back. Chiwetel Eijofor needs to work on his Oscar speech now. His performance is spot on and often without dialogue. Just the puzzlement and despair on his face, and then his determination to survive is breathtaking. His first enslavement is with a "kind" plantation owner played by Benedict Cumberbatch. However, the overseer (Paul Dano) is petty, mean, and evil. Northup and Dano come to blows and the result is not pretty. Ultimately, the owner sells Northup to another. Then he's moved to another and here's where the going gets tough. Michael Fassbender's plantation owner is nutso evil. He flaunts his affair with a slave girl, Patsy, in front of his wife. She, in turn, manipulates Northup.

Mid-1800s was not a pretty episode in American history, and this film does not approach it lightly. The beatings, degradation, and slave life is depicted brutally honestly. It's not an easy film to watch, and yet it is absolutely intensely well done. Eijofor is one of those actors you've seen in lots of things - television and movies. Now he has leaped into the forefront of Oscar watch with this role of a lifetime. Brad Pitt, who is a producer on this film, is a hero also. As a white man who abhors slavery, he's Northup's connection to friends up North and his final passage to freedom. I'm not giving away a huge plot line - the man lived to write his book, but the twelve years he lost to happiness is horrific. This is not a popcorn movie. It is just great filmmaking and storytelling.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Are you Divergent? Read the book to find out.

I announce the next Hunger Games. Read Veronica Roth's trilogy - Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant. I have only read the first one and I'm hooked. Whoa. This is a futuristic, dystopic Young Adult series that can pull in adults too. Really good writing, well formed characters, and a very creative plot equals fun.

Beatris has never really felt like her clan family -Abnegation. She is a tad selfish and she yearns to break free. Well, she has her chance to change her life. Turning age sixteen allows her to pick from all worlds - Amity, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation. She takes the test which involves a drug serum and hallucinogenic situations. She tests as a Divergent - meaning she's not conclusive and ultimately could be trouble. She needs to keep her results quiet, but she does choose the Dauntless family and becomes Tris. Her brother Caleb chooses Erudite. Thus both kids reject their selfless lifestyle.

As Tris, our heroine learns to jump onto and off trains, fight, kickass, leap from buildings into a net that she does not know is there, and altogether becomes daring. And yet, some selflessness is still instilled in her, and she questions her planet. What is the whole plan? The leader Eric is brutal, but the "co-leader" Four becomes a love interest. Tris is naive and yet learning. Her friends Christine, Al, and Will - everyone is working to find themselves, score points to earn their Dauntless title, and not become factionless (i.e. homeless).

Well, Tris, as a Divergent, is able to manipulate scenarios plus she's freakin' brave. Her scores are topnotch even though there are suspicions about her. Slowly, she gathers information and chats with her brother. The Erudites are planning a full out war over Abnegation's government and they plan to use Dauntless as the fighters.

The pace quickens and the battle is crazy. Fortunately, Tris is able to see her mother, father, and family. The results prove shocking and you, the reader, are hooked for the next book - Insurgent. Trust me - read this series now before the first movie in March 2014. Books > film

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is based on a true story that was even more brutal than the film depicts. All I know is, I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath at the end. Even knowing the outcome, I was truly vested in these people and feared for lives. As Rich Phillips, Tom Hanks, is an appealing all-American hero - quiet, stalwart, dedicated, and practical - a competent Yankee seafarer. He reassures his wife as he leaves - yes the world has changed and sailing around the Cape Horn of Africa is dangerous. However, that's his job and he's going to achieve the goal of getting the Maersk Alabama from Point A to Point B, even though he sails past the coast of Somalia.

Meanwhile, Somali desperado/fishermen are told they need to get back out on the water and earn some money. The lead Somali - Barkhad Abdi -(nicknamed Skinny) is not a trained actor, but his fierce charisma holds the screen. Sure enough, they are tech savvy and their gear plots the course of the Alabama. They approach quickly, circumvent the water hose blasts, and manage to get aboard. Captain Phillips had feared for this very incident. He had his crew doing practice drills, and then had to announce, "This is real world. Hide in the engine room." It became an outwit, outplay, outlive the terrorists real-life game.

Ultimately, the Somalis take Phillips as hostage in the small life boat. As they pilot it toward their port, a bigger brinksmanship occurs. US Naval power and Navy Seal expertise work to defuse the situation. Skinny seeks dominance over the situation. He truly believes he will get ransom money, survive, and his goal is to go live in America. Captain Phillips has faith in the Navy, and he quietly tries to create tension amongst the pirates. This earns him some beatings. The movie does not go overly political and yet there are some lines showing the level of desperation involved in Somali life for these young men.

Director Paul Greengrass excels at directing the actors and action. He ratchets tension - we feel the lack of air in the lifeboat, the thirst building, fear, and lack of control. Captain Phillips is a great modern seafaring adventure that demonstrates America's reach and power. It's also about men and a will to win and live. Climb aboard, mate, and prepare for an ocean of entertainment.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fort Worth Treats

A glorious Saturday in Fort Worth's Cultural District. Here is a sneak peak at the new Renzo Piano Pavillion. It sits opposite the Louis Kahn designed Kimbell Art Museum.  The Pavilion will house the library, auditorium, education rooms, and has underground parking. It is understated and yet elegant, and adds to the Kimbell campus. I'm looking forward to taking a tour.
 Meanwhile, at the Kimbell, there is a huge exhibit called The Age of Picasso and Matisse courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago. The show features not only Picasso and Matisse but other radicals in their day - Brancusi, Duchamp, Kandinsky, plus Dali and Miro.  Cubism and Surrealism are not my favorites, but I can appreciate the history and influence in these master works.
 Over at the Amon Carter, this Color! exhibit on American Photography is really worthwhile. At the time, serious photographers sneered at the advent of color. However, in viewing the growth and experimentation, one can see how "color can simultaneously describe objects and stand apart from these objects as pure hue." (Amon Carter program).
One final small but fascinating exhibit is Hotel Texas: Art Exhibit for President and Mrs.JFK.  The Kennedy's spent the night in Fort Worth prior to the eventful day in Dallas fifty years ago. For their stay, sixteen famous works of art were used to decorate Suite 850 of the Hotel Texas. Thirteen of these works are now on display at the Amon Carter. Apparently Mrs. Kennedy was quite "amazed by the beauty of the works, and truly appreciated the effort." The keynote piece was Thomas Eakins "Swimming".

The Fort Worth Cultural District is a treat on a lovely fall day.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNo Nutso

Friday, November 1, 2013 and I am crazy, nuts, insane. Yep - I am going to attempt a National Novel Writing Month novel.  Fifty thousand words in thirty days. Oh, it's possible. I've done it before, but then abandoned that work. By the end of November, I hated my characters, my plot, and my writing. I did not participate last year.

However, I've published non-fiction, flash fiction, and poetry. Somewhere, there is a novel inside of me. Surely I can develop a character arc that is remotely interesting to read. Okay - I think I'm already behind on my word count.

I'll keep you posted on my progress and maybe even upload some of the bizarre crap my fingers type. This could be amusing.

Gotta go NaNo now.