The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall is a
hoot. This book has Southern flair, a dynamo heroine, and a unique
family. I chuckled out loud multiple times, and was also surprised
at very simple twists and turns. I think the cover blurb gives you the
full flair and gist of the book:
Ten year-old Willow Haven is obsessed with the fear that
her mother, Polly, will die. Polly – a take-no-prisoners Southerner who lives
to drink margaritas and antagonize the neighbors in their small Texas town –
was in her late fifties when Willow was born. Willow knows she’s here by
accident, and she is desperate for clues about all that preceded her,
especially Polly’s secret past. The Book of Polly is a hilarious
and bittersweet story about the grip of love in a truly quirky family – it’s a
page turning battle royale…where the weapon of choice is love.
A friend lent me this book. I recommend you look for it in
your library or, what the heck, find it on Amazon. It’s got heart and humor – a
fun summer read. Enjoy!
Went to the nicest show last Saturday. The Fort Worth Symphony presented an abbreviated version of their regular program at 11 am. As part of the Family series, it was the Superhero, Juniors. Kids could wear their costumes - lots of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. ( I wore my Underdog T-shirt. Yeah, I'm that old). The show was only 45 minutes - just right for ages 4 to teen. Ticket prices were $15.00.!
The place was packed. This was a bargain and so entertaining. The conductor gave great intros to the tunes. He had folks clap who were first time symphony goers - there were a lot. It was an excellent way to let folks see and hear a symphony in a relaxed environment. And frankly, the place stayed quiet. You could hear some kid voices and questions, but in their "indoor" voices.
The themes soared - Captain America, Avengers, Wonder Woman, a step back to Lone Ranger, Batman, and I enjoyed the Incredibles music. And of course the finale was Hans Zimmer's creation Man of Steel....Superman.
Look in your own backyard - the arts are not unobtainable. And I had to smile - two little boys behind me kept asking their dad before the show began, "Is this only music? Really...and we have to sit still? No videos?" They did sit still and they did enjoy the "only music".
Searching is quite different in a good way. We
first meet the Kim family via pictures, videos, their phone interaction. We see
the good times and sadly the bad, as the mother gets reminders for doctor
appointments, and then is in the hospital, and then she’s gone. From there the
movie depicts life in texts with the dad played by John Cho and his daughter
Margot, a high school student. Only child, pianist, gets decent grades. The
interaction via facetime and texts seem “normal”. That is until, Margot
doesn’t respond. And then she’s not home. And very quickly Dad is worried. He
phones the police, alerts are put out, and the detective (played by Debra
Messing) suggests he dig deeper into her phone and laptop. Find friends,
get the scoop.
Keep in mind, this movie is playing out with us seeing
computer/phone/facetime/facebook/ etc.responses. Sounds weird, but it works.
And as he digs he questions if he even knows his daughter. I won’t give away
any more, but of course there is banking, money flow. There’s a lot of questions
for boys and girls alike – who knew Margot? There’s questions on data
manipulation and friendships made on the internet – what’s real or not?
Searching has a ton of twists and turns and
the suspense builds with each text, each new finding, each new avenue on the
internet. John Cho is excellent as the very worried father. You want him to
keep digging, don’t give up, and trust me you’ll be jumping to conclusions
yourself. Who did it? Where is Margot? I suggest you seek out a theater
and find out. Enjoy!
doesn’t believe Bubba can dig a hole to China. But when the hole swallows them,
the kids find themselves in Xi’an, China, surrounded by Terracotta Warriors.
It gets worse when the ghost of the first emperor of China
appears. He tells them they can’t go home until they find his missing pi. The
kids don’t know where to begin until they meet a girl and her grandmother who
promise to help find the pendant.
Soon they realize they are being followed. And they are no closer
to finding the missing pi. Will Bubba and Squirt ever make it back home?
About the Author: Sherry Ellis is an
award-winning author and professional musician who plays and teaches the
violin, viola, and piano. When she is not writing or engaged in musical
activities, she can be found doing household chores, hiking, or exploring the
world. Ellis, her husband, and their two children live in Atlanta, Georgia.
Here But Not Here by Lillian Ross is a
non-fiction memoir about her life with William Shawn and her time with The
New Yorker magazine. She was a renowned writer, Shawn was the fabled
editor, and together there was a forty year love affair. He remained married to
his wife and Lillian Ross respected that marriage. The wife knew about Ross and
gave the relationship her blessing. Yes, this is a bit bizarre to contemplate,
and yet it worked. She felt she had a “normal” life and never dated others,
never considered her “single” life sad. She did not make demands of Shawn. The
time they could spend together at work and go out in New York City proved
enough. He did not shirk his kids, etc. This was a case for him of
being immersed in love – a married love, and an amazing connection love.
The book covers the 1950s to Shawn’s death in 1992. Ross
writes about meeting Shawn, her respect for him, her writing career, her time
in Hollywood covering a John Huston film, and her life in New York. Here
But Not Here is fascinating. It’s not creepy weird. Yes, real
life is stranger than fiction. And so is love. They had an intellectual
connection that transcended conventions.
Lillian Ross’s descriptions of being a writer for The
New Yorker, her respect for the magazine and it’s writers, her respect
for the editors is rather interesting and pertinent for today. The amount
of work and editing and quality required was enormous. I’ve read other books by
Ross – i.e. a collection of her articles and essays. She’s a talent, and this
book – a memoir – is well done. Quite a tale!
I was recently back East and caught up with my friends at Helen's shore home.
l-r Terri, Joan, Lisa, Trish, Me, Helen (Mary Ellen is photographer)
We took turns and read The Trumpeter's New Clothes by Robyn Alana Engel/ illustrated by Steve Ferchaud aloud. Each of us read two pages each and showed the pictures. Plenty of guffaws, chuckles, and comments galore. And then at the end....applause. Everyone was in awe of this book and planned to buy a copy (or two)
Trumpeter is a modern day spin on Hans Christian Andersen's classic children's tale, The Emperor's New Clothes. The story it tells in rhyme is current, topical, hilarious, and ends in a very heartfelt message. The illustrations are fantastic.
Robyn Alana Engel is a talented writer with a way of looking at our world with wisdom and passion. I highly recommend this book despite some Fake Quotes about this book - i.e. The fake arthur is a - you know a total looser, a total looser! Sad! - King
Crazy Rich Asians met all expectations based on
previews. Great cast, good story, some depth, and gorgeous backdrop. It’s a
rich film to see on the big screen. Huge thumbs up. It’s directed by Jon
M. Chu adapted from Kevin Kwan’s novel. It’s a swoon worthy romance. Funny, poignant,
and entertaining. Constance Wu is Rachel Chu – Chinese American economics
professor from Queens who grew up with a single mom. She’s achieved the
American dream. Dating Nick Young (handsome Henry Golding) after a year, he
wants her to join him in a trip to Singapore to meet the family. He’s a best
man in a wedding. Should be a fun trip….
Turns out Nick comes from mega wealth – a Singapore dynasty.
Rachel is the interloper – an American who has no clue. The film covers the
visit. When Nick’s mother Eleanor (the fantastic Michelle Yeoh) meets Rachel,
the icy reception is hard to miss. But Nick is so in love, he’s sure that
Rachel will charm his grandmother, mother, and family. Oh dear, that’s sweet
but so naïve. There’s a lot more depth to the story – the bachelor and
bachelorette parties, the backstabbing Singapore family, the welcoming family,
Rachel’s old college friend (and true support), and the on-screen energy
between Nick and Rachel. This film works and you root and cringe as the
story plays out. There is a lot more to the story – power, parentage, values,
money, and love. Singapore looks gorgeous. The concept of really, really rich
is brought to the screen. But money doesn’t always buy happiness or security as
we see in some side stories.
The key is Nick and Rachel and they are really good
together. Go see Crazy Rich Asians and root for them. This
is such a nice end to summer movie season – a film with culture, conflict,
passion, and fun film making. Aah…young love……..
From the Corner of the Oval by Beck
Dorey-stein is a memoir that takes you behind the scenes inside the Obama
White House. Now, don’t tune out here. This has some political overtones, but
it’s not going to beat you over the head. The key to this is the inside look at
just working in a presidency – being in the White House, riding in Air Force
One, blending into the background to record history. Beck Dorey-Stein answers a
Craigslist ad and ends up in 2012 working as a stenographer in the Oval Office.
Cover blurb – The ultimate D.C. outsider, she joins the
elite team who accompany the president wherever he goes, recorder and mic in
hand. On whirlwind trips across time zones, Beck forges friendships with a
dynamic group of fellow travelers – young men and women who, like her, leave
their real lives behind to hop aboard Air Force One in service of the
This book is rather fascinating. It’s quite a life to work
24/7 for our president, whomever is in office. There’s glamour, drama,
intrigue, and a lot of protocol. There are hook-ups, plenty of alcohol, and
then amazing moments – chances to see places that the normal , average American
will never experience. The author writes with the right amount of awe – she did
appreciate her opportunity to witness history and be a part of our government
in action. She was also young and I got a tad tired of her obsession with
Jason – a total cad and jerk who knew how to play all of the ladies. I skimmed
a bit when he was in the picture. But overall – the book has merit. She
got very good at blending in with plants and/or finding a corner to record the
transcript moment (tough to do in an Oval Office). Good book with a
Support local theater. Yep - I'm saying it again. A Sunday at the Jubilee Theater in Fort Worth TX was good for the soul. It was like going to church - 1930s, a cheap hotel backdrop, it's dusk to dawn, and oh they are singing the blues.
Songs by Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and more - look at that list. I'm not up on my blues, but the singer/actors at the Jubilee brought this show to life. Chelsea Bridgman, Jamall Houston, Natalie King, and Cherish Robinson had fabulous voices full of heart, soul, and guts.
The sets and production are rich, the theater is small, but the voices are big. All I can say is WOW!
Go find a live show to experience. You don't have to pay a fortune to appreciate so much talent.
Eighth Grade. Junior High. Age thirteen. Any
fond memories of junior high? No?? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I don’t
know about you folks, but junior high for me was a mouthful of braces, bad
skin, dorky glasses, bad greasy hair, and barely in a bra. (Too much
information, but hey, we’re adults now.) Writer/director Bo Burnham
captures the horror perfectly in the film Eighth Grade. This film
is Oscar worthy, and the performance by Elsie Fisher (Kayla) is spot-on
perfect. In ninety minutes, Burnham presents the final week of eighth
grade. Kayla is voted Most Quiet much to her chagrin. She’s invited (by the
mom) to one of the “cool” girl’s birthday swim party. She comes out in a one
piece – slightly chubby – and looks around at all of the girls in two piece
bikinis. It’s a slow death moment. (I’ve been there).
Kayla’s a smart girl, cute, and as you watch the movie you
know she’s going to be fine. She’ll hit her stride in high school and truly
blossom in college. But for now – this week – is filled with the anguish,
torture, uncertainty, and naïve hope that is being thirteen. And there’s boys.
‘Nuff said. They are idiots. But there’s the super cute one voted “Best Eyes”,
and she wants his attention.
Plus Kayla is being raised by her father (Josh Hamilton)
who’s at a loss for how to deal with a kid becoming a woman. He’s used to the
adoring little girl. Now he’s got a teen who rolls her eyes, grits her teeth,
and stares at her phone. Anything he says is wrong. He’s helpless but cares so
much. Fortunately there is a moment in the movie near the end where he says the
right thing, has the right amount of silence, listens, and the love of a
father/daughter shines through.
Ninety minutes of moments are captured perfectly. Eighth
Grade is excellent quiet film making. I chuckled, I squirmed, I
re-lived some of the horror, and I was grateful to NOT have grown up in the age
of social media. It’s a cold cruel world at thirteen. This film is
Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh
transports you to 1950s Kenya. The British Empire is fading and sweeping change
rumbles. Rachel returns to her home after six years in an exile of sorts. She
was sent to live in England with a stodgy aunt and uncle after her mother is killed
in a car crash. Now graduated, a young lady, she’s eager to dig her hands into
her late mother’s garden, ride her horse over the lands she loved as a kid, and
breathe in the air, hear the hoots, growls, and haunting howls of the animals.
Swahili phrases return to her, and she’s eager to resume her African life.
But alas, many changes cause upheaval. Her father’s new
companion is an intolerant woman who’s removed traces of Rachel’s mother and
appears to resent Rachel’s return.
Cover blub – The political climate of the country is
growing more unsettled every day. Looming over them all is the threat of the
Mau Mau – a secret society intent on uniting the Africans and overthrowing the
whites. As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home, she initiates a
secret relationship. One that will demand from her an act of betrayal. But she
has some secrets of her own. Her knowledge brings her power.
The author obviously did research to bring this fictional
story to life. I found the backdrop fascinating and the characters are rich.
You root for Rachel to find her footing, redeem the hard work her mother put
into embracing Kenya and its people, and you root for Rachel to overcome evil
forces (hint – I’m talking within her own household family) and survive. The
leopard represents a silent, lurking, smart creature that might not be seeking
your best interest. Beware of footsteps in the night.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann is a
non-fiction work of literary journalism that reads like a mystery. It
concerns the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI.
Cover blurb – In the 1920s, the richest people per capita
in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. Oil was discovered
beneath their land and the money poured out of the earth into a life of
mansions and cars.
Then the murders began. We see the story from the viewpoint
of Mollie Burkhart as her sisters became prime targets and relatives were shot
and poisoned. Others in the Osage nation died under mysterious circumstances,
and even those doing investigations ended up dead. The death toll rose and the
overall case was taken up by the new FBI and young director, J. Edgar Hoover.
Hoover turned to Tom White, a former Texas Ranger. He in turn used an
undercover team that included a Native American agent. They infiltrated this
last remnant of the Wild West, and together with the Osage began to expose one
of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Gann’s research is thorough and his writing is clean. You
meet the characters, learn the backgrounds, and are invested in the Osage and
their families. Not everyone is clean and pure, but the cold hearted deaths are
inexcusable. This book shoots straight in its presentation, and the words will
pierce your heart. Killers of the Flower Moon is an
Mission Impossible – Fallout is incredible
movie making and a top notch addition to the whole series. Tom Cruise (plays
Ethan Hunt) is aging but still believable as he foils the plot of M16 operative
turned anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Cruise dives, dashes, zooms,
careens, and also climbs into a helicopter. His derring-do stunts are legendary
and gasp worthy. His sidekicks played by Ving Rhames (Luther), Simon Pegg
(Benji), and Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa) are reliable and add some humor and drama
to the movie.
There are plenty of double-triple crosses. Vanessa
Kirby’s White Widow brings a lot of energy to the film – is she good or bad?
Henry Cavill’s CIA operative is assigned to shadow the group. Oh, he’s a
cool cucumber and there are some tight scenes with Cruise. Angela Bassett is a top
dog and she and Alec Baldwin go toe to toe in regards to the departmental power
struggle. There’s plutonium out there with the potential for disaster. Tick
Lots of travel, action, kick moves, and more. The plot
almost goes too quick – I had to think a bit to keep track of who was doing
what to whom and why? But there’s heart in this film too – some golden moments
with Ethan and his people demonstrating a little fatigue, some world weary
concern. Whew! This is a quality summer blockbuster. Cruise runs and runs,
defies gravity at times, hangs from a rope, and more. He is his own mission
impossible against time. But I recommend you use your time to see MI
Joanne Faries, originally from the Philadelphia area, lives in Texas with her husband Ray. She considers herself fortunate to be able to pursue a writing career after eons in the business world. Joanne enjoys reading and movies, and is the film critic for the Little Paper of San Saba.