Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Book Review - Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

1980s suburban America - at a school for performing arts, David and Sarah fall in love, but with all the issues that adolescence brings. Between family life, academic pressures, interesting dynamics and interference from the drama teacher - Mr. Kingsley, and economic issues, there's a "spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true - though it's not false either." (cover blurb)  The final coda reveals truths.

Let's put it this way. I was interested, then confused, and then had to read the coda twice to say WTF.

Susan Choi's Trust Exercise is a challenge to read. Her characters are deep, her writing rather intellectual, and the plot line can be circular.  I got this from the library based on a good review. I am glad I did not pay for this book. My head hurt when I finished it. So much for trust....

Monday, July 29, 2019

Movie Review Madness - The Lion King

As Ray and I walked into the theater, Ray overheard a kid say to his mom, "I'm excited. It's going to be tough to not sing out loud."

Well, it wasn't that hard actually. Hakuna Matata is darn catchy. Circle of Life soars.  But I'm going to place The Lion King movie (live action CGI version) third behind the original animated version (first place), and the Broadway show (second). This movie version is good, but a bit slow, a bit ponderous, and just lacked that super wow factor I felt when I watched director Jon Favreau's version of the Jungle Book.  Kids were getting restless in the audience, and I admit I checked my watch.

The CGI filming is awesome. It's quite amazing and I appreciate that part of the movie magic. The voice acting is good - you can't go wrong with James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Eijofor is evil as Scar, Donald Glover is good as Simba, and Beyonce rules as Nala. Seth Rogen cracked me up a lot as the warthog, Pumba.

I was entertained, glad I saw it on the big screen, but there was just something missing - maybe I set my expectation bar a tad too high. I'd watch the original again in a heartbeat, this version - maybe not.   The Lion King did not ROAR in capital letters in my opinion.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Movie Review Madness: Spiderman Far From Home

Spiderman : Far From Home is really a fun Marvel summer movie break to see on the big screen. It’s big and bold, filled with humor, and truly entertaining.  I like Tom Holland a lot. He plays an innocent high school kid who has spidey powers, but he’s dorky and sweet, and still trying to figure out his role in this world.  He’s bereft after the Avengers Endgame loss of heroes. He truly misses Tony Stark and is afraid of the power and mantle bestowed upon him by Tony.

The high school kids are headed to Europe and Peter Parker just wants to be a kid, have a blast, and profess his love to MJ (the fabulous Zendaya) at the top of the Eiffel Tower on the Paris stop. Awesome, right?  Well, it turns out there is chaos breaking out all over Europe.  Peter/Spiderman is summoned by Nick Fury (oh, that Samuel Jackson) to stop it. Not too much pressure on a fun trip.
Enter – Jake Gyllenhaal (Mysterio) who seems to be able to battle the evil elements – Water, Fire, etc.  Wow – Spiderman thinks he’s found a fellow superhero to look up to and work with. Hmm.
Too good to be true?  You think?

So, the mission is crazy. Peter just wants to be a tourist. But, no…Spiderman must web sling into Venice, Prague, etc.  Who is he battling to save the Earth?  I won’t give away more.  Go see Spiderman: Far From Home and root for Peter Parker/Spiderman. And of course, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is awesome, as is Jon Favreau as Hap. So many good moments, laughs, and lines. Oh these kids. This is summer movie magic – get that tub of popcorn , a big soda. Sit back and enjoy. Stay for the whole credits to catch the two post movie clips.  Say, what??? And that’s a teaser….

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Book Review - Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. There’s a reason for the buzz and for it being on the best seller list. It’s  a book that you want to start over and read again immediately after finishing it for the first time. The blend of descriptions, characters, and plot make you want to turn pages quickly to see what’s going to happen. But then again, the blend of descriptions, characters, and plot also make you want to go slowly – savor each moment as it evolves.

From the cover blurb – For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1869 when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.

Kya’s story is told to us back and forth in time. We see her survive alone as a child, her nature knowledge a boon. She does encounter some locals. One, Tate, teaches her to read. Both have a love of the sea and have a respectful friendship. The other boy, Chase, is a player. Both young men are intrigued by her wild beauty in different ways. Back and forth the plot reels us in as the detectives work to uncover clues about Chase’s death. Did he fall from the tower, was he pushed, what’s the motive? Where are traces of evidence that could point to Kya or someone else in the town?

Cover blurb – Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of a possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Here’s a sample of the gorgeous writing – the opening lines of the book. 
Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long legged birds lift with unexpected grace – as though not built to fly – against the roar of a thousand snow geese.

Trust me folks – the book is a gem.   Wow!

P.S.  Thanks Linda Hoffman for sharing this book with me. Gotta love a fellow reader and good friend.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Monday - More Museum - Brandywine River Museum of Art

 Dad and I enjoyed our jaunt to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadd's Ford, PA.
The Wyeths had homes and studios here and in Maine.  The special exhibit this visit was on N.C. Wyeth. He was known first for his illustrations - the artwork for Treasure Island and Kidnapped are gorgeous pieces of work. He did lots of covers for magazines like Outdoor, Saturday Evening Post, and more.  More than that he wanted to be taken seriously as an artist. The collection of over seventy pieces demonstrated his wide ranging skills as a landscape artist also.  Sadly he died too young - hit by a train less than a mile from his home.
 I am a big fan of Andrew Wyeth - NC's son.  He's famous for Christina's World.  Here's a postcard of one that stuck me - Spring Fed 1967.
 Here's a postcard of the Brandywine in winter.
And some cool detail on the building.

Nifty little museum tucked in the woods of PA.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Bucolic Brandywine

 On Tuesday, Dad and I took a drive to Chadd's Ford in the Brandywine River area. Talk about PA at its finest. Living in TX,  I forget how you can get lost in the greenery and forested scenery.
 This is outside the Brandywine River Museum - featuring the works of the Wyeths - N.C., Andrew, and Jamie.   Here's a statue of a pig featured in a famous Jamie Wyeth painting.
 The Brandywine River flows along and there were kayaks and rafters enjoying a summer day.

More on Monday. Dad and I enjoyed a special art exhibit.

Until then, have a super weekend.  I need to catch up  - hang with Ray, do laundry, and maybe catch a movie too.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

I'm BACK - Late

Howdy folks
Back from my visit with my dad and we had a darn good time. Ate well. Plenty of laughs.
My flight was, of  course,  delayed, so got back later than I expected today.

Thus I'll just do a quick Wordless Wednesday pic - interesting shadow at my dad from blinds in the window to a facing doorway.

And this door is one that will actually open easily and stay open. Or if you close it, it will stay closed.
Crazy old house that could use a serious renovation. You just never know what will happen when you enter a room.  And don't try to go down the basement without a flashlight. The regular overhead lights may never turn on.

Surprises at every turn.

Cheers all - hope you've been well.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Philly Friday to Wednesday

 Tuesday was Birthday Party Project time - theme was Carnival. Fun time at the women's shelter, celebrating kids birthdays. There was face painting, balloon animals, and more.
 Speaking of birthdays - Monday July 15 will be my father's 88th birthday.  Here's the baby George
 And my dad with his father, Fred - two dapper dudes.
And here's dad three years ago.  I'm headed to Philly for a long weekend jaunt. I'll hang with my father, celebrate 88, and I'm sure we'll have some laughs. He's a tough old bird and still in his home.
Wish us luck and good cheer.

Fingers crossed my flights go as planned. Summer travel = ugh.

Take care all. Happy July and more posts late next week. I have book reviews out the wazoo.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Whatever Wednesday

 Congrats to US Women's Soccer for winning the 2019 World Cup.  Quite an achievement - 2 in a row. Outstanding!!!   And the Netherlands played well....they came in second.  England won 3rd over Sweden.  All super - equal pay for the ladies, equal pay!!!
 Arlington TX Museum of Art had an exhibit of Keith Haring - Against All Odds. Interesting work . This is a pic from the mezzanine. Interesting man and perspective. Popular in the 80s. Sadly died at age 31 from AIDS.  But his art lives on.
and a leftover from our July 4th long weekend.  Hey - a book flag!!!

Happy Wednesday.  I know I'm already for this week to be over. Had far more fun over the 4th!!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Book Review - Maid

Pacific Northwest. Stephanie Land is twenty-eight with big plans of university and a writing career. But an unplanned pregnancy derails the plans. Cover blurb: She turns to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible.

Maid is the real life story of an overworked and underpaid American. Food stamps, WIC, and other government programs help with housing and food. Aloof government employees call her lucky for receiving assistance while she doesn’t feel lucky at all. She wrote this book to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor. (cover blurb)

Land writes with heart and bares her soul. She admits her mistakes. She takes blame for some choices made. But she doesn’t apologize for trying to keep a roof over her head and caring for her daughter. She gives up food for her. She writes about the struggle for medical care for a sick baby. Stephanie was a victim of abuse and had to seek safety in a shelter. She fought to earn money to get her own place – however spare. As a “ghost” she knows a lot about her client’s lives – the richness and sadness.

Maid is an eye-opener and a powerful true story. Consider it against the backdrop of America today and ponder life for so many who work long hours for so little. It is time to clean in the corners and make life sparkle a bit for those who are stuck – down on their knees trying to get up. Scrubbing and scrubbing to make ends meet. Lots to ponder with one woman’s truth.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Movie Review Madness - Toy Story 4

The Toy Story trilogy now has a bonus episode 4 and it's just fun to go to infinity and beyond with this crew.

Woody (Tom Hanks) is a solid old school toy. He cares about his owners - first Andy, now Bonnie and it's their well being that's his world. Fearing for Bonnie on her kindergarten preview, Woody rides in her backpack, guides her quietly, and is pleased when she creates Forky (Tony Hale).

Her favorite new toy, Forky is not convinced and seeks the trash bin whenever he can. The animation, voicing, etc is hilarious, and Woody works to keep everyone on suicide alert for their newest friend.

Summer road trip with Bonnie's family adds to the chaos. And who pops up but a long lost love - Bo-Peep (Annie Potts) who's escaped an antique store and is quite the modern woman. Toys need rescuing. Who knew Charlie McCarthy dolls could be so creepy and villainous?  And what will Woody give up for the sake of another toy?

Toy Story 4 is poignant, raucous, funny, and all about family - the need to be loved. The voice characterizations are great (listen for Key and Peele - oh the riffs!), and of course Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is a solid helper for Woody.  Ray and I enjoyed this "kid movie" a lot. It's fizzy fluff for the summer movie season.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy July 4th

Happy 4th of July.  We'll be sizzling in Texas.
Stay safe and independent

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book Review - Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant has her inappropriate social skills. She has a meal schedule, she phones her Mummy (that's trouble right there), she doesn't want friends or interaction. But she meets Raymond at work. He's a bumbling IT dude who doesn't care about her weirdness or issues.  He wants to chat, hang out, and fall in love.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is quirky. It's the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and wit will make for an irresistible journey as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart.  (cover blurb)

This book is funny, sad, interesting, and amusing all at once.  You really root for and care about Eleanor and it's also easy to worry and fret that she'll be let down again.  Hang in there and enjoy the book and her journey.  You know what?  You'll be fine.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Book Review - Joy in the Morning

Wow - If you read a Tree Grows in Brooklyn, then you will enjoy Joy in the Morning.

Betty Smith wrote this timeless classic and it's an "unsentimental yet radiant and powerfully uplifting tale of young hearts and marriage."  (cover blurb)

It's 1927 Brooklyn.  Carl and Annie meet and marry. They are only eighteen - so young and naive. He's going to law school, she's making a home or trying to. And they are learning about each other and life itself.  Hardship and poverty can be conquered by perseverance, loyalty, and love. It would have been easy to quit. It's much harder to hang tough. This book is rather corny in style, but you have to consider the time for its creation - 1950s values.

Nonetheless, it imparts valuable lessons and solid characters who can survive no matter the time period.  It's awesome to find an oldie but goody.

Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith survives the test of time.