Friday, July 31, 2020

Book Review - The Order by Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva's 20th book, The Order, featuring Gabriel Allon (Israeli spy, art restorer, reluctant hero) is another winner thriller. Silva is spot-on with world events, issues, and crises, all with the splendid back-drop of Italy. I enjoyed re-living Venice, Rome, and Assisi  and the mysteries of the Vatican and the Catholic Church.

Gabriel and family are on a much needed vacation. Alas, duty calls. His friend Archbishop Luigi Donati summons him. A favorite pope is dead (a heart attack? Hmm). More likely murder. The Swiss Guard at the papal apartment is missing. And so is a fateful letter and book that could change history. Plus there's a shadowy Catholic society with ties to the far right - The Order hopes to seize control of the papacy with paid votes at the conclave.

Secret Archives. Sistine Chapel. A little murder. Some mayhem. Silva's strength is Gabriel Allon, always world weary, collected, burdened with Jewish history, seeking to protect what's good in the world. He's backed by his amazing team of tech wizards operating out of Israel, and always appearing when the time is right. Plot twists galore keep the The Order's pages turning. And when you finish reading, you ask...what's next for Gabriel Allon? No doubt,  Daniel Silva is brewing up number twenty-one. Whew!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wednesday Whatever - Baseball is Back?

Take me out to the ballgame....

Sorry, the brand new stadium is closed to the public

Take me out to the crowds

Nope - ew.....germs

Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack   (or hotdogs and nachos and beer, please)

Yogi Berra, always good with a bon mot on baseball:
You can observe a lot by watchin'
Ninety percent of the game is half mental
Slump? I ain't in no slump, I just ain't hitting

Casey Stengel - They didn't give him a cake. They were afraid he'd drop it. 

2020 - weirdest summer on record.  The boys of summer are back playing to fake crowd noise, cardboard cutouts of fans, etc.  But it's a sport. It's on TV and Ray's watching his Rangers. Somehow there's always hope of World Series glory.

Meanwhile, the pictures show past glory days of season openers and playoff attendance. Notice the smiles - hey, it's baseball. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Book Review - My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

From the author (Fredrik Backman)  of the lovely A Man Called Ove (previously reviewed), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is a funny, accurate, human heart tale. Life, death, and the right to be different - Backman writes a very sweet story.

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her best friend is her Granny who's a bit strange herself.  But Else takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land of Almost Awake, etc. Nobody has to be normal. Alas Granny dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged. Elsa's greatest adventure begins and instructions lead her to an apartment building filled with misfits, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones, but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms.  (cover blurb)

Every seven year old deserves a superhero.  (page 1) Enjoy the twists and turns of each chapter. The intertwined people connections, and the strength of Elsa and her late grandmother pull together for quite a finale. Elsa is quite smart for her age, but is still a little girl who needs family. She learns a lot about the past, and also how she'll deal with her future.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is a very fun, entertaining read with laugh out loud moments. Backman has a style - a bit quirky, but great timing. This is a breezy summer read. Thanks to my friend, Linda Hoffman, for passing this along. Quite a treat.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Book Review - The Broker by John Grisham

Summer poolside brain - don't want to think too much sometimes. You can count on John Grisham for solid writing, fast moving plot, and some surprise twists along the way. The Broker from 2005 was a bargain book find that's been hanging in my pile. It fulfilled all expectations.

Joel Backman gets a last minute pardon from an idiot president. However, the pardon was pushed by the CIA. Backman, bigtime broker, has secrets that compromise a satellite surveillance system. The CIA is counting on leaking info and seeing who gets to Backman first - Israelis, Russians, Chinese, or Saudis?

Settled in Italy with a new identity, Joel knows he's a target. Now, how's he going to survive? How's he going to be the broker he once was, thriving on power gyrations?

This was a fun read - page turning adventure. And you'll be hungry for Italian food by the end.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Wednesday Whatever - Time

Happy Wednesday and some random chat.

Last Wed. was Dad's birthday and he did enjoy birthday week. Here he is on Saturday with his slab of cake after lunch with my sister, brother and his wife. The smile says it all. Then he had a good snooze.

Something you won't snooze through is The Old Guard on Netflix. Action, time travel, and Charlize Theron - what's not to like?  She's Andromache (Andy), the leader of a small gang of ageless mercenary warriors. Centuries of bouncing through time and not dying takes its toll. The group specializes in heroic extractions -like rescuing kidnapped girls in the desert.  A young soldier (KiKi Layne) joins as the latest immortal and has to learn this new life.  Well filmed with heart, this movie is kick-ass without being berserk. (Time review 7/20) Theron's lanky, boots-and jeans willowy grandeur suits perfectly. The Old Guard is the action movie we didn't know we wanted. Old guard, meet vanguard. 

(Time 7/20)  The best comedies often come with a whisper of melancholy, an acknowledgment that so much in life is a leap of faith.  Palm Springs fits the bill - unhinged on Hulu. Andy Samberg is goofy Nyles - wears shorts to a wedding, drinks like crazy, and notices Sarah (Cristin Milioti), sister of the bride drowning her sorrows in wine.  Nyles is stuck in a time loop - he keeps reliving the same day and can rework it as he wishes. Sarah gets stuck with him and then they try to break out of it.

The movie is light and ultimately about love. Sick of each other? Nyles says, "That's the best."

Time - I spend it watching tv, going to work, reading, and swimming.  If we could all time travel - would we go back in time and try to stop the pandemic?  Or leap forward and see where this all ended - better, worse?  Tough call. I guess I'll just hang here with a remote in my hand.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Monday Moments - Obligations and Forgiveness

 RIP - John Lewis.  The man was a leader, knocked down, got back up, and was/is respected for his many years on earth. Peaceful protester with Martin Luther King Jr.  He leaves a legacy. I liked this quote.

I watched an author talk 6/18/20 and read this book - The Gift of Forgiveness by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt (yes,  daughter of Arnold and Maria and wife of actor Chris Pratt).

The book was okay - the interviews and stories told were interesting. But the author summation was a bit generic and almost too easy. There was not a lot of depth.  It's probably better to actually read the memoirs or works of those featured in this compilation.

I did enjoy the author talk. Katherine S.P.  was very personable and I think her caring and interest on the subject of forgiveness came through better.  She interviewed Elizabeth Smart who forgave her captors; Sue Klebold learned to forgive herself after her son Dylan was a Columbine shooter. Mark Kelly, powerful as an astronaut, but powerless when wife Gabby, a Senator, was shot, discusses his anger and now motivation.

The point of the book is to understand that forgiveness is a gift to understand your own self. You need to take control - allow it to empower your own freedom.  The author spoke how folks don't talk about forgiveness, but it needs a support system.  Everyone's pain, hurt is different and it's your own validation.  "Hurry up and Move on" is not always the best solution.  To accept or acknowledge an apology is very different from forgiveness. (Remember school playground days)

I've posted this book/author review together with a salute to John Lewis because I'm imagining that he's had to forgive many. Forgiveness made him stronger and more resolute through the years. I'd say it's not "forgive and forget" - it's forgive and use that power for a better you and world.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Jubilee Theater - How I Got Over....streaming style

I've written about the Jubilee Theater in Fort Worth before. They feature black performers, and original shows with a message - very positive - Black Lives Matter.

In this case, How I Got Over, has a 1968 story with a back drop of gospel music. It's a fantastic production with superb actors and fabulous voices. And when the show had to stop live performances, they got on board with streaming. I jumped at the chance and enjoyed a Friday night in the comfort of my own office computer.  It was way beyond worth the twenty dollar ticket.

It's an Easter Sunday, 1968, and MLK has just been killed. The background involves protest (gee, sound familiar - do we ever learn?) and Niecy has returned to her hometown church. She's greeted warmly by some and suspiciously by others - Mama ain't happy. Lots of underlying family tension, and Niecy has to defend herself for making a stand.  Praise for some old church tunes - Precious Lord, Move On Up a Little Higher, His Eye Is on the Sparrow, and When the Saints Go Marching In.

This is a high energy, hand clapping, foot stomping, soul stirring show.  (show blurb)
I agree and I've always loved and supported the talent at this theater. I sure hope they can stay afloat and keep bringing us musical theater that matters.

Support your local town arts however you can!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Book Review - The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Old fashioned clocks required winding. Today we spring forward or backward.

In Kate Morton's The Clockmaker's Daughter, at times you'll wonder if time is spinning out of control. Back in time to Edward, Lily, Lucy. Forward to Elodie, Pippa,  Jack, and Alistair. And in between to Lauren, Juliet, Tip. So many layers - I cannot begin to describe this book except to say you must keep turning the pages.

Opening blurb - We came to Birchwood Manor because Edward said that it was haunted. It wasn't, not then, but it's a dull man who lets truth stand in the way of a good story, and Edward was never that. 

So it wasn't haunted then....

Summer 2017. Summer 1928.  Passion, love, jealousy, and more. Family dynamics, family troubles, hidden family secrets.


Trust me. Kate Morton writes a rousing, captivating book. Ignore your clock or schedule - you'll get lost in The Clockmaker's Daughter.  What is time, anyway?

Monday, July 13, 2020

Monday Moments - Italian Style

 Saturday - I ventured to Fort Worth to the Kimbell Art Museum for their special exhibit - Flesh and Blood.  Italian masterpieces were featured from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.  Nothing like the Renaissance  - the shadows and lights.  From across the room, they glow.

Nothing like a Caravaggio (The Flagellation of Christ) to make one feel holy. I worshiped in this house of art
 Poor Saint Jerome.   As you can tell - not many people were at the Kimbell. Not like a usual Saturday. Everyone wore masks, stayed respectfully apart, and there was no touching.
 Feasts.  So much going on in this picture. The wrath of God does await.
 Chiaroscuro - dramatic contrasts between light and dark.
And I liked this still life of morning glories and snow ball flowers.

So many of the still-lifes were lovely -rich table settings and yet always - a goat's head plopped in the middle. Not appetizing to me.

I enjoyed my time at the Kimbell and the step back to the late 1500s - 1600s.  Art enriches the soul.
Then home for a lazy swim on a very hot day - our pool is now mid-90s. Whew!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Friday Fun Promotion - Grace and Serenity by Annalisa Crawford

sneak peek:  Here’s something I’ve never told anyone—one of those memories you bury deep down and hope you’ll realise it was never a real event but something you once saw on TV.
     I abandoned my daughter in a supermarket.

amazon book blurb:

Living on the streets is terrifying and exhausting. Grace’s only comforts are a steady stream of vodka, and a strange little boy who’s following her around.

At nineteen, Grace has already had a child and endured an abusive marriage. But she’s also had her baby abducted by her vengeful husband and been framed as a neglectful mother. Even her own parents doubted her version of the story. So she did the only thing that made sense to her—run away.

The streets are unforgiving. Winter is drawing in. And Grace isn’t prepared for the harsh realities of survival. At her very bleakest, a Good Samaritan swoops into her life and rescues her. With a roof over her head and food in her stomach, she longs to see her baby again.

But nothing ever comes for free.

I am happy to promote Annalisa Crawford's new book Grace & Serenity. I admit I have not read it yet, but the book blurb and sneak peek whet the appetite. Her previous books and her blog demonstrate her ability to pull you in and keep you turning pages. Thus I trust this is as another winner. 

Congrats to her for continued writing success and check it out on Amazon, et al.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Wednesday Moment - Age 94

 Me with Aunt Janice
 Me, Lori, cousin Rob, Dad and Mom, Uncle Bill and Aunt Janice
 Aunt Janice and Uncle Bill
Dad (little brother) and Aunt Janice (big sis)

July 4th 2020, my Aunt Janice passed peacefully, after having lunch, at age 94

She was a stupendous sweet person. Always upbeat and perky, dressed to the nines. She taught geometry for a zillion years, and former students still came to see her - even in the nursing home.

It was time.  She shall be missed.

Love and Hugs

Monday, July 6, 2020

Monday Moments - Art at the Amon Carter

 Ray and I were lucky to have an adventure back on June 18th. I chose to take a vacation day and, fortunately, the Amon Carter Museum chose to have a members only welcome back opening. I was initially concerned but it was "everyone wear a mask" and obviously "don't touch art or anything". The electronic doors opened up and we walked into to greet old and new friends - i.e. favorite art work, plus new exhibits.  And there was NO ONE there. It was like a private museum tour.

So, we enjoyed Eliot Porter photographs in a special exhibit. He worked for over fifty years and went to great lengths to share a bird"s eye view of the world. Lovely
 The Perilous Adventures of Mark Dion proved interesting. Here he traced multiple Texas trails to gather flora, fauna, and take photos. He basically retraced historic trails and brought to life the worlds artists and scientists, journalists, and explorers introduced us to and were able to educate the masses
 James Spurls - Seven and Seven Flowers - nifty sculpture on display
And an assortment of European artists who fled and worked in America were featured in an exhibit.

All together, Ray and I enjoyed our hour or so of strolling the Amon Carter. It's a delightful museum in the arts district and I hope it can stay open safely.  Wear the mask, stay social distance, and for heaven's sake - Don't Touch!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Flashback 4th - Orange Beach AL

Two years ago - a life time ago. OMG - we had so much fun. I love the beach. The Gulf was lovely. We ate well. Hung out. Swam. Watched fireworks.

No cares in the world.

July 4th 2020 Style.  Ray and I are lucky. We have a beautiful home with a wonderful backyard and pool. We shall rest, relax, grill, float, watch Netflix, be lazy, and watch the Hamilton movie (ME!).

I wish everyone good health during this July 4th weekend.  Stay safe. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What's in Your Queue?

When I'm not at work, I am reading, swimming, and of course, sitting on my butt with the clicker. I admit to lacking concentration these days, so I do scroll more and can't seem to settle as well on a series.  So, what's in your queue?

I am very very excited for Hamilton the Movie this Friday.  I LOVED the stage production. I love the music.  Ray... dibs on the big screen.

Speaking of Disney Plus, Ray and I are plowing through the Star Wars movies in order. We both had missed some through the years and I didn't "get" a bunch of stuff. Now, it's making sense to me.
Our achievements:
I Phantom Menace
II Attack of the Clones
III Revenge of the Sith
Rogue One
IV  A New Hope
V  Empire Strikes Back
VI Return of the Jedi
VII Force Awakens
VIII Last Jedi
and one to go -   IX Rise of Skywalker
We've also watched Mandalorian and liked that a lot.  Aren't you proud of us?

I've also revisited oldie faves - Lady and the Tramp,  and Tangled

The documentary Athlete A is superb - it's about the gymnastic scandal that affected all of those girls. Quite a tale and truly sad. As we cheered them on, the behind the scenes story was shocking.

Ray and I ripped through Ozark.  Now read that Season 4 will be the grand finale. Man, they are some evil people. I love Ruthie the best.

Will Ferrell's latest is really silly - it tickled my funny bone  Eurovision - Rise of Fire Saga. Iceland, music. He's Lars. Rachel McAdams is Sigrit. Worst singers ever to be in the competition. What could go wrong?

Mrs. America - quite good.  Rose Byrne is great as Gloria Steinem. Cate Blanchett - icy cold as Phyllis Schlafly.

Just started Atlanta - I like Donald Glover.

Started Upload - it's quirky weird. I find Amazon annoying to use - just not as friendly as Netflix.

So, how are you folks using your time?  Any major binge achievements?
I'll take suggestions.

Happy Wednesday. We're soaring to index heat numbers over 100...heck yeah, I'll be watching more television. Stay cool.