Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Book Review - Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

 Cover blurb that captures attention - In World War II Italy, Love Was Worth Spying For

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan is a fictionalized version of a young man's true story from WWII Italy.  There are far more tales of Germany, Poland, and France. But Italy had some incredible dark hours and Pino Lella was a teenage in love who had no skin in the game until he DID.  He joined an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps. 

Then, after enlisting as a German soldier, Pino ended up as the driver for General Hans Leyers - a right hand man to Hitler. As a spy for the Allies, inside the High Command, Pino holds a lot of responsibility. Yet, he's still a teen in love.  The author captures all of the emotions of a teen in flux with the backdrop of war and the pressures involved.  We see Pino grow into a man, endure the horrors of war, be involved in death, and fight to live. 

This is a page turning saga and amazing that it's based on a real man. The author did his research, met and talked with Pino Lella, and captured a time and place in history that will live forever.  Well done!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Monday Moment - Beverly Cleary

 Thank you, Beverly Cleary, for your beautiful gifts of books that brightened so many childhoods. Ramona, Beezus, Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Ralph S. Mouse—like old family friends.

This sums it up.  Kids will read Beverly Cleary's work forever (I hope.)  Classic kid tales. 

I have fond memories of her works.  And I remember sharing/reading this books with younger son, Kevin. Always fun and a good laugh. 

Rest in Peace, Beverly Cleary

She passed at age 104 - wow. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Finally Friday - Fling your Hat in the Air

That time of year again - Spring Fling at the Dallas Arboretum
Field of Tulips to tiptoe through (well, around)
Gotta tell ya - after February Icemageddon, I feared for the arboretum.  And yes, even the professionals, could not ward off Mother Nature.  In many corners of the grounds, brown frozen leaves looked like death. You can tell, the workers are slowly removing the official dead shrubs. That's quite sad - especially one particular area that used to have some huge cactus - now gone. 
But - plenty of bulbs decided to bloom, and the dogwoods exploded.
Like all of us after 2020 and now into 2021, nature is poking its head out, peering around to see if it's safe, and then emerging in full bloom. 

Hope you can get out and enjoy a colorful (safe) weekend!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Book Review - Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

 Started Early, Took My Dog is a very weird, slightly annoying book.  I am not recommending it. I am saving you from seeing the author's name and thinking, "Oh her writing is so good. I'll pick this one."

Indeed, I was at our library's book sale, perusing titles, and saw Kate Atkinson's name. "Why yes, this will be worth a dollar."  Um, nah. 

Atkinson's writing is really good and she kept me turning pages because I wanted to know what the heck was going on.  Tracy Waterhouse, a security guard, makes a crazy mad purchase. Tilly, an elderly actress on the brink of her own disaster, is a witness. Jackson Brodie, a detective, finds people. 

cover blurb Variously accompanied, pursued, or haunted by neglected dogs, unwanted children, and keepers of dark secrets, soon all three will learn that the past is never history - and that no good deed goes unpunished. 

Sounds intriguing?  Nah - just confusing and I didn't really like these people. That's a problem. 

Sorry, Kate - you might be a brilliant writer, but this was in the bargain bin for a reason. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Monday Moments

Happy Monday
Thought this meme was very funny.  Indeed, now I wonder if I've reached the point where this writer has "jumped the shark" ?   Cliff hanger.    To Be Continued

 Treated myself to a Friday movie night and streamed on demand - Promising Young Woman.  It's up for various Oscars, so I was curious.  Whoa - not light and fluffy entertainment, which I did know from reading some reviews.  Carey Mulligan (whom I've always liked) is flawless in her role as Cassie. 

We first see her very drunk in a bar and some guys are talking trash about her. One guy acts concerned and offers her a ride home. Well, he does not have the best intentions, but oops, he picked the wrong gal.  Turns out, Cassie is seeking revenge for her friend Nina, after an incident occurred in Medical School.  Think frat party gone bad.  Now in her thirties, Cassie works in a coffee shop, still lives at home, and deliberately looks for trouble to teach men a lesson. 

Anger, revenge, blackmail, and comeuppance. An underbelly of issues. 

Through it all, Mulligan is so good. She's pretty and her soulful eyes can speak paragraphs. A spectrum of emotions cross her face in this film. Promising Young Woman is worthy of its nominations and I'm glad I saw it. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Book Review - Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 I sought out some serious reading when I picked Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  It's a short book but packs a wallop. 

Back cover blurb by Toni Morrison - Its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory. This is required reading. 

Ta-Nehisi writes this book to and for his fifteen year old son.  cover blurb - "This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it."

The author asks questions about how to reckon with black history and free themselves from the burden. He shares his awakening through experiences at Howard University, Civil War battlefields, from travels - the South Side of Chicago to Paris. Coates reports, he confronts the present, he illuminates the past, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.  (back blurb)

This is a tough read. I marked a lot of pages and reread paragraphs. I shall probably re-read this book in the near future to digest it further. He writes of a whole other world than I know, and it's striking. It made me think and I need to think more. 


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Book review - Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben

 I shuffled through various books a friend swapped with me. I needed a no-brainer entertaining read. Harlan Coben is a reliable writer and Don't Let Go filled the bill. Fast paced, this book churns with action and emotion. Coben fleshes out his characters and hasn't become a lazy writer. He still explores secrets, lies, and maintains suspense. 

New Jersey suburbs - Detective "Nap" Dumas hasn't been the same since high school. His twin brother, Leo, and Leo's girlfriend, Diana, were found dead on the railroad tracks. Nap's true love, Maura,  disappeared. 

cover blurb - For fifteen years, Nap has been searching  for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother's death. 

Fingerprints, an abandoned military base, childhood friends and a secret group. Nap embarks on a quest for answers - far more sinister than he dared imagine. 

I didn't let go of this book until I zoomed to the end and was surprised by the twists and turns. Thumbs up, good read.  

Monday, March 15, 2021

Monday Moments - Sheer Joy by Joanne Faries

Sheer Joy by Joanne Faries

Tiny hand plucked the bright yellow flower

love overwhelmed him

sturdy legs churned

fleet feet pitter pattered up the walk

gift for his favorite person

mom's hand outstretched

This is a friend's grandson, and her daughter posted the pic on Facebook. It just made me smile. The energy, the joy, the love.  I gathered dandelions by the boatload as a kid, and mom had a dixie cup ready - filled with water for the shortest stems ever. 

Happy Spring Forward everyone. I hope you have a good week. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Finally Friday - Reluctance - a poem

 Reluctance by Joanne Faries

Pandemic winter, yearn for spring

Now live oaks shed their leaves

Bitter frozen plants try to gather strength for blooms

I fear for our jasmine - hope for that layer of deep greenery to explode

And I


yes, I 

am reluctant to give up my hoodies, sweaters, and Uggs.  

I took comfort in hiding - cozy and warm in layers

avoiding scales

Alas, spring clothes - light materials, bright colors

it all seems too soon

I should have walked more, ate less

But truth awaits, temps rise, sun shines

no hiding in the dark under my grandmother's crocheted afghan

I must emerge

and bloom

wish me luck

don't snicker

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Whatever Wednesday

Whee - Ray and I got our shot around noon yesterday. So far, so good - no issues with the one shot J&J jab

 Whee - my new baby is very shiny.  So far I have not punched any buttons that surprised me. It wanted to go on a road trip, but instead had to settle for work. My guys gave appropriate oohs and aahs. 

Other random whatevers:

Wandavision - Ray and I finished the series and said What?  It was entertaining but we probably really didn't understand all the ramifications. Multiverse blah blah.?  Prepping us for the Scarlet Witch in the Dr. Strange movie.  Oh well, we spent twenty minutes together in the same room supporting Disney. 

Whoops - It had been over a year since a women's wellness exam. I had that on Tuesday and had to face the official scale. Yikes! Let's just say we have been eating well during the pandemic. 

and finally some Whatever quotes

The art of being Wise is the art of knowing what to overlook - William James

If man could have half his Wishes, he would double his trouble - Ben Franklin

Wit is like caviar; it should be savored in small elegant proportions, and not spread about like marmalade - Noel Coward

Happy Wednesday all. Stay safe

Monday, March 8, 2021

Monday Ruminations

 Monday Ruminations (in other words, some filler)

Let's pretend I went to the Dallas Arboretum this weekend and saw some tulips.  Folks have been posting some glimmers of spring flowers. After our snow/icemaggedon week, plants are rather crispy. A walk around the block looks a tad bleak and Ray and I are predicting that folks will lose quite a few shrubs. 

Our jasmine is quite crunchy. I just hope that down deep, they didn't freeze and that new greenery is waiting to burst through. 

Our live oak tree just announced "I'm done with all of my leaves" and proceeded to do a massive drop. Usually our "fall" is over a few weeks, not in one day.  The pile in the driveway was so huge that it drifted.  Ray and I used muscles we forgot we had with raking and cleanup. Fortunately, new green leaves seem to be hanging on, so we feel positive about our tree's survival. 

I'm very excited that tomorrow (Tuesday) I will get the Johnson & Johnson one shot jab at my local CVS. Same with Ray. We will still continue to wear masks and follow CDC guidelines, but I will feel "safer".  Fingers crossed for no reaction. 

Today I shall be picking up a new car - yep, Saturday went out to kick some tires. Ended up buying a KICKS (Nissan).  They had to find the color I wanted (Metallic red with black trim).  Sad to say goodbye to the blue Cruz - she served me well at 100K miles, but it was time - I didn't want to start pouring money into it for the "big" repairs. 

And cheers to Sunday patio time with good friends Julie, Linda, and Tom.  Linda cooked her yummy Sloppy Joes and we ate outdoors thanks to perfect weather. 

Winter fled Texas and we are zooming through spring weather and summer is on the horizon. 

Now off to work.  Happy Monday and that's it for today's ruminations. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Friday Selected Shorts - Celebrate Toni Morrison

Got the brain in gear on Saturday night and bought a ticket to a virtual DMA Arts and Letters Live program.  Selected Shorts: A Celebration of Toni Morrison was a lovely event with some excellent readings and engaging excerpts.

The host Yaa Gyasi has won many awards and her latest book is Transcendent Kingdom.  

From Broadway and television - Anika Noni Rose read an excerpt from Jazz. Lovely read and she has such soulful eyes. 

Another theater and TV award winner - Brandon J. Dirden read from Sula -  quite touching and descriptive 

My favorite  of the evening was a stand alone piece called The Dancing Mind. Joe Morton (he was Rowan- Olivia Pope's Dad on Scandal) has a voice that could just read the phone book to me.  This Emmy award winner, Tony nominated actor is powerful. 

The finale was an except from Sweetness done by Charlayne Woodard - two time Obie winner and more. 

 Toni Morrison (1931-2019) was a Pulitzer Prize winning author (Beloved), and powerful writer through the years. Name any top writing honor and she earned it, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994. Class act, commanding speaker, and activist. Her writing has made us all think through the years, as she strove to bring the black experience to the written page. 

I thank the DMA for this hour long program. It was well executed. Yes, it's more fun live with audience reaction, but virtual is better than nothing and worth the $20 ticket. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Book Review - Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

 Pick an issue, any issue these days.   Black  Lives Matter.  Covid.  And just think, not too long ago Me Too was a "thing".  Well, it is still a thing along with any and all concerns for every American. 

Catch and Kill by  Ronan Farrow is excellent, groundbreaking research that thoroughly uncovered the Harvey Weinstein sexual predator scandal. Protected by wealth, fear, and a conspiracy of silence - shadowy operatives mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threats, and more to keep this story silent.  (cover blurb)

There was a trail of clues, revealed corruptions and cover-ups from Hollywood to Washington and beyond. 

Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump (!  - seriously scum), Matt Lauer - so many men, so many women with stories - truly amazing, sad, awe-inspiring in regards to the women who came forward. This book reflects many years of abuse that is beyond ridiculous and frankly, unacceptable.  Me Too has a lot of work to do, but this is a grand start. 

cover blurb - Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook our culture. 

Really good read.  And I truly hope for the sake of Ray and my grandkids - all girls - Abby, Makyla, Skylar, and Dakota - that they do NOT ever have to go through anything like this. They should be treated with dignity in the workplace, treated fair and square.  Life SHOULD be an equal playing field . And SHAME on those who do not honor such. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Book and Netflix Review Combo- Firefly Lane

 Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah is an excellent book for girlfriends everywhere.  1974, Kate Mularkey is at the bottom of the 8th grade food chain. Then Tully enters her world and nothing is ever the same. Gorgeous, cool - Tully is destined for greatness. (Network TV and more)   Crappy upbringing, no roots, but a girl with an inner strength and drive - she's the best friend who pulls Kate along the way. 

This novel spans three decades and is powerful - two women, an amazing love, crazy turbulent friendship, and quite a life.  Jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment - betrayal tears them apart - a test of courage and friendship.  (cover blurb)

I actually watched the Netflix version - season 1 first. It was trashy good fun and veered dramatically from the book. Katherine Heigl as Tully is superb - she exudes the required confidence and beauty. Sarah Chalke is good as Kate - the gawky beauty sidekick who's the strong steady one, always in the background and yet the bedrock of this friendship.  This was fun and entertaining TV. 

I'm very glad that my solid, good girlfriend, Linda H, lent me the book. Wow - the book is an eyeopener and so good.  I recommend both - read and watch too.  Enjoy!