Top Ten Tuesday -Summer Titles

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt with The Broke and the Bookish is a summer reads freebie, so the list can be anything related to summer. 

I decided to list ten books I’ve read which have Summer in their titles.

1. Just One Summer

A YA anthology by some of my favorite indie authors, it tells the stories of four best friends. A quick and easy but well-written read.

2. Second Chance Summer

Author Morgan Matson is a bit of a wunderkind in YA fiction. I love how her young characters are forced to deal with adult issues and this story of a teenage girl watching her father die is no exception.

3. Summer by Summer

Heather Burch is one of my must-read authors and I enjoyed this YA novel about two teenagers who end up stranded together on an abandoned vacation island.

4. Summer of Dreams

I adore Elizabeth Camden’s historical fiction stories. This little prequel novella does not suffer from it’s short length. I love how Camden’s heroines have unique jobs and interests. You can download this one for free.

5. Barefoot Summer

One of my favorite contemporary authors, I’ve never been disappointed by Denise Hunter’s books and this is one of my favorites.

6. Summer Snow

Nicole Baart is an author who makes you think and feel. This is the second book in a trilogy about  Julia DeSmit whose life has its’ challenges.

7. Quaker Summer

One of the first books I read by author Lisa Samson, who always challenges me and pushes me outside of my comfort zone.

8-10 Summer Harbor Series

Okay, I cheated a bit, listing a series rather than book titles. Also, this is the second appearance on today’s list of author Denise Hunter. But her novels are just so sweet and I really like this series about three brothers from Maine.

Bonus: A New Shade of Summer

And for good measure here is a new release I am looking forward to, coming out when else, but summer?

Classic Film Review -Honky Tonk (1941)

FILM SUMMARY
In Honky Tonk grifter and con-man Candy Johnson is tired of being run out of every town he visits whenever the citizens discover who he is. So he and his partner hop on a train determined to find a small town which he can shape and control for even larger payouts such as graft. On the train, Candy’s eye is drawn by beautiful blonde Elizabeth Cotton who is traveling west to meet her father, a man she believes is an upstanding, honest judge. Elizabeth refuses to be tempted by Candy’s smooth line, resisting his obvious flirtation. Upon debarking in Yellow Creek, Candy recognizes Elizabeth’s father as a fellow con-artist, but keeps his secret for Elizabeth’s sake.
Candy soon begins his campaign to take over the town of Yellow Creek and Elizabeth’s affections. After winning a large stake in a gamble of Russian roulette, Candy builds his own saloon and donates money to build a town mission as a civic gesture. After a little light manhandling from Candy and a talk with the Reverend’s wife, Elizabeth admits her attraction to Candy and decides she will marry him with the mission to reform him. It’s not long before Candy is running the town and Elizabeth is running their home, but a wrench is thrown into this happy setup when the Judge grows a conscience for his daughter’s sake and decides to spill the beans on Candy’s real intentions.
Papa grows a conscience
MY THOUGHTS
This may just be my second favorite Clark Gable film, after Gone With the Wind. Actually, Honky Tonk has several things in common with that incomparable classic, not the least of which is that Candy Johnson is very similar to Rhett Butler and all the characteristics of that lovable rogue. Like Rhett, Candy is an admittedly selfish character, only interested in what profits him, who also displays a lethal dose of masculine charm. Candy’s pursuit of Elizabeth is determined and aggressive, yet with a touch of tenderness. Although, there is a bit of a power struggle between them at first, he makes sure that she knows who is boss, yet she also ends up with the upper hand in the end owing to his love for her.
This is the first of four films that Gable made with Lana Turner and it is a pairing which I really love. His dominant masculinity is a good match with her innocently sexy self and her soothing child-like voice. Too, the contrast between his dark looks and her wide eyed blonde curves is appealing as well. Gable was paired more frequently with other and better actresses (including acting greats, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow), but I prefer seeing him with Turner even though she cannot match the acting skill of some of his other partners. Her Elizabeth is just as determined as her man, she just tends to take a more subtle path towards her end goals. Elizabeth lends Candy a veneer of respectability and her love and faith in her weak father is sweet.
Belle Watling never had a hat like that!

Another similarity with Gone With the Wind, is the presence of Claire Trevor, the saloon girl with the heart of gold, who is secretly in love with Candy, but stands by him as his friend, even when he marries another. Trevor gives Gold Dust depth and warmth, displaying her yearning and resignation in her eyes and through her subtle body language.

Honky Tonk fits a mix of genres, with some action and romance, dramatic and comedic moments. It’s setting as a mining town could also classify it as a Western. It really has something to appeal to everyone and is just downright fun to watch. It is too bad it wasn’t filmed in color as some of the costumes both Candy and Elizabeth wear in the film beg to be seen in multiple spectrum and not just black and white. I would love to have Elizabeth’s glamorous wardrobe.
If you are a fan of Rhett Butler, give Candy Johnson and Honky Tonk a watch. It’s Clark Gable at his roguish best. It’s available on DVD or you can catch it on the TCM channel this Wednesday May 24.

Top Ten Tuesday -Book Mothers

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is a Mother’s Day freebie.

The impact of a good mother and the way they enrich our lives is impossible to measure. Their sacrifice, love, compassion, nurturing heart, strength and commitment is what creates a beautiful future for the world through the children they raise. Mothers are true super heroes deserving of all the love and gratitude they receive.

I realized as I was going through my books, that the majority of them do not feature or mention mothers. If they do, it is as a very small supporting character. So today, my top ten is a list of book characters who could benefit from a good mother, whose lives would have been different with a mother’s love. Sometimes, the only way to measure the value of something is by the lack of it.

1. Raleigh Harmon of the Raleigh Harmon Mysteries

Although Raleigh had a loving understanding relationship with her father, it was cut short. Unfortunately this forensic geologist has never had a strong connection with her mother. This fragile relationship has only become worse as her mother’s mental health has deteriorated and Raleigh has been forced to put her in a mental hospital. She continues to reach out to her mother despite it all, but Raleigh has suffered the ache of the lack of understanding between them.

 

2. Joselyn “Snow” Whyte of From Winter’s Ashes

Nothing has been the same since the early death of Joselyn Whyte’s mother. It was the catalyst which turned her life upside down for the worse and put a barrier between her father and herself. Despite the outward appearance of a wealthy, privileged life, the truth is that Joselyn was left all alone to care for her ailing grandmother, dragged out to act as a trophy for her father’s ambitions, broken by the loss of her first love and an attack which left her suicidal. Now, someone is trying to kill her. Joselyn desperately needs the love, support and understanding of a mother, but she has to carry on without it.

3. Sebastian Jeffries of A Light in the Dark

Ever since his mother’s death when he was a child, Sebastian’s life has been spent on the run with his abusive father. Sebastian trusts no one and fears letting anyone close to him lest they discover the darkness of his life. When Tish Ransome reaches out to him, he thirsts for the normalcy of her loving boisterous family.  Her cheerful persistence just may change his life, if he can ever forgive himself for what he remembers of his mother’s death.

 

4. Faith Prescott of Intermission

Faith is not like her athletically gifted and beautiful sibling, but she has a talent all her own. Unfortunately, her mother not only doesn’t appreciate her artistic talents of the theater, but is determined to mold her into her siblings’ image. This comes in the form of unfair restrictions, extreme criticism and verbal abuse which her weak father does nothing to curb. Faith does her best to show her the respect she hasn’t earned nor returned even though her mother seems to hate everything about her. Faith just wants the freedom to be herself and prove that she is the responsible daughter her mother can’t see.

5. Dane “Cardinal” Markowski of Talon

Dane is one of my favorite male characters ever, maybe because although he was born Russian, he is an American spy. Dane’s life was changed forever when he saw his father murder his pregnant mother. Following that his father, who is a General of the Russian army, tries to mold him into his image, through abuse and deprivation. Dane’s memories of his mother’s death haunt him and along with the loss of his sister, he isolates himself particularly from women.

 

6. Cameron Tate & Shaye McCormick of The End of the World

Without parents, both Cameron and Shaye end up in a foster home which more closely resembles a house of horrors. Unfortunately Shaye suffers the worst of if it while also trying to protect the younger children in the home. Despite her lack of a mother, she does her best to mother others. When Cameron arrives he acts as her only friend and tethers her to a cruel world she would rather leave.

 

 

7. Maria Vazquez of Far Side of the Sea

Although Maria is raised with the influence of other women on her father’s California hacienda, the death of her mother causes Maria to believe that she is a curse to others. Maria is allowed to run wild and believing herself beyond redemption she makes some unfortunate decisions which seemingly ruin her life and her chances with the only man she has ever loved.

 

 

8. Feya Broon of Within the Veil

Feya’s life changes completely upon the death of her mother. Her father drinks his life and wages away and as the oldest sister she becomes the caretaker and appointed provider of her younger siblings. Her desperation to fill their hungry bellies leads her into theft and the custody of an English palace guard who must transport her across Scotland to be sentenced.

 

 

9. Shiloh Buchannan of Birdie Saves the World

Even though he has defied the odds and the gossip to become a successful billionaire, Shiloh Buchannan is still trying to live down the shame of being from the wrong side of the tracks. His memories of his drug addicted mother along with the neglect and abuse he suffered still haunts him. While the things he had to do to survive have irrevocably scarred him. Yet he still holds out a faint hope that innocent Birdie O’Brien, whose family betrayed him, will be able to see beyond his past.

 

10. Maggie Montgomery of Just Between Me & You

After witnessing her mother’s drowning, Maggie runs hard and fast from the memories which haunt her nightmares. Not only does this event ruin her relationship with her father and sister, but she becomes careless with her own life. Now, she has to return home to become the guardian of her drug addled sister’s daughter. But her memories of her own mother hinder her ability to mother her niece and to reconnect with her only remaining family.

 

11. Jude Keller of The Passion of Mary-Margaret

I honestly can’t think of a worse mother in any story I’ve ever read. Jude Keller would have been better off having no mother at all, than the one who raised him. Without giving too much away, her treatment of Jude leads him into a life of degradation and shame, driven by the shadows of things no child should ever suffer. Yet, even with all he suffers, it is love which will redeem him.

 

 

I like to think that had these characters’ mothers lived or been decent parents, their lives would have been less traumatic and challenging. And yet, their lack of a loving mother makes their stories all the more interesting and rewarding.

Have you read any books in which the lack of a loving mother significantly impacted the main character?

 

 

 

Five Stars Blogathon -My Five Favorite Film Stars

Today, I am excited to be participating in the Five Stars Blogathon which is being hosted by Classic FIlm TV Cafe.

Anyone who has been following my posts will know that I absolutely love movies. This being the case, asking me to pick five, and only five favorite stars was an almost impossible task! I mean really, it would be like asking me to choose my favorite book (another impossible task) or my favorite breath for that matter. But for the sake of following the rules, I have managed to narrow it down to the requested five. Just don’t get the idea that I don’t have other favorite film stars. And since this blogathon is in honor of National Classic Movie Day, I am sharing my favorite classic film stars.

CARY GRANT

Be still my beating heart!

Any one who knows me knows of my love for Cary Grant. His film Bringing Up Baby was my first introduction to him, to classic film and to screwball comedy, all of which remain favorites to this day. Cary Grant was a versatile actor who was equally at home in both comedies and dramas. His characters tended not to take themselves or life too seriously and yet also retained a darker edge about them which was highlighted more in his dramatic roles. And while I enjoy his later dramatic films, my preference will always be for his pre-war comedies. Who else could pull of playing men of sophistication and privilege who were able to laugh and make fun at their own expense? Not only was I ruined for mortal men by his onscreen style, humor and well-cut suits, but after reading numerous books about Cary Grant I also have great admiration for the man himself. He is a man who despite being raised in a working class home and  lacking in formal education, through determination, persistence and self-education created a persona who is still known the world over for his class and artistry. It takes incredible discipline to re-create one’s self and that is just what he did, doing it so entirely that he didn’t just create a character, but actually became one who is still famous and respected today not only as a film icon, but also a fashion icon and respected man of business despite being long gone. For further details on Cary Grant and my regard for him, read my introduction to Cary Grant.

KATHARINE HEPBURN

Katharine the Great

Hepburn was the other half of my introduction to classic film when I first saw Bringing Up Baby. And despite the fact that she doesn’t fit the mold of women I usually enjoy seeing on film and which were usually featured in classic films, it is precisely for that reason that she is my favorite actress. Like Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn was equally skilled in both comedic and dramatic roles including historical films, which Grant unfortunately never conquered. The women she played were generally of strong character and refused to be pigeon holed, an attribute that Hepburn also exhibited in real life. Although she appeared in some real stinker films which didn’t suit her, once she finally took full control of her career she had few misses. She could break your heart as she did in Alice Adams, The Rainmaker and Summertime, leave you trembling in shock and awe like she did in The Lion in Winter, or make you fall in love with her belief in her own worth as she does in Christopher Strong, Little Women, The Philadelphia Story and Adam’s Rib. She was a woman ahead of her time and it is for this reason that many of her films do not appear dated and still have something to say to modern audiences. Thankfully, this acting pioneer is well-regarded for her contributions to the art of film.

CLARK GABLE

That particular devil may care smirk.

One of the reasons I am a fan of Clark Gable is that he generally plays lovable rogues, which is one of my favorite type of characters in any story. He started out in films playing villains, but his onscreen charisma soon led him into better parts. But he never really loses some of the villain attributes, often playing he-men with an edge of danger attached who are eventually tamed by the women they love. Who else but Gable could get away with onscreen physical violence and threats against women and have female viewers still panting after him like he’s a hero? He just had that certain spark, that allowed his characters to get away with despicable behavior while also making him desirable to women and men alike, if for different reasons. Of course, the fact that his characters are redeemed by the love of a good woman helps, or perhaps it’s the fact that though they fall in love, they are often bewildered by how they come to become domesticated. Of course, even when he plays very masculine men, there is also something of the little boy about him, tender and eager for approval. And even though his personal life isn’t exactly something to emulate, by most accounts he was very down to earth and modest of his great success. All this combines to explain why he was voted King of Hollywood and remained so until his death.

NORMA SHEARER

This modern woman salutes you.

I can’t remember my first exposure to a Norma Shearer film.  But somehow she remained memorable enough for me to seek out her other films. Although her career suffered at the end thanks to the enforcement of the moral Hays Code and the death of her husband and champion of her career, Shearer’s films made a tremendous impact and left quite a legacy. It is her pre-Code films which I fell in love with, watching her play women who pushed the boundaries and enjoyed it. Women who thought themselves equal to men and went out to prove it, while still dressing in sexy, slinky dresses and tempting the so-called stronger sex with her tinkling laugh. She forged a path not only for women onscreen but those who watched by playing roles which demanded women be respected, listened to and even feared for their strength, intellect and femininity. I thought I could not appreciate Shearer any more than I did, but then I started watching her earlier roles in silent films. I was mesmerized by her acting abilities which required a different set of skills than she used in her talking pictures. In any film or any role she is astounding. And even more astounding is her grit and determination to become an actress after multiple rejections and criticisms of her lazy eye and body shape. This is a woman who even challenged her husband, second in command at MGM, for a role she believed she could play. And she proved herself right while proving everyone else wrong. Despite the decades which have passed, she is still proving herself right and challenging the mistaken notions some have about classic film being outdated and boring.

WILLIAM POWELL

Mr. Debonaire

My love for William Powell just kind of crept up on me. Even after reading and hearing numerous recommendations for his most famous film The Thin Man, I had no desire to see it, partly because the leading man didn’t seem appealing. Finally, I gave it a chance because of my interest in Myrna Loy. And it was so much fun. But still, an appreciation for Powell alluded me. I gained more exposure through his other film pairings with Loy and I think it must have been Manhattan Melodrama (featuring another favorite actor, Clark Gable) which sealed the deal for me. Thus began a quest to watch as many of Powell’s films as I could. Although I have yet to see any of his silent films in which he generally plays villains, I have seen the majority of his talking films and have never been disappointed. In some ways, he plays characters similar to Cary Grant, those of sophistication and humor. Yet there is a subtle difference which I just can’t put my finger on. He is suave and charming and his ability to deliver a quip has few equals. He often comes across mischievous and yet still trustworthy. I always know what I’m getting when I watch one of his films and they are always a pleasure to view.

Okay, I know I said I would follow the rules and stick to five, but I can’t talk about Norma Shearer without also mentioning my awe for her husband. So I guess, you will have to forgive me for not only breaking the rule of five, but breaking the rule of choosing film stars.

IRVING THALBERG

Film pioneer and genius

As I stated, how can I mention Shearer without also talking about her husband Irving Thalberg? Though he was not a film star onscreen, it can be argued that he was a star of film off screen. Along with Louis B Mayer, Thalberg was an instrumental and guiding force in creating MGM, the studio known as “having the most stars under Heaven” and also being the most powerful and influential of classic film studios. Thalberg was second in command as head of production answerable only to studio head Mayer. It was he who discovered and championed many of classic film’s beloved stars, including Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore and future wife Norma Shearer, among others. He oversaw over four hundred films in his tenure and was a visionary and risk taker whose ideas and accomplishments are too numerable to name here. The reason I admire him so much is that he did all of this in a little over fifteen years, starting at the young age of twenty and knowing that he would die young thanks to a weak heart. How many men of such a young age would be capable enough to basically run, manage and grow a business of such size and also do it well enough to gain the respect of not only his peers and competitors, but the world at large. And to do so while battling ill health is an even greater accomplishment. Few people are able to leave behind such a legacy even when living their lives to the fullness of old age. His commitment, determination and work-ethic are to be admired as is his character, strength and presence which allowed him to stand his ground with resolve in a business inhabited by strong personalities with strong opinions. And that is why I break the rules to share my favorite off-screen film star.

Who are some of your favorite film stars?

Film Review -The Promise (2017)

 

The Promise is set in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, during the early years of World War I. Young Mikael Boghosian comes from a family of apothecaries, but his real dream is to leave his mountain village to attend medical school in Constantinople so that he can return to doctor his people. This dream has always been out of reach. That is until he betroths himself to a local girl in order to gain her dowry for the school fees. He plans to complete a three-year medical degree in two, and then return home to marry her. He believes he will learn to love her eventually.

In Constantinople, Mikael boards with a wealthy relative. Then he meets Ana  a fellow Armenian raised in Paris who has returned to her home country with her American reporter boyfriend Chris Myers. Although an immediate attraction between Mikael and Ana stirs…

To read the full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

Introducing Vivien Leigh

PERSONAL BIO

Young Vivian Hartley

Vivian Hartley was born in 1913 in India where she was raised by her parents for the first six years of her life. Her mother eventually sent her to a girls convent school in England where she met friend and fellow actress Maureen O’Sullivan. Later on as she traveled with her parents she attended various schools in Europe and became fluent in French and Italian.

Vivian married at the young age of 18 to barrister Leigh Holman, a man many years older than she. By the age of 19 she had given birth to her only child, a daughter.

While pursuing her passion for acting in the theater, she met fellow actor  Laurence Olivier with whom she began an affair. Although they were both married to others and had young children, they fell in love and eventually obtained divorces which enabled them to marry.  They remained married for over twenty years and were linked together forever in the public mind since they appeared in numerous films and plays together.

Leigh & Olivier

Vivien Leigh suffered from bipolar disorder for most of her adult life, which greatly affected both her career and personal life, occasionally undergoing shock treatments to manage the illness. She also suffered through a couple of miscarriages and contracted a recurring case of tuberculosis. It was the tuberculosis that eventually killed her at the young age of 53.

FILM BIO

Vivien Leigh always knew she wanted to be an actress, even telling friend and classmate Maureen O’Sullivan of her intent to become “a great actress”. This desire may have been fostered in her by her mother who introduced her to classic literature at a young age and who took young Vivian to her first play. After marriage and the birth of her daughter, she took the stage name Vivien Leigh and began to appear in small roles in the London theater. This is where she eventually met co-star and lover Olivier.  She also began appearing in British films.

Both Olivier and Leigh were making names for themselves in the theater and British film, but it was Olivier’s role in Wuthering Heights and Leigh’s interest in playing Scarlett of Gone With the Wind that brought them to the attention of American audiences. Against all odds Leigh landed the very coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara winning her first of two Oscars.

Vivien Leigh along with Laurence Olivier continued to hone their craft in both British and American films as well as the theater balancing their busy professional life with a personal life fraught with mental illness, unfaithfulness, financial failures and other challenges. Through it all neither one gave any hint of their personal trauma.

Leigh managed to win a second Oscar for her role of Blanche DuBois, another Southern belle with issues, in A Streetcar Named Desire. Leigh originally played the role on the West End theater before it was brought to film, She has said that it was her time spent as the broken Blanche which “tipped me over into madness”. Despite this Leigh continued to make appearances in both film and the theater up to her death.  Thanks to her talent she is an acting icon and upon news of her death, the lights of every theater in London were extinguished for an hour in her honor. And although she appeared in less than twenty films, both British and American, she left an indelible mark and is one of a handful of actresses to win the Oscar each time she was nominated.

FAMOUS CO-STARS

Laurence Olivier -Not only did Olivier and Leigh appear in several plays together, but they also co-starred in three films, Fire Over England, 21 Days Together, That Hamilton Woman.

 

 

Robert Taylor -Both Taylor and Vivien Leigh were acclaimed for their looks. Sometimes this overshadowed their individual talents. Taylor and Leigh starred in two films together, A Yank at Oxford and the melodrama Waterloo Bridge, which was a favorite film of both.

FAMOUS FILMS

Gone With the Wind (1939) -This is only one of the most famous and highest grossing films of all time. Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, it tells the story of the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction era as seen through the eyes of Scarlett O’Hara. Leigh won her first Oscar for this film.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) -Leigh co-starred with Marlon Brando in another Southern tale of a dysfunctional female who becomes involved in a destructive relationship with her brother-in-law when she goes to live with her sister. Leigh’s performance in this film won her a second Oscar.

MY FAVORITE FILMS

Storm in a Teacup (1937) -A rarely seen romantic comedy set in Scotland which also stars Rex Harrison (of My Fair Lady fame).

 

 

Gone With the Wind (1939) -Listen, this film is a famous classic for a reason and I have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this film. Besides who wouldn’t watch Clark Gable play Rhett Butler over and over again?

 

Waterloo Bridge (1940) -This is a remake of an earlier film about a doomed love affair between a soldier and a ballerina. It was both Robert Taylor’s and Vivien Leigh’s favorite film and is tragically beautiful.

QUOTES

“I’m not a film star; I am an actress. Being a film star is such a false life, lived for fake values and for publicity.”

“Comedy is much more difficult than tragedy – and a much better training, I think. It’s much easier to make people cry than to make them laugh.”

“All day long you’re really leading up to the evening’s performance. To time everything correctly, you have to take care of yourself – which is a very difficult thing to do, because it’s highly emotional.”

“Some critics saw fit to say that I was a great actress. I thought that was a foolish, wicked thing to say because it put such an onus and such a responsibility onto me, which I simply wasn’t able to carry.”

Book Review -A Moonbow Night

SUMMARY

Tempe Tucker is still reeling from a devastating event which led to the death of her fiance and the crippling of her brother. Thanks to a separate incident her father is wanted for the murder of a land surveyor and remains in hiding.

Into this fractured life walks Sion Morgan, another land surveyor from the same company as the man her father murdered. He arrives with his crew at the Tucker family’s Moonbow Inn along the banks of the Cumberland river, in the Indian territory of Kentucke.

Morgan is in need of an experienced guide to lead his crew through uncharted territory and Tempe has the knowledge and skills to do so.  Initially, she refuses, but at her father’s insistence Tempe is soon leading this group of men into the wilderness to chart the land, create maps for future settlers and also lead them away from her father.

However, the eastern states are at war with Britain for their freedom and Kentucke is still a dangerous place for white settlers and surveyors whom the Indians deem as a threat to their way of life. The Indians are determined to wipe out not only the few white settlements that have survived, but also the men charting the land who make it possible and enticing for settlers to continue to brave the potential dangers in exchange for land of their own.

Tempe and Sion find themselves in the middle of this conflict and will need all of their bravery and skills to not only complete their job, but also to survive. They must also both come to terms with past traumas and decide whether or not trusting each other is worth the potential pain they may experience.

REVIEW

I don’t know if words can do justice to this intricate and detailed story. Laura Frantz has been a must read historical fiction author for me since her debut novel The Frontiersman’s Daughter. Frantz is a Kentucky native and many of her books are set in her home state. A Moonbow Night is no exception.

Although this story is filled with danger and moments of action, it is surprisingly slow moving. This is actually a good thing as it gives Frantz time to develop the setting, history and characters of early day Kentucky making it all come alive. It is obvious that the author has done in depth research of daily life during this time period and she weaves these details in seamlessly allowing the reader to live and breath a way of life lost to time.

A Moonbow Night is not just a book, but a portal to another world, to the days where the American frontier is still new and untamed, claimed only by nature, animals and the Native Americans. It gives a good understanding of the challenges white settlers faced as they moved West as well as the shifting political issues and attitudes which affected both these settlers and the Indians who were rightly afraid of losing their own way of life.

Although I tend to prefer a little more romance in my historical fiction and Frantz generally delivers, in A Moonbow Night, the romance of Sion and Tempe takes a back seat to their own unresolved traumas and the practicalities of their daily tasks. That’s not to say there is no romance at all, it is just not the main point.

If you are a fan of historical fiction or films like The Last of the Mohicans, then you will most likely love A Moonbow Night. The tale does tend to move at an unhurried pace, but you will be rewarded with the rich experience of the early American frontier.

This book is the author’s latest release but is currently available at Amazon for a greatly discounted price. I encourage you to buy the book here.

Also, check out the author’s Pinterest page for images and inspiration for A Moonbow Night.

 

Foreign Film Friday -Departures (2008)

SUMMARY

Japanese film Departures tells the story of Daigo a professional cellist who loses his dream job with a Tokyo orchestra. In debt, and with no other options, Daigo makes the decision to move with his wife Miko, back to his hometown to live in the house he inherited from his mother.

While job hunting, Daigo finds an ad for a job assisting in departures which promises good pay with no experience required. Upon arriving at the business which he thinks is a travel agency, he discovers from the owner that the ad is a misprint. The position available is actually as an assistant to help with “departures”, more commonly known as an undertaker.

The owner hires him on the spot despite Daigo’s hesitancy to work with the dead. Being unsure that he will keep the job and embarrassed by it, he does not inform his wife about the details of his new position.

But as time passes and Daigo is mentored by his employer, he begins to understand and value the importance of a job which helps grieving friends and family members send their loved ones off with a beautiful farewell.

“One grown cold, restored to beauty for all eternity. This was done with a calmness and precision and above all a gentle affection. At the final parting, sending the dead on their way, everything done peacefully and beautifully.”

REVIEW

For a film which focuses on death, Departures is surprisingly moving. Although the subject matter is both sad and serious, the message of the film and the journey Daigo experiences in his position, is both positive and optimistic.

One thing which really touched me is how the film portrayed the death of Daigo’s long earned dream of being a professional cellist. It is only after he releases this dream that he finds his true calling. Working with corpses is not most people’s idea of a fulfilling and meaningful job. Yet Daigo learns that although he is handling the dead, it is really life that he helps to celebrate. His work helps to bring closure and peace to those who mourn.

Because Departures is a film which celebrates life, the human relationships take center stage. Daigo still struggles with his father’s abandonment of him when he was young. And he grieves the fact that he missed his mother’s funeral because of his busy lifestyle. With his boss acting as both mentor and father figure, he learns how to accept and honor all lives, even those who lived imperfectly.

Daigo’s relationship with his wife also plays a major part in his transformation. Although she willingly accepts his decision to move their lives back to his home town, she balks at his newly chosen profession. Mika is entirely loving, supporting and accepting of Daigo despite the fact that he makes decisions without consulting her. She finally gives him an ultimatum, which reveals the depth of his commitment to his new life.

Although this is a deep and serious film, there are some humorous moments as you might imagine with this subject matter. The funniest scene is Daigo’s first assignment where he must help his boss prepare the body of an elderly woman who had died in her home remaining undiscovered for many days. I could sympathize with his disgust on entering her filthy home and his gag reflex upon seeing her decaying form.

A final highlight of this film for me was the window it provided into Japanese culture. It always fascinates me to see how other people live in comparison to my own way of life. The Japanese countryside is also pretty stunning and I felt like I had traveled to Japan directly from my living room.

CONCLUSION

Departures is a deeply touching story which portrays the dichotomy of life and death. In portraying the sadness of death, Daigo and the viewer learn how to appreciate the gift of life and to live it more fully.

This film is available to stream on Amazon and iTunes.

Classic Film Review – Midnight (1939)

“Don’t forget, every Cinderella has her midnight.”

This quote perfectly sums up the title of the screwball comedy, Midnight.

SUMMARY

In the opening scene, a train arrives in Paris with a glamorously dressed woman sleeping on a bench in one of the cars. Upon awakening, she arises, grabs her evening bag and steps off of the train into the rain with no luggage. Eve  Peabody quickly explains to the porter that she left her belongings in a pawn shop in Monte Carlo.

As she leaves the train station, she is accosted by taxi drivers offering her a ride which she can’t afford. One in particular seems sympathetic to her plight, so she arranges a deal with him to drive her around town to look for a job. Once she secures one, she will pay him double the rate she owes.

Love at first sight

After Tibor Czerny agrees and spends part of his evening helping her she is no closer to securing a job and the taxi meter is climbing higher. But Eve is in luck, because Tibor is kind and has fallen in love with her at first sight, even though she admits that her long-term plan is to marry wealth. She’s a charming and honest gold-digger.

Eve Peabody: [Discussing her career as a gold-digger] I landed a lord, almost.

Tibor Czerny: Almost?

Eve Peabody: Well, the family came between us. His mother came to my hotel and offered me a bribe.

Tibor Czerny: You threw her out, I hope!

Eve Peabody: How could I, with my hands full of money?

Not wanting to take advantage of him or to feed their mutual attraction, she escapes and manages to wander into a society party in the only thing she owns, her gold evening gown. She passes off her pawn ticket as a party invite to the oblivious major domo.

Once inside, she sinks into an open seat to rest her tired body, but the party is disturbed by the announcement that an unwanted guest has somehow managed to sneak in. The man sitting next to her notices her and keeps sending studying glances her way.

Suspicious mind

Meanwhile, Tibor, wanting to track down his mysterious, missing passenger arranges for a money pool with the other taxi drivers, promising the winnings to whomever manages to locate his runaway love.

Things really begin to get crazy when Eve is drawn into a high stakes card game, and gives her alias as the Baroness Czerny. She loses, but finds herself with an unexpected benefactor -the man who was watching her earlier and has figured out her secret. You see, his wife is in love with a playboy who can’t seem to take his eyes off Eve.  Wealthy Mr. Flammarion offers Eve a way to kill two birds with one stone. He will back her story, cover all of her expenses and provide her with a personal line of credit if she will use her wiles to seduce the playboy away from his wife. They both will benefit. Flammarion will have his wife back and Eve will have landed a rich husband.

Striking a deal

But things, don’t always go according to plan and in a screwball comedy, you can count on the most ridiculous and incredible occurences throwing more than a few curve balls into said plan.

REVIEW

I have finally learned that comedy and screwball comedy in particular is my favorite film genre. Midnight is not as well known as some other screwball titles, but it has quickly become one of my favorites.

Outstanding performances by lead actors Claudette Colbert (Eve Peabody) Don Ameche (Tibor Czerny) and John Barrymore (Flammarion, yes, this Barrymore is Drew’s grandfather) make this film shine. I’ve seen other pictures by all three actors. I wouldn’t say that any of them are particular favorites, but together, with this story, in this film, they are magic.

Like most films in this genre, the dialogue is quick-paced and characterized by witty repartee. The humor in Midnight, continues to build and grow, until the last third of the film had me laughing to tears. Eve’s quick thinking lies to explain her “husband’s” (remember she borrowed his last name) appearance when he finally tracks her down are outrageous, yet she sells them so well.

It is the role of Don Ameche’s Czerny simply to react to Eve’s statements and actions. Somehow, he manages to make me believe that he really fell in love at first sight with an admittedly broke gold digger. All he wants is to convince her that they belong together, while Eve fights her attraction to him until the bitter end, convinced that money will make her happy. I mean, who hasn’t had that internal battle before? That is what makes Eve a sympathetic character. She owns up to the truth about herself, even when it is unpleasant.

 

All’s well that ends well

John Barrymore has a plum role as Flammarion, the catalyst for Eve’s Cinderella story. (FYI, Mary Astor who plays Helene Flammarion had been engaged in a torrid love affair with Barrymore years before.) By this time, he was only three years away from death to his alcoholism and could no longer remember his lines. But his immense and well-respected talent was such that the studios still hired him for parts, because he was the great John Barrymore. They just managed to work around his penchant for drunkenness. Even at that, he still pulled off a credible performance that looks like he was having the time of his life.

CONCLUSION

Midnight is a ridiculously funny film and a good example of what is classified as screwball comedy. If you don’t mind having the bounds of believability stretched and are looking for a good laugh, I highly recommend this gem. It is available on DVD and streaming on many platforms including Amazon, iTunes, YouTube and others.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Judging a Book by It’s Cover

There are many reasons I will read a new book. The most important one is if it is by an author that I already love. The second reason is if the book cover catches my eye. They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I say sometimes you can and I’ve found some very good stories this way.

So once again I’m linking up with The Broke and the Bookish and joining their Top Ten Tuesday prompt about Cover Themes. And once again I am interpreting their prompt to suit myself.

Here are some books which I chose to read because the covers grabbed my attention (and by the way I enjoyed them all). As you can see, as usual, my list exceeds ten because I just can’t help myself.

 

As I look at these books I can see that I am drawn to pretty and interesting fonts, covers with greens and blues, those where the sun has bleached the picture a bit and also those with unique images.

What type of covers draw your eye? Have you ever read a book simply because you liked the cover?