Book Review -The Bird and the Sword

SUMMARY

In the beginning, when the world was created, there was the Spinner, the Teller, the Healer and the Changer. Each endowed with a special ability. However, these gifts came at great cost and eventually became corrupted so that the people became afraid of the gifted, hunting them down, until for their own survival and safety those with the special abilities learned to hide them well.

Little Lark has inherited her own mother’s gift of telling and on the day the king and his son arrive, her mother sacrifices her own life for the sake of Lark’s to hide her secret. But before she dies, she not only prophesies to the king of “the loss of his own soul and his son to the sky”, but commands Lark to “swallow her words” and warns her husband that his own life is tied to Lark’s.

Years pass from that day and Lark remains mute, never uttering a word, yet despite the fact that her mouth can’t speak, her words still have great power. How much, she is yet to discover. A chance encounter leads her to be taken from her home by the new king as a pampered prisoner. Little do they know how connected their lives already are. These two must learn to work together to defeat an evil enemy and uncover truth which will set themselves and the whole kingdom free.

REVIEW

I’m not generally a reader of fantasy novels and The Bird and The Sword is combined with fairy tale elements also. But I have always had a special love for words and the power behind them in a way that I can’t explain, so when I finally found a story that explored this concept, of course I had to read it.

In a way, this reminds me of a Tolkien story, although I would label it Tolkien-lite. It’s a fantasy world with special gifts and creatures and yet not so unfamiliar as to be foreign. Like Tolkien, Amy Harmon’s fantasy world is allegorical for greater truths. Although, spiritual principles are not  preached or even mentioned, the story begins with a biblical verse, “for the word is quick and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword…” which sets the tone for everything which is to come. I loved how this verse was woven into the story in subtle, various ways, revealing truth and always bringing me back from a fantastical world to the main point.

I have had Amy Harmon on my radar for a while, have read excellent and glowing reviews of all of her novels, but this was my first experience with her. Although I believe this is her only fantasy novel to date, if her other stories are anything like this, I would say the praise for her writing is well deserved. Like Lark, she herself is a teller, a weaver of words, creating real and endearing characters, creating worlds with words while never straying from the foundation of truth she reveals. For me, there is something special about discovering a kindred spirit who seems to share my wonder, fascination and love for words which live and breathe and share eternity with mortals.

So, needless to say, I have my next Amy Harmon novel already queued up on my Kindle and will expect to be an avid fan.

Introducing Gene Tierney

PERSONAL BIO
Young Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney was born in 1920 into a close, privileged family in Connecticut. She had a happy childhood. During a family trip to Hollywood, she was given a screen test and offered a contract, but her parents refused. She then headed off to a private boarding school in Switzerland where she became fluent in French. Upon returning home, she begged her parents to allow her to pursue her dream of acting. They agreed, provided that she audition for theater roles in nearby New York. Gene had favor and quick success. This led to a a contract with 20th Century Fox studios.

 

Tierney with husband Cassini

She married twice. Her first husband was Oleg Cassini, an immigrant from a noble family. (Cassini eventually became famous in his own right as a costume designer and later as owner of a fashion empire.) They had two daughters, her only children. While pregnant with her first child, Tierney contracted the German measles from a fan who was ill, but who had broken a health quarantine in order to meet her favorite movie star. This affected her unborn child who was later born prematurely, partially deaf and with severe mental deficiencies. Tierney was forced to institutionalize her daughter for most of her life.

Tierney had another serious personal blow related to her beloved father. He managed the money she earned as an actress. When he ran into personal difficulties of his own, he used her funds to cover his losses and she was forced to take him to court. In the end, although she won her case, she was left with very little. This event along with her father’s affair and abandonment of their family left Tierney estranged from him for the remainder of her life.

She also had a couple of high-profile love affairs. One with Jack Kennedy prior to his entry in politics. She was in love with him, but he would not marry her, so she called it off. Tierney was also good friends with mogul Howard Hughes, who helped her out financially throughout her life.

The personal tragedies in her life led her to a mental breakdown. Over a period of several years she was in and out of mental hospitals as she sought treatment. Tierney was subjected to numerous shock treatments and lost small chunks of her memory. At one point, she considered suicide. Eventually, she was successfully treated by the Menninger Clinic. After her recovery she returned to films briefly, but eventually retired. She married a second time, moved to Houston and lived out her remaining days happily out of the spotlight. She died at 70 of emphysema shortly before her birthday.

FILM BIO

Although Tierney began her career in theater as many classic film actors did in those days, she quickly moved to Hollywood to work for 20th Century Fox. She made the majority of her films with this studio. The bulk of her pictures were filmed in the 1940’s and 1950’s with a few small parts in the 1960’s. Altogether she had a total of 41 films to her credit, the majority of which were dramatic roles.

Gene Tierney was considered one of the most beautiful actresses of her time. Ironically, this was a hindrance to her at times in landing good roles. Her acting skill has generally been underrated because she was assigned to many mediocre films which did not showcase her talent. Daryl Zanuck, her boss at Fox stated, “Gene must be a better actress than some people think. How else could she survive so many awful pictures?”  Despite this, Tierney did win an Oscar for her role as a murderously jealous wife in the film Leave Her to Heaven.

During her years wrestling with her mental health, she fell out of demand as an actress. Eventually, she returned to film, but the roles were much smaller and less prestigious, so Tierney decided to retire. In her mind, her career had always been of secondary priority to her personal life anyway.

FAMOUS CO-STARS

Dana Andrews -Andrews appeared in four films with Tierney, more than any other actor. Their most famous collaboration is Laura. Their other three films, Tobacco Road, The Iron Curtain and Where the Sidewalk Ends are also dramas. Her beautiful elegance was a nice contrast to his brooding, quiet manner.

Tyrone Power -Tierney made three films with Tyrone Power, Son of Fury,  The Razor’s Edge and That Wonderful Urge. They were two of the most gorgeous people in Hollywood and their combined beauty is almost too much for the screen.

 

Henry Fonda -Fonda co-starred in two films The Return of Frank James and Rings on Her Fingers. Frank James was Tierney’s debut film. Rings is one of Tierney’s few comedies.

WELL KNOWN FILMS

Laura (1944) – She plays an object of obsession who is supposedly murdered. Arguably her most well-known film. Tierney was identified by this role for the rest of her life.

 

Leave Her to Heaven (1945)-The film for which she won her only Academy Award. She is chilling as a jealous wife determined to have her husband all to herself.

 

 

The Razor’s Edge (1946) -Based on a story by Somerset Maugham (who had many of his books adapted for film). Tierney plays a supporting role as the love interest of Tyrone Power. He ultimately sacrifices their relationship in his search for a deeper meaning to life.

MY FAVORITE FILMS

The Shanghai Gesture (1941) -A tragic drama, I love Tierney’s portrayal of a doomed heiress who is ruined by her addiction to gambling and drugs.

 

 

Dragonwyck (1946) -I’m a fan of gothic romances, whether in books or film and this one about a woman married to a wealthy landowner who is slowly losing his mind kept me enthralled.

 

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) -Not just one of my favorite Tierney films, this is also a favorite classic of mine. Tierney is a young widow with a daughter who purchases a remote seaside cottage whose previous owner was a foul mouthed sea captain (played by Rex Harrison who also played Henry Higgins in the musical film My Fair Lady). She quickly discovers that although he is dead, he acts very much alive, haunting his home and trying to scare her away. But they soon come to a truce and she finds herself falling for a ghost.

Extra: I have read Tierney’s autobiography and can personally recommend it. It is an interesting journey through her life, both public and personal. She writes with awareness and without self-pity. Having read about her in her own words, she only grew in my esteem. Gene Tierney was truly a classy, elegant woman unencumbered with self-absorption, despite her beauty, fame, wealth and connections.

Also, check out this website dedicated to Gene Tierney.

PERSONAL QUOTES

Jealousy is, I think, the worst of all faults because it makes a victim of both parties.

The word actress has always seemed less a job description to me than a title.

Wealth, beauty and fame are transient. When those are gone, little is left except the need to be useful.

I have gone through such a times, and more, and survived. I traveled in a world that once was -Hollywood of the war and immediate postwar years. And I existed in a world that never is-the prison of the mind. If what I have learned can be summed up in one sentence, it would be this: life is not a movie.

 

 

TV Series Review -Signed, Sealed, Delivered

 

In the last couple of years the Hallmark channel and it’s sister the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel have done an excellent job in filling and growing the niche market for clean, family entertainment. I have been a faithful viewer for many years now and find that some of their productions are better than others. In my opinion, their series Signed, Sealed, Delivered is one of their very best.

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED SYNOPSIS

Signed, Sealed, Delivered has a unique premise which focuses on a group of postal detectives. The tight-knit foursome work in the DLO (Dead Letter Office) of the Denver post office. They are assigned with the task of tracking down and delivering mail which is usually so damaged that the recipient is undecipherable. These assignments usually take them out of the office into the world at large and the mysteries they solve often relate to their own personal journeys.

 

Please join me here at The SIlver Petticoat Review for the rest of the Signed, Sealed, Delivered review.

Foreign Film Friday – The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Based on a novel of the same name, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a Swedish comedy film.

SUMMARY

Allan Karlsson is the 100 year old man of the title, who has lived a fascinating life as an explosives expert. His work has taken him all over the world and introduced him to many important people. It has also put him right in the center of many historical events. This all happens despite the fact that he lacks a true awareness of the gravity of his actions and choices. He is not stupid, but retains a certain innocence which shelters him from fear, doubt and disappointment. Allan lives by his mother’s advice to take life as it is.

On the day of his 100th birthday, Allan climbs out of his window and takes off with no plan or destination in mind. He stops at the local train station to buy a ticket for as far as his money will take him. While waiting for the train, a young, dangerous man rushes in to use the bathroom and asks Allan to hold his suitcase. Allan then boards the train with the mysterious suitcase still in hand to head off on his last adventure.

Along the way, Allan makes friends out of strangers and begins to acquire his own unique family. All the while, he is unaware that some very angry and dangerous men are pursuing him, intent on recovering their suitcase full of cash.

REVIEW

I loved this film! I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard. Allan’s unique blend of blissful ignorance and his ability to be in the right place at the right time, leads to some downright hilarious moments. His lack of guile makes him the perfect straight man in this black comedy. Allan acts as the catalyst for all the crazy moments and sequences that occur.

His example of fearlessly pursuing a new adventure despite his age, attracts new friends and experiences. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having a friend like Allan. His story is proof that age does not have to limit us and that life isn’t over until you are dead. As long as you breathe it is never too late to start again.

RECOMMENDATION

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is rated R for language and violence. If you don’t mind this and you are a fan of black comedy or just need to escape it all with a good laugh, then I can’t recommend this film enough. It is available to stream on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube. It can also be purchased on DVD.

 

Book Review -The Ringmaster’s Wife

SUMMARY

With dual story lines, The Ringmaster’s Wife, gives a fictional account of historical characters, John and Mable Ringling . Right before the start of the twentieth century, young Armilda leaves her small Ohio home to pursue dreams she cannot even articulate. Soon she has renamed herself Mable and meets Mr. Ringling at the Chicago State Fair. In Chicago she makes a friend who will inspire her to be courageous and kind enough, not just to pursue her own dreams, but to encourage others to pursue theirs. This friendship, though brief, plays an important part in helping the reader to understand Mable’s motivations going forth and is the foundation for all that is to come.

A second story line set during the last half of the Roaring Twenties, introduces us to Lady Rosemund Easling, who is still grieving the loss of her beloved brother. She also feels constrained by all the expectations placed on her shoulders by her aristocratic parents. Rose meets Colin Keary, a manager for the Ringling Circus who has come to buy her beloved horse. Colin knows talent when he sees it and ends up recruiting Rose as well. Rose’s connection with her horse, Ingenue, and her talent for bareback and trick riding earn her a place with the circus. But not everyone is happy about a new star joining their family. It will take grit, courage and grace for Rose to find where she truly belongs.

This novel goes back and forth between these two separate stories, eventually weaving them together in a touching and beautiful way.

REVIEW

From the first page, The Ringmaster’s Wife held my attention, transporting me to a world I never would have experienced otherwise. Having attended a few circuses myself in my younger years, I can attest that they put on quite a show. But in today’s modern world where exotic animals are easily seen at zoos, and yet to be seen marvels are easily displayed worldwide on television, movie and computer screens, circuses are well past their heyday.

But this is the gift of a Kristy Cambron novel. It’s not so much the story contained within its’ pages, although she is a master story teller. It is the way she creates a world so alive and vividly described. LIke Alice and the looking glass, the reader is drawn in through a  portal to live in a fantasy.

I could smell the popcorn and cotton candy as I wandered around the circus tents and animal cars. Excitement hung in the air as performers and others prepared for the grand spectacle. I saw the dust of thousands of human and animal feet swirling around me. And I experienced the joy, wonder and thrill of the high wire act and the bareback riders.

I recently read a book with a circus setting which turned out to be a favorite last year. So, even knowing the quality of the author’s work, I was hesitant to read another circus themed book. Boy, was I wrong.

I have read and loved the author’s previous two books. Like this one, they contained dual story lines. However the subject matter, being set during WWII, was by nature much more somber and serious. The Ringmaster’s Wife is a lighter story which focuses on discovering the joy and magic of living a life which fulfills your purpose.

The dual story lines’ emphasis on courage and forgiveness is interesting and well done. But it is the “world within a world” that Cambron creates, of both the circus and of the Ringling’s winter home, Ca d’ Zan, and the family that lives within the walls of both, that is truly the magic of this book.

“We only see what we want to see -in people, in love and in life. What we see is a choice, as is what we offer the world in return. And it’s only behind the costumes and the masks that we can be who we truly are.”

CONCLUSION

The Ringmaster’s Wife is Kristy Cambron’s love letter not only to the Ringlings, but the world they create and nurture, the magic of wonder and beauty that is the circus.

For images which inspired this novel, check out the author’s Pinterest page.

Book Review -Love’s Shadow by Nichole Van

I discovered Nichole Van around two years ago when she self-published her debut book Intertwine (which is currently available for Kindle for only .99). I instantly fell in love and now eagerly await each new release.

Love’s Shadow is the latest and second book of four in her Brothers Maledetti series. This series follows triplet brothers named after famous Englishman of literature, who have supernatural capabilities. They descend from a long line of first born sons whose abilities have  turned out to be much more of a curse than a blessing.  Love’s Shadow tells the story of the middle brother, Branwell (can you guess whose namesake he is?)

Branwell has been in love with his brother’s ex-girlfriend from first sight years ago. Unbeknownst, to him she is also in love with him but due to their loyalty to the brother/ex-boyfriend neither one of them will act upon their feelings, leaving both of them believing their affection is unrequited. But when Lucy’s niece disappears on her watch and she comes under suspicion, Branwell steps in to help, hoping his and his brothers “gifts” will give them an advantage in finding the little girl.

REVIEW

I first met Branwell in Gladly Beyond which gave me a glimpse into the toll his special abilities take on even the minute details of his daily life. This is explained in greater detail in Love’s Shadow which led me to an understanding of the precautions he is forced to take. Lucy and Branwell’s romance is unique because of their great compassion and willingness to sacrifice their desires for the love of others. The Maledetti family is one that anyone would love to be a part of thanks to the special bond among the brothers and the rest of their family (mother, sister, grandmother) which is beautiful and sincere.

I hate to say Nichole Van improves with each book, because I love them all so much I cannot say which one is best. All her stories are light and frothy romances with great moments of humor woven in. Her heroes are swoony and her heroines, likeable and spunky. Because I am a fan of both historical and contemporary fiction I appreciate how she weaves them together in each of her stories in a believable way (well, if you can believe in time-travel and/or supernatural transference). Many books which contain the supernatural tend to feel somewhat heavy and dark, but this is what I would call supernatural-lite, as it simply adds a fantastical element without feeling threatening. I also appreciate that her stories are clean, with no objectionable material in them adhering to the values of an old-fashioned romance.

As usual, now that I have finished this story, I can’t wait for the next one.

Visit the author’s Pinterest page for visuals from the book.

Introducing Buster Keaton

Personal Bio: Born Joseph Frank Keaton in  1895 to a pair of vaudeville  actors who owned their own travelling show, he was supposedly given the nickname Buster, by his parents’ partner, Harry Houdini (yes, that Houdini), who after seeing him emerge unscathed after a tumble down some stairs proclaimed, “That was a real buster!” He had an unconventional childhood, incorporated early on as a child actor in his parent’s act and received no formal schooling, his only education that which his mother could give him on the road.

Young Buster with parents

After the Keaton’s show finally ended due to his father’s alcoholism, Buster spent a short stint serving in the army during WWI where he was stationed in France. Upon his return he traveled to New York where through a mutual acquaintance he met famous comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle who became a close friend and mentor in the film industry. Buster was a quick learner and soon was writing, directing, producing and starring in his own films, beginning with silent comedy shorts and eventually transitioning into feature films where he had great success.

During this time he married his first wife who was part of a well-known and well-respected acting family and had two sons with her. Eventually due to  career issues as well as personal issues, the marriage disintegrated and she took their home, the bulk of his wealth and his sons and refused to allow Buster any contact with his children. He quickly descended into full blown alcoholism and poverty and completely lost the professional respect and the career which he had painstakingly built.

With first wife and son

He spent several years in and out of hospitals and married again two more times, crediting his third and final wife with helping him get control of his alcoholism and  back on his feet. He went back to work in the film industry in uncredited roles as a gag writer and in small cameos and acting roles. He eventually regained the respect he was due in his profession, but never again reached the zenith of his earlier fame. He died of lung cancer in 1970.  

Film Bio: Thanks to his early years working in vaudeville theater, Buster Keaton had gained quite a bit of knowledge and experience which served him well when he moved into film. Being mentored by and working with Fatty Arbuckle only added to his experience and natural aptitude for comedy.

Arbuckle and Keaton

His films are noted for their sight gags and extremely physical comedy, both of which required careful precision and attention to detail. He was also famous for doing his own stunts which were often very dangerous. He was nicknamed The Great Stone Face, because regardless of what hilarious chaos and mayhem swirled around his film characters, he never cracked a smile.

Considered one of his greatest masterpieces, his silent film The General filmed in 1926 inadvertently led to the beginning of the end of his most productive and succesful period of work. The expense and mixed reviews of the film led to the loss of his productive control and eventually led him to sign with MGM. The studio forced him to give up his independence in the film making process which ultimately proved to be disastrous for him. It was during this time that he began drinking and his first marriage fell apart and he eventually lost everything.

After his third marriage and recovery from alcoholism, Keaton began working in the film industry again and regained respect for his talents, working with comedians such as Red Skelton and Lucille Ball.

He is credited as an actor in 148 films, a writer in 41 of those films, a director of 39 and producer of 15. Although the majority of those credits are for sound films, it is his silent comedy shorts and feature films for which he still remains the most famous and appreciated. Near the end of his life, Keaton was finally awarded an honorary Oscar which he so richly deserved and thanks to a resurgence in classic and silent films in recent decades his name and talent are becoming as well known as another famous contemporary of his, Charlie Chaplin.

Buster Keaton was my first introduction to silent film. Despite my longtime love and fascination with movies, I had no interest in silent film. Thank goodness, that I decided to give it a chance and that the film I chose was Keaton’s, because there really is no one else quite like him. His talent was immense and yet appeared effortless, and the impact he had on films and future comedians is impossible to measure.

Famous Films:

      • One Week (1920) – a short film which runs 19 minutes, it depicts the struggle of newlyweds, who receive a build-it-yourself house as a wedding present, to assemble their new home. Thanks to the vindictive actions of the wife’s former suitor the boxes of building materials are numbered incorrectly which leads to a very strange looking home.
    • Seven Chances (1925) -Keaton stars as a man who learns he must marry by the end of the day in order to inherit a fortune left to him by his grandfather.  This hour long film has him chased through town by a mob of wannabe brides as well as trying to outrun a rock slide. This is listed among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (along with several other Keaton films).
    • The General (1926) arguably Keaton’s most acclaimed film, it spelled the end of his artistic freedom. Due to the great cost involved in producing this, Keaton was forced to sign with MGM. It features on of his great loves trains, with The General being the name of the beloved locomotive belonging to Keaton’s Confederate engineer. It is stolen by Union spies and Keaton must cross enemy lines in pursuit of it’s recovery.
    • The Cameraman (1928) – Keaton’s first film with MGM still shows Keaton in top form and in control, although for the last time. He falls in love with a secretary who works for MGM and trades in his portrait camera for an old film camera in order to win her attention and her heart. The only problem is his camera is out of date and he lacks the experience for the job.

Quotes:

Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot.

A comedian does funny things. A good comedian does things funny.

I have simply been brought up by being knocked down.

Film Review -Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Welcome back to director Mel Gibson. It has been ten years since he last directed a film and boy did he pick a great story for his return.

SUMMARY

Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a medic who served in WWII but who refused to carry a weapon.

Desmond Doss grows up in a home with an alcoholic father whose experiences in WWI haunt both him and his household. Thanks to his religious beliefs and a few personal experiences including a confrontation with his own father, Desmond is adamantly opposed to violence.These views are severely challenged when he joins the army as a “conscientious co-operator”. He feels compelled to be a part of the war, but refuses to carry a weapon. As a medic he wants to help save lives, but the Army does not know what to do with a soldier who won’t even touch a gun. Desmond faces mockery and extreme peer pressure from the men in his company and his commanders for his convictions, but he refuses to compromise.

Eventually, he is shipped with the rest of his company to Okinawa to participate in a bloody, difficult battle against the Japanese which has already claimed mass casualties. Doss’ convictions and true strength are tested during this battle and his actions will show his men what he is made of.

MY THOUGHTS

This is just the kind of story I love, one which portrays the heroism and courage of an ordinary man against all odds. Mel Gibson has never shied away from graphic violence and he certainly doesn’t sanitize the cruelty of war. For this reason, this film was hard for me to watch, because the reality of war and its’ brutality is on full display. Yet, it is in the worst of circumstances that true heroes manifest themselves. Desmond Doss’ courage and commitment to his beliefs has stuck with me in the days since I watched this film. Despite all the challenges and difficulties presented not only by war, but by his fellow soldiers he never compromises and keeps his promise to save lives including those of his enemies. His grit, determination and honor are inspiring and a true testimony to how one person can make an enormous difference.

Andrew Garfield does an amazing job as Desmond Doss. He doesn’t just play Doss, but becomes him. He is a man of faith and gentleness, yet stubborn strength and rebellion against the status quo. The other actors are also very well cast and I particularly enjoyed Vince Vaughn as Doss’ direct superior Sgt. Howell who manages to provide this serious film with its’ few moments of levity. In fact, my favorite scene of the whole film has both Garfield and Vaughn in what I call the magic carpet ride. It’s pretty awesome.

CONCLUSION

If you aren’t disturbed by graphic war violence I would encourage you to watch this film. I am betting that the story of Desmond Doss will inspire you like it has me.

Book Review -The Tox Files

If you have never read any of author Ronie Kendig’s books, then you are in for a real treat. She has coined the phrase Rapid-Fire Fiction and it sure is. Kendig writes military action and international intrigue stories and if you pick up one of her titles, then you better plan to clear your schedule because you won’t be able to stop until you reach the end.

ABOUT THE SERIES

The Tox Files is the newest series from this talented author and I believe it is her best yet! So far, the prequel novella The Warrior’s Seal (which is available for free on Kindle) and the first full length novel of this series Conspiracy of Silence have been released with the second title A Crown of Souls set for an October 2017 release.

Although you needn’t read the prequel in order to understand the plot of Conspiracy of Silence, I would recommend that you do so, because it introduces you to the main players and gives some background details which will only enhance your understanding throughout the series.

In both books, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team of black ops commandos are charged with highly sensitive missions to not only protect high level government officials, but they also find themselves tracking  down information and hidden secrets behind Middle Eastern and biblical relics which  are tied to plagues and directly impact their mission.

THE WARRIOR’S SEAL

The Warrior’s Seal introduces us to Tox, so nicknamed because he is toxic to anyone who dares to get close to him, and his team; Cell the tech guru, Maangi the medic, Chiiji, Tox’s Nigerian conscience and Ram his second in command. While on the hunt for the Mace of Subjugation and also for those who kidnapped the American president and First Lady their mission crosses with that of Ram’s sister Tzivia and Dr. Cathey, archaeologists whose knowledge of the stolen artifact is crucial. They eventually find themselves in Syria trying to rescue the president and stop an ancient, deadly plague from being released on the world.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to novellas as I don’t usually feel the shorter length allows much in the way of character or plot development.  However, this book is an exception to that rule using the entire 130 pages very effectively. Despite its’ brevity I really felt like I had read a full length novel not only because of the plot and characters development but also due to the high paced intensity in which it is told.

CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE

Conspiracy of Silence continues the story of Tox and his team. Due to the fallout from their past mission we find them living separate lives believing their leader dead and Tox wrestling with his perceived failures and the compromises he has made to protect the people he loves.

However, when a new threat emerges and the President’s Chief of Staff forces his hand, Tox must reach out to his old teammates to help him find and eliminate a deadly assassin who is part of a larger global conspiracy.

Despite the distrust and doubt that the team members still harbor towards their former Sergeant they agree to help. Once again, Tzivia and Dr. Cathey play important roles in the new mission. Tzivia’s archaeological dig in Saudi Arabia uncovers proof of a biblical Jewish encampment and also several censers mentioned in the Bible, directly referenced in Numbers 16. Hidden along with these is a leaf of the Aleppo Codex, the oldest “complete” Hebrew Bible in existence. When her site is invaded and the censers stolen, again a worldwide plague threatens to erupt. Adding to the mystery and the conspiracy of silence by Jewish leaders sworn to protect the remaining leafs of the Codex is whether markings of the text by a Templar Knight renders the whole book void.

Also, adding to the complexity of Tox’s mission are old family ties. His brother Galen just happens to be the current President and their relationship has been stormy ever since Galen stole his brother’s girlfriend and made her his wife. His brother’s sister-in-law was a young girl when her sister Brooke dated Tox, but after witnessing Brooke’s treatment of him, Haven swore to herself that she would love Cole Russell forever. When he appears back on the scene after being presumed dead and she finally gets the opportunity to clear Tox’s name, she uses it as leverage to be included on the mission as a deception expert. Although Cole agrees to this, he is unaware of her identity because he hasn’t seen Haven since she was a child and she now goes by another name.

REVIEW

While the plots are highly intense, quick paced and complex it is also the intricate web of relationships between the various characters in this series which keep the reader intrigued and on the edge of their seat. The high volume of players named throughout both stories sometimes make it hard to follow with who is who. Beyond that, the characters are written as fully human so although the reader is aware of who the heroes are, they are not typical, being fully flawed. Additionally some of the characters are morally ambiguous so it is not easy to tell who is friend and who is foe.

I love how the author weaves in pieces of history by including references to the Knights Templar, one in particular whose mission seems to mirror that of Cole Russell’s. Tying in biblical history and The Aleppo Codex also adds to the historical depth of the missions for the team. The author even shares references in her notes at the end of Conspiracy of Silence which encourage and allow the reader to do their own research on this historically important artifact.

Kendig’s apparent knowledge of the Middle East and the ins and outs of our government and military are impressive and certainly make her stories come alive. The way this knowledge is woven into the book is so thorough yet subtle and really places the reader on the missions along with the characters.

Although I don’t read many books in this particular genre I would still say that Kendig, as an author, is in a class by herself.

Introducing…Myrna Loy

Since most of my friends and family are not classic film fans, I thought I would start a new series in which I introduce actors and actresses from this era, in the hope that it will familiarize you with famous names and perhaps whet your appetite for their films.

Personal Bio:Myrna Williams was born in Helena, Montana in 1905. Her father was a successful businessman and state congressman. After his death in 1918 her mother permanently moved the family to southern California where Myrna attended high school in Venice. She was the model for a sculpture which was displayed outside of the high school for many decades. Her portrait caught the eye of famous silent film star Rudolph Valentino which eventually led to her gaining work in silent films, changing her last name to Loy.

Myrna was not only an actress but was a lifelong Democrat who was actively involved in political issues through out her life. She put her career on hold in WWII to work with the Red Cross and was so vehemently outspoken against Hitler that she was placed on his blacklist. She was an early supporter of civil rights not only fighting for their rights to be depicted with dignity on film but also serving as a co-chairman on a committee which fought against housing discrimination. She was one of the first celebrities to work with the U.N.

Contrary to her film image as the perfect wife, Myrna was married and divorced four times and joked about how her screen image was very different than her personal life. Due to an abortion early in her life she was never able to have children of her own. Loy identified as a Methodist throughout her life.

Film Bio: Myrna Loy appeared in over 130 films in various genres over the course of six decades. She began in silent films and is one of a few actresses who successfully transitioned into talking pictures. At the beginning of her career she was typecast as an exotic femme fatale, usually playing women of Asian or Eurasian descent as well as questionable morals. In the mid 1930’s, she transitioned into more respectable roles as the “perfect” wife, society woman or glamorous career gal. At one point in the thirties she was voted along with Clark Gable as the king and queen of Hollywood. She was one of the most popular and well-liked actresses prior to WWII.

After the war, Myrna returned to films while also continuing with her political work. Although she was a prolific and well-respected actress, sadly she was never nominated for an Academy Award.  This egregious oversight was corrected in 1991 when she was awarded an honorary Oscar for “career achievement.”

Famous Co-stars

  • William Powell -Without question Powell is Loy’s most well-known co-star. They appeared in fourteen films together and their pairing in the The Thin Man series catapulted both their names and careers into Hollywood history.

 

  • Clark Gable – Another actor with numerous co-star credits. They appeared in seven films together, some good, some not so good. Initially, they did not get on well together, but eventually became good friends. Despite the quality of some of their films, they have wonderful chemistry.
  • Cary Grant -Loy appeared in three films with Grant. Although Cary Grant is my favorite actor and I am also a fan of Loy, I feel that they were ultimately better matched with other co-stars. Still, you can’t take your eyes off either one of them.

 

Famous Films:

  • The Thin Man (1934) – Arguably, this is the film that made Myrna Loy. It was her second pairing with William Powell and not only was the first of six Thin Man films, but also helped launch many similarly styled mystery films.

 

  • The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) -One of the best post-war dramas made about the impact of the war on returning service men and their families. This stars Loy as the wife of one of those men and many believe she should have been nominated for her role in this film.

 

My Favorite Films:

  • Penthouse (1933) -I love this film which allows Loy to play somewhere in between a femme fatale and the upstanding lady she would play later in her career. She is a classy call-girl who helps an attorney bring down a gangster.

 

 

 

 

  • Test Pilot (1938) -My favorite of her pairings with Clark Gable (and Spencer Tracy). She is the devoted wife to Gable’s fearless aviation test pilot.

 

 

  • The Rains Came (1939) -A bit of an unusual role for Loy, she plays a married English aristocrat in love with a forbidden Indian doctor (played by the gorgeous, yet very Caucasian Tyrone Power).

 

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  • So Goes My Love (1946) -A rarely seen semi-biographical film about American inventor Hiram Maxim. Loy again plays the wife to Don Ameche‘s Maxim. They are so charming together I can overlook the film’s few flaws.

 

 

Quotes:

Why does every black person in the movies have to play a servant? How about a black person walking up the steps of a courthouse carrying a briefcase?

Some perfect wife I am. I’ve been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can’t boil an egg.

Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming.