Book Review -Newton and Polly

I have been a fan of Jody Hedlund’s historical romances since her debut release back in 2010. But she particularly excels in this genre when she writes about or is inspired by actual historical figures. From her very first novel which was inspired by John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, to her faithful historical renderings based on American missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, founding father John Adams and wife Abigail, to her more recent depiction of Martin Luther and his bride Katharina, she never fails to paint a vivid and well researched picture of their lives. And now, with her recent release Newton and Polly she continues her streak of excellence.

SUMMARY

Newton and Polly introduces us to a young John Newton, just as he himself is introduced to Polly Catlett, the woman who becomes the love of his life and who is also instrumental in his eventual salvation and transformation. For those who are unfamiliar with John Newton, he is the author of many hymns, including the famous Amazing Grace, as well as being an important figure in the fight to abolish slavery in Britain. Newton lived his younger years in rebellion to his father and in defiance of most authority and found himself involved in some despicable things, including the slave trade. Continue reading “Book Review -Newton and Polly”

Most Anticipated Books of 2017

As an avid reader I have an exorbitantly large TBR pile of books which have already been released that I plan to read. I think this list is now in the hundreds, but I don’t let that stop me from also having a list of as yet unreleased books which I desperately want to add to that pile.

Here is my partial list for 2017:

The Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden -This debut book by a new author has a contemporary story that sounds interesting. Plus, I love the cover. Continue reading “Most Anticipated Books of 2017”

TV Series Review -Leah Remini, Scientology and the Aftermath

You guys. If you are not watching this show you really should be. It is an absolutely fascinating look into the shadowy religion of Scientology. Not only that, but it also reveals the unspoken psychology behind why people are drawn to organizations like this and how these same organizations manage and control their members while also building themselves into a giant business.

Leah Remini is absolutely inspiring in this A&E documentary series. With her strong New York accent and her assertive personality she could be in danger of coming across simply as an angry person with an ax to grind. Instead, she is channeling that anger and frustration with the Church of Scientology into finding the truth. Through her own story and interviews with various ex-church members, some of who were very high ranking, she is exposing the reality and the details behind this mysterious religion. She comes across as compassionate and empathetic in those interviews and while one can sense her indignation towards her former church she never sounds as if she has a personal vendetta against the people involved. Continue reading “TV Series Review -Leah Remini, Scientology and the Aftermath”

Steve McQueen Mini-Reviews

As I mentioned in a prior post, Steve McQueen is an anomaly for me. As most would agree, he is the epitome of cool, so I want to love his films and yet the few pictures of his I had seen left me underwhelmed. This year, that changed.

Originally, I was planning on writing longer individual reviews of each of the following films. But as it has been several months since I’ve watched a few of them, some of the details have faded and left me more with my overall impressions.

The Honeymoon Machine -1961  

Lieutenant Ferguson (McQueen) and his civilian scientist friend decide to exploit a navy computer called Max in a get rich quick scheme involving a Venice casino, while trying to avoid their Admiral who is staying in the same hotel and romancing two women, one of whom is the Admiral’s daughter.

This is a breezy ninety minute caper comedy which may not be one of McQueen’s best films technically but sure is entertaining. McQueen played so many dramatic roles that it is nice to see him in lighter fare. The funniest scenes are of Signalman Burford Taylor who becomes an unwitting and very drunk co-conspirator. Continue reading “Steve McQueen Mini-Reviews”

Film Year 2016 in Review

I’m almost ashamed to admit that by my count I watched over one hundred films in the past year. That is not including made for television movies (I’m looking at you Hallmark.) Most of those were classic films, but I did manage to see a few new releases.

Here is a rundown on my film year.

In 2016 I saw the following new releases:

Of these films, the only one I didn’t enjoy was Hail Caesar. I was very disappointed as this was a movie I was eagerly awaiting due to its story about classic Hollywood. I’m a fan of series or sequels as long as the story is entertaining so I enjoyed Greek Wedding 2, Civil War and Jason Bourne.  It was great to be introduced to a new Jane Austen story in Love and Friendship and I thought the new Ben-Hur was interesting. Continue reading “Film Year 2016 in Review”

Book Year in Review

This has been a very busy year for me as a reader.

Although my Goodreads account says otherwise, according to my personal count I read around one hundred books. One hundred! While I claim to be a voracious reader I even shocked myself with that number. This is even more surprising when I realized that I also watched about the same number of films. I obviously had more free time than I realized.

So without further ado and in no particular order, here are my top ten favorites this year:

The Lady and the Lionheart -This is not only my favorite read this year, but is going on my top ten favorite books that I’ve ever read. The compelling and redemptive story of a tender hearted lion tamer and the sweet nurse with a tragic past who helps him care for an orphaned infant is one which has haunted me in a good way even months after I finished the book. I’m not the only one who loves their story. It’s getting rave reviews, so do yourself a favor and buy it.

The Progeny -Tosca Lee has always written fascinating stories and this one about gifted descendants of one of the most allegedly prolific female serial killers in history is a real thriller. Continue reading “Book Year in Review”

Seven Reasons to Love The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday is not just one of my favorite Christmas films, but one of my favorite films period.  This story which is now a decade old follows two women who decide to switch homes and lives for the holidays. In the process, they both meet new people, including potential love interests, and learn something about themselves.

Although there are many implausibilities about this film, I really don’t care because it has charm, warmth and heart. It harkens back to the days of classic films when you fell in love with a movie, because you fell in love with the characters and the story was moved along not by CGI action and graphic sex scenes but by great dialogue.

So, to rip off one of my favorite poets (I’m looking at you Elizabeth Barrett Browning), and without further ado…

How do I love thee, The Holiday, let me count the ways:

  1. Arthur played by Eli Wallach -Arthur is the elderly next door neighbor who Iris (Kate Winslet) befriends and who becomes a pseudo-therapist/mentor to her. I love the way they each see the truth about each other and encourage one another to live more meaningful lives. My favorite scene of Arthur is towards the end when he thinks he’s been forgotten and he walks into a benefit in his honor.  I cry every single time, because who wouldn’t want to come to the end of their life and realize that they have made a difference and are remembered well. I want an Arthur!!

Continue reading “Seven Reasons to Love The Holiday (2006)”

Christmas at the Tulsa Symphony

I recently spent a weekend with a good friend of mine in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her sister-in-law who plays violin with the Symphony gifted us with free tickets.

I have to tell you, we already had plans for another Christmas concert the next evening with two of our favorite artists, so although I thought the symphony would be a nice experience I wasn’t as excited about the evening as I could have been. Plus, although I love live performances of all kinds, I was under the mistaken impression that the performance might become a little dull after an hour or so just listening to musicians playing their instruments.

Boy, was I wrong. This was one of my favorite experiences this year. The show was kept lively by the variety of the performances. At various times, the symphony was joined by The Tulsa Chorus as well as children from both local choirs and students of stringed instruments. You could almost imagine seeing these child singers and musicians as part of the professional symphony itself once they become adults. Continue reading “Christmas at the Tulsa Symphony”

TV Movie Review -Heaven Sent (2016)

I don’t mean to brag but we are Hallmark movie aficionados in my house. I kid you not. We do not miss a single original movie or series that is aired, particularly the Christmas themed films. The production values have continually improved as well as the story lines and we appreciate the warmth, positive message and family oriented outlook of each film.

Imagine our surprise when we discovered a new holiday release on Lifetime Channel, yes Lifetime,  which we all fell in love with and believe could give Hallmark stiff competition.

Heaven Sent follows Billy and Maire Taylor as they struggle through a divorce and decisions about their joint business during the Christmas season. Adding to the confusion is a young runaway girl who shows up in their house with her own secrets and challenges. Continue reading “TV Movie Review -Heaven Sent (2016)”

Jordan Smith -Tis the Season

I recently saw two of my favorite Christmas music artists in concert. I don’t think anyone is more prolific in putting out Christmas albums than Amy Grant and Michael W Smith. I have seen them both individually and together in concert many times. But this time, I was in for a surprise. And that surprise was Jordan Smith.

I watch very little reality television. So, I wasn’t familiar with Jordan Smith (of The Voice fame) when he came out to share the stage with Michael and Amy. All I can say is…wow! This guy can sing! And not only can he sing, but he is an entertainer who more than held his own on stage with these seasoned performers. He had great stage presence and rapport with both the audience and his fellow singers and even tweaked Michael a little bit which made the audience laugh.

Needless to say, after hearing him perform several songs that evening I knew I had to check out his Christmas album. Continue reading “Jordan Smith -Tis the Season”