Monthly Archives: September 2015

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty (A Dangerous Beauty Novel) Book Review

For the most, except for recent history, women have been excluded from the biblical and historical narrative. A majority of women have remained nameless and faceless. The lucky few who have been named and allowed brief biographies, but we know little of them beyond the basic details that we are told.

In Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty (A Dangerous Beauty Novel), by Angela Hunt, Bathsheba is the wife of Uriah, a soldier in King David’s army. Watching her as she bathes, David is taken by her. Feeling guilty for forcing her to break her marriage vows and for the coming child that was not fathered by Bathsheba’s husband, David sends Uriah to the front, where he is killed. David married Bathsheba and adds her to his harem. The prophet Nathan has already spoke of not just of her future, but the future of their son who will be king. But it will not easy with the one two punch of a dark curse threatening David’s dynasty and many who hide personal ambition behind the polite smile.   

Will the curse come to pass? Will Bathsheba watch her son ascend to the throne or will he descend to the violence and chaos of David’s world?

I read Ms. Hunt’s first book earlier in the year. What I like about her books is the delicate balance of an engaging narrative with historical details that make the story and the characters come alive.  While the novel could have easily been bogged down into a documentary or a history book, Ms. Hunt has the enviable talent of telling a well written story that easily transports the viewer back to a time and place that does not exist anymore.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History

Raquela: A Woman Of Israel Book Review

Sometimes, when we live through major historical events, we find that we see the world through different eyes.

Raquela: A Woman Of History, By Ruth Gruber is a biography that reads like a fiction novel.

Raquela Prywes (nee Levy) is born at a unique point in history. The child of an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) father and a Sephardi (Middle Eastern/Iberian Peninsula) mother, Raquela is a sabra, a native of Israel. She comes of age as Israel fights of her independence. Working as a nurse and a midwife,  she works tirelessly through the events that shaped Israel’s early years. As her life changes, it mirrors the changes that her homeland is experiencing.

Originally published in 1979, I read this book many years ago. Her story is compelling and told in a way that does not feel like a boring biography. Ms. Gruber, a journalist by trade, infuses her characters with life and vitality. Sometimes, when a writer is trying to infuse a fiction like aspect to a biography, the story often reads as dry. But not this book. Another quality that I like about this book is that against history and everything that is going in the region at the period, Raquela remains strong and true to herself.

I recommend it.

 

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Indian Summers Review

History and change sometimes happens when we least expect it. When we are comfortable with our lives and our surroundings, change often happens.

The new miniseries Indian Summers is about change and how that change affects all of us. It is the story of two different families, one Indian, one British. Set in the early 1930’s as the British empire is slowly receding into history, the miniseries takes the audience back to a time when the British were fighting to hold onto a world and an empire that was slowly dying.

Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) works for the British Viceroy. His sister, Alice (Jemima West) has just arrived in India with her young son to escape a less than stellar marriage. Aafrin Dalal (Nikesh Patel) is one of Ralph’s employees. He lives with his Indian family, trying to balance his loyalty to the government while dealing with the rumblings of independence that is slowly working its way through the country. They are all brought together by Cynthia Coffin (Julie Walters) who runs the social club run that many of the British and American ex-pats are members of.

I found the first episode to be interesting. Set at the intersection of history when the world is going to change, some very difficult questions are coming up to the surface which, as well know, have the potential to turn violent. While the cast is nothing but stellar, I found the first episode to be a little slow.

Do I recommend it? If you are a fan of Masterpiece and/or you are a student of history, I would say yes. Otherwise I might recommend to skip it.

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Filed under History, Life, Television, TV Review

The Intern Movie Review

Many people look forward to retirement. After years of the daily grind and the stress that work brings, retirement feels like a dream. There is no blaring alarm clock to wake you up at the crack of dawn, there is no boss hanging around your desk and you are without coworkers with a junior high school mentality. To some it is a dream, but to others, it is a void that begs to be filled.

In the new release, The Intern, Ben (Robert De Niro) is a 70-year-old retiree who has tried to fill his time every which way possible. But he is still bored. Seeing an ad for a company looking for senior citizen interns, Ben applies and is accepted. Millennial generation Jules (Anne Hathaway) opened her fashion e-commerce business 18 months ago. She did not foresee how quickly the company would become a success.

Like many women, Jules is balancing work, marriage and motherhood.  Her success in keeping all three on track at the same time is not going too well. Like many retirees, Ben is not only adjusting to the new work mentality, but also to the technology that has become ingrained in our daily lives.

Every genre has its stalwart filmmakers. For the rom-com and comedy genres, Nancy Meyers is one of those filmmakers.  This film has all of the hallmarks of a Nancy Meyers film. But that does not mean it as good as some of her previous films.

My problem with the film is that certain scenes felt very clunky. Others felt like they should have been left for the extras section of the DVD. The movie is not completely horrible. There are some very funny scenes and some scenes that felt true to everyday life. Hathaway and De Niro have decent chemistry. And part of it was shot in Brooklyn, which is always a good thing.

Do I recommend it? This film is a maybe for me. Perhaps I should have waited to get it on DVD from the library instead of seeing it in theaters.

The Intern is presently in theaters. 

 

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The Debt Of Tamar Book Review

Destiny is a strange concept. It can, at one point, bring two people together, tear them apart and then bring them back together centuries later.

The Debt Of Tamar by Nicole Dweck, is about a couple brought together during the 16th century, pulled apart and then brought back together in modern-day New York City.

In the 16th century Ottoman Empire, Murad is the Muslim heir to the throne. Tamar is the daughter of the prince’s most respected counselor. She is a Jew whose parents barely escaped the flames of the Inquisition. They are young, in love and eager to start a life together. But despite her parent’s loyalty and appreciation of the new life they have built in Turkey, having a son-in-law who is not of the Jewish faith is not something they are looking forward to. Tamar is sent away. Murad spends the rest of his days pining for the love his youth. He dies many years later with the all too brief memories of their time together fresh in his mind.

Centuries later, Selim Osman is the last living heir of the ruling family of the Ottoman Empire. His life has not been an easy one. Upon hearing a medical diagnosis of cancer, he flies to New York City for treatment. In the hospital room in New York with Selim is a man with a heavy past. His daughter, Hannah, an artist, is trying to crack the code that is her father. Hannah and Selim are brought together, as were Murad and Tamar centuries before. But the past has a way of inserting itself into the present and Hannah and Selim must contend with both.

This book was recommended to me and I am glad it was. If the sign of a good book is that I wished for a slightly longer train ride, then this is a good book. Writing a historical novel is a challenge for many writers, as there is a delicate balance between an engaging narrative and ensuring that the details of the period are accurate. Ms. Dweck conquered that challenge seemingly without a struggle. While the last few pages bewildered me, overall, it was a great read and I highly recommend it.

 

 

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Flashback Friday- Sophie’s Choice (1982)

It is impossible to live through an event like the Holocaust without experiencing an emotional backlash afterwards.

In Sophie’s Choice (1982), Sophie is a Polish Catholic woman who lived through the Nazi concentration camps. After the war, she is living in Brooklyn with Nathan (Kevin Kline), an American Jewish man who is obsessed with the Holocaust. Entering their world is Stingo (Peter MacNicol), a writer who has just moved to New York City. Stingo is the audience’s eyes and ears to this very tumultuous and rocky relationship.

This movie is one of those movies that still holds up after thirty plus years. The acting is stellar, the story telling is nothing short of breath taking and heartbreaking and it is nothing but timeless.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Flashback Friday-Win a Date With Tad Hamilton (2004) and Bye Bye Birdie (1995)

In our celebrity drenched  culture, the celebrities become the princes and princesses that once ruled our imaginations. The fantasy of living happily every after with a celebrity is surprisingly on the minds of many.

In Win a Date With Tad Hamilton (2004), Rosalee is a young lady from small town America. Like many fans, she is hopelessly in love with the latest Hollywood hottie, Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel). Rosalee is the lucky winner of the Win A Date With Tad Hamilton. Her win is to the chagrin of her best friend, Pete (Topher Grace), who is secretly in love with Rosalee.  The contest was dreamed by Tad’s management to clean up his reputation. When Tad begins to like real world and Rosalee, his management team and Pete begin to question if the contest was a good idea in the first place.

This movie is a good example of “be careful for what you wish for”. While it has certain predictable elements of character and story, there are elements that make it stand out from the standard rom-com.

A predecessor of Win A Date With Tad Hamilton is Bye Bye Birdie. Premiering on Broadway in 1958, it was made into a movie in 1963 and brought to TV audiences in the form of a TV movie in 1995.

Conrad Birdie (Marc Kurdisch) is an Elvis Presley like singer who is about to be shipped off to the army. In an effort to boost his popularity, his manager Albert J. Peterson (Jason Alexander) comes up the idea of choosing a young lady to accompany him at this final concert. The lucky young lady is Kim McAfee (Chynna Phillips). But her boyfriend and her parents are not thrilled with the idea.

Bye Bye Birdie is a classic among musicals. But unfortunately, it is one of those musicals, that despite certain timeless themes, feels very dated.

Do I recommend them? Maybe, depending on your taste.

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Flashback Friday-Twins (1988)

Opposites attract have  been a basic component of story telling since the beginning of story telling. Normally, the opposites attract story line centers around a potential romantic couple. What happens when this idea centers about twin brothers?

In Twins (1988), Julius Benedict (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Vincent (Danny DeVito) are twins and the subject of a very interesting science experiment. Julius was raised to be perfect in every way, but being raised isolated from the rest of the world, he is innocent of the darker sides of life. Vincent was raised in an orphanage and spends his days an adult doing petty crimes. What happens when these two men meet and try to put together the pieces of the puzzle that is their mother and their childhoods?

For a late 80’s bromance (literally a bromance), this film is not bad. DeVito, as he sometimes does, plays a smarmy, not quite likable character with questionable tastes. Schwarzengger, in stepping out of the action genre and into the bromance buddy comedy genre is actually quite funny.

Do I recommend it? Why not?

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RIP, Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra passed away 48 hours ago.

He came from an era where baseball was about the game and the fans. It was not about multi-million dollar contracts, super model and Hollywood girlfriends and the McMansions. It was about the purity of the game, the enjoyment of the fans and the honest hard work and talent that it takes to get to the major leagues.

Born to immigrant Italian parents, Yogi knew of hard work and persistence. Like many of his generation, he served in World War II. He was married to his late wife Carmen from 1949 until her death last year, he leaves behind 3 children, several grandchildren and one great grandchild.

He represented honesty, integrity, hard work, humility and simplicity. Beyond his legend as a baseball player, he was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a gentleman and a human being.

RIP, sir. While your physical presence may be gone, your spirit and your legacy will live on.

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Throwback Thursday-Muppet Triple Feature-The Muppet Show (1976-1981), Muppet Treasure Island (1996) & Muppet Babies (1984-1991)

The Muppets, created by the late Jim Henson, have been in our lives since 1955.

The first incarnation of the Muppets I am going to talk about tonight is The Muppet Show (1976-1981). Setup in a variety format that was popular with audiences of the era, the show mixed skits, the various muppet personalities and the featured celebrity guest of the week.

For it’s time, the show was entertaining, well made and kept audiences coming back for five years. Not bad for a show where the main characters are made of cloth and string.

In 1996, in an attempt to mix classic literature with the muppets, Muppet Treasure Island was born.

Sometimes in an attempt to educate and simultaneously entertain, one or both elements are lost in the mix. In the case, both are lost.

Finally, for  those of us who remember the 80’s through the fog of childhood, Muppet Babies (1984-1991) brings back fond memories.

Taking the muppets and shrinking their world to the size of pre-schoolers, this show was part of the lexicon of the then very young generation.

Do I recommend all three? The first and third for nostalgia’s sake, yes. The second, I could easily pass on.

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