Movie Review: Beyond the Mask (2015) 3.5 Stars

Beyond the Mask

Release Date: April 2015

Watched via Netflix DVD: May 2016

3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis (from IMdb): The chief mercenary for the British East India Company, being double crossed by his former employer, has made his way to the American Colonies. Working to redeem his name, William Reynolds (Andrew Cheney) now hides behind a different mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer. As his past life closes in on him, Will must somehow gain the trust and the help of his beloved Charlotte, a woman he has been lying to, as well as a colonial intellectual by the name of Ben Franklin. All the while he races against time to defuse a plot that could have devastating effect on the birth of a new nation.

My Thoughts

The story was intriguing and I’m always a sucker for a Revolutionary tale. The actors performed well (I laughed, I almost cried).  Yet, I remained unconvinced in the sincerity of Will’s conversion, but his actions and convictions spoke louder than his words throughout.  Charlotte’s constant protestations of confusion made me doubt her intelligence, but she redeemed herself admirably before the credits.  I spotted the telegraphed clues to the mystery early on, so the plotting was almost as heavy-handed as the special effects, which I thought were a bit over-played.

I liked the score, except perhaps for the repeated use of Pachelbel’s Canon,  which really wasn’t popular until the 1970s, not the 1776 (in fact it was pretty much lost to history until the early 20th century).

Christian film-making is improving.  I continue to hold out hope and with each passing year my prayers are answered for an improved storytelling experience.

Give Beyond the Mask a try.  You might find a spark of redemption waiting for you.

Abstract Art Juxtaposed With Muralist Book Discussion

Tour for FYI Book Group Saturday 3/19/2016
FYI book group given tour of relevant art by Nelson-Atkins Curator of Modern Art, Jan Schall, Ph.D.

I received an invitation from Kaite Stover, Director of Reader Services for the Kansas City Public Library, a few weeks ago, asking me if I would like to read The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro (also author of The Art Forger) and attend the discussion to be held at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Saturday, March 19th.  I readily agreed because the book sounded interesting and there was the added bonus of a special tour of the Contemporary Art gallery conducted by the curator, Jan Schall, Ph.D. Continue reading “Abstract Art Juxtaposed With Muralist Book Discussion”

Local Book Club Begins With Banned Book

Last month, my local library, the Lansing Community Library, sponsored a new adult book club.  About half a dozen people met initially to get to know each other, make book recommendations, decide on when to meet and what book to read first.  Since “Banned Book Week” occurs annually at the end of September, at our request, Director, Teri Wojtalewicz, recited a list published by the ALA of the top 100 banned books.  We determined that Sophie’s Choice by William Styron was a book that most of us had not read yet and thus became our first “Book of the Month” read.

On the second Thursday of October, we met again and gathered in a few new readers.  We had a lively discussion, as can be expected from a book that is challenged frequently for some of its content.  Those who had read it in their 20s and re-read it for the group felt like they were reading a different book from what they remembered.  I’ve had that same experience many times when returning to books I read from much earlier in my life.

Other readers mentioned and appreciated the use of music for the emotional apexes and nadirs Sophie experienced.  Another recurring comment involved the writing style of the author (or Stingo, whose life seemed to somewhat mirror the author’s protagonist), which involved the use of large unfamiliar words and incredibly long sentences.  Since I was/am reading the ebook edition, I took occasional advantage of the built-in dictionary available at the touch of a finger.

Continue reading “Local Book Club Begins With Banned Book”

Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks (2013) – 4 Stars

Savings Mr. Banks

3.5-4 stars out of 5 stars

Watched BluRay June 1, 2014

My husband and I watched Saving Mr. Banks last Sunday evening.  We both enjoyed the movie, especially the acting.  I took the ‘story’ with a grain of salt, realizing early on that some liberties must have been taken with the facts to create a more enjoyable experience for the audience.  I confirmed this in my spare time this week and will relate some of those findings later on in this review.

Savings Mr. Banks jumps back and forth between Continue reading “Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks (2013) – 4 Stars”

Book Review: Total War Rome: Destroy Carthage by Gibbons (DNF)

Total War Rome: Destroy Carthage by David Gibbons

DNF (no star rating because I did not finish reading it)

Attempted to read during September, October and November 2013

I wanted to love this book.  I read a blurb about it from one of my many book-related newsfeeds, through Tor’s RSS feed.  Here’s a link to the article penned by the author:  Ancient Rome and the Destruction of Carthage: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made On.

I started reading with high hopes, because I’m always fascinated by ancient history.  I’ve read other historical fiction novels set during the time frame of the ancient Roman Empire and enjoyed them.  I also enjoy movies that visit that time period.

Continue reading “Book Review: Total War Rome: Destroy Carthage by Gibbons (DNF)”

Book Review: One Corpse Too Many by Peters (3.5 Stars)

One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters

3.5 out of 5 stars

Read in February 2009

Brother Cadfael is thrust into the heart of political intrigue via his herb garden. Or rather, an unlikely new addition to the herb garden – a lay servant of youthful boyish appearance. Cadfael soon realizes his new assistant’s secret, and agrees to lend aid as he is able.

It is the time of King Stephen’s war upon the Empress Maude, granddaughter of William the Conqueror. Lines are drawn and England is divided. Stephen, also a grandson of William, has laid siege to Shrewsbury, on his way to fight Robert of Gloucester.

Stephen takes Shrewsbury but fails to acquire the prize personages who had been within it’s walls – FitzAlan and Adeney. After a thorough search of the town, these two are missing and the remaining garrison leader, Hesdin, does not reveal their whereabouts, even under torture. Adam Courcelle, one of Stephen’s captains, suggests that mercy to the garrison would be seen as a sign of weakness, so Stephen orders the entire garrison, and Hesdin, hanged immediately. Stephen’s Flemish mercenaries carry out this grim duty.

Brother Cadfael beseeches the Abbott and the king to allow the monks of the abbey to retrieve the bodies, prepare them for burial and allow the townsfolk to claim the bodies of their kin. While laying out the bodies, Cadfael discovers there are ninety-five, instead of ninety-four, bodies. And the extra corpse is a young squire, not a seasoned soldier. He reports this discrepancy to King Stephen, who agrees to allow Brother Cadfael to investigate and bring about justice.

The rest of the tale involves Cadfael’s continuing investigation, discoveries and battle of wits with various players in and around Shrewsbury. A medieval murder mystery well worth the reading.

Book Review: A Morbid Taste for Bones by Peters (4 Stars)

A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters

4 out of 5 stars

Read in November 2008

I’m probably the rare person who has never read or watched a Brother Cadfael medieval mystery. I enjoyed this inaugural foray into the Welsh countryside and those who dwell there. The characters were well written and the plot was fast paced and intriguing. The murder mystery had me stumped until nearly the end, when within the last couple of chapters I finally saw the light, though the author was circumspect with foreshadowing to heighten the surprise.

My only twinge were the strong women characters of Sioned and Annest. Perhaps I’m overanalysing but I’m not convinced that 12th century women (Welsh or not) would be so outspoken and forthright. I always fear that 20th (and now 21st) century authors are superimposing our liberated ideas on characters living nearly a thousand years before our times.

Book Review: Master and Commander by O’Brian (4 Stars)

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

4 out of 5 stars

Read in March 2009

Warning: Spoilers

This is the first of twenty novels in the Aubrey/Maturin series where we meet Jack Aubrey, master and commander of the sloop Sophie and Stephen Maturin, ship’s surgeon of the same vessel. Their friendship has a rocky start and seems perplexing to me. Stephen is a scientist and a naturalist, exceedingly curious about avians and reptiles, and agrees to embark as the Sophie’s surgeon with the understanding of furthering his research and studies. Jack Aubrey, on the other hand, has his sights set on attaining a promotion to post captain as quickly as possible. While he is at ease on the deck of his sloop, Jack often stumbles while ashore, committing social gaffes that inhibit his political prospects.

The Sophie is missing several sailors and a key officer when Jack is awarded her. The Admiralty assigns James Dillon as his lieutenant. Surprisingly, Stephen knows James from the United Irishmen, a rebel uprising they were both involved in. This shared background also causes tension and a point of honor issue for Dillon about midway through the tale. Dillon is forced to choose between loyalty to the Irish and loyalty to his captain and it very nearly tears him apart.

The first third or so of the book is devoted to getting the crew, officers and sloop in top running order. At first, the flood of nautical terms was nearly too much for this landlubber, but with the help of Wikipedia, I managed to make sense of them. By the end of the book, I was becoming quite enamored of them.

The Sophie is cruising around the Mediterranean intent on take prizes – other ships that are French or allied with French – and has a great run of luck initially. But Jack falls afoul of an Admiral thwarts Jack’s headlong rush to post captain. As a direct result of the Admiral’s severely limiting orders, Jack finally meets his match against three French ships-of-the-line. After throwing the guns overboard and all the stores in a vain attempt to out run the French ships, the Jack strikes the colors of the Sophie and surrenders her.

It’s almost anticlimactic after this point. Jack and his officers, including Stephen Maturin, are held as prisoners and are eventually sent to Gibralter for a prisoner exchange, after which Jack will face court-martial for losing his ship. The trial and the verdict are the ending of the novel.

The author claims to have taken many of the battles and engagements directly from the naval log entries from the Napoleonic period. Again a case of truth being strange or at least more interesting than fiction.

I enjoyed this nautical adventure. I can’t say that I was drawn to any of the characters – I didn’t feel their pain or anger or despair – but I did enjoy the ride.

Book Review: The Book Thief by Zusak (5 Stars)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

5 out of 5 stars

Read in April 2009

This book is outstanding and well deserving of its many awards. Even better, it is classified as young adult fiction. And I hope one day, soon, The Book Thief is read and taught in classrooms around the world … because everyone should read this book.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grow up and come of age in Nazi Germany during World War II? Not as a Jew, but as a German citizen – a foster child recently bereft of her younger brother.

Lisa’s coping mechanism is to steal books. In fact, her first theft occurs at her brother’s funeral. One of the cemetery workers drops The Gravediggers Handbook in the snow and Lisa snatches it up. Later, her new “papa” teachers her to read using this stolen book.

Her most daring theft occurred at a Hitler Youth Rally book burning. She rescued The Shoulder Shrug right out of the bonfire!

The story is narrated by Death who is the ultimate book thief. He stole Lisa’s autobiography when he collected her soul many years after the war. He has read her story so many times, the pages are crumbling in his hands. He admits at the end of the story that he no longer needs the pages because he’s memorized it from re-reading it so often.

I hope you will follow in Death’s footsteps and steal this book and remember it always.