Friday, October 31, 2014

October's Book of the Month

Hello Everyone! I chose the picture posted above because it reminds me of reading to my daughter Mareena when she was little. Every afternoon until she was about eight or nine years old, we would take one of her books that she wanted to read or that she was reading and we would curl up together on my big bed.

We would spend an hour or so reading a chapter of her book, and then take a nap together. Her absolutely favorite author at that time was an English author named Enid Blyton. Ahh, nice memories...

My picks for 'Books of the Month' will be decidedly more adult these days, but they will be from almost any genre. October's Book of the Month is:

The Haunted by Bentley Little
Published as: The Haunted in April 2012
Publisher: Signet

Birth Name: Bentley Little
Born: 16 July 1960 in Arizona

Canonical Name: Bentley Little
Pseudonyms: Phillip Emmons

The Haunted by Bentley Little was the ninety-ninth book that I read in 2014. I have had this book on my TBR shelf since October 12, 2013 and it took me three days to read. This book is definitely a keeper for me.

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Brian McGilloway - Gallows Lane

105. Gallows Lane by Brian McGilloway (2008)
The Inspector Benedict Devlin Series Book 2
Length: 340 pages
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Started: 30 October 2014
Finished: 31 October 2014
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 16 August 2014
Why do I have it?
I like contemporary mysteries and Brian McGilloway is a new author for me. 

It's summertime in the Irish borderlands, and the Donegal summer dawns surprisingly hot for Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin. Inspector Devlin returns to the border separating Donegal from the North of Ireland, waiting for a notorious ex-con named James Kerr to return home on early release. He claims to have found God while in prison, but Superintendent Costello - the superintendent of police, isn't taking any chances with the born-again Christian's fount of newfound grace. Inspector Devlin's orders are to escort him to the northern side of the border and make absolutely certain that he stays out of the superintendent's jurisdiction.

When a young woman is found beaten to death at a building site in what appears to be a sexually-motivated killing, Benedict is distracted from his assignment of keeping tabs on James Kerr. Inspector Devlin's investigation into the murder soon leads him to a local bodybuilder and steroid addict. But as the body count increases, with each murder more gruesome than the last, the born-again ex-convict is found nailed to a tree - crucified.

Increasingly torn between his young family and the rigors of his job, Benedict is determined to apprehend the killer - or killers - before they strike again, even as the carnage begins to jeopardize those he cares about most. Taking its title from the name of the road down which condemned Donegal criminals were once led, Gallows Lane is a virtuoso piece of writing from crime fiction's most exciting new talent. It is a sharp, modern thriller, a stunning second installment in Brian McGilloway's Inspector Benedict Devlin Series; and a heart-stopping follow-up to his acclaimed debut Borderlands.

I really enjoyed reading this book; I immediately liked the character of Inspector Benedict Devlin, he seemed like such a nice person. I also enjoyed the various mentions of the towns in Ireland, it really brought back some wonderful memories for me. If I had one issue with Mr. McGilloway's story, it would be that there were so many characters involved, that I had just the slightest trouble keeping all their names straight in my mind. However, that might be because of my own personal reading concentration. Overall, I would give this book an A!

A! - (90-95%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Martha Moody - Best Friends

104. Best Friends by Martha Moody (2001)
Length: 483 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Started: 27 October 2014
Finished: 29 October 2014
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 21 November 2013
Why do I have it?
I like contemporary fiction and Martha Moody is a new author for me. 

Oberlin College, Ohio, 1973 - When Clare Mann arrives at Oberlin, she is absolutely ecstatic to be on her own finally. She lives in a small Ohio town somewhere between Akron and Youngstown, but the novelty of being even an hour away from home thrills her. Clare first meets Sally Rose - a transplant from Los Angeles - at freshman orientation and they are basically thrown together as college roommates. 

Clare, the daughter of a Protestant, working-class family from Ohio, has never met anyone like her new roommate, Sally. Wealthy and beautiful; and Jewish, Sally is barely emancipated from her close-knit Los Angeles family, and has led an otherwise sheltered life. She is utterly foreign to the hard-working, jaded Clare - and utterly fascinating. 

Clare's fascination with Sally only intensifies, when she brings Clare home to Los Angeles to meet the Rose family. Sid Rose, Sally's father, is charismatic, charming; the owner of a profitable business which is shrouded in secrecy. He is almost as compelling a figure to Clare as he is to his own daughter. California seems like a veritable paradise after spending winters in Ohio; and soon Clare begins to look forward to these visits with an almost desperate enthusiasm; to the numerous carefree rides in Sally's Kharmann Ghia and the seemingly endless lazy days spent poolside. 

Despite their many differences, the free-spirited Clare and a frequently homesick Sally soon overcome their mutual bafflement with each other to form an extraordinary friendship; a complicated, but tenacious bond that endures through the years. As the years pass, Clare becomes a doctor and Sally a lawyer; but they always remain roommates at heart, just a plane ride or a phone call away. Marriages and divorces, births and deaths do not separate them; but secrets just might - for as Clare watches, the Rose family begins to slowly disintegrate before her eyes. And the things she knows are the kinds of things that no one ever wants to tell a best friend. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; the story was totally engrossing and I almost didn't want it to end. With the various plot twists, intrigue, secrets and intricate family dynamics, this story held my interest right until the end. As I've said before, I always enjoy reading stories about families, and most especially about the enduring friendships between women. 

I give Best Friends by Martha Moody an A+! This is Ms. Moody's debut novel, and I'm delighted to say that I have her next book - The Office of Desire - somewhere on my bookshelf as well. In my opinion, she is quite an excellent writer.  

A+! - (96-100%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nicholas Sparks - At First Sight

103. At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks (2005)
The Jeremy Marsh Series Book 2
Length: 277 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Started: 24 October 2014
Finished: 25 October 2014
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 21 November 2013
Why do I have it?
I like contemporary fiction and I have read and enjoyed Nights in Rodanthe by the same author in the past.

There are several things Jeremy Marsh was absolutely sure that he would never do: he'd never leave New York City; never give his heart away again after barely surviving one failed marriage; and never become a parent. Well, Jeremy is now living in the tiny town of Boone Creek, North Carolina, engaged to the love of his life, Lexie Darnell, and anticipating the start of their family. Jeremy Marsh's life had certainly taken quite an unexpected turn. 

However, just as his life seems to be settling into a blissful pattern, a mysterious and disturbing email sends him into a tailspin. It also sets into motion a chain of events that will irrevocably change the course of this young couple's relationship. It raises several questions in Jeremy's mind: just how well do we really know the ones we love? How do we handle the inevitable doubts and fears concerning impending parenthood, and the various stumbling blocks that are sometimes placed in our way?   

Continuing the story of Jeremy Marsh and Lexie Darnell - the young couple introduced in Nicholas Sparks' bestselling True Believer - At First Sight manages to capture all the heartbreak, tension, romance and surprises of couples who are newly married. This is an astonishing tale about the love between a man and a woman and between a parent and a child, At First Sight is about endings that bring new beginnings . . .tragedies that lead to unexpected joy. . . and, most of all, the magic of everlasting love.

This is second book by Nicholas Sparks that I've read, and I haven't actually read True Believer. In my opinion, though, I didn't really need to - this worked very well for me as a standalone story. I really enjoyed this book; granted that the story wasn't necessarily about anything earth-shattering; but it was a poignant and heart-warming story nevertheless. This author certainly knows how to develop an unexpected story; the plot was slightly mysterious and was an engagingly quick read for me. I give At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks an A+!

A+! - (96-100%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kitty Dukakis and Jane Scovell - Now You Know

Reread. Now You Know by Kitty Dukakis and Jane Scovell (1990)
Length: 313 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction
Originally Read: 29 February 2012
Reread Finished: 23 October 2014
Where did it come from? Originally from a Library Book Sale, then from my "posted" shelf.

So, having bought this book from a Library Book Sale that Mareena and I went to in June of 2009, I read it for the first time in February of 2010 - February 27th to February 29th, 2012. I was just adding several more books to my "posted shelf" - where I keep all the books that we hope to swap on the several swapping sites that we belong to - when I noticed Now You Know by Kitty Dukakis and Jane Scovell and decided to refresh my memory about Kitty Dukakis' life. My reread of this book took place over three days in October 2014 - from October 20th to October 23rd, 2014.

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Joan Ryan - The Water Giver: The Story of a Mother, a Son, and Their Second Chance

101. The Water Giver: The Story of a Mother, a Son, and Their Second Chance by Joan Ryan (2009)
Length: 260 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction
Started: 16 October 2014
Finished: 18 October 2014
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 20 July 2012
Why do I have it?
I like non-fiction and Joan Ryan is a new author for me.

When she is first called to the hospital, acclaimed sports columnist and author Joan Ryan is convinced that her son's skateboarding accident would only require several stitches for him and a wasted afternoon for her. Sixteen-year-old Ryan Tompkins had fallen off his skateboard, and it wasn't immediately obvious just how serious his injuries actually were. Despite having various cuts and scratches and complaining that his head hurt, Ryan seemed fine; indeed, he seemed slightly annoyed to be going to hospital by ambulance. In this moving and extremely powerful memoir, Joan Ryan retraces the tumultuous and complicated relationship that delivers mother and son to this moment when, through his brush with death and his painful rehabilitation, they are challenged to redefine who they are and what they mean to each other.

For most of his sixteen years, Ryan hadn't been easy to parent. He lurched from one setback to another, struggling to overcome learning disabilities and ADHD. Joan's grim determination to solve the puzzle of her son's odd and often defiant behavior left her confounded and exasperated. She became so controlling and judgmental, so focused on trying to fix what was wrong with him, that she became more of Ryan's relentless reformer than his loving mother.

By the time Ryan arrived at the hospital, it became apparent that he was suffering from a traumatic brain injury, and the doctors weren't sure if he would even survive. The expectation of a wasted afternoon soon became the furthest worry from Joan Ryan's mind. Instead she spends months rather than hours with her son in the hospital and in rehab, watching him fight to survive his injury and to reclaim a small measure of his life.

When her son wakes from his coma, Joan gets a second chance at motherhood. She rejoices at his first word, his first step, his first spoonful of food, his first attempt to write. She gets the chance to be Ryan's mother all over again and for the first time recognizes what an amazing, heroic young man he is. The Water Giver is the universal story of a mother coming to terms with her own limitations and learning that the best way to help her child is simply to love him. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. I found it to be poignant, well-written, moving and lovingly honest; a comprehensive account of a family dealing with a child's traumatic brain injury. The story didn't dwell too much on Ryan's challenges or portray him as someone who needed to be pitied because of his injury.

It was a very interesting book for me to read, and I could certainly understand how a traumatic brain injury not only affects - and continues to affect - the person who is injured, but also their entire family. I give The Water Giver: The Story of a Mother, a Son, and Their Second Chance by Joan Ryan an A+! 

A+! - (96-100%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Friday, October 17, 2014

House of Sand and Fog Movie Review

House of Sand and Fog: Theatrical release poster Stars: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo, R, Released on December 19, 2003 in the United States under limited release; full release on January 9, 2004, and on February 27, 2004 in the United Kingdom.
So, back in August of 2013, Mareena and I went to a Library Book Sale to celebrate my birthday. I acquired a paperback copy of House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III while I was there. I noticed that this 1999 book was actually chosen as an 'Oprah's Book Club Pick', which is what attracted me to it in the first place. Unfortunately, I haven't read this book yet because I put it away in a box of books and now can't locate the particular box that I packed the book in!

The 2003 movie, House of Sand and Fog was fully released in the United States in January of 2004. Mareena and I actually watched this movie when came on television as Friday's 'Late Night Movie' on CBS. The movie actually started at 2:35 A. M., so I suppose that would make it early Saturday morning, right? :)

Anyway, the movie ended around 4:35 A. M. - or perhaps it was 4:45 A. M., I couldn't really tell. Mareena and I both managed to stay awake and watch the entire movie; quite the feat, considering that whenever she and I lie down to watch television, we tend to drift off to sleep after about an hour! Thank goodness that we could sleep late on Saturday. :)

Like I said before, House of Sand and Fog was released in 2003 - under limited release - then fully released in 2004. The movie is rated R, and is a drama that runs approximately 126 minutes. It stars Jennifer Connelly (as Kathy Nicolo), Ben Kingsley (as Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (as Nadereh "Nadi" Behrani). This film was directed by Vadim Perelman, and was produced by Vadim Perelman and Michael London.

 Who Plays Kathy Nicolo - Recovering Drug Addict and Evicted Home Owner?

Jennifer Lynn Connelly was born in Cairo, New York (in the Catskills Mountains) and began her career as a child model at ten years old. Her mother, Ilene, was an antiques dealer and her father, Gerard, was a clothing manufacturer. Jennifer grew up in Brooklyn Heights, just across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, except for the four years she and her parents spent in Woodstock, New York due to Gerard's severe asthma (the Connellys moved in 1976 to escape the city smog, although they returned to Brooklyn Heights in 1980.

Jennifer began appearing in print advertising before moving on to television commercials, and she had revealed in an interview with The Guardian, that although she had done some modeling for Seventeen Magazine, among others, she had no aspirations to become an actor. She appeared on the cover of several issues of Seventeen in 1986 and 1988. In December of 1986, Jennifer recorded two pop songs for the Japanese market: Monologue of Love and Message of Love. She actually sang in phonetic Japanese because she didn't speak the language.

Around this time, her mother started taking her to acting auditions. Jennifer's first role was in a 1982 episode of the British horror anthology television series 'Tales of the Unexpected', which ran from 1979 to 1988. In another audition, she was required to dance a ballet routine. During that audition, Jennifer, who had no ballet training, imitated a ballerina. Her performance, and the similarity of her nose to Elizabeth McGovern's (who played the character as an adult), led to her landing the role of a young Deborah Gelly - Jennifer's movie debut - in Sergio Leone's 1984 gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America. Although she had very little screen time in the movie, the few minutes that she spent on-screen were just enough to showcase Jennifer's talent. 

She was then signed to play the starring role in Dario Argento's 1985 thriller Phenomena, which despite being incredibly popular in Europe, was heavily cut for its American distribution. Jennifer co-starred with Jason Priestley in the music video for the Roy Orbison's song I Drove All Night. Although he had recorded the song in 1987, his rendition was released as a posthumous single in 1992. 

Jennifer enrolled in Yale, and then transferred two years later to Stanford; where she trained in classical theater and improvisation, studying with the late drama coach Roy London, actor Howard Fine, and actor/director Harold Guskin. The late 1980s saw Jennifer Connelly star in one hit and in three lesser seen films. Among the latter films, she played a ballerina in the 1989 Italian fantasy film, Étoile, and a self-absorbed college freshman in the 1988 comedy/drama, Some Girls. Jennifer's breakout role was as Sarah in Jim Henson's 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth.  Although the movie was a disappointment at the box office, and The New York Times panned her performance, Labyrinth later became a cult classic.

Encouraged by her parents to pursue her acting career, Jennifer soon left college and returned to the movie industry in 1990. In that same year, she was cast as Gloria Harper in Dennis Hopper's The Hot Spot. While the movie was a box office flop, Jennifer's performance was praised.

Jennifer Connelly really became a household name after starring in the 1991 action/adventure film, The Rocketeer. Critics saw this movie as a top-quality homage to the old films of the 1930s, in which the likes of Errol Flynn starred. After that, Jennifer made Career Opportunities in 1991; The Heart of Justice in 1992; Mulholland Falls in 1996; and Inventing the Abbotts in 1997.

In 1998, she starred in the science fiction film Dark City, which didn't break any box office records but received very positive reviews. She starred as Catherine Miller in the short-lived television series 'The $treet' which ran from 2000 to 2001. She played the main role in the memorable and dramatic love story Waking the Dead, and a breakthrough performance followed in the independent film Requiem For a Dream - a role that earned her a Spirit Award Nomination in 2000.

Jennifer followed this role with the 2000 movie Pollock, in which she played Jackson Pollock's mistress, Ruth Klingman. She co-starred with Russell Crowe in Ron Howard's 2001 film A Beautiful Mind; which tells the true story of John Nash - a mathematician who despite being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, won the Nobel Prize in 1994. She played John Nash's wife, Alicia and won a Golden Globe, BAFTA, AFI and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Jennifer Connelly lives in New York and speaks fluent French and Italian. She enjoys physical sports such as swimming, gymnastics, and bike riding. Jennifer is also very much an outdoors person who enjoys camping, hiking and walking, and is interested in quantum physics and philosophy. Her favorite colors are cobalt blue, forest green, and "very pale green/gray - sort of like the color of the sea". She also likes to draw.

     Who Plays Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani - Former Iranian Army Officer and Recent Immigrant, a New Home Owner Now Living in San Francisco?

Ben Kingsley was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji on New Year's Eve in Snainton, North Riding of Yorkshire - although he grew up in Pendlebury, near Manchester. He is the son of Anna Lyna Mary (née Goodman) an actress and model who appeared in films in the 1920s and 1930s, and Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji, a medical doctor. His father, born in Kenya, was of Gujarati Indian Ismaili Muslim Khoja decent, and had moved to Britain from Zanzibar at the age of fourteen. Ben's mother was British.

Ben Kingsley began his acting career in 1966 - mostly in amateur dramatics while in college in Manchester. He made his professional stage debut upon graduation, at age 23. In 1967 he made his London West End theatre debut at the Aldwych Theatre. He was spotted by British music producer and manager Dick James, who offered to mold Ben into a pop star, but he chose to join the Royal Shakespeare Company instead, after an audition before the legendary theatre, film and television director, Sir Trevor Nunn.

Devoting himself almost exclusively to stage work for the next 15 years, he made his Broadway debut in 1971 with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He went on to play Mosca in Peter Hall's 1977 production of Ben Jonson's Volpone for the Royal National Theatre, and was in Peter Brook's acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. He also starred in the role of Willy Loman in a 1982 production of Death of a Salesman in Sydney, Australia opposite Mel Gibson.

It was around this time, he changed his name from Krishna Pandit Bhanji to Ben Kingsley, fearing that a foreign name would hamper his career; he took his stage surname from his paternal grandfather's - an Indian spice trader from Zanzibar's nickname, "King Clove". He made the transition to film roles fairly early, making his debut in the 1972 British thriller Fear is the Key, as Royale. He continued starring in bit roles in both film and television, including a role as Ron Johnson on the soap opera 'Coronation Street' from 1966 to 1967 and regular appearances as a defense counsel in the long-running British legal television series 'Crown Court', which aired from 1972 to 1984. He also starred as Dante Gabriel Rosetti in the BBC's 1975 historical drama 'The Love School', which was broadcast in the United States as 'The Brotherhood'. Ben also played the title character in the BBC's 1985 adaption of 'Silas Marner', which was broadcast in the United States during Season 16 of 'Masterpiece Theatre'.

In a career spanning over four decades, Ben Kinsley has won an Oscar, a Grammy, a BAFTA, two Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards. He is perhaps best known for his starring role as Mohandas Gandhi - Mahatma Gandhi - in the 1982 film Gandhi, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor. He is also known for his performances in the 1988 comedy, Without a Clue (as Dr. Watson alongside Michael Caine's Sherlock Holmes); the 1991 crime drama Bugsy, for which he garnered an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor, Schindler's List and Searching For Bobby Fischer in 1993, as well as Death and the Maiden in 1994.

Ben Kingsley has been married four times; most recently in 2007 to the Brazilian actress Daniela Lavender. He has four children: Jasmin Bhanji Kingsley, an artist, and Thomas Kingsley, an actor; with his first wife, actress Angela Morant; and Edmund and Ferdinand Kingsley, both actors; with his second wife, actress and theatrical director Alison Sutcliffe.

He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000; and knighted in the 2002 New Year Honours - the award announcements coming on Ben Kingsley's fifty-eighth birthday; December 31, 2001. In May 2010, Sir Ben was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 Who Plays Nadereh "Nadi" Behrani - Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani's Wife?

After establishing a successful theatre and film career in Iran, Shohreh Aghdashloo moved to England during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. She subsequently became a United States citizen. She began acting at the age of eighteen, and following numerous starring roles on the stage she was offered her first film role in Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's Gozāresh (The Report), which won the Critics Award at the Moscow Film Festival.

Shohreh's next film was Shatranje Bad (loosely translated as: Chess With the Wind), directed by Mohammad Reza Aslani, which screened at several film festivals. Both of these films were banned in her home country; but, in 1978, Shohreh Aghdashloo won acclaim for her performance in Sooteh Delan (Broken Hearts), directed by Iranian filmmaker Ali Hatami, which established her as one of Iran's leading actresses.

She was married to the Iranian painter, author, art critic, art historian and graphic designer, Aydin Aghdashloo - an ethnic Azerbaijani - from 1971 to 1979. The couple divorced in 1979, and Shohreh moved to Windermere, Cumbria, England, where she completed her education. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in International Relations and still owns a separate vacation villa that she attends during the summer months of the year. She continued to pursue her acting career, however, which soon brought her to Los Angeles.

Shohreh Aghdashloo married actor/playwright Houshang Touzie in 1987, and they have a daughter who was born in 1989. She has since performed in a number of Touzie's plays, successfully taking them to national and international stages, primarily in the Iranian community.

Shohreh made her American film debut in 1989 in a starring role in Guests of Hotel Astoria. Her television debut came in 1990 in a guest role in the 25 September, two-hour episode of NBC's television series 'Matlock', titled 'Nowhere to Turn: A Matlock Mystery Movie', in which she played a saleslady and was credited for this simply as Shohreh. She returned to American television three years later when she played Malika (wife of the storekeeper Rashidi) in a 1993 episode of the popular comedy series 'Martin'; credited under her maiden name of Shorhreh Vaziri.

After seven years, she returned once again to the American film industry in 2000, starring in the critically acclaimed Surviving Paradise, the first English language Iranian-American feature film released in the United States, written and directed by the Iranian-American movie director Kamshad Kooshan. Having been shown at major International Film Festivals, Surviving Paradise went on to become one of the most well received Iranian films in the U.S.

Shohreh Aghdashloo made a brief two episode appearance in the short-lived Honduran television series 'The Honduran Suburbs' in 2001. In that same year, she played an exiled actress in the movie America so Beautiful and played the main character's mother in the 2002 drama Maryam. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for House of Sand and Fog, however the award was won by Renée Zellweger for Cold Mountain.

Shohreh plays the lead character, Zahra Khanum, in the 2008 American Persian-language drama The Stoning of Soraya M., based on the late French-Iranian journalist, war correspondent, and novelist Freidoune Sahebjam's 1990 book La Femme Lapidée (The Stoning of Soraya M.: A True Story). The movie was released in the United States in June of 2009 and marked the first time during her career in America where she played a leading character in a major feature-length motion picture. On September 29, 2009, Shohreh won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her supporting role in HBO's 2008 original miniseries 'House of Saddam'.

Her other credits include narrating and producing a documentary 'Mystic Iran: The Unseen World', narrating the PBS documentary 'Iran: A Celebration of Art and Culture', narrating the audiobook version of Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Ladin and lending her vocal talents to animated movie Babak and Friends - A First Norooz. She has also voiced Admiral Shala'Raan vas Tonbay, a character in the 2010 science fiction video game 'Mass Effect 2'; a role which she reprised for the 2012 sequel 'Mass Effect 3'. In June of 2013, Shohreh Aghdashloo's autobiography The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines was released through Harper Collins.

My Review of the Movie Adaptation of Andre Dubus III's House of Sand and Fog:

I have to say that while I haven't actually read the book, I thought that this was a very powerful movie. It just showed me how bureaucratic mistakes can lead to so much pain and heartbreak for so many other people, and while the 'Powers That Be' may certainly only be doing their job; that doesn't mean they necessarily care to hear about someone's personal problems or personal issues. For some bureaucrats, sympathy for another person's plight simply has no place in their thinking when making important legal decisions. While I certainly agree with this policy in reality, sometimes showing a little compassion can ease some of the tension in a situation.

I think that all the actors were well-suited to their respective parts; in my opinion, Ben Kingsley was superb as Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani; he was just so dignified, and believable in his role. His final scene in the movie was so much more shocking to me after I learned from Mareena that Sir Ben had actually physically done everything himself, and that while there were paramedics present on the set to assist him if he passed out, it was still a very dangerous thing for him to have done.

I think House of Sand and Fog absolutely deserved an A+! It was definitely worth staying awake until nearly 5:00 A. M. to watch this movie. Mareena and I could always sleep late on Saturday - and we did - to make up for going to bed so late!

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pearl S. Buck - The Kennedy Women

100. The Kennedy Women by Pearl S. Buck (1970) 
Length: 218 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction
Started: 14 October 2014
Finished: 16 October 2014
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 25 July 2001
Why do I have it?
I like non-fiction and had read and enjoyed The Good Earth by the same author in the past.

For one of world's most influential families - the Kennedys - 'family' is indeed the watchword they live by. In this personal appraisal of the Kennedy family, author Pearl S. Buck specifically focuses on the women who bear the Kennedy name. Ms. Buck follows all of these ladies: from the dynamic matriarch, Rose, to Caroline, the lovely young daughter of JFK. 

Is there such a thing as a "curse of greatness"? For Kathleen, Rosemary, Patricia, Jean, Eunice, Ethel, Joan, and the worldly Jacqueline; if there is, then with certainty the Kennedy women have found a way to endure.

I must say that this book was incredibly praiseworthy of the Kennedys; and indeed, Ms. Buck seemed almost awestruck by the Kennedy women. While this seemed slightly overdone - in my opinion, at least - I still enjoyed reading this book very much. Having been written in 1970, the information is somewhat dated now, perhaps, but I would certainly give this book an A!

A! - (90-95%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bentley Little - The Haunted

99. The Haunted by Bentley Little (2012)
Length: 389 pages
Genre: Horror
Started: 10 October 2014
Finished: 13 October 2014
Where did it come from? From Paperback Swap
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 12 October 2013
Why do I have it?
I like horror
and have read and enjoyed several books by this author in the past. 

The historic district of Jardine, New Mexico seems like the perfect place to live for the Perry family. Julian and Claire Perry and their two children, Megan and James, have just recently moved into a beautiful Victorian house which is bigger and much, much nicer than their old house. They are ecstatic to be living in the house, but something isn't right...Something is definitely odd.

The neighbors seem reluctant to visit. They seem so strange and somewhat standoffish towards the Perry family, although not actually hostile toward them. Claire just can't shake the feeling that someone is watching her. Teenage Megan receives increasingly menacing and obscene texts, and she inexplicably starts to carry out the titillating commands of an unseen presence. Ten-year-old James has a sudden onslaught of dreadfully bizarre nightmares and unsettling, ghostly visions.

Then there is the strangely sickening odor emanating from a specific corner of the basement. It smelled very strongly of soil, but there was absolutely nothing in the basement that could cause such a peculiar smell - at least nothing visible. It's a pity no one warned the family about the house; someone really should have. Now it's much too late. Because the darkness at the bottom of the basement stairs is rising...and there will be no escape.

I really enjoyed this book. In my opinion, it was a wonderfully creepy mix of an understated, almost mundane life being haunted by an inexplicably horrific supernatural presence. I appreciated that the horror in this story was well-maintained right until the end. 

I find that so often the horror in some of the books that I've read either falls apart towards the end, or becomes entirely unbelievable; at least for me. I do love reading books about haunted houses, though. This is the third book by Bentley Little that I've read, and he is an author that I definitely want to read more from in the future. I give The Haunted by Bentley Little an A+!

A+! - (96-100%)
Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jetta Carleton - The Moonflower Vine: A Novel

98. The Moonflower Vine: A Novel by Jetta Carleton (1962)
Length: 318 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Started: 7 October 2014
Finished: 10 October 2014
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 5 November 2000
Why do I have it?
I like historical fiction and Jetta Carleton is a new author for me.

In a novel which seems to be almost a radical departure for the subject that it covers, we meet the Soames family. They are a close-knit family who love and respect each other, and who have loyalty bred into their very bones. They also live in a time that seems to them to be a gift from God - in Missouri during the end of the nineteenth century and into the start of the twentieth century. It is a peaceful time that the Soames' live in, and they live life to its fullest; with a passion and delight which seems truly remarkable.

There are the parents, Matthew and Callie Soames, who had come to a Missouri farm as newlyweds. They leave the farm temporarily, and move to a nearby town where Matthew teaches for a time. The couple soon comes home again to their farm, to raise their family, and to live and love within their marriage. During their life together, Matthew and Callie alternately deceive each other, comfort each other, and even, in the end, come to understand each other.

There are the three daughters - Jessica, Leonie and Mary-Jo - who grow up loving their parents but wanting to escape from them. The women eventually do find their escape, each in her own way. And then there is the fourth daughter, Mathy, whose fate is the central family tragedy and whose life is the secret at the center of the novel. 

The Moonflower Vine is written with an honesty, strength, beauty and grace that is without a trace of false sentimentality. It portrays the struggles inherent to every human being, of coming to terms with one's true nature. But it is also a story of celebration, written about the quiet moments of joy - the moments of laughter, music, breakfast, weather and home - which are as much a part of life as violence and despair. 

This was Jetta Carleton's debut novel and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. In my opinion, this was a very interesting story, which accurately portrayed how hard life was in the nineteenth century and how difficult it was to make a living from the land. I give The Moonflower Vine: A Novel by Jetta Carleton an A+!

A+! - (96-100%)
Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

James Patterson - Sam's Letters to Jennifer

97. Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson (2004)
Length: 263 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Started: 6 October 2014
Finished: 7 October 2014
Where did it come from? From Paperback Swap 
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 6 October 2014
Why do I have it?
I like contemporary fiction and had read and enjoyed The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King by the same author in the past. 

A desperate phone call sends Jennifer back to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to the resort village where she grew up, to care for her grandmother Samantha. While she was alone in her house, Sam suffered a terrible fall and is currently comatose in the hospital. Returning to the place where she had spent so many happy summers, Jennifer has no idea that she will soon experience not one but two of the most extraordinary love stories she could ever know.

The first is completely unexpected. In a series of letters that Jennifer discovers which are addressed to her, Sam reveals a huge secret that she has kept concealed for decades: Her greatest love is not the man she was married to for all those years. As Jennifer reads about this passionate partnership, she learns more about love's imperatives and secrets than she ever dreamed possible.

And then comes the biggest surprise of all. At a time when she thought she could never - and would never - experience love again, Jennifer lets her guard down. In that one unguarded moment, Jennifer is swept up in the greatest, most amazing, most exhilarating and emotional flight she's ever known. But, just as suddenly, she learns that this new love comes with an almost unbearable cost. Jennifer doesn't think she can survive the pain - but reading her grandmother's letters to her, Jennifer begins to believe that love may help her find a way. 

I haven't read that many books by James Patterson - only two so far - but I really am intrigued that he can write so well in such a variety of genres. I found this book to be absolutely delightful! It was emotionally poignant; a captivating love story - actually two separate love stories - beautifully intertwined. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and give it an A+!

A+! - (96-100%)
Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Monday, October 6, 2014

Robert James Waller - Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend: A Novel

96. Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend: A Novel by Robert James Waller (1993)
Length: 197 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Started: 5 October 2014
Finished: 6 October 2014
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 16 August 2014
Why do I have it? I like contemporary fiction
and Robert James Waller is a new author for me.

Michael Tillman wasn't a foolish young man, rushing off in pursuit of intangible dreams. He was a down-to-earth, middle-aged, maverick economics professor who still rode a motorcycle that he'd had since he was a teenager. He also never believed in love at first sight, or at least he hadn't until he laid eyes on her...the woman of his dreams.

Her name was Jellie Braden and she was the wife of one of Michael's colleagues, someone who he met at a university in Cedar Bend, Iowa. It was actually mutual attraction at first sight between Michael and the introspective, dark-haired wife of his new colleague. It called forth feelings that just wouldn't disappear.

From the very first instant he saw her, Michael had wanted Jellie with every fiber of his being. Something deep inside had whispered, "That's the one." And Jellie Braden, in her fortieth year, had heard that voice, too. 

Their feelings force these two people to come to terms with their lives in ways they hadn't imagined, and it led them both into the magical places only lovers know. But it also brought with it the pain of choices and loss. Jellie wasn't a free woman. She had secrets of her own to keep, and then one day Jellie mysteriously vanishes without an explanation.

So, a year after they met, Michael finds himself heading into the strange, exotic world of south India looking for her. He is a mature man, certain of what he wants; and he's determined to travel the world searching for Jellie to discover the secrets she was hiding and learn what he has to do to make her his...

Although this was Robert James Waller's second novel after the New York Times bestseller The Bridges of Madison County, it is the first book that I've read by this particular author. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story was absolutely delightful in my opinion; the characters were incredibly well-developed and the story was poignant and heartwarming. I found myself really rooting for these characters, hoping that everything would work out well for them. I give this book an A+! and will certainly be looking for more from this author in the future.

A+! - (96-100%)
Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight