Moon, Light and Shadow




Jackson Square

Neala Luna Photography - Jackson Square
Collection of books found at the base of a tree. Believed to be owned by a homeless person who fled as I approached.

“Old books exert a strange fascination for me — their smell, their feel, their history; wondering who might have owned them, how they lived, what they felt.” ~ Lauren Willig

“There’s Beauty in the Breakdown” – A to Z Challenge 2016
Continue reading “Jackson Square”


By The Playbook?

“After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.” IMDB’s summary. 
***** SPOILER ALERT *****
This movie has been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars but personally I’m really not impressed. I don’t understand why the movie has all this hype around it. Is it because it discusses bipolar disorder, violence, sex addiction, racism, sibling rivalry and typical father-son conflict? Ok. Sure. But a movie can be about one of those things and be good. This movie wasn’t. To me it seemed to be about co-dependency and none of the characters really evolved. They were just happy to support each other’s co-dependent ways in a noisy fashion. 
I found the actors seemed to be ‘acting’; in other words, I never connected to any of them. Actually, maybe only Jackie Weaver as Pat’s mother, I felt sorry for her character. Robert DeNiro seemed to doing a bit from Analyze that, just a little more OCD. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Analyze This and Anaylze That.) I also didn’t understand the over-acting on the part of Pat’s brother and his best friend, Randy. 
Bradley Cooper has never really impressed me and I feel that even he could’ve done more with this character. But perhaps it’s the story or the way the characters were written. The movie is based on a novel of the same name and I have the feeling the book offers so much more. Ok, I get his ‘poor social skills’, rudeness and selfishness in the first few weeks out of the mental institution. That’s a given: it’s the ‘focus on me part’ of recovery. But I didn’t think his character really evolved. He just moved from distraction to obsession and back to distraction. We never really see him learn to handle his anger, other than the implication that he is now on medication. Yes, the focus, determination and discipline from the dancing is a good thing, but what’s next? Will Pat and Tiffany have a baby now to ensure they have another ‘project’ in the works so the relationship doesn’t implode? This was another time when I thought maybe the book had more. Dealing with a disorder is a personal journey and if you’re telling a story about that, then shouldn’t the journey be in there somewhere? Maybe I’m not getting it.
Tiffany is perhaps the only character that seemed to almost get ‘it’. She tries and you can see that. “I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, f****r? Can you forgive? Are you capable of that?” 
And then, later on when she stands up for herself and demand that Pat do something for her she says: “I do this! Time after time after time! I do all this s**t for other people! And then I wake up and I’m empty! I have nothing!” 
But, in the end, when he professes his love for her, she doesn’t recognize that she has become a ‘project’ herself. 
Maybe I’ll give it another go in a few weeks. Maybe I was coming down from my high of watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which filled me with a haunting and nostalgic hope instead of a moody exasperating impatience.

An Unexpected Journey

On Christmas Day 2001, Mom was standing in line with my cousins, my friends and me, waiting to see The Fellowship of the Ring, so I was pretty happy that she was the one to see An Unexpected Journey, the first installment of The Hobbit, with me. It was a busy shopping day today and as we arrived at the multiplex we were hurrying as we thought ourselves late. The theater door was already closed and balancing my nachos in one hand, I opened the door with the other and ushered Mom through. The theater was empty this evening which I always prefer so we quickly chose seats in ‘middle middle’. We were just in time for the opening production graphics.
When we heard the narrator’s voice I realized I was smiling. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit hold a special meaning for me and I was looking forward to the movie. It was beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Middle Earth was gorgeous as usual and felt familiar, almost like coming home, if that’s possible. It was interesting to see a ‘younger’, less sure Gandalf and Martin Freeman (Bilbo) was thoroughly entertaining. I love it when actors ‘act’, meaning, with their whole selves: body and mind. I appreciated that. 
The movie felt a bit prolonged at some points but I am always happy to be in that world, so I can’t really complain. I remember feeling a bit blue at the end of The Return of the King (final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), simple because it was ‘all over’ and I had to say farewell. So, I don’t mind the story of The Hobbit taking it’s time to unfold in three movies. I could’ve done without the singing but that’s the generation I was born into. (We feel odd when people break into song in a movie that’s not labelled as a musical.) 
I also didn’t mind the appearance of a few characters who do not appear in the book, simply because this is a film adaptation of the Tolkien’s book and it adds to the story in a way. I heard something once which stuck with me: the idea of characters in novels or stories having lives the author knows nothing about. For me it is like that with some film adaptations of novels, including this one. Then too, The Hobbit is a part of the whole Lord of the Rings franchise in a way. 
Even though we opted not to see the movie in 3D, visually, the movie was gorgeous and held my attention. The flight of the eagles was breathtaking. I can imagine that there will be a theme park ride of that sequence one day soon. The grand battle scene in Goblin Town had the pace of the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark coupled with a Jack Sparrow fight scene. A bit overdone, but again, I don’t mind Gandalf outdoing Indy or Jack Sparrow. 🙂 

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Galadriel tells Frodo, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” That always stuck with me, and in An Unexpected Journey this will:
“Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. That is not what I’ve found. I found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.” Gandalf the Grey

Each Star On His Own Time

Some stars emerge in flash of brilliance
but will only burn half as long.
Some stars gather and gleam,
marking their own path as they go,
and will leave a lasting imprint on the pages of time.
Dedicated to Book.

Like Mother Like Daughter

Snapshot of a section of my Mom’s bookshelf! I’m in West Palm Beach for Christmas with family, using my Mom’s dinosaur of a computer to post. But no worries, I like dinosaurs. Off for our morning walk! Have a great Sunday folks!

Kirkus Star – Between Bodies Lie

I am celebrating! Returning home after a week in Boston on business, I finally got to hug my best friend and congratulate him on receiving a fantastic Kirkus Review for his first novel, Between Bodies Lie. I am so very proud of him. I am proud of the book too in a strange way. I remember him writing and editing for the greater part of a year and being excited when he finally printed the first manuscript. I took photos of the first manuscript that day to mark the moment. Going from the first to the third manuscript and then finally seeing the published work as ‘real live book’, I feel as if it is a living breathing person too. My friend laughs at me when I hug ‘Book’ and hop about in glee. But seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and wrote my own review a couple of weeks ago. 
Now he has a Kirkus review AND a Kirkus Star! As one local bookstore owner said today: “Kirkus (est.1933) is one of three major U.S. publications dedicated solely to book reviews. A starred review is quite special, reserved for fewer than a fifth of all books reviewed.” I could not have wished for more for him. Congratulations my friend. I know how hard you worked for this and you deserve all the success Between Bodies Lie will bring. I look forward to seeing you grow as an author as you write your dreams, idea after idea, chapter after chapter, book after book. Well done. I am so proud of you.
The Kirkus Review of between Bodies Lie

A disillusioned writer travels to the tropics in search of inspiration in Blanc’s emotionally astute debut novel.

Cristobal Porter is a British writer whose work is in decline. With each novel garnering less critical acclaim than the last, the author spends more time looking out of windows than he does writing. Badgered by his publisher and tormented by a difficult first relationship following the death of his wife, he retreats to an unnamed island in the tropics, where civil unrest lurks beneath the surface of everyday life. On his arrival, Porter uneasily slips into society following his introduction to the slick yet lascivious American diplomat, Jack Kaplan. Kaplan’s wife, the enigmatic Ana, is a patron of the arts, and Porter finds himself lingering at the edge of her cocktail party, staring at the backs of artists and well-heeled expats. While Kaplan dismisses the art scene, Ana finds a kindred spirit in Porter, and a bond tentatively forms between them. Porter goes about his book research but is almost immediately encumbered by the unannounced arrival of Nadia, his dangerously seductive young mistress. As his yearning for Ana grows stronger, Porter recognizes a growing intimacy between Nadia and Kaplan. When Ana finally learns of her husband’s affair, she draws Porter closer, but a tragic secret from her past rocks their budding relationship. As the plot unfolds, the whispers of uprising grow louder. Blanc is supremely sensitive to the trials and tribulations of the creative process; he writes with the wisdom of an established author grown weary of the literary scene. Some readers may consider the depiction of an emotionally disheveled yet unconventionally dashing novelist to be somewhat clichéd, but that thought is far outweighed by Blanc’s brilliantly detailed study of human connections and disconnections, in which even the most indiscernible movements of body, mind and heart are painstakingly recognized and charted.
A masterfully written exploration of the beauty and cruelty of love, as sharp as it is sensual.
Click here to link to the Kirkus Review

From Canvas To Bookshelf

My sister has been painting for all of her adult life. Back in 2009 my cousin published a book of poetry, The Shadows of the Mind, and used one of my sister’s painting for her book cover. This year, a close friend published his first novel, Between Bodies Lie, and my sister’s artwork was featured again. Congratulations Sis. 🙂

Between Bodies Lie

“Something beautiful can be expressed beautifully the first time – we just need for our insecurities to step aside for the moment it takes our hearts to speak.”

Attempting to flee his declining literary career and failing relationship, Cristobal Porter travels to an island in the tropics to research his latest novel. There he meets Ana Kaplan, the wife of an American diplomat, and is immediately drawn to her by what he perceives as the shared “depth of their loneliness.” When Porter’s young mistress arrives on the island and enters into an affair with Ana’s husband, it is the catalyst that draws Ana and Porter closer together. Porter’s relationship with Ana evolves tentatively, amidst turmoil and resistance, sparking in him a creative revolution – even as the island around them threatens revolt. Exploring the connections between life, death, art and love, Porter discovers a faith that can offer redemption, even as he is forced to come to grips with the unforgiving terrain between ideology and reality, and the insurmountable distances which between bodies lie…
Reading this book was like sinking into a warm bath. Within minutes I was immersed in a world of vivid words and tone set by interpretation and emotion. It was like reading in colour. Beautifully descriptive with an easy rhythm that made me settle in comfortably and enjoyably. I found myself relating to the thoroughly crafted characters and understanding their behaviour. They felt real to me. They perceived, interpreted and reacted to each other, the world around them and to themselves, as I do. Then it sneaked up on me, like cold air filtering in from beneath a closed door, from a darkened room. What was once a warm bath turned cold, chilling my skin with a vague foreboding which settled upon me like a mist.

A novel about hope, faith and love, yet also despair, doubt, and loss, it pulled out of me my own life experiences, connections, disconnections. It summoned my own faith and belief in my own heart and made me question what I haven’t in a long time. Are we forever trapped by a history which will always shape our perception of ourselves and our world and who we will become?
If you love novels that explore the complex yet natural relationships we share with others and you enjoy the romance and philosophy that examining those relationships brings, you’ll be drawn in too. When you’ve read this book let me know, I’d love to talk about it with you.

Update: Between Bodies Lie receives a Kirkus Star! Read the review here.

Alice’s Wish List

I wish I hadn’t cried so much.
I wish I hadn’t mentioned Dinah.
I do wish I hadn’t drunk so much.
I almost wish I hadn’t gone down the rabbit hole.
I wish the creatures wouldn’t be so easily offended.
I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly:
you make one quite giddy.
I almost wish I’d gone to see the Hatter instead.
I wish they’d get the trial done and hand out the refreshments.
Excerpts from Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. All of Alice’s wishes.

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