Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book Review: The Call of the Canyon by Zane Grey

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Carley Burch, a beautiful young woman, must leave her glamorous high-society life of New York to follow her fiance, Glenn Kilbourne, to the rugged Wild West. She braves fierce ruffians, brutal elements, and lack of civilization in an attempt to reclaim him. 

Glenn, suffering from shell shock and the betrayal of his country following World War I, had moved west to recover. He fell in love with the West, his perspective on life was changed forever, and now he finds his previous high-society life repulsive. 

Can Carley adapt to the rigorous life of Glenn's West? Or will she be able to convince him to return to his "home" in New York?

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Full of probing questions, this story thrills the soul, and quickens the blood as few stories do.

On the surface it might seem a little outdated - a dress that shows the knees? How scandalous! I had to laugh a bit there - however, dig a little deeper and I think on the whole the story is shockingly relevant.  The horrible effects of war? We don't need to go any other place in history besides our own to see leaders and men thirsting for the spoils. Glenn is a veteran of WWI, but while he and his fellow soldiers heroism and subsequent plight are variously applauded and pitied, no soft words are given to those who grow rich on strife.

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Luxury and the whirl of pleasure vs. honest work and a sincere appreciation for family... The world may not be "jazz mad" today, but who doesn't find social media's vision of picture perfect lifestyles and 'no strings attached adventure living', just a whee bit enticing? As for family... I'm extremely wary about the glorification of the family unit as "THE WAY TO SAVE THE WORRRLD!", but let's face it, family ties and morals just aren't what they used to be; however, in COTC, the family is viewed as a symbol of ALL honest ties. So experiencing the story's view on the struggles of its own time, with a look to a healthy future, the reader gets a good dose of that reality.

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And now for the question which we have all been waiting for with bated breath, THE ROMANCE. Glenn and Carley are engaged practically from beginning to end, and, for Carley at least, there is no question of there being any other for her. Their relationship, naturally, has a good dose of good 'ol romance, but so that the course of true love might run smooth, they find they must fall back on their rock solid friendship and understanding of one another, and that my friends, is a beautiful thing to see. 

                     Great moral questions to heart tingling moments of romance, all I can finish with is...                   IS THIS EVER ONE HUMDINGER OF A STORY!!!!!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Book Review: Only Children Chase Sawdust by Willowy Whisper

Their whole life turned to sawdust and blew away . . . 

Please don't leave me, Jacob. I need you. I know you're grieving. Maybe we all are. But you're chasing something you'll never catch . . . and we both know you won't come back alive.

The one tripping stone the story presented me was the location, which was vague throughout. It was not clear to me whether the story was the "far west" or somewhere more eastern earlier in the century. Nevertheless, it didn't bother me much as the very vagueness further reminded me of some westerns I've seen, something the feel of the story was already giving me vibes of.

And speaking of feel...

I was going to say that the feel of this story is delightful, but then withdrew it as it didn't seem the correct adjective to use in speaking of some of the horrors the characters undergo. Except for that fact though, I would have. From the twinkly light of a mountain stream to the violence of an Indian raid the aura of this tale is simply vivid with life. Seriously, the flow of the words slip over your soul with cool delight.

My favorite bit of all has to be the last paragraphs - silently the sawdust danced in loving circles...

So the ending closes as the story began, with loveliness thrilling every word.

Author Bio

Willowy Whisper is a young Christian fiction author. She lives somewhere in the middle of nowhere, smack-dab in the country hills of West Virginia. She is the author of seven novels, six of which are published, and numerous short stories. She is also a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, an incurable romantic, and a passionate dreamer. To follow her, visit her blog at

The story may be purchased here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Movie Spotlight: Mansfield Park (1986)

'We have all been more or less to blame ...

every one of us, excepting Fanny'

Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords' influence and finds herself more isolated than ever.

I borrowed that description from Goodreads. Borrowing a book description for a movie review - one might ask - isn't that a little strange? I see your point. Most times I would say so myself, but of any novel I've seen blossoming on the screen this one is so much like the book that I can hardly think of them apart. In fact - particularly in the case of one Tom - I don't in the least try. :)

Moving with careful and serious step Mansfield Park, both in movie and book form can seem quite slow at times, but throughout it threads an important message of the dangers of compromise. Thinking of it in that way, perhaps it's slow pace is not such a riddle after all.

In the end, though they feel the effect of it, neither the heroine Fanny, nor the hero Edmund are either particularly involved in, or even on the scene of the disastrous climax, and that really brings us to who Fanny is as a person. The pageant of life swirls around her and she both feels like, and is very much, the quiet onlooker. The people around her are caught up in the thrill and excitement of new friends and romance, and she is sitting by much as she has always been until the very end, and she is brought into the blinding limelight; and then she not even half-likes it. It's quite odd actually, but until I wrote the above about Fanny I never really thought of it; however, I think that is one of the reasons I feel so very much akin to her. I'm not exactly like her, of course, and I don't have an Edmund to be concerned about, but I understand her all the same.

Finally, there is Tom... Tom the teasing and serious; Tom, the person with the most sparkling smile in movie history. Vivid and alive, every scene he is in has just that much more sparkle; how could one not love him?

Of any character in the story I think he changes the most. Edmund and Sir Thomas make blind mistakes, but the thread of Tom's redemption - even as it is somewhat behind the more intense action of the story - glows strong. And that I believe is why one can love him so; beginning with being heedless and passionate about the wrong things, to the end where he sees, and is utterly cast down by the error of his ways. You just know that that same energy with which he pursued the wrong things he will put into steady pursuits. In fact the book says so, and I firmly believe it.

There is of course so much more to the film, from its views of pastel countryside to gracious drawing rooms glimmering with candlelight; as a thoughtful sort of book/movie it is one that calls for revisiting over and over again. And isn't it the best stories that reveal their secrets over time?

(Due to the nature of the villain there are two "scenes", however, they are easily skipped over.)

Note: This review is posted as part of Hamlette's I Love Austen Week.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review: The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey

In a faraway kingdom a king has been betrayed. Deeply hurt and bitterly angry he vows never to be deceived again. Unfortunately the king's plan to protect himself will endanger all of the realm's young women unless one of them will volunteer to marry the king -- and surrender her life.

To everyone's relief and horror one young woman steps forward. The daughter of a legendary storyteller, Shahrazad believes it is her destiny to accept this risk and sacrifice herself.

On the night of her wedding to the king, Shahrazad begins to weave a tale. Fascinated, the king lets her live night after night. Just when Shahrazad dares to believe that she has found a way to keep her life -- and an unexpected love -- a treacherous plot may disrupt her plan. She can only hope that love is strong enough to save her.

There is nothing I relish quite as much as a romance in which the hero and heroine are married. Many variations have been done upon the theme with differing levels of emotion between the couple ranging from indifference, to dislike, to one of the parties not even knowing they are married (very awkward!) But truly, I think this story must take the prize in difficulty. Shahrazad marries the king believing he will execute her the next morning and he marries her firmly believing he will. If that does not put a damper on the relationship....

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so much. :)) this story also holds one of my favorite romantic scenes of any story I've read. I'm not going to outline it here because I might want to do a post about it on my other blog, but let me say it involves galloping about on fine horses, golden afternoon sun across the desert, and an oasis. It's just lover-ly.

Exotic and mysterious this story is brimming with the most golden clarity of any fairy-tale I have yet read, and the loveliness therein could not be more dream worthy.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Movie Spotlight: Rio Bravo (1959)

I almost didn’t do this review. I wanted it to be easy I guess... for every word to rush with the perfection of a mountain stream. Then it came - who said it was comfortable for a mountain stream? If water had feelings wouldn’t it be a bit painful for the water to be jounced around like that? Yet that is what makes it so madly beautiful. I’m not saying this review will be in rounded beauty of form, but it is here because I really want to share it with you!

And yet, with all that tangle of emotions Rio Bravo as a story, is in fact, almost glaringly simple.

The Big Bad Guy is trying to intimidate the Good Guy into releasing the other Bad Guy.

The End.

Really on paper that’s it and once you see that the Good Guy is John Wayne, farewell to any doubt that he will give in, but in truth that is just the beginning.

It doesn’t say anything about the tough love of Chance (John Wayne) in driving his friend to crack out of the well of self-pity. Not really throwing his weight around too obnoxiously he just does it and does it right and if that steps on a few people's toes so be it.

Next is Stumpy, the rather nutty old man who is loyal to the backbone.

Then there is Colorado Ryan who feels like a breath of cool air in all the dusty strain that goes on in the rest of the movie. Chill to his fingertips with an easy smile and quips that leave people thinking, he owns his classic role of cowboy. However, with his gleam of humor and the way he can hold himself passionless about the situation and yet totally be with it, he plays the role with a stunning, unique turn of hand.

And then… then, there is Dude. Words fail me people, they really do. His character and everything about him is superbly shown. Some girl broke his heart and he’s lonely and betrayed and it’s just so sad. So he sinks to the depths, only held from drowning completely by the loyal hand of Chance. There is his struggle against the weight pulling him down, which is powerful and inspiring and frankly really tough to watch sometimes as you hear all the misery he’s known. Finally he comes out and is able to look back across his pain. Then suddenly he becomes the balancer, the straight thinking one, his smile is back and his eyes aren’t quite so tragic. He can relax and it is all so beautiful. Yes, you could say I like him and his story just a bit. :)

The music - Dimitri Tiomkins wrote the theme song (anyone else hearing echoes of High Noon?) and Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson both sing, ‘nuf said.

Leaving me with a smile, a warm grand feeling inside, and maybe just a few tears, it ranks right up there with High Noon  (yes, it's that high!). This story definitely worked its way into my heart.

I could not post this without a shout-out to my terrific sister Arwen who introduced me to this, (and hundreds of other great stories), and is my general "Did-I-get-this-right?" person. Thanks old thing.

And…. This is my second post for The John Wayne Blogathon hosted by Hamlette of Hamlette's Soliloquy and Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In. Thank you SO MUCH for giving me the impetus to revel in some of my Favorite Sort of Things. :)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Movie Spotlight: The Big Trail (1930)

Google names this film as an "epic western", which is rather surprising perhaps as it was made in 1930, but is.... it... EVER! In fact so greatly laid on is the epicness that it is almost overwhelming. Imagine it as a history of the pioneers come alive. Floods, blizzards, the perils of the desert; each of the dangers the pioneers faced are shown in gritty frankness; not spoken of but shown, and as such it is a very impressive work indeed. And the people - ! They all look exactly like an old photo come to life. Yes, this film is worthy of being watched for the detail alone.

Now for my favorite parts - because though the above may be very educational there are other things to it as well...

Catching a glimpse of a young, rather lumberjack looking Ward Bond - he isn't even credited, but the few glimpses one can get of him made the film for me. :)

The heroine... and her siblings - You don't get to see any really close-ups of her brother and sister, but I absolutely love the interactions of the trio. Throw John Wayne in the mix, and you just wish you could see more of them all as a family.

Catch the name in the last sentence (and on the movie cover and all these screenshots)? Yes, my friend, this film stars the great and honorable John Wayne in one of his first big picture starring roles. This was before his image was really developed in the film we all know and love known as Stagecoach (1939) and he is still very much his twinkly boyish self and I love that a lot. From start to finish his character is just fun to watch... besides which his outfit is pretty neat. :)

Honestly, John Wayne as Breck Coleman, embodies this film with an energy that is as thrilling and marvelous as the rest of it is, and it is in that, I think, in which lives its epicness.

Posted as part of The John Wayne Blogathon hosted by Hamlette of Hamlette's Soliloquy and Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In. Thank you SO MUCH for giving me the impetus to revel in some of my Favorite Sort of Things. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: The Light of Western Stars by Zane Grey

Those stories. . . the ones you've seemingly always known, the ones always there for you - The Light of Western Stars is one of those for me. It's not the only one of course, but it is at the heart of the list. After A Speckled Bird it was the first really and truly grown-up book I ever read, and the tingling bedazzlement of it has never left.

The tale starts with the greatest thunder-clap of any story I've read. The rest of the story rolls out in charming views and moments of cozy repose varied with nail-biting suspense ending in a conclusion of breath-taking height. In the words of the story: Life changed for her in that instant of realization and became sweet, full, strange; the entire ending, as delicately done as those words, leaves you on tip-toe to see what happens next, yet even as you wonder you surely know it will be altogether quite lovely.

The characters - I haven't truly talked of them have I? Except that in a way I think I have because they are the story. Stillwell - the crusty old cattleman toughened by a hundred desert storms. Al and Florence as sweet and refreshingly honest as a western couple should be. Each of the cowboys: Nils, Link, Monty Price, and Ambrose who, with his little French maid wife, together are simply adorableness itself. Most of all there are Madeline aka Majesty and Gene Stewart. Majesty, having traveled the world, meets Stewart the man holding all the rough pulse of the desert within him and discovers, to her shock, that she really knows nothing at all about life. Their relationship is just as thrilling as one might expect from such a beginning.

Re-reading is something I love and am always doing. Discovering a different angle on a view you think you know as well as your own hand which, come to think of it, I'm always noticing new things about, too. This time it was the so-to-speak interlude in the mountains. A little bit tiresome I remember thinking, and on my past visits I liberally skipped over it to the more heart-pounding parts. And guess what? The “interlude” I discovered is far more exciting than I first supposed, its very quietude being wherein its vivid life begins. From that wonder, caught in words without conversation, the rest of the story spills out in powerful beauty of free-flowing waters and the dreaminess unfurling still holds me fast.

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