Category Archives: Books and Movies

Movie reviews and book discussions

That’s Entertainment…

Most people who read or write books also like plays and movies. I’ve even had the notion I should write a screenplay and started one a couple of times.

I’ve been a movie fan for as long as I can remember. It started at an early age. When I was a little kid, I lived with my grandparents in a rural West Texas town that wasn’t much more than a village. We had scant outside entertainment, no TV and  barely a radio broadcast, but we always had books, magazines and newspapers around the house. This is where I learned to read and love and sometimes, if I was lucky, watch fiction.

A movie was a rare treat. Two or three times a year, “tent movies” would come to town and stay for a week or so. They would set up a big tent in what passed for the town square, line up metal chairs for the audience to sit on and show a repertoire that included everything–silent movies accompanied by piano music or “talkies” that were more than a few years old. I’m sure that’s where I saw my first western movie. Sometimes we even had music where you could sing along, following the bouncing ball on the screen. I think the price of admission might have been a quarter or less.

I found this picture on a site called “Old Magazine Articles,” which tells about the traveling tent movies. It reminds me so much of my childhood. That girl with the dark sweater, skirt and shoes and socks could be me. If you want to read more about this slice of mid-20th Century Americana, check out this website. Just a lot of people know nothing about this. Here’s a link:

I and my great-grandpa were enthralled by those old movies. He walked the couple of miles to town every night to watch whatever was shown on the screen, good or bad. He was past 80 and practically deaf, so he had to sit on the very front row, smoking his big cigar. I’m sure the movie watchers around him loved it. :-/

I sometimes got to go with him, though not every night. To me, what was even more fantastical than the movie was they had buttered popcorn and cotton candy. I was fascinated by cotton candy. As I recall, it cost a nickel.

Later, when TV finally came to our neck of the woods, my great-grandpa was consumed by TV. He watched every old western and never missed the wrestling matches. He usually watched alone because he had to have the volume turned up so loud no one could stand to be in the same room. Consequently, none of the rest of us watched TV and by then, the traveling movies had stopped coming to town.

I’m still trying to be a movie fan and that’s what my post is about. My husband is a movie fan, too. Or at least, he used to be. Last week, we decided to watch a 5-star movie on Netflix called “The Place beyond the Pines.” I don’t think we got half-way through it. Can you say dark and depressing?

We moved on from there to Amazon and another 5-star movie called “Winter’s Bone.” Didn’t finish that one either. More dark and depressing. Then we chose “Hello, My Name is Doris,” also well reviewed.  Didn’t even get a quarter of the way through that one and I used to be a fan of Sally Fields.

We ended up watching “50 First Dates” with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, a 516HQskatDL._AC_US327_QL65_movie that had terrible reviews by the critics, although it did have good reviews on Amazon from people who bought it. Believe it or not, we actually finished that one and furthermore, we liked it. Now if you knew my husband, you couldn’t imagine him watching a chick-flick like that one and enjoying it, but it presented an interesting situation and a real story. The performances were upbeat. Not one explosive car crash or loser at life.

I guess, whether it’s books or movies, I don’t want to be depressed while I’m trying to be entertained. Movies, as well as good books, were a happy part of my childhood and that’s what I still want to see. I don’t want to be broken-hearted or preached at about social issues I can’t remedy. Not that I don’t like a good drama. After all, I write “drama.” Bottom line, I just want to be entertained by a good story.

Every movie they make these days, if it isn’t car crashing and giant robots fighting, it’s dark, Dystopian themes telling me how grim the future is going to be. I don’t want to think about that. Dark and depressing isn’t where I park my imagination. God knows, I see enough of that on the news.


Filed under Books and Movies, Lifestyle

Shades of Fifty Shades…

Okay, my sister and I went to the movie. I enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind watching it again. Unless a book is just totally butchered, I usually do enjoy movies that follow books I’ve read.

515kzV0-w+L._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_As for a critique, most people don’t care what I say or think, but I’ll just touch on a few observations anyway. By all means, let me know what *you* think.

  1. The settings, the scenery and the cinematography were worth the price of admission.
  1. In the books, the writing itself was clunky, but I still enjoyed reading them because I thought E.L. James put forth good character studies. That was the essence of the books. I think the movie missed the mark when trying to show the self-loathing that was part of Christian’s makeup. I caught only a few snippits of dialogue that projected that. Maybe other viewers saw it more clearly than I did. In any event, it’s important to the story. Still, I’d say the movie portrayed decent character studies.
  1. The movie was not as dark as the books, but there really isn’t time in the movie to get into the BDSM part of it in depth. Leave that part out and it’s kind of a simple romance between a screwed-up rich guy and a naive girl who obvious-from-the-beginning has more strength of character than the guy.
  1. Jamie Dornan. Good-looking guy who is good at portraying intense facial expressions. Didn’t come close to the physical description of Christian in the books. He didn’t quite succeed in making me feel for him and root for him to confront his demons and become a different man. I don’t think that was due to his acting ability. I think it was more a flaw in the screenplay. The screenwriter should have given him more to work with. Or something. I read somewhere that they’re looking for a different screenwriter for the sequel. I’d love to wave my hand and say, “Pick me, pick me.”
  1. Dakota Johnson. Excellent performance all around. She WAS Anastasia Steele. Can’t get over how much she looks like her father, even down to her facial expressions.
  1. Enjoyable part of the book missing from the movie is the lengthy and clever back-and-forth between Ana and Christian via email. Of course they couldn’t put all of that in the movie or it would be 10 hours long.
  1. Nudity. More than I’ve ever seen in a regular “R” movie. I’m honestly not sure how much it contributed other than sensationalism. Showed off Dakota Johnson’s body nicely.
  1. Sex scenes. Those of you who have read my books know I’m not a prude when it comes to sex scenes, but I think they could have been done better. They were kind of dull, really. More sensational than sensual. I read somewhere that the people who are truly into BDSM think they’re laughable.

So that’s it. Now it’s out there. And after the financial success of the opening, the movie-makers are clamoring to get Book #2 out there. In one article, I read a date of March, 2016, for “Fifty Shades Darker.”

What did *you* think?


Filed under Books and Movies, Books and Reading


Rented REAL STEEL from Pay-Per-View. What can I say? Any movie with Hugh Jackman in it is worth watching. As you know, I have a terrific crush on this guy. He has lived in my head through every ANNA JEFFREYromance novel I’ve written. Sometimes his hair has been brown, sometimes, blond, etc., etc. But he’s always the same guy.

English: Hugh Jackman at the Sydney premiere o...

Image via Wikipedia

I found the movie enjoyable. It held my interest all the way through it, which is unusual. With most movies, I only stick with them up to the half-way point.

It’s set in the near future. A long time ago, I was a sci-fi fan and I enjoyed stories set in the future.

So here it is: Boxing and ring fighting with mere humans has become too tame. Human athletes have been replaced by giant robots. Hugh Jackman plays Charlie, an ex-boxer who missed his shot at the title because of robot developers and promoters taking over fighting.

Charlie has made all the wrong choices and is down on his luck in a big way. He’s struggling to make it by piecing together robots from scrap metal and junk heaps to make a little money in the underground robot fighting. Somewhere back in time, about 11 years ago to be precise, he left behind a son. The boy’s mother dies unexpectedly, leaving him without a parent.

Enter, Charlie the Father.

The deceased mother’s sister is married to a wealthy older man and she wants custody of her nephew. But the court is about to hand over custody to his father, Charlie. Before the wealthy husband will let that happen, he steps forward and in a private meeting, offers to buy the boy from Charlie.

Charlie has no relationship with his son and he can’t resist the money. He agrees to the sale, but since the soon-to-be-new parents of the boy are set to take a trip to Europe, they ask Charlie to watch out for him for the summer.

HUGH JACKMAN, also Dalton Parker

The kid is familiar with robots and video games, so he gets into the robots in a big way. He follows Charlie on an adventure into the underworld of robot fighting. Charlie spends the money he got for selling his son on a super-duper robot that’s supposed to defeat all comers. But it was built in Japan and only understands Japanese. They try to re-program it to understand English, but as you might expect, everything goes haywire in the first fight, the languages get crossed up and the expensive robot that Charlie spent all of his money on is destroyed.

Charlie is ready to throw in the towel, but the movie doesn’t make clear what throwing in the towel means from his perspective. Meanwhile, his son finds a discarded robot in a refuse heap of old robots and persuades Charlie to help him bring it back to life. And the rest is history. The rag-tag robot becomes a big winner of an important fight against a supposedly un-beatable opponent. Charlie establishes a relationship with his son.

And at that point, I kind of hated to see it end. I wanted more robot fights.  😦

It’s actually an underdog story we’ve seen or read a thousand times. Think Rocky Balboa. Hugh Jackman does a good job portraying Charlie. But then, as far as I’m concerned, this man can’t play a bad role, so I’m a little biased. I didn’t know the child actor’s name, but he was good, too. All-in-all, it was a better movie than you might expect it to be.

Reviewers gave it only 3 stars and I don’t know why. I’ve seen some of those Academy Award winners that I thought were worse. They were some of the ones I abandoned at the half-way point.  😦


Filed under Books and Movies

Every Girl Needs a Fantasy…

…And it would be hard to find a better one than (drum roll)…HUGH JACKMAN!


I thought”Australia” was not the greatest movie I ever saw (although it could have been), but being fascinated by Australia, I liked it.  …  And I could watch it once a week just to see Hugh Jackman as Drover.

I work at my real job until 10:00 p.m, so I don’t get home until between 10:30 and 11:00 o’clock. My own dear hero always waits up for me and if football isn’t on, he’s usually watching Jay Leno when I arrive.

One night this past week, I got home just in time to catch the hunky Hugh  on Leno’s show.  What a cool guy! Tall, good-looking charming, funny, talented and many other things that appeal to me. Compared to many Hollywood types, he comes across as being down-to-earth and easygoing. I couldn’t be a fan if I thought he was otherwise.


The first movie I can recall seeing him in was the romantic comedy, “Someone Like You,” with Ashley Judd. I didn’t know his name at that time, but he caught my eye immediately and I’ve been a fan ever since. I liked that movie enough to go out and hunt down the book it was adapted from. That movie is one instance where I think the movie turned out better than the book. I don’t mean to imply that the book, which is a chick-lit story, is bad; I just liked the movie better.

On Leno’s show, Hugh talked about his new movie, “Real Steele” and his one-man Broadway show. He performed a short skit of the railroad song from “Music Man,” at which he was very good. Need I say I would love to see this show.

In my imagination, Hugh Jackman a character right out of a romance novel. In fact he IS the character I sort of loosely based the hero’s appearance on in my upcoming February release from Entangled Publishing. I have to have an image in my mind when I write about the hero, so my book hero, Drake Lockhart, in “TEXAS TYCOON,” looks like Hugh Jackman. Hugh’s a little older than Drake, but that’s okay.

I have to say that every hero in every book I’ve written (except the Dixie Cash books) is some version of Hugh. The picture to the right is Hugh all right, but it’s also Dalton Parker in “SWEET RETURN.”

HUGH JACKMAN, also Dalton Parker

I guess the way he looks and behaves just appears both “alpha” and “heroic” to me. As any of you who have read my books knows, my heroes are always alphas. I also like Clive Owen and David Craig as “alpha heroes.”

An editor told me once that all romance novels are fantasies, no matter if they’re contemporaries, historicals, paranaormals, etc., which is why they’re so popular. We all have to latch on to a little escapism to keep us sane, especially these days. So I guess if we’re fantasizing, we can certainly fantasize about Hugh Jackman. In the name of therapy, of course.

And it just dawned on me as I write this, where are the American men? Why are all of the alpha “heroic” types from outside the country? There hasn’t been a good American alpha hero in the movies since Tom Selleck got old. If you can think of one, let me know.




Photo of Hugh Jackman from Creative Commons via Wikipedia

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Filed under Books and Movies, Writing

What’s in a cover?…

New cover, old book.…I have to share my new cover with you because the unrequited artist in me loves it. The awesome Kim Killion designed it. I used to think my former print publisher had the best cover designers around, but IMHO, the cover they originally designed for this book isn’t as good as the one Kim did. It is such a luxury to be able to have some influence on the final product! Kim did her best to make it look the way I wanted it to.

“The Love of a Stranger” was originally released in 2004. If you want to see the original cover, just follow the link to Amazon.

I got the copyright  back from the print publisher. I’ve been diligently working on formatting it for Kindle, Nook and other digital readers. I’m almost finished. Hopefully, I’ll be uploading it within the next two weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s what my little pea brain sees when I look at this. The masculine hands scream “alpha hero.” The woman’s hair says gorgeous blonde. The pose itself suggests a sexy relationship. And the isolated house on a bluff spells intrigue. What do you think?

Some of you might have already read this book, but if you haven’t, does this new cover make you want to? Let me know. To me, your opinion is important.

Cover design is the front line of marketing a book. In New York publishing, a lot goes into it. Books are, more often than not, impulse buys. The goal of an alluring cover is to make a customer/reader strolling down the aisle think, “Oh, wow, I have to read that book,” and thus, buy it.

But things have changed in book marketing. Nowadays,  e-books hold a larger share of the market. E-book covers have to be even more attractive and more sensational. Smaller picture, different shopper.

The next most important element of marketing a book is the blurb on the back cover. When and if that potential reader is captured by the cover design and stops and picks up the book, turns it over and reads the back, the blurb has to be intriguing, too.  In e-books, since there’s no back cover, the blurb becomes the book description on the listing page. If you’ve checked out the book descriptions on “Sweet Water” and “Salvation, Texas,” you’ll see that the descriptions are now longer and more detailed.

I’ll be revising this book’s description before I upload it. In a print book, space is limited, but online, there’s a little more room.

Aside from the way the book looks, in the course of formatting it, I’ve run across some funny things. I hadn’t read it since I originally wrote it in 2002 and 2003. Back then, every person in the whole wide world didn’t have a cell phone. But I gave one to these story characters, trying to make them look hip and sophisticated and a little ahead of the curve. How hip could they have looked if they’d had iPads?

At the time this story was penned, communication by email was limited, so the story people had to use a fax machine. Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist, so social media weren’t a part of the story. Not too many blogs existed either. How time flies. And how things change in 7 or 8 years.

I had to decide if I wanted to update the book to take in all of the changes in our society or just leave it as I wrote it. I finally decided to leave it alone. I’ve made a few revisions to tighten here and there, have corrected some flaws that existed and have changed some dialogue to something I thought might be more effective. Otherwise, the book remains as I wrote it.

More to come…



Filed under Books and Movies, Writing

Books and Movies

Okay, I’m going to try this again. I tried posting a blog yesterday and my amateurism came through with shining colors. The whole thing just fell apart.

I started by saying that my husband and I watched “The Lincoln Lawyer,” starring Matthew McConaughey  a couple of nights ago. This was a movie adapted from one of Michael Connelly’s books. And any of you who have read my newsletter know I’m a Michael Connelly fan. The main character in this story, Mickey Haller, has appeared in several of Connelly’s books. He’s kind of a sleazy–but smart–guy who’s a defense lawyer. Matthew McConaughey did a decent job portraying the character as Connelly wrote him.

It’s always interesting to see who Hollywood chooses to play the various characters in movies adapted from popular books. One thing that happens with me is that once I see the movie, that character is cemented in my head. So now, in every Michael Connelly book I read from now on that has Mickey Haller in it, I will envision him looking and behaving like Matthew McConaughey.

I recall being appalled when “Lonesome Dove” was cast. I had read that book twice and no way could I see Robert Duval and Tommy Lee Jones as Gus and Call. I’ve read it again since the movie and I have a clear vision of their appearance and behavior characteristics when I read and I can’t imagine anyone else. Of course, if those two actors had done a bad job in those roles, I would think differently.

Sometimes the casting is perfect, as in “Gone with the Wind.” Can anyone imagine any performers other than Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable as Scarlett and Rhett? I watched an interesting documentary about the casting of GWTW. There was never a question who would play Rhett Butler, except for Clark Gable initially not wanting to do it. But the search for Scarlett became a national movement. Every actress in Hollywood tried for the role, including Joan Crawford. Can you imagine Joan Crawford as Scarlett? I always liked Joan Crawford, but she was no Scarlett O’Hara. LOL

Then there are all of the movies that have been adapted from Louis L’Amour books. John Wayne, Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott have brought L’Amour’s characters to life in the best of ways.

Currently, there’s a buzz going on about casting for Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. I don’t know if it still exists, but at one time there was a Web site dedicated to the discussion of who should play Stephanie, Joe and Ranger. The perfect actress to play Grandma Mazur, Estelle Getty, has passed on, unfortunately. I’m curious to see who Hollywood selects. ….. If they ever get around to making the movie, that is.

So what do you think? Can you think of more movies adapted from good books where the casting was perfect? Or awful? Or just so-so?



Filed under Books and Movies