The Force is strong in this one.

Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens

After seeing the movie for the first time, I left the theater with a desire to see the movie again. Yes, I think it was that good. The movie is not by any means flawless, but this time around, the ride to a far far away galaxy is one we can enjoy, a guilty pleasure, like chocolate. 

With J.J. Abrams behind the wheel, I confess that during the first twenty minutes I was expecting lens flares. Happy to report it was not the case. In fact, Mr. Abrams kept the Star Wars format to the letter: scrolling text at the beginning, a climax with actions in different places, and the ending with a long scene without dialogues. I hope that was choice and not just obedience to the contract.

We have three new lead characters, always three they are, and we follow the story through their eyes. Okay, maybe four if we count the new droid BB-8. Good choice to cast unknown because it steered fans away from expectations. We have new villain, and he wears a helmet and a red light-saber. The remains of the Empire has reorganized in what is now called The First Order, led by a character we have only met through hologram. It may be fitting, or a bad joke, but that digitally created character was played by Andy Sarkins.

Of course, fans of the original trilogy are pleased to see the comeback of siblings Luke and Leia, and Han Solo. The Millennium Falcon looks more decrepit than ever, but it still had it where it counts and it is by far the damn sexy ship.

Skip the following part if you haven’t seen the movie.

After the excitement subsides, you start to see script as a rehash version of Ep. IV, except everything is bigger in both range and scope. There’s a massive weaponized planet called the Star Killer, which is a Death Star on steroids, and to prove its power Star Killer destroys a planet (Alderaan anybody?). There’s a secret stored away inside a charismatic droid, and its search moves the story forward for quite a bit of the movie. We have a character unaware of The Force living in a desert planet, who also happens to be a marvelous pilot and not bad in hand-to-hand combat. Near the end we witness the passing of a wise old man. These are but a few, enough maybe to make the old fan giggle, and the new one wonder where all that came from.

There’s a few things I didn’t like. For example, Luke Skywalker’s original light-saber lost in Cloud City reappears, except now it is more than a simple object. It has the power to call to people who have The Force, it almost felt like a wand choosing a wizard in the Harry Potter world.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the movie is worth seeing. Twice or more. It had plenty of good new things so the reminiscences of the old don’t overshadow the story. It fact, it has the making of an epic story. And this is just the first of the three. 

But for the record, J J Abrams didn’t mess it up, in fact he infused the franchise with a breath of fresh air.

Audiobooks, Huckleberry Finn, the Sisters Club, and me.

As a no-native English speaker I missed plenty of the required reading books most people have read. Catch 22, Grapes of Wrath, even Frankenstein, I missed them all. I often had felt as an outsider when talking with friends north of the Rio Grande.

There’s always time to catch up, right? Of course there is, and a few years ago I began reading at least one of the golden classics. I’ve read Dracula, Gone With the Wind, The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Rings, and Pride and Prejudice among others.
The bane of my reading existence was Huckleberry Finn. The fact that Mr. Twain had sprinkled the text with lots of phonetic dialogs to signal the different accents proved a problem for me. A problem I tried to overcome about four times before giving up and throwing the book aside until next time.

One sunny morning I received an email saying because I had bought the kindle version, there was now an audiobook of Huck narrated by Elijah Wood. At first I wondered why Frodo Baggins would trouble himself with Huck, then I remembered he played the character for Disney a few years ago. I downloaded the Audible app to my tablet and presto! I was hooked on Huck. I have a daily commute of 90 minutes, so it took me some time, but I managed to finish the book I had started to read more than fifteen years before!

My next adventure with audiobooks was a romance/comedy (or vice versa) by the name of The Sisters Club, by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. This book was narrated by a woman, a pro who managed to change her accent slightly so I was able to distinguish the four female POV’s depicted in the story.

The story centers about four women who had difficult relationships with their own sisters, thus at the prompt of one of them, they get together and start, rocky-road at first, and become as close as sisters.

Diana is a plus-sized Londoner recently married and moved to the US, with no friends or family on this side of the Atlantic. Sylvia is a tough cookie, fitting because she runs a catering business, but the death of her sister is not improving her people’s skills. Liz is a college teacher who dreams of becoming a writer. Cindy, at twenty-four, is the youngest of the circle, and with such low self-esteem she goes through a hellish relationship thinking she deserves all of it.

After the first meeting where Sylvia—who will later become the TV sensation Rude Chef— goes rough on the other three calling on their collective lack of courage and missing their goals. The result: Diana gets a gastric bypass while her husband is away on a business trip, Liz writes a book to the chagrin of her college students, and Cindy does all she can do get pregnant. Obviously, their lives become quite tangled and relationships change, morph and others become close to extinct.

I know that as a thriller author people may expect me to read books in my genre all of the time. And I do, most of the time. Other times I like to read outside of my genre. Getting out of my comfort zone pays off because I find gems like The Sisters Club. 
Of course, I’m already a fan of Mrs. Baratz-Logsted.