#Review: Hobbs and Shaw 5/5

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I admit it: I agreed to see Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw for one reason—Joe Anoaʻi, aka Roman Reigns. Gosh, that man is gorgeous. It didn’t matter that his role was tiny, or that he didn’t utter a word. This was his film debut and I needed to see it. In that regard I was not disappointed. Joe/Roman was prominently on screen anytime he was in a scene. 

The movie as a whole also does not disappoint. The premise is engaging. Who doesn’t love family drama, especially when you know all parties truly have everyone’s best interest at heart? The action scenes get your adrenaline pumping and, unlike some movies, didn’t drag on so long that whatever disbelief you suspended crashed back. 

 The glue that holds it all together is the cast. Idris Elba and his fine self makes the perfect villain. Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw steals the show in terms of her fight scenes. She is totally bad-ass. But as the two protagonists, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham carry the full weight of the movie, and no one could do it better. 

The chemistry between them reels you in. Their physical prowess and impressive comedic timing make you glad you showed up and stayed for the ride. I know I am.

Overall rating: 5/5 stars

PS Stay for the credits!i

My 600lb Life and Me

I have been trying to lose weight for a few years now. I’ve joined Weight Watchers, Tops, followed Atkins, Body Clutter, and the Body type diet. You name it, I tried it. I might have lost a pound or two but always gained it back. The desire for sweets and potato chips was stronger than my desire for fitness.

I also have the bad habit of watching TV while I eat. This adds to my tendency to overeat because I’m not paying attention to the food. Then I discovered the TV show My 600 Pound Life, which follows a patient for one year in their weight loss journey. Now, if I watch TV while I am eating, I watch this show. Trust me, this makes me acutely aware of how much food I eat.

I binge watched every season in their entirety, fascinated with the success stories and in awe that the doctor, renown bariatric surgeon Dr. Nowzaradan, didn’t throw in the towel with several of these patients. I certainly would have. 

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The show is mesmerizing, and I believe it’s at least partially responsible for the combined 64 pounds my partner and I have lost since starting this “Program”. I recommend it to anyone who is struggling with their weight.

As a writer, I also realized that the show closely follows the Hero’s Journey. Each episode begins with the ordinary world of the patient. We see the patients at home sharing their backstories. It’s a bit of an info dump but it works.  Next, they are offered the chance of help, but something stands in their way. Transportation to Houston where the doctor is located can pose a huge issue. Finally, a call to adventure forces the patient to make the trip and they meet the mentor, Dr Nowzaradan. Entering Houston, they cross the first threshold to become his patient. Win, lose or draw, their lives are never the same.

After the call is answered, we follow the patient through a series of tests and challenges. The doctor’s first order is to go on a very low-calorie diet and lose a large number of pounds in a month. Most patients fail this test and fall prey to temptation, some several times. They receive assistance from nutritionists, physical therapists, counseling for their emotional issues, and sometimes drug rehabilitation. With the help of these allies they deal with their issues (or not), and experience a revelation. Their reward is weight loss surgery. But the surgery is not the magic elixir many of them believe it will be.  

Now the patient must learn to eat properly and increase their activity using all they’ve learned. There is usually a setback but with the mentor’s help, they pull things together and begin to lose again. The show ends on a hopeful note with the patient making progress towards their transformation.

Over the course of their multi-year journeys, these heroes can loose 400-500 pounds. By their example, I’m reminded that I too can reach my weight loss and fitness goals.

#Review: GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS 4/5 Stars

Drawing of a monster.

Drawing of a monster.

When will people learn that Godzilla is one of the good guys? How many times can he save the world before humankind stops trying to kill him? 

Such was my lament after watching GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. 

No spoiler alert. I’m not going to go into detail about the plot. Suffice to say it’s similar to every other Godzilla movie: Humans do something stupid that unleashes humongous scary, deadly creatures determined to destroy the planet. Enter the benevolent yet dangerous nuclear lizard to beat the radioactive snot out of them. We try to kill him, he saves us in spite of ourselves. 

I really enjoyed this movie. Although I didn’t see it in IMAX or 3D format, the special effects were great. The colors were vibrant, the monsters detailed and awe-inspiring. I did see it in a Dolby Atmos theater. What a thrill for the seats (and the walls!) to vibrate when Godzilla roared!

If you’ve read any of the reviews by professional critics, you know it wasn’t well-received.  They had serious issues with the plot. What did they expect for a Godzilla/Kaiju movie?

The measure for me is whether or not I’d see it again. Hell yeah, I would. I’ll watch every Godzilla movie, hoping that we eventually get it through our stubborn heads that he’s on our side.

#Review:John Wick 3 5/5 Stars

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As usual, when going to see an action movie that’s been in the theater a while, my partner and I were the only women in the audience for John Wick 3. Not that it matters; I just find it interesting.

Keanu Reeves did not disappoint. As Wick, a classic “bad guy that you root for”, he swaggers. And smolders. Moreover, he made all of the improbable fight and torture scenes believable. And there were many such scenes. The action seemed unrelenting, and created fast pacing that skirted the edge of being too much. Exhilarating.

The situation the protagonist found himself in was interesting. He’d been excommunicated from the ruling order of bad guys and forfeited his life. His quest was to get his life back.

Unfortunately, a situation(or set-up) is not a plot. Stuff happened. No rising action, no darkest moment, no arc of growth for Wick.

Still, Keanu on the screen for two hours kicking ass and not taking names is worth the price of admission. Add to his presence a couple of well trained, beautiful attack dogs and you have a blockbuster. My rating:5/5 stars.

Best Laid Plans

I started out the year as I often to, determined to pay more attention to my health, become more organized so that my partner and I would have more time to play. Sometimes the Universe has other plans.

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I was moving along feeling good about my progress and new habits.  And then came the flu.  A case of flu that had me missing a week of work and dragging myself to work the next week, still not feeling well. I slept most of the time I was home.  

Then came the icing on the cake.  I stepped “funny”.  And not comical funny but I can’t take another step and I don’t know why funny. Since then I have not been able to drive or even sit without ice packs.  I see my chiropractor 3 times a week and am making progress, but it’s slow.

I’m sharing all of this is to explain why I’ve not been around. The blogs and newsletters didn’t make it through my haze of pain. I’m so sorry for not being present.  While full recovery is a ways off, , I still hope for improvement day by day. 

At any rate, I am most certainly back to my blog and newsletter.  And it is definitely time to get to those edits of my stories slated for release this year.

Spawn of Lilith—A Review 4/5 stars

Spawn of Lilith—A Review 

4/5 Stars

I recently finished Spawn of Lilith by Dana Fredsti. I liked this book and would recommend it to others. It seems to follow none of the “rules” we have come to expect in books. There is no inciting incident (or ordinary world, I couldn’t tell which was missing), no rising action. Most of the book is simply Lee, the main character, doing things. Lee buys beer. Lee take a job on a bad movie.  Lee takes another job with another bad movie. Although she’s a stunt woman, I’m not sure any of those scenes are necessary for the story. In fact, I wasn’t sure what the story was until the end of the book.

According to Lee, the movie industry is full of supernatural creatures. But they are not on the page, at least not in a way that impacts the plot or characters’ development.

So why do I like the book enough to recommend it? I like the characters. They were well developed and engaging. I like Lee. I like Lee’s friends— Eden, an actress, and Randy, a stuntman and a shapeshifter who never shifts. In a roundabout way, they help her grow and become more independent. I might have found Sean and Seth (her father and pseudo-foster brother) more interesting if they had been around more.  

I’d put the book back on the shelf several times because one of the blurbs described Lee as snarky. I hate snarky characters, but eventually I decided to give it a try. I did NOT find Lee snarky. Snarky is just bitter and angry, which Lee isn’t. She had humorous moments that were well done.

All in all, I couldn’t put this book down.  I’m looking forward to reading Lee’s next adventure.

Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Review: Wolfblood 4.5/5 STARS

Click on the picture for a link to amazon and the series DVD.

Click on the picture for a link to amazon and the series DVD.

Okay, I admit it. Occasionally I binge watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Sometimes, the results are terrible, and I’m left wondering how I am going to get back the hours I’ve wasted. Sometimes, I enjoy myself thoroughly and wish my binge didn’t have to come to an end. This is the case (so far) with Wolfblood, written by Debbie Moon..

In this world, you are born Wolfblood. You can’t get “turned” into one like in many Were stories. It’s the tale of Maddie and Rhydian, two young Wolfbloods. Maddie lives with her parents, and Rhydian, who is a newcomer to their small town, lives with a foster family who do know know what he is.

Over the course of the first three seasons, much happens. As I don’t like to give spoilers, suffice to say the stories are a blend of typical teenaged angst (belonging, independence, parental issues, love).

There are many wonderful aspects of this series. First, it’s refreshing to have teenagers actually played by teenagers. In addition, every episode has a rich story arc in which a character changes or grows or learns something new after overcoming an obstacle or solving a problem. There hasn’t been one episode that wasn’t moving in some way.

The “bad guys” are usually three dimensional and occasionally likeable. You understand their motivations, and that makes them sympathetic. I also value that Maddie is the pack Alpha. Not her parents, not Rhydian. Maddie. The girl is fierce, in both human and Wolfblood terms.

The challenge in this series, however, is that at the end of Season 2 there is a significant cast change. I understand that this is also true after Season 3. For people like me who get connected to well-written characters, shifts in casting and therefore story premise are hard.

Overall, however, I enthusiastically recommend this series. You’ll cheer for the characters and wonder what they are thinking, smile at the humor and find yourself moved when their lives get hard. What more can you ask for?

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Grateful for Everyday

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Last Christmas, festivities ended for us when we came home from a family dinner and discovered Chloe, our 15-year-old puppy had thrown up and was acting lethargic.   She is a tough as nails terrier mix so this was totally out of character.

We were at our vet first thing the next morning. Our vet ran blood work and found some of her scores were well above normal and her liver enzymes were so high their instruments could not measure them.  Arrangements were made to have her seen by a specialist the following day. He did an ultrasound and found masses on her liver and pancreas. He took samples and we went home to wait for results. The passing days were excruciating. In reality, we thought we were bringing her home to die.

At the end of the week, we were told that no cancer cells or massive infection were detected.  Next stage would be surgery to take bigger samples. There were no guarantees that anything we found would be treatable or even that she would survive the samples being taken considering her blood work.

Since then we have been afraid to leave her for more than a couple of hours.  She has gotten all the attention she wanted, special food.  She cried and whimpered at night and since she sleeps in our room, that was problematic for those who had to get up early and go to work.

So, Chloe and I became night owls.  She slept peacefully in front of the fireplace until I made an attempt to go to bed.  Then she was would waken and cry.  As the weeks went on, she felt better, not crying as much.  But still wanted our nightly routine. She would sleep but periodically raise up to make sure I was on the sofa and then go back to sleep. That progressed to me being able to go to bed at some point as long as the light was left on for her.

For the record, I can’t seem to catch up on sleep.  I fall asleep if I close my eyes and sometimes even while I am talking.  Concentration is nonexistent. But that’s okay. She’s worth it.

Last week we went back for lab work. Her tests we much improved, some were actually normal.  She did have a UTI and was given antibiotic. She immediately perked up. She started playing with her toys. She steals things again, daring us to chase her and play tag.  She sleeps through the night and no longer needs a light.

Often, we have medical decisions to make and don’t get to find out if we made the right choice.   She still has one test that is too high and is not out of the woods. But for now, we have our puppy back.  And we are grateful for every day.

Spring Break Staycation

The view from our balcony. Snow, Christmas lights, overcast sky.

The view from our balcony. Snow, Christmas lights, overcast sky.

Yesterday was the beginning of Spring Break. Normally we try to take at least a short vacation. This year we are staying close to home because I am afraid of leaving Chloe alone. She’s our brindle terrier mix, and she runs the house. She’s 15 years old and doesn’t feel well much of the time. She also seems to be getting separation anxiety, as we have to be in her sight at all times or she whines in distress. Our poor baby girl.

It’s fun to look back at some of our trips. Others, not so much. A few years ago, we had reservations at Trappe Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. We looked forward to sitting in the nice warm lodge and watching the snow. We would nap, drink tea and hot chocolate, eat from their wonderful menu. We would relax. At home, meteorologists predicted a dusting. 

 They were wrong.

The second evening of our vacation, our sitter called to ask if any of our neighbors might be able to feed and walk our dogs. She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to get out to make her visits with him. Turns out the prediction of snow had changed drastically, and the governor would be closing the roads over heavy snow. I panicked. All of our neighbors are elderly and none of them able to care for our dogs. Our only option was to immediately return home. We hurriedly packed and talked with hotel staff. We were booked for the week. Fortunately, the manager was kind and didn’t ask us to pay for the remainder of the week, despite the fact that she was entitled to do so.

As we drove through the night, not a single snowflake fell. We finally found an all-night grocery store where we bought a large supply of junk food and soda to sustain us on the trip. Since we had been on the go since early morning, we struggled to stay awake and alert.

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We made it to Hartford as the sun rose. Snow started falling as we pulled into the driveway. We unpacked and quickly checked food supplies since we had not shopped before leaving.

Finally satisfied that we didn’t need any supplies, our dogs were in good shape, and we were okay, too, we went to sleep. It was still snowing when we woke, and the accumulation was deep. I was able to dig a short path from our back door to allow the dogs out. They really were not happy—the snow was taller then each of them!

It snowed for 2 more days. The neighborhood was so quiet and peaceful. We kept some of the path clear for the dogs by using a long shovel we kept inside for that purpose, but we weren’t able to open the doors wide enough for us to leave.  Didn’t matter; the city didn’t plow our road for three days. 

The takeaway is simple. No more long trips over spring break. Fine by me; it’s snowing again today.

Binge-Watched: A Review of Umbrella Academy

A remote control pointing to a blurry television.

A remote control pointing to a blurry television.

Umbrella Academy is a new series on Netflix. I’d say it’s urban fantasy, my favorite genre to read and watch.

Despite some irritations, I loved this show.  I had no knowledge of the comic so had no expectations, which may have allowed me to enjoy the show instead of looking for where it diverged.

The premise seems to be this: On October 1, 1989, 43 women who had not been pregnant that morning gave birth. A rich entrepreneur adopts 7 of them.  He trains them as superheroes to combat crime. Each child has a unique superpower. For some reason, unexplained but perhaps hinted at, the children go their separate ways. This story takes place when they reunite at their father’s death.

Many of the characters are a bit stereotypical. But can we expect more from comic book villains and heroes?  We saw their flaws and strengths in concrete terms. However, I found most of them to be sympathetic. I tend to be attracted to stories of broken heroes and this one gives me three--Luther, Diego, and Klaus.  

There were a few others worth mentioning. I adored Hazel and the donut lady. I liked Bobo and felt so much emotion from “mom” even though she was supposed to be an automaton. I cared and worried about these people. On the other hand, one major irritant was the show’s inconsistencies. Luther’s size was all over the board.  And the speed of the relationship between Leonard and Vanya was hard to believe. Speaking of Vanya, I also couldn’t believe her total personality metamorphosis took only 3 or 4 days. As this was a major part of the season’s arc, I had some difficulty staying connected to the storyline.

 Even with the irritants, what the series does well had me hooked--Giving viewers a reason to care about the characters.  I watched the entire season in two days. And I’m sure I’ll watch it again.

Bad Habits Require New Habits

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Those of you following my newsletter know that I’ve embarking on a journey this year to achieve a few goals. Not resolutions, but concrete, measurable goals. Many of you’ve joined me. So far, we’ve set goals and crafted them for maximum effectiveness using the SMART goal strategy. 

Sometimes, resolutions or SMART goals involve creating new habits. You’ve probably heard the adage it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Unfortunately, it is rarely that simple. New habits can take much, much longer to develop. A quick Google search will guide you to interesting and more accurate information. (Suffice to say establishing a new habit requires dedication, persistence (including a promise to yourself to never give up), and an overarching desire to win. Did I mention persistence? 

Other goals involve eliminating longstanding habits. Here is something to think about: It is far easier to get rid of a bad or maladaptive habit when you find something to replace it. For instance, one of my 2019 goals is to eat less and better-for-me food. I can replace bad-for-me food with foods that are better—easy. Sort of. But if I want to eat less, what can I do with the desire to eat more? I replace the habit of snacking with behaviors that are incompatible with snacking. For example, crocheting. I can’t eat and crochet at the same time. I also can’t brush my teeth and snack.

(You know what I mean. Doesn’t everyone like the feeling of freshly brushed teeth?)

At times, it is also important to think about WHY you engage in the not-good-for-you behavior. For example, let’s say you want desperately to stop picking your fingernails. It’s more than a habit; you understand you do this when you’re anxious. With this knowledge, you can find other things to do when you’re nervous, things designed to soothe you. Drinking a cup of tea? Deep breathing exercises? Calling your BFF? One of these options would always be available to you. When you finally make the commitment to stop picking your fingernails, you’ll have these other tools at your disposal.

The point is, when you are trying to stop doing something, you have to replace it with something else. In fact, start doing the new, positive thing BEFORE you tackle stopping the old thing.

Make sense? What habits do you want to change?