This tome is one of the best character studies in fiction I’ve read. All stemming from the elderly matriarch of a family of three children, Pilcher weaves a saga that is vivid, lush and wildly fascinating. The matriarch, Penelope, has just gotten out of the hospital at the beginning of the novel, for what she continually denies was a heart attack. Her children, all busy with their own lives, have trouble dealing with their headstrong mother. From this start, the novel traces the early periods of Penelope’s life…followed by the lives of her children and loved ones. All of the characters’ stories connect with Penelope in some way…she remains the focus of the story at all times. But, even with the vast amount of pages, I never once tired or grew bored of her or any of the other stories. This one takes a while to get through, but it is worth it!

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I LOVED this book. I couldn’t put it down…literally. Walker’s writing is strong and intense. His story was filled with suspense but not over dramatic. Revolving around a highly flawed main character and set in Chicago, among other locales, this book is a stand-alone thriller, but it has spurred me on to read all of the other book Walker has written, series or not. The relationship between the boy and the main character is highly believable. It never gets too sappy or mushy. And the ending is strong. I was hoping against hope that Walker wouldn’t ruin the ending as many authors do by taking the “Hollywood” way out. But, the ending is as strong as the first pages. I’ve met Mr. Walker on a few occasions and he is, on the surface, a mild, unassuming man. But, he sure writes a WILD, FAST-PACED thriller. A GREAT thriller!

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I liked Mostly Martha, so it’s always hard when a film that was good to begin with gets the remake once-over. It happens quite a bit with older films…many black and white. I guess Hollywood feels the attention span of movie-goers is about 30 years or less. But, what’s usually really frustrating is when a RECENT foreign film is remade into an English film. Um, excuse me, we CAN read subtitles, you know! So, here we go with another contemporary film…this time a very well-received German film…that is getting the Hollywood touch so Americans can go to the movies and not have to spend two hours READING. The horror, the horror! And, I’m not even that big of a fan of foreign films! Imagine how insulted staunch devotees of international cinema are!!!!! All that aside (is that possible after my rant?), Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a tough, temperamental chef who runs her NYC restaurant kitchen like clockwork until her sister dies and she’s left with the responsibility of raising her niece. Enter Aaron Eckhart as a replacement chef and more than just cooking fires begin to heat up. This is a sweet, touching film…more than just your average romantic comedy. It has edge and some truly poignant moments between the Zeta-Jones character and the young girl. Is it better than Mostly Martha? Well, no. But, I honestly didn’t expect it to be. It is a remake after all.

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If you’ve seen Laura or any other of Gene Tierney’s films, you know she usually plays a good woman. Maybe not always a perfect lady but a law-abiding, seemingly moral character. In Leave Her to Heaven, any question of morality, honor, and integrity flies out of window. Tierney plays an evil woman. This is not giving anything away or being too harsh. Right from the beginning, we find out Tierney’s not quite right, though it’s not until later in the film that she reveals her true viciousness. And, viciousness might be putting it mildly. The story revolves around Tierney’s character’s relationship with Cornel Wilde. Some of the things her character does in this film…well, they are just unspeakable. And, Tierney pulls them all off with conviction and believability. This woman who can be so innocent and naïve in other films becomes this ruthless devil without skipping a beat. Watch this one because it’s a good film, but mostly because of the GREAT performance by a truly underrated actress.

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Incendiary examines how a London terrorist attack forever destroys the life of a working-class mom. Michelle Williams, who was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, plays a London mother and wife…the opening scenes capture her closeness with her 4-year-old son and the distance with her husband. She meets Jasper Black, played by Ewan McGregor and sees her chance to escape some of the dullness of her marriage. When her son and husband head to a local soccer match, she sees her chance to get together with Black. While she’s with him, a terrorist bomb explodes at the soccer stadium and her son and husband are among the dead. She runs through the gambit of emotions…sadness, of course…relief, that her mundane marriage is over?…guilt, that she was betraying her husband at the very moment of his death?…hatred, for the terrorists responsible for the loss of her beloved son? She tries to find some understanding by befriending the suspected bomber’s son, but this just leaves her more disillusioned. Yes, Incendiary sounds like a bleak movie with little hope, and though at times it is, some optimism does manage to sneak in. Williams does a superb job of conveying all sorts of emotions. Her performance raises this movie from just another post-911 tale to a deeper, more powerful film on loss and redemption.

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The original 1950 version stars a befuddled Spencer Tracy and a sparkling and beautiful Elizabeth Taylor as the beloved daughter of Tracy’s character. The 1991 version with Steve Martin comes close to the original, but even though Martin is a very solid comedian, no one can master comic confusion like Tracy. He was good at it in the film he starred in with Katharine Hepburn, but in this role he seems more irritated and annoyed than ever, mostly because he can’t stand to see his “little girl” walk into the arms of any other man but his.

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