Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Greatest Gift #MFRWhooks

Electrifying Poetry Collection


#Poetry #Odes #LoveSongs


A #MustRead for anyone who has ever experienced love, pain, defeat, or joy...


An International Book Awards Finalist -



Blurb:

Flashes of Emotion is a book of romantic poetry, considered both timely and timeless. The selection allows us to tap into the poet’s insights on a wide variety of topics from life and love to death and drudgery. It is contemporary poetry with a classical, electrifying edge, highlighting a lively, refreshing, and innovative style.

Amazon Hall of Fame says the poems glow with musical invention and the manner in which the poet elects to place his words on the page enhances the meaning and the beauty of these works... Liquid flowing music from a poet who understands passion. His eloquent poems speak to each of us as private as a whispered conversation. Brilliant.

And the Kindle Book Review says the poet’s style may take a bit of getting used to, but that voice produced several favorites in my notes. 5-stars it is, and extremely recommended.

The Hook - {Poem Excerpt}


Autumn in Florence
is a mélange of the elements of charm,
a yawn away from the steady shivers lying beyond
At dusk, a wistful stroll along eclectic memoried boulevards,   
with echoes of church bells in tow
unveils a canny sense of things
A nostalgic glimpse of old things,
old people, old places,
bequeathing their secrets unreservedly,
at the end of a tacky, melancholic day

It is autumn in Florence…   
even the blind can tell,
for a whiff of that dry Tuscan air,
disguised as a romantic breath on the cheek
now wafts soothingly, alluringly,
like the caressing whisper of a lover at dawn
The gaiety, the gossip, 
the veritable quality of the decline of the year,
all of it a mishmash of this season of gloom,
and caught in the midst of it, you and me,
‘cause in our souls, a conscious dread had sprung      
                       
It is autumn in Florence…
even a tot can tell
from the inexorable surge of parched foliage and withering flora
now palpable like a beauty queen wilting with the passage of time
as an impotent sun looms
with a staggering degree of poetic frenzy, like a bad omen
over that little piazza that I call lair and you call refuge  
Jaded, like the dream that steered us here
nadir, like our possibilities, and poised to snap,
like the fragile thread holding our sanity together

It is autumn in Florence…
even the inebriated can tell,
for the Tuscan sky is daubed with gray-hued awnings
a kaleidoscope of waning streaks, epitomizing
the artistic finesse of the heavens,
a subtle connotation, a riveting verity that
four times a year the seasons change without fail,
that now leaves must turn sallow and plummet, and flowers must wither
And with them, everything except us,
must leap beyond their prime

It is autumn in Florence…  
Spanish edition
even a troll can tell,
from that lingering mystery of vitality and lethargy,
so exquisite, so sophisticated
which no longer obscures the daunting haze that strains the air
In the flush and bloom of early womanhood, you …
radiant like a new moon on a starlit night
cunningly oblivious of the secrets of my tears
paying no heed to the disheartening dread that swathes me,                  
for in this season, with every leaf that falls,
and every flower that withers, your days are numbered

It is autumn in Florence…
even an obtuse can tell,
from the stunning sight of Fiesole transformed into violet by the magic of twilight
And now, here we are—you and me—ensnared by a dream
unraveled by a foe, invincible and vile
like injured rebels ferried home to roost
Desolate hands too volatile to reach
ardent eyes too doleful to watch
as your frailty eats you up with delicious cruelty 
the way a vulture does a prey
causing every fantasy within the limits of our amorous deeds  
to evaporate, along with the last breath in your lungs

It is autumn in Florence… 
even dreamers can tell, for
the vestiges these bleak nights amass were once stacks of hope
on which now abide memories undimmed 
A better friend than you life never gave  
you were the bloom that autumn failed to erode 
the warmth that winter couldn’t pinch from me
the wind that summer could not smother
the flare that’ll forever be my spring
But more than all this, my love, 
You were life’s
Greatest gift
To
Me.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

High Stakes & Scandals in High Places #MFRWhooks


The Conspiracy of Silence

#Mystery #Suspense #Thriller

A depiction of the life-and-death struggle of a gutsy female lawyer who goes to great lengths to save her lover from a murder rap.

Blurb:

The conscience of a town steeped in sexism, vanity, and hypocrisy is pricked by the brutal murder of a mysterious woman in a park in Los Angeles. But the shock is transformed into a steamy, seductive scandal when the body turns out to be that of Susan Whitaker, the flamboyant wife of the governor of California.
Soon, a dazzlingly intricate shuffle of volatile links lead the police to the delicate theory of a secret lover/blackmailer, and to the indictment of Benjamin Carlton, Hollywood’s most influential black celebrity. 
Then curious things begin to happen when Carlton’s ambitious girlfriend, Rita Spencer suddenly unearths the shocking secret that Susan Whitaker did not, in fact, exist. She little realizes however that her discovery of this colossal fraud is a mere curtain-raiser to a chilling world of ugly skeletons dating back to the assassination of a U.S. senator in a Washington hotel sauna, skeletons connected to riveting sex scandals in high places, skeletons the FBI and political king-makers will kill for...

The Hook - {Book Excerpt}


The dim figure lurked in the dusking patch of tangled shrubbery until darkness enveloped him. Then he choked and swore and frothed at the mouth, and went down on all fours. After a while, he clambered out of the shrubbery like a ghost, picked himself up, and wiped his hand across his brow. Tall, with an athletic build, he covered his hands with fleeced gloves and masked his face with a hood. He had a definite presence in spite of the aura of repulsion that swelled around him like foul breath. For a moment, he stood in death-like silence in a navy hooded sweatshirt, a pair of matching pants, and black running shoes. His dark brown eyes studied his environment like a bloodhound determined to unearth a misplaced object without losing its sense of smell.
A short distance away, small cylindrical light bulbs cast an eerie glow over the lush greenery of Glennon Park, capturing its beauty in a halo of kaleidoscopic brilliance. And then a throng of men in fancy tee shirts and short pants intermixed with women in jeans and sleeveless tops whisked into view. The dim figure, hearing their muffled voices over the sound of the fountain’s cascading waters, stiffened. Like him, the fountain stood in an unlit area of the park. Surrounded by luxuriant shrubs, it was the place where randy youths who often exploited the shadows for romantic mischief loved to loiter.

But on this particular night, there were no lovers necking by the fountain, something else had taken their place. A black diamond Cadillac stood beside the fountain. The unusual sight caused the dim figure’s hands to shake with excitement. Cars were not allowed that far into the park, so whatever fantasies within the limits of human accomplishment the Cadillac’s driver had conceived, this was the wrong night for it, he mused. This will be my last murder, he decided, the climax of a long, enterprising career as the greatest hitman of all time. He was a killer so efficient and so elusive that even the FBI nicknamed him Shadow of Death for his uncanny ability to dissolve into a penumbra after every hit.

He looked up and recognized the wonderful head of hair and the slender, sensual neck as the lone occupant of the Cadillac appeared in silhouette against the fountain. His pulse quickened at once. He mopped his brow with a handkerchief and contemplated the lady’s mesmerizing beauty. Thinking of her now as a victim seemed odd to him. He had loved her once; in fact, he still loved her, a reality that put him in a quandary—a lethal clash between his obsession and his survival instinct. The survival instinct, he knew, had to win, for between them now stood the only thing that love could not subdue—a dark secret.
The Shadow of Death moved with stealth in the semi-darkness toward the Cadillac, his hands shaking with excitement with every step he took.  His only accomplice was his own shadow, perceptible to no eye but his. It seemed innocuous even to him, like a specter, only there to see, not to arbitrate. It moved when the killer moved and stopped when he did, like a minion with no initiative of its own, an android programmed to repeat the action of its mentor, as only a ghost would, only to be saddled thereafter with the damning knowledge of the truth, a truth that would elude the rest of the world—an everlasting witness, a ghost that would never die.
There was deafening silence inside the Cadillac. All around it, darkness closed in as slowly and unfalteringly as the approaching evil. The killer’s face was impassive, his heartbeat regular, but his muscles were taut as he strained to open the driver’s door with his gloved hand.
She did not see him, could not see him, because she was leaning face downward on the steering wheel.
Gripped by a morbid fascination with death, he stared down at her, the roaring tension inside him silenced by his cold determination. Everything would depend on this moment, this act, he mulled over, staring around the fountain. He wanted no interruption and there was none. He reached for her throat, giving her no chance to react.
There must be no error, he steeled himself against the guilt he knew was coming. His pressure on her throat was fierce. Time, thoughts, fear, regrets, all ceased to exist as an eternity seemed to roll by in a matter of seconds. And then relief flooded his being.

It was over, he almost smiled. It bore the mark of his usual professional touch—smooth, fast, painless, and very peaceful...

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

#MFRWhooks: Young, Carefree and Broke…

 A black man, a white girl, and a deceptive job offer


#RomanticThriller #Interracial #Blackmail 






Femi, a young, black graduate with a First Class degree in Chemistry, has no long-term ambitions until he meets Jessica Rhodes, a blonde exchange student from San Diego. When they land two spectacular job offers within the first week of graduation, their bleak honeymoon is transformed into a dream. Egged on by a free trip to New York to evaluate one offer and a 30-day grace period to accept the other, they are surprised to find their future dangling over a multi-billion dollar cliff-hanger as they hop across the Atlantic. What they don't know is that undisclosed details of the deal will not only pitch them against each other but will also drag them to the place where dreams end and nightmares begin. 
Will their fragile marriage survive the greed, the captivating allure of Black Gold, and that vile, ancient tradition that seeks to determine who should be married and to whom? 

Blurb

He’s black. She’s white. And they think nothing of it until he takes her home...

The scene where the young man takes his new American bride back to visit his parents without having first informed them of her existence is riveting, agonizing, and devastating as he runs unsuspectingly into a titanic clash between his parents’ traditional values and his European education, and this passage stands out as a gem in 𝐁𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐆𝐨𝐥𝐝.

The Hook - {Book Excerpt}

The splendid country-style bistro named Replay Café was located on Rue Grimaldi in the heart of Monte Carlo. It was a chic spot for high rollers and charming tourists, and its best-selling drink was the champagne-based l’apèritif Stephanie, a compulsive choice for the glamorous people who patronized it.
This evening—the last day of Femi and Jessica’s short-lived honeymoon—the bistro was packed, as usual, with many of its patrons waiting in line for a chance to enter. Notwithstanding the long queue, the honeymooning couple successfully bluffed their way in and found a table at the rear of the café beside a group of young, extravagant tourists, who were guzzling the expensive, sought-after drink and chattering away in French.
No sooner had they settled in than a waiter stepped forward, making them exchange gloomy glances. “Should we stay?”
Jessica’s gaze dropped to the fancy tablecloth. Teeth gritted, she sat still, unsure of what to do.
Femi gazed at her in trepidation, embarrassment oozing from every pore of his skin the way sweat seeps through a runner’s shirt. Short on cash, he realized he couldn’t afford two glasses of the drink though he was eager to treat her to it.
The waiter reached their table. “Hi,” she smiled.
Jessica lifted her face. “L’apèritif Stephanie,” she said in a steady voice. “One glass.”
The waiter glanced sideways at Femi, nodded and turned without speaking.
“We can afford one glass, right?” Jessica mumbled, averting her gaze. “I think it’s better than walking out in embarrassment, don’t you agree?”
“I agree,” Femi’s gaze remained on her face. “One day…” he said.
Jessica waved him to silence. “We’ll share it,” she offered, reaching for his hand on the table. “I understand, okay? Now, don’t give me that look.”
His gaze moved from her face to their clasped hands. He grimaced. “Okay.”
They lapsed into silence until the drink arrived. The surrounding noise increased. Gleeful laughter filled the bistro. Several couples, including new arrivals, chatted, laughed, and kissed. In silence, the duo sipped the drink through two straws, listening to the loud chatter at the nearby table with increasing discomfort.
“It’s the eve of our D-day…” Femi whispered, watching Jessica over his straw.
“Don’t say that,” she rebuked him in a mild voice. “It’s just the beginning. We have two offers on the table; we only have to decide which one to accept.”
Femi exhaled. “We know nothing about this VenChemical Group except that it is based in New York and its chairman is Italian,” he paused and regarded her. “If we accept their offer, we don’t quite know where they’ll send us.”
“New York,” Jessica said without hesitation.
“I doubt it. I was interviewed for their Africa Operations Unit, I’m not sure that’s based in New York.”
Jessica sipped the champagne-based drink and gazed thoughtfully at him. “Well, we’ll be in New York in the first week of your employment, isn’t that what they said? The orientation…”
“Yes, yes,” he nodded. “The orientation program comes first and then the moment of truth.”
“You aren’t considering the NNPC offer first, are you?”
Femi puffed his cheeks in thought.
“I mean, they gave you until the end of the month to respond…”
“I know,” he averted his gaze, pondering the job offer from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation—NNPC—a seemingly simple decision that was somehow enmeshed in the complexity of his craving for foreign currency.
Jessica regarded him. “If you choose the NNPC, I’ll understand,” she hesitated for a fraction of a second. “It’ll be like a homecoming for you, right?” She breathed. “You know I’ll live with you anywhere but if you think about it, the VenChemical Group is offering you a better condition of service and they’ll be paying you in dollars.”
Femi did not respond.
“Listen, seeing as we have until the end of the month to respond to the NNPC, why don’t we play all the cards?”
He looked up. “You mean, going to New York tomorrow to assess the VenChemical offer?”
“Right,” Jessica beamed. “After all it’s an all-expenses-paid trip. If it works out, we stay, if not we go to Lagos and take up the NNPC job.”
Their eyes locked.
She softened her face when he smiled. “Would you have acted differently if I were the one with two job offers on the table?”
“Nope,” he shook his head and a broad smile crossed his face.

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Please take a few minutes to check out the other Book Hooks this week!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Quotes To Live By

“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.” 

   - John Irving

  
“Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face for each friend.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.


“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

- Oscar Wilde
“Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.”

- E. Joseph Cossman




“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” 

 - Emile Zola





“The future is like heaven, everyone exalts it, but no one wants to go there now.”  
    
- James Baldwin

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

- Maya Angelou


“It’s easy to sit up & take notice. What’s difficult is getting up & taking action.” 

- Honore de Balzac



“A great artist is always before his time or behind it.”

   - George Edward Moore 


If you judge a book by the cover you might miss an amazing story




Monday, January 6, 2020

Gems of a Decade


Top Five TV Shows of the Decade


In a time of endless reboots, spanking new productions, and innovative offerings from streaming services, looking back at TV gems of the last decade seems redundant. That’s chiefly because with unprecedented freedom in storytelling, a plethora of daily releases now glut the small screen. But, like every artistic endeavor, there are surefire standouts. And the last decade was no exception. For the more discerning viewer, some TV shows, in fact, are like great literature, they stay with you long after you finished watching them. In that regard, the 2010s packed quite a punch—powerful scripts, excellent cinematography, and outstanding performances. Here are my top five picks:

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison

Homeland 

An addictive, politically charged spy masterpiece 
[released on October 2, 2011]

Rarely has an espionage-themed Psychological thriller, bolstered by superb performances elicit a character study as compelling as this. Claire Danes, as Carrie Mathison, a self-destructive CIA agent with an uncanny ability to perceive what her peers can’t, brought her A-game to this critically acclaimed television drama. Bipolar, volatile, and unpredictable, she is both a despised figure and an important resource in the agency, none of which prevents her from fearlessly risking everything whenever a new challenge surfaces. 
Claire Danes & Mandy Patinkin
From the moment she sees through the veneer of decency of Nicholas Brody, a veteran U.S. Marine Sergeant rescued after eight years of captivity in an al-Qaeda jail and celebrated as a war hero, it’s clear that the die is cast. With subplots and mini-dramas introduced with creative subtlety, this show, steeped in current realities and imbued with a frightening web of intrigue is at once enthralling and thought-provoking. And has remained, season after season, an edge-of-your-seat sensation.


Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in action
The Americans
A supreme spy thriller with evocative period touches 
[released on Jan. 30, 2013]

If ever a TV show can be described as a spy thriller of the highest order, this is it. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, a real-life married couple elevate the art of camouflage to creative perfection with ease, playing two KGB spies, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, who pose as an American married couple living in the 1980s Washington D.C. Utterly believable, even likable, the multifaceted duo, presented on the show as heroes who are also villains compel viewers to confront one of TV’s deepest dilemmas—rooting for the baddie. A
The duo as Philip & Elizabeth Jennings
heart-pounding action drama, the show has a snappy premise and the ingenuity of its underlying theme
Philip and Elizabeth as parents juggling their extraordinary mission with the ordinary reality of family life—is simply riveting. It makes for great television and realistic storytelling which tries and succeeds to not present any side as completely heroic or villainous. Also, the strong chemistry between the leads shines through the screen to a gleaming finish. It’s painful to see, though that in the end, stripped of all the disguises and forced to be themselves, they don’t know where to begin, and though they stand together, they seem oddly apart, looking back on a city that, to them is both home and foreign.   

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood
House of Cards
A lush, acidic exploration of power in Washington 
[released on February 1, 2013]

If what the producers wanted was a political drama with plenty of shock value to force audiences to sit up and pay attention, that in fact, is what they got. A fictional foray into the world of political power struggles, this show, with its robust acting performances and engaging plots, is not only a breath of fresh air, it might also have redefined the genre. In this engrossing spectacle, Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a Majority Whip cozened out of his dream job of Secretary of State and poised for revenge, gives his ‘all’ to the role and soars. Playing Claire Underwood, his wife, accomplice, and rival, Robin Wright soars along with him. Their gaping cynicism strikes a familiar chord in the audience considering current political realities in the country and against the backdrop of the ongoing real-life controversies in the White House. The sham duo, peeling away the layers of their political madness one step at a time and with delicate cruelty, know of every secret in politics and are hell-bent on betraying them all to attain the presidency. The show is an unusual take on politics. Not only are the performances pristine, but the production is also gorgeous, original, and boasts first-rate talents.
Kevin Spacey & Robin Wright
In the final season, sadly, Frank Underwood, one of the most legendary characters ever portrayed on a TV show is absent, and it’s a struggle for Claire alone to ride the unicycle and maintain the equilibrium. That’s because in past seasons, the Frank  & Claire counterpoise balanced the intricacies of the show. But now, it’s Claire’s turn, and with her commanding presence, Robin Wright makes it count.

Elisabeth Moss as Offred
Handmaid’s Tale
A haunting & vivid depiction of a dystopian world 
[released on April 26, 2017]

Few TV shows have raised the bar for what the small screen can accomplish even in the middle of its golden era quite like this one. An engrossing adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same title, the story is as significant today as it was during the era of Puritanism from which it drew its inspiration, and is difficult to watch but impossible to ignore. It details a
Joseph Fiennes & Yvonne Strahovski as 
Fred Waterford & Serena Joy
dystopian vision of the near future in which the United States becomes a fundamental theocracy based on the Bible and the few women whose fertility has not been compromised by environmental pollution are forced into sexual servitude for the purpose of childbearing. It is both chilling and terrific, and because of the current realities in the world, also timely; it would be understandable if its audience views it as 
cautionary. Elisabeth Moss as Offred, a fertile maiden assigned to Commander Fred Waterford and his wife, Serena Joy looms large on the screen in a blood-red robe and a white cap that partially conceals her face, putting her acting prowess on display in every scene. 
Offred with other handmaids

The show, firmly anchored in her outstanding central performance, often takes the audience on a sadistic ride through her life in touching flashbacks as she, like all the other maidens, awaits her turn to be inseminated. A fictional tale steeped in realistic possibilities, the show is as brilliant as it is terrifying.

Matt Smith, Claire Foy, Vanessa Kirby
The Crown
A lavish reenactment of powerful historical affairs
 [released on November 4, 2016]

In this romanticized history of British royalty, a 25-year-old Princess, crowned Queen Elizabeth II is catapulted to global prominence. And, just like William Shakespeare said, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” she faces the daunting task of leading the world’s most renowned monarchy and forging a relationship with the domineering Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Not only was the first season of the show worthy of its grand subject, but in a way, it also felt like the TV equivalent of a long drive through the English countryside. 

Olivia Coleman as Queen in Season 2
In season two, though Olivia Coleman replaced Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, the show remained a top-notch production with impeccable craftmanship, lavish cinematography, and sterling performances. Buttressed by verifiable historical facts and some of the century's most powerful events that still resonate today, The Crown ticks all the boxes of a royal classic. 


Honorable Mentions 


Jon Hamm & Christina Hendricks in Mad Men
The following gems should, because of their grandness make the cut, and although some of their seasons rolled into the 2010s, they can only make the honorable mentions lists because their original release pre-dated the decade in consideration.

Mad Menreleased on July 19, 2007, was a fantastic show that felt like a photo spread of the early 1960s advertising world. Moving with a leisurely pace, its sly, subversive approach to the workplace muffled the undercurrent of disaffection by constantly radiating wit and class.
Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad

Breaking Badreleased on January 20, 2008, was a darkly gripping crime thriller about a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher who thought his life couldn't get any worse when he was diagnosed with cancer. With imagery that was often gruesome, it was a stimulating and unpredictable masterpiece with a strong sympathetic lead, superb writing and fabulous performances that made the TV audience craved for more.
   
Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife
The Good Wifereleased on September 22, 2009, was a savvy legal drama with a delightfully powerful mix of family drama and political intrigue. With a deft piece of legal work that put all its parts in excellent working condition, the show grew into an addictive masterpiece featuring majestic dialogue, intriguing surprises, and enjoyable performances, from the lawyers to the judges and to the family members.
It's no surprise that some of these shows generated equally powerful spin-offs, like Better Call Saul, a pre-sequel of Breaking Bad, and The Good Fight, an off-shoot of The Good Wife