G. A. Henty – Classic Adventure Stories

G. A. Henty has been one of my favorite authors since I was about 10 years old. A master of historical fiction, Henty’s works have endured for nearly 150 years. And with good reason – despite a few flaws, his books are some of the finest examples of juvenile adventure stories in modern history. Most of his books follow a simple, classic formula: a fictional adolescent protagonist living in a troubled historical period. Quite a few involve British imperial wars which G. A. Henty witnessed firsthand as a war correspondent. Others draw upon the annals of history – the American Revolution, Sir Francis Drake, Wallace and Bruce, the fall of Jerusalem, ancient Egypt, the Crusades etc.

G. A. Henty

Henty’s books are outstanding for a number of reasons. He is unsurpassed in historical accuracy, especially concerning the events he lived through himself. And he meticulously researched those events and eras before his time to ensure the greatest accuracy possible. His heroes are always just that: heroes. Not perfect, of course, but still inherently good. Brave, kind, loyal, chivalrous, with a healthy dose of good sense, each character is someone you can root for. And let’s not forget the stories themselves. Exciting and engaging, they captivate from the first page to the last.

No one is perfect however, and the same holds true for books. There are a few flaws in Mr. Henty’s writing. One of which is his overly detailed descriptions of battles, sometimes several pages long. And usually the hero is not mentioned at all. It’s this regiment did that and that regiment did this and the cavalry charged over here and on and on. I find it tedious, but it is quite easy to skip over those passages. And then too, his imperial zeal is a bit overpowering at times. For these 2 reasons, I tend to prefer the books that deal with ancient times – before the British empire and the many imperial wars that appear in quite a few of his books. The third problem I have with G. A. Henty’s stories is his racial prejudices. I do not blame him as his attitude was quite prevalent in his day. And it’s not pervasive – sometimes I get the impression that he wasn’t entirely sold on the idea himself.

Overall, I approve of G. A. Henty and his books. They are well-written, engaging stories with an old-fashioned moral code. I thoroughly enjoy reading each one at least once – and there are several I read over and over.

The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan, starring Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie, is an updated take on the classic tale. Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novel series, this 2016 film adaptation is both true to the original and a fresh look at the legend of Tarzan. I went into this with perhaps less bias than most. Although I am an avid fan of the book series, I have never seen any of the many film versions of the Tarzan tale – not even the animated Disney version. So in my mind, I only had Burroughs’ novels as a point of comparison. In my opinion, this version took the mythical, legendary elements of the original epic and married them to a modern adventure-romance story for a movie that, like all great couples, is more than the sum of its parts.

The Legend of Tarzan

I really don’t know where to start – I love so many things about this movie. The visuals, for one, are absolutely stunning. The shots are gorgeous and the backgrounds are breathtaking. The cinematography of this movie is a work of art in and of itself. And the score! The music completely swept me off my feet. At times grand and sweeping, at times soft and tender, at times intense and dramatic, but always beautiful and compelling. And the incorporation of traditional music and singing was completely perfect. The opening music and vocals gives me chills every single time.

Then of course there is the story. The screenwriters seem to have drawn on elements from several of the original novels and on some actual events from Africa’s history, specifically the history of the Belgian Congo. The fantastical elements of the legend of Tarzan are grounded by the very real facts of African exploitation and enslavement. This creates a compelling narrative that is both thrilling and thought-provoking. I also love the way the story opens in England, nearly a decade after Tarzan and Jane have left Africa. Instead of with his feral upbringing, which is shown in flashbacks. Both the story and the characters are extremely well-crafted.

The Legend Of Tarzan

Speaking of characters, I now come to the casting. Spot on, in my book. Margot Robbie’s Jane Porter is everything we could ever want – beautiful, fierce, effervescent, strong, feminine, free-spirited. She is never the damsel in distress – she rescues Tarzan every bit as much as he rescues her. George Washington Williams, based on the American journalist who exposed much of the evil happening in the Belgian Congo, is of course brilliantly played by Samuel L. Jackson. Is he ever less than perfect in any of his roles? And of course I adore Chief Muviro (Yule Masiteng) and the rest of the Kuba tribe. And Wasimbu (Sidney Ralitsoele) is not only one of my favorite characters, he’s also perhaps the best-looking guy in the movie. Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) is one of our story’s 2 villains and eminently despicable. He is also based on a real person and it is saddening to think that humanity is capable of what he is and does. Which makes his ultimate defeat that much more satisfying. Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) is a different breed of villain but his story arc is satisfying as well. And then of course we have our hero: Tarzan, John Clayton III, fifth Earl of Greystoke, son of John and Lady Alice Clayton. Alexander Skarsgård perfectly captures both sides of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original hero: the polished aristocrat and the beast caged within. He makes it so easy to believe that he was indeed raised by the mangani (a fictional species of ape created by Burroughs). And of course, he is very easy on the eyes.

The Legend of Tarzan

In short, I love the Tarzan books and I love The Legend of Tarzan. Although I’ve not seen them, I do have a working knowledge of some of the other film adaptations and I believe this version to be the first to remain true to the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original classic. The creators of this movie have brought to life a character and a legend that has had a special place in my heart for many years. I highly recommend The Legend of Tarzan to film-viewers everywhere.

People Think A Great Many Things

People think I am fearless. They are wrong. I am quite often scared to pieces. I have so many unreasonable fears. Fear of heights, fear of confrontation, fear of failure, to name a few. New things frighten me, challenges frighten me, my own thoughts frighten me. I have spent a lifetime learning to manage my fears. It’s like living with an incurable disease. It’s always there, but if I can mask the symptoms, I can learn to ignore it. Because of this, I will never be fearless, but each day that I get up and continue the struggle is another day that makes me brave.

People think I am hard and callous. They are wrong. I am soft and fragile and easily bruised. I am wounded by the words of others when no harm was intended. I have a compassion in me as high as the mountains, as wide as the sea. Some say I don’t care enough when the truth is that I care too much. The injustices and sadness in this world break my heart every single day. Still I continue, standing strong in spite of heartaches – both personal and on a grander scale. This makes me tough as nails.

People think I am incapable of love. They are wrong. I don’t love often, but when I do, my love is wild and fierce and never-ending. Those I love, I love for life. Those I love, I protect from harm. Those I love, I am fiercely loyal to. I will do everything in my power to take care of the ones I love. My love is deeper than the ocean, and truer than the sky. I know that I have an untapped well of love in me that will someday change the world. This makes me both a lover and a fighter.

People think a great many things and they always will. Some people will think well of me, others will wish me ill. Some will criticize, some will admire. Some will seek to help me advance and grow, others will attempt to hinder and thwart me on this path of life. At the end of it all, though, I will stand before my Creator and it will be just the two of us. And He will weigh my heart in the balances and He will judge whether I was true and good and made the best use of my talents or whether I fell short of the mark. And the fact of the matter is, I will have fallen short because no one is perfect. But He will judge my efforts and add grace to make up the difference. So at the end of the day, I answer only to myself and my God and what the rest of the world may think of me is of little consequence.people think

The Croods – Not Just a Kids Movie

the croods

The Croods is easily one of the best animated films ever created. From the animation to the voice acting to the writing to the score, this movie has few if any equals. The opening breakfast sequence alone is pure cinematic gold. The Croods, a family of cavemen living in prehistoric times, survive by following the rules on the cave walls. Basically, anything new is bad, curiosity is bad, not being afraid is bad, etc. But when the end of the world comes, they are going to have to learn to adapt if they want to continue to survive. Forced to abandon the security of their cave and the mountainous desert that they know, they have to learn the new rules for the tropical jungle environment they now find themselves in. Here to help them, albeit unwillingly at first is “modern man” Guy.

the croods

There are so many things to love about this movie. The family dynamic is spot-on, especially during the “road trip” scene. Anyone who has ever had siblings or kids of their own will instantly relate. The blossoming romance between Eep (Emma Stone) and Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is too adorable for words. And over-protective dad Grug (Nicholas Cage) is absolutely hilarious. Grug’s interaction with his mother-in-law Gran (Cloris Leachman) also has me in stitches every single time. Mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), son Thunk (Clark Duke), and baby Sandy round out our family of cavemen and each brings their own contribution to the story.

the croods

I think what I love most about The Croods though, is the emphasis on healthy, loving family relationships. This family is vastly different from the dysfunctional type which is often portrayed in modern pop culture. Sure they don’t always get along nor are they perfect by any means, but they genuinely love each other. I am unashamed to admit that the “hug” scene makes me cry every single time. The Croods is a fun and funny, yet thoughtful and heartwarming film for the entire family.

Why I Love My Life

There are many, many reasons I love my life – too many to enumerate here. Instead, I shall limit myself to only a few.

  • My job is awesome – both fun and fulfilling. And the people I work with are great and seem to like me as well. I also just won employee of the year for 2017, which is incredible.
  • City life agrees with me – more than I ever thought it would, to be honest. I love being so close to everything, I love the things that only a big city can offer, I even love the busyness of it all. Something this country girl never expected to say.
  • Living alone totally rocks. After so many years of sharing everything and almost never having a private moment, it is incredibly refreshing and liberating. I’m enjoying decorating my own space and being able to come and go as I please.
  • I have finally started my vinyl record collection. In fact, I’m listening to one now – a vintage Fleetwood Mac album. Vinyl makes my heart happy in a way few other things can match.
  • And for the first time in a very, very long time, I am completely comfortable and content in my own skin. After too many years of thinking I was unattractive and unlikable, I now realize that neither is true. I have discovered that most people think that I am pretty and that I have a great personality. The boost this knowledge has given to my self-confidence is quite literally off the charts. There are no words to express how amazing this process has been.
love my life

In short, I love my life and I am completely and utterly and deliciously happy. I wish I could bottle this feeling – there are people out there who need a dose of Love My Life potion. But the fact of the matter is this: no two people are going to love the same life. What makes me happy is not going to be the same as what makes you happy. That is something we each must find for ourselves.

RED – Retired, Extremely Dangerous

RED. A comedy/action flick starring the legendary Bruce Willis. Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis) is drowning in the monotony of his daily life. His one bright spot is talking to his pension services representative. Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) finds her excitement in the pages of trashy romance novels and in her phone calls with Frank. When a team of mercenaries is sent to eliminate Moses, he sets off to find out why. A cross-country road trip, a kidnapping, and numerous killings/near-killings later, the stage is set for all-out war. War between Frank Moses’s reassembled team (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox) and William Cooper (Karl Urban), backed by the entire CIA.

One of this movie’s (many) strengths is its all-star cast. Marvin Boggs (Malkovich) is absolutely stupendous as the team crazy. He is just as funny the 15th time around as the first. Posh British assassin Victoria (Mirren) is uber-cool too, as is her Russian ex-lover Ivan (Cox). Their rekindled romance is just too adorable for words. And of course Morgan Freeman is always, always a treat. Cooper is a phenomenal villain, both formidable and likeable. Rounding it out, we have a cameo by Ernest Borgnine – RED is an exceptionally well-cast film.

The action is non-stop; so too is the humor. RED also manages to maintain a certain innocence and zest for life. A clearly-defined sense of right and wrong, good guys and bad guys, sets this show apart from the rest of the pack. But I think one of the coolest things about this movie is the age of its actors. Bruce Willis and his team are all too “old” to be playing action heroes or romantic figures. But that’s not stopping them. And their experience in the film industry has made them some of the best at what they do. Added together, all these things give RED a charming old-school vibe – like the Mission Impossible TV show from the 60’s. Action, intrigues, camaraderie, glitzy galas, shoot-outs in the woods, romance, and lots and lots of automatic weapons fire. An absolutely awesome show. One that I whole-heartedly recommend for viewers of all ages.

Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein and wife Virginia in Tahiti, 1980

Yet another of my absolute favorite authors is Robert A. Heinlein. Perhaps the greatest science fiction writer ever to put pen to paper, he is certainly one of the most influential. I have not read all his books yet, but every single one I have read has been awesome. The first Heinlein book I ever read was Red Planet, his classic tale of the Martian colony, and how a boy and his pet save the day. I picked it up at our local public library when I was maybe 10 and I was instantly hooked. On both the works of Robert A. Heinlein and on sci-fi stories.

I think what I like best about his stories is how the hero is always someone you can root for. His heroes are flawed, and they do make mistakes, but their heart is always in the right place. It might be a touch old-fashioned, but that’s exactly how I like it. Of course, good characters are meaningless without a good plot and a brilliantly-crafted world to put them in. Mr. Heinlein delivers that in spades. His stories never fail to delight and enthrall.

I also admire Mr. Heinlein for his courage and boldness. He was not afraid to address social problems and themes in his books; in fact the opposite is true. Three themes in particular show up frequently in his work: personal liberty and self-reliance, a complete lack of racism, and the importance of freedom of thought and philosophy. (A sub-theme of personal liberty, the right to bear arms also makes several appearances in his stories.) Considering that most of his books were published in the 40’s and 50’s, this is a rather remarkable feat. Mr. Heinlein seems to me to have been an unusual paradox in his thinking – both ahead of his time and a throwback to another era. For fun, escapist reading with a sound political worldview, you can’t do much better than a Robert A. Heinlein book, especially one of his early novels targeted at young readers.