Movie Review: A Star is Born

So much to love in this beautifully crafted movie that transcends the label of “remake.”

Bradley Cooper took a risk when he decided to launch his directorial debut with the fourth version of a classic. And equally (if not more) impressive…he delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as battered rock star Jackson Maine. Cooper spent years preparing for the film, including many months of learning how to sing and play the guitar.

In a recent interview, Lady Gaga said: “I honestly believe that there’s no other actor on the planet that could have played this role. It’s too specific, and it’s too passion-driven….his voice when I first heard it, just came from his gut.”

Persuading Lady Gaga to take on the role of Ally, an aspiring singer who is ready to give up on her dream, was an inspired decision. Gaga sizzles in her first major movie role, bringing her extraordinary talents to a film slated to dominate the upcoming award season.

With eyes riveted to the screen, I watched as Jackson and Ally connect romantically and musically in this dramatic tale of love and ambition. After listening to Ally’s spell-binding rendition of “La Vie en Rose” in a drag queen nightclub, Jackson sets out to mentor her onscreen and in real life. Ally’s rise to fame begins when Jackson coaxes her onto the stage at one of his shows. Hearing Ally sing “Shallow” was one of the most moving moments of the film.

As Ally’s star rises, Jackson’s career starts to spiral downward. In spite of having seen two of the previous versions, I was still able to remain emotionally present with the storyline.

Sam Elliott and Andrew Dice Clay deliver outstanding performances as Jackson’s half-brother and Ally’s smothering father. Fancying himself an undiscovered Frank Sinatra, Clay sprinkles humor and advice (“It’s not always the best singer who makes it”) into his scenes with Ally.

A must-see film that will linger in consciousness!


Spotlight on Mad for You in Madrid

I’m happy to welcome Soul Mate author Stacy Hoff. Today, Stacy shares her latest release Mad for You in Madrid.


Lori Cayne is in a tricky situation. Her public relations job has sent her to Spain for a project that is way over her head. Her task is to convince American tourists to stay at a Madrid hotel. Unfortunately, Lori knows little about public relations and even less about the hotel industry. Dealing with the client, however, will be the real challenge. Hotel magnate Daniel Vega is rich, uber-sexy, and the one-night stand that wasn’t. That’s because Lori had inadvertently stood him up before things got a chance to really heat up. Now Daniel wants nothing to do with her, personally or professionally.

Daniel Vega is none-too-pleased to learn that Lori will be handling his new hotel’s publicity campaign. Her flaky ways will be hell on his business, and on him. Yet shutting her out is hard to do when the woman is full of surprises and an even fuller heart. Her good nature makes her willing to do anything for anybody. When Daniel’s brother, Elias, asks Lori to be his fake-fiancée at an important event, Daniel is not surprised when Lori agrees. What he is surprised by is the pang of jealousy. Maybe Lori isn’t the only one with personal issues to work out. After all, if Daniel is truly the success he thinks he is, how can off-beat, business greenhorn Lori Cayne emotionally bring him to his knees?

When news of the fake engagement creates a scandal, both Lori’s company and Daniel’s world-wide enterprise may be damaged beyond repair. The damage done to their hearts, however, may be a whole lot worse.


Daniel’s head cocked to one side. “Is that your family’s business? A restaurant?”

“Oh, no,” Lori answered. “My family runs a public relations firm. When I was in college, I always worked elsewhere during summer breaks. To, well, you know . . .”



He smiled sympathetically. “I understand. I worked in my family’s business for many years.”

“It’s never easy, is it? How do you handle it?”

“I don’t. My solution was to leave and start my own company. Worked like a charm.”

“You made a good decision. Cheers.” She tapped her glass against his. “Here’s to survival. And to liquid courage.”


“How exactly did you tell your family you were leaving? I’d love inspiration.”

“Simple. I told them I was going off on my own. Not a bit of drama ensued.”

She felt a sharp sting from biting her lip. “That’s awesome. I don’t think I’d have such an easy time.”

He laughed. “I’m lying, of course. Extricating myself was quite the ordeal.”

Lori burst out laughing. “Should I doubt everything you say? Is your name even Daniel?”

“I would never kid about something as important as my name.”

“I see.” She grinned back at him. “A man who knows his own identity and isn’t afraid to flaunt it.” Heat rushed up to her cheeks. Was she flirting? Definitely. How the hell was she pulling it off? What’s in this drink anyway? A secret concoction of hormones and mojo? Maybe this was typical of how introductions could be—when she wasn’t under her mother’s ever-hovering shadow.

Lori fought off the memory of the last time she’d met an attractive man. Her mother had unexpectedly brought a potential new client around to her cubicle. Lori had been so nervous when she shook his hand, she knocked an entire cup of lukewarm coffee all over her white summer suit. The man’s beige blazer wasn’t neglected either. Horrified, she went to clean up the mess. Grabbing a napkin off the desk, she dabbed at his jacket. Unfortunately, she’s grabbed the napkin she had used for her doughnut. The man’s beige blazer shined from fresh grease. Twin stains of shame. “What the hell?” she had shouted, in full panic mode.

Her mother had frowned. “Maybe if you didn’t constantly eat at your desk, these things wouldn’t happen.”

“How is drinking coffee eating?” Lori protested. “Has coffee morphed into a solid somehow?”

Her mother’s eyes traveled to the stale, damp, jelly doughnut swimming on her desk next to the overturned coffee cup. Powdered sugar particles lay victim everywhere.

Lori had quickly shut her mouth. Her mother and the gorgeous man walked away. His expression, like the condition of his sports coat, grim. Mom’s agitation radiated throughout the firm for the rest of the day. When her mother revealed Lori’s mishap cost the firm the business, Lori’s expression darkened, too. The result, every time her mother brought in a potential new client, Lori did her best to duck out of the office.

Of course, hiding was nothing new. On the first day of kindergarten, Mom ran up to Lori’s new classmates, introducing Lori as if Lori were mute. The surprised children stared at them both until embarrassment truly rendered Lori dumb. No wonder she dreaded introductions like death.

Weirdly, the introduction to Daniel was so easy, and so enticing, Lori fell right into it. Answering his amicable greeting had been easier than opening her eyes to a beautiful bright morning. Luckily, there had been no time to dwell on his too-handsome, ultra-sexy exterior.

Given her introverted nature, the successful meeting with Daniel was an anomaly. Could an anomaly turn into an opportunity? She glanced around the ballroom in search of her mother.


Each Building Love book can be read as a stand-alone novel. The other books in the Building Love series are:

About Stacy Hoff

Stacy Hoff is a contemporary romance author, as well as an attorney. She has practiced law for over two decades, primarily handling contracts. Romance novels have always been her secret passion. She writes her romantic stories until the wee hours of the night. Stacy lives in New England with her husband and two boys.

Stacy’s other full-length contemporary romance novels are:
JOCKEYING FOR YOU 2017 Gayle Wilson Award For Excellence winner
DESIRE IN THE ARCTIC (Desire #2) 2016 finalist in the Las Vegas Romance Writers “I Heart Indie” contest

Where to find Stacy…

Amazon | Twitter |Author Website

10 Fruitcake Tidbits

I’m happy to welcome author Vicki Batman. Today, Vicki shares interesting tidbits about fruitcake and her latest anthology, Whispers of Winter.

Here’s Vicki!

Since my story, The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, is in a holiday anthology, Whispers of Winter, I thought I’d share ten tidbits about fruitcake. I know many of you are naysayers and some are devotees. I love it. My favorite is chocolate dipped—tastes like candy!

1. The name “fruitcake” originated in the 1500’s.

2. Fruitcake goes way back, to Roman times.

3. Early ingredients included pomegranate seeds, raisins, and pine nuts.

4. The British added dried fruits in the 1400s.

5. The Victorians served the cake at tea time.

6. Mail order fruitcakes began in 1913.

7. Alcohol makes the cake edible for many years.

8. Manitou Springs, Colorado, hosts the Great Fruitcake Toss on the first Saturday in January.

9. 47 percent of people received a fruitcake as a gift and threw it away.

10. An ornate multi-tiered fruitcake was at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.


Logline – The Great Fruitcake Bake-off

When a five-time champion Samantha Greene teams up with her new neighbor, Dixon Roberts, for The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, they discover baking a prize-winning entry is complicated, bad guys are plotting to take the crown, and first prize isn’t just about a ribbon.


“I’m not entering this year.” I pinned an unbreakable stare on Bethany, my co-worker and long-time friend who lived in the same apartment complex as me. Standing firm, I crossed my arms. “Period.”

We’d arrived early for work and were piddling over coffee in her cubical like we always did before diving into the nuts and bolts of company business. She rolled her eyes in the “I’m so not believing this” fashion and tweaked the Santa garland decorating her cube’s walls. “Why not, Samantha? You should be proud to be the five-time winner of The Great Fruitcake Bake-off. You’re a-a”–her words trailed off as she searched the ceiling for the ultimate in descriptive–“legend.”

I dropped my arms to twitch my black skirt in place, then I tucked my shoulder-length hair behind my ear. I let loose a long exhale, “Is being a legend in the fruitcake world a good thing?”

“What’s your point?” Bethany asked.

“Alright already, it’s exhausting. Finding the perfect recipe, then bake and exhibit it. The tension comes close to killing my holiday enjoyment. Besides”-–I shoved my finger in her direction—-“shouldn’t the love be spread? Shouldn’t somebody else win the Bake-off?”

“Oh, by golly, Sam.” Bethany’s hands covered her eyes. A few seconds passed, then she clasped them to her chest, inhaled, and composed her annoyance before saying, “We’re talking fruitcake here. It’s not groundbreaking like-like the Declaration of Independence. Or the Pyramids.”


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Movie Review: The Wife

Glenn Close delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Joan Castleman, the long-suffering wife, muse, and kingmaker of Nobel Prize winner Joe Castleman (Jonathon Pryce).

This film captures the chilling formality and repressed fury of a woman who has endured decades of a conventional marriage characterized by love and betrayal, comfort and compromise, fame and entitlement.

In the flashbacks to the late 1950s and early 1960s, younger versions of the characters, expertly played by Annie Stark (Glenn Close’s daughter) and Harry Lloyd, provide the backstory for this unbalanced relationship.

Young Joan Archer had writing aspirations of her own and what Professor Joe Castleman called the “golden touch.” Intrigued by her looks and talent, Joe singles out Joan and has an affair that derails his marriage and university career.

Young Joe, the professor, is more than willing to nurture this budding talent, but an unfortunate encounter with a disillusioned female author (Elizabeth McGovern) erodes young Joan’s confidence.

What follows is a plan to merge Joe’s big ideas with Joan’s golden touch. And so begins Joe’s literary career, one that catapults him onto the national and international scene with loyal, compliant Joan at his side.

The awarding of the Nobel Prize provides the catalyst for change.

It is clear from the start (even to Joe) that changes are in the air. Joan bristles with competence, ensuring the minutiae of Joe’s life are in order, while her facial expressions and curt replies tell another story. She may appear dutiful, but she is definitely not submissive.

Wannabe biographer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) picks up on these nuances as he tries to ingratiate himself with Joan, Joe, and their son David (Max Irons). Nathaniel has thoroughly researched Joe and reached his own conclusions about the Castleman success story. All Nathaniel needs is validation from Joan or David.

Having read and enjoyed the novel by Meg Wolitzer, I found myself eagerly following each scene in this well-crafted film directed by Bjorn Runge. While there were a few minor differences—Nobel Prize vs. Helsinki Prize, Sweden vs. Finland, two children vs. three children, no sauna scene—the gripping storyline and gut-wrenching moments have been preserved.

A must-see film!

Don’t Be Afraid to Fail Big, To Dream Big

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Whenever I need a strong dose of inspiration, I listen to this powerful segment from Denzel Washington’s commencement speech at Dillard University.

10 Little Known Big Apple Seeds About NYC

I’m thrilled to welcome author Missye K. Clarke to the Power of 10 series. Today, Missye shares interesting (and little known) facts about New York City and her novel, Jersey Dog.

Here’s Missye!

As my McGuinness/Pedregon Casebooks are set in New York City and bits of New Jersey—NYC’s also known by The City That Never Sleeps, The Big Apple, Metropolis, or Gotham to those of you in Rio Linda :)—I thought I’d share these Ten Little Known Big Apple Seeds About NYC with you. And as I’ve lived in this town two-thirds of my life, there’s even a few fun facts I didn’t know. Buckle up for some neat fun, mystery fans and lovers everywhere!

10. Up until 1957, the postal system in NYC used a pneumatic network to deliver mail around the five boroughs–more or less rendering the deliveries not seeing the light of day until they reached address destination–or lots of dead letter mail in the Address Unknown bins, I’m sure.

9. Though I don’t know this from personal experience, I’ve always wanted to try this. But I lived this through Casper and Logan in Jersey Dogs when they did it. If you entered the NYC subway system and never left, it’s so vast you can travel it for three days to a week straight without breaking a connection.

8. New York City has more people than 39 of the 50 U.S. states do.

7. The city’s tap water has tiny shrimp called copepods in it. Explains why I always thought that water was disgusting! >.<

6. Remember the PONY sneakers? I do–but I always thought it was just a word, like Pepsi or Nike or Xerox. If you don't remember them, it's probably because it's a regional/Northeast/NYC thing. Turns out, PONY's an acronym for Product Of New York. Now we know! (courtesy:

5. The Flatiron Building—the odd one on 23rd Street and shaped like a triangle—isn't solely admired for its architecture. It has a wind tunnel causeway near it that a constant breeze comes through–and which lifts women’s skirts. Back in the day when it was risqué for any part of a lady's legs be shown, men gathered there to get free peeks of something they shouldn't. To this day, men still gather outside to watch the fun, weather permitting. (Don’t blame them for gawking—if anything, blame Mother Nature for taking advantage of city layout! 😀 )

4. Ah, NYC brownstones. Aren’t they gorgeous? Before you get all nostalgic for one, not all are what they seem. The ones with blackout windows and no address numbers on the doors are fake fronts. Instead, they’re there to hide the city’s subways maintenance and ventilation shafts.

3. Only one homicide happened on 9/11. To date, it remains unsolved.

2. Madison Square, Union Square, Washington Square, and Bryant Parks, all located in Manhattan, were once cemeteries. (Considering my Casebooks narrator’s name's “Casper”? 🙂 ) . . . Boo! Spooky!

1. Never mind spooky, let’s talk creepy: NYC buries its unclaimed bodies on a spit of land off the Bronx coast called Hart Island. Almost 1 million bodies have been buried there since 1869—and this island is not open or accessible to the public.

Bonus: Adjusted for inflation, a NYC hotdog vendor must pluck up almost $325,000 grand yearly for a permit if they wish to do business near The Pond of the Central Park Zoo. This zone is one of 20 of the most expensive places to run and operate a hotdog cart. Now you know what your $25 bucks shelled out for a loaded dog, a hot soft pretzel, and cold Coke is really going for!

I hope you enjoyed these fun NYC facts. Everyone should see Gotham once in their lives—and for those of you living there, play tourist for a day or a weekend. Either way, you’ll have a wonderful, helluva time!

Some facts courtesy of Buzzfeed and Museum of the City of New York (


Two adopted cousins. Two mysterious prostitutes. And a biologic father wants both sons dead.

Casper’s and Logan McGuinness’s junior year opens with a bloodstained, unexpected contact and an eerie text coming to pass. While Enzo and Angela de Francisci’s stubbornly refuse to explain the boys’ biologic parents’ backstories, the cousins dig into their pasts in stealth, only to unravel a sordid history meant to stay unknown and bigger than they realized. The first of several attempts on the boys’ lives reveals a desk clerk’s true identity, and conversations with a former john, lands Casper and Logan on the streets of New York and respite from a former madam. Through an intricate tale of loyalty, humor, first love, and discovering trust and sacrifice, Jersey Dogs Casper and Logan venture into the personal and collective unknown to stop a brutal killer and a network of thugs from fulfilling a murderous to-do list—and learning to trust one another so they’ll stay two steps ahead of alive.


Bio and Links

Missye K. Clarke is a lifelong Big Apple fan, even though she and her family reside in central Pennsylvania (cost of living and lack of forestry drove them out for greener pastures).

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