Contemplation by Felix Armand Heullant

Amongst possible distractions – a man, a mirror, jewelry, and other fineries – a woman is intently contemplating. Lying on a book, her fingers are about to flip a page, but her gaze remains steadily deep in thought. It is obvious she has been provoked into thinking over what she’s just read. What a wonderful painting by French painter, Felix Armand Heullant. I can only hope my writing would produce this same effect.

Contemplation - Felix Armand Heullant

Always Continue Growing & Improving.

Bette Davis said, “Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work.” I think that you can always learn more and improve who you are as a person. Whether at your job, various relationships (including your relationship with yourself), your hobbies, etc., there is always room to challenge and better yourself. Some people are wary of learning and change but, like Bette, I believe it’s the stuff of life itself. After all, what could be more satisfying than attempting the impossible – and succeeding?!

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Henrietta – Bouguereau’s Daughter

This painting William A. Bouguereau did of his daughter, Henrietta (the painting is also called Head of A Girl) is a fantastic example of why I love Romantic Realism. This means it displays reality in a romantic fashion, which means in the highest possible sense known to man, i.e., a romanticized version of reality. You see, Bouguereau made it his business to paint skin in the most sublime way possible, the kind of perfect, flawless, peaches and cream skin that just makes one gape at it in awe and disbelief, as it looks so perfect and lifelike on the canvas. Whether he painted a beautiful, flourishing maiden or a paltry beggar, the subject is always so beautiful as to be considered heavenly. The skin, the fabric, the color, the view, are all painted in the utmost care and with a reflection of the artist’s passionate soul.

If you like this work, look up William Bouguereau online. You will find more than 800 jaw-dropping beauties. If you’re lucky, you may even discover a piece or two in your local museum, where you can go and take it in in all its glory for as long as you like.

Head of a Girl - Henrrietta - Bouguereaus daughter

Greta Garbo – La Divina

What makes Greta Garbo The Divine One? Why does she captivate us so? What does she, above any other actor or actress, manage to convey that no one before or since has managed to enliven?

When I watch a Garbo movie – and she is the star of two of my five favorite movies of all times, Ninotchka and Queen Christina – I see in every movement of her body and in every expression of her face a response to life itself. Her urgent way of moving, speedy but controlled, conveys how precious our limited time on this earth is. The way she tilts her chin up and closes her eyelids halfway convey her adoration of her male partner, and also of life itself. You can see her powerful zest for life in every little detail that makes up this fabulously feminine woman. She shows us the greatness of life and of being alive. And that is why we call her The Divine One.

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Fallen Angel by Alexandre Cabanel

Writing a scene means focusing on the details of that particular moment you’re trying to create. You must try and invoke all the senses in the reader’s imagination, so that the reader can imagine the place, the characters, and their actions.

It might sound obvious, but it takes years to become really good at this. Here’s an example of a painting masterpiece by French painter Alexandre Cabanel. I am including a close up of his painting,  Fallen Angel, so that you can see how he perfected a certain detail. The result gives me chills!

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Me before You by Jojo Moyes – Book Review

Underneath all her flashy clothes and bright smiles, Louisa Clark is scared to really live life. When she’s hired to take care of Will Traynor, a quadriplegic who depends on other for everything, no one can imagine he’s the one who’s going to end up helping her live a better life. His effect on her is the best part of the story.

SPOILER ALERT!!!
What frustrates me about this story is that Lou’s immense benevolence toward life does not effect Will. And no, I am not complaining that he didn’t change his mind at the end. Here’s the deal: as much as he claimed he loved his life prior to the accident, it didn’t seem so great to me. He was a shallow, rich guy, dating a shallow, rich gal, with not much prospect of having a deeper way of life in the future. The funny “glimpse into the future” that Louisa has about his ex girlfriend/best friend five years into their marriage – well that could have easily been Will’s future with Alicia.
It seems like he’s never given the time of day to women like Lou. But here they are now, together, in love. And yes, I do understand his frustrations about what he can’t have (as much as an AB like me can get it), but what about the spiritual side? How about a spiritual, philosophical change?Louisa offered him access to the fundamental benevolence of life the likes of which he was not able to perceive before. Sadly, her mental effect on him was nearly nonexistent. She made his last days less awful, and that’s it. So at the end, it felt like something was missing.

As for the movie, it felt hurried. My favorite part is picturing Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin as the stars in my Travel Secrets trilogy. Oh yea!

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A Poignant Characterological Study – The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Armin

So many aspects turn this novel into the enchanting treasure that it is. The reader gets to travel to the magnificent San Salvatore castle in Italy and spend a marvelous, sunny April there, amidst dozens of blooming flower varieties, and with a view to the calming, azure sea. But once there, our distinctly different four heroines only outwardly seem to relax, when in fact each of them is mindfully and relentlessly re-examining her life and character.

The Italian servants are perplexed. The four ladies do not care to engage in partying, boating, or in any other activity the previous tenants have pursued. They don’t even care to socialize with each other. Far away from rainy England, our British heroines just want to be left alone, take the amazing scenery in, and think.

But the keen Ms. Von Armin takes it a step further. The characters she invents are the no only the quintessential English ladies one would expect to find in England during the 1920s, when the book was written, but they are also typical characters to be found even today. We have the mousy and scatterbrained Mrs. Wilkins and the demure and ascetic Mrs. Arbuthnot, whose marriages are both empty and unfulfilling, their initial sparks of love has long gone out. We have the elderly Mrs. Fisher who finds value only in the persons and traditions of the past. And, finally, we have the stunningly beautiful Lady Dester, who scorns her many suitors and takes her wealth for granted.

When these four ladies are transported from the gray skies of England to the sunny ones of Italy, they each start to bloom like the many flower buds around them. Their transformation is well-worth reading about. The honesty with which each of them examine her own soul, not resting until she finds what I can only call “the benevolent starting point of youth when anything can happen and life is wonderful” is not to be missed.

Finally, Ms. Von Armin’s ties the whole novel and brings all the characters together via her idea of the basis of happiness. I’ll let you discover what that is for yourselves. As for myself, I intend to re-read this wonderful book in every April spring. It happens to be my birthday month and the rebirth it signifies for us all has always held a special place in my heart. Undoubtedly, this is a book to cherish.

A word about the 1992 movie version of the novel: It is a lovely rendition and is well worth your time, but nearly none of the value of self-examination makes it through. If anything, this sweet movie shows us the tremendous value of reading over viewing. Sure, I love relaxing with a good movie, but relaxing with a great book is something altogether different.

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The Awakening by Kate Chopin Book Review

The prose of The Awakening is beautifully written and wonderful quotes abound:
“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”

We witness Edna Pontellier’s awakening from realizing she’s more than just a wife and mother, but an independent woman with her own ideas and desires. It is sight worthy of beholding. Another quote: “I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.”

Spoiler Alert!!! As lovely as Ms. Chopin weaves her words, I felt she left the reader wanting. I loved witnessing Edna’s growth, but I didn’t love her. Edna’s fatalism, which, granted, is the result of the period she lived in, is uninspiring to the modern reader. She was able to give up on all the mesmerizing things she now felt and not fight for them. She accepts her fate and swims to her death and I didn’t shed a tear.

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