Last year was a good year for tough female heroines in action films. Worth considering if strong females don't make you quake are "Hanna" and "Haywire." "Hanna" stars Saoirse Ronan. Raised by Eric Bana in the Arctic Circle, she is homeschooled out of an encyclopedia and trained to take down a grown elk and a grown man with deadly efficiency. She wants out of their lonely existence, but may soon regret it once she learns people are out to kill her and her father. Bana and Cate Blanchett are strong in their supporting roles. As the tension ratchets up, you watch them calculating the collateral damage. Action-packed, "Hanna" has both physical feats and psychological thrills.
"The Messenger" stars Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton. It's a small independent film, but it makes a big statement. Foster's character, Will, has three months left on his tour of duty with the Marines. He returns from Afghanistan after an IED has taken part of his squadron and injures him. Will's commanding officer assigns him the duty to notify the next of kin when a Marine is killed. More than the duty itself, Will is apprehensive of his instructor played by Harrelson.
"Casino Infernale" by Simon R. Green is the latest in his Secret Histories series. It's an action packed supernatural thriller featuring Eddie Drood and the wild witch, Molly Metcalf. Their mission is to infiltrate the Casino Infernale and break the infamous Shadow Bank. If they're successful, they will prevent a supernatural war that would destroy the world.
Simon R. Green masterfully blends scenes of intense action that features a lot of gore with a snarky sense of humor. His characters are interesting and fleshed out. This book reads almost like a "who's who" of heroes and villains that have been introduced his previous books. I especially liked Bruin Bear and the Sea Goat. By including them, Green introduces a touch of whimsy in the story line.
Folk fans already know the luscious harmonies and heart wrenching lyrics of the Indigo Girls, composed of Emily Saliers, Amy Ray and a variety of guest musicians. For those not familiar with these multi-talented ladies, "Staring Down the Brilliant Dream," a live double disc, is an excellent place to start.
Though the radio airwaves feature many female singer/songwriters that live reclusively and show up only on MTV unplugged, the Indigo Girls are the ultimate touring band. Often their live shows are better than their studio material. What is lost in production quality is made up for by the passion and exhilaration of their performance.
Many readers will be saddened to hear that author Vince Flynn has died. They may also be surprised to learn that he was only 47 years old. Given the number of his bestsellers on library shelves, I pictured a much older man - perhaps a retired military officer who used his years of intelligence experience to craft successful espionage thrillers.
Actually Flynn was working in commercial real estate when he began writing his first novel "Term Limits." After receiving 60 rejection letters from publishers, Flynn decided to self-publish the book in 1997. It was a hit, and Flynn soon had both an agent and a deal with a traditional publisher.
Alexander McCall Smith is a remarkably prolific writer, adding to several popular series each year. The "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" follows the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, the first female private detective in Botswana. The thirteenth book in the series, "The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon," will be published in November.
Television commentator Rachel Maddow has transferred her skills as a broadcaster into writing a book, "Drift: The Unmooring of American MilitaryPower." This treatise covers presidential tenures from LBJ through the present, focusing on how the executive branch of government has taken over American military policy. I remember many of the events she describes, although not as many facts and quotes as she recounts. Maddow maintains that we the people have allowed the use of the US military to drift away from the authority of our representatives in Congress.
The nation's founders wanted war to be difficult to declare. They meant for warfare to involve the public, even or especially when it hurts. War was not supposed to be a tool of foreign policy or diplomacy.