The Husband’s Secret

I thought it was time I explore different authors, and I was drawn to this title. I decided to borrow it when I saw there were a few other well-thumbed titles by Liane Moriarty and that there were three pages of praises from other authors and critics. I was also intrigued by what sorts of secrets a husband would hide (other than extra-marital affairs).

I was not disappointed. In one sentence, the story is about three women whose lives interconnect after one of them unexpectedly discovers her husband’s secret. But it is so much more.

There is a constellation of characters but the central character is Cecilia Fitzpatrick, a decisive, organised and successful businesswoman, devoted wife and mother, who is a pillar of the small community. Her husband is John-Paul. They have three daughters.

Then there is the second story about Tess, her husband Will and her sister Felicity and how Will and Felicity fall in love and Tess walks out with her young son; how Tess also has a secret involving her first love Connor.

This is also tied to the third story about Rachel, whose daughter Janie died a teenager, and how Rachel thought all these years that one person took her life when it was another who confessed, yet he isn’t the cause of her death.

The Fitzpatrick family is the common thread that brings all the characters together. John-Paul’s secret has devastating repercussions on all the characters. One significant link is the Berlin Wall; another is the date 6 April 1984. Then there is the gob-smacking twist towards the end.

There are themes of grief, guilt, unplanned decisions, betrayal, remorse, regret, ethics and morals, as well as a sense of mystery and foreboding. The unthinkable happen but lives continue.

This is one really good read and I can’t wait to read another of her books; except that this time I’m going to look for one in Large Print! I also look forward to the day when the movie based on this book (starring Blake Lively) is screened in cinemas here.




Manchester By The Sea

I was very curious about this movie because I recall the review for it was nowhere near good, yet it won the Academy Award for Best Actor (Casey Affleck) and Best Original Screenplay besides a host of other nominations (including Best Picture) and Golden Globe Awards. After sitting through more than two hours, I was none the wiser why this movie was even nominated for any award. The only nice thing is the beautiful location of the small fishing village in Massachusettes – so clear, so calm and so angelic – even shimmering white in winter.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a brooding and irritable loner who works as a handyman for an apartment building. His expression throughout is one of anger: sullen and morose, or quiet and melancholic. When his brother dies suddenly, he finds himself an unwilling guardian to his 16-year-old nephew (played by Lucas Hedges). While preparing for his brother’s funeral, he is haunted by his past, when he was happy with his wife Randi (Michelle Williams – whose role here is small but executed far better acting chops than the leading actor) and their three children until tragedy struck. He is least prepared (and least suited) to be given the responsibility of a guardian as he is inclined to alcohol and bar brawls and is depressed. He is on the path of self-inflicted emotional trauma.

The music is mostly portentous, like classical music (Handel’s The Messiah, Poulenc’s Sonata for Oboe and Piano, Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor and Massenet’s Cherubin) in scenes that are just not that emotional, so this is not exactly using music effectively to enhance the movie.

Still, I’m glad I watched this movie free and found out for myself what all the fuss and buzz was about.


The Greatest Showman


Anyone who loves music , musicals and Hugh Jackman must watch this movie!

The opening credits have rock music in the background, and the first scene shows P. T. Barnum (Jackman) leading a circus sequence. Indeed, as the lyrics go (sung by Jackman): Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what you’re waiting for: This is where you want to be; This is everything you want; this is everything you need…

Immediately after this sequence is a flashback to when the young Barnum was with his father, tailor to the Hallett family, and where he met young Charity Hallett (Michelle Williams) and how the two of them eventually fell in love, kept in touch through letters all through the years into adulthood and how they got married despite her being sent to finishing school after he received a big slap on the face from her father.

The senior Mr Hallett told Barnum that his daughter will return to the family home one day because Barnum was poor and could not give Charity the kind of life she was used to. The prophecy comes true to a certain extent, but not for the reason cited.

Barnum, Charity and their two daughters live in a humble apartment. Barnum’s company goes bust and he loses his job as a clerk. He takes a huge bank loan to build Barnum’s American Museum, wanting to make more money so as to could give his family a life of wealth and comfort. Sales are slow and, following the suggestion of his daughters, he decides to showcase people with various physical abnormalities or extraordinary abilities. This venture succeeds despite protests and poor reviews.

To lend credibility and improve his reputation, he finds a way to meet Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) from the upper class and convinces him to join his venture. With his connection, Barnum and his troop get to meet Queen Victoria; it is at this event that he meets Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), a famous European opera singer, whom he convinces to perform in America, with himself serving as marketer and manager. Taking her on a tour across the U.S., Barnum neglects the circus as well as Charity and the two girls.

When Barnum returns home, he finds his circus on fire – the building collapses though there are no fatalaties.  Besides Lind’s cancellation of the rest of the tour, the family has been evicted from their home and Charity brings the two girls back to the Hallett family home.

Barnum is despondant but his troop persuade him to continue and rebuild the circus. Carlyle steps in to help with the finances for reuilding the circus in an open-air tent. Barnum seeks out his wife and they resolve to rebuild thier relationship.

The specially composed songs spread throughout the movie are the best I’ve heard in a  long while. The music is beautiful and the lyrics are meaningful. Then there are also quite a bit of classical music (I recognised Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte Overture, Beethoven’s German Dance, Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major and Guiseppe Tartini’s Violin Sonata in G Minor). This movie deserves at least a nomination – from Best Original Song (by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who bettered their efforts here compared to their La La Land) to Best Musical to Best Actor (Jackman is really fantastic here: be it in singing, dancing, acting with his body language, facial expression or justs speaking with his eyes to convey a message) to Best Picture.

This is an extremely well-crafted production, and involves hundreds if not thousands of people working behind the scenes. The end credits is so lengthy that I was the only person left in the cinema before it was halfway through. Special mention must be given to those working on the choreography, costumes, visual effects, stunts, aerial and circus coordination, art and set decorations, special and sound effects, makeup artists and hair stylists, carpenters and prop makers, software and technology, vocal ensemble and musicians of the orchestra.

I will definitely watch this movie again; if not in the cinema, then on DVD.


The Prince

I borrowed this 2014 DVD to take my first look at Korean pop superstar Rain. That Bruce Willis and John Cusack are in it should be interesting. Or so I thought.

Footages of newpaper cuttings (about violence, homicide etc) during the  opening credits and the pulsating music are a good sign. Again, I was mistaken.

The third misleading clue : Just after the opening credits, a mother and daughter are blown up in a car that explodes on the little girl’s first day of school.

The scene cuts to a car garage in Mississippi, where Paul (Jason Patrick) is skyping his daughter. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Later, Paul receives a letter from the college to say his daughter hasn’t been attending school. Paul calls his daughter, and some stranger answers instead. He decides to track his daughter down.  Then the movie goes downhill.

Paul pays his daughter’s friend $500 to take him to New Orleans.  One saving grace here – the beautiful view of the exotic city from the coastline, a place I’ve never been, and unlikely ever will be.

The trail to find the daughter is an excuse for a lot of hand-to-hand combat, shooting of firearms, violence and drug references and bad language. I was totally disappointed in Willis, Cusack and Rain. Or is it the script? I wonder why they agreed to be cast in this movie.

The kidnapped daughter is of course eventually found and rescued. Amidst more shooting and violence, resulting in more people getting killed and others wounded. (But father and daughter are safe and sound.)


Our Favorite Things

Feeling none of the festive cheer associated with this day, I decided to re-watch this 2001 DVD just for a feeling of nostalgia.

Tony Bennett is one of my favourite singers; and he did not look very different from when I saw him perform at The Star Performing Arts Theatre in 2013. The same for Placido Domingo, though I’ve not attended any of his concerts live. I’m sure Charlotte Church must look very different; I’m not so familiar with Vanessa Williams.

The songs I enjoyed most were Winter Wonderland, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, The Christmas Song, My Favorite Things, Joy to The World, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, The First Noel, White Christmas and Angels We Have Heard On High.

I am sure it would have been better to be at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, especially for Placido and Bennett. The Ralph Sharon Quintet and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, together with the Gumpoldskirchner Spatzen Children’s Choir added to the feast for the ears.


Seeing Red

Having 68 bestsellers under her belt, Sandra Brown must be one of the most successful authors around. I’ve read most, if not all of her previous books, and I marvel how she never runs out of ideas after all these years.

This romance-suspense novel  is fast-paced, intriguing and intense. The Prologue tells of a mystery : Major Franklin Trapper is a decades-old hero who has become a recluse in recent years and has never granted any interview. Then TV journalist Kerra Bailey comes along, seeks out his son John for help in securing an interview with the man who saved her life 25 years ago. Gunshots and footsteps are heard; then Chapter 1 begins with ‘Six Days Earlier– as though it’s a movie being played.

…… By Chapter 6, the scene is At Present; The Major and Kierra are on their way to hospital in an ambulance. What follows is that the plot gets complicated (there’s kidnapping, murder, suicide), and some parts get quite boring (the first time I’ve encountered this in a Sandra Brown novel) but there are enough twists and surprises (in the form of lies and deciet) that keep the reader wanting to turn the pages quickly to find out what would happen next.

I look forward to what Sandra Brown would come up with next.








Each one a half

Together we’re whole

Propelling each other

So everything is halved

Hands held tight

Throughout a lifetime

Nothing’s too difficult

For us to overcome

Two hearts as one

Beat in unison

Fills our world with much warmth

And happiness in sight