Thursday, December 1, 2016

Off the Hook

Off the Hook: A Christmas Ornament Adventure
Author- John Arvai II
Illustrator - Eminence System
Light the Lamp Publishing
ISBN: 9780997941739 - mobi
2016
$ 4.99
76 pages

Why do we have ornaments on a Christmas tree?
Is the reason decoration?   Many trees combine ornaments given as remembrances of family members or memorable events.
Would you be surprised to discover that there is a purpose for the decorations, probably one that has been kept a secret from you?
On Christmas Eve, while most people are asleep and dreaming, each ornament diligently goes to work.   It is the ornaments responsibility to fix the tree lights, tighten screws on the tree stand, and even guard the cookies and milk from pets.   This annual event requires each decoration to be "off the hook."  
The star on the top of your tree is different and not an ornament. 
All the ornaments cooperatively work together to activate the star which is a location transmitter lighting each rooftop to be seen only by Santa.
This year the Thompson family has a problem.   They just don't know that it exists.  
During their annual Christmas Eve party, the family cat somehow toppled the star, falling into an empty gift bag which Aunt Connie brought to her home.  
Once she discovers the star, she believes it is a gift to decorate one of her many trees.
What will happen to the Thompson children when Santa is missing their home?   Without a location transmitter, how will their home be found?
How can their Christmas be saved?
How can the family's ornaments possibly save Christmas for the children?
Off the Hook is a wonderfully creative story with the illustrations perfectly matching the text into a logical and well-organized original Christmas story for children of all ages.  Numerous themes surround this short book such as cooperation, friendship, prejudice, stereotypes, diligence and doing not what is easiest, but what is the right thing.
Surprisingly, each ornament is an independent character with an individual personality humanizing each and even revealing a little of every person's hidden prejudices and biases.
The colorful illustrations perfectly match the text entrancing readers from as young as 2 to 102 focusing on the individual ornaments and the children.
When not being a US Army veteran, an IT professional, husband, and father of three children, he enjoys hockey and using his imagination to create a beautifully original story.
This enchanting Christmas novel is available as an e-book or a paperback. 
Off the Hook is a wonderful Christmas story that will endure the test of time becoming a new family traditional story to be shared with generations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

White Christmas

Can a reprised show based on a classic be better than the original?
If anyone is questioning if the stage production of White Christmas showing in Omaha through this weekend could be better than the original classic movie with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney, they need to get to the Orpheum this weekend.
Who would best enjoy this show?   Everyone, of all ages, but it does help if you have some memory of the Ed Sullivan Show and Topo Gigio, the puppet.
The show is about a friendship of two song-and-dance men, Bob and Phil, who first worked together while in the military during World War II.   After the war, their act continued making them into successful celebrities.
With the upcoming holidays, the two plan to spend some time in Florida, relaxing and golfing while looking for ways to improve their show.
Phil is intrigued by a sister act recommended by an old Army buddy and drags Bob to the show.   Both are impressed and attracted to the sisters who have been contracted to entertain at an inn in Vermont.
Phil manages to "accidentally" maneuver Bob to the wrong train and being with the sisters in Vermont.
Coincidentally, all four are bound for an inn in Vermont owned by their former general whose new business is nearly bankrupt.
This show has phenomenal actors, singers, and dancers that are also well-known.   Most notably Conrad John Schuck who I recognize as being in Annie and Lorna Luft who is a daughter of Judy Garland and sister to Liza Minnelli.    The entire cast is tremendously energetic and talented.  
What made this particular show special were the small elements not found in the original movie.
In the film, Bob and Betty could sing, and Phil and Judy could dance.   With these four performers, all four both sing and dance.    I find it hard to believe, but Bob and Betty sing as well if not better than Bing and Rosemary and Phil and Judy dance better than the movie version.
The story line in the on-stage production is smoother connecting the past war relationships to their meeting at the Inn ten years later.
The character of Martha Watson, initially portrayed by Mary Wickes, is essentially Ethel Merman.   Lorna Luft beautifully recreated this almost larger-than-life performer.
Yes, I am old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan Show, and I completely enjoy the remembrances.  
White Christmas continues through Sunda y with two shows on both weekend days.   Ticket prices begin at $30 and can be purchased either on-line at TicketOmaha.com of by going to the box office at the Holland Performing Arts Center at 12th and Douglas in Omaha.   For group prices of 10 or more, call (402) 661-8516 or (866) 434-8587 for special rates.
What is unique about this show is the message that all of us need to have always reinforced to daily "Count Your Blessings."
Seeing "White Christmas" is a blessing for everyone.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Witness for the Prosecution

An unemployed man assists and an older woman, Miss Emily French, who dropped some packages while crossing a busy road.  Leonard Vole compassionately retrieved these parcels from the street.  This chance meeting created an unlikely friendship. 
He begins to visit this Miss French who is a senior citizen, aged 56-years-old.   This relationship grows, however, Leonard never brings his wife to meet her.
Miss French is killed.   Surprisingly; he is heir to the estate is this drifter.
Did he kill her for her money?  Did they just have an enjoyable and sincere friendship or was this just a fast-money scheme?
Witness for the Prosecution is a play currently at the Chanticleer Community Theater based on a short story by Agatha Christie originally published in 1925, retitled in 1948, and made into a movie in 1957 featuring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton and directed by Billy Wilder.
Leonard Vole, portrayed by Chris Mays is great in this role.  Did he kill Emily French for her money?   While accused of the murder, his guilt or innocence ultimately depends on the witnesses for the prosecution.
Assisting in Vole's defense are John Mayhew, played by Will Muller and Stan Tracey as Sir Wilfrid Robarts.    For  Tracey, this role seems a little familiar since he is an attorney.
With many witnesses, Vole's wife, Romaine played by Stacie Krauth is unquestionably the most memorable.   All the witnesses significantly sway the audience and the jury as each reveals their perspectives and experiences.
The costumes, make-up, and hair were all outstanding creating a scene from the 1930s.  The set perfectly enhanced the play along with superb sound and lighting direction.
For outstanding performances, I adore the clerk played by Christina Thornton.   She professionally maintains the character while also adding a little humor.  It is evident who commands that courtroom.
Also, Kaitlin Carlon playing Greta balances the ditzy secretary with the seriousness of the court system and her character's ineptness.
Witness for the Prosecution continues through this weekend at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
To obtain tickets, contact the box office at (712) 323-9955.   For adults, the prices are $20, $16 for seniors aged sixty or older, and $10 for students.   This show is adult-oriented with most of the show being a courtroom setting.
The curtain rises promptly at 7:30 with an intermission around 8:10.  Jury selection is at 8:20 and the show resumes at 8:30 until 10.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Telonaut

Telonaut- Book 1 of the Televerse Series
Matt Tyson
ISBN: 9781535163972
2016
364 pages

Sero Novak's current age is forty-six years old. However, he was born one hundred seventeen years ago. For the missing sixty-nine years, he was just code - a spider map - on a permaDrive, waiting for a body.

Currently, he is occupying his eleventh human body.

Sero is the lead Telonaut auditor, whose responsibility is to evaluate the space colony of NineDee. As the auditor, he lives on a wet world planet while assessing construction progress and getting to know the residents and their aspirations.. 

Attitudes have changed substantially over the past centuries. Back in the twentieth century, people hoped their children would have better lives. People worked hard so that their kids could have a better life. Everyone competed to have more than their neighbors. This philosophy just didn't work with so many people losing out in a competitively structured society and after the final global financial crisis, the world crumbled.

Life had to change. People came to believe that to be successful; teamwork would be essential for the good of everyone and the Race was born. Now cooperation rules, rather than competition.

Through that cooperation society build wondrous new things, one of which is the idea of being a colonist on an extraterrestrial planet. Creating a new civilization brings hope and dreams alive again. 

New planets bring new challenges. Humans are still flawed even though people do their best for the good of all, at least most of the time. Encountering a new environment and different life forms is exciting.

Through advances in technology, Sero is connected to the rest of humanity through NeuroVision's memory technology for everyone to witness his experiences, so human society lives the adventure with him – or so it seems.

Sero partners with a teenaged girl who calls this colony home. Prid’s relatable character is inquisitive and diligent while assisting Sero with his explorations into colony life, and adds humor in strenuous and dangerous situations – a good contrast to his personal journey of development through loss grief and resilience. 

Being science fiction, lessons about humanity, society, ethics, are evident as well as the consequences of upsetting the natural balance of an environment. Throughout the  adventure, the experience of every action having an equal and opposite reaction plays out, even if it takes a little time. 

Author Matt Tyson has written this dystopian adventure while working with a volunteer program in Africa with his family now residing in South Africa. He earned a bachelor degree in Genetics and a masters degree in Bioinformatics from the University of Liverpool in England and the novel contains a wealth of believable and detailed scientific background on how a future society might stitch together.

Telonaut possesses a winning combination with superb character development, constant uncertainty over when the characters are safe, tumbling adventure and dangerous situations, along with the introduction of new life forms, which forces the reader to wonder about the choices for everyone's survival in a futuristic setting using scientific advancements in a seemingly utopian situation.

With each page, the reader is with Sero observing the new worlds of both NineDee and future Earth. Join the journey of Sero, through his eyes as the lead Telonaut auditor.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Emerald Key

The Emerald Key
Mark Frederickson and Melora Pineda
Blue Tulip
ISBN: 978-1-942246-71-8
2015

The end of the school year is always a relief for eighth-grade students.    Laci Reece did not notice when her classmates exited the classroom for their summer vacation.  As usual, her nose is in a book as usual.
Laci always carries a bookbag filled fantasy novels complete with various mythical creatures.
Penny Wright has a special friendship with Laci.  Though opposite in popularity and personalities, the two value their long friendship with acceptance of each other's differences and delight in the time they share together.
The two girls visit Penny's grandmother as wedding preparations are throughout the house.   After Penny's grandfather had disappeared years ago, she finally had a new relationship and was going to remarry.  Years of loneliness and questions had plagued the family for years.  There seemed to be no explanation why a caring husband and devoted father would just disappear.  Now Roy will be becoming part of the household.   He is dull and smells.  Change is difficult for everyone.
Penny also has a difficult task.  She has to wear a pouffy-pink taffeta dress which a cousin had worn at her grandma's first wedding.
While looking for tablecloths in the attic, the girls noticed something under the floorboards discovering a ring, a journal, and a jewel.
With two of their friends, this discovery opens a world into a dangerous adventure for four teens who wonder if they will ever again see their family and home.
Friendship, loyalty, and recognizing the difference between the good for the personal vs. friends are underlying themes throughout this fast-paced novel for teens while in an adventure of good vs. evil in a world of fantasy.
The pacing with the multitude of quests perfectly intermixes realism with a bit of humor in many life or death situations while learning about trust and instilling the values of loyalty and friendship.
Author Mark Frederickson usually spends his time working in the film industry while his co-author, Melora Pineda previously worked in television.  The Emerald Key is the first novel for both.
The Emerald Key is a fantastical adventure featuring loyalty and friendship that is enjoyable for all ages.