Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Bye Bye Birdie

It is 1958 in America.  Congress does not have enough volunteers to fight in the Korean War so they need to draft men to fight.   One of those chosen, was the legendary Elvis Presley.   Much to the dismay of numerous teenaged girls, the heartthrob became part of the U. S. Army.
A bright playwright thought this idea would could become a musical.  Hmmm.......
To protect copyright laws, Elvis became Conrad Birdie, fictional heartthrob to only this musical in the image of the cultural icon.
For preshow entertainment, you want to get your seats early due to special music provided by the Thomas Jefferson Vocal Music Department on opening night and the Omaha Jitterbugs for the dancing.    Personally, I would enjoy more of this entertainment from the local high schools.  Thank you, Travis Walker.
Leading the show of Bye Bye Birdie as Rosie is Julia Vanderpoole and in the role of Albert if Adam Fulbright.   Julia has a beautiful voice which improved throughout the show with her confidence.  Adam Fulbright is one teen who you want to now see and hear.   Wow!  This is one person who could become a professional actor/musician in the future.  He truly commanded the stage with his talents.
As Conrad, Erich Swartz was fun to watch imitating Elvis’ moves and the voice.  As the teenager Kim, Krysin. Holmes was delightful.
The show includes numerous familiar tunes, including “Put on a Happy Face.”  The costumes are great reflecting the 1950s along with the sets and props.    Denise Putman is the director while Jerry Gray is in charge of the music along with the choreography by Jason DeLong.
What impressed me the most were the wonderful blended harmonies in many of the songs.  The alto section was exceptionally good adding a true professional quality to the show.
For those visiting the theater who are not middle-aged or older, you need a little background about the draft process and icehouses.
Warning:   Many members of the ensemble are female and teenagers.   Remember how teens reacted to Elvis or the Beatles.  Yes, there will be the teenaged girl scream.
With this Young Performers’ Edition of Bye Bye Birdie, all the performers on stage are eighteen or younger.  Those older are the support crew for those on stage.  All are wonderful, both on stage and off, of Bye Bye Birdie.
This show is for all ages.   The show lasts about 75 minutes with no intermission.  These Young Performers Editions shorten the show without leaving out relevant events or songs.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on this Friday and Saturday, September 20th and 21st, as well as at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 22nd.  (Shows the second week tend to be much better than the first since nerves are usually settled by the second week.).   Even if you saw the show last weekend, if it even more fun enjoying it again.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 712-323-9955 or at www.chanticleertheater.com.   For adults, tickets are $20, for seniors sixty and over, $16; and $10 for students.
The Chanticleer Theater is located 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs.
What a great way to celebrate September with Conrad going off to the Army and you are attending the Chanticleer Theater.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Last Mrs. Parrish

The Last Mrs. Parrish
Liv Constantine
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN:: 978-0062667588
July 2018
$ 16.99
400 pages

At some time in your past, you probably have looked at a celebrity and imagined yourself as that celebrity.  After awhile, most of us realize that no matter how hard we try, we just cannot become that person. Even with a makeover and dieting, it just will not work. You won’t become that person.
Amber Pattinson obsesses over Daphne Parrish.   She sees Daphne as perfect.  To Amber, Daphne is who she wants to become.    The beautiful, blond socialite and philanthropist exists with designer clothes including jewelry, travels extensively in their private jet and has a nanny For her two supposedly perfect daughters.   She even has a charismatically handsome husband who happens to own his real-estate company.  Of course, the family lives in their elegant homes, complete with servants and everything a woman could buy or desire.
Amber can only find one imperfection in Daphne.  Daphne’s sister passed away twenty-years ago from cystic fibrosis.   In her honor, she created a charity for those suffering from the disease.  However, she still misses her sister.
Amber has dreams.   She is is ambitious but looks plain and dowdy.   She did not come from a background of wealth.  How can she possibly enter the world of Daphne Parrish?   Could Amber ever become like Daphne.
The Last Mrs. Parrish is a novel of envy, jealousy and even revenge.   The characters are expertly developed into authentic people with flaws revealed as the story unfolds.
One of the strengths of The Last Mrs. Parrish is the daughters, Bella and Tallulah.   From afar, the daughters seem perfect, but are revealing each to become an individual with their own challenges and realizations.
As the story progresses, you find yourself categorizing the characters into good vs. bad.   Each character seems to evolve to someone you would not recognize by the end.  This slow unveiling is what makes this book so unique.
This thrilling novel alternates perspectives from Amber in the first half of the book to Daphne in the second half of the book.  The story continues to develop as a page turner with twists up to the last page.    To state that this is a fast-read is an understatement.   You don’t want to put the book down.
The author, Liv Constantine is two sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine who collaborate to become Liv.
The Last Mrs. Parrish is a thrilling, fast-paced page turner.  I look forward to the next book by the duo of Liv Constantine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Heir of Ra

Heir of Ra
M. Sasinowski
Kingsmill Press
ISBN 978-1-7324467-1-7
ISBN 978-1-734467-0-0
$ 5.99

At the Giza Plateau during the year of 1913 in Egypt, Lord George Renley explored under The Great Sphinx enters a dark chamber with an unusual carving on a door. The legendary Hall of Records is believed to be located at this location. Is it legend or fact? Soon after, Hazim, his Arab guide, started bleeding from his nose. Lord Renley became dizzy and collapsed. The only reminder of the event was a notebook that a young Arab boy stole from the dying hands of Hazim.
Alyssa is not your typical 17-year-old girl. She spends her time working with her father, Kade, who is an archaeologist. Her education is working as one of his assistants. Currently, she is left in charge of a dig in Peru while her father is on a dream assignment in Egypt, exploring a room under The Great Sphinx and is only allowed this privilege for 24-hours. Leaving Alyssa in charge in Peru, is a great responsibility for someone so young. She feels honored, but also deprived. Why can’t she be on this once-in-a lifetime dig with her father?
Her father, Kade follows the steps of Lord George Renley in searching for The Hall of Records. Just like his predecessor, he also became ill. Nothing seems to help him, every day leads him one step closer to death. No one seems to be able to medically help him. Will he die? 
Alyssa decides to immediately travel to Egypt to be with her father. Unfortunately, that is not easy for a seventeen-year-old. Will she ever see her father alive?
Heir of Ra is fast paced adventure of life with Alyssa. She does not have the safest career choice. Since her mother died a few years ago, her attachment to her father is precious, even though she calls him by his first name, Kade.
The intended audience is young adults, especially girls; and anyone who enjoys a fast-paced story which winds up all the multiple strands of the story at the end. Heir of Ra is the first book in the Blood of Ra series featuring Alyssa.
The author, M. Sasinowski is a Polish-born American who fashioned the main character, Alyssa after his own 15-year-old daughter. According to his daughter, he also possesses a PhD in physics as well as an MD. For fun, he enjoys building computer, music jam-sessions, science debates, martial arts, Star Wars and Star Trek as well as archaeology.
Heir of Ra is a thrilling adventure for explorers of all ages.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Through the Old Trellis Arch

Through the Old Trellis Arch
Author and Illustrator: Marvin D. Vallier
ISBN: 9781521911013
Independently published
$ 12.00
164 Pages

Moving to a new home is a little frightening, depressing when leaving friends behind, and a little exciting with looking forward to a new life, perhaps a better one.
Early in the 1960s, Jennie Willard, along with her dog Willie, is beginning a new life in a quiet midwestern town.  Moving from the apartment in the city to a spacious farmhouse is exciting for the family.   Her parents, Jake and Pam are delighted with the change of lifestyle and her father’s new job.
The Willard’s are thrilled with the country living. The open spaces, room to move, Willie is roaming and exploring this immense new world seems like a 1dream come true.  What is even more special, is that Jennie can now have a best friend.   The city life of the apartment wasn’t convenient for friendships.   Being eleven-years-old, Jennie always imagined a best friend.   Fortunately, on the neighboring farm, there is also another eleven-year-old girl with little brothers.  Helen seems like the perfect person to introduce the family into the community.
Predictably, the girls become the best of friends.
Jennie discovers an old, run-down farmhouse not far from her new home.    It looks uninhabited.   When Jennie and Willie decide to explore, Jennie slowly opens the gate, hanging by one hinge under the old trellis arch.   She assumes that Willie will follow her.   He refuses, even when coaxed. Jennie decides to explore by herself.  
She sees a young girl about her age named Sylvia who lives with her Grandfather.   Strangely, when Jennie leaves, the house looks abandoned again.
Jennie mentions the farmhouse to Helen.   Helen is very reluctant to go into the house, believing the rumors that it must be haunted.   Also unusual is that Helen doesn’t know Sylvia.  Why?   What is the secret of the house with the old trellis arch?
Every time Jenny opens the rusted gate under the trellis, she enters into what seems like another life, or is it?
Author and illustrator, Marvin D. Vallier is multi-talented as a graphic artist, painter, illustrator, poet as well as novelist.   Since he retired in 2009, Mr. Vallier has now the time to spend with his passion for the arts.
Through the Old Trellis Arch is a wonderful tale of the historical tale for young adults, especially girls.
The story is historical in the settings and involves possible supernatural non-frightening events.  Could it really happen?  Could it happen to you?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Chris Cleave
Simon & Schuster Publishers
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1-5011-2438-9
Hardback 2016
Paperback 2018
424 pages

Does everyone view the events of World War II the same way?  Imagine living in London during 1939, before the Americans entered the War.   Naturally, at first everyone believes it will be a short series of battles with the Brits leading the way.  Everyone wants to do their part, with many able-bodied men immediately enlisting.   The wealthy, or those from the “better” families”, became officers.  A few chose to stay working in the city to maintain the continuity of life.  The children were evacuated to the country.   Some chose to remain.    What was life like in Londen then?
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a story for those who search for the genuine experiences of the past.  The strong voices of each character discloses the true life of the time period.   Whether from Mary North being a single and pretty new teacher and finding her place in the world, or Hilda as Mary’s best friend, Tom is her boss and fiancé, Allistar going off to fight, or Zachary as the black and poor.    Each voice explains living through a turbulent time of hardship.
Chris Cleave loosely based this novel on his grandparents.   This London resident has won the Somerset Maugham Award in 2006, been on the shortlist for the 2006 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, also on the shortlist for the Costa Award and having his books on the New York Times Bestsellers’ List.   He is the author of Incendiary, Little Bee, and Gold.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is enthralling.  This particular war story focuses mostly on the people not fighting the enemy, but attempting to survive everyday life.   Unpredictably, the novel focuses on class differences, wealth, charity, race, friendship, courage, forgiveness and loyalty.
The writing is beautiful, pulling the reader closer into the characters as each paged is turned.  The beginning is slow in the character development, but being patient through the pages allows the reader a marvelous experience in opening the time capsule of the past.   While the events are often ugly, the story displays the good and bad of their daily life.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is recommended for educated historical fiction readers seeming to lean a little to female readers.   Some people are intimidated by the vocabulary and sentence length, which is quickly overlooked once connected with the story.
A story of bravery, forgiveness, and idealism all describe the beautiful tale of Everyone Brave is Forgiven.