Sunday, July 23, 2017

Giant of the Senate

Giant of the Senate
Al Franken
Hatchette Book Group
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1-4555-4041-9
$ 28.00

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota has quickly become one of the most well-known U.S. Senators of the United States of America.
Giant of the Senate is an autobiography of Al Franken beginning his journey as a child growing up in Minnesota, to becoming a writer of Saturday Night Live and finally becoming a respected Democratic U.S. Senator.
"Here in America, of course, we're all immigrants.  Except, of course, for Native Americans against whom we committed genocide."
With the present policitical leadership in Washington, this quote is gutsy.  Remember, he is a reflection of the Democratic Party.
Who could imagine a comedy writer being the unlikely Democratic candidate for a congressional seat?  
Being a child of typical middle-class America from the liberal state of Minnesota gives a young Al Franken a strong, independent foundation for his future life choices.  When his older brother became the first in the family eventually graduating from MIT with a degree in physics, Al made his own way  by attending Harvard.   Surprising, his brother became a photographer and Al, a comedian.  How would your parents feel about those outcomes from a college education?
After becoming part of a comedy team, Franken and Davis, perceived as an updated Bob and Ray Radio Show, both were asked to submit a writing sample which was considered for a new comedy show being created and  produced by Lorne Michaels in becoming Saturday Night Live.  
Franken and Davis became part of the original show along with Chevy Chase, Garrett Morris, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman, and John Belushi.  Combining the current day news and politics into a comedy show pushing the limits of political correctness with a multitude of social challenges.
After being in comedy for thirty-five years, Al Franken made the choice to enter into politics.
The book concentrates on this unlikely candidate into along his journey to being a United States Senator.    Now, he is unquestionably memorable with a strong contributing social agenda, into being a possibly Giant of the Senate.
Giant of the Senate is a fabulous book to read.  It combines Franken's humor, family, passions, dreams, and ambitions perfectly reflecting the author's personality as monitored through his staff.  His unlikely journey to success has made Franken a legend, now for the Senate.
Whether or not you are a Democratic, Republican, or Independent, Al Franken's Giant of the Senate is a story for every American.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Deadly Occupation

Deadly Occupation
A Michael Stoddard, American Revolution Mystery
Suzanne Adair
Raleigh, North Carolina
Printed in Columbia, South Carolina
ISBN: 978-0988912939

Imagine living in the year 1781 in North Carolina.  Our country is just beginning  but is still fighting for its independence.   For many settlers, they are choosing whether their allegiances are with the British as Loyalists, the colonists as the rebels, or being neutral with no preferences.
At the time, no country had ever successfully broken away from a mother country to be independent as a new nation.
A British officer, Lieutenant Michael Stoddard is part of the Eighty-Second Regiment, currently occupying the small town of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Many of those loyal to the colonists are associated with the Regulators who were protesting The Stamp Act.  With the British Invasion of this area, they flee the area along with the horses, carts, and ammunition.
For those who remain must surrender to British officer, Major Craig after their articles of surrender had been rejected.  Now all the residents are prisoners of war.
One of their scouts is a free Negro named Teal.   He is questioning the safety of the homes in the area, especially the possibility of traps as the troops inspect and move into the town.   He reports of a nearby home owned by a loyalist merchant whose home is being attacked by about twenty men on horseback who are setting the out buildings on fire.
Michael is given ten men to assist in saving the Farrell home.   Fortunately, their training gives them the advantage even while being outnumbered.
As Major Craig takes over command of the area, he assigns Michael as his lead criminal investigator answering only to him.  With this unstable occupation, the Major needs someone he can trust.
Michael is allowed to hire an assistant to help investigate his many new duties.   Among the rebel leaders leaving the area, their families still remain.  Will their spouses return?  Where do the family loyalties lie?
His assignment also includes the creation of a church which does not seem Anglican.  Women are allowed positions in this church going against the teachings of the Anglican Church.  The Major needs to know what Vicar Spivey if really doing which he expects is taking advantage of the local residents.
Added to that is the disappearance of a gunsmith's wife, Julia Garrett.
The Major expects these tasks to be completed within the next day or two.
How can an outsider possible accomplish all this within such a short length of time?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

If You Were Me and Lived...on Mars, in Germany, in the American West

If You Were Me and Lived on Mars
Author: Carole P. Roman
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
ISBN: 978-1540869722
$ 12.99
44 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in Germany
Illustrator: Kelsea Wierenga
ISBN: 978-1539135942
$ 14.99
58 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in the American West
Illustrator: Paula Tabor
ISBN: 978-1532877841
Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Carolina
$ 10.99
36 pages

If You Were Me and Lived on Mars allows you to think into the future, maybe the year 2054 when you might be able to walk on the planet, Mars.
To be travel to and from Mars would have to be only when Earth and Mars were lined up for a quick trip which would take about two years.   Children could also go there with their parents.
How can anyone possibly consider living on the red planet of Mars?   The air pressure is too thin with too little oxygen and too much carbon monoxide and little atmospheric protection allowing too much radiation for humans to survive.
Also on the planet are no natural resources to provide housing as will as water, food, extreme temperatures, air and all of the everyday necessities.   Outside the living area would uninhabitable without a special suit to compensate for the differences between Mars and Earth.
For this imagined book to be possible, all of us on this planet now need to aware of the facts of what we now know about Mars to make this dream a reality.
If You Were Me and Lived in Germany allows every reader to experience life in the country that is the most populated in the European Union.
What I adore about this book is the influence of the German people into the English language with words like league, cuckoo, folk, marinated, observatory, Oktoberfest, sauerbraten, throne, vinegar, and wurst.
If You Were Me and Lived in the American West has a  setting in the Willamette Valley in Oregon which was a possible destination of the Oregon Trail in 1835.
Life was frequently difficult for many Americans settled along the east coast of the United States.   Living off the land, made people depend on luck with the weather whether dealing with droughts or floods. 
The dream of the Oregon Trail gave people hope for a new better life.  With the possibility of finding gold, many settlers left their old lives for the east coast of the United States. 
It is hard today to imagine putting everything you own into a covered wagon and slowly walk the distance across the country on trails, but not paved roads.  You also needed to carry all the food and supplies needed along the route as well as to begin this new life while traveling with a group of people similar to you.
Would you want to be part of this experience?
Near the end of this book, a list of the well-known people associated with this time.
The illustrations perfectly match the text of theses educational and informational books.  All three books include an appendix with the vocabulary and pronunciation guide unique for each.
With these three books of living in another place in the future, present, and past, Carole Roman transports readers of all ages into a realistic time machine of their imagination with her as their travel guide.

Monday, June 5, 2017


When life seems overly demanding, what do each of us find within ourselves to carry on,?
"Though your dreams be tossed and torn,
Walk on with hope in our heart, and you'll never walk alone."
At an amusement park somewhere along the New England Coast is late May sometime in the mid-1800s, Julie Jordan and her best friend, Carrie Pipperidge found themselves in a daring situation of riding the carousel.  A risky adventure for the two since the barker, Billy Bigelow, is incredibly handsome and touches the girls around the waist.
Billy has the bad-boy attitude while mildly flirting attracting women of all ages.  He is accustomed to being swooned over.
Somehow he is attracted to Julie who is willing to stay out late after curfew to be with him causing her to lose her job.
Will her adoring love for Billy conquer all?
Ariel Ibsen-Bauer is Julie Jordan with Joshua Lloyd Parker as the handsome bad-boy Billy Bigelow.   The two individuals became the unlikely couple to be married and have a child.
Enoch Snow portrayed by Kyle Avery is fantastic especially when I found myself holding my breath as he hit those incredibly high notes perfectly and beautifully in his falsetto voice.  With his onstage wife, Lauren Anderson as Carrie Pepperidge Snow whose soprano voice floated in the soundwaves these two are phenomenal performers in every aspect.
Shawn Cannon as Jigger Craigin is outstanding as the antagonist always pushing Billy to the criminal side.  His singing, acting, and acrobatics left me in amazement.
I thoroughly enjoyed Brenda Smrdel as Mrs. Mulligan who owns the carnival.  Her constant attraction to Billy Bigelow added a dimension to the show I had not realized before.  She is an outstanding performer in every aspect.
Nettie Fowler portrayed by Denise Putman has a demanding and exceptional stage presence.  When she sang "You'll Never Walk Alone," it was so beautiful, I cried.
I adored Mike Harvey as the heavenly friend and local doctor.   I don't know if he was supposed to have a southern accent, but I loved his "skeered" for scared.
The ensemble for Carousel is outstanding.  The blendings, harmonies, intonations, and expressions are perfect.  Their voices in short sections prove that each one could easily play the lead roles.
The dancing choreographers Robin Putnam and Patti Zukaritis excelled with the various routines that are engaging and dramatic.  Personally, I love the sea/boat dances which are creative, different, intricate, and completely enjoyable.  (I almost felt seasick.)
Bob Putman excelled with creating an incredible set, especially the carousel horses.  I was amazed at how well they moved as well as how useful but beautiful each scene appeared.
As with any musical, the musicians are important to those on stage.   Cheryl Langer and Keefer Peterson are outstanding on keyboards keeping control and setting the moods and tempos for the entire show.  Nicholas Swoboda is great on percussion. Along with the musical director, Jerry Gray these hidden performers deserved the spotlight.
As normal with Chanticleer, the behind the support crew are invisible but exceptionally talented in creating the best performance possible.   Leading with Dwayne Ibsen as director, Beth Rutz as stage manager, Ibsen Costume Gallery for the beautiful costumes, Rhonda Hall as props designer, Darrin Golden for light design, Jaycie Wetenkamp and Dave Podendorf for sound, Sue Wheeler as program editor and the outstanding staff and volunteers are all that makes this show great.
As in any live performance, each show is slightly different depending on various factors on stage, backstage, and even the audience.   Often, the audience has a significant impact on each performance.
Carousel is a show for everyone school-aged and older and continues this weekend with shows on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.  Ticket prices are $ 20 for adults, $16 for seniors over sixty, and $ 10 for students.  Tickets are available by contacting Chanticleer Community Theater at 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs by calling 712-323-9955 or e-mail at
What happens when your dreams are destroyed?  Ride the Carousel this weekend at the Chanticleer Community Theater to find out.
Everyone one of us daily needs a little extra "hope in our heart."

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Boob Girls: Ten Little Puritans & Learning to Love Willie

The Boob Girls VII: Ten Little Puritans
ISBN: 1-56123-252-9
182 pages
The Boob Girls VIII: Learning to Love Willie
ISBN: 978-1-56123-262-8
203 pages
Joy Johnson
Grief Illustrated Press
Omaha, Nebraska
$ 14.95

Benjamin Franklin once stated, " this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."  However, there is that says that at least you can have fun along the way.
That is the thought behind Joy Johnson's delightful Boob Girls series.  For most retirees in a home, life is not uplifting
Author, Joy Johnson has discovered that aging does not mean that life ends.  With a few close friends, their lives now consist of humor, excitement, mystery, romance and making the most of each day.
Home is Meadow Lakes Retirement Community for Mary Rose McGill, Marge Aaron, Robinson Leary, and Hadley Joy Morris-Whitfield.  These women seem at first to have little in common except for their love of life and learning to enjoy each day sharing their friendships and adventures.
Scooter McKooter has invited the ladies to help at her Bed and Breakfast in Salem's Crossing, about one hundred miles away, serving a group of Puritan descendants.  She hopes the women will help with the cleaning, cooking and whatever else is needed.
With Ten Little Puritans, the adventure is a little reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel of Ten Little Indians.
Representing each guest is a Puritan doll resembling their human counterparts with names like Diewell Barbones, Patience Evenow, and Abstinence Evermore. 
Almost as soon as the guests arrive, they begin to disappear as well as their doll.  When one of the girls also vanish, the mystery only intensifies with the appearance of an expensive carriage pulled by a black horse and a writer appearing at the Shut Up and Drink Tavern.
Learning to Love Willie is the eighth book in the series.  
How should nightwear for older women look?  Most of us can imagine granny gowns for grannies but is there something a little revealing, enticing perhaps?
The BOOB Girls and all the female residents at the retirement show are to be models wearing Winkie Wear created by the designer, Willie Winkie for a charity style show.
Mary Rose is the most reluctant of the girls to model and refuses to wear any of the designs that have actual dead squirrels on the shoulders.  
Why has Meadow Lakes Retirement Community agreed to this?   Simple, money.
Part of Willie's reason for choosing Meadow Lakes is because of Marge who is a retired homicide detective.
Willie has multiple problems.  First, someone is trying to take over his business.  Also, his friend Jack Sprat who owns an Italian Restaurant called Lotsa Dimples has someone who is always stealing all their lettuce from the salad bar.  He also believes Dr. Fell is responsible for these crimes and is trying to kill him.
Does this resemble a nursery rhyme?
You need to read the book to find out the relationship.
These books can be read out of order and by themselves but are much more enjoyable if read in order.
Joy Johnson is the co-founder of Centering Corporation which is North America's oldest and largest bereavement resource and Ted E. Bear Hollow located in Omaha, Nebraska for grieving children.   She has written over one-hundred books mostly for children about grief.
These books are fun to read.  With the protagonists being people who most of society feels their lives are over, it is invigorating to see how these characters enjoy the most life has to give each day.