Saturday, July 28, 2012


Snafu: A Tale of Presidential Election and a Girl
Simon Plaster
Mossik Press
ISBN: 978-0-615-66621-1
$ 7.99
191 pages

In military terms a Snafu is an acronym for Situation Normal, All “Fudged” Up. Please notice the “fudged” word is not what is normally used in the real world.

With the U.S. system of electing a President, there are always questions about the continuation of the Electoral College. Also, the knowledge about how this system works is often only taught in most schools every four years during an election year. The knowledge of the average American citizen and even politicians about the Electoral College is often embarrassing to educators, reporters, and those educated beyond high school.

Virgil Carter enjoys his life in a rural area of Oklahoma. He is a successful door-to-door salesman is selling Everlasting Leadware. He also decides to enter the race for to become the local County Commissioner.

Being at just the right, or wrong, place at the right time, he finds himself rocketed into becoming the Vice-Presidential candidate for the incumbent President. Unfortunately, Virgil is not the most knowledgeable candidate and even would like to enroll at the Electoral College as a student. (Yes, he is probably not the only citizen to consider this.) Virgil enjoys being the rising star of the Democratic Party. The party has the challenge of not allowing Virgil to talk or answer questions, ever.

In satirical novels such as Snafu, there is a fine line between tragedy and comedy when it comes to politicians and the knowledge they possess. Obviously based on previous politicians in our country and their ignorance of the basic governmental system or global issues, the author, Simon Plaster finds an abundance of real life incidents by politicians to base this satirical novel..

With the upcoming election in Snafu, the democratic,party chooses a campaign entitled, Everybody Counts. As this campaign becomes law, things do not always work as planned making a Snafu. Added to that, eight members of the U.S. Supreme Court are kidnapped and unavailable.

Simon Plaster resides in Odessa, Texas and has previously written Sumbitch: A Tale of Bigtime College Football and a Girl. There is a little negativity towards redheads, however, this ginger-haired author bases this lightly on his own experiences.

This short novel resembles an actual Presidential election which is at times overwhelming. The characters, unfortunately, are believable, especially with the ignorance of many politicians in their words and actions in an effort to be victorious. The extraordinary campaigns with multiple levels of simultaneous complexity make these elections difficult to truly comprehend and this novel does an outstanding job of explaining this system with oftentimes pathetic characters in laughable situations.

For a short experience regarding the politics of a Presidential election, read Snafu, for what can go wrong.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Will Mc Intoch
Night Shade Books
San Francisco
January 24, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59780-335-9
$ 24.99
264 pages

Sometimes life is just not fair. Finn Darby is finally beginning to get his life back on track. As a child, his twin sister drowned. The two were competitive and she chose to swim at night due to a dare from him. His grandparents and mother raised him However, his grandfather always made it clear that he was not the favored twin. Added to that, Finn's wife died two years ago in a freak accident where she was struck with lightning on a river bank.

Finn's grandfather had successfully created a syndicated comic strip, Toy Shop. After years, the popularity of the strip was beginning to fail. With the death of his grandfather, Finn let the comic strip die but after awhile and with his wife's encouragement, revitalized it, adding new characters while reigniting interest with success that the old strip could never had imagined.

When Atlanta, Georgia is struck with a terrorist attack, life changes for Finn. He is beginning to believe that he is possessed by his hateful grandfather. As people die from this anthrax attack, Finn discovers how mad his grandfather is at him for changing the comic strip. Who do you go to for help if you believed you are possessed?

At first, Finn finds medical help but he is not alone. It appears that with half-a-million people dying within such a small area, this created conditions of souls who are not wanting to die. These souls have unfinished business and tend to inhabit the bodies of those who they resented. The term for these souls inside a formerly normal human, is “hitcher..”

Hitchers is an enthralling thriller. This is one of those books that pulls you into it and does not release your mind, (This is similar to possessing.) The characters are well-developed within the logically gripping tale. The story is interwoven with the guilt from his sister's death, his wife's death, and dealing with the difficult and self-centered grandfather. The contrasted feelings of Finn are superbly displayed when his dead wife shares the body of the waitress who she had berated shortly before her death. As Finn develops a strong relationship with Summer, he is also feeling guilty about Lorena, his wife, and his unresolved feelings for her, both in one body.

Will McIntosh has won a Hugo Award and was a finalist for the Nebula Award. This native New Yorker now is a psychology professor at Georgia Southern University.

Hitchers is a gripping tale thoroughly possessing your mind. Read this haunting tale.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.

How do you take a well-known musical such as Fiddler on the Roof and successfully adapt it for children? Ask Denise Putman, the director of Fiddler on the Roof, Jr. which is currently running at the Chanticleer Theater.

Fiddler on the Roof, Jr. consists of fifteen scenes, ten songs, thirty-two children aged eighteen or younger, and nine students running the lights, scenery, and sets with a show that lasts about an hour.

This is a wonderful production. First of all, having teenagers in the roles of plump adults had to be a challenge but it works. When Tevye, Eric Koch really starts to relax and enjoy his role, it is delightful to the audience to see him roll his arm fat, which Eric has none, with raised arms in the famous scene of “If I Were a Rich Man.” Secondly, though most of the songs were in unison, the harmonies are precise with the performers confidently blending in their parts. Most notable is the opening number “Tradition” which at one time has five different parts intermixed.

As in any performance, certain parts were outstanding the night I saw the production. Hodel, Audrey Schnitker, sang beautifully in “Far from the Home I Love” perfectly balancing her part over the accompaniment while telling the audience of her feelings. One of the Cossacks was thoroughly into his role displaying anger towards the Jewish village by stomping his feet and making a fist, even when he marched through the audience.

Everything moved smoothly through this production, the scenes were moved swiftly, the music perfectly matched the performances, the lighting and the sound crews were excellent with meeting the needs of the performers, the costuming and sets were wonderful for the cast.

This is a condensed version of Fiddler on the Roof since it is for children, but it is definitely an excellent opportunity for Chanticleer to show off the area talent.

The show continues through July 29th with productions on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 and $5 for students with Chanticleer members receiving a $2 discount.. For reservations call 712-323-9955. There are no reserved seats for this show.

Go see “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” this summer. It's an enjoyable show and a great way to stay cool besides enjoying the wonderful talented children of Council Bluffs.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

All Roads Lead to Austen

All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane
Amy Elizabeth Smith
Sourcebooks, Inc.
Naperville, Illinois
368 pages

How many of you are Jane Austen fans? Do you realize that there are international book clubs for discussing Jane Austen books? What have I been missing all these years?

Literature professor, Amy Smith decided to take her love of Jane Austen books on the road to discuss the books with people in Central and South America. Even though the books would be translated into Spanish, she wanted to record people's reactions and thoughts to the Jane Austen books that were written about two-hundred years ago. Would people feel the same way about the author and the books as those who have read the books in this country? Also, would Amy find love in one of these exotic far-away places? (even though this is not mentioned in her agenda, but is fairly obvious.)

All Roads Lead to Austen is somewhat a travel-log of Amy Smith as she meets with people in Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina to discuss books such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey. (Yes, I have read these books but have chosen not to make them a guide to my everyday life.)

Who is this book for? I would definitely say Jane Austen fans and also women who tend to favor romance novels. I chose to read it because I wanted to see her view of these people from the various countries and her triumphs and disasters in traveling to these places.

All Roads Lead to Austen is delightful even when the author comes down with dengue fever while also discovering the people and the books of these varied cultures. Also, she began this journey with a very limited Spanish vocabulary. I saw this book as a possible, “How to survive in Central and South America without knowing the language.” For those of us who discuss the possibility of traveling to these areas, I thoroughly gained through her experiences, both positive and negative.

This non-fiction book is easy to read and well-organized. I would suggest that minimally the reader have some sense of the Jane Austen books even if it is just watching the movie, “Emma” before reading this book. It greatly helps to know the topic and to view the places then as the variables, just like a science experiment.

I enjoyed the book but was a little disappointed as it turned into a romance novel. The book is well-written and enthralling as the author immerses herself into the culture of each distinct country.

Crash! Boom! Pow!

“Crash! Boom! Pow! ” those are words that are common in comic strips. However, this time they name a play currently at the Shelterbelt Theatre in Omaha.

The play begins with an overworked waitress. She is struggling to support her daughter and herself on her meager salary. Naturally, as in all comic strips, there appears the mild, mannered character, Benny who is in awe of the superhero, The Red Dove, who swoops down to keep the city safe from crime and is constantly fighting her nemesis, The Bogeyman.

When The Bogeyman kidnaps the waitress's daughter, naturally, The Red Dove comes to the rescue. Do all superheroes make it in time? What if they don't? Who rescues the superheroes?

“Crash! Boom! Pow!” is a play in comic book form by Molly Welsh and Ben Beck. It is about superheroes with the super powers of strength, speed, and senses. However, what happens when superheroes first gain their powers? Do they make mistakes? Mess-up? How does anyone fix a superhero disaster? What if someone is accidentally hurt?

There are many life lessons in this play such as “Do you think I need a man to save my life”? “Sometimes fantasy loses the power to please”. “The tortoise, and man, is a slow, tough creature that can live for awhile even without a heart”. “We're always left with more to say.” “In stories we discover what it is to be human”. All of these are from this short play which lasted less than one hour.

“Crash! Boom! Pow!” had some excellent acting especially by Teri Fender who became the waitress. She masterfully understood this demanding role and truly created a personality for the audience.

This play is not for anyone under the age of thirteen and must have a parent present for anyone under the age of seventeen. There are too many occurences of violence and language issues that could cause anyone who is not an adult to have nightmares.

The action and concept is original and comical in this dark, modernistic play. Personally, I enjoyed the way which The Red Dove flew and the guilt of The Night Wolf with his new superhero powers. The intended audience would be for those adults who read comic books and who are in their twenties and thirties.

“Crash! Boom! Pow!” is at the Shelterbelt Theatre through July 29th with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $12. For more information online go to or call (402) 341-2757.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Come Home to Kanesville 2012

"Oh wipe the mud off your shoes and wipe the sweat off your brow.
Come on and set a spell cos' you're in Kanesville now".

This is how the show "Come Home to Kanesville" opens with the cast
singing and dancing their way to telling the story of the Mormons who
came to Kanesville in the late 1840s. Kanesville was named after
Thomas Kane and is one of the former names for Council Bluffs.

This story speaks of the hardships and the choices for many of the
Mormon people who came through this town after leaving Nauvoo,
Illinois when their leader Joseph Smith was killed. Most of the story
centers around the Indian Creek area of Kansville and of the group's
interactions and relationship with Thomas Kane. Combining the local
history with real people such as Brigham Young brings these significant figures
to life.

This year's performance is notable with many outstanding performances. Being
that most of the roles are shared, I am only mentioning the
performers on the night that I saw this production. David Young is an engaging
story teller as the well-respected Thomas Kane. As Mary
Lewis, Ami Hummel is delightful as the widowed and optimistic mother. The
Cline family, Dan, Molly, and Noah are all outstandingly believable as their
characters. Both Molly and Noah, as the Lewis children, interact with the
audience as their characters. As Hannah Martin, Mignonne
Rogers charms the entire audience as her character makes a difficult life
decision. Also outstanding was the dancing and especially the
clogging. The band and chorus stayed in perfect sync with the
prerecorded music.

The sets and costumes matched the characters and the time period. The sound and
lighting crews were attentive to the details which makes them invisible to the
audience, but extremely important.

The cast actually encircles the audience throughout the show. This
gives you a feeling of being a part of them and almost tempts you to
join in their singing in this intimate venue. However, it perfectly
matches the tone and setting of the performance.

This short musical last approximately 75 minutes and is intended for
audiences over the age of eight. This Winter Quarter Musical runs
from July 19th to August 4th and the Kanesville Tabernacle at 222 E.
Broadway in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The admission is free to everyone. The
show times are Tuesday through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and also at 3:30 p.m.on
Saturdays. Seating is on a first come, first served basis.

Why not learn a little of our local history this summer? The building is
air-conditioned and the price is free. Why not "Come on Home to Kanesville?"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Broadway Dreams

If you could find the most talented students in the metro area, what kind of
program could you create? What if you had the possible students audition so
that you knew that you actually had the very best talent in the areas of
singing, dancing, and acting? Could you turn these students into Broadway
performers? If you brought in some people who have actually performed on
Broadway to coach these talented students, could you tell who the real
performers were and who were the students?

That is the challenge with Broadway Dreams. The theme this year was "Express
Yourself." Earlier this past spring, students from the metro-area auditioned
to spend a week in a coaching approach to improving their performing skills.
The final result was presented to the parents and the community last Saturday
night at the Holland Center.

Under the direction of Broadway's Matt Lenz, these students performed their
"Showstoppers" that were practiced the previous week through a partnership with
Omaha Performing Arts and Broadway Dreams. The "Showstoppers" were from many
musicals such as "Let Me Be Your Star", "Footloose", "Matilda", "Once", "Across
the Universe", "The Book of Mormon", "Tarzan", "Hairspray", "Fosse", "Sunday in
the Park with George", and "My Life".

Being that the Broadway performers are young, it really is difficult to figure
out which ones are the professionals and which are extremely talented area
students. For one particular performer who was recorded, she is currently
traveling this week to New York for an audition in a Broadway musical.

For eleven year old, Lauren Philips, this is her third year performing in
Broadway Dreams. This local talent is beginning sixth-grade at Lewis Central
Middle School in the fall. After a week of this intensive workshop, this
delightful performer spoke about her experiences with expressing herself. "I
express myself the way no one else can by being different and unique. Being
myself shines through."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Inner World of Money

The Inner World of Money: Taking Control of Your Financial Decisions
and Behaviors
Marty Martin
Santa Barbara, California
ISBN: 978-0-313-39824-7
$ 37.00
212 pages

“Taking financial responsibility ain’t for sissies.”

How many of us have ever considered exploring a college-level economics class to discover the brilliance of those who have become financially successful in this every changing world? Have you ever felt intimidated by business gurus or have your eyes glaze over when anyone mentions the word economics?

This particular text, The Inner World of Money, deals with the daily decisions that directly affect our financial success, both now and in the future.

The use of psychology with financial choices allows an understanding how each of us spends money. This is helpful in discovering our own financial identity. This particular “scheme” is important for each of us individually to know what our personal tendencies are in order to better plan and to achieve your financial goals.

Dr. Martin also discusses the problems of buying on credit and using credit cards. With credit cards, he chooses to call them debt cards, which is not to be confused with debit cards. He strongly emphasizes the importance of seeing the charged amount as a “debt” rather than a payment which over time will eventually pay for the item but with considerable costs to the financial institution. He also shows the true cost of buying a home and the cost paid out depending on the interest amount or the variable amount. With the recent economic changes, this is an area that needs to be closely monitored and considered.

The author strongly promotes the value of a college education but a concern I have regards the student loans and the changing situation with our country’s present situation. For college grads who cannot find employment, the student loans for their college education can be an overwhelming burden. In the past, he shows that a college degree pays for itself over time, however, recently, especially in the area of law schools, many graduating lawyers are not getting jobs and even suing universities for misleading them, not to mention the amount owed in student loans.

One question posed as an example by the author was not completely answered. When asking if while having a routine colonoscopy and the gastroenterologist perforates your intestine, looking about whether your health care covers preventative care and what percentage is the patient’s obligation does not answer the question.

The Inner World of Money is a readable guide for your personal financial adviser. It combines the psychological aspect of our financial decisions with the solid advice of an accountant while also explaining the intricacies of investments in preparing for retirement and for maintaining your financial success in these tough economic times.

Dr. Marty Martin is employed at the College of Commerce at DePaul University and is a financial psychologist/adviser at Aequus Wealth Management Resources in Chicago, Illinois. He is a renowned speaker in the area of the psychology of personal finance.

For those of us who could benefit from a personal financial adviser, reading The Inner World of Money is a fiscally sound investment with your time and money.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Boob Girls

The Boob Girls
Joy Johnson
Grief Illustrated Press
Omaha, Nebraska
ISBN: 1-56123-210-6
$ 12.95
178 pages

Retirement communities are not known for their liveliness. When a resident
causes problems, they usually are asked to leave. Apparently there had been a
discussion regarding an up-coming election regarding gay rights in certain
churches. This ended up with a man being covered by their neighbor's meal of
macaroni and cheese. How do you prevent this from happening again or becoming
a larger problem? Easy, just assign the residents to tables.

Four widowed ladies who did not know each other ended up at Table 12 in the
dining room. There is to be not conversations regarding religion or politics.
These four unique women quickly formed a strong friendship creating the Boob
Girls, the Burned Out Old Broads at Table 12.

Maggie Patten is a petite woman with a spit-fire personality after living for
years in an abusive relationship. She actually used her old Colt to shoot at
her husband's tombstone once it was finally erected. Yes, she is the one who
served her dinner over
an opinionated male.

Mary Rose McGill is dowdy and somewhat depressed. When her husband died, her
daughters decided that this was where she would live.

Hadley Joy Morris-Winfield chose to live here when her husband died in a plane
crash. She is still puzzled by the remains in the jar as how could anyone
separate out the ashes of four bodies and a plane crashing into a mountain.
She is tall and wealthy with a gorgeous wardrobe and perfect hair. She has one
son who is with his third wife. Naturally, this wife is not her favorite.

Robinson (Robbie) Leary is also widowed. She is a retired university professor
who taught English Literature. With her husband, she had no children but
considered her students to be her children. She is the lone African American
in the group.

The four women decide to take an adventure and with much cunning and
preparation, they decide to start living.

The Boob Girls is a delightful fun-loving story with a great attitude. The
characterizations are phenomenal with each "girl" having their own personality
but thoroughly enjoying their time with each other in their developing

The intended audience is for middle-aged to older women. It would be
difficult for some younger readers and men to truly understand the characters.

Joy Johnson along with her husband, are the founders of Centering Corporation
which is a bereavement resource center along with Ted E.Bear Hollow, Omaha's
grief center for children. She is a well-known speaker and specializes in the
area of grief, especially for children. She has written over 100 books on

The Boob Girls is about living, not grieving. I definitely look forward to
reading more books in this series and look forward to meeting the author at The
Bookworm in Omaha on July 22nd.

The Boob Girls is recommended and delightful reading for women, especially those
over the age of fifty.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Devil Colony

The Devil Colony: A Sigma Force Novel
James Rollins
Harper Collins Publisher
ISBN: 978-0-06-178565-8
$ 9.99
647 pages

What do these things have in common? The Mormon Church, Lewis
and Clark, the mysterious death of Meriwether Lewis, Native Americans,
The Founding Fathers of the United States, the disappearance of the
Anasazi people, the Iroquois Nation, nano technology, Indian mounds,
volcanoes, and the emblem of the United States? One thing, the book The Devil

When you live near the Rocky Mountains in Utah, naturally exploring by
climbing and hiking is a frequent activity for many. Trent Walker and
Charlie Reed decide to follow an old Indian map that was drawn on an
old deer hide piece. The two are trying to find the landmarks on this
faded fabric and attempt to compensate their map with erosion and
weathering. The two had just finished high school and Charlie was
planning on entering college in the fall while Trent plans to work locally.

The map belongs to Charlie's grandfather who is currently experiencing a taste
of a traditional trip, or hallucinogenic. Only a few of the tribal
elders even know that this map exists. This is a great opportunity for
the two friends to finally explore and have an adventure before their lives
change with their prospective futures.

The two are looking for a supposedly haunted cave which has some
kind of a secret hidden treasure.

The two discovered the cave with mummified bodies. However, the
bodies looked Caucasian, not Native American. Being shocked and
uneasy, the two quickly begin to leave the cave when Trent slips and
falls. Charlie continues to leave the cave. Trent is ready to yell for
help when he hears voices outside the cave and then a gunshot. He
chooses to hide further back into a tunnel in the cave. He hears
something rolling into the cave. It is Charlie's body followed by his
elderly grandfather who then puts a pistol to his own head and shoots

This is only the beginning of an enthralling interwoven action-adventure
tale, intermixing legends with real events. The tale combines many of the
characters from Rollins' previous novels in combining all these themes
through places around the world.

Compared to Rollins' previous novels, this one is the best with the
intermixing of the past and the present with reality and legend. Also,
the reader certainly enjoys the opportunity to be reacquainted with many
of the characters from previous novels as they continue with their every
day challenges while still trying to stop the Guild from its ultimate desire of
world power.

Also, after the conclusion of The Devil Colony, there is a short story,
"The Skeleton Key" which explains what happened to Seichan prior to her
entering the story in The Devil Colony.

The Devil Colony will not disappoint any Rollins fan. I would not
recommend this as a first Rollins novel as many of the characters are
from previous novels. However, for me, The Devil Colony was another
wonderful and educational adventure with the fictional Sigma Force in a great
novel by James Rollins.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Pitcher's Kid

The Pitcher's Kid: A Memoir
Jack Olsen
Aequitas Books
Pleasure Book Studio: A Literary Press
ISBN: 978-1-929355-76-1
$ 19.95
Trade Paperback Original

Most memoirs are about a person and how wonderful that person is, in their own
viewpoint, slightly jaded and egotistical. The Pitcher's Kid, though, is a
realistic, down-to-earth perspective from the eyes of Jack Olsen who grew up as
a child of the depression who had the weight-of-the-world on his shoulders,
fulfilling the dreams and expectations of his father, a former major league
baseball pitcher. This is not an account building anyone's ego.

Unfortunately forJack, he does not easily live up to being his father's progeny,
and discovers that he is lousy in sports. It doesn't help either that he skipped
a grade in elementary school, so he really is the smallest and the last one to
be chosen for team games. Also, his father has his own version of English
which is naturally the only correct way of speaking since the words came
directly from his mouth.

Besides his father's athletic reputation, Jack's father has a fondness for
gambling and talking big. Unfortunately, to balance that, he is not reliable
and causes his family many financial problems while others are also having
problems during the Great Depression.

The Pitcher's Kid is wonderful with Jack Olsen's personal voice making this a
laughable, delightful, realistic, and memorable read. Yes, there is definitely
adult language but in this particular novel, it does not seem inappropriate, but
genuine to the situation. The society pressures of the communities makes this
feel like you are right there with Jack in many of his awkward situations during
his first seventeen years of life, prior to our country entering World War II.
Also, the places in New Jersey and Philadelphia had their own identities, and
sometimes languages, making this a perfect glimpse into life in these times and

Jack Olsen lived from 1925-2002. He became an author who won numerous awards
publishing thirty-three books, being a former Times bureau chief, and writing
for a variety of magazines.

Others have compared Jack Olsen's writing of this book to Frank McCourt,
Geoggrey Wolff, and David Sedaris. Yes, I have read these, but Jack Olsen's is
more sincere and even has a little taste of Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Of
all of these, unquestionably, Jack's personal voice is the best.

The Pitcher's Kid is an educational and enlightening journey to a past time that
hopefully will never need to be repeated.