Thursday, October 25, 2012

Make Believe

Make Believe
Edward Ifkovic
Poisoned Pen Press
Scottsdale, Arizona
ISBN: 9781461200823
Trade Paperback
November 6, 2012
$ 15.95
250 pages
Paperback, Hardcover, e-book
"Others find peace of mind in pretending. Couldn't you? Couldn't I? Couldn't we?"
Oh, the good old days with Broadway musicals where most people knew all the songs. Among all those wonderful shows, one always stood apart in that it had a mixed happy/sad ending. Yes, the happy endings gave us a warm feeling inside, but the mixed ending made you think about the story and the message in the story. That is always how I have viewed the musical, Show Boat.
Edna Ferber wrote the novel Show Boat and many others highly acclaimed novels even winning the Nobel Prize in literature. When Show Boat became a musical it had numerous barriers to knockdown, one of which was the author not always supporting the production. With the 1951 remake of the 1936 movie production, this particular novel is a mystery that surrounds the details of the movie, the actors, and the behind the scenes dramas including infidelity and the Senate investigation of the Hollywood well-known personalities and their possible affiliation with the communist party.
In Make Believe, Edna Ferber decides to attend the opening of this magnificent production in Hollywood, not for further publicity, but in support of her long-time friend MaxJefferies who has just been blacklisted by the McCarthy hearings and his name is being erased from the film credits. Unfortunately, Max is murdered and Ms. Ferber utilizes her writing skills in investigating this unsolved crime. Could it be his widow whose former mob husband was also killed? Could it be Frank Sinatra whose career is quickly falling being that he has recently left his wife for Ava Gardner? Could it be a member of America First who doesn't want these hidden Communists corrupting their country? All of these are possible, but who else?
Make Believe, entitled from a song in the musical, is an accurate and enthralling portrait of the time period, the people, and Show Boat. Complete with the Hollywood gossip of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, this novel quickly and neatly allows the reader to actually be a part of both the investigation and to meet the people while still solving the mystery of who killed Max.
Edward Ifkovic has written numerous novel with Make Believe being his third in his Edna Ferber series with the prequel Escape Artist and Lone Star. He has taught literature at a community college in Connecticut for thirty years.
For those of us who were not born at this time, Make Believe is a wonderful snapshot of the time period as well as the history of the actual show mixed with a well-thought-out mystery encompassing the time period and the well-known characters. Warning or suggestion: Since I started reading this novel, the soundtrack of Show Boat has been the background music. Just play the soundtrack.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

View from the Edge

View from the Edge
Michael Kasenow
Infinity Publishing
West Conshohocken, PA
ISBN: 978-0-7414-7097-3
Trade Paperback
February 2012
$ 18.95
355 pages
Paperback, Hardcover, eBook

"When you get up in the morning---duck."

“When you get up in the morning—duck.”

How many of us have often wondered at the end of the day if we would have been better off to just stay in bed?

After being treated for a mental breakdown, Dr. Joshua Feenics is returning to his regular life after his leave of absence.

Joshua Feenics often feels that way now. He is a college professor who happens to be the head of his department. Basically he is bombarded with the complaints from students and faculty with the expectation of his mediation with each particular situation. Some days this proves to be extremely challenging especially when both seem to just lack common sense.

Josh is well aware of the professors in his department, especially their weaknesses and their prejudices. Another student concern is that there seems to be a possible religious cult on campus involving some of his students.

This small university is also being strongly considered as the site for the future display center for some newly discovered archeological wonders, possibly part of the Ten Commandments written by God. The authenticity seems to collaborate with the time period. However to Josh, something just doesn’t feel right.

With his personal life, Josh is fairly certain that his wife is having an affair. Her moods yo-yo and her excessive drinking makes their relationship definitely questionable. Now she wants them to sell their dream house on a lake so that they can start over since Josh had a mental breakdown. So why does she want to build a gazebo and a new dock? It seems the only solid relationship he has is his only son, Blake.

View from the Edge has a slow beginning as this introductory section centers around Josh and his daily life as well revealing the baggage of his abusive childhood. The few uplifting areas in his life usually revolve around his son and his friendships at the university. However, the development of the characters is amazingly strong and revealing to each of their personal character in this part.

Quickly though, View from the Edge becomes a page-turner. Although not technically a mystery since this is really Josh’s narrative, there are many crimes and mysteries which develop and are discovered throughout this finely interwoven tale. With each aspect unfolding, Josh discovers his strengths and involvement in each mystery.

Michael Kasenow is a geology professor at Eastern Michigan University. He is the author of many science books, won numerous awards for his poetry, and the well-received novel The Last Paradise.

The lessons learned in reading View from the Edge advises each of us to keep going each day, no matter what our problems or challenges are along the way. Why? “We do what we can to feel good about it. But it takes you, you don’t take it.” Think about that when your life seems overwhelming and read View from the Edge.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Black Isle

The Black Isle
Sandi Tan
Grand Central Publishing
Hatchette Book Group
ISBN: 978-0-446-56392-5
August 2012
469 pages

Living life as an elderly woman of Asian descent can be trying. Finding a story
about your life in a library can either fill you with pride or dread. She feels
the horror of everything written about her and the depressed
thought of these lies in print. However, the truth of one aspect of this
book is true. She can talk to ghosts.

Few of us really know the horrors of those who lived through a war
occupied by an enemy. Some are able to still live in their home
although many are displaced being evicted from their home by opposing forces who
might not understand your history, culture, and language.

Being born in Shanghai in 1922, Ling discovered that being the female
half in a set of twins was not to her advantage. Her brother, Li, was obviously
favored by the family, especially their mother. Ling's mother is
extremely fearful of others and often refuses to allow the children to
leave the house. Her family lived well with her father being a teacher
with the family continuing to grow with the birth of another set of twins, both
girls, but the mother's paranoia of the outside world also growing.

With the advent of World War II approaching, the family grew in fear of being
invaded by their enemies, the Japanese. To save themselves and especially the
males, Ling's father took her brother and herself to the
Black Isle to begin a new and hopefully safer life. However, life
seldom happens as we hope.

Ling also possesses an unusual gift. She sees ghosts. To her, they
are as obvious as real people and are even difficult to sometimes
differentiate who is alive and dead.

In this epic novel covering about seventy years, the reader views the life on a
Pacific Island through a multitude of influences and change. She
also has the unique perspective of these changes upon the spirits of the island
who frequently have their own opinions of modern progress.

Black Isle is well-developed with realistic characters in a well-organized story
spanning much of Ling's life. The story reads as her narrative
explaining her choices including many of the horrors of the Japanese
occupation on the island as well as being a British colony.

The Black Isle is the debut novel for Singapore native Sandi Tan. She was
educatied in th UK and the United States and currently lives in

This unusual haunting novel combines history with fantasy to narrate a truly
memorable tale.

Cabaret Series Part I Chanticleer

What can you expect at a cabaret? Simply, it can be a variety of
performances in a restaurant like setting. How does this work at our
local Chanticleer Theater? Extremely well, as shown last weekend.
As usual, the Chanticleer staff excelled with this challenge. With the
ambience of a small restaurant with small tables for just two, six
multi-talented young performers, graciously entertained the audience at
this fund raising event last Friday and Saturday night being called
"Broadway at Chanticleer, the Next Generation".
Chris Ebke, Rachel Holmes, Ariel Ibsen, John Jones, Sarah Query, with
accompanist, Machellle Mitchell wonderfully performed from many
contemporary Broadway musicals such as Tick...tick...Boom!, Ragtime,
Once on this Island, Company, Songs for a New World, Avenue Q, Crazy Just Like
Me, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Jeckyll & Hyde, Chess, The Last Five
Years, and Children of Eden.
There were definitely some magical musical moments with these
performers strutting their stuff and showing the audience their talent.
Outstanding were Sarah Query especially singing "Little Things You Do
Together" which strongly reminded this reviewer of the legendary Elaine
Stritch in the original Broadway show. Both John Jones and Chris
Ebke were wonderful in their solo spots where the songs they were
singing perfectly matched their vocal talents allowing their falsettos to
ring out throughout the theater. Ariel Ibsen was delightful as the
character singer/ actress in her selections. Rachel Holmes allowed the
audience to be enthralled with her beautiful voice and perfectly hit those
anticipated high notes. Together this quintet perfectly harmonized in
the ending number "In Whatever Time We Have" from the musical
Children of Eden. Machelle Mitchell excelled as the accompanist being the
perfect musical foundation for all the performers. Every element of this show
was perfect including the lighting and the sound system.
This delightful cabaret evening of entertainment with light refreshments
was definitely a hit with the audience.
This Cabaret Series: Part II with the experienced, seasoned performers
from previous Chanticleer plays will continue on January 11th and 12th as a
fundraiser with a $20 donation that will include complimentary
refreshments. Seasoned ticket holders will receive a $5 discount.
This was a delightful evening of musical theater. This will be a show
for everyone who has ever enjoyed any song from any musical with a
delightful cast for the perfect cabaret experience.

Monday, October 8, 2012

La Traviata

How often do parents not approve of who their child wants to marry? This
age-old dilemma is the basic storyline for the opera, La Traviata
which was performed at the Orpheum Theater last weekend.

Violetta is slowing dying and suffering from tuberculosis when she finally meets
the love of her life, Alfredo. Living the life of high society while
attending numerous parties in Paris, both thrills Violetta but also
exhausts her physically. She decides to leave the partying and filth of
the city to live in the countryside. While this helps Violetta physically and
emotionally living with Alfredo, financially this forces her to sell
many of her possessions to pay for the expenses. Alfredo's father
becomes involved and does not want the relationship to continue. This
is the problem for La Traviata.

The lush operatic voices of the chorus beautifully harmonized with the
soloists balancing with the orchestra perfectly. The costumes, sets,
lighting, sound system, wigs, makeup, and overall management of this
production was superbly organized with even multiple activities on the
stage at a time. This performance was opera with the multiple rich
voices at its best. Every small detail was well-planned and executed.

As the lead soprano, Inna Dukach, superbly sang as the ill Violetta in
this extremely demanding role. Joshua Kohl, as her lover, Alfredo,
superbly expressed his love of Violetta as his tenor voice beautifully rang out
throughout the theater. Jake Gardner as Alfredo's father, Giorgio
Germont, was truly an audience favorite with his majestic baritone
weaving conflict for the two lovers.

The relationship between the cast and their audience is the true test of any
performance. You could hear the audience holding their breaths
throughout the songs actually parallel with the singers' breathing. For a
foreign opera sung in a foreign language and translated through a
screen above the stage for an American audience, this timeless Verdi
opera was enjoyed by all especially in the Orpheum Theater which
seems to perfectly match the opera with its ornate decorative theme.

Added to this particular performance was a short dance by two members of Ballet
Nebraska, Erika Overturff and Sasha York who gracefullyadded a Spanish flavor to
the partying guests.

The only negative aspect of this delightful evening was that the chorus
did not take their bows and recognition at the end. Yes, it is
understandable that they were not involved with the last act, but they
were integral with the entire production.

You definitely want to attend the next operatic production of Mozart's
The Magic Flute in February. With any opera at the Orpheum Theater, you can
relax and enjoy a wonderful story translated into English of timeless problems
set to wonderful music.
Sent from my ASUS Pad

Monday, October 1, 2012


Sara Poole
St. Martin's Griffin
New York
ISBN: 978-0-312-60983-2
August 2010
$ 14.99
392 pages

How do you prove that you are the best poisoner? Simple, poison the person in that position with a potion that is not easily recognizable, maybe your own personal concoction.

Francesca Giordano grew up in the notorious house of Rodrigo Borgia with her father as the chief poisoner. When her father is murdered, Francesca is obsessed with revenge. Who is responsible for his death? Her father's successor is in a dangerous position and Francesca knows that she is more qualified even if she is a woman in this male-dominated time period. She proves this by poisoning the poisoner and admits it. This gutsy move could have her condemned to death but instead she manages to become the poisoner. Who could be better qualified?

Poison is a tale of the Renaissance with the multiple problems in Italy from the expulsion of the Jewish people in Spain to the wide spread corruption within the Vatican and how the two interwove. Many of the Jews who came to Rome with nothing since their possessions were confiscated. Rome created a refugee camp that kept these people in a confined area regardless of their money.

Poison speaks of the history of Rome especially around the Vatican and how these two interacted as well as the physical aspects of the immense tunnel system within and under the buildings and how they were frequently utilized.

The character of Francesca and her involvement with the Borgias allows you to make your own judgments about the Borigas, especially Lucrezia in that her youth and naivety matures with her circumstances as being a pawn in this male world. Author Sara Poole lets the reader view these people through non-judgmental or prejudicial eyes with this notorious family.

My one criticism of this novel involved that one event near the end which involved a child that seemed too convenient and coincidental. However, the relationships with the glass maker and the pharmacist's wife in the Jewish ghetto were superbly written in visualizing the events, conditions, and even understanding the smells of the time period.

Poison is a superb first novel in this series by Sarah Poole representing the Renaissance and life in Italy. I love forward to reading the other novels in this series.


Lissa Bryan
The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House
Waxahachie, Texas
October 11, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61213-1221-1
Trade paperback
257 pages

Ghostwriter is the story of Sara Howell who is not enjoying life right now.
She is currently unemployed and not in a relationship which is just the opposite of her life a month ago. Realizing that she can no longer afford her apartment since her former boyfriend moved out, she begins to look for a cheaper place to live. Is this a struggle or fate stepping in to show Sarah her destiny? (This is a romance so it is acceptable to write that sentence.)

A local politician has contracted with Sarah for her to ghostwrite about her predictable and boring life. So she temporarily has some money coming in and just needs a place to live. How do you find a decent place to live when the costs need to be less than half of what you used to pay?

With the help of a local realtor, Sarah finds the house of her dreams. It an old house on an island that can only be reached by boat Added to that, the house was owned by her favorite author, Seth Fortner, who mysteriously disappeared around the year 1925 after living there with his wife. Being that there were no direct descendants, his family inherited the house with numerous conditions while they continue to profit from the royalties on his books. The family has mixed feelings about having someone living in the house since they are certain that it is haunted by Seth, however, they also choose not to tell Sarah this. Since no one publicly knows when or how Seth died, this secret is not shared with Sarah. Great! A broke writer in a haunted house of their favorite author. What could possibly happen?

Sarah finds it difficult to write about this politician who has only given Sarah the information that she chooses to share, she is also experiencing excruciating headaches, and then the ghost himself, Seth. For some reason, Seth does not want her nosing around his things in the attic or even being in his house.

Ghostwriter is a paranormal romance. What reader has not fallen in love with the works of a talented author and dream of meeting the actual person who created these masterpieces of expression. For Sarah, this is her dream and the reality of life is having to daily write this biographical.

Lissa Bryan in that through the world of books she has had numerous life experiences. Although is the real world, she has published many stories with Ghostwriter being her first novel.

Reminiscent of the old movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, this tale will delight every romance reader with well-developed characters, a logical chronology, and an intensity that makes this novel a fast novel to read. You do not want to leave this story once you begin reading. The storyline is enjoyable and Ms. Bryan has a gift of placing the reader in the protagonist's shoes.

Definitely, Lissa Bryan, is an author who truly understands the relationship between the reader, the novel, and the author.

I wonder about the circumstances of many of my favorite authors now. Do I dare visit the places where they lived and died?