Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Nutcracker

Christmas Eve brings excitement to children of all ages.
Hosting the annual party is Clara's family in their lavish home.
Clara's little brother, Fritz, catches a mouse.   Naturally, his first thought is to tease his sister with it.  Who wants a terrified mouse being held by its tail?
Fortunately, their Uncle Dosselmeyer is attending bring a trumpet for Fritz and a very special gift for Clara, a decorative nutcracker in the large shape of a toy soldier.
Being a typical little brother, Fritz breaks it.
This is how The Nutcracker, a story told with no spoken words, begins.   A gorgeously entrancing ballet presented by Ballet Nebraska whose name next year will be American Midwest Ballet.
It is hypnotic for everyone of all ages.  The proof was a two-year-old little boy sitting near me.  He was completely mesmerized.  Strangely, I saw no one leaving the theater to go to the lobby.   No one.
The audience was completely fascinated by this ballet performance.
The timing is perfect.  The show lasts about ninety minutes with an additional twenty minute intermission.
The costumes are radiant, each one intricately individual for each person.    Deborah Overturff and Thom Peterson are brilliant in making beautiful and moveable costumes complimenting each person. The sets and props are magnificently colorful.   I was amazed at the backstage crew who are responsible for everything on stage except for the actual dancing.  These unseen diligent and attentive crew members, director, production and stage managers, lighting and sound managers, wardrobe mangers, chaperones, and even the members of the Opera Omaha Children's Chorus and director are phenomenal.
Numerous performers left me with memories of their spellbinding performances.  Tianna Hartin-Kovy was a wonderful Clara.   Fritz was played by an adorable Owen Fuesel.   Their parents portrayed by Bret Samson and Sasha York were absolutely gracefully gorgeous.
Personally, I adore both the choreography and performances by both Matthew Carter and Erika Overturff.   These two epitomize gracefulness and the essence of ballet.  They are masterful with dance.
The entire dance company is phenomenal.   I so admire the strength and grace of the male performances who are constantly catching people in their arms so effortlessly while maintaining their balance and being part of their dance.  The numerous dancers who created each character as an individual while still matching each step of the group.
Who did I enjoy the most?
Clara, Fritz, the society dog guest star from the Nebraska Humane Society, Drosselmeyer by Matthew Carter, the Ballet Doll and the Jack-in the-Box by Katherine Eppink and Alexandra Hoffman, the Rat Queen by Claire Goodwillie who happened to be the best I have ever seen in this role, The Snow Queen by Erika Overturff, The Snow King by Sasha York, The Sugar Plum Fairy by Erin Alarcon,  and The Cavalier by Ryan Christopher all made the show appear magical.  To appear to move on air or to fly in a dream, every performer added to this wonderful production.
What is special about the Ballet Nebraska performance?    Why not go to any Nutcracker performance?
First, the integration of the ballet students within the performance.    These students are so well taught, it is often difficult to realize that they are not professionals.   Secondly, Ballet Nebraska presents one of the colorfully beautiful presentations of any production.   Lastly, the production is intoxicatingly enticing, without the alcohol.
Additional performances will be December 2nd and 3rd at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha.
For a memorable and enthralling experience, see Ballet Nebraska's The Nutcracker.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

All My Sons

Imagine yourself as living in America in 1947.   As a young woman, what would you do if you were in love with the son of your father’s business partner?  This seems fairly simplistic, but there are a few complications.
The son was you have loved for years was a pilot, fighting in World War II, somewhere near or in China.
Now, he has been missing for three years.
His mother seems to be the only one who truly believes that he is still alive, somewhere.   She did allow a memorial for him, an apple tree planted in their yard.
Will he return?
Ann, the girlfriend, is moving on with her life.  She is in love with the missing man’s brother, Chris.  Fortunately, he also loves her.
Will they marry?   Can the family accept Ann into the family if she marries Chris?  Will the family accept the changes soon to happen in their lives or remained locked in the world of 1944?
Added to this is a problem from the past.   The business partnership was responsible for the mass production of airplane parts for the war, but something went wrong, terribly wrong causing the deaths of at least twenty-one pilots.
All of this is woven into the story of All My Sons, a Tony Award winning play from 1947 by Arthur Miller.
The play begins with a summer storm breaking an apple tree in the backyard.  The tree is the memorial to Larry Keller, the missing son.
That is the one small change seems to be the catalyst for changes for everyone.
In the Keller family, Joe, the father, is portrayed by Tim Daugherty.   He is the center of this family and play with everyone seeming to rotate around him.   He is masterful and exemplary in this role. Between keeping life simplistic for his wife and attempting to control the rest of the family, he is constantly trying to place people in their proper places, according strictly to his perspectives.
Kate Keller is played by Debbie Bertlesen and Chris by Will Muller.  Both roles are brilliant in revealing the hidden problems of the past affecting their present and future.
In the Deever family, Geana Krajicek plays Ann and Adam Haverman is her brother, George.   Both realize life is unpredictable and are great in attempting to move on and seeking justice as well as love in a cruel world.
Also, the neighbor’s child, Jabe Rounds is great in the role of Bert, learning the role of neighborhood policing by his boss, Joe Keller.   At least in playing, this continues to demonstrate Joe’s need of controlling those around him.
Dr. Jim Baylis is played by Stan Tracy and his wife, Sue, by Rita McKinney.  Frank and Lydia Lubey are played by Conner Mowery and Abigail J. Stoscher.  Each of these characters is great in these roles.
No play is successful without a magnificent “behind the scenes” crew.  Bob Putman is the theater director with Ron Hines directs the show and Tyler Orvis being the producer.
Responsible for the lighting are Darrin Golden and Sam Neff while Dave Podendorf and Jaycee Wetenkamp cover the sound.  With both the designing and building the sets are Bob Putman, Tyler Orvis and Denise Putman.
Rhonda Hall takes care of the props, Dave Podendorf is the stage manager, and Dwayne Ibsen is responsible for the costumes.
The timing for the play is 2 hours and 15 minutes including a fifteen minute intermission after the first act, approximately an hour into the play.  All My Sons is an intense show.
This production of All My Sons continues through this weekend with shows at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday nights and at 2 pm on Sunday.  Costs for tickets is $20 for each adult, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students.   This is a play that a high school student could learn many life lessons, but not likely to be understood by those younger.
To purchase tickets, contact the Chanticleer Box Hours between 9 and noon, call the theater at 712-323–9955 or at chanticleertheater@gmail.com.   The theater is located at. 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs.
Even though set in the postwar 1940s, the underlying issues of justice, ambition, patriotism, integrity, home, capitalism, and even love have a relevance in even 2017.
I am in awe of this cast and crew who emotionally repeatedly tell the story for everyone.
Every adult needs to see this production of All My Sons to better understand people and even to question a little of your own morals and values.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Two Journeys Home

Two Journeys Home
A Novel Of Eighteenth Century Europe
Book 2 - The Derryname Saga
Kevin O’Connell
The Gortculinane Press
Severna, MD
ISBN: 978-0997407617
November 1, 2017
$ 14.99
295 pages

At a little over six-feet tall, long raven hair, intelligent beyond her years and Irish, all describe the beautiful Eileen O’Connell returns to her home in Ireland after spending years in the court of Empress Maria Theresa. Her duties in Austria are as nanny and friends with two of the young princesses, Archduchesses Maria Carolina and Maria Antonia. Part of her task is also to prepare each of them for their royal lives of the future, hopefully queens.
Many years ago, Eileen had been raised in western County Kerry in Ireland. Her family had earned their wealth by investing in illegal commercial maritime trading activities.
After her sixteenth birthday, Eileen’s family had arranged for her to marry a man, over fifty-years her senior. Unsurprisingly, she had hated being his young wife in this arranged situation, but within seven-months of the marriage, she had learned to love and cherish him. His death was a shock to her. The obvious solution for a wealthy young woman of the 1760s in Ireland is to be remarried.
For Eileen, there exists another option.
Her Irish relatives were already thriving in the Hapsburg court under the direction of the Emperor and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Hungary. Her “uncle”, actually her second-cousin who is much older, is a General of the Imperial Armies of Austria and Hungary as well as being The Count Morin O’Connell. Since Ireland at this time was ruled by the English, for any Irish to join the military in their own country, required enlisting in the British army currently occupying their country. For many, especially those of wealth, serving in foreign countries greatly raised their wealth, prestige, knowledge of strategies, and respect of those at home.
About six-years later, after the death of Eileen’s father, she is finally returning. Accompanying her is the General and his new wife, Countess Maria. Von
On this voyage home, she is accompanied by the General and his new wife, Countess Maria von Graffenreit-O’Connell. Eileen has mixed feelings about her home. Is it Vienna with her friend and lover, Major Wolfgang von Klaus or is home Ireland?
She realizes that besides making close friends with the royal family, this had also given her time to heal as she learns of the magnificent lives at the palaces of Hofburg, Schönbrunn and Laxenburg.
Reading the second book in most series, especially if you have not read the first, can be a little difficult. However, Two Journeys Home is easily understandable with much of the first book being reflected upon.
This book begins with Eileen’s journey to Ireland, back to the life in Vienna at court bringing into light the history of the time period after the 7 Years War between France and Austria including Marie Antoinette. This sequel concludes with her second return to Ireland.
There are conflicts, especially within her family and the expectations, as well as religion and culture of the countries and time period. Surprisingly, much of the story seems to fit together as tightly as a puzzle.
Author, Kevin O’Connell has based this Derrynane series on much of his own family history, mixing what could have logically happened into an historical fiction novel. He is a New York City native whose ancestor had been part of the Irish Brigade of the French army during the time of Marie Antoinette. The Derrynane series is expected to include four novels, starting with Beyond Derrynane and the second, Two Journeys Home.
Mr. O’Connell has spent over forty-years in the legal field of international business transactional law throughout the world.
Two Journeys Home is part of a wonderful epic-saga in the past of Ireland, Austria, and France.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Farewell to Ice

A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic
Peter Wadhams
Oxford University Press
New York City, New York
First published in Great Britain by Allen Lane
ISBN: 978-0-19-069115-8
$ 15.95
206 pages

How would you explain climate change to someone who does not believe it is a reality?  How could you prove to anyone of the rising temperatures of the ocean or the melting of the Arctic?
Would they believe someone who has been a polar researcher for forty-seven years and is considered an expert scientist?
Peter Wadhams, who wrote this readable scientific data-driven report for the non-scientist, A Farewell to Ice, is one person no one could disagree with the disappearance of the polar ice.
Wadhams is one of the few people who truly understands the changes since 1970, he has documented the tremendous changes of the Arctic region as a polar researcher.  His descriptions, evidence, pictures, and graphs tell a story of their own that is and should be frightening to every creature on this planet.
Even though everyone needs to see this information, the reader needs a basic understanding of chemistry to fully absorb the concepts.
To take non-fictional scientific reader and turn it into a thriller is a task of a genius.   The book is difficult to leave once you start it.   The author’s knowledge, experiences, and love of this area of the world is exhibited on every page.   Unfortunately, the tale has a grim prognosis for future generations.
Most of us are aware of the melting of the glaciers, Arctic ice, and the tremendous sections of glacier ice that has broken off and floating in the ocean as it melts and raises sea levels.  Additionally, Wadhams explains and documents additional problems such as the release of additional methane into the atmosphere and the effect on each of us.   Also discussed in depth is the importance of radiation from the sun reflecting off the ice and how this has changed in the past half-of-century.
Cambridge University has the distinction of employing Peter Wadhams as Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group in the Department Of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics as well as Professor of Ocean Physics.
A Farewell to Ice is a foretelling of the future by tables, graphs, photographs, and writing that completely engages the knowledge of the ocean.

Walk Shepherdess, Walk

Walk Shepherdess, Walk: A Sing-Along Book
Barrett Cobb-Illustrator and Performer
Dog Ear Publishing
Indianapolis, Indiana
ISBN: 978-1-4575-4893-9
$ 17.98
36 pages

Barrett Cobb’s childhood was filled with literature and songs. As a young child one tune stayed with her, almost as a lilting lullaby.
Eleanor Farjeon wrote both the words and melody which were first published in Nursery Rhymes of London Town in 1916 and adopted by the American Girl Scouts evolving the little tune into a folk song reflecting to the world a different time, place, and culture for most of the world.
As with most folk songs, throughout the years the song has been modified slightly with the tune and alternative words. This book focuses on the original version. The book is based on a basic three-versed four-lined poem. Some of the vocabulary could be difficult depending on the past experiences of the readers. The story was written with sheep wandering through the nearby hills and uses words, not always commonly spoken in today’s city culture. Some words need to be introduced such as shepherdess, ebony, ram, ewe, fleece, wether, and shan’t. The book explains that a wether is a lead sheep which could be compared to the game Follow-the-Leader.
The music is beautifully performed by the author, Barrett Cobb and can be downloaded through the website listed in the book. The melody is an easy tune which quickly can be a haunting selection, staying with you for days. The simplistic tune is sung by Barrett, who has a beautiful, well-trained voice adding accompaniment harmonies, flute and piano into a memorable performance.
Twelve gorgeous watercolor paintings perfectly parallel the story in poem form as the story progressing reinforcing the poetic story.
After a few readings, it is easy for a young prereader or early reader to sing the melody as the pages are turned with the pictures reinforcing the words.
At the conclusion of the tale, a narrative explaining the poem assists in further demonstrating the theme being jealousy and how to appropriately recognize and turn this into a positive life lesson.
Barrett Cobb is a painter, singer, flutist and now a visual storyteller turning a childhood folk song is an enchanting life lesson for everyone.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Salt Creek

Salt Creek
Lucy Treloar
Aardvark Bureau
London, England
ISBN: 97881910709351
Trade Paperback
September 2017
$ 15.95
464 pages

Most of us strive for adventure and riches in fulfilling their dreams of the future.
Hester Finch's grandparents arrived in Australia from England continuing their lives of wealth and status.  Unfortunately, for Hester and her siblings, her father has dreams.  This was life on her mother's side of the family who fell in love with a man who was considered beneath her.   Yes, he wanted the family to maintain the lifestyle they were accustomed to living.
Having already failed at many prospective investments and opportunities, he decides that the family needs to start over.
He chooses a deserted, dry region new Salt Creek in South Australia, uprooting their lives in every aspect with dreams of success and wealth.
For Hester Finch, being the eldest daughter in 1855, many of the household duties fell upon her shoulders as the eldest and most capable female child. Her mother is pregnant and can do longer fulfill these duties due to many pregnancies and aging every year.   A mother of many children can only give birth safely for a limited number of years.  While her older brothers build their house and work in the fields, it is her responsibility to educate her younger siblings, be responsible for their actions, cook, clean, and care for her mother.  
Should any fifteen-year-old be enslaved into an unrewarding never-ending position for possibly the rest of their life?
Socially moving from a successful, wealthy family to becoming a poor and isolated family who is barely surviving is challenging if not depressing to fifteen-year-old Hester.   Her problem is how can any fifteen-year old have hope for a future.  Is this her permanent life?   No hope of love, marriage, children of her own, but just living as the family's devoted slave?  Is this all life has to offer?
The story is seen through Hester's eyes, both in1855 as the family first relocates to Salt Creek and during 1870 with Hester in England reflecting on her past life.
What is fascinating in the book is the role and importance of women throughout Australia 1855 including the issues of the wealthy Brits, the Native culture, the poor white settlers and people of various backgrounds and perspectives.
Multiple realistic issues are woven into these memorable characters of all ages, gender, race giving the novel authenticity since the story is loosely based on the author's ancestral history during this time of immense societal change in Australia.
While having wealthy and independent society women,  abusive relationships, indentured servitudes, obedient and hard-working wives who only wish to please their husbands unquestionably show the contrast in the female lives and the need of having money.
In contrast are the lives of the aborigines who have never had the privilege of money.  These people lived for years off the land and now are losing the few resources for their families to the new white settlers. The problems of land ownership, food sources, and clean water demonstrate constant challenges as well as interracial relationships steeped with prejudices from both sides.
The marriages of the time show multiple changes from marrying for love, to arranged marriages, to forcing a marriage of a family member to pay off debt, being an unwed mother all bring up situations that in some ways are relevant to all time periods.  Added to that is a mixed-race children and forcing another to marry to pay off a debt all reflect the people, place, and time.
Salt Creek is author Lucy Treloar's debut novel based on her family history of her ancestors mixed with the factual history of the region into an enthralling historical fictional novel which was published by Picador in Australia.
Already Salt Creek has been nominated and won several literary awards such as the Indie Award for Best Debut, Miles Franklin Award, The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, and on the long list of nominees for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Salt Creek is a phenomenal tale of change in Australia in the late nineteenth century into an intricately woven tale of a true storyteller.


At some time in your life, you probably have had a time where you went to a special place in an imaginary world where you could, "Be whatever I want to be."  This pretend world is part of growing up and playing with toys.   Stories are part of that world, especially the world of the musical "Cinderella."
Beginning last weekend and continuing through Sunday, Cinderella G2K is showing at the Chanticleer Theater located at 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs.   The legendary tale is told as a musical by talented school-aged children. This is not a school-production, but extremely musical children and young adults who actually pull you into an imaginary time and place by using their natural and trained abilities as competent as any professional.   The exciting part for me is the realization that the actors and actresses live locally in our community.
As Cinderella, Carson Santee is wonderful.   Her voice and acting abilities are phenomenal in this daunting role which every little girl and many adults envy.  Her Prince Charming is Adam Fulbright, whose beautifully charming voice completely enchanted everyone.
The supporting roles of the King played by Connor Mowery, the Queen by Riley Pope, and the Herald by Garrett Pryor and the Godmother by Kira Watson are amazing.   It is difficult to believe that their acting and singing is just local talent.  Each one possesses a marvelous voice and stage presence of any professional.  I am shocked to learn that Riley Pope is only a sophomore in high school with her command of the stage and a gorgeous voice.  Garrett Pryor is also only a high school senior.
As the evil stepmother, Kyla Mittan is masterful.   The step-sisters Zoey Dittmer as Portia and Natalie  Simons as Joy is marvelous combining their musical talents into being hilarious and having fun with their roles.   These two are could easily take over the show as a comedy act.  They are delightful.
Two featured dancers, Haley Cecava and Tianna Hartin-Kovy epitomized the grace and elegance of a magical royal world.
This cast of almost fifty is supported by an amazing ensemble who frequently have short solo roles are all superb with their singing, acting, and dancing.   My only regret is that they can't wear name tags on their costumes to recognize each person individually.
The set itself is amazing.  Elegant is the best word.  Can anyone imagine building a functional background, including a town, Cinderella's home inside and out, and a ballroom which all need to be moved without noise and interference during the play in less than ninety-minutes?
Costuming-phenomenal.   Ibsen Costumes along with Ann Coombs created a magical world for almost fifty-characters with changes.
For this magical tale to happen, the behind-the-scenes activity is responsible for creating the best show possible.  Denise Putman is the director in what has to be an overwhelming and daunting challenge being responsible for the entire production.  Her time and talents are obvious with every elemental detail in this outstanding production.  Ariel Ibsen-Bauer proves to be a masterful choreographer combining the multitude of dancing skill-levels into dances that appear complicated but achievable for every cast member.  Jerry Gray keeps everyone perfectly on the beat and in-tune with his masterful musical direction.   Beth Ruiz is the perfect Stage Manager keeping everything running smoothly.  Bob Putman is superb as the Tech Designer.
Supporting the cast is both the lighting and sound crews.  Darrin Golden is in charge of light design with Hamie Katzenstein as the Light Board Operator..  Operating the spot lights are Maddy Adkins, Madeline Kanu, and Sean Kelley.   Dave Podendorf is the sound designer with Jaycee Wetenkamp operating the sound board.
Additionally, Kathy Gray is  the props designer.
The Chanticleer Board of Directors is wonderful in annually, having a children's theater show to promote the local community young talented individuals.
The Back Stage Crew is instrumental in the show running smoothly.  Beth Ruiz, Kent Ruiz, Cindy Frank, Rob Dittmer, Harrison Sprecher, and Kaitlyn Richardson assisted with this enormous task.
Cinderella is the perfect show for children and adults of all ages.  The Rodgers and Hammerstein music is melodic and easy to remember while also relaying the story.  The actual program is fast' paced and lasts less than ninety minutes with eleven scene changes.
Cinderella continues this weekend with showtimes at 7:30 pm on both Friday and Saturday nights and at 2 pm on Sunday.   Tickets can be obtained by going to the Chanticleer Box Office located at 830 Franklin Avenue in Council Bluffs between the hours of 9 and noon or by calling 712-323-9955, or e-mail at chanticleertheater@gmail.com.  The cost of tickets is $20 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students.
Take a day this weekend with the glorious music of Rodgers and Hammerstein in the magical world of "Cinderella."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Without Fear or Favor

Without Fear or Favor
Robert K. Tanenbaum
Gallery Books
Simon and Schuster, Inc.
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1-4767-9322-1
August 15, 2017
$ 27.00
384 pages

The black community vs. the police is not a new idea in today's social environment.
Tony Cippio is an ideal New York Police Officer who attempts to create positive relationships between the community and law enforcement.   This white policeman enjoys playing basketball with neighborhood teens.
Tyrone Greene is a thirteen-year-old with basketball skills that surpass the officer's successful high school and community college recognition.   Tony sees the possibilities for this talented youngster with dreams of playing professional ball.   Considering how well Tyrone could play with an old over-inflated ball, the teen was thrilled with the gift of a new ball.
Unfortunately the game is witnessed by three black men seated nearby.   As the three approach, Officer Cippio, his partner is still resting  by the car.   First they inform Tony that he is not welcome in this neighborhood and shows his intent by pulling a gun pointing at the poiceman's chest, shooting a bullet both in his chest and head.
This incident begins the reign of the black terrorist movement in New York by their leader Nat X propelling animosity between law enforcement and the black community.
Although personal prejudices greatly influence their perceptions of reality, the truth seems more difficult to uncover.
Robert Tanenbaum is an extremely successful trial lawyer who has never lost a felony case.  He has been Chief Council to the Congressional Committee investigations into the death of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as being the Bureau Chief of the New York Criminal Courts, worked with the Homicide Bureau for the New York District Attorney's Office as well as teaching at the University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law.
Encompassing the issues of black vs. white, homelessness, justice, reputations , survival skills, threats, lifestyles, and right vs. doing what is best for your family and yourself.
Without Fear or Favor is the 29th book in Tanenbaum's Butch Karp/ Marlene Ciampi thriller series. With superb characterization, non-stop action, and realistic present day problems and social challenges, Without Fear or Favor is an enthralling experience keeping the reader completely engaged to the last word.

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 chanticleertheater@gmail.com.
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, "...in 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.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Gertrude and Toby

Gertrude and Toby Save the Gingerbread Man
Book 2 in the Gertrude and Toby Fairy-Tale Adventure Series
ISBN: 978-1-9969679-4-5
Gertrude and Toby Meet the Wolf
Book 3 in the Gertrude and Toby Fairy-Tale Adventure Series
ISBN: 978-0-9969679-7-6
Author: Shari Tharp
Illustrator: Jim Heath
Atlas Publishing
Solana Beach, California
$ 16.99
48 pages

Gertrude is a goat and Toby is a turtle who are best friends and live at McFarland Farms.
They are in the farmyard observing Farmer Sam and his son, Ryan trying to load their prize pig into a trailer to show at the county fair.
Anxious for adventure, Gertrude and Toby decided to follow Farmer Sam, his son, and the pig.
As they were walking, they noticed a flying carpet that seemed to be following them.   Almost immediately a girl and boy leaped onto the carpet while being chased by a witch.
Curious, Gertrude tossed Toby onto her back in pursuit of the children.
Surprisingly this how Gertrude and Toby meet Hansel, Gretel, and the Magic Carpet including additional visits from The Gingerbread and The Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk.
If Gertrude and Toby Meet the Wolf, the two friends sneak off the farm every Friday while the farmer is shopping.
This time the two decide to go fishing. 
As they near Trout Lake, a boy rushes by screaming, "Wolf."
Quickly they hide in the nearby bushes for safety.
As they continue, the boy runs by again screaming.
After he passes, the twosome walk to the lake, enjoying their fishing.
Again they are interrupted when the boy shouts again only, this time Gertrude and Toby see the wolf dragging the boy.
That is when they decide to help.
They followed the wolf to his cave which is very brave for a goat and a turtle.
In Gertrude and Toby Meet the Wolf, the story intermixes The Boy Who Cried Wolf along with The Three Little Pigs.
Author Shari Tharp won a silver medal from  IPPY, Independent Publishers Book Award for the first book in this series as an illustrated e-book with Gertrude and Toby's Friday Adventure.
Illustrator Jim Heath is a graphic artist and California resident.
The Gertrude and Toby books are for children from preschool to age eight who have a little background with the traditional fairy tales.   The books are fun with vocabulary appropriate for the age level and the illustrations perfectly matching the text.
These are great books for expanding imaginations with young children and a creative step-off point into having the readers write and illustrate their own Gertrude and Toby fairy-tale adventure.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Brooklyn Graves

Brooklyn Graves
An Erica Donato Mystery
Triss Stein
A Worldwide Mystery
First Published by Poisoned Pen
ISBN: 978-0-373-28403-3
Mass Market Paperback
$ 7.99
280 pages

Who would steal a window from a family mausoleum?
Even more perplexing, why would the management attempt to cover it up and not report the problem to law enforcement?
Erica Donato has a busy life.  She is completing her doctoral project, a single parent of a teenaged daughter, and working part time at the Brooklyn Historical Museum at a job that is one-step above an intern.  Erica is to complete any task assigned to her at the museum.
Her newest project is to assist in an assessment of old letters and sketches long-ago forgotten in an attic.  These appear to be related to the company, Tiffany. 
Dr. Thomas Flint is a Tiffany expert.  She is to assist on escorting him to a mausoleum.  
As the rainstorm is subsiding, the two enter the cemetery only to be told of its closure.   Through the sloppiness of recent rain, the two arrive at the neglected Konick Mausoleum.  Although the damage seems to be more damaged by humans than nature,  
Erica is in awe at the inside of the museum in viewing a window made by Tiffany.  Even knowing of the Tiffany reputation, actually seeing the beauty of the glass reaches beyond her wildest expectation.
Now Erica has another challenge, her daughter's long-time friend, Dima is shot with his body left in front of his home.  The family has been close to Erica for years.  Why was he killed?
Brooklyn Graves is the second book in the Erica Donato series but can easily be read and understood without having read the first book.  Book One is entitled, Brooklyn Bones, book three is Brooklyn Secrets and the fourth books, Brooklyn Wars will be released in August.
Brooklyn Graves is a fascinating and engaging novel as the reader accompanies Erica with her entire investigation and attempting to discover who killed Dima while still learning about the phenomenal Tiffany art, especially in windows.
Brooklyn Graves perfectly balances history of the Tiffany windows into a fictional and engaging story interwoven masterfully.

Out of the Black

Out of the Black
John Rector
Thomas & Mercer
Las Vegas, Nevada
ISBN: 9781477805046
$ 14.95
235 pages

Money can make people desperate.   For Matt Caine, the is exactly his life now, desperate.
Matt's wife died in a car accident.  His wife survived, but his daughter was permanently damaged requiring much rehabilitation and therapy.  
Unfortunately, providing for Anna's special needs now requires this time and money.   Another disadvantage is that now this single-parent has the challenge of also providing for his daughter and his night.  Most businesses are not very understanding.
An old friend is now meeting with Matt, offering him a solution.    
Jay believes an acquaintance of his has money.  So now he has developed a scheme.   He just needs Matt's help for it to be possible to solve both of their problems.
Added to his problem, Matt borrowed money to pay for Beth's funeral and his daughter's hospitalization and care.  However, the mobster that he borrowed the money from, now wants it paid back. 
His old time friend, Jay, is just out of jail.   Matt also spent time in prison, but now hopes to rebuild his life now into a successful life where he can live comfortably with his daughter.
Matt has another problem.   He is unemployed.  His wife's parents have what he needs, time and money.   They are extremely willing to care for Anna while he looks for another job.  Their hope is that this is temporary, just until he gets on his feet.
Matt agrees to Jay's plan which involves kidnapping his wife.  Naturally, the scheme doesn't quite work as expected and what begins as one small change, ends in disaster.
What happens when you are in trouble way to deep, and there is no solution now?
John Rector lives in Omaha, Nebraska.   His book Already Gone was nominated for the 2012 International Thriller Award.  His novels Lost Thing, The Grove, The Cold Kiss, The Ruthless, and recently released The Ridge are all best sellers.
Out of the Black catches the reader on the first page and does not release you until long after the book is finished.  The problem of having no easy solution to the problem, without swallowing your self-respect by giving in to his former in-laws.  They mean well but it 's hard to lose your pride.
The story is compelling, well-written and perfectly organized with characters that are very human in just looking for a better life.
All adults would enjoy this book.  Even though dark in tone, there is a part of each of us that can easily relate to Matt's situation.
Read Out of the Black for a fast-paced and memorable novel.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Midwife's Sister

The Midwife's Sister: The Story of Jennifer Worth by her Sister
Christine Lee
Pan Books
Pan Macmillan Publishers
London, England
ISBN: 978-1-4472-8264-8
$ 14.95
341 pages with additional photographs

Christine Lee is the sister of Jennifer Lee Worth who is the author of Call the Midwife series.   Her perspective on their lives is quite different from her sister's viewpoint.
Jennifer is three years older than her sister, Christine.  The two had a close relationship in their early years, relying on each other for companionship. 
While their father was daily working, their mother was not nurturing, and for Christine, Jennifer was her big sister/mother.
Much of the novel regards their childhood, which privileged, was problematic with their mother suffering from a stroke when she arrived home early one day to discover her father with his secretary in their bed.
The girls' lives spun into turmoil as their parents split and their father remarried which eventually causes the sisters to be separated.
Christine states their lives as being middle-class.  However, the girls were sent to boarding school and had servants in the home.  Money did not seem to be a concern.
Although the book is subtitled, The Story of Call the Midwife's Jennifer Lee Worth, the story is as actually more about Christine with most of the pictures about her life and including her art when she met the queen, not about Jennifer.
I also felt that very little was written about her "midwife" time and much about Jennifer's isolation from her sister.
An issue I have with the book was that it was written and published until after her sister's death.   It is not fair to Jennifer to have her life revealed strictly from Christine's perspective.
Besides the misleading title, the book is a reflection of Christine Lee as the little sister of the author and creator of the "Call the Midwife" series.  
The story reads quickly but concentrates more on Christine's marriages, children, and life rather than Jennifer's.
Who would enjoy the book?  
Call the Midwife fans are the obvious audience but would be disappointed in that the relationships are not at all like the series.
People who begin to read the book without the expectation of revealing the Jennifer Lee Worth story can enjoy the story of Christine Lee, artist.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I Wasn't Invited to the Party

I Wasn't Invited to the Party
Author: Susanna Kern
Illustrator: Adolfo Serra
Consortium Book Sales
ISBN: 978-84-944446-4-7
$ 16.95
32 pages

"You can't always go to all the parties.  But this doesn't mean that we should be sad, and we shouldn't enjoy ourselves."
For all children, a birthday party is exciting.   When the invitations are delivered to each person in a class at school, the anticipation of each child is thrilling.  
However, what if one child is left out. 
Mark is not invited to the party.
The afternoon of the party, he goes into the park, but it appears vacated, even the birds are gone.
Surprisingly, Mark discovers two of his classmates also in the park who were not invited to the party.  Yuna and Adrian begin to climb a tree with Mark.
From their high perch, they quickly view the nearby sea which is rising rapidly around nearby buildings.
As the water levels increase, it becomes so deep that a whale who is wearing a tiny hat maneuvers itself to the tree.   He quickly offers the threesome a ride while picking up other children who were not invited to the party as they journey through the water.
The whale transports the children to a village in the clouds on a tall mountain.
The residents are animals dressed in clothes, wearing shoes, glasses, and watches.  These creatures are having a celebration since they were not invited to the ostrich's birthday party.
The children had so much fun that they had completely forgotten about the birthday party.
As night falls, the whale whistles to return the children to their homes.
Imagination is a wonderful thing.
Author Susanna Isern is a writer and child psychologist whose books have been translated into many languages.  She was awarded the Silver Medal in the Moonbeam Children's Books in 2013.
The illustrator, Adolfo Serra has won numerous awards for his beautiful illustrations.
Everyone is left out sometime in their life.   Making the best of any situation is the most positive and learning how to make lemonade when life gives you lemons.
I Wasn't Invited to the Birthday Party is for children from preschool to at least second grade, or older if exclusions are causing problems for children.   This book could easily be a fast read aloud in any elementary school classroom and continue with both journal writing and discussions.
The illustrations wonderfully match the text enhancing the story as it progresses making this an enjoyable book that can be read multiple times.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Racing the Devil

Racing the Devil
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery
Charles Todd
William Morrow
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-238621-2
$ 26.99
341 pages

Wartime comrades frequently form unusual alliances.   Former rivals can become lasting friends through bonding over life/death experiences of any war. 
It was June of 1916 when a group of seven English officers who while sharing could be their final drink, they discovered that all of them had lived within one-hundred miles of each other in southern England with each of them being very passionate with motorcars.
Realizing that this could their last relaxing drink before returning to the Front to fight the Germans, these men agree to a challenge if they survive the war.  
The agreement is for each of the men to meet in Paris one-year after the war ends and to each bring a vehicle to race all the way to Nice, whether their car is a racer of not.
The race occurs with only the five survivors and becomes dangerous as the drivers approach Nice with one accident, severely injuring the former officer and another vehicle almost pushed off the road.
One year after the race another death occurred of a clergyman who died in an accident.   It appears that someone hit his car while pushing it off the road while he was driving.
How does this connect to the racers?   The owner of the car was one of the officers.
Inspector Ian Rutledge represents Scotland Yard in investigating the clergyman's death.   Unfortunately, the community seems to have many secrets that they are extremely reluctant to share with law enforcement.
Will he be able to solve this case and to prevent others from dying?
The secrets of two villages complicate Rutledge's investigation with two completely different personalities.   These small towns are close regarding proximity but one is completely separate, even isolated due to the lack of transportation in 1920, and both are fighting for jurisdiction and not thrilled about Scotland Yard's involvement.
Charles Todd is the combined named of a mother-son writing team of Caroline Todd and her son, Charles. 
The two are well known for their series of novels directly after World War I with protagonists Inspector Ian Rutledge, Bess Crawford, and Hamish MacLeod winning multiple mystery novel awards throughout the years.
Racing the Devil is an extraordinary adventure transporting every reader into the post-war years following the World War 1.

Desperate Housedogs

Desperate Housedogs
A Pampered Pets Mystery - Book One
Sparkle Abbey
Bell Bridge Books
Memphis, Tennessee
ISBN: 978-1-61194-050-3
$ 12.95
192 pages

Being a pet psychologist has to be a challenge.   One must depend on behavior rather than a common language to communicate.   Even though animals are known to talk, you have to understand them to translate.
For Caro Lamont, this is her career.   Previously she lost her license to work with humans caused by her husband and ending in divorce.
Caro moved on to another place in an exclusive area in southern California, Laguna Beach; she now deals with slightly different clients, the non-human kind.  This community has more dog residents than children.
Her first client of the day is Kevin Blackstone who is having difficulties with his two German Shepherds.   They are upset and overly excitable, refusing to calm.
Two hours after her visit, Kevin is dead.  Caro knows that she is not the killer being he was alive when she left.
What about the shifty gardener who observed her?   Why was he not working and watching?  Why don't the dogs like this man?
If you are not certain if the police will clear your name as a person of interest, politically correct way of saying suspect, what do you do?
Sparkle Abbey is the combined work of two central Iowa authors both being owned by their pets. Mary Lee Woods writes for her cat, Sparkle.  Anita Carter is commanded by her dog, Abbey.
Desperate Housedogs aims for a female audience of light, cozy mystery readers.   The book is simplistic in form and organization while establishing the characters for many future books in this first book of the series.
Desperate Housedogs is fun to read while in pursuit of a murderer and to have to deal with a close-knit community including gossip and running a small business while maintaining personal relationships.
Does anyone lose business if they are a person of interest in a murder?
Why does the police, even a handsome officer, insist that Caro stay out of the investigation when she has more relationships and access to the real suspects?   Why can't they trust her?
I thoroughly recommend Desperate Housedogs to any reader who enjoys a fun, fast-paced, light mystery.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Midnight Watch

The Midnight Watch
David Dyer
St. Martin's Press
New York, New York
First Published in Australia
ISBN: 9781250080936
$ 26.99
323 pages

"The midnight watch: a time of loneliness, demons, and trances".
The night the Titanic sunk, April 14th, 1912,  was also the same night that the closest ship, the Californian had difficulty itself fighting the constant enclosing ice and avoiding icebergs.
During the midnight watch on the Californian, a distress call was sent to them by the Titanic.   The Californian's captain,  Captain Lord, chose to ignore all communications including lanterns using Morse Code, telegraph communications, and the sight of eight white rockets from the sinking Titanic.
The rescued survivors of the Titanic in the rowboats actually could see the Californian in the distance and expected them to save them and those in the frozen ocean.
Fortunately for those in who were rescues, another ship, the Carpathian was further from the Titanic and collected those lucky survivors.
Unfortunately, thousands died in the ocean while hoping the nearby ship; the Carpathian would rescue them quickly.
However, the Carpathian did not come to their aid.
Eventually, communication between Carpathian and the Californian was established with directions for the Californian to search for bodies.   For some reason, the Californian found none, of course, the location they supposedly looked was not correct.
The Midnight Watch is based on the investigation both in the United States and England regarding the role of the Carpathian and the choices made by Captain Lord.  
Lord's crew was torn between honesty and loyalty.    On shipboard, everyone is expected to follow the captain through all situations even when he is either wrong or lying.   For many of the crew, this conflicted with their values of honesty and the rules of the sea with loyalty to their captain.
The Midnight Watch is the fascinating story from various perspectives of the actual historical events.   Viewing the disaster from different people in varying roles allows the reader to decide whether or not they agree with the final decisions.
Even with the disastrous event happening more than one-hundred years ago, The Midnight Watch is an investigative mystery into the past.
The author, David Dyer, writes what he knows best.  Having worked on various types of merchant vessels, and graduating from the Australian Maritime College, he worked as a lawyer at a London legal firm whose parent company represented the Titanic's owners in 1912.  Currently, he is employed as an English literature in Sydney.
Dyer has created an utterly enthralling journey in the Titanic's disastrous past.

If You Were Me and Lived in...The Ancient Mali Empire, Ancient China Han Dynasty, The Mayan Empire

If You Were Me and Lived in... The Ancient Mali Empire
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
ISBN: 978-1540337276
78 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient China Han Dynasty
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
ISBN: 978-1532875243
76 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in...The Mayan Empire
Illustrator: Paula Tabor
ISBN: 978-1535046213
64 pages
Author: Carole P. Roman
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Carolina
$ 16.99

If You Were Me and Lived in the Ancient Mali Empire begins in the year of 1322 and covered much of the area of Western Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sahara Desert including the current area of western Sudan.  
Reflecting on both the time and the area is a typical Islamic family including a father with many wives.  For this particular family, there is a total of seventeen siblings with the perspective from a favored daughter.
Essential to both the time and area were the trade routes uniting Asia and Africa in their exchange of gold, salt, silk, and slaves.
If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient China was about life in the year 150 A.D. and life in China about two thousand years ago.  The Han dynasty of this time is considered to be the Golden Age of Ancient China with people reading and writing literature and poetry as well as the creation of porcelain china.
Life here was very involved with The Silk Road connecting cities throughout all of China creating the new positions of merchants.
 The development of the entire silk industry began at this time, explaining how silk is made starting with the moth, with the worms feeding all the mulberry bushes, worms spinning cocoons, killing the moths, and spinning their silk into threads.  This process made many people wealthy and was a secret which if revealed was punishable by death.
If You Were Me and Lived in the Mayan Empire takes occurs in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico about 1500 years ago.    These people are the only ancient American society that wrote of their history that prospered by establishing trade routes.
These Mayans were attractive if their heads had been flattened from birth and crossed eyes.  The idea was to resemble an ear of corn.   A jewel was tied between the boards around the head to cross the eyes.
Included with this book are the many contributions these people gave to the world that were foundations of today's modern society throughout the world.
Each book has its glossary regarding the book including pronunciations and definitions for their particular time and place.
All three of these books are outstanding in enriching readers of all ages of individuals living in different times and venues with a multitude of various experiences unique to their culture.
The only way any of us can be more accepting of others from other places is to be educated in their way of life and to discover their lives are not so different from our own.

The Bitter Season

The Bitter Season
Tami Hoag
Penguin Random House
New York, New York
ISBN: 9780451470072
Mass Market Paperback
$ 9.99
480 pages

Supposedly change is good for us, but unfortunately we do not always adjust as well as we could, or should even if it our choice to change.
Detective Nikki Liska has this problem.   She chose to leave homicide due to the long and unpredictable hours which are difficult for a single-parent of two teenaged boys.
This was her choice.
Now she is a part of the newly formed cold case unit in Minneapolis.   Now she has predictable hours, at least that is what she believes entering this position.
Each member of this team is going through the extensive files of cold cases, choosing what case they can successfully solve.  With newness, each member is acutely aware of the need for success in order to continue and be of value to the force and to the taxpayers.
The selected case is the murder of a police officer, Ted Duffy which happened twenty-years ago.   If the police could not solve it in all those years, why would the cold case unit now be able to find new information?  Nikki is not pleased with this decision.
Strangely, Nikki quickly discovers that Ted's widow married his twin brother.   Also the former investigating detective seems to want to be too involved with this new investigation.
Her former partner, Kovac, who is still in homicide is trying to find a new partner.   That is not easy for an experienced detective accustomed to his own procedures. 
His newest case is the brutal murder of a college professor of East Asian history and his wife.   The killer had used a samarai sword and nunjucks.
The professor was due at an interview that morning to become head of his department.  Would anyone kill over a promotion?
The pace of these two alternating storylines creates the perfect  page-turner with characters thoroughly developed with complex relationships complicated with both their personal and professional lives.
California resident, Tammy Hoag, is the best-selling authors of more than thirty books published into over forty million copies of their books translated into more than thirty languages.
The Bitter Season is a fast-paced novel the 480 pages go by.  This book is enthrallingly addictive as you accompany the converging investigations combining past and the present.
Who would best enjoy this mystery?   Any adult reader who delights in a well-plotted and organized story that is a complete distraction from a busy life would be entirely engrossed in this complex real-life novel.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rogue Wolf

Rogue Wolf
Book Three of The Oldenglen Chronicles
Robin Mason
Tricklewood Press
Brooklyn, Ontario
ISBN: 978-0-9948371-6-5
Trade Paperback
384 pages

Oldenglen  is a special place near Jax’s home in southern Oregon. Having his life uprooted from life in England was difficult for him. However, school wasn’t his salvation, but the magical relationship he discovered with this unique forest and the creatures who live within as well as the trust and friendship with each other.
Keeping the area protected is always a constant challenge. With the ever-expanding new housing developments for humans threatening the natural habitats of the wild creatures while keeping the balance of nature between the expanding population of people and nature.
Balances within Oldenglen are also difficult to maintain. Providing food for all creatures requires just the correct proportion between predators and prey. Too many prey demands massive amounts of plants and small creatures, while predators must depend on an abundance of prey, otherwise they starve.
Oldenglen now is facing two challenges.
The first involves some new visitors, eleven wolves. The problem is that this area of the glen cannot possibly feed that many without decimating the population of the prey animals.How does anyone convince the wolves to leave the area? How many creatures will be food for this pack?With their needs for food, the local ranchers raising sheep and cows are fearful for the survival of their herds. They see the only solution is to have the wolves killed.
Another problem bothering Jax and Sarah is the existence of two nearby poachers who are renting from Sarah’s grandfather. Can they possibly save the young eagle that was captured?
Rogue Wolf is the third book in this projected five book series. This Oldenglen series should be read in order. Minimally, all readers need to read the first book, Oldenglen to understand the characters and their relationships and history individually and with each other.
Oldenglen, the first book in the series has been the recipient of many awards including a Silver Medal at the 2016 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards for The Bill Fisher Award for the Best First Book: Children’s Young Adult, and Second Place in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2015/2016 for ages 12-16.
Book Two, Lone Wolf also won numerous awards. It was a Red Ribbon Winner in The Wishing Shelf Book, a finalist in the 2016 Foreward Indies for Juvenile Fiction, a Silver Medalist in the 2017 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards for Young Readers, and an Honorable Mention in the Readers Views Literary Awards 2016/2017.
In all these books, including this one, all the characters are believable and realistic including the animals which stay true to the creature and have personalities while magically communicating with Jax.
With the theme of balance, friendship, and anti-bullying, the pace is quick with the reader wanting more with their cliff-hanging chapter ends and the book truly expressing the harmony of nature.
Even the cover is beautifully illustrated by artist, Chris Beatrice.
The Oldenglen series was begun by author Robin Mason and his father, Michael Mason. Robin completed books two and three completely by himself. Robin was born in England but spent considerable time in his childhood exploring an estate in British Columbia while his father read to him numerous books including The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Wind in the Willows, The Hobbit, and The Lord of The Rings trilogy.
This book is recommended for children from ages eight to twelve. Personally, I would find this book challenging for an eight-year old to read independently and believe this age level would thoroughly enjoy it as a read-aloud.
I also recommend this book be extended to readers through high school. In actuality readers of all ages, adult and children would completely enjoy Rogue Wolf.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Spirit of Want

The Spirit of Want
William H. Cole
Story in Literary Fiction
Salt Lake City, Utah
Third edition
ISBN: 978-0-9976729-9-2
September 2016
$ 2.99
302 pages

The year is 1984. Widower, Dr. Luke Osborn works as an eye doctor specializing in retinal surgery for the new Eye Institute. For a new doctor it is a privilege to be apart of mingling with the ultra-rich whose generous donations created this new facility, but Luke feels that he does not belong. He has never possessed that much money or lived twitch extravagance.

This new institute is A. J. MacNeil’s dream project as the institute’s leader. Naturally at this event, his wife, Agnes as well as his grown daughters, Lucy and Elizabeth astute do. Strangely the two daughters are very different. Lucy is a lawyer who is dark, slim, drunk, and angry. Contrastly, Elizabeth, a teacher, is fair colored, a little overweight, sober, and pleasant.

One of his first conversations with Lucy had her complaining about eye surgery, “It’s not just mistakes that piss me off, it’s the coverups.” Would you want to converse with her if you operated on eyes?

At the party, Luke is offered the position of being the director of clinical research. He is hesitant with accepting this position since he views himself as a surgeon, not an administrator.

As he leaves the party, Luke does have a shock. His vehicle is stripped. Tires, wheels, bumpers, mirrors, and radio are all missing. How will he get to his home, which is two and a half hours away?

Lucy agrees to drive him home. She is somewhat drunk and drives her expensive sports car erratically and way too fast. They swerve to miss a dog, hit a bump and colliding with a tree. Luke and Lucy looked for whatever caused the bump, but do not find anything.

The next day, a woman’s body is found. She happens to be a judge’s wife. Since she died of blunt trauma. Since the police were not called, the logical conclusion is than Lucy was likely drunk and is being charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Lucy needs Luke to convince the grand jury that she was not intoxicated as she drove to Luke’s. This is how their relationship begins and quickly evolves into the two being married privately by a justice of the peace. Did she marry him for love or to control his testimony? Or is Luke marrying the boss’s daughter for his career advancement?

Luke comes from a family where his father was domineering, his mother was passive and he has five siblings. He is a little skeptical in beginning this relationship since his first wife killed herself. However, he allows Lucy to quickly take the lead in their marriage.

As a lawyer, Lucy is placed on a case of defending a television evangelist of the Apostolic Church of Christ accused of rape of a minor. Hower Bain is on video surveillance of being alone with the girl. How can anyone defend him?

Hower is separated from his wife, son, and daughter. He states that this is because of their faith differences. Could it be that he is unfaithful?

This case requires Lucy to travel and to spend much time away from Luke.
Lucy does become pregnant and gives birth to Jennifer prematurely, weighing less than three pounds. With two highly regarded professional careers, they decide to hire a nanny to care for their daughter.

However, taking care of Hower Bain seems to be more of a time commitment than a newborn. He is demanding, rebellious, establishing his own rules that are not helpful, such as against his lawyer’s advice, giving a five minute television interview. Or is more going on with her commitment to the case?

Luke has his own challenges. Sandra Perez has been dismissed as a fellow. Luke’s colleague, Modesto Sanchez, had been ordered to give her a poor evaluation. Apparently, Sandra had witnessed Luke’s father-in-law, A.J. causing harm to a patient, completely blinding him, by performing surgery on the wrong eye. He believes Sandra. How does anyone confront his boss and father-in-law who demands loyalty, even if he is in the wrong?

The Spirit of Want is an event-driven account of Lucy and Luke. The pace is extremely fast with the book covering several years. A hidden gem within the story is the artwork reflecting the story created by Betty Harper.

Do some people use others only as long as they receive benefit from the relationship? How do you go on whether you are the giver or the taker? Or could each of us be both at the same time or does it depend on each relationship?

As a former ophthalmic surgeon, he understands his topic. This resident of Salt Lake City, Utah has won numerous awards and nominations in the Sandhill Writers Competition, The SEAK Competition, The William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, and The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.

Read The Spirit of Want for the answers.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Anna Borgeryd
Translator from Swedish: Cindy Kite
New Internationalist
Oxford, U.K.
ISBN: 978-1-78026-235-2
2016 English
2013 Swedish
512 pages

'You have to want to change. And that doesn't have anything to do with me. Nobody else can change you-it's something you have to want to change."
Peter has a problem.  A truthful impression about him is, "Good-for-nothing without direction and 'a bit of a reputation,'" perfectly describes him.  He is spending part of his summer teaching a beginning economics class since his father will not give him money unless he is working at his father's office doing currency hedging.  This seems like the perfect temporary solution to avoid his a domineering parent.
He is not focused on school, enjoys partying, women, as long as he can stay in his father's good graces.
Peter's favorite book is The Game educating the nerdy male about females.   Getting the girl drinking is part of the book's first step towards success.
Vera, at the age of thirty, is returning to Sweden after volunteering her services and skills as a nurse in Columbia. Unfortunately, she returns to her home with a knee injury causing her tremendous pain and difficulty in walking.
From her experiences, she now views the world slightly differently and realizes the importance of economics in health care.  Does your health insurance determine your level of care?   Does economics determine your personal health care everywhere in the world?  Vera's perspective globally connects the two as she now pursues university classes in this new field.
Vera has Peter as one of her first instructors, pushing, questioning, and challenging the basics.   With his inexperience he resents her smudged glasses, clumsiness and overall grayness of her appearance.  However there is something attracting him to this odd elf-like creature?   This is not Peter's usual type of woman.  He prefers more flash and color.
Integrity is phenomenal with taking an event, being with either Peter or Vera and understanding their prejudices and logical decisions. Depending on the sounds and limited visual witnessing, frequently conclusions lead to erroneous conclusions.   Do all of us tend to do the same thing?
One aspect of the book is the discussion about the indigenous Kogi people living on Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria in northern Columbia which happens to be the world's largest coastal mountain contains all the climates of the world in a few thousand square kilometers.  These people who live as the time before Christopher Columbus is their isolated agricultural village always moving upwards as more people inhabit aged the area.
Integrity educates the reader into the realistic world of economics throughout the story that is completely enthralling.  By including the financial managers who are irresponsible but exude arrogance along with an access of ambition, our global situation is approaching a critical impass incorporating poverty, welfare, disease, women's inequality, climate change and prejudice while intermixing romance.  This is masterful from both the author and translator to so smoothly incorporate into the story.
This is a phenomenal novel intertwining numerous subjects into a wonderful journey for all adult readers.

Monday, April 3, 2017


"If you aren't against all this, you are for it."
Life in the early 1930s was changing quickly for the residents of Berlin, Germany.  After losing the "War to End All Wars," the hope of a "new" Germany invigorated the people especially with the creation of the Nazi party.
For those employed in the Kit Kat Klub, life is a little risque, even seedy for those surviving in a very tight economy by any way they can.  Here all the LGBT men and women, life can be enjoyable with the support of each other while being "tacky, terrible and everyone having a good time."
"We have no troubles here.  Here life is beautiful."
As the Master of Ceremonies, Emcee, Jon Flower embraces the sliminess of his character.   He hypnotically commands the stage in demanding the attention and affection of the audience through his delightful singing and dancing, even in disguise.
Ryan Eberhart is the gullible American, Clifford Bradshaw, a would-be novelist.  He is almost destitute, lonely and has a personal secret.  Ryan is perfect in this role. Magnetically, each audience member accompanies him naively into the world of the Cabaret.
As the seductive Sally Bowles, Madison Hoge is phenomenal.  She sings, dances, and commands the stage in her mesmerizing role always confident even when a situation would be overwhelming.
The Kit Kat Girls are humorously breathtaking, each with their unique personality.   Lauren Anderson, Michelle Adkins, Nadia Williams, Brenda Smrdel, and Tessie Flower are all great dancers, singers, and performers.   Katie Miller as Kit Kat Girl-Kost is marvelous.  Between her humorous preference for sailors and her gorgeous songs, she is unquestionably a masterful artist.
Fraulein Schnieder, portrayed by Therese Rennels is superb in her role as the lonely spinster running a boarding house.  Sam Bass as Herr Schultz has an incredible singing voice and pulls on the heart-strings in his pursuit of marrying Fraulein Schnieder.
However, Herr Schultz is Jewish.  With the current political influences in Germany, a Jew is not considered German even if they are German-born.  Will they marry?
In the role of the antagonist is Karl Rohling as Ernst Ludwig.  His character is to have the innocent Clifford do his dirty work of smuggling.  Karl is phenomenal in this role, even his accent somehow has an undercurrent of danger.
I love the Kit Kat Boys who expertly sing, act, and dance.  Tyler Kliegl, Tony Schneider, Jorge Ambriz, Luke Glaser, Matthew Hansen who also makes a fantastic female gorilla and Tyler Roberts who also plays his violin beautifully.
This orchestra is superb.  Jerry Brabec is the musical director and also plays the keyboard.  Playing trumpet is Curtis Pelster or Joel Edwards, the trombone is Noel Johnson, woodwinds is Stan Harper or Willie Karph, drums is Ben Sampson, and on bass is Tom Miller.  Their music is so integral to the play that the orchestra almost seems to have its personality.
The songs are outstanding with superbly energetic choreography that makes this a top-notch professional performance.   Debbie Massey-Schneweis is phenomenal in working with the performers and planning these incredibly complex and creative dancing.
One of my favorite song is "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" with the song beginning with just on beautifully clear tenor voice and the other men joining in mesmorizing harmonies.  Ironically though, this song is a symbol of the Nazi party.
This adult musical has Gary Bosanek as the director and Tyler Ovis and Denise Putman as co-producers.  Practical sets encompassing six different scenes with minimal transitions are designed and constructed by Joey Lorincz with other builders, Denise Putman and Mati Phelps.
Cathy Bass portrays both Frau Gunnel and a club patron.
For any successful show, there are numerous people in the crew.  Kim Alger is stage manager with Johnnie Richards being the assistant and Rhonda Hall in charge of props. 
Also in the area of choreography, Tony Schneider is the fight choreography and Matt Hansen, the dance captain.
Mati Phelps as the dialect coach made each character believable as speaking German or being British.
In charge of the sound design Dave Podendorf.  Occassionally, the orchestra overpowers the singers but that also depends on the acoustics of the room and where you sit.  Balancing all those individual microphones for each character has to be a daunting task.
Darrin Golden is masterful at the light design with Mati Phelps and Riley Pope working additionally with the spotlights and light board.
The costumes were supplied by Dwayne Ibsen of Ibsen Costume Gallery.
What was almost unusual in this musical was the use of silence.  Those few seconds have an extremely powerful message.
The first part of the show lasts about ninety-minutes followed by a fifteen-minute intermission and concluding with an additional forty-five minutes.
The show concludes this weekend with curtain times of 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.  Tickets cost $ 20 for adults, $ 16 for seniors over the age of sixty, and $ 10 for students. Call the box office at (712) 323-9955 for tickets.
I strongly suggest the you arrive early as with this large cast and crew, parking can be a challenge.
Cabaret is an intense musical about change.  Some changes are our choices, but they have consequences that can be either positive or negative.  Some changes are beyond our control.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tightening the Threads

Tightening the Thread
A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery
Lea Wait
Kensington Publishing Corporation
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1-4967-0628-7
$ 7.99
301 pages

A true friend is there when you need them.
Sarah Byrne is in a situation where she needs the friendship of Angie Curtis.   The two have discovered their mutual love of antiques and needlepoint.
Sarah recently found her real heritage.  Since a single-mother in Australia raised her, she valued her short time with her.  When her mother died, she moved in with her grandmother in England.   It was wonderful for her to be in a loving relationship again.  Fortunately, her grandmother also shared the information leading her to her silent father in Maine.  This was the first time his identity was revealed to her.
Her plan was to again move to another continent to meet her father.
Unfortunately, he died just months earlier.
Sarah discovered a love for her new home, Haven Harbor, Maine and decided to open her antique business in her new home, the home of her father. 
How does anyone inform the surviving members that she is also part of the family?
Finding her uncle without revealing her true identity was difficult, but Ted Lawrence quickly figured out her true identity.  Ted wisely insisted on a DNA test as proof for the rest of his family.  This wasn't for either Ted or Sarah but the expected disbelief and doubt from Ted's children.
Ted has cancer and knows that he does not have long to live.   He has called his children together.  Ted plans a family reunion including each of his three children's families.  His hope is to mend fences, reveal then new relative and to discuss his intended changes to the will.   His expectations quickly become an impossible task. 
Ted's father, Robert Lawrence had been an outstanding artist. Teaching many of the techniques to Ted as he grew.  Ted is now a reputable artist but will never be the legend of his father.
Sarah is apprehensive about meeting Ted's three grown children.   She knows that the do not get along and their lives take them in varying directions.  For support, her friend Angie agrees to go along and assist in any way she can.  So how would you react to a new will that is now going to include a new cousin?   Apparently, this means that each of them will now receive less inheritance.
Surprisingly Ted dies from possibly eating a bad clam.   Did one of his children purposely give him a clam from a restricted area?   Did Ted complete the new will?   What will happen to the paintings he gave to Sarah?
Lea Wait writes from what she knows.   She lives on the Maine coast and is a fourth generation antiques dealer, much like her characters.  Her mystery series, Shadows Antique Print have been nominated for the Agatha awards.
Tightening the Threads is a fast-paced cozy mystery that is fun to read.   The story is viewed through Angie's eyes as she unweaves the complex lives of Ted and his children.  As an outsider, she does not have the long history of their animosity towards each other. 
Tightening the Threads is a fun, quick, and enchanting mystery woven into a marvelous tapestry.

Through a Yellow Wood

Through a Yellow Wood
A Catskill Mountains Mystery
Carolyn J. Rose
Amazon Digital Services
Lexington, Kentucky
ISBN: 978-0-9837359-4-6
Trade Papercraft
$ 16.49
468 pages

'She was a reminder that there are a hundred little forks in our roads every day and each choice can affect the next one.  If we don't think before we step, we might end up a long way from where we intended to be - from where we wanted to be.'
Sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. 
Imagine a small New England town where it seems as if everyone is related to each other. 
Dan Stone is asked to check-in on Clarence Wolven, his mother's second cousin.   Since Clarence always came into town in the first, he is now two days overdue, and that was odd for him.  Also, his phone line is dead.
Dan finds Clarence dead on his front steps.  Also dead are the dogs Clarence was training, except for one small pup who is hiding in the back of his kennel.
Dan arranges the funeral since Clarence had no close relatives and took the dog to the vet, who amputates a leg. 
When the sheriff's investigation has no leads, Dan, and his friend, Jefferson Longyear return to the cabin to look for further clues to the murderer.
Unfortunately, the three-legged dog, now adopted d by Dan's family and called Nelson, leads the two along a trail only to discover three women's dead bodies, posed as if in a play.
As the summer continues, Dan's life becomes more complicated with rebuilding his home, living with Camille, and having a teenaged girl becoming part of his homelife.
Through a Yellow Wood is a continuation of the first, reading Hemlock Lake is a prerequisite to enjoying the book.
I discovered both of these books to be intriguing with the mood.   The story line is depressing, but the author so compassionately cares for the characters that this is hypnotically addictive reading.
Carolyn Rose is the author of the Catskill Mountain mystery series; the Subbing isn't for Sissies series, and numerous other novels and publications.
She now resides in Vancouver, Washington where she works as a substitute teacher.  From growing up in the New York Catskill Mountains, to attending the University of Arizona, to working with Volunteers in Service to America in Arkansas, to being a television news researcher, producer, assignment editor and writer in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.
These characters are realistic and humanly flawed while still being likable and wanting to do what is right in their minds while revealing insights into their morality and values. The pacing perfectly matches the story making the reader feel as if they are accompanying Dan throughout the investigation.
Through a Yellow Wood is an unusual book with a novel approach to a dark story in a caring manner.