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
2015

Imagine living in the year 1781 in South 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
2015
$ 12.99
44 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in Germany
Illustrator: Kelsea Wierenga
ISBN: 978-1539135942
2017
$ 14.99
58 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in the American West
Illustrator: Paula Tabor
ISBN: 978-1532877841
2016
Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Carolina
Paperback
$ 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

Carousel

When life seems overly demanding, what do each of us find within ourselves to carry on,?
Hope.
"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
2015
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
Hardcover
2016
$ 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
2017
First Published by Poisoned Pen
2014
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
2013
$ 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.