Papa Pat reviews “The Ugly Knight”

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Papa Pat gave me a very nice review for my book, The Ugly Knight. 🙂

Excerpt:

This is such a pleasant, pleasant book! There is a lightness in the way it is written, that even in the scenes where Korton (The Ugly Knight) and Elzi (his resolute love interest) face the Ultimate Evil, it’s almost…peaceful. There is one exception, which I’ll get to later.
I THINK that the reason the book is so pleasant has to do with the nature of Korton. He is an unassuming young man, the son and grandson of a tailor, so he doesn’t have snooty attitudes to get over before he becomes likable. He succeeds in his difficult apprenticeship process because he works hard. He gets up early. He takes care of his own horse. And while he does not have the raw, natural talent of Jelan, a senior squire who befriends him, he just keeps practicing and hammering away until, pretty much to everyone’s surprise, he finishes early and with greater skills than any of his peers.
It’s true character, not just a role that he is playing. On his first quest, to kill a dragon, he takes the time to befriend an aged house servant. Because this is a book, of course, it MUST be shown that his easy-going relationships with servants produce unexpected rewards, but honestly folks: he’s not doing it for that reason. He’s just a nice guy. And he meets a nice girl, and good things happen: they become friends, and eventually fall in love.

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Review of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Wizard of Oz”.

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The family saw “The Wizard of Oz” at Starlight last week, a new version, with additional songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Tim Rice. Jonathan’s already posted his review of it, but I wanted to write one of my own.

The new songs (and occasionally additional lyrics for the old songs) fit in well stylistically with the rest of the show, which is one thing I had wondered about when I first heard about it. I think my favorite new song was “The Wonders of the World,” sung by Professor Marvel (with a few interjections by Dorothy) as he puts on his magic lantern show for her.

One thing I always look for when seeing a stage version of “The Wizard of Oz”, is whether the lead actress tries playing Dorothy, or instead plays Judy Garland. Judy played the part well in the movie, but that by far isn’t the only interpretation possible for the role. I’m pleased to note, that was indeed the case for this production. It probably helped that we first saw Dorothy in tattered overalls, rather than in her dress, which gave a totally different view of the character. (She did change into her blue checked dress before winding up in Oz.)

Indeed, none of the characters were costumed like in the movie, most notably the Scarecrow, and Glinda (who wore a black sequined dress, very striking, but about as far from pink fluff as you could get).

I enjoyed most of the characterization, except for the Scarecrow. One of the main points of the book (and, to a lesser extent, the MGM movie) was that the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, didn’t actually need the boons they were trying to get from the Wizard. The Scarecrow, in spite of his lack of brains, was always coming up with good ideas, or at least asking good questions. The Tin Woodman was so tender-hearted, he cried when he stepped on some ants (and rusted his jaw shut). The Cowardly Lion faced down monsters (and Baum could come up with some hideous monsters), and jumped across deep chasms, in spite of being afraid while he did so. But in this version of the show, the Scarecrow wasn’t very smart. And he remained not very smart until the Wizard put the diploma in his hand, and he rattled off the same fake equation that the Scarecrow did in the movie.

If he had not been very smart when he first fell off the pole in the cornfield, and grown smarter as the show went on (say having an idea when they were stuck in the poppy fields, with Dorothy and the Lion asleep, and the Tin Woodman rusted, and he was in charge for that short period of time), and gradually worked up to the point that when they were going to rescue Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle the other characters were looking to him to come up with ideas (especially if none of them realized that’s what they were doing), I would have appreciated it much more.

The show relied heavily on cinematographic effects, showing things like the interior of the tornado, and the thousands of flying monkeys as short movies on the scrim. For the most part this was good, though when we watched Dorothy being carried off by flying monkeys as a cinematographic effect, I wondered if they were using it too much, when they could have done better with practical effects.

I did enjoy much of the humor in the show, such as when we focused on the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion after Dorothy had been carried off. The Scarecrow’s arm had been torn off (“That’s you all over!”) and the other two were waving it around for emphasis all through the song while they were trying to decide what to do, while the poor Scarecrow kept trying to grab it. Then, when Toto ran up, the Lion picked him up, and asked him where Dorothy was. One of the other characters said, “Don’t be silly, animals don’t talk.” The Lion just gave him a look. To the audience he gestured to the dog, to himself, and gave a shrug.

All in all, the show was one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Book Review–An Elfy on the Loose by Barb Caffrey

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An Elfy on the LooseAn Elfy on the Loose by Barb Caffrey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elfy on the Loose is the first half of a duology by Barb Caffrey, so the story is not complete in this volume.

It is about an excitable young Elfy (a magical race) man being sent to, and abandoned on Earth. He needs to find a way out of the mess he finds himself in, as well as rescuing his mentor, and a young human woman, trying not to get any further into trouble. Along the way, he learns that nearly everything he has learned about the human world, his own world, and even himself, is a lie.

The book is alternately exciting, scary, and funny, with mysteries to be solved, and great evils to be faced and overcome.

We meet quite a few characters in this book, good and evil, both human and Elfy, as well as a few ghosts, not counting the house almost seems to have a personality of its own. Two of them, possibly. As well as a couple of friendly backpacks.

All in all, a satisfying read, and I’m waiting for the second half of the story to come out.

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Comparing Worlds of Fun to Disney

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Which, of course, is entirely unfair. Worlds of Fun is a small amusement park while Walt Disney World is a huge collection of parks. And thankfully so well, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford to go to Worlds of Fun.

Worlds of Fun has added television sets to the places you are most likely to stand in line. These tend to show fun park facts, music videos and other park related activities. Unfortunately, these television sets tend to be loud and interfere with the other musical background of the area. Hence the comparison to dip to Walt Disney World.

We went to Walt Disney World two years back (unless our financial system situation dramatically changes probably won’t be back there for another 10 years or more) and noticed the things they do to keep people interested while in line.

For instance, in Pooh’s Blustery Day , the waiting line had a huge touchscreen display which showed honey dripping down. If you rubbed your hand over the touchscreen honey , you can gradually scrub away the honey and find pictures under it. I thought that was fun. Other lines had other activities. And the lines, that didn’t have activities had interesting things to look at and were usually a nice place to get out of the sun and into the air-conditioning.

One thing that Walt Disney World is good at, and that Worlds of Fun could improve in is the musical background. They both have it. But where Walt Disney World has distinct audio areas where you stop hearing the music in one before you reach the other Worlds of Fun may have three or four musics blaring at you from just different directions at the same time, which can be headache inducing.

Of course, we will continue cut to come to Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun. Several times a week because we live here and have season tickets and enjoy it, even with its foibles.

Nocturnal Interlude, by Amanda S. Green. Book Review

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Nocturnal Interlude (Nocturnal Lives, #3)Nocturnal Interlude by Amanda S. Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nocturnal Interlude is the third book in the Nocturnal Lives series.

I have not read the first two books in the series. However, I did not find it difficult to follow the plot in this at all, though no doubt, certain allusions would make more sense if I had read the first two books.

I really enjoyed reading this book, which is a combination of police drama and urban fantasy. The book centers on a family of shifters, people who can change from human form to that of an animal, and the community in which they live, as well as the greater community of shifters with which they interact.

There is excitement and drama and on nearly every page. I found it exciting to read through, though she did give us room to breathe frequently. By the end of the book everything is resolved nicely, the sheep though she did leave some hooks that could go for future books relating to the community at large and the leaders of it.

Note: there is offscreen torture. We don’t see this, but we do see people planning for it, as well as having to deal with the results.

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TV Review: The A-Team

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This is another series from the ’80s that we’ve found at the library, and are enjoying watching.

“If you are in trouble, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire ‘The A-Team’.”

The show was fun, a lot of fluff, and probably even less realistic than, say, “Bewitched”. Lots of flying bullets, few people getting hurt (unless it was important for the plot). Hiding from the military police in Los Angeles, while driving a really distinctive black van. Face set up in a different really lucrative fake career each time. Breaking Murdock out of the hospital each time. All that over and over again.

I remember them building a tank every week from whatever was lying around in that episode, but now that we’re watching it, they don’t build tanks nearly that often. Maybe once a month or so.

But it was a formula show, of course. In one of the best senses of the word. They were hired to make something right, or happened to come across something really wrong on their own, and went up against the bad guys. Things went horribly wrong, and Hannibal Smith (the leader) would say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Then they’d go up against the bad guys again, and win. Decisively. And then they’d leave (sometimes with a hefty fee, more often without one), just as the military police were driving up (lights flashing, sirens blaring).

Some political commentary in a few episodes, but mostly just nearly bloodless shoot-em-up fun.

Remington Steele

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We’ve been watching Remington Steele lately, and having a great time with it.

I remember watching when it was broadcast, and enjoying it then. Good characters, fun plots, romance, mystery, etc. And the fact that Pierce Brosnan was easy on the eyes, and Remington Steele was highly articulate, intelligent, well read (and well movied), didn’t hurt.

We’re watching Season Two now, having finished Season One a week ago or so. For some reason, I thought that the first season intro, where Laura gives the back-story, lasted for the whole show, but once I saw this season’s intro, I remembered it. Laura and Remington are in an empty movie theater (which is appropriate, considering how important movies are to the show), watching and reacting to various clips from the show (it varies a little bit what clips they see). It usually ends with them kissing up on the screen, then cutting back to the popcorn box left behind, their chairs empty.

This season, they got rid of Murphy and Bernice from Season One, and replaced them with Mildred Krebs. Much as I miss Murphy and Bernice (especially Murphy), I have to admit this was a good choice. She’s played by an excellent (and funny) character actress, and has good on-screen chemistry with both of the main characters. And it’s also fun that she’s not in on the secret (though she’s been told about it a couple of different times), still trying to figure out how “He’s the boss, but she’s in charge” actually works.

The mysteries probably have tons of holes in them, if you actually stopped to think about it. (Would a strong magnet in the basement really be precise enough to over-rule a weaker magnet directly under an Ouija board, for instance.) But the show is quick moving, and just plain fun, so you’re not really  going to think about that.

Review: The Secret Adversary

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The Secret Adversary
The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently re-read this book (free on Gutenberg). “The Secret Adversary” is Agatha Christie’s first ‘Tommy and Tuppence’ book. Although I’ve never liked Tommy and Tuppence as well as I’ve like Hercules Poirot or Miss Marple, I’ve got to admit that Christie like usual puts out an excellent tale of international intrigue, mystery, and of course, being Christie, romance.

Tommy and Tuppence spend the book looking for the ubiquitous Mr. Brown, who has one of those faces that everyone forgets, and who is leading an international conspiracy to gain control of the world. They get into this by starting on an adventure to find out who the mysterious Jane Finn is. They happened to overhear her name by accident, and every time they mention it, something odd, or threatening, happens.

I enjoyed re-reading this book, like most of the Christie’s I read.

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Review: The End of Your Life Book Club

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The End of Your Life Book Club
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of all, I enjoyed the book, for the most part. I don’t think it fully lived up to the potential of the first few paragraphs, but it was interesting, and kept me reading.
But there were several things in it that made me go “Huh?” I really don’t think that the author really understood books as well as he thought he did.

The first thing was minor. The author mentioned in passing the book “Johnny Tremain”, by Esther Forbes, saying that the main character in it was apprenticed to Paul Revere, and burnt his hand badly in an accident. That threw me out of the book, saying, “No, he wasn’t.” My husband pointed out that not only was he not apprenticed to Paul Revere, it also wasn’t entirely an accident that he burnt his hand.

Later on, the mother mentioned that she didn’t know anyone who liked both Tolkien’s and C.S. Lewis’s writings, another thing that made me go “Huh?” Everyone I know who enjoys reading Tolkien, also enjoys C.S. Lewis, though the reverse isn’t necessarily true. And a few other lines in there about both writers, made me think he didn’t really understand either.

The last third or so of the book, where it kept praising Obama, was also annoying. It didn’t seem to occur to the author that at least half of his potential audience would have voted against him, and maybe it might be a good idea to moderate his tone at least a little. (Or maybe it already was moderated, which is a scary thought.)

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Book Review: Storybound and Story’s End by Marissa Burt

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Storybound (Storybound #1)Storybound by Marissa Burt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Storybound was one of the Barnes & Noble Free Friday’s books, and I enjoyed the book so much I paid for the second volume in the series, Story’s End. The books seem to be closely bound together plot-wise, which makes me wonder if Marissa Burt originally wrote it as one book, and Harper Collins divided it into two books because of the length. I’ve heard of such things happening before. Also, the Nook version tends to not give adequate notice when switching scenes. I’m assuming the print version does better.

All is not right in the Land of Story. Una Fairchild is Written In from the Land of Readers (presumably, but not necessarily, our world), and must work together with various Characters she meets to help overcome the Talemasters, and bring back the Muses and the King of Story.

One thing I really liked about the books were that they seemed crammed full of Christian imagery, especially the second book, once we meet and recognize the King. The imagery is subtle enough that it’s entirely possible the author didn’t even realize that she was putting it in, But portions of the final battle between the King and the Enemy reminded me strongly of images in Revelation 19, where Christ battles the Beast and the False Prophet. And portions of it doesn’t. Like I said, it’s subtle, and other people might not see it.

I do not know if Ms. Burt intends any more books in this universe, but I believe that this story concludes with Story’s End. There are other threads that could still be concluded, such as, will Una return to our world? Should she? but the main Good vs. Evil, save the universe, plotline has finished.

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