Friday, July 1, 2016

Matthew J. Kirby's "The Lost Kingdom"...A Book Review


The Lost Kingdom is the second book I’ve read written by Matthew Kirby and I liked it as much or possibly more than the first. The story reminded me of a Jules Vern adventure. In fact, I could easily imagine it coming from the mind of the Science Fiction pioneer himself.

In this alternative history story a father and son team join an expedition to find a lost people in hopes of recruiting help against the French. Billy Bartram and his father begin their journey aboard a flying ship. Those on the mission experience the thrills of flying that in our world, people will not come to know for hundreds of years. On their way to find this secret civilization, the group is attacked by a terrifying monster (very Hunger Games-esk...) as well as spies and battles with the enemy.

Again, I kept thinking this was a modern telling of a classic science fiction thriller. The author gives us enough of what we already know about Colonial America with the prospect of how things would be in there were hybrid creatures, ancient civilizations, and steampunk flying ships.

In our library this book can be found in the Young Adult section, but I think many adults would find this story engaging and entertaining. Yes, The Lost Kingdom is the second Matthew J. Kirby novel I've read, and considering I've enjoyed both very much, I'm pretty sure it won't be my last.

* Photo used without permission from:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Meet The Patels"...A Wonderful Little Documentary!

I came home the other night and the first thing my wife said to me was, "I just saw the greatest little movie on Netflix."

Okay, I'll bite. She then went on to tell me about a film called, Meet the Patels, a documentary about one man and his mission to find a spouse. You may be thinking, "That's been done to death," and in some respects, you're right. But this film is more than a simple "boy seeks girl, boy pursues girl, girl catches boy" story. 

The title, Meet the Patels is appropriate for many reasons. Ravi Patel and his sister Geeta introduce us to a culture that's both American and Indian. The siblings have lived their entire lives in America. Their parents immigrated before they were born. The children live in both cultures, growing up as Americans, but retaining many of the customs of their parents.

As Ravi's 30th birthday approaches, the pressure to find a wife and get married only increases. We learn through the film much of Indian culture, how children find spouses both in India and America. I found if fascinating. And the pace of the film kept us rooting for the film's main character. Will he succeed? Will the cultural differences prove too strong to produce a happy ending?

It's a stylistic film with interviews, animation, and handicam shots that were endearing. I will not give away the ending, only to say that by the end of the film, we have (at least, a little bit...) see what it's like to grow up in such a family-centered existence. It's not flashy, smutty, or too preachy (I thought...). It's just a simple story of a man and his sister letting us know what it's like to be a Patel. And when the credits roll, I feel I know at least a little bit more than I did before, and a lot more about the Patels.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cast Reunion...Babes In Toyland

A few weeks ago an event popped up on my Facebook feed advertising a little get together for the cast and crew of a show my daughter and I last winter. Because I'm working so much lately, I wasn't sure if we would be able to attend.

Turns out, we could. And so we did.

Each show is different and therefore, the way you feel while doing and after the show has ended is also different. There was something special about that show. Maybe it was because it was new and we created much of it ourselves, but something made us bond as few casts do. So, suggesting a cast reunion six months since and from Christmas sounded reasonable, almost expected.

We had food, conversation, catching up, all in an incredible home with an equally incredible backyard in which to enjoy each other's company. Not everyone made it--many expressing regrets that they couldn't come because of other commitments. They were missed.

Driving home with my daughter I felt like we were coming home from doing a show or having just finished a rehearsal. It's been a while since she and I were in a show together and I don't know when we'll get to do it again. So, not only did seeing everyone bring back a lot of good memories, the best part was spending time--again--with my daughter talking about shows and life. Thanks to everyone who organized the event. We're glad you did.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Margot Hovley's "Glimmering Light"...A Book Review

The story Margot began in Sudden Darkness, the first in her series, continues in Glimmering Light. In the second book, the stakes are raised (no pun intended...) and the adventure they thought was over, has only just begun.

In Book 1 a family and their church congregation begin a trek from southeastern Washington State to Utah. They did this because America was at war and all electronic devices--including all modern cars--no longer worked. Throw in the threat of leaking nuclear radiation and the need to leave was urgent. But when the church members gather in Utah, they find another state in disarray. So they choose to once again began a long walk. This time the destination is not two states away, but halfway across the country. They're going to Independence, Missouri. 

In addition to being a story of survival, it's also a love story. The series's main character, Amélie Hatch, continues her courtship with her childhood friend, Zach, only this time the two cannot make the trip together. Zach joins a newly formed Mormon Legion and is given an assignment to make the trip on horseback with other soldiers. Amélie travels with over 200,000 other saints as a first waive to Missouri.

Sudden Darkness is narrated completely through Amélie's eyes. In this book, we get two perspectives, Amélie's and Zach's. The change is effective to show a bigger world view. In fact, both Amélie's and Zach's stories could have been stand-alone novels, each presented the characters with risks and dangers with which they overcame.

Glimmering Light is a great companion to the first. The story needed this book. We needed to know what happened to the people we've come to know. And we got to know them because of the talented author. These are two fast reads filled with flawed people accomplishing great things.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Checking Out June 27...For The Past Five Years

One of the advantages of writing a daily blog for over five years is you can go back in time and instantly access any one of those blog posts to see what you wrote about.

I know it's not the greatest advantage, but it can be, especially when you want to remember things that happened to you, or if others want to see things from the past. Since I'm closing in on almost 2000 blog posts (kind of staggering when I think about it...), I decided to go back in time and see what I wrote about on June 27 in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.

I was surprised.

Last year I wrote about an incident that happened while doing a show. I was also doing a summer gig performing at an amusement park. 2015 was crazy when it came to doing a show and I was glad my list of blog posts included something about performing.

In 2014 I must have been bored (or I had too many good pictures...) because I did a post about random photographs I had taken. I do that sometimes, but not too often. I like that post because it includes what I did during that time and it also brought back a lot of memories.

The 2013 blog post for this day is special for me. I dedicated it to a friend who we lost way too early. Danny Thompson was a special person, special in the way he made everyone around him feel better, feel good, feel loved. I found out that a girl I had done many shows with was actually my friend's daughter and she dedicated a post on Facebook to her father on his birthday. It blew me away how small a world this really is. I wanted to honor him and I hope I did a good job, even though any words I could have written were inadequate to let you know just what an amazing person he was.

The post for 2012 brought back memories as well. I used to participate in a weekly blog writing exercise. We would be given a photograph and five randomly chosen words. We then had to write a story in 500 or less words using the picture and the words. I wrote a lot of short stories. It was a lot of fun and helped me keep my daily blog going. It's been years since those running the exercise shut it down. Those were a lot of fun to write.

And in 2011 I wrote about our neighbors remodeling an old home in the neighborhood. They're now well established in their home with kids arriving and growing up. They even got a little dog.

I should do this more, look back on these posts. I hardly ever do it, actually. It's been fun to see what I've been writing about going back for five years. At least, it's been fun for me.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Could It Be My Fascination With Thrift Stores...Is Waning?

Before last week, I hadn't been to my favorite thrift store in months. Working a couple of jobs can limit a lot of a person's free time. But last weekend we had some stuff to donate so we decided to stop and go inside.

I think something's happened to me. The place is just not the same.

There was a time that going to thrift stores was one of my favorite things to do. Not only could I get necessities (like clothes...), but every now and again, I'd find a hidden treasure. It's so cool to find something that you could spend years searching for. Of course, this was before the internet and Ebay, but even in the years since, I've enjoyed going and seeing what's there.

And as I've gotten older, I've spent less and less time at the thrift stores. The cool stuff is just not there anymore, or if it was, it's long gone before I can get to it. Many people go everyday. They're there when the doors open and they wait until cart after cart of stuff is brought out. There's no way I can compete with that.

Nor, do I really want to anymore.

Something happened last week. I came across an item, one of thousands for sale. I suppose if I found this in a first-hand store it might be something we'd consider. It was a bed riser, four plastic lifters that go under each corner of the bed. Sure it might mean a higher climb to get into bed (and a farther drop if I fall out of bed--something I haven't done in decades...), but the extra space to store stuff would be great.

The problem was, as you can see by the picture, the item for sale at the second-hand store only had three of the four risers. When I first picked it up, I didn't notice the missing riser, but when I realized I was holding essentially a piece of junk, something died.

I know many people who think the whole store is full of junk, just like the risers. Maybe one day I'll enjoy shopping there again, but right now, I'm beginning to agree more and more with those people.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Who Listens To Christmas Music...In June?

I saw this CD returned to the library today and I thought, "Who listens to Christmas music in June?" I know there's Christmas fairs in July and at other times in the summer, and I'm pretty sure that many retailers who count on Christmas to be their busiest time of the year have already dealt with Christmas stuff to prepare for winter.

After all, Christmas is only six months away from today...exactly six months.

And the group, Pentatonix, is not your average musical group. They are exquisite. They show how the right combination of talents working toward a common goal can produce amazing things. I sang for years in organized choirs, including some of the best voices in the state, and when I hear Pentatonix sing, it communicates to my soul.

I've heard some of these songs, but not all. I look forward to hearing the others. I know there are people who can enjoy Christmas music all year around. I don't know if I'm one of them. But I can enjoy and appreciate good music--be it Christmas or otherwise--all year around. A few years ago I was part of a bell choir where we rehearsed Christmas music from January to December. I don't remember getting too sick of the music. So, maybe I can enjoy it more than I think.

Who listens to Christmas music in June? I guess I do.