Friday, December 20, 2019

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Christmas Carol (c) 1843
by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, first published in 1843, is a classic that will likely be a part of many people's Christmas traditions for centuries.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a hard-hearted, merciless man who does nothing illegal, but is just unkind to everyone with whom he comes in contact, including his own nephew. When the story opens, we see how heartless he is when his employee can't even stoke the fire to get warm, and later when he rebuffs his own nephew's attempts to invite him to Christmas dinner, and then two gentlemen who are seeking charitable donations to benefit the poor.
Later that night, his business partner, Jacob Marley who has been dead for seven years exactly, (he'd died seven years before the story began, on Christmas Eve) returns as a ghost to give Scrooge a warning that he must change his ways. But he is not the only ghostly visitor to come to Scrooge.
Most everyone is familiar with the story, and the journey that Scrooge takes with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and the things he realizes and the changes he undergoes.
I like the story because it shows that people can change for the better, and I like the additional characters, particularly Tiny Tim, whose inclusion helps readers to see that Scrooge's change isn't just because he fears for his own soul, but that he has developed empathy for others as the story progresses.
I recommend the story to anyone who enjoys Dickens' writing, classical stories, and Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2019

A Christmas Carol- Abridged Version Read by Patrick Stewart

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is read in this abridged version of A Christmas Carol, read by Patrick Stewart. While it is abridged, and much of the original text by Charles Dickens is missing, the main story is still there, and very enjoyable. I like Mr. Stewart's voice and the changes he makes when reading various characters.
I recommend this enjoyable reading to fans of Patrick Stewart, and fans of the story who don't mind much of the original text being left out.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

SoJo Choral Arts and Sounds of the Season

The South Jordan Choral Arts performed their fifteenth annual Sounds of the Season yesterday. They gave two presentations, a matinee at 2:00, and then an evening performance at 7:00. The performances were presented in the theater at Bingham High School. The choir and orchestra were fantastic, and presented such Christmas songs as Joy To The World, Jesus, What a Wonderful Child, and O Come, Emmanuel, as well as several others. I was very glad to have had the chance to go, and hope to be able to attend next year!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Hazzardous Universe by Julie Wright and Kevin Wasden

Hazzardous Universe (c) 2011
by Julie Wright and Kevin Wasden
Hazzardous Universe by Julie Wright and Kevin Wasden is a fun middle grade adventure following two kids, Hap and Tara as they're accidentally abducted by an alien spaceship and taken on a frightening and exciting adventure through space. On their adventures they meet different individuals, some human and some not, some friendly, and some not. Plus, they get entangled, entirely accidentally of course, in the dealings of a dangerous interstellar mob boss! But through it all, their biggest wish is to just get home to their families. 

I recommend this fun book to kids and adults alike who enjoy sci fi, and fun adventure!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King by Jenny Nimmo

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King
(c) 2012 by Jenny Nimmo
Charlie Bone and the Hidden King by Jenny Nimmo is an entertaining middle grade tale continuing the adventure of Charlie Bone and his family and friends. I had not had the chance to experience the previous books in the series (it appears to be the fifth book of an eight book series) but still I was able fairly easily to get into the story. On Charlie Bone's 12th birthday, the flame cats, (a group of three cats his ancestor, the Red King asked to watch over his descendants, of whom Charlie Bone is one) warn him that an ancient evil has awoken. Charlie and his friends have to worry about that, while also worrying about bullies at school and other sinister forces out to get him. Adding on to that, his mother is acting strangely and Charlie fears she's been bewitched. Also, his father, who has been missing for ten years is on Charlie's mind, having been brought up in conversation which Charlie overheard and he wonders what he can do to find and rescue his father.

The action is fast paced and fun, and middle grade readers would enjoy this story.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Thoroughly Modern Millie- Playing at Hale Center Theater in Orem

Thoroughly Modern Millie (c) 2000
by Dick Scanlan and Richard Morris
This past Friday, my younger son and I watched a fantastic play performed by the cast at Hale Center Theater in Orem. Thoroughly Modern Millie, a musical I really enjoy for the fun songs, and the underlying message that caring about people matters much more than money, is playing at the Hale Center Theater in Orem until Nov. 23rd.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is a musical based on a movie from 1967 of the same name, which itself was based on a play called Chrysanthemum from the 1950s. The first performance of the modern play was in 2000. The lyricist was Dick Scanlan, the composers were Jeanine Tesori and Doug Besterman, and the playwrights were Dick Scanlan and Richard Morris.

I enjoyed the cast's performance at the Hale Center Theater, and especially appreciated the actress who portrayed Mrs. Meers. She managed to make the character sinister and lovable at the same time. The expressions that Mrs. Meers made and her escapades throughout the play were hilarious, and kept me laughing. The rest of the cast did great as well, and I really enjoyed the performance. I'm glad we went! There are scenes where the characters are drinking alcohol and getting drunk, and many of the actresses are dressed like 1920's flappers similar to the picture above, which are both things of which parents may want to be aware.

I personally recommend the performance, and think the play is well worth going!

It will be playing most nights between now and the 23rd of November. You can buy tickets here.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

Mysterious Benedict Society and the
Perilous Journey (c) 2009
by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart comes after The Mysterious Benedict Society and before The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma.

The four friends, Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance are set to have a fun, non-dangerous vacation with their good friend Mister Benedict and Miss Number Two (whose real name we do not learn in this book) when they discover that Mister Benedict and Number Two have been kidnapped by the sinister Mister Curtain, Mister Benedict's evil twin brother! Though there are dangers aplenty, the kids take off to rescue their beloved mentor and his assistant. Along the way, they have many and varied adventures, and are given aid here and there, especially by Kate's dad, Miligan, when he finally is able to catch up to the swiftly traveling kids. What happens next, is an exciting adventure, and I highly recommend it to children and adults alike who enjoy clean, fast paced adventure stories!

The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis (Focus on the Family version)

Magician's Nephew, The (c) 1955 by C.S. Lewis
Radio Theatre: Focus on the Family version (c) 2005
I recently listened to an entertaining version of The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. It was not a word for word reading, but rather a dramatized version, with some narration, and dialogue spoken by actors, all accompanied by music and sound effects. The story is a version produced by Radio Theatre: Focus on the Family, and published by Tyndale Entertainment.

The original story by C.S. Lewis was published in 1955, and this version was recorded in 2005.

The story follows the adventures of two friends, Diggory Kirk and Polly Plummer as they are tricked by Diggory's dastardly Uncle Andrew into traveling to a new world. Through their adventures and mishaps, they come into the company of Jadis, the tyrannical queen of Charn whom they do not want to take with them, but she comes along with them anyway by force. Through another series of mishaps, the children, the wicked queen, Uncle Andrew, an innocent cabby named Frank and Frank's horse Strawberry, find themselves in a new world that is just beginning, being brought to wake by Aslan. Read the book, or listen to the story to find out what happens next!

While I personally prefer the book, I did like this version very much, and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys C.S. Lewis.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart

Mysterious Benedict Society and the
Prisoner's Dilemma, The
(c) 2010 by Treton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart is a fun ending to the first trilogy of the Mysterious Benedict Society. This time, Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance embark on a new adventure, rather against their wills, but with all the pluck and courage they showed in the first two books. When a blackout washes over Stonetown, the kids quickly find out it isn't an accident, and the sinister Mr. Curtain, the evil twin of their beloved mentor, Mr. Benedict, is behind it, and, as usual, is out to get them. How will they outsmart Mr. Curtain and the ten-men, his evil henchmen?  Read the book to find out! I recommend this fun book to anyone who enjoys fast-paced, middle-grade books that have riddles and clues for the characters, and readers, to solve along the way.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Abridged Version, read by Martin Shaw

Hobbit, The, by J.R.R. Tolkien,
Abridged Version (c) 2005 read by Martin Shaw
I enjoyed listening to an abridged version of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien recently, read by Martin Shaw. The story was entertaining, and moved through the plot more quickly than the original. People new to Tolkien, or who don’t mind key scenes (like the description of Bilbo’s house, or the iconic scene where Bilbo climbs up to the top of the canopy in Mirkwood and sees the butterflies) being left out, would really enjoy this. Even those who miss such scenes may still like this reading. I did. Mr. Shaw did an exceptional job. The basic plot was still there with Bilbo and the dwarves and Gandalf, and their struggles getting to the Lonely Mountain and their problems with Smaug. I recommend this story to listeners who enjoy well-read fantasy.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Performed at the Scera

The Scera, Orem, Utah

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber will be performed at the Scera in Orem Utah until October 5th. I went the other day with my parents, and it was a great performance!
Joseph and the Amazing
Technicolor Dreamcoat
(c) 1972 by Tim Rice
and Andrew Lloyd Webber

The cast did a fantastic job, and had a lot of energy. I really appreciated that Benjamin, Joseph's little brother, was cast as a young person, and really appreciated the young actor's performance. One of my favorite scenes, was when the 12 brothers were tossing little Benjamin back and forth between them!

The story of Joseph being betrayed by his older brothers and sold into Egypt, rising through the ranks from slave to second in command to Pharaoh, etc. with the story told through hilarious and varied songs was exciting and funny. As always, I highly recommend this play, and in addition, I recommend this particular performance at the Scera in Orem. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Mysterious Benedict Society, The
(c) 2008
by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is an enjoyable book for kids. Renny, Sticky, Constance, and Kate are four children selected by Mr. Benedict to embark on an important but potentially dangerous mission to stop the sinister Mr. Curtain and his dastardly scheme. Though what that dastardly scheme is, they don't yet know. All they know, is that Mr. Curtain is slowly and carefully putting subconscious messages into society via radio and television.

Will the kids be able to stop Mr. Curtain with Mr. Benedict and his friends' help? Read the book to find out!

I recommend this book to kids and adults who enjoy mystery and adventure!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Five Kingdoms: Time Jumpers by Brandon Mull

Five Kingdoms: Time Jumpers (c) 2018
by Brandon Mull
Five Kingdoms Time Jumpers concludes the exciting five book series by Brandon Mull. In it, Cole has to travel through time to secure the help of the founders of the Five Kingdoms, and find advice and knowledge in being able to face Romaro who wants to destroy the Five Kingdoms. But it won't be easy. The Perennial Serpent keeps showing up, and when it bites people, they just disappear! Have they been killed, or just transported to a different time? And will Cole be able to get them back? Not only that, but will Cole ever find a way to get himself and his friends back home to Earth where they belong? Read the book to find out!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

My Newest Book! Tabby Cats and Trap Doors

Tabby Cats and Trap Doors (c) 2019
I am so excited to announce that my latest book, Tabby Cats and Trap Doors has just been published! Jax, Julie, and Ani, the heroes from the last book, are off on another unexpected adventure! At the beginning of the book, the three friends think their time traveling adventures are over. The old house has been turned into a museum, and the tree with the magical rabbit hole has been chopped down! But when Ani’s new cat starts acting funny and leads them on a wild chase down into an eerie cellar, the kids realize that another adventure is just beginning. But where (and when) will they go this time?

Friday, August 9, 2019

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
(c) 1892
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
In Sherlock Holmes' dilemma, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, he and his faithful friend Doctor John Watson, embark on a mystery that at first doesn't seem very complex. The morning of Christmas, a police officer, Peterson, was walking down the street when he saw a gang of bullies assault a middle aged man who was carrying a Christmas goose, knocking off his hat. While running to help the man, Peterson witnessed the man accidentally break a shop window while trying to defend himself, then drop his goose in a panic and run away. Wanting to return both the hat and goose to the man, the police officer consulted Sherlock Holmes. Knowing that they won't be able to find the owner before the goose went bad, Holmes instructed Peterson to take the goose home to his own family, which he did.
Holmes and Watson who had come to wish him a belated Merry Christmas are casually discussing the situation when Peterson comes rushing back to show them what his wife found in the goose's crop while preparing the goose for dinner: a small blue gem! The Countess of Morcar had recently been robbed of her Blue Carbuncle, and Holmes, Watson, and Peterson quickly realize that this is the very same gem, and that the man who is accused of having stolen it, a repair man who was soldering a loose grate in the fireplace in the Countess's hotel room around the time it was stolen, may not be guilty after all. Returning the gem to the Countess won't be difficult, but how in the world did the Blue Carbuncle go from a countess's hotel room to a bird's stomach? Also, who is responsible for its theft? In addition, how will they find the man who was carrying the goose originally, and get him back his hat and a goose to replace the one that Peterson's family ate? But is the man in any way connected with the theft of the goose?

All of those questions are what Holmes and Watson intend to answer!

This was an entertaining short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, written originally in Victorian English, and I enjoyed following Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes as they went after clues to find who really stole the Blue Carbuncle. I recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Movie Review: Veggietales: The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything

Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything (c) 2008 by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki

I have loved Veggietales for years, both because of the positive messages of the shows as well as the fun animation. I think Junior Asparagus and his adorable voice are my favorite part. Though I love everything about Veggietales. Including this movie, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.

In The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, a full length movie, we have Larry, Bob, an Pa Grapewho are whisked away to the 17th century to help a prince and princess try to escape the clutches of their evil uncle who is trying to take over while their dad, the rightful king is away in the west. Through some zany trials and with the help of some friendly rock monsters, the veggie heroes are able to get into the evil uncle’s Ali. But will they be able to rescue the kids and get safely out again? Watch the movie and find out!

I highly recommend this to kids of all ages, and anyone who enjoys fun, uplifting movies!

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Ultimate Life by Jim Stovall

Ultimate Gift, The (c) 2007 by Jim Stovall
I recently listened to The Ultimate Life by Jim Stovall. It is the sequel to The Ultimate Gift which was made into a movie by the same name. I enjoyed listening to the audio of The Ultimate Life. In it, Jason Stevens finds that he has to prove to his family that he did indeed learn the lessons his grandfather wanted him to learn because they take him to court trying to take the huge trust he inherited away claiming that he can't handle it, and they are the rightful, legal, ethical owners of the money Red Stevens left behind.
I understand that the book The Ultimate Life had several inconsistencies to the book The Ultimate Gift, because the book followed what happened in the movie The Ultimate Gift rather than in the book, causing some slight inconsistencies between the two books. That didn't bother me personally, since I hadn't read the book The Ultimate Gift anyway. I thought that some of the characters were a little cartoonish, particularly the lawyer for the family, but overall, I enjoyed the message. As in The Ultimate Gift, Jason has to show that he has mastered 12 gifts:
1. The Gift of Work
2. The Gift of Friendship
3. The Gift of Money
4. The Gift of Family
5. The Gift of Gratitude
6. The Gift of Laughter
7. The Gift of Problems
8. The Gift of Learning
9. The Gift of Dreams
10. The Gift of a Day
11. The Gift of Giving
12. The Gift of Love
The story is told from the perspective of the judge overseeing the case, and we get to see him as he too tries out each of the 12 gifts in his own life.
I think The Ultimate Life is a good book to inspire people to bring lasting fulfillment into their own lives, and the lives of others and I recommend to anyone who enjoys uplifting books.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull

Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders (c) 2014
by Brandon Mull
The first book in the Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull, Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders, is a fast paced middle grade novel that junior high and upper elementary readers would enjoy.

Cole is just a normal kid with an annoying older sister, friends, and a secret crush like so many other normal kids. But when a trip to what he and his friends thought was just a normal spook alley turns bad and he sees his friends whisked away through a strange portal by kidnappers, Cole dives in after them and finds himself in the Five Kingdoms, a strange new dimension where strange and amazing things can happen, but slavery is also legal. His friends have been enslaved by the kidnappers and as he sets out to try to rescue them, all sorts of scary things happen. Finding himself in a strange place called The Brink, he meets a girl his age named Mira who has a plan to stop the wicked king of the Five Kingdoms, restore order, and help him rescue his friends. But when there's a strange creature the people call Karnak terrorizing the country-side along with a despotic king to deal with, doing what they set out to do might be more difficult than they first planned.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

My Daughter’s Wedding

Rachel and Mitchell Nelson and their wedding cake
I am very proud and happy for my daughter Rachel and her new husband Mitchel Nelson who were married this last Wednesday, June 26, in the Payson Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love them both very much, and wish them all the happiness in the world!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Manti Pageant

The Manti Temple of
the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-Day Saints,
 in Manti, Utah
Beginning in the summer of 1967, the town of Manti has hosted a wonderfully organized pageant presented by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Traditionally, it has been called The Mormon Miracle Pageant. The story of the pageant presents important events in the life of Joseph Smith, including the first vision he had when he was 14, when he saw God and Jesus Christ who told him not to join any church of the day. It goes through his life, ending when he was martyred in Carthage Jail. It also shows scenes from the Book of Mormon, and additionally, what the members of the church did after he died in their struggles to get to a safe place where they could practice their religion without persecution.

It has been a fantastic pageant every time I have gone, and sadly, this is the last year it will be performed, so far as I know. The performers have done a great job, and I really enjoyed it when I went last week. It will be performed for a few more days, until the evening of the 22nd. I heartily recommend it to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and anyone interested.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Movie Review: Amazing Grace by Michael Apted

Amazing Grace (c) 2007 Drcd. by Michael Apted
I recently watched a movie that I’ve seen before and really enjoyed. Amazing Grace directed by Michael Apted is an enjoyable and educational movie about the life of William Wilberforce who, during the late 1700s and early 1800s fought for years in Parliament to end the slave trade and slavery itself. With England’s economy addicted to the slave trade, it was not an easy fight. But he had many supporters, including his wife Barbara, his mentor John Newton, and many others. I recommend this to people who enjoy clean, inspiring stories about historical figures.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Secret Garden, The (c) 1911
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a delightful story about a ten year old girl named Mary Lennox who comes to live with her uncle after her parents die in India in a cholera epidemic.

She starts out as a rather spoiled child having been ignored by her parents, and given her way in everything by the servants in her parents' house. But as she comes to know the servants in her uncle's house and experiences their spunky, insistent refusal to tolerate her rude behavior, she starts to become aware of how unkind she has been without even thinking about it. And she begins to change for the better.

During Mary's explorations of the garden she comes across a mysterious door that is locked, and one of the servants, a teenager named Martha Sowerby tells Mary about how Mary's eccentric uncle Archibald Craven had it locked up and the key buried when his wife, who had loved the garden had had an accident within the walled garden, and died as a result. What lies behind the locked door is as mysterious to Mary as the strange sounds coming from the other side of the house which sound like a child howling, but that Martha and the other servants pretend not to hear. After a robin shows Mary where to find the buried key, she’s able to make her way into the garden that has been locked for ten years. But it’s overgrown, and forlorn. After hearing the howling again, and knowing it isn’t the wind, Mary investigates in the middle of the night, and she meets a boy named Collin who believes he is an invalid. Collin is Archibald Craven's son, and the two children realize they’re cousins. Collin is in much the same predicament that Mary used to be. Being the son of the Master of Misselthwaite Manor, and having been a very sickly baby, he has been spoiled and pitied by the servants, who have believed since he was a baby that he probably wouldn't live very long. Much like Mary was in India, he has not required to try to do anything, and as a result, his health has remained poor. Mary suspects he’s not as sick as he thinks and that she suspects that he is much the same as she was before she came to her uncle’s house, found the garden, and developed a more positive attitude. She wonders if the garden can help cure Collin of his bad attitude and hopeless outlook on life the way the garden helped her. With the help of Dickon, Martha's younger brother, Mary begins to work at helping Collin have a more positive outlook on life, and she and Dickon take him out to the garden to see if that will help Collin improve physically and emotionally.

What will happen as a result of their efforts? And what will Mary's uncle, Collin's father do when he discovers what the three children have been up to?

The book is an enjoyable tale, one that reminds me somewhat of A Christmas Carol, except that instead of an elderly gentleman coming to have a change of heart, there are not one but two children over the course of the story coming to recognize the need to be kinder, both to others and to themselves. I recommend this book to people who love classic literature, and children's stories.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Lady of the Lakes by Josi Kilpack

Lady of the Lakes, The (c) 2017 by Josi Kilpack
The Lady of the Lakes by Josi Kilpack is a fictionalized account of events in the life of Sir Walter Scott, the famous author of Ivanhoe, and many other poems and stories.

Walter Scott, a young man, finds himself instantly smitten with Mina, a girl five years younger than himself, and courts her for five years, certain that she will one day be his wife despite their different social stations. Mina Stuart likes Walter Scott very much, maybe even loves him, but her heart doubts whether they will be able to make each other truly happy. Charlotte Carpenter is a young woman working toward independence who would like to have a family someday, but doesn't think it will ever happen because she is a foreinger, and her family had been damaged by scandal not of her making. And so far, the only men interested in her weren't interested in her for the right reasons, something that Charlotte, a faithful Christian girl, will not tolerate.

What happens to the three of them as they move forward toward their goals?

I really enjoyed listening to the CD version of this book. Josi Kilpack is a skilful author and while she takes us on a ride that is far from smooth, the ending was very satisfying. I recommend this book to people who love Sir Walter Scott, and/or clean romance.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Rules in Rome by A L Sowards

Rules in Rome, The (c) 2015 by A L Sowards
The Rules in Rome by A L Sowards  is an exciting WWII novel about a pair of spies working together in Rome during the Nazi occupation.

I really enjoyed this story, and I loved getting to know the characters. Bastian and Gracie are both brave, heroic protagonists who help me appreciate what real life people went through in WWII to bring the war to an end. I really liked that minor characters, including the Antagonists, the Nazis and the SS were portrayed as real people, not just mindlessly evil psychopaths. I liked Heinrich especially, though his nickname was a little distracting.

There were some things the main characters did that didn’t make sense to me, that from my perspective were, well, blindingly stupid that I don’t think they did for any other reason than that the author wanted them to do it to create conflict, kill off someone, and/or move the story forward.

These bits however, were mostly overshadowed by the powerful writing of the rest of the story, the characterizations, and the rich history. I liked the slow way the two grew into their feelings for each other, and the very satisfying twist at the end. I especially liked the epilogue!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Phantom of the Opera performed by Layton High Drama

The Phantom of the Opera (c) 1986
by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Last night, I had the exciting opportunity to go with my son to one of my favorite musicals, The Phantom of the Opera performed by Layton High School Drama!        
The Phantom of the Opera was published in 1986 by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. It was based on a book by the same name by Gaston Leroux.

Christine DaaƩ, a talented soprano who sings in the Paris Opera House is reunited with her childhood friend Raoul, and realizes she has romantic feelings for him, but fears offending the Angel of Music who has been secretly tutoring her in her singing.

On investigating who this mysterious character really is, Christine and Raoul discover that he is a physically deformed genius who lives beneath the Opera House. This Opera Ghost has an unhealthy obsession with Christine, and is displeased that she is developing a relationship with Raoul. What happens when the Opera Ghost tries to interfere with the two sweethearts? Watch the play to find out!

Sadly, tonight was the last performance of The Phantom of the Opera by Layton High School Drama, but I highly recommend the Play itself, and after watching Layton High’s performance, I was very impressed! If all their productions are even a fraction as good as this one, then they’ve got some great performances coming in the 2019-2020 school year!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites by Chris Heimerdinger

Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites
(c) 1989 by Chris Heimerdinger
Recently, I listened to the book on tape of one of my old favorites from my teens, Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites by Chris Heimerdinger.

Jim Hawkins, no relation to the character of the same name from Treasure Island, his friend Garth Plimpton, and Jim's younger sister Jenny are exploring a cave when they fall into an underground river and find themselves wisked away to the past. They wake up in a strange place, and find that they've traveled back in time to pre-Colombian MesoAmerica, and are smack dab in the middle of a conflict between Nephites and Lamanites! How the three kids are going to get out of this fix, none of them know. But as they team up with the likes of Teancum, Moroni, Pahoran and others, their hopes start to rise.

This is a good book for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints who enjoy a good adventure, and in fact anyone who enjoys a good adventure story might like it. It was as fun to read this time, as it was the first time I read it!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Cat Who Smelled a Rat by Lilian Jackson Braun

The Cat Who Smelled a Rat by Lilian Jackson Braun is a cozy story about Jim Qwilleran and his two Siamese cats, Yum Yum and Ko Ko. 
Cat Who Smelled a Rat, The (c) 2002
by Lilian Jackson Braun
Quil and his cats are living comfortably in Pickax City which is in Moose Country which is “400 miles north of everywhere” waiting for the “Big One” the major winter storm that always hits this time of the year, when mysterious things start to happen. Fires are starting near the historic mine shafts, and Qwil and his cats suspect arson. Then, when two people die under mysterious circumstances, a volunteer firefighter is murdered, and the local bookstore goes up in flames, Qwil and his cats know that something sinister is afoot! How do Quil and his feline companions track down the bad guy? Read the book and find out!

I recommend this book to people who love clean, cozy mysteries. And cats!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes (c) 1998 by Louis Sacher
Holes by Louis Sachar follows the story of Stanley Yelnats,who after a string of misfortunes in his family finds himself falsely accused of a crime and sentenced to labor in Camp Greenlake digging holes.
While Stanley digs holes, the reader is also given the stories of characters from the past, Sam and Katherine, whose tragedy intertwines with the story of Stanley’s no good dirty rotten pig stealing great great grandfather as well as his descendants, stemming from his accidentally broken promise to Madam Zeroni. The story is fun and well written with great twists and likable characters. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure stories with satisfying endings.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Fablehaven Book 1 by Brandon Mull

Fablehaven (c) 2009 by Brandon Mull
The first book in the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull introduces the reader to Kendra and Seth, a brother and sister who go to stay with their Grandpa and Grandma Sorensen for a time while their parents go off on a cruise.  Thinking that they're going to be bored, the kids come with some amount of trepidation.

But what they find when they get to their grandparents' property gives them no time to be bored! Discovering that mythical creatures really exist and have taken refuge in the preserve their grandparents watch over, is just one part of their grandparents' secrets. That some of these creatures have evil intent is another. From demons who want to take over the preserve to naiads who want nothing more than to pull them underwater and drown them, Kendra and Seth have to be careful where they go and what they do. But when all the adults (except grandma and I won't explain why) are kidnapped on midsummer's eve, the kids have no choice but to brave the dangers of Fablehaven in order to try to rescue them.

I enjoyed this book, and recommend it to readers young and old who enjoy fantasy for young readers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Passage to Avalon by Mike Thayer

The world building in Passage to Avalon by Mike Thayer is breathtakingly magnificent! I was thoroughly impressed by the detail of this world; the magic systems that are in place, the unique species, the established government etc. Middle grade readers, especially kids who love fantasy, will absolutely enjoy this book!

Mike Thayer is a master at creating a unique and completely believable world; one that is separate but parallel to our own. And I might add, close enough that the main character is actually able to communicate on occasion, (when he can find enough bars) with the Earth side of the dimensional divide.

Passage to Avalon (c) 2018 by Mike Thayer
While Samwise (Sam for short) Shelton and a friend are pulling a mean prank on someone, they experience an earthquake and subsequently find themselves transported to Avalon, a world separate but parallel to our own. The particular geography of this parallel dimension seems to match ours, and Avalon is where New Zealand is on our half of the dimensional divide. There, he encounters a society that is similar in dress and thinking to the middle ages of Europe, but also with a magical system. When coming into contact with a couple of ne'er-do-wells, Sam unwittingly defeats them, because, as it turns out, he is what the people there call a "void" someone who isn't affected by magic at all, and can actually drain it from others. As the story goes along and as he meets new allies, he learns to use this odd skill as he sets about trying to rescue his friend who came over with him, but who landed in another part of Avalon.

What actually happens when he finally comes into contact with his missing friend was something I predicted would happen, but it was still very exciting, since the protagonist and his friends had not anticipated it.

For myself, and taking into account that I am not a member of the target audience, I really did not like Samwise. He is a downright cruel boy who plays mean tricks on people, thinking himself clever and witty as he does so, and calling the mean tricks "pranks" to justify them. I do understand the appeal of such books to many middle grade readers, however, and were I a younger person and a member of the target audience of this book, what Samwise did wouldn't have bothered me.

I hoped Sam would grow as the book moved along, but from what I saw of him, he largely didn't.  As the story neared the end of the book, he even said that the "pranks" he played were only done to people who "deserved" it. I wondered what the librarian at his school had done to him that was so terrible that she deserved to have her lunch ruined which is a difficult thing at best, and at worst could be outright dangerous if she has health issues and needs to eat regularly. (I mention this because I have witnessed first hand "pranks" being pulled on a teacher almost just like this, and the teacher spent the next day sick at home, and unable to keep anything down.) I also wonder what the vice-principal did that was so horrible that Sam believed that it was appropriate to risk causing serious eye damage to the man. Had the egg Sam dropped hit the vice-principal in the eye rather than the forehead, it could have seriously injured his eye or even blinded him, and Sam was old enough to know that. What he was doing right before the earthquake wasn't much different than chucking a frozen turkey off an overpass. Being young does not excuse him from being unkind or ignorant to such potential problems. He's not five years old; he's fourteen and at this point in his life, he has the ability to know better. If he doesn't know better, it's because he has consciously chosen not to learn better. He mentioned, also toward the end of the book, that pulling his so called "pranks" was something his dad (who is deceased when the story begins) had taught him to do. I was a bit surprised at this. If his dad would approve of and participate in such meanness, then alive or dead, he's not a great guy. But would his dad really approve of Sam treating people in such a cruel way and think it funny? I seriously doubt it; most likely, the mean pranks Sam has pulled on teachers, police, and likely others is more a misguided interpretation of harmless and playful jokes his dad taught him that would entertain everyone, not just the person doing the prank.

In addition, again near the end of the book, Sam still hasn't learned much about honor or honesty and shows it when he lies to one of the characters who asks him if anyone could learn to use his phone; he leads the person to understand that he, Sam, is the only one who can or ever could use the phone the way he does. The person who asked hadn't given any indication of being a bad or dishonorable person, and Sam had no reason to withhold the truth from the person.  The only reason he did it, is because he wanted others to see him as special, as the only one with the ability to control his phone and all the things it could do.

From his attitude, it appears that at the end of this first book he still hasn't learned a significant amount of character. It will be disappointing if, at the end of the series, he still sees half-truths as acceptable, or  teachers as dross, and as suitable brunts of cruel jokes like he does at the beginning.

That being said, much of his acting out in such mean ways may have something to do with the fact that his dad passed away before the story began. Sam does try to rescue his friend, and even endures difficult and dangerous situations in his attempt to find and save the other boy. It will be interesting to see if he learns to extend that compassion to others including his mom and other adults (teachers, the police and other authority figures) in our dimension (not just the cool cowboys and rebel leaders in Avalon's dimension) and if he learns to appreciate the often raw endurance that such adults exercise when dealing with a child like him and what they all do and go through for him by the end of the series.

Of course, this is just the first book of a series, and the following books may see Sam learn and grow in surprising ways. The world building, as I already mentioned, was absolutely astounding, and Avalon, with its environment, people, magic system and rules, and the deliciously corrupt government is completely riveting.

Middle grade readers will find this book engaging and exciting, and will look forward with much anticipation to the rest of the series!

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Three Rules of Everyday Magic by Amanda Rawson Hill

The Three Rules of Everyday Magic by Amanda Rawson Hill is a touching middle grade novel about a young girl who doesn't know what to make of life and her relationships when her dad leaves, and she doesn't know where he is.

Three Rules of Everyday Magic, The (c) 2018
by Amanda Rawson Hill
The book gives young readers a good look at the realities of depression and dementia, and the readers learn, along with Kate, how to care and trust, even when the people she once trusted the most let her down.

Kate's dad, once her best friend and once so seemly happy, now has depression and doesn't seem to want Kate to know where he is.  Her grandma is sinking deeper into dementia and Kate doesn't know what to do about that.

She tries following her grandma's advice about "everyday magic" but at first, things don't seem to work, and even backfire on her. Or at least don't work out the way she expected. But as she learns about all the rules of "everyday magic" she begins to come to a greater understanding about what her dad is suffering and what her grandma is going through and is able to develop greater compassion for each of them.

This book is a good book for young people, especially those who have loved ones who are dealing with depression and/or aging.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen is a powerful book aimed mostly at older kids, but it's something that adults would appreciate as well.

Resistance (c) 2018 by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Chaya Lindner is a young Jewish girl whose family is torn apart by the Nazis during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Despite the terrible risks to her, she chooses to fight back by running messages, food, etc. into the ghettos. She even manages to sneak people out. She faces terrible risks, and great danger, but still presses forward.

The things that she sees in the ghettos, (starving people, etc.) and the terrible risks she faces may be scary for really young kids, but this is a story that needs to be told. I believe older kids and teens as well as adults will learn valuable lessons about WWII, the cruelty of the Nazis, and most importantly, the strength of human courage by reading this book.

History should not be forgotten if we do not want to repeat it, and the extent to which human depravity can sink should never be underestimated. And yet Chaya's example shows that the opposite is true, too. The extent of courage that can be shown in the face of great evil also should not be underestimated.

I recommend this book without hesitation to older elementary kids, teens, and adults.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Squint (c) 2018
 by Shelly Brown and Chad Morris
Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown follows Flint (Squint as some kids call him) as he works to create the graphic art of his original superhero Squint and his side kicks. As he makes friends with McKell, he starts to get to know her brother Danny as well, but not directly; only through the challenges he offers people through his youtube channel, that encourage them to do difficult things that stretch them and help make them better, kinder people.

As McKell and Flint work through Danny's various challenges, they grow and learn, sometimes in unexpected ways. But when tragedy strikes, will they be able to continue forward and work through the last few challenges?

Squint is a great book for young and not so young alike, and leaves the reader with something positive to think about.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Grump by Liesl Shurtliff

Grump by Leisl Shurtliff is a middle grade novel that follows the life of Borlen (also known as Grump) who ends up being one of the dwarves who help Snow White.

Grump (c) 2018 by Leisl Shurtliff 
Borlen is unlike other dwarves. Because of an accidental cave in, he wasn't born where most dwarves are born, deep down, in the best caverns, he is born near the surface, so close that his parents can see tree roots growing down into the cave where he is born. Because of this unfortunate predicament, the only things they have to feed their baby are pebbles, except for one nice ruby his father was saving for their child when he was born.

Perhaps because of this, or perhaps because of something inherent in his character, Borlen is fascinated by stories of the surface world and always wants to go there. One day when his crew of seven dwarves (they always dig in crews of seven) is digging in a tunnel, they come across his namesake, borlen, and realize they might be close to the surface. Few of the other dwarves want to stay here, but Borlen convinces them that he should, and bring back the borlen, which is a prized commodity in dwarf communities. They let him, but when he digs a little bit further, and finally breaks through a few more rocks, he sees sunlight streaming in. What happens after that? You should read the book and find out for yourself!

People who enjoy the story of Snow White would enjoy this unique look at the lives of the dwarves before they met Snow White, and especially at the life and background of Grumpy before and after their encounter with her.

This was a really fun book for me to read, and I think that adults as well as kids would enjoy it!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Rush Revere and the First Patriots by Rush Limbaugh

Rush Revere and the First Patriots by Rush Limbaugh is a fun way for kids and adults to experience history. It is the second book in the series, the first book being Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, and in my opinion, it is just as fun as the first.

In this second book, Mr. Revere, a substitute teacher at Manchester Middle School, is teaching in place of Ms. Borington, the regular history teacher. But Mr. Revere has something that Ms. Borington doesn't have. He has the ability to travel to any time in history where something happened that affected the United States. He doesn't have this skill on his own, though. He has a time traveling horse named Liberty who can talk, and can travel to specific events in American history.

In this episode, four students, Tommy, Freedom, Cam, and Elizabeth are able to travel through time to periods just before the American Revolution began. They meet people like Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, King George, and others who were participants in that period of history.

Tommy, Freedom and Cam are nice kids, Elizabeth is not. She's a power hungry child who wants to change American history so that King George knows about the Boston Tea Party before it happens. She is a decidedly unpleasant child, and I would enjoy watching what happens to her in continued episodes. Perhaps she will change for the better, and learn that Freedom and Liberty both the concepts and the people) are pretty great.

I recommend this book because of its fun characters, and its exploration of historical events in a creative and entertaining way.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims by Rush Limbaugh

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims (c) 2013
by Rush Limbaugh
Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims is a fun book written by Rush Limbaugh for a middle grade to junior high audience, and is a great way to teach young kids about the history of America. I listened to the audio book of the story, read by the author, Rush Limbaugh, and he does a great job, The story follows the adventures of four main characters, Rush Revere, the title character, his talking horse Liberty, and two kids, Tommy and Freedom, who are from the middle school where Mr. Revere is teaching temporarily.

Liberty is no ordinary horse. He can talk, and he can time travel. He was born in the 1700s, and his backstory is given a little bit about how he and Mr. Revere came to be friends. A lightening bolt struck near him, propelling him into the 21st century. Confused, the horse wandered around for a while until he saw Mr. Revere. Mr. Revere had been dressed in a costume from the 18th century because he'd been promoting something for his company. I forget exactly what. But seeing someone dressed in clothes with which Liberty was familiar, the horse proceeded to follow Mr. Revere along. Realizing that a horse was following him, Mr. Revere began a dialogue with the animal in which he discovered that Liberty could talk. They also discovered, some time later, that Liberty could time travel to any period in American history that was involved in some way with the establishment of our current government. So he could travel to anywhere from recent history all the way back to the landing of the pilgrims.

In this particular story, the first of the series I believe, Mr. Revere, Liberty, and two young kids, a boy named Tommy and a girl named Freedom, travel back and interact with the first pilgrims and the Native People who saved them, including William and Dorothy Bradford, Samoset, Squanto, Miles Standish, and Massasoit. The difficulties the pilgrims faced, including the death of Dorothy Bradford is mentioned in the book; William Bradford speaks of his grief at losing his wife, but not to the degree that it brings the fun and light-hearted mood of the book down (the main characters, in their travels back and forth in time were not present at the deaths of Dorothy or the others who died during the Starving Time).

I really enjoyed listening to this book, and highly recommend it to adults and young people alike as a way to explore the early history of the United States.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Angels Can Laugh Too by Alberta Rothe Nelson

Angels Can Laugh Too is a sweet, uplifting story written by Alberta Rothe Nelson and published by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media. The story follows Randolph Rippenhoffer (also known as R squared) from just before his death through his adventures as a guardian angel. He helps various people through various trials, some of them are funny, and some of them are sad.

Angels Can Laugh Too (c) 2004
by Alberta Rothe Nelson
The saddest was a story of a boxcar full of Jewish orphans during WWII. It was interesting to watch R Squared's emotions as he tried to help the children. Imagining the emotions of a soul who has passed on was a sweet addition to the book. It makes me wonder who might be watching me, trying to help me through various blunders. I also liked the addition of the bad "angels" that R Squared had to deal with as he tried to help the man battling his alcohol addiction. The bad "angels" reminded me of C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, and the devils in that, which were trying to tempt people in the wrong direction for their own insatiable hunger. I liked that even though R Squared didn't reach his goal with the man, that he didn't give up on him, and made plans to continue trying to help him.

I really enjoyed listening to this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading inspiring, religious stories.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Samantha, An American Girl by Susan S. Adler, Maxine Rose Schur, and Valerie Tripp

Samantha, An American Girl (c) 1998
The American Girls collection is an inspiring series of stories about girls from different eras of American history. Samantha's story begins in the Edwardian period, specifically 1904, and follows Samantha through various adventures believable to the time period.

I listened to the Samantha Story Collection about Samantha, a little girl growing up at the beginning of the 20th century. The stories were written by Susan S. Alder, Maxine Rose Schur, and Valerie Tripp.

Samantha is a good example for young readers. She is a wealthy, yet compassionate girl who is not afraid to befriend anyone who needs and appreciates her help. She is extremely altruistic, going to great lengths to help her friend Nellie many times throughout the series. Yet she doesn't come across as a character who is fake, or too good to be true. She seems realistic and genuine, and her actions show the value of friendship and believing in one's own abilities.

Since the story happens around 1904 there are various themes that are addressed, which were realistic concerns of the time, particularly women's suffrage, and child labor in unsafe factories. These themes are addressed in a way that the target audience, children, can understand, and also that adults can appreciate.

I recommend the Samantha Story Collection to young elementary aged readers. Adults reading with children will appreciate the stories as well.

I have not read all the American Girl Series, but from what I have read, the books are well written, entertaining, and teach valuable morals to their readers.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Alpha- Movie Review

Alpha, (c) 2018 by Albert Hughes
Keda is a young teenager who lives 20,000 years ago, going on a hunt with his father and the other men of his tribe. But when he's tossed over a cliff by a buffalo, his father and the others think he's died, and go home without him. Later, he regains consciousness, gets himself to safety, and gives himself first aid. As he's trying to make his way home, he's attacked by a wolf pack, and as he's climbing a tree to get away, one grabs his leg, and he stabs it with a knife, then gets up into the tree. The other wolves give up on catching him, and leave. But the wounded wolf isn't able to go. Unable to bring himself to kill the wounded wolf, Keda takes care of it. Over time, the two become friends, and the wolf, whom he names Alpha, continues his journey with him.

I enjoyed the movie, and thought it well made. There was a twist at the end that I did not expect, but it made sense, and I liked it.

It was directed by Albert Hughes, and produced by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. It was put out on DVD in 2018.

The movie is PG-13 because of scenes related to hunting animals. There is no swearing in the movie. I think that dog lovers would enjoy this movie.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

Janitors (2011) by Tyler Whitesides
Janitors by Tyler Whitesides is a fun story for middle grade readers about the adventures of a couple of kids, Spencer and Daisy, who discover the secret world of the janitors at their school.

It turns out that Marv Bills and Walter Jameson do more than mop floors. They're fighting toxites, little creatures invisible to most people unless they've been exposed to magical glop, that want to sap the smarts out of kids. Marv and Walter's problem though, is that while they want to help the kids, the BEM, Bureau of Educational Maintenance, has withdrawn support for them, as if the BEM actually wants kids to get stupid. Not knowing why the BEM has withdrawn support, Marv, Walter, and a handful of other "rebel janitors" continue to use glopified equipment, struggling to fight back the toxites on their own. But when the BEM start coming after them, the kids want to step in and help.

What will happen when the BEM start coming after the kids?

The book is a bit long for its target audience, but I think it would be an enjoyable read for most upper elementary aged readers.