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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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Review of "Twelfth Night" as performed by The New American Shakespeare Tavern


Veronika Duerr as Viola and Jeff McKerley as Malvolio

The comedy "Twelfth Night" is one of Shakespeare's comedy that I have never either seen nor read before now.  But when this play opened up last week, I decided it was high time to correct that oversight and to introduce my kids, 10 and 13, to Shakespeare.  I have been to the Shakespeare Tavern downtown only once before, and I love "Irma Vep" so much I saved the ticket stub.  But would they do a reasonable Shakespeare?
The acting company at The New American Shakespeare Tavern did not disappoint.
We arrived early, per instructions  at "How It Works" on the website, and waited a few minutes to be seated in the main area.  Once seated, we grabbed a quick dinner (they serve an interestingmenu) of Rainy Day Tomato Soup and Cornish Pasty, then we discussed what to expect from the play.
A little while later, the magic started!
While the actors speak in an older dialect of English, we understood what was going on, with both of my kids asking only a minimal of questions regarding plot.  The costumes, the props, the music - all of this only enhanced the superb acting from the entire cast.  Feste, the fool, was the hands down favorite, with Malvolio a close second.  An unforeseen highlight was a rude woman who walked in front of the stage during a scene with Malvolio.  The actor watched her walk out of the tavern area, made a funny comment, then kick with his feet, mimicking a dog covering up his excrement.   
All of the actors were phenomenal - Viola, Olivia, Orsino, Sebastian, Antonio, Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Fabian, Feste, and of course, Malvolio - I will potentially have problems watching them in other roles, since they are now ingrained in my mind and memory as the cast of "Twelfth Night".  I only say "potentially" though because they will undoubtably portray other characters with the same skill, and I will once again swear never to see them differently.  
The first question my kids asked after the play was, "Can we see it again?  And bring friends?" The second question was "Can we see more plays here?" 
Bravo, Shakespeare Tavern!  You have begun converting the younger generation from video gamers to Shakespeare lovers.  Take a bow - you deserve it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

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Book Review: "Discount Armageddon" by Seanan McGuire

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1)Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Discount Armageddon" by Seanan McGuire promises a good story - and the story fulfills the promise with gusto. In the beginning of the book, you meet Verity Price, a cryptozoologist with aspirations to be a professional ballroom dancer. The first several chapters vacillate between current action and providing background information for the reader, then it's full steam ahead.

I love how the author, Ms. McGuire, balances suspense and comedy within the story. The Aeslin mice are my favorite supporting cast - I almost wish I had my own splinter colony living in my house.

As for the characters, everyone seemed deep enough for their participation in the story. The only place where I wished for a bit more is the interaction between Dominic and Verity. For solid enemies, it seems like they learn to tolerate each other a bit too quickly. Not that I'd change their story, it just seems too convenient.

I recommend this book to anyone who has a few hours to spare.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

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Book Review: "Wolfsbane and Mistletoe" by Various Authors

Wolfsbane and MistletoeWolfsbane and Mistletoe by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow - this book took me by surprise! I expected good stories, but not the depth, variety, and sheer creativity in this collection of short stories.

Let me do a quick summary of the stories:

"Gift Wrap" by Charlaine Harris - Sookie Stackhouse finds a naked man in her woods on Christmas eve. It's a nice, short story with little drama and a lot of cheesiness.

"The Haire of the Beast" by Donna Andrews - A brother asks his sister to help him make a werewolf potion. Things go a little awry. I actually laughed out loud reading this one.

"Lucy, At Christmastime" by Simon R. Green - A sad story about a vampire in a supernatural bar on Christmas Eve. I liked this one, even though it seemed more thoughtful and less action-oriented than the other stories.

"The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron - Imagine that vampires and werewolves are the world's supernatural police. That's the underlying concept behind this particular story. I must admit, I thought about that concept a few times, and I like how the author does it.

"The Werewolf Before Christmas"  by Kat Richardson- A werewolf eats Rudolph, and has to do penance for Santa Claus.  The story adds several twists to the Santa Claus legend, giving it more power and more depth.

"Fresh Meat" by Alan Gordon - A man who runs a dog-training kennel has an assassin after him. I really cannot say more without giving away too much. Again, a winning story that relies on creativity and brains, as well as doggie power!

"Il Est Ne" by Carrie Vaughn - A story about a man who is turned into a werewolf and runs away from his life meets a lady werewolf and learns how to live life again.

"The Perfect Gift" by Dana Stabenow - This is the only story that I didn't immediately love. The characters in the beginning of the story discuss a situation that needs to be resolved, but the author doesn't give enough information about it. I felt like I needed to draw way too many conclusions.

"Christmas Past" by Keri Arthur - Nominally, this story is about two people going after vampires who are killing charity workers. But the story really revolves around Hannah and Brodie's broken relationship. I love how the author weaves both stories together to create a believable tale.

"SA" by Joe Konrath - A man starts to poo out strange objects - coins, earrings, and other assorted stuff. I know that sounds like a crazy way to start a story, but the entire thing works, and works well. It also has Santa Claus as the bad guy - a neat twist.

"The Star of David" by Patricia Briggs - Okay, this is the story I wanted to read badly enough to buy this book. David Christiansen shows up in "Moon Called" as a secondary character, but he struck me in that book as an interesting man, someone I wish I knew more about. Well, here it is, more about David and his family. I love how the author creates her characters - three dimensional and full of emotion. I just wish she wrote more about David and his life.

"You'd Better Not Pyout" by Nancy Pickard - Two Russian vampires decide that Santa Claus must be a vampire, and they travel to the North Pole to find out. I must admit, I have never before thought of Saint Nick as a vampire, but the story provides to think about on that speculation.

"Rogue Elements" by Karen Chance - I love this story! Actually, I read another short story by Karen Chance in another anthology with the same characters. In fact, the other story references this one - a fact that completely made my day! Lia is a war mage given the impossible task of finding a lost werewolf in Las Vegas. Need I say more?

"Milk and Cookies" by Robin Thurman - Told from the point of view of a nice thirteen year old brother, this story relays how the brother, Nicky, must deal with a bully and the Christmas holidays at the same time. Oh, and finding the perfect gift for his little sister.

"Keeping Watch Over His Flock" by Toni L. P. Kelner - A young werewolf breaks most of the pack rules and now must face the pack. It's a cute story with a happy ending.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

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Book Review: "An Exercise in Futility" by Steve Thomas

An Exercise in FutilityAn Exercise in Futility by Steve Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"An Exercise in Futility" by Steve Thomas tells the story of a war between nomadic tribes, the Gurdur, and their ancient enemies, the Kalhar. The story focuses on a small set of people, from the protagonists Ezekiel and Charity, as well as their families, to the antagonists, Emperor Kathelm and General Meunig. Each character tells part of the story, creating a patchwork of viewpoints.

I found the book a quick and entertaining read. While I found some of the plot to be predictable, the author created such a good story that I didn't mind the predictability. The characters grew within the story, each of them coping with the whims of fate.

I highly recommend this book to people who like fantasy books.

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