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Archive for February, 2011

Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit & The Biggest Flop of the Season 1959-2009 by Peter Filichia

Posted by Caitie F on February 27, 2011

Title: Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hits & The Biggest Flop of the Season 1959-2009
Author: Peter Filichia
Paperback: 277 pages
Publisher: Applause Books
Year Published: 2010
ISBN: 9781423495628
Rating: ++++

Summary (from back cover):

When Evita opened on Broadway during the 1979-1980 season, it was (as one of its songs said) “High Flying Adored.” But in the 1970-71 season, the producers of Lolita, My Love saw their show (as one of its songs said) “Going, Gone, Gone” after its torturous Philadelphia and Boston tryouts. It didn’t even try to brave Broadway, although the bookwriter-lyricist of My Fair Lady had written it.

It happens every season. Broadway has one, two, or a few hit musicals, but many, many more flops. Here’s a look at the extreme cases from each season of the past half-century. The musicals that everyone knew would be hits – The Sound of Music, The Phantom of the Opera, The Producers – and were. The tuners that sounded terrible from the moment they were announced – Via Galactica, The Civil War, Lestat – and turned out to be even worse than anyone expected. The shows that were destined to succeed – Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Merrily We Roll Along – but didn’t. The ones that didn’t have a chance – Man of La Mancha, 1776, Grease – but went on to household-name status. Peter Filichia takes a look at 100 shows that met either the most glorious or the most ignominious fates

Review:

This book is a must-read for any Broadway fan. There are 100 shows, half of them the best of the season, and half of them the worst. But the best aren’t always the most loved shows, and some of the worst are cult favorites or shows that are put on every month around the globe.

Filichia does a fantastic job of covering the shows. It is not always about plot, who was in it, or who wrote it. Sometimes he talks about how the show changed during previews (for better or worse). Sometimes, it was very specific. In the section about The Phantom of the Opera he talks about the cast member who has been in the show for 20 years. The Rent section is all about the lottery and how it impacted theater.

It is also a great book to read in short chunks. Each section is 2-4 pages and can really be enjoyed over time.

So, if i loved it so much, why only four out of five, instead of five? ALl it took for the book to lose one ranking is one section on Hairspray.

Filichia calls Hairspray a fairy tale. While there are arguments that could show the show is a fairy tale, his are offensive. He claims that it is a “stretch the Corny cared only about how Tracy danced and not how she would look on TV”. Well if that isn’t bad enough, he asked if “a wildly overweight housewife retain the lust of a still-skinny husband a couple decades into the marriage”.

What? He claims that is a fairy tale? I guess men just care about how a woman looks and if she gains weight, he should just dump her. That is so pig-headed and disgusting to me. It made me lose respect for a columnist I love and made me judge the book as a whole.

Other than that section, it is a great book and a must read for any theater lover!

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Ford County Stories by John Grisham

Posted by Caitie F on February 23, 2011

Title: Ford County
Author: John Grisham
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Doubleday
Year Published: 2009
ISBN: 0385532458
Rating: +++

Summary:

John Grisham returns to Ford County, Mississippi, the setting of his immensely popular first novel, A Time to Kill. T

Review:

Like most short story collections, some were better than others. There were three stories that I really liked, and only one that I really disliked, so it was a solid collection. There was one story in particular that I LOVED , so I thought I would share a little of what I loved about it.

This story is about a young man who comes back to Mississippi from San Francisco to die from AIDS, and it is set in the 1980s. His family won’t have anything to do with him and the whole town won’t touch him or anything he has touched. The only person who will is an African-American woman who lives with him and takes care of him. She does everything she can to make his last months more comfortable and faces persecution for it herself. Her church – which she has been an active member of for decades, tells her not to bother coming anymore.

It was so sad to read. People thought that they could get the disease if they were in the same house as he was. They had no compassion and were just horrible. It made me happy that people are educated today. That is, until I watched an episode of What Would You Do last week and they had a situation where an actor was wearing a shirt for HIV and another actor didn’t want to sit near him or touch anything he touched. Most people jumped to the infected actors defense…but there was a disturbing amount of people that thought you could get it from someone coughing. Really? Still? At least there were quite a few young people (including teenagers) that called out the misinformed people, but the others were not convinced.

It was the best story in the collection and had so much to think and reflect about. I would say go get this out of your library just for this story.

Posted in Review | 1 Comment »

The Sunday Salon: Meeting Eilzabeth Eulberg

Posted by Caitie F on February 20, 2011

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope your weekend has been good so far. Jason had Friday off, so this has been a super long weekend for us. We had friends over last night to play games (so much fun!) and finally saw The Social Network – let me say I was NOT impressed. I thought the movie was just okay.

But the highlight of my weekend was Friday night when I got to meet Elizabeth Eulberg. I loved The Lonely Hearts Club. I actually think it was the best book I read last year. If you have not read it yet, go check out my review, because it is now out in paperback and you should go get it now. I have actually only been to one author event before, when I saw John Green in Chicago, so it was exciting just for that!

When she tweeted that she was going to be at my local B&N I emailed my husband and said we have plans…even though it was over a month in advance. Her second book called Prom and Prejudice was released this year and I am very excited to read it, but even more excited that it meant I got to meet her.

I got there and…there were four of us. Not the best turn out, but it ended up being really awesome. She did a reading from the new book, which was just great. I will be hearing her voices for the characters when I read it! She also talked about her next book coming out, which I am even more excited about.  I got to ask her a few questions and we talked about the industry a little. It was a great event and she was so nice and fun.

I got two books signed (yay for having a credit card with a super low limit and APR). I got a paperback of Lonely Hearts for myself (since I gave away the copy I read) and the new book signed. I will be reading it this week (once I finish Freedom) then giving the signed copy to one of my readers!

It was an amazing event and if she is coming somewhere near you, I would recommend seeing her!

Posted in Misc | 2 Comments »

Borders

Posted by Caitie F on February 18, 2011

I am sure most of my readers know that Borders has filed for Chapter 11 and are closing over 200 stores. It isn’t surprising, since they have been on the brink of bankruptcy for years and we knew it was just a matter of time. That doesn’t mean it is not a sad occasion that will have repercussions in the book industry for years. Yes, we can hope they will come back, but it is doubtful. It really sucks in my area because our brand new Borders is closing. This store was beautiful, massive, and had a fantastic staff.

You can talk about how Borders killed independent book stores and lost some of the personal touches of buying books, but I would argue Amazon killed indies even more and I knew the staff members of my Borders and they were VERY knowledgeable and helpful. They were as excited about books as other booksellers at indies and were always looking for new things and how to help their loyal customers. We didn’t even have and indie bookstore in my area before Borders, it WAS our local bookstore.

But that is the past, let’s talk about the future. A lot of booksellers are going to be out of jobs. Smaller publishers may not be able to survive because Borders was their largest customer. Contracts will probably get worse for both publishers and authors because Barnes and Noble will have less competition. People lost their local bookstore, and now more will be going to Amazon for books, which is notorious for bullying publishers and authors.

This is a lose/lose/lose situation (customers, publishers, and authors). I hope they can get their stuff together. They did make mistakes and I am hoping they can fix them with their remaining store. The industry needs Borders to survive.

Posted in Editorial | 2 Comments »

Hide & Seek by James Patterson

Posted by Caitie F on February 15, 2011

Title: Hide & Seek
Author: James Patterson
Hardcover: 302 pages
Publisher: Doubleday
Year Published: 1996
ISBN: 0316693863
Rating: ++

Summary (from goodreads):

It was the trial that electrified the world. Not only because of the defendant, Maggie Bradford, the woman whose songs captivated the world’s heart. Not only because of the victim, Will Shepard, the world’s most glamorous athlete. But also because everyone said Maggie had murdered not just one husband, but two. And because in Maggie’s world–the world she feared and despised but could not escape, the world of the powerful, the rich, and the ruthless–both death and life could never be what they seemed.

Review:

I got this at the library as part of the Blind Date with a Book. I was happy to get it because I have wanted to try a Patterson books for a while, and i wanted to make sure it was an early one so he actually wrote it.

It was a very meh mystery. I figured out what happened way before it was revealed, which is always disappointing in a mystery. It is good when there are hints towards it, but it was very obvious and predictable.

I will say that Patterson can write a character the feels complex and real. Maggie is vulnerable, smart, and loving. She is a character who you want to win in the end. The villain is VERY villainous, scary, and disturbing: all in all, the best kind of villain there is.

I am a little disappointed that the book was so disappointing. His style does not really work for me. Why split a scene across multiple chapters instead of making it make more sense and having it in just one chapter? I get the short chapters, it makes it a fast read and easy to stop. That said, chapters can be too short and not make sense, and that is how it was here..

I will give The Jester a try because i have heard it is probably his best, but I will not be reading through his entire collection.

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

A Blind Date With Books

Posted by Caitie F on February 13, 2011

My library has an awesome Valentine’s celebration to “Go on a blind date with a book” They wrapped a bunch of books in brown paper and decorated them, and you can check them out and find out what they are when you get home (or look on the slip you get). If you like it, you can write a review and they will share it with patrons. If not, you can return it, no questions asked! 😀

I got two, and my husband got one. I got a Patterson book and A Million Little Pieces, which I have been meaning to read for a while. Jason got Ford County by John Grisham, which eh isn’t interested in, but I want to read it.

I thought this promotion was so cute, I may go by tomorrow and get some more. I am going to read all of them, at least a little to see if I like it. I like the idea of just trying a random book. Yes, I know what I like, but I am often surprised. There were books I thought I would love that I hated, and thanks to bloggers I started loving genres or authors I never thought I would have considered!

Now, I can’t do this all the time because I have so much in my physical TBR pile and my list of books to read, but I like it every so often!

Does your library do any fun promotions? Our has done more lately for adults, which I think is a great pattern and I hope it continues!

Posted in Editorial | 4 Comments »

TSS: Being Human

Posted by Caitie F on February 13, 2011

How was everyone’s week? Mine was stressful: between an interview and trying to figure out unemployment and starting to jump through the hoops I need a break. It hasn’t even started  yet and I want to bash my head against a wall.

But I am getting by. I have been watching some TV and am LOVING the TV Show Being Human. It was originally on the BBC, but there is a new version on SyFy, which is the one I am watching.

It has everything I love in fantasy/paranormal shows. It has a ghost trying to deal with with being dead and watching her loved ones move on too. She is probably my favorite character and has my favorite arc so far in the show. It has a realistic feeling, even though it is a fantastical element – unless you guys can all just imagine yourself somewhere and you are there too. If so, please share your talents because that would save a LOT on gas.

It has a vampire that acts like a vampire. He doesn’t have to stay out of the sun, but it is because of evolution. Not just because the creators decided it, they have a reason! He tries to just have blood he takes from the hospital (I am hoping he never takes the rare types), but he slips up and does bad things. Usually, he is a cool guy trying to do his best and be there for his friends. There is a bishop of the vampires (yay Jacob from Lost!), but he isn’t too pretty, kicks a bunch of ass, and helps keep them a secret.

Then there is a guy who is a werewolf. I assumed he would be the least interesting character of the show because i am not a big fan of men that hairy and vicious, but his story has been pretty cool so far. Between almost killing his sister and telling her to stay away from him to dealing with his animalistic feelings, he has become pretty fun to watch. It helps that he is funny and kind of nerdy – not what I would expect for a werewolf!

This show has great, complex characters and story lines. It is what I want to see in paranormal books, but haven’t lately. These three aren’t predictable like so many seem to be. The whole show is about them trying to be and stay human. They need to remember those human emotions an feelings so they can manage not to give in to their paranormal side. They struggle with it, just like we all struggle with the tough things in life. They screw up, but that is what makes them interesting.

Have you watched this show (either BBC or Syfy)? What do you think? Do you like your paranormals more para or more normal? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Editorial | 1 Comment »

If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous

Posted by Caitie F on February 8, 2011

Title: If You Follow Me
Author: Malena Watrous
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Year Published: 2010
ISBN: 9780061732850
Rating: +++++

Summary (from goodreads):

Hoping to outpace her grief in the wake of her father’s suicide, Marina has come to the small, rural Japanese town of Shika to teach English for a year. But in Japan, as she soon discovers, you can never really throw away your past . . . or anything else, for that matter.

If You Follow Me is at once a fish-out-of-water tale, a dark comedy of manners, and a strange kind of love story. Alive with vibrant and unforgettable characters from an ambitious town matchmaker to a high school student-cum-rap artist wannabe with an addiction to self-tanning lotion it guides readers over cultural bridges even as it celebrates the awkward, unlikely triumph of the human spirit.

Review:

First of all, I must thank Amanda from The Zen Leaf for writing such an amazing review that made me go get the book from the library that same Day. Go read her review, because she does it much better than I do.

I absolutely adored reading this book. In the beginning, I made myself read slowly and take my time so I could get as much out of the Japanese culture as I could. In the past two days, I couldn’t keep reading at the slower pace, so I finished the last 250 pages in two days.

There were so many reason to love this book, but a big one is that it is about an age that is often ignored in literature because people think it can’t sell. Marina is 22, just out of college and trying something completely new to her. It is so refreshing to see a young women in a book. I am 23 and rarely see people my age or even close to my situation in the books I read. Both she and Carolyn were realistic and showed the complexities of women in their early 20s and just out of college. It is a strange and confusing time and I loved that it tok place out of New York City and romance.

If you have any interest in Japanese culture, you should read this book. I am always trying to find novels that can teach me about different perspectives and world views. I love that this took place in a small town in Japan instead of a city, and showed what life was like there. There were very complicated rules about garbage and I think I would have as much trouble and they did. I don’t want to discuss what aspects of the culture that I really loved because I want you to be able to read about it, but they included sex ed, splitting classes and jobs based on gender (and the look on education in general), and the town’s matchmaker. Before reading this, i never had much interest in visiting Japan, but I think it would be a great cultural experience!

The other aspect of the book that made me love it so much was Carolyn and Marina’s relationship. They are both bisexual, but it is just part of who they are. They don’t have problems in their relationship because of their sexuality, they have problems in their relationship because they are two people with different takes on the world and relationships. I am so happy to see books with gay characters that aren’t about the characters being gay. It was a great portrayal of a relationship and gender did not make a difference.

I could go on for pages about all of the things I liked about this book and how it impacted me. I didn’t even talk about Marina’s father and his depression then suicide, which is a large part of the book and was a fantastic example of how we all deal with grief differently. Or how I loved all of the minor characters and what they brought to the story. Or about six other things I could talk about.

I hope I have given you enough to get you at least a little interested.

This counts for the following challenges:

GLBT Challenge
TwentyEleven Challenge

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

A Trend I Just Don’t Get

Posted by Caitie F on February 4, 2011

There are lots of trends in YA books, especially fantasy or paranormal. There are werewolves, fairies, and vampires. While I am not always crazy about these trends, at least I understand the appeal. There is one trend I just don’t get.

Angels.

I picked up my first angel book last night, Fallen by Thomas Sniegoski. I read about half of this book, but I just couldn’t finish it. The writing was fine, and the characters were fine, but I didn’t really enjoy the overall plot or what it was saying, or the angels aspect. I don’t like the level of religion that is automatically inserted.

In this book, there was a corrupt angel that goes around killing 18 year olds because he feels like God is telling him to, even though God doesn’t communicate with him anymore. Then there are other angels who screwed up and are repenting, but this bad angel still goes around killing them and innocent people.

Really? God will communicate through Aaron (the main character) but won’t stop these bad guys? They are HIS angels. And it is just explained by “he works in mysterious ways” which I just can’t buy in books or in life. I didn’t finish they book, but I don’t like that they can just throw that excuse out and have it be acceptable plotting. Not even getting into faith and beliefs, I think it is bad storytelling.

So that explains why I didn’t enjoy this book, but not why I am not interested in books on angels as a whole.

When you write about angels you are going to bring in religion as a whole. That is fine and I think it can make readers think and explore new ideas, which is something I am a huge fan of, especially in YA. It has to walk a very fine line between being preachy and being completely out there to the point that I got to with Fallen. And based on reviews I have read, it doesn’t seem like many of the books have been.

Maybe I am wrong and there are some amazing books on angels. Maybe my doubts in religion or God make me jaded towards these books. Mostly, I think it is that by making fantasy books about something that some people believe in so strongly, you have to add in elements that feel forced. I feel like authors will have to talk about faith or how God sees things or another level that won’t be discussed fully because it can be a book all on its own.

I won’t give up on this trend completely and will have to check out others, but for now, I just don’t get it.

Have you read any good angel books? Are there any trends that you just don’t understand? Let me know in the comments what you think!

Posted in Editorial | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Posted by Caitie F on February 3, 2011

Title: Extras
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Hardback: 417 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781416951179
Rating: ++++

Summary  (from goodreads):

The world has become a different place since Tally Youngblood upset the Uglies, Pretties, Specials applecart. What it’s like? Well, visualize an all-day, everyday version of American Idol, where everybody’s a contestant and there are cameras everywhere. In this constant competition, teenager Aya Fuse ranks as a nobody; 451,369 to be exact. Of course, such obscurity has its small rewards, all of which have now become endangered by her friendship with the Sly Girls.

Review:

This review will contain spoilers, not really to this book, but to the previous few, so if you haven’t read those, you have been warned!

So Tally and her friends went through all that, but is the world even any better? There is a metal shortage, everyone is now obsessed with fame, and there may be strange alien creatures trying to destroy the world. It isn’t exactly a good place and I can see why Tally and David threatened that they would be watching because this is just what is happening in one city.

There is a new, great character with some of Tally’s flaws and some of her strengths named Aye. Aye is 15 and is just an extra – a no one in this culture of celebrity. She is on her way by kick stories, she is an investigative journalist just like her brother. She finds out about a group of girls who are riding a train at 300 mph. She thinks this kick will be what makes it big, but she discovers more than fast trains and fun.

Aye is smart, brave, and really thinks about what is going on in her world. She is great at seeing the problems and being the report together in a way that others much older than her have been able to do. Even if she is mainly doing it for the fame and only goes along with the rest (at first)  just so she doesn’t die.

What this book showed me even more though is that Tally is really really flawed. She needed that operation to reverse the Special abilities and thoughts. Even though it has been three years, she still has relapses, and it seems like she has a lot of them. I thought it was a mistake before, but seeing her actions shows that it really was.

I thought this was a solid final (and extra) book in the series. The new society was believable and easy to see how it happened after the brain washing was over.  It covered major themes that are relevant to our society: honesty and the rise of celebrities and fame. I loved the inclusion of the Radical Honesty clique where they cannot lie. It causes some problems and you see the necessity of white lies.

Like the rest of the series this book has hints of so many other issues and I love how Westerfeld can address issues teens are facing without being preachy.

I really loved this series and look forward to reading the rest of his writing!

Posted in Review | 2 Comments »