"...Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion." ~Madonna

Sunday, October 30, 2011

EVENT - THEATER: La Scafetta: The Founding Drawer

Local author Mary Rohrer-Dann has written a series of poems based on the true story of an all-girl orchestra in Baroque Vienna. Cynthia Mazzant, artistic director of Tempest Studios, has transformed these stories into a play, LA SCAFETTA: THE FOUNDING DRAWER,  about a young violinist and her jealous music teacher.

The original orchestra had consisted of orphans who lived in a cloistered environment and were so well known that much of their music was composed by Vivaldi.

Here is an opportunity to see a show that highlights the talents of author Mary Rohrer-Dann, director Cynthia Mazzant, and a cast of actresses, many who will be familiar to you from our community theatres.

If you are a supporter of our local theater scene, LA SCAFETTA: THE FOUNDING DRAWER will be presented at The University Club on College Avenue in State College, November 3rd and 4th.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


If someone had not left a copy of Michael Connelly’s THE LINCOLN LAWYER in our vacation condo, I would have missed out on an exciting read.

Mickey Haller is a criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car.  His practice takes him all over the city of Los Angeles, defending drug dealers, drunk drivers, con artists, prostitutes, bikers, and the like. For Mickey it is not about guilt or innocence, it is about manipulation and the bottom line---money.

He is beginning to think that he has lost his ability to recognize actual innocence. When he is hired by a wealthy playboy accused of attacking a woman that he picked up in a bar, Mickey feels that this may be the one. This might be his “franchise case”, enough evidence to get his client off, a client worth a large amount of money, and the chance at more clients from wealthy Beverly Hills.

After someone very close to him is murdered, Mickey finds himself facing real evil and he must use all of his instincts and talents as a lawyer to protect himself and his family.

What follows is page after page of plot twists, action, and courtroom drama at its best. I was hooked enough to stay up until 3:00 a.m. to find out what happens.

This was the first Michael Connelly book that I have read and I am glad that it was THE LINCOLN LAWYER. The author leaves the door open for future stories involving Mickey Haller and the colorful characters around him. For me to continue with a series, the main characters have to capture my interest and this book was full of well done, interesting characters; I want to learn more about them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Born Standing Up - A Comic's Life

If you only know Steve Martin from the late 1970’s as that “wild and crazy” guy, you are missing much of his talent. Martin started his professional career as a writer for television shows, most notably The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and is now an award winning author of magazine articles, movie scripts, as well as best selling books. BORN STANDING UP - A COMIC'S LIFE tells of his early days in comedy, how it started and how and why it ended.

By 1978, Steve Martin was the biggest concert draw in stand-up history. In 1981, he stopped doing stand-up completely.

In BORN STANDING UP, Martin tells of starting his career at age ten selling guidebooks at Disneyland, the newly opened theme park. His fascination with magic grew when he worked at the Disney Magic Shop and he gives credit to the pros who taught him the secrets of performing magic.

From there he went to the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm where he performed his magic/comedy act a dozen times a week. While working there he honed his act with a dedication to excellence. This early training has lasted him throughout his career.

The work, sacrifice, discipline, and originality paid off and as his fame grew, the isolation and loneliness also grew. The traveling took its toll on his relationships with his family and friends until he finally decided, at the top of his fame, to stop.

Martin tells his story in an almost self-deprecating way. Rarely do we get a look into his deepest emotions and for some reason that seems to work. The book never becomes a tell-all gossipy account of the people around him. It does take us backstage to learn more about the heavy irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and the new voice that was Saturday Night Live.  As a result, not only do we get a glimpse of the rise of one of the most inventive of comics, but a glimpse into the time of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam - and all told by a talented author.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


One of the perks that comes with doing this article for the Gazette is that people recommend new books to me all the time.

Richard Montanari lives in Great Britain, but is originally from Cleveland, Ohio where he met my niece.  My niece was kind enough to give Mr. Montanari my business card and he sent me his latest book.  Complicated, but it worked, and to my delight I can share THE ECHO MAN with you.

Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano have been partners as homicide detectives in Philadelphia for a long time, long enough to know each other well and to have seen some horrific crimes. Now they are investigating a series of crimes that seem to be connected to unsolved murders from the past.
The new crime scenes are duplicates of the old scenes only this time the bodies are mutilated and the killer has left an unusual calling card. It becomes obvious that the victims have been tortured by a person with a sadistic mind.

THE ECHO MAN builds with so many twists that it is not fair to tell much of the plot; I would not want to draw attention to a clue that the reader should find for himself. I can, though, tell you about the skill of the author.

It has become a trick of suspense novels to get us into the mind of the killer.  Never identifying the person, but giving the reader a glimpse of how the mad mind works. Montanari handles this with a flair that is almost poetic and still builds the suspense. I could feel the person falling deeper into madness as the story went along.

I really liked the detectives, Jessica and Kevin. They come to this book with a background that intrigues me and I want to read earlier books to find what made them the people that they are. I also want to see what becomes of them personally in the future.

My only complaint, and it is a small one, at times Montanari breaks the rhythm of the story to explain a term or word that would have been clear in context. But, as I said, that was a small matter. All in all I have found a new author who will fill in the space on my shelves right beside David Baldachi.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Out of the Dust

It is a well known secret that some of the best writing out there is done under the classification of Young Adults. Frequently I will pick up a book for a grandchild only to be told, “Grandma, I’ve already read that.” So naturally I keep it for myself. That is how I obtained OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse.

The year is 1934 and the place is Oklahoma. Billie Jo is fourteen as she starts to tell her story. Life is tough, but Billie Jo’s mother has taught her to play the old piano in their living room. Her musical talent gets her some jobs making it possible to bring in some badly needed money.

As the dust storms get worse, life takes a turn for Billie Jo. Her mother and new born child are gone; her father withdraws from her, and she can no longer play her beloved piano.  Her neighbors are leaving their devastated farms and moving West. Billie Jo and her father are left behind to find peace in the bleak countryside and with each other.

This is a book that has been awarded almost every award and medal for youth literature available: the Newberry Medal, the Scott O’Dell Award and the Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year Award, to name just a few. It is easy to see why.

The story is told in free verse. Somehow, verse can be more eloquent and it gives Billy Jo’s descriptions a harsh reality while staying beautifully poetic. Listen as she describes her mother:

In the kitchen she is my ma,
in the barn and the fields she is my daddy’s wife,
but in the parlor Ma is something different.
She isn’t much to look at,
so long and skinny,
her teeth poor,
her dark hair always needing a wash, but
by the time I was four,
I remember being dazzled by her
whenever she played the piano.

OUT OF THE DUST  is a beautiful book. It captures the Dust Bowl of The Grapes of Wrath from the eyes of a young girl. (Not to mention that it reads faster than Steinbeck’s book.) It is a story of a young heroine who has enormous strength, courage, hope, and love. If you have a young reader in your family, get Karen Hesse’s book for them. Just be sure to read it yourself first.