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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


If I could, all of you would find a copy of THE FIRST PHONE CALL FROM HEAVEN under your Christmas tree this year. You're welcome.

Mitch Albom is an author that I read regularly. Starting with Tuesdays wit Morrie, his books are always inspirational and entertaining. Some have been better than others, I agree, but each has given me something to think about.

THE FIRST PHONE CALL FROM HEAVEN takes place in a small town where eight  residents have received phone calls from people who have died. One is from a beloved sister, one from a mother, one from a son who was killed in the military and so on. As word of these calls becomes known, the town is thrown from being a quiet, peaceful place to one over run by tourists and the news media...all seeking to be part of the miracle.

Everyone wants to be assured that Heaven is all that we have been led to believe. The town is showing growth. The churches are full, Store fronts are re-opening. Tourists and townspeople alike are caught up in the fever. But, several people are not so sure of the authenticity of these calls. What if they are a cruel hoax?

Sully Harding is not a believer in this miracle fever. Recently out of prison, Sully has returned to his hometown and his son. While he was in prison his wife had died and his young son has taken to caring a toy phone with the hope that his mommy will call him. Sully has to prove that the calls are a hoax for his son's sake as well as to help heal his own broken heart.

What follows is a mystery as well as a study of mob mentality and our need for human connection.

Interestingly, the author has thrown some historical facts on the invention of the telephone into the story. Some facts were new to me and made Alexander Bell more real and not just another name from our history books. I am not sure if the book needed these interruptions; they seemed to stop the flow of the plot at times.

Albom really is in top form in this book. His characters are well defined and heartbreaking human. His feel for the hope and devastation of the eight people who have heard from the dead is touching. But, through it all the mystery of who is behind the phone calls and why, if it is a hoax, keeps the story moving.

In the end, the reader can decide for himself if such a miracle is possible. Things may wrap up a little neatly and sometimes I have problems with new information being sprung on me to make the ending a "neat" one, but in this case, it works. THE FIRST PHONE CALL FROM HEAVEN will give you several things to ponder. One that stays with me is, if a miracle is a "hoax" can it still be a miracle?

If you are already a fan of Mitch Albom's books don't miss this one. If he is a new author to you, this is a good place to start.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book Review: Me Before You

Thanks to my afternoon book group at the library, I have found a new author. Jojo Moyes has won me as a fan with ME BEFORE YOU. I can not wait to see how the other members of the group reacted to this biter sweet story.

The prologue of the story introduces us to hot shot Will Trayner, a young man who has it all, a power job, big money, a beautiful girlfriend and a life full of excitement and, some times dangerous adventures. The prologue ends with Will being involved in a traffic accident.

Louisa Clark is a small town girl who has just lost her job as a waitress in a coffee shop. Her family is ordinary and not overly encouraging. Her boyfriend of seven years has become more interested in physical fitness then in their relationship. With no real job experience or training, Lou finds that the best job available is to become a companion to a quadriplegic. Wiping the bum of an elderly person is not her idea of a great job, but it beats working in the chicken processing plant.

Of course the patient turns out to be Will, now confined to a wheel chair and unable of basic self care. Will has become resentful of his condition and impossibly rude to everyone around him. Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves. In time a relationship forms that changes both of them.

This sounds like such a routine plot that I was ready to skim through it just so I could follow the group discussion Friday afternoon. Instead I became so wrapped up in the characters that I had trouble getting away from them, whether I was reading or going about my daily chores.

At first I was very put off by Lou's family. The small house contained a mother who never sat down, a grandfather who was normally napping, a "perfect" sister who was living back home with a toddler, a father who only seemed to speak when he wanted to belittle Lou. The only likable character was the toddler, Thomas.  As the story progressed, each family member became more dimensional.

Will's family also became more real. His mother seemed so cold and so impressed with her money and position and his father just distant. As we learn more about them, they did not change so much, but we at least learn why they are the way they are.

All of the characters in the book are well done. Will's male nurse Nathan becomes a large part in Lou's plan to save Will. Patrick, Lou's boyfriend, plays an important part also, although not willingly.
It was not hard to get involved with these people.

The research that Lou does on working with quadriplegics was informative as was her information on assisted suicide. These two areas gave the book another dimension as well as some surprises. Yes, the ending may have been foreshadowed enough not to be a surprise, but reactions to final events may have been.

This was a fairly fast read, mainly because I really wanted to see what was going to happen. While I was checking the author for other books, I found that a movie version will be out in 2016 and that there is a sequel, After You. I may pass on the movie, but the sequel sounds intriguing. My favorite authors are those who can build interesting characters and it seems as if Jojo Moyes can do that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review: Brothers

The second book in the Juniata Iron Trilogy is out. Author Judith Redline Coopey has picked up the next generation of her family saga with BROTHERS.  Ellie and Adam MacPhail's family has grown up in the shadow of the Etna Furnace and are now ready to play out their own parts in the ongoing history of the early iron industry in Pennsylvania.

Talking about the middle book in a trilogy is very difficult. It would be cruel to spoil the first book, The Furnace, for anyone who has not read it. There are some major events in the first book that carry over to the second story. (and I personally hate spoilers.)

Ellie and Adam's children do grow up and have children of their own. The brothers, Laird, John, Robert, and grandson Will become the center of the story and each becomes very real to the reader. Laird is set on becoming part of the world of books and on teaching, instead he knows that he is the only brother who has a head for business and so he puts away his dreams and steps up to run the iron plantation. John is an idealistic person who prefers his solitude until he picks up the cause of the underground railroad. Robert takes after his natural father. He is handsome, charming and not able to make personal commitments. Illegitimate Will is not sure of who he is, part MacPhail and part Trethaway, Ellie's archenemies.

The story is told through different voices, giving the reader a chance to see the same incident from, sometimes, contrasting views. As a result we learn more about each character. Ms Coopey is an author who moves her stories through character, so it is important that the reader connect with each one. I did!

It was like meeting an old friend to see Miss Ellie as she aged. I was happy that though she did mellow a bit, she kept her feisty nature. One of the stand out scenes in the book is her holding her own with the Rebel soldiers during the war. By the time tragedy hits Laird and John, as life has a tendency to do, we are so engrossed with these two men that it feels as if we are watching friends grieve. We even find sorrow at Robert's fate.

Young Will completely captured my heart. His father Robert ignores his existence and his mother is so full of hatred that I was so pleased each time kindness and affection was shown to him. His relationship with John made John that much more human.

There is so much to BROTHERS. A whole generation grows up; loved ones are lost; babies are born
 and a way of life disappears. We see how war changes people and how love may be the most important thing in our life. A Judy Coopey book does not gloss over the uglies of life, but she does give us people that we can root for and make us feel that we are all part of the human condition, no matter the time or place.

Now I personally am not too patiently waiting for the third and final book in The Juniata Iron Trilogy. I really want to see the rest of Will's story.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


There is a good reason why Geraldine Brooks has won a Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Her books never fail to impress me with all of the things that I need in a book, good character development, interesting plot and a new slant on little known parts of history. Her CALEB'S CROSSING meets all of these requirements and more.

In 1665 Bethia Mayfield is growing up in a tiny island settlement called Great Harbor. Her neighbors are English Puritans who had moved from the main land to be allowed to maintain a more strict way of life. Bethia has lost her mother and is being raised, along with an older brother and infant sister, by their minister father.

Bethia is in constant conflict with the rigid constrictions of the community. She has a burning need to learn and listens to her brother's lessons as she cleans, cooks and takes care of her little sister. Her curious mind and restless spirit  take her on exploration trips around her island. At age twelve on one of these explorations she meets Caleb, the young son of a Wampanoag chieftain. The two form a secret relationship that pulls them into each other's world. This strong friendship is to last for their whole life.

Bethia's father is determined to convert the Wampanoags to his own strict religion. In doing so he creates an enemy of Caleb's uncle, the tribe's medicine man.  Things become personal when it is discovered that Caleb has an extraordinary ability to learn. This feud causes not only a war of wills, but also a high stakes battle that may cost the reverend his life as well as his soul.

As I said, CALEB'S CROSSING  has all of the things that make me love a book. Author Brooks based the novel on the true story of one of the first Native Americans to be graduated from Harvard. The author covers in this period of time the contrast in relious beliefs, the treatment of "outsiders" by the Puritains, a woman's place in what was suposed to be a community of equality,etc., all with a feeling for her characters as well as a commitment to historical facts. Great Harbor later became Martha's Vineyard and we all know how Harvard grew. Brooks comments in her afterword how pleased Bethia would be to know that one day Harvard would have a woman president.

CALEB'S CROSSING is told in Bethia's voice and we get an inside view as she grows and struggles with the life she lives. Gerldine Brooks is an author that never talks down to her readers even when using a young voice. She is an intelligent author who takes it for granted that her readers have the ability to stay with her.

Side note: Her Pulitzer was awarded for March, the story of the March sisters' father and his experiences in the Civil War. If  Little Women was a favorite book of yours, March will be like meeting old friends. If not, it is still an excellent book about the loss of innocence in war.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Theatre Review : Bald Eagle High School / Cinderella

As usual, Bald Eagle Area Drama Club had an excellent attendance for their fall production. The community support for their plays is impressive, especially considering what a large geographic area is involved with the school district. From where I was sitting, it was also a very appreciative audience.

CINDERELLA  was a good choice for their first play of the season. It is a familiar story, popular with young and old alike. It also has the advantage of having a very large cast, giving opportunities for more involvement. There is not enough space to mention each person involved, but I have to tell about several stand outs.

First, big time credit has to go to the tech crew. The sets were attractive and well planned; thanks to  Tom Durachko and his crew. Colton Lucas along with Jessica Cain, Rosalie Showers and Taylor Zimmerman saw that the costumes were well suited for each actor. I always like to give credit to the light crew ( the trickiest part of any show). Luke Wilson and his helpers pulled it off smoothly.

Colton Lucas is a good actor to open any show. As the jester, Jacques, he set the story in motion. Colton has a great relationship with an audience and, surprisingly, talent as a juggler. Savannah Elder was a sweet Cinderella. Her niceness came through in the scenes with the mice as well as with her step family.

Stepsisters, Maya Eppley and Maggie Cowan, were by no means "ugly" stepsisters. They are both attractive young ladies who had the acting talent to come across mean and vain. Good job ladies. The three mice, Kiara McClusik, Harley Parks Camie Haines, were adorable. Developing a personality while covered in a furry costume is not an easy job, yet we could see them as individual.

Karina Bloom as Queen Isabella and Michael Geyer as King Henri were as royal as a person could want. Their son, Philippe was played with great charm, dignity and with a sense of humor. Oh, he also could juggle.

Watch for Xander White  in upcoming shows. Xander is in seventh grade and already knows how to work an audience. Also, sophomore Alice Statham is a young lady to watch. As the Fairy Godmother she proved that there are no small parts.

Directors Kirsten Betts and Ryan Wade showed us some nice touches to an old classic. The magic of a horse and carriage, a new ball gown and a wedding that included three mice made it an entertaining evening. Thank you.

To see some fun  pictures of this show check www.meadowlanephotography.com and be sure to save the date to see the Bald Eagle Area Drama Club's production of Thoroughly Modern Millie on April 21, 22, and 23. It is going to be interesting to see how that show is casted.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Theatre Review: BAHS The 39 Steps

Bellefonte Area High School Theatre department started the school theatre season with ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S THE 39 STEPS.  It was a good choice, full of action and laughs. The play follows (more or less) the story from the original movie, but adds so many creative touches that you end up laughing, not being scared.

Credit goes to Patrick Barlow for adapting the script and director Eric M. Brinser for adding some of the slapstick comedy. It did cross my mind how many young people picked up on the references to other Hitchcock films. Some, like Rear Window,were mentioned in passing, but we were treated to a fast action scene from North by Northwest that was exciting. Oh, and don't forget the Benny Hill theme every time the cops gave chase.

There were so many clever touches, but I have to mention some standouts from the rather large cast. Senior Stephen Giacobe carried the show by playing the lead, Richard Hannay. He was on stage for the entire evening and never lost his energy, which alone is remarkable. This is a large part that demands quite a bit from the actor. Stephen was up to the part.

Emma Holderman is a junior but has proven in past plays that she can act. Unfortunately, as Anabella Schmidt she meets an early demise and though the character sets the action moving, we do not see her again. The show takes a less serious turn with the"stage show" of Mr. Memory and his assistant,Compere. Mason Keeler and Dori Puzycki were having so much fun with these two parts that the laughter from the audience got in the way, but Mason and Dori were professional with their timing and kept things moving.

Ryan Carroll and Carson Bechdel as the "salesmen" on the train had a chance to do some old vaudeville type quick change routines.  By changing  hats they each became a series of characters, on and off the train. Speaking of the train, the chase and fight scene was quite thrilling---if you used your imagination..

Kaitlyn Whitesell is also a senior who has proven her abilities on stage. She was a good choice as the romantic lead, Pamela. She was definitely not the little, wimpy, helpless heroine.

Among the underclassmen who were stand outs were Jack Badger and Hailey Seibel. They had so much fun as Mr. and Mrs. McGarrigle, the Scotish innkeepers, that they almost stole the show.

 It can be difficult for high school students to do dialects or accents and from what I could hear Sarah Travis and Mark Badger worked dilligently with the students. My problem remains with the sound system at Bellefonte High School. It was the only part of the evening that I heard any negative comments about. Other then that, it was a fun play, performed by talented actors and crew and directed with great creativity.

Now, we will have to wait to see what April 21-23, 2016 ( the date of the Spring Musical) brings.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book review: ONE GOOD TURN

A Kate Atkinson book can be depended upon to not follow too many rules. Each story is different, even if it is more or less a sequel. ONE GOOD TURN is a good example. Two years after Case Histories, we once again meet Jackson Brodie, now a retired millionaire, visiting in Edinburgh during its famous arts festival.

Out side of a theatre that is featuring a slightly has-been comic, a minor automobile accident causes a nearly fatal road rage incident. As the reader gets to know the participants and witnesses, it is hard to see what any of them have in common. We meet a befuddled, mild mannered author of successful young adult mysteries, an unscrupulous real estate tycoon and his wife, a comic who has seen better days, a dedicated policewoman with a troubled son, some colorful theatre personell  and various shady characters.

Jackson Brodie is in Edinburgh to support his actress girlfriend in what he sees as a terrible play. Unwillingly, he gets pulled into the action when he finds a murdered girl floating in the surf. The ex-policeman, ex private investigator now finds himself the main suspect in what appears to be a completely isolated case.

An Atkinson plot takes twists and turns that keep a reader on her mental toes. I always picture her working space covered with little notes posted all over her walls so that she can make it easier for her reader. ONE GOOD TURN has a large cast of characters but, unless the author wants you to be confused, each one is a clear individual. This makes trying to decide who is a good guy and who isn't a real challenge.

As with any good suspense novel, it is hard to talk about this book without giving too much away. I will say that the clues are there and yet the end of the book came as a surprise to me. It has been fun to go back through the story to see how the author led me along, completely engrossed by the action and characters and still have a surprise ... after I thought that everything was solved.

If good character suspense written by an author who knows how to use the English language is your cup of tea, Kate Atkinson is waiting for you to discover her books.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Barbara J. Taylor may be a new author to keep your eye on. Her debut novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night, shows great promise. The theme of a young child being left alone to cope with life is not a new one, but Taylor pulls you into her characters and locale with enchanting ease.

In northeastern Pennsylvania  a mother lies in bed, listening to her eight year old daughter trying to find something in the kitchen for breakfast. It is September,4, 1913, just months after the burial of the older daughter and life has changed drastically for the family.

Daisy's death had been caused by a Fourth of July sparkler. The neighbors say that Violet, the younger sister had deliberately thrown the fiery sparkler out of jealousy and the town seems to believe that Violet was responsible for killing her sister.  Each member of the family handles the tragedy in his or her own way: Grace, the mother, falls into a deep depression and withdraws from life, Owen, the father, leaves the home to live over the local pub, drowning his sorrow, and Violet lives with the fear that she may have murdered her sister.

In addition to the family members, there are so many characters in Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night who stand out. Trying to make it on her own, Violet develops a friendship with Stanley, a motherless boy with an abusive father. The two of them come to the notice of the widow Lankowski, who goes from being a figure to fear to being their savior.

The hateful neighbor, Myrtle Evans and the obnoxious missionary Adelaide, as well as some others in town will not allow the belief that Violet killed her sister Daisy to die down. Adding to the colorful cast of characters are the seductive specter Grief and the real life evangelist Billy Sunday.

I liked this book. At first I was afraid that it would be too much of a downer to enjoy, but the author spreads hope and love through out the sadness. The relationship between Grace and Grief could be felt and made Grace a much more sympathetic person. The scenes that showed the pettiness and often downright meanness of Myrtle or Adelaide were balanced by the kind Widow Lankowski or the spirited Stanley.

The author based this novel on a tragedy from her own family and set it in her own home area. The coal mining scenes, the townspeople and the Billy Sunday Revival all have an authentic feel because they are taken from real life. Ms. Taylor has added her own creative talent to write a story that will keep the reader enthralled. These are people who will not be easily forgotten.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: More Vacation Reading

Our two weeks on the Outer Banks ends in the morning. Here are a few examples of how I spend a vacation.

Christian author Deeanne Gist took me to a tobacco plantation in Virginia in the 1640's. A BRIDE MOST BEGRUDGING  finds Lady Constance Morrow stolen from living a life of privilege in England to being a " tobacco bride" in the Colonies. Through the eyes of this pampered young lady, Gist gives a very accurate glimpse of the hardships of life that our early settlers lived. The author's notes give us a fuller idea of the Indian situation and the life style that Constance would have experienced.

The book is very simply written. There is some sexual tension between Constance and her new husband, but the scenes never take the reader into their bed. The description of violence is also restrained, but I still had an emotional reaction to the death of several characters that I had grown fond of.

SHADOW FALL by Erin Kellison takes place in modern New York City where the world of fantasy and the real world are at war. Two years ago Custo Santovari had been killed by an agent of the Wraiths. Now he is back as an angel, of all things, to protect ballerina Annabella from a wolf who has escaped from the dark side of a fantasy world.

 Annabella has worked hard all of her life to be a principle dancer and is about to make her debut as Giselle.  While she is lost in her dancing something truly magical happens and the portal between the two words opens. (I liked the idea that a "magical performance" can be indeed magical) If you like your romance stories to include shape shifters, angels, wraiths, mermaids, etc., you might want to try author Erin Kellison. This is a surprisingly good twist on the "good vs. evil" plot.

It is always a big thing to me when I find an author who goes immediately to my found-a-new-author list. Nancy Pickard may be an old name to you, but DEAD CRAZY made me a fan. Her series heroine is Jenny Cain, head of the Port Frederick, Massachusetts, Civic Foundation. Her job is to see that the foundations monies go to worthwhile community programs. In DEAD CRAZY she is answering a request for an old church to be turned into a refuge for the town's street people. After the objections of several neighbors of the church and several murders, Jenny is able to bring everything to a satisfactory ending.

This book moved well; the characters were well developed; the plight of the mentally unbalanced  members of a community realistically portrayed. This was all written with a touch of humor that never was cruel to our most vulnerable neighbors. I will be checking Pickard's other writings.

ENGLISH COUNTRY HOUSE MURDERS is an anthology that I will be keeping around for awhile. The book contains the best loved authors from this genre, ie. Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, G. K. Chesterton. Well, you get the idea. The stories are in chronological order, making it fun to watch the evolution of the English mystery.

The introduction to ENGLISH COUNTRY HOUSE MURDERS should be  required reading for anyone who is a fan of this type of literature. The rules that must be followed are carefully set out for the would be author. Two important conditions; no author should attempt such an undertaking if that author is not English and no character within the story is ever named Lefty.

OK, one more Bodice Ripper. TENDER IS THE KNIGHT  by Jackie Ivie is a typical story with predictable plot and characters, the ice goddess trapped into marriage with the rough, very sexy, fierce, Scottish warrior. Set in Victorian times, the story does make good use of the fact that the war between Scotland and England was not over. This was an enjoyable read, but there are better examples of the genre being published.

Now it is time to pack to go home. These books ( with the exception of English Country House Murders)  will stay at the condo for the next person and I will return to attack the books that are waiting under my bed. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book review/or what I did on my vacation

Our two weeks at the shore consists of my husband fishing while I read. Some of the books are worthy of an individual review and some get short comments. Usually the short reviews are of the historical romance genre ( or, as I like to call them, "Bodice Rippers)

If you are a regular reader of POV, you know that I was told to downsize my library. I did the best that I could and what I could not get on the only bookshelf allowed to me, I stuck under the bed. Things were going well until my husband opened our front door to find a bag of books from a new neighbor. I was delighted; it included new Bodice Rippers by some of my favorite authors.

The first was THE TROUBLE WITH HONOR by Julia London. Honor is the eldest of four sisters. They are stepdaughters of the Earl of Beckington who is dying. His death will force the sisters out of their luxury lifestyle and their place in society. The Earl's son, the future earl, is engaged to a social climbing young lady who wants the stepsisters out of her life. The only way Honor can see to save her and her sisters is to convince the biggest rake in London to seduce the fiancee, giving Honor time to find a husband who will support her and her sisters in style. Well, you can see where this leads.

The thing that makes a Regency Romance such fun is the heroine is usually audacious and witty; Honor is both. Julia London is able to take the typical historic romance plot and keep it moving with a few surprises along the way. Usually when the story contains a group of sisters that means that each will have her own book. The next sister's name is Grace. It sounds as if I will have to hunt for her story.

DEVIL'S PRIZE is by Kat Martin. Damien, Lord Falon has cheated the exquisite Lady Alexa Garrick out of quite a large sum of money at the gaming table. She is too proud to ask her brother for the money and when she asks Damien for more time, he tells her that he will forgive the debt for one night in his bed. From this simple idea the reader is treated to a plot that not only includes some hot sex, but smuggling and French spies.

Kat Martin also does fun romances set in the "Old West" I always pick up her books when I find them. She meets all of my requirements  for an entertaining read; witty dialogue, plot twists and relateable characters.

Eloise James is probably the steamiest of these authors so I was surprised to find that the hero of WHEN BEAUTY TAMED THE BEAST is badly crippled and unable to father an heir. Since all of Society believes that our heroine, Linnet Berry Thrynne, is expecting the Prince's child but that he  will not marry her, she agrees to travel to Wales to marry the bad tempered Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant. Linnet is sure that once she simply flashes her famous smile at Piers, he will fall in love with her.
.Piers has turned his castle into a hospital and has gained the reputation as an excellent physician. His patients come from as far away as London. When scarlet fever breaks out, he has to fight the local doctors who believe that bleeding a patient is the only cure.

This was actually the best of the three for character, plot, a bit of medical history and a bit of a moral lesson. This is another author that I depend on.

After several days of reading steamy sex scenes, I am ready for an old-fashioned murder mystery, Then, of course, I might just go back to some more Bodice Rippers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Author David Baldacci has stepped away from his normal contemporary crime novels and into a fantasy world aimed at the Young Adult market. Since Baldacci is one of my regular authors and I firmly believe that some of the best books being published are in the Young Adult section of any library, I had to check out his THE FINISHER 

Vega Jane is fourteen sessions old. She lives with her younger brother in the village of Wormwood, an isolated village surrounded by the densely forested Quag, an area full of blood thirsty beasts. It is a known fact that to enter the Quag is certain death. Vega works as a finisher at the local factory putting the fine touches on decorative and useful objects to be bought by the wealthy villagers. Although, there seem to be very few of them.

One night Vega watches an old family friend being chased by members of the Council and their dogs.  His escape into the Quag changes Vega's life. She learns that Wormwood is not what she had been taught it to be and that she, particularly, is in danger.

Vega is a heroine worthy of any hero in literature today. She is honest, loyal, and able to think and move quickly. All of these traits serve her well as she fight the bullies and the supernatural forces lurking in her village.

I was often reminded of The Giver and The Hunger Games series as I got lost in Wormwood. The young protagonist fighting an evil system has been fairly standard plot material, especially in youth literature. What the author does with it makes for the stand out book.

Baldacci is an action author who can develop characters to go along with his fast moving plots. The Finisher is not an exception. His talent puts THE FINISHER up there with any fantasy/action being published. There are times when I get weary of the "Oh, the poor heroine is having problem after problem after problem" type of plot, but when an author can have that heroine save herself by using her wits, I am captured. Vega is a finisher, not only at her job but in her attitude toward life as well.

The Finisher is the first in a series. It has an "ending", but there are still so many unanswered questions that I will be getting The Keeper at my next library visit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Case Histories

British author Kate Atkinson is hard to put into a genre. My guess would probably be "literary detective, mystery with touches of dark humor". If such a catagory does not exsist, it should.

CASE HISTORIES opens with the disappearance of three-year-old Olivia. Olivia was the youngest of four daughters and the favorite of their mother. Their father ignored all four of them. The novel jumps to Laura Wyre's murder by an apparent madman while she is working at her father's law office. The next person we meet is Michelle, the mother of an infant and living on an isolated farm. Michelle snaps and we leave her sitting on the floor holding an axe beside her murdered husband.

Several years later Jackson Brodie, ex-policeman now in private practice, is approached by three different people, each with a relationship to the victim in these cold cases.

Two of Olivia's sisters have found a clue that makes them want Brodie to look into the whereabouts of the sister whose body has never been found. It has been 35 years since her disappearance and the recent death of their father has brought a new twist to their case.

Laura Wyre's father has been obbsessed with finding his daughter's murderer. For the ten years since her death, he has been working on his own to solve what appeared to be a randon act of violence. Now he is getting older, his health is bad and he feels that Brodie can help.

Shirley Morrison is Michelle's sister. She does not want help concerning the murder;she wants Brodie to find her now twenty-five -year-old niece.

Kate Atkinson is a master of the non-linear story line. It is the appearance of Jackson Brodie that pulls these three stories together. It seems that the only thing that they have in common is Brodie himself. Each story does come to a conclusion. Maybe not one that purists would approve of, but a conclusion just the same.

This is an author who will not appeal to every reader. She takes what could be a straightforward story and adds twists and turns that do not always make sense at the time and leads the reader into surprising territory. I like the fact that she gives that reader the compliment of taking for granted that he or she will keep up. She never writes down to her audience.

Jackson Brodie appears in several later books by Atkinson. CASE HISTORIES gives us a view of his own history and he is an old friend when we meet him again. This is an author that stays on my regular look - for - list.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Never Change

Once in awhile a book comes along that turns out to be very personal. A book that makes you want to sit down with a good friend and a good glass of Pinot Grigio to talk about the book and life in general. NEVER CHANGE by Elizabeth Berg was one of those books for me.

Fifty-one years old Myra has never married. She explains herself as the girl in high school who sat on the folding chair selling tickets to the prom, but never having a chance to attend it. Her only relationship seems to be with her dog Frank.

Myra works as a home nurse, visiting patients who need help with changing dressings, giving insulin shots, and similar medical situations. Her new assignment is a former classmate who has been her secret love since their high school days. Chip was the perfect young man, handsome, popular with the girls as well as the boys, a star athlete; the boy who would do well all of his life.

Chip has been diagnosed with brain cancer and has come home to die. Myra and Chip are now in a situation where their roles have done a reversal.Now they share old memories and new discoveries, sometimes from very different points of view.

Elizabeth Berg takes what could have been a very trite plot and weaves a beautiful story. The book's strength is mainly in her cast of characters. Myra should be a pathetic, lonely, middle-aged woman. Instead she shows that she is a hero, a quiet hero full of warmth, wisdom and capabilities. Her attitude keeps us from seeing her as a pitiful creature, instead, we find ourselves admiring her.

We also see the depth of the golden boy Chip. Their memories of high school remind us how we neglect to look beyond the surfaces of our classmates.The perfect person in our English class may have things going on that would surprise us.

I loved how well Berg created Myra's patients. There was a feeling of honesty in their depiction. We met Grace, a fourteen-year-old new mother, DeWitt, a bitter, middle-aged black man who does some dealing in drugs, Rose, a victim of dementia who lives in poverty, blind Fitz who likes to go to the strip clubs. Each of Myra's patients become very real to the reader and as important to us as they are to Myra.There is a mini story in each person.

Author Elizabeth Berg has taken a simple story and fleshed it out with a sharply drawn wry observant eye. Her use of language, her pull on the readers' emotions, her character sketches are all done beautifully without  being over sentimental. NEVER CHANGE is a book that you will want to share.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Weight of Water

Author Anita Shreve's THE WEIGHT OF WATER captures the reader's attention in much the same way that watching a train accident does. It is hypnotizing and you know from the start that all is not going to end well.

Jean is a photographer who has become obsessed with the 1873 murder of two women on Smuttynose Island, a small, barren island off the coast of New Hampshire. Jean has been given the assignment to take the photographs that will illustrate a magazine article on the horrific murders.

Jean, her husband Thomas, their five-year-old daughter Billie, and Rich, Thomas's brother, with his new girlfriend, Adaline set out in Rich's boat to help with the photographic assignment planning on a leisurely vacation. The tension on the boat becomes evident very early. Jean and Thomas are having marital problems and Jean believes that Adaline may be involved with Thomas. The best thing on the boat is Billie.

While searching for documents on the murder trial during one of their land excursions, Jean finds an old letter written by Maren Hontvedt. Maren had been on the island the night of the murders and, as an old woman, near the end of her life, she feels obligated to tell the whole story.

This is a novel written as a story within a story. Jean has become so immersed by Maren's letter that it colors everything that is happening in her own life. At one point she asks, "I wonder this: If you take a woman and push her to the edge, how will she behave?" This question may overlap the centuries and apply to Jean as well as Maren.

Each woman's story is told in the first person, giving the book a very intimate feel. The author is excellent at capturing the moods of the people as well as the locations. We feel the cramped quarters of the boat that holds four adults and one little girl as well as the isolation of Smuttynose Island and the small house that at times held too many people.

Author Anita Shreve dovetailed the two stories together perfectly. At times we could see similarities between Jean and Maren and it was easy to see why Jean became so fascinated by Maren's life and the murders. This is more than a murder mystery, but more a study of people, people of 1873 as well as today.

This was my first Anita Shreve book. She really does pull you in until you can not look away. Her characters are complex, her moods compelling, her plots complicated.  THE WEIGHT OF WATER was an excellent choice as a title. The water plays many parts in each of the character's lives.

I have heard so many mixed comments on Shreve as an author that I will have to try another book by her. I would be interested in hearing which book you think it should be. Let me know. Good or bad.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Black and Blue

BLACK AND BLUE is not my normal type of reading. Domestic violence is rarely the subject for light, romantic novels, but author Anna Quindlen is such a skilled writer that I picked it up. The main character, Fran/Beth so captured me that I read straight through the night.

Fran Benedetto is married to a local policeman. When the beatings started she felt that things would change, besides, she loved him. Then she told herself that having a baby would change things; then she felt that their son deserved a family, a father. The police were no help. He was one of their men. Plus, she loved him.

One day, after a particularly bad beating, she saw the look in ten-year-old Robert's eyes and knew that she had to get the two of them away. At the hospital where she worked, she had listened to a woman who worked with an organization that helped women find a new identity in a new place.
Now, know as Beth, she and her son have started a new life, always aware that one slip up and her husband has the resources to find them.

Anna Quindlen does an excellent job of getting us into Beth's head. Her son does not understand why his father is no longer part of his life. It is difficult for Beth, let alone Robert, to keep her new story straight and the difference in their new lifestyle is difficult. On top of the new hardships, there is always the fear that they will be found and the death threats will become real.

This is not a happy book. Domestic violence is not a happy subject. It takes an author of Quindlen's skill to keep it human and suspenseful. This is not a story that the more lurid talk shows would appreciate. It is a study of a woman with a terrible secret. It is a book to be shared with girlfriends with the prayer that none of them need it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Go Set a Watchmanl

It is impossible to talk about Harper Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN without referring to To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact,if it has been awhile since reading Mockingbird, it might be a good idea to watch the movie at least. The background is important.

GO SET A WATCHMAN finds a twenty-six- year-old Scout returning to Maycomb, Alabama to visit her aging father Atticus. She has been living in New York City and now prefers to be called by her real  name, Jean Louise. Again we meet most of the well known characters from Maycomb, with some sad and surprising changes.

The almost twenty years have brought political tensions to Maycomb. Especially the race situation has become ugly and  Jean Louise is not prepared to find people that she thought she knew filled with bigotry and hatred. When she learns that her father is a member of an organization that is associated with the Klan, she is sick. She feels that this makes everything that she believed that he had taught her to be a lie. The man who stood for fairness and honor has betrayed her.

I do not agree with the many reviews that vilify Atticus. He was and is a man who lives for the fairness of the law. Again, he is willing to defend a black man who is accused of murdering a white man. Although it was an accident that was more the white man's fault, Atticus knows that it will bring the NAACP and national attention to the trial.

Considering that GO SET A WATCHMAN was supposedly written in the mid-1950's, Harper Lee had a very good understanding of the time and place of her characters. The ladies at Aunt Alexandra's Coffee Social and their cliche statements on the blacks were so well drawn that the scene gives us a glimpse of how far Jean Louise has grown from her home town. Henry, Jean Louise's old boyfriend, knows that he has to go along with the current feelings of white superiority in order to fit in. Even Calpurnia is now a stranger and not willing to cross black/white lines.

But it is Atticus and his feelings on the racial situation that make Jean Louise feel that she has been lied to and betrayed, that all that she believed Atticus had stood for has been a lie.

GO SET A WATCHMAN is not a particularly good book. Lee's style of writing is more appropriate for Scout than for Jean Louise. The flashbacks to Scout, Jem and Dill in their Mockingbird days are the only spots of charm in the novel. I can not picture it becoming required reading or of being made into a classic movie.

The publisher that had originally turned the manuscript of GO SET A WATCHMAN down and told Harper Lee to write  about Scout as a young girl was right. Because of his insight we have To Kill a Mockingbird, a book that stays on top of my list of all time best books written. I have always felt that if an author has decided that one of his works is not good enough to be published, we should listen to him. GO SET A WATCHMAN will never get the acclaim that To Kill a Mockingbird so richly deserved, but it still makes for an interesting quick read if only to see how life changes in a small Southern town from the 1940's to the 1950's and what happens to some of Scout's old friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Flowers from the Storm

The downsizing of my library is complete. I now have a better understanding of Hercules and the Augean Stables. The difference is that he probably did not find some hidden gems nor have I ever heard that he hid those gems under his bed.One of the gems that I found is FLOWERS FROM THE STORM by Laura Kinsale. Kinsale has taken the Regency Romance to a slightly different level.

Maddy Timms is a quiet Quaker living with her blind father. Her only contact with the Duke of Jervaulx is when she delivers her father's mathematical paper to the Duke's home. The brilliant duke and Mr. Timms have been working on proof of an obscure mathematical solution with hopes of presenting the paper to the Analytical Society of the  Royal Institution on Albemarle Street.

Unfortunately, before this important meeting, the Duke, while leaving the bedroom of his present mistress, feels an unpleasant tingling and numbness in his right hand and a weird overall feeling. As he descends the staircase in his mistress' home he meets her husband at the foot of the stairs.

The next time Maddy goes to the home of the Duke, she finds the place in an uproar. The Duke has become a dangerous lunatic and is being taken to an institution for the insane. What follows is Maddy's attempts to save Jervaulx against his family's insistence that he be found incompetent so that his vast wealth can be turned over to them. So far, we have the makings of a typical romance novel.

What made this book so fascinating was the Duke's illness and how it was treated. Naturally, it was never stated that he had suffered a stroke. Little would have been known of aneurysms or hemorrhaging of the brain during the early 1800's.  All that the people around him could see was that he had lost his ability to communicate and that he became violent when his attempts were frustrating.

The conditions of the "hospital" where Jervaulx was institutionalized was probably better than most, but still filled with what a modern reader would only see as inhumane treatment. The fact that a duke would expect very special privileges did not help his relationships with his caretakers.

It also was to the author's credit to be able to keep Maddy true to her Quaker beliefs. Her conflict of her attraction to Jervaulx, her horror of his life style, and her loyalty to her father and the Society of Friends were never glossed over. Instead, we worried for her and her Calling to help this man who was so far out of her experience.

FLOWERS FROM THE STORM appeared on my nightstand at the perfect time. I needed a read that was not too deep of a medical study and yet, not too fluffy. Thanks to author Laura Kinsale, I found a little gem.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

THEATER REVIEW: The Marvelous Wonderettes

Millbrook Playhouse is closing the season on a high note. THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES is a feel good show full of fun, talent and four young ladies briming over with personality.

Asked to be the entertainment, at the last moment, for the class of 1958's senior prom, Missy, Suzy, Cindy Lou and Betty Jean bring their four part harmony to fill in. They also bring their boy problems. As the girls wow the audience with their music, the individual personalities become distinct and love situations become tricky. In the second act, their ten year reunion shows us the changes in the young women as well as the changes in the music over a ten year span.

If you had seen Samantha Carroll as Mary Poppins and as General Cartwright, you would not have recognized her as Missy. Well, maybe you would have recognized some of her high notes. Her  straight, dark hair, the black framed glasses and the conservative gown made Missy the picture of 1950's nerd. The love of her teen years is her high school choir director. The fact that his name is Mr. Lee gives her a chance to sing not only the song "Mr. Lee" but of course "Teacher's Pet", which works into the plot nicely. In the second act we learn that his first name is Bill and we hear "Wedding Bell Blues" ( "Won't You Marry Me, Bill?")

Kate Keating as the gum chewing Suzy captured the sound of the 50's very well; she had the slight, rather sweet voice that could break when needed. After the slightly screw ball of the first act, we were not quite prepared for the change in her in the second act. When she started on Aretha Franklin's "Respect" I had my doubts. Kate nailed it! In fact she, to use an old theatrical phrase, ate up the stage.

Man stealing Cindy Lou, was played by Katrina Diehn. My biggest disappointment this summer was that we did not see more of Katrina. She is such a delight, no matter how she is cast, but she does shine as the pretty girl who is accustomed to getting her own way - including her best friend's boyfriend. She proved that she could do some scene stealing as well when she did "Son of a Preacher Man" and "Leader of the Pack".

Shannon Agnew has been thrilling Millbrook audiences all summer. As Cindy Lou's best friend, Betty Jean, Shannon had many opportunities to show her comedic side. I suggest that when ordering tickets  you always sit where you can see Shannon's facial expressions. But, do not ever forget that this young woman can sing. Her medley around "It's my Party and I Can Cry if I Want To"  hit on all levels.

Dax Valdes has been one of my favorites over the years at Millbrook. He sings, dances and acts with the best of them, but he shines as a director and choreographer. His touch as both with THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES was obvious. The stage movement was energetic and the dance numbers were well coordinated - after all this was a show about back up singers as well as leads. Any time that you see Dax's name in a program, get you ticket as fast as possible.

This is such a fun show and I heard more than one member of the audience say that it was the best show of the season. If fact, the run of the show is a sell out and an extra week has been added to the schedule, now running through August 28th. For time and seat availability, call 570-748-8083. Good luck or visit their website.

PS. If I have a complaint about this year, it is the program insert. Very small, black print on colored paper is very hard to read. Using one main program and then the insert for individual plays is practical, but I want to be able to read credits.

Our group is always a bit sad when Millbrook's summer season is over, but we will be watching to see what happens next. Thank you David E. Leidholdt for having the talent to gather all of these great people to Mill Hall, Pennsylvania again this year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Whistling in the Dark

There is something about an author using a ten-year-old protagonist that attracts a reader. It has been done often. Maybe it is the combination of innocence and wisdom that captures our imagination; or maybe it is that loss of innocence itself. Whatever the reason, Lesley Kagen has done it beautifully in her WHISTLING IN THE DARK. It is impossible not to get involved in young Sally O’Malley’s life.

Sally’s beloved father has died causing Sally, her two sisters, Troo and Nell, and their mother to move from their farm into town. Shortly after the move, the mother remarries. She becomes ill and has to go into the hospital. The new stepfather proves to be a cruel drunk who leaves the girls to fend for themselves.

Thus starts Sally’s story. She had promised her father before he died that she would take care of Troo and would tell their mother that he forgave her. Older sister Nell is busy making out with her boyfriend and stepfather Hall is soon out of their lives. This leaves Sally and Troo on their own.

The year is 1959. A time when children were free to play outdoors until after dark, neighbors’ doors were always open, two extra mouths at the dinner table was accepted and winning a coon skin hat was a big thing to a young girl. It was also the year that people on Vliet Street started locking their doors. Someone was molesting and killing young girls. Sally is not only sure of who the murderer is, she is sure that she is going to be the next victim.

The plot of WHISTLING IN THE DARK sounds as if it would be fairly straightforward, but author Lesley Kagen has some neat surprises for the reader. The residents of the town came very much alive and as we learned about them we felt that we also were residents of a small town in the late 1950’s.

My idea of who was the guilty person kept changing (though I never agreed with Sally’s choice). No sooner would I have my suspect than the author would throw a new twist  into the plot.

The identification of the murder is only one of the reasons that you will have trouble putting this delightful book down. The underlying secrets of people that you thought that you knew are revealed slowly throughout the story making this a warm page-turner. It also gives me a new author to keep my eye out for.

Monday, August 10, 2015

THEATER REVIEW: My Vaudeville Man

You can depend on Millbrook Playhouse for providing its audiences with a well balanced season, a summer of beloved musicals, classic mysteries, and brand new shows by up and coming playwrights. MY VAUDEVILLE MAN is a new musical that should be around for future audiences to enjoy,

Based on the life of Jack Donahue,  who had a brief run as a dancer on the vaudeville circuit, the show revolves around Jack and his mother.  Jack started playing small towns at the age of 19 and had some success before dying of alcoholism at 39. His story is told mainly through the letters written between him and his mother as he tries to make it to a top billing spot. Mother Donahue not only is opposed to his career choice, but very worried that he will become a drunk like his old man.

The credit for this rather weak play being as enjoyable as it was belongs to the talents of its stars and its director.

Director Joshua W. Kelley kept the action well paced and never allowed the story to fall into what could have been melodrama. The plot is full of cliches: the religious Irish Catholic mother, the mother/son guilt tripping relationship, the fear of becoming like the absent father, the trials of being “on the road”, etc. Instead, Joshua allows us to see a mother and son interact.

The mother was played by the amazing Shannon Agnew. Shannon is almost a regular at Millbrook and we never know what to expect from her; only her fantastic voice is a constant. She can belt out a song with the best of them, plus she has comic talents to spare. If she is back next year, I hope that Gypsy is on the schedule. If Merman could do it, Agnew can do it.

Matthew Fairlee drew my attention as the butler in Mary Poppins and I was happy to see what all this young actor could really do. As the young Jack Donahue, Matthew had a chance to, literally, strut his stuff. His interaction with the audience was natural and charming; his acting and his dancing were both impressive. The first act left me with a feeling that he was a little weak for the part, but by the end of the show I realized that the director wanted to show Jack’s growth as an entertainer. His “Tap Drunk” number in the second act was worthy of a Kelly or an Astaire. Like Kelly and Astaire his voice has a limited range, but he know how to work with what he has.

I also enjoyed the old fashioned piano playing of musical director Martena Rogers. She, along with drummer Bruce Wallace, provided perfect vaudeville music. I always enjoy the “orchestra” when it does not drown out the singers. Thank you, Martena.

This is basically a two person show, but sets, lights and props made it feel like a much larger cast, thanks to Joshua Gallagher, Denise Lalevee and Ethan Vail. When any of these three get a reaction from the audience, it is a good thing and that happened several times on opening night.

MY VAUDEVILLE MAN closed August 9 and has been replaced by The Marvelous Wonderettes beginning on August 14. It is sure to make you go home with “Leader of the Pack” stuck in your head. Call 570-748-8083 or check www.millbrookplayhouse.org for more information.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Wow! The big surprise this season at Millbrook Playhouse is RING OF FIRE, an ensemble cast celebrating the music of Johnny Cash. Not being a fan of Johnny Cash’s music, I almost passed on this show. I should know never to underestimate the talents at Millbrook.

First of all the pure energy and personalities of the cast had the audience in the spirit before the show got started. The actors were interacting with the audience even before the house lights went down. The enthusiasm never let up, thanks to five great voices, one piano player and one drummer.

It is impossible to single out any one person, but naturally, I do have opinions on each.  

Morissa Trunzo was the sole woman on stage and she more than held her own against four strong male voices. Melissa is deceptively small and the way she moves around the stage has to be proof that this is one fit lady. Her voice is crystal and her range unbelievable.

A large part of the stage work fell to Patrick Henkel. Patrick’s voice probably came closest to Cash’s sound. He was able to hit some of those low notes with the same intensity as the original. He was also very proficient with both acoustic and electric guitar. This young man has a very promising future in music.

The other three “Johnnys”, Steven Makropoulos, Nick Orfanella, and Zack Zaromatidis (his “Man in Black” was exceptionally effective) were equally fantastic. Each had a chance to show his individual talent. I loved the close harmony on “Daddy Sang Bass”, the drama of “ Delia’s Gone” and the charm of “If I Were a Carpenter”.

Director Anthony D’Amato and music director Justin Adams deserve credit for keeping the old barn rocking to country music. This is the type of show that could become very static, but thanks to these two, the fun never stopped. It probably was not planned, but opening night the winner of the 50/50 drawing was named Sue. What a perfect lead in to “A Boy Named Sue” The cast had great fun with that.

RING OF FIRE is the last show on the Main Stage and closes August 2. This is a popular production, so if you want to find a seat, I would suggest that you not wait too long. My Vaudeville Man opens July 31 and runs until August 9 in the Cabaret. The Cabaret is a fun place to be. Bring your own food and drinks while watching an entertaining show...what more could you want?

The box office number is 570 748 8083 or go to www.millbrookplayhouse.org for tickets.

BOOK REVIEW: Orphan Train

Between 1854 and 1929 over two hundred thousand children were transported from cities on the east coast to small towns across the country. These “orphan” trains would stop, the children would line up and people would pick the children that met their needs. Some of these children ended up in loving homes; some ended up as indentured servants to be badly mistreated.  

In her novel, ORPHAN TRAIN, author Christina Baker Kline tells us of Vivian, a woman who experienced the reality of being one of these orphans and Molly, a modern day teenager who might have been one if she had been born in an earlier time.

Molly has been bounced from foster home to foster home most of her life. After being caught stealing a book from the library, she is given the choice of community service or time in a youth detention center. She reluctantly chooses to help an elderly woman organize an attic that has gone untouched for years.

The boxes in Vivian’s attic are full of the memories of a young girl taken from New York City to the Midwest where she faced a strange and sometimes brutal life alone.

Vivian’s story was moving and kept my interest, but it was the relationship that grew between Molly and Vivian that made this book. The story line shifts from the late eighteen hundreds to modern times as Vivian and Molly each tell of their lives. Author Christina Baker Kline did a very subtle job in showing the similarities of the two characters. Their backgrounds were so much alike, considering the age difference.

I have felt that recently some of the best things that are being published fall into the Young Adult category.  ORPHAN TRAIN should be listed in this classification. The story is simply told and some of the side characters are rather stereotyped. There were few surprises in the people that were responsible for young Vivian. I am sure that in reality, the cruelty that was inflicted on these orphans was much more brutal than described by the author.

I did like that we were able to hear what happened to some of the children who shared Vivian’s train trip. The historical notes and pictures at the end of the book were also very worthwhile, very informative and personal.

ORPHAN TRAIN was an enjoyable read because this is a subject that fascinates me. It  is one more piece of our history that often gets overlooked. We would like to think that modern society has come up with a better way to treat children who are abandoned or orphaned. I hope so.

THEATER REVIEW: Dial "M" for Murder

(From Wendy: Usually I try to get the theater reviews on while the show is still running. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to that for this show. Sorry. Be sure to catch Millbrook's upcoming shows!)

There is something special about summer stock theatre and a good mystery. Millbrook Playhouse chose the classic DIAL "M" FOR MURDER as this year’s thriller and the audience seemed to approve.

The plot may be familiar to some of you, but I had never seen the movie so it was a constant surprise to me and seemed to be new to most of the people watching. From the gasps at the opening to the sighs at the resolution, it was a captive audience.

Director Morgan Sills kept the action moving and his actors in character extremely well. I like a director who makes good use of the stage. Not only was the action well “spaced”, but parts of the setting became important to the plot.

James Cella was well cast as the villain Tony, who blackmails an old college chum into killing his wife. James has the most intense eyes, perfect for a man who plans a brutal murder. After seeing James in the farce Leading Ladies, his switch to heavy drama was impressive.

Tony’s wife, Margot, was played by Grace Experience. Grace also seems comfortable going from farce to drama. ( I felt that she almost stole the show in Leading Ladies!)  DIAL "M" FOR MURDER gave her a chance to show passion, fear and hysteria, always fun for an actress. Grace handled all of it well. Although I did not get a clear feeling of how she felt about her husband, there was no doubt of her feeling for her lover Max.

Travis L. Baker (Max) is an actor that I hope to see again. His portrayal of Margot’s lover was very believable. By quietly playing the part. he kept my attention. This is a sign of a good actor.

Comedy relief was provided by Brady Adair as the Inspector Hubbard. Try to picture Columbo with an English accent. Brady was also a standout in a supporting role in Leading Ladies.

You may have guessed that a big reason that I love going to shows at a theatre like Millbrook is a chance to see the versatility of the actors. Imagine, farce one week and murder/ drama the next. The DIAL "M" FOR MURDER cast was full of surprises.

DIAL "M" FOR MURDER has now been replaced by My Vaudeville Man. On the Ryan Main Stage Ring of Fire will run from July 24 through August 2. Check their website at www.millbrookplayhouse.org for times and availability.