Peter Pan Live! A Valiant, Albeit Marred Effort

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Allison Williams as Peter Pan

I really wanted Peter Pan Live! to succeed. I love the idea of a live musical broadcast during the Holiday season.  I was, apparently, one of the few that was pleasantly surprised by The Sound of Music Live last year, although it was an uneven performance. As Allison Williams noted in an interview, we love to be haters, to cool for school.  However, I approached this musical with some trepidation partly due to its being one of my least favorite musicals, no matter who does it. My other worry was Christopher Walken. Now I love Mr. Walken as actor and I’ve seen him in a song-and-dance role before; not bad and mostly funny (because of his other roles). However this was years ago (he’s 71 now), brief (not for a whole show) and, on their own merits as a singing/dancing performer, they weren’t great. Both of my concerns were born out through the evening.

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Prior to diving into all of that, I want to recognize that Allison Williams plays a good Pan. Her performance was strong, she sang well and her fitness allowed her to play a pretty buff Pan. I was a little surprised at the choice to go with an English accent (despite the lineage of the book and its setting). It’s rare that Americans put on a decent English accent. Hers worked relatively well. I also want to say that from a production standpoint, it was spot on. I especially liked the sets. They were amazing, although I would have done something different with the rose trees (and I’m not talking Rhododendron). I loved the touch of Neverland written on the map. I do wish Tiger Lilly (Alanna Saunders) wore more clothes and either clothe the guys or let their tops be bare. Their body suit was a bit weird.  The look, sound and technical effects all worked flawlessly. The only hiccup I saw was while Wendy was tucking in the children during her lullaby “Distant Melody”, John and Michael were to share a berth; Michael could never fully get on the bunk.

Peter Pan Live! - Season 2014

There were two other technical issues outside of the musical itself: the attempt at a Shazam sing-a-long and using tweets to save Tinker Bell. So I can see that the idea of singing along could be fun for a family with younger kids, a seriously drunk party, or, if like me, you’re an IT guy interested in new uses of technology. Use Shazam to tag it, hit Music and, with the magic of modern technology, voilà, you have a sing-a-long. Alas, the song choices showed up about 5 minutes after the actual song started. All night long. They never were in synch. I suspect that someone had a chat with whomever was in charge of QA this morning. On the Twitter side of things, could you please just let the kids clap at home and have the actors pretend to hear it. Tweeting #SaveTinkerBell is a bit awkward for that moment for children, don’t you think. By the way, these children are up a 10 p.m. (on the East coast) on a school night if they’re seeing this. That’s a bit late.

Peter Pan Live! - Season 2014

For me, there are no great catchy, moving or hugely fun songs in the musical itself. So no talent or production can make up for a musical with simply decent to mediocre songs, “I’m Flying” and “I Won’t Grow Up” are two of the better songs. “Hook’s Tango” can be clever but not with Mr. Walken performing it. That leads us to the cast. While Taylor Louderman performs Wendy admirably, she’s simply too old for the role. It doesn’t fit the story. Speaking of too old, Mr. Walken just didn’t have the ability to perform his role, although he did bring an element of comedy to the show, both intended and unintended. Physically, putting on the black wig just brought out in bright relief that his face didn’t match the hair; combining that with his drawn on pointy eye-brows and his mole/beauty mark was, well, hideous. He mostly spoke as, well, only Christopher Walken can. He did try to through in some “me hearty” and tried to add a bit of some accent to it. It just didn’t work, whatever it was. The fight scene with Pan was just sad. I love Christopher Walken and respect his acting ability and comedic timing, so I hate to see him attempting this role now. Twenty years ago maybe, but not now.

The highlight of the evening was Minnie Driver, as the grown up Wending, meeting with Peter Pan as he comes to bring her back to Neverland but returns with Jane. Despite the uneven performances of the night, it was still moving and filled with pathos.

Here’s the strange part – this is a relatively expensive, once-a-year production for NBC. They invest in a great set, so you would think they would invest in the cast. Alison Williams was great but Mr. Walken verged on the horrific and Ms. Louderman was just a wrong fit for Wendy despite her good performance. The two productions. Sound of Music Live and Peter Pan Live, have been uneven partly due to an uneven cast. They don’t need to get expensive headliners but at least folks who have actively been in Broadway and make sure they’re a fit for the role (age, disposition and physicality) . Last year, people complained that while Ms. Underwood could sing, she could not act; I personally think her acting was OK. Captain Von Trapp (Stephen Moyer), however, was just plain wooden. That one was a bit harder to spot because Mr. Moyer has the credentials. One other thing that would be great is, somehow, to have a live audience. I know that’s technically really hard to do, but live musical actors love the feedback.

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So NBC, thanks for the effort. Please don’t give up. As the saying goes, the third time’s the charm. A great cast, a long running musical source and continued great production and you’re there. Maybe start at 7:30/6:30 would help to keep it a family night. Kudos for Ms. Williams, Ms. Louderman (despite the age disparity) and Ms. Driver for a great effort

Joanne Harris’s Dr. Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller Reviewed.

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Joanne Harris, author of many book including the critically acclaimed Blackberry Wine and Chocolat, joins the Whovian universe with Dr. Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller, a novella starring the Third Doctor. The book immediately jumps into the action, invokes a surreal setting reminiscent of a number of Doctor Who episodes and engages through relationship, as the Doctor in wont to do. Very quickly we no that all is not right in the world and there is an enemy. Ms. Harris establishes all she needs for the story quickly whilst avoiding lengthy monologues or explanations. She does a nice job of creating the atmosphere with quick brush strokes of words.

[Full disclosure: I received a review copy from Netgalley for an honest review.]

Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris

Nicely enough, the Third Doctor’s personality (along with most of the other Doctors) lends itself to a novella due to his natural risk-taking and diving, head first, into danger. As events quickly come a crescendo, the Doctor not only assesses the situation accurately, but recognizes and acts on a potential solution, albeit a risky solution. I will admit, however, that some of her imagery had me envisioning Matt Smith rather than Jon Pertwee, such as when a character looks “…at him gravely. ‘You’re funny,’ she said. ‘i’ll have you know, young lady [reference a girl], that some people consider me dashing,’ said the Doctor, adjusting his bow tie.” I can easily see the Third Doctor saying this, but, alas, Matt Smith comes to mind.

One of the highlights of the book is some embedded references of Goethe’s Faust. She hints that Goethe basing Faust on another Time Lord and meeting with Goethe himself. It’s really fun to see how she links the desire to manipulate time to make things better and Faust’s temptation (as well as the condition that he will be pulled to Hell if he ever reaches a point in his life where he wants time to stop). It also has a poignant ending that nicely wraps up the story.

This wonderful, brief read will leaving you wanting for more while appreciating what you get. That’s exactly where a novella ought to leave us.

William Peak’s The Oblate’s Confession Reviewed – A Beautiful Portraiture of an Oblate’s Life

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William Peak‘s The Oblate’s Confession is a beautifully written fictional study of an oblate (think monk’s apprentice) within a medieval monastery. It’s essentially a series of loosely related vignettes in the life of Winwæd, son of Ceolwulf, as an oblate who is placed in some unique roles within the community at Redstone. The stories are from his perspective. Mr. Peak does a beautiful job, using Winwæd, to convey the life and times of a 7th century monastic community and the village and people around it while establishing its place in the Anglo-Saxon world. One of the aspects of his writing I love is his ability to provide empathetic, genuine-feeling characters and their perspective of the world. There is a thread of what Winwæd considers his great sin that is woven throughout the narrative which a more jaded author would present in a negative light where it’s silly of him to think his prayer had the impact he believed it did. Mr. Peak takes his world seriously manner, not belittling the characters who people it for having a medieval point of view nor does he belittle their life of faith. He does have his characters step back and assess their life but it’s never simply dismissed carte blanche. [Note: I received an advanced review copy through Netgalley for an honest review. The Oblate’s Confession will be available December 1st.]

William Peak

William Peak

There is a challenge Mr. Peak has given his readers, however. There is no overall story arc to which the narrative drives. There’s no climax, no crescendo and no big reveal. No point to which the book drives. Like most of our lives, there are some smaller climatic moments, there are highs and lows and there are things we discover. While there may be a purpose to our lives, it’s often not written in an obvious way. So too for Winwæd.  Now, the descriptions, vignettes, characters and writing are all worthwhile without having some big story to tell, but this is a heads-up to those of you who need that kind of story. I personally think that if there is somewhere it all drives, it makes for a more compelling read and provides a framework to present the characters and places. I think Mr. Peak’s next work could benefit from doing so. However, I want to be very clear: as it stands, this was a truly delightful book to read, I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t need a fast-paced page-turner. Knowing how it’s structured, I would read it again. I also think there are a number of life lessons to be gleaned from Winwæd and his world.

I find almost all of the characters intriguing but the relationship between Winwæd and the hermit, Father Gwynedd is the most poignant. While he fit the somewhat esoteric character of a holy man and hermit, he also saw many things as they are, not as he wished them to be. His response might be different than ours; most of us are brought up to believe that submissive obedience to bad leadership is downright sinful where he saw that doing so was a fulfillment of God’s call and a privilege. However, he was not deluded regarding the monastery leadership’s foibles or the faults of those he loved. He was grounded in his character even while he was quite other-worldly in his perspective. Along with his teaching, I love the little moments with Winwæd, the time of following a fox, little lessons by the fire and the time simply sitting in the snow.

So, what are some of the things I love about The Oblate’s Confession? Mr. Peak’s ability to capture a moment, a story in miniature. Mr. Peak. Is like a landscape and portrait artist who paints a tableau. Each tableau is a story in miniature which each mini-story tied to Winwæd and his sin. I love the characters and the sense of genuineness in their portrayal. I also love the writing. It’s not that it’s extraordinarily beautiful, but it is extraordinarily honest and he does have some interesting turns of phrase.

“You know it’s interesting, isn’t it, how you can remember something like that so clearly, can remember duck-walking a stone across a muddy field, what it was like when, arms tired from the carry, you heaved the thing onto the pile, the disappointment you felt as it landed lower than expected, slid miserably, unimportantly , to the bottom of the heap? But I suppose it’s always that way with the conversations we value in our lives, the ones our memories serve up to us again and again. “

Where do I see the book could use improvement? As I indicated above, I have a preference for a stronger narrative drive. So while I thoroughly enjoyed the tableaus, hooking them through a stronger story arc would be preferred (and, I suspect, make the novel appealing to more readers).

I enjoin you to read The Oblate’s Confession on its arrival December 1st and meet Victricius the furnace master, Father Dagan, Prior of Redstone even the enigmatic Stuf along with the aforementioned Father Gwynedd. Join Winwæd’s jouney and learn of their dreams and heartaches, victories and failures and the swirl of the world around them. This is a solid 4 star debut novel.

Amazon’s Spectacular Kindle Voyage Field-Tested, Real World Review

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The Kindle Voyage is the culmination of years, 7 of them, as of today, to be precise, of Amazon’s efforts to produce a great electronic book reader. This is a beautiful device for those who love reading. While I won’t go into all of the advantages of a dedicated e-reader, some are: less eye strain, easily read in day light, thin and light and no on-line distractions. Yes you can read Kindle books on your iPad, Kindle Fire or phone but the experience is not like a book. The current line of Kindle readers (and especially the Paperwhite and Voyage) are much more so. There are lots of other benefits, including syncing with Audible audio-books, having all your books with you all the time and so forth. (See these posts for more on the Kindle Paperwhite, Audible and Whispersync for Voice or a the Kindle’s role in a lean mobile office or an research on the road.) But the point of this post is to really look at the Voyage as an e-reader and it’s advantages of the previous generation, the Paperwhite.

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My Voyage into a whole new reading experience – OK pun intended

This review is less about a technical review and more about my experience. Obviously, your mileage may vary, so I’m going to bore you a bit with my history with Kindle and my typical usage to help you compare to yours. I have owned and used Kindle Basic (4th Gen., D Ring), Kindle Touch, Kindle Paperwhite (1 & 2) and Kindle Voyage. Now you might wonder at upgrading at almost every generation. I want to give each child a Kindle, so I only have one upgrade left (these devices are now disperse among my wife and three of four children). So I’ve only known e-ink pearl and beyond. I use Whispersync (between Kindle & Windows 8.1 computers and tablet) and Whispersync for Voice (between Kindle & Audible’s Windows Phone app on my Nokia Lumia 920 – I’ve used the Android version of the app previously). I use my Kindle almost everyday. Most of my reading is novels, some reference and business/tech books and books on theology. I use the Chrome app to send Web articles to Kindle to read later. I’ve “checked out” ebooks from the library and receive advanced reviewers copies from Netgalley and directly from authors. It’s well used.

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So I’ve have the Voyage a little over 3 weeks (I received it on November 23rd). I’ve used it at home, work, coffee shops, airplane, in the car (waiting for kid pick up) and outside in the park. In that brief time, I’ve pretty much used all of it’s features outside of Kid Time). I’ve done loaded new books, side-load books (directly from PC) and sent web articles, Word documents and PDFs to it. It’s well used.

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Content set free

While the Paperwhite came close, Voyage is the first e-ink reader that disappears for me. After I start reading, the device is gone and the content totally takes over. Why? I no longer have to give it any thought. I don’t have to set the lighting (there’s a sensor and setting that allows the intensity of the lighting on the panel to automatically adjust to your environment), it’s super light and thin so holding it for long periods of time is hardly noticeable (less so than a paperback) and I can easily read hands-free with the separate but related Origami cover (about which more below). The content comes alive and the world disappears just like with a “real” book.

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The ease with which content is accessible really came through on a recent flight. It was fairly short 737 flight – AKA crowded and cramped. You also have dramatic shifts in lighting for a bright terminal, lights off in the cabin and people turning on the lights over their seat. You have a small area to hold your reader, especially when the coke & peanuts arrive. The Voyage handled all these environments with aplomb, moderating light reasonably quickly with each change. I could even stand the book up on the flip-down tray using the cover whilst munching peanuts (which are nearly inaccessible behind their packaging). While the Paperwhite is a marvelous device, I would have been playing with the light setting quite a bit during this trip and juggling the reader and drinks during the flight. Could I do it? Sure, but it was nice to avoid it which lends itself to full immersion in the book.

One note about a gain and a loss from the Paperwhite. As far as I can tell, active content (games or apps such as a calculator) don’t work on the Voyage where they did on the Paperwhite. These aren’t a big loss. On the flip side, graphic novels/comics do work, but obviously without color. Comics would not download on the Paperwhite.

What are the things I most love about the Voyage? The screen is flat-out gorgeous. Text is crisp, diagrams and drawings are clear, the lighting is even and fonts a fabulous. I also love that the screen is flush and not recessed. (There is one issue I’ve read about where the screen shows some discoloration, possibly yellowing. When I first read about this, I looked at the Kindle and thought, after looking hard, that I noticed some as yellow. Now for the price, this thing should be spot-on perfect, so I was disappointed. Then I forgot about it and never noticed it again. Later I went back to my screen straining to see the issue, and, at least for me it was a phantom non-issue. It is, however, a testament to the poser of suggestion. I’m not saying the issue doesn’t exist for others, just that I don’t see it.) I also love the automatically light adjustment (sometimes it seems to get “stuck” where it doesn’t adjust. This is resolved with a reset, but I’m hoping for an update to resolve this.) I love that it’s light and thin.

What would I love to see improved? PagePress could work better. Even with the most sensitive setting, I think it takes too much pressure to turn a page. I typically stay with using the touchscreen. I would love to the movement (page turning, opening a book or access a collection) a bit quicker and selection of text less of a test of agility. Finally, I really think it should have been called Voyager since it’s the vessel for our voyages through books, not the voyage itself.

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People seem to love or hate the Origami cover. I’m in the love category. Yes it’s a bit awkward in the beginning, but it becomes pretty straight forward to set. Once you’re used to it, it works extraordinarily well. The stand’s perfect, it can easily be used to hold it in landscape move (with the same fold, just turn it on it’s side) and, because it holds the Kindle in magnetically, it’s easily removed (that’s definitely not the case for the Paperwhite official cover). So when you want to hold it for long periods of time reading, just pop it away from the cover and it’s that much lighter. When you do hold it with the cover, it’s still light and the flipped-over cover stays put to the back with a magnet. Brilliant. It’s pricey, like the Voyage but it’s worth it. It’s also very compact so that with the Voyage being slightly smaller than the Paperwhite and this cover being smaller than the official Paperwhite cover (which is a quite nice cover), the whole package is less bulky and more easily fits in pockets.

So the million dollar question – should you upgrade? If you’re currently using a Paperwhite (1 or 2), I would say no (unless you have discretionary income to burn). If you are on a prior Kindle and have extra money, it’s really nice and would be worth it. What about first time buyers? This is a pretty expensive reader, if you’re not a huge reader or you’re on a fairly tight budget, get the Paperwhite; it’s really good. If you’re on really a tight budget, get the Kindle (basic model – no built in lighting). Personally, I think e-readers are so much better than other devices for reading that I would get the basic ($80) and a 7″ HD Kindle Fire ($120) for a total of $200 over an Apple mini-iPad for $250. Yes the iPad mini is nicer than the Fire but those two are pretty powerful and you’ll have a good experience reading. For the price of the base iPad – $500, you could get the 8.9″ Fire HDX ($380) and Kindle Paperwhite ($120). So if you’re tempted to read on your tablet using the Kindle app, you owe yourself to at least look at e-readers if you read with any regularity. (If you don’t, that’s a whole other argument.)

If you can swing it, I highly recommend the Kindle Voyage.

Interview with Author Rysa Walker – Chronos Chronicles and Publishing with Amazon

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I had the privilege of interviewing Rysa Walker, author of the Chronos Chronicles Series which include previously reviewed Timebound reviewed here and Time’s Edge reviewed here. Our discussion ranged over the books, writing and publishing. We’ll break these into two parts. The first part focuses on the books and the second part focuses on publishing and, in particular, some of the controversy around Amazon’s relations with authors and the rest of the publishing industry. Nicely enough, this interview came the day after Hatchette and Amazon came to an agreement.

Interview with Rysa Walker – Part I The Chronos Chronicles

Interview with Rysa Walker – Part 2 Publishing and Amazon

Thanks to Rysa for discussing her writing, books and experience in today’s volatile publishing world.

Charlie Holmberg’s The Glass Magician Review – Fun Cat and Mouse Between a Girl and Her Hunters and between Her Beau

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The Glass Magician is the second book in Charlie Holmberg’s Paper Magician Series. Now that she’s introduced us to the world and characters of the series, she is able to  deepen the storylines, the relationships and the characters in this sequel. The relationship between Ceony Twill and Emery Thane becomes less surreal as it was in the trip down his heart. It’s heating up and a bit complicated (she’s still his apprentice). The Excisioners and their cohorts are after Ceony to both make her free Lira and gain the power she has to work such magic. So here we have a love that cannot (yet) be, multiple assailants tracking down Ceony with a former schoolmate and schoolmaster mixing up in the fray. Good times had by all!

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Charlie Holmberg

 

Breakdown of The Glass Magician Review:

Impressions:

Ms. Holmberg doesn’t merely continue the story but enriches the characters by continuing to reveal more background through the story and dialog. She also complicates the relationships a bit more. I’ve already remarked on Emery’s and Ceony’s relationship but she’s no longer just out of school. She’s on the cusp of being a magician herself. While she’s still under the care of the school and the watchful eye of Patrice Aviosky, it’s a more independent relationship. She reconnects with a friend from school, Delilah, who is Mg. Aviosky’s apprentice. We even have a brief glimpse into Ceony’s family. Finally, there are the bad guys – Grath Cobalt, the ringleader of the group with whom Lira worked and Saraj Prendi, a madman Excisioner. They are hunting her down and for a pretty good chunk of the short novel, she’s on the run. This leads to a bit of cat-and-mouse.

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Grath

Ms. Holmberg presents some conundrums for the reader; on the one hand, Ceony is smart, intelligent and resourceful, yet on the other hand, she seems to make a series of unwise decisions and to execute those decisions in unwise ways. I think this one can be (mostly) solved. Ceony has convinced herself that she’s responsible for bringing the trouble of these two men, Grath & Saraj, on London since they’re after her. Consequently, she thinks she needs to resolve matters. Moreover, since she knows the adults won’t let her do so, she must rely mainly on herself.. She’s doesn’t want to put others at risk. This is a fairly satisfying explanation.  A more difficult challenge are the times when she seems unable to quickly respond to danger in one scene and responds brilliantly in another. While a full explanation will need to wait for the spoiler section (and, hence, off limits to those who have yet to read the book), I’ll simply say at a generic level that we humans are not rational automaton; our performance is mixed. Ceony bears this out.

Finally, one slightly larger challenge to the reader’s credulity is the inability of seasoned Criminal Affairs magicians as well as those magicians on the Criminal Affairs Cabinet to manage the bad guys as effectively as apprentices do. While outwitting the police has been key to novels since Sherlock Holmes, I think this could be handled better in the series. However, one mitigating factor is that Excisioners will use methods not available to others.

So while The Glass Magician doesn’t match the sheer creativity of The Paper Magician with its in-a-heart scene nor are Grath or Saraj as interesting as Lira, it also moves the story in deepening and interesting ways. Grath had some interesting tricks, quirks, and intelligence while the feral Saraj has the potential for being interesting but didn’t play a large enough role to be so in this book.

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What I Love about The Glass Magician:

  • The deepening complexity in Emery’s & Ceony’s relationship and that they’re both a bit shy about it.
  • Ceony’s mixed brilliance and quick thinking mixed with her blindness and inability to respond
  • The deepening unraveling of Ms. Holmberg’s world.
  • Ceony and Delilah’s friendship
  • Some surprisingly candid moments between the characters
  • Some clever twists and battles.

What am I Less Fond of in The Glass Magician:

  • Ceony’s mixed brilliance and quick thinking mixed with her blindness and inability to respond (it’s a love/hate thing)
  • The surprisingly candid moments didn’t go very far
  • The seeming incompetence of the adults intermixed with moments of brilliance.
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Amy McFadden

 

Narration:

As is my typical practice, I went between the Kindle and Audible versions of the book. Amy McFadden‘s excellent narration added to the overall joy of reading the book. I thought her Ceony spot-on, Emery’s great as always and she did a nice bit with the gruffness of Grath. Saraj’s accent was nicely done as well. While the beginning was a little breathy, overall the pacing was great. In my review of The Paper Magician,  I fussed a bit that Ceony seemed to move from an Etonian English to more common accent. There was no alternating in this performance. Her narration is consistent within itself and the character. I’m delighted with her narration and hope she continues with the series.

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***SPOILER ALERT*** Don’t read past this line if you haven’t read the book

So, I argued that Ceony shows moments of daft failure and brilliance. An example of the daft bit is her inability to shoot Grath with her “paper” gun. She let’s him talk and move to the point that he interferes with her ability to shoot. “Well, Joe, she’s smart but not a fast thinker.” This is a girl who, in the agony of a thousand cuts, breaks her material tie and binds herself to glass and wields her new power to save the day. She ought to be able to pull the trigger. While we’re a flawed and not always consistent, this flip-flop seems to stretch credulity. The adults can’t keep their charges safe let alone take down the criminals (until the end). I get that they’re hard to take down, but letting Ceony go back to Mg. Aviosky’s house as a safe haven only to find Delilah and she trussed up is a bit much.  That just seemed like a pretty big failure to guard one of the principal’s homes, let along the one in which would reside the object of the bad guy’s search. They’re able to track Saraj but not prevent Grath for taking over the home?

OK, I’m done with the fussy part. I really did enjoy the book and look forward to the other(s) in the series. I love the world, the people and plots. I would like to see some radical moves like in the first book, but I loved this one as well. Definitely a solid four star read.

Time’s Edge Review – Rysa Walker Ups Her Game

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I like Timebound, the first in the Chronos Chronicles Series. I really do. I like its premise, relationships, characters and narrative. It’s a good book and a good story (as I indicate in my review). In Time’s Edge, Rysa Walker takes all of that ground work and creates a book an order of magnitude better.

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The trick is that there’s no one thing that’s starkly different; there’s no smoking gun or clear area where you point to it and say “Whoa — that’s tremendously better!” Rather she takes every single element and polishes corners, creates layers, and embeds textures that, taken as a whole, produce a stunning sequel. So this will be a little different review. The first section will be a little about the Time’s Edge story and how it fits into the series. The second section will dive a little more deeply into why it seems this “breathes” as a better novel. I’ll also briefly review the audiobook (performed by one of my all-time favorite narrators, Kate Rudd). Finally, I’ll go in a bit deeper, using spoiler material (I’ll warn you). to make my point. This may well be the gold standard for a sequel.

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Rysa Walker

Our protagonist Kate has narrowly missed being blinked into non-existence through some time travelers tinkering with history. She was nearly in a timeline that wasn’t. She, with help from her Grandmother Katherine, friend Connor and boyfriend Trey, her frienemy and aunt, Prudence, stopped the timeshift from happening. Now it gets real. Their mission is to stop the Cyrist from taking over the world and killing all of the non-Cyrist. The only weapon they have is time. They must stop the Cyrists from messing with the timeline. No problem. Kate must do this even while their world is stirred up by complex love, family relationships, a fruitless wild goose chase and having potential colleagues get into hot water in the timeline in which they’re stuck.

Let’s take a look at the relationships and how they have additional layered complexity: Trey & Kate: we have the addition of Kate pursuing Trey (a reversal of their first meeting) to reconnect after a timeline shift where he doesn’t know her. Kiernan & Kate: Kiernan, in another timeline that is no more, loved Kate and she him. He remembers “his” Kate and relates to the new Kate on that foundation. Kate is attracted to Kiernan as well but is committed to Trey. Katherine & Kate: Katherine’s cancer complicates and makes their relationship difficult both in it’s affects on Katherine’s moods and her anxiousness on seeing this done before the cancer does her in. Charlayne & Kate: Kate’s BFF is now seemingly Cyrist but doesn’t seem to completely fit the Cyrist mold. This, of course, is on top of the interesting dynamics already established in these relationships. Layering these relationships is absolutely tied to the narrative. There’s actually more to the complexities but, you know, spoilers.

Another amazing aspect of Ms. Walker’s writing is that, while she has many complicated threads, they all flow from and return to the main narrative in a useful, clear, and comprehensible way. They are not just rabbit trails but, ultimately, integral to the story. There is no artificiality in plot twists or in sub-plots. On top of the main missions, we have the relationships to those from whom she collects the CHRONOS keys (like her great-grandparents on her father’s side), the challenge is always before them of what they might impact in taking action or even lack of action, becoming embroiled in a local fight and the implications thereof and the possibility that, even if they succeed in their mission they won’t meet their goal. Kate is doing this in an ever shifting world where Cyrist’s continue to gain influence and power. Finally, it turns out that Saul’s main “weapon”, Prudence is also his greatest liability.

Finally, there’s the emotional landscape of a recovering love, a reluctant unrequited love and the need to not intervene to right wrongs that affect the timeline. She must cope with letting atrocities occur, despite the likely ability to stop it, in order to stop much worst genocide. This is, however, running perilously close to not doing apparent good for “the greater good,” they seem caught in Cyrist’s own tag line. Oh, and not only is she flipping through time left and right but doing so multiple times to fit a month’s worth of activity in a week.

Layers, textures and relationships all working together to drive the narrative. Now that’s writing. Ms. Walker continues to do her research on the eras her characters populate and bases much of what occurs on historical events. Oh wait, and there’s the whole examination of time travel, implications of change and effects on those affecting the change. Yowsa.

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Kate Rudd

As I’m wont to do, I went back and forth between the Kindle and Audible versions. Kate Rudd perfomance is simply amazing! Performing as Kate’s not much of stretch but her Kiernan is surprisingly fabulous. I love her Trey as well. As always, her pacing is terrfic, consistency in characters is professional and her inflections spot on. She’s always a delight to hear read. If you like audiobooks, you’ll love this one.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to how Ms. Walker handles the ending. She wraps up her current story and sets up the next book with a bit of a teaser. No cliff-hanger. No mere stop without a proper ending. This may sound like writing 101, but it’s seems to becoming a fairly rare event in books in a series, so I salute you Ms. Walker for your ending.

I highly recommend Time’s Edge for your reading pleasure.

++++SPOILER ALERT++++ Don’t read below until you’ve read the book

I love the rational twists of Time’s Edge. Of course there’s no clear victory even if they win the day of collecting all of the CHRONOS keys (OK, I see that now). So to look at multiple potential targets of wiping out the cache, making an antidote to Saul’s manufacted plague or work together with the rest of the Fifth column to reduce Cyrist power all make sense. This is probably the most realistic SciFi/Time Travel/Historical Fiction I’ve read. Charlayne as part of the Fifth column is brilliant! I truly hope she’s not a double-agent. Leaving the door slightly open for Kate & Kiernan keeps that whole tension just a bit higher as well.

Seriously well-orchestrated tweaks, layers, twists and textures to take a really good first book into a fabulous sequel. I can’t imagine what the next book in the series will be like.

Amiable Acoustic Agility – avoiding the echo chamber sound

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We all heard them – that really bad recording our favorite artist pushed out on Youtube. The one that sounds like they’re in an echo chamber. The ones that get created in a space like this:

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We would be delighted, of course, if they’re recorded here:

Courtesy customdragonfly.com

Courtesy customdragonfly.com

But if you’re just experimenting and playing around, here can be good too (with closed curtains and a decent mike):

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Courtesy Decoración

The point is, you don’t need a full recording studio to put out a quick session to your fans (although that would be lovely) but exercising just a bit of sonic sanity can go a long way.

For more on this topic go to my article on FDRMX.

Janelle True’s Teasing Out Her New Album with ‘Catch Me’

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Janelle True

Janelle True’s gearing up to put out a new album. You may recall I reviewed her debut album, Swept Away, which introduced us to her vocal and song writing talent. Janelle True Swept Away Now she’s posted “Catch Me” both as a teaser for her unnamed album coming this winter and as an entry into a Guitar Center’s Singer Songwriter contest.   “Catch Me” is a poignant song about that nascent time where a relationship is a turning point. It is at that scary edge where you admit to yourself that you care and you don’t know yet if that love is requited: “Well all that I know is I fell more than I show and I cling to false hopes like I’m tethered. …be kind, don’t show more than  you feel. What if you don’t catch me.” I love the way her voice follows her hopes and fears – it climbs as she sings about fantasizing about the relationship and falls when she worries he might not catch her. I also love her line about the cost of transparency. We must risk revealing our true hearts to win true love. (Of course guys, that’s for you to step up and bare your soul.) I’m pleasantly surprised by the overall acoustic tone of the video given that it’s recorded in a relatively, sonically, bright room with lot’s of reflective surfaces on which sound waves can bounce. It sounds quite good. So best wishes to Janelle for the contest. The debut album is available on Amazon, iTunes and cdbaby; for more information: www.janelletrue.com Her videos are at Janelle True’s YouTube Channel.

Lang Lang’s Mozart Album Review: Faithful, Emotive, Confident and Just Shy of Inspirational

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Lang Lang, one of the hottest young stars of the classical world, has incredible facility with the piano. He does everything from playing at a White House Gala to opening the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea with Psy (yes, of Gangnam Style fame) and being the UN Messenger of Peace. He’s a busy guy. It is startling to see the ease with which he extemporaneously plays starkly different pieces, as he does in this video on how he checks out a new piano (care of The Daily Telegraph). Not many can chat and play Schumann or Bach at the same time. So it’s exciting to see him turn his attention to some of Mozart’s Piano Concertos and Sonatas.

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Mr. Lang’s creates accurate, emotive and confident music on this album that portrays Mozart well but ultimately falls shy of inspirational. I do recommend listening to both of the concertos as well as the Rondo known as The Turkish March which requires the serious technical adroitness he displays so well.

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The full review is on FMRDX.com

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