Book Opinion: Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

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Adolph Hitler.

I was raised by parents and grandparents who lived through WWII and the Great Depression. I didn’t realize until about ten years ago, that the America I grew up in was very post war in its sensibilities. I was surrounded by the greatest generation and their independence and strength. I was raised on those values, and one thing that has always fascinated me because of its extremity is WWII era Germany. I couldn’t understand it, and Adolph Hitler was and is, the ultimate boogie man. One minute you see him smiling and petting his dog in what looked like a scene that anybody would be in, the next minute you see him screaming and shaking his fist, spittle flying, weird little bangs separating, thousands of sycophants Seig Heiling and snapping up that infamous salute.

The pageantry created by the Nazis was second to none. Red, black, and white go so well together after all. The uniforms were flashy and they made every effort to show mainly tall, well-built, handsome, blue-eyed blondes to reinforce their agenda. The parades, the bonfires, (hey, are those BOOKS in there?) the snappy flags and the shiny black cars. Then you find out about the beatings, murder, destruction, concentration camps and world domination ambitions, and the contradiction that was Nazi Germany becomes something that you try to figure out, but can’t.

When I saw this book at Jo-Beth Booksellers, I couldn’t resist. I read the book jacket, so I knew it was satire, but I had to see what Timur Vermes imagined the Furher (sorry, I don’t know how to do umlauts) would do if he came back. What I found was more an indictment of modern civilization than an indictment of Herr Hitler, although I guess you can’t really make him any worse than he already is.

So anyway, Adolph wakes up on a beautiful, blue sky, sunny day in a vacant lot somewhere in Berlin. At first, he looks around for signs of the war going on, but sees none. He is in full uniform, it’s a little smudged and smells like gasoline from a cleaning attempt, but overall, he’s in pretty good shape. He winds up being taken in by a newspaper kiosk guy who tells him the year and helps him out. He also hooks him up with tv producers because he thinks the Hitler thing is an act.

Hitler is a smart guy obviously and figures out really quickly that something strange has happened and he wants to get his political career going again. To make a long story short, he learns about modern technology and people and finds all of it ridiculous, still hates Jews etc., and becomes a big celebrity. And of course, nobody believes him. The entire country is furious that he won’t reveal his real name, because they don’t believe him, and he’s ready to call in the SS to take care of the people who keep asking. Just like vampires, werewolves, and witches, modern society doesn’t believe in the monster, and ultimately, it’ll cause them trouble.  By the end, you can see that if he remains persistent, the modern sheeple are going to end up following him.

I enjoyed the book overall. It made me think about how ridiculous modern society is. It pointed out yet again, that even though a threat, or a negative anomaly can be as plain as the nose on your face, we often, in our enlightened modernity, deny it, even as it’s taking over our lives. I’d kind of like Vermes to write a sequel, where the monster really comes roaring back, in all of his muderous, evil, mastermind glory, not funny this time.  It would be the most successful horror story of all time.

If you enjoy satire, you might want to give this one a look. It really did have a number of LOL moments, and the way the speeches he makes are laid out in the book, you can almost hear that old black and white boogie man screaming, and shaking his fist, spittle flying, and weird little bangs separating.

Have a great day, and spend part of it with a great book. 😊

 

Book Opinion: Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

 

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I’ve reviewed a couple of Koontz’s books on here over the last couple of years, and I had some issues with them. They had great story lines, but the writing wasn’t what I was used to from one of my favorite authors. I chalk it up to changes somewhere in his pipeline of editors etc. Well, let me say, he’s baaaaack…

It’s going to be very hard for me to talk about this one because I don’t want to ruin it for you. This book has an incredible twist that caught me off guard, and that doesn’t happen often.

The heroine of our story is a woman in her early twenties named Bibi Blair. Bibi was brought up by surfer/successful business people parents in California. Bibi is very intelligent and has been all her life. As an adult, she is a successful, but still up and coming author. She’s engaged to a Navy Seal named Paxton, who is on a super secret mission in the Middle East, and he’s out of reach for much of the novel. One day, pretty much out of the blue, Bibi begins to have odd physical symptoms. She calls her mother who gets her to the hospital where it is discovered that the intrepid Bibi has brain cancer. Serious, incurable, brain cancer. What follows is Koontz at his best.

The Valient (capital V on purpose) Bibi’s story is filled with suspense, mystery, the ever present in Koontz’s work, golden retriever or two, some murder, a few interesting characters, a quest to save Ashley Bell, and most important, some supernatural events. I really can’t go into too much more detail because I absolutely do not want to spoil it for you.

If you are in need of a well written, interesting supernatural thriller to keep you company while it’s cold outside, you might want to give  /Ashley Bell/ a chance. Much like one of his other beloved characters, Odd Thomas, I think we’ll be hearing from Bibi Blair again.  I was driving in my car this morning thinking about this book, and I realized that it reminded me in certain ways of a very famous work of fiction that has been made into a technicolor extravaganza, and since the wildly successful film, has woven bits of itself into much of our culture. Sadly, I can’t tell you WHICH technicolor extravaganza I refer to because it might spoil the surprise. It breaks my heart and hurts my brain to not tell, but I have to be brave.

Have a beautiful day and be kind. 😊

I Went Floating in a Pod Today

I am, and always have been a fan of wellness and alternative therapies. I like to try to stay well, because maintenance is better than repair. I have a hard time relaxing my body, so I’m always looking for ways to de-stress, because everyone knows stress will kill you, and that thought creates stress, so… you see my problem.

I’ve always wanted to try a sensory deprivation tank, because I can’t imagine anything better that floating in warm water in pitch dark silence.  The other day I stumbled across a brand new local place to float. The first in Cincinnati, so I went online and made an appointment. You can find their website here:

http://taofloatloft.com/

When I arrived at the loft, I was escorted into the Yin Float Room.  It’s a fairly small room with dim lighting (you can brighten it if you want) an awesome shower in the corner, and what can only be likened to a space craft sitting in the middle of the room.  You are given a quick, because it’s easy, low down, and left to your own devices. You take a shower first, no conditioner please, it wrecks the water, put in your earplugs and climb into your pod.

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This is what pod looks like. From Tao Float Loft’s Facebook page.

There is about a foot of skin temperature water filled with enough Epsom salts to make you float (think Dead Sea) a blue light, an emergency button, a neck pillow and and an underwater speaker in the pod. You have full control of the lid, I recommend keeping it closed so you stay warm, and the light.

So anyway, I got in and the minute I sat down, my legs shot up. You have to make a concerted effort to keep them down because of the bouyancy of the salt. I laid back, enjoyed the light for a couple of minutes and turned it off. It was completely dark, and the music that is playing when you first get in goes off after a couple of minutes so it’s silent. I booked a 90 minute float because I kind of have runaway ADD, and I knew it would take at least thirty minutes for me to zone out, and I was right. I moved around some, enjoying the sensation of ” mermaid hair” and the feeling of not sinking. I left my arms out to my sides, clasped them across my stomach, put them over my head, you know, getting the feel of things. I put my feet against the bottom and stretched my arms over my head as far as they’d go, and my fingernails, which are longish, barely touched the top of the pod. I’m 5’8″ so I figure it’s at least six and a half feet long. At least. It must be four or five feet wide, and I could sit on the bottom and still have a couple of feet of head space. I’m pretty claustrophobic, and I had zero issues with being inside it.

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Somebody floating with the light on. From Tao Float Loft’s Facebook page.

After another twenty minutes or so of song lyrics, book lists, conversations, to-do things, and general mental buzz, I started to come down. As I began to relax, I decided to give my float an intention, like I do at yoga sometimes. I asked that my creativity be stimulated, and that I would appreciate any insights God had for me. As the relaxation deepened, my body sank into what I guess is good float form. The sitting apparatus sinks down, but still floats. The backs of my heels sank down, and my knees bent slightly as if I had a pillow underneath them. My neck sank below the water, but my face stayed above it. I saw a couple of strange things in my mind’s eye, I’ll share them, because it was weird and I don’t understand. First, I saw a face that I can only describe as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, carved out of wood. It’s was super weird. He looked like a carving on a piece of furniture from the Black Forest in Germany. That faded away, and I saw a profile of a male lion. It looked like a cross between a line drawing and a wood carving. That morphed into the profile of a wolf (which I believe is one of my spirit animals) then nothing more.

I guess I was asleep. At some point, I half way woke up, and the only way I can describe how it felt is this… I felt like I was in the highest quality, softest, memory foam mattress ever, made for a fairy princess. Every part of my body was supported and I was sunk down in something. I moved a little bit and was surprised to find myself in water. I sighed and was gone away again.

The music comes back on five minutes before the end of your session. If you don’t hear it, the filter comes on and the jet from that will wake you up. I came back about two minutes before the filter came on. I turned on the light and started moving around so I could get up. Got out, took my shower, and was done. I felt like I’d been asleep all night. The guy at the front desk told me that one hour of floating equals four hours of sleeping. I believe it. I bought a three float package. I’m going back next week. I’m excited to see what will happen as I get good at letting go. If you have a chance, do it.

Be kind to someone today. 😊❤️

 

Faces of the Audubon Zoo : Part Two

I originally intended to put all my faces in one post, but once I got started, I realized I had more than I thought and I don’t like to make photo posts too long.  Hope you enjoy my non-mammals. :-)

Lovely flamingo.  They were very vocal.
Lovely flamingo. They were very vocal.
Some kind of duck.
Some kind of duck.
I love peacocks so much.  I've always wanted one but they are so loud, I'll have to be satisfied with peacock art.
I love peacocks so much. I’ve always wanted one but they are so loud, I’ll have to be satisfied with peacock art.
Turtles are cool.
Turtles are cool.
Weird zombie chicken duck bird. Fitting for New Orleans.
Weird zombie chicken duck bird. Fitting for New Orleans.
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Some sort of pelican.
I love these birds and I think their eyes are fascinating.
I love these birds and I think their eyes are fascinating.

I like to take pictures of faces because they are so expressive.  I believe that animals have very similar inner lives to humans and I enjoy trying to capture a little of that.

Have a beautiful day and be kind to someone. :-)

Faces of the Audubon Zoo : Part One

New Orleans is the home of my soul.  Seriously, I think I lived there in another life.  On my latest trip, I finally made it to the zoo.  I have very mixed emotions about zoos.  I love the conservation work they do, but caged animals, even when they are in lovely habitats make me sad.  Nevertheless, I went, I enjoyed, I saw some beautiful animals.

Bored bear
Bored bear.
The leopard was asleep until he heard my camera noise.
This leopard was asleep until he heard my camera noise.
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Fantastic face :-)
So handsome
So handsome.
I told him he was handsome, and he smiled at me.
I told him he was handsome, and he smiled at me.
Orangutan hanging in a hammock.
Orangutan hanging in a hammock.
Rhino
Rhino
Ahhhh, that feels good...
Ahhhh, that feels good…
I love giraffes.
I love giraffes.

I hope you enjoyed my mammal faces edition.  Birds and reptiles will be next.

Have a wonderful day and be kind. :-)

Book Opinion: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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I have an English degree and I have been reading intensely since I was a small child.  I used to just read whatever was put in front of me without regard for the actual writing.  As I’ve gotten older however, unless a book just hooks me with an entertaining story, I tend to put poorly written books in the donate box.  All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, will NOT end up at Goodwill, but will stay front and center on my bookshelf.

I am fascinated by WWII.  My parents were children during it, my grandfather was an air raid warden, and growing up in the 1970’s I was bombarded by stories from that time.  It has only been recently that I’ve realized what a post-war world I actually grew up in.  All The Light We Cannot See offers a unique perspective on the war and a unique way of representing the thin red thread that connects us all.

The heroine of the story is Marie-Laure, a young girl living with her father in Paris.  At the age of six, she loses her sight and her father creates a three dimensional model of their neighborhood so that Marie-Laure can memorize where everything is so she can get around.  He takes her out with her cane and has her lead them home.  He also takes her with him to the Museum of Natural History where he is the key master.  She spends her time exploring the space and all of it’s treasures which end up informing her future.

At the same time, young Werner is growing up with his sister Jutta in an orphanage in a mining town in Germany.  Werner is brilliant, and his quick mind causes him to live in dread of the day he will be forced into the mines.  They find an old radio, which Werner works on and makes funtional.  The children listen to it at night and hear broadcasts from France (they can all speak and understand French because the house mother is from France) about science. His mind continues to expand and he becomes an expert in radios.

When the Nazis approach Paris, Marie-Laure and her father leave the city, possibly carrying a priceless treasure from the museum and go to Saint-Malo to stay with her great-uncle Etienne.  Simultaneously, Werner’s brilliance with radios is noticed and he is chosen to attend a school run by the Nazis.  We are taken on a back and forth journey between Marie-Laure’s life in France, with glimpses of the French Resistance, the constant threat of sudden arrest, and the general quest to just survive the Nazi assaults; and Werner’s life in Germany as he struggles with things that happen at school, the pressure he feels from his beloved sister to resist what she is afraid the Nazis will turn him into, and HIS general quest to just survive the maze of treachery and horror that follows Nazi bureaucracy wherever it goes.

Eventually, the teenage Werner is thrust into the fighting by way of his magical radio skills and his life intersects with Marie-Laure’s life during the siege of Saint-Malo.  Although they part, the story of their intersection continues into the next generation and for the next many years.

This story makes you ponder so many things with regard to war, and people being forced to fight for things they don’t necessarily believe in or agree with.  It causes you to marvel at the strength of human beings and their spirit.  It really reinforces the notion that we are all connected in ways we cannot imagine, and the things we do have impacts far beyond our immediate sphere of influence.

If you are in search of a beautifully written, multi-level story, give All The Light We Cannot See a try.  I think you’ll like it.

Have a beautiful day :-)

Book Opinion: Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

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What to say, what to say…

When I was a teenager, I found Interview With a Vampire. I liked it and proceeded to read the rest of the books, along with the ones about the Mayfair Witches and all the rest. I was excited to see she was writing another vampire story. Then I read it.

The thing people who have not read these books don’t realize, is that Lestat is kind of the chorus girl who breaks out and eclipses the star. Interview With a Vampire is Louis’ story, not Lestat’s. He figures strongly in it of course, but the book is about Louis. After that one, Lestat became the focus. Such a mythology has built up around him and he has such a strong voice in her writing, that it’s almost like he’s real. In fact, go to New Orleans on a regular Tuesday, and I guarantee you that within an hour of wandering the French Quarter, you will find some guy dressed up like him, purply glasses, long blonde hair, velvet frock coat and all. Just walking down a dusky street. This new book does none of that justice.

The gist of the story is that one of the original vamps has inhabited the body of another ancient vamp, but in spirit form and he is physically telling older vamps to burn fledglings. They are all scared and are looking for a gathering of the older vamps and begging for a leader, guess who? The story is pretty good, and definitely do-able, the problem with this book is the mechanics of it. Without going too deeply into details about glossaries and appendices etc, because it may take you two weeks to read this post like it took me two weeks to read this book, I’ll sum it up. Because it’s been so long, and because the author wants to add to her audience, we are treated to a dictionary of sorts of vampire terminology as it’s used in the Vampire Chronicles. Then, we get a big fat commercial for about a third of the book for the EARLIER books. The Vampire Chronicles and/or names of individual books are mentioned four thousand, three hundred and fifty seven times in the space of the first section of the book. I exaggerate of course, but you get my drift. We then get a different vampiric author for each chapter, giving back stories, world history, etc, etc. I am yawning just remembering it. Then suddenly, we get a Lestat chapter. It flows well, you can hear his voice, especially if you are a long-time fan, you get in a reading groove because it’s well written, then it switches back to someone else, and it takes you a day and a half to read one chapter. Then at the end of the book, we have an appendix of Anne Rice supernatural characters with a little blurb about each one, and then another appendix of Anne Rice supernatural themed books with a short paragraph describing each one. Again, it’s a commercial for the entire cannon of vampire stuff.

There are a couple of interesting surprises involving a young man named Victor, and a young woman named Rose, which set us up for more vampire stories, which if they are done properly could be enjoyable. Now that the commercial that is this book is finished, I can only hope that whatever creepy spirit possesses her when she is writing in Lestat’s voice, will show up and spare us glossaries, dictionaries, appendices, further mention by name of the earlier books, long flowery descriptions of clothing and overuse of the word “bespoke,” as well as an absence of long drawn out, boring world and vampire histories. You made me a little sad Anne, but I’ll chalk it up to the fact that it’s been something like ten or eleven years since you wrote a book and clearly your publisher/editor person didn’t really care what you wrote because they knew it would sell a lot and make a butt-ton of money regardless of the content. It probably won’t work out so great along those lines next time, so tighten it up girl; and if you are surrounded by yes men, get somebody who will tell you the truth and actually WORK with you. I still love you though, and I look forward to being able to give you another chance.

Have a great day everybody, stay warm and be nice :-)

NBC’s Live Performance of Peter Pan

I am a huge Peter Pan fan. About a year ago, I saw Cathy Rigby in her signature role of Peter, on her farewell tour. I loved it. It was beautiful, well-acted and clearly Rigby has turned into Peter Pan over the years. I am also a huge fan of things I can watch with my whole family on television and not be bombarded with constant sex talk, violence, and political references, so imagine my excitement when I found out that NBC was doing another live musical for the holiday season. We watched last year’s Sound of Music, and once Carrie Underwood got past her first few nervous minutes, it was pretty good. Peter turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag for me.

It followed the story very well. Mrs. Darling, played by Kelli O’Hara, was perfect. Her voice was beautiful and she was in possession of the presence that only Broadway performers have. Minnie Driver did a good job as the narrator and grown-up Wendy. I feel like I’m expected to know who Allison Williams, aka Peter is, but I have no clue. She did a good job, and from certain angles, she pulled off being a boy. Her beautiful voice was all girl, even though she seemed to be cutting off soaring high notes to keep from sounding too much like a girl. It didn’t work and next time I suggest she just go ahead and go for it. She was very good with the Pan postures, but that tunic could have been a little longer. Even though she has about zero body fat, the girl thighs and rear were visible. That’s not her fault, the costumer should have noticed.

In fact, most of my issues with the show had nothing to do with the actors, rather, little details like the tunic length and some of the casting drove me to distraction. So let’s address the casting. Smee is supposed to be an old guy. He was not, but he was my favorite. Christian Borle was one of the highlights for me. He was funny, and played the part of Smee very well, he was just about twenty-five years too young. Christopher Walken. What to say about Christopher Walken. At first, I thought he was looking down and slightly to his left with a glassy eyed stare to make Hook appear disconnected and scary. As the show went on however, I realized that he was looking at a teleprompter, because he never stopped doing it. Ok, he stopped once in a while, but overall, he never stopped doing it. It was really in the wrong place. The whole time. He’s having trouble with voice strength. It happens, and again, wrong age. He was a bit to old for the part of Hook, ten years ago he would have been perfect. Hook is a full grown adult, but he’s not a grandpa, that should be Smee. See where I’m going here? Casting people, have you READ Peter Pan? Seen the movie? Seen the Broadway show? I really think they did CW a disservice. In their quest for a big name, they made the wrong choice.

The Lost Boys. This casting criticism gets an entire paragraph of it’s own, and it goes back to, “Hey casting people, have you ANY familiarity with Peter Pan?” The Lost Boys are supposed to be boys. Little boys, saaaay ten and under. These guys were the Lost Men. I have not seen more hugely muscular calves, leg hair, ropey, muscled arms, and five o’clock shadow in one place maybe ever. They were huge. When they were singing about getting a mother, my daughter said, “Mother, they have wives.” It took two pirates to kidnap each Lost Boy. Did I say they were huge? The only appropriately aged and sized “Lost Boys” were John and Michael Darling. I’m completely serious here. It was just really bad casting. Really bad.

All of this being said, I enjoyed a nice night of entertainment with my family. We had snacks together, laughed in a good way at the pirates. Pirates are always my favorite and if dancing pirates are wrong, I don’t wanna be right. The scene with Peter and Wendy in the boat reminded me of The Little Mermaid, go on and kiss theee girl, but I liked it. It was really pretty. The little miniature, fog laced London reminded me of the Peter Pan ride at Disney World, which worked for me, and the Lost Boys hide out was every little kid’s dream fantasy fort. The sets were beautiful, most of the costuming was good, and it was enjoyable overall.

Suggestions to NBC for next year. Mainly, three words. New. Casting. Director. For a tv event like this, you don’t need to drag in people everybody knows, or are supposed to know to get an audience. You need to hire Broadway caliber actors to populate a Broadway caliber show. And for pete’s sake, read the original material before you make even those choices. There are a lot of people out here in America who are familiar with what these stories are supposed to be, and we WILL notice when you get it wrong, and it WILL color our perception of what you are trying to do.

My other suggestion is to make another one. PLEASE. We are starving for stuff like this out here. We get enough exposure to inappropriate sex, graphic violence and cruelty on the news. It’s not entertainment. This actually WAS entertainment and we want more of it.

Have a great day everybody and be kind. :-)

Cades Cove, TN

We live about five hours from Gatlinburg, TN. If you’ve never been there, it’s a town just outside the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Gatlinburg has gone over the years, from being a sleepy little mountain town to a tourist mecca. It has a decidedly German flavor to many of the buildings and in the summer, there are beautiful flowers everywhere. I know lots of people don’t like tourist towns, and I often don’t like them either, but I like this one. It is a great gateway to the beautiful park, and inside that beautiful park is Cades Cove.

Cades Cove was a community way back in the mountains. Today, it is basically a museum of past Appalachian living. There are a few houses, some churches, a nice visitor center and a campground. We decided to take a bike ride on the loop road, and quickly discovered that it’s a lot hillier than we ever thought it was from the car. We had to bale, but in the meantime, I got some awesome photos.

A morning view from the Loop Road.
A morning view from the Loop Road.

We got there early, it was shady and cool. Suddenly, the sun rose all the way and the humidity began to creep up.

The boy beginning to realize that a black shirt was a bad choice...
The boy beginning to realize that a black shirt was a bad choice…
The Loop Road.
The Loop Road.

We realized that we were going to all die and dry up like empty corn husks if we kept going, so the sight of this cross-over road was a welcome sight.

Posts along the cut over road to chop that trip in less than half.
Posts along the cut over road to chop that trip in less than half.

The boy was in the worst shape because he had on a black shirt. My husband is the kind of person who trades us for crappy meals in restaurants, and will give you the shirt off his back. His shirt was NOT black and large enough to allow for air circulation when it was put on my son, so they traded shirts. I’m not sure if it shows well enough for you to tell, but that black shirt was TIGHT on the hubs. It was really funny, and a little embarrassing…

The hubs goofing off because the boy's shirt was too small for him, the boy dying.
The hubs goofing off because the boy’s shirt was too small for him, the boy dying.

Lesson learned from this? Just because you can handle an eight mile loop road bike ride on a perfectly flat island in Michigan when the temp is in the low 60’s, does NOT mean you can handle a loop road bike ride on a hilly, 80 degree, humid Tennessee morning. Just say no. The Cades Cove Loop Road is for cars. Use one.

Have a great day full of level walking/riding paths, cool temps and low humidity. Be nice :-)