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December 30, 2017

Review: Write For Me by Michelle Holt

by Donna Huber

A few years ago, before I had a review team, I became overwhelm with the amount of review requests I received. My answer was to stick my head in the sand and not open emails. Now I don't do that, but it did leave a mound (of around 1,600) of unread emails. A month or so ago I made it a priority to get through those emails. In doing this I discovered several ebooks that had been sent with the request so I thought I would check a few of them out. Write For Me was one of those ebooks.

Review: The Girl Who Saved Ghosts by K. C. Tansley

by MK French

In the second book of "The Unbelievables" series, Kat is approached by the ghost of an ancestor begging for her help in solving a murder mystery. Kat has to learn how to use the magic she had inherited, especially before the Dark One tries to kill her and the other heirs to the families that hers is tied to.

December 29, 2017

3 Novels about WWII

by Susan Roberts


There are many new books about WWII and it amazes me that there are so many new ways that the story of the war are being told.  I have reviews of three books that all show how horrible the war was for the people in Europe but they are told from different perspectives even though they are all based on real people.  I have read all three in the last month and after the sadness of these books, I think it's time to start reading Christmas books.

December 28, 2017

Review: Travels and Trevails of Small Minds by Daniel Falatko

by MK French

Nathan is a temp office worker without much ambition. He works for Professor Behr with one other office mate, with stacks of folders and papers all around him, and does little more than get yelled at or fetch coffee. His relationship with his girlfriend isn't much better, his coworker often makes fun of him, and he has little more to occupy his time than the occasional request from Dr. Behr. This allows him to start looking into the property deal, which seems odd, and then get sent to England and then Eastern Europe.

December 27, 2017

Life in the E.R.

by Susan Roberts


I don't read many non-fiction books and when I do, I choose them very carefully.  There are several medical professionals in my family so I am always drawn to books about the stress on the people who work in the medical field.  I read a new book this week that I want to share with you about the daily stress on an emergency room doctor.  Dr. Philip Green is an emergency medical physician in Walla Walla Washington.  His new book People of the ER along with his previous book Trauma Room Two give the reader a sense of what life in the ER is like for the medical professionals.  Dr. Green not only writes about some of the people that he sees but he also goes into details about how it affects him as a doctor, a husband, a father and a son.  This is an interesting look at life in the ER as well as a very introspective view of how it affects the staff.

He's Behind You!

by Ross Kitson


So this Christmas I've managed to wangle some time off between the big days and new year (which I have the joy of working) and for the first time since… well, since I was a child, I've got the pleasure of going to a pantomime. In my wife's family it's become a bit of a traditional trip to take the grandkids to the local pantomime, and in fact, Mrs. K tells a great story about being taken to the pantomime as a little girl by her own grandfather who was the mayor of Halifax at the time.

This year the show is Aladdin, which is a tried and tested pantomime play with not a hint of festivity about it, which for those that read the blog outwith anywhere in the former British Empire will probably leave them rather bemused and confused. So, with the benefit of my magical wand, and adopting the transient role of Fairy Godperson (gender neutrality mystically achieved) I shall enhance your knowledge of the pantomime tradition in the UK…

Image from www.victoriatheatre.co.uk
Purists would have the true origin of pantomime in the ancient classical era of Greek and Roman theatre, but the composition of said plays was far removed from the gaudy, bawdy, loud spectacle that I recall that I think I'll travel onwards through time to the 17th Century when an Italian travelling  theatre began to utilise traditional tales and stories told with a set of regular supporting characters: these included characters who would become near-household names such as Harlequin, Clown, Scaramouche, and Pantaloon. These would form the basis of characterisations such as the comical, witty, cunning servant who latterly becomes the romantic lead (Harlequin), or the greedy old man/ father (Pantaloon). This 'commedia del' arte' developed with the harlequin character as a lover who eloped with the daughter of the greedy old father, usually involving a chase scene, and usually involving magical scene changes with Harlequin using his 'slapstick' to enact such sorcery.

Maurice Sand [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the UK in late Georgian/ Early Victorian times this 'harlequinade' started to utilise traditional fairy tales, folk tales, and nursery rhyme characters, often in synergy and often with adaptation of the plots. The presence of Harlequin as the key character began to alter with the evolution of Clown, and the seminal performances of Joseph Grimaldi whose depiction of the smiling trickster has fuelled many horror films and phobias ever since. Other recognisable pantomime characters then began to feature in the mid-to-late Victorian era, with Harlequin's transforming magic being taken by the Fairy Godmother, and the cross-dressing Pantomime Dame becoming a staple feature after the starring performances of Dan Leno.
Image from localbuzzmagazine.com
Pantomime takes much of those traditional fairy tale elements and mixes them with garish outfits, slapstick, risqué comedy (designed to appeal to parents, not children), a certain Victorian burlesque, and the classical roles that have evolved from those nascent days of Harlequinades. To me, the essence of pantomime has to be…

The Dame: a bloke cross-dressing, often as the hero's mother (such as Widow Twanky), with plenty of smutty puns. Even Ian McKellan has taken his turn!

The lead boy character: is conversely played by a girl, often in an outfit that leaves no doubt. I can remember seeing Peter Pan as a child and getting really disturbed. It also makes me think of Blackadder's 'Bob' (from Blackadder 2: Bells) when I consider this.

Audience participation: think of a kid's version of the Rocky Horror Show, with everyone yelling "He's behind you!" or "Oh yes he is…" then "Oh no he isn't" and you get the idea. This is the best part for me, especially with the 'boos' at the villain, and the two halves of the theatre competing in sheer volume. Interestingly this audience participation is something that stadium rock seems to emulate, whether singing parts of the song, copying the singer, or sides of stadium competing!

Really really bad jokes (and double-entendres): still a very British thing, especially with the content of UK 'Carry on' films, or sitcoms. It permeates into US humour too, I think, but not to the same immature magnificence as here in Blighty.

Image from http://www.its-behind-you.com/gallery073.html
And finally… why is it at Christmas? Quite simply, back in th' old days, the opportunity for the children to get to the theatres to see pantomimes was within 'holiday' seasons, and this was seized upon by David Garrick in the 19th century when he sought to promote the fun and frivolity of pantomime as an alternate to serious popular theatre in London's Drury Lane.

A tenuous link perhaps, but one that's very much part of the x-mas experience over here, and one that'll make me feel like a kid again but this time with my own children in tow. Of course, the other Xmas experience is likely to be the Star Wars movie, but I'll probably leave that one to another post.

Happy Xmas!

Ross M. Kitson is a doctor, occasional blogger, full-time geek, and sporadic author of fantasy and YA sci-fi. Connect with Ross on Twitter

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December 26, 2017

Review: Mr. Either/Or by Aaron Poochigian

by MK French

An ancient legend from China foretells of the end of the world, and it's up to an FBI agent to track down the artifact and get it to his handlers. He goes up against warring gangs looking for it, and even defusing the artifact's danger doesn't end his mission. The very fate of the world is at stake.

December 25, 2017

Donna's December Reading Round-up

by Donna Huber

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I have been on a roll this month - thanks to audiobooks and short holiday romances. And most of the books have been really good, which makes me a very happy reader. A lot of these were free when I got them; some may still be free.

December 24, 2017

Series Review: The Mer Chronicles Book 1 & 2 by Errin Stevens

by MK French

Today, I review the first two books in Errin Stevens's fantasy series The Mer Chronicles - Updrift and Breakwater.

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