Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of movies, plays, music, TV, whatever I feel like reviewing that day.

Good Books, Great Books, and That Book

Le rive seine

We drove up to Cedar City, Utah over last weekend to catch a few plays at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Specifically, we saw The Merchant of Venice by some dead English guy; Big River, based upon That Book, Huckleberry Finn, music and lyrics by Roger Miller, book by William Hauptman; and The Foreigner by Larry Shue. In that order. As I do occasionally, I’m offering my thoughts on the program.

First, the Shakespeare. Merchant is well written, and funny in parts, but I must have been very young when I read it because I forgot just how intense the anti-Semitic bigotry is in that play. Holy cats, Will, what’s up with that? I’d never seen it. Doubt if I’ll see it again.

The festival is doing the entire Shakespeare Canon, so they had to include it. I think, though, that they maybe felt a bit bad about that, because they also included a musical version of That Book, Huckleberry Finn, my favorite story. The musical sticks to the original plot amazingly faithfully. Huck was played by a tenor, Jim by a baritone, and the two actors worked well together, in song, and in action. Excellent choices. And, of course, That Book is one of the most vehemently anti-bigot works ever created. Bless you, Sam Clemons, for producing it in the first place.

But wait, that’s not all! The Foreigner is, first, hilarious. Both in dialogue and in action, including some top notch silent work between some of the actors. The man who plays Huck is in this play as well, in a prominent, but not title role. A major plot point (even comedies need one) involves defeating a contingent of the “invisible empire,” the Klu Klux Klan. Another swipe at bigotry here.

The other Shakespeare work playing last weekend was Othello. As I said, perhaps the festival was feeling a bit nervous about presenting The Merchant of Venice.

The writing in all of the plays is, of course, superb. I like watching well-written plays, because I think that the more top-notch material I absorb, the more nearly top-notch my own material will be. Hey, you can’t read ’em all; sometimes it’s good just to soak it up, you know?

And, if you haven’t guessed, these plays, particularly Big River, have reinforced my notion that some books are good, some are great (talking to you, Thomas Pynchon) and then there’s Huckleberry Finn. Hemmingway said that American literature began with that book, and that there has been nothing as good since. And who am I to argue with Ernest Hemmingway?

The House Always Wins: A Novel by Brian Rouff

The House Always Wins: A Novel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a good book, and a fun book. I live in Las Vegas myself, and I can report that the general tone of the city is replicated well here. One caveat: the neighborhood in question (it’s real) is much too far from the Strip for any resort to want to buy it out. But, hey, it makes for a good story. This is a ghost story, the ghost being a former mobster named Meyer. I never knew what the name Meyer meant, so the reveal at the end of the meaning of Meir (yeah, spelling, I know) was a nice surprise. One hint: it’s a good name. And our Meyer is a good guy, who helps our heroine overcome a nasty old Vegas power player’s avarice. (It is possible that the nasty old Vegas power player is modeled on a real person, but I’m not gonna go there.)

In short, if you want a good mystery, thriller, and ghost story to read while you learn some things about the real Las Vegas, this is your book. Read it! I did, and I liked it!

View all my reviews

Westside Lilo’s Revisited

2012-09-01_07-40-26_142I reviewed Westside Lilo’s here once upon a time. It’s a good review, you can check it out here. This is an update to that review, because they’ve gotten a new sign. Wouldn’t want anyone to miss the best Chicken Fried Steak I’ve ever tasted just because the sign looked wrong. So, here’s a picture of the new sign:

Westside Lilo's New Sign
Watch For It in Seligman, Arizona!

I think it looks better, but you can click to see the review and judge for yourself. When we went in today, we walked through a large group of people all speaking German. And, Lilo was there, herself! Good times!


Pirates Attacking Tampa Bay
Pirates Attacking Tampa Bay

I only review things that I like. And usually I don’t write much about what I review. You know, I’ll say, “nice movie” or “good book,” that sort of thing, but dag-nab it, this one I have to say more about. I mean, Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. It’s a best seller, and for good reason. If you haven’t read it, then do like the title of this post says. Soon, hear?

Here’s my favorite sentence (well, not quite all of it) from the book. Daisy looked up at him with the kind of expression that Jesus might have given someone who had just explained that he was probably allergic to bread and fishes, so could He possibly do him a quick chicken salad: . . .

Gaiman’s book, American Gods, is now on TV, of course, and this book is in the same world, but not the same place. No cold, frozen North here. Lots of Florida and London, and a small and fictional Caribbean island. London isn’t warm, but it’s not cold, either. Florida and the Caribbean, they’re warm, aren’t they?

I have been reading Gaiman’s books because I truly love his style. I’m hoping that I am programming my brain to produce more flowing, descriptive, and generous prose. Anansi Boys is all of those things, and it has the best ending I’ve read since Stardust, another Gaiman masterpiece.

So, take a hint. If you want to write like a master, you need to read the masters, right? Here’s your chance. Don’t wait for the movie, read it today! You’ll be glad you did!

5 Girls Book Reviews

Last April 11th I sent a request to the site 5 Girls Book Reviews to review my chapter book Messy Meisner. It was essentially a query. Today I got an email from them saying that they’d love to review my book. Wow! Maybe they’ll hate it, but at least somebody I don’t know has reacted to it for the first time!

Since they are doing that, I’m going to plug them a bit, in one way by presenting here a capture of the top of their front page on blogspot, as it appeared at 8:23 am PDT, October 31, 2016 (Nevada Day!) (But not celebrated today. 🙁 )

The blog "5-Girls Book Reviews" as of 31 October 2016. Link it above in the text.
The blog “5-Girls Book Reviews” as of 31 October 2016. Link it above in the text.

If you visit them, you will see that they have reviewed a slew, a whole slew I say, of books for children. I’m looking forward to what they have to say about mine! Click the link above to visit them.