Monday, January 30, 2006

A New Musical - Wicked - The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz

This is an update on a book that I listed below. Wicked - The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. It has been made into a Broadway musical. Currently it is on Broadway, but it will come to Dallas in April 2007, but if you want tickets, they are selling out fast. Here is their synopsis: Long before Dorothy dropped in, two other girls meet in the Land of Oz. One, born with emerald-green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. How these two unlikely friends end up as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch makes for the most spellbound new musical in years.
WICKED, the untold story of the witches of Oz, features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, Academy Award winner for Pocahontas and The Prince of Egypt) and book by Winnie Holzman ("My So Called Life," "Once And Again" and "thirtysomething"), and is based on the best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire. With musical staging by Tony Award winner Wayne Cilento (Aida, The Who's Tommy, How To Succeed...), WICKED is directed by 2003 and 2004 Tony Award winner Joe Mantello (Assassins, Take Me Out, Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune).
Recommended age for children is 8 and up.
No children under 4 admitted. No one will be admitted without a ticket.
Running time for the show is 2 hours and 30 minutes, plus a 15-minute intermission.
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal says: "HOORAY! BROADWAY'S GOT A BIG NEW MUSICAL THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH TO RUN FOR A DECADE OR TWO! If it doesn't please you, you're too tough to please. It's funny and touching and full of beans (not to mention child-friendly). Kristin Chenoweth finally has a full-fledged star part that's worthy of her. Broadway buffs have been waiting for her to land a bona fide star part in a successful show. Well, this is it. She sings like a cherub and acts like a damned good actress, and Stephen Schwartz has written her a show-stopping comic turn. I can't imagine anyone in the world have done a better job as Glinda. It's going to make her a star right this minute. Idina Menzel nails her co-starring part with equal aplomb. Not only does she look great in green, but she blends pathos and warmth in just the right proportions. Joel Grey, bless him, is back on stage. Stephen Schwartz has given us the most poignant new Broadway ballad to come along in ages. Wayne Cilento has choreographed with dapper precision -- this show moves. You'll be enchanted by director Joe Mantello and set designer Eugene Lee's miraculously elaborate-looking Kingdom of Oz. GO!"
And there are many more reviews by excellent papers, so go check out the musical's website at
Read the book, enjoy the show, yes it is expensive, but every once in awhile you should treat yourself. This is one of our childhood memories. The Wizard of Oz has been seen by just about everyone. This is a completely different look at an old story we all know.

Archangel, Jovah's Angel, The Alleluia Files, Angelica, Angel-Seeker - Sharon Shinn

And so it came to pass... Through science, faith, and force of will, the Harmonics carved out for themselves a society that they conceived of as perfect. Diverse peoples held together by respect for each other and the prospect of swift punishment. There are Angels to guard the mortals and mystics to guard the forbidden knowledge. Jehovah to watch over them all...
An age of corruption has come over the land, threatening peace and placing the Samarians in grave danger. Their only hope lies in the crowning of a new Archangel. The oracles have chosen Gabriel, and further decreed that he must first wed a mortal, Rachel. It is his destiny and hers. And Gabriel is certain that she will greet the news of her betrothal with enthusiasm, and a devotion to duty equal to his own. Rachel, however, has other plans...

Jovah’s Angel
All is not well in Samaria... Great storms are sweeping the land, the deserts flood, and the skies rain down death and destruction. As they have always, the people turn to the angels for help. Yet even their splendid voices, raised in supplication, cannot seem to reach the god Jovah...
Then, the proud and beautiful Archangel Delilah falls victim to the rage of the wind, as she is torn from the sky, her wing broken. She can no longer soar in the heavens, guiding and guarding those below. She can no longer be first among the angels.
Though Jovah's anger blows all about them, the oracles must still consult him to choose a new Archangel. His choice is Alleluia, a solitary scholar. Her fate, in turn, may well depend on the mortal Caleb, a man who believes only in science - and himself.

The Alleluia Files
And a god will fall... Legend says the Archangel Alleluia and the mortal Caleb left a record of the truth they discovered about the god Jovah, though no document has ever been found. In time, an underground cult arose, seeking to find again what Alleluia found. But the reigning Archangel called down the wrath of Jovah upon the cult, and hundreds died in a hail of thunderbolts. Yet some still survive...
Among them is the woman Tamar, child of cultists, raised by angels. She believes that the actual disc, the Alleluia Files, exists. She is determined to find it, and free the people from their fear of Jovah, and the rule of angels.
She encounters the angel Jared, who has come to question the wisdom of Bael
and his treatment of the cultists.
Together, they will journey the length and breadth of Samaria, seeking a truth that will alter the face of Samaria forever...

Sharon Shinn returns to the planet called Samaria, with a new tale of an earlier time... Legend has it that the original settlers of Samaria were carried there by the loving hands of the god Jovah. To keep the peace, he created a legion of land-dwelling angels, led by an appointed Archangel. Now, two hundred years later, Jovah's latest appointee is the Archangel Gaaron, whose dependability and allegiance to the people of Samaria make him a wise choice. And for Gaaron's life-mate, his Angelica, Jovah has chosen the woman Susannah, of the nomadic Edori tribe.
With trepidation, Susannah bows to the will of Jovah. For her heart is still with her people and her Edori lover, faithless though he might be.
In the lofty reaches of the Angel Eyrie, an unspoken affection slowly develops between the two. Then word comes to Gaaron of a terrible threat besetting the land - black-clad strangers who call down fire from the sky, leaving death and destruction in their wake.
Now what is in the hearts of the Archangel and Angelica may never be known, as the very future of the planet hangs in the balance...

National bestselling author Sharon Shinn returns once more to the planet of Samaria, where men and angels live under the watchful eye of the god Jovah, in this richly romantic tale, which begins where Archangel left off. In that time, the women who crave the attentions of angels were known as angel-seekers - a term used with awe by some, and scorn by others.
Elizabeth was born to wealth, but circumstances forced her to live as a servant in her cousin's household. Determined to change her life for the better, she makes the journey to Cedar Hills, hoping an angel will take notice of her, and take her as his own.
Rebekah is a daughter of the Jansai tribe, raised to hate the angels - and to marry whichever man her father chooses for her. But in her heart, she longs for a different life. And when she finds an injured angel near her village, she defies her upbringing to care for him. In time, these two women, whose paths will cross, will both find what they desire, in surprising - and dangerous - ways...

Slave Trade, Slave Masters, Slaves Unchained - Susan Wright

Slave Trade is the first in a trilogy of sexy science fiction novels to be published by Pocket Books in April 2003.
Human slaves can't defy their alien masters - or can they? Rose Rico never believed the rumors that the government was secretly selling human beings to the Alphas in exchange for advanced alien technology. The idea that human sex slaves were a luxury item throughout the galaxy was just too ridiculous to take seriously-until Rose found herself, along with hundreds of other human captives, bound for the far reaches of space, and compelled to cater to the depraved desires of her new alien masters. As a rule, pleasure slaves don't live very long, especially the stubborn ones. But Rose refuses to give up. Someday, somehow, she'll win back her freedom-or die trying!

In the second book of the "Slave Trade" trilogy, the galaxy heats up for Rose Rico and her renegade band of pleasure slaves while things heat up inside their ship! S'jen and G'kaan beat the Domain out of Qin territory, with disastrous consequences for their colony planets, while Rose leads a one-ship raid on the Domain. Despite being recaptured and forced to serve as pleasure slaves for the Alphas, Rose leads her crew through a dramatic series of twists and turns that leave the Solians aimed at their final target - to liberate Earth!

In the third book of the "Slave Trade" trilogy, Rose Rico intends to kick the Domain out of the Sol system forever. But space battles don't help when it comes to overthrowing the corrupt rulers of Earth, who regularly send quotas of native pleasure slaves to the Domain. Rose and her renegade band of pleasure slaves will have to get creative in order to beat the enemies among them, while the weighty forces of the Domain are thrown against Earth in an effort to regain control of the galaxy's raw supply of nubile pleasure slaves.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Vampire Kisses - Ellen Schreiber

In the hopelessly small town she calls "Dullsville," sixteen-year-old Raven longs to become a vampire. She stands out among the soccer preps at school with her black nails, her black clothes, and her fascination with Anne Rice.

A haunted mansion in the town has new tenants after being empty for years. A mysterious family moves in, but strange rumors pop up about them all over town --- they don't like garlic, they have a strange accent, etc. Raven particularly longs to be acquainted with the family's seventeen-year-old son who is seen only at night. Readers will enjoy her spying methods, including breaking into the mansion.

Surprises appear in every chapter. For example, Raven dresses preppy on Halloween instead of in her usual black and goes trick-or-treating. She also must take a boring part-time job, where her boss insists she not wear black anywhere and cover herself in pleasant red or pink accessories. Raven still manages to keep her unique style throughout.

Overall Raven is fairly normal, with a best friend, an annoying little brother (called "Nerdboy"), and school dances to attend. She stands up for what she wants, even when it's unpopular, and she even enjoys a little romance with the mysterious Alexander at the mansion --- though it's more exciting than she expects.

VAMPIRE KISSES is a wonderfully funny story. Even non-vampire fans will enjoy this one!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wicked - The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

When I was a child in the early '70s, one of the Big Three networks aired the classic movie "The Wizard of Oz" with some regularity, about once a year or so. I watched it every time it was on, captivated again and again by the struggle between Dorothy's innocent "good" (ironic, given Judy Garland's eventual reputation) and the absolute "evil" of the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West.

A few years ago, I picked up a brand-new hardcover by Gregory Maguire called Wicked, purely on the basis of its subtitle: "The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West." I started reading and honestly could not stop, enchanted by Oz once again, and this time from a vastly different point of view and of sympathy.

Wicked's flavor is the gothic freakishness of Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor blended with liberal amounts of dark humor and socio-political satire a la Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins, seasoned with honesty, sympathy and earnestness. It is the heretofore-untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West. In it we learn about:

• her name (Elphaba)
• her childhood (really weird parents and unfortunate skin)
• her sister (Nessarose, an armless conservative zealot who will become Wicked Witch of the East and who will die when Dorothy’s Kansas house lands on her)
• her schoolgirl days (where she and Glinda the "Good" will become reluctant pals)
• her politics (she becomes a freedom fighter, working with an underground resistance movement to bring social rights to the thinking Animals, among other things)
• her life's great sorrow, the loss of her one true love.

The infamous Dorothy is seen briefly in the prologue, but doesn't appear in the story proper until the fifth and final part of the book. Dorothy is depicted as a large-boned farm girl, a dull-witted but well-intentioned sort; Toto is "merely annoying." If you rewatch the movie, you'll grudgingly admit that this seemingly cruel characterization is actually pretty on the mark as far as the motion picture Dorothy goes.

Kirkus Reviews said, "Save a place on the shelf between Alice and The Hobbit -- that spot is well-deserved." Wicked does earn a spot on the shelves of classic fantasy, but so does it earn a niche alongside the best modern literary fiction. Maguire has created a truly great -- and flawed -- heroine in a novel that is a psychological analysis on one of the most "evil" characters of the twentieth century.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture - by John Conroy

Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People is a riveting book that exposes the potential in each of us for acting unspeakably. John Conroy sits down with torturers from several nations and comes to understand their motivations. His compelling narrative has the tension of a novel. He takes us into a Chicago police station, two villages in the West Bank, and a secret British interrogation center in Northern Ireland, and in the process we are exposed to the experience of the victim, the rationalizations of the torturer, and the seeming indifference of the bystander. The torture occurs in democracies that ostensibly value justice, due process, and human rights, and yet the perpetrators and their superiors escape without punishment, revealing much about the dynamics of torture.

Here are what some other people are saying about it:

"The most compelling parts of the book are Conroy's interviews with the 'ordinary people' of his title... He approaches torturers not as monsters but as fellow human beings."--John Schwartz, Washington Post Book World
"Conroy's book is nothing short of gripping... He has allowed himself to identify not only with victims but with those who tolerate torture... He has dared to place himself at the emotional center of his difficult, troubling subject and forced us to follow him there."--Jill Laurie Goodman, Chicago Tribune
"A brilliant, disturbing book."--John Krewson, The Onion
"Conroy's book is a page turner."--Carlos Salinas, Amnesty Now
"Conroy's reporting is inspired."--David Bosco, New York Times Book Review
"Intelligent and insightful."--Dan Cryer, New York Newsday
"I am impressed with Conroy's intellectual honesty and unflinching humanity.... He wants to understand how torture happens, and his curiosity drives this disturbing book."--Anne-Marie Cusac, The Progressive (Best Books of 2000)
"Conroy's book, the work of 10 years, is thought-provoking, chilling and a brilliant piece of reporting."--Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"A Chicago journalist's gripping, disturbing inquiry into torture and human nature."--Chicago Tribune