Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Quintland Sisters Book Review

The Quintland Sisters Book Review
My father and I enjoyed an evening tradition in the small town where I grew up of bicycling to the local public library. On one night I did not  accompany him and he came home with a book that I would never forget. He handed me what was one of the first adult books that I ever read. Adult that is as in that it was a book written for adults and not for children or teenagers.

The year was 1978 and the book was Pierre Berton’s The Dionne Years: A Thirties Melodrama. I remember enjoying that book and it began a lifetime interest for me about the subjects of the book, Canada’s Dionne Quintuplets. The quintuplets or quints as they became known were five baby girls born during the Great Depression and, because of their novelty at that time, were isolated from the world in order to protect them. This separation meant that the government removed them from the care of their parents and, as we now know, eventually exploited them for profit.

Berton’s book, however, is not the subject of this review. Rather, it is the 2019 book, The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood that I am writing about. I did definitely pick this book up because of the Berton book and I have no idea how I found it but nevertheless I have read it and enjoyed what for me was an interesting version of the story as created by this author. If you have not heard of the quints or you have and you would like to learn a bit more or simply revisit that time, you will enjoy this book.

The Quintland Sisters is an easy to read book despite the not very nice subject matter. It has little that is offensive other than, of course, the fact that these babies were put on display before the world and taken away from their parents. There is childbirth in the book but not all of the details and there are sexual references. There is one very nasty and unexpected though not overly descriptive scene at the end of the book, which the author uses to fill in the blanks that had been skipped earlier in the book.

The book is a fictional story written diary or journal style from the perspective of a girl named Emma. Emma was present in the farmhouse as an extra set of hands to help the midwife who went to deliver a sixth Dionne child. Emma's introduction to midwifery was definitely an eye opener when not one but five two-month premature babies surprised everyone involved. The five babies weighed in at a total of 13.5 pounds. Take a moment and compare that to my first child who weighed 9 pounds and 5 ounces. Emma stayed on as a helper through the early years of the quints lives and as one of the primary caregivers in the farmhouse.  She stayed on when they were moved shortly after their birth to what was known as the Dafoe Hospital and Nursery in Callender, Northern Ontario. Emma, by the way, is a creation of the author and did not really exist in Quintland.

The story covers the birth of the girls, the immediate days afterward when they struggled to keep them alive without medical equipment and supplies for five babies. Amazingly, they kept those babies alive with among other things, corn syrup added to milk and rum. Dr. Dafoe pronounced, “The babies will not live. It’s too soon for them. They’re too weak.” At that time, quintuplets were unheard of and of course, these ones were very premature. They were the first in recorded history to survive birth and the author says, they remain the only naturally conceived quintuplets to all survive.

In the book, when Dr. Dafoe ushered the first news reporters into the home where a newly graduated nurse and Emma struggled to keep the babies alive, he  justified doing so by saying that they were it was  "unlikely that they would all be alive tomorrow and that it was important to have a record.” This was a fairly innocuous beginning of the exploitation of the girls who would spend years under the glaring attention of the media. During the first five years of their lives, the public visited Quintland to see the girls at play at a rate of up to 6,000 people per day.

The girls went on to become the faces of and earn endorsements from many products including Palmolive, Colgate, Lysol, Karo Syrup and Baby Ruth candy bars. They greeted celebrity and royal visitors. They appeared in three movies, in the newspapers, on the cover of magazines and in calendars. In an age of economic downturn, the Quints earned money for themselves, for their caregivers and in particular Dr. Dafoe, for their parents and for the Government of Ontario. It is estimated that, as a tourist attraction, they helped to bring $500 million dollars to the Northern Ontario economy.

The CBC calls The Quintland Sisters "a novel of love, heartache, resilience and enduring sisterhood", which sounds about right. I do think that this book is more about the lives of the people surrounding the girls and less about their relationships with each other. We do learn a bit about their relationships and temperaments. The real world saw them as a unit rather than as individual human beings but in this book, the character Emma identified differences between the identical girls for us.

They were actually so popular internationally that the Toronto Star employed a reporter full time to cover their lives. It is sad that the press embraced the adorable girls but did not challenge their unusual living situation. The government had taken them away from their parents and their parents had strict visitation rules. They apparently did not even get to hold their babies. The parents were not particularly likable in the book and in the end, the author portrays the mother as broken and the father as a profiteer.  In the long wrong many profited and it seems that no one considered the needs of the girls for real lives.

The author, who discovered the girls by accident, hopes that this book will introduce the story to a new generation. The two surviving quintuplets hope that their story will cause people to think twice before exploiting children but according to the  Toronto Globe and Mail,  they "question whether government authorities have truly learned from the past in living up to their responsibility to protect children from abuse."

Have you heard of the Dionne quintuplets? What do you think of their story?

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Link:

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Friday, June 28, 2019

Easy Carry Fabric & Collapsible Travel Dog Bowl Reviewed

Don't Leave Home Without a Travel Dog Bowl!

Easy Carry Fabric & Collapsible Travel Dog Bowl Reviewed
We were surrounded by lake water, but Merlin drank cool, clean water
from his Good2Go Collapsible Dog Bowl
We enjoy taking our pups for walks, we even take them on longer hikes with us.  After all, none of our dogs have ever wanted to be left at home when we go on adventures. However, it is important to remember they have needs too when they are away from home.

Think about it.  When you go on a long walk or hike, what do you need?  We always carry water with us.  We don't rely on the possibility of coming across a water fountain or running water in a stream.  Dehydration is serious, so why take unnecessary risks.  Not only do we carry water for ourselves, but we carry a canteen of cool water for our dogs.

How do we give our dogs a drink, you may ask?  Easy!  We carry a fabric, collapsible dog bowl in our back pocket.


The Good2Go Collapsible Dog Bowl


Collapsible Dog Travel Bowl Reviewed
For many years now, we have carried this fabulous and durable fabric dog bowl.  It is so lightweight, you don't even notice it, but you are most grateful to have it when needed.

Dogs can dehydrate just like we can.  They may be a lot cuter than we are when they are panting and slowing down, but the lack of water can be serious.  

When dogs are thirsty, they tend to drink whatever water they come across, including stagnant dirty water.  We all know the dangers of drinking stagnant water.  It is easily contaminated and can harbor all kinds of parasites and bacteria.  

We love our dogs enough to take them with us instead of leaving them at home.  Why wouldn't we also love them enough to provide for their needs by simply taking water and this easily pocketed dog bowl along for the walk.

We also use this water bowl in the car when traveling.  It is easy to set it down and let them drink from their doggie travel bowl.

Once we are back home, we wash the bowl inside and out with dish soap and allow it to air dry.  Then, it is ready to go again when we are!

I can't recall when we first purchased our Good2Go collapsible dog bowl, but I do know it has been many years ago.  It still looks brand new. 

 







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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Visit Missouri-Explore St Louis- Forest Park and the Jewel Box

One of my favorite places for photography in St. Louis is Forest Park.  On this page I will be reviewing some of my favorite sites to take photos.

A Bit of Forest Park History and Facts

Forest Park is a public park that covers 1,371 acres in the heart of St. Louis.  It was first opened in 1876.  The park hosted both the 1904 World's Fair and the 1904 Summer Olympics.  An annual balloon race starts in Forest Park and in the summer you can attend wonderful summer theatre at the Muny.
Here are just a few of the wonderful attractions that you can see at Forest Park.

  •  St. Louis Zoo
  •  Science Center
  •  Art Museum
  •  Boathouse
  •  Missouri History Museum
  •  Jewel Box 
  •  World's Fair Pavilion
In addition you can walk or ride the many trails and paths and in the winter you can enjoy the ice skating rink.  

I have many fond memories of Forest Park as a child, as a young Mother bringing my children there and now as a place to bring my grandchildren.  It is also one of my favorite place to take photographs and I will share them with you on the rest of this post.

Jewel Box

The Jewel Box is located on 17 acres in the park and was first used as a greenhouse.  It has lovely plants, water features and fountains throughout the area and is a great place to take photos.  It is popular with visitors and the building can be reserved for weddings.  Around Christmas the inside of the building is full of poinsettias, which are quite beautiful.

I visited there with my photo club on a recent spring evening and took the photo above and the beautiful daisies that lines the sides of the pond.

Muny

The Muny is a wonderful outdoor amphitheater that holds 11,000 people.  1500 of the seats are free seats making the theatre accessible to people from all walks of life.  Each summer for the past 100 years the Muny has  held a variety of different live productions.  Some of my favorites over the years include: South Pacific, Oklahoma, The Jersey Boys, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, The Beach Boys, and The Wizard of Oz.  I have also enjoyed  taking my two oldest granddaughters to the Muny when they have visited during the summer months.

The first photo on this page and the ones below were taken at the entrance area to the Muny.

The Boathouse

The Boathouse in Forest Park is a favorite gathering place of visitors to the park.  It is located just across the way from the Muny and is especially a favorite place for theatre goers to have a meal before or after the show.  The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating.

By the dock is an area where you can rent paddleboats and kayaks to ride around in the great basin. This is a favorite of my granddaughters.
After our photo club outing we met at the outdoor area of the Boathouse to sit by the dock and discuss the photos we took.  Here are a couple of the photos that I took from the docks.

Postcards from Forest Park

Here are some postcards I have made from my photos.




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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Summertime Fun Our First Priority is Safety

Summertime is a Great Adventure!

Many families will take holidays over this period of time and look forward to spending time with their children.  Let's Review some products that you absolutely MUST HAVE!  These items will help to make your summer the best that it can be!  

summertime safety, flotation devices for children, first aid kits, staying safe

                                    
Image by lilacsandlavendertea from Pixabay


Many families will be getting together over the next two months to reconnect with their loved ones.  That's one thing that makes summer so much fun.  Whether you stay close to home or travel further afield, good company makes the journey that much more special.  Memories will be etched in our minds of the Summer of 2019!  Let's make it a summer to remember with smiles and laughter!


As adults, our children's health and safety is up to us!  

If we are going to the lake or the local swimming pool (or the one in the backyard if you are so lucky), our children will look to us to keep them from harm.  That means having some rules in place!  What prompts this review is a headline I saw a few days ago on one of the news feeds about parents being distracted by their cell phones, especially around pools of water.  

We all know that it doesn't take more than a few inches of water for a child to drown.  This is a most preventable accident.  If you have children and a pool or lake that you are using for holiday time, your attention needs to be on your children.  I'm not saying a cell phone isn't a handy item to have close by (there could always be an emergency), but when the children are in the body of water, they need your attention all the time.  

Being prepared for children in the pool is another whole issue.  If your children swim, but are not proficient at swimming, they should be wearing life vests or some flotation device.   No exceptions!

We as parents need to make that perfectly clear to our children.  No flotation device equals no pool time!  Period!  

Flotation devices are inexpensive and will make your time ( you and your children's time) in the pool so much more fun.  Children who have not yet mastered their swimming skills will enjoy hours of water fun with relative ease and the certainty that they won't drown.  Most flotation devices are held up to standards that ensure the safety of the wearer.  Nothing, and I will repeat that, Nothing is more important that having a responsible adult watching, while they are having fun.  

For less than $20.00 you can give yourself and your child a little added comfort in the water.  You want to get your child a vest that is Certified by the Coast Guard (USA) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).  This little vest is cute and will fit most children between 30- 50 pounds.  There is no reason not to have one for each of your children.  I would even say you must have one for each of your children, especially if you have a pool in your yard.  
They come in several different styles, so even if you have 2 or more children, each one can have the one they like the best! This is a " #1 Best Seller" on Amazon. It is a small price to pay for some peace of mind while watching more than one child in a pool. Nothing is more important than the safety of our children.

Now hopefully summer is nice and warm, with sunshine making up the better part of the day, so one other safety item I would recommend would be SUNSCREEN!  Not too long ago Margaret wrote about them and her review is worth a good read.  What you put on your children's skin to keep them from getting burnt to a crisp is important.  You can read all about it here!
You don't want your children to suffer from the effects of too much sun on their skin in their later years.  
The only other safety item I would like to see in everyone's home, is a good First Aid Kit.  If you have children, then you know there will be scrapes, cuts and bruises.  Part of being a child is riding bikes, roller blading, skateboarding and just running around.  Accidents will happen even if you take the best precautions.  Like the Scouts, I would say, Be Prepared

This First Aid Kit is a great addition to anyone's car, boat, trailer or home! Sometimes a bandage just isn't enough.  Summertime and being prepared for all possible accidents will make you a more relaxed parent.  You know that you can handle almost anything that your children might need to stop the tears, and start the healing.  

Your cell phone will be handy too, but only to make an emergency call if necessary!  Do not let yourself become distracted.  Your little ones are much more important than anything that you could have happening on your phone.  It is for emergencies only.



I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a wonderful, relaxed and fun filled summer!  Stay safe and enjoy all the good things Summer has to offer!





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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Spiral Notebooks Reviewed

Keyboard or Spiral Notebook?

writing notebook
Spiral notebooks come in handy for an author
image courtesy of pixabay.com
Spiral notebooks are not just for students attending school. Let me review how this author uses them on a daily basis. 

When writing a manuscript, I use my laptop keyboard for the bulk of the work. I guess that is probably a no brainer. Although, I do know authors who write it all out in long-hand before they type it up for submission or publication. Honestly, for me that would never work. When the story is flowing, my hand wouldn't be able to keep up with my brain if I were writing it down with a pen or pencil. I might be able to scribble it out but it would just that...scribbles that I would not be able to read later.

What I use my spiral notebooks for

While working on a book, I write down a copious amount of notes. I'll be honest, sometimes those are done on scrap pieces of paper, especially if I am researching something that won't be a recurring piece of a series of books. For instance, in the 4th book of my Roni Rainer mystery series I needed to be sure I understood how an APB (all points bulletin) worked. My notes about that were on scrap paper because the information would be disposable after I finished that particular book. Funny thing happened on the way to writing the story, I found out that not many law agencies use that term any longer. The acronym BOLO (be on the look-out) is more commonly used today. (Good to know.) Obviously, being a stickler to details I used BOLO in the book, but I digress.

My spiral notebooks are used for things that will show up many times in a series. You know, like characters, buildings, towns, and things like that. So, I have a notebook dedicated to those little tidbits. Each character has a section reminding me of their full name and nickname. Their date of birth, physical attributes, personality traits, and any relationships they might be in. Trust me that comes in real handy for characters that just pop-in and out of the books! 

Places have a special section, too. What State does the story take place in? What county? The town and neighboring towns need to be recorded. What are the street names? Which streets intersect with each other?  I wouldn't want to say that Roni's shop is on the corner of Main Street and 2nd Street in one place and then later say it was 3rd Street or even something entirely different. I guess that I could but as a reader those sorts of things drive me up a wall. 

I even have a section for buildings in my spiral notebooks. Yep, I need to be able to look back and see how I described a building once in a while. If I have described Roni's business building as two-story and then have someone go to the third floor, people are going to pick-up on that. At least, I would as a reader.


The devil is in the details


Nothing bugs me more as a reader than the author not being consistent. If an author has told me that a character has blonde hair and blue eyes and then later someone looks into her green eyes; that really gets my blood boiling. So, I pay attention to details as I write and the most efficient way for me to accomplish that is with notebooks. If it might come up again, it gets recorded for me to refer back to. Sure, I could create a file but it is actually faster to look in the notebook. At least for me it is. 

Now, that I have begun a new series of cozy mysteries I need more notebooks! The series will be called Cabin 9 Mysteries. The same pieces of information will be kept in a notebook for those stories, too. It is the only way I can keep it all straight. I'll need to remember that these characters are not in the fictional county of Butler, Indiana where Roni lives. No, they will be in the fictional county of Fairburn, Indiana. The spiral notebooks will help me keep it all consistent. Want a little hint about this new series? Taylor, the main character, can see and talk to dead people! Her great-aunt Magdalene is a hoot and also a spirit who doesn't want to leave Cabin 9. Stay tuned for more details!

As a side note, there is a reason that my fictional towns are in Indiana. I grew up here. I know the terrain, the climate, the flora and fauna, the local phrases, laws, and foods. I can portray it more realistically for my readers. Have you ever read a book that you could tell the author had never ever been in the place they have as their setting?  I've recently read two of them! Why would you write a story that takes place in a country you have never been to? If you are going to attempt that feat, at least do a whole lot of research about the area. Please! It annoys your readers if you get it wrong!

Anyway, I think you get my point on the need for spiral notebooks as an author. Do you use them for something different? I have found them a great thing to have extras of when the grandchildren visit. We can draw together, we can practice our math, we can practice our letters and sometimes we write a story together. We NEVER do those things in Grandma's "special" notebooks. Not ever!




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Monday, June 24, 2019

City Pickers: Raised Garden Bed Review

My collection of pots for the container garden had become sad and unusable. A refresh was desperately needed and I went on the search for raised garden beds.

 I'd love to have truly raised garden beds about five feet high in the yard, but for now I was searching for a garden bed suitable for the deck. I am very happy to have purchased the City Pickers raised garden bed and will be purchasing more!
City Pickers green raised garden bed on wheels

City Pickers Raised Garden Bed


The size of the garden bed at 24.5" by 20.5" is perfect for the deck. Large enough for room to plant a nice selection of plants, but small enough to move easily. The watering system is also a huge plus as the system holds 2 quarts of water.

They seemed to think of everything when designing this mobile garden including:

  • Self Contained automatic watering system
  • Mobile, on caster wheels
  • Aeration
  • Mulch cover
  • Easy to move
  • Fun colors from the neutral to bold
  • Reasonable price point
  • Waist height version on wheels

Who Wants Color?


I loved the City Pickers is available in 9 colors!

  • Terra Cotta 
  • Aquamarine
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Hunter Green
  • Lime Green (my choice)
  • Red
  • Sandstone

How Much Potting Mix To Fill The Garden Bed?


I used 4 bags of 8 quarts each of potting mix to fill the garden bed plus the recommended cups of lime. The directions are very specific to use potting mix, not topsoil or potting soil! The directions stated 1.5 cubic feet of potting mix is needed to fill the bed; however it depends upon how much muscle you or you have access to! The smaller bags of potting mix are easier to transport and are also frequently on sale.

Assembly Of The City Picker


The City Picker does need to be assembled and the assembly took less than five minutes! It is very easy and quick and requires little labor. One of the advantages of a mobile raised gardening bed is the ease of movement and convenience.


The City Pickers is on wheels which do need to be inserted into the bottom of the bed. I was very pleased to find it took no effort to insert each wheel! Seems like a simple request, but one of my pet peeves for furniture that needs to be assembled is wrangling with the coaster wheels;  these wheels were so easy to pop in and lock on the bottom of the City Pickers garden bed.

Best Way To Save! Swagbucks Hack


This is my favorite way to earn rewards points combined with the ease online ordering! I found one color of the City Pickers in my local big box store, but knew there was a wide selection of colors as I had researched the garden beds online. I really wanted a cheery blue or fun green garden bed.

Back to the internet and I used my swagbucks account to order online from the big box store and have the bed delivered to my door. The option to have the item delivered free of charge to the big box store also is very handy to use and saves time as the items can be picked up at the door at the customer service area.

Swagbucks is a free account in which points are earned for purchases at most online and bricks and mortar stores. The points can then be used for gift cards which are ordered online from the Swagbucks account and the gift code is delivered to your inbox. I love it and this system has worked flawlessly for my shopping.

Click here to sign up for Swagbucks (free!)

 

More Reviews From The Gardeners And Nature Friends at Review This Reviews

Balcony Gardening Tips by Olivia Morris
Garden Kneeler Review by BarbRad
Water A Flower Day by Wednesday Elf
Hostess Gifts For The Gardener by Olivia Morris 
Planting In Spring For Summer by Cynthia Sylvestermouse
Creative Flower Photography by Mary Beth Granger



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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Good Omens 2019 TV Miniseries Review

Lovers of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman rejoice! Good Omens finally has been released as a television miniseries for Amazon Prime Video and BBC Two viewers.

Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime Video - image courtesy of Amazon

When Pratchett and Gaiman's World Fantasy Award-nominated satirical fantasy novel Good Omens was published 29 years ago, it was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman's wonderfully twisted mind and wickedly funny sense of humor. If Neil Gaiman’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you may know him from the big-screen adaptations of some of his novels, such as the 2007 movie Stardust starring Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett, Ricky Gervais, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Peter O’Toole or the 2009 3D stop-motion animated film Coraline featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French.

My husband and I have long been huge fans of Sir Terry Pratchett's work, especially his well-known and much-loved Discworld fantasy novels. We have read or listened avidly to pretty much every Pratchett book or audiobook we could get hold of (many of them multiple times). So when Good Omens was published, we were quick to buy the paperback. It was bizarre and intriguing, but it had such a huge cast of characters, many in fairly minor roles, that I found the story hard to follow and had to listen read it a second time. Both Pratchett and Gaiman are brilliant – and hilarious – but they do require their readers to do their part by giving the their full attention to their extraordinary writing, especially if you don't wan't to miss all the puns and dry humor. Admittedly these authors' works aren't to everyone's taste, but my husband and I love them.

We also love audiobooks, so when Good Omens was released as an audiobook narrated by one of Pratchett's favorite narrators, Stephen Briggs, I downloaded immediately. I enjoyed it immensely - much more than the print edition. Briggs' distinctive voices for the different characters also made it much easier for me to keep them all straight! Sadly, that recording is no longer available for some reason, but there is a very good unabridged audiobook of Good Omens on Audible narrated by Martin Jarvis.

Good Omens – The Miniseries That Almost Wasn't


After listening to Good Omens I thought what I always do after reading or listening to a Terry Pratchett novel: "Wouldn't this make a great movie?" I didn't hold out much hope, however, since none of Pratchett's books have been made into movies and only three of his Discworld novels have been made into television miniseries: The Color of Magic with Sean Astin as the naive and ever optimistic tourist Twoflower, David Jason as the hapless "wizzard" Rincewind and Jeremy Irons as the wily Patrician; Hogfather; and my personal favorite, Going Postal starring Richard Coyle as Moist von Lipvig, Claire Foy as Adora Belle Dearheart and David Suchet as dastardly Reacher Gilt. (Pratchett's characters' names are always a hoot!)

However, there were, indeed, concerted efforts to have Good Omens made into a movie, to be directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, which continued long after the book’s publication in 1990. Then in 2011, Gaiman’s website announced that a television series adaptation of the book was “in the works” from another member of the Monty Python troupe, Terry Jones. But in 2016, Gaiman announced that he himself was writing the scripts for a six-part TV series at the request of Terry Pratchett in 2015 shortly before his death from Alzheimer’s disease.

When my husband and I heard that Amazon Studios and BBC Studios would be co-producing a miniseries based on Good Omens and written by Gaiman himself, we were really excited, especially when the cast was announced, including David Tennant (our favorite Doctor Who), wonderful Welsh actor Michael Sheen, Mad Men star Jon Hamm, Miranda Richardson and the voice of Frances McDormand!

Often, movie or television adaptations of books are poor imitations of the original. In the case of Good Omens, however, having to streamline the story for video made the TV miniseries even better than the book in many respects. It makes the intricate story line much easier to follow. (Even so, this isn't something you'll want to watch while checking email, or you're likely to miss an important detail or plot point.)

What I Love About Good Omens, the 2019 Television Miniseries


The Fabulous Cast and Terrific Performances

While the entire cast is wonderful, David Tennant and Michael Sheen are simply outstanding. Sheen, an actor I wasn't familiar with before watching Good Omens, is marvelous as the fastidious, antiquarian bookshop-owning angel, Aziraphale, who sometimes chafes at the restrictions of being "good" by the book, especially when it prevents him from doing what he believes is right. He's the perfect foil for Tennant's inspired portrayal of  Crowley, a creepy yet strangely likeable demon who enjoys his powers and revels in the freedom of being "bad" but who also, deep down, shares Aziraphale's secret desire to do what's right for humanity.

Jon Hamm's Archangel Gabriel pulls heavily from his Mad Men character, Don Draper (without Draper's infamous womanizing tendencies, obviously!). Miranda Richardson is perfect as the endearing medium and former madam with the heart of gold, Madame Tracy. And Frances McDormand is perfect as the voice of God, who narrates the miniseries.

The Authors' Perspective on Good vs. Evil

The interplay between the "good" angel Aziraphale and the "evil" demon Crowley is brilliant. Watching these two find common ground over the course of centuries in pursuit of a worthy goal –saving humanity from Armageddon – is both fascinating and believable.

The Brilllant Script and Deft Word Play

Pratchett and Gaiman share a deep love of language and word play (as well as irreverent but affectionate satire), such as placing common phrases in uncommon or ironic settings. For example, Crowley catches himself starting to say, "Thank God!" and Aziraphale catches himself starting to say, "What the hell..."

In Gaiman's script for the miniseries, the conversations between Aziraphale and Crowley are masterpieces where what isn't said is as important as what is said. These conversations serve to draw the arc of growth for these two central characters as these historical enemies first learn to understand each other, then work together and, finally, develop a true and lasting friendship. And, even though they can never overtly state their affection for one another, Tennant's and Sheen's superb performances allow us to watch its growth over the course of the show.

What's Not to Love? 


The Questionable Motives of both Divine and Infernal Characters

Gabriel, Beelzebub and their respective followers in Heaven and Hell are absolutely obsessed with starting Armageddon, just to see which side wins.

The Negative Portrayal of Organized Religion

The authors of Good Omens appear to view organized religion as a human construct that has been used as a tool for both good and evil throughout human history.

The Implication That Neither Good nor Evil is Absolute 

There are no purely "good" guys or purely "bad" guys in this story, an idea that some people may find disturbing.

An Irreverent Religious and Social Satire


Humans often struggle to determine the right thing to do in a particular situation, especially when the only option seems to be choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils. The fundamental message of this extremely funny, firmly tongue-in-cheek story seems to be that most humans – and even an angel and a demon who live among us and have become extremely fond of our kind – are neither purely good nor purely evil, and that human morality is not absolute and may sometimes depend on the circumstances.

In Good Omens, there are no sacred cows (as it were). The authors lovingly and humorously poke fun at everyone and everything, although that humor also points out serious human failings. For example, Pestilence has retired as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and has been replaced by Pollution, a scourge of humanity's own making. The story also puts a humorous, contemporary twist on things. For instance, The Horsemen – actually, two horsemen and two horsewomen – ride motorcycles.

Fair warning: if you find religious and/or social satire offensive, Good Omens is definitely not for you.

The Good Omens television miniseries provides nearly 6 hours' worth of rollicking entertainment with a brilliant script, a fabulously talented cast and extraordinary sets and special effects. It definitely doesn't take itself seriously, and neither should its viewers.

Good Omens Main Characters


Aziraphale – the angel who is Heaven’s representative on Earth; previously the guardian of Eden’s eastern gate, now the owner of an antiquarian bookstore in London. Fastidious in his dress, language, posture and manners. He loves humans even though he's often disappointed in them.

Anthony Crowley – the demon who is Hell’s representative on Earth; previously known as Crawly, the serpent who tempted Eve with the apple. His most prized earthly possession is his beloved, pristine 1926 Bentley. Predictably hedonistic, coarse and jaded, he swaggers, slouches and lounges. He's grudgingly grown fond of the humans he routinely tempts as part of his demonic duties.

Agnes Nutter – a 17th-century witch, history’s only 100% accurate prophet and author of The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Burned at the stake in 1656 by a mob of Agnes’s neighbors led by Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer. Like the witches in Pratchett’s Discworld novels, Agnes wore many hats, including those of midwife, doctor, herbalist, wise woman, psychologist, undertaker, showman and the moral center of her witching “territory”.

Anathema Device – witch, occultist, Ph.D. holder and distant descendant of Agnes Nutter. Also, the only person who can prevent the impending Apocalypse – if she can just figure out what Agnes’s cryptic prophecies mean in time.

Adam Young – a sweet and charismatic but also odd boy with a dog; also, respectively, the Antichrist and his hellhound. Due to a hospital mix-up by Satanic nuns under Crowley's direction, the newborn Adam was switched at birth with the baby of a random couple, Mr. and Mrs. Young, instead of with the baby of the U.S. ambassador to Britain and his wife, the Dowlings.

Newton Pulsifer – a failed, would-be software engineer whose attempts to fix any electronic device are pretty much guaranteed to render it unusable. A descendant of Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, Newt is working as an overqualified wages (payroll) clerk when he is reluctantly recruited into the Witchfinder Army by Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell.

Gabriel – archangel and leader of the forces of Heaven; hell-bent (so to speak) on winning the Ultimate Battle Between Good and Evil against the forces of Hell, led by Beelzebub. Sees humans as a way to keep score in the final battle between.

Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell – the last remaining member of the Witchfinder Army; invents fictitious additional members with names inspired by whatever his eyes light upon, e.g., Sergeant Cabinet. Lives above the rooms of Madame Tracy.

Madame Tracy – professional name of Marjorie Potts, an over-the-hill but warm-hearted madam; also a medium who offers weekly séances for the gullible. She has a soft spot for crusty Sergeant Shadwell, who calls her Whore of Babylon, Painted Lady, Jezebel, etc., yet still grumblingly joins her for afternoon tea and accepts her financial help when he’s a bit short of funds.

Good Omens Plot


Two of Hell's Dukes, Haster and Ligur, deliver the newborn Antichrist to the demon Crowley who, in turn, entrusts him to the Chattering Order of St. Beryl, a Satanic sisterhood that runs a hospital in Lower Tadfield (a fictitious village in South East England). Crowley instructs the nuns to switch the newborn Antichrist with the infant son of U.S. Ambassador Dowling and Mrs. Dowling. But, thanks to a mix-up at the hospital, Satan's spawn is given instead to Mr. and Mrs. Young, a perfectly ordinary Tadfield couple. While Mrs. Young is sleeping after giving birth to her biological child, Sister Mary Loquacious suggests several names to her husband for the newborn he believes to be theirs. But Mr. Young rejects those names (e.g., Damien, Wormwood) in favor of "a decent English name," which is how the Antichrist was christened Adam Young.

The Archangel Gabriel and Beelzebub are both gung-ho for long-awaited Armageddon to finally start so they can see, once and for all, which side will ultimately win,  But their earthly representatives, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, respectively, aren't exactly keen on their bellicose and very competitive superiors' plans to destroy the human race.

After spending hundreds of thousands of years living side by side with humans and intervening in their lives, both Aziraphale and Crowley have grown extremely fond of them. And while the angel and demon are enemies in theory, in reality their shared love of humanity, coupled with the humans' very brief lifespans, have made the unlikely pair each others' only real friends. Crowley accepts this reality with equanimity, but Aziraphale is loathe to admit their friendship, even to himself. His inner conflict about collaborating with Crowley while trying to stay true to his "good" principles is portrayed very cleverly. For example, his deeply ingrained good manners compel him to hold the door open for Crowley while saying to him, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" – followed immediately by a polite, "After you."

Crowley persuades Aziraphale that they will need to collaborate if they are to have any chance of thwarting their higher-ups' elaborate plans to trigger Armageddon, The frenemies hatch a plan to provide Adam Young with Divine and Satanic influences in equal measure during his formative years, in the hope that he will grow up as an ordinary boy and not fulfill his dreadful destiny. They help cover for each other so Gabriel, Beelzebub and the rest of their minions won't discover their disobedience as they try to protect humanity.

In fact, it is Aziraphale's and Crowley's plan that is thwarted, Even a decade later, no one has found out about the Satanic sisters' mix-up at the hospital. So the pair have spent the past 10 years focusing their efforts on the U.S. ambassador's son, Warlock Dowling, whom everyone on both sides still believes to be the Antichrist. The hellhound designed by the Infernal Powers to obey and protect the Antichrist is destined to appear to him on his 11th birthday. Crowley and Aziraphale anxiously await the arrival of hound at Warlock's birthday party, but when tit doesn't materialize, they realize that something has gone dreadfully wrong and that they've been trying to influence the wrong boy for the past 10 years!

They rush back to the hospital run by the Chattering Order of St. Beryl to find out what happened to the infant Antichrist 11 years earlier, After Crowley finally gets the truth, he has to figure out which child is the Antichrist and more importantly, where he and Aziraphale can find him before it's too late. Then, as if things weren't bad enough, their bosses find out what they've been up to. Now they're really in Trouble, with a capital T!

Fortunately, Crowley and Aziraphale aren't the only ones trying to prevent Armageddon.

Back in 1655, rural witch Agnes Nutter published The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. To this day it remains the only book whose prophecies were 100% accurate, as well as extremely cryptic. (For example, one of her prophecies mentions "an apple you can't eat," which turns out to refer to Apple Computer.) The following year, knowing she was soon going to be burned at the stake by Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer and the mob of locals he has riled up, prophetic Agnes arranged to have the book passed down through various interim caretakers over the next three hundred-plus years  and, eventually, given to far-distant descendant, Anathema Device. Anathema will need to finish decrypting Agnes’s huge volume of prophecies in time to prevent the impending Apocalypse.

Anathema has spent most of her life working her way through Agnes Nutter's prophecies and, as a result, has moved to a cottage in Tadfield. She meets Adam Young, who seems like a sweet boy and the natural leader of his inseparable group of four friends. She shares with him some of her collection of magazines on the occult  and conspiracy theories, which he devours with fascination, while his friends pooh-pooh his assertions that Atlantis and aliens are real.

Meanwhile, Newton Pulsifer, a hapless, would-be software engineer working as a payroll clerk and, more importantly, a distant descendant of Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, becomes a reluctant recruit into the Witchfinder Army. While doing his witchfinder research, Newt finds what might be clues to witchy doings in Tadfield. Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell sends him off to Tadfield to investigate, where he meets Anathema.

These two descendants of enemies from 300 years earlier are thrown together and must work together if the end of the world is to be prevented. In Good Omens, religion, rather than politics, makes strange bedfellows.

I'll stop here so as not to spoil the fun. As you can see, the plot is pretty complex, but fortunately, the 6-part television miniseries makes everything perfectly clear and the fabulous acting makes watching it a wonderfully fun and funny experience.

By now, you're probably wondering...

  • Will Crowley and Aziraphale escape their dooms at the hands of Beelzebub and Aziraphale?
  • Will Newt destroy Anathema before she can finish decrypting Agnes' final prophecies and prevent Armageddon?
  • Will Atlantis rise from the sea and little green men in UFOs land in England?
  • Will Adam Young fulfill his destiny as the Antichrist?
  • Will you laugh out loud while watching all the insanity unfold?

The only way to find out, of course, is to watch the Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime Video or on BBC Two, starting with the Episode 1, "In the Beginning."


An Inside Look at the Making of the Good Omens TV Miniseries 

I always enjoy behind-the-scenes special features. Since the bonus behind-the-scenes video of Good Omens is only 2 minutes long, I'd love to get the companion book to the miniseries, The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion by Matt Whyman. Since it's edited by Neil Gaiman, it's sure to be both excellent and accurate. And it's full of photos from the sets. Fun!

The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion by Matt Whyman, edited by Neil Gaiman, image courtesy of Amazon


Watching Good Omens on Amazon Prime Video


As Amazon Prime members, we were able to binge-watch all six episodes of Good Omens on Amazon Video for free, as well as two short bonus videos (a trailer and a 2-minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of Good Omens), as soon as the miniseries was released in the U.S. on May 31, 2019. For our friends across the Pond, the Good Omens miniseries will also will be shown as six weekly broadcasts on BBC Two.

IMPORTANT! In the US,  only Amazon Prime members can watch Good Omens and the TV miniseries adaptations of Terry Pratchett novels. 



We have been Amazon Prime members for years and have found the many benefits of membership well worth the annual fee, especially the enormous libraries of free video, music and Kindle content. This high-quality content includes Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning Amazon Original TV and movie productions, such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Manchester by the Sea, Sneaky Pete, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle,. Other benefits of Amazon Prime Membership including free 2-day shipping, free 1-day shipping (depending on your ZIP code) and Prime Now local delivery service with free 2-hour delivery (including groceries from Whole Foods Market), among other benefits. If you'd love to try out all those benefits and more without obligation, you can get a free 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime.

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Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime reviewed by
Margaret Schindel


Read more Amazon Originals and movie reviews on ReviewThisMovies.com.




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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Color Outside the Lines – Reviewing Summer Color and Activity Books for Kids or Adults

Collage created on FotoJet
Summertime brings us wonderful weather for favorite outdoor activities. But sometimes it is too hot to play outside or rainy days force us inside. That's when some indoor activities are needed. 

Television programs and noisy games are fun, but sometimes 'quiet times' are welcome. Having a variety of coloring and activity books can be a perfect fit for such times. 





Coloring Books


Coloring books for both kids and adults are always fun. Here are a couple new ones to try.

Dr. Seuss Coloring Book



Available on Amazon

The Dr. Seuss Coloring Book is filled with playful patterns and intricate images based on everyone's favorite Dr. Seuss characters, this 80-page coloring book will occupy children from age 7 and up all the way to parents and grandparents who remember the lovable Dr. Seuss books. 

The illustrations come from such Dr. Seuss titles as The Cat in the Hat, Oh, the Places You'll Go, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Horton Hears a Who and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to name a few. 

Now you can color Dr. Seuss any way you want!

The World of Debbie Macomber: Come Home to Color: An Adult Coloring Book



Available on Amazon

While the kids are coloring Dr. Seuss, mom or grandma fans of Debbie Macomber can enjoy their own coloring book. Based on the Blossom Street and Rose Harbor series, this special adult coloring book has 45 original illustrations that depict scenes from the series. Revisit favorite locales and relive the themes from these favorite Debbie Macomber stories. 


Summertime Activities


See on Amazon

Keep the kids entertained when inclement weather spoils vacation fun or the 'kids' start their “I'm Bored” routines with this fun DIY activity book called The Dad Lab.  The book contains 50 projects in the interesting realm of science and technology. The projects are simple and use materials found around the house.  I can already see that the project “make slime with only two ingredients” is one my young grandsons would enjoy. 

A fun way for mom & dad and grandparents to spend quality time with the kids in a way the kids would also enjoy.


Summary


Image from Bev Owens Article
Reviewing Fine Art Colored Pencils
on ReviewThisReviews

Add in some colorful crayons for the kids, and special pens and pencils for the intricate designs for adults and you'll be creating beautiful pages. 

So don't let weather spoil your summer vacation. These coloring and activity books will give everyone hours of fun and enjoyment. 


Check out a variety of fun reviews of other coloring books and coloring pencils on ReviewThisReviews: Coloring Books



(c) Wednesday Elf 6/23/2019




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Friday, June 21, 2019

Aquaman Movie Review

Aquaman Movie Review
Hold your wild seahorses and prepare yourself for the latest, greatest DC Comic movie superhero, Aquaman!
 
Many of us are already familiar with Jason Momoa because of his previous leading roles in Conan the Barbarian, Braven and several other movies.  He has an impressive television series list of roles as well, which include Game of Thrones and more recently, his starring role as Declan Harp in the Netflix series Frontier.
  As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say he had a large established fan-base long before he was cast as AquamanHowever, he is now and forever ingrained in our minds as the magnificent Aquaman and everybody knows his name!  

Before I saw the movie, I was told that there were a lot of women who normally would never go see a DC Comic movie, who willingly volunteered to take their sons to this movie just so they had an excuse to go.  There was no need to worry.  There are plenty of adult women without children who love Aquaman.  It is not just a movie for children, or men.


Aquaman, DC Comic Movie


 Aquaman: Special Edition (2018) (DVD)Check PriceWhen a lighthouse keeper discovers an injured woman on the beach, he didn't expect the world to be forever changed.  However, that is exactly what happens when Thomas Curry discovers Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) washed up on his beach in Maine.  

Tom has no way of knowing that Atlanna is actually the queen of Atlantis, the underwater kingdom.  He carries the unconscious female up to his lighthouse home with the intention of getting her medical attention.  When Atlanna awakens in the strange place, she has a strong reaction to the unusual noises around her, as well as the fish in his fish tank.

Atlanna and Thomas fall in love and Atlanna forsakes her father, her kingdom, her underwater tribe, and her previous commitments.  Sadly, they are not left in peace for long.  

Soon after Atlanna gives birth to their baby, Arthur, members of the Atlantis army find her.  She realizes she must return to Atlantis, and to her previous responsibilities, in order to save the lives of Thomas and their son.

 

Aquaman - Arthur Curry


During his elementary school years, Arthur realizes he has special powers.  He can communicate with creatures of the ocean and they readily respond to him with fierce loyalty.  He also becomes acquainted with Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe), a friend and confidante' of his mother, who was sent to train him to wield a trident and to fight.

Arthur discovers he can breathe underwater and swim like a dolphin.  He becomes a defender and superhero in the ocean, but he continues to live on land.  He is easily recognized by everyone, but he doesn't recognize or desire to claim his own birthright.  

As the son of the queen, he should be king of Atlantis, but his half-brother sits on the throne and plots to be Ocean Master, ruler of all of the tribes of Atlantis.  He also has plans for land dwellers.  


In case I forgot to tell you, I Love This Movie!
 

Aquaman was not previously as well known as some of the other DC Comic superheroes, but this movie has made his anonymity a thing of the past. 







Other DC Comic Movies Reviewed on Review This!


Wonder Woman 2017 Movie ReviewWonder Woman (2017) Movie Review
Wonder Woman (2017) is truly a wonderful movie.  I encourage everyone to set aside any preconceived notions and watch the new movie.   The back story on Diana, aka Wonder Woman, is awesome!





 

 

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 Aquaman Movie Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse




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