Parents, Children Alike Will Enjoy Grist’s New Book/CD Combo Set

Courtesy:  The Secret Mountain

Courtesy: The Secret Mountain

This June, children’s entertainer Hilary Grist will release her new book Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over. The book, which is set to be released Monday, June 1st via The Secret Mountain, is a great bedtime story for any young reader and his or her parents. The main reason for this is the story itself. The story centers on two young children–Ira and Isabelle–who can’t get to sleep. The brother and sister can’t sleep because of the noise from the city outside their room. So they end up using their imaginations to sail off to another place, a relaxing place, that leads them to relax and fall asleep. It’s a short story but a wonderful and imaginative story nonetheless. The story by itself is just one part of what parents and chidlren will appreciate about this book. The illustrations (so to speak) add to the story’s enjoyment. That’s because they aren’t necessarily even illustrations in the classic sense of the word. And last but not leat worth noting of the book is its companion CD. The companion CD isn’t just an audio reading of the book. It does feature an audio reading of the book. But along with that reading are ten musical tracks that will lull any young child to sleep. Each element on its own gives plenty of reason for audiences to add this book to their child’s library. Collectively, they make Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over one of this year’s best new releases for children overall.

Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over is one of this year’s best new releases for children. It is a great addition to any child’s personal library of books. In examining the book in whole, it proves this in a number of ways. The main way that it proves this is through the story itself. Grist doesn’t just come out and say it, but her main aim with the story presents is to motivate young children to close their eyes and dream of a calm, quiet place as a means to relax and go to sleep. She does this by telling how Ira and his sister Isabelle go off to their own quiet place to escape the noise of the city. What is most interesting about Grist’s story is that she doesn’t clearly explain that the kids have closed their eyes and in reality used their imaginations to create that quiet place. But any grown up will easily make the connection. Just as interesting is how Grist wrote the book. She didn’t just write a short story about two children relaxing in their own quiet place. Her writing style and use of words together especially encourage young children to relax and go to sleep. She wrote of their journey, “Waves rose and fell as miles drifted by. Lit by a lantern and a moon-kissed sky. ” The rising and falling of the waves is insinuated as being gentle. The imagery of the soft light of the moon in the sky and the lantern in the boat is equally calming. It’s just one example of how her writing style and use of words work so well in settling children at bed time. The rest of the story is ripe with examples. Parents and children will see those examples for themselves when they add this book to their own child’s personal library. They will also see that said writing style and use of words is just part of what makes the book so enjoyable. The book’s “illustrations” play their own part in the book’s enjoyment, too.

The story presented in Grist’s new book by itself will impress parents thanks to Grist’s smart writing style and use of calming imagery and words overall. The “illustrations” play an interesting part in the book’s enjoyment, too. That is because the illustration’s aren’t necessarily illustrations in the classic sense of the word. Ira and Isabelle look more like small dolls or even claymation figures. Their surroundings look like model sets. The two elements are set together and photographed to help bring the story to life. It’s an interesting approach that admittedly this critic has never really seen used for a book, children’s or otherwise. It is possible that such an approach has been used before. But at least in the case of this critic, it comes across as something quite original. That originality makes the experience of the story even fuller. They don’t really do much in the way of helping children fall asleep more easily. But they will entertain said young audiences. So to that extent, the pictures used to “illustrate” the story and bring it to life prove themselves just as important to the story in whole as the story itself.

Both the story and the pictures incorporated into Hilary Grist’s new book play their own important parts in the book’s enjoyment as parents will see for themselves in reading this book to their own children. They will also fin that the companion CD that comes with the book is just as important to the whole presentation. The disc features not just an audio reading of the book but ten separate musical tracks to boot. The audio reading is just as enjoyable as the book for so many reasons. Grist actually reads the book to her young audiences herself in the CD’s lead track. The gentility in her approach is itself so calming in its own right. The equally subtle use of music and sound effects in the background makes the story all the richer and more enjoyable for children and parents alike. The stand-alone musical tracks offer their own enjoyment, too. There are folk elements to the songs as well as soft lullabies and even a light jazz piece among so much more. Through it all, Grist’s own vocal style and the equally soft music together maintain such a soft tone that the two together will have any young listeners asleep in no time. It may even cause some parents to start yawning, too. That is meant in the most positive manner possible. That ability to encourage sleep among both grown-ups and children alike more than makes Dream Songs a welcome addition to Grist’s new book. Everything noted here taken into consideration, Dream Songs shows along with Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over that the two elements together make this set one of the best new children’s releases of the year.

Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over will be available in stores Monday, June 1st. Parents can pre-order the book online now via Hilary Grist’s official website at http://hilarygrist.com. More information on the book/CD set is available along with her latest tour dates and news both there and her official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hilarygristmusic. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Microcosm Publishing Releases New Introspective On The Life And Death Of Lookout Records

Courtesy:  Microcosm Publishing

Courtesy: Microcosm Publishing

Lookout Records is known to many music industry insiders and fans alike as being one of the most important and influential record labels in the rock world. The company, which focuses mainly on the world of punk rock, was founded almost thirty years ago by Lawrence Livermore as a means to support his band The Lookouts. Thus the name Lookout Records. During the course of the label’s life, it became home to some of the biggest names in the punk world. It’s the label that gave Green Day its first chance. It was also home at one point to fellow punk stalwarts Operation Ivy and Crimpshrine just to name a couple more. For all of its successes early on, there were also a lot of bad business decisions that would go on to lead to the label’s demise. Now thanks to music journalist Kevin Prested, audiences finally get a glimpse into how those decisions led to Lookout’s downfall and the early decisions that led the label to be one of the biggest in the world of punk in his new book Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records.

Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records is available now in paperback from Microcosm Publishing. It is available in stores and online for MSRP of $14.95. It can be ordered online direct from Microcosm Publishing via the company’s online store at http://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/5160/?utm_source=PUNK+USA+-+The+Rise+and+Fall+of+Lookout+Records+%28birthplace+of+Green+Day%29&utm_campaign=Lookout+Records&utm_medium=email. More information on this and other titles from Microcosm Publishing is available online at:

Website: https://www.microcosmpublishing.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/microcosmpublishing

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Inspector Lewis’ Seventh Series Is A Welcome Return For One Of Television’s Greatest Crime Dramas

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Never say never.  Famous words.  Everybody has said or heard these words at one time or another.  That includes the world of popular entertainment.  So it goes without saying that when itv wrapped Inspector Lewis in its sixth series in 2013 the instant reaction was for audiences to say never say never.  Low and behold Inspector Lewis returned earlier this year overseas for its seventh series.  And PBS brought in Series Seven this fall.  Now, for those that weren’t lucky enough to see Series Seven, PBS and ITV have made it available both on DVD and Blu-ray.  Inspector Lewis Series Seven is a welcome return for what has become over the years one of the greatest crime dramas on television.  The proof lies first and foremost in the writing behind each of the series’ episodes.  The writing even in these three episodes is just as strong as in earlier episodes.  The acting on the part of lead stars Kevin Whaley and Laurence Fox.  The same can be said of new addition Angela Griffin as DS Lizzie Maddox.  Whately and Fox haven’t lost a step.  And Griffin brings in a whole new dynamic to the program that makes it even more enjoyable.  The writing and acting are of equal importance to the overall presentation of Inspector Lewis Series Seven.  Also to be considered to the success and enjoyment of this installment of Inspector Lewis is the fact that it maintains the standard set by the show years ago when Inspector Lewis in terms of not using overt sex, blood, and violence unlike the crime dramas that dominate American television.  That the show’s heads would maintain that standard all these years later is a testament to their dedication to the show’s fan base.  It rounds out the whole thing, making it again well deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets.

When itv wrapped Series Six of Inspector Lewis, it wasn’t too much of a forgone conclusion that somewhere along the line, Inspector Lewis would be back in some form or fashion regardless of whether or not it would be part of the series that made him such a beloved figure.  That’s especially the case considering the success of the series’ prequel series Endeavour.  So seeing Inspector Lewis’ return for a seventh series was quite the welcome return albeit not too surprising.  It goes without saying that expectations were high when it was even announced that Inspector Lewis would in fact return for a seventh season.  And thankfully this series has lived up to the hype.  It has lived up to the hype primarily through the writing behind each of the series’ three episodes.  One of the key examples of how the writing this time out keeps Inspector Lewis such a fan favorite comes in the episode “The Lions of Nemea.”  There are more than enough twists and turns in this episode to keep audiences guessing right up to the end.  The mystery starts right off the top when a well-respected professor is intentionally hit by a mystery driver while on his bike.  From there, the murder of a student at the same university where that professor works deepens the mystery even more.  The revelations of illicit affairs, literary fraud, and murder will keep audiences on the edge of their seats trying to solve the mystery themselves.  In the series’ closer, audiences’ minds are left twisted when one of Lewis’ most notorious cases comes back to haunt him and even threaten his career.  Surprisingly enough, the story’s closing moments leave the door wide open for another collection of episodes should the show’s heads opt for it to happen.  Even in the series’ opening episode “Entry Wounds” audiences will agree to the strength of the show’s writing.  Lewis’ desire to return to the force is made entirely believable thanks to the show’s writers.  What’s more, the growing relationship between Lewis and Hathaway and their new partner make this series all the more enjoyable.  Audiences will laugh at little jokes tossed in here and there in regards to Maddox’s having to answer to both detectives.  At one point, Maddox is asked by another officer how things are going with her boss. Her response is a flat “which one?”  One can’t help but laugh at her deadpan delivery of that simple line.  Again, the writers put the line at just the right moment to make it a good lighthearted break from the seriousness of investigating the crime at hand.  It’s just one of a number of moments that along with the stories themselves, exemplifies the strength of this series’ episodes.

Lewis and Hathaway built a strong working relationship and an equally solid friendship throughout the course of Inspector Lewis’ first six series.  The addition of Lizzie Maddox adds a whole new dynamic to the pair’s relationship.  It is highlighted expertly throughout the course of all three episodes in this series.  In terms of the show’s writing, the trio’s partnership and their friendship play a big role in the success of the episodes’ writing.  If not for the acting on the part of the trio though, the writing in regards to the trio’s personal and professional relationship would be moot.  Luckily, the chemistry developed by Laurence Fox and Kevin Whaley during the duo’s original run together had not lost anything in these episodes.  Whether sharing a joke in one of their more lighthearted moments or handling a tougher topic in one of their more serious moments, both men are fully believable.  Fox and Laurence even make believable even the slight tension in Lewis’ return before their characters reconnect as if not a day had been missed.  Angela Griffin is just as believable even in what very quickly becomes more of a supporting role.  Should Inspector Lewis pull off a miracle and see an eighth series, it would be interesting to see Maddox develop even more into her own character.  If an eighth series is not in the books, then it can at least be said of Griffin that she adds her own enjoyment to the overall product thanks to her own acting.  All three together pull viewers into their world, making suspension of disbelief so simple along the way.  The end result of the trio’s acting, and its interpretation of the scripts, is total immersion in and enjoyment of all three ninety-minute episodes.  It serves to show yet again why Inspector Lewis is just as enjoyable in its seventh series as in its first.

The scripts behind Inspector Lewis’ seventh series and the acting on the part of its veteran cast both play pivotal roles in the success of this series’ episodes.  Fox, Whately, and newcomer Griffin expertly interpret each episode’s script and in turn fully immerses viewers in each story.  The scripts themselves will keep audiences fully engaged and guessing right up to their final moments.  As if that isn’t enough, the episodes that make up Series Seven maintain the high standard set by the show’s previous series.  Simply put, Inspector Lewis remained in its seventh series the polar opposite of the crime dramas that populate American commercial networks.  There is no overt sexuality.  There is no unnecessary violence, gunplay, etc.  And the amount of blood and gore is kept to the same minimum as in the show’s previous series.  Again, this is the total opposite of all of the crime dramas that are so popular on American television.  Rather, the show continued here to focus on story and character development as is evident in the episodes’ scripts and the acting on the part of the cast.  Those factors, together with the continued high standard of content overall, round out the reasons that Inspector Lewis remains such a hit in its seventh series.  They collectively show once more why this series is quite well-deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets.

Inspector Lewis: Series Seven is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46782166&cp=&sr=1&kw=inspector+lewis&origkw=Inspector+Lewis&parentPage=search.  More information on Inspector Lewis is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/lewis/

Facebook: http://twitter.com/masterpiecepbs

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Kurtzman-Counter’s Miles Books Are Excellent Teaching Tools For Parents, Educators

Courtesy:  The Mother Company

Courtesy: The Mother Company

Raising children is one of the biggest challenges that anyone will face in their lives.  This critic is learning that every day being the parent of a toddler.  Other more experienced parents will agree with this statement, too.  It is a challenge because parents themselves have to find inventive ways to keep children’s attention and to reach them on their levels without really talking down to them at the same time.  Thankfully, there are any number of tools and methods for parents in their efforts to do just that.  Some of those tools and methods work relatively well.  While others not so well, obviously.  Last month, a company known as Ruby’s Studio released a pair of books for parents, children and educators that every parent and educator will find quite useful and effective and that will relate to every child.  Simply put, the books—Miles is the Boss of His Body and When Miles Got Mad—are two very effective tools in raising children both at home and in an educational setting.  The central reason that both books are such impressive tools is the fact that they are books.  In an age when even children are being groomed to be part of a digital world, it’s nice to know that some out there still believe in the physical object.  Also worth nothing is that the books have been written in such fashion as to easily reach young readers.  Audiences will also appreciate the look of the books.  Their look is very similar to a series of books written by another very well-known author of children’s books.  All three factors noted here work together to make both of these books works that prove to be just as valuable in the home as in an educational setting.

 

Parents and teachers today have so many tools and resources at their disposal for teaching children.  From CDs and video games to play computers for kids, there are so many options.  Parents and educators will note that each of those tools prepares children to be part of an increasingly digital world.  Yes, there are still books out there for children.  But increasingly those books are becoming rarer or they are moving more towards the realm of e-readers and tablets.  Some schools out there don’t even use textbooks anymore.  They have been replaced by either students or teachers with tablets and online learning.  Even parents are increasingly being encouraged by the big tech companies to teach their children using the latest, hottest tech tool.  It’s really disheartening.  So both books (and Ruby’s Studio) win major marks for this factor alone.  Children need to know what true, physical books are versus just having a cold, battery operated object in their hands, staring at a monitor all the time.  Hopefully within the context of this aspect, Ruby’s Studio won’t fall victim to that trend and will remain a company that releases books in physical form only.

 

Courtesy:  The Mother Company

Courtesy: The Mother Company

The fact that Ruby’s Studio has made both books available in physical form is the key aspect to why parents and educators alike will appreciate them.  That is parents and educators that are not afraid of using a physical book over the digital object.  Examining both books on a closer level, they have been crafted in a way that makes their topics easily accessible to young audiences.  The topics in question are themselves extremely important.  The first of the books discusses people putting their hands on children.  It lets children know that it is okay for them to set limits on how people touch them.  It goes on to let kids know that it’s okay to tell people that they don’t like to be touched one way or another.  The other book focuses on children’s feelings.  More specifically, it touches on their feelings of frustration and anger.  It emphasizes to young audiences that they should use their words instead of using their actions.  The manner in which these topics are covered makes them easily accessible for those younger audiences.  Miles and Max look and do things that any kids do.  And they aren’t in some magical land.  They are placed in real world settings.  There aren’t lots of words involved, either.  What words are used are simple enough for younger readers to grasp.  So Kurtzman-Counter has actually established a way to keep the attention of her readers and make the concepts being discussed easy to understand.  It’s a double whammy in the best way.  It means an increased chance of these topics really sinking in with kids.  Any parent or educator will admit that it takes a lot to really get certain topics to sink in with children.  Kurtzman-Counter has found one of the best ways to do so in a long time with these presentations.  It’s one more aspect of the books that makes them an important tool whether at home or a given educational setting.

 

The accessibility that Kurtzman-Counter’s books offers  her young readers is something that so many children’s authors overlook.  Believe it or not, there are some authors of children’s books that make valiant attempts to reach this audience or that.  In some cases they do succeed.  But in just as many cases, the end result is a product that is far too broad in its attempt to reach as many audiences as possible.  In turn, said book(s) present topics that only children of certain ages will grasp and enjoy.  These two books are the polar opposite.  They are a couple that succeed in entertaining and reaching children anywhere from ages three to five and maybe even six.  The fact that these topics have been broached in physical books makes them even more enjoyable.  While both aspects of Kurtzman-Counter’s books are equally important in their overall success and enjoyment, one factor remains to be noted.  That final factor is their look.  Anyone that is familiar with the work of fellow author Mo Willems will recognize the look of his Knufflebunny books in these books.  It presents young Miles as a hand drawn figure set against real life pictures as backgrounds.  This is exactly the same format used by Willems and his publishing company in the Knufflebunny books.  Whether or not the appearance of that influence was intentional, it is visible.  And it serves as even more reason for audiences of all ages to check out these books.

 

Samantha Kurtzman-Counter’s children’s books based around her fictional character Miles and his brother Max are wonderful resources for parents and teachers alike. Both books by themselves offer plenty of reason for them and younger readers alike to appreciate and enjoy them. Collectively, their positives—noted above—make both books all the more valuable whether they are used at home or in an educational setting. Both books are available now and can be ordered online http://www.rubysstudio.com/. More information on these books and others from Ruby’s Studio is available online at:

 

Website: http://www.RUBYsStudio.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheMotherCompany

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheMotherCo

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

When Santa Fell To Earth Is A Holiday Tale Unlike Almost Every Other

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new Christmas-themed movie When Santa Fell To Earth is one of the best holiday-themed movies to come along in a very long time. The movie, which is based on author Cornelia Funke’s 1994 book by the same name, is actually surprisingly entertaining. This is the even with the movie being just another adaptation of a book. The main reason for the movie’s success is that despite being adapted from a book, its story actually stands out quite a bit from all of the other cookie cutter Christmas-themed movies. It follows the formula used by so many major studios lightly at best. Another reason for the movie’s success is its minimal use of special effects. And while it was originally done in German or another European language, the work of those responsible for dubbing the film made that dubbing nearly invisible. It may seem like a minor factor. But in the grand scheme of things, dubbing foreign films whether foreign to English or vice versa is very important. Good dubbing results in a movie such as this. Bad dubbing can make a movie into a third rate product not worth even finishing let alone watching. Luckily for this movie, that poor dubbing didn’t work. The end result is a movie that along with its somewhat original script and its minimal use of special effects proves to be as enjoyable as any other holiday-themed movie released each year.

The central reason for the success of When Santa Fell To Earth is its writing. More specifically, the script is to thank for its success. Given, it is based on a two-decades old book. But that book in question is not one that most would consider well-known. What’s more, while there are some alterations in the transfer from the printed page to small screen, they aren’t nearly as much as some adaptations of other more well-known literary works. The story itself also stands out from other holiday movies out there. Most Christmas-themed movies see an average person saving Christmas by filling in for Santa or getting others to realize the “true meaning of Christmas” through a series of events. Those are the most common plot lines in most Christmas-themed movies. This movie takes a road not just less taken but a road no one else saw, period. According to this story, there are actually multiple Santas. But they’ve all been frozen by an evil figure that wants to rule Christmas and turn it into a fully corporate holiday. Enter Nikklas Julebukk (pronounced YULE-uh-buck). Nikklas is the last Santa standing between the evil Gerald Geronimus Goblynch. It’s up to Nikklas to stop Gerald and his henchman, and save Christmas. Nikklas crashes to Earth in his flight from Gerald and his henchman, leading to his meeting Ben and Charlotte, who help him to stop Gerald. There are no big red sleighs. The only reindeer in the movie is one that audiences definitely won’t recognize. Its name is Twinklestar. And instead of the North Pole, Nikklas is trying to keep the story’s villain from taking over Yuleland. Some names and places have been changed in the transition from the printed page to the small screen. But by and large, the story has been kept the same. That and the fact that this story is unlike nearly any other out there within the Christmas-themed genre is more than enough reason to see this movie at least once.

The overall originality of this movie’s script even in its transition from the printed page to the small screen is the most important factor in the movie’s success. Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its minimalist use of special effects. The only special effects come courtesy of some CG work to create a pair of “Christmas elves” and a pair of tiny angels who serve as Nikklas’ companions. The elves are entirely CG. The angels (yes, they actually incorporate angels alongside Santa—a very young Santa at that) are live actors. But their wings and flying effects were obviously created via CG and green screen. Even Gerald’s evil giant nutcracker “soldiers” looked like they had been crafted by hand. Other than that, everything else within this movie looks to be live action. Again, one can’t help but make a comparison to other holiday movies out there today. Set against most American holiday movies its balance of live action elements and special effects gives it a rare feel that audiences of all ages will appreciate. It’s one more way in which When Santa Fell To Earth stands out among the already overcrowded market of Christmas-themed movies currently on the market. And together with the its largely original adaptation from its literary companion, this foreign import becomes even more enjoyable.

The balance of live action elements and CG-based special effects in When Santa Fell To Earth and the largely original story adapted from the book of the same name are both important to the overall success of this straight-to-DVD feature. Rounding out the entire presentation is the movie’s dubbing. It would seem that the movie’s original presentation was German simply by observing the movie’s credits and its setting. That would make sense considering that the author of the book on which this movie is based is herself German.   Those charged with dubbing the movie into English are to be commended for taking such painstaking efforts to present a clean product. There are movies dubbed into English that don’t exactly translate very well. The end result is something that looks like the old school kung-fu flicks and Godzilla movies imported from Japan and China. That’s not a good thing. Luckily in this case that poor translation didn’t happen. Audiences almost can’t tell that what they are hearing is in fact American voices speaking over European actors. There are points here and there where audiences will be able to catch the dubbing. But it’s nowhere near as obvious as in those noted old school Asian imports. The end result is a movie well worth watching at least once this holiday season when taken into consideration along with the movie’s story and its balance of live action and CG elements.

The story presented in When Santa Fell To Earth is one of the most original holiday stories presented to audiences in a long time. Given, it is based on a book that was originally published two decades ago. But in comparison to all of the other holiday movies out there it still stands out. And for the most part, it actually stays largely true to its literary link. Only a few minor items were changed in the story’s small screen adaptation. The minimalist use of special effects makes the story even more worth the watch. In an age when even holiday movies seem to rely increasingly on special effects and CG elements, this movie’s balance of live action to special effects makes it all the more worth the watch. Rounding out the presentation is the dubbing process. It’s assumed that the movie, in its original 2011 release, was presented in German. Those charged with dubbing the movie into English for its release this year carried out their duties expertly. The end result of these factors together is a movie that every family should see at least once this holiday season. It will be available on DVD Tuesday, October 14th. It can be ordered direct online now via Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=bd0b8d9a-21f7-e311-a502-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other titles from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Natchez Burning Is One Of The Year’s Best New Novels

Courtesy:  HarperCollins/William Morrow

Courtesy: HarperCollins/William Morrow

Good books are easy to find.  Truly good books are far more difficult to find.  That’s especially the case considering the number of DIY books, political mudslingers and otherwise forgettable literary works that populate book stores today.  Next Tuesday, one of those rare truly good books will see the light of day when author Greg Iles’ new book Natchez Burning will be released.  Iles’ latest book and his first in five years, Natchez Burning is not the shortest of books.  It comes in at an astonishing 788 pages.  That’s not counting the book’s postscript.  That’s just the story itself.  It is a long story.  But it is a story that audiences will enjoy regardless of their familiarity with Iles’ body of work.  The story contained within the pages of this book is the crux of the book.  It centers on former prosecutor turned mayor of Natchez, Mississippi Penn Cage.  Readers that are familiar with Iles’ books will recognize Cage’s name as he has been the subject of previous books penned by Iles.  Iles’ writing is another reason that readers will enjoy reading this book.  This encompasses the story’s pacing, transitions and other related aspects.  Both elements work hand-in-hand to make Iles’ first book in five years quite the welcome return.  It is Iles at the top of his game.

Natchez Burning is the first book from Greg Iles in five years.  The main reason for that is that he had been involved in a terrible auto accident so long ago.  His fans had no idea if he would ever write another book as his injuries were so extensive.  Fans will agree in reading his book that as lengthy as it is, Iles did not lose a single step.  If anything maybe it was a blessing in disguise.  That’s because this book presents Iles at the top of his game.  The first way that it shows this is through the story itself.  Iles’ story is one that has been done before countless times by countless other storytellers.  There’s no getting around that.  The whole plot centers around the story of a man forced to face a dark family secret when his father is accused of a brutal decades old crime.  It forces the man, Penn Cage (who is also the subject of previous books by Iles) to decide between family loyalty and the truth.  What sets Iles’ story apart from that told by those that have told similar stories before him is the execution of his story.  His story is more believable than so many others because it is grounded in reality without being unnecessarily gritty and dark. That’s because he uses real events.  He highlights in the story’s opening sequence, the horrendous acts that were committed against the black community in the civil rights era.  And the concept of group of hard liners breaking off from an extremist group to make its own even more hardcore extremist group is just as believable.  These aren’t the only believable elements of the story.  They are but a small sample of how much Iles gets right throughout the course of his new story. Fans of Dick Wolf’s beloved Law & Order franchises or fellow author John Grisham’s books will most definitely appreciate the book especially for this reason.

Iles gets plenty right throughout the course of his story. Within the context of the story, the pacing and transitions are used expertly. This may seem to some like a minor matter. But there are authors out there who struggle to get both of these story elements in balance with one another even today. That greatly detracts from the suspension of disbelief. The end result is the ever increasing urge to simply close said authors’ books. Iles on the other hand uses his pacing to make his story the proverbial edge-of-your-seat story even from what turns out to be the story’s flashback opening sequence. As the story progresses, Iles gives readers clear, concise transition points from one scene to the next, making it easier to follow the story. This helps to heighten the story’s tension and in turn keep readers fully engaged from beginning to end, regardless of how long it might take one reader or another to finish the book. It’s all done so well that readers can see each scene play out in their minds just as vividly as if it were on the big screen. Who knows, with any luck, it may find itself begin adapted for the big screen.

The overall writing style that Iles used throughout the course of Natchez Burning is just as important to the overall enjoyment of the book as the story itself. Every part of the writing that went into making Natchez Burning work did its part to make the story as a whole more than deserving of its applause. Together with Iles’ execution of the story, the two factors together make up for the book’s extensive length. As a matter of fact, both factors together make Natchez Burning a book that readers won’t want to put down. Iles has succeeded that strongly in his return. Simply put, Greg Iles’ new book proves to be one of the first must read pieces of the year.

Iles will hit the road on a book tour promoting Natchez Burning beginning April 29th at Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson, Mississippi. His most current book signing schedule and more is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/GregIlesAuthor and http://gregiles.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS Kids Announces Release Date, Info For Latest Arthur DVD

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS

PBS Kids will release the latest Arthur DVD next month.

Arthur Makes A Movie will be released on DVD Tuesday, May 13th. The DVD includes four more episodes of the family favorite series based on author Marc Brown’s beloved literary series. Those four episodes are: “Arthur Makes a Movie”, “Go To Your Room, D.W.”, “Agent of Change”, and “D.W. Unties The Knot.” The DVD will retail for an SRP of $9.99.

In the title episode of the new DVD, Arthur and his friends decide to make their very own movie since they’re not old enough to see a real “James Hound” movie. Muffy Crosswire takes the helm and taps Arthur to play the lead role in the kids’ movie. However, things don’t go exactly as planned when the kids try to put their plan in action.

“Go To Your Room D.W.” tackles a very familiar subject for audiences of all ages when four-year old D.W. is sent to her room by her parents. D.W. has to stay in her room for ten whole minutes! That’s a lot for a four-year old. And it’s just enough time for a four-year old to ruminate on his (or in this case her) difficult childhood, and plan a life away from home. D.W. finds out the reality of trying to run away when she tries to put her plan in action and the folly of her decision in this episode sure to entertain audiences of all ages.

“Agents of Change” is another episode that audiences of all ages will enjoy. It tackles the subject of gender inequality in the movie industry. After Francine and Muffy go to see a movie about a boy and his truck, they are left rather disenfranchised. So they set out to make their own movie that focuses on a strong female lead. They are joined by Molly, who helps to handle the movie’s artwork. With Molly on board, the trio set out to make their very own movie with interesting results.

Wedding season is just around the corner. So what better way to close out Arthur Makes A Movie than with an episode titled, “D.W. Unties The Knot?” In this episode, D.W. decides to get married after watching “The Wedding Channel.” There’s just one problem. D.W. being a child, she doesn’t fully graspt everything that goes into a wedding and what exactly a wedding is or what it represents. She ends up realizing she’s gotten herself in much deeper than she ever imagined. So she’s left to figure out how to get everything back to how it was.

Arthur Makes A Movie will be available Tuesday, May 13th. It can be pre-ordered now via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34129306&cp=&sr=1&kw=arthur+makes+a+movie&origkw=Arthur+Makes+A+Movie&parentPage=search. More information on this and other Arthur DVDs is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSArthur and http://www.pbskids.org/arthur. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.