Book Review: Made a Killing in Copper

I hope everyone had a great summer. I wasn’t blogging through most of it as I stayed pretty busy and I’m still trying to wrap some of those summer projects up – Three books left to go before I’m finished with the Great American Read!

Even though I’m still working on the Great American Read, I’ve been sneaking other books on the side all summer, and I want to talk about one that I got while I was on vacation in Michigan: Made a Killing in Copper by Richard Baldwin.

I feel like I’m engaging in betrayal here, because I liked Baldwin’s previous book that I read, “Murder in Tip-Up Town.” I like being able to read books by Michigan authors when I travel to Michigan, but this time I have to say a few things about this book.

In reading this book, the flow of reading was continually disrupted by things that writers are not supposed to do in their writing. The first place I caught my flow of reading being interrupted was with the info dump I was given about one of the side characters. Lou Searing, the investigator in the novel, gets a request from one of his fans to assist on his case. He agrees to contact her about her helping him, and in chapter eight, as Lou is just talking to her on the phone, we get an info dump on this woman.

Here’s how it goes, in the book:

[Lou, who is talking to his fan, Cherri, on the telephone:] “I guess I should be flattered, but this is a dangerous case. I’ve gotten threats and a couple of people I’ve already interviewed have died. I don’t want you in danger.”

[Cherri:] “I’ll take the risk. Please take me on, Lou.”

Cherri was an attractive 42-year-old woman who fit the image of one living in Copper Harbor. She loved the outdoors, the rugged country, and being with people who like to live in a beautiful yet private area. She could present herself as a businesswoman or a trapper…

I didn’t want to type out that entire expositional paragraph, so there’s the first couple sentences of it. But where Baldwin put this info dump is not the place to put an info dump about a character that the protagonist hasn’t even yet. And I feel like there’s a very simple fix to all this: that info that I got while these two characters haven’t even seen each other yet should have been moved forward to the scene where Lou actually sees Cherri for the first time.

Another example of a problem in this book, this time from some missing information. In chapter 9, Lou goes to talk with some folks at a church who, as part of their ministry outreach, looked out for one of the characters who gets accused of murder.

Here’s the next block in question:

On April 17, Lou stopped at the Lutheran Church and asked to speak to the pastor. The associate pastor, Lily Guido, was in and would be more appropriate because she handled ministry to the community, coordinated meals, and visits to those in need.

So, almost apropos of nothing, Lou goes to talk to a church leader and is recommended to speak to another church leader, and as the reader I have to infer the context from the next paragraph, which talks about the church secretary. So, I guess she was the one who gave Lou the information? I don’t know how this slipped by the proofreader, because a few changes would have made this flow better. Here’s how I think it should have read:

On April 17, Lou stopped at the Lutheran Church and asked to speak to the pastor. He was informed bv the church secretary that the associate pastor, Lily Guido, was in and would be more appropriate for him to speak to in this instance because she handled ministry to the community; coordinating meals and visits to those in need.

A smaller random pieceof information I could have done without comes further along in the book, where I’m told the Prosecutor’s name is Constance (Connie) Shafer. The parenthesis were what was used in the book, and to be honest, since she’s only referred to by name twice if memory serves, I don’t think I needed to know her nickname.

Apart from that, I rather liked the story. The plot isn’t overly elaborate, which makes for a pretty simple read (see why I like to get these while I’m on vacation?) but (SPOILERS AHEAD!!) there were enough false flag clues from the sheriff that I, like Cherri, began to suspect that he was involved somehow, even though he wasn’t.

If you’re looking for a clean detective read with a simple plotline that will engage you you might want to check this one out. I like it, but some people might find the problems I’ve listed here completely unforgivable. For me, this one’s still going on my bookshelf. Hopefully the next Lou Searing novel I get won’t suffer from the problems I’ve mentioned here.

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Movie Review: Leap!

Expect this post to be an odd one out. I don’t watch a lot of movies, particularly newer or more recent ones. But Leap! was one I wanted to watch when I saw it in the stores and, well…I need to talk about this.

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So let me start right off by saying that this is not a bad movie. It’s just not one that I’m really interested in watching again or adding to my collection, but any parents reading don’t need to fret about violence or bad language or anything like that. Some kids might find the ending a little bit scary, but realistically there’s nothing here that parents need to be worried about.

This story follows Felicie (there’s supposed to be an accent over the first “e” in her name. Pretend it’s there), an orphan who dreams of being a ballerina. She and her friend Victor break out of the orphanage and go to Paris, where he can pursue his dreams of being an inventor and she can become a ballerina.

Felicie manages to do this by assuming the identity of another girl, Camille, who to be fair, is a royal brat who treats Felicie like trash and destroys her music box which is her last memento of her mother, but I was cringing during the scene where Felicie pretends to be her.

To her credit, and the credit of her teacher Odette, who Felicie meets after she arrives in Paris, Felicie begins to do better and better all the time in her dancing class. But when her deception is exposed, her only option for staying in the ballet school is to live up to her teacher’s high expectations and get the part in Swan Lake that the ballet school will be putting on.

Camille, the girl whose identity Felicie stole, becomes her rival in the ballet class, and Felicie is soon caught up in a minor love triangle between Rudy, the star of the boy’s dance class, and Victor. Feclicie fails the final test to be in the ballet, and then Camille’s mother sends her back to the orphanage she came from.When Felecie gets a second chance to prove herself, though, she takes it and becomes the star of the class and earns the part in The Nutcracker.

That ends the summary. Now begins the part where I get nit-picky.

Some of the problems I had with this movie might go back to the original animators – for example, the Statue of Liberty is copper and so it should have been copper colored in the film as it was still being made. The statue is green today because as copper is exposed to the weather, it turns green. That one I think is the problem that came over with the movie.

But some of it I blame the dub for. I wish I had had an option to watch this movie with subtitles in the original French; I don’t think a lot of dubs live up to the original. I’m pretty sure this one does not.

When Camille’s mother is chasing Felicie all over the half-finished Statue of Liberty, she recited the poem that is inscribed on the base of the state…and Emma Lazarus didn’t write that poem until the statue was in the states since it was written to help raise money for the pedestal the statue sits on. This error could go to either the writers or the dubbers, though.

One error that I am fairly confident is the fault of the dubbers is the fact that after Victor and Felicie arrive in Paris, Victor makes a joke about speaking in French accent. Really? The movie is supposed to be set in France. What on Earth made the dubbers think that it was a good idea for this character to lampshade the fact that he sounds like an American?

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Right: Felicie. Left: Some guy who couldn’t keep his mouth shut about the fact he’s an American VA pretending to be a French character. Maybe Victor is American ex-pat in the dub?

Compare and contrast “A Monster in Paris” which I adored and which was less obnoxious about the fact it was a dubbed French movie, even though one of the VAs IS French. Helpfully, absolutely no one calls attention to this fact during the movie.

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Pictured: Raoul and Emile from “A Monster in Paris”; both of whom helpfully 1) did not call attention to the fact they sound awfully American for a couple of French guys and 2) did not point out that the heroine, Lucille, sounds French because her VA is French.

It’s amazing how much easier it is to ignore the little inconsistencies when people aren’t pointing them out to you. Some things character can lampshade and it’s funny or it works out okay. A French character lampshading the fact that they’re speaking with French accent for twenty seconds and then an American accent the rest of the movie only brings up one question: Aren’t you supposed to be French?

Another hugely glaring thing here that I think is an original animation thing is the clothing Felicie wears through out the movie. The Eiffel Tower is being constructed in the background of this movie, so that would date the setting to sometime in 1887 or thereabouts. And yet, we get several scenes where Felicie is wearing shorts. When I think of the 1880s, “girls wearing shorts” is not the first thing that comes to my mind. According to this blogger writing on Women and Pants in history, women did wear trousers during the 1800s, but mostly if they were doing hard heavy work such as in coal mines, or working on farms. That’s pretty much what I suspected when I saw the movie: Felicie could have gotten away with shorts on a farm, but even as a housemaid, which is her cover, I’m pretty sure she would have been expected to wear a skirt or dress.

And then we have the very memorable scene where Victor and Felicie go to some kind of bar and she dances on tables…in shorts. To be fair, there are other women there (all of whom are wearing dresses based what I got to see of them), but a preteen girl dancing on tables in a bar. And no one has any problems with this. O-kay…

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She’s also pretty good about posing en pointe in boots, and I was pretty sure you needed special shoes to be able to do that, but I’m not a ballerina, so I don’t know.

Then there are all the interesting things that the movie just kind of glosses over. What is the backstory between Merante and Odette? He seems to care about her, but he’s a dance instructor and she’s a fallen ballerina.

The other thing that I wanted to know more about was the guy at the orphanage who helps keep track of the orphans. He seems in the beginning to be an antagonist to Felicie, but he’s the one who helps Felicie get back to Paris after she’s been sent back to the orphanage.

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We know Felicie’s story. What’s your story, mysterious orphanage warden?

At the end of the movie, the final ballet dance …maybe it’s just the music or maybe they were speeding the dance, but that dance looked like no ballet I’ve ever seen. To be fair, I’ve watched some clips of ballet on YouTube and the entirety of Princess Tutu, and that’s the extent of my knowledge with ballet, but I think that the final dance could have been improved on.

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Just not sure about this final dance.

The endless pop music didn’t help. I’m not saying that you can’t use pop in a movie set in the 1880s, but there was so much of it. Even for the final dance. In Princess Tutu, actually ballet music was used, even in the climactic parts.

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Princess Tutu and Princess Kraehe prove you can have really epic dance-offs set to classical ballet music, too.

I’m not trying to unfairly compare things here. It’s not fair to compare a magical girl ballet anime to a kid’s movie that involves ballet and tries to be realistic. But when it comes to ballet, I do think that Princess Tutu needs to be a point of comparison because of the huge use of ballet and ballet music in it. The music was from real ballets and felt like it fit right in, even for the dramatic moments. Princess Tutu did not have to borrow outside music for the dramatic scenes.

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The penultimate scene of Princess Tutu. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched it, but they didn’t use pop music here either, as I recall.

Both the protagonists of Leap! and Princess Tutu aren’t the greatest at ballet but their passion for it is what makes people take notice.

The setting of Paris, France is the reason I brought the movie A Monster in Paris in, too, which comes with the bonus of being a foreign movie that had to be dubbed and had fewer obvious problems on that front.

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Lucille and Francoeur from A Monster in Paris take in the Eiffel Tower.

The last thing I’ll leave off with is that through the movie Leap, Felicie is constantly asked why she wants to be a ballerina. In the end she decides it’s because her mother is a dancer and dancing keeps her close to her mother, which is a perfectly valid answer, but I was pretty annoyed because why didn’t she just say she loves to dance? Obviously she does. If you love dance or art or music or writing, you don’t have to justify it. Just liking it is enough as far as I’m concerned.

So that’s my take on Leap!. Like I said, not a bad movie, not a movie that parents need to be worried about for their kids to watch, but not a movie I’m really interested in adding to my collection.

I’ll stick with A Monster in Paris and Princess Tutu.

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The story was phenomenal, but I don’t recommend it for children. It had some pretty scary moments.
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This one is more kid-friendly. And the music is great.

First posted image and last two images collected from Google Images. All rights for those three to their owners.

D-Day. June 6, 1944

Stella's Place

74 years ago today, on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, the Allied invasion of Normandy began in Operation Overlord. Better known as D-Day , it was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control, and led to the Allied victory in the West.

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944. American soldiers encountered the newly formed German 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing two-thirds of Company E became casualties.

History.com:

In November 1943, Adolf Hitler, who was aware of the threat of an invasion along France’s northern coast, put Erwin Rommel in charge of spearheading defense operations in the region, even though…

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Podcast Review: This Sounds Serious

I’m late, like two months late, but let’s pick up where we left off and keep going.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been more into radio than television; I’d rather have something I can turn on and listen too while I do other things rather than something I have to watch. I still love a good movie or retro TV show episode from time to time, but I listen to a lot of podcasts these days more than I watch TV, and since I used to watch a lot of true crime TV shows, I like to listen to True Crime Podcasts.

I was listening to Casefile True Crime the other day, and they were running an ad (oh, yeah, podcasts ads tend to be a lot less disruptive than TV ads) for this fake true crime podcast called This Sounds Serious. That intrigued me enough to listen to the first episode, and I was hooked.

Warning: the following synopsis may contain spoilers for the first three episodes of the show.

This Sounds Serious follows a podcaster as they investigate the mysterious death of Chuck Bronstadt, a local weatherman down in Florida who’s famous in his community. You would think that a man drowning in his waterbed would be an accidental death but apparently suspicion was cast on his twin brother, Daniel Bronstadt.

Gwen Radford, our intrepid protagonist-slash-investigative podcast, might spend a little too much time listening to 9-1-1 calls. She might be the only person on planet earth who cares about the fact that 9-1-1 calls are public record. For the most part, the 9-1-1 calls I listen to in the other podcasts are definitely the part that drags the most. So listening to Daniel’s ADD 9-1-1 call was a hilarious change.

Gwen becomes obsessed with Daniel’s phone call to Emergency services and decides to go talk to Daniel, down in Florida. This sounds like a bad idea, but as it turns out once Gwen gets to talk to him, Daniel Bronstadt is a seemingly harmless and rather eccentric nut. Born into a loving family, had his parent die as a teenager, and then raised by his grandparents. He and his twin brother got up to the usual identical twin shenanigans: pretending to be each other, starting a band, pranking people.

Things take a turn for the sour between the brothers when Chuck gets married, settles down, and goes to meteorology school. Daniel pretends to be his brother and spends a weekend with his brother’s wife, which pretty much ends the marriage.

Daniel goes to join a cult at some point during his brother’s marriage. The cult  of the Mandala wanted to resurrect the lost city of Atlantis, but, as it turns out, the cult leader just wanted people to give him money, so he started a cult that Daniel ending up joining.

The podcast is still in-progress but I predict that the outcome at the end of the show will be that either this is some lucid dream that Gwen is having, or that Chuck has been pretending to be Daniel the whole time so that he could escape the stress of everyday life and Daniel is the one who got killed. But I’ll stay tuned and see what  developed, and if you like true crime podcasts, or humor podcasts, or humor and true crime, I urge you to tune in.  You won’t be disappointed.

Click here for the This Sounds Serious website where you can listen to it for yourself.

White Rose, Black Forest

I have been writing a story set in WWII and because of that, I’ve spent a lot more time lately reading books that are set in WWII. So, when I saw Black Rose, White Forest I was interested in it enough to buy it. Plus, in the First Reads program, it wasn’t too expensive, so I decided to go for it.

The story revolves around Franka, a German woman who in beginning supports the Nazi regime, but as time goes on she begins to hate it, a feeling brought to total fruition by the death of her handicapped younger brother at the hands of the Nazis. She falls in with the resistance group the White Rose, hence where we get the first half of the title from.

When the White Rose is broken up and the conspirators are arrested, Franka ends up going to jail. To keep from being executed, she throws the other conspirators under the bus and pretends that she was merely swept away by their actions, not that she ever believed them. She is released after her jail sentence, but by that point her father, her last remaining family member, is dead, and Franka believes that she has nothing left to live for.

She goes to the family’s cabin in the Black forest (here’s where the second half of the title comes from) where she plans to end her life, but before she can do that, an injured soldier lands in the woods, injured after an awkward parachute landing.

Franka takes the man in. He seems at first to be a Luftwaffe officer, but is later revealed to be an American spy in Germany to retrieve secrets around a nuclear weapons project that Germany is working on.

John is already an experienced soldier by the time he crash-lands in the Black Forest and breaks both legs. He’d seen combat in the Pacific theater before being approached about taking a new job in espionage work due to his fluency in German. Now that he’s held up at Franka’s cabin, he convinces her to help him in his work to retrieve the information.

But due to the suspicion surrounding Franka and her past as a criminal in Nazi Germany, people question her behavior, and everything takes a turn for the serious when people start taking their suspicions about her to the Gestapo.

I don’t want to say too much more about the story, because it was a good story and I did enjoy it but there are a couple of issues I had with it.

First, on page 192, John and Franka are having a discussion about the morality of people having a superweapon that can destroy entire cities. Franka’s resistance to the Allies having the weapon doesn’t seem to carry a lot of water after what she’s been through at the hands of Nazi Germany. It would have made more sense that she doesn’t want either side to have the information, and I can see being concerned for her country, but she knows what the Nazis did to her brother and she is resistant to the idea that the Nazis should not have a superweapon. Her rationale isn’t well explained and so as a reader I don’t understand it very well.

The second issue comes a few pages earlier, on 189, where John, sending Franka in his place because he can’t go, hears that the German city she was sent to was bombed by the Allies, and he bemoans the fact that he “sent her into the jaws of the Allied beast.” This instance was even more jarring to me as a reader than the first instance. I wanted to ask which side of the war this guy was on. He does admit later on down that page that she knew the risks, but his reaction at the first news doesn’t come across so much as “Oh no, I hope she’s okay” as much as it’s cursing out the Allies for trying to win the war.

Other than that, I did like this book and I do recommend it. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the ending. Check it out for yourself on Amazon.

Resurrection Sunday, 2018

The Resurrection

20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

(John 20, BibleGateway.com )

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“When everything gets so complicated, who do I chose to believe?

Religion can be so overrated, all I know is not I am free!” – Eleventyseven, Love in Your Arms

Good Friday, 2018

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.[d] But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

(From John 19, BibleGateway.com)

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Jars of Clay – Liquid