Archives: Reviews

Review: Guys and Dolls

What are your favorite musicals? …The ones you go back to time after time–movie versions, revivals, whatever form?

To date, my list sits short and sweet: Singin’ in the Rain, Holiday Inn, Les Miserables, and Guys and Dolls.


So when a local production company rolled out their version of Guys and Dolls, the classic comedy musical flush with the shenanigans of high rollers in New York, I was all over it.

True, this version’s heritage runs long and laud-worthy. The 1950s movie starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando reigns as my favorite. And the soundtrack for the 1992 Broadway revival stands the test of time.

That’s a high bar.

I can say gleefully that the cast of the Brownwood Lyric Theatre’s Guys and Dolls more than held their own. From the sets and costumes to the actors and their vocal performances, this version impressed. Bigger-city theatres would be proud to produce a musical of this quality.

Equally impressive stands the Lyric theater itself. A star of Brownwood, Texas from 1914, last year it celebrated its 100th anniversary and unveiled a massive renovation. The theater is gorgeous, and central Texas can count itself lucky to enjoy such a beautiful theater boasting standout perfomances. Read more here: Lyric’s reopening

How about you? Do you like musicals? Which ones?


Review: Gilbert Morris’ A Bright Tomorrow

Once a month I offer a review– usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction, sometimes movies/TV. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk!

Gilbert Morris stands as one of Christian fiction’s most prolific writers. Still going strong in his mid-eighties, he’s given us sweeping family sagas and numerous standalone novels. A Bright Tomorrow, the first in the American Century Series takes the spotlight this month.


Rating: 4 out of 5 mochas

What it’s about: Rural Arkansas at the turn of the 20th century can’t contain the ambitions of three teenagers. Lylah, Amos, and Owen Stuart lead their large clan as the oldest siblings. Their mother strives valiantly to grow a godly family, but their father’s wandering ways leave the others to shoulder the backbreaking work.

Circumstances draw the three away from the farm to far-flung corners of the country–and the world. Each takes very different paths to find their destinies. Readers lay down roots in New York, storm San Juan Hill in Cuba, infiltrate China, and witness bulging circus tents across the country. And God fills every place with His love and mercy.

You might like this if you like: Family sagas, turn-of-the-century history

What I’ve liked: Gilbert Morris excels at conjuring vivid characters. Each is not simply sketched; they’re painted in striking detail. Speaking of details, Morris does his historical homework, assuring his readers of an accurate read.

I’m not crazy about: This is merely nit-picky. However, the writing style in this story uses conventions that were more common to the earlier days of Christian fiction. For example, “head hopping” (hearing the thoughts of more than one character within one scene) is a common occurrence. Having said that, as a writer myself I’d take Morris’ track record any day–minor infractions or not.

The bottom line: The first in this series, A Bright Tomorrow sets up the saga well, and I look forward to following the Stuart family for fictional years to come.

What about you? If you had lived at the turn of the 20th century, what historical event or person would you have wanted to see in person?


Review: Whisper on the Wind

Once a month I offer a review– usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction, sometimes movies/TV. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk!

This month we’ll whisk away to World War I in Belgium, 1916, in Maureen Lang’s Whisper on the Wind.


Rating: 5 out of 5 mochas

What it’s about: Isa and Edward have known each other forever. Now the terrifying German army occupying their homeland makes this war feel like it’ll go on forever. Can they operate their underground resistance newspaper and survive? Will it bring them together or will the war tear them apart?

You might like this if you like: Historical fiction in general, Downton Abby, the movie Swing Kids (even though it’s about World War II)

What I’ve liked: Whisper on the Wind sticks with the reader long after “The End.” I read this, oh, maybe two years ago. Even now I see the streets of their Belgian city and feel the desperate tension from the deadly enemy’s occupation and all-seeing eyes. Lang combines vivid detail and action with the emotion of well-developed characters. This is one of those stories that makes you feel like you have an idea of what it was like to live during this terrible time. It also illustrates inspiring bravery and heroism borne from necessity.

I’m not crazy about: Maureen Lang can’t help this, but I didn’t like that real people had to endure such conditions during this war. It’s sobering, but we can’t ignore what happened.

The bottom line: I’m so glad I picked up Whisper on the Wind. Lang wove a rich tapestry of story featuring characters who mirrored real-life homeland heroes.

What about you? Do stories based on real events, like this book, draw you or make you shy away?


Review: Red River of the North Series, Books 1-3

Once a month I offer a review– usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction, sometimes movies/TV. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk!

Dakota Territory, late 1800s. Would you have what it takes to scratch a living out of an unforgiving but fertile land? We’re talking about Lauraine Snelling‘s sweeping fictional saga of the Bjorkland family and their fellow pioneers in her Red River of the North series. So far I’ve finished the first three books, beginning with An Untamed Land.


Rating: 5 out of 5 mochas

What it’s about: A family of five–two brothers and their wives, plus one young son–strike out from Norway for a new life on the the American frontier. The land, the language, and the challenges of survival throw constant tests in their path. Yet they persevere and grow. Years pass, bringing heartache, success, and more family and friends to share their new life.

The main character, Ingeborg, and her sister-in-law Kaaren provide the strong, consistent thread through every story. Along the way, they are joined by other pioneers and other family from Nordland (Norway) literally following in their footsteps. A couple of recent spin-off series, due to reader demand, continue the legacy that Snelling began writing in the 1990s.

You might like this if you like: Historical fiction, the Little House on the Prairie stories, or multi-generational fiction series

What I’ve liked: It’s been awhile since I’ve stumbled onto a good series that scratched a literary itch I have: a series that invites us along as a family traverses good times and bad over a span of years. Multi-book stories like this often feel more realistic, more natural. We experience the big picture, one story at a time. It reminds me of the big picture of which we’re all a part; today’s drama isn’t the end of the story.

Kudos to Snelling for immersing the reader in a vivid, well-researched story world. …But even more than that, I’ve loved her almost-poetic style. Here’s one example, when Ingeborg worries over her injured son.

She could feel peace tiptoe into the room, shy as a fawn. As long as she hummed, it drew closer and wrapped her in its arms. It stole across the little boy, circled the old woman, and wrapped the others, too, in its warmth. Ingeborg knew with all her heart that if she turned quickly enough, she would see Jesus himself, or one of His angels, standing right behind her shoulder.                  – From Book 4, The Reapers’ Song

I’m not crazy about: Detailed history of the frontier isn’t for the squeamish. Occasional scenes give us a front row seat to necessities like hog butchering. These are seldom, though.

The bottom line: I recommend this series highly for those who want to settle in and get to know a family. Each book could be read as stand-alones, but it’s much more satisfying to become invested over the long-haul.

What about you? If you were a pioneer in America in the 1800s, where do you think you’d like to settle?