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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident reviews on Goodreads

Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident review on Goodreads

Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken IncidentOperation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident by Joseph McGarry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hi everyone. This is my book. I normally don't like this, but I thought this might help promote the book. I won't say too much about the book here. I don't want to reveal any spoilers.

I am looking for reviewers to get legit reviews. Email me at if you're interested. It's in PDF format only. When you get done, please post the review at My only rules are to acknowledge that you received a free copy in exchange for the review, and not to share your copy with anyone else. The book won't be on Amazon or B&N until mid to late February.

FYI, I rated the book 5 stars so I could recommend it to others on Goodreads. They require 4 or 5 stars to recommend it to others. I will let others decide how good it is. I could say it's the greatest novel since War and Peace, but most people would discount that. I know I would. Read it and decide for yourself.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Operation Mermaid by Joseph McGarry

Operation Mermaid

by Joseph McGarry

Giveaway ends February 15, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway
Giveaway is live January 6, 2016 - February 15, 2016.

Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident is live!

Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident is now live on for pre-order.  This is the new cover. I have to check the final proof, but that shouldn't take long. I have two editions, paperback and hardcover. Purchase links are below. It should be on Amazon and B&N at the end of February.




It is May 2026 when a strange anomaly transforms thousands of women around the world into mermaids. As Homeland Security agents begin investigating, they record their observations in a classified United States government report. There is no question that Operation Mermaid, originally founded in 1949, is back in full swing. Days later as several mermaids practice swimming in the open water, one finds a relic inside a shipwreck. Inside are plans for an abandoned Cold War era weapon known as Project Kraken. As a scientist’s true identity is revealed, a Second Transformation rocks the world, increasing the size and scope of the mermaid population once again. As relationships change between mermaids, sirens, and the government, only time will tell if a worldwide disaster has been averted. In this intriguing science fiction tale, the lives of newly-initiated mermaids are intertwined with a failed Cold War project, leaving government agents to solve a complex puzzle.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident

Sorry I've been gone for a while. I've been working on my book, Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident. I have some great news.

I got the proof the other day. So excited! I sent the revisions back. They were mostly typos. I changed a few words here and there, but nothing major. When you get the proof, major revisions are out.

They also did the cover. I had made a preliminary cover, but I knew I would have to change it. My cover was cut and paste from Google. I thought they did a good job. Minor text revisions, just typos, but otherwise good.

I have ISBN numbers and barcodes now. I have to look at a second round of proofs before it is ready to go. I've talked to my local bookstore about a signing, but they told me to wait until I had the book published.

My question is this: Do I release it right away, or do I wait until January? It might be ready before Christmas, but I think a lot of things get lost in the shuffle. Any thoughts on this, especially from those who have already published?

Here is the link to my Facebook page about my book.

In case you're wondering, they sent me the picture as a low-res PDF, so I will have to post that as a separate document.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Pet Should I Get?

What Pet Should I Get?What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: Some reviewers would try to do their review in the style of Dr Seuss. To respect his memory, I won't even try.

This summer, two books were released that had the same characteristics. Both were by well-known best-selling authors, both were long-lost manuscripts, both were written in the 1950's. But while one book, Go Set a Watchman, was released with hype not seen since Harry Potter, this book was released with much less fanfare.

According to the back of the book, the manuscript of this book was discovered in a box of papers by Dr Seuss' daughter. Dr Seuss, who died in 1991, had apparently started the project, then put it away. The estate of Dr Seuss decided to finish the project and publish it, with much less controversy than Go Set a Watchman. The main things that needed to be finished were the illustrations, which had limited notes from Dr Seuss. Using his other books written about that time, the illustrations were finished, and the book was published.

There isn't much of a plot to this book, but I don't think anyone really expects much of a plot in a Dr Seuss book. Two books of his that were turned into feature films, Cat in the Hat and Grinch, needed to pad the story quite a bit to stretch it to 2 hours. Even the TV specials needed to add music sequences to get a respectable length. I wonder what would happen to this book on TV.

At any rate, the plot, such as it is, revolves around a brother and sister who go to the pet store. Dad has promised to pay for one pet, but no more. Mom said to be home by noon. When the kids get to the store, they fall in love with all the pets. They can't decide. "We need to pick one, or else we may wind up with none!" *Spoiler alert* At the end, they pick a pet and go home. Dr Seuss doesn't say which pet they pick. All we see is a pink basket with two eyes peeking out. The back cover has four animals, each with a check mark next to it. It's an invitation for the kids to pick their own and discuss why.

The publisher notes that this book is a product of its times )the 1950s). Back in the 50s, kids went to a pet store to pick out their pets. Today, it is recommended that kids go to an animal shelter to adopt a rescue. The publisher even supports this, but left the book as Dr Seuss wrote it.

A second thing that makes this a product of its times. The kids are sent to the store by themselves, with the only instruction from Mom to be home by noon. The parents aren't in any of the illustrations, so I assume they're at home (or in the case of Dad, at work. This was the 50s, after all.) This brought to mind the parents in Maryland who let their kids walk home 2 miles from school. They were charged with child neglect and had their kids taken away from them. Even when I was in school, walking home was nothing. As I said, this book is a product of its times.

The book notes that the kids in this book look exactly like the kids in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. The book wonders if this book could have been prep work for One Fish. We'll never know. All in all, another great book by Dr Seuss. If you have kids, read this along with them. Ask them what kind of pet they would get.

As for me, I had a Chihuahua mix, Waldo growing up. Right now I live in an apartment that doesn't allow pets, so I haven't even thought about it. I may revisit this in the future.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Antonia

My ÁntoniaMy Ántonia by Willa Cather
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Cambridge, MN, Public Library reading group.

I used to live in Sioux City, IA, right on the Nebraska border. I've driven west on Interstate 80 through Nebraska, which is the only interstate in Nebraska outside the Omaha-Lincoln metro area. There is a lot of nothing out there. You can drive for miles and miles and not see anything but fields. Its not much better off I-80. I thought of this when Willa Cather described the Nebraska plains in My Antonia. (Because of the restraints of this program, I've eliminated the diacriticals and accents.)

My Antonia is Willa Cather's 3rd novel about her time in Nebraska. It is told through the perspective of Jim Burden, who was sent as a boy from Virginia to Black Hawk, Nebraska to live with his grandparents. He worked on a farm in the mid-19th century. While there, he meets the Shimerda family from Bohemia, and their daughter, Antonia. Jim is enlisted to teach Antonia English. Life on the farm was hard, and the Shimerda family was not equipped to handle it. Jim meets two Russian men who also are trying to farm. They can't make it either. In their case, they were essentially run out of town in Russia. They were driving a sled as part of a wedding party. They drove the bride and groom. On the way home, they were attacked by wolves. They threw off the bride and groom to save themselves.

In Part 2 of the book, Jim and Antonia go to town to work. They do this to get more money for the farm. The dance tent comes to town, and with it a realization that they're growing up. Antonia eventually moves to the house of Wick Cutter, ome of the most notorious money lenders in town. One night, he tries to rape her, only to find that Jim has taken her place. Wick attacks Jim, who escapes. Antonia comes by the next day to retrieve her things.

In Part 3, Jim has moved to the University of Nebraska. He encounters Lena Lingard, who is now a successful dressmaker in Lincoln. There appears to be a romance brewing, until Lena says she never wishes to marry. When one of his professors, Gaston Cleric, receives an offer to teach at Harvard, Jim goes with him.

The final segment is 20 years later. Jim, now a successful lawyer in New York, stops by Black Hawk on his way back from San Francisco. Antonia is married, with 6 kids. She was supposed to marry one man, but he left town before the wedding, but not before getting her pregnant. She is now managing the farm, which has become quite successful.

The book read more like a series of short stories than a novel. It seemed like there were few connections from one story to the next. It reminded me of a TV series. Her desctiptions of life on the Nebraska prairie made it come to life. This book was published in 1918, just as this life was ending, and the US was entering World War I. At the time, there were a lot of her who could still remember what life was like back then. It does have its flaws. Her description of a black piano player uses words that would be banned today. It is a product of its time, like Mark Twain using the N-word in Huckleberry Finn. All in all, a great novel, and one deserving of the title American classic.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Much Ado About Nothing as performed by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN

Much Ado About Nothing (Barnes & Noble Shakespeare)Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a review of the performance by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN.

Think of the couples on TV with sexual tension. Sam and Diane on Cheers, Ross and Rachel on Friends, Booth and Bones on Bones, Castle and Beckett on Castle. They all have their roots in this play, Much Ado About Nothing (which could be the subtitle for Seinfeld).

This version of the play is set in Italy in the early 20th century. The war is over, and the troops, led by Don Pedro, are coming home. They all meet at the house of Leonato, the governor, who lives there with his sister, Antonia, and his daughter, Hero. Among the troops is Claudio, who wants to marry Leonato's daughter, Hero. Also is Benedick, who has a tortured history with Beatrice. Also along is Don John, Don Pedro's brother and loser of the recent war. Leonato invites them all to stay at the mansion.

While there, Don Pedro agrees to not pursue Hero since Claudio is in love with her. Don Pedro also convinces Leonato and Claudio to convince Benedick, who has vowed never to get married, that he is in love with Beatrice. Chris Gerson gives a great performance here, doing everything he can to hide from the three men. They sing a song, they cut out and Benedick goes ahead. Classic. Meanwhile, Antonia and Beatrice's attendants work on convincing Beatrice that she is in love with Benedick. This all comes to a head at the masquerade ball, when Beatrice says things about Benedick to a masked Benedick not realizing who it is. Beatrice calls him the prince's jester.

Meanwhile, Don John is plotting to disrupt Claudio's marriage to Hero. Borachio has a plan where he will have Margaret meet him on the balcony while Don Pedro and Claudio watch. Borachio will call Margaret "Hero", and Margaret will respond. In this production, they dramatized this scene. Then it was intermission.

After intermission, we meet Dogberry the constable, who is incapable of speaking a coherent sentence. (Sounds like some politicians I know.) He readies the watch. At the wedding, Claudio accuses Hero of infidelity. Hero collapses, and Don Pedro and Claudio leave. Hero then wakes up. The Friar suggests that Hero pretend to be dead, so the truth can be flushed out. Everyone agrees. Borachio is walking through town and tells his friend about the whole scheme. The watch hears this, and takes Borachio into custody. Dogberry intervenes and wants everyone to know that he is an ass. Claudio is upset by Hero's death, and agrees to marry Antonio's daughter, who is the exact copy of Hero. At the wedding, the bride turns out to be Hero. Beatrice and Benedick finally proclaim their love for each other. And everyone lives happily ever after.

First of all, even though the play is set in Italy, no one tries to fake an Italian accent. It can be hard to do without sounding like a stereotype. It would have distracted from the play. Excellent performances all around. Start with Chris Gerson and Tarah Flanagan, who are married in real life, as Benedick and Beatrice. They do a great job of letting the chemistry between them simmer below the surface until the right time. Given all the remakes with these two characters, we know that the more they fight, the more they know they love each other. Michael Fitzpatrick as Leonato is great too, and gives off an aura of leadership. Stephanie Lambourn as Hero lets the confusion come out. Hero doesn't know what's going on. Brian White is great as Claudio, who is in love with Hero but doesn't know how to express it. Andrew Carlson is great as Don Pedro, who tricks Benedick into proclaiming his love for Beatrice. And one last shout out for Chris Mixon as Dogberry, who convinces everyone that he is an ass. All in all, a great performance.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Romeo & Juliet as performed by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN

Romeo and JulietRomeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This a review of the performance at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN.

Romeo & Juliet. One of Shakespeare's most famous plays. I believe this and Hamlet are the two most widely performed plays in the US. The story of star-crossed lovers has become a timeless classic. It has been filmed many times, including Franco Zeferelli's 1968 film, and the 1997 version featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, where the setting is the late 1990s in Verona Beach, California. It has been rewritten numerous times, the most famous of which is Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. The star-crossed lovers concept is quite frequent. Danny and Sandy in Grease, Prince Eric and Princess Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid (although that one had some biological issues as well), Shrek and Fiona in Shrek. Most rewrites do eliminate the double suicide at the end, however. The balcony scene is one of the most recognizable scenes in literature, and also one of the most parodied. Because of all this, I won't bother to summarize the plot. I won't even worry about spoilers.

Director Doug Scholz-Carlson said that this is a fun play, until it's not. That's how the play is set, in 2 parts. Part 1 is the fun part. It starts with a duel, reminiscent of West Side Story. The choreography comes across as a cross between West Side Story and the old Batman TV series. I almost expected a POW! or BAN! to flash across the stage. This is enhanced by the music of Mike Munson. The time is the late 1940s-early 1950s. The party is a blast, everyone swinging and having a great time. The costumes are a cross between West Side Story and Mad Men. When we see the balcony scene, Romeo, played by Benjamin Boucvalt, comes across as painfully shy, and doesn't know what to say. He's coming out of a relationship with Rosalyn, who is becoming a nun. (It's hard to compete with God.) It isn't until Juliet, played by Caroline Amos, professes her love for Romeo on the balcony scene that he has the courage to come forward. They get married in secret by Friar Lawrence, but have to separate. Juliet has to go back to her father, or else people will wonder where she is. Part 1 ends with the death of Mercutio, and the murder of Tybalt by Romeo. That's when the "not" kicks in.

Part 2 starts with the Prince investigating the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio. Tybalt's body is at the front of the stage, with a large amount of blood on his shirt. Romeo is banished. He goes to Friar Lawrence to hide. There was an unexpected moment of humor when Friar Lawrence opened the gate. The gate came off its hinges. When he tried to shut it, it wouldn't shut properly. We all knew it was a blooper, but we went along with it. (There's talk that this may stay in the play.) The nurse arranges for Romeo and Juliet to spend one night together. Eventually, there is the double suicide. Juliet takes a drink that gives simulated death for 42 hours. Caroline Amos does a great job of going into convulsions, as I believe any actual drug would do. I've seen too many performances where Juliet takes the drink and goes right to sleep. Romeo eventually finds her body, and takes the poison, again going into convulsions. Juliet wakes up, and stabs herself with the knife. Kudos to Caroline for staying under the sheet for that long.

I thought this was an excellent performance. Chris Gerson, as the Prince, Peter, and the Chorus does a great job mastering all 3 roles. Michael Fitzpatrick as Friar Lawrence gave a great performance, with good counsel in some areas, poor in others. One thing I thought of, if this happened today, Friar Lawrence could just text Romeo that Juliet was only faking. To make it work, Romeo would have to be out of cell range, so he couldn't get the message. Benjamin Boucvalt as Romeo gave a very nuanced performance as Romeo. Tarah Flanagan as the nurse and Rosemary Brownlow as Lady Capulet were excellent in their performances. To me, the best was Caroline Amos as Juliet. This is her first performance on the Main Stage, after some years in the Apprentice Company. If you didn't know that, you couldn't tell. She played the part of Juliet with fire. She jumped in and sang at the party (great singing voice, by the way). She wanted to be somebody who had the guts to take the poison. It was an excellent performance, and I expect her to be on the Main Stage for many years to come. Mike Munson's music definitely set the stage for the production. He even wrote an original song for it. All in all, a great performance.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Glass Menagrie as performed by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN

The Glass MenagerieThe Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a review of the performance by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN.

Just about every year, the Festival does a non-Shakespeare performance in addition to its two Shakespeare plays. This year the selection was a classic of American theater, The Glass Menagerie. It tells the story of the Wingfields, who were displaced from Mississippi to St Louis. Tom is a writer who works in a warehouse, but dreams of more. His mom, Amanda, can be very domineering. She wistfully remembers the Old South she grew up in. Tom's sister, Laura, has a walking impediment. She likes to take care of her glass menagerie. Laura is also painfully shy. Her mother is trying to find a gentleman caller for her, so that Laura has someone to take care of her. The gentleman caller turns out to be Jim, an old high school classmate of Laura's. I won't say any more because of spoilers.

The atmosphere is very melancholy. The set design made the family feel cramped. There was no way out. The father had left 16 years before. His picture, like his legacy, hangs large over the stage. It reminded me of Big Brother from George Orwell's 1984. The dinner scenes used pantomime to mimic eating, reminiscent of Our Town. The play is set in the 1930s, during the height (or is it the depths?) of the Great Depression, when America was at its lowest, and things were stirring up all over the world. Given that this premiered in 1944, during World War II, audiences back then would have remembered it all too well.

The cast was great. Stephanie Lambourn was excellent as Laura. She portrayed the shyness of Laura with incredible depth, making her seem just as fragile as the menagerie she loves so much. She is just as breakable as they are. John Maltese is great as Tom, who narrates the story as a flashback. He is even nicknamed "Shakespeare" at work, which makes this even more appropriate for the Festival. He is at odds with his mother, but he still loves her. Andrew Carlson is great as Jim, the gentleman caller who brings Laura out of her shell. He strikes the right balance between the super outgoing guy and the gentle soul that can draw out Laura. The biggest role was Leslie Brott as Amanda. Her performance is not totally domineering, but rather a woman who wants what she had, and wants everyone else to help her in that. She brings a certain level of humor, to avoid having this play be too depressing. Some of the banter between Tom and Amanda reminds me of Howard and his mother on The Big Bang Theory.

The one negative I found in this production was too much silence. I realize silence is important to set the mood, but I felt there should have been something to fill in. It made the play drag on too long.

All in all, an excellent performance. Someone commented that there was a sense of hope at the end of the play. I don't know if that's totally true. The characters in the play didn't know it, but World War II was coming soon. *Spoiler Alert* Tom would either have enlisted or been drafted if he had not gone into the merchant marine. Amanda and Laura would still be in that apartment together, waiting for something that might never happen. The only sense of hope is that Tom is narrating this, which means he did not die in the war. We may never know.

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