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Profile for S. J. Ziegler > Reviews


S. J. Ziegler's Profile

Customer Reviews: 20
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Reviews Written by
S. J. Ziegler "Young Adult Fiction Author" RSS Feed (Kongsberg, Norway)

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The Dead Fathers Club
The Dead Fathers Club
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Piece of Work, but... Not Funny, May 26, 2013
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I hope it doesn't spoil the story for anyone to point out it is a retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet. This fact seems to be widely known, and it was my reason for reading it. The book is required reading for 7th Grade students in my school who are studying the famous play, and experimenting with retellings. It is a fine piece of literature, although I had some problems with it.

For one, it seemed to take forever to get through, and it wasn't packed with enjoyment (like a lot of literature that ends up in classrooms). Matt Haig explored the story of Hamlet closely and with painful depth. Part of me wanted him to deviate from Shakespeare's tragic plot (and I won't say whether he did or did not) even though I was amused at how cleverly he created characters to recast in the roles. Distractedly, I imagined Haig writing himself into a trap where he couldn't stop mirroring Hamlet, and wishing he could follow another objective. Even with my misgivings, the artist earned the 4 stars.

Haig let himself take considerable poetic freedom in the layout of text and frequent absence of punctuation, which certainly required some craftsmanship. I was thrown off a little by his changes of tense, however, because I felt he must have been aware he was doing it, and I didn't understand the purpose for it. A writer with Haig's skill was certainly making careful choices, so the tense switches were a puzzle to solve. Yes, the first-person storyteller was a young boy with a simple voice, but the tense variations weren't consistent, so I felt as though I must have missed something.

I was fairly satisfied with the ending, nevertheless, but almost sensed I could hear the author say, "There! I'm glad that's done!"

The Giver (Giver Quartet)
The Giver (Giver Quartet)
by Lois Lowry
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
427 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful in the Classroom, April 2, 2013
As an English teacher I often have to develop units of study around existing class texts. The Giver is a good utilitarian book for a young adult program that might include an introduction to utopian / dystopian concepts. We trot it out with Animal Farm and it gives us material for discussion. On the down side, I've not seen students who actually enjoy reading it, which makes it a classroom workbook. It's a big success in YA literature and not in danger of going out of print, and this review will disappear among thousands of raves, yet I feel badly for not touting Lois Lowry, who has earned great success with it.

I do use her book, but to make the unit more lively I'll add the Kurt Vonnegut Jr. short story, Harrison Bergeron, which can be found for free in an internet search. My students might even analyze the lyrics to, The Big Rock Candy Mountain (where life was a perfect utopia, but they "hung the jerk who invented work").

This is a good story told at a suspenseful pace, and it includes some engaging emotional elements that can capture the interest of young readers in spikes. Overall, it doesn't have the magic an English teacher looks for in teaching children to love books. As an adult I can analyze it and appreciate why it's good, but if kids don't enjoy a book, that must also be considered.

by Louis Sachar
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.00
604 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique and Satisfying Part of an English Curriculum, April 1, 2013
This review is from: Holes (Paperback)
As an English teacher in International Schools I frequently have to recommend class sets of YA novels. With perfect craft and delightful imagination, Louis Sachar connected his characters seamlessly to previous generations full of exotic long-gone characters and ancestors. It suggests, "We are all invisibly connected to our ancestors in ways that might surprise us--which likewise implies our actions have future unimaginable consequences." These are good discussion concepts.

Inspired by the reading, students in my classes interview family members and write a biography of an ancestor who might otherwise disappear into obscurity. Kids write interview questions, conduct interviews with relatives, take notes, and document a family personality through the memories of others--with photographs where possible. Parents have expressed enthusiastic appreciation for encouraging interest in capturing an otherwise vanishing part of the family lore. Several kids in one of my classes actually discovered they had family who served in the same division in WWII.

Kids enjoy reading Holes, which is not the case with many of the ubiquitous novels that appear in discouraged looking rows in middle grade to young adult classrooms. If you do "in class" readings with this book, you'll have difficulty controlling the kids who secretly read ahead, and you may have a fight getting the novels back at the end of a class.

Heart Beat
Heart Beat
DVD ~ John Larroquette, Nick Nolte, Ray Sharkey, Sissy Spacek, Steve Allen, Tony Bill John Heard
Price: $14.99
24 used & new from $7.78

5.0 out of 5 stars A must see for Beat Generation fans, January 26, 2013
This review is from: Heart Beat (DVD)
The Beat Generation was the precursor to the subsequent 60s, 70s and beyond. Jack Kerouac's, On The Road, was a debut novel that hit as powerfully as the debut work of Henry Miller in transforming an age. Neal Cassady provided Kerouac, and a few other beat writers, with something to write about. They were lucky to know him, and he stands as a cultural icon of the times. Neal Cassady might have become who he was based partly on his proximity to literary genius, but the highway ran both ways.

This film takes a peek into a cultural vortex in American history. Allen Ginsberg helped Neal to produce his "First Third" novel, the title of which indicates the small percentage of life Neal was destined to have, and Carolyn Cassady no doubt benefited from Ginsberg's influence as well with such reflections as her autobiographical, Heart Beat: My Life With Jack and Neal, leading to this movie script by John Byrum. The nit-picking reviews should be ignored. It's not a film that rocked Hollywood, but if you care about this subject it's worth seeing.

Nick Nolte made a cool and believable Neal.

Heart Beat: My Life With Jack and Neal
On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

The Black Stiletto: Black & White: A Novel
The Black Stiletto: Black & White: A Novel
Price: $5.38

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Accomplishment, I hope there will be more, July 26, 2012
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The Black Stiletto, Black and White was even more engrossing than the introductory book to the series, which is how it should be when a series works well. It is an enjoyable and exciting read, and a literary accomplishment.

The author switches smoothly between voices, points-of-view, and time periods, drawing extensively from dramatic epistolary material (the Stiletto's diaries) as the central vehicle. She is a formidable heroine an open-minded voice of her time, and yet full of youthful innocence. Throughout these two books, along with enjoying the story, I've seen the characters drawing together, as if the gap of decades is collapsing and their connections to the adventures bring them closer and closer to living the same moment. This is a sample of experienced storytelling and literary craftsmanship.

We, as readers, are living through a strange and often sad period of publishing. Great stories are not being printed due to economics and increasing timidity. Publishers under stress are heaving the burden of promotion onto the shoulders of writers (who are writers and not sales people). It's up to readers to tell each other what's good.

I recommend this series and I hope the conservative nature of publishing won't be a force that keeps too many good books from getting to us. I'm hoping Mr. Benson would like to continue the story. I've written this review to help pass the word. More Stiletto would be great.

Northwoods Springdale Men's 21-Speed Hybrid Bicycle, 700c
Northwoods Springdale Men's 21-Speed Hybrid Bicycle, 700c
Price: $189.99
5 used & new from $130.70

29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pedals and housings fatally flawed; Overall design has a bad feel., May 24, 2012
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The pedal housings and the threads on the pedals seem to be made of some kind of soft metal. I read the warnings about the pedals from other reviewers, but they were mixed and I was hoping others had just been clumsy in how they assembled theirs. No matter how careful and skilled a mechanic you are, it's unlikely you can prevent the pedals from stripping out and falling off. But that's not the only thing wrong with it.

The overall design is incorrect. The designers didn't seem to follow standard guidelines on the shape.

It didn't feel right from the first time I used it. The overall length feels shortened so banking is not graceful but feels awkward and unsafe. The relationship between the seat and the pedals feels wrong. The seat is too close to the handlebars. The feel is strange and unpleasant compared to all the bikes I've ever ridden, and I have respectable experience including cross-country.

I was very gentle in using this. I only had a chance to ride it on paved roads in a small town a few times before I had to leave the country for nine months and it stayed in a garage. I checked it out when I returned recently and used it for a few days, again on paved roads. The pedal began to wobble and fell off. The threads are completely gone. The bike still looks brand new and I have to junk it.

It's too late to get my money back, but maybe I can save others a $200 mistake.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2015 8:45 AM PDT

The Black Stiletto: A Novel
The Black Stiletto: A Novel
Price: $5.38

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Experience, March 2, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., in lectures to writers, said above all an author must be a fun date. He said authors are asking readers out for a length of time and promising a good time. I had a great time on this date.

A sense of caution prevents me from writing too much about the changing time periods, and the variation in Point of View the author had to contend with in crafting this, except to say he did it all exceptionally smoothly. Each time I dug in for a good session of reading, I found there was no lull in energy and I kept going from chapter to chapter until I was too tired to continue holding the book.

One feature of the story I will risk mentioning is the setting. It took me to Manhattan in the late fifties. I just adore this time period in the US, and because I lived in New York from the late 70s until 2003, I really enjoyed going back there--before my time.

So... fun book. I'm satisfied with the introduction, build up, climax and conclusion, but sorry it's over--and glad there's a sequel coming.

No Title Available

2.0 out of 5 stars Great sound but careless design, October 24, 2011
It's too bad they couldn't make the buds fit the human ear. Major flaw. Bose is a great company and their technology is often superior. Some people reviewing this product might have bought fakes, but I paid the full price for mine and the bass is quite impressive. I've done sound professionally in nightclubs and theaters, and I have consulted on a few installations so I have a very discerning ear. I love the sound, but the product fails because of the fit issue. I have to fly quite a lot and need good music for survival. With these I had to use the smaller bud tips, crammed deep into my ears and turned upside down in order to get the full value of what these earphones produce. Frankly, it's painful. Too bad Bose. If they only fit properly they'd be on top of the market. Bose, so many of your systems are brilliant, what in the world were you thinking when you let these go into production?

No Title Available

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good first step in transformation; Gurdjieff fans needn't fear it, August 19, 2011
E. J. Gold has been one of the most extraordinary teachers of our time, and his "school" attracted a lot of talented individuals who enjoyed the intense challenges and the "lightness". The material in this book is introductory, and peppered with gems and useful direction for individual spiritual growth. Gurdjieff was a dancer; Mr. Gold is a comic spiritual writer as well as an artist. Both men tapped into something more than meets the eye in ordinary life and shared parts of it in their unique ways.

It would be quite presumptuous of me to say what either of these formidable teachers were thinking or intending, but it seems highly likely Mr. Gold was enjoying boyish gall, rather than guile, when he put on make-up and posed for that cover picture. I'd guess he was amused to ruffle the feathers of some staunch fundamentalist Gurdjieff followers, even while he brought new life to the teaching in the character of Gurdjieff. The proof of the value of a teaching is whether it works for you.

Ceramic Wiggling Hula Girl
Ceramic Wiggling Hula Girl
Offered by The Land of Oohs and Oz
Price: $19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wiggling Hula Girl is essential theatrical equipment, March 4, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Ceramic Wiggling Hula Girl (Misc.)
Wiggling hula girls are the best kind of hula girl. You need this, or you know someone who does. Every theater control booth should have one. (Or green room.) Whenever I install a theater, I purchase one for it. Technicians wiggle her before a production to ward off demons. I consider her essential theatrical equipment. Her base glues permanently in place and you can rig her for action with a small pulley, and a few feet of fishing line with a jingle bell tied to the purchase end, or just give her a shake with your finger. Trust me. You need one of these.

Before I had Wiggling Hula Girl technicians missed cues, power packs froze up, essential props were lost backstage, smoke machines caught fire, actors forgot to zip their flies, headset batteries burned out, and dancers kicked into low hung side-light bloodying their shins. Okay, those things still happen but you can't really blame the hula girl. At least if you have the hula girl you're doing the best you can.

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