I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

This is a really cool book in that it gives a simple explanation as to how Luke goes from barely being able to hold a lightsaber in New Hope to mentally reaching for one with the force that is on the ground while he is hung upside down in a cave in The Empire Strikes Back.  I have always wondered how this happened with Obi Wan Kenobi dead and Yoda not yet introduced.  At the beginning, Hearne reproduces Luke's still, slightly whiney side as he bemoans not having anyone to teach him about the Force and wondering how he will be able to become a Jedi.

Leia sends him on a mission to a planet where one of the small clans would like the Alliance to help them beat their oppressive enemy clans who are mostly in league with the Empire.  Luke is given the beautiful, sleek, and fast Desert Jewel to fly. It is owned by Nakari Kelen, whose father owns a huge lab that collects samples of new creatures and botany in order to create new medications.  He cannot go up against the Empire directly, as they will destroy him and his business, so he takes their contracts even though he'd rather tear them up.  His daughter, however, has no such constraints on her, so she helps the Alliance in numerous ways, including teaching sharpshooting skills.  When she does work for her father, the money she gets she uses to upgrade her ship and help the Alliance.

Luke is immediately attracted to both the ship and Nakari.  On his way to meeting the clan who has weapons for sale, he notices a Kupohan ship being attacked by the Empire.  The Kupohans are on the fence about helping the Alliance, but they have helped them in the past.  Even though it will endanger his mission, Luke helps the Kupohan ship escape.  This makes his ship put on the list of ones the Empire is now looking for.  Luke's mission with the clan is successful and he has set up a source for weapons.

Leia now has a new mission that will include Nakari.  The Empire is holding a Given named Drusil, who is an expert cryptologist, probability theorist, and hacker.  Givens have a unique introduction ritual that Luke and Nakari will have to learn.  They recite a complicated math problem to solve and you give one too.  Luckily Leia has a few for them to use.  They are to rescue her and take her to Omereth, a mostly oceanic planet filled with monstrous sea creatures,  and join her family that the Alliance will get and she will work for the Alliance.  First, though, Luke and Nakari need to upgrade the ship to prepare for going up against the Empire. They need weapons and other things for the ship.  In order to get the money for that, they go to Nakari's father who offers them a job to go to the unknown planet Fet where he has sent two teams to collect samples and they have not returned.  He wants them to find the crew and bring them back.

Fet is a hideous place.  They are provided with special suits to protect them from a vicious animal called the skullborer, which does exactly as its name implies and eats brains.  They find the second ship and when they enter it, they find mostly dead bodies and a surprise: loose skullborers.  These creatures are invisible until you hit them with a blaster or stun stick.  Luke and Nakari have quite an adventure trying to complete this mission.  Nakari's father gives them a huge sum of money and they go to the clan and load up on supplies.

Next, they go to a planet where a Kupohan spy provides them the information they need about Drusil.  Rescuing her is not easy, but when they escape the planet with her, the Empire knows their ship and how many people to look for and begin to search for them.  They escape the Empire ships, but the Empire has also put a bounty on their head.  Their ship gets damaged and they go to the planet where the Kuphon's live, because the spy gave them a list of names of people who will help them and one of them is on the planet.  He does not want to help them, but they offer him information in exchange for parts and repairs.  Drusil blocks communications to the Empire to keep his workers from turning them in for the bounty, but she is not quick enough and one man gets through and the Empire sends someone to investigate.  Luke and Nakari kidnap them to keep them from turning them in and wait for their ship to be fixed.

While waiting, Nakari and Luke become close and Nakari helps Luke out with his Jedi problem, by giving him advice on how to move objects.  With Nakari's support, Luke is more relaxed and is able to move a noodle across the table.  While this is not much, it is the first time he has been able to do it.  Luke figures out that he is not moving the noodle, the Force is and he is pushing the Force to move the noodle.

Drusil is kind of like C3PO, in that she is readily coming up with probabilities in every situation they find themselves in, but unlike C3PO, she does not anticipate doom and she is quite fascinating and unbelievable in her abilities.  Luke eventually begins to trust her and not suspect that she is secretly working for the Empire and they become friends.

More adventures await the group as they try to get to Omereth and hope that the Alliance was able to get her family there because Luke has been unable to get news from them as to whether they have succeeded.  Nakari is a very empowered woman that you can look up to.  She is good in a fight, has a wonderful sense of humor, and is determined to bring down the Empire, especially Darth Vader, who has hurt her family as much as he has hurt Luke's.

I really enjoyed this book a lot.  It is filled with great adventure, fancy flying, strange creatures, bounty hunters, and a mission that continues to become more difficult and possibly unlikely to succeed.  Drusil proves to be a very valuable asset to the mission with her math abilities and probability theories that provide them with ways to escape capture.  The question is, will they complete their mission all in one piece or get taken down by the Empire or the deadly bounty hunters.

Yes, its’ customary among the Givin to say hello with math. If you can’t at least speak the language of math a Givin will have a difficult time trusting you, so you have to demonstrate your ability right away.  Almost anything’s okay, but I advise you t keep it somewhat simple.  And whatever you do, don’t ask them to do linear approximations of nonlinear partial differential equations, because they take it as an insult, like you’re mocking them…They object to approximations basically.  Asking for approximations instead of precision indicates a lack of faith in their abilities at best, and at worst could be construed as you calling them stupid.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 98)
Waiting around with nothing to do is terrible, but waiting around with nothing to do in the sewer is worse.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 120)
Technology is always perfectly dependable until it isn’t.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 120)
--I do not know for certain—I did say probability, not certainty.  But I can make educated guesses as to our destination based on extant variables, and predict that our pursuit shall catch up to us prior to our exit unless they behave stupidly?
--Isn’t that one of your extant variables?
--The worst possible kind.  As you may well know, unlike kinetics or time or distance, human stupidity is incalculable.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi  p 124)
The problem with conspiracy theories is that they have their own gravity:  They  are black holes from which one rarely escapes.  Caution is advisable at all times, of course, but recognize that sometimes the beings you meet truly are good.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 176)
Traveling through the galaxy would be perfectly pleasant were it not for the Empire trying to kill us.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 191)
Your senses can be fooled.  Math and physics do not lie.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 220)
Destiny sometimes finds it amusing to strike at people who believe they’re safe.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 235)
No one’s gunning for us.  That’s a nice change.  Kind of the galaxy I want to live in, honestly.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 235)
--Every time you say ‘We made it’, something bad happens.
--Correlation isn’t causation.  But yeah.  Damn.
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 243)
Sometimes simple plans are the best ones.  Or no plan at all, which is how Han often likes to fight: ‘If your plan never survives the enemy kid, why plan at all?’ he asked me once.  ‘Wasting time on something that’s going to die in the first few seconds—I mean the plan—is a waste of time.’ When I told him that was circular logic he said to stop wasting his time. ‘Just blast everything and fly a fast ship.  And bring a Wookie.  Works for me.’
--Kevin Hearne (Heir to the Jedi p 252)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Heir-Jedi-Star-Kevin-Hearne-ebook/dp/B00MKZ3VMW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513171943&sr=8-1&keywords=Heir+to+the+jedi

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tender Is the Night by F.Scott Fitzgerald

This classic novel was Fitzgerald's favorite of all that he had written and with good reason: the main characters were modeled after him and his wife Zelda.  Set mainly on the Riveria and in Switzerland, it shows how the small crack in a marriage widens causing the marriage to fall apart, perhaps irrevocably.

The book opens in 1925 with Rosemary Hoyt going to the beach at the Riveria. She is traveling with her mother touring Europe's warm climate after suffering an illness doing a movie.  She is just about to turn eighteen and gets invited to join the Divers' party after spending a day with the boring other crowds of Americans there.  The Divers, Nicole and Dick are captivating, especially Dick. But there is also Mary and Abe North, who is a musician who hasn't composed anything in years and drinks too much, and Tommy Barden who keeps running off to a war somewhere to fight and is in love with Nicole.

Rosemary and her mother had only planned on staying for a few days, but Rosemary finds herself falling in love with Dick, so they extend their stay.  Dick resists her for as long as he can but soon he gives in as long as Nicole never knows and there's a reason why she must never know.  The book is divided into three parts and the second part goes back and shows how Nicole and Dick came to be together.

You don't want to feel sorry for Dick and pull for him, but for a while, you kind of do.  Maybe it's because the point of view becomes his.  Also, Nicole is seen as a bit of a succubus who sucks the life out of Dick. But Nicole is the wronged party and the one hurt by these events.  This situation will have long-term repercussions that will continue to affect their marriage and widen the crack further.  This book is a classic for a reason, it is well written with beautiful colorful language that drips from the page.  It is very well worth reading.

Tell a secret over the radio, publish it in a tabloid, but never tell it to a man who drinks more than three or four a day.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tender Is the Night p 75)

It was often easier to give a show than to watch one.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tender Is the Night p 89)

Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure.
            -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, (Tender is the Night p 167)

 No Aryan is able to profit by a humiliation; when he forgives it has become part of his life, he has identified himself with the thing which humiliated him—an upshot that in the case was impossible.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tender Is The Night p 234)

 Either one learns politeness at home or the world teaches it to you with a whip and you get hurt in the process.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tender Is the Night p 255)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tender-Night-Golden-Deer-Classics-ebook/dp/B076QDZXP6/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1512999860&sr=8-13&keywords=tender+is+the+night

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man Vol. 2 by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Chris Samnee (Artist), Sara Pichelli (Artist), David Marquez (Artist), Justin Ponsor (Colorist), VC's Cory Petit (Letterer)

Previously, Peter Parker was killed and Miles Morales had just started at a boarding school on a scholarship when he is bitten by a spider and given special powers like venom inducing and super speed.  The Ultimates give him a specially designed costume as thanks for helping out with Electro.  He finds out that his dad and his uncle used to do illegal things and that his uncle never quit and is known as the Prowler.  He has told his best friend Ganke about his newfound abilities.

The Prowler goes to Mexico to deliver his shipment to the Scorpion and instead screws him over and takes his money.  He hears about a new Spider-Man and figures out it must be Miles and heads back to New York City to see how he can cash in on this.  Meanwhile, the Scorpion is not taking this lying down.  He wants revenge and he heads to New York City to get it.

Miles decides to be Spider-Man even though he's not sure how to be him yet.  The suit helps him in a way.  It moves for him.  Ganke finds some old footage of Peter Parker fighting and Miles studies that in hopes of learning from it.  Miles must also try not to get caught missing from his room by the teacher.  Though sneaking out is easy with his ability to blend in with his surroundings and pretty much become invisible.

I love Bendis's work on All New X-Men: Yesterday's X-Men and Jessica Jones, but this one is missing something for me.  I don't know quite what it is yet. I'll give the series another shot because he deserves that much.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Comics-Spider-Man-Michael-Bendis-ebook/dp/B00FSRFMOE/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1512738311&sr=8-5&keywords=ultimate+comics+spider-man

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror (v 2.0) by Christopher Moore

It's Christmas and Raziel the angel has been sent down for the first time in two thousand years to perform a Christmas miracle.  His mission is to find a child and make their wish come true.  Simple, right? But this is Raziel who can screw even the simplest things up.  First off he scares the boy and second he takes the boy's words too literally.

The child's upset that Santa has been killed.  Josh witnessed Lena accidentally kill her ex-husband Dale who was dressed in a Santa suit. He wasn't the only one who saw it happen. Tuck, a pilot who is currently working for the DEA looking for drugs in the Big Sur from his plane, decides to help Lena by burying Dale and moving his truck to a new location to look as though he had gone fishing and fell off a cliff while drunk.  Tuck has a pet fruit bat named Rodrigo and has just gotten out of a relationship and is looking for someone to spend Christmas with and believes Lena is that person.  It's love at first sight for both of them.

Lena wants to tell her friend Molly, the former actress best known for the Warrior Babe of the Outland movies, but she can't because Molly's husband Theo is a constable.  Theo catches a lot of crap from the sheriff's department for not being a "real" cop. He used to smoke a lot of pot, but when he married Molly five years ago the two of them made a deal: he'd stop doing drugs if she'd stay on the drugs she needed for her mental illness.  This year, though, in a warped O''Henry's Gift of the Maji way, Molly stopped taking her meds in order to save enough money to buy this really beautiful bong for Theo and Theo has been growing and selling marijuana in order to buy a real sword for Molly.  The crazier Molly gets, the rockier their relationship gets.

Molly really doesn't like that Theo is investigating Lena. But Lena isn't fond of the idea of Tuck blackmailing Theo when he gets the chance.  Everything comes to a head on Christmas Eve at the Lonesome Christmas Party at the church when Raziel has decided to bring Santa back to life and ends up bringing back to life everyone in the graveyard and now the partygoers have to contend with zombies.

This book does contain an extra bit for those who have read it before and want more of it.  It's at the end of the book and is, in my opinion, unnecessary and cumbersome.  For those familiar with Moore, this takes place in Pine Cove where the books Practical Demon Keeping and Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove are located.  Also Raziel from Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Friend and Tuck and Rodrigo from Island of the Sequined Love Nun are in this one making it quite the festive book.  But if you haven't read those books you won't be lost or confused.  You might, however, want to pick up the other books and read them.  This is a hilarious book filled with a host of bizarre people and happenings.  I really loved this book and cannot recommend it enough.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stupidest-Angel-v2-0-Heartwarming-Christmas-ebook/dp/B006O0I3ZO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512565746&sr=8-1&keywords=the+stupidest+angel

Monday, December 4, 2017

Lord of the Wings by Donna Andrews

It is Halloween time in the wacky Virgina town of Caerphilly and they are holding their first ever week long Halloween festival.  This time, though, Meg Langslow is not in charge. Mayor Randall Shiffley hired Lydia Van Meter to handle it only she's botching it big time and driving Meg nuts with asking her opinion and doing the opposite or making her come down to her office to talk about something she needs to deal with that Meg already knows about and was on her way to handling.  Meg is in charge of the Visitor's Relation Police Liason Patrol or better known as the Goblin Patrol.  They handle problems on the ground downtown, at the Haunted House and Fairgrounds, and at the Zoo.

Things begin to go wrong from the start when Dr. Smoot the former coroner who is the resident guy who dresses as a vampire year round. His house is an old Victorian and he has opened a Caerphilly museum in the basement. His house is where the Haunted House is located at. He calls saying people have broken into it the night before but have taken nothing as far as he can tell.  Then at the zoo, that day Meg's grandfather, the zoo's owner, finds a severed hand that proves to be fake and inside the dark alligator section a severed foot, also fake, is found by Meg and Michael's twin boys' first-grade class who are touring the zoo that day.

The culprit who put the foot there is caught and confesses something about an "adventure" and a
"quest" and has on him a list of five things to do which leaves them to believe that some sort of scavenger hunt is going on.  But the young man isn't saying much more only that he now won't be able to advance to the next level, so there are more pranks to be played and Sherrif Burke says he has reported some odd things going on in town.

These scavenger hunters are causing havoc and worse. A body is found shot in the woods and discovered to be a conman.  Is he the man behind the games, and if so who's running the games now? The Chief is welcoming Meg's help on this one since his office is spread thin due to the festival and none of it makes much sense.  Andrews delivers on another funny mystery that's a real treat.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lord-Wings-Langslow-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00R18G9NQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512392898&sr=8-1&keywords=lord+of+the+wings

Friday, December 1, 2017

Black Widow: No More Secrets by Mark Waid (Writer), Christ Samnee (Writer, Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist), and VC's Joe Caramagna (Letterer)

When we last saw Black Widow she was being hunted by S.H.I.E.L.D. She had also had her secrets revealed by the Weeping Lion whom she had just defeated after discovering that there was another Red Room like the one she came from being run by the same Headmistress and Recluse her daughter training young assassins.  Black Widow intends to put a stop to it and save the girls, but she'll need the Weeping Lion's help.

Black Widow and the Weeping Lion break into the Red Room but are too late. The girls have been sent out on their assignments.  The only ones there are the Headmistress and Recluse. The Weeping Lion tries to read the Headmistress's mind to find their location, but she pulls out a gun and shoots herself in the head to prevent this.  He reads Recluse, but she knows nothing. Recluse picks up the gun to shoot Natasha, but Natasha tells her that she has always tried to be just like her and failed because she is too weak and that she'll never pull the trigger and Natasha easily disarms her.

The Weeping Lion was able to pick up the site of one of the assassins from the dying woman and it's the White House.   He and Natasha go in undercover to try to find her only to discover that there is more than one girl there. Now she must try to save the target and try to save the girls from being shot by Secret Service at the same time.

Later she finds that Recluse is not so weak after all when she is led into a trap Recluse has set with Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, as the bait.  Also, Bucky has been keeping something from her.  This book is about a lot of secrets that come to light, hence the title of the comic.  It is a pretty amazing conclusion to the story that reminds you how Black Widow is so badass, yet how she also secretly cares deeply. 

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Black-Widow-Vol-More-Secrets/dp/0785199764/ref=pd_sbs_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=W4NVBFBVFZPPNQ2X8DE7

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather

This book is loosely based on the life of the first Bishop of the New Mexico Territory, Jean-Baptiste Ramy.  It is 1851 and Jean Marie Latour has just been named Vicar Apostolic of New Mexico and Bishop of Agathonica in partibus. The New Mexico Territory is vast and new to the United States having just been won from Mexico in the war, so his diocese is a large one.  The seat of it is located at Sante Fe. The Bishop did not come alone, though. He was followed once again by his longtime friend Father Joseph Valliant whom he met in Seminary back in France and with whom he has been doing mission work with in America ever since. 

The two are an unlikely pair as Valliant has always been sickly, yet hardy in his faith.  He is able to raise money for the things the church really needs but basically never takes anything for himself with only a rare occurrence.  Latour is hardy in health by his faith has doubts at times.  He is good at running the churches and organizing things and does accept the odd nice gift from a parishioner.  They compliment each other nicely.  I really prefer Father Valliant over Bishop Latour. He's a much more likable fellow and in the book, he has many more friends.  

They both have their work cut out for them as the Mexican priests don't want to be under the rule of the Americans.  And they have no interest to be under the rule of a new French Bishop. There are some good priests and there are some churches that are in need of priests so Valliant and Latour must travel to them to do Mass.  Some of these churches are Native American churches and they must contend with their dual religions of Catholicism and the old ways.  The author also deals with, to some small extent, how the Native Americans have been treated by both the Americans and the Mexicans, which is interesting considering this book was published in 1927.  

The problem priests believe in being able to run wild and have sex with whatever woman they choose and pick up money from ventures that are not necessarily legal or morally right.  Latour sends Valliant out to one of the churches to preach for a while and bring the congregation back to the righteous path rather than the party path and gives the priest a rest so he can reflect on what he did wrong.  But the other two priests prove more wily and harder to deal with and a different solution must present itself.

This book is not really a novel with a plot so much as a collection of vignettes.  With this title, I must admit I was hoping for something a bit, well, sexier, like a murder mystery or a suspense novel.  But instead I got a good, but a not too exciting book, about a Bishop and a priest who tries to set up an American diocese in the old west. The descriptions will make you really feel as though you are there, but they can also go on and on in excruciating detail.  Overall this wasn't a bad book if it's your cup of tea.   

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Death-Archbishop-Annotated-Cathers-Classics-ebook/dp/B00OJJI2DK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1511962311&sr=8-1&keywords=death+comes+for+the+archbishop+by+willa+cather