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, April 25, 2018

The Boys In the Boat: NIne Americans and Their Epic Quest For Gold At the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown

In 1936 at the Berlin Olympics nine young men in a rowing crew boat made history. They came from poor or working-class backgrounds and none of them had ever set foot inside a boat before three years or less.  That wouldn't be the case for their competitors who came from high-class backgrounds and were well funded and had been training for years and were older than they were and yet they would row away with the gold medal.  This book chronicles that journey especially through the life of Joe Rantz.

Joe lost his mother at the age of five and was at first sent away to live with an aunt back east while his father in Washington state left for Canada and his much older brother finished college.  When his brother, Ben, left college with a wife he moved to Idaho and took Joe with him.  Then his father, Harry shows up and marries Ben's wife's twin sister Thula and takes Joe with him back to Washington.  Soon children came into the picture and Thula began to take a dislike to the person who reminded him of Harry's beloved first wife, Joe.

When they moved to a mining camp in Idaho she insisted that Joe leave the shack they lived in and Harry had him move in with the school teacher.  After a brief stay in Thula's parents' basement, they settled in Sequim, Washingon and built a house there.  But soon enough Thula would have enough of Joe again and the Great Depression was kicking in really bad. No one was buying their farm goods.  So Harry and Thula and the kids left leaving Joe, still a kid himself, behind.

Joe found odd ways to make money like playing his guitar for tips and stealing fish from the protected rivers and lakes and eating and selling or trading them for goods.  He also set up a system of stealing from the bootlegger and replacing a few of the liquor drops with dandelion wine and selling what he collected to his customers.  All through this, he stayed in school. On the bus, he met a girl that he fell in love with named Joyce and she fell for him too.  While working out for the gymnastics team he got a visit from the University of Washington's crew coach Al Ulbrickson who gave him his card and an idea was born in Joe's mind.  It would take a year after graduating high school of working hard at different jobs to earn enough money to be able to afford the first year of school at the University of Washington, but he did it.

When he arrived there, there were over a hundred boys who were looking to try out for crew positions on the freshman, junior varsity, and varsity crew.  Soon, though those who thought it would be easy and couldn't take the pain would drop out.  Tom Bolles handled the Freshman crew and he never lost in the competition against their fierce rivals California Berkely or at Poughkeepsie at the nationals, where 90,000 people would show up to watch the race because crew was so popular at that time.  He was getting his Masters at the University of Washington which is likely why he was still coaching there even though he had received offers from schools back east at prestigious Ivey League colleges where the money would be a great deal more than the pittance the University of Washington paid their coaches.

After being pulled in and out of this one particular boat that was doing really well and had in it Shorty Hunt, Stub McMillin, and Roger Morris, Bolles realized that that boat only did well with Joe in it even when Joe was not rowing at his best or erratically.  But when Joe was "on" they rowed liked a dream.  Which they did when they won the races.  But Joe knew that his position was always in jeopardy. The next year they would belong to the enigmatic Ulrickson who didn't know what to do with Joe either and would debate racing the sophomore crew as varsity instead of junior varsity.

An important person in this story is George Yeoman Pocock the man who builds the boats for the crew of the University of Washington as well as many other schools.  He was born in England and learned from his father how to build boats.  When his father's fortunes turned down, to help him out they took what little money they themselves had and went to Canada and went to work in a logging camp. Someone in Canada who had heard of them from England and their talent of building boats and needed a crew boat hired them and that got them started off on their business. George would eventually move to the grounds of the University of Washington for his business. But building boats was more than what he did. He dispensed wisdom on rowing. He invented a special way of rowing years ago that Americans used.  When he spoke people listened.

Ulbrickson has Pocock talk to Joe and work his magic on the young man and try to reach him as only he can.  This is an incredible book of how one man overcame hardship to succeed in life with the help of eight other men and their coaches and one wise advisor.  Also the love of a good woman who was there throughout supporting him never leaving his side as others in his life had.  It's also a story of underdogs who win despite everything going against them.  I have to admit that crew is not an especial interest to me but the author succeeded in making it fascinating. This book has heart and I highly recommend it.     

Link to Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Boys-Boat-Americans-Berlin-Olympics-ebook/dp/B00AEBETU2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524658879&sr=8-1&keywords=the+boys+in+the+boats

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Android's Dream by John Scalzi

This crazy book opens with Dirk Moeller planning on sabotaging the trade negotiations by causing the Nidu ambassador Faj-win Getag the son of his sworn enemy go on a rampage. He would accomplish this by using a device implanted into his butt that helps to send out messages within his farts. The Nidu have very sensitive noses and certain scents can have certain meanings. But only those of the higher castes can smell these meanings.  Dirk sends out insults and the Nidu ambassador goes wild. He lets him know that it was him that sent the messages and the ambassador gears up to yell its battle cry when he suddenly has a stroke and dies. Dirk begins laughing and dies of a heart attack.

State Department gets involved because they are clued in by Dirk's assistant that something was up and they got the device from the medical examiner and intend to keep this to themselves.  However, the Nidu believe that their ambassador was assassinated and are willing to overlook it if United Nations of Earth can provide the sheep needed in a ceremony a week away to crown the new Fehen of Nidu since the old Fehen has died and the next in line is to succeed him.  The problem is that the sheep is a special breed genetically modified specifically for the Nidu by one man and all of the Nidu and this man's sheep have all come down with a bacterial infection and have died.  No one else has been allowed to breed this sheep. But there should be some out there somewhere. It's up to State Department to find just one of these breed of sheep named Android's Dream [For those who don't know the name came from the book written by Phillip K. Dick called Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep? which is what the movie Blade Runner is based upon.].

The Secretary of State's assistant, Javna, knows just the person for the job of finding the lost sheep: his dead brother's best friend, Henry Creek. Creek already works for the State Department breaking the bad news to those who work in the Embassies.  He's also a bit of a computer whiz.  He borrows a large IBM computer from NOAA calling in a favor from a friend and from his computer at home he brings to life a sentient artificial intelligent agent that operates on his computer. It has taken on the form of his dead friend Brian at the age of around eighteen.  Brian executes searches for the DNA of the sheep and finds that someone is going around killing the sheep that do exist on earth.

That someone is the Defense Department who, working with Jean Schroeder who fixed Dirk up with the fart machine, want to stick it to the Nidu but aren't really thinking much beyond that. There's a reason military intelligence is an oxymoron.  But there is one sheep still available and her name is Robin Baker.  Robin was adopted and is the offspring of a bizarre experiment between a sheep human hybrid and a human father. She is 20% sheep but the sheep DNA is junk DNA and has no effects on her appearance.

To make things even crazier there's the Church of the Eternal Lamb, a religion that began life as a cult started by a failed science fiction writer turned conman who was trying to get money out of the richest woman on earth.  However, she knew what he was up to and played along, but doled the money out sparingly. The writer wrote prophesies from his drunk drug-addled mind and soon died in frustration with the old woman.  The old rich woman lived to be 104 and left her assets to the church. The church has spent the past twenty years making sure that the prophecies come true by engineering things that they do.  Their goal is to save the lamb.

If all this sounds a bit crazy, well it is. It's also hilarious and an incredibly fun book to read.  Robin is a great character who takes everything coming at her rather well, considering, but then Creek is a master at telling people bad news. Creek is ex-military and ex-cop so he does a pretty good job of protecting Robin. He's also an intriguing character who's been through a lot in life and just wants a quiet life. Something he's not getting right now.  I really loved this book. Scalzi is a favorite author of mine and I count this one as one of his best.  I can't recommend this book enough.

Nice is nice. But being a bitch gets results.
-John Scalzi (The Android’s Dream p 293)
 Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Androids-Dream-John-Scalzi-ebook/dp/B002GYI974/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524490705&sr=8-1&keywords=the+androids+dream

Friday, April 20, 2018

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist), Fonografiks (Lettering and Design), and Eric Stephenson (Coordinator)

Previously, Alana, a person from Landfall, and Marko, a person from the moon Wreath, whose worlds have been fighting for as long as anyone can remember, travel through the Rocketship Forest with their newborn, Hazel. There they meet a specter named Izabel who agrees to be the child's babysitter and to help them find the rocketship tree hidden in the forest.  They are being chased by a Freelancer, The Stalk, who is killed. But there are others who seek them to kill them and take Hazel including Freelancer The Will and Prince IV.  They find the tree rocketship and blast off into space heading toward the author of their favorite book.

Alana and Marko make a stop at his parent's house and they aren't too happy to see Alana.  His mother banishes Izabel, which pisses off Alana and Marko, so Marko and his mother head out to wherever it is she got sent to to rescue her.  Alana and Marko's father get to know each other and she finds out that he does not have long to live but does not want anyone else to know.

Meanwhile, The Will has been trying to buy the freedom of a sex slave child at a whorehouse he went to because he just couldn't leave her there.  Gwendolyn, Marko's ex-fiance and the Wreath representative who have hired the Freelancers, shows up to find out what his deal is.  She fixes the problem and they blast off in search of Marko and Alana.  The Will is a great character with his cat that can tell if you lie.  You can't help but root for him while hoping that he changes his mind about killing Alana and Marko.  Marko's father is another great character. He's a good man who creates magic on a sewing machine and cares deeply for his granddaughter.  You also get to see the progression of Alana and Marko's relationship through flashbacks from the beginning which is interesting and sweet. This book is a worthy sequel to the first comic.  It ends on a cliffhanger so I am eager to get my hands on the next book to see what awaits this bizarre group of people. 

Link to Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Saga-Vol-2-Brian-Vaughan-ebook/dp/B015XE1CV8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524226687&sr=8-1&keywords=saga+vol+2

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Captain Marvel Vol 1: Rise of Alpha Flight by Michele Fazekas (Writer), Tara Butters (Writer), Kris Anka (Artist), Felipe Smith (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist), and VC's Joe Caramagna (Letterer)

Carol Danvers has decided to take a position for two years as Commander of the Alpha Flight Space Station, earth's first line of defense against an attack.  She is greeted by Abigail Brand who once worked for S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Departement).  Brand gives her some grief but everyone else seems happy to have her aboard.  Brand steers her toward a boring meeting with the Eridani who handle the trash pick up and are trying to gouge them and break the agreement in place.

The meeting is broken up by news of an asteroid appearing close to the station and Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight go out to take care of it.  Wendy, the science officer informs Danvers that the asteroid didn't just appear there by accident and that an Eridani ship sent it there.  Danvers has the Eridani delegation locked up immediately.

Now an alien vessel like nothing they've ever seen before has arrived on their doorstep and when they go to investigate they discover that the ship is dead in the water and its inhabitants have been deceased for at least fifty years.  When they start the ship up it causes Captain Marvel to begin to lose her powers and hallucinate. But that will be the least of their worries when another ship arrives.  Also, there is a saboteur on board the space station.  This book is another great Captain Marvel comic. Fazekas and Butters have written an excellent story and the art is amazing.  I can't recommend this book enough. 

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Captain-Marvel-Vol-Alpha-Flight-ebook/dp/B01HC6H7SM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524053579&sr=8-1&keywords=captain+marvel+rise+of+alpha

Monday, April 16, 2018

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Fey has written a hilarious autobiography that begins with her as a child of five being slashed across the face by someone leaving a scar. She refuses to talk about the actual incident but spends time talking about the kind of people who ask about it and how she wants to have nothing to do with them.  She also talks about how she received lots of attention from family and friends over the incident for a long period of time and how it made her feel special and confident in her talents.

 She writes of working at Second City and Improv Company in Chicago. She began working on the touring group Blue Company, or BlueCo.  They were supposed to travel to various parts of the Midwest and Texas and perform the "best of" sketches in church basements and community centers. She was paid seventy-five dollars per show and a twenty-five dollar per diem.  They would ride in a van and sometimes travel from Kansas to Texas then back to Kansas over a matter of two days just to get paid.  Soon, though, Amy Poehler sick of the blond-girl roles wanted to rewrite her material and soon the others were rewriting the whole show.  By the time the ten-day tour was over the original show was completely rewritten.  They would get in trouble for this and be punished for it by being assigned the worst gigs ever, like the after prom spots or the corporate gigs where they are about to be told about the reduction in their health care, college shows where the audience was very drunk, or charity buyouts where the audience was very sober.  She would get promoted to the main company when Amy Poehler left for New York because Second City at that time was rather sexist and believed in having only two women and four men in a company.

In 1997 she interviewed with Lorne Michaels at Saturday Night Live for a position in the writer's room that was hoping to diversify.  She includes some things she learned from Michaels such as "The show doesn't go on because it's ready; it goes on because it's 11:30". This means that you have to learn to let go of what you have written and hope for the best.  "When hiring, mix Harvard Nerds with Chicago Improvisors and stir...Harvard Is Classical Military Theory, Improv Is Vietnam".  "Don't hire anyone you wouldn't want to run into the hallway at three in the morning." "Never tell a person he's crazy." This is important because you can get good work out of these odd people.  Find a way to deal with them.

When SNL needed a new Weekend Update anchor after she had been working there for about three years she was encouraged to audition.  Michaels gave it to her in part because he knew he could count on her to write good copy on time.  Later after she left the show she would return to do the Sarah Palin impressions. But the idea was not hers. The public was clamoring that she looked just like Palin and was wondering when she was going to lampoon Palin I guess not realizing that she no longer worked there.  She didn't feel comfortable doing it at first and was ready to turn it down if Michaels ever got around to asking her.  It took a while for him to decided to ask her. But when he did, she said yes especially when she saw the script that Seth Myers had written for her and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.  Trouble came when the real Sarah Palin wanted to come on the show but they were able to handle that without allowing her getting booed or seeming to endorse her in any way.

This book also details her getting 30 Rock off the ground and some memorable moments with the show.  It doesn't get too much into her personal life but it does have a chapter on her honeymoon with her husband Jeff on a cruise ship to Bermuda and the slight disaster they had with that.  She also writes about going on the annual family Christmas trip to Pennsylvania to visit the in-laws over the years.  This is a smart, funny, and well-written book by a woman I expected no less from.  It was everything I expected and more.  I really recommend this book.

I have a suspicion—and hear me out, ‘cause this is a rough one—I have a suspicion that the definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.
-Tina Fey (Bossypants p 271)
Link to Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Bossypants-Tina-Fey-ebook/dp/B0047Y0FGY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1523881886&sr=1-1&keywords=bossypants+tina+fey&dpID=51fF6xG3QxL&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch


Friday, April 13, 2018

Doctor Strange Vol 5: Secret Empire by Dennis Hopeless (Writer), John Barber (Writer), Niko Henrichon (Artist/Colorist), Kevin Nowlan (Past Sequence Art), Scott Hanna (Past Sequence Art), Dexter Vines (Past Sequence Art), Mark Morales (Past Sequence Art), Terry Pallor (Past Sequence Art), Dan Brown (Past Sequence Art), Juan Frigeri (Presence Sequence Art), Java Tartaglia (Present Sequence Art), and VC's Cory Petit (Letterer)

A cosmic cube transformed Steve Rogers, once known as Captain America before Falcon took over the role into a Hydra sleeper agent and now after months of scheming and manipulation, the country is now under Hydra's control. Doctor Strange and some of Earth's street-level heroes are trapped inside the Darkforce bubble that envelops New York City.  Mordo has taken over the Sanctum Sanctorum.

When Daredevil who is with Jess (Spiderwoman), and Ben Ulrich decides to see what's up with the Sanctorum he gets caught in a prison ball.  Doctor Strange is working to get rid of a large bit of unpleasantness when he runs into the two of them and they mess up his spell.  They get caught up by the creature and then rescued by Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin. 

Kingpin promises a lead on magical artifacts from an old witch.  The problem is that all the artifacts in her vault are dark magic and carry a cost.  For example, the Carnyx War Horn can create monsoons that will wash away the enemy but be prepared to have ulcers and brain tumors.  Or the Necklace of Bodil where you can summon a ghost army of unkillable bears but you will have to spend one night a month as a werebear.  Jess is willing to do the Werebear, but her skepticism makes her a poor candidate.  The artifact wouldn't work on her.  Ulrich's pure soul would be ravaged by these dark pieces and Fisk's dark soul would be made even darker.  

But they don't have much of a choice. Mordor is attacking New York and Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Cloak is having a hard time fighting him off. They need help.  And Doctor Strange has a plan. Hopeless and Barber take this series into a new territory from what was before.  Numbers 21-24 link up with what is going on in the Marvel Universe storyline, but Number 25 is a book on its own and very fascinating to read.  Overall this is a fabulous read and well worth the wait.  I can't wait to see what they have in store next for Doctor Strange and company. 

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Strange-Vol-Secret-Empire-ebook/dp/B077ZH8CRT/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1523631649&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+strange+vol.+5&dpID=61ymm%252B7PuRL&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke

It has been two weeks now since Ross disappeared on Hannah after their wedding.  Only her family and close friends know that truth. Everyone else has been told that he is off on assignment for K-COW television station.  Mike is discreetly hunting down leads to try to find out what happened to him.  Then one night Michelle gets a video call from Ross's assistant PK where he sounds drugged and he's driving Ross's car. He mumbles about feeling sick from eating candies and swerves off the side of the road.

There was no hope of saving PK. The candies were filled with a drug that stopped his heart. The only problem is that the candies were found at Ross's desk. So were the candies meant for Ross or PK?  If they were meant for Ross is that why he left to avoid being killed or putting them in danger?  Hannah can't investigate Ross's possible murder because no one will be honest with her so she sends her sister Andrea to ask around while she and her sister Michelle ask around about PK.

It turns out that PK had an enemy at work, Scott who resented that PK took the promotion he thought he should have gotten and then took over Ross's big office when Ross left causing envy.  And no one seemed to know much about PK's fiancee, Pinkie including her real name or her last name.  Just that they went to high school together and began dating there and from the local auto mechanic that PK bought her a Jeep that he had specially painted pink for her as an engagement gift.  Where is Pinkie?

Meanwhile, on the Ross front, Hannah finds out that he has deposited sixty thousand dollars into her personal banking account and left three accounts that were in his name to be signed over to her totaling four hundred thousand dollars. On top of that, there are another one hundred thousand dollars in cash in a safety deposit box along with a storage site key.  Why would Ross feel the need to hide the money? Is it from a bank robbery or is it counterfeit? Mike will search for these answers as Hannah grapples with trying to come to terms with whether or not she really knew the man she married.

On a side note, Moishe the cat isn't leaping into Hannah's arms anymore when she opens the front door and he sleeps all the time now. Is he just getting old or is something else afoot?  Recipes included in this book are Irish Potato cookies, Upside Down Pear Coffee Cake, Almond Custer Pie with Raspberry Glaze, Orange Marmalade Filled Oatmeal Muffins, and Chocolate Caramel Bar Cookies.  It's hard to keep a series fresh after so many books and this makes the twenty-fourth book in the series.  But Fluke still manages to pull off twists you don't always see coming.  By the end of this book, you will learn the fate of Ross.  If you read this series, you won't be disappointed. You'll be wondering how soon can the next one come out.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Raspberry-Danish-Murder-Swensen-Mystery-ebook/dp/B071SK3STR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523449436&sr=8-1&keywords=raspberry+danish+murder+by+joanne+fluke