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, June 21, 2017

Mrs. Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detecive and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca


Grace Winterton Humiston was born in Greenwich Village, New York on September 17, 1869.  While she was practicing law at the turn of the century she would be only one of a thousand female lawyers in the United States. She was appointed the first female U.S. district attorney in history and the first female consulting detective to the New York Police Department.  She dressed all in black with a veil and her motto was "Justice for those of limited means."  She helped many immigrants who came to her door needing assistance that they could not get anywhere else without being swindled.  She freed one man from death row and proved his innocence and in her very first case she got a woman's sentence commuted from death to seven years right before she was to be hanged.

She also, with the help of her trusted detective, Julius J. Kron, went after the peonage system that was mostly in the South where they lured immigrants to come and work there then they had it so they bought everything they needed at the company store at a marked up price. By the end of the month, they owed the company money and needed to keep working to pay off the debt unless someone could send money to them. The worst of them whipped them and made them work and kept them from leaving.  It was just another form of slavery and the two of them took down a large part of the system.

Her biggest case, though, was the Cruger case.  Ruth Cruger went out one winter's day in New York City on February 13, 1917, to run some errands. She had to go to the bank and to pick up her ice skates from the motorcycle shop where they were being sharpened.  She never made it home.  Her sister, Christina raised the alarm to her other sister Helen who was at work that Ruth hadn't come home yet and it had been hours.  Helen told her she had probably gone ice skating but that she would look for her. Helen could not find her either and more importantly, Ruth had never made it to the bank.  She called the lawyer their father, an accountant knew and he called their parents who were in Boston and then the police.

Helen retraced her steps the next day including the mysterious stop at a stationary store. She stopped by the motorcycle shop twice before it showed signs of being open and talked to Alfredo Cocchi the owner who said that he returned her skates and that she went east.  The police received a report from a cab driver that Ruth was seen getting into a cab with a man.  Now, Ruth was a sweet innocent young girl according to her family and while she talked about a boy she knew at Columbia University it wasn't serious enough to name him to her family or for her to run away with him.  The police were now seeing this as a runaway case and not a kidnapping.

But because the case was so high profile and the victim so young and beautiful the mayor of New York made sure to get her picture out there and people saw it nationwide on the movie screen and in papers. She became known as the Heatherbloom Girl.   Leads went nowhere. Mr. Cruger himself combed the area where she was last seen to be going and where the cab was said to have dropped her off and found nothing. There were girls who were called in about that looked like her but turned out not to be her.  He had hired a detective at the start but that didn't work out so he fired him.

In June Mr. Cruger would hire Grace to help him find his daughter and help him she would.  She didn't believe that his daughter had run away. She was quite sure that she was already dead and it was a matter of finding where the body was and she had a pretty good idea of where to look.  While Grace would solve this case, the complexities of it would tie up the court system and make it hard for Ruth Cruger to get justice.  This case really puts Grace on the map and she could do no wrong. She championed her pet cause of white slavery and helping young girls escape the clutches of forced prostitution.  But the higher the pedestal, the greater the fall. And fall she would by her own hand. But she still never stopped helping people in need throughout her life and she was a woman to be admired for all her flaws.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mrs-Sherlock-Holmes-Detective-Captivated-ebook/dp/B01H03I7KE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498056295&sr=8-1&keywords=Mrs.+Holmes

Monday, June 19, 2017

When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz


When Louise Flint is found dead in her condo of what appears to be a drug overdose her cousin doesn't buy it and hires PI Max Cutler to look into it. Cutler has just left his job as a profiler back in D.C. where he burnt out on his job and blew up his marriage.  Seattle is his chance to start over.  One night Charlotte Sawyer shows up with a key to Louise's locker at her condo. Charlotte works at an old folks home as the entertainment director.  Her sister and Louise were really close friends and Louise had sent Jocelyn the keys with the cryptic message that her copy of the hard drive would be in the locker in case anything happened to her and now she was dead.  Jocelyn was away on a retreat that did not allow technology so there was no way to get in contact with her.

Max is interested in Charlotte because she is the first person to show up to have known Louise.  Charlotte doesn't believe that Louise was using again after she had gone through so much to quit and built up a new life that meant so much to her and besides Jocelyn would have noticed and done something. Besides, the theory that her apartment was robbed by a dealer since her computer was missing doesn't hold up when you notice that her jewelry and the cash in her wallet were still there.  Charlotte and Max decide to join forces to get answers.

The hard drive Louise refers to is a map with five cities circled on it and a printout of two women's obituaries where their deaths were listed as drug overdoses, but Louise had written on the paper that they had been murdered.  Also included were documents of women who had been raped where drugs were involved.  When Max tells Charlotte that Louise's last destination on her car's GPS was Loring, Washington, Charlotte freaks because that is where her sister was raped over ten years ago back when she attended college there.  The suspect came at her from behind and put a bag over her head and a knife at her throat and she wasn't able to identify him. However, she did go to the hospital immediately afterward to do a rape kit, but the evidence box would conveniently disappear.

Louise and Jocelyn belonged to a mysterious investment club that also included Emily, who works in HR in a big business, Victoria, who works in marketing in the fashion world, and Madison, an investment banker.  Charlotte doesn't know the real purpose behind the group or why they might fear that their activities would lead to Louie's death or their own which has them running scared because Jocelyn isn't at the retreat she is on the run and the rest will soon follow.  Or is one of them killing each other off in order to get a bigger piece of the pie on a rather large investment that they are working on that is coming together?

There is plenty here to keep Charlotte and Max busy as they try to unravel the many strands of this mystery and nearly get killed doing so.  Of course, they slowly get closer to each other physically as well as romantically.  I've read better Krentz books, but this one is still pretty good.  I like the characters of Charlotte and Max and the people at the retirement home are a delight.   While it is a little predictable it does hold some surprises that make is worth reading.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-All-Girls-Have-Gone-ebook/dp/B01COJUHBQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497873695&sr=8-1&keywords=where+are+the+girls+have+gone

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wonder Woman: The New 52! Volume Two: Guts by Brian Azzarello (Writer), Cliff Chiang (Artist), Tony Akins (Pencil), Dan Green (Ink) Matthew Wilson (Colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (Letterer)


Wonder Woman along with a wounded Hermes and the strong Lennox (his body is the consistency of rocks and he is the son of Zeus) are looking to find a way to get the pregnant Zola out of the Underworld where Hades has her.  But they will need weapons first and those can only come from Hephaestus, god of the forge.  So they go to Eros, his son and ask him to get them in to see his father.  While there Wonder Woman finds out that the men who work there are all Amazonian men that were traded away for weapons rather than be killed as they were seen as useless to the Amazonians.  She is shocked and tries to free them from what she perceives as their bondage, but really they are free to work there and they like to work there and Wonder Woman makes a fool of herself in her ignorance.

But Hephaestus does agree to loan them some weapons and even Eros lets them borrow his special guns.  But only Wonder Woman and Hermes will be going down to the Underworld. Hermes because he can take someone there and Wonder Woman to get Zola.  While there things go horribly wrong of course and while Zola is saved, Wonder Woman is stuck in the Underworld with Hades to be his bride.  A rescue mission is underway but as Hephaestus says Wonder Woman can take care of herself. Meanwhile, there is a rush for who will take Zeus's throne.

The moody blues and bright oranges and reds really set the tone for Hades and the river of blood is something to behold.  The drawings are incredible and Hades does not quite look like what I would imagine. The images of the dead are creepy as they ought to be and a person I won't name that they run into down there is unbelievably drawn and created here.  This book is a great follow-up to the first book and makes you wonder where the series is going to go next.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wonder-Woman-Vol-2-Guts-ebook/dp/B00B07LJWA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1497616629&sr=8-3&keywords=wonder+woman+the+new+52

  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wonder Woman: The New 52! Volume One: Blood by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins


Zeus has gone missing which leaves an empty throne and gods wanting to fill it including Apollo. Hera meanwhile is on the hunt for a woman, Zola, who carries Zeus's child, though she knows nothing of the world of the gods and was tricked.  Hermes arrives to try to save her. He tells her to use her special key which takes her away from her farmhouse and lands her in Diana Prince's home.  They go back to the farmhouse and fight centaurs off.

Wonder Woman takes Zola and Hermes to Paradise Island for help but is greeted with animosity for bringing a girl who bears the child of Zeus.  This is where we hear the origin story Diana grew up hearing from her mother Hippolyta about being fashioned out of clay and how her mother prayed to the gods for a miracle and was granted one by having the clay come alive. That Diana was a child born without a man's seed.  Growing up she had to put up with being called the cruel nickname of Clay and now the nickname has come back out of the past.

Meanwhile, Strife is counseling her mother Hera on how to handle the situation with the girl and with Diana's new involvement.  She's egging her on a bit.  Hera sends her down to Paradise Island to deal with Diana and the women and to get Zola.  When she arrives she causes chaos and the Amazonians find they are fighting themselves.  When the fighting ends Strife lives up to her name and lets the cat out of the bag about Diana's real parentage. It seems that Hippolyta had an affair with Zeus the result of which was Diana. She made up the story about her being made from clay to protect her from Hera's wrath.  Diana leaves the Island in a terror.  While she is gone Hera visits Paradise Island to enact her punishment upon Hippolyta for her betrayal.

Diana must get over her rage at her mother and find a way to protect Zola from those who seek to harm her with the help of a wounded Hermes.  What they do is quite creative and daring. I love it.  The art is good and while the colors are lovely they don't pop. It's still a good start to a very interesting series.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wonder-Woman-Vol-Blood-New-ebook/dp/B008J2GADM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490358645&sr=8-1&keywords=the+new+52+wonder+woman

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Some Luck by Jane Smiley


In this first of a trilogy by Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres, comes the story of the Langdon family starting at 1920 when Rosanna and Walter Langdon of Denby, Iowa work their farm and their first child is about six months.  Each chapter is a different year and shows different viewpoints of the various family members, Walter's Irish family, and Rosanna's German one.  As Rosanna and Walter try to pass on their values to their children and do their best to keep them alive when there are always accidents on the farm and anyone can die.  From Frankie, the handsome, willful firstborn, who charms his way out of things and wants more than the farm life for him; to Joe, who is born to the life of a farmer as he loves the animals and has a near magical way with the crops; Mary Elizabeth, the sweet child; the delightful Lillian; Claire, her father's favorite, and Henry, the odd duck of the family.

This book follows them through the good times of the early twenties through the depression when they wonder if there'll be enough to eat on the table that year, through the war years when Frankie enlists in order to see more of the world, and perhaps sees too much.  Joe gets a deferment so he can work the farms.  These people are the salt of the earth and look out for each other. When harvest time comes, all the neighbors come out and help each other out.  The Langdon's also look out for their next door neighbor's farm after the death of the two girls' parents, one girl whom, Joe has his eye on for many years but seems to get nowhere with her.  They also look out for an Uncle who committed suicide's farm as well as the grandparent's farm.

Its a wonder they have time to do anything.  For a long time, Walter resists using tractors and sticks to the old method of horses, but times change and he has more work to do so he invests in a tractor.  Not knowing what to do with Frankie, who is too smart for his own good, they send him to live in Chicago with Rosanna's younger sister and her husband and daughter.  But they aren't much help in that they are obsessed with the Communist Party and have no time to watch over Frankie and make sure he does not get into trouble.

Joe is the sweet child, who should be treasured by someone special, not necessarily the one that he wants.  The two girls are special in their own ways as well.  Unfortunately, not all of the children survive the book.  After the war, Frankie stumbles upon a job where he sniffs out spies and communists that are against the United States.

This book is about an enthralling family and how they once started out in such simple ways but quickly become complex as the world becomes more convoluted and things become less black and white as they once were.  This book is a fascinating look at a family throughout the twentieth century and what they do to survive.

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Some-Luck-Hundred-Trilogy-Family-ebook/dp/B00JNQKQVU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497446592&sr=8-1&keywords=some+luck+jane+smiley

Monday, June 12, 2017

Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music by James Rhodes


From the age of five to ten concert pianist James Rhodes was repeatedly raped by his gym teacher Mr. Lee.  This book has two objectives: to show how he was able to overcome the abuse through the healing power of music and various other means and to educate on classical music and why it is important today and how the classical music industry needs to change or die.  For those who seek salacious details of the rapes, you will be sorely disappointed as he does not provide them.  It was hard enough living through them at the time. Recalling them is like living through them again and that is not something he wants to do.

The rapes happened at Arnold House a Preparatory School for boys in St. John's Wood in England.  James tells of how Mr. Lee singled him out for special attention which made him feel good.  Pretty soon he was helping Mr. Lee put away the gym equipment and was his little helper. Then Mr. Lee started with letting him burn matches. This forbidden activity had a twofold purpose. It allowed Mr. Lee to get close to James by allowing him to do something he wanted to do and it provided Mr. Lee with blackmail material for when he wanted to get James to do something James might not want to do.  He also bought him chocolate and toys.  When it came time to sign up for boxing classes (the school didn't have much of a PE program, just the part-time program that Mr. Lee provided) he signed up.  Now, what happened after that is taken from a police report that was filed in 2010 by the Head Teacher who took the boys to the boxing classes and back to school. She complained about what she believed that something going on to the Headmaster, but was told she was overreacting. She also told James's mother about it as well.  The reason she didn't go farther was that back then no one suspected that kind of abuse.  She suspected that Mr. Lee was frightening him and causing personality changes in him, but she never suspected what was really going on. The reason she filed the police report was that James had become public about his abuse and she didn't want Mr. Lee to hurt any more children.  

But just because the abuse ended when his parents sent him to another school when he was ten it didn't mean that he became better. Physically his body was messed up. He had to defecate all the time.  Later he would require multiple back surgeries to fix the damage.  Mentally he was really messed up as those who have been abused are. He slept with any who wanted to sleep with him or gave blowjobs to the boys or to teachers and other grown men.  All of this is perfectly normal behavior for someone who has just survived the kind of abuse he went through. He wasn't even sure of his sexuality for a while.  But he had the piano to play and lose himself in.  Though he was told he would never be good enough to be a professional.  

When he went off to college he fell even more heavily into drugs and would stop playing piano for ten years. He just stayed high constantly until his parents got him out and placed him in a rehab facility where, while he got sober, he still didn't deal with his abuse issues.   He spent the next year in France working at a Burger King and having a great time with the ladies and the amazing things you can see and do in France.  It was the healthiest year of his life. He then went back to college and tried being normal. He just shoved all of that pain and craziness down and pretended it didn't exist.  He made it through college and got a good job and met a nice woman whom he married but didn't tell about his past.  But that pain would not stay down forever and it would come out and destroy everything.  

He would spend time in various hospitals seeking help and finally found himself a good therapist to see. But music was the guiding force that saved him.  When he was seven he heard Bach-Busoni, Chaconne and it transformed his life.  It was a place to escape to.  Each chapter of this book is set to a piece of music that he has picked out tells the story behind it so you can get the full experience of it like he does and set the mood for the chapter.  Be warned there is classical music talk in here, but he makes it so interesting you want to learn more.  Overall this book packs a powerful punch and I can't recommend it enough.

Quotes
Music has infiltrated our lives as much as nature, literature, art, sport, religion, philosophy and television. It is the great unifier, the drug of choice for teenagers around the world. It provides solace, wisdom, hope and warmth and has done so for thousands of years. It is medicine for the soul. There are eighty-eight keys on a piano and within that, an entire universe.

If Goethe was right and architecture is frozen music (what a quote!), this piece [Bach-Busoni, Chaconne] is a magical combination of the Taj Mahal, the Louvre and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 31)

There is nothing as terrifying to a mentally ill person as a feeling. Good or bad doesn’t matter. It still has the potential to turn our minds upside down and back to front without offering the vaguest clue how to deal with it reasonably or rationally. 
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 44)

To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day,to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight; and never stop fighting.
-ee cummings

If there were an ultra-neurotic Jewish mother, on coke, who was beyond evil and got wet off malevolence, that is that part of my mind.
--James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 49)

Musicians were meant to be all shades of fucked up, none more so than classical ones, who don’t even have the luxury of ripped jeans, groupies and cocaine—they have to express their issues with stupid jumpers, non-existent social skills and deranged facial expressions, and I knew I fit the bill.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 63)

How I wish psych wards had a loyalty card programme, with cards stamped for each day spent inside rather than each latte bought, where every tenth one resulted in a free day.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 69)

Could anyone be miserable in Paris? I’ve yet to see a fat Parisienne, the city has the heart-stoppingly beautifully architecture that can only come from surrendering to enemy forces in the early days of war, art, coffee, crepes, husky accents, a natural disdain for work, and smoking everywhere.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 70)

A creative artist works on his next composition because he was not satisfied with his previous one.
-Dmitri Shostakovich

There are many things I wish for. Cricket matches to not be able to last five days and still end in a draw. A massive increase in awareness and funding for mental health units and rape crisis centres. A six pack. KFC to deliver.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 98)

But feelings sometimes feel like Auschwitz, even if in reality they’re closer to Butlins. Real compassion comes from understanding that what feels true for someone is, to all intents and purposes, true. Doesn’t matter a bit if it is patently untrue to you and everyone else. And this terror felt true to me. It was my reality, however skewed that may seem.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 102)

Stupid love. Makes us all act like dickheads.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 168)

The people behind classical music seem to have lost sight of the fact that the composers themselves were, in effect, the original rock starts. Today the phrase ‘rock star’ brings to mind Heat magazine photoshoots, tattoos…being a judge on Britain’s Got Talent. Back then it meant really bad hair, some form of venereal disease, mental illness and poverty. They were for the large part mental, depraved, genius bastards who would have pissed themselves laughing at the ideas about performance that the classical gatekeepers of today are so rigidly stuck to. They didn’t throw TVs out of hotel windows, they threw themselves out.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 186-7)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Instrumental-Memoir-Madness-Medication-Music-ebook/dp/B01M28JX4Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497279999&sr=1-1&keywords=instrumental+james+rhodes

Friday, June 9, 2017

Lady Mechanika Volume One: The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse by Joe Benitez (Written and Drawn), Peter Steigerwald (Color) and Josh Reed (Letters)


Previously I reviewed Satan's Alley (http://nicolewbrown.blogspot.com/2017/05/lady-mechanicka-demon-of-satans-alley.html) which is included in here and is where Lady Mechanika first meets up with Lord Blackpool the villain in this one.  A young girl with mechanical arms escapes from some guards and makes it all the way to Mechanika City to the train station where a doctor and his daughter see her and he tries to treat her, but she is dead.  Lady Mechanika gets word of this girl and goes to see the doctor and his daughter who does not believe that she is actually Lady Mechanika because she is dressed in a "frumpy" lady's dress rather than something dashing and heroic like the ones she has been reading about.  The doctor once worked for Blackpool, but he insists it was just for the one expedition in Satan's Alley.  He tells her he is only in town for Mechani-Con where scientists and inventors present their discoveries that year and hope for buyers.  She asks him if he was able to examine her and if she was like her or not and he tells her that the girl was a cruder version.  He also tells her that the Ministry of Health has her now.

Lady Mechanika breaks into the Ministry of Health to get a better look at her and to steal her body.  She finds a Romani earring on her and takes it off and pockets it.  As she is taking her out a blast knocks her back and someone takes the young girl from her.  When she gets up she is faced by Commander Katherine Winter and her goons who work for Blackpool who were there to get the body too but have missed their chance as well.  Winter and Mechanika have a history. After Mechanika was found after being held a prisoner by the madman who created her for who knows how long, she was placed inside a cell in the Ministry of Health because she was deemed not safe for humanity.  Winter helped her escape from there and showed her "the ways of the world".  But bad things happened and they parted ways on bad terms.  But because of that Mechanika spares her life when she gets the drop on her after killing her men in the tunnel.

When she gets back to her home, Mr. Lewis, her sometimes sidekick, and inventor is drunk again. She asks him if he has heard of a Mr. Cain, the name of an inventor that the doctor told her about who could be the man who created her and the girl.  He tells her Cain was known as the Engineer and was highly revered and worked on things that no one could imagine and that he was quite mad.  Could Cain be working for Blackpool? Or does he have his own agenda?

When she follows up on the earring she finds not only is the girl not the only Romani missing but that they believe that she is still alive.  Now she has to track down the missing Romani and go try to stop Blackpool and whatever he is up to.  I just love the drawing in this comic. They stay true to the Victorian steampunk roots they are going for including the ancient yellowed boxes with curlicued lettering.  The plot is really good and keeps you guessing all the way to the end.

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Mechanika-Mystery-Mechanical-Corpse-ebook/dp/B06Y39X198/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497017587&sr=8-1&keywords=lady+mechanika+volume+1