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

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Web by Jonathan Kellerman

In this tenth Dr. Alex Delaware book, he and Robin leave Los Angles, where his home is still being repaired for an all expenses paid work vacation on the Pacific island of Aruk, by Dr. Woodrow Mooreland, a scientist, and philanthropist who needs help with his many case files to ready them for publication.

But things are not as they seem.  A couple, one a botanist, the other a meteorologist studying weather patterns in the area are to go on a plane ride over the jungle where no one goes because of the land mines left by the Japanese during World War II.  They get in a fight before the flight and he goes alone and the plane crashes into the jungle.  The Navy base on the other side of the island, which is blocked off by a large iron gate, that went up after the villagers protested the death and mutilation of a local girl who was known to hand around sailors.

The other cases the doctor shares with him besides that of the girl is one of a man who suffered radiation poisoning when the Bikini Islands were bombed and the air shifted and drifted over some of the Pacific Islands, causing death and cancer.  The people were compensated monetarily, but in the doctor's opinion, that was not enough.  The people of Aruk receive government checks each month because of their poverty, which does not encourage them to try to revive the island's economy and while Dr. Mooreland has the money to help, he does not.

There are also two strange American men on the island who seem to want to drink all day and harass the local women.  But they are not the only odd thing on the island.  A man who is running for the Senate seat of Washington State, and known for his environmental policies back stateside, is perhaps not so eco-friendly concerning the island.  A big business is interested in the island and all the land the doctor owns, which is considerable.

But that is not the biggest secret being kept.  The good Dr. Mooreland waits until the end to show and tell his story to Alex and Robin one stormy night.  A story that may get them all killed.  This book's ending will come as a complete shock.  As all of the secrets kept by the various players unravel, a horrendous revelation and a shocking request made by Dr. Mooreland to Alex and Robin could quite possibly end in tragedy for them all.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Web-Alex-Delaware-Novel-ebook/dp/B000FBFN9C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495813533&sr=1-1&keywords=the+web+kellerman

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Doctor Strange Vol 1: The Way of the Weird by Jason Aaron (Writer), Chris Bachalo (Penciler/Colorist), Time Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Lievsay, Wayne Faucher, Victor Mazaba, Jaime Mendoza (Inkers), Kevin Nowlan (Artist/Colorist) and VC's Cory Petit (Letterer)

 This comic comes before Doctor Strange Vol 2: The Last Days of Magic.  In this one, he is realizing that the magical creatures he is fighting that are inside people are growing in number and are harder to get out.  He brings this to the collection of magical beings at the Bar Without Doors that only allows magicians.  But the discussion gets derailed by Monako who demands to know whether or not Strange has been paying the price for using magic. Monako killed rabbits in his day because it is always a life for a life.  So what is Doctor Strange doing?

Meanwhile back at the Sanctum Santorum, a young woman waits to see Doctor Strange, but not at all sure if she really wants to see him. Her name is Zelma Stanton and she has something with mouths and teeth coming out of the top of her head.  Her best friend heard it from someone that he helped someone with a dog growing out of his chest so she thought she might give him a try at fixing this.  Strange has never seen anything like this.  He gets out most of the mouth creatures who are now roaming freely about the mansion wrecking havoc. Strange and Zelma must find them and kill them before they cause damage to the house.  Strange gives Zelma a sword for protection and tells her not to look at anything for very long and to please stay away from the refrigerator as he has collected some odd things in there that she doesn't want to meet.  When they get to the library the creature opens up a book and the blowback knocks Zelda out of the room and the two get separated.  Which is how she ends up opening the refrigerator and meeting Wong who saves her from it.  Strange, meanwhile, has been meditating and reading in the library.

Earlier in the 13th dimension, the Sorcerer Supreme there is about to die and he sends out a message upon some special birds to let those in other dimensions know what is going on. All those who knew magic have been killed and magic is no longer working in his dimension.  The Empirikul has come and taken over.  His magic birds are killed in the sky by them.

Doctor Strange is beginning to notice that magic is not working sometimes when it should, however, he has bigger problems on his hand for a while.  The colors are very interesting. Of course, the sanctum santorum is done up in dark colors because it is a dark place. But there is a scene where Doctor Strange's astral self wakes up in another dimension and the people are done in just black ink with no colors and the flora and fauna are done up in riotous colors with a beautiful rainbow in the background.  The drawings are very Asian in orientation and the story is first rate.  I highly recommend this book.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Strange-Vol-Weird-2015-ebook/dp/B01DOJCAGA/ref=sr_es_i_1_2_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495633025&sr=8-2&keywords=doctor+strange+the+way+of+the+weird

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

"The Interdependency with it's religious and social ethos of interconnectedness combined with a guild-centered, monopolistic economy, they'd created possibly the most ridiculously complex method of ensuring the formal caste system of nobles intertwined with a merchant class, and common workers underneath, complicated proceeding even further.  And yet it worked. It worked because on a social level, apparently enough people wanted it to, and because at the heart of it, billions of humans living in fragile habitats prone to mechanical and environmental breakdowns and degradation, and with limited natural resources, were better off relying on each other than trying to go it alone. Even without the Interdependency being interdependent was the best way for humanity to survive." (p 276)  At the head of the whole thing is the emperox who had the largest guild, was the head of the church, and had a seat on parliament.

The book opens up with the old emperox dying and leaving as his heir his daughter from his mistress, Cardenia, a woman who has grown up outside of the capital and has no idea how to run things. His legal heir died tragically in a racing car accident while engaged to Nadshe Nohampetan from one of the important guilds, but truly a horrible person from a horrible family.  Nadshe was the brains of the family and Cardenia's brother could have handled her just fine and made use of her. Now her much dumber brother Amit is sniffing around trying to get her to say yes to a marriage proposal and the council wants her to say yes. But when her father was dying he told her it would be a poor match.  The council, which is comprised of a representative from the church, representatives from the guilds, and politicians, is preparing to run her down and tell her what to do. But Cardenia who has chosen as her royal name Grayland II and only lets personal friends and family in private call her Cardenia.  She uses the plural We when she talks as she is talking for the entire system.  In private she can use the singular when she feels like it.

At her coronation, a bomb goes off on the balcony when they are getting off the elevator and some other bombs go off in the crowds. The one on the balcony kills her best friend and personal assistant who keeps her on schedule and lets her know what she needs to know for every scenario and rights up speeches for her to say for every occasion. She is told that it is rebels from the rebel war going on at the planet End, which is as you might guess at the end of the system.  It's the only planet where people actually live on it.  This is of course, not true as the rebels could care less about who is crowned emperox. They are more concerned as to who is running things on End. But those on Hub, where the seat of the emperox and the government is they believe what they are being told by the Nohampetans, mainly Nadshe who has a secret plan in place.

On End, a once famous physicist seemingly turned his back on all that and took a title after he slept with the wrong woman and was sent to End to be a tax auditor.  But secretly he was working for the emperox who has just died to further his research and to find out if it is true and what will happen. His son, Marce Claremont, has been helping him and the two have discovered that the Flow, the streams with which people travel from one planet to another in a matter of weeks or months instead of decades or more, has been degrading and is now falling apart and disappearing altogether with the one from End to the Hub the first to go.  The physicist puts his son on one of the last ships going back to the Hub in order to talk to the emperox.  But his trip will be fraught with peril as Ghreni Nohampetan is trying to either kill him or keep him back on End.

I really loved this book. While I loved Cardenia, one of my favorite characters was Lady Kiva, the family representative of the House of Lagos who owns the ship that Marce is leaving on and with whom, Ghreni has made the mistake of screwing with. She cusses worse than a sailor, sleeps with whoever she wants, and does as she pleases unless her mother, the head of the House of Lagos tells her differently because her mother is someone she respects and hopes to be someday.   Kiva is smart and can really put a plan together and is prepared to sacrifice for the greater good.  This book is the first in a series or a trilogy or at least has a sequel with the way it ended.  I'm desperate to find out what happens next so Mr. Scalzi write faster, please.

Really nice people don’t usually accrue power.
--John Scalzi (The Collapsing Empire p 32)

“I don’t think she’s going to keep it to herself.” “It’s not whether she tells everyone,” Huma said. “It’s whether they believe her.” “It’s the truth.” “Oh, my daughter,” Huma said, and smiled. “Don’t tell me you don’t know how little that actually means.”
-John Scalzi (The Collapsing Empire p 274)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Collapsing-Empire-John-Scalzi-ebook/dp/B01F20E7CO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495464388&sr=8-1&keywords=the+collapsing+empire

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (Writer), Adrian Alphona (Artist), Jan Herring (Color), and VC's Joe Carmagna (Lettering)

Set in Jersey City, Kamala Khan and her best friend Nakia are good Muslim girls most of the time in that they eat halal and go to the local Mosque, even though Kamala drives the Sheikh Abdullah nuts with her questions and they sneak out of the meetings to go and get a snack at the Circle Q where their friend Bruno works.  Kamala desperately wants to fit in with the popular crowd and when Zoe and her boyfriend Josh invite Bruno, Nakia, and Kamala to a party one weekend night, Kamala sneaks out of the house to go to it.

What happens there is she is given alcohol, which she spits out and is spotted by Bruno who is trying to get her to leave when she runs off.  A dense fog settles in the area and everyone goes down, including Kamala who dreams of meeting the Avengers with Captain Marvel speaking for them.  She asks her what she wants most in life and Kamala tells her she wants to be more like Captain Marvel.  She becomes encased in a shell that she must break open and when she does, she looks exactly like Captain Marvel with the blonde hair and blue eyes. Her costume is different, as she had requested a more kickass costume.  After a little while, she turns back to Kamala, then back to Ms. Marvel.

When she stumbles upon Zoe and Josh goofing off on the docks, she shrinks down to a small size so as not to be noticed.  Zoe and Josh struggle on the dock and Zoe goes overboard. They're both drunk and won't be able to handle helping Zoe so Kamala changes into her Ms. Marvel shape and rescues Zoe by extending her arms and making her hands large and scooping her in.  What she doesn't know is that someone taped footage of the event and it went to the news stations.  As she sneaks into the house her very religious brother catches her and lets her know that her parents know she snuck out because Bruno told them when he couldn't find her.  She gets grounded until they can trust her again, which doesn't go with her plans to help people in her new role as Ms. Marvel.

At school, she gets into trouble for messing up the gym changing room because she felt herself going out of control and going big.  She imagined someone to become and missed the mark and changed into someone else--someone smaller.  Then changed back into Kamala.  She must learn to control her new powers.  When she goes alone to the Circe Q and notices a masked a masked man sticking up the place. The guy is Vick, Bruno's brother, and he and Kamala in her transformed state fight until Vick's gun goes off and shoots Kamala forcing her to change back to her Kamala form.  Now Bruno knows her secret.  When Bruno goes missing, Kamala agrees to help Bruno go and find him and with his help, she figures out a new superhero costume for Kamala to wear, not the Captain Marvel clone and he helps her to learn to control her powers.

It's not surprising to find that Haver's is quite racists and wants them all to die, it is strange to see some of that behavior from others.  But then fear makes us all do strange things.  The colors are mostly browns and yellows, indicative of the sands of Karachi where her family is from.  The drawings are quite clever and are quite interesting when they depict Kamala's ability to stretch.   Also, she is willing to take her baby brother to mosques as she is quite attached to him. This was a great comic. Kamala took the Captain Marvel like costume and made it her own, with her own skin shining through.  Ther is no one like Ms. Marvel. She is a breath of fresh air and a woman worth rooting for.  I can't wait to read the next one.

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Ms-Marvel-Vol-No-Normal-ebook/dp/B00NEW45XE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495207455&sr=8-1&keywords=ms+marvel+vol+1

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Taming of the Duke: Essex Sister Quartet Number 3 by Eloisa James

In Kiss Me, Annabel, Imogen decides to make the Earl of Mayne her man about town and lover. Unfoturuntately, Maitland will only agree to escort her around town and nothing more. The rake has given up his sinful ways and besides, Rafe, the Duke of Holbrook and Imogen's guardian would object mightily and the two are best friends.  Imogen and Rafe have fought like cats and dogs since they met. She's headstrong and does what she likes no matter what or whom she hurts. And Rafe is a drunkard stuck in the past mourning the loss of his family.  Imogen cannot stand him when he drinks and Rafe cannot stand her when she throws herself at a man. First with her husband Draven who dies tragically, then at various men afterward in her grief who refuse to take advantage of her.

While Imogen is in the Scottish Highlands seeing Annabel get married, Rafe is back in London dealing with a surprise visitor: his long not exactly lost half-brother his father had with his mistress.  It's hard to accept Gabriel Spenser as his father seemed to care more for him and his mother than he did for Rafe and his brother and mother.  Gabe earned a doctorate of divinity at Cambridge and is a professor. He and Rafe were born days apart and look quite similar to each other.  Peter, Rafe's brother knew of Gabe's existence when their father died and the will was read with that provision read to provide for them only to Peter who took the news to his grave.

Gabe is in need of a favor from Rafe.  It seems that there is a young actress that has just had his child and that he has been unable to convince to marry him. He will be keeping the child and in exchange, since the pregnancy caused her to lose a prominent part at a good theater, a production will be put on at the Holbrook Estate in order to launch her back into the theater. But he needs to convince Rafe of this.  Rafe is reluctant at first since he knows nothing about putting one of these on and knows that Gabe knows even less.  But then he remembers Lady Gillian Pythian-Adams who knows by heart many different plays and asks for her help and she is more than glad to help as she is bored to tears trying to find a husband which seems to be an impossibility.

Imogen arrives at Holbrook Court at the end of summer after seeing Annabel married and settled.  When she sees Gabe she sees the possibility for a paramour; someone with whom to have an affair with no strings attached. The problem is he has no interest in her, but rather Gillian.  But he doesn't want to hurt her tender feelings so he says he will meet her in costume to go and see a singer at a bar in town. Then he tells Rafe to go in his stead because he knows that Rafe loves her.  Rafe does indeed love her and he goes in his place and the two have a great time and share passionate kisses.  Rafe has already decided to stop drinking as it is bad for him and if he wants to get his life back he has to stop.  He has started to lose weight and his regular horse riding is making him fit.

He still is going out with her as Rafe and even shares a kiss with her as Rafe, but the kiss is gentle and different than the kiss as Gabe.  He desperately wants her to know that it's him and to tell her that he loves her, but he doesn't feel as though he has earned her love yet.  Meanwhile, Gabe and Gillian are doing their own dance as she believes that he is a rake and he knows that he doesn't have a chance with a titled woman to be his wife.  So, Gillian is trying to flirt with Rafe who is single and a possible match while watching as he makes eyes at Imogen, the woman who stole away her finance, Draven. On top of that, Imogen is flirting with Gabe the man she has feelings for. Gillian cannot seem to win with Imogen around.

This book is like watching a ping pong match as the four players bounce back and forth when you the reader know who should be with whom.  Imogen and Rafe have been boiling since the first book and it is nice to Miss Pythian-Adams again, the bluestocking who could quote entire works of Shakespeare and did so in order to try to get out of her engagement by boring her fiance to death (It didn't work).  And Gabe is quite a sweet character who sees things others miss, but then misses things in his own life.  This book was worth the wait.

Link to Amazon: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51CbCZCa0xL.jpg

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday is overwhelmed at the French consulate with her volunteer work there and with the boxes of goods, she sends to the orphans in France when things become even more chaotic after Hitler marches on Poland and then France.  During this time she falls for a dashing French actor on broadway, Paul. whose wife is back in France with her own lovers running her fashion store, their marriage broke shortly after it began. The French consulate tries to get Paul's wife out of France, but by this time it is too late. Roosevelt's State Department has passed impossibly strict standards to get into this country or to leave it.  It doesn't help that Paul's wife is half Jewish.  So Paul manages to get permission to go over there, knowing that it will be a one-way ticket. Caroline hears from him at first then things go silent. Her boss gets her clearance to listen to and follow top secret information in order for her to find out what is going on with Paul and his wife.  The last word is that they are being sent to a work camp at Natzeiler-Struthof in the French mountains and that his wife died of Typhus en route to another.  Things are tense financially in Caroline and her mother's house so she begin's to sell off the family silver starting with the oyster forks in order to provide for the orphans.  They cut up old dresses and use up all of Caroline's old Broadway clothes to make clothes for the children.  But her mind is constantly on Paul.

Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager from Lublin, wants to do more for her country and to prove herself to the young man that she loves, Pietrik who runs a cell in the underground.  He lets her do a small job that she succeeds at and then insists on doing more. Against his better judgment, he lets her do a larger job.  But things go wrong and she is noticed by a brown shirt who follows her back to her job at the movie theater.  Waiting inside of the ticket booth is Pietrik, his sister, and Kasia's older doctor sister, Zuzanna.  When the brown shirt arrives to arrest her he takes all four of them and at that time Kasia's mother is there to drop off her lunch and insists on going too so he takes her Matka.  The four women are kept together and sent to the only all female concentration camp within Germany's borders: Ravensbruck.  Pietrick is sent elsewhere.   Matka who was a nurse at one point in time, gets noticed by Dr. Herta Oberheurser who has her transferred there from the bookbinding shop to the Revier, or hospital, and transferred out of the block she was in to block one where the special people live and get extra rations, which Matka just finds ways to give to other people in need.  Kasia is trying to find a way to live with the guilt of bringing them all there in the first place when she and her sister and Pietrik's sister's path crosses that of Dr. Oberheurser and not in a good way, but in a way that will change their lives forever.

Dr. Herta Oberherrser has a hard time getting a job or\ a degree as a doctor, much less a job as one.  She lands one that is part time at a dermatology clinic that becomes more and more part time as the war begins and fewer people go to the dermatology clinic.  Unlike her, her father is a firm supporter of the Jews and very ill.  When he can no longer work and she sees an advertisement for a doctor's position in a re-education camp she realizes she would be able to send the money home and finally work as a real doctor.  When she gets there she finds out the reality and doesn't want to do it, but her family is depending on her to support them and these people obviously did something wrong to be there.  With the help of her old doctor friend Fitz they kill a patient together by injection and as he told her once you've worked there a while, you get used to it.  And boy, does she.  She is able to carry out the most heinous acts all in the name of science and the love of her country.  She is the only female doctor there and she feels pressure to do better than the other doctors.  She even believes she is doing real scientific work.

While Caroline Ferriday and Dr. Herta Oberherser are real people, Kasia is based upon Nina Iwanska and her doctor sister Krystyna who went through similar experiences in the camp.  It is interesting to watch these three women as they evolve across the pages of the book.  These are strong women for any time period, but especially for that time period.  They bucked the social norm and did things their own way, even if that way was horrific.  They stood tall and never backed down.  And love them or hate them you had to respect their drive and daring, but not necessarily the person.

*If you want to know more about Ravensbruck I highly suggest reading the book Ravensbruck: Life and Death In Hitler's Concentration Camp by Sarah Helm. I posted a review of the book and here is a link to it: http://nicolewbrown.blogspot.com/2016/01/ravensbruck-life-and-death-in-hitlers.html

Nietzsche said a diet predominantly of potatoes leads to the use of liquor.
-Martha Hall Kelly (Lilac Girls p 307)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lilac-Girls-Martha-Hall-Kelly/dp/1101889586/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494853731&sr=8-1&keywords=lilac+girls+by+martha+hall+kelly


Friday, May 12, 2017

Doctor Strange #17, #18 and #19 by Jason Aaron (Writer), Frazer Irving (Aritst)/ Chris Bachalo (Artist and Colorist), VC'S Cory Petit (Letters), Kevin Nowlan (Color) and Al Vey, Tim Twonsend, John Livesay, and Victor Olazaba (Inkers)

These two comics take place right after the comic book Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic.  At the end of that comic Wong, his librarian and the man who ran things and his friend disappear.  So he has been hunting him down with the help of Zelma his sanctum's new librarian.  As magic is starting to come back to life around the world, so also do the problems that come with it and Doctor Strange has set out to mediate and fix these problems.

As Doctor Strange suspects, Wong has not been kidnapped by some regular kidnapper, but by the monster under the stairs, Mr. Mistery, part of which survived and wants revenge.  Wong is helpless to stop himself in helping this entity by giving him his knowledge in how to hurt Doctor Strange.

Doctor Strange goes to the Bar With No Doors, a sorcerers bar to see if anyone has any information but strikes out in that regard. Instead, he finds himself being taken away by a large man thing creature to a swamp inhabited by Nazi ninja vampires.  He takes out the vampires for the creature and receives some algae goop for payment.  Meanwhile, Mr. Misery has given back to his patients their tumors with a dash of the black stuff he carries around.

In number eighteen, Doctor Strange has been called in to help since the tumors are fighting back, but he needs help and he calls in Thor who is also Dr. Jane Foster which is just who Doctor Strange needs: a superhero doctor. He still cannot operate with his hands so Thor will have to do the cutting with Strange telling her what to do.  When the black stuff comes out, Strange eats it so it will cause no more damage and because it is his pain that he should have absorbed in the first place.  They, of course, run into problems because nothing is easy when dealing with Mr. Misery.

In number 19, Doctor Strange now has Wong, but he is still caught up in the clutches of Mr. Misery and he must find a way to fight Mr. Misery and get Wong back while defeating Mr. Misery once and for all with the help of Zelma.

These three comics are fantastic.  The story lines are incredible and creative.  The artwork is amazing. The scenes in 19 where they show Mr. Misery in all his glory and the bizarre rooms of the sanctum.  It is also fascinating to watch the panels with Thor operating on Doctor Strange's patients.  The colors and drawing in number 17 are softer and fuzzier as they are drawn and colored by different people than numbers 18 and 19. The colors used are a gorgeous use of pastels mostly and give you a sense of post-impressionism.  In 18 and 19 the colorist makes good use of dark and light which goes with the story as Doctor Strange is fighting with the badness of his life with all the light that he has.  At the hospital, the scene is light and airy except for Mr. Misery who brings the evil and pure blackness.  I highly recommend these comics and cannot wait for number 20 which comes out in June of 2017.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Strange-2015-Jason-Aaron-ebook/dp/B01N2JSYHJ/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494595614&sr=8-1-fkmr2&keywords=doctor+strange+number+17