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, September 22, 2017

Astonishing X-Men: Volume One Gifted by Joss Whedon (Writer), John Cassaday (Artist), Laura Martin (Colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer)

A new school year at Xavier's Institute For Higher Learning has opened to new students and old. The Professor is away dealing with business.  Jean, aka The Phoenix, is dead and Scott, the head of the school has taken up with fellow teacher Emma Frost the former enemy of the X-Men who can read minds and has the ability to turn her body into solid nearly indestructible diamonds.  The other teachers are Beast, Kitty Pryde, and Wolverine.  Kitty makes it clear that she doesn't trust Emma and that she will be keeping an eye on her. When Wolverine shows up he and Scott get into it in front of the students which is a great start to the school year.

Meanwhile, a Dr. Kavita Rao announces that she has found a cure for the mutant gene.  She prances out a small child she has cured on national TV.  The students at the school are in an uproar with some thinking that they want the cure, others thinking that they don't need it, and the rest not knowing what to think.  Around the world, people are starting to line up at centers to receive the cure.  Hank, the Beast, breaks into her lab to get a copy, but she catches him and freely gives him a sample knowing that if the X-Men back the science it will go better for her.

Hank himself is considering taking the cure if it works since he is becoming more beast than human, which leads to a fight with Wolverine in front of the children.  But there's more here than meets the eye. There's a mysterious alien named Ord from Breakworld who draws the X-Men out to fight by taking hostages at a party then fleeing into the night. What does he have to do with this? And what secret is Nick Fury keeping from them this time? You're not sure if you can trust Emma, but at times you do feel sorry for her because the ghost of Jean is everywhere. Joss Whedon lives up to his reputation and Cassady is an incredible artist, as is Martin a beautiful colorist. There are lots of surprises in store for this first book in the series that leave you wanting more.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Astonishing-X-Men-Vol-1-Gifted-ebook/dp/B00AAJQV8Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506082554&sr=8-1&keywords=astonishing+xmen+vol+1

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Die Again by Tess Gerritsen

On the TV series, which does not really follow the books, the actor who played Rizzoli's partner, Frost, a really great character, committed suicide and was killed off the show.  I really hoped Gerritsen would not kill him off in the book, and she does not, which is a relief.  In the books, Korchef has retired and was going to marry Rizzoli's mom, whose husband ran off with a bimbo.  Then he comes back and expects everything to be the same.  Her mom is miserable.  She's not with the man she loves, but she is getting pressure from her two sons and her priest to stay with her husband, who is a real jackass and treats her poorly.

This is by far the bloodiest of the Rizzoli and Isles books, and that is saying a lot.  It opens with the murder of taxidermist/hunter Leon Gott, who is found in his garage, hanging from the ceiling, cut stem to stern, with most of his innards in a trash can along with the innards of a snow leopard, which is an endangered and rarely seen animal.  He has been there for four days, and well, his two cats and dog have gotten hungry and feasted on him.

It turns out that Gott was hired to stuff the leopard, who was euthanized at the zoo where he lived, and sold to a shock jock hunter radio host because the zoo needed the money.  It is illegal to sell their pelts, no matter how old they are, however.  While Rizzoli and Frost are at the zoo, one of the zookeepers is mauled to death by a cougar.  Her death is deemed an accident, but there are a lot of questions and suspicions about her death.

The book goes back and forth between the current story in Boston and one that took place in Botswana six-years ago.  A group, a Japanese couple, a British couple, two young women, and a young man, go to "rough" it in the wild with a guide named Johnny and his assistant Clarence.  One day they wake up to find the remains of Clarence's body outside the protective perimeter of the fence with bells.  He was keeping overnight watch.  Then another one of them is killed.  Some of them begin to suspect Johnny of killing them. Millie, part of the now broken up British couple, cannot believe it and thinks they are crazy.  Things go from bad to worse and only one of them will survive.

Gott's estranged son, Elliott was on that trip.  Since his death, Gott has regretted the way he treated his son.  One Sunday afternoon, after the pelt is delivered to him, he calls two people, Elliot's girlfriend and the Johannesburg police department.  The pelt is missing from his house.  Did someone steal it because of its value, or for some other demented reason?  The same night Gott dies, Elliot's girlfriend is murdered too.  As they dig, they find cases similar to the way Gott died.  Was it an animal right's group making an example of hunters or something so unthinkable and sinister who would believe it?

This is a really great book, even with all the blood and guts.  You will never guess the endgame.  There are so many twists and turns and false leads that seem so promising, yet misleading you from the truth.  Rizzoli and Isles are up against a serious killer who would not blink at killing either one of them if they get too close to finding him out.  By the way, for those who doubt the ending is possible, do not just take my word for it (I have read up on it) but remember that Gerritsen is an MD and knows what she is talking about.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Die-Again-Rizzoli-Isles-Novel-ebook/dp/B00JI4ZSDI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505915823&sr=8-1&keywords=die+again+tess+gerritsen

Monday, September 18, 2017

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

There really is a Hebrew codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah.  A Haggadah is a text recited on the first two nights of Seder during Passover that includes the description of the Exodus from Egypt.  A family would likely have more than one so everyone at the table could have their own copy to read from.  Today they can come illustrated, but long ago in the Medieval times, the Jews did not believe in illustrating their texts as they believed that the commandment "Thou shalt not create any graven image by thy hand" applied here. But the Sarajevo Haggadah, made at that time, is beautifully illustrated in the style of the Christian manuscripts of its day.  There is a story behind how it managed to survive all this time when other religions and governments were burning and looting such artifacts.  But no one knows most of the story; only the bit at the end.  The author has taken the liberty to fill in the spaces with her own suppositions and has also changed the names and created a backstory for those whose stories we know about.

The book opens with Hanna Heath an expert in book conservation, especially medieval books.  She was chosen for this amazing job of doing the Sarajevo Haggadah, which has just resurfaced after having been missing since 1898 and before never having been heard of, not because she has the most experience, but because she is from Australia the least objectionable country.  Dr. Ozren Kamaran, the kustos of it and the chief librarian of the National Museum and professor of librarianship at the National University of Bosnia turns out to be around her age of thirty and not at all what she expected.  The two have an affair that is marred by the fact that he has a son in a permanent coma and a dead wife due to the Bosnian war.  But watching Hanna work is a thing of beauty and fascinating as hell.  Each artifact, stain, or marking that she notices will tell someone's story.  There's an insect, a hair, a wine stain, some salt, and the lack of claps even though the book was set up to take clasps.  It was not, of course, in its original binding, but was rebound many times, the last time in 1898.

The stories include one that concerns the insect is about a young Jewish girl named Lola from Sarajevo who runs off to the mountains when the Germans invade her town and begin rounding up the Jews.  She joins the Partisans, a group of communists cells that are fighting the Germans in guerilla-style fashion.  Her cell isn't much to talk about and is eventually disbanded and she is left alone so she goes back to Sarajevo where her path crosses with that of Serif Kamal, the librarian who saved the Haggadah from the Nazis.

Also, there's the story of the bookbinder and how the clasps came to be missing.  Then there's the story of how the wine got there in Venice in 1609 and the relationship between priest Giovanni Domenico Vistorini and Rabbi Judah Aryeh. Vistorini was in charge of determining what books were edited or burned by the Catholic Church and sometimes he consulted with the rabbi or tried to convince the rabbi to get the illegal Jewish publishers to stop publishing the messages against Christianity.  The rabbi would come to him with the Haggadah to get it passed with a seal for someone.  The story of the salt comes from 1492 and the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition.  This story concerns Ruti, a young woman whose father is a book writer and whom she herself reads the books only older men are allowed to read.  She leads a secret life her family has no idea about. Her father buys the Haggadah off of a deaf-mute boy in the marketplace and decides to give it as a gift to his nephew for his upcoming wedding.  But things change quickly when the Jews are told to leave Spain.  The last one is told about the artist herself and involves the hair. She, Zahra al-Tarek is from Africa and drew pictures of plants for her father a healer.  But when their village was attacked she was enslaved and her painting became her usable skill.  It takes her to many places and saves her life.

Throughout this book, you continue the story of Hanna who has a mother who is a top neurosurgeon and head of neurology at her hospital in Sydney.  The two do not get along as Hanna feels as though her mother was never there for her and her mother never told her who her father was. This will change in the book when someone dies and his identity becomes known to Hanna, opening up a whole family she never knew she had.

This book asks you to make some leaps that you just can't make, like Ozren being the love of her life after a very short time of being together and then not seeing each other for years.  But the stories of the different people are so interesting and colorful and tragic in some ways, yet hopeful as the book keeps on surviving through the ages until today which is a testament to three major religions coming together to save something grand, glorious, and holy. Overall this was a book really worth reading if only to imagine what might have happened to this wonderful book as it marched across time.  

Pictures of the Sarajevo Haggadah:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/483714816208821051/?lp=true

Vienna is the laboratory of the apocalypse.
-Karl Kraus

Sometimes, I think if you took out all the universities and all the hospitals our of greater Boston, you’d be able to fit what’s left into about six city blocks.
-Geraldine Brooks (The People of the Book p 134)

Had not the Muslims, Jews, and Christians shared these lands in contentment—in convivencia—for hundreds of years? What was the saying? Christians raise the armies, Muslims raise the buildings, Jews raise the money.
-Geraldine Brooks (The People of the Book p 222)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/People-Book-Novel-Geraldine-Brooks-ebook/dp/B000YJ66SW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505736102&sr=8-1&keywords=the+people+of+the+book


Friday, September 15, 2017

Spider-Man/Deadpool: Volume One: Isn't It Bromantic by Joe Kelly (Writer), Ed McGuinness (Penciler) Mark Morales with Livesay (Inkers), Jason Keith (Colorist), and VC's Joe Sabino (Letterer)

This comic opens with Spidey and Deadpool being held captive by Dormammu of Hell and needing to rely on each other to escape.  Of course, it turns out that Deadpool had set the whole thing up of Dormammu in order to spend time with Spiderman.  He later shows up to help Spiderman with the bad guy Hydraman which goes horribly wrong for Wade (Deadpool). They do get the bad guy.

Deadpool has a reason for wanting to spend all this time with Spider-man and it isn't just because he thinks the world of him as a superhero.  Deadpool has hired to take out Peter Parker Spiderman's best friend and protector and Deadpool wants to get a sense if whether or not the intel he got was legit without having to actually ask Spider-man anything.

The two find themselves going up against Mysterio who causes Spider-man to hallucinate and see the Green Goblin everywhere, but Deadpool knocks him out of the hallucination and the two take down Mysterio before he can do damage to the city. While Beck, Mysterio, is in the hospital recovering Parker goes to visit him and Deadpool arrives ready to take him out only to be foiled by a visit by "Spider-man", or Hobie Brown the man who sometimes stands in for Spider-man when Parker needs him to on occasion in order to keep up the appearance that the two of them are different people.  This stops Deadpool in his tracks and he leaves.

Next Deadpool invites him to do a job with him in Bolivia where they run into Styx and Stone and Deadpool forgets to tell Spider-man that the job is for a drug lord.  A few days later Spider-man calls up Deadpool and asks him if he wants to hang out. So Deadpool takes him clubbing at his club but arranges a digital identity for Spider-man so his date and others won't recognize him as Spider-man.  Things, of course, get out of hand and Thor arrives to be Deadpool's date only she doesn't know that.  She's on his Free Pass list that he and his wife, Shiklah, have.  Unfortunately, Spider-man's date is a succubus who hates Asgardians so a fight between the two break out and the men really enjoy the fight a bit too much so the ladies find a way to make them pay for it.

But Wade hasn't forgotten his contract and he believes that Parker is an evil man doing evil things in his lab and that he deserves to die and he deserves to be paid for it.  So he walks up to Parker's door and shoots him dead.  Now it's time to celebrate, but will Spider-man ever forgive him?

I'm surprised it took this long for someone to pair the two most wise-assed characters in Marvel together for a comic (in both ways) run.  This comic is full of riffs and one-liners. The two set each other up and play off each other like a great comedy team.  They also fight well together and it's sweet that Deadpool crushes on Spider-man so much and Spider-man doesn't like him all that much in the beginning, as he was the reason he left the Avengers.  But after spending some time with him he comes to change his mind about Deadpool. Deadpool killing him, will, of course, change this.  This comic also includes a comic with the Vision family adjusting to the suburban life and how something strange is going on in the neighborhood. This comic is everything you could want and more with a cherry on top.  I eagerly await the next one.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spider-Man-Deadpool-Vol-Bromantic-2016-ebook/dp/B01JT4A2D2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505338900&sr=8-1&keywords=spider-man%2Fdeadpool+1   

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dimestore: A Writer's Life by Lee Smith

Lee Smith, an Oprah author, has written Dimestore which is not your typical memoir in that it focuses mainly on the author's writing life and how that has been affected and shaped by life events.  Lee Smith's father, a manic depressive, owned a dimestore in the mountains of Grundy, Virginia.  She did her part with the store such as to help pick out the dolls when she was a child and to arrange them on the shelf and keep them clean.  She would move them so that their arms were outstretched as though waiting for a child to come along and pick them up.

She was an only child to elderly parents who thought to never have children.  They were both mentally ill. Her mother as her father said was "kindly nervous" and would have to spend time in a mental hospital as would her daddy when the depression would hit at the end of a manic episode.  But there was always someone in the family to step up and run the store and help out at home and very rarely were both of them in the hospital at the same time.

Mental illness is believed to be genetic and her mother's side is rampant with examples of it.  It's a wonder Lee wasn't mentally ill herself. However, one of her two sons would be diagnosed as a schizo-affective disorder which is a combination of schizophrenia and manic depression.  She and both her first husband and her second husband were lucky in that he, Josh, wanted to take his medicines and gave them no trouble in that way as some mentally ill people can do and with good reason. The side effects can be atrocious and once you start to feel well you begin to believe you do not need them anymore.  In Josh's case, the side effect of his medication was causing weight gain and high blood pressure which was doing his heart no favors.  At age thirty-three, he died in his sleep of heart failure.  This affected Lee's writing in that she at first couldn't write a single thing. Then slowly she began to write her way through her grief.

In college, Lee wrote many stories about stewardesses in Hawaii and things such as that but got Bs and Cs.  She asked her professor why and he told her to write what she knew.  So she wrote a story about a group of older women she remembered from home sitting on the porch talking about the change of life and getting a hysterectomy.  She got an A.  A writer must find their voice and hers was in the Appalachian Mountains for the most part.  It was what she knew and who she was and where she got her stories from.

This book is an easy read like gliding down the river (not the mighty Mississippi River that she and her girlfriends take a raft and go down on when she is in college) on a nice Spring day. Yes, there is some sadness in it like when it talks about her son or the changes that have come to her hometown, but overall it is as sweet as the honeysuckle she drinks from and just as good.  

Now they are going to really talk, about somebody who “has just never been quite right, bless her heart,” or somebody who is “kindly nervous”, or somebody else who’s “been having trouble down there.”  Down there is a secret place, a foreign country, like Mexico or Nicaragua.
-Lee Smith (Dimestore: A Writer’s Life p 14)

No matter what is wrong with you, a sausage biscuit will make you feel a whole lot better.
-Lee Smith (Dimestore: A Writer’s Life p 39)

My father was fond of saying that I would climb a tree to tell to tell a lie rather than stand on the ground to tell the truth.
-Lee Smith (Dimestore: A Writer’s Life p 63-4)

The South runs on denial. We learn denial in the cradle and carry it to the grave. It is absolutely essential to being a lady, for instance. My Aunt Gay-Gay’s two specialties were Rising to the Occasion and Rising Above It All, whatever “it” happened to be.   Aunt Gay-Gay believed that if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.  If you don’t discuss something, it doesn’t exist.  She drank a lot of gin and tonics and sometimes she’d start in on them early, winking at my Uncle Bob and saying, “Pour me one, honey, it’s dark underneath the house.”
-Lee Smith (Dimestore: A Writer’s Life p 110-11)

A layer of conservatism still covers Dixie like dew. As a whole, we Southerners are still religious, and we are still violent.  We’ll bring you a casserole, but we’ll kill you, too.  Southern women, both black and white, have always been more likely than Northern women to work outside the home, despite the image projected by such country lyrics as “Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed, this women’s literature is a-going to your head.”  It was not because we were so liberated; it’s because we were so poor.
-Lee Smith (Dimestore: A Writer’s Life p 117)

I asked him whether or not he believed in Jesus. “Well, I don’t know,” he said. “Every time I’m in the hospital, there are at least three people in there who think they’re Jesus. So sometimes I think, well, maybe Jesus wasn’t Jesus at all—maybe he was just the first schizophrenic.”
-Lee Smith (Dimestore: A Writer’s Life p 129-30)

Anne Tyler noted when somebody asked her why she writes, and she answered, “I write because I want more than one life.”
-Lee Smith (Dimestore: A Writer’s Life p 167)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dimestore-Writers-Life-Lee-Smith-ebook/dp/B013JBH8C4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505304800&sr=8-1&keywords=dimestore+lee+smith

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Chococate Cat Caper by Joanna Carl

In this first Chocoholic Mystery series, Lee McKinney, who has given up her career and position as a Trophy wife in Texas to come and once again work at her Aunt Nettie's Ten Huis Chocolade store as its business manager and unravel the books. Her aunt has had a tough time of it since her husband died a year-and-a-half-a-ago.  Lee intends to stay and help her aunt out until she gets her CPA and then she plans on leaving for a large firm or something more permanent.

Aunt Nettie really doesn't want Lee to fill the order for Clementine Ripley's party, but the check for $2,000 is too much to turn away for a personal vendetta.  They make cat chocolates that look exactly like her Champion Cat, Yonkers, as well as Amoretto truffles.  Lee ends up working for the party as a waitstaff for Mike Herrera's catering company thanks to her old friend Lindy who is his daughter-in-law.

So when Clementine Ripley falls down dead at the party, cyanide becomes the culprit and the amaretto chocolate becomes very suspicious which makes both Aunt Nettie and Lee suspects since Clementine kept the man who was drunk driving and killed Uncle Phil on the streets by getting him off a previous charge.  But they weren't the only ones to not like her.  Her ex-husband, Tom, was there heard arguing with her about money, it seems that her loyal assistant Marion was up to something and her investment man was conspiring behind her back. Also, Mike Herrera, the Mayor, was supposed to get the land her home was on for use as a public center, but instead she builds an ugly house on the property.   And of course, there are all the people that she screwed over in court.

There really isn't much to say that is nice about Clementine.  She is pure Evil. But even she deserves to have justice and innocent people are threatened just for knowing too much.  I really liked this book.  Lee has a speech impediment that causes her to say the wrong thing. Such as "I need the password today" for "payment".  Her tongue gets her into so much trouble and embarrassment.  Also, includes Chocolate Facts such as how the cacao bean and chocolate were first counterfeited.  This is a book worth reading.

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Chocolate-Caper-Chocoholic-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B005XT36D6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505146399&sr=8-1&keywords=the+chocolate+cat+caper

Friday, September 8, 2017

Black Panther Book Two: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Writer), Chris Sprouse (Penciler), Laura Martin (Colorer), Karl Story (Inker), Walden Wong (Inker), and VC's Joe Sabino (Letterer)

Tetu and Zenzi are leaders of the insurgent group known as The People and they have sown seeds of dissent among those of Wakanda. They sought the help of former Dora Milafe Ayo (T'Challa's sister) and Aneka now known as the Midnight Angels who are seeking justice for the women and downtrodden, but they turned them down.  Tetu then turned to Ezekiel Stane a weaponeer and biotechnology expert to raise the stakes in their war. Repulsortech suicide bombers hit a city square killing many innocents and severely hurting the queen-mother Ramonda.  T'Challa has had to put aside the project of reviving his sister Shuri from her living death chamber.  Shuri is still traveling the Djalia a plane of Wakanda's past, present, and future guided by a mother spirit who teaches her tales that are to help her understand something greater.

T'Challa brings Eden Fesi known as the former Avenger Manifold to help him with Shuri, but he ends up helping him with a bigger problem he has on hand.  With Manifold's help, he is able to break through to one of the suicide bombers.  T'Challa appeals to the bombers sense of family and its connection to his nation and apologizes for not being there for the man's brother who died.  He asks him if he will serve his hate or the memory of his brother and the bomber gives him the information he can use. 

Black Panther lets himself be captured by Stane and his people in order to get a recording of Stane saying that Tetu had put a price on his head in order to get the wealth of Wakanda.  T'Challa's people send the recording out to the people to see.  Meanwhile, Manifold, Storm, Luke Cage, and Misty arrive to help Black Panther take down Stane and his people.

While this is going on the army is being sent out to go up against the Midnight Angels with very little luck as Tetu and the mysterious Deceiver from book one who has mystical powers helps them defeat the army without killing them through mind control.

This is a much easier to understand book than the first one, yet the storyline is still a complex one with many narratives that keep it interesting.  Will T'Challa be able to save Shuri and if he does what will she have to bring back from the Djalia plane that might help the situation in Wakanda right now?  Will T'Challa be able to truly get rid of Stane and what will he do with his sister and the Midnight Angels? This is a great comic and worth giving a read.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Black-Panther-Nation-Under-2016-ebook/dp/B01NBP7T8S/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1504873139&sr=1-2&keywords=black+panther