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

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Star Wars: Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry

The Rebels have just barely escaped the disaster at Hoth and the fleet is split up in pieces around the galaxy for its protection. Leia is on a ship, whose main objective is to protect her, which she understands, but frustrates her when they come under attack and are forced to flee leaving men behind because of her. Walking on the ship she sees a seriously wounded rebel who struggles to salute her.  She knows that it would be a dishonor to the woman to tell her not to.  She is then told that, thankfully, she is being sent to Zastiga.  Her friend, an old smuggler pilot, Niem, is taking her there along with C-3PO.

When she arrives she meets Luke, who still does not have lightsaber, and seems different somehow.  They are both worried about Han and have been trying to track down where Bobba Fett has him now.  As soon as they find him, they will launch a rescue mission.  Lando is in Hutt's place seeing what he can find out.  Luke is sticking around for now, though he tells her he has "a promise to keep to an old friend".  He is now flying, but has left the red squadron with Wedge in control.

Leia goes into a secret room where the "top brass" are meeting.  Mon Mothma, the leader of the rebellion tells them that they have word that the Empire has already begun construction on a new Death Star, even more deadlier that the last, and it is being built above the moon of Endor. The problem is getting all those ships over there to this secret hyperspace route without the Empire knowing.  Leia has a plan.  She will take a ship to the other side of the galaxy on a 'recruiting mission' and place space buoys in the area to lure ships.  The rebels will use codes they know the Empire has figured out, but don't know they know, so the Empire will be able to listen.  Word about this mission will be leaked to send more Empire troops to the area and divert their attention.  Unfortunately, any ships that show up will probably be destroyed by the Empire, if they show up to the rendezvous location.  The operation is called Yellow Moon.

Mon Monthma, who knew her father, does not want to send Leia on this mission. She tells Leia that it has been in her plans to help with Solo's escape.  Leia explains why she wants to go on this mission.  How impotent she feels.  Others are fighting and dying for the cause, and for her, while she stands by and watches.  She can't do that anymore.  If the Empire gets word that she is out there, they will more readily come and take the bait and the mission will be more of a success.  The plan moves forward.

Niem is the pilot of his ship, the Mellcrawler.  There is also: Kidi, the Cerean communications operator; Antrot, the tinkerer, who was a demolitions expert; and Lokmarcha, the Dressellian commando, who was to protect her.  She tells them they are on a recruitment mission to three planets and then meet up at a star system they are calling yellow moon.  However, it turns out that Leia isn't the only one who knows their true mission.  Lok was part of the briefing, as he was going to be sent to Endor, but was sent to Leia at he last moment. But like Leia, he knows his duty, even if he is a brute.

 With the first stop they quickly discover that the rebels have done their work too well.  A Star Destroyer is after them with a highly dedicated Captain Khione in charge (a rare female officer).  Kidi is upset and believes it is her fault because of the codes and Leia quickly lies to her and tells her she has to use those codes because the planets don't know the new ones yet.  This is when they find out that Kidi has memorized all the rebel codes.  Which means if she is captured and tortured, this would be disastrous for the Alliance.  The same thing pretty much happens at the next planet (with a different story and cool characters) and leaves them feeling guilty (especially Leia) for what they are doing.  Now Leia faces a dilemma.  Does she tell the crew the truth and let them decide what to do, or continue the mission as planned. What she is doing here will ultimately save hundreds of millions of lives.  What is that compared to those few lost here?  And what happens if they, especially Leia, get caught?

They set off on a difficult mission that is even more difficult than most of them know.  Not all of them will make it back alive.  At the beginning of this book it shows General Leia dictating this story to a droid as the beginning of the memoirs she has been putting off writing.  At the end, she hopes to show it to the pilot Poe Dammeron to help him understand what duty really means.  I guess this book is really about doing your duty, no matter what the cost, when all is said and done.  This was a really good read and a neat introduction to how the transition from Empire to Jedi was made behind closed doors. 

Note: There are illustrations in this book and I think it is important to note who did them.  The artist is Paul Noto who got his start at D.C., various independent comics, and Marvel, where he did work such comics as The Uncanny X-Men, The Avengers, and Black Widow.  He also did work for Disney on such epic works as The Lion King, Mulan, Pocahontas, and Lilo and Stitch.   


‘Adventures’ is just a different name for ‘terrible ideas’.
--Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry (Star Wars: Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure)
 Our mission has had difficulties, but suicide seems like an overreaction.

--Cecil Casellucci and Jason Fry (Star Wars: Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Moving-Target-Princess-Adventure-Journey/dp/1484724976/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470405282&sr=1-1&keywords=star+wars+moving+target

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

Sadly this is the last Pink Carnation book.  Happily it is also the story of the Pink Carnation. This is the twelfth book in the series that has spanned over a decade. We have watched as grad student Eloise has hunted down the story of the Pink Carnation and uncovered many other spies and tales in the process.  Her hunt led her to England where she met Mrs. Arabella Selwick-Alderly, an elderly woman in possession of family letters concerning the Pink Carnation. She introduces her to her nephew, the one third owner of Selwick Hall, and the only one staying there.  The two immediately get off on the wrong foot. But now, all these books later, the two are getting married. It is the day before the ceremony and Eloise is sent the Pink Carnation's chest, filled with important information by Mrs. Selwick-Alderly. As she is looking at he chest, she gets a call telling her to bring the box to Donwell Abbey (a broken down building on the estate) at midnight, or harm will come to Colin's aunt.  Colin and Eloise must put their heads together and come up with a plan to try get his aunt back all before the wedding with no one finding out. (Their wedding, by the way, is one of the funniest I've read in a very long time).

The Pink Carnation story starts off in Portugal. Jane is there to meet the agent Moonflower, Jack Reid.  She has two objectives: To rescue the positively insane Queen Marie and get her on a boat to Brazil with the rest of the monarchs before the French completely take over Portugal, and to try to help reunite Jack with his family.  When they meet Jack does not, for a while, believe that she is the Pink Carnation, which is understandable.  This is 1807 and by now the Carnation's reputation is huge and no one would believe it to be done by a woman.  He's also been around long enough to know not to trust too easily.  Jane, who thinks she knows his life story, does not think too much of Jack.  He is the son of Colonel Reid who was stationed in India. Jack is the product of his second wife, an Indian Princess, which the law, and her family, did not recognize.  She was mentally ill and he ran away to the bottle to deal with it.  Neither did very well by Jack, though they tried. He told him songs and stories of Scotland and she told him tales of his royal heritage.  When he was three she died tragically and they both blamed themselves.  His father saw that he got the best education and Jack dreamed of working in the government.  The Colonel wanted to make that happen, even though Cornwallis made sure that no Indian, or half-caste, would be allowed in the military or to hold a government job. So Jack ran off to work for the French, and various others, including the English where he got some men killed.  He also stole some jewels and sent them to his little sister back in London at her boarding school.  Her roommate was Jane's sister and the two had an adventure over the jewels and were lucky they didn't get hurt, as someone came after them. Jane and Miss Gwen, now Mrs. Reid, were forced to leave Paris to find her sister and were unmasked in England by the French spy, the Gardner, or the Comte de Brilliac.  She could no longer work in France, which crushed her. Of course the Gardiner could no longer work in England which was a sort of victory for their side. So, in a way, she lost everything because of Jack, and he seems to her, to be loyal to no cause but his own.

Used to taking the lead, even though she does not speak the language or know the country like Jack does, which is why she needs him in the first place, she insists on dressing as a French officer with Jack as her servant, and they will travel to Porto and try to intercept whoever has the Queen and take her to a British fort, where she can stay until a ship arrives to take her to Brazil.  She really should have listened to Jack when he told her that traveling with the military would take them forever to get there and that going by themselves would be faster.  Not only that, but if they had gone by themselves, Jane would not have met up again with the Gardner.  Right now they have a truce in place.  In 1805 they worked together, and had an intimate relationship, in Venice, but once Jane saw him for what he was, she quickly left.  He keeps chasing her hoping she'll marry him and go back to Paris to be a prize on his arm.  The Gardiner does not fight for France.  He hopes to regain the titles and lands of his "father" lost during the Revolution.  While many will say the Gardner is a real bastard, the truth is he really is a bastard. His mother cuckolded the Comte, whom she had already given him two sons, and the Gardner was the result.  He left the country when the troubles began and his family is all dead and he feels the whole kit and caboodle should belong to him now.  Of course Jane's not the only one who knows the Gardner.  Jack was ordered to kill his mentor and commander by the Gardener. When he didn't, the Gardner but out a hit on him, though he has no idea what Jack looks like.  The knowledge that she had an affair with him does not inspire trust in Jack.

With the arrival of the Gardner, Jane admits she is wrong and tells Jack that they will try it his way now.  So they sneak out and get a donkey and travel the rough country roads.  Even though her feet are blistered and she can barely walk, Jane says nothing. It isn't her way.  She is stubborn and proud and eventually Jack is forced to toss her on the donkey for worry that her blisters will get infected, which will cause more trouble for them.  As they travel, they get to know one another more and find that they were both rather mistaken about the other.  Of course, Jane does have a habit of changing plans at the last minute without letting him know, which she does at an Abbey they stay at that they believe the Queen may be.  The clothing they are given to wear by the head of the Abbot is rather humiliating and hilarious.  There are two other suspicious men staying there that they talk to at dinner, but dismiss, possibly a bit too carelessly.

Their search for the Queen will lead them back to the Gardner where Jane will have to face him alone and find a way to bring the Queen back to Jack and the Carnation "gang" who have a ship waiting.  As usual, nothing is as it seems, especially where the Gardiner is involved.  This is the absolute perfect book for Jane.  By this point in her life she is weary and lonely.  The joy she took in her work in the early years is lacking, but she knows of no other life she wants to live or one that she is more suitable for. She never expects to fall in love, even though Miss Gwen predicted it two books ago.  She sees it as a weakness in doing spy work.  The Gardner even accuses her of being unable to love someone, and then Jack enters her life. The recurring theme of trying to name the infernal donkey in this book is hilarious.  The names they come up with once Jack stops calling it Donkey and gets into the game, are funny.  At the end of this book there is a section where Willig answers questions about the series.  I won't give away all of them, just one.  There were many stories she wanted to tell, but didn't, and while she has said that she is done with the Carnation series, she does say never say never.  There do seem to be characters she would like to revisit at a later date, maybe.  I hope so, anyway, these tales she describes are quite tantalizing.  Especially the Gardner's tale.  I don't think he's capable of love.  Now, I must go and start all over again from the beginning, since its been so long and I'm having a hard time remembering the first, I don't know, eight or nine books?  This book was well worth the wait.

Note: On the day I finished reading this book it was a Saturday and I was catching up on my Jeopardy.  One of the clues was the monarchy from this country fled in 1807 to Brazil when the French advanced.  Talk about serendipity. I would never had known the answer (or question) if I had not just read this book).  Queen Marie and her family were really quite mad, due, likely to inbreeding.  She married her uncle and her son married his aunt (Marie's sister).  She was known to screech and throw things a lot, but her people loved her all the same.  

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Deadly Web: A Bishop Files Novel by Kay Hooper

This is the second installment in the Bishop Files series.  Brodie and the good guys have decided that when they can, they will help the psychics to establish a very public profile so that it will make it very difficult, if not impossible for Duran to take them.  This is what they did with Sarah from the last book.  She and Tucker married and he wrote a book about her, which put her in the spotlight.  Her powers have grown by leaps and bounds. Another psychic, Murphy, seems to work for Brodie, Bishop, and Duran.  I'm not really sure which side she is on. Brodie now works alone.

Tasha Solomon  is a very gifted psychic. She can read thoughts all around her and has a very strong shield because of this.  Her parents have just died, so she sold the home in Atlanta because she felt like she was in danger.  She moved to a very high security building in Charleston, South Carolina and began a new life, but kept mostly to herself. Instinct seemed to tell her to stay in crowds as much as she could, though she could not say why.  Then she began to notice that someone seemed to be following her. One night she woke abruptly knowing that someone was coming to get her. She quickly made the bed so it would look like she hadn't been home and she grabbed her purse and keys and went and hid on the stairwell.  She saw some men come up the other stairwell and enter her apartment with no problem, look around, then leave.  When she went back to her apartment and looked at the camera feed, she saw nothing.  How were they able to get in?

The next day at her usual breakfast cafĂ© she meets Murphy who introduces her to Brodie.  What they don't know is that Duran and his psychic Astrid are nearby hoping to take advantage. Brodie opens himself up in order to gain Tasha's trust and when she goes inside, she can feel his emotions as well as see his memories and thoughts.  This gives Astrid a chance to hook into the connection and enter Tasha's mind and try to take control.  Tasha finds herself in a maze and knows that she shouldn't go to the center so she goes backwards.  Then the vines of the hedge begin to strangle her arms.  Luckily, Sarah and Brodie are there.  Sarah is able to help her out of the maze and Brodie grabs her arms in the physical world and brings her back.  During the experience, the two have become linked psychly, even though Brodie has no psychic abilities.

Brodie takes her back to her apartment and keeps watch over her. They spend a couple of days there recuperating.  While there, Tasha is visited by Brodie's dead wife, who tells her about her life and why Duran and his superiors want the psychics, because she was at one time, one of the ones they were after.  Tasha keeps quiet about this visit as she feels it is a rather personal matter.  But because of what she tells Tasha, Tasha soon figures out what Duran's superiors want with her and Brodie must not know.

Bishop has introduced himself to Brodie's group and made his extensive resources available to them. Three of the psychics that Bishop was watching have gone missing. And when two of them call out to him mentally, Duran becomes aware of Bishop. He wants to try to save them, but Brodie and Murphy tell him that it is hopeless to try at this point.  Once they are taken, the first thing they do is break down their minds and take their souls. All that is left is an empty husk. 

This book left me feeling wanting.  It felt like it stopped mid-sentence. Technically the story arch was completed, but it left me with lots of questions, like who is Murphy and what is her agenda?  What is Duran's agenda?   What has Tucker found in his research? Who are Tasha's real parents? It was, however, a real delight to see Sarah in action. She has really grown as a character.  She is strong now and out to get the bad guys. She also has a sense of humor and really kicks ass. It will be interesting to see what happens between Tasha and Brodie.  Brodie feels the need to protect her, but since she was little, Tasha has been trained in marshal arts.  Plus she has psychic powers. She can take care of herself to an extent and isn't as helpless as the usual psychics Brodie has had to bring in over the years. How will that psychic bond affect them?  Right now Brodie keeps it blocked by imagining an ocean so their thoughts will be their own. Will Brodie develop any psychic abilities from this link? I need answers!! I need the next book to come out now! I guess you could say I really liked this book.  This series keeps getting better and better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The First Prophet: A Bishop Files Novel by Kay Hooper

Kay Hooper has so far written sixteen thrillers involving Agent Bishop, the leader of the Special Crimes Unit of the FBI. This book is the first in a series that is an off-shoot of that one, which is called the Bishop Files.  It does not involve any of the SCU agents or anything that they do, but Bishop is involved, albeit, in the background, because what is going on concerns him as both the leader of the SCU and as a psychic who is concerned about other psychics.  The prologue begins with a brief battle between a man named Duran and his men preparing to attack a cabin where Brodie is protecting a psychic, when things go horribly wrong. This cracks the door open to a fight very few know about.

The story begins with Sarah Gallagher, who watches the Victorian house, in Richmond, she had pain-strikingly restored with her own hands, burn to the ground.  The fire marshal says that it is arson.  A man that should be a stranger to her, but is not, Tucker Mackenzie, a successful writer, comes up to her to talk.  She knows what he wants before he opens his mouth.  He wants what they all want.  Ever since her mugging six months ago that left her in a coma and nearly killed her, she awoke with the ability to see the future.  However, no one really wants to hear what she has to say, the truth, or that she cannot turn her ability on or off at will.  In Tucker, however, she sees something different: someone who wants to believe and someone who wants the truth, no matter how painful that truth may be. 

When Sheriff Lewis talks to her she tells him that Tucker is a friend from out of town. Its obvious that Lewis is not likely to discover who did this.  In fact, Duran is responsible, who is in town to capture or kill her, we are not sure.  Brodie is also in town with his partner, Cait, and they seem to be, once again, once step behind. What is it exactly that they want from her too?

Sarah and her business partner, Margo, have an apartment that either can use if need be, over their antiques shop.  Tucker talks his way inside and into staying the night, especially when she tells him that she thinks someone's been watching her over the past few days.  They are greeted by a black cat named Galahad, who comes and goes as he pleases, and is quite more than he seems. Every vision Sarah has had has come true. She recognizes Tucker because she has seen him in her visions.  He is part of her fate, her destiny, her journey toward her death. She sees these shadows that are coming to kill her and a grave that she falls into with  a tombstone with her name and the month of October and that year on it. Its not that long before October now. Tucker tries to convince her that surely it does not work that way, that every decision we make, changes the future, that her fate is not set in stone.  A gravestone does not necessarily mean death.  It could symbolize something else.  It is hard to convince the stubborn Sarah. 

Its hard for Sarah to conceal her worry when her friend and partner, Margo returns home from the business trip early after hearing about the fire.  Sarah has had a vision that Margo will die from a bizarre accident in the shop, which is why she sent her away in the first place.  Now she can't get her to leave.  The next day when the three are in the shop, Margo, who looks similar to Sarah, goes to get something out of a dresser for Sarah that someone called saying they left in there, while Sarah is dealing with another phone call.  Suddenly, the large dresser begins to fall.  Luckily, Tucker is there and tackles Margo and gets them both mostly out of the way and uninjured.  They call Sheriff Lewis, but he is once again, no help.  This time, Margo agrees to leave, and Tucker and Sarah decide to leave too, but they get a look at the men coming to get Sarah first and get a surprise that makes them realize that they can trust no one.

They head to a cabin that a friend of Tucker has out in the middle of nowhere.  It has secure computer access and they can rest for a while and figure out their next move. This is when Tucker begins doing searches and discovers that for the past decade psychics have gone missing or been found dead.  Someone, it seems, is out to get psychics, for some reason, and it seems they are after Sarah now.  The computer, which is not even hooked up to the internet, receives a message to them to leave now.  This alarms them, but they quickly pack up and leave, with both Duran and Brodie on their tail. 

Sarah's powers are quickly changing.  Now she can hear thoughts and project them.  There are two voices in her head, one saying something that she's not sure she should believe and the other, a gentle voice, guiding her north.  She is also able see so much more than the future and has the answer to the questions Tucker has about the woman from his past that he let down. So, following Sarah's directions, while making a few detours, they travel north hoping to meet a psychic who can help Sarah control her powers and figure out what to do.  Then things go horribly wrong.  And Sarah must decide if she will accept that her vision is written in stone or if it can be changed and if she can be the one to change it.   

Bishop became aware of the missing psychics years ago and eventfully came across Duran and Brodie. He has a vested interest in what is going on here, as the members of his unit are psychics, and while they have yet been targeted, that may change.  Also, some of these missing psychics were ones he had approached, but had declined to join, but he had never the less kept an eye on, just in case they needed help, and now they are gone. This book is really good.  The characters are real.  They make mistakes, they are flawed, they are scared (which they should be), frustrated, sad, overconfident,  too trusting, and just plain human, even if some of them do have psychic abilities.  And you really have no idea who to trust and even if you can see into the future, it does not mean that you figure it out right, which could be costly.  I am excited about the future of this sizzling new series.

Monday, November 16, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I eventually do get to books on my list.  This one has been on it for at least thirty years.  Better late than never.  I last saw the movie years ago and remembered virtually nothing of it, so I was reading it with basically no knowledge of what was going to happen, except that there was a trial.  It says a lot that this book still holds up since it was first published in 1960.  Perhaps because things have not changed as much as we would like to think they have.

The book opens up with Scout and her older brother Jem  meeting their neighbor Miss Rachel's nephew, Dill, who has come to spend the summer visiting from Mississippi. Dill is Scout's age and the thee take to each other immediately.  Dill has a habit of exaggerating.  They spend the summer playing out movie roles and such and Dill asks lots of questions about the Radley place.  The Radley place is a mysterious place.  The family has always been odd.  They would spend lots of time indoors and were very religious.  The children ended up getting into trouble and the judge was going to send them to a correctional school, where they would get an education.  The parents let them send all of the kids but Arthur.  The other kids grew up to have successful careers and Arthur was locked up in the house and not seen, until in his thirties he stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors.  His father convinced the sheriff not to put him in the asylum and he was locked up in the basement of the jail. Eventually the sheriff told his parents they had to take him back or put him in the asylum.  So back to the house he went.  When his parents died, his brother Nathan came to take care of him.  Dill became obsessed to try and see what was going on in the house and see if they could get Arthur "Boo" Radley to come out. 

Soon the summer ends and Scout is faced with entering school for the first time.  Her teacher, Miss Caroline is "not from around here".  Scout ends up on the wrong foot with her right off when Miss Caroline learns that she can read and write already when she is not supposed to .  Then when its time to go to lunch one of the kids, a Cunningham, does not have a lunch, so Miss Caroline offers him a quarter and tells him he can give it back to her tomorrow, but he refuses.  The class looks to Scout to explain things to her.  When she does, she rather botches it.  The Cunninghams do not take anything that they cannot pay back.  She learned from her father about entitlements that people pay for services with what they can and she explains to the teacher that the boy can't pay her back and she doesn't need stovewood.  The teacher raps her knuckles with a ruler for that.  Scout and Jem have the boy over for lunch.  When they come back from lunch one of the poor, trashy, evil Ewells is leaving.  They only show up for the first day of school then leave.  When Miss Caroline tries to make him stay he is cruel to her and she puts her head on the desk and cries.  The children come up to her and explain things to her. In this world who you are means something about you. 

Scout and Jem would continue to have an obsession about the Radley house and one day they would notice that things were being left in the tree trunk nearby and since no one was claiming them, they took them, not knowing who put them there.  Then one day, Nathan poured concrete and filled the whole, which broke their hearts, because by then they suspected that Boo was the one leaving the items.  That summer they would become more stupid than brave and go out at night and sneak onto the property and try to peak into the window, but they are heard and when they run back across the backyard a gun goes off near them.  Jem's pants get caught in the fence and he has to leave them, which is hard to explain to his father and the neighbors who have gathered in the street when they heard the gun shot.  Later that night he goes back to get his pants and the rip had been mysteriously sewn up. 

Atticus is assigned a case by Judge Taylor, that he accepts, to defend Tom Robinson who has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell.  Now, no one likes the Ewells. They look down on them as the lowest of the low.  The father Bob Ewell drinks the government money he gets that he is supposed to use to support the many children he has and illegally hunts (which is considered a felony in Maycomb County) but gets away with it because no one wants his kids to go hungry.  No one can seem to make his kids go to school for more than one day a year, the first day.  They eat food out of the dump next door to their shack. But they're still white, so their word is still worth more that a black man who goes to church and is an honest worker and married with children.  A man whose left arm is withered and useless from a farm accident.  Scout and Jem  begin to hear things like that their father is a "nigger lover" and other such horrid things. Scout's first reaction is to fight, but then her father tells her she must not, for his sake.  He also tells her that it is true.  He loves all people, but not to use the word nigger, because it is "common". 

The night before the trial there is a heart-stopping scene when Atticus is at the jail sitting in a chair by himself reading a paper and watching over Tom when a mob shows up.  Jem, Scout, and Dill are hiding in the bushes watching when things start to go ugly and then something totally unexpected happens.

Atticus's sister, the dreaded Alexandra, decends upon them that summer.  She is forever trying to get Scout out of her overalls and into dresses.  She tries to teach her and Jem the importance of being a Finch and the various traits of the other families of Maycomb County.  Of course, the thing about Maycomb County is that it has always been so isolated that for centuries people have intermarried and everyone is related to everyone else in someway.  Atticus reminds Alexandra that the Finch trait until this generation was incest. Soon Alexandra is the Queen bee of society.

Not everyone is cruel or yells horrid things to Atticus and the children.  One of their neighbors, Miss Addie, loves to spend her time outdoors obsessing over her flowers.  She loves having the kids over.  She's fifty, Atticus's age, and bakes cakes for them to eat and talks to them about important things they need to know, like why their father is so important to this town and that he really is good at quite a lot of things they don't know about.  Miss Addie also has a way of putting the women of the Missionary group in their place when they get out of line. She is not afraid of anything. While she is a good Baptist, she is constantly yelled at by the "foot washing" Baptist who come by once a week who tell her she is going to hell for working in her garden and not staying indoors reading the bible.

Tom, of course, has no hope of an acquittal.  Atticus knows this.  He does know that there is a good possibility of having it overturned on appeal.  Its rather sad that in a court of law, where every person is supposed to be equal, you find that they are not.  I wish I could say that has changed, but it hasn't.  We're just as bigoted today as we were in the 1930s when this book took place.  We're doing a bit better with relations with African Americans, but we are having a very hard time with other races, religions, other sexualities, etc.. As humans we will always find something to be prejudiced about.  It is in our nature.  Toni Morrison wrote a book fifteen years ago called Paradise. It was about a city that was founded by former slaves.  Soon a hierarchy was formed and prejudice reared its head, as lighter skinned blacks saw themselves as better than the darker skinned blacks.  It is a sad fact about us and shows how this book is so important and needs to be read, and often, to remind us of the ugliness of our nature. 

***Addendum..First, I forgot to mention something that had nothing to do with the story of the book, but which struck me strongly.  In this book, Tom, if found guilty of rape, will be sentenced to death. Any man at that time in Alabama who raped a woman would receive that sentence.  It is sad that today it is extremely hard to get a rape case to trial, and even if you do, to get a conviction. If you manage to get a conviction, chances are the rapist won't spend much time in jail, much less get a death sentence, which maybe he should. After all, he took a life.  When someone is raped, their old life is gone. It is shattered and in pieces.  If they are lucky, they are able to find a way move forward.  I think John Irving had it right when he wrote in his novel the Hotel New Hampshire that rape is the worst thing you can do to a person because you can't survive murder.

Second, I like to think of myself as a realist, but perhaps I sometimes slide into pessimism.  My friend pointed out to me that a vocal minority was the ones who were promoting the hatred and prejudice in this country and that most people are not  generally like that. Perhaps I was influenced by the incident a few years ago when a mosque opened up close to the Twin Towers and people were up in arms about it.  Also, someone told me that they believed in freedom of religion in schools, but then turned around and said that we needed Christian prayers to said in schools and if they had a problem with it, they could stand in the hall.  It also did not help that the night before I wrote the review I watched an episode of Oprah's series Belief where they talked of two men in Africa: one a militant Christian pastor, the other a Muslim.  When the Muslim's Imam was murdered, he believed that the pastor's group was responsible, even though they were not, and they burned down their church and attacked them. The pastor lost his hand. The two men became very bitter and angry.  A journalist tried to bring the two men together in an attempt to bring peace, but was unsuccessful.  But after a few years, the men came to realize that this is not what their God would want them to do and they forgave each other and joined forces and began traveling into Muslim areas to teach forgiveness and try to heal the land.  The pastor would show that he had been affected by this, as he had lost a hand, but he would always be countered by others who had lost a loved one.  He often met Muslims who had been forced from their homes from the Christians.  Most of the Muslims would turn their backs and walk away from these men.  I paid attention to that and failed to notice those who stayed behind and listened.  So maybe things are not as bad as they seem.  I don't know.  I can only hope that we will continue to march forward and progress toward loving our fellow brothers and sisters no matter what.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Savannah.  Called "The Hostess City of the South", it is also, perhaps the eccentric aunt once hidden away that no one knew about.  In Berendt's amazing book as a Yankee, the ultimate outsider, he explores a city that prefers not to change; a city that is difficult to reach and while visited, was at the time of his stay, not a tourist mecca like other Southern cities.  Savannah had preserved the old ways of doing things.  They had rescued the old buildings, kept big businesses from coming in, and highways from destroying the town.  It is a peculiar town that will experience change whether it wants to or not.

The narrator of this work of non-fiction is a magazine writer who has discovered that the cost of a meal is the same cost of an airline ticket, so he begins to travel.  On a trip to Charleston, he decides to visit Savannah and sets up a meeting with a Mrs. Hartly who will act as a guide.  He has a romantic and quirky notion of Savannah based on Southern stereotypes and Johnny Mercer music (he grew up there).  Soon, he finds himself spending more and more time there and gets a place to stay.

The first thing you may notice is that the timeline seems a bit off.  It is.   The author played with it for artistic purposes, which  may confuse you a bit, but will come together in the end. 

While most of the book seems to be wrapped around the situation of the antiques dealer Jim Williams, who owns the enviable Mercer House, who is accused of first degree murder of a young man who works for him, Danny, who is a violent drug user, hustler, and his lover.  The D.A., Lawton,  has only tried one case before and lost it, and the man who got him elected Adler, hates Williams, with whom he has had a long feud over the restoration of buildings in Savannah.  Lawton does not seem to have much of a case and everyone wonders what he is thinking as it seems a clear case of self defense or at the worst, second degree murder.  But Williams has two strikes against him: his is gay, which is fine, so long as he keeps quiet about it, and two he did not come up from money, but is a self-made man, who is beholden to no one.  Though, people do seem to like Williams a lot more than they like Adler, whose restoration projects are questionable.  Plus, Williams throws a very swank, exclusive Christmas party every year that everyone wants to go to.

Williams uses not just many lawyers, but a voodoo practionor, because everything helps.  And it seems that her help may eventually win him his freedom, as there will be more than one court case and you may figure out what happened that night, but you may never really know.

Some of the people he meets in Savannah are too incredible to be real, but this is the South, so I know they are.  One of the first characters you meet is Joe, a piano playing lawyer who, well, squats, in various nice houses, charges for tours, steals electricity and water.  The houses are open at all hours for everybody and a party is always going on.  He tries and fails many times at various businesses, mostly clubs and often has the law after him for bouncing checks.  But his personality is such that no one can hate him and everyone forgives him and continues to do business with him even after he has done them wrong.  He keeps promising to marry a singer Mandy, who travels a lot on the road performing and who opens up a club at one point with him.  He also had a bar with the famous Emma Kelly, whom Johnny Mercer dubbed "the woman of six thousand songs", because he guessed that seemed to be the number she knew.  She drove all over the place playing piano and singing, but the two parted ways, when his creditors came after him through the business and he felt that was unfair to her. 

Then there's Luther, the very weird man who once worked for the government and came up with the pest strip and various other inventions, which he got no money off of, because he worked for the government at the time.  He carries around a bottle said to be of poison that he may empty into the city's water supply and kill them all at any time.  He also ties flies and such to strings and attaches them to his shirts, or will clip the wings of flies so the fly around in circles. 

But one of the most wonderful characters of them all is The Lady Chablis.  When the narrator meets her he does not realize that she is a "T".  She receives hormone injections that give her breasts and other female attributes.  She has a boyfriend that satisfies her in every way.  And she is more woman than I will ever be in this lifetime of the next.  She does a drag show, where she shows that she is more than just a stereotype and there is a hilarious scene where she crashes a black debutante ball the narrator is attending (and refused to take her to) and causes quite the scene.  She really does things her way.

Those from the South can tell you that each area, each city, is unique.  They talk differently, eat slightly differently, have a different way of doing things than the other cities.  They even have trouble getting along with each other.  Savannah is no different.  With the creation of this book and the subsequent movie, one can suppose the theory, the observer effect, that once something is observed it is changed by being observed.  Berendt, through no intention of his own, changed Savannah from a secluded city, to a the tourist mecca it is today.  I was there is 1994 for a Psych Conference and sadly did not get much of a chance to look around.  This was right before the book came out.  I fell in love with Savannah then and vowed to see it again, but once I found out what had happened to it, some of the romance left it for me.  It was not the special place I had seen all those years ago, but something now lost to commercialism.  I was too late.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Shroud For a Nightingale by P.D. James

This is an early CID Adam Dalgliesh of the Scotland Yard mystery that opens with a nurse, Miss Beale, an Inspector of Nurse Training Schools to the General Nursing Council goes to Heatheringfield, England, out in the country where the John Carpenter Hospital has been since 1792.  The nursing school is in the Nightingale House, an old haunted Victorian House that, in many people's opinions, is quite inappropriate for a nursing school in that the windows, while pretty, do not allow enough light in, and it is drafty and the rooms are not the optimal sizes for what is required.  Miss Beale is quite good at her job and at having the ability to size up people rather accurately. 

Now, let me take a moment to explain the medical community in England at that time.  I have no idea how it is now, but if you do, please feel free to comment below.  In nursing, you go from Nurse to Sister, if you head up a ward or become a teacher, and then, if you are lucky and become head of the hospital nursing staff, you are called a Matron.  The highest a non-nurse can achieve is surgeon, which are referred to as Mr. A Dr. is a step below that and is generally a simple general practionor.  Those that are a Mr. look down upon those that are mere Drs.  as being inferior and less knowledgeable. 

Miss Beale is sat with Sister Rolfe, a middle-aged nurse there, Mr. Courtney-Briggs, a surgeon, and Matron Taylor, who has a reputation for excellence to the point that some wonder why she doesn't head up a place in London.  Some people, thinks Miss Beale, may not want to live in London.  The clinical instructor, Sister Gearing,  is filling in as a teacher because a bout of flu has hit the hospital and many nurses are in bed with it, including Nurse Fallon, who was supposed to act as patient for the demonstration of insertion of a gastric tube and pouring what will be milk for their purposes down the throat.  Nurse Pearce is instead acting as the patient and Miss Beale notices that she seems rather scared, but later puts it down to not liking being the patient when others inform her that she is always like that.  The other student nurses present are: Nurse Dakers, a conscientious  girl who knew her facts and was hard working; the Burnt twins, who were performing the procedure and were seen as rather competent; Nurse Goodale, whom Miss Beale sees as quite an excellent student;  Nurse Pardoe, a girl who is too pretty for her own good; Nurse Harper, a sullen girl.

As soon as the milk goes down the tube and hits Nurse Pearce's stomach, she jumps up gagging and Matron Taylor yanks the tube from her throat.  However, it is too late.  Even with all the medical help right there, she dies of poisoning from disinfectant wash that had been put in the milk bottle.  No one knows what to make of this.  Was it a murder attempt, and if so upon whom?  Nurse Fallon was supposed to be the patient, but everyone seems to have known that she was in the hospital with the flu.  Someone did see her that morning running from the school, which is odd, considering she had a temperature of 103 degrees.  What could she possibly have needed so badly that she had to come back?  Nurse Pearce was not very well liked.  She was rather pious, and holy-than-thou. It wasn't that she was religious; you could accept that about a person, but rather that she saw herself as a judge over others. She was known to have blackmailed others and believed in the punishment fitting the crime. 

The police believe it was a complete accident and do nothing.  Nurse Harper leaves.  She is engaged to be married and her father was only indulging her my letting her go to nurse school when she was never going to practice.  Then, on the night that Nurse Fallon returns from the hospital, the twins wake up to go and get a drink of cocoa at around 2am and see Sister Bremfett, the ward nurse who is known to drag patients kicking and screaming from the jaws of death, whether they want it or not, and takes it as a personal affront when a patient dies.  She has just come from the hospital where one of Mr. Courtney-Briggs's patients had a relapse and had to have surgery, so she went to set the patient up for the night.  They also notice the light under Fallon's door and think about asking her for a cup of cocoa, but realize that Fallon, a private person, might not appreciate a disturbance.

The next morning at breakfast, no one has seen Fallon, so Nurse Drakers goes up to check on her and discovers her with her empty whiskey glass in her hand, dead from poison.  Everyone believes it to be a suicide, especially when it is discovered that she is three  months pregnant.  The police call in Scotland Yard anyway, just to cover themselves, as two deaths, so close to each other have occurred at Nightingale House.  Dalgliesh arrives and does not believe this to be the case, but that both girls were murdered.  Some even try to convince him that Fallon was the one to poison Pearce and in a fit of guilt, committed suicide. 

James writes serious mysteries, but this one has a very hilarious scene in it that had me about falling off the couch with laughter.  Matheson, the Sargent who is working with Dalgliesh on this case is sent to interview an older woman who might have information relevant to the case.  She is about to go out to a special ballroom dance hosted by her class. To get the information he has to go as her partner.  It is lucky that he is a rather good ballroom dancer.  As the evening wears on, she refuses to give him information.  Then the spotlight dance comes, and she is the Silver Award winner.  He has had a few to drink and is ticked off at her, so he decides to have fun with the dance and mess around with it.  When he realizes how much this dance means to her, he tells her to start talking or she'll end up on the floor.  The more she talks, the better he dances.  I do not think I've ever seen a cop get information from someone this way before.

The more Dalgliesh investigates this crime, the more secrets he uncovers.  Recent ones, as well as ones from long ago.  Which ones are the important ones?  Was Pearce killed because of her blackmailing schemes and was Fallon killed by the father of her child, who may be the surgeon, a man she had an affair with her first year?  This house was already haunted by one ghost, no it seems two more have joined it.  Is the killer finished and will he join the dead too? 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Star Wars Rebel Force #2: Hostage by Alex Wheeler

Ok, first off you may wonder why I'm reviewing a Juvenile book.  I checked it out and read it to Shelby and became quite obsessed with the story.  Some of you may even wonder why I read a 188 page Juvenile book to my five-year-old daughter.  The reason is simple.  We have read every easy and beginning reader book the library has on Star Wars and she wanted to read more.  It took me six weeks to get through the book and convince her to finish it, but I did because I wanted to know how it ended. 

This book, which I found out after I read it, is the second book in a series called Rebel Force (yes, its part of the "old canon") and takes place sometime after New Hope.  Princess Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewie go to the sister (really more of an ugly step-sister) planet of Alderaan, Delaya.  Delaya is the opposite of the beautiful, glorious Alderaan.  It was where Alderaan kept it's factories and it was not a pretty place, but it was the only place for the refugees from Alderaan to go to once their planet had been blown up by the Empire. 

Leia is given a warm greeting and shown the nice places that the refugees have been set up in.  As they are walking through the city, Luke is kidnapped by an Alderaanian refugee who shows him the truth: they are being put in a warehouse and given little to eat or any kind of real care.  The Delayans have hated them and now they can do to the Alderaans what they want with no interference.  Luke convinces this man that if Leia knew, she would never allow it, and Leia is quite upset to find out this is going on.  However, she is also there recruiting for the Rebel Alliance and this is causing some of the Alderaans to take her hostage and give her to the Empire in exchange for a planet of their own.  They hate Leia for destroying their peaceful planet and bringing them into a war against the Empire. 

One of the most interesting characters in this book is a man who Leia knows as Fess Ilee, a toadie who hung out at his father's palace on Alderaan when she was growing up.  She despises him for being the kind of man who schmoozes and kisses up to power.  She has no idea who he really is.  Everyone knows that Luke had Obi-Wan on Tatoonie to look after him as he grew up and to make sure Vader never found him, but no one ever thinks about whether there was someone looking after Leia.  His name is Ferus Olin and he was once a Jedi Master who left the order at some point.  Obi-Wan and probably Yoda find him and have him watch over Leia.  He finds himself feeling as though she is his own daughter, but must never let her know who he really is, so he endures her hatred of him.  Once she grew up and became a Senator, he pretty much left her alone.  She was rather capable of taking care of herself, until the word comes that her ship was destroyed by the Empire and Bail Organa sends him to find out, so he's away when the planet blows up.

When Fess meets Luke and shakes his hand for the first time, they both are startled by sensing the Force in the other, even if Luke has no idea.  From Luke he finds out what he knew, but did not want to accept: that Obi-Wan is dead.  He realizes that these two offspring of Vader, possibly the last of the Jedi, must be trained in the ways of the Force and begins to wonder if he should say something, when he sees a vision of Obi-Wan telling him that it isn't time for them to know and if they were to begin to learn how to use the Force now, Vader might discover them.  So he keeps quiet.  If you want to read more about Ferus, the book Jedi Quest #1: The Way of the Apprentice by Jude Watson, tells more.  In this book, also a Juvenile book, is about an adventure Anakin as a Padawan to Obi-Wan has with Ferus and other Padawans on a mission.

After reading this book, I now know I need to read the first one to find out what everyone was doing before this book and to perhaps discover more about the elusive character X-7, whom when Ferus shakes his hand, notices that there is something off about him in the Force.  This character seems to be working for the Empire who wants to know who the pilot was that destroyed the Death Star and to kill him. 

This really is an excellent book to read, even if you are an adult, especially if you are a Star Wars fan.  You get a glimpse into Leia's childhood through both her eyes and Ferus's.  Its rather funny that Ferus sees Leia as being stronger in the Force than Luke who knows he is a Jedi and has had a bit of training from Obi-Wan.  She is just naturally a strong person, probably because of how and where she grew up and from being a Senator.  Its also interesting to find out what happened to the lost people of Alderaan and how they feel about their Princess and Senator.  I fully intend to read the rest of the books in this series, with or without, my daughter's ear.   

Monday, September 14, 2015

Act of Mercy by Peter Tremayne

Unfortunately, I missed the book before this one, The Monk Who Vanished, because I have the feeling something happened in it that was important to the Sister Fidelma series. This is the ninth book in the series and we find that Sister Fidelma, sister to the King of Cashel, a religieuse of the Celtic Church, and a dalaigh, or officer of the court (and the second highest degree you can get) is on board the ship, The Barnacle Goose, heading for what is modern-day Spain and the city of Iberia, where the Shrine of St. James is, in order to reflect upon her relationship with the Saxon monk, Eadulf, and the crisis of faith she is experiencing.  Among the group of pilgrims, the leader, Canair, does not show up in the morning when the ship leaves, because, unbeknownst to some of the pilgrims, she has been murdered at the Inn in Ardmore. 

Sister Muirgel takes over, since she sees herself as the next one in line due to her nobility.  When Fidelma comes aboard, the Captain, Murchad, recognizes her name, and therefore her rank and reputation as a dalaigh.  Fidelma wants to just be a Sister on a pilgrimage and asks that he not mention any of this to anyone.  Fidelma is to be bunked with Sister Muirgel, but when she arrives, the Sister is suffering horribly from sea sickness and Fidelma gives in and takes a room all by herself.  After a brutal storm their first night out, Muirgel is missing and a search of the ship fails to discover her, so it is assumed that she went overboard.  Now Cian, a man that Fidelma had an affair with ten years ago when she was a student that ended with him marrying another woman, sees himself as the one to take over.  Cian was a warrior in the High King's Army, until five years ago when an arrow that pierced his right arm, made it useless.  He felt he had no choice in life but to become a religieuse, even though he does not have a religious bone in his body. 

Sister Fidelma begins an investigation, upon the behest of the Captain, to uncover what happened to Sister Muirgel.  Wenbrit, a sailor on the ship, finds Sister Muirgel's robe with a cut in it and blood on it, which makes no sense if she went overboard.  Later, Sister Muirgel shows up in her room, dying from a knife wound, holding Sister Canair's crucifix in her hand, which she gives to Sister Fidelma. Brother Guss claims that the two were in love and that they had been in the room next door to Canair's at the Inn and heard her die.  After this happened, Guss tells Fidelma that Muirgel was terrified for her life, which is why she faked her death.

These are only two of the deaths that occur on this cursed ship that also endures being chased by Saxon pirates, fearful storms, and watching a ship crash on the rocks and only being able to save three of the men on board.  One of the men is Toca Nia who accuses Cian of some horrid war crimes.  After he dies, and Cian disappears, suspicion begins to fall on Cian, who also had love affairs with the two other dead women (but then Cian seems to have slept with most of the Sisters at the Abbey).  Fidelma really wishes that her friend Eadulf were there.  He is a Watson to her Holmes; a Captain Hastings to her Hercule Poirot.  He always notices something she misses or says something that just makes everything click into place.  This ship is not just one of death, but also of lust, as they all seem to have slept with each other.  Fidelma really struggles with this one.  She cannot seem to see the path to the truth and when attempts are made on her life, she realizes that she is dealing with a dangerous and possibly insane killer who has developed a taste for murder and will not stop unless Fidelma can uncover their identity in time. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

This book is the eleventh in the Pink Carnation Napoleonic Wars spy series.  If you have not read any books in this series, I highly suggest you do.  They are thrilling, suspenseful, and the dialogue is razor sharp.  In this book, we hear about the story of Turnip Fitzhugh's sister, Sally.  Sally is in her second Season after graduating from boarding school and her friends Agnes and Lizzie are having their first.  The only problem is that as excited as Sally was to begin going to what she thought would be exciting parties is actually quite boring and her two closest friends have moved on without her. 

The talk of the Ton is the novel written by Miss Gwen, The Convent of Orsino, and people are seeing vampires, especially after, Lucien, the Duke of Belliston, has returned to the London home of his family.  Lucien has the brooding looks of Lord Byron and the sweetness and mysteriousness of Johnny Depp.  I absolutely adore him.  It is hard not to.  He has been absent for twelve years and everyone suspects that he is a vampire because he never leaves his home and is believed to stay awake at all hours.  Sally, a sensible creature, does not believe this story, as well as the ones that his family is cursed, he sacrifices chickens, and was chained up in an attic because he was mad.

Lucien, it turns out, was the one to discover his parents, his mother, a young woman from Martinique, and his older father, dead in what is called a "folly", which I believe is some sort of type of gazebo.  They had been poisoned by the bark of the Manzilla tree.  Lucien's mother was an avid botanist and his father was highly active in the House of Lords.  Many believed that his mother killed his father, then committed suicide.  After a few years at Eaton, he returns to the family country home, Hullingden, where his Uncle Henry is taking care of it for him until he is of age to do so himself.  His aunt hates him, because she wants to be a Duchess and his cousin, Hal, follows him around like a puppy.  At the age of fifteen, Lucien escapes to the colonies in search of his mother's family and finds her sister and stays on her plantation, plotting his vengeance on his parent's murders.

At a party, Lizzie dares Sally to go over to Lucien's garden and look in one of the windows and see what is going on.  Not one to back down from a challenge, she does, and meets a man who is very much flesh and blood, not a vampire.  The two will meet again at his sister Clarissa's coming out party.  Clarissa hates him for leaving her all those years ago.  While there, Lucien receives a note that promises information he will be interested in.  Sally is there when he gets it and insists on going with him because she believes it is a trap by some girl to get herself compromised and win a Duke.  When the two go out onto the balcony, they instead find a dead woman with a Manzilla blossom in her hands, his father's snuff box at her feet, and two drawn on "bite marks".  Sally convinces Lucien to leave at once before someone suspects him of the murder, and "discovers" the body herself.

Sally decides she must help Lucien, because she sees the way his family walks all over him and he just apologizes for it.  She has heard about his parents and  he agrees to accept her help, however unwillingly.  The flowers, of course, make Sally think of spies, especially after Uncle Henry tells Lucien that his mother was thought to be passing on information to the French.  The young woman turns out to be a stage actress and the director of the play is Lucien's old tutor, who mysteriously disappeared right after his parents' death and was suspected of possibly having an affair with Lucien's mother.  Love notes from an anonymous "protector" are found in her dressing room, but the director, Mr. Quinten, says she told him she was leaving as she had better prospects.  He believed that she had found another "protector". 

Soon the gang are all assembled at Sally's home, headed by Miss Gwen.  The flowers indicate that the person his mother may have been spying for is the infamous French masterspy, the Black Tulip.  Lucien has already gone through his parent's things at the London home, so they decide to fake a betrothal between Lucien and Sally in order to get Miss Gwen access to Hullinden, where she might find more information.  The more time Sally and Lucien spend together, the closer they become and the more they realize that maybe they do not want to end the engagement.  However, they have spies to chase, murderers to catch, and try to keep the police from executing Lucien for a crime he did not commit.

Sally is quick minded and has a sharp, witty tongue that always has to have the last word.  She also insists on helping people whether they want it or not.  Sally is a rare woman of her time in that she can take care of herself and is quite fearless and ready to flaunt, to an extent, the rules of society. Lucian is a sweet, good man who, as Sally points out, has been neglecting his duties for far too long and lets people treat him poorly, because he feels that somehow he deserves it.  It was an absolute delight to read the story of these two characters.  They fit so well together and understand each other in ways that no one else does.  I would say that this is my favorite of the Pink Carnation books, so far, but I tend to say that about all of them after I read them.  This book, though, was an excellent read and worthy of the series way beyond measure.  I am sure I will find myself reading it again, because once was not enough. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas

As a psychology major, I have to admit that I assumed that sociopaths were listed in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual), which is what psychologist/psychiatrists use to diagnose mental illnesses.  To be fair, when I took Abnormal Psychology, at the beginning of the semester, the professor had a heart attack and was absent for most of the class.  Instead we watched dated and boring tapes, which if you are up at 4 or 5 am and watch PBS, you can sometimes still see them.  I learned nothing about Abnormal Psychology, except what I already knew from my high school Psychology class.  So this book was a real eye-opener.  Sociopaths (they have been historically called psychopaths, but they prefer sociopath) are the polar opposite of manic depressives, who feel everything and are the roller coaster of mental diseases. 

Here are the factors used to diagnose sociopaths: superficial charm and intelligence, absence of delusions, absence of nervousness, unreliability, untruthfulness and insincerity, lack of remorse and shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity, general poverty in major affective reactions, specific loss of insight, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations and failure to follow any life plan.  Now most important to know, is that not all sociopaths are criminals, much less killers, like the famous Hannibal Lector.  Although, those that are, have a very high recidivism rate.  Many sociopaths make excellent lawyers, CEOs, politicians, doctors, and other jobs that can be cut-throat and require someone who thinks rationally.  She herself had already made her retirement on the market. She earns 9.2% on her investments.  Fortune 500 companies only have 3.5%.  One in five financial managers will be able to come close to her, but not for the seven years in a row she has consistently done, and no, she is no business or Wall Street wunderkind, but a very good reader of people and a predictor of what they will do.

The author, M, went to law school, but is also a musician.  She studied percussion because it gave her four instruments to play and she bores easily.  That's a problem with sociopaths: they bore easily and begin to play games of manipulation with other people around them for no reason except as a power trip.  This is one of the things she has worked on over the years (she's in her thirties now).  After leaving behind a string of broken relationships and jobs, she eventually learned that if she wanted to have a more satisfying and successful life, she would have to try to curb her impulses to manipulate.

As a child, she grew up in a strict home, but not an abusive one, exactly.  Though her parents were more interested in themselves, even once leaving her and her brother at the park and driving home, making them walk home on their own.  As a Mormon, she was lucky in that they have a set of rules already set out for you to follow.  Sociopaths do not know how to relate to people or how to react in society.  Being Mormon (she's a Sunday school teacher) also gave her a way out if she makes a gaffe that would make anyone else seem odd, but others just put it down to her religion.  As a child she got into lots of fights and did not understand why the other party would be upset by her hitting them.  In high school, she began to study people and their actions in order to fit in.  But she could not stop playing games with people.  She lists numerous accounts of how she pitted one person against another or how she got to play at the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City because she had accused her teacher of sexual harassment. 

After two failed jobs in prestigious law offices where she was bored working at a desk all day and managed creative ways to take time off for vacation, since the offices had no vacation policy.  She eventually, after being on unemployment for two years, went to work for the district attorney's office in the misdemeanors department.  This is where she excelled.  She knew how to pick a jury and manipulate them during the trial by giving them a look that said "you're not hearing the whole story" and if she failed to manipulate by normal means, she used to old stand-by: fear.  But then, eventually she got bored and became a professor at a small law school, where she gets by only teaching six hours a week and eight months a year.  She is very popular with her students, because she knows how to pour on the charm and make you look either really smart or dumb, depending on her mood.  As of this publication, 2013, that was what she was doing, but she says that she is getting bored, so she has probably moved on to something else. 

Sociopaths, by the way, do not have a sexual preference.  She has dated both men and women and is in a relationship with a man and has paramours on the side.  She wants to get married, and as a Mormon, is dictated to do so and have children.  She worries about having children and would she be able to raise an "empath" (what she calls those who are non-sociopaths and can react to feelings) child or pass on her sociopathy to them.  However, her longest relationship yet, has been eight months. 

It has taken her years to better understand empaths and try to be like them, but she does not always succeed.  She does, however, have a small group of people who know her, understand her, and care for her, and she treats them very well.  At first, her friendships were based on what she could get out of them.  As long there was an equal exchange, she would continue the friendship.  When her close friend's father got cancer and her friend was sad all the time and needy, she broke off the friendship, because her needs were not being met.  They have since reunited. 

She values her sociopathy.  While others panic, she is perfectly calm and rational.  In a crisis, honestly, you'd want to a sociopath in charge.  Rationality, she believes is a highly underrated trait.  She also knows she tries to get away with doing as little as possible to get by and she has trouble multi-tasking, especially if she is in a meeting with many people whose emotions and thoughts she must try to read all at once; but she is learning.  That is the main thing about this book.  She is very charming and compelling.  You easily get sucked into her world; but what a fascinating one it is.  If you would like to see her blog and learn more from her and other sociopaths, go to www.SociopathWorld.com.  She would like to be the face of the sociopath and lead to a better understanding that would end the stigma associated with it, but for now, she must remain in the shadows, as others do, because if she does not, she could lose her job and the life she has worked so hard to have.  Hopefully someday, there will be a time when she can come out into the light.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Sociopath-Spent-Hiding-Plain/dp/0307956652/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1465572799&sr=1-1&keywords=confessions+of+a+sociopath

Monday, June 15, 2015

I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan

As a former librarian I found myself, quite often, laughing out loud at some of these stories, both because they brought back memories and because it made me realize I had sadly not had the ability to continue to work as a librarian and experience more stories.  The author, in true library fashion, orders the chapters in the Dewey Decimal System.  The chapter titles are: Computers, Reference Work, Reading Interests and Habits, Curiosities and Wonders, Listening In, Communication, Failures and Disruptions of, Bullying, Rare Birds, Human Anatomy, Telephones, Children's Humor, and Volumes of Gratitude.

In the first chapter, Computers, what is the reply to the question "I keep getting the blue screen of death"?  "Sir, that's the desktop".  Another man keeps coming up to the desk asking tons of questions, including: How do I make the computer like a typewriter?; There are red squiggly lines under everything I type.; Now I want to make a website.  Do I just get the framework up ...using the typewriter function?; Maybe you could help me make a website. I have about an hour.  Another man wants them to disable Google because they are "taking over the United States".  One librarian was helping a patron upload his resume for a job application from a flash drive.  When she asks him which job is applying for, he says, "all the jobs on the Internet". 

In the chapter "Reading Interests and Habits" here are some of the book titles patrons have requested: Fifty Shades of Grey's Anatomy, How to Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Aunt Frank, Lord of the Flies by Tolkien, The Hungry Games, and The Lively Bones.  A woman expresses her disinterest in e-books, claiming they will be the death of libraries.  When the librarian informs her the library has e-books, she replies, "aren't they invisible?".  In the chapter, Curiosities and Wonders, one person comes in looking for the margarita machine, which, honestly, would have been nice to have at my library. 

A conversation overheard between a young woman showing her mother how to search for items at the library: Mother: There are almost three thousand movies to choose from? Daughter: Well, movies and TV shows.  Mother: So are you saying that the library is now the video store? Daughter: Among other things. Mother: Who else knows about this?.  A seventy-year-old man tells his wife, "I think we really should do the Facebook.  Art and Frieda are doing it.  We don't want to be the only ones left."  A conversation between one parent and another in the children's room: Parent 1: Do you ever hide books you've read over and over again because you're so sick of them? Parent 2: Oh, definitely.  When they ask for them, I say the book fairy came to get it.  One time they saw one of the books at the library so now they think the librarians are the book fairies.  One of my personal favorite lines in this book from a patron who says "It's too cold in here.  What is wrong with you people?  Do you like frozen books?"  I wore a sweater jacket year round at the library.

But my absolute favorite is the one on a librarian putting up a display for Banned Books Week, which is something I did when I worked.  Librarian: I'm making a display about books that people complained about.  They wanted them removed from the library.  Girl: Why? Librarian: Because they didn't like what the books were about and didn't want anyone else to read them, either...Can you imagine what would happen if every person could choose one book to remove from the library forever? Girl: There wouldn't be any books left on the shelves.  Librarian:  That's right!  It wouldn't really look like a library anymore, would it? Girl:  We are learning about bullying at school.  It sounds like even libraries get bullied sometimes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Tidal Pool by Karen Harper

In this second in the Elizabeth I mystery series, twenty-five-year-old Elizabeth Tudor has just been made Queen and goes to visit her mother's grave on the eve of her procession down the streets of London and is greeted by Jane Seymour's nephew, Edward, whose father, once Lord Protector to the boy King Edward and eventually killed, was with Jack St. Maur, who is a relative of the Seymour's, and whose father, Thomas, died trying to get Elizabeth I on the throne and was once romantically entangled with her in an innocent, young way.  St. Maur grew up in the household of John and Bella Harrington, close family friends of Elizabeth's.  The Seymour family believe that Edward will be the natural heir to the throne.

During her procession, a high-born lady, Penelope Whyte, Bella Harrington's sister, and a known "light skirt" who died pregnantly is murdered, it is believed, accidentally in Elizabeth's stead.  Elizabeth's unusual band of helpers: Meg (the herbalist), Ned Topside (the actor), Kat (her maid), Jenks (her horseman), Lord Cecil (now her Lord Protector and advisor in all things) and her cousin Lord Harry are all here to help her solve the mystery as well as two new people: a former thief named Bett and her deaf son.

Meg runs into someone from her old life who remembers her as Sarah, and some of Meg's memories come back to her.  She knows she has a husband and that she does not want to go back to that life.  She wants to stay working for the Queen and with Ned, with whom she is in love.  So now she spends her time trying to avoid anyone who might recognize her.

There are many suspects, such as Robin, who is the Head of her Stables and a close friend, John Harrington, who confesses to the crime, but whom Elizabeth has a hard time believing did the deed, even Lord Harry, her cousin seems to be a suspect.  Elizabeth feels she can only trust her close circle of advisers who helped her solve the previous murderous plot.

When Bett gets caught looking for information at the Dowager Duchess's house for her diary, which she does not get a chance to look at, but is able to grab a letter with sensitive information in it, she is sent to prison, and because she is a former thief, she will hang.  Elizabeth has no knowledge of this and is looking for her.

Even though Elizabeth is a first a little frightened by the thought that someone near and dear is a traitor to her and to England, she gathers her strength and goes out to find the killer in the night and becomes captured herself.  This is really a good book, but perhaps I am just saying that because one of my favorite historical figures is Elizabeth I.  She had her father's red-headed temper, her mother's cunning in politics, and an intelligence all her own to not only lead an empire but to solve any complex murder that may fall upon her doorstep.

Link to Amazon:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Liar by Nora Roberts

This latest book by Nora Roberts is my favorite non-trilogy book I've read by her.  Maybe I am a little biased.  The main character is named Shelby, as is my daughter.  She has red curly hair.  I have red hair and would kill to have her curls.  She also lives in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, which I have visited often when traveling to Kentucky to see my Dad's family.  I can still picture the area in my mind.  Its God's country.

Shelby, her husband Richard, and their three-year-old daughter, Callie were supposed to go on a boating vacation, but when Callie gets sick, Shelby stays behind with her and her husband goes ahead and becomes lost at sea, presumed dead.  Soon, Shelby's eyes are opened up to what, if not who, her husband really is.  Nothing has been paid for: not the cars, the house, the ugly furniture, even the jewelry turns out to be fake.  She is left in millions of dollars worth of debt and she cannot go home.  At least, not until she has paid as much off as she can.  Inside of one of his jackets that she's preparing to sell at a consignment shop, she finds a safety deposit key and when she uses it to open the box, there are three fake IDs for Richard and $250,000.  She takes all of it and leaves.  She uses some of the money to pay off one of the eleven credit cards and buys a cheap van.

Now, its time to go home and face the music.  When Shelby met Richard at a club she was singing at, during her summer break from college, he sweeps her off her feet and off to Vegas where they marry without telling anyone.  Over the years, she would try to make trips to see her family, but Richard would not allow her to go and he had control over everything, including her life.  She missed weddings, births, and funerals.  Now that he is dead, she is ashamed that she let him control herself like that.

Her large family take her back and she makes amends with her old best friend Emma Kate who is living with her boyfriend, Matt, that she met while working as a nurse in Maryland.  Matt's construction and home repair business partner, Grif, came along with him.  Grif immediately falls for Shelby and while she thinks she may have feelings for him, she doesn't quite trust her judgment yet.  Especially when a woman arrives in town saying that she is Richard's wife and that Shelby was just a cover for their scam operations with another guy who has just escaped from jail.  They are looking for the three million dollars worth of diamonds and stamps they lifted from a woman five years ago.  She does not believe that Shelby knows nothing about it.  A PI is also sniffing around. 

Shelby goes to work at her grandmother's beauty parlor part-time as a helper and sings on stage on Friday Nights, at the local bar that is owned by a friend she had in high school.  With the exception of the death of the woman who was Richard's wife and the people who may be coming after her for the diamonds she does not have, her life is really beginning to come together.  The debt is slowly coming down, she's with her large family again, and she's falling in love with a really great guy who will treat her right. 

There is a threat looming over the horizon that will put it all in jeopardy.  Is there any doubt that Shelby and Grif will get together?  No.  They do not even doubt it; its just a matter of time.  Will you figure out the ending?  Maybe.  But that does not matter.  Its such a joy getting there and these characters are so much fun to be around you will not mind if you have an idea of what is to come.  This is truly a great book and one of her finest yet and the best way to start off your summer reading.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

All Clear by Connie Willis

This is the spectacular sequel to Black Out, the story of three historians from 2060 who have gone back to World War II to observe events.  Eileen, on her first mission, is sent to the country to be a maid at an estate that takes in children sent from London to stay in the country for their safety.  There she meets the poor, dirty, demon children, the Hobbins.  After she finds out her drop to take her back to 2060 is closed, she heads to London to try to find Polly, whom she knows was spending the Blitz working as a shop girl.

Mike, who thought he missed his chance to witness the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1939, goes to sleep on an unseaworthy vessel and finds himself halfway there, with a teen and his great-grandfather going there to do their bit.  While there he saves the boy, the boat, and a soldier who would later save over 500 men, and Mike damages his foot.  His drop is now not working either, so once he gets out of the hospital, he heads to London to also find Polly, hoping that her drop will work.

Each of these historians had slippage during their drop.  The scientists have always believed that this was due to being unable to land in the designated area at that time due to such things as a person being in the vicinity who might see them.  But the slippage has become a real problem.  They are losing days instead of hours.  By the time Polly arrives in London, the Blitz has been going on for a week.  At first, she receives a frosty welcome from those at the air raid shelter, but a kind gentleman, Sir Geoffrey, an older man, and famous stage actor, who develops a crush on her and sees her as Violet from Twelfth Night.  Soon the group begins to put on performances for those avoiding the bombs in the subways.  Polly knows where the attacks are coming up until the end of 1942 and in December of 1943, she has already been in England elsewhere working as an ambulance driver.  If she does not get out before this date, a paradox will occur and she will die.

The group remembers that another historian is supposed to be there around the time of St. Paul's bombing on December 29, 1942.  When they arrive, they are immediately swept up in the events happening around them.  Mike finds himself helping the fire brigade and saving two men from a collapsing building.  Eileen takes over an ambulance when the driver is hurt and with the help of the Hobbins' kids takes the wounded to various hospitals and saves many lives.  Somehow, however, they miss the historian and his drop.  Not knowing what else to do, they fall back on the time-honored way of communicating with the future historians who may be looking for them by placing ads in the personals of the papers with secret messages letting them know where they are.

In a surprise twist, it turns out that Mr. Humphries, the man in charge of the historians was the last person to be able to make a drop where they were, but his drop no longer works.  Worse, he has news from the future.  The time slippages are likely the historical time line trying to correct itself.  Everyone these historians have met is in danger of being killed just for having come into contact with them.  It seems that they may have changed history and the Allies might not win the war.  Their only hope is the young man Collin, who as a teenager had a crush on Polly and swore to her that he would rescue her if she ever needed it.  Mr. Humphries also has a deadline and it's only a few months away.

Not all of them live or make it out of London.  This book is truly fascinating in its details of the time of the Blitz of London during World War II and the effects it had on the British people.  It also makes you think of the impact you have on others in this life and how everything can change on a dime and turn out differently than planned.  These are the dangers of playing with time travel and how it can cause a whole world to unravel.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/All-Clear-Connie-Willis/dp/0553592882/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473426620&sr=1-1&keywords=all+clear

Thursday, April 16, 2015

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride by Carey Elwes with Joe Layden

First and foremost, I am a huge fan of the Princess Bride.  I discovered it in 1988 when it came out on VHS, like most people.  I can quote entire passages to this movie, which is totally faithful to the book, probably since Goldman wrote the script.  After the book came out there was a demand for a movie, so Goldman, a screenwriter of such hits as Marathon Man and All the President's Men calls this work his best and favorite.  Many famous names tried to make a movie out of it, including Robert Redford, but none succeeded until Rob Reiner came along and got backing from Norman Lear.  This was early in his career, but he was a hot ticket and this book was near and dear to his heart.

Reiner wanted a mostly English cast and automatically signed up his friends Christopher Guest to play Count Rogan and Billy Chrystal to play Miracle Max.  Someone suggested this unknown actor, Carey Elwes who had just been in a movie called Lady Jane Gray, about the ill-fated Queen of England.  Elwes, who had loved the book, himself, for years, was thrilled but scared of screwing up the audition.  He had nothing to worry about, though, Rob loved him.  Robin Wright, whose step-father is British, raised her on British comedy, and she developed a natural English accent.  Luckily they were able to borrow her from the soap Santa Barbara to play the part.

Andre the Giant was an easy cast and a good one.  He was a very kind man, who suffered severely from his disease that caused him to be so tall and big.  He ate and drank alcohol (for the pain in his back) like a horse, but rarely got drunk and he always paid for others.  Wallace Shawn was told that Danny DeVito was supposed to be in the movie as the Sicilian and spent the whole movie scared to death that he was going to be replaced, no matter what Reiner said to him.  In the battle of wits scene, Reiner had to help him through it.  He says he was 40% Reiner, 40% DeVito, and 20% him.

Mandy Patikin and Carey Elwes were going to have to do all of the sword fights themselves, rather than have stunt doubles to some of the harder stuff, like most movies do.  They spent every waking moment practicing with two of the best fencers in the business: Peter Diamond (who worked with Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster, was the stunt coordinator on the Star Wars trilogy, played the Tusken Raider that surprised Luke in New Hope, he was a German soldier in the Raiders, as well as stunt coordinator in that movie, and worked on Highlander) and Bob Anderson (Olympic winner, coached Errol Flynn, choreographed scenes for several Bond movies and the Star Wars trilogy, as well as playing Vader during his fight scenes and working on the Lord of the Rings trilogy).  The book describes the Sword Fight as the "Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times". Peter and Bob intended to do their best to make this so and train them hard to not only fight but fight both handed.  I'll leave the story of the filming of the swordfight for you to discover.

Elwes got injured twice during the filming of this movie and both were his fault.  He broke his toe on the day they were to spend one day at the site of the giant hill where Wesley talks about being the Dred Pirate Roberts and what happened to Wesley, which contains one of my favorite lines: Life is pain.  Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.  If you watch as they walk across the top of the hill you can tell he is careful about his left foot.  Also, after they reach the bottom of the hill and run off, he is more hopping than running.

The second time, was when Christopher Guest was supposed to hit him over the head with his sword, which was a real medieval sword hilt and knock him out.  Guest, the nicest guy ever, was scared of hurting him, so he came nowhere near Elwes' head when he struck, which meant that Elwes was falling at the wrong time.  Finally, Elwes tells him to just tap him on the head with it.  Guest does more than tap it on his head.  When Wesley falls down unconscious, he really was unconscious.  He woke up in the hospital with stitches in his head.  Later on, when he has to knock out Patinkin with his sword, he does it from the back, so the camera does not show him not touching his head.

In the fire swamp, they have to do a stunt, where Buttercup falls into Lightening Sand and Wesley goes in to save her.  For safety sake, they wanted him to jump in feet first.  There was a hidden trap door and a short drop onto Styrofoam and two people to help catch you.  Cary was not satisfied with this.  It was not heroic enough.  Flynn would not do it this way.  No hero would.  He wanted to dive head first.  After a very lengthy discussion, Cary finally convinced Reiner.  After carefully practicing it with stunt doubles who showed Cary how to do it, it was done in one take.

This book is one of the best I've read all year.  I could go on and on about all of its hidden secrets, but that would spoil it for you, the reader.  Making this movie, was a great highlight to many who worked on this film.  Sadly, when it came out, Fox did not know how to market it.  The poster pictured Fred Savage and Peter Faulk on it, leading people to think it was a kiddie movie, which it was not, really.  They had no trailer, no print ads, and no TV ads.  If the internet had been around, perhaps it would have been more successful in theaters.  Everyone was disappointed in the response.

Later, when people started catching it on VHS, everyone, including President Clinton, who told him it was his and Chelsea's favorite movie and Pope John Paul II who, in a chance meeting, told him how much he loved it.  People began to quote lines to the actors on the street.  Reiner tells the tale of when he went out to a restaurant Gotti went to, who happened to show up that night.  When Reiner stepped outside for a moment, one of Gotti's men looked at him and said "You killed my father. Prepare to die."  For a moment Reiner froze and was scared out of his mind before he realized what the man was talking about.  It has become a phenomenon and a classic that will be loved down through the ages, even without CGI special effects that might have made the ROUSs look more real, but would have ruined the movie.  Beware, after reading this book, you will want to immediately grab the movie and watch it again with new eyes as you look for the secrets hidden within.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/As-You-Wish-Inconceivable-Princess/dp/1476764026/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467033088&sr=1-1&keywords=as+you+wish+inconceivable+tales+from+the+making+of+the+princess+bride