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.   

Quotes:
 

‘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.