I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Friday, September 30, 2016

Survivor In Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)


This has to be one of the more horrifying books in the series for the reader, as well as Lieutenant Dallas and her husband Roarke.  A ten-year-old girl is happy that her mother is allowing her best friend to stay over on a weeknight, because the girl's parents are celebrating their anniversary.  At 2am, she awakens with a craving for an orange fizzy and asks her friend if she wants to go down to the kitchen with her to get one, but her friend just goes back to sleep.  Nixie, whose mother is a nutritionist and her a father a family lawyer, would most surely object to her having the drink, but she cannot resist.  While sitting at the breakfast table in the corner drinking it, she sees a man go into the maid's room.  Thinking she might get to see something naughty, she quietly follows.  Instead, she sees him slice open the maid's neck.  She shrinks back and the killer does not notice her.  After putting in a call to the police, she takes the back stairs to the second floor because she is scared and wants her mother, but when she crawls to her side of the bed, she feels her mother's blood and realizes her parents are dead.  She quickly scurries into their bathroom and hides in the bathtub.

When Eve and her partner Peabody arrive and do a search of the house, Eve is the one to find Nixie and immediately flashes back to her childhood.  Eve makes sure that Nixie is safe and Nixie has glued herself to Eve.  When social services arrives to take the child away, Eve refuses to let her go with the social worker, partly because the girl will not let go and partly for her safety.  This child has just witnessed the murder of her parents, brother, best friend, and maid by two men and is now in danger herself.  Eve decides to take her home.  Nothing can get into the fortress she and Roarke call home and Summerset, Roarke's majordomo, and the man who saved him from dying on the streets of Ireland, once had a daughter who was murdered and will know how to handle a traumatized child. 

The more they dig, the more they find that this family was the perfect Norman Rockwell family.  The couple were devoted to each other and their children and had no complaints or threats at work.  Who would want to take out an entire family?  The murders scream a pro job, but to kill a whole family means it was personal to someone.  The social worker is picked up off the streets and thrown in a van and later tortured.  She does not know where the girl is, but she gives up the locations of every safe house in the city she knows about.  This indicates that there are more than just the two men involved in this.

While Eve is trying to stay away from the child because she cannot look at her without thinking of the past Roarke finds himself remembering horrid childhood memories he thought he had long put to rest.  The best friend's parents are listed in the will as being the ones to take custody of Nixie and her brother if anything happens to her parents, but this couple cannot do it, so Roarke makes it his mission to try to find the right place for Nixie.

A break happens when a prostitute gets a look at two men leaving the scene of the murder of two police officers.  Suddenly, Eve realizes, that the murder of this family, was not an isolated incident.  It was the grand finale.  The coupe de gras.  This means that there were others connected to this in some way that had also been murdered, but these men are very controlled and very patient.  They have likely waited for their revenge for six to ten years.  Slowly, Eve's team puts together the missing puzzle pieces and arrive at a chilling and horrid conclusion.  These people will not rest until they have killed Nixie and completed their mission and its Eve's job to not only protect her, but to hunt these savage animals down. 

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Survivor-Death-J-D-Robb/dp/0425204189/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475235618&sr=1-1&keywords=survivor+in+death+by+j.d.+robb

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sparks by S. J. Adams


Since sixth grade, Debbie Woodlawn has kept a secret from her best friend, Lisa Ashby: That she is gay and that she is in love with her.  Debbie has shaped her life around Lisa's in order to be with her. This includes watching Full House reruns on Friday nights and going to ACTs (Active Christion Teen) meetings.  Now her best friend is dating a total loser named Norman who is into FCA and wearing a tie to school. One day during lunch period when Debbie has just had it with Norman and Lisa and goes to the bathroom to cry after realizing that the two of them were considering having sex according to Lisa, a friend, Angela puts two and two together and realizes why she is upset.  Neither one of them like Norman or ACT much.  Angela suggests that Debbie gives Emma, a girl at their school, and her weird ideas a chance.  

Emma had approached her earlier about The Church of Blue and later when she and her chief disciple, Tim, approaches her again explaining that the purpose of the Church is to go on Holy quests and that they could help her, she agrees to hear them out.  As Emma explains it "We think that something like magic is real, and anyone who doesn't believe it can just go listen to side two of the Beatles' Abbey Road record.  Humans can't create something that perfect without some sort of divine assistance. Some people call it 'magic'. Some people call it 'God'. We call it 'Blue.'"   They believe everyone has a Spark of Blue inside of them and when two or more people who compliment each other get together with their Sparks real magic happens.  For instance, the Beatles did all right in their solo careers, but they really soared when they played together.  The sum is worth more than the individual parts separate.

There are ten commandments of the Holy Church of Blue: 1. Matters of the Heart come first. Especially Someone else's heart. 2. Be thou not an asshole. 3. Goest thou on holy quests. 4. Taketh thou any detours or side trips or odd suggestions that come up, for they will lead thee to knowledge, and to adventure, and bring thee closer to Blue. 5. Never put thy words in the mouth of Blue. 6. Floss thy fucking teeth. 7. Wearth thou no garment that costeth thou more than a tank of gas. 8. Thou shalt not maketh thy home in Nebraska (Nebraska is Bluish hell).  Yeah, they're still trying to come up with the last two. But if you ever want to say hell, you just say Nebraska instead.  They also have a list of holy quest goals and they are only missing three from completing this list, See a naked person of each gender in the same place at the same time, break something expensive, and witness a girl-on-girl kiss in which at least one participant has never kissed a girl before.  They agree to help Debbie with her holy quest of getting to Lisa before she has sex with Norman and telling her that she likes, not just girls, but Lisa.  The secondary goal ends up being to track down Debbie's backpack, which has a note in it which says that she likes girls before it falls into the wrong hands.

But that's not the only holy quest for the night. Debbie has a secret quest of her own.  She intends on trying to get Emma and Tim together before the night is over, all while they avoid Heather Quinn who keeps trying to chase them down because she has been the butt of a great number of holy quests (pranks) by Emma and Tim.  There's a giant storm brewing in Iowa that will break at any moment.  The night will take them to some odd places where they will run into an array of people, some helpful and some not, all the while listening to the soundtrack music of Blueism on Emma's car stereo.  I really do love the music this book is set to, which is an odd thing to say about a book, yet this is a quirky and odd book that is a joy to read. I want to join the Church of Blue myself.  It sounds like a great deal of fun and enlightenment.

Quotes


My dad’s a regular guy, and my mom’s a total kook, so I guess I had a fifty percent chance of coming out normal. Leave it to me to screw it up.
-S.J. Adams (Sparks p. 1)
 The goth kids always looked about as depressed as I felt, so that was a possibility, but I didn’t think they’d let me hang out with them. It’s hard to get in with the goth crowd if you weren’t, like, born a goth.  If I tried to hang out with them after years of being The Girl Who Hangs Out with Lisa Ashby, they’d probably call me a poseur or something.  The cheerleaders on the other side of the hall probably wouldn’t let me near them, either. One thing I’ve got to give them credit for is that at least they have a formalized processed for joining their group—they have try-outs. The only other groups I could think of that have a process like that are the theater kids, who have auditions, and gangsters, who I always heard make you kill someone for their shoes or something.

-S. J. Adams (Sparks p. 15-16)
 I’d driven all the way through Nebraska with Lisa once on the way to an ACTs Jamboree in Denver. Once you got past Omaha, driving through Nebraska is probably the single most mind-numbingly boring thing a person can possibly do. Other than hanging out with Norman Hastings. God, making that drive with him would probably create, like, a black hole on the interstate.

-S. J. Adams (Sparks p 66)


I was kicking ass and taking names and sending them in with two proofs of purchase and $2.95 for shipping and handling.
-S. J. Adams (Sparks p 221)
 It was weird to think there were even people like me in Des Moines. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like everyone in the world was a total weirdo. No one was normal, really. Maybe not even my dad.

-S. J. Adams (Sparks p. 223)


“I didn’t know the Beach Boys did songs like this,” I said. “I thought it was all songs about surfing and cars and like, sandcastles and stuff.” “Yeah,” said Tim, “they were kind of secretly awesome. The guy who arranged their songs said they were teenage symphonies to God. And some guy once said the strings on this song [“God Only Knows”] are proof of divinity.” “It was the guy from U2,” said Emma. “Either that or Elvis Costello. But if I see one more hipster on the Internet saying that their Pet Sounds is better than Abbey Road, I’ll pound them into sand and make a castle of my own.”
-S. J. Adams (Sparks p. 227)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Sparks-S-J-Adams/dp/0738726761/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475065759&sr=1-1&keywords=sparks+by+s.j.+adams

 
 

 



Monday, September 26, 2016

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


One dark night, a creature named Jack entered a home and killed the parents and the daughter. But when he went to the attic to kill the baby boy in it's crib, it was not there. The boy was fond of escaping his crib and had earlier climbed out and scooted down the stairs on his bottom and left via an open door and headed down the street to the entrance of the graveyard where he was met by Mr. and Mrs. Owens' ghosts. The baby's mother's ghost appeared to them and begged them to protect her son.  A decision was quickly made and Mrs. Owens hid the child in the graveyard in her embrace and Silas, who is neither a ghost nor human redirects Jack to somewhere else and convinces him that the baby was never anywhere near the graveyard. 

Now a bigger decision is to be made about what is to be done about the boy.  Some do not think it is wise to keep the child in the graveyard, while others believe they have a duty to his dead mother to protect him.  It is all decided when the Lady on the Grey arrives on her horse and says "The dead should have charity."  Humans only see the Lady on the Grey when they die and ghosts rarely see her themselves, and she is afforded a great deal of respect so the child is placed in the care of Mr. and Mrs. Owens with Silas as guardian, since he can leave the graveyard and buy food and such for the child. He agrees and says that if a time comes when he has to leave for a while, he will find someone to act as guardian in his stead. So the child is given the Freedom of the Graveyard until he is grown, which means he can see in the dark, can be able to not be seen by humans, can see and talk to the ghosts and other things.  They give him the name of Nobody Owens, or Bod for short.

When he is five he meets a young girl, Scarlett, who visits the graveyard a lot, which is also a preserve, who can see him. Her parents tell her he is an imaginary friend so she accepts that and the two have adventures together, including going into the oldest grave in the graveyard which belonged to a Celt around 2,000 years ago and is protected by a specter that has kept others from coming out of the tomb again. But, Scarlett's parents move to Scotland and he loses his human friend.

Bod is not allowed to leave the graveyard because he is protected there and the creature Jack is still looking for him.  That does not stop him from leaving a few times, of course causing some close calls and trouble for him and Silas.  But his friendship with Liza Hempstock, a witch buried in the unconsecrated ground just outside the graveyard gate helps him on many occasions. 

Miss Lupescu, a friend of Silas comes to him one summer when Silas has to go away to deal with something.  The two get off to a rotten start as she feeds him food she has cooked that he cannot stand and she is a strict teacher.  Up to now he has been taught by the few ghost teachers they have been able to find in the graveyard, which means an education based on knowledge from the 18th century.  Miss Lupescu also teaches him what he needs to know about the world he inhabits, such as that there are the living, the dead, day-folk, night-folk, ghouls, mist-walkers, high hunters, Hounds of God, and Solitary Types, which is what Silas is.  Silas has no reflection, can mesmerize, does not eat, and does not go out during the day. But it will not be until the end of the book that you will truly understand what Silas is.  Miss Lupescu you will find out much sooner when Bod needs to be saved once again.

There is  more to Jack than meets the eye. But there is more to Bod and the others as well. Those in the graveyard will do anything to protect Bod and Silas and Miss Lupescu go well beyond the call of duty themselves.  This book is filled with magic and the difficulties and fun of growing up as a human boy among the supernatural with a graveyard for a home.  Gaiman has written a wonderful story with characters that you will truly care about and hate to see it end.

Quotes
 If you couldn’t trust a poet to offer sensible advise, who could you trust?

-Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book p. 233)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Graveyard-Book-Neil-Gaiman/dp/0060530944/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474895398&sr=8-1&keywords=the+graveyard+book

Friday, September 23, 2016

Star Wars: Dark Disciples by Christie Golden


Of the "new canon" Star Wars books, this is by far the best yet.  Which is no surprise to those who have heard of Golden who has written many Star Wars, Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Assassins Creed, etc...books.  She has definitely got her science fiction bona fides.  This book takes place after the Clone Wars animated series.  Sadly, I am only on Season Three of the five season series.  This book is based on stories that were never aired, because the show became canceled. 

The Jedi have made a momentous decision.  One that not all agree with, especially Obi-Wan and Yoda.  They have decided that the war is taking too much of a toll and too many innocents are being sacrificed to it and that there is a way to possibly end it: By killing Dooku.  An assignation.  They pick Master Jedi Quinlan Vos, a delightful, fun, guy who bends the rules a lot and works solo doing undercover work. They know, though, that one Jedi alone will not be able to take down Dooku.  He'll need help.  Asaji Ventress, once a Sith apprentice to Dooku until he deserted her and destroyed her home world, killing the Nightsisters, her family, has tried twice to kill him: once with two strong Nightsister warriors and once with the mother and a Nightbrother that she created and trained who turned on her.  The Jedi Council want Vos to hook up with Ventress and convince her to help him kill Dooku without letting her know he's a Jedi.

The easy-going Vos, manages to convince Ventress to join forces together to hunt down bounties after he helps her capture one, without asking her, which really ticks her off, because she doesn't want his help.  She, like Vos, has always worked alone.  She doesn't want a partner, but something about Vos makes her take him on.  The two travel around the galaxy quickly becoming a team and working well together.  The only problem Vos has is in hiding his Jedi abilities from someone who uses the Force. 

On Ventress's home planet, it is filled with a different and odd dark energy.  As a baby she was put in servitude to a Jedi Master who made her his padawan.  Dooku kills him and takes her in, teaching her the dark side.  After he leaves her, she returns home and does the initiation rites to become a Nightsister and leaves her Sith ways behind.  As she explains it, you can play with the dark side without letting it become a master over you.  The Nightsisters are somewhere between the Sith and the Jedi.  Now, all the Nightsisters are dead.

Eventually, of course, she finds out about Vos and the Jedi Council plan.  She tells him he will have to learn to fight with the dark side of the force like she does and not go down the path completely.  She takes him to her home world where they spend time close together training.  To complete his training, Vos must kill an ancient creature that is likely the last of its kind.  For a Jedi, such senseless violence of an innocent, is completely wrong, but if he cannot kill it, he will not be able to kill Dooku.  The two find themselves falling for each other and Vos tells Ventress when this is over he is going to leave the Jedi Order to be with her.  No one has done anything like this for her before.  She has never had these feelings for someone ever in her life and she is terrified. 

This is rare look into a different side of Ventress.  She makes herself vulnerable to Vos and opens up and shows that she is really not the evil woman everyone thinks she is.  But Obi-Wan does warn Vos that she is manipulative and a liar, and she does lie to him at first.  In order to tap into his anger, which he will need to do to defeat Dooku, she tells him Dooku killed his Master, not her, and yes this, as you expect, comes back to haunt her.

For those that have seen Revenge of the Sith you know who kills Dooku and that this endeavor will not succeed.  General Grievous is there and it ends up being both of them against Dooku and the General.  Dooku captures Vos and Ventress is forced to flee and try to find a way to rescue him later.  While with Dooku, Vos is pushed by him farther down the path of the dark side.  Will Ventress be able to rescue Vos before its too late and he becomes a Sith? 

This is an absolutely amazing book.  I loved the characters and the story was truly original.  Vos is so lovable and Ventress is given a chance to show who she really is.  The ending is truly beautiful, perfect, wonderful, and happy.  Now, I need to go and finish watching the Clone Wars show so I can learn more about what happens to Ventress before this book.

Quote:


There is no good or evil.  Only those with power, and those without it.
--Christie Golden (Star Wars: Dark Disciple)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Disciple-Star-Christie-Golden/dp/1101884959/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474636493&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+disciple

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie


Oddly enough, the Disney movie version of Peter Pan follows closely to the book.  That isn't always the case with Disney.  This book was originally a play that Barrie turned into a book later after it's success. During the part where they needed the audience to clap for Tinker Bell, they were prepared to have the orchestra do it since they weren't sure whether or not the audience would go along with it. They did of course.  Seeing it back then was magical as the characters "flew" across the stage during their wild adventures. 

In the book, the Darling parents don't have a lot of money and Mr. Darling, at first, isn't sure if they can afford to have children. He does up the sums nightly and predicts what it will cost and where they can cut corners to save money and eventually gives in and they have Wendy.  Then the same thing happens again with both John and Michael.  They use a St. Bernard as a nursery maid since they cannot afford anything more and call her Nana. 

One night Nana manages to catch Peter Pan's shadow when he sneaks into the nursery on a visit with the children while they slept.  When they sleep, they dream of Neverland and their own version of it.  Mrs. Darling takes the shadow and folds it up and puts it in the drawer and sleeps the next night in the nursery to see if he comes back for it, but he doesn't.  He will come back for it, but time passes and he doesn't at first. One winter evening, the Darling couple are invited to a party down the street and they go to it and through a series of odd events, Nana ends up chained outside.

This is the night that Peter Pan arrives to collect his shadow with Tinker Bell and ends up leading the children off to Neverland, mainly because the Lost Boys need a mother and Wendy fits the bill.  He teaches them to fly with pixie dust and to head out "second to the right and straight on till morning".  While there they meet up with Pirates and Indians some of which want to kill them.  And Wendy does well as a mother to the Lost Boys.  But she wants her brothers to remember their parents as they all, her included, seem to be forgetting them.

Honestly, I never did like Peter Pan the movie as a kid or as an adult.  And the characters in this book have few redeeming qualities.  The best character, in my opinion, is the tick-tock-crock.  But the book is written so beautifully and magically that you can forget that Peter Pan has this annoying habit of leaving people when they need him or of being the boy who never grows up and therefore lives in a bubble of selfish childish things. You can forgive Wendy for being so wishy-washy and weak.  You overlook Hook's few faults that make him a little less interesting.  Barrie writes with such style and grace you could forgive him for anything in this book.  And I do.

By the way: The name Wendy did not exist until the play Peter Pan was made. A young girl Barrie was friends with called him "fwendie", which is how she pronounced friend and that is where he got the name Wendy from.

Quotes:
   “Can anything harm us, mother, after the night-lights are lit?” “Nothing, precious,” she said; “they are the eyes a mother leaves behind her to guard her children.”

-J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan p 26)
 He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. All he thinks he has a right to when he comes to you to be yours is fairness. After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness.

-J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan p 120)
 To die will be an awfully big adventure.

-J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan p 123)
 The pirate attack had been a complete surprise: a sure proof that the unscrupulous Hook had conducted it improperly, for to surprise the redskins fairly is beyond the wit of the white man.

-J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan p 152)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Peter-Pan-J-M-Barrie-ebook/dp/1435154703/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1474466303&sr=8-10&keywords=peter+pan
   

Monday, September 19, 2016

The IHOP Papers by Ali Liebegott


As far as I can tell, this book takes place in the mid to late 90s. For one thing, there is a Tower Records. For another thing, regular people don't have "cellular telephones".  People can still smoke in restaurants. And the IHOP uniform is old "Swiss Miss", the girl of the alps hideous outfit.  Also, people write letters still rather than email each other.  The book itself was published in 2007. 

Francesca, "Francie", is a 20-year-old virgin with a capital V.  In high school she spent some time in a mental hospital for depression and is in AA.  Now she has moved to San Francisco to live in "Serenity House" with her Philosophy of Nonviolence professor, whom she is madly in love with (she also loves Hope from Days of Our Lives and her sexy AA sponsor, Maria), and her community college professor's girlfriend and boyfriend.  Irene, the professor, is taking a sabbatical from teaching to be with Gustavo, her boyfriend who is working on his degree, and her girlfriend Jenny, who has been friends with Gustavo since high school and works at the store Muffins Muffins.  In Serenity House, they practice environmentalism and acts of nonviolence toward the world and nature, except for Gustavo who has issues from a disturbed childhood and can get away with yelling and screaming and hitting Jenny once.  Everything is in service to the goddess who will guide their way.  Francie, who gets the nickname of "Goaty" because she's afraid to take showers for fear of wasting water and begins to smell, has a hard time with this lifestyle of bland food and lukewarm water to wash dishes.  But after she gets her job at IHOP she soon finds a place of her own.

Her job at IHOP consists of working with gay men, drug addicts, and a couple of oddballs.  She begins to write to help her through her screwed up life and working at the IHOP provides plenty of things to write about, as does the goings on at Serenity House. At IHOP she meets the weirdest people, including the Pyramid People who run the Pyramid scheme of selling stuff.  They only order a cup of tea and a sundae. This sucks because she has to make it and they leave a lousy tip. They also keep trying to recruit her.  There's also the cop who thinks he's a big shot who has a crush on her and the motorcycle guy who offers her a ride that she accepts because she loves bikes.  BTW, don't ever tell a waitress to "make sure the soup is hot" because this means they will stick it in the microwave for at least three minutes or more.  

Eventually, Francie will find someone who does care about her a lot and she will finally lose her virginity, only to cause more problems in her life.  And suddenly it begins to rain, as someone else shows interest too.  Francie seems to fall in love at the drop of a hat.  But keep in mind that she is twenty and has never dated before or had any romances so this is all new to her.  She is like a blind woman trying to find her way through a room filled with her heart's desire.


This book is hilarious and perhaps a bit nostalgic as it will remind you if you are not twenty, that time in your life when everything was new and life was a buffet to sample from.  Where you screw up a lot and do crazy things while trying to find your way.  Francie is a special character as she has gone through a lot of self-hatred for being a lesbian and it took a lot for her to come out.  Now, she's stumbling around in this new world while keeping her head above water and keeping her sense of humor.   This really is a wonderful book, though it does make me think twice about going to IHOP again.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  In the book, Maria, the sponsor, keeps reminding Francie to use protection, and that is what I'm going to do here. Herpes is forever. Genital warts--yuck!  Gonorrhea--look up the disgusting pictures of what THAT looks like. Chlamydia can make you sterile among other things and over half the time you will have no symptoms whatsoever.  Hepatitis is also forever. Syphilis can be cured, but not before it does some damage to you.  Trichomoniasis, which shows no symptoms in 70% of people and makes you more susceptible to getting other STDs (when you do have symptoms it makes sex very uncomfortable).  And of  course AIDS.  All of these things can be prevented by using a condom and a dental dam. And I mean you use them for oral as well as anal and vaginal sex.  If you are desperate and don't have a dental dam handy, saran wrap can work in a pinch.  It's not the person you're having sex with you necessarily have to worry about but the person they slept with who slept with that person who slept with that person who slept with that really questionable person.  Please be safe. It can be dangerous out there.

Quote:           


I think there is an indisputable ling between freaks and a bottomless coffee cup.
-Ali Liebegott (The IHOP Papers p 7)
 I love Irene. I’ve never been so in love in my life. The kind of love where you believe if you can have the other person, everything will be perfect. Life will be fine. Every drop of pain scrubbed free from life’s ink.

-Ali Liebegott (The IHOP Papers p 26)
 Everyone wants to be found, Goaty. The problem is sometimes we get so good at hiding we don’t even know we’re doing it anymore.

-Ali Liebegott (The IHOP Papers p 150)
 “Your father and I wouldn’t charge you a thing to talk about your problems.” I felt guilty for making my mom feel excluded, but I certainly couldn’t hire her as my therapist.  I wasn’t that unhealthy yet.

-Alit Liebegott (The IHOP Papers p 176)
 The weirdest thing anyone has ever said to me while I was waitressing was from this man who used to come in and eat buckwheat pancakes and read Tai Chi books. He said, “Never cook rice while listening to rock music, because the negative energy from the rice will lodge in your lower chakras and cause mental anguish and sexual frustration.” I said, “Oh, I was sexually frustrated and mentally anguished long before I ever listened to rock music while cooking rice.” Who were these freaks—and if they were concerned with right livelihood and health, what were they doing eating at IHOP?

-Ali Liebegott (The IHOP papers p 201)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/IHOP-Papers-Ali-Liebegott/dp/0786717947/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474295876&sr=1-1&keywords=the+ihop+papers

Friday, September 16, 2016

Star Wars: Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo and Chewbacca Adventure by Greg Rucka


Everybody's favorite nerfherder is back with his faithful co-pilot Chewie in another adventure. The first Death Star has just been blown up and the rebels have almost completed evacuation of their base on Yavin.  Leia has an important mission and the only person who can possibly do it is Han, who, of course, doesn't want to do it. Han just wants to take his money and go pay off Jabba the Hutt and get the price taken off his head before a bounty hunter kills him.  But, between Leia and Chewie, especially, and of course the promise of being paid more, Han takes the job.  A rebel named Ematt, who knows all the locations of the rebels as well as other sensitive information, is in danger.  The Shrikes are the ones who find locations where the rebels can put bases and Lieutenant Ematt's group was attacked and killed by the Imperial Security Bureau, but he was able to escape and is heading toward the planet Cyrkon, which is on the outer limits of Hutt space.  The Falcon is the fastest ship and the only one that can get there in time to save him. Chewie argues that they can pick him up and drop off the money to Hutt at the same time.  Outnumbered, Han agrees.

As Han is so famous for saying: What could possibly go wrong? Well, as usual, everything.  When they get there, a Star Destroyer is already there with Commander Beck of the Imperial Security Bureau, who is a cold woman with an artificial eye that has the ability to scan for heat signatures, infrared, heartbeats, etc..She is a formidable foe, quite evil, and highly intelligent.  Han gives the Destroyer a false ID and lands, which is where they meet a gang of bounty hunters who open fire on them. Luckily, Beck and some stormtroopers arrive looking for Han and his ship and he tells her the bounty hunters are the rebels and the stormtroopers attack the bounty hunters and Han and Chewie get away.

Their first stop is to a unique bar called Miss Fortune, which is actually a ship that can take off at a moments notice and set up shop elsewhere, when things get too hot.  Its run by a Captain Delia Leighton, a friend of Chewie's at least, and maybe Han's (who still owes her money for his tab).  She sometimes helps the rebels, so he asks her about Ematt and she tells them where to find him.  After they get Ematt, they walk into a trap.  It seems that Delia sold them out and now they're all in danger.  But, this is Han and you just know he will somehow find a way out of this situation, because he always seems to, even though the odds are really stacked against him this time.

This book is a really fun read, of course, probably because Han is in it with his smart mouth and fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants ways.  Beck makes a really good villain.  She scares me.  I wouldn't want to meet up with her in a dark alley, or frankly anywhere. Its also interesting to see the planet Cykron.  A city that became so polluted that they had to put a bubble up around the "city" area that has artificial air for the people to breathe.  Its crowded, filled with criminals who come to hide out or do business, and dirty.  You look at it and think, this could be earth someday. Many of the people there have never left that bubble or breathed real air. I guess it goes to show you that what can happen in a galaxy far, far away, can happen in this galaxy right here.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Journey-Star-Wars-Smugglers-Adventure/dp/148472495X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474032750&sr=1-1&keywords=star+wars+smugglers+run

Monday, September 12, 2016

Soulprint by Megan Miranda


Alina Chase is being held on an island in a pretty prison not for a crime she committed but because of a crime that was committed in her past life as June Calahan.  June and a guy named Liam White broke into the Alonzo-Carter Cybersecurity Data Center in order to announce who could possibly be a dangerous criminal based on their past lives.  Scientists had done studies that had determined that you passed on such traits as handedness, intelligence, and behavior. The two go on the run and Liam is shot down by the police when he reaches for his cell phone and a year later June is killed when she comes out of hiding.

Immediately after June was killed, scientists tested babies in a 100-mile radius to find out where June's soul ended up.  As a baby, Alina had a tracking device inserted into her. Her mother was arrested when she tried to remove it.  Her father dropped her off at the hospital because he could not handle raising her alone with all of the outside pressure.  When the two of them try to get her back, they are unable to do so and Alina is sent to the island where she is told she will be set free at first this age then the age keeps getting pushed up as she gets older.  At the age of ten, a guard tries to help her escape but fails and this is when Alina first gets the idea to try to find a way off the island.

While doing her biology homework, she discovers a hidden message in the assignment and responds to it.  This goes on back and forth for a while with plans being made on the outside to get her out of her prison.  From her end, the plans are very vague. On her seventeenth birthday, the big day, she goes to her bathroom, where there are no cameras and finds a young man, Cameron, who has a press badge and is there to take out her tracking device.  The girl he is with, Casey, is the person Alina will next meet at the door of her room, as she is a guard.  When the press arrives to take pictures and hear a speech and ask questions, Alina and Casey move forward as though to speak to them, when an explosion occurs in her room causing panic. Alina and Casey run to a cliff where they meet Cameron and Alina is supposed to jump over the cliff. The only problem is that Alina does not know how to swim, so Cameron goes with Alina and  Casey, dressed like Alina in a wig, runs away with the tracker to lead the guards away.  After they jump into the water, they meet Dom who is wearing a full scuba gear and gets them one set of scuba gear to share.

When they get to the meeting point Alina finds out who Dom is and wonders if she can really trust any of them.  Why did they break her out of her prison?  There is definitely a reason and it is not altruistic, though they each have different reasons.  They are all on the run now from the police and the government and others. For a while, they decide to hide in plain sight, but that can only work for so long as soon enough people are going to want to turn her in for the reward money. They all seem to buy into the idea that she IS June reincarnated and therefore knows everything June does and have her wondering if that isn't true.  So what is Dom's endgame?

This book makes you question whether or not you can overcome a past life or just the things you've done in this life.  At the age of eighteen, anyone can find out what their past life is and all the details held therein.  Parents can do it for their children.  But do we really want to know?  Is it relevant?  Are we the sum of our past lives, or do we change over the course of them, or is there no connection whatsoever between each past life?  This book will really make you think and has a great deal of action and a hint of romance, as Alina and Cameron are attracted to each other.  It also makes you wonder what is the cost of such knowledge.

Quotes
 So you see, it’s not just the past life that can come back to haunt you. It’s the past in this life, too.

-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 190)
 I’m lost in a daydream—it’s so real I can feel it take shape inside me, and I know how dangerous this is, I know. How hope can spread, how it multiplies when you linger in it. How it works its way into your life, before you remember that it’s not real. How insidious hope can become if you let it.

-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p. 248-9)
 Data can be used however one sees fit to twist it. The truth can be anything. We are dealing with human beings here. There’s no control for a human being. Way too many variables. It could be the truth. Evil is evil, Alina, there’s no other explanation.

-Megan Mirada (Soulprint p 289)
 “I don’t care,” I say. But that’s not exactly true. It’s more that there are degrees of caring, and degrees of truth, and what you want and what you need are very rarely the same thing.

-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 317)
 There’s no pattern to falling in love. At least, nothing I can understand. Not something I could see beforehand. Not something I can decipher after, either. Trust can be earned, piece by piece, like links in a chain. But love is more like faith, or belief: it’s a leap. It’s hurtling over the edge of the cliff and trusting you will not drown.

-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 351)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Soulprint-Megan-Miranda/dp/0802737749/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1473683061&sr=1-2-catcorr&keywords=soulprint

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wedding Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke


SPOILER ALERT!!!

Hannah has decided which of the three marriage proposals to accept and it's Ross Barton, her old college friend.  Hannah at first wants to have a quiet ceremony with just her mother and sisters with no reception because she doesn't want to put Mike and Norman in a painful situation. She is soon set straight by her family who insist that the men can handle it and everyone in the town wants to be a part of her wedding and she'd be letting them all down, so she readily agrees, once that's fixed.  The only problem is that she is going to be competing in the Food Channel's dessert chef contest and her and Ross want to get married before the contest which is being held in New York.  But her family comes through again by taking care of the minor pesky details of the wedding that Hannah would have hated to have to have dealt with anyway.

Then she hears from the Food Network that they are moving the competition up a week and that the winner of the first round of the competition in New York will have the home court advantage, so-to-speak, as the show will move to their hometown for the rest of the contest.  The Food Network is ecstatic to find out that Hannah is getting married and wants to film it as part of the show if she wins the first round.  Hannah and her youngest sister, Michelle, who is acting as her assistant, do research on the judges, especially the head judge, Alain Duquesne, whom their friend that they all call Aunt Nancy, happens to have known when she was growing up and has inside info on what he likes and doesn't like.  Hannah is worried about doing this at first until everyone assures her that all the other contestants will be doing their own research too.

When Hannah talks to Norman about being a groomsman for Ross, he tells Hannah to call him if anything ever goes wrong and that he will always be there for her. Which is strange.  Then Mike tells her to call him if Ross ever tries to hurt her. Both men are friends with Ross, so this behavior is odd. Do they sense something off in Ross that Hannah can't see yet, or are they just upset that she isn't marrying them? When they go flying to New York, Ross takes them up to the exclusive Sky Lounge he still belongs to from his old days as a big-time show producer.  Then when they are expecting to be shown to their coach seats they instead find themselves in first class because Ross used his sky miles to bump Hannah, her sister, him and his cameraman, as he is going there to do a shoot of the show for the local TV station.  At the hotel, their room has also been bumped up to a suite.  Hannah is wondering how he can blow through his savings this way.


Hannah and her sister, of course, win the first round and they all end up back at Lake Eden, Minnesota.  But the contest is cut-throat, as at the first round one of the contestants purposefully offered bad advice to another and then stole her recipe from her station.  But at the Lake Eden Inn, where the contest is being held, the security is heightened and everyone is on their guard. That does not, however, stop someone from being murdered. And this is one of the rare books where Hannah does not find the body. No, it's finally Michelle's turn.  She finds Chef Alain Duquesne stabbed in the freezer with the cake knife they used on their wedding cake that they had baked the day before.  Two wineglasses are found at the scene but otherwise nothing else is out of the ordinary and the security cameras going in did not seem to catch anything.

No one seriously thinks Hannah or her sister had anything to do with this murder, but the suspect list is long as no one liked Alain. Not the contestants or the other judges.  Will Hannah solve this murder in time to finish the contest and get married? Will she marry Ross at all?  Or will she marry someone else?  There are a lot of really good recipes in this book. I have already tried the Rainbow Cake one to rave reviews at my book club meeting.  I can't wait to try out the rest.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wedding-Murder-Hannah-Swensen-Mystery/dp/1617732168/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473257899&sr=1-1&keywords=wedding+cake+murder+joanne+fluke

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Exit, Pursued By a Bear


The stage direction Exit, pursued by bear comes from the Shakespeare play A Winter's Tale and is very apt for this book.  Hermione Winter, named after both the Harry Potter character and the daughter of Helen of Troy from Greek myth, will never be the same after two weeks at cheer camp in northern Canada.  At Camp Manitouwabing, her and her best friend Polly are the co-captains of their high school's champion cheer squad.  Their high school, Palermo Heights (home to the Fighting Golden Bears) does not have any sports teams that succeed on the field or court, but their cheerleaders fill the sports pages of the newspapers. They came in fourth at Nationals last year and their coach, Caledon thinks that this is the year they could win.

At camp, one-half of the girls on the squad are put in one cabin and the other half in another, so Polly and Hermione are separated. Hermione is put in a cabin with girls from St. Ignatius. She immediately makes friends with their captain, Amy who seems to have gotten a raw deal as she was chosen for the position by the Vice Principal, which as Polly says "makes her practically a narc".  So her teammates aren't happy about her and aren't listening to her and last year St. Igs had a big blow up they are still recovering from.

Hermione began dating Leo, one of the boys on the cheer squad back in the spring and has been keeping it casual, but Leo wants to heat things up at camp even though Hermione has told him that she takes camp seriously, especially since this is her last camp. When she opens her bag she finds a box of condoms, which she stuffs back inside, but not before fellow cheerleader, Jenny sees them.  He also gets upset and jealous of any time she spends with other guys and most especially Polly, even though it is all innocent and Polly has been her best friend since childhood.    

Despite that, the camp is going great. The two new guys, Dion and Cameron eventually get over their nervousness about dropping her and the other girls and learn the individual rhythms of each girl who flies up.   Everyone is sore but happy. Then on the last night, they hold a dance for everyone. They get dolled up and go out.  Hermione is dancing with Polly and Amy when someone passes her a drink and after drinking it she goes to put it in the recycling bin. That's when things get fuzzy. She sees someone at the door that leads outside and then she wakes up in the hospital.  She had been found on the rocks at the lake, naked.  She had been raped.  They gave her a morning after pill, but it will only work if she isn't already pregnant. She was not discovered right away. No one realized she was missing until they had gone to bed.  Then a search was sent out.

Polly is the one to tell her, because as you will find in this book, Polly is an incredible character. We could all use a Polly in our lives.  She rips the band-aid off. But more importantly, she will shred apart anyone who comes at you. She is sarcastic in a way that goes over most people's heads.  Hermione talked her into cheerleading and she stuck with it because she likes to win.  She can also dismiss adults. In a word, she has attitude in spades. She is Hermione's bulldog and she will need one in the days to come.  Hermione's parents are in Europe and it will take a while for them to get there, so the coach and Polly take care of her.

It turns out that the rape kit did not come back with any viable DNA due to the water she had been submerged in.  And Hermione still doesn't remember anything. The only female cop that could be dug up in the area, an Officer Plummer, leaves her card and tells her that if she becomes pregnant they can use that for DNA or if she remembers anything to please call.

Camp ends at the start of Labor Day weekend, with school beginning right after that.  The doctor tells her she cannot do any cheerleading for a week and Hermione's parents want her to stay home the first week of school, even though Polly tells her this is a bad idea.  Cheerleader, and a real sweetheart, Mallory, gets her homework for her and is the one to eventually tell her not to go on Facebook.  It turns out that Jenny reported about the condoms and Leo is saying how she flirted with everyone at camp. So the rumor mill is running wild. Mallory is standing up for her and explaining to everyone she comes across what roofies are and what really happened, but she says they don't listen to her like they do Polly.  Hermione tells her that people do listen to her, they just don't fear her.  But when she goes back, she doesn't just have to deal with the doubters, she also has to deal with the label of being "that girl who was raped" and have people avoid her, whisper about her, or act weird around her. 

She does indeed turn out to be pregnant and decides to have an abortion and use the fetal material to help identify the rapist through DNA.  So everyone is tested.  I won't say what happens there. But, while Hermione has no memories, she has to deal with throwing up for a while and feeling down, but in the end, she feels as though the whole thing happened to someone else. Until something triggers it and she has panic attacks.  She does seek the help of a pretty cool therapist who encourages her to keep an eye out for those people who are there for her in what capacity she needs them to be.  And there are many.  Some would say too many. But the author did that on purpose. She wanted any person who had been raped to read this and knows that they can find help in the oddest of places.  A school secretary, a pastor, a best friend's mother.  There are people out there just waiting to help you through this. You just have to look for them.

At the beginning of this book, at the camp, Hermione has to tell something bad that has happened to the school and a way to overcome it at a campfire ceremony.  She tells of how the school is cursed. Every year someone dies in a drunk driver accident and a girl gets pregnant.  She plans on breaking this curse. As you can see, this does not happen. Instead, she embodies both of those categories at once. She is the girl who got pregnant and she "died" in maybe not a drunk driving accident as he used roofies, but she died nonetheless.  In a way, rape is a murder of the person you once were and a rebuilding of the person you are to become.  Things are different. You react to things differently and people differently.  Your trust in people, men, in this case, has been shattered.  You will build a womb around yourself for a while,  but this is only the chrysalis for the butterfly you are to one day become that can fly again. Just as Hermione learned to fly again on her cheer squad.

In Canada you can call a Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
In the US there is the National Sexual Violence Resource Center: http://www.nsvrc.org/organizations
                                 Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN):http://centers.rainn.org
 In Britain: http://rapecrisis.org.uk/centres.php
                 http://www.victimsupport.com

Ireland: http://www.rcni.ie/
Scotland: http://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/ 

Europe: Rape Crisis Network: http://www.rcne.com/
Asia: Hotpeaches: http://www.hotpeachpages.net/asia/index.html
International Links: http://www.ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html
County by Country:http://aurora.umn.edu/web-docs/pdf/International%20Centers%20for%20Survivors%20of%20Sexual%20Assault.pdf

Quotes
  I suppose that would be worse. A dead daughter coming home from camp is probably worse than a broken one. Of course, if I were dead, they could just bury me, like we buried Clara Abbey, and move on. Broken is harder to deal with.

-E.K. Johnston (Exit, Pursued By a Bear p 81)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Exit-Pursued-Bear-E-K-Johnston/dp/1101994584/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473167080&sr=1-1&keywords=exit+pursued+by+a+bear






Friday, September 2, 2016

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore


This book is more than about a famous female superhero of the comics who debuted in 1941, which is also the longest running comic next to Batman and Superman.  It follows the beginning of the science of psychology, which got its roots in philosophy and broke free with William James (brother of the author James Henry).  Its mostly about its highly unusual and eccentric founder William Moulton Marston, the inventor of the lie detector test (not the polygraph test, which would come decades later and involve testing many variables) which tested the blood pressure and pulse of the person being interviewed.  He was the first one to try to bring the lie detector to court only to have it ruled down in the now, not so famous Frye case. 

Marston began his academic career a huge supporter of both the suffragette movement and the feminist movement.  The distinction between the two is that the suffragettes only wanted the vote while the feminist demanded equality.  He would marry Sadie Holloway, who would wind up being the main source of the household's income, as Marston continued on a downward spiral in his career with his support of the lie detector test and his connection with the feminist movement. Both were highly intelligent people with multiple degrees between them.  Sadie even gets a job as an editor at the Encyclopedia Britannica, a high honor.

In the 1920s, the Marstons take in Olive Byrne, the niece of Margret Sanger, the famous campaigner for birth control, along with her sister, Olivia's mother, who went on a hunger strike in jail when the police closed down the birth control clinic.  Marston is in love with his student and wants her to live with them.  Sadie goes along with this, as she is now thirty-four and wants to have children, but wants to leave them in the care of someone mentally capable and a trained person, so she can continue with her work.  Sadie, in a warped way, is the only woman to perhaps have a life where she gets it all.  Yes, she shares William with Olive, with whom he has two sons with (they tell everyone the father is dead), but for some odd reason she finds this acceptable.

Olive is the one who had the large bracelets on her wrists that would become one of Wonder Woman's iconic features along with the lasso that makes people tell the truth, like Marson's lie detector.  Wonder Woman was a feminist and allowed Marston to let out his frustrations on the world and the people in it without anyone being the wiser.  Some have said that the chaining of Wonder Woman, which happens in about every comic, is very sado-masochistic, but in reality, at the start of the feminist and suffrage movements, their were cartoons in the papers and magazines showing women suffering of being under a man's rule.  Marston believed that women were the superior sex and that there would be a female president within forty years and will be running things in the world. 

Sadly, when Marston died in 1947 and his collaborator and supporter the same year, Holloway insisted on being put in charge of Wonder Woman, but instead it went to a man who hated feminism and wanted Wonder Woman to be submissive to the man and be helpless. This set back Wonder Woman for many decades until the re-emergence of feminism in the 1970s, where Wonder Woman was featured on the first cover of Ms. Magazine.  After that, Wonder Woman was revitalized and became a Super Hero again. 

I am more of a Marvel comic book girl that a DC comic book girl, but Wonder Woman is one of the few exceptions.  I fell in love with her while watching the television series with Lynda Carter who showed that women could do anything and fight the toughest foes and win.  While mostly about the writer of Wonder Woman and his life, it shows a flawed man who loved and admired women, even including Great Women of History inserts in the comics to educate the children about real life heroes.  In the 1940s, with the formation of the Justice League, Marston held a vote for whether or not Wonder Woman should be allowed in this all-male bastion of freedom fighters, and received a resounding "yes".  Though she was only a secretary for the League, she still fought her own battles saving the earth time and time again.  Yes, Wonder Woman is my hero.

Note: Margeret Sanger had been a femistinst icon of mine and I am not able to look at her the same way again.

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Secret-History-Wonder-Woman/dp/0804173400/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472836342&sr=1-1&keywords=the+secret+history+of+wonder+woman