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

Monday, June 26, 2017

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

They never meant for things to go as far as they did. Narrated by a teen girl whose real name you never get to know (she changes them as she introduces herself to others as characters from 80s movies such as Diane Court from Say Anything) this book starts off with a group of four teen girls who have kidnapped the least liked of the most popular boy band in the world, The Ruperts.  The Ruperts were formed when they all appeared as contestants on the show So You Think the British Don't Have Talent?  One of the judges noticed all the Ruperts signs in the audience and thought the four of them should form a band together to finish out the competition.  So Rupert Lemon (who did an opera jazz song), Rupert Kirke (who did something on an acoustic guitar), Rupert Xavier (who combined singing with modeling), and Rupert Pierpont (the juggler) all got together and formed The Ruperts and won the contest and were an overnight success.

What got the girls in the mess they are in now is that The Ruperts decided to do a show called The Ruperts Learn About Thanksgiving! in New York City where the four girls, Erin, the gorgeous boss (who likes Rupert L.), Isobel the commanding crazy one with the all the info on the band and a website dedicated to them (who likes Rupert X) , and Apple (who likes Rupert P), who is overweight and whose parents have a lot of money, live.  Diane likes Rupert K.  The girls desperately want tickets to the show.  Apple's maid gets them a room since they aren't adults and can't get it for themselves, at the hotel the boys are staying at.  When Apple goes out to get ice she spots Rupert P and she tackles him and brings him back to the room.  They immediately tie him up with stockings and blindfold him.

Diane wants to do the right thing and untie Rupert P and let him go before they get into the kind of trouble that leads to jail.  But will she be able to beat the peer pressure beating down on her by her friends who are growing crazier by the second and taking her with them down a demented path that will go where you least expect it to?  This book explores the idea of boy bands and the good and evil that they inspire in their followers in a darkly humorous way.  I really loved this book and its originality and crazy ideas. I highly recommend reading it.

I was holding someone captive and all that was going through my mind was a Billboard Top 40 love song. I was going to hell.
-Goldy Moldavsky (Kill the Boy Band p 11)

Happiness isn’t always easy, but it’s a priority.
-Goldy Moldavsky (Kill the Boy Band p 21)

Because the truth is, it isn’t worth loving something if you aren’t going to love it all the way.
-Goldy Moldavsky (Kill the Boy Band p 32)

The joy you find as a teen, however frivolous and dumb, is pure, and meaningful.  It doesn’t matter that it might ferment and taste different when you’re older. That’s the whole point of being a teenager—not worrying about the future.
-Goldy Moldvsky (Kill the Boy Band p 63)

Carrie Underwood, take the wheel—I was not okay.
-Goldy Moldvsky (Kill the Boy Band p 121)

Erin says girls apologize too much. We say “I’m sorry” almost as much as we say “Hello.”
-Goldy Moldvsky (Kill the Boy Band p 128)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kill-Boy-Band-Goldy-Moldavsky-ebook/dp/B013504FBG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498482323&sr=8-1&keywords=kill+the+boy+band

Friday, June 23, 2017

Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill (Writer), Gabriel Rodriguez (Art), Jay Fotos (Colors), and Robbie Robbins (Letters)

The Locke family, which includes the mother, Nina, and her three kids Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode and Nina's dead husband's brother Duncan move across the country when two teens, Sam Lesser and Al Grubb shoot and kill Rendell Locke, the husband, and father because he wouldn't give them something they wanted.  He had always told them to go and live in the Keyhouse in Massachusetts with Duncan if anything ever happened so they packed up and did.  The Keyhouse is Duncan and Rendell's childhood home and a place of great mystery.

This comic tells the story of the day the horrible tragedy happened in flashbacks as it moves the current story in Lovecraft, Massachusettes forward.  Ty is trying to work himself to death in order to not think about what happened and Kinsey has changed her free-spirited appearance to something staider in order for no one to notice her.  Bode has discovered the magic of the place by placing a certain key into a certain door so that when he walks through it he can "die" and become a ghost and travel all over the house and watch people without them knowing it.  He also discovers the mysterious lady in the well who seems to know a lot and might have an agenda of her own.

Joe Hill is a favorite author of mine and in this comic, he really shines.  The artwork is quite graphic and gothic which is perfect for this type of comic. The dusty colors add to that gothic sense of being attached to the special house. The fight scene that lacks any paneling is a genius in its chaotic dance.  Overall this is a fabulous comic and I can't wait to read the next one in the series.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Locke-Key-Vol-Welcome-Lovecraft-ebook/dp/B007KDHKZ8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1498217058&sr=8-3&keywords=locke+and+key

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mrs. Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detecive and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca

Grace Winterton Humiston was born in Greenwich Village, New York on September 17, 1869.  While she was practicing law at the turn of the century she would be only one of a thousand female lawyers in the United States. She was appointed the first female U.S. district attorney in history and the first female consulting detective to the New York Police Department.  She dressed all in black with a veil and her motto was "Justice for those of limited means."  She helped many immigrants who came to her door needing assistance that they could not get anywhere else without being swindled.  She freed one man from death row and proved his innocence and in her very first case she got a woman's sentence commuted from death to seven years right before she was to be hanged.

She also, with the help of her trusted detective, Julius J. Kron, went after the peonage system that was mostly in the South where they lured immigrants to come and work there then they had it so they bought everything they needed at the company store at a marked up price. By the end of the month, they owed the company money and needed to keep working to pay off the debt unless someone could send money to them. The worst of them whipped them and made them work and kept them from leaving.  It was just another form of slavery and the two of them took down a large part of the system.

Her biggest case, though, was the Cruger case.  Ruth Cruger went out one winter's day in New York City on February 13, 1917, to run some errands. She had to go to the bank and to pick up her ice skates from the motorcycle shop where they were being sharpened.  She never made it home.  Her sister, Christina raised the alarm to her other sister Helen who was at work that Ruth hadn't come home yet and it had been hours.  Helen told her she had probably gone ice skating but that she would look for her. Helen could not find her either and more importantly, Ruth had never made it to the bank.  She called the lawyer their father, an accountant knew and he called their parents who were in Boston and then the police.

Helen retraced her steps the next day including the mysterious stop at a stationary store. She stopped by the motorcycle shop twice before it showed signs of being open and talked to Alfredo Cocchi the owner who said that he returned her skates and that she went east.  The police received a report from a cab driver that Ruth was seen getting into a cab with a man.  Now, Ruth was a sweet innocent young girl according to her family and while she talked about a boy she knew at Columbia University it wasn't serious enough to name him to her family or for her to run away with him.  The police were now seeing this as a runaway case and not a kidnapping.

But because the case was so high profile and the victim so young and beautiful the mayor of New York made sure to get her picture out there and people saw it nationwide on the movie screen and in papers. She became known as the Heatherbloom Girl.   Leads went nowhere. Mr. Cruger himself combed the area where she was last seen to be going and where the cab was said to have dropped her off and found nothing. There were girls who were called in about that looked like her but turned out not to be her.  He had hired a detective at the start but that didn't work out so he fired him.

In June Mr. Cruger would hire Grace to help him find his daughter and help him she would.  She didn't believe that his daughter had run away. She was quite sure that she was already dead and it was a matter of finding where the body was and she had a pretty good idea of where to look.  While Grace would solve this case, the complexities of it would tie up the court system and make it hard for Ruth Cruger to get justice.  This case really puts Grace on the map and she could do no wrong. She championed her pet cause of white slavery and helping young girls escape the clutches of forced prostitution.  But the higher the pedestal, the greater the fall. And fall she would by her own hand. But she still never stopped helping people in need throughout her life and she was a woman to be admired for all her flaws.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mrs-Sherlock-Holmes-Detective-Captivated-ebook/dp/B01H03I7KE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498056295&sr=8-1&keywords=Mrs.+Holmes

Monday, June 19, 2017

When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz

When Louise Flint is found dead in her condo of what appears to be a drug overdose her cousin doesn't buy it and hires PI Max Cutler to look into it. Cutler has just left his job as a profiler back in D.C. where he burnt out on his job and blew up his marriage.  Seattle is his chance to start over.  One night Charlotte Sawyer shows up with a key to Louise's locker at her condo. Charlotte works at an old folks home as the entertainment director.  Her sister and Louise were really close friends and Louise had sent Jocelyn the keys with the cryptic message that her copy of the hard drive would be in the locker in case anything happened to her and now she was dead.  Jocelyn was away on a retreat that did not allow technology so there was no way to get in contact with her.

Max is interested in Charlotte because she is the first person to show up to have known Louise.  Charlotte doesn't believe that Louise was using again after she had gone through so much to quit and built up a new life that meant so much to her and besides Jocelyn would have noticed and done something. Besides, the theory that her apartment was robbed by a dealer since her computer was missing doesn't hold up when you notice that her jewelry and the cash in her wallet were still there.  Charlotte and Max decide to join forces to get answers.

The hard drive Louise refers to is a map with five cities circled on it and a printout of two women's obituaries where their deaths were listed as drug overdoses, but Louise had written on the paper that they had been murdered.  Also included were documents of women who had been raped where drugs were involved.  When Max tells Charlotte that Louise's last destination on her car's GPS was Loring, Washington, Charlotte freaks because that is where her sister was raped over ten years ago back when she attended college there.  The suspect came at her from behind and put a bag over her head and a knife at her throat and she wasn't able to identify him. However, she did go to the hospital immediately afterward to do a rape kit, but the evidence box would conveniently disappear.

Louise and Jocelyn belonged to a mysterious investment club that also included Emily, who works in HR in a big business, Victoria, who works in marketing in the fashion world, and Madison, an investment banker.  Charlotte doesn't know the real purpose behind the group or why they might fear that their activities would lead to Louie's death or their own which has them running scared because Jocelyn isn't at the retreat she is on the run and the rest will soon follow.  Or is one of them killing each other off in order to get a bigger piece of the pie on a rather large investment that they are working on that is coming together?

There is plenty here to keep Charlotte and Max busy as they try to unravel the many strands of this mystery and nearly get killed doing so.  Of course, they slowly get closer to each other physically as well as romantically.  I've read better Krentz books, but this one is still pretty good.  I like the characters of Charlotte and Max and the people at the retirement home are a delight.   While it is a little predictable it does hold some surprises that make is worth reading.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-All-Girls-Have-Gone-ebook/dp/B01COJUHBQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497873695&sr=8-1&keywords=where+are+the+girls+have+gone

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wonder Woman: The New 52! Volume Two: Guts by Brian Azzarello (Writer), Cliff Chiang (Artist), Tony Akins (Pencil), Dan Green (Ink) Matthew Wilson (Colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (Letterer)

Wonder Woman along with a wounded Hermes and the strong Lennox (his body is the consistency of rocks and he is the son of Zeus) are looking to find a way to get the pregnant Zola out of the Underworld where Hades has her.  But they will need weapons first and those can only come from Hephaestus, god of the forge.  So they go to Eros, his son and ask him to get them in to see his father.  While there Wonder Woman finds out that the men who work there are all Amazonian men that were traded away for weapons rather than be killed as they were seen as useless to the Amazonians.  She is shocked and tries to free them from what she perceives as their bondage, but really they are free to work there and they like to work there and Wonder Woman makes a fool of herself in her ignorance.

But Hephaestus does agree to loan them some weapons and even Eros lets them borrow his special guns.  But only Wonder Woman and Hermes will be going down to the Underworld. Hermes because he can take someone there and Wonder Woman to get Zola.  While there things go horribly wrong of course and while Zola is saved, Wonder Woman is stuck in the Underworld with Hades to be his bride.  A rescue mission is underway but as Hephaestus says Wonder Woman can take care of herself. Meanwhile, there is a rush for who will take Zeus's throne.

The moody blues and bright oranges and reds really set the tone for Hades and the river of blood is something to behold.  The drawings are incredible and Hades does not quite look like what I would imagine. The images of the dead are creepy as they ought to be and a person I won't name that they run into down there is unbelievably drawn and created here.  This book is a great follow-up to the first book and makes you wonder where the series is going to go next.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wonder-Woman-Vol-2-Guts-ebook/dp/B00B07LJWA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1497616629&sr=8-3&keywords=wonder+woman+the+new+52


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wonder Woman: The New 52! Volume One: Blood by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins

Zeus has gone missing which leaves an empty throne and gods wanting to fill it including Apollo. Hera meanwhile is on the hunt for a woman, Zola, who carries Zeus's child, though she knows nothing of the world of the gods and was tricked.  Hermes arrives to try to save her. He tells her to use her special key which takes her away from her farmhouse and lands her in Diana Prince's home.  They go back to the farmhouse and fight centaurs off.

Wonder Woman takes Zola and Hermes to Paradise Island for help but is greeted with animosity for bringing a girl who bears the child of Zeus.  This is where we hear the origin story Diana grew up hearing from her mother Hippolyta about being fashioned out of clay and how her mother prayed to the gods for a miracle and was granted one by having the clay come alive. That Diana was a child born without a man's seed.  Growing up she had to put up with being called the cruel nickname of Clay and now the nickname has come back out of the past.

Meanwhile, Strife is counseling her mother Hera on how to handle the situation with the girl and with Diana's new involvement.  She's egging her on a bit.  Hera sends her down to Paradise Island to deal with Diana and the women and to get Zola.  When she arrives she causes chaos and the Amazonians find they are fighting themselves.  When the fighting ends Strife lives up to her name and lets the cat out of the bag about Diana's real parentage. It seems that Hippolyta had an affair with Zeus the result of which was Diana. She made up the story about her being made from clay to protect her from Hera's wrath.  Diana leaves the Island in a terror.  While she is gone Hera visits Paradise Island to enact her punishment upon Hippolyta for her betrayal.

Diana must get over her rage at her mother and find a way to protect Zola from those who seek to harm her with the help of a wounded Hermes.  What they do is quite creative and daring. I love it.  The art is good and while the colors are lovely they don't pop. It's still a good start to a very interesting series.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wonder-Woman-Vol-Blood-New-ebook/dp/B008J2GADM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490358645&sr=8-1&keywords=the+new+52+wonder+woman

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

In this first of a trilogy by Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres, comes the story of the Langdon family starting at 1920 when Rosanna and Walter Langdon of Denby, Iowa work their farm and their first child is about six months.  Each chapter is a different year and shows different viewpoints of the various family members, Walter's Irish family, and Rosanna's German one.  As Rosanna and Walter try to pass on their values to their children and do their best to keep them alive when there are always accidents on the farm and anyone can die.  From Frankie, the handsome, willful firstborn, who charms his way out of things and wants more than the farm life for him; to Joe, who is born to the life of a farmer as he loves the animals and has a near magical way with the crops; Mary Elizabeth, the sweet child; the delightful Lillian; Claire, her father's favorite, and Henry, the odd duck of the family.

This book follows them through the good times of the early twenties through the depression when they wonder if there'll be enough to eat on the table that year, through the war years when Frankie enlists in order to see more of the world, and perhaps sees too much.  Joe gets a deferment so he can work the farms.  These people are the salt of the earth and look out for each other. When harvest time comes, all the neighbors come out and help each other out.  The Langdon's also look out for their next door neighbor's farm after the death of the two girls' parents, one girl whom, Joe has his eye on for many years but seems to get nowhere with her.  They also look out for an Uncle who committed suicide's farm as well as the grandparent's farm.

Its a wonder they have time to do anything.  For a long time, Walter resists using tractors and sticks to the old method of horses, but times change and he has more work to do so he invests in a tractor.  Not knowing what to do with Frankie, who is too smart for his own good, they send him to live in Chicago with Rosanna's younger sister and her husband and daughter.  But they aren't much help in that they are obsessed with the Communist Party and have no time to watch over Frankie and make sure he does not get into trouble.

Joe is the sweet child, who should be treasured by someone special, not necessarily the one that he wants.  The two girls are special in their own ways as well.  Unfortunately, not all of the children survive the book.  After the war, Frankie stumbles upon a job where he sniffs out spies and communists that are against the United States.

This book is about an enthralling family and how they once started out in such simple ways but quickly become complex as the world becomes more convoluted and things become less black and white as they once were.  This book is a fascinating look at a family throughout the twentieth century and what they do to survive.

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Some-Luck-Hundred-Trilogy-Family-ebook/dp/B00JNQKQVU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497446592&sr=8-1&keywords=some+luck+jane+smiley

Monday, June 12, 2017

Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music by James Rhodes

From the age of five to ten concert pianist James Rhodes was repeatedly raped by his gym teacher Mr. Lee.  This book has two objectives: to show how he was able to overcome the abuse through the healing power of music and various other means and to educate on classical music and why it is important today and how the classical music industry needs to change or die.  For those who seek salacious details of the rapes, you will be sorely disappointed as he does not provide them.  It was hard enough living through them at the time. Recalling them is like living through them again and that is not something he wants to do.

The rapes happened at Arnold House a Preparatory School for boys in St. John's Wood in England.  James tells of how Mr. Lee singled him out for special attention which made him feel good.  Pretty soon he was helping Mr. Lee put away the gym equipment and was his little helper. Then Mr. Lee started with letting him burn matches. This forbidden activity had a twofold purpose. It allowed Mr. Lee to get close to James by allowing him to do something he wanted to do and it provided Mr. Lee with blackmail material for when he wanted to get James to do something James might not want to do.  He also bought him chocolate and toys.  When it came time to sign up for boxing classes (the school didn't have much of a PE program, just the part-time program that Mr. Lee provided) he signed up.  Now, what happened after that is taken from a police report that was filed in 2010 by the Head Teacher who took the boys to the boxing classes and back to school. She complained about what she believed that something going on to the Headmaster, but was told she was overreacting. She also told James's mother about it as well.  The reason she didn't go farther was that back then no one suspected that kind of abuse.  She suspected that Mr. Lee was frightening him and causing personality changes in him, but she never suspected what was really going on. The reason she filed the police report was that James had become public about his abuse and she didn't want Mr. Lee to hurt any more children.  

But just because the abuse ended when his parents sent him to another school when he was ten it didn't mean that he became better. Physically his body was messed up. He had to defecate all the time.  Later he would require multiple back surgeries to fix the damage.  Mentally he was really messed up as those who have been abused are. He slept with any who wanted to sleep with him or gave blowjobs to the boys or to teachers and other grown men.  All of this is perfectly normal behavior for someone who has just survived the kind of abuse he went through. He wasn't even sure of his sexuality for a while.  But he had the piano to play and lose himself in.  Though he was told he would never be good enough to be a professional.  

When he went off to college he fell even more heavily into drugs and would stop playing piano for ten years. He just stayed high constantly until his parents got him out and placed him in a rehab facility where, while he got sober, he still didn't deal with his abuse issues.   He spent the next year in France working at a Burger King and having a great time with the ladies and the amazing things you can see and do in France.  It was the healthiest year of his life. He then went back to college and tried being normal. He just shoved all of that pain and craziness down and pretended it didn't exist.  He made it through college and got a good job and met a nice woman whom he married but didn't tell about his past.  But that pain would not stay down forever and it would come out and destroy everything.  

He would spend time in various hospitals seeking help and finally found himself a good therapist to see. But music was the guiding force that saved him.  When he was seven he heard Bach-Busoni, Chaconne and it transformed his life.  It was a place to escape to.  Each chapter of this book is set to a piece of music that he has picked out tells the story behind it so you can get the full experience of it like he does and set the mood for the chapter.  Be warned there is classical music talk in here, but he makes it so interesting you want to learn more.  Overall this book packs a powerful punch and I can't recommend it enough.

Music has infiltrated our lives as much as nature, literature, art, sport, religion, philosophy and television. It is the great unifier, the drug of choice for teenagers around the world. It provides solace, wisdom, hope and warmth and has done so for thousands of years. It is medicine for the soul. There are eighty-eight keys on a piano and within that, an entire universe.

If Goethe was right and architecture is frozen music (what a quote!), this piece [Bach-Busoni, Chaconne] is a magical combination of the Taj Mahal, the Louvre and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 31)

There is nothing as terrifying to a mentally ill person as a feeling. Good or bad doesn’t matter. It still has the potential to turn our minds upside down and back to front without offering the vaguest clue how to deal with it reasonably or rationally. 
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 44)

To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day,to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight; and never stop fighting.
-ee cummings

If there were an ultra-neurotic Jewish mother, on coke, who was beyond evil and got wet off malevolence, that is that part of my mind.
--James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 49)

Musicians were meant to be all shades of fucked up, none more so than classical ones, who don’t even have the luxury of ripped jeans, groupies and cocaine—they have to express their issues with stupid jumpers, non-existent social skills and deranged facial expressions, and I knew I fit the bill.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 63)

How I wish psych wards had a loyalty card programme, with cards stamped for each day spent inside rather than each latte bought, where every tenth one resulted in a free day.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 69)

Could anyone be miserable in Paris? I’ve yet to see a fat Parisienne, the city has the heart-stoppingly beautifully architecture that can only come from surrendering to enemy forces in the early days of war, art, coffee, crepes, husky accents, a natural disdain for work, and smoking everywhere.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 70)

A creative artist works on his next composition because he was not satisfied with his previous one.
-Dmitri Shostakovich

There are many things I wish for. Cricket matches to not be able to last five days and still end in a draw. A massive increase in awareness and funding for mental health units and rape crisis centres. A six pack. KFC to deliver.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 98)

But feelings sometimes feel like Auschwitz, even if in reality they’re closer to Butlins. Real compassion comes from understanding that what feels true for someone is, to all intents and purposes, true. Doesn’t matter a bit if it is patently untrue to you and everyone else. And this terror felt true to me. It was my reality, however skewed that may seem.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 102)

Stupid love. Makes us all act like dickheads.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 168)

The people behind classical music seem to have lost sight of the fact that the composers themselves were, in effect, the original rock starts. Today the phrase ‘rock star’ brings to mind Heat magazine photoshoots, tattoos…being a judge on Britain’s Got Talent. Back then it meant really bad hair, some form of venereal disease, mental illness and poverty. They were for the large part mental, depraved, genius bastards who would have pissed themselves laughing at the ideas about performance that the classical gatekeepers of today are so rigidly stuck to. They didn’t throw TVs out of hotel windows, they threw themselves out.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 186-7)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Instrumental-Memoir-Madness-Medication-Music-ebook/dp/B01M28JX4Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497279999&sr=1-1&keywords=instrumental+james+rhodes

Friday, June 9, 2017

Lady Mechanika Volume One: The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse by Joe Benitez (Written and Drawn), Peter Steigerwald (Color) and Josh Reed (Letters)

Previously I reviewed Satan's Alley (http://nicolewbrown.blogspot.com/2017/05/lady-mechanicka-demon-of-satans-alley.html) which is included in here and is where Lady Mechanika first meets up with Lord Blackpool the villain in this one.  A young girl with mechanical arms escapes from some guards and makes it all the way to Mechanika City to the train station where a doctor and his daughter see her and he tries to treat her, but she is dead.  Lady Mechanika gets word of this girl and goes to see the doctor and his daughter who does not believe that she is actually Lady Mechanika because she is dressed in a "frumpy" lady's dress rather than something dashing and heroic like the ones she has been reading about.  The doctor once worked for Blackpool, but he insists it was just for the one expedition in Satan's Alley.  He tells her he is only in town for Mechani-Con where scientists and inventors present their discoveries that year and hope for buyers.  She asks him if he was able to examine her and if she was like her or not and he tells her that the girl was a cruder version.  He also tells her that the Ministry of Health has her now.

Lady Mechanika breaks into the Ministry of Health to get a better look at her and to steal her body.  She finds a Romani earring on her and takes it off and pockets it.  As she is taking her out a blast knocks her back and someone takes the young girl from her.  When she gets up she is faced by Commander Katherine Winter and her goons who work for Blackpool who were there to get the body too but have missed their chance as well.  Winter and Mechanika have a history. After Mechanika was found after being held a prisoner by the madman who created her for who knows how long, she was placed inside a cell in the Ministry of Health because she was deemed not safe for humanity.  Winter helped her escape from there and showed her "the ways of the world".  But bad things happened and they parted ways on bad terms.  But because of that Mechanika spares her life when she gets the drop on her after killing her men in the tunnel.

When she gets back to her home, Mr. Lewis, her sometimes sidekick, and inventor is drunk again. She asks him if he has heard of a Mr. Cain, the name of an inventor that the doctor told her about who could be the man who created her and the girl.  He tells her Cain was known as the Engineer and was highly revered and worked on things that no one could imagine and that he was quite mad.  Could Cain be working for Blackpool? Or does he have his own agenda?

When she follows up on the earring she finds not only is the girl not the only Romani missing but that they believe that she is still alive.  Now she has to track down the missing Romani and go try to stop Blackpool and whatever he is up to.  I just love the drawing in this comic. They stay true to the Victorian steampunk roots they are going for including the ancient yellowed boxes with curlicued lettering.  The plot is really good and keeps you guessing all the way to the end.

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Mechanika-Mystery-Mechanical-Corpse-ebook/dp/B06Y39X198/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497017587&sr=8-1&keywords=lady+mechanika+volume+1

Thursday, June 8, 2017

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

First off, this book has a lot of physics terms (at least I think they are physics terms; he could be making it all up for all I know of physics).  But that does not matter.  Just like watching Star Trek or Star Wars, or any other science fiction show or movie, you do not really have to understand what they are talking about.  You can get the general gist of what it means in normal terms.  I do not understand how the Star Trek: The Next Generation Enterprise Core worked, but I have general ideas when the plot centers around the engine core blowing up.

This book centers on a thirty-year-old time machine tech, Charles Yu who spends most of his time in his time capsule named Tammy (who has a self-esteem problem and cries often).  His job is to go back in time to help other time travelers who have damaged their machines and fix them so they can get back to the present.  He finds it sad that when you can go to any point in your timeline and visit (you must NEVER meet yourself or bad things will happen) they choose the worst moment of their life and relive it over and over again, hoping for a different outcome which never happens, because no matter how hard you try, you can not change the past.  The universe will not allow it.

Charles got into the time machine business as a young child.  His father came up with a theory on how to make time travel possible and the two spend ten years working on building a time machine.  When things do not work out as planned, Charles's father hops into his new time machine and disappears, leaving him and his mother alone.  He is forced to drop out of school and get work as a tech and his mother ends up renting a machine that replays one hour on a loop for however many years you pay for.  She plays out a dinner with Charles and her husband as holograms.  Charles, in person, rarely visits her, which he feels guilty about.  Charles has shut himself off from the world by essentially living in his time machine with a science fiction dog and Tammy for company.  Every few years or so he goes back home for maintenance of his vehicle, and while years have passed in his life a day or maybe a week has only passed at home.

After returning for maintenance he shows up to pick up his machine and he sees another him step out of a machine and instead of running away, which is what he is supposed to do, he shoots his future shelf and climbs into the time machine and is now in a time loop.  Inside the machine is a book that is partly filled out and shows him how to find his father, who can possibly save him.  But time is running out and as he tries to accept his impending death, he cannot quite give up so easily, even though you cannot change time he will do his best to attempt it.

This book delves into the life of a lonely man who longs to know why his father deserted him and his mother and shows how he refuses to face life and instead hides away from it in his machine.  He makes up a life he could have lived and convinced himself that he does not need others, but over time, he begins to regret that he did not try to meet the girl of his dreams or make those close friends or be nicer to Tammy and his manager, a computer program that does not know it is only a program and acts like it is human and has a family, with a wife who is a spreadsheet program.  She knows they are not real, but she goes along with it to keep him happy in his delusion.  Truly this is a story of a boy and his father and their attempts to connect until it all falls apart and he loses his father, this incredibly innovative, creative, and emotional book will keep you turning the pages until the end dying to find out if you can cheat fate.

…but unfortunately, it’s true: time does heal.  It will do so whether you like it or not, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  If you’re not careful, time will take away everything that ever hurt you, everything you have ever lost, and replace it with knowledge.  Time is a machine: it will convert your pain into experience.  Raw data will be compiled, will be translated into a more comprehensible language.  The individual events of your life will be transmuted into another substance called memory and in the mechanism something will be lost and you will never be able to reverse it, you will never again have the original moment back in its uncategorized, preprocessed state.  It will force you to move on and you will not have a choice in the matter.
--Charles Yu (How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe p 54)
If I could be half the person my dog is, I would be twice the human I am.
--Charles Yu (How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe p 65)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Live-Safely-Science-Fictional-Universe-ebook/dp/B003V1WXIW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1496927127&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+live+safely+in+a+science+fictional+universe

Friday, June 2, 2017

All New X-Men: Yesterday's X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Stuart Immonen (Penciler), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Marie Gracia (Colorest), and V C Corey Petit (Letterer)

In this X-Men's series, Scarlet Witch took away the powers of 99% of all mutants on earth.  The Phoenix decided to get involved and possessed and corrupted Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men who then struck down Professor Xavier. It took all of the Avengers and the X-Men to bring him down.  The Phoenix Force was dispersed across earth creating new mutants.

Cyclops, with Emma Frost, has joined forces to start recruiting mutants for the new Charles Xavier School for Mutants.  At the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, Kitty Pride, Beast, Iceman, and Storm are concerned about this as no one has ever trusted Magneto and now they aren't sure about Scott after what happened to the Professor.  They would, of course, rather have these mutants under their roof learning.  It goes without saying that in this world the law and others like them want to lock up mutants.

Beast, however, has another plan to try to change things.  He finds a way to go back in time to when he and Scott were just starting out as X-Men in order to bring back the past Scott to see his future self in order to prevent him from becoming that.  Like a Christmas Carol in a weird, yet cool way.  Only it all goes awry when all of the X-Men insist on coming too. Back then Jean didn't have her telepathic abilities yet and more importantly, she's still alive.  Neither side knows what to make of the other when they arrive back in the present.  Jean's psychic powers become suddenly activated and she has to figure out how to use them herself on the fly.  Beast is ill from traveling back in time and his changing genome so Kitty and the other Beast are working on him.

Nothing, of course, goes according to plan when the two Cyclops's meet.  This is a great read with a really cool storyline that is inventive.  The paneling in this book is particularly clever. At one point Jean looks into Beast's mind and sees something and the paneling depicts that in the shape of an eye with segments that has Jean in the bottom corner on her knees, exhausted from the mind read.  The drawings are really good and the colors really pop, especially when Cyclops uses his ray.  I plan on reading more from this series of X-Men books as I hope to find out what happens next.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/All-New-X-Men-Vol-Yesterdays-ebook/dp/B00CF4HG1K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496419111&sr=8-1&keywords=all+new+xmen+yesterday%27s+xmen

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Set sometime between the World Wars, this novel opens up with the main character, Janie, arriving back in Eaton, Florida, an all-black town, wearing overalls and muddied up.  The old women sitting on the porch are desperate to know where she has been all this time, but Janie has never been one to gossip or mess with them.  However, she knows they will never leave her alone and maybe she wants her story told, so she has her friend Pheoby tell it for her.

She begins at the start of her life as a girl in West Florida where her Nanny worked for a white family.  She sent her to school and had hopes for her, but when she sees her kisses a no-account man when she was sixteen, she realizes that she needs to see her settled with a husband before she dies so she had someone to look after her.  Her Nanny has found the perfect man in Logan Killick who owns sixty acres and is nice if fat and old and he has been asking for her hand for a while.  Janie hopes to find herself in love with him, but it doesn't happen and she instead finds herself stuck on a farm with a man who loves her but expects her to work on the farm.

When Joe Starks comes sniffing around the farm she falls for his charm and runs off with him and his talk of big dreams and a town in Florida that is made up of all blacks.  When they get there things are run down with a collection of shacks and no government set in place, like a mayor.  Joe Starks aims to change that by telling others what to do and spending his money to buy more land from the man who donated some of his lands to start the town.  On Stark's land, he has built his home, and a store, as well as selling plots of land to others to build homes on.  Stark makes Janie wear her hair covered in a headscarf because he wants no one to see her gorgeous hair but him.  He also makes her work in the store and when she isn't in the store he makes her stay at home doing nothing. He sees her as too good for most of the town folk.  He has no interest in her opinion as a woman is stupid and not worth listening to.

This book slogs along until Tea Cake shows up like a burst of sunshine.  He shows Janie true love and how to live life.  But something must go wrong because at the beginning of the book Janie says that Tea Cake is gone and that is why she has come back to Eatonville.  This is a beautifully written book.  I first read it in high school and hated it. I can only surmise that I did not finish it and get to the Tea Cake part, because the first half of the book is a bit hard to read, but the last half makes it more than worthwhile.

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth.  Then they act and do accordingly.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 1)

An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 5)
She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 25)

Some people could look at a mudpuddle and see and ocean with ships.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 89)

Yuh can’t beat uh woman. Dey jes won’t stand fuh it.
-Zora Neal Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 96)

When you see uh woman doin’ so much rakin’ in her head, she’s combin’ at some man or ‘nother.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 111)

 “But you’re takin’ uh awful chance.” “No mo’ than Ah took befo’ and no mo’ than anybody else takes when dey gits married. It always changes folks, and sometimes it brings out dirt and meanness dat even de person didn’t know they had in ‘em theyselves.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 113)

All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise they would not be worshiped.  Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginnings of wisdom. Half gods are worshiped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 145)

Love is like the sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 191)

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Their-Eyes-Were-Watching-God-ebook/dp/B000UMN7C6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496321833&sr=8-1&keywords=their+eyes+were+watching+god

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection: Death By Didgeridoo, The Case of the Killer Divorce, and Peril in the Park by Barbara Venkataraman

In this collection of three mystery novels that goes for a really reasonable price do not mistake the low price for low quality.  These are great mysteries featuring the mouthy yet plucky Jamie Quinn who is a family lawyer from Hollywood, Florida. And in case there are those of you (like me) who wondered if that was a real place, it is.  I just looked it up. It has around 143,000 people and is in between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, has six miles of beaches, 60 parks (which feature prominently in one of the books), 7 golf courses, and 2.5 miles of Beach Boardwalk that has been named as one of America's best boardwalks (I hope a future mystery takes place there).

Now enough of the travel brochure.  In the first mystery, Death By Didgeridoo, her cousin Adam who has Apergerger's Syndrome which is similar to Autism with one of the main differences being that the speech delay doesn't come with Asperger's.  Asperger's have difficulty with understanding the subtleties of language and facial expression. They are also socially awkward and come across as stiff or uncaring.  They are often, however, of above average intelligence. (http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/aspergers-syndrome/).  So when he is found over the body with blood on him and saying that he "was sorry" and that "It's all my fault. I did a bad thing". The police take him in for questioning and believe they have their man but have no evidence.  Jamie talks to her best friend Grace, who was once a public defender but is now a corporate lawyer for advice and she tells her about the ADA ruling that says they have to charge him or let him go without questioning him.  So Adam is free. For now.  But that doesn't last. The mean ADA Nick Dimitropolus is determined that Adam is his man, but he is on a political fast track and wants this high profile case closed. The guy that Adam supposedly killed was the former drummer, Spike, of The Screaming Zombies who had opened up a music shop and was offering up music lessons, which Adam was learning from him. He was also being sued by his former bandmates for using the band name for his store and two of his married employees, the husband who was beating the wife up, the wife was said to be having an affair with Spike.  There are plenty of people who wanted Spike dead and Adam wasn't one of them.  So Jamie hires an old client whose dreadful divorce she handled who is a PI named Duke to handle the digging of the dirt to help find out who really killed Spike and lets the public defender, Susan Doyle, handle defending him as she knows what she's doing.  Will they finally get to the real killer?

In The Case of the Killer Divorce, there really isn't much of a mystery here but it's still a different kind of mystery.  Becca Solomon is her client and she is divorcing her husband Joe and she wants to have sole custody of the kids, child support alimony, to keep the house, and to have her boyfriend, Charlie Santoro, Joe's former best friend, live with her. That seems like it's asking a lot, but Florida is a no-fault divorce state so you divvy up the assets and no one cares if you had an affair or not.  Soon, Joe is found with alcohol and two Ambien in his system and Becca has a prescription for Ambien. So Becca is arrested for his murder.  Luckily she can afford her own attorney.  But Jamie has Duke investigate anyways.  And he certainly finds some things out. The center of this book, however, is Jamie looking for her father.  Her entire life her mother had told her nothing about her father and now she has decided to go and look. With Duke and Grace's help, she finds his real name and that he was Cuban and some more interesting things about him.  Some she might not want to know.

In Peril in the Park, Jamie's new boyfriend, Kip,  is the head of the 60 parks' system I mentioned above and he's having a devil of a time getting them straightened out.  There's a prankster mowing letters in the grass and someone begins to threaten Jamie when threatening Kip to do what they want him to do on the job got them nowhere. They sent her pictures taken of her and Kip when they were out and about with the meaning that they could be gotten to.  It seems that a businessman wants to drain a wetland and build an office building there and Kip is the deciding vote on whether the city council builds there or keeps the wetlands. When Duke hunts down the person who sent those emails he gets nowhere so he decides to catch him in the act and when he does he finds out the guy was just a PI who had no idea of what he was doing and planned to call his boss and quit.  They were all at the Rennaissance Fair and soon the PI's body is found dead in the woods.  They figure out who must have done it, but proving how he did it becomes a mystery indeed.

I really enjoyed these three mysteries. Janie is a very likable character and so are her cadre of friends, especially Duke the womanizing, always drinking PI whose office is out of a bar.  And who wouldn't want a better friend than Gracie who is always there to help Janie when she needs it the most?  I plan on reading more of this series because I just can't wait to find out where the story goes from here.

People say it takes only ten minutes to get used to a luxury, but a lifetime to get over losing it.
-Barbara Venktaraman (Death By Didgeridoo p 4)

Time was not on my side and the Rolling Stones could not convince me otherwise.
-Barbara Venktaraman (Death By Didgeridoo p 40)

Everyone you meet has emotional baggage—even me. Honestly, if I had any more baggage, I could start my own airline.
-Barbara Venktaraman (The Case of the Killer Divorce p 94)

It turns out that superheroes always wear bright colors, that way they’re easy to recognize.
-Barbara Venktaraman (Peril in the Park p 339)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jamie-Quinn-Mystery-Collection-Books-ebook/dp/B00NB78KDS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1496151962&sr=1-1&keywords=barbara+venkataraman

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Web by Jonathan Kellerman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, May 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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