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, October 20, 2017

The Liar by Nora Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link To Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Liar-Nora-Roberts-ebook/dp/B00O2BKKZS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508491213&sr=8-1&keywords=the+liar+nora+roberts

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Deadly Web: A Bishop Files Novel by Kay Hooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link To Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Web-Bishop-Files-Novel-ebook/dp/B00BTRDHLC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1508334386&sr=1-1&keywords=a+deadly+web+kay+hooper

Monday, October 16, 2017

The First Prophet: A Bishop Files Novel by Kay Hooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/First-Prophet-Bishop-Files-Novel-ebook/dp/B008JHXORM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508162082&sr=8-1&keywords=the+first+prophet+by+kay+hooper

Friday, October 13, 2017

Astonishing X-Men: Volume Two Dangerous by Joss Whedon (Writer), John Cassady (Artist), Laura Martin (Colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer)

Agent Brand of S.H.E.I.L.D.'s sister agency S.W.O.R.D. which deals with aliens blew it by making an agreement with Ord of Breakworld to cure the mutants with the help of Ord and Dr. Rao's formula. Ord's people could see a future where a mutant, an X-Man to be precise kills off their planet.  So instead of going to war with Ord which goes horribly wrong, they cure the mutants.  Wolverine keeps Ord from leaving the planet and destroys the cure in the process. But Hank still has a copy of it and Dr. Rao and others can make one based on her findings within months.  They did get Pete, Colossus, back, though.

One of the students, Wing, was touched by Ord and had his powers taken from him.  This has upset him greatly to the point of committing suicide.  One of the psychics says that if he leaves the other will come. Then all of the psychics pass out and the school is attacked by a long-dead Sentinel.  While the others go and fight the Sentinel, Kitty takes the kids to the Danger Room to safety where they find Wing's dead body.  And the real danger begins.

The Danger Room is now a sentient being. It likely started when the Professor made the Sh'ar technology upgrades but with the death of Wing it has now mutated and made itself known.  All it has ever known is violence and the kids are in there with it.  Colossus and Beast both tear into the wiring to try to break in.  The Danger Room, however, is connected to anything computerized. It is what brought the Sentinel to the school and it starts up the plane.  The X-Men will fight with it, but ultimately the X-Men are not his main target. Professor X is.  Can they save him from this creature?

Next time guys we should just rebuild this place [the mansion] outta Lego.
-Wolverine when Xavier’s School For Higher Learning gets smashed to bits again (Astonishing X-Men Volume Two: Dangerous by Joss Whedon)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Astonishing-X-Men-Vol-2-Dangerous-ebook/dp/B00AAJQVBI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507897013&sr=8-1&keywords=astonishing+xmen+volume+2

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Stephen Colbert's Midnight Confessions by Stephen Colbert

On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Colbert about once a week or so, like the good Catholic that he is, wishes to confess his sins. Well, these are not necessarily sins, but he does feel bad about them.  The book is broken up into three sections: the ones he wrote, the ones that God wrote, and the ones submitted by those who watch the show.

Here are some of his:

I have violent thoughts when people use the terms "sci-fi" and "fantasy" interchangeably.  "Oh, I love science fiction. I just read Lord of the Rings." I will end you.

I update my iPhone software way more often than I call my sister.

I have a fair amount of gay friends, but sometimes....I worry that I haven't made enough gay enemies.

I have impure thoughts about the Land O'Lakes Butter Lady. But mostly about the butter.

I wouldn't hurt a fly. But when it comes to mosquitoes, I am one sick some of a bitch.

I haven't looked in my refrigerator's crisper since 1987. I can hear the brussels sprouts screaming.

I have no skeletons in my closet. They're buried under the porch.

One of the wise men in my Nativity scene broke, and instead of buying a new one, I replaced him with Lego Batman.

Here are some sent it:

I park my car between 2 trucks in the parking lot so drivers will think they found an open spot until the last moment.

Sometimes I fake an orgasm so my roommates don't suspect I'm in my room scrapbooking.

I've never told anyone this before, but I have no idea how plastic wrap works.

Overall this is a hilarious book and one worth reading.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stephen-Colberts-Midnight-Confessions-Colbert-ebook/dp/B06ZZHMYSN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507810593&sr=8-1&keywords=stephen+colbert%27s+midnight+confessions

Monday, October 9, 2017

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi

John Scalzi began a "web journal" or what we would today call a blog, back in 1998 that he named Whatever.  This book is a collection of those blogs from a ten year period, 1998-2008, that also serves sometimes as a snapshot of a date in time that at first may seem so long ago or different, but in reality is not.  He is a science fiction writer as well as a free-lance writer of various things, as well as a husband and the father of a daughter.  His blogs cover just about everything under the sun: religion, politics, television, science, homosexuality, grief, breastfeeding, parenthood, philosophy (he occasionally gets to pull his major out and use it), and life in general.  He is funny, thought-provoking, poignant, and might make you angry.  He is everything a writer should be.

On his blog titled Levitcans, which is a term he made up for those "Christians" who spend way too much time obsessing over the book of Leviticus and ignoring the New Testament, he slams them for not following the actual teachings of Christ.  "Rules are far easier to follow than Christ' actual path..."  A good example of a Levitican? Fred Phelps and his group who picket funerals with signs, John Ashcroft, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell (the last two who suggested that the terrorist attacks happened because we were tolerant of pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, and, lesbians). Not every Christian or even fundamentalist is considered a Levitican in his book.  That takes someone who will "transmute one's belief's into hate and intolerance, to deprive others of rights they ought to enjoy." Interestingly, he says though Leviticus is part of the Torah, there do not seem to be too many Jews that fall into this category, for whatever reason.

His blog on the Scooby gang is so spot-on and something that has never occurred to me, but explains everything: Fred is a cult leader.  As a group of teenagers, these people would never hang around together. Fred and Daphne make sense in the way quarterback and cheerleader do. Daphne and Velma even make sense if you accept that Velma has an "unrequited crush" on her and follows her around everywhere.  Shaggy and Scooby, "a stoner loner and his talking, possibly hallucinated dog. A perfect match." But all of them together? No way. Why do you think Fred always insists Daphene goes with him? He doesn't want Velma anywhere near her because she would be secretly putting him down. A group of teens riding around in a van that keeps stumbling upon mysteries that are all the same? Why aren't they in school? Why don't they ever change clothes, why are they always traveling, and where are the parents?  It has to be a cult, with Fred as the authority figure who separates them from the rest of the world.  They travel, not to solve crimes, but to stay ahead of the deprogrammers. In a weird way, it explains the whole show.

In his blog titled "Best Vision of Hell of the Millennium", he talks about Hieronymus Bosch, a Dutch painter who lived between the 15th and 16th centuries.  His painting of Hell is a rather vivid and insightful look at what Hell could be.  His work would influence two great schools of art: Surrealism and Heavy Metal.  The Surrealist liked his use of color and his ability to "combine the mundane and the fantastical to make bitter and intelligent social commentary." Heavy Metal artists like him because he drew really cool demons.  Without Bosch, there'd be no Vallejo airbrushings or Dio album covers.  The church tells us that Hell is not exactly a location but an eternal absence of God's grace. So one could say that Bosch's painting is just a mythical picture. Scalzi opines that the real question is not whether where Hell is or isn't, but if we could see our souls in a mirror, would they look like what Bosch envisioned? That would be Hell enough.

In his blog on vegetarianism, he says that he could never be one.  He makes a good point that everything we eat was once a living thing and that it's a shame that animals cannot shed a steak or a fully cured ham like plants do. He does draw the line at veal, but really with a calf, it's almost a silly line to draw since it's always going to be "sooner or later".  He does love to pick on vegetarians by reminding them that Hitler was one and that he also thought up the Volkswagon. Why no one every retorts back with Stalin, who was a big meat eater, is a wonder.

Scalzi has ticked off a lot of people over the years with this particular blog on"The Lie of Star Wars as Entertainment". Lucas is not an "entertainer" because an entertainer reaches out to his audience and wants them to join him. Lucas could care less. He is more interested in creating his universe. If you are there, fine. The trilogy is a mix of "30s adventure serials, 40s war films, 50s Kurosawa films and 60s Eastern mysticism, all jammed into the cinematic crock-pot and simmered in a watery broth made from the marrow of [Joseph] Campbell's thousand-headed hero."  Lucas was very much interested in mythology and building one, which is "necrophilic storytelling; one that implicitly kills off an entire culture and plays with its corpse...It's better than being God, really. Gods have to deal with the universes they create; mythmakers merely have to say what happened." Anything entertaining about the series is purely incidental (his sources were entertaining after all, and the writers he hired were good, and the sheer novelty went a long way).  Scalzi offers a test. Go and find the 1980 B-movie Battle Beyond the Stars, which was produced by Roger Corman, with a screenplay written by John Sayles, and starring Richard Thomas.  It was made for $2 million and is funny and smart and actually entertaining because Corman and Sayles want to entertain you. Lucas could care less if he does.  Watch it and see if its better than I, II, III, and VI. They use the same sources that Lucas used. I am a huge Star Wars fan and even I have to concede that he has a point. I am also looking for Beyond the Stars now because I am terribly curious.  For those that are curious as to what he has to say about The Force Awakens, here is a link to his site: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2015/12/18/ (there are no spoilers).

I have to say I love his blog on going to the Creation Museum, which is, sadly, located in my home state of Kentucky. He tells you flat out he thinks creationism is bunk. He went there out of curiosity. A lot of money was put into this museum (you can tell). He had to wait for about an hour and a half due to a jam in the middle where there is a short movie.  When you walk in you see a display of two paleontologists unearthing raptor bones. One of them says they are both the same, only he starts from the Bible and the other guy (who doesn't speak) starts from "man's reason". Right off you have to scream b.s. It tries to put them both on equal footing, but they are not. "creationism isn't a theory, it's an assertion, to wit: The entire universe was created in six days, the days are 24-hour days, the layout for the creation and for the early history of the planet and humanity is in the first chapter of Genesis and it is exactly right." Everything in the museum is either caused by or a consequence of The six-day creation, Adam eating from the tree of life, and Noah's flood.  I'm rather glad that Eve, for once escapes blame for the whole fall of the human race,  but poor Adam. He gets blamed for the creation of venom, carnivorous animals, and even entropy (the inevitable heat death of the earth). Then there are the dinosaurs running around Eden and being put on Noah's ark. It's so over the top it's more of an amusement park than anything else. For those who truly believe, it will be a comfort, for the rest, it will be just a day of fun.  And in the end, this is a good thing. Creationism is not going away anytime soon, so we should be glad that it is totally ridiculous and boxed up and put away somewhere.

Scalzi kind of goes off on a rant that even his wife thinks might be a bit much, when he sees the ads for the channel WE, when it was starting up. They show a montage of female celebrities: Victoria Williams, Cindy Crawford, and Faye Dunaway.  Each is listing their achievements. "I'm an actress. I'm an athlete. I'm a friend."  His point is that "women should [not] feel compelled to qualify their successes through the prism of their gender.  Anytime you have to qualify your success, you implicitly diminish it." It also bothers him that all the women are attractive.  Faye Dunaway was chosen as a "director" but has only directed one movie, which was for WE.  They could have picked Penny Marshall, Betty Thomas, or Mimi Leder, all very successful directors.  In the end, he concludes, the ad is pandering to women, not inspiring them and if this is a network for women what does that say about how they think of you.

At the heart of it, PETA is not a really bad organization. I mean it stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The problem lies in the fact that they are more often interested in ticking people off than anything else. At one time they were going to promote breastfeeding in Mississippi by putting up a billboard of Baby Jesus suckling the Virgin Mary's nipples. Pregnant women already know that breastfeeding is better for their baby. If they haven't already heard if from a doctor/nurse/midwife, then the "La Leche League mafia" would have told them. They were really just after making the religious conservatives angry.  Of course, this brings up the question of why is this so offensive? It's what happened. Could it be that Christians don't like to dwell on the humanity of both Christ and Mary? "Jesus' suffering was rooted in his divinity--he was called on to redeem the sins of the world--but the actual suffering part was predicated upon his human nature. Being nailed to the cross to die doesn't work if He Who is Nailed doesn't have the humanity required to suffer."  Their dual nature of being both divine and human makes them special and the fact that Mary breastfed Jesus is a part of that.

Being poor is: knowing exactly how much everything costs; having to keep buying $800 cars because that's what you can afford, but then they break down on you because a car for that much money isn't worth anything; hoping a toothache goes away; a heater in only one room of the house; hoping your kids don't have a growth spurt; finding the letter your mom wrote your dad, begging him for the child support; a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet; needing that 35-cent raise; crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor; knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere; never buying anything someone else hasn't bought first; picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that's two extra packages for every dollar; deciding that it's all right to base a relationship on shelter; a lumpy futon bed; people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so; seeing how few options you have; running in place; people wondering why you didn't leave.

There are so many more I want to write about, like the blog about I Hate Your Politics, Bad Chocolate, Adorable Little Punks, Christopher Robin is Out There in the Woods, Best Gay Guy of the Millennium (Richard the Lionhearted), The Problem With Parents, Ayn Rand, Mom!, The Speckless Sky (written the day after 9/11), Football With Jesus, The New Sesame Street Characters Suck, and the Best Personal Hygiene Product of the Millennium.  This is such a joy to read, the only drawback some might find is that he chose to not correct any spelling or grammar errors he made on his blog. After a while, though, when you get to reading, your mind just reads what it knows is supposed to be there naturally and you stop noticing them.  Trust me, this is something that annoys me to bits and I found this to be true.  My brain just auto-corrected subconsciously.  Here is the address for the blog Whatever: http://whatever.scalzi.com/.  It's funny. At the beginning of his book when he is describing blogs he talks about how people assume that blogs are written by angsty teens and cat lovers who put up lots of pictures, he doesn't really mention to what extent he falls in the latter category. I went to his website and he puts up lots of pictures of his cats. He's still writing science fiction books and blogging about everything under the sun as well, but, wow, all those cats!

The second thing calendars do is notify us of the cyclical nature of our planet. Thanks to a more or less tilt of the earth’s axis and a regular period of revolution around our sun, our world gets hot and cold on a predictable schedule, and the patterns of life take note.  Flowers bloom in the spring.  Animals hibernate in the winter. Leaves fall in autumn.  We get re-runs in the summer.  It’s the cycle of life.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p 71)
Put these five in a room, and you don’t have the Scooby Gang, you have the Breakfast Club, minus the happy ending where they all sign a joint declaration to the music of Simple Minds.  So the idea of this group being a naturally occurring grouping of teenagers is out, way out—and enforced contact would result in somebody being bitten, not necessarily by Scooby.  Fortunately, there’s a much more rational explanation for this odd little grouping, led by Fred. It is: Fred is not the leader of a gang of friends, he’s the leader of a cult.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p84)
Occasionally I am asked if I believe in Jesus.  My standard answer to this is “as much as I believe in evolution,” which serves the dual purpose of both answering in the affirmative and usually annoying the person who asks the question.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p85)
We’re all a country song waiting to happen.
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p109-10)
I could never be a vegetarian. First of all, my heart just wouldn’t be in it.  I’m okay with the fact that what I’m cramming into my mouth was once a living thing, because with the exception of chewing gum (which is some sort of plastic, untouched by nature), everything you eat was once living. It’s the way the whole digestive thing is set up.  You can’t live on chewing gum and multivitamins.  I tried it my senior year of college, when I [sic] running low on rent money. It just doesn’t work.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p 115)
The only other meat product in the fridge was a package of turkey ham that had been sitting in the meat bin for longer than I could remember.  Which of course is a very bad sign. It was lying in wait to ambush me.  It was the turkey’s revenge—first it was killed, and then it was make to perform a carnivorous transvestite act, masquerading as the meat of a pig.  Its only method of revenge was to lie in the meat bin past its due date and trick me into eating it then.  Well, not this time, Tom.  I passed it up (but I didn’t remove it from the fridge and throw it in the trash, its threat then forever neutralized. No, I don’t know why not.  I suspect the decision will come back to haunt me.)
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p116)
Star Wars is not entertainment.  Star Wars is George Lucas masturbating to a picture of Joseph Campbell and conning billions of people into watching the money shot.  There is nothing in the least bit “popular” about the Star Wars films. This is true of all of them, but especially of Episodes I, II, and III. They are the selfish, ungenerous, onanistic output of a man who has no desire to include others in the internal grammar of his fictional world.  They are the ultimate in auteur theory, but this creator has contempt for the people who view his work—or if not contempt, at the very least a near-autistic lack of concern as to whether anyone else “gets” his vision.  The word “entertainer” has an assumption that the creator/actor is reaching out to his [sic] or audience to engage them.  George Lucas doesn’t bother with this.  He won’t keep you out of his universe; he just doesn’t care that you’re in it. To call the Star Wars films “entertainment” is to fundamentally misapprehend the meaning of the word.
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p120)
Thousands of years from now, after the inevitable apocalypse of some sort wipes out our civilization, future archaeologists will scour the land to make some sense of our times, and I think the process will go something like this.
Archeologist1: Look, it’s another temple of the ancestors’ dominant faith. Note the golden arches.
Archeologist2: And look what I’ve found in the storage crypt! (pulls out a box of cheese slices)
Archeologist1: Ah, the communion squares.  For their ritual obescience to Ro-Nald, the demon destroyer of worlds. You can see his terrible visage bedecking the illuminated windows from behind the tithing altar.
Archeologist2: (sniffing the cheese) These smell terrible. It must have been some sort of penance to injest these.
Archeologist1: (glancing over) You know, those samples have maintained their unholy orange taint.  They may still be potent.
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p134)
But seriously, the ability to just come out and put on a placard that the Jurassic era is temporarily contiguous with the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Egypt—well, there’s a word for that, and that word is chutzpah.  Because, look, that’s something you really have to sell if you want anyone to buy it. It’s one thing to say to people that God directly created the dinosaurs and that they lived in the Garden of Eden. It’s another thing to suggest they lived long enough to harass the Minoans, and do it all with a straight face.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p139)
If we can’t tell the gays from the straights, then the bisexuals are really up the creek, aren’t they? Simultaneously, wearing a too-tight ribbed tank top and relaxed fit Wranglers won’t mean anything anymore. These sort of articles make me want to smack the [New York] Times upside the head and yell at it to try its hand at actual news again, you know, for a refreshing change.  I hear there’s a war on. Secondly: This is a bad thing? We live in an era in which an active quorum of religious bigots would quarantine gays into concentration camps if they could (“It’s just like Guantanamo-only fabulous!”), and the Times is snarkily concerned that we can’t simply visually identify the gay guys anymore? Hell.  I’ll  happily wear a leather armband if it’ll flummox a hateful Bible-wielder. And I’ll let a gay man borrow my Wal-Mart purchased t-shirt, just to really throw them off. He can’t be gay---that shirt is 40% polyester! Yes, the gay can blend. Just like polycotton.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p143)
Professing to have a long-standing crush on an unapproachable girl, is, of course very teen gay. So is being verbally clever, slight of build, an active participant in singing and theater groups and enjoying Depeche Mode on a regular basis.  And I took dance. Modern and Jazz. Oh, yeah. Add it all up and I was queer to the friggin’ core.  The only thing that really pegged me as possibly being in the heterosexual camp was that I was a freakin’ slob and that in addition to enjoying Depeche Mode I was also a big fan of Journey. But as anyone can tell you, gay teens compensate for their queerness by doing things like, you know, picking a random corporate rock band to obsess over, hopefully one with a moderately cute lead singer.  In my era it would be Journey. 10 years later: Creed (Today: Well, hell. All those new rock bands seem pretty sexually all over the map, don’t they? Have you got a gander at, say, Franz Ferdinand?).
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p144)
Here in the US, gay is the new British, which is to say that if people think you’re gay, they also think you are smarter, wittier, and more fun to be around than the average guy.  Sure, you sodomize other men on occasion, but that’s your business, and we Americans always suspected British men had sodomy as a required subject at Eton.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p145)
Jesus was divine, but also human. He was a baby, he had to eat. Mary was the Mother of God but also a mother; she gave birth, her body pumped out milk so she could feed her baby. Mary suckled Baby Jesus. Deal with it.  The response. We know she did it, we just don’t want to see it or think about it.  And or course, the answer here is: Why on Earth not? Well, for one thing, it’s a breast—and we all know that looking at boobs arouses thoughts of sex. Sex leads to sin, sin leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. So we just can’t have the Virgin Mary going topless. The kids will riot.  As you can imagine, this line of reasoning makes me giggle. For one thing, there’s undoubtedly a special seating area in Hell for people who have lustful thoughts about the Virgin Mary (excluding Joseph.)…For another thing, breasts being  used for breastfeeding are unsexy in almost exactly the same way a vagina being used for birth is unsexy—indeed, it’s a vivid reminder that God, in His wisdom, evolved dual uses for just about every fun-providing part of the human anatomy, and that second use is definitely not about having a good time.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p166-7)
One of the things that really chaps my ass about the people who oppose gay marriage is that so many of them seem to believe that allowing guys to marry guys or gals to marry gals will tumble the entire nation into a festering cesspool of carnal inequity, in which everyone suddenly turns into lustful raveners who engage in group marriages with dogs and close relatives, like recursively genetic unfortunates or characters from a late-era Robert Heinlein novel.
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p169)
I would suspect that on a day-to-day basis and in his personal encounters the man is normal enough, which makes him, like most people, a generally nice person to be around.  I’m also sure that, like most people, he has his moments of irritability, neuroses, and supreme dickheadedness, which unfortunately for him are played out on the world stage and make for good news, while the rest of us get to have our moments of incivil stupidly in relative obscurity.  One correspondent, in listing Dubya’s not-nice crimes against humanity, noted to me that the man is reportedly given to irrational bouts of rage.  Well, maybe he is.  On the other hand, yesterday I beat a malfunctioning phone to death with a hammer. So maybe I’m not the best person to judge someone for their irrational bouts of rage. And anyway, hammering my phone to death does not make me any less nice. Yes, yes, where I hammer a phone in a fit of pique, Dubya’s can bomb a country. But I’m reasonably sure they’d bring in Colin Powell to hose him down first…Dubya-haters want him to be evil because they perceive his policies to be evil…The problem with that formulation is that it’s totally wrong; nice people do these sorts of things all the time.
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008, 173-4)

You have to be a really interesting sort of ignorant not to know that the Marines kill people from time to time. Your first hint: The big rifle so many of those Marines carry around. Your second hint: All those movies, books and television shows, widely available to the general public, in which Marines are shown, you know, killing people. Your third hint: The fact that the Marines are widely acknowledged to be a branch of the military of the United States, and militaries are likewise widely known, by most people who are smart enough to stand upright, on two legs, to kill other people on occasion (typically members of other nations’ militaries, though sometimes they’re not so picky, depending on country and context).
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008, p177)
Democrats: The attention span of poultry; easily distracted from large, useful goals by pointless minutiae.  Not only can’t see the forest for the trees, can’t see the trees for the pine needles.  Deserve every bad thing that happens to them because they just can’t get their act together.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p182)
Conservatives: Less interested in explaining their point of view than nuking you and everything you stand for into blackened cinders before your evil world-view catches on like a virus. Conservatives have no volume control on hate and yet were shocked as Hell when Rush Limbaugh went deaf.
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p182-3)
Libertarians: Never got over the fact they weren’t the illegitimate children of Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand; currently punishing the rest of us for it.  Unusually smug for a political philosophy that’s never gotten anyone elected for anything above the local water board.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p183)
When you’re a student, grad student or associate professor, you vent in your blog; when you get tenure, you get to vent in a book.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p225)
If fear is hard working and has a goal, angst is like fear’s directionless cousin, the one that has a trust fund and no freakin’ clue what he wants to do.  Angst by definition has no definite object; it is formless and ubiquitous, and it just sits on your head and freaks you out.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p231)
Heidegger’s writings are so famously impenetrable they could be used by SWAT teams in place of Kevlar; to the uninitiated, he sounds a little like the self-help counselor from the third circle of Hell (“Love your Dread! Embrace the Nothingness!”).  Left unsaid is what happens after one has if fact embraced the nothingness; one has the unsettling feeling that it’s difficult to get cable TV. Also, there’s the question of what happens when on has reached a state of authentic being, only to discover one is authentically an ass.
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p232)
Munch knew all about dread; first off, he was Norwegian. Second, he was a sickly boy whose family had an unfortunate tendency of dying on him: His mother when he was five, his sister when he was 14, then his father and brother while he was still young. His other sister? Mentally ill.  Munch would write, quite accurately, “Illness, insanity and death were the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life.”
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p232)
“The Scream” is just one element in Munch’s epic “Frieze of Life”, a collection of 20-odd canvases jam-packed with angst: One of the four major themes of the work, in fact, is “Anxiety”. But even the more supposedly cheerful theme of “Love”, features paintings swaddled in depression and dread: check out “Ashes” or “Separation”, and angst leaps up and hits you like a jagged rock Don’t even view the “Death” pictures if you’ve skipped your Xanax for the day.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p233)
Given the choice between Heinlein and Rand, which would I want as a parent? Let’s posit that one couldn’t have both—beyond such a union causing the cracking of at least four of the seven seals, there’s a pretty good chance that after about 15 minutes in each other’s presence, either or both of them would have been thumbing their holsters. There can only be one Alpha Male in the room.  In a shootout, incidentally, it’d be even money: Heinlein would probably be faster off the draw, but Rand would probably need a stake through the heart to go down. (Before you start: I know about Rand and her thoughts on force. But let’s just see her try to reason with Angry Bob.)
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p247)
When it comes to elections, you don’t let the GOP get close.  Letting them get close just means you can’t see where they’re planning to jam in the knife.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p278)
I’m going to talk as a man here for a minute, pleading to any woman out there who might possibly be considering expending a brain cell or two on this whole “Rules” of “Surrendered Wife” angle of things.  I will begin by saying that I can’t possibly imagine what the Hell is wrong with you that you’d ever possibly be considering something like this seriously anyway…Whatever the reason, stop. Just stop.  The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a position where a man has total control over you.  Why? Well, beyond the fact that it’s an irredeemably stupid thing to let anybody have total control of your life besides you, there’s the more particular matter of the fact that men, invariably, are dumb-asses.  Big fat stinky dumb asses, with dumb ass ideas about every dumb ass thing. Why we’re allowed out of the house without leashes is beyond me.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p 322)

The Lord is my receiver; I shall not fumble. He maketh me perform the handoff, and occasionally leadeth me to the Hail Mary pass. He restoreth the point spread; He leadeth me down the field toward victory in His name. Yea, though I thread through the Valley of the Blitzing 35-Pound Defensive Line, I will fear no sacking; for Thou art with me; Thy offensive line of burly disciples they comfort me.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p339)
Think about the classic Sesame Street Muppets and you’ll know what I mean. Each of them had his or her own endearingly neurotic quirk. Cookie Monster: Addictive personality and moderate mental retardation. Big Bird: Esteem issues. Bert and Ernie: Co-dependence. Oscar the Grouch: Misanthropy. The Count: Deviant lifestyle. Snuffaluphaus: Hell, he didn’t actually exist.  Kermit, well, Kermit was the worst, with his veneer of calm control occasionally exploding into random fits of amphibian rage (now you know why it’s not easy being green). And as for Grover: Good lord. He’s a psychiatrist’s yacht all on his own.  Elmo doesn’t have any of this.  He’s merely obnoxious and red and has ping-pong eyes. But get this: He’s the most appealing of the new Muppets. The Zoe Muppet, for example, has a personality of the sort that makes you wish that she were real, so you could stuff her in a sack and drown her in a river and be done with her….The first set of Muppets were created in the late 60s, when being freakish and weird held a romantic sort of charm, and there was the idea that maybe we should accept people eve with vaguely neurotic quirks. Today, of course, children’s quirks are merely something to be medicated out of them…The new Muppets don’t have quirks, and without the quirks, they simply grate.  This is bad news for our kids, since Muppets more or less reflect their target audience. The solution is clear: Write to the Children’s Television Workshop and demand they make their Muppets more freakish. Do it for the kids. They deserve neurotic Muppets! Years from now, they’ll thank you for it.
--John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p348)
Some people believe bad chocolate is like bad sex: Even when it’s bad, it’s still good.  This formulation is nonsense at its root. Bad sex is definitely not still good. It’s actually tremendously depressing, sort of like getting all worked up [sic] go to Disneyland just to find that the only ride open in the whole park is the monorail to and from the parking lot—and that the monorail seats small kind of funky.  Secondly, bad chocolate is worse than bad sex.  We accept that sex may occasionally be bad…but chocolate is supposed to be above that. Chocolate is supposed to be an absolute good.  Occasional bad sex is regrettable, but bad chocolate is a betrayal.
-John Scalzi (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 p63)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Your-Hate-Mail-Will-Graded/dp/0765327112/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507552919&sr=8-1&keywords=your+hate+mail+will+be+graded

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ms. Marvel: Volume Two Generation Why by G. WIllow Wilson (Writer), Jacob Wyatt (Artist), Adrian Alphona (Artist), Ian Herring (Colorist), VC's Joe Caramagna (Letterer)

In the previous comic Kamala Khan gets her powers after one night when a gas settles over Jersey City.  She is able to change sizes and has some healing ability when she changes back to her regular form.  She helped rescue her best friend Bruno's thieving brother from some bad guys who were involved with a new villain in town named the Inventor who has a stash of kids in his hideaway for some nefarious purpose.

Now the Inventor is sending bots all around town to attack her. But that's nothing to getting in trouble with her family for being out after curfew.  She is sent to talk to the dreaded Sheikh Abdullah at the Mosque.  However, instead of getting a long lecture from him when she tells him that she is out helping people but she's not very good at it he tells her that what she needs is a teacher and that one will appear when she is ready.  That teacher will turn out to be Wolverine who is looking for a missing student from the Jean Grey School.  She explains to him about the Inventor and the two do battle together to find the girl.

The Inventor is a clone of Thomas Edison created into a parakeet who has a human sidekick named Knox.  The girl that Kamala and Wolverine found was being used as a battery for a machine.  So maybe the Inventor is powering his inventions with the kids he is kidnapping. When Kamala tells him that she got her powers after the night of the Terrigen Bomb he sends Captain America to talk to Medusa the Queen of the Inhumans to let her know that Kamala is a powerful inhuman that could use some help but needs her independence and to not bring her into the city of Attilan. Medusa sends the dog Lockjaw to help Kamala out.

People keep telling her to stop going after the Inventor. That he is too big for her to handle. But this is Jersey City, her home, and he is threatening it so she will not stop until she gets him behind bars.  This comic was even better than the first one as we get to see her grow more into her powers and learn just how much she can handle.  At the end of this one, it teases that Loki might be involved so I eagerly await reading it.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ms-Marvel-Vol-Generation-Why-ebook/dp/B00TEC30NY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507292098&sr=8-1&keywords=ms+marvel+generation+why

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Deadmen Walking by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Captain Paden Jack supposedly went down with his ship off the coast of Florida in 1715. It is now 1716 and his sister, Cameron, has sailed to Jamaica with a special sword hilt that belongs to her brother that he somehow mailed to her after his death.  She seeks out the one man who can help her: Captian Devln Bane.  Seeing that the piece belonged to a Seraphim's sword causes Bane to have Cameron escorted onto his ship the Sea Witch for her protection.

The crew is made up of damned souls who have been given a second chance by Thorn, the Devil's son, who rebelled against his father and fights for the side of the angels who treat him like crap because when they see him they see his father.  Every one of them carries the deadman's mark which ties them to Thorn. Thorn can take them back to Hell at any time.  Otherwise, they can't die, though if their bodies are obliterated they will wind up in Hell again, or if someone else comes along with the power to send them back to Hell or if a creature comes looking for a host to live in they might lose their bodies and find themselves in Hell.  The idea is that they will do enough good that they will erase the deadman's mark and earn a real human life and a second chance.

Among those on board are Mr. Death, the proper quartermaster, Kalder, a merman, Belle Morte, the doctor, Sancha, the drunk surly woman at the wheel, Simon, a shapeshifter, and Roach, the wily Frenchman.  Also, there is the ship herself, Mara who is a Deruvian or one of the tree folk.  She can take human form as well as her tree or wooden form.  The Captain is a sorcerer supreme among other things who will do anything for his ship or his crew whose main mission has been to fight demons who have been escaping from the several gates of Hell trying to hold them in.  The gates are straining to open and Vine, Mara's sister, and Devln's ex-wife, who killed him is trying to break through one of the gates and come through and take over the world.  She now has Paden and is torturing him to get the missing piece from his sword and to try to turn him.  But when Cameron accidentally uses the hilt and saves the crew she alerts Vine to her presence and Vine sends others to get her.

Devln and Mara fight like cats and dogs.  Their lives are bound to each other since they met over a thousand years ago and she cast a binding spell on him hoping to take him down with her, but instead, he spared both their lives.  If one of them dies or is injured the other one feels it or dies.  The way the two of them fight you honestly don't believe that they will ever want to get together.  But in this swashbucklingly good tale, anything is possible.  Kenyon does throw in some things from her other books but you won't feel too lost as she explains what you need to know about the characters she uses.  I really loved this book. The characters were ones you could believe in and fall in love with and the plot kept the pages turning well into the night.  I can't wait for the next one as this one ended on a sad note and I'm in a hurry to see that situation change as soon as possible.

He always said that education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge during adversity. And that a learned mind is the only wealth worth hoarding, as it is the sole treasure that can never be stolen.
-Sherrilyn Kenyon (Deadmen Walking p 184)

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark, but the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.  When we refuse to see the truth that lies before us because facing it is too hard and scary for us.  Because when we acknowledge that light, then we see monsters the dark no longer hides and we are honor bound to do something to stop them.  It’s easy to lock your heart with hatred. But only when it’s free will you be able to move forward without anchoring you to a past that’s holding you back.
-Sherrilyn Kenyon (Deadmen Walking p 241)

“One more thing, Captain…any pointers on how we’re to win this?” “Don’t die. Be the last man standing.” “Good to know. Pointers on how to kill them, then?” “Cut off the head. If that doesn’t work? Run like hell, preferably faster than the poor bloke beside you. Might want to consider tripping him if he proves to be faster.” “Beautiful. I so look forward to these deep, meaningful discussions and motivational speeches from you that leave me bullocks completely shrunk and shriveled.” “Better the bullocks than the brains. And better the both than your courage.” “Not sure about that. Especially given what’s coming at us. In case I go down and forget to say it…been an honor serving with you, sir.”

Monday, October 2, 2017

I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart was what could be called an "oops baby".  He was born in Philadelphia and had an older brother Kenneth and many half brothers that his dad had with the women he slept around with while with his mom and after the two divorced.  His parents argued a lot and his mom could be found chasing his dad with a knife.  His dad was also a thief and would wind up on crack doing things worthy of being chased about with a knife.

HIs mom worked hard and believed in education. She went easy on Kenneth and he wound up getting a hold of some drugs to sell until she flushed them and beat him about the head to let him know that wasn't acceptable.  He was just trying to find a way to make money for the household. He would try again by stealing a woman's purse and she'd turn him into the police. The judge gave him the option of jail or the military and he chose the military.

To save Kevin she made him a rigid schedule of school and then after school activities such as swimming and then basketball.  But if there was time between the activities and when she got home she paid an older woman in the neighborhood to watch over him.  This afforded him some freedom as he got to play around in her basement pretending to clean it while he actually looked at old Playboys and made a fort.  This would continue into high school when he would invite girls to come hang out in the backyard where he was raking leaves or some such and instead was fooling around with them.  While he loved basketball he hated swimming and never really tried to win at it.  Academically he wasn't very good. He just hated to memorize facts and spit them out for a test.  He blew the SAT off and found himself without a hope for a four-year college.

His mom got him into a community college but nothing had really changed for him. He still hated school and he didn't try there either.  When he dropped out he did so with a job already lined up selling shoes at a sports store.  His mom wasn't happy but he told her this was until he could figure out what he wanted to do with his life.  She let him stay with her as long as he was working on figuring that out.  The rule had been: go to college or leave my house.  But she saw that he was working on a plan for his life and she trusted him.  And one day it came to him. He was going to work for Nike as a sales rep.

Then while working there he would make his co-workers laugh or the customers laugh and one day one of his co-workers said he should try stand up.  It had never occurred to him.  So he did. He went to Laff House on an amateur night and he was given five minutes to do his material and he ran through it in like three and a half and had to improvise the next minute and a half.  But he got laughs from the stage and he was hooked. He came back two more times and then they decided to hold a cash contest for best comedian and he won. He also won the next five times the held it.  Now he really knew what he wanted to do with his life and it wasn't selling shoes.  Soon he had to make a decision: go to gigs booked by Tue Rae Gordon the Laff House host who was willing to help him out or keep selling shoes and give up on comedy. He gave his notice to the store. His mother was another matter.

It was at the community college that he met Torrei the on again off again love that would last twelve years.  It was one of those romances that are as hot outside of the bed fighting as it is inside of the bed.  We've all had a crazy romance and this one was Kevin's. It was just one that became so comfortable that it became hard to let go.  Also, children would be involved which made it harder.  She didn't understand why he had to go out all the time and go to New York when he wasn't even going on stage. She didn't get his networking or his studying of other comics.  She thought he was up there sleeping with other women. And as things became strained between them and they broke things off and on they both slept with other people making their relationship very tempestuous.

Kevin's career was going well and at age twenty-three he looked to be going to make it big but the movie that he agreed to make was Soul Plane which came off the heels of his TV show getting canceled.  He was box office poison.  It would take many years for him to be able to rebuild his career.  But he believed in himself and he had a plan: become too big for Hollywood to ignore.  His mom taught him to work hard with her tight schedules and his dad taught him to shrug things off (once his dad was hit by a man with an ax and just acted like it was nothing). He holds to being nice to people and that the fun guy always wins in the end.  This is a great book sneakily filled with life lessons that you can learn taken from his life. It's hilarious and insightful and inspirational.  I've been a fan for years and it was wonderful to catch a look at the man who has made me laugh so hard and smile so much.

Acceptance is a drug as powerful as crack.
-Kevin Hart (I’m Not Making This Up: Life Lessons p 117)

In most action movies, one person rises out of humble beginnings to discover that they have been chosen by destiny to save the world.  But that’s not how it works in real life.  You rise out of your humble beginnings to become part of a community, and it is only together and as equals that we will save the earth.
-Kevin Hart (I’m Not Making This Up: Life Lessons p 184)    
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cant-Make-This-Up-Lessons-ebook/dp/B01MYWFGRM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506947444&sr=8-1&keywords=i+can%27t+make+this+up+kevin+hart

Friday, September 29, 2017

Thor: Volume Two Who Holds the Hammer by Jason Aaron (Writer), Russell Dauterman (Artist), Mattew Wilson (Color Artist), VC's Joe Sabino (Letterer), Noelle Stevenson (Writer), CM Punk (Writer), Timothy Truman (Artist) Marguerite Sauvage (Artist and Colorist), Rob Guillory (Artist and Colorist)

We left off with Dario Agger, the Minotaur who runs Roxxon, making a deal with King Malekith of Svartalfheim, a dark sorcerer elf who wants the ice giant's skull that Agger has.  Odin has given control of the Destroyer, Asgardia's most powerful weapon, to his evil brother Cul Borson to use it to seek out Thor and find out her identity and bring the hammer back to Asgardia.  Freya is not happy about this, nor is the man now known as Odinson who has a list of names of people he knows who could be Thor and is going around trying to cross them off.  On top of the list is S.H.I.E.L.D agent Roz Solomon who hasn't been seen in a while and has a beef with Roxxon. While he hunts down people from the list he finds out that Dr. Jane Foster, his former lover, is dying from cancer.

Thor goes to Roxxon to try to stop the deal Agger and Malekith is making but gets interrupted by Destroyer.  She takes Destroyer down under the island to protect the innocents.  At one time Destroyer gets a hold of Mjolnir and Thor has to fight to get it back.  But when Freya finds out what has happened she goes to Odinson and plans to head down to help Thor by herself. But Odinson knows some people who would be willing to help a fellow female. And a group of women including Scarlet Witch, Brunnhilde, Karnilla, Hildegarde, Spider-Woman, and Captain Marvel.  Will that be enough to destroy the Destroyer?  Also, will we finally find out who is the woman behind the mask?

Also included in this comic is three comics by three different artists involving Thor. The first one is Thor as an old man, the next one is the female Thor having an adventure on Asgardia, and the third is one of Thor before he has raised Mjolnir.  Then there's an old-time comic reimangined as if a woman had picked up Mjoliner but with a different story line than the current comic. One that fits with the early comics.  While it was enjoyable to watch the women coming together to help Thor out and the four comics at the end were nice this wasn't as good as Volume One. Let's hope that Volume Three proves to pick up the pace.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Thor-Vol-Holds-Hammer-2014-2015-ebook/dp/B00XZD7E62/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506687687&sr=8-1&keywords=thor+who+holds+the+hammer

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Arlene McKinney is a recovering alcoholic who works two jobs to make ends meet and to pay off a broken down truck that she co-signed with her boyfriend who disappeared and may be dead, but who likely isn't coming back.  She has a thirteen-year-old son, Trevor by him.  Trevor is a good kid who has a new social studies teacher at his school named Reuben St. Clair who was scarred physically by the Vietnam war and wears an eyepatch.

Reuben starts off his class every year in the new towns he seems to keep moving to with an extra credit assignment for those who choose to do it: Think of an idea for world change and put it into action.  Trevor gets an idea of what to do and sets about doing it. He takes his earnings from his paper route and places an ad in the paper that he will be giving it away to someone at a certain address on a certain day.  About forty people show up and he becomes concerned because he only wants to help one person, but a large group leaves when they see that it's only a kid.  So he decides to have them write an essay to determine why they should get it. A few more leave because they can't write. He picks out a homeless junkie named Jerry to help.  He buys him some new clothes and lets him take a shower in his home much to his mother's consternation.  Jerry is able to get a job working on cars and he helps Arlene by taking apart the truck to save her money as she is selling it for parts and it cuts into what she can get if the guy has to remove it himself.  All that Trevor asks is that Jerry does three things for three other people and have them do three things for three other people. He calls it the Pay It Forward system.  But Jerry will let him down by going back to jail.

The other person Trevor helps is Mrs. Greenberg, an elderly woman on his paper route. He takes care of her lawn and flowers.  He tells her about the Pay It Forward System.  But Trevor hears that she dies and believes that she never had time to pay it forward.  He does keep up her lawn and takes care of the stray cats that Mrs. Greenberg took care of just in case she is looking down from Heaven.

The third person on his list to help is Reuben.  He believes that Reuben and his mom should be together and that they would be happy.  But he feels he is doomed to fail on this front as well as the two keep acting defensively toward each other.  She believes that he looks down on her for her lack of education and he believes that she looks down on him for his hideous appearance.  They're both wrong, of course.  But that will not be the only obstacle to them getting together.  One bigger than the two can imagine will come between them.

This was a really good book. It was very well written with an idea that at the time of its publication seemed revolutionary.  It's a shame it didn't take hold.  Some people might have trouble with the different narrators as it can be confusing, though it wasn't to me.   I would like to take a moment here to point out that in the book Reuben is an African American and in the movie he is portrayed by Kevin Spacey, a fine actor who happens to be white.  That is a shame.  I also understand that the mioie really departs from the book for those who have seen it.  I do recommend this book.

I no longer think I lack a judgment about men. I will never again say my instincts are poor, no sir, because how do I keep finding the same guy over and over?  I am beginning to think I have a very keen sense of judgment, only it would seem that it is on somebody else’s side.
-Catherine Ryan Hyde (Pay It Forward p 19)

Arlene started to say something back by couldn’t think what it should be and worried it would be a bad, weak-sounding something no matter how carefully she thought it up. So instead she poured two fingers of good old Jose Cuervo. The one man in her life who never told her lies, so you always knew what you would get.  And you could never say you didn’t know.
-Catherine Ryan Hyde (Pay It Forward p 23)

There was something clean and victorious about waking up feeling that bad. It meant he was alive still. That’s he’d survived again.
-Catherine Ryan Hyde (Pay It Forward p 159)

Much to Gordie’s surprise and relief, he found the ability to detach had not abandoned him. It would be another beating like so many before. He would watch it from a distance, and his skin and bones would heal. Or maybe this time not.  But he would be elsewhere as it happened, shut down.  When you don’t care anymore you deprive them of the joy of hurting you. Hard to hit somebody where they live if there’s nobody home.
-Catherine Ryan Hyde (Pay It Forward p 280)

Link To Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Pay-Forward-Catherine-Ryan-Hyde-ebook/dp/B002DQW9YO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1506523669&sr=8-2&keywords=pay+it+forward+book

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy by Elizabeth May

It's been two months nineteen days since Sorcha plunged the crystal into Aileana's chest in order to make Kiernan the Unseelie King again and get rid of her at the same time.  But before that happened Aileana made a deal with the Cailleach to take her powers and try to save both worlds from destruction.  The only drawback is that her human body is not meant to hold such power and cannot for very long before dying.  The Book Of Remembrance must be found where a spell can be used to undo everything starting with the Cailleach's sister the Morrigan who became quite evil and powerful and the first ruler of the Unseelie.  She was the one who cast the curse that the ruler of the Seelie and Unseelie kingdoms would fight until one killed the other leaving the victor in charge of the fae. The Cailleach locked her up in a prison and the book, her book of spells, was locked up with her.

When Aileana wakes up she has no memory at first and runs into some of Kiernan, or rather Kadamach's forces and kills them.  She is found by Derrick who has not given up on her, which considering the number of times she has died or come close to dying, you can't blame him.  Even though they burned her body on a funeral pyre and buried the ashes, which likely explains the memory loss and the delay in coming back.  Aithinne is able to immediately see that she has her mother's powers and probes her mind for the memory of when it happened. When she does a floodgate of memories cascade down upon Aileana and she remembers everything.

Things have changed in these two months.  The remaining humans are on the mainland, except for Catherine, Daniel, and Gavin.  Kiernan has to feed to live but he can't take a human life so he feeds some leaving the humans in a fae captivated state where they need to be bitten by fae to be kept alive in a horrid existence where they waste away.  He leaves the bodies at the border between the kingdoms for Aithinne to find.  Aithinne believes that Kiernan is about to make a play for her kingdom and her life.  It's just a matter of time.  But with Aileana back this changes things.  Maybe Kiernan can be brought back from the brink of insanity that he fell into with her death.

The only wrinkle in the plan to go and get the book is that Sorcha will be needed to find the cage the Morrigan is in and she will be needed to open the book. Only someone from her bloodline can do this and Lonnrach her brother is nowhere to be found, while Sorcha is chained up in Kiernan's dungeon being tortured for her crimes.  Kiernan makes a vow with Sorcha that he will have nothing more to do with Aileana and will be with her if she will help them with this task. Aileana just hopes that there is some way out of this vow.  And there is a way out of it. If she chooses to take it.  But at what price?

The Morrigan is stronger than they expect and the fae does not have their powers in the cage and on top of that they are mortal in the cage so they can be killed and they heal much slower.  The Morrigan uses your fears against you.  She doesn't have an actual body so she inhabits the form of other things.  The Morrigan wants the book too so she can get out of the cage so it's a race to see who can find it first: one of the Morrigan's agents or them.  Or will they become one of the Morrigan's agents?

In this conclusion to the excellent Falconer trilogy, not everyone gets out alive.  But this book lives up to the series quality and the pages do really fly fast.  This book is a fitting end to such a fine set of books that I thoroughly enjoyed and will likely go back and read again one day. I cannot praise this book or this series enough. This truly is a must-read.

“I don’t know if I believe in wishes,” I murmur, almost to myself. It’s like believing in hope. They make you want things you can’t have. Wishes are dangerous things. 
-Elizabeth May (Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy p 33)

Honestly, Aileana, everyone ought to dress up like an inebriated pirate at least once. It’s much more fun killing things in costume.
-Elizabeth May (Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy p49)

The price you pay for truth is knowledge.
-Elizabeth May (Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy p 84)

No one deserves to be under someone else’s complete control, unable to fight back even if they wanted.  Maybe I’ve grown too soft. Maybe I’m just tired of death. Maybe it’s compassion that separates us from monsters. Does that make me better than them or does it make me a fool?
-Elizabeth May ( Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy p 152)

Goodness doesn’t last, Falconer. If enough time has passed and enough people hurt us, we all become cruel and heartless bastards.
-Elizabeth May (Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy p 259)

“You believe her incapable of being cruel? I’ve walked through whole battlefields covered in her victims.” “She was defending those she loves.” “Aren’t we all? We always try to play the hero first, Falconer. It makes it easier to justify the worst of our actions later.”
-Elizabeth May (Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy p 259-60)

Those painful memories don’t disappear just because you destroyed the one responsible. Killing just makes you empty.
-Elizabeth May ( Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy p 326)

Forgiveness isn’t something given. It’s something earned. What could I do to earn it, Aileana? Nothing. I’d make the same choices. I don’t deserve forgiveness.
-Elizabeth May (Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy p 326)

Why love a butterfly when it starts to die the moment it gets its wings?
-Elizabeth May (Fallen Kingdom: Book Three of the Falconer Trilogy p 333)