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, January 30, 2017

You Don't Sweat Much For a Fat Girl: Observations From the Shallow End of the Pool by Celia Rivenbark

In this book of hilarious essays, Rivenbark, a Wilmington, NC native who used to write a syndicated column, writes about the joys of yoga, Twitter for Southerners, dropping off children in Nebraska, the Learning Channel, the Snuggie, Chinese bachelors, Menopause, and other topics.

Rivenbark signs up for yoga just to have an hour where no one is asking her do something, like clean the house, cook meals, or help with homework.  However, she discovers an interesting study from Denmark "that women who have skinny thighs have twice the risk for heart disease as us normal women."  This study came out at about the same time as a "Time magazine cover story on "The Myth of Exercise" in which a very learned scholar wrote that, while it's good for you, exercise won't make you lose weight.  If fact...exercise can actually lead to weight gain because of the notion that you're entitled to wolf down a platter of nachos the size of a hubcap at On the Boarder after a half hour workout on the Spawn of Satan, I mean, elliptical machine."

As a Southerner, Rivenbark, has had a lot of trouble in the land of Twitter.  "Because everyone knows that Southerners lean toward being a bit long-winded, verbose, wordy, overwrought, and dense when it comes to written communication."  How do you confine yourself not to 140 words, but 140 characters?  She compares tweeting to trying to write haiku "the Japanese art of hair weaving in thirteen words."  She also talks about how she once had fashion model Kathy Ireland as a tweet follower, until something she said upset her. 

For a while, in Nebraska, you could drop off your child, of any age, to a designated area, such as a hospital, and leave them for others to take care of.  This became a problem when people from as far away as Florida began dropping off their surly teens off and the system became overwhelmed.  She suggests using this as a threat for your kids when they act up, because what is there in Nebraska, but lots of corn?

In the Learning Channel essay, she talks about Octomom looking for a show for her and her brood. "Ok, she's got fourteen kids, no job, and no husband, but she's going to council others? This is like getting relationship advise from Chris Brown." They would fit right in with some of the other  crazy things they show, like the Duggers, where the sex advise is "sex is a lot like Legos", My Monkey Baby, and I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant.  "TLC, which used to stand for The Learning Channel but now stands for Titillating Losers for Cash."

The South doesn't take the cold very well.  They'll close school for one threat of a snowflake or delay it if its too cold outside.  "We Southerners aren't built to endure cold.  We are gently creatures that look best in sundresses and skin that is dewy with humidity."  Also, there's like only one guy with a truck to shovel the snow from the streets, which is why when it snows everything comes to a standstill.  When she receives a Snuggie for a gift, she scoffs, until she tries it on and realizes how warm it makes her feel in the coldest of winter days.

In China, the one child per household, set up to lower birthrates in a country that is overpopulated, has now backfired.  "...in about ten years, there will be approximately twenty-four million Chinese men who won't be able to find a wife."  Also, Chinese elderly population will explode.  The Chinese women must be loving this, because now they hold all the cards.  So, Rivenbark suggests that Chinese men up their game and follow in the footsteps of Barack Obama who on date night, takes his wife out to dinner and the opera.  Even on his night out with the guys when he's going to go to an NBA game, he still takes Michelle out for a very fancy dinner out. 

Today, the church is crossing a line and telling parishioners to make love with their spouses every night.  "Now I totally get you'd do that in Kansas, because once basketball season winds down, really what else is there to do?...But Florida?  Did they shut down Disney and nobody told me."  But the church isn't the only ones dealing with sex.  The CIA is dealing Viagra to Arab Princes for information on the Taliban.  The Princes, with all of their wives to satisfy, eat it up.

Rivenbark, in peri-menopause, says that "many women in my situation try to learn as much as they can about this stage of life.  Some even embrace and try to celebrate this phase, which can include insomnia, memory loss, night sweats, fatigue, and memory loss (ha).  I like to call these women crazy."

This book, as all are her books, is funny as hell in a very Southern way.  She touches on subjects that everyone can relate to, even if they don't admit it.  I still have one Celia Rivenbark book to read and I can't wait.  I hope she writes more, since her she quit writing columns to write books.  She is a true Southern Belle.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/You-Dont-Sweat-Much-Girl-ebook/dp/B004VMV3WW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485787052&sr=1-1&keywords=you+don%27t+sweat+much+for+a+fat+girl

Friday, January 27, 2017

We Are Not Ourselves by Mattew Thomas

This novel is about a family and how it copes in good times and bad.  Eileen Tumulty dreamed of a better life than the one that her Irish immigrant parents had.  She spends her time taking care of them through drunken bouts and fights.  Her father was the man everyone went to for advice on anything and who could help you out if you needed a job.  He worked at a beer factory delivering beer barrels.  Her mother worked cleaned schools and such places for a pittance.  She took care of the house and watched them slowly die.  Eileen goes to nursing school and gets her masters degree in order to one day be in management.  She doesn't really want to go into nursing, but there were few jobs available to women in the early sixties, and besides she already knows how to be a nurse by taking care of her parents.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a Ph.D. student studying science, she is wary as she has been disappointed so many times by the hook ups her friends set up for her.  But Ed is different.  He is highly intelligent and could be the man to make all her dreams come true.  Ed, however, when offered a job by a pharmaceutical company after graduating turns down the lucrative offer in order to teach at a community college, Eileen starts to worry if her dreams of a home of her own will come true.  They live in a glorified apartment that you could call a house in Queens, that is shared by the owners who live on the other two floors.  After a miscarriage, they have a son, Collen, who becomes quite close to his father with their shared love of baseball.  Collen, however, is being bullied at school and refuses to defend himself, even though he has the strength too because he doesn't want to get in trouble and ruin his chances of getting into a good school.

When the neighborhood starts to become dangerous with gangs and foreigners and all of Eileen's friends have already left for the suburbs, she begins to dream of living in Bronxville and begins the process of convincing Ed to move which he is dead set against.  But Ed is starting to change.  He turns down a job as Dean of the college because he isn't ready to stop teaching those who really need it or doing his lab experiments.  Soon Ed starts to come home and put his headphones on and listen to his classical record collection.  He also becomes angry at the drop of a hat over the simplest things.  A riff forms between him and his family and Eileen begins to wonder if Ed is just having a mid-life crisis or whether he is losing his mind.

Ed surprisingly gives in to moving once Eileen finds a house, one that needs a lot of work.  Ed insists on doing the work himself and makes a mess of it, so Eileen has to call in professionals.  Ed is slowly getting worse and Eileen and Collen have no idea what is going on with him.  When she finally takes him to a doctor and gets a diagnosis, their lives change forever.  Ed has a year and a half to go to retire with full benefits and Eileen is determined to get him through this.  Collen is pretty useless.  He goes to college in Chicago in order to not have to go home.  He doesn't want to deal with his life back home.

This book will break your heart as Eileen has to give up on her some of her dreams and watch her husband slowly leave her.  You will want to smack Collen a little bit for being a selfish immature boy who can't be bothered to help his parents.  But he is a boy and lives to regret the things he didn't do.  At the heart of this novel is a regular family trying to cope with the unknowns of life and how they have dreams that can't always come true, no matter how hard you try.

She tried to imagine what it would feel like to have always been alone.  She decided that being alone to begin with would be easier than being left alone.  Everything would be easier than that.
---Matthew Thomas (We Are Not Ourselves p7)
The real world was so messy, the light imperfect, the paint chipped, the happiness only partial.
-- Matthew Thomas (We Are Not Ourselves p 77)
The point wasn’t always to do what you want.  The point was to do what you did and to do it well.                                                                    
--   Matthew Thomas (We Are Not Ourselves p 554)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/We-Are-Not-Ourselves-Novel-ebook/dp/B00GEEB2WG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485532113&sr=1-1&keywords=we+are+not+ourselves

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Spider Gwen: Most Wanted? by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez

This comic book pics up after the first five comics in this alternate universe where Gwen gets bit by a spider and Peter is bullied and uses his smarts to come up with a formula that turns him into the Lizard and then he gets killed with Spider Gwen holding him and people believe that she killed him, including her father Captain Stacey of the police force and are now hunting her down.

Gwen is trying to use her powers for good and help out others if she can, but the only criminals she seems able to tackle is the bodega bandit who steals small time stuff. She also plays in the band The Mary Janes as a drummer, but keeps missing practices and almost misses a performance.  Mary Jane Watson, in this universe, is a bit of a bitch and is the lead singer of the band.  Between being in the band and trying to be Spider Gwen she is stretched thin and has not found a way to balance her life.  

Things get complicated when Matt Murdock (Daredevil) who works for Kingpin in this universe, pays a thug to kill Captain Stacey who is giving Spider Gwen trouble. They have a plan to come after Spider Gwen later.  The Vulture bungles things up for everyone when he gets upset with all the press Spider Gwen is getting and he isn't.

Now the people (other than the police) wants Spider Gwen to help out and get the Vulture. Including her father who now knows who she is Spider Gwen.  The two tangle, but Murdock ends up having a serious talk with the Vulture about Kingpin's plans for Spider Gwen and how he needs to get on board with those plans. The Vulture is only too happy to help.

Spider Gwen ends up visualizing Spider Pig from one of the other alternate universes and has conversations with him.  This part is pretty funny, but also pretty serious as the pig says this is the only version of Peter Parker she can cope with seeing. He's a bit like a warped Jiminy Cricket who is trying to help her get her life back on track.

The art work in this book is amazing. The sometimes vivid uses of color splash across the page in such eye-catching display.  When a new character comes up Rodriguez uses the color orange to darken the panels describing her backstory. And there is one page in partricar where the top of Gwen's head is shown and you can see her terrified eyes while across the rest of her face are the words Killer and Peter Parker and Manhunt Continues over and over as well as a few pictures of some people.  It shows how overwhelmed she is with what is going on in a way no words could ever do.  This book is a great start to the Spider Gwen series.  

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spider-Gwen-Vol-0-Most-Wanted/dp/0785197737/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485357032&sr=1-1&keywords=spider+gwen+most+wanted

Monday, January 23, 2017

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

If you are expecting a book about battles or types of weaponry, what the Special Forces do, or even the effects of PTSD, this isn't the book for you. As it says in the title this book is about the science of humans at war. Mary Roach is known for looking at the as she says "dark corners" of a subject that no one else is looking at. Her first book, Stiff looked at what happened to your body after death, as in the options beyond cremation and burial.  In Packing For Mars she writes about the space program; in Boink she writes candidly about sex, and in Gulp, she writes about the digestive system. In each of her books, she makes the subject sound completely fascinating.  And that is certainly the case in this book.

 In Chapter one she covers the design and endurance of the military uniform. The military hires fashion designers to not only make functional uniforms but something the soldiers would want to wear because it is comfortable and it looks good.  They also make something called "blast boxers" which protect the genitalia from dirt and sand that is launched into that area and can cause hard to get rid of infections to the wound.

Another couple of chapters deal with what happens when your genitalia is shot up. When a man [It is believed that a woman would not be able to survive and have her female system gone.] steps on an IED his first thought is never is my penis still there? It's always "Where's my buddy?" or "How are my men?"  And when he does get around to thinking about his penis if it's bad enough he'd rather stay there and die than be medevacked because he can't imagine a life without a penis. These days the doctors can do amazing things to repair damage and put in pumps to help if necessary. They can take tissue from the mouth to make urethra tubes.  Now they have managed to transplant a penis from a cadaver. The doctors at Johns Hopkins have been working on it for a while and have a soldier waiting for a donor. Roach witnesses a cadaver penial removal.  I looked online and a 64-year-old cancer patient back in May of last year successfully received a penial transplant and did not reject it.

In the chapter titled "Courage Under Fire" it deals with training certain soldiers, such as medics to cope with the sights and sounds of war while providing medical care to soldiers. Stu Segall, a man who has had many careers over the years is probably best known for his work on the TV crime drama Hunter. Now he has a studio set up to mimic conditions such as a village in Afghanistan or aboard a ship.  He also invented the Cut Suit Silicone Repair Kit.  A person wears the suit and you can have him or her have any problem you need them to have and the medic can "operate" on them just like they would a real person and with a real person wearing the suit you have the experience of a human being looking at you talking to you or making noises as opposed to the animals they usually use that are put to sleep for the operation.  He also has vets with missing limbs who are done up with a kit to appear to have just lost the limb and are bleeding.  While all this is going on you can hear loud gun fire and bombs going off.  When you enter this situation your adrenaline kicks in with your survival stress response and you become "fast, strong, and dumb." Your hands will shake and other reactions inside your body will cause you to lose the ability to reason or analyze. The idea is to get these medics as used to the stress as possible before they face the reality and have lives in their hands.

Roach watches as submariners train for going below by a very realistic simulation exercise and by working with the suit they will wear if they need to to take them to the surface. She also goes aboard a submarine and sees firsthand how a nuclear sub works. One of the main problems on submarines, and nuclear submarines, in particular, is the lack of sleep.  They get at most four hours of sleep. And research has shown that "failure to get adequate continuous sleep every day results in overly fatigued personnel who, in a matter of days, function at a deficit similar to being intoxicated."  A submariner will tell you that "Marines sitting around in a bar will tell you how many push-ups they can do. Aviators will tell you how many g's they can take. Submariners will tell you how many hours they stayed up."  No one wants to be known as a "rack hound".  Those that are of lower rank have to study for tests on top of the work and drills they have to do. Also, there are numerous drills for fire, flood, hydraulic rupture, air rupture, man overboard, security violation, and torpedo launch. Your sleep is constantly interrupted and sometimes it can take a day or more to fix something and you won't go to sleep until it is fixed. It's scary to think of these sleep-deprived soldiers operating complex machinery, but at the same time, you don't hear about submarines crashing all the time.

Roach also covers such topics as being able to hear in battle, making the Styker vehicle more bomb proof, the science of sweat and how to deal with it, the seriousness of diarrhea and why soldiers rarely ask for help when they could be fine in less than a day rather than suffering for five, good bugs and bad bugs, stink bombs, shark repellant, and how the fallen help those now, by being autopsied to find out what worked and what didn't and what went wrong or didn't.   This book is compelling and engrossing and just plain interesting. She shines a light on spots of the military you wouldn't think to think about and makes you want to know more. That is what she is best at doing in her books and she does not let you down here.

Camo print became so popular that eventually Navy personnel began clamoring for it. To the embarrassment of many, the current Navy working uniform is a blue camouflage print. Unsure whether perhaps I was missing the point, I asked a Navy commander about the rationale. He looked down at his trousers and sighed. “That’s so no one can see you if you fall overboard.”
-Mary Roach (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 35)
All the added armor had Humvee engines screaming and straining on the uphills, and brakes burning out on the downs. Safety modifications on the Strykers added 10,000-plus pounds—far more than the vehicle was built to handle…For every piece of reinforcement, people like Mark would be called on to ditch something of similar weight. And the Stryker was never a lushly appointed vehicle. There is no onboard toilet. (There are empty Gatorade bottles.) The early ones didn’t even have air-conditioning.  I tell Mark I’m glad to see some cup holders were left in place. I recognize the brief polite silence that follows. It’s Mark Roman rendered mute by the fullness of my ignorance. They’re rifle holders.
-Mary Roach (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 43-4)
He helped me put on my gear. (“I can stick my lip balm and tape recorder in these skinny vest pockets.” “Those are for ammo.”)
-Mary Roach (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 59)
Walter Reed Medical Center pays for phalloplasty, although there was initially some resistance. (The implants alone cost about $10,000) Erections were thought of as “Icing on the cake,” Dean says. “They’d say, ‘Oh, people don’t really need that.’ I’m like, ‘Well, the guy with the amputated leg doesn’t really need prostheses. Put him in a wheelchair!’ And they’d go, ‘Oh, no! It’s important that they walk!’ I’d say, ‘Okay, well, most people would think it’s important to have sex.’”
-Mary Roach (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 84)
If you don’t have a pair of cadaver shoes, you’re not doing enough research.
-Mary Roach (Dr. Rick Redett to Mary Roach in Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 96)
Stewart Springer voiced the cockamamie irony of it: “It was okay to give one’s life for one’s country, but to get eaten [by sharks] for it was another matter.”
-Mary Roach (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 205)
Few of the students will cop to it, but there’s some anxiety in the house today. Some of these boys can barely swim.  The Navy entrance requirement is minimal. You are dropped in a pool fifty feet from the edge, and you get to that edge however you can. You don’t have to like the water to join the Navy. “I don’t even like baths,” said one submariner I met.
-Mary Roach (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 235)
Medical historian Philip Mackowiak compared eyewitness and officers’ accounts of Stonewall Jackson’s performance during a series of Civil War battles with the general’s opportunities for sleep, if any, in the days leading up to those battles. In 100 percent of the battles for which Jackson had had no chance to sleep in the three days prior, his leadership was rated “poor.” In the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, his chief of staff described him as “thoroughly confused from first to last.” His brigades were not merely “out of order”; “he did not know where they were.” The Battle of Glendale found Jackson “benumbed, incapable…of deep thought or strenuous movement…uninterested and lethargic.” At times during the Battle of Malvern Hill, Jackson “appeared to be almost a bystander.” In the midst of the Battle of McDowell, he was discovered napping.
-Mary Roach (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 248)
To reduce troops’ load, the Army adds caffeine to gum or mints or foods that soldiers are already carrying, like jerky. Natrick public affairs officer David Accetta feeds a Caffeinated Meat stick to reporters who visit the food lab. To me, it tasted just like you’d expect caffeinated meat to taste. Accetta was taken aback. “Brian Williams loves them.” Or did he?
-Mary Roach (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 256)
Female soldiers, unlike males, receive vouchers to shop for their own underthings. The U.S. military is gearing up to buy uniforms embedded with photovoltaic panels—shirts that can recharge a radio battery—but it is not up to the task of purchasing bras for female soldiers. “I’ve done that sort of shopping with my wife,” said an Army spokesman quoted in Bloomberg Business. “It’s not easy to do.”
-Mary Roach (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War p 269)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Grunt-Curious-Science-Humans-War/dp/0393245446/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485185262&sr=1-1&keywords=grunt+mary+roach

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

The author of the fabulous Pink Carnation Napoleonic War spy series has once more written a stand alone book.  This one is set in the 1920s and features Rachel Woodley whose beloved father, a botanist, died abroad when she was four.  She and her mother moved to a cottage in a small English town and her mother supported them by teaching piano.  Once Rachel was old enough, she took jobs as a governess in France.  She's now twenty-seven and one night finally receives the telegram from home that has been lying around for days that says her mother has the Spanish Influenza.  Rachel's best friend's husband is the town doctor, and she knows he will do what he can for her, but she knows he probably has lots of other patients and her mother is all she has left in this world.  She asks her boss, Madame, if she can take a week off to see to her mother and when she says no, Rachel quits.

When she arrives home, Alice tells her that not only has her mother died, but they buried her yesterday.  She was never able to say goodbye to her.  To top it off, the man who rented the cottage to her mother is kicking her out.  While grieving her mother in her room, she discovers a gossip magazine picture of Edward, Earl of Ardlemore, escorting his affianced daughter out on the town.  The man is the spitting image of her father, right down to the tiny scar on the chin.  She compares the picture to the ones her mother had of him and the resemblance is remarkable.  She knows it could not have been him because her mother would never have had an affair with a man without being married to him.

Rachel goes to see her cousin David, a scholar in Oxford, who has looked after the two of them over the years.  She shows him the picture and demands an explanation.  David is forced to tell her that the man is indeed her father.  He did not die.  It seems to her that he left them to marry an heiress and go on to have two children, Olivia and then Jicksy, and that she is a bastard.  Rachel is furious and wants revenge and an explanation and what else she is not really sure of.  As she is leaving David's office, a man comes in.  It is Simon Montfort, who is related to her father's family in a very distant way.  The family tree is rather huge and goes back to the Norman invasion.  He is on the outs with the family now, and his father has refused to have anything to do with him after his rather wild mother ran off with an Italian.  His mother is in America with a daughter she had with husband number four.  Simon works as a "gossip columnist" for a local rag.

He hatches a plan for Rachel to get her revenge and for him to get one over on the "Bright Young Things" and the family by introducing a "distant cousin" from France, who is fashionable, but not so fast that she won't be able to get an invitation to visit with Olivia and get an invitation to the country home where Jicksy's twenty-first birthday will be held and she can confront her father.  Vera Merton is now born, with a short, cute haircut and clothes borrowed from his sister, she moves into his mother's place in town.  Slowly he begins to introduce her to the fringes of society, where she charms many by mainly just saying what she thinks, which they find incredibly witty and she becomes wildly popular, especially with Simon's cousin, Cece, and Olivia's fiancĂ©, who is a representative in the government, and on the rise.

Rachel discovers that she cannot hate Olivia, as much as she wants to, especially when she sees how badly Olivia life is in reality.  Simon warns Rachel that there are rules and mores in society and that she cannot afford to mess up.  She tells him she knows which fork to use, but finds out later, that what he meant was something much deeper.  These people have known each other all their lives and know their intimate secrets.  Things that Rachel does not know, such as a secret Simon has been keeping from her that she believes is the reason he really wanted to embark on this scheme.

Rachel finds herself shocked at how easily she is slipping into the decadent life and shedding her "bourgeois" self and fitting in with these people.  After glimpsing at her father, she's not sure what she wants from him: to sweep her up in his arms and welcome her to the family, give her the truth about what happened, apologize, or pay for what he did.

Simon is extremely witty, which hides a tortured soul that he wants no one to know about.  He and Rachel banter back and forth like two people from an Oscar Wilde play.  The dialogue in this book is fabulous and the story is very original and captivating.  There are many secrets and you will have to get to the end of the book before you find out about all of them.  Willig, as usual, keeps you on the edge of your seat, as Rachel as Vera, whirls through society, nearly losing herself in the process and learning more about life than she expected to ever learn.

History did strange things when one played with it.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 13)
There was something about dawn, about the right sort of dawn, that made all the frights of the night seem so much nonsense.
---Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 14)
If I waited to be invited, I would never go anywhere at all.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 47)
Life is a cheap trick.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 59)
No sin is original, no matter what the Bright Young Things may hope.  We’re all merely playing to a theme.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 72)
‘Let me guess’ said Rachel, a little too loudly. ‘You’re writing a novel.’
Simon glanced down at her. ‘And stain these precious fingers with ink?  I don’t like getting my hands dirty.’
‘Fine words from a gossip columnist.’ Rachel taunted.
‘Ah, but there’s the difference.  I expose the weakness of others.  Not my own…One can’t write a novel without stripping one’s soul.  Really when you think of it, the entire endeavor is quite indecent.’
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 82)
Oh, we’re all complicit…The whole rotten lot of us.  But if Roman is burning, why not light a cigarette in the flames.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 83)
I’m no madder than anyone else I know, which isn’t saying terribly much.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 83)
Why should one chronicle life when one can live it?
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 92)
We’re all liars, my sweet.  Some of us are simply better at it than others.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 93)
‘For centuries, we have grappled with the baser parts of our nature.’
‘Maybe you do…I like to cosset mine and take it out for tea.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 110)
War is a gutter game, not a gentleman’s sport.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 111)
An opinion is a dangerous thing to have.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 116)

Link to Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Other-Daughter-Novel-Lauren-Willig/dp/125005642X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484833978&sr=1-1&keywords=the+other+daughter+lauren+willig

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith

Set in the mountains of Virginia, this sweeping novel tells the story of Ivy Rowe beginning in 1914 when she was a young teenager living on a farm way up on the mountain with her sisters and brothers and her father is lying in front of the fire slowly dying.  When he does die her mother does what she can to keep the farm going because the farm had been in the family for generations and she wanted to keep it up for her eldest Victor, who has left to go work in a lumber mill.  Her next oldest brother, Clarence Wayne, or Babe, who is half of the twins with the other half being Silvaney, is evil, while Silvaney suffered brain damage after a childhood illness is quite simple and loves to traipse about in the forest.  Her older sister Beulah dreams of something better, while Ethel is a born talker and saleswoman. Garnie her younger brother is known as the preacher due to his obsession with revivals. Her mother came from a well off family and married for love and was cut off from that family when she did so.  Red hair and tempers run in the family.

Beulah becomes pregnant with the town boy Curtis Bostick's child, but whose mother won't let him have anything to do with her. So Beulah has the child and names it John Arthur after their father who was being buried the day the child was born.  The description of the funeral and burial rites for a mountain person at this time are very interesting. For example, you are buried in your burial quilt with coins on your eyes.

When Ivy's mother cannot keep the farm going they pack up and move into a bed and breakfast run by Geneva. At this time it's only Ivy and Garnie, because circumstance has led the others in different directions.  Garnie come under the influence of a corrupt revival preacher and Ivy at the age of fourteen becomes pregnant, just as she is offered the opportunity to further her education at a nice school in Boston.  Now she has to drop out of school to raise her child.  When her mother dies, Ivy and Rose go to live with Beulah and it is there that she meets up again with Oakley Fox the first boy she kissed back on Star Mountain.  But there's a much more interesting man who has her eye now.

This book is told through a series of letters written to various people in Ivy's life. The unusual thing about this book is that there are no response letters. You are dependent on what Ivy says in her letters to figure out what has happened or is being said by the other person.  Also, the language of the book is quite written quite backwoods at the beginning but it improves as her education improves across the novel.  It is quite creatively done.  Ivy is quite the firecracker and grabs life by the horns and does not let go. She makes mistakes but she does not necessarily regret them. I fell in love with this spirited character who reaches out to the reader connects with you in a very basic way.  She will steal your heart away and take it back up into the mountains where she can only live.  

A body can get used to anything except hanging.
-Lee Smith (Fair and Tender Ladies p 227)
And I will tell you the truth—may be it’s best to be the lover, some ways. Because even if you don’t work out, you are glad. You are glad you done it. You are glad you got to be there, anyway, however long it lasted, whatever it cost you—which is always plenty, I reckon.
-Lee Smith (Fair and Tender Ladies p 272)
I used to be a scandal myself. Now I’m an institution.
-Lee Smith (Fair and Tender Ladies p 281)
Link to Amazon:  https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/5161IFFUpGL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Geek Feminst Revolution by Kameron Hurley

I've always considered myself a geek and I've always considered myself a feminist even when others would try to paint it as a bad word. What is a feminist but one who wants equal rights and pay for women all over the world. I know that white women in the United States make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes [Hispanic women make 55 cents and African American women make 60 cents. Asian American women make 84 cents.]  but that does not really hit home until you read this book and see what the author goes through as a female writer of science fiction/fantasy novels.  Also, I didn't realize how women still get looked over for jobs for various reasons even though they are unfounded. The example I will give here is when the author was working at a movie theater and was up for a manager position but was passed over because it was assumed she would not be able to pick up the sixty-pound film reels which were part of the job. The thing was, she could. Of course, she had no idea at the time that this was happening.  I thought we'd left that stuff behind.

This book is about a revolution that is happening in the world of geekdom.  Women have always been geeks but over the years our numbers have increased and some of the white boys are getting upset with the disruption of the status quo.  "Women have gone from making up 25 to 30 percent of gaming audiences just ten years ago to over 50 percent of video game players, and 40 to 50 percent of creators. Forty percent of science fiction authors are female, as are 60 percent of speculative genres.  Thier voices, their presence cannot be denied or explained away with talks of tokenism and exceptionalism. Women are here."

This author is the great-granddaughter of resistance fighters from France and studied resistance movements in South Africa for her Master's degree. She knows how to fight back and isn't afraid to do so.  She also believes that she needs to in order to make things easier for those that will come after her.  She's been fighting for over ten years now through her blog and in a way her books which broke barriers by featuring strong women characters and characters that are from the LGBT community. She has won the Sydney J. Bounds Award and the Kitschies Award for her first novel, God's War,  and the Hugo award twice, once for a blog she wrote that is included in this book and has been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Nebula Award, and the Locus Award among many others.  She is well qualified to speak on this subject.

The first section of this book is titled "Level Up" and deals with helping you to try to hone your writing skills. One of the most important lessons is persistence and that anyone can be a writer if you keep at it long enough. Also how the book business is, in fact, a business and a cutthroat one at that and you will have to be tough to survive it so make sure that this is really what you want.  She stresses the importance of responsibility of writing. That what you write is important and you have to own it so make sure you are not reckless or get something wrong or perpetuate a damaging stereotype.

The second section is titled "Let's Get Personal" and lets you get to know her. She talks about why she writes what she writes, which is dark fiction and about how she has always been overweight and that that is just how she is built even though she eats healthy and excersises and how that has affected her life.  When she lost a job after being very sick and put in the hospital where she found out she was Type I diabetic she needed to stay insured or risk having her diabetes being considered a pre-existing condition. So she paid a lot of money for private insurance while she looked for a job and eventually ended up living on the couch of a friend and using expired insulin and testing the minimum amount of times. Then she lucked out and got a job working at a company that paid for full coverage with no cost paid by her. She also writes about dealing with online criticism and being a rebel and fixing a broken system.

The third section is titled Revolution and it's just that: a call to revolution.  It's meant to inspire you to be the hero and go out shake things up and do your part. Yes, she does do one essay on Gamergate and one on Sadpuppy. She also covers bullying and censorship online. And the bullying can take the form of trolls whose only goal is to upset you in any way they can with suicide the ultimate prize. Then there's those who call a SWAT team to your house, stalk you, and threaten your life and there's nothing the police can do or are willing to do about these people. They tell women to just stay off of the internet the way you would tell a woman to avoid getting raped to stay at home. Maybe the laws need to be more strict.  Also included in this section is her Hugo award winning blog "We Have Always Fought: Challenging the 'Women, Cattle, and Slaves' Narrative".  This blog focuses on how women have fought in wars across time and have largely been ignored.

This book really made me rethink what it is to be a woman and a feminist. It also inspired me to take up the banner and be a part of the revolution against bullies that attack those for their gender, color or sexuality.  The essays were quite interesting and if you are a blogger or writer you will definitely get something out of this. But even if you are only a geek this book is well worth reading.  

It’s easy to pretend you’re “normal”, just like everyone else. But normal is a lie. Normal is a story.
-Kameron Hurley (The Geek Feminist Revolution p 104)
It’s this resignation with getting a future we didn’t want that the people in charge are relying on. The systems are too old, too ingrained. Power cannot be moved. There structures have always been here. This is the only way the future can be. They love it when we think this. Yet, like so much of the world we’re told about, it’s all a lie. It doesn’t really exist. The future is malleable. That’s what they don’t want you to know. When you believe people can’t change the world, they win. Of course people can change the world. Who do you think got us here in the first place?
-Kameron Hurley (The Geek Feminist Revolution p 135)
For every good you do, you do harm somewhere else. Maybe sanity is simply accepting this truth, and carrying on regardless, and doing the best you can.
-Kameron Hurley (The Geek Feminist Revolution p 197)
The truth is that who is good and who is bad is highly dependent on who wins, and whose point of view we’re writing from.
-Kameron Hurley (The Geek Feminist Revolution p 203)
Life is a series of unrelated incidents. It is the human mind that seeks to string them together into narratives, into story. It is the human mind that gives events meaning.
-Kameron Hurley (The Geek Feminist Revolution p 274)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Geek-Feminist-Revolution-Essays/dp/0765386240/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484582744&sr=1-1&keywords=the+geek+feminist+revolution

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Curse of the Tenth Grave by Darynda Jones

It's been a week since Charley Davidson was in Sleepy Hollow, New York and got her memories back as well as the new knowledge that her husband, Reyes is a god himself created out of one of the truly evil gods of Uzan, two of which are stomping around the earth right now in search of their daughter, Elwyn Alexandra, or Beep as she is often referred to, to kill her and prevent her from saving the world from Satan's taking over it.  Charley also picked up what is known as a god glass which can trap a god in a hell dimension if you know the true name of the god.  She has kept these things from Reyes because she doesn't know if he already knows he is a god or if he doesn't what the knowledge might do to him because the god he was created from was the most evil of the Uzan gods.  And she is keeping the god glass a secret in case she has to use it on him if he gets out of control as a last resort.  Of course, he's not the only one who is in danger of losing control and doing damage. She isn't in full control of her powers yet.

A Youtube video pops up causing some problems for her throughout the book. It shows her back when she was a Peace Corp volunteer years ago in Africa, performing an exorcism and is pretty graphic in that it shows her body being tossed around like a rag doll with no visible explanations for how this is possible.  She sets Amber and Quentin the adorable teen couple to discovering who is behind the video.  But if they can't she plans on setting her hacker friend Pari on the job.

Assistant D.A. Parker with whom she has a mutual adversarial relationship with, arrives with a Mr. Adams wanting to hire her to clear the guy the police have charged with the murder of his daughter, Emery Adams, whose bloody car was found by the guy, Lyle Fisk out in the desert.  On top of that Emery had been trying to break up with Lyle. But Lyle is the nicest guy in the world according to Parker who knows him and the father doesn't believe that Lyle did it either.  Parker intends to throw the case in court if Charley cannot find evidence to clear him. Parker also has something on Charley and it's up to Charley to figure out what so she sets Pari to find out what that is.

Additionally, Charley meets up with a twelve-year-old girl who is very sick and believes that she is going to die due to a curse that the children's home she lives in is under. Nine kids have died over a short period of time, but they have been of different things such as accidents, suicide, and illness. There is indeed something going on at the Home, but what exactly is the question.  In the meantime, Charley leaves the girl with Pari since her trusted assistant Cookie is too busy with other things to properly watch over her.

And while Charley is keeping secrets from Reyes, Reyes it seems is keeping some from Charley. She discovers that he is paying child support for a kid in Texas. Does he have another child?  Also, he has avoided touching her ever since she got her memories back.  What else is he keeping from her and has his feelings for her changed in some way?   And what is going on with their daughter that they gave to a couple to raise, that he won't tell her?

This is a powerhouse of a book. Charley is back with her fierce temper, high sex drive, sarcastic mouth, and tender heart.  The heat in this book will burn your fingers. And the multiple storylines will keep you hopping.  It also sets you up for events to happen in the next book where things are going to get even more interesting.  Some readers did not like the ninth book, but this one gets the series right back on track and in kick ass mode. This was a great read.

There were few things in life more irritating than other people’s children.
-Darynda Jones (The Curse of the Tenth Grave p 1)
As intrigued as I should’ve been, intrigue was not as intriguing as one might imagine at six o’clock in the morning.
-Darynda Jones (The Curse of the Tenth Grave p 7)
My love is like a candle. Carry me with you and I’ll light your path. Forget me and I’ll burn your fucking house down.
-Darynda Jones (The Curse of the Tenth Grave p 48)
I’d originally thought the name of the retirement center odd, but driving through the housing units confirmed it. I entered on Morningwood Lane.  Turned left at Pussy Willow Drive. Right on Peter Pepper Place. Left on Cockscomb Court. And finally right on Wang Peonies Way. Oh yeah, this community was definitely planned by a horny botanist.
-Darynda Jones (The Curse of the Tenth Grave p 117)

One down. Two to go.
-Status Update
-Darynda Jones (The Curse of the Tenth Grave p 241)
Don’t borrow trouble. Gotcha. So, then, can I rent it?
-Darynda Jones (The Curse of the Tenth Grave p 300)

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Curse-Tenth-Grave-Charley-Davidson/dp/1250078202/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484316573&sr=1-1&keywords=the+curse+of+the+tenth+grave+darynda+jones

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dragon Storm by Katie MacAlister

Constantine of Norka, who is the leader of the now defunct Silver Dragons, was killed and resurrected by the love of his life, Ysolde who was stolen from him by Baltic who formed the Light Dragons after the fall of the Black Dragons who were reformed under Kostya, Constantine's godson. Since Constantine had no sept, Baltic accepted him into the Light Dragons.  Constantine can fade in and out of this world and the Otherworld since he is a spirit.  Because of this Ysolde asks him to go to Abaddon (hell to humans) and take a special token from the demon lord of Abaddon, Asmodeus in order to break the curse put on the dragons. When he arrives there he finds Bee Dakar, the Charmer hired to break the curse locked up in a cell after being caught for doing the same thing he is there to do.  He refuses to let her out as he believes she is safer in the cell since he cannot protect her. As a spirit, it takes a lot of energy to do certain things such as breath fire or fight in corporal form. When he makes it to Asmodeus's room he finds Gary the head in a cage who is a knocker or a spirit that warns people in mines by knocking on the wall when a collapse in eminent. Gary tells Constantine what to take.

On the way out Constantine releases Bee and tries to make an escape but they are both caught and Gary told Asmodeus that he took something so Constantine, who has had a bete noir placed on him that keeps him in corporal form, gives over the finger he took, but keeps the other object he took.  Amid the chaos that soon ensues, Bee, Gary, and Constantine make a run for the gate and escape Abaddon.  When Bee tries to undo the curse on Constantine it blows up, which means the artifact was the wrong one. That's when they find out that the demon lord with whom they needed to get an object from was the one before Asmodeus: Bael. Constantine is withholding information about Bael from Bee and from the other dragons.

While they are making plans to find Bael to get an object, Bael is making plans to gather magic objects in order to take over the Otherworld and Abaddon and then kill off the dragons and take over the world. So the dragons are going to have to get together to stop Bael from getting these objects while also trying to break the curse that keeps them from being able to talk to each other and makes them want to fight each other.

Constantine is a wonderful character. He has an inflatable sheep and enjoys sex toys that he keeps trying to get Bee to try with some success.  When he stays in Paris he stays in a brothel because it is free of magic and the service is great.  He is so kind to Gary and gets him a hamster ball to rest in and a Tonka truck to be placed on with a remote so he can move about on his own.  He's a bit of a romantic and while at first he's still stuck on Ysolde that's more of an idyllic love that isn't real. What he feels for Bee, however, is real.  The two of them together are a fun couple to read about and this book was a really enjoyable read.

I like base motives. They can be oodles of fun.
-Katie MacAlister (Dragon Storm p 52)
“Do not think about what you will by doing,” Constantine said. “Just do it.” “You sound like a horrible mutation of Yoda.” I grumbled.
-Katie MacAlister (Dragon Storm p 70)
“Was that supposed to be a kiss?” he asked when she pulled back. The self-satisfied look on her face faded to one of annoyance. “It was very much a kiss, yes. It was supposed to be a comforting gesture since you are obviously distressed about something, but now I take it back. Oafs like you don’t deserve comforting!” “I am a wyvern, not an oaf. And wyverns enjoy being kissed, but only when it’s done properly.” Bee opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, clearly outraged, “My kiss was just fine!” “It wasn’t. It was a mere pressing of the lips. There was no passion, no heat, no teasing of the mouth, no whispered promises of pleasure, no hint of the sweet joy that lies within. And then there was the way you leaned forward to do it, ensuring that no other part of your body touched mine. A kiss is more involved---“ “Criminy beans, don’t you ever shut up?” “I assumed you wished to know what elements of your kiss were lacking—“
--Katie MacAlister (Dragon Storm p 111-12)
Sometimes you have to make your own fate rather than waiting for others to do it for you.
-Katie MacAlister (Dragon Storm p 119)
Somehow, I never thought this day would end up with me hunting a demon lord with an ex-dragon and a head in a hamster ball.
-Katie MacAlister (Dragon Storm p 162)
“I’m falling in love with you, you irritating, annoying, incredibly wonderful man. And if you think you’re going to get rid of me once the situation with your father is over, you’d just better think again.” He stopped writhing, lifting his head up to glare at me. “You’re stopping?” I pinched his hip. “Dammit, I just told you I loved you! Is that all you’re going to say? You’re supposed to react to my statement! Appropriately, I might add.” “You did not say that you were in love with me; you said you were falling in love with me. There is an important difference. Tell me when you are fully in love with me, and then I will react appropriately.”
-Katie MacAlister (Dragon Storm p 281)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Storm-Katie-MacAlister/dp/1455559237/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484140435&sr=1-1&keywords=dragon+storm

Monday, January 9, 2017

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

I believe the title of the book comes from the Lewis Carol book Alice in Wonderland where the Red Queen says, "Why, sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."  In the book, set in Australia, nerdish boy, Dan Cereill has just had his world turned upside down.  His father has bankrupted the family and came out of the closet to boot. His mother inherited the use of her Aunt Adelaide's house for as long as she is alive. So at least Dan and his mother have a place to live while his mother tries to start up her business of making wedding cakes, which she seems determined to sabotage by convincing the women to not get married. So Dan feels the need to get a job to pull in some money, but he's not quite fifteen yet, so it's hard to find a job. On top of that things are going horribly at school and he's desperately in love with the girl next door that he has yet to meet.

Dan loves to make lists so his first list, the one that follows throughout the book is this: 1. Kiss Estelle. 2. Get a job. 3. Cheer my mother up. Better chance of business not crashing if she's half okay.  4. It's not like I expect to be cool or popular at the new school, but I'm going to try not to be a complete nerd/loser. 5. Should talk to father when he calls. 6. The existential one. Figure out how to be good. I don't want to be the sort of person who up and leaves his family out of the blue.  Written below these six are the words Impossible Impossible Impossible Impossible Impossible Impossible. They all seem insurmountable to him.

He is so desperate to learn more about Estelle that when he discovers the hole in the wall between their attics that is covered up in boxes he goes over and looks around. When he knows she isn't there he slips over to her side and discovers that she has several years worth of diaries there along with a lot of other things some of which has come from his side of the attic. He can't stop himself from reading the diaries even knowing that if they ever do get to know each other it will hurt that relationship.  And they slowly do get to know each other in a weird way.

While he has made a friend with a girl named Lou and he still has his old friend Fred who lives nearby but goes to a different school, he has made a powerful enemy in the class bully, Jayzo, who makes it a point to make his life miserable. He does eventually get a paying job, which is a good thing because the dog Howard that they also inherited has a limp and needs to see a vet. His mom is obsessed with Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, and is in a weird headspace that he can't seem to help her except to not burden her with his problems or any problems for that matter.

This is a delightfully written book with a touch of sarcastic wit that comes from being a teenager who likely rolls his eyes often.  Dan is going through a really tough time that at least some of which is very relatable to lots of us out there.  But he's a sweet kid who really is trying to do the right thing and step up to the plate and take the place that his father had in the family and he doesn't even know how to shave because his father didn't teach him before he left so he doesn't know who to turn to for advice on manly things at first.  You even forgive him for reading Estelle's diaries once you realize why he really did it.  You spend the book rooting for things to turn around for him and feel his anguish when they don't or when he gets caught doing something he maybe shouldn't.  I really loved this book and highly recommend it.

At the time of my snooping, before we’d even met, I realized that just as my regard for her grew with every word I read, hers for me would surely diminish in far greater proportion if she ever found out what I had done. Knowing her now, even so slightly, only makes what I did seem more horrible. I’ve paid a high price for knowledge that should have been earned not stolen. It’s a bad bargain, and one from which I can’t see an escape. Like all good traps, climbing in was easy, getting out might prove to be impossible.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 95)
“You know who is a good guy?” my mother asks me over oatmeal, in a tone suggesting we’ve just been talking about who’s not a good guy, which we haven’t. “No.” “Thom Yorke. He is a truly good guy.” Radiohead’s singer, songwriter. The unnatural interest isn’t going away. “What makes you think that?” “Because he’s passionate, Dan; he cares passionately about things. You just have to see him performing to see it. He looks like he’s going to burst every blood vessel in his head…” “What’s so good about that?” “He’s also an environmental activists. He cares about climate change. He went to Copenhagen Summit, for god’s sake! He’s helping the planet.” “Okay.” I’m putting my lunch together. I’ve got to get out of here. “And he’s around my age, did you know that?” “No.” “Yep. So, why didn’t I end up with him, instead of your father?” Who knows the right answer to that one? Er—you live on different continents…? You don’t know him…? He’s short and you’re tall…? I don’t point out that I’m the result of her breeding with her reject husband. I don’t feel like much of a consolation.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 96)
Revisiting the list: 1. Kiss Estelle. Okay at least I’ve met her. She thinks I’m a creep. And that’s without her knowing I’ve read her diaries. Unless we somehow fall over, exactly aligned, lips to lips, and gravity causes the pressure, or we find ourselves in a darkened room and through a series of Shakespearean ID muddles she thinks she’s kissing someone else, I can’t see how this is ever going to happen.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 109) 
“Do you want to come to mine and see how she [Janie] goes [in the contest]?” Estelle asks. Do I? “I’ll get a DVD,” I say, trying to remind my heart that it’s a super-fit muscle and not a drum getting the crap beaten out of it.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 178)
I feel like a proper dick, but I can live with that. Embarrassment is one of my primary dispositions.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 186)
I want to be good, but good is a slippery customer. I decide to settle for being loyal to my friends. Does this make me a pathetic pushover? Good or bad? Right or wrong? Who knows?
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 198)
A change is as good as a holiday.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 204)
She’s good. Are all girls natural psychologists? Everything she says lightens my load of worry bricks.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 213)

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Six-Impossible-Things-Fiona-Wood/dp/0316299413/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483978020&sr=1-1&keywords=six+impossible+things

Friday, January 6, 2017

Wonder Woman: Earth One Volume One by Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn

This comic opens with Wonder Woman, Diana, in chains being brought before her mother Hippolyta on Paradise Island after being away for a period of time, which is, of course, unheard of. She has requested a trial by the Fates: Clotho, Atropos, and Lachesis.

It then goes back in time to when things began to go wrong. Diana is trying to heal a deer with the purple ray machine which speeds up healing. She is the best at working the machine among the Amazonians. Also, everyone is getting geared up for the games. Hippolyta won't let Diana compete in the games as she is a Princess and much stronger than the others. Her mother tells her she made her out of the clay of the ground. The others have been around for 3,000 years since they ousted Hercules off the island when he tried to subjugate them.   They allow no men on the island because men are beasts who want to control women.  Hippolyta has a mirror that lets her see what is going on in the world and she sees that nothing much has changed over the years, but Diana who is desperately curious about what she sees in the mirror wonders if there is something that can be done to help others.

A Steve Trevor crash lands on the island and Diana tries to heal him with her ray, but it doesn't work. Now she knows that she must find a way to get him off the island, but that will mean going against her mother and the other Amazonians. Can Diana afford to risk everything for not just a stranger, but a male one at that?

This is yet another origin story but it is very well done.  It's a modern time discovery of Paradise Island rather than World War II like the original.  The artwork and paneling are stellar with some of the paneling marked off with a golden lasso when someone is being questioned by it. It's quite creative. I cannot wait to read volume two to learn what happens next.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wonder-Woman-Earth-One-Vol/dp/1401229786/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483712336&sr=1-1&keywords=wonder+woman+earth+one+vol.+1

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Daredevil by Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, John Romita JR., and Bill Sienkiewicz

This massive book contains the some of the collection of Daredevil comics that Frank Miller did for Marvel. This includes the penciling work he did on two Amazing Spiderman comics that featured Daredevil. Like everyone else, Frank started at the bottom of the business, as hard as it is to imagine someone of his talent doing. This also includes the one time he collaborated with the legendary artist John Buscema for a comic under the Daredevil name called Badlands about a man without fear that's intriguing and has no masked Daredevil in sight.

The comic that really put Miller on the map was the Born Again storyline he did with Mazzucchelli where Daredevil's former girlfriend Karen Page sells out his name to a dealer for some heroin and Daredevil's real name Matt Murdock finds it's way to Kingpin. Kingpin, for whom Daredevil has long been a thorn in his side sets out to destroy Matt Murdock by taking him to the brink of insanity and therefore destroy Daredevil. The art is great of course, but the way the panels are set is really amazing and leads the story. And what a story it is. This is storytelling at it's best.

Miller's pairing with Bill Sienkiewicz produced the beautiful War and Remembrance which also features Kingpin. The art in the book is just plain gorgeous. There are hints of Monet, Toulouse Le-Trec, some Japanese influence and some modern art influences as well. It's rather dreamy in nature which fits the plot. Kingpin has kidnapped a doctor's wife in order to motivate him to cure his wife who is in a dream-like state. The man who is watching over the doctor's wife is unstable and the artist chooses to depict him as a Japanese macaque or snow monkey, at times.  Daredevil gets involved of course and nothing goes as planned.

The last story in the book he did with John Romita JR. (his father was one of the original Daredevil artists) is called Daredevil: The Man Without Fear and it goes back to his childhood and tells in detail Daredevil's origin story as never before. This would be the Daredevil bible. It was also going to be used as a script for a TV movie and after the comic there is a script for a TV movie. The 2003 movie did use this comic as the basis for the beginning of its movie and followed Romita's artwork shot-for-shot.   The paneling and artwork will blow you away. And the story includes a bit of everything: how he lost his sight, more information about Stick, meeting up with Foggy, and his first time being with Elektra, as well as the shadow of Kingpin.

Overall this book is really worth reading if you are a Daredevil fan or merely a superhero fan. Maybe you watch the TV show on Netflix and would like to know more. This book is a good place to start. It doesn't hold all of Frank Miller's Daredevil work. If it did you wouldn't be able to pick it up.  But it will make you hungry for more, so beware.

*I read the library's copy of this book as the reprint of this book is rather expensive.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Daredevil-Miller-Omnibus-Companion-Printing/dp/0785195386/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483538534&sr=1-2-fkmr0&keywords=Daredevil+by+Frank+Miller%2C+David+Mazzucchelli%2C+John+Romita+JR.%2C+and+Bill+Sienkiewicz

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

In the Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher talks about and uses bits of journals she discovered that she had written at the time to describe how she felt at the time about herself and about how she felt about the affair she was having with her married co-star Harrison Ford. She couldn't talk to a friend about the affair because they might tell someone and it might get back to his wife. Fisher had gone onto the set of the movie looking to have an affair or romance, but she was looking at the unmarried men. Carrie, the daughter of "America's Sweetheart's" Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher had a front row seat to her father's infidelity to her mother. She knew what "the other woman" could do to a family and a marriage and wouldn't dream of doing that herself.

So how did an affair with Ford, a married man happen? It started by accident and then she just couldn't believe that he would want to be with her. You could tell that Ford was going to be a major star. And Fisher, even at twenty, knew that she wasn't going to be. So it was flattering to have Ford pay her attention, even if Ford was fifteen years older than she was. On top of that, she had little experience with men. She had one boyfriend, a college boyfriend with whom she had just broken up with. And the handful of other men she had made out with they had not gotten very far. This is all partly due to having a mother who drummed into her head that a guy won't want to hang around if he's getting the milk for free and partly due to her oversexed father who left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor.  Ford would feel pretty bad once he found out how little experience she did have because he was perhaps being given a gift that he didn't think he deserved.  

Fisher did ask Ford if he was ok with her disclosing their affair before she wrote this book.  She only discloses a small part of the diaries and not all of it is about Ford. Some of it is about how she feels about herself. Her insecurities, her growing into adulthood, her trying to make sense of life. They also include poetry. The diaries are beautifully written and show you the writer she would become.  

Ford was the only married man with whom she had an affair with. She was pretty serious about that rule for herself. Ford was just somehow the exception to it. They would meet up on Friday nights usually at the place she was borrowing from a friend since it was nicer than the place Ford was staying at. They were all being paid scale for this movie and the housing situation was sad but especially for Ford who was sending home a chunk of his paycheck to his wife and kids back home.

What did Fisher feel towards Ford or Ford her? Read the book to find out. This is a fascinating read and a real insight into Fisher and her take on Leia and Star Wars and it's fans. She says in the book that she is thinking of releasing more of the diaries/journals. However, as we all know she died from complications of a heart attack last week so who knows whether or not her family will release them or let them die with her. I'd love to read more, just because they are so well written it's a joy to read them. But the information contained within might be something they decided is better laid to rest. And I can respect that because the entries here are quite personal and soul-baring.    But that was Fisher to the end. Not afraid to talk about herself and her failings. It made her more human and more reachable and someone to look up to at the same time.

I do know that women have to look younger longer—in part due to the fact that cragginess doesn’t enhance most women’s overall appearance, and in part because I don’t know that many straight men whose goal is to achieve a kind of dewy teenage appearance. But maybe I don’t get around enough.
-Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist p 45) 
Of course I think most people want to be liked, I think, especially when you consider the lonely alternatives. Even the fringier members of society—gangsters, drug cartel types, garden-variety serial killers—even they want to be liked in their own endearing ways.  They might want to be admired for their own particular brand of impressive awfulness, such as managing to elude the law for longer than anyone in their questionable line of work, or for the unique and even striking manner in which they slaughtered their victims. Clearly there are numerous methods that can be employed in one’s ravenous quest to be loved.-Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist p 56) 
I wonder if she’s having an affair with Peter and assume that she more than likely is, because Peter is attractive also. Not as attractive as Koo, but he doesn’t have to be because as you no doubt are aware, if you have a penis and a job, being handsome is a fantastic bonus but hardly a necessity.
-Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist p 75-6) 
Someone has to stand still for you to love them—my choices are always on the run.
-Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist p 114) 
I’ve got to learn something from my mistakes instead of establishing a new record to break. Maybe stop fooling around with all these human beings and fall in love with a chair. It would have everything that the immediate situation has to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional and intellectual feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience and less response. The less the merrier.  Chairs. They’re always there when you need them and, while their staying implies total devotion, they still manage to remain aloof, noncommittal and insensitive. Immovable and loyal. Reliable and unconsoling. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.
-Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist p 123)  
It’s very dangerous to have someone like you, because one day he’ll find that you are not the person he thought you were. He’ll end up someday having only one thing in common with you and that’ll be a shared sense of contempt and disgust for you. Of course you knew all along how foolish and worthless you were, you just hoped that if you crouched down behind yourself enough he wouldn’t see it. But one day when your guard is off-duty you see him see. You both catch you at yourself. Catch you behaving. And then you’re lost. No. You were lost all along.
-Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist p 123-4) 
It’s not nice being inside my head. It’s a nice place to visit but I don’t want to live in here.
-Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist p 135)
 If you’d never gotten close I wouldn’t have/noticed when you were far away/But you filled up my nights and then emptied/my days
-Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist p 145) 
I wish I could go away somewhere but the only problem with that is that I’d have to go too.
-Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist p 178)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Diarist-Carrie-Fisher/dp/0399173595/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483378397&sr=1-1&keywords=the+princess+diarist